Leaving The Family Faith Behind

Laura Cok, whose mother is a minister in the Christian Reformed Church of America, describes how her own atheism is now a family taboo:

[O]f course she has not asked [if I am an atheist], because she does not want to know. Every week she prays, researches her commentaries, procrastinates on writing her sermon, colour codes it and prints it out in increasingly large font. She visits elderly women and eats their cookies and counsels young couples who want to get married. She baptizes babies and takes terrified women to shelters and sits in family court and sees the best and the worst of people, every day. Her whole life has been bringing her to this; it is all she wanted, and faith is all she wanted for me. When I rejected it, I rejected everything: her dreams for my life, all the hope and the grace that she sees.

When she was young, she wanted more than anything to be a minister in a world that would not let her in. And all I have wanted is to be let out. I no longer worry about going to hell, but the same is not true for everyone in this world that I hold dear. To them, I am a lost soul. They may pray for me but it will never help, and I cannot grant them the comfort of an afterlife. My grandparents, my cousins, my best friends: they all believe that I am damned. That is a terrible burden to lay at their feet. And so for so long I have pretended, and not spoken of this, and let my grandfather die believing that my soul was safe. But it goes on for so long, and I am a tired and faithless child, and they will have to let me go.