Today is my 33rd birthday.
For anybody like me, with a Christian upbringing, that number should ring a bell. It’s Jesus’ age (something about him dying at that age, but never dying, so eternally 33).
As the outspoken atheist in my group of friends, the jokes have started.
I thought it would be the perfect occasion to talk about how I became an atheist.
My first sexual experience was when I was 13. He was 13 as well, and, at the time, he was my best friend. As awkward as it was, that moment made everything clear for me. It felt right. Everything made sense when it happened. For once, I understood. I was gay, and that was that.
Until the next day.
Guilt, fear, hate, shame.
Prayer. Lots of prayer.
Confession. 3 Hail Marys and the promise to never do it again.
Confusion. Is this something I am going to have to go through every time I sleep with a guy?
I don’t like to tell people that I stopped believing in God because I realized I was gay. People tend to dismiss it in that case.
Truth is, I’m not an atheist because I am gay. I am an atheist because I took a step back and thought about it. Being gay forced me to take that step back, and I am forever grateful for that.
That’s probably the most important thing I’ve ever done in my life. I stopped believing in my religion first, simply because I found a gap between what I was convinced was right, and what people around me were telling me was right.
After that initial step, it’s amazing how everything crumbles the second you step out of the world you’ve been living in. It’s a tough step. Lots of confusion, darkness, fears. But as the smaller things start to crumble (7 days to build the whole universe?), the bigger things stop making sense (I am born a sinner because someone thousands of years ago ate an apple?)
No more guilt about things that are completely natural. No more fear of ending up in hell. No more unanswered prayers.
Suddenly, it was all about me. Within my control. I had the power to decide what was wrong, what was right, and, most importantly for me at the time, who I can have sex with.
I no longer felt someone was looking down on me when I was masturbating, trying out a cigarette, (play) fighting with my brother, or not going to Church every week.
I suddenly had to rely on my humanity, instead of on some ancient book.
I believed in a religion that claimed to be one of love. And then it taught be that I was a sinner on many, many, many levels.
So I left it. And then I taught myself to love myself, my gayness, and sex. No god could ever do that.