Deconversion: Vanessa’s Story, Part Three

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HA note: Vanessa blogs at Fiery Skull Diaries. She “recently uprooted [herself] from kentucky to florida,” where she enjoys “fresh springs, the magical fragrance of orange groves, and copious amounts of sunblock daily.” Vanessa considers herself “an exchristian, atheist, and antitheist, unapologetically.” This post was originally published on August 26, 2013 and is reprinted with her permission.

< Part Two

it’s difficult to talk about the abuse that went on in my home in the same breath as my deconversion process.

based on the nature of their beliefs — the foundation of their beliefs — believers are quick to pounce on this as evidence that i turned from god because of a hard time i went through; that my faith was, apparently, weak.

language falls dreadfully short at encompassing how cruel an insult that is.

because i have first-hand understanding of why they say this, i am never caught off guard or react angrily when they dismiss a real and substantial part of my life with such callous ease, citing that i was never truly one of them (1 john 2:19 they went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us);

that i was the seed that fell on stony ground (matthew 13:5-6 some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: and when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away).

my faith was indeed nothing short of real to me, and for many years, i viewed god and my faith in him as the underlying force that got me through those painful times of abuse, abandonment, betrayal, fear, uncertainty, poverty, and loneliness.

i held onto the bible verses i had already learned by heart, thanks to awana (see part 2 for explanation about awana).

i searched the bible, especially psalms and proverbs, for more comforting verses. i clung to the verses my friends and church leaders would write down or point me toward. i heard, “god won’t give you more than you can handle” more times than i can count — and i believed it. i didn’t understand why god was letting all this hurt and confusion happen to me and my family, but i trusted that he knew what he was doing and was with me through it. he’s the one that can see the big picture; every piece of the puzzle; every thread of the tapestry. his ways are higher than ours; his understanding high above ours.

he was in control and he had a plan.

jeremiah 29:11 for i know the plans I have for you, declares the lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

when my dad left, i was reminded endlessly by my friends and mentors (all christians) that god was the true father of us all; that god could be my daddy. in fact, in one of the many diaries/prayer journals i filled in my teen years, i addressed every entry to “daddy” (god).

*****

To be continued.

Deconversion: Vanessa’s Story, Part Two

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HA note: Vanessa blogs at Fiery Skull Diaries. She “recently uprooted [herself] from kentucky to florida,” where she enjoys “fresh springs, the magical fragrance of orange groves, and copious amounts of sunblock daily.” Vanessa considers herself “an exchristian, atheist, and antitheist, unapologetically.” This post was originally published on July 22, 2013 and is reprinted with her permission.

< Part One

i cannot overemphasize how indoctrinated i was.

in addition to attending church three times a week from before i can even remember,

going to church preschool at ages three and four,

and being homeschooled as part of a christian homeschooling group from kindergarten through 12th grade,

i started attending awana at age seven.

awana is a highly developed scripture memorization program originally modeled after the boy/girl scouts, that starts kids as young as two years old. in my eleven years in awana, i read the entire bible twice (many parts of it much more than that) and memorized over a thousand verses.

a thousand.

memorized. by heart. word for word in the king james (sometimes new king james) version. recited in reference-verse-reference format.

i attended awana camp for five consecutive summers, starting my eighth grade year. it is no exaggeration to say that the awana camp experience is overwhelmingly similar to jesus camp.

awana taught me far more about the bible than any other source in my life. it grounded me, rooted me, solidified my faith more than anything else.

my name is engraved and hangs proudly on a wall for all to see inside the awana headquarters in chicago because i earned the citation award, the highest award awana offers. it takes ten years to achieve.

awana accomplished its mission with me.

2 timothy 2:15 study to show thyself approved unto god, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

*****

Part Three >

Deconversion: Vanessa’s Story, Part One

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HA note: Vanessa blogs at Fiery Skull Diaries. She “recently uprooted [herself] from kentucky to florida,” where she enjoys “fresh springs, the magical fragrance of orange groves, and copious amounts of sunblock daily.” Vanessa considers herself “an exchristian, atheist, and antitheist, unapologetically.” This post was originally published on July 16, 2013 and is reprinted with her permission.

this process is difficult for me to write about because there’s so much to it. i’ve been putting it off for too long, feeling overwhelmed.

no more excuses. i need to write this story for my sake and the sake of others. i will be doing it in small, to-be-continued pieces until i get it all out. no more waiting. no more feeling like i have to write the entire thing before i can share any of it.

let’s get started.

my parents both grew up pretty poor in the same town in western kentucky their parents had grown up in, and their parents before that. neither was raised very religiously.

at the age of sixteen years and six days, my mom left her abusive childhood home to join in holy matrimony with my abusive father, age eighteen and six months. i was born twelve years later. i am the eldest of two girls; my sister is almost to the day two and a half years younger than me.

for reasons still unknown to me, my parents became fairly religious between the time they got married and the time i was born.

for my mother, i think it was about finding comfort. for my father, it was about appearing to be a stand-up guy in the community and getting to look at teenage girls in the youth groups, in which he somehow was always heavily, though superficially, involved.

most of my earliest memories are from the church we went to until i was three. after i turned three, we moved to a house outside of town and started attending a different church closer to our new home. like the one before, this was also a southern baptist church. we were there every sunday morning, sunday night, and wednesday night. i went to preschool at this church. my mom painted and wallpapered the bathrooms and several sunday school rooms in the church. my dad was on the volleyball and softball teams (i learned to rollerskate on my own in the church gym at age four by going with him to “bolleyball” practice on tuesday nights), and, of course, he was involved in the church youth group.

one sunday afternoon, when i had reached the age of reason at seven years old, my mom helped me pray the sinner’s prayer in our bathroom before she even got off the pot.

yes, you read that right. she could not bear to make the soul of her tearful, distraught seven year old, who had realized her sinfulness and eternal destiny, wait a second longer to accept jesus. so, sitting there on my mom’s lap, who was sitting on the toilet, i asked jesus to forgive me and come into my heart.

much to my extended family’s never-ending dismay, my mom decided to homeschool my sister and me when it was time for me to start kindergarten at the age of five. part of that decision was that she couldn’t stand the thought of putting her smaller-than-average five year old on a big, scary school bus at six in the morning.

the other part of that decision was to shield me from mean kids and unbiblical secularisms (*ahem*…EVOLUTION) taught in public school. (“public school” was a bad word in my vocabulary for my entire childhood.)

in other words, though she did not realize it, my mother chose, in part, to homeschool me to ensure my indoctrination.

*****

Part Two >