I have been putting off writing for a few weeks now. It’s coming up on the first anniversary of my late husband’s untimely death, my diagnosis of cancer, and the brutal fight over my atheism that ensued immediately after.
For those of you who did not know him, Robert was a very militant atheist. He was loud and obnoxious about religion and became even more so after meeting me and understanding the plight religion had laid upon my life, much of which I am still recovering from to this day.
Robert was a decent man who had his own personal demons to fight. He did the best he could with the life he had, although much of what he did was backwards and twisted, due to his own experiences. But that is his story and it is not mine to tell.
His death came as utter shock to everyone who knew him. An otherwise healthy 48 year old man who died of cardiac arrest 3 weeks after his last birthday; sitting right next to me, talking one moment, gone in the blink of an eye.
His outspoken ways regarding religion and the religious led many to believe that MY atheism died along with him. In the week that followed his death, I was barraged with crosses being placed in my front yard “in memory” of Robert, by people who knew damned well we were atheist. My own family attempted to delay his burial in an effort to force me to have a religious ceremony by way of lawsuit, headed up by my own hypocritical younger anti-atheist sister.
Yes, anti-atheist, NOT christian. I have learned that difference over the past year.
A few weeks later, I was diagnosed with stage 3 medullary thyroid cancer. My tenth fight with many different forms of cancer. And of course, all because I refused to accept the misled notion that some god out there is real……. And I have severely pissed he/she/it off in epic fashion.
The abuses from anti-atheists and my own family continued so brutally in the months that followed that at one point I tried to take my own life. It was an utterly selfish act on my part and one I’m not likely to forgive myself for in the near future.
My life has been one religious train wreck after another. Not because my family so strongly believes. It is because I do not. We live in a world in which the narcissism of afterlife far outweighs logic and reason and critical thinking. As I grow older, I am pleased to see this changing, although it is in small victories, hard fought by those who have simply had enough. Many of those small victories are within ourselves as we fight to untangle our short lives from the baited tentacles of religious dogma.
I have been told for the past 20+ years that walking out on ‘god’ was a purely selfish act. It is a point that I no longer argue, as I recognize it for what it is. It WAS selfish. It was selfish in that it was, quite literally, for not only my survival, but that of my children. It was for my own sanity and safety. While most will find a false sense of peace in thinking that they are being held in check by some all-knowing all-seeing being, I have found a true sense of peace in knowing that I alone am responsible for my own morality. Religion is a prison, and all prisons require a warden to keep prisoners in check.
I did not become the person I am overnight. I have made bad choices and I have made mistakes on my path to learning who I am. It is part of life. No one is born knowing themselves. We have to wait for the world to shape us. We are often twisted into sick depictions of what the people who surround and influence us think we should be. It takes years to undo all of that ill-fated ideology. It doesn’t matter if we are raised by the religious or non-religious. We are each raised with multiple influences, some of which will clash and confuse and drive us mad.
I have sat here, rethinking the past year. Had you asked me just a simple year ago, I would have told you I was perfectly fine. That I had overcome the burdens I carried from my years of religious prisons.
I would have been wrong.
It has taken some very tough conversations and self-realizations that I am still far away from the human being I wish myself to be. The most difficult realization is that I am still, partially, confined in the prison of religious thinking. Not that it still has its hands around my throat, directing me, but that I have not just let it go.
The physical scars will be with me until I am gone. Although they are still embarrassing and I still often hang my head when asked about them, they are mine. I EARNED those scars. They are a reminder that I fought back. I still remind myself that I should take some semblance of pride in that fact.
The mental scars, however, are a very fickle thing. They are so engrained in my thinking that it takes a very conscious effort on my part, to move past them.
I am a work in progress. And THAT, I am okay with.
Just be good. The world will follow.