“You’ve changed! Who hurt you to make you not believe in God anymore?”
“You were so much happier as a Christian, or at least I thought you were happy..”
“I have so many good memories of the good things you did as a believer.”
“You’re just being selfish. What about all of those people who you saved? They are your legacy!”
These are the comments and arguments that I have been receiving over the past few months that I’ve been actively coming out to family as a nontheist. I can’t get myself to say atheist most times, for fear that I am just going the opposite side of the pendulum swing. That I am saying I am an atheist just as a reaction to what I’ve gone through in the church most my life. My better reasoning tells me that while that may play a part in it, I am where I am because I wanted the truth.
My search for truth has had me everywhere religion-wise/Philosophy-wise: Christianity, Paganism, Satanism,Atheism(not a religion btw),Paganism(again), Christianity(again), and now just plain old non-theism(or atheism for the sticklers). I was never sure in my own thoughts, in my being. I needed someone above me or more powerful than me to tell me what I was doing wrong. In other words, I deeply believed my moral compass was outside of me. Not on the inside, because that would mean that my moral compass was inside of me. Fragile, broken, and dirty me. And if we go with the logic, my moral compass, by default..would be fragile, dirty and broken. So, I tried to pick the best straightjacket, so to speak. A straightjacket to keep me in check. To hold me and force me into normalacy.
One could say it is a holdover from my upbringing. I was the only child of a teenage mother who never gave up. She went after what she wanted. I don’t fault her for this. In fact, I respect her for that. But yet, I always felt unwanted. She always reminded me how much of a bother I was, a trouble. Even more so, she told me on one occasion that she wished I was never born.
And even as she applogizes for it now, I still feel that sting of what she said.
My father was not listed on my birth certificate. Mostly because he said I was not his child. His mother(my aunt/grandmother) believed him. Yes, I was the child of two first cousins. My intermediate family fought to keep that unknown to me, thinking that if I did not know who my father was, that I’d be better off. The other members in my family disagreed, and when I hit age six, told me who my father was. It was like a load of bricks being dropped onto me. I don’t know the rhyme or reason of why they did that, but they did it. And it excited and yet shamed me. I was the offspring of two related folks, who, if this was in the biblical times…may or may have not allowed me to be involved in the assembly. It excited me, because I knew who my father was.
The only problem was this: he never wanted me.
Outside of that, truth be told, no one except my grandmother and step-grandfather appeared to want me around. Yes, I got along with some cousins and aunts. But I always felt as if there was something “off” about me. My older cousins, picking up on this, would terorrize me. Not your normal “I’m going to take your pen and hold it over your head”. That I could handle. But instead it was out and out harrassment and name calling. And this was just among the adults. By one cousin, I was informed that I was not born like normal children, but instead I was born in a toilet because my mother was retarded. Since I was born to a retarded mother, I must be retarded too.
I was called a bastard by a great aunt. Not because I did anything wrong mind you, but because I was breathing and in the wrong room. Throw in some comments about my size and the way i was born, and you have a good grasp of what it was like growing up to be me.
For folks, this would cause either one or two responses: an over-eagerness to please, or a general “screw you all” response.
I was the former. I memorized as many books of the bibles as I could at a young age. It wasn’t hard, being that my first book after “A Joey named Joey” was the bible. I read it cover to cover, enjoying the stories it shared. It was literally my favorite book, hands down. This helped me be the best in my sunday school class. I didn’t think that because of this, I’d possibly know more than the teacher(another story for another date) or that it would cause the kids to like me LESS, but I did it anyway. Out of that feeling of wanting to fit in, wanting to be normal…I did things that I thought would make others like me. I gave money and candy to folks so they could be my friend. I became overly helpful.
Or as my friend A says, I over-corrected my behavior. I overcompensated for what I thought I lacked. And I lacked oh so much.
It was my percieved sense of lack which lead me to giving my life over to Christ at age 7. I was sitting on the front pew with my favorite(one of two at the time) Great Aunt J. As the pastor(my cousin), gave the sermon on how we’re all sinners in need of Jesus, I felt an unfamilar feeling in my heart. Something whispered to me(not human may I add) to go up there and give my life to Christ.
So I did. I was fully aware of what I did, of whom I aligned myself with. He was powerful, I was weak. He was good and I was…bad? And I wanted to go to heaven when I died, so that cinched the deal for me.
And at seven years old, I knew that Jesus was in my heart. That, and he would make all things better.
Little did I know, my first crisis of faith would come only a few years later.