12/31/02                                                                                       View Comments

Never Again

by Anonymous

I was born into a very fundamentalist Pentecostal denomination. My dad became a minister before I was born, and is still one. I was a good child, but I was raised with the fear of the rapture - that if ever once I slipped up, even for just a second, Jesus would come and leave without me, and I'd be left all alone; then if I wanted to meet them in heaven, I'd have to "give my head" so I could be one of the martyrs and God would let me in heaven with my family. I was told their memories would be erased in heaven, so they couldn't be sad over the people they'd left behind. I spent my entire childhood in morbid fear, terrified that I'd die and go to hell & that I wasn't good enough for God, or Jesus.

I wasn't allowed to have friends outside the church and wasn't allowed to go outside without a chaperone, even just in our yard, even when I got older. I was put into every church activity and asked daily if I'd read the Bible, and what I'd learned. Eventually, as you might guess, this strict atmosphere caused problems, and as I started to want to break free of the cage my parents and my religion had put me in, and live a normal life, and realizing I couldn't get out, I started having anxiety attacks, then depression followed, until it became a disorder. (I can't even remember certain years out of my life, they're just missing) I wasn't allowed to speak to anyone about my sadness or my desire to be free of Christianity and my "sheltered" life - I tried once, and my parents yelled at me and said that if I didn't watch my mouth we'd lose the church and be out on the street, and it'd be all my fault. So I kept quiet.

I think they finally got the hint when I nearly slit my wrists one time when they'd gone out to visit, and would have if they hadn't got back when they did. I was more afraid of living than death & hell to follow. After high school I went to a very strict Christian college, and my condition became worse (I slept all day & refused to eat or go to class & had spastic fits), but I refused to seek help or counseling, because my parents had told me "that gets wrote down, y'know" and it could be used against me (or them) later. I flunked out of that college after one year, and to this day I don't remember half of what happened there, just that no one there seemed to care about me or see what I was going through, and they didn't see it because they didn't want to, not because they couldn't. A place full of "caring Christians" and there was no one to help me. My parents put me through hell because I'd flunked out; my siblings were worse, and they said I didn't deserve another chance! , that I should just marry some poor boy and be grateful my life wasn't worse.

I didn't want to live anymore, and I felt I'd rather be in hell with the devil than in heaven with a God who would let me live such a horrible life, or a family who didn't really care what happened to me, only how it affected them and how people saw them.

I enrolled in another Christian college, at mom's insistence, and was terrified it'd be a repeat of the last one, but it was there I found my freedom. I found friends there who liked me for me, professors who cared about me and always saw the best in me and encouraged me to do more, and it was like the rest of my life had been a bad dream, and I was just now waking up. Christians and non-Christians went there, and were allowed to speak and think freely, and as I started studying the Bible for myself even more rigorously then when I was a child, I realized just how horrible most of it was, and how many mistakes and errors there were in it, and contradictions, and most of all, how awful God was, and I knew I could never believe in it - or "Him" - again.

When I told my family this, they panicked, and I was sent to live with my sister for awhile, and they hoped she could pull me out of it, and back "into the fold." But she couldn't, and now I'm more determined than ever never to be a Christian again, or marry someone who is, so I can't be put back into that hell that I lived until the last 4 years.

I still go to my dad's church sometimes, because over the years (and fights with me) they've loosened up some, even welcomed my best friend (who's an openly gay guy) in the house for dinner, and because I know they only thought they were doing what was right, and I know now they're getting older, they need me. In my heart & personal practice I'm a Pagan, because I find the Goddess much more loving than the Bible's god. But I still love them too much to hurt them, which is why I remain anonymous. I could be angry & vengeful, and I'd have reason, but what good could that possibly do anyone? And how much would I have learned about love, if I let my heart be full of hate? I can honestly say now that I've learned that love really is greater, and it's possible to love those who have done you wrong - not because "Jesus said so," but because I've lived it myself.

Before I end this, let me say thank you, for this site, and all the ones like it encouraging exChristians - they, and caring friends, literally saved my life and my sanity. THANK YOU, & Blessed Be.

Anonymous

I was born into Christianity, wasn't allowed to be anything else, and "saved" at 8.
I left at the age of 22 because I was finally free to do so.
I am a gal from Kentucky in the USA.
My past labels were Pentecostal, prophetic, and Christian.
My label now is Pagan.

10/6/02                                                                                       View Comments

Minister's Daughter

by Kirsten

I never expected to be a minister's daughter. Until I was in 10th grade, my father taught college music, something I found unbelievably cool. (It's what I hope to do eventually.) He seemed to be fairly liberal despite his Mennonite Brethren upbringing, and in retrospect he actually still is. Note: the MB conference does indeed allow electricity, cars, normal clothes, etc., and in most respects is just the typical fundamentalist church.

Dad's final college job was a huge emotional strain, and so he decided to return to his roots, where he felt comfortable. When he found a job as minister of music at a large Atlantic Coast Conference Mennonite church in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania--quite possibly the most frighteningly conservative American locale outside of Texas--I think it was a bit like his finding the Holy Grail.

Problem #1. As the socially awkward oldest child, I was just beginning to find myself, develop friendships, learn to flirt, fall in love with hippie counterculture, and realize inconsistencies in Christianity. By the time we moved, I was as angry at the church as I was at Hitler, Pol Pot, and Stalin.

Problem #2. The church we had been attending up until then was non-Mennonite and liberal, one of the more respectable love-everybody-type places in the big scheme of Christianity. The youth group was made up of fellow professors' kids, intelligent, quirky, and more comfortable laughing at fundamentalists than evangelizing. I enjoyed them and their low-key opinions. However, the church Dad decided to work for (and still does) was off the deep end on the other side of the scale. Youth group became torture rather than a stimulating part of my social life.

Problem #3. Dad really wanted me to be Christian, and so he decided (independenly of anything my mother had to say, as I've later discovered)that twice-a-week youth group would not be optional, never mind Sunday services.

Problem #4. Lancaster, PA is home to a bizarre clash of fanatic religious and inner-city slum cultures. As I don't enjoy either, I couldn't find friends.

Problem #5. Dad's new church managed to put the fear of hell into me, but not the love of God. I don't think I need to overemphasize the fact that this is not a great combination.

So. Severe loneliness and isolation, desparation for a more liberal climate, and fear of eternal retribution for the sin of preferring sex and rock 'n' roll to a straightjacket. Faced with this, I spent a lot of time crying and writing angst poetry that never took away the pain. I had left the church, but it wouldn't leave me alone. Still forced to attend youth group meetings, I found myself more and more confident that I and all my friends from back home were going to hell.

Fast forward to the emotional space I'm in now. I talk about those two years the way my best friends now talk about former sexual abuse. In the same sense that kids on the news were raped by Catholic priests, I was raped by fundamentalist Christian doctrine. As I was at the point of deciding I didn't want it and I wasn't prepared to handle it, Christianity shoved itself into places in my brain and body where I felt decidedly uncomfortable entertaining it.

Every once in a while, the hellfire and brimstone argument still haunts me. I took a year to get past the bizarre sexual guilt and hangups that I never would have developed had it not been for those two years in purgatory.

Please note that I harbor no anger toward my father; for the most part, he had no idea any of this was going on, since I was terrified that he would disown me if he found out I didn't Believe. This was my fault entirely, as he's never insinuated anything to that effect. He loves me unconditionally, and aside from his Christianity, he's not a bad guy. My anger is reserved for the church community he works in and their bigoted, classist, evangelist, literalist/revisionist world views.

I've worked through a lot of shit. By shit, I mean the kind of stuff nobody should have to work through, the fear that becomes so intense that hell almost seems like it would be less phsically and emotionally stressful. I wish I was naive enough to believe in Christianity or disciplined enough to think I could ever abide by its laws. Still, the fact remains that I'm not. And life is sure a lot more rewarding now that sex does not equal sin and my university environment entertains the idea that my homosexual friends are decent, normal people.

I was born in Christianity
I Ceased being a Chrisitan at about 15-16
I am a gal from Lancaster, PA & Toronto, ON, Canada
My past label was Mennonite (though not Old Order)
My label now is Agnostic
Why I Left? Agnosticism makes sense

9/14/02                                                                                       View Comments

Back to godlessness

by Balaji
Singapore

There was no reason for me to carry on being Christian, especially since it did not make sense.

Good Friday 2000, I attended a service at Hope of God Singapore Church, invited by a friend. Till then I was a Hindu/Freethinker/Agnostic/Whathaveyou unconcerned about the existence of god. I always thought he existed but as some distant spirit like thingy. I liked the service and the Xian idea that god is a loving father, and the thought of him having to suffer and die for my sins was definitely a kind of emotional thing for me. I converted on the spot and began attending service.

However I was a student of evolutionary biology (now I am doing my honours and an MBA) and I realised that evolution makes more sense than genesis, but I reconciled saying that well, genesis is probably just an allegory to show man's sinful nature and god directs evolution. However the church insisted on total adherence to every word of the bible, (note: I won't capitalise church or god or bible or scary sky spirits) and this led me to actually try to find points of reconciliation between what I know as true (earth is over 4 billion years old, apes are our "cousins" and the Big Bang happened) with what the church taught.

The real turning point occurred when I read the Tower of Babel and then on to Leviticus and Deutoronomy. Gosh, the brutality of the god I was worshipping scared me. This, along with my earlier conflicts made me question god's existence and I asked myself questions like "Why does god have to exist? Why did I think that there exists such a being in the first place"? Well I couldn't give a rationally satisfactory answer to that. Then it was but a matter of time before I secretly renounced Christianity, but the fear of backlash from church members led me to keep it secret. I was baptised as Matthew Balaji and even the pastor prophesied that I would be a great minister to men.. Gosh, has he been proven wrong. this false prophesying confirmed my belief. How come no one saw that they were baptising someone who doesn't believe in Jesus? Anyway I lied to my church that I was going to another church because of trying to reach out to my parents. It took a lot of painful lying but the end in this case, justified the means.

What labels did I use to describe myself?
Fundamentalist Evangelical Charismatic

What labels do I use now?
Atheist

Why did I join in the first place?
I never thought of atheism as an answer to my questions about god. I liked the Xian concept of "loving poppa" I joined when I was 21 and left when I was 22.

