Sunday, September 8, 2013

Religion and Me: A Photo Essay

Hi, this is me! A 26-year-old from Ontario, Canada.

I like spending time with family:

And friends:

And I like to play the guitar:

And I am an atheist!

However, I have not always held my anti-theistic views. In fact, I used to be an altar boy in my small, rural town's Catholic church.

I would like to take a few moments of your time to show you how I went from altar boy to atheist. Let's start by looking at what religion is, shall we?

But I didn't always see religion for what it truly is, I used to view it like this…

…but as I started to grow up and pay less attention to myself, I began to pay more attention to the world around me. I noticed that the world was in dire need of help--God's help! So, I began to do what I was taught to do when I was in need, pray!

It didn't seem to be working, so I changed how I asked things, tried to be a "better" person, and continued to pray…

…and pray…

But no matter how much i prayed, the terrible things continued to happen:

Nobody but me seemed to mind that our prayers were going unanswered. Maybe it was because the people around me still had food on their tables, a vehicle in their garage, and a safe environment to live in. It was frustrating to me, though, that God wasn't blamed for the bad stuff, but when something good happened we attributed it to His benevolence.

And around the time of Japan's most recent earthquake and subsequent tsunami, I realized that:

So I decided to start helping and I concluded that praying was not as productive as I had been lead to believe. I realized that I was brainwashed: that everything I had been told about God; His love, His commandments, His hatred of human nature, His stories that only a child should believe, yet all the adults were swearing by, were all falsified and fabricated. I realized that religion is just a pervasive venom we were being spoon fed by irresponsible adults--the people who were supposed to be teaching us how to think, not what to think.

To begin, I had to break free of my old, primitive ways of thinking--that natural need for appeasement that comes with religion and the complacent attitude I had been indoctrinated with my whole life. I decided to take a risk and throw out everything the Bible had taught me, lessons like the Adam and Eve story…

…were only hurting me. Next, I started listening to the other side: the secularists, non-religious, anti-theists, and atheists. The people who, where I come from, are still the most mistrusted group of individuals.

But as I continued to let dissent of religious indoctrination spread secretly through my mind, I realized that the people who truly understood the way the world was supposed to be run were not the religious persons I was surrounded by:

I quickly came to the understanding that I had been mislead; that atheists were not bad at all, they've just been given a very bad reputation:

I chose to begin studying religion openly; its influence on human beings, and of course, where it all came from. I came to a stark realization one day when I stumbled on the discovery that:

As I grew up and began to mature, some of my friends became open about their homosexuality — I didn't care, they were my friends; sexual preference was too small a personality trait to matter to me. In fact, I respected them. I was ashamed of my disbelief in God and religion, afraid of who might say what at school. Yet these individuals were brave enough to be themselves in a place that very much scorned any act of individualism. High School is not an accepting place.

In my mind, even if the entire Bible was just passages saying that same-sex relations were a sin, I would still argue that there were worse things happening in the world. To me, sin is just an invented sickness designed to sell you a fake cure--a pill you could swallow whole, using your code of morals as the liquid chaser. The name of that cure is Religion, and along with its imaginary illness, Sin, the duo write the greatest prescription for permission to hate that the world has ever seen.

I just couldn't understand why everybody hated my friends. Were there really any legitimate worries because they had desires to love a member of the same sex?

I believed quite strongly that the rest of the world was wrong, while I was right about the same-sex debate. It was not too long, however, that people in the public eye began to express the thoughts that I, and surely several others were having:

At that point in my life I was convinced that if there ever was a god, he lost interest in us long ago. Our prayers go unanswered, and to be brutally honest, they should--they deserve to be ignored. They should be ignored because as each person mutters their own selfish, pathetic, depraved prayers, we contradict someone else's prayers. We cant all win the lottery, we can't all win at sports and certainly, we can't all have God protect us from bullets while ensuring the bullets we fire find our targets.

Speaking of death, why do religious people continue to scare the rest of us, when it's really themselves who can't wait for death? How many times have they scared us into believing the world is about to end? The world isn't about to end, unless it comes in the form of a war that religion itself creates.

The harder I looked at the evidence (lack thereof) for an omnipotent, omniscient being, the more I understood about human nature. God didn't make people good, he made them bad — his message was a corrupt one. People become so twisted by religious brainwashing that they commit heinous acts and feel no remorse for them — they believe they're divinely warranted. Other people, the ones already morally corrupt, those who are naturally sick and don't need the imaginary cure religion sells, take the pill anyway and use religion as a convenient curtain to hide behind. Whether you are made sick by it, or let yourself become more depraved of humanity by allowing it to be your protective blanket is irrelevant — the one thing it does not ever do, is make someone better. Disagree? What about:

Child abuse:

Suppression of women:

Manipulation of fears, pushing an agenda of gang-like mentality:

Hoarding money for mega-churches, mansions, personal wealth:

The blocking of scientific frontiers such as stem cell research, or evolution, despite its obvious and irrefutable benefits:

It seems so hopeless at times, as if religion will always be in control--fighting against reason and free thought. But even when it seems like I'm surrounded by people who disagree I remind myself that religions are on their last leg; they retreat more everyday. We are winning!

There will be good people and there will be bad people, with or without religion; that is a fact of civilization and the human condition. But without humanity, we largely tip the scales in favour of the bad. After all, it is much easier to hate a person when you refuse to see them as just that: a fellow person. 

History proves time and time again that the simplest, most potent forms of hate come from viewing other human beings as inferior, sub-human creatures. It worked with Nazis and the Jews, Israelis and the Palestinians, and certainly much closer to home, it is working with the Christians and the Muslims. Religion blocks humanity; humanity is all we have. I don't know what the best solution is in regards to the problems religion perpetuates. I also can't say for sure what things would look like without religion when it is gone. I don't know where this fight against the stupidity known as religion ends; I do know one thing however, and that is how it begins — by taking a step back and imagining how the world would look without religion.

You can find me right here on Twitter if you wish to discuss this further or you can leave a comment below. Thank you for your time.