From Pastor's wife to Atheist

sent in by Michelle

Even as a child, I remember sitting in the pew thinking, "no thinking person would believe this stuff". As a pastor's wife, I was embarrassed to think that other's wouldn't believe the shit that I did. I pushed those thoughts down deep, because I really thought my life depended on my willingness not to think. Now I look back and see I was transferring my own disbelief onto others.

Anyway, my story is much like many of you. So, I won't go into details too much. I was raised in a minister's home in the south and taught from birth fundamental evangelical hell-fire and brimstone. I was so burdened with hell...for my friends and family members...and for myself...I was never quite good enough and went to sleep at night afraid of hell. I remember my sister at age 4 or 5 asking me to pray with her because she was afraid of going to hell. Anyway, I went to a christian college, married a christian man and we went into ministry for 10 years.

I began questioning right after leaving home, but never questioned far enough out of christianity until I found the courage to do so after my grandfather died. I have never stopped questioning anything sense and look forward to the day when I can just be present and not question everything anymore.

NOW...can you please help me through some issues I am having?

My family...all my family are fundamental christians. Not only do I have to deal with this when I see them, but my father molested me as a teenager and I reported him a few years ago...he lost his credentials and I have lost closeness with my siblings because of it.

I want to let my family go completely so I can move on. I live in Michigan and don't see them very often, but when I do visit, it seems it takes me months to find my equilibrium again. I don't take care of myself...I kind of go into a depression...Every time, I think "this time will be different"...but he guilt of letting them down...being different...the whole experience when I am with them leaves me in knots.

They say they love me and will pray for me. I'd rather just not see them anymore.

But, I don't want to hurt them. I know they love me as much as they know how to...and I don't want to cause them more pain...more hell than they already experience.

Have any of you had to distance yourself from family, and can it be done without losing yourself after leaving a cult that your family is still in?

I really want to move past this. Any suggestions?

How old were you when you became a christian? 7
How old were you when you ceased being a christian? Evangelical Christian -32, Agnostic New Age Christian 6 months
What churches or organizations or labels have applied to you? From Fundamental Evangelical in the South, to New Thought churches in the midwest after 30 years old.
What labels, if any, would you apply to yourself now? Atheist
Why did you become a christian? FEAR for self and pity for jesus
Why did you de-convert? seeking, it wasn't working, and education
email: chellebelle69 AT gmail DOT com


Anonymous said...

It takes a while, but you have to reidentify and redefine yourself. Don't let anyone do it for you. I would suggest reading a book called LEAVING THE FOLD (someone else can give you the author, I can never remember her name-I say it's an age thing, wife says it's a doofus thing. Yet another diversion of opinion between us: she being xian and me not. Pardon the digression)

This will advise you, answer many of the questions you have, and show you that you are not alone. But you know that, you came here.

For years you've lived a certain way, been identified as a certain entity, and even identified yourself as part of it with reservations. To most people you are now "other", and even worse, you were a preachers wife! You were suposed to have been the next thing to Virgin Mary and a pack horse, and you weren't. Nope, you were a human, and a damn smart one, and that's a let down for the faithful. I've been stationed a long time in the South, believe me, I know.

I can only say, Shakespeare said it best: be true to yourself. Be kind, be thoughtful, remember, you're not alone. It will take a bit, but you'll come through it.

Anonymous said...

I can really feel for you. My mother-ib-law is extremely fundamentalist christian. I always felt like I walked on pins & needles around her. My husband and I are both atheists, so I'm sure she prays almost continuously for us. (of course, it'll be my fault that he is.....good christian boy that she raised! lol)

My best advice is be who you really are. Only you can make you happy. Distance is a good thing.

Personally, I love that we now live 2 days drive away. She won't drag her but out of that little midwestern town to bother me. I don't call her anymore. If my husband wants to talk to her, he knows where the phone is. (you should've heard her when she found out I was Wiccan! roflmao!! but I'm an atheist now, I think that's worse in her eyes!)

We're here for you. Vent if you need!

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately I've had to distance myself from my family also. They've been taught to judge, although they'll repeat those stupid phrases, Judge Not, Lest Ye Be Judged or that God is the final judge, but they will judge, no matter whom it is or what.

For some reason they think they've been handed a license to judge everyone else BUT themselves, they'll quickly cast you into Hell, but they are the pure one's.

