Author’s Note: I apologize for posting this a day late. I’ve had a couple of personal things come up on top of being sick. I had this done yesterday but hadn’t had enough time to edit before posting. But it’s here now! Enjoy!
WHY I CHOSE TO STOP HAVING FAITH
A Coming of Age Essay
When I grew up the only thing I knew was church every Sunday morning and Wednesday night. In a country where Christianity is the prominent religion it never once occurred to me that it could also be a bad one. Sure, there were plenty of headlines that suggested that Christians weren’t the great people I was raised to believe. Nonetheless, for fifteen long years I was genuinely convinced that the media was wrong. The stories had to be wrong. No proper Christian would ever behave in that way.
Unfortunately, shortly after I got my learner’s permit I found out that maybe Christians were not the people I thought they were all along. My generalization sometimes seems unfair, but how is it any different than my experiences with generalization? Two wrongs don’t make a right – but I think it gave me a clearer outlook.
Last year when I moved here I kept my lips shut about why. People don’t ask many questions when you only have one parent anymore because it is pretty normal. There are so many good, bad, and understandable reasons for having one parent that nobody really cares enough to ask anymore. The few people that I became friends with never asked why I lived with just my dad but asked if I had a second parent. They didn’t even so much as assume that my second parent was a mother. I love that I live in a world that doesn’t make presumptions – or at least I am thankful to have found a social circle that is so accepting.
Even with all of my new friends and a reasonably happy home, my father and I still attended church. He made it very clear that if people asked about the reason for divorce it was not to be discussed. The only response either of us uttered was “unresolved differences.” He told me that people don’t care to know about the sexual failings of a marriage. My father assured me that it would be easier for us in the long run to just fudge the details about my mother’s slew of affairs.
Maybe my father suspected we would have a bad reputation if fellow patrons knew about my mother’s interest in other people. As a Christian I could understand on a surface level how that would be perceived as a terrible, sinful thing. Selfishly I didn’t want people condemning my mother to hell for making a mistake. I had considered many times how very different murder and sex out of wedlock truly were in the grand scheme of things. Nobody deserved the same condemnation for unfaithful sex as a violent crime. To me there was no question. That seemed to be only to me…
One day I went to church with my older brother. He was visiting for the weekend while he was on break from school. Since he can drive and my father was feeling off, I told hard-working pops to take a personal day from church. I was ecstatic that he actually agreed. I’ve never seen that man take time for himself – not even through the tough days going through the divorce. What better way to spend a Sunday than at church and brunch with my big brother?
Well, my brother hadn’t really known that my father was keeping the affairs a secret. I was expecting him to just know, I guess, and didn’t follow him around to hear what he was saying. The horrifying truth was that he had no problem telling everyone my mother was a filthy whore. If you want to fail me for using a ‘swear’ word – then please allow me fail you for being extremely outdated in this generation.
I walked into to the lobby to get my coat so that my brother and I could get going – I was so ready for brownie waffles and cough syrup cola. Okay, so maybe it doesn’t actually have cough syrup but it’s a grape soda that reminds me of cough syrup my dad always gave me when I was sick. Anyway, I was walking by and I heard a group of ladies condemning a couple that recently divorced due to marital affairs. My brother was saying what he’s been saying all along…
“My mom was just a selfish witch and it sounds like this guy would be her best friend. People that are unfaithful are a disgrace to our religion.”
That has basically bee his mantra since he found out the truth about the divorce. He wasn’t home when they broke the news but he hasn’t missed texting me every single day about how angry he is at our mother. All of his social media profiles are filled with rants about fidelity and faithful matrimony. Even though I was disappointed in my mother I never thought to be as upset as my brother. I thought his rage it would burn out and he would forgive the woman. All of her affairs were on her personal time and she never once compromised her time with us. Maybe she didn’t love my father anymore, and maybe he didn’t even love her back either to let this happen so calmly. The only thing I was sure about was that there was never a concern as to whether she loved her children. I hoped so hard that my brother would be able to see that with time and space.
