1/30/08                                                                                       View Comments

If I could still believe, I would

Sent in by Chris

I have been a believer in Christ for more than 15 years and now I must explain what has happened to my faith. There have been a lot of questions from family and friends, so I wrote this letter as an explanation of sorts. To put it bluntly, I don’t believe in God anymore. To finally come out and say that ‘I do not believe’ has been one of the most heart wrenching experiences of my life. I have been a zealous Christian apologist and I know most of the arguments in favor of the Christian faith intimately. I have a cross tattooed on my arm with the Greek letters for Christ above it. I know many of the key Bible verses in the original Greek as well as English. I am very familiar with all of the church history and the ‘evidences’, and have used them in debates with others who were not Christian. I have at times been a youth leader and have filled in worship leader playing guitar or bass. I have lead small group studies; my evangelical credentials are obvious to all who know me. Please understand, if I could still believe, I would, if for no other reason than it would make life a lot less complicated. Nearly all of my friends and family are strong, dedicated Christian believers and now it seems I am at odds with them. I have questioned myself, am I doing the right thing? Just how much do I doubt the existence of God, the veracity of scripture, and the Gospel message? I am still the same person you knew before, my character has not changed, only my religious beliefs have changed.

I have been fighting this decision for a long time and have gone through periods of trying to “seek the truth and draw close to God” to varying levels of unbelief and back again. God never answered my prayers or spoke to me, so he wasn’t much help when I tried to seek him out. And all the faith in the world was not answering some of the fundamental questions I was having about religion. What follows from here are my reasons for abandoning my belief in God. It is not my intent to convince anyone to see my point of view, only to explain how I arrived at my conclusion. My arguments were developed from others who shared with me their stories of deconversion.

As a Christian I believed in God the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit as a Trinity; angels and demons; prophesy; and the coming judgment and heaven and hell. I believed in the Genesis account of the creation, in a 6000-year-old earth, in Adam and Eve, Noah and his ark, in Elijah and in Elisha. I believed I was chosen by God for eternal life by faith in Christ, in supernatural healings, in words of knowledge, in speaking in tongues, freewill, and in the Bible as God’s perfect revealed word. I was as mainstream Evangelical Christian as the next person with just as orthodox theology as everyone else. I believed in all these things and thought anyone who did not believe in them was a fool. When I met people who believed in another religion or in no religion at all, I was dumfounded as to how they could not see the apparent simple truth and beauty of CHRISTIANITY, because “only a fool says there is not God”. I would think to myself that, “God had put a ‘veil’ over their eyes” or that God had “Hardened their hearts” to the His Truth.

My path to atheism began as I worked on my master’s degree in ancient history. As a student of ancient history, I learned about ancient civilizations and cultures and their attendant mythologies. I wondered how those people could believe in such bizarre stories of gods and goddesses, monsters and demons and fantastical creatures. How could any rational person believe in such wildly absurd things? I never considered the stories I believed in the Bible were just as peculiar as these other ancient tales. I learned that nearly every culture had some form of religion and that religion evolved as a way for man to make sense of his universe. There have literally been tens of thousands of ‘gods’ who have been worshiped at one point or another over the course of human history. People didn’t know how lightning was formed or the mechanics of plate tectonics that cause earthquakes, or why rainbows exist so they invented gods that controlled these “mystically powerful” forces that they could not understand. Some civilizations had hundreds of gods, for fertility, weather, the sun, the harvest, death, and the list goes on. Other cultures decided against the pantheon had just one god that controlled everything himself. As mankind’s understanding and knowledge grows, his needs for a god or god’s to explain the unexplained decreases. Greek sailors don’t need to sacrifice bulls to appease Poseidon before setting out to sea; they just need to check the weather channel first. All of this is summed up succinctly in a quote from the 1700’s makes so much sense to me now:
"If we go back to the beginning we shall find that ignorance and fear created the gods; that fancy, enthusiasm, or deceit adorned or disfigured them; that weakness worships them; that credulity preserves them, and that custom, respect and tyranny support them in order to make the blindness of men serve their own interests."

