Recently, I'm getting approached online by people trying to pick a fight about religion and about how terrible I am for not being a fan (to put it mildly). Which surprised me quite a bit, since I honestly don't remember the last time religion was even properly on my mind, let alone having brought up this topic publicly.
Sure, it used to haunt me for years. I was brought up very religiously, I wasted tons of time in church, on prayers, and on trying to reconcile the scientific knowledge of the world with the massively anti-scientific views presented to me as facts in church and school (yes, school, I had more religion lessons in school than biology or physics). Religion and the process of freeing my mind of religious thinking, used to be a huge part of my live.
I've spent years on researching other religions and non-religious points of view, making up my mind, reverting my conditioning; but now it's just… not there anymore. Now I can separate facts from mythology, I'm happy to live in a secular country, I'm not in touch with the birth family, I haven't been in a church for years, nor have I been proselytised to (much). Basically, the topic of religion became so irrelevant to me that I needed some internet users looking for a debate to remind me that it's a thing, and one that has shaped me so profoundly.
So here's a thing: I'm happier that way. Openly challenging religion and hearing the same old boring counterarguments over and over again was unbeliveably exhausting. And also quite pointless at this point. I've already said all I wanted to say, I put in writing my reasoning, my anger, my experiences. I made sure I had heard everything that could possibly change my mind. And now I'm basically done
But… now that the strong emotions are gone it might be worth pointing out a few things, at least so that people stop bothering me:
- Just because I'm not religious and explicitly anti-religion, doesn't mean I hate religious people. I used to be very religious myself, after all – so I know perfectly well why do people fall for religion. It's a very enticing scam – just like astrology, fortune-telling or homeopathy, except much bigger thanks to passing it on from generation to generation. But speaking out against the scam and the scammers doesn't mean I hate its victims. Informing them about how the scam works and letting out my own frustration about having been scammed in the past isn't the same as hating them.
- I'm absolutely against religious people being persecuted, discriminated against, or having any less rights than anyone else. There are, though, unearned privileges granted to churches in many countries that I'm openly against: tax brakes, blasphemy laws, influence on politics, even automatic membership of bishops in the parliament, and more. Me saying “there's no reason for a church to get a tax break or a for bishop to be guaranteed a seat in the House of Lords” isn't in any way comparable to homophobes calling me slurs, threatening physical violence, or legally preventing me from marrying the person I love. I get it, me attacking your religion feels like a personal attack on you – but it's not.
- Religion isn't like queerness. It just isn't. I get comments like “you don't wanna be attacked for being queer, but you attack religious people?”, and it's such a misplaced comparison. Religion is a belief system, an ideology, an opinion. It's a subject of debate and criticism. Telling a gay person “here are ten reasons why you should stop being gay” would be as pointless as explaining to a black person why they should stop being black. However, persuading people to change their opinions, including religion, is a perfectly normal thing to do. Religious people do it all the time, trying to convert others to their faith! Yes, it's possible to discriminate against someone based on their religion, and there have been plenty of religious wars and people suffering just because of what they believe in – but me saying “I don't respect your beliefs, I actually consider them harmful” is nowhere near any of that. Me simply saying “I'm not religious, and I believe the society would be better off if nobody was”, and explaining why I believe so, is not discrimination.
- Yes, I do recognise the value of religion in the past, its influence on art, philosophy and even science. Sure, I'd argue that all of them would probably be perfectly fine, if not better, without the patronage of churches, since the human need to express ourselves and to understand the world around us is universal, but I have to set aside the what-ifs and admit that in the universe we do live in, the reality has been shaped by religion on a large scale. Not just that, I'll admit that in the past believing in a higher power was actually… a pretty reasonable thing to do – in the absence of better explanations of the world, I'd probably be religious too. But that's the past. We now live in the world soooo massively different from how it looked like millenia, centuries or even decades ago. Clinging to outdated belief systems that aren't compatible with our modern understanding of the universe – just because it used to have value in the past – just doesn't sound like a good idea to me. We can appreciate the past without still living in it.
- Yes, I do mean all religions. My personal experience might have been euro- and catholicism-centric, but it's not like I know nothing about other mythologies; I spent a lot of time in my teens getting acquainted with alternatives, from different branches of protestantism, to islam, buddhism, taoism or pantheism; I was clinging to the religious way of seeing the world while trying to escape the homophobia and dogmatism of catholicism. Sure, religions are diverse. Some are more queerphobic, others less. Some are more internally consistent, others less. Some are more compatible with the scientific facts, others less. Some are more harmful and entitled, others less. But in the big picture they're all saying the same thing: “I claim to know how the world works based on something that ultimately can't be traced to anything other than some person making it up, I can't provide any convincing proof or evidence for my claims, but you must believe what I'm saying and give me money, or be punished”.
Many people have tried to convince me over the years that I should believe this or that thing. And honestly, I'm tired of listening to them. If there's no evidence to what you're saying, I'm not believing it, simple as that. I'm not going to no hell, there's no samsara, and thunders aren't cast by Zeus. And I'm justifiably angry for having been fed those lies in the past by people financially and politically profitting from it.
Even though I know it wasn't my fault in any way, I still feel embarassed and kinda sorry for having been religious. The world would be so much nicer, if we collectively cared more for evidence and reason – and I used to be a part of a system actively working against that goal. Oh well, I did my part trying to counteract that. It was exhausting, and I'm done.
Like, I'm still against religion, I'm still gonna speak up against it if necessary – but having taken an hour to write down those afterthoughts above is basically the limit of how much I'm willing to let the topic of religion occupy my mind anymore.
For me, life without religion is amazing – and that includes flame wars about religion. I'm done. Please don't at me.