A year flies by so unbelievably fast. Yet, I simultaneously can’t believe it’s only been about a year since I admitted to myself something I had known for a long time: I no longer believed in God. It’s kind of strange. I look back on my journal entries and first few blog entries. I’ve grown so much in the last year, and in so many ways. Timid, scared, and incredibly sad are words that once suited me well.
A year ago, I could only timidly confess the intellectual reasons why I stopped believing in God. I did, however, leave my conservative church for highly painful, emotional experiences I could barely breathe through, let alone write about. Now I fiercely write just about everything. Through my writing, I find support, and through the support, healing. Healing that never existed in Christian circles.
I imagine my atheism will always have a tinge of awkwardness with my highly conservative family, but I’m getting used to it. Losing the depth of those relationships has been very difficult, but everyone is adjusting. It’s not the normal I’m used to. They’re not as meaningful as they were BDc (Before De-converting). But it is something, and even as I have lost those relationships in some ways, I have found new relationships. A new family in the friends I have now. Friends who love me and care about me whether or not I follow their idea of a life path. Friends who laugh with me, cry with me, and celebrate with me. They are happy because I am happy, not because I am conforming to their standards. That is a gift, indeed. I never realized how conditional the love my church and family gave. It feels as though my relationships now are capable of so much more depth because of it.
Too, I recently realized, as a former Baptist minister’s wife who rarely had a voice in the religious world dominated by men, that while I had lost my faith, I gained my voice. Even while I mourned for a loss of something I held dear, I did not realize I was gaining so much more. So take heart, those of you who are still in the agonizing phase of losing everything you once held dear: it gets better. I know it’s rough. I know there are moments when you want so badly to cling to the religion you left behind, but you can’t. So you grasp at anything, and it feels like you are grasping at the air, hanging onto nothing. Or you’re angry at the pain you suffered at the hands of those who were supposed to love you. And you don’t know how to find healing, because the only way you were ever taught to find healing was through Jesus, who you want so badly to believe in, but can’t. There were moments I didn’t think I could make it. There are still bad moments, but they are manageable now. Keep hanging on. You find your new normal. You grow, and you like what you see. If you don’t like what you see, you now have the power to change yourself into something you do like. No more rigid gender roles! No more desperately trying to conform yourself to a personality and standards that don’t fit. Focus on those positives. Go where you want, do what you want. Chase down those dreams. It will all be worth it in the end.
It’s been a year. Are things perfect? No, no, and no. Definitely not! I still struggle with many issues. I still have days where I feel I’ve fallen so hard, I’ll never get anywhere. But those days are becoming fewer and farther between. Life is better. A lot better. Each new day brings just a little more healing. With that healing comes more confidence: I am strong. I am likeable. I am able. I am free.
How have you changed since you de-converted?
The purpose of my rants and opinions is not to change anyone’s mind. There are several reasons I am rather vocal in what I say. I do hope that my posts help people think about what they believe, even if they don’t come to the same conclusions I did. I also hope to better inform those that wish to keep their religious beliefs what those of us who do not have them argue because there is a lot of misinformation out there given by apologetic ministries and the like. My main purpose, however, I think, is to just enjoy having them and not being afraid to express them anymore. Nevertheless, I do occasionally tire from trying to explain everything patiently over and over again to those who have little interest in what I am actually saying, but simply want to dogmatically cling to what they know. In times like those, I remind myself that I used to be one of those people.
It makes me wonder: why did I change my mind when others don’t? I think there are three factors that led to my de-conversion: Humility, knowledge, and misery.
Humility is something taught to Christians, but it is a rare Christian that actually possesses it (at least in the conservative world in which I lived–I never really had much interaction with the more liberal Christians, so from here on, whenever I say “Christian”, know I am talking about conservatives here). I will not say I had an abundance of it–on the contrary, I thought I knew all the answers and could defend them. I was well versed in apologetics and knew every Sunday school answer in the book. Perhaps it was all my schooling in apologetics that made me listen when someone else spoke–I was anxious to prove their argument wrong, so I would listen. Over time, however, I realized that I couldn’t…