9/27/04                                                                                       View Comments

How to lose your religion...

sent in by Mark


I was born in Pusan, South Korea (1979) and I was adopted by American parents when I was three years old. My American mom is the type of person that is “spiritual” but not religious. You all know the type. She believes Jesus Christ “saved” her and there is a power greater than she is, but she doesn’t adhere to any one denomination of Christianity. She still has the Protestant Christian biases she learned while growing up Seventh Day Adventist. My father is not very religious but he used to go to church with us and was raised a Catholic.

There are several phases of losing your religion: transition away from a literal interpretation of the Bible, movement toward being “spiritual” and not religious, discovery of logical and factual flaws in the Bible, becoming an apologist, deep skepticism, and finally, agnosticism or atheism.

I’d say that I was a typical Christian until I started to think for myself while in high school. Guys mature slower than girls, both physically and mentally. But in High School, guys mature very rapidly as you all know.

I went to a Catholic High School even though was always taught that Catholicism was close to paganism. The first day in religion class the Priest told us that the story of Creation was like a gift where the metaphors were the wrapping. The gift inside was the message of the story. What the Catholic Church and the Protestant Churches taught over time has changed. This is the first thing that should give believers pause. When I was a kid and when my parents were young, the church was taught by fundamentalists that took every word of the Bible as fact. After science has disproved many things in the Bible, Christians learned to “interpret” the Bible as symbolic in some cases but literal in other cases. How do you tell between the two? Christians still believe in miracles.

Also, Protestants accuse Catholics of being pagans and making up “tradition”, when even Protestants are guilty of this. After this realization the typical believer becomes “spiritual” and not religious.

Second, if you read the Bible critically, you will find many logical and factual flaws. For instance, there was no eclipse during the time Jesus supposedly died on the Cross. Showing that Jesus came from the line of David through Joseph is illogical. The line is only kept by the men. Since Jesus was not Joseph’s son, he can’t be from the line of David, thus Jesus does not fulfill the Jewish prophesies. There are probably many things in the story of Jesus that were inserted to fulfill some Jewish prophecy. Christianity is radically different from Judaism. Does the New Testament override the Torah in places of conflict? These are the questions people need to ask themselves.

There is no secular first hand account of Jesus. This is quite odd for a prophet that supposedly had thousands of followers and was crucified by Romans. Constantine probably changed the story of Jesus to absolve the Roman Empire of blame in the story. I also wouldn’t be surprised if the Library of Alexandria was burned down to obfuscate the story of the early Christians and Jesus, who is probably an amalgamation of various mythologies. How can you trust the Bible when you realize it was written by men and there were many mistakes?

Third, you become skeptical of Christianity but still believe there is a kernel of truth, thus you become an apologist for your religion. But soon, this washes away in sadness and you finally become an agnostic or atheist. Later on you begin to realize you can till be happy without the illusion of religion and God.

Value is derived from human beings and when a person dies, it is wiped away. People create value for themselves and use symbols to interpret the world. We can choose any action without any limitations. However, the brotherhood of man and the universal survival of human beings is the force that drives a prosperous society. Let us live and be happy while alive, if that is what we choose.

Embrace your humanity and become the son of man.



City: New York
State: NY
Country: USA
Became a Christian: 3
Ceased being a Christian: 15
Labels before: Methodist
Labels now: Agnostic
Why I joined: Brainwashed as a small child
Why I left: Christianity is for the mindless that seek happiness after they die, when they should be seeking it when they are alive.
Email Address: mrk_lan AT yahoo DOT com.

9/26/04                                                                                       View Comments

A different view of God

sent in by Ravnostic

My story begins with a secular childhood. My mother's family wasn't particularly religious and my dad didn't have time to waste in church, he worked 7 days to put food on the table and wasn't going to piss away 10% to a god he figured didn't need it (god's minions did, though.)

So at about 8 yrs of age we move to Arizona, in Mesa. Mesa in 1975 was nothing but a mormon community, and after a few months dad realized the only way to get by was to join the church. I was baptized at about 8 yrs old or so. Sure enough, dad did well, eventually getting the contract in his field to repair the churches. So having been established, he ceased to go. I was probably 10 or so then.

I was a smart little twerp--I knew I was gay all my life but didn't know the word till I was in 3rd grade, overheard it on TV and looked it up in the encyclopedia at school (you can imagine--book cracked open just a hair so no one could see what I was reading.) And having been to more than a few services, I knew it wasn't accepted in the Mormon world I lived in. But the encyclo covered all that--said that the Amer. Psychological Assn determined it was a normal variant, but that society hadn't caught up to that belief. So I kept going to church, but I took their teaching with a grain of salt.

Then came AIDS, in my early teen years. I figured I'd be dead by 30 (the outlook was pretty grim in the early 80's, but I'm now 36 and HIV-, so I guess safe sex is effective ), so I didn't really plan for the future. I was apt to be influenced and in my teens watched the Christian Broadcasts, did the whole 'Jesus free me from my sins' thing, but promply forgot it the next day/week whatever.

In my teens I had a guy who I fooled around with, and when we were 18 he met a girl who had moved in next door. Her mother was one of those who followed a guy named William Branham, a real whackjob prophet (his group is still around); I listened, but still didn't really believe--I just believed that she did (she had a near-death experience and believed she had seen Christ and the Devil while there).

He eventually married her and got sucked into her religion, his only former friend is another who got sucked in, too. She ousted me by saying that my 'illness' could infect her children. Her mother believed her providence protected her kids, I guess the daughter's faith was week. I didn't tell her that her husband had been screwing around with me for 7 years, I wasn't mean and he did have to live with her. But what a b*tch!

So religion wasn't particularly good to me. It was nice when my mom was in the hospital that the mormons brought us fresh meals, so I did learn compassion from them, but bring up homosexuality and the compassion fades fast. When my grandfather dies, I plan on requesting to be excommunicated (no reason to upset my grandfather, though, and not so important to me as in my heart I'm already a jack-mormon.)

