5/25/07                                                                                       View Comments

I knew God was talking to me

Sent in by Debbie J

Living in the heart of the south and going to school with people who live in the Bible Belt of Georgia has its ups and downs. The major up is that everyone is friendly. The major down is that they're only friendly until they ask THE question: "So, what church do you go to?"

I give a stock answer, "I don't go to church. I don't have the facilities to go at this point in time. I'll keep in touch, though." - which is, of course, a blatant lie.

The truth is, I was born in a little Spanish-speaking island called Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico is a big city, packed into a small island - but I digress. The highlight of my life in Puerto Rico is that I was a Jehovah's Witness. We'll start from the beginning ...

The earliest memory I have of the Kingdom Hall (the Jehovah's Witness church) is sitting in the back row, just my mother and I, behind a woman with four kids - two of which were to leave for college the upcoming year, the other two, my age (about five or six). The sermon ("talk") being given was about Judgment Day. It was a Sunday, so we were reading from our Watchtowers (little study booklets that everyone has), so there were pictures. I could read a little bit at this time - it was much easier with the elder reading right out of the Watchtower. I could follow along and make out the words.

But what really stuck out to me that day was the picture on the page. The sky was a terrifying shade of orange, the clouds a shade of gray. The sun was nowhere to be seen. As your eyes moved down the horizon, the sky gradually blurred into an angry shade of red. Fire and meteors rained from the sky. People were screaming in terror. The four horsemen were running from one of the horrifyingly gray clouds in the sky. There was a skeleton riding one of the horses that gave me nightmares for years. In the background were dead bodies aflame.

This was what a just God was going to do in the next few years. Any day now, this was going to happen. Any day now.

"Mom, is that really going to happen?" I asked in the car. The image burned through my thoughts like the fires burned through those dead bodies in the picture.

"Yes."

"When?"

"Don't ask that. Only God knows."

"Does Jesus know?"

"Only God knows."

"Who's going to die?"

"The people who do not serve God."

"What if I know them, though?"

"You won't want to know them on Judgment Day. You might just die with them, if you are not careful."

I did not want to die on Judgment Day. Being the small child I was, I was under the impression that it would be the following day. I came home, went into my room, and cried.

I was thirteen when I realized something was wrong. We moved from PR to Georgia - the deep south - to be with my sister. Something had to be wrong, because I didn't like the new church. I didn't quite like the people; they were a little odd. Or was I not giving them a chance? These were God's people, after all. They were the sheep. Any one of these people could be a wolf in sheep's clothing, though. I was weary of all of them. I might burn on Judgment Day if I'm not careful.

I grew more and more distant from these people as the days went by. Something is wrong, I thought. I prayed to God for help. I told Him He was all I needed, and to just tell me what to do.

He didn't answer.

So I paid closer attention when the elders spoke.

" ... God answers those who have their hearts in the right place ... "

I have my heart in the right place, don't i?

" ... if your heart is in the right place, yet He does not answer, you are most certainly doing something wrong ... "

Shit.

I stopped going to the church.

I decided they were wrong. I didn't know why, but they were wrong. Something in my head told me not to keep going.

And then, I spoke to a "real" Christian. The ones that Jehovah's Witnesses referred to as "one of the wolves in sheep's clothing." I always thought the JWs were the "real" Christians here. I guess I was wrong, right?

In a flash, I considered myself a Christian. I only talked to Christian people. I went on atheist forums and told them they were wrong and I was right, and they were going to burn in Hell. I knew God was talking to me. He spoke to me with his silence - his silence that said I was right, and to bask in the glory of it. He did not need to speak to me to "say" I was right and they were wrong.

Two months later, I was feeling doubtful again. I turned to my new friends for help. They said to pray. I received a letter in the mail that day from an organization, saying they felt compelled to "pray over" my household. I thought it was a sign from God.

Years later, I have a panic attack. I had just told someone to go to Hell, then he'd believe me when I said that God was real. I remembered that picture from my childhood days. The fires, the pure looks of terror in the faces of the poorly-drawn men, women, and children ... the four horsemen; the skeleton.

Do you know what a panic attack is? It's when you are laying in bed, and you don't know how or why, but you know that you're about to die. Suddenly, you can't breathe. You feel like you're drowning. You're choking. The tears burn cold on your face, and you realize you're crying too. Why is this happening? Lord, HELP ME! LORD! ... GOD, JESUS, ANYONE, I'M CALLING YOU... WHY WON'T YOU ANSWER? ...

I stopped. I could breathe a little bit. The thought came into my head like a slap in the face. "Debbie," the thought read, "Lord isn't answering, because he is imaginary. He doesn't exist, Debbie. You were wrong. They were wrong. Everyone was wrong. He's not there, Debbie."

The images swirled in my mind. ... All of my friends, my family, the family of my friends ... the cross I saw yesterday ... the dream I had two days ago ... the pictures from my years of Jehovah's Witness teachings ... the pamphlets from my dearest friends' church ... ... fires cut through the images in my mind ... and when the fires are gone, I wake up. I realized I had had a panic attack, and I had been sleeping on the floor in my bedroom. Who saw me, I wondered?

"Lord, why did you let that happen to me?"

There was no answer. I spent days waiting for an answer. The days turned to weeks. I became a shell of what I once was. There was no longer a point in living, no reason to keep going. My life's purpose was defeated. My other minor goals (like going to college) suddenly meant nothing. After fifty years it would all be gone, anyway.

I looked at everything differently. The world was so terribly lonely, and I felt so terribly small. The loneliness was so terribly overwhelming. I wanted to kill myself. I couldn't go on, I thought to myself. This is all a waste of time. Who cares about relationships, or food, or movies or parties or anything? This went on for weeks.

