8/31/05                                                                                       View Comments

Too Smart For Religion

sent in by Janet

I don't know where to begin. I could really go on forever about this. I was born to a Catholic mother and had no choice whatsoever. I was forced to attend mass and religious classes and even went to a Catholic kindergarten run by nuns. The nuns scared the crap out of me and at 5 years old I was already confused. Shouldn't I feel safe with the nuns? Aren't they supposed to be "good"?

I never understood the many contradictions of religion and the readings from mass, and whenever I asked about them, I got the same lame answer. "It's a mystery." Well, my mind doesn't wrap around "mysteries", and my mother would get very angry when I questioned her religion.

In my eyes, religion has caused more problems that it has ever helped. I don't even have to go into the wars fought and lives lost and torture and rape and pillaging done in the name of religion. (There's not a doubt in my mind that if there were no religions, there would be peace on the planet). Just in my small life, the damage has been profound.

My mother's whole family was, and some still are, brainwashed with it. I had a cousin that no one knew existed until my grandmother died. He was a "bastard" and my grandmother would not allow him to be around her other grandchildren. I remember my grandmother's funeral very well. My cousins and I were asking everyone who Paul was, but no one would tell us. It was a big secret.

I also had an aunt that I never met until a couple years ago. She had the nerve to marry a Jewish man and the family disowned her and would not talk about her. My mother kept a photo of her in her dresser. I was about 7 or 8 when I saw it and asked my mother about the picture. She wouldn't tell me who she was and told me it was none of my business.

I hate the secrecy and the hypocricy.

My gay cousin came out to me when I was 22. I was the first in the family he told because he was so afraid of the response. He didn't come out to the rest of the family for 10 more years because of their Catholicism. They still whisper about Mark...oh, the gay...

I also never understood, these "Good Catholics" who believed in loving one another and charity and forgiveness and all the teachings, but absolutely hated anyone who wasn't Catholic. They would be nice to people face to face, but the gossip was frightening. And they always had to insult them because they were Baptist or Methodist or Protestant or Lutheran.... and heaven help the Jews. They had a way of saying Jew that you would swear they had a mouth full of dog shit.

It all seemed very unreligious to me, but they never acted like they were sinning when they were doing it. I'm sure they never talked about it in confession.

I hated confession. My mother always said god was all knowing and knew all your thoughts and everything you ever did. If that is the case, why does anyone have to go to confession? He should know what sins everyone has committed. Also, why should I have to confess when he would know whether or not I took my pennance seriously or couldn't care less. And it was usually the latter.

I wonder if my mother ever confessed about how she beat the crap out me and my sister with brushes, yard sticks, or anything that was handy, when she got mad at us.

Occasionally I did try to be a good Catholic. I remember when I was about 10, being very sick on a Sunday. My mother told me I could stay home from mass because I was so sick. Stupid me, I actually thought that if I made the sacrifice to go to church, maybe god would make me feel better. Ha! I just ended up suffering through the longest mass of my life. Really, how hard would it have been for god to take away my stomach ache and headache? I only had the flu.

When I was 13, my father left. My mother went to the church for help. The priest turned her away because she was going to be divorced. That same priest has been investigated for raping alter boys. Three were friends I knew from high school and a fourth killed himself this past year because he could never get over it. So here is this great priest shitting on my mother because her husband left her and all the while he's a practicing pedophile. What a holy man.

After high school, when I left home, I didn't set foot in a church for years. When I was 21 I lost two good friends in an auto accident. They were hit by a drunk driver. I had a really hard time of dealing with it and at my mother's suggestion, I went to her church and talked to her priest. I figured it wouldn't hurt, but I was wrong. The priest had no time for my problem and he kept trying to get me to commit to joining the congregation. At least I wasn't sad when I walked out. I was furious....at myself for listening to my mother. I felt completely foolish.

On the other hand, I've never felt religious, or "saved" or loved Jesus. How can you love a figment of your imagination? I have always doubted. And, oh, yes, my mother has told me the story of "Doubting Thomas" many times. If Jesus walked in my room right now, you can bet I'd be all over him trying to figure out the trick. Ha! Ha!

I have never understood prayer. If god has our lives mapped out for us, why do we need to pray? What is going to happen is going to happen. If you pray and your prayers aren't answered (mine never have been), then it's god's will. If your prayers are answered, it's a miracle. Actually, if your prayers aren't answered , it's typical, and if they are answered it's a coincidence. How many people around the world prayed for the pope when he was sick and he died anyway?

From my early teens started coming up with my own theories on bible stories. I have read the majority of the bible in hopes of understanding and finding what others have found in it. However, reading it only made me doubt it and reject it even more.

My first "The Bible According to Janet" story was Adam and Eve, the first man and woman. Why should anyone believe Eve took the apple and ate it after god told them it was forbidden? It's not logical. Who has a harder time with authority and rules, men or women? Men. Whose prison population is greater, men or women? Men. Why are most women in jail? Men. Why are most men in jail? They want what they can't have. Eve didn't take that apple. Adam took the apple or talked Eve into it. He probably told her "If you loved me you would." or "But I love you and I'll love you forever." or "If I don't get that apple I'll get blue balls." (Any of this clicking? The apple as analogy for sex.) And then when god found out, Adam did the manly thing and blamed Eve. Eve did the submissive thing and kept her mouth shut and took gods punnishment, pain in child birth.......of course I'd like to see a man pass a grapefruit out of his penis and see if it hurts. And Lilith, the first woman, (Wait a minute, wasn't Eve the first woman? No, she's just called the first woman.) was banished from Eden because the first time Adam tried that crap with her she smacked him upside the head and called him a lying son of a bitch.

God and religion are for people who can't get through life without a crutch or a reason. I know the difference between right and wrong. I don't need a religion or god to tell me. I am capable of logical thought and understand fairness. The golden rule, "treat others as you want to be treated" carries more weight and is a more valid way to live than the 10 commandments or bible could ever be. "Treat others as you want to be treated" has no contradictions or ambiguity and is all encompassing.

I have a perfect understanding of why bad things happen: 1. Shit just happens. 2. People are unpredictable and the majority are stupid, self-serving, egotistical ass holes and these are the ones that cause bad things to happen. I don't need god or religion to explain life to me. Science doesn't have all the answers, but it has the logical ones.

I believe young people today who are into religion are grasping for something, anything to hold on to, to believe in, to live for. If it wasn't religion it would be alcohol or crack or heroine. They are all false gods but give meaning and purpose to sad lives.

Older people, like my mother, are so brainwashed it is incomprehensible to them that they could be wrong. They can't dare entertain the thought for a fraction of a second. They would have to admit their lives are based on lies and have been wasted because of religion. I know my mother's life has been a waste since my dad left. She still believes "In the eyes of the Catholic Church, your father are I are married forever." That is sad and pathetic because she has been alone for 25 years and she will die alone because of her own stupidity. There's not a doubt in my mind that she still prays every day that my dad will return to her. What a waste of time and energy.

Frankly, if religion is what gets you through the day, power to you. But keep it to yourself and keep it out of my government, laws, schools, and courts which should be based on fact and logic, not fairy tales.

I could go on and on, but if anyone reads this, you should have gotten the point. It is very comforting to know there are so many of you that can think for yourselves and can tell fact from fiction and aren't willing to settle for "it's a mystery" as any kind of explanation for anything.

Love to my sister always, and thanks for the link to this site.

XOXOX,
JC

Anchorage
Alaska
USA
How old were you when you became a christian? Birth
How old were you when you ceased being a christian? Years ago. Not sure exactly..
What churches or organizations or labels have applied to you? Catholic
What labels, if any, would you apply to yourself now? Agnostic, Anti-religious, Realistic, Logical
Why did you become a christian? No choice
Why did you de-convert? Never bought into a "faith". Never believed in religion.
email: jccocco at pobox dot alaska dot net

8/26/05                                                                                       View Comments

Having a baby changed my beliefs

sent in by Cecilia

I stopped practicing Catholicism in my teens because a lot of the teachings just didn't make sense, especially the whole thing of Jesus having to die for our sins. If God is all powerful couldn't he just forgive us without demanding a blood sacrifice.

I always planned however to raise my children in the church because I thought it would be good for them to have a belief system. Then five months ago my daughter was born. I immediately decided that there was no way I was going to raise this precious girl with the kind of guilt and fear I was raised with.

Even when I was only seven or eight years old I lived in constant fear of burning in Hell. Everytime I said a bad word or disobeyed my parents I imagined my soul getting blacker and worried if I died before I got to monthly confession I was doomed. When my beloved grandfather died I feared he may not have been good enough to make it to Heaven.

I have concluded that raising children with religion just isn't healthy psychologically. I will teach my daughter values but I want to teach her to do good not as a means to get to Heaven or stay out of Hell but because that it what is right. I committed "sins" growing up despite my intense fear of Hell. It just doesn't work as a deterrent, which is why so many religious kids are so badly behaved.

Making mistakes is a normal part of life and a normal part of growing up. Adding religious guilt and fear of Hell just makes growing up even harder for kids. And it doesn't stop them from making mistakes.

I don't steal, cheat on my husband, bully or gossip. I give money to charity and do volunteer work. My lack of religion hasn't made me a bad person, so I have no concerns about my child in that regard. I don't need a book like the Bible, that is full of violence and sexual immorality, to teach me right from wrong. Only weakminded people need to be taught right from wrong. The rest of us are capable of figuring it out for ourselves.

Plus, with the sex abuse scandal in the church, I really don't want my child around priests.

How old were you when you became a christian? Baby
How old were you when you ceased being a christian? 16
What churches or organizations or labels have applied to you? Catholic
What labels, if any, would you apply to yourself now? Believe in God but not organized religion
Why did you become a christian? Born into it
Why did you de-convert? I questioned my beliefs

8/22/05                                                                                       View Comments

The Godly Christ-like Atheist

sent in by William

As a child, and young teen I followed my parent s instruction and went to church on a regular basis. I studied the bible, King James version and memorized hundreds of passages in my years. In my youthful ignorance, like a sheep I followed my adult leaders and gave my life to God. My first church was a very conservative Baptist church called, The First Baptist Church of X. It was very, very conservative. Women to this day do not wear anything that comes above the knee. They strongly believed that the King James Bible was the most correct version and still teach all to memorize passages in the old English tongue.

I went to church two to four or more times a week. There was Sunday school, (Sunday morning, kids were downstairs in classrooms and learned a different bible story every Sunday, which was an hour long,) after that there was the Sunday service, (which was almost 2 hours long,) Sunday afternoon on occasion we went to one of the local retirement homes/centers and met with the old and sick, sang songs for them, read to them etc. Sunday evening was filled with another service, (about an hour and a half long.) Wednesday evening was another service, although very few ever showed up for this service. Finally on Saturday there was Youth group.

