7/31/07                                                                                       View Comments

Where it will take me?

This is the first such comment I have made on any website, ever. For a number of months I have read all sorts of comments and debates on all manner of topics. Sadly, I realise that most of the stuff I have been reading has been about God, Jesus, faith, Christianity and so on. All born, I realise now, out of a crisis of faith; a search for meaning. In a sense, I guess I am writing this as a form of therapy (which I have been having formally as I make my way through the mud and mire of my recent confusion and crisis). In many ways, I find myself in a place that I didn't expect to be.

With hindsight, I realise that I thought I had moved on from the fundamentalism of my early adulthood. I was young, facing the world as a young adult, replete with the lingering emotional wounds from an absent father from the age of 2 yrs and all the subsequent issues and baggage of step-families, and grappling with my place in the world. Christianity, to which I came as a 19 year old, gave me a place and a community and it felt good. I was 'on fire' for God. I was a hand-raising, tear-crying, preaching, evangelizing Christian zealot. I led worship, I prayed prayers, I preached, I taught at church, I ran the largest youth outreach in my state. Hell, I even gave up sex.

And I read.

Mostly what I read was charismatically-inclined literature, you know the type: miracles, healing, awesome stories of mighty power in the lives of ordinary people. Some of it troubled me... some scared me... most inspired me. And I felt God with me.

But time moves on and over the years, ever so slowly, church became less important (worldly seduction in increments?), although I was still attracted by the myth and mystery, the traditions and the ritual. But less and less my wife and I went. Strangely though, I felt I began to 'mature' spiritually and whilst not adhering to the traditional Christian faith, I still had a profound sense of the sacred, the ineffable, the divine. I entertained the idea that chakras might be real, that the earth and humanity might be transforming, that indigo children might be a genuine phenomenon, that vibration and energy was legitimate.

I read Eckhart Tolle, a little Depak. I only say this, not because I now necessarily adhere to all of that; rather simply to show that over 10 years I slowly began to explore the previously 'forbidden'. Up until 12 months ago, I was traveling well.

Successful professional, happily married, emotionally healthy, two beautiful kids, plenty of money and, strangely, a healthy spiritual outlook and sense of purpose. Then the wheels fell off. twelve months almost to the day after the passing of my grandfather, who was really my father figure all my life, I had a massive breakdown. It started slowly, but ended with a bang. And although initally masked by the trauma of the breakdown itself, at the core I sensed what I termed my 'existential crisis'. What DID I believe? Why did I believe it. Suffice to say that the last six months has been a fearful, anxious and at times almost paralysing search for the 'truth'.

I have read so much on Christian sites, non-Christian sites, sites such as this and more. Time and time again I am struck by a couple of things: the enormous number of errors and inconsistencies of the Bible; the process by which the Bible was put together; the blood-thirsty nature of 'God' in the OT particularly, and the seemingly impossible, variable and problematic requirements for God's steadfast love in the NT. When I read the Bible, I feel fear and terror, not love and comfort. I feel rejection and threats of eternal abandonment -- not unshakable, unbreakable, unconditional love. I feel the imminent strike of God's mighty and furiously imposed hand against my mere mortal and fleshly face at the slightest indiscretion, not the guiding, loving, patient and persistent support and immeasurable love of a father. A real father. In short, I see more compassion, understanding, patience, forgiveness, support, forbearance and unconditional love in many of the 'fallen' sinners of this world than I see in the image of God I have constructed.

Maybe I have missed the mark. Maybe I am way off. Maybe my faith never was, or has failed me, or isn't strong enough. Maybe I just don't want to submit all. Maybe the devil has asked to sift me like wheat. I'm human, not wheat though. And what I see as a human each day in other humans, despite some of the ugliness, is beauty, vulnerability, love, acts of kindness and grace. Oh, that is unless I read a fundie website where all I see is hatred, fear-mongering, rejection, bile, vitriol and a perverse and sickening glee gained from believing God will torture people like me. It is humanity that keeps me buoyant. Ironically, it is humanity that somewhere in the recesses of my soul keeps me believing (hoping) in God. But as for God, or at least my cobbled-together construct of God, I feel like I have woken up one day to discover that my 'daddy' (and I never really had one) -- the man I have loved, admired, worshiped and idolised all my life, is a murderer, a rapist, a blood-thirsty tyrant and a hater of children, in fact of everyone.

I feel like I have admired my father's commitment to my Mum all my life, have used their marriage as the basis for my own, to arrive home one day to find my dad pumping the next door neighbour... and her husband at the same time... while my mum is out making arrangements for his birthday dinner later that night, blissfully unaware.

I fear, God, you see, really hates us. God really can't bear to look at us. God's first inclination is to reject us and destroy us. But Jesus stands before us and God says 'Ah... shit. OK. OK'. Gee, don't know about you, but that just means that God really loves his own son (and even the mafia and terrorists love their own children), not us, and kinda lets us through the door to do Jesus a favor. So God really only (just) tolerates us. "Jesus, if you MUST have those people in the house, at least make them behave."

All my life I worked at seeking love and acceptance for ME, to find out that in actual fact, God is the one who does this the least. He doesn't love me for me. He loves me because Jesus stands in the way and says "Don't shoot!". Trigger happy bad-ass old copper who hasn't shot anyone for years and is so close to a pension-cheque puts his gun down and says: "Ah, shit. Fine. Do-gooder idealist. You'll see. They're all scum! When you've been in the force as long as I have, you'll see."

Bottom line: I feel like I am in mourning. I feel like I have lost a wonderful friend. And I realise that I don't even know what that friend ever looked like. Was he a mental construct? Was he imaginary, like the friends you make up when you are a child?

At times during the last few months I have thought that this battle has been contrived by me, or the 'victory' back to God resisted, to justify a life of sin. But hey, what the hell does that mean anyway? And so here I stand, not in the world, not out of the world, and into it all kind of wondering what it's all about anyway. At times I have been so depressed and so fearful that I have contemplated the unthinkable. Imagine that, leaving my two boys, who I DO love with all my heart, unconditionally, and who I will NEVER forsake nor just tolerate -- to live alone, and lest I say, repeat the sins of my own father by being absent myself. And yet, somewhere in my heart, I still want to believe. I want to believe that God really is there. That God himself is saying: "I agree with you. They get me so wrong! I am the one you can depend on. I am everything and so much more." But that would just be making God in my own image wouldn't it? And that, I remember, is a big no-no. God is the same today, yesterday and forever (my father-in-law reminds me), which hauntingly means that God (at least when referencing the OT) may still be liable to bouts of terrifying anger, rage, jealousy, vengeance, murder, rape, genocide and infanticide (just to name a few).

Strangely, the sorts of things that He may not be all that crash hot on me doing. So there it is, my unfinished journey. Where it will take me yet, I know not. But I hope I am ready. Some closing irony: God bless.

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7/28/07                                                                                       View Comments

I Didn't Have A Choice

By Telesmith

I cannot believe. This statement is distinctly different than saying that I will not believe. Assenting to the claims of Christianity would mean betraying myself and what I now know. It would be akin to forcing myself to believe that I don’t have two legs. That would simply be impossible. No amount of mental coercion could accomplish such a feat. I know damn well that I have two legs just as I know damn well that Jesus was not God, the bible is not God’s book and he most certainly did not die for my sins.

It all happened quite different than I ever imagined it would. I, as a Christian, thought that those who had backslidden simply “chose” to walk away. Maybe some do make an affirmative choice to leave the fold but for me it would have been an affirmative choice to stay and that affirmative choice would have been to lie to myself. I learned things I did not know before. I asked questions that I was not supposed to ask. I did not leave Christianity; I was spoiled for it. It was as if I was carried along on a wave of reality and the only way to escape its hold would have been to swim beneath it and drown in so doing. I never wanted to be an ex-Christian. As my wife so wrenchingly described it, finding out God is not real is like Santa Claus but a million times worse. I cried that whole December day at the age of six when my sister broke the news to me in a somewhat nonchalant manner. I've anguished for months over God. I loved the Eucharist. I loved Mass. I loved daily prayer. In my teenage and early college years as a Pentecostal I loved praise and worship music, powerful sermons and late night prayer meetings not to mention the constant affirmation that my generation was The Generation. I loved all these things because they helped me love Jesus. They made God seem so real. Now I’m embarrassed to remember those moments. They feel so cheap on the other side of them.

Others highlight the dozens of thinking errors of Christianity in their testimonies and how realizing those errors helped them find their way out of that game of mental gymnastics we call religion. I quit the game not so much by an inability to stomach biblical inconsistencies or poor apologetics arguments but by asking one simple question: what is faith? No one had a good answer for me, not my Christian friends, not my pastor, my mentors, my religion professors at my small evangelical college. No one. They all explained faith by placing it into one of two categories. Either the practical act of faith was drawing conclusions based on experience or it was drawing conclusions based on no experience. The Christians who made faith out to be believing in a thing because the evidence suggests it to be true puzzled me for two reasons. The first is that such a definition of faith is hardly a biblical model and second because that’s not faith at all, it's reason. If faith is the same as reason then we have no cause to differentiate it from reason. They are the same thing. I have heard it said and said it myself in the past that faith is not reason but it is reasonable. Again, however, if faith is compatible with drawing conclusions based on experience then faith is neutered. It is not supernatural if it does not add to, interfere with or augment the natural.

