I have been absent from this site for a few years now. Life gets distracting sometimes. I don't post or engage in conversation very much, but enjoy reading posts from other members. I am one of those people who prefers being behind the camera as opposed to being in front of it. So thank you, everyone, for giving me a place to go when being surrounded by Christians in my daily life makes me feel like ripping my hair out. :)

     I was raised as a Southern Baptist, growing up in Tennessee. My parents divorced when I was 1. I lived with my mother and step-father, who's religious practices became more and more prevalent. At the age of 11, I joined a very independent fundamental Baptist church. My 2 sisters and I were soon made to only wear ankle-length dresses, no T.V. was allowed, and no music was allowed (other than music from our church). I switched from public school to the church's Christian school, which was located in the basement of the church. I attended 7th and 8th grade there. We would go out on buses 2 days a week passing out church pamphlets and "soul-winning". I sat through a church sermon of some sort 7 days a week.

     At the age of 14, I was with a teenage group visiting a Bible College in Texas. When I came back from this trip, after sitting through a Wednesday night church service (where my mother and step-father were acting quite awkwardly), I was called into the preacher's office. He proceeded to reach into his desk and pull out my diary that I had (what I thought secretly) hidden in my bedroom closet. He then read excerpts from it pertaining to how miserable I was there, my hatred for my strict, hot-headed step-father, and how I wanted to live with my dad. After that wonderful meeting, I was directed to the youth pastor's office and was read scriptures pretty much telling me that if I went to live "out in the world" with my dad, that I would become a whore. That was fun. Finally, I went home and my mother told me to pack my things. The preacher had called my dad and arranged for him to pick me up. Awesome! Of course, my mother was crying. My 2 little sisters were crying. They were 10 and 6. Everything was so surreal for me at this point. The moment that I had been waiting for since I could remember was here. My dad lived in my hometown, so we met at a gas station halfway between there and where my mother lived. Everyone said bye, and I left with my dad. I was shaking. I still couldn't believe it. I was still most certainly a Christian, but I never went to church again, and very much enjoyed living the life of a normal teenager out in "the world".  It annoys me greatly that even to this day,14 years later, one of the 2 recurring stress dreams that I have, is me going back to that awful church, trying to find my mom and sisters and "rescue them" without being spotted by the staff. 

     At 20, I had my first son. I wasn't married to his father at the time, but was engaged. He was 5 years older than me, had 2 children from a previous marriage, and we had known each other for about 4 months. (This was a planned pregnancy) You can imagine how thrilled my mother was with that. I still saw her and my sisters and step-father over all of these years. On holidays, we would all meet up at my maternal grandmother's house for dinner. I would go over to their house to visit on occasion, and we would talk on the phone maybe once a week (not that we had much to talk about). Well, after my son's 1st birthday, my husband, who was in the military, arrived back home from his 12 month deployment, and we got married. No ceremony, just us at the courthouse. Having social anxiety, nothing seemed more frightening than walking slowly down an aisle to corny organ music in a poofy gown while everyone stares at me. lol. No thank you. On Easter of 2007, everyone was at my grandmothers, and I noticed almost immediately that my mother was acting strange. I know that she has some issues with depression and anxiety, also, but of course always chose prayer, the Bible, and church instead of medication. During dinner, there was a very awkward silence on her part. Even when asked a direct question, she would not answer. She was mad about something. After dinner, I was out back with my sisters hiding eggs for my son and little cousins. My sisters were called inside. I went in about 5 minutes later, and they were all gone. They had left, and everyone was very confused. That was the last time I saw them. I spoke to my mother on the phone 1 time about a month later. It involved a lot of yelling, and I ended up just hanging up on her. I've tried to talk to one of my sisters on Facebook, and she didn't respond. I wrote her again, and she blocked me. Not having a relationship with my mother doesn't really bother me anymore. I don't even want one now. It's her turning my sisters against me and my grandparents that I will never be able to forgive her for. 

    I was about 22 when I became an Atheist. This began after seeing Christopher Hitchens on an episode of The Daily Show promoting his book God Is Not Great. I read this along with Dan Barker's Godless, and Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion. That was it. It all made sense to me, and I've never looked back. I am still a closeted Atheist with the exception of a friend. I don't feel the need to upset my grandparents and cause them the added stress of worrying about my children's souls. lol. Once they pass, I don't think coming out will be a problem, as my grandparents are more like parents to me...And I suppose seeing what religion can do to a family, I choose not to risk straining my relationship with them. They already know that we are now Liberals, and I'm sure that has caused them enough grief for one lifetime. lol

    At 24, we moved to Hawaii. My husband became stationed there. I became pregnant with my 2nd son in the summer of 2012. On December 3rd, I received a phone call from my dad's sister, telling me that my dad had had a massive heart attack at work that morning and didn't make it. He was 48. I was 5 months pregnant, and while I knew the sex of the baby, had opted to wait to tell anyone until my husband came back from his deployment so that I could tell him in person. It drove my dad crazy that I wouldn't tell him, and he insisted that it was a girl, only because he knew that I didn't want a daughter. He enjoyed picking that way. Always picking and laughing. That was him. I managed to fly home for the funeral with my son. My husband was able to leave Afghanistan a few weeks early to be there for the funeral as well. I told my family then that it was indeed another boy, and that I wished that I had told my father now. They all smiled and said, "Well, he knows now."..That was hard to shake off. At the funeral, there was a giant flower arrangement sent from my mother, step-father, and some of his family. That only seemed to infuriate me more. The pastor who, as most do, chose to turn the funeral service into a church service, and didn't even know my father (who didn't attend church but was a Christian) made me physically sick. I can only be thankful that the summer before he passed, I was able to fly to TN and spend his last Father's Day with him.

