It was the most terrifying moment of my life. I was alone. I was in my chair at my last church. I was crying. I realized I hated hell. I hated the idea. I hated the smug way the young pastor at the front of the church was stating how, “Indeed an eternal, permanent hell was something that the unbeliever had to look forward to.” He was making the point out of every part of the Bible. John 3:18 and Matthew 24 made appearances and they were used to prove the point that Jesus approved of eternal damnation and there was no escape for the non-believer because of the love that Jesus has for all people. My brain broke. I then watched Christians support discrimination against gays in the form of seeking legislation that would keep Christian wedding service providers from doing gay weddings. I was then drawn into arguments with fellow believers who called me sinful or misguided as I sought to secure civil rights for all people in the US, not just the ones that look and act like we do. As the abuse and the illogical beliefs piled onto my head, I came to a terrifying realization. **I could not ever go back to church again.** I was profoundly done.
This was, as I said, terrifying. First, I lost most of my friends. Each friend was like a mini betrayal. I could only be a true friend if I supported the church. But that was nothing compared to what started to happen next. The illogical beliefs started to just burn holes into my brain. I desperately flailed about trying to find my god. I prayed I begged for more. I wanted answers to my soul burning questions so badly I lay awake shaking and crying each night. Finally I awoke to the reality that not only could I not go to church anymore, I could not Bible, I could not Jesus, I could not Hell. I. Could. Not. The Bible was the foundation of my faith the very center. It crumbled in a flurry of textual criticism and good old fashion logical thinking. With tears pouring down my face, I told my then husband, a devout believer, that I could not believe anymore. I desperately flailed about for my lover. For a few short weeks, I thought I still could have a relationship with him. He then told me he had been told by my dad that my uncle had seen my facebook posts about my pain from my past and present in the church. My lover told me that he thought I was mentally ill and should be seen again. My world shattered and we just started to pull apart. Two doctors with MD after their names said that I was not at all mentally ill.
Speaking of my Daddy, he likened my lack of faith with a porn addiction and that I was a marriage vow breaker for it. My mother awkwardly tried to say she felt she was losing me and all she could come up with was, “I don’t know how to even spend time with you, we have nothing of importance in common.” I desperately flailed around for my parents. I was then reminded that my brother had died at birth by their god’s good grace so that I could exist. If he had lived, I would not have been born so I should ever be grateful to their god for allowing me to exist. I vaguely remember trying very hard just to get my father out of my house. My father who was up until that point my daddy. I was his girl. I was quirky, masculine, silly, and loved 60’s music because of him. He had been my hero and one of my best friends. All I could think as he hugged me and left was, “leave. Just fucking leave.” My entire foundation had shattered.
I had to rebuild. My marriage had just turned co-dependently mega toxic and I had to leave. In that moment of death, I found life. I found me. I looked at my mirror and with all the power and brilliance of my own strength and said to myself in the full glory of the moment, “I AM THAT I AM.” I filed for divorce and found love. I started to train as a life coach and found that I could replace “I am a Christian,” with “I am Karen who is her own creation from this point out.” I found a group of fantastic friends in an atheist group, Lafayette Tippecanoe Atheists and Secular Humanists and they have come to mean a great deal to me. The friends who are still Christians and still love me without fighting with me feel like family.
You might resonate with some or all of this. Whether you keep your faith in God or not, leaving the church is TERRIFYING. It isn’t easy, you need to completely destroy and then find the strength to rebuild. 18 months after deconversion, I am happy, fulfilled, and optimistic for the future. I am engaged to my lover, Ross Balmer, and we are building this business and ideas hand in hand. I feel tremendously hopeful and would love to show you that there is life, joy, charity, fulfillment, and connection with peers after leaving the church. I would love to get you started on your journey to the grace, hope, and joy I have found.