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Guest ephymeris

I warn you, this is ridiculously long. My journey was a long and nuanced one. Sorry for the block of text but at least I've got it printed somewhere in cyber space...

 

 

I was raised in a house where religion was a fairly minimal part of my life. My mom was southern baptist of convenience which means she TOTALLY believes that Jesus is the only way to God and heaven, but she can't be bothered by inconveniences such as learning her holy text, attending church consistently, etc. My dad was even more lax in his beliefs. Seems like a good combination for a religion-neutral upbringing but you forget, I was from the deep south and evangelical christianity is deeply ingrained in every aspect of our lives.

 

When I was 15, I was seriously grounded and the only place I was allowed to go outside of school was church with a friend. Going to church with my friend was my only sanctuary away from my parents who are perfectly nice people but to me as a 15 year old, were completely annoying. Plus, there were lots of guys and I was pretty boy crazy. In fact, I met my husband there. We were both in high school and he went to a completely oppressive private church of god school while I was in public school. I was the secular one, he was the good boy. As our lives progressed and we realized we were going to be together forever, we became more and more involved in our church. By the time we were in college we were leading youth groups, taking the kids on trips, running a weekend youth program, doing fund raisers, attending church at least 3 times per week and forming our own bible study groups to attend several times a week. I never drank, never danced, stopped swearing, lived as I thought Jesus would have wanted me to, threw away my CDs that I deemed to be "against god", reached out to people in trouble, gave everything I had to this cause. We were earnest and sincere in our beliefs. It gave me great comfort to be an accepted part of a group (I'd always felt like an outsider and someone less than moral) and feel like you were trying to improve the world at the same time. We even seriously considered dropping out of college to pursue a godly life of poverty, doing mission work in Africa. We figured we were living the easy way, not the "eye of a needle" or "narrow path" way.

 

Luckily, at the height of my fervor, around the time we were seriously considering making major life changes, my church leadership turned on me. I previously had tithed $4000, all I had, to my church earlier in the year. I spoke with the youth minister about how I wanted to give it anonymously and that I wanted it put to specific uses. Several months later, I realized he was buying electronics, furniture, and things for his home, but the youth group weren't received what I had wanted to purchase for them. I wrote him a letter asking about the money and telling him I was sad that we were not working together to make the youth group strong and vibrant again. I week later, I was called into my preacher's office. The preacher was there along with the youth minister and another church leader. They each had copies of my letter, highlighted, with footnotes in the margins that were notes on how I was wrong. They demeaned me and told me I had never been a member of the church. How dare I question them!? They also made told me they were uncomfortable having me around the youth because since I had dated my fiance since highschool, it was shameful we weren't married because everyone knew we were probably having sex. I was 20 when we had this conversation. They told me they found me to be a disruption in the church and that I was not welcome there. They told me to leave the church. I can't even remember every argument because I was crying so hard. I felt like I had been kicked in the face.

 

That evening I told my then fiance I was leaving the church and he could stay or go. He chose to go with me. We even set a date for our wedding that night, around 4 am after hours of crying and arguing. It was strangely liberating and frightening. We were actually recruited by a few other local churches who wanted our energy and dedication to their youth groups....though the people were very nice, that was just weird. We tried other churches but I realized these people were just like my other church, fake and living a lie. My epiphany came when we visited a very lovely, very modern church. The preacher spoke for 30+ minutes on doing the bare minimum for Jesus. He drove home the point that the VERY least we could do was greet unfamiliar faces at the church that day. Only moments after saying this, the time for fellowship came. No one said hello, no one made eye contact, everyone went to people they knew and talked it up. That's when I knew everything was a lie.

 

Over the next few years, I read the bible without the filter of church. I saw the inconsistencies for what they were. I felt the empty hole my loss of faith had left but realized I was the one who filled the hole in the first place, I could fill it again. I tried by I looking into other religions but once you know god is a lie, you can't go back. The other religions felt like the same old organized, institutionalized superstitions. After nearly a decade, I'm totally free. I'm an atheist and I'm happy with that. I'm free. I'm in control. I'm responsible for who I am, not some imaginary friend.

 

I'm still wrestling with how to tell my mother and in laws. My mother has become more obsessively christian over the past few years, since my little brother nearly killed himself in a car wreck. I told her once and she flipped out to the point that I lied to her, I told her I was confused but I'm a christian. It was all she needed. She can't handle who I really am and I'm okay with that. It's not her life. My in laws are very, VERY religious but they have respectful boundries in my life. Next challenge: raising a kid who is not a bitter atheist, not a sheep to religion, but strong enough to make his/her own decisions on the matter.

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Welcome ephymeris!!! You've found a place where you can get lots of support and encouragement. Enjoy!!!

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  • Super Moderator

Hello, and welcome.

 

I say tell everyone who doesn't financially support you. They don't mind saying what they believe, so why should you? Are you ashamed of it?

 

Tell them. They'll live.

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I probably wouldn't tell your mother because it's an emotional thing for her; still, it's likely to get back to her anyway. All you can do is live your life.

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Welcome to the forums, ephymeris.

 

Not a single "Hello" to the newcomers, even after instruction to do so, eh? (Well, some things are just beyond simple human power to accomplish, I guess. :shrug: )

 

Glad you're here with us, and... Hello!

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  • Super Moderator

Huh?

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Hello and welcome!

 

Thank you for sharing your story, another tragic tale of clerical abuse. Wait, isn't that a redundancy, "clerical abuse"?

 

I've been out for 11 years and an atheist for about 10 of those and still haven't discussed it with my family. The knew why I walked away from church and did not blame me in that venture. But it would crush my mom as I'm her only son and she clings to that little white church in the woods that her dad built and she grew up in. She's had a hard enough life so for me to go through the motions is an exercise in love and respect.

 

All the best to you and I look forward to hearing more from you.

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Welcome, ephymeris!

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Welcome! Thanks for sharing your story. Just take it one thing at a time. You'll know when it's a good time to tell your mom. It's your life.

It's great having you here, keep posting!

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Huh?

 

I was responding to this in the OP:

 

The preacher spoke for 30+ minutes on doing the bare minimum for Jesus. He drove home the point that the VERY least we could do was greet unfamiliar faces at the church that day. Only moments after saying this, the time for fellowship came. No one said hello
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  • Super Moderator

Okay. I get befuddled at times. Too many times. Sorry.

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Guest ephymeris

Wow, thanks so much for all the replies everybody! Yeah, the thing about telling my mom and inlaws, I do consider it an exercise of love not to put my loss of faith in her face. Her belief that I'm still a christian doesn't actually infringe on my living my life as an atheist and she truly believes as an atheist, I would be damned to hell. After my brother nearly died, she told me she was glad he lived because she just knew he would have gone to hell...I witnessed her distress at this and I just can't hit her with my beliefs without reason. I've come to peace with this scenario by deciding I won't sacrifice how I live or my own integrity to protect her feelings but I won't purposefully distress her to no end. Thanks to everyone for your support though. I know it's cliche but life really is a journey.

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