Why I Left Christianity: And Why I Stayed Away

In the beginning, it was just too painful. I’d been hurt so badly. I was also dealing with a great deal of stress from the three-year long divorce of my parents, along with stress from big changes in my life: a move across town from where I’d grown up, shifting from homeschooling to public school, and it was time for me to figure out what I was going to do after high school.

I was depressed. I was lonely. I was isolated. And I was worn out from trying to be strong for everybody for so long.

I simply could not deal with church. I couldn’t handle trying to find another church–another huge change. And so, on Sunday mornings, I slept. On Sunday and Wednesday nights, I took refuge in my bedroom, cuddling with books, or reaching out online.

I needed friends, family, and mentors who would be strong for me. I needed a support system that was nonjudgmental. I needed comfort. I needed love. I needed to feel safe. I needed someone to listen to me, someone to confide in, that wouldn’t run to the family court judge, my parents, or rat me out when college and military recruiters called.

In other words, I needed to be as far away from Christianity as I could get.

I found safe spaces. I found comfort and love. I found safety. And I promptly broke. Everything I’d held in came gushing out in a hot, ugly, blubbering, bleeding mess. Once it started, I couldn’t stop it–I had to suffer until the wounds had finished gushing.

I became very self-destructive. I did a lot of stupid shit while I was breaking down. My support system was a boy I met through Civil Air Patrol. First him, then his family. I spent a lot of time at their house. First hours. One day, I stayed so late my friend’s mother called my father and asked if I could stay the night. Soon I was spending my weekends at their home. Eventually, I stopped going home. This family homeschooled as well, and I took lessons with my friend. They took me in as their own.

I spoke of my problems primarily with my friend. The rest of his family just loved me. I felt so safe when I was there–so free. His parents didn’t prod–they waited until I was ready to talk to them.

They took me in without ever asking why.

They simply saw I dreaded going home, and let me stay.

I will forever be grateful to them.

I will forever love them as part of my family.

My friend had become fascinated with different religions. All things spiritual, he researched. I became fascinated, too. We spent hours at his computer reading. We huddled over countless books from the library. So began my spiritual journey.

All too soon, this happy period of my life came to an end. The family was moving across the country. I dreaded it. When my father found out, he called me home, afraid they would take me with them. They weren’t going to, despite it being my heart’s desire at the time. But still. They didn’t want my father to press charges, so they took me home.

Why did I stay away from Christianity once I’d healed, adjusted to my new life, and figured out what I was going to do after high school?

Simple: Christians.

Not so much the overtly hateful ones–they were easy to spot, and I avoided their toxicity like the plague. I avoided a lot of Christians.

No, it was the Christians who claimed to be different. The ones who claimed to love as Jesus did. The ones who were so quick to condemn their overtly hateful, judgmental brethren.

At first, they’d befriend me. They’d love me. They’d support me. They’d listen. They made me feel safe.

But there was always the inevitable betrayal.

Sometimes it would be by trying to draw me back into the church.

Sometimes it would be by pulling the “unequally yoked” card.

It was all conditional. If you can’t love me as I am, how can you love who you want me to be?

I have to say, the “unequally yoked” card broke my heart.

You broke my heart.

You stabbed a knife right into my heart, and ripped out a piece of my very soul.

The Christians who claimed to be different were so much worse. They waited until I loved them to tell me they hated me. Worse, they pretended still that they loved me. For a while, anyway.

Before that night, I’d found a new spiritual path that fulfilled me and made me happy. Afterwards? Nothing, no spiritual path, no religion could ever do that again. That part of me is dead.

My incense rots. My beautiful crystals sit in a bag in a drawer, untouched. My books lay unopened. I haven’t meditated in six years. My pretty tarot decks lay next to the crystals in the drawer. I can’t touch them. It hurts too much to do so.

Every spiritual path that existed for me, and could possibly exist, has grown over, been blocked by trees, and eventually fallen into the ocean, never to be seen again.

That is why I can’t go back.

