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  • Writer's pictureCourtney Heard

Your Stories of Atheism: Losing My Religion

This is an ongoing series featuring your stories of how you came to identify as an atheist. If you want to send me your story, you can submit it here. To read past stories, click here.

Our first story this week comes from Lynn,

Why did I become an atheist? Interesting question that I will attempt to answer. I grew up with very religious grandparents on my mom’s side of the family. My parents never really went to church growing up, so I only went when visiting Grandma and Grandpa. I dreaded these yearly Baptist Church services and couldn’t wait for the clock to strike 12pm so we would be free!
I remember asking my very religious Aunt how could we all come from Adam and Eve when shortly after they were created by God, the earth was populated with cities and other people? Did Adam and Eve magically multiply or did God create more people? My question was never answered.
Fast forward to my adult years and other than the occasional Christmas Eve service or Easter service, I never went to church. It rubbed me all the wrong way, the singing, the money baskets being passed around and eating & drinking the flesh and blood of Christ. As an adult I also went back to college and learned more about science and evolution and I had a history professor who said religion was for the uneducated to explain away things they didn’t understand. This really made sense to me.
Around this time my mom became really religious and started asking for me to pray for everything for her and my step-dad. One day she asked me to pray for my step-dad to get a job when he was unemployed. I looked at her and said IF God existed he had better things to do then get my step-dad a job and my step-dad needed to get the job himself! She was appalled, but I did learn that my cousin was also an atheist.
My dad was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 55 and died a slow and painful death over 4 agonizing years and I did pray to God to help my dad find a cure but my prayers were never answered. As I sat there and held my dad’s hand as he passed away, I knew there wasn’t a God and I was okay with it. At this point I started to bring up the subject with my husband and he agreed with me. We both began questioning religion and we have been secretly living as atheists with our kids for the past 3 years. My mom knows I don’t believe in God and for the most part she leaves me alone. My husband has refused to attend church anymore with his mom and grandpa and now they are up in arms about our not believing in God. His mom only goes to church when she wants something (like the church to fix her house) and his grandpa is a believer which is fine with me. I am getting very upset when my mother in law is saying my kids need religion to be raised properly, this is complete BS. My kids are turning out better than any homeschooled, church going kids that I know. Religion is filled with hate and I am not going to teach that to my kids.

This next one was submitted anonymously:

I haven’t written out my story yet. This will be a first. I have only been an acknowledged atheist since this past April. I grew up in a Catholic family, went to Catholic school until 8th grade. High school started the process of deconverting. I attended Catholic church on Sundays, a non-Denominational youth group during the week and a bible study run by a local Presbyterian church on Wednesdays. I never realized how messed up that was until recently. And I think it was the trigger for my confusion and questions. I took a wonderfully eye opening class in 11th grade. Humanities. Should be required. I learned about philosophy and religions I didn’t know existed.
During this same time my Dad became a born again Christian. I would get lectures about god and Jesus and my eternal soul. At college I attended an Episcopalian church, because that is where my friends went.
My husband and I married in the catholic church and that was the end of my church going for a while. I have tried many churches. But there has always been something missing. I wanted to hear God. Wanted my prayers to be answered. And nothing. I have attended a Baptist church most recently. I have never been able to proselytize. I have always had this doubt in the back of my mind. My sister and her family are very active in their Baptist church. In my family I have had no one to talk to about my doubts.
This past April, on Palm Sunday, I deconverted. I can pinpoint the moment. At 41 years old, it was like a light bulb had been turned on. My Dad was the trigger. He was talking about how the blood moon was a sign. I remember almost laughing. It was so simple. Christianity was no better than the Greek and Roman myths. A way for people to explain things they didn’t understand. That was it. I have read that some people experience grief when they lose their religion. I felt relief. My husband has never been particularly religious. He had no real reaction to the news. We have some really wonderful friends who are agnostic/atheists who have been very supportive.
I am sad that I can not talk to my family about it. My parents are in their late 60’s-70’s. I have no desire to cause them pain. But it is difficult to keep up the pretense.
My teenager is more of a deist, if you had to define her. She is a product of my church hopping.
Our 8 year old is a bit more complicated. She has been to Sunday school and vacation Bible school. She has asked when we are going back to church. I am struggling with how to deprogram her gently.
My deconversion has made me realize that christianity is a religion held together by fear. Fear of death, fear of the unknown, fear of hell, fear of punishment. I don’t want to live that way. And life is so much sweeter!

And finally, Jesse sent in this:

I grew up in Tennessee in a very poor single-parent home, my two sisters and myself. We moved there after my parents divorced. My early life there was spent going to multiple churches, Sunday school, that sort of thing. I have an aunt (father’s side) who is ultra-religious. She “speaks in tongues”. She literally adopts children and home-schools them which means they get no real education. All of her children grew up that way and every single one of them rebelled in horrible fashion once reaching adulthood. This particular aunt talks about god like he is a real person whom she speaks with on the phone. She encouraged my mother to start going to church after my Mom’s mom died. That the church would help us. That god would help her figure things out, to heal. So we went to church where we were expected to put money we didn’t have on a plate every Sunday. I would ask questions during Sunday school such as, “So then, who made god?” I was never given an answer. I was spoken to about faith. One night I woke up. I heard my mother crying. I climbed down my bunk bed and walked toward her room. I called out, “Mom?” I heard another person say something and then my mom said in a shaky voice,
“It’s okay, honey, go back to bed.”
Suddenly, we weren’t going to church with our mom anymore. Our babysitter took us. Our aunt took us, but Mom never went back.
Then, we moved into a different part of town- the suburbs. My sisters and I made new friends. They all went to church. We would sometimes go with them too. By now, I was in middle school. I went with my friends to what was called “youth group”. I still had the same questions and no new answers. I spent the night with my new friend, Michelle and the next morning was Father’s Day. We all went to their church that morning. The sermon was about the importance of the father. The pastor actually said the father’s role was more important than the mother. He was the one who was strong and lead his family and the mother’s role was to take care of the children when sick- that sort of thing. From then on, I knew religion was not for me. I was being raised by a single mom who worked multiple jobs to support our family. No one is going to tell me the father is more important than the mother.
To end this, the reason my mom stopped going to church was because the other voice, that night, was a deacon at the church we were frequenting. He broke into our apartment and raped my mom. The Christian faith likes to prey on the weak. They like to tell you there is a plan and if you just “believe and give yourself to god” that everything will be fine. It’s sickening!

If you want to send me your story, you can submit it here. To read past stories, click here.

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