What to do when people use religion as an excuse for homophobia
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been fascinated with organised religion and interested in the faith that it’s followers seem to instinctively feel. There’s something strangely beautiful about their confidence and determination in what they believe. Their unshakable knowledge of where they come from and where they will one day end up. I’ve longed for their unquestionable purpose and admired their sense of belonging. In many ways, religion can provide some of our essential needs, so what happens when you simply don’t have any faith?
My curious nature and determination to find a community has meant that I have spent years searching for faith, only to come to the conclusion that I would never be one of the faithful. I’ve dabbled in many religions, studied them intensely and even went to a Church school, only to be left without a connection to any.
I tried to fit in, I tried to follow the rules and to live my life as Jesus did and whilst I still uphold the good values, I was never able to feel a connection to the Christian faith. I was never able to fully believe in the words of the bible and it almost felt like I was playing pretend, like Jesus was an imaginary friend that I never really believed in. My prayers always went unanswered, tragedies seemed to have no real meaning and they left with a sense of discord with the God I was supposed to believe in. Eventually I started to come to terms with how I felt, questioning the contradictions that started to become obvious to me. There was one overarching question that never left me – how can a benevolent and omnipotent god, allow so much devastation and injustice to continue?
At the time, admitting that I felt this way felt like a failure, like I was betraying my values and community. It’s a feeling that stuck with me for many years and it took a long time for me to come to terms with the label “atheist”.
It wasn’t a label that I was initially comfortable with, it felt so finite and I wasn’t sure that I was ready to accept that I would never have any form of religion in my life. Yet more than this, it also felt like admitting that death was just that and I struggled with my ability to handle such a huge realisation. At the heart of most religions is the idea that life is just one aspect of our journeys and accepting there was no god, felt like admitting there was no life after death. It’s a thought that stuck with me for many years and as relatives slowly passed away, it was a realisation that initially scared me. I suppose in many ways, it’s a coping mechanisms because it allows you to believe that you’ll see them again one day and that they are never really gone.
Over the years, I’ve come to accept my own version of this reality. I don’t believe in the life after death of old, I don’t believe in heaven or hell but instead I believe that there’s a chance there could be something more. A non-religious, non-god governed afterlife, that does offer me some kind of solace. It means that death doesn’t feel like the end and yet balances this with my conviction that there is no god figure.
As I’ve grown older, I have come to realise that I had misinterpreted the word, that I could still be curious and interested in other religions, whilst still admitting who I really was.
It’s hard to pinpoint the exact moment when the word really started to resonate with me, when it started to fit or when I started to use it. I think it was a gradual process, the more I tried to find my faith, the more skeptical I became and so faith continued to evade me.
These days I am confident in admitting that I am an atheist and that I will never believe in anything more. Since admitting this to myself, and others, I’ve come to realise that it's more common than people think. These days there’s a growing community of atheists around the world, as more and more people are embracing the word and admitting that they struggle with faith.
Whilst science should not and will not ever replace the role that religion can play in people’s lives, it does help us to understand the world a bit better. It’ll probably be a long time before science fully explains everything and that is if it ever can. However being an atheist means admitting that there’s probably a scientific explanation for most of the world’s unexplained phenomenons.
For me, being an atheist means learning to live life in the moment. It means accepting that we will never know how we got here or what happens when we leave. It means making the most of life, whilst living as a good person.
So while faith is beautiful, being an atheist means accepting that there’s a logical, if yet unknown, explanation for everything. Somehow, that’s beautiful too.
About the author
Kay Page has spent the last 6 years fighting to change the world and is the co-founder of Politics4Youth, a website aimed at engaging more young people.