The truth hurts, sometimes

sent in by Carolyn

How I wish there had been a world-wide web when I was a kid trying to sort this out.

I grew up in a nice French-Canadian Catholic family, though there were some complications. My grandfather had an objection to the church itself, so my immediate family was Anglican (as close as you can get without the same hierarchy). That same grandfather read to me from a simplified language Old Testament and, thankfully, let me know that Genesis wasn't literal, and most of the stories weren't 100% reliable. I believed because I had no reason not to. These were the adults and they were telling me the truth.

The New Testament was supposed to be the one that was really true, but I didn't understand it and my grandfather didn't have an easy English version.

I prayed, and didn't get a response, but I just thought it was a matter of time.

My father stopped going to church when I was very young. I think it was related to my brother's death, but he won't talk about it. He went back about a decade later.

In the way that children believe strange things, I really thought that religion was something you inherited, like a cultural value or national origin. I presumed that the actual beliefs were common to everyone, because they were reality, and slight differences were only on what could be called matters of taste.

Then in fourth grade, during one of my Moral and Religious Education classes (a compulsory thing in all schools when I was growing up, though mine were of the secular, religious comparison variety) we were all asked what religion were were, durning a class discussion. The teacher confronted (gently, but really, now I don't think anything in the situation was right for a school setting) students who said they were "half this, half that", especially the ones who said something like "half Protestant, half Christian", and gave a brief run-down of the Christian sects that I didn't really understand. I mumbled something about being Christian, I think. I was really confused.

Later, I asked my mother about it, and I'm sure I said something about a religion being what your parents were, etc. She gave a much more comprehensible run-down of religions, and though she didn't include Islam or any eastern religions, she added agnostic and atheist to the list, and said your religion was what you believed. I said "I think I'd be an agnostic, then," and she firmly told me I was a Christian.

Even at nine I thought there was something wrong there, but, well, she was the Mom, so I tried harder. I think that conversation led to one of our intervals of high intensity church attendance, actually.

I kept praying. I really envied the kids who really believed, who wore crosses and who seemed so sure. I really wanted God to let me know he was there, that the misery of being an awkward kid who just didn't fit in, the short kid with a hearing problem and too much love for books and puzzles, wasn't all for nothing.

Years passed, and I still felt uncomfortable with my lack of real belief, but I still thought the problem was me. I felt weird babysitting for the family with the religious kids' videos, and weirder really listening in church. I dated a religious man, and went to his church for a while. I finally really read the bible, and didn't like the God there at all. Still, I just said things like "No religion has a monopoly on truth," and "I just don't understand," but that still didn't fit.

Finally, I stopped going to church, and faced reality. I never believed, I never was a Christian. I had prayed long enough.

The first time I mentioned I was an atheist to a friend, she said that she had seen things she didn't understand. Well, so have I. I just don't think any of them mean there's a god out there who cares for me. I don't tell many people I'm an atheist, people may assume I'm Catholic since I put out a crèche at Christmas and have a few meaningful bits of Catholicism from my great grandmother. I guess that's OK, though I never lie about it. I just try and leave the conversation when someone tells me what a great movie "The Passion of The Christ" is.

My family still doesn't believe I'm an atheist, even after a completely godless, egalitarian wedding. Discussing that, ahead of time, my mother asked if I didn't believe in Christianity, didn't I believe in the ideas in the Bible, anyway? That was her code for, "You can still have a church wedding!" I think my response, that no, I didn't think there was anything of value there, really hurt her.

But maybe the truth hurts, sometimes.

How old were you when you became a Christian? Never became one, thought I just was one.
How old were you when you ceased being a Christian?9 then again 22
What churches or organizations or labels have applied to you? Catholic, Anglican, Christian, United Church, Unitarian
What labels, if any, would you apply to yourself now? Humanist. Atheist. Maybe Unitarian again.
Why did you become a Christian? I really never thought I had a choice, then I really wanted to believe, since everyone else did.
Why did you de-convert? I just couldn't try to fool myself anymore.
Email: carolynthenotsogreat at gmail dot com


Hellbound Alleee said...

Hey Carolyn,

I'm a recent immigrant to Quebec myself, and I can tell you the first thing I thought was that there were no real Christians around, not like I remember. There are symbols at the hospitals, but it always seems like it's for the Grandmamas and Grandpapas. There isn't nearly the same amount of religious programming, and I've never been bothered by anyone at my door or on the street. I don't know where you live, but I was sort of surprised to see you had a religion/morality class so young. Where I grew up, you only got that if you went to a religious school. And we're talking about the seventies. My new French Canadian family--none are conspicuously catholic. The funerals are catholic, but that's about it. Truly, Montreal is the least religous place I've ever been in my life.

