sent in by Jess
My earliest memories are of being in church. I remember being about three years old and looking through the hymn books at the pictures of birds. I thought that the priest was actually God and thought that "sins" were tangible...things. My other memories are of falling asleep on the pew being as old as six. After that, my dad always made me kneel with my back completely straight when the time came, etc.
Being Catholic I had my first communion when I was seven. I hardly understood what was going on; it felt awkward being in a poofy white dress and having all these relatives so excited about me taking a wafer for the first time. That same year I remember wondering if heaven really existed and if we actually lived many lives on earth.
Then I became fascinated with astronomy. I read everything I could about the planets, the galaxies, and the Big Bang Theory. Of course, the latter resulted in conflict. I was in the third grade when I was spouting off to my parents what I had just learned, and a few days later my mom had my much-older cousin sit down and explain to me that God had really created us and that the Big Bang Theory never happened.
I obviously never got very into Christianity. It was the worst when I entered high school. But I felt pretty confident about it until my history class freshman year. I'd been part of Christian Youth Theatre (CYT) for a few years. That meant a lot of fundamentalist Christians, and a lot of melodramatic worshipping. That's what made me think I was happy being Christian. The passion, the family feeling...it really was beautiful. But what wasn't beautiful, and had been pushing me away for a long time, was that they believed non-Christians go to hell. Then in history we read about all these philosophers that denied the existance of God, and Christianity's running track of discouragement and war. These were confusing, to say the least. Why would my parents teach me something that wasn't true? So I decided upon atheism. That worked, but only for awhile.
I needed something to get me through the year. I had several friends who were suffering from depression and acting upon it. It affected me that way as well. I started going out with this Ultra Christian CYT friend of mine, and he knew I wasn't Christian, but I had decided for his sake (and for my own, at the time) that I'd give Christianity another shot. Not a month later, my grandmother died. The next time I saw my boyfriend was a week later, and he broke up with me for not being Christian. His excuses were that God had been "telling" him from the start that our relationship had been wrong, and that the Bible says Christians shouldn't be "unequally yoked to those of different faiths." Christianity had let me down again. To top it off, this theatre group had a lock-in for teenagers, and at the end of the night we were separated boys and girls. They took that opportunity to lecture us on dressing modestly because we cause boys to sin by making them want us. It says in the Bible that if a man looks at a woman and wants her, he has committed adultery with her in his heart. Similarly, if you cause a person to sin, you might as well tie a millstone around your neck and throw yourself in a river. So then they give us bracelets/necklaces with little clay millstones!
That was it, and I'm pagan now. I've come to embrace what I naturally am. Ever since my decision I've gotten numerous compliments from almost complete strangers about how pretty I am, as well as random good luck. I don't have to pretend anymore. But there's a sad part to this. I don't trust Christians anymore. You know they're thinking you're going to hell. Though I don't believe in hell, the magnitude of what that belief entails is bad enough. I wonder if I'll ever recover, or if it's even wise to.
Joined because I was raised so
Left at 14 or 15
Now: If I have to choose, pagan
Converted because: I was forced into it by family
De-converted because: I didn't realize until I was a teenager that it was okay to stray away from what your parents taught you. I ended up submitting to my natural beliefs. (A rather long story, described in body.)