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By Mandy ~

My name is Mandy and I am 39. I was first drawn to this ex Christian website years ago right after I had my first daughter who is now almost 16. During that time I have flip flopped back and forth to Christianity. I donʼt much care for labels but if I had to use one I consider myself agnostic. I grew up in southwest Virginia in the Appalachian mountains, part of the Bible Belt. My parents considered themselves to be Baptist, of some sort or another but my dad didnʼt attend church when I was a child since he was too busy drinking and abusing everyone around him. He still loved however to tell us on drunken binges how he was supposed to have been a preacher and often would make my mom or I pull a Bible out and read scripture. Whatʼs worse than normal preaching I ask you? Drunken preaching with no doubt.

We didnʼt attend church regularly but when we went it would be to one church for awhile and then a different one later - ranging from your typical southern baptist church to Pentecostal, Holiness churches, and churches of Christ. I accepted the Lord as my Savior when I was only 12. I did so at a church of Christ that was in our town. I recall the preacher talking of how Jesus had died for our sins and I remember how much guilt I felt at such an early age. I had heard all the preaching about hell any one person could stand before utter fear set in. That was already there and I supposed I was old enough to do the one thing that I thought and was told would hopefully save me from that hell, accept and believe in Jesus. I already had an unhealthy fear of my own death and the deaths of those around me so the promise of an eternal Heaven where I could once more be with them was all too enticing.

I was always inquisitive as a child and obviously remain that way as an adult. I have concluding that asking questions and seeking answers is the path the learning. I mean it seems to me what any sane, rational person would do if they want to know anything; to learn more about the things that interest them. My questions about God, Jesus, the Bible or anything relating to it were not usually met with much enthusiasm though. In fact I was told that the Devil is the author of confusion and what I was feeling wasnʼt from God. I was told that my questioning seemed like doubt and told to read about someone named Thomas. Supposedly I was like Thomas simply because I wanted answers. I went to a public school which thankfully taught some about evolution and the scientific origins of the earth and humans but I had been told it was all bullshit by my parents and I recall many people protesting what we were being taught. People screamed that God was being taken out of schools and claimed we were being taught an evil, false belief. I one day got up the nerve to ask about dinosaurs and why they werenʼt mentioned in the Bible. I was at my grandparents and asked my dad that. He told me that dinosaurs were fake and when I inquired about the bones he said scientists made them. I must have said something that wasnʼt pleasing to him because he slapped me straight across the face, across my mouth. I guess thatʼs the price for asking questions.

I read the Bible and tried to study it as best I could. I still to this day have never read it fully through and have no intentions of doing so or desire to do so. Iʼve read certain books of the Bible through entirely and honestly have been preached at enough in my life to have a full understanding of what it contains. Truly I am unimpressed with much of it. We read about barbaric rituals that other religions have committed throughout the years with human sacrifice, women being treated as lesser than men, crimes such as rape and abuse not being punished and oftentimes even condoned, genocide, murder, things like slavery being not only the norm but the how-toʼs outlined in black and white, eternal damnation and punishment for disbelief, eternal damnation and punishment for living certain lifestyles or doing certain things and we are shocked, we are appalled. Many people donʼt realize these things are also included in the Christian Bible. If they do know this they try to say that was in the Old Testament and that’s just how things were then but that argument doesn’t hold water for me. They try to say, Godʼs ways are not our own. Thankfully, I think to myself.

Anyhow fast forward years into my life, I left home when I was 17 because I could no longer live in the toxic, abusive, alcoholic mess that engulfed me. I felt physically free of that when I left but of course the effects still haunt me to this day. I only hope one day I may heal entirely from it. I was afraid to have my own children because I didnʼt want to be the people my parents were. My Mom tried her best, I guess other than committing the grievous act of keeping us in that horrible situation. I felt so much guilt for leaving my younger brother and mom there with him but I couldnʼt make them leave. Thatʼs not all that haunted me and followed me, the religious beliefs I had been taught came with me. The fear, the guilt, the shame of wanting to just live my life was enough to drive a person insane. I felt guilty for nearly everything I did or said. Many people would say it was the Holy Spirit convicting you. It was simply me being fearful of slipping and somehow losing my faith, my salvation. It was simply psychological warfare going on in my mind.

