Caution - This is long!
I was born into a very religious family. My mother is Catholic. She was a novice in a convent and was preparing to take final vows to become a nun when she decided that she wanted to have children someday and left. Her sister IS a nun who joined the convent at the age of 14 and is still there 50 years later. My father and his side of the family are Baptist Bible Thumpers. Lucky me, I got to fully experience both denominations. In addition to attending Catholic school and CCD, I also got to attend both Catholic Mass and Baptist Sunday services. Then I had Sunday school, Bible readings around the kitchen table after dinner each night, and the Baptist version of Girl Scouts (Pioneer Girls).
Mom used to watch the PTL club when I was a child. She likes to tell the story that I would watch with her, and at the age of 2, I did as Jim and Tammy asked and invited Jesus into my heart. I truly cannot remember a time when I did not believe in God.
Growing up was tough. I was never very popular in school as a small child (not an outcast, but never really fit in) - a fact that I attribute to my severe Christianity. My parents were well meaning, but they couldn't see that they were hampering my social life. For instance, my parents told me if someone asked me what sign I was (astrologically speaking), I should say, "The sign of the cross" since astrology is, of course, considered of the devil. I also had the tendency to befriend the kids no one liked. I felt bad for them and would play with them so they wouldn't be lonely - I figured Jesus would do the same thing. So naturally, other kids thought I was weird. I took some comfort from being made fun of though, because I was taught that Jesus appreciates it when we suffer for his sake and blesses us for it. By third or fourth grade, I had an extreme guilt complex - I was never a bad kid, but I couldn't get through a school day without calling mom and confessing every bad thought I had.
Because of not fitting in at school, I had problems with self esteem. Looking back, I realize my "relationship" with Jesus caused my lack of self esteem in another way. I LOVED Jesus with all of my heart and soul, but I missed him. From the Catholic side, I was always hearing about the saints and one of my favorite stories was about Fatima when Jesus and Mary appeared to the children. I kept thinking to myself that they couldn't possibly love Jesus more than I did, so why did he never appear to me? I was only a little kid at the time, and I felt abandoned...like he was an absentee parent. Also, my parents got involved with the Charismatic movement for awhile, and I had to attend prayer meetings with them. I watched as people waved their arms and talked in tongues, and wondered why the Holy Spirit never came to me. I wondered if I was truly "saved" and prayed over and over again that Jesus would come into my heart. Apparently, he never did...though I did remain devout and unquestioning for many more years.
My faith began to crumble in my sophomore year of high school. We watched a movie in our Literature class called Inherit the Wind. It was a true story about a man arrested in the Bible Belt in the 1930s for teaching Evolution. A big named atheist lawyer defended him in court, and basically brought up a lot of contradictions and scientific absurdities in the Bible.
I began searching for proof that the Bible was true, and all I could find were books that used quotes from the Bible to prove that it was the "Word of God." Even as a teenager, I knew that just because a book claims to be true doesn't necessarily make it so.
I struggled with my faith until I was 18 years old and a friend gave me a book on Wicca. The book stated that Christianity was a man-made religion. Honestly, I had never considered that option. It was so ingrained that the Bible was the "Word of God" that it hadn't really occurred to me that people made it all up. I knew the Bible had errors, but I thought it was at least mostly true and basically divinely inspired even if the people who recorded it made a few mistakes.
The idea that Christianity was fabricated by man, opened up a whole world of possibilities for me. I soon began studying Paganism and fell in love with the idea of the Divine being loving and manifesting as both a God and Goddess. I had no trouble accepting reincarnation and I liked that it taught a respect for the Earth and her creatures. To this day, 12 years later, I call myself Pagan and like its ideology.
BUT despite having long ago decided that Christianity is false and harmful to society, it has been a long road for me in overcoming my early brainwashing. Every now and then, I STILL have moments when I fear hell...even knowing hell is a scientific impossibility. Every now and then, I miss the loving Jesus I learned about as a child...the supposedly real man/God who loves me more than his own life. I miss having a church community...particularly at the holidays...which have kind of lost all of the deep meaning for me. Sometimes I really miss the passion and the unshakeable faith of my early Christianity. At these times, I feel an intense emotional longing to go back, but I can not rationally justify doing so. Even if I could still believe, knowing all of the contradictions and absurdities the Bible contains, I could not condone the atrocities and prejudiced attitudes ordained by "God" throughout the Bible, and the whole idea that God had to kill himself to forgive me just makes no sense. I don't miss the guilt or restrictions Christianity put on every area of my life.
Please email me if you have had a similar experience. I would like to hear from anyone who is or was having difficulties overcoming their own brainwashing - particularly if it has been a long time struggle. It has been incredibly lonely for me - my family is still Christian and I can't talk to them about it. My friends never were, so they can't relate. Even my husband, while sympathetic, cannot truly understand because he wasn't raised with religion.
If there are any practicing Christians reading this, please do not email me in an attempt to restore my faith. Believe me, it has been tried (often), and I really don't want to hear any more from your camp. Your kind has messed with my mind too much already.
Became a Christian: 2 years old
Ceased being a Christian: 18
Labels before: Catholic, Baptist
Labels now: Pagan, Religious Science, Abraham - Hicks
Why I joined: Born into it
Why I left: Biblical errancy, contradictory to science and history, unrealistic demands on followers, prejudice against women and most minority groups, etc...