I have been absent from this site for a few years now. Life gets distracting sometimes. I don't post or engage in conversation very much, but enjoy reading posts from other members. I am one of those people who prefers being behind the camera as opposed to being in front of it. So thank you, everyone, for giving me a place to go when being surrounded by Christians in my daily life makes me feel like ripping my hair out. :)

     I was raised as a Southern Baptist, growing up in Tennessee. My parents divorced when I was 1. I lived with my mother and step-father, who's religious practices became more and more prevalent. At the age of 11, I joined a very independent fundamental Baptist church. My 2 sisters and I were soon made to only wear ankle-length dresses, no T.V. was allowed, and no music was allowed (other than music from our church). I switched from public school to the church's Christian school, which was located in the basement of the church. I attended 7th and 8th grade there. We would go out on buses 2 days a week passing out church pamphlets and "soul-winning". I sat through a church sermon of some sort 7 days a week.

     At the age of 14, I was with a teenage group visiting a Bible College in Texas. When I came back from this trip, after sitting through a Wednesday night church service (where my mother and step-father were acting quite awkwardly), I was called into the preacher's office. He proceeded to reach into his desk and pull out my diary that I had (what I thought secretly) hidden in my bedroom closet. He then read excerpts from it pertaining to how miserable I was there, my hatred for my strict, hot-headed step-father, and how I wanted to live with my dad. After that wonderful meeting, I was directed to the youth pastor's office and was read scriptures pretty much telling me that if I went to live "out in the world" with my dad, that I would become a whore. That was fun. Finally, I went home and my mother told me to pack my things. The preacher had called my dad and arranged for him to pick me up. Awesome! Of course, my mother was crying. My 2 little sisters were crying. They were 10 and 6. Everything was so surreal for me at this point. The moment that I had been waiting for since I could remember was here. My dad lived in my hometown, so we met at a gas station halfway between there and where my mother lived. Everyone said bye, and I left with my dad. I was shaking. I still couldn't believe it. I was still most certainly a Christian, but I never went to church again, and very much enjoyed living the life of a normal teenager out in "the world".  It annoys me greatly that even to this day,14 years later, one of the 2 recurring stress dreams that I have, is me going back to that awful church, trying to find my mom and sisters and "rescue them" without being spotted by the staff. 

     At 20, I had my first son. I wasn't married to his father at the time, but was engaged. He was 5 years older than me, had 2 children from a previous marriage, and we had known each other for about 4 months. (This was a planned pregnancy) You can imagine how thrilled my mother was with that. I still saw her and my sisters and step-father over all of these years. On holidays, we would all meet up at my maternal grandmother's house for dinner. I would go over to their house to visit on occasion, and we would talk on the phone maybe once a week (not that we had much to talk about). Well, after my son's 1st birthday, my husband, who was in the military, arrived back home from his 12 month deployment, and we got married. No ceremony, just us at the courthouse. Having social anxiety, nothing seemed more frightening than walking slowly down an aisle to corny organ music in a poofy gown while everyone stares at me. lol. No thank you. On Easter of 2007, everyone was at my grandmothers, and I noticed almost immediately that my mother was acting strange. I know that she has some issues with depression and anxiety, also, but of course always chose prayer, the Bible, and church instead of medication. During dinner, there was a very awkward silence on her part. Even when asked a direct question, she would not answer. She was mad about something. After dinner, I was out back with my sisters hiding eggs for my son and little cousins. My sisters were called inside. I went in about 5 minutes later, and they were all gone. They had left, and everyone was very confused. That was the last time I saw them. I spoke to my mother on the phone 1 time about a month later. It involved a lot of yelling, and I ended up just hanging up on her. I've tried to talk to one of my sisters on Facebook, and she didn't respond. I wrote her again, and she blocked me. Not having a relationship with my mother doesn't really bother me anymore. I don't even want one now. It's her turning my sisters against me and my grandparents that I will never be able to forgive her for. 

    I was about 22 when I became an Atheist. This began after seeing Christopher Hitchens on an episode of The Daily Show promoting his book God Is Not Great. I read this along with Dan Barker's Godless, and Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion. That was it. It all made sense to me, and I've never looked back. I am still a closeted Atheist with the exception of a friend. I don't feel the need to upset my grandparents and cause them the added stress of worrying about my children's souls. lol. Once they pass, I don't think coming out will be a problem, as my grandparents are more like parents to me...And I suppose seeing what religion can do to a family, I choose not to risk straining my relationship with them. They already know that we are now Liberals, and I'm sure that has caused them enough grief for one lifetime. lol

