Dear Stronger Than Stigma,

I would like to share the story of how I left my religion. I took some time to think about it but I believe I am ready to share. I understand that this may be a sensitive issue so I will try not to offend anyone. I wish to share two components: 1) The story of how I left religion which although was a struggle to be a part of also caused a phase of depression when I left it. But eventually I found stability and happiness through mindfulness. 2) A poem describing issues I felt in scripture particularly involving violence and sexism. I have already completed this poem but I have not included as it is quite long and it is a bit of a harsh poem, but if you are looking for poems I can share it though ^_^ . A bit about me: I am mixed race individual who is 50% Italian, 50% Jamaican and 100% hard working and trying to make a positive difference in life. ^_^ . I am currently a PhD student in experimental medicine but my favourite hobbies are to play piano ♫, workout and to ponder about life and its meaning and finding answers to deep philosophical questions. My story of leaving religion and how I found happiness and stability through mindfulness: My father who was Italian and catholic but changed his religion to be with my mom who was of Caribbean (Jamaican) decent. Both joined the protestant Seventh Day Adventist Christian church. Being brought up in this religion I was told that God and the bible were “love”. I did not read the whole bible but still identified as Christian mainly out of obedience, and as a result I had plenty of doubts my entire life. Some of my doubts of Christianity showed when I asked “how God could create himself before he existed” or “why is God killing people all the time”, “why does God identify as a male” and “why did Jesus waste his time turning water into wine”. Despite my bountiful doubts in religion I did still defend Christianity as it was a part of my identity. In addition to religion a part of my history, it was also a concept I hoped for as I wished there would be a heaven/afterlife and an overseer of justice in this truly terrible world. However, despite my identity and hope for religion to be true, as I was going through teachings to eventually be baptized (as my parents wished) I read more of the bible and was displeased and at times shocked with the criminal nature of scripture and got into arguments with my teachers for baptism. With my countless disagreements about scripture and its lack of ethics my baptism was cancelled. This was when my slow transition to becoming an atheist was more clear. It doesn’t happen in one day, but gradually you realize the contradictions of this Judeo-Christian God’s character are simply too much to still believe. Months after being an atheist, I felt an emptiness from there being no possibility of heaven or afterlife or justice and from thinking I wasted years of life following something is not true. It felt like being alone in a universe where nobody cared about you. This depression was similar to being in a friendship/relationship that you based a part of your life on and now you realize it is over. During these moments people often say that time heals. I believe time heals these emotional wounds either by: - Forgetting the pain or -Developing reasons of why the situation is actually empowering. My first step of healing; realizing my loss of religion meant less toxicity: In my case, mainly mindfulness allowed myself to find positivity from leaving religion. This was helpful as actively creating optimism within your mind was a much faster way of healing than passively letting time make you lose memories of this hurtful phase of life. Some of my positive thoughts included considering religion as a toxic friendship/relationship, where I would be provided with anxiety and pressure to accept certain treatments that I do not fully appreciate. Thus, leaving religion removed toxicity and gave a unique type of peace. My separation from religion meant less arguments where I was the only one defending rights of homosexuals, women, minorities, or arguing against the senseless violence in the bible. It signified that I would not be burdened by being the only one defending common sense morality. Thus, atheism meant I can create a less hostile future for my thoughts, which is accomplishment to be proud of.

My second step to healing; understanding my loss of religion meant finding the truth: Another way at which mindfulness enabled me to find peace through losing my religion was my ultimate goal in life to understand the truth of who I am and where I came from. Accepting atheism prevented anxiety when science finds continuously more and more evidence of evolution being our origin. Thus, leaving religion allowed me to identify and accept more of the truths in this world. All of the aspects of this strange universe seem to make more sense through the lens of evolution, such as the cruel way at which life gets there energy from eating other life, as a loving God would not have made this system, but evolution would. As well as why our earth seems like a random speck out of an unimaginably high amount stars and galaxies in the universe. These realizations would also imply the prospect of heaven/afterlife that I was clinging on to, may not of been real in the first place which means I never actually lost anything in being an atheist. My removal of religion would mean that I found the truth, even though the truth was sometimes bit sad and harsh. My third step to healing; knowing my loss of religion gave me vision of what needs to be fixed in this world: Realizing the sad truths of this world through mindfulness allowed me to have a third way of finding happiness through leaving religion. This was through knowing what we need to make progress in this world. Religion would make me focus on trivia and worshiping a God that shouldn’t even care about being praised when there are people suffering on earth. My removal from religion steered my thoughts towards helping and improving the quality of life people and animals that live on this earth. Finding these more practical and helpful set of goals in life were already a type of reward. When I make progress in these goals through my volunteer groups, my biology research, by sharing philosophical thoughts with others and my goal to study medicine then this will give me purpose, integrity happiness in life. When I was Christian I was mainly thinking of my prospect of heaven, but from finding truths of atheism and mindfulness approaches to find peace I was capable of having a more compassionate caring mind focussed on helping others in the world.

Being in a safer, more stable state of mind where you can guide your own future freely and know that you are closer to the truth eventually grows as a new source of purpose and encouragement in your life.

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