The Solace of Another Woman’s Story by Yvonne Augustine


This week, I read an excellent, gripping, poignant blog post by Feminist Philosopher Leanne Dedrick entitled “Things That Make Me Cry: The Practice of Unbelief.” The purpose of the piece was Leanne’s desire to address a misperception by some non-atheists that atheists are devoid of emotion, violently hostile to anything associated with faith, and unable to deal honestly with the Divine. She also corrects the erroneous assumption that atheists seek to “hide from, or purposefully turn […] away from, the ‘saving grace’ of religion.” In the post, she wrote specifically about her own journey from ultra-conservative Christianity to atheism.

I needed to read Leanne’s post. Her journey reminds me somewhat of my own, very painful journey away from what would be considered by many to be Christian fundamentalism. I was born and raised in the church, and I was in attendance most of the times the church doors were open. Like Leanne, I too learned scriptures, and sang in the choir, and gave speeches (little “mini-sermons”) during various church occasions and celebrations. More than that, I worked with everything in my mind, body and soul to be a sincere Christian. I saw the example of my mother, who I love deeply. She was the same in church, and out of church. While she was not perfect, she was neither fake, nor flippant with her faith. Because of her, I believed in the reality of Christ as Lord and Savior, and everything that I had been taught that came along with that. I not only believed it. It was my complete and total world, and I tried to give every ounce of who I was to it.

I never thought that this way of thinking, of living, of how my very being was constituted, would ever change.

But then life happened…

There were situations in which I was involved, experiences that I had, and most of all, questions I could no longer ignore, that ended up destroying what I had considered to be my complete and total world. Very similar to the story Leanne told in her post, there were things that I also could no longer believe. This time in my life felt like what scientists and physicists label as a “blackhole” in my very being that threatened to swallow me entirely from the inside out. The solitude and the emptiness were all consuming. Most of all, the fear I felt was completely indescribable and thoroughly debilitating.

This whole process of transition, of what felt like a complete life implosion, started years ago. And yet, even now, I am still transitioning, and still on my spiritual journey. I have not lost the faith, but I have given up categories that attempt to measure “how good of a Christian” I am. I am sure there are those in my past life who would not even consider me to still be a Christian. I wish I could say that I was okay with this knowledge; but while I am at a more secure place than I have ever been about my spiritual identity, I still have fear. I am still afraid of paying the price for the ways I have changed, and for the things I either have left, or that I am still leaving, behind.

But this is exactly the place at which I find solace in the stories of other people, other women in particular. To know that women have had experiences similar to mine, and that they have survived to the point that they have in their journey, is a gift that is priceless beyond measure. It gives me hope that there is more to the journey than where I am now, and even though I might not end up in the same place spiritually as someone else, there are those with whom I can talk along the way. There are those who talk to me as I travel, through the stories they tell. There are places where I can rest my overwhelmed mind, my frayed and weary emotions, and my fearful soul; I can rest in the safety of the stories that other journeying women have left behind to comfort me.

C. Yvonne Augustine is a third year doctoral student in Claremont Lincoln University’s Ph.D. in Religion program.Her research interests include the intersection of Comparative Theology/Religion with Continental Philosophy’s concepts of metaphysics and phenomenology. In addition to her philosophical work, her social activism includes feminist outreach through online feminism groups and education, in association with Feminist Philosopher (femphil). Yvonne can be followed on Twitter and Facebook.



Categories: General, Sisterhood, Spiritual Journey

Tags: , , , ,

15 replies

  1. Reads a lot like my own story. Thank you!

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  2. I seriously doubt that many people would believe in these male religions had they not been raised and indoctrinated into them as children. The same way we are indoctrinated into the mythology of our native cultures and languages. When you look at malestream religions not of your culture or background, their theology does seem quite crazy– the beliefs just made up.

    I find atheists a refreshing change, even though many of the famous atheists are really sexist men… To escape the horrifying indoctrination of patriarchal religion as a woman is quite an act of heroism. I applaud the power of your mind to do that!!!

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  3. On the fear: terrorizing people with the fear of damnation, of looking outside of the sole-path-to-salvation is one of the most negative aspects of Christianity. I’ve known many who had to grapple with this, the authoritarian and tyrannical model intimidating them into not questioning, into secretly fearing they would be damned simply for not being able to swallow the dogma.

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    • Instilling the fear is tragic indeed. My niece has been raised Catholic and, 4 years ago when her grandfather died (who was staunch Church of Christ and with whom she was very closely bonded) she went into a tailspin of faith. I am an ‘outsider’ to the rest of my family, but my niece recently disclosed (she is now 16) that she ‘went to atheism for 6 months’ during which time she was punished because she refused to attend church. Since then, her rebellion has continued at an escalated pace, she struggles constantly, and last year she attempted suicide. I continue to try to be available to her at least over the phone, but the rest of my family tries to keep her away from me (the bad influence, as I am non-denominational and eclectic in my spirituality on the Gaia Path). Thank you, Max, and everyone else — as I read here, I always feel uplifted into continuing the support and knowing I am not alone, that we all know women (of all ages) who struggle. Blessings!

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  4. Thank you for your honesty regarding your spiritual journey. I also am strengthened by the sacred stories of other women who used their experiences as a source of continual transformation.

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  5. Yvonne, what would we do without women’s stories? The world does indeed split open when we have them, but when we have them, we don’t have to split open… I would be interested to know what it is that you came to doubt in your tradition. Was it the existence of God, the salvation of Jesus, ominipotence? Or was it closed-mindedness? Or views of women, views of gays and lesbians? Or… Maybe you’ll talk about that in another blog?

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  6. Thank you, Yvonne, for sharing your story. May we all be supported fully and open-heartedly by our sisters.

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  7. I’m always interested to learn about what it is that causes women to be atheists, or to walk completely out of the indoctrination of our childhood. This fascinates me. What are all those stories, where does this all come from. I like the stories of women’s freedom without compromise; I like that very much. So let’s hear more from the women who are atheists, the women who would never set foot in a male sexist homophobic church, the women who worked to create something new, or discover old truths about ancient women.

    A whole theme week of women who fought back, walked out, created power anew… yeah!

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  8. Thank all of you for your comments, and your encouragement! I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it.

    I also really appreciate the questions regarding the aspects of the tradition that I have departed from over this time of transition.

    I appreciate these questions so much because I want to use them as a means of my own growth. Prior to now, I have not really articulated the areas in which I have changed, even though I have, of course, thought extensively about these areas. So I look forward to taking the next step, and communicating some of these changes I’ve made in writing.

    I began writing some of my thoughts here, but my answers were too long for a comment. I have a blog that I just started, and as a result, I think I’ll answer the questions asked here in my next blog entry. If anyone is interested in reading another post, just let me know, and I can send you a link.

    Thanks so much again for taking the time to read this piece! Your support and encouragement mean more than you’ll ever know.

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    • Yvonne, do please share your blog link … thank you and blessings.

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    • Yvonne, this post really meant a lot to me because our stories share similarities. My journey stepping back from church and Christianity has only been for about a year, but it’s been hard. I still haven’t come to conclusions about things and when I find myself talking about it with others (rarely) I can’t seem to find the right words most of the time. So, I’d love to read your blog post…maybe your story will help my story make a little more sense. Thank you.

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    • Yvonne, do indeed share your blog link. (As adanielleh said, I can never explain myself right on this subject.)

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  9. For those who wanted to know where I have made changes in my beliefs, and who wanted to have a link to my blog, here’s the link:
    http://journeythrutheunknown.posterous.com/faith-and-feminism-feminism-and-faith

    please feel free to let me know if you have any additional questions.

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