9/8/02                                                                                       View Comments

Leaving Christianity Behind

by Brad

It all started with my aunty, a strong Christian. She gave me a bible, and I read it. Exactly, to the day, one year later, my oldest brother came to visit and he converted me while we were canoeing, him and his wife, and I said the prayer of faith. At the time my parents would occasionally drag me and my brother out to a Lutheran church and to be confirmed, but none of us wanted to be there, it was a grave yard, not a church.

I very quickly became an outgoing evangelist, to all of my friends at school, everywhere. When I went to university, I was even more outgoing, just plain annoying already. I made strong Christian friends, I joined Christian groups, I found a Lutheran church, and I did it all. After that year, I returned home, that’s when I began studying the bible, to support all of the claims I was making at university. The following year at university, I left the Lutheran church for the Baptists. I also became interested in Calvinism, and God led me to become a Calvinist. With Calvinism came an extremely strong faith, because of my new beliefs in predestination and grace, and the lack of popularity it has among mainstream Christians. I also become much more charismatic, raising my hands to God, praying on my face when I was alone, and praying always to be a prophet. I made a friend on the Internet with a girl in South Carolina; I have to mention Stacey, as she was the greatest encouragement to my faith.

When University didn't work out, I left for another city for tech school. This is where it all went downhill. I didn't mix in with the other Christians at my new church, partly because I had switched churches so many times, I didn't care. Also because of my strong Calvinist beliefs, and my strong desire for evangelism. I found myself with no Christian friends, and realized I had never made a Christian friend at church. I left that church and found another one. My roommate and long time friend at the time was becoming skeptical of Christianity, So I studied Christianity hard, I knew it all, the book of Jasher, Enoch, the Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha, the church fathers, the whole works.

Without the Christian friends, and learning so much, I began to doubt the virgin birth of Jesus, noticing how pagan the concept was. After that I began to look at the bible's contradictions as really being contradictions. At some point here, I was trying so hard to stay a good Christian my mind began to snap. I tried to kill myself, I cut my arms brutally, and sometimes I cut at my throat. Pornography sometimes got the best of me, but I wanted the church to know that I was a good Christian because nobody at any church had ever known I had been there, or had left.

I learned more and more, I got baptized, and wrote my own profession of faith which I said before the church. I remember so clearly how strong it was in my mind that I was going to hold onto this covenant, that I was going to be a Christian of great faith, and do great things for the Lord. I almost made it a year after that, when skepticism of bible inerrancy, the virgin birth, the idea of hell and salvation, the logos(the word) being a Greek idea from Hereclitus in 500 BCE, it killed my faith. I moved away from my Christian friends, I went to church with my Christian brother, the one who converted me, and then I quit. No, he doesn't know I have left Christianity as of the time of writing this. In combination with my fervent prayers for Christian friends, to be a prophet, and against pornography leading to nowhere. God gave me a girlfriend, and that gave me hope, then He took her from me, I began to notice there is no plan, God isn't working in Stacey's life, her life never became more loving or more patient, her god was dead in her life, I could see it. Christianity is a Jewish Sect, it is nothing more than a Jewish sect that has been Hellenized, Romanized, westernized and contemporized.

Right now, I am leaning more towards being an atheist than an agnostic due to a conversation with the Mormon's, in which I was deeply offended by many of their comments. I live a perfectly happy, healthy life. I feel free, I don't feel bad for not being able to pray, I don't feel guilty, its been 2 months, and the process of telling my friends that I have left Christianity for the world I know. Its a difficult process, and I am not looking forward to the day that I will talk to the fundamental Calvinists, my knowledge surpassed theirs about a year ago, but it will be interesting to see how they try to reconvert me. Its too late, I'm gone for good, even the idea that God exists is fading fast. Moreover, life without God is suiting me just fine, I don't miss it one bit.

I Became a Christian at age 16
I Ceased being a Chrisitan at about 22
I am a guy from Calgary, Alberta Canada
My past label were Lutheran, Southern Baptist/Baptist, Calvinist & Charismatic.
My label now is Agnostic/Atheist Why I Joined Christianity? The Holy Spirit told me to
Why I Left? The Holy Spirit wasn't real


8/6/02                                                                                       View Comments

Former Fundamental Preacher

by William F. Henness

I was "born again", when I was 20, in an Assembly of God church. I attended there for 7 years (all services). Then I joined a fundamental Baptist church in my home town and there I was licenced to preach. I taught adult S.S. classes and was a deacon for over 25 years. I pastored a Baptist church for over 2 years and filled pulpits in my home church and many others for some 27 years. I held services in nersing homes, had a tent meeting, etc. In my Bible studying I slowly discovered errors, contradictions and false prophecies over several years. Now, I am free from religion. I have written several books on the subject and have much that I can send anyone who askes for it at wildbillh@winco.net

I Became a Christian at age 20
I Ceased being a Chrisitan at about 60
I am from Colchester IL, USA
My past label was Baptist preacher and teacher.
My label now is Apostate.
Why I Joined Christianity? Childishness
Why I Left? Because of errors and contradictions in the Bible


8/5/02                                                                                       View Comments

MY TESTIMONY

Hello. My name is Jamie Atkinson. I have had a couple of people ask me to give my testimony about how I went from being a licensed minister of the Southern Baptist Convention to being an atheist. So I am going to write it all out for you.



Starting with my upbringing, I was raised in a very conservative Christian home. Both of my parents were devote believers in Jesus and God. We attended a Nazarene church until I was about 10 years old then switched to a Baptist church. The switch was due primarily because the Baptist church was closer to our home. I had been studying the Bible for as long as I can remember. I wanted to know everything there was to know about what I believed. I took to heart what the apostle Paul said, “Be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in you”. By the time I got into high school, I had become quite a good religious debater. I had studied Mormonism and Jehovah’s Witness beliefs. I could make them all run home to their mothers. I knew the answers to their questions and could easily “prove” them wrong. I had gone on missionary trips to Indian reservations, and had even had my hand in converting a Mormon to “true Christianity”.



When I finished high school I joined the Air Force. My first station was Altus Air Force Base in Altus, Ok. Coming from southern California, it was quite a bit of culture shock for me, and I wanted nothing more than to get out of Oklahoma. Eventually I found my peace at First Baptist Church, Altus. I began to go to Sunday school and became active in the Baptist Student Union (BSU), a college club of sorts. I was able to prove myself to the Christians with whom I associated. It wasn’t long before I was teaching others more about the Bible and their belief system. Then I began to fill in for my Sunday school teacher, who was the pastor’s wife. After a couple of months doing that, she let me have her position and I became the regular teacher of the college Sunday school class. At the BSU, I began to take several leadership positions. Then one day the pastor’s wife asked me if I would like to be licensed. Well, I thought that I would have to go through school or something, but apparently, it is just up to the deacon board. Once they agree to give me a license it goes before the church and they vote on it. So the next thing you know I was a licensed minister. I actually performed one wedding, luckily I was never asked to do a funeral. About a year later, I took a position as a youth minister at on of the local churches. I did that for about nine months.



Then the change began to happen to me. I began to wonder about some of the things that I had been studying in Bible. There seemed to be contradictions and a lot of violence. I also was wondering about how God could be considered just and holy. I read some things that just didn’t seem right. In the mean time my twin brother had turned away from the church, as had my oldest brother. They both seemed to use logic as a way out of the church. My brother came to me one day and started to ask me some questions about some of the problems that he had with Christianity. The problem was that even with all of my studying and all of my years experience, I didn’t have the answers.



It was at that point that I began to really take a hard look at what I was involved in. I began to read other books, ones that were not written by Christian authors. I started to see that I was not the only one who had serious doubts about the religion that I called my own. I read some of Anton LaVey’s works. Then I started to read some other authors. I realized that this was not something that I wanted to be connected to. So I abandoned my faith.



To give you a look at where I am now, I claim pure atheism. I don’t believe that there is a god or any one way of believing. If you are a Christian, that is ok with me. If you want to debate the subject, I am open to that. What I will not do is argue or fight with you about it. I am at peace with my decision. I don’t go to bed afraid that if I don’t wake up I might be in hell.



In closing, I would invite all of you ExChristians to open up your Bibles again. Keep researching. I have found that when I get into a debate with a Christian I normally win because I know more about their religion than they do. Knowledge is a powerful tool to use against a Christian. Remember what GI Joe said knowing the enemy is half the battle. Also, study the works of other atheists. I have listed some sites in the bookmark section of this group (http://egroup.exchristian.com/) and would highly recommend that you check them out. They are a great resource for anti-Christian information.



Well I hope that satisfies those of you were interested and didn’t bore those who were not. Let me know what you think.



Jamie Atkinson

jatkinsonpfs@yahoo.com

7/30/02                                                                                       View Comments

The Ecclesiastical Mutt or Heretics I have Been

by Robert Hitchcock

I am and have always been an ecclesiastical mutt. My parents were middle of the road Southern and American{Yankee Baptist} when they married in 1960 and I was "Dedicated to the Lord",{a "dry" infant Baptism} in a General Baptist Church when I was born in 1961. My father was in the Air Force {Yeah, OURS!!} at the time of my birth and I cost him a whole whopping $9.60 cents in delivery costs at the Base Hospital. As I grew, Dad would pull out the bill for my birth and bemoan the "fact" I had initially been such a "low" cost investment, but with the broken arms, glasses, ear surgeries for swimmer's ear, I ended up being a high maintenance item. I know the old boy meant it mostly in jest, but then again this was a guy whose idea of a family dinner out was the Golden Arches. In the end his "cheapness was exposes for all to see when my three siblings and I were forced to share one small fry and a medium coke between the four of us just to save money. The good news was we each received our own piece of meat and two small buns to eat. What a guy!!

Our family was the typical 60's white lower middle class/trailer trash{Dad was from Georgia} who lived in the still predominately dairy farms and citrus orchards of Southern California. Dad 's enlistment with the USAF ended around the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis and he escaped the 'Nam by impregnating Mom with two more kids during the first years of that conflict. Also, his only brother joined the Army and this kept the old man out of harm's way. Uncle Sam had taught Dad how to repair computers and TVs, so this enabled him to find a job in the booming Southern California defense industry.

While my folks really didn't take religion seriously, my grandmothers on the other hand were fairly intoxicated with the Holy Spirit. My paternal grandmother was convinced that I would grow up to be another Billy Sunday and or Dwight L. Moody for two reasons. One I was the oldest male grandchild and two like Samuel's parents she promised to dedicate me to the Lord for his service. Grandma Maude never lacked for hubris.