Post 9-11, I started studying religion (what gives? I asked. Who are these nutballs?). I've read a number of books on the topic; I highly recommend Karen Armstrong, an exnun that has written great books on the history of God. I've found that religion evolves like everything else. It changes to suit the times, and if the change isn't wanted, that part of Christianity dies. I've learned where this current fundementalist agenda comes from, so I can at least understand it intellectually. Know thy enemy, so they say. Most importantly, I have learned to refute their claims in some pretty outstanding ways. I use the good book against them when needed. I've had discourse with one guy (who gave up when he realized I wasn't a seeker) who simply could not validate his positions intellectually.

Honestly, I view religion in general as a good thing, but the Fundy's have really started to screw things up in my view. I consider them intellectually inferior, simply because they do not use their 'god given' senses to rationally analyze the world. Their source material is 2000 years out of date, and they refuse to upgrade. It's rather sad that they produce like bunnies, as that is the surest way of increasing their #s.

Here's a few zingers I like to use when appropriate:

Have you been saved?: No, I haven't even been spent yet.

"The Lord is my shepard et. al.": You know why shepards keep a flock of sheep? It's not for the good of the herd. Shepards keep them to milk them of the food for their young, to fleece them for their fur, to eat them for supper, or in some instances, to fornicate with them. Now, I'd say I'd rather be on the shepard end of the bargain.

On the homeless begging: I have a little card that quotes 2 Thes:
3:11
For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies.

3:12
Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.

3:13
But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing.

3:14
And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.

3:15
Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.


So I give them a card that says I have no Money/food/time/sympathy/cigarettes for you today, with a smiley face and a Christian cross on the front, and that quote in the back. Quite effective, especially if you ask them if they are christian as you reach for the card IN YOUR WALLET (of course they say yes, so it's a double dinger.) Now, I should state, I'll buy virtually anything a homeless guy can make to sell, but I do not give to those who do nothing and just want a handout.

Anywho, some of you have been vehomently cruel in your Christian bashing, keep in mind that hatred stems from fear, and perhaps you're still a bit fearful that you're wrong. Don't be. There is no god, in the Christian sense anyway, but life has much to offer without him. Hatred gains no worth, just pity those too dumb to do better.


Sex: Male
City: Mesa
State: Az
Country: USA
Became a Christian: 8
Ceased being a Christian: ~20
Labels before: Mormon
Labels now: consciously sentient
Why I joined: family
Why I left: did I ever really believe?
Email Address: notspent at cox dot net

9/25/04                                                                                       View Comments

So many choices of religion makes the whole "holier than thou" mentality of Christians absolutely arrogant

sent in by Paul

It was a fairly easy choice for me to abandon religion. I've always been an independent thinker. I would (and still) often do things that were against the grain just because they were not what others wanted me to do.

In my early childhood (up to age 7), I enjoyed being Catholic. I liked my little communion book because of the gold edges on the pages. I didn't like the list of cardinal and venial sins at the back of it. There was just too much on the list and if I did any of those things, I certainly wouldn’t want to tell a priest. As for home life, my parents seemed to like each other. They were separated in 1983, but got back together shortly after that. I never liked my parents anyway. They were too mean. I just wanted to do my own thing. I wasn’t much trouble unless I was being told not to do something for a reason that was illogical to me. I loved my grandmother, though. She was, to me, an angel. The nicest person in my world - she always stopped my parents from hitting me.

Then, my grandmother died on Christmas Eve in 1985. I was playing with the toys she bought me when my parents told me. For years, I couldn't even look at a picture of her without crying. I resented god for taking gram away. (Notice that I refuse to give that silly word "god" any sort of validity by capitalizing it.) My parents broke up yet again. Thankfully, I stopped going to Catholic school when I was 9. Unfortunately, I had trouble adjusting to public school. I put on weight, too. I prayed for things to get better, but that never seemed to work. I became disenchanted with school, which lasted until I started college. Most importantly, I questioned the existence of any “god”. I began to think, 'How could Catholicism be right? There are so many other religions in the world. How could they all be wrong?"

Throughout my childhood, my family moved around a lot. I went to many schools and was not popular at any of them. Sometimes my parents were together and sometimes they were apart. I renounced god at 10 because I knew it was a load of crap. I like how George Carlin put it, "superstitious medieval religious bullsh*t", and how Allen Ginsberg put it, "Judeo-Christian-Islamic brainwash."

My parents were pretty much non-practicing Catholics. We’d go to church every now again, but not religiously! The first alternative I tried was Wicca at age 12. Why not? It existed before Catholicism raped the minds of Europe and it seemed to be a little more in tune with nature and the self. I didn't buy into the whole multiple gods idea - mostly just the personal power that is promoted through spellcraft. The most important thing was that I started to believe in MYSELF and realize that only I could make MY situation better - not some deity whose existence is unproven. I was done with Wicca by age 15. It was a bit too superstitious for me. I feel silly when something is too methodical. It made me wonder, “Is all this ceremony really necessary to accomplish my goals?”

Despite my obvious disinterest, I went through one final year of Sunday school. It only served to confirm my distaste for Catholicism. I loved the one time when the priest told us "the Protestant branches of Christianity were not valid because they were not connected with the dope (er...I mean pope)." I found it interesting that two groups that believed in basically the same thing can sit around and say the other one is wrong. Another classic line from him was that "it is sacrilegious to even read a horoscope." I went through with confirmation only because my parents were breaking up for the last time (getting divorced). I clearly indicated that I didn't believe in Christian bullsh*t (and that's exactly how I put it). Mom said that I wouldn't have to go to church any more after this. Wonderful! There was also a party for this, so at the very least I earned around $300 for a good act and could finally move on with my life. Only one relative gave me something other than money. My aunt gave me a porcelain cross because she got off the wrong subway exit in Boston and ended up right in front of a Catholic book store. She thought it was a sign. Blah blah blah...I threw it in the trash not too long after that! I bought myself a TV with the money, so I could watch more late-night soft-core porn movies! I always wondered why Christians were so uptight about sex. What’s the big deal? We are animals – just read the news sometime and that’s plain to see. Sex is NATURAL and not to be ashamed of. The human body is beautiful. I’ve always been attracted to men and women, yet another reason for me to drop the Catholicism. Why should I believe in something that doesn’t believe in me? I’ve had fantasies of both sexes since I was 10 years old. I don't need someone to tell me that's not NATURAL. That IS natural for me. No one forced me into that mindset. I don’t think we even had cable at that point, so let's not blame the TV either (another classic scapegoat).

