Looking for advice, and...perhaps a bit of reassurance that I am not insane?

My family has always been religious (Christian Protestant, to be specific.) I was raised by a single mother and have a younger brother, and we always had so much going on in our lives that we never went to church together: it was always only me and my little brother, or just me.

On the outside I appeared to be a happy, 'God-fearing' young girl, but on the inside I secretly wished I had never heard of God or Jesus. That way I wouldn't have to study the bible or live in fear of hell (I was so, so scared of hell!) or watch my tongue or pray all the time. If I had never heard of any of it, I could live a full life and still go to heaven. It really didn't seem fair.

I never voiced these thoughts to anyone though, because I was supposed to be happy I knew Jesus and all that jazz. I tried not having those terrible thoughts. Inside I was all torn up. I was supposed to be grateful to God for giving up Jesus in order to save us all...but He was supposedly all-powerful and could save us anyways, so...? What was the point?

Not to mention I never asked God to give up His son!!

But I could never voice these thoughts, because I was surrounded by deeply devout people and I didn't want to get lectured. And I already knew what they were going to say; I had heard enough of it already.

So I tried very hard to be a 'good Christian girl'. I wanted to feel close to God, wanted to believe, wanted to fellowship, wanted to make my mom happy...but I never 'felt' anything.

I always figured I just wasn't trying hard enough. There was always so much going on in our lives (I come from a very dysfunctional family) that it was hard for me to get up and go to church. But there were these brief periods of time throughout my life when I would feel like really trying, so I would get out my bible, read, and pray at night.

But I still didn't feel anything.

Then in 2004 I attended a private Christian academy for my first year in high school. It seemed like a good answer to everything: I would be surrounded by true believers, study the bible more in-depth, make some Christian friends...become a better Christian! (I know, I know...it was a bad move!) It really messed me up and is a total horror story, but one for another day. In summary: it messed up my high school education long-term, was traumatizing, and I still can't pass that building without cringing on the inside.


Last year a friend of the family introduced me to a young man from his workplace. He thought we would get along. I am grateful he did, because it was this young man who gave me the courage to admit to myself "there is no god."

Our first phone conversation lasted over three hours. He was patient and listened to all I had to say, and didn't try to push me one way or the other. He had been raised in a Catholic family, and struggled much the same way I did.

After talking with him a few more times and spending literally hours researching and thinking and evaluating everything, I came to the conclusion that I did not believe in god.

I did not want to believe in god.

At that moment (I can still remember it perfectly!) I began crying. Not from sadness or anything, but from relief. I felt so free! So happy! I wanted to dance, to sing, to shout at the top of my lungs - "there is no god, no heaven or hell - only us!"

But that leaves my mother. The rest of my family...eh, I'm not too worried about. Like I mentioned before my family is very dysfunctional, so if it bothers them too much, it's not that big of a loss. But my mother is the most important person in my life.

So at first I kept this to myself. But one day, as my mother was reminding me that we had to find a church to start going to soon, I let it slip - 'what if I don't want to go?' Because the thought of having to go and smile and pretend to love the invisible man in the sky again was far too depressing.

She was annoyed, then brought up the fact that I had been acting strange lately whenever she brought up church. Because before, I had always been eager to find a new church. I then told her I no longer believed, and she was devastated.

My mother cried, and asked me what she did wrong, and said she had failed me in the most important thing in life - loving Jesus. And she apologized over and over and over again.

At one point she became angry and accused me of thinking her stupid, since she believed in god and I did not.

I assured her that she did not fail me, that she was the best mother anyone could ever have, and I never once thought she was stupid. But I didn't apologize for not believing anymore. I couldn't bring myself to do that.

Because I had finally found peace.

Ever since that outburst, we have not brought it up once. And we are the type of family who always talks about our problems.

So now when I walk outside the house, in front of neighbors I am a good Christian girl. Inside the house, I am neither Christian, nor atheist. With my closest friends I can just be me, which is a relief - if it weren't for them I would go insane for sure.

When I found this site, and then this group, I was so excited - it was exactly what I was looking for!! There were so many sites on the basics of atheism, but none on how to deal with finally 'deprogramming' (as I call it) or how to handle being an atheist in a town where most everyone goes to church.

I can't even seem to find a counselor who isn't religious.

I also want to apologize for the length of this post. It seems there is always a back story to every story of mine.

