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10/26/05                                                                                       View Comments

PARADOXOLOGY

sent in by Jason

I was born and raised in an ultra-conservative Church of Christ. For years I was brainwashed with their doctrines. The particular congregation my parents attended and subsequently raised me in believed that they were the only ones who were "doctrinally pure," to the exclusion of all other denominations and also many of their fellow "churches of Christ." They claimed they were not a denomination because their only creed was the Bible, but they have an international network of similar churches who all claim not to be a denomination either. I was so endoctrinated in their exclusivism and spiritual pride that I thought I was genuinely caring about other people when I'd spend days, weeks, and months debating the most trivial issues with them, like whether or not instrumental music should be used in worship. Looking back on it now (and for the past seven years), I'm ashamed of the kind of person I was. I was so blind I couldn't see anything but the "Church of Christ" interpretation of everything, and it made me a lousy human being. No wonder I was so unhappy and dysfunctional. It got to the point where I wanted to kill myself in junior high because I couldn't live up to the church's expectations of me. The church couldn't live up to its expectations of itself, and many of the people in that church were doing worse things than I ever thought about doing. Some of them even intentionally hurt other people. I admit that I've hurt people unintentionally before out of spiritual pride, but the people in the church acted like vampires, living only to suck the life out of everyone else. There's a German word, schadenfreude, which basically means taking pleasure from other people's pain, and that's what some of them did (and still do), like one time when a certain guy purposefully said terrible things about one of my friends. He even tried to get her excommunicated ("disfellowshipped" is what they call it) from the church. And I could go on and on with the terrible things I've seen those people do to each other and to me and my family. That church has destroyed my mother's self-esteem because the church makes her feel like she's not as good as everybody else, and I'll never forgive the church for ruining my mother like that. She used to be confident about herself, but years of going to that church and hearing those thousands of sermons on how terribly sinful we all are (we're apparently "worms," not even worthy that God should consider us at all), and having to face certain catty women every week who had to subtly put others down to make themselves feel better, ruined her. Dad is so convinced his church is right that he tells me, "One day you'll hopefully have enough wisdom to know the truth." Anyway, you get the idea. It's more of a cult than a church.

The best thing that ever happened to me was in junior high, when I was so alone and scared and thinking of suicide, I fell into what society calls "the wrong crowd." These were kids who listened to Metallica, smoked weed, got drunk, and had sex even at the ages of 14 and 15. They were the only kids at school who would have anything to do with me. Most of them were atheists or agnostics, but I wasn't about to debate with them about it because they were the only friends I had. I didn't want to lose them. At first I didn't want anybody knowing I hung out with that crowd, but as time went by, I realized that they were better people than a lot of people at church, even without Jesus. I started to accept their lifestyles and finally began to admit to myself what I'd known for years, that I was bisexual. The "stoners" as they were called became like a second family to me. Some of them fell into heavy drug use, and others got STD's, but I never took it that far. I always kept a wall between myself and everybody else, or more specifically, what everybody else was doing. The important thing was that I began to learn, to question, to wake up from years of the unconsciousness I'd been knocked into by that abusive, manipulative, self-serving, and self-righteous Church of Christ.

Around the time I graduated high school, I'd had enough of that church. So I started asking my job to schedule me for Sunday and Wednesday. On days when I wasn't working, I'd fake being sick, or I'd go out of town -- anything to keep from going to that intolerant, hypocritical place. Finally, I got a letter in the mail saying the church had withdrawn its fellowship from me. I felt liberated, more free than I'd ever been before in my life. I thought, "how can the church withdraw something that was never there in the first place?" I thought it was funny the way they think they have all this power to "mark" people and pass judgment. At that point, however, I still believed in a "personal Jesus," and the message of Spirit-filled churches was appealing to me.

So I searched all over the place for a "good" church. I went everywhere, reading all the books on religion I could find in the bookstores, looking up stuff online, going to various churches around town. Finally, I found a church that seemed like it was good. It was non-denominational and charismatic (Spirit-filled), and although at first I was hesitant to join, I caved in when I began to hang out with the people in real life and found that they were actually real people, unlike the "fake" people of my parents' church who put on their masks and never let on that anything was terribly, terribly wrong just under the surface, where terrible things hide. The people at this new church were real, they had problems just like everybody else, and they all tried to help each other get though life day by day. Best of all, they weren't hypocritical at all, trying to be spiritually proud, or making outlandish claims about themselves like the Church of Christ did. (The Church of Christ claims it is the church that was founded on the Day of Pentecost in Jerusalem, even though the "Church of Christ" didn't even exist in America until after Alexander Campbell began the "Restoration Movement" in the early 1800's.)

