sent in by Marie
I grew up believing I was cursed because I didn't have faith. No matter how hard I tried to believe, no matter what I tried, my situation never improved. I envied those around me who could blindly put their faith in god. I wanted and needed someone or something to help me deal with my life.
My father, raised in a devout Catholic family, was a pedophile who made my life a living hell. I would tell people later that my father did not believe in god, he believed in hell. While he was engaged in his abuse he would often say he was going to hell anyhow, so he might as well have fun. My mother was not much better. British, and raised in the pseudo-catholic ambiance of the Anglican church, she was violent and given to jealous rages and psychotic breaks.
I needed faith to survive in that family, and trust me, I tried. I attended friends' churches and came away even more filled with shame, fear, and a profound sense of loneliness and depression. At various times it was pinned on me by well meaning and devout members of various Xian sects that it was actually my fault that my father lusted after me and my sisters the minute we were pushed out of our mother's womb. At no time did I ever want or ask for his molestation, but it seemed that to be a Good Christian(TM) woman, I would have to buy into this.
The harder I tried, the less it all made sense. If god was all knowing and all powerful, why had he put three innocent children into this violent and f-ed up family? And why was that my fault? By the time I was thirteen, I was ready to die. I hated life so much that I just wanted the pain to end and I didn't give a damn. Fine, God, when I arrive at the pearly gates, I'm going to at least say 'Fuck you!' before I'm tossed into the hell you knew ahead of time I was going to enter even before my pervert parents conceived me. If anything, hell might be an upgrade. At least I wouldn't be alone anymore, and at least the Good Christians(TM) would be in their gated heaven community on high where I would no longer have to receive their judgments.
We moved a lot to keep ahead of various school authorities. The minute my dad smelled trouble with social workers trying to question his daughters, he would just pick up and move to the next county and eventually another state. He found an ideal final place to plop down his dysfunctional family - a little redneck town in the middle of nowhere. My new high school class was now 42 - small and ignorant - just the way religion loves them. My biology teacher even taught creationism - lucky me. Just when I thought things couldn't get worse, they did. The good news is that it spurred me to read about biology, genetics, chemistry, and physics - books were my refuge.
The turning point, was actually when one of the many Xian sects kept showing up at the door and proselytizing. One of them said 'Have you read the good book?' and I thought - well, no, actually. I suppose in fairness, I should read it. So I did, cover to cover. Ironically, that was probably the worst advice a Xian could have given me. I read story after story of rape, child abuse, mutilation, cruelty, incest, genocide, and plunder. By the time I got to the New Testament I was numb with horror. The few good things in that book sounded hollow. Imagine my mother saying she's sorry, she won't do it again after beating me senseless for the umpteenth time. Yep, that's what God is like, too, and I wanted no part of it.
I gave up on the Xian god. My situation in life pretty much proved that a. he couldn't exist or b. if he did exist, I didn't want to know the SOB.
I was saved, it turned out, by an atheist - the mother of the one and only friend I ever made in that shit hole town. When I would hang out at their house, she would give me big loving hugs, accept me completely on my own merits, listen to me, and encourage me to think for myself and be creative. For the first time in my life, I knew the meaning of unconditional love. She literally saved my life. At the time, I had no idea what her beliefs were. I was just this starving, wounded little bird and she was there and did her best to help me until my wings were mended.
Shame and fear prevented me from telling her the awful truth about my family. I feared that if I breathed a word of what was happening, because she was a teacher, she was bound by law to report it. Every time I had spoken up, my father had picked up and moved. I needed her too much, she was my life line. Fortunately, neglect was also a big element of my family, so they didn't miss me when I spent a good part of my free time with my new family, my safe haven.
My new mom would later tell me she knew there was something wrong with my family and had hoped I would tell her about it so she could help. Some years later when I revealed what was going on, she tearfully vowed that she would have taken me away from them no matter what and I believe her. But the important part was, she was there and she loved me, and ironically, being an atheist, she exemplified the highest qualities of Christ in her actions and being.
I have been separated from my parents now since 1990. In the beginning, it was ugly. I essentially had to get a restraining order, change my name, and conceal my new location. My 'foster' mom faced death threats from my father and was accused of having a lesbian relationship with me (homophobia, the last weapon in the arsenal of utter scoundrels). She risked a lot as a school teacher in that small community by helping me escape. I fled with everything I could carry in my run down vehicle and sold it to pay for rent. My first Thanksgiving in freedom was spent in a rundown studio apartment with my younger sister trying to decide if we'd have ramen or macaroni and cheese. I was scared, I had no idea what was going to happen to me, but I was free. No more would I ever have to know the cruelty of abuse to my body or my mind without also having the power to walk away.
Ten years of therapy later, I'm a successfully self-employed woman who owns a house and three dogs. I have forgiven my parents and moved on, although for my own sanity, I limit my connection with them to cards, letters, and gifts on key holidays. I dabbled for a while with Wicca and Buddhism - I needed it to get through those years of recovery and manage PTSD. Still, though, I had problems with the idea that 'everything is as it's supposed to be'. It did wonders for my sense of inner peace at a time when I had none, but it was a thinly veiled form of victim blaming which is at the heart of all religions.
September 11th was the final straw. Suddenly everyone on every side knew what 'god' wanted. All I could see was cause and effect with no divine intervention at all. This was something straight from the darkest pit of human nature, and religion was just pouring gasoline onto an already blazing fire.
Here is what I believe now. I can do my part to make this world a better place through acts of kindness, mindfulness, and compassion or, a bad place, through utter apathy, ignorance, and neglect. I reject the idea that people deserve to be poor or to suffer, either by god or the phony creed of social Darwinism. I have never forgotten all the small and large acts of kindness others have performed on my behalf to get me where I am now, just as I know own my choices are powerful and liberating. I listen to my heart and act accordingly - just like my atheist foster mom taught me by her actions all those years ago.
Live and let live. Love and prosper.
Became a Christian: born that way
Ceased being a Christian: mid twenties
Labels before: catholic, episcopalean, pagan
Labels now: free thinker
Why I joined: born that way
Why I left: I choose to live free of shame