The truth is, no matter how deep my lack of faith, or how far I swing between agnosticism and atheism, and how much I believe this life is all we get and when we are dead we’re done, there is still something inside me, some stunted Pentecostal version of myself, that worries I will spend a miserable eternity in hell.
Over the past several years, I have went through quite a cycle in my life with regard to religion. Even while attending church off and on, I have never been able to successfully drown out the nagging questions I have always had about anything to do with faith and its practices. But it has only been over the past couple of years that I have developed such a distaste for religion that overcoming those questions has transitioned from unlikely to nearly impossible.
It has gotten to the point where I view religion as my enemy. The loudest opponents to equality and rights for the LGBT community in America typically consider themselves to be conservative Christians (the liberal Christian is a rare bird, indeed). Most days, after a glance at the news, I spend much of my time feeling helpless and angry.
I get angry when I hear that American Christians and their Republican counterparts are funding and fanning the flames of homophobia in Uganda – where things have gotten so bad that the average Ugandan believes lesbians should be raped and gay men should be killed.
I get angry when I hear that Josh Duggar has molested multiple girls much younger than himself (including his sisters), yet his mother made robocalls last year to tell everyone to vote down a non-discrimination act for transgendered people, wherein she said men would dress as women to get into women’s restrooms to molest little girls.
I get angry when someone I have never met comes on this blog and posts a comment saying I will be “anally raped by the Devil himself in hell,” and then threatens to kill me.
I get angry when the Vatican says Ireland’s recent vote for marriage equality was a “defeat for humanity.” One would think they would direct their outrage at child-touching priests instead of consenting adults who simply want to get married.
I get angry when Christians habitually discriminate against anyone that doesn’t fit their narrow, bigoted view, and then scream about religious oppression when they get called out on it.
So, when I stop to get gas and the store is playing contemporary Christian music over the loudspeakers, I roll my eyes. When I see parking lots full of church attendees, I feel nothing but contempt. When I hear someone ask for prayer over the most mundane thing possible, I cringe. I don’t hear or see genuine faith in action; I see weak minds and pettiness. I don’t see unconditional love or people helping the poor; I see people who are most likely spending their time and money to work against the very things I want out of life. I see enemies of equality and freedom, and enemies of myself.
There are good Christians and there are bad ones, but even the good Christians I know are usually perfectly content to be ignorant of anything outside their bubble-shaped world. For example, I recently had someone ask me why certain gay men like to dress as women, but as I tried to explain drag queens, they became overwhelmed and said they didn’t want to hear about it. If you don’t want to know, then don’t ask.
The more time goes by, the more I find myself agreeing with the old quote, “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”
I am done.
I no longer feel the need to change your mind, to make you see the truth, to convince you that some things are as obvious as the nose on your face.
Your bigotry is astounding, your religion is as flawed as your logic, you make my head hurt and my stomach turn.
I am tired. Twenty years of arguing and pleading my case has left me worn and weary. I can only imagine you are just as bored with those same talking points you have been using for so long, even though you keep throwing them like daggers in hopes they will stick in someone every once in a while.
I used to care what you think. About me. About people like me. About people completely unlike me who you insist are my bedfellows simply because we share the commonality of belief in human dignity and justice.
But I don’t care any more.
You are so hell-bent on hatred and bigotry that nothing could convince you to change your mind. You revel in your role as victim, and you nurture your prejudice under the umbrella of religious freedom.
You make me sick.
You read your book, say your prayers, and flood the internet with your attacks on the “least of these.” You say God made us all in his image in one breath, then damn us all to hell in the next. I can only hope there is no afterlife, because I can’t stand the thought of spending eternity with you.
So we have reached an impasse, as it were. I can’t change your mind any more than you can change my sexuality. The only thing I can change is whether or not I waste another minute of my life on you.
You are the past, but I am the future.
For ages, a deadly conflict has been waged between a few brave men and women of thought and genius upon the one side, and the great ignorant religious mass on the other. This is the war between Science and Faith. The few have appealed to reason, to honor, to law, to freedom, to the known, and to happiness here in this world. The many have appealed to prejudice, to fear, to miracle, to slavery, to the unknown, and to misery hereafter. The few have said ‘Think.’ The many have said ‘Believe!’
Robert Ingersoll, ‘Gods’
I have been a fan of Ayaan Hirsi Ali since reading and discussing her book Infidel on this blog several years ago, so I was pleasantly surprised to see her being interviewed on Real Time with Bill Maher last night to promote her new book Heretic: Why Islam Needs A Reform Now. During the interview, she explained exactly how she believes Muslims need to change their religious views.
- Change the attitude towards the Koran and Muhammad. The book is not a driver’s manual, and the man is not infallible.
- Stop investing in life after death, but concentrate on life before death.
- Give up Sharia law completely.
- Individual citizens should not be able to police and punish their counterparts.
- Eliminate jihad. Replace “holy” wars with holy peace.
Her goals are lofty and unrealistic to be sure, but they shine an important light on the most egregious elements of religious extremism.
Bill Maher, who often gets criticized by liberals for his brazen views on Islam, asked Ali why she believes liberals need to stand up to the intolerant aspects of Islam instead of constantly worrying about being politically correct.
The cancer of Islamic extremism is an assault on liberalism, on liberal ideas… Protect the life of the human being, the freedom of the human being, equality of human beings. That’s what it is an assault on. Islamic extremists divide the world into “us” and “them.” And the ones they deem to be “them,” even if they are pious Muslims, they kill them, they subjugate them, they sell them into slavery, they rape the women, and they destroy arts and civilization. And we see it on a daily basis.
If you are a liberal, and you really truly believe in the principles of liberalism, you have got to stand up to the challenge of the day, and that is Islamic extremism.
Each day, when I browse the news and look at social media, I see countless stories concerning religion that make me sick at heart. Whether it is someone committing mass murder in the name of Islam, a “Christian” refusing to bake a cake for a gay couple, or a politician trying to appeal to his conservative base by making disparaging remarks about same-sex marriage, it all makes me completely disgusted with religion.
The only problems I have ever had from being openly gay are because of people who have been blinded by their religion. I have had people tell me I am going to hell. People who have given me books about how God can make me straight. Family members who refuse to be around my partner at family functions. Anonymous people who have harassed me and called me names online. People I know who have done the same.
The common denominator between all of these activities has been religion. Specifically Christianity. How someone can follow Christ and know anything about him, yet allow bigotry and hatred to overcome their thoughts and actions is unconscionable.
I am glad I am gay, mainly because I have had to question things that some take for granted. It has made life more difficult, but I feel like I can see things more clearly than so many who use their faith as shields while they throw stones at anyone they deem abnormal and unworthy of love.
I am writing for the Christian agnostic, by which I mean a person who is immensely attracted by Christ and who seeks to show his spirit, to meet the challenges, hardships, and sorrows of life in the light of that spirit, but who, though he is sure of many Christian truths, feels that he cannot honestly and conscientiously ‘sign on the dotted line’ that he believes certain theological ideas about what some branches of the Church dogmatize.
Leslie D. Weatherhead, ‘The Christian Agnostic’