3/21/06                                                                                       View Comments

The Renaissance of My Life

sent in by Max Furr

In 1961, Bible class was an elective at my high school, and I, desirous to be counted among the faithful, faithfully elected to attend. In those early days, there was no doubt in my mind that God was in His heaven, that Adam and Eve begat human-kind, that a talking snake enticed Eve to disobey God, and that two representatives of every kind of animal on earth held first class tickets for a cruise aboard the Ark.

There were no alternatives to these beliefs because there were no other religions offered, and biological evolution was never mentioned in general science or biology.

It was poetic irony, then, that the first small crack in my theological armor came as a result of Bible study. Late one night as I was reading, somewhat randomly, through the Revised Standard Version, I came across Revelations 13:8 which stated:

"And all the inhabitants of the earth shall worship it (the beast with seven heads and ten horns upon which were ten crowns), every one whose name was not written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the lamb that was slaughtered."

Now, I was a kid who had been taught all of his young life that we had a choice whether to follow the ways of righteousness and be rewarded in blissful paradise, or to wallow in worldly decadence and reap an eternity of torment and agony. Yet, try as I might to rationalize otherwise, the only interpretation of this verse I could think of was that of predestination. The only people, the verse seemed to say, who will be saved at the end of time were those whose names were written in the "Book of Life" before the beginning of time!

Why would God, I asked myself, condemn hundreds of millions (billions?) of souls before they were born?

The next day, I probed my Bible teacher for a different interpretation. After momentarily staring at me with a blank expression on her face, she replied, "We aren't supposed to know everything."

I accepted the dodge, wondering why God would have something written down for us to read, but not to understand. A subsequent check of the King James version found that, although the wording was different, predestination was still painfully clear. For some time thereafter, I pondered and prayed, reread the chapter, and pondered more. The problem refused to go away.

Not long after high school graduation, some friends asked me to enter a debate they were having with a professed atheist. To my knowledge, I had never before met a real atheist. So, never one to miss an opportunity to proselytize my beliefs, I donned my godly armor of faith and ventured into the fray. I met every salvo of his reasoned logic with my own volleys of pious faith and scripture. In the end, it was a total rout—mine.

Thoroughly shaken, I laid out a verbal smoke-screen of dark prophecy for the future of this unbeliever, and withdrew from the battle. The fissure in my godly armor had been battered into a network of pernicious cracks.

Hastily applying a sturdy brain-splint of seasoned prayer, I retreated for weeks into mental convalescence. It had been my first contact with the enemy, and he had come to the battle with an awesome weapon that was entirely new to me: well reasoned, evidence based arguments. His knowledge of the Bible was greater than mine, his knowledge of other religions was lightyears beyond mine, and his knowledge of biological evolution shot my ego so full of holes I could feel my ignorance oozing.

A prayer rug thick enough to endure my supplications had never been made. At the time, I was not aware that the damage to my holy armor had come not only from the blows of the enemy, but from the growth of my own mind. I didn’t have long to wait for the Coup de grace. It came swiftly, and from a wholly different quarter.

An acquaintance of mine, having noted my air of piety, invited me to dinner and conversation at his home. That night, seated in his living room, he and two others began a concerted effort to convert me to Mormonism.

Among other arguments, they contended that the Mormon church was the "true" church because it had a 12 member governing body (like the twelve apostles), and if I wanted a seat on that shuttle-bus to heaven, I would have to be baptized by a Morman preacher into the Mormon faith.

I marveled at their confidence, and argued from the viewpoint of my beliefs. Then, near the end of the night--and I remember it well--came this exchange:

"How can you be so sure you’re right?" I asked.

"We know in our hearts we are right," they replied virtually in unison.

"Yes," I said. "I’m sure you do. But, so do the Jews, the Hindu, the Buddhists, the Moslems, the Catholics, and people of all other faiths. They all know in their hearts they’re right."

As I returned home that night and went to bed, the last exchange kept moving about in the back of my mind. When I awoke the next morning, the insight came in a flash. The comment I made as a response to their heart-felt belief that they were right, applied to my beliefs as well.

The logic was all too clear: Evey person believes he has the theological truth, and he believes it just as fervently as the next person.

I had suddenly grasped the indisputable fact that one's religious beliefs have more to do with cultural proximity than with truth. A person is most likely to believe that which he is taught by his parents, which is usually the beliefs of the particular culture into which he is born.

Then came the inevitable questioning of my own faith: "Could there be a good and compassionate god who condemns billions of very devout people to eternal agony for having the misfortune to have been taught the ‘wrong' set of religious beliefs?"

That morning my theological shell shattered. I decided I would place myself outside all beliefs, and view them with an objective eye. I would return to school and emerice myself in religious studies, philosophy and paleoanthropological science. I would acquire the knowledge needed for sound reasoning, and I vowed to follow the arguments to their logical conclusion.

During the ensuing years, I applied a strong dose of reason to each attempt to fashion for myself a new theology. I studied the results of objective research in biological evolution and contemplated the arguments for and against evolution. I studied geology and delved lightly into astronomy. I found that scientific disciplines corroborated each other in a logical harmony wholly unknown to the purveyors of faith and myth.

As I questioned and studied, I discovered a universe far more mysterious, beautiful and fascinating than I could have ever dreamed—and there are more wonders to discover, and still more we will never know. Yet, in all of this, my greatest discovery was that we humans are a part of the universe, not a separate, special creation. The universe is our mother, and we belong here however brief the moment.

3/20/06                                                                                       View Comments

Gave up the guilt

sent in by Bill

It took my wife leaving me to realize this. For years, I struggled with guilt. I was not what you could call an "active" Catholic, however, my upbringing was such that to not consider myself a Catholic was wrong, and to not follow the basic tenets of the Catholic church was a sin.

When she left, I was completely devastated. I felt betrayed, and was putting my faith to the test. I thought that God would help me save my marriage. That was 25 pounds and several months of antidepressants ago. To make a long story short, she never came back, and I was left dealing with the guilt and shame of divorce, and with the idea that I couldn't be remarried in the church unless this marriage was annulled.

Annulment! The definition of that is:The invalidation of a marriage, effected by means of a declaration stating that the marriage was never valid.

To move on I would have to declare that my marriage was never real in the first place. How could I do that? It did happen, and it was very real! And for me to say that it wasn't was just ridiculous to me. It was at that point that everything came together - it was time to dump the guilt, pick myself back up, and put my life back together. I've since stopped taking the antidepressants (per my physician), excelled at my job, and put myself back on the right track. I did that by concentrating on me, right now, right here - I put aside all of the superstitious nonsense and stopped feeling guilty because "the bible says it's wrong", or "it's the doctrine of the church". I accepted divorce as a REAL THING, not a sin, and if I am lucky enough to marry again, it will be outside of any church.

My morality comes from the law and my conscience. If it hurts someone else, then it's probably not good - real simple and I don't need 10 lines to explain it.

I've heard of several people going through a traumatic experience and finding god, but I never in a million years thought I would become a (significantly) better person by finding atheism.


