I don’t follow any religion. You know how people say, “I’m spiritual, not religious?” Well, that’s not me. I’m not even spiritual. The only faith I have is that spring will eventually follow winter and the Sun will rise in the east from our planetary perspective. I believe in facts. The number four is larger than three. Jupiter is father away from our Sun than Earth. Trees grow concentrically.
Some of you may think my lack of faith is sad. In some ways, I find it sad as well. Most religious folks take comfort in religion. Go to church, say your confession, get baptized, pray… in the end, all will be forgiven. It’s god’s will or all part of the plan. It would be nice to have another entity take responsibility for everything.
I understand why humans invented gods to worship. We are not god-like creatures. Our only remarkable anatomical features are opposable thumbs and big primate brains. Otherwise, we’re sort of middling; we cannot fly, breathe underwater, and our life span is way shorter than a tubeworm. Our closest relative is the chimpanzee, with which we share over 98% of our DNA. Religious folks are right when they say in a huff that humans didn’t evolve from apes. We didn’t evolve from them, but with them. We share the same family tree, though they can climb it much easier than we can.
As far as religion goes, my atheism didn’t occur in a vacuum. It’s not like I wasn’t exposed to religion. I was steeped in Christianity as a child. I went to Presbyterian church every Sunday with my family until I was old enough to say no and I even attended two years of Catholic school. I’ve sat through countless hours of church services and Bible study. I was baptized and I’ve taken communion. In Catholic school, I was even required to take classes on religion. By religion, of course, I mean Catholicism. It’s not like Catholic school had classes on Islam or Judaism.
What I’m saying is that I am intimately familiar with how Christianity operates. As a child raised the way I was, early on, I probably had faith that god existed, but what faith I had ended when I was seven years old.
Warning: the following paragraphs talk about child sexual abuse, so feel free to skip to the next bit of bold text further down if needed.
When I was seven years old, a pedophile came to stay with his mother next door to the summer cabin in northern Michigan that’s been in my family for 100 years. In the middle of the night, he’d take the screen off the window at the foot of my bed and pull me outside by the ankles. He told me not to tell anyone or he’d kill me.
When that summer ended, I thought my ankles and various parts would be far away from the monster, but my family invited the pedophile to live in our home downstate. He took the spare bedroom just down the hall from mine, which was formerly a playroom for my sister and me.
My family always had dogs. Dad’s old socks were donated to the dogs as chew toys. They were washed and tied at the ends. The pedophile would tie me up with those socks, sometimes, in the same room as my parents while we were watching TV. My family laughed as they watched me hog-tied on the floor struggling to get free. They thought it was a game; it very much wasn’t.
I had a Walkman with which you could listen to music through headphones. When we were with my family and I was listening to music, he would replace whatever music I was listening to with audio recordings of him having sex with random adult women. He’d give me the “I’ll slit your throat” hand gesture if I turned it off and punish me later. He enjoyed the look of abject horror on my face.
When the audio wasn’t doing it for him anymore, he made me witness the real thing. When my parents weren’t home, he would tie me up in his closet with one of those dog-slobbered socks tied around my mouth as a gag. He would have sex with women while I was tied up in there. He’d leave the closet door open a crack and instruct me to watch. I never did, but I couldn’t help but listen as I had no way to escape or cover my ears.
Eventually, he stopped bringing women over and only had sex with me. He became bolder and less afraid of getting caught with each successive interaction. I can’t talk about this more at the moment, because it’s making me physically ill, but suffice it to say, it only gets worse from here.
End of awful bits.
A pedophile lived with us for my entire first year of school. At seven years old, I was ill equipped to deal with any of this. Even adults can’t handle being tied up and raped, but at seven, I had no frame of reference and no way to cope. Between the threats and the fact that my family didn’t seem to mind him tying me up for entertainment, it took a long time to work up the courage to talk to my family about it.
I told my mom what was happening, hoping that she might make it end, but she didn’t. She didn’t believe me. She let it continue. I should have told my father; he would have murdered him on the spot, but I didn’t.
I hope none of you ever feel as alone as a sexually abused child whose mother doesn’t believe her. I lost my innocence, my sense of self, and the person I might have become without sexual abuse. It destroyed my ability to sleep, trust anyone, or ever feel completely safe again. I lost my childhood and gained only PTSD and panic in its place. I lost any chance for legal justice or psychiatric help that I might have gotten had my mother believed me. I withdrew from my family and the world around me. I retreated into myself and pleaded with god to help me.
I prayed for it to end. I prayed for him to go away. I prayed for a mother’s protection. It only got worse. I stopped hoping that anyone would save me. No one ever did. I stopped believing in god. That was the last time I ever prayed.
When summer came around again, my family went back to the cabin in the woods and the pedophile went back to Florida. He never touched me again. Perhaps I just wasn’t interesting to him anymore. He had broken me. The fear had been replaced with emptiness. I had stopped fighting. I was just an object. I shut down and remained that way for many years.
So, I have no use for religion. It has never helped me. It has never comforted me in a time of need. I don’t take much of anything on faith. Real evil exists in the world and religion could not and cannot counter it.
Now that you know my story, maybe you’ll understand why I don’t believe in anything but facts. Facts never change. They don’t pander to opinion nor require you to take them on faith. They are fixed and definitive, and their steadfastness is comforting to me in a way that religion never was.