1/31/07                                                                                       View Comments

Hypatia's Lover

Sent in by Philosopher D. R. Khashaba

I was born to devout Coptic (Egyptian Orthodox Christian) parents and was brought up as a good Christian boy. I was deeply impressed by the Sermon on the Mount, loved the beautiful imaginative scenario Luke weaved around the birth of Jesus, and reveled in the Gospel parables.

At about the age of fourteen I was repulsed by Abraham's willingness to slaughter his son. How could a father acquiesce in such a cruel command even if coming from God? Surely the revolt of Prometheus against Zeus was nobler and morally superior to the slavish submission of Abraham.

Soon after that I was rewarded at school (a school run by Catholic Franciscans) by a book of Apologetics. The book had on me an effect diametrically opposed to that intended by the priests who gave it to me. It revealed to me the inanity of all theistic arguments and the absurdity of all of the basic Church doctrines. I filled all the margins and all blank spaces in the book with criticisms.

It was around that time too that I found my way to the unbounded expanses of philosophic thinking and especially to the dialogues of Plato. From that time on I firmly embraced the Socratic position, that we are properly human only when we live by reason and that the whole of human worth and human dignity reside in an unfettered mind.

In my late teens I formed for myself a rounded philosophy and yearned to work out its details, put it down systematically, and publish it. But the circumstances of my life were severely unfavourable (I will not go into details here) and the dream of putting down my philosophy in writing remained for decades a hopeless dream.

It was only in my early sixties that my circumstances improved sufficiently to allow me to work through my scrambled and scattered notes and try to work them into some form of book. In 1998, when I was 71, my first book, Let Us Philosophize, was published, followed by "Plato: An Interpretation" in 2005, and in 2006 by "Socrates' Prison Journal", and recently by "Hypatia's Lover," a fictionalized account of the last days of the Alexandrian philosopher who was brutally murdered by a Christian mob in 415 AD.

Permit me to end this note by reproducing an excerpt from this book, where Isis, a student of Hypatia's, argues with Hotep, her colleague and estranged boyfriend who converted to Christianity.

"Before leaving the lecture-hall, Isis was exuberant, as she always was after hearing Hypatia speak. But when she stepped out, a heaviness crept on her heart. Reluctantly, she headed for ‘their’ habitual seat under the haughty cypress tree. Hotep saw her ahead of him, and more by force of habit than by inclination he quickened his steps to catch up with her. He reached her and walked silently by her. He was evidently gloomy and she felt the heaviness weighing on her heart press harder. They reached ‘their’ seat and sat down. For a couple of minutes they stared blankly ahead. Then Isis, without any preliminaries, spoke as if resuming a discussion that had just been interrupted.

Isis: ‘Does the postulation of a pre-existent creator do away with the riddle of being? Does it not simply shift the problem one stage further. My five-year old sister when told that God made the world immediately asks, Who made God? She is a better philosopher than all your theologians put together. The mystery of being is an ultimate mystery that will never go away. It stares us in the face as soon as we are aware of our own being — in other words, as soon as we emerge as intelligent beings. The birth of the human being is the birth of the philosopher that is struck with wonder.’

Hotep: ‘I appreciate that. I very much like the way you expound the ultimate mystery of being. No wonder Hypatia takes special pride in you. But still I think that the order of the cosmos points to an intelligent designer.’

Isis: ‘Why can’t that intelligence be intelligence inherent in primal reality? After all, the best intelligence we know is not the craftsman’s that works on things outside the craftsman and produces things separate from the producer. The purest intelligence we know is that of the poet, the philosopher, the mathematician, in which the mind by itself, in itself, of itself, issues forth creatively, living its own reality in its own creative activity.’

Hotep: ‘My dear Isis, I don’t know whether I love you more, admire you more, or fear you more when you go into these Platonic flights of thought. To be honest, my uppermost feeling is one of dread. You make me dizzy and you make me fearful of losing the assurance I have lately found in my new faith.’

Isis: ‘Hotep, dare to think, dare to be your own creature, your own creator. That is the only way to preserve your human dignity, to have your true worth as a human being.’

Hotep: ‘No, Isis, no. This is to fall into the sin of pride, to refuse the guidance of Heaven, putting reliance on our weak, sinful human nature.’

Isis knew she had lost him. This was not the Hotep she once loved. Was that other Hotep a creature of her own imagination, her own desire? Her burgeoning femininity craved love and her imagination endowed him with the qualities she would love. When she spoke next she was not addressing the same person as before. She half-hated herself because she felt she was not speaking with warmth. She was not trying to communicate with his soul. She was simply concerned to rebut a theoretical position she found faulty. Even her tone was different.

Isis: ‘Let us assume that the existence of the world, that the order in the existing world, proves the existence of a creator.’

Hotep: ‘That’s how I see it.’

Isis: ‘Well, what does that prove? That the creator is powerful and ingenious.’

Hotep: ‘We also know that he is good.’

Isis: ‘How do we know that?’

Hotep: ‘By all the good things he has provided for us.’

Isis: ‘What about all the evil? All the calamities, disasters, and catastrophes? All the disease and misery and pain?’

Hotep: ‘We cannot compass the wisdom of God. He must have a purpose in permitting these things to happen. And most of the misery of human beings is brought about by our own evil deeds.’

Isis: ‘I could easily turn all of that against the position you’re defending. But I will not dispute that now. I will allow you your personal creator, separate from the world, all-wise, all-powerful, all-good — we’ll forgive him all the evil and the misery in the world.’

Isis saw that Hotep was pained at the sardonic impiety of these words and felt sorry. She had no desire to hurt his feelings. Before he could object she said: ‘I’m sorry. Forget that I said that.’

Hotep did not respond. Isis continued, ‘All right, given the existence of God, why could he not be our benign Ra, or even the whimsical Zeus? Or Ormazd who has the advantage of being free of blame for evil, all evil being the work of Ahriman?’

Hotep: ‘I am convinced that the scriptures sanctioned by the Church reveal to us the true God.’

Isis: ‘On what ground, Hotep?’

Hotep hesitated. He knew that the answer which to him was satisfactory, to her was absurd. But he had no other answer. So, hesitantly the words came out of his lips: ‘It is the word of God.’

Isis: ‘Dear Hotep, surely you know how ridiculous this answer is. The holy book must be believed because it is the word of God. Who says it is the word of God? The holy book says it is the word of God.’

‘The Church says it is the word of God.’ Hotep said emphatically.

‘And who’, retorted Isis, ‘invested the Church with the authority to say that? Don’t you see we’re going round and round in circles?’

Again Hotep hesitated. He said slowly, ‘One must have faith.’

Isis: ‘All right, you believe your scriptures reveal God to you. What kind of god? A god that wilfully creates the evil Satan? A god that is wrathful and vengeful? A god that favours one particular nation for whose sake he inflicts unspeakable torments on the innocent people of Egypt when, with his boundless power, he could have taken his favourites away without hurting anyone? Even if you could give me indubitable proof of the existence and power of such a god, I would freely choose to fry for ever in his everlasting hell rather than show him any regard.’

Isis spoke vehemently and Hotep was shocked. Surely it was not her mind but her heathen spirit – the devil working on her unholy heathen spirit – that drove her to such heated opposition to the call of faith.

Again Isis sensed his disconcertment and again regretted her uncontrolled outburst.

Isis: ‘Look, Hotep, I apologize. I do not want to offend you. It seems we have reached irreconcilable positions and such arguments will not take us anywhere. But I cannot give up the hope that you may reconsider your position calmly. You know that Mariam is arranging a forum on Christianity. Maybe that will afford an opportunity for quiet reflection.’

Hotep: ‘Mariam has spoken to me about her idea. I don’t think any good can come out of it. Mariam is only Christian in name. She is opposed to the authority of the Church. Even Sophia is unreliable; she is too tepid. All the others are heathen — begging your pardon.’

Isis: ‘Don’t you think that rather makes for a reasoned objective discussion?’

Hotep: ‘No. Faith must come first.’

Isis could not suppress her sarcastic note. ‘That is, you must make up your mind to believe before you consider your grounds for believing.’

In the old days their long-drawn conversations, part philosophic, part personal, part idle prattle, would end with, ‘Well, it’s time to go,’ and that would mean that he would walk her to her residence, say goodbye, and then retrace his steps to his own residence which they would have bypassed on the way to hers. But not this afternoon. No. It was all over. ‘Excuse me,’ he said; ‘I have somewhere to go.’ He got up and walked away. Isis tarried. She knew they would both be going the same way and she waited to allow time to make sure they would go the same way separately."