NY
USA
Joined at: Birth
Left at: 34
Was: Catholic
Now: Atheist
Converted because: That is what I was taught
De-converted because: What I was taught was full of contradictions

3/18/06                                                                                       View Comments

Active Mormon to ExMormon Gay Atheist

sent in by Steve Lee

My transformation from active mormon to exmormon gay atheist took just over two years. It's seems too easy to write that sentence now after experiencing some of the most challenging days I've ever faced. To even think about the fact that Mormonism might be slightly flawed was a mind-rattling sin, but to act upon thoughts of change was at first a seemingly fatal endeavor and ultimately the most freeing task ever undertaken.

Most people agree that the LDS church leans more toward a cult than a loving religion, but most have no idea the depths of spiritual violence wrought upon a member when practicing it. And the difficulty of being born and raised into it, makes a change away from it even more fearful. Every support structure came from the church or my active family that had carefully programmed me to follow each and every expectation heaped upon me. From social limitations as a young man, to wielding their powerless "prietshood", to accepting bloody deaths oaths, secret handshakes and mandated underwear. I ate it up hook line and sinker. I WOULD get to heaven and I WOULD become a God myself.

Compounding the sickness of that structure was the certain knowledge by age 19 that I was definitely gay, but still expected to marry a female for "all time and eternity", go on a two year mission and then have children that I would raise righteously unto God. But following every expectation only brought more unhappiness, unhappiness that became so unbearable that by age 38, married for 15 years with three kids, and participating in a "reparative therapy" pogram that would surely cure me of my horrible hidden sin of homosexuality, I had to finally admit to myself that perhaps it was the church that was wrong, errant, diseased and evil and not myself.

But the day I realized that was the day the fear really set in. Having already acted out slashing my throat and deboweling myself at least 15 separate times in the Mormon Endowment Ceremony if I ever became an apostate and divulged the "sacred" handshakes and passwords that were necessary for me to enter into heaven through the "veil", I was facing what seemed to be my own demise. Even the prophet Brigham Young taught from the pulpit in his doctrine called "Blood Atonement" that apostates could only be saved to heaven by killing them by slashing their throats and bleeding them to death on the ground.

Every piece of critical information I read was considered anti-Mormon. Each website dedicated to recovering Mormons were considered hate sites. But there simply wasn't any way to gain happiness unless I rejected that poison and walked away, possibly losing my own kids, my family, all my friends, all my support structures. All my time in life had already be promised to the church, my eternal marriage would be ruined and I would be the reason that myself and my kids would go to hell. I would be removing myself from God, and allowing Satan to control me and drag me steadily down to hell.

Isn't it hilarious to look back on the absolutely asinine things you once believed in your life?

Three years out of the church, resigned and free, almost two years living with a man who was also married for 15 years with three kids, I must say that post-Mormonism and atheism have been the most rewarding experiences of my life. Not divorced yet, but honest and upholding the responsibilities that matter to me, including co-parenting my kids with my amicable ex-wife, I have now realized that heaven exists only in my lifetime, and hell as well. Refusing to be manipulated by the dangling carrots known as "heaven", "hell", and "salvation", I am forging lasting relationships with friends whom I would have previously judged not worthy of my time.

Religious mental constraints serve only as programming to enslave humanity. Mythology reigns in our society today, as it has in almost every human society. But breaking free from your own domestication and walking without fear allows you see the lies that hold so many bound in unhappy lives. I was lucky to escape my own domestication, it was a rough road, but in the end it has lead me to more self expression and freedom. I challenge you to break free and see what you can really be without all the poison holding you down.

Boulder
CO
USA
How old were you when you became a christian? Born a Mormon
How old were you when you ceased being a christian? 38
What churches or organizations or labels have applied to you? Latter-Day Saint/Mormon, Full Time Missionary
What labels, if any, would you apply to yourself now? Atheist
Why did you become a christian? I was born into it.
Why did you de-convert? Extreme unhappiness.
email: simplifyinco at yahoo dot com

3/17/06                                                                                       View Comments

Shackles and Chains of Christianity

sent in by a Texarkana man

Before I delve into any story of my struggle to remove myself from the shackles of religion, I will introduce myself. I think it only prudent to do so. My name is Mitchell H, and I am a 20 year-old male living in the middle of the Bible-Belt in a relatively small town on the border of Arkansas and Texas. This area is infested with a horribly regressive conservative ethic which lends itself to mindless obedience and rampant intolerance, which is a central theme of my story.

I am a gay man. I have known this in a certain capacity for all of my life. In early years, I knew I preferred the company of males and had an affinity for masculine beauty. When I was a child of about 6 years old and had just begun to attend school, I had a habit of attempting to kiss other boys on the playground. One day, after having kissed a fellow named Seth, the teacher called my parents to the school.

Mom and Dad totally freaked out. I was pulled immediately from public school after my father whipped me violently and sent to a parochial school under the domain of the Church of Christ. They told me that boys who like to kiss boys end up with something called A.I.D.S. which really hurts and eventually kills you and sends you to hell, a place of torment created for sinners by a merciful and just god who apparently lacked the foresight to not create Lucifer despite his supposed omnipotence. Not wanting to suffer torment, I became a christian and vowed to change myself no matter what the cost.

For about six years, (before I hit puberty), I could disengage myself from any interest in males beyond friendship with relative ease: Aided by a christian ethic, I found this easy to do until I was twelve years old. At that time, I had begun not only to enjoy the company of other males..... I had begun to notice that my body responded to them in strange ways. Of course, being a naieve kid in a private school with fundamentalist parents, I had not a clue what was going on. I discovered that on my own. When I learned about the nature of my attraction, I tried to force myself to stop it. I could not. I would only torture myself by becoming convinced that I was going to hell. I tried to date girls, which never worked. I tried electric shock therapy at my mother's insistance, which only succeeded in causing me great agitation. I could not experience the joys of having a significant other.

It went on like this for years, even after I had rejected christianity at age 15. That was due to living in my parent's house and meeting with nothing but disapproval and threats that if I were to ever act on these 'evil impulses', I would be thrown out on the street.

I suppose I should stop here and give a few moments to explain why exactly I left the faith. The obvious reason of the conflict the worldview espoused with my homosexuality aside, I had actually tried to commit myself to christianity by reading the bible on a daily basis. Once I began to study closely, I started noticing that 'god' was nothing like the being christians project it to be. From condoning mass slaughters of Isreal's enemies to torturing Job just to fulfill his own twisted ego, the god of the bible seemed more evil than the supposed Satan! I could also no longer reconcile my convictions and thirst for knowledge with the reactionary worldview of many christians.

In addition to being a self-hating homosexual, I had been a feminist, an environmentalist, opposed to the death penalty, and pro-choice. These views were each opposed by the vast majority of orthodox christians whose activism typically resulted in the propagation of ignorance and repression. So I rejected christianity without telling my parents due to fear. Though this did free me from internal restrictions, there was still the issue of external pressure due to the society I live in and more living with the parents and going to a christian school.

I was still unable to date openly. Private affairs were almost certain to get me kicked out, because Mom and Dad both listened to my phone conversations, disallowed me a cell-phone, checked my mail, snooped through my room, and made me come home by 5 everyday. It was a miserable existance. I had always thought that this must be what prison was like. When I graduated, I decided it was time for me to get a life beyond the dreary home-life and church my parents would drag me to 3 times a week.