The latter understanding of faith is more consistent but more baffling. If faith is believing in something for which there is no evidence then it is a denial of reason. If faith is the same as reason then the concept of faith is useless and is certainly devoid of any theological virtue. Only reason is reasonable. This is where it all came apart for me. Faith and reason cannot be reconciled.

No one lives by faith in their day to day lives, not even those "Word of Faith" folk. I don't use faith when I drive to work or when I slice tomatoes or when I pay the electricity bill. I use reason. All of those actions are guided by my experience and perception of those experiences. We only use faith to believe in God. If we use reason to believe in God then we have no faith and cannot please him. If we use faith then we are unreasonable. There is simply no amount of semantic dressing that can cover up that fact, at least, not while being honest to yourself. Once the thought had occurred to me I was ruined for faith. I tried to patch the holes for about a year. I just quit thinking about it for another year but then the flood came and I ended up on the shore of reason. It’s amazing how much simpler life becomes when one is not tied up with all those endless rationalizations. I am now more free to live my life, love my family, friends, and yes even my enemies.

Note: as a Christian I was quite the apologetics buff. I realize now that I had never given Christianity a hard look. I had given the answers a hard look but never the questions. I poured over Lewis, Chesterton, McDowell, Craig, McGrath and a dozen others. I avoided however, those who they were attempting to answer. I want to charge those out there who are defenders of the faith lurking around on this website to really dig in and learn the critics. If Christianity is true then you have nothing to fear.

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7/27/07                                                                                       View Comments

I am proud to call myself an atheist

Sent in by Thomas M

This has to be one of the most difficult decisions I have made in my Life. With each keystroke my heart pounds a little harder. My ascent into an ex-Christian has been a painful and liberating journey. I may be young (25) but I have a lot to tell.

My Dad was born again when I was five years old. He felt the call of god and moved out to Springfield, Mo to attend Bible College when I was 12. He was an old-time pentecostal full of the spirit. He pastored 2 churches and currently is a minister for a jail. I was home schooled from 3rd grade till 10th grade due to sin in schools. The only people I knew were pentecostal people. When I graduated from High School I had a dream of becoming an inner city pastor doing what Jesus wanted: Giving up everything and helping the poor.

I went to my Dad's bible college where I fell into sin and was booted for a year. In that year I studied the Bible diligently wanting to become the most concrete christian I could so I would not stumble into Satan's attacks again. I went back to bible college and was married to a wonderful wife. We both shared the call of god on us.

Something changed in me a short while later. I met a youth pastor and interned underneath him. He was the first person that I seen truly characterize what I felt Jesus was. He told me to question everything and not have any stone unturned. I bought an incredible book (The Jesus Mysteries) that showed the flaws of the Bible. I was determined to defeat the books claims and prove Jesus and his religion. I mean I was 2 semesters away from graduating bible college. The strangest thing happened....

I couldn't do it. This book was spot on. I bought other books to make sure this book was correct. Could I have been brainwashed all my life into believing in Jesus.

I told my wife about this plight of mine. She said she was weary and felt the same way I did. We questioned the foundation of Christianity and it crumbled

We both have been on this journey of rejection and development for about a year now. It has been painful emotionally because we are in the Bible Belt and only .1 percent of people here believe differently. (It might be exaggerated a bit)

I say all that to say this. This site has been the biggest help I have seen. I used to Google atheist and agnostic for days to find people going through the same things. We all need support and reading others anti-testimonies are the boost I need to get through the week sometimes.

Tears stream down as I write this. Just one more step in liberating my life and moving on. I find it hard at times to live a life where my comfort blanket has been removed by truth. I find it hard to trust people and even harder to trust myself. Most all my friends have abandoned me. Maybe even sometimes I abandoned them. I feel broken and hurt by my previous life, but I am dealing with it every day. I understand when someone says they are angry with the church. I understand when they say support is needed. When someone feels they can do it alone they are just fooling themselves again. I am proud to call myself an atheist. I am happy for support when I find it. It is like a glimmer of hope in a crowded world. As I learn more I hope to become more confident in my stance and continue on my journey now as a stronger and smarter person through the help of this and other communities.

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7/25/07                                                                                       View Comments

How I Lived a Lie: My Anti-Testimony

Sent in by Monk

I was raised in the Church of Christ. Both my mom and dad have attended the same church since before I was born, and my dad has actually been an elder (think bishop if elder makes no sense to you) there for over 20 years. It’s a family tradition, going there. Ever since I was a child, I hated going to church…not once in my life can I EVER remember wanting to go.

The bottom line: I never really believed, though I always pretended to. However, you can only live a lie for so long before it starts to eat you.

I finally succumbed to my family’s pressure to be baptized (a rite of passage in the Church of Christ) in March 2001 when I was 19 years old and a couple of months away from entering the Marine Corps reserves (since this was pre- 9/11, there wasn’t an over-riding fear that I might die in war…yet). For the next few years, I managed to balance my reserve commitments with college, and life generally went on as always. Going through the motions of being a Christian (praying, etc.) had made the boot camp experience much less traumatic, so religion and I declared a temporary truce.

Then in 2004, my unit was finally activated to go to Iraq. While there, I spent all my extra time thinking about my life, and religion once more took center stage. I used to stare at the desert and listen to the Muslim call to prayer, and I could actually see how this area of the world had been the cradle of so many world religions... so many lies. There was a magic to it all: the land, my thoughts, the calls. Indeed, it was not hard to imagine that a person could find what they deemed their own personal truth in that place. In fact, the seeds of what would become my own (atheist) truth grew there.

The more I thought, the more I realized that what I was feeling was not some innate religious power held by the land. Rather, I had come to love the desert itself. What little faith I had left began to erode with the sand. I came to see for the first time the ultimate source of religious belief: man's desire to explain the beauty and mystery of his natural environment. I did not feel the presence of any god... just the awe of standing in the cradle of civilization. It was a spiritual awakening, but certainly NOT religious. I felt alive for the first time.

What little faith I ever had died in Iraq... and so did one of my best friends, at the hands of an improvised explosive device. I resolved to live the life he'll never be able to experience.

When we came home, I switched my college major to history, partly because I wanted to learn more about what the secular world said about Christianity's origins. Outwardly, I remained a Christian, enduring countless hours of Sunday morning church services because I couldn’t bear to tell my friends and family how I felt. I love my parents, and I never wanted to hurt them. I knew the knowledge that I was an atheist would.

Boy, when you're right... you're right.

December of last year, I couldn't take the charade anymore, and I just stopped going to church (and haven't gone since). For two more months, I played off exhortations and questions, until one Sunday afternoon, I snapped and came clean. They were shocked, disappointed, hurt... afraid for my life and my "soul." Everything I had feared.

I began for the first time to outwardly show my atheist convictions. My parents played dirty for awhile, even stooping to using my dear 86-year-old grandmother (whom I possibly love more than anyone in the world) to try and guilt me back into church. I held my cool and tried to explain as well as I could why I felt the way I did. I didn't even make a dent. Now, they just mostly leave me alone about it except for the occasional exhortation to return.

I never will.

Christianity has never added up for me... not when I was a kid and certainly not when I became an adult. My choice to major in history helped provide me with the evidence and concrete reasoning I needed to fill in the gaps created by my intuition. I wish I could make my family fully understand that they are wasting their lives on a bedtime story, but I know I never will. You see, I lost one of my brothers to a car wreck when he was 18 (I was only 6 at the time, so I hardly remember). They are convinced they will see him again. They cannot contemplate otherwise.

I cannot shatter this illusion without shattering them in turn. Frankly, I haven’t the heart. I love them too much. I only hope that they never push me too hard…that they never really attack me and my beliefs. So much strife, fear, and doubt over something so ridiculous…it all makes me quite bitter.

This is longer than I meant for it to be, yet it is still very incomplete, and I don’t feel like I said everything I wanted to. I guess that could take a life time. I am grateful for this group and to the webmaster who founded it. I live in the South, the thick of the Bible Belt, and I am unashamed to admit that from time to time. I need all the help and encouragement I can get.

Thanks to you all.

—Monk

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The so called "loving and truthful" faith of Christianity

Sent in by Justine S

Since this is my very first testimony (ever!), I just ask that you all please be patient and bear with me.

I guess I should start at the beginning... there's two portions to my Christian life. I'll save the fundamental stuff for later. Growing up, my mother was somewhat involved with the Lutheran Church. She used to drag my sister and I almost every Sunday, although I believe this was more of my grandparents' conviction than God's. I don't remember too much about church services except stand up... say some things... sit down... repeat. I do remember being in the children's choir, and winter retreats quite fondly, however. They were really nice people, and they didn't seem to force religion. They were just happy to be helping children and giving them something to do. It was about the time for Confirmation Classes that I stopped going, and by this time, it was much to my relief. I had better things to do.

