Sent in by Angela
I've been creeping around this site for awhile now, and thought I should finally come out of the woodwork and formally give my little story.
When I was a little girl, my mother decided she was "searching" for something. This searching lead to me being dragged to many different churches, and learning many different faiths. And I'm not just talking Christian. There was the stint at a Catholic church, then about a year at the Unitarian. From the Unitarian we joined some kind of spiritualists, called (I think) CUPS. Or CUUPS. Something like that. Then it was back to Catholic for a while. Then a year or so of nothing. Then a couple of months at a Jewish temple. Then about a year or so at a Messianic Temple (Jews for Jesus - that made no sense to me, even then). Then some more nothing, then my mother 'discovered' the Christian Church. I was in the fifth grade.
At the time, I was dealing with a lot of 'emotional things' from my extremely verbally abusive mother. Nothing I did or said was right. But when I started going to church with her, things became different. I was the perfect angel. "Oh look how beautiful she looks singing with the choir!" "She is volunteering all her time with the nursery, how selfless and giving of her!" (I did this because I could skip the ridiculously boring sermon without getting the guilt trip). It went on and on. My mother seemed to believe it all so much, and I so badly wanted to feel the same thing, to believe the same things she did. I wanted to feel that tingle. I prayed so hard to believe, I screamed in my heard over and over how I wanted Jesus in my heart. It never happened.
Anyway, I went to this church for a couple years in middle school, played the part of the good Christian daughter at church. I even took missionary trips to Mexico in my 7th and 8th grade year. Everything was hunky dory. For the benefit of everyone, we smiled and everything was wonderful on the outside, but at home it was like walking of eggshells. My mother would preach about tolerance and love and patience and all those wonderful lip service good deeds, but never practiced them. At least not to her family (Myself, my older sister, and my grandmother).
So, all this time, I still am desperately wishing I believed. I had all these questions, which tied in with everything I had learned at all the other churches I belonged to. I guess a big part of it was the core concept of faith. I have always been an extremely cynical person. I do not trust people. I could not see putting all this faith into a book written thousands of years ago by uneducated men. My biggest question, which I asked many different 'church leaders' was, since god is the only perfect being, then obviously man is fallible. Therefore, if the bible was physically written by men, it cannot be perfect. There must be errors. How can I believe a book written by imperfect creatures and place the value of my supposed soul on just faith alone? For all the time I have asked it, I have yet to be given a real answer. Usually I got the "that is the meaning of faith" answer. Well, what the shit is that?
In my freshman year of high school, my mother left 'our' church in a huff because the preacher made a comment about a family being raised by a single mother wasn't really a family. (I agreed with that decision. Its one of the few I have.) So we went to another church. Literally, the name of this church was "Bibletown". Some of you may have heard of it. They have their fingers into everything.
Until high school, I had always been that chubby, shy girl that sat in the corner, and never really talked to anyone. I had a few friends at school, but I never really 'clicked' with anyone at church. About halfway through my freshman year I magically went through puberty, some self esteem, and a new group of hippie, hacky-sack playing skateboarding friends. I met this wonderful girl, Courtney, who was a straight up, practicing Wiccan. She opened my world up, and decided I was Wiccan too. I had all the books, knew everything I was supposed to know, did all the little rituals, but it still seemed kind of fake. I still lacked the faith to believe in these 'earth spirits' or 'nature god/dess' any more than the Christian god.
During this 'awakening' time, something very bad happened to me. I was attacked and raped in the apartment complex I lived in. When it happened, I was afraid and waited almost a week before I told my mother about it. The man was never found. My mother used this at church to get sympathy, telling almost anyone that would listen about my 'horrible tragedy'. Through the church, I was given 6 weeks of therapy with a Christian counselor. On the first week there, the counselor decided to talk to my mother too, without me in the room. After the 6 weeks, she told me that I seemed to be 'coping' well, and she thought I would work through it, be fine (I did, and I am). She recommended to my mother that she continue coming to her weekly. We never went back.
Since that happened, my mother has used what happened to me to explain anything I did that she didn't like. I made new friends and wanted to hang out, and not stay home every night, and this was me crying out for help because of my rape. We started fighting a lot when i was a teen, and it was because I was still angry about being raped and taking it out on her. I'm dead serious. She threw it in my face and reminded me about it ever chance she could.
At 16 my mother kicked me out of her house, and I moved in with the guy I was dating. He was 'Wiccan' too, and pseudo practiced with me. Flash forward 4 years, and this guy is just like my mother, verbally abusive, emotionally manipulative, the works. After I left him, I had so many other things going on in my life, I never gave religion of any kind a though for a number of years. I still called myself Pagan (Not Wiccan, I totally threw out the thought of witchcraft with my ex.), but never really did anything. Even being a Pagan, I felt uncomfortable with the thought of higher powers. But I still had the deep respect for nature and the concept of mother earth. Not as a deity, but as where all life comes from sort of thing.
I am 24 now. I call myself an Atheistic Pagan. I am an Atheist because I absolutely do not believe in any god or devil. Or heaven or hell. I am a Pagan because I love nature and all that comes with it. I do not worship it, but I respect it. It is difficult to try and explain to people, so I tend not to.
My mother has gotten better over the years (I think its senility), but she is still a hard core bible thumper. I may tell her one day my beliefs, but I try not to do anything that will lead to arguments. To save my sanity. For now I just give a little smile when she tells me that she is praying for me and/or my family or when she gives praise to god over anything remotely positive happening. Recently my husband and I have been having some financial difficulty (his job relies on new housing construction), and, dead serious, my mother told me to give my problems to god, because only he can take care of them. How does and atheist even respond to that?
My husband respects my beliefs. In his words: "I could give two shits about religion." We have planned to raise our children (a girl, 3 and a boy, 10 months) with knowledge of all religions. I want them to make their own decisions on if and what they believe. I know this will be difficult between my mother and my extremely Catholic in-laws. There have already been clashes over the fact I refused to allow either of my children to be baptized. In fact, my mother-in-law went behind my back and took them to be blessed by a priest a few weeks ago. I should probably be upset, but I'm not. There’s just too much other crap I have to deal with.
So that’s it for now. It was a lot longer than I thought it was going to be. For the most part, I try to avoid Xtian people, especially those that try to convert me. I do get a joy out of a good religious debate, especially when I stump them. It’s a good time. That’s about it.
Online Reading List
- An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish by Bertrand Russell (1943)
- Bible Teaching and Religious Practice by Mark Twain
- God is Imaginary
- Is there an Artificial God? by Douglas Adams (1998)
- Skeptics Annotated Bible
- The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine (1795)
- Which Way? by Robert Ingersoll (1884).
- Why I Am Not A Christian by Bertrand Russell (1927)