6/29/05                                                                                       View Comments

The School of Hard Knocks for Idiots

sent in by The MadBuni

I found your website a few months ago and subscribed to the posts, now I am addicted to getting my emails as soon as I get home from work to find out the latest topic of discussion. I knew all the sane people were hiding somewhere and I just found them! What a relief!

I rarely have enough time to stay online long enough to post anything, because my husband breathes down my neck when I am typing messages, he thinks I’m having an internet affair if I spend any time on the computer, but he is computer illiterate. He is also what I fondly refer to as a PIMA (pain in my ass). I love him, hell we’ve been together since 1967, I just can’t stand to live with him most of the time. Our son says we should have divorced long ago. Why don’t I leave? I love to spend money, and two incomes are better than one. He pretty much feels the same way, besides, it’s way too much trouble and effort to get a divorce. Ok, I know that sounds really awful, but I have to get one thing straight, I am a selfish bitch, I became one over time, and there’s a lot of history behind all of this, that I will get into in a few. Now that I have exposed my character flaw, I hope it will not be held against me, and I will still be allowed to stick around because I am so thrilled to find a haven from ignorance where I can get mental stimulation and comic relief at the click of the keypad. The intelligent posts from the regulars continue to amaze me. Thank you webmaster for creating this website where heathens like me can find a place to rest and be free to express my point of view without being burned at the stake! Hey are you really God? LOL. I’ve read quite a few testimonies, and was inspired to submit my story of how I escaped from the dark bowels of religion into the blessed light of reality.

I am happy to say I have been free from religion for quite a few years now. I was raised a Seventh Day Adventist from birth, and I will be 57 years old the last day of this month (DAMN I HATE THAT) sorry for shouting, but I have a thing about my age, (so now you know I am vain too). My mother was SDA my father was not, but she ran the household, so I got the SDA end of the stick. My elementary and high school education was spent in SDA institutions, so I was thoroughly indoctrinated. I don’t think I was a real Christian, I just thought I had to be one to please everyone around me. I was baptized at age 10, and can’t even remember the experience.

The SDA religion is like all others, full of rules and tactics to control the followers. I would imagine most of you know that Adventists worship on Saturday, but they believe in the traditional concept that Jesus is the son of God, died on the cross, rose from the dead, ascended to heaven, and will return some day in the clouds of glory, raise the dead (logistically I think that would be difficult, but oh well, Jesus will find a way). The religion also comes complete with a prophetess, Ellen G. White, and the story goes that she was struck in the head with a rock thrown by a kid at school and shortly thereafter started having visions from God. No, I am not joking, and she began writing books about her visions, which were according to her, instructions from God about how the Adventists were to live in order to receive eternal life. Ellen also prophesied (fantasized) about the end of time, and interpreted the books of Ezekiel Daniel and Revelation something like this: The Catholics will take over the World and make laws that Sunday can be the only day of worship. My mom told me the Pope was the anti Christ, it had to do with a numerical code on his big hat. If you read it sideways or some shit, it equals 666, the mark of the beast. Personally, I think the AC is George W. but I have no proof. Back to my story (I get sidetracked easily). Anyway, the Adventists will refuse to worship on Sunday, and will have to flee to the mountains and hide from the Catholics who will hunt them down and persecute them. They will have to live in caves, eat bugs and worms and drink puddle water until Jesus comes in the clouds. Yes folks, you heard it here, the secret to eternal life is based on what day of the week people choose to worship, and Jesus will determine if they have passed the Sabbath test to gain entry into his exclusive paradise. Did anyone get out the hip boots? Are the Taliban the only loonies in this world? That was my quick and dirty, very rusty version of SDA dogma. I have forgotten (blocked out) most of it.

In my formative years, my mom disciplined me by using God like most parents use Santa. He knew when I was good or bad, and was writing down all my sins in the book of life, and I had better be good or he would not take me to heaven.

I grew into early adulthood a naïve sheltered young lady because I associated mainly with other Adventists. They establish their own communities because they do not believe in associating with people of the world, unless of course they are converting them. I was not interested in boys and did not date much until I met a guy at age 19 and fell in lust/love. He was SDA but that did not stop him from having carnal knowledge of the big bad world and he was just waiting to teach me. I crammed premarital sex, alcohol, drugs, pregnancy, and marriage into 6 short months after meeting him (talk about over dosing). I lost the baby shortly after we were married and he tried to talk me into getting a divorce, poor guy, I am sure there were many more things he wanted to do with his life, but I was so goddamn stupid, I thought I needed him to be happy. I begged and pleaded, and we stayed together. Our marriage was rocky in the beginning but eventually fell into place and I was content to stay home with our two kids for a while. I tried other religions during this time, and even took the kids to The Church of Christ and was baptized again. I finally stopped attending church a couple of years later because I was not satisfied, and did not go back again, but I was still fearful and guilty, and visions of torture and living in hell continued to torment me.

My husband was a controlling and compulsive person, and because I stayed home and did not have a “real” job, I let him dominate our household until I got sick of it. By the time I reached my mid thirties I lapsed into what I fondly term as an early mid life crisis. I handled my resentment and anger with him in the passive way I did everything, I had an affair. I made a huge mess of our marriage and we went through two separations before I regained consciousness and took responsibility for my actions. My husband and I finally compromised on some things and got back together with the understanding we were to share the decision making in our lives and he was to treat me like an adult, not his child. That was the beginning of my journey into reality, and my education in the school of hard knocks for idiots was almost over. I started making good decisions, I found a full time job, went to college for a while, and began to grow up in the real world. I realized I could explore anything I wanted without devils and gods lurking around waiting to torment me, humans do a fine outstanding job without them. One day I noticed my guilt and fear had vanished and I had peace of mind because I had completely left Christianity and God behind.

Am I resentful and angry that more than 30 years of my life was wasted on guilt, fear and lies? Damn Straight I am. I am cynical as hell and have no tolerance for Christianity. I consider it the most dangerous mind numbing propaganda ever invented. I could whine bitch and moan about my unfortunate experience, but it is just a useless waste of time worrying about the past when there is nothing I can change, there is only today, and I am in control of what I do with every minute. Don’t get me wrong, I respect people who choose to believe in God because I believe in the liberty we have in this country for all people to have the right to believe horse shit if they want. I just don’t understand why anyone would choose lies and a dead man on a stick over reality and free thinking.

I have researched a few beliefs like Wicca and new age, and the alien theory, but they too are based on human interpretation with no solid in your face proof, so I guess I am agnostic, bordering on atheist. The only theory I have not studied is evolution, and after reading some of the posts here, I want to do that soon. Scientific discovery is the only thing I have any faith in at this time, so until little green men or Jesus come knocking on my door, I remain ever the skeptic.

When I started writing my “memoirs” I thought I would just give a brief statement about my deconversion, but found it evolving into a mini biography, and I apologize if I rambled, but as I continued to put it together, I realized it was a cleansing and therapeutic experience. I have struggled a long time to get where I am now and do not intend to look back or go back. Thank you for allowing me to submit this, and I look forward to visiting often.

Female
Cincinnati
OH
USA
Joined at Birth
Left: Am not Sure
Was: Seventh Day Adventist
Now: Agnostic-bordering on Atheist
Converted because: Was raised that way
De-converted: Reality set in

6/26/05                                                                                       View Comments

journey to becoming an atheist

sent in by Jennifer

To begin with, I started dating my boyfriend(who is now my husband) when I was 16.

His family is very religious and they don't believe that it's a good idea for anyone of differing religious views to be together.

My family for the most part let me and my brother choose what we want to believe in. I guess you could say I was open to Christianity and liked what I heard. So at the age of 16 I accecpted Christ. At no point after I accepted Christ did I feel different, or did I necessarily stop making wrong decisions. I never really expected to.

While following Christ, I felt restricted. My morals did not get better or worse after becoming a Christian. So now at 24, I chose to become an atheist.

Suprisingly, there wasn't a major event in my life that changed my viewpoint, I only went back to what my parents taught me. That is to be true to myself, find what it is that I believe in, and be open to all religious possiblities, whether I choose a religion and follow Christ, or become an atheist.

This did take me quite awhile to come to terms with what I believe, but now I am free from being "scared" of what might happen to me if I do something wrong. I still carry the same moral standards that I had when I was a Christian, only now I feel more free to lead a good life, be good to others, treat others with respect, and I will make mistakes, but I'm not answering to a God, but to myself, my family and friends.