I started dating a guy named Ash. It was as if I had actually started living. Though I knew it was dangerous, I would talk to him for hours on the phone, (I snuck these calls), go to his house and get acceptance from his parents, (he was out and had liberal parents I suppose). They were even kind enough to pretend that he was straight for my own sake. I felt, for the first time in my life like I was happy, because I actually had someone to talk to who would listen to me without trying to force christian dogma on me. But unfortunately, one night during one of our conversations, mom happened to pick up the phone. She heard me tell him that I love him.

Next week, I was kicked out and told never to come back. Ash and his parents have taken me in, but mom and dad refuse to talk to me ever again. I try to call them, and they either hang up on me or do not answer. I simply do not understand how something that makes parents turn their backs on their own son can be seen as something GOOD!

As I sit here typing this, I can not help but cry. You have to understand, though mom and dad did make me miserable often, I DID grow up with them, and I miss them. They won't talk to me, though. I don't know what to do about it. I do not know if there is anything I can do. All I know is that I detest religion and can depend only upon myself.

I just wish there was some way I could make mom and dad care about me again.


Texarkana
Ar
U.S.A.
How old were you when you became a christian? 7
How old were you when you ceased being a christian? 15
What churches or organizations or labels have applied to you? Church of Christ. Christian Atheist, Agnostic, Satanist.
What labels, if any, would you apply to yourself now? Atheist, Satanist
Why did you become a christian? Because one accepts the reality with which they are presented. This on just happened to be based on lies.
Why did you de-convert? I desired to have complete control over my own thoughts and destiny.
email: mitchx at mindless dot com

3/16/06                                                                                       View Comments

Pastor Arrested on Sex-Abuse Charges

ST. GEORGE, Utah (AP) -- A St. George man described by police as a pastor and teacher at a private school, has been arrested and accused of sexually abusing an 11-year-old girl, who was a student at the school.

Gabriel E. Carlin, 32, a teacher at East Harbor Christian Academy in Washington, was booked into Purgatory Correctional Facility on four counts of first-degree felony sexual abuse of a minor.

He was being held on $100,000 bail.

St. George police Sgt. Craig Harding said Carlin allegedly gave the girl a ride to her home from school and there allegedly was "some inappropriate touching involved. All touching was over the clothes, no clothes were removed."

The alleged incident reportedly occurred during the last 30 days, and the girl's complaint was filed on March 9.

Harding said the charges were enhanced from second- to first-degree felonies because of the position of trust Carlin holds.

Details on Carlin's ecclesiastic position were not immediately available. However, his creditianls are mentioned online at http://www.columbiaseminary.org/news/ where it says:
February 2005: Recent Graduate: Congratulations goes to Gabriel E. Carlin of Utah who completed his studies for the degree of Master of Theological Studies. Mr. Carlin is now enrolled for the Doctor of Ministry degree.


link

3/15/06                                                                                       View Comments

I Tried, I Really Tried...

sent in by xrayman

Despite the fact that I have been skeptical of God existing most of my life, at 43 I have sincerely tried to find God many times. I was an out of control alcoholic in my mid 20's. Many of my best friends also fell into serious alcohol addiction. Gary one of my oldest and dearest friends from childhood finally stopped drinking and found God. Almost over night he became a preachy born again Christian. I really wasn't too fond of his ways, yet he did succeed in putting the cork in the jug. I continued to drink heavily. He always said that Jesus was the way to overcome my addiction. At age 27 I was married with a small child when I finally hit a complete rock bottom. My drinking took me as low as a man could go.

On a March night in 1991, I was alone in my house shaking uncontrollably in a pool of cold sweat, with the DT's. I had been drunk with a friend for a week straight. When the money ran out and the booze ran dry, I had the worst withdrawals any human ever had. My mind and body were in peril. I decided it was time for me to surrender to Jesus. It was my only hope. This was your typical addict finding God story in the making, and I was the main character. I called the 700 club prayer line, and got on the phone with a prayer counselor and asked Jesus to come into my life. I got down on my knees and prayed with all my heart. I wanted to be saved from the misery so bad. Well, as I was praying and pleading with God, I felt...................nothing. Absolutely nothing. No spirit, no uplifting experience. No sense that everything would be OK. Not even a little twinge of evidence that God was with me. I even remember the prayer counselor getting a little short with me, like as in "Hey buddy I've got other calls." Well for the next few days I continued going through the serious withdrawals. I didn't sleep for two nights. It was the worst experience my body had ever endured. The religious experience I had hoped for didn't come close to happening. I have never drank again since that experience, but it wasn't because I was saved by God, it was because I never wanted to feel that way again. Many will say that it was God, but I know better. It was me finally wanting to turn my miserable life around.

Years later I tried to find God again. My wife and I decided to join a local church and get the kids baptized. Once again no matter how hard I prayed, my rational brain would never let me believe in an invisible man in the sky although I tried to fake it really hard on many occasions. I listened to scripture and was always skeptical that it was the word of God. I even have spent hours and hours alone in deep meditation trying to find God on a very personal level, and of course as always, I have come up empty.

For whatever reason my mind has never allowed me to believe a God exists. I am having a little trouble totally letting go, but I really want to totally let go of the baggae of a God. I welcome pen pals to correspond. It's a lonely life being an atheist.

email: xrayman at chartermi dot net

3/14/06                                                                                       View Comments

Evolution, not Revolution

sent in by Piprus

I thought about not bothering with telling my evolution to unbelief, but then as a new poster I thought it might be better to at least introduce myself somehow. It's a boring uneventful story, no doubt shared by many others here. An evolution, not a revolution...a gradual process.

I came from a small family. Two parents, two sons. My father, and his family were agnostics who never went to church, and didn't incorporate any religious beliefs into their activities or lifestyles. My mother's side was southern baptist, although my mother herself was very liberal and tolerant in her beliefs. She was never a regular churchgoer either. She was a "nominal" Christian. I was introduced to church and Sunday school by my maternal grandmother and aunt, at the age of 10. Well, when I got my head filled with a typical hellfire and brimstone sermon every Sunday, it wasn't long before I became so scared I might die "unsaved" and end up in hell, chained, burning for ever. So, I answered the altar call one Sunday morning, and thought I had everything taken care of.

My parents reacted mildly, no condemnation or anything, but simply accepted it. I quickly became a little evangelist, preaching, singing hymns, carrying a bible around, the whole nine yards. When I got carried away my mother, whom I will be forever grateful to, would lovingly but firmly teach me not to condemn other people, that the bible was full of contradictions, that god would probably not be so quick to send everybody to hell, but would consider everyone's basic goodness. My grandmother, although a true fundamentalist baptist, was likewise a tolerant, caring, loving person every moment (too bad so many fundies aren't like her).

A couple of years after my conversion, we moved to a new location, too far away for me to go to the same church. So, I stopped attending altogether. At age 12 I was starting adolescence anyway, so a lot of changes were going on. At age 15 my aunt, who was now married, and my uncle lived nearby and started taking me to their baptist church. It was much different than it had been. Now, it was more of a social scene than anything else. I didn't take the preaching and the doctrines too seriously, but I did enjoy hanging out with friends and singing in the choir. But when I got my driver's license at 16, things started changing again. I had wheels! It was the end of churchgoing for me. I still identified myself as a baptist, but was now, like my mother, a "nominal Christian", in name only. I had better things to do than go to church.