"If ignorance of Nature gave birth to gods, then knowledge of Nature is calculated to destroy them."

- Baron d’Holbach

Man has been searching for explanations since he learned rub sticks together and make fire. Fire was magic at first, but we all know it is a chemical reaction caused by friction and combustible materials in an oxygen rich environment; no fire-god is required. This is a common thread through all of human history. One of the biggest unknown things that man has tried to explain is death. All sentient beings have within them a strong desire to live. Animals don’t commit suicide, and humans as highly intelligent animals, have a strong desire to live. It is this desire to live on that gave birth to the idea of an afterlife. For all living creatures death is inevitable. But because humans are so completely self aware and have the mental ability to contemplate our own deaths, we desire to live forever. Even faith-strong elderly Christians who believe they are going to heaven the very moment they die, wish to stay alive, this is common to all or mankind.

Our death does not need an explanation; it is simply a natural part of life. The Norse had Valhalla, Egyptians the Underworld, Hindu reincarnation, Muslims Paradise, Christians Heaven, and the Jews resurrection. All of these were made by man to give him hope of some way to live on forever. I realized through my study of history that Christianity was but one of a long string of religious ideas that have been around for thousands of years and is in no way unique. I didn’t believe all the weird improbable stories of other ancient religions or myths. Julius Caesar was reportedly born of a virgin; Roman historian Suetonius said the Caesar Augustus bodily rose to heaven after he died; and the Buddha was supposedly born with the ability to speak, Mohammad was a merchant who was visited by angles who gave him the Koran as was Joseph Smith and I dismiss all of these accounts as fables, myths, or outright lies, but accepted the Bible as absolute truth.

Believing in God might give people an inner strength not available to the atheist. In a similar way, believing in Santa Claus gives a certain magic to Christmas morning not available to the non-Santa-believing child. There may be strength in believing in something, but believing in something, no matter how deeply, does not make that something a reality. Faith does not equal reality.

At first it was terrifying for me to think that the universe is an impersonal place with no plan for the future. If there is no eternal plan, then one day the sun will die, and along with it, all life here on Earth. Humans have a deep need for something to believe in, for a purpose, and it was this need that kept me in the church for as long as it did. I know the Christian response well. This desire to believe is proof of mans “God shaped hole in his soul”, that God formed us with a need to have communion with him. I have used that line and believed it myself for a long time.

Believing in God might be more comforting; giving a worldview that has eternal hopes and possibilities, but again, believing in things even if everyone else does too, doesn't make those things true. Just as children eventually leave behind belief in Santa and the Easter Bunny and tooth fairy, I have left my belief in an invisible omnipresent, omniscient God that dwells in my heart and intervenes in my life. Belief in God is nothing more than a method to provide answers to questions that are unanswerable. Like, what happens when we die? Or, what is the point of life.”

When I see someone walking down the street talking seriously to himself, I could rightfully judged him to be mentally ill. When I hear children talking to imaginary friends or their dolls, I think they are being cute, but it’s a childish behavior. When I heard people in church, including me, talking to Almighty invisible God, I thought that was perfectly normal. I thought that way because I was taught to think that way. A 5 year old that believes in Santa in cute, a 40 year old that does is mentally ill and in need of medication. Why do most children believe in Santa but no sane adults do? The answer is simple. Our parents and culture taught us to believe. We are not born with any knowledge of Santa so we were taught about him as we grow up. We were told that he sees us when were sleeping, knows if we have been bad or good, and brings presents to all the good children of the world. We sing songs about Santa and leave offerings of cookies and milk. Savvy parents can use this belief in Santa to great effect in the fall and winter to get kids to behave lest Santa find out and leave a lump of coal and not a train set. But as we grew older we started to have questions, logical ones that most of us develop around 6 or 7 years old. How does Santa fit down a chimney? How can he eat all of the cookies people leave for him? How can he fit all of those toys on his sled? Why have I never seen him? The questions have no rational answers so gradually it becomes apparent even for young children that Santa is make believe. It is a spirit of goodwill and magic that children can enjoy but wears off as they grow up. But while children stop believing in Santa due to a total absence of any empirical, verifiable evidence of the miraculous claims, people continue to believe in a God who has all of the same features as Santa with no more evidence of existence than an ancient book and what our parents or friends taught us.

