The Atheism E-Book

A composition of conversion stories from theism.

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2. Why I’m No Longer A Christian: The Story Of How I Became An Atheist

The Beginning (3-8 years old): To begin, when I was very young (around 3-4), my mother decided that she should take me and my sister to church because she felt it would help us learn right from wrong. We went to a local Baptist church where there were many other children around our age. This was in the 80s, so our family would often have get-togethers with other families from the church, and activities, etc...generally stuff you just don't do that much these days. Some of the activities my parents took us to do was going to visit the “White Jesus” at Eureka Springs, Arkansas—and other religion-based mini-vacations. This was also the time of fairy princesses, Rainbow Brite, Care Bears, etc., on television, and I was under the strongest belief that I was, myself, an undercover fairy princess. I did have fun in Sunday School. We learned lots of parables (which I remember believing these were just interesting, but fictional stories), colored, and sang songs. I was already above a 2nd-grade reading level by the time I hit kindergarten, so I wasn't just the average silly child. I read anything and everything I could get my hands on and asked billions of questions about everything. After Sunday School, we all went to sermon, which I don't really remember outside of me purposely skimming through the hymn book to find the one hymn I liked and loudly singing it no matter what everyone else was singing—and I was loud enough to be heard over 30 adults and a piano (my mom stayed mortified—I have so many stories about me and my sister being assholes). I also remember this police officer who attended our church, and he had all these little tabs marking the beginning of each chapter in his bible, so I would tear out one or two of them and I had a little collection going inside one of the hymnal stalls on the back of a pew. Several years after we began attending this church, one of the deacons started drinking and cheating on his wife—I didn't know this at the time, but I wanted to provide some sort of back-story from an adult perspective. Anyway, he became more belligerent and began taking out his anger on his Sunday School class—more specifically, their children. My parents were in their mid-20s and hadn't really been out of our small Arkansas town. My mother had gone to a local college for about 2 years before dropping out because they had me. My parents also hadn't experienced religion much as none of my grandparents were very religious. So all of this led to my parents believing this guy when he started spouting off about witchcraft and scandal in all of my favorite cartoons. Again, I didn't know this at the time, but all of this is important in my de-conversion. One key point that I recall was the lesson to “love thy enemy as thyself.” Later that night, I had been putting off the going-to-bed thing (because I had and still have night terrors, so sleep is not my friend) by having a chat with my parents about Sunday School. They always liked hearing what I thought I had learned. So I asked “Is Satan my enemy?” They responded “Yes, honey, he is!” (they were so excited!) So then I said, “Well, then I love Satan!” and they replied “What. Did. You. Say?!” (through gritted teeth). So I explained “Well in Sunday School, I learned that I should love my enemy like myself, and I love myself, so then I should love Satan too...” seeing their mad-faces “...right?” The response was something to the effect of “yes you should love your enemies, but not Satan because he's evil...so if we ever hear you say you love Satan again, you're getting a whippin' with the belt.” The Pentecostal Experience (8-16 years old): Soon the Baptist church went under because people stopped going and stopped paying tithes. By the time the church shut down, I had a brand new baby brother who I loved dearly. We didn't go to Sunday school for a while because my parents were trying out new churches every week to see which one they wanted to move to. They ultimately decided on a Pentecostal church (not the all-women-wear-dresses-all-the-time kind) which was about a half hour drive from our home. I was around 8 at this time. At this church, all the kids had Sunday School, where we would continue learning parables, but in more detail, and coloring, etc. We also learned about Hell, and I was NOT happy one bit to hear that all the animals I ever loved wouldn't be in heaven, nor would my darling baby brother as long as he wasn't baptized because he was born evil. After that, instead of going to sermon, we had our own version called “Children's Church.” I wasn't crazy about Children's Church. It started with a repeat of our Sunday School lesson, because all the children's classrooms learned the same thing, then we would watch these mega-lame not-cartoons about kids in a donut shop—to this day, I'm 26 now, I can STILL hear that fucking jingle, which goes “Life without God's