    We are now back living in TN. I suppose the "Jesus talk" on my dad's side has escalated greatly over these last few years as one of my cousins is a Christian music singer..as in, won an award at the Dove Awards last year..yeah. So there's no escaping it in my day to day life. But again, thank you for allowing me to have a place to go to escape all of the madness.

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Comment by booklover on January 19, 2014 at 9:58am

Christine, my sister, who was raised without religion just like I was, became a christian when she married her husband.  She isn't as religious now, she says she believes there is a god, but doesn't believe the bible.  Her husband does though.  Anyway, my point is about nieces/nephews.  A couple of years ago, my nephew, then 9, said that his Sunday school teacher told him xmas wasn't about presents, it was about Jesus.  I said "Not to me!"  He didn't  say anything more, but I could see the wheels turning.  Also, my niece, who is 14 is friends on Facebook with me and sees the Atheist things I put up.  I just want them to know that not everyone is a christian, and some people don't believe any of it.  When they are adults, I'll come right out and say it, because then my brother-in-law won't have any say about what I say to them.

Comment by Laura J on January 18, 2014 at 12:28pm

Thank you, Christine. I suppose they figured that having a father that had visitation rights to see me might cause problems for them. My sister's had no choice as my step-father was their father. Now they are completely brainwashed. I had hoped that when they turned 18, they would possible try to contact me, but that has not been the case. I hope that you are not done this way by your mother-in-law.

Comment by Christine on January 17, 2014 at 9:28pm

Wow, I'm so glad you came out of it with your sanity intact!! Many props to you.

I'm somewhat amazed that your family would take your diary and actually act upon your wishes. Too bad they couldn't set your sisters free as well, but that was strangely (in a twisted way) generous.

Truly and deeply sad how much evil comes from these fairy tales. I'm waiting for the day my mother-in-law banishes me from hanging out with my nieces/nephews, since they now know their aunt shares their uncle's (my husband's) atheist views.

Comment by Laura J on January 15, 2014 at 9:20am

@booklover, thank you for your kind words :)

Comment by booklover on January 14, 2014 at 10:57pm
Thank you for sharing your story Laura. I was not raised with religion, so I can't even imagine what you must have gone through, and are still going through. I am glad you find comfort here on AN. Your boys are lucky to have you for a mom. :)
Comment by Laura J on January 11, 2014 at 9:44am

@Dennis, Exactly! 

@Brian, Thank you. I'm glad that you didn't have to go through it. lol :)

@Anthony, I know the feeling..feeling like you're the only Atheist in TN. I enjoyed living in Hawaii. There are a lot of religious people there also, but it wasn't so "in your face". I guess we'll make the best of it. But know that you're not alone! :)

Comment by Anthony Jordan on January 11, 2014 at 3:13am

I live in Tennessee also, east. Sometimes I feel like I'm the only atheist in Tennessee. Everyone I know is a Christian. Everyone also knows that I am an atheist, but I don't make an issue of it. I do have an atheism blog on Google blogspot, and on Facebook I am an activist for Democracy, Liberalism, Science, and Atheism. I am not from Tennessee (I was born in Florida, and raised for the first 13 years of my life in Indiana). My mom and dad moved our family here (their birth place), but I hate it here. I cannot move from this super-red state, however, because I'm disabled and cannot afford to move. If I could I would.

Comment by Brian Iverson on January 10, 2014 at 3:02pm

Thank you for sharing Laura.  Never had the religious upbringing but I don't imagine I would have survived very well in that kind of environment.  And then to escape it.  Wow.

Comment by Michael Penn on January 10, 2014 at 3:01pm

Yes, Laura, I too had a bad religious experience but I was trained as a minister. Reading the Buybull with some christian apologist talking over an hour to explain the verse "jesus wept" to me does no good. I've read the Buybull cover to cover. I've taken Buybull courses. Telling me "I'm just angry at god" makes me angry at you. Trying to prove something again by saying "but the Buybull says" makes me just about as angry again. I'm about as angry at god as I am at Santa Clause or the Easter Bunny. It's all made up. It's all a myth. Jehovah and Jesus are imaginary. They have about as much power as Spiderman!

Comment by Laura J on January 10, 2014 at 10:31am

@Patrick, Thank you :)

@Dennis, I'm sorry to hear that you also endured having an over-zealous step-father. I have had people tell me the exact same thing...that I am only an Atheist because I had a bad experience with religion..followed by a cheerful, "but it doesn't have to be that way!" They just REALLY don't get it. It's kind of like when you tell someone that you're an Atheist, and they say, "well, if you're every interested, I would love to go over the Bible with you!"...as if I've never read the thing. Hell, I've read the thing more than they have! They can't even CONCEIVE of the POSSIBILITY that it's all a myth. It just goes back to, "well the Bible says...". Congratulations on coming out! I look forward to that day for myself. It's sad that your own daughter "tattles" on you to your step-father like you're a child. You're right. The majority of them are quite hopeless. That's why I don't waste my time. Good luck to you, as well :)

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