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September 25, 2011 | by  | in Features |
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Dumping God

A few years ago, I went through a pretty nasty breakup. It started out civil. A clean split. No hard feelings. We had grown apart. I just didn’t see the world the way he did anymore. Slowly, life resumed normality and I went about it alone. It was okay, at first. Liberating, even.

Then the calls started, and the emails. “Hey, are you okay? Where’ve you been?” I guess his friends just wanted to let me know he still loved me. It was sort of nice of them. After all, it wasn’t just him I’d dumped. It was them too, the people I had shared the last years with who, I suppose, had loved me as well.

Occasionally, I’d bump into them. They’d hug me too hard and tell me wide-eyed how much he missed me and that he’d made so many sacrifices just to be with me. Of course, I had made him mad and stuff, but he was totally cool with it now. He’d take me back any day. It’d be just like old times.

“Here’s my number, we’ll have coffee.”

I was tempted. Those months were lonely. Cripplingly. My memories of them blur into avoiding people in hallways and eating lunch alone. I hadn’t just lost the people; I’d lost a worldview, a routine. A warm and wonderful security blanket had been yanked from beneath my feet and I wanted it back.
Had I made a terrible decision?

We did have some great times, with this wise, enigmatic guy. He was dedicated, kind, cryptic and mysterious. A real romantic. Everybody loved him. He was always there with a comforting word and reassurance. He gave me free stuff. We went to concerts and parties, full of bright and sober teens so eager to know all about me. For the first time, I really felt a part of something.

Only years later in the clarity of retrospect did I realise how stupid I had been. At first, it was nice not to feel wholly responsible for myself, to be answered for. But soon it was more. Soon, my body wasn’t mine and even the life around me and the thoughts in my head were somehow his. There was something wrong with me. I needed him. I owed him everything. I worshipped him.

That arrogant fuck.

And, god, did he lie. He told me wonderful, fantastical things, so obviously untrue. I watched him ignore unimaginable suffering and effortlessly control his adoring fans at whim. He was conservative, dogmatic, violent and dangerously persuasive. He ignored my questions and let me feel guilty, self-loathing and perpetually afraid of upsetting him. I let him take my money and use my worst fears against me. I let all the trademarks of an abusive relationship fly right under my radar. I let it all happen.

I was furious, but more than that, I wanted to help. I wanted to warn his next victims—the young and naive converts he will tempt down the same road. Maybe he’ll fool them for longer. Maybe he’ll hurt them more. I wanted them to know just how much of a dick he is. I wanted them to know that they were worth more.

I wanted them to know that dumping God will be the best decision they ever make.

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Comments (18)

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  1. Tyler Priest says:

    You are awesome

  2. Alpha says:

    “I was furious, but more than that, I wanted to help. I wanted to warn his next victims—the young and naive converts he will tempt down the same road. Maybe he’ll fool them for longer. Maybe he’ll hurt them more. I wanted them to know just how much of a dick he is. I wanted them to know that they were worth more.”

    But lol, isn’t that what “they” do when “they” try and convert people? Aren’t you just becoming an atheist missionary? I’m agnostic, and I think we should leave people to their choices. Religion isn’t any more harmful than anything else. In fact I’d say on balance it’s probably a good thing people who subscribe get a bonus sense of community, and become inspired to be more than they can be.

    If that’s what floats their boat, more power to them. No need for your patronising assumptions about what other people may or may not get out of religion.

  3. Patrick Starr says:

    Loved this article in todays Salient, and now i found the link to this page on reddit.
    Awesomeness

  4. Ben Johnson says:

    Alpha: “Religion isn’t any more harmful than anything else”.

    Well Alpha, that’s the point of contention. The whole idea is that religion is harmful. It lies to you and promotes dogmatism and irrationality.

    If being lied to provided you with a sense of community does that make that lie good?

    There are other ways to find community that avoid bigotry and manifest untruth.

    LOL.

  5. Alpha says:

    That would be true, if religion did lie to people. Which it doesn’t. You not sharing their beliefs does not make them untrue, and certainly not a malicious lie.

    Should we disregard all indigenous spiritual claims on the same grounds. I demand to see your outrage next time tapu comes up in the press.

    I see it like a hobby. Stamp collecting is basically equivalent to religion. As is sport.

    As for bigotry, there are bigots everywhere. The only homophobe in my (broad) circle of friends is agnostic. I grew up Catholic and I never witnessed any bigotry. Ever. There’s far more of that outside of the Church than within it. Despite what your stereotypes are ‘informing’ you.

  6. Drumchick says:

    Wow, that is almost exactly how I feel about God and Christianity. Very well written! I loved reading this!

  7. Shaun says:

    @ Alpha.

    Religion does lie to people. Systematically. Whether it be doctrinal points about the evils of sex and inferiority of women, or more visceral evils like covering up child abuse.

    The whole ‘live and let live’ attitude cannot inform our reactions to this surely. The evils committed in the name of religion are numerous and ongoing.

