Today’s submission comes from fellow FTBorg Jason Thibeault, who writes at the brilliant and therefore deceptively-named Lousy Canuck blog.
I’ve been an atheist since I was 13. This is well before I knew the word, or the implications, though I had a vague inkling that a lot of people were probably wrong about a lot of things. When I further realized that my own parents counted among those people, I figured it was a very bad idea to let anyone else know what I thought about theology.
Several years ago, my sister came out to me as gay. The way she approached it was to ask me, “what is the worst possible thing you could imagine me telling you about myself?” I joked, “that you vote Conservative.” So, she apparently took that as an indicator that I’m safe, and came out of the closet.
I also learned that my father — then very recently estranged from my mother, who’d moved to the States at that point — wasn’t exactly thrilled by this news himself. This I’d assume explains my sister’s caution, despite her knowledge that I’d had a gay male friend as a roommate for a year during university. I also know that my father’s prejudices against homosexuality came, though he was a very liberal Catholic, from his religious upbringing. I have a few childhood memories of my father acting explicitly homophobic, among dozens of exhortations that I should follow traditional male gender roles and that he would disown me if I turned out to be gay. So I immediately understood why my sister was apprehensive. My heart sank for her.
As life in our old hometown began to wear on her over the next year or so, the acrimony my sister got from my father increased over time, and the hotel she was working at shut down, so she found herself in a bad spot. I encouraged her and her then-partner to move to live with Jodi and I in our spare room until they could get on their feet, find jobs and someplace to live.
I had realized that the ridiculous anti-gay memes embedded in my father’s consciousness are every bit as wrong as the religious ones, both of which he tried to instill in me. I have successfully resisted both forms of indoctrination because I had inoculated myself against the meme that my father is always right by realizing he was expressly wrong about one of the central questions of the universe.
My sister has a very strong character, and has built a pretty good life for herself now. It’s not perfect, but she’s directing the same sort of incremental improvements that I put myself through when I moved out of the house originally. And while I’m sure she would have survived whatever came from the bad situation, I am gratified that I was able to ensure it was not worse.
Because I am an atheist, my sister had a support structure in me, even where all our father had for her was sanctimony over her “life choices”. If I hadn’t been an atheist, there’s every possibility that I would have been significantly less willing to help my sister in her time of need, following in our father’s footsteps.
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