Many people have asked me about my urgency about my atheism. I have often labeled myself a militant atheist. There are many, many reasons for this. However, there is I have not shared but I think it is time to do so now.
As many of my readers know, I grew up in a very conservative Christian community. My family belonged to the church and my father was deacon and an elder in that church. I also went to a Christian school from grades K-12. I was a Christian and I believed firmly in my conservative world views.
In high school, there was a young man who was gay. It was obvious to us by the way he acted, by the fact that he was interested in boys, and other observable behaviors. In our community, homosexuality was clearly a sin. Not only was it a sin, it was a blow to the Christian machismo which dominated our churches and the school.
As soon as we realized what this kid’s sexual preferences were, we were there ready to “deliver” him from this affliction. He caught merciless teasing from the guys at school. Adults did very little to stop or even slow these assaults. He was also attacked by the pastors, the teachers, and the parents who desperately wanted to save his soul from this hell bound state. I was a leader in the school. I was captain of the football team, a leader in our church youth groups, class president, etc. I participated in the abuse of this young man. This conflict went on for at least two years – maybe more.
A few years out of high school, this young man committed suicide. His last words expressed the pain of not being able to reconcile his homosexuality and his faith.
By the time of his suicide, I had already began my journey out of the faith and was no longer part of that community. However, the Christian community that had brow beaten this young man to suicide began to cover their tracks and act as if he was always a “troubled” boy.
We (myself included) pounded into that man the idea that you could never be gay and a good Christian. We harassed him into believing that he could not be who he was. We built this conflict in his heart with no remorse, no mercy, and no respect. He did not need to die. He did not need to face this pain that we caused. That kid’s blood stains my hands and the hands of everyone else who knew him and treated him that way.
I will never live long enough to repay my debt to that young man. I will never be able to take back the words I said and the abuse that I, as a leader, did nothing to stop. I get to live with this for the rest of my life.
What I can do and what I will do, however, is step up and fight against this kind of pain and enmity that Christians have toward those who they consider different. I will speak out again and again in support of the rights of those oppressed by ignorance. I will do what it is I need to so that these things stop happening. I owe at least that much to that young man.