I Left Christianity at Age Thirty-Five
I Feel Like I Wasted So Much Time.
I find that I often have residual anger to deal with because I had kept the faith for so long and through so much.
Anger at myself for not recognizing the manipulation sooner.
Anger at others for manipulating and oppressing me.
Anger at myself for believing a lie, for building a life around a lie.
Anger at others for what I now recognize as emotional, spiritual and mental abuse.
Anger because of the years of time I feel like I wasted.
Anger because I can not find a way back to following my original dreams.
I was thankful for what I read today in Tim Rymel’s “Rethinking Everything: When Faith and Reality Don’t Make Sense.” I heard about his book when I listened to his interview on the podcast “Everyone’s Agnostic”. One of the hosts said it was helpful for her to read, even six years after leaving religion. I am about seven years out now, so I thought I would give it a shot. He managed to convey my disjointed thoughts in cooperative language that made sense. Here is what he wrote about anger:
“Anger can be directed at more than our version of God. We may get angry if we feel we wasted our time and energy. We may feel that we let our dreams or ambitions go because they weren’t ‘godly’. Maybe we stayed in an abusive relationship, feeling that’s what we were called by god to do, or we’re angry that we ever married the person in the first place. We may also have a deep sensation that life didn’t turn out the way we wanted, or we’re just unhappy. Whatever the catalyst for the anger, its impact may be the very thing needed to move us toward freedom.”
He described anger as an agent for change, a motivator to do something that will make a difference. Maybe I am at the apex of finding that motivation, that forward force to make a change. I do want to make a change, but I haven’t quite carved out my niche yet.
Photo by Justin Jeubke on UNSPLASH
One other thing Tim noted in his book gives me a clue. “Oliver Emberton said, ‘If you’re not pissing someone off, you probably aren’t doing something important.” When it comes to opposing religion, I am sure to piss some people off. I should brace myself for that. But I do think it is important.
In the back of my mind, I am still concerned with breaking my father’s heart. He knows I don’t go to church anymore but beyond that we really don’t talk about it. I was contemplating why this is and I realized that in my childhood, religion was not a burden, it did not create scars. In my childhood religion felt safe and its rules were more flexible. The churches my parents had raised me in didn’t hurt me. But after I got married and was a music minister’s wife in a cult, it was those early grounding precepts which kept me there. I felt as though I should honor the teachings of my youth. I had always heard about difficult times and “leaning on the Lord” and I assumed that these years were my test, my trial and that I would come out “refined by fire and purer than gold.” My stubbornness, loyalty and strength were misdirected because my youthful years were spent building this gravitational mass of “faith in god” and being trained to stay focused on it, constantly revolving around it.
Then I became angry at myself again. Lately, I have heard several stories of people leaving their faith. Most of them left as a sort of coming of age or at least before their thirties. What was wrong with me? Why had I stayed so long? Had other people been able to recognize the lies and abuse more easily than I had?
Maybe my answer to this question is biased, but for now, this is what I think.
My parents’ intentions were loving and kind. Those years felt safe. My natural character was effective. I was stubbornly loyal and strong. I was not stupid. The precepts of the book they brought me up to revere however can easily be used for manipulation and control, even of the stubbornly loyal and strong. I had been trained to be stubbornly loyal to the wrong thing. Not following my heart, but following this book, this culture.
It does not take long, and it does not take much for a seemingly safe “faith” to become misused, toxic or even abusive. Religions are an unnecessary choice architecture, restraining people from discovering their true selves. It often inhibits people from learning the truth about this world, its history and their own fellow planet inhabitants. Here are a few examples of the programmatic roadblocks I am thinking of.
Evolution is a lie.
All abortion is murder.
Homosexuality is an abomination to God.
I used to believe those lies. I don’t believe them anymore. My life is happier, more fulfilling and more wonderous because I refused those shackles.
This Ted Talk by Nate Phelps, was encouraging to me. He is the son of Fred Phelps of Woodboro Baptist Church. He too left an abusive religion. He has a stunning explanation of “Faith, hope and love” and sound reasoning as to why faith is not the answer.