For many years I went to this church, I was close to the Pastor s family who had a son my age named Timothy. This was my life, I wasn t particularly a very well behaved kid, but this life of going to church all the time was my norm. I liked it. I learned the lingo, played the part of the good Christian, and was involved in all the activities the church had.

During the summers I went to church camp, Camp Joy in Wisconsin. This camp was a few weeks long, it was centered on programming young children s minds to follow the lord, read the bible, avoid temptation, etc. I loved going to this camp, partly because I was seriously stronger than your average nerdy Christian and shined whenever I competed against them. Again we were encouraged to memorize hundreds maybe thousands of passages in the bible, and I did very well at this.

As a young teen the leaders of my church and at this camp gave me a lot of support and love, and feelings of belonging, which every kid at my age needs. My parents were not involved with the church were very comfortable with the church being my babysitter. It gave them a chance to do their own thing, (even if that was to relax watching TV.)

In my early years it was very normal to see me after school to go to my room and read my bible, pray to God, etc. I never questioned God, Jesus, Christianity or religion as a whole. I gave speeches in my bible classes about the values of Christianity, and why the protestant Baptist church was better than that of the Catholic Church. I went out into the public in the parks, at the mall, going door to door, telling others about getting saved, how that unless they confess they re sins to Jesus and ask him to be their personal savior, they would go to Hell for eternal damnation.

My grandparents, (on my mothers side,) have been going to this church for over 20 years. One day the church demanded that they pay more to the church in order for them to maintain their membership so they left. This was the first instance of eye opening awareness of the corruption of the church.

After this happened I started noticing other things. The well-respected leaders in this church had very racist views behind closed doors. Actually using the word, Nigger! Gossiping was behind the backs of many in the church became more apparent and little groups evolved. People started grouping together and gossiping about each other. Now I m sure that all of this was going on before but I just started noticing these things. Women who dressed a certain way were shunned, called a whore behind they re backs. People who were poor and ignorant where not shown true love and affection but where also shunned and made to feel small. Words like dirty bum, slob, fag, or any other demeaning name you can think of were being said behind they re backs. I started noticing the human corruption of this church that I ve been going to for years.

I didn t even know what sex was till I was about 14, and until I was 15 I thought baby s came out of the mommy s butt. I remained completely ignorant of sex until sex education class in high school. (I was probably the only boy in my class who got sick and threw up, and had to go to the nurse s office from what I saw.) My church was heavily involved in trying to prevent this education in the schools. In school I was a quiet ghost, afraid of mentioning my religion to those who I saw every day.

I wasn t in any sports or school activities, but there was one teacher who greatly influenced me. My English teacher, Mrs. Blank. She was an Atheist and at first I despised her. She on many occasions mentioned how her friend, a Christian would constantly talk about another friend who was Jewish, and how she was going to Hell. Mrs. Blank asked her why, and she stated that because the only way to get to heaven was through Jesus Christ, and since Jews were responsible for killing Jesus, and many did not believe that he was the savior so they were going to Hell. Her friend also mentioned that if she could somehow ensure that her Jewish friend could get to heaven she would go as far as killing her if that is what it took to get her in to heaven. And then there was the books we were forced to read, books like the Scarlet Letter and the Salem Witch Trials, evolution and creationism, and the influence of the Romans, Greeks and they re mythology on modern day theology.

I learned by reading these and others about what happens when religion corrupts. From the Aztec s and they re sun god, to the American Indians and they re many gods, the Greek Gods, and the many hundreds of branches of the Protestant church. (Protestant, to protest against, the norms of the Roman Catholic church, giving justification for divorce among other things.) I learned about the 30 years war, Crusades, Philosophies of Descartes, and on and on. From the killing of thousands of men in war over simple differences in one leader s religious beliefs from another. So many a time in history has a God figure has been used to take advantage of the poor, and ignorant. Kings and leaders in history from all over the world would keep a religious leader by they re side, (or create one.) for a few simple reasons as quoted by me below:

{In order for me, a rich, powerful King to rule over so many, and force them to listen to me, I must be selected by God or a God to rule over these people, otherwise they would surely riot. Secondly in the poor and ignorant person s mind they justify they re sustained suffering at the hands of they re leaders for a few short reasons. First their leaders were selected by God, so I must obey or else I am going against God s demands and will have to suffer eternal damnation in whichever version of hell the religion chooses. Also, one must remember that no matter how much I suffer in this lifetime, even if it means spending an entire lifetime creating a temple, or a pyramid, or paying huge taxes or giving up a child to the service or as a sacrifice to the King. All this suffering would be rewarded conveniently after death in heaven or their second life. }

I still remember all those who I as a young teen brought to God, scaring them of life in hell for eternity if they did not confess they re sins to Jesus and ask him to be their savior.

I see so many who normally live a full life of sin, from everything on the list of sins, end up being leaders in church. Godly on Sundays, worldly on weekdays. So many who judge others on a regular basis, telling others what to believe, who barely follow their religion themselves.

My wife s father is a prime example. Very active in the Catholic Church here in Los Angeles, as held many positions from choir group leader, to one of the church s Filipino American leaders, he s continuously rewarded by the church yet he was on many occasions unfaithful to his wife. He cheated on her multiple times, having sex with other women, while at the same time having sex with his wife. Even after being confronted and admitting his adultery, he still continued and was caught by his daughters at his mistresses home, (the mistress was a youth leader in the same church, who herself was divorced and had a 13 year old son at the time.) After my wife s father separated and later divorced her mother, taking the house that was given to her by her parents from her, who among other things got alimony from her mother who made more money. He annulled his marriage to my wife s mother, (what does that make his children?) and had the nerve to get married in the church. (Great godly example, huh? ) One question I ask is how in the world did the church allow this? The simple truth was the leaders make the rules, and since my wife s father was active in the church he was able to easily persuade a priest in the church to marry them. Now this Godly couple still remains very active in the church and all in the church know what they did and accept them after what they did.

My wife s mother is another weird case. After her divorce with the encouragement of her children she finds a great man who worked at the same school where she taught. They married and she quickly accepts the religion of her husband. Russian Orthodox. I know very little about this religion but it is very conservative, from what I ve seen. This church is very strict, no seats, everybody stands during the entire church ceremony. My daughter and nieces have gone with them to church and since they are young they are quickly shunned by everybody for talking and fooling around, (they haven t yet received the fear of God of talking when the priest is.) So many in this church feel free to tell the 2, 3 and 5 year old kids to SHUT UP! My experience from they re wedding was unusual to me, my daughter was too noisy during the cult like wedding, and of course she was again shunned so I had to take her outside. My evil daughter was shunned yet it was perfectly ok for the priest and everybody else to get drunk to stupidity at the reception.

Being the conservative, strongly religiously educated person I am I take great concern whenever I see individuals that are so quick to mention how strongly they believe in God, yet don t even come close to living a Godly lifestyle. From dating with dozens of men or women, (IE having sex with) negatively judging and gossiping about others, to cursing like sailors, having nothing to do with any charity, or are so materialistic it s gross. (I ve gotta have my $400 knock off purse, boob job, and 50k car.) These same people look at me with disgust when I tell that I gave 5 dollars to a bum on the street, or raised $500 for Tsunami victims. Saying things like, how can you give that money away, you ve got bills! You should have put that money away in savings, etc.

A couple years ago when my wife was pregnant with our second child at 5 months we went in to see the doctor, hoping to find out the sex of the baby. We found out instead that the baby was going to die, because there was no amniotic fluid in the sac. Oligohydramnios, or lack of amniotic fluid. The fetus or baby s kidneys did not develop properly and the baby s heart rate was deteriorating. Amniotic fluid is necessary for all development for the baby, lungs, heart, oxygen flow, blood flow, etc. We were told that for the sake of my wife s health, we should terminate soon or risk a deadly infection. So that is what we did. My wife underwent a D&E, (Dilation and Extraction) where they open up the vaginal cavity and take out the baby. Not a very happy moment in our life. We wanted this child so bad but there was absolutely no chance of survival, it wasn t anything we did wrong, it was a simple abnormality that happened at the early stage of genetic growth. (Not necessarily genetic, or hereditary, but a circumstance of a damaged protein gene in the DNA structure, or something like that.)

Now what did we get as of support from family? Pretty much nothing. We were the butt of gossip by my wife s ignorant family. (Ignorant meaning my wife s family with very low theological and scientific education. Gossip was started saying we aborted our baby, (third trimester abortion, would normally be disgusting to me, but this wasn t an abortion.) Other gossip was started saying that the genetic abnormality was our fault because we are overweight, which would make sense to a retard, but anybody who knows anything about genetics would understand that a normal perfect baby is more of a miracle than that of one with abnormalities. Anyway, the religious godlike lovingness of mankind shined through once again.

So with all this being said, one might say, oh your just a poor lost soul, a lost sheep in a society of corruption, it really isn t like that in the world. The simple truth is that the real world is this way. People in general are ignorant, and they gossip and allow they re ignorance and gossip to spread. These are the people who spread hate throughout the world. It is these types of people who go and feed they re ignorance to the poor and ignorance in places like Iraq and take advantage of the suffering of those poor suffering people. All it takes is someone with some conniving intellect and the mere mention of God to play a role as a religious leader of a bunch of highly ignorant small minded, cave dwelling starving individuals. Since very few actually read any of the old scripture writings and even fewer ever challenge anything anybody says that is remotely religious sounding and people accept it as fact. We are a people with the inability to think for ourselves, if we hear something on TV or the radio we take it as fact. We immediately think that since someone says something on live TV that we are getting the whole truth, very few ever research the details themselves.

And this is the single biggest problem with religion today. Very few challenge religion, and even fewer challenge God. Most accept everything a religious leader says, (a leader who possibly has very little religious education themselves.)

Now to why I title this writing, The Godly Christ-like Atheist. This is I. I believe that all people need to be understanding, sacrificing, loving and caring. I believe in the work of charity organizations, I believe that corporations have a responsibility to ensure the well being of their employees. I sincerely believe that churches have a community responsibility, and should be challenged with the responsibility of helping those less fortunate in their community. I enjoy the lovely instrumental and vocal music found usually in church both for it s artistic beauty and for it s human uplifting feeling that comes with it.

