The Answer I Couldn’t Find

I’ve been an atheist for as long as I can remember. I would, however, describe my younger self as an “anti-theist”: vehemently opposed to anything religion. During that time I read a lot of scripture and mythology, seeking an answer I still haven’t found to this day.

The Question

From the time I was a teenager until well into my 20s I was obsessed with religious texts. From religious books like the Bible, the Quran, Tao Te Ching, to the epic poetry of Homer, Ovid, Dante, Milton, I’d consume it all.

Part of it was down to my obsession with roleplaying games and video games, with rules systems and game mechanics, even with coding. Many of these games would have gods and monsters loosely based on real mythologies, so reading these works was like digging into their underlying source code. The libraries upon which these game worlds were built.

But there was another reason I was obsessed. I was born out of wedlock. In our modern day society this is becoming more common, and isn’t as frowned upon as it used to be. But to the Catholic family I grew up with it was more than frowned upon. I was bastard born. I was an abomination. I had committed one of the most horrific sins. One so bad that I would be denied baptism, and thus entry to heaven.

My heinous crime was daring to even exist.

I never knew why I was treated so poorly as a child. My mother loved me unconditionally, of course. She was my rock, and still is to this day. But the rest of the family would tell me I was devil spawn, evil, a bad person. I would respond by acting out, which would only reinforce their views.

They hated me with a passion. And I never understood why. It wasn’t until I was older that I learned the reason I was never baptised. Then I started to see how the Catholics around me would treat children born outside of a marriage.

Before I go on I want to emphasise here that this is just my experience of the people I grew up with. I don’t want to tar all Catholics with the same brush – I’ve since travelled a lot and met many genuinely good Christians, Catholics included.

But as I got older I couldn’t get it out of my head. Why did they hate me so much?

My only clue was their religion. Bastards don’t go to heaven. They have no souls worth saving. So why bother to love them?

Wrong Answers

So I would read everything I could get my hands on. Every myth, every epic poem, every religious text, ancient history. I needed to understand. Why do people believe this stuff, and how does it make people hate me?

I found a lot of answers.

I discovered the secret behind the 18th song of Odin. Though I can never tell it to anyone.

I discovered the formula to become a god. It’s extremely difficult and involves sacrificing yourself at the end so there’s a reason not many people (if any) try it.

I discovered the true name of God. Yeiouaö, a name consisting of only vowel sounds so it can never be written down. This doesn’t work nowadays since we write vowel sounds.

I even drowned myself to achieve enlightenment. It’s really just the experience of death, and would more accurately be described as an “endarkenment”.

I discovered a lot. But none of it answered my question. A question that had grown beyond me since I started my journey. Why do people hate those that don’t matter to them at all?

Nazis, racists, homophobes, transphobes, why do these people exist? What fuels their hatred?

I never found the answer I was looking for, so I gave up. I just had to accept that I was living in a world where people wanted to spend their energy hating others. I didn’t like it. Hated it even. But I just had to learn to accept it. They are bad apples and not the majority.

Recently, however, I’ve been feeling that the hate-filled outnumber the rest of us. I’m finding it harder and harder to ignore, because it feels like hate is winning. And that question has been on my mind again. I need to know why.

Binding of Isaac

There was a theme I noticed that ran throughout the history of the epics. The great poets would often ponder what causes sin, and their explanations are fairly consistent. From Homer’s Odyssey, to Dante’s Commedia, all the way up to Milton’s Paradise Lost, they all push the same theory.

Too much love for the wrong thing.

Lust is too much love for sex. Greed is too much love for money or power. Gluttony too much love for food. And so on.

Their solution is that people need to love God (or the gods) before all else. Only in loving God can you avoid sin.

I follow this logic through and I end up thinking of Isaac. In Genesis 22 of the bible we are told a story where Abraham is told to sacrifice his son, Isaac, to God. So he takes Isaac up to the altar, ties him to it, and raises his dagger, only to be stopped at the last minute by an angel. His son saved, he sacrifices a goat in his son’s stead.

Many scholars have interpreted this story in various different ways. They almost certainly know more than I do, but to me the meaning of the story is obvious: you should love God more than your own children.

An Answer?

I said in the beginning that I was more “anti-theist” than atheist when I was younger. In the early days of the internet it became popular for children coming out as atheist to their parents to see their reactions. Sometimes their reactions would be angry. Sometimes violent. Always hateful.

It goes without saying that similar videos would exist of LGBTQ children coming out in much greater numbers. As I got older I would make more friends from these communities, some of whom wouldn’t talk much about their parents.

It should be no surprise that these negative reactions would often come from more extreme Christian parents. And when you think about it, the answer is obvious. They are committing a sin. One of the most heinous of sins. One so bad that they would deny their own children.

They love their God too much.

If you love your god more than your own children, you are not a good person. If you love your god more than the people that actually live on this earth, you are not a good person. If you love your god so much, you are filled with hatred for people that are nothing to you, you are not a good person.

If you love your god too much, you are a sinner.

I still don’t think this answers the question, however. While there is a correlation between the religious and these kinds of hate, it isn’t a 1:1 relationship. Atheists are capable of just as much hatred.

I think the answer lies in loving something (anything) so much it causes you to hate something else for no good reason. But I still haven’t figured it out.

Image Credit

Pam Carter from Pixabay

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