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March 25, 2013 | by  | in Features | [ssba]

North, The Way to Heaven?

When I was eight years old, my family moved from suburban Auckland to a tiny town in the mysterious region known as “Up North”. Until then, I had no knowledge of how the Earth was created, or why humans were made. Nor did I give a flying fuck.

This little town was heavily religious, almost to the point of extremism. There were seven churches in the town centre, which, for a population of less than 1000, seemed somewhat excessive. Because I was a bastard child who hadn’t been baptised, I never felt like I really fitted in with the rest of the community. The people who held the most ‘power’ in the town were pastors and other religious authority figures, so it was pretty much a requirement to believe in God in order to get by without scandal. On top of that, most people I knew went to church every week. I never went, partly because my parents slept in on a Sunday and couldn’t be bothered taking me, and partly because when I did go, I usually fell asleep. Many of the more spiritual citizens disapproved of my family.

At my new school, I encountered a class I had never had to take before—Bible Studies. This subject taught me that God created everything in existence, and if we didn’t worship Him we would spend eternity in Hell, or something along those lines. I was young and impressionable; needless to say, this scared me a little. Out of fear for my soul (and also out of a need to be accepted), I began my journey on the good ship Christianity.

Living by the rules set out in the Bible was a lot tougher than I had anticipated.

I had to clean up my act, love my neighbours (even the one who stole my jelly shoes. What an arsehole), and respect my parents despite the fact that they were unmarried and therefore had a one-way ticket to an eternity of fiery damnation. As a woman, my only goal in life was to get married and pop out little heaven- spawn to spread the Word of God, instead of living life by my own set of rules.

High school was much the same story. It was divided into two main groups: the Christians and the non-Christians. I became best friends with a girl from a large Catholic family, and she taught me a lot about God and his teachings, being far more familiar with them than I. (Strangely enough, she later ditched her religion and is now a staunch atheist. Go figure.) Being friends with her also meant that I had connections to the former group, which I intensely desired to be a part of. Much of my time at high school was spent flitting between the two groups, eventually deciding that the non-Christians were a lot more open and accepting of me as a person. After that, the Good Word didn’t seem so good anymore.

As I grew older, I began to doubt my beliefs even more. They seemed so restrictive and prejudiced.

Was homosexuality actually a sin? Was sex before marriage really that bad? (This question was a particular fixation in my teenage years, during which I discovered boys, booze, and the effects of mixing the two.) And if god is so forgiving, why did he banish Adam and Eve from Eden after one little transgression? The whole thing seemed pretty suspicious to me.

Of course, the minute I began asking questions was the minute things starting going downhill.

People would shake their heads and promise to “pray for my soul”. Any rational argument I formulated would be dismissed without any discussion. I felt ostracised because I wasn’t willing to believe in something without concrete proof.

There was one incident in particular that tipped the scales as to whether or not Christianity was right for me. At the local Youth group, we were discussing divorce and the instances in which it was acceptable. Things like domestic abuse were brought up. For some reason, I decided it was a good idea to ask; “What if you’ve been really unhappy for a very long time?” The entire room went silent. Everyone stared. Apparently my question wasn’t as legitimate as I had thought.

It may not seem like much, but that marked the end of my relationship with religion. For me, there were too many things that just didn’t add up. It was comforting to think there was some higher power out there watching over me; but if God existed, he seemed to be a bit of a judgmental dickhead, which wasn’t the type of god I wanted to believe in.

To be honest, I feel freer having thrown off the mantle of religion. I can be myself without worrying about whether or not what I’m doing is a sin–and I’m pretty sure my soul is intact. Granted, I’m still not sure how the Earth was created, or why humans were made, but quite frankly, I STILL don’t give a flying fuck.


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