However I do not believe in the existence of any supreme god. I believe that Jesus existed and that he was probably a pretty good man. I no longer believe that he died for my sins although he may have believed so himself and did die for something he believed in. I believe that in most cases organizational religion is corrupt. This includes the Vatican Catholic religion, who over the years has been involved in many atrocities like the extermination of many scientists and their research in the early years after Christ, to covering up molesting priests without forcing justice against them. All of the Protestant religions, are merely a corrupted version of the catholic church, who in turn is a corrupted version of the Jewish religion, which in turn is the corrupted building of yet another of thousands of religions that throughout history have existed for a short time since the existence of mankind.

I believe that it is a sad thing to see that most charity work is the result of religious organizations, very few are independent of religion, or religious affiliations. Although I am an atheist I have done thousands of acts of charity. From assisting in the building of churches, schools and homes and building of community centers throughout the world while serving in the military. I ve stood behind feeding trays giving food to the hungry needy and poor, I ve sat and listened when a stranger just wanted someone to talk to. I donate blood almost every other month, so far 35 times, just over 4 gallons of blood in my 29 years. I plan to get on the bone marrow list. I give money s to charity organizations and donated many personal items to charity. I have come to the aid of complete strangers on dozens of occasions. I ve helped the lone grandma cross the street. I hold the door for women or men as a courtesy. I represent myself as a role model to the younger men in my wife s family and my own, and those others around me. I encourage education and knowledge, not merely for good grades but for personal growth and open mindedness. I am a faithful father and husband. I am there every morning waiting in line at my daughter s kindergarten school, waiting for her teacher to take the class from the yard to the classroom. I yell and scold the kids who fight while waiting in line. When I am at a park and the ice-cream truck comes I don t just buy ice cream for my kids but for all of the kids thatI see in the park. (10 to 15 dollars to see such joy and happiness on these children s smiles.) But I am not rich; I on occasion need to borrow money from my family and/or my wife s family. I do not give regular money to the church, but I do give money to those I feel are doing great things for others.

I design genetic research equipment in a small biotech company. Equipment used by scientist all over the world in they re research to fight cancer, AIDS and other horrible diseases. I keep my low paying job because it allows me be there for my family. I get dozens of offers from other companies that are offering tens of thousands more per year but demand a lot more and are less flexible when it comes to me being there for my family. My wife currently works but in a few months when we pay off our cars she will no longer have to and will be able to be a stay at home mom if she so chooses.

I am not against the use of God as a symbol in government; I could care less if my money says, In God We Trust. I don t care that our country s pledge of allegiance mentions our allegiance under God. I am however against forcing one to abide by rules governed by any one specific religion. Giving the death penalty to someone simply because a passage in the bible mentioned, An eye for an eye. Or a classroom teacher scolding a child for not bowing their head for prayer in a classroom. As I tolerate the role of religion in society so shall society be forced to tolerate my right to declare independence of religion without persecution by any legal governing organization.

I am a Godly Christ-like Atheist. I sacrifice for others; I have respectable morals and demands for my children and my family and I believe that this is what everybody should do. I acknowledge the usefulness of religion in society but I also believe that it must be challenged when it is caught doing something wrong. I acknowledge (although feel it is unlikely) the possibility of the existence of a superior being. I believe that when I die the only way for me to exist is that which I have already done while I was alive. I will exists in the memories of my loved ones, my accomplishments, my intact honor and the deeds that I have done to help others.
Some philosophical points or questions we should all consider.

God may exist, he may not, the only difference between you and I is you have blind faith.

Blind faith is the basis of all religions and all well educated seniorreligious leaders admit this fact, this includes the Pope and many other religious historians.

There is no single proof in the existence of God. Our existence is not proof in the existence of God, our existence is merely the proof of our existence.

If God does exist, then he is responsible for all atrocities as well as the miracles.

If God does exist, there is no way to know that he loves you, or even cares.

If God does exist, there is no way to know that there is only one God.

The universe is not proof of Gods existence; otherwise I could use the same proof as follows. If God created the universe, then who created God, a superior God?

Many people believe that the Big bang theory is impossible, an entire universe from nothing? Study matter and anti-matter for a better understanding. IE get some scientific knowledge.

An argument that you better believe in God or you will go to hell. You cannot scare a belief into someone. You can only scare an individual to comply with your view on the outside, it doesn t change that individuals core values. If there was is a God, do you really believe that he wants lemmings to follow him? You say you believe in God because it is the IN thing to do, the question is, do you follow your Gods teachings or are you a hypocrite. If you truly believe in your God you should fear him, and your actions in life should represent that fear.

Although I am not religious it does not change the fact that I honor and respect those who are. They have an ability to believe in something that I cannot, it doesn t mean that they are stupid, rather they choose to believe in a higher power, I choose to not believe. I respect the humanitarian actions of the last Pope, he was a nice man, as well as Gandhi, Martin L King, Buddha, and Confucius. Now although I respect these individuals it does not change the fact that my views on organized religion. In my personal belief somewhere, somehow there is corruption in all organized religion.

Religion is on an inevitable track towards complete disbelief by all. It may take decades, centuries or even a millennia, but unless God comes down from above and offers proof of his existence to all, everybody will soon be non-believers and life will continue.

My biggest problem with religion is the hypocrisy, if you say you follow a religion follow it, study it, learn the history behind it. Don t just be lemmings. Question what your leaders tell you. Most of all be good people, care for each other in this lifetime, don t wait for whatever you call your next lifetime.

Los Angeles
CA
USA
How old were you when you became a christian? 5
How old were you when you ceased being a christian? 18
What churches or organizations or labels have applied to you? Baptist, Catholic
What labels, if any, would you apply to yourself now? Atheist
Why did you become a christian? Because I feared god!
Why did you de-convert? Because the existence of god doesn't make sense, and corruption in the church only adds to that fact.
email: ynotbegoodtoall at aol dot com

Atheism through anthropology

sent in by Michael

I was raised in a family that could best be characterized as "unthinkingly Protestant." My parents (to their credit) hadn't really studied their religion seriously, but just got it from their parents. We were sent to Sunday school, because that's what nice people do.

When I was a teenager, I started to take a serious interest in philosophy. I read Aristotle, Plato, Nietzsche, Sartre, and others. However, I don't recall that I ever seriously encountered or thought about the question of whether God really existed. It just wasn't something that people around me discussed.

One day, I was talking about philosophy with a friend, whose father happened to be an anthropologist. The friend asked me, "Do you believe in God?" I answered, "Of course." He replied with the question, "Which one?" and went on to explain how he'd learned from his father than people around the world believe in all kinds of different, mutually-exclusive gods. They are all sure that their god is the true one, but each merely believes in the religion of his parents. How, my friend asked, could I possibly claim that my religion and god were the true ones? If I couldn't know that, then how could anyone be sure of what god was like, or if he existed at all?

This discussion was a revelation to me, and started me on the road to atheism. I'd say from the moment of the discussion, I was intellectually an atheist. The logic of my friends argument was that conclusive. I struggled for years to throw off feelings of guilt, fear of hell, and all the other emotional traps that Christianity sets up to keep people believing. As I read and grew in my understanding of the case for atheism, I was surprised and still am at how few others I meet who are also atheists.

By the way, my parents are now atheists as well.

Illinois
USA
Was: Protestant
Now: Atheist, free-thinker
Converted because: Indoctrinated by parents
De-converted because: Started thinking for myself

8/19/05                                                                                       View Comments

No Longer a Christian

sent in by M

The grass was green and the sky was blue. The confidence of life I felt early in my life was intense. I adored life and clouds and rain and fireflies and people. That was my earliest recollection of living and loving life.

I noticed as I got older that the name of the game was to conform to family, events, country, people who talked of god, corporations, etc.

An interesting thing happened when I was 8 years old. My mother got lung cancer and was given 5 years to live. Now, I was the fifth of six kids, there was a nine year gap between the first three and the second. So, my parnets where relatively old to have the next group. My mother was a Catholic and Father said he was Lutheren, but didn't really practice anything.

Anyway, after my mother got sick, thing's got worse. There was alot of tension in the house and uncertainty. She had a "mother be worshipped" things going on in her mind. We had moved from Illionois to Colorado when I was six. The first three kids all grew up in Illionois. After awhile the "altitude" became a problem in Denver and we sought to move to Arizona, so we did.

This did not provide a cure for my mother's use of oxygen in a can, which we all thought we where moving from all the other family that moved to Colorado to Arizona to begin with. So, after 32 years of marriage my father left when I was 12 and younger sister was 10. My oldest brother went back to Colorado as soon as he could.

As I got older things got worse with my mother's health mentally, physically and emotionally. I often wondered if there was a god why things got so bad. This is where my spiritual pursuit began at age 19 near the time of my mother's death and trying to seek a life that would be more in concert with god and so that perhaps I could find favor with god because I didn't know what "sins" my parents made that made there life go to hell.

Anyway, after a suicide attempt at 17, my sister also tried one at the same age. After I had moved back and forth between my parnets and dropping out of high school at 19 I watched CBN and related to a testimony. So, I called the 1-800 number and it was busy, but I kept calling thinking I had to be serious about this.

At work a guy came along that was installing some new machinery and he had a glow, a confidence, a purpose. He wasn't on drugs or smoked or drank, he was just there to install a new saw from Michigan and he caught my eye. I wanted to have confidence again, I wanted to have a purpose, I wanted to love myself like he seemed to do when he could not get something to work, but kept trying.

My roomate and I invited him over one day after work and he told us about Christ. He showed us the "four spiritual laws" tract and I was hooked. I thought to myself, that is the problem, my life was disoriented because I didn't have Jesus on the throne of my life like the picture had it in the tract. My life was a disorganized mess and I thought this is why my parents lives became so messed up and mine also. So, I accepted Christ and thought this will be great. I can have confidence and purpose.

I did clean up my act, I did have a purpose now. I did quit smoking pot and never really drank, but quit drinking then and smoking cigarettes. I dived in with both feet and studied my brains out. I went where "god led me" which at first was with a friend of my mom's who went to a pentacostal type of non- denominational church. So I studied everything, a job came along and I stayed there for 11 years.

While at the church, I learned I had to speak in tongues and was fine with it. I wanted it all. So I blathered and thought I got it. I thought great, we are all going down to Mexico and I can try out speaking in Mexican while I was down there. Well, it didn't work, like in the New Testament.

So, after much more study I finally ended up in a group of people who "divided the word of truth". I thought that was the ticket, I studied before with the "devils false brethren" and really had to disect the word of truth then all the confidence would be mine and all the real understanding. So I learned the differance between law and grace, Paul's ministry and how he was given to the gentiles while Peter and James where given to the circumcision and how tongues ceased and where only working at a certain time. Before this time with these folks I had heard of the differance between law and grace and was considering going to Oregon to study greek with a group.