(From Hypatia's Lover by D. R. Khashaba, ch.13.)


http://khashaba.blogspot.com
http://www.Back-to-Socrates.com

1/30/07                                                                                       View Comments

Dealing with some issues

Sent in by T

I was raised in a fairly sizable town in the south of England. I attended the local Church of England church, more specifically "Anglican", with my family, from an early age - before I can remember. As is common for Anglican Protestants in England I was baptized as a baby. The church is one of the oldest buildings for miles round. The Norman church was built around and altered as the years went on but there's still a lot of the medieval building left, including some graffiti carved into the wall. I joined the choir aged seven and my Christianity grew organically, steeped in the literally awesome feeling of tradition gained from the quiet, ancient, stones and timber and participating directly in the canon of centuries of sacred vocal music - one of man's greatest achievements. Religion was tangible to me. Ritual became hugely important to me and praising God through beautiful music was my most pious goal.

My parents never directly instructed me in any religious way. Aside from being made to say some basic prayers as a child, my spiritual development was left up to the choir, Sunday school and later the youth group. Most importantly, my parents led by example, apparently without feeling the need always to relate "good" to "God". As I became more and more interested and proficient in music, I attended various summer residential courses run by The Royal School of Church Music. This really kept my faith alive. I sang in magnificent cathedrals, secluded chapels and even on stage with a philharmonic orchestra. Leading The Responses in a chapel whilst away on a course made me feel a real connection to worship - "O Lord, open thou our lips..."

Moving towards puberty, various issues affected my life. The deaths of two friends, chronic acne and bullying were particularly hard. I was confirmed at about 14 years old. As I knelt before the Bishop I felt strangely empty. Christianity was becoming very serious to me but something was missing.

I found Christian friends but none whose experience was anything like mine. I turned to my Evangelical friends and was quickly accepted into a youth group. I attended my Church of England youth group but that consisted of at best about five people, including my sister and was rarely intense in terms of spirituality. In retrospect, It was all about support and compassion. A very warm and understated group. The Evangelicals, however, went on exciting excursions, offered fizzy drinks and cakes and of course, had more girls.

I met my first girlfriend through music and she too was a Christian. We encountered all the usual awkward liaisons but with the added pressure of massive guilt regarding lust. We were advised to avoid too much physical contact, which of course fueled our frustration.

Around this time the Evangelical youth group became heavier. i was awarded with a "Youth Bible" for my birthday and discussions led more and more to salvation, the Holy Spirit etc. As far as I was concerned The Holy Spirit was what I felt when I sat silently in church or whilst singing Mozart. To them, it was about talking in tongues, "being touched" and awful rock music. I was getting increasingly involved with the local rock scene and what I heard in Evangelical services seemed neither to touch anything sacred or to rock!

I decided that as this Christianity thing was starting to confuse me, as I didn't have anything relating to a "relationship with Jesus" like my friends and as I was wracked with guilt i should look into it a little deeper.The various events listed above seemed hard to put into the context of my faith. I believed in all the "good bits" that Jesus taught - love thy neighbour, treat others as you would like to be treated and above all, forgiveness - but I couldn't get my head round a sizable chunk of the rest of it. My parents had always had gay friends, had always encouraged me to think historically and scientifically and yet my friends were telling me that a lot of this was downright wrong.

I read the Bible twice. I was doing well academically at school and decided to read it with some close attention. I still believed whole heartedly but needed a little help. I read some Bible guides and some Bible criticism. I came away in shock.

I can't remember the exact chain of events. It was pretty harrowing. I was around seventeen or eighteen at the time. Over the next six months, maybe a year I pulled at threads and soon realized that the whole sweater was unravellings. I had no signs or anything resembling answers to my prayers. I had no relationship with God. I couldn't stand up in church and wholeheartedly join in the creed - I didn't believe in the resurrection of the body or the miraculous conception. I realized that the Creation, original sin, crucifixion, salvation chain of events wouldn't work anyway I tried to comprehend it and I saw more and more examples of Christianity proudly standing up for things that were not what I was about.

One day, I broke down in church. It just all came out in tears and a voice in my head finally, long after the intellectual realization, announced that it was over. I did not believe any more.

The carpet was pulled from under me. I couldn't put anything into a frame of reference any more. I became deeply unhappy and paranoid and to make it worse, felt unable to talk to my parents, who still attend church. I attended with them and focused on the music. I felt like a fraud and tried to avoid joining in any of the spoken parts of the service whenever it would go unnoticed. My moral code was no more and I felt that I never knew whether I was being rude, drinking, smoking, getting off with girls etc. because I wanted to, or in response to my new "freedom" from religion. It was a deep ache that still resonates to this day.

Things have become better. Moving to Music College meant I was could stop attending church. My interest in Agnosticism found channels and I now practice "Buddhism". I am not a member of a religion, I just use the example of the Buddha in my life. The Buddha's emphasis on basing action on what you personally experience rather than any doctrine was exactly what I needed. His refusal to answer "metaphysical" questions about the next life etc. as they waste time in this one and his focus on compassion have helped give me back some feeling of a frame of reference without the -need- for faith, doctrine or evangelism. I find good in things of this world and I try to do good for its own sake, not in the hope of a ticket to the VIP area in the sky, or fear of hellfire.

For a while I was almost "anti-Christian" and I am always sad to here or read of these sorts of opinions. That first girlfriend, mentioned above, is still Christian. She's also still a very close friend. She's a no-nonsense Christian with a healthy real - world attitude. She's one of the most well - balanced, kind people I know and she doesn't take the Bible literally. She's able to live "Christianly" without facing the problems so many of us have. The same could be said of my parents and sister. Whilst I have been firmly uprooted from Christianity, never to return, I would see criticizing such upright human beings as an utter waste of time. It's just sad that, to me, in our present world, they seem to be rather in the minority.

It's taken me about three or four years to be able to write this testimony. ExChristian.net and similar sites helped me, an anonymous reader back then. Recent discussion amongst my friends (mostly atheists) caused me to start thinking about this aspect of my life again, and i feel that this has been a big step in finally dealing with some of the issues of my ex-Christianity that still haunt me.

1/28/07                                                                                       View Comments

I finally got my self-respect

Sent in by A. Ford

When I was a child, we were always taken to a Free Will Baptist church by my mother. However, my dad never attended. The church was across the street from where we lived (my parents moved here for that very reason), so we had no excuse for being absent.

At the age of 2, my life seemed to be one of constant failure psychologically. It was then that I was bitten by my uncle's dog under one eye. The bite left a scar when it healed, and I became very self-concious, even though it didn't show up that bad. A few years later, I had to have surgery on my eyes (7 years old). I had to wear glasses after the surgery for at least 3 or 4 years.

My family were the only people I thought I could trust amongst all the doctors, dentists, etc. However, my dad constantly belittled everything I did to the point that I had no self-esteem. My brother and I fought a lot, and when I was 13, he became an alcoholic, so when we got in fights, he became very violent (he tried to kill me a couple of times, and I suffered a concussion during one of his rages). On top of all this, my older sister had Down's syndrome, and most of my mother's time went to dealing with her so that I was neglected.

As if this were not bad enough, I had no friends. Ever since kindergarten, my teachers had separated me from the one person I knew because they thought he (and others) was a bad influence on me. I was poor, and I wore hand-me downs because my parents had no money to buy us clothes; this just made kids laugh at me. There were a few kids at church, but they were foreign to me since I only saw them once a week, and they lived pretty far from where I lived.

When I became a teenager, my problems worsened. I did not get a driver's license at 16 because my dad wanted to "lord" over me. It didn't matter, because I only knew a couple of other people who tried to get me into trouble anyway. My dad and brother fought a lot, and I had no way of escaping the violence, because I had no license. This was probably the worst point in my life. I started reading the Bible heavily, and church was about the only place I could go during the week. God was the only one I could "trust", but of course, he really did nothing.

I graduated high school and went to my local college. While there, I was a very good student (nearly all A's), and I eventually got my Master's degree in chemistry. I went away and got a PhD in Chemistry in 2005. I remained faithful to my religion through the whole time, even though I knew of several problems with the scriptures. I always went to church and believed that someday someone would answer all the questions. Even so, I knew I was getting older, and the problems with the scriptures were building instead of lessening.

I came back to my home town to do a post doc at my alma matter. At this point, I still had a little kid mentality because of all the psychological abuse from my dad (i.e. I just couldn't trust anyone). I had almost no friends because our denomination, which discouraged alcohol use and sale, was small (e.g. there were only two people in my Sunday school class), and I felt like I should avoid ubiquitous situations where alcohol was present.

