Author: Mathias Östlund
Growing up in Sweden is awesome in a lot of ways, but something we don’t have much of is religion. Most of us grow up surrounded by atheism, and a lot of the times we’re not even introduced to the concept of God until we learn about it in school. Honestly, I wasn’t even entirely sure what a “God” was until I was about 8 years old. And as it turns out, not being indoctrinated into a religion until you’re somewhat capable of critical thinking can have some pretty weird side-effects.
1. The whole concept of God gets incredibly confusing
Imagine for a second that you had never heard about religion as a child, and that your first exposure to the concept of a “God” was through a more or less objective study of all the world’s major religions. You learn that some people believe there is one God, while others believe in several; some believe God is a shape-shifter, and others believe he is an old white guy with a great big beard.
Needless to say, 8-year-old me had a very hard time puzzling this all together.
2. It all just sounds like fairytales
Everyone seems to hold their particular belief as truth. But imagine if you were an 8-year-old kid being told that a long time ago, there was a man who could walk on water, create food out of thin air and resurrect from the dead. You’d probably just shrug it off as another lame comic book super hero with ridiculous powers.
At least, that’s what I did.
3. You start questioning people’s sanity
At first, I kind of just shrugged religion off as some sort of ridiculous stories, meant to entertain the generations that didn’t have video games or the internet. So imagine my surprise when this kid in school told me he actually believed in God, and prayed to him every day. At first, I thought he was joking, and when I realized that he wasn’t, I reacted in about the same way as I would if someone told me he actually believed in Super man.
Needless to say, I got sent to the principal’s office.
4. You can’t tell if religion is real or not
After getting in trouble for making fun of that kid’s religion, I was more confused than ever – if religion wasn’t real, then why was it such a big deal to make fun of it? So I asked my teacher about it, and she gave some halfhearted explanation about how it was sort of real, but still wasn’t.
So on one hand, religion was a real thing, and on the other hand it was just make-believe. For a kid who was still struggling with basic math, this wasn’t exactly the easiest concept to grasp.
5. As a kid, you get terrified
Picture this; you’re an 8-year-old kid without a care in the world, completely occupied with avoiding cooties and learning the names of the latest generation of Pokémon. Then one day, you find out about this place called “hell”, where you will be sent to suffer for all eternity unless you follow a bunch of rules and believe in the right things.
Of course you don’t believe it at first, but when you keep hearing more and more people talking about hell as a real place, you start to get more than a bit worried.
6. You have no idea which religion to choose
Every religious person in the world seems completely convinced that their God is the right one, and most of them seem to agree that anyone who doesn’t believe in that particular God is dead wrong and/or has a one-way ticket to this “hell” place.
Needless to say, you get more than a little confused about which religion you’re supposed to choose in order to avoid eternal damnation.
7. Eventually, you just say “screw it” and walk away
Imagine a bunch of people yelling at you that you need to start believing in this God or that, all while you’re still trying to figure out what a “God” even is. And instead of anyone actually trying to explain things, they only give you vague, propaganda-like answers that just sound like blatant lies.
Eventually, you’re just going to get frustrated and give everything the finger as you walk away. At least that’s what happened to me with religion, and I decided that hey, maybe this whole “God” thing just wasn’t for me.