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out the positive things that come from religion, while also emphasizing the importance of discarding the parts that are outdated, unhealthy, and simply not beneficial anymore.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. […] July 23, 2017/in News, Thoughts /by cfiokanaganMy world has expanded. I am seeing a bigger picture now. There is so much is out there, out in the real world. My focus used to be so narrow!   Those are some of the phrases that I catch myself thinking and saying nowadays, as “post-Christian Tania” who has settled more into this life and is continuing to let go of the bits of religion that linger. Chances are, there will always be some things that I miss about the lengthy chapter of my “churched” life, but I’m moving on. As time goes on, I am appreciating the expansion of my world. There’s the freedom to question, to explore, to totally turn things on their heads and see them in a new light.  The thing I remember most clearly about summer of 2011 — the year of the start of my deconversion — is curling up on my fake leather couch in my basement suite and reading, reading, reading. Unable to find satisfying answers to my “big questions” by reading books written by religious (mostly Christian) authors, I decided to…yes, carefully, hesitantly, a bit guiltily…read books written by agnostics, atheists, skeptics, and non-religious or “backslidden” people. To my surprise, a lot of the books made sense. I “got” them. The authors frankly discussed matters that I used to think were “bad” — they tossed around the concept that God might not be real, or that the Bible might be written soley by people, or that Jesus might have been less than the saviour the of the world. I spent much of that summer on my couch, and at the library, and on websites that I never would have glanced at the year before. Early one morning, around 2am, I sat at my kitchen table and I realized that God was no longer real to me. My world seemingly shattered. And my world got bigger.  I’ve often heard that for many people who deconvert from their religion, there is a period of about two years early on in the deconversion that are the most intense. There are challenges and changes that happen for years afterwards, but this two-year period is an especially intense roller-coaster ride.  It is a time of letting go of many things, and a time of letting in new ways of being and doing. During that period of my life, a few other big life events also took place. In the winter of 2012, I moved to a new town, started a job at a funeral home, and became involved in an unhealthy relationship with a man who eventually became my fiance (and then, not much later, my ex). Those four circumstances quickly led to what I call my “Summerland chapter,” and it was not fun. There were numerous times when I thought, I can’t do this anymore; every single tiny task seems so monumental; why bother with anything? And yet, looking back now, I see that my world was made bigger. I saw a lot. I felt a lot. My mind entered places that I never imagined.  Luckily, eventually, I emerged. For quite a long time, I tried to maintain some of the routines of a Christian’s life; but as time went on, I necessarily  dropped them. My church attendance became more sporadic. I struggled with praying…then I gave it a break for a while…then I forgot to pray… then eventually I realized that I just couldn’t do it anymore. My Bible stayed on the shelf. I decided to attend the Centre for Spiritual Living instead of regular church. There, I had permission to believe or not believe. I was encouraged to let go of the things that no longer serve me. I was reminded that if something does not resonate with me, I do not have to go along with it. These were new concepts to me. Some Sunday mornings, I decided to not attend any type of service anywhere. I slept in. I went to coffee shops and the art gallery, and I walked by the lake. I saw how other people did Sunday mornings.  As my Christian beliefs and routines began to crumble, so did my connection with my Christian circle. I no longer had much in common with the church people. I felt out of place, awkward, upset. I wanted to hold on to the  community, but I felt torn — should I just fake it and keep things the same, or should I be true to myself? I reminded myself that even though church was where I most “belonged,” I did have some good friends at work; in fact, sometimes I felt just as comfortable with them as I did with all the Christians.  Of course, loss and rebuilding happen in many areas of life, and often in areas where we least expect it. Around the time of the “peak” of my deconversion — and for reasons mostly unrelated to it — I lost a good friend. No, I lost one of my closest friends, someone I definitely thought I’d be friends with for forever. I never really believed in “best friends,” but if I would have had to pick one at that time, it was her. The story of us was good, at least as far as I knew. It was easy and fun. We saw each other often, talked on the phone quite frequently, spent hours in pleasant silence. We went on road trips, watched movies, went to the fall fair together almost every year for years. A problem arose, and it never was resolved. Overnight, almost, things changed; and no amount of attempts to correct it seemed to be enough. Looking back on the past ten years or so, I did eventually see the red flags in our relationship, but still…still, it was a shock, and it took me a long time to recover. Gradually, I learned to allow other friendships to develop to the depth that I’d had with my old friend.  As I waited for her and also for the church people to ask “What’s going on? How are you?” and to come running after me, I felt the emptiness when that didn’t happen… and as I reached out to other people and they reached out to me, I slowly began to see that maybe, just maybe, the potential for friendship and closeness exists even outside of my old friend and “the family of God.” My eyes were opened a bit more to the rest of the human population.  One of my favourites quotes is by Bertrand Russell: “Even if the open windows of science at first make us shiver after the cozy indoor warmth of traditional humanizing myths, in the end the  fresh air brings vigor, and the great spaces have a spendor of their own.” When we allow ourselves to see more of the world, it can feel wrong sometimes. However, if we can manage to push aside the obstacles — our fears, or the rules we grew up with, perhaps — it can be a wonderful thing to see all of creation in a new light.  Since that summer of countless hours of reading on my fake leather couch, I’ve become more curious, more fascinated, more free. I definitely want to keep exploring. Tania K. […]

  2. […] 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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