As a last act of rebellion, I burnt the sin pages of that stupid little communion book that I so loved as a child. It was small enough to burn in an ashtray in my room, so I did. I also tried to burn this “New Testament only” bible that we were given during confirmation classes, but only the edges were burning and I was getting annoyed. I didn't have a big fireplace to put it in anyway, so I ripped it up and threw it out instead. As I suspected, nothing bad happened to me.

In my later teens I practiced meditation and became interested in Taoism and Buddhism. I liked Eastern philosophy - it didn't preach this or that about afterlife, just told you how to live your own life better. Where is that higher self anyway? I never found him. The Eastern religions, while ten times better than Catholicism, are still a bit superstitious for my taste. I have trouble believing in anything. That's pretty much how I ended up believing only in myself. Catholicism did not teach me anything about self-reliance, only remorse, guilt, and “ask and ye shall receive”. I had to learn self-reliance on my own. I had no self-confidence for the longest time, but I started reading self-help books at age 15. I stopped around age 18 - I figured I was as well as I'm going to be. There comes a point when you just have to start living. I am to the point now where I push myself to do things I fear. I used to have a lot of social phobias. Going to 7 schools, making few friends, and being picked on constantly will do that to you. My thoughts now are that a CONSCIOUS decision to change are so much better than praying, meditating, or any other indirect method. Now I am 25, long freed of Catholic brainwash and in control of my own destiny.

I am lucky to have been allowed to think for myself. Actually, I don't think I would have lasted in my household if I hadn't been allowed to. I've always been a pretty stubborn person and I like to make up my own mind. If other children were allowed to find their own path in life, I wonder how many would actually choose the religious lifestyle? Sure, there are the scared types that need comfort because they can't deal with the unknown. Not me – I embrace the unknown. Bring it on. Who needs an answer? I don't have all the answers and I don't need some childish idea like god to justify my existence. No one knows what happens to us when we die. We'll find out when we get there. I just try to be a good person in my own life. I don't waste my time worrying about what everyone else is doing. But you do have to wonder – if all children never heard of this god idea, especially not in the Catholic ingrain-it-in-their-head-from-birth style, how many would naturally come upon such a notion? I don't understand how a person with even a modicum of intelligence can live with this idea of a god and not question it. It's like the parent who tells you to do or not do something because “I said so.” I never bought that argument from my parents and I certainly won't take it from some fairy tale deity.

By the way, all ye Christians who are appalled by this blasphemy but nonetheless continue to read, don't say something idiotic like “I'll pray for you.” Save your prayers for your Christian friends – I know you sheep like to hang out in flocks. For, if you're dumb enough to believe in god then you probably think Witchcraft is the work of the devil. Yes, you are correct! Ooga booga! I love how Christians demonized Wicca because the god of Wicca has horns and so does their devil. Yet, no one questions that PAGAN tradition of bringing trees indoors in the middle of winter. We just doll them up, slap the word Christ on it (as in Christmas tree), and suddenly it's all OK! Could Christianity be the Microsoft of religions, endlessly stealing ideas instead of being an innovator? I do have a point here, and it's this. At least with Wicca, there was a rule about magick. In Seax-Wicca, spells cast against the will of someone are forbidden. It is considered black magick to do this, even if the spell has good intentions. And all black magick returns to the caster threefold. Prayers are somewhat analogous to spells, though I seemed to get a lot more to happen casting spells than I ever did praying. Nonetheless, it follows that it is evil to pray for people who don't want it and you shall be cursed for it!



City: Syracuse area
State: NY
Country: USA
Became a Christian: 10
Ceased being a Christian: 10
Labels before: I was a Catholic, but decided to try other options
Labels now: I would say non-religious, but I do like a bit of Eastern philosophy
Why I joined: Catholic school
Why I left: Life went downhill after my grandmother died and no amount of praying made my situation better

9/19/04                                                                                       View Comments

Christian upbringing's the name, indoctrination's the game

sent in by Simon

If we all get new resurrection bodies when we die as the bible states, why was the tomb empty? What need would the resurrected Jesus have had for his original body?

Oh, where to start? I was taken along to church by my parents. They did what they thought was right. To be honest, apart from the hypocrital, cliquey, gossipy, closed-minded, hermetic, blinkered, black-and-white, headlong, unquestioning, cultish nature of my church, it was OK. It taught me to 'care about poor people', though many church members (especially ones my age and younger) seemingly couldn't care less. So it wasn't all bad in fairness.

I really started to question things quite late on, my late-teens and early-twenties. I am studying maths and physics at university, so I am reasonably inquisitive and like some evidence to backup a viewpoint. It was at this point that I realised that I had never been offered the slightest evidence for God's existence. So I went on a quest to find it. Rejection of Christianity followed.

For me, the worst part about rejecting Christianity was the mineshaft which was left behind. Your whole life changes. People thought I was being melodramatic when I wondered what the point of making a cup of coffee was. Why? Everything in my entire life up to that point had been geared towards doing stuff to please God because he loved me. Everything. The people I spoke to, the way I'd speak to them, doing my schoolwork... you name it. Yes, I would be getting a lovely new life after this one and be spending eternity in perfecton with my friends and millions of others who I'd never met before - how exciting! No more evil. No more tears. No more suffering.

Now of course I realise that these things are laughable, but they also made me cry quite a bit. I realised also that morality is a joke. In simple morality terms, I may as well kill someone as hug them. There is no moral difference between the two actions. The only thing stopping me is the law, which comes back to good old majority rule. As someone else said, this doesn't mean chaos ensues. As an animal who wants to pass his genes on, I don't want to be locked up in prison for the rest of my life, so I wouldn't do it. That is how base my view on 'doing good' has become, at least on a theoretical level. On a practical level I have started helping out at homeless shelters, want to become a teacher in a poor country etc. etc. Was it David Hume who recommended 'carelessness and inattention'?

How transient and pointless everything has become. It matters for nothing what results I get in my degree, what job I get, who I marry. In sixty years I'll be dead; a few more and I'll be completely forgotten. I could write so much more: how my view of girls is completely screwed, how crushingly alone I feel most of the time, how these things cause bouts of depression... There's so much more I want to say.