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About Brittany-Ann
Brittany-Ann is a proud, self-identified feminist with fictional tendencies. She currently writes for LouisvilleKY.com and moderates at My Fault I'm Female. She smokes camels, reads Dumas, and navigates a conservative state as "one of them darn liberals."

17 Responses to Why I Left Christianity: And Why I Stayed Away

  1. Michael Mock says:

    I feel like I really should have something to say after reading that – you know, comfort, condolences, reassurance – but the best I can come up with is, “Man, that sucks.” So…

    Man, that sucks.

    This continues to be a very interesting series to read. I came out of a very laid-back, liberal (by modern American standards) form of Christianity, and I sometimes forget just how unremittingly nasty people can be when it comes to their pet beliefs.

    • Brittany-Ann says:

      Yeah, this is definitely one of those awkward posts that many people will read, but few will comment because, well, what can you say?

      Thank you. I haven’t thought about these events for years, so it’s interesting for me as well, going back and reminiscing, now that I’ve got some perspective.

  2. God, I haven’t even heard of the “unequally yoked” card before. I’m speechless. Just speechless.

    I think it would be extremely useful to any immigrant to this country to read this series of posts. When you come from a different culture, it takes forever to learn to understand the language of fanaticism and to notice its insidious ways. I’ve learned a lot from these posts.I know this is no consolation for you after the horrible experiences you’ve had but this is a story that needs to be told and shared widely.

    • Brittany-Ann says:

      It’s a very common doctrine in fundamentalist Christianity–Christians are not to be “unequally yoked,” that is, not to marry, much less date someone who’s not a Christian. Many take it even further, and won’t form any relationships whatsoever–business, friendships, etc–with non-Christians. Some are bald-faced about it, others will disguise it to preserve their image. That’s why we’ve seen an explosion of Christian music, Christian businesses, Christian entertainment–it’s all based around the isolationism that is the unequally yoked doctrine.

      It actually does help. These events are years in my past. Though it was far from pleasant, it does help to know that my story can do some good. That’s all a writer wants, after all–to be read, and for her work to do some good.

  3. All I can say, as I have before, is I’m very sorry for what you’ve experienced. I was friends for many years with the writer of http://advocacyarts.wordpress.com/ (who posts rarely, lives mostly on twitter, and “invented” IM about 15 years ago in the form of one-sentence unrelated emails scattershot every 90 seconds or so ) before she became a Christian — I think mostly through the influence of her sweetheart, the late disability rights activist Paul Longmore. You will find the memorial booklet she designed for his service somewhere on her business page (O’Hare Communications on Facebook). Some of us really do care about at least a few people. And you’re right: the whole “unequally yoked” thing is way out of line in the US. The apostle Paul clarifies that he isn’t saying Christians ought never associate w/ people in the world — otherwise we would have to come out of the world which would, as you correctly point out, isolate us from the world. US Christians seem to have missed that section entirely.

  4. Pingback: How I Left Christianity Part Eight: Civil Air Patrol « A Bookish Beemer

  5. jessicak4 says:

    (Content note added by mod: religious guilt trip, preaching, and manipulation.)

    As a Christian going through the similar situation almost exact I didn’t let those people affect my relationship with God. No one can judge me but the Lord. I don’t go to church because I’m not sure who to trust with prosperity gospel and bad preachers but I do make time for the Lord and read my bible. I know I need to cut the bull and find one good church. It is hard to stay strong when your faith is gone. I have to forgive my parents as God forgiven me. Its hard being a christian but I can assure you one thing. One day in your life there is going to be no one to help you even your new family and you will call out his name. Don’t turn your back on him over other people and learn not to take criticism as a bad thing just people trying to help and improve YOU. Remember, he said he will not forsake you and always love you but following Him will not be easy. I just hope you tried talking to him before making that decision, God Bless.

    • Brittany-Ann says:

      I don’t believe you finished reading the post, for one. Protip: don’t skim if you intend to comment.

