My Year As an Atheist

13 Mar

After my dealings with an abusive relationship, which you can read about in this post, I didn’t want much to do with “religion.” I told everyone I was “no longer religious.” I wasn’t sure what I believed, but I just didn’t want to think or talk about it.

Religion was an open sore on my heart. I knew that the sore stank and was growing worse, but I told myself that if I ignored it, if I refused to touch it with my thoughts, it would heal on its own.

The days were easy because I had classes and work, but I spent many long nights laying in bed refusing to think. I did whatever I could to keep myself from thinking. I watched TV all the time. If the TV was off I was on my computer. I didn’t read much at this point, because for me reading (even novels) is an exercise in thinking. I felt like a zombie because I had horrible insomnia.

I drove to the city a half hour away to meet men. I met so many men. I was charming, so I had a lot of them where I wanted them. The ones who gave into my charm the easiest were always the first ones to go though. I wanted a chase, a thrill. I wanted to know that someone had resisted me and I had broken down his resistance.

I packed up my Bibles and my Christian books. I would walk away when I heard my friends talking about their faiths. I would sit by myself and think, “I’m better off without religion. I’m a smarter person than them because I won’t be mislead by a pastor or other religious leader.”

I wanted to purge my life of the things that I thought had caused me so much hurt. I blamed my innocence and my naivety. So I thought that if I acted as if I was not innocent, if I familiarized myself with things outside of church and outside of the sheltered life I grew up with, then maybe I could keep myself from ever being hurt again. I hurt others before they could get the chance to hurt me because I lived with the expectation that everyone was out to get me.

It’s not that I no longer believed in God. I just never thought of Him. Even now, I can’t tell you that I had any definitive beliefs at that point in my life. Because there was literally never any room in my mind for anything religious. And that, I think, is true atheism.

The sore on my heart grew more sensitive every day. I found myself getting angry when people invited me to church – an experience that I had cherished in years past. I would walk the other direction if I saw someone reading a Bible or any sort of religious book. And at night I laid in bed and felt alone.

When my parents asked how church was, I would make something up. I didn’t feel guilty about lying to my parents about my spiritual well-being, because I thought that if it was making them happy, then there wasn’t anything wrong with it.

Almost exactly a year later, I decided to do some research on the Catholic Church. “I don’t have anything else I do on Sunday, so why not?” I’ve always loved research and there’s nothing quite like immersing myself in a good project. So I threw myself into it.

My first Sunday in the Catholic Church I was reminded how much I love the Bible. When the reader read the liturgy, the sore on my heart didn’t ache quite as badly. In fact, it felt soothed. That first Mass did more to heal me than I think I will ever be able to express. And I kept going back. And now I’m eighteen days away from becoming one with the Catholic Church – the place that brought a close to my year of Atheism.

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12 Responses to “My Year As an Atheist”

  1. Bethany March 13, 2013 at 1:10 pm #

    wow this is a powerful story! My heart breaks for your year of insomnia.

    • elliejaneohara March 13, 2013 at 5:00 pm #

      It was a very long year, but thankfully the Lord brought me out of it 🙂

  2. NotAScientist March 13, 2013 at 1:23 pm #

    You were without religion for a year. I don’t think that made you an atheist.

    • elliejaneohara March 13, 2013 at 4:56 pm #

      I’m really hoping I didn’t offend you or anyone else with my remark! I used that term because at that time in my life I lived in a way that completely neglected God. It was a hyperbole meant to express my point.

      • NotAScientist March 13, 2013 at 6:18 pm #

        Zero offense given. Just adding my 2 cents and correcting a misconception.

      • elliejaneohara March 13, 2013 at 6:22 pm #

        Okay, good! In retrospect I see that I didn’t explain what I meant well enough…but too late to take it back!

  3. danielwalldammit March 13, 2013 at 1:37 pm #

    I wouldn’t say that what you describe is ‘true’ atheism. It does strike me as an interesting variation on the theme. Having thoughts on the subject and rejecting the prospect of a god is another.

    • elliejaneohara March 13, 2013 at 4:57 pm #

      I just responded to a similar comment. I’m really sorry if I’ve offended you in any way!

      • danielwalldammit March 13, 2013 at 11:26 pm #

        I’m not offended at all, just expressing disagreement with a small segment of your post.

      • elliejaneohara March 14, 2013 at 7:21 am #

        I meant for what I said to be taken figuratively and I realized I didn’t really do a good job of clarifying that.

  4. exreligiouschristian March 13, 2013 at 3:34 pm #

    Thank God you were able to have hope in Him and find a church that is getting you closer to Jesus. Whenever people abuse us spiritually it can be hard to ever want to go back to anything dealing with God again but I’m glad He worked in your life and was able to bring you close to Him again.

    • elliejaneohara March 13, 2013 at 4:58 pm #

      Me too, it is good to be able to rest in the Lord again 🙂

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