- Posted February 10, 2013 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
The written word: Your personal essays
What God Taught Me
The problem with religion, I feel, is that it’s so black and white. At least, that’s how so many people make it. But that’s not how the world works. Both extremely religious people and the people who hate religion seem to forget that the main goal is compassion. To be compassionate, we need to be able to forgive. And to do that, we need to be able to understand that the world is never simply black and white.
I don’t go to church now. Instead I go to a mosque. But even now I find myself at times completely disagreeing with the whole idea of organized religion. It’s not that I don’t believe in God, it’s just that I don’t really like the idea of having rules I don’t agree with pressed on me. Rules that I can’t help feel were created by people, and not by the invisible man in the sky.
“Homosexuality is evil,” they’ll say.
No it’s not.
“Evolution is false,” they yell.
I’m all for God, but let’s be realistic. Even so, it seems like every day I feel more isolated in my belief in the divine, and in an afterlife, so I seek out other people who have the same idea as me. Everyday it feels like more atheists, who are just as intolerant of other people as these religious zealots that they hate, yell at me for being intolerant. We may not agree on everything but we’re all working towards the same goal.
These angry people will try and tell me what God is or isn’t.
“He’s always there for you,” says the zealot
“Where is he when some kid is dying in Africa?” The angry atheist asked.
I don’t know. Maybe that’s a cop-out but I don’t care. The majority of people don’t understand how gravity works; they simply say they know that it does. If they’re allowed to get away with that, I allow myself this.
It’s that realism that has always made me have doubts about the existence of God. Because, I admit, most of the time I attempt to avoid religious discussions with people because, let’s face it, the whole thing is up for debate. There is no wrong or right answer if you really think about it, it’s just what makes you feel good, and I am actually quite worried that people will be able to outsmart me.
I would lay in bed and think of death.
“What is it?”
This question would go round and round in my head, keeping me up for hours. I imagined death to be like sleep, only longer. Nothingness for eternity, and frankly, it scared the hell out of me. I once had an atheist tell me that they found this version of death peaceful and relaxing. Screw that! If I wanted to sleep I’d take a nap! Nature abhors a vacuum and when it comes to existence I’m the same way. I talked to my mom about it and she did the only thing she could think of. She sent me to a Methodist Youth Group.
The first time I went I met a girl named Amber. Yes, like the motorcycle. I say we met. Our meeting was actually her sneaking up on me and grabbing my butt as I was walking out of church. Now, I would like to tell you that I had a witty remark or that I was used to attention by girls in this way. But if I told you either of those things I would be lying. So my response was bold. I simply said nothing and kept walking. The next week Amber asked me if I was gay.
When I was in elementary school I would go over to my friend Bill’s house. I thought Bill was cool because he always had the newest and coolest video games. He was also the first person I met who had a surround sound DVD player. How can an eight-year-old not want to be friends with this guy? Just a tip: James Bond in Goldeneye can only truly be appreciated in surround sound high definition.
Bill had his quirks though. He was older than me, I don’t really remember how much older, so he would lay down some ground rules once his parents went to bed. He would only allow me to sleep in the same bed that he was sleeping in. I hated this. I didn’t want to share a bed, and I saw no reason as to why we should. He had bunk beds and I would always argue to try and sleep in the top bunk.
“No, my parents say we have to sleep together,” he would always say.
I found this odd, since I’d never heard them say it. But what could I do? I didn’t mind sleeping with Bill as much as I minded the “truth or dare” game. Bill always wanted to play truth or dare. I would pick truth, knowing what the dares would lead to. Bill of course would always pick dare, I’d dare him to pick his nose. Finally, I would run out of truths and be left with nothing to say.
The dares would only become more explicit and invading from there. In short, I could say he molested me. I don’t know if it counts. After awhile I thought it was normal, for a little bit anyway. After awhile I really began to take notice that my other friends would never ask me to play “truth or dare.” And as I got older I realized that guys touching other guys in certain areas was not really, well, normal is a good way to put it. Finally, one day I decided to tell Bill what I thought of the whole thing.
“I don’t want to do this. It seems…gay.”
“No it’s not, you have to do it. This one girl, Shaleen, she told me that she likes you and wants to know what you’re like down there. How can I tell her if I don’t know?”
Bill’s logic seemed a bit faulty.
It doesn’t bother me today. What’s done is done. What annoys me though is that when he found out that I was Catholic, he was Baptist, and he immediately proclaimed that I was going to hell. At least the priest never asked me to play truth or dare with him.
“Prove you’re not gay,” Amber whispered to me when the youth group had gotten together for a lock in.
“I’ll kiss you if we get the chance.”
“We’re playing sardines later. Come find me.”
Sardines is a pervert’s dream and a claustrophobic nightmare. Basically, one person goes and hides, another goes and looks for them. Once the person is the found the two hide together and the numbers keep piling up.
I wanted to hide in the sanctuary.
“There’s too much light in there. We’ll never be able to make out.”
Amber knew just the place. Some back room with no windows or light to speak of, and under a table. When we got there she grabbed my head and whispered in my ear.
And then she kissed me.
Amber and I dated off and on for about a year. But, I eventually put a stop to this when I found out that she was cheating on me.
Small towns force you to grow up with painful memories. I went to school with Bill for years. Saw him everyday. But small towns also force you to get over things. Like I said, I saw Bill everyday. There was no escaping what had happened, I had to get over it. And I did. I learned how to forgive in church. And I felt a relief because of God. I also learned how frustrated Bill was by the fact that he had no other friends for a long time and that no girls ever talked to him. Desperate people do desperate things.
When I found out that Amber had cheated on me after we started dating. I still had to go to church with her every weekend. It was so painful. And then, I got over it, and by being forced to spend so much time in close proximity with her, I saw how pained she really was in life. She wore a mask of sexuality and bitchiness to keep people away but yet still have them be attracted to her. I came to forgive Amber because of my faith, and my understanding of God.
When you’re forced to live so close to someone for so long you start to see the cracks in the masks. It’s like watching a blockbuster movie over and over and over again. The little mistakes start to pop out after awhile. Of course, by seeing other people’s masks crack you learn to hide the cracks in your own.
I’ve had several people tell me that I’m a really good person, and I hate it. I’m not. I’ve done some really bad things. But I’ve gotten good at keeping that mask crack free. But, underneath that mask I know my sins.
And maybe that's why I can look at God the way I do. Because, I know that we’re all just trying to keep that dark part of us hidden.
Names changed for privacy*