By "hubris," I mean "FAITH." Grandma was convinced by her reading of the King James Scofield Reference Bible, The LAWD GAWD Almighty was obligated to hear the prayers of a righteous Southern Baptist woman like herself as her desires for me were "Biblical" and God had to keep his word. Failing to get a positive response from on High the first time around with my Dad, she focused the prayer guns on my little bald newborn head and nagged both Yahweh and his Son until she obtained her heart/s desire.

Mom's folks were just a little less fervent in their Baptist faith. They were poor yet hard working Missourians. Grandpa Jim never really spoke of religious things, and rarely attended church as the organ music "hurt his ears." A practicing Mason, he tended to his pragmatic duties of providing for his family and thanking the Grand Architect of the Universe for the beauty of Creation. Of course "Grace" was said at mealtime and I was quick to recite Bible verses I had learned at Sunday School for his amusement. The standard fee of a nickel; for every verse quoted correctly in King Jimmy English was the price of my little show. To this day whenever my eyes stray upon a nickel, memories of this stern Missourian patrician come to mind. He died to young, eaten alive by cancer.

Grandma Louise was the perfect Norman Rockwellian grandmother. Short, squat, white-haired and fond of shapeless flower print dresses of the 1930's she seemed so frail, yet would knock you down with one slap if you "sassed" her too much. She never really expected to be a mother much less a grandmother as she was childless unto age 44. Mom turned out to be her only child, Although She denies it, Mom was spoiled by my grandparents so much so she really should have been born a blue blood along the lines of a Cabot or Rockefeller. She often fancies herself to be a real world version of the T.V. soap opera character Phoebe Tyler of "All My Children.

As Mom's blood kin had migrated to California in the 20/s and 30's, it was with the maternal relatives that I had the most exposure too. I spent many a happy hour at Grandpa Jim's house in San Bernardino and latter Clear Lake when he and Grandma Louise moved to Northern California. This side of the family were involved in a variety of Protestant Churches and even a few obscure sects like the 7th Day Adventists and Church of Christ{Non-Instrumental}. My favorite relatives were Great-Uncle Joe{Grandma Louise's brother} and his chain smoking wife Great-Aunt I\Jimmy. These two lived next door to my grandparents when the latter migrated to a small lakeside community about two hours north of Sacramento to enjoy a quiet retirement.

Joe and Jimmy, as they were known to family members, used to invite me over to their place to play cards and chess. Yep, at the ripe old age of five, I learned to play the game of Bobbie Fischer and Boris Spasky, Not very well, I hasten to add, but enough to give my own Father a run for his money. Also, Aunt Jimmie introduced me into the wonderful world of substance abuse. No, not pot or some other "gateway drug," but the most evilest intoxicant of them all, that is if you are Mormon. Coffee, easily the best "upper" to give a hyperactive five year old. By that age I was a self-absorbed little motor-mouth prick who would yell and or yap at any hapless adult who happened to be foolish enough to pay any attention to me.

The two "Mentors" really disliked my mother for her aloofness towards them and as they didn't have any kids of their own , showering affection on me served to work out their frustrations on several levels. Uncle Joe and Aunt Jimmie were "Campbellites" or members of the Church of Christ, non-instrumental. For the uninitiated, this peculiar sect of 19th century revivalism believes it is the only "True Church of Christ" just as it name says. It is a "Restorationist Church.”

Basically that means that the Church of Christ believes that the original church started by Christ way back in the first century C.E. apostatized sometime shortly after the death of St John the Beloved and ceased to be God's visible representative on earth. For almost 1,700 years there were no true churches or preachers on planet earth until God "restored the church in the embryonic United States late in the 1790's through the fervent desire of independent Bible students who searched the scriptures looking for the marks of a true church of Christ.

A former Scots Presbyterian Campbell and his son, Alexander Campbell rose to become this loose confederation of churches main liners. They along with a bombastic gentleman named Barton Stone essentially founded what became known as the Churches of Christ. This group was known for its emphasis of fervent preaching and in-your-face debates with other clergymen about the essentials of salvation which included the need for the would-be Christian to be baptized by complete immersion by a sanctioned Church of Christ preacher. Also, the churches of Christ were historically known for their emphasis on non-instrumental accapella singing in their worship services. Probably a carry-over from the Campbell's Kirk of Scotland past.

My great-uncle and aunt used to take me to their little church when my folks and grandparents needed a break from my incessant yapping. Strangely, for a hyper-kid , I found it easy to remain still and attentive to the goings on during the worship services. The Church of Christ minister used to rant about the "need to keep oneself unstained by the world" and to study the Bible and no other "profane" literature. I really did not comprehend all of this preacher's words but they sure sounded good. Also, I noticed something interesting about my kinfolks response to this simple gospel message. When in church they would sing the hymns, ass the collection plate, and listen attentively to the "wonderful words of life which flowed from the mouth of their minister. Once they got home, away from the sterile barn-like church building , Uncle Joe would start griping about how boorish the preacher was and he was glad he could see beyond the rigid dogma of their church. Aunt Jimmie would nod in agreement and light up a cigarette.

In short, my relatives were hypocrites! Imagine to my surprise when my less than sanctified Baptist father explained the meaning of the word hypocrite to me when I asked him if he knew any such "critters," He grinned, glanced about to see if any of his in-laws were within hearing range and said "Yeah, boy I do, Joe and Jimmie are a couple of those critters. Comes from believing you need to work your way to heaven." In one of his rare paternal sermons Dad set me straight on people who profess to do one thing and end up going the opposite of their profession. He told me Jesus hated religious hypocrites like the Pharisee the most as they claimed to know what God wanted people to believe and do and the did the exact opposite of they told you to do. The Church of Christ taught you had to do good works to keep your salvation, not to criticize the church leadership, refrain from drinking, smoking, and going to bars and movie theaters.

"Of course, your mom's uncle and aunt disobey their church's commands about these things," Dad said, "that's what makes them hypocrites.' He went on to explain the "superior Baptist understanding of faith and practice as he learned them in Georgia.

According to Dad, the Baptists taught that we were unable to earn our salvation; all that was required of us was to believe that t Jesus died for our sin on the cross, that he arose from the dead, and would one day come back to take all Christians to heaven. ""Ye are not your own,'" Dad quoted the Bible,"'Ye are bought with a price."" The price of Christ's death on the cross to take away our sins meant that once we believed in Christ's atonement {yeah, I know big word for a five or six year old, Dad however didn't believe in "dumbing " stuff down for kids. You either got what the word meant or you could look it up in a dictionary.}, we were "saved.' This meant, "ONCE SAVED, ALWAYS SAVED." You couldn't get out of God's kingdom once he put his brand on you no matter how hard you tried to erase the mark of the Heavenly Beast.

Dad and Mom mouthed this stuff and pretty much ignored most of what past for Baptistic piety. We went to Church Sunday morn and night, Wednesday night family and prayer meeting, and attended a variety of Church functions as we were growing up. At home it was rare for Dad to say "Grace" before meals and or teach us from the Bible and other Christian literature. He did provide for earthly needs for which I am truly grateful. Also he attempted to interest me in little league, Boy Scouts, football, and a variety of other "Approved 1960's male activities. Unfortunately for Dad, I sucked at most sports with the possible exception of football, but he pulled me out of Pop Warner after I cracked a rib, saying, "You are too light to play this game and you hate being a team player. Let's try you out on tennis." Guess his insurance premiums were too high that year.

About the time I was eight, my paternal grandmother finally split from my Grandfather Ross. She left Georgia, moved to California to be near our family and took a job as a L.V.N She never divorced Grandpa as that would be "unbiblical " {even though he was an wife-beater] and chose instead to focus her attention on Dad, his kids, and the Ladies Sewing Circle at her church. This is where the ultimate mind game, "The Quest for God,” began in earnest. Grandma Maude was intent on forcing God into keeping his end of the bargain regarding her oldest grandson. Of course if it was the Lord's will. Grandma always knew how to keep her bases covered when it came to dealing with the Almighty.

Mom never really reconciled herself to the fact that her mother-in-law lived so close. It was around the time that we moved away from the San Fernando Valley into the Inland Empire region of Chino that things really began to fall apart between Grandma and Mom. A wall went up along the lines of two very stiff-ncked Baptist women over the "proper" duties of a Christian wife....Of course neither woman was willing to listen to the "advice" freely offerred for their respective spiritual benefit. Mom felt Grandma was a meddler and a "loose" woman as Grandma left her husband {never mind the beatings the ole lady inderwent at the hands of Granpa Ross}, and the "OLe Lady" politely pointed to my Mom's disrespect to her son as "Head" of the house and Mom"s "Failure" to inculcate Christianity into her grandbabies in word and deed.

There was some truth in both of their postions. Grandma Maude did meddle in Mom's affairs by "visiting too much" and or constanly attempting to take us to children;s functions at various Evangelical gatherings and bopped us over the head wit her Scofield Bible when we missquoted verses. Mom, realyy did not set a Christian example by being the meek and mild submissive wife St.Paul desired all Christian women to be. Her tart tongue, flippant attitudes about Dad and the kids, and the coolness she exhibited towards her immediate family certainly bolstered Granma's case against her. After Mom's parents passed away in the mid 1970's things went further south in the ole hoestead.

Our family continued to make the 10 hour trip by car up the coast to visit Grandma Louise on a regular basis. On at least one trip my paternal grandmother accompanied us and made things much more interesting. Remember my "hypocritical" Church of Christ maternal relatives? Well ye old Lukewarm Campbellites were about to met the female Southern Elijah.This was one family get together for the books!

When Granma Maude found out that her son had married into a family which contained "liberal" Baptists {i.e. Non-Southern Baptists} and "cults" like the Church of Christ and 7th Day Adventists, she was livid. She reached critical mass one morning when she caught me reading a magazine called "Fate" while we were vacationing at Grandma Louise's house.'Boy where in God's name did you get that piece of satanic garbage!" she demanded , ripping the magazine out of my hands. I explained to her that Mom's Uncle Joe had lent it to me to read as he had "no comic books or kiddie books in the house for me to read." Grandma mumbled something about "Screwy Campbellites" and stomped off calling my mother's name. This started the one and only time my mom and her mother-in-law formed an alliance. unforunaely at my Uncle Joe's expense.

