Atheists Coming Out Series – Featured Story #5 – Julia
Each testimonial featured in Atheists Coming Out will help give insight to the large percentage of atheists who, for fear of rejection or misunderstanding, have not been open about their lack of faith. I will choose five (5) of the featured stories to be included in an upcoming book on this very topic. To submit your 1000-1,500 word de-conversion/coming out story, please send it to David@DavidGMcAfee.com with “Atheists Coming Out” in the subject line. Please feel free to share this page to ensure everyone gets the opportunity to participate.Prior posts from Atheists Coming Out Atheists Coming Out – New Series – “Born Atheist” Atheists Coming Out Series – Featured Story #1 – Jason of Godless Living Atheists Coming Out Series – Featured Story #2 – Cleta Darnell Atheists Coming Out Series – Featured Story #3 – Hugh Kramer Atheists Coming Out Series – Featured Story #4 – Elizabeth Rouse
This week’s feature is by Julia:
My parents met each other while both attending a small Bible College in Houston, Texas. My father, a New Yorker raised in a Catholic Church, had a “born again” experience while serving in the Marine Corps. Once discharged from the military, he decided to attend the small Houston bible college with the hope of becoming a missionary in Africa. My mother is from Arkansas and was raised in a Pentecostal Church. She left home at the age of 18 to attend the school. They married two years after meeting one another at the college. Needless to say, I grew up in a very religious home. I don’t recall a Sunday morning or a Wednesday evening that we weren’t in a church service or bible study. At the age of five, I accepted Jesus into my heart and was “saved.” To this day I can still remember showing them the heart that I made in Sunday School that said, “I asked Jesus into my heart today.” To my parents, following Jesus was what we lived for and was something that was never to be doubted.
At a very young age, I remember having questions about the Christian faith. One specific question I remember asking my father was, “As Christians, how do we know that we’re right?” I think I questioned this because I had neighbors and classmates that were from different denominations. I also couldn’t understand why a loving God would only reveal himself to certain people while much of the world wouldn’t know him. As a child I remember my heart aching for them. I couldn’t understand why we were so special to have the revealed truth while others didn’t.
Growing up in a very religious home and having parents that were fanatical Christians, there were many discussions of Heaven and Hell. I was taught that people who didn’t accept Jesus into their heart weren’t “saved” and would go to Hell when they died. I was also told that I could go to Hell if I didn’t ask for Jesus to forgive me of my sins on a daily basis. Unfortunately, this caused a tremendous amount of fear and guilt. While I wasn’t a perfect child, the fear of dying and going to Hell led me to be a well behaved child until my teen years. As most teens do, I went through a little rebellious stage. This is when my guilty conscience started to affect me almost daily. I had visions of what Hell looked like and how I would suffer there because I didn’t always make the right choices. This was painful for me. I don’t think I will ever understand why my parents thought that it was okay to let their children suffer in this way. I have three other siblings that also dealt with this and still believe this to this day. I am a mother of two small children and I have a baby on the way. I can’t even imagine making my precious children suffer in this way. I’m completely aware that my children will hear about God, but I’ll stand up and protect them from ever being tormented with threats of eternal damnation. My oldest son, who is at the time of writing nearly six years old, has asked many questions about God. Family members and classmates have talked to him about God. My husband and I have explained to him that we don’t believe in God, but that many people do. We’ve explained that he’ll understand this more as he grows older. He says that he doesn’t believe in God and compares Him to the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, and Santa Claus.
For the first thirty years of my life, I was a Christian and believed that Jesus was the only answer. I attended church and longed for a deep connection with God. On many occasions, I would pray and ask God to reveal himself to me. I wanted to see miracles and have personal experiences with God. While there were times I thought I may be experiencing God, I often wondered why I didn’t experience Him like others did. I wondered if I just wasn’t good enough. I later started to question if God was even real. I wanted to believe that some of the good things that happened in my life were the result of God being present, but I often wondered if giving God the credit was just what I was taught to do when something good happened, and that it really didn’t have anything to do with him at all. I wondered why everything had to be accredited to God? These questions started to haunt me. At first it, was difficult to accept that I was questioning God’s existence. It went against everything that I was taught and left me having more fears. I dealt with these thoughts for nearly a year before I was vocal about it.
Accepting these feelings and expressing them to my husband wasn’t easy. Church had always been a part of our life. He was a former worship leader and Bible School student. At the time I started seriously doubting, we had adopted a much more liberal faith and were attending an Episcopal Church. I found myself not wanting to participate because of my doubts. When I first brought up these things to my husband, it was difficult. At that point he and I weren’t on the same page. He still believed and found it difficult to consider questioning his faith. Most Christians believe that when two people marry, they become one, and I feared that this could possibly tear us apart. He worried about what we would teach our kids. We continued to attend church and I became more vocal about it for several months. My husband started to research how the Bible was formed and, along the way, discovered that he may have questions after all. After much study, we finally came to the realization that it wasn’t crazy of us to question things. My last prayer to God was just over two years ago. I decided on that night that if I didn’t get answers and hear God’s voice, I was no longer going to live as a Christian. It goes without saying that I didn’t get answers. I’m almost 33 years old and I’m now an atheist. I’ve never felt so free. I’m free from the guilt that once tormented me. I’m free from the thoughts of Hell. I no longer believe in God. My life no longer revolves around this imaginary creator that lives in the sky. I believe that life is too precious to live in constant fear that there is a higher being that controls what happens to us when we die.
While this new outlook on life has brought me much liberation, it wasn’t without its share of pain. Coming out as an atheist had social ramifications that I underestimated. Given my family’s religious background, this didn’t sit well with them and created some tension that still exists today in some respects. I know they feel like I’m just lost and I’m afraid they’ll never understand how I feel about these things. They’ll never understand the liberation that I feel as an atheist. Our friendships also suffered and we’re still in the process of rebuilding our social lives. Living a suburban life in Texas hasn’t made it easy, but we’re trying. No matter what, I’m happy to say that my husband and I now live godless lives and enjoy what each day has to bring.
To submit your 1000-1,500 word de-conversion/coming out story, please send it to David@DavidGMcAfee.com with “Atheists Coming Out” in the subject line. Please feel free to share this page to ensure everyone gets the opportunity to participate.