My parents were having great marital distress around that same time, and my mom was so depressed and beat down by my father's mental (and some physical) abuse that it was pointless... plus she wasn't allowed to go anywhere besides work. I started asking myself questions about God and such, but I kept them to myself. I didn't get along with my mother (what type of adolescent girl does?) and my father hated God, but only because it took the light away from him. We were always taught to pray before eating, and one day we did that and my father screamed, "I made this food for your pathetic asses! Not GOD!!!!". I thought in a twisted sort of way that he was right.

So, by now ya'll can see that my father was an extreme joy to be around. I was about 15 when I started toying with the idea of another church. My sister had been attending a Wesleyan Church for awhile and spoke of these people and how loving they were. I soaked it right up. I was in great turmoil because of all that was going on at home. My parents' divorce was in mid battle, and it was anything but pretty. I contemplated suicide, and cut myself when I just couldn't handle the pain. A loving church sounded good to me.

After about a year of perfect attendance, I was noticing that I wasn't getting any further in my "walk with God". It really concerned me that I was spending all this time trying to "grow" and nothing was happening. I would go to the altar to pray regularly, but what I got in return was the Youth Pastor saying I was doing it for attention. Being open stopped right then and there. I had enough of that at home, I didn't need it in Church. What really hurt was a woman I had grown really close to, she was a maternal figure to me, and she thought the same thing. She knew everything about me, to include my mom leaving and how horrific my dad could be, but she still agreed. Even through all of this (stuff like this happened regularly) I still managed to go faithfully through out the rest of my high school years until I graduated.

After graduation, I left for the Army. Wow. That was another world!!! I "backslid" terribly and kept coming back in repentance when I'd come home on leave. It'd last for awhile... then back to the party. I caught large amounts of judgment from Maternal Figure. Just what I needed. I moved to California with an Army buddy for about six months after the military. Something I "felt" I should have done. Why? It ended so badly, I hate to think about it. I was probably at my lowest, then. I came back to PA and started with the church thing again. Even harsher judgments from Maternal Figure.

After about a month of being back home, a cousin of mine whom I was very fond of was killed in a car accident because of the egotistical-showing-off of her boyfriend. There were four total people in the car, all of whom were ejected, she's the only one that died. I was so angry at God! I couldn't understand why God would take a 16 year old girl for no reason. I went to Maternal Figure for guidance. She basically told me that she's burning in hell because she wasn't saved. I was already feeling guilty because I hadn't witnessed to her. But, again, I went back to the church, but this time was the last time.

This time, I got involved with the Youth Group. I felt I had a heart for them because of some of the things I went through as a teen. I thought I was still young enough to them that they might reach out to me. When I came back, I had some conflicts with the way the new Youth Pastor was preaching. My old Youth Pastor preached that human beings are full of sin, and no matter what we'll still have sin. That's why we need Jesus. This new guy was preaching that he has Jesus, now he can grow to be like him, and one day he will be as perfect and pure as Jesus was, and how he can't wait for the day that he can tell his wife and kids that he's finally like Jesus... WHAT?!

Isn't this total conflict? Not only that, I found that most of my Church Family had left because the pastor had turned church into politics and began heavily micro-managing everything. That left just a few along with Maternal Figure whom I noticed was sucked in by the whole thing. I noticed she thought it was great. Even became a board member. How bout that?

I eventually quit coming to church and Sunday school. I continued to come to Youth Group meetings because I still had a heart for the kids (I still do). A lot of them began to open up to me, so I decided to stick it out.

All that being said, the straw that broke the camel's back was a conversation I was having with Maternal Figure. She began telling me about a common friend we had and how she was struggling. I inquired as to what, and according to Maternal Figure, she had jealousy issues because her and her husband made more money that this other woman, and because Maternal Figure's 1st born was going to college for ministry while the other woman's children are struggling... blah, blah. I cut her out after that.

I haven't returned since. I had a strong feeling of anger and rage. Shortly after, I stumbled upon this site. I found I wasn't the only person who felt this way and had to deal with similar situations. I have since been doing a lot of research and I'm finding there's so many flaws in the so called "loving and truthful" faith of Christianity.

I thank you all for listening.

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7/24/07                                                                                       View Comments

Why Atheist?

By Brother Jeff

The following is a glorious update to my original 2002 "extimony."

I grew up in a nominally religious home. I was raised United Methodist, but at home religion was limited to occasionally reading some bible stories, and that's about it. I quit going to church when I was about ten years old, and didn't get involved in religion again until I was 19-years old. At that time, through the influence of my good friend Mike, I became a "sold out to Jesus" fanatic fundie. That was a huge change for me, going from a party animal alcoholic and drug user to Jesus Freak. It was a huge adjustment for my family too. I was still living at home at the time, and I remember when Mike and I came home one day and we were climbing the stairs on the way to my bedroom, my younger sister laughed when she heard us going on about how wonderful Jesus was. She thought it was hysterically funny, but of course I knew that she just wasn't saved - yet. I had religion, and I had it bad! I'm sure she laughed even harder when I cranked up Keith Green and Sandi Patti Christian music instead of the awesome 80's Rock that was usually blasting from my stereo. She wasn't laughing though, and neither was my mother, when I threw away hundreds of dollars worth of records and tapes (hey, this was before the days of the CD!) because "that music is satanic". Fortunately, they found out in time before the trash ran, and my mother forced me to retrieve the bags from the garbage dumpster. But anyway... I spent the next 15 years of my life as a fanatic fundie Christian. Due to my then undiagnosed bipolar illness, I had for that entire time swings from periods of devout religious belief to times of serious substance abuse. Every time I "backslid" though, I would always eventually (usually within a matter of months) be back in church serving Jesus again and wondering how I could have ever left Him. In hindsight now, I know that when I got "saved" I just added religion as a way to cope with the symptoms of my illness. Sometimes religion worked great, and sometimes substance abuse worked great. Either way, I was just self-medicating, whether I was high on Jesus or high on drugs and alcohol.

I deconverted in early 2000 at the age of 34, and since then - with the exception of a few bipolar-induced and unfortunately very public short-lived "reconversions" - I have remained an ex-Christian, and I see no good reason to ever return to the faith again. I'm alternately extremely pissed off about the years I devoted to a demonstrably false belief system, and sometimes I wonder if I should be grateful for my Christian experience because it may have saved my life by giving me something positive to hold on to when I was so ill. But the reality is that if I had never become a Christian (and in many ways I wish I never had), then I would have found some other way to cope besides extreme religious belief.

What religion gave me was a strong belief in a loving God who cared about me and cared about what happened to me. It also gave me a sense of importance because I believed that Jesus loved me personally enough to die for me. I also had a strong belief in a Heaven wonderful beyond our ability to describe that I was going to go to after I died and spend eternity there with the God and Savior that I loved. I really needed those beliefs at the time because I had assurance that the miseries of this life that were caused by my illness were nothing compared to the eternal joy and love and happiness that I was going to experience once this life was over. I spent years really, really looking forward to Heaven and desperately wanting Jesus to return so I could be delivered from the struggles of this life. I remember how excited I was in 1988 when Jesus was supposed to return on Rosh Hashanah of that year. I read the book "88 Reasons Why the Rapture Could Be in 1988" by Edgar Whisenant with great excitement. On the night that the Rapture was supposed to occur, I told my unsaved family goodnight for what I thought would be the last time, and went to bed fully expecting to be gloriously raptured into the presence of Jesus sometime during the night. Imagine my disappointment when I woke up the next morning! My family just smiled at my religious foolishness and gave me a bit of a hard time about it, but then life went on as usual.

What Atheism gave me back was the use of my brain and common sense. I value reason and rational thought a great deal because I lost the use of them for so long in the area of religious belief. Because I don't believe in God, my destiny is my own. What I do with my life is up to me, and I don't have to spend it trying to please God or constantly apologize for sins either real or imagined. I don't have to constantly apologize for being human. I can just be me - a good and good-natured but fallible and imperfect human being - instead of what I think and hope that God wants me to be. It's very difficult to know if you are really pleasing a God who never gives you any sort of feedback! What Atheism also gave me was relief from the fear of Hell. Hell is an obvious myth, and a sick and demented and evil myth at that. But I spent years worrying that my unsaved family and friends were going to go there and at times when I doubted my salvation, I was very afraid that I would end up going there too.

What Atheism robbed me of was my strong belief in a loving God. No longer can I lay my problems and struggles down at the foot of the cross or in God's hands for Him to carry instead of me. No longer can I pray and believe that I am being lovingly heard by God in times of spiritual, emotional, or physical need. No longer can I engage in the praise and worship that I used to enjoy so much. No longer can I stand in awe of the holiness and purity of God as I pray. That belief is gone, and it is no longer possible for me to honestly believe that the loving God that I once believed in so strongly actually exists. God is pure mythology, and though the emotions I felt were wonderful, they were a product of the incredible power of belief, and that belief no longer exists.

Atheism robbed me of a belief in a Savior who was my best friend. I knew that Jesus loved me more than I could possibly comprehend, and that He would never let me down. He was with me always! I was sure that I let Him down a lot, but I believed in His love and forgiveness, and I knew that He would always take me back when I repented after I fell into indulging in sinful thoughts or behaviors. When I became an atheist, I lost my best friend.

