For the purposes of my college induced poverty I live in a small highly religious town in Florida. It's not a Deliverance style bible thumping beer guzzling redneck Utopia. No gang of sweaty horny hillbillies have ever ravaged me and forced me to squeal like a pig despite my many requests for them to do so. But it's not the secular hipster commune that is Portland, Oregon either. I live in a county that despite being bigger than Rhode Island and Delaware put together it feels about as small as Mayberry. Well it's more like Mayberry if Gomer discovered how to make meth and coke and knocked up a whole lotta bitches. So because I live in the cradle of idiocy my religious identity and the journey associated was just as tremulous as coming to the realization I was a gay. Yes I said a gay, deal with it.
Where I live as far as the black people are concerned everyone is either Baptist, Church of God in Christ, Apostolic Oneness or some other form of muddled Pentecostalism. I grew up in a somewhat strict Apostolic Oneness church with a father who's own personal doctrine was so rigid that his path to heaven was narrower than Hank Hill's urethra. My father was one of those people who firmly believed that the Earth was made in six days, dinosaurs were the result of angels fucking women which created giants who in turn fucked lizards, any kind of premarital sex or thoughts were taking you to hell and that beating his children to within an inch of their lives was discipline. In short he was an idiotic, an over zealous idiot. This is probably the worst kind of dumbass you would ever want to encounter because people like my father just blindly follow whatever their religion dictates and then when you called them on they get CRUNK!
My father's feining for faithfulness is really was led me to explore other religions and then subsequently no religion. When I was sixteen I dual enrolled into college and one of my first classes was a world religions class. My parents vehemently rejected this stating that 'enlightenment is really darkness' and that I wasn't strong enough to and I quote 'fight back man's lies with scripture'. They assumed that I wasn't as devout as them and that I would begin to question my faith. They weren't wrong. I believe without a shadow of a doubt if it was one of them taking the class they would be trying to preach and covert everyone else in the class. That's pretty much why they commanded me to do from elementary school up to high school. Apparently despite living in a country which a huge Christian population, various media outlets targeting the faithful and churches on literally every block (I'm not kidding there's at least five near my campus alone) we still needed to guide the blind back onto the right path never minding the over abundant lights.
But which one is the right path? My parents and my church taught only we had the full truth. If you would of gone down to the Baptist church down the road or the COGIC church next to them you would of heard the same thing. Now when these people reached out to you to come to Christ it appears as if just believing in Christ would be enough. No you need to believe in their version of him. It has to be their version of the doctrine, their interpretation of th scriptures and so on and so forth. This really confused me as a child because my father would teach us how to combat other denominations with scripture and how to bring them to the truth. My thought was if Baptists and Catholics and Jevovah Wittnesses were already Christians why did we need to convert them? If they already worshipped, prayed and loved God wasn't that enough? Apparently not. God is a fickle motherfucker.
Getting back to my world religions class I remember really enjoying it. It was one of my favorite classes, mostly because he never gave us homework but still. I loved hearing about the history of religions and my own in particular. It was challenging to what I had been taught at times. Many times I remember thinking this teacher was just making shit up. But I loved his class. I started experimenting with the idea of what if there was no God or if I didn't need him. It would be another four years before I actually stepped out on that vision. It was difficult to reconcile what I was learning about my own faith and what my parents erroneously taught me. My father was a preacher, I myself was a young minister. None of this made any sense anymore. I told my father I was beginning to have some questions and so they had an intervention with themselves and the bishop of our church. Because apparently instead of answering a young confused boy's questions berating him until he 'believed' again was more effective. There were many times throughout my walk that I seriously was just going through the motions of my faith. It was like being stuck in a dead end relationship. You knew there was never going to be any growth or any strides made nut you kept it going because you were supposed to be. In a way I had grown so accustomed to living that way living without it although a thrilling notion was a terrifying one. But it was something I would eventually have to do. My relationship with God was an abusive one. I beat myself up, I cut myself, I hated myself and tried to change everything about myself just to make him happier and so he would bless me. I used to pray for success and for money and for things just to get better in my life. I promised I would change in return. I would be on the verge of years as I prayed. It wasn't because I so earnestly wanted him to give these things to me but it was because I knew the only way to get them was without him.