Even though this thread has had it's challenges, I still feel like this is a safe place to state our truths, to ask the tough questions and to journey together.
I truthfully feel like there is no "safe place" when it comes to the topic of my religious beliefs (or lack thereof).
Religion was used as a tool to abuse in my family, and I've seen it happen in countless other families and countless times in history. If I was a ruler of a kingdom with the charge of protecing my people, the easiest way to that would be to invent a deity and threaten those people with it. This is the temptation that mankind has faced since the beginning of our race, and the effects of this temptation has affected my life greatly.
When I was 3 or 4 years old, I remember breaking an antique lamp of my mothers. She grabbed the closest weapon she could find, a high heeled shoe, and cuffed me over the head with it so hard I saw stars. We then did the wooden spoon therapy in the kitchen, and when she sent me to bed, she told me that God was going to take me in my sleep that night. I slept under my bed in fear, and I prayed to him for the last time. I told him to take me quickly because the fear was worse than the outcome. He never came.
When I was a teenager, I flirted with suicide on a day to day basis. I can say with absolute conviction that I would have done it if I would have allowed myself to believe in God. I truly believed that hell could not be any worse than my life. I embraced that afterlife as an improvement, and then one day....the thought arrived. What if there is no hell?
For about 20 years, the fear of nothing is a large part of what kept me alive.
I was 22 the first time I attended an AA meeting. After about three meetings, the topic was step two. I told the group that I didn't bleieve in God, and they all went on about how they would help me to find the path. I reiterated by telling them that I refused to believe in God, and they all stopped talking to me. I was quite unwelcome after that, and I never went back. At about the same time, I started seeing a counselor through Lutheran Social Services because I couldn't afford one any other way. In our first session, she asked me what church I attended. I told her I was an Atheist, and she lectured me on the need to believe in God for the rest of the hour. I never went back.
When I was 25, I was fired from a job because I was again asked what church I belonged to, and I responded by saying that I don't believe in God. I got my walking papers.
A couple of years later (my time line becomes kind of skewed because I was so messed up most of the time), I made a second attempt at a support group. This time, it was narcotics anonymous. Again, we got stuck on the second step. I got a lecture about how believing in God was a necessary step in recovery. I never went back.
The thoughts of suicide became very strong again after that, for if I was required to believe in God to improve my life, then there just seemed like there was no future for me.
Earlier this summer, when I was first made aware of my childhood abuse, I called a local Rape and Abuse Crisis Center. They told me that they only accept female clients, and they again referred me to a local Lutheran Social Services group. I called them, made an appointment for consultation, and the subject of what church I go to again came up. I walked out without answering.
If my aunt had not been so persistant about me finding help this summer, there is no telling what may have happened. Let's just say that when the topic of religion comes up, I am completely accepting of other people's beliefs, but only if they are accepting of mine. Yes, I hold people to a certain standard there. Plus, if someone makes me feel inferior because I refuse to believe in God and I refuse to pretend to believe in God, I will fight back.
I've gotten to the point in my life where I will not accept this any longer. I'm slowly learning to stand up for myself, and I have a feeling that this is where it starts. The power of God still has a hold on me, and in my life, that power is no different than the power that was exerted over me in my sexual abuse. In both cases, I'm learning to fight back.