Gay and Atheist

A belief is held that I’m an atheist because I’m gay and my atheism perpetuates me to stay in my gay lifestyle

Coming from such a conservative background and then enduring a pretty difficult coming out experience, often prompts people to speculate about the root “cause” of my atheism. As if its some kind of disease I contracted along the way and in time can be cured through doses of prayer and thought submission. And in part I can see why someone would assume that resentment drove me from god. It certainly drove me from church and created a need to find answers outside my realm of comfort. In some ways I can’t help but compare my journey’s of coming out and godlessness; and the fact that they both happened simultaneously makes those comparisons easier.

The other day someone mentioned that perhaps I was resentful of god even though I didn’t believe in him. This has been mentioned to me on several occasions by more than a few people. And even those who love and accept me as I am still struggle with understanding my complete lack of a belief in a god. I could not resent a god any more than I could resent Santa Clause or the Easter Bunny. However, since god and religion are so intrinsically intertwined my resentment towards religion, and I must admit it’s there, makes it difficult for me to explain my complete separate feelings towards the two.

And then you add the fact that I’m gay. And that I was shunned and abandoned by my religious friends and family because of my homosexuality and naturally everyone assumes they have me figured out. A belief is held that I’m an atheist because I’m gay and my atheism perpetuates me to stay in my gay lifestyle. This vicious cycle that I could escape if only I would let go of my resentment for god and allow him back into my life. The fact that I don’t believe in a god is completely ignored; and I honestly believe that some people believe if I were to quit being gay or quit being an atheist, the one change would solve the other problem as well. Wow. It’s exhausting just thinking about it, I don’t know how people live with those thoughts.

This thinking is a huge common misconception about the atheist, agnostic and non-believer community. The idea that our lack of belief perpetuates our so-called moral deficiencies is exactly why some feel so deeply against atheism. However, we know that many who fervently believe in a god also participate in REAL morally deplorable actions. How many stories have we read of pastors or christian workers that participated in or allowed child abuse? What of the beheadings, torture, and stoning of women by Muslim leaders? We see constant actual wrongdoing by religious people all the time and shame on us if we ever attribute their sin to their belief in a god. Yet atheists almost always have their lack of belief brought up when they fail or are perceived to have failed.

According to some in my past, my being gay is a failure or sin. Of course I don’t believe that at all. But even if it were true, what would my atheism have to do with anything? Plenty of those in the LGBTQ community believe in a god, attend a church or even are clergy members themselves. And plenty of the most anti-LGBTQ individuals have committed terrible atrocities to their fellow beings. My point is simply that this stigmatism against the atheists is easily refuted if we’re willing to look objectively at the facts. Despite my fierce feelings about religion, I also respect the rights of belief. And I respect the peace and direction that religion or a belief in a god affords others. All I ask is for the same respect myself.

-H

The Butch Girls Tale

The blurred lines of cults and religion

It’s odd how things all come together at once. Today I was doing some research for a future post about the rise of Protestant Christianity in America. I stumbled upon a New York Times article from 1993 about a “renewed debate on the word “cult” in religious circles”. A few weeks ago the new book Road to Jonestown by Jeff Guinn popped up on my suggested audible books (I guess that tells you what kind of books I read). My girlfriend and I were on a road trip and decided to give the book a try. I didn’t know much about Jonestown other than it’s infamous end and this book did not disappoint. A few days later the anticipated release of Hulu’s The Handmaids Tale premiered and again, I found myself fascinated with a story I had somehow missed. Two stories of the extremes of religion. One real and one fiction, yet the similarities and present day possibilities were unnerving to say the least.

I commonly refer to my past church as a chult (a church/cult mix). I do this because people find it too offensive to have their faith called a cult. Sure everyone is mindlessly following the same rules, wearing the same outfits, abiding by one mans interpretation of “gods truth” but no, that’s not a cult. We seem to have the idea that unless you’re buried in a bunker and married to a guy with 15 wives you cant possibly be in a cult. But what’s interesting is we find that even those buried in the bunker with 14 other sister wives ALSO don’t believe they’re in a cult.

With the recent break in the silence surrounding Scientology we are given a prime example of true cult behavior. People like Leah Remini, Mark Rathburn, Mike Rinder, Marc Headly and more reveal a religion that most of us thought was strange yet harmless (references below for these stories from Scientology). These people lived open and successful lives. They weren’t hiding away, they didn’t dress in outdated clothing, they were just like everybody else. Until we realized they weren’t. Until they spoke out about the abuse, the lies, the manipulation, and the loss of control over their lives. They spoke of friends and family members who had completely disowned them simply because they no longer believed that little aliens were living inside of them. That sounds ridiculous right?

