Your Stories of Atheism: Disowned For Leaving Religion Behind

Your Stories of Atheism: Disowned For Leaving Religion Behind March 12, 2018

This is an ongoing series featuring your stories of how you came to identify as an atheist. If you want to send me your story, you can email me. To read past stories, click here.

Our first story this week comes from Briana. She said:

So my atheism story is a little weird, but stick with me here. I used to be religious. Like, melt-your-face-off-with-the-stupid, religious. I was raised in a weird branch of Catholic (for example, I was taught that the trinity were three separate entities, not one) and I questioned it quite a bit as a kid.

When I was twelve, my dad died in a traumatic way at home. I was put into a kind of group therapy in a public school, but the therapy was focused on making sure my dad’s death didn’t negatively impact my views of god. Needless to say, it didn’t help me grieve properly.

These events spurred my friends, my sister, and me to dive into various “mystical ways” to contact my father. We spent years barely paying attention to school while learning how to “properly” use a Ouija board. This “knowledge” made me certain, for years, that *something* had to exist out there.

As I got older, I held many prejudiced opinions of atheists. I thought they were children, angry at god for not getting their way, so on and so forth, you know the bit. I held these beliefs for a long time until I had kids.

Almost dying twice while giving birth kinda changed me. It made me want to pursue interests I’d neglected, things like cosmology that my dad had introduced me to as a kid. I learned a lot not just about about the big bang, but also the scientists I respected. I wondered why so many were atheists.

Did they just never encounter a Ouija board before? I was tempted to think that they just didn’t “know” what I did. I decided instead to look it up. That single decision led me to the truth: my precious Ouija boards weren’t ghostly phenomena, my god had never been proven, there was no evidence of an afterlife or ghosts.

It took me months of lurking on atheist Facebook pages to realize how prejudiced I’d been. I used to say disgusting things like, “atheists can hate god all they want but they should be forced to send their kids to church!” Now I’m of the opposite opinion and raising my own children without religion.

I’m happier now knowing the truth than I ever was begging for guidance from thin air. I feel lucky that the passion for outer space that my dad shared with me is what led me to reality (he was an agnostic, and I think that if he were still alive, he’d be happy for me).

Things aren’t all rainbows these days though. I’m the only atheist I know, and my old friends (who still believe like I used to) think I’m just trying to be edgy or something & don’t talk to me anymore. I was disowned by my extended family when I “came out” as atheist (by posting *very* mild logic-themed memes on my Facebook page). My mother hasn’t disowned me, but takes every chance possible to “apologize” for “not being a good enough mother” and raising me to be even more religious.

The fight goes on though, much as it always has. I am proud of how much I’ve changed though I know I cannot let myself get comfortable. I know I’ll always have to challenge myself so that I don’t slip into a new version of my old self. I think the best thing to come out of all of this is that my kids won’t have a lifetime of indoctrination to overcome. Thanks for reading.

Briana, I am so sorry to hear about your father and that you had to go through that. He sounds like he was a great dad. I’m also very sorry to hear about your family. How do people not see the harm religion can cause when entire families disown one another over differing views? Know that you have my respect for going through all of that and staying true to yourself. Thank you for your story.

Next up, we have Hal:

I grew up as most people do in my country, in a Lutheran family. I was baptised and confirmed Lutheran. When I was about twenty-two, I had lived on my own for over five years. Life was good, I had friends for the first time in my life. I had a good job, and was working on completing my education. I was making it on my own when one day I had a conversation with a friend of mine who is a devout Christian (most likely Lutheran, thought I’m not 100% sure). This conversation lead me to believe that perhaps what I had been taught as a child was wrong. I experienced a crisis of faith as the Christians call it, and I chose to read the Bible, cover to cover. Somewhere in the time I spent reading that book, I discovered the double standards in it. I noticed the hateful writing and so on. Then I noticed how preachers, ministers, etc preach the opposite. “Lazy people deserve nothing” type rhetoric. In later years I have also noticed an anti-semitic and anti-Islam teaching in many churches.

Then I looked at history, the documented facts of our past. I found that the Bible paints a false picture about so many things. Not just the choices in verses used by priests in their sermons, but actual stories that do not hold true when one looks at the history of the era.

I found that after my crisis of faith, I had woken up washed free of my naive faith based on a select few random stories from that book. I was unable to see this malevolent individual Christians call god as someone worth asking forgiveness from or even believing in. I found that the Bible contains many beautiful stories, but that’s what they are… stories.

I read the teachings of the Buddha and I read parts of the Quran… I even debated with an imam about that book when I was working in Libya a few years ago. This imam understood my point of view and he understood that it is a personal choice. He also told me “I will tell no one of these conversations, because a lot of people here will not understand.” I told him that he was free to tell them about it, but to please wait till I had returned home to Europe.