And then, one day, reality struck me. "What the hell are you doing, Debbie? This is real. God's not there; he was your imaginary friend, and all you did was grow up." ... My goals came back, but I looked at them in a different light. I don't have to worry about God interfering with my plans, telling me to be some evangelist or youth minister or anything else. I don't have to worry about church - I can just relax on Sundays, while everyone else goes to church. Ignorance is bliss.

I'm glad to be alive today. If I ever meet someone harboring a doubt about Christianity, I would feel extreme sorrow for him, as I always would have.

Only, this time, I wouldn't pray for him.

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5/24/07                                                                                       View Comments

The straw that broke the camels back

Sent in by Neil S

I was a fundamentalist Christian for 27 years. I became "born again" after joining the Air Force in 1979. I remember reading a bible I had bought and for the first time read what the New Testament said about salvation. I realized that I was a great sinner and needed help. I was upset with the way my life was going and saw no way out. I was in my barracks by myself reading the bible when I came across the passage "If you will confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved". I bowed my head and repeated this to God and put my trust in him. I felt great release and love flowed into my heart. I started to go to church, go out with Christian friends, sing and witness in the park and of course read my bible day and night. For a year I was on cloud nine but then I was sent to an Air Force base in England. At RAF Lakenheath (a nuclear bomber base) I was charged with guarding the various weapons we had and prepare for nuclear war with the Soviet Union. It was an exciting time for me since I truly believed that the Rapture would happen any day and was not worried at all about the world situation. In fact the worse it got, the better I felt. Remember, this was the time of President Reagan who was dancing toe to toe with the Russians.

But during this time began to notice that my spiritual life was leveling out. I found it harder and harder to keep my body from sinning. I struggled with thoughts of sin and battled everyday with unclean thoughts. I was going to a Full Gospel Charismatic Church that believed in all the fruits of the Spirit. I remember being asked which of the spiritual gifts God had given me, and I answered that I didn't know. That got me to thinking as to why I didn't have this gift. It was probably because of my sins. But while realizing my worthlessness I also started to notice things going on in the church which started me thinking. I remember watching the healing services and seeing the same people go up week after week with the same complaints. Never did I see someone healed of a major illness, it was always a back problems or cold. We had a guy who was completely paralyzed and in a wheelchair and even though he was prayed over week after week he never did get up. When Kenneth Copeland (the TV preacher) came to England, he even prayed over this man but he still wasn't healed. How could this be? I read in books how this Kenneth Copeland had healed people with cancer and many major illnesses. So why couldn't he heal this man? Oh yes, I remember now, the standard answer given to sick Christians. "You were not healed because of some hidden sin.”

I also began to see what power does to people. The pastor was only part time but he wanted to be full time and bullied the members of the church to pay him a full time salary. Anyone who opposed him was belittled in front of others until they changed their minds. He then took a firm hand in the church and began to attempt to control the lives of his flock. I was finally forced to leave. I was shaken by my experience but my faith in God was still strong.

I returned to the United States, still in the Air Force and went to another Full Gospel Church at my new assignment in South Dakota. I was beginning to see problems with the bible. I saw that there were some very real contradictions that couldn't be explained but I just let it go, believing that God had a reason for everything in the bible. One thing that really bothered me was the violence that God used in the Old Testament against various nations. I just couldn't understand how God could order Israel to kill entire cities, including women and small children. I imagined them being lined up for execution, the woman holding onto their children who were crying and then getting a sword run through both of them. It didn't make sense to me at all and I was very upset at this. I imagined myself an Israelite soldier being ordered to kill children. "Would I do it?" I thought. If I didn't I would be disobeying God and would be killed and sent to hell. That thought put terror in my mind and I quickly thought of different things.

The idea of the end times also bothered me. How come Christ hadn't come back yet after 2000 years? I read many books on the subject and was told not to worry, that Christ would come back when it was time. But then I saw how the prophecies being uttered in church were wrong. They were all saying that Christ would be coming very soon. This was supposed to be God Himself telling the church members that the end was soon. But it never came.

I also questioned the idea of an eternal hell. Again I thought how could God send someone to a lake of fire forever and ever? How about all these people in the world who never heard of Jesus? Were they doomed? The Church was telling me that they were and that God was justified in sending them to hell and in fact one day we would all rejoice at the justice of God for sending those people there. That also made me think that God was being cruel to wait so long for the end of the world. How many people had been born the past 2000 years? Billions probably, and most were going to have to go to hell and be tormented forever. Wouldn't it be more merciful for God to have returned after 10 or 20 years after the death of Christ? But by waiting so long He has condemned these billions. I began to wonder if I truly wanted to follow a God who could so cruelly torture people for ever who didn’t even get a chance to hear the Gospel. I know that the bible justifies itself with the verse in Romans 9:21 which says “Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour and another unto dishonour?” So that gives God the justification to torture His creation if he chooses? As a bible believing Christian for many years I would have answered that as “yes” and thought nothing of it. But is that the kind of God I wish to worship? Is God so cruel that he must hurt and torture people who have never heard of Him?

Another big problem was Church history. The problem was that it was very bloody. From almost the very outset the Church was set with problems that I figured wouldn't have happened if God was truly leading. Then as time went on when the Church took over the Roman Empire and turned it into an Empire of horror. It's hard to imagine a loving God in charge of such a mess. The death and destruction caused by the Church was mind boggling. The entire 2000 years since Christ was filled with violence, hatred, greed and powerful Christians doing bad things to others. People with different opinions were called heretics and hounded out of the cities. When the Empire finally fell and the Church was the only law, things really got out of hand. I don't know how many people were killed in the name of Christ, but it was not a few.

The other part about the Church which ties in with Church history is what Christians act like now. I saw very little love in the Church. I saw greed and people seeking power and money. I saw various churches that didn't care one lick about their members except how they could continue to contribute money to the Church. I was amazed that I never found a man or woman that I could say truly lived the life I envisioned a Christian should live. It seemed that the Church as a whole was even worse than the general public. Divorce was rampant, various sexual sins were all the rage and money was the new god. I saw pastor after pastor fall in various sins.