Yet the other day, I spoke with a man who keeps his atheism a secret because he doesn’t know how his family will react if he tells them he doesn’t believe in a magic man in the sky. If you can not accept that a talking snake brought about the fall of man or that the ark housed ALL the species of the world then what happens to you? If your loved ones aren’t biblical literalists, yet firmly believe there is a god in the heavens directing our lives, how do they react to your non-belief? It’s true that in today’s form of modern religion we see a more open-minded approach to the concept of god. Yet just as strongly as the left swings left the right swings right, and today we live in a country where a reality TV star is our president because religion still has power. It has great power and the world in The Handmaids Tale doesn’t seem as far fetched as it did at its release 30 years ago

And yet for decades journalists have avoided using the word cult for fear of offending the religious right. And it’s true that this word is an easy out occasionally tossed around. The excerpt below is part of the NYT 1993 article that opposes the use of the word cult.


My favorite word is “exotic”. Is that the term we’re using to describe the subjugation of women and rampant sexual abuse? Exotic? Hey, I guess anything is better than the word cult right?

My “exotic” religion covered up countless cases of physical, verbal and sexual abuse. Much like the Catholic Church out leaders moved an offender from one parish to the next rather than hold him accountable for his actions. (I use the pronoun him because I have yet to find a case within my former cult where this applied to a woman). We were taught that women were created specifically for men (Genesis 2:18-20) and therefore should be in submission to men (Ephesians 5:22-24 ). We were not allowed to listen to music post 1950, were forbidden from going to the movies, were held to strict dress and appearance standards and were encouraged to “pull away from” (i.e. shun) those who left gods will. Incredibly gods will aligned perfectly with whatever the pastor believed at the time. And as some read this they say “that sounds like a cult”. Yet I wasn’t locked on a compound, I could marry whom I pleased (provided he was of the male variety) and I had free access to the outside world. But I was not free. I knew this. No matter how many times the preacher screamed from the pulpit that if we didn’t like his sermons the door swung both ways, I KNEW it wasn’t that simple. Telling people they are free and allowing them to be free are two very different things. In the above excerpt we see that Dr. Richardson goes on to say “We must remember that 99 percent of minority religions are benign and peaceful and just want to be left alone. When they abide by the law they have this right.” The problems with this are first, that many branches of major religions are the ones actually doing the most damage. And second, much of this harm is able to be done thanks to the law. The law doesn’t protect people from being brainwashed. It doesn’t protect a woman from being culturally bullied into giving over her money to her husband, or from being taught to acquiesce every time he wants sex (marriage rape). Children are not protected from fraud educations, abuse under the guise of corporal punishment or lack of proper medical treatment. Even in cases where religious parents have been held accountable for abuse or poor medical treatment, its usually done so AFTER the child is critically injured or dead. The law doesn’t protect students of Scientology from signing a billion year contract that enslaves them to the whims of their leaders. Yet we all know that these things are wrong and most of us understand that these people are not truly free.

There are those of course who will read this and say “But they ARE free! The wives can leave at any time, the students of Scientology can simply walk away and even the children can report abuse to a teacher or leader.” I imagine these are the same people who believe that turning one’s life over to Jesus under penalty of eternal damnation is actually a “choice”. These people I do not debate because we are arguing with two completely different mindsets towards two completely different end results. . As for the problem of  religious cultural intimidation in our country one may ask “Well then what is our option? To monitor every household and every religious place of worship?” No, I believe in the rights of Americans and the freedom of worship and that is an issue I will address in a post soon to come. Today I am simply asking people to be honest and aware of the affects of these so called “minority” religions on our society.  I 100% concede that there are millions of Americans that belong to a church or a faith that in no way could be construed as a cult. I absolutely understand that religion in itself is not a cult and in fact brings much comfort and positivity to countless lives. I have never been on a crusade to erase personal religion or beliefs and I never will. But there is a rise in extreme religion in America and this rise cannot be ignored nor tip toed around.

-H

 

References:

New York Times: Debate over ‘cult’ is renewed More say religion is important in their lives Two groups speak as one against violence (1993) search.proquest.com/…D4940C28C6047FFPQ/11

Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief (2015 Documentary) – Available On: HBO GO / iTunes / Google Play Movies

Leah Remi: Scientology and the Aftermath – Available on iTunes / Amazon Video / Vudu

Handmaids Tale by Margaret Atwood (1985)

Why I Became an Atheist

The beginning of my journey

My journey started in a fundamental baptist church in Northwest Indiana. Even by Indiana standards my church was extreme, but it was all I knew. Literally my entire life revolved around the church which is why I attended our Christian school from 3rd -12th grade. Of course a non-accredited school, run by ultra right wing conservatives (more concerned with teaching Bible stories than any other subject) didn’t lend for a solid education. But I did develop a deep love for religious history. Despite being handicapped with the lack of information afforded, I found enough about my religion and the religions of the world to fascinate me.