Uncle Joe found himself in a bit of a pickle. While he din"t want to see me get into trouble with my "narrow-minded harpy" mother and her new-found ally, he didn't want to confirm my story either. He had always been the "weird" one in my maternal grandmother's family. Quiet and studious, he never bought into the whole clan's Hee-Haw Baptist and Church of Christ religiosity. He was as the Bible says "A dreamer of dreams." As a child he "saw" things and people that were not visible to the other corporeal persons about him. In his youth he had studied Spiritualism, Theosophy, and other early 20th century alternative religions and kook movements. Today he probably would have been a member of the Art Bell Fan Club and a faithful fan of the "X-Files."

The magazine he had given me to read was full of such off-beat topics like ghosts, ESP, strange occurrences, the Bermuda Triangle and psychic phenomena. As I was already an avid fan of Conan and Bigfoot at the age of eight, this seemed to flow naturally for me as a transition into the wacky world of the paranormal. "Fate" and Issac Asimov were the two pillars of my nascent magical worldview. For like my great-uncle, I,too, "saw" people and things that other mundane homospaiens were blissfully unaware of. Finding this common bond of familial insanity became our little secret. Still, my little indiscretion would;d not go unpunished.

My Uncle Joe ratted me out. He admitted owning the magazine and had seen me reading it at his place, He "remembered" telling me to put the magazine back on his bookshelf as he did not feel it was appropriate reading material for a Baptist boy like myself. He insisted that I must have "liberated the magazine while he was giving a "Reflexology " treatment to my father the previous evening, Mollified, my mother ripped the magazine in twain and ordered me to give the cover price as reimbursement for its destruction. I gave him the money {a week's allowance] and gave him the "Bird" as I was led away to face the music. We never spoke much after that, which caused me great grief as he was a fun is somewhat eccentric guy to hang-out with. After my maternal grandmother passed away a couple of years later, no-one on either side of the family divided spoke to either Joe or Jimmie due to some fighting over my grandparent"s estate a large part went to the State, lawyers,and various bankers. Mom blamed her uncle and his wife for this fiasco, a accusation which later proved to be true.

I have spent an inordinate amount of time traipsing down Memory Lane. This is to lay the somewhat rocky and humorous {in a sad sort of way} foundation events that led up to my "first" conversion into the "old time religion." My family with its cast of eccentrics, kooks, rationalists, and just plain folks played a major role in my choice of "accepting Christ as my personal savior and lord.{ Also, there is the strong pragmatic philosophy I inherited from my mother. If the need arises and the opportunely is there, then do what you must to attain your goal. This pretty much sums up the maternal "wisdom" bequeathed to her children.

Mom quickly put her form of pragmatic philosophy to work. She "purged" my room and person of any and all "occult material" and marched me down to talk to the pastor of the Independent Baptist Church our family attended. Dr. Harold Fickett listed to my mom's version of events with the "satanic" magazine and merely groaned and uttered a couple of silent prayers whenever he looked my way. I have to admit that Dr. Fickett was quite the pulpit -pounder and scared the living "be-jesus" out of me whenever he preached on the near return of Jesus Christ to Planet Earth. He was a pre-tribber and knew how to verbally describe the pain and agony of those "Left Behind" on this rock after Jesus "secretly raptured" his church away just prior to the Great Tribulation-the seven last years of man's autonomous rule of the world.

Dr. Fickett patiently explained to me the dangers of playing in the "devil"s workshop and advised me to seek the real power of Christ and become "born-again" by accepting Jesus as ,y personal Lord and Savior. He assured me that if I did so, I would miss the atrocities of the AntiChrist and return to this planet the end of the Great Tribulation period and rule the world with the Son of God for a thousand years. Pretty heady stuff for an imaginative eight year old!

Mom and the good Doctor agreed to have me visit his study once a week for a month or two and to have me study and memorize a few choice Bible verses which would help me to "resist the devil" when the desire to read and or practice occult things came over me. Mom actually started to read the Bible to me and made sure that I read good wholesome Christian material. As a consolation to my loss of comic book privileges, she gave me a handful of Jack Chick illustrated gospel tracts and comic to read. I still collect these nasty evil pieces of racist and illogical literature. Hell, the art is crude yet familiar, the plots predictable, the dialogue putrid, but I'm a lifelong addict to them. Just don't buy the underlying message of Turn or Burn which worms its way through each and every comic and or tract produced by Mr.Chick. Its a damn shame too. Ole Jack is a decent fellow in person and has extended alms and charity to street people and women's shelters.

Dad even got into the gospelizing. One night on a fishing trip he told me the story of the prophet Samuel and how he heard a still small voice calling out his name in the wee hours of the night. Thinking it was his master Eli the Hebrew High Priest, he ran to the old man's sleeping chambers, inquiring as to what he was supposed to do. Eli figured after a couple of late night visits from Sammy that the "Voice" was probably God's and instructed his apprentice to respond to its call the next time it came with ,"Speak Lord your servant is listening." Dad concluded that God would "call" out a seeker's name a couple of times in their lifetimes in order to get them to believe in Jesus and if resisted he would stop "Calling" the hardhearted as we had the gift of free will and God would not force himself on anyone. Apparently Dad was not that familiar with the despotic acts and predestinating power of Paul's God in Romans 8 and 9. At any rate, it was my responsibility to respond to the voice of the Holy Spirit when I heard my name called as I mulled over the message of the Gospel.

A night or two later I woke up in the middle of the night. Dad and I were sleeping in the back of his International Harvester, The woods were silent save for a owl or two, I could hear the faint roar of the Russian River and the stars were out; "Billion and billions of them," to quote the late stoner astronomer Carl Sagan. A perfect night to hear the voice of God I thought and started to think about Jesus, his life, and death and his work on the cross on behalf of my potential salvation. Then I heard it! A faint whisper, then a rasping. Yes! It was my name being called. An audible voice to boot! Excited, I shuddered and faintly said."Lord is that you?" I heard it again, clearer and a weak. "Hush, it is I.." I quickly said the sinner's prayer that I had been taught at Sunday School and invited the Son of God to leave his heavenly palace and take up spiritual residence in my fleshly heart. Or is that the other way around? No matter I accepted Jesus as my personal savior and Lord and therefore became "Born Again" long before President Carter made it chic' to do so.

I instantly felt a sense of warmth and peace and snuggled back into my sleeping bag and promptly fell asleep, but not before thanking God for the gift of his Son coming into my life. The next day I told Dad who said "Good, that'll get your mom off my back and went back to fishing. Gotta love that guy for practical horse sense.!

7/22/02                                                                                       View Comments

My Testimony or How I Was Snatched From The Clutches Of Satan

by Tim Simmons


One Tuesday night in May of 1988, I heard a knock on my apartment door. I was married at the time and my wife was at work. I opened the door. Two men from the local Baptist church were out witnessing door to door and asked if they could come in for a few minutes. I said sure. I didn’t know at the time, but they were following a gospel presentation outline that they had learned from Evangelism Explosion, a sales tactic devised by James Kennedy, then pastor of the Coral Ridge Baptist Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

I invited them in and we all sat down in the living room. After a few minutes of leisurely conversation, they eased their way into the gospel presentation and slowly tried to ascertain my eternal disposition by asking me the two diagnostic questions.

“Tim, have you come to the place in your spiritual life where you know for certain that if you were to die today you would go to heaven?” one of them asked. I wasn’t sure. He then proceeded to ask the second diagnostic question. “Tim, suppose that you were to die tonight and stand before God and he were to say to you, ‘Why should I let you into my heaven?’ What would you say?” I didn’t know. I knew there was a right and wrong answer but I also knew that whether I knew the correct answer or not, I would soon be hearing it anyway. I can’t recall exactly what I told them but they deduced by my answers that I was not saved. I, in my present state, was headed straight to hell.

They went into their sales pitch and talked about grace, man’s sinful nature, God’s mercy, God’s justice, Jesus’ death on the cross, faith and provided a Bible verse to back up each claim. I was sweating under the armpits. Emotionally, I was at their mercy. I wanted to do the right thing. Living in the heart of the Bible Belt, the Christian religion was simply assumed to be true and the only question remaining was whether a person was going to do the right thing and believe it. Everything was a given. God, Jesus, it was all assumed to be fact. I was ripe for the picking.

Then they pressed for the close and asked me “Does this make sense to you?” I must have said yes because the next thing I knew was that I was praying the sinner’s prayer in tears. I wanted so much to believe in God and Jesus and the good parts of the Bible. That night, with my head bowed, I embarked upon my Christian voyage by asking Jesus to come into my heart. When the prayer was done, I wiped my eyes and they showed me verses that guaranteed my salvation was set in stone and that I could never lose it. My immediate responsibilities as a member of God’s family were to read my Bible daily, starting in the gospel of John, and go to church each week. With a handshake and smile, they left, knowing that through the power of God’s gospel, another soul had been snatched from the clutches of Satan.

I am embarrassed now to think that I later went door to door with one of those men, peddling the gospel of a Bible I knew little about. I bought the Bible that Tuesday night based on just a handful of verses. Imagine the following scenario. A man goes to a used car dealer, asks to see some cars, the dealer shows him a picture of a one-inch piece of tire tread and says, "Look at that tread, the whole car is in great shape!" and the buyer says, "OK, I'll take it." No one would ever buy a car based on a photograph of a piece of one of the tires, yet, this is being done each and every day by people who buy the whole Bible, give their whole life to one of its characters and base their decision about its truth on just a few select verses while never looking at the other 25,000 plus verses! Peer pressure, sales pressure, guilt trips, lopsided evidence, pervasive regional belief in the Bible, and eternal damnation as an incentive to help make a buying decision are all heaped into the mix and voila! The heathen are suddenly Bible believing members of God’s family.





My Deconversion

Or

How Stella Got Her Senses Back



I am no longer a Christian. I would add a “Thank God!” but God had nothing to do with it. Around 1996, I began to have serious doubts about the Bible and consequently, the whole Christian affair. I have since found so many errors, discrepancies, contradictions, failed prophecies, anachronisms, and scientific errors within the pages of God’s infallible word that I am forced to accept the real truth that these writings are not the inspired, revealed word of God but are the inventions and plagiarisms of imaginative men.

There are probably some Christians reading this who are thinking that I was never really saved to begin with and that is why I have fallen away. They will say that I was like the seed that fell among thorns or I was like the seed that fell by the wayside and sprang up quickly, but having no solid foundation, died after only a short time. These Christians could not be further from the truth. I believed. I believed with all my heart, mind and soul. I went to church every week. I read my Bible. I memorized verses. I prayed. I witnessed door to door. I honestly believed all of it and when problem scriptures came up, I asked for answers. When I got the generic ‘We won’t understand until we get to heaven.’ reply, I then did what every Christian must do to keep their sanity and religion intact and swept the problems under the rug, thinking on them no further.

