I just found this piece from The Irish Times website that was published in the paper last June, thought it would be good to share. They were soliciting Irish people’s opinions on “faith” and what it meant to them. Needless to say I was willing to expound on the subject.
My Faith – Alan Flanagan
Religion, for me, has always been a place to belong. A place where those who agree to behave and believe in the same way can find each other.
It was unfortunate, then, that on realising that I was gay at around 8 years old I got the second part of that equation. If there is belonging – and rules therein – then there must be exclusion. Going to schools where the subject “Religion” was actually “Catholicism”, and where debate on matters ecumenical was an impossibility, it was clear where my community’s values lay.
It was very important that I lie about who I was, not because I subscribed to the belief that being gay was wrong, but because to be honest would be to sacrifice a sense of belonging. And as much strength as can be drawn from forging one’s own path, it is not the most attractive prospect for an 8-year-old with few friends and no gay role models.
Because I was told that God disliked me, I began to question his existence. And it didn’t take long for me to question his existence right out of existence. I no longer believed, and still don’t, and every ounce of morality and goodness I’ve built for myself has been forged on the realisation that intolerance is very much alive and very much indoctrinated into this country’s veins.
There are many problems with Catholicism. It believes that gay people are sinners without ever defining why. It opposes contraception at the cost of ever-rising HIV and AIDS rates in rigorously Catholic countries. It denies the reality of IVF for women who can’t conceive, or the equality of the workplace and the clergy for women in general. Catholicism teaches this – in fact, the things that make one Catholic as opposed to just plain Christian are these very things, because they single out this faith as dictated by the Vatican.
There is goodness in religion. But this goodness exists outside the world of religion in amazing quantities. Forgiveness, charity, love, morality – the Christian or Catholic ethos does not have patent on these things. And I have found more acceptance and love outside the Church than was ever available to me within it.
So I ask those who do find their faith in the Catholic Church to openly question them. It is hypocritical of the Irish people to be in uproar about the Church’s response on child abuse when it was indicative of the wider problem with religion in general – one cannot question, because God said so. Even if an old man in an ivory tower in Italy is no closer to God than the woman working in the soup kitchen.
The Catholic religion has no place for me. Nor for single mothers, the infertile – and the woman who chooses when she wants to have kids. It doesn’t have a place for the tests of sex, love, and living together before committing to the lifelong bond of marriage.
Catholicism never believed in me. So I don’t believe in it.