The straw that broke the camels back for me was Rev Ted Haggard. I didn't know much about him except that he was very big in the Church. When he fell like he did I finally said to myself "THAT IS ENOUGH!" I didn't know what to do or what alternatives I had. I was tired of all this, so I then did the unthinkable. I began to read articles critical of the bible and saw that my past concerns were also the concerns of others. I started reading books about how the bible was written and the various problems with the resurrection accounts. My eyes seemed to be open for the first time. I saw the problems with creation science and began reading books on evolution for the first time with fresh eyes. I felt like I had been in prison for many years and that my learning was very far behind. I loaded up with science books and read many articles questioning the bible. I read testimonies of former Christians who believed exactly like I did and saw that they truly believed the bible at the time but had the same questions that I did. I then promised myself that I would examine the evidence fully and then decide if the bible is truly the Word of God. If it is, then it must be fully followed without question. If not then it is to be cast away.

I read every book I could on how the bible was put together, problems in the bible and about the men who decided what would go into the New Testament. I wasn’t impressed at all. For the first time I saw how flawed the bible was, especially the New Testament. I read about the different Christian groups vying for top position, each with their own Gospels and Epistles, until finally one of them succeeded and eventually took over the Roman Empire and which is alive and kicking today. I also read pro-Christian books including Josh McDowell’s “Evidence That Demands a Verdict.” I was not impressed with their points of view and saw large holes in their arguments. I read various websites and went onto Christian forums that defended the bible and was actually struck with the condescending attitudes of the Christians over people who questioned the bible. Their questions were answered like they were answering a naughty child and their contempt was not hidden. But the answers they gave didn’t actually answer the question. When asked for further explanations, the standard answer was: “it was answered for you. Why are you being rebellious?” This attitude and the way they answered didn’t do much to help their cause in my eyes. It also struck me as to how vicious Christians could be when challenged. Where was the love? The understanding? The patience? I found that Christians as a whole were not “patient and kind,” but “mean and spiteful.”

I gathered all my information and studied it and chewed it over for several weeks. Then I went for a walk and had a long talk with God. I explained my concerns, my questions and asked why the bible was so full of vile and distasteful things such as various atrocities by God fearing men and such evil laws such as slavery? My all time “favorite” law was in Deuteronomy 22:28 which says that a man who rapes a woman using force, he must marry her. God said this? He sure did. Can you imagine if the bible was followed to the letter today? Anyway, I continued my talk with God and after laying out my case I asked him with all of my heart to help me. I told Him that if He is real, please answer my prayer and give me insight into the bible and why it seemed so flawed. I suppose a Christian telling this story would then say that God answered his prayer and he then turned with all of his heart back to God. With me there was silence. Cold, hard silence. I waited a day or so and still felt nothing. At that point I went to my computer and wrote out a statement which said:

"As of this date,December 31, 2006, I now hold the following beliefs:

1. I do not believe the bible is the word of God.

2. I do not believe in the God of the bible.

3. I am no longer a Christian of any kind. "

I then signed it and that was that. I was no longer a Christian. For a brief few minutes I thought that maybe something bad would happen to me, that maybe God was really there and would either punish or reveal himself to me. Nothing happened. An hour or so past and I was still alive. I then started my new life and begin to read. I read like I never did before. I read more books on bible manuscripts, science and various other topics. I soon began to feel a great weight lift off my shoulders. The guilt that I had carried around for 27 years suddenly went away. I no longer woke up with fear in my heart. I felt so relaxed and happy! I found my morals stayed the same. I didn’t feel like going out and killing someone or stealing candy from babies. I felt the same except without the guilt. As I felt myself grow stronger and stronger in my new way of life I began to feel so foolish. Why had it taken me so long to leave the Christian faith?

So, how am I today? Very well thank you. I have not turned back. I have never, and I mean never, have felt any type of guilt whatsoever in leaving Christianity. You would think that if God was really there he would have worked on my heart by giving me great supernatural fear. But there is nothing except peace. I actually feel more compassionate with the world. I can see that God isn’t going to return and fix everything like the environment so we must do it. We are responsible for what we do to this earth and our fellow man. If we want changes, we must do it and not wait for some Deity to do it for us.

My name is Neil. I am an Atheist.

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Then the years of a living hell started

Sent in by Mark R

Hello, I'm and ex Christian of 7 years. I'm only 16, which might seem like a piss poor time to "give up", if you will, because I'm so young. But the physical, emotional, and metal abuse i experienced was enough that i never wanted to have anything to do with some carpenter and his godly father ever again.

My story begins with my 3rd grade year of school. I've just been accepted into a boarding school for orphans and underprivileged children called Milton Hershey School. This school, and other events, would be the first i would hear of Christianity. When i was enrolled, the houseparents(a couple that looked over 10 or so kids) took me to the office. They ask me if i knew anything about Jesus and God. Of course, being only 9 years old, i didn't know what they were talking about, so they gave me what i call the "manipulation". They told me the story about Jesus and how he was such a great guy and all that. I was bored out of my mind and they could tell. That is when they slammed the "fire and brimstone eternal damnation" bullshit in my face. I was scared shitless. I didn't want to suffer for an eternity for crap i did during life. So i was saved and my houseparents and i prayed.

Then the years of a living hell started.

After becoming saved, I started on my path of self perfection. The houseparents twisted my mind around their little finger and told what i should do to please God. So i did it. But it wasn't enough. I liked to draw anime and that, to my houseparents, wast evil in the eyes of God. So they punished me and took my drawings away. I still drew and hid my pictures from them. They started to hate for my defiance to God and to them. That was one of the biggest assaults to my mind in my life and showed me how evil Christians can be.