Any advice on how to handle my mother would be appreciated. Also, on dealing with my younger brother - he is thirteen years old, and I am positive he must be feeling the inner turmoil regarding religion that I myself felt at that age. He has a high I.Q. and loves science, and joked recently that "now I know God can evade most physics, but the whole "I am my own son" thing is going a bit too far!!"

I would love to tell him he is free to make up his own mind, but don't want to cause my mother even more grief.

Thank you to anyone who actually took the time to read through this post. And thank you to everyone for simply being here.

Have a good day, everyone!!

Views: 32

Replies to This Discussion

I wish I could help you more, but I'm not sure what you can do to make your mother happy. From what it sounds like, the only thing that would do that is if you were to become a Christian again. In the long term, if you just go on acting like a decent person, she'll still disagree with you, but maybe she'll learn that being an atheist isn't quite as bad as it's been made out to be.

As to your younger brother, it sounds like he's already got one foot out the door and will probably convert to at least a more tolerant version of belief eventually. How your mother deals with the fact that her children disagree with her will basically be something she'll have to deal with on her own - again, I think the only thing you can really do is try to be a good person and show her that even though you're not a Christian any more, it's not like you've stopped loving her or that it's the end of the world or anything. (At least not until 2012! :P)
I've though about pretending to be Christian again just to make her happy, but can't bear the thought of it. And living that sort of lie wouldn't be fair to me or her.

Ack, 2012! Every time I see another program or article on that, I wanna pull my hair out! XD
Your life sounds a bit like mine. Not really feeling the holy ghost, kinda jealous of everyone who claims to have felt this "feeling", maybe I'm not doing it right. The dysfunctional family (except for my mom and I's relationship). I have not even told the most part of my family, don't even care if they know or not (no big loss). Anyway, my mom became very angry when I told her, she even threw something at me, totally shocking and out of character from her. I ended up just giving her some reading material about atheism. I don't know if she has read it but she hasn't brought it up since but also hasn't mentioned how wrong I am. The reading material was from here and I wrote something for her here. Maybe you could give her these materials to read. It might just help her to see the truth herself (that's what I was hoping from my mom :))

Good luck!
Thank you for replying! The letter you wrote was amazing...I don't even have the words to describe it. If you don't mind, I'd like to pass it along to a couple friends of mine who I think would appreciate it as well.

However, I don't think I'm going to try and get my mother to realize the truth, at least not at this point in our lives. Maybe when things are less stressful. In the meantime, I'll bookmark those links. =)
My mom doesn't believe that I don't believe. She is in complete denial. I used to be a minster and she still talks about me pastoring a church one day. As long as your mom and you have a good relationship besides the religion thing, i would let sleeping dogs lay. Common respect should be shown. Im not sure of how old your are (neither am I asking), but one thing to always make sure of is that you're independent. If things get to hectic at home, move out. Get your education and all that Jazz.
Your bro sounds like a smart cookie. It sounds like he'll find out the invisible man in the sky thing one day....just like Santa.
You are on the right track and have handled things quite well. The fact that you still have a good relationship with your mom, despite your change of mind, is a very good sign. She loves you, as you do her. Chances are, she just needs time to get used to the idea. Don't try to "convert" her to your new way of thinking, but do stand your ground with her and other family members. You might read some things, and let them lay out where she can see them but DON'T even suggest she read them of even mention them. You came to your own conclusions all by yourself, let her have that same chance. Just being a good and caring daughter will get you a very long way. As for your brother, it probably won't hurt to let him know what you think, but don't try and push your ideas on him either. The best way to treat the religious in your life, is to enjoy yourself and your new found freedom from dogma. Others will watch and notice.

Thanks for joining us here on Recovering from Religion. We have local groups in many cities. if you tell me where you are located, I may be able to tell you where you could join one. Alternatively, you can start a group yourself.

Darrel Ray, founder of Recovering from Religion and author of The God Virus: How religion infects our lives and culture
Thank you very much for taking the time to reply.

The one time I really discussed this with my mother, I promised her that I would never try and 'convert' her, or push my beliefs on my brother. I don't feel any desire to try and change her beliefs - she is an amazing woman who has been through a lot, and deserves respect. My biggest fear is simply causing her more pain/inner turmoil, when my main focus in life right now is to make sure her and my brother are safe and happy.

I live in New York, between Albany and Hudson...are there any groups around there?




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