By T.S. ~
Dear Mom and Dad,
It is quite difficult for me to discuss this with you, but I have decided to be honest with you in spite of the hurt and grief this letter will cause you. I wish I did not have to share this, I would willingly do anything to spare you pain, but if I am to continue having an open and honest relationship with you, it has to be said. I cannot pretend that I belong to the church any longer or that I share the same beliefs as those in the church. First of all, I would like to say that I love and respect you very much and I do not want you to blame yourselves for my decisions or beliefs. I am an adult and I make my own decisions and live with them. You are wonderful parents and I know you have meant the very best in raising us. I do not blame you for anything.
The last few years have been very difficult for me in several ways. I have had lots of turmoil in my life, and the religious beliefs that I have lived with have at times made me quite depressed, anxious and stressed out. I mention this, because in the church, there seems to be a denial of the difficulties and stress that these beliefs place people under, and they can have a real and lasting impact on health issues, both physical and mental. It has been much more important for me to regain some sense of mental and physical health again than to start "living in sin", as people in the church would call it. I think you deserve to know this. My health is far more important to me than anything else.
I do not want to get into more detail about these things, as discussing them distresses me. The main thing I would like to say is that I recognize that I do not share the belief of the church that thinking about things rationally is a sin. I can no longer hold the belief that a god gave us the gift of rational thought and then he demanded that we be able to suspend it and have faith, and by doing so we get to heaven.
I have decided to be honest about my change in beliefs, and although I expect that this will be shocking to you, the reason I do so is because I have no desire to be warned about the dangers of hell and of god’s punishment, when I don’t believe in them myself. I am agnostic, and I do not believe in the doctrine of original sin, or in a reward of heaven or punishment of hell. I have no desire to go into any detail about how or why I no longer believe this way, because I know that what I say will be taken as evidence of how far I have “fallen away from God”, and so I see no point in discussing my beliefs. I feel that doing so would only bring more pain for all of us. The only thing I will say on this topic is that my time as a Sunday school teacher opened my eyes to the realities of the Bible and doctrines that I do not agree with, and I could no longer close my eyes and continue to teach and instill such fear and beliefs in small children. I know you hold a completely different perspective of this as you see things “by faith”, and so I won’t go into further detail. However, I would like to ask that my beliefs be respected and that I be left in peace, as I respect the right of those around me to believe the way they wish. Those who believe in a different way do not deserve to be subjected to emotional abuse by being told that they are destined to a place of everlasting torture.
Leaving the church is not a simple or joyous process for the person leavingLeaving the church is not a simple or joyous process for the person leaving, and I need time and space. I hope you can gain some peace with my change in beliefs, and remember that they are my beliefs and that you are not at fault in any way for them. The church would have you believe that you have been unsuccessful parents, and places a huge burden of guilt on parents if their children leave the church. This is completely unacceptable, as grown adults are completely responsible for their own actions.
I would also appreciate it if you could consider the fact that often it appears that believers’ pain when their loved ones depart the church appears to be placed on the person leaving the church, as they are considered to be in error. In reality, this pain is not caused by those who leave, but by the beliefs that those in the church hold, that their loved ones are going to a place of everlasting torture. It pains me greatly that religion has destroyed the close bonds our family once had, because some believe that the others are going to hell, and are judgmental about the way in which they live. I can do nothing to change this, because the grip of this religious belief is so all-consuming that it sometimes becomes more important than even familial love.
I love you very much mom and dad, and wish this did not cause you pain, but it is important for me to be honest. The core value that I hold in this life is love, and because I believe that true love and forgiveness are not dependent upon obedience, submission or sacrifice, I can no longer believe the way you do. I believe that if there exists a god who is love, as Christians claim, he will surely understand why I believe that love is not creating or consigning people to a place of eternal torture. Love is the very antithesis of eternal torture. Nor does love require blood sacrifice for sins, but it forgives freely. Love does not come with conditions attached to it. Love forgives freely without conditions.
Mom and dad, I believe we have this time on earth to love and respect and care for each other as best we can, and I hope this continues to be the case with our family.
With much love...