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.

A Feministe of Christian Feminists

The other day, I read this post on Feministe, and I’ve been keeping up with the comments–yes, all 300+ of them. I haven’t responded on the thread itself–my thoughts have been too disjointed and instinctual, and by this point, it’d get lost in the sheer number of posts, so I will do it here.

I have to say, I am very disappointed with the Christian feminists there–to say the least.

They’re pissing me off.

I’m angry, and I own it. I’m not apologetic, and I will not walk on eggshells for those who are determined to change and participate in a broken, corrupt, misogynistic institution. Trying to save it, redeem it, or “reclaim” it is as hopeless as trying to salvage a building that has been reduced to rubble–or rather, pretending a pile of rocks was ever a building in the first place.

I tried to do it myself. I was a child, a preteen, and then a teenager, trying to convince misogynistic adults that I deserved respect–no matter what I wore, no matter what lay between my legs, no matter what crime Eve committed.

I failed.

I gained nothing by staying–people I loved and trusted, respected and revered, hurt me spiritually and emotionally unapologetically. I was a Daughter of Eve, so I deserved it.


Fuck that noise.

I also internalized that shit, and consequently hurt myself, hurt one of my dearest friends, and probably hurt numerous others, too. By sixteen, I was over it. I had an across-town move and a busy schedule as my excuse, and I attended less and less frequently until I disappeared. I hardly needed an excuse, however. No one bothered to call and check in, or stop by and see how I was doing–once I ceased to be of use, as a volunteer and as a poster-child, they ceased to care.

I learned what it was like to have people who cared–sincerely and unconditionally. I learned what it was like to simply go about my life without a war being waged over my shorts. I learned what it was like to have friendships with male-identified people without having to defend my character. I learned what it was like to be attracted to and fall in love with men, and I experienced the subsequent joys and sorrows without a crowd of bystanders judging me and harassing me for it–thank GOODNESS. (I’m grateful I left Christianity before that happened–I saw and participated in what Christians did to women who did before I left.)

I began a personal journey and subsequently discovered what a real connection to all things spiritual felt like–rituals, meditations, the internal connection to a higher power, the earth, and other people–how different it felt from the manufactured performance that Christianity gave me! Oh, I thought it was real at the time. I felt those spiritual highs, the worship-induced breakdowns, the revivals–and I thought I was really feeling a connection to Jesus. I thought I did. I thought, too, that it was an innate part of me, that I couldn’t be without Christianity. I too felt insulted and indignant when someone criticized Christians or Christianity, let alone God. I thought they were attacking me.

Then I left the church. I took a long, hard look at myself and my personal beliefs. I was ruthless. It was hard. It took months. I constantly found myself doing, saying, thinking things that I had learned while a Christian–and then I broke those down too. When I say it was hard, I mean it was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. I felt, at times, like a bad person for challenging even the most basic beliefs and morals, but I made myself do it. I asked myself, over and over, “Do I really believe this?” “Is this something that is really right, or is it something that Christianity told me was right?” I made myself justify everything outside of a Christian context. If I couldn’t, it was gone.

So do not tell me it cannot be done–that your religiosity is an innate and instinctual part of yourself that cannot be changed. I was there. I believed it, too. But I did it. It’s not.

And I reaped the consequences.

I lost friends. I lost family. I faced people who believed the most horrible things about me because I uttered the words “I am not a Christian.” I was harassed. I was rejected. And more.

Do not tell me that I do not understand–that it could be costly to leave a religion that is the most powerful in a particular society. I know.

And do NOT proceed to litany all the good that Christianity and Christians have done and do. I know. But it does not negate the bad, and it means jack shit to one whose life has been made miserable by Christians. I also have to say–all that good? Done with ulterior motives. So I’m not going to give you the validating pat on the head you so crave.

A question popped up again and again in that thread: How can you be a feminist and a Christian? Easy. You can be anything you want to be. However, in this thread, the feminist Christians are behaving like typical Christians, only using feminist language. Attacking someone’s identity/experience/personhood? Disregarding culture? Appropriation? Please.

The tolerance/respect is a whole other monster. I do not respect Christianity. I do not, and cannot, after my experiences both within, and while leaving, the church. Demanding I do is a veritable flood of entitlement, audacity, and privilege. That demand doesn’t compel me to respect the person making it, either. Slap a fishie on your car, I will laugh. Act like a jerk, claim your religion told you to, and I will call you out and criticize the religion. Rant about the meanie apostates like me who just won’t see all the “Good Christians” (like you) and the good things Christians do (like you) because we focus on the bad, and not only will I call you out, I will also mock you. Feminist or not, you’re acting like the Christians you’re trying to disassociate with.

Claiming feminism doesn’t give you a shield from the criticisms of Christianity. Claiming Christianity and feminism at the same time doesn’t make you a super-special ultra-awesome person. You’re just you. (Now with privilege!)

The actual post, by a super-special ultra-awesome female Christian priest, will have to wait until later.