Religion makes you feel grown up. At least, that's how it made me feel. I felt like it gave me a new dimension, and that I was a more mature person because I was able to comprehend wider issues, like the universe, pre-destination and, more importantly, faith.
Atheism wasn't a religion to me, and becoming a part of it, I thought that that aspect of my life would forever be defined. Once I failed to believe, I would never be able to go back, and I suppose like atheism itself, I submitted to the idea that nothing would ever be there. Of course, I did change, over the span of a gruelling and bemusing week, I converted myself, and my senses shifted in an odd way, like I was a new person seeing through different eyes. I suppose that's a romantic concept of religion, my conspiracist uncle still tells me that religion is an invention by higher authority to control the masses, and he makes fun of me, but I would have taken his jests any day compared to the hatred that would await me when I made my beliefs public.
My school is multi-cultural, but that's a surface name, just because our teachers wish for us all to be tolerant, doesn't mean it is so deeply integrated. It was also clear that, probably like a lot of people, religion happens at convenience, when it is necessary. I can't say that I have come across anybody who is pious and devout at every moment of their day. When a debate over ethics begins, or during a time of great sorrow, all of a sudden people begin to glorify their deities and act as if it has always been that way.
It also happens when a controversial religion comes to light, and that's exactly what happened to me.
Naturally, when I told the girl who had introduced me to Wicca, we stuck together a lot. Her mother's family had followed that religion for a while, and I felt like a fledgling in comparison to somebody who had grown up amongst it. Quickly, we became friends through many other similarities, and, to my fortune, we always tended to be together when arguments were brought against us. Those in our year who knew either talked behind our backs about it, or they brushed it off. Others however, wanted us to snap out of our delusions.
Over the first few weeks of adopting my new beliefs, I was subjected to words like "sin," "devil" and "demonic", in both banter and fury. Luckily, I had always been able to argue well, and could build up a shield against abuse. When I was told that I did not have a true religion, I rambled facts about Celts and Druidism, as well as Norse Paganism, enough to not necessarily end the argument, but subdue it for the time being. Yet, I could combat their logic, I could steel myself to show no hurt, but deep down, I felt ripped into pieces.
I suppose the best thing about atheism is that it's invulnerable. Believing in nothing means that nothing can be harmed, you never attach yourself to a belief enough that it becomes a part of you and you feel it's pain, except the belief of absence. I had been safe before, but suddenly I had fallen in love with an idea, and I wanted to tell it to everybody, I want to show them that I had an extra layer, that there was more to me. I wasn't just a shy, overweight nerdy girl, I was a shy, overweight, passionate nerdy girl. But passion is like fire, just as much as it can rise and conquer everything, it can be doused, weakened and dwindled with enough effort. Everybody was trying to stifle me, they would rather the fire within me be distraught and contained than free and incomprehensible.
I had been rebellious before and it had never worked, so I had conformed in most aspects of secondary school life, showing my true beliefs and passions only to those closest to me. All of a sudden, my religion was a direct middle finger to normalcy...and that just wouldn't do.