**skip to the second half if you would like cut to the chase to avoid a long winded story about going to a strict christian school**
I went to a Seventh Day Adventist Christian school from 3rd through 8th grade. But I've always had a level of skepticism my whole life. I remember fondly how I would cross my arms, not bow my head and keep my eyes open when we would pray during school before tests and lunch and such.
I also remember how passionately our English teacher talked about the wonders of heaven, and asked each of us what we looked forward to. (Looking forward to flying and trying unimaginable heavenly foods always seemed to be high on someone's list.) Then, without fail, the teacher would pull the rug out from all of us and say, "You can't imagine anything greater than heaven! And when you get there, you're going to throw away and forget what you wanted to do because there is going to be something better!"
This trick never really impressed me. I was always left thinking "I don't know dude... Not gonna lie. But I was just imagining some pretty baller stuff just then." Admittedly, I was a slightly conceited about my imagination. But this cheep trick didn't seem to fail to blow the minds of my fellow third graders time and time again.
When I got older I found myself always in trouble in some way or another. The PE teacher would constantly pause games to point out cheesy "signs" that "Jesus was with us" that day, and would call on us to make our own observation on that fact. I hardly ever took this seriously; "Well Jeff rolled his ankle really badly today while we were playing 'duck, duck, Judas'. So, that's a sign I guess."
My 8th grade year was the worst but most amusing year. Teachers were clearly tired of putting up with my insubordination and frequently punished me by taking away my PE privileges and letting me have no access to my gym clothes then would make me run around the parking for the entire 1 1/2 hour PE class. So I would end up running a few miles in my school uniform instead. Running in a uniform was miserable. But I took pride in my stubbornness and would smile and grin every time I passed the teacher who was overseeing my punishment. I did that for the almost the entire year before they realized I wasn't going to give in. When graduation time came, I made sure before hand that all papers that were about graduation never made it home. And when the graduation date rolled around, I stayed home threw away all my school uniforms. Now looking back on all this, it probably seems very foolish to anyone who reads this, but I can't help but still feel like I won in some small way.
I think I've been an atheist all of my life. But was never brave enough to admit it to myself till this summer. It kinda came at a bad time too. I was always holding on to my last thread of faith. I think I new I was an atheist many months before the summer started, but decided I would try to fix whatever was wrong with me and get my faith back by being around a lot of other religious people.
So I had just been hired to work for a Christian summer camp and was 1 week into the job when my last bit of faith left me. (I guess I was kinda asking for it) I was reading "The Greatest Show On Earth" and was simply amazed by how much more wonderful nature is without simply saying magic did it. Then shortly after I became an atheist while thinking about it one night while lying in my bed.
Unfortunately, this came with significant drawbacks I immediately noticed. I began becoming very disgusted with what we were teaching these campers that we were in charge of. I felt guilty for having in part lied to them. But I can't just quit the job, I worked hard to get there. I was 17 and by far the youngest person employed there. So I still had 3 weeks left of working. I decided that I would pull myself out of the more bible study type thing and just focus on making sure the campers had a safe and fun time in nature.
So the weeks are going by while I'm working. I'm having a good time with friends of mine who also got a job working at the camp too. I'm just making it all about the kids ignoring the Christian aspect of the camp. Still having a great time and can't wait to get home and all.
Then on the last couple days, I get the news that a beloved cousin of mine has killed himself. I wasn't doing very well for the last couple days. I really wanted to finish out the job strong but it wore me down too much. I didn't want to hear talk about how I was going to see him again in heaven. And I refused to talk about it.
Until one night, in a moment of weakness I suppose, an old mentor of mine stood with me in the dark and gave me the whole "I'm sorry about your loss" talk. And I slipped up and said that "the hardest thing about this is knowing I'll never see my cousin again." And she replied "you'll be reunited when Jesus comes."
It was rude of me to say so sharply, but I wasn't nearly in the mood. I said "I don't believe in heaven anymore."
