Image by Edward Dullard via FlickrI’m an exChristain. I’m very pleased to have escaped from the lies of religion, but the price of freedom from religion has been a very, very expensive price for me to pay. I am 46 years old and for nearly all of those 46 years I was a Christian of the Roman Catholic variety.
I was born in Dublin, Ireland, but I grew up in Manchester, England. In the Republic of Ireland being Catholic is more than a religion; it is part of your national identity. Growing up in England where the majority of people are non-practicing Protestants, where religion is not very important, the Irish community was probably even more fervent than those back in Ireland. Being Catholic was natural and we went to Catholic schools and went to church every Sunday. Not to go to “Mass” would be a sin.
In my late teens I stopped going to church because my two older brothers stopped going and I didn’t want to be the odd one out. But within a few years I wanted a closer relationship with God, and I started to read the bible (New-Testament). I tried reading the Old Testament too, but I found it too awful to read. I made 3 attempts to read the OT, but each time I found all the god-ordered massacres too hard to stomach. I remember god giving the Ten Commandments to Moses, which included “though shalt not kill” then when Moses got down the mountain he found the people worshipping a golden calf. Then Moses killed those people. Now I was thinking “I thought god had said though shalt not kill ?” I couldn’t read this stuff. So I thought, well at least Jesus came along and put it all right. And Jesus taught us to love our enemies, and nice stuff like that. So I thought that was ok. I was in my early 20’s at this time and I was very much into “Peace” and my hero was Mahatma Ghandi. I truly believed in non-violence and admired also Martin Luther king.
In 1984, I went to the US for the first time, cycling from New York to Saint Louis. On the way, I stopped at Washington DC and in front of the Washington monument I met some “born again” Christians who started talking to me and who asked me if I was “born again”. I thought they were slightly mad. Especially when they told me that the Russians were the beast in the book of Revelation. They gave me some leaflets to read and as I wasn’t sure what denomination of Christian I wanted to be, I read it. It shocked me, it said that all I had to do to be saved was to accept Jesus Christ to be my personal Lord and Saviour and that was it; the job was done. I hated this, I didn’t know at the time that this was a major difference between Catholic and Protestant theology, but to me this was an abomination. According to this I could rape, murder, steal whatever, just as long as I’d accepted that JC was my saviour it was a done deal. I found this unbiblical. I thought of Mathew 25:40 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' Of course as a catholic I wasn’t into learning the bible by numbers.
In 1987 I chose to be a Catholic as I felt that Catholics were more loving and caring than the Protestants that I’d met. They were also more down to earth. My experience with Protestants was mainly from the United States as the English Protestants were basically non-practising, and the few that I did meet in the UK were very similar to those I’d met in the US. They were distant from “normal” people and seem to think that dancing and having fun was a sin. They seemed (to me at least) more obsessed with “Jesus” than in loving their fellow man. So I became Roman Catholic by choice.
I got married in 1987, to a very religious Roman Catholic woman, I felt at the time that god had put her in my path and I believed that I’d become a more holy and spiritual person living with her. We planned as “good Catholics” to have a large family, and on our honeymoon we talked about having 6 children. We even chose 6 girls and 6 boys names, just in case we only had six of the same sex.
Something happened on our honeymoon that I will never forget, and it was to set the tone for our “sex lives” together. We’d been together for 2 years before we got married and we had had sexual intercourse about once a month, just after her periods, because we didn’t want to have a child outside of wedlock. I thought that once married then we’d be able to make love on a regular basis, but we never talked about this before marriage. Sex is a big taboo subject with Catholics of my generation. (I don’t know if it is the same with Protestants ?). Well, on our honeymoon I wanted to make love for the second time on that first night as husband and wife, and my wife said “no”, that a married woman was not her husband’s prostitute. Now this shocked me, and I tried to understand what she meant, so we talked about it, and she told me basically that we should have sexual intercourse only when both of us wanted it. Ok, I agreed to this. On our honeymoon of one week, we made love twice. This was not what I imagined. I thought we would spend the whole week in bed and make love three or four times a day. It was no longer a sin; we were allowed to do it. I never shared this with my wife, as I wanted to make her happy, so I tried to adjust to her desires… I can’t remember how many times she said “no” not tonight. How many times I rolled over in a bad mood because we weren’t going to make love. (Please bear with me; this story is relevant to how I lost my faith).
After 2 years of marriage I saw an advertisement for a magazine with a photo of Claudia Schifer, with a low cut dress -- it was so sexy. Every time I passed the shop I couldn’t help myself, I had to look at the photo. I was burning with desire. I then went into a shop and bought a soft-porn magazine with pictures of nude women. I then masturbated in secret for the next few days then when my sperm was all spent, I felt terribly guilty. I then burnt the magazine and prayed for God’s forgiveness, I couldn’t face the humility of confessing this sin to a priest. This then became a ritual. I’d abstain for a while then, I’d become obsessed with sex, I’d try to resist, and then give in to temptation. I’d think of Matthew 5:27 you have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery. “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart”.
