The "Li Wu" River in Hualien County, Taiwan
via WikipediaSent in by Kirsten
I am a 29-year-old female, married, living very happily in St Paul, Minnesota. I work in a factory that makes windows, live in a one-bedroom condo downtown, and go to school part time. It has been quite the journey to arrive to this stage in my life. I was born and raised in Taiwan along with my two older brothers. My parents are missionaries with the Evangelical Covenant Church and have been for over thirty years. They help with church-planting projects and my dad served as a mentoring pastor to several different churches on the island. My mom led Bible studies and stayed at home with us. They now live in the US and coordinate short-term mission trips into Taiwan, China, and South Africa.
Growing up, we attended private Christian international schools and were encouraged not to question the bible and to spread the gospel at a very young age. And I followed like everyone else. I believed whole-heartedly that I was going to heaven and somehow I just needed to get through this "worldly" life so that I could enjoy the real prize in heaven.
It wasn't until my last two years in high school that I began wonder if maybe these things I have believed all my life might be wrong. The more christian leadership roles I took, and the more bible studies and events I attended, the less I began to believe. Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder and My Name is Asher Lev and The Gift of Asher Lev by Chaim Potok were my first introductions to other ways of thinking. I am so grateful to have read them! These books were the only mentors and guides I had in my transition to ex-christianity. It was a bit terrifying.
Unfortunately in my move to Minnesota for college, I gave into feelings of anger and low self-worth, along with culture shock and loneliness, and turned myself over to the whims of self-destruction. I seemed to be the very cliche of the prodigal child. Lots of drugs, lots of alcohol, and visions of death all around me brought me to a dead end of having no where else to run. And after six years of attempted escape and anger, I found my way into Hazelden, a chemical dependency rehabilitation center. It was my very concerned parents who helped me get in. Through a great program and a lot (a LOT!) of work, I learned to take responsibility for myself and not blame others for my own bad choices. I learned that it's ok to be a skeptic and be responsible at the same time. And although I disagreed with the religious principles my folks raised me on, I didn't have to beat myself up over it. It is not their fault that I made bad choices. The grief of not belonging to the very group that raised me is something I learned to deal with maturely by replacing it with self-love, positive choices, and an unquenchible lust and curiosity for life.
I straightened my life out about five years ago.
I have been a solid, happy atheist for about two years now (the years prior to that I was agnostic). Time alone with my thoughts at the factory has been great for sorting out my history, and learning to respect my journey and others' journeys as well. My favorite author lately has been Carl Sagan. Still, things are not easy in the sense that I am the only one in my extended family who confidently rejects Christianity. They are dumbfounded and are always trying to pinpoint exactly what happened to make me leave the church. And no matter how many times I kindly explain my (wonderful) conversion, the same questions come up again later. I love them a lot, and I try to maintain a close relationship with my family, but the constant attempts to re-save my soul do get tiring. The reminders that they are praying for me and that jesus loves me still slip into our conversations. I am pretty good at squashing those conversations before they get out of hand, but find that I've squashed more than I care to. Fortunately, I have such an awesome husband and a few friends who I grew up with that converted to atheism also. These friendships are priceless! And so is this website.
It has been a long and interesting journey so far. I love how my life has turned out. Even the bad days. They keep us humble when we think we've got it all figured out! I love the idea that there is no god trying to teach me a lesson or pull me closer, and I love that my views morph and grow and change over time. And if I feel stuck, I have the power do something about it.