8/29/03                                                                                       View Comments

Southern Baptist to Gay Freethinker

by Tim Hale

I have to keep this short for now but my story goes something like this...

I was born and raised in a Southern Baptist household in the south. I believed everything I was taught by my family and church and "accepted Jesus" at the age of 9. After going through my early teen years, I felt like I hadn't really been old enough to know what I was doing at age 9, so I "accepted Jesus" again at age 15 - just to make sure it had taken!

Around the same time I began to realize that I had sexual feelings for boys rather than girls, and would pray every night to be healed from this sin.

By the time I was 21 I was very confused. I hadn't had sex yet - explaining to my church friends that I was holding off until I got married.

At age 21 I went on a drive with a guy I worked with so I could witness to him about jesus. He was very actively sexually (with women), and I thought he should stop this sinful lifestyle - what a hypocrite I was! In the middle of my sermon, the guy leaned over and started playing with my crotch. Turned out he was bisexual and had learned the true secret to stopping a missionary in his tracks!!!

Needless to say, I stopped talking about jesus and started moaning. For the next 15 years I basically forgot about christianity and fully explored my new lifestyle. As I reached my late 30s I began to look into whether or not my sexual orientation could be reconciled with the bible.

As I studied the bible more and more, I discovered discrepancies that I had never seen before. I also realized that this god I had been worshipping wouldn't be worthy of worship even if it did exist. My eyes were opened and I have spent the past three years as a budding freethinker.

The book that helped the most for me was Dan Barker's "Losing Faith in Faith", although there have been several others that have confirmed my disbelief and strengthened by conviction that god is a lie (or should I say that all gods are lies).

I now am involved in church/state separation politics and am beginning to reach out to my Southern Baptist family trying to win them over from faith to reason.

City: Dallas
State: TX
Country: USA
Became a Christian: 9 and 15 (I was baptized twice)
Ceased being a Christian: 21
Labels before: Southern Baptist
Labels now: Atheist, Freethinker, Secular Humanist
Why I joined: Raised in Southern Baptist Church
Why I left: After studying bible to reconcile fundamental christianity and sexual
orientation

8/19/03                                                                                       View Comments

Re-Imagining God or What Happens When You Clean House.

by Stephen S. (Likeafish)
(dedicated to the members of the Open Forums)


“When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, 'I will return to the house I left.' When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first.” Luke 11:24-26

About a dozen years ago in a major US city there was a large feminist conference dedicated to the idea of re-imaging the divine. As anyone can guess, this didn’t sit well with people of the religious status quo. There were protests, talk radio bashing, and bellowing condemnation from pulpits all over the state.

I knew a few people who went to the conference. It sounded like a lot of hand-holding, hugging, singing, poems, with some scholarly lectures thrown in—kind of like bible camp with a hefty sermon or two. But it was the idea of using the imagination to reconsider our conception of the Almighty that got every conservative Xtian going. Why is applying the imagination to god so threatening?

The answers to that question are obvious. The relentless attacks on this site by hell-bent Xtians are a witness to the fear attendant to the very idea of rethinking the faith. Imagining other possibilities for human beings other than the confines of Xtianity might mean that Xtianity isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Besides, it doesn’t take much imagination to realize other implications implicit in the bible and Xtianity’s exclusive claims, implications less flattering to this “god of love.” Maybe some of these Xtians see that and it freaks them out. Who knows?

Since leaving my faith in Jesus I have been on a quest. I wasn’t sure what its nature was or how to define it properly. At first, when I discovered Xtian faith just couldn’t hold together with any real integrity in my mind and heart, it felt like all that I was left with was an enormous hole. Jesus was right in one respect. When one cleans house, other things tend to move in. Or so it seemed they would. I had cleaned my psychological house of my oppressive, confusing, witless, and ultimately imaginary god and something had to take its place, right?

For a while there was only the empty house, a void. Nothing seemed to fill it except a kind of dull, colorless hum called in clinical terms “depression.” I learned to sit in that void for a long time and I got used to it. I found Buddhism during that time and its rational view of things seemed to rightly describe the void I was experiencing. Depression, in Buddhism, is a natural mental response to the grasping we do in our lives in an attempt to always be full, happy, comforted, needed, loved, or, as in America, entertained. It is the illusion of self that we are clinging to, and we must let it go. Depression happens when all that “attachment” comes crumpling down. I still think that makes sense as far as it goes.

But finally I left Buddhism, for many reasons, the most important being that I felt myself slipping into another religion all over again, and that just simply didn’t sit right with me (I may have just made a Buddhist pun!). Once again I was being asked to accept a view of things that was already fully thought out for me. I wanted to learn what I thought, what my own voice was, and not the voice of a pastor or a slew of bible verses or creeds.

So what does this all have to do with imagination? Well, just this—when one imaginary god is eliminated, do I need another to take its place? Jesus was also wrong in another sense. The assumption Jesus makes is that people have no choice about what goes on in their heads and hearts. He assumes we are all at the mercy of these demons and ghosts who are waiting just behind our left ear to take us over. But I think he was wrong. And so was Buddha.

