12/13/2014 | Share this article: View CommentsBy Tania ~
November 15, 2015 -- that's the earliest date on which I will attend a regular church service again. I cannot do this anymore. I can't.
I don't normally open a hymnal, read the title of the hymn that we -- the congregation -- are about to sing, and slam it shut...but that's what I did a few weeks ago. The inside of my head was screaming, for the hundredth time, I don't agree! I can't sing this! This is NOT me anymore! My brother and his wife were sitting beside me, and they sang, and the other people sang. I just bit my lip to keep from screaming or crying -- or both -- and tried to distract my mind with other things. I just can't do this anymore.
And we stood for prayer, because that's what we -- they -- do. They pray for those in the church, in the city, across the world. And I stood, closed my eyes, bowed my head...and would have rather been out there, visiting someone in a nursing home, giving $5 to a homeless person who might not even really be homeless, reading Psychology Today magazine to get a better understanding of how people function, going for a long walk so I can clear my head a bit and reflect on the areas in my life that need improvement.
And the pastor -- he preached. I don't remember much of what he preached. I just remember that at one point, he made a comment about "the unbelievers," "the atheists." As though we chose this. As though we are selfish, unkind, lazy. As though this is an easy journey.
And then we got up, sang another hymn, made small talk, and left the building.
And I drove home. And I listened to the radio, and reflected on the day, and opened the car window because it just got so warm and I couldn't focus and I couldn't drive...I pulled over on the side of the highway, throat sore from screaming, I can't do this anymore. I f---ing can't do this anymore.
Worlds apart -- that's what's running through my head as they all sing and pray and listen. Worlds apart.The hymnal, the songs about the power of the blood, and how lost we are, how deeply mired in sin we are....
The prayers, this attempt to care...but to keep a safe distance, to speak but not to act....
Worlds apart -- that's what's running through my head as they all sing and pray and listen. Worlds apart.
The words of condescension from a pastor who probably has no idea of what it means to shed one's faith. Who probably has no idea how confusing and scary it is to lose that part of our identity. Who probably has no idea that sometimes it's no problem to sing along with verse 1, but when it comes to verse 2 or 3 or 4, we're just shaking our heads at the absurdity of it all. Who probably has no idea how bizarre it is to realize one day that it's so much easier for us to relate to Sam Harris than to Billy Graham.
I cannot imagine saying goodbye to this church forever. It's been part of my life since I was a kid. For the last couple of years, I've had mixed emotions about it - I like the people, I like certain parts of the service...yet, this isn't me anymore. This hasn't been me for a long time. It's been three years now since the start of my deconversion, and I now consider myself agnostic/leaning-towards-atheist. Some weekends, I still attend church with my family -- they know about my "struggles" and "doubts," but it's not something we talk about it much detail. But I think I'm finally done trying to ease others' worries about me, to make them feel more "comfortable" and happy to know that I'm at least still attending services.
I think, also, of the countless times I've sat there, baffled, empty, angered...and I can't f---ing do this anymore. Weddings, funerals, that's it. Maybe in one year I'll give it another chance. But for now, I'm leaving that door closed.
And I'll get in my car, and I'll drive out to the countryside, and I'll find peace and comfort in the long stretches of road in front of me, in nature, in silence.
And I'll go for a walk on the coldest night of winter and see snow falling and a full moon...and I'll be amazed by the beauty of it all.
And I'll go to work and my co-worker will tell a joke that has me doubled over, and I'll know that life is good.
And maybe I'll have a really bad day next week, but a friend will email or call or hug me tightly, and I'll know that there is love, and there is hope, and there is even this thing called faith. It doesn't always exist where we expect it to, but it most certainly exists out there.