Well, I did find a group locally that studied the King James Version and knew the differance between law and grace and they claimed to know it because the "other versions" didn't want people to know the differance. So I studied with them for a couple years.

Now, the reason I wanted to get this all straight was because I eventually wanted to get married and if I had kids, wanted them to know the "right way". That was one motivation, the other was to see how my parent's went wrong so I didn't do the same and suffer what they did. I think there are more motivations also.

As time went on I could agree with the King James only stance my new friends stood on. I could see that when you compared the scriptures like the NKJV, or NAS, or NIV. That the sentence structure was differant and the "direction" of the sentences did lead to a differant understanding of certain very important doctrines. For a time I thought this was great and didn't have to get all jumbled up with studying the greek and all those differant greek versions.

Anyway, as time went on I had some serious weird doubts. Especially about the word. But even personally, wondering about the "hand of god". A girl came along during this time that was really cute. Now take it, this is a small group and I had the notion in my mind maybe god was going to give me a wife. Well, she was screwing one guy there a brother of my roomate at the time. I started to "date" her and told what she was doing was wrong and she understood. We got along really good, but then the pastor's son was starting to rebel a bit and thought she would be great for his penis. Oh, the light bulbs went on. I mean, god could favor some kid that didn't give a rats ass about what he was taught and his older two brothers where married, so the pastor got this chick to obey so enter into the close nit family they had. I always admired there family it was close nit and great. I was jealous of it in one sence. It was everything I wished I came from. There kids beemed with confidence and assurance of there future. I was still scraping, staying out of debt, saving $30 a week, giving to the church etc.

Now, I kept myself really pure during this time. I never fornicated or anything. I never went to bars or went to clubs or even had porn. At one time I even tried with all my heart not to masturbate and was out at a restaurant one time with a friend and had to excuse myself several times to the bathroom because I "had to" ejaculate. I mean I cut myself off from all sin as much as I could. I thought for sure god would reward this effort with a wife. Or if I was to be single, take my sex drive from me. It didn't happen.

So, as studying went on in this group. One day the preacher was teaching on the preservation and inspiration of the King's James Bible. How it was the perfect and inerent word of god. He said, " If this isn't the word of god, we may as well be at home watching football". What stuck out to me was he was right. The other thing that stuck out for me was there was not one person in the 1990's that spoke in the King's James version or even cared. I understood all the arguements for the King James and agreed that there had to be one preserved, perfect word of god out there. I agreed that the differant versions all had a differant slant in sentence structure. I also knew that this girl that did like me and I could of screwed, wanted not god's will for herself. But, a family she never had and the security and money and lifestyle they had.

So, after that I tried to hang on to some faith thinking I missed the boat or was too harsh and tried again the non-denominational route. I met a gril that would of been great as a secualr wife, she was a nurse. But, I was already done. I already didn't feel this was right any longer.

So, I ventured out into getting a one bedroom condo and just being by myself. I thought the economy of having kids and teaching them anything worth while was a lost cause. I discovered beer and just delivered pizza and drank beer. Paradise on Earth.

I did meet some new girl and it didn't work out. She was artistic as I was and I thought I could help her. But, it just led me to alcohol abuse even the more. My self esteem was shot. Not only from my upbringing, but my "failure" to understand god's will. I was completely drained and got a DUI in 2002. I tried AA and can't even get myself to the god part.....it is gone.

Anyway, I am trying to sell my one bedroom condo now that I discovered was shit to live in because my crack head neighbors kept me awake. Thats one reason, the other is I tried 6 jobs in 2003 and 2004. So, I guess the final joke is on me. I learned alot about myself and people and women the last couple of years. I want to sell my place now at the top of the market and live in a van. This is my second condo I tried to live in, both had shit for neighbors.

So whether in church or no church. There is no god for me. I suppose if your Christian it has to do with predestination. If there is a loving god he hates me and my decisions and likes to torture my soul. Or there is no god and I am just growing up and have to make the best out of life as I can.

At this point, I think I had to grow up and realize I am like a duck, turtle, or fish and just do what I do. I will never get married into a "christian contract". I will never support the christian laws, or Roman based laws of justice for all. Life is a crap shoot, there is no lesson to be taught or purpose other than survial to be achieved.

Joined: 19
Left: Mid 20's
Was: Pentacostal, Ultra Dispensational, Non- Denomination
Now: Me
Converted because: For answers, salvation
De-converted because: No answers, no salvation

At least Zeus knew he was a prick

sent in by Jay

I was born into Christianity, and just like everything else your parents tell you, it has to be true. Well, as a child my ability to reason did not go far beyond "stove hot", so naturally I fully believed what my parents told me. It is reasonable to assume that they taught me about their god and did so as a verifiable fact. So I didn't doubt it, I didn't know any better and if I went to church I didn't get in trouble. To be honest, I never really believed in Jesus Christ as he is presented in the bible, I believed in Jesus Christ as the church presented him (if he did in fact exist at all). I never read the bible or prayed, and I certainly didn't tithe. It took me until I was fifteen years old to read the bible, and at that point something very curious occurred.

I realized that many parts of the bible, and I'm sure that those reading this need not be refreshed, flat out contradicted each other. Even the sections that made sense were quite often ridiculous and incredible. Did the church really expect me to believe that angels had sex with women who birthed giants? Was I really to believe that it was acceptable to sell your daughter into slavery? Noah really fit two of every animal onto a boat? For the sake of brevity I will not bother to look up the exact scripture, we all know it's there. A grown person should never be able to say they believe such tomfoolery with a straight face. Then I realized why the church members could, they had only read John 3:16. Most of them had never heard about the whole score of mythological chicanery and fairy tale notions in the bible.

To boot, all of the evidences for the bible is in the bible, something you can never do in a logical argument. These people assumed the bible was true and worked around it, but that's entirely wrong. They have to do that because if they followed the rules of science, their bible would fall faster than a French prize fighter. Josh McDowell's apologetics are a joke, and even the best Christian apologetics always come down to the faith issue. When I got a little older and began reading classic literature I realized that the gods of ancient Greece, Rome and Egypt and every other civilization bore striking resemblances to the Christian god. I liked the story of Noah better when it was Gilgamesh. In antiquity, people were just as religious and just as willing to die or kill for their gods.

My father was always a very lazy man, and he always used the excuse that god will provide to not have to work. He made my life miserable as well as my immediate family's lives, but god will provide. He would also use the bible to argue with my mother when she thought he was being ridiculous, and he almost always was. That is what Christianity comes down to, it's a way for people to feel better and justify their own shortcomings. Now then, Christianity is not the only faith guilty of this, but it is no different either. The god of the old testament is not the god of the new testament, but either way they both act like children. Gods have a way of acting like men, they get jealous or angry and smite people just 'cause. Where is the moral in the story of Judah or Noah? Why did God, a loving god I might add, get angry when all the Amalekites weren't killed? Odd, I seem to remember something about "Thou shalt not kill".

Finally, I'm not trying to argue my side, I will do that later. This is just my personal story as to why I am not a Christian. It may not be as good as Bertrand Russell's, but it something that has helped me in my life more than all the water turned into wine.

Riverside
CA
U.S.
Joined: 1
Left: 16
Was: Protestant
Now: Agnostic
Converted because: Born into it
De-converted because: Actually read into it

Fundamentalism drove my Dad insane

sent in by Kay

Christian fundamentalism does not mix well with alcoholism. My 72-yr old father in Southern California has been an abusive alcoholic all his life; he used to attack my mother on a regular basis and emotionally abuse us three kids. He would get drunk all the time, cheat on my mother, and try to bring prostitutes home. That was my childhood.

Then my mother died and my father suddenly became a Born Again Christian to help assuage his great guilt over abusing my mother. (It hasn't helped).

My father has been driven literally insane by Chuck Smith Sr.'s teachings, and by fundamentalists and evangelists on TV. One reason why I know this is that he calls up people and does phone exorcisms on them, often in the middle of the night, in order to catch them off guard. After he did one to me on the phone, I asked him where he thought that got him. He said he truly believed that his phone exorcisms work and chase out demons.

You can imagine what they sound like. "Ouuuttt in the name of Jesus Christ, I command, you, demon, come ouuutttt."

I believe he got this idea from Chuck Smith Sr. at Calvary Chapel with the laying-on of hands by elders there. Pastor Chuck believes in demon possession, and even preaches that it could happen to a person who has "backsliden" enough (stopped praying and reading the bible long enough) to have committed the Sin Against the Holy Spirit. Since Calvary Chapel believes that a Christian cannot be demon possessed, my father feels that I qualify for possession because I have rejected his religion.

My Dad has a college degree major in Psychology and a minor in Philosophy. And yet, he has thrown ALL of that previous education out the window in favor of the non-thinking, non-analytical attitude of fundamental Christianity.

He is really into anxiously awaiting the rapture and Second Coming of Christ. When the huge, destructive Tsunami recently hit an island, I was on the phone with my Dad as he watched it on FOX news, and his Christian girlfriend was over there. Immediately there was joyous jumping up and down and clapping and celebrating! No expression of concern over the Tsunami victims, because to them, this was just more confirmation that Jesus was coming even sooner. This, to me, is insane.

I went to Calvary back in the '70s, and I watched Chuck Smith go through a series of false predictions about the Second Coming. First, he predicted it "had" to be 1975, then I heard later he made the same prediction for the early '80s. Well, we are still here and the non-thinkers, blind-obeyers have egg on their face but they won't admit it.

Sometimes being a thinking adult and using your brain can keep you from getting a mental illness or chronic personality disorder. When I tell you that my own father has been driven literally insane by fundamentalism, it is, very sadly, the truth. And the truth will set you free.

West Coast
USA
How old were you when you became a christian? 17
How old were you when you ceased being a christian? 30
What churches or organizations or labels have applied to you? Jesus Freak, Jesus Person, Born Again Christian
What labels, if any, would you apply to yourself now? Tibetan Buddhist
Why did you become a christian?The "love" at Calvary Chapel
Why did you de-convert? I got educated; started using my brain.
email: heart_focus at yahoo dot com

8/18/05                                                                                       View Comments

My Journey to Freedom

sent in by No More

When I was six years old my parents took my brother and me to be baptized in the Lutheran Church. We continued to attend regularly and I was confirmed at age 14. I don t think my brother was, because my parents divorced and stopped being involved in the church before he would have studied for confirmation.