But enough.

This site is a great idea - thanks to all who have contributed!

Yours depressed, abondoned and alone (well, that how it feels!)

Simon

City: London
Country: England
Became a Christian: 7? 8?
Ceased being a Christian: 22
Labels before: Charismatic, evangelical
Labels now: Atheist
Why I joined: Mum and dad took me to church
Why I left: I asked a few simple questions

9/18/04                                                                                       View Comments

I just could not believe anymore lies

sent in by South2003M

It all started when I was 19. I had just came back from basic training with the Army. I started college (Hunter College, NY) in the Spring of 1987. There, I met my college boyfriend who had another friend. We loved weight lifting and competing in the Body Beautiful club. Suddenly, this friend started changing. He was withdrawn, very emotionless about the sport. He took us to his house one day along with a few others to meet him "preacher" father who led us thru the "sinners prayer". Do I need to go further. I just created my hell if there is one! Anyway, off we go to church. My then boyfriend broke up with me because he was led by god to date this other chick who herself got "saved" We all went to church together. Then my cousin came from the Island to live in the US. She also was a fanatic (still is but crazy..Literally). I went to church with her (Apostolic-Born Again, Jesus Only) and got swindled in. I swear, you would have thought they put a spell on me. I fell for it hook line and sinker. That's where I met my son's father. After 2 years with him I became pregnant and when he found out he disappeared. Of course the church turned their backs I was condemned. That's when my molestation from earlier years triggered. I left the church for about 1yr. And went back from guilt thinking god was punishing me for my sin of fornication and I need to get right with him so he can bless. I met another "brother" became pregnant again! This time I was forced to marry him. Another punishment from god. At least I was convinced. The marriage didn't last but for a couple of months. He became verbally abusive so I put him out. Now I have two children and absolutely no support. Both disappeared and once again this my punishment. No matter how much I prayed and asked this god for help, feed my children, they have no milk, pampers, I need better housing but, he didn't.. I even said the magic words.."say it and claim it" repeat god's word back to him and he has to honor it...bunch of lying shit! How many nights I stayed up crying until my eyes were swollen shut...could someone had told me he's not real.

To make a long story short I stayed out of the church for many years after that. I moved to the South (the bible belt...Billy Graham State) and thought that it was the thing to do in the South..Go to Church! Yeah, did that for 3 moths and got sick to my stomach...I had questions. How could a god who was suppose to protect me allowed two men to molest me from the ages of 8-15. How could he allowed me and my children to suffer so much. Would it had been better if I took a knife and stabbed those dirty bastards in their hearts? Would it had been better to abort my fetus? NO..According the this bible..Those are sins. So what happen to me was what? An innocent 8 yr old constantly being fondled was that not a sin. Men leaving their offspring to fend for themselves was that not a sin?
I came to the conclusion this god is a bunch of BC either he was have a good time watching or he was on the other side of the globe.

I am still waiting for god to strike me dead. Every now and then, I get a bit fearful. MY heart would skip a beat, but I realized it was all those years of brain washing that caused me to be anxious about nothing. Now at the age of 37...Thanks to me! (with emphasis), I took my own destiny back. Everyday I feel vindicated...Yep revenge is mine says me.



Sex: Female
City: Charlotte
State: NC
Country: USA
Became a Christian: 19
Ceased being a Christian: 37
Labels before: Pentecostal, Baptist, Born Again, Jesus Only, Apostolic
Labels now: Free to live and think.....
Why I joined: Because I was told that I will go to hell. This was the way the truth and the light. Nothing that I accomplish hear on Earth matters and so forth..
Why I left: After looking at my life from 19-37 I realized that nothing has change until I started thinking for myself!
Email Address: South2003M at peoplepc dot com

9/15/04                                                                                       View Comments

Time to Say Yes to Life

sent in by Ficino

It’s been over twenty years since my fervent faith collapsed, and almost fifteen since I stopped going to church altogether. I used to think I could never go on without believing in Christ as my savior. Rarely, I miss it, but I realize it’s the social or emotional trappings-- Christmas carols on an icy night, incense breathed at mass, or tradition and the pull of ideals. I know from reading posts on this website that many people who drop Christianity feel adrift and anxious. From my middle-aged perspective, I haven’t looked back or regretted leaving. I’d make the same decision again and know it was the right one. Christianity was costing me my chance for a human life. The god it represented was unjust. It didn’t live up to what it promised. As a system, it couldn’t be true.

As a young child I was sent to Presbyterian Sunday School by parents who were also into Westernized, Hinduistic practices and ideas like vedantic yoga and reincarnation. I was attracted to God and spiritual things. The summer after ninth grade I had been reading Autobiography of a Yogi and was struck by the meaninglessness of earthly life compared to the aspiration of becoming one with God. All the same I wanted to fit in with other kids, plus I was attracted to other boys, but I didn’t confront that as a “problem” within myself until I was well into high school. I wound up in college lonely and confused, resigned that I was gay but unable to decide what to do about that, wishing for a sense of direction and purpose. I wanted to understand truth that would set me free (I used to say this biblical verse to myself). I had fallen in love with philosophy and wanted to study more, even perhaps someday to be a philosopher.

At the start of sophomore year I met some students who had been “saved” over the summer. They seemed full of life and purpose. I marveled at how they seemed transformed. They and other Christian students all seemed to display instant love for each other, and they tried to show it to non-Christians like me, too. It didn’t take long before I agreed to go with one of my new friends to an emotional revival at an Assemblies of God church. I thought the emphasis on sin, repentance and belief was ridiculous, even too easy. I had come to believe that, if knowledge of God is real at all, it can be obtained only through arduous searching and self-development. I thought sin was more lack of awareness. Still, at the end of the night I asked the pastor to pray that I would understand I was a sinner. My friend told me to read the epistle to the Romans. Within two weeks I sat in the university chapel, prayed the sinner’s prayer, and gave my heart to Christ. All my new friends rejoiced that another sinner was born again. I became immersed in the Assemblies church and in InterVarsity Christian Fellowship on campus. I had a multitude of instant friends. People wanted to hear my testimony.

