Why I Broke Up With Christianity as a Special Needs Mom

Why I Broke Up With Christianity as a Special Needs Mom July 25, 2018
Woman Praying on the Beach


For years, I tried to find a way to make sense of why my son had been given so many debilitating diseases. It was difficult for me to reconcile why such a small child could be forced to go through so much adversity, pain, and suffering.

I remember one day sobbing in my bedroom, and I just wanted to know this was going to be ok. I wanted to know there was a reason for our suffering.

In the midst of my hysteria, I remember screaming out that if there was a God, I needed them to show me why we were dealing with all of this pain.

Quietly, I sat there waiting for something, anything to show me my child’s chronic illnesses was part of some master plan that would propel us all to greatness.

And then nothing happened.

Instead, I sat there crying until I fell asleep.

This didn’t stop me from seeking a purpose or trying to find a support network.

Over the course of several months, I began reading about different faiths, communities and was in desperate need of support.

After years away from the church, I chose to attend a local church that met at a local middle school.

Immediately, I felt smitten and intoxicated with the happiness that seeped out of every single person at the service. I felt better, connected, and less alone.

Drunk on God’s Love, I jumped full force into a community that I thought would provide my family stability, accept my child, and give me a sense of higher purpose.

I volunteered, tithed, and recruited friends and family to check out the services.

Each week, I felt invigorated by the messages, reminders of being a more selfless person, and the push to volunteer and give back to the less fortunate.

I thought I was doing good for everyone.

However, I was also ignoring my own firmly held beliefs that included:

Accepting all people for who they are regardless of their choices, gender identity, sexual orientation, ability, or religion.

A woman being equal and valued members of society and relationships

Supporting the marriages of same-sex couples

Believing in a woman’s right to chose what to do with her own body

Supporting other people’s rights not to believe what I did. And not forcing or persuading others to think as I do.

I valued science, trusted the theory of evolution, trusted doctors, and believed in public schools.

I valued platonic friendships with both men and women.

Over the course of three years, I watched the person I had prided myself on becoming – look like a distant shadow.

I embraced a more submissive role in my marriage.

Even though I had always had male friends, I accepted men and women should not be friends.

I began to question the validity and need for science. My feelings about doctors changed, and that was not a good thing considering my son had many.

Over time I was more angry with public education and found myself wanting to keep my son away from the madness of the real world.

My anxiety grew as I was told over and over that I was a broken person, born of sin, and could only be whole by accepting God.

The problem was that I didn’t believe many of the Biblical stories.

I questioned, searched, and scoured for more scientific and physical evidence of the existence of Jesus. All I was told was there were none, and I needed to have “faith.”

In Bible studies, I would sit and read the questions, think to myself, and listen intently to each person as they shared their experiences.

Frequently, we were asked to analyze other people’s behavior, which always made me feel uncomfortable because I never like to judge anyone’s choices.

We were called to help others not because it was the right thing to do, but because it would please God.

In helping others, we could show God’s love, which would, in turn, bring more people to God. I wanted to help others for the sake of helping them, not to please God.

None of this felt right to me.

My son’s experience within the church made the situation far more complex.

My son, who has several disabilities, struggled greatly in Sunday school. He needed one on one help, but never had anyone available to help him.

As my son got older, he couldn’t keep pace with his peers in class and became disruptive.

He wanted to play with the younger kids, but he was too big, and he scared the toddlers.

I begged for a ministry to help my son that would be for children with disabilities. My pleas were never taken seriously, and numerous people suggested I start the ministry myself.

There was no way I could take on the responsibility of a ministry. We were already volunteering, and I was leading and involved with several women’s groups.

My son’s care took up the bulk of my time outside of the church, and I couldn’t add any more to my plate.

Even though I requested help, I never received the support we needed for my child. He was never entirely safe attending services, and because he didn’t have the right one on one care, he was a disruption to the other children in his class.

Even though no one told us to leave, we knew we had to go.

Despite the church saying they cared about our son, there was no place for him in the community.

Then one day we left the church.

