A very happy heathen

sent in by Lisa

I grew up Catholic, following what my parents taught me, thinking
Christianity was normal and universal to everyone. But even though I didn’t
know anyone of a different religion (or none at all), when I was very
young, probably around 7 or so, I started questioning religion. My
parents always told me that one must know Jesus to gain entrance to the
kingdom of heaven. I didn’t think that was very fair. I remember asking,
“What if there was some remote tribe in the jungle somewhere that didn’t
know about Jesus.. would they go to hell?” My mom said, “Well, that’s
why we have missionaries, to tell them about Jesus.”

But I would ask the question again, insisting that there must be some
extremely remote tribe that missionaries couldn’t get to. My mom’s
answer was, “No, they had no way of knowing about Jesus so God would
probably be merciful with them and judge them on their character instead.” At
first, it made sense to me but then I said, “Then WHY do we send
missionaries out to tell them about Jesus? I mean, if you tell them about
Jesus and they decide that Christianity isn’t for them, you’ve doomed all
those people to hell! Why can they just leave people alone and don’t
tell them about Jesus and then they’ll just go to heaven?” My parents
never could reply directly to my answers. To questions such as this one, I
always wound up with an answer that wasn’t an answer. And in this
particular situation, they would say, “Life is better if you know about God
and Jesus. I can’t imagine what life would be without Jesus.”

My life continued this way. Even at a young age, I always questioned
God and religion and church. I hated it. I am hard of hearing (severe to
profound hearing loss) and my parent made me go to Catholic mass every
Sunday morning. It was the same damn service every time except for the
sermon and a few gospels thrown in. I could never hear a damn thing
anyway, with the echoing and the crappy sound system. I fell asleep
constantly and would get punished for it or dragged outside the church for a
spanking. I’d try to sneak in books to read instead. Sometimes my mom
would let me read books as long as it was religious-themed book. Heh. I
even read “Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret” because it had “God” in
the title and my mother was completely oblivious of popular culture so
she accepted it as a religious book.

Growing up, I’ve never had this “feeling”, this “god-high” feeling
about religion EVER! I never quite got what everyone was crazy about. My
parents were ok with other denominations so, as a teen, I went on youth
group trips with my friends (Church of Christ) for the free ski-trips,
to meet boys and to go camping without my parents’ supervision. On these
trips, these normal every day teens would turn into Jesus freaks around
the campfire, filled with the Holy Spirit. They’d cry and sob and weep
and moan and praise god. I tried. I really did. I wanted to feel what
they were feeling. I even faked it to fit in. But I never understood why
they would be weeping and would lose all bodily control like the people
you’d see on TBN when Benny Hinn would throw his coat or push people
down with the holy spirit. To me, all that drama felt too… fake.

I think there are people who truly believe in it and let their emotions
overpower them. In fact, the only time I had ever gotten close to that
feeling was the feeling I’d get at Christmas and not because of Jesus
but because of Santa.. waaaaay back when I thought he was real. I was so
excited, practically “high” every Christmas morning just knowing that
Santa was in our house only a few hours ago! It felt.. magical,
wonderful, mystical… I imagine it was very similar to the feelings that these
teens were experiencing by the campfire at church camp.

Fast forward to college. By this time, I had abandoned Church, knowing
that I’d never get anything out of it. Additionally, I got engaged to a
great guy but he wasn’t religious, or a practicing Christian. I don’t
think my mother quite understood why I was so happy to spend time with a
“god-less” man. I also met more people with different faiths and
different sexualities. I never quite understood why being gay, lesbian or
bisexual was wrong.. two wonderful people of the same sex love each other
and they’re doomed to hell for it? Or if you’re a jew, you’re also
doomed to hell because you refuse to accept Christ? (those exact words
actually came out of my “loving, Christian” uncle’s mouth).

I became more independent, studied Buddhism and Wicca. My mother didn’t
like the change in me, my constant questioning of religion and my
secular “World Religion” courses in college. She would tell me I was
possessed by the devil and even tried to drive a “demon” out of me. At that
moment, when she was trying to “exorcise me”, I looked at my mother in
utter disbelief and horror and told her, “This is me, not a demon. If you
don’t like the way I am and my beliefs or lack thereof, you don’t have
to speak to me again.” She continued to pray over me and I walked out
of the room.

I moved out shortly afterward and never looked back. It’s been over ten
years since that ridiculous “possession” experience. My “god-less”
husband and I are married with two wonderful children and are far happier
than most of our religious friends and family members (many of whom are
in unhappy marriages or are divorced now). I firmly believe it’s
because we are true to ourselves and actually solve our problems rather than
praying about it or believing that Jesus will take care of it. We are
realists and are not uptight about sex issues; we are just honest, real
people not afraid of questions or new ideas.

After further soul searching and coming to realize that Adam & Eve,
Noah’s Ark, walking on water, The Tower of Babel, Immaculate Conception,
etcetera, etcetera are a bunch of fairytales that existed in other pagan
religions years and years ago (not to mention all of the “Christian”
holidays) I finally absolutely put the idea of Christianity to rest. I’m
actually proud to say I’m not a Christian and am no longer scared of
being doomed to hell.

Where am I now? I’m not an atheist but I have utmost respect and am
friends with several atheists. I hate labels but I would have to say I’m
pretty agnostic. I think there is a god or at least souls or a higher
power beyond this flesh, blood and bone that we all have in us. I’ve had
too many strange occurrences happen to me: ghost sightings, voices, out
of body experiences, etcetera to think that we are flesh and that is
it. But I’m extremely open-minded. If there is a god/gods, I don’t think
we have to believe in him/her/it. We need to just be the best person we
can be and think independently. Far too many wars, jihads, holocausts,
murders, etc have been waged in the name of religion. If a god exists,
I highly doubt he/she/it would be proud. People need to stop with this
“pack mentality” and start thinking for themselves and what is truly
best for the world.

Joined: Since Birth
Left: About 18 but finally gave it up for good at 29
Was: Used to be Catholic
Now: Agnostic
Converted because: I was born and raised Catholic
De-converted because: I began thinking for myself and stopped being scared of the truth.

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