Where to begin, where to begin? Well, the beginning of course.
I officially deconverted from Christianity in 2012 after what felt like a daily assault of atheist videos my husband would make me watch. DarkMatter2525. Aaron Ra. All very intelligent. All very potent. Scripture failed me in my attempt to refute the arguments posed in these videos. I fought hard to keep my faith, going so far as to consider divorcing my husband, but the fact came to me hard and fast: Christianity no longer made sense to me.
But, that is not the true beginning. The true beginning is way back in 1991 after we moved from Illinois to Indiana and found our second church home. This is a long story, kids, so I’ll summarize it for you: this church was unofficially owned and operated by a specific family and if you did not fit their mold, you were irredeemable. I was called a whore for being a young married mother and wearing my dresses at the knee instead of below it. We were sinners because we didn’t give enough money to the church. The pastor was falsely accused of embezzlement and run out of state. We left this congregation and spent a few months searching for another church home.
Church #3 was a non-denominational congregation that promised to be non-legalistic. The pastor and his family, like the pastor and his family in church #2, were lovely people who focused their teachings on agape love spread to all, and spread liberally. But…..(always a “but”, right?)…..the choir leader was a seminary student who engaged the pastor in a power struggle. The congregation wanted less love, more fire and brimstone. They wanted to feel better about themselves – they were better than those goddamned sinners of “the world”. Choir leader won; the pastor eventually left. I had my own struggles in the midst of this chaos.
Still very young in my faith, I was thirsting to expand my biblical knowledge and get more involved in ministry. My husband and I had become neighborhood apologists, engaging the local Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses who came to our door. I’d expressed an interest in joining the choir at Church #3 to continue my childhood love of singing and share the Word in song. It was not to be. I was relegated to the nursery, where I could hear no sermon and engage no discussion. This left me feeling very immature in my faith and useless. No one wanted what I had to offer.
While I was languishing at Church #3 the Visitation Minister, a deacon, began showing up at our door after 9p.m. at night ostensibly to “make sure you guys were okay”. This man knew my husband worked nights and that our small children would be in bed at that time. I kept him on the porch, positioning myself inside the doorway so he could not get in. He showed up at our door late at night three or four weeks in a row and finally stopped, realizing I was never going to let him in. This was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Knowing that I’d be called the whore in the situation with the deacon if word ever got out, I chose to leave church altogether. My husband really did not know what to do about the deacon and he supported my decision to leave church. He was teaching Messianic Jewish holidays at this church at the time and felt he could not leave.
Leaving church only shook my faith in people, not God. I hung on to my Christianity with all of my being, coming to the conclusion that there was no such thing as a good Christian, let alone a good person of any stripe. Only God was good, all people were lost, and would only reach true goodness upon admittance to Heaven. Other factors were at play, leading to my eventual denial of God.
I left church in 1997, adopting the position of “thorn-in-the-side of Christianity” as a professing believer. I was going to rid the Body of Christ of its diseased members from within using my skill as an essayist and wannabe orator. Hint, kids: this effort was futile. The Body of Christ does not want to be fixed. It wants to stroke its own ego at the expense of the so-called sinners they are supposed to save.
The real kicker came on October 10, 2011, when I had a nervous breakdown. Many factors come into play when a person has a mental breakdown, developing in the deepest recesses of our minds for years. That’s a story for another day, folks. Let’s focus on the issue at hand here – where was God while I was losing my mind?
I’ve lived with major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety since the age of 7, only beginning treatment in my early 20s. My walk with the Lord was largely spent in prayer asking for healing from early onset mental illness, Bible in hand, face on the floor. His Word promised that He would meet me in my need. If I asked, I would receive. If I sought, I would find. He would leave the 99 to find the one.
I asked and never received. I sought and never found. I was lost in the woods and my Good Shepherd never left to find me. My mind was gone. I nearly lost my life, my family, my job. Six weeks as an outpatient at a local stress center and a near-deadly experience with psych meds, I was released back into the wild, having been abandoned by my God, to fend for myself.
The Bible says that unanswered prayer is due to hidden, unrepentant sin. What was my hidden sin? I married my first love. We raised three children together. I was the subservient wife the Bible demanded. I gave up all the things I loved and wanted for myself to be that good wife, the best mother I could be. I obeyed to the best of my ability.
Looking back, my doubts about God began way back in 1991 while attending Church #2. Why did He allow those women to abuse the young ladies of that congregation? Why did He not intervene when a very good man was falsely accused of embezzlement? Where was He when the Visitation Minister from Church #3 would come to my door with questionable intent? Why did He choose to ignore my pleas for healing from mental illness? What did I do to make my Heavenly Father hate me?
Darkmatter2525 and Aaron Ra confirmed my long-held but hidden suspicions. Either God is there and He does not care or He simply does not exist. Either way, He does not deserve my worship.
Coming out was a difficult process. It took about a year for me to come out to a trusted friend at work. She’s a Christian lesbian who simply listened and sympathized without judgment. Nearly another year passed before I felt comfortable calling myself an atheist and my anger toward God dissipated. I didn’t talk about my newfound atheism while I was still angry. Doing so would have caused me to pick unnecessary fights and lose all the people I love.
These days, I can speak very comfortably about my atheist life and the things I do believe. I can talk about my deconversion excursion without reliving the pain.
Finally, I am whole and happy.