By the time I was 19 I felt adrift, without clear spiritual direction, and I wanted to be a real Christian. I prayed and received Christ into my heart. I married a Baptist. I studied the Bible fervently. Before long I became dismayed by all the different interpretations of scripture that are out there. I wanted the TRUTH! After about ten years of comparative religious study, in a used bookstore I chanced to run across a magazine called, The Orthodox Word, of the Russian Orthodox Church. Their claim to have faithfully preserved the original teachings of Jesus and the apostles impressed me and I became a catechumen and converted. But I gradually became troubled by the negativity concerning human nature. And I found it difficult to think of sins to confess every week I went to services for Holy Communion. I mean, I was devout! It was living a good Christian life. I was not aware of sinning. Of course, I was told that is evidence of spiritual blindness; to claim you haven t sinned is sinful pride. Orthodox Christianity is very bad for a person s self esteem and reasoning ability!!

The beginning of my de-conversion was reading a book called, The Christ Conspiracy, by Acharya S. It exposes the origins of Christian doctrines and debunks Christianity altogether. I was actually devastated by this knowledge, but I had the courage to keep exploring. I thought, Well, if Christianity is false, I will explore Judaism, from which Christianity diverged. I had been told as a Christian that the Jews dwell in spiritual darkness. After actually reading some Jewish books I saw that to be untrue. Spirituality is not confined to Christianity. My husband felt that the teachings of Judaism were the closest to what he believes no intermediary, commitment to making the world a better place, freedom of thought, strong community. He felt that Judaism would be good for me, as I missed the fellowship of believers. I studied and converted in 2002. He was very supportive and came with me to services. He followed me in conversion in 2004. It has been good for us.

When my mother learned of this, she had a fit! Since then I have gone through the hell of rejection by my mom, my brother and now my daughter, who is a convert to Mormonism. My mom has disinherited me and is very vicious toward us. I have had to discontinue all contact with her for my own emotional well-being.

Although I continue to attend the synagogue, I have moved more in the direction of Deism or even Humanism. It is difficult for me to recite the traditional Jewish prayers because I don t think of God in anthropomorphic terms, but I enjoy the Jewish community we have. Jews don t try to define God; we just keep a sense of awe and wonder about Life. We emphasize the Joy of Life! That is reason enough for us to continue there in peace.


Oregon
USA
How old were you when you became a christian? Raised Christian, but "born again" at age 19
How old were you when you ceased being a christian? 53
What churches or organizations or labels have applied to you? Lutheran, Baptist, Charismatic, Eastern Orthodox, Reform Judaism
What labels, if any, would you apply to yourself now? Jewish, Deist, Humanist
Why did you become a christian? I wanted clear direction for living a happy life.
Why did you de-convert? I did comparative religious studies and discovered the true origins of Christianity.
email: klouises at charter dot net

8/17/05                                                                                       View Comments

I was helping to destroy the world

sent in by Sage

My mother was the American Suburban version of "good Christian". That is, believes in the Bible word-for-word, does devotions and prayers exactly as they are written out on the book, prays before every meal - but doesn't go to church because she's fat, and she just KNOWS everyone is going to stare at her and she'll be so embarrassed and look so bad......Apparently God judges appearances a lot.

My dad on the other hand, nobody knows what he thinks. I think the best label to apply to him would be "pessimistic agnostic"; that is, whether or not there is a God doesn't matter to him, so long as it's the worst-case scenario.

My mom brought me up in the church. We went every Sunday, 8:00 AM sharp, in the frilly dresses and horridly uncomfortable tights my mother always made me wear. The kids in the church didn't get programs like the big people, we got little booklets with Bible stories inside to color. Only, we couldn't have crayons in church, so we only could use one color, gray pencil lead.

As I grew older I became a very good Christian indeed. My mother sent me to the same school she attended in her youth, the local Lutheran school, that sure did give you a Christian education but didn't have much to offer in the non-religious fields. I ended up having to leave in the fourth grade because I had ADD and my school, outdated as it was, just couldn't handle it.

Public schooling was a big slap in the face. I came across people who actually weren't Christian. Heavens, no! People that used words and did things I'd never even heard of. Worried, I sunk further and further back into Christianity, which didn't help because my father was a cheapass who spent thousands of dollars on himself in a month yet dressed us kids in hand-me-downs from Salvation Army centers - in a rich suburb, that automatically makes you the worst most unpopular kid at school, and since I already had chronic depression things only got worse. I was checked into the local mental health center at 12 after my first suicide attempt.

This was even worse than public school - most of the kids there were there because of court orders - the state didn't know what else to do with them. I was dealing with what my rich suburban white Christian mother would call "the scum of the earth". And not a Christian among them. I was alarmed and finally took it upon myself to spread the Gospel among my fellow inmates and all unbelievers who surrounded me. I can't believe I got through the mental health center stay, and back to school, without getting my ass kicked - luckily most of my peers just ignored me or made fun of me until I cried, whether than actually take offense at my proselytizing.

I found that I could not change the unbelievers myself. The answer, of course, was to pour every dime I had from allowances and later on from jobs into missionary work. I felt especially good about this - I wasn't only helping to convert the lost in my own country, but I was spreading the word of God all over the world, to places like Korea and China, with their ever-more-Christianized populations. Isn't that great?

No, it isn't.

A few years and three more suicide attempts later, a brief dalliance with Catholicism (I thought their ceremonies and churches were pretty), and a sad attempt to re-convert my lapsed Catholic boyfriend, I was just burned out. I had lost my job and gone out of school, and being unable to find work I spent lots of time staying at home thinking and studying. I don't know exactly when I quit on Christianity - during the year I was 19 but at what point I don't know. I just started thinking of all the hypocrisy in it. God loves you - but he hates gays, abortionists, and non-Christians. God is full of mercy and forgiveness - but you gotta bust your ass asking him for it or he'll send you to burn in hell for ALL ETERNITY. Just one little mistake, and you're a sinner, and God seems much more inclined to send you to fry for all time then take you up to Heaven, judging by all his threats. The "sins" I didn't understand either. I couldn't understand why God has such a beef with sex. Don't do it before marriage. Don't have gay sex. Have it only in this one position. Who gives a damn? Why is it that everything good in life - or really, just being human - is a sin? If Does God really want me to deny myself everything?

The Bible was a problem for me too. Why is it that as Christians, we can eat any animal we want, although it opposes the Old Testament? The pastor says that's because it applies only to the Jews. Then why do we have to follow the Ten Commandments, too? Why does God have a "chosen people"? Why doesn't he just have a "chosen dog breed" or a "chosen fast-food restaurant" too? If Jesus is the founder of our religion, why do St. Paul's words seem to hold more power than Christ's words - even if 90% of Paul's doctrines and declarations seem pulled out of a clear blue sky, issuing laws and sins and orders that Jesus didn't peep about?

I always knew there was a God. I still have no doubt of a "God" (for lack of a better word). It just hit me that maybe the Bible was misrepresenting God. Maybe God had nothing to do with it at all. I started thinking about what I'd been pouring all my efforts into for the past few years - and I felt ashamed instead of proud of it. I was helping people hate each other, condemn others, and what I felt worst about was that I'd put so much money into missionary work. I am a big believer in the rights of native cultures against the pressing waves of Westernization and Christianization. At the time I thought I was doing those cultures a big favor by "saving" them. Now I realized I was just helping to destroy them - telling them that saris are sinful because they're too "sensuous", that honoring their ancestors is idolatry, that bowing is a sin because no one should bow before a human being, even if it's the standard greeting in that society - one should only bow before God. I was helping to create a one-country, one-society, bland, hateful world in my support of missionary activities. What really killed me was that I was finally reading up on what missionaries actually do - assaulting and pestering locals, refusing to help their fellow man unless he converted (and giving plenty of shiny false incentives to do so), playing dirty tricks with people's minds. I felt like shit to think that I'd once supported all of that.

Now I just live with the God I've always lived with but chose to let others distort for me - a God that really is all-loving, all-merciful. A God that always gives a second chance, a God that truly loves unconditionally, a God without sex or race or creed that wants me to know Him/Her personally, instead of fear Him/Her. I am at peace.

Fenton
Missouri
USA
Joined: Christian from birth
Left the flock at 19
Was: Lutheran, now they call me a hippie. Derogatorily.
Now: Hippie. Proudly.
Converted: Born into Christianity
De-converted: Left it out of disgust.
email: desperatemusic at yahoo dot com

I eventually got smart

sent in by Max

I was delighted to find a place where so many share experiences like mine. Despite any implications of my chosen screen name, I m a woman in my late 40 s, married, no kids, professional. Here's my story.

I was brought up Baptist (American, not Southern), and I was a very good one - went to church every Sunday, prayed several times a day, studied the Bible diligently. The latter was eventually instrumental in my loss of faith.

In retrospect, there were problems early on. When I was six, I became obsessed with the fear of going to hell. My dad loved "good fire and brimstone" preachers, and listened to them on the radio daily, spilling forth their warnings of eternal damnation. On top of that, my Sunday school teacher taught, "A lot of people think they're saved, but they're not, because people lie to themselves." Great, I could be on the road to unspeakable, eternal suffering, and I couldn't know. I cried myself to sleep every night, not just for myself, but for the whole rest of humanity that was at risk of this terrible fate. The solution must be prayer. My goodnight prayers became longer and longer as I struggled to make sure I didn't leave anyone out. But then, why should this wonderful protection be available to only people I know? I tried to pray for everyone on earth. I finally had to just begin ending my prayers with "... and God bless anyone I forgot." Eventually, I was trying so hard to cover all the bases that one might have guessed that an attorney was writing my prayers.

I was a teenager in the latter part of the Viet Nam era, a time when "Good Christians" supported the wholesome goodness of war, and clucked at the inherent evilness of long hair on men (a clear abomination to God). Occasionally, they would detect some vague discrepancy between "war is good" and "thou shalt not kill." But they would quickly rationalize this away, claiming that God didn't really mean 'kill,' he meant 'murder.' Every sermon on any topic somehow wrapped back around to condemn hairstyles. Jesus' long hair was dismissed as a technical problem - he didn't have the equipment for a proper haircut, but if there'd been a barbershop around, you can bet he'd have had a buzz cut.

Also around that point in time, the church was fending off the women s movement, and the satanic threat of equal pay for equal work. There was much emphasis placed on the necessity of women being subservient, busying themselves with good, wholesome activities around the home. This teaching really seemed to be at odds with the other popular lesson given to teens be a good steward of the talents the lord has given you. But somehow, if you were female, it was apparently predefined that your talents should be nurturing, cooking, singing in the choir, etc., and not math, science, or a good head for business. As my natural abilities tend toward the latter, I wrestled with the impossibility of complying with both sets of instructions.

