Home > Essays > Religion (or lack of) saved my life

Religion (or lack of) saved my life

This is not some diatribe about how I found Jesus/Buddha/Nyarlathotep and it transformed my life. It is pretty much the opposite of that.

My mother has been great, she is a wonderful woman and has (and still does) put up with a LOT of my shit over the years. She has also never forced things upon me, with the exceptions of changing up to a Grammar School and studying hard. When it came to religion, she was brought up the daughter of a Roman Catholic and a C of E. God was in his place, we were in our place, do right and you go to Heaven. I was told the basics of this by my mum, she also taught me that there were a lot of people in the world who believe in a lot of other things too. As a child I asked her – “which one is the best one?” and she told me that it is not about who is best, but how we treat each other that matters.

Unfortunately as my mother’s mother got older, she decided that all of the grand-children should get religion and I was kind of forced to go to Sunday School. It wasn’t so much my mum, as my gran. She said I should go, my mum asked me if I wanted to go and I said yes because that’s what Gran wanted. It’s also the same way I ended up supporting Norwich City Football Club until I discovered rugby.

I lasted maybe three weeks/a month there. We sang hymns, were told stories about Jesus and God and the Holy Ghost and how things worked thanks to them. I was young – maybe 6 or 7? I was an inquisitive child. I asked a lot of questions. I asked about the other people in the world and what they believed in. I asked why God had to live in Heaven when he couldn’t live here. I asked him why God didn’t make superheroes like in my comics to help us out. I asked why he let the Zeebrugge ferry disaster happen (a recent event) and I even asked what happened to the other gods, like the ones in the Ray Harryhausen films (again, my awesome mum bringing me up on the classics!)

I never liked the answers. The other kids didn’t like my questions. A couple of them joined in with questions but the rest had never really been encouraged to ask questions and were just accepting lambs. After a consultation with the Sunday School teacher and my mum, it was decided that I would no longer be going to Sunday School. I think that set me up for religion then. I knew the Lord’s Prayer off by heart and what it meant, I always said it when I went to bed at my gran’s house. I went to church when told. I just never really believed like everyone else.

Then a cousin I had met once died. She has cystic fibrosis. The summer holidays after my parents divorced, my dad took us on a tour up to Scotland to meet the family from his side I had never met. We stopped on the way and met Claire. She was so smart and funny and one of the first people to treat me like a person and not a child. She sat and ‘ate’ a plateful of pills whilst we had roast dinner. I am always reminded of this when I see the film ‘Toys’. By the time we got back from Scotland, she had died. I just did not understand how or why the God I was told to believe in would do this. Added to my grandfather’s long, drawn-out battle with cancer, I decided that if there was a God, he was no one I wanted to put my faith in.

So I started learning about other faiths, I think a lot of lost kids do that in their early teens. You look at other religions, philosophy etc to find answers because you have so many questions no-one can readily answer. Or at least answer satisfactorily. I actually enjoyed it a lot, but I never found any one thing that made me a follower or a true believer. I have been to spiritualism meetings, buddhist groups and I still invite Mormons and Jehovah’s witnesses in to talk. I will stop in the street, if I am able, to talk religion (yet, I will avoid those shouting it out and forcing it upon other people, that is one thing I cannot abide, but more on that in a later post.) and I know enough to be able to show these people I respect them but I do not want to join them.

However atheism and humanism is just not for me. I can’t believe that we are all the product of an ongoing random occurence. Intelligent Design is more my speed – that something planted the seeds and let it grow. But there we have it ‘something’. I don’t know what, but it all seems too convenient that we evolved to build and teach and learn purely by chance.  Sorry to go off on a tangent, but this is also why I am against vegetarianism and veganism. What other purpose do cows serve other than to clothe us and feed us? These animals were given to us for our survival. If you choose to be a vegetarian because you don’t like the way animals are treated, fair enough, but go organic instead. There is a great farm near me where the animals run around, you can feed them a little bag of grains and then buy the meat in the shop afterwards. Shallow, I know, but I like meat.

ANYWAY, back to religion. One thing I did learn about religions is that most of them have an afterlife. Heaven/Nirvana/Valhalla, it’s all cool and groovy when you die as long as you believe in your chosen deity or deities. This never sat right with me, it’s a loaded gun kind of choice. Not very fair when someone says, “believe in ME and you can come to this great place called Heaven, don’t believe in me and you go to Hell.”. When I told Gran I was rejecting her religion (which was not fun) she said I would go to Hell. I simply replied that if I didn’t believe in God, I also don’t believe in Heaven and Hell, so no thanks, I don’t think I will.

This leads me (thankfully) to my point. I don’t believe in any religion. Which means I don’t have the safety-net that believers do – when I die, all I can really imagine is that there will be nothing. Like going to sleep and not dreaming or waking up. That scares the shit out of me, it really does. On good days, I mentally change the subject. On bad days I can be left in a foetal mess on the floor at the thought of the darkness after life. Truth be told, I’m struggling to write this now without freaking out a little.

So what does this have to do with my title quote? Well, when you go to see doctors and psychiatrists, you have to answer some set questions to gauge your moods and behaviour. One of these is along the lines of “Do you think about ending your life?” and I have always answered NO. You see, as crazy as I have been and as scared and disgusted as I am of my life, I am far more scared of dying than I am of living like I do. I have hurt myself, sure. I used to pick random fights in order to lose them and I thought that sliding a knife across your skin until it bleeds was strictly for the emos, but that was until I realised how good it felt at the time. And hate that as much as you like, but it does feel good.

However, one thing I will NEVER do is kill myself and it is for the one simple reason that I do not have religion in my life: Nothing and Nowhere to run to if I was to end it. So don’t worry about me too much when I get in a scary mood sometimes. I am in a bad place right now. I’m not sleeping much, hardly eating, I am STILL cut up over this woman, dammit and money and lack of job are weighing me down. In fact, pretty much everything is shit right now. This blog was originally entitled ‘Road to Recovery’ because it was supposed to be an account of how I managed to pick myself up and get back to normalcy (whatever that is) but I think I never accounted for the fact that this road goes both ways. But please PLEASE don’t worry too much peoples, the worst thing I can do to myself is not the worst thing you can think of.

  1. Kathryn
    June 19, 2010 at 19:06

    Beautifully written. What more can I say?

    I just want to say that what you say makes complete sense. The stuff about suicide/ending it all. It just, well it just makes sense. I get you.

    I wanted to comment on this when you originally wrote it but couldn’t think of anything that wasn’t trite.

    Keep writing. I dig it.


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