For me, the idea of “god” was incredibly confusing, even though I didn’t admit it (even to myself). When you’re a child raised in the church, you’re taught all of the fundamentals from an incredibly early age. Jesus loves you. God loves you. Jesus died on the cross for you. You have to accept Jesus into your heart in order to be saved. You repeat these things over and over and sing songs about them. They’re completely imprinted in your head before you’re old enough (i.e. emotionally and mentally mature enough) to even begin to understand what they mean. You accept them as fact because they’re taught to you by people you love and trust; people who would never lead you astray. The idea that those people would lie to you, or even be ill informed, doesn’t cross your mind. To a young child, parents and teachers are good people and they know everything.
Which is exactly why adults shouldn’t teach children things they have no good reason to believe are true. It’s unfair; it’s taking advantage. The adults in question don’t usually realize this, of course…which is one reason it’s worth saying it a lot.
There was, however, a darker side. I knew that there was a hell. I knew that it was a place of fire and suffering where bad people were tortured for eternity; never, ever finding relief. I suppose I never questioned how a place like that could exist if god was a good god; probably because my beliefs had all been packaged so neatly for me. Everything good was from god and everything bad was from the Devil. In a religious upbringing, beliefs are presented in a way that leaves little room for questioning, unless you’re able to step out of your comfort zone and put ALL of your beliefs into question; something a little girl like me simply couldn’t do.
Every night when I went to bed, I would pray and ask Jesus into my heart. I knew it was only “necessary” to do it once, but I was terrified I had done it wrong, or that something I had done that day—some sin I had committed—would cause god to not love me anymore. To a shy little girl who was unsure of herself and still struggling to understand the world around her, the idea of disappointing her creator and being sent to a place of eternal torment was incredibly disturbing. (I suppose it’s probably disturbing to anyone!)
Every Sunday I went to church and sang songs about Jesus, laughed and played with my friends, prayed to god, and learned Bible stories. Every night I would go to bed fearing the same god I had been taught loved me and “had the whole world in his hands.” Every mistake I made—every “bad” thought I had—caused me to beat myself up inside and hate who I was.
We keep being told atheism isn’t enough; people need more. Well sure they do, and sure it isn’t, but at the same time…Just getting rid of that train of thought would be doing a lot. A lot.