Like the typical teen, I was developing not only physically but intellectually, and I saw the contradictions of the "perfect" bible, the nonsensical aspect of the message. "If god is so loving, why is the whole religion based on terror?" I studied history, other cultures, and concluded that religions are built to support cultural beliefs and keep communities together and stable. Christianity offers a hope for a better life to those in despair, offers comfort to those who have a tough time accepting that life on planet earth is just plain ugly, sometimes.

I married a young woman who was the granddaughter of a pentecostal minister, and who was, like me, a renegade but still a nominal Christian. Her mother still attended a COG church, and one Sunday, just for fun, and curiosity on my part, we went to her church. Well, I got treated to the whole show. Speaking in tongues, prophesying, interpretation of tongues (by the pastor, of course), rolling around in the isles, the whole shebang. Needless to say, I found it absurd. The baptists consider this kind of thing heretical and non biblical, but nowadays I don't care. That was the last time I went to church, now about 25 years ago.

Over the years, besides my own musings on the absurdities of Christian doctrine, I read essays by other great thinkers: deists, agnostics, atheists. People like Robert Ingersoll, Joseph Lewis, H.L. Mencken, Mark Twain, Thomas Paine, and others. And, gradually, Christianity became for me what I believe it to be. Just another human religion, built around myths and fantasies. There is no evidence to believe in a god as portrayed in the bible, Jesus is a mythical character perhaps built around the life of an ancient evangelical Essene, there is no evidence for any afterlife, etc. For years I was a nominal Christian, an unbeliever who still identified with my childhood beliefs, until I finally faced the fact that I was actually an atheist. So, I may as well be what I really am.

And I feel much better that I do. It's been a long time ago.

So, my leaving Christian beliefs behind was a gradual process of intellectual growth and accepting what makes sense, rejecting what does not. I was never abused or condemned by any fellow Christians, or anything of the sort. I simply went my own way. And I have nothing to be ashamed of.

Maryland
USA
Joined: 10
Left: Circa 18
Was: Born again southern baptist
Now: Atheist
Why did you become a Christian? Scared into it
Why did you de-convert? No longer made sense
russw51 at earthlink dot net

3/13/06                                                                                       View Comments

Get That Bible-Monkey Off My Back

sent in by tigg13

I don't remember the first time I was told about the god of Abraham. His existence and that of Jesus always seemed to be a given fact - like Lincoln or Napoleon. The bible was just as trustworthy as a dictionary or an encyclopedia. I never heard anyone questioning Christianity in any way.

The first church I ever attended was with my father, I couldn't have been more than 4 or 5 years old. All I really remember was a man in the front yelling and everyone else sitting quietly. Oh, and the round, mint candies I got for going.

My mother's relatives didn't feel comfortable with me or my little brother going to that church, so they decided to take me to their church - a non-denominational Christian Fellowship, populated mostly (if not entirely) by people who were related to me. Church was as much about keeping up with (tabs on) other members of the family as it was about preaching the word of God. This was when I first started to ask questions. My first questions were like "If Jesus is all around us all the time, how come he won't let us see him?" and "How did Noah get all those animals, did he live next to the zoo?" and "If Paul was blind, how could he see Jesus?".

I wasn't trying to cause trouble, I just thought there were perfectly logical answers to these questions and I just wanted somebody to tell me. When I was told not to ask such questions I was confused, it didn't make sense that they wouldn't want to answer my questions.


The other big problem I had with church was my shoes. I have always had very wide feet (I currently wear size 6 and a half triple E extra-wide) and the "good" leather shoes that I was suppose to wear just for church were excruciatingly painful. I would whine and whine every Sunday and look for excuses not to go just to get out of those shoes.

My mother and father didn't go to church. And, as my older sister and two older brothers grew up and moved away, that just left me and my little brother. Eventually, our unwillingness to behave made us unwelcome as well. I didn't see myself as moving away from God. (He was, after all, all around me anyway.) It was just something that I thought I would deal with when I became old enough to understand all those unexplained things.

My father died when I was eleven. He was a dominating, psychologically abusive man and when he died my mother, younger brother and I were left with no direction or support. I began a long, slow spiral into depression that culminated in my being committed to the adolescent, psychiatric ward at the University of Michigan Hospital in Ann Arbor at the age of 16. It was shortly after I was admitted to the hospital that I received a package from my sister. She had been overseas for several years and this was the first time I had heard from her in all that time. She had recently become a born again Christian and her package was full of Christian literature and a letter telling me that my problems were not psychological but demonic - that it was God's way of telling me that I needed to let Jesus into my heart and get saved ASAP!

Lost, confused, depressed, alone, scared and on a high dose of anti-depressants, I was a sitting duck.

I began reading my bible, along with the books she had sent me, day and night. I prayed and prayed and prayed. I confessed and repented all of the sins I had committed - and then all the sins I wasn't sure I had committed - and then all the sins I probably had committed but wasn't aware that they were sins.

Nothing happened.

I wasn't sure what was supposed to happen. I knew that I shouldn't have expected any grand miracles or anything (That would be tempting god), but there should have been something different. Maybe, I had too many material possessions. I immediately vowed to give up everything I owned; my life, my future...everything for God and Jesus. I was ready to be their unquestioning servant forever, go where ever they'd have sent me, done whatever they'd have wanted.

Nothing happened.

Every story of salvation I had ever heard or read ended with the hero having an ecstatic moment when either Jesus or the Holy Spirit or some other divine force would enter into them and they'd just know that they were saved. I was still lost, confused and depressed.

Looking back, I believe it was loneliness that really hurt me the most. I had no future to look forward to. No purpose or meaning in my life. And I desperately wanted something, someone somewhere to validate my existence. Jesus seemed like the obvious solution, but I just couldn't seem to get his attention. I knew that it had to be my fault. I wasn't saying the right prayer or my faith wasn't really strong enough. I was determined to find the path to salvation.

So I started to REALLY read the Bible.

I forget the exact chapter or verse, but it was somewhere during the story of the Hebrew conquest of the promised land that I read of a certain kingdom that heard about the mighty army of Israel and decided to send a messenger to negotiate a peaceful settlement to the situation. The Hebrews minced the messengers, attacked the kingdom, slaughtered everyone (except the young, virgin girls), stole everything of value and burned the rest.

And this, was apparently OK with God?

Doubts were what I didn't want. I wanted to believe. I needed to believe. So, why was God showing me this? I remembered that Job was a story about not having doubts, so I read Job. Job had 7 sons and 3 daughters. God let Satan kill all 10 of Job's children. And to make it up to Job, God let him have 7 more sons and 3 more daughters. Forget the oxen and the sheep and the sores and the boils. One of my older brothers had had a son (my nephew)who died as an infant. Nothing can replace a child.

What the hell was God doing to me. I was asking for guidance and I was getting moral inconsistencies. Was it the drugs? Was it the total confinement to an institution? Those things shouldn't be able to stop God.

Maybe God just didn't want me.