KC
MO
USA
Joined at 16
Left at 24
Was: baptist
Now: athiest
Converted: My boyfriend's family was deep into Christianity and to be with him, I needed to convert.
De-converted: I realized that in order to be happy with myself and to live morally, I don't need organized religion.
email: jengrndypnk at aol dot com

Saved from Christianity!

sent in by Joe

I was raised in an Assemblies of God church in upstate NY since I was born. My parents are devout born-again Christians and have forced…um...highly encouraged me to attend all services (negatively termed indoctrination sessions) and to live my life for Christ until I finally moved out of the house. I can remember when I was a young boy and had asked my father if he also had a stomach ache every time we went to church. It never felt comfortable for me there but all I knew was to obey my parents and do as I was told. I loved and trusted my parents and wanted to please them very much. I honestly believed in everything that was taught to me and was a self-proclaimed Christian by age 4.

In 1989 (Age 9), I remember a member of the church coming down to teach our children’s church. Her goal was to have all of us young kids speak in unknown tongues and be “slain in the spirit” aka "baptized by the holy ghost". As a young boy, I was very confused by this and it didn’t seem normal or natural to utter nonsense. The other kids were doing quite nicely and when I asked why I couldn’t do it, the answer was something along the lines of, “well, you aren’t Christian enough yet, just keep praying and you'll soon mature in the faith.” I specifically remember her coming to me and “praying for me”. She asked me, “Do you hear the funny voices coming to your head??” This, of course, freaked me out and I had no idea how to respond to this type of question. So, I started making up words and doing what I thought would result in leaving me alone. It was a very awkward and uncomfortable situation for me.

As I grew older (early teenage years), I was very limited to what I was allowed to do. Growing up in a strict Pentecostal household, I had two choices for my Friday night endeavors: Go to Youth Group or stay home. Being a normal teenager and possessing the natural need to be social, I opted for the Youth Group. What fun we had. While my friends from school were going to movies or the mall, I was at Goat Island in Niagara Falls passing out Chick Tracts to random tourists. The overwhelming pressure to tell people about Jesus. Witnessing. What more could a 13 year old ask for?? Oh, I know! We would return to the church for a praise and worship and an alter call. Alter calls were super. Was I supposed to raise my hands and wail and cry and shout Jesus?!! This didn’t feel right. But it was supposed to feel right; my parents and everyone at the church told me so. These type of praise and worship sessions always gave me an icky feeling inside. I honestly felt more comfortable and free at a secular punk show. As time went on, I felt pressure to please my fellow youth groupers, my youth pastor, and my parents.

By this time, (about 14 years old) I’ve read the entire Bible and gave in to it all. All the Youth Conventions, Jesus Encounters, and Youth Camps had rendered me officially “on fire for Jesus.” I wanted to be accepted and this low esteem and insecurities with myself made me vulnerable for any way to be accepted. But, these “spiritual highs” started lasting about as long as a joint once I began really thinking for myself.

I started thinking logically about things and that’s when the crap really started. When I was about 17 I started questioning all aspects of Christianity. For instance, if a born-again believes as hardcore about his God as a Hindu believes about their Gods…..um…..who is right? I began realizing I had never opened my mind before and based all my “factual” biblical evidence on blind faith. Uh oh…I appear to be “backsliding”. I took a step back and really started thinking about this whole Christianity thing. Everyone just accepted it without question. Most Christians I ever talked to always had the same story about how their life was complete crap before and then they found Jesus and now everything is perfect. People in the same predicament who found Percocet can probably say the same thing. I actually started to feel guilty about questioning the presence/reality of God and the divinity of Jesus Christ. This created my own personal hell in my parents’ home. Getting me up for church became a problem. I didn’t want to go anymore. I didn’t feel comfortable there. Ultimately, I was losing my faith. In terms of Christianity, I formulated the basic idea of how life is:

“God is this omniscient, omnipotent being that created a tiny little planet in this infinite universe. On this one and ONLY planet there are many little beings, (quite similar to owning an ant farm) and their sole purpose of existence is to worship and use blind faith to accept Him. Any one of these little beings who don’t do everything according to “his plan” will be flicked into the infamous lake of fire. BAD ANT.”

In conclusion, I am now 24 years old and would claim myself as Agnostic. I am very open-minded and feel free. I feel less judgemental towards other people and don't believe that god has interest in every little thing you do. I have finally shed the intolerability I was brainwashed into believing. I have been “saved” from all this fantasy and all in all, I am much happier person. I feel free and I'm finally allowed to use my brain that "god" gave me. Thank you for reading.

Niagara Falls
NY
USA
Joined at 4
Left at 18
Was: Pentecostal/Assembies of God
Now: Agnostic, Freethinker
Converted: Early indoctrination
De-converted: Grabbed logic and common sense off the shelf and put it back into my head
email: xcrispykfc at hotmail dot com

Following Christ is Nearly Impossible

sent in by Chuck S.

My name is Chuck S. and at the age of 23 I became a Christian out of a sense of hopelessness in life and a fear of death. Though I was young I had bouts of depression mainly because of drug and alcohol use that left me in morbid states of mind and I turned to Jesus as a means to eternal life and to reach peace of mind in this life.

I started out with a small Baptist group in Baltimore Maryland where I graduated from college and from there joined another Baptist group in northern Virginia near Washington D.C. when I moved down to the D.C. area for a job as a stock broker.

As any Christian, my faith in the begining was enthusiastic and exciting. I was introduced to some very nice people and I acquired some hope and a reason to live. However as the years went by I found my state of mind to become even far worse that it was before I became a Christian even though I had stopped drugs and alcohol. When I read the Bible I believed it to be literally true and I found myself judging all of my thoughts and actions according to what Jesus taught and instead of finding hope and peace, I found myself to be self hating and overwhelmed with guilt even over things that were very trivial. I also found myself to be very hateful and judgmental towards others since they could also never be good enough. My frustration level became almost intolerable since I could never "be perfect as your Father in Heaven is perfect" and I continually put myself down mentally. As a result of my frustration towards myself my temperament became more and more surly and disagreeable.

Any small action would make me feel unworthy. Looking at a pretty girl, becoming momentarily irritated at the heavy Washington D.C. traffic; letting out a a four letter word after stubbing my toe. Every little thing made me feel unworthy of Christ, shook my faith and caused me to hate myself just that much more.

As the years went on, I noticed that the same things were happening to many if not most other Christians; the self loathing, the harsh judgmentalism towards others; the fear of any contact whatsoever between the sexes. The unbelieveable agonies we suffer on this planet with accident, disease, murder and war also made me question God and His so called love for mankind. I began to see God as a monster who almost seemed to love maiming people and killing everything. The Old Testament is filled with horrible mass killings by this "loving God". God increasingly seemed more like the devil to me than Satan.

My sense of hopelessness reached unbearable limits since I realized that I am woefully imperfect as the Bible taught me, I expected God to chastise me and cause bad things to happen to me all of the time. Since it was almost impossible to please God with perfect thinking and behavior, I expected the worst all of the time and my hopelessness at times nearly got the the point of total despair.

I believe that the terrible hypocrisy, extreme judgmentalism and outright hatred you find to be so prevalent in the church is because of the religion itself and what it does to you. It is not necessarly due to the inherent nature of the people themselves, but much of the awful nature of the churchgoers is due to the insane expectations everyone has for one another and it leads to hatred and frustration.

Finally last year I could not take it anymore and I made a break with the church I had been attending. Though I miss some of the nicer people there I am finally much more at peace with myself because I realize that I am just an ordinary man and subject to making mistakes which is OK. Now I can forgive myself and not have to live up to unreasonable expectations. I am free from the burden of perfection and the impossibility of pleasing fellow Christians and a God who cannot be pleased. I wish I had done this many many years ago!

Arlington
VA
USA
Joined at 23
Left at 49
Was a Baptist, Bible, Episcopalian
Now an Agnostic, rationalist
Converted out of fear of death and wanting peace of mind.
De-converted out of overwhelming guilt at not being perfect; hating myself and others.
email schnn1 at aol dot com

6/21/05                                                                                       View Comments

Catholic hanger-on

sent in by Claywise

My story is frankly a lot less fascinating than that of many posters here. But I have finally decided to lay it out.

We went to Catholic Church when I was a kid. I went to CCD -- got in trouble once for swiping unconsecrated Communion hosts with a friend! -- but my father was more or less an agnostic who had himself thrown off his Catholic straightjacket and only went to church on holidays to please my mother. My mom was never a radical, or hard core, but she went to church because, well, that's what nice American families did.

I hardly remember what I was taught in church as a young person, or in CCD (what we used to call "catechism"). But somewhere along the way, I developed some pretty messed up notions: Humans are, by design, flawed and pretty rotten; sex is repulsive and wrong; to even question the tenets of the Church is to condemn oneself to eternal punishment. In short, I came away from my early experience with a lot of fear and self-hatred.

When I was about 13, my mother, to her credit, abandoned the Catholic church because of its unfair stance on women, including the abortion issue. I tagged along with her, as did my younger brother, although my sister, in high school, was involved with Young Life and didn't have to go.

