I went on a two-month mission trip in college and one of the leaders began calling me “Sister Christian”. This leader was a great lady and she often came up with little sayings that were endearing and/or humorous. As a Christian, I thought there was something satisfying in the idea that we were all connected as a family. We were a family that knew the truth of Christ’s love and salvation. So, I began using this new expression, sister Christian, since I preferred it to the more awkward-sounding “Sister (or Brother) in Christ”.
As you likely know, I am no longer a believer in any god and therefore no one can accurately call me sister Christian any longer. But in the letter below, the “feeler” in me chose to address my Christian friends and family in this former way because I like expressing affection. And I am truly grateful that, as human-beings, we are all connected in a familial way, despite our many differences in opinion and belief. (Note: this letter isn’t to anyone in particular, it’s a summation of my feelings and thoughts toward my religious family and friends).
Dear Sister (and Brother) Christian,
I miss you. I miss how things used to be. I miss our conversations. I miss the peace and harmony I felt when hanging out with you. Sadly, I am not sure we can have that back. It seems that you have taken a step back from our relationship. I get it… change can be hard. Especially the unexpected “rock the core beliefs” kind of change that happened to me.
It has been pretty exhausting… the process of:
- doubting and questioning the faith I have had since I was young
- seeking the truth despite what I grew up believing and despite what my loved-ones believe
- realizing that I simply don’t believe anymore
- sharing this news with people as it seems appropriate (examples here and here)
- experiencing changes in many relationships
- deciding how to handle all the changes
- attempting to treat my friends and family with compassion and understanding
- figuring out how to raise my children morally, without guidance from a god (examples here and here)
- figuring out how to have community without church
- observing you sharing about god at your convenience
- holding my tongue so as not to offend people
- and finally starting this blog so I can have a voice.
It is very possible that you are exhausted too and that many of your thoughts and prayers have been spent on my behalf. Maybe you fear for my eternal soul or what may happen to me in this life. Or perhaps, you don’t think about this change in my life at all. Maybe it just doesn’t bother you that much. Or maybe you’re somewhere in between. How do you feel about this change in my life? Well, either way, I felt it necessary to express my thoughts and feelings because while I am at peace with the realization that I’m an atheist, I am not at peace with my relationship with you.
Here are some things I think you should know about me:
- I am still the same person I used to be
- I love people and building relationships
- I love my family A LOT
- I enjoy being outdoors and staying active
- I’m caring, honest, genuine, fun and enthusiastic
- Like most people, I want happiness for myself and my loved-ones
- I didn’t suddenly become immoral
- I strive for the things that are in the best interest of myself, my family, my friends and my community
- I don’t want to steal, lie, cheat, or harm anyone
- I am not convinced there is a god because I haven’t found sufficient evidence
- I didn’t lose faith because I wanted an excuse to sin
- I am not a heathen because I felt harmed by god or his followers
- While I am open to hearing your evidence, I would advise that you not treat me like a potential convert, I think that will only hurt our relationship
- I don’t generally feel the need to talk about religion
- I don’t care what you believe as long as you’re not hurting anyone
- I enjoy the fact that I don’t need to be an evangelist anymore
- While I do want you to think critically about your own viewpoint, I don’t want to spend time trying to convince you to agree with me
- That said, I am open to talking about god and our existence and generally enjoy such conversations
If I could have an ideal conversation with you about beliefs it would go something like this:
You: I believe ________ and this is why _________.
Me: OK, I don’t believe ________ and this is why __________.
(We decide to mutually respect each other’s right to believe or not believe whatever we want as long as it’s not hurting anyone)
Me: Alright, well, that’s enough about religion.
You: Yeah, let’s have fun and enjoy each other’s company and not let religion get in the way.
I realize life isn’t so simple, it’s not possible to have it exactly the way we want sometimes. And that’s OK.
I want you to know I am happy. I used to worry so much about what god might be saying to me or how he was leading my life. Now, I feel empowered to make my own choices and take responsibility for my life. I feel free. I feel at peace. I am doing well.
Lastly, I invite you to share anything about yourself that you would like me to know. I welcome your response to this letter if you feel compelled.
With much love,