I did a YouTube video on this topic some months back and now I feel I want to write about it here. Sometimes it seems so much easier for me to express myself in the written word more than in the spoken word. I hope I make my statement without coming off offensive or defensive. I simply want to state my point of view on the matter.
I grew up in church. Mama always took us on Sundays & Wednesdays and on Fridays we went to prayer meetings at different church members' homes. I don't think we ever belonged to any specific denomination. We went to a Pentecostal Holiness church when I was very young, then switched to a New Age church and sometimes attended baptist churches with my grandmother. Now my mother attends a Pentecostal church with new age ideas thrown in the mix. There is lots of dancing and falling down in the spirit in her current church.
All the way up into my teenage years, Mama would come in every night to say our prayers with us and read us bible scriptures. My Daddy did not attend church. He drank a few beers every day after work, cussed and fished with his buddies. He never spoke to me once (that I can recall) about religion or church - except to say that we needed to go with Mama because it made her happy.
Throughout my childhood I remembered being told about Heaven and Hell. As a teenager I felt tormented by "sin" and sinful things. I felt every action would condemn me to eternal fire. As if being a teenager isn't hard enough ! Mama would often annoint my bedroom doorway with oil as she prayed and spoke in tongues. I was never comfortable with the idea of speaking in tongues or being slain in the spirit. It seemed foreign and a bit crazy to me. I was told that if I could not speak in tongues or be slain in the spirit, I was not opening my heart up to God and would therefor most likely be condemned to hell.
When I left home at seventeen to get married, I rarely attended church with Mama, but I did "find religion" several times over the years. I would turn my life back to God for a while, but there was always a lingering doubt that I never dared to speak outloud to my mother or anyone else in my family. My first encounter with an atheist was with my ex-father-in-law. He openly talked about how crazy Christians were, but he never told me the "reasons" why he didn't believe.
My second husband and I were married for about eight years when he returned to church. He grew in the Seventh Day Adventist church, so that is the church we attended for several years. I attended church regularly with my husband until severe health issues arose and I stayed home alot. Many members of my husband's church would visit me and tell me how a man could not stay married to a sinful woman. I was told to return to church lest my husband fall back into sin because of me. Mind you, I was very ill. I had severe kidney stones and an undiagnosed bowel infection that rendered me bedridden most of the time.
I read my Bible daily and watched SDA programs daily at this time. These daily bible studies and religious programming are what began to lead me down the path of a non-believer. I began to question the many contradictions in the bible and even emailed the SDA web sites for answers to my lingering doubts. I was told simply to trust in God - which made even less sense to me. If God wrote the words of the bible through man, why did He contradict His own teachings so many times throughout the bible ? The teachings of Jesus are about the only thing I did understand in the bible. He taught peace and love for ALL of our fellow man with no exceptions.
I am wavering on the fence of religion and non-belief right now. Growing up in a God-fearing family, it is hard for me to even speak out about my true feelings. Christians are often the ones who meet the doubters head on with anger and violence. I fear being shut out of my own family for what I am starting to believe is the truth. You rarely ever see an anger-filled group of atheists outside a religious meeting protesting with signs and screaming damnation to believers. My husband left the church after only a few years. He still believes, still reads his bible often (but not as often as when he was in church) and he stills drinks heavily. But I am afraid to even express my feelings to him - partly because I don't want him to go all fire and brimstone on me and partly because I don't want to sway his personal beliefs.
Most likely this is a subject I will touch on again and again here and on YouTube. I'll end it saying this much, I have found a greater inner peace and love for my fellow woman/man kind since I do not feel the restraints of having to be worthy in the eyes of believers. It's hard to love one another when the anothers make you feel so sinful.