I was raised Catholic. This is as much an admission as it is a badge of pride, an emblematic ideal of a society that doesn’t actually exist. Both of my parents were raised Catholic as well, or at least they told me they were. I went to Catholic school from first through eighth grade, was an altar boy for four years and even worked as a substitute teacher in a Catholic school in 2013. Remember kneeling as a child on those padded benches? It’s so much worse as an adult. I now know why my teachers always sat down during those parts and quietly yelled at us when we complained.
Looking back, I’m extremely proud and grateful of my education. I was bestowed with exceptional educators (for the most part, at least), a solid community foundation and made friends I still have today. The historical aspects of The Bible or religion class never titillated me, so I can’t say for certain that this particular educational experience was more beneficial to any one else’s. However, I do know that the values instilled in me during these formative years were and are extremely important.
In Catholic school I learned how to be a better person, how to put others before me. I learned how to extend to everyone the simplest forms of respect and to expect nothing in return. My parents played a very important role — in both sending me to Catholic school and raising my siblings and me in a manner that would exemplify the lessons I learned in class — and for that I am extremely grateful.
I learned about Jesus, his life, his death and most importantly his beliefs. I learned about the Golden Rule, a motto I follow to this day, one which was poorly corrupted and manipulated recently. I was taught that we should love one another, that everyone is equal and that compassion and peace should trump greed and terror.
Basically, everything I learned in Catholic school is a lie.
My education does not reflect what popular Christianity represents today. They somehow seem to be polar opposites, even if their decrees are rooted in the same beliefs. I cannot fathom how people who preach the teachings of Christianity can be so openly bigoted, hateful and homophobic, because I was never taught to exhibit any of those emotions. Maybe it was to shelter my classmates and me from the harsh truths of the “real world”, but no one ever taught me that Jesus hated gay people or that they belong in hell. Shit, you supposedly go to hell for saying “Jesus Christ” outside of a licensed or sponsored prayer. If that’s the case, I’ll see everyone there!
Christianity taught me to be inclusionary, to lend a helping hand when I could, to be responsible for my actions because consequences were plentiful. My religion, my faith, basically taught me morality.
Religion hasn’t abandoned me as much as I have cast it aside. Church visits became infrequent as as weekend activities and teenage sleeping habits took their place. It wasn’t truly necessary anymore, its importance faded like week-old cold medicine. The morals and code of conduct stuck, I wasn’t suddenly going to revert into an insolent asshole because I stopped going to mass. Its importance hasn’t wavered in my life, but my need for affirmation and guidance predictably waned. I’m an adult now, I understand the difference between right and wrong.
Indiana’s RFRA law is wrong. It was written by homophobic individuals who wanted to hide their bigotry under the shroud of religion. Their evil ploy has worked, those who support the law feel that their religious freedom has been persecuted and ripped from them. We’re still fighting the same “oppression” the Puritans fought before America became the United States, the only difference now is that these same people are the ones who believe the US is the best country in the world. Land of the free, but only if you’re Christian, white and straight. Oh, and also a male, that’s the most important part.
Like a lot of individuals, I stopped caring about my faith as I became more educated. I learned what people had done in the name of their religion and felt shame, for something I thought was so peaceful was, in fact, so devastating. Faith and greed are the two main sources of evil on this planet because they remove rationality from the equation. Why is Christianity better than Hinduism? It’s not, they’re just different and it’s completely acceptable to be different and have different viewpoints…as long as those viewpoints don’t directly harm anyone. RFRA harms people by making them feel that they’re wrong for being different. They’re still men and women, they still want give their patronage to those deemed worthy to receive it.
At its most basic, religion is a crutch that puts a barrier between death and finality. Christianity has heaven and heaven sounds fantastic. Everyone’s supposedly up somewhere in the sky just relaxing and eating pizza and watching Walter Payton catch passes from Johnny Unitas on a perfectly green field in a stadium that will fit anyone who wants to attend. Who wouldn’t want to believe that exists? As a society, we don’t do well with acceptance. We can’t accept something is our fault — it must be someone else’s. We can’t accept that we’re falling behind in math and science as a country — people from other countries want to come here. We can’t accept that there’s a good chance heaven doesn’t exist — but what is the meaning of life if not a test to weed out the bad people from the afterlife? Christianity — and in truth most of religion — is based on a faulty concept and preached to the masses because it sounds better than the alternative. But if your fundamental belief has no basis in reality, you’re choosing to be ignorant much more than someone is “choosing” to be gay.
It’s painful to accept that I live in a country that openly discriminates against women, ethnic minorities, homosexuals and transgender individuals. But I accept it because I’ve seen what religion can do. It can be used for good and teach acceptance and reciprocity and kindness, or it can be used to instill shame and anger and cowardliness. This law was made by cowards for cowards who need to hide behind the bullshit that is religious persecution in order to legally be “weirded out” that someone they are prejudiced against might actually want to give them money for their good or service. I was raised in a Catholic home and a Catholic school and never have I felt further from the church. If this is what Christianity truly stands for, then I don’t want to be associated with it ever again.