When i entered Jr. High, i left that student home and entered another. They, on the other hand, were more open to my drawings and other stuff i did. I even told, pridefully, that i was a christian. They treated me well and let me do what i wanted. This put into my mind that i was better than others cause i love God.

This all ended, however, when i got heavily into music. Once my houseparents found my ACDC Back in Black CD, the took it and broke it in two. They told me it would poison my mind and make me turn my back on Christ. I didn't listen, of course, because i wasn't going to let them take my music away because of their beliefs.

That is when it dawned on me, right after my growing case of depression and love of heavy metal.

Christianity was the source of all my pain and torments. All my christian friends were fakes and hypocrites and only loved themselves. That's when, when i entered high school, that i would become my own boss.

Now that i look back, I am a lot happier now that I'm on my own. I don't have to worry about some dude coming down and make the world into hell and take all the good ones to heaven and watch us suffer. I also made this conclusion: Christianity is the biggest con in the world. You will get eternal paradise and happiness, after you die and you have no clue what's going to happen. All Christianity is is a "what's behind door #2" type deal. And that is what made me turn my back on the lie. Now, i do what i feel Ike and don't worry about it later. I have no regrets and I'm now i deep love with my beautiful girlfriend. I have true friends who like me for who i am instead of what i believe.

I do believe I can be blessed without being a Christian.

5/22/07                                                                                       View Comments

Heaven, Hell and My Bodhisattva Vow

by Astreja

My name is Astreja Kaéren Odinsdóttir, and I am a Heaven refusenik. I have made a conscious decision to deliberately choose Hell over Heaven, in the unlikely event that these places actually exist.

Somewhere between age five and seven I read the Bible for the first time. My parents' library included an illustrated volume with some rather striking lithographs, and one of those illustrations still haunts me forty-five years later. I remember a mass of humanity standing in a pit, hands aloft, pleading for mercy.

Fortunately for my sanity, neither of my parents are overtly religious. Although I was baptized without my consent at the age of three months, I somehow managed to avoid the standard indoctrination into Christian mythology. Imagine a seven-year-old girl commenting to the boy next door that threats of eternal punishment are useful for controlling the masses, and you'll get a good picture of my skeptical fascination with religion.

I've tried to approach philosophy, mysticism and theology with an open mind, but everything ultimately gets filtered through that religion-as-societal-tool epiphany that I had on the neighbours' front steps. At age 11, I could "see" time as a finite line, and grasped the inherent meaninglessness of all time-dependent events. A year later I had recovered from my brush with nihilism and had adopted Athena as my patron. I wrote a novella about a saviour-ish mystic with stigmata on his hands; researched Hinduism for a history project on India; and hung out with science geeks who made "velocity vectors" away from annoying evangelists. By the end of high school I self-described as an atheist, but only because I had yet to hear the word "agnostic".

Somewhere between high school and the working world I did have a rather close call. A born-again Christian in the laundromat across the street did try to convert me. However, when he asked me to recite the Sinner's Prayer, I balked. I do not believe in sin, let alone the involuntary and indelible Original Sin. I find the very idea disgusting. I believe in Original Neutrality, with value found only in conscious action.

On top of that, I did not care much for the god of the Bible. The concept of one and only one god is illogical to me, and I kept seeing that pit full of scared, suffering people. Jesus was a bit more interesting, and I did like what he had to say about feeding the hungry and clothing the naked, but to me he was just another victim in the same sad story.

Then (after several decks of Tarot cards, some do-it-yourself magick, and visits to a synagogue and a Christian Science church), I discovered Buddhism. More specifically, I discovered the concept of the bodhisattva: Someone who wins the struggle for personal enlightenment, but stays behind to help everyone else climb out of the pit. That, to me, sounded honourable and worth pursuing.

Finally, I rediscovered my Scandinavian roots and became an Ásatrúar. The mythology, where even the gods can die, agreed with my love of polytheism and with my Life, the Universe and Everything vision from age eleven. The Norse heiðinn ethics (the Nine Noble Virtues of courage, truth, honour, fidelity, discipline, hospitality, industry, self-reliance, and perseverance) are reasonably compatible with Buddhist ethics. With the possible exception of the admonition against intoxicating substances, that is.

Accordingly...

...If there is an afterlife (Which I rather doubt)...

...With a place of reward (Anything is possible, I suppose)...

...And a place of eternal punishment (Oh, please; stop insulting the gods with such a barbaric idea)...

...I vow to go there and stay there until every other sentient being is released from torment.

In the meantime, I'm going to hang out with the Æsir and Vanir, brew me some mead, and perhaps translate the Prajñāpāramitā Hridaya Sūtra into Old Norse. Just call me the Zen Valkyrie.

5/17/07                                                                                       View Comments

If I'm not a Christian, what am I?

Sent in by Stina

I grew up in church. I accepted Christ and was baptized at age 9 and went to a couple of different Baptist churches up until age 18. As a teenager, I felt that my church didn't offer the kind of support I wanted, so I was an avid reader of Brio magazine for girls (produced by Focus on the Family). I felt I was really a "true" Christian, whereas many people I knew seemed to claim to be Christians without believing the Bible was the inerrant Word of God.

At age 17 I went on a mission’s trip with Brio magazine to Brazil. I became friends with a girl who told me about Capernwray Hall, a Bible school in England. She was going to attend, and when I graduated from high school it seemed like the perfect plan for me also, since I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. It was just what I wanted: an incredibly supportive Christian environment with about 200 other 18-mid 20 year-olds, where my beliefs were reaffirmed.

My family began attending an Evangelical Lutheran Church while I away at school, so I also attended when I returned home. The theology was much more liberal than any church I'd ever attended. Homosexuality was not viewed as sin, there were no Bibles in the pews... I felt like I was going to one of those "dead" churches I'd heard about in my Capernwray lectures. But the people were (are) lovely and loving, and I still enjoy the relationships I built there. But I missed that supportive (and conservative) environment of Capernwray, so after attending community college for a couple of years, I sought to go back, this time to a school called Holsby Brunn in Sweden, another Bible school that is part of the Capernwray Missionary Fellowship of Torchbearers schools.