I find it so hard to believe that grown adults act like such immature brats, like they believe xtianty is true and god is working through them.

Once you've allowed yourself to see through the bullshit and nonsense, pretty much all communication with them is lost, you can sit around and talk about trivial things, but they are sitting there judging you through their teeth, and they are judging everybody in the community but themselves.

You'll soon learn that the only real friends you have are are people like us, (non-believers) because we're all experiencing the very same things as you.

Christians revel in the idea of hell, so they can judge people not like them and cast people to their imaginary hell.

It appears that we are moving backwards in our intelligence, by allowing those hate mongers to keep preaching their self-righteous drugs.

Thats all xtainity is, a psychotic drug, for the people that are afraid of the truth and to grow up mentally.

Remember you'll always have friends here, besides christians cannot be trusted, as you already well know, because they are perpetual liars.

They prefer to believe a lie over the truth.

Best wishes for you, but you cannot trust those brainwashed christains. You can never bring them around to the truth, they are loony.

Anonymous said...

Dear Michelle, these are good pieces of advice. Come on over to the open forums - set up a profile and post some things. You'll find many knowledgeable and sympathetic people there.

Anonymous said...

The book that sarge suggested is an exellent source of info on leaving your faith. LEAVING THE FOLD, A GUIDE FOR FORMER FUNDAMENTALISTS AND OTHERS LEAVING THEIR RELIGION is written by Marlene Winell, Ph.D. It's currently out of print, but you can get an ebook version at Marlene Winell's website, where you can also read some sample chapters.

Anonymous said...

Judging by the title of your posting, you may have already read it, but "Losing Faith In Faith" by Dan Barker would be an excellent book for you to read. It's about a fundamentalist, evangelical minister who eventually lost faith and became an atheist. It talks about how he dealt with his family and how he told them too. Highly recommended!

The author of "Leaving The Fold" is Edward T. Babinski. Another excellent resource for you.

As far as suggestions for how to make your life and contact with your family better, that's a tough one. It sounds like there is still anger and resentment from your siblings about what happened with your father. Even if they believe you, they may not want to openly acknowledge that what you did was the right thing, or worse, they may feel that you shouldn't have upset the "balance" by reporting him. As you know, abuse of the kind you suffered needs to be brought out in the open, both personally, and legally if you are ever to follow a path of healing.

Revealing your loss of faith is another thing that you need to get out in the open. As you said in your post, you really want to move past this and to some degree "coming out" will take loads of stress off of you and will allow you to move to "living in the now." If you were still one of the faithful, you probably wouldn't dream of hiding your faith, why hide your present feelings? YOU need to move to where you want to be, they may or may not follow you there, but it is your life and you have but one, live it!

Anonymous said...

Hi, Michelle!

Welcome. I hope you find some things on this site to help you in your journey. I'll know you'll find plenty of smart, understanding people.

Just to add to Infidel's comment: Dan Barker is the co-founder of the Freedom from Religion Foundation. They have a website at

Anonymous said...

Michelle said:
But, I don't want to hurt them. I know they love me as much as they know how to...and I don't want to cause them more pain...more hell than they already experience.

Lorena says:
Well, Michelle. We cannot really love anyone if we don't love ourselves.

Everytime I talk to my relatives, I go into a depression and become suicidal. So I decided I wasn't going to contact them anymore--I love myself enough not to do it.

In my case, they hate me because they know I am in therapy for the abuse I suffered at home. They want me to deny everything and say I was a happy child. Since I won't deny it, they consider me a bad, really bad person.

My relatives aren't worthy of my time or my suffering. I miss them a little but the pain is several orders or magnitude lower that the pain they cause me. So staying away works for me.

Do they love me? I don't know and I don't care. I know for sure they don't know how to love and that's enough for me. Life is hard enough as it is to be worrying for how other people feel.

I have had little contact with them for 4 years, and I have no plans to see them again. I am just happier that way. I let them worry for their own happiness and I worry for my own.

The "sacrificing" myself for others is a christian belief I dished together with the church. I may go out of my way to help the hungry or the homeless, but not a bunch of idiots that cause me pain.

That's my story.

Trancelation said...