Atheism robbed me of a belief in a Heaven wonderful beyond description that was waiting for me after I died. As an atheist now, I know that instead of going to a wonderful Heaven when I die, I'm simply going to cease to exist at the moment of my death. There is no good evidence that any part of us survives death, and I no longer expect or believe in any sort of afterlife. But, it was a tremendous hurt and disappointment to discover that my belief in Heaven - a place that I wanted to believe was real so badly - was based on nothing but ancient mythology.

Atheism robbed me of the belief that the bible was the "Word of God". I spent many years viewing it as a Divine Book - an inerrant, infallible, Divinely inspired guide for living straight from the throne of God. Now I recognize the fact that the bible is anything but the "word" of a god. It is, in reality, a collection of ancient religious mythology that clearly reflects the time in which it was written. The mostly anonymous authors of the bible clearly knew nothing of modern science, and God didn't reveal any modern scientific knowledge to them. The bible, in reality, is far from being inerrant or infallible. It is riddled with contradictions, absurdities, obvious myths, and a great deal of non-historical "history".

Atheism robbed me of my sense of divine specialness. I believed for years that God created mankind generally, and that he created me specifically with a loving and great plan for my life in mind if I would just obey Him and give myself completely to Jesus. Now I know that I am nothing but an accident. If a particular sperm from my father and a particular egg from my mother had not met and formed me one night in early 1965, I wouldn't exist. Perhaps I am still special in the sense that I am unique - the only me there ever has been or ever will be - but there is no divine plan behind my existence.

Atheism robbed me of my hope that maybe there was some greater purpose behind my bipolar illness. I hoped for years that God would heal me and use my life to glorify Him. Now I know that I simply drew the short end of the genetic stick (or whatever), and that no supernatural or divine reason for my illness exists. I had the misfortune of being born with genes that would cause mental illness starting in my teenage years, but the only reason for it is just simply genetics. There's nobody to blame and no particular reason that it happened to me. It just did, and I have to live with it and the consequences of it every single day.

Atheism robbed me of the belief that there is a higher purpose behind our existence. I know now that we exist because we evolved over a period of millions of years, not because God created us for companionship with Him. I know now that we have to find our own purpose for being. We have to create our own reasons for living because there is no greater divine purpose behind our lives. I still honestly wish that there was some sort of divine plan behind our existence, but there isn't, so I accept that reality even if I do so still somewhat grudgingly.

Atheism robbed me of my belief that I would be reunited with family and friends after death in Heaven. All of my grandparents are now dead. Granddaddy Reid died first in 1993 at the age of 85. Granddaddy Shelley died in 1994 at the age of 76 after years of struggling with heart problems caused by the rheumatic fever he had as a child. Grandmother Shelley died in 2002 at the age of 84 from a ruptured aortic aneurysm caused by high blood pressure. Grandmother Reid was the last to go in 2003 at the age of 87, but her mind was gone long before then, I believe from Alzheimer's Disease. I loved them all deeply and I still miss them terribly. I no longer expect to be reunited with them in Heaven. I remember when Granddaddy Shelley was in the hospital near death, he said to my Baptist minister uncle, "Danny, I hope I make it!" My grandfather wasn't a religious man, but he believed in God and he wanted to go to heaven. He made it one of his goals to read as much of the bible as he could before he died. My uncle didn't share the gospel with him at that time, and I remember feeling terribly guilty for a long time because I didn't either. I worried for a long time that my grandfather might have died unsaved and gone to hell. I'm relieved of that fear now, but I know now that I will never, ever see my grandparents again. They are dead and irretrievably gone. My parents are in their mid-60's now, and they too will die, and I will never, ever see them or know their love and support again. I lost my good friend Donny to suicide in 1985. I know now that I will never, ever see him again. When people die, they really die. They cease to exist and are gone forever. This is a sad, brutal reality that atheists accept without trying to shelter themselves from it with religious mythology. The reality and finality of death makes me sad, but at the same time it makes me value my family and friends more because I know that life is short, unpredictable, and temporary. It's very important to me to spend as much time as I possibly can with those I love and care about and to tell them frequently that I do.

I spent 15 years of my life believing strongly in a demonstrably false religion. Religion gave me a lot that was good, but it also filled my mind with many false promises and false beliefs. Walking away from religion and my belief in God and consequently embracing Atheism is the hardest but the best thing I have ever done for myself. Although I still sometimes miss the religious feelings I enjoyed and the beliefs that I had, I don't regret my decision to reject religious belief in favor of demonstrable reality at all. I am a stronger, better person because I am an atheist. I face reality as it is - even the most unpleasant parts of it - and I am good and moral because that's a part of who I am as a person, not because I am trying to please God or because I am living in fear of him. I have discovered how wonderful it is to face life on its own terms, free of religious myths and lies! Glory!

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7/23/07                                                                                       View Comments

I am a former youth pastor

Sent in by Caleb C

I recently de-converted from Christianity a couple of months ago. I am still very conflicted and am struggling with the idea of telling my friends. I have told one though, and have had several conversations with him about it since. Every time I talk to him, I am ever repeatedly reminded of the fundamentalist way of thinking. In the face of whatever rational information / history / science you offer them, they can only respond with a confused and agitated look. In their mind, they keep thinking... "there must be some explanation, some conspiracy to this. I just don't know what it is yet."

To me, the biggest problem is that the "Christian message" is always delivered in a very protected way. A way similar to brain-washing. Go to a fundamentalist with a question of doubt resulting from something you read or watched on TV, and they will often give the same response (they often did to me). They'll tell you to "guard your mind" from information of "that sort." They'll argue that it is Satan's way of confusing you and making you doubt. Of course, they are either unwilling or unable to even address the issues you bring up. In the early days of the rise of the Christian religion (because of good ole Constantine), they just murdered and burned unbelievers as a way of erasing potential doubters of the faith. Nowadays, I really feel it is done with mind control tactics. The Christian must only put in their mind information designed to convince them of their religion's superiority.

I am a former youth pastor and skateboard ministry director. You see, my de-conversion story actually started with my desire to preach a message that would convince my youth group of the superiority of the Christian Faith and of Jesus Christ. I started researching religions, because I felt in my heart that Christianity had to be more unique and full of either older or more original revelations about God than all of the other religions. You can imagine my dismay when I found that Christianity is really an eclectic copy of stories from ancient mythology and pagan religions.

But I digress, this story isn't about that. I want to write about what happened when I recently visited the Christian skate park I founded and directed for three years. I just wanted to fellowship with the kids. The current director of the ministry is a close friend of mine. He is the friend I wrote of earlier, so he knows of my current atheist beliefs. He is a good guy though, and trusts me not to push my beliefs there. I sincerely just missed the kids and wanted to hang out. My mistake came when I decided to sit in on their Bible study (the same Bible study I used to deliver twice a week), and was shocked and disgusted by what I witnessed. The leader of the study was actually having each kid in turn speak and describe the worst sin they struggled with the week prior. You should have seen their faces. They were so remorseful, and so conflicted. I mean, I know every one of those kids. I know that most of the time they just struggle over whether or not they even believe God exists at all. I had to speak up. I told them that they were putting the wagon before the horse. I said they shouldn't be so focused on beating themselves up over their so - called "sin" when they weren't even sure if they believed in God in the first place.

Then I felt bad when I realized that's what I had done as a pastor and preacher. And I felt even worse, when I realized that was what was done to me my whole life by men and women of the faith that I looked up to. People are taught to only program their mind with what I now equate to "religious propaganda." Nothing that could potentially cause doubt is let in. Then, when they stay so focused on their sin, and how worthless, evil, and pathetic they are, who has time or mental energy to believe or investigate anything else? Now I know this post comes off rather brash. I also know that most fundamentalist are very caring, well-meaning people. They just don't know any better. They, like I, had simply been trained that way. Therefore, they do it that way too. At least I know I was, and did.

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We are one with the Cosmos

Sent in by Insanity_personified

Well I guess it could be argued that I was bound to de-convert from the Christian religion. My testimony isn't as dramatic as many here but I'll give it to you anyway

First my age. I'm 15 years old, 16 in August. Some around me take this to mean that I am incapable of making informed decisions about my own life, what I want it to be, what my ambitions are, etc. Unfortunately for me one of these people happens to be my own father. This may not seem important but it was ultimately one simple statement from my dad that sent my Christian belief to hell (pun, yes)

I was/still am being raised Christian, in a Christian home, at a Christian school run by a Christian church. Religion is everywhere in my life much to my dismay, and thus I didn't think to question anything for a very long time... but one thing stayed the same no matter how much into Christianity I was. My father loves Jesus... even as a seven-year-old I felt neglected by his seeming indifference towards me and love of his most elusive god, I freely admit I have "daddy issues" because for the greater part of my life (continuing into today) I feel and have always felt completely rejected by him. One incident in particular happened when I was around 10. I was a very early comer to puberty and all the random erections I kept having and the "wet dreams" were starting to scare me. Of course having had anti-intimacy Christian propaganda shoved down my throat from a very early age I didn't know these were simply my body's ways of preparing me to reproduce. I thought I was somehow unclean for having "impure" thoughts (stupid I know)

Well anyway I asked my dad, expecting him to give me me some semblance of fatherly advice. Instead I was shocked when he screamed at me saying discussion of this was "unholy" and to never touch myself. Needless to say it crushed me to know I couldn't even expect my own dad to pull his head out of his own ass long enough to help me when I needed advice

This pretty much set up my de-conversion. Again, it sounds stupid and rather silly but it's what happened and in a way I'm glad it did. I started to read about puberty and adolescence from one of those damned "secular" books and learned that my body and it's functions were nothing to be ashamed of at all. I learned what causes erections and how to make them go away, why I have wet dreams, and why girls all of a sudden seemed so amazing to me. It all is regulated by chemicals in my brain and is just my brain's signal to my body to begin adulthood. Why is this bad? I thought to myself. Why does Jesus hate me for being the person he designed me to be?