While at home, I had a few health problems. Prayer did not seem to be working, even though I prayed earnestly at least 30 minutes daily, and I began to wonder if I should just accept my fate. I went to the doctor several times during this period, only to be given antibiotics and steroids repeatedly. Then, something I had prayed about for 13 years finally failed to actualize (how's that for faith), and I just flat out gave up on God. I had read the Bible at least 15 times, and I just couldn't ignore all the errors and mistakes I had found all those years.

This was a terrible period of time for me. I had given everything to God. After 20 years of being "saved", my life had no direction now, since I didn't exactly know what the purpose of life was. However, I did have a PhD and a promising career. I thought to myself, if God was not there when I accomplished my PhD, I could make it through life without him anyway. Now, I not only had courage to go on, but all the years of psychological abuse started to roll away. I didn't have to "honor my father and mother" or "submit to others" because I was afraid of a wrathful God or because I wanted to set a godly example . I could do whatever I wanted and everyone else could just screw themselves for all I cared. I finally got back a part of me that my parents, peers, and teachers had stolen from me all those years. I finally got my self-respect.

1/25/07                                                                                       View Comments

Autonomy: The Greatest Gift

Sent in by Katie

I apologize in advance for the length this will probably reach. I tend to ramble. Also, as an extra but probably superfluous warning, I do not censor myself. If my language offends you…well, tough shit.

Let's start from the beginning.

I was born in August of 1988 in a smallish burg in northwest central Arkansas about sixty miles from Little Rock, nestled cozily in a river valley amongst three hills (I think there are about 30,000 people in it now). There are no shopping malls, but there is a Wal-Mart Supercenter (complete with Mickey D's) along with about seven major churches and countless small ones. Most are Southern Baptist (a.k.a. "I love Jesus and my .22") or evangelical charismatic (a.k.a. "He must have the Holy Spirit in him! Listen to him babbling nonsensically!").

Needless to say, my upbringing was quite religious.

My mother was and is still devoutly Christian, as was my father to a somewhat lesser extent. I was raised and coddled in an almost exclusively Christian environment, sheltered from the evil atheistic viewpoints that might have endangered the "childlike faith" needed to believe in an all-loving God. I even went to a tiny little Christian private school from kindergarten all the way to seventh grade, and in that kindergarten class the teacher led all of us in the Acceptance Prayer ©, even though I’m quite positive not one of us knew what the hell that was supposed to mean. I still have a pair of old textbooks written by A Beka Books, a religious publishing company that provides God-centric textbooks for home schooled children — a science book and a history book, eighth grade level. They're good to look through for a laugh.

I was a very rationalistic child. I never believed in the Tooth Fairy, Santa, or the Easter Bunny. There were never monsters in my closet. I never had an imaginary friend. I devoured nonfiction the way my peers devoured cartoons. If I were ever confused about something, I would look it up, or on rare occasions ask my parents. I was not content to remain ignorant, and that aspect of my personality has most certainly contributed to my de-conversion.

Unfortunately, all the information that was available to me was from the Christian viewpoint. My mother even took out a subscription to Creation magazine—a publication dedicated to stories exploring the fantastic designs of nature (and how they provided evidence for a divine Creator) and about…rock formations that formed really fast, thus showing evidence for a young earth. Sure. I wonder if any of those are still around… At any rate, because I was never exposed to an opposing viewpoint without first filtering it through the dorky-looking designer shades of Christianity, I had no idea what evolution really meant, or the mind-blowing things that scientists have theorized about the origins and nature of the universe. Thusly, my mind was narrowed to the acceptance of all things Christian, and no things else.

Entering public school in eighth grade was an enormous culture shock for me—I had been taken from a class of maybe twelve students, three combined grades, and shoved into a sea of people, a class of '06 that numbered almost 500. I was stunned, and scared. I struggled with a severe social anxiety, and with new ideas that started entering my brain after being exposed to people with different viewpoints. At first I just thought of people who didn’t believe in God as poor lost souls, but as my public school education went on, somewhere in the back of my mind, I wondered.

I don't think I was very conscious of this wondering for quite some time; in fact, I’m fairly sure I consciously avoided it. Doubts are a natural part of the Christian’s life in the faith, after all—perhaps if I ignored them, they’d go away.

I was just beginning to face these doubts for what they were when, a year and four months ago, the sudden death of my father shattered everything in the little world I had built. The last time I saw him was on my parent’s bed with a thermometer in his mouth, the victim of a case of pneumonia. The next morning he was rushed to the hospital and succumbed to an enlarged heart shortly before I left for school.

His wake made me feel physically ill. I had to deal with the endless onslaught of hugs and sympathy from people I barely knew or didn’t know at all and probably hadn’t known my father that well either—I only stayed out of concern for my mother, who was going through the same thing. A small group of CSU kids that were on speaking terms with me but had never bothered to make friends with the quiet nerdy girl doodling or reading in the back of the class came, presumably to offer Christian support. It was, altogether, a very uncomfortable situation. If it hadn’t been for my best friend (another catalyst of my de-conversion, by the way), I would never have made it through that ugly event.

His funeral was interesting in that, instead of concentrating on the idea that my father was in heaven and presumably enjoying himself, the people who eulogized him told specific stories of the way he had made the world around him a better place—the pranks he had played on his coworkers, his ability to assess a situation and come to a good decision almost instantly (a good thing when you work in a nuclear power plant), the joy he had brought people. I slowly came to realize that his life had not been an effort to glorify God, but an attempt to better humanity, if only in some small way. That seemed to make much more sense to me than trying to do the will of an invisible being in the sky that had never really done anything for me anyway.

Christians are stubborn in their convictions, though, and I was no different. Some part of me wanted to hold onto something—anything—that would give me comfort in my grief. I held onto that last scrap of belief for a long time.

Several months later, I found myself lying on the floor in my bathroom after a shower and sobbing helplessly, wanting to die. I finally just said, "God, if you're there, give me some relief from this emotional pit I’ve worked myself into. If you're there, please, please help me."

Nothing. Not even afterward, not even slowly. I felt no spiritual comfort, no sense of the Father's arms around me, not even the sense of a rejection.

That cemented it. I realized I couldn't rely on the invisible. I would not get help from some being that supposedly lived in some alternate plane of existence but loved me no matter what—what God would bring his children such torment and leave them alone to fend for themselves? I had to start doing things for myself, or I would never be able to live the kind of life I wanted to: full of meaning and possibilities and the love of other human beings.

My father was a compassionate, intelligent man with a fantastic sense of humor and a healthy disrespect for authority that contributed much to my perception of the world. He was also Christian, staunchly Republican, and homophobic. That doesn’t change the fact that he affected my life greatly, and in his death did more to free my mind than he ever could have in life. Autonomy was the greatest gift he gave me. Were he still able to see me, I think he would be glad to know that.

1/23/07                                                                                       View Comments

Buyer's remorse

Sent in by Jamie G

I went to Wikipedia and read more about cognitive dissonance where I encountered several more interesting terms: true-believer syndrome and buyer's remorse. The one I would like to focus on in this post is buyer’s remorse. It may be a misuse of terms, but I think I am justified as it seems to resemble what I believe I am experiencing psychologically after leaving Christianity.

Buyer's remorse is defined as:
An emotional condition whereby a person feels remorse or regret after the purchase of an item. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buyer%27s_remorse)

I have only posted the general idea, it goes a little deeper than this, but you can visit the article yourself if you would like. This ties into the original 'cognitive dissonance' article as their is an example give about Luke and his blender (see the article about half way down). The basics of the example is that Luke buys a blender without really looking into various choices, he gets the one he likes. After a while he realizes after a few issues with the blender and ample reviews of various blenders, including his own, he begins to second guess his decision. He can either settle for what he has and wait to get a better one if he wishes, or just chunk the poor one for a better one.

In the same way I feel this has happened to me, and part of my story in why I left Christianity. At the age of 14 in a small Oklahoma town I was basically given one choice of 'blender' if you will (although they were certainly available in many 'colors'...denominations of Christianity). With only one real choice of religion in my area I 'bought the same blender' everyone else did. What does a 14-year-old kid really know about religion anyways? But through the years I realized there were other choices, LOTS of choices. This is where cognitive dissonance came in. I began to 'justify' my decision, looking for any evidence to prove that my religion was the best one. And as far as the 'defects' I explained them as not really defects, that everything could be easily answered through time and faith. But it's kind of like driving a Porsche after driving a VW Bug for so long, you can only make so many excuses before you realize that the Porsche REALLY is a better vehicle. Once I became exposed to logic and reason I began to second guess my worldview. I realized that there was a better 'blender' out there and that I could easily have it.

