A congenial, Southern, atheist, bisexual, vegetarian woman devoted to equality for all. Loves to amuse and be amused. | @hypochristi
In my essays “Gladly Godless” and “Coming Out Gaytheist,” I mention that I began exercising religious skepticism in my preteen years. However, I’ve not delved into the details about what those years were like other than attending churches in an attempt find the perfect fit for me. I never even said what sparked my skepticism in the first place. Let’s travel back to 2002, when I was eleven.
I started occasionally attending one of the local Southern Baptist churches with my best friend at the time, who took me there after staying at her house for the weekend. I’d enjoy going because I got spend more time with her. At that age, I knew there were many versions of the bible. I curiously asked my friend’s mother after a sermon one day which bible was true. She smiled and responded “all of them.” I raised my eyebrows in doubt but didn’t question further. I figured she was just trying to say that all versions has at least SOME truth to them. I dismissed it and devoted myself to going to church with my friend as frequently as possible.
Months later at the same church, I was incredibly moved by a powerful sermon…of hate. By the end of it, I was sobbing in fear because I didn’t want to go to hell like the preacher assured all unsaved people were destined for. He railed on about the torture that awaited unrepentant sinners. I was crying so hard I nearly couldn’t breathe. What could I do? I didn’t want to go to Hell! My friend’s family told me I didn’t have to: all I had to do was accept Jesus into my heart. Willing to do just about anything to dissipate this terror, I agreed. One of the pastors took me into a private room soon afterward, telling me to get on my knees and clasp my hands in prayer. “Are you a sinner?” she asked. “Yes,” I choked out, still crying. “Are you willing to accept Jesus into your heart, knowing he died on the cross for you?” she continued. “Yes,” I replied again. “Okay,” she said, “then let us save your soul from eternal damnation. We shall pray. O dear Lord, please forgive this young girl for her mistakes and may you guide her on the right path. You are good and just; this girl needs you in her life. Please show her the way. Amen.” I breathed a sigh of relief. I went home that night confident that I no longer had anything to fear.
That invincible feeling soon wore off. Months later, I remember feeling no different. I went to the same church with my friend, but I didn’t feel as though any of my prayers were answered. My then-stepfather was still a tyrannical alcoholic. My peers continued to taunt me over my weight. I ended up in the hospital with pneumonia early the next year even though I prayed the doctors were wrong about its severity. Despite these setbacks, I kept church-hopping with other friends. I tried visiting youth groups, reading the bible (much to my horror), and forcing myself to believe the tall tales I was told during services. My ability to make sense of suspicious “miracles” and supernatural people shrunk thinner than a piece of dental floss before I’d finally had enough.
I gave up at fifteen. By this time, I’d explored the beliefs of more than a dozen churches of various denominations (Non-denominational, Southern Baptist, Catholic, Presbyterian, and Lutheran). That hellfire sermon in that Southern Baptist church stuck in my mind for all those years. Everywhere I went, it was the same: humans are natural-born sinners that need to repent. I couldn’t reconcile the belief that all humans were born evil. My skepticism won at the end of the day. If you think about about it, my goal of finding a denomination that worked for me was reached; it just ended up being none!
My greatest fear used to be hell; now it’s not living my life to the fullest. I spent too much time worrying about a torturous afterlife that was nonexistent. Since my epiphany at fifteen, I’ve not wasted another moment. The world’s got a lot of problems to be concerned with, but a hell isn’t one of them. I’m a good person without god(s) out to make a difference with the hands I used to pray with, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Category: Atheism & Religion