Wendy Marsman is launching a new podcast entitled “Women Beyond Belief.” She graciously asked if she could use the name of my book “Women Beyond Belief: Discovering Life without Religion” and I agreed immediately! Here is her story.
An Ex’s View of the World
I think there is a large group of women who can relate to at least one of the ex’s I have listed below:
Those of us who know what it is like to have our identity changed by adding the “Ex” to the front of the label we were used to can be shocking when the reality sinks in. The stigma that our culture puts on these labels can feel crushing.
I took on the role and identity of the five “Ex’s” listed above over the last seven years. Over that time period, I have learned what loneliness is. I have also learned that those whom I thought were my friends and family choose to re-define their role in my life as I took bold steps outside the comfort zones they wanted to keep me in.
The five “Ex’s” are part of my identity now. But they do not completely define me. For instance, I will always be an ex-wife to my ex-husband. I will always be an ex-Christian to those who are still Christians. My reality is also defined as an ex-daughter to my parents since we are estranged. Each “Ex” has played a role in who I am today and who I am becoming. They will always have a role in my life story.
I have many regrets from my past. But I am not ashamed of saying so since that also defines the person I am today.
Questioning the status quo is now my “new-normal” as I rid myself of the lingering legalism of the past years as a fundamentalist Christian. Agnosticism, atheism, humanism, secularism and feminism are new terms I am embracing. For decades, I saw people with these labels as BAD. I did not choose to become a Christian by “converting” but instead was indoctrinated into the religion at a young age. There were no other beliefs or worldviews that were given to me as a choice. There was the “one true god” that was to be feared and followed.
I feel I am an “accidental atheist” if I could pick a label since I slowly realized I had no belief in that god any longer.
But our society does not encourage women to be atheists, just like in the fundamentalist churches. It does not encourage women to have any leadership roles over men. Therefore, connecting with other like-minded women who feel their voice is not represented in our culture today is hard when we have all been trained to shut up!
After being a fundamentalist Christian for almost 40 years and an overseas missionary for 15 of those years, I find myself in a very strange position now.
I have looked far and wide for support groups, meet-up groups, online communities, forums, podcasts, blogs, and books by women whom I could relate to. Are there any other women who have gone through what I have gone through? Or am I alone? These are questions I have asked myself over and over again. Of course, all our stories will be different. But anyone who was raised in religion and then left it behind is rare.
Redefining a woman’s role
What word does our society have for woman who question their marriage, who question the faith they were born into, who leave the mission field, who live with a man before they get married, who go to college after age 40, who quit the corporate world and enter the entrepreneurial world, and who question the family-of-origin dynamics, and who choose healthy relationships and set boundaries?
Most likely that woman will be labelled as a black sheep, a rebel, disobedient, un-submissive, reckless, sinful, a heathen, and destined to hell. These are some of the labels I have had to bear as I witnessed most of my family, in-laws, and friends distance themselves from me which I had not experienced when I was on the inside of those church walls. In some cases, family members have demonstrated hatred and disgust for me. And in other cases, I chose to walk away from bad relationships. Much of this led me to a depression I was not familiar with before.
I used to pride myself in saying I had no enemies since, as a good Christian, the Christian god told me to love everyone. Ironically, I have re-connected with a few people who were non-believers all along and now see me as no threat (being a good Christian and missionary, strategic evangelism was par-for-the-course).
So, in conclusion, I started this Podcast to…
… Help other women who have left their religious beliefs – Women who want to have a voice when their voice was quieted for so many years.
I want this to be a safe place where respect, integrity, and empathy are valued and where is no topic off limits. The podcast is where women can share their story, their struggles, their wins, their stresses and their future goals. Listening to podcasts has had a big influence on me over the past seven years. It has helped me to understand and process much of the anger I had at losing four decades of my life to serve a god that I now believe is a myth.
If you, as a women, find yourself relating to the five Ex’s in this post, feel free to contact me if you would like to be a guest on the podcast or share your story via an audio blog. Looking forward to hearing from many of you.
Host of “Women Beyond Belief” podcast
Launching in April, 2017