Let me tell you a little story about how believing in a god completely fucked with my sense of safety and security. No, it’s not a sexy “how I lost my faith” post, but it’s definitely a stop along the way.
When I was 12 years old I had a huuuuuge crush on this boy named Angel. We were wild about each other in a “we’re gonna be married for ever and ever” kind of way. Holding hands, kisses on the cheek, all the awesome chaste stuff that comes with being on the edge of the end of childhood.
Angel’s family was super Catholic and wanted him to participate in regular religious studies but hadn’t yet found a home church since they were new to the area. A local church (I don’t remember the denomination) had a regular Wednesday night Bible study class – think felt and flannel boards- and his parents encouraged him to go.
The church encouraged him to bring friends, so he invited me. My parents thought it was awesome because I was going to receive a rudimentary religious education, and I thought it was awesome because I got to spend time with my “boyfriend.” It would have been impossible to get permission to go anywhere else with him (I was super sheltered). Besides that, I got to dress up one night a week and got a break from wearing the highwater pants that was perpetually outgrowing.
The experience was amazing. The church members cheerfully welcomed me, the Bible stories were told in a positive and colorful way, and most importantly there were SNACKS! I fully drank the Kool-Aid and experienced the rush of positivity and confidence that commonly follows the “born again” church crowd. I felt incredible and my grades improved. I was the embodiment of that “There’s something different about you!” trope from Christian movies.
I became absurdly devout. I prayed multiple times per day. The church gave out Bible verses to memorize in exchange for a prize the following week, and I dutifully learned them while also keeping them in a special album. That album was my favorite possession in the world. I became so devout that I would actually get offended when I saw books touted as “The Bible of’ something. My father had a book called “The Fly Fishing Bible” that I stole and the buried in the yard.
Anyway, Angel’s family found a church to attend regularly and the time came for him to say goodbye to the pastors. I overheard Angel telling the head pastor about why he was leaving and the pastor replying that he and is whole family were doomed to Hell because he was leaving “where the truth is.” He came back in tears and was silent for the rest of the night. Not long after, he left school to attend the one at his church and I never saw him again.
One of the core teachings of the church I was attending is that the requirements of getting into Heaven is regular church attendance. But wait…my family did not come here. They believed in God but didn’t attend any services. My family was going to Hell! Being both a child and a new believer, I did not have the apologetic arguments or vocabulary in order to attempt to save them. This thought shattered my heart and sent me into a state of blind panic. I would never see them again and it was going to be all my fault.
I began losing sleep and my grades dropped dramatically. Most nights were spent sobbing while frantically repeating that week’s Bible verse over and over. What was the point of Heaven without my family?
I sought out the advise of one of the pastors in order to find the best way to get my family to come to church. I was looking for the right thing to say that would save us all. He instead launched into a narrative about how our church was the only true religion and how all other religions were false. The rest of his words faded away into the background because all I could think was, “Wait, there are OTHER religions?!?!”
I told you I was sheltered!
So it was a discussion with a pastor that was the first chink in my armor of God.