As part of this series, a couple weeks ago I sat down with my friend Ryan to chat about his experiences with religion, and his choice to leave Christianity. We talked about dating, lying, feeling pressured, and what religion can offer young people.
Until what age were you a part of the religion?
Until I has about seventeen and a half.
When religion was a large part of your life, did it contribute a lot to your identity?
Yes, shamefully. Everyone knew me as one of the Christian kids. I would say I enjoyed being labelled as a Christian kid, but there was always an element of shame, I was embarrassed.
When was the moment you decided that you didn’t want to be a part of the religion anymore?
It was both a singular moment and a gradual process. I don’t think I ever truly believed it in my ‘heart of hearts’ like a lot of other people. I was sort of forced into believing it. I was dating a girl, and my Christian friends forced me to break up with her because she wasn’t a part of the religion. That sort of broke my heart. My parents later told me that I shouldn’t have done it. It was then that I realised there were so many shitty people in my religion, who twisted words. It was then that I realised I didn’t truly believe.
How did your parents react to your decision to leave the religion?
I sat them down and said what I had to say. They tried to explain some of the things I brought up, but it didn’t change anything. They said they were disappointed, but not angry.
Did your relationship with your family change?
Not exactly. It was around the time I became an adult, so I was becoming more detached from my family. But overall, not really.
How has your life changed since you left the religion?
I feel freer and less pressured. With Christianity, there was technically no ‘rules’ but there were people who twisted words and ideas. There were also heaps of standards to live up to. Now I’m not a part of it anymore, I don’t feel judged for what I do, I feel a lot better.
What can religion offer to young people today?
A lot. I have nothing against religious people. I guess whatever can save you is good. Religion can give you a lot of really good ethical standards. You get a lot of good morals out of it, and it teaches you to be very giving. I think that’s something I’m thankful for.
Lizzie Fewster is Scissors Paper Pen’s current Writer in Residence. She is a seventeen-year-old year twelve student, who despite being an atheist, is passionate about religion, philosophy, and ethical studies. Book worm by day (and usually night), she spends her free time dreaming of her soon-to-be freedom from her current educational institution, and keenly awaits university life in Melbourne.