I stuck with the Episcopal Church for two reasons: I liked the priest, who soon died of brain cancer (good going, God!) and because I had a major crush on a girl. So I kept going, kept listening, but never did any of it really stick. Finally, at about age 16, I bailed entirely and stopped going to church. I declared myself an atheist, and a rather arrogant one, at that. Again, to her credit, my mom really didn't hassle me about that.

I soon had a girlfriend (all my religious experiences seem tied to romance ... interesting! That ol' sex thing....) whose family was large, liberal, and Catholic. Germans. Her father was an anthro professor at the University of Colorado. I loved being in the embrace of this warm, happy, intellectual family with a fondness for beer (which they shared with underage lads like me!). I started going back to church, a liberal Catholic congregation, which I liked a lot.

But still, even though I appreciated the more progressive outlook, I found myself increasingly questioning the basic tenets of the church. This whole notion that God created humanity knowing that "we" would rebel, necessitating the incarnation of himself (??), and his suffering and death ... what? Also, the sex thing became a major impediment. While my girlfriend's family was all but silent on the issue (the father even suggested that his teenage son, who planned to become a monk, have sex before making the decision!) I became increasingly subject to my early childhood fears about damnation. It didn't stop me from having sex, which to me seemed the closest thing to divine that I'd ever experienced, but I did feel guilty. I'd been molested by a scoutmaster at age 12, and that whole thing made me fear I was gay, a big no-no with the Catholics (turns out I'm not, but that didn't stop me from fretting, good little guilty Catholic that I was).

No surprise, then, with all the guilt and worry and intellectual confusion, I became a heavy drinker and drug user. And basically a self-centered prick.

Later in life, I became a cowboy. Living alone, or nearly alone, in the big world made me aware of a kind of divineness in EVERYTHING, but it didn't connect at all to the God of Christianity, which seemed the opposite of all that. So I felt connected to something, and the disconnect with all I'd learned was disconcerting.

In my mid-20s, I hooked up with a girlfriend -- actually, she was my second cousin; the scandal! -- whose family were "charismatic" Catholics who believed in speaking in tongues, healing, all that nonsense. We had to keep our relationship secret, since it was "sinful" (cousins, you know: second cousin means my mom was her dad's first cousin -- oh no!), and of course that just added to the charge, the taboo, the intensity of the sexual forbidden. Nevertheless, they were always telling me tales of miracles -- most of which I could, logically, question; i.e. the father had "healed" people of broken legs, but of course no x-rays were ever done -- and that sucked me back into the fear of hellfire. So I tried, as hard as I could, to be a "believer." I tried to pray, but never received anything like an answer.

Through that experience, I came to despise "God." Here I was, an inquisitive young man with a brain that actually worked, and I was being told simply to shut up and believe. My girlfriend's father told me things like, "Don't get hung up on the predestination thing," when I posited that an all-knowing, all-powerful God meant that I had no free will.

So, I made a personal religion of hating Christianity and their God, even as I was terrified to let go of it. I convinced myself that I was the worst human ever spawned, that I was doomed anyway, and so why not keep doing the drug thing? Why not be an asshole? WHY NOT? God hates me, anyway, simply for being what he made me to be.

Oh, man. That hatred fueled some very long years, indeed. I have always been able to keep a job, and indeed, succeed, but gradually, my hatred was killing me. The drugs finally caught up with me years later, when I was married, and I decided to do something about it before my wife left me.

I went to rehab, and in rehab, they sent us off to 12-step meetings. In truth, I hated AA (no insult intended to AA people). To me, it was very clear that "Dr. Bob" and "Bill W." cloaked their system in niceties, but they damned sure expected that you would wind up in church, eventually. A Christian church! They even prayed the Lord's Prayer at every meeting.

But in Narcotics Anonymous I found a much more flexible, open way. Yes, God is mentioned, but it is stressed repeatedly that "God" is up to you. Whatever it is that helps you realize that something, anything, bigger than you can help you a) stay off drugs and b) become a better, kinder, happier person, is good enough. If that's a tree, a mountain, a universe, a group of people, or a big guy in the sky with a beard and flowing white robes, cool. Whatever you like. And whatever you do, DON'T PREACH ABOUT IT! Your beliefs are yours alone, and it's not your job to convince anybody else that you are "right." I like that a lot.

I have an aversion to the word "prayer," but once I developed a "higher power" that worked for me -- one that was diametrically opposed to the one I'd had for so long, and hated and feared for so long -- I began "praying" in my own, quiet way. More than anything, without getting specific, it helped me learn some patience when I want to explode in anger, the recognition that I have a choice in how I act, and a calmer overall presence.

The hatred was gone. At last.

I still get a major buzz out of my anger toward Christianity, and I probably need to work on that. On the other hand, in my work (newspaper columnist) my whole experience now informs the way I can communicate to people about the dangers of a religion that insists it has "the" answer, that is wildly illogical, that spawns hatred and bloodshed, and whose driving motivation is fear, especially of death. I find the whole thing rather infantile, and in my better moments, have a great deal of compassion for those stuck in the Christian fear trap.

My own fears have subsided greatly. I don't know if anything happens after death, and I really couldn't care less. I don't even know if my higher power exists; it doesn't matter.

What matters is that I've escaped. Even though my experience is not nearly as extreme as those of many others here, it poisoned me for four decades.

Thanks for this site. I've been glad to read all the testimonies over the past year or so.

Colorado
USA
Christian from birth
Left in late thirties
Was a Catholic, Episcopalian
Now a Rationalist, open-minded, Deist
Converted because I was born into it
De-converted because I became tired of the hateful, irrational God I believed in
email: evansc at dailycamera dot com

6/19/05                                                                                       View Comments

Got Away Twice

sent in by Red

De-conversion 1.

My parents were “born again” when I was five years old. They quickly became zealots. They used our house for church gatherings and backyard bible study. People were constantly coming and going. My parents became extremely active in their zealotry, witnessing door to door and going to church three times a week This was the mid-seventies and I have nostalgic memories of the long-haired Jesus freaks coming over with their sandals and guitars. At this age I picked up and filtered the messages I was hearing at church: we are the best church, we are saved and others are not, we are good and they are bad. I was five when I formally accepted Jesus Christ into my heart. In elementary school, I was an active crusader, genuinely concerned about my schoolmates’ souls.

When I was about seven, my dad and two other guys from our church broke off and founded their own church, which rented out a space at a private school. It was exciting to me. After intense worship with the Jesus freaks on their guitars, the “elders” would gather after the sermon and have adamant theological discussions. Of course I was far too young to understand what they were talking about, but I imagined that they were spiritual explorers constantly testing the endless bounds of the universe in search of the ultimate truth. This was great, because, I never understood the concept of God. My parents taught me how to pray but I never felt like anything like “God” was out there. It seemed as foreign as learning the alphabet – a system that you are taught, rather than something innate that you are connecting to.

Around this age I developed a fascination with nature and especially animals. I picked up every book I could find about animals and learned as much as I could. One day in Sunday school when I was about 10 or 11, the teacher opened up a strange new kind of “animal” book. This book had nice illustrations but the concepts it was showing were very different from the animal books I had been reading. On top of that, it showed its arguments in a clumsy and artificial way. It was attempting to show that all of the animal species were “created” and couldn’t have “evolved.” I couldn’t accept this. It seemed contrived and dishonest. Because of that I began to be skeptical of the other concepts taught at that church. I paid close attention at the sermons. I became suspicious and would silently challenge the teachings of the “elders” in terms of logic. I gradually became horrified. These people weren’t spiritual explorers – they first decided what they wanted to believe in and then employed everything and anything to try to support their beliefs. Almost everything they said appeared to be circular. I can’t tell you how betrayed I felt. Not only were their beliefs defended with circular arguments but if anyone disagreed with their beliefs they lied, bullied, threatened and used anything in their power to overcome. Not only all of this, but I started to become aware of the dark side to the born-again experience. They seemed to prey on the emotionally weak. They had a systematic way of latching onto the unconverted and circling like vultures, waiting for a breakdown, which they helped set in motion by constantly telling them about their sins and guilt and how Jesus would forgive them if only they accepted him. They went to hospitals waiting for the alcoholic or severely depressed to give in, they would pile people in a van and drive to someone’s house who just reached “bottom” and have an “intervention”, and list goes on and on. Inevitably these broken people would show up weeks later completely “changed.” Endless testimonies were given about how people accepted Jesus.

There I was, an early adolescent, totally alone, estranged from my parent’s church, suspicious, distrustful and no one to turn to. My thoughts remained absolutely secret. You have to understand the terrible vulture mentality of this church. These people are finely tuned to a person’s demeanor. If they detect the slightest deviation they LOCK ON TO YOU. So I learned to be a spy behind enemy lines. I thought my parents would disown me if they knew the truth. This was such an unhealthy way to grow up. I learned great stuff – how to stuff my feelings, how to hate, how to be subversive, deviant, cynical, manipulative and angry. I learned how to reject religion and all things “spiritual” without learning how to adopt anything positive.