love is like a donut, like a donut, like a donut...life without God's love is like a donut, cause there's a hole in the middle of your heart!” It never made sense to me because the entire time I'd been “saved.” I didn't feel ANY different than I had before I was “saved.” Eventually, Children's Church got taken over by this creepy guy from up north—like really, he was super creepy. He would always invite the kids to sleepovers at his house, and he was always trying to get me and my sister to join them, but our mom was like “HELL NO!” so we never went (she absolutely HATED that guy but didn't tell me why until I was almost 20). My sister and I ended up getting baptized, and leading up to it, we were told “This is going to be the one day you remember for the rest of your life.” Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately?), all I remember is having to wear a white robe that was too big with my swimsuit underneath, and having to stand in water so cold that I actually let out a swear word in front of the entire congregation. When I got into 7th grade, I got moved up to the high school class—mostly because in our area, 7th grade is considered part of high school. The teenagers weren't really that nice to me at all AND I had to start going to service. I wasn't really overweight at all, but I was a tween and starting to get some curves, and the older girls always made fun of me for being fat—which really actually affected me for years after. Church was terrible and I started to resent having to go, especially since my parents insisted on driving there for both services on Sunday, and again on Wednesday evening. In fact, several times I screamed that I would rather risk going to Hell than go to church because I wanted to watch Dinosaurs and the show was way more interesting than the preacher. Then I would get a spanking and get dragged to church, and forced to sit behind some kid who always pooped his pants. While at this church, there was much “rejoicing in the Holy Spirit” where everyone would run up and down the aisles, whoop and holler, and carry on with such nonsense. I wanted to do it just to do it, because I thought it would be more fun than sitting on a church pew, but my mother always threatened me with a whippin' when we got back home. My parents, needless to say, never participated in this. We got sent to two church camps every summer—one for this church, and one for my aunt's First Christian church (which was much tamer, less brain-washy, and more fun). The Pentecostal church camp had kids doing the same thing as in church, so I decided to see what that was all about. I went up there and started spazzing out like I'd seen all the adults do in real church, and they actually believed it was happening for me—so then, I couldn't stop or else I'd be outted as a liar and hypocrite. I was confused. I had thought maybe if I tried to start doing it, something would actually happen, but nothing did. Oh yeah, and church camp was super big on baptizing everyone in the pool every year, regardless of whether or not they had been baptized before. It wasn't “mandatory” per se, but they sure as shit expected you to do it. If you didn't choose to partake, I seem to recall you had to clean the recreation center by yourself instead of getting recreational time. This church also preached against the evils of evolution, Disney, other religions, school dances, drinking (which always made a few people squirm uncomfortably), being unclean (which I always assumed was not taking a shower—and on this sermon, I would always glare at the boy-who-pooped-his-pants), Santa Claus (luckily by the years he got started on this subject, I had already made sure all of the other kids knew Santa didn't exist because I sat up all night one Christmas Eve only to discover nothing—but I believed in the tooth fairy until I was 8 or 9), abortions (and he would tell us that aborted babies ended up in shampoo), lust (which was explained to me as having crushes on people and thinking impure thoughts—which I didn't understand until I got clarification), big fancy churches, homosexuals, liberals, several TV shows and movies, and many other subjects that I didn't have a full understanding of due to either being sheltered, or not paying attention because I had lost interest by that point. Especially the lust part, because in my tween years, I had a huge crush on one of the older boys in the church, and I began my journey into sinful self-gratification by thinking about him. When I was 14, my parents finally got the internet, and it was a whole new world that opened up for me. I began role-playing within the “Excite Talk!” community and my mother soon joined me. The friends that we made were mutual, and it was nice to actually have something to talk to my mom about. At about 15, I got my first “e-boyfriend” and it wasn't too long before we were doing the whole “cyborzing” thing. I got discovered by mom and banned from the chat rooms for a short while because I was participating in “immoral actions.” I was confused because of hormones, and