I have, over the past year or so, lost much of my faith. This is for many reasons. One is an increasing understanding of science. Many things which previously seemed impossible without divine origin now admit of an alternative explanation. Another is an exposure to different interpretations of the Bible, which suggests that a book which can be read in so many different ways is all but useless as a source of either moral guidance or accurate history. The two creation accounts in the first two chapters of Genesis are a case in point.
There is, though, another, less valid reason why I have abandoned my religion. Or, at least, less directly valid, though valid reasons may be derived from it. Allow me to tell my story in chronological order.
I have been aware since my mid-teens (and perhaps earlier) of homosexual desires. In fact, looking back, I see that the signs were there in primary school. I even wanted to kiss a friend, and once almost asked him. I lost nerve, though, and didn’t. I wonder how he would have reacted?
I told myself that it was a phase I was going through. And such phases do exist, so the lie was not without foundation. I should have known it was a lie, though, from the fact that my desires have always been exclusively homosexual, fixing on different boys around me. I never fancied a teacher, so I escaped that cliché, at least.
For a long time — right through my teens — I would masturbate almost every night while indulging in homosexual fantasies. And then I would pray for forgiveness for these twin sins. Sometimes I would pray beforehand for the strength to resist, but it rarely worked.
And then, one day, I had a sudden realization, an epiphany, almost: I wasn’t sorry! How could I continue to pray for forgiveness if I wasn’t actually sorry?
I continued to pray, but no longer at nighttime. I prayed about other matters and I prayed for the strength to overcome my homosexual tendencies. Yes, tendencies — I was still in denial of the fact that I actually was homosexual.
At this stage I had dedicated my life to God. I had no doubt that God existed, and little doubt that the teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses were the true representation of his personality. And I was in some senses a spiritual person. I still am, actually. But I had never felt the personal relationship with Jehovah that some people report. I dedicated my life to God and got baptized out of a sense that it was the right thing to do. Do I regret that decision? I’m not at all sure. It makes things more complicated now, but it was in many ways the right thing to do at the time.
It did not take long, though, for me to admit to myself that I actually was homosexual. Strangely perhaps, at this point I began to think less about gay sex. Because I’d admitted that my homosexuality was a part of who I was and of the person I would continue to be, I was free to start thinking about love and relationships, not just about boys fooling around.
A quick word about my fantasies: Most of my daydreams, sexual or adventurous, are in the third person. Sometimes there is one particular character I identify with, but often, especially in the sexual ones, there isn’t. I often spend a long time reworking dialogue, even in the sexual fantasies. The plain sex fantasies were often about two boys sharing a bed for some reason and deciding to have some fun together while they were there. They rarely included either kissing or anal intercourse. This is possibly because the boys weren’t intended to be in love or actually gay. Later daydreams have focused more on love, romance, cuddling, and different ways to ‘come out’. I think I favour the approach of treating it as no big deal, letting it slip out in conversation. I can’t imagine that working in this family, somehow.
At around this time, I wrote a letter to the Watchtower Society asking for guidance, reassurance, and one other thing. I was becoming uncomfortably aware of the double standards of most Witnesses with regard to homosexuality. They most definitely did not treat homosexual acts in the same manner as any other ‘sin’, which is essentially what the Society recommends. The hypocrisy of these people who dress up their personal distaste for homosexuals in the cloak of a high-minded religious and moral objection began to disgust me.
One particular incident comes to mind. I was in a car with two chaps whom I shall call Luke and John, for these were their names. I forget which of them was driving. I was alone in the back seat. Luke was telling John about his recent holiday in South America. He mentioned that homosexuality is becoming more open in that society now, and that it causes some problems in the congregation. One of the elders there had asked Luke whether the elders in Ireland often had to counsel the brothers about homosexual acts or inclinations. Luke had replied that he didn’t know. He was now asking John, an elder. It was John’s reply which shocked me. He said that he personally had never had to counsel anyone for homosexual tendencies, but that another elder had once pointed out to him a brother who had been counselled on that matter. And then he made some infantile joke about seeing him in the toilets. Well, so much for confidentiality! That John’s an old gossip, anyway, and he’ll never be trusted with any secret of mine. He did not, on this occasion, tell us who the brother concerned was, but he was obviously unconcerned by the other elder’s breech of trust.
My letter to the Watchtower Society did not include a reply postal address, only an e-mail address. I received, after some delay, an e-mail asking me to supply a postal address. I did so, both by e-mail reply and by post, but never received a letter in response to mine. Nor have the Society done as I asked and published an article about proper treatment of homosexuals within the congregation and proper attitude toward homosexuals outside the congregation.
I said that valid reasons may be derived from invalid ones. To reject a religion merely because it didn’t suit me would be invalid. But to reject a religion because its adherents are hate-filled hypocritical bigots might be more acceptable. If you have them available, look up the articles “The Homosexual Life-Style—Just How Gay Is It?” in Awake! of March 22, 1986 and “Is the Gay Life Really Gay?” in Awake! of June 8, 1976. It would take a lot to convince me that this vitriolic garbage was written and published by an organization which is the earthly representative of a God of love. Now, these are old articles, and the more recent ones are a little mellower, but the principle still stands.
I’m a hypocrite myself. I have once made the argument that homosexual marriage should be legalized, to a Witness sister who fully agreed with me. But I did not stand up to John to tell him how much he disgusted me, and I did not make any fuss at the Group when Paddy got hold of the wrong end of the stick about material used in some schools to ‘promote homosexuality’. This stuff is actually an anti-bullying tool, so that kids with gay parents (adoptive or natural) are not treated as weirdos. It’s hard to make an argument against that, but it’s easy to go off on a fury against something you’ve only half understood. A pity, because Paddy’s usually better than that, in spite of being a Daily Mail reader.
I’m a hypocrite myself. I have lost my faith in God, but I’m still going to meetings and even on the door-to-door work, spreading my ‘faith’ to others.
I’m a hypocrite myself. I think and feel that there’s nothing wrong with homosexuality — it’s okay to be gay. And yet I have yet to tell anyone anywhere that I’m gay. I hope to fix that soon.
Originally published on GreenTambourine.
Link to Snopes added 2007-05-14.