I believed that Christianity was the answer to life and the absolute truth. But now I find it irrational to think I believed in a God who created all of the universe in six literal days; that women were created from a man’s rib; a snake, a donkey, and a burning bush all spoke a human language; the entire world was flooded and mankind exterminated like so many cockroaches, covering the highest mountains to drown out evil; all animal species, millions of them, rode on one boat together; language variations stem from the tower of Babel; Moses had a magic wand; the Nile river turned to blood and it rained frogs; witches, wizards, and sorcerers really exist with real powers; food rained from the sky for 40 years; people were cured by the sight of a brass serpent on a pole; the sun stood still to help Joshua win a battle, and it went backward for King Hezekiah; men survived unscathed in a fiery furnace; a detached hand floated in the air and wrote on a wall; 3 men followed a star in the sky which directed them to a particular house; Jesus was born of a virgin mother impregnated by a ghost. Jesus walked on water unaided; fish and bread magically multiplied to feed the hungry; water was turned into wine; mental illness is caused by demons; a “devil” with wings exists who causes all evil; demons can possess animals; people were healed by stepping into a pool stirred up by angels; disembodied voices spoke from the sky; Jesus vanished and later materialized from thin air; people were healed by Peter’s shadow; angels broke people out of jail; a fiery lake of eternal torment awaits unbelievers under the earth ... while there is life-after-death in a city which is 1,500 miles cubed, with mansions and food, for Christians only.

All of these stories violate natural law, contradict science, and fail to correspond with any reality, common sense or logic. I can see that now, and I can separate truth from fantasy, just like I did with Santa. I know all of the rebuttals; God can perform miracles and do what he pleases so we must have faith in him, or better yet, these God did these miracles and are proof of his existence so that we might “know him and his mighty power”, but Jesus comes and said only wicked people seek a sign or proof to believe, so at what point does the argument become circular? I cannot accept these outlandish Bible stories on “faith” anymore. If God does exist and gave us a rational and inquisitive mind, why would he perform irrational acts that defy the natural laws of his creation and not expect us to question the reality of such acts? As a Christian, I refused to believe any of the extra-Biblical miracles and stories from the ancient world; I don’t know why I never applied the same critical examination to my own beliefs. I wouldn’t believe someone who came up to me and said that a horse spoke to them and neither would you, unless they brought you to the horse and you heard it for yourself. Even then your first reaction would be to look for the hoax, that it was some kind of David Blaine illusion, and not real because you know it is impossible for horses to talk to people. Now, if real, no kidding miracles where happening all the time then it would be plausible to believe the claims in the Bible, because we would live in an irrational universe where irrational actions take place, but alas, we do not. Dead people do not come back to life, men don’t walk on water, and the Sun does not decide to stop in the sky. Coincidences happen, real miracles do not.

The God outlined in the Bible is a warrior God, exactly like so many other ancient tribal religions at the time. Though He allegedly said “Thou shalt not kill,” he ordered death for all His opposition, wholesale drowning and mass exterminations of people; he punishes offspring to the fourth generation for their fathers sins (Ex. 20:5); ordered pregnant women and children to be ripped up (Hos. 13:16); He made demands for sacrifices of animal and human blood to appease His anger; He is partial to one race of people; judges women to be inferior to men; created a hell to torture unbelievers and sinners for all eternity; created evil (Is. 45:7); discriminated against the handicapped, which he himself made!(Lev. 21:18-23); He ordered virgins to be kept as spoils of war and everyone else slaughtered (Num. 31:15-18, Deut. 21:11-14); spread feces on people’s faces (Mal. 2:3); He sent bears to devour children who dared to teas a prophet (II Kings 2:23-24); He punishes people with venomous snakes, wild dogs, dragons, drunkenness, the sword, slavery, arrows, axes, fire, famine, and infanticide; and said fathers should eat their sons (Ez. 5:10). Was that the picture of the all loving God I served?