That was just one revelation... my other and most important ones started when I got into two things that are still some of my favorite things today: science and philosophy. I remember watching COSMOS by Dr Carl Sagan and being filled with a sense of awe and wonder at the beauty of the natural world. It was something religion tries to capture but never truly can. It was REAL spirituality. I learned that all of nature is propelled by the simple urge to survive and live and progress as a species. This spoke to me like nothing else did. At a time when I was pretty much crushed emotionally, Dr Sagan's show filled me with hope and child-like awe -- we are literally one with the cosmos!

After watching that show and learning about astronomy, my faith slowly crumbled away. I can't say I miss it much, my atheism brings me a sense of simple joy. I am no longer deluded by a cult that was hijacked by the Romans for political control. The universe is my god, and nature is my dogma. I now am what could be called a "closet atheist." My dad continues to try to convince me that I am too feeble minded to make my own informed decisions, and I continue to be surrounded by mostly Christians and go to a Christian school. But at least now I can think about my problems with a clear head and open mind... which couldn't be said about me as a Christian

Sorry if this sounds like babbling... I've had a bad day

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Wanting heaven and escaping hell

A de-conversion testimonial from Malaysia

Sent in by perianwalsh

Note

It was not until months later of my deconversion I decide to write down my testimonial


childhood

I was born in a part-deist/skeptic family. Being a timid child, I always take things at face value. I never dare to ask why, why that's wrong...I just accept it.

It just happened that I was fascinated by xtianity -again being a timid child, I am shy from talking to others about my own feelings, so I convinced myself that there's some higher powers/God care about my welfare, my feelings.

I was too influenced by CSLewis' chronicles of Narnia.it was after I Left xtianity then I realised he incorporated the jesus story into his book.

before:

the church members tried to tell me about Adam(I AM NOT from xtian countries so I rather devoid of the sinning concept) sinning then all men sin (that's the original sin concept) and why we need to be saved. i am amazed(some of my xtian friends,regarding to the issue,in fact are taking them as parable/parallels ).That is the first time I ever heard someone really believe in it. Anyway I do not think them as truth at the time

xtianity

the first time I went to church,the pastor preach & come down from the altar to 'give the holy spirit'to fellow members & sorta of 'exorcised' the members.He held everyone's head and shook them-I saw a woman,who was a few rows in front of me,fell down and cried.

I was frightened and determined not to fell down-I even pray for god for prevent me from falling down. When it was my turn, I felt a strength which almost knock me down. I resisted(at that time I thought I was resisting the holy spirit and even pray for forgiveness for being sinned-I even tried to let the holy spirit-re-enter me again for various times[but now I dismiss as the pastor has a brutal strength])

I even have a burning desire of never return to the church.

Few days later,I ask a fellow member.She assured me it's all right.I was relieved.But in spite of that I was lonely.So I pray for a companion.And it really happen.I was in a joy & bliss(this,had been a barrier 4 my deconversion for some time(for convinced that god really give answer to my prayers)

I discuss with them,and felt happiness with it.They seems to take concern of everyone,kind & loving.

I was rather slow at learning,surprised by the way some of them pray(like hip-hop when they speaking),but I was satisfied.i prayed daily,sought to be more truthfull with god,and try to change my selfish views,and tried to reconcile 'god is the priority 'with my own views (my views are family are the top priority),listening to xtian songs,subscribing daily xtian verse,newspapers,and reading psalms.to be more 'true xtian 'I forced some time to read daily propotion of bible.

Gradually I believe the sinnning concept,& from evolution to part evolution and little creationism

I got hard time to understand trinity.i understand the worship of god,but finally I think out of 3 substance in 1.I thought I solved all my questions.

Doubts arises

to tell the true, my beliefs are in doubt even at the beginning, although I tried hard to sink my doubts, denying myself that I have doubts. I did not believe bible things literally anymore,yet my church believe the bible as the absolute truth(that means a good moral guide).I am a liberal from start, and I think I am the only one who knew a little bit about constantine,his council of nicea.They all seems to think the bible is wholly oral tradition instead of combines. One of my encyclopaedia says there’s insufficient material on the real life of jesus.I dismiss immediately,but I could not bring myself to acknowleged that there’s something wrong.

I was especially shocked that jesus(who was highly 'advertised’ by xtians(it's more cruded,but I don't knew milder words))said about bringing sword (oh dont give me wiki links-it's most comprehensive and I read it) ,denying family members(& they put this act of a high virtue-but this one I understand why-I thought it contrast to the scene where jesus told his disciple to take care of his mother)

and cursing the fig tree( I think it has some origins, and could not be diversed)...Jesus, the highly admired, even in non-xtian communities, said that?

My thoughts are quite different from the bible, so I try to reconcile them, change them, but not with great success.

The bible has a lot of things to say about idolarity,adultery-idolatry was the greatest of all-I could not understand why god has such hatred towards that-even cslewis 'narnia' lion is better than that(anyway I knew he is a big apologist).

However I thought-John the baptist is real(I check wikipedia),so why jesus can't be real?Well I must said that I never knew,even think about checking out skeptics/historian resources.

But I could not reconcile to a god who needs worship every minute(Such as in isaiah).whether he's worthy or not,I think it rather degrade God's image.

Gradually did not thought the bible as an absolute truth.

At this time,I remembered answering someone at yahoo answers. This guy/girl realise that his/her faith just delusion of mind. Not longer after that I face a similar problem too.

Striking point

from the start I am a liberal, believing that we don't need to convert someone to our beliefs, but the bible said everyone must belief to be saved. At this point,I was too afraid to deny it.The bible said.....(A lot of things )I thought it as truth(on moral values), yet I knew, deep down inside that it wasn’t.

It happens that I am studying management, and it strikes me that although business emphasis of renewal of theory, critical thinking, yet my church members views are insisting on the bible!

the burning point, that is a conversation(and the longest one I have with them.)I was wondering what they think about other religion, and I found out that they use idolatry to them, speaking in sneering ,mocking ,like angry. They point to me verses, to ''''disprove'' them. I remember I talk something rather heretic( I forgot what is it, and it 's really unconsciously done),and they start talking about witches

(I am lucky that I didn’t bring harry potter, or the book will be burnt)...they told me to bring my family members to church...I remember that telling them somebody (nonbelievers)are good, and they told me if they be xtians they r better-I remember their tone that implies what they actually think-being christians are better people(I knew what they are trying to speak originally: Only xtian are good people, on believers are hypocrites, vipers...I bet that if two people, one xtian and one non believers, who did the same kind of great act, the xtian would be said to be good, others are bad ).yetI have knew devoting muslims,buddhist or other religions(btw including xtians) who are really loving, kind.

On another point I was grieved, for I can't hide my secret of my doubts, yet I did not want a direct confrontation.i broke down and said some part of the truth. They are somewhat convinced that I need help. they offer various way, including exorcism(by several of them).I was being exorcised(some of them even commented a lot of people got devil in their bodies without being realised.)

and I thought I feel better[BUT later back home I feel worse].They kept on on my earlier question to them about other religion. As I have told them some other religion, they told me that whenever they learn about other religion, they kept checking the bible, and they want me to focus on the bible only(for other non-xtian-materials are cults,writtings by satan )

This seems to me as a effective way of mind control. I couldn’t believe it.A God who says that wisdom is from one source only and prevent further search!!!

When i left them, I felt as it is the last day for me.I resolved to adjust my views same as them and then a voice suddenly come to me-'leave them! Leave the church'

After some thoughts, I told myself that I will consider it ,using a month's time to rethink, to readjust my values or leave the church.

I go back home, feeling as if doom is near. I look at my family and pretend to be normal. The friends, family I want to saved them, but still respecting their beliefs very much(I never tell them my conversion-I did not knew how to start it).I could not bear it.

I want to respect their beliefs, I dont want them to be sad, yet I want them to be saved My mind felt torment. I was crying.

Is there anyone who has the same doubts as me? I was thinking as suddenly a thought rang to me-hey ,if there are xtians, there must be having EX-xians.I type into google and found out this wonderful site. It gives me a lot of good points(although I did not understand much of the atheist part). I remember spending hours in class next day thinking about it.I finally decide to let go, to do research about the bible.

