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I've been trying to figure out how to begin my story for a while now, and I've been an unregistered lurker for a long time until tonight.

 

From the time I was an extremely young child, I was the "weird" one in my very fundamentalist christian family. I was the little girl who would sit in front of the television watching PBS specials about black holes Jupiter's moons when I was three, was measured as having a genius level IQ in the third grade and was placed in ninth grade level classes as a result, and questioned EVERYTHING. I had an insatiable curiosity about the world, how it worked, and everything else that I could take in. I'd sit in my room writing stories about dinosaurs, drawing pictures of imaginary great white shark alien cities (don't ask), and putting those sticky glow stars on my ceiling so I could turn off the lights and pretend I was flying around in space.

 

My parents thought I was amazing. From what I've heard and remember, they'd tell people all the time that God gave me a wonderful mind and a great gift for learning about his creations. I thought that was an incredibly odd thing to say, but I bought it for some reason. After learning about all of this stuff that I'd developed such a passion for, the idea of a big, invisible man in the clouds watching over us and giving random people gifts and talking to us was something I had to try to intellectualize.

 

I remember thinking, "Well, I suppose that, to God, a day is like a billion years since when people die they go to heaven and they'd probably get bored if they were up there forever living Earth days. So when he was creating everything it all moved very slowly and just appeared to be evolution and the things science has proven!"

 

Hey, I was doing this at six and seven years old and I wanted to make my family happy. Ha.

 

Anyway... I was taken to church two or three times a week, went to Sunday school every Sunday morning, had Bible study at home with the family, went on kiddie camping trips with the church, and so on and so on. I'd discuss theology with my dad (again, as a little kid... he absolutely loved it), prayed every night, developed my insane fear of satan (I used to have reoccuring nightmares that my bed caught on fire and this giant, gnarled arm would burst through the floor under my bed, grab me, and drag me into a flaming pit in the hole... nice) that most little christian kids have, got so scared that I nearly threw up every time I heard about the rapture, and all of the other normal stuff.

 

Still, every time I really THOUGHT about what I was doing it sounded so unbelivably STUPID. I remember going to a church camp when I was about twelve, and the ages of the kids there were from about nine to about thirteen. This youth minister guy was going on and on about how we all had to repent our sins and let god take control of our lives, and nearly every kid in there started going crazy. They'd reach toward the ceiling with their heads tossed back, crying and wailing like they were trying to be saved from drowning in an invisible lake. They started to run toward the altar, and after a while I was one of the few kids that was still in my seat. I looked around, saw the dirty looks I was getting from the adults that were there, and thought "Well, I guess I should be a good christian and get up there." I'd later think that it was odd that I was getting all of those dirty looks from people, and I didn't seem to make them happy unless I pretended to need a reason to walk up to the altar and just sit there with my eyes closed.

 

Then, at chuch with the family, I thought the times when we had to grab the song book and sing those horrible, boring, lifeless songs was absolute torture. I'd usually just stand there staring at the book without singing, and from time to time my mom would grab my arm so hard that she'd leave bruises and hiss "SING!" through her clenched teeth. I didn't want to sing. I wasn't feeling anything from those songs, and I thought it odd that my mom wanted me to sit there and pretend to be enjoying myself for her sake. Still, I figured I had to be a good christian and sing so I'd stand there and move my lips along with everyone else. My mom was suddenly happy again and all was well with the world.

 

I could write little stories like that all day.

 

This went on for years. When I was a teenager I got really interested in music and acting. I became one of the best little actresses in town, and whaddya know, there was a touring christian teen drama and singing group in the area. I was pressured to audition for it for the longest time, fought it because the idea of doing stupid little skits for children all the time when I wanted to be doing Shakespeare instead made me want to stab myself in the eye with a fork, but I finally gave in. I figured I needed to be a good christian and make everyone happy, so I auditioned and got cast into the group.

 

Never in my life had I met a more uppity, holier than thou group of people in my life. It repulsed me to be in the same room with these people, let alone act and sing with them. I remember sitting on the bus one night on the way to a church performance, and I was sitting there with my portable CD player in my ears. This girl tapped on my shoulder and asked, "What are ya listening to?" I responded, "Green Day." She looked absolutely horrified, put up her nose, grinned, and said, "Well, I only listen to christian music."

 

I wanted to say "I'm sorry to hear that," but I remember just shrugging and turning my CD player back on.

 

The two years (yes, TWO YEARS) that I was with that group was what made me really start to think about what was going on in my life.

 

1. I thought the idea of a god was silly. I would have rather died than admitted that, but it was the truth. It sounded like a child's fairy tale, and no different than the Greek and Roman myths that I'd read about.

 

but...

 

2. The thought of not being a christian was unthinkable to me. I'd been raised a christian, that's all I'd ever known, my entire family were very devout christians, and they'd banish me from the family if I thought any different from them.

