1/21/02                                                                                       View Comments

A Pagan Now

Received Monday, January 21, 2002

Hi David - your website's very moving; I shall read some of the ex-Christian books. I too got caught up in the charismatic thing; I was training to be a Bible translator when my father died very suddenly of cancer. I was blamed by my church for not having enough faith to allow God to heal him. I left the church and left Christianity about a year later. At about the same time time a close friend was raped by a member of her church; he reached the elders before she did, told them they'd been having an affair but he now repented, and she was kicked out of the church for fornication. They screwed so thoroughly with her head that she wasn't able to go to the police because they made her think it was her fault.

I spent a few months exploring what I really believed and ended up a Pagan and more specifically a witch, but that's another story. I've healed sufficiently in the intervening years to now become involved in interfaith discussions and e-lists; most Christians deny that I could ever have been a Christian but frankly that's their problem. One of the most helpful books I read was "Combatting Cult Mind Control" by Steven Hassan; it took me a few months to accept that I wasn't going to lose my job, get repossessed and end up with cancer because I had deliberately removed myself from God's protection. It all seems so bizarre now but it's so totally absorbing when you're in it that you literally cannot "see" straight.

Regards,
Julie

1/9/02                                                                                       View Comments

5 Years of Hell

by Spider Monkey

Long, rambling, un-PC, and extraordinarily snarky, but hopefully worth the read.

The drama started in 1995, when I was 13. My father had "found the lord" that summer when I was staying with my grandparents. Being the na├»ve, sheltered child that I was, I had squashed out my initial doubts and began believing the xian propaganda about the loving biblegod and his abilities to change people. Before the saga began, I had had limited experience with the Southern Baptists during vacation buybull school. I was a loner, an outcast among my peers, and I wasn't getting along with my parents. During this time in my life, I was often suicidal and depressed. I was happy that I would finally become part of a loving church family….

Was I ever wrong.

I had the feeling that something was wrong early on. I was expecting a miracle to transform the short-temper and impatience of my father. Instead, he became more punitive, arrogant, and hypocritical. My brother and I were forced to go to Sunday morning worship, Sunday night indoctrination sessions (excuse me, "Sunday school") and Wednesday night youth group. As before his conversion, I was never good enough for him, no matter what I did. He expected my brother and me to act like perfect xians, and when we didn't, we were punished. Once, I attempted to ask him a question, and he barked, "Can't you see I'm praying?!" I left the room in tears; this was not the behavior that I expected from someone who claimed to be a loving xian and from someone who was admired by his entire church. At the same time he became more obnoxious at home, he grew to be more respected by the church…strange. This trend continues to this day.

My father was not the only hypocrite who discouraged me from the church. My brother and I were members of the youth group, and I remember leaving my first youth group meeting on the verge of tears because I felt that the members were not friendly or genuine. Liquid nitrogen was warmer than the patronizing welcome I received. My first impression was correct. I encountered the same puerile annoyances that gave me heartburn in school (cliques, gossip, popularity contests, etc.) time after miserable time again, but my father, who vociferously denounced childish traits in my brother and me and found flaws in us that no one else could see, simply dismissed their annoying behavior with the ever-so-invalidating "They're just teeeeeeeeeenagers." I always felt excluded and unloved, and these feelings were amplified by the fact that the youth pastors we had were barely older than the youth group members (one was 23, the next was 27) and had not fully outgrown high-school immaturity (they encouraged it in a few occasions). Incidentally, both pastors left under shady circumstances and used the trite claim that it was "god's holey will." I digress. Whenever I tried to tell anyone about how I felt concerning the youth group, I got the same patronizing old "They're just teeeeeeeeeenagers. No one is puuuuuurfect, you know." Apparently some teenagers are less deserving of respect than others, and I was one of the undeserving few.

These people were selfish and callous. I was told by one boy that he didn't want to date me because he wanted "a closer walk with god" only to see him two weeks later with another - more popular - girl hanging all over him like a maggot on shit. I found out at a "foot-washing service" (Pentecostal fanatics, foot-fetishists extraordinaire, love those things) that people were talking trash about me behind my back and that no one was trying to stop the gossip. I quote, "Will you forgive me for not standing up for you when people talk about you behind your back?" Of course, telling people how I felt got me nothing except "pray about it and gawd will heal you/ People aren't perfect; only gawd is perfect"-type tripe. To them, I was a fat, ugly, geeky bitch troll with a horrible personality, and nothing I did helped me. During my junior year of high school, I began seeing a psychiatrist -if my school and church peers all thought I was weird, didn't that mean I really and truly was weird? I wanted to medicate all of that "strangeness" away….after all, it was my big bad attitude that alienated all of the sweet, loving church folk and my loneliness was all my fault.

