The very first thing I’ve ever tattooed on my body is a symbol of atheism. It might sound stupid for some (“if you don’t believe in god, why do you care so much about the nonexistent?”), but it’s a really important thing for me. Let me tell you why.
I’ve always been a curious kid. Asking thousands of questions about the world, reading popular science journals, being super diligent at school...
My greatest fear was not understanding things. I was honestly suffering psychologically and emotionally from not being able to wrap my head around some concepts. Having a mental mess in my head was just painful.
And there was one issue in particular that was bothering me – how did the world and humans actually come into being? At school I was taught about the big bang and about evolution, while at church I was told about a guy who just existed and who took six days to say things and they just magically appeared. Two equally valid and reasonable hypotheses, right?
For a reasonable adult, of course not! But for a ten-year-old who’s been taught practically from birth to trust their parents and to believe whatever priests says? Who has learned to get on their knees and recite prayers earlier than learning to count? Who’s been indoctrinated practically every day of their childhood?
Parents and catechists seemed not to notice / to actively ignore the obvious contradictions between their favourite book and what science actually knows about the universe. So I had to put my mind at rest by inventing a worldview that would somehow combine both of them: with a god who caused the big bang and then watched over the universe until the Earth formed, who created the first single-cell organism and then watched it evolve into humans... I swear, I’ve never heard of “Inteligent Design” at that age. I just went on with whatever made sense under the assumption that no one is lying to me. I didn’t know that was an option.
Then came the teenage years and I can’t even begin to describe what a horror it was to realise that I’m a horny bitch. Not only I had sexual fantasies, not only did I masturbate and liked it, but I also started to think that I might be into boys more than into girls.
Now I know those are all amazing thing, but back then I was a good catholic boy. And to quote Stephen Fry:
It’s the strangest thing about this church – it is obsessed with sex, absolutely obsessed. Now, they will say we, with our permissive society and rude jokes, are obsessed. No. We have a healthy attitude. We like it, it’s fun, it’s jolly; because it’s a primary impulse it can be dangerous and dark and difficult. It’s a bit like food in that respect, only even more exciting. The only people who are obsessed with food are anorexics and the morbidly obese, and that in erotic terms is the Catholic Church in a nutshell.
There wasn’t a week going by in which I wouldn’t hear voices condemning “impure thoughts”, masturbation, pornography or homosexuality... And the punishment for all of them was the eternal damnation in hell, worse than any suffering you can possibly think of. Can you imagine what damage being in this cult can do to a developing mind?
If the Catholic Church gets you to really believe in their bullshit, you start hating yourself. Everything you do is potentially a sin. You have to regularly go to a cult guru and tell them all the worst things about yourself. Seriously, what sadist came up with the whole confession thing?
Going back to slightly more mundane things than psychological damage: religion can take up a lot of your time. I didn’t just go to a mass every Sunday. I was an altar boy, I was singing in a band, I was learning their bullshit at school, as if those were facts, I was going on pilgrimages, I was praying every day, I was spending a massive chunk of my time trying to reconcile my sexuality and morality with the “moral” teachings of the Church... There’s so many more useful things I could’ve spent those hours and hours...
Oh damn, it was supposed to be just a short note, but it’s already gotten quite long... And I didn’t even start complaining about all the awful and pointless traditions, about facing the catholic homophobia from my own family, about all those matters who didn’t affect me personally but are still shitty, like opposing women’s rights, the Rwanda genocide, pedophilia, anti-condom campaigns, etc. etc.
I know, I know, I’ve been bitching about the Roman Catholicism, not religions in general, but the truth is, they all operate under a similar framework. It can be better (like Protestantism, being less dogmatic and less homophobic), it can be worse (like Islam, threatening death to apostates), but the underlying principle is the same: blind faith is more important than reason, and whatever rules we make up, you have to follow, or else...
Getting out of my cult felt like escaping a prison. It took me years to get there. But I’m happy now. I’m loving myself. I don’t fear the afterlife. I don’t waste my time on rectum-derived mythologies. I’m not stuck in toxic family relations. I embrace and enjoy my sexuality. I follow the morality based on compassion and reason instead of arbitrary rules and fear of supernatural judgment. I’m finally free to think for myself without worrying about dogmas and blasphemy.
I enjoy my life.
So yeah, that freedom is certainly worth being celebrated in a form of a little “A” on my shoulder.