Two weeks ago, the United Methodist Church voted to tighten its bans on same-sex marriage and queer clergy at a St. Louis conference. How unsurprising. There is to be no officiation of any married couple that doesn’t fit a heterosexual structure, or such a minister faces suspension and permanent discharge. How age-old, how antiquated. The United Methodist Church continues, into the twenty-first century, to believe homosexuality as immoral and sinful. How predictable. How absolutely foolish for a religion already struggling to gain traction among young people.
I grew up gay in a Methodist family structure, so nothing about this is surprising. I attended church—more as a child, scarcely, if at all, as an adolescent. Even before I realized my queerness, I knew that something about Christianity was very, very wrong. I couldn’t pinpoint it; I hadn’t the philosophical or academic training yet. But I knew that with organized religion there was, is, and will be a foundation incredibly against everything I believe in and everything I hope for the world.
I cannot stand those who—though in a good mindset—try to point out some misinterpretation of the Bible. Those who, when confronted with some Bible-thumping zealot, like to comment things such as: If you can’t agree with homosexuality, then you mustn’t eat seafood, or wear mismatching fabrics, or get tattoos; if you can’t agree with homosexuality, then you mustn’t fornicate, or masturbate; if you abide by this one passage in the Bible, then you must submit to them all. Even those who go to the ends of the Earth in order to defend, somehow, that the Bible never actually does condone homosexuality—they get on my nerves, too. Personally, I don’t have the theological background to speak on any of this or that, but I also don’t care to.
This is what I know instead.
Religion, particularly organized religion as an institution, has been used to discriminate, abuse, and oppress people since its conception. That is all I need to know to understand that I don’t wish it in my life. I don’t care to know what service it’s supposed to fulfill when, put into practice, it’s been manipulated for personal gain on a global spectrum and at overwhelming rates. It’s started wars, it’s been used to justify terrorism, it’s played its role in enslavement, in capitalism, in misogyny. In nearly all evils of the world is a root in religion. Because of this, I have no need for it.
I do understand where the intrinsic yearning for religion stems. It makes sense that people want a reason, that they long for sense and order. I understand those who, late into their life, devote themselves to religion in their final years. With it comes something solid onto which one can grasp. It subverts the philosophical questions of nihilism, cynicism, and absurdism. It rids one’s self of that negativity and replaces it with another. I understand that. Because even those who claim they’re prepared for death aren’t. Face it. Deep in our bones is an extreme fear of what is to follow and, with religion, there is a beautiful promise of heaven and nirvana. That promise is nice, that promise isn’t scary—in fact, it’s welcoming. People wish for a means to an end. Because, at the end of the day, who wants to admit to themselves that, actually, there very much may not be anything? That there may a nothingness more intense, more endless than nothing? I don’t.
However, if I were to worship something, anything, it definitely isn’t going to be some man in the sky. I don’t need some scripture to validate me—I can do that myself. That is why I choose to live my life secularly. I have fought with how I seek to integrate spirituality and faith into my daily life only to find that, without it, nothing is missing. It’s not that I believe fiercely against any existence of divinity; no, I’m not that close-minded. What I do believe in is absolute secularization of the state, of education; religion has no means dipping its grimy fingers into the public sphere. Obviously I believe in the freedom of expression, of the private practice of whatever beliefs one chooses. Nonetheless, in my own life, I don’t think to myself before every action and behavior: How does God, my faith interact with this? Actually, I’ve found my life is better without that question.