Reader Submission: One Man's Story

The following post was submitted by a reader, a young man from our community who goes by the name Atheous.  I want to thank him for taking the time, and for his courage in sharing this story.  

It doesn’t matter what my name is or where I’m from. None of these things matter when lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender teens commit suicide because they’ve been bullied. None of these things matter when they’re alone during the holidays because their families have shunned them. None of this matters when a wife finally realizes that she can’t change her gay husband and that their marriage is over. It’s important that my story gets out there because I know I’m not the only one.

Once upon a time in a far away place, a young boy innocent of the evils of the world began his journey of life. He was the only child and his parents toiled day and night to provide the basic necessities. Life was hard. My father juggled two jobs and medical school in hopes of making the American dream. When his dream turned into a nightmare of never ending student loan payments and the failure of medical school, he became controlling, domineering man, who liked to control every detail of our home life. My mother was an overworked woman, suffering from a terminal illness and found solace from her miserable life in fundamentalist Orthodoxy.

As a young boy, I remember my father calling for me in Arabic, “come under the covers, habibi. let’s snuggle.” I didn’t know what would happen because I was innocent of the evils of the world. I couldn’t say no to my father. He was my protector, the one who gave me unconditional love and provided me with food and shelter. My mother had an inkling of what was occurring at home when she found me hiding in my room scared one night. I didn’t tell her what had happened. I couldn’t tell her what had happened. I was afraid of my father’s wrath.

As the years went by, the abuse continued and my father’s anger grew uncontrollable. My mother’s denial reached a high point. On her days off, she would sleep through out the day. She began to call in sick from work and sleep even more and more. One day she had witnessed my father breaking into the bathroom while I was showering. He yelled at me to use more soap because I was a ‘dirty’ boy. He watched me as I lathered my body from head to toe with soap hoping to get the ‘dirt’ off my skin. At this point, she had enough and confronted my father about his behavior. He wouldn’t have any of it. He couldn’t handle having a woman telling him what to do. A physical altercation occurred. I closed the door, climbed up on my bed and went under the sheets. I kept on telling myself repeatedly that everything was going to be alright. I woke up the next day to an eerie silence: broken glass on the floor, over turned furniture in the living room and food on the walls. My mother had given up hope, she had complained to the priest at the local church and nothing happened. After that, she complained to the Bishop of diocese about the abuse: again, nothing changed. Her despair increased and her illness had begun to take a toll on her body. Every day, she prayed for a miracle.

Unfortunately, life wasn’t any better outside of home. I was bullied at school because I was different looking, had coarse hair, and acted ‘girly.’ But the bullying I encountered at school couldn’t compare to the bullying, I encountered at church. At church, I was bullied because they said I acted ‘girly,’ because I wore hand me downs, and because I didn’t fit in with the boys. Despite all the bullying at church, I went to church every Sunday, attended every bible study class on Wednesdays and even the pre-servants class on Saturday afternoons. Despite the bullying and hate around me, I achieved the deacon rank of aghnostos and taught Sunday school classes for more than 3 years.

However, behind the polished church creditails lay an incredibly broken boy. I was fourteen, 6 foot tall, lanky boy who was extremely naïve. One afternoon, I went to church for alhan lessons. I rode in a van full of other deacons and rode 40 miles to my church. I suffered the usual annoyances of any fourteen year old boy: wet willies, name calling and an occasional punch or two. I got out of the van and took a chair towards the back of the class. I opened up my psalmody and paid close attention to how Abouna sang the hymns. After about an hour and a half of learning praises, Abouna decided to take a break and hear another parishoner’s confession. All of the deacons went into the kitchen to get a bite to eat. That’s when the humiliation began: one of the deacons pinned me up against the wall and started to hump me. Then another boy, humped me, then another boy, then another boy, then another deacon, then another deacon and then another boy. All the while, I heard them calling me a “fag,” “gaywad,” and “gay.” After it had all happened, I was in complete shock and couldn’t speak. I stopped taking communion and believing that there was a higher power. My disbelief in God stemmed from the fact that I had encountered such evil from human beings that wore the touna, took communion and read the holy bible.

I couldn’t speak about what had happened for another 10 years. After I graduated high school and moved out for college, I began experimenting with drugs, alcohol and wanton sex to fill the void once held by religion. I was so high, so drunk that I didn’t know what was occurring around me. However, I am fortunate that I met a group of friends that rescued me from myself and my bad decisions. It was from my continuing interaction with non-religious, liberal and secular-humanists that I began to understand that there are people in the world that I can trust and confide in. I am proud to classify myself as a Coptic-Atheist because the people who gave me unconditional love, devotion and respect were non-judgmental regular folks who didn’t condemn the sinner to hell, nor hate the ‘sin.’ It was through their unconditional love, devotion and respect that I was able to close this dark chapter of my life, finish college with high honors and graduate medical school.

- Atheous


  1. I'm sad for what the young man went through. It infuriates me that "Christians" behave in that way and then turn around and pretend to be morally superior to everyone else. We have a lot of work to do in the church.

  2. Very heroic story. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Those people who hurt you cannot call upon God to justify their actions. I'm so sorry... I feel ashamed for what other "Christians" did to you. I was bullied, too. At school. And it was bad but it had no religious connotation whatsoever.


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