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My Quiet Apostasy


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It’s been over 20 years since I left the church; with a few exceptions, I have avoided stepping foot in a Christian place of worship during that time. Mostly, church attendance has been for weddings (my own was in an old apple orchard since there was NO FLIPPIN’ WAY I was going to be wed in a church) and some courtesy trips while visiting family. Most of my adult life has been served very well by this decision, but because I’ve mostly been the queen of the pagan->xtian verbal-jujitsu, a must when dealing with my family. I'm not sure anyone really clued in to my non-belief until recently when I lost the capacity and will to re-frame my own philosophical musings in xtian language.

 

Although I the last churches I attended were Assemblies of God, I never fully indoctrinated as a pente or evangelical, even though I raised my hands in praise and sang in the adult choir. Mom insisted her daughters learn to think and reason for themselves, yay Mom! She never intended me to reason my way out of my faith, but thank goodness she gave us some tools to protect ourselves from blind submission.

 

When I left church, I was 18. I moved to my own place a couple towns over, so I stopped attending and I simply never looked for a replacement. A couple of years into college, however, I made some life decisions which left me mostly estranged from my dad’s family. Instead of pursuing my art degree beyond a minor, I declared for Humanities/Religious Studies. None of the pastors in any church we attended could answer my very basic theological questions which I asked repeatedly. How can the God of Love send to Hell people who never even heard of him? How does anyone explain how similarities exist with religions that predate Christianity - when said xtianity is the origin of all that is true and good? Why is our version the only true version?

 

Seeking answers on my own in a secular setting was not a winning idea, according to my paternal grandfather. Neither was “fornicating” and shacking up with my boyfriend. Grandpa gave me an ultimatum - fix these or no college funding. As per my usual response to this kind of manipulation, I chose the “or else” option. I finished my degree with a lot of debt, added anthropology as another minor, and stayed living with the man I eventually married (we waited 10 years for the wedding, until all the family hounding about marriage stopped, heh). I hear I'm still on the grandchildren inheritance list, shockingly, but I haven't been invited to paternal family events since then.

 

I might have wandered around and gone back to Christianity as most assumed I’d do, except for a passion play at Dad's church that showed me the dark and horrible side I cognitively knew was there. Describing it in detail is still a bit a trigger for me, but the gist is that after the standard death/resurrection, the professionally-produced musical performed at my old church spent an equal amount of time describing the many, many ways a person can be good in life, but how they will be dragged straight to hell by minions of the devil if they aren’t listed in the Book of Life. Followed up by a manipulative call to Jesus. It was horrible. Even though I kept my mouth shut out of filial duty, this was the moment I decided I could not worship or even think well of a god who depended on coercion as a tactic to promote "love".

 

It still took 15 years to get over my terror of hell, and I occasionally have moments where I have to be firm with myself and talk myself down from the fear.

 

Ever since that play, I've gained a knee-jerk reaction to people who publicly declare as Christians. I don’t quite trust them, even formerly good friends who’ve never been assholes about their faith. Whenever a friend starts attending church and is vocal about it, that person is almost certainly going to move down to “facebook friend” only. On a broader scale, when someone puts their faith out for the world to see on their business webpage, I don’t care if they beat the competition by any margin; I simply will not do commerce on that site. (I feel that way about patriotism and business, too. You want politics and/or religion to play a part in your business, I’ll make my business decision on the same level and go elsewhere.).

 

Eventually, I came to realize that my views were so far outside the orthodoxy, it was actually dishonest to continue to identify as xtian. This was about 5 years ago and I had about zero church influence for many years prior. Shortly after my deconversion, however, a major and lengthy maternal family crisis, for which I was the main person of calm and strength, forced me to re-frame all of my personal beliefs back into a strictly Christian linguistic set, in my mind and in my words. The cognitive dissonance, not to mention heaps of other stressors, helped spark an existential crisis which eventually had me spending last spring laying on the couch trying desperately to not think or feel anything. Whee!

 

I’m getting better steadily now, and I’m learning to flip the bird to the old superstition which has Satan's minions causing mental illness. Dad still believes the worst of the indoctrination, which keeps us from being fishing buddies like we’d both enjoy if not for him subtly blaming my mental health on demon influence. Our relationship aside, I’m not sure I will fully recover without having a big throw-down fight of faith with Dad because of the passion play thing. He’s an uber-apologist House Church person now, so I’m focusing on learning how to look forward to and to prepare for our exchange instead of actively avoiding it. My husband is a godless-atheist scientist, tho, and has gone a few rounds with Dad's anti-science crapola already; I'm glad to have him firmly in my corner smile.png

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I've seen the "Heaven's Gates - Hell's Flames" a couple of times myself, back when still in the indoctrination. Enjoyed your story - thanks for posting. Welcome to Ex-C!

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My husband is a godless-atheist scientist, tho, and has gone a few rounds with Dad's anti-science crapola already; I'm glad to have him firmly in my corner smile.png

 

 

Loved your story. Well-written. And you are very fortunate to have a husband who fully supports and defends your position to a fundy parent.

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Yeah, I could not emagine going to watch "The Passion Play".

 

Enjoyed your story.

 

Thanks for posting it.

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I've seen the "Heaven's Gates - Hell's Flames" a couple of times myself, back when still in the indoctrination.

 

Yep! That's exactly the one; I didn't know it had a name, even. I think I was most disturbed because I knew all the choir folk, which included my dad and stepmom. I'd sung for years with them and they'd been my role models for "good Christians". Plus it was Easter so I didn't expect anything other than their standard, feel-good performance with 4-part harmonious music to enjoy. It was rather a betrayal of my sensibilities and my trust.

 

Well, if I'm honest, during my choir years I honed the skill of looking like I'm paying rapt attention when I'm totally zoned out - a skill that has paid off in classes and meetings so many times, lol. We had to sit behind the pastor for the whole sermon, and a teenager can only pay attention to so many hours about tithing. I probably missed signs of the extremes which were coming/already there.

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Hi Buttercup

I really enjoyed your story. You and I are around the same age but I am only coming out of fundamentalism now, over the past 7 years or so (yup, it's taken that long). I know what you mean about cognitive dissonance and mental health. Cognitive dissonance was the most difficult part of losing my faith and it sent me into a crisis as well. I'm glad you have a supportive partner, as do I. I can't imagine losing my best friend and my imaginary friend all in one fell swoop!

Thanks for writing, and I hope to see you around online!

Peace.

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