How I Found Jesus By Losing Him, Part 1
This is a series of blog posts about my journey from devout, rabid Christian to Atheism. I am writing this at the request of my friend @Quiara.
I was born into the Episcopalian church. I was baptized as a baby, named for my grandparents on my father’s side. I spent the first few years of my life in Missouri, and I remember learning about the 10 Commandments from the priest, who would dress like Moses and recreate the introduction to the Jewish people.
If you read my blog enough, you’ll realize that Missouri sounds like heaven and Tennessee sounds like Hell. It’s because Missouri was the land of my grandparents. It’s where we went to movies and had ice cream and biscuits and gravy and everything was always clean. Tennessee was where my mother never cleaned the house, we rarely had clean underwear, and no one seemed to care if we were clean or dirty. Tennessee was where my mother changed religion with her boyfriends, and allowed her boyfriends to abuse us.
My mother married a Baptist, Merritt. I won’t make a habit of naming people, but it’s hard to keep track of all my mother’s boyfriends. Also, mine. So Merritt. Step-Father #1. We went to the Baptist church. I think it was called Eastland Baptist, and it was next to a Krispy Kreme, which was one of the first Krispy Kremes. We used to sit through church services that I cannot remember and smelllllll those donuts. I didn’t believe in Jesus nearly as much as I believed in the donuts we got during the after service reception.
I don’t remember much about being a Baptist, but I do remember being baptized for a second time. Every so often, they’d invite people to come to the alter to request baptism and be saved. I remember my mom really wanted me to be baptized and I really wanted to impress my step-father. So I stepped forward, at about the age of 8, to declare Jesus Christ to be my lord and savior. As Meryn Cadell said “letting Christ into my heart, I didn’t even know the man.”
My second baptism really deserves it’s own entry, but be assured it was humiliating and terrifying. Full immersion baptism and 8 year olds do not mix well. I promise to do that entry very soon.
We were Baptists until my mother got tired of being a Baptist. About the same time, Merritt’s habit of frequenting prostitutes became known. Between Merritt’s porn and the prostitutes, it’s really no wonder I had some fucked up views about sexuality going into adolescence. So we went back to being Episcopalians.
Until my mother met a Catholic.
My mother sent us to Missouri for the summer, and we LITERALLY had a different step-father when we came home. My mother introduced us to Steve and told us to call him “Daddy.” Merritt, who was previously “daddy” was gone. I don’t have daddy issues, I have a subscription of daddies.
My mother married a Catholic, so we became Catholics.
There was some debate over whether or not my sister and I were baptized enough, but eventually our Episcopalian baptisms were deemed worthy.
I don’t do anything halfway. My mother gave me books about saints and nuns. Soon, I decided I wanted to be a nun. Not just any nun, I wanted to be a SAINT. I really wanted to impress God. I still felt deep, deep fear that my burned scapular meant that I was destined for Hell. I was convinced I was going to hell. I had nightmares about being on fire, being pushed into fiery pits by the saints I read about, particularly Saint Rita, who was incorruptible and I felt could come get me.
Probably should have held back on that book on the Incorruptibles, mom.
I went to Catholic school for part of middle school and 3 years of high school. I cleaned the chapel at the school several times a week. I went to confession frequently. It was years before I told a priest about the burned scapular and received furtive reassurance that would not send me to hell, but I still didn’t really believe it. I taught Sunday School at my church. I worked at Habitat for Humanity. Every time my burn scar hurt, which was several times a day, burning, stabbing, pain, I’d offer it up to Jesus. DEAR GOD, I WANTED TO BE A SAINT. I just knew my time would come. Someone would martyr me, or attempt to assault me, and I’d die, and in dying for God, he’d forgive me everything, and I would be a saint.
That shit is fucked up.
I’m not a saint. I mean, I’m a terrible saint, Sure, I didn’t have sex in high school, but that was fear of pregnancy, not fear of God.
When I returned from Germany (another story for another time), my parents kicked me out. When my parents kicked me out, I moved in with DB, my boyfriend, and they took my Sunday school class away. No one offered me a place to stay or any kind of assistance so that I could live somewhere besides with my boyfriend. Being disowned by my parents meant I was disowned from my church.
I haven’t entered another church in Nashville, Tennessee since.
When I moved to Denver, I tried to find a Catholic church. I still wanted to at least get to heaven. I called the Catholic diocese, hoping to find a church with a lot of young people. I was told that I should just go to the church in my area, and hung up on. Thanks.
I did find a welcoming spirit from the Episcopalian church, and am technically still a member in good standing. I went to a church for several months here in Denver, but moved away from them. The Episcopalian church has always welcomed me, and I go to Mass every time I go home in memory of my Grandmother. There is comfort in the Mass. There is familiarity there. Not believing in God doesn’t mean I don’t believe in the comfort that religion can bring.
For a long time, I prayed to God, even while I wasn’t going to church. I read the Bible. I studied religion. I wanted to find answers.
Instead, I found science. Beginning my studies and nursing career was the start of my journey to not believe in God.