Sent in by Don O'Connor (pseudonym)
I was born into a family of four in the summer of '85. We were from and soon settled in the Bible Belt after my dad left the service. The Church of Christ was the only viable religion, and hence the only way to god. That's what I was led to believe, anyway. The name was correct, and the policies were unquestionable. This was made clear from an early age, so naturally I adopted their attitudes. My father was strict about maintaining appearances, though he was often too lazy or unwilling to put his tirades and rants into personal practice. This was my first encounter with religious hypocrisy, and a necessary first step in my ultimate exodus from the faith itself. For now, however, I simply became non-denominational. I believe I was about 10 at the time. (I was a very serious child.)
I swung back and forth from private and public schools. My parent's financial straits versus their desire to indoctrinate me with Christian conservative propaganda played out in the vast field that was the life of a completely trusting child. To be fair, I hated public school, because I frequently got picked on and beat down by bullies. At least there, I had my friends. In TCS, the school I was sent to in Seventh grade upon my father's discovery that I, his own flesh and blood, indeed listened to rap music, I fared worse. The truth is, that while I suffered no physical abuse in the school, the emotional abuse was worse. It was a Baptist school which was run by several families of rich children, and their only objective, like all religion, is to make more money. I dared to disagree with Baptist doctrine, (I was non-denominational and opposed the death penalty), and suddenly, I was a pariah. I was not 'of God', because I held 'unchristian' beliefs that were deemed 'too liberal'. Add to that the fact that I liked Korn, Metallica, Kiss, Led Zeppelin, Def Leppard, Poison, and the like, and you had a walking target for aggressive proselytizing. I was targeted for not only censure, (I had to dine with the school's two other outcasts at our own rickety table), but some found fit to try to get me in trouble by desecrating the bathroom, accusing me of cussing, or putting porn in my locker. Cruel tricks, indeed, but when the teacher tends to support your tormentors, there is little one can do.
I left that school in disgrace, shown the darker face of organized religion. I began to study not only the bible, but physics, evolution, history, psychology, and other religions, and what I found convinced me that what I had experienced was not anomalous, but rather quite commonplace. Not only that, but the Bible excuses pitiful and murderous behavior not only in the Old Testament, but in its supposedly prophetic book of Revelations. I tried to get into Wicca, but it, too seemed like a bunch of fluff to me. I eventually settled on agnosticism, which in time, ossified into atheism. I was simply unable to reconcile my very liberal beliefs, my sexuality, my independent streak with the strictures of organized religion generally. I was 17. Since then, I have many times battled the fear of hellfire, damnation, and religious bigotry ingrained within my head before I had the chance to thing for myself.
You see, de-conversion is a long process in many cases. Only recently have I become able to let go completely of superstition. But the pain, the anger, the outrage still lingers. That religion took so many of my friends, so many of my days from me. I will never get them back. The best thing I know how to do is fight the religious right on a political level, and search for like-minded friends.