After about two years, I quit going to the local Baptist church due to several reasons, one of which was that I wanted some real study. A thirty minute sermon based upon a New Testament passage that I had heard a hundred times before was simply not giving me the knowledge I sought and I joined a small house church in Memphis, Tennessee. During the next several years I became more familiar with the Bible and with many of its fundamentalist scholars such as R.C. Sproul, Hank Hannagraf, Norman Geisler, Gleason Archer, and others. I also became more confused. The problems surfaced each time I opened the Bible and none of the scholars could adequately answer many of them and I had issues that I had never even heard addressed by anyone. Doubt had become impossible to avoid and my rug had become a small mountain.

I eventually quit going to the house church and began rereading the Bible starting with Genesis, logging my gripes into my computer. Those gripes grew into a document exceeding one hundred pages. The transition from emotional, froth-at-the-mouth Bible-toter to what I am now took about five years. It wasn’t easy and I didn’t take it lightly. It was very difficult to say goodbye to a large part of my life but I felt that if the truth drew me away from the Bible, so be it. After I had officially changed camps in my own mind, I then began to search the Internet for more information and found that I was not alone in my discovery. Many people had long since found out what I had learned and then some. I am now completely and one hundred percent convinced that Christianity is false. I am no longer a doubting Thomas.

7/5/02                                                                                       View Comments

Christianity Sucks:

My Christian saga began at birth with a blessing from my father that I would never leave the church. My family spent many hours every week in an old time Holiness congregation. The women wore no make-up, pants, shorts, bathing suits, did not cut their hair even for a trim, and were required to have on a out of style dress, girdle, slip, pantyhose, bra even on the hottest day. The men always looked GQ. There were many other such restrictions about sex and the body. My mother finally quit the church and my Dad did as well.
At about 10 I started attending the Baptist church across the street from our home because all my friends went there and we had a great time at GA's and Sunday School. At 13 all my friends and I went to a revival where I got saved because the visiting preacher scared the holy shit out of me with his hell fire and brimstone message, and I did not want to burn in eternal damnation for all eternity for my sins. What my sins were, exactly, I could not have told you, but after he got done with me I knew I was a low down dirty rotten sinner who deserved eternal torment in the fires of hell. And if I wanted to avoid that I had better accept Jesus so I did.

Thus began my journey through hell on earth. I began to have serious problems with my self worth and body image and became compulsive in my quest for personal perfection. I began to hear voices, became anorexic, and completely withdrew from normal teenage activities because they were anathema to me as a believer who thought she could lose her salvation. The credit for that goes to the Holiness church of my early childhood. I spent inordinate amounts of time studying the KJV of the bible. At 18 I decided God was an ogre and completely turned my back on church for about 5 years. At 23 I got married a had a baby, got a divorce, got help for the anorexia, and reentered the Southern Baptist church. I was not happy there so I tried the Charismatic, was not happy there so I continued looking, got remarried, got another divorce, got married again and am currently happily married for 10 years.

Those 2 divorces were 2 of the smartest decisions I made at that time. The dumbest was going back to church. For 14 years I searched for a church only to be treated as a scarlet woman over my divorce(I didn't dare tell them about the 2nd one)and the fact that I married a Portugese Catholic Yankee only added to the good Christian treatment I received. They told me to divorce my present husband and go back to my first husband or face hell. Fortunately this was advice I ignored.

At 37 my present husband suggested a few things that would raise the hair of any good Independent Baptist woman. I asked him if he wasn't afraid Jesus would come back just as was really enjoying himself and he said no. I was shocked but intrigued by this attitude by an admitted Christian and began to think about how short life is and how unhappy with the church and the bible and bible god I had been for a very long time. This brought me to The Case Against God and my deconversion. I have been an atheist about 4 months and am well on my way to full recovery from a lifetime of emotional abuse. My husband and I are my happier in our intimate life together. It isn't easy to relax when you think angels are watching and Jesus might come back at any time. I now have a whole list of sins I intend to commit.

Anonymous

stjohnbaptiste@hotmail.com
country: US
state: VA
age I joined: 13
age I left: 37
where I've been: Holiness(old time)/ Southern Baptist/ Independent Baptist/Charismatic/
what I am now: atheist: I do not believe in anything above or beyond the natural universe
why I joined: A Baptist preacher came to my church for revival and he scared the shit out of me so I got saved to avoid hell.
why I left: I read The Case Against God and had to admit the obvious.I was ready for a change.



7/4/02                                                                                       View Comments

Christianity- Too corrupt for me

by Anthony
Westchester, Illinois USA

I couldn't take all the greed and general unholiness that I saw in Christian churches!

How did my encounter with Christianity begin? Well, "against my will" might be a good way of phrasing it. I was baptized in Mexico when I was born. A couple years after that, I attended school at various Christian or variant of Christian schools (Pre-school was Lutheran, 3 years of Catholic grade school, etc). However, the event that made me turn away from Christianity completely occurred when I was attending a public school, oddly enough.

One of my friends was a member of the congregation at a church in the town called the Westchester Bible Church, and he was as religious as could be. I should have known there were problems when I was over at his house one day and I said "Oh god" while we were doing something and he told me that I shouldn't do that because it's taking the name of the lord in vain. "What?" I thought to myself. Later, he somehow suckered me into coming to some youth activity group at his church. While there were some interesting activities there, one of the things I couldn't help noticing was the sheer number of ways in which they took money from the kids attending it. Dues of some kind, crafts, money for field trips, maybe others. Stupid me, I fell for it again by going to the vacation bible school there. Pretty much the same thing as before, except now we had to put up with people in suits, a talking cardboard robot, and a puppet (I am serious about all of this), talking about God somehow. In addition, now there were not necessarily obligatory but "greatly appreciated" donations to be made.

Somehow, I came closer to being a believer during this period of time than at any other moment in my life. I actually went and got myself "saved" because I was so scared of the Christian god. My thoughts began to change, however, when I found out that they were REWARDING kids to bring more people into this fold. Then one day, during the last session of activity that I'd ever attend at that church, my "friend" told me something: "If you're not a Christian, you're going straight to hell."

Shocked, flabbergasted, alarmed, confused, you name it, that was how I was feeling. I couldn't believe it. What he had just told me went against everything I believed in. Receiving eternal life, something we're not even sure exists, does not depend on the kind of life you live, but rather which deity you believe in?! This was one of the things that really began to make me lose interest in Christianity. An non-Christian can live a charitable, wholesome life, and goes to hell, but a Christian can steal, kill, and commit basically any crime they want, and as long as they repent for their sins they go to heaven?

That was it. I never went back there again, and if nothing else, I'd never go back to the Westchester Bible Church again.

Then came high school. I went to a Christian high school because it was the best option in the area in terms of education. I didn't care at all about the religion portion. However, at this point, I was thinking about following a religion of some kind, maybe even going back to a variant of Christianity. I then took courses on Church History and World History that showed me more of Christianity that I didn't like. I learned so many things about the religion that I didn't like, such as the Crusades, the corruption of the papacy during the Renaissance, etc. I wondered how anyone could have faith in an institution with such a terrible past.

The final blow against Christianity came for me in the form of the news of all the church scandal that has recently emerged. Reports of pedophile priests continue to pour in from around the country, and the church is promising changes, but from what I have seen, it's not enough. The church kept these scandals hidden for a long time, and what's worse is it doesn't end there. The church has a policy of keeping hidden anything that may incriminate the institution. I cannot support an institution that has this policy at all. I made up my mind to be an atheist when I was 15, and have stayed that way ever since. I consider myself agnostic, as I still consider joining a religion once in a while, but it certainly won't be a monotheistic religion. However, I have been living godlessly for 2 years, and am much happier this way. Therefore, I'm strongly considering being a complete atheist. Whatever the case, I'm never going back to Christianity.

What labels did I use to describe myself?
Mater Christi, Divine Infant, Westchester Bible Church

What labels do I use now?
Agnostic

Why did I join in the first place?
It wasn't my choice, really. I was baptized at birth, and didn't really think about it till I was a teenager

I left Christianity at age 15

7/3/02                                                                                       View Comments

conversion/deconversion

Dave - You had asked about my conversion/deconversion experience. I replied with a very long email and for some reason it had no text once it made it to the group. Perhaps it was over the limit or something. I'll split this one into two parts. FYI - Feel free to copy and post this anywhere, under the condition that you don't use my name - since many people close to me only know the first part of this story.

My parents divorced when I was 4. I was the oldest of 3 kids. My mother had custody and basically took us to church whenever she dated a guy who went. My dad's dad died when I was 10. It shook him up and so he and my stepmother started taking us to a boring old Presbyterian church in Kentucky. I got pretty involved, but it never "clicked" like it would later. We went regularly, but we missed several times a year, if we had something else to do on a Sunday morning. Once I got to be 15, they said it was up to me whether or not I went. I did go every once in awhile - to touch base with friends,etc. I don't really know what I thought about god during this time. I did believe, it just didn't really mean anything. I thought it was true, but didn't affect my day to day activities.

I went to college for an Electrical Engineering degree and partied a little too much. Then, at the end of my sophomore year, a strange thing happened. I went to check my email on the last day of the semester, but the lab I normally used was closed, so I went to a different computer lab. There I saw a girl I knew from high school, but hadn't seen in my two years at the University of KY. It turns out she was dating a guy from one of my classes. She was staying in town for the summer, as was I, so we exchanged phone numbers. I went over there once a week or so to play cards and hang out.

Then one night she called and asked what was I doing. Figuring she wanted to play cards I said "nothing." She said she was going to this church thing at 7P.M.. I said oh sounds like fun (although I wasn't thinking this) but my car isn't running well. She said no problem, it is only one block from where you live. So I got sucked in to going.

It was amazing. They sang these fast upbeat praise songs like I had never heard in a church. The people were so nice and friendly, and of course, being the "new guy" all the girls wanted to meet me and talk to me. Now, at the risk of sounding elitist... I was a cut above at this place. I was more intelligent, more athletic, and better looking than most of the people there, and I often got treated that way and I liked it. I kept going regularly through the fall semester, but I wasn't really saved. I believed what they were saying, but I still partied on the weekends, cussed, drank, etc.

