I was raised in a doomsday cult
For as long as I can remember I lived my life as a Jehovah’s Witness. I never celebrated my birthday or any holidays as they were deemed “pagan”. I was ridiculed in school by classmates for “being weird” and not doing the things the other kids did because of my religion. I was lonely and had very few friends. I had no friends outside of school. My mother married a non-Jehovah’s Witness man so I was viewed as less than good association for kids in the congregation. This stuck with me well into my teenage years.
On the outside they seem like average people, a little odd at times but relatively normal and kind people. On the inside though it is a different story.
Fear, obligation and guilt are used to manipulate you into doing everything you are told. If you do not, you will face a meeting with elders (the same thing as pastors) and you will receive biblical counsel. If you have “sinned” seriously you will be disfellowshipped from the congregation and everyone you know, including your family members who are Jehovah’s Witnesses are forbidden to talk to you.
After many doubts and very many sleepless nights doing research I realized my “religion” was actually a cult. After many many unanswered prayers I came to realize I had never truly believed in any gods and I never would because it is absolutely absurd.
Telling my mother was excruciatingly difficult. She threatened me. She cried. She yelled. It was an extremely difficult time for me mentally and emotionally. I am now labeled an Apostate and contact with her and my dad (who is now a Jehovah’s Witness) is limited. My younger brother who is Jehovah’s Witness hasn’t spoken to me in almost 4 years.
If I continue on this path I will be disfellowshipped which means I will lose all contact with my family. They will completely shun me and act as if I am dead. The easy way out of this is just to go back and say I believe. I can not do it. I can not live my life for others and pretend to believe in a god that I know doesn’t exist. I will not back down from what I know to be true. It’s difficult and scary but ultimately I am happy. I am happy to be an atheist.
My beautiful friend Maija and her lovely husband Tim sent me an Invisible Pink Unicorn pendant that I wear with pride. In fact, a friend of mine asked me about it and I bravely told her it was the Invisible Pink Unicorn pendant and I am an atheist. To my surprise she said she was also an atheist but never mentioned it because of how people react! It was so exciting to have my pendant be the ice breaker for my friend and an atheism conversation starter for me.
Living in the Bible Belt makes it even more empowering because I know I am part of something bigger. I’m part of a growing movement of men and women just like me who refuse to give in to the pressure to fit into the religious mold.
I hope that I can help remove the stigma of atheism and show that atheists are normal just like everyone else. We are happy. We are friendly. We are kind. We are compassionate. We are human.
Bethany has been the featured atheist on the podcast Your Atheist Pastor. You can hear her interview here: I did it the right way and nothing happened, episode 341, Your Atheist Pastor podcast