Image by Куртис Перри via FlickrSent in by Cynthia
I was born into a military Fundamentalist Baptist Christian home where there was no option other than to also be a Christian, and the bible was taken literally. I grew up in America and South Korea, both very Christian countries. I of course realize I was born an Atheist, just like everyone else. But I was told very quickly that I was a Christian, just like I am half Korean. It was not something to have a choice in; it was simply fact.
The main language my parents spoke was gossip. They gossiped about everyone at church except the revered preacher man. They even gossiped about their children right in front of them, resulting in insecurities we have all carried into adulthood. My oldest sister was abused and put down for being bigger boned and has been through many eating disorders. She is still obsessed with her appearance to a higher degree than I have seen in others. My middle sister was put down for being “stupid.” She isn’t stupid, but she is pretty naïve and lacks in common sense. Go figure she’s the most religious of their children and even met her husband on a mission’s trip overseas. She wants to give her life to missions. This is the only way she can feel worth anything. It’s very sad. For me, they went after my personality and likeability.
I was a very happy child until 5th grade, when my best friend from 4th grade spread rumors about me. As a result I had no friends at all that year and fell into a deep depression. Just to add insult to injury, I got picked on at home too. My dad would call me a “loser” and if I did anything imperfectly he’d remark, “That’s why you have no friends!” He never took the time to ask what had happened with my friends. He never considered that I might be innocent in the situation. He just assumed that I wasn’t worthy of friends. Into adulthood he treated anyone spending time with me like charity and seemed unconvinced that anyone could genuinely enjoy my company. I still have some anxiety about close friendships because of this. They also said no one would ever want to marry me and they felt bad for anyone who was stupid enough to do so. This comes into play later.
The child’s mind is like putty to adults. I believed everything that my parents and other respected adults said, no matter how awful. A little side-note that’s funny now, but was very upsetting at the time, involved a conversation I had with a Mormon woman when I was really young. She told me that no, Jesus was not God, just a really important prophet. From then I only prayed to God and didn’t see why I wouldn’t go straight to the highest power from the start. It wasn’t until around the age of 13 that I cleared that one up. It just shows how impressionable I was. And I still don’t really understand the concept of the holy trinity. It’s clear to me now that the God of the Old Testament was of much different character than Jesus Christ, so even if they were divine, they were not of the same being and caliber.
I didn’t ask questions unless I was really troubled by something I heard. There are all these non-answers and safeguards in successful religions. From a young age these non-answers just pissed me off every time I heard them. I wanted real answers. Some include: everything happens for a reason, God works in mysterious ways, in His time, etc…
My mother also told me blatant lies when I demanded evidence that this book was true. I asked her once if the pillar of salt of Lot’s wife (who looked back *gasp*) was really still there. My mom said yes it was. I asked if we could go see it someday. She said yes we could. Complete crap, of course. I also once had a dream about a friend back-stabbing another friend and at the end of the dream there was a light with Jesus and he had his arms out and he said, “The light has come!” I seriously felt like I had just had a prophecy of sorts and I excitedly told my mom about this dream. It was actually Sunday and she told me she’d tell me what it meant after church. I was so excited for the answer and could barely contain myself. Right when church ended and people were getting up, I demanded an answer. What I got…was anti-climactic. She told me, “It means it’s morning.” WHAT?! That’s my great prophecy from God? That the sun has come up?! I was pissed. And this sticks out to me, because I became very critical of my parents’ religion and the “Holy Bible” after this happened. My mother reads the bible in its entirety every single year so I felt she really knew her stuff, and I trusted her very much in matters of religion. Plus, when I was born she almost died of blood loss, and claims she experienced ascending to heaven. She said she begged God to let her raise her children so he sent her back down into her body. I thought this experience gave her some insider knowledge. Regardless, she was losing credibility fast.
Another thing I was troubled by from a really young age was actually the concept of dinosaurs. Why did the bible talk about the beginning of time and the Earth, but completely skip over dinosaurs that lived long before people? Well my logic said, you know, oh the people that wrote the bible weren’t as advanced and knowledgeable as us. They hadn’t discovered dinosaur fossils yet. This caused a huge gasp in my mind. This statement that seemed so logical had a lot of dangerous implications. It suggested that the people that wrote the bible were less smart than modern day people and that the bible was the ignorant words of men, not an all-knowing God. I quickly made up my very own theory to brush this one under the rug. I carried this theory all through my years at University too. It was that God created the Earth and then made dinosaurs first. He wasn’t pleased with their animalistic violence and decided he wanted to make something better, in his own image. First, he had to wipe out these abominations though. This theory obviously doesn’t fit with a perfect all-knowing God or the biblical creation story, but it was the best I could do.
I kept going to church during college and during my freshman year started dating a hardcore Christian guy who had just converted to Christianity before he’d started college a year before. I see now that a lot of what drove him to Christianity was feelings of loneliness and wanting to be a part of something. He was definitely not good for me. I was with him for about 2 and a half years, during which he actually made me more and more bitter towards God. Every time I wasn’t in a perfect perky mood he’d shout, “You need to pray!” at me. He was extremely judgmental.