Then Jesus came and said, “I and my father are one,” and reaffirmed “every jot and tittle” of the Old Testament law. (Mt. 5:18) He preached the same judgment to come: vengeance and death, wrath and distress, hell and torture for all non-believers. Jesus believed in demons, angels and spirits. He never denounced the subjugation of slaves or women. Women were excluded as disciples and as guests at his heavenly table. Except for hell he introduced nothing new to ethics or philosophy. He was disrespectful of his mother and brothers; he said we should hate our parents and desert our families. (Mt. 10:35-36, Lk. 14:26). He denounced anger, but was often angry himself. (Mt. 5:22, Mk. 3:5) He called people “fools” (Mt. 23:17,19), “serpents,” and “white sepulchers,” though he warned that such language puts you in danger of hell. (Mt. 5:22) He said “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth. I came not to send peace, but a sword." (Mt. 10:34) He irrationally cursed and withered a fig tree for being barren out of season, but the Gospel writers couldn’t agree if it happened immediately or the next morning. (Mt. 21:19) He mandated burning unbelievers. (Jn. 15:6) He stole a horse. (Lk. 19:30-33) He told people to cut off hands, feet, eyes and sexual organs. (Mt. 5:29-30, 19:12) Jesus said good works should be seen, then not to be seen. (Mt. 5:16, 6:1-4) The writers of Matthew and Luke could not agree on his genealogy, contradicting the Old Testament, and giving Jesus two discrepant lines through Joseph who wasn’t his father anyway.

I began to develop moral problems with my concepts of original sin, total human depravity, substitutionary forgiveness, intolerance, eternal punishment. I do not believe it is justice to punish someone with eternal torture for a finite crime. Hell is punitive in its nature, there is no corrective purpose other than to make someone suffer in the most horrific manner possible. Yet I once believed that God was just in pronouncing this judgment upon non-believers. Would you or I approve of torture for a crime? Are God’s ways really higher than ours? As a Christian I would say, “We cannot question God’s righteous judgment”. Yes, in fact I can. And I, along with everyone I know, have a much better sense of justice than the God of the Bible does. The Bible says we are all born sinners, all will sin, and all will die as a punishment. So, God created me sinful, and then condemns me for that sin, and then he offers me the cure! Would I bow down and be eternally thankful to someone who poisoned me when they gave me the antidote?

One of the biggest reasons that lead me to unbelief is the problem of evil and suffering. During a course I took in Ancient Greek Philosophy and History, I learned of a philosopher named Epicurus and his logical arguments against the existence of a God/Gods based on the existence of evil in the world. His logic is explained as such:

If God is willing to prevent evil, but not able to---Then he is not omnipotent

If he is able, but not willing---Then he is malevolent

If he is both able and willing---then where does evil come from?

If he is neither able nor willing---Why call him God?


This argument makes complete sense to me and I am no longer a Christian because I cannot reconcile the existence of a loving God with the superfluous nature of evil in our world. If God is so all-knowing he can perceive evil plans while they are but a dim conception, yet he does not impart this knowledge to us, and as a result we suffer. If God is ever-present, he is there when a child is being raped, a pregnant woman murdered, millions being gassed and when an innocent child is hit by a car. God was there in person and did nothing to stop it. If I were in a room where someone was abusing a child and did nothing to stop it, I would be just as guilty of the crime and liable for whatever happened. But we don’t expect God to stop this evil when any thinking and rational human being would step in and intervene. This evident inaction is not the action of an all loving God. If God is real, he is guilty of negligence on a cosmic order. God had the ability to stop the child from being raped and murdered, but was not willing to lift a finger, making him completely malevolent.

