Tania Kuehn

Name:  Tania Kuehn
Birthplace: Winnipeg, Manitoba
What type of work do you do?
I’ve been working in support services (housekeeping, food services, laundry) with Interior Health for almost ten years. In 2012, I took a leave of absence from that job, and I spent most of the year working in a funeral home and crematorium — that was certainly one of the most interesting chapters of my life! As well, I’ve worked at a few part-time jobs over the years; I worked as a housekeeper in a hotel and
a waitress in a Thai restaurant, and for a very brief period I worked night shifts as a flagger.
How would you identify yourself in terms of religion/spirituality?
I would say I’m an agnostic, leaning towards atheism.
What are some of your reasons for joining CFI?
I joined CFI about three years ago, which was around the time that I felt that I could no longer be part of a church community. It was a big challenge to leave behind a religion that had meant so much to me for most of my life, and I felt the need to meet people who are open-minded, non-judgmental, and not trapped in some of the ways of “religious” thinking and living that are so unhealthy.
Are there any movies or books that have had a big impact on you?
Yes, definitely! I’ve read many memoirs by people who have had major shifts in their “status of faith” or who have completely deconverted from their religious faith. To name a few… “Faitheist: How an Atheist Found Common Ground with the Religious” by Chris Stedman, “Hope After Faith” by Jerry Dewitt, “When We Were on Fire” by Addie Zierman, and “Evolving in Monkey Town” by Rachel Held Evans. I also really liked “With or Without God” by Gretta Vosper, and “The Divinity of Doubt” by Vincent Bugliosi. Alain deBotton’s “Religion for Atheists” does an excellent job of pointing out the positive things that come from religion, while also emphasizing the importance of discarding the parts that are outdated, unhealthy, and simply not beneficial anymore. I think that the 2010 movie “Creation” is very powerful; it is about Charles Darwin’s work, his family, and his loss of religious faith.
What were some of the defining moments that led you to the point where you are now, in a religious/spiritual sense?
I was raised in a Christian family and did all the typical Christian things — prayer, Bible-reading, church on Sundays and mid-week, devotions, worship music, retreats, college and career group, and so on. I was happy with that and I expected that my world would always revolve around those things. In January 2011, shortly before I turned 27, a few things happened in my personal life that really made me question the God of the Bible — His intervention in the lives of His children, His goodness, His existence — and those questions led to more questions about many Christian teachings. I could no longer find answers within Christianity, so I began to explore “outside of the box”; I read tons of books, watched many documentaries on the Internet, read some more. I clearly remember early one morning around 2am in August 2011, sitting in the kitchen in my basement suite in Salmon Arm, pen and paper in my hand, when I knew there was no turning back — I knew something major had happened and that I could no longer be a Christian “believer.” It was a very frightening, sad, confusing realization.  I tried to go back to former beliefs and rituals for a couple years, but mostly that resulted in getting headaches from all the mental gymnastics of trying to make sense of it all. In 2012 and 2013, when I was going through a very dark place in my life and in my head, God and Jesus never showed up to save me; I eventually learned that it was not healthy for me to be in such a one-sided relationship — the silence was overwhelming, the same patterns kept repeating, there was no good reason for me to try to force a belief system that no longer made sense to me. I am grateful for many of the good things that came out of my Christian experience — great people, fun times, important lessons, beautiful music — and I will probably always miss certain aspects of that time in my life, but for the most part, I am happy to be moving on to a more positive, well-rounded, exciting way of life.
