My name is Rebecca and I volunteer for the Recovering from Religion hotline/chatline. I’ve been doing it for about a year now. At the moment, I work as a lecturer at a small college teaching interdisciplinary science and math, but starting this fall, I’m going back to graduate school (at age 51) to study Mental Health Counseling, in part because of my experiences with the hotline. There are many people out there who have been traumatized by religion in various ways, and it’s my hope to eventually work with the Secular Therapist Project and specialize in helping people recover from traumatic religious experiences.
My own religious upbringing was a little eclectic. Both my parents were Christian, but my father was Episcopalian and my mother was Pentecostal. Attending both their churches over my childhood and adolescence gave me two very different perspectives on the faith, and for a while I tried very hard to follow my mother’s path, thinking it was more genuine and sincere than my dad’s. But it never quite stuck despite my best efforts, and nagging questions always lurked in the back of my mind. I was probably the world’s worst Pentecostal. I eventually gravitated back in the direction of my father’s faith, and attended the Episcopal church until my mid 20s. After the birth of my children, my religious questions took on a new urgency, and over the course of about five years, I slowly drifted away, questioning more and more, believing less and less, eventually leaving Christianity entirely.
What was really the kicker for me was the birth of my daughter. At the time, I was already beginning to question, but having a daughter forced me to confront all the oppression of women within the church over its entire history, as well as to face up to the realization that an exclusively male representation of the (supposedly gender-neutral) Divine had done tremendous harm over the centuries. It became painfully clear that men had created god in their own image rather than the other way around. I knew I didn’t believe it anymore, and I didn’t want to raise my daughter (or my sons) within such a psychologically harmful institution.
Leaving was a wrenching and difficult experience. I would have given anything to have someone with whom I could speak freely and without feeling as though they were trying to persuade me one way or another. I remember feeling like I was the only one in the world who ever had doubts.
The hotline is exactly the sort of resouce I wish I’d had back when I was struggling, so volunteering to help others felt like the natural thing to do. People contact us for lots of reasons. Some may be struggling with the faith they were brought up in. Some may be facing the loss of a job or a relationship as the result of losing their faith. Others may need to keep their struggles secret for their own physical safety. Sometimes things aren’t so dire and they just need someone to listen, and that’s what I do. I listen.
I mostly work the chat line, and I try to put in an hour or two a week on it. I’ve talked to lots of people with very diverse backgrounds and experiences, but the one common thread is that religion, one way or another, was a cause of pain and difficulty. I feel honored to be a part of the lives of the people who contact RfR. If you’re interested in volunteering, feel free to contact us. (insert whatever contact info is appropriate here- not sure if you just want the website or a specific person)