For a good portion of my life, I was pro life. I was pro life because everyone I knew was pro life. It was a blind belief. There was no other option. I saw the pictures of aborted fetuses and thought that only a monster could do something like that. All women who sought abortions were painted as god hating sluts who had their baby sucked out of them while they laughed – or something like that.
There was never a thought as to why someone would choose abortion. There was this pervasive thought that everyone experienced the same life we (fellow pro life people) did, therefore they had the same opportunities. There was no thought given to different life experiences or thought patterns.
Growing up, I knew of a few women who had chosen abortion. They were spoken about in hushed tones, with disdain – even hate. They were painted as selfish, ignorant women who slept around. Thinking back, I feel a large amount of shame for not stepping outside of my box for a second. For not trying to see things from someone else’s perspective. The ignorance and hate that surrounded the topic was all consuming. These women, who had told their stories in confidence, were mocked, derided, and ostracized.
I grew up a little bit when I left home.
I discovered that I had been living in a tiny, ignorance filled box. I saw other’s lives, and their choices, and the reason behind their choices. I learned that the world is a big, big place, and not everything was as black and white as I had been told.
I had access to a wealth of knowledge now. I could look up anything, read anything, and talk to anyone who was willing to speak to me. I listened and learned their reasons for why they believed what they did.
I felt like (to borrow a popular Christianese phrase) the scales had fallen from my eyes. I felt cheated, yes. Angry, even, at the wealth of knowledge that had been kept from me. I delved into science and research. I read everything about philosophy I could get my hands on. Some things I discarded as unnecessary, or just plain silly. Other things I kept. Some others I’m still mulling over. I learned how to apply logic and reasoning to situations. I was raised to ignore logic because it was “worldly”. I was told to deny facts and evidence because they were “from Satan” and only there to lead me astray.
I think the biggest thing I discovered was that the world is not out to get me. The world is not out to dictate my thoughts and feelings. There are no tricks. There are no devils hiding behind every door. I was raised to live in fear. Fear of losing my religious rights -even though the doomsday predictions never came true, and Christianity remains the most catered to religion in the US.
I learned that I cannot force my religious beliefs on others, no matter what my beliefs are.
Growing up, I was surrounded by people who bemoaned the state of our nation. People who claimed that their religious rights were being trampled on – while they thought it was perfectly find to tell others how to live their lives.
The judgment and the self righteousness was such an ugly thing I carried. We were special. We were different. We were “chosen.” We weren’t like those sinners, aborting their babies and choosing to leave god behind.
This otherness, this “we’re special” attitude was toxic. We separated ourselves and declared our reality the true and only reality. That reality was and still is full of hate and ignorance.
I think we all want to be special. We want something more. We need something more – why else are we here? We need some big purpose. You can see it in our movies and books. There is a special one, the chosen one, the one better and more important than the rest. Destined for something better than everyone else.
I had to step down from my imaginary pedestal as Special, and Best, and Chosen, and admit that on the cosmic scale, I am just a tiny speck.
“The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot.
Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.” -Carl Sagan
I also learned that I still have value. I didn’t need an imaginary god to tell me I had value, or that I needed him to find value. Me, that tiny speck was, as far as we knew, one of just 7 billion specks in a vast, immeasurable universe.
I developed a deep love for space – the universe as a whole. I would watch space documentaries and weep. Everything in me -down to my bones, was created in the belly of some ancient star. A star that exploded and spread across empty space, to one day make up me.
“Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality. When we recognize our place in an immensity of light‐years and in the passage of ages, when we grasp the intricacy, beauty, and subtlety of life, then that soaring feeling, that sense of elation and humility combined, is surely spiritual. So are our emotions in the presence of great art or music or literature, or acts of exemplary selfless courage such as those of Gandhi or Martin Luther King, Jr. The notion that science and spirituality are somehow mutually exclusive does a disservice to both.” -Carl Sagan
One morning, not long after I left home, I stood in front of the mirror and looked into my eyes and said,
“You are not sinful.
There is nothing wrong with you.
You were not born corrupt.
You are not in need of saving.
You are not dirty.
You were lied to, and these are the truth:
You are whole.
You are pure, from the moment of birth until now.
You have intrinsic value, and no one can ever, ever take that from you.”
This is my mantra. I’ve said it to myself many times since then, and every time I believe it more and more. I am able to discard the brainwashing and conditioning from my youth and revel in my beauty and importance that exists without a god.
Sometimes I get so excited at the opportunities I have. I feel like a child, with a wide open world in front of me. I don’t have to live in fear, I can choose to live in love, and life, and truth. I can be accepting of others even if we’re not the same. I don’t have to cut myself off from The Others. The Sinners. I can listen to a Christian friend, or a Muslim friend, and stay firm in my beliefs, because they are not threatened. I no longer have to shut myself off in fear of being “led astray”, because we are all one. We are all doing our best.
I feel much more connected to the world. I love the planet I live on. I want to preserve it and give something for future generations to enjoy. The depth of a blue sky, the sharp, earthy smell of a forest after a rain. The white capped waves as they throw themselves onto the shore.
It makes me emotional, honestly.
I’ve been standing at the edge of the water
‘Long as I can remember, never really knowing why
I wish I could be the perfect daughter
But I come back to the water, no matter how hard I try
Every turn I take, every trail I track
Every path I make, every road leads back
To the place I know, where I can not go
Though I long to be
See the line where the sky meets the sea it calls me
And no one knows, how far it goes
If the wind in my sail on the sea stays behind me
One day I’ll know, if I go there’s just no telling how far I’ll go