By High School I was a terror. I couldn’t hide my rebellion at this point. I took to punk rock like second nature. I loved the most destructive kids. I hated religion with a passion. I pretended to go to youth group on a Wednesday night but before the session began I would collect as many kids as I could and go to the park and hang out instead. I tried to convince these kids about the lie of Christianity.


De-conversion 2.

My life went from bad to worse. By my junior year of High School I was drinking every day. I was always in trouble. My parents were convinced I was on drugs (and possessed by the Devil – I was fond of items deemed Satanic by the church- black T-shirts with skulls, skull rings, anything shocking!). In spite all of this I still managed to go to college. But after three semesters I dropped out and moved to a large city. There I drifted in and out of homelessness and disaster, in a complete alcoholic haze. To make another long story short, I eventually sobered up and went to AA.

A couple of months after sobering up I had an extremely intense experience. For as long as I can remember alcohol was all I could remember that I cared about. When it was suddenly taken away I had a terrifying, empty, scared feeling. I had no coping skills to speak of. At the place where I lived I knew these two girls who were hard-core Christians. One night we spent all night talking about my experiences with the church, alcohol and my sobering up. Afterwards by myself at 4 o’clock in the morning I had this sudden, intense feeling of total, unconditional love. Then I had this thought: What if I had been wrong about Christianity and who am I to say there is no God? It was absolutely crushing. My whole world changed.

I carried this experience with me and at the time I think it was exactly what I needed. It helped me get over the initial hump of trying to get and stay sober. I was still extremely distrustful of organized Christianity. This time around I decided to do an experiment – I am not going to commit to a church. I am not going to surround myself with fundamentalists. The parts that I have trouble accepting, I’m just going to not question for now, and the parts that other Christians are telling me, I’m just going to try to keep an open mind and try to understand where they are coming from.

At that point I had a nominal belief in Jesus Christ and a vague belief in the God of the Bible. I’ve gotta say, this helped me incalculably for a couple of years. I tried never to let my mind question too much, but at the same time I did not associate with fundamentalists. My life got better – significantly better. I could keep a job, I went back to school, I became more responsible, my clarity of mind started coming back, my relationships with others got better, etc, etc. In essence I was “growing up.”

After about three years or so things started to bubble up. Internally I never really stopped questioning religious ideas. Somehow I began to realize that Christian beliefs were hard to maintain because there is a hard-to-ignore concept of “fooling yourself.” There are concepts in the religion that deep down I found extremely hard to accept –not because they are super-spiritual or fantastic, but because they seem so artificial. Anyway, about this time I became involved with a girl who was a hardcore Christian. It was a short, intense relationship. It bothered me how intolerant she was of anything not Christian, but was very quick to ascribe the most mundane events to the work of demons and angels. She was also a very fearful, unstable and unhappy person, filled with a lot of guilt.

Everything came to head around this time. I just couldn’t accept the concept of Hell. If God is an all loving, omnipotent being who only wants the best for all creatures, then why Hell? When I honestly and thoroughly thought about this, it just absolutely did not make any sense – nor could I ignore it. I don’t want to believe in a God who could do this to people. This began the quick work of the whole thing unraveling again. It wasn’t long before I was a non-believer. Not just Hell, but many other concepts seem to me to be artificial, disjointed, self-serving and obviously created by humans over time.

The difference in de-conversion this time, was that I had developed coping skills, I was stable and I had all my intellectual and emotional capacities intact. I didn’t feel like I had to belong to this religion or that religion. I began a journey of trial and error. I learned to just keep an open mind and that it’s okay to let life and spirituality just be an unfolding process and my beliefs never have to be set in stone. I feel this life is one of exploration and growth. I cannot stagnate in a crazy religion that seeks to limit a person to arbitrary boundaries unquestioningly. In fact I think that is absolutely the worse thing a person can do to themselves and others.

The intense experience that I had when I first sobered up, never said to me, “I am the Holy Spirit “, or “Now you have to believe in Christ.” It was simply a pure feeling of love, which opened me up to the possibilities of the universe. Even though I was not a Christian before this experience, I was as closed and narrow-minded as any fundamentalist. Christians think that the born-again experience is a trump card which proves their religion, but they don’t realize that it is also common to a variety of other religions, spiritual awakenings and even non-religious realizations.

I feel extremely lucky that I got away and found a path that seems appropriate for me. However, fundamentalist Christianity, my experiences with it and my getting away from it are the biggest issues in my life, sometimes eclipsing alcoholism. Because of the way I grew up and the fact that my whole entire family and extended family (excluding an atheist grandfather), are fundamentalist Christians, I feel as if the whole thing has left a huge scar that is healing slowly. Sometimes it’s no big deal and sometimes it hurts a lot. The same way some ex-Catholics have the famous “Catholic” guilt, I think that I suffer from some kind of ex-fundamentalist “you’re still going to Hell!” syndrome. Sometimes Christian propaganda is clumsy, but some of it really, really tries to burrow it’s way inside your brain and break you down. It feels sometimes like recovering from a disease.

Sometimes I want to tell all of those people off, and sometimes I feel sorry for them. If there’s one aspect of that religion I wish I could change it is the concept of the fact that they think there is only one path. I don’t care what people believe in. As far as I’m concerned, that’s for each person to decide for themselves and has nothing to do with me. The thing is, when people start believing that their way is the only way and others are damned, causing others to be damned and sabotaging eternal life, things get ugly. I can’t change that. This is what we as ex- or non-believers have to deal with.

Your Sex: M
Your Country: USA
How old were you when you became a christian? 5 & 22
How old were you when you ceased being a christian? 12 & 24
What churches or organizations or labels have applied to you? Born Again
What labels, if any, would you apply to yourself now? No Label
Why did you become a christian? Parents, Only Thing I knew
Why did you de-convert? Experience

6/17/05                                                                                       View Comments

A Product of the South

sent in by Chris

I thought that I had posted this once before, but could never find it when I looked. So if this is a repeat, forgive me.

I was, unfortunately, born into a family with a very typical southern attitude toward religion. What might that attitude be? Well, in my experience, that attitude is that Christianity offers the only answers to the mysteries of life; we as humans are simply unable to understand those mysteries and should therefore simply accept Christianity without question, bathing in the opulent light and love of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Well, as Penn and Teller so eloquently put it on their Showtime program, “Humbug!” Again unfortunately, I was forced into this mindset at a very young age. I suppose you could say that my programming began at birth.

My mother and father were both born in the south, my mother in Florida, my father in Alabama. My mother’s family was also native to Alabama, and to top it off, came from one of the small towns in the “mountains” of northern Alabama. This seems to be the area to which the Pentecostal charismatics were banished in the early ‘20’s. So my mother’s family was of the tent revival Christian bent and my father’s was Catholic. They met while going to school in Panama City, FL, conceived me out of wedlock (gasp, the horrors) and immediately got married so as not to shame the families. My father joined the Navy, looking for some way to support his new family, and was subsequently stationed in Newport, RI. Of course mom and dad were completely incompatible and divorced by the time I was two. This left me knowing nothing of religion but what my mother taught me. She remarried, but the union was a nightmare for the both of us. It sent her careening into the unseen arms of several Jesus’ of varying denominations. I was towed along, apron strings wound tightly about my neck, on this slalom through the world of Christian faith.

I can’t really remember a time as a young child where I was not attending a church of one sort or another. I can remember there was even a stint with the Quakers while we lived in Rhode Island. Later my mother moved on to a Baptist congregation in Massachusetts. I was sent to Sunday school, children’s church, Royal Rangers, vacation bible school, and any other activities the church could come up with to pre-program the hungry little minds of their youth into docile, unquestioning parrots of their faith.

We moved back to Florida once my mother had finally had enough torture at the hands of her second husband. There she found her roots in the Assemblies of God where again I was forced into “Good Little Christian” programming. I went to the camps, wore the t-shirts, and attempted to pull others into our pit. We moved around several times, each time going from church to church, searching for one where my mother felt comfortable. As I reached my adolescent years, I began to question the veracity of it all. I suppose I’d just seen too many differences between the denominations and even among differing churches of the same denomination. I wondered if all were Christians, why was there so much division among them? Why was there so much squabbling and bickering over petty differences in doctrine? If God was really almighty and all powerful, couldn’t he make the truth known to all? And of course if I asked anyone in the church these questions, I’d receive stock answers or no answers and would be brushed off as a petulant youth, full of sedition and rebellious attitude. Of course nothing was further from the truth. I wanted to believe, but was at an age where I needed my questions answered truthfully and from the heart. I began to hate going to church, but I was forced to continue to go. I would sit in service in the back row, agitated and seething, counting the seconds until it was over. I was becoming the insubordinate youth these Christians had treated me as if I were. The funny thing was that church was the only place I acted like that.