I could not deal with that kind of abandonment at that moment of my life. So I made the most important decision of my life. I decided that I couldn't wait for Jesus to save me. I had to save myself. I did leave the door open to him, if he ever changed his mind and decided I was finally good enough, all he had to do was let me know. But I wasn't going to spend any more time looking for him.

I pulled myself together, got myself out of the institution, got myself through school and on with my life. I no longer considered myself a Christian (because I wasn't saved) but I figured that I would become a Christian whenever God thought I was ready.

About 4 or 5 years passed before my de-conversion was complete. It happen at Thanksgiving. My sister and my older brother (the one whose son died) were both going to be home for that holiday. She was still an Evangelical Christian. He had gotten involved with a very orthodox, very conservative, old testament centered denomination. They hadn't seen each other since his conversion. They argued for the entire week. They both knew their respective doctrines cold. They both could quote chapter and verse verbatim. They both had rock solid faith in their own beliefs. They were both convinced that the other was doomed to hell!

I was the unofficial referee. I listened very carefully, expecting one or the other of them to concede that their interpretation of scripture was inferior to the other's. When that didn't happen, I was perplexed. They both couldn't be right, but neither of them seemed to be wrong.

Then it hit me. If one of them had to be wrong and either of them could be wrong, then why couldn't both of them be wrong! And if they could be wrong, then all the other denominations could be wrong! Every religion! Every belief system!

Looking back now it seems so obvious, but at the time, this was a tremendous epiphany for me. Suddenly, I was no longer "not good enough". I wasn't abandoned by God because there was no God to be abandoned by!

Its been nearly 20 years since I first saw Christianity for what it really was. I have experienced many other philosophies and belief systems on my way through this life. I no longer worry about finding the "truth" (I doubt I'd know it if I saw it). I just like learning new things and ideas (And, hey, as long as I don't have to shave my head or anything, its all good!) Even though I still suffer from clinical depression, I am at peace with myself. I have a good job and I have managed to support myself and my family even though I have been out of therapy and off medication for over 15 years.

I had thought that I had put all of that Jesus foolishness behind me, then I found this website. Reading your postings has brought back many of my own personal thoughts and experiences. It seems that, though I have crawled out from under the theology, the scars of my spiritual abuse and brainwashing are still there. I realized, while reading other people's testimonials, that I have never really put my experiences into words myself. I needed to do this. Both for myself, and to lend my voice to all other ex-Christians.

I thank you all for giving me this opportunity to share my experiences and I promise that this won't be the last you hear from me.

Gainesville
FL
USA
Joined: Toddler
Left: 17
Was: Christian (non-denominational), Backslider, Agnostic, Atheist
Now: Freethinking, Deist, Toaist, Chaos Worshipping Pagan Fool
Converted because: Brain washed
De-converted because: I like owning my own thoughts.
email: gdphelps at alltel dot net

3/9/06                                                                                       View Comments

From Bible-thumper to a Deist

sent in by Jeff

Well, I've been reading through this site for some time now and I figured I might as well put up my anti-testimony — if not for anything else but my own sort of closure to Christianity.

I was born and raised in a "uber-church" one of those gigantic churches that doesn't claim any denomination and people have to meet in small groups to even get any sort of community going.

Anyway, I was a Bible-thumper from the get go. I remember being in 5th grade, bringing my bible and trying to convert people; I even had my own little hellfire speeches. This pretty much went on throughout my entire school years — I was always known as the Jesus freak or that crazy Jesus guy.

This all changed though, and ironically enough, it happened when i joined the army. Once I went through basic training I was almost forced to meet with people of other views and to get along with them. I couldnt just start preaching to somebody, telling them their going to hell, because these were the people watching my back, and I respected them.

Well, after I got out of the army I was already everything my former Christian self hated: I was an alcoholic, I was a womanizer, cursed like a sailor, the whole bit. Well I figured it was time to get back to my roots and try to be the Christian man I used to be, but something unexpected happened.

When I came back to the church I used to go to, just about everyone shunned me. I guess somehow my old drinking and casual sex stories had gotten back to them, andhey didnt like it one bit. I was all but told to leave by the people there.

This was when the doubts seriously began. I tried several churches in hopes that maybe it was just my old church that was like this, but for the most part I had to face it: for some reason these people that I used to call friends had heard that I was living in sin and now wanted nothing to do with me.

So I started to research my own faith, thanks in most to this site. But I was as impartial as I could be, reading this site and then going to Christian sites to see what they had to say. When it all came down to it I have come to believe that Christianity is nothing more than a country club, as long as you believe what they believe and show up to the meetings, everyone loves you. But, the second you start to waiver, you're gone and hated.

This was my starting reason to leave the faith — everything else just sort of fell in place after that. Since then Ive become a Deist, but the thing is I'm not complety stuck on it; I'm still studying other things, as I am sort of new at this. For 22yrs I did nothing but study the Bible, so now it's strange to be learning about other faiths deemed Satanic by the Christian culture (hehe).

Well, thats my speil. I hope you enjoyed it. It's not the most awesome anti-testimony ever, but hope it helps somebody in some way.

3/7/06                                                                                       View Comments

Not Anymore

sent in by Ray

Was born and raised a catholic. Went to catholic school. Did the entire sacraments thing. But everything still felt false and hollow. A Baptist friend shared the gospel to me and I ended up being born again via a Bible study in our office back in 1986. I then joined a full gospel church. For 10 years, I was a hardcore fundie. I became music leader in our church, attended seminars, symposiums, held Bible studies, joined outreaches, left Chick tracts everywhere, I was on fire, as fundies would say. Then the cracks in the foundation started. The old Armenian-Calvinism controversy. That created a big division in our office Bible study. Whereas before, everyone attended the bible study, conservative protestants started shying away from it after that. It was painful for me because naively, I’ve always believed we were one family. Well, months later, the bible study ceased altogether. “Work of the devil,” my fundie friends would explain.

And then, the church. Our music leader (I was just a guitarist then), who was married with one kid, was caught having an affair with one of our church’s woman pastors. After being caught, one would suppose that they would repent and wear sackcloth and ashes and stuff but no, the two insisted that it was the will of God! The shocking thing was they enjoyed the support of quite a number of church members! And so there was grumbling and weeping and gnashing of teeth in the church, not in the repentant sense, but in the divisive atmosphere that prevailed. Don’t ask me what happened because I left the church after that.

I joined another church. Same controversies and immoral episodes. Our pastor wanted to bed a stunning, young woman member who however, had the hots for the church bassist, so she slept with him instead, which ticked our pastor off immensely. Then there was the youth leader who tried to rape the woman who took care of the parsonage. She escaped when she locked herself in the bathroom. Then there were the elders who insisted on having their way against the pastor. To get even, the pastor expelled all of them from the church. I know, the fundies would say “there ain’t no perfect church brother.” Well, all these goings-on are not simply being imperfect, this is the twilight zone, man! Oh, I forgot, work of the devil, right?

