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.Anyways.
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!!