I had a period of my life when I started to look into religion – a period that so horrified my mother that she took me aside and had several hour long sessions where she kept asking questions that were designed to demolish my latent little ideas about religion, sin, fate and determinism.
It also made my dad call me “the priest” for about three months until my mum’s icy anger over that “epithet” wore him down and he stopped. Elsewhere I was pointed to this article about a Mormon boy growing up in Utah. It made me think of Ricky, and of my own little short-lived excursion into the realm of religion and faith.
Am I to be alarmed that I recognise myself in that article?
I’ve told you all that I was bullied a lot during my last years in primary school, and that set me on a path where I thought that I was a despicable character that everyone hated, and that had so many flaws and faults that I should really be put in a museum so that everyone could look at me, spit, and be disgusted.
When I discovered I was one of those homosexuals at around 13 or so, it was just one more proof that I was quite something else entirely, and that there had been few specimens of revolting people that compared to me. I took the realisation in a remarkable stride.
When we moved to Sweden, and my environment was entirely changed, and my negativity was challenged from all directions: my music teacher genuinely liked my singing, and the concerts showed that people were receptive to it too; Maria insisted on being my friend, even though I thought she must see how bad I was some day; the other students treated me nicely, and even played with me; and the sullen silent hours of therapy where I refused to talk to the bint that had been appointed to be my councillor made me actually sit down and think through my situation.
But homosexuality, that had to be proof of my horribleness, right? I think I clung to that notion the longest, before I let go, and walked away from my old memories and my old life. Even atheists are often homophobic, after all.
This is the point when I, too my mother’s horror, started to explore religion. I had no answers to my own questions about myself, and the fuzzy ideas about the nice and accepting Jesus that I had must mean that maybe there was something for me there? An answer, an explanation, a crutch?
Of course, an atheist boy raised by one committed sceptic and atheist and another disinterested atheist, I had no frame of reference. The fuzzy hippie idea of Jesus was all I had, and I had gotten that idea through osmosis. Nobody had ever sat me down to explain the doctrine in detail. I could only rely on snippets, half-remembered quotes, and things I had caught on the telly when I zapped past the channels where ‘Songs of Praise’ and the televised sermons played on odd Sunday hours.
When I asked mum if I could have a bible was when she decided to do an intervention, as if I had suddenly asked her to go out and buy crack cocaine for me.
Our first long sessions started. And these sessions, regardless of subject, are always hard on me because mum asks tough questions, and then demands that I explain my thinking for each step, and then the thinking is dissected until there’s nothing left but the drool on my chin. She isn’t satisfied with non-answers, and keeps on digging until she finds what she wants.
A few of those sessions convinced me that religion as an answer to my questions were silly, and would lead nowhere but to a cessation of thinking. The essays in my journals at the time was long and rambling, and I tried to pick apart the flaws of mum’s argument. But I never could win against her. I still rarely can.
But if I was this horrible person, this disgusting homosexual person, and there was nobody that could forgive me, then what hope was there for me? Was I destined to be this bad, without even the chance of someone redeeming me?
The therapy continued, and Maria still insisted that I was all right, and the other people in my year still kept hanging around with me, and the therapy bitch still couldn’t be trusted because what did she know? She had never seen something like me before. She couldn’t have. I was uniquely afflicted with terribleness. See? Even in my depressive state there’s an overestimation of myself. I couldn’t be normally bad and decrepit – I had to be uniquely so.
In the end, just like that boy in the linked article, I couldn’t reconcile anything that I thought any longer, and so I just walked away. So much of what we tell ourselves that we are do, I think, mostly depend on what others tell us that we are.
It’s like I said the other day, when we don’t have a personal story that we tell ourselves, then there’s a disconnect and we’re unhappy and miserable. In the end the best way is to walk away from that story, if we can, and try to tell us a new narrative. And the narrative becomes believable if it’s reinforced by the people around you.
That sounds terribly cheesy, I know.