I turned to a close friend, also a pastor of another church, for advice. I had to focus solely on the Lord, he told me. Run the race brother. Don’t bother with the other runners who are screwing or killing each other. This is a personal thing. It’s a relationship, remember? So what if a Christian brother or sister gets waylaid along the way? To hell with them! Keep your eyes on the savior. That’s the way to do it. Years later, that same pastor friend was screwing a stewardess while his wife was sick in a hospital, boasting that what he was doing was the will of God since his wife was already dying anyway! And yes, he had some degree of support from other members of the church as well. That did it. I haven’t been to church since, and I’m not planning on going back. Hell, the church is more immoral than a brothel!

So the church stinks. But how about the big guy upstairs? The church may let you down but he won’t, right? After all, he’s perfect, omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient and omnimaximus to the nth degree, correct? Well, while all these things were happening in the church, that was what I did. I tried to really know this guy upstairs by reading his “certified, true, dependable, inerrant (there’s that word)” word – the Bible. But as I went deeper into the Bible, the more contradictions I found. And then there were the OT stories of divinely sanctioned rape, pillage, murder, genocide and what have you. But you know what really got into me? The book of Job.

Here’s my “loving” father in heaven making a bet with satan after a little enticement from the devil. My omnipotent father making a bet? My all-powerful god, a pushover? So he “allows” the devil (does this make satan his caporegime?) to slaughter all of Job’s family, servants, livestock, everyone and everything. God just loves to mow everything down, doesn’t he? He just loves an immense dose of bloodshed. And so here’s Job asking, just asking, the eternal question why? Comes now an arrogant god, with a who-are-you-to-question-me stance. “Did you create the universe Job? No? Well I did. So shut up!” What a loving father. So Job backs down, didn’t curse god. God wins bet. God replaces everything Job lost two maybe three-fold. That easy huh? He butchers Job’s family and then gives him a new one? He kills all his friends and then replaces them with new ones? Is it that simple? What are they, candy bars? And if indeed he is all-knowing, why did he have to subject Job to such torture if he already knew the outcome? Kind of a sadist, isn’t he? Or what, he simply wants to “in your face” satan at the expense of his devoted servant Job? If that’s the kind of father I have in heaven, I’d rather be an orphan.

Conclusion? You can’t trust the church. You can’t trust the bible. There is no biblical god. The whole thing is the biggest most effective brainwashing scheme ever devised by man. That’s just what it is – a man-made means to control. And I refuse to be controlled. Not anymore.


Philippines
Was: Catholic, Full Gospel
Now: Freethinker
reyv at gmx dot net

No Longer

sent in by Clay

So my name is Clay, and I'm 19 years old. I go to the University of Washington in Seattle. It's nice.

Although I have moved to different areas my whole life, I don't actually remember going to church until I was about 7, right when we moved to a suburb outside of Dallas, Texas. My Dad was raised Catholic and my Mother Methodist, and it just seemed normal that I went to church with my family every Sunday. I went to sunday school, then the church service, and when I was old enough, the youth group. I was never big on religion and was definitely not big on going to church, but I just thought I had to believe in God and that was it, that's all religion was; I was never a hardcore Christian or anything like that.

When I was 13 we moved to The Netherlands. It was a little surprising that my Mother didn't search out a church for us to attend, but I didn't give it much thought and just continued on with business as usual. I would later find out why she didn't...

The Netherlands is not particulary religious, at least not in the Christian faith (they have many immigrants who are Muslims, Buddhists, etc.). In fact, only the older generations still go to church, and much of the country considers themselves not religious at all. I think it was a combination of not being around christians and the christian faith (what? Christians in Texas? Noooo) that allowed me to step back and think of things for myself without any influences. And believe me, there were no influences at all, because I couldn't understand a word anyone was saying!

Within the first few months of moving overseas I remember sitting in my room and it just hitting me that I didn't believe in the christian God, and not only the christian God, but any God. It didn't make any sense to me. I believe religion in general was a way to explain the world and answer questions like why we are here, how did we get here, etc., before there was any scientific evidence to prove otherwise. It's annoying to hear this talk from christians about "don't you feel your life is pointless then?" and "what do you have to live for?", like I can't appreciate the fact that I am alive and live a great life and love and accept everyone, make lifelong friendhips and have a completely fulfilling life.

Up until a few years ago I didn't know what my family's religious were anymore, since we hadn't been to church in several years. I feel I have been priviledged to be able to travel the world, hear other people's points of view, learn their cultures, and formulate my own ideas and thoughts based on my experiences. I feel I have been able to be shown what's outside "the box" that I think many Americans live in. Not only am I an atheist now, but in some ways I am anti-christian. The Bible has some good teachings on how to live your life, but there are a surprising number of teachings that I feel are downright unhealthy and harmful and are the reason of many intolerances and discriminations we see in our society, such as the anti-gay and sexist teachings the Bible preaches. Not all christians follow the Biblical teachings literally, but many do, and base their beliefs against things like homosexuality solely on what the Bible tells them.

I was pleasantly surprised to find out that my entire family does not believe in Gods or God of any kind. My Mother started doubting her faith right before we left Texas, and realized her newfound beliefs right before we moved. This was why we didn't attend church when we arrived in The Netherlands.

I've been an atheist for 6 years now, and don't see myself ever changing that. I have a lot of fun reading all of your comments and postings, keep it up. Thanks for reading=)


Seattle
Washington
United States
How old were you when you became a christian? Very young
How old were you when you ceased being a christian? 12-13
What churches or organizations or labels have applied to you? Christian, Methodist
What labels, if any, would you apply to yourself now? Atheist
Why did you become a christian? It was just part of my upbringing and I thought it was natural and everyone did it.
Why did you de-convert? I thought about it for myself and used rational and logical reasoning.

Once catholic, not always a catholic

sent in by Adam

I was raised in what you could call "Medieval Catholicism". There was lots of emphasis on Hell, Purgatory, blood, sins of the flesh, penance. I sure wish I could have a "do over" of my younger years, because I spent those years scared and burdened with theological bs that a kid should not have to worry about. But my past is what it is, and now I am a better person because of it.

Sometimes I think I can enjoy the present more because I am able to contrast it with the difficult past. Overall it would have been better to have a healthier, functional past, but if I had, perhaps I would not have the insight that I do now to help others.

Sexuality was the deal-breaker for me in regards to christianity. The theology basically teaches that sex is a necessary evil, to be tolerated ONLY to procreate to make more catholic people. To the extent that I felt sexual, I'd feel guilt and far away from god. After many years of that I just finally decided that I was not going to screw up the rest of my life feeling guilt for being who I am. So I tossed out the parts of catholicism that were at odds with sexuality. But it was like pulling on a thread on a sweater... the rest of the religion just unraveled.

Also, I could not believe that god would demand a blood sacrifice to atone for humanity's wrongs. I don't believe god, if god exists, would be so primitive. I also don't believe humanity is "fallen". So there's no real reason to be christian for me any more.

When I finally admitted to myself that "Jesus is not God" I thought my life would fall apart. I thought that without the religious structure, I'd be a "ship without a rudder". But nothing like that has happened! My marriage is fine, the kids are fine, my job is fine, I can sleep at night, I don't swindle, cheat and steal.

The only thing that has fallen apart is my relationship with my parents, who still very much believe what they always did. Silly me, I thought that as I matured, my parents would also mature, and that we could discuss theology like grown-ups. Nope! They have accused me of blasphemy. They choose their religion over their relationships, and that is too bad.