Fantastic insight, Lorena. Loving oneself is a problem for many fundamentalist Christians, and as such, loving others is even more difficult. It's the reason they judge: they are so mired in their own guilt and self-hate, that they don't understand how to apply the concept of love to other people. They want everyone else to be as miserable as they are. Misery loves copany, as they say.

To Michelle: keep these things in mind the next time you want to deal with your family members. They are never going to change, and so long as they know you will keep coming back, they will continue to treat you as narcissistic supply. They are emotional vampires. Jealous of whatever measure of happiness that you find for yourself, they will only lift you up to cut you down. Or just cut you down, period.

It will be difficult, but severing ties completely is your best option. I was once in a relationship with someone suffering from narcissistic personality disorder, and my own life was dissheveled. Separating myself from him completely was the wisest decision I ever made.

Anonymous said...

Hi Michelle,
You need to tell yourself that you didn't do anything wrong and you are not to blame!!!!!!!!! As a matter of fact you did what you should have done.
Nobody needs people like that in their life.
It sounds like your siblings are selfish and putting you on a guilt trip.
I would suggest as another poster said, go into the forums.
P.S Welcome

Anonymous said...

Hi Michelle,

You're story really hit close to hom for me. I understand all about the toxic family thing. It's hard, isn't it? You don't feel good around them, they do things that hurt you, but at the same time you wonder if you're being selfish because you HAVE had some good times in the past. And on top of that you still love them no matter what.

I know what it's like to be the "paisley sheep." My family has their black sheep in the herd, but then there is ME. They've managed to estrange themselves from me, and I had to estrange myself from the last member that bothers to talk to me. For a long time, I walked around in a sort of surreal state like walking wounded because I was missing a huge chunk of my life. There is a reason family betrayal is one of society's greatest taboos.

But I eventually learned that an important part of life is going out and creating your own family. I talked to my friends about my situation and got closer to them as a result. They were there for me when I really, really needed them. I consider them my family now. Plus I never realized how FUN the Holidays could be until I started spending it with them! And no, very few of them are christians.

If you can afford it, I really suggest therapy. Estranging yourself completely from a toxic family is a really big issue. If not therapy, talk to some close friends about what you are going through. Right now, you really need some human compassion in your life to heal, so please don't shut yourself off.

It'll hurt for a while, but you'll feel better in the long run. There are a lot of great people in this world that are on your level that deserve you more than the people you grew up with did.

Anonymous said...

Hello, Michelle, first of all, I am sorry that I ask this stupid question. I am not trying to salt into your wound, but there is something that is difficult for me to understand.

You said "but my father molested me as a teenager and I reported him a few years ago...he lost his credentials and I have lost closeness with my siblings because of it." It is unclear that if your father did wrong doing, why you were estranged from your siblings. I am sorry again for this stupid question. If you do not want, it's ok you do not answer to this question.

Anonymous said...

.....It is unclear that if your father did wrong doing.....

the very next line in her testimony says...My father molested me. !!! What part of "wrong doing" do you not understand? Is this at ANY time NOT wrong doing? "consensual relationship with a father?"

muttmutt1978 said...

Ive been very fortunate that my fmaily isnt that way, after i told my mom i deconverted she didnt go off the deep end because i told her. However I have some very close friends i grew up with, and i can barely talk to them especially about religion. When i told them i was no longer christian Paula wanted to drag me back to church. I was scared out of my wits. Needless to say they Live in Arizona now and it helped immensly, although i still consider them a second family, i cant go back without that feeling that they might drag me to church by force. Your best bet is to cut ties with your family and get some really good friends that are not christian, I know its tough but it whould be best.

Anonymous said...

bill said...

" the very next line in her testimony says...My father molested me. !!! What part of "wrong doing" do you not understand? Is this at ANY time NOT wrong doing? "consensual relationship with a father?" "

I believe the question was more along the lines of "Considering that your father did such wrong-doing, why did it alienate you from your siblings?" It didn't seem like Anonymous was calling the molestation's rightness or wrongness into question, rather asking why the division between the siblings occured

Anonymous said...

bill said...

" the very next line in her testimony says...My father molested me. !!! What part of "wrong doing" do you not understand? Is this at ANY time NOT wrong doing? "consensual relationship with a father?" "

I believe the question was more along the lines of "Considering that your father did such wrong-doing, why did it alienate you from your siblings?" It didn't seem like Anonymous was calling the molestation's rightness or wrongness into question, rather asking why the division between the siblings occured. *shrugs*

SpaceMonk said...

