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Mourning the Church

By UKCatLover ~

My story begins as an 8-year-old girl listening to a bedtime story with her dad. I loved story time with dad and always managed to convince him to read two to me. I listened as his calm voice told me about dragons, fairies, mermaids and far away realms. He also read to me stories about Jesus, we had several books about the parables and the life and times of Jesus. These were obviously aimed at children. Dad read these books to me in a slightly different tone, more serious. He explained that all these things happened. At this age I thought Jesus must have been like a superhero and very cool. decided I loved Jesus and God and prayed to them with Dad after the stories each night.

At church on a Sunday, there were more stories of God's love and Jesus, I remember being told that the children will inherit the kingdom of heaven. But most of all I remember being told that God loves me and even if I was the only person on earth Jesus would still have come and died for me. I felt very special. Even at this age I did have questions though. Why couldn't I see Jesus? why isn't he still on earth today? Was Jesus magic? Mum replied that magic is evil and to do with the devil, that was a whole new conversation. But we read about Wizards who are good guys? They are magic. I was a little confused. Harry potter came out in the movies and most of the Evangelical and very conservative church did not go to see it. The pastor actually recommended to my father that he takes me to see it as it shows good winning over evil and there are good morals to the story. I loved Harry Potter, but that was as far as mum and dad let things go. Halloween was a no-no. I had to go to a 'light party'. We bobbed for apples and played party games. I read leaflets about how the devil tries to manipulate people on Halloween and that it’s not harmless fun at all but very scary. I was petrified that demons were around on Halloween night as a result of these leaflets and pastors preaching. I slept in bed with mum that night.

I recall lying in bed at night having been told about the reality of the devil and demons and thinking that any bump in the night or coat hanging up could be a ghost or demon or the devil himself! I also remember getting up to read my bible to try and calm me down and comfort me 'because Jesus had power over the devil and I had Jesus!' I read revelations.... I was now even more scared and spent another night in bed with mum to feel safe.

It wasn’t all bad. I had kings kids (youth group) on Wednesdays, church on a Sunday with all my friends, and some Sundays I would go to church with my cousin. After church roast dinner with grandma and granddad, followed by playing in the tree house and making mayhem in the countryside where they lived, in the evenings on a Sunday another youth group where they had a pool table and the bigger kids were really cool!

It was lovely and I still hold those memories dear. I remember feeling very safe and I had this huge support network around me. Not to mention an almighty god who could do anything looking out for me! Those memories still make me feel all warm and fuzzy to this day. I think this is part of the reason why I am struggling to let religion go so much, it just feels wrong, when I look at a forest sometimes even now I still feel God, it sounds nuts…

I didn’t know what hell was until I was about 11/12, this kind of stuff was kept away from me until now, all of the negative stuff about Christianity didn’t surface until I hit around this age, I guess it all started to unravel and the de-conversion process started here. I couldn’t understand how god could punish his children FOREVER. I get that some people are evil. But you can go to hell for rejecting Jesus? Why couldn’t Jesus show himself to these people as evidence and then everyone would believe and there would be far less people in hell. Also Why forever? Surely just for a limited time and then invite them to heaven. Or just erase evil people like Hitler from existence. Surely god is all about forgiveness and mercy. I began to think god might do evil, or worse be non-existent.

What about the little babies that die or the people who live in tribes? Mum said that they are an exception and god will have mercy on their souls. However the pastor had a slightly different view. What about my kitten will she go to heaven? Mum said yes, dad said maybe, church said no. If the word of God was right then why couldn’t everyone agree? I then discovered all the different denominations and their slightly different views as well as Mormons and JWs. Hmm, who is right, am I in the right religion, am I going to heaven? Wait what if Islam is right or Hinduism. I panicked and asked mum, don’t remember what she said but it helped, how lucky I was to be in the one true religion…

As I grew into a young lady I learned for the first time about what Gay people were. You have to remember I did have a VERY sheltered childhood. I couldn’t understand why it was such a big problem for God as they were not hurting anybody. I remember various people around me likening them to pedophiles. I did not agree with this at all, my experience of gay people was that they were kind, friendly and fun! But I had to obey god so I kept them at arm’s length.

