Like many people who once believed in Christianity, I was born into it and brought up with it. My parents attended a rather rare type of church, calling itself the Church of Christ, and it tried to the best of its ability to follow the New Testament as fully and completely as possible. This church is exceedingly absolutist - in fact, most of the sermons I can remember dealt entirely with pointing out what denominations of churches did wrong. We'd have a sermon on Catholicism, Mormonism, Baptist, Pentecostal etc etc.
In fact, I knew more about the depth and breadth of Christianity than any other Christian kid I met. I believed the pastor when he said that these churches were wrong because it was so very supported by the Bible itself. This church did not shy away from the hard side of God and Jesus and did not indulge in any frivolity, and managed to remain fairly clear of hypocrisy as well. But one thing that my upbringing missed was any real mention of beliefs entirely independent of the Bible. It was easy to follow the logic: if the Bible is true, than this church is telling the truth; but what if the Bible is not true? This thought did not enter my head for many years.
But these religious beliefs were not my only moral guidance. One thing that I always held strongly was the idea that all human beings are of equal worth. I always deeply cared for other people, not just their soul, but their lives - the whole person. I didn't think much about the eternal damnation they supposedly faced. If anything, I trusted that God treated everyone equally, based on each person's experiences and birth place and culture - to believe otherwise would make him to be a very terrible person in my mind. I only worried about doing the right thing and being as good a person as I could be. I didn't talk about religion much to friends at school (I went to a normal public school), but tried to lead by example only.
I also always had an affinity for nature, trees especially. The 'feeling' of God I longed for in church I found when outside alone at night, looking up at the stars from beneath - or within - a tree. I was very sensitive as child, I talked to trees, rocks, dolls, even furniture. I read books with a passion and fell in love with all things fantasy. Lord of the Rings became my Bible and I still treat it with what could be called reverence. I boxed my religion as something that I think about in church, but rarely felt the need to take it out in every day life.
Many things changed for me at eight years old. I was extremely sheltered and ill equipped to handle what a man would do to me while my parents were away from home. A man that was supposed to be baby sitting who instead raped me in the shower. As I lay in the pink tinged water waiting to die (as I thought I surely was going to) the only thing I could think about was the terror that awaited me in hell. I did not understand what had happened, except that it was bad. Even while my brain put the event in a little box and vaguely named the box "something bad" the only thing I could be certain of was that something incredibly sinful had just happened.
I did not tell my parents. I couldn't, the shame would have killed me. But for weeks I could not sleep in fear of the eternal hell fire that awaited me, and death seemed so very close. I told my dad that I had to be baptized because I was in sin and couldn't bear to be separate from God any longer. He baptized me, reluctantly because he thought I was too young, but did so nonetheless. And for a while, my child's brain was satisfied. My sins were washed clean, I was a new child in Christ and did not have to think about the past anymore.
If you read what little the bible has to say about rape, as I did years later, you will find it to be extremely indifferent to the woman, more concerned over her lost virginity than her shattered mind and body. This experience effected my life despite my attempts to cover it up and forget about it. I read everything the bible had to say about it and was all the more distressed because, by all accounts, the worst thing that could happen to me was to not be a virgin on my wedding day. No amount of praying or hoping could make that fact go away.
Through puberty the effects of both the rape and the resulting guilt complex gifted to me by Christianity drove me into depression. One other hot topic for my church was the sanctity of marriage. One man, one woman, both virgins, married for a lifetime no extraneous sex, woman in submission to the husband. Over and over it was pounded into me, how important it was to be a virgin when you were married. A girl in my church proudly stated that it was the greatest gift she could give to her future husband. I had nothing to give.
When I was 15 my parents got separated and later divorced. Because it was their church and their beliefs that held so strongly that marriage was to be for life, I had a difficult time with it. I later found out that my dad cheated, but that was probably the least of their problems. Neither of them could stand to be home for any amount of time and I found myself raising my younger brothers in absence of having anyone else around. This lasted for about a year. All this time I felt alone. I no longer felt anything at church but shame, guilt and fear. At home it was only stress of my parents crumbling marriage, and all the beliefs they tried to bestow upon me. It made me feel utterly worthless.
I looked around at my closest friends, none of whom could be called particularly christian, one a Hindu, one Buddhist, one a Mormon, some just pleasantly agnostic. I never had any "true" christian friends, but I had the best friends in the world. Never once in high school was I offered drugs or alcohol - not because my friends were Christian - but because my friends were smart. I looked at them and acknowledged that they were all equal. And they were intelligent, and were living the life that made sense based on their upbringing. My life didn't make sense to me. My church became increasingly full of hate and judgment, I didn't even care anymore. If my friends were going to hell for their beliefs (or lack thereof) then I would be willing to join them there.
There are many intellectual reasons to reject Christianity, or God all together. While I completely agree with those who have set out all the reasons not to believe, I only needed one. We are equal. When we die, the same thing happens to us all, the same thing happens to everything on this planet. And even if, in the wildest probability, the Bible is true, I still am glad I made my choice and got free of it. As I told my grandmother, 'I would rather go to hell with my friends than go to heaven without them.' If that is what happens, so be it, I am no better than they and deserve salvation no more than any one else. I have eaten from the tree of Knowledge and I am glad I did.
On a personal note, the feelings of guilt and fear and despair won out in me for a long time and I found myself in a dangerous situation that ended in another sexual assault. I do not blame Christianity per se for the things that have been done to me, but it put me in the position to be a victim, blame myself, and never seek help about it. I was a girl, meant to be submissive to adults and to men and this is the consequence of such teachings. Had I not had the love and support of my non christian friends, and later my non christian boyfriend (now husband) I shudder to think what else might have happened to me.
Just as I never felt the need to talk about my faith as a Christian, I have rarely felt the need to talk about why I am not one any longer. Disbelief was easy and did not require me to share my reasoning with anyone. I wrote this, and I could have written much more, because I see people point out the hideous verses that describe rape in the Bible, but have never read someone who has experienced it, read those words and felt the lasting agony they can cause. It is a story about how the religion is not only illogical, but harmful and debilitating. How could I worship a God that at times encouraged his people to rape others, placed as much blame on the victim as the rapist, suggest that the rapist should then marry the girl he violated, think it righteous for a man to offer his own daughters to be gang raped rather than a man etc etc. It is just too terrible. That is reason enough not to believe, isn't it?
*I could have looked up all the verses, but it makes me depressed. Its not hard to find them if you are looking.