I went to a few churches during the years. I was baptized like 3 different times. I wasnʼt ever sure it had been done correctly or if I was attending the “right” church. The messages were all so different from each. I began to wonder if this is so very important and my eternity and everyone else’s eternities are at stake based on this then why can’t a more concise clear message that is not interpreted a million different ways not be made available. Thereʼs Christianity but then thereʼs like thousands of different versions of it, differing denominations. All man made. With that thought I began to wonder if it was all possibly man made. Was it possible that man was not made in the image of God but God in the image of man? I automatically felt even more guilt at that point and tried to bury my thoughts and feelings regarding that.

I was married once from 18 to 21. I realized I had made a mistake marrying this person though and couldnʼt see myself spending my whole life with him. I also wanted to live life more and try more things. I danced in a strop club for 8 months at the end of our marriage. That part of myself surprised even me. It felt empowering but there were times I was ashamed and afraid that I was doing something very sinful. I began drinking some and for years that was out of hand. I remarried a man I met in the club when I was 22 and we had our first child when I was 23. We have been married now for 16 years, going on 17. We have 3 girls who will be 16, 9, and 5 this year. I am currently sober now for going on 7 months now. Thatʼs truly the best decision I ever made but itʼs not been the easiest thing I have ever done thatʼs for certain. I, of course, didnʼt drink constantly through the years. I quit for years at a time and didnʼt drink while pregnant or nursing my children. I think the longest time I was sober before was 3 years straight.

Drinking plays a huge part of all this because Iʼm certain I was self medicating to ease my anxiety about my past. I also have OCD. I talked to psychologist and psychiatrist and was on antidepressants like Prozac and then Wellbutrin for a few years. I quit taking them cold turkey though and that wasnʼt exactly smart but I currently am not taking any medication. Not sure if thatʼs a good idea or not but Iʼm coping and most importantly Iʼm sober. Iʼm pretty sure my drinking would have wound up killing me. People often talk about the mental health issues religiosity brings about and I know that for me it has definitely caused a tremendous deal of mental suffering.

I will likely never admit to my family how I truly feel because I don’t have the energy for the arguments and endless pandering and preaching to me that will no doubt occur. I, as a parent, have refused to indoctrinate or force religion on my children. My oldest identifies as an atheist and this was long before I personally came to more solid conclusions about my own feelings on the subject. I think indoctrination is wrong. Even if I was a person of faith. If I were a person with a strong belief in a God that would send me to an eternal hell for not believing I still disagree in pushing my children to believe in that God. I feel that what my children want to believe and feel are their personal choices. I feel that if an all powerful God exists then that God would have the power to reveal and draw my child. I fail to see how pushing a child in a certain spiritual direction is in any way free will. Most importantly, I myself, have experienced extreme psychological, emotional, and mental issues because of my forced exposure to religion. The damage is ongoing and continues to affect so many parts of my life and relationships.

After I left home my Dad continued to drink and be abusive for years. A few years ago he got saved at a tent revival. I was there. He stopped drinking that day and of course credits that to God. For him, this was a wonderful thing. I didn’t care what it took for him to stop drinking, I was and am just happy he did. The problem for me was that my parents began to attend a certain church. The church they attend and have attended now for years doesn’t claim to be any denomination but closely resembles a Pentecostal, Holiness, Baptist charismatic church. There are some points from all of those that I notice. The preacher’s sermons are full of hell and brimstone, speaking against homosexuals, drinking, women working, women wearing makeup, women wearing pants, the importance of tithing, and he also believes people can lose their salvation. While I considered myself a Christian, my understanding of the Bible led me to believe and feel that salvation couldn’t be lost. That just because a person drank or a man had long hair, or a woman wore pants, or a person listened to rock music they could still be a Christian. In their narrow view they don’t believe this. There was literally no way I could remain a Christian if I had to believe the way they did.