I spending a night to try to present it my leaving testimonial. On that day (it was Monday), I boldly told him (the name is PR) that I would leave the church, maybe for months,years,or never(I did not tell him it is unlikely I would ever come back again; I would not like to see him in grieve).I avoid telling the pastor, knowing I would not have the strength to debate with him with my beliefs. I told her that I might leave for a long time or forever. I think PR is convinced that I would come back one day, although he does not agree with my decision. Although I felt rather sorry for him, I am convinced that it’s a best decision I made.

On Aftermath


I am ashamed to say at the start ,I was determined to prove my church members wrong. I SHOULD have investigate every source, every fact before. BUT instead of finding myself an absolute right, I found out a relative new view about Jesus.I start on Simon Blackburn’s truth for the perplexed, which I had a hard time understand it. I found out that there's a lot of different research. At one point I was convinced of the Mithras theory, but after reading an apologist boast of the dead sea scrolls being supportive of xtianity,I do a research and eventuality found out it's predated and they, in fact, tried to hide the whole picture. New views keep coming in my midi read Jews view of messiah,sin,atonement, and realised that instead of they being stubborn, they are simply using biblical reasons of why jesus cant be messiah, the original sin. I start to read the old testament(I don’t have it ,so I use Hebrew translated version).I make a conclusion that you have to get first hand materials or otherwise people will interpreted them in their own way.

I am convinced that one of my reasons to convert because of wanting heaven and escape hell.

I realised that some xtian has a mistaken in regarding themselves of being confident and self-esteem-in fact they have really low esteem if taken away their concept of god.(like the Hitler’s army that says god filled in their pockets)

Sometimes I think I am pretty lonely here. There is a few people in my country that I knew left their faith because of disbelieving (btw I am from m'sia). but I think I am lucky that no one dare to proselytes in public(even thought they might persuade their friends to attend church)

I was angry that the cornerstone at the bible I read makes a conclusion that’s

(I forget the exact contents, but here is it as bellows)

“A lot of ppl said bible got errors, but a few scholars, said that the bible is too complex to be a false, supported with historical accuracy”

At first I hold to the bible passage, but when I read back the bible(especially the part that has the cornerstone)And I found why it writes like that.

[I]...source from moody bible college[/I]

I think even if Jesus exist, he’s ok, but not unique, or better than others. xtianity might inspired a lot of lives, but why they, being happy in their religion, insist on other religion folks, who being inspired by their own religion, to convert to theirs. I always heard them saying’ it’s truth that______ is the only truth'. I feel the horror of fundementalism.It promotes intolerance. In a world like today, it’s less and less possible for us to be intolerant of others or trying to convert them at every opportunity.Rather bringing joy, it will makes others disgust.

It’s time for humans to learn self-discipline-without you daddy ,mommy, teacher to told you how to behave. We need to ,at least, have some esteem of ourselves.

Forgive for my long windiness-The more I write-in felt fresh air breathe in. Thank you for listening.

7/22/07                                                                                       View Comments

I have never been happier

Sent in by Kat

I was raised in Maryland under strict gospel Baptist teachings: salvation, hell and damnation, witnessing. Christianity permeated my entire life. I was active in youth groups and Christian-based school activities (i.e., "Prayer at the Flagpole," which is actually a violation of the commandment of Matthew 6:6: "But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly").

I entered theological studies and became a lay youth minister at 22, on the fast track to becoming ordained and leading my own flock (note the use of sheep analogy when discussing Christians: sheep are docile and easy to control). Fortunately for me (unfortunately for the church as they lost a very active missionary), I began to think about how my life lined up with the teachings I was given. I was born a child of rape, which made my mother (who has recently made apologies) resent my very existence. The resulting abuse led to low self-esteem, severe depression, alcoholism, and suicidal episodes. I remember being 17 and calling out for God to just take me; if Heaven was so much better, why was I doomed to suffer the way I was? According to the Bible and my family, I was possessed by a demon. Which is hilarious, since i had lived my life as sin free as humanly possible.

I kept looking for some hidden sin that was keeping me in extreme pain, and drank the pain away. The pattern continued through two marriages and three lost babies. At age 23, during an alcoholic binge, I felt the pain of living so deeply that I attempted suicide for the last time. That's when the stupidity of my position hit me. Wasn't life to be enjoyed, not spent worrying about whether some childish, spoiled god was able to bribe my love with promises of eternal bliss? And who was this god, to offer eternal pain and agony for rejection of the "love" that was offered?

What kind of love is that?

What parent (and I know, for I am finally a mother) demands that their child love them, but uses threats of suffering to gain that love? Having freed myself from the oppression of Christianity, I met and married the love of my life, and spend my days raising my son and discovering myself and the universe. I have never been happier.

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7/20/07                                                                                       View Comments

I am at peace

Sent in by Jamie

Since de-converting, the question of "what is spiritual" comes up a lot. I am learning to just let it flow and enjoy it, whatever "it" is and even if "it" is simply my imagination.

The other day, a man I know shared about how agitated he was and how he realized that he was trying to control everything. "When I remember that it is God's will, not mine," he said, "then things are okay and I am at peace". I had to think about this a lot. From this new perspective of mine, it seemed meaningless. He said he was giving control back to God (or "letting go and letting God" in the cultural parlance). It occurred to me that what he thinks of as "God's Will" is simply the way things are. He is at peace when he accepts the world around him as it is.

...As it is... If we personified "The world as it is"--if the world could speak in the first person--would it say, "I Am"? Isn't that God's name?

The poet in me plays with this stuff. And whatever I call "spirituality" flows like this. I can no longer believe in the Christian God as He was presented to me. In fact, I am unsure if I can believe in any God at all. But I can believe that the world "is", that we "are", that I "am". And when I accept that, when I take a deep breath and breathe in the air that "is" and feel the keyboard under my fingers, and wonder at the world around me and the way I can experience it in the present...the way I'm 'designed' to and the only way I can...I am at peace.

Already I can anticipate the "yeah, buts" going on in people's heads...whether or not they actually are. Peace is elusive as long as I worry about what other people think of my spirituality. But when I think of all the people who now consider me lost, who think of my de-conversion as a pan frying me into human bacon, it hurts. I don't want people to have to think that.

After it hurts, it makes me angry. It makes me angry that I've been part of a system that perpetuates this divide (all the while insisting it's about unity). It makes me angry that it is still being perpetuated on all too willing souls. It makes me angry that the only way to bridge the chasm, it seems, is for me to reconvert and believe what I'm supposed to (which, at this point, means pretending to believe what I am supposed to).

Sometimes I have to remember that I take my beliefs personally, and so do most others. It's a fine line between "I'm right" and "you're wrong", yet it's the line on which I have to balance. When it comes to spirituality, nothing is provable. It's one of the few areas that I can say "I think I am right" without meaning "I think you are wrong". Because the truth is, that I simply don't know the unknowable. And so I remember that I have to let the anger go.

It helps that I have some friends who are willing to listen. Some of these are Christian friends. Some of them believe I'll come around even if I don't see how. One of these friends is agnostic and has been able to share with me some of the loneliness that comes along with losing faith. She assures me that things will be okay once the shock wears off.

And in the mean time I practice accepting what is and discover moments where I realize that there is wonder enough in what is to give me a lifetime of awe. And if there turns out to be magic in it, that would be okay too.

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7/11/07                                                                                       View Comments

Nothing ever came of the promises

Sent in by Jannah

Growing up in a Christian home has been an adventure. My parents were pot smoking hippies until the year before I was born. They had friends who were Christians, and they became "born-again" Christians into the Foursquare/ pentecostal/ non-denominational church. They thrived in the environment, and so did I and my 5 sisters.

I went to Sunday school, then taught at Sunday school and went to youth group, then became a youth pastor and attended church where I was the praise and worship leader, the women's ministry leader, a church elder, an itinerant leader leading praise and worship at newly established churches, became involved in the victims of crime ministry, community ministry, and I was in a Christian band that traveled and recorded with famous Christian musicians.

You name it, I did it. My parents were proud.

I wanted to experience God's miracles, love, and awesomeness. But, nothing ever came of the promises. I believed I had faith bigger than a mustard seed, and yet, I got nothing. I remember when I was eight years old that I went up the front of the church to be filled with the Holy Spirit. I got prayed for and the girl next to me started to speaking in tongues. Nothing happened to me. I waited, but nothing. I believed, but nothing. I thought I had failed.. I thought my faith wasn't enough, or I wasn't free of sin. It only made me try harder.

Through school I went through ups and downs in my beliefs, I doubted and thought I was sinful for losing my faith. I would recommit and cry out to God..., but nothing. I never once heard God speak, nor did I experience any miracles. I've heard stories, but never seen. My own ability to hear, and actually being alive, is supposed to have been a miracle from God, but I don't remember. I prayed for people believing in God's miracles. I prayed believing for answers, but I never received them. I prayed for miracles for my friends with cancer, but they died. Just this week my friend is dying (definitely her last week of life), but she is believing for a miracle. I'm not counting on it. I don't even believe in it anymore.

My journey began coming unstuck in 1997 when i met my first girlfriend (I'm a female). We were together in hiding for three years. We told no one. I promised to tell nobody. I didn't tell a soul. I hated myself the entire time. I believed that the Bible said it was wrong, that I couldn't like girls, that I was evil. My self loathing was great. But, even while I was hating myself I still ministered to others and led at my church.

