Hi everyone! I'm Janelle, I'm married and am a mother of two amazing girls ages 10 and 3. I work in the human services field, specifically with adults with mental and physical disabilities. I'm an atheist who was a former Baptist and Sunday School teacher for several years. I finally have a few moments to share my deconversion story with you and how my opinions have evolved over the last couple years.
I was raised in a secular home, my parents did believe in God, but weren't exactly church going folks. My father was an alcoholic (he's been sober for six years now!), and my mother suffered from mental illness. To put it lightly, both of my parents tried to kill us kids or themselves on numerous occasions and it was a rough childhood. I also lived with a cousin who abused my sister and I, I won't go into detail. Due to the stress and inability to cope with it, I developed mental illness as well. I started pulling out my eyebrows and eyelashes at 9 years old, the disorder is called trichotillomania or TTM. I now run a support group here in my hometown for others who have this disorder as well as related disorders such as skin picking.
Now to go into my religious experience. I need to say it was a very positive influence in my life for a long time! A very kind neighbor who introduced herself as Ms. B invited my sisters, brother, and me to go to vacation bible school at a Baptist church. I was about 7 years old at the time. After it was over my sister Annie and I decided to join the church, we went to Sunday school and joined the youth group. I mostly remember having fun. I met some good friends, we sang songs, and did crafts. I didn't mind the bible lessons, I took it for granted that they were true.
At the age of 11, I went through a class to prepare myself for baptism and to accept Jesus as my personal savior. I was baptized along with several other friends, my best friend Crystal, and my sister Annie. This is when I started to consider myself Christian. I developed a talent in singing, I sang at church and joined the choir at age 15. I started helping out in the preschool Sunday School class at age 16. I joined the adult Bible study group, and was completely immersed in the "spirit".
Well, this is where my life really started to crumble. When I was 16 my best friend Crystal was in a devastating car accident, she was in a coma for nearly three months with a traumatic brain injury. I was angry with God but stayed faithful. Two months after Crystal's accident (while she was still in a coma) another devastating accident happened. My brother David and his best friend died in this accident. I was sad and terrified! For the first time I started to really think about my religion. My brother had not accepted Jesus as his savior, he was being tortured in hell! I worried about him everyday, and would get upset when people said he was in a better place because according my religious views he was not.
I separated from the church at this point. I guess I was also going through the teenage rebellious stage. I had a boyfriend that I clung to. My friend Crystal was never the same, the frontal lobe of her brain was damaged. She was no longer the sweet and loving friend I remembered. She was snippy, rude, and short tempered. I saw what a brain injury did to her decision making, I decided to distance myself from her because it caused me too much pain to see her that way.
I moved out of my parents house at 18 into an apartment with my friend Kelly. She was a Satanist (go figure), but I mostly looked at her as sort of tongue and cheek. She like to stir up controversy and deeply despised her Catholic upbringing. Through Kelly I met my husband Clay, he lived two states away. He moved in with me eventually, and I moved away with him to PA where I now live.
We married had our first daughter and at the age of 3 I thought she would benefit from going to church. I found a Baptist church and we went, Clay was saved there and so was Megan who was baptized at 8 years old. I taught Sunday School to children ages 5-8 there for several years. We sent my daughter Megan to a Christian school. I was again "filled with the holy spirit".
I got pregnant again, we named our second daughter Rachel, which we chose as a biblical name. Shortly after her birth I started having doubts. I really loathed the idea that my brother was burning in hell! My husband's cousin who was agnostic at the time (now atheist), fed my doubts. He referred me to youtube videos, to debates with Sam Harris, and to Ted Talks. He also lent me a copy of "letting go of god" by Julia Sweeney, and emailed me "Thank Goodness" by Dan Dennett. In less than a week I decided that I was at least agnostic.
One day on the way to church I looked over to my husband and said "I don't want to go". He pulled into Starbucks and bought us a cup of coffee. I told him about my doubts and told him I was no longer a Christian. I also complained about our daughter's education and that she was being taught that Harry Potter was evil and dinosaurs lived with men. He said he felt the same way, but didn't know how to talk to me about it. We never went back to church.
We allowed our daughter to finish the school year there since there was only 2 months left, the following year we sent her to a secular private school which has been wonderful.
I'm sorry this was rather long winded, but every piece of my life led me to my atheism. I'm now active in the atheist community. I enjoy reading and thinking on everything put in front of me. I'm searching for my way to live a moral and decent life, it's been rewarding to look at other religions, cultures, and the atheist and secular world to find it. And most importantly the guilt and shame that overwhelmed me as a non-deserving of love Christian is GONE! Peace :)
Great account Janelle! Glad you decided to share so much!