I’m a girl who went to church every Sunday, who knew every single Sunday school song like the back of my hand, who could recite every book of the bible before I knew my times tables. I was, by all accounts, an average Christian girl. Well, I was until I was around eight or nine years old. That’s when I first started questioning religion and immediately making a lot of adults super uncomfortable. I distinctly remember the day when my faith really came crushing down.
It was the summer between third and fourth grade, and I was dealing with a ton of anxiety about death and dying. I figure that I was triggered by sitting in the hospital room with my parents after one of my uncles was stabbed. My fear of death only increased after I watched an episode of The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air in which Uncle Phil has a heart attack. I laugh about it now, but at the time I was a wreck who was worried that eating a single chili fry would send me into cardiac arrest. One day, I talked to my mom’s friend, who I now know is a bit of a religious extremist. Anyway, at the time I asked her, pleadingly, “Do all of us have to die? We can’t just live forever?”
She replied, in a soothing tone, “Yes, we all live forever in Heaven.”
In other words, yes, we all die, but at least Heaven is there and our souls live forever with Jesus, etc.
Even then, as a silly eight-year-old who thought that The Spice Girls Movie was the epitome of a high quality film, I felt zero comfort in her words.
Over time, I grew more and more skeptical of religion. I was less interested in going to church; it was much more productive, in my opinion, to sleep in.While I still attended every now and then, the only thing I got out of it was witnessing the beauty of the choral singers, of the sight of hundreds of black revelers feeling joy; the music was nice, you know? Otherwise, the sermon left me feeling empty.
My parents were slightly disappointed by my irreligiousness, but they never made a big deal out of it. For that, I’m grateful. But I still hesitate to let my extended family know that I’m not religious, that I don’t get much out of saying grace on holidays, that I haven’t been to church in years. Frankly, I don’t want to be condescended to.
Currently, I describe myself as an apathetic agnostic: I’m not really sure if there’s a God or not, but I’m inclined to think there isn’t, and I really don’t care one way or another. Still, not being religious can be a process with a little unwanted weirdness along the way. For example, a friend of mine, who was raised Catholic, has recently realized that she’s an atheist and doesn’t believe in God. She feels terrified to tell her mom, worried of the massive disappointment she’ll feel. Hey, it can be a rough road. If you want some guidance on how to drive over the bumps a little more smoothly, check out these seven surprising things that happen when you stop believing in God. Whether you’re at that stage yourself or not, it helps to know what it feels like to lack religion in a society that still values religion to its core.
You're Going To Question YourselfDon't assume that just because you don't believe in God anymore, you'll never question your disbelief ever again. This is just the human condition. Even devout people question their belief every now and then, though you'd be surprised to know that. Don't beat yourself up or feel weak for feeling confused sometimes.
Your Parents Might Not Be As Freaked Out About It As You ThinkI think that a lot of people who grew up in religious households believe their parents will be furious and disown them if they "come out" as irreligious. I mean, this does happen to some people, it just does. But you honestly never know; your parents might be a lot more chill about it than you think they'll be. Sure, my parents were in denial or thought I was just going through a phase at first; maybe deep down they hope I'll change my mind. But overall? They didn't really give me a hard time about it. You never know, maybe one of your parents has their own doubts about religion, but they just participate out of habit or cultural reasons.
You Might Get A Superiority ComplexYo, just because you don't think there's a God, that doesn't mean that you're better, smarter, or more moral than anyone else. Some of the best people out there are religious, some of the worst are atheists, and vice versa.
Some People Will Treat You Like GarbageThis is just the facts. Some people will judge you, think that you're a bad person, suddenly believe that you're immoral...and those people are garbage, TBH. Don't let their intolerance get you down, they're ignorant; period.
You'll Feel Awkward At GraceYou might already feel weird during this custom, but when you or a few family members know you're not religious anymore, the act of pretending to pray feels really uncomfortable. Sometimes you have to keep up with appearances though. Personally, I always feel like a big fake when I begrudgingly participate, but I'd rather feel like a fake than cause drama right before I'm about to eat, you know? There's a time and place to have religious debate; this might not be the one.
Going To Church Becomes A ChoreListen, you might resist as much as you want, but you'll end up at church some way or another and you REALLY won't want to. What used to be a somewhat enjoyable experience turns into a chore...a damn near punishment. Just try to enjoy what you possibly can. Maybe the music is nice. Maybe the church's decor is cool. Whatever it is you can do to get something positive out of the experience, try to do it.
Some Might Assume You're Up To Some Evil S**tThis might only be the case if you live in an ultra religious area with an ultra religious family who think that just because you don't read the bible anymore, that you're a Wiccan or a Satanist or something. Uh, just be prepared for people to have some serious ignorance in response to your lack of religion. The aforementioned is the worst case scenario; others might just assume you have no morals (even though religion and being a moral person aren't even related, but okay).
You Might Actually Be Sad About Your Lack Of ReligionThat friend of mine who is a lapsed Catholic? She actually doesn't feel all that good about not feeling religious anymore; she feels pretty bummed out about it, actually. You might feel the same way, and you're not some weak weirdo for it either. Religion and all that comes with it can have a huge impact on us if that's all we've known growing up, and it's natural to feel a little nostalgic for the days when you weren't so cynical.
Are you losing your religion? Do you already describe yourself as an atheist or an agnostic? Have you told your family? Tell us in the comments!