At first I still had doubts. My upbringing and education had left me assuming that fundamentalist Protestantism was just for the ignorant and emotional. I dove into the Bible and devoured books explaining prophecy, creationism, and so on. It was not long before the Assemblies of God led me to seek the “baptism of the Holy Spirit” and to speak in tongues. It seems another person's life now, but I remember kneeling with two other people from the congregation in a darkened living room one autumn night on a shag carpet waiting, and then receiving, the "baptism." My tongue took off and formed what seemed like complete utterances all by itself in an unknown language. I now am convinced I psyched myself into an extreme emotional state with my own prayers plus increased rate of breathing. While my voice was doing the tongues thing, my rational faculties were all intact and I was with another part of my mind sort of standing back and thinking, wow, I've gotten the baptism, hasn't God blessed me! plus also wondering how much my consciousness was controlling what my tongue was doing. My influence was a role in my sister’s becoming a Christian. She and her husband now are still deeply into the charismatic movement.

On campus I became aware that there were many versions of Christianity and much doctrinal dispute. When I wrote a paper the next year on St. Thomas Aquinas’ doctrine of predestination (he held that God foreordains all events, including who shall be saved), I came to believe that the Arminian (God foreknows but doesn’t cause) approach of the Assemblies was not scriptural. My adherence to Christianity was stronger than my natural resistance to Calvinisitic doctrines like God predestines those whom He will punish forever in hell (the saints rejoice at their torments), and I drifted into Calvinism under the influence of some other Christian students who were also studying philosophy. I was elected president of the campus InterVarsity chapter, and I had a lot to do as leader of an organization of 160 or so members. I was “discipling” younger students and all sorts of stuff that amazes me - how did I think I knew anything? I visited elderly shut-ins. I was always in love secretly with some male friend and no prayer or religious exercise ever changed that. I believed God would change me eventually. I did seek counseling from adult Inter Varsity leaders. Like everyone else, I jerked off every so often and repented.
At one college retreat, about a hundred guys went to a session on masturbation, while I and one girl and one other guy went to a session on homosexuality! Every so often my friends would confess their lusts or that they’d looked at porn or whatever. I dated girls here and there but didn’t feel any physical desire - which scared me, but I still believed God would change me. Like many who are really into Christianity, I wanted to go into some ministry.

In graduate school I met Eastern Orthodox and Catholic students. For the first time, I was confronted with serious Christians who were not Protestants. My Assemblies and then Calvinist associates had all just assumed that those traditions were unscriptural and works-centered rather than salvation by faith alone. One Sunday I went with other students to English services in a side chapel at a Russian Orthodox cathedral on New York’s Lower East Side. It seemed very foreign, but people were clearly into it as much as in the Assemblies. I met seminarians from St. Vladimir’s. Protestants tend to talk as though the Holy Spirit skipped over about twelve or more centuries. I started to wonder, were the Reformers justified in breaking away totally? My question changed from “how can these priest-ridden groups think they understand the Gospel?” to “how can the Reformers justify their radical break?” One of the most striking things to hit me as a Calvinist was in a footnote in Tradition and Traditions by Yves Congar, quoting another theologian who observed that the principle of "sola scriptura" does not satisfy its own requirements in the case; it's not taught anywhere in the NT, which on the other hand talks about traditions of the apostles as normative. I was shaken by Congar’s remark that the formation of the canon of scripture had long been one of the trump cards of the Catholic controversialist. Protestants claim to limit themselves to a Bible alone, when that Bible doesn’t itself state the list of books that go into making it up - the Church came up with that. John Henry Newman’s Apologia pro Vita Sua also shook my Protestant assumptions.

I went on to a year at a Calvinist seminary to give the Reformation a chance. Someone mentioned Cornelius Van Til a while back on this website; he taught at a nearby seminary, and I heard him lecture on his presuppositionalist apologetics and went to his house for tea. John Henry Newman’s Lectures on Justification and his Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine provided arguments that none of my Calvinist teachers could answer. I had been taught by Calvinists that “a dogmatic Christ founded a dogmatic church.” They wanted the Westminster Confession and other Protestant documents to hold authority about doctrine over the individual. They got impatient when I kept asking why that principle doesn’t amount to tradition and teaching magisterium, i.e. it leads to Rome. By the end of that year I was sitting in on mass at a local parish, and the other students and the professors abandoned me as an apostate. I had pledged to judge all questions by scripture when I entered that seminary. I believed I was still doing this. “This is my body.” etc. etc.

By this time I had a girlfriend, but I wasn’t taking things anywhere. I had sought pastoral counseling about what I called homosexual desires. Nothing was changing. I thought maybe if I just get married in faith I’ll learn to love her physically. As I decided to become Catholic, though, my idealistic side turned toward the priesthood. Plus that gave the obvious advantage of promising ways of not dealing with my sexuality. It turned out that I was groped at one point later by a religious brother in the provincial house of his order, and other priests made passes at me. I told my priest about it as well as the brother’s superior, but I figured to let charity be charity and forgive someone’s weakness. In a meeting with a monk-therapist I was told I wasn’t a real homosexual but a case of arrested development. I didn’t know what to make of that, but since I was more seriously planning to enter religious life, I figured God would enable me to transcend the flesh by his grace. It was very painful to my girlfriend when I told her I planned to become a priest. I am ashamed even now of how long I let her hang on, though I know a marriage would have been total disaster.

Among educated Catholics I met many who developed their minds and did not get hung up on fundamentalistic prejudices. All the talk of “the Lord gave me a burden for this” or “the Lord led me to say/do this” etc. ad nauseam is much rarer in Catholic circles. Catholic friends also tended to remain friends with me after I left, when all but one of my former Protestant friends shunned me as an apostate. As years passed, eventually the problems with the God of the desert as depicted in biblical texts, and with the mentality that the religions of those texts create, became too much. I remember one summer visiting the monastery of Mt. Savior near Elmira, and another visitor, a Catholic seminarian, said, in answer to my questions about what he was looking for, replied, "I'm trying to learn how to be a human being."