      That’s all I have to say in good faith.

      The rest?

      I notice the subtle accusation of weakness. If only I were stronger, I wouldn’t have let mere people push me away from “God,” is what I believe you meant. Au contrare. It actually takes a lot of strength to walk away from religion. Especially the dominant religion in one’s culture and society. (Which means it is actually very easy to be a Christian here in the States, although you don’t have as much privilege as in the past. Nice try, though.)

      I also notice your threat. One day something very bad will happen to me, right? And no one will help me, right? But if I do what you, and people like you say, everything will be just fine. Your threats do not intimidate me. I’m not a victim. I’m not weak. I will not submit to bullies and abusers, and that is exactly what people like you are. Bullies and abusers.

      Do try carrying out your threat, though. I will be very amused watching you try to make something bad happen to me, and it will be even more amusing to watch you try to keep away all of the fabulous people I have surrounded myself with.

  6. jessicak4 says:

    You said : “Why did I stay away from Christianity once I’d healed, adjusted to my new life, and figured out what I was going to do after high school?
    Simple: Christians.”

    Don’t generalize Christians and use others actions towards you to shun God. You may run into a few that are not of God. When you accept Jesus Christ you must understand your life is going to be difficult at times. It’s never easy for me being a Christian, I get flack from my gay friends and atheist think I’m stupid and one even made jokes at work openly but I deal with it because I understand serving Jesus and agreeing with his laws takes away alot out of my life and the world. Being a Christian in these times are NOT easy at least over here.

    Where did I say you were weak? Rebellious and angry spirit against God you might have yes because things are not your way and jumping to tarot cards and other forms of spirituality looking for answers you know the answer to.

    You need someone to tell you the truth and not sugarcoat this. I never comment but I wrote to you being in a similar situation. How can I come off so judgmental admitting to having the same feelings and experiences.

    As for my comment on one day something bad is going to happen I am not trying to curse you if you don’t want to go to church fine, you don’t like religion practices fine nobody is forcing you you have a mind of your own. Anything God tells us is just for our own good and betterment it’s not to hurt us. We as Christians just care because we know the end result living that life and turning away.

    I do care about your soul and see myself in you a little bit and don’t want to see you fall into Satan’s grip. Again I am not trying to make a “come to Jesus” moment just rethink real hard about that decision because did you really love God or just wanted to use Him for your personal gain? What does it profit a man to gain the whole world but lose his soul? Remember the key is all this is temporary and one day everyone will have to answer Him. Also checkout Romans 1:28 on depraved minds, peace.

    • Brittany-Ann says:

      “You said : “Why did I stay away from Christianity once I’d healed, adjusted to my new life, and figured out what I was going to do after high school?
      Simple: Christians.”

      Don’t generalize Christians and use others actions towards you to shun God.”

      Oh, honey. I can do whatever I want, and I shall. If the shoe fits, I will say so. Besides, if the behavior of Christians didn’t represent you, then you’d call them out on their bullshit, rather than concern troll the people Christians have hurt. Since you ARE pulling the “we’re not all like that!” card, something struck a nerve.

      “You may run into a few that are not of God. When you accept Jesus Christ you must understand your life is going to be difficult at times. It’s never easy for me being a Christian, I get flack from my gay friends and atheist think I’m stupid and one even made jokes at work openly but I deal with it because I understand serving Jesus and agreeing with his laws takes away alot out of my life and the world. Being a Christian in these times are NOT easy at least over here.”

      Jokes. Some coworker of yours makes jokes. Oh, and your gay friends call you out on your religion’s bigotry (and probably your own, too), and your atheist friends are critical of Christianity. All the tears, hon. All the tears. Matthew Shepard has nothing on you.

      “Where did I say you were weak? Rebellious and angry spirit against God you might have yes because things are not your way and jumping to tarot cards and other forms of spirituality looking for answers you know the answer to.”