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  1. […] May 4, 2017/in News /by cfiokanaganOn the first Sunday of April, I went to my “home” church for the first time in over two years. It was my aunt and my uncle’s 50th wedding anniversary that weekend, and a part of the Sunday morning service at church was dedicated to the occasion. I wanted to be there with my family, so that is why I decided to attend. For me, going to a special event such as this isn’t usually a big deal. I’ve been to probably a dozen weddings, and countless funerals, bridal and baby showers, and baptismal services. I’ve been to hundreds of church services, at many different churches. This time, however, was quite different, because over the course of the last six years, my transition away from Christianity has also included a big step away from the church where I grew up. I felt a bit awkward on that Sunday morning, but also pleasantly distracted and comforted by the realization that I’d be surrounded by my immediate family (who, although they do not always “get” my deconversion, do love and support me and are trying to gain a better understanding of where I’m at now), my aunt and my uncle, and my cousin (who can relate to my feelings of being “an outsider” at the church). As planned, I wore fancy earrings and kept my hair down — something I never did six years ago — and, of course, I also safety-pinned the V-neck of my shirt, because it was just a tad too low, according to my “good Christian girl” background. I entered the building with my parents and my brother’s wife, and was immediately greeted with the expected, “Tania! Haven’t seen you in a long time!” “How ARE you?” “Good to see you.” It was nice to see some of the people again and not feel like a complete stranger in a place. And yet, it also felt superficial — I know that a million things have happened since I last stepped foot in the church over two years ago, and my “place” there is so different now than it used to be. I decided to stick to the “socially acceptable” thing to do in situations like this, so I smiled and kept my answers brief: “Oh, I’m doing all right…yes, still living in the same place…finally have a weekend off…crazy how time flies, isn’t it?” It wasn’t exactly the time or the place to launch into a big spiel about the challenges of leaving church, cognitive biases and logical fallacies, the place of Christianity in the Roman Empire, how Jesus was just one of the many dying and rising gods of the Middle East, and how the whole thing no longer makes sense to me. As we walked into the sanctuary, a small group of people played worship music at the front. As I heard the music, sat down in my “usual” pew, and took in the surroundings, my thoughts floated, interestingly, to the kitchen table of a good friend of mine. I choked up a bit as I recalled the hours and hours during which we wondered, confessed, cried, and laughed about our similar experiences of leaving behind our religious faith. We’d talk about the challenges, the new insights, the bizarre things we no longer believe or emphasize so strongly. Sitting in the pew that morning, I thought about the many times, especially at the beginning of my deconversion, when I could open up to acquaintances or co-workers and say, “Oh, wow, you think that way, too?” I thought about those little things that really were not so little — they helped me to realize that I was not alone or completely crazy and that I might eventually be okay. After the introductory music, we listened to the announcements and sang some hymns (I held my hymnal open to the appropriate page, but did not sing along). The choir sang beautifully, as usual, and then the 50th wedding anniversary was acknowledged with a plaque and a special song by the choir. The sermon was based on John 9, about a blind man who was healed by Jesus. The pastor talked about people being blind — and, especially, “spiritually blind.” He talked about being receptive to the light that comes from God and the importance of abandoning the darkness that comes from all those worldly things out there. It was interesting to observe my own reaction to the sermon and to compare it to the way in which the pre-deconversion Tania would have reacted. I have learned to take things (such as this sermon) more lightly, to question authority figures such as pastors, to see the bigger picture, to decide for myself how much weight to give these ideas, and, ultimately, how to live my own life. We had lunch in the church basement after the service, and that was all right. I mostly talked with my family, although I did chat with others here and there and made a point of talking to a couple of people I’d recently felt awkward around. My parents drove me back to Kelowna after the service, and, relieved and content, I carried on with the day. In the years to come, I will probably always miss church and all that was involved with the church experience. Looking back on previous chapters of our lives, we can all see that there are some things that just won’t ever happen again (either in a certain place, with a certain person, or with a general naivete about all aspects of life) and it can be a bit painful.  I — yes, all of us — miss things of the past, and sometimes there is not a thing we can do to re-capture them. So, what to do? In this case, I think back on the church experience, and I smile at the memories. And then, without lingering too much on that, I pick up my phone and call my mom. I go for a long walk or a glass of wine. I check my email and reply to a message from a new friend. I go the library and pick up a book about astronomy or an issue of Scientific American Mind magazine — things that I never would have read six years ago. I take in my surroundings — what is here, now — and remind myself to focus on what’s real to me now. I see that I no longer need all those “church things” to feel happy, safe, purposeful, good. So, the question now is, Would I go to my “home” church again? Probably not, or at least not anytime soon, except for a wedding or a funeral. I’ve got enough other things going on. by Tania […]

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