Thursday, March 27, 2014

“How does this even work?”

In a moment of deep despair, I grabbed a knife and toyed with ending my life. … I took the knife into the bathroom … I walked to the shower, slid the glass door open, and sat down inside, sliding the door shut behind me. … [T]he room just beyond was a blur, obscured by soap scum. … I ran the dull side [of the knife] along my left wrist, like I was taking it for a test drive. The metal, like the shower floor, was cold. … How does this even work? I asked, almost aloud … I couldn’t will myself to go through with it. I was too afraid - of the selfishness of this act and how my family would react to it; of the physical pain involved; of failing at this, too; but most of all of the fate I was sure would greet me after death.

That’s Chris Stedman’s low point, according to his memoir Faitheist, which recounts his spiritual journey, from culturally Christian as a child to his born-again experience as a teen to his accepting himself as a gay man and rejecting Christianity’s monstrous god.

Stedman says the main reason he didn’t kill himself in the shower that night was the expectation he would face the terrible tortures of hell, suicide being one of those sins that park a soul in that unfriendly place. In a post earlier this month I wondered if many people were dissuaded from killing themselves out of fear of the afterlife. In the above passage Chris Stedman says that fear was what, “most of all,” made him choose life.

Maybe so. Stedman lists other reasons, though. And by the time he crouches in the cold shower he is already convinced that his same sex desires have reserved him a boiling pot of torment in God’s ugly cellar. Stedman has prayed repeatedly over the Bible verses that supposedly condemn homosexuality, and God hasn’t piped up with any relief. He isolates himself from his family and his Christian friends. He is in pain and sees no way to alleviate it.

Considering the rest of the memoir, its testimony to Stedman’s need for social engagement, his sense of justice, I’m not convinced that imagining post-death torture is what stops the knife. I suspect it had more to do with the poverty of the Christian version. This Christianity is empty of love so his empty heart yearned for something beyond it.

I know I contemplated the permanent pain killer and hell was no factor. Nor, for that matter, was another of Stedman’s reasons for living - what he calls the “selfishness” of suicide. Rather, if I can come up with any particular reason why I’m yet alive, if one really can look into that tunnel-vision state of mind and say much coherent about it, I’d say I could imagine a better life. I could imagine not hurting so much. I could even imagine being happy. I didn’t know how or if a better life would be mine, but it was not out of the reach of my dreams.

source: Faitheist: how an atheist found common ground with the religious by Chris Stedman


David Lee Ingersoll said...

I am grateful that you could imagine a better life. I'm glad you're still here.

Glenn Ingersoll said...

Life! Huh!