At that time I was in love with my roommate who then became engaged to marry. Again I’d seen my emotions run into directions my religion fenced off. I'd been praying, and people prayed for me, that God would free me, but nothing was changing. My priest said, enduring homosexuality and remaining faithful to church teachings was God’s way for me of carrying the cross. That year I felt depressed at what looked like a life of loneliness. I might have handled my struggles if they’d been unique to me, but as a believer in God’s omnipotence and sovereignty, I couldn’t see how He could be a just god setting up a world with millions of people like me and letting us have human drives and desires, then barring us from experiencing their fulfilment the way He allows heterosexuals to do -- even those who can’t have children. All of us gays and lesbians were the pot saying to the potter, why hast thou made me thus? and the potter’s answer was, because it is my will, and it glorifies me. I would walk down my street wondering, is this the way Luther used to feel when he said he hated God? Some gay Christians claimed the Bible verses against gays and lesbians really have different interpretations, but my study of the Greek never convinced me they were right-- though I’m still open to that possibility. Any ex-fundy knows how useful hermeneutical dexterity can be. I went into therapy with a priest but nothing changed. Contradictions in the Bible that I used to shrug off started to disturb me. A graduate-school friend died of cancer despite the prayers of our whole campus group, including children from a nearby parish who didn’t even know the young man. My hope was that monastic life would give me structure, goals and direction.

Then, a REAL miracle! I fell in love with my present lover-partner of 23 years. When we realized we loved each other, my religious scruples fell like a house of cards. The thought of hell waiting for gays melted under the warmth of hope. I realized I could choose life over fear and loneliness. The day we declared our feelings to each other, I wept that I could never pray the rosary again. Ken took me in his arms. “Of course you can, Kit. You can if you want to.” But I knew the man I loved was wrong on this. I could never pray again from inside an infallible faith. Whatever the gray areas, the Christianity to which I’d devoted myself - Protestant or Catholic - claimed to be inerrant in its essentials. I had never taken seriously anything less than that. Drop one essential and the edifice crumbles. I let it crumble and smiled through my tears. In the ensuing days, I walked on air and wanted to shout our love from the rooftops. Over time, the Christian residue faded away. The human part remained and grew into its proper spaces. Sadness and grief and obtuseness alternate day by day with gladness and wonder. They are just what they are; it’s a relief not to spiritualize mental states anymore. I chuckle that as years passed, I even became sexually attracted by females as well as males. It took getting out of Christianity to feel that. I’m loyal to my honey just the same; only monogamy works for me.

Before that day, I would have propounded lots of arguments to convince myself that my doubts about Christianity's fundamental truths were smokescreens for my sins, lust, desire for guys, rebellion, pride in my education and intellect, blah blah. “You never really gave your heart to Christ because you were attached to your homosexual desires/scholarly pretensions.” Whatever. I did and believed ALL the stuff. I don’t know how I could have had stronger belief in the forgiveness of my sins. After becoming Catholic I had stopped masturbating. I felt and expressed in confession a strong sense of contrition for my mental slipups. Religious types always say that a person’s decision not to accept their doctrines comes out of the person’s moral fault, not the fault of the doctrines. When I looked away from myself and at the evidence of unanswered prayer, contradictions in the Bible (check this website!), the moral depravity of the deity depicted in that book, absurd combinations of mutually exclusive ideas, etc. etc., I realized my own "argumenta ad hominem" were my insecurities talking. Some genuine Catholic friends urged me to stay in the church; picking and choosing what teachings to accept just seemed dishonest.

Augustine read Plato and fell in love with the Form of the Beautiful. He wanted that abstraction to have a human face. He convinced himself that face was the face of Christ. How many of us do that? But I need a human face to look into mine. How much "grace" a selfish, flawed human being can reflect back when s/he just is open to acting in right sentiment. I think that's the most love we get and give in this world. Acting because God told me so doesn't bring more virtue and often weakens what there otherwise would be. When I first got saved, Christianity met some of my psychological needs: direction, purpose outside myself, confidence with people, yearning to be loved. Nevertheless I believe Christianity blocked me from other developmental tasks that were important at that age, like integrating romantic and sexual issues, establishing my career, being at ease with the world outside Christian circles. I always secretly hated feeling that non-Christians were fundamentally separated from me and that I had to focus on converting them because they were headed for hell. As a Catholic I loved the sacraments, the slow rise of the Divine Office prayed six times a day, the best of the music (like Faure’s Requiem), the attempt to integrate reason into faith, the understanding of human nature of the more Italianate style of Catholicism. I was like other born again types - when pushed to the wall to give an explanation, I justified my conversion by my experience. So why not leave a self-contradictory system when you realize it damages your experience?

(Parts of this testimony are pieced together from earlier postings.
Apologies to those who are reading them for the second time!)

Ficino
New York, NY
became Christian at 19
left at 28 and falling off thereafter
became Christian because of search for direction, psychological needs
left because of contradictions, anti-gay stance of christianity
former labels: Assembly of God, Calvinist, Catholic
labels now: atheist, Epicurean

9/11/04                                                                                       View Comments

A Good Christian University

sent in by Amber

My name is Amber and I am pursuing a Master's Degree at a nearby Christian university. When I enrolled as an undergraduate to obtain my Bachelor's Degree, I was a Christian, and happy with my choice. I knew how hypocritical people can be, being a hypocrite myself. I sat in church many times the morning after smoking funny stuff. When I stood up to sing a hymn, my bottom would hurt from having no-no sex. I felt bad for my sins, but knew that God would forgive me. He forgives everything -- so we stay in the shame trap.

I began doubting the Christian religion when I took a course the university required - Christian Biblical Study. I was forced to study the book which held my salvation and my life plan (but like many Christians, read, didn't question, so did not really understand). The teacher of this class was a pastor, and was extremely nice and a smart man. (Not all Christians are bad people, some actually follow the rules and are good people because of them - interpreting the bible as a handbook for helping others.) I studied, and studied, not wanting to question what I had believed all my life. I studied other religions and noted the similarities (Pagan ones, too). After the class, I was convinced the bible was a work of fiction.

Fiction. I studied the bible and this is my final answer. It has helpful stories, is interesting, but is untrue. Of course I could do an amateur job of noting ALLLL the discrepancies, but our lovely webmaster has done a much more adequate job of making this information available. I love Ken's Guide to the Bible, having bought it a long ago, and have read more serious books on the subject. Whew, any Christian should really read the bible critically (or for some help, see the left of your screen).

