I’m a Freshman

Photo by Campin Guy

Photo by Campin Guy

When you reach eighth grade, you’re at the top of your game: You have an amusing case of senioritis that provides an abundance of confidence and slackitude (yes, that is a word today). Compared to your 7th and 6th grade peons, you’re mature, smart, attractive, and “have it all together”. While they’re still in training bras or hoping a chin hair will suddenly appear, you’re at the top of the food chain, dolling out advice and wisdom to whatever child will take it. You’ve found your niche. You finally feel like you have a voice. Eighth grade was one of the best school years of my life. I loved it.

And then you become a freshman. Suddenly you’re thrust into an unfamiliar environment with people bigger than you who know more about absolutely everything. You can’t even find your way to the water fountain, much less lead a clique or have control over your life. Books are heavier, assignments are longer, and you are suddenly taught something called “critical thinking” (well, in some schools, anyway). Not everyone is like you anymore, and you feel lost, intimidated, and insecure. You have a lot of growing to do. I remember hating my high school for months before I finally accepted the transition into the new environment.

For me, leaving Christianity was a lot like graduating from eighth grade to high school.

My Christian walk had passed puberty: I was experienced, educated, well-rounded, and thoughtful. I studied the Bible voraciously, enjoying theological discussions and asking digging questions. My circle of Christian friends admired my insights, and I easily fit into any group of Christians in which I found myself. I was spirit-filled, excited, and cocksure. My family thought I was going to make an impact on the world for Jesus. I was in the zone, and I loved every second of it!

And then I became an atheist. I left Christianity in a childhood tantrum: kicking and screaming, crossing my arms and stamping my foot in stubborn refusal to change. I was afraid of leaving my comfort zone and having to start all over again with nobody there to be my clique, my support structure, my guide. I didn’t think I possessed an identity without my faith. Who was I? What was happening inside of me? I didn’t like it.

I was very happy being the respected one in my faith-filled circle. Little did I realize just how small I could feel being the one asking all the questions, chanting “I don’t know” like it was my mantra, and constantly discovering ways I needed to mature and expand as a person. It was a reality check that has never stopped. I had to face being inexperienced and awkward all over again. I admired the people whom I read and listened to; they seemed like the juniors and seniors in the school of atheism. They were mature, knowledgeable, and skeptical thinkers. I longed to be more like them! I still do.

I am still a freshman in many ways, but I’ve finally calmed down about the transition from “pompous know-it-all” to “itty bitty newb”. I’m not trying to hold onto faith any longer–I’m emancipated and ecstatic! I feel the same passion and eagerness to learn and discuss as I ever did. My brain has never been more full. Not only do I keep the knowledge I had as a Christian, but I also have a new way of examining what I’ve learned and a new appreciation for those studies. Life is good. (And now I can at least find the drinking fountain.)

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June 29, 2009  |  christianity, my past

19 Comments


  1. Love it!

  2. Actually, all you’ve done is switched faith, but, whatever -

    • I disagree with your assessment that she has "switched faith" – atheism is a matter of faith like cleanliness is a matter of dirt – but what I really disagree with is your trivialization of the situation.

      Leaving Christianity was the most painful thing I ever did. For me, God and religion had been a kind of security blanket. They were always there for me, even when I was alone. They would always help me, even when things looked hopeless. I could always count on God to set things right when I couldn't, and to teach me better when I made mistakes.

      Becoming an atheist meant giving all that up. Now, instead of looking to someone else to help me with my problems, I have to do it myself. Rather than having a loving family of people who support me and my beliefs, I am surrounded by people who would antagonize and belittle me. And instead of resting happily in the knowledge that everything will become clear after I die, I must go out and find my answers – and occasionally be contented to know that no answers will be found in my lifetime.

      Losing your religion isn't like changing the towels in your bathroom. If your faith meant anything to you at all, it becomes a huge and significant life transition.

  3. Actually she didn't. Only a religious person would see atheism as a religion or faith.

  4. Great post. I especially liked the phrase "Not only do I keep the knowledge I had as a Christian, but I also have a new way of examining what I’ve learned and a new appreciation for those studies."

