Hello, all. I’ve been a long time off/on lurker of this site, but just registered yesterday. I’m 43, happily married and raising 3 kiddos - two teenage boys (one with autism, who lights up our lives - wouldn’t change him for the world), and a 10 year old daughter. I love being a mom - and I am trying to raise my kids to be independent, critical thinkers.
My background: as a young child (10 and under) my family casually attended a local lutheran church. I don’t remember much about it except for the services being excruciatingly long and boring. I never listened to a thing, I daydreamed the whole time.
Went to confirmation classes for 2 years, again - didn’t listen - it was a bunch of “blah blah blah.”
But then, in the 6th grade, my parents decided to enroll me in private school (the local public school was going “bad” in their opinion). The only one they could afford was baptist. And by that I mean southern baptist ((shudder)). I don’t think they had a clue what that would entail. If so, I’m quite sure my father wouldn’t have sent me there. He has passed away, but in hindsight I’d say/guess he was a deist.
In any case. From day ONE at said baptist school - the indoctrination began, and it scared the ever-living SHIT out of me. Unlike my lutheran experience, these baptists took this shit seriously. Maybe the lutherans did too, but I don’t remember. I just remember that bible classes were a daily part of school from 6th-12th along with weekly chapel services.
Day one I “learned” that god was “omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent.” As if that wasn’t scary enough I also learned that the only way to avoid burning in hell was to accept jesus christ as my personal lord and savior, after of course confessing that I was a rotten sinner and begging forgiveness. That he loved me sooooo much that he died for me, but if I didn’t actually believe that, and ask him into my heart, I would go to hell.
Shortly after starting that school, I would ask jesus into my heart EVERY SINGLE NIGHT for years - because I was terrified I wasn’t doing it right, and that I would burn in hell. As I got older and started attending youth night with friends at the huge mega church that started our school, the whole jesus thing got even more intense. It was weird because the services there were quite moving, and I highlighted my Bible to pieces (well the NT anyway) and tried to be a “good christian.” Because I never felt I could live up to that expectation, I was filled with a lot of self-loathing.
Fast forward to college. I went from goody-goody to completely out of control WILD pretty much immediately. Freed from the bonds of the baptist school, I went nuts. I won’t go into details, they are not pretty. Yet I signed up for the students for christ club and did weekly bible studies. And just kept praying for forgiveness, all the time. This was a very unpleasant experience - guilt and shame galore.
I would go through periods of trying to be a good christian and then “backsliding” as they say - back and forth back and forth. It was exhausting. I am embarrassed now to admit that I did not question the bible at ALL. It was so hammered into me that the bible was the “inerrant” word of god, every word “god-breathed” -that I just did not question it. I focused on a few touchy feely verses from the NT and ignored the rest. After all, i was told, it was the NT that counted - don’t worry about the OT (except for the Psalms and Proverbs - those apparently were still relevant).
Fast forward to post-college, early marriage and motherhood. I did the back and forth church thing for YEARS (never again baptist though!! by then I hated them) - just going through the motions - but realizing that in my heart I knew the baptists were totally wrong about the inerrancy of the bible. The older I got, the more I loathed the baptists and their beliefs.
So I tried to find a “moderate” church. I remembered my early lutheran experiences as pretty mild, so I did that - off and on - dragging husband and first child when he was a baby. Then got sick of church and skipped it for YEARS.
Fast forward to roughly 2010 - I hit an extremely rough patch in my life - and I needed help. I decided god was the answer. Not the crappy mean baptist god, but a “kinder, gentler” god. I admit it: I wanted a close, personal, invisible friend who would love me unconditionally who I could pray and talk to all day.
I read a zillion christian books aimed at women - Beth Moore, Joyce Meyer, Stormy Omartian (?), etc. - they soothed my hurts and wounds and made me feel like Jesus could really help me. Their words honestly felt like a lifeline, and I dove into it.
But during all of this I just couldn't shake the feeling it was fantasy; I realized how illogical and, well, stupid it all was - I just knew it wasn’t real - but ohhhhhh how I wanted it to be real! I wanted SO badly for it to be real - I needed the comfort of it. But my brain just kept saying “this is bullshit, and you know it.” I kept trying to ignore my rational side but thankfully it eventually won….