A big cornerstone in my journey towards Atheism actually happened when I was visiting home one winter break. One of the first things I did when I got situated was ask my parents about going to the base hospital for a bad ear infection that the flight had just exacerbated. We went the next day and I was given antibiotics. That night I was suddenly really itchy all over. I didn’t get any rest because of it and by morning my entire body was covered in an awful rash. We went back to the hospital where we found out I had mono and the antibiotics I was prescribed don’t mesh so well with it. I had actually broken up with my super Christian boyfriend a couple months before and hadn’t kissed anyone else. I’m pretty sure it was the Kindergarten classroom I was student teaching in. So I was pretty humiliated when my dad called the entire family to tell them I had the “kissing disease.” Anyway, that night I again did not get a wink of sleep because of the itchy rash and what should the next day be, but God’s day? I was exhausted. I had not slept in two days. I looked terrible. I was covered head to toe in a hideous rash. Mono makes you tired anyway, so on top of not sleeping I was in no shape to go to church. Duh. Not so obvious to my bible thumping mother. She screamed at me to get up and get ready. I used what little strength I could to close and lock the bedroom door. She pounded on the door screaming like a mad woman and going on about how her daughter isn’t a Christian. Eventually my dad calmed her down enough to get her and my older sisters off to church with him.
I was pretty outraged by this event and it basically took away some of my resolve to keep nodding along mindlessly. My mom also started calling me every Sunday to check if I was going to church, then she’d call my sisters to double and triple check. This was infuriating and I soon just quit the charade of going to church all together. I was pretty turned off by organized religion anyway. I saw church as a time for people to gossip, judge each other, and show off their nice things. I figured I could get more out of independent study. So much of what I read in the bible was troubling though and didn’t match my own ideas of what is right and what is wrong. I couldn’t stop myself from asking big questions like, “Who wrote this book? Did they have me in mind when they wrote it?” I wasn’t sure who wrote it but I felt positive they didn’t have me in mind. This book placed Israelite men at the top and it was probably never intended for someone like myself to have access to reading it. I was playing with some dangerous ideas and decided to just put down the bible and think, “Yes, I believe in God. I do believe he sent Jesus, his son, to die for my sins. I will lead a basically good life, though I can’t be perfect, and for this maybe I’ll get into heaven.”
I got married to a guy that had this same philosophy. The circumstances were very odd. He had been living penniless with his half brother, who kicked him out shortly after we started dating. I let him move in with me because I pitied him and didn’t want him to have nowhere to live obviously. My parents lived in a different state so I was able to keep this secret. But shortly after watching a fire and brimstone preacher my oldest sister felt guilty and outed the situation to my mother, who kept it secret from my father. Shit was about to hit the fan when my parents decided to drive down and visit everyone. I quickly eloped against my best judgment so I wouldn’t be “living in sin” when they showed up. I actually informed them of my getting eloped while they were driving down. It was all done very frantically because of my fear of judgment. He was a nice guy and I did love him. He wasn’t a good provider but he was loyal and a good friend. So I thought it would all work itself out. My parents weren’t as mad as I expected them to be.
Shortly after getting married, there was a big change in him. He became a raging alcoholic and basically treated me in some ways that the bible supports, that I do not. He expected me to work full time and still do all the “womanly” duties, while he complained about even working a low level part-time job. My money paid the bills and bought him toys. One night he got the “red ring of death” on his X-Box (which I’d bought) and his reaction to this was to rape me and yell at me for hours. The next day he quietly said, “Sorry” and avoided me and alcohol for a few days. Then things went back to normal and I was forbidden to mention it. I buried it in myself and told no one. I didn’t love him anymore after that. I wanted out, but didn’t know how. I couldn’t turn to my parents because they are very against divorce and I was incredibly ashamed. I didn’t want the “I told you so” speech. They hadn’t wanted me to marry this man, but mostly for financial reasons. I’d long since quit praying since I found this futile and arrogant. I felt stuck and alone.
Then about five months later something very significant happened. I met my current boyfriend. We started as just friends talking on the Internet about politics mostly and getting to know each other. One day he asked me point blank if I really believe in God. I don’t know if anyone had ever asked me this before. I’d always surrounded myself by other believers. I froze and then I just said it: “No.” I don’t believe. I have no reason to, except that my parents told me to. And they’ve lost so much credibility with me over the years. I could go on and on about confirmed lies they told me. Even when I really wanted it all to be true, God had never revealed himself to me in any way. Looking out at the world I see no sign of the presence of an all-loving, all-powerful deity. Admitting out loud that I didn’t believe in God and honestly feel like I’m alone in the world without a super-daddy looking out for me, opened a lot of doors. It was very liberating and scary at the same time.