    • I used to be a member of a Christian forum where I was a respected regular. Once I outed myself there, it became apparent that they didn't see any of the insight and knowledge I had previously gleaned as carrying over into this new life.
      As of that moment, I was not listened to, and when I spoke about the Bible, I was told to "actually read it" and "if you only knew Jesus, you'd understand." I guess they missed the years I did do both of those things. ;)

    • Thank you, JF!
      I used to be a member of a Christian forum where I was a respected regular. Once I outed myself there, it became apparent that they didn't see any of the insight and knowledge I had previously gleaned as carrying over into this new life.
      As of that moment, I was not listened to, and when I spoke about the Bible, I was told to "actually read it" and "if you only knew Jesus, you'd understand." I guess they missed the years I did do both of those things. ;)

      • I see, and can begin to imagine what I would be up against if what I believe to be imminent should come to pass. I am fairly certain that I have read the Bible many more times than the average Christian, and have studied & taken in depth notes in each Church service like hardly anyone does… that and all of the times that I have been told that "God has great plans for you" will be easily forgotten, I guess. Sad.

        • You know what? You have a treasure trove of experience and knowledge that will only make you a more effective citizen, familyman, and free thinker. No matter what happens, don't regret where you've been or what path you're on (as trite and recycled as that sounds) ;)

          side thought: Sure, we had it nice for a while… but as someone who is also looking back, I find myself wondering why I felt like I needed my faith and god to give me purpose, mission, power, and love. Having people around me who thought I was hot shit and had an amazing call on my life was great. I and my ego miss it. But I'd rather know that my life is an unfinished story that I can write; and the people I want around me now would let me be whatever I am without any exceptions or judgments.

        • You know what? You have a treasure trove of experience and knowledge that will only make you a more effective citizen, familyman, and free thinker. No matter what happens, don't regret where you've been or what path you're on (as trite and recycled as that sounds) ;)

          side thought: Sure, we had it nice for a while… but as someone who is also looking back, I find myself wondering why I felt like I needed my faith and god to give me purpose, mission, power, and love. Having people around me who thought I was hot shit and had an amazing call on my life was great. I and my ego will miss it. But I'd rather know that my life is an unfinished story that I can write; and the people I want around me now would let me be whatever I am without any exceptions or judgments.

  5. I'm a couple days late on this but this story made me smile, because I know the feeling. For me, the reason I 'graduated' was that I eventually became completely dissatisfied with the answers that religion offered.

  6. Great post, godless girl. I rarely read anyone's experience so eerily parallel my own. The process by which those of us who are devoutly and happily religious leave faith for intellectual reasons and against our own wills is poorly understood by those who haven't lived through it. And, worse, it's foolishly trivialized and obnoxiously belittled by many of the self-righteously religious. And the lifelong atheists don't identify much either. So, it's nice to read someone really articulate that experience for once.

    • I'm so glad to have a 'kindred spirit' (for lack of a better term) in this sort of transition. As a Christian, I thought people left the religion for emotional reasons, and I didn't respect that (and still don't, to an extent). But when I found myself leaving against my best wishes, my entire view was turned on its head. I'm glad you and I can understand how it feels. thanks for the comment!

  7. Excellent story (I just stumbled it.) While I can;t say I was ever a fervent Christian, I grew up in the Catholic Church, going through all of the Catholic rituals, sacraments, etc. And I never really believed the stories I was hearing. I am now spending plenty of time reading the Bible and reminding myself that I don't need to pretend or consider religion as being more important than everything else.

    Good to hear your story and your transition!

    • Your comment (thank you for it) made me consider how I started out in Christianity.
      Isn't it interesting how we can go through the motions of our traditions and not even realize until much, much later that we can ask questions and do things differently? Not many children are gifted with the minds to choose differently than their parents.

  8. Very nicely written description of your emergence from the darkness of dogma. I, too, came out of that unfortunate dungeon that is fundamentalist Christianity and so grateful for it. We're both "newbs" but at least we're enlightened newbs who no longer have to worry about fairy tale gods, demons and other nonsense.

    Reality Rocks!

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