We stopped volunteering, stopped tithing, and we stopped participating in group activities within the church.

Initially, the change felt like I was breaking up with God, the community, and everything I had invested in for over three years.

I watched friendships disintegrate because I distanced myself from the community. However, this was necessary for me to reconnect with myself and become a better person and mother.

My biggest concern was pulling my son away from the community. He loved playing with the kids at church. My anxiety was through the roof thinking that I had stolen him from his friends.

However, I watched him flourish away from the community. We no longer had to revolve all of our time around the church.

We were able to focus our energy on him. He became happier, healthier, and less filled with anxiety by going out into the world.

Additionally, I found that I was able to reconnect with my long-held beliefs, values, and morals. The nagging anxiety I felt on a daily basis while walking in faith disappeared.

I was able to love everyone for who they were, and I no longer had to listen to people discriminate, judge or dismiss individuals that didn’t follow the letter of God’s law.

My life became simple.

There was no more hypocrisy around me.

I no longer had to fight with myself about the Bible’s outdated teachings on the roles of women in society and the family.

I no longer had to hear people condemn homosexuality, sex outside of marriage, divorce, or other religions.

No more doubting science and doctors.

I started believing in myself and my ability to make choices without fear or guilt guiding the way.

I was able to use common sense in my choices without fearing it was Satan planting those thoughts in my head.

My mind was free from worry, free from fighting, and free from guilt.

We may have lost friendships, a community, and our faith, but we found peace, happiness, and acceptance in ourselves.

The church failed my son.

The church failed me as a woman.

I’m glad we were failed because now we are free.


*Katie Joy is a blogger and freelance writer. Her work is featured on Upworthy, Huffington Post, Yahoo Parents, Mamamia, Daily Beast, Cafe Stir, Newsweek, Jezebel, and The Daily Mail. She writes articles on parenting, disability advocacy, debunking pseudoscience, atheism, and crimes against women and children.

She co-hosts the YouTube show, “The Smoking Nun,” with Kyle Curtis. The show airs weekly and tackles pseudoscience, current events, and crime stories.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Carma Doege

    I’m glad you were able to make the right decisions for you and your family. What a relief to feel ar home with your beliefs once again.

  • Katherine Paulson

    It feels amazing to be united with my beliefs!

  • glad to hear you are doing better. For all of the claims of Christianity and the bible, it is us humans who must do the work. You’ll notice that despite claims that Christians can heal people, they never show up in pediatric cancer wards, or veterans’ hospitals. They do show up in stadiums where they lie about curing cancer to suck up the money.

  • Katherine Paulson

    They show up when it suits them – and when they can profit from it either financially or by getting publicity. It’s never actually about helping those who need it.

  • Thank you for writing this. As I read it, I found myself agreeing with so much of it. We have a pretty good church that does treat our son well and I know that is a rarity. As we face the start of middle school this fall and confirmation classes, I worry that the acceptance we have felt will go away. Just knowing that others have walked this path is enough to give me hope.

  • Thank you for sharing. I grew up in fundamentalist evangelical Christianity and was sent to a young earth creationism Christian school grades 5-12. It was really bad for me – I was a natural skeptic and Sunday school teachers told my mom my questions were disruptive so she told me to save them for her. But the Christian school reinforced that questioning without reaching the “right” conclusion was deception from Satan. I knew for sure I had to get out of that brand of religion when my church started teaching complementarian seminars – and my analytical mind didn’t fit the “design” for women’s minds. I was 18. In college i found progressive Christianity where I stayed for awhile, but gradually my husband and I realized we didn’t believe anymore. Our kids at 16 and 18 have been raised without religion . They see no need for it. I don’t either. The community can be nice, but as we were among the youngest of an aging church population, we didn’t fit in too well.

    It is great that your son is thriving outside a church situation. You now have more time to seek out activities geared toward his needs.