the fact that messing around on the internet meant I was still a virgin. I was even more confused when I was told that discussions like that should only happy within the confines of marriage. Eventually, I came back and was introduced to the world of metal and hard rock. I had a part-time job, so I would spend some of my hard-earned money on CDs by bands like Coal Chamber, KoRn, Slipknot, etc. Eventually, my mom discovered these but only had a problem when she saw the goat skull (oh no! a satanic symbol) on one of the CDs. Then she took ALL of my CDs (except for the Christian rock-ish ones) to the next book-and-music-burning, courtesy of our church. I was furious. My anger only grew when the church members came around to congratulate me on voluntarily giving up my ties to the material, dirty, unspiritual world. The Baptist Experience (16-19 years old): Drama started happening at the church (later found out that several of the people who were always “in the spirit” on Sunday had started doing some hard-core drugs like meth and heroin—while others started sleeping around town) around my 15th year and my parents started having financial problems, so they decided it would be best to take us to a church closer to home. My dad kept suggesting several different churches, but I decided it would be in my best interest to go to a particular church (cough because there was a really cute boy who I was totally, like, in love with and stuff cough). My parents were pleased because I was showing a “genuine” interest in the spiritual livelihood of my family, so they took my suggestion and we started going to this Baptist church. I eventually realized that my huge plan of dating said cute boy from my church was a complete failure. Since I was a nerd of the marching band/computer club variety, and he was a popular jock, he mostly ignored the fact that I existed despite my obvious (and awkward) attempts at wooing him a la Meg Griffin. I joined the choir at the church because a school friend was in it and I really enjoyed singing. We were the only teens in the choir, but I still had fun going to the practices. I still didn't feel spiritual at all when attending church, but I figured maybe I was just too young to fully appreciate the feelings that all the adults always seemed to have, so I decided to be patient. I prayed a lot, especially when I started getting picked on in high school—nothing ever changed though. My parents told me to just ignore the kids who were picking on me, but it never worked. It was mostly the jock guys, whose table was conveniently next to the “lunch line” in the cafeteria, so I always had to pass by. Since my mom was a cafeteria lady, and we had more than one choice at lunchtime, she wouldn't let me bring my lunch. One of my major tormentors was a preacher's kid from another church in town. I was the type of girl who didn't wear much make-up (it made my face feel itchy) and wasn't much into dressing up. I certainly wasn't butch, and I was definitely heterosexual. That guy and some of his friends started a nasty rumor that I was a lesbian, which led to even more harassment from all over the school. One day, I got so sick of him picking on me, that I caught him in the hall and stuck my foot out, tripping him—then immediately prayed for forgiveness from God, but not the guy because I hated him. I started asking questions that made my Sunday School teacher uncomfortable—like about what those verses REALLY meant in the Lot story (you know the ones I'm talking about). Eventually, our pastor took over our class. I continued asking questions like “If we aren't supposed to judge and we are only human, then how and why do we determine what is and isn't evil?” and “Why do we refer to ourselves as sheep when being thought of as a sheep is generally a bad thing?” and “Why are women supposed to be submissive to their husbands? Isn't it a well-known fact that equality is key to a successful relationship?” My questions were always met with a resounding “I'll get back to you on that” with no actual response. Soon my classmates kept asking me why I was questioning things, and why didn't I just accept things. My hunger for knowledge was the real reason. I didn't see Christianity as a bad, terrible thing, but I was beginning to see it as somewhat misguided. Also, I suppose the pastor talked to my parents about all my questions because very soon after, they started picking fights with me about church, and my beliefs. The youth group decided to get me more involved in its activities; in hindsight, this was probably to take my mind off troublesome things, like thinking. One of our group activities was to go from door to door in the slummiest areas of our town, and try to convert nonbelievers to Christ. For some reason, the church pointed out a huge difference between atheists and nonbelievers. We were told that even though atheists are nonbelievers, they were the “soldiers of Satan” or some such nonsense. They (and homosexuals, of course) went about the world sowing discord and anarchy, and trying to turn people from the