Hi. I have recently discovered this site and after reading so many posts from people that hit so close to home I realized that I am among many kindred spirits. I have recently come to reason and officially left the church and organized religion.
Religion has always been difficult for me. I grew up in a home where Christian principles were taught but attendance in church was not something we did. I did attend many different worship services while growing up. I went to Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Catholic, and Episcopal churches. My family identified as Methodists but I was more aligned with the church through my scouting experiences. I didn't know at the time that it was because my dad had a falling out with the church as a young adult to be the main reason why we did not go as a family. He has the belief that we are all God's children, no matter how we worship, so why let a church decide who is worshiping the correct way.
It wasn't until I was in my 20's before I became a regular church attendee. My best friends were going to church with their spouses and to continue the group I started going too. Fast forward a few years and I really became attached to the church when, as a part of the becoming a couple, my then fiancée and I joined the church I grew up with in scouts. We were very active members, were married in the church, had both of our kids baptized there, and nearly our entire social circle revolved around the church. After a change in senior pastors our church experience was rocked. This new pastor was doing things that were just wrong. He was removing the people that made up the heart of that church. This was the first of the deep wounds that a church gave me. There were many of us from that church who decided to leave and attend another church on the other side of town. This was close to 20 families that moved to the old church. Our circle became tighter and somewhat bitter.
We remained at that church until I moved my family to Texas so I could start a new job. We felt it was important to find a new church home once we settled in so we visited many churches. We settled on the largest Methodist church in our town. We thought because we had been a part of a large and active church before, we would need another large church to provide what we wanted. We attended for two years and not once did we have a one-on-one talk with any of the clergy. I had become withdrawn again from church. I didn't want to attend another one, but my wife was teaching pre-school at one of the smaller Methodist churches, so we decided to give that one a try. On our first real visit we were made to feel welcome. They were having a dinner and as we ate, the senior pastor sat down at my table and we talked. He was a good person and the conversation was genuine. I felt we had a new church home. We were happy and active in the church again. That happiness was not to last long. A few months after we joined, the church office decided to move our pastor to a larger church that suddenly lost their pastor. We were assigned another pastor and this is when I started to see the bitterness and shallow actions of so many Christians.
The church was divided, half did not like the new pastor at all and the other half didn't seem to mind. Most of the people that didn't like the new paster were the older people with money. They made it known that they wanted the pastor gone and made the church struggle financially. Not wanting to have old wounds reopened, my family did not get involved in the fight. It was sad that a group of people could drive a person from a church like they did. The next pastor seemed to be better at first, but he went hat-in-hand to the people that drove out the last pastor and became their puppet. It was during this time my family had become really involved in the church. My wife was always the one to sing in the choir, but after participating in the spring musical, I too joined the choir. I was even nominated as a church trustee. It was there where I saw the pitched battle. The ugliness that I witnessed there made my first church wounds seem like a paper-cut. This was an all out war. Staff members were lying about one another, conspiring to get one or the other fired. Hostile work place lawsuits were being filed and people were leaving in droves. I was involved in the fight to try to save the church and the music ministry. But all my actions, passion, love, prayers, and tears were for nothing as the people that we were closest to were removed. When I saw others celebrating this loss, I lost it. I could not believe that so-called Christians could act in such a manner. It was then when I decided to not attend church anymore.
After that, there were many tragedies that hit us. My wife's best friend was diagnosed with brain cancer and died quickly. The same weekend that my wife's friend died, I learned that a childhood friend of mine took his own life. We were shocked. During this time the wildfires were raging just to our west. I saw a report on tv where a woman was looking at everything she owned burnt up and said "God only gives us what makes us stronger"
I had reached my breaking point. What kind of God destroys everything FOR those people? My wife's friend was probably the most devout person one could know. She had gotten married and her personal life was finally turning good for her. They were even talking about children. She went in to see the doctor about headaches and within three weeks she was dead. What kind of God would do something like that?
I began to really question my faith and what I believe in. I studied many writings and I now believe that religion is just a way for the ruling class to quiet and control the masses -- and it has always been that.
My wife is still a devout believer, and this has created some issues in our house. I finally told her that I no longer believe in religion and that I do not plan on going to church again. She asked me if I was an Atheist. I told her no to make her more comfortable. That was the last time that we discussed religion. We still have a loving relationship, we just don't talk about spiritual matters.
Since I left the church, it has been difficult for me. Our social scene still revolves around our church friends. I do not want them to end friendships just because I am no longer a church person, so I live a bit of a lie when around them. It eats me up. I want to yell from the mountain tops what freedom I have discovered, but I can't for fear of isolation for the rest of my family.
I am sorry this was so long of a post. I'll try to be more direct next time. Thank you for letting me speak.