In the mid-nineties I got a computer and internet access, and with this came easy access to porn. I soon became addicted. At this time I also became more religious and started a prayer group, praying the rosary every week, I stared going to confession on a regular basis and going to mass during the week as well as on Sundays. I started fasting, and our family holidays were pilgrimages. All this time I kept asking god for “chastity”. I so desired to be pure, but nothing happened. I began to become frightened, I thought that because I couldn’t control my desires, I couldn’t control my thoughts that this, my Achilles heal (my sexual desires) was going to be the cause of my down fall. I’d tried to be faithful to “God” and to his “Holy Catholic Church” yet, I could still end up going to hell because I couldn’t stop sinning.
As a catholic I believed that we were saved by faith and works, I’d even chose my profession in order to go to heaven, I was a nurse, and I chose this profession because of Mathew 25:40 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' Yet I was constantly falling into a state of mortal sin.
Then the process began to me losing faith, and funnily enough a priest started the process, in confession he told me that my “lust” was probably due to “Libido”, that I had a bigger Libido than my wife. He told me not to worry about the masturbation problem. So this meant that it was OK to masturbate in certain circumstances? Despite what the church taught? So it was open to interpretation?
My wife and I had not used contraception because of the teachings of the church; and although I’d said to my wife that I thought 4 was enough children, (after the birth of our fourth I no longer wanted six, it was too much work) and although she then adopted the method “billings”, in which it is said to be more effective than “unnatural methods of contraception”. My wife was to tell me when it was OK (safe to have sex without conceiving), this would be about twice a month, yet despite, me each time (stupidly) trusting her to do it right we ended up having 9 children. I shouldn’t blame my wife for this but myself for being so stupid to believe in the teachings of the Catholic church (you are Peter and on this rock I will build my church).
I love my children very, very dearly but I didn’t chose to have 9 children but feel that god, the Catholic Church, my wife and myself forced this upon me.
Other things priests’ said also started me thinking. I’d long thought that Adam and Eve was just a story but one day a priest taught in his sermon that the story of the wise men coming from the east was probably just a story, and that it meant that Jesus was for the whole world, and rich and poor, Jews and non-Jews. But this was to have a profound affect on me. How was I to know which parts of the bible were true and which parts are fiction? Dan Brown's fictional story "The DaVinci Code" then helped me too. Although I knew this was fiction something he wrote struck a cord with me, I can’t quote him exactly but he said something like “the victorious get to write history”. So I began to think that I couldn’t really trust the bible, I didn’t know who wrote it.
Then one night, I was working at night and during my break I turned on the TV and saw a documentary called “who wrote the bible”, during this programme I heard experts telling me that the biblical kingdom of David never existed, I’d already heard a radio report that claimed that the exodus never actually happened and that there is no historical or archaeological evidence of the Hebrew people ever being slaves in Egypt. I wanted to know more -- thank god for the internet -- I saw a wonderful series of videos on YouTube entitled “Who Wrote the Bible”, it was just a part of this programme that I saw that night at work. So suddenly I realised that the O.T. was fiction. So where did this leave the N.T., that was built onto the O.T.
I started reading more and ordering books from the internet, I wanted to read from the experts. I was shocked to read that the N.T. canon wasn’t decided on until the 4th century and that the first books in the N.T were the letters of Paul, and I’d never really liked Paul. He said so much that I didn’t agree with, he was misogynist; he didn’t condemn slavery and seemed to say that people shouldn’t get married. I found his teaching often contradicted the gospels.
I read a few books that helped me be cured of Christianity and religion, the best being “The Mythmaker: Paul and the Invention of Christianity
" by Hyam Maccoby. I also read The God Delusion
and some others.
This discovery cost me my marriage, I couldn’t live denying my sexuality and I now live with a beautiful woman who enjoys making love and we enjoy life together without fearing hell.
Unfortunately, my children have taken the separation very badly and want to blame me for leaving. Even though I want to fully share my responsibility towards them and to share the custody. The eldest refuses to talk to me, the next one refuses to visit me, the third wants to kill me, yet I have always been a loving and caring father who has done a lot for and with his kids. But as Christians they judge me, and see me as a sinner who is to be avoided and the attitude of the older ones rubes off on the younger ones, meaning the only one that truly shows she loves me still is the youngest, thank god. I had 9, so at least one still loves me.
Thank you for reading this, I’m not a writer, but I think it is an interesting but sad story about my journey to freedom from religion. Sometimes I wish I hadn’t discovered the truth, then my family would still be together and I would still be beating myself up about being a man, with sexual needs and desires.