Again, it was just what I wanted and thought I needed. My beliefs were reaffirmed and rejuvenated and I met many other people my age with similar beliefs. When I went back home again I sought out a church that was more biblically sound than the Lutheran one I had been attending. I started going to a Southern Baptist Church around the same time I started attending university. And it wasn't long after this that I fell in love with an incredibly wonderful non-Christian man and my whole world fell apart.

First he converted to Christianity and we began dating. Then he told me he just couldn't force himself to believe in the Bible, and he hated some of what my church was teaching (women being subordinate to men, that homosexuality is sin, etc). I broke up with him. But I wanted to be with him so badly, and I couldn't understand why my faith in God should prevent me from being with such a great person.

I started to hate the exclusivity of my church, and I started questioning other aspects of my faith. I realized I couldn't believe in an eternal hell and also believe in a loving God. I decided I wanted to be with my boyfriend whether he was a Christian or not. This first incredibly deliberate act of disobedience to what I'd been taught my whole life was a turning point for me. I stopped attending the Southern Baptist church and eventually stopped attending church altogether (though I still visit my parents' Evangelical Lutheran church occasionally), and now I live with my boyfriend.

I'm reluctant to entirely give up the label "Christian" since it's been a part of me for so long, but I have no idea what it means to me anymore. I'm also a little reluctant to deeply examine exactly what I do believe, in case I really am no longer a Christian. If I'm not a Christian, what am I? What is the purpose of my life? These are the questions I need to dig into.

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I'm still the same loving person

----- I first want to say that I enjoy this site very much. I was raised very much like allot of you here. My Family has deep Christian roots. I myself was once very devoted to my walk. But I had my back slider moments as other Christians would say, and at those times, I would feel "Oh my God! I’m going to hell because of all those things we're told that will get us put there" -- being human, not having enough faith and so forth.

All my life I’ve had questions inside. A lot of those questions could not be answered from the Bible, but still I defended the Word. Or I'd watch the infamous TBN when I felt my faith was lacking. The thing was, I didn’t feel any better about certain situations afterward.

I married my high school sweetheart, was willing to just stay back and be a housewife and raise our daughter . For 7 yrs. straight, I went through living with relatives many yrs. His job hopping and then a drug problem took every thing. All those yrs. I prayed and cried. Nothing ever got better, but at the time I thought he was the love of my life.

When I was 24 I moved to Arizona. Shortly after living there I got into a party mode and a year later I really felt bad for what I did. I asked for forgiveness but for 5 yrs still felt just as bad. I got back in the mode thinking I didn’t have enough faith, It started another unhealthy cycle.

Now to the recent part of my life. 11 months ago my questions got the best of me and I began to read outside of the Bible about human origins. I found out that all humans had their own understanding of creation. Then I read a book called God vs. the Gods. It really helped. I’ve done a lot of researching and I enjoy everything I’ve read.

I got married 6 months ago and my family was fine with him, but now they think he's the reason I lost my faith. The day before Easter my daughter made a comment that not everybody believes in Jesus, and it caused my family a lot of buzzing. My husband felt he should clarify his beliefs with my mom. At the time, I still was doing my own searching.

I wrote my mom a letter trying to help her understand, but it didn’t help much. The Virginia tech thing set her off, and she called me and said those kind of things happen because people aren’t living under God's protection and our country is in trouble and blah ,blah ,blah. I’ve grown out of the perceptions I once had. I’ve learned of early church history, and am still learning. My family is worried I’m going to hell. My aunt even called my dad the other night and told him "before your daughter gets here you should know that she’s not following the faith anymore" and blamed my husband again. They can't see that I'm smart enough to figure shit out for myself. My dad never married my mom. His family was somewhat Christian, although he respects other people's viewpoints. When he told me that she called him, I really got pissed. It was not her place to tell him anything especially because she’s not his sister. My Mom also did the same telling my grandparents. It Should of been me, when I was ready.

Really enjoyed the article; “Not ready to make nice“. I don’t think everyone decides in one day to go against the way they were taught. It takes awhile to shake off the shackles of Christianity. I don’t believe the dogma of the Bible, I don’t believe in hell. And as hard as it for Christians to believe our country was not founded by the dogma either. We all have the right to believe what we chose to or not. I am glad I found this site.

Now the cat is out of the bag, it nice to see other related stories and to be comforted to know I’m not alone. I don’t feel guilty for leaving the faith and the research has helped back it up. I do get mad because my family don’t see that I’m still the same loving person.

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5/15/07                                                                                       View Comments

It just hit me

Sent in by Philippe

It just hit me.

After 2 1/2 years of faith and devotion, I'm feeling burned out.

It just hit me.

For almost 2 weeks now, I don't pray like I used to.

It just hit me.

After meeting with Baptists, Anglicans, Adventists, Christadelphians, Unted Church of God members, etc. I am now completely lost about my faith and beliefs.

It just hit me.

I miss watching horror movies, listening to rock music, reading books about dinosaurs and astronomy.

It just hit me.

I no longer believe... well, I mean, I no longer believe what some people want me to believe.

Is there a God?

Can't prove it, nor I can't affirm that he (she !?!?)doesn't exist. I think the most important thing is what we do with our life: how we can help others, how we can improve our behavior, how we can be better persons.

Perhaps I see myself now as an agnostic. All I know is that I don't believe anymore in the Christ of the Bible. Maybe Jesus really existed (but the proofs are hard to find), maybe he was a really great man...

Maybe.

But since I wasn't there when he lived, I do not know if he really existed at all.

I feel sad and happy at the same time. Sad because some members of my wife's family will be disappointed, perhaps angry ("Satan got into you!"); happy because I feel relieved.

