Evolution of an Atheist
Greetings/Salutations/a friendly hello
My name is Rosalyn Mizzell. I'm a 28 year old mom of five, married to my husband Chris for 10 years now, and we are stationed at Offutt Air Force base in Bellevue, Nebraska. Well HE is stationed here, we are just along for the ride.
My husband grew up in South Carolina, which as you can imagine makes him being an atheist quite difficult. I grew up all over, I was a military brat and came from a family where the Air Force was the family business. It's why my husband enlisted in the AF and not the marines like he had planned to. My (step) dad was Episcopalian and my mom was Wiccan (strange combination I know). So religion was never really up front and center in our home, because - like everything else - my parents couldn't agree on how we should be raised religiously. One of the only good things my parents did was not raising us within a religion or it's doctrines. Thinking back on it, it's weird. My parents were incredibly abusive but never once in the name of religion. I think that may be odd, because the other survivors I know were beat for religious teachings. But anyway...
Even growing up devoid of religion I used to wish so hard that I could be Christian. I would force myself into my version of prayer, talking to "god" for hours every night, telling him that I would be the best Christian in the universe, I would Love him and I would Know him and I would Follow him. That's what he wanted, and I could gladly give it to him. My reasoning was he was surely punishing me for being a bad person, a bad Christian, etc and that was why I had parents who hated me. If I could only be the best person/Christian in his eyes then he would surely reward me with a respite of being told I was worthless, or that if given the chance my mom would go back and abort me. I would no longer be thrown against the wall with my (step) dad's hands around my neck, my feet dangling off the floor; my mom would no longer grab a chunk of my hair as I was pulled and dragged around the floor leaving patches of bald spots and nerve damage across my scalp.
I even had this dream once that Christians would say was proof of God. In my dream I was in a room surrounded by people who loved me. I could feel the love, I was allowed to participle in it. I walked through the room into a kitchen where everyone smiled at me and told me they missed me. Outside the windows I could see other children playing with pure joy and happiness and I longed to join them. As soon as I felt that longing I was dragged back to the bedroom I started in and was told that I would only get to join the kids outside if I was a good person, if I did the best I could, and if I always gave back to others first. I woke up and decided that being a good person wasn't enough, I knew I had to get RELIGIOUS.
I think for some people that dream would be the beginning of their rebirth into Christianity. For me, it was my downfall. It began with me wanting to become a hardcore Christian, like my best friend who had the most amazing family. Her dad was a minister, I mean surely their family was so amazing because they were close to God, and mine was horrible because my mom was a Wiccan, and my dad was as Christian as saying "god is good, god is great, let us thank for this food, amen" (and yes, I know the lines are backwards - that's how practicing he was) prior to eating dinner. I felt like I was being punished, and I just wanted it to stop.
I began reading the bible but I immediately had issues and questions with the things I read. I asked my (step) dad and he just scoffed that I was still in The Garden of Eden and I already didn't understand His word. My mom would try to answer, but her answers were no less confusing and just ended up in a debate and then anger, and anger would inevitably lead to punishment, and I just quickly gave up asking. I'd ask my friend and her dad, and they had great answers but they always felt a bit one sided. Like they were skirting over the nitty gritty. I wanted someone to break it down to me, to explain WHY it was the way it was, and WHY this was something that I should agree with?
The more and more I explored Christianity the more and more it made me feel like I was covered in this slick and dirty oil. I felt dirty hearing His word, and I had issues equating becoming a good and kind person with the lessons and teachings of the bible. Instead of being filled with "light", I felt flooded with this feeling that I was a snake oil salesman. Like a duck that got caught in an oil spill. Where was the feelings of joy, and of certainty? Where was this magical, sweet, supportive, and caring community that I was promised?
On one of my visits to my friend's church a few of the congregation members heard I was searching for God. They asked to pray for me, and wanting to be nice I told them, "thank you, that would be very kind". What proceeded is still etched into my memory as one of the most uncomfortable and psychologically scary moments in my life. Hands began to cover me and pat, caress me, it was like every bit of my body had to be wiped clean. Then the prayers began, in English first, asking my soul to be delivered to God and so forth. Within a few moments, though, the words switched to a language I had never heard. Tongues. The prayers got louder and louder, I was surrounded by people and hands, and words that weren't words, and the tone of the voices were escalating louder and harsher, more feverish. Before they could finish my friend noticed I was missing and came and found me, pulled me from their arms and ushered me back to her car. She alerted her dad and he wasn't happy that this had occurred. He spoke with them, apologized to me and promised me that would never happen again.
I appreciated that they had rescued me but it made me uncomfortable to ever return to their church again, and it was the final straw for me in terms of organized religion. Church wasn't for me. I decided that if there was a God he didn't care if I worshipped in a church or at home, as long as I was a good person. I also decided that hell couldn't exist because no god who was as wonderful as everyone claimed he was would torture people for eternity. As hard as I tried to believe this I saw nothing or heard anything that made me feel as if this was any better than attending church. It wasn't just the archaic teachings, it was the culture, and the environment, the people, and the hatred. I never felt quite comfortable, and I never found the genuine kindness I had been searching for. The only kindness I saw was towards behaviours they deemed Christian. This sometimes included cruel prejudices against others but was done in the "kindest" way possible.
After I met my husband I began to explore Buddhism and pagan teachings. The idea of reincarnation was particularly alluring. All I have ever wanted was a family that loved me, and I didn't get that growing up. The longing for parents that I could turn to when I was scared or needed help still pulls at me to this day. Being reincarnated so that one day I could experience that was the only way I could cope for nearly ten years. I clung to that hope, all the shit I experienced would eventually be erased and I'd be reborn into a very loving and caring family next time.
While I may have appeared to cope, the faith I had kept me from truly healing. When I was 23 I was diagnosed with a connective tissue disorder called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and since then my health has gone downhill quickly. I went from having future plans that included living off the grid, becoming a midwife, having half a dozen or more children, and helping out my community however I could - to having to buy convenience foods at times, feeding my kids cereal for dinner more than once, and looking at a very near future of being too disabled to work. It wasn't fair. I DESERVED a better life. I had done everything I could to be kind, helpful, a good and loyal friend, and an inspiration to others and it wasn't fair that I escaped 18 years of abuse only to have my body hurt me daily instead.
This year I finally gave up that last bit of religious faith. My belief in reincarnation had me so focused on my next life that I wasn't enjoying the one and only one I KNOW I have. There is no logical reason to believe in religion, not for me. I tried to find the logic in it, I tried to believe in faith alone, but I couldn't do it. It wasn't until I finally realized that my faith was coming from a place of fear that I was finally able to begin to heal myself. It's scary to think this is all I get. I'll never know what the future looks like, I'll never know what it's like to have a mom who loves you the way a mom should. I'll never experience a body that isn't, literally, falling apart at the seams and I'll never get to fulfill my dreams of being a midwife, joining the peace corps, and hiking trails with my husband. I was so busy not really pining my loss because I didn't want to admit that I had actually lost anything. Once I finally did I was able to work through it and now I am finally on the road to happiness, for the first time in three decades.
I used to think you needed religion and faith to be happy and a part of a loving and supportive community. I never found that, but I did when I joined the Atheist community here in Nebraska. I finally feel at home.