If God is all-powerful then he can prevent these evil acts from happening (He can do this and still allow for free will). This means that the tragic loss of life due to natural disasters could be entirely avoided. After all, God is in control of these things isn’t he? So God sends His natural disasters to make havoc on hummanity, how nice of him. Is he ‘proving his power’ by causing so much human misery? And who is there to step in and help the survivors? God? Nope, it’s sinful human beings coming to help their fellow man. All the pointless bloodshed of the 20th century could have also been completely bypassed, if God could only have “opened the doors” for Hitler to become a successful artist in Vienna and adverted the Holocaust for His ‘chosen people’. To me, God's power is not evident. If God is all-knowing, then he knows that his failure to act in opposition to incredible evil and tragedy leads people into a state of unbelief. Yet he provides no rational alternative. If God is all-loving, then He WILL DO SOMETHING to stop evil—not sometime in the distant future, but NOW, as any feeling, caring sentient being would, after all “He cares for you”. Yet he consistently does NOTHING and allows evil to befall his people. I know the rebuttal to this as well, “His ways are not our ways, His will is not our will”, or “we have free will that why evil happen, we live in a fallen world”. Or, “God tests us through suffering and tragedy to make us cling to him even more.” That makes God capricious and still malevolent. I could not believe the tales anymore. I had to stop making excuses for my God and stop trying to reconcile his ‘actions’ and ‘inaction’ with the reality of the world around me.

It is all too convenient that the Bible describes God as being the perfect being, but at the same time offers him an out for his imperfect world by placing the all the blame for the evil and imperfection in the world on our ‘sin’. Regardless of what Revelation 20-22 or any other passage of Scripture says about how the story will end, I am deeply disturbed that God apparently has the power to stop evil in his world but does nothing. I avoided using the word "suffering" here because Christians have a tendency to associate it with something noble--and in some situations a person can certainly develop their character from persevering through hardships (think Lance Armstrong). What really troubles me is not the difficulties and trials that we learn and grow from. What troubles me are the cold, brutal acts of evil that leave death, destruction, prolonged pain and misery in their wake.

I know the existence of evil and suffering is a philosophical stumbling block for many people. The primary questions they pose are: "If God is real, and God created everything, why did He create evil?" "Why did a personal, loving God create a world in which evil exists?" "Why did God give man freedom to commit evil acts?" Atheists’ reason, "Surely, an all-knowing God of love would not allow evil to exist in His world." As a Christian I heard these arguments and debated them based on the Biblical apologetics.

The response to the question I believed was summed up in God's nature and His plan for mankind. The logic was this; how could God allow for love without the potential for evil? God could have created robots that do nothing more than forever saying, "I love you, I love you, I love you." But such creatures would be incapable of a real loving relationship. Love is a choice, and the Bible says God desires a real love relationship with His creation. Love is not real unless was have the ability to not love. One of God's supposed attributes is omniscience. God knew that in a world with choice, there would be much evil – and to choose not to love is evil by definition. However, there would also be the capacity for real love. Apologist Alvin Plantinga wrote, "An all loving, all powerful, all knowing Being could permit as much evil as He pleased without forfeiting His claim to being all loving, so long as for every evil state of affairs He permits there is an accompanying greater good". The potential for love outweighs the existence of evil, especially if that evil can only exist for a finite time. Evil is a side effect of love. Suffering and death are a side effect of evil/sin (Romans 5:12). The Bible says that this side effect is only for a limited time. Evil serves the limited purpose of establishing real love relationships between creation and the Creator, and evil will be done away with after that purpose is achieved. "And the world passes away, and the lust thereof: but he that does the will of God abides forever" (I John 2:17). That was my established argument for the question of evil. But my perspective began to change as I studied the Bible closely.

In my original argument the presupposition was that love and evil were mutually exclusive. However from the New Testament Luke says: "For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? “For even sinners also love those that love them." (Luke 6:32) Apparently even the wicked are capable of love. Another thought that comes to my mind is that although my wife and I love each other very much, neither of us cares about other men and women in that way. I have no such emotion when it comes to the rest of the women in the world, and she has no interest in other men. I also love my children very much, but other people's children rarely enter my thoughts. The argument that for God or people to experience love, then evil has to exist is false dilemma. I can't help but wonder if I am truly evil, since I do not love every single person in the world. Why is it so impossible for Christians to imagine the likelihood of someone not loving God without being evil in the process? Why couldn't God create creatures with the capacity of either loving Him or not, without them also being murderers, sadists and rapists in the process?

