How to Make an Atheist, Part 1

The religious history of your friendly neighborhood atheist:

I was raised a Jehovah’s Witness. My mother was converted at the door when I was about 4 and we stayed in the faith untill I was about 13. I could unload a lot of bitterness about it, but frankly I’m kind of hoping my mother will read this, so I’ll keep it to a minimum. Suffice it to say that she was unhappy, and the lady who came to the door (whose name, appropriately enough, was Joy) offered a depth of love that I think she was craving intensely at the time. I still have a reflexive desire to rush into every Kingdom Hall I see and demand 9 years worth of birthday and Christmas presents, but I’m working on it.

There was a lot about the JWs (or J-Dubs, as my sister and I fondly refer to them) that didn’t make sense to me. When you’ve grown accustomed to regularly scheduled gift-bonanzas, having them suddenly taken away is rather incomprehensible. But above and beyond all the discomforts of having to sit with my head on my desk during the pledge of allegiance and the playground meanness generated by not being allowed to form thanksgiving turkeys out of hand cut-outs, there was the nagging and unsolvable question of salvation. Or more specifically, who gets saved and who does not. I was one of only three JW kids in my school not including my older sister, and despite the vast list of things that made me inexcusably weird to my classmates I did manage to have some friends, and none of them were in the faith. This presented me with a serious problem: Only Jehovah’s Witnesses get to party with God in Paradise after Armageddon. That meant that none of my friends were coming with me. They were going to molder in eternal death because they didn’t come to the same meetings on Sundays, because they were wicked. No matter how good and clean and docile and devout I made myself, I was still going to be lonely in Paradise. For an already lonely kid, that was bordering on the unbearable.

By the time I hit high school my mother (for reasons as inexplicable as those behind her initial conversion) had left the faith, an act which, by church law, results in automatic excommunication. The children we’d grown up with were not allowed to talk to us if they saw us at school and the adults who’d taught and watched over us were obliged to turn their backs if they saw us in the grocery store. Again the line had been drawn between good and wicked, us and them, incrowd and outcast. Only this time we were on the other side.

As might be expected, it left a bad taste in my mouth where the Christian God was concerned.

Next up: Meandering through the Wicca aisle at Book Passage; Maybe from the side and if I sort of squint like this it’ll look like something I can believe in.

4 responses to this post.

  1. See my last note about Santa. I so wish we were friends during this time.


  2. me too, kid. i coulda used the help. 😉


  3. Posted by brookie on April 6, 2010 at 8:32 pm

    The Smurfs! That story haunts me, still!


  4. oh, we’ll get there. don’t you worry.


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