A billboard in San Diego County, surprisingly, or not, out here in the boondocks:
There are five points that I can identify on my journey from religion to atheism, which some say is a religion in and of itself.
The first was a period of seven years attending St. Gertrude’s Catholic Church in Kingsville, Texas, with my wise old grandmother. After church, little groups of people—cliques—would gather and catch up—gossip—on all the news about anyone and anything from the past week. I think I was fortunate that my wise old grandmother was not a member of any of those cliques. I only heard things as we walked from the church to our car. I thought it the height of hypocrisy to be gossiping in the church parking lot after church….
The second was as a freshman at Texas A&M University. I was living Puryear Hall, a ramp-style dorm. Each weekend, a group of us, led by a guy from Nigeria, would visit a different church—Jew, Catholic, Mormon, Lutheran, Methodist, Unitarian, Church of Christ…. No religion was out of bounds. That was when I realized that each of these religions could not each be the true religion….
The third was a couple of years after I graduated from Texas A&M University. I was living in Houston, and the woman I was dating, a senior at Texas A&M, was from Houston. She was a Catholic, so I had no problems saying “Yes” when she asked me if I wanted to go to church with her one weekend when she as home. Her parents lived about ten miles from me but the church was just a couple of blocks away from me, so she offered to pick me up. Mass started at 11:00 a.m., but she didn’t arrive until 11:30. We got to the church in five minutes but she spent ten minutes driving around looking for a parking spot, and when she found one, she backed into it. I asked her why she was backing in since it takes longer to park that way, and she said she could leave faster when church was over. Whatever….
The fourth was when I was dating a woman in College Station, Texas, in 1987. She had a personal relationship with her God, so personal that he was telling her when to call in to work sick, when to take vacation, when to eat, when to come see me. One Saturday she was at my place where I had my home office. I was working in the living room and she was back in my bedroom on the bed, with my two dogs Penney & Sugar, studying her Bible lesson for the next day. At 11:00 p.m. I decided to take a break. I went to my bedroom and asked her if she wanted to take the dogs for a walk with me. She rolled over, looked at me ever so sweetly, and said, “No. The Lord has not told me to take the dogs for a walk with you.” I broke up with her a couple of days later.
The fifth was a period from April 27, 1993, to February 15, 1994. I arrived in San Diego on April 15, 1993, and spent two weeks orienting myself before deciding to study the world’s great, and not-so-great, religions to determine if there was a religion that was fully accepting of an openly gay man. Only the Metropolitan Community Church came close, but it was based waaaaaaay too much on the traditions and tenets of the Roman Catholic Church. Thus, it didn’t really bring anything new the table, all things considered….
Those 10½ months of intense studying convinced me that I had everything I needed to lead a productive life, to be a viable, contributing member of society. Perhaps I got everything from my upbringing in the Mormon and Catholic churches, but whether or not I did, I do believe I would have learned everything I needed without religion.
Some might say that the people around me, brought up in their own religions, influence me, and that quite likely is true. Thus, as I like to tell people, I have no problems with you practicing your religion if doing so helps prevent you from raping, murdering, and stealing.
For me, at this point in my life, I have a personal relationship with reality and don’t need any religion.