    At 24, we moved to Hawaii. My husband became stationed there. I became pregnant with my 2nd son in the summer of 2012. On December 3rd, I received a phone call from my dad's sister, telling me that my dad had had a massive heart attack at work that morning and didn't make it. He was 48. I was 5 months pregnant, and while I knew the sex of the baby, had opted to wait to tell anyone until my husband came back from his deployment so that I could tell him in person. It drove my dad crazy that I wouldn't tell him, and he insisted that it was a girl, only because he knew that I didn't want a daughter. He enjoyed picking that way. Always picking and laughing. That was him. I managed to fly home for the funeral with my son. My husband was able to leave Afghanistan a few weeks early to be there for the funeral as well. I told my family then that it was indeed another boy, and that I wished that I had told my father now. They all smiled and said, "Well, he knows now."..That was hard to shake off. At the funeral, there was a giant flower arrangement sent from my mother, step-father, and some of his family. That only seemed to infuriate me more. The pastor who, as most do, chose to turn the funeral service into a church service, and didn't even know my father (who didn't attend church but was a Christian) made me physically sick. I can only be thankful that the summer before he passed, I was able to fly to TN and spend his last Father's Day with him.

    We are now back living in TN. I suppose the "Jesus talk" on my dad's side has escalated greatly over these last few years as one of my cousins is a Christian music singer..as in, won an award at the Dove Awards last year..yeah. So there's no escaping it in my day to day life. But again, thank you for allowing me to have a place to go to escape all of the madness.


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Comment by _Robert_ on January 9, 2014 at 7:01pm

In my town, each Easter-time, they shut the roads down and a bloodied jesus actor drags a cross down the street and all the good people cheer. Thanks for sharing. The Adventures of a Southern Atheist would make a great novel.

Comment by Laura Johnson on January 9, 2014 at 7:22pm

Wow! That sounds..umm..delightful. haha. Thank you :) I've seriously considered writing a book!

Comment by Davis Goodman on January 9, 2014 at 7:59pm

Don't doubt ever that you have a fine talent for writing.

Comment by Laura Johnson on January 9, 2014 at 8:57pm

Thank you, Davis. :)

Comment by Facts Before Faith on January 9, 2014 at 9:48pm

Wow, that's rough Laura. I'm glad you were able to get out of that environment though. I know what it's like to be alienated from family because of religion.

Have you been able to find a group of atheist friends in Tennessee? 

Comment by Karen Thrasher on January 10, 2014 at 8:44am

So glad you are here! Thanks for sharing your story, I still need to do that...

Comment by Moss Zhimo on January 10, 2014 at 9:33am

I just joined this group and yea, just revealed my belief in FB. And now I feel liberated, it's like coming home. I'm new to this concept of life and me being from a conservative family is going to have a hard time dealing with people and family back home. I'm also in the military and posted far from home. But just as I revealed in FB few hours back I got a call from my sister...and it was like as if I had committed a murder! It's just a step towards this way of life, but I know I don't have to pretend anymore. Love you all!

Comment by Laura Johnson on January 10, 2014 at 10:42am

@Facts Before Faith, I'm not a very outgoing person, and I have SAD, so making friends is a challenge. I'm sure that my husband and I are not the only atheists around here, but have yet to meet any. I'm sorry to hear that you, also, have been alienated by family. It's sad that they are choosing to miss out on so much for nothing. 

@Karen, As am I! Thank you :) I look forward to reading yours!

@Moss, Welcome to the group and congratulations on coming out! I know it's a difficult choice to make when you come from a conservative family, but it definitely comes with it's own rewards and freedom. Good luck to you :)

Comment by Colleen on January 11, 2014 at 2:51am

Thank you for sharing your story Laura.  You say you have anxiety, but I see so much courage in the words you wrote :).

I particularly related to this:

Having social anxiety, nothing seemed more frightening than walking slowly down an aisle to corny organ music in a poofy gown while everyone stares at me.

I'm getting married this April, and for years I tried to convince my fiance that we should just go to the courthouse for exactly this reason.  Center of attention is not the place for me.  I realized how important the wedding was to him, so we compromised.  I'm definitely doing away with the poofy white dress, I'm walking down the aisle to "I don't want to be a bride," by Vanessa Carlton, and I'm just going to keep my eyes on Chris the whole time because he always makes everything feel better.

Comment by Noel on January 11, 2014 at 7:29am

Thank you so much for sharing your story Laura.

Colleen said it best but now is an appropriate time to quote "OZ":

Cowardly Lion: Courage! What makes a king out of a slave? Courage! What makes the flag on the mast to wave? Courage! What makes the elephant charge his tusk in the misty mist, or the dusky dusk? What makes the muskrat guard his musk? Courage! What makes the sphinx the seventh wonder? Courage! What makes the dawn come up like thunder? Courage! What makes the Hottentot so hot? What puts the "ape" in apricot? What have they got that I ain't got?

Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Woodsman: Courage!

Cowardly Lion: You can say that again! Huh?

And you have it in droves...

Thanks again.


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