  • Thank you for sharing that! Isn’t it always the case that anytime we use reasonable thoughts and have doubts it’s “Satan.” I had friends tell me that wanting to leave the church was “Satan” trying to steer me away from God. I told them, “No this is my common sense telling me there are a lot of red flags here and I need to leave.” Watching the way, even progressive churches treat the role of the woman was too much for me. I will never subscribe to a dogma that places my husband as the leader of me. No thank you!

  • My husband was a Crustmas and Easter Catholic, so my evangelical stories are baffling to him. We have a partnership marriage – no one is submissive, we discuss issues and make decisions together. When I told him about complementarianism he was momentarily stunned, then made a joke that I should make him a sandwich while he watched baseball.

    Would you believe I sti had an irrational fear of hell even after I had given up belief in God? I had to rationally talk myself through that. But I had been brought up with “get saved or spend eternity in hell” teaching. Scared to death as a child, is there any alternative to “gettiing saved”? Rational thought is squelched and we accept the irrational. And when rational thought creeps in we are told it is Satan. Unreal.

  • Ha! That sounds like a joke my husband would make! I love balanced relationships. My husband freely admits he is a feminist. I love to cook, so I do make our meals, but he NEVER expects it and will feed himself if I’m not in the mood. We delegate all the chores in the house and both carry our weight.

    That does not surprise me at all. when you have been told your entire life you will burn in hell – it’s hard not to go there. That fear kept me from a lot of things, and also gave me a lot of guilt. however, now I tell myself I’d rather go to hell than be in heaven with many of the Christians that are working their way there.

  • Jennny

    ‘…In helping others, we could show God’s love, which would, in turn, bringmore people to God. I wanted to help others for the sake of helping
    them, not to please God.. ‘ that was a conclusion I came to whilst deconverting, one name for it is love-bombing and I’m ashamed now I did so much of it. I just got my first new friend with no strings attached. She’s my new neighbour, 4yo and so cute. There’s no fence between our houses so she came round one day and picked daisies from my lawn. her dad was mortified but I didn’t mind. Now we have a regular date, she waters my flower tubs and we talk slugs and snails and laugh at the antics of her puppy. I have an outside toilet (as well as proper indoor bathroom I should add), what is it with kids and other people’s toilets, she likes to try it out! I’m not tying myself in knots praying I can invite her to the Sunday School that I used to run and through her get her parents converted. It ain’t gonna happen, we’re just delightfully good friends.

  • I absolutely love this story! I love that you befriended a 4-year-old. That is awesome!

  • roland watts

    Well done.

    I gather church can provide a deep sense of community. However it comes at a terrible price. Breaking out can be a nightmare but stopping in can be devastating. It’s great that you found your way out.

    I was born into the church. However, I live in Australia where a lot of tolerance shown for both believers and non believers and we are all mixed up in our population. As a result there was never an issue of feeling isolated on abandoning faith.

  • that is great! We were so invested in our church, that leaving was really, really hard. However, now that we are out, all of us feel great.

  • Rob don’t tolerate intolerance

    I also live in Australia. I never felt any sense of bondage when leaving the church. I had a sense of freedom when abandoning a basically evangelical faith, and then a very similar sense of freedom when 20 years later abandoning atheism. It all seems to me as stages on a pattern of personal growth, as Fowler and others have studied. I’m glad people are feeling great to have grown out of church situations – I assure them that equal greatness awaits those breaking free of the rationalist/atheist stage too. It’s blissful.

  • rationalobservations?

    It’s also delusional…

  • Rob don’t tolerate intolerance

    No, not in the least, actually. But keep trying to put down those who have a different perspective from yours if you have such a desperate need for validation.

  • what is delusional

  • rationalobservations?

    Belief in any of the millions of undetected and undetectable gods, goddesses and god-men or the religions that invented them appears to be delusional.

  • very true!

  • rationalobservations?

    The only demonstration of desperation is that which you continue to display.
    Your condition of denial and projection of your own inadequacy is most pitiful.

  • Rob don’t tolerate intolerance

    No, but if you are so needing to have the last word, have at it. I’m thoroughly unconvinced by your responses and made-up nonsense about me, and see your responses as very telling in their defensive fantasising.