1/29/06                                                                                       View Comments

A Journey to Honesty

sent in by Frank Sims

I wish I could remember my very first experience with Christianity. I was raised Catholic, but shortly after my eleventh birthday my family slowly drifted from the church and its teachings. My mother was a proud believer, but my father oscillated from a believer to an agnostic. The general lifestyle of our household was mostly secular.

Early Doubts

I’m going to tell you up front that I had a lot of doubts about Christianity – even as a young boy. I didn’t tell anyone; though my mom might have picked up on this when we occasionally would tangle in a theological discussion. The discussion, such as it was, usually ended with the statement that I should believe because anything else was simply inappropriate. I remember the day I engaged my Catholic fourth-grade teacher in a small debate about tenability of Adam and Eve and early creation. Since this was a Christian school it ended quietly with a note sent home to my mother. Upon leaving my home for the Navy at age seventeen, I continued my life without religion of any kind.

Married with Children

Many years after my honorable discharge, I met my future wife at the insurance company where I worked. Interestingly her background was Nazarene. She wasn’t practicing at the time and the only time we spoke of religion was when we were engage in a debate in which I found myself defending the Catholic faith. This debate eventually proved fruitless for me, as I was only defending the traditions for which I felt more comfortable. Before our son’s first birthday we were married in a Disciples of Christ church. We briefly continued our attendance after we were married, but soon found ourselves distracted with other secular matters. There was no demonstration of Christian faith in our family, no grace at meals, Biblical discussions, nor bedtime prayers. At different times my wife and I would speak of attending a church. My reasons were simple; I felt that there needed to be some moral anchor in our children’s’ lives. I know this may sound ridiculous coming from one who had reoccurring doubts, but I really didn’t understand all that Bible stuff; I just wanted my children to know the difference between right and wrong and I didn’t know of any other alternatives.

A Gamble with Faith!

A month after September 11th, 2001 - it happened. We received a flyer on our door that there was seminar at the town hall that better explained the prophecies of Bible and what was going on the world. This indeed was a time of confusion, we decided to attend. For a very small town there was an auspicious attendance. The seminar, hosted by a Seventh-Day Adventist Church, outlined some prophecies from the book of Daniel and Revelation. Little did I know that simple evening planted the seeds for a journey that I would take to this very day. My wife and I attended group Bible studies over the next several years. Yes, there were many times I questioned or even doubted what I was being taught. After two years of study, my understanding of the Bible was slowly growing, and though I had strong questions I somehow managed to keep my doubt in check.

One night in Bible study my pastor explained that he was going to publicly ask if anyone wanted to be baptized next week in church. He privately asked I would consider volunteering. After some brief conversation with my wife and other church members, I wanted to do the right thing and be baptized. So when he made his public announcement I stoop up in front of everyone. I was asked to come to the front of the church where I was dutifully smothered in hugs and praises. Let me tell you now my baptism was the beginning of the end of my faith.

Personal Revealation

At first, I grew weary of all the church dogma; I couldn’t eat unclean foods; I couldn’t have any secular activities on the Sabbath (including mowing the lawn); for crying out loud I couldn’t even dance! If someone else was in my position they might have considered exploring a different religion. I wanted to have a deeper exploration of my faith in general. I endlessly searched the Bible for anything that truly blossomed in unparalleled wisdom, or a display of overt scientific revelation that today's scientists would tout as a foundation of our natural world. I wondered if there would be one book, chapter, or verse that would compel me to surrender all my skepticism concerning the apparent magical, mystical, and sometimes savage nature of the Bible. Along with verses that encourage and inspired, were verses that contained threats, pointless rituals, and superstition.

I remember that I was horrified to learn that God instructed his people to kill Sabbath breakers. I was more saddened to learn they followed through with his lethal instructions. I appeared to be the only one who noticed any of this. No one in our Bible studies ever openly doubted or even questioned the killing of Sabbath breakers, Noah’s ark, the six literal days of Creation, Adam and Eve, the Tower of Babble, or anything else that seemed unbelievable to me. Whenever these Biblical stories entered group discussions, everyone would speculate on the details to somehow rationalize the absurd. They would often guess “Well, maybe it happened this way, or maybe it happened that way.” I wanted to blurt out, “Maybe it’s not even true!” No one would even consider the possibility on just one of these stories as being mythical. At some point I realized I was all alone in my doubt, even my wife was sold on all the “truths” of the Bible. The one truth for me was that I was not being honest with myself. That’s one truth I did not want to face, especially alone.

Honesty Begins

One day while driving home from church I told my wife that I had some doubts. I didn’t want to overstate it, but I thought she should know I was no longer mentally on board with certain beliefs. I remember saying “I can’t believe that God waved his magic wand and poof the world was made.” I also remember her startled and hurt reaction to this. I felt uncomfortable with these very private thoughts escaping from my lips. I didn’t say anything for a little while longer, but one day it popped out again. She was incredulous; she stated that she felt betrayed. This was the beginning of a long difficult part of our relationship. I didn’t care that we believed differently, but it was really important to her that we felt the same way. She wanted and needed my spiritual leadership in our family. She had felt that we were both on the same spiritual page, and now she she felt completely alone in trying to raise our children in a Christian environment. I knew I had felt differently for a long time, and I didn’t have the courage to say otherwise. When you have news that will break the heart of someone you love, you’ll find any excuse to delay the news for another day.

As time went on we had to deal with the reality of our differences. Even so, I noticed we spoke less and less about the subject. Our occasional discussions of religion would end with my wife feeling hurt or angry; this is the last thing I wanted.

I soon came to the realization that I too wasn’t comfortable with our different beliefs. Once again, I wasn’t being honest with myself. That is why I repeatedly questioned her unwavering faith; I wanted her to identify with me somehow. My constant questioning of her faith had the unintended result of pushing her away, rather than helping her understand me. As my honesty prevailed I realized I didn’t want to be alone in my beliefs any more than she wanted to be alone in her beliefs.

And Now...

Believe it or not I still read the Bible and occasionally visit the church. But now I view the Bible with an open mind and allow for all possibilities, even those that many would deem heretical. While many Christians would consider this spiritual suicide, it is the only way in which I can view this book. I don't regret the experience even for a moment. In my youth I didn't know what I believed or why. After exploring the Bible and my conscience, I realize that my beliefs are a part of me, and there is no honest reason to reconcile them with anyone else's beliefs.

For many, the Bible is a true revelation from God. For me, it is an ancient collection of anecdotal testimonies and personal claims to divine inspiration. In my mind, that is my only possible assessment. I didn’t choose to believe this way, it chose me. A journey to honesty requires courage.

One Final Thought

I know many believers do not understand the thoughts and motives of those who remain skeptical of Biblical beliefs. I’m not skeptical because I want to live a guilt-free life of immorality. Furthermore, I’m not claiming to have all the answers. But one has to have some method of deciding what is true and what is probably not true. For some people this method may be following the teachings of ancient text. The rest of us will use the Scientific Method, where truth is the collection of verifiable human experiences and recorded scientific observations. From these collections we can form our own ideas, theories, and opinions. Yes, we may be wrong before we get it right. But with each wrong answer we have to opportunity to learn, and ultimately move one step closer to the right answer. Our understanding of reality grows with each new fact and observation. And though many people may continue to believe in invisible worlds and undetectable beings, we are learning that the truth is far more fascinating than anything we can possibly fabricate.

How I became religion-free

sent in by undeceived12

I was 16 when I went to this church which was supposed to be a church that helped and provided spiritual support to people who didn’t have it.

It all went well (at first). I received Jesus and like a little kid I started to follow a life that not only was a very hard life to live, but an almost impossible one. I read my bible, prayed, and had a relationship with God, or so I thought. I imagined that my walk in the path to Jesus was going well until I started to see some things that were going on in the church. I saw many things that led me to believe that the pastors were stealing from the people, but as a good Christian, I kept my mouth shut. More and more I was convinced that the pastors were only looking for money. As the weeks went by the preacher would ask for money every single week, on top of the ten percent supposedly established by God.

Right…

Well, he (the pastor) made up tons of excuse: the church needs funds to pay this...to pay that… People, including me, would give blindly. As time went by we started seeing that that youth pastor, which by the way is a lazy ass good-for-nothing idiot, started to get better stuff – brand new car…well, two new cars, one for him and one for his wife, which was the pastors daughter. He had the most expensive cell phone and cell phone plan; he was constantly buying very expensive things from the mall, and was always showing it off to the rest. Not long did I have to wait until he announced that the Lord had blessed him and that he gotten a new house.

People started to wonder where the money was really going, and I got fed up with all of the asking for money. It got to a point where they asked for money in big amounts, ($300 - $400) from each person and claimed that god had sent them to be blessed and that they were the chosen ones. They said that a servant of god was not to live like a normal person, but a rich one.