“What do you mean women cant teach in this church?!” I argued as I found out that the new church I was attending with younger people my age 15/16 would not permit a woman to teach apart from to other women or children. It was something to do with the women being told to be quiet in the church in the bible, and eve persuading Adam to eat the apple. What a load of Bollocks. Surely god cant mean this. I checked my Bible, I checked google and I consulted mum and dad. They said that Jesus made man and woman equal but for different roles, this is not how church put it. Mum said other churches allow women to teach but that I’m not interested in ministry anyway so there is no point in arguing the point.

I became more curious as to what the bible ACTUALLY said about women, I took a look on an atheist website and came to the conclusion that the God of the old testament really hates women. I was awash with tears, this isn’t the god of equality and love I was taught about. God couldn’t care less if I was raped or slaughtered and seem to prize my virginity over any other aspect of who I am. I went to college. From here things just went downhill more.

I got with a non-Christian boyfriend who showed my different viewpoints, I got into astronomy big time and learned about the universe, I learned about the big bang, evolution, all the overwhelming evidence for it. My mind was BLOWN. I still clung on to god somewhere in the middle of this he must have kick-started things, he must have been the driving force behind evolution and the big bang. I did wonder though when I looked at the way evolution works.

Still God was what I had known from childhood and I was frightened that if I became an atheist I was going to hell. Mind you atheists had sex with their boyfriends, and were allowed to lots of stuff I couldn’t. What is the big deal with sex before marriage, maybe the bible was written like that because there was no such thing as protection back then, I’m in a loving relationship I thought, this isn’t just casual sex. I still felt insanely guilty for fornicating though sometimes.

I attended the Christian club at college and met in my free period each week, we discussed these issues and it was really good to listen to other viewpoints. For a time, my faith became stronger. I wanted to be single and started to date some Christian guys, but the ones I dated were sexist and had the personalities of a paper straw. In no way would I generalise all Christian guys, this is just my experience.

I was frightened that if I became an atheist I was going to hell.I started to question why I was going to church when I didn’t agree with a lot of the viewpoints, nothing seemed to add up anymore, I started to realise that nobody had the answers, also nobody read their bible properly. I would disagree in my head all the time about things. I can remember watching the pastor get so angry in the pulpit about the gay marriage legislation that he cried. I thought it was absolutely pathetic. Eventually after I had a fall out with one of the women who went to church there who I can only describe as being the biggest hypocrite on earth did I decide to leave that church. I then delved into the world of Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins and even what Ricky Gervais had to say on the subject really resonated with me. Finally, some clarity, finally things made sense. It was a breath of fresh air and suddenly everyone around me looked really really stupid.

All the feeble arguments could not stand up against the evidence I had piled up. I had a discussion with family members only to be told that they are really worried about me and for my brother to make fun of me for being an atheist. Eventually I just lied to mum and dad and went along with it all to get them off of my back. The thing that really frustrated me was that they would not listen to reason, even when I was showing them the proof of evolution and the proof we have about carbon dating. Mum even came out with daft things like, the dinosaurs were in the garden of Eden and didn’t eat each other until after the fall of man. I tried to reason and tell her that a T-Rex with all those teeth did not graze on plants. Mum wouldn’t budge.

I went about my daily life a secret atheist, and luckily mum and dad didn’t go to church all that much by this point due to my grandmothers ill health and loneliness and dads work taking up most of my parents time. So church was more of a once a month thing now, and even then I was old enough to say I’m not going this week. But even after all this evidence against Christianity my deconversion was not complete and my addiction to god and all the familiarity, and comfort it brought would once again rear its head. I would move out with another boyfriend from my home at the age of 21. Much to my mother’s dismay, she was devastated. Mum stayed at home to look after us kids due partly to her beliefs. Don’t get me wrong, my mum is a wonderfully kind and accepting woman and she truly did what she thought was best for us. To this day I can’t really bring myself to come out of the atheism closet to her as it will break her and my fathers hearts. I can remember what its like to worry that someone you love is going to burn for all eternity because some arse hole in the sky hasn’t provided enough evidence of his existence to warrant belief in them.

Once I had moved out I started to suffer quite badly with an anxiety related condition, and a bit of depression. This made me long for the comfort I felt when I was still religious, and I would always feel that strange pull whenever I walked past a church or saw anyone religious. I really missed the camaraderie that came with it all. Shame I missed out the negative bits. I started to think well maybe I was wrong and I could try and believe again. I mean I was sure I had felt God’s presence at times and I had heard of various miracles and my mum even claimed to have had an encounter with an angel. Mum would never lie.