Another attribute of God was that he never changed. "For I am the LORD, I change not" (Malachi 3:6) Since God never changes, what changed that he somehow at some point decided he needed people to love and be loved by? Oh, and I wasn't aware that God needed anything at all. I was under the impression that God was without needs, wants or desires. A desire implies a lack of something in a person. If I desire a meal, it is likely that I lack enough nutrition for the day. I desire things because I need things. I perceive that I lack something and therefore strive to fill that need. Apparently God doesn't have enough love so he needs us. I would have to agree that real love is only real if it is accompanied by the capacity and choice to not love. However, as I tried to illustrate above, the ability to not love someone does not equate to evil. I do not love lots of people, but I do not hate them and wish all manner of evil on them. But this is exactly the way I see God's love. For example God loves a certain person. The person is not interested in God for whatever reason. God feels like his love has been spurned. God demonizes the person who is just not interested in his love and calls him or her evil. God gets angry and shouts, “I will carry out great vengeance on them and punish them in my wrath. Then they will know that I am the LORD, when I take vengeance on them.”(Ezek 25:17) and sends them off to rot in eternal torment in hell forever and ever for the ‘sin’ of not loving Him.

The “free will” defense as the answer to the problem of evil, but let’s look at “free will” for a second. The Christian God loves me so much that he gives me the opportunity to live blissfully forever in His presence, or be horribly tortured for all eternity in Hell. What kind of “free will” choice is that? It’s like someone holding a blowtorch to your face and demanding a confession or they will melt out your eyes out. Not really a fair choice there is it? Does God really want me to serve Him and confess my need and love for him to avoid the torture He created for me if I don’t? Is a confession extracted under torture or the threat of torture reliable and sincere? If I love God, and he is my savior and watched over me and was in control of everything, why does He allow me to suffer so much? Is it to make me love Him all the more? In Psychology it’s called the “battered wife syndrome”. “But he really loves me”, is what abused wives say to justify the pain their husbands put them through. Or, “I deserved it”. How much did God really love Job? I now say that if Job really loved God after all he put him through he was suffering like that battered wife.

At this very moment somewhere in the world a child is being molested. These are horrible crimes that destroy childhood innocence. After the act is over the shame, self-hate, bitterness, anxiety, distrust, and scars never go away. All of this stays with a victim for life. Worse still, many of the perpetrators go undiscovered and unpunished. There is simply no value in this tragedy, none at all, and I was tired of all of the excuses offered by the Church and systematic theology. What angers me is the thought that a holy, loving, omnipresent God would stand by and do nothing while a child is raped and then buried alive in a shallow grave. After all he is there in the same room as the child and the molester. Christians believe that God would punish those could do something, but chose to do nothing. Heck, they believe that the courts should punish someone who could have stopped the crime and did nothing. And yet...God still does nothing. This is where the free-will defense comes to bear. Yet, there are stories of God intervening (even hardening the hearts) of men when it suits his purposes. If molestation is not worth intervening in, then I don't know what is. What is God’s purpose in allowing this? Does it make sense to you? It seems entirely incongruent with His character to stand on the sidelines and watch. So, I am left to conclude that such a God does not exist.

As I have gone on, I have gathered more insight and realized that I have not believed in God for a very long time, and here is another analogy why. When I wrecked my shoulder, did I go to church first or to the hospital for help? If my house was on fire with my family trapped inside, would I kneel and pray before or after I called the fire department? Most sane people, including myself, answer these questions the same. If my house were on fire and my wife and the children were trapped inside and I did nothing but pray to God to save them, would you think I was ‘holy’ and ‘spiritual’? Or would you rightfully think me criminally negligent?

