The Connector
The Connector

I have been struggling with the concept of religion since I was old enough to know what religion was. I was sitting in the pews of my hometown church, surrounded by the word of God and the overzealous shouts of church-goers, who were filled with the Holy Spirit. Like every Sunday, I felt out of place and strange. I felt like a phony. I would bow my head in prayer and try to clear my thoughts long enough to hear the whispers of the Lord. Week after week I tried hard to accept Christ into my heart, a message that the congregation had already received, but it never came.

Family friends and members of the same church encouraged my mother to let me join the youth choir. In the name of God I obliged. I enjoyed singing with a group of friends, but I wasn’t there for them. I was on the quest for salvation. More like the quest to not rot in hell. And I couldn’t wrap my head around going to heaven. If they let me in, being happy for the rest of eternity sounded strange. What’s the point of happiness if you can never feel pain?

I felt shame for not “feeling” Christ when my Mother and friends said I should. I was terrified of the eternal damnation I was told I was destined for as a sinner. My last resort was baptism. A prayer was said, my head was dunked and I was reborn. The water might have washed away my relaxer, but it didn’t wash away my fear.

Letting go of the Holy Trinity didn’t happen in one day and was certainly not a flippant response to my unanswered prayers for better grades or a wider social circle. It has been eight years since my spiritual bath in front of the congregation, and I still can’t seem to line up the evidence or feel any overwhelming spirituality for a God I just can’t believe in.

The first question people ask me when I tell them I’m an atheist is: “How can you do the right thing without the Bible?” This is one of the very first questions I asked myself when I dabbled with the idea of life without God. The answer is simple — I don’t believe that God makes things right or wrong, because he says it’s so. We, as human beings, can and do make moral decisions on our own. We don’t choose not to kill because God says that it’s wrong. We don’t do it because our inner moral compass says that it’s wrong. When I first came to this concept of goodness without religion, I let go of the longing to know Christ. I began to let myself fully believe in the power of myself, and not in the power of something I didn’t really feel.

I still struggle daily with my belief that there is not a deity looking down on me, controlling my life like a game of chess. I still feel awkward when I tell people who knew me as a Christian that my ideas have changed. I am constantly having to explain that I am not burning Bibles, and that I don’t have a shrine to the Devil in my closet. Mostly because I got rid of him with God.

At this stage in my life, I accept and welcome life without God. I no longer fear the sting of Satan’s pitchfork or disappointment that there is no supernatural entity guiding and protecting me. Instead, I cherish the fact that my destiny is in my hands. I may be without religion, but to me, belonging to the church of Erin is even more powerful.


  1. Erin, I too have struggled with questions of faith growing up in a religious environment. I consider myself a deist. I think organized religion takes away the relationship we can have with spiritual entities/gods. I personally think forcing the masses to believe in something out of fear of reprisal from an evil red man is not a healthy way to live. Thank you for writing this!

  2. Erin, this piece reminded me a bit about Langston Hughes’ essay, “Salvation.” I think you’d enjoy his description of trying to ‘get saved’ as a confused boy.

  3. Knowing the relationship I have with the LORD makes me sympathize you in the sense that you have not found the treasure I have. Christianity for me is a lifestyle. Its not about walking around with a bible in my hand as much as it is having it in my heart. I may shed a tear in church but thats because I think of how awesome GOD has been to me and I am yet to find another who loves/cares for me the way HE does.
    Don’t reject the knowledge of GOD because you can’t “feel” HIM. The truth is, its never about the way we feel. Its about knowing.
    HE is compassionate enough to meet you (Isa. 69:1). Christianity becomes surreal when we take the focus from God the father, HIS Son Jesus and HIS Holy Spirit.

  4. Erin, you’ve done such a great job of stepping out there and beautifully articulating your opinions. There was an article in the NY Times yesterday about the military dealing with a demand for atheist chaplains, so it’s a very real issue you bring up that impacts a large number of people, many of whom don’t feel comfortable bringing the subject to the table. It takes courage to put your name on a point of view and stand by it publicly, even if it may not fit in with a majority. Kudos to you!

  5. Erin,

    I too remember a childhood surrounded by those moved by the Holy Spirit – speaking in tongues, singing, dancing, etc. “Am I not invited to this party?” I asked God. I identify closely to the struggles you describe. To this day, I’ve never spoken in tongues.

    However, I have to dissent on a few points. Most importantly, I wanted to address your discussion of morality: “I don’t believe that God makes things right or wrong, because he says it’s so. We, as human beings, can and do make moral decisions on our own.” The problem is, without God, right and wrong—objectively speaking—do not exist. Morality itself is totally subjective on an atheistic worldview. If there is no God, then our world is merely an accident. Our morals are based on what makes us feel good, on a biological impulse to propagate our species, or they are byproducts of social conditioning.

    This is essentially the problem with the concept of the church of me. One person’s church may preach benevolence, but another person’s may preach malevolence. Who’s to say which is right and which is wrong? Without God, no one can objectively answer that. If one person seeks to harm another, on an atheistic worldview, I cannot condemn this person’s actions as wrong. I can say, “Hey, that’s illegal in this country!” But if they don’t get caught by the police, who is going to hold them accountable?

    I agree with you about eternity – it does indeed sound strange. It makes sense to me, though, that the concept of heaven *should* sound strange. After all, if heaven is communion with God, and God is infinite, then why should we, as finite beings, be able to fully comprehend the idea?

    I hope you’ll continue wresting with your faith in Christ. Our spiritual lives are ongoing journeys, with ups and downs. Just because it doesn’t feel like He’s there doesn’t mean He isn’t. Like loving another person, loving and believing in Jesus requires a choice to hold on even when it feels silly, even when He seems far away or not there at all. As for the evidence–continue searching! I’m reading a book now that is solely concerned with such evidence.

    I would be pleased to continue dialoguing with you on this via e-mail or anything else.

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