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Advice for an Angry Gay Atheist

Hi folks. This will be my first post on, though I have lurked for quite a while.

I am both gay and an atheist. About the former I have been certain for as long as I have had sexual urges, and I was lucky to grow up in an extremely tolerant, liberal family. As a young person I entertained several religious positions, from deism to weak agnosticism, before landing on atheism.

I have never to my knowledge been discriminated against, although I will say that the intensely anti-gay culture of the average American high school can be an existential nightmare for a closeted gay teenager. Atheism did not stop me from becoming an Eagle Scout, because my scout leader coached me on evading the God question. By the time I became an adult I may have developed a certain distaste for religion, but I did not actively despise it.

Eight months ago I met the man who has become the love of my life. He is a wonderful man whom I hope to marry one day (we will, I suppose, have to pick from among the states that will allow us to do so). We will call him F.

F has a friend, a young man who is also gay (that is to say, he is attracted exclusively to men--he admits this but refuses to self-identify as gay) and who is extremely religious. We'll call him P. P wants to be a missionary, presumably in the hopes that this work will allow him to resist his urges more effectively. This distresses F greatly, as P is a young man about whom he cares deeply. A young man who recently told F he was going to burn in hell for not believing in God, and for refusing to resist his natural desires.

In the midst of a campaign season where all three Republican candidates have made denying my personhood a plank of their campaigns, where Rick Santorum's cosmic conspiracy theories have failed to derail his candidacy and where Mitt Romney's bishopric in an insane cult has barely made the news; in an era in which science is under constant attack from people who want to impose medieval theories of physics, biology and cosmology on impressionable American children; at a time when religious fundamentalism is the primary generator of political violence worldwide; it feels somewhat selfish to admit that this personal event is what has finally set me off. But it's the truth. P's family and church have taught him, since he was young, that his urges are horrific and evil, and that anyone who acts on them is an abomination. He was told that his own hormones are a test devised by a jealous and sadistic God (though his teachers would, of course, not use these terms) to force him to work for his salvation. And he was indoctrinated with the most destructive and terrifying notion of all: that any person, even those he loves, who does not believe the things he does will receive an infinite, unrelenting, unimaginable punishment after they die.

So I don't blame P for trying to convert F. I don't hate him. He was only trying to save his friend from the worst of all possible fates. But for the first time in my life, I feel that I cannot honestly say that I do not hate his religion. And not just his, in fact, but all fundamentalist religions, and by extension the moderate wings of those faiths that give cover to extremists and which enable the preaching of some of these revolting ideas to enter the mainstream. I am possessed (to use an ironically religious term) by a desire to see the whole edifice demolished, to see theism argued into absolute extinction. Even the most incidental instances of faith-speak (God bless you!) make me bristle of late, and I fear that sooner or later, caught at a bad moment, I am going to say something caustic and destroy a long-term friendship or other important relationship.

More than that, I fear becoming a bigot. How long before visceral revulsion at certain religious beliefs turns into irrational distrust of or disdain for the religious? I was brought up in a very tolerant family. I was taught to believe in the value of pluralism. I was taught that the cardinal sin of man, the single worst emotion that a human being can feel, is hatred. But there it is: I hate religion, and I don't know what to do about it.

I'm sure many of you have been where I am and have managed to calm yourselves back down. Do you have any advice? Is there anything I can do to claw my way back to rationality?


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