One thing I was not prepared for in my conversion was the identity crisis I went through. Because atheism makes logical sense to me, I figured I would just renounce my faith and walk away. I never predicted the stronghold that Christianity would have on me personally.
I did go through a few days were I was on the verge of a panic attack. If you have anxiety disorder, you know what this is like. If you don’t… well, you get a “dread” kind of feeling in your stomach. You have shortness of breath, maybe some flushing of the face. Get a little dizzy. Mainly your stomach feels like it’s on a roller coaster or a fast car on a country road. That feeling. Constantly. For days. I hadn’t anticipated that kind of physical response to my decision. My body was betraying my logic.
But I pushed through, partly because I tried not to think about it. The feeling started when I admitted my lack of faith to my husband. It was the first time I really admitted it out loud- even to myself. Worse than the physical response of anxiety, I caught myself in a couple of prayers. In my defense, I prayed (self-talked?) to calm myself down during heavy anxiety spells (like I was having). If I caught myself compulsively doing it, I could laugh it off.
Please don’t try to tell me that this is because I am meant to be a believer. I don’t buy that for a second. It’s because it really does take a little bit of bravery and strength to renounce anything you’ve believed your whole life. Why do little kids cry when you tell them Santa isn’t real? I questioned my mom for months before she told me and still cried when she did. Letting go is hard.
This anxiety-ridden period and compulsive praying just reminded me of when I quit smoking. It’s the habits of religion that I was detoxing from. When I quit smoking I compulsively reached in my pocket for a cigarette whenever I felt anxious. Now I was reaching for prayer out of habit, too. But I am happy to report that I am two weeks clean and sober from the chains of religion, and that feels good.
Yesterday I was talking to one of my very Christian friends. She has been surprisingly nice about my conversion (and by nice I mean trying not to criticize me beyond telling me I’m going to hell). She had asked me what I was doing all day, and I have no reason to lie to her. I told her that I was researching extreme religions. She asked “why?” and I told her I was bored and done with finals, and religion is still interesting to me.
Then, in a nasty, judge-y tone, she said, “oh, already looking for another religion?”
I wanted to just cuss her out because there’s nothing wrong with expanding my education about any topic, even religion. But between the both of us, I have always been more level-headed, and she was not getting the best of my emotions now. I politely said, “no. It’s good to know about other religions so that when people try to convert me, I can be smart about my responses.”
She didn’t talk to me much longer after that.
She’s not the first person in the last couple of weeks that has assumed that I’m an atheist taking a break from religion and plan on rejoining it at some point.
I could give her the statistics. I could tell her about our low number of prisoners, or our higher levels of education. I could give her the history of how her “peaceful” religion was spread by wars and forced upon weaker nations. I could try to explain (again) that not being Christian doesn’t make me mad at a god that I don’t believe in.
But she is close-minded and I am tired of trying to apologize for my personal “revelation”. I fear this is the beginning of the end of a long-standing friendship, and I have a feeling I have more of this kind of thing to look forward to.
In the end though no one person (or twenty) is worth my hypocrisy for their peace of mind.