Please don’t think that my coming to terms with my unbelief was an easy process. There were tears, trips to churches, talks with church leaders. I fought to keep my faith. I read the Bible and I would cry out in prayer for my doubt to go away, so I could remain in the cradle of Christianity and stay a good, Christian girl with a future as a good, Christian wife and mother.
But that didn’t happen.
My tears and fears were met with silence. I’ve spent months, nearly a year attempting to accept what my unbelief means; what it means for me to no longer identify as a Christian in my life. It’s been an incredibly painful process, one I would have never chosen for myself. I would have preferred to maintain my belief and stay in the good graces of society and God, but that’s not what happened. I just don’t believe. I can’t force myself to believe. My struggles with faith weren’t a choice, and I can’t change that. I don’t know if there is a god, I don’t know if Jesus was sent down to save us all. I don’t know, but I no longer believe. I don’t think Christian belief is inherently wrong, but I can no longer take part because I lack faith.
I don’t wish to explain my beliefs or justify them. I don’t want to encourage anyone to leave their faith. I do support more close readings of scripture, and part of this is selfish—I sometimes want people to read the Bible and understand that many of the things people have used to promote injustice (Biblical justification of slavery, anti-miscegenation, and advocating for fewer rights for the LGBT community) aren’t taken out of context. The Bible can be used for evil, easily and without using the Bible dishonestly.
Ultimately, however, I support faith. My boyfriend is still a Christian. I love and hold dear many Christians. I just don’t wish to be treated like a lost sheep. I don’t want to be seen as a one-dimensional person who simply needs to come back to Jesus. I want to be more than that.
There are 7 billion people on this planet. Only 2 billion are Christian. If all non-Christians are destined for hell, I guess I’ll be among them. I don’t believe that to be true, but I don’t know. I can never be sure. Everyday people convert to Christianity, and everyday people convert away from Christianity. We’re all looking for truth, wherever we can find it.
There are a few things I want people to know:
I’m not the same person I was a year ago—but that’s a good thing. I’m happier. I have more peace. I’ve been kinder to myself and those around me. I judge less. I appreciate the diversity of the world with more nuance.
I’m not suddenly immoral. I have a moral compass; I still have a strong foundation of right and wrong. I simply no longer hold myself to the Biblical standard for good and evil. I no longer think things are good simply because God willed it so. I think goodness comes from actions, from kindness. I don’t think a person can be good simply because God willed it so, just like I no longer think the entirety of humanity is stained with original sin just because God willed it so.
I don’t believe in all gods, not just the Christian one. I don’t believe in Allah or Jah or Zeus or Ganesh. I don’t believe in Satan or demons or evil forces. I believe in humanity, for good or ill. We exist on this planet and affect it.
I want to be treated like I’ve always been treated—well, in most cases. I want to be treated like a young woman with informed opinions. I don’t want to suddenly because useless and unimportant because I don’t believe. I want to still be called a good person, despite not believing. I still want people to say they’re proud of me. I want to continue being a person that makes people proud. I’m not evil now just because I don’t believe. I hope people still value me and my thoughts, but I can’t make them.
I never meant to hurt anyone. My unbelief is deeply personal and has been traumatic in many ways. I’ve spent hours crying and asking my therapist what was wrong with me. I didn’t deconvert to hurt people. I deconverted because I couldn’t say I believe while being honest and genuine. I didn’t do this to hurt anyone, I didn’t do this to usurp others’ worldview and supplant my own. I had to be honest with myself and my personal feelings. If I had stayed in the church, my belief wouldn’t miraculously reappear; I’d rather be “playing church” and pretending to have faith to comfort those around me. Selfishly, I want to put myself first here. I think how I feel about myself is more important than how others feel about me.
Many people will be disappointed in me. Many people will wonder where I went wrong. Many people who once praised that I walked to the beat of my own drum will criticize me, at least in their heads. I will no longer be the quirky, rebellious child. To them, I may well be the angry, lost sheep who abandoned Christ for my own selfish purposes. I can’t change their minds; I only hope that they can eventually see me. Unfortunately, I think many will prefer me being sad and a worse person but believing in Jesus rather than my happiness and kindness without belief. I understand that reaction even though I wish it were different.
Most of all, I hope people forgive me for any pain I’ve caused, even accidentally. Those involved in my religious upbringing will likely feel angry, hurt. I deeply regret hurting people, but I hope they understand that my honesty was never malicious. I want to be loved and accepted for who I am, rather than being loved and accepted for who I pretend to be.