For several weeks I've had something on my mind that I haven't felt brave enough to share publicly. I think it's because I don't want to alienate people. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to think about anything else worth blogging, so my posts have been a bit sparse lately.
In my mid 20s I walked away from my parents' religion. I can't pinpoint when I lost faith. There was never a big angry moment when I decided I did not believe - but then there was never a shining spiritual moment when I decided I did. Looking back over my teen and pre-teen years I can't remember ever liking church. I enjoyed some of the activities but I didn't have much interest in the faith itself. After high school I went to a church-sponsored university because it was expected and I had never been allowed to consider going anywhere else.
Sometime in my late teens I stopped accepting Sacrament trays, stopped singing hymns and stopped saying "Amen" after prayers. I had this feeling that I didn't want to go through the motions unless I truly believed in them. To my father I'm sure it seemed like an act of rebellion but it was a lot more deliberate than that. I didn't want to make a commitment that I wasn't willing to follow through on. I also felt obligated to show my siblings that they didn't have to conform.
In spite of that I still went to church, partly because I needed an ecclesiastical endorsement if I wanted to stay in school. I was miserable and out of place and baffled by the beaming hypocrites who didn't share my reticence when it came to making empty promises. Not that they were all hypocrites; I do think there were a few people who genuinely tried to live by their faith. They seemed delusional to me but at least they were sincere. I tried to gain a testimony of my own but I was suspicious of my own feelings. Was I feeling the "Spirit" or was I feeling an adrenaline rush brought on by nerves? I couldn't tell.
While I struggled with faith, my mother was telling stories about supernatural happenings in her rural community. She said their former bishop was practicing witchcraft and sending demons to harass her. She said her neighbor was receiving visits from aliens. She said my entire family had been micro chipped by the government but there was an angel who had told her how to remove the microchips. She said my English professor (who wore a Masonic ring) was going to abduct me so that I could be brainwashed into serving the devil. I didn't know what to believe anymore. I became depressed and anxious. I had reoccurring nightmares. I started pulling out my hair. Finally I decided for my own sanity that I needed to take a break from every form of theism.
As I said before, I never had a defining moment when I decided the church itself wasn't true. After leaving I just didn't want to think about it anymore. Three years ago I briefly attended church again but I was extremely uncomfortable. I knew I didn't belong there. I think I have been afraid to think about my personal beliefs because I didn't want to be responsible for acting on them. I was always taught that deep down every person had a testimony. What if I found out I DID believe in the church? What then?
It has been a big relief to discover that deep down I don't believe in my parents' religion. It has been a bigger relief to discover that I don't believe in anything at all. No heaven, hell, deities or demons. All of that guilt-inducing rhetoric seems ridiculous to me. I am intrigued by the origins of myth and I might talk about it in a later post, but it's enough for me to say that I don't believe any of it and so far I haven't been struck by lightning.