Previously published on my Tumblr page, http://a-woman-apart.tumblr.com/
Going through deconversion is a difficult thing, usually exacerbated by the fact of having relatives who would either misunderstand or be outright hostile towards you for moving away from the faith. I have not shared my decision to leave Evangelical Christianity with my parents (I detailed a recent visit with them in my post “The Road to Hell”). I have shared a few of my more minute doubts with my mother, who responded by telling me that she couldn’t “think about those things” because times were getting bad and “this isn’t a time to draw away, it’s a time to draw nearer.”
This makes me very much aware of the fact that even trying to approach things from a different angle can be perceived as threatening. I’ve often heard my dad say things like, “I will continue to believe even if I never see the manifestation [proof] of it and I would rather die believing than live in unbelief.” This leads me to believe that it really doesn’t matter what evidence my parents are presented with that contradicts certain things they hold to be factual, they will reject all of this evidence in favor of faith and devotion to God, who they assume is all-powerful, all-knowing, and infallible. They are actually not alone in this stance- it’s very typical of followers of Word of Faith doctrine (famously founded by Kenneth E. Hagin, among others).
I’m not without solace, though, in that I have been able to confide in a few friends- and one of my church group leaders- about how deep the distance between me and Christianity is starting to stretch. My church leader’s response to my saying “I don’t feel like a Christian anymore” was to say that “Everyone goes through it” and to keep coming to the church group at least to hang out.
I really appreciated her saying that, but at the same time her response seem to indicate that a state of disbelief was more or less a phase or trial that one goes through, not something that could become a regular state of being. The thought is that eventually the person will go through their questioning/exploratory phase and then return to the faith.
What if this doesn’t happen?
Returning to the faith is actually something that doesn’t actually occur for the majority of people who choose to leave it.
The thought of “losing” one’s faith in God is frightening and confusing as it is but it can be further complicated by hostile relatives. As a result of this hostility, some of us nonbelievers have chosen to live “in the closet” and continue to outwardly participate in the forms of religion. Sometimes the participation is not all a front, as we are still trying to make up our minds about things and often waver between belief and unbelief. We are often afraid of how our loved ones will react if they knew that we were really skeptics.
So in many ways hiding ones religious affiliation- or lack thereof- from family is similar to a person that has to hide their sexuality. What if, however, you’re forced to do both?
I identify as bisexual, but most people I know have no idea. I hesitate even to tell nonreligious people about this because of the stereotypes that are associated with it. I don’t want anyone to treat me differently or think of me in a different way because I have an attraction to women. When I was trying to be a “good Christian” I decided that since my “primary” attraction was to men, I could live without really exploring the feminine-attracted side of my personality. To make a long story short I’m pretty sure that this isn’t a good idea. I would like to explore relationships with women if/when I feel that emotional connection, without having to just push it aside because it’s a sin.
I’m not sure if I really feel the need to ever officially “come out” except to people that I’m comfortable with, but the issue of faith is one that’s pushed on me on a regular basis. It is said that to avoid arguments you should avoid religion, politics, and one other thing I can’t think of. Actually, these topics are completely unavoidable to me at this time.
At first it seems easier to just listen and nod or say agreeable things, but the emotional cost is apparent to me when I go home wishing that I’d said something to express how I truly feel or to stand up for what’s right. I feel like it’s time to own my power as a woman of worth and intelligence and not be intimidated by other people.
It’s easier said than done, however, when all of your early life you were given no say in how your life was to be lived and told that you were risking God’s judgment if you disobeyed. It’s amazing how tenacious a hold trauma can have on your life in the form of reappearing as anxiety, fear, and feelings of helplessness or inadequacy.
I copied down a quote that I saw in one of my coping skills groups;
“If you risk nothing, you risk even more.” – Unknown
I’m starting to feel like the time is arising for me to actually be brave and say how I really feel about issues that matter to me. It’s time to “come out” and just be who I am. I know it isn’t going to be easy, and I need to do it with sensitivity, but still be prepared to lose a few relationships.
I’ll keep y’all posted.