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Imagine No Religion

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Have you ever had a secret you wanted to get off your chest, but you couldn’t because of the backlash you would receive? And this isn’t even a bad secret. This isn’t a, **_“I’m sorry I ran over your cat,”** secret. Not even a, **_“don’t tell mom the babysitter’s dead,”_** secret either. This secret shouldn’t even be a secret at all. Because it’s who YOU are. But it is. And I understand all to well the fear of coming out atheist. But I’m here to tell you it is ok to finally come out as an atheist. To finally show the world who you are. And that is more than ok to be an atheist and to finally be who you really are inside and out.
After my family left the cult we were in, being introduced to the public for the first time in my entire life, was one of the most scariest life events I have faced. It took me some years to get acquainted with living a life free of harsh constrictions. It was a whole new world for me. But I did overcome my fear. The next ten years I spent trying to discover who I was. I moved from a small town to a big city. I spent some time in a foster home. I felt displaced.
Thought my teenage years into early adulthood I wasn’t worried about God or religion or if I was sinning or not. I just wanted to live my life. I met a girl at 19 and spent seven years with her. We had our daughter in December of 2005. Shortly after she split from me. During this time, as I was fighting custody over my daughter I realized I wanted to rekindle my relationship with my father. He is still very much a Christian. Conservative right kinda Christian. I think at that point I didn’t really care, I was lost and wanted to reconnect. We talked and he had asked me to come back to church with him. So I did. After gaining 50 percent custody over my daughter I would take her with to church with me. My dad and I became very close. I was even baptized.
But after a while, I was starting to feel like I was back in the cult again. I was starting to feel uncomfortable. A gut instinct that was telling me this wasn’t right. The speaking in tongues, “prophecies” being told, then I was asked to go in front of the church with everyone else and start speaking in tongue. I was freaked out by then. I then started to question everything. I continued to go to church, but I would write down everything from the sermon of that day and would later question my dad. Simple questions that man of strong faith such as my father would have an easy time answering. Not so much.
On May 14th, 2011 I received a devastating call that informed me my daughters mother Chelsea, was not going to live through the night. She was in ICU from apparent brain damage due to lack of oxygen timber brain. My heart broke. And I raced to the hospital to say my goodbye to her. Which was the single hardest moment in my life. And it still is to this day. Chelsea died around 6pm that Saturday evening. My mother who was watching my daughter met me in the parking lot of the hospital so I could take my daughter home with me and sadly break the news to her. She was 5. But she knew something was wrong.
As my family lies into my home, my daughter has tightly wrapped herself around me and was sobbing. I knew this would be hard. Yet at that time I was still a Christian, so explaining to her that her mother was now in heaven with Jesus. But shortly after that day, everything changed. Losing her mother shook me to my very core. Her death alone was not the reason why I became an atheist. But it played a big part. The church I was attending was a very small church. One half was the pastors family and the other half was mine. Sisters and cousins. My dad and my grandmother and so on. While grieving her mothers death I stopped attending church for bit. I was diagnosed PTSD. After a while I started to notice people treating me differently. Telling me I was taking her mothers death way to hard. That I needed to get back to church asap. Give my grief to God. I am not the type of person to reach out for help. At times I would feel more of a burden. I also figured that if people at the church, especially my very religious cousins saw me in the state of mind I was in, they would reach out to me. I decided to take a stab in the dark and reach out to them. And every single one of them turned their backs on me. Brushed me aside. And at that moment I decided to heal my own way. This church and the people in it, including my own family, eerily resembled the cult I grew up in. At night the nightmares of my childhood played out through my subconscious as I slept. This was not the road I was going to go down again.
All these questions started pouring into my head. Why did she have to die. Why was it her? How was I supposed to deal with her death to where the people I reached out to never grabbed ahold. I was in a bad place and I needed them and my family. But nothing. These questions eventually stemmed into bigger questions. Meaningful life questions. How did we get here? Why is there suffering? These questions alone sparked a curiosity that, six years later hasn’t been quenched. And at that moment, a moment I will remember for the rest of my life, I decided I was not going to be following any religion from that point on. I was going to tear myself away from the indoctrination that had been drilled inside my head for over twenty years.
Slowly but surely I did. Because I made this decision my father basically cut all ties with me. He no longer talks to me like he used to. Does not want to hang out. It killed me at first. But time went on and I soon realized this was his problem, not mine. He is not only losing out on my life, but his granddaughters as well. I have come to grips with this.
Keeping the real you inside, who you want to be as a person, the way you live because of what others will do or say will tear you up inside. Physically make you sick. Doing things because others want you to do them should not be how you live. Yes, it may be rough at first but you come out the other side. There is whole community online that will support you. That will stand by your side as your new life as an atheist, as someone you want to be starts its journey. They will either love you for who you are or miss out on some of the most amazing experiences with you. And thats all on them, not you.

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Comment by Chris on February 6, 2017 at 12:58am

The Freedom from Religion Foundation, and social atheist networks may help navigate your transition from religion to free thought.

Comment by Chris on January 29, 2017 at 4:32am

It's been a while since I've been to a funeral.

Do religionists still wait three days before burying a dead friend, or relative to make sure they are indeed dead and not the new messiah as they wave their hands in the air while burning candles and inciting incantations about heaven and hell for the spirit of the deceased (diseased)?

Comment by Chris on January 29, 2017 at 2:56am

I recently watched a linguist on C-Span. Curious how language has developed over the years.

Thinking about it - I found it sadly humorous how language hasn't kept up with everyday language and vernacular. Olde English is often used as 'formal speech"  in the U.S.A. to help some people grieve over the grave.

Language for atheists hasn't evolved to assist others, especially religionists cope with grief.

Comment by Chris on January 29, 2017 at 1:15am

There should be plenty of room for people such as yourself. 

Comment by Stephen on January 17, 2017 at 11:00pm

Very moving story Matthew, thanks for sharing.

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