I really do think that religion can be an addiction, it does provide a high. This has been proven by scientists scanning the brains of Tibetan monks in meditation as well as Catholic Nuns in prayer. The other problem is that I was wired for religion if you like. Ricky Gervais put it quite nicely on YouTube. When your brain is forming and you are young you listen to what mum and dad tell you in order to survive. I.e. don’t touch the fire, keep away from tigers. Parents also say there is a God and you will go to hell if you are bad. This is now wired in forever. Obviously there is more brainwashing to it than that. But it makes so much sense.

What doesn’t make a great deal of sense is me joining up with the local community church, not getting on with the people there. Apparently you have to be a doctor or a lawyer or just very middle class indeed to fit in there. Pair that with my half-arsed attempts at converting my fiancé at the time and the whole thing was a bit of a train wreck. My fiancé was getting frustrated with me and didn’t understand why I have changed my mind and wanted to be religious again. But I even got him to say the sinner’s prayer just to ease my mind. I really didn’t want him to go to hell. Even though I wasn’t fully convinced it was a place at all.

Nan got cancer, aggressive cancer too, she was gone within a couple months. My mother and I thought she was not eating as much and was losing weight. But Nan was stubborn and insisted she was okay and just wanted to stay trim. I remember the nurses at the hospice giving her a wooden cross that she clang to and kissed. I remember looking at her do this and knowing deep down in my heart that nan is going to really be gone forever when she dies, I wouldn’t see her again. That is why I spent the rest of the time I had with her by her side as often as I could. Its so important to tell the people that you love that you do love them. It has so much more gravity and importance now that I know that the end really is the end.

I started to go to a Pentecostal church which was much more friendly. The people there were especially nice. I attached to one lovely lady there that ran the youth group who was a bit older than myself but beautiful inside and out. She was the kindest lady I have met in a long time. I took my fiancé at the time there occasionally and eventually left to find another church closer to home. We found one and I would usually go alone and sometimes bring my best friend at the time.. That is until she slept with my partner two months before our wedding.

How could god let this happen to me. I didn’t deserve this, and I couldn’t forgive this. I only ever tried to be a good person. I came to the conclusion that life is very unfair. I went into quite a dark place for a few months but then I healed. But I will add, I did it by myself and with the help of friends and family. No god to be seen. I was invited by my cousin to go to an alpha course, I attended to pay lip service to my family and keep everyone happy. There was still a part of me that longed for god to be real, longed for a sky daddy to make it all better and make me feel safe and secure. There was also that pull and temptation to go too. My life was turned upside down. I had to move back home with mum and dad. The only trouble was that was far too far away from my work. Luckily my heavily religious aunt and uncle would put me up until I found a new place as they live much closer to my work. I am grateful for their help in my time of need, but what their motives were I am not sure. By this time I was 24, I was old enough to make my own choices but I was not allowed to let my new boyfriend stay over or anything. They did stretch to allowing him upstairs though. I stayed there for a while as I healed from heartbreak and then got to know my new man.

Fast forward to when I moved in with my new man, I was very happy with him and started to enjoy a life free from the confines of religion. The pull of the church came back though. This is when I discovered I found other people who had similar feelings to me. I realised I was not the only one who knew religion was a farce deep down but still having a part of you longing for it. I came across people who wrote beautifully written testimonies, and it has been an enormous help in moving on from religion.It has helped to debunk the apologetics I have come across and all of the arguments for religion, I have learned a lot from this place. Even though my experience of religion was not a particularly horrible one, I have seen the incredibly ugly and evil side to it. I want nothing to do with any of it any more. I also learned what Cognitive dissonance is. Its amazing how much better I felt being able to name the condition I had so to speak. My brain has been programmed by all those around me since I was small to believe, act, think a certain way. That’s going to be really hard to get over. But I need to be strong and walk defiantly away from what I have always known. As I write this final paragraph the whole thing seems very final. I am hoping that I have come to the end of my long journey of Deconversion. The last few days I have definitely felt more of a peace about it. (oh that sounded really Christian). There is one quote that has been helping me and I want to leave it here to help others who may be feeling afraid and want to be brave…
“Courage is not the absence of fear but it is moving forward despite the fear”
Thanks for reading.