What My Trials Taught Me

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In retrospect, science for me was more like the blinding sunlight that made everything clear after logic drop-kicked me out the door.

I’ve been through some shit. Some of it I’ve mentioned on this blog, some I only share with close friends, and some I never talk about.

In the particular strain of Christianity that produced me, every single thing that happens is said to be planned by god, and thus either caused or permitted by him in order to achieve his desired results. So, perhaps in an effort to encourage me, religious friends and family would often take that shit and try to paint a happy little picture with it. God’s teaching you this, or that, or he’s doing his generic “making you a better person” thing.

I have to say, it seems a little counterproductive for such a god to teach me that he isn’t real.

The New Testament book of James starts with this, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” I bought into it all, and during the darkest times I still leaned on my religion. I prayed, and trusted, and continued to believe it with all my heart. Did it produce steadfastness? Maybe, but not the sort they expected.

I ultimately learned that other people could not be trusted, whether because they were selfish or just clueless. I learned that they didn’t listen, maybe because my experiences contradicted what they thought to be true, or maybe because they simply couldn’t comprehend an experience so different from theirs.

I learned that prayer is useless, faith is useless…everything about the religion was useless when it came to dealing with problems in the real world. It produced no tangible results. It did nothing but give me a false hope for help that never came.

I learned that “god’s plan” is arbitrary and pointless, much like you’d expect if it was nothing more than the wishful thinking of imaginative humans. I learned that there’s no god who cares about me, and the only way out was to rescue myself. Which I did.

What a fantastic failure of a divine plan. After years of pain and agony, I finally found a psychiatrist and a medication that were able to help. Even though I was religious right up to the point of recovery, it wasn’t my religion or a god that got me through. I did that myself. I clenched my teeth and got up every morning and went to work, despite anxiety so intense that I can only describe it as the most horrific fear I’ve ever experienced. I believed and prayed, and then continued to survive with no relief.

It seems remarkable to me now that I lasted so long with such unwavering devotion to an absent deity. Perhaps if my mind hadn’t been crippled I would’ve seen the problems and left religion sooner. Or maybe, if the religious people around me had actually listened and helped, I would’ve credited my recovery to religion and stayed. Who knows? Nobody. Because there’s no all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving god, and the people who told me there was definitely don’t know what they’re talking about. I wonder what they would think, if they knew that their god’s plan was apparently torture Mason for years until he rescues himself and realizes his religion is a bunch of lies.

What was the point of it all? To teach me that there’s no point? To teach me that god cannot be relied upon for anything? Because that’s what I took away from it once I’d regained enough control of my own mind to face the implications logically. You can point to a few ways in which I may have become a better person because of it, but to claim it was all part of the plan of a perfect god implies that there was no other way; it implies that turning me into a permanently damaged secular humanist was necessary for whatever small benefit I may have gained from the experience.

The hell I carried myself through wasn’t necessary at all, but I did learn some important things. Like the fact that I’m the only being on whom I can depend for anything, and religious platitudes about god’s plans for suffering people are myopic and sadistic. I cringe now whenever I think about the times I offered the same empty words to suffering friends.

I’m sure Christians will be eager to ignore everything I’ve said and claim I just hate god because he didn’t give me what I wanted. As if I was petulantly demanding gratification of my desires rather than pleading for a functional brain that wouldn’t keep trying to kill me. I’m not angry at the Christian god, because he doesn’t exist. I’m angry at the people who care so much about being right that they blame victims for their own suffering, and haughtily proclaim that my honest search for god was actually just a selfish demand for instant gratification. I’m angry at the people who could have helped, and instead pushed me back to an imaginary god and left me to save myself. I’m angry at the people who claimed to know me better than I know myself, who contributed to my suffering, and who said that god would work it all out for good.

If it did work out for good, I’m the one who made it so. Gods didn’t do shit.

Image: The Oatmeal

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