true path through Jesus Christ Almighty. We were also told that turning from the path of JC would cause a person to become severely depressed because s/he would no longer have a purpose in life—on top of that, not following JC would lead you straight to hell where you would be tortured for an eternity. Yes, a pure-oh-dee Southern Baptist hellfire and brimstone church. Now keep in mind, this was a tiny town in the Bible Belt—not a lot of atheists, or admitted atheists, around these parts. Pretty much every door we knocked on, the residents already attended church. In hindsight, this was a terribly prejudiced and dangerous activity. First, the church assumed that all nonbelievers lived in scuzzy houses—apparently you can't have a decent way of life without God. Second, they were having a bunch of teenagers and tweens trooping around the ghetto, banging on the doors of strangers' houses. Towards the end of my current church career, I figured out that most of the teens/young adults were having wild monkey sex, partying, and doing general ass-hattery. I started to distance myself from the church more than I had been—I'd already been smoking and drinking for a few years (started at about 16) and I hung out with either fellow nerds or “the bad kids” when I was away from church. I got to a point where I would spend the night at the houses of friends on Saturdays just so I wouldn't have to go to church because I didn't want to be bored or have to deal with the prissy kids in my youth group (who were also picking on me at school). Also, I did register several complaints with my parents, but for some reason, they thought I was just being a drama queen. When I was 18 and going to college the first time for computer science, I started dating a Mormon guy—he wasn't really practicing. I did try to convert him through BDSM sessions and kinky lingerie. It didn't work—something about him not being able to see Jesus through my bosoms. After we split up, he went crazy and ended up killing himself. I heard from someone that my name was on the suicide note, but I really don't blame myself. He was verbally abusive and not a good person. By the way, until my current husband, I've never had the best taste in men. I always seemed to go for the crazies. Husband #1 and Sowing My Wild Oats (19-21 years old): So at 19 years old, I decided that I would be better off leaving my parents and quitting school (well mostly the quitting school because I never went to class and lost my free ride scholarship). They had caught on to my skipping-Sundays-or-being-sick routine, but didn't know what to do about it besides yelling at me. This obviously didn't work. I was a jaded, rebellious teen who wasn't quite sure what I wanted from life, but I knew it wasn't this. So I left, and moved in with a boy. Words were exchanged with the parents, I was called a worthless whore and banned from their house. I didn't care because I was in love!~ So my first red flag was that he wouldn't get a damn job. Then the red flags kept coming and it went downhill from there. I managed to find a few odd jobs to keep us afloat until I scored a regular part-time job. I got us a shitty trailer in the bad part of town—and I mean shitty; you could see the ground outside if you looked at the floor. He tried to physically abuse me exactly once. He wasn't smart about it and tried to hit me while I was washing a cast iron skillet because I wasn't acquiescing in his demands about something or another that was retarded. He ran over, lifted his hand like he was about to slap me, so I pulled that skillet up out of the sink and told him that he might want to think about what he was doing. He stopped before I bludgeoned him to death. He went back into the living room, griping about me under his breath the entire way, and then started yelling at me about my actions earlier. So I walked in there where he was, grabbed the gigantic universal remote and popped him upside the head with it—so he responded by stealing my car. Now, any smart person would have left as soon as he got back, but I was bound and determined not to let my parents be right because I was a stupid 19 year old girl. I don't know if anyone has ever told you this before, but 19 year old girls are all stupid. We ended up moving in with his mother because I hurt my knee and couldn't keep the part-time job I had. In order to move in with her though, we had to get married—her stipulation. She went to some non-denominational church, so while she was home, she was preaching the entire time about how she was perfect and most people would never have that—but never mind the fact that she cursed like a sailor, smoked like a freight train, drank like a fish, and ate like a pig—PERFECT. So we got married, and I essentially went into it knowing it wouldn't work out. About a month later, I found out I was pregnant and I hadn't spoken to my parents at all in about 6 months. As soon as my mother-in-law found out about the pregnancy, she did everything she could to keep me upset constantly. I got a job at a pizza place and started going