In a class the next semester, I placed a bumper sticker on my little car which read: "Come the rapture, we'll have the Earth to ourselves." Cute little saying, funny, yet true if a Christian would think about it enough. A classmate read it and brought it up to me in the middle of lecture one day. I was a bit embarrassed, this being a Christian university, but I told her, "If you read the last book of the New Testament, that is exactly what will happen to me, right?"

She was upset. Later in the class, the teacher gave us his version of Heinz' Dilemma - a WHAT WOULD YOU DO story given to test the morality of the reader and answerer. Summarized, a man's wife is dying, a mean pharmacist will NOT give the remedy for any less than $10,000, and the man is poor. Should he steal it? The question the professor wrote on the board was, "What would a Christian do?" and asked us to think critically about our answer.

I raised my hand and asked if the question should read, "What 'should' a Christian do?" because a person's acts depend on the person.

His reply, "All real Christians would do the same thing."

"But aren't All Christians sinners like everyone else?"

My classmate shouted to me to shut the fuck up and let him teach. She was frustrated.

Pretty Christian of her, eh?

Her frustration didn't stop there. My convertible top was shredded by a pocket knife. A friend saw who did it. See, the friend was a Christian, and did the right thing by telling me. I didn't have it repaired - It was a reminder of what a good Christian does. I reported it to the dean, who did nothing. When classmates ask me about the bumper sticker now, I tell the story.

People can twist anything into something meaningful, and force it onto a weak person. History has revealed, after all, that a person can interpret anything to mean anything. And convince a large number of people of it.

Parking security at the university recently asked me to remove my bumper sticker. Is that legal? Doesn't it agree with the bible? Is it that offensive? I will NOT. And I'm thinking of contacting the ACLU because of it.

I chose to get my Master's Degree at a Christian university b/c of its reputation and knowledgeable staff. I am happy that I have ethics weaved into my teachings. But unlike some of my (ANNOYING POMPOUS) Christian classmates, I will USE these ethics in my profession as a Psychiatrist, NOT OUT OF FEAR, but because I know it's the right thing to do.

We should all think about how large of a part FEAR plays in our lives, and ask ourselves if that's the REAL reason some do the "right thing." How afraid are you of stories about so much mumbo jumbo that doesn't happen today?

Thanks to the webmaster for providing some help for those who have searched so hard for it, having to weed through persistant pesty Christians who don't want the truth out, because they're afraid of it.

Disagree?

City: San Bernardino
State: CA
Country: USA
Became a Christian: Six years old - I introduced my family to church.
Ceased being a Christian: 23
Labels before: Baptist
Labels now: Atheist
Why I joined: Lured by candy and paradise
Why I left: Realization of the hypocracy Christians practice with gleaming smiles on their faces.
Email Address: awilliams57 at cs dot com

9/6/04                                                                                       View Comments

Out of the clear blue sky

sent in by clearview

The crystal sky with perfectly puffed clouds refused to speak as I lay on the floor with the rest of my classmates, gazing out the 2nd story windows. In my 11th year (12th If you count kindergarten,) of plaid skirts and nuns, I was suddenly struck by the absence of god.

Our religion teacher had not long since exposed the horrors Christianity had imposed on mankind, and the pagan origins she taught us of the candlesticks, garb, and hoopla that went along with the Catholic faith were still fresh in my mind as I gazed at no god-evidence, but rather the glory of science and pure nature. I cannot help but wonder if our teacher had not presented these things to us in such a way before sending us to muse on the floor in order to expose the folly of our beliefs. Regardless, this moment was my undoing.

I wrote something in my Confirmation class about the awe I felt staring out that window; I suppose it was for a lack of anything good to say about Jesus, but nevertheless someone (the bishop of Cleveland) took it as god-evidence and read it aloud at our confirmation. This girl gets it, he told us. My mom later scribbled on the confirmation booklet something to the effect of, “Clouds, sky, how can anyone not see God in this?” and wrote that those were my words. Au contraire!

Religion was all silliness to me for years after that, until it came back to slap me in the face and really make me examine my thinking. Like many, I still believed in God. I wished that I could pray more earnestly, that I could learn to hear God’s voice, that He would show me his will for me. I had rejected organized religion, but I still thought I had a god.

Early this summer, along came the means to my total deconversion: a preacher. He taught a personal relationship with god, and he was also interested in a personal relationship with me. Since he was so kind and likable, we carried on for a few months. So things went well except for the fact that I did as he said and got a NIV bible and I read it. Then, wanting to know all I could about the things he told me, I researched each concept on the Internet. Holy crap, did I find a lot of conflicting opinions among the saved as to who was really saved and which bible was real, etc. I was so worried because I didn’t want to go to hell, but I realized that I couldn’t tell who was right and who was wrong. I nixed most of the charismatic junk right away because I already knew about mind-control techniques and hypnosis. Then I started to question more boldly, until the day I Googled: “Is Jesus a myth?” Oh my, you can imagine what I found! Shortly after I looked for kindred spirits by Googling “ex-christian” and that is how I stumbled across this website.

I will never forget the moment I took a fresh look out my window and saw once again the great beauty of the world I am so fortunate to inhabit. It was exhilarating and terrifying. It came upon me all at once that I can make a difference, that I am not someone’s barbie doll being posed according to their plan, that it is my personal responsibility to take part in caring for the earth, it’s people, and it’s creatures. It was overwhelming. I wasn’t meant to sacrifice and suffer! I can live freely and it is my choice to be happy! Oh, thank Go—oops! All this didn’t mean I suddenly became entirely different. For a few mornings, I realized that I started each day greeting the Invisible Man. Wow. I didn’t even know I did that.

On the flip side, I’ve also suffered some terrible panic attacks. Deconversion has not been painless. After all, the notion of everlasting happy life has been thrown out and a great sense of personal responsibility and the reality of mortality has taken its place. No wonder christians are so stupid-happy. They really think they are not going to end. Everlasting life is a neat concept, but it’s just a concept.