It opened my mind up to science and the idea of human evolution for the first time. The first time I heard the word “evolution” I was told it was a dirty word and a pack of lies from people that hated God. When I found out basically what it was I couldn’t completely deny it like my religion told me to. There was actually evidence for this, while everything in my religion was based on word of mouth and unconfirmed events. When I didn’t play with the idea of denying God’s existence I decided okay, I completely believe in the evolution of animals and plants, but not people. It just couldn’t possibly fit into my religion. So instead of trying to jam a square through a circle, I just said, they’re taking this theory too far. We aren’t animals. Animals can’t think and create like we can. So upon admitting that God was not likely a real entity, I took a more serious look at the idea of human evolution and found that it’s actually very elegant and wonderful. Embracing evolution made me look at the world with more grandeur and the creatures of the Earth with more respect. The chains of religion were breaking fast. I also started researching deeply into where the religion of my parents came from and what I was finding was very troubling.
It wasn’t long until I told my husband I was unhappy with our constant fighting, his abusive alcoholism, and my fear of him. I was also falling head over heels for this other man, who represented honesty and safety to me. Things were coming to a breaking point, as my husband expressed wanting to buy a gun as soon as possible. I told him I didn’t want one because I didn’t trust him to not hurt me. He said he wanted a divorce and I said, “Okay”. He did not take that well. He seemed to think that through marriage I was his property, to do with what he wanted. I admitted to him that I did not believe in God and told him some of my issues with the bible, such as hatred of women. He listened quietly and didn’t seem offended by this. He tried to convince me that we could make the marriage work, but I knew we couldn’t. I didn’t love him anymore, and I now had feelings for this other man. I knew that it would be dishonest and self-defeating to not leave this situation. I also told him that I knew there was no way I could forgive him for the rape and drunken violence. He began sleeping at a friend’s house.
A little over a week later, he showed up in the early morning hours to assault me physically, verbally, and sexually. After about 5 hours he was asleep and I was able to sneak out and call the police. Shortly after I abandoned most of the life I’d built and moved in with my now boyfriend.
Obviously my actions were very upsetting to my family and I avoided talking to them. When I first tried to explain to my father what had happened he was sarcastic about it and told me that the choices I was making were not how he and my mother raised me. He asked if I was hurt and I said my neck hurt. He snickered and asked, “What’d he strangle you?” in a sarcastic voice. In fact he had. I clammed up after that and gave no more details. All the months of keeping quiet about the abuse and constant fighting were in line with how I had interpreted the bible. Admitting my disbelief made me see I had to take the reigns of my own life and not allow anyone to kick me around like that. My mother felt so sorry for my husband that she couldn’t sleep and anytime we talked began screaming at me over the injustice of him being in jail. I was the bad guy. I was the only one that committed a crime in her eyes. I had committed adultery. He was allowed to assault me.
My parents managed to illegally obtain my new address from my prior apartment company (in retrospect I should have given them a fake address) and they showed up. They insulted my boyfriend. My mother accused me of lying to the police and said that this was what I got for marrying someone she didn’t approve of. Her reasons for disapproving are still repulsive to me. Money is not everything, and certainly isn’t what made me leave him. And this idea put her at the center of my universe and made things that happened to me largely affected by her. I felt very betrayed by them. I am a private person, but I’m not a liar. Withholding information that I don’t care to share is not the same as lying. My oldest sister once informed me though, that my being so private, led my parents to feel that I’m the worst of their children. They have better reasons now. Plus, It’s absolutely normal for victims of violent crimes to not want to talk about what happened in detail. Re-living it is humiliating and makes us feel victimized all over again. They lost the last bit of credibility they had with me at that time. They only believed my story after having visited my husband, during which time he corroborated all I’d said. Even to this day, they still haven’t said, “We’re just glad you’re alive” or, “You did to the right thing calling the police.”
Now my only reason to believe in God and be a Christian (because Mommy and Daddy told me so) is now absolute nothingness. These awful events didn’t make me an Atheist. I already admitted I was one prior to them, but they did further my convictions in it. My parents’ “Christian love” was and remains emotionally abusive. This is all very recent. I have not resolved anything with my parents, my divorce isn’t final, and I often feel very isolated.
I can see no reason to believe in a God who never reveals himself, but sometimes has random events attributed to him. I think the most honest reasons someone could believe in God are: that [insert authority figure] told them to, to fit in, because not having a cosmic super daddy watching out for you is scary, and out of habit. If there were a God I’d be upset at how he ignores so many people in desperate circumstances. I’m ashamed that I believed such silly things as can be found in the bible. I’m ashamed that the fear of hell prevented me from allowing myself to really ask the tough questions and search for answers. I knew since childhood that what that big book said, and what my parents told me was truth, was not compatible with the world I saw around me. It didn’t make sense. If people asked me questions, I had parroted answers ready. I didn’t know God. I was never able to have imaginary friends, even though I laughably desired to. I always thought a separate entity only I could see and hear and that was completely interested in me was a very appealing idea. I’m not a child anymore, and the idea of imaginary friends is now simply mind pollution.
Truth is a beautiful thing. But truth must have proof and evidence. Nothing should be believed, said, or done, without justification. Higher powers were dreamed up by every ancient civilization. I assume the creators felt similar to how I felt as a child wanting an imaginary friend, and wanting something bigger than them watching out for them. Different people dreamed up their own, leading to polytheistic religions. And the rest is history.
I’m glad I don’t believe in God anymore.