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11/25/04                                                                                       View Comments

Waking up

sent in by Anonymous

I was born into a fundamentalist family and "saved" at the
early age of 4. While I was younger, i was not embarrassed to flaunt my religious beliefs and would strongly argue anyone who disagreed with me or seemed to threaten my beliefs. I remember trying to convert everyone I met, feeling genuinely concerned about whether or not they would go to hell. My parents' religion was very strict and my earliest memories are packed with heavy indoctrination.

I was taught that the only way i would go to "heaven" was by praying and asking jesus to forgive my sins. After that I would have to live like jesus would...a sinless, righteous life, doing nothing but good. I was taught through example that women should submit to men and obey their husbands unconditionally...if not, they were sinners. I was supposed to read the bible daily, and pray throughout the day, and enjoy it. But as I grew older, constant prayer became nothing more than the result of a deeply engrained fear of death and eternal damnation.

I remember lying awake in my bed late into the night, terrified and praying that god would somehow protect me from earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, fires, robberies, or any other disaster that might occur while i was sleeping. This was the effect of being taught to not use logic, and only have faith. The definition of faith is to believe in something which has not been proven. In order to have faith, one must ignore all logical evidence for what's real and believe entirely in something they don't have scientific proof for. The older I got, the more obvious the faults in this way of life would become to me.

When i was about 8, my parents decided to become missionaries. I was thrilled! I couldn't wait to go to a foreign country and share my religion with other people. During the process of deputation, i was further brainwashed into letting other people think for me. i was taught how to battle others, using the bible.

After about two years of deputation, we moved to south america, where my father's main goal was to plant churches. After a few attempts over a couple of years, we managed to establish a small congregation of about ten or more families. The people were very receptive to the teachings we brought them. During our stay in chile, we began to leave behind our fundy ways and began to live more comfortably. but there were still problems created by the several years of hard core programming of legalism. the funny thing is, people who are brainwashed, have no clue that they are.
they think they are thinking for themselves when in reality, they are completely controlled by the church and its leaders. they will swear up and down that their religion is the way to go, that their church does not pressure them at all in any way to do anything. the church is sneaky though and can get its members to do anything with group pressure, no matter what denomination or religion it is...because the church creates an environment where at first, people feel like they can belong. once they become involved, they can't get out. humans have an inborn need to belong to a group. this was an instinct that evolved in early humans that helped them to survive. a group of people was more likely to survive in a blizzard than a single person.

Anyway, as we grew further away from fundamentalism, we began to see how it had affected our family. we began communicating more efficiently, but there was still a blockade created by religion that didn't quite allow us to be ourselves around each other.

about three years into our stay in south america, a family of charismatic pentecostal background joined our church. they brought with them a whole shitload of new ideas and methods of worship. our church services became more noisy. people began swaying and waving their arms during prayer. but the really disturbing changes came when this family persuaded my father to take our congregation to their old church, a member of the G-12 movement.
by this time, i was beginning to have serious doubts about the existence of a god. the discovery channel was starting to really make sense to me.

when we began attending services at this pentecostal church, it scared me.
people seemed to be going crazy, speaking in tongues, casting out demons, convulsing on the floor.

Little did we all know, at the time, my father was having serious doubts as well. He has studied the bible inside and out, and understands it very well. As he now tells us, back then he was scared of his doubts and that was the reason we became involved with the pentecostals.

For a while, all this creepy nonsense going on in the church somehow made me want to believe and i did...until they sent me to a YOUTH ENCOUNTER. just the name ENCOUNTER gave me the creeps. the purpose of these retreats is to teach young people about the way god wants them to live. It is meant to create a tight bond between youth and god and the church. but for me, it had the opposite effect it was supposed to. I was 14. the first day nearly pulled me in. they told us all these awful stories about how jesus had suffered for us. they told us how much he loved us and wanted us to live righteous lives so we could be with him after we died. but on the second day, they did what they call a LIBERATION. that's when they cast out demons and do all the annointing and stuff. they had us sit in a circle and try to make ourselves vomit, telling us that it would cast out demons. then they had the whole room of 300 girls stand up as the LEADERS walked around carrying little bottles of oil and annointed us. they had told us that after annointment the holy spirit would fill us and we would fall to the ground weeping. i watched as all the other girls in the room actually did fall to the ground sobbing. we were told to close our eyes and speak in tongues as they annointed us. i didn't fall. when they had passed me up, i opened my eyes and looked around. My sister and i were the only people still standing in the entire room. something happened to me that day. i realized that all those other girls had fallen only because they had been told they would. That woke up my sense of being an individual. the rest of the encounter, i found the strength to resist what they were trying do to my mind. i didn't follow suit when the others prayed or sang or spoke in tongues. instead i spent the rest of the time in introspection...studying myself on the inside and realizing that the whole thing was just a bunch of bullshit. I still believed in god at that point, but i didn't like him. he was slowly beginning to look like a tyrant...a bad, no horrible parent.

our envolvement in the pentecostal church eventually drove us back to the US. my dad might have lost his job had he stayed. there were some fundy missionaries who threatened to tell the baptists what we had been up to.
Upon our return, we promptly disontinued our once mandatory attendance to church. We began discussing our adventures in the mission field more freely and about a year later, much to our surprise, every member of my family admitted to not believing in god. from that point on, life became incredibly comfortable. we no longer had a need to shove our beliefs down other people's throats, or the desire to argue with people who wanted to debate us about it. the way we see it now...let everyone believe whatever the hell they want. it's not going to affect them in the end anyway, because when they die, they cease to exist, and their beliefs during life will no longer matter. it will be the end. i no longer fear death on any level. while i still want to be alive, i do not fear dying because unlike before, i don't believe in heaven or hell, so i don't have to worry about which one i will go to. the way i think of it now, when i die, i will be no more. there's nothing to look forward to and nothing to fear, so why should death matter. it's only a part of life. death completes life.

And now, for all you fundy nuts who might want to comment on my testimony...let me just tell you this...I'm happier than i've ever been in my life because i don't have a religion. before you try to convert me, let me just tell you, you're wasting your time because i have no need to return to where you are...attending church once or twice a week, praying every night...it's all just unattractive to me...plus, i like having sundays off and i'd rather be watching about evolution on the discovery channel than praying before i go to bed. Good night everybody!

Sex: female
State: arizona
Country: US
Became a Christian: 4
Ceased being a Christian: 15
Labels before: Fundy Baptists, Charismatic Pentecostal
Labels now: ATHEIST AND HAPPY
Why I joined: Born into it
Why I left: I started thinking for myself