    While I do understand that the typical NZ christian does not make connections between their faith and the atrocities committed in the name of a metaphysically impossible being, that does not mean that we should allow the teachings of creation and the like as alternatives.

  8. Alpha says:

    Shaun, have you ever been to Mass?

    I don’t mean that in a “omfg, you’re evil and a heathen” kind of way. I mean that in a “stop being prejudiced” kind of way. Christianity does not teach that women are inferior. I’ve never heard someone make that claim. If that’s what you want to get out of a literal interpretation of Genesis, then cool. But keep in mind that only a very small minority of Christians would even think about holding that perspective. The majority of Catholics see no problem with a female clergy, and they’re comfortable making their own editorial positions outside of Rome (for proof, see Catholic magazine The Tablet).

    As for sex, I doubt you’d believe me if I said that we learnt about condoms at a Catholic secondary school, but we did. In religious education, we were not “systematically lied to”, but rather encouraged to debate and probe our own positions. They didn’t care that I didn’t see a problem with abortion, provided I had a good reason for holding that position (rather than just spite).

    Oh and before you try it, we never even entertained the idea of Intelligent Design.

    Put that in your prejudice pipe.

  9. Ben Johnson says:

    Alpha, consider yourself lucky that you grew up in such liberal circumstances.

    The danger is that religious texts are open to–and necessitate–absolutism.

    I’m cool with allowing people to live their life as they choose, but when that way of life starts to become exploitative by virtue of it being fundamentally opposed to reason, then I have a problem.

  10. Alpha says:

    I’m not quite sure how it is “fundamentally opposed to reason”? Can you elaborate, please?

  11. Shaun says:

    It is ‘fundamentally opposed to reason’ because it requires no evidence for its positions and in fact ignores ludicrous amounts of evidence to the contrary.

    If, as a catholic, you do not believe that God is/was responsible for the creation of the universe and everything in it then what exactly do you believe? I did mean creation in a very broad sense, not necessarily the evolution denying fundamentalists you clearly pictured.

    Opposition to same sex relationships, abortion and euthanasia might not have been hallmarks of your experience at a catholic school but it is not rare. Certainly by supporting moderate forms of religion we risk more extreme forms. By teaching the idea of God as plausible we are doing a huge disservice to our children.

  12. Alpha says:

    I’m agnostic.

    And your statements about ignoring reason are ludicrous because the Church teaches moral and ethical positions that one can choose to accept or reject (or something in between). I never found any incompatibilities with ‘reason’.

  13. Shaun says:

    Some of the moral positions are universalisable and the faith structure around them is merely a teaching tool. That is not what I meant. The lack of reason is obvious where people believe Jesus rose from the dead, was born of a virgin etc. These are basic tenets of the belief system. Ignore things like Noah’s arc and stuff, sure, but there are plenty of very commonly held beliefs that are held in spite of having zero evidence.

    Also, sorry, you did mention above that you are agnostic.

  14. Alpha says:

    Well essentially you’re criticising the use of miracles. I don’t think that’s an effective argument. Sure, people believe in the Immaculate Conception despite it being physically impossible. But that’s the definition of a miracle. The absence of reason is the whole point.

    There’s no evidence for taniwha either (I use this to illustrate that by claiming any belief illigitimate due to an absence of reason means you must logically reject all such claims… Which is universal in its own right.)

    Also there’s a lot of room for metaphorical interpretations of these miraces. See, for example, Kiwi theologian Lloyd Geering on Jesus’ resurrection.

  15. Shaun says:

    Thank you. “The absence of reason is the whole point”. It terrifies me to think that we don’t care or in many cases apparently WANT our children to be taught that its okay to believe something despite evidence to the contrary.

    Also, I’m not sure why you are under the impression that I wouldn’t reject taniwha. I do happily reject all such claims.

    “Room for metaphorical interpretation” is great except all to often thats not the way poeple treat these myths. Besides, try explaining that to a 5 year old who is scared shitless of going to hell for telling a lie.

  16. Alpha says:

    Actually I think you managed to reaffirm my position. What is harmful about someone believing in the Immaculate Conception or the Resurrection? It doesn’t harm anyone, just as if someone else believes in mermaids and leprechauns.

    Each to their own. As long as public institutions are secular, leave them be. That’s why I took objection to this article. The author is entitled to inform people how much of an “arrogant dick” she sees ‘God’ to be, but I don’t see how that substantially differs from the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses who publicly argue the opposite.

    I wish more people were apathetic.

  17. Shaun says:

    Fair point.

    For my own part it does bother me that people believe these things because that kind of attitude towards unevidenced beliefs can be very damaging if it leaks into other spheres of life. The debate over teaching evolution or creationism for example, is obviously not an issue here but is big in the US.

    Maybe in New Zealand we can afford to be apathatic this kind of stuff, but that doesn’t mean we should. We should expect higher standards of ourselves. Would it bother you if a large group of people began denying that the sun was a star? Or that the Earth was round? What about unfounded beliefs that vaccines cause autism? Quickly we start to get into dangerous territory.

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