But I have to admit I am going through a period of buyers remorse because I feel that I have wasted 12 good years of my life using a faulty product when I could have had so much better. I realize that it seems I am throwing the metaphors around, and I won’t be so naive to say that I don’t deal with cognitive dissonance still, but I am happy at least that I got this whole thing sorted out before my wife and I have children. Oddly enough we were told we couldn't have kids, and in the same month that I give up religion (and deny the Holy Spirit for all you takers of the 'Blasphemy Challange') my wife gets pregnant!

Anyways, just more thoughts from a freethinking okie.

For the first time, I feel free

Sent in by Brian B

When I was 4 years old, my dad came into my room just before bedtime, and made me kneel with him and close my eyes. Then he guided me through the basic conversion prayer, despite my having no idea what the hell I was even saying. I mimiced his words-meaingless to me, of course- and he said I had just accepted Jesus into my heart. Thus began my Christian life.

Even at a young age, I could sense the tension between what a Christian should believe and what everyone else believed. Being very much interested in dinosaurs, I began reading books about them at age 6, and page after page claimed these beasts had died 65 million years ago. Meanwhile, at church I was told about a perfect garden where everone lived together only 6000 years ago. Obviously both stories could not be true, but my six-year old brain couldn't comprehend a non-christian mindset at that point. So I did what many intelligent, thinking Christians do. I divided my brain in half, with my faith brain on one side and my thinking brain on the other. The 2 had a mutual agreement never to touch each other.

This worked out pretty well for a while. But entering my teen years, I noticed something didn't feel right. The church I went to was very much in the modern, quasi-pentacostal tradition, with a loud, rock n roll band (which I was frequently a part of), and from there I got to see how people behaved during the songs. They raised their hands, they shouted, they fell to their knees, and they wept. Basically they lost control of thier minds. I always thought they looked so damned ridiculous, but I kept my mouth shut.

I never personally wanted to act like that, and I began to feel like if I didn't act like that, then I wasn't a real Christian. When we went to conferences and retreats, leaders would always tell us about "interactive prayer" and how if we meditated right, God would literaly "speak" to us, putting His words in our brains and giving us images from Him. I watched as thousands of people had "visions" from God.

When I was about 18 years old, 2 things happened: First, I got baptized, and second, I began to research evolution for myself. The more I studied the subject as written by mainstream scientists, I began to realize what a childish myth the creation story really is. After I admitted the fallibility of the first book of the bible, I saw no reason to respect or revere what was written on any of the other pages. From there I began to see that the "morals" in the bible were really very cruel and anti-human. I also realized, that although most of the Christians I knew were extremely nice, they didn't really follow a lot of the rules in the bible either, particularily the ones concerning women.

Of course nice people can't follow the bible. If they did, they wouldn't be nice. And since I wanted to be a truly good person, I decided to chuck the bible altogether and pick up the much more dignifying and life-affirming morals of secular humanism. And since I've always been skeptical of supernatural claims, and since I never really "felt" the presence of any god, It wasn't too hard to chuck the idea of Jesus as God himself. The final decision was made about a month ago. Now I'm stuck at this private Christian school full of people with infuruatingly narrow minds. Only 3 more months...

Now I can finally see my faith for what it was... pure and simple brainwashing and indoctrination. I feel incredibly stupid for having believed this stuff for so long. But for the first time, I feel free. And that feeling makes this all worth it.

An illogical religion

Sent in by Jenny

Hello Readers…ex-Christians, Christians, and others. My name is Jenny. I am a 23 year-old ex-Christian agnostic who has lived her whole life in the densely religious region of West Tennessee.

As a Christian I never wrote a testimony, and this is my first attempt to write an anti-testimony. So bear with me, as this may not be eloquently written.

Well, in order to be an Ex-Christian, I must have been a Christian at one point, right? Let me briefly explain my Christian years. I don't remember having an epiphany in my childhood or early teen years when I was 'saved' by being overcome with the Holy Spirit. I never prayed, "Hallelujah! I'm saved! I turn my life over to you now, Lord!" Needless to say many people think they feel a spirit washing over them or moving through them and this leads them to conversion. There were several times in my Christian years when I was moved to tears or had mini-epiphanies about certain scriptures and such. Like an, "OH! I get it now!" I, at the time, attributed those instances to the Holy Spirit speaking to me.

However, I wasn't saved-thru-epiphany. I was more saved-thru-rearing. I was raised in a Christian home. My mom made a promise to the Christian god that she would raise my brother and I to love him. My parents are truly wonderful people, and there is very little I would change about my childhood. Yet they are, like the rest of my family, Christian. So, my parents made 'him' a part of my life. We attended church regularly as Cumberland Presbyterians. I was in the youth team, choir, and bell choir of my church and I also participated in a praise team at a local Baptist church. My religion was something that I was proud of and thankful for. I'm still thankful for it because my journey through de-conversion has been a life-changing and eye-opening experience in which I'm taking great pleasure. I feel that if I had always been a non-believer, I wouldn't have the same sense of liberty that I do now.

Now, as many of you know, some Christians believe in "Once saved, always saved." I wasn't taught that, yet I have already encountered Christians who believe I was never saved. But, I will say this: I truly loved Jesus Christ and wanted to live my life for him. There was not one day that went by that I didn't think of him, and most days I was thinking of ways to make my relationship with him better. That's what I lived for. I was convinced that the rest of my life would be spent striving to be a better Christian and spread the word of God. I contemplated being a missionary instead of going to college. I thought I had made the greatest decision of all… to live for God!

How does a young Christian girl such as this become an agnostic? Well, many of you know exactly how it happens because you have lived through something very similar. I recognized myself as an agnostic in March of 2006, but I have to backtrack to give the details of my full de-conversion.

I first doubted when something hit me one day in Sunday school. I was roughly 14 when I raised my hand, "So, what about Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, and other people of other religions? The people that are good people and truly believe in their own religion. Will God send them to Hell just because they got it wrong?" I got my answer, and I didn't like it.

From that point on I began feeling as if I had just found out some deep dark secret of a good friend of mine, which made it hard for me to face him. I was confused. Ever since I could understand English I had been told that Jesus loved me and that I knew that because the Bible told me so. I had been told that God was good, awesome, merciful, and all knowing and loving.

But I could not and still cannot believe with logic or faith that a truly good deity would send anyone to a fiery hell to spend eternity with an evil fallen angel. I even told my mom once. "I don't even think Hitler should go to Hell." She looked at me in semi-horror. "What?" She asked. I shrugged and said, "As soon as he died in the early 1940s, if 'judgment day' truly exists, then he would know from that point on what a horrible person he had been. The shock of what an evil life he'd lived should be enough punishment. Why does God need to make him suffer eternally?" This conversation quickly angered and frustrated my mother and then, even more quickly, ended.

However, even though the conversation ended with my mother, my inner struggle with Christianity had just begun. After I realized that according to my church's and family's interpretation of the Bible, all good and devout religious non-Christians would go to hell, I began seeing my 'god' as selfish instead of loving. I became very angry with him. My deity created a world full of people for the sole purpose of loving him. It wouldn't be selfish, in my eyes, except for the fact that he "sends" us to hell if we don't do it. I mean, he weighed the odds. Eternity of essential solitude with no one to love me but heavenly bodies of angels…or human beings with the free will to choose me or an eternity of pain and suffering. How is this all-loving?

Even so, once I became distant from the Christian god, it took years for my de-conversion epiphany to hit. Even though I was angry, disappointed, and confused, I didn't doubt that the Christian god was the one true god until my revelation in 2006.

The revelation was this: I don't have to be a Christian. Previously, the two roads I had seen in front of me were 'faithful Christian' vs. 'doubting Christian.' Or 'good Christian' vs. 'bad Christian.' It never truly dawned on me that I could choose not to be a Christian at all! It had not yet dawned on me that maybe I wasn't misunderstanding the only true god, but that maybe the ‘only true god' was a myth!

I think this is because I had been immersed in the Christian dogma since birth. It's not something that's easily shaken off. I often compare it to trying to suddenly relate the color pink to boys and blue to girls instead of vice versa. Since birth our society/culture has ingrained in my mind that pinkgirls and blueboys. I don't have to believe that, but it would be nearly impossible for me to see it otherwise.

Well, since birth I have been taught Christianitythe only right path in life. That's not something you can suddenly change your mind on, which many of you understand. And unlearning this equation took me nearly six years. But now I see the equation as illogical. It is illogical, in my opinion, to put complete faith in something of which I cannot validate.

When I finally admitted to myself that I was no longer a Christian, I felt as if a huge weight had been lifted from me. I felt free and happier. I felt like a better person and still do.

I have become much less judgmental because I no longer hold people to the Christian god's standards. I now hold them to my own.

