I was raised in a Christian household. Going to church every Sunday, youth group on Wednesdays, and church camp every summer.
Faith wasn’t an option—it was a fact. An indisputable demographic wrapped so tightly around our core group of humans it almost began to feel like skin.
Critical thinking wasn’t a piece to our belief puzzle, though we were often informed, “Doubt is ok, questioning is ok, what’s important is that you walk by faith and not by sight.”
Or in other words, “We don’t have the answers either, but it’s better to just keep moving down a blind road than it is to question this 20,000 year old map.”
I’ll be honest—my faith felt like a lifeboat in an otherwise unsteady reality. Something unwavering, unchanging, and most definitely true. My church family was just that—family. There for me in all my stages—as long as I fit the mold.
I think what finally started my shift into enlightenment was the realization of immense hypocrisy among those I held close.
There’s a lot “buts” in Christianity.
We love everyone, BUT not…
Unconditional love is key, BUT only…
Judgment is wrong, BUT it’s okay when…
God made you perfect, BUT you’re broken and unworthy…
And this is the part where hundreds of Christians flock with their arms wide open saying, “Not us, not all of us, we’ll love you!” A trap I’ve fallen for countless times.
I get it—I understand the appeal of Christianity. The idea that you’re so terribly broken and empty that only something as massive and powerful as God could save you.
Something to lean on. Something to cling to. Something to live by.
It makes sense—we all have a religion. Whether that’s the gym. Our work. Meditation. Volunteering. Writing. Running. Our absolute best friends.
But there’s just something about the idea of a creator stitching together his idea of perfection and then saying, “Only some of you will get to hang out with me forever and some of you are innately bad and some of you are much better than the others and deserve a seat of gold.”
“Think of him like your dad—only better.”
“When he punishes you, it’s because he loves you.”
“When he asks you to do something challenging, it’s because he knows you can and wants to see you grow.”
“No one will ever love you the way he does.”
Talk about gaslighting at the highest level.
Until I was 20 years old, my faith was my identity. It was in every cell of my being. In every thought, every word, every action, every decision or indecision.
It weaved itself into my soul until I couldn’t remember where I began and where I ended.
I was so greatly afraid of messing up, of getting it wrong, of spending eternity burning in a literal hell with demons screaming at the top of their lungs, that I sobbed myself to sleep on countless occasions—knowing I would never live up to what was asked of me.
Though always being reassured that’s okay, no one’s perfect Kaili. Just repent. Repent. Repent.
But why was I repenting from things that felt like my highest self? That brought me joy and growth and freedom and opportunity?
Why was I trying so hard to fit into a group of people who never quite felt like home, just to feel inadequate at every level?
Like putting on a shoe that so clearly is 3 sizes too small and insisting you want to wear it. You MUST wear it—this is THE shoe. YOUR shoe.
And when looking around some more I realized: they’re all wearing this shoe three sizes too small and dancing around with a plastered-on grimace disguised as a smile.
After critically thinking, and doing even just the slightest bit of research, I quickly realized—I don’t believe this shit.
Lots of this simply can’t be true. And if someone on Earth today showed up to my house insisting they were recently swallowed by a whale or impregnated in a dream or building a boat for all Earth’s animals—the entire world would be quick to scoff.
And if someone committed crazy, unspeakable acts in the name of God (which they have and do) we’d be quick to say, “I’m sorry but you’re wrong.”
And if someone insisted their diary was actually God speaking through them, we’d shake our heads and ask if they were alright.
And if a group of people jumped on their horses and went town to town slaughtering those who thought and lived differently than them, we’d call them terrorists. We certainly wouldn’t devote our lives to their cause.
So I guess after all of these realizations, becoming un-Christian was truly the only option.
But in case no one’s told you lately—that’s really, really hard. There’s actually, quite surprisingly, no guidebook to un-Christianing yourself.
There’s no “de-baptizing” ritual as far as I know of or small group study for people who recently came too after a really intense brainwash.
So yeah, it was lonely. And for the first two years, I didn’t even say the words “I don’t believe in God” out loud because I genuinely feared for my safety. Not on Earth, but in the afterlife.
What if there really is a God but he’s not the God I was taught about and me saying that out loud pisses off this real (and way nicer) God enough that he banishes me to some “un-believer island” and I spend eternity trying to convince him I was actually talking about the fake him?
Or what if I lose all my friends and family because they’re still attached to their religion and they’re convinced I’m no longer worthy of being in their circle of light?
Or even worse, what if I become the person they spend all their time and energy trying to save? And I have to sit through hours of “you’re going to hell please repent!” talks until I jump in the bathtub just to fake a baptism and get them to shut up?
But truly, the scariest and most lonely part of leaving religion is the quiet realization that your entire life, all your beliefs, thoughts, and decisions were rooted in something you no longer align with.
You’ve been following a map to a fake destination and now it’s up to you to re-find yourself. To rediscover where it is you’re trying to go.
And unlike religion, there’s no historical book with directions or gatherings for support or cool slogans to tattoo on your body.
Which now, 5 years later, sounds absolutely positively awesome. But when you’re used to “living for something bigger,” simply living feels really…small? Empty? Lonely?
I remember going on a college visit with my dad and we saw a poster for the “Atheist Club.” My dad laughed and said, “What do they do? Get together and talk about how they believe in nothing?”
And I laughed too. Because I thought, “What do they do? Why do they need a club?”
Now I know.
And I’d like to join, please.
Being un-Christian doesn’t mean you believe in nothing. It simply means you don’t need a book to tell you what you believe.
It means you can believe in kindness, love, equality, learning, growth, connection, excitement, enlightenment, grace, forgiveness, laughter, adventure, morality, and everything in between—simply because they’re part of the collective human experience.
So yes, becoming un-Christian has been lonely. It’s been scary and challenging and downright exhausting.
But it’s been oh-so-worth-it.
Now I no longer ask myself, “What would Jesus do?” Instead, I ask myself, “What SHOULD you do? If you were to be the best human you could be in this experience right now, what would you do?”
And I do that.
Some would say what I’m doing is still religion. That I’m living for a larger purpose—the purpose of a better mankind. And I would agree.
I still believe. I believe in something larger than myself. I believe in the power of positive thoughts, mediation, prayer, or whatever name you’d like to give it. I believe in kindness and gentleness and self-control. I believe in forgiveness and grace and doing the right thing.
And I mostly believe in love. Which at the end of the day, I think we can all agree should be tossed like confetti.
So you reading this, afraid to become un-Christian, terrified of what lies in your next empty chapter, let me assure you—Heaven is here, Heaven is now—you just might have to make it for yourself.
And as for the afterlife—well, I like to think even if I’m wrong, Arizona is pretty damn hot, so hopefully I’ll come prepared.