Long story short, I began to question even the charismatic church I had found. Their nearly blind trust of anything the President said or did was frightening to me. It was almost as if he was being deified. I went to Oklahoma City to attend a private Bible college which was being run under the supervision and auspices of a fairly well-known charismatic church, but I found it to be a Christian brainwashing and indoctrination camp. The dean hated me, and I was having some medical problems at the time that had me laying in bed most of the time. So the dean kicked me out of the school (he made sure he did it on the day after the last day for partial refunds), and I came home to Texas. I stayed with the charismatic church I'd found for a few more years, going through phases of religious fervor and then periods of dullness that kept getting longer and longer.

When I went back to a real university (I'd started fresh out of high school but quickly learned I wasn't ready) I started taking classes that made me question even more of what I'd thought was true. Sumerian texts presented me with a version of the Genesis story thousands of years older than the one appearing in the Bible. I'd started questioning the omnipotence of God several years before, when I saw the world descending into chaos after 9/11. The thing that made me question the existence of God the most, however, was that after I'd left the "Church of Christ," my family would tell me things like, "You've given your soul to the Devil," and "You must not love the Lord, or else you wouldn't have turned your back on Him." Didn't they get it? I wasn't turning my back on God; I was turning my back on the church, but the way they (His people) were acting, I might as well have turned my back on God.

I decided that if being a Christian meant that I had to hurt people by saying or doing or thinking hurtful things about them, then I wasn't going to be a Christian any longer. I decided that if serving God meant that I have to accept what "religious" people say about him, then I won't serve him. And after reading The Quran, I decided that if God (whoever he (OR SHE) is -- YHWH, Allah, Krishna, whatever)... if God is omnipotent and omniscient, saving who He wills and punishing who He wills, but pretending to give us a choice, then I wouldn't serve him anymore.

That was the point I quit caring about the whole thing and went back to my parents' church. Isn't that a strange thing to do? I thought so, too, but there's a reason. I wanted to make my family happy. I don't care one bit about what the rest of the church thinks. The guy who said all those terrible things about my friend hasn't even had the decency to say "hello" to me in the five months I've been back. Here's another funny thing: Half the church left in the seven years I was away. They went through a split over some tiny little insignificant doctrinal issue that's ripped families and life-long friends apart to the point they won't even speak to each other. I don't care one bit what that church (or any church) thinks anymore, and if they see this and want to withdraw their fellowship from me, that's their business.

After I get out of college and move to another city and state, I'll probably quit going to church altogether because for one thing, the concept of God doesn't make sense and I'm starting to believe monotheism was a social construct created to control people. For another, I've seen the way His people act and the way other people act, and according to God's people's own standards, the atheists are more likely to be saved and get to Heaven (if Heaven even exists). So that's pretty much my story up to this point. Great site. It's really helping me deal with clearing away the rubble left by the fall of my religion, and it's the best feeling in the world not to be shackled down to someone's fallacious interpretation of fallacious stories and traditions like I was when I was still thoroughly under the spell of the "Church of Christ."

One little bit of advice for your readers: If you're considering moving to Texas and want to have a happy life, do not move to a religious town, especially not one ruled by the Church of Christ. (Your only options are pretty much the big metro areas like DFW, Houston, and San Antonio.) You can find a few nice little towns that have had the common sense to run the Church of Christ out of there, but they're few and far between.

Texas
USA
How old were you when you became a christian? 13
How old were you when you ceased being a christian? 18
What churches or organizations or labels have applied to you? Church of Christ, "non-denominational"
What labels, if any, would you apply to yourself now? agnostic
Why did you become a christian? I didn't want to go to Hell.
Why did you de-convert? 1. The concept of God doesn't make sense. 2. His people are some of the worst that have ever lived.
msujason08 at hotmail dot com