This is a piece written by my friend, Trent Berko MacIntosh, in response to being asked about his stance on religion. I love the pain laced clarity, the unavoidable glare of historical truth, and the pervasive love that is so very much the essence of my friend, as found in every particle of this piece.
I was born in 1981 to single parents who were raised in the church: father from North Carolina, mother from Georgia. Previous life experiences caused my mom to lean even more onto the church before I was born, resulting in a change in her overall attitude in the new marriage to my father when I was 1 year old. My father, being used to her from a secular point of view, didn’t know how to adjust to a new wife being so religious. That became a point of contention between the two of them for many years after, leading to constant arguments and eventually emotional and physical abuse to each other as well as to me as the eldest child.
I was kept immersed in church activities through my entire childhood. It was in second grade when I began to realize a crush I had on another boy at school, but I never spoke of it to anyone. As I continued to be taken to church and hear sermons on how homosexuality was a grave sin leading one to total damnation, I thought that I was truly wicked…a shameful boy who was destined for hell. I even recall an uncle saying how he would “beat up” any nephew who turned out to be anything other than straight. There was a time in school during world history when I learned of other religions springing up in different regions. I remembered being particularly excited in perceiving “Allah” of Islam as the same as “God” in Christianity. Upon running home and sharing this epiphany with my mom, I was sternly shut down and forced to proclaim that “Jesus is my only savior to get me to heaven”. This one incident awaked my own skepticism of religion that materialized in questions to my mom such as, “If people born in Ancient Egypt had died before the birth of Christ, are they banished to hell by default?” Needless to say, her answer only further solidified that skepticism.
This on top of dealing with abuse at home caused me to be a quiet, shy loner who was already an outsider amidst other kids in my family and at school. I believed that prayer was the answer, so I would pray constantly to have this “sin” banished from me…I got baptized in 3rd grade and got involved in extra-curricular bible study activities. All the while into adolescence, I couldn’t help but realize that I was simply different…not just in my own sexuality, but also in how I carried myself as a black child. Being teased for being stocky in grade school was one thing, but middle school introduced the term “faggot”. I was perplexed by this, for I didn’t carry myself in a way that was effeminate…I was simply an average black nerd who got along with teachers, had pretty good writing skills, liked listening to new age music, and was accused of speaking/acting “white” by family members and other kids. I tried in vain to be “normal” by seeking to be like other kids and ignoring those “unnatural urges that were not of the church”. Thankfully, I did find peace in my schooling years by writing poetry and prose, being in the Talented and Gifted program, having a knack for geography, stage performance, and video editing/TV broadcasting. Being an outcast led me to find normalcy in being alone and easily being able to withdraw and disassociate myself from others…which has been good and bad over the years.
Upon graduating high school in 1999, I had no clear plan for college and I did not want to be at home with my parents, so I left for the Air Force in 2000. I came to terms with my own sexuality during tech school after basic training and outed myself to colleagues. Unfortunately, I learned just how two-faced human nature can really be as the term “faggot” made a resurgence in my social circles. Through this time, I still found some peace in being Christian and even claimed it on my dogtags along with getting a cross tattooed on me twice. After dealing with a severe loneliness and meeting who I thought was my soulmate at the time via phone, I chose to tell my supervisor about my sexuality who then had to report me on the grounds of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. I was given an honorable discharge for my service and ended up back with my parents.
Even though I accepted my own sexuality, I still strongly believed in the end of the world and the rapture spoken of in Revelations. My own immersion into doomsday prophecies and religious programming increased after 9/11, and I made plans to become a Franciscan monk to be prepared for the End of Days…seriously. Of course, the end of 2012 came and went with me agonizing over the upcoming armageddon. When 2013 arrived with no incident, I was extremely furious, mortified, and embarrassed over all the time I had wasted in life fearing what man-made religion had taught me. It was at that moment when I did away with all religion.
As I observe how religion is being used a tool to control masses of people via power and politics, it infuriates me to the core of my being. For the sake of freedom, people have every right to follow whatever faith they choose for themselves…that’s totally fine. But using faith as a means to govern others instead of pure logic and human decency is absolutely wrong and un-called for. Whether it is Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, or any other of the countless religions created my man, they are all based in myth…plain and simple. Mythology was created over generations to explain the unexplainable regarding nature in the surrounding universe. Religion (especially organized religion) then stemmed from mythology to exert a means of control over willing masses. This one facet of human conception, along with money, seems to be the root of a grand misunderstanding that breeds political division and contempt amidst world populations. Every side believes that it is right and that the opposition is in the wrong, so the end game is nothing more than a cataclysmic stalemate. The true enemy is not political opposition, it is a system that uplifts the elite over the less fortunate…and this system has been in play for generations. For example, in the colonial history of our nation, poor blacks and whites initially found solidarity with one another against the governing rich who sought out to use them as labor. However, the rich learned that if they fostered a culture in which they could form a divide between the poor masses, their position in society would be further solidified. What is is the easiest way to spur on this division? Race. Then there is also class, money, societal ties, etc.
But there is a silver lining: As each side on the world stage continues to scream their opinions on behalf of their belief system (or represented party), I believe that portions of the masses are continuing to live life with common sense and peaceful coexistence.