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5/14/07                                                                                       View Comments

You are not alone

Sent in by Debra T

I found this website through Marlene Winell, the author of Leaving the Fold: A guide for Former Fundamentalists and others leaving a religion. I was a fundamentalist for about 25 years and have been in recovery from it for about 12 years. A year ago I graduated with my masters degree and my thesis was titled: Writing and Healing: A Personal Journey of Religious Addiction and Spiritual Abuse Recovery. Healing from all the woundings and mind games put upon me for 25 years has not been easy and just when I think things are going great, another layer of stuff reveals itself. I experienced spiritual abuse and stayed in the religion as long as i did because of the fear of going to hell. Three things the church does to manipulate people is the use of guilt, fear and shame.

I discovered Marlene Winell and her healing work through my thesis research and got in touch with her. I've been to three of her retreats now and it has really helped, first of all to know that I didn't have to spend the first ten years in religious recovery alone, which I did, and second of all, I've learned a lot about the manipulations and just how deeply they've affected me. I have PTSD from the apocalyptic end-times indoctrinations.

I am grateful to have found this website and like this website, Marlene Winell 's retreats provide a safe, nurturing environment for healing work. Her Release and Reclaim series of workshops took me through the basic steps to self-understanding in relation to imposed belief systems and abuses, and provided practical tools for personal healing and growth.I recommend her workshops to anyone who may be feeling alone in their struggle to sort out the religious abuses and indoctrinations of their life experiences. YI am glad to have finally found a great community of support for my struggle to heal the wounds of the dogma that bit me. Remember, you are not alone!

-- Debra T., M.A.
certified applied poetry facilitator


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5/12/07                                                                                       View Comments

This grieves me to no end to reveal these thoughts

Sent in by Steel

At 40 years old, I have lived some 25 years as a "born again" Christian, but have really struggled for the last 10 years years with what I see as a creator, who by all logical exercises, is an absentee landlord. For example:

- I cannot say that I ever had any prayer answered for my own needs, or those of others

- I have sought the healing for my many physical problems, with faith, for the healing that was promised me as a believer (even just a portion), but it was all in vain

- I have really struggled with inescapable statistics, such as:

1/3 of the world is under-fed, 1/3 is starving (The World Health Organization); every year 15 million children die of hunger; 3 out of every 4 who die from starvation are younger than 5 years old; every 3.6 seconds someone dies of hunger

- Does God really reward faith? (“But without faith it is impossible to please him. For he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him - Hebrews 11:16). I find it hard to say yes. Ask the millions of soldiers and civilians dead in WWII alone – how many millions prayed with an immovable faith only to be rewarded with death or death of loved ones and destruction of their lands and economies?

- Why would faith be a prerequisite anyway? Ask the millions of starving children who cry out to him in innocence each day and are ignored. If my 7-year old were struggling with needs, I would not sit on my hands till he demonstrated some arbitrary level of faith. Why would the Creator?

- It is astonishing how many wars and deaths in general, were performed in God’s name (be it Hebrew, Christian, Muslim, Jedi, or whatever flavor). With Mankind as his children, why no intervention in such matters to dispel the confusion and provide relief?

Does God hear prayers? Does he answer prayer? Some contend that the only logical conclusion is: if he hears prayer, he ignores them, making him indescribably cold and sadistic. I feel a more palatable and logical conclusion, from detached observations, is that he simply refuses to hear from mankind or intervene in our affairs (or at least, in a most minimalistic way, only in unpredictable, isolated occasions and/or via semi-earthbound (possibly arbitrary) guardian angels).

- scriptural inconsistencies and downright illogical oddities (that is another thread)

This grieves me to no end to reveal these thoughts.

Well, at any rate, unrelated...here is a compilation I made, a curiosity, an academic exercise, from various sources, that may be of interest. It lists examples of the "Dying and Rising God" principal (a cornerstone of Christianity) and other biblical events/Christian tenents, which can be seen in various way in pagan belief systems. Idea of sacrifical redemption, baptism, resurrection, et cetera, are found in pagan religions, predating Christian doctrine:

1. Example: Osiris

- Egyptian of life, death, and fertility (called the All-Father)

- He is the resurrection figure, the is the oldest son of the Earth god, Geb, and the sky goddess, Nut

- He was killed by his evil brother, Set, then was resurrected.

- Osiris's wife, Isis, found his remains embedded in a tree trunk

- These ancients celebrated a eucharist. It was believed that humans were whatever they eat and that this Osirian

sacrament was able to make them celestial and immortal (earliest roots were in prehistoric cannibal tribes,

who held that the virtues and powers of the eaten would thus be absorbed by the eater).

2. Example: Mithras

- Roman solar deity (2nd Century BC – 5th Century AD)

- The name Mithras is the Greek masculine form of the Persian god Mithra, who was the mediator between

the God (“Ahura Mazda”) and the Earth.

- Referred to by followers as Redeemer, "the light of the world", and "The Good Shepherd,"

- Exhorted his followers to share ritual communion meals of bread and wine.

- His priests were called "Father"

- Mithras was born with shepherds in attendance, on the 25th of December (a date chosen by early church

fathers to honor Christ’s birth so as to not attract attention)

3. Example: Attis

- Pre-Christian Greek solar-vegetation deity

- Born in December

- Referred to as "The lamb of God,"

- Was crucified and subsequent resurrection were celebrated annually, with ritual communions of bread and

wine.

- His virgin mother, Cybele, was worshipped as "The Queen of heaven."

- Attis and Cybele's predecessors are the Babylonian Goddess Ishtar, and her consort Tammuz. It is from their

legend that we get the name for the annual celebration of the resurrection of Christ…”Easter”, a name of the

Goddess Ishtar

- Tammuz is associated with a symbol- the cross [early Christian used the Greek letter, “X” as a parallel symbol (named “christos”)]

4. Example: Odin

- Head of Nordic gods (“Father of All”)

- Odin hangs from a tree as a sacrifice to himself and was pierced in the side by his own javelin.