 

So... I went on with it. I was absolutely a christian in my own head, and that's all there was to it. I thought the idea of a god was moronic, but I was scared to death of hell and the rapture and I needed to be safe and keep everyone else happy (thank you, Mister Pascal </s>).

 

This lie went on through my college years (I actually got to do a lot of normal theater now that I was too old for the christian group), and after college it continued even further. At this time (about 2000 or so), the internet was becoming what it is now and I started to look around for places like this. I didn't know why I was doing it, but I kept coming back over and over again. That's about the time I learned the true meaning of the words agnostic and atheist. During my life I'd just heard those words described as "sad, pitiful, lost people who need jesus" which would result in me rolling my eyes and continuing my bible study because I was such a good christian and all.

I remember thinking "Maybe I am an ath...agnostic." I couldn't bring myself to say that other A word. To me, saying it or thinking it was like saying "Maybe I am a child molester or maybe I am a serial killer." I knew it was nonsense, but I was still so stuck with the idea that you had to at least be a little bit christian in order to be a good person and make people happy.

 

So yeah, I declared myself an agnostic. I thought the idea of gods was stupid and made no sense, but yeah, I was an agnostic... Ha. I didn't TELL anyone this, of course, but I accepted it in my head.

 

Me saying that I was an agnostic in my brain and pretending to be a christian around my family and people who had known me for years continued several more years.

 

Then, a couple of years ago, I made a new friend. He's this incredibly kind, generous person who I immediately liked a whole bunch. Early on in our friendship I automatically assumed that he was at least an agnostic because, of course, he had to be a WEE bit religious since he was such a great person and all. Then, one day, he randomly said something about the fact that he was an atheist.

 

I was shocked. I remember blinking my eyes and hardly believing it. I had to sit down because my head started to spin.

 

I asked him a few questions, and he answered them like it was no big deal at all. I told him that I was an agnostic, and he asked me a few questions in return. I suppose he suspected that I was lying to myself because from time to time he'd email or IM me links to more articles and places like this. I actually SAW for the first time that thinking that the idea of gods was ridiculous was OKAY. It didn't make you any more or less of a good person. I finally got it through my thick skull that I'd been lying to myself my entire life.

 

About a year and a half ago I said it out loud for the first time. I said, "I am an atheist."

 

I cried with joy for about an hour afterward and felt fifty pounds lighter.

 

So yeah, I'm not exactly what you'd call an ex-christian, but I'm an "ex-person who had herself convinced that she was a christian for most of her life and went through a lot of mental turmoil to get where she is right now." There's a lot more to my story (let's just say that when I saw Jesus Camp I had a major panic attack), but I wanted to introduce myself with the light and fluffy version.

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Welcome, angelinabee! I love your story and I am very happy that you found this site. I was not the curious intellectual that you were as a child, so I complacently accepted what I was being told about god and the bible. But I never felt that strong connection that others seemed to feel. And that left me wondering, what is wrong with me?

 

Then, a couple of years ago, I made a new friend. He's this incredibly kind, generous person who I immediately liked a whole bunch. Early on in our friendship I automatically assumed that he was at least an agnostic because, of course, he had to be a WEE bit religious since he was such a great person and all. Then, one day, he randomly said something about the fact that he was an atheist.

 

I was shocked. I remember blinking my eyes and hardly believing it. I had to sit down because my head started to spin.

This made me laugh out loud. I had a very similar experience. I had been taught that atheists were horrible, hateful people with no morals and that they died in excruciating pain as they envisioned their future in hell! Imagine my shock the first time my friend - a man who loves animals, goes out of his way to help people in need, and performs many acts of kindness – said he is an atheist. Talk about cognitive dissonance!

 

I suppose he suspected that I was lying to myself because from time to time he'd email or IM me links to more articles and places like this. I actually SAW for the first time that thinking that the idea of gods was ridiculous was OKAY. It didn't make you any more or less of a good person. I finally got it through my thick skull that I'd been lying to myself my entire life.

 

I could have written this! Also, like your friend, mine made comments and sent e-mails and slowly helped me open my eyes to the delusion. (And yes, I have thanked him, although I was a little miffed at the beginning!!!)

 

The really funny part is that I have only typed the words "I am an atheist" once (now twice) on this site. I have not yet spoken them aloud. It’s amazing how hard it is to let go of some of the baggage we’ve carried around for so long.

 

Anyway, welcome again! I really enjoyed your story and I look forward to future posts. I’m sure that you will benefit from the site as much as I have.

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I've been trying to figure out how to begin my story for a while now, and I've been an unregistered lurker for a long time until tonight.

 

You sound delightful, and like someone whom anyone would like to get to know.

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Welcome to the forums, angelinabee.

 

Your buoyant expressiveness will be a real boon to us. (But you're allowed to get snarly and surly, too! :) )

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Hello and welcome, Angelinabee. I really enjoyed your story!

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