Finally, something even snapped in my mother. She left the church and became a normal human being during my senior year in high school. I was exuberant. Once I graduated, I left home, joined the Navy and didn’t look back to the church for years. I proudly had them stamp NORELPREF on my dog tags. I wanted to be absolutely certain that everyone knew I was NOT a Christian. I lived a wild life, blowing every paycheck as I received it, and was the typical Christian example of a non-Christian.

Eventually, I began to settle down and started looking for answers again. I began dating a Catholic girl who was very devout, and I began searching there. I liked the Catholic faith well enough, but it was hard to get over some of the things my protestant upbringing had railed against regarding the Catholic Church. The whole transubstantiation thing, for example, raised a few alarms in both my religious and secular views. But I decided I could live with the things I didn’t quite understand for love. When that all fell through, I went back to partying and living the wild life.

I continued college and continued questioning Christianity and religion in general. I dated a “Christian” girl who essentially used me to get her ex-husband back. I was about to completely give up dating for a few years when I was told about a pretty young woman who worked with my cousin’s wife. I was told that she was a “good Christian girl” and my first response was, “Oh, that’s ALL I need.” However, I went ahead and met her, had a date, and then started seeing her. Our second date was to a revival at her church. I should have run screaming when the preacher called me out, but instead I went out in the aisle and was “slain in the spirit.” Actually I was pushed on the forehead until I lost my balance and it was either take a few steps back to regain it or fall over backwards. Since I knew what they WANTED, I fell over backward. I laid there on the ground with my eyes closed for a while wondering what in the hell I was doing, but I just went with it. The young lady and I dated for a few months. Then we got married. I spiraled back down into the bowels of Christianity, and became a God-fearing, bible-toting, creationism-believing, catholic-hating charismatic Pentecostal. I even got filled with the “Holy Spirit”…or so I liked to think at the time. I babbled a little nonsensical otherworldly language here and there, received messages straight from God, all that humbug. Boy it sounded convincing, but I can still do it now, and I know I most certainly am not filled with the “Holy Spirit.” So for a few years, I kept the pace, but eventually the unanswered questions resurfaced. I tried to talk to my wife about them but she would get angry and wouldn’t discuss it with me. I tried talking about it to our pastor who was a “Doctor” of Theology. He couldn’t give me anything other than the stock answers either. But I was a good little Christian and just accepted that “some things have to be taken on faith.” I spouted that garbage on message boards and in chat rooms and to friends and family. Then I ran out of faith. I told my wife that I was no longer a Christian. She didn’t take it well. I tried to go back to being a Christian a time or two, but I just couldn’t keep it up. I couldn’t reconcile the world around me with Christianity. My wife and I divorced although she would have stayed with me if I had stayed. For the most part she is a good woman, just sadly defrauded of her life by the southern Christian mentality that is so prevalent in Alabama.

So what am I now? Well, I’m definitely not a Christian. The Christians will say that this makes me an atheist because you can’t straddle the fence…you are either for god or against him. I’m not really an atheist. The atheists will say that this means I am still not letting go of the programming that was hammered in to me all my life and am therefore clinging to the possibility that God does exist. To both I say, “Humbug.” I believe that the atheist view is often as bad as the Christians. In my opinion, one who believes that there is no possibility of the existence of a higher power is no less a fool than one who unreservedly accepts that there is one. So I must simply proclaim that I do not and cannot know that a god exists or does not exist…I am without this knowledge…I am agnostic.

Male
North Hollywood
CA
USA
Joined at 5
Left at 17 and 34
Was: Baptist, Catholic, Pentecostal, Assembly and Church of God, Creationist, Lunatic
Now: Ex-Christian, Free Thinker (most of the time)
Converted: Too young to think for myself
De-converted: Religion is a crock
email: cjones_mcse at hotmail dot com

Freedom from Dogma

sent in by Richard Moore

My name is Richard Moore and I am thankfully an ex Christian. I was raised in the very fundamentalist Southern Baptist Church. When I was too young to walk to Church, I was carried. There followed many years of Sunday School, worship service, vacation Bible schools, and summer youth camps. The pressure to believe is intense, and I was baptized at about the age of twelve. Christians must believe blindly and have faith without proof and doubts must be suppressed. Of course a single doubt or the wrong question can destroy the Christian programming.

About the age of sixteen I started asking the hard questions. For example, Adam and Eve had two children, Cain and Abel. Cain killed Abel and was banished to another country where he took himself a wife. Since the Bible says that only Adam, Eve, and Cain were alive, how could there be another country from which he could take a wife? I found out that my church leaders didn’t like being asked the hard questions. I was told to shut up, just believe, and stop asking those pesky questions. I was naïve, but I really expected to have my questions answered. Since the Church didn’t have the answers, I had to look elsewhere for the truth.

For me, the question that finally destroyed the Christian meme was this. What kind of a god would sentence even one of His children to eternal punishment; not just for the sins of one short human lifetime, but for not believing the correct dogma? If true, He is the ultimate enemy of Mankind. If false, there is nothing to save us from, and the sacrifice on the cross is unnecessary. I could no longer accept such a god and the Christian dogma collapsed like a house of cards. I was free and had never been so happy in my life. It was like a heavy weight had been lifted from my mind.

My de-conversion occurred in 1970 and the last thirty five years have been spent as a seeker after truth and knowledge. I am a member of no Religion, although Buddhism may be closest to the truth. At least I am not aware of a Buddhist ever persecuting anyone.

Best wishes to all you ex-Christians. Prove all things and believe only that which is good, honest, and true. Remember that when Christians make it to exchristians.net, they obviously have doubts and need help and encouragement. Hate the dogma, yes, but not the poor deluded Christian.

Texas
USA
I was a Southern Baptist
Now I am a Seeker, Mystic
I converted because my mind was programmed through constant repetition
I de-converted because I could not accept a cruel vengeful god
email: qadeshet at yahoo dot com

6/14/05                                                                                       View Comments

A 15 year long brain fart

sent in by Tyson

Wow! Where do I even start? I want to try to make this as short as possible if I can.

Ok, I was born on St. Thomas United States Virgin Islands and raised 150 miles southeast on an island known as St. Kitts (Christopher). From the time I knew myself, I was going to church because I went to St. Kitts when I was 6 months old.

My grandmother raised me Catholic and you guys have got to realize that 30 years ago, the Caribbean was a bastion of Christianity of all types of faith. Slavery's legacy of learning the religion of the slavemaster for 400 years was deeply entrenched. I don't even remember Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, Taoists, Wiccans or Hindus in the community much less the island. You were either Catholic, Methodist, Lutheran, Moravian, Baptist or Pentecostal. In fact, considering this was back in the mid to late 60s, we had no television at the time and all my grandmother did was have her radio locked on a Christian station 24/7/365. The radio was NEVER off so I was deeply indoctrinated with Christianity. I knew every Gospel program theme song from the Haven of Rest to R. W Schambach and the likes. I did not even know what a secular song was. I knew Bible stories like I now know sports teams today.

Because I was a wild and hyper kid, my grandmother was so sure I was possessed so on Sundays after coming home from mass, She had the Baptist neighbors take me to church at 11 am then at nights, she sent me to church with some other neighbors who attended a Pentecostal church. Like I said, I was inundated with Christianity, but I knew I was going to be trouble when I asked my grandmother why we went to mass to bow down before images when one of the Commandments stated we should not. I don't recall an answer. I knew I was going to be a curious kid.

Jumping about 10 years ahead after a 4 year stay in New York City with my dad who also made sure I went to church, I moved back to St.Thomas to live with my mom. One night as I was taking out the garbage, one Christian friend of mine invited me to church. For years I had a problem telling people NO and I caved in and went. It was some kind of evangelistic week and the guest preacher yelled and carried on which had no effect on me. I have no idea what the hell he was even babbling about, but at service end when everyone was in "silent prayer" while the altar call was given to the scumbag sinners, I was sitting there looking around at all these kneeling people. It was a classic case of all the soldiers taking a step back to make it appear you stepped forward to volunteer. So I'm one of the few people sitting down looking around like an idiot clearly making me a "sinner." Next thing I know my friend was in my ear "witnessing" to me. Again, having no spine to say NO, I caved in to his sales pitch because he asked me what if I did not make it home and died, would I go to heaven. Hey, who did not want to go to heaven? That night I "gave my life to the Lord."

The church I was attending was big on witnessing and they had a subtle way of suggesting that if you did not "lead someone to the Lord," your salvation was questioned so the first people I decided to beat over the head with a Bible were the growing group of Rastafarians that were emerging. Many of them were about my age and of course, they were heathens that needed a good piece of saving. They and I went back and fort in debates with me basically telling them they're going to hell for not accepting Jesus.