Oh yeah, and the rest of the people who had nothing to eat, let them die hum?

Well I got really fed up and started to ask questions. No one would answer anything and everyone would always say not to worry about anyone but myself. Well I spoke to other people about that issue and they all felt the same as me. One of the leaders asked the pastor for a report of the finances, and all hell broke lose. The pastor called him a sinner and so many other things.

That’s when I knew I had to speak out.

I spoke to other people, and without anyone saying anything, we left the church. About half of the people left, and not because I spoke out about having things set straight, but because they were tired of being always asked for money.

Now the pastor of the church blames me and my family and other members for the loss of half his congregation. He reacted in a way that Jesus was not reflected at all.

Now I’ve learned that religion is just a money-making scam, and that they take advantage of people who are looking for something to hold on to. Now I see everything with logic and not with "spiritual eyes". The emotion that religion gives you only lasts for so long, for some it’s a short period of time, for others it’s longer, but it will soon pass.

Meanwhile, preachers are still taking money from desperate people, and are getting rich off of other peoples hard work.

joined: 16
left: 19
was: Christian
now: Agnostic/Atheist
converted because: In search of a better life
deconverted because: It's a big lie told by preachers to get money.
email: undeceived12 at hotmail dot com

1/24/06                                                                                       View Comments

A Jimmy Swaggart Story

sent in by Chris

Twenty years ago, when I was 15 years old, I was struggling terribly with my sexuality. I realized that I was gay about three years earlier, and I totally freaked out. I was depressed and suicidal. At about that time, I had the misfortune of seeing Jimmy Swaggart on television. I ordered his religious magazine, The Evengelist. When it arrived, I read an article in which he said, "All a homosexual needs to do is accept Jesus Christ as his savior and he will no longer be a homosexual."

I was a gullible, naive 15-year old, so I was thrilled to find the antidote to my unwanted sexuality. Remember, this was in 1985. It seems so recent, but things were much different then than they are today. Today, at least people talk about sexuality. But 20 years ago, people rarely spoke about these things at all. Telling someone that you were gay could be an admission greeted with shock, anger or even a fist to the nose.

I desperately wanted to change my sexuality. This man of God, Jimmy Swaggart, said that all I needed to do was accept Jesus as my Savior and I would be instantly transformed into a guy who wanted a girl instead of another guy. I accepted Christ without a thought. Of course, my sexuality didn’t change instantly, but I kept trying, always trying to live up to the image of perfection that this hypocrite preached about over television.

That began years of addiction to Pentecostalism and the hope that I could pray away my sexuality. I started to regularly attend an Assembly of God church in my area. My Catholic parents were very bothered by this and rightly didn’t consider it a healthy development.

I attended that church for a couple of years until, one Sunday, I was asked to come to the pastor’s office after service. When I did, the pastor and two elders told me that they knew I was gay. I argued briefly with them, but the pastor looked me right in the eye and simply said, “We don’t want you to come here”.

Remember, I was young and naïve. I didn’t know that there were churches in existence that actually told people they weren’t welcome. I was so vulnerable at the time and the rejection devastated me. It felt like a spiritual rape. Even twenty years later, I remember that pastor’s name. Pastor David Welle of the Wyckoff Assembly of God in Wyckoff, New Jersey. I will remember that man’s name until the day I die. Anyone who has had the misfortune of undergoing any kind of trauma at someone else’s hands knows exactly what I mean.

I actually got on an airplane and visited Jimmy Swaggart Ministries five times. Yep, five times. I met the Swaggart family personally and shook their hands on more than one occassion. During one visit, a sermon was preached in which they referred to people as queers. What a jolt that was. I can still remember the feeling of numbness and shock.

Of course, I no longer follow that spiritual pervert now, but for years, I was damaged emotionally and spiritually by his attacks on gay people. In my 20s, I came across some free thought literature. When I read it, my faith fell away almost instantly. I am a logical person by nature, and when I see logic, I know it. Christianity is not logical. In fact, upon even the most casual examination, Christianity completely falls apart. The religion is just a joke.

I looked up to Jimmy Swaggart. But when I matured, I realized that I was such a fool to believe that I would be tortured for all eternity if I accepted who I was. People like Swaggart claim to have the truth, but they wouldn’t know the truth if it came up and hit them in the eye.

Fanatical religion is incredibly dangerous, especially for people who are in a vulnerable state of mind. Jimmy Swaggarts attacks hurt a lot of good people, especially because of the fact that they are done in the name of God. That shameful family has hurt and devastated an incredible number of people, gay and straight alike. Many lost their faith because of the way they were treated. Now, I am 35 years old. And guess what? I love who I am! I am a good person who has great friends and a profitable business. I am a freethinker and associate with like-minded people.

I am also a New Yorker. Over the weekend, I visited the American Museum of Natural History. They are currently running a Darwin exhibit. As I stood in that exhibit, I was deeply moved as I realized that, finally, once and for all, I am done with the superstition and ignorance that tainted so many of my years. I am free, and I am happy!

New York
NY
USA
Joined: 15 years old
Left: 25 years old
Was: Assembly of God
Now: Agnostic/Logician
Converted because: I wanted to become heterosexual
De-converted because: I found free-thought literature and realized that they were right.
email: chrislamparello at aol dot com

Former Jew for Jesus

sent in by Steve

I've read many of the books by Peter Gomes and John Shelby Spong. Their terrific books and writings have been very helpful in appreciating the good things about Christianity. I highly recommend their writings.

I love Jesus the man, the human, the carpenter's son, for his ethical teachings of compassion, forgiveness, love and living life abundantly. His teaching are like Filet Mignon!

I enjoy some hymns and occasionally meditations and quiet times within a church setting. I appreciate ministers who are wonderful communicators and orators who convey the gospel of peace and love. I'm more of a social, liberal gospel person --- caring and helping the least among us, those who are hurt, sick, lonely, sad, hungry, homeless and suffering.

And the other versions of Christianity are often an anathema to my decorum! (think Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, James Dobson, Ralph Reed, Gary Bauer, Oral Roberts, Jim Bakker, charlatans, hypocrites and assorted kooks galore!, etc.) I can differentiate between the differences only because I spent a lot of time in various types of churches and with different Christian expressions/peoples. Scriptural literalism and rigidity within ALL religions, not just Christianity and Islam, are often scary, exclusive, dangerous and condemning --- and sadly, often hate-filled and tend to brainwash people.

I believe in "Golden Rule" spirituality, i.e. "do unto others as you would have them do unto you." I believe in the Judaic (and universal) concept of 'Tikkun Olam:' individual and collective human participation in the healing, transforming, repairing of our broken, hurting, and often depraved world.

I consider myself a secular Jew whose Judaic identity is primarily cultural and intellectual, but not religious. I do not feel at home in a traditional congregation. I don't want to recite liturgy I don't believe. I don't know if I believe in God, which technically means I'm agnostic. I consider the Judeo-Christian Bible/Scriptures and Torah as metaphorical guides, life stories and myths, but not as literal and infallible. I step away from all religious dogmas, creeds and rigid absolutes. Now having explained my theology and cosmology, I believe in a free, independent and responsible search for truth and meaning. I celebrate the gift of reason, a free mind and the human heart's call to think -- to think for ourselves. I affirm humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit. Yes, I'm a 'doubting Thomas' and I tend to be a rational thinking person but I'm also open to life's mysteries and unexplained beauty.

I could also be wrong about what I believe or don't believe.

Thomas Jefferson said "reason and free inquiry are the only effectual agents against error" and "it is in our lives and not our words that our religion must be read." In short, deeds - not creeds.


Brooklyn
NY
How old were you when you became a christian? 30
How old were you when you ceased being a christian? 36
What churches or organizations or labels have applied to you? Presbyterian, Baptist, Jew for Jesus
What labels, if any, would you apply to yourself now? Secular and agnostic
Why did you become a christian? Liked the concept of being "born again" (as in a fresh start, a new beginning, and feeling empty inside)
Why did you de-convert? Increased reading, knowledge, biblical interpretation and being befriended by non-fundamentalist types of people
email: srz0567 at yahoo dot com

1/23/06                                                                                       View Comments

Finding Truth

sent in by Anonymous

When I was little, I can remember my Mom telling me that it was a “miracle” that I survived birth. Being born two months premature provided little hope for my family. She even said, “God must have a reason for you to be here.”

There was little question in my mind as to whether there was a God. Of course there was. He was responsible for me surviving as a baby. If Mom hadn’t prayed and asked others to, I wouldn’t have made it.

We only went to church together as a family a few times. It was to a rather evangelical protestant one. Even from a young age, I had my doubts. I found it odd that a woman in attendance could not only speak to God, but also hear what he had to say. There was even a time where I yelled during Holy Communion, “You’re not supposed to drink blood!” The next time we went to church, my Dad whipped me before we went in, “just in case I did anything bad.”

