This I Believe

Patrick - Ann Arbor, Michigan
Entered on September 8, 2006
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: atheism
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I used to be Roman Catholic. And then I realized I was bisexual.

An interesting juxtaposition of things that shouldn’t be related, I agree.

But shouldn’t be and aren’t are not the same, and every time in my youth I encountered Leviticus 18:22, I saw their incompatibility.

Everything else I knew had come from experience and reason. I push this button, the TV turns on; I push it again, it turns off. I smile to this person, he smiles back. I don’t smile, he doesn’t smile back. I read about experiments in physics to test the theory of gravity; I read about theories in biology to explain the origin of life. But through it all, I was expected to believe this one set of things, this “religion,” for an entirely different reason—or rather for none at all. I couldn’t see God, I couldn’t read about experiments to demonstrate His existence, no one could explain why He needed to be there. I even tried my own experiments: the Bible said it’s wrong to say His name in vain, so I tried it—nothing happened. It didn’t hurt me, it didn’t hurt anyone; it barely did anything at all. With religion, I had no experience, no reason, no evidence, no causal connection of this does that. All I got was a bunch of very nice people telling me that this was true and must be so. And when I asked them why, they couldn’t say.

Worse yet, this belief, for which I could find no foundation and no empirical test, told me that my most inner desires were of a deep kind of evil. They said that this love that I felt (or some of it, anyway) was something to be resisted, repressed, condemned. And I believed it.

And why shouldn’t I? More than all the others, I had evidence of that. When I told people I was bi, some of them would give me odd looks, others would shun me. When I watched the news, I’d see how lawmakers were keeping men from marrying men and women from marrying women. And every day I went to school where “gay” was an insult and “faggot” was worse.

In the end, the only way I could reject this belief—a belief that I know contributed to my bouts of depression, a belief that filled me with anger and self-loathing, a belief that was quite literally destroying me from within—was to realize that I don’t have to listen to anyone. Truth isn’t something you receive, obtained by listening to your parents, or reading a book, or going to Church on Sundays. It is something you find, on your own, using the ideas of others merely as material for your smelter. Every idea must be questioned, every view analyzed, every theory tested. Truth is not faith; truth is reason.

It was this that freed me from the horror of that self-destruction; and it was this that brought me into atheism. By my own reason I could see that there was nothing wrong with my self and my love—and at the same time I could see that God did not make sense. He told me nothing, explained nothing, prescribed nothing, that I could not decide on my own. As Laplace said to Napoleon, “I have no need for that hypothesis.”

And so you see, they aren’t so unrelated after all.