About the time this started, I had been reading Blaise Pascal's "Thoughts", not knowing it was an apologetic work. He said something to the effect of the evidence of god's existence being hidden so that only those who truly looked could find him. I thought, hey, I had never really sought out god, and all these coincidences were too weird. He must be calling to me.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


The real turning point came when I went on a mission trip to Mexico. It was a blast and I really thought about all this a lot. When I got back, I was baptized. I joined a bible study, and began playing guitar in the worship band. People said I was "on fire". The next year was awesome, and I led a bible study. I made it a goal to witness to at least one person each day. I did tons of work for the church and with the people there. Then I found a book - "More than a Carpenter" by Josh McDowell. I read it and for the first time, I really contemplated the intellectual side of christianity. I decide I was smarter than most people, and being a christian was wonderful, so I was going to become an apologist and convert intellectuals to christ.

I got on the Web and started debating, particularly at www.infidels.org - years ago when the boards had a different format. I read apologetics books, and wrote an article for the school paper slamming evolution. I decided to read atheist books and refute them. The first two I read were "Myths and Deceptions of the Bible" by Lloyd Graham and "The Passover Plot" by H. Schonfeld. These books suck, so tearing them apart was easy. After about 6 months, people on the evolution board at the infidels site refused to argue with me. They said I knew nothing about evolution and gave me a list of books to read. I took some time off of the boards and did just that. This was the start of the fall.

I went from a YEC to an Old Earther, to a theistic evolutionist in a matter of months. The evidence for evolution was overwhelming. I had been a christian almost 2 years now, and had finally read the whole bible - something I later found out almost no christians had done. I couldn't understand why religion was so important to me, yet many people who were raised in the faith simply took it for granted, and had never thoroughly questioned it.

About this same time, I started noticing biblical contradictions, and having them thrown at me by atheists. I did what Aaron was doing previously and simply copied responses out of books to explain them. Then, the first real seed of doubt came. I read about all the amazing prophecies Jesus fulfilled, and the amazing odds against him fulfilling them all. But one thing didn't make sense... Many chapters contained multiple references to christ, but other verses in the chapter weren't applied to him. So, I asked both my ministers how, if I knew nothing about Jesus, could I know that one verse in Psalm 22 (for example) applied to him, and another verse didn't. What would tip me off in advance as to what to look for? Wow, good question they said, no one had ever asked it or thought about that. I never found a satisfactory answer to it.

I also began reading up on "pagan christs" and other dying-reviving gods. I realized there was only one christian book that responded to this, (by Leon McKenzie) and it sucked. Although I still found some answers to atheist questions (many atheists are as bad as fundies with their logic) my list of "un-answerables" was growing rapidly. I also started to realize that when I used to slam evolution, everyone at church agreed with me and thought I was "soooo" smart. Now that I believed in it, but was still a strong christian, they thought I was wrong and was an idiot. I began to realize they were only listening to people telling them what they wanted to hear.


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I finally found some good atheist books. I particularly like "Atheism: A Philosophical Justification" by Martin and "Losing Faith in Faith" by Barker. I couldn't refute most of the arguments in these books. I was falling fast. Also, as a leader in the church, I began to learn about the scandal going on there. Leaders having sex, people out drinking, fighting that led to some people leaving for a different church. It didn't make sense to me how two people could be on opposite sides of the fence when the Holy Spirit was supposedly guiding both of them. I still loved going to church, although I became less involved my last year of grad school (4 years after beginning this journey). So, I settled into fideism (look it up if you don't know).

That went fine for a year or so. My fiancee was raised fundy but had supported me throughout my doubts. She had become more open minded to them after I challenged her to take one hour, a piece of paper, all 4 gospels, and write down what happened after the resurrection. Plus, I talked her into reading Jon Weiner's "Beak of the Finch" which helped her to open up to evolution.

The back breaker, the thing that turned me from a fideist to a don't-care, or whatever I am now, was AI. I got interested in artificial intelligence 3 years ago, right before I finished my MBA. That got me interested in the brain, and that was the death knell for god. By reading about the brain, the different diseases people have, and the effects of them, I realized that the world is not what we think it is. I realized our minds lie to us. I realized our memories are inaccurate and our emotions can't be trusted to tell us what is real. I realized our perception is skewed. I learned that by closing the eyes and chanting or singing, stimulus to the part of the brain that defines the boundary between "self" and "everything else" became less active, thus leading to a feeling of oneness, or wholeness of the group. It was devastating. I finally shrugged off my faith last year.

I still read apologetics books. My wife and I took turns reading "Case for Christ" out loud. It gave me a chance to raise many objections, and for us to discuss them. People say I have no moral compass, am evil,etc. But I still pretty much live the lifestyle I did as a christian. We are financially successful and give more than 10% of our income to charities. I only drink in moderation. I don't cuss much, because I believe words mean things, including swear words, and using f*** every other word strips it of meaning and power, so you can't use it correctly when you really need to. I love and honor my wife. I can actually say my life is better now, because I can define my own future and goals without waiting for some being that I can't understand to show me the way by speaking to my heart.

Lots more happened along the way. The objections to religion racked up and up and up until finally I could hang on no longer. If god is real, and wants me, he can come talk to me for 30 seconds. I would never question again and I would walk in his shoes like few people every have. But I can't pledge allegiance to something I don't believe. I can't fake being a christian. The funny thing is, when I used to believe, I always wondered if I was wrong. Now that I don't, I am 99.999% sure than I am right. I hope this wasn't too boring for all of you. I'd be interested in hearing more of your stories too.

Anonymous



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6/6/02                                                                                       View Comments

Something More

By Diane

I began to listen to what I knew inside instead of what the authorities told me I should know.

My experience with Christianity started when I was very young, perhaps five or six years old. My father made the decision to attend a Reformed Baptist church. He came from a Catholic background, and had been turned off of religion for quite a long time. I think this new church attracted him because the pastor was a stern authoritarian, and the pattern of sitting under him and, in turn, transferring the anger, sternness, and rules to his family appealed to his nature. The strongest memory I have of this church was sitting in the pews in extreme terror because the pastor often shouted during sermons. Such fury was overwhelming to my shy, sensitive psyche. The bullying had begun.

When I was eight, we moved and started attended a church that felt the need to continually entertain us and provide us with incentives to keep coming such as contests and special events. Even amongst the frivolity, I found myself feeling frightened and confused because what was supposed to be so simple, the salvation message, was anything but that. I wasn't sure I got it right. I accepted, believed, and confessed my little soul senseless, but I always had the gnawing feeling it wasn't taking. I wasn't transformed into the good little girl Christianity insisted I should become. Why didn't it work? This was the dirty little secret I had to hide: I remained human.

My father decided to leave this church because they were Arminian. He decided that this belief system was evil. He began bringing us to a Calvinist church where the elect handful of five families gathered together to declare that they were the only saved souls in this region of the country. Calvinism is a funny belief; people get stuck on it like a broken record. The entire sermons revolved around Calvinism. Sunday school lessons were patterned on the five points. Conferences were held each year on this lousy doctrine. They saw nothing else in the Bible. Just Calvinism, their ugly little god. Once I reached high school, I began to severely question and criticize this monotonous idiocy. Even so, it was hard to turn away completely. I didn't want to become the evil apostate the church warned me about. I felt my questioning was the result of a sinful heart, not the natural outgrowth of some basic intelligence and honesty. I wasn't ready to consider that possibility. That realization would come years later.

I couldn't trust myself because I swallow the total depravity garbage hook, line, and sinker. Education, ideas, facts, learning, books and thinking for ourselves were sins because all beliefs were from a depraved source except for what was taught by their interpretation of the Bible. This teaching worked well in keeping us in line. Bullies like that.

It was amazing how thickheaded I remained. I noticed that all the men in the church were extremely angry, cruel, and, well, walked around like they had pine cones up their butts. And yet, I saw them as being saints. I was terrified of their disapproval. I saw myself as wicked because I questioned things, I really didn't enjoy praying to the monster god of the Calvinists, and I found the Bible to be full of hateful passages that I could never come to accept.

Once I was in college, I just rebelled. I began to be everything I was told not to be. I did drugs and began reading the delightfully wicked writers the church warned me about. I loved the new ideas, but secretly felt they would betray me in the end. I suspected I would someday head back to the church because I could not trust the new ideas, my new thoughts and experiences, and the new understand that was growing within my about another type of God. I had the sense of what I called Something More, a truth that didn't need to bully, a truth that could bare exposure to facts, ideas, and experience, and a truth that I would embrace. Because I found myself floundering and unable to find the strength to live out my realizations, I eventually turned my back on the Something More. I went back to the church. The bullies had won.

I went right back into the stern fundamentalist churches I had so despised. This time I hoped to find acceptance. I hoped I could live out the Christian faith and become the saint I thought God wanted me to be. It seemed so simple. I just had to accept the churches authority and get my beliefs right. Somehow I had to stuff myself through their hoop. Even though I saw obvious errors and inconsistencies in the Bible, I had to pretend that I didn't. Even though, the sexism was utterly contemptible, I had to pretend I accept my place. Even though, I still secretly enjoyed the wonderful atheistic writers out there, I read the church recommended books with the same attention, if not the same passion.

But it wasn't simple. Our psyche can only take our phoniness so long. Eventually something broke inside me. I would go to church and feel this profound emptiness. A little voice inside kept saying, this isn't me. I would try to hush it, but it wouldn't be silenced. Madness would seize me after the services; a wild irrationality would thwart my attempts at sainthood and docility. I found I could no longer attend church, and yet, I still could not let go of Christianity. I still said I believed. I still dare not admit I knew something else inside.

So for years, I just ignored religion. I was paralyzed by the fact I knew I could no longer believe, and yet, I could not believe anything new either. I just got on with my life the best I could by pretending my spirituality just didn't exist. Now and then, when I began to voice doubts about Christianity and new ideas that were in their nascent form, my angry fundamentalist husband would berate me without mercy. "How dare I?" the bullies raged inside and outside my head.

But one day, I dared. I read Emerson's wonderful essay called "Self-reliance". In this essay, he speaks the elegant and simple truth: We can trust what we know inside. No one can tell us what that truth is. We can only tell ourselves. We can trust our reason, our experiences, our thoughts, and our ideas. No outside authority is needed.

Intellectually the bullies were defeated. The arguments against Christianity are strong and probable unnecessary. Christians themselves, or as I call them based on my observations of their morality, Caligulans, are the best witness against their beliefs. The anger, hatred, intolerance, inability to love, judgemental-ism, and stupidity I have witnessed throughout my life in the Caligulans had been appalling. Why I didn't see this from the beginning is astounding, but the fact that I see it now, after years of their bullying, shows that there is hope for the truth.

