high school, and my parents involved my brothers and me heavily in the day to day activities of religion. It is painful to write about this, because I would define the religion of my youth as being emotionally abusive.
The main church I remember growing up in was Calvinist, as were all the churches we were prone to attend. Calvinism has got to be one of the most damaging forms of christianity out there, but when I was a believer, I thought it was the best thing ever. Being predestined makes you feel important, especially when the rest of the time you hear that you are a worthless sinner who can’t even make god smile and who deserves to be cast into a fiery pit for eternity because you were born dirty and sinful. But I never felt sure of my salvation, and that worried me. I would have these great emotional conversion experiences that started when I was 6 or 7 and continued into my teens. I probably got “saved” 4 times a year, because there was always this nagging uncertainty in my heart that said something doesn’t feel right. I kept these reconversion experiences quiet, because my parents didn’t handle doubt in their faith well. There were a lot of things I had to keep hidden from them.
My father is an ordained minister who is partway through his masters in divinity. His real life job is as an engineer. Christianity was something his parents had passed down to him, along with a stern disciplinarian side and the inability to tolerate dissent. He is a Calvinist to a tee, a rational man who seems to lack the ability to be pleased, a man who belittles and shouts down anything he doesn’t approve of. My view of the christian god was largely based on my relationship with my father, and our incessant readings of the bible. We would have family devotions several times a week, where my dad would read the scriptures to us, tell us to discuss what we thought it meant, and then we would pray as a family. Religion was our life. At the church where my dad was an assistant pastor, we would be at the church multiple times during the week. I was involved heavily in the youth group, so I would be there Monday night to practice with the band, Wednesday for youth group, Thursday to practice with the adult worship team and choir, and Sunday for church service. And that was if there were no special activities going on during the other days, like Evangelism Explosion on Tuesdays or church cleanup on Saturdays.
Even with my constant participation in church activities, there was still guilt and depression. The christian god and my father would never say that I was good enough, that I measured up, that I pleased them or made them happy. I eventually developed an eating disorder. It was the only aspect of my life that I had control over, and it was a way for me to measure up and be perfect, even if it hurt me. My parents were too busy with their religion to notice, but the leader of our youth group did. Rather than get me professional medical and psychological help, we entered into a strange and irreparably wrong relationship, where I tried to get the affection and approval I was seeking and he had the affections of a teenage girl. He was married, and the relationship I had with his wife became strained. I trusted him to help me fix the pain I was feeling, but all he could offer were bible verses and god loves yous. Eventually we broke it off when he told one of my friends she wasn’t a christian because she didn’t believe in Calvinism.
I was doing everything I could to fix my depression and be happy like a christian should, and I managed to get my anorexia to the point I could control it without my parents commenting on what I was eating or how much I was exercising. When I graduated high school I was sent to a christian college. It was more of the same, religion everyday, but no one noticing what was really going on with me. I found another girl with anorexia, worse than I, because I knew how to hide it and I thought she would get caught. But no one ever noticed either of us getting thinner and thinner, wasting away into shadows of ourselves. I recently found a picture of my time at christian college, and I can’t believe no one ever said anything to me about my weight. I looked like death incarnate. My eyes were sunken and my bones protruding, but still I wasn’t good enough. I still had cravings, carnal feelings, I was still tempted. I was still sinning. I could never be perfect enough for a god that wasn’t there.
During that time, I met the man who is now my husband, the first person ever to shake my ideas of god and the world. He was still a christian then, but he said that god was not good, god was evil and god was responsible for all the evil in the world because he created it and allowed it to go on. I couldn’t find fault with the reasoning he presented, and my church attendance began to decline. We married in our second semester of college and he joined the Navy. A year or so later, we moved down to the Gulf Coast and starting reading and studying religion seriously. My husband and I are both pansexual, and it left us with a lot of guilt because we had both been taught that alternative lifestyles were contrary to what god wanted for us. One of my husband’s friends introduced us to a film called the Zeitgeist, and everything began to change for us.
The first third of the Zeitgeist is dedicated to debunking christianity as a rehash of earlier pagan sun god worship. When I watched it for the first time, it made me very angry. I could only sputter about how it was wrong, but I had no real answers or proof as to why it was wrong. I began to read about pagan religions, especially goddess worship, and the oppressing force of christianity began to weigh down on me. There is no real respect for women in the bible. They have no place except to submit to their husbands and raise christian children, but I was reading about other religions where women had valid places in religion and huge roles in their communities, where women had influence and mattered. To the dismay of my husband, I began to frequent atheist websites and read essays on why the bible isn’t true, how it really came into being, and how creationism is bunk. I had christian science textbooks all through high school, so I felt I was behind a bit in regards to science and I wanted to catch up. My husband was resistant to the changes I was making in my life, but he became close friends with two atheists in the Navy and their discussions began to steer him towards my point of view.
Christianity is not what christians think it is and I am glad to no longer be a part of it. My new way of thinking gives me peace and clarity that I never had from christianity. I am done with the guilt and the fear. I am learning to accept myself and love myself the way I am now, and my eating disorder has been in remission for quite some time. My husband initially thought my rejection of christianity was based on the issues I have with my parents, which are much more in depth and much more personal than I can share here. But to reject a religion because of a bad experience with its adherents would be foolish. I reject christianity because it isn’t true. Plain and simple.
After 18 years in the church, I am no longer a christian. I would say that I am a pantheist, that I believe there is value and spirit in all living things. When people ask me my religion, I identify as pagan. I realize most of the people posting here are no longer religious, but to me paganism is a way of life that respects all living things. My husband has left christianity as well, and joined the Quakers. I began reading essays by people who left christianity on this site about 4 months ago, and I am glad to add my story to theirs.