Sent in by L.S.
Some people think I'm lying when I tell them that I just woke up one morning and realized that I was an atheist, but that's what really happened.
My parents are Christian but they don't go to church. We stopped going to church when I was about 6 because they disagreed with how that particular church treated a family with 3 young daughters who couldn't always make it to Sunday worship. Because of the hypocrisy, they rejected the idea of organized religion but maintained their beliefs. They pray at dinner and do the whole Christmas thing and occasionally will talk about god, but they aren't zealots.
It was because of their attitude that I grew up thinking of god/Jesus as that distant relative that you know you're related to, people talk about and you're supposed to love them but you don't really know exactly why. God wasn't a being to me. God was an idea that I never really understood.
I was a really sheltered child. I (mostly) did what I was told, thought what I was supposed to think and had few friends who might have influenced me in negative ways. So I grew up as a christian. Not really because I understood what being a christian meant, but because my parents raised me that way.
When I was 15, I started realizing that I was missing something, something important, but I just couldn't figure out what. So I became extra religious - or tried to, rather. My best friend was/is a christian and she was the one who tried to answer my questions because I was afraid to go to my parents with them, fearing the forced bible studies and trips to church on Sundays. For about 6 months, I tried really hard to be a good christian. I prayed regularly, though I had no idea what I was doing, and even wrote a couple of religious poems. I wanted to believe. I really and truly wanted Christianity to be the answer to my problems, to make me a happy person again.
After 6 months, however, I still wasn't happy. I wasn't fulfilled in what I was supposed to believe.
And then, one morning I woke up, and realized that I didn't believe it, any of it. I realized I'd NEVER believed any of it.
The relief I felt upon this realization was immense. It was like shrugging off years and years of repression and guilt. I felt lighter. I felt free. Most of all, I felt happy.
I hid my atheism from my parents until I became an adult. While I know that organized religion isn't important to them, having their kids be christian is, and I knew what would happen if they knew I had rejected that belief and all subsequent religious beliefs as well. When I finally told them, at age 18, they were saddened and disappointed but also believed that it was nothing but a phase. It's been 10 years now and nothing has changed as far as my atheism.
My oldest sister is now what she considers a Pagan and that two of 3 daughters are not christian is a major disappointment to them. My mother has admitted that she feels she is a failure as a parent because we are not christian. I told her that she should feel pride that we are all individually unique, that we were taught to use the brains we were born with, and that we each found a belief, or lack thereof, that we are happy with instead of lying to ourselves and being miserable with.
10 years ago, I was struggling with trying to figure out what I believed. Once I became an atheist, my life became better. I've never been happier.
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