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.


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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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