Why I don’t believe in God.

Why I don’t believe in God.

There isn’t one particular reason why my belief faded. It’s a collection of big and small occurrences. So go grab a coffee, tea, snack or a full meal – this will be a long one!

{Please note that this is my personal experience and is not a way to shame others who are religious! We are free to believe what we want, and we have the ability to choose: if something becomes oppressive or harmful in our lives, we can let it go!}

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I’d been part of a youth group for a number of years. At that point in my life, I felt rather secure in my faith. As a teenager, I had curious questions, but they were met with “I don’t know” or “pray about it”. I would shrug it off. Deep down, I had this nagging feeling that something wasn’t right.

During my senior years of school, my personal life became absolute chaos: my grades began to slip, I was sad, anxious and angry. I was being manipulated by people around me. Trapped. I clung to the idea of a “loving God” because I felt that love was lacking so much in my life. I wanted protection, guidance and love.

God filled a void I had no capacity to fill for myself. Spoiler alert: not yet, anyway.

Then, under the pressure of school and toxic relationships, I started experiencing what some may call “spiritual warfare”. It began at a youth camp. At first, I heard a light whispering. After a few minutes, an unknown voice spoke to me. These voices could not be identified as male or female. I was terrified, sometimes numb and mostly sad. What was wrong with me? Was I losing my mind?

An adult in the community suggested I see a mental health professional, but this was a red-flag to me at the time. If this adult agrees I’m suffering from these experiences because of my “sin”, why would she then suggest I see a psychologist? What would the benefit be if this was in fact a spiritual matter? To say I was confused, would be a gross understatement. These voices haunted me for 6-9 months. I never saw a doctor. And my family never suggested I needed to.

This was the beginning of the end.

{I mentioned this experience to my psychologist recently and she agreed that under the enormous amount of mental pressure I was under during that time, it could have been auditory hallucinations.}

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After deliberation, I let my parents know that I was leaving the catholic church. I even had a short chat with a priest about it. He was surprisingly supportive of my plans to attend a new church.

I began attending a protestant church which was the opposite of the type of church I grew up in. There were no dark wooden pews, no statues and not as many windows. We didn’t have to be silent or hold our heads down. This is where I started to learn about community. The people were the church! <– my “aha” moment.

As life would have it, the insecurity returned. I felt I didn’t belong. I didn’t want this “responsibility” to evangelise. I didn’t want to stop same-sex couples marrying each other. I didn’t want to shame others for how they felt, because I knew what that was like. There was a deep conflict brewing between what I was taught to believe, versus what I wanted to believe.

I couldn’t believe it. I was a self-righteous wolf in sheep’s clothing.

I kept preaching “love all people” and yet I was shaming people for their “sins”, trying to scare people into believing. I would talk about how abortion was so harmful to the foetus, yet ignore the needs and wants of the woman bearing this difficult decision.

I was a complete hypocrite!

I needed to remove myself from this blanket of lies.

Title_04.jpgThe threatening voices were gone, but there was a new voice in my head: the voice of reflection and reason.

Where did I belong if it wasn’t with a church community? Could I accept myself as Angela without the identity of religion? Why did I think that saying hurtful things and scaring people would draw them to religion?  

By the age of 18, I moved out of home to a granny-flat with my relatives. I learned about budgeting expenses (although they were minimal), how to cook for myself, how to plan around uni classes and work. I also met new people! They have become some of my closest friends.

The world was different than I imagined! I thought it was a dark, sinful place. I thought that me leaving my faith behind meant that I would go to hell. Ironically, this belief was shed once I started seeing a mental-health counsellor.

By age 19 and in my early 20s, my worldview completely changed.

I didn’t need to feel guilty about speaking my mind, questioning beliefs or getting drunk on a Saturday night. What’s the point of me believing in something I didn’t agree with anyway? In my mind, I either conformed to religious beliefs (no drinking, dating with intention, voting against same-sex marriage, being against accessible abortion etc) or I was free. Guess what I chose?

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Freedom has always been a value of mine. Whether it be the freedom to choose, the freedom from manipulation, religion or a mindset, freedom has always been the goal.  I’m not afraid of what a book may say, or that a “believer” might tell me my life is full of sin.

I know in myself, that I am complete because I am. In my darkest moments, faith was comforting. But now, my darkest moments are an example of how strong I am because I fucking fight back. Not because someone tells me they’re praying for me.

I accept myself as I am, without religion: a woman who is trying to live her best life, despite the lows. A woman who is trying to bring light to her part of the world through encouraging compassion for oneself and others. A woman shedding light on societal pressures: what a woman should or shouldn’t do, wear, say and feel. A woman who is free.

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4 Ways To Become A Better Listener

4 Ways To Become A Better Listener

It all started in primary school: a friend shared a harrowing experience with me and since kids love to share differences and find commonality, I thought this was part of normal conversation. However, over the next decade, I’d come to realise one of my strengths would be listening to another’s stories, achievements and struggles that others may not hear in “normal” conversation.

Fast-forward to high school: throughout my senior years, people would pull me aside to let me know about something they’re struggling with. Sometimes I would be shocked, confused, heartbroken or overwhelmed for them. But I was also thankful that they felt comfortable enough to share these things with me. Most of the time, my friends just needed a listening ear. By the end of a short conversation, they’d say they felt much better.

Listening to another’s story takes empathy, patience and an open mind.

So how can we honour someone when they share their story with us?

1

Show kindness to the people around you. Perhaps make some new friends. You might be surprised what another has been through. You might even learn a thing or two!

I do my best to show my friends that I value them by making time to support them in their time of need.

2If someone is telling you about a personal experience, struggle or achievement, constantly checking your phone/laptop/computer/electronic device can be really hurtful. If you make the decision to hear someone out, be there for the whole story.

Another way of being present, is asking inquisitive questions: what happened after you said _____? How did you feel when you achieved _______? Were you able to follow up with ________ about _________?

When we are present, we can have engaging and enriching conversations with each other.

3Yes, we’ve all got a story, but that is not an automatic invitation for you to tell them how much more you’re hurting.

Unless sharing common experiences benefits the person you’re listening to, allow them to speak without minimising their pain. Saying things like “I’ve been through that before, you’ll be fine!” or “Been there, done that!” are not helpful for some to hear.

When someone confides in you, brushing off their pain can come off as insensitive and in some instances, rude.

However, keep in mind that some people appreciate lightheartedness – just gauge what’s needed from previous conversations with that person.

4.pngLike any skill, it takes practice! For some of us, listening comes naturally and for others, listening can be difficult — either way, that’s okay.

We all have different personalities and personal experiences that may influence how we relate to others. By practicing our conversational skills and exercising empathy, we can greatly improve our listening skills.

These days, I straight up ask if what I say is hurtful or helpful. I like to be crystal clear that my words were received the way I intended them. If that wasn’t the case, I either:

  • Apologise.
  • Ask for clarification on what they said.
  • Admit I’m unsure on what to say.
  • All the above!

Just keep practicing the last three tips, and you’re bound to have better conversations with those you care about!

Showing kindness, being present, practicing new skills and avoiding phrases that minimise pain can help improve how we listen to one another. I hope you found these tips useful!

When have you felt ‘heard’ by another person? What did they say or do that made you feel listened to or understood?

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