The next thing I had to do was become "baptized in the holy spirit." If you were not a fundamentalist, don't even ask me to explain. Anyway, under pressure to prove I was graduating upwards in the faith, I went home one night and in prayer I babbled off a few unrecognizable words and came to church on Sunday and declared I was now baptized in the holy spirit. My "baptism in the spirit" was not accompanied by any cartwheels, however. This would have only been necessary if it had happened in church where you would need some external evidence to convince the crow you really got him (the holy spirit). This now meant I could now preach, teach and sing "anointed specials" on Sunday morning.

After berating the pagans (the Rastafarians and Catholics whom I now, through Protestant indoctrination, saw as the Great Beast of Revelation and red Harlot), like the state sponsored church of the 4th century under Imperial guidance, I turned my attention to the heretics...you know, those Baptists who believed you could NOT lose your salvation and those "liberal churches" where women wore jewelry and makeup. I had to teach them they were wrong and did not have the right brand of salvation. I had all kinds of debates with them basically telling them that with their kind of teaching and looseness in dressing, they were not going to heaven. That's right! I had a hell to take 'em out of and a heaven to put 'em into.

I then moved back to New York at age 17 upon graduation and found a branch of my church from back in St.Thomas. They were just as stiff. They had what I called a group of "sin sniffers" in the church. These folks made sure they were all up in your business making sure you were following every rule in the Bible and the church. For weddings, they sat at the edge of the aisle to make sure the females and the bride were not wearing ANY makeup whatsoever. If they were, this made fodder for the Sunday morning service. Like my church back home, they loved a good message about rebuking women for wearing makeup and flaunting themselves to make men "fall." They loved a good old fashioned telling off from the pastor which would be greeted with tons of "amens."

One of the big things was that they placed a lot of pressure of 19, 20, 23 year olds to get married because there was no way you as a young couple could be dating for 1 year or more, in their estimation, and not getting "some" on the down low. In other words - FORNICATING! To ease the suspicions, young kids would dive right into marriage barely knowing one thing about the world. Worse if you were like say, 25 and you had a younger sibling getting married. You would eventually be asked, "So, when are you getting married?" Needless to say, many of those couples are trapped in living hells, but the church also frowns on divorce and does not allow it using the Bible as their basis. This also led to many secret affairs many of which I knew about.

During this time, I bought just about every book there was on Christian apologetics from authors like Josh McDowell, John Ankerberg and Henry Morris. I learned about all the critic's arguments and objections and how to counter them. I had a massive library of Christian material. I then studied about all the cults and what they taught and how to counter them. I then turned my attention to studying world religions and this is about where the wheels began to fall off in addition to something from a Christian author, Phillip Yancey.

The same guy who "led me to Christ" lost his mother. I was living in Florida at this time and I decided to go to the Christian bookstore to find some book to read to come up with some comforting words. I stumbled into Phllip Yancey's book titled, "Disappointment with God." The book was very pro-god despite the title, however, Phillip used a real person in his book, whose story he sprinkled in between his arguments for God. In short this person lost faith in God after first writing a great thesis on the book of Job elevating God and promoting his faithfulness only to come around later and find out that the story made no sense and if it did, God was actually the villan in it all. All I can remember reverberating in my head was him saying, "GOD MADE A BET WITH THE DEVIL!" It stuck with me and I could not deny the validity to that statement. I did not want to admit it, but that is exactly what happened.

That seed of doubt grew and I began to look at the Bible more critically and began to realize some off the wall things. I used to have problems with certain passages, but figured the problem was me just not understanding the mysteries of God. Now I stopped thinking like that and went full speed ahead in critically analyzing the Bible. The story of Job was a great example of how brainwashed I was. Here I read in black and white that God obliged his own sworn enemy (allegedly) by ALLOWING him to torture his servant just to prove a point. For what reason? To get an orgasm over it? In addition, the story made no sense. Satan hanging out in god's court. Wasn't he supposed to be God's great enemy? What was doing in god's presence? Wasn't this the same god who could not tolerate evil in his sight? This coupled with a few other things dealing with the Bible such as now realizing the Bible was not as unique as I thought and what I read in it was an evolving theology where on era contradicted another, I just decided to give it all up as a pile of crock! The one thing I am left determining is whether or not god actually ordered and did those gruesome things mentioned in the Old Testament or was it just simply the author's who placed words in his mouth and actions in his hands to explain and/or justify certain things. Like, did he really tell the Israelites to wipe out the Canaanites or was it just a case of a bunch of land hungry nomads who envied the Canaanites, wanted the land (the motive), scandalized the people as wicked idol worshipping pagans (the propaganda) then saw the need to make sure they tossed in God (as per their holy writ) in the mix to justify their barbaric means by which they would acquire this land (the act).

I left out a whole deal that would make this story all the more amazing. I did not even mention "Prophet Brown" who scammed whole congregations or the pastor who slept with a church member's mother only to have that member tell him off during a big broad Sunday morning service. I did not tell how when the church members found me asking too many questions how they try to subtly RE-convert me and how they used to follow me around to see what other churches I was visiting, like the Brooklyn Tabernacle Church on Flatbush Ave in Brooklyn. Now today I visit three sites and post reasons why I can't believe the Bible is the word of God, doubt Jesus ever existed or if he did, did the things claimed of him or that the way to God is even through him. I'm not an atheist nor did I go to those sites as an atheist. They know how to deal with them. I'm an apostate (as I've been labeled), one from the inside who knows every thought, every move, every response and objection they will bring. I'm a traitor and they don't know how to deal with me. I've been called "Satan's Spawn" by some wide-eyed new 23 year old Christian and some other Christian lady in convinced there is NO way I gave up on the faith unless I did something bad, could not deal with the tough road the Christian must travel or I wanted to simply give it up so I can party, have wild sex and just live carefree. Oh, and I've also been told I'm being led by the devil. Regardless of what they want to say, all I know now is that I am free. I feel so good and so free and so at peace when they think I am so trapped, lost and deceived. LOL!!! is all I can say. I now finally have seen the light! Now to deal with mom!

6/11/05                                                                                       View Comments

A Pharisee of Pharisees

sent in by John Blatt

My name is John Blatt and I am an ex-christian. The process of leaving christianity took a good two years, but now I am finally free from that fear and guilt-based Cult. Fundamentalist Christianity is literally a destructive mind-control cult and the bible is primarily a series of psychological documents. It took many years to finally come to see this reality, because I didn't want it to be so. No one in the Cult can see with straight vision, thus, the more devoted and zealous one is for christianity the more blind they are to its psychological and spiritual destruction and control.

I became a born-again christian at the age of twenty while I was in the U.S. Air Force in May of 1992. It was a powerful and moving experience and it did effect me deeply, changing me overnight. Before this, I had simply adopted my mothers metaphysical beliefs and so I had no true belief in anything that was really my own.

Since the day that I had been "born-again" I began a long journey within the realms of institutional christianity, seeking to find where I belonged and what I really believed. I began simply as non-denominational, not wanting to even go to church. My first belief was that one does not need a minister and a church to know God, yet this belief erroded over time. While stationed in South Korea I did not have much other than the bible to study. Then after a year I was brought back to U.S. and I began seeking answers to all the different questions I had about denominations, churches, different "gospels" and many other things. No one could match my zeal or devotion to God and the truth of the bible. Christianity was now my life and I severed life long friendships and realtionships due to my new faith, even "converting" my father and step-mother to "the Faith".

My searching for answers caused a lot of waves wherever I went and I quickly gained many christian friends and admiration by everyone I came into contact.

Here is a chronological list of churches and theologies that I joined and embraced and studied through in my journey through Christianity:

Vineyard/Charismatic/Speaking in Tongues and Healing miricles.

Independent Messianic-Jewish Church/Jews for Jesus/Christian Zionism

Independent Baptist/Dispensational Theology/Pre-trib Rapture

Pentecostal/Hyper-Dispensational Theology/Post-trib Rapture

Charles Finney-ism

The 5-Point Calvinism/5-Point Arminianism Debate

Became a 5-Point Calvinist

Embraced Reformed Theology/ Orthodox Presbyterian Church/Modern Puritanism

Paleo-Presbyterianism/Covenanters/Old-school Puritanism

The debate between infant baptism/adult baptism

The debate between mode of baptism: sprinkle/pouring/immersion

Became a Reformed (5-Point Calvinist) Baptist

Moved to NY and joined the Albert Martin Reformed Baptist churches/ London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689

Studied the forbidden Anabaptist writings (pre-1644 London Baptist Confession)

The debate between the Covenant of Grace (1689 Baptist Confession of Faith) and the Old-New Covenant separation (1644 Baptist Confession of Faith)

The debate between Reformed Theology and New Covenant Theology (NCT)

Left the Reformed Baptist church

Was castigated, harassed, and denounced as a heretic and immoral for leaving "The Faith" of the Reformed Baptists/Was stalked, physically harassed and secretly threatened by the leaders of the Reformed Baptist church

Embraced the Home Church Movement and New Covenant Theology

Embraced the teachings of Gene Edwards and Frank Viola

Became a member of one of Frank Viola's home churches

Saw the strange character and ways of Frank Viola and rejected the teachings of his latest books

Left the Home Church Movement

Was introduced to the concept of Universal Reconciliation (Jesus reconciled EVERY man to God regardless of belief or state of soul)

After long study I embraced Universal Reconciliation and the truth that there is no such thing as "Hell", Eternal Damnation, and that there is no condemnation in Christ regardless of faith or deeds and Christ reconciled every man back to God, regardless of belief or unbelief.

