This is the story of my life in regards to religion and reason. Just
thought I would share my background and how I came to Atheist Nexus...
this is kind of long, but I've been dying to get it out on paper...

When I was seven I moved to another state with my mother, who was very
young and I'm fairly certain a bit of a sociopath, but that's another
blog entirely! We did not go to church, but we had friends who did, and
they communicated to us a god of love and kindness, which is all well
and good I guess. And sometimes my friends would have me over on a
Saturday and I would go to church with them the following morning. It
was during one of these visits that I found out I was a terrible sinner
who was going to hell if I didn't let Jesus into my heart.

WTF?

Thanks to my mother, at this point I was pretty skeptical of most
adults. I wasn't buying into what the strange lady was telling me.
They tried to pressure me into "accepting Jesus" and "being saved" right
that very second. I had no idea what that would entail, and wondered
if it would hurt. It certainly sounded like some irreversible, sign on
the dotted line, The Little Mermaid's contract with Ursula kinda deal.

I didn't spend the night with that girl again... and looking back on it,
I cannot BELIEVE that some absolute STRANGERS would try to coerce a
young child into a religion BEHIND THEIR PARENTS BACK? That is just
SICK and I certainly won't be letting my children spend the night with
friends on a Saturday, those tricky little creeps.

But the creeps had succeeded in one thing... they placed a fear in my
heart. I became suddenly scared shitless that I was going to hell, that
the people I loved were going to hell, because we did not go to
church. I would cry about it at night. I told my mom I wanted us to go
to church... but that wasn't likely since she wouldn't even wake up to
get me ready for school on the weekdays. I got my hands on a Bible and
started reading it a little. I decided that sure, I believed in God. I
started praying to him. That made me feel a little bit better.

When I turned 12, we moved back in with my grandparents. I made some
new friends and my very best friend and I decided that we would start
going to church. Neither of our families were very religious. When I
soon decided to get baptized myself, I had to do it when church was not
in service, or else my family wouldn't even go. Before the baptism, a
minister came to my house and talked with me about the decision. I
honestly knew nothing about Jesus except for him being the "son of God"
and I knew he'd been crucified and I knew he wanted people to get
baptized in order to go to heaven. Finally, I wouldn't have to burn in
hell for eternity.

Then in high school, I became active in the youth group. Things got
pretty serious at that point. I wore my WWJD bracelets, the cross
around my neck, brought my Bible to school every now and then. I made a
lot of friends through youth group. I was a pretty happy kid at that
point. I still worried about people who weren't saved... would I see
them after I died? What would happen to them? Why aren't they scared
for their salvation? I loved going to church, I was there as often as I
could possibly be. I was a smart kid, and I liked learning about the
stories of the Bible. I liked praying for people. And I liked thinking
that I had a special relationship with Jesus. And yes, I did think I
was better than most other people for it.

This went on for four years... then things began to change. To put it
bluntly... I became aware of my sexuality. I had been boy crazy for a
while, but this was serious. I thought about sex A LOT. I started
dating guys. But as long as I could stay "pure" I figured I could walk
that fine line. And I did for a while. So you can imagine the dilemma
my values were in when I lost my virginity! I know now that the term
for it is cognitive dissonance and that all instances of cognitive
dissonance nag at you to make a choice... either you change your
behavior to match your values or you change your values to match your
behavior. I felt that the latter option was pretty hypocritical, but I
certainly didn't want to stop having sex. So unlike many of my friends
who chose to struggle with their sexuality and continue to try and
please this god guy and fail over and over... I decided to hell with
church. I lost a lot of friends.

Thank GOD, so to speak, that I went to a liberal arts college.

I decided that while at college, I'd be putting religion on the back
burner. It just didn't seem to fit somehow.

Several things happened as I broadened my mind:

First, it occurred to me just how many people were in the world. All
the different cultures, religions, value systems... it blew my mind.
How the hell can anyone say that their way is the right way? That its
superior to other ways? What if I had been born elsewhere, I would
certainly have learned different things and developed different values.
And I would have thought that THEY were the correct ones and that
everyone else was wrong. So I concluded that no one was wrong. So no
one could really be right either.

Second, in order to fit this information into my inability to part with
god, I decided that all the different religions in the world, all of the
superstitions, were ways that this god dude had manifested him/herself
on Earth. Even though everyone argues over "their" god being the one,
its really all the same damn guy just interpreted differently. And that
causes a lot of human suffering. Around this time, 9/11 occurred.

Third, sociology rocked my world and I began to see religion for what it
really is... a tool used to control people. History helped this idea
come to a head as well. It really sells humanity short to assume that
without some made up dogma, we wouldn't be able to function morally.

Fourth, politics. I had never given a shit about politics before.
Finally, I took a look at it. Obviously I was a liberal democrat, who
wouldn't be? Then I realized that a lot of people weren't. I learned
about democracy, the birth of our nation, the constitution. I realized I
believed a hell of a lot more in our constitution than in the Bible.
And I realized what Christians and republicans were trying to do to our
nation... limiting the rights of human beings based on what they
believe. Refusing abortions to women, refusing marriage to homosexuals,
even meddling with education concerning evolution and sex ed. I
realized how hilarious Fox News was.