I don't think I've ever regretted saying something so much. We finished that conversation and she cried and quietly sobbed almost uncontrollably. She finally did calm down after me reassuring her that it would be okay and everything. She then assured me that this "anger towards God would pass". I agreed just for her sake. It broke my heart to see it hurt her so deeply.
The next day was the last day of camp, so I packed my stuff, said my goodbyes and flew home.
When I was home I had more time to grieve and think about the implications of my atheism, and was torn between keeping up a lie to my friends, or run the risk of disappointing them and regretting telling them. Ultimately, I ended up coming clean to two of my closest friends telling them I was a "non believer" (atheist seemed too blunt of a word at the time). We are still friends. But I can tell things have changed. I can't help but feel hints of disappointment and betrayal coming from them. Which is okay I guess.
But now I'm left in this situation of not having any friends who are not religious. It's a strange type of lonely being surrounded by people who you can't be honest with without running the risk of being thrown out of your one and only social group. So I guess I'm here looking to expand on a new group of friends if at all possible.
Thanks for reading.
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It makes me physically feel sick to read about the indoctrination process in your school. It's awful that this is continuously going on, pure brainwashing of children.
"...but decided I would try to fix whatever was wrong with me and get my faith back..."
Everyone is born as an atheist and are later taught what to believe. It's so screwed up that people end up thinking "what's wrong with me" when they start having doubts.
"It was rude of me to say so sharply, but I wasn't nearly in the mood. I said "I don't believe in heaven anymore."
I don't think I've ever regretted saying something so much. We finished that conversation and she cried and quietly sobbed almost uncontrollably. She finally did calm down after me reassuring her that it would be okay and everything. She then assured me that this "anger towards God would pass". I agreed just for her sake. It broke my heart to see it hurt her so deeply."
It's understandable that you would regret that. You seem to have a lot of empathy and I think that is a good thing. But it also makes it a little to easy to blame oneself. I don't think it's rude for you to simply state what you believe or do not believe, instead I would say that you were being honest. (Granted, I wasn't there and don't know the tone of voice, etc...)
This is a good explanation of why believers get so hurt by others disbelief, that I consider to make a lot of sense:
"She then assured me that this "anger towards God would pass""
It's very typical for the faithful to think that a non-believer is angry at their god or hates their god, because they can't even understand that you actually don't believe.
I spent some time in a state where I identified as an atheist, but I suddenly realized that I was angry at god.
How could I be angry at something I did not even believe in? After some introspection, I realized that my anger was real so my conclusion became that a part of me still believed in that god.
This spurred me to do some "soul searching". Of course, I ended up shedding any remainders of belief, since these myths cannot hold up against any real scrutiny.
"But now I'm left in this situation of not having any friends who are not religious. It's a strange type of lonely being surrounded by people who you can't be honest with without running the risk of being thrown out of your one and only social group."
It's quite common for atheists to feel alone and alienated. Some feel like they are the only one who has been awaken in a sea of faith-zombies.
I live in Sweden, where atheism is kind of accepted, but it's still almost taboo to talk about it. Many "believe in something" but they can't define it and still get a bit offended by atheism. Even here, it's can be hard to make friends who can openly talk about it.
I was raised by devout Catholic grandparents. I started questioning religion when I was 10 and read a science book for kids about prehistoric life and how it evolved. I asked the priest why dinosaurs aren't in the Bible and he laughed dismissively. I knew that day that something wasn't right. Now I'm finally free from the bullshit I was shackled with, and I too am here hoping to make friends. I never did tell my grandparents about my doubts, but they're gone now and I've forgiven them.
I admire your courage to be yourself through adversity. I was a nerd who was picked on at school for years. Then I became a bad boy metal head at age 16. What a ride man. I'm a mellow dude now, but I've never given in to what society wants. I feel your pain because I too am currently lonely. Funny how life changes with time.