I'm very glad to have found this site and I really enjoy reading what others have shared. Some of the stories I read remind me so much of my own experience or thoughts, and I am relieved that I am not the only one thinking or feeling as I do.

3/5/06                                                                                       View Comments

No Longer One Of Them

sent in by S.L. Nield

I come from a family of pure Atheists! My Dad and Mum answered my childish questions 'what happens when you die?' With I believe unashamed and commendable honesty 'I don't know, but you do live on in the minds of those who love you'. 'Does Jesus love us all' 'If he did exist, I suppose he would'. When I got a bit older, I found myself gravitating to Biblegod and all his works! I got involved with some intense evangelical types (Yes, they exist across here) and due to personal circumstance, I reached out and found what I was looking for in them. At 17 I( gave my heart to the Lord, which (honestly)upset my Mum and Dad. My Dad, now dead, lectured me on how it was all pretense, kiddology, as he put it, and my Mum switched the living room light off and said, 'see, that's what happens to us when we die, we just disappear, like that light did'. Even my gentle Uncle shook his head and said, with great regret, 'how can you believe something that has caused so many wars and troubles?' But I had all the answered (I was an obnoxious little snot, superior in my faith, quoting the Bible and looking down at lesser mortals. I became a total bore, bringing everything around to the Lord and his love. My only defence is that it was a bit of teenage rebellion, plus I did feel a bit better plus it was my duty to spread the word)!

My relatives finally came around to my beliefs and once I was clear of their objections and moved into the more rarefied atmosphere of young adulthood I discovered that maybe the Bible wasn't right about everything. The one that got me was how god killed people for not following a coventant that was totally forgotten, made many generations back by a king or group of priests! I thought; Where's free will then? I questioned my Christian elders and they shook their heads, some admitting they didn't understand, others telling me to pray for more faith (I believe, help my unbelief was quoted at me a lot).

But it did not answer my questions; Then I discovered a copy of Bishop John Robinson's 1963 published book 'Honest To God'. I read it in one go and discovered there were other ways of looking at the world, including one that seemed more reasonable to me, the doctrine of Deism. The Deist god created us and left us to it. A bit like planting a seed and leaving it to grow (I know it's a bad anology, but I'm sure you know what I'm trying to say).

Meanwhile, I was now in my mid twenties and across to my early thirties I fought the questions and matured in my faith and was given jobs in the church, like looking after the Sunday School where I made the mistake of telling them, fielding their innocent questions ie 'why does it rain when I want to play out'? Or 'Why did god let my hamster die'? With the Deist philosophy, 'You see, god created us all, wound us up and let us go, and things happen due to nature and evolution, it's nothing to do with god'. I got into such trouble!

Anyhow, fast forward down the years, and the idea that the Biblegod was a cantakerous, grumpy old man, hating people to think for themselves, grew in me, but the fear of eternal damnation, of committing the sin against the holy spirit kept me in line. My questions were shook off, ignored, I was told to grow up, if I was a true Christian I shouldn't question the lord's love, and even my conversion was put in question!

Eventually, I broke off from the church, read the Bible on my own, along with other philosophies, dualism, that god and the devil and equal opposite forces, deism of course, and Unitarian Universalism which says god is one, there is no trinity etc, and even the notion we are all god and god is in us all, ie Pantheism, and it was only Christmas 2004 when I could admit, 'This is all a load of rubbish'.

I was sitting on my bed reading the Bible when it came to me, like a sort of reverse conversion, a god-free revelation;

'The Bible was written by men to keep us in line'!

Not exactly new news, I know, but believe me, the liberation I felt!

Well, the proverbial muck hit the fan! I went to my church and told them what I'd discovered, using my brain and the writings of others. Alright, suppose god does exist. I mean he created the universe and all in it. Would he really care if we didn't give ten per cent of our earnings or decide to have romances with someone of our own sex? I was told I was upsetting everyone, no one wanted to hear my lies, and I could come back to church as long as I could honestly worship god! I was told that I just wanted to live a sinful life, which is a joke as anyone who knows me will know, I live a quiet life and my idea, even now, of an exiting weekend is sitting with the radio on and reading some non fiction!Or if I want a real buzz, I slip in a 'Columbo' DVD and enjoy!

One or two, people I consider true friends, quietly defended me and my honesty, and told me to go out into the world and try my own way.

For the next few weeks, I was telephoned at home, specially on a Sunday, and informed I'd missed the service again, and if I didn't buck my ideas up, I would be off to hell. After all, to forsake such a great salvation left me worse off than I was. Then I was told I probably wasn't saved at all. THEN I was told I'd lost my salvation. I tried to reason but all I was got the equilivant of the schoolkid trick, you know, when you try and talk to them they stick their fingers in their ears and say 'la la la, can't hear you'!

To be honest, one or two were honestly concerned about ME and my eternal salvation, but those were the ones who came around to my going my own way, 'you've got to try doing your own'.

It's been over a year now since I turned it all in, and am still uncertain, shaky about my eternal salvation although about a year back I was making myself a cup of tea when it came home to me, a road to Damascus type thing;

There is no god!

If there is, he doesn't care what you do!

No one will come back and seperate believers from unbelievers!

You have to rely on yourself, cause there is no one else!

To sum up: I didn't give up Jesus because I wanted to live a 'sinful' life, go my own way, I was almost forced into my non belief with great reluctance because reason and logic tells me that if god exists he made everything, or started everything off, and just like a scientist in charge of a lab, he doesn't condemn to eternal punishment those ants who don't waggle their antena in worship of him. If he did, he would be a meglomanic and the other scientists would soon question his objectivity if not his sanity!

Before I close, when I told my Mum she hugged me and said 'welcome back to the real world, love!'

If only my Dad had been around to see this!

All the best.


Manchester
England
How old were you when you became a christian? 17
How old were you when you ceased being a christian? 41
What churches or organizations or labels have applied to you? Evangelical Protestant Christian
What labels, if any, would you apply to yourself now? Deist leaning toward Atheist
Why did you become a christian? To make myself feel better about myself and the world around me
Why did you de-convert? Applying reason and logic; It just didn't make sense!
Tammy08 at Hotmail dot co dot uk

Born Again Atheist

sent in by Born Again Atheist

Hmmmmmmm, where do I begin? Shall I just ramble? Ok, then!

I was born and raised Catholic. I first read the Bible cover to cover as a young teenager, and was anti-catholic from then on. I still had to pretend, as I had no choice but to attend their voodoo rituals where their priests droned on and on until I fell asleep, bored out of my mind.

My upbringing was so conservative that TV was considered evil, and I grew up on a ranch in the middle of nowhere, so my only escape was walking around the desert and exploring, reading, and masturbating. (Recently I read Wilhelm Reich's "The Psychology of Fascism" where he states that total sexual purity causes religious feelings because the brain requires states of ecstacy and will invent them on its own if you don't pull on the lever - or press on the button - that it gave you for its own release, once in awhile. So THAT's why I never found the Lord!!)

