OP - July 14, 2013, 09:27 PM
Hello to everyone on the CEMB! Just joined today. I stumbled across this site quite by chance some time ago and have been reading so much of what's on here and I just really wanted to join. I'm neither a Muslim nor an ex-Muslim, but having seen a number of posters that also fall into this category and it not seeming to be a problem decided to join. Reason for joining, I was just so incredibly moved by the things I read here.
So a bit about me. I suppose you could say I come from a Catholic family but that isn't strictly true. My mother became an atheist a little before she got pregnant with me, which wasn't the best news for my grandparents but only one of their five children actually claimed belief in God by teens/adulthood, and with my mother being the youngest by then they'd come to accept they couldn't change her mind.
I remember religion being indoctrinated into me from a very young age. Sitting in assembly while I was at nursery school having no choice but to sing hymns in assembly every day before class, teachers al saying there's a God, grandparents telling me there's a God, ect. My mother was the only one to challenge this.
The biggest religious memory I have, I'm not sure how old I was, six or seven. Dad hadn't lived with us since I was five, Mum was finding it tough being a young single parent with no idea where the next meal was coming from and needed a break, so my grandparents babysat me.
I know it was a Saturday and I heard mum telling grandma and granddad under no circumstances did she want me being taken to Church, but my grandparents, who had never missed a Sunday in their lives as far as I know were both going so they didn't really have a choice other than to take me. I always remember that first experience. the Church itself was beautiful. Wonderful architecture, shining stained glass windows with all these pictures. There weren't that many people there but I distinctly remember the Priest and the blonde woman with the child. The Priest began his sermon, and it was one of the most horrible things I'd heard. Sin and Hellfire and unworthiness, concepts he said with an incredible devotion. The woman had a young baby cradled in her arms and as the Priest's voice was echoing louder and louder in the Church the baby began to cry. The Priest became louder clearly to be heard over the baby, and the louder he got the more terrified the baby got. I remember being baffled as to why the Priest didn't lower his voice as he was obviously the source of the terror, and when he continued getting louder why the woman didn't just take the baby outside. I think eventually she did. Hearing my first sermon and that sermon being as degrading to human beings as it was at such a young age and the obvious conviction of the Priest standing up there I remember all I could think was "Why are people coming here and listening to this idiot?"
I've had a number of experiences with religion in my life, few of them good. I never had much contact with my aunts, uncles or cousins growing up including the one who kept the faith and passed it on to his children So it was something of a constant bombardment from all sides except my mother who never really spoke about it other than saying "There is no God" when I asked. The thing is I never really believed. I actually liked the songs I sung in assembly and occasionally walking home I'd sing "All creatures great and small" and "Jesus gives us the water of life" without really understanding what it was about. I regarded it the same way I regarded Jack and the Beanstalk, Sleeping Beauty, Little Red Riding Hood, etc. I enjoyed the songs.
I think the real problems began when I was seven, not because anything was different, just that I was maturing a little and beginning to absorb and understand more. I had a horrific childhood, the details I really don't want to go into here and having a bunch of nutjobs telling me it was basically my fault and I deserved it had a serious impact on my mental health, but what coping methods does a seven year old have? You don't automatically believe adults are sprouting superstitious nonsense, you believe adults are telling the truth, plus my basic understanding of God grilled into me honestly made me believe I was born evil. In my early teens I came to the conclusion that religion was fine if you had a good comfortable safe life, but it will screw with you if you had the life I had.
Fortunately my adult life in different as night and day to my childhood. I'm actually very fond of religious buildings. I love the old Churches, and I absolutely adore the Cathedrals. In fact visiting the York or Lincoln Cathedral, or any of the Abbeys scattered around is something that I don't do often but when I do I highly enjoy it. There's not a single part of me which believes in the Christian God or any other God, but the buildings really are magnificent.
Religion is a huge part of life for so many, and for a while I was no different in my own way. There are certain things you ask yourself, one of which is "If it all just ends in nothingness, if I just cease to exist what's the point in anything?" Though fortunately I got past that by the time I was fifteen, maybe sixteen. I'm not sure if it helped or hindered that a number of people I knew, family and otherwise had died by the time I was that age and having them just gone forever without any believe in an afterlife. I'm a very philosophical person, I by no means have all the answers, and I'm happy there's always more to explore. And I'm content. I have no God, nor have I ever really, apart from daily assaults on something I didn't understand or even acknowledge the implications of until I was at an age I had the ability.
I know the difference between right and wrong. and I know full well you can live a decent moral life without God. I know love and heartache, joy, sorrow, and every day I am in awe of how beautiful this world is and how lucky I am to be here.
This site and others like it are so incredibly important and I'm pleased to have a place among you. I know there are many who doubt their faith or even the existence of an all powerful being guiding you and having the struggle of this security and comfort slip away, if you were lucky enough to have that as your experience. I've spoken many times to people in this situation and according to them I help. Anyone perhaps struggling on coming to grips on living a life without God, you are not alone, and it really does not make your life have any less value. I would argue it gives it more. We are so lucky to be alive, and while we live we matter. We are here. We exist. And that's fantastic.
`But I don't want to go among mad people,' Alice remarked.
`Oh, you can't help that,' said the Cat: `we're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad.'
`How do you know I'm mad?' said Alice.
`You must be,' said the Cat, `or you wouldn't have come here.'