I am not now and I have never been a violent man. Despite this I have had many fights in my life, starting from when I got sent to a quality school in a different town to the squalid ghetto-like scum pit I grew up in. Upon returning from school I was abused on a daily basis and situations sometimes turned violent. This used to make me quite scared, although every time I seemed to come off better than my attackers. Things were not as serious as they potentially could have been.
One night I learned an important lesson. When I was eighteen I returned to my town whilst on break from university. Things turned serious. My friend and I were in my town waiting for a bus when a car pulled up and suddenly we were surrounded by a group of five well known tough guys with bad reputations and criminal records including grievous bodily harm. They were after me, not my friend, due to an earlier minor incident I'd had with a friend of theirs.
The usual insults and pushes were thrown my way. This sort of situation does not always turn into a fight so long as you stay calm but on this particular night there was clearly going to be violence. One of the five pulled a small knife.
The ring leader of the group decided to head butt me. I saw it coming and I simply lowered my chin and leaned slightly closer. The ring leader's nose connected forcefully with my forehead. The resultant squeals and blood caused the other four guys to go into something of a frenzy. Fists and feet started to connect with my body. Clearly I had deeply offended them by allowing their leader to hurt himself.
I shouted "Run" to my friend and I did an about turn and sprinted into the night at maximum speed. I was scared. I knew that I was about to receive a severe beating and possibly be stabbed and I ran with everything I had, not looking back because looking back slows you down. It wasn't until I'd run a good 70 meters that I finally glanced back and saw to my surprise that my aggressors had not run after me and neither had my friend. The tough guys were surrounding him and he was up against a wall. On autopilot I ran on and around a corner and then finally I stopped. There in the dark, alone, breathing hard, heart racing, a lesson was learned.
I felt awful. I felt like killing myself. I couldn't explain to myself how I had seen my friend against the wall with these barbarians and yet my legs had carried me on. I was more ashamed of myself than I had ever or have ever since felt. I had discovered something that sickened me to the core. I had discovered that I was a coward. I couldn't run from that.
I was still scared. I wanted so badly not to feel my bones breaking and my face being beaten to a pulp. I remained desperate not to face the realisation that my teeth were being bludgeoned from my skull or to taste my own blood or to feel cold metal penetrate my meat. I was terrified and yet no matter how rightly scared I was I knew that I deserved the beating a thousand times over. I had run away and left my friend to take a beating that was meant for me! I had to go back. I had to go and accept what was coming to me.
I turned around and I forced myself to run back. I was shaking with fear. Tears of pure sadness and disappointment ran down my cheeks. As I rounded the corner I saw the tough guys driving off. They either didn't notice me or had decided it was time to go before the police arrived. I kept running to my friend. They hadn't beaten him! He was completely unharmed! I was so pleased at this fact but it changed nothing of the guilt and shame I felt.
I apologised to my friend and he told me that it didn't matter. He told me that they were after me and not him and that he absolutely genuinely thought that in running I'd done the right thing. No harm no foul, he said. And he meant it – a far better friend than I. I didn't see things his way. I knew he was lucky they hadn't decided to take it out on him. I knew it was my fault, or at least it would have been – could have been. No harm but certainly a foul.
I learned that night that sometimes we have to choose. Our actions are what define us because it is by what we do that we discover and determine who we are. We can let the autopilot take over or we can be deliberate in our actions. We can choose the consequences but we cannot hide from them. Choose wisely. Some wounds never heal. I will always know that on that night I chose wrong. I let myself be a coward and I left my friend behind. It was a night that changed my life.
Strength is a commitment you must make before the event. Since that night I have met other situations to test my character, some of them very serious. I have felt the same fear and the same dread. In my mind I have felt my teeth break and my flesh split before the attack has begun and I have been terrified of what was about to come. I have felt my pulse stop, my life end. But I have never again run, no matter how desperately I have wanted to. I have never again left a friend or even a total stranger behind.
But what does this have to do with religion? Why am I telling you all of this?
Although I have never believed in a god there have been times when I have not been as certain in my atheism as I am now. Although I have not really believed, I have feared damnation. I have felt myself burn in hell. When my life has been at its hardest and most miserable I have wanted to believe in god. I have wanted to surrender to my fear. But I could not, thanks to the lesson I learned that night.
Even if the god of the bible or koran were real then I would be compelled to stand as his enemy. His promise of eternal damnation for so many, in fact for any, is wrong. It's that simple. I would rather stand with the damned and wait for my flesh to sear than be an eternal coward in a paradise afterlife that the mere act of acceptance absolutely proves I do not deserve. In short, god can go fuck himself. I choose to be moral and I choose to be strong. I will not leave anybody behind.
Those who let the bible or the koran choose for them what is right and what is wrong are cowards. Those that meet danger or disaster with faith are cowards overall regardless of how temporarily courageous they may appear. No matter what physical danger they face they are hiding inside, surrendering to the biggest bully of them all. They are taking no personal responsibility for their actions. They are leaving strangers, friends and even family behind.
They have surrendered to their fear and all of their talk is nothing more than excuses to obfuscate the fact that they truly believe and yet still choose to let almost everybody else burn without even raising a complaint. The collaborators of god are true enemies of their fellow man. As surely as those that stoked the furnaces at Auschwitz did an evil thing, those that stoke the furnaces of hell with their worship of a truly evil god are guilty of the same, but on an almost unimaginably greater scale. They truly believe and yet they accept.
Their true reason is not love. It is fear. False gods - true cowards.
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