As I write these words, I know in my heart the lie I am living. For no financial benefit or emotional benefit to myself, I have kept my convictions inside and carried on with my “once upon a time” facade. Traditionally, October 11th is “Coming Out Day” for the gay and lesbian community, but I have taken its meaning deeper this year and for good reason. If my family knew the truth, if my friends knew the truth, it would really shatter them. What I am is unforgivable in their eyes; I am the worst possible thing any person could be. I am an atheist, and as I type these words for the first time, I still worry about the repercussions of this. I even misspelled it.
It’s taken me years to get to this revelation in my life and for me to speak these truths without worrying about going to hell for it. Most of my life has been spent wondering how I could fix my defective being. I blamed terrible events in my life on myself and my lack of being able to be a good enough Christian. When things I loved were taken from me, I believed I was placing those things over god in my life and they had been removed so I could refocus my faith. My parents never beat me with a Bible or were overly zealous with their faith. My family rarely attended church, but never worshipped the devil either. A very kind girl named Amy invited me to a pentecostal church in middle school. I closed my eyes, I lifted my hands and I waited to feel something. I would stand crying in my deepest meditation waiting for the presence of god to come. And instead I wondered if I was the only one standing there with my eyes closed, hands lifted wondering if anybody else felt the same way too. And I hated myself for not being holy enough to feel the presence of god.
I began to see religion as this strange system of justice in the world. It was okay that people did terrible things and got away with them, because one day they would burn in hell. I was just a girl who wanted an answer as to why so many people had hurt me without any consequence and I kneeled down on that crimson carpet twice a week waiting for god to love me, and waiting for justice. But for all those years that I committed myself to the ministry of Christianity and no matter how many motivational books I purchased from Mardels or “WOW!! Worship” albums I bought, this relationship with god that I had hoped to be good enough for never came.
Despite my non-existent relationship, I still carried this amazing guilt for the things I felt I had brought upon myself. Religion teaches no tolerance for doubt; the wages of doubt are death. The idea of talking to anyone about my doubts in the religious community was terrifying to me, so I continued to shame myself. I didn’t know it was okay to be unsure, and to logically examine what I wholeheartedly wanted to believe. But this isn’t about how the world may or may not have wronged me, this is about the courage and adrenaline I am riding on right now, this is about me coming out.
This past year, I made the most empowering revelation to date. It was a revelation that took several months, as even writing this I feel twinges of guilt; I can faintly see the fictitious gates of hell. I decided it was time to examine my emptiness logically, and to have the courage to be proud of whatever I found. I let go of the guilt I had carried about terrible things that had happened, I quit assuming responsibility of my so-called defects. I realized that the achievements I had credited god for for so long were wrongfully placed. I knew the times when events had pushed me into the ground, that it was ME who had pulled myself back up, and for once in my life I truly felt empowered. For the first time in my life, suicide was no longer an option. I realize that this life that I have is my one shot at accomplishments and making something enjoyable. My life is for creating something better for my daughter and the people I love. Sadly enough, however, my revelation was also met with the sadness of knowing that my family could never approve of my happiness. That even my friends would now see me as defective and less of a person for my beliefs. I know that how I feel is not tolerable to others and should not be spoken while I tolerate and accept my friends and families religious views that are yelled with no apologies.
I can no longer accept being quiet about who I am, about the things I love and believe, and the thing that has brought some peace into my life for the first time in 27 years. It is my obligation to the girl crying on her knees in a worship center feeling guilt and doubt and allowing mythology to make her weak. You are not alone, and it is important to know that. It is important to know that reason is acceptable and celebrated and that you are loved. It is important that I sign this piece with my name, Katie Lauren, because that is my name and this is who I am. And this is me coming out.