I am no longer living for 'God.' And though my life's foundation has crumbled…and it's not easy finding footing in a pile of rubble, I am much happier searching for a new footing than I ever was atop a 2000 year-old foundation of lies.

Although my de-conversion has been, on the whole, wonderful and life-changing…there has been some obvious pain involved.

My family, fiancé of six years, and best friend of 12 years are all Christians. The only fellow agnostics in my life are a few buddies from high school and my brother. I'm sure this is much more support than many ex-Christians have, so I feel lucky that I can share my beliefs with my brother and my high school buddies. Yet remaining a closet-agnostic from my parents and having such different beliefs from my fiancé and best friend is sometimes bothersome.

My fiancé and best friend, though saddened by my de-conversion, have been extremely supportive and have not once tried to proselytize to me. I really should never complain because I have read many comments and stories of ex-Christians who have very unsupportive people in their lives. But what I can't help but be bothered by is the knowledge that my fiancé and best friend see me as a conflicted girl, who has a hole in her heart where the Holy Spirit should be. Have they said this in these terms? No. But I know them. I was a Christian alongside them for a long time, and I know how they think of me. When I try to talk to them about my beliefs, they listen politely, but I know they aren't really hearing me. They think they are hearing a 'lost soul.'

But at least I know that I‘m not a lost soul. And I can't express enough how comforting I find this site. I don't know what belief system, if any, is right and what is wrong. I don't completely agree with atheists who believe there is no god and Jesus never existed. I don't agree with Christians who say that Jesus is Christ. Yet, I don't necessarily disagree with these people either. I just don't KNOW. I am undecided, open, unsure…without knowledge…agnostic. But regardless of the differences in beliefs I have with atheists, I feel that they are minor differences. And I feel completely at home at exchristian.net with my fellow non-believers.

So, as my closing anti-testimonial statement:

I am an Ex-Christian due to a lack of faith in an illogical religion that I, as of right now, have no logical reason to believe in.

1/21/07                                                                                       View Comments

Isn't Christ's love wondrous?

Sent in by SG

I was brought up in what most in this country would consider a fundamentalist Christian church called the Apostolic Christian Church in the conservative Midwest whose members were predominately poorly educated farmers and local small-businessmen. It was actually a safe environment from a physical threat kid-perspective. In my teen years (late 70's – early 80s) everyone around our country home left their doors unlocked and their keys in the ignition. There was no gangs, no violence, no theft… just ignorance, bigotry, and prejudice. It was an extremely insular social environment where children were carefully indoctrinated and guided into the faith. Many houses (ours included) had no television set since it was considered evil. Church families didn't go to the movie theaters, sporting events (even your own kid's school sports) or other raucous events. Even the local annual street fair and 4-H fairs were viewed with suspicion. Apostolics are like Amish, except with cars and electricity.

Apostolics are unique in the way they view those in their church and accept membership into their ranks. You are only considered an Apostolic church member after a lengthy vetting process. The “Convert” experiences guilt/fear (typically in their teens) and subsequently chooses to participate in a 3-12 month process marked by disassociation with existing friends/habits, immersion in bible studies and group-think sessions, and a pathological vehement rejection of your past self.

However, prior to this process of converting to this church, attendees are considered to be non-members with few moral obligations or pretensions. As a result, if you are not a member, and you are not in the process of converting to be a member, there is no compulsion or desire to project yourself as a Christian…because you aren't. As a result, some of the biggest hell raisers I knew (myself included) were un-converted Apostolic teens. After sowing their wild oats, most kids eventually joined the Church.

I never took the bait. Nearly all of my friends did. I was "left behind." The traumatic effect on those left behind is comparable to a death of a loved one. This jarring experience typically goes down like this. Say my close friend is my confidant and I spend a lot of time together going to the movies, ballgames, parties, etc. Suddenly, one day, he comes over with a starry gaze in his eyes and says he's Converting to be in the church. He says his heart was "heavy" the night before. It's not much of a discussion, maybe only a few minutes. He seems happy, he's already met with the minister late the night before and committed to his new path. His parents are ecstatic. It will be announced to the whole church on Sunday. He's made them proud. And then it's over. The conversation and the friendship…is over—but it gets worse….

I don't do anything with that friend ever again. He now has a whole new army of friends who anxiously keep him away from me—lest I derail his fragile path towards the faith. On rare occasions, our paths cross. I might be tempted to recollect my fond memories of our shared past—perhaps some mischievous deed that evokes laughter in me. He seems indignant, restrained, ashamed…downplaying the incident or loftily looks away as if he's painfully searching his memory. He's been reprogrammed now. They're told not to relish the memories of past "sin" as part of their indoctrination process. I've lost him, and a part of me. It's as if our shared experiences in life didn't happen. This continues through my teen years, with most of my church friends evaporating into the faith-ether--that smug, halo-haze obscuring that self-righteous den of dogmatic iniquity called the Apostolic Church.

I never felt compelled or tempted to take the plunge. The whole enterprise seemed sinister... manipulative to me. Perhaps because it was! So I never did "leave" Christianity because I never really was a full-blooded Christian to begin with. But I wanted to submit this story to point out that it is difficult simply leaving your Christian roots.

I basically drifted as an un-aware agnostic for a long time after college. Then, in my late 30's, I would take up the gauntlet to determine to my satisfaction what to believe based on the evidence, not dogma. Only then did I understand the full measure of negative influence that church had on me. At 40 years old, as an out-of-the-closet atheist, I'm still trying to shed the bitterness, animosity, fear and guilt implanted into me years ago. Sigh... isn't Christ's love wondrous?

I told my mom several years ago that I'm an atheist. She paused, looked quizzically at me for a moment, and without skipping a beat, proclaimed that she didn't believe that I was REALLY an atheist. It was kinda like saying to me that I didn't know what I was talking about. I waited for a moment, then looked her in the eye, and in a hushed manner said, "I've never really thought you were a true Christian." After a good 10 seconds of awkward silence, I said, "It doesn't feel good does it?"

1/12/07                                                                                       View Comments

Finally on solid ground

Sent in by DJ

I was born and raised in a very traditional Irish/Slovak Catholic home in rural New England. I was an altar boy for many years and quite fastidious about my religious studies. I think I've always been curious about religions, and this curiosity began with the first one I was exposed to, as far back as I can recall.

A number of things went on in my life, however, which set me to wondering. Was God real? Did he really hear our prayers? I very methodically considered the idea that God was everywhere and knew everything, the small and the large. At first, this idea seemed awe-inspiring and incomprehensible; but over time it made less sense. I also read the Bible a lot, mostly a hit-and-miss reading of it; I liked the accounts of warfare in the Old Testament, but found most of the rest of it pretty dry stuff. I wondered why people made such a big deal about it. (And I still do!)

By the time I was in high school, I was no longer a Catholic "at heart." All the pomp and circumstance, the ritual and the ceremony, held no meaning for me. What I could understand of Catholic doctrine, made little sense, and the more questions I asked, the more I was given the brush-off. The omnipotence of the Christian God, vis-a-vis his reputed benevolence (also known as "the problem of evil") was insurmountable, so far as I could tell, even after consulting many theodicies (they all had holes).

So I embarked on my college career with no religion in mind whatsoever, and in fact, I had no intention of participating in one. But I did look into religions. This was rather easy to do as I was at one of the largest universities in New England, with many resources available. I visited campus churches and took a course on Philosophy of Religion. About that time, too, I ran into some people who seemed very nice — in fact, incredibly nice! — and I found out they were "Born-Again Christians." I didn't know what this meant, though I had heard this phrase before. I listened to what they had to say and liked it — but in retrospect, what I think I liked most was their company and friendship, not their beliefs.

Having been accepted into "the fold" and having accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior, I found myself in the center of a clique of Pentecostalists — mostly Oneness Pentecostalists, to be exact. I attended their church when I could (it was 40 miles from campus), but we had Bible study and prayer circles several times a week. We did speaking in tongues, prophesying, slaying in the spirit, you name it. Other students referred to us as "holy rollers," and while the name was meant as a form of derision, I suppose it was apt. If someone had seen one of our prayer sessions (which I assume must have happened), I doubt they'd ever forget it.

My fellow "Born-Agains" soon figured out that I had a knack for "knowing" things, things I should not have been able to know. In retrospect, I think this was just because I was very observant and analytical; it only appeared that I should not have known things. At any rate, I was told that I had "spiritual gifts" from God, among them, the discernment of spirits (between good and evil). With my friends' encouragement, and the blessing of the pastor of the church, I embarked on a very informal "ministry" as a lay exorcist!