      That whole “You left Christianity, but I would NEVER let anyone get between me and GAWD! thing. I’m a writer. I know how to analyze a text and pull meaning from it. Please to not be playing stupid with me.

      And see, I was right. You didn’t read the post. Fail, my dear. Fail. Go back and read it again.

      “You need someone to tell you the truth and not sugarcoat this. I never comment but I wrote to you being in a similar situation. How can I come off so judgmental admitting to having the same feelings and experiences.”

      I wrote an entire series on the topic. You mentioned it in passing in your opening sentence as a lead-in to proselytizing and threats. Your comment was dripping with judgment–though I’m baffled as to why you’d think I’d care, Anonymous little Christian.

      Don’t ya’ll just LOVE how this snowflake thinks she’s the first one ever to say anything like this to me? Everyone ever is just sugarcoating and lying to me. What a brave Crusader.

      “As for my comment on one day something bad is going to happen I am not trying to curse you if you don’t want to go to church fine, you don’t like religion practices fine nobody is forcing you you have a mind of your own. Anything God tells us is just for our own good and betterment it’s not to hurt us. We as Christians just care because we know the end result living that life and turning away.”

      I don’t believe in curses–at least the sort you’re referring to here. I’m a big fan of fuck. It’s a very versatile word, and it has such power. Makes everybody pay attention, don’t you think?

      Wait. Are you claiming to speak for your god, here? Big step, little troll. Big step.

      “I do care about your soul and see myself in you a little bit and don’t want to see you fall into Satan’s grip. Again I am not trying to make a “come to Jesus” moment just rethink real hard about that decision because did you really love God or just wanted to use Him for your personal gain? What does it profit a man to gain the whole world but lose his soul? Remember the key is all this is temporary and one day everyone will have to answer Him. Also checkout Romans 1:28 on depraved minds, peace.”

      Yeah, that little girl-child was totes out to use god for her own gain. I mean, how else was she gonna get to stay up past her bedtime?

      I am DEPRAVED, YA’LL. How depraved do you think I am?

      • jessicak4 says:

        Yes you can do whatever you want first off I’m far from a snowflake. second Its not religious bigotry, why? Not agreeing with the way someone lives? So I’m a bigot to affiliate myself with gay friends as a Christian? No. God doesn’t hate the person it’s the sin. It’s ok for them to pick on me when I did absolutely nothing to them, ok cool.

        As for lying you know what the worst part of it is? Your lying to yourself you are behaving depraved. I will leave you alone and just pray for you, God Bless.

      • jessicak4 says:

        Roman 2:5 – But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed.

        • Michael Mock says:

          jessicak4 – I don’t have any idea whether or not you’ll look at this again, but if you do… May I recommend that you take a look at Greta Christina’s 9 Questions Not To Ask Atheists – With Answers? A lot of what you’ve said here reflects very typical attitudes found in Christians who have only ever discussed atheism with other Christians, so I’m guessing that you haven’t taken the time to really listen to what unbelievers and former believers have to say. Greta’s article is a good place to start.

      • sam123 says:

        I agree with you..christians like jessicak4 here reflects attitudes towards the non and the former believers..I’ve been a christian before and I know how christians act..well some of them are obnoxious though..they would love you but once your out of the religion..they would start to either dislike you…heh..funny christians

        • Jessica says:

          Judgmental much? the pot calling the kettle black look I don’t try to force Christianity on anyone or teach them differently.Nobody is generalizing you sorry you had a bad experience with some but not all of us are like that.

          • Michael Mock says:

            I’m confused. Are you the same Jessica that posted here back in June? Or is Jessicak4 someone else entirely?

            I ask because if you’re the same person, I’m going to have to take issue with your claim that you “don’t try to force Christianity on anyone or teach them differently.” Jessicak4’s comments on this thread are all about trying to “teach” someone about the error of their ways regarding Christianity.

            If you’re not the same person, then… um… never mind.

  7. Pingback: They See Me Rollin’, They Trollin’! (Fun With A Religous-flavored Troll) | A Bookish Beemer

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