At least seven or eight years passed before I regularly went to church again. However, I always believed. The same prayer was said nightly. I would ask God to bless my family, give us a million dollars, and make my Mom live forever. Maybe if I kept asking, God would give in. It usually seemed like He only made egotistical assholes rich, but maybe.

In 1999, I began to attend a Southern Baptist church in the small town in which I lived. I can remember one day when the preacher scared me half to death. He was never hesitant to let me know that everyone was going to Hell. That place was the worst. Everyone gets set on fire there and it lasts FOREVER. I could fathom 1,000 years, a million years, but forever? No way. Luckily, there was a way out of all of this. “Salvation” came during that year. Church members told me what to pray, and that was it. I could do as I please. If I wanted to cuss, disrespect authority, even kill someone, it was all good. Thanks to God committing suicide on the cross, I was covered.

This is when I first began to have doubts with religion. However, I mistakenly placed the blame on Baptists. It was from the new millennium up to 2004 that I went from protestant denomination to protestant denomination. Each one spoke of this “salvation” and “repentance” that just didn’t sit well with me. The people I met were very nice; it was their philosophies that I disagreed with.

As 2004 came, I had grown tired of the searching, and failed attempts to find God. It was then I was determined to find a “winner.”

The Roman Catholic Church bills itself as the “oldest Church,” and “the Church established by Christ Himself.” Things went better in this Church. They weren’t loud like the Protestants, didn’t believe one could be “saved,” and never mentioned that I would burn in Hell. However, even they began to raise my suspicions. Let’s look at the Catholic Church for what it really is. You listen to a series of Church hierarchy tell you rules that seem foolish. I can’t eat red meat on Friday, why? What if that’s all a family had to eat that day? Condoms are sinful, why? They reduce unwanted pregnancies and prevent the spread of disease. The answer to why was simply “Because the Holy Father said so.” This reminded me of being little and that woman “hearing God.”

Perhaps the hardest thing for a Christian to believe is that their religion, like the many they belittle, is too fiction. “Yes,” a Christian will tell you, “Allah of the Muslims is not real, Jehovah of the Jews is not real, but Jesus is.” The rationalization that Christianity is just another Islam, Judaism, or Greek mythology is sobering. If Christianity is anything, it is but the biggest lie ever told. It’s a lie believed by many, and unfortunately many more will.

However, there are many things that have led to the decision not to believe in God. The main reason is quite simply that I’ve searched as much as one person could for God, and never found any such being. I’ve offered prayers that were never answered, given money that was never “received back tenfold,” and loved a God that allowed bad things to happen in return. It’s simply not there.

Looking at history, one can draw the conclusion that a great many things could have been prevented, if not for religion. Catholics would not have slain thousands in the crusades. Hitler would not have killed six million Jews. Islamic terrorists would not have killed 3,000 in the name of a Jihad on September 11th. Perhaps most importantly, George Walker Bush would not have rallied conservative right-wingers in order to become president of the United States, if not for religion.

In becoming an atheist, I see it as a positive affirmation of belief in myself. I’ll continue to fight for the poor, help the underprivileged, and care for those in poverty. Not because of a deity ordering me to, or out of fear, but because it is right. It is my goal to show the positive side of atheism, and remove the negative light cast upon it by the mainstream society.

Madisonville
Kentucky
USA
Joined: 5
Left: 18
Was: Various Protestant Denominations, Roman Catholic
Now: Atheist, Freethinker, Liberal
Converted because: Family Influence
De-converted because: Began to think for myself, "outside the box"

Lord why have you forsaken me!

sent in by Mark Fouche

Well....where should I start? Like all Christian cliché stories I will start by saying that I was brought up in a Christian home, Christian family and Christian community. Now my whole life I believed in Christianity as being the way....yet never really thought about it or had the "revelation" ceasing my heart and convicting me to turn to God. I had dabbled in witchcraft and the occult and was always interested in that which was unknown.

Now my whole life I had suffered rejection in some sort of sense and I remember crying myself to sleep at night when I was younger praying to God to just kill me, or for Jesus to help me as I felt so alone.yet my prayers were never answered. I carried on through life almost committing suicide at the age of 11 or 12.

Things got better until at the age of sixteen I lost almost all my friends by something i did. This drove me into depression and loneliness, I became "broken". I started going to a youth and was enveloped with warmth and friendship, this ignited my emotions and I became a fervent believer. In 3 months I became a youth leader. i was contempt with my life. I became so bold that at school I stood up at break in the midst of the crowd and would preach the word. I studied the word daily and prayed daily. I held prayer meetings and had an all night prayer where we waited for the "baptism of the spirit". I preached at school and in youth. we went to centers and preached the gospel. went on camps where we "experienced the holy spirit". Had emotionally driven rallies where you would get goosebumps and shout out to Jesus.

When I left school I went to YWAM(Youth with a mission) where I did mission work in south Africa and Zimbabwe.Experienced the manifestation of the Holy Spirit! In this I started getting weary. I did not understand the tongues movement, slain in the spirit, laughing ,crying,etc. I never experienced it , and when i tried I felt more depressed. Eventually I gave into it believing it was true!I came back home and was offered the chance to start preaching in the main services at the age of 19! I gladly accepted and started preaching to the best of my ability. I then had to study theology for this. I did not understand half of what i was learning, it raised more questions. Predestination, God's character, love, sin, the holy spirit ,etc. I battled to discern what was true and what was false. People kept telling me, "don't focus on things like that!" or "you shouldn't ask those questions!". So I shoved it under the carpet! Started studying full-time last year for ministry and preached often, yet in that preaching, the only person I was preaching to was myself,. I preached to convince myself! I never saw peoples lives changed! I prayed more and more, and searched! I wrote journal entries in which I speak my frustration!

I quit the ministry and started a job requiring long hours, in 2 weeks I snapped out of my mindset and my questions flowed. No longer were they shoved under a carpet, but i was tired of ignoring my doubts. I ran out of faith to just believe in God and believe above the doubts. People say I think too much, I say that I don't know how not to think. I stopped praying because I noticed my prayers caused more harm than good. I got tired of putting my hope in something that ALWAYS let me down. He was a friend whom I was told to trust, who let me down in every way. Every rejection or pain I felt rose up again and I realized I was broken even more and had more weight on my shoulders!

My friends question me and I happily talk to them, their response to my questions and comments are "I don't know" or they just respond in the old Christian cliché "I just believe" or I have faith. I questioned someone on faith. If Mohammad had to come in blazing light and fire and say "Jesus is not the way , I am" would you still believe in Jesus. The answer? Yes! Faith is blind! The blind will lead the blind in the hole as the scripture so says! Nothing is proved in Christianity, It is all assumption....based on no fact!

Have I fully denied the existence of God? No... I have more rebelled from Christianity and ran from this Jesus that I have come to hate. How do I love someone I don't even like?! I don't love God, and I don't know how to, This God that loves me is the only source of power to save me ....yet he chooses not to! I am always told "It's a choice" I did not choose to be born. God knows where I am going...before I was born, he knew my choices. Yet he still chose to give me life! Life into damnation! What am I to feel? Maybe religion is a crutch for people to stand on when there is nothing else to turn to! I tried and came from it all.A question to people I know is this " you knew me when I had great faith, I believed myself that I would never stumble...look at me now!Where was Faith?Where was God's saving power?

As I always say and will finish with this end. It has been about 6 months since I took my first step away, and I have realized this one thing. Whatever you shove under the carpet now,you will trip over later. My questions are too great for me to believe or follow anymore!

Durban
KZN
South Africa
Joined: 16
Left: 21
Was: Methodist,Charismatic,preacher
Now: Rebellious,influenced
Converted because: Was Lonely and "broken"
De-converted because: Became even more broken and hurt
email: markfouche at yahoo dot com

1/22/06                                                                                       View Comments

An omnipresent recluse

sent in by Kevin

Why did I loose my faith? To be honest, there was no single reason, no silver bullet that turned me from a serious, bible believing Christian to a self-professing agnostic/atheist. My faith struggle took place over a period of three years, and was the result of many different reasons. I will cover some of them in later posts, but one of the main causes can be summed up by a quote in Philip Yancey’s Disappointment With God. Yancey recounts the true story of Richard, a young Christian writer who looses his faith after a long and painful struggle with his belief. Yancey records Richard as saying: “How can you have a personal relationship if you’re not sure the other person even exists?” This was the exact problem I had – dealing with a hidden friend.