- He hung for nine days and nights, in order to learn the wisdom that would give him power in the nine worlds.

(sacrifices, human or otherwise, to the gods were commonly hung in or from trees, often pierced by spears)

5. Example: Baldur

- Nordic “god of light”, innocence, beauty, joy, purity, and peace, Odin's second son

- Killed by the Loki, scheming deity (who fathered various beasts, humans, and monsters)

- He will returns after Ragnarok (end of the world good vs. evil battle of the gods…comparable to the Christian Apocalypse) to usher in an era of peace.

6. Example: Dionysus

- Greek god of the wine

- Was born from a virgin mother, a mortal woman, but fathered by the King of Heaven

- Transformed water into wine,

- He incurred the wrath of the religious authorities, who were appalled that he refers to himself as a son

of god.

- He allows himself to be arrested and tried for blasphemy - a willing self-sacrifice.

- He is found guilty and executed, only to rise from the grave three days later, where the women weeping

at his tomb do not recognize him until he assumes his divine form

- Was thought of as a liberator of mankind.

- Notions of eating and drinking "the flesh" and "blood" were popularized by the cult of Dionysus.

Thanks for indulging me.

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What happens before we are born?

Sent in by Dana

I was raised Roman Catholic. And I'm sure that many others will understand what I'm saying when I describe how I was constantly afraid of Hell and Death. I knew I had to be good or else I wouldn't make it into Heaven.

However, when I was around 3 years old, I drew a picture and instead of it showing a Christian version of death, it showed what happens before we're born. I couldn't find anything in the Bible that said what happens before we're born. At the age of 3 I started to doubt the Bible, but for the next 12 years I would continue to try to defend it using science, saying that all scientific accomplishments and discoveries only brought tribute to the fact that we could never comprehend God.

I have had Bipolar disorder my whole life, and the hallucinations and delusions associated with my mental condition only continued to frighten me into believing in God. Those voices in my head, they must really be demons! I must really need Jesus Christ to save me from these evil voices and apparitions. However, I found my savior not in the Lord, but through medication.

I had few friends growing up. I was on the whole a confused and angry child.

However, and this is not to sound arrogant, but to prove a point. I have always been a "high-IQ" person. I know that these tests only measure certain types of intelligence, and cannot be relied on as an ultimate assessment of someone's intellect, but that is besides the point. The point is that I'm someone who most people would consider pretty smart, and yet still I was conned into believing in God through fear.

All the while this is going on, I discovered that I am gay. I guess I've known since I was around 7 years old, but I never let myself admit it. I didn't even know what a Lesbian was, how was I supposed to know that I was one myself, and that it was okay, and that I could stop hating myself?

But as soon as I started therapy, and started accepting myself for who I am, the foundations of my Christian faith began to crumble. I found myself needing less and less of the Bible, and less and less of Christ.

Until finally, I announced to my parents that I would not be attending Church on Sundays. Instead, I would spend Sundays doing what I enjoy, be it photographing nature or meditating, or relaxing with friends.

Now, I am emerging as someone who is confident in their views about the world and what needs to be done to change it. I'm still a work in progress, but at least I've progressed to a point where I can rationally understand what is happening to me.

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5/7/07                                                                                       View Comments

Lobster Lust

Sent in by Paul

We are all alone. Try though we may to change that, we cannot escape that state except in snatches of time with pieces of ourselves, but I believe the effort to connect is well worth it, important. I think the desire to not be alone is one of the driving forces behind belief in god. At anytime, in any situation, the believer is never alone (at least, that's the theory). That's not always great. If you like lobster and your god doesn't, there's conflict. But despite all the conflict that derives from crossed inclinations there's the accompanying notion of being loved and cared for by a god who understands completely and cares (as long as you don't eat lobster).

Some people believe in lobster hating gods, others have an adjusted god who let them eat lobster. I think those with an adjusted god are probably a bit happier, but their god loses credibility with some because of their lack of structure and standard (especially with those whose god hates lobster). If we de-convert, we gain the option of eating lobster guilt free, but lose the notion of being known and understood 100% by god. So we join a blog.

I think connecting with other people is important. It would be more honest to say, "I feel connecting with other people is important," which is really the desire (drive?) to be known and affirmed by others as being and having value. That gives purpose to life.

I have found that my former belief in god has made me more alone. I was one of those people who really liked lobster but believed in a god who considered lobster an "abomination." I was part of a community of people who also believed in a lobster hating god. Some of the people in that community really hated lobster, so they really had no problem with that particular aspect of god. Those who liked lobster simply pretended otherwise when amongst the others of the community. Some actually ate lobster in secret. I ate lobster in secret. I couldn't help myself, I was born with my love for lobster. So, I was pretty alone in that community. I knew it was 'sin' to eat lobster so I did so in secret. It wasn't always that way. When I was younger, I had dreams of eating lobster before I'd ever actually eaten one. That's how I discovered I was a lobster lover,in a dream. I was a sincere believer though, I knew eating lobster was a sin, so I mustered the courage to confess my dreams and inclination to my church. That was called "walking in the light." The idea was, if I walked in the light and confessed my 'sin,' I'd be forgiven and delivered by the lobster hating god. Some were sympathetic, others were sanctimonious. How could I possibly love lobster? I needed to just say no to lobster. I needed deliverence. But god loved me, and if eating lobster is wrong, surely god would indeed deliver me from my desire...or at least help me to resist my lobsterlust. I learned that it didn't pay to confess my lobster problem to other believers, no one really knew how to deal with it. Oh sure, many thought they had the solution and I spent many desperate years following their advice on how to overcome lobsterlust. Of course, these people had never had or even wanted lobster, so they really didn't relate or know what it meant. Turns out they couldn't really help me, I was alone. I went directly to god, but god didn't help me either. I was alone. I spent years blaming my self. I must be really depraved that i cannot overcome this lobster lust. I must be really missing it with god, not seeing something. Time and again I'd ask god, "what am I missing?" silence. Surely a god who hates lobster and loves me would provide me with a way to deal with this? It took years to admit I was still the same lobster lover that I was when I first confessed my lobster lust as a teen. So, I left my lobster hating community, and de-converted from my lobster hating god. I am left with some deconversion nuances though. I married a lobster hating woman when i still believed in a lobster hating god. I have two kids who we diligently raised to hate lobster. Not hate lobster lovers, mind you. Love the lobster lover, hate the lobster (turns out they have a hard time disconnecting the two). The wife and kids know of my lobsterlust and consider me broken at best, an arrogant rebellious sob at worst. I'm alone. Now I have to deal with the problems of living with a lobster hating family.

