Content warning: Bigotry
I was born into the Christadelphian faith. Christadephians are Protestants but have quite unconventional beliefs. They are strongly focussed on Biblical prophecy and talk a lot about the end of the world. They like the book of Revelation and when I was a member they frequently predicted the end of the world. The Christadephians refer to their religion as ‘the Truth’ (note the upper case T). I like to joke that they put the fun into fundamentalist dogma but actually there wasn’t a lot of fun happening!
I remember being about 11 years old and realising that my life as a Christadelphian woman would involve me getting married to a man, raising good Christadelphian children and keeping my opinions to myself. Even at that age I felt trapped. At the age of 14 I left the church (or ‘the meeting’ as Christadephians call it) and never looked back.
I am not anti religion or anti Christian but I have some major reservations about organised religion. Fundamentalism baffles me. How do people know they are correct? How can people fight wars over which god is real or what happens after we die? The only person who could tell us with any authority what happens after death is a dead person and they generally don’t talk much. How can anyone know the ‘correct’ theology? They are interpreting texts and scriptures which were written thousands of years ago. You cannot just call God on the phone and ask Him what His thoughts are. I always say that arguing about religion is like arguing about your favourite colour.
Rules and morals
Most religions set out a set of rules or a moral code. With most of the established religions this makes sense and is based on solid ethics. But religions do not have the monopoly on morals and ethics. And sometimes people of faith are highly unethical and the rules they follow are not based in anything positive. Some of the most ethical people are atheists or agnostics.Many religious groups are highly homophobic and transphobic and this is not ethical or moral. It is just awful. To my mind it is immoral to be full of hatred and I can’t imagine the Jesus portrayed in the New Testament agreeing with such judgement and hatred.
Many autistic people find religion very comforting and love to have the certainty that a faith gives them. Others however find being pinned down by rules and a prescribed moral code to be restrictive and unpleasant.
Religion and illness
I am a person with schizophrenia who was raised very religious. This can cause some problems. When I am unwell my religious side goes into overdrive. It is usually frightening thoughts and delusions that I am in hell or purgatory. I become terrified that God is personally punishing me and making me suffer for challenging His laws. I see demons and angels and feel like I am a ghost. While when I am mentally healthy I am probably agnostic, when I am unwell I am thrown into a terrifying world of angels and demons. I think I have sold my soul to Satan and will spend eternity in the hell that is psychosis.
Bigotry and religion
In Australia and may other countries there is a lot of bigotry associated with the Christian religion in particular but also in other religions. When there was a plebiscite on marriage equality in Australia a few years ago I heard countless horror stories of LGBTQIA+ people being targeted by Christians. One person was even assaulted by a woman hitting them with a Bible. In one instance a thirteen year old trans kid was attacked on public transport. This is never, ever OK and Christianity is supposed to be about love and kindness and forgiveness, not hatred and bigotry. Jesus in the Bible never instructed anyone to be homophobic or transphobic. I have been attacked by Christians in the past for speaking out about gender diversity and it just baffles me. I have read the Bible and Jesus was a lot more concerned about hypocrisy and people being judgemental than he was about them being gay or trans. I guess it is easy to attack people who are different but it definitely isn’t OK and it does not fit with the Jesus portrayed in the Bible. And anyway people using the Bible to justify bigotry should probably remember that it is a book written between 2000 and 3000 years ago and it says that all the animals in the world could fit on one ship so maybe not the most helpful justification for prejudice!
Despite all this I am not anti-Christian. Many Christians do exemplify the values that I think Jesus was talking about. Many Christians are not at all bigoted and are kind and respectful and supportive of LGBTQIA+ people. My parents would fit in this group. They left the Christadelphians years ago and I suspect that they haven’t looked back either. There are also quite a few LGBTQIA+ Christians. Religion and faith are a way of making sense fo a challenging world. Having a church or other faith-based community can be a great support and can be helpful for people’s sense of community, belonging and their mental health.
I don’t really have a religion of my own. I tried – and failed miserably – to be a Christian for many years but it really wasn’t for me. That being said I am not a principled atheist. Given my own history and the large amounts of bigotry that I have seen from Christians I don’t think that Christianity is ever going to be my ‘thing’. I like a lot of the philosophy in Buddhism but I feel no need to become a practicing Buddhist. I am happy not being religious. I don’t pretend to know what happens when you die and I don’t need a prophecy or guidance from a minister, shaman or Imam. I am content to be an agnostic and I don’t see any value in arguing about my favourite colour. I don’t have any answers in the world of faith and I think that is perfectly OK. I will find out what happens when you die when I die – I suspect that it is nothing but am willing to have that challenged when the time finally comes.