sent in by Maria
This is quite a long and terrible story, and I hope readers will forgive any lack of articulation or misspellings.
>From the very beginning, I was born into a life of difficulty and hardship. I was born the oldest child, into a household of domestic abuse, alcoholism-- my father was in and out of the picture after age 4-- in and out of jail for drugs, abuse toward my mother, ect. Due to these troubles, my mom temporarily decided to seek help and counsel by attending a local Baptist church. The pastor, a real Man of God, instructed my mother to do the will of god and submit, to reconcile with my abusive father-- at least until he finally put her head through our back door and she was rushed to the hospital after fleeing with myself and my younger brother and sister-- the church didn't quite know how to respond to that, though they would eventually come up with some very interesting solutions. Sometime in the middle of these happenings, I remember attending an "adult" service for the first time-- there was no one there to do children's church that evening and so I sat with my mother, at 5, and listened to the preacher scream. I do not remember what compelled me to go up to the altar at that age. But I did. And I remember praying with the ministers wife. O Please Forgive My Five Year Old Sins!
Anyway, after my father was sentenced to 45 days in jail (reduced sentence) for putting my mother in the hospital, and after my mother felt that she was temporarily safe from him (we had gone to a women's shelter for almost the entire second half of my first grade year-- I completed most the assignments at the shelter and my mom would mail them back to the elementary school) we stopped going to church on Sundays and begin going to a beach about an hour north. For awhile, I forgot about god, but before long I was wondering why we stopped going-- a mystery that would remain so for several more years. In the meanwhile, my father was in and out of jail for various things-- mom had a restraining order against him but he still came around. There were several things going on at the same time-- I for one, was diagnosed with a rare syndrome and had two major reconstructive surgeries before age 11- meanwhile my dad did things like-- jump our car and try to kidnap us on memorial day, then broke into the house one night and beat my mother nearly unconscious against the bathroom door--
this was about the time I started going to another Baptist church with my brother and sister-- it started with summer bible school-- this time it was different though. Even as I do not remember all the questions I asked the leaders, I remember being very skeptical about God in general. I wondered why bad things happened-- and I remember them telling a story about children involved in a car accident needing to confess before being burned alive otherwise they were doomed to spend eternity in hell. I remember the end of the story being that the parents died as Christians, trying to get their young children to convert-- they didn't, they all died, and the parents went to heaven, and immediately forgot about their children because it they were sinners and would not accept God's glorious plan. Well folks, even at eleven I knew this was bullshit. I quit church and declared myself an atheist.
During this time my father was apparently in Hawaii. He would send postcards and letters with mixed messages slamming my mother (why he eventually gave up custody, the court order supervised visits-- I suppose when he could no longer harass my mom, he decided we weren't worth it.) Anyway, at 14 mom decided we needed to move somewhere before my dad killed us all. He was back in Michigan again and live the next block over-- even though she had numerous restraining orders. Back then and people tell me it hasn't changed much- the cops didn't take domestic disputes very seriously-- often mom could call the cops, they would show up, leave and that was it. She told them he was just the next block over but they never did anything about it.
So we moved in the middle of my freshman year. We had not been in the new house four months, and a reporter from the Detroit News called to ask my mother about my father. He had killed his adopted father down in Indiana in a very brutal, sick way. Later on (about a year ago) I found some court documents online. Turns out he set a new precedent for the supreme court for the state of Indiana with his appeals request-- go dad! (riiiiiiiiiiiiight)
Anyway, by the time I was 14 I was one fucked up, angry girl, and just prime for a desperate conversion. I started writing. In high school I had a mentor who helped and encouraged my writing. One day while talking to him he commented, "well, there couldn't be good if there wasn't God right." My response was to question if there was even good at all. So the journey began. I read lots of books (all Christian :( ) and still thought it was bullshit. I had a friend at the time who was wiccan. She encouraged my spiritual quest, but also cautioned me. I should've listened to her, but I didn't. I actually ended up judging her and we haven't spoken in years. Another friend of mine was active in the Church of God, Anderson. Well I started going and was eventually adopted into the pastors family as an extra kid. I think now that I am older, I understand what I was seeking was the love of a father. I know it is Freudian, but maybe there's truth to some of that stuff. I've seen it again and again in my role models, relationships, ect. I crave the innocent love of father figures--
but at 15 I didn't think it was about this. I honestly thought I was searching out god. I had theological discussions with this pastor and his wife, and was more and more accepted into the churches inner circle, and into their family. So one day, feeling "the presence of god", I confessed my sins and accepted Christ and was baptized six months later, at 16. I struggled to see god, I struggled to do the right thing-- but I also liked to have fun. My circle of friends at church were real party animals on Saturday-- confessors on Sunday. I saw this at hypocrisy-- but I didn't want to break away and lose the affection of the pastor and his wife. Things were rocky at home with my own family and I spent more and more time at my 21 year boyfriends house (!) and at church (!) Finally, small town as it was, the church found out and began suspecting my activities with my boyfriend. I moved out of my house at 17 and into my boyfriends apartment with his twin brother and my best friend who was dating the brother. I began skipping school, drinking heavily, and smoking pot. But I still went to youth group!!!! At this point I realize I forgot to mention some other horrible events-- my grandpa killed himself, my real dad's dad was in a motorcycle accident, the daughter of the minister's husband was killed in a freak auto accident, a neighbor who;s dogs I watched as a part time job died of diabetes--
anyway enough of this sadness
Three months before graduation, I found out my boyfriend was cheating on me. I had missed a lot of school and just decided to drop out. After that I got on a bus with a backpack and the remainder of my tax refund, to Portland Oregon. I went there because I had applied to college and been accepted out there, and thought there might be a chance I could still go (a Christian college at that !) To be honest, I had sulked around the apartment for a week reading Stephen king novels, and was contemplating suicide, when I got the bright idea to get on a bus.
