Image by Lin Pernille ♥ Photography via FlickrI can't say I am completely free. I can't bring myself to tell my family that I don't believe in God, although my husband knows and completely supports me. And I do believe in something, just not the God of the Christians. It's hard because my mother is so devout and it would tear her apart to know that I am doomed to hell because she really, truly believes that crap. I figure, it's just better to let her be in peace than break her heart. I live about 45 min away anyway so I don't see her all the time.
But to go to the beginning, I grew up hardcore pentecostal. I think it was even worse because we went to a Hispanic church and most people were immigrants, and most of them were superstitious anyway. We weren't allowed to cut our hair, women couldn't wear pants or makeup, the man controlled the family and women had their place in the home. When I was really little it was fine, but as I got older I knew something was wrong. I didn't understand why all the rules and why we had to go to church 4 days of the week.
I remember one day when I was about 11 or 12, I knelt down and said, "I want to want to believe and love God." But I just didn't have that desire. I watched the people in church jump up and down, speaking in tongues and passing out. I wondered if it was real and I wanted that experience so badly. I even got baptized when I was 13. They said you would be filled with the Holy Spirit and you would speak in tongues. When I got baptized, I felt nothing, and that's when the real doubt started setting in.
When I was 14, word got out that the pastor had seduced a 14-year-old girl in the church. He was married with two kids, but had been sleeping with that girl, telling her it was OK and that God wanted it that way. That's when my family left that church. My mom kept looking for a church but my dad never went back to church. I went to church with my mom but still couldn't really feel anything. I decided to just do what was "right" and God would eventually come to me.
When I was 16 my parents let me go on a mission trip to Russia with some of the youth from the church. I wanted to go so bad but the church said only truly devoted youth should go. They wanted to make sure the holy spirit was with us, so they prayed. I wanted so badly to have a sign from God and I prayed at the altar until I spoke in tongues. It was a strange experience, more like I forced myself to it and then I was so happy I got it that I cried. They said I was touched so I got to go.
The trip was kind of bland. We did some street preaching, but what I liked most was when we went and fed the orphans and the people in the hospice. That was the most spiritual thing I had ever felt, helping people the way Jesus had said to do.
When I came back, I kind of slid backward. I was disappointed that I couldn't feel anything. I had a boyfriend by then and we started having sex. I knew it was wrong but I couldn't' help myself. I kept feeling guilty and dirty and I knew I was going to hell. That's when I started asking questions about sin. Why was it so bad that I was having sex with someone I really care about? Do I deserve to go to hell because of this?
I quickly stopped going to church and instead spent more time working a part time job after school and with my boyfriend, who turned out to be a jerk and a control freak.
In my senior year in high school I had an English teacher who had us read The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. This book changed my life. I talked about destiny and how it is written but can be changed and that when you have a dream, the universe conspires to help you achieve it. There were so many things in that book that were beautiful and none had to do with an angry, jealous god. I think that was when I de-converted.
I started going to college and in my first year I took a Religious Studies class out of curiosity. There were so many religions out there and some made more sense than Christianity! I expressed this to my boyfriend, but he just shrugged me off. I was so eager to explore this with someone, but my controlling boyfriend wouldn't let me go anywhere and waited for me after my classes.
I finally broke up with him after four years of dating. I was 20 by then and had no idea what to do next. I dropped out of college because I ran out of money. But I suddenly had this feeling that I had to get out of my home, I had to get out of California. So I joined the Army Reserves.
I went to basic training and met a lot of different people. There were so many people there who joined to leave their homes because of hardships like abusive parents, poverty, even girls who were being raped by their father or another family member! A lot of them didn't know God and I knew then that if they died at any moment, they would not be going to hell like the pastor said.
During my advanced individual training course after basic training, I met a guy there who changed my life again. I think a higher power brought us together because he was a mirror to me. He showed me that I was miserable because of my desperate attempt to prove to myself that God exists. He also showed me the strength that I had but hadn't tapped into. He showed me who I really was and helped me to free myself from that image I wanted so badly, of a good person according to God. He had even read The Alchemist and we talked about my doubts for hours at a time. I loved him for everything he showed me about myself and about the world's goodness rather than its evils.
I had to go back home after the AIT course because I was in the reserves. I had started going to another Pentecostal church with this guy from work because the music they had was very good. But they started to preach the evils of the world to me again and I somehow slipped back into it. They even exorcised a demon out of me (that's another story!). But a few months later I felt that urge again to leave and never come back. So I changed my contract and got stationed in Germany. I met my husband there and I know that was meant to be as well.
I was deployed to Iraq 6 months after I had my baby. I was very depressed for a while and immersed myself in the search for truth. We were lucky enough to have Internet access and I found a lot of websites and books that helped me make sense of my dilemma. For a while I searched for truth in the Bible but found more questions than answers and no one was able to give me a straight answer. I got a lot of "We can't understand the purposes of God" and "God has a reason for everything, even if we don't understand it".
Christianity made less and less sense to me. Why did God create the angel that would become Satan if he knew what would happen? Why did god lie to Adam and Eve in the first place about the tree of knowledge? Why did god create me with such a personality that would cause me to doubt? Why did god say "thou shalt not have any gods before me" in the 10 commandments if he's supposedly the only god? Why are sins so bad and why did we inherit our "sinful" nature?
Now, I know that Christianity is not truth. And to be honest, I don't know what truth is. All I know is I want to be a good person. I want to help those in need and I want to understand people. I feel a greater spiritual connection to god when I help people, when I love my family, when I hear music, when I see nature, and when I meditate than I ever could when reading the bible or going to church.