If you have been keeping up with my blog, then you know what I have been through (for the rest of you, you might want to start at the beginning). Like my disclaimer says on my sidebar:
I have lived through experiences that have shaped me into the often cynical, never hateful, magnanimous, shattered loner of a young woman that I am.
Now before I delve deep into this post, I just want to state that these are just my feelings on the subject, and if you are, shall we say, a Jesus freak type that does not like to hear/read anything negative about God-Almighty, then maybe you should just skip this post.
Now that that is out of the way… let me give you a bit of a back story.
I grew up in the church. Hell, my backdoor was a mere 100ft from the entrance to the church I grew up attending; but not just Sunday services. I went to a Christian preschool where we prayed over our food, learned scripture versus in sing-song, and put on plays with spiritual messages that would make our parents’ hearts happy. At such a young age, religion was such a part of my life, but because of my age, I wasn’t completely aware of what I was learning; I thought everyone knew this stuff.
There came a point when my parents changed me and my brother to a different daycare. We attended a secular school for a year, then begged to return to our original ‘sanctuary;’ our friends were there, we knew the teachers and staff, but more importantly, the snacks were better and they had a Nintendo gaming system… Although it was more expensive, my brother and I won, and we returned to our bible-thumping childcare facility we called ours.
The day came that I graduated elementary school, which meant not only moving onto middle school, but relinquishing my role as a daycare pupil. I hated it! I have never been good with change and this was probably the first instance where growing up became real; my childhood was slowly slipping away. I convinced my parents that I wasn’t ready to leave. The church that ran the daycare conducted business as usual with two Sunday services as well as Wednesday night service with a youth group association, so every Wednesday, mom and I would grab dinner out (usually fast food), she would drop me off for a few hours of praise and worship, then I would catch a ride home with a friend’s parent.
I loved my youth group, but more so, I loved attending youth group: singing gospel songs, rejoicing in His presence, sharing stories of salvation. I even brought my youth group experiences with me to my church (the one next door) and at the early age of 11, I started my own Sunday school for the little people. While the grownups read from the bible and sang along with the piano, I was in the basement making toddlers act out stories like Jonah and the whale and David and Goliath (or just taking them outside to play on the playground; it was all dependent on their moods, ya see…).
Then my Mom was accused of stealing from the offering tray. She was the treasurer for the church, so she collected the offerings and made the deposits every week. After having a come-to-Jesus-meeting with the pastor, Mom realized where the money was disappearing to: into the pastor’s pockets. When she called him out on his transgressions, the so-called man-of-God called my Mom a liar and a thief and began spreading rumors to the rest of the congregation. Mom didn’t want to deal with the lies, hatred, and religious politicking that ensued (rightfully so), so we stopped attending church on Sundays, but I continued my Wednesday night youth group.
That was, until my dad had a heart attack. Talk about rocking my world. My youth group peers told me they were praying for me and my family and for my Dad’s quick recovery. I knew that their thoughts and consolations were supposed to help me through such a tough time, but they only made me resentful. Why would He have my Dad suffer? If He loved all his children, why would He do something so terrible? Why was He punishing me? My Dad made a fairly quick recovery due to a change in his diet and exercise regimen (and quitting smoking helped, of course), and though I should have praised God for his protection and love, I became angry with Him. That was when I turned my back on the church completely.
Remember back when I wrote about dressing like a gothic chick?? Yeah. This is when it started. It was my way of rebelling; not against my parents, but against The Man Upstairs. I knew enough that I didn’t want to actually start worshiping the Devil, but I needed to let the Big Guy know: I’m not one of your little sheep anymore. I started wearing baggy black pants decked out in studs and metal chains hanging from behind and tight black shirts that showed off my newly blossoming womanly figure. I would adorn my face with heavy black eyeliner and pulled my hair back into a tight ponytail. I even gauged my ears to the point I could stick a pencil through them. This was my new look and my peers didn’t know what to think; I looked scary as hell!
Eventually, my wardrobe became less threatening, and I met Boyfriend (now the Ex). In finding out that he was a pastor’s son (x2), I figured I’d give being a good Christian (attending church, praying daily, etc.) another go. The first time I attended a church function with Boyfriend was a Christmas service in which a Rabbi (yes, a Jewish pastor) was the guest speaker. Interesting… After the Rabbi and Mrs. Saintly finished comparing and contrasting Christmas and Hanukkah, we were invited to join in prayer. Everyone got up and joined hands in a massive circle. Standing there with my head bowed, I began to hear what I first thought was humming… or was it whispers…? The sound became more and more audible, and as I lifted my head to see what was going on, I realized people were speaking gibberish and some were even on the verge of convulsing! This strange practice lasted about 30 minutes, then it was time to dip out.
For someone who had never experienced people ‘speaking in tongues,’ it was quite unsettling. Boyfriend had grown up around that kind of worship, so he was accustomed to the practice, but if I hadn’t known any better, I would have thought that a mass exorcism needed to be conducted. I eventually became used to witnessing people speaking in tongues as my attendance to Mrs. Saintly’s church became frequent, though the spirit of the Holy Ghost never took hold of me in such a manor.
It was at this church where I first met the Recluse. When we first met, he was quiet and kept to himself, then he stopped going. Boyfriend and I found out that he had been frequenting a more modern church where the services were more akin to dance parties than the traditional shut-up-and-listen sermons (and the church goers were noticeably younger).
After I was raped, I stopped going to Sunday services. Since the Recluse lived a few yards from the sanctuary, I was scared to even step foot on the property, but it didn’t keep the Recluse away from his weekly doses of forgiveness and repentance. After the first few weeks of him blackmailing me, he decided that his Sundays were better spent threatening me and forcing me against my will to please him than being a good Christian.
Being blackmailed and raped by a so-called God-fearing man has forever changed my stance on Christianity and my belief in God. I want to believe that there is a higher power, a supreme being, but one that ‘cares for all his children’…? If He cared so much for me… (I think you can finish that sentence). I now classify myself as an agnostic:
A person who believes that nothing is known or can be known of the existence or nature of God or of anything beyond material phenomena
I am of the mind to spread kindness. Love thy neighbor. Do good when good is warranted. Make your own happiness. That’s not to say that I don’t respect the views that others have in their own religion. In fact, it makes me happy to see people so at peace with their own beliefs; I used to be one; I know the feeling all too well. But I will not be a sheep to a mythical shepherd any more. I will live my life for me and I will be happy knowing that that is enough.
… And this is NOT the part where you fill my comment section with conversion therapy BS and ‘He is there waiting for you if you change your mind’ malarkey… got it? Good!
*Thanks to Rinse and Repeat for encouraging me to write about my thoughts on religion.