It hasn’t been as simple as it sounds. I tried buying in with the preacher’s nonsense (before I knew better.) He tried to give me the baptism of the holy spirit. I sat, uncomfortable, at his kitchen table while he read selection after selection out of the bible because he thought they were all fitting for the moment that was about to take place. It was taking forever, and my eagerness was vanishing. I started to feel weird, like I knew this was ridiculous and a little scary, but I shouted down my thoughts and told myself I was going to receive this gift. Even though I didn’t believe it in my head, I thought god would do some work on me and fix me. Later we stood, he laid his hands on my shoulders, said a few prayers, blew on me (I laughed right there—couldn’t help it,) and then started speaking in tongues. That’s where I started to cry. Tiny trickles of tears slipped out and I couldn’t stop them. I was so scared. No holy spook came, just sadness and fear.

This was so weird, so wrong. I was angry that I had let this happen to me. I was transported to the time when, at 8 years old, I was sent to spend the weekend with my bi-polar sister. I awoke to her laughing hysterically on the steps to the room. She was rocking back and forth, consumed in laughter. I knew she was “sick,” but I never thought I’d have to deal with it. Alone. She saw that I was hiding my tears by crouching down into my sleeping bag. She came and bent over me, decided that I was possessed by demons, and shouted loudly to come out. She tried real hard, but I guess it didn’t work.

It wasn’t until now that I realized that the church she had been attending was the kind that taught demon possession and deliverance ministry. So maybe my ordeals and process of deconversion was just what I needed to understand this. Reading other people’s stories of how they believed themselves to be demon-possessed and let themselves get some good old-fashioned deliverance really makes me think that what I went through was nothing. And to think I have been carrying this around with me for 20 years, like a big freakin’ sack of rocks.

I suppose the best part started when I separated myself from the preacher. He was a good guy in spite of his fundo-charismatic mumbo-jumbo, but I knew he would never understand me. When I had come to the Great Realization, he had come to believe that God cured him of skin cancer. I could only be so enthusiastic for him. So he asked me if something was bothering me and if maybe it wasn’t the right time to discuss it. Oh, it was the right time, I replied. I told him I couldn’t handle his religious beliefs and gave him a few snippets as far as how speaking in tongues and being slain in the spirit can also be experienced through hypnosis or certain types of yoga. “Of course,” he said, “the devil has a counterfeit for everything, and yoga is very demonic!” It took everything I had not to burst out laughing at the imagery of a bunch of leotard-clad soccer moms at yoga class unknowingly worshipping the Prince of Darkness. (I wonder if he ever wonders if his “personal relationship with God” isn’t one of the devil’s crafty counterfeits.) Wanting to break free, I refused his offer of waiting to have a real religious experience so that I could understand, and told him we needed to just go our separate ways. He said we could still be friends. He’s friends with many a non-believer, but I had to understand that he could never marry one. Wait a minute, I thought to myself, I thought I was breaking up with YOU!

Sex: Female
State: Ohio
Country: USA
Became a Christian: born into it
Ceased being a Christian: 28
Labels before: Catholic
Labels now: Freethinker, maybe Atheist
Why I joined: My parents were Catholic
Why I left: It cannot be proven

9/3/04                                                                                       View Comments

My Story of Becoming a Person

sent in by inini

My story might be a little long, but I thank WebMaster Dave for allowing me to tell it, and I thank those of you who might read it. I have been reading this website for many months and have gained some peace of mind that there are many people like me who are living without the faith (that’s “crutch”) we have depended on for so long.

I believed it hook, line and sinker until I was 48 years old. Before that, I began to question the validity of religion when a friend of mine, a Protestant minister, introduced me to the concept that women are due the same respect as men. Of course, most of the Bible doesn’t make any sense in this regard, so I started to substitute the language of faith with more inclusive terms, just to myself. Things like saying “kindom” instead of “kingdom” and “god” instead of “father.” It bothered me that so few other people in my mainline Protestant community would dare to admit out loud that the world of patriarchal religion was unfair (and cruel) to women, so I started to speak out. Of course, I was treated like I was crazy.

That was only the beginning of my disillusionment, and one day another friend mentioned that the lives we live might be considered in the light of “original blessing” instead of “original sin.” Well that did it and I began to shed the years of feeling guilty for not being perfect, since we had obviously been “given” this life to enjoy right from the start. This same friend introduced me to the works of Joseph Campbell, whom some of you may know as a scholar of myth and spirituality. I was shocked to realize that of all the cultures that ever lived anywhere on this planet, the mythical stories are the same: virgin birth, a savior who sacrifices himself to save his people, etc, etc.

I began to seriously wonder what the role of religion actually is in human life, and I have come to the conclusion that it is our ancient longing for our father and mother to look after us all our lives. Being that our real fathers and mothers are probably imperfect humans, the invisible, omnipotent kind seems useful for that purpose. And of course, that is where many of use learned the concept of overtly decent behaviour, like not killing people or stealing, and to be kind to those who are not kind to us.

The real kicker came when our pastor retired and, after a number of months, we hired a man who admitted right up front that he never intended to be a mainline protestant minister. He turned out to be an evil, two-faced fundamentalist who served me up the worst betrayal of my life. I was actually an employee of that church, and he decided he wanted to form his own power base and I was in the way. Instead of saying to me something like he didn’t think our philosophies matched and he wouldn’t mind allowing me time to find another job (the kinder cut) he organized a smear campaign against me and forced me out. My faith was completely shattered and my emotional and physical life were in jeapardy for about five years after that. I am still recovering from the blows and given that the rest of my life had been turned upside down just before that time (which this person knew about) it is a wonder I am still thinking at all. So even after my spouse condemned me to “Hell” I
am convinced that Christianity is a lie fomented by those who wish to retain power over the general populace.

Among the books I have read that have helped me are: When God was a Woman by Stone and The Great Cosmic Mother by Sjoo and Mor. (These works allowed me to understand that religion can be presented in any way that is convenient and useful.) In addition, The Universe Story by Swimme and Berry, “The Chalice and the Blade” by Eisler and a number of the books and videos of Joseph Campbell have helped me make sense of the real world. I’m making my way in the real world with some difficulty, but I feel more like a real person than I ever have in my life.

Yippee!

Sex: F
Country: USA
Became a Christian: I accepted Jesus as my "savior" at age 7
Ceased being a Christian: Woke up at 48
Labels before: Lifetime mainline Presbyterian
Labels now: don't know/ not Christian
Why I joined: My mother took me to church as a child
Why I left: total betrayal
Email Address: inini at carolina.rr.cmike