I have read a lot of philosophy, a lot of religious texts, a lot of political texts etc. It all leads to one thing to me… Man made god to explain what man does not understand.

Thank you for your story, Hal!

Our final story this week comes from Jenny:

I was raised Southern Baptist and Methodist. Strange combo, but that’s how my family rolled. Mom was Baptist, Dad was Methodist…my granny always derided them for being in a “mixed marriage”. Anyway, we were in church every time the doors were open, but I can’t remember a time that I ever really bought what they were selling. The stories struck me as absurd and I could never understand, if god were really out there somewhere and actually cared about me, why would he continuously ignore my pleas to be left alone by my, um, overly “amorous” much older cousin. As I got older, I began to openly question everything my Sunday school teachers said, to the point where I was kicked out of numerous classes for being “unruly”. I guess their version of unruly was anyone who couldn’t seem to swallow the crap they were trying to feed us. I eventually gave up and just began going along and getting along. It was easier that way and it made mom happy, which made me happy. I kept up the charade for years, I did everything a good Christian girl was supposed to do. I married a “Christian” man, who turned out to be an abusive alcoholic behind closed doors. We had kids, we took the kids to church, we were active in our church, I even ran a ministry…but I still never felt it. I’d watch my friends and mimic their behavior, but never could achieve the level of absolute faith they had. I truly believed there was something terribly wrong with me. Why was it so easy for them and so difficult for me? I had pretty much resigned myself to a life of lies. But as the kids got older, I began to notice something amazing…they had the same questions, they had the same doubts, they weren’t buying it either. So, maybe there wasn’t something wrong with me, maybe there was something wrong with the life I was trying to lead. So I left. I took the kids and we left…the husband, the church, so so so many “friends”. Scariest thing I ever did. And the best. I met my current husband who is an outspoken atheist and began to realize that there truly was nothing wrong with me. My kids are all grown now and living full, complete, happy, godless lives and I’ve never been happier or more content. Thank (not) god that I finally woke up.

I’m sorry for the things you’ve had to endure, Jenny, but I am so glad you’re happy now. This has got to be one of the most inspiring stories I’ve received so far. Thank you!

If you want to send me your story, you can submit it here. To read past stories, click here.

Image: Creative Commons/Pixabay

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  • It’s really heartbreaking to think that people could just disown a relative just like that. I guess the stricter the family, the closer they identify being able to profess religious belief with loyalty and deference to authority.

    No such horror story here. I grew up in a Catholic family but became an atheist in my teens. Everybody in the family knows I’m a nonbeliever, but no one cares. In fact, I have one cousin who became some sort of holy roller and now everyone avoids her. I went to a big family reunion Christmas Eve and had a lot of fun. The only time religion came up was when an argument broke out over whether the town was going to plow the St. Mary’s parking lot.

  • It is heartbreaking. There are so many families like this, too. It’s very upsetting.

    I’m glad you have a more reasonable family!

  • Thank you all for sharing your stories. There can be a lot of pain through the process. Once I accepted my atheism, I don’t know how anyone can believe those outlandish stories. Yet we are considered the odd ones for not believing.

  • Geoff Benson

    In the UK it’s the other way round. Although religion is very pervasive and, in many ways, even more (theoretically) tolerated than in the US, the reality is that religious belief is seldom discussed, and the rare time a person of faith speaks up, they will be clearly both embarrassed and defensive about it (though their words will probably include not having to apologise…). The US will eventually go the same way, but I think it’ll be through new generations, rather than existing generations changing their views.

  • Illithid

    The courage of women like Jenny is breathtaking. I had some troubles myself, mostly about sexuality, but no family alienation. Everyone’s okay with my atheism except my grandmother, and she’s 95 so I just don’t trouble her about it.

  • I agree. It’s a lot to cope with. I couldn’t even imagine being in Jenny’s situation. Your family sounds great!

  • It’s somewhat similar in Canada. It’s just a non-thing.

  • Illithid

    They were pretty cool about things. Not perfectly accepting in every way initially, but never a fear of kicking me out or not loving me, no yelling or screaming or guilt or damning to Hell. In other words, what everyone deserves.

  • Maura Hart

    brianna, your mother does need to apologize. for indoctrinating you in a cult. yes a cult. doesn’t matter how big the “religion” is. none of them are true, they are all just a way to control you, and take some of your money.

  • Gertie D

    Two of the best things that ever happened to me:

    1) Meeting & marrying a man who is an atheist — still going strong 20 years later.
    2) Reading a book called ‘The Demon Haunted World’ by Carl Sagan.

    I applaud the courage of these folks for sharing their stories.

  • What a fantastic book by a wonderful author.