I started to slide from my faith when I realised that although I was talking a lot to God, I wasn’t hearing much in reply. As a believer, I was expected to share my all with God, every thought and desire; but in return he didn’t share his every thought or intention with me. Many times I asked for guidance and answers to specific questions, and all I received were the same old verses that were simply too vague. I was expected to speak to him directly - God should have had no problem hearing my prayers - but in return I had to work hard to decipher and decode ambiguous messages through sermons, the Bible, and other Christians.

As a result I was almost always uncertain of what God was trying to say to me individually. I must have prayed countless times and spent many mornings talking to God. In all those years I only once ‘heard’ a clear and direct message to me, through a single Bible verse that popped up two or three times from different sources in a single week. A thought occurred to me: was this a real message to me from God, or was it just my imagination creating faces out of random static? Only one clear message in 13 years! I suddenly got tired of being in a one-way relationship, where I did all the work and got little in return. I then started to doubt if God cared for me at all, or if he even existed.

I believe it was Emily Dickinson who said "They say God is everywhere, and yet we always think of him as somewhat of a recluse."

I was taught that God is a constant companion who will never leave your side. I wonder why I struggled so much to hear him, then, if he is supposed to be so close by.

Kevin

---------
Memoirs of an ex-Christian: http://mexc.blogspot.com

RELIGION FREE ZONE

sent in by TWJ

Just thought I'd add my two cents. My father was a conservative, fundamentalist minister who is well known to many in the mid-west. I remember when I was first questioning my faith and I wished I could just hear about someone like me who had left his or her faith. It wasn't easy at first, but has become much easier and more comfortable as time passes. I'm 45 now and have a lovely wife and family.

I found that leaving my parents, extended family and friends to live in other states helped make leaving "the faith" much less painful. It can be difficult at first, but it can be done successfully.

I'd recommend that if you're a young person who is a "free thinker", if you've found the courage to admit that no one knows if there is a God or not, just keep it to yourself. This is particularly true for PKs (preacher's kids) and MKs (missionary's kids). Don't let people know that you're a non-believer until you can afford to become financially independent. Get yourself through school - far from home if possible, then get a decent job and move away.

I'm really talking to young adults who are trapped in very tight, high profile religious families. No one can imagine the grip that this type of life can have on a child unless you've lived it and have successfully escaped it.

Only the brave of heart, only those who have the courage to face the truth, will leave the faith they were born into. That's why Muslim kids become Muslims, Buddhists become Buddhists and babies born to Christian parents become Christians. This is particularly true if the parents are "faithful" believers in their religion - fundamentalists.

As you go through life, you'll find that very few people are brave enough to admit that they don't believe in God. Truly INTROSPECTIVE, curious, intelligent individuals who are willing to reflect upon the truth of human existence will come to a point in their life when they do not believe in any religion.

This "enlightenment" or period of "doubt" (depending on your perspective) can be brought about by numerous things. In my experience, I've found that comprehensive education, literature, science, music, art, conversational comments, study of philosopy or negative personal experiences in a religious setting can trigger the lucid thoughts that allow us to contemplate the possibility of living life without religion.

This realization can take place within a few minutes or a person may struggle for years with this "doubt". At some point most people will make a decision to free themselves from religion or go along with it because the alternative is so painful.

Although there are people who really believe that their religion is true, many people go to church or claim a religion simply because they can't imagine any way of fitting into society without it. Some fear what would happen to their relationships with family and friends without the common bond of their belief in religion. The sickening truth is that sometimes the very people who at one point realize that God is not real, actually make a conscious decision to "fake it 'till 'ya make it" or "believe" because the alternative is so frightening to them.

Read as much as you can, learn as much as you can, be truly honest with yourself, and you'll find that you won't be able to remain a christian. In fact, you won't be able to have any "faith". You'll find that you've become one of us, one who honestly recognizes that religions were born of man's need to have explanations. Religions 'fill the gaps' and provide a crutch, an opiate, for the masses that are not courageous enough to face the truth.

I've come to think of myself as an atheist. Not because I know there isn't a god, but because I've chosen to live my life as if there isn't one. I have no reason to believe in god and every reason to believe that we are not very different from the other life on this planet. More advanced in many ways, but still, probably just the lucky result of nature's crapshoot. Now I choose to live by the rules of society that humans have subconsciously recognized from the dawn of time rules that preserve humanity and insure the survival of our species.

When we die, we die. There's no afterlife, no heaven, no hell, we just stop breathing and loose consciousness. Once you wrap your mind around it, it's a beautiful, freeing thing. On the other hand, this is the very concept that most people aren't prepared to face. The fact that you're responsible for your actions, that you get a few moments of consciousness, and that you pass away into nothingness without anything to show for it - no one judges you - no one takes your hand to lead you into the clouds because you were such a good person, sends you back to live life again so you can learn more lessons, or kicks you into hell... you just die.

Good luck in your personal search for truth.

To thine own self be true!

1/21/06                                                                                       View Comments

Send the Perverts to Hell...but don't go with 'em!!!

sent in by Deborah

Religion sucks... All "my life" (it's never been my fuckin' life) I've been told what a heathen I am. Daddy told me Charles Mansons' followers were going to heaven, but I wasn't. I was 15 then. Pretty scary stuff. So I repented & joined his church {Beth Yeshua-NY}. There I was treated to old men sticking their tongues down my throat [in front of their wives & all God's other children!]. I told Daddy but he said I was lying. My younger brother was seduced by Gaye, a "woman of God" who loved to show us photos of her life before she got "saved." Then there was Michelle. the teen w/the huge tits who regularly spent nights at the pastor's house. Hmmm... I guess I owe Gaye this much: she said I could masterbate; Michelle said God would punish me. At 15 I gave up sex, friends, drinking,...everything I knew! But it wasn't enough for them... Mom (her name is Virginia--it's hard to call a woman who records in a baby book her daughter's "first" abortion as easily as she records first footsteps as a mom. It makes me want to vomit! She still has photos of me as a little girl, exposing myself as I stand w/daddy & my brothers. If the look on my face doesn't ... fuck it. It is what it is. I was pimped out, along with a little girl who spent a summer w/us (foster child). I was sent to my daddy's bedroom and learned the fine art of sucking cock at an early age (yeah, it's gotten me to where I am today-on SSD, trapped in Tucson, and fighting for my life) But ask her today and Virigina will SWEAR!!! that I am a drug addict who made it all up! I've got proof you stupid bitch! AND I AM DRUG-FREE!

... FAST FORWARD to 2006

I'm almost 42. And I know the truth. My "daddy" is no man of God. Sure, he is pastor of a church in Holbrook NY called "Word of Jesus." Oops! Did I say too much? The truth will set you free, right? [Agape Christian Fellowship in Tucson...you're next]

THIS IS MY MESSAGE TO THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN HURT...Don't hate God! Hate the filthy mother fuckers (no pun intended) who have perverted God & twisted the truth. Why should you lose your salvation because of their sins! I have agreed to show my e-mail address -not because I want to- but because there's nobody to talk to (especially in Tucson). If I get 1000 hateful e-mails & 1 hopeful one, it's worth it. I'm just a child of God... and so are you.

Tucson
AZ
USA
Joined: 1st time was approx 15 yrs old
Left: 1st time approx 16 yrs old
Was: catholic, christian, born-again christian
Now: Survivor
Converted because: My father said I was a hell-bound heathen
De-converted because: "Christianity" as WE know it is false - it's a front for sexual perverts
email: ptldeborah at yahoo dot com

1/20/06                                                                                       View Comments

Free at Last....Free at Last

sent in by "just me"

I have been lurking on this site for over a year. It has brought out many emotions...anger (over the past), resentment of wasting precious years, laughter at how many of the posts express various ways of dealing with "the Borg" and many fun laughs. So, I thought I should finally chime in. Be Warned! Once I get started I usually can't keep my mouth shut -- One of the reasons why I am an xtian. Well here it goes. My apologies to those whom I bore. Also, please do not misconstrue my message. I am not angry (anymore) with anyone in my family concerning my upbringing. After all, they too are hoodwinked by the Big Ugly.

At the tender age of 5 days old, my parents placed me on the alter at my fathers church (he was the pastor and founder) and "turned me over to god (they didn't specify which one??). It was the "fire and brimstone" type of church that frightened people into pissing their panties. Thus was the main reason why I "got dupped...oh sorry.. saved". I remember it well...standing there in the isle listening to the sermon of how if you don't ask Jesus to save you, you will die and go to hell where the fire is not quenched and the worm dieth not. And the beast and false prophet are from now until eternity. So...at the age of 8 I ran to the alter cried my little eyes out to god that he would save me from this evil nightmare. My father was there beside me telling me what to pray so I could be saved. A few weeks later I was baptized by my father in a muddy creek in early spring. I froze my ass off. Of course one of the first questions I remember asking myself was..Why did god make hell to begin with, especially if he is a loving god? Ahh..the genius of childhood.