Emotionality I am still fighting the bullies. A low self-esteem and connections with Christians in my life are the legacies that remain. I am determined they won't win in this area either. The simple fact is what I have always seen as bullies are just small, pathetic creatures who refuse to open their eyes and see what is real. It is sad that I was held in their power for so many years, but in the years to come, I hope to continue the process of discovering that which is so much better than what they offered.

I still call it Something More: Whatever is true; whatever is real; Whatever is it that I know inside. No more phoniness; no more pretending; and no more silence. All of us that have been through the process of escaping the authorities to find our own truths have something very real, creative, and powerful to tell the world. The truth seems hidden behind the bullies in our lives, but it is only waiting for the time we are ready to see with new eyes what we always knew deep inside.

country: US
state: NY
age I joined: 5 or 6
age I left: 30s
where I've been: Reformed Baptist, Calvinist, fundamentalists, the only ones who got it right
what I am now: I have no religious affiliation. I am interested in Jungian psychology and I do still believe in God.
why I joined: Fear


5/7/02                                                                                       View Comments

Thank God for Atheism! :p

by Amanda

I was "saved" when I was seven years old. My mother was always a very religious woman, and like most people who are converted, she was going through a bad time in her life. She grabbed fundamentalist Christianity with both hands and held on for dear life.



I spent the first 5 years of my life "on fire for God," as they say in the church. But as I grew into an adolescent girl, I began to resent the way the church had mapped out my future as a woman- don't worry about education, darling, you've got cookies to bake. I wistfully looked out the window at the boys youth group, wrestling, playing basketball, etc., while I was stuck inside, being taught how to deny my feelings and wants.



When I was 12, it was discovered that the very married Pastor of our church had sexually abused at least 5 women over a period of years. With all the women, it had taken place during counseling, when each one of the women was in a devastating point in her life. All these women were made to go to the front of the church, and confess that they had sinned (they were not allowed to be specific), and the pastor just sat there. I remember my face getting flushed. As a year or two passed, the collusion that had happened became more and more apparent, and let me say I got pissed.



Through Christian high school and University (Liberty University) I was miserable. I knew fundamentalism was not for me- personally, I was pro-choice, pro-woman, pro-gay, pro-environment, pro-socialist, an evolutionist, and committed to fighting racism. Not the dyed in the wool conservative nightmares I was around.



This was the most difficult time in my life- my Christian friends could not understand my political and personal beliefs, and my “pinko” liberal friends could not understand my Christianity. I always considered myself a strong Christian; but also a rebel. I was proud of the work I had done, reconciling all my beliefs with the Bible.



But it was exhausting.



Upon moving to England, my ways of thinking progressed quite a bit. I cultivated my long-time interest in science, and began to really consider the way the Christian church fought against things I knew to be fact, such as evolution, etc. Simultaneously I began doing research on sexual abuse in fundamentalist churches, with specific emphasis on Jack Hyles. It was the COLLUSION that really bothered me- abuse is to be expected from people in all positions of power. I couldn't understand how the church could excuse these pastors and coldly turn against these victims.



I had my first real crisis of faith in February 2001. I didn't want to be part of a group of people who could have these beliefs. I called my Mother, and others and asked them to pray for me. I started to check out sites of ex-Christians because I felt isolated. I read the Bible (with particular emphasis on Biblical contradictions and atrocities).



There were things I couldn't ignore or excuse away anymore. I didn't want to say "We'll know God's reason for that when we go to Heaven," to excuse away His behavior anymore. It was devastating to realize that I was wrong for all these years. The whole process of my deconversion took about a year.



I found myself unable to believe anymore. Ironic that it took re-reading the Bible and researching the church reconverted me.



And I'm so happy now. I have confidence in my decisions, my ability to rationalize, and to control my destiny. I have triumphed over the need to rely on someone else's code of "morality."



Amanda

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Email:aaaaight@hotmail.com

Yahoo ID: Cow_hugger

Sex: F

Country: UK

City: Liverpool among others
Age that I joined Christianity: 7

Age that I left: 29

What Kind of Churches did I attend? Independent Baptist, Fundamentalist Baptist and non-denominational Christian



I am now a “Comfortable Atheist”

Why_joined: Because I was 7!!!!

Why_left: Two reasons. First, I grew tired of trying to reconcile the Bible with feminism, evolution, intellectual thought, the struggle against bigotry, etc. Second, I lost the emotional need for a relationship with "God."

5/6/02                                                                                       View Comments

A fight to the death (of faith)

By Cynthia

After having to really explain my beliefs for the first time, I was shocked to find myself thinking, I believe THAT?

My grandmother had been a fundamentalist since a conversion experience in her early twenties (before which she claimed to have drunk and "cussed like a sailor"-which I could never quite bring myself to believe). She always claimed that she "loved children," while being completely heartless and unloving with me; but I think she would have been a cruel person with or without her religious beliefs. Somehow, my mother had grown up to be a loving, kind, compassionate and open-minded individual in spite of her own mother's influence.

My father was never a Christian, but he saw no reason to make an issue of his lack of belief, even though my grandmother felt the need to try to evangelize him-and absolutely every stranger she met-at every possible opportunity. Fortunately for me, he got a job in Southeast Asia and my family lived in Singapore during my whole childhood (which meant that my contact with my grandmother was limited to summers).

Throughout my childhood, my mother pursued her faith with an easygoing optimism, and we wandered from church to church, leading to experiences which were almost all positive for me. I enjoyed what I learned in church and saw no reason to doubt any of it. I led a number of my friends to Christ at a very young age, and felt that I was destined to be a missionary of some sort. I enjoyed the allegorical "film strips" that were popular at that time (during the mid to late 70s), and loved teaching Bible stories through whatever forms of multimedia were available. My mother led Sunday school classes at several of the churches we attended and I had a great time helping her with flannel boards and puppet shows. I was baptized both "in the Spirit" and by immersion in water, and was quite happy and confident in my faith.

Then, when I turned 13, financial tragedy hit my family. My father lost his job and we had to return to Oklahoma, and move in with my grandmother (she had been living in and taking care of my parents' house while we were overseas). My father was unable to find a job for more than six months, meaning that we burned through all of our savings. This was the first truly horrible experience of my life. I was forced to share a bedroom with my hateful and obnoxious grandmother (who snored so badly that I was never able to sleep unless I could sneak out to the couch). And, to make things truly unbearable, my mother decided that she would send me to the cheapest Baptist school she could find in the phonebook (since public school would have been out of the question for her).

This school-Moody Christian Academy, in Tulsa, Oklahoma-was a nightmare of backwoods fundamentalism. The girls were required to wear dresses at all times, while boys could wear whatever they wanted. Corporal punishment was practiced, and the teachers were barely educated enough to teach anything useful to even the youngest children. Not having grown up in Tulsa (even though I was born there), I was considered a foreign freak, and was lucky to have made any friends at all. My seventh grade class was taught (I'm not making this up) in the garage of the pastor's house by an insanely zealous Amway salesman.

Finally, after two years of this torture, my family had a little more money and I was allowed to go to a school that was a step up: Victory Christian School, affiliated with Oral Roberts University. It was still pretty awful. The kids were mean, unbelievably materialistic (which, believe it or not, was preached as a virtue, since you could supposedly ask God to make you rich and He would oblige), and obsessed with social castes. This, of course, is normal for kids anywhere, but the school was set up in such a way that even the teachers validated their snobbishness by pointing out, in one way or another, that if you didn't fit in it was because God didn't love you as much as He loved the popular kids. That is not an exaggeration. Once more, it was a struggle to find even 2 or 3 decent friends.

Because I was encouraged to believe that God favored certain people (the rich, the attractive, the socially inclined) over others, I found that it was easier to just accept this than face up to the fact that I might be trapped in a hotbed of hypocrisy.

I "worked to show myself acceptable unto God," by praying constantly, reading the Bible all the way through three times, fasting, listening only to Christian music, and going to church every Sunday. Nevertheless, I couldn 't bring myself to face the weekly "youth group" meetings (which afforded me endless guilt) because I knew I would be shunned and mocked by the "righteous" kids. I learned to loathe myself as much as my peers seemed to loathe me, and could only comfort myself with thoughts of suicide, or-since that wasn't allowed-with constant fantasies of sudden and violent death.

Things had improved a bit by my senior year because I had a car, a couple of very good friends, and a boyfriend. I was part of a "mission trip" to England as a member of a performing group, which was the most amazing experience of my life. I never managed to bring myself to do much witnessing, but the opportunity to travel with such a clear and uplifting sense of purpose was awe-inspiring. I knew that I would have to find a way to get that type of experience again.

I took the SAT when I returned, and bombed. I had been a National Merit Scholarship semi-finalist (placing in the 98th percentile), but had made an 1190 instead of the required 1200 to get a full scholarship to college. Thus, instead of going to Oral Roberts University, I made due with a junior college. Throughout this period (including my eventual magna cum laude graduation from a 4-year college, a brief stay in a job I loved, and an even briefer experience with graduate school), I did a lot of reading. Curiously, all my favorite authors were atheists, agnostics and/or secular humanists (Vonnegut, Rushdie, Beckett, Rand, Irving, and many more), but nothing I read or heard strained my faith anywhere near the breaking point.

However, I got further away from the church, and did a lot of things that conflicted with what I had been taught. But I still believed that the Christian God was one of love and forgiveness, who was involved in my life and cared about me and my eternal fate.

This hit home for me dramatically when I met a guy named Chris in New Orleans (where I had been living since I left graduate school). He was a recently converted Baptist who was eager to do the work of the Lord through writing music and performing in a Christian rock band. I believed that God had miraculously sent us to each other to work together in serving Him. In spite of some misgivings about his very bloodthirsty and anger-filled interpretation of the Bible, I was overjoyed when he asked me to marry him and join him in his "ministry."

I was happy and trusted God that He would get the ministry off the ground. For three years, despite endless prayer and a constant struggle to "get right with God," it went nowhere. Even though God supposedly wanted us to go out and evangelize for Him, He was making it pretty much impossible. Still, I never lost faith.