Eventually she hated herself enough to quit our relationship (she's now married to a Christian male) and tell the pastor. They (the pastor and the staff) never confronted me. I did, however eventually confess it to them, though I still didn't mention “her” name. My sister told my parents about it, and they disowned me. The church put me in reparative therapy. My parents started talking to me again when I went into reparative therapy, but I wasn't supposed to be allowed to lead until I had completed the program. I didn't complete it, but very soon I was leading again. At this point I was doubting everything I believed.

I would always come back to the point about not experiencing any biblical promises: nothing of god's love, no voice speaking to me except me speaking to myself in my head. But, my fear of being unfaithful, of being wrong, and hell, overwhelmed me, so I'd always go back.

Then I met another woman. This was my end. For the next five years I struggled with this. I read my Bible faithfully, trying to find answers. I decided that I would not be happy in the relationship even though I was not sure about the scriptures, so I quit my relationship and focused on the church. While I did this, I spoke to my pastors about my Christianity doubts, and they said they had them to, but to just fight our own doubts and keep trusting.

I studied ancient history and religious books and found that I did not agree with the current translations of the Bible, and that the original really said nothing about homosexuality. So, I told my pastors, had a wonderful fight with them, and was given the option of submitting to their leadership and attending their church, or please leave. So, I left. I also hooked back up with my beautiful, amazing girlfriend from before. She is a die-hard pentecostal Christian; she was and is a pastor. I got spat at, received abusive letters -- you name it -- when we got back together. Her family started the Foursquare church in Australia, so I was considered the evil one. I had been in my church for ten years from 16- 26. I was finally free. I look back now at some of their behaviour and it was abusive, manipulative rubbish. You could and can do what you want as long as no one knows about it. They have people in leadership who are gay. Everyone knows about it, but as long as it's not spoken about, it's fine. They have a pastor who stole all the tithes, and stole from his flatmates, and from his ex-wife. He was “stood down” for seven months and now he is back into it as if nothing happened. He lost nothing. He didn't have to pay anyone back! Nothing

At the same time my friend was starting a charismatic service at a gay friendly church. I was happy to get involved. I have been doing that for two years.

Throughout this time my doubts have felt safe to talk about. I have been studying the ancient history, the pagan stories, the history, and just generally the Bible with its mountains of flaws. I have spoken to many learned friends about their views. No one has given me sufficient enough answers. Even my learned friends have had to decide they look at the Bible as allegory and not literal.

I have been reading this site for about six months and I have found like minds: clear minds. logical thoughts...

I still cannot accept atheism. I believe the earth was created by something, not just the BIG BANG THEORY. My current beliefs could be considered pantheistic. I look at nature and am so awed by its magnificence that I cannot fathom a world without a god figure. I am a pantheistic. However, I am very much a freethinker, and I am just open and waiting for some distinct clear answers.

I still attend and do the music at my current church. I don't see this as a contradiction and the leaders at this church have no issue with it. I love the music and the feeling of family. My partner, our kids and I all attend. My partner is still die-hard pentecostal. She is struggling with my current belief system (pantheism) and doesn't know if she will be able to stay with me. She doesn't like it, and finds it really hard to deal with. We will see. But, I feel free, like the weight of the church and Christianity has been lifted. The lies have been taken out of my life.

Thank God I'm free at last...

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7/10/07                                                                                       View Comments

It wasn't easy for me to face the reality that I'd been lied to

Sent in by Mary R

I was raised a Catholic, and later during my teen years converted to Christianity. After many years of being a devout Christian, I started to suspect that something was wrong with many of the teachings that Christian leaders had been teaching in their churches and Sunday schools for so many years. For the first time in my Christian life a feeling of mistrust and doubt arose within me when I started to question the virginal birth of Jesus or Jesus himself being God—to me, that formula didn't make sense anymore—after I learned that the concept of Gods impregnating humans to have physical sons is pure mythology. The belief in earth-born gods or "demi-gods" (called Sons of the Gods) and their coming into the world by human birth (gods impregnating humans) was prevalent among the heathen long prior to the era of Christianity.

I also discovered that the sayings of Jesus (in the New Testament) are not original. In fact, his sayings or teachings are a body of work called the "Logia Ieosou," etc., and can be found scattered throughout the literature, both Jewish and Pagan, that preceded Jesus' purported advent.

It wasn't easy for me to face the reality that I'd been lied to.

Years and years of lies and fairy tales needed to be washed away. I took courage and began to study the origin of religions, comparative mythology, Ancient history and other subjects related to it. It was then when my eyes were opened and I could see the truth that had been hidden from me for so many years.

In my in-depth study of Scripture and Ancient religions, I came to realize that every system of beliefs has its own retold old myths and related rituals and that what I had been taught as the "true doctrine" is simply an interpretation based on the same old mythology that has been around for thousands of years—in disguise of different names but basically the same, from the past to present.

When we learn of Ancient pagan religions we can recognize that Christianity is little more than the combination of related pagan beliefs which have been organized into a complex whole religion (the one we know today). There are numerous instances in the Bible where the influence of mythology and Ancient pagan thought is quite blatant. But the fact that everyone had always told me that that whole book was the inspired word of God, made me fearful to even infer that it really wasn't. There was a time when I could remember being afraid to admit that Jesus wasn't God or some type of divine thing/entity—what if I was wrong? Would God be upset at me for renouncing him? (obviously I was very confused).

Gods are invented by people to explain unknown things. You hear the same type stories just over and over. Which one is the true one? Ra, Zeus, El, Yahweh, Jove, Jupiter, Allah, Hunah Ku, Anshar, Anu or Brahma? I'm sure that every religion would dare to say that their god/God is the true one and that the others are just idols invented by men.

(Here are some external links in case you want to know a List of deities: www.godchecker.com; www.pantheon.org; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_deities)

Every pre-Christianity religion (Osirian, Hinduism, Mithraism, Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Islam, and others), and Christianity as well, have their own texts (bibles), books that were put together by men influenced by their 'imagination.' And it was men who gave a mystical interpretation to their legends, myths, and fables that were passed down from early generations.

Religions, also, and their related rituals were invented by men. Every country or region of the world have their own; this control by religion has its origin in the oldest religions of ancient civilizations.

We all have seen that the most horrible crimes in history have been committed in the name of religion. When I read and learned of the dark side of it, I realized that religion has been nothing but a forcible 'taking over' of human thoughts, emotions, and feelings... (a persuasive way of intimidation and manipulation for the purpose of controlling masses of people by irrational promises, fear and guilt). In my opinion, that's not the best choice for a rational, thinking person.

Being a rational human being, living a moral life, loving our family, being good to our neighbors, to those who are in need, teaching our children to make sensible, reasonable, logical, realistic, and wise decisions in their lives is what I think are the best choices in life, and therefore, should be our commitment.

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7/9/07                                                                                       View Comments

My Journey Through Christianity

Sent in by George R. Davis

On April 27, 1971, I skipped my last class of the day and followed an old railroad bed behind the school into town to the neighborhood pharmacy. After some surreptitious searching among potions and hot water bottles, I found the bottle of Sominex (“Take Sominex tonight and sleep, Safe and restful, sleep...sleep...sleep.”). I guiltily handed the clerk a crumpled five dollar bill, studiously avoiding her eyes, feeling like I was buying a Playboy magazine. At home later that afternoon I stuffed the bottle under my pillow, full well planning to swallow the entire contents that evening and end my miserable, despairing existence.

The thought of death was sweet. No more suffering. No more emotional pain. The added benefit of my suicide would be revenge against those who had contributed to my pain... to pay them back for all the bullying and verbal abuse through the years. Some kids in pain lash out with violence; others shut down and destroy themselves by suicide. I was one of the latter.

That evening, though, Bill, a friend of my brother, stopped by and invited me to a teen Bible study taught by Rev. Bruce Jones at a newly built coffee-house called “His House”. For the first time in my life I heard that I was truly loved, (by the Creator of the Universe, no less!), and that He had a wonderful plan for my life if I would only accept His Son Jesus into my heart. I was promised a life of joy, peace and freedom from sin filled with a sense of purpose as I walked daily with God. That night I decided to give God a try. I went home and flushed the pills down the toilet.

That was thirty six years ago. For thirty five of those years I embraced my faith with my whole heart. I sought the Lord daily for guidance, help, comfort and strength. I attended Bible School in Germany and the United States, did inner-city mission work, youth pastored, pastored a country church, had a radio ministry, taught, preached, prayed, and led worship teams with the best of them. I tried a variety of Christian expressions seeking the best group to bond with: Methodists, Baptists of all stripes, Congregationalists, Plymouth Brethren, Charismatic and Calvinists. I knew the Bible cover to cover, and possess an extensive library of Christian writings of a couple hundred volumes.

It was all dust in the wind. Like many Christians I met throughout the years, my life was really not very different than the average guy on the street: except for a spiritual gig replete with buzz words, formulas and standards for living and acting, and an ever awareness of not offending God by thought, word or deed, either by sins of omission or sins of commission. Though I sought God daily for guidance, my life often spiraled out of control, and I found myself down many a dead-end. I would have been just as successful rolling dice for guidance.