ANYWAY, the "Reading" part is actually what "saved" me. I read National Geographic and the Encyclopedia and learned about the world as it is, without the biased gloss my catholic school upbringing unsuccessfully tried to instill in me. Having a very curious and observant nature helped a LOT. A natural tendency to keep to myself helped a lot, too.

I find it fascinating that people put so much emotional energy in trying to prove evolution 'wrong'. I have never read Darwin, the only real 'Skeptic' books I've read are Carl Sagan's "Demon Haunted World" and Michael Shermer's "Why People Believe Weird Things".

My proof of evolution is all around me. That people are glorified monkeys is so obvious to me that I can't comprehend why many doubt it, other than the emotional need to self-deify, I guess. An Alpha Monkey in the Sky may bring peace to the cowering Beta masses, huddling in tiny-minded fear of a huge, vast, cold, and dark universe; but I am utterly fascinated by the brilliant and amazing universe around me - from massive black holes, to magnetic fields producing auroras, to the soft curves of a woman's breast glistening with sweat and my saliva.

At any rate, I converted to Eastern Orthodoxy mainly because I was utterly fascinated by the Byzantine trappings and the pomposity of their rituals. Reading the Bible again, I noted that Christianity is only for a select few - those who have no sense of self in a human way, but are lost and lonely and scared and need a ghost to hug. Those who are so timid that they can 'love' and accept such a tyrant and, frankly, an asshole who says 'lick my boot or I will torture you forever bwa-ha-ha-ha!'. Fuck that!

I examined the occult for awhile, but all I found was the same mildewed minds searching for another spook in the sky that was not offered to them by the majority - one more personally chosen - so they could attach their elite nose into the sky-daddy's anus - so daddy will allow them to play in his sandbox for all eternity. Bleh...

Religion is based on the denial of reality - all things are food to/for something else, everything exists in order to die. Death is God in that sense. (That's where the Hindu - the Dance of Shiva/Shakti - comes in. It is a symbol of this process, although many - ok most - Hindus worship these processes as deities/beings in their own right, rather than accepting them for the iconic symbology that they attempt to represent.)

I say that if you really want to worship anything as a God, it should be the Sun. Light the Sacred Fire as the piece, or child, of God, and worship as its prophet. Let it speak to you of Entropy, of polarity and flow, of transendence from one manifestation of existence to another (like from Paper to Ash), the Beauty of Destruction and Construction, over and over again; as it is, was, and ever shall be, unto the ages of ages. Amen!!

Pasadena
CA
USA
Joined because: Born & raised
Left because: It has been a long process, started in 1992, cemented in 2005.
Was: Catholic, Greek & Russian Orthodox, Calvanist, Setian, Satanist, Hindu
Now: Atheist, semi-Hindu (yes there are atheist Hindus), Freak-Boy, Monkey-Boy
Converted because: Because I was so psycho-illogically fucked up from childhood Catholic S&M.
De-converted because: First I read the Bible cover to cover (well 3 times). Then I studied other religions. "They are all the same" doesn't necessarily make them all 'true', it just proves they all come from the same primitive monkey guesses borne of fear, ignorance, and explanations.
email: chrsstms at yahoo dot com

3/1/06                                                                                       View Comments

Many and Varied....

sent in by Bernard Fields
"To all the varied peoples of the world, nothing is so out of reach, yet so deeply personal and controlling, as the concept of god. My experience in my homeland showed me little of these supernatural beings beyond the influences of the vile drow deity, the Spider Queen, Lloth.

After witnessing the carnage of Lloth's workings, I was not so quick to embrace the concept of any god, of any being that could so dictate, codes of behavior and precepts of an entire society. Is morality not an internal force, and if it is, are principles to be then dictated or felt?

So follows the question of the gods themselves: Are these named entities, in truth, actual beings, or are they manifestations of shared beliefs? Are the dark elves evil because they follow the precepts of the Spider Queen, or is Lloth a culmination of the drow's natural evil conduct?

Likewise, when the barbarians of Icewind Dale charge across the tundra to war, shouting the name of Tempus, Lord of Battles, are they following the precepts of Tempus, or is Tempus merely the idealized name they give to their actions?

This, I cannot answer, nor, I have come to realize, can anyone else, no matter how loudly they -- particularly priests of certain gods -- might argue otherwise. In the end, to a preacher's ultimate sorrow, the choice of god is a personal one, and the alignment to a being is in accord with one's internal code pf principles. A missionary might coerce and trick would-be disciples, but no rational being can truly follow the determind orders of any god-figure if those orders run contrary to his own tenets. Neither I, Drizzt Do'Urden, nor my father, Zaknafein, could ever have become disciples of the Spider Queen. And Wulfgar of Icewind Dale, my friend of later years, though he still might yell out to the battle god, does not please this entity called Tempus except on those occasions when he puts his mighty warhammer to use.

The gods of the realms are many and varied -- or they are the many and varied names and identities tagged onto the same being.

I know not -- and care not -- which.

--Drizzt Do'Urden" (Quoted from 'Sojurn', by R.A. Salvatore)



My faith journey began upon reading the above quote, nearly 10 years ago.

My, how time flies.

I was fourteen years old at that point. I never really considered myself 'Christian'; going to church was what my parents expected of me, so I went.

Soon after that, I stopped attending. This was to be the start of my 'Faith Search', an attempt to define what I wanted a 'god' being to mean to me.

When I read the essay above, I had -- dare I say it -- a spiritual 'renaissance' of sorts.

Like Drizzt, I had come to realize that what some view as 'god' is, to others, merely a shell -- a mask, to justify our actions, whether good or bad.

Soon after, I declared myself a 'polythiest' (without really understanding what that term meant), and spent six months coming to terms with another troubling issue: If I wasn't a Christian (which I had already decided) and I wasn't an athiest...what was I?

At first, I embraced pacifism. I would not squish even a single ant, and I would not harm a living being unless I was at risk of death.

Somehow, 'pacifist' (though I didn't actually *call* myself a pacifist until much, much later) didn't really fill the kettle.

I wanted something more.

Abandoning my 'polythiest' phase, the next step was to spend several years as a non-thiest. I was not an athiest, I was not a Christian, I simply did not consider myself 'religious' one way or the other.

Fast-forward to my 17th year of life.

My brother is moving out, and since I am a voracious reader, he gives me the books that he won't have room for in his new apartment.

Among them was, of all things, Scott Cunningham's 'Wicca: a Guide for the Solitary Practictioner'.

Finally, it was time for my journey to end. After many years of self-doubt and confusion, this one book clarified all that I had been feeling, codifying it into one simple volume.

After I'd read it once, I read it again. I imagined myself sitting before an altar in my room, or meditating under the light of the moon, and it felt *right*.

These days, I'm not 'out of the broom closet'; only my closest friends and family know, or at least suspect.

My room currently doesn't have room for the dreamed-about altar, so all my ritual gear is sitting in a drawer waiting on the day.

Every so often, though, I look back at my bookshelf and remember that one essay that started this entire journey.

Perhaps my faith journey *has* ended. Perhaps it's only changed tracks for a while.

I know not -- and care not -- which.


Vancouver
British Columbia
Canada
Parents raised me as Christian.
Left when I was 14 years old
Was Christian
Now Pagan/Wiccan
Converted because of Parental guidance
De-converted for Personal reasons