I remember the night I lost my testimony very clearly. It was a cold, clear night early in November. I wrapped myself in a blanket and stood outside on the balcony outside my apartment. I looked at the stars and cried-- there was nothing else that I could do. I don't know how long I stood there, reeling.
It was very late, and I had a class fairly early the next morning. I knew I was going to have to go back inside, brush my teeth, go to bed, and get up in the morning as if everything was the same. That night, I prayed like I'd never prayed before that I'd be able to make it all work, that I'd be able to understand, that the data would compute somehow. Of course it didn't. "Facts are stubborn things," as John Adams put it.
My early class was a religion class. It was surreal to sit there and know that since the last time I had sat in that chair, my world had turned 180 degrees. I knew that the implications of my conclusion could be devastating. I loved my college, and didn't want to leave it-- but now I was an outsider in my own culture. Everything I had been, everything I'd worked for and wanted, had gone up in smoke.
One of the clearest memories I have of that day is between two of my classes. I went into the restroom and just stood in one of the stalls, leaning my forehead against the cold, white tile of the wall. There were small, rectangular windows up near the ceiling. I looked up at the windows and tried to calm my reeling mind. I had a class in ten minutes, and I had to get it together. It felt like the world had come to an end, and yet the hundreds of people in the hallways and the classrooms and the bathrooms went on as if nothing had happened. I felt like a tiny, black, frightened, still dot in the midst of swirling white chaos.
By that evening I was desperate for someone to talk to-- not just to talk to, someone who would understand. I was still trying to convince myself that I could believe, but it was like trying to reconstruct a million pieces of shattered glass. It was impossible. None of the people I knew-- friends, family, classmates, roommates-- would be able to comprehend my situation or sympathize with it. I was afraid of being branded an apostate. I was worried that they would try to convince me otherwise. However much I wanted the truth to be otherwise, wanting didn't make it so-- I knew this acutely. I was in no emotional condition for intellectual sparring. I was spent.
In my desperation, I did something a bit foolish, but also the best thing I could have done at the time. I created an account on a website meant to offer support to people in my situation, and basically spewed my thoughts and fears onto the Internet for all to see. I was worried that the people on the website would try to push me away from the church, but at that time I basically just needed a shoulder to lean on. Surprisingly (to me), this website provided that shoulder. People responded with kindness and empathy and advice, not the pushing or judgement that I felt like every person in the whole world would give me if I shared my thoughts. I think I can safely say that these people, whom I will never meet in real life, gave me a life preserver when I was drowning. I learned that a change of world view is a survivable, and even a positive thing. There was still pain ahead of me, but the worst was over. I had lost my testimony, and I had survived.