I grew up as a missionary kid in the Philippines. I am twenty years old, an atheist (I guess), and quite enjoying my place in the world.
As I said, I am a missionary kid. Both of my parents have been through seminary and are ordained. My father got his master's degree in Biblical Theology and my mom got a Master's of Divinity. My entire family, including my two brothers, my sister and all my distant relatives, is Christian. I went to private Christian schools from first grade to high school graduation. How is it, then, that I don't believe in what my family considers the most important thing in life?
The story of my "escape" from Christianity is more a story of never fully giving in to it. Throughout my life, I have been pretty thoroughly ignored by my family. One factor for my neglect is that I'm the youngest in my family; another is that my brother is (or was) an extremely hyperactive, attention-hungry kid. To add to this, I have always been very introverted and shy. I have always been in the background and prefer it that way. So, how does that play into my lack of belief in God?
Well, to put it simply, I was never fully brainwashed like most religious kids are. My parents simply forgot to tell me about God or assumed I already knew or something. My family and I went to church every Sunday (my dad even preached every now and then) but I would sneak out of church most of the time and not pay any attention when I would attend. So it wasn't until I was a little older (probably 8 years old) that I first heard (or listened to) the Gospel story- my brother Andrew told me about it. He told me about heaven and hell and the whole bit. Well, being young and gullible, I believed it and prayed the prayer that he instructed me to and BOOM!!!... nothing happened. No transformation, no "Holy Spirit", nothing but the silence of the empty room to take witness of my salvation. But that didn't deter my belief one bit.
I truly started doubting when I was ten years old. I decided to go to a charismatic church down the street from our house by myself. It was held in a large pavilion tent and packed full of people. I vividly remember one part of the service where the pastor prayed to the holy spirit, made a radical gesture with his hand and all the people in the congregation fell down, struck by the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues... all except one.
I remember it still and can picture myself- a little shy white kid standing alone in the midst of about 500 Filipinos in spiritual ecstasy, never feeling at odds. I kept wondering, "Why can't I be struck down by the Holy Spirit too? I want to speak in tongues." Well, I prayed time and time again that it would happen to me and, well, it never did. That was the first seed of my disbelief.
In the end I gave up on "feeling the Holy Spirit". I decided that it must not be for me and I kept believing, nonetheless. But did I believe? I still wonder if I truly did or if it was just a passive submission to the beliefs of all those around me. I didn't really think about it that much. However, despite God feeling so distant to me, I decided that I would pursue Her with my greatest efforts. I spent my junior high and high school years participating in my church's choir and musical ensembles (my mom was the music director- woohoo!), leading worship in a youth group band, and even leading my own discipleship group at my school. I guess one waste of time is as good as another and I enjoyed it, I enjoyed it all. But it was not to last.
When I was 18 years old, I abandoned my faith entirely. I'm unsure as to the cause of my disbelief, but I think it was a number of events.
One event that hindered my faith was the church. I'm not referring to some distant scandals about abusive priests or some church crusade long past. I'm talking specifically about the churches I attended and how the members of those churches abused my mother.
My mother was the music director and pianist at a Baptist church for a couple of years. But she had conflicts with the organist- the organist would never practice and would refuse to play many of the songs that were requested of her (and she got payed a lot of money). She decided to blame her own lack of effort on my mother... behind her back... to the church board. So, my mother was fired, friendships were ended, insults were delivered and so forth.
Then my mother got a job as a music director at another, even bigger Baptist church. Everything seemed great there for a year and a half or so, but then "Satan put his plans into motion". The pastor, who seemed so inspired and so Godly, divorced his wife. That caused some controversy. A month later, he married the organist at the church (damn organists). Needless to say, that caused an uproar and the church proceeded to tear itself apart. My mother was forced to leave because she refused to take sides on the issue (at least in public) and the church members pecked at each other in some amazing ways. At a church meeting, for example, one person suggested that the church find a new pastor and another person, who was the pastor's friend, turned on her, attributing her idea to the great Lucifer himself. Ahhh, church politics.
I think the greatest hindrance to my faith was a miracle: I witnessed the supernatural healing of a blind girl... or so some say.
I went on a medical missions trip with my father to Mexico. The goal of our group was to give medical care to the poor people there (for free) and teach them the Gospel (preying on the helpless- I love it!). Well, during my time there, a little girl came to one of our clinics. She had very poor eyesight, perhaps qualifying for legally blind even though she had some sense of vision. Well, a few people in the group, myself included, gathered around and prayed for her and WALLAH!!! She was healed! Her eyes cleared up and she could see perfectly!!!
Haha. That was the version of the story that my father took to the pulpit, along with a few other people who spread the story. Here's what really happened: we prayed for her. Then, the optometrist who was with us did some eye tests on her. He then gave her a pair of eyeglasses that had a really strong focus and, wouldn't you know it, she could see quite a bit better than she could before. This somewhat regular occurrence turned into a big miracle story. My father even wrote an article about it entitled, "Blind Girl Receives Sight". I couldn't believe that my own father would obscure the truth so blatantly and yet so sincerely. I confronted him about it, but he was completely convinced that it was a great miracle. When I realized that this story, which would eventually be widespread among our local Christian community, was so fake, I called into question all miracle stories. That was when I gave it all up.
Well, I am an atheist. I have been for a couple of years but I have yet to tell my family. The funny part of the story- I still attend church. Why? It's pure entertainment. I can't help but crack a wide-toothed grin every time someone walks up to me and tells me, "God bless you" or "the peace of Christ be with you". May religion live on. I couldn't get my Sunday morning chuckles without it.