This freed me to look into other non-christian views.

I have now come around full circle and after looking through many belief systems and religions. I now consider myself Metaphysical. I no longer believe that the bible is innerant nor divinely inspired (in the evangelical sense of the term), but is one of the most brilliant psychological documents ever contrived. Institutional Christianity is a man-made religion specifically designed to control the masses and indoctrinate mankind with fear (sugar-coated with love, grace and redemption in Christ) and is a truly destructive Cult (not because of its doctrines but because of how it behaves and acts).

I have studied the bible and church history and all aspects of christian theology for over 13 years and was the most devoted and passionate Christian that could be imagined. Though the further I went into christianity the more it sucked the life out of me. The more intolerant, the more fearful, the more lawful I became. I generally studied an average of 25-45 hours a week on my own. Bible study, church history, hermeneutics, exegetical commentaries, greek and Hebrew lexicons, apologetics, polemics, systematic theology, and many other christian disciplines. When I was stationed in Saudi Arabia I took only my bible and studied it 12 hours a day on average. I did take some days off to recover, but my devotion to God and his truth was my life.

Looking back now I see how much of my vital years (age 20-32) were wasted in all of my searching and studying. I viewed myself as a modern-day Apostle Paul, yet I was actually a pharisee of pharisees. I treated anyone who did not see eye-to-eye with me as inferior and was the Christian poster boy of a Bible-thumper. I knew more about the bible and its interpretation than the pastors that I sat under. I had to act ignorant most of the time just so I would not be threatening to the elders of the churches I was in.

I share all this not to boast in my worthless christian devotion and knowledge, but as a testimony to free thinking. Question everything. If I had grown content in my searching and closed my eyes, I would still be bound my unbreakable chains of indoctrination and thought-reform. I can honestly say now that I truly know the bible and christianity, especially after loving it and sacrificing so much for it. Now I can't help but despise it with all that I am and pity the billions who are caught in its blinding grasp.

This is why I am considering the possibility of using my knowledge and experience in writing a book on Fundamentalist Christianity and the bible. We will see. I hope to some day help free the minds of others and help heal the pour souls who manage to free themselves from the clutches of the Beast, the true "spirit of Antichrist".

Feel free to contact me through Yahoo Instant Messenger: positivelylovelife

Peace,

John B.

6/5/05                                                                                       View Comments

Reality, What a Lonely Place

sent in by Brandon

One of my earliest memories is of being "saved" in my church when I was six years old. I remember feeling that I absolutely must accept Jesus into my heart to let him forgive me of my sins, so that I could live in Heaven forever with Him. It was a powerful emotional experience. I felt like I was bathed in the light of the creator of all things, that I had found the ultimate truth.

A part of me was saddened by the thought that I would never grow up, that the rapture would come and take me up to heaven before I could experience being an adult. I wondered what was wrong with my peers, why they wouldnt rush to save themselves from the eternal torment of Hell? I suppose my vivid imagination and sensitivity contributed alot to the fear.

Another childhood experience that stands out involved a church-sponsored "haunted house" type of walk-through exhibit. I am not quite sure how old I was when my ever so thoughtful parents took me to this, but I think it was a few years after I was baptised, so maybe 8 years old. If you are from the Bible Belt like me, you probably know how these things go...milder versions, like "Judgement House" were popular with the religious folks when I was in middle school.

The point of these programs are to put the fear of god in you. They take place during Halloween, which of course is evil and should not be celebrated. The one I visited as a child was an outdoor exhibit called the "Chilling Fields." It was supposed to simulate life on earth after the "rapture" had come and taken all the good christian folk. It was in the middle of the night, in the woods. There were men in horror make-up running around with chainsaws at screaming dismembered victims. Victims of demonic possession murmuring about the "mark of the beast" and so forth. Car accidents in which the christian driver was suddenly beamed up to Heaven to be with their loving God, leaving the passengers to die in a horrifying crash. Seizure-inducing light effects. Simulations of abortions, murder, rape, war, blood, screaming, agony, horror. It scared the living shit out of me. I had nightmares for months.

What angers me the most about my christian upbringing is the sexual guilt. I started having thoughts of naked women as a young boy, and it made me feel filthy. I constantly tried to push the thoughts out of my head. I prayed to god to make them go away. They didnt, and I felt guilty and ashamed of myself.

I know better than to jump to conclusions, and possibly confuse correlation with causation, but I have also lived in a state of near-constant depression and general anxiety since I was a child. I had been able to hide these feelings, and appear as the "strong silent type" until I got to college. I got all A's at one of the top 5 public universities in the country, but have left for the second time because of my depression. It has gotten bad. I have lost most of my friends-I used to have quite a bit. Most of them are christians, and a few are very religious. Not a single ONE of them ever asked me about my problems, much less had the balls to tell me what they think of me. I have found that most religious people are gutless and live in constant fear.

Thinking about death constantly has led me to do some real thinking on what exactly I believe. My interest in science and reality pretty much already had me to the point where I thought of religion as a joke...but now I dont think its that funny anymore. It is not a benign disease.

Depression and other mental illnesses run in my family, and my mother has always been pretty miserable, as have her parents. Faith in nothing is literally all they have to live for at this point, so Im sure not going to speak up about it to them. My family of course, even though they put on the veil of sympathy, see my problems as a moral failing, that its because I have rejected God. Funny that I started off as the most religious one of all.

I am willing to rattle some cages. We have been submitting to this twisted bullshit for too long. There needs to be a movement. A movement for real morality and truth.


Atlanta
Georgia
USA
Joined: Born into Church
Left: Admitted it to myself at my current age of 20
Was: Baptist, "saved"
Now: agnostic on my good days, usually athiest
Converted because: Fear, childish naivety
De-converted because: Started thinking about religion

Fool From MS

sent in by William E. Wallace

Hi, thanks for listening to my story! Here it is...

I was adopted into a 'good christian home" here in good ole South Mississippi. I was raised in the Methodist church from six years old through my teens. Even at the age of six I had one question 'Who made God?" No one could ever give me a satisfactory answer, I could feel their lack of knowledge, some even suggested "You don't ask questions like that". Even as a kid i knew, everything comes from somewhere and the lousy answer to my one simple question was a lie.

Being a good kid, I bought this crap until my early 20's until I studied Geology and I realized that our Earth is a lot older than christian religion wants to admit. The bible and science had a big difference of opinion, looking at the facts, I had to side with science.

Events in my life from time to time made me doubt my skepticism and then I got interested in the Human Genome Project and started doing research and studying Biology. Between the two sciences, I have no doubt about the big lie of religion. Ever since I have been a full blown Atheist, will die an Atheist.

Living here in South Mississippi being an Atheist is a Bitch, especially being single. Unfortunatly I'm an outspoken person, and after a few beers, I'm ready to discuss religion with any of my peers in the bar willing to debate. They sound so stupid it's actually hard to have a intelligent discussion with them, they believe, don't question it, and refuse to even listen or actually debate the science of it all, its all based on faith, blind faith. I agree with Mark Twain on this one, "Faith is believing what you know aint true".

How can anyone who is a functioning human not question this most basic concern? Accepting any writings of the past and taking them over modern day science is ludicrist! Just a few hundred years ago, man believed the world was flat, the Sun and universe orbited around the Earth, witches and demons existed and controlled people. We're talking crazy people that no one can trust or respect their opinion. You should try living around these idiots on a daily basis.

Put both positions on the scales and it's no contest! B.S. just can't compete with science. People and blind faith never ceases to amaze me. I writing this to prove, skepticism is nature not nuture, born and raised in Mississippi, this has to prove there is a skeptic gene somewhere in that 3.1 billion letters of code in our Genome.

Hattiesburg
Mississippi
USA
joined at 12
left at 38
I was a Methodist
Now I am an Atheist
I converted because I was Brain Washed
I de-converted because of The Science of Geology and Biology
email: foolfromms at comcast dot net

6/4/05                                                                                       View Comments

Christian Love

sent in by chris

The background:

I have a friend who is, well, a fundy. I mean a fundy to the core. A biblical literalist, who is elderly, uneducated, and who believes in the whole deal. She spends untold hours of her life on her imaginary friend. She goes to church, she signs up to volunteer for every possible function to serve him, she gets up at 5:30 every morning to meditate and pray to him, she plays only worship music in her car and in her home. She thinks about him, talks to him, thanks him, and does his work all of her waking hours. She has felt his hands on her face, heard his voice, written down things he has said to her, gotten all kinds of revelations and answered prayers from him, and felt his presence.