In my new life, away from the church, I've begun to be open and honest about my love of lobster. I've found others just like me who are lobster lovers or have other loves that the lobster hating god also disapproved of, so they can relate in many ways. I'm less alone and so are they.

My experience is that Christianity promotes division, conflict and being alone, despite Christianities claims to the contrary. Christianity attempts unity and cohesion by having a standard, but those who believe cannot actually conform to the standards (everyone falls short), so they only pretend...they're alone, divided and conflicted. They are not known by anyone as they really are, are they really "living?" They are alone.

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Unhaunting 1: A Brief History of An Evangelical Life

By Candid Folly

I was born into an evangelical home of the American Baptist persuasion, which is all many folks need to know to get a picture of my childhood. My dad was a part-time minister, and my mother’s father a full-time one. From the day I was born until the day I left for college, I haunted a white stucco church in a blue collar town. I was an obnoxious student of religion, a precocious good kid. At the age of nine, I asked my father to baptize me, and from then on I performed well according to expectations. I was a dutiful member of Junior Church and Vacation Bible School. I was the only kid in the adult classes, studying obscure Bible passages and the Calvinist confession of faith of our colonial ancestors. As if my Jesus geek status weren’t already established, I became a junior counselor at one of the Bible camps I’d frequented. Lots of church ladies told me I ought to be a pastor when I grew up. Even then, I knew that’s not what I wanted, but I took the complement the way good kids take such things from old ladies.

There’s always a dark side, but it’s a little more subtle in my case than you might guess. I could’ve done without the indoctrination, but all together I haven’t wound up resenting my churchy youth as much I’d expected. Excepting victims of severe abuse, I think it’s hard for anyone to hate his childhood without hating a piece of himself. I could’ve done worse. One of my childhood friends had a mother that was a bit loony, but for myself I don’t recall any images of hell fire and brimstone, faith healings or home schooling in YEC. Yes, there were a couple odd incidents at Bible camp, such as when a counselor waved his hands in the air and shouted that angels and demons were locked in an invisible struggle around it, along with every inch of the universe. But I had loving parents and they weren’t the poison-drinking or snake-wrestling type. Hell, they were even skeptical of speaking in tongues; to some fundamentalists they might as well have been Episcopalians. And in the end, I reflect that forfeiting my religious training has made me more imaginative, inquisitive and skeptical than I might’ve been otherwise. I know bullshit when I see it.

The dark side is that church was a part of my anti-social tendencies. I had a hard time figuring people out, and I was afraid to make any social bonds outside my church. Sometimes I see my adolescent thoughts about friendship and romantic love floating in a naïve fantasy world that was one part Christianity, one part science fiction, and one part the delusion of my own overactive imagination. I was a Walter Mitty type, but with a Bible crooked under one arm. I used to wonder if I suffered from a mental disorder. Maybe it’s so, but I tend to think that I was like the man who learns to read when he’s twenty. When we are children, our minds are ripe for learning certain tasks that are much more difficult to acquire as adults. Maybe social skills are like reading. Christianity encouraged me to classify others according to its clunky and mechanical pseudo-psychology, and to appease my fears and desires with make believe. That doesn’t have the same effect on everyone, but it leaves a shy kid bewildered. Nonetheless, I’m learning and it’s cumulative. Call me a late bloomer.

Cutting to the chase, I remained a Christian through college, grad school, marriage and my early career. During those years, I went through all the stages. I doubted my faith, toyed with liberal churches, and returned to evangelicalism. As I learned more about science, I reinterpreted my view of Genesis to match. I read a lot of Richard Dawkins’ books and adopted theistic evolution. The rope of faith that bound my life together often frayed, sometimes to a few threads, but in that time it never snapped. I often managed to wrap it up again. Even so, each time it was never in quite the shape it had been in before, and I only became more confused. My parents and others involved with my rearing had wound that cable for me the first time. I never really figured out how to repeat the job on my own, in light of everything I was learning about the world.

In September of 2005, I thought a lot about leaving evangelical Christianity, and religion in general, for good. I struggled with this for several months, and in June or July of 2006 I followed through. From birth until then, I’d never been out of a church for more than a few weeks. But I haven’t gone back. My ship floundered before it sunk, and those last few sentences don’t even begin to describe the tribulation in all its particulars. But I won’t bore you with that now. Perhaps in future notes, I’ll return to this final chapter of my faith. For now, it will suffice to say that I’m one of the few people raised in evangelical Christianity, who embraced it well into adulthood, and then forsook it entirely.

I no longer adhere to any religious doctrine. In one of my future notes, I will discuss the lure and pitfalls of liberal Christianity. While it may work for some folks, I came to see it as a mirage, with the appearance of letting me have my cake and eat it too. Today, I identify with those people who might go by several names: skeptic, secular humanist, rationalist, Bright, or whatever. I don’t prefer any one of those names over another, but what I share in common with them is a commitment to the scientific ethic as the best foundation for knowledge and personal responsibility.

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