Breaking Up With God
CW: suicide, homophobia, mental illness
Breaking up with God is a lot like breaking up with your significant other. Only it’s about a hundred times worse.
Much like a normal breakup, you lose contact with their friends, some of whom you liked, some of whom you definitely did not like. After spending time getting to know each other and learning the intimate and private details of one another’s lives, you transition into no longer talking or hanging out. After time passes, you might think of them every now and again, sometimes in spite, and sometimes fondly. Only instead of an ex-girlfriend, it’s an immortal, omnipotent God.
I went to church every Sunday until I was 19. Growing up, I was often there several times a week, attending youth group, bible study, and helping out at kid’s church. 12-year-old, legging under skirts wearing me, was adamant on becoming a pastor and going around the world on missionary trips. Sometimes, I imagine the look of horror she might have on her face if she discovered that 21-year-old me is a buzz-cut, potty-mouthed, super gay proponent of the separation of church and state. Not even her side-swept bangs would mask the revulsion.
Despite a dutiful upbringing coloured by communion, praise and worship, bible studies, and prayer, I found myself stuck in the plot holes of God’s overarching metanarrative. Like many, I wondered why a God who is all-powerful and all-knowing allow injustices such as poverty and war. My mother, a graduate in theology and avid Christian told me that this was a product of man’s selfishness. She told me that although God had the capacity to help people, he would not overstep their self-autonomy, and that any indecency and injustice that may exist is a manifestation of man’s sin, or the devil’s attempt to thwart our quest for holiness and purity.
This process of reflection and doubt intensified when I fell into a depressive episode at 16. The touch of a holy love, one which is all-encompassing, one which melts away all anxieties, was in complete and utter absence. After confessing this, I was told this was simply because I was not committed enough in my faith. In a strange, almost neoliberal sense, I was told that happiness, prosperity, and fulfillment would come only if I prayed hard enough and entrusted all my faith in God. And for some time, I tried this. I sought the help of church leaders, I read the bible more, I prayed before bed and when I woke in the morning.
It didn’t work.
Instead, in July of 2014, I found myself in a hospital bed, having just attempted suicide. I didn’t see my life flash before my eyes. I didn’t hear the still, small whisper of God’s confession of love when I overdosed. Just the sound of my thoughts, and a man throwing up in the bed across from mine in the emergency room.
A lot changed in the four years since. I started going to university. I came out. I started dating. I fell in love (with a woman, at that). And amongst this, I left the church and ended my relationship with God.
In this separation, I began to see how organised religion had the potential to morph into a toxic environment permeated by guilt and judgement, instead of understanding and empathy. Four years on, I still find myself feeling guilty for being queer, and feeling sinful for immersing myself in a queer community. In therapy, I talk about my ardent fear of death and more potently, the uncertainty of where I would end up in the afterlife.
But this gravity of guilt was also paired with a newfound desire to define myself outside of the parameters of religion. In place of the bible, I baptized myself in readings of feminist literature and social justice. I became more involved in the queer community and I started branching out and meeting new people. The bubble which I had grown up in, confided in, and taken comfort in, had finally burst.
Yet it is not without a sense of nostalgia and loss. The sense of community and care (in exclusion of its tendency for gossip and judgement) was an important foundation for my early adolescence. Despite my experience, I still understand and support the existence of religion in a democratic society. For many, and perhaps still for me, it is a manifestation of our desire for love and hope inside a seemingly indifferent cosmos.