A lot of Christians assume that any ex-Christian became so as an ill-directed (in their opinion) response to trauma of some sort. Yes, bad things have happened to me. Yes, I'm a little fucked up (who isn't?). But that's not why I left.
The past decade of my life has been violent, painful, and emotionally exhausting. However, the worst of it passed several few years ago; I'd say January 2005 was the low point. Since then, life hasn't been perfect, but I made it through the darkest period and it's been steadily looking up since then. If I'd indeed left because I felt God had abandoned me and left me to a life of torment, it would have started a long time ago.
I could have blamed him for my 21-year-old cousin getting shot in the head in 2002--to name one example.
I could have left right then. But really, the catalyst for me was not traumatic, it was not one of the many bloody exclamation marks in the manuscript of my life. It was nothing, really.
It was the absence of religion. The last few years of college were a time of slowly drifting away from Catholicism; I gradually stopped going to church, stopped praying, stopped thinking about it at all.
About a year ago, I woke up one day and realized that I was happy. More than that--I realized that I was the happiest I'd been in a while.
I was happier than I'd been in high school, when I spent the first ten minutes of quite a few school days praying around a flagpole, when I attended yearly youth conferences with thousands of other Catholics, when I spent hours asking God if he really did want me to enter the convent; I was happier than I'd been the first few years of college, when I was slightly involved in campus ministry, when I prayed before meals in the dining hall, when I considered transferring back home after concluding that Purdue had caused me to fall away from God; I was happier than I'd been the last few years of college, when I felt guilty for living two blocks from church but never attending, when I wondered how God felt about drunken makeouts at fraternity parties but comforted myself with the knowledge that I was still a virgin, when I attended Mass in St. Peter's Basilica and wondered why I just felt like a tourist in a church.
I was definitely happier than I was in January 2005, when I was actively suicidal and praying to Jesus every moment to save me from myself.
You might say that sure, it's fine now, God helped you get through the hard times and now that everything's peachy, you think you don't need him, but boy will you find out how wrong you are!!! I would say that you are wrong, because my hard times are not over, and I doubt they ever will be.
My point is that Catholics are pretty stuck on the present as well as the afterlife; following Christ will bring you happiness on Earth as well as in Heaven. Good times and bad, they are all better with Jesus as your chum.
I still hurt. I still ache. I still bleed, cry, curse, mope, hate myself, etc. I have good times and bad, and they're all better without Jesus as my chum. I was only suicidal when I believed in God. Take that for what it's worth.
Life still sucks sometimes. But I'm no longer waiting for God to lift me up and make me happy. I make myself happy now, and I know that I have the power to do so. In my times of joy, achievements, when I am happiest, I no longer feel obligated to thank God for making me happy. I can thank myself for forcing myself to accomplish something, for getting on my bike and taking a ride, for applying for that awesome job, for taking the plunge and telling someone how I feel about them.
I am empowered to make a joyous life for myself--on my terms.
And that's what gave me my first inkling that Catholics might be wrong. I was raised to believe that godless people who appeared happy, and claimed to be happy, were either lying or deceiving themselves; but here I was, living as though I had no religion, and I was happy--for real! They were wrong. What else were the wrong about? And that's when I started this Inquisition on an intellectual level--but that's a long story, a story for another post.