When we clean house of one undeserving god another need not immediately move in. And, contrary to what Buddhism suggests, we are not simply left with a void to embrace through meditation, striving for a static existence of detachment. Instead, we get to choose what we allow in and what we keep out of the house. We can keep that house neat and tidy, or we can clutter it up as much as we want. It’s our house. We can even lock the door. We can ask people, ideas, and religions to kindly knock first. And, as I have discovered, once the elephant is removed from the living room, one begins to see other things, treasures, in the house that had been forgotten. Loose change drops out of the old sofa. There’s a telescope in the corner of the closet and now I can go out in backyard and look up at the vastness of the universe. The house is now open and full of possibilities. Let’s get some new, more comfortable furniture and some more appealing pictures for the walls.

The Blank page (or the canvas, or the open field—your very own mind!). This is the void. And with what shall we fill it? Imagination itself. This is what comes to us when it is time to recreate the space left by a pre-imagined reality given to us by religion. And its primary tool is discipline, but not a harsh external task master who shapes one into something they do not intend. It is the discipline of learning to use the tools of a given craft, things like grammar and logic, and then making the choice of a goal to guide the process to completion. Is this enough? I think so. Look around. How do things get done?

As to which goals are worthy ones, this gets to the question of values, and that discussion is always ongoing as long as we are involved in life. The pretension of religion is that the conversation is over and all that is left is to obey. Such pretensions are not only unrealistic, they are unimaginative. And where would we be as people without imagination? Take a moment. Imagine it.

8/9/03                                                                                       View Comments

An Answer to Prayer

by Chain Breaker

If you are anything like me, you will be pleased to hear I am going to make this very short and to the point. The point of this is to encourage ex Christians. It may encourage new ex Christians, who are perhaps a little shaky in their new found skepticism, to know that I departed the fold after 31 rocky years as a Christian, but immediately following a time when my faith had never been stronger, and I had never felt more secure in it. The really weird thing is, I remember clearly praying this prayer several times: "Dear God, please let me know you as well as I can possibly know you. I do not want to know anything about you that humans can't know and are not meant to know, I only want to know what I can know." The rest, as they say, is history. I am absolutely staggered and amazed at the change in my life and in my thinking. My testimony is powerful and amazing, and yet it is the exact reverse of the Christian testimony, I am sure we have all heard so many times. People who know me best, especially my family, are astounded as to how on earth a person could change so much! Many depart the fold at a time of doubt and dissatisfaction with their faith, but how many depart the fold when they do not have the slightest desire to?

I can only describe it as like coming out of a coma. People I bitterly opposed, like Bishop Spong, I now liked and understood. I got my hands on every possible piece of literature written by scholars who had seen through the tenuous veneer of the Christian religion to its mythical underpinnings. I read a lot of stuff written by people associated with the Jesus Seminar. There was no turning back. Even the writings of famous agnostics and atheists, I had been conditioned to loathe, suddenly began making sense to me. This was so not me! I swear I am a living, breathing specimen of the Damascus road experience in reverse!

The benefit of having reached 54 years of age is that your past takes on perspective. And looking back over the thirty years of my Christian experience I can see a definite, unmistakeable pattern. I call it my exodus from myth. I will not bore you with all the ins and outs of it, but very briefly it goes something like this:

I left Catholicism, the religion I was born into, which, as you no doubt know, is packed to the rafters with superstition and mythological teachings, for a biblically fundamental Protestant faith. While in that faith, my understanding of religion went from legalistic to grace centred, causing me to leave that denomination and hang out with Christians more moderate to liberal in their thinking. Finally, I find myself right outside all religious belief entirely and feeling more at home with the thinking of "Mark Twain," Robert Ingersoll, Bertrand Russell and the Internet Infidels. And now you guys! And all in answer to prayer! But seriously, maybe my prayer was just an expression of what had been going on in my subconscious mind for all those years, as I gradually, unknowingly, distanced myself further and further from the unreality of religious belief and closer and closer to the reality of life as it really is. Perhaps my subconscious mind, recognised my conscious mind had had enough preparation and was ready to face reality. Maybe that is why I prayed that prayer. Who knows?

Where are we all heading? What are the secrets of our magnificent, scary, unfolding universe? Again, who knows? But somehow, the exhiliration, the energy and excitement that comes with uncertainty has made me more passionate about this mysterious world of ours than it ever did when I believed everything had been all very neatly planned out and revealed in the bible. Let's share the adventure together. I have no idea where it will lead us, but it's real.

I am male.

I became a born again fundamentalist Christian at 21

I ceased being a Christian when I awoke from my self induced coma at 52

I was born Catholic then born again fundamentalist by choice

Now I am an Ex Christian who doesn't find labels helpful at this stage

Why I left? I awoke to the mythology of religion after praying for truth!