From Atheism Reddit
How cruel it is, to take a kid whose life has barely even started, and indoctrinate them into believing that they need to spend the rest of it paying penance for a thousand crimes they never committed. To see this young, budding person, and choose to tell them from the moment they are born, that they are broken, they are evil, and they deserve to burn for eternity. No human being should ever have to grow up with that accusation in the back of their mind at all times. It IS child abuse, and I refuse to call it anything else. Because I’ve lived it, and abuse only begins to describe it.
Growing up surrounded with religion seems to affect young children two ways; it resonates with them, because they don’t know any better, and it gives them a sense of purpose. This way is the only way that religious parents want to believe exists. But there’s a second one. They grow up with the same environment, the same indoctrination as the others, but they take it a whole different way. They don’t find “peace” in it, or purpose, or love. They find terror and despair. This was what I found.
I remember when I was 8 years old, I would stay up until 11 or 12 almost every night. Sneaking out of my bed, and hiding right outside my parent’s door, for HOURS. And this for days. And every day for months, and those months for years. And it didn’t stop, for FOUR YEARS. Obviously it didn’t stay the same all those years, I didn’t just spend four years hiding outside my parent’s door every night. The reaction changed, but the stimulus didn’t. I was terrified. And I don’t just mean sorta scared, I was terrified. I was only 8, but I remember I was so scared every night, it physically hurt. I was scared because the rapture was going to happen, and I wasn’t baptized, so I’d be left all alone, with the promise of however-the-fuck many plagues Revelation has, with hellfire and torment at the end of it.
But the terror I had was more than that. See, in the ‘reality’ I had been provided, god WAS real. Period. Because I had never been exposed to other possibilities, wondering whether god was real was like wondering if the sky was really blue. I had no reason to suspect otherwise, so I never did.
I believed in god because it was the only ‘reality’ I knew. But despite all that, despite the fact that god’s existence was as much a fact to me as the sky being blue, I DIDN’T LOVE HIM. And that’s why I was terrified. All around me were these children being indoctrinated, just like me, but there was a difference. It worked on them. They had faith, they loved god, they found beauty and safety in this idea. And I believed god existed just as much as they did, but I COULDN’T LOVE HIM. I wasn’t just terrified because I wasn’t baptized. I was terrified because, even though I didn’t know this word existed back then, I WAS AN ATHEIST. I was terrified because I knew god was real, and I knew I would never love him.
I remained terrified until I was about 11-12. By then I was slightly exposed to the world, and although I still had no doubt that god existed, I started to get less afraid. However, the fear started to be replaced with the other great trap of that cult. Guilt. I felt guilty every time someone even mentioned Jesus, or that they were baptized, because it reminded me of my great failure. That after all these years, I still didn’t love god, despite everything he did for me. Which even at the time I suspected was fuck-all.
When I was late 12/just 13, I was finally baptized. My family, and my church, were all overjoyed. On the other hand, I only felt one thing when it was done. Relief. Even though I was far too terrified to admit it, I knew deep down, even then, I didn’t love god. And I felt relief, because the pressure was off. I’d been baptized, now everyone could move on to another target to evangelize. And I coasted along in that state of forcing myself not to confront the fact that still, after all these years, I had never ONCE loved god.
And then we get to the past year, where thanks to researching (as well as reading reddit) I realized that evolution/science was NOT bullshit, in contrast to religion. I realized that religion is a a little hole through which to view the universe, while science and rationality is a bloody floor-to-ceiling window. I realized just how beautiful humans, animals, this planet, this universe, and everything else really is. I realized that I’m NOT broken, I’m NOT evil, and I do NOT need to repent for crimes I never committed. I was told that I should live my life preparing to die, but I realized I didn’t need to.
Becoming an atheist made me realize I don’t need something to die for, because I have EVERYTHING to live for.
I’m 15, about to go into my Junior year of high school. In the past two months, my depression has gone away almost entirely. My social anxiety is at an all time low. For the first time in my life, I have self-esteem. I look in the mirror, and I like the guy who looks back. I have a plan for the future, goals and ambitions I never would have dreamed of before. And most importantly, I’m actually happy. And even though I never once talked to any of y’all here on /r/atheism through this entire ordeal, I want to say thank you. You helped me realize just how beautiful a universe we’re in, and how amazing some of the people in it really are. Thank you so much, from the bottom of my critical thoughts, all the way to your rational heart 🙂