Losing My Religion

cw: homophobia, transphobia

Growing up, I was raised Greek Orthodox. To be honest, a lot of that was purely in name, not practice. Sure, I was baptised, given a Christian name (which is the same as my given name), and my parents hung their wedding crowns above their beds. I wore a cross from time and had a image of my namesake saint on my bookcase. We celebrated Christmas and Easter, with both sides of the family, but rarely went to mass. It wasn’t until high school that I really began to practice the faith. It was in that time that I was truly my worse self.

I think that for me at the time, and for a lot of closeted LGBT+ folk, religion was an easy way to fuel self-hate for one’s identity and sexuality. It was much easier to believe that these ‘sinful’ thoughts were a “product of the Devil’s corruption on humanity” and that everyone must face them. I believed that I was meant to push back those thoughts to be a ‘good Christian’. As I grew older, my mind became more tuned for logical thought and problem solving. This fostered a love for mathematics and the scientific method. That said, I was far from mature and well versed in these fields, and failed to see the irony of my evidence-less belief. I continued to believe in a higher power and the teachings of the bible, but began to use science to try to justify my religious-based bigotry. I was foolish and rude. I chose to believe what I wanted to, ignoring that which I disagreed with. I am ashamed of this and am truly sorry for the pain that I caused to others.

The deepest part of my religious past came when I became an ‘alter boy’. I was invited by my godfather after I had expressed interest in learning more about the faith. This interest started from a medal I wished to earn in scouting. It sounds simple, but essentially you could earn a medal for your uniform if you showed great knowledge in a branch of Christianity. I became deeply invested in the faith and was reading as much as I could about the theology and practices. By eleventh grade, ages 16-17, I was becoming more and more skeptical of my beliefs and religion as a whole. I was taking an International Baccalaureate class called World Religions. We learned and discussed about five religions, further going in depth with two of them. Three of the five were Abrahamic, Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. The others were Taoism and Buddhism (Not a religion, but can be analysed as such). And what we saw, across all faiths, was a common structure: Driven by five themes, any religion could be broken down into ritual, doctrine/beliefs, sacred texts, ethics and moral conduct, and the religious experience. Further, we could ask the same questions on the ideas of each religion, “What is the human condition?” and “Where are we going?/How do we get there?”. Now, this is certainly more than you signed up for when you came to my blog, but I believe it’s important to visualising my reasoning. I was beginning to see no religion could be right. How could we be expected to believe and justify something based on little evidence when another group of people could do the same? It has been said that all the religions of the world are simply different paths up the same mountain, so what makes Christianity any better than another religion?

This realisation made me move away from Orthodoxy and I became more of a general Christian bordering on just a believer of a higher power. That only lasted for so long, however, as over time there was something else on my mind. As I’ve written about in earlier posts, I’ve known that I’ve been trans since I was 11. Now, I may have identified as such, sooner, had I known the term and that such feelings were possible. I tried to repress these feelings for a long long time. Trying to justify them in anyway but the truth. I was conflicted. It hurt. I had heard friends and family talk poorly about trans people and I couldn’t bring myself that think that was me. Religion had been a strong anchor in my life, but one day, it snapped. I couldn’t figure how an “all loving god” could let me feel this way. I remember praying for my trans thoughts to go away. Either being removed entirely or by granting me a body I could be comfortable in. Help never came. I know people will respond and say that struggle is a part of the faith and that we must trust “his plan”, but I couldn’t continue. I needed to forge my own destiny. I needed to begin to live a pragmatic life. One based on what I knew and what I could prove. Certainly, I could trust facts. Now, this is where a lot of my recent struggle with being trans has come into play. Not being able to prove my feelings with science. That said, I’ve come to accept that research is being done and has proven that gender dysphoria is real, across a significant portion of the population.

I no longer practice a faith, let alone believe in a higher power. It broke me too much. I had hurt not just others, through my bigoted comments, but myself as well. Suppressing an identity that I should have embraced sooner. Maybe if I had, I wouldn’t be dealing with this receding hairline! Jokes aside, I’m happy with the decision I made. I can focus on learning about the world around me and helping those who are trapped in a similar place I once was. It’s let me see a light that I thought would never come.

– Athena 🦉

I want to mention that I don’t think people who practice a religion or who are religious are lesser in anyway. I know that for many people religion is what brings them comfort. Two of my best friends are very strong Catholics and I truly respect that. They are welcoming of my identity and I couldn’t ask for anything more. What I don’t appreciate is those who use religion as a way to justify their homophobia, trans-phobia, and other bigotry as I once did. I will always approach these people with the benefit of the doubt and will gladly engage in discussion with them about their beliefs. What I wont respect is those who continue to ignore the facts (This judgement does not apply to children or teenagers. I believe that they are still developing their view of the world and aught to be educated, not reprimanded). Maybe this is the wrong approach. What are you thoughts? Should I change this outlook?  

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