Sometimes we adopt a worldview because it serves a need for a given point in our personal journey. Maslow would probably say we are seeking self-actualization with a view to transcendence. I had sought meaning and love and purpose, found it in Christianity for a season, then awoke gradually to discover the best years of my life had been wasted on anxiously trying to please and serve a non-existent Being in the fervent hope he would in turn bless my life and my children and give me that abundant life I had been promised so long ago. The Christian faith served me for a time, albeit not very well. It kept me immaturely dependent upon an invisible God to guide my life and meet my needs when I should have shouldered those responsibilities myself. I would have saved a lot of heartache and grief had I done so. I would have made better choices in life. I would have chosen a career that would have provided better for me and my family. I would have dealt with my moral shortcomings more severely, not expecting someone Else to “heal” them.

There’s now, after much heartache and mourning having rent myself from my former faith, an inner restfulness. I still feel betrayed by God...lied to about the potential for an amazing life that would rise above this earth’s siren song, promising abundant joy, peace and victory over failure. But I gave it a good shot and found such promises wanting. I feel as though I have outgrown an old suit of clothes and laid them in a box to be dropped off at the nearest Salvation Army. No more striving to please a god who is not that much interested in what I want, or wish for or dream about if he exists at all. Though sometimes I still wish it were all true, that I just took a misstep somewhere, that He will coming calling for me, searching for my companionship, dusting me off, hugging me, telling me everything’s okay, I see my life now in the cold light of reality as a miserable attempt to please an emotionally cold, judgmental, abusive father I never felt loved me. God was that Substitute Dad. Both of them, now dead, have finally given me peace.

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7/8/07                                                                                       View Comments

Explaining the unexplainable

Sent in by Michael F

I myself am an ex-Christian of the pentecostal/evangelical type. I joined the church after I had an experience reading and understanding parts of the Bible. I felt as though God himself was speaking to me and giving me wisdom. Coming from a rather "spiritual" lifestyle, the scriptures appeared to have the real spiritual meat I was searching for.

I later came to understand salvation through Christ,and had given myself to Him, no looking back. I left my finance, got rid of old literature, cut off ties with people, and gave myself as a servant of Christ.

Problems arose while studying the Bible. My main stumbling block was the whole idea of an imminent second coming of Christ. How could the Bible be the perfect word of God, when Jesus, Paul, and John kept spouting of of the nearness of the second coming. It was not something to be overlooked, since it is a central prophecy in the New Testament. Either God's word means what it says, or it doesn't.

By this point I became afraid, because Christ was my life and the Bible was my guide map. I was a youth leader, on the worship team, and an evangelist to New York City. I became angry at God because His Word was very confusing. I felt stupid telling people that the Bible was the TRUTH, when already it was showing itself to be unreliable.

Another incident occurred with a friend of mine.

He has a degenerate nerve disease that is literally killing him. Christ is his life. Two times, someone from his church, a "prophet" as they call themselves, claimed that God had healed my friend of his disease. One day, my friend approached me, and told me that God had healed him. He truly believed it, despite the reality of the situation. All of the symptoms of his disease were still there: twitching and slurred speech. I quickly became dizzy and sick. I felt that just as he believed he was healed and really was not, so I myself was believing in something that I already had come to doubt: my biblical faith. After a few weeks, my friend eventually came to terms with the fact that he was not healed.

I became more frustrated than anything, because I needed to leave this "truth," but was afraid. I feared God's wrath. Then, I finally made up my mind and said "God, if you're there, and you are as you say you are, save me from a bad mistake, otherwise I need to be moving on. If you are a God of truth, then you will know why I am leaving."

I left 4 months ago, and am very glad. It is a difficult process, emotionally, but when you know why it is you are doing something, and have chosen to follow through, the whole challenge becomes a lesson.

I still believe in a God, and draw strength from the hope that there is a purpose in all of this suffering. But as for fundamental faith, I must mark it off as another one of those things that we human beings have created in order to explain the unexplainable.

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7/7/07                                                                                       View Comments

I have never been happier

Sent in by Kylee

I always believed in a God but basically I did my thing and he did his. Four years ago I had a very real 'divine' experience. There was simply no denying that God was calling me. This was the only way I could explain such spiritual and strange happenings that were taking place in my life. At first I approached it with an open mind and with a sincere desire to respond I followed what I believed to be God's direction for my life. I visited a Hare Chrishna farm not because I was seeking God but because I felt I had clear instructions from him to do so. It was during my stay there that I experienced a rebirth not being born again figuratively but literally having an experience of my physical body going through the birthing process. If it is not already apparent to some of you I suffer from Schizoaffective Disorder and the experience of becoming a born again Christian came complete with hallucinations and delusional prophetic messages.

After spending a night at the farm I then rejected this religion as God made it evident he had other plans for me. My next mission was to visit a Christian Orthodox church and after sitting quietly receiving their welcome and gifts of food, declaring ' God has sent me here!' I later came to the conclusion that God meant these incidents as a blessing to those who were hospitable. as in I was representative of 'the least' and 'anything you do unto the least of these you do unto me'.

Eventually I was 'led' to Christianity and also diagnosed and medicated for my illness. For four long years I suffered from depression but continued to have faith though the profound experiences of God ceased. During these four years my emotional needs often went unmet and I couldn't understand why God remained so aloof. I had to relinquish custody of my children because of the illness and I even attempted suicide. The whole four years I spent wishing I were dead yet eager to please God. Whenever I asked where was the joy I was promised I was given explanations such as"joy differs from happiness its a deep down peace." though there was nothing deep down in me but misery.

I was also very lonely and longed for a romantic relationship though being a good Christian woman I was waiting for a good Christian man.

Having a mental illness and four children I was greeted 'non-judgmentally' of course though as far as relationships go God had something far more ideal planned for those good Christian men.

For this is the Christian mentality.

I was also told at one point by a friend that God had revealed he would have a husband for me soon so i lived in this hope while the months turned into years and I got sick of being told God's understanding of soon was different to my own.

I was oppressed and forbidden to do things that could very well have made my life easier.

After being treated it took me a couple of months to realize I wasn't Jesus (this had been one of my delusions) about six months to come to terms with the fact I was not going to die from cancer (another delusion) and four years to realize God wasn't there (the greatest delusion) and now I have never been happier.

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7/1/07                                                                                       View Comments

I lost my faith in Bible college

Sent in by Gregg T

As a child I was often under the influence of my Mothers religious beliefs. She was a born again Christian and taught my sister and I from an early age that if we didn't accept Jesus as our saviour we would end up in hell.

As a child I loved Jesus and by the time I was in my late teens Christianity had become my refuge. Talking to Jesus and going to church felt good. It gave me hope, courage and strength. Most of the time I felt happy and optimistic about the future.

Amongst the happy times though I also experienced deep loneliness and pain. Growing up gay in a small, rural city wasn't easy. I didn't "act gay" though so no one ever really knew...until I came completely out in the local news paper when I was 19.

Shortly after coming out I moved to the big city and life took a dramatic, downward turn. I abandoned my Christian beliefs, left all the friends and family I had ever known and ended up in a far worse place. I was chronically unhappy and often felt despair.

When I was about 22 I threw myself back into Christianity thinking that the cause of my unhappiness was that I was no longer a practicing Christian. I started going back to church, and going to small group meetings, I began seeing Christian councilors in hopes of changing my sexual orientation. I even went to Bible college.

Ironically it was in Bible college that I lost my faith. It challenged to think about what it was that I believed. Eventually I found that I could no longer believe that what the Bible said was actually true.

While I was in Bible college I talked with a couple of Mormons about their faith. One of them told me that he came to Mormonism because he got good feelings reading The Book of Mormon. That those good feelings were proof that God wanted him to be a Mormon.

This had a profound effect on my faith. Coming from an evangelical background I was always told that Mormons were wrong. That they were a cult and had “crazy” beliefs. This coming from people who believe that Noah got all those animals on the ark. How could a Mormon have had the same religious experience when Mormons never knew the true God? I wasn’t about to write it off as demonic influences as my Mom might suggest it was.

But the experience made me realise that I had always used the good feelings that Christianity gave me as proof that my beliefs were true. Discovering that people of other, “incorrect” faiths had similar experiences forced me to go beyond my feelings to find proof that the Bible was literally true. And to date I have nothing. No proof whatsoever that any of it is true. I know that I would need an experience outside of myself in order to believe.

I’m 28 and life has improved dramatically over the last 2 years for me. I no longer live in the unhappiness and despair that I did in my early 20s and I’m quite glad that that period of my life is over. I've had a partner for a year and half, and although it is not without struggle...our relationship is growing and improving, even though at times it can seem painfully slow.

Despite all of my objection part of me still wishes from time to time that I could believe. That I could experience those good feelings again. But I also want to know the truth and I don’t want to commit myself to an idea or belief if I don’t have a solid reason to believe it in the first place. So unless something miraculous happens, I don’t believe I will ever be returning to the faith again, at least not the faith that I was raised to believe in.

Thank you.

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