I’d like to thank Anna March for inviting me to participate in this project over at Literary Orphans. She asked us to write about identity, so I went with my journey from fundamentalist Christian (Jehovah’s Witness until I was 26) to atheist. Here’s an excerpt:
The biggest part of my journey might be due to a change in habits. For 26 years, I’d gone to a religious meeting three times a week, and done public preaching at least once a week. When I stopped going, it was like the ringing in my ears had stopped, but I’d grown so used to the ringing that I hadn’t noticed it was there in the first place. I started to hear other stuff for what felt like the first time. I got to be a different person without feeling like I was performing for a group of people, or more so, for an invisible Father who was watching my every move. Mind you, I wasn’t an unbeliever yet–I still bought into the idea that my parents’ beliefs might be correct and that I was giving up future eternal life in paradise in exchange for this freedom. It’s just that I was okay with the trade.
But imagine that: suddenly you have an extra 15 hours per week on average to explore yourself and this world you’ve only ever seen through a very limited and sheltered perspective. What would you do? You’d get high is what you’d do. You’d trip balls and drink until your head exploded and try to have sex with everyone and maybe you’d look for the religious experience in it all, because everything you’ve ever done has been in the context of religious experience. You’re looking for epiphany, for ecstasy (not the drug), for a way to grasp the universe in your teeth and shake it like a puppy does its favorite chew toy. And eventually you realize that church isn’t popping into your head as much anymore. You’re having these insights and revelations and maybe you’re still attributing some of that to a deity or cosmic force, but the pastor/elder/priest voice you’re used to hearing interpret this stuff is fading, and you’re doing more of the work on your own.
It’s been an interesting journey, that’s for certain, and I hope it comes across in the piece.