Fifth, and most importantly, there was psychology. I loved psych. I
ended up majoring in it. Up to a point, I had held on to this god of
the universe idea, not wanting to subscribe to any particular brand of
religion. And then I learned about defense mechanisms. The missing
piece to the puzzle. Religion/god wasn't born of some deity trying to
reach people. It was born of people trying to explain what they didn't
understand. And of the need to feel that we aren't just some happy
accident of the cosmos. The need to feel that there is a purpose to our
lives. A need to feel that this life leads to something else.

But it just doesn't. Which, yeah, that's pretty hard to swallow. It
would be much more pleasant to be religious in that sense. Easier to
believe that there's a god who cares about you and loves you. I almost
miss the ignorance, for it was indeed bliss. When we die, we go to
heaven, yay! But no, sorry. When we die, we become the way we were
before we were even born. It didn't bother me then, I suppose it won't
bother me in the future.

I had an acquaintance in college who was very religious and she despised
my position on religion, which I did not keep secret. I loved pointing
out inconsistencies and found great humor in them. She felt that I was
an absolute heathen. We were in the same sorority, and I was
constantly accused by her as being a bad influence on other girls. A
friend of mine quit a religious club because she had taken on a
part-time job and didn't have time for it. That was automatically my
influence. I was being attacked by "the man" on a regular basis. It
still pisses me off to this day. The girl insisted that I was
completely ignorant where religion was concerned. So my senior year,
before leaving for the real world, I signed up for a class about the New
Testament. I did it purely to piss her off, and I succeeded royally.

The class did nothing to convert me, in fact, it drove me even further
away from Christianity. I really enjoyed the class, the professor, and
the other students. I didn't stand up and yell that it was all
bullshit, I considered myself more of an interested observer. I was
quiet and let the others lead discussion, to see where it would go. One
day, I just couldn't keep my mouth shut...

"Doesn't it bother anyone that the New Testament, upon which
Christianity today is based, was written by people who didn't even KNOW
Jesus?"

Because I was seriously hurt by this realization. Wow had I ever been
supremely duped into believing some wild-ass shit. The gospels were
written by people who never knew Jesus! Most of the books were
supposedly written by a guy who only claims to have seen Jesus after he
died! The Bible has been reinterpreted, added to, taken away from, we
have NO IDEA what really happened or even if it happened AT ALL! I was
reeling.

The professor, who was very kind always, simply looked at me and smiled
and said, "I think the question you really need to ask is why it bothers
you?"

And I thought, he's right. It does bother me. And I'm glad it does.
Because it means that I can think for myself. Other people just aren't
there yet, and may never be.

Fast-forward a couple of years and I'm getting married. The man I'm
marrying doesn't go to church either, but he claims to believe in God,
and probably Jesus too. He thinks that church is a good thing, but he's
just too lazy to go. We decide to get married in a church because
well, it was a pretty church, and it would make our families happy
because they are pretty traditional. I find the only minister I really
know and we meet with him. We talk about our lives, what we mean to
each other. He emphasizes how we need God in our relationship, a big
nice holy threesome. I knew I would have to listen to this crap, so I
was prepared to pretend to listen. He required us to read a book before
we married called "Love and Respect". I remember getting drunk and
reading the more hilarious passages aloud to friends as we rolled in
laughter. I requested one thing of the man, and one thing only: do not
talk about obedience to your husband or use the phrase "holy union
between a man and a woman". I had close gay friends who I did not want
to offend and I'm also a feminist.

The big day comes and there he goes, bellowing on and on about obedience
to your husband and the blessed holy union between man and woman.

Can't win them all, I guess. I silently squeezed my husband's hand, we
made eye contact, and laughed about it later.

My husband and I went to church one Sunday. I thought that was a pretty
big sacrifice, but nope, not for god! All they preached about was how
coming to church wasn't enough, you needed to devote yourself fully to
god, you need to up and leave the comfort of your home and your family
if that is what god asks of you. You need to give us money. Then we
will all meet again one day in heaven.

I haven't been back since.

Views: 5

Tags: atheism, personal experience, religion

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Comment by Susan Manor on June 28, 2010 at 8:27am
I really enjoyed reading your story.
Comment by Ally on June 3, 2010 at 4:31pm
Thanks for sharing your story - quite the struggle you've had!
I love what you realised about the people in your new testament class;
"Because it means that I can think for myself. Other people just aren't
there yet, and may never be."
Though I have never been very religious I have had this revelation again and again,
usually b/c I'm disappointed with people I have respected & then I find out that they
are deeply religious. Sigh!
Great post!
Comment by Lyllogism on June 2, 2010 at 3:13am
You have demonstrated the strength to disregard the social pressures organized religions can exert. You did so in a way quite different from my own journey; through the expansion of your world view rather than a philosophic grappling with the problem of religion. I wish you well in your journey.

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