I wont bore you with the tremendous amounts of trivia and deeds collected over many of my younger years, but I will list some of them briefly. I was a wonderful singer (still am) and so I was told I had been given a gift and should use it for god. I sang and sang and sang. Finally joining a traveling gospel group at the age of 12. However, there is one funny thing I remember well. I was no more than maybe six when I was asked to sing a song at a guest church my family was visiting. I got up to the pulpit knowing exactly what song was in my heart to sing. I let out with a good round of The Streak! I thought my father was going to crap in his pants. Everybody in that church now knew what music he listened to.

Back to my "list". I was in plays, fund raisers, attended many funerals and weddings. I "led" my best friend to god only to find out she was not in a baptist family and believed she could "lose" her salvation. Thus, more questions began to form in my head such as "how do we know which one is right?". I have eaves dropped on many minister/deacon meetings held at various homes. I know what goes on behind the curtain. I have also witness the devastation of suicide in two different families only to hear the reason being that the deceased didn't rely on god enough for their problems.

Being in public school, I was introduced to different people with different beliefs. I studied my heritage (native American and Scot/Irish) and learned about their ancient beliefs and practices. This honestly is where it all picked up a very fast pace. The native Americans hold a belief in "the great mystery". Basically, we don't know where we come from or how the universe came into being, but life is a good thing. IMO our origins should be a question we ponder occasionally, but nothing to enrapture our entire life. I eventually tried to learn more about earth centered spirituality but of course once my parents found out about my interest, it was very difficult to do. I did have a friend that knew someone in the Wiccan community and we eventually met. Although I did not quite agree with everything, it did fit more closely to what I felt was reasonable and balancing. I was not able to receive formal education in Wicca because I was a minor so I had to do my best on my own. While trying to explore my own growing spirituality, I was definitely trying to keep it secret. How much easier it would have been if there were no prejudices and more unbiased support and guidance. Of course I was in the mist of my teenage years living in a family that was very prejudiced against anything non-white and non-baptist. You can use your imagination on what that was like. My parents could tell something was up because I kept asking a lot of annoying questions of how Christianity was born and how it developed over the centuries. Once my parents did find out about my blooming curiosity with Wicca (what they called satanism), one of the most traumatizing events in my life happened. I was pretty much "forced" under brainwashing terrorization to confess my "worship of Satan" in from of the entire church congregation, apologize for bringing it into their mist and be re-baptized. I shall never forget that day.

I tried very hard over the years to be a good Christian, however as you all know, once you've seen the light you can't keep the blinders on forever. Once I was married and having a family I tried even harder to be the good Christian. I began singing again. Even having the holy roller shouts during services. (by the way they are faked). But, the blinders would slip occasionally and light and reason would shine into my brain. I would occasionally research anything to do with various religions and learn how they all "borrow" from each other. Christianity was once again falling apart at the seems. I began to look at my children and see that I was setting the same trap for them that was set for me. I studied and researched even more. Finally, one day while singing a solo over television broadcast during a gospel concert, something clicked in my brain while looking out over an audience of over 2000 people. While I knew that the great majority of them were hypocrites in one way or another, I was the biggest one. I was doing something that wasn't me. I had not been strong enough to break free of the oppression I had been placed in and eventually accepted of my own free will. Never again. After that solo, I never went back. That has been over 3 years ago. It wasn't easy. But just like giving up smoking or alcohol, the longer it has been the easier it is. Now, I can objectively look at anyone in the Christian community and see how they too are ensnared and don't even realize it. Some are genuinely good people and hold no prejudices against other beliefs or those that have no belief. But those "C"hristians and are very rare. Most are little "c" christians and want others to join in on their addiction, just like a drug dealer.

I am comfortably established in the old community I met as a teenager. I had not seen any of them in over 15 years. I am free to develop my own beliefs and dismiss those beliefs that I feel are not right for me. My children think Noah is a bedtime story and those people that believe it to be real are just being silly. I purposefully introduce them to the beliefs of many religions along with agnosticism and atheism, pointing out the good and the bad. And I am always respectful of their opinion. It is only after the age of 21 or so that people actually begin to develop there spiritual maturity and are able to make reasonable choices. Anything done prior to that point can easily become manipulation.

I still have a good relationship with my family. Although they still do not know fully what my personal beliefs are (he is very old and may have a heart attack), they do know that certain topics are Totally Off Limits with me and my children. They know I mean it too. There has been a drastic change in the holiday greeting cards they send me.

So, life goes on. If there are a few verses in the bible that I do take to heart, it would be those that are shared with many other religions. They are: A tree is known by its fruit, and you reap what you sow.

Well, in a nutshell, that is my story. I hope you haven't pressed the control/alt/delete yet and haven't overdosed on coffee. Blessing to you all.

Free at last. Free at last. Thank Me almighty I am free at last.

Sincerely

Just Me

USA
Joined: Eight
Left: permanently ---33
Was: premillinial, fundamental independent baptist
Now: agnostic wiccan
Converted because: deeply raised in Christianity
De-converted because: refused to ask the hard questions

1/14/06                                                                                       View Comments

Recovering Evangelicoholic

sent in by Billy Wheaton

I guess I have spent the last twenty years in a state of intermittent bewilderment over how many very bright Evangelical Christians that I know. Eventually, a discussion transpires that sends me on a litany of challenges that are virtually never taken seriously and repetitiive. So, I decided to start a web site and write a book. My purpose was two-fold.

First, I wanted to put together the evidence that I knew that I found myself repeating over and over again. I have just started and some of this is at billywheaton.com

Second, and most important, I needed to figure out why so many very bright people refuse to confront their "faith" and desperately need their "faith" to feel intellectually valid. My research has led me to two major conclusions:

1) Evangelical Christian truly do not see or feel any harm that may come from their belief in Biblical inspiration and inerrancy. Thus, even if one cannot easily validate their faith, the vast majority of Evangelical Christians feel continuing to behave as an Evangelical Christian benefits them and benefits society. Ex-Christians and non Christians have strong arguments for why this approach fits the evidence and promotes honest debate, but weak at showing true harm in remaining an Evangelical Christian. This area of showing harm needs attention.

2) Evangelical Christians have behavior patterns that closely mimic someone with a serious addiction. Thus, showing intellectual reasons and harm will change little. After all, we all recognize that telling a smoker he is "stupid" and "killing himself" does not usually get the smoker to quit. We need to help these poor lost people QUIT the HABIT!

P.S. I'm stunned at how many thoughful ex-Christian people I have read about on the web. I hope to learn from you. Where have you been for the last 20 years!

billywheaton from billywheaton.com
cinci
oh
usa
joined: 11
left: 21
was: CMA, evangelical
now: one day at a time
converted because: thought it seemed like a good way to live
de-converted because: the evidence became simply overwhelming
email: billy at billywheaton dot com

1/11/06                                                                                       View Comments

The emperor is naked

sent in by Albert

I grew up with very little religion. My parents had had it forced down their throats and didn't want the same for my sister and me. So although I understood the basic framework of Christianity and we celebrated the holidays, we never went to church, prayed at the dinner table etc.

My wife on the other hand had been raised an Anglican all her life. Although I never cared much for the liturgies and rituals of her church (although I liked the music and hymns), I always enjoyed the sermons by the minister because they were insightful and related to everyday life rather than being some kind of esoteric high powered theology. Eventually the minister went back to Northern Ireland and was replaced by a pleasant but very boring fellow. Neither my wife nor I found this much to our liking and we attended church rarely after that.

A few years after that I attended the funeral of one of my colleagues and was really impressed by the minister from a local evangelical church so we decided to give his church a try. Now this church is one of those "seeker friendly" types which has adapted itself to the culture around it in order to recruit members. Initially it was rather exciting with the contemporary worship and the enthusiasm of the church members. Quite a contrast to the rather turgid environment of my previous Anglican church.

This environment of enthusiasm rubbed off on me and made me really start reading and getting into Christianity. So I started reading a variety of books, but guess what started my questioning? Amazon.com! How so you say? Well there's something over there called "reader reviews". So when you start reading that not all people think highly of the apologetics of someone like C.S. Lewis, it gets you thinking. To make a long story short, after three years of intense study the whole thing just fell apart. And when the best answer your pastor can give to tough but fair questions is "read your bible and I will pray for you", you realize the whole thing is nothing more than a shell game. In some ways I think my deconversion is especially relevant because I never really had any significant negative experiences the way some here have had, so my deconversion can't be blamed on "bad" christians etc. My wife has gone back to an Anglican church which she attends occasionally and I go with her on the holidays, it's fairly painless. We get along as well as ever.

At present I have not put any new metaphyscal labels on myself because none really seem to fit and furthermore I feel there is too much of that "us versus them" mentality in the world already. So that's my story. maybe not terribly fascinating but so be it.


