Sent in by S. P.
This is going to be the short version of my story. I'll write a longer one once I've had more time to analyze exactly what being a former Christian means to me - it's still fairly new.
I was "born and Bible-bred" as they say. I was taught that all people are inherently evil, and that without the ten commandments and God, I was destined to hell. I remember "accepting Jesus" in my grandmother's bedroom when I was three years old.
I got a weirder mix of Christianity and anti-worldliness than many. My childhood was defined by having faith; we weren't allowed to lock our doors, see a doctor, or do anything to protect ourselves. We were supposed to just trust God to meet all of our needs. I now see what irresponsibility this trained in me as a child, and as a young adult I'm struggling to overcome this. On the outside, that sounds great - freedom from personal responsibility for your actions! But it was coupled with overwhelming guilt - if you DID get robbed, abused, or sick, it was a sign that you had "left an opening" for Satan to come attack you. Therefore, if bad things happen to you, it's YOUR fault.
Then I was molested at age seven, not by a church member, but I felt dirty, guilty, bad. It took me over a year to tell my mom about it. I thought this meant I wasn't a virgin, and that I would always be "less" in the eyes of God and future-husbands (the only kind of men Christian girls are allowed to think of!)
I spent a few years homeschooled and a few years at private Christian school. Then I entered public school, with zero social skills. I spent about six years being the absolute least popular, most bullied kid. I remember the girl with leg braces picking on me, because it moved her up the social ladder. Christianity did NOT prepare me for life.
I hated myself for years and years, I now know. At the time I didn't have words for it, but I developed an eating disorder at age 11 - bulimia - initially so that I can be "sick" and stay home from hell (school). My mom resented the bad attitude her all-male coworkers gave her about missing work, and I received the wrath.
But I still thought God was good (and real). I still had very little outside exposure. We got Brio teen magazine (published by Focus on the Family), weren't allowed to see PG-13 movies until they were broadcast on cable (and "cleaned up"), and weren't allowed to listen to the radio. I still remember watching my first music video, TLC's "Waterfalls" and being completely blown away, back in the summer of 1995.
I entered college at 21, got pregnant, married the moron because that's what Christian girls do, and *immediately* got a divorce, because I wasn't a complete idiot and domestic violence ain't my thing. I've raised my son on my own since he was 6 weeks old (he'll be 3 yrs. in a few weeks).
I always felt tremendous guilt that I couldn't seem to "make" myself read the Bible. Not having a devotion was something I was okay with, right up until another Christian started to brag about how much of their day they invested (wasted) with this activity.
I prayed and prayed and prayed for a "conversion of the spirit" or "baptism of the Holy Spirit". As desperately as I wanted it, God never revealed Himself to me. I kept knocking, but no one was home.
I went back to college when my son turned two, and discovered that I love history. In an early America class, we covered the 2 "Great Awakening" spiritual revival movements of the US, and a few cults besides (Mormons, Jehovah's Witness, and Oneida). I remember reading a book about Oneida Utopia and the crazy leader John Humphrey Noyes; all my classmates were saying "This stuff is bat shit! Who would ever believe this?" ... I kept thinking "Why does this book remind me of home?"
I came to the realization that I'd been raised in a cult, during my early years (up till age 9, the year of public school). I still didn't see Christianity as a whole as false, just the church my insane grandmother (who has narcissistic personality disorder) had hijacked to her own brand of "claim it in faith" mentality. That was six months ago.
At this same time in college, I became involved with the Muslim students on school, particularly the female ones. We formed close friendships, and while I would never consider Mohammed a true prophet (he reminds me of someone suffering from temporal lobe seizures, right down to sensing an "angel" presence in the room), I began to truly admire and respect these women for their intelligence, devotion to family, and personal modesty. I worked with them on raising awareness of the plight of Palestinians, in constant occupation and easy prey for religious extremists.
I started researching cults in general, and cult recovery. I found "Sorry I knocked" videos by ex-JWs on YouTube, donated to Silent Lambs (go see their site, it's a safe haven for children abused by pedophiles within the Kingdom Halls), and started protesting against Scientology.
The more I looked at all these faiths that I could easily see were "wrong", I began to truly question my own. How could I believe in a Higher Power, and not be conned? If all religions are started by men, inherently misogynistic, and prone to violence, how was mine any different? How could that fit with my view of the world, and the various people I count as friends? Jews, Muslims, gays, lesbians, atheists, pantheists, Wiccans, etc. Were they really all going to hell, and was it my evangelical job to "save" them?
I was fortunate that right at this point of crisis, I found WhyWon'tGodHealAmputees.com, a truly amazing site for critically thinking people. I began to value my own skepticism, instead of feeling guilt for my "lack of faith".
Today I am an atheist. This is a very new thing, and it still feels raw and uncomfortable at times. In unguarded moments, I catch myself throwing prayers up to sky-daddy (mostly that Obama will win the presidency, or that my son will finally go to sleep at night). But I remind myself that I'm an intelligent person, and that the Bible makes no sense.
All my years of Christianity, I despised science. I have an older brother who is a physicist and, to push his buttons, I used to declare "Oh, I don't believe in science." Now that I don't believe in God, I see how beautiful science really is, how it is provable and tested. How it requires intelligence (which I have in spades) and not faith (which I never could develop, no matter how hard I tried to stuff my mind into a god-box).
My son has not been raised in church. I gave away the Children's Bibles we invariably got from well-meaning friends and family members. Today I went through my bookshelf and pulled off all the religious junk (including my black leather NIV) to donate or trash (I haven't decided which is worse yet). This is a leap of faith, believing that there is no God, that Pascal's challenge won't come back to haunt me for an eternity spent in fire.
But I'm okay with that. I'd rather live this life to the fullest than live in fear, through what I am now beginning to believe may be my only life ever. Thank you for this website and for this forum.