There are so many misconceptions about why people lose faith in religion that I thought I would write an article about why I lost faith. Yet, in order to explain my loss of religion I have to explain why I was a Christian in the first place. It is something that I have pondered a lot lately.
The South," for those who don’t know, is a intensely religious area. It isn’t unusual to see billboards urging people to accept Jesus. Asking what church someone attends is just part of the social greeting here. It is assumed by many that if an individual is polite or kind that they must be religious. Being a good person is considered a sign of devotion to god.
Surprisingly, my mother wasn’t really religious. She was nominally a Southern Baptist but church was not a part of our life. I never saw mom read her bible or do anything particularly religious beyond praying. My maternal grandmother lived with us and she read her bible every evening. Pastors such as Billy Graham, Oral Roberts and Jimmy Swaggert were a part of our television viewing. Some of my fondest memories are staying up late with my grandmother when my mother was out. Nan would watch Billy Graham and I would read. It was a peaceful moment in what was otherwise an unstable childhood.
Because she was an attractive woman, mom dated a lot and married several times. As far as sexual purity, she didn’t seem inclined to follow any particular rules. When it came to her two daughters, especially me, she didn’t mind informing us that we were sluts and whores. Any attention to our appearance brought down my mother’s wrath. The worst thing that we could do was attract a man’s attention but to my mom, almost everything that we did was an attempt to draw male interest. The irony was that my mom was extremely focused on men. Although she quickly grew tired of any of her admirers, she always wanted men in her life and actively sought them out. No, don’t ask me to explain that to you. I don’t understand my own mother but I believe that she had undiagnosed borderline personality disorder. She was abusive, cruel and very manipulative.
In school, I was not popular but I wasn’t unpopular either. I was shy, nerdy and under confident but so are many kids. The only way that I really stood out was that I was a bit more bookish than my friends. I read voraciously, everything from history books to literature to science books. Knowledge was something that I loved even if I was only an average student. It was hard for me to make good grades when I had drama occurring at my house almost every night.
The only reason that I include such information about my childhood is to explain part of my mental makeup. I believe that I was trained to need authority. My mother expected instant obedience. Arguing with her or even having an opinion was not allowed. What ever she said was law and that was it. My mom often got compliments on how well behaved and polite her children were. The truth of the matter, we were terrified of my mom but because we said, “Ma’am” and “Sir”, many people assumed that she was a terrific parent.
The result was that I spent the first part of my adulthood desperate to discover the rules of life. I knew that there must be some unspoken, mystical law that if I followed, my life would not only be perfectly happy but that I would be a good person. It was very important to me that I not be my mom. My deepest fear was that I somehow would turn into her.
Many religions attracted my attention but I couldn’t stop myself from picking them apart. The reason that I became Christian had nothing to do with logic. In my early thirties, I was tired of searching. My family was Christian. Most of my early experiences had been with Christianity. The culture around me was Christian and my friends were all Christian. I capitulated, I admit it. One day, I admitted that I was a lowly sinner and asked Jesus to save me. It was an emotional event that caused me to cry as I contemplated how worthless that I was.
Afterwards, I began to read the bible and online Christian sources. If I was going to be part of a religion, damn it, I was going to go all hog. I became a fundamentalist and dressed in long skirts. My husband, who is a Christian, begged me not to become submissive. But I knew that the bible states that women are to obey their husbands, so secretly I began to try to obey him. It almost ruined our marriage. My husband hated the way I acted. No longer did he have a wife with a twisted sense of humor and a smart mouth. Instead I turned into a smiling version of a stepford wife. Admittedly, I was also a bit of a pompous ass. His reaction was to become more sarcastic, which made me seethe inside. The resentment almost tore apart our marriage.
At this point, my need to pick everything apart came into play. I began to notice inconsistencies in what the pastor taught and what the bible says. Desperate to keep my faith, I converted to Catholicism. Believe it or not, Roman Catholicism is far more liberal than American fundamentalism. Yes, that is a strange thing to say, but it is true. What I didn’t know was that I was already leaving my faith behind. Granted, I wanted to remain a Christian but my brain had already started working. The questions wouldn’t stop. Yes, I loved the rituals of Catholicism. And there is room for acceptance of evolution, something that I never doubted. (I was never a young earth creationist) The problem is I couldn’t not question.
An event occurred that brought my doubt to a head. Although I won’t say what, one of my children did something that disappointed me. God is supposed to be the perfect parent. When we disappoint him, he sends us to hell, a place of eternal torture. It would never occur to me to torture my child. I didn’t want anything bad to happen to my offspring. Of course, some people will point out that god forgives us and welcomes his children back. The key is that the ‘child’ has to admit how worthless that they are before they get forgiveness. My child did not have to do that. If anything, I had to accept their decision and get over my own disappointment. Suddenly, I realized that I was a better parent than god. God was not only a poor parent, he was a giant douche and that realization started an entire series of crashes in my head. Like a card house falling, my faith disappeared. It was painful but once it was gone, it was gone.
There are some common misconceptions about why people are atheists. Let me address those here. I did not become an atheist because I hate god. Not believing in something doesn’t mean that you hate it. I don’t detest flying unicorns or little green men. They simply don’t exist so I don’t believe in them.
Christians have not done something so horrible to me that I gave up my faith in disgust. There are good people who are Christians and bad people who are Christians. I admit that I don’t see any indication that the holy spirit has any effect on a person’s compassion but that doesn’t meant hat I resent religious people. And no, I didn’t give up Christianity so that I could have orgies or read porn. Believe it or not, I am a boring person. Most of my interest involves reading and drawing. Sorry, I am just not that exciting. Actually, I am a bit of a nerd.
The reason that I lost my faith is ultimately because Christianity makes no sense. It is contradictory and the god of the bible is cruel. There is no evidence for a deity that can’t be explained by science. I just don’t believe it.
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