Concerns about his general attitude fell to the background when I heard the other adults arguing with my brother. Each person disagreed with him. “In what ways,” you might be asking yourself. How could these grown ups possibly disagree with what society would generally deem as truthful statements. What I heard made my heart sink but it forced me to grow up in the course of two whole minutes.
It’s important for you to know that I had never doubted my faith in religion. My devotion God and the Bible were genuine. My dedication to being the average, Plain Jane, Christian teenager was probably a little obscene at times. There was a whole six months when I had posters of Jesus in my bedroom while my friends had posters of boy bands and stolen road signs. I stood by my faith when those around me picked and chose which pieces of the Bible they chose to believe– I thought they were just falling for the Devil’s tricks.
Perhaps you don’t get that vibe from me? Perhaps that is hard to believe considering I don’t act that way? You never will see that part of my past. Nobody will ever see it again.
These adults who struck a conversation with my brother about our parents shamed not just my mom – who did do something dishonest – but they also blamed my father for the results of their marriage. They didn’t stop there, no! These vicious baboons also claimed that my brother and I were at fault for not divulging questionable behaviors that we noticed! Fun fact – WE DID NOT NOTICE!
Overhearing this conversation changed how I see myself. These people who didn’t know us were speaking ill of our situation. When my brother got to the car he was swearing up a storm, he was smacking his steering wheel, and he even drove a bit like a maniac. I didn’t feel safe but I was also amped up about these horrible people that I barely noticed at the time. What made them think our personal lives were up for speculation? When our car jerked into park at the waffle house it dawned on me…
Having faith in my religion was stupid. A lot of good people do everything “by the book.” They follow the guidelines of the Bible and take each word so literally that they would abandon their family and friends if they stepped outside of the outdated lines. Being so strict, though, could result in the chastisement of their iron first by more liberal Christians. No matter what, sects of Christianity will attack one another. Seeing that in action in the smallest way possible brought a light into my life. I used to it reevaluate the worth in my faith.
Should I believe? Should I become more liberal in my faith? Should I approach these women? So many questions filled my head as my brother vowed to make our mother pay for her sins – like a tried-and-true Christian boy. I was appalled at these people at the church. I was mortified by what my brother was saying – so very loudly in the restaurant. My decision to leave my faith behind me wasn’t final when I left the restaurant, but I did get there very quickly.
My brother left the next morning to make it for an evening lecture. My dad missed work because he was still sick and I skipped school because I didn’t feel like facing any rumors. I actually wondered if the reactions would be positive. Don’t most people experience empathy when you’ve been screwed over by a cheating parent? I think that is what socially happens more often than not. The truth was, though, I didn’t trust anything about the world. Those idiots at the church were happy to hang my laundry out to dry without any sort of consideration or compassion. Why should I bother having faith if I couldn’t trust it?
Foundation shaken – it was an official decision inside of myself. All I needed was my father’s support. I’ve never seen him make a decision as fast as he did that day. I told him what happened and he laughed so loud. I mean it was really loud! It actually kind of hurt my ears. Nothing about this incident surprised him either. It was him who voiced the question I’d been practicing in my head.
“Do you want to keep going?” As though I would want to keep going where I see liars rather than people? A place where I fear I will be judged for not being from a perfect family? Somewhere that requires me give up everything for the God that is supposed to give me everything I deserve in life for being devout? A religion that would tell me that my family is unnatural and destined for Hell? Extremists or not, this church was not a place I belonged to anymore.
Or any church for that matter.
I told him I was quitting Christianity and he agreed that it might be for the best. We have been filling those glorious voids by exploring different cultures and faiths. During this time we’ve learned a lot about ourselves and I have never been so happy without the shackles of religion. The expectations have changed in such a big way. Nobody can impose their ideals upon me any longer and I am in control of the person I will become someday.
Everyone’s coming of age story is going to be different. Some people will go through truly harrowing experiences to reach the next level of growing up. Others will write you a short story about a scary dentist appointment using twelve point five font with two point five spacing to reach the three-page limit. All I know is that after hearing the way religious people wiling spoke of near strangers – I have no desire to be controlled by something that doesn’t motivate people equally.
I just want to be a good person. I can only do that if I have an open mind. Maybe they can’t but I am more than capable. I promise I will remain motivated only by good intentions.