sent in by Dena - aka, Heathenmom
Hi. I've been posting here for a couple of months now and thought I should add my story.
I went to church weekly while growing up. My mother was not especially religious, but would send my brother and I to Sunday School every week. My father was an abusive, alcoholic who only became religious when he'd preach at us while sloppy drunk. I tell you all of this, so that you know why I ended up falling so hard for all of the things I heard at church -- I desperately needed something and I found it in the Baptist Church.
One summer, after going to church for a few years, I went with our youth group to camp where I was 'born again' and was baptized into the church the following week. I felt amazing. I began reading my Bible day and night and learning all that I could. Sure, there were parts of the Bible that didn't make sense to me, but I figured God would clarify these things for me in his own time. I started going to church any time the doors were open. I went on missions trips, and even left tracts everywhere. I was on fire for Jesus!
Things were wonderful for a while, but the more I read the Bible, the less I understood it. My preacher would talk about God's love, but what I was reading didn't sound very loving to me. I imagine most people would have questioned what they were reading, but I questioned myself instead. I started to question whether I was ever *really* saved, and thus started my unending cycle of guilt. There is a Chris Rice song called "Clumsy" that summed up my Christian years, especially the line that says, "I prayed that prayer a thousand times." I probably did pray the sinners prayer thousands of times and never felt worthy.
Fast forward a few years. I got married when I was 20 and my husband and I went to church off and on. When we had our first child, we realized that we needed to work on our relationship with God, in order to be a good example for our son. So, we started back to church on a regular basis. I went full force into the submissive wife role (as best I could) and tried to teach my son how to be a good Christian.
When I was pregnant with my second child, my father and his new family moved to a town nearby. After years of only having to talk to him on the phone, I wasn't ready for him to be a regular part of my life again. The memories of all of the physical and sexual abuse overwhelmed me and of course, I felt guilty because of it. Guilty because the Bible said that if I couldn't forgive others, God wouldn't forgive me, and I knew I had not forgiven my father. Over the next few months, I became so depressed that I was suicidal and this went on for almost 2 years. I tried to 'get right with God' and begged him nightly to help me, but nothing eased my pain.
Thankfully, something happened at church that was the catalyst for my leaving altogether. My 2 year old daughter was a little spitfire and didn't like going to church. One Sunday, she escaped from the nursery and went wandering around the church looking for me (it's a HUGE church). She walked past hundreds of adults who apparently didn't see a problem with a 2 year old walking around by herself. When she finally found me, I was horrified. I went back to the nursery to let them know that I found her and that I'd keep her with me. Well, not only did they not even realize that she was gone, but they actually accused me of lying about leaving her there in the first place (even though she was signed in and had that stupid little beeper number attached to her clothes). In the following weeks, people from the church contacted me to try to talk me into bringing my daughter back to the nursery and were sure to let me know that I was being sinful for 'skipping church.' In my already depressed state of mind, I ended up deciding that my daughter wasn't safe there and that I couldn't go back to church for a while.
I was so angry at those people at church that something started happening. I started allowing myself to openly question all of the doubts I'd had over the years. I read the Bible again with an open mind and was sickened by what I read there. I realized that my beliefs were based on a book of lies and contradictions. And my belief in God, was also based on that book. Within days, my whole Christian life started to unravel uncontrollably.
On one hand, I was devastated, but on the other, I felt empowered. Over the next few months, I told my husband (who is still a Christian) and my mother that I'm no longer a Christian. Then I confronted my father for the sexual abuse -- this was the first time I'd ever spoken of it. It was so freeing to release all of the guilt I'd carried around for so long.
This transition has been difficult at times, but I'm so happy to be finally figuring out who I really am. I've changed so much that it's made my marriage difficult, but I'm not about to suppress myself ever again. As for my children, I have a lot to undo with my son, and my daughter never wanted any part of it anyway (she saved me!). Many of my family and friends still do not know that I am now an Atheist, but I see no need to hurt anyone unnecessarily. I'm content to get support here at Ex-christian.net for now. And although I have a long way to go from here, I know that I'm finally on the right track.
Became a Christian: 11
Ceased being a Christian: 29-30
Labels before: Baptist, Southern Baptist
Labels now: Atheist, Freethinker, Humanist
Why I joined: I felt like I needed something and the church filled that void for a while.
Why I left: Common sense prevailed
Email Address: Freespirited0ne at aol.com