She has battled the enemy in her own life and in the lives of others. She has people who are completely dependent upon her to pray for them, because she is a prayer warrier. Everything outside of her protective refuge is satanic and utterly evil. She will not have the likes of Bewitched on her TV set as it is satanic. It is her job while on this earth to pray for all people to be saved, because they are in danger of going to hell. She will not accept that anyone in her family refuse jesus, and she has spent years getting them all saved, with the exception of one granddaughter, whom she *knows* will become saved some day. She fears hell, not for herself, of course, because she has no doubts of her eternal place in heaven, but for all the poor lost souls who haven't accepted and subscribed to her belief system. She has seen little demons running around. She married a man she didn't love because jesus told her to. Once, while meditating, she began to speak in Chinese. Well, she said it sounded more like Chinese than Japanese to her, but it was definitely an oriental language. (Like she would honestly know) Another time her left arm started moving and jerking all by itself. This, she said, was the lord telling her that he was tucking her under his wing. She wasn't always like this. She used to be human.

I never knew her when she wasn't saved, but I knew her before she lost her mind. I've known her since I was a kid. She has been like a mother to me for all this time. In fact, I have really always considered her as my mother, since my own mother was never speaking to me (another story having nothing to do with xtianity). We have always been extremely close. I guess you could say she was my mentor.

But, about three years ago, I began to question my beliefs. Things became very strained between my friend and I. We were having some problems about some other things, and I began to see the way that xtianity made her think. I began to see the narrow-mindedness, and the judgement, and the intolerance. I wondered if the xtian perspective was in reality the best road to take. So I began my research...

The present:

Meanwhile, the friendship deteriorated. Last August, she told me that god told her not to speak to me any longer. She felt that she was "in the way" of his work, and that she was going to get out of the way so he could work with me and bring me back. At that point I had already left xtianity, but was not quite an atheist. I was devastated. It was like she had died. I love this woman so much that it makes me cry every time I think about it. I couldn't imagine not having her to talk to, and worse than that, not knowing if she was ok.

I continued my research, and found this site. It was such a relief to be able to talk to others and not be rebuked. It was a very dark time in my life, and the others on this site have helped me to get through it. I finally gave up the god idea, and now I know that there is nothing supernatural about life. The flood of relief I felt was greater than the biblical account of noah's flood. But I was still troubled by this relationship and to this day, I am not at peace with it.

It was so much work to purposely not call her. We have always had this little mental thing, where we could sometimes tell if something was wrong with the other. I kept getting that feeling, and after about a month, I couldn't take it anymore, so I broke down and made an illegal phone call. Turns out she had fallen and broken her arm, had surgery, and it wasn't healing right. She was in a lot of pain and her life was turned upside down. Again, I was devastated, because I hadn't been there, but more than that, I was ANGRY. Angry at her for not allowing me to be there for her.

We have since been trying to talk. But basically she has said to me that I am satanic, and evil, and that she is on god's side, and that those two cannot be in harmony. She said that she cannot be associated with satanic things. She loves me so much that she is making a sacrifice and is stepping out of the way so that god can make me get saved. However, she doesn't think that god is being as drastic this time, and that she has permission to speak to me (maybe she is realizing how much damage that her little separation idea really caused, since during it I became an Atheist). She doesn't think that she must ignore me, but we can never be close. She said there is never going to be any kind of a "togetherness" because I am now extremely the opposite of her.

She said, "If you didn't deny god and the holy spirit and jesus, then there could be some relationship, but when you deny that completely, those two worlds cannot be together." (meaning that there could be *some* relationship if I was merely not born-again. To be not born-again, you still have to believe in the existence of god and the holy spirit and jesus, but not transformed as she is)

She is destroying a human relationship with someone whom she said was another daughter to her because of "incorrect" beliefs. She is lucky to have someone who loves her as much as I still do, but it means nothing to her. Christian love. The "love" she shows me makes me want to run back into arms of superstition. NOT.

Your State - PA
How old were you when you became a christian? 18
How old were you when you ceased being a christian? 38
What churches or organizations or labels have applied to you? Born-again Protestant Fundamentalist
What labels, if any, would you apply to yourself now? Atheist
Why did you become a christian? Out of fear, but I didn't realize it then
Why did you de-convert? Realized that fear was tool of manipulation used by xtianity to control minds
email: ccarroll7537 at hotmail dot com

Striving to find something that works for me...

sent in by Mikey B

I began practicing christianity at age 11 with an over zealous heart to become a member of my Methodist church. I saw the older kids in youth group and immidatly wanted to fit in and play in all their reindeer games. From the teeter-totter a thons to their movie nights and discussing this book that they said to live their life by. (stuff that I wouldnt change because it has made me the person I am today)

By the time I hit 14, I was completely indoctrinated into believe that anything I thought was immoral was sin and when I caught someone fooling around with their unmarried significant other, I cast them off demanding that they repent of their sins or they were going to hell.

As the years progressed, I loosened my grip on the fire and brimstone and started down my own path of rational indulgences.

By the time I hit college I started opening up from the outwardly critical to a more inwardly critical view. My father and close aunt had passed away from cancer and I progressed to be influenced more and more from my surroundings.

Finally sucumming to a drug addition that I afforded through a music minister position at a small local church. All the while believe that complete use of drugs was fine because I used them to have 'religious' experiences (which, acording to anthropology, where common around the Palastinian state).

So armored with this idea that the choices I was making using substances, believing in a deity that would wash away any acts I had disrupted, made me delusional to a part that I believed that I was a miracle away from having the same enlightenment as Jesus himself.

While still stoned I attened my duties as a music minister at my church and began to give my own sermon quoting bible scripture to the bible study before the service. Though I can not really remember exactly what was said throughout that time, it landed me in an insane asylum.

From that point forward, I could not come to grips with what the church's problem was. Here I was, for all intensive purposes, a man that would not hurt a fly, was kind to all people I met, who turned the other cheak constantly, and believed with my heart and soul that I did what Jesus would do who was turned away from the church for a drug induced lunacy.

It sent me into such a rage that I througholy believed that everyone was out to get me in a pszicofrenic nightmare. Finally getting away from all outside influences, I went to pick up a decent amount of weed (though supposably had been clean for all intensive purposes that my family and church knew) and in my next 'religous experience' drove and believed that I was invincible. I believed I could do anything with no consequences.

At 90 MPH, I drove my car off the express way and brought it back onto the freeway. Believeing that I was still invincible, I did it again. Though this time to the tune of flipping my car and hitting the ground 7 times.

I realized that when it was all over, I was upside down, and some man named Adam appeared trying to help pull me from the wreck. I thought I had awoken in Eden. Though, suprisingly, not what the authorities believed.

I still believed that I was invincible when I ran infront of on coming 70 mph traffic back and forth across the road until a cop got me on the ground to restrain me. From that point forward I really do not remember much, I awoke a few times after the adrenaline and THC worked its way out of my system in the ambulance, then the hospital, then in county.

From that next morning, I realized the insane trip I had been on since my world was turned from the time my dad was diagnosed with cancer. I really wondered why Jesus would put me through all of that just to realize I had a problem. Wouldnt I have learned that lesson after I went to the insane asylum for spouting off at church?

As time passed, I read into my addiction and also some great read such as Daniel Quinn's Story of B which was a complete indictment of 'saving' religions.

I began to realize that I was not taking responcibility for my own actions. I believed that through powers that were not in myself, everything would work. That something else was going to do the job for me.

I started remembering what things I was saying to others throughout that time and how similar to what Jesus was saying around the time he was around. I realized, no kidding people would throw up arms about him. He was disrupting the natural order of how things worked for an other cracked out lunacatic's diatribe.

The problem for me has been, for the last 2 years, I lost my faith in everything. This left me with the biggest whole for a kid that grew up believing in something, I now believed in nothing.

Thats when the law of the universe seems to come in right when I needed it. I learned of a lay Buddhist organisation called SGI that was just the rational and logical philosophy I could believe in. Which claims, and has fulfilled results. There is a quote from the philosopher Nietzsche that there are two main differences between christianity and buddhism 'Buddhism promises nothing, but actually fulfills; Christianity promises everything, but fulfills nothing'

If people like practicing christianity, good for them. I pray that they actually follow their own scriptures and are unjudgemental pacifists and kind to their neighbors and to remember that everyone around the world is their neighbor.

Who knows, it may just work out after all. sorry for writing out my whole life story! =D

MI
US
Became a Christian: Born one, confirmed at 11
Left Christianity at 22
I was an United Methodist
Now I cam a Soka Gakkai lay buddhist
I converted because I believed it fulfilled me
I de-converted because of self loathing
email: pianom00 at yahoo dot com