This is not a happy story, but it is one that needs to be told.
I was raised in the RLDS church. It's basically a 'lite' version of Mormonism. Wikipedia has it under the Community of Christ. Basically, it's Protestantism with the Book of Mormon included. Anyways.
As a child, I believed that I would go to hell for masturbating, for lying, for thinking negatively about my parents, for hitting my brother. Everything was secretly a trap from the devil, trying to tempt me or people around me. Seriously, I thought that babies crying during church was Satan, trying to distract us from the service/god's word. I prayed every time I heard an emergency vehicle, hoping nobody was hurt. I prayed all the time for everybody I could think of.
Let me now go into some family history. My younger brother has cystic fibrosis. This resulted in our family growing closer to the church and was great fuel for my personal paranoia and anxiety. I used to sleep with my bedroom door open so I could go across the hall and make sure he was still breathing during the night. I was 7 when he was diagnosed, and I still can't accept that my brother has a disease that is going to kill him.
My dad sexually abused my brother (toddler age) and I (5 to 7ish) as children. I'm actually dealing with this issue right now in therapy, and don't have much more to say beyond I'm working through it. My dad got fired from his job in November 2000 for having child pornography on his work computer. A year later, in December 2001, my brother and I were picked up from our elementary school by a social worker. We were placed in a foster home because my dad admitted, under questioning, to molesting my brother. My mom was suspected of having knowledge of this and hiding it, but she had had no idea. Hence, the foster home.
We were placed in a special needs foster home due to my brother's disease, two hours from our real home. For the first two months, we weren't allowed any contact with our parents. After two months of being cut off from everyone we knew and loved, we were (finally) allowed to see our mom in a supervised visit for an hour every week. I wasn't allowed to say a word about where we lived or my new life. It was heart wrenching, but seeing her helped more than anything else.
My foster parents were verbally, mentally, and emotionally abusive to all of the kids in their home, which entailed my brother (7) and I (11), a girl with cerebral palsy and slight mental retardation (5), a mute girl with moderate mental retardation (also 5), a girl with the mind of a baby (12), and their own adopted daughter (11). One time my foster dad told me that I was like the scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz and proceeded to sing, "If I only had a brain.." This doesn't sound like a big deal now, but I cried myself to sleep that night and the memory still haunts me. I turned into an impulsive liar. One time, my foster dad told me and my brother to go weigh ourselves on a scale in the garage. The scale didn't work, but I told my brother to lie because I didn't want to be blamed for the scale being broken. We lied and then were punished for doing so. It was a set up. My foster parents' daughter was also abusive. She treated me as her own personal slave. Once she beat my brother with a broom and there was nothing I could do to stop it.
Living in constant fear was absolutely the worst experience of my life. I became suicidal as a result of the abuse, and the only thing that kept me from attempting suicide was the thought of leaving my brother alone with those people. We finally got out of the foster home after six long months of abuse and being bullied at our new schools for being foster kids. I began a new life of being raised by a depressed single parent. (The state had informed my mom that unless she divorced my dad, we would be in the system forever.)
However, I also drew closer to god and the church. Clearly, he was the one that rescued us. I got baptized into the RLDS church the Sunday after we got back from the foster home. Being suicidal, blindly retaining my faith, and believing I was going to hell was my life as an adolescent. I lashed out mainly at my mom, because she was the only "safe" person there. It was awful, and she didn't deserve it.
Eighth grade was really when I started to doubt the existence of god. I read my scriptures, went to church, sang loudly, prayed constantly, traveled to Missouri from Texas for church camp every summer, and my life didn't improve. I realized that not getting answers to my questions and solutions to my problems was probably not a sign in god's favor. I felt helpless in the first place, and beginning to lose my faith really wore on me. A friend talked me out of my suicidal feelings, but I wasn't any happier.
I let myself not think about religion for a few years because it was easier that way. I feel weak admitting that, but it's true. I had way too much to handle otherwise. It didn't really come up again until my last year at church camp. I got really close to the camp director's son, and we proceeded to have a two year relationship mostly over the phone. My ex was extremely involved in the church, and that annoyed me. I didn't like thinking about it, and I especially didn't enjoy discussing it. I felt like I had to lie to him, like he would severely judge me and/or hate me for not being as passionate. I felt like my doubts had to be hidden from everyone, but especially from him. My ex's passion for our religion made me more secure about my doubts, I suppose. If he said it was right, then I thought it was wrong.
After ending this relationship, I immediately jumped into another one, this time with an atheist. He was the first person to ever tell me that doubting the church wasn't a terrible awful thing. I was so relieved and spent quite a lot of time considering my spiritual views. I chose to renounce my faith in December of 2007, and I haven't been happier since. Holding myself to unrealistic standards finally came to an end. I grew to accept and love myself for the person I am, albiet slowly. My atheist boyfriend turned out to be not the best for me, but that's how high school relationships go.
Currently, I have a lot of struggles with my remarried mom. She is in extreme denial about my atheism. She knows, but refuses to acknowledge or accept it. I have to pretend to be RLDS in order for her to pay for my education. This really, really wears on me, as I can't tell her anything about myself. I would love to have a functional and honest relationship with my mom, but she won't accept me for the atheist that I am. I absolutely resent her for putting me in this position. I know there are worse things I could do for money, but not being authentic is completely against who I am today. I hope that someday my mom and I can work something out, but as of now our relationship is horrible and based on power struggles and lies.
My atheism is something I'm not willing to compromise on, no matter what. There is no scientific evidence for a higher power. If there was ever conclusive, properly collected research showing that there was a higher power, I would reconsider my atheism. I am very, very angry at religion for making my life these past couple of years so much harder. I also believe that no loving god would give someone a disease as awful as cystic fibrosis. My brother and I are very close, having gone through pretty much everything together, and I still can't handle the fact that there's no cure that will help him live longer. Science is my new belief system.
I don't really have a way to end my story besides talking a little bit more about the present. Things with my mom are tense, but that's normal. My brother, still a member of the RLDS, hates my atheism and judges me for it. All of my friends know. Most of them are religious, but agree to disagree on the topic and accept me for who I am. I have a (relatively) new boyfriend, who also happens to be an atheist. He's really supportive and wonderful. I love my life as an atheist, and nobody is going to take that away from me.