You read that right. A lay exorcist! It wasn't nearly as picturesque as in the movie The Exorcist. Mostly just a lot of babbling in tongues (on everyone's parts!) and yelling at the demons to get out in the name of Jesus. I also did a lot of research on demons and how they got into people's lives, discovering many muddled theories on the subject, some of it bordering on Spiritualism, which my church frowned upon — but I didn't care. As a result I learned quite a bit about the occult.

Over time the apparent ineffectiveness of it, along with the long hours of research, became wearying, and, despite appearances, quite mundane. I wondered what I was even doing, whether it was making any difference, whether or not I should even continue. I was urged on by my fellow believers but they clearly didn't understand what the problem was. This may have been where I began to part company with them.

Another problem was the infighting that went on among the "Born-Agains" on campus. There were different groups (chapters of national organizations) sometimes at odds with one another over approach (how to evangelize) and doctrine, as well. Some of the doctrinal disputes were incredibly petty. I tried to steer a course between factions but that became hard to do. Over the course of a few months, a few of these people became simply impossible to deal with.

As I fell out of my fellowship, I became depressed. That meant, of course, that my studies suffered, and being an engineering student didn't help — the coursework was hard! So at the end of my sophomore year, I changed majors to history. I'd always been interested in medieval history and decided to study it at length. Besides, with my faith weakening, I thought that learning about all those pious medieval saints, might help me.

When I went home for the summer, I began to review things clearly. When I returned to college in the fall, I started studying history seriously. Over the next two years I finally got my degree, and even though my intention behind getting it had been to bolster my faith, it did nothing of the kind. In fact, it totally destroyed any chance that I would ever put my faith in any deity, ever again. Along the way I'd taught myself Greek so that I could read the Bible and (most of) the Church Fathers in the original; but even this didn't help. If anything it made me more jaded. My education in medieval history included a complete review of Church history, from origins to the Reformation and even beyond. I studied all of this, hoping (and even praying) it would enhance my belief — but it didn't.

For a while I was an "agnostic-by-default," meaning I simply didn't think too much about any god at all. Some of my friends, though, were into neopaganism and other New Age beliefs, and for a while, I bought into some of that. I recalled that people had presumed I'd had "spiritual gifts" from God, and now thought of myself as something of a psychic. Bolstering that was — again — the fact that I often appeared to know things I should not have known. Even today, if you ask some of those people, they'd swear to you that I'm psychic. I even got a reputation as a "remote healer" and there are people who were convinced I cured them of things.

What really topped things off, for me, was when I went to a "Psychic Fair" and someone there recognized me as "unusual." She even referred to me as a Wiccan "high priest." This was not the only time a stranger recognized me as special or different, but it was one I couldn't forget. (There's some controversy over whether or not anyone can have a title such as "high priest" or anything like that in Wicca. I was even aware of this at the time. And at no time did I ever consider myself a Wiccan. So I didn't take it that seriously. It just seemed striking at the time.)

This sort of thing restored some of that "special feeling" I'd once had, when I was a lay exorcist, that feeling that the universe had somehow smiled upon me and shown me favors. But at the same time, I also realized that there were "dark forces" in the world. Occasionally I'd see or hear something that made me think I was being watched or pursued. After all, I possessed a great deal of information on the occult, that I'd picked up during my brief career as a lay exorcist. I took to buying talismans of protection at local New Age stores.

Still, it gradually occurred to me that I wasn't really doing anything. I mean, there didn't appear to be anything supernatural about the healings, etc. Things just happened, and they happened in ordinary ways. It was all too clinical. Moreover, all the "dark forces" that were after me ... weren't! No one was working against me, and I had no one to fear, but myself.

A few years ago, then, I came to realize that I'd been fooling myself. I was no psychic. There is no such thing! The only way to heal people is medically. Demons don't exist, and therefore exorcisms are a waste of time. Spirits don't hang around after death, and crystals don't "vibrate" with "energy" that can "rebalance" one's "soul." None of it made the slightest bit of sense, any more ... even though it had once seemed perfectly reasonable. The entire realm of metaphysics collapsed, as I saw it.

This realization came at a time when the average American's belief in such things is actually on the rise. We now have a psychic medium with his own syndicated show, communicating imperceptibly with the deceased spirits of the family and friends of his audience members. We also have documentary shows about psychic detectives, animal psychics, etc. and there are multiple dramatic shows with psychic characters. We have many "mediums" publishing book after book, spewing the worst sort of pablum on people, who apparently are gullible enough to lap it up in droves. I seem to be swimming against the tide.

Anyway ... now you know where I stand. I have been a Catholic, a Pentecostalist, a New Age neopagan, and finally I wound up an Apathetic Agnostic. You could say I've gone many times on the metaphysical merry-go-round. I have learned Catholic doctrine, fundamentalist theology, Spiritualist teachings, occult knowledge, neopagan practices, psychic confluences. I finally got off onto solid ground.

1/10/07                                                                                       View Comments

To be a wandering Jew

Sent in by Marcus Johnston

Having come across your website by accident, I first thought this was just another "evangelical atheist" page in which I'd see the same tracts and arguments that I've seen many times, thanks to my rabidly atheistic friend. However, searching for the "about us" part of this page, I found myself fascinated while reading the site founder's "anti-testimony," because in many ways, it mirrored my own story.

I can't claim the same level of theologic scholarship that the author does, but I can relate to his story very well. When my parents divorced when I was seven, I first started going to the Presbyterian Church in town. I became a regular church attendee after being baptized at eight, but didn't really think much about the details of the church until later. Up until then, I loved the ceremony and the stories, but I didn't think much about what I believed, apart from the pat answers that every Christian gives. I have a good voice, so I sang in the choir once I joined junior high; male singers being exceedingly rare.

Anyway, when I was 12, I was reading a book during a sermon, obviously not paying attention to much else, when I looked up at the choir loft ceiling. Now back in the 70's, someone painted "tongues of fire," representing the Holy Spirit and its descent on the apostles during Pentecost. I looked up, I looked down, and WHAM! my life changed in an instant. Instead of wanting to be a cartographer (since before I can remember - yes, I'm that nerdy), I wanted to serve God and become a minister. I really felt as if God had reached down and called me to service.

So I began the process of "testing the call." I talked with my minister, I read the Bible from cover to cover (although I read the New Testament three times to the one time through the Old), I looked into attending seminaries, and I read countless tracts and religious books. I attended youth group, finished confirmation class, taught Sunday School, and remained in the choir.

Two major things also happened that year. Because my mom had remarried someone in this church, someone sent them a nasty letter saying that my mom wasn't good enough to raise my stepfather's kids, et al. So they decided to go to the Church of Christ (the "non-denominational" denomination, musical branch) in the town next door. I didn't want to leave, but because I was part of the family, we worked out an arrangement where I stayed at the Presbyterian church while the choir was in session, but attended the non-denominational Christian church otherwise. So I got the extremes of mainline conservative Protestant Calvinism to liberal Arminianism every year until I left for college. Because I had to defend my particular brand of Protestant Christianity every week (often to ministers who bugged me), I became a firm believer in the Calvinist tenets, infant baptism, and predestination.

The other thing is that I finally hit puberty, being a late bloomer, and having to struggle with my hormones at the same time being told "wait for marriage;" not really a problem, since God hadn't "found a life mate" for me anyway, so I didn't date much. So I felt insanely guilty about my sexuality, at the same time being told everytime I did something wrong that "a minister wouldn't do that." There were nights I would wake up scared that I wouldn't be taken in the rapture! So I'm not surprised that I finally gave up the call at age 17.

Well, having lost my calling, I floundered for a sign in college. I attended two youth groups, InterVarsity and an American Baptist group, continued to read the Bible, and got involved with worship teams. Meanwhile, I'm still struggling with guilt and becoming increasingly frustrated by the fact that God hadn't sent a woman for me to love, and that other Christian women looked at me like I was chopped liver. At the same time, I discovered the hypocrasy of "Christian Values," saying things like "no sex before marriage," and seeing active Christians bonking each other like crazy.

In college, I attended a more evangelical church of Presbyterians, where I loved the people, but disagreed with a lot of their more drastic tenets. I got my teaching certificate and taught at a Christian school in Korea, where once again, a single person was considered anathema, and a single man's motives suspicious even among single women. When I came back to the States, nothing had changed, save that I was even more frustrated with Christianity. It was only when I started rejecting those tenets, that I started progressing. I got laid at 25, thanks to a willing female friend, and got my first girlfriend soon after. Certainly I felt guilty, but it had become less and less thanks to an overdose of Christian morality growing up.

