I'm now 47, and saw that someone had written a letter to their 16 year old self. It seems like a good idea, so here goes.
When you were 16, your sexuality had been spun as a possible pathway that could be the complete undoing of you, and you would burn in hell for eternity. You were taught that masturbation was a pathway to eternal damnation. You had been subjected to repeated sermons about hell during your formative years. The terrors you faced had never gone away. Then, your creator made you with feelings that by simply expressing them, they could send you to hell. You really internalized this, and after so many defeats with the battle against masturbation, you felt like the best solution was to end your life, since you were going to hell anyway. Might as well kill yourself and get there sooner than later. In fact, why not kill yourself like Judas did, because in your very depressed state, you believed that you had also failed the Lord and would never be able to be pure enough to make it to heaven. You would fail sometime, and God would kill you, and in such a manner as to ensure that everyone would know that the power of sexuality had won, and everyone would know that you were in hell. So you looked for something that could serve as a gallows, and noticed that the barn next door had a wooden beam across it, and there was a rope in the attic. You would be able to kill yourself at a moment's notice. Interestingly enough, the knowledge that there was a way out would be what would keep you alive.
So thirty-one years later, what would I tell myself?
Delve into the doubts that you are having about God, namely why would a loving God give someone a desire that could take them to hell. This was an desire that welled up from within yourself, with seemingly no satisfying it without expressing it. So Eugene, make a special note of this next sentence. Doubts about things that you are being told, are your friends. Cherish your new friend Doubt, keep him alive and treat him well. Doubt will lead you out of this situation. You will come to realize that your God that is treating you so horribly is nonexistent. With the realization that this God isn't there, this will lead you to understand that his threats of hell are also nonexistent. You will eventually understand that yes, your sexuality can be an enemy if you use it incorrectly. Casual, unprotected sex with strangers is a bad idea, but the sexual union that occurs between two people who deeply love and respect each other is almost, sorry for the pun, heavenly! You will eventually understand that you don't have to be married to express your sexuality. And by following doubt, you can eventually understand that maybe there never even was a Judas, or even...a Jesus? It's just a made up story so that a new religion would have stories of its origins.
Everything that I have mentioned up to this point has been completely intellectual. What about your 16 year old emotions? You are damaged...badly. You have been living in a world of completely conditional love. A God who loves you, but due to bad choices on your part, has to burn you in hell forever. I think you should understand the emotional damage done because when you weren't being beat over the head with hell, then it was about the rapture, and you would be an abandoned child in a wicked world while Armageddon approached, and then be cast into the lake of fire at the end of it all. Learn to love yourself as a person because you've never been allowed to experience that. Be with people who love themselves, people who are nonjudgmental and while realizing that we all make mistakes, it doesn't mean that you are a bad person that deserves to go to hell. It means you are human. And being human is good enough. You are not born desperately wicked. God didn't have to sacrifice his son for you. There isn't any God who has to do something to you in order to make you good enough. OMG, it's been 9 years since I deconverted, and I am literally sitting here crying like a baby because for truly the first time, I have realized that I am good enough without God. I can finally, finally let this go. I remember that I used to cry like this sometimes when I would come back to Jesus. It's weird that I'm crying when I finally let him go.
And now you are free.
Free only because you trusted to, and listened to your old friend Doubt. In fact, listen to him as hard as you listened to God. Just remember, that some people think that Doubt comes from the Devil, and is the enemy of God. Doubt is the enemy of God, but it doesn't come from the Devil. Turns out that God created the Devil to keep you believing in God. So 16 year Eugene, follow those doubts. They will lead you out of the foggy maze of darkness to a life of happiness and sunshine. Life won't always be good, but life can be good. Give yourself a long hug, followed by a quick squeeze. And an hand on your arm, telling you that everything will be alright. You are safe to be following your doubts. Scripture is best thought of as a bunch of stories that tell the origins of a religion. It isn't a bully pulpit. Are there truths in it? Certainly. There's a lot about the struggles of living life. Occasionally, there is even people who are wondering why there are no good answers to the unanswerable questions of life. It's a book of opinions. It's just like any editorial you could read in a paper, or someone's blog post. You don't believe every one of those that you read. The Bible is the same way. Just because something is written, doesn't mean that you have to agree with it.
And while you're at it, go ahead and masturbate tonight. Do it twice if the first time didn't rid you of all your sex drive. If there is a God who is cognitive of the fact that you masturbate, he would be pleased to know that you are expressing your natural sexuality in a wholesome way that doesn't harm anyone. And if God is watching you masturbate, he is one sick individual!
Your now 47 year old self is looking back, his eyes filled with pain, at his old 16 year old self, loving him, even though knowing that he would not follow his doubts, and would end up living 23 more years of “Dark Ages”. But, in the end, he would make it out. Not unscathed, but he would make it. Not without scars, but he would make it. He would make it because he finally chose to follow his doubts after reading the book through in its entirety that this God supposedly wrote. The book is a completely tangled mess that one can never undo if you try to view it as the coherent thought of one person - a scary guy who lives in the sky. Seriously, that's all it is. A story of a big, loving yet scary guy living in the sky. Instead of looking for a scary guy in the sky, you can look into the sky and be amazed at the wonders that are visible there. Worlds that we'll never understand. Why is there a world...in the first place? Does it matter? Not really. Our consciousness is a gift that we can use to explore this world. We'll never understand our universe or our consciousness - either one. All we need to do is to want the best for everyone else and ourselves, and also treat each other that way. Just love yourself, and also your fellow travelers of consciousness. Loving our fellow travelers also means that we can't be waiting for magical beings to come out of the sky and fix everything. If it gets fixed, it's because we did it.
One last, long hug from your 47 year old self, finished with a quick squeeze. And he flashes a smile, then turns away, and disappears.