to a new Baptist church just to get out of the house. I was desperate and I would pray sometimes until my throat and eyes were raw from crying. As much as I normally don't like the kind of people who go to big fancy Baptist churches, some of these people sensed that something was wrong in my life and tried their best to help me. They gave me hot meals, a shoulder to cry on, gas money, etc. Eventually, I started talking to my mother again, and when she realized how bad my home life was, she urged me to move back in with them so she could help me take care of myself, and the baby when it got there. She wasn't happy about me being pregnant, but she was very understanding and kind of excited to be a grandmother. Back with my parents, I didn't have all that pressure and we weren't fighting because they didn't want me to be upset at all. I felt that maybe if I really gave the church my all, I would find that thing that I had been missing all of those years, and maybe God would help me get myself out of this situation. Unfortunately, my husband's family wanted me to be upset and kept calling all of our phones. Ultimately, I had a miscarriage, and to this day I attribute that to being constantly stressed out and upset. It was the most heart-breaking thing I ever had to endure, but in hindsight, it did end up being kind of a good thing. This did leave me feeling super anti-abortion for quite some time because I had baby-envy, and I wanted all women to feel the same way about their unborn children as I had about mine. I do not feel the same now as I believe women should have the right to their own vaginas—so please, religious people: keep your zealotry out of our vaginas, we do not want it there; you're essentially performing law rape on us and we don't like it one bit. When I realized that my new-found religious fervor was little more than a facade, I was incredibly disappointed. I really wanted to believe all of it, but I really didn't feel anything at all when I worshipped or prayed. I kept up the farce for quite a while because I didn't want to disappoint my dad—the whole marriage/baby debacle really hit him hard, and his health was getting not-so-good. In the meantime, I figured out a more effective way to deal with my heartache than Jesus—booze. I started going out to the bar—not to pick up men, mind you—and I drank a lot. As much as I disapprove of using alcohol to forget your problems even to this day, I needed it then. I would get all misty-eyed on Mother's Day, and I would have really terrible dreams about a parallel universe where I had the kid and my life went to shit. Anyways, I started coming home all shitty on Saturday night, then my parents would force me to go to church on Sunday morning with an obvious hangover. They sat me down and had an intervention about my alcohol abuse, and told me that I needed to go back to school. I agreed. Husband #2 and Addiction (21-24 years old): So I went back to school. This time, I went to a community college because I decided computer science required too much work. However, I loved computers and this particular college had an associates program in computer networking. So that is what I signed up for and I loved it. In one of my classes was an old friend who I hadn't seen in years. We started chatting, and ended up making out during a weekend long Star Wars fest (where we watched all 3 movies—and that new ripoff trilogy). Long story short, we ended up dating, then married in less than a year, and dropped out of college together soon-after. His mother was less than thrilled. We got back into church for a little while and gamed together—then he got himself fired. Then he didn't look for another job for about a month. Meanwhile, I was working 50+ hours a week at my job, and still wasn't able to make all our bills. So I said GTFO and he moved back in with his mom, so I moved back in with my parents. Later he got a nice job and asked me to come back to be his lovely housewife, so I agreed and we moved about an hour away. To anyone who doesn't already know, being a housewife tends to make you lose your sense of self. You clean the house, cook the food, get no real appreciation and feel like a mooch. So I lost myself in the bottle and WoW. I can safely say that I was abusing alcohol. I went through a fifth of Black Velvet a day along with 2 packs of cigarettes. I felt shitty most of the time because I barely ate, and supper became a trip to McDonald’s. Needless to say, my marriage began to crumble and we were both miserable. I tried praying, as an old standby, but nothing was happening and I realized that nothing ever would happen. I tried quitting the booze, but it always pulled me back in. Finally, we had our last straw in the form of another cat I had brought into the house (I already had 2). When I realized that I had a hard time choosing between my husband and the cat, I knew it was done; we were done. At some point in there, I hit my lowest point where I really, truly wanted to kill myself, just to end my suffering, but I realized that wasn't right and got myself