I soon taught at a Christian school in India, where no matter how many worship experiences I sought for, I kept feeling disappointed with Christianity. I believed that God exists without a doubt, but I certainly didn't have that "relationship with Jesus" that everyone talked about. I always started my prayers to my "Heavenly Father," but Jesus was an abstraction. I believed in God as taught through the Bible, but Christianity didn't make a lot of sense to me.

Strangely enough, it wasn't until I met my wife, who was a convert to Judaism, that things worked out. In order to marry her, the rabbi insisted that 1) we raise the kids Jewish, 2) we join a temple, and 3) we only celebrate Jewish holidays in the home. I didn't have a problem with them and my wife accepted the fact that I would attend services on Sunday; occasionally she joined me.

Anyway, my fiancee moved to India with me, and I would go through the Jewish prayer service with her on Fridays, then she would occasionally join me on Sunday's at the CNI (Church of North India: former Anglican, Prebyterian, Congregationalist, etc.) church at the top of the hill. I slowly realized that for the first time I had a choice in what I believed! I believed that the Christian God was who I worshipped, so where else would I go to worship and learn? I loved the Jewish service, began to understand how their theology was different than Christianity, and was fascinated.

I wanted to convert, but I had nagging problems; after all, I had confessed that Jesus was my Lord and Savior, how could I turn my back on everything I had believed for 30 years? It was only when I analyzed the prophecies about the messiah in the Old Testament that I realized how foolish they were. Especially Daniel 6, which to make it fit with Jesus, you had to calculate the first part one way, then just forget about calculating the second part and convince yourself it was on call waiting. WHAT?! That broke my doubt. If the prophecies didn't add up to Jesus, then Jesus was NOT the Messiah. When I realized that, I "went back" to being what Christianity truly was, a reformed Judaism.

I felt so liberated after that. Mind you, being in the back of nowhere India, nowhere near a synagogue and in a Christian community, was the worst possible time to make this decision, and my wife and I eventually had to leave because of our religious beliefs (they wouldn't give us permission to observe Yom Kippur in Delhi). This led us to Bangkok, where we taught in a Seventh-Day Adventist school (which is the closest you can get to Judaism and still be Christian, discounting Messianics, of course), and I had the unique opportunity to be a Reform Jew teaching Adventist Christianity to a group of Thai Buddhist students. :) After getting snubbed by the Chabad house (evangelical Jews - well, getting Jews to actually follow orthodox Jewish practice), which unfortunately, was our only synagogue access for a year, we returned to the States and I'm finally on the path (2 1/2 years later) to formally converting.

What I've discovered is that converts don't suffer from a lack of faith, but rather a surplus of it. We believe so much that have difficulty comprehending the contradictions. When we ask a serious question, we want a serious answer, and often times we get the standard FAQ in response. You don't tell a missionary that "Jesus loves you" and you don't ask a new convert to be a missionary. When the answers no longer satisfy us, we don't go running somewhere else, we usually end up agonizing about it for years because we DON'T see anything else.

I'm proud to be a Jew and I'm grateful that the founder had the good sense to make a great website.

B'Shalom, Marcus Johnston

I feel foolish, cheated and angry

Sent in by SLM

I'm writing this to help me, if it helps someone else that would be great.

I'm not a writer and I have very little formal education, so please look over the mistakes. I joined ex-Christian in August 06. I'll be 50 years old in March. I'm ashamed that it took me so long to open my eyes. Here's my story as briefly as possible.

I was raised in a Pentecostal home. We went to Church of God, Assembly of God, Free holiness, where ever there was shouting and speaking in tongues. My mother was raised Baptist. Her father was a Baptist preacher. She changed to Pentecostal for my Dad. We were very poor when I was a child, (poor white trash) and we lived in rural Alabama. The churches I attended were like those you see in the documentaries about "snake handlers", only we didn't handle snakes. I hated church. As a little child I had people fall on top of me going slain in the Spirit. I used to make fun of people speaking in tongues, shun ditty eye cun ditty eye? They said the same words every time. My Dad played the guitar and preachers loved him because he could really get people stirred up, but when he stopped getting attention at one church we would move to another or he would just backslide for awhile. He had an affair with my Sunday school teacher and we stopped church all together for a while. I got saved and filled with the spirit during a revival at 11 years old. I thought this evangelist was the holiest man I'd ever met until I found out he was screwing both my older sisters and several other women in the church. My oldest sister told on him and he got kicked out of the COG, which some of the women still to this day 40 years later hold against my sister. I still believed. We were not allowed to cut our hair, wear makeup, wear shorts or pants, go to movies, ballgames, etc. My first boyfriend was one of 14 children in a home that the father didn't allow even a TV. 14 kids, I guess they believed in screwing. Anyway, everything good was God, anything bad was Satan. Hell was as real to me as anything I knew. It was pounded into my brain much more than any love of God. I heard preachers many times use scare tactics like God could take someone you love to get you saved.

My Mom and Dad divorced, He left us for another woman. I got married at 14 to an abusive man of 22. After 2 years of beatings I married an agnostic asshole. I started church again and this time I felt I had been called to preach! Of course I thought my husband was Satan, but he was just an asshole. But to get understanding that I couldn't get at home I got very close to the Pastor of my church, we had an affair. After that I quit again, divorced, married him back, divorced married 3 more times. I had 4 kids with 4 different fathers. All turned out to be great in spite of how screwed up I was and still am to some degree. During those years I kept searching. I read Edgar Cayce, hung around with some "new age" folks, believed in reincarnation for a while, meditated, and drank a lot of alcohol. I went to rehab 3 times. My "higher power" failed me. I actually said I didn't believe in God at an aa meeting and almost got my ass whipped by all the sanctimonious drunks there. So I went back to prayer and beating myself up for not being good enough for Gods help. I did quit drinking only after marrying an alcoholic that I'm married to now. He has just started church and God is helping him quit, except for that slip on New Years eve, but God is still working on him. God don't work on holidays I suppose. Sort of like civil service maybe.

My oldest son (27) has been an atheist since high school. He has been gently leading me to the truth and this year it finally hit me. I started reading about the history of Christianity, about the lack of historical evidence of Jesus. What really done it for me was the Apocrypha and finding out that the books of the" inspired" gospels were picked by some priest to go into the book that I had always considered so Holy, and that there were more gospels that were left out, didn't make the cut.

Now its all so clear and I feel foolish, cheated and angry. My father is 77 years old and I can't stand to talk to him because all he talks about is God and how Satan is trying to tear him down. This is not as easy as it would have been if I had de-converted at 20. I'm surrounded by it, married to it, drowning in it. It would be easier if I was still brainwashed. Religion is evil. It has screwed me up and left its scars. But at least now I know the truth and I can never go back to the fantasy. There is and never was a god. No life after death. No hell, no crutch to lean on, no Satan to blame. Just me. I have to hurry up and live before it's all gone.

1/8/07                                                                                       View Comments

Religion is bullshit

Sent in by Jamie Q

I am sorry this is long but this is My Story.

I was not born in a Christian family, in fact far from it. My brother and I was raised by our dad alone. Although I remember as a five year old visiting a local church with my mom only a handful of times before they divorced religion was never brought up in our house. I don’t remember my dad talking about religion at all (except after I became a Christian when he told me that he didn't want to talk about it). In fact, my dad was your typical grade A ‘heathen’. Don't get me wrong, he was an awesome father, there was no doubt that he cared for me and my brother, but he definitely loved the ladies and going out to the local honky-tonk. Plus with him being a Vietnam vet made him a little rough around the edges. Out of me and my brother I was the quiet easy-natured one interested in academics while he was the athlete. I was shy and unassuming and generally very naïve.

When I started seriously dating at 14 I met a girl whose family was big into church. I decided to visit her youth group at the local United Methodist Church so we could hang out. I was told I had to get ‘saved’ before I could go to Discipleship Youth Camp. The youth director sat me down and walked me along the ‘Romans Road’ to salvation. At that point I didn’t care and was willing to say anything to hang out with her. It was at camp being exposed to all the indoctrinization and emotionalism that stirred my heart, but what really sealed the deal for me was all the acceptance I got that I never got before. When I got back from camp I made a confession of faith in front of the church and when everyone cheered for me I became hooked. I dived in hard to reading the bible and getting as involved as I could in every program and event being offered. I strove to excel and began very early on being involved in several different leadership type positions. I was even sent to a nation-wide youth leaders convention to ‘train’ future leaders in the UMC.

On the home front my dad was very upset that I became religious. The stuff really hit the fan when I told him that I was giving up my life long dream of being a doctor and becoming a preacher/pastor. He told me that there were two things he would NEVER talk with me about: politics and religion. I was very discouraged because I prayed how could I lead my dad to Jesus if I couldn’t talk to him about it. My ‘answer’ was to let my life be an ‘example’.