I can tell you though, I had the same experience when I was about 7 or 8. The teacher asked what religion I was, I told her my parents' church, but my dad said "no, you're not. WE are. You don't know yet." That changed everything!

Piprus said...

Hi, Carolyn,

Welcome to the site. Enjoyed your testimony, and I can appreciate the confusion you went through as a child. Many of us as children unfortunately got scared to death of going to hell from churches that were more fundamental-evangelical than what you were exposed to. You're among friends here.

By the way, I happened to see "Passion" when it came on the cable channels of the worst movies I've ever seen. A waste of time, and boring. Hardly anything but overdone, gratuitous violence. I fail to see how even christians could describe such a piece of trash as a "great movie".

Anyway, I digress...glad you're with us.

Nvrgoingbk said...

Carolyn, you said: "I kept praying. I really envied the kids who really believed, who wore crosses and who seemed so sure. I really wanted God to let me know he was there, that the misery of being an awkward kid who just didn't fit in, the short kid with a hearing problem and too much love for books and puzzles, wasn't all for nothing."

As an adult, I had wished the same things. I didn't understand why they "got it" but I didn't. I felt I was some genetic freak who was just born to rebel against Godly authority and revelation all my life. I tried for sixteen years to "get it" I cried at church. I raised my hands to a "holy" God and sang his praises. I witnessed to others, I agonized over my sins both real and imaginary. I cried out to God countless times for answers, yet there always seemed to be something that set me apart from the other Christians I knew. I didn't stop asking questions. I could never get the whole "saved by faith" vs. works beliefs. I couldn't keep quiet about false doctrines being taught. I couldn't look past the obvious contradictions in the Bible and the obvious hypocrisy among even so-called good Christians as they clearly disobeyed the Bible's teachings on divorce, pagan customs, the Sabbath, doctrines of men, graven images, idolatry, etc. etc.

It wasn't until I began breaking free and reaching the inescapable conclusion that Christianity is FALSE (after much research), that I found others that felt the same way. I wasn't awkward afterall. Christianity really DOESN'T MAKE SENSE AND THERE WERE OTHERS WHO SHARED MY KNOWLEDGE. This has been intoxicating and liberating!

Christians convert based on the testimony of another Christian or based on the fear of Hell or reward of Heaven. There is no real rational reason for them to. They are influenced into the faith. We, on the other hand, are the truely despised who refused to be bullied by other Christians or some make believe God into holding on to beliefs that were contrary, confusing and down right offensive to our common sense.

I've always heard Christians talk about how they are a minority and how oppressed they are. It is far easier to accept an alter call where there are hundreds of other believers spouting "amen" and encouraging your coversion than it is to get up one day, stare "Hell" and the Christian bullies in the face and turn our back on their warnings of eternal damnation to be true to our consciences. Ironically, there is so much freedom and a whole new beautiful world emerges for those of us who dare to be a voice of reason in a world plagued by the religious dogma of one faith or another. We live in a world that is controlled by religion so when one of us frees ourselves of the shackles it can be a lonely experience, but thanks to the beautiful mind of man, we are able to get on our computers and seek out a place to share the truths we have found.

carolyn the red said...

Hi, it's the Carolyn who wrote this.

Thanks for the welcome, everyone. I've been reading everything on the site since I found it a couple weeks ago. I'm still having trouble finding a balance between respecting other people's beliefs and letting others believe I think as they do, so it's nice to talk to people who've consciously left christianity.

Strangely, talking to a friend today, I found out she'd been downplaying the fact her daughter's hebrew school was a secular humanist school for cultural jews, and that she's atheist. There seem to be a lot more low-key atheists around that I would have thought.

hellbound allee, things have changed a lot in the last twenty or thirty years. Up to ten years ago, every school board had a religion attached (mostly catholic) and when I was in school, religious education was a compulsory subject in the curriculum every year. I don't know about now, I've been in Ontario for a while. There's been a real backlash against the church which used to have real power over people's lives, leaving Montreal, especially, a lot like a lot of Europe. Christianity is a mile wide and an inch deep.

My family seems to have held out longer than most in keeping really faithful. I think my mother, especially, was scared by the growing secularism and became more religious. I am very greatful, however, that I didn't go through the kind of evangelic education some people here have.

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