I was raised in a non-denominational Christian household. My mother was the big believer and the enforcer. My father did not really subscribe to religion but he supported my mom in her beliefs. When I think back on my early childhood and the way religion shaped it I have neutral feelings. It wasn’t until I watched an old home video recently that I realized just how radical it was. In the home movies my mom asked us to sing songs we learned in church, recite scripture, and talk about our church friends. There was little else she was interested in filming.
When I got to be a little older that is when religion started to feel like one never ending struggle. I never felt like I was doing enough to be right with God. I was always down on myself for not praying enough, not reading the bible enough. These were things I never enjoyed or got anything out of but I felt guilty for not doing them. People would say to me that they were hearing God. I didn’t understand – I never ever felt his presence. In fact none of it ever made me feel anything.
When I turned 13 my mom really stepped up my involvement in the church. I was forced to join the Youth Group. They called themselves “the CRU” for Christ Rules Us. I got involved in what we called – “discipling.” Which meant I met once a week with an adult member of the church and we would go through workbooks and discuss my responses to various questions and exercises surrounding religion. This is when I started to question things for the first time. Through those exercises it really started to sound like we were doing all of this because we did not want to go to hell. Now, I wasn’t to the point where I did not believe in God. But practicing all of this for fear of going to hell did not sit well with me at all.
I don’t think I truly doubted the existence of God until college. This was a pretty scary thing for me to consider at the time. After all there were so many implications! Up until this point all I knew was that I had to be “saved” and I had to walk and constantly grow with God. Was none of that the case? How would I even live my life without God at the center? What is the new meaning of life if I had to separate myself from the one I had always had at the core? The only thing I could do was shelve these questions and feelings.
After feeling uncertain and wary of religion for a few years it seemed like one day everything clicked. OF COURSE THERE IS NO GOD!!! Of course its all one big crutch for people who don’t want to feel alone, people who need to feel loved and looked out for, and people who need to feel like their lives matter and they were created for a purpose. I felt free from the stand point that I was thinking for myself and I knew the truth. But more than anything I felt anger, frustration, and resentment for all those years I wasted trying to conform. And yea, I was forced to face just how insignificant my life is. And disgusted with societal norms that it turns out were never necessary. I feel especially frustrated that my mother is more devout in her beliefs than ever. And somewhere along the line in my parent’s marriage it became necessary for my father to also become “saved.” Something I strongly suspect he did only to preserve his marriage as my mom continued to become more and more brainwashed by her church. Sometimes I feel like it would just be easier if I could have compartmentalized religion like a lot of people do. If I was more like my mother and NEVER QUESTIONED ANYTHING. Because going through life thinking you will get to see your loved ones again in heaven is pretty cool. And the idea that there is a spirit hanging around just trying to help you out is awesome. But come on!
When I watched the documentary “Unbelievers” the other day I felt a renewed sense of hope. Ok, atheism! Maybe in my lifetime I’ll get to see religion loosen its hold on society. Maybe one day I’ll actually tell someone I’m an atheist and they’ll coolly respond that they are too. Maybe we can all get excited and ZEALOUS about learning! and about science! Start thinking freely and without prejudicial beliefs manifested from fear. The only thing scarier than living in a Godless world is living in a world where we are all creatures ruled by fear and tradition. Time to wake up – time to grow up. Life is AMAZING. People have to realize their potential – God can’t fix our problems but we really can! We really can change things all by ourselves through the power of knowledge.