After I broke up with my first serious girlfriend I met another girl in high school who would become my future wife. She was going to a Pentecostal church and her and I clashed as I thought her and her speaking in tongues was ‘of the devil’. She invited me to a revival and I went reluctantly. I ended up having a religious mystical (and very flaky) experience that convinced me to start speaking in tongues. Her step-father was a leader in the church and he took me under his wing and started teaching me all the charismatic stuff. He and I were very close. Still extremely naïve I overlooked a lot of inconsistencies in his home life, as he put on a good show at church but was living a bad example at home, and condemning my wife and her siblings for not living up to his level of ‘holiness’ like he thought they should. This convinced my wife to move out on her own. After some bad things went down in the church we were going to, an Assembly of God, where the preacher was cornering and fondling women, including my mother-in-law, and the previous pastor got caught masturbating on the interstate highway, I left the church.

About this time, while I was in college at a liberal arts university, I had a class on logic and critical thinking. I almost gave up completely on god as I began to realize how ignorant ‘blind faith’ was. But I wasn’t willing to make the leap so struggled through the rest of my ‘atheist’ professor’s classes and ended up quitting college not long after. I knew I had to get back into church and immerse myself and quit hearing about thinking critically and objectively.

I started visiting a lunch bible study of a pastor looking to form a non-denominational charismatic church in our town. He was very down to earth and spoke to me on my level and also had a high level of personal integrity (or so I thought) so I decided to get plugged into what he was doing. After he established a church in our town he felt ‘lead’ to move back to his home state of Pennsylvania to start a church. The guy who took over was a layman in our congregation. I really hated this guy…seriously. I didn’t think the guy had any real common sense and he was always preaching hateful condemning messages disguised in slick flowery ‘god loves you so much’ bunk. I was involved in leadership and one time he asked me to do something extremely immoral. I refused and he decided to convene a ‘jury’ of my peers (other leaders in the church) to condemn me. I refused to participate and told him that if he didn’t want me there all he had to do was say so. Needless to say they used the session as a time for character assassination of me (very Christian like). It pissed my father-in-law and my best friend off so much that they left the church a few months later after I did. The pastor thrived on bully tactics to get his way and since I was growing up and learning to not be so naïve I decided to get the hell out of there. I also had a problem with the doctrine and beliefs, as this church was very involved in the Word-of-Faith movement with leaders like Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland, and Creflo Dollar. Of course they preached the typical ‘only we have the REAL truth’, and although their bullshit theologies convinced the ignorant masses I wasn’t exactly convinced.

My wife and I started attending in a city 50 miles away a church of a friend of ours who was the pastor . Although this pastor operated with a high level of personal integrity (again, so I thought) he was still preaching doctrines that irked me. And since it was such a long drive and my wife and I were desiring community we quit going. It was at this time that I started reading stuff about ‘messianic judaism’ and the ‘hebraic-roots’ of the Christian faith. I figured the best way to live a Christian life is to live and think how Jesus would have thought. I started learning the ‘pagan roots’ of a lot of the Christian tradition so I began rejecting a lot of the basic tenets of Christianity. Again I dived in head first in my personal studies, completely getting rid of all my word of faith books and buying all the messianic jewish stuff. I also started buying traditional jewish books to learn more about 1st century thought and practice in Judaism. My wife wasn’t real keen at first about messianic Judaism, but later came around after she started reading a few of my books. While involved in many messianic jewish forums and websites I got exposed to the thought and belief that Yeshua (Jesus real name in his native tongue) was not god as evangelical Christianity taught, but that he was only a man, as Judaism teaches about the messiah that they are still expecting.

After I realized that Yeshua wasn’t god I started snowballing further into questioning everything Christianity had to say. I finally was convinced through several jewish anti-missionary sites that Christianity was bunk so I denied jesus and Christianity. But I still wasn’t ready to start thinking objectively so I started studying up on orthodox Judaism and conversion. My wife had a conniption after finding out that I gave up on jesus and said basically it would be a cold day in hell before she converted to Judaism and denied jesus. So I was left with the jewish teaching of being a Noachide. I wasn’t happy with this choice and began to realize that even Judaism had some serious issues just like Christianity, that they worked very anachronistically in their theologies and that they weren’t open to dissenting opinions either, and that they had some serious flaws as well.

I think the biggest thing that really convinced me on the errors of Christianity and Judaism was in the area of biblical criticism. Both religions solely depend on the truth of the Bible and without that they don’t have a leg to stand on. And since I wasn’t convinced what either fundamentalist group had to say about the bible I realized that it was all bunk and lies. Then it hit me….it’s all bullshit!

I was severely pissed off because I just wasted 12 years of my life and thousands of dollars on nothing more than bullshit. But yet it was like a freakin’ ton of bricks had been lifted off my shoulders. There was no longer a burden to perform like a monkey in a circus, I could now live my life how I see fit. And that’s what I intend to do. My wife is still struggling with the whole issue, she thinks I have really flipped my lid, but I trust that my wife will come around.

And after all these years I have a renewed respect for my father, who was his own man and didn’t give into all the fake bullshit religion had to offer, that he told all those bible thumpers where they could stick their holey book. If I could only be half the man he is for the rest of my life, I think I would be very happy.

And by the way, I like saying bullshit and not feeling like I am going to burn in hell for saying it, so here it is... Religion is bullshit!!!

1/7/07                                                                                       View Comments

No more invisible pink unicorns

Sent in by Chad

As a child growing up in a Christian family I often went to church sang worship, discussed religion with other Christians and played with a lot of other Christian kids from my church, while I didn't have many other friends do to my home schooling, but I did go to a public school later and met my now best friend Al whom by his mother was encouraged to seek out a religion of his own (he chose Buddhism).

We would often discuss religion together, and I was very interested in the things he had to say because he never spoke about Jesus or God’s Word and how big the universe was and that god was great. Instead he talked about new exciting things like meditation and the kind of peace one finds when you break all conflict within yourself.

A few years later my family became churchless because we found out about the priest being a pedophile (no joke), so we stopped going to church. And then Al stopped his practice of Buddhism for his own reasons, and we both pretty simultaneously stopped believing any invisible pink unicorns. And of course I went through the usual cold turkey of "Oh shit I’m going to go to hell, but got over it pretty quickly when Al and I came up with our own formula against god, which is basically: "If God Loves us so much then why did he make a pit of despair for his reject children?"

I follow Jesus’ teachings all the way up to the point of believing in an invisible pink unicorn (or in other words, God).

1/3/07                                                                                       View Comments

I have taken the shackles off

Sent in by Donna

This site must be an answer to prayer. I was conceived and born into Seventh Day Adventism and have always suspected the rigidity of the religion coupled with the sterness of my father as having a repressive effect on who I was to become. And it did, but no longer.

Though there are many positive things that resulted from a strict religious upbringing, I always felt very sad inside many times, as if the song I was born to sing could not be sung or else I would certainly loose my soul.

My home was loving and my parents were most giving and great parents and I would not have chosen any other two people, as I now believe we all choose who we come to the earth by and that people do the best they can. But once my parents passed on, I was forced to look at my beliefs. Did I really believe the things I said I believed? And if so why did I believe them? Mostly I believed because that is what I had been taught and if I deared to question too deeply, it was strongly discouraged and I always had to be conscious of what others thought as well. So much so that it did not matter whether it made sense or not.

At 25, I began to search and follow mylife time's inner intuitive questionings. I have always had questions, but no one really answered them or I was told it's a mystery — we'll know when we get to heaven. Why Did God send the serpent in the Garden to tempt Adam and Even if He is all knowing? Why weren't there any people of color in any depiction of heaven or historical christian events?

Well, I cannot tell you how angry I was when I discovered that the image of Jesus I had been taught all my life was the son of God was actually the artist's model and that the books of the Bible were chosen by a Council and that King James was one of the most obnoxious persons in history. And that there were other writings which were not chosen. That Christianity suppresed the femine expression of the divine and on and on. Once I got over my anger I became greatful for the Universe providing answers to my questions and I began to de-condition myself from all of the "shoulds and should nots" which religion imposes on you and renders a most unhealth psyche and hypocritical way of life. I am still freeing myself but for the last 10 years I can say I have been the most free and especially the last 5.

I had told myself I would not call myself any man-made label but rather call myself a child of God and God being the unexplainable life providing and life giving force within all — not a man up in the sky.

I respect those who choose a religion to support them in life, but I have made peace with myself that I do not need any particular made made religious organization to guide my steps, for the divine exists inside of all of us if we would access it and the all the answers we need are right inside of us.

I have taken the shackles off my feet and now I am dancing!