If buybull-god was so loving and caring, why did I feel so hated and ignored when I was with his people? I never got a sincere answer to this question in the five years I attended the cult.

I desperately tried to fit. I sang the songs, I worshiped, I attended youth events outside of church, and at one point, I considered myself "saved." No matter how I tried, I just never felt good enough! I was ignored by my church peers except to be teased and backstabbed. I had few "friends," and I sat alone during most services. The adults didn't care about how I felt, and at one point, I was accused of whining just to get attention. During a New Year's Eve bowling party, the pastor's busybody of a wife once chased me into a public restroom (I had gone there to cry in peace) and YELLED at me about how selfish I was being (I was upset about feeling excluded by my peers) and other bowling alley patrons were in there. This is the same cuntrag that had said several hurtful things to me previously, with the obligatory lame pleas for forgiveness shortly afterward. I was mortified and angry.

What was my response to all of this nonsense? I delved further into spirituality. At this point (between the ages of 14-16) I believed that my problems at church were caused by my lack of faithfulness, and that god was punishing me with loneliness. I began pressing further into the faith, because I honestly believed that if I became more like god, I would please my father, make friends at church, and fit in at school. When I began college at 17, I wanted to "make a difference for jaysus." I hyped up the spirituality and joined a group of "teenagers on fire for god." During the summer before I started college, I began attending church 4 times a week, singing in the church choir, attending both Sunday morning services, playing in the worship band, participating in a college xian group, and spending more time with xians. I also sat on my plump rump that whole summer, without a job (hindsight: forgoing at least $2000), so I could spend the time getting closer to god. Because I was taking all of that "evangelize or burn" rhetoric seriously, I began spreading the word everywhere I could - at one point, I gave a speech in my college freshman speech class about the benefits of prayer in schools.

Fall semester of 1999 -- my first semester of college -- was when I approached the breaking point. One of my classmates (and his friends) in the aforementioned speech class enjoyed teasing me, especially when I was trying to give speeches. Looking back, this teasing was a direct consequence of my speech supporting prayer. My father was still a hypocrite, youth group still reeked of childish behavior, and the adults were still insensitive - and on top of this, the teasing began in a place where I never thought it would happen. I had always shied away from evangelizing because I predicted that I would be ridiculed; this particular church believes that the lack of religious persecution signals a lack of faith. I never imagined that this hostility from church outsiders would feel so bad!

I became despondent. I had done everything that church told me to do, but I didn't fit in with my family, my church, or with the "sinning world." My attempts to help the church resulted in reprimands instead of gratitude. On one occasion, some of the choir members requested that I call my father and ask him if he could videotape the xmas musical performance. I happily obliged, promptly calling Dad at home, but when I attempted to inform the demanding cult members of his reply (with the phone still in my hand), they picked at me for stretching the phone cord too far. I would leave the church crying so hard that I couldn't see while driving, and I began experiencing blackouts -I began abusing mood stabilizers and antidepressants in an effort to make myself "normal" like the other church people. In addition to the depression that had plagued me on and off throughout the years, I began feeling Despite my desperate attempts to self-medicate my colorful personality into oblivion, at times I would scream and cry about how I wanted to die because my life was so miserable. One wonders if I did, indeed, suffer a nervous breakdown after the conclusion of that semester.

Nearly a year passed. It was September of 2000. I continued to throw myself into church-related activities but still felt the gut ache of loneliness when I was at church. At this point, I was no longer required to go to church by my father. I felt that I had to endure the church's abuse in order to become godly, hence my extended participation in the cult. I thought that becoming a member of the church would improve my relations with other churchgoers, and I signed up for the church membership class. Incidentally, I met my current boyfriend in September of that year completely by chance. Boytoy (name changed to protect the innocent), a fellow student at my university, happened to be Catholic; however, pentecultalism preaches a strong "Catholics aren't spiritual enough" sentiment. At this point, I had known him for about a week and was still in the "infatuation" stage. I told my (FORMER) church friends, a married couple to be specific, about him and shared all of his good traits; however, they sat there slack-jawed throughout my description, and the only question that they could ask me was "Well, is he saaaaaved?" Since he was Catholic, I didn't know how to respond….if these pentecostals disliked Catholics so much, how would they view his faith? I hastily answered "No." This "friend" proceeded to patronize me, telling me that I should follow the bible - apparently he thought I was cattle, because he went on and on ad nauseum about being "unequally yoked." Wifeypoo sat there in proper stepfordized fundysheep fashion, not wanting to offend the almighty bearer of the holy Y chromosome. I thought that his response was inappropriate - all of the church guys I had dated were losers, so I finally met a good man, but the church people offered me bitchiness instead of congratulations. I was quickly growing tired of the intolerance, dogmatism, and closed-mindedness exhibited by "loving" xians….not to mention the church politics, popularity contests and other malarkey that was becoming more apparent with each service I attended. I felt betrayed and cheated. Like so many times before, I departed from xian comradeship in tears.