At this point we were going to a local lutheran church that I was discovering fast was in no way like my “mild” one growing up. We had 2 of our kids in sunday school and my oldest son in confirmation classes. Our middle child (with autism) stayed with us.
I started feeling really bad about what they were learning - really bad. I knew it was a bunch of baloney but I felt like it was my duty to raise my kids the christian way. Just writing this out makes me feel like such a dumbass.
Anyway….I have to give my oldest son some serious credit. And maybe myself as well. You see, I homeschooled him from kindergarten through 5th - NOT for religious reasons - for other reasons (not the time/place to discuss here). To MY credit I used secular materials. Anyway - my overwhelming goal was to teach him to love learning, to question EVERYthing, to never take what anyone said at face value, including his father and I. It was SO important to me that he be a critical thinker. How ironic that I was doing my best NOT to be, lol. Talk about a living, breathing hypocrite!
OK so we had him enrolled in confirmation classes. I’ll never forget the day I was chatting with the youth minister who led the classes. He said, “you know, your son sure asks a LOT of questions. He puts me to the test and I admit he asks a lot of things I cannot answer.”
I have never in my life been so proud of my son.
It was shortly after that I learned that they were teaching my son pretty much what the baptists had “taught” me - and I knew then and there I did NOT want my kids exposed to that kind of god. They also taught creationist theory of the world. Which I cannot believe anyone can do with a straight face, but I digress.
We slowly just stopped going to church.
We (my husband and I) started having long conversations with our older son about religion. I started reading Bart Ehrman (bible scholar who has written books about bible inaccuracies and such) and as many books as I could to truly educate myself on biblical history and the history of christianity.
What I learned blew me away. And took away my last shred of hope of ever believing in biblegod. I couldn’t fake it anymore. The toothpaste was out of the tube.
I shared what I learned with my son. We both share a love of reading and delving into history.
I told him I was sorry for putting him through confirmation, and I promised him there was no such thing as hell, there was no devil out to get him etc. etc. He said he already knew that, lol.
My other kids I didn’t necessarily have to work on - my middle son has pretty severe autism, and he stayed with his father and me and brought headphones to listen to music because he couldn’t handle the crowds at church. My youngest, my daughter - well at that point she was like 7 or 8 and they still were just doing coloring book and craft things in sunday school. So I figured just quitting church would be enough to end any indoctrination.
I hope so.
I did tell her many times that there was no hell, no devil, and to never believe anyone who tried to tell her that.
So I found this site many moons ago while doing extensive research on the history of the bible and christianity. I have learned SO much here.
I started reading Hitchens, Dawkins, and Harris. I was hooked. Not yet an atheist though. I still clung to the idea that there HAD to be a god.
I searched to find a “religion” I could feel good about - one that had nothing to do with revealed religion or biblegod. So I decided last year I was a deist.
But now I think I am an agnostic atheist. I guess. I really don’t know what I believe and that’s partly why I’m here.
I know what I do NOT believe - which is any revealed religion or biblegod or desert god or what have you. I believe the bible is a fable book written by misogynistic, racist, homophobic, back-asswards men.
I sorta miss being an ignorant christian though. It was sooooo comforting to believe that I had a personal supreme being friend who loved me unconditionally, who created me out of love, knit me in my mother’s womb (see Psalms) and so on. Who would see me through any challenges. I feel so stupid to admit that I miss that - but I do. But once you know, I mean, REALLY know, that it’s a bunch of bullshit, you just can’t go back. It’s impossible.
My main problem is overwhelming guilt that I took my children to a church for two years that taught the whole heaven/hell/creationist stuff. I’m embarrassed and ashamed that I put my kids through that. I'm also humiliated at all the times I went into my closet, got down on the floor and cried my heart out to god to help me.
In my heart, I don’t want to be an atheist. I mean absolutely NO offense to atheists, I have the utmost respect for that - I just yearn for there to be something out there greater than us. Frankly it terrifies me to think we are just an accident of nature. Why that scares me, I do not know. So I go back and forth between feeling deist and weak atheist.
So that’s me. Happy to be here, eager to learn.
P.S. I cannot figure out how to get an avatar - I keep going to my profile to see if I can add one, but I don’t see that option. I also searched the information part of the site, no dice. Any help on that would be great, thanks.