a therapist before it got worse. She talked me through most of it, so I never had to resort to medication, but even to this day, I occasionally have dark moments. Neither my family, nor my friends, really knew about the suicidal tendencies until much more recently as I've been coming clean about how my life really went. My parents kept trying to get me to come back to church, assuring me that it would make me feel better, but I knew that it wouldn't. Religion and prayer had failed me for the last time. My sister came to my aid by offering to go in “halfsies” on an apartment. She already had the deposit and first couple months rent ready to go. She had just gotten out of college and had a nice job lined up in a bigger town. At this point, I began referring to myself as agnostic. Husband #Last One...No, Really...and My Realization of Disbelief (24 years old - present): So I moved to the bigger town with my little sister. When I initially went to the town, I saw a 'Help Wanted' sign on a bookstore and went in. There I met the beginnings of my current group of friends and my current husband. I got the job. I started chatting with my now-husband after one of our co-workers told me to ask hubby about the Star Wars role-playing game he was DMing. I always enjoyed talking to him because he always had something interesting to say and he always challenged my ways of thinking. For instance, I still held on to many widely held beliefs that I picked up during my years of church—like homosexuals, atheists, and dirty liberal hippies were bad. He just had to get me to actually sit and think about these things, and I came to my own conclusions. Once we started actually dating, we were completely inseparable. Also, since we've been together, I've lost my desire to drink, so now it's become a social thing only (and never to get drunk) rather than a necessity. After about 2 ½ years of dating, we decided to move in together before getting married. My parents took the news better than expected. They liked him, and could easily see that I was finally happy. They did say that they looked down on people who moved in together before marriage, but by this point, I was able to point out several successful couples I personally knew who had lived together before marriage. I also told them that after the last two, I flat refused to marry another person until I fully knew what I was getting myself into. Just before we started moving, he proposed to me and I think that made my parents feel better about it. We lived together from March 2010 until this past New Year's. We actually ended up having a dual ceremony because we weren't sure that we could find someone on short notice to perform a secular ceremony on New Year's Day. I had a friend, who is actually a Christian reverend, from my hometown come up on New Year's Eve and he performed a secular ceremony for us in our apartment with his lovely wife as a witness. In the middle of this, my cat decided that she would make an awesome backpack for me and sank her claws in my flesh as I said, “I do.” The ceremony we had planned for NY Day took place at his aunt and uncle's home, and our ordained atheist friend performed that ceremony. Then we had cake, which I demolished on accident—I dropped the top of it because I am super clumsy. :( Fast forward to a couple months ago: I had been studying several secular websites when I stumbled upon /r/atheism. I read everything on the front page, and in /r/atheistgems. I followed every link that I saw and just couldn't stop reading. Then one day, I was coding an assignment for my UNIX Class and decided to take a smoke break. Often I'll go out to smoke when I'm having a difficult time because it allows me to step back and process what I've been doing. Occasionally, I'll have a complete epiphany, and that's what happened on this particular day. I got outside, lit up and suddenly thought I don't believe in any gods. Then I thought that means, I'm not an agnostic—I'm an atheist. So I went back inside our apartment, and he turned around to look at me. I said, “I'm an atheist!” and he gave me that look and said, “Seriously? You really didn't know?!” And that was my fairly anti-climatic coming-out, but just knowing that I got myself through all of the hardships in my life was empowering. I look back on all that has happened and realize that I am a stronger person for it. Also, I have realized through all of this that I don't need religion to make me happy, and I'm happier without religion. A world without God scared me for such a long time, but it truly isn't a scary place. TL;DR – I was somewhat of a skeptic from a young age, and eventually realized that the only way to enjoy life was to admit to myself that I only believe in His Noodly Appendages. Also, since I've become an atheist, my life has gone from zero to hero as I am happily married and now have a super awesome job that I love, and I'm almost finished with a Bachelor's degree in Computer Science. Hoping to be finished within a year, like a boss.

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