Montreal
Quebec
Canada
25
45
Was: Anglican, Evangelical
Now: No labels please, they leave stains which are hard to wash out :-)
Joined: Because of wife
Left: I had questions, but they had no good answers
potterdoc13 at yahoo dot ca

1/9/06                                                                                       View Comments

Been There, Got the T-Shirt

sent in by Bob

I would like to share some of my personal experiences from the "Christian right". I was born in the late fifties. My mother converted to a pretty extreme sect within the Baptist religion when I was two years old. At the tender age of five, I was afforded the opportunity of salvation so that, when I die, I could go to heaven and play with the snakes, lions and tigers in eternal bliss. The alternative would be, of course, an eternity of damnation in the scorching hot fires and brimstone of HELL. I chose playing with the snakes, lions and tigers.

This form of the Baptist religion had very stringent interpretations of the bible and the pastor(s) loved to share them with the congregation. One moment (shall I say one side of his mouth), the pastor would talk about the eternal patience and (what seemed to be) unconditional love for every living creature on earth by our creator and in the very next moment, would pound his fist on the podium and declare the vengefulness of our creator and his determination to crush, destroy and cast into the eternal lake-of-fire anyone who did not do exactly as that pastor had dictated in his interpretations of the bible - which, of course, would be going against the direct will of God. In those days, rock-and-roll music (especially the Beatles) was sinful and dancing was a creation of Satan to distract the faithful onto a path straight to hell. I was taught to hate hippies, bikers, gays (especially), fornicators - basically anyone who did not walk and talk like the members of this form of Baptists. Oh, you might like this, my sister and I would cry in church because my Father, who was a Catholic and who would happen to agree to attend this Baptist church that day, did not did not drop to his knees, confess his wickedness and beg for forgiveness for being a Catholic. You see, all Catholics were going to hell because of their non-baptist beliefs.

One of the Baptist's quotes was "spare the rod and spoil the child". My mother had an extremely short fuse and made sure she did not "spoil " her children. The belt was the usual weapon of choice, followed up by a broomstick when I was older. I cannot explain the horrors inflicted on my sister. My "handle" on this website is "Son of Carries' Mother". "Carrie" was a Stephen King novel, turned movie. Anyone who has seen that movie knows about Carries' Mom. While not a direct mirror image, my mom was pretty close to her in her conviction, methods and opinions on society in general. I was the laughing stock of my high school. I had short hair in the seventies, was a member of the Civil Air Patrol and I wore a flight jacket - my goal was to become a bomber pilot (except I wore glasses). It wasn't until my mom died in my senior year of high school did I start to grow my hair and go to parties - for the six months I had left.

I graduated high school in 1977. I immediately joined the Army and served for six years. My first enlistment was as a Military Police dog handler. I reenlisted to be a crew chief on a UH-1H helicopter, which I did for a year in South Korea. Upon return to the U.S., I was reassigned as an MP. In one practice drill at my last post (Fort Ord, 1982), we rehearsed advancing our dogs onto a bunch of "hippie, pinko, peace protesters" who were scheduled to visit Fort Ord in that year - fortunately for them (and my own mental state) they never came on post and I never had to feed them to my dog. I think that our commanders called it "riot control". If my social skills did not develop very well in high school, they were completely destroyed by the time I left the Army.

Luckily, through the help of my father and the GI bill, I was able to attend college. A community college at first, then San Francisco State University (a site of many Vietnam War protest). I became friends with gays, hippies, bikers and people from other races. All of them much more "real" than the people I experienced in the first half of my life. I studied Buddhism and "liberal studies", such as Political Science. I have spent the last twenty-two years trying to put my life together, with some luck. Just trying to make sex a "normal" part of life without a bundle of issues, is a challenge sometimes. Some people have commented that, with my past, it was a good thing that I did not end up like one of those guys with a rifle in a tower somewhere.

One of my favorite "crazy notions" from the Christian right is their disdain for "Educated Idiots". Another one that always impeded my life was: if you did something good, "God let it happen"; if you did something bad, then the "Devil Made You Do it". You were not allowed to succeed and you really couldn't fail - you were not allowed to have ANY confidence or to be human. Jerry Falwell, Jim Baker (who can forget Tammy Faye and the air-conditioned doghouses. That's right, I helped pay for one) and Jimmy Swaggert are not the exception - they are the rule! The lunatic ravings, contradictions and apparent sociopathic leanings (let's pray for the death of liberal judges) of Pat Robertson is exactly who they are! They continue to destroy people's lives. They talk about the impending Apocalypse - they are not waiting for it - they are creating it! Karl Rove and King George II with their corporate demons are destroying the planet and pushing us toward all out nuclear confrontation. I was stationed in South Korea - the North Koreans "don't play"!!! Go ahead, keep getting us deeper in with the Chinese - they don't play, either. The Apocalypse may very well be upon us and we will have the Christian right to thank for it - hey, you already ruined my life, why not ruin it some more!

My sister has told me that when she dies, she has no desire to go to any "heaven" where our mother may reside - any alternative is good for my sister. I have to agree. If there is any justice in this universe all of the so-called "Christians" of the "Christian right (AKA wrong)", especially the politicians (you know who you are) will not have your seat at the right hand of God for all of the misery and suffering that you have created in this world - especially that which is yet to come!

Why do I think that Christianity may be a hoax played on the poor and middle class? If George W. Bush and all of his evil cronies really believed in the existence of Jesus and God in the way that it is explained by their fundamentalist friends (more cronies), there is no way that they will get a pass from burning in hell for eternity for all of the misery they have caused in this world. Why do they think it is okay to kill innocent Iraqis, especially after lying out their ass about why we needed to go to war in the first place? Why is it okay to use racism and class-ism to decide who gets to live and die, may I remind you of Hurricane Katrina, the Tsunami, Iraqis (again), and the terrible conditions in Africa. Do they really think that God is really happy in the way that they are raping the earth and destroying the environment in the name of corporate greed? How about that Jack Abramoff guy? Wow, Ralph Reed really put a stop to that evil Indian gambling, didn't he? Oh, right, he (allegedly) did it for money... Do they really think that God hates gays in the same way that they do, even though it was God that made them that way? No, it is not a lifestyle choice - I am not gay, but I have actually had conversations with gay (dare I call them) friends and I have come to understand things from their perspective. If you aren't already angry, go to: www.godhatesfags.com - they don't even like the beautiful, neutral, passive people of Sweden.

CA
USA
How old were you when you became a Christian? 5
How old were you when you ceased being a Christian? Hard to Say
What churches or organizations or labels have applied to you? Jesus Freak Bible Baptist Fundamentalist
What labels, if any, would you apply to yourself now? Long Hair Hippie Liberal from California
Why did you become a Christian? Scared to death at the age of 5
Why did you de-convert? It ruined my life - I still have scars. Christianity is a form of child abuse.

1/8/06                                                                                       View Comments

God and morality

sent in by Alex

I came to my sister's house for dinner and she insisted that I post here. She did a couple of weeks ago and it was fascinating to read the discussion her testimony provoked.

I was raised as a devout Catholic. I seriously considered joining the priesthood. My leaving Christianity was the result of a series of fortunate events.

A new employee Simon joined my department at work. He was an evangelical. I live in the LA area. You don't have a whole lot of evangelicals here. Anyway, we really hit it off. We loved discussing religion. I knew he believed I was headed for Hell but I didn't care because I knew that Catholicism was the one true faith and all the rest were apostates. Simon volunteered at a youth camp every Summer. He taught the kids at the camp the importance of abstinence before marriage and gave lectures on the subject in Sunday school classes. I thought this was great even though I hadn't exactly followed the abstinence thing myself.

One day we got into a discussion about atheists. We both agreed that atheists can't be truly moral because you can't have morality without God. Anyone who doesn't believe in God must establish their own idea of right and wrong. Therefore, right and wrong is whatever they determine it to be. I believed that Christianity was the foundation of western law, conveniently ignoring the fact that most of the things the 10 commandments says we shouldn't do are legal.

I had another coworker Jess who came in at 7am every Tuesday and Thursday and left at 2:30pm. During the summer she came in at 9am. I jokingly mentioned to another coworker that Jess finally got sense and stopped coming to work so early. My coworker told me it was because school was out. Jess helps disadvantaged kids with their homework at an afterschool program. She had done this since she was in college. I was really blown away by this. Jess came from a very secular family. She had an openly hostile attitude toward religion, which is why I had never bothered to have a conversation with her. Yet, she went out of her way to help people in need. Despite my strong faith, I did charitable work only a few times a year. The same was true for Simon.