Michelle, you didn't let anybody down.

You were the one who was let down.

However you think they feel, you have at least as much right to feel that way yourself.

However, you've picked yourself up, despite it all.
That's something to be proud of, not apologetic.

At least they've got each other for comfort.
You don't deserve to be isolated or resented. If that's the way they're going to treat you then who needs them?
I know it's more complicated, and painful, than that, but I think that's still what it all comes down to.

Anyway, I know there's people here who can be more of a help (as has already been happening), so welcome...

Anonymous said...

Oh, I forgot to mention JOHN LOFTUS and the book they run ads for around here about Why HE Rejected Christianity.

You see, he had a personal tradgedy when he was a minister.

A woman he worked with seduced him.

Although married, he had an affair with her...according to his book...but she accused him of rape when he got tired of it and wanted to call it off.

The tramp! And she was an ex stripper.

How could GOD have tempted the poor man with an ex stripper (probably a D cup, too!).

How cruel.

How could the poor man resist an ex stipper.

But his wife did forgive him, and he says she was a very loving woman.

But Loftus left her anyway, because he was "not happy" and left the faith.

He is now an atheist.

And, as he describes it, the affait with the stripper started his downhill spiral.

And by the way, it was all her fault!!!

Anonymous said...

Whats a matter Dave?

Can't stand to have Loftus's story brought up here?

Anonymous said...

ex atheist, what is your argument? That someone who left christianity was an asshole? What is that supposed to prove?

You are in christianity, and are an asshole, so I'd think you'd be a little more cautious about bringing up such arguments

Anonymous said...

Fundamentalism is just a narcotic to ease the pain,fear and loneliness of life.It's like leaving a bunch of sick,addicted drugedout friends when you get sober,...they can really turn on you.You are a threat to their lifestyle and belief system.

Hang in there ,...stick around and continue to help others in your situation !

Anonymous said...


Three words.

Increase your medication.

webmdave said...

Anyone who has an issue with John Loftus should probably post to his blog directly. His blog is

Anonymous said...

For me it wasn’t just my affair that led me to reject Christianity. I could’ve gotten beyond the damage that had done to my faith. It was being cut off from the church, of which the affair with her was the catalyst. Taken together with the information I learned from my cousin Larry, and the subsequent church experiences I had in my other cousin Jeff’s church, I eventually came to reject my former faith.

By the way, haven't you seen documentaries on TV where a con-artist (male or female) got someone to marry them for their money and then killed them? There are people out there like that. She wasn't that bad, of course, but she was a modern day Potipher's wife who sought to destroy me because I was speaking out against pronography in town. And I never said is wasn't my fault, either.

Anonymous said...

I want to clarify why my family has never been the same after me coming forwards about the abuse. My sister called me sick because I started writing the truth and even thought to write a book about the abuse. (my story is pretty sad). She didn't want to see the truth. I should have been more gentle and kept my thoughts to myself knowing she couldn't handle it. But, I was careless. Now, we don't have a relationship. I hope his clears up why my family is estranged...words online are only a fragment of details of the complexity of relationships.

Anonymous said...


It may help to explore your hobbies and interests and even develop new ones. If you make new friends in a new club, or take up a new sport, you will find that there is a whole world out there of people who are not religious nuts like the majority of the people who you lived with for so long.

There are many who feel that religion is a private matter and treat others with respect and never try to convert them.

I feel for you, being subjected to such pressure, because the most recent job I had (before the June layoffs) was at a Federal government office filled with fundamentalist wackjobs who were proud of their bigotry. It really made working there stressful at times. I was the odd Buddhist and, believe me, every one of the fundies scorned my religion. Fortunately, this was the only place I have ever worked that was like that. I have told myself that things will get better, and I will find a job where I won't have to deal with that again. Just as surely as things will be better for me, they will get better for you too.

nsfl said...


If you are still married, and if you have your own children, I strongly suggest you focus your energy on them.

I have done this with respect to extended family, but it came naturally for me, and I think it really helps to minimize "toxicity". The less you care about their bitterness towards you, the better. And I echo the sentiment that therapy would be great.

I'm very sorry your father abused you. They should've put the bastard in jail.

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