I was drinking one night and called my parents because I wanted to talk about something they had said. They had expressed to me that they thought my husband and I were going to hell because we drank. Anyhow one thing led to another and before I knew it I was on the phone with their preacher. I kept my cool pretty well. I was still trying to hang onto whatever bit of faith in God I could at that time and after my conversation with this man it was severely damaged. He told me that I must believe in another Jesus than he did and that he didn’t think I was ever truly saved. In a conversation with my parents later they agreed with him although they know what he said to me, hurt me. I asked both the preacher and my parents if they thought people had to live perfect lives in order to make it to Heaven and not end up in hell and they said yes, that no sin was going to be allowed in Heaven. I asked what about someone who lies and before they can ask forgiveness gets shot in the head, or dies in their sleep, or dies in a fire, some sudden death where they don't have time to ask forgiveness. I asked about my cousin who recently died in a car crash and had been drinking. I asked about people of other religions, about people of other faiths before Christ even came to earth. I asked about my other cousin who is transgender. They assured me that according to the Bible they were all most likely going to or were in hell. To me, that is pretty sad and cruel. How can that be just?

I will likely never admit to my family how I truly feel because I don’t have the energy for the arguments and endless pandering and preaching to me that will no doubt occur. I don’t have the patience for the same old tired useless crap that will ensue. I also don’t want to hurt, disappoint, worry or anger my parents. I, too do not want to be hurt anymore. I am tired of being told that I am worthless without Christ and that I can do nothing without Christ. I am tired of being told that everything good that happens in my life is and should be attributed to Jesus. I am tired of when bad things happen in life and horrible reprehensible actions occur, the all powerful God cannot be called into question regarding why that God failed to intervene. I am tired of people like my sister in law telling me she saw and heard a demon in her house. Go see a psychiatrist! I am tired of my 4 year old being chastised by my father, brother and other family for saying Oh my God, telling her it is blasphemous. Who the fuck says that to a 4 year old? I am tired of my oldest daughter overhearing my own mother telling my niece that my children don't know anything about Christmas except Santa Claus. What the fuck? I feel guilty for even playing that Santa exists with my 4 year old! Goddamn. I am tired of feeling as though I must allow my children to attend my parents church when they go to visit them which is rare because they don't have fucking time for anything but church. I am tired of being told that if I curse I will go to hell and that doing so shows I am not a true Christian. Of course they may have a point there, lol. I am tired of being around pretenders and not just being around them but being pushed to play pretend with them. I am tired of getting Bible verses texted to me all throughout the day from multiple people in my family although I have asked them individually to stop. Whoever created blocking on the iphone, thank you. Please create a block feature where I can selectively block bible verses so I don't have to block my own mother. Please. I am tired of being lied to and told that as Christians they do not sin any more, not that I even believe in sin but true Christians supposedly don’t sin according to what my parents believe. I am tired of relying on faith when it is clearly not reliable, rational, or reasonable. I am tired of seeing my niece and nephew indoctrinated although I am powerless to stop this. I am tired and sad that I feel I have lost my family to a cult. I am sad that they never come and see me because they are too damn busy going to church to come see me and my children. I am tired and fucking angry that they likely see me as lost, as broken, as having no moral compass. I am hurt that I know how they would view me if they really knew how I felt. I would be considered an apostate, reprobate, deserving an eternal hell. They would feel this same way about my daughter.

I am just fucking tired. I was almost too tired to type this out here but I felt it necessary for myself and maybe others to get this out of me and out into the open. Perhaps sharing this about my life will help others heal some.