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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Therapy Sessions | How to Change A Belief.

Therapy Sessions | How to Change A Belief.
*Trigger Warning: there may be distressing content.*

Let’s begin The Session.

What is a belief? A belief is something considered to be fact.

Where do beliefs come from? Beliefs come from the environment around us (external). It can also be formed by our own thoughts and sensory experience (internal).

The thought, “I’m not good enough” can be experienced by most of us at some point in our lives. For some, it is more prevalent if we have had past experiences that ingrain this kind of thinking. It can affect our self-esteem, confidence and progress in self-improvement.

The good news is, beliefs can be changed!

My psychologist drew up a table of two lists on her whiteboard. She asked me to list evidence for why I was good enough and why I wasn’t.

Listing evidence for why I wasn’t good enough was easy. My psychologist and I then spent about five minutes expanding each piece of evidence – what was the circumstance? How did that lead to the belief? Was this evidence substantial enough? I realised: instead of moving forward, I forced myself to take fear with me from my childhood and adolescence and used the events of my past as justification.

Listing evidence for being good enough was not as easy. Slowly though, achievements came to the surface. It affirmed that there were positive things I have accomplished. For example, I moved out at 18, I learned how to save money and I learned how to budget. I realised that many things I have done in the past, required skills and sometimes, strategic thinking!

What I learned.

I learned that if I didn’t achieve things to a ‘perfect standard’ or made a mistake, I was automatically ‘not good’. As well as an avalanche of other negative thoughts/beliefs toward myself.

Some may wonder, “Well Angela, if it did you harm, why couldn’t you just forget this belief?” Let’s go back to the beginning. There’s this thing called egocentrism. As children, we are unable to process situations or events from another person’s perspective. As a result, we attribute another’s hurtful actions to ourselves, thinking, “I must be bad/stupid/dumb” (which is what happened to me).

So, how can we change our beliefs?

1. First, we need to know what our beliefs are. 
Self-work is not an easy journey but it is absolutely worth it.  To know what beliefs we have, we could take inventory of thoughts that come up. Whether it’s a positive one like “I can do anything I set my mind to!” or “I never do anything good…” – it could be worth identifying and changing if it does not serve you.

2. Make a list of accomplishments.
I love utilising lists to get a clear sense of tasks, goals or ideas. My strategy for changing this belief will be writing a list of all my life’s achievements. As time goes on, my list will evolve and grow. So whenever this belief creeps back in (which I have been guaranteed that it will) I can look at this list and remind myself, “You know what? Yes, I have made mistakes but I am good enough!”.

3. Remember that we all make mistakes.
There is a difference between taking responsibility and acknowledging a mistake and punishing ourselves over everything. Sometimes, we are our own worst critic! You don’t necessarily have to experience disturbing trauma to be hard on yourself. We all have a drive that pushes us forward. Just remind yourself of positive motivators too!

4. Be patient with yourself. 
Changing a belief is not easy. Same goes for mastering a talent, technique or academic topic. All of these have something in common: TIME. It takes time to change or learn something new. It takes time to improve a skill. So be patient.

Beliefs once formed, are ingrained and can be difficult/confronting to change – as you saw with my struggle. However, with support, patience and strategies, it is possible to live a life based on positive truth rather than self-deprecating lies.

That concludes our session today.
Thank you for being here.
Stay well! x

Image by Thu.

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