I was inspired by another member's blog entry to post about how I came to reject religion and settle into atheism.

 

I spent much of my childhood in various foster homes. I won't go into detail about the whys of it, just know I was in roughly 4 homes. Each foster family boasted of being a "loving, Christian home". But while in their care I suffered physical and emotional abuse, neglect, and flat out rejection because I wasn't their kid. I felt like an outsider, and I had no one to turn to because I was a kid and I felt no one would listen to me.

 

One foster parent, after going through a disastrous divorce (which I was present for and witness to), lost her grasp on reality. The majority of abuse I suffered was in her hands. She would keep me up all hours of the night, copying lengthy passages out of the Bible over and over whenever I did something wrong.

 

Flash forward, I'm back with my family; I'm angry, confused, and bitter. Without so much as a word, or a transitional period, I'm back with my family, who I barely know.

 

I spend my teenage years flip-flopping through a long list of religions/beliefs while struggling with displaced anger and my sexuality. Here's a list:

 

  • Christianity
  • Wicca
  • Feng shui
  • Paganism
  • Christianity
  • Agnostic
  • Feng shui
  • Catholic (not going to a church, mainly incorporating saints into my prayers and getting a rosary)
  • Paganism
  • Agnostic
  • Pentacostal (spent a few years trying to be a devout Pentacostal. Began my intense struggle with my sexuality.)
  • Agnostic
  • Wicca/Pagan
  • Agnostic
  • Pagan
  • Atheist (began reading Richard Dawkins and scientific books)
  • Agnostic
  • Northern Tradition (Norse mythology incorporated into a Pagan belief)
  • Nothing (finally came out gay)
  • Atheist (finally)

 

As you can see, it's quite a list. My beliefs were mostly fluid, changing as quickly as waves washing ashore. I didn't know what I believed or if I even believed it, but I thought I needed to believe in something; mostly out of fear and indoctrination, even though I hated the Christian God because of what he allowed to happen to me.

 

I posted about this in another blog of mine, but while I dabbled in Wicca/Pagan, I was believing in pseudoscience. Specifically ghosts. Every creak and shadow was more than what it was, I developed a fear of being home alone because I was certain things were going on in other parts of the house. I was paralyzing myself with fear.

 

When I converted to Pentacostal, I spent day after day after day with members of the congregation praying and counseling and talking, trying to "fix" everything wrong with my life and myself. The preaching and counseling convinced me demons were everywhere. I then became convinced the "ghosts" of previous beliefs were now demons plaguing my life. I felt like I was going crazy, and on some levels I suppose I was. I spent needless time in therapy for issues I wouldn't let go of, and 3 months on an anti-psychotic because I was sure I was being followed.

 

Breaking free from all of this started when I began reading various scientific articles on different theories. A casual internet search led to this article and that article, finally to me ordering several books by Michio Kaku, and The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins.

 

Reading through the book opened me up to the realization I didn't have to believe in anything at all. I didn't have to enslave my life to the dogmatic beliefs of religion or kill myself trying to find meaning to it all.

 

You'll notice in the list I still went through a few more transitions after my first Atheism. This is simply due to fear. More specifically a fear of death and what happens beyond. That fear for my "immortal soul", which I was still indoctrined to believe in, led me to incorporate some sort of "cushion belief" into my Agnostic/Atheist mindset, even though I knew for certain I didn't believe in it.

 

Part of this was due to my mother. I've posted before that she's my biggest adversary when it comes to my Atheism. My mother isn't the poster child for Christianity. She's not religious, hasn't been in church in years, and actually hates the hypocrisy of organized religion. But out of fear for her soul, which is indoctrined in her, she believes. She firmly believes in pseudoscience and sees conspiracy theories everywhere. Rather than start some sort of religious war in the house, for her benefit I don't really mention my non-belief.

 

I'm now perfectly comfortable in my Atheism. Happy to report no "demons" or "ghosts" giving me any more trouble, and in fact everything I was struggling with for years has been reconciled. My displaced anger is finally put to rest, and somewhere along the way logical thinking gave way to realistic thinking, helping me lay aside all my issues or anything else I would have held on to out of anger or pity.

 

Somewhere along that long, bumpy religious road, I grew up, opened my eyes, and decided that the invisible stranglehold an equally invisible God had on me was just my imagination. Once I grew up and stopped believing in fairy tales, my life became much more pleasant. For only being 24, I say that leaves a lot more room for reading, learning, and living.

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Tags: atheism, life, religion

Comment by James on August 6, 2011 at 8:07pm

Wow Carol, that's quite the story. Thanks for sharing it with us. It's very good to see that through it all, you were able to come through it okay and figure it all out. I'm sure many people wouldn't have been resilient enough to not be totally messed up from such experiences. I feel that you are worthy of much credit for being able reconcile everything as you did. Bravo!

Comment by Frank Hamilton on August 6, 2011 at 8:30pm

Great story, Carol!  Many of us have gone through similar life experiences dabbling in this or that cult or religion to try to make sense of life.  You have arrived at a position of sanity.  Congratulations.  With your new insight, you will find those that are near to you who will feel threatened and so it's judicious of you not to argue with them. Fortunately, FreeThought is growing daily and there are support groups out there for you.

 

Comment by Carol Whitt on August 6, 2011 at 8:47pm

@James I was certain I was completely messed up. I was convinced of it, that I would need therapy for the rest of my life. What was happening was I was holding on to everything for a sort of "spiritual pity-party". The Pentacostal congregation would flock around me and pray over me for my troubles and issues, be they real or imagined.

 

It felt good to have that attention, especially after my childhood. Now I see I don't need any of that. It was doing more harm than good.

 

Personally I see religion as a crutch and a vicious cycle. At least it was for me.

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