As I studied the bible through my teen years, the more I read, the more I realized that it didn't really say what the church claimed it said. For one thing, the four gospels didn't even seem to tell the same story. Supposed passages of prophesy looked more like expressive poetry, and didn't do a good job of describing anything that actually happened. Revelations, the supposed road map to the future, was unintelligible and certainly never mentioned the Communists. (The radio preachers said Revelations clearly laid out the Communist's destiny to overthrow the US and put the Antichrist in power.) Jesus seemed to be a pacifist, a real turn-the-other-cheek guy, not someone who was really into killing people. In the face of all of this, I maintained my faith to avoid eternal damnation.

As the years passed, I was never able to escape the feelings of guilt and fear. No matter how I tried, I could never be as pure as I was supposed to be. I consciously evaluated my every move on a right-to-wrong scale, though I knew this would eventually drive me insane. And, of course, Jesus could come back at any minute, and if you were in the middle of a sin at that moment, you d never have a chance to be forgiven for it.

I finally had to break the chains at 30, when my first marriage ended in divorce and I could not otherwise escape the feelings of guilt and obligation. In the end, the biggest thing I could not accept was the notion that a just, loving God would cast innumerable souls into eternal damnation just because they were born into different cultures, or because they looked at the evidence available to them and came to a different conclusion. He loves you so much that he will send you to eternal punishment if you don't love him back. God is apparently a lot like a stalker.

I'm an atheist these days, but in a society where most people think freedom of religion refers to your right to be either Protestant or Catholic, and if you don't worship God you must worship Satan, I can't admit it. If someone asks, I usually mumble something about being brought up Baptist, and no one seems to notice that I didn't answer the question. It s nice to find a group where people can talk freely about their lack of belief.

Oh, and BTW, as a web programmer, I must say this is an awesome site technically! Great depth of linking, nice tools for posting, AOK!

PA
USA
Joined: Pretty much since birth
Left: 30 or so
Was: Baptist
Now: Athiest
Converted: To avoid hell, of course
De-converted: The whole thing just didn't make sense.
email: deblist at theneonweb dot com

The Fire Insurance But Couldn't Sell It

sent in by D.E.C

Dear Webmaster,

I've been surfing your site for a while and have finally got round to posting my testimony. It's not the most dramatic or exciting conversion story but I hope that some might be able to relate to it. I apologise for any spelling errors, but having a learning disability and being an ex-fundamentalist is hardly the best recipe for good literary skills.

It's a shame that there was no Internet and Websites like yours at the time of my deconversion in the mid eighties; it would have made the whole affair less stressful.

Having read the testimonies posted, I must confess that I feel somewhat ashamed since I realise that I have less of an excuse than many of you for getting sucked into this crazy business. Firstly my family background is not a Christian one. Secondly my country is one where fundamentalism is low profile; the ratio of bars and pubs to fundamentalist churches is at least 100 to 1 in the UK. Gay bars are probably about as common as fundamentalist churches. And the police have the right to ask anybody who is preaching the gospel in public places to move on.

My conversion was nothing out of the ordinary. At the age of 17, I had suffered so many setbacks that I didn't know where to turn. My sister had died from a suicide caused by mental illness two years earlier, while my mother had died (after a 10 year battle) from cancer four months earlier. Added to this, I was an ugly geek who could never get a girlfriend, the clumsy last kid to be picked for the sports team, and had also been told by my school that my academic ability was so seriously limited that I had no chance of ever getting on in terms of university/careers. All in all it seemed that I had been born with the body of Woody Allen or worse, the brains of Joey from Friends coupled with the social skills of Rain Man. Realising that you are no good at anything and never will be, hardly raises your zest for living.

At the time my life already seemed like hell (although with hindsight there were of course people much worse off than me) and had given me a somewhat pessimistic 'victim' outlook on life. Thus when Billy Graham came to my home town during Mission England 1984 warning us all of an even worse hell if we didn't accept the free gift of eternal life by giving our lives to Jesus, I saw no option but to sign up.

Initially everything seemed quite attractive. I thought I'd found the answers I'd been seeking for years. Plus having been an isolated geek for all of my teenage years, the glossy Billy Graham brochures made me feel as if I had become a member of Christ's big worldwide family. Friends now seemed as globally numerous as McDonalds restaurants. Some might say that McDonalds restaurants have more individuality and personality than Christian fundamentalist, but I digress.

Of course the honeymoon period was short lived. I started going to a bible studies group. The initially very pleasant people, especially to somebody who had been socially isolated for so long, quickly started to appear brainwashed, naive and judgmental (even if unintentionally so). I got some serious criticism from the leaders for not making enough effort because I often fell asleep during the 930 to 1030 pm lecture which took place AFTER two hours of bible study from 730 to 930 pm (remember everybody had been at work all day, so much for salvation being a free gift?). The kinder group members suggested prayer to be the answer to this problem, which of course it wasn't. The real issue at stake was an undiagnosed learning disabilty, which I'm sure these people would have been aware of if their claimed daily relationship with the living God had had any substance to it.

I started to have real inner conflict with the command to love one's neighbour as oneself and yet at the same time keep one's sanity when the majority of the human race would end up roasting in hell for eternity. Plus there was the slow realisation of the irony of my worshipping some sick fuckprick of a god, who was at the same time deliberately and vindictively tormenting my recently deceased mother and sister, who had both already suffered enough while on earth (all because they happened not to have responded correctly to somebody who had lived 2000 years ago).

The final straw that broke the camel's back was the pressure to evangelise. Having to present my beliefs to others cause me to question them, which led to them smashing into tiny fragments. In other words I had bought the fire insurance, but having read the smallprint was unable to sell it. I tried to stick it out for a bit longer, and I even went so far as to say in my prayers to god, "If you exist and the gospels are true, please cause my left hand to fall off". But since these prayers never got answered I quickly realised that, like it or not, I had become an agnostic.

I was told to read more of the bible to get my faith back. Following their advice I started on the epistle of James, which says words to the effect of "the man who doubts should not expect to receive anything from the Lord because he is unstable etc". Well that really made me feel great. However the best 'no win' line is that from Revelation which says that the place for "the unbelieving and all liars is the lake of fire and brimstone". How fucking marvellous! If you fake your belief you get burnt for eternity for being a liar, but if you honestly say that you don't believe the same fate awaits you for unbelief. But of course it's our own stinking rotten fault for being born (without choice) in the first place. Well if that's God's and Jesus' justice, I think it would be better if Robert Mugabee and Saddam Hussein preside Judgment Day.

Of course I got the usual old bollocks from the bible studies group members such as "The evidence for Christianity is all there for you if you read Josh McDowell. Your unbelief is because you don't want God in your life." It wasn't as if there was a glittering career in showbusiness around the corner together with a whole queue of gorgeous girls waiting to sleep with me, if I just gave God up.

Josh McDowell of course just seemed to be full of smokescreen statistics. I was astonished that university graduate Christians could fall for arguments that were weak even to a 'stupid' person like myself.

I finally got confronted by the wife of the bible studies group leader in church one Sunday evening. Her words were "Your doubts are irritating a lot of people. What's the problem? God exists. The resurrection happened. The Bible clearly says so. If you don't trust the bible you'd better stop sitting on the fence and coming here until you're able to believe." Despite her naive faith in the bible, she seemed blissfully unaware of the following statements written in that good book:-
a) Women must not have short hair and wear hats in church. (She broke both rules)
b) Women should not instruct men in church.
c) According that notorious verse in Hebrews 6/4-6, any Christian who abandons their faith, can never return. (She'll be answerable for the death of my soul on judgment day!)

Although I quickly lost my faith at a conscious level, its vestiges seemed to haunt me for years at a subconscious level; the 'what if you're wrong?' thought has come up in my mind for many years. Having been so unsuccessful in life, has made me lack confidence in my own judgements. Plus the learning disability makes me not only quick to tire but also a slow reader, so I was not able to quickly do the extensive reading that some contributors to this site have done.

I suppose fundamentalists fall into 3 categories:- i) those born into it ii) the dogmatic iii) the weak who feel they have nothing in this life. I am very direct towards the first two types, since the truth might do them some good. However I feel that I should be careful about attacking the third type, since knowing the truth would be doing them something of a diservice.

Leaving Christianity has not been the end of my problems. My life has continued to be seriously hampered with regard to career, sports, socially, romantically etc by my learning disability. However I am currently undergoing a new form of treatment for the problem and might actually start living properly at the age of 39. So my last words to everybody are to raise your glass to science and point your piss at superstition (just like the webmaster's picture).

Before I go, I would like to ask one question. Why does everybody reply to the fundamntalists who post here? They seem to get more replies than the many really top form anti testimonies that come here. Surely if they get ignored, they'll stop posting. Remember they believe that another brick is being laid to their 'in progress' mansion in heaven every time they get 'persecuted' for the gospel.

Your Country: England
How old were you when you became a christian? 17
How old were you when you ceased being a christian? 18
What churches or organizations or labels have applied to you? Evangelical
What labels, if any, would you apply to yourself now? Truth Seeker
Why did you become a christian? Bought the fear argument plus disappointment in life
Why did you de-convert? Couldn't sell the fear argument

8/15/05                                                                                       View Comments

The Journey to Ex-Christian

sent in by RJ

Hi I have been a Christian since I can remember, there was the few years when I was a teenager when I departed from the faith and was a regular guy for a while, all the time in the back of my mind thinking I was sinning greatly.
So I guess you could say that I was a Christian for over 25 years, with the last 13 years being a well respected member of a couple different churches, even helping in the planting of a new church and leading the worship team over the years. I have seen it all from conservative Christians, to barking and clucking, speaking in tongues with and without interpretation, gold fillings in teeth, slain out deal, prophesy, word of knowledge, and the list goes on and on. Somehow I was able to keep my faith through it all.

A little over a year ago after reading in my Bible, yes it's true I was a Christian that actually read his Bible, I came to the conclusion that Jesus really wasn't God. At first I thought it was a devine revelation, but now I realize it was my own mind telling me to wake up and realize the truth. This discovery led me to start finding several other errors and contradictions. When I felt I had a significant list of issues ready I asked my Pastor to meet with me. I presented all the evidence I had gathered to him and asked him all the tough questions. My pastor has 2 degrees in religious studies so I thought he would definitely be able to answer the simpliest of my questions. He could not. All he could tell me was that I had to have faith and believe and that he avoided preaching on any of the contradictory scriptures himself. How comforting that he just avoided the problems by ignoring them. This was the typical pad answer that I was not looking for. I asked him to look into some of the things I had presented to him and he said he would not do it, he would only study topics that supported his faith. Since then I have discovered hundreds of errors and contradictions in the infallible word of God.