It wasn't until my husband decided to move us to a fundamentalist Southern Baptist church that I began to seriously question what I believed. The pastor of this church preached hellfire and damnation exclusively, constantly pointing out that he was afraid that even he himself might not make it into heaven. His God was not one of love, but one who possessed a gleeful determination to cast every single one of his creations into eternal pain and suffering unless they found the magic combination of faith and good works to get them into heaven.

I was disgusted by this, and found it abhorrent that my husband delighted in telling other Christians from different denominations that they were going to hell. Finally, after having all but maybe 10% of my beliefs shot down by this fearful and guilt-ridden pastor, I had to ask myself whether the remainder was worth holding on to. I began to read both Christian and atheist apology (and was particularly impressed by Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor). One by one, my beliefs left (though not without a fight). I just couldn't believe in the Christian God any more.

If God is God, he is not good. If God is good, he is not God.

I'm still with my husband, who knows now how my beliefs have changed. We're taking things one day at a time, but I have no idea how it's going to turn out.

country: US
state: OK
city: Tulsa
age_joined: 7
age_left: 31
where I've been: Baptist, Pentecostal, Fundamentalist
what I am now: Atheist/agnostic
why I joined: "Inhereted" my faith from my mother.


4/28/02                                                                                       View Comments

My Post-Christian Testimony

By Ian J. Carr

If I may paraphrase a famous Christian: Free at last, thank God I'm free at last!

I am a former Christian, early 40's, a previous true believer who worshipped mainly in Fundamentalist circles (though never able to tackle hard-line evangelist doctrine with any enthusiasm.)

My journey to freethought has taken five years, and I would now describe myself as an "open" nontheist. That is, I am happy to describe the human being as "spiritual", while realising that this impetus is a phenomenon manufactured within the psyche or society, and not imposed by an external God (especially not the white-bearded guy looking down from the clouds!) And I am willing to accept the positive, beautiful and poetic elements of any faith while resisting any attempts by organized religion to impose their dogmas on our (thankfully) secular society. My personal consolations are now the music of Bach, Mozart and Grainger, the poetry of Housman and Wilfred Owen, natural history from Darwin to Dawkins, the Ideal Palace of the Facteur Cheval, the comedy of Monty Python and Pete and Dud ---- these and much, much more ---- and the freedom of not filtering every word or thought through the doctrinal sieve of the Christian Fundamentals.

Nor am I a woolly-thinking New Ager, but a secular humanist and rationalist. No point in exchanging old for new in the religion department: freedom comes with the courage to expose your philosophies to the scrutiny of your own intellectual honesty.

I won't bore you with a lengthy treatise on my deconversion, except to cover a few salient points which might stop others from losing their way. My mother's church attendance as a "social" Methodist (that is, she attended for the fellowship and the choir rather than allegiance to the doctrine) meant I had several years of Sunday School exposure around the age of 10. I remember several attempts to read my New English Bible New Testament at that age, determined to tackle it in its entirety: but I couldn't get much past Matthew's genealogies.

We moved towns soon after, and Church was not a part of our new life. (This lack of consistency puzzled me.) The story of Eden and the Fall had left me with an indelible image of God as a big white-bearded guy standing on a cloud digging with a gardening fork, but it also left me with an abiding interest in Jesus and Christianity.

In my high school years, I became rather cynically anti-Christian despite having little contact with organized Church, though religion was daily grist to our conversational mill. (Do kids today even give it a thought?)

At age 20, several factors came together which converted me to a (still-thinking) Born-again: a Christian girlfriend, a Christian best friend, campus evangelism, attendance at an outwardly confident and joyous congregation, my own philosophical confusion, low self-esteem --- and the feeling, thanks presumably to Sunday School memories, of warm and comfortable familiarity!

After 20 years as a Christian and 2 as a post-Christian, I can say:

If my non-Christian friends had been able to tell me what I now know about the Bible and Christian History, I need never have embarked on the faith journey !!! This is why it is imperative for freethinkers to know not only why they don't believe, but also why the Bible is not and has never been the Word of God.

So what went wrong with my "faith"? Here follow some of my misgivings about institutional Christianity.

Too many hideously objectionable teachings e.g. the damnation of even unevangelised unbelievers.
Misrepresentation: Never say "Bible", say rather "Word of God", lest its authority be questioned. Yet never a word about biblical criticism or history.
I discovered the word "obedience" was used in sermons much more often than "love".
I met people whose fanatical obsession with the Lord had left them empty unthinking shells of human beings, devoid of personality.
The bloody-mindedness and intellectual suicide of Creationism and other forms of literalism. What a small, petty tribal god these people have conceived!
The failure of Christian apologists to place scripture into its historical and cultural settings, and their almost total ignorance of same.
I encountered the phenomenon of the modern Urban Myth and realized that it is human nature to want to see meaning in everything (like portraits of the Virgin in oddly-shaped breadrolls.) There must be "something more", (meaning supernatural), goes this vague argument. Not if you have the courage to look around you.
Political and social conservatism of the church and its laity: the selfish emphasis on "personal salvation" to the exclusion of building a better world. Christians excusing themselves for being rich and greedy.
The Church's fixation with sex--- would that it were paralleled by an interest in denouncing selfishness, greed and injustice!
Knowing the glories of the sacred music of Bach, Palestrina, Byrd, Tallis etc, I am dismayed by the awful Christian pop music schlock that has replaced the hymn in worship. If that stuff's playing in heaven, I wouldn't want to be there!
Televangelists. ( No further comment required.)
(I could go on.)

I began to read widely ("Satanic material" said my church elder father-in-law of Robert Funk and the Jesus Seminar). I examined the Bible --closely-- for the first time since my conversion. I read liberal and radical theologians as well as conservative apologists, Church history, anti-Creationist treatises, Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Dawkins on natural history and, finally, the stories of ex-Christians like Dan Barker. Initially, I approached every new idea fearfully, knowing my faith was being challenged to breaking point. It became obvious that an indefensible "faith" is not worth having: in fact, I doubt that faith is even a virtue. Once I had seen for myself the obvious "seams" in the putting together of the scriptures by the early writers, I could never again accept the Bible as the Holy inerrant Word of God.

The final part of my journey into freethought took place as I assessed the damage that twenty years of Fundamental Christianity had done to my psychological wellbeing and to my closest relationships. I suffered a severe depression triggered by several factors, but due in large part to the constant mental juggling required to cling to my faith. [Inconsistency is depressogenic; some researchers have reported fundamentalists as being twice as likely to develop depression as the general population. "Some people have just enough religion to bug 'em rather than bless 'em" said one evangelist.]

Relationships with my family were initially strained as I tried to share the excitement of my discoveries with my wife, who was raised within a devout family. She has not joined me on this part of my spiritual journey yet, but I thank her for graciously accepting my new philosophies and defending my right to have them.

Perhaps my greatest anxieties were for the consequences of my thinking on my children, then aged five, ten and twelve years. Do we continue raising them in the faith, with me maintaining a silence on "spiritual" matters? The answer was obvious, if not easy: total honesty! The kids still attend church and Sunday School but get a wider view of its teachings as we discuss issues at home. No more do I have to feel guilty about introducing them to the scientific concepts such as evolution which are their intellectual birthright.

One of the hardest tasks of all was disappointing my church family who naturally had no indication of the long process of my turning away. I had even been seen as a natural heir to the current leadership. I sent a letter to the church board to officially resign my church membership, then a more personal explanation to each member. Only three members bothered to address my concerns! And I got the distinct feeling that my grasp of biblical scholarship and theological issues made the pastors feel threatened.

It is now two years since I found all the answers about Christianity that I sought. And in some sort of miracle of bad sportsmanship on His part, God has not allowed even one raw and over-keen street-preacher to approach me for the Lord. I am eagerly looking forward to the day this happens, so I will ask (and get no answers to):

If you hang your life on every syllable of the Word of God, then tell me how and when the Bible was finally compiled. [Council of Nicaea, 325AD]
How many Gospels exist? [Not just the four canonical gospels, but about twenty other early ones, including that called "Thomas", found complete only in 1945 and since largely ignored by the Church.]
Who wrote them? (And don't tell me Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.)
Can you define concepts important to the study of ancient scriptures such as "midrash", "interpolation", "form criticism","source analysis" etc, etc. [Look them up!]
Why do Matthew and Luke tell two entirely different Nativity stories? (The story rolled out each December is very much a composite.) And were not the "wise men" really astrologers? Isn't astrology evil?
I'm going to have such fun!

If I was eighteen again, this is what I would need to hear:

Christians have no right at all to demand that you respond to their Good News. The so-called "evidence that demands a verdict" is flimsy hearsay, 2000 years old at that, and would be thrown out of any court of law.
Dogmatic nonsense like Creationism need not even be dignified by a response.
Don't wait for the Truth to come to you. Most of your teachers in life will be either still-confused seekers or rigid dogmatists. If you are like me, you will seek until you find that it is the journey that is important, not the destination.
Follow your passion and, therefore, be what you were meant to be...and with any luck, you will have found all the "meaning" you need without having to cope with sin, atonement, redemption, salvation or excommunication. Be yourself and ENJOY being yourself.
Live in the real world. Walk in forests, touch the earth, own a dog, read to your kids, learn to sing and play music. Help others: you - yes, YOU - are NEEDED! Don't dribble your life away in front of any cathode ray tube, be it TV, Net or video game: They have their (very limited) place, but the media moguls have a vested interest in keeping you there ---- RESIST!
If I may conclude with a couple of my favourite quotes, noted down in my search for wisdom:

On Fundamentalism: "The desire for certainty is a snare which will entrap the child in us all." [This quote grabbed from a radio broadcast: unfortunately, I cannot identify its source.]

And this one, ironically from a Church magazine: "Pray in a storm but keep on rowing." Or: Call to God by all means, but live your life as though he wasn't there anyway!

Perhaps I am richer for having experienced the religious version of the "peace that passeth all understanding." I have at least had an inside view of the believer's mind: but I feel I have a deeper peace now, not a nervous peace that is forever looking over its shoulder.

Ian Carr,
PO Box 118,
Taree NSW 2430
Australia
Email: carrz@ozemail.com.au

Responses from freethinkers or troubled Christians are welcome. Responses from evangelists unnecessary, thank you.

homepage: http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/testimonials/carr.html
country: Australia
state: NSW
city: Taree
age_joined: 19
age_left: 41
where_been: Churches of Christ, Australia
what_now: rational humanist, skeptic
why_joined: peer influence, superficial evangelist-guided bible study
why_left: unable to reconcile Christian doctrine with reality; read widely on religion, science, history etc.; did some real Bible study