A few days later, I told Simon that it was my birthday but I didn't have any plans to celebrate. I had broken up with my girlfriend a month before and my parents were out of town. Simon said he would take me out. Simon picked me up around 7pm. I assumed that he would take me to dinner but he actually took me to a nightclub. I was surprised because I thought evangelicals would think nightclubs are sinful. I was even more surprised when Simon approached me a few hours later with a hot girl by his side and asked if I could find my own way home. He was going to take the girl home. I was outraged, especially after I paid the $45 taxi fare. It turned out that Simon was quite a womanizer.

Afterwards, I asked him how he could preach abstinence to teenagers, when he obviously wasn't himself. He told me God wants us to aim for perfection but he knows we can never achieve perfection. This is why Jesus' sacrifice was necessary. I realised something I had never realised before. Religious people also establish their own morality. They pick and choose which parts of the Bible they will and won't follow. I could no longer accept the idea that religion was a necessary precursor to morality. I realised that laws and morals are based on the need for survival, on instinct, not on the whims of an invisible creator. We could not survive as a species without laws and rules.

About a month later I read an article about the hisorical evidence for Jesus. The article mentioned that the Jewish historian Josephus had written about Jesus. I did some research and was surprised to find out that Josephus was born around the time Jesus died. I had assumed when reading the article that Josephus was one of Jesus' contemporaries. I asked myself is this really the only external "proof" for Jesus. When you read the gospels it really seems as if Jesus is a major figure of his time. He attracts large crowds, the sick come to him from miles around to be healed. Crowds attended his trial and demanded his execution. Crowds lined the streets while he made the trek to his execution site. Yet no Roman or Jewish historian bothered to mention him. I couldn't help but conclude that the gospels were exaggerating.

I mentioned this to an ex-believing friend. He told me that the virgin birth and the Christmas story did not appear in the earlier gospels. This was all made up later on. This was very painful for me to admit but I knew there was no way the early gospel writers would carelessly omit such important facts. It was obvious that none of it happened. My friend also said there was no Roman census anytime close to when Jesus was born. Even if there had been Jesus' family would not have been required to go to the town of their birth. I realised that much of the Jesus story was fabricated. At first it was hard to accept that what I had truly believed for years had no factual basis. I also felt like an idiot for being suckered into believing it to begin with.

For a while after rejecting his divinity I believed that Jesus was a prophet or moral philosopher. I then rejected this belief after I concluded that I had no way of knowing what he really said or what words were attributed to him after the fact. Also, I was troubled by some things. The cursing of the fig tree for not bearing fruit out of season. The initial refusal to cure a woman's daughter because she wasn't Jewish and essentially calling them both dogs. The whole thing about not coming to bring peace but a sword and turning family members against each other. He definitely has done that. So much for Christianity promoting family values.

I married Jess, who is nicer and kinder than any Christian girl (of any sect) I've ever known. I also feel that I have become a better person. People have told me I used to be so uptight, preachy and judgmental that they didn't feel comfortable being around me. It's true that I no longer condemn people for being human. I no longer look at the specks in other people's eyes, while ignoring the mote in my own (something Jesus supposedly said). So, I can say without a doubt that you can be moral without belief.

1/7/06                                                                                       View Comments

Insiders story of big church politics and wrong doing

sent in by YouJon

Around 2000 I began going to a cutting edge growing church. By 2003 the brainwashing was successfully and I was a full-blown believing Christian. The church was in the final phases of a 14 million dollar expansion. They were in the market for a highly skilled building maintenance person. Believing in God I applied and was chosen over others who also applied. I left the auto industry where I was a top notch tech making good money. I bought into that crap that God would take care of me and pay me back for what I was doing for him. I took a $12,000 a year pay-cut to fulfill his will for me. The first year I was so busy I didn't even have time to talk to people. I didn't see the politics, evil and just plain screwed up people working there. The second year sh*t started going sour and I began questioning whether God could really be true with the things I was seeing inside the church.

During the expansion phase the church hired a man to serve as a general contractor. He was self-employed at the time and had his own business. When the project was done the church asked him to stay on as a Facilities director. Ultimately he became my boss as well as the truth and light for me. This guy was robbing the church blind as well as leaving during the day at all times to go to a job-site he was working as a general contractor on the side. He also was in charge of setting up concerts which left him setting himself up to work the concert as an outside electrician, director etc. He was not only getting 60k for being facilities director he was also collecting for anything that came into the church as well as still running his own business.

On Aug 2005 I filed a written complaint with the Director of Ministry and Director Of Operations (his boss). The complaint listed multiple items of theft, conflicts of interest, failure to get three bids, hiring his brother-in-law, misappropriation of funds, failure of the church to provide accountability, failure to get the best price for things, etc.

All together there were 15 whistle-blowing items. I spoke to the Director of Operations but after a month they still hadn't done anything nor did they get back to me. But they did do one thing - my boss was no longer speaking with me. I told another employee there that I didn't feel either of the directors truly believed in God and that it was all about money. Guess What? They fired me for that... almost immediately.

They never came to me or asked me why I felt that way, or anything, and there was nothing in my file for any wrong-doing. Here comes the neat part: non-profits don't pay unemployment. I found myself on the street with no severance pay or unemployment. I lost over $3,500.00 'till I found another job. Not very cool or humane when you're single with your own home. Not one person ever called to check up on me - not even just 1 of the 4 ministers. In the weeks to follow my faith lasted for 4 of the 8 while searching for a job. This was my reward from God. Yeah right. I am now free and working my way back to the top in my field once again. Also, I have deleted all Christians from my life, including my girlfriend of 2 years.

Lancaster
Pa
USA
38
42
Was: non-denominational Bible church
Now: full-blown Atheist
Converted because: looking for meaning or purpose
De-converted because: It's all about money and control
email: infidel666 at comcast dot net

Child of Rednecks Deconverts

sent in by a born-again atheist

I was born in 1971 into a beer drinking redneck family. We were Lutherans and went to a small country church about one weekend per month. Church was boring to my older brother and I, and, like most kids, we whined and moaned when our parents tried to make us go.

My parents took us to church because they thought it was the right thing to do, but they didn’t seem that enthusiastic about it, and some Sundays they were too hung over to go and relented to our begging to not go.

In 1980, with my mom in the hospital undergoing a stomach operation, my dad was “lead to the Lord” by a coworker and was “saved”.

He had his friend visit my mom and I (my brother was away somewhere) and we both “accepted Christ” into our hearts. I remember my dad’s friend talking to us for about 2 hours. It seemed like an eternity to a 9-year-old. At the end of his presentation, he asked my mother and I to repeat a prayer after him, and, not being averse to prayer, I repeated after him the words to what I later learned was the “Sinner’s prayer”, and I was “saved”. I didn’t feel any different. I was relieved that I could now go upstairs and play with my Star Wars action figures.

Well, my parents joined the local independent Baptist church, and we started going twice every Sunday and to Wednesday night prayer meetings. I remember being afraid of Baptists. I feared that they were going to take me into a back room and actively try to brainwash me. There had been a Baptist kid a few grades ahead of me that people said was a Bible-thumper nutcase. Well, no one took me into the back room and held me down or deprived me of food. The brainwashing was more subtle. I was exposed to their doctrines 3 times a week. I sang the songs, I listened to the sermons, I listened to the adults, and I memorized Bible verses. I became good friends with the pastor’s son and the youth minister. They were all nice people, really. The just weren’t critical thinkers, but I was too naïve and young to realize.

I became devout.

As I learned more about Roman’s Road, and the path to salvation, I became worried that maybe I hadn’t really understood the path to salvation when it was presented to me the first time. So, I said the sinner’s prayer again, and meant it with earnest.

Later on I was baptized by immersion, and I formerly joined the church.

In 8th grade I started to attend a local Baptist high school in a town not too far away. I sincerely wanted to attend a christian school, and learn amongst other teenagers who were godly. I remember being interviewed by the school’s principal before I was admitted. I told him that I wanted to lead a christian life and be separate from the unbelievers, etc.

I was disillusioned by what I saw in the Baptist school. These children, teenagers, young adults, people that had been raised all their lives in Christian households, were very cynical about Jesus and the bible stories. Many of them were rebellious. They also seemed very naïve. They were ignorant of cultural phenomenon like popular music, movies, and sayings. The girls dressed and had hairstyles that had been popular in the 1950’s. I had been expecting a bunch of pious, sincere christians (like I thought I was) and found a bunch of immature, cynical, anachronisms. The preacher preached about hellfire, sin, and damnation during our chapel services, and most people stared down at their shoes, bored.

Then, I started to enter puberty. I started to have more sexual feelings. I knew they were sinful and I prayed for strength. I masturbated and felt guilty about it, and I prayed more. I had spontaneous, uncontrolled erections and fantasies. I prayed more and more, but to no avail. I really think that this is when my illusion of the all-powerful God started to crack. I mean, Jesus said that if we prayed to him, he would give us strength. There was nothing we couldn’t overcome if we asked for God’s (jesus’) help. Here I was, a sincerely devout young man, asking God to help me have the strength to abstain from masturbation, and no help was given. I succumbed every time. Satan was winning.