My wife was quite supportive of my research at first because she knew I was addressing everything with an open mind and she was believing that I was going to prove Christianity true but since it didn't work out that way she became angry with me and now resents the fact that I am an unbeliever. I guess Jesus was right when he said he would cause division between family. It is funny though that she doesn't hold the essential doctrines that makes one a true Christian and really doesn't know what she believes about some doctrines, yet she blames me for that. Outside of religious talk we have a good marriage.

Since my departure from the faith, I have spoken to a good friend of mine who is in the upper ranks of the Church of God organization. I also asked him the tough questions and again he could not provide any answers other than you just have to believe it.

The journey to ex-Christian has been a painful one for me, I have lost those who I thought were friends, and everyone around me will not talk about religion with me because they don't want to hear the truth. In reality I have gained nothing from this deconversion except my 10% and a lot of heartache from those around me. I hope things improve and the people around me start to really take an honest look at things.

I cannot return back to Christianity, I have left and now I know it is wrong. Once you know that red is red, someone can't convince you that red is actually blue if you believe it.

I ask myself how can anyone continue to believe in a religion based on the Bible after they have been shown all the errors and contradictions in the Bible? If the 4 Gospel witnesses accounts were used as evidence in a court of law the judge would have no choice but to reject the testimonies. Yet for Christians it is somehow the will of God to perpetuate the lies.

If there are any Christians out there that read this testimony I would like to say the following: Can you really be honest with yourself and evaluate what you read in the Bible without some already preconceived notions about known errors and contradictions?

If you can I will see your testimony of deconversion shortly.

8/13/05                                                                                       View Comments

too smart to be christian

sent in by Unborn Again

I am what my mother would characterize as someone who thinks he's too smart for god. By this she means someone who is intellectual, who has thought about religion and has chosen to leave the church.

I was born into a church-attending family; both parents have been in the choir, have been elders and deacons. I grew up in church, attended sunday school and youth groups, and first became "born again" at age thirteen at summer church camp. Somehow god seems so real in the woods. I remember feeling an enormous sense of peace and tranquility.

I reconfirmed my beliefs in high school--I especially recall when I was fifteen, attending a winter youth assembly with several hundred other teenagers, and the way the youth leaders poured on the guilt and shame, finally offering eternal salvation on the last day of the meeting as kids stood in line waiting for communion, tears in their eyes.

Despite being a pious young man, however, I was never much of a bible reader, and when I began to travel and later attend college and read books, I began to also question the basic assumptions my life was built upon.

As a church-goer I'd been taught that Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, and other less than "mainstream" sects were built upon weak foundations. I, like others in my church, never extended this suspicion to our own faith, however.

A thought I like to remind myself of occasionally is Allen Ginsberg's axiom that "everything you know is wrong." I first heard this while I was in college. By then I'd done some traveling, met a lot of open-minded, smart, interesting people (religious and non-religious, both nonjudgmental), and had begun to seriously think about my own beliefs and Christianity in general.

I had gotten to know some terrific people who happened not to be religious. They too had grown up Christian, but rarely attended and seemed to take part mostly out of a sense of cultural duty. My religion told me that these people would suffer eternal damnation because they had not asked god forgiveness for their sins.

I wondered why a just, loving god would create a universe in which otherwise good, honest people would meet such an ignominious end. I thought, you know, eternity is a hell of a long time, and human lives are unduly short. Could a person who lived a just, moral life, but who had not submitted him or herself before the lord for forgiveness, be sentenced to hell?

The answer, of course, if you listen to Christians, is damn right. And what about the millions of observant, moral Muslims? Hindus? Mormons even? Why must good people who live within a system that makes sense to them be damned by the truth of a religion they don't even know or subscribe to? Is this fair? Is this the way a logical, just god would choose to behave?

Christians told me that only through salvation could a human be saved, otherwise they were doomed to fall into satan's evil grip. I decided satan was as imaginary as the tooth fairy. Christians say a nonbelief in satan is exactly what satan wants. Oh, he's very tricky, that devil, and such a clever marketing tool to keep the wavering believers in check.

I thought, if after a million or so years in eternal hellfire, writhing in a pit of vipers, wouldn't my punishment be just a tad overkill? Would I at that point even remember the life that doomed me to such misery? The monstrosity of the punishment seemed ridiculous.

As a young man I continued attending church with my parents, but once I moved out I stopped attending altogether, except for the occasional holiday out of a sense of family duty. Though my family is still religious, they do at least appear to respect my right to decide religous matters for myself, for which I'm grateful.

Not attending church for a long while caused a strange thing to happen. When I did attend church I saw how peculiar people behaved there. Of particular interest was the prayer of intercession in which the congregation read a prayer in unison. Their voices droned. I read the words to the hymns. I took in the sermons.

Even as someone who had ceased believing several years earlier, going to church again revealed to me how strangely I had lived my young life growing up. It was sad in a way, for faith had come to me easily as a child, and now as an adult my own reasoning and observation and intellectual aptitude had made belief impossible for me. I saw Christianity as a curiosity.

As more time passed and George W. Bush became president, I honestly began to fear the way I saw Christians behaving and believing. The president, in absence of facts, led us into a war based upon his faith that he was doing good. Christians, in "defending" marriage, advocated hateful positions against homosexuals. And now recently Christians have been making headway in pushing creationism into public schools under the guise of "intelligent design."

I see my country headed toward a corporate theocracy--an unholy trinity of Walmart, the military, and Christians. The brand of hateful "born again" Christianity that the Dobsons and Robertsons are pushing is warping the minds of millions, perhaps irreversibly.

It's sad, in a country founded by Deists and freethinkers that this is what we're coming to: a country of illogic and hate and misunderstanding wrapped in the cloak of compassion and faith.

Many Christians talk about how Islam has been distorted by terrorists, yet they ignore how the rabid among themselves have been doing the same to their own religion. I was taught as a child that god is love, that to forgive is divine, that if I was wronged to turn the other cheek. The charlatans and snake oil salesmen who masquerade under the cloak of Christianity have stolen the churches and warped the minds of otherwise good people.

I choose to no longer follow the teachings of the Christian church, or any other church, but to follow my own curiosity and longing for learning and growth. I believe that people should be given the right to question their own faith, to examine their religion in absence of guilt and persecution, and to be guided by the principle that all humans deserve dignity.

I hope that somehow the Benny Hinns and other shysters of fake faith, and the pious political mouthpieces of the right, fail in their quest to turn this once great nation into a perverted, bigoted nightmare.

Unborn Again
WA
Joined: born into it
Left: in college
Was: presbyterian
Now: agnostic/atheist/thinker
Converted: to fit in
De-converted: saw through the baloney
email: degreesofgray at hotmail dot com

I saw the light

sent in by Andy

This is very short and to the point.

I was born into a Roman Catholic family. Mum and dad divorced when I was four. This is not good for R.C.'s.

As a result of this I was treated like a leper by my teachers, who actively encouraged the other kids to do the same. Mum was depressed and took me to church when she could. On the occasions that she couldn't, I'd catch hell at school for not being able to tell the class what the previous nights' sermon was about.

At no time throughout my R.C. education was I ever allowed to question the belief system that they were forcing on to me. I did question it once, when I was about six. I think I asked something like "If Adam and Eve were the only people on Earth and they disappeared to wherever, that left two sons; Kane and Able. One son killed the other, which left one man, so where did we come from?".

I might add that the "theologians" out there will probably see the holes in this question, but hey; I was only six.

The headmaster of the school responded to this by "caning" me, (an English tradiditon until recent times whereby you were "whipped on the hand or backside with a bamboo cane), six times; three strokes on each hand. I couldn't move my fingers to do my work, i.e.; hold a pen, so they beat me again.

By the time I had reached sixteen, I estimated that I'd been on the wrong end of the cane no less than 145 different times. Considering I'm a professional guitarist and guitar tutor, the stiffness that I get in my fingers from time to time doesn't help.

I think the real breaking point came when I was nearly arrested at senior school for assaulting the local priest, (after he had repeatedly slapped a girl across the face for not attending mass). I gave him a good dig in the chin.

They never called the police, despite my repeated insistance that they do just that. Instead, they put me on detention for every break for the next two years and sent me off to an educational psychologist as they thought I must be insane not to believe in god.

I tried to believe what they said, but it just made no sense. I can still see my self wondering why all the other kids believed such obvious nonsense.

Religion? keep it.

New Castle
UK
How old were you when you became a christian? Birth
How old were you when you ceased being a christian? six
What churches or organizations or labels have applied to you? Roman Catholic
What labels, if any, would you apply to yourself now? Individual
Why did you become a christian? No Choice
Why did you de-convert? I saw the light

8/11/05                                                                                       View Comments

Saved From Intellectual Suicide

sent in by Chad

Before I describe the details of my de-conversion, I’ll describe why I converted to Christianity in the first place.

My family background is marked by extreme dysfunction. The hippy sub-culture of drugs and rock-n-roll hijacked both my mother and father’s mind; so much so, I was conceived, carried to term, and birthed under the influence of weed and coke–my umbilical cord was a super-highway of drug trafficking. A dynamic duo of drug-dealing white trash; this constituted their career and the deleterious environment I was raised in–exposed to everything from vulgar language to domestic violence, which lead to placement in foster care for two years.

From the beginning of my childhood, consequently, recidivism consumed my father’s life and rendered him a classic deadbeatdad. And my mother, who was his co-defendant, received a sentence of probation, yet, she continued to live a life of crazy instability throughout the entirety of my adolescence. Needless to say, I was deprived of a nurturing family unit, and as a result of the neglect, forced to parent myself in terms of discipline, structure, emotional support, and even material provisions; a corollary of which was struggling to maintain independence or at least a slight quality of life between the ages of 15–19. Dilapidated apartments, numerous roommates, over worked/under paid jobs, Ramin Noodles/ Tuna Fish, and angry bill collectors defined this period of my life. I was in a state of desultory funk; a sense of meaning/purpose impossible to attain but so desperately desired. Thus, religion enters as my crutch.

“Oh God...I feel so down and out...I need your help...please forgive me...I need you...I commit my life to your will...just please help me find happiness...my life is nothing...I have nobody but you”

Not verbatim, but this was the approximate prayer I spewed, with tears streaming and hands raised while kneeling at a church alter after the “there is a whole in your heart that can only be filled by God” sermon. The type that exploits one’s misfortunes and vulnerabilities to manipulate conversion, portraying Christianity as the cure-all to depression or any personal problem and ultimate source of joy/fulfillment. At the age of twenty, I took the bate: hook, line, and sinker!