Several years later I came out as gay. Which is a HUGE no, no in the Baptist movement (see anything Westboro Baptist). This admission forced me out of my church and I began a journey to find another, more accommodating place of worship. I started with a Lutheran church. I had heard rumors they were gay friendly. I soon learned those rumors hadn’t reached Indiana and the Lutherans were just as close minded as the Baptists. So I tried a non denominational church. At first they seemed pretty hip and open minded. Someone said “We must all learn to co-exist. It’s not about the name we use when we worship God, it’s about worshiping him at all.” Boy that sounded nice! Unfortunately the gays couldn’t worship there either which I found even more insulting than the Baptists and the Lutherans. At least they had the balls to call me a heathen to my face rather than trying to woo me in and then silently judging me.

I couldn’t bring myself to try the Catholics. The sex abuse scandal had split wide open just a few years earlier and I couldn’t pretend to have any respect for the Church. My last effort at some form of Christianity was the Unitarian Church. Of course they would be offended that I classified them as Christians. But since the Unitarians are just as caught up in their rituals as the Catholics and Protestants I don’t know who they’re trying to kid. I was momentarily impressed with the bowl of condoms sitting next to the pamphlets on the front table. I wondered if maybe I had been wrong all along and this was secretly a sex orgy meet up. Sadly I sat through an incredibly boring and scripted hour long service only to be bitterly disappointed at the end. I grabbed a handful of condoms anyway as I left. My mother had been adamant that this gay thing was sure to wear off and I thought I might as well be prepared for a sudden hetero experience.

At this point I decided to branch out and try a different religion all together. The problem was, I knew little about other religions. Most of what I had been allowed to read growing up was all told from a very slanted, christian perspective. I knew about some Middle Eastern and East Asia religions but only in a negative light. So I headed to my local library and began searching the shelves for an Encyclopedia of Religion. A title caught my eye, “Gods Lunatics” by Michael Largo. Great! I thought Another one of those bitter Atheists trying to make fun of what they refuse to accept. I heatedly grabbed the book and read the back. I was actually surprised, it turned out I had found my encyclopedia.

If you’ve never read Largo’s book and you enjoy brief histories then I highly recommend it. For me, it was exactly what I needed. A one to two page summary each of 1,001 religions. While Largo can’t contain his sarcasm periodically towards some of the most extreme of religions, the account as a whole is pretty straight forward. (If you ever read this Largo then you’re welcome for the free plug.)

As I begin to read I started seeing similarities between the religion of my youth and many other religions. I thought this was odd since my leaders had always been so fervent in teaching us followers that we alone had the “truth”. I didn’t have much access to the internet at this point in my life so my work was all done through old fashion book study. I did check out a few documentaries from the Library as well to aid in my research and I began to map out the history of religion. After a few months I came to an unsettling conclusion: all religion was a man made tool used to manipulate and comfort humankind (but mostly to manipulate). And that almost every religion was a copycat of previous religions and folklore.

It was so obvious but yet I could see why most people had never stumbled up this discovery for themselves. For starters, the leaders of nations had worked tirelessly for millennia to convince the masses of a need to please the god/gods. Naturally the leaders would interpret the gods needs which inevitably coincided with the leaders desires. There were many other reasons people had clung to religion for so long including tradition, community, personal guidance, answers to life’s problems, a desire for justice, and a fear of death. In fact, until the Renaissance and the advances in medicine, science and technology that followed, mankind really didn’t have a reason to dispose of religion.

Realizing why we had religion, it didn’t take me long to question the existence of a god. If we didn’t need religion, then did we need a god? I read a few more books but this time from a scientific approach. I admit I pulled a classic budding atheist move and first read Dawkins The God Delusion. However he did make many compelling points against the existence of a god. Yes his analogy of the Flying Spaghetti Monster rang true for me and would cement my decision to identify as an atheist rather than an agnostic. But that came still later.

My biggest argument for the need for a god was morality. If we concede as a whole that there is no god, will mankind continue as a civil and moral society or disintegrate into savagery? I found a book by Matt Ridley, The Origins of Virtue, which I later discovered is a very popular book in the field of science and morals. This book very clearly detailed where humans get their virtues/morals. The tit for tat theory and subsequent studies were the most compelling argument for me. I cannot recommend this book enough.

I continued to study the subjects of religion, evolution and human psychology and eventually came to my personal belief that the probability of a god is in fact as likely as the probability of Flying Spaghetti Monster hurdling through space. Most important, I came to see the incredible harm religion has place on all of humanity and that is the purpose of this blog. Whether an individual chooses to believe in a god is of little concern to me; but the infiltration of religion into our politics, education and social issues quite frankly terrifies me. So i’m dedicating this blog to addressing these issues, answering questions for the faithful and the faithless, and cataloging my own experience and journey as an atheist in the most religious developed country in the world.

Enjoy! – H