Posts Tagged ‘bible belt’

A Hard Truth

Posted: April 17, 2014 in Op-ed
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Starting from the time I became aware of my surroundings and was able to begin comprehending the world around me in the simplistic manner of a child, I have been inundated with religion. Whether it be the importance of having beliefs, or something as simple as being quoted scripture in relation to a situation, it has always been there. You see, I grew up in the heart of the Bible Belt and down here, religion is not just a part of life but, rather a part of society as a whole. The town I’m from has a population of less than than two thousand, is roughly four square miles, and has upward of 15 churches. Our nearest larger city has upwards of triple that number. Religion is not a choice around here, it is something you are burdened with the obligation of accepting or facing ridicule and shame and the hands of believers.

In the area I’m from you are either a believer in God or you are looked down on as a heathen or a worshiper of Satan, depending on who is doing the looking. That’s right Atheists, if you don’t believe in anything, you worship the Devil…let that sink in for a minute. That pretty well explains the level of logic and reasoning, and common sense for that matter, here and most other small towns im sure. Blindly accepting these deeply held, yet incredibly fragile, beliefs is expected and “God” forbid you stray.

I said all that to give a bit of better understanding on the experiences I’m going to talk about now. Religion is something that I’ve struggled for most of my life. Even from a young age I always had these feelings that what everyone was talking so much about was kind of untrue to a certain degree but, like a good little sheep, I didnt give that too much thought and just went on following blindly. Side note, my parents divorced when I was around three and a half and lucky for me they were both religious so along with two Christmases, I got two churches. They both remarried pretty quickly and both to, how should I say, assholes. Shortly after my dad’s new wife moved in, the abuse began. She began a regimen of daily beatings, with belts, hands, or whatever was handy, for any little reason or for no reason at all. Now, for a four to five year old thats a bit excessive but, what do I know, I don’t even believe in “God”. I don’t want to give the wrong impression and think this is turning into a “sad bastard, feel sorry for me” pitty party, quite the opposite. The point is, I can clearly remember wishing and praying even at such a young age that “God” would make it stop. Surprisingly, that never happened and it took the legal system to set that situation straight. Shocker, I know.

Ok, back to the main subject. Clearly, my struggles with religion and disbelief began pretty early on and with good reason. The older I got, the more the feeling of disbelief, and alienation because of it, grew. The deeper into my teens I got it became more and more difficult to feign enthusiasm and the more I hated myself because of every belief that had ever been forced upon me. I had doubts and therefore I was a dirty, broken, worthless sinner who was doomed to an eternity roasting in hellfire, so they say.

When I was a senior in high school though, something changed. Towards the end of my senior year I began attending a church with some friends of mine and it seemed like it finally all clicked for me after all those years. I had belief and even more than that, I had faith. I felt like I belonged, like I had found a second family…like I was on the right track. It didnt take very long, though, before all those old doubts and feelings of inadequacy crept back up. A few moths later I left that church and took a sort of sabbatical from church and began to explore my personal thoughts and beliefs and really attempt to find myself, because everybody knows that once you turn eighteen you become the person you will be for the rest of your life, right? Right? Anybody?

I tried my hand at church a couple of more times over the next few years with all attempts being unsuccessful. Then, everything changed. A few years ago I met the mother of my child, now my estranged wife. Once we found out we were having a baby, I felt some sort of paternal instinct to raise my child with religion. When he was born, my world changed. I really began to think as I looked down at this helpless little bundle of happiness that there may be some divine purpose, some grand order to the universe and we began attending church regulary and actually got very involved for two full years until about a year and a half ago. After we stopped attending, I really began to take a look at my beliefs and more importantly, to really critically question them all for the first time. After months of introspection, I came to the conclusion that I have no beleifs, at least of the religious variety. It was a hard truth to come to grips with, growing up the way that I did.

I spent 25 years trying to accept the beliefs that were pushed on me. Trying to accept creationism and divine purpose and the afterlife only to realize that I thought it was all a cleverly conceived lie. Now, at nearly 27 years of age I am struggling to make peace with the fact that there is nothing after this. The fact that this life is all I get to enjoy the people and things that I love. That I only get one lifetime to spend with my son who I love and adore more than the very breath of life, for whom I would give my remaining years if it gave him more life to enjoy. This revelation is not one that makes me sad or discourages me, instead it makes me savor every day, every minute that much more. There are times when the idea of death scares me more than anything ever has and then there are times when I think about how poetic it is that when that day finally does come, my atoms and molecules will disperse out into the universe that one day some of them might re-form as something else. These are the things that give me peace now. These are the things that comfort me through difficult times, in addition to good conversation with good friends and family. I don’t need a fairy tale to make me feel better, life is more beautiful without it anyway.

Til next time friends…