In Portland I was homeless, worked at a dry cleaner downtown, got an apartment and attending an alternative school, getting my GED, meet so many people who had it worse than I did. During this time I tried to be close to God-- well I read the bible more and prayed a lot-- I was completely alone in the world and really needed God-- and it felt like god was there. That summer I reconciled with my mom and went back home.
I found out July of that year I could still go to Warner. Meanwhile another women in the church, part of the inner circle who I had been close to-- she was a REAL person, she loved to go to the casino-- we related with each other because we were both struggling with "sins". Anyway she died of cancer 4 days before my flight. I spoke at her funeral and got on a plane the next day, back to Portland to begin my Christian education.
The trouble was that I had lived a totally different life in Portland just months earlier and found it impossible to live in the dogmatic bubble that seemed to surround the college. I skipped classes, I dated a man much older than myself, I dated another kid I had met my first time to Portland, and then I dated a seminary student. I thought I was "in love." But alas (this is getting to be long winded so I will try to wrap it up). It didn't work out. I was seeking god out in all this, reading all sorts of books now on all different religions, going to all different churches-- trying anything, fasting, meditating, silent retreats, softball metaphors LOL-- I was desperate. I knew I lost my scholarship winter semester and that I wouldn't be able to return in the spring. I tried to kill myself after the closing night of a play I had starred in-- I convinced myself it was my moral obligation to finish the play-- but not to live! How logical-- anyway I was rushed unconscious to the hospital where I had my stomach pumped, did time in ICU and was released after being told a kid who had taken the same amount of Tylenol I did was going to die if he didn't get a new liver. Oh yeah, my little suicide stunt took place on good Friday too-- creative girl, aint I?
I went home. I got a job as a park ranger and went back to my old church which had a new pastor now. (Old pastor and wife retired, sold everything and moved to Missouri-- I am still in touch with them thankfully, they still love me even though I am not a Christian-- took me a long time to understand that-- for which I am tremendously thankful). At church again I quickly climbed the ladder-- taking a year off from college, I had the time to do it. I became the youth leader. Meanwhile I knew I was almost done with my faith. Even as I told others about God, I hated him or worse, could barely believe in him. Finally I couldn't take it anymore. I was a hypocrite-- a replica of my loathing, the very thing I hated most. So I quit.
By then, encouraged by others, I went back to college at a local school. The college was very different and very secular. I felt very threatened even though I knew I was already done with my faith. At this point I was still trying to pray, trying to work things out-- I had a friend and mentor who was Pentecostal. He told me my problem was I had been THINKING too much and needed to let god takeover. I started going to different Pentecostal churches, looking for god yet again. At the same time I was going through this I had a class which was very challenging to my faith. I often felt attacked and insulted. But at the same time, my ideas were changing, I was starting to have to think about the beliefs I was ascribing to-- finally I decided to become a non Christian-- the last straw was when my friend died the 21st of December, 2001. He asked me to believe God was going to physically heal him as he had been prophesied over with that message. So I did. That same semester I was being intellectually challenged about my faith, I was praying and trusting god with the life of my friend. When he died I was completely devastated.
It broke me. Now I have lived through a lot, but it really broke me. I literally cried for days and days. I tried to pray but was even more devastated. I was deserted, alone, betrayed, emptied out. And I vowed it was over. I have made a lot of New Years resolutions over the years.. but that is the only one I have kept.
It has been almost two years since my resolution and final break from the church. I have spent a great deal of time questioning morality and goodness apart from any church, apart from any god.
There is goodness and beauty in this world, and you don't need religion or god to experience it or find it. Look at the earth. Look at nature.
Nowadays when if I feel consumed by pain and "worldly" suffering-- I think of the words that a wise woman said to me: We save each other. I hope somehow this story can encourage someone else.
No matter what the hurt, or how deep the suffering, THINK for yourself. Don't let your vulnerability weaken you to brainwashing. It is a trick of Christians to accuse others of brainwashing when in fact they oft times are doing just that to YOU while preaching.
I think about all the pain in my life-- the pain caused by religion is almost more than all the other stuff put together. And why? Because I believed. I put my faith in something without thinking because I was hurt and I was young and I needed to be comforted.
God's "mercy" wasn't worth the cost
Became a Christian: at 5 if by Calvin, at 15 if by Wesley
Ceased being a Christian: at 20
Labels before: Baptist, church of god, anderson, flirtations with Pentecostal (ie assemblies, lighthouse, apostolic)
Labels now: bitter agnostic, leanings toward humanist
Why I joined: at age 5, I cant remember what compelled me to confess, at age 15, desperation
Why I left: no evidence of god-- also education, logic