Around the same time that this lovely little exchange occurred, I performed in a small, amateurish praise and worship session in my university's student center plaza. I had signed up to take part in this musical brainwashing session about two months prior to the performance. Boy and I were still getting to know one another at the time of the performance and I was still in the extreme self-consciousness phase. (Fortunately he never saw me there that day!) The entire time I was playing the keyboard and singing, I was consumed with self-consciousness and a sense of rage that I hadn't felt before. I was sick of going through the motions of xianity just to feel like a fool, and I was tired of risking ridicule for the sake of the gospel. I had done everything the church and the buybull told me to do and all I had to show for it was five years of pain and degradation. Words could not express my sense of shame.

I began tearing myself away from the church shortly thereafter, attending church every few weeks (only on Sundays) and ditching all of the other activities. It was difficult because, although these people were abusive, I didn't have anyone else in my life besides my family and my boyfriend, and I wasn't getting along with anyone in my family at the time.

Around the following January/ February, after the initial emotional turmoil cooled off, I began to observe logic flaws in xianity and pentecultalism, and I began to remember previous logic fallacies that I had encountered previously but had justified away with typical xian apologeticrap. Contrary to what some in my family may believe, I did not leave the church for a man. The "inerrant and inspired" buybull was exactly that - BULL. (So many errors, so little time…) In addition, I never received "straight answers" when I questioned any aspect of xianity -- ranging from biblical errors to church gossip. pentecostal doctrine and ideals and church behaviors and attitudes differed from one another in incriminating ways. Often the doctrine paid lip service to different things (e.g., gender equality) but lip service was as far as it got. They went on and on about how being single is a blessing and how some people travel the world for jayzus, but they had subtle prejudices against those who were unmarried and/or without children. Even at the age of eighteen, I felt the strong pressure to get married and have children, and I saw the biases against those who chose not to get married and have 2.5 kids/ a house in the suburbs with a white picket fence/ a shiny new SUV/ what have you.

Sermons were based on emotionalism, twisted facts, and extremely biased opinions…reminding me all too much of what I had learned about Hitler and his propaganda. Uninformed, unresearched claptrap, such as the notion that the "terrible twos" is a product of the sinful nature showing itself, was passed off as truth. In the five years that my ears were bombarded with statistics and information on parenting, abortion, schools, etc., I do not remember the pastor crediting any reliable sources with supplying the information.

These aspects of the church had bothered me before, but now I was seeing them with completely new eyes. All of the anger that had been building up over the last five years finally boiled over due to my new realizations. I destroyed my "study bible" enhanced specifically for pentecostals, quit praying, threw away my numerous prayer journals, and stopped attending church altogether. I managed to cut 99.9% of the church people out of my life (save Daddie Dearest and a few others), a pursuit aided by the strange willingness of god's "unconditionally loving" followers to ditch me.

Contrary to the bleatings of church sheep, it was not easy to "walk away," as they put it -- Hobbling away with a boot up my ass was more like it. I'll spare the gory details, but my entire life was turned on its ear, and it took a while for normalcy to return. Hell, to this day, I don't even know if normalcy has returned, but oh well…

I left the fundycult approximately two years ago. I rejected all faith in god and proclaimed myself atheist and anti-xian! I oppose organized religion, especially fundamentalism, with the same passion with which I once served an imaginary deity. Although the abrasive tone of this apostasy story may indicate otherwise, life is getting better and I'm pleased with the progress I've made thus far.

I Became a Christian at age 13
I Ceased being a Chrisitan at about 18
I am a female from Ohio, USA
My past label was Assemblies of God/ Pentecostal ::shudders::.
Why I Joined Christianity? Family coercion
Why I Left? A long story....