I have noticed among the atheist community there is something not short of a problem. It seems that the wounds that have been created by being theists don’t end at the moment a person becomes an atheist. Nor do they get better quickly. The fact that religion has infected our heads remains for long periods, sometimes for life. I have to live with this every day of my life, opening old wounds, and looking deep inside. When I do I often find things that are remnants of old moral codes, fears and just outrageous thoughts that were once based in religion. So it comes to me, that I am not alone in this. Many of us are suffering.
I am not a therapist, but I bet one might call it Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. PTSD as bad as it seems, is about right when you look at the harm done by religion. We still suffer even after the leaving of the indoctrination. Old habits die hard, and so do the memories of the terrible consequences. What we are left with is something that seems to be reactive fears, unparalleled, by what really happens in life. We come out of it humbled, weak, and like children again. We have to learn everything all over. Some people don’t get that, but I do. Leaving religion, for me, was the first step towards maturity, and emotional growth. But it was only the first step.
I have had relationships since leaving religion, and often I find that there is a trace amount of dogma still hiding in my mind. The way I think about sex, my body, and how I react to things. I am not alone in that. Several of the relationships I have had bear the scars of what religion has done to the other person. It makes life very hard for everyone involved. It seems there is no depth where religion has not crawled in and poisoned parts of our lives even when we try to escape it.
I am sure there are atheists who have also lived through some tough times, and emotional growth stunting without the dogma present. Yet, I can see things that religion has done to me that secular people have not suffered. Guilt and shame over my body seems to be the predominant one. Even breaking the shackles of religion, I still feel the guilt about what I chose to do, not the sex, anymore, but the allowing of others to get close to me. Religion taught me that my body was something to hide. That I was to not let anyone but my husband in, even then it was mechanical. The fact is I had more fun, and better sex, outside of the confines of marriage. Once marriage was there then the guilt and pain set in.
Even now, with the after effects, I find myself pushing men away. Choosing to be chaste when there is no reason. Having sex under certain circumstances. I often feel bad about my body, guilty of how many men I have been with, and worried at how others perceive me. So when I speak out, when I plaster my Facebook wall with my emotions, it is because that is for me a volatile attempt to break those chains. Instead of hiding away and hiding my emotions I try to express them, learn from them and grow from them.
Sometimes things flow in a direction I don’t want. Where others are trapped in my public life, and that hurts them as it does me. It aids in nothing, and while I try to keep my intimate life, just that, there will be spill overs. I set my self up to be the godless vagina. I put myself out there for ridicule, and secretary. Others who will come to my life, or have been didn’t. They get to be the hapless victims of my choices. Which is one thing I won’t stand for. I am a work in progress, so is my life. I am always trying to grow, correct bad thinking, fix errors. That becomes harder when people get destroyed in the path.
The point is that for all of us, we bear some scars, the tissue may be deep. It is hard. I am public, my wall on Facebook reflects that. Some parts of my life are not. Some parts need protecting, because as long as I am fighting to keep others from being hurt by who and what I am then I can’t grow. It took a lot for me to break free from religion. One thing I don’t want is to stop the growth. I have gone from a dumb Christian to a learning atheist. It took a lot out of me being a theists, giving up my love for life and science in one foul swallow. Then letting it eat at me for years, torn between guilt and desire.
I guess to some I am a strong woman, thank you for that. I am learning to be strong. I was an introvert for many years. It was one of the reasons life was so hard for me. While I read about things I enjoyed, I stayed away from the things that challenged me to grow, accept the reality that I was alone, and take responsibility for my errors. My strength comes from living through that, challenging myself and walking away.
Now I am learning most of the things I once believed to be true, were either lies or toxic thinking from the poison inside of me.
And it was poison. I suffered a lot at the hands of religion. My duty as a woman, a wife, a mother. My fears, my worries, and the things I couldn’t accept. It was all so burdensome with no answers. Now I have to shed every part of the dogma. That will be some time. I suddenly have a bookshelf filled with atheists educating me, teaching me from their wise minds. I use it as my shield. There are moments when I want to back slide, just to not be alone. But then I think of the evidence, the truth, and what I see in the religious.
It is hard to be strong every day. Some days I fall down and have to be picked up. Some days I wonder what this life is even worth, then I realize that my passion is the life I live which connects with other lives, and how beautiful and precious they are. Some of them are a mess, some of them are strange to me, some of them challenge my old theist beliefs. I find them lovely though. I find my strength in the people who surround me with love, care and concern. I know that when I am making a mistake I often can’t see it, but when I look through others eyes, then it comes clearer to me. That is the best part of this journey.
So constant reader I am taking you along with me. You can learn from my mistakes, or just empathize if you wish. You can see me stumble and laugh, you can be my shoulder when the tears come. You can see me open my wounds and pour out the poison from my days of indoctrination from them. I will take you with me, but respect that there may be people, especially my family, who want nothing in my being the godless vagina. They deserve the respect to have their privacy, and I will gladly give it. I hope that you will too. Even if you know whom they are, it does not mean they share in my feelings that we are stronger when we can say to the world that we are in pain.
I think that being able to tell the world that something hurts makes me stronger. It makes it easier to fix, to shed, to change, to grow. But not everyone is the same. Some people need a private world in which to live. They are not like me. I find that good if it is what helps them, and I don’t expect everyone to be like me. I just know that I am here. I am the godless vagina. I will keep growing and taking you with me as I go. It will be a long road, but I hope it ends with me one day speaking on the stage at an American Atheist event.