Thinking back, examining everything I can remember of my life, every rich and worthwhile thing I experienced either was or could have been had without religion. Love, peace, joy, forgiveness, friends, family, intimacy, sex, natural pregnancy and births, many children, intentional parenting, homeschooling, country living, goats, chickens, gardening, traveling, appreciation of nature, community, food, fellowship. The list is long. What about the hard parts? I did lean on my faith in God when I became pregnant out of wedlock (but notice my faith didn't help me when faced with premarital sex!). And I turned to God for comfort when my niece and nephew died in a house fire (but our family and friendships were so strong I think we comforted each other more--I could just as easily have blamed God). I have always given God credit for restoring my marriage and bringing Bobby around from a bad place, but for my part I can look back with my new eyes and vividly see myself struggling to understand and practice forgiveness because the only alternative was bitterness--that's the way it works, under God or not-- as well as considering what my future would look like as a single mom. I imagine Bobby faced similar tough decisions and that very practical things made him lay down his old life to become a family man. We made decisions based upon what we thought was best; we were not led by the Holy Spirit.
There's no denying it's nice to believe someone is taking care of you, always listening, always loving you for who you are and forgiving your mistakes. I didn't want to let that go, but the foundation came out from under my God, disturbed from the very depths of the Bible. I was born a thinker, encouraged to develop and use reason and reason is the antithesis of faith. If you don't believe, you don't believe.
Wouldn't it be even nicer if that sort of loving, listening, forgiving relationship were more tangible? When I realized I made it all up I was at once hurt, embarrassed, and empowered. I know that in just the few months since my god vanished in a poof of holy smoke I have become the sort of person Christians either despise or pity. I can hear the "tsk tsk" and the sigh of sorrow even now. I exalt myself above God. By taking back the credit I'd always given God, saying "that came from within me, not some higher power," I have insulted many people. What can I say? I know how it smacks of everything they stand against because I know what I thought then of people like the one I am now. I hear the things that come out of my mouth, hear my thoughts, and I stand amazed. The old me would have put a lot of distance between herself and the new me, so I choke sometimes thinking how fast the transformation took place! Not much distance there after all. I'm now on the other side (oops, sides! No getting around it, is there?) and feeling occasional pity and occasional disgust for the religious in their boxes.
Let me be clear; I have few regrets. I believe that I did the best I could with what I had to work with and there's always peace with that reflection. With few exceptions I've lived a sincere and honest life, being true to myself. Thomas Paine says, "Infidelity does not consist in believing, or in disbelieving; it consists in professing to believe what he does not believe." I have always been true to what I believed, no matter what anyone thought.