I left the Baptist school and went back to the public school. I still earnestly believed Jesus, but I started asking serious questions that occurred to me. I remember asking my pastor about predestination and free will. If God knew that Adam and Eve would disobey him, then why did he create them? It seems like they were flawed from the beginning. He replied, “Just because God knew they would sin, it still didn’t mean they didn’t have a choice.” His answer didn’t make sense to me.

The sexual fantasies continued, and so did the masturbation. This really weakened my faith. Didn’t I have faith as big as a mustard seed? Why wasn’t god answering my prayers? I started falling away. I still clung to the notion of salvation through Christ, but I lost the zeal to go to church or to be a witness to others.

As I got older, I started hanging around with some popular guys, and we chased girls, and talked psychology. I met some girls that were into great literature, and I started reading Salinger, Kerouac, and exposing myself to new ideas. I was a smart kid, and my mind was a sponge. I became hyper analytical. I studied peoples behaviors, and I started noticing more and more the hypocrisy of the people I went to church with. Some of the deacons in the church played cards, or smoked, or went to movies. None of them went “soul winning”. Some told semi-dirty jokes.

Then I experimented with marijuana, shrooms, and acid. I did very little, and was paranoid that my parents would find out. I felt that I had committed terrible sins. It made me feel more separate from my fellow church members. None of them knew what drugs were like, although they raved at how sinful they were.

By the end of my senior year, I didn’t believe much in Christianity. I didn’t believe in the literal interpretations of the stories of the old testament, but I still clang to the story of Christ and his atonement for my sins. I still feared death, and what would happen to me if I wasn’t saved.

Then I went to college. Wow. I finally met some very intelligent people, people that I could really relate to. I made some very deep friendships that still endure to this day. We talked and debated philosophy, and soon I came to the conclusion that there truly was no God. By the end of my Freshman year, I was able to declare myself an Atheist.

But I was a born-again atheist. I went around trying to deconvert every christian I came in contact with. I was actually successful in a few occasions. I enjoyed being blasphemous. I felt liberated.

I later calmed down.

Now I live and let live. If people approach me and ask me about my beliefs or non-beliefs, I am happy to discuss them in a mature manner, but I feel no need to wear my atheism on my sleeve, or the need to deconvert people. I still have a fascination for the study of religions and philosophies, and science. I still am fascinated by the Christ myth and its stronghold on our culture and others. How does this cannibalistic, sun-god, pagan religion retain any credibility amongst modern humans? Probably because few of us are actually modern. Most live with a pre 20th century philosophy and worldview.

Anyway, when I first started doubting chistianity and started my descent down the rabbit hole, I really wish I had had someone to talk to who had been through all of this. I went through some really sad and anxiety-riddled times. I wish this website had been available to me. I hope that my deconversion story is able to help someone out who is going through the same crisis that I went through. It does get better. The guilt will go away. You will make new friends. Seek peace and you will find it. The truth will set you free.

St. Paul
MN
USA
10
19
Lutheran, Independent Baptist
Atheist/Agnostic
Converted because: Sincerely believed I needed Christ to be saved from eternity in Hell
De-converted because: I became a rational human being. God never seemed to answer my prayers.

I see I'm not alone...

sent in by Tracy

This subject is still difficult for me to discuss because it's only been about nine months since faith as I knew it permanently changed.

I got saved in the Church of Christ in 1997 and joined the ranks of college singles in crusading for Christ. I married in early 1998 to a confirmed, non-practicing Catholic and we moved away and had a baby. There were many heated Sunday mornings involving me attempting to get my husband out of bed for church. He had a bigger picture of God than I did at the time, and could see right through my legalistic pleas. I'll never forget something he said to me....."You don't want me to go to church so I'LL feel good, you need me to go so that YOU'LL feel good." Which, to a certain extent, I believe we all look for validation in any faith that we practice. Hence....fellowship, I guess.

Well, shortly after my son was born, I developed postpartum psychosis and obsessive compulsive disorder. For those of you who are unfamiliar, the jist of these disorders is that you have uncontrollable harmful thoughts and images towards your child coursing through your head. Some women, as we all have seen, unfortunately act upon these thoughts. I include this because for a year and a half I cried out to the lord for mercy and answers. I went to various churches, sugarcoated my symptoms and attempted to be "excorcised". Where was God in all of that? I.....was.....a monster at best and the spawn of hell at the worst. Too bad it took me years to realize that a bit of medication would do the trick and that I wasn't a freak of nature.

(*I'm available to any of you who'd like to know more about the subject or are currently suffering from symptoms).

ANYWAY.....fast forward. I met my second husband, who was agnostic, not practicing anything. Things were good for awhile (I was "backslidden" and partying-BLASPHEMOUS) until I was introduced to some of his friends' christian wives. Conviction for living with another man out of wedlock set in due to their meddling, and I left my boyfriend. We would sneak around to see each other and were soon pregnant. I moved back in only to be preached to by another woman at work about "living in sin". I left again....and came back. We married shortly after, but our marriage was hell. Aside from his abuse and control, my christian lifestyle contributed to our emotional distance. I would get upset over anything "sinful" that he would do, whether it be watching Howard Stern or listening to music with explicit lyrics. I was overinvolved with the church and completely uninterested in what was important and interesting to my husband. Christianity is a guilt-trip to say the least. I could not think for myself...I always relied on "wiser, more seasoned" mentors for wisdom. Free thinking.....out the window. Guilt-induced decisions...always at your door.

Over time, I developed a capacity to be an accepting and supporting wife no matter what. After all, I was married, right? As my husband continued to rage on and subtly destroy my heart and mind through emotional and verbal abuse, I prayed harder. I cried out to God concerning my husband, became very submissive......and completely lost myself. My pastors told me that the only excuse I had to divorce was infidelity...or if he left. Pretty fucked up, Pastor. I'm sure Jesus wouldn't want to see one of his own people being dragged through the muck. And I'm almost positive he wouldn't say "That's it, smile like you like it and make sure you don't get anything on his shoes." Days before Christmas of 2004, I got up the balls to leave. I let my husband know my intentions and that I didn't want to leave until after Christmas so that we could spend it together as a family. Unfortunately, his composure deteriorated over the next few days and he became very crazed and.......well, scary. I had to leave without my kids because he threatened my life. I couldn't get to my shoes and purse fast enough to keep him for snappping my car key in two. I had to walk down to the nearest business and frantically call the police and tell them that my babies were with an erratic man....

After staying in a shelter for a week, I took the kids to visit their father for Christmas. He was different. He was calm, composed, and had a very soft look about him. Being curious, I asked him what had happened, and he wouldn't tell me. Come to find out, he had been near suicide and in the confines of our home, had found God through a lightning experience. I moved back in thinking we would live happily ever after as a good little Christian family....psh...yeah.

(I know this is long, but I'm getting to the important part)...

Four months later, I woke up and the "Holy Spirit" was gone. I was very troubled by God abandoning me, but I decided to search for my own truth. I began to really appreciate my genre of music and soon had spiritual experiences with other people that I can't quite explain. Everything in my life since that moment has been pivotal in defining who I am. I gained so much self-confidence and each day has been an amazing experience of learning and growth. Maybe it just happens to some people....their souls just move on to another place and abandon their faith. I even tried to force it back to no avail. I finally finally finally realized that my husband was an asshole, woke up one day and said...."Hmph.....I don't belong here". And I left. For good.

Haha......and our church. Yes....the church. They tried to intervene. I had two women come over to my new place and attempt to tell me I was being selfish for not considering reconciliation. I said to them "Have you ever walked in my shoes a day in that house? No." Once my church caught wind of my decision, I was ostracized by a majority of the body. You know what? I'm not bitter...I just feel sorry for them that they live every day with insurmountable guilt and shame. Always look over your shoulder, dear christians, or you may not see that demon on your back.......or worse, a fellow christian.

What am I? I don't know. I....don't.....know. Still searching, not really concerned about a label. I'm me, and that's enough.

Here's a misquoted joke by Dane Cook, but you'll get the point........He was talking about daytime talk shows and how these people come on and air all of their faults and secrets. So he says something like, "Come on people, I have problems too, but at least I'm a good Christian and I keep my issues at home in the closet where no one can see them."

Well, Dane, you've got a point there. Thank "God" I'm not afraid to wear them on my sleeve anymore.....

Wilkes Barre
PA
US
19
27
Was: Church of Christ, Assembly of God, Calvary Baptist,
Now: Agnostically troubled
Converted because: The Spirit moved me.
De-converted because: The Spirit left me.
email: tcand23 at gmail dot com