Christianity provided a therapeutic experience of family love through the church-community and authoritatively answered all of life’s nagging philosophical question (i.e. how did I get here, where am I going, who am I, why am I here), thereby invigorating me with a charge of divine meaning–a spiritual high. According to my “born again” perspective, God broke the spiritual curse inflicted upon me due to my family’s history of chronic sin and paganism. As a special beneficiary of His amazing Grace, God compensated me for the love and happiness that I so painfully lacked.

Now living with a church family to regain some financial footing, I developed an addiction–addicted to studying the Bible and a church-a-holic. I devoured every last chapter/verse cover to cover in conjunction with one or two commentaries corresponding to each book of the bible and attended every church service/function available. Reeking with the stench of a fanatical cult, I embarked on a evangelical crusade to save family, friends, and my community from the eternal flames of hell. Toting a big, black Bible dead center into college keg parties to proselytize, distributing Bibles and witnessing materials as gifts, aggressively recruiting for church enlistment, door-to-door Bible thumping, sending testimonial letters delineating how Jesus transformed my life, making insincere “hey how are you...I’ve been thinking about you” calls just to share my faith and cunningly secure a commitment to Christ, scheduling lunch dates and whatever other activities I knew would be appealing – my treat – in a calculating effort to procure another “fishing” opportunity, and even perching myself atop a monumental rock in the middle of city-square, at rush hour, to preach hell-fire and brimstone–there was no limit I would not push or boundary break to save their souls!

Within one year, this fundamentalist fervor eventually spawned a prophet mentality–the conviction that I was empowered with a distinct anointing to spread the Gospel. A “call” to the ministry. So I entered one of the most notoriously strict seminaries on the East Coast; it was an evangelical boot-camp for preachers, where the rule book was almost as thick and sacred as the bible itself. Swift punishment was enacted if my uniform was not pressed to perfection, if I did not keep a crystal-clear shave, if I was observed socializing with a female during an unauthorized time/place, if my dorm contained one ounce of dust or an item was not situated in it’s designated spot...etc...etc.....and etc!

On fire for Jesus and drunk with “born again” elation, I remained oblivious to how obnoxiously oppressive the environment was–the only element missing was the inquisition of infidels. However, I began to realize as such somewhat in my third and fully in my fourth via the catalyst of academic requirements. In addition to it’s ultra rigid infamy, Grace seminary sported an academic reputation for imposing the most exacting scholarly standards upon students, centering the majority of course curriculum solely upon the Bible rather than theological textbooks. The dogmatic doctrine of biblical inerrancy beget this emphasis, specifically the literalist notion that the Holy Spirit would provide the “correct” interpretation of scripture to those truly sanctified souls, not the mere teachings of men. Laser-intense Bible study and arduous research dominated my entire existence over four years–a Bible reading Energizer Bunny!

Similar to the process of rationalizations, justifications, and minimizations that one engages in to ameliorate the glaring flaws of a new sweetheart and postpone the inevitable within the initial stages of infatuation, I suppressed the awareness of obvious contradictions/absurdities encountered within my studies to maintain such a precious faith. All-powerful and All-loving–the sovereign creator of EVERYTHING directing the course of my life, ultimately, with my happiness and well-being in mind...not to mention a free ticket to eternal paradise instead of eternal torment. Life is a bitch, who wouldn’t desperately cling to what is basically a perfect security blanket or coping mechanism. But as knowledge of scripture progressed to profound levels, the fortress of denial I erected around my faith (i.e. God works in mysterious ways, His Intellect is higher than mine, and my favorite, you just gotta accept it by faith) began to crumble under the weight of simple logic. For instance, the age old problem of evil: if God possesses the power and desire to eliminate suffering and pain, why does it exist to such an astronomical extent? Insofar as He is omniscient, the free-will defense miserably fails. Also, the problem of Original Sin: how could the pure justice of God transfer the penalty of one man’s sin onto the rest of humanity. Insofar as paying the penalty for another’s wrongs is a consummate example of injustice, the genetic defense miserably fails. And many more inexplicable irrationalities ex-Christians are already familiar with.

More pointedly, the task of desperately clinging and protecting my fortress of denial generated an obsession with apologetics, which eventually became the primary cause of my de-conversion. Before conceding that the only reason to live, the only reason to get out of bed, the absolute truth was bogus, I waged a impassioned war against my growing doubts by delving into the works of Josh Mcdowel, Ravi Zacharias, Francis Shaeffer, and C.S Lewis...etc An apologists competence consists of his ability to cogently refute certain arguments opposing Christianity; doing so entails a deep understanding of these opposing positions. Rather than keeping my faith impervious, ironically, becoming a student of apologetics exposed it to acute skepticism; because the arguments therein introduced me to the “darkside”. Like Darth Vador, I deduced that the “darkside” was much more persuasive (i.e. the documentary hypothesis, Chaos theory, evolution/blind watch maker, textual and higher criticism, predated pagan-parallels to Christianity, and the third wave of Jesus scholarship that uncovered the New-T Jesus as largely mythical...etc). I realized then, that Christianity’s genius – the reason Christians substantively outweigh non-Christians besides mental apathy – is based upon a fail-safe, full-proof security system: whenever challenged by non/anti Christian philosophies from either curiosity or confrontation, it sounds the alarm of fear – fear of the Devil’s deception – and thus prevents a breach of the mind’s indoctrinated superstructure. Plainly stated, if more Christians could manage to surmount the fear of losing their religion and actually entertain their twinges of doubt, less Christians would exist. Funny, one would think that those people for whom it is vitally important to champion one single truth would also be those most likely to examine all the options, all perspectives, Christian or otherwise, to ascertain which seem best; but the exact opposite is the case. Fundamentalist faith seems to be rooted in an implicit or unconscious belief that religion is really fake, and that one must run from truth in fear. Faith becomes an excuse and synonym – even a sign of moral nobility – for refusing to fairly examine other-than-Christian ideas.

Christianity occupied a position of utter ascendency in my mind’s ideological realm, but atheism, armed with the devastating weapons of reason, executed a coo in the latter half of my senior year. Although haunted by the question of “what if your wrong” and racked with the fear of damnation, I resolved to pass through the door of apostasy and lock it behind me; thus, saving myself from committing intellectual suicide just to “keep the faith”. Yet, I reluctantly finished what I started; a theology degree is better than nothing. Hence the aphorism, “fake it till ya make it”. I indeed made it; boasting a 3.9 GPA and oratory excellence, I graduated as the valedictorian and was awarded the trophy for “Best Student Preacher”. Surrounded by an army of Christian faced gleaming with approbation, under the highly endorsed spotlight of theological erudition, among classmates who anointed me as their leader, and engulfed by the beaming pride of family/friends, I strolled down the graduation isle, ministerial degree, bible, and preacher’s trophy in hand, as a bonafide atheist.....and exuding relief. When the pomp and ceremony ceased, I began a 12 hour journey homebound, and a surge of ecstatic liberation overwhelmed every fiber of my being, which endured the following six months straight. No more scare-tactic sermons beating my brain into cognitive bankruptcy, no more strenuously restraining my intellect from entertaining opinions not biblically spoon-fed, no more hammering my emotions into “biblically correct” molds, no more subjugating my life to the abuse of ascetic prescriptions, no more relentlessly policing my thoughts/actions to bust the most trivial of sins, no more guilt trips pounding my will into submission regarding God’s plan, no more alienating myself from the world by objectifying it as a evangelical target, no more six day work weeks staring on Sunday, and no more masturbation phobia.....ahhhhhhhh......sweet, sweet freedom.

But freedom was not free.

Identical, in part, to the sad state of affairs the precipitated my conversion, again, I faced cold, hard reality, which does not provide a conveniently packaged and delivered source of meaning–the thrill of believing that a supreme being created you, and only you, to perform a important purpose. Objectively, on the contrary, life is inherently meaningless; that is, except for the meaning one attached to it subjectively. Furthermore, given the depressive implication of atheism, I deeply grieved over the human condition, especially in light of God’s nonexistence: Earth and humanity are nothing but insignificant whispers in the wind compared to the sheer magnitude of our universe. Each individual life, therefore, will never experience salvation–salvation from 70 measly years (if we are fortunate) of pain, suffering, and simply struggling to get bye on so many levels. Every religious notion of eternal bliss rendered false; just a glorified manifestation of man’s survival instinct or the wishful desperation of his will to live. Deceased loved ones forever lost but for mere memory; grand family-reunions in heaven only a consoling dream. To prevent a nervous breakdown due to tragic circumstances and supply a flow of constant strength when wrestling life’s hardships, people and even nations embrace the conviction that God orders events in concert with some greater plan–that life’s “evils” are somehow necessary to fulfill as such...NO! Conversely, bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people, blatantly defying any sort of worthwhile reason–just because. Injustice marks the cosmos; so the assertion that God will eventually institute a spiritual world of perfect moral/ethical justice, governed by a system of karmic rewards/punishments, is a well-intentioned fabrication to help the masses contend with the onslaught of injustice in the physical world, thereby sustaining their sanity and the peace. And mankind is doomed to extinction courtesy of the Sun’s inevitable snuff-out. If humans escape the Sun’s wrath by inhabiting other planets, they will still suffer extinction when the universe inevitably withers (predicated upon the elastic/fluctuation model anyway). In God’s absence, woe is the human condition!!!

Once this new euphoria of freedom slowly but surely waned, the negative corollaries of atheism became a psychological burden–particularly the existentialist project of developing my own sentiment of meaning, identity, intestinal fortitude, morality, and answers to those crucial, philosophical questions totally independent of religion’s crutch...of Christianity’s babying. For approximately two years then, I fought to recover from my religious addiction and establish intellectual, emotional, and ethical autonomy. Despite the fact that atheism’s pessimistic nature tempted me to relapse, I arrived at the conclusion that intellectual integrity/freedom – being honest with myself about what I really think/believe and pursing my own perception of truth wherever that may lead, even to a destination of perpetual uncertainty – is much more conducive to inner-peace than laboring to satisfy the Bible’s criteria of inner-peace: categorical conformity to chimera that necessitates a self-deceiving pretense of belief and deliberate or unconscious ignorance–to credulously espouse dubious tenets that mock mainline science, compounded by the onus of puritanical requirements. The very method promoted to attain inner-peace renders it unattainable, which paradoxically engenders inner-turmoil. Jesus hit the nail right on the head, “you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.”

PA
Joined: 20
Left: 26
Was: charismatic, pentecostal, conservative
Now: atheist, agnostic, independent
email: cspanther1 at aol dot com