The first time I thought about killing myself I was eight years old. We were at a small church gathering and the topic was Hell. It’s hard to remember clearly but I do remember two things: crippling fear and a conversation with a preacher. While my mother was talking with the preacher she held my hand. I piped up and asked the preacher, “Do children go to Hell?” and he replied, “No, children are not responsible for their actions until the age of ten”. It was this exact moment that I first seriously contemplated suicide. I had found a loophole and I thought that if I just killed myself now I would have instant access to heaven because I knew for a fact that I would do something after the age of ten that would certainly guarantee my inevitable eternity in the lakes of fire; my male role models would make certain of that. Since then suicidal thoughts have been a staple in my life, as well as the fear of hell, at least until my early twenties. In fact, it was this fear of hell that stopped me from killing myself several times.
I cut myself many times throughout my early to late teens and the first thing I cut into my arm at the age of 13 was “FUCK GOD”. Many scars still remain but luckily are now covered by hair. The cutting somehow removed the nothingness that has always plagued me but many times it did not. One of those times was when I was 19 and I tried to borrow my flatmate’s rifle. He refused to let me borrow it so I tried to hang myself instead only to have the fear of Hell stop me once again. One might see a situation like this and think that perhaps religion and the fear of Hell saved my life. This would be the opposite of what was true because if religion was never a part of my life then the constant guilt at every unchristian thought that entered my mind would never have been a part of my life either. The natural urges of a teenager going through puberty ravaged my mind and every time I acted on these urges I became a worthless, undisciplined and unchristian human being. Then the guilt seeped in and I would spend hours crying and begging God to forgive me. Now, one can imagine how easy it is to hate religion when one learns that it isn’t real. When you are exposed to biology, physics and philosophy and see through the lies told by religion the natural response is to run straight to the other side of the field and throw rocks at where you came from.
I have spent too long envying people who grew up without religion. To live a life free from the fear of Hell, free from the guilt of sex before marriage and free from the longing for that afterlife which will never come to pass. Religion took 20 years from me. From childhood until I was 20 years old I feared everything I did would cause me to burn in Hell. I remember as a child, before reaching double digits, praying that I would not suffer torment for all eternity and I was brought to tears at the fear of it. Religion takes joy and replaces it fear, it takes forgiveness and replaces it with forgiveness only for those in my religion and definitely not atheists or people of another religion. Yes, I have contempt, anger and perhaps even hatred for religion. How can one not hate that which has caused them so much pain and controlled so much of their life?
When I let go of religion I realised we only have this life, this one and only life, and it is so unique, so uniquely unique, that it makes one want to take every moment and extract everything possible from it, consciously and joyously, and religion in it’s beautifully masochistic way took 20 whole years in which this would have been possible. Life makes a mockery of us all but religion mocks the loudest. It makes promises that can never be fulfilled and claims that can never, literally never, be proven and then forces you to accept these claims or face consequences so evil, so vile and so disgusting that they can keep a child awake at night with tears in his eyes and pleading at the ceiling to show mercy on him and his family.