When it comes to the truly important, urgent, and practical things in life, did people trust God to be a “very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46), or when we need present help in times of trouble do we go to our fellow humans? The answer is obvious; when I need “very present help in trouble”, the number I call is 911, not the local church. And why is that? Is God unable to help me in my time of urgent need? Is He unwilling? Or is it that, when the stakes are at their highest, the matter is urgent, and most importantly the consequences are something you can actually see, is your faith in man greater than your faith in God? Mine is.

I have faith in mankind, because I trust my experiences. Regardless of how many poetic Bible verses I can recite that promise God’s help in times of need, no matter how fervently I argued against non-Christians, no matter how enthusiastically I shared the Gospel, when the chips are down and it comes to something urgent and real, I wholeheartedly rely upon ‘sinful’, imperfect people. Did this say something negative about me as a Christian? I don’t think so; I think it says something very real about God. When it comes to anything we can see, hear, touch, taste, or smell, God does not live up to His Word. He is not here or there and I knew it and no matter how I tried to reconcile it, it faith just didn’t work.

I have come to accept that God does not exist, and since one cannot logically prove a universal negative, it is incumbent upon the one the making the positive claim to prove God’s existence. As a Christian, I could not prove God’s existence without circular reasoning so I gave up trying. Praying for God to ‘reveal’ himself to me was not working to well. Here is what I was taught to believe:
  • Premise #1: The God of the Bible is real because the Bible says so.
  • Premise #2: The Bible is true because the God in the Bible says so.
  • Premise #3: Any questions or doubts, reverts back to premise #1.
Naturally I recognize that this is an oversimplification of the matter, but none-the-less this to a large degree, succinctly encapsulates the Christian “proofs” of God’s existence and involvement with humans. Then there is the other ‘proofs’ which are the very subjective claims of “personal relationships” and “changed hearts”. But I now see this “relationship with Jesus” was ridiculous. If he was real and cared about ‘His’ people and was involved in their lives, what does it say about God when I believed he answers my prayer for a great promotion at work, but ignored the prayers of others suffering from starvation and genocide?

As a Christian, I would demand irrefutable proofs for what I considered the outlandish claims of evolutionists and atheists. Yet I never demanded the same type of evidence for the even more remarkable claims of the supernatural made in the Bible. My thought process seems so much clearer now than it was when the “eyes of faith” and “my heart” guided me. There can really be only one explanation as I look back in retrospect: I believed only what I wanted to believe.

Whether or not I have something better than Christianity to offer is not relevant to the question of the existence of the biblical God. What is pertinent is that I am honest with myself by demanding the application of the same type of evidence to the claims of religion as are expected of scientists and again for me the proof comes up short. There is no proof of God, only faith.

In conclusion, I do not believe in unicorns, ghosts, elves, goblins, Bigfoot, UFO’s, Cyclopes, Zeus, Thor, the Loch Ness Monster, Allah, Buddha, Astrology, Greek Gods, Roman Gods, Chupacabra, Vishnu or Brahma, or Christ. There is no credible evidence for any of their existence. I know this is a shock to the family and will cause division. I wish I could keep on pretending I believe for the sake of peace, but I cannot in good conscious do that anymore. I am not ‘led astray’ or ‘demon possessed’ because they don’t exist. I hold that everyone is entitled to believe as they wish, and I will not try and “de-convert” anyone around me. If anyone asks how I came to this conclusion, I will tell them why. Hopefully this letter explains that. In the end, everyone is an atheist when you think about it, if you don’t believe in Poseidon, Zeus, Mars, Krishna, Allah et. al. you are an atheist when it comes to those deities and don’t believe in their existence. I just happen to believe in one fewer god than you do.

1/29/08                                                                                       View Comments

Circular logic at its finest

Sent in by Jeff

As I perused over a lot of the articles on this site, I realized I fit the common profile. I grew up in Alabama my whole life, was born and raised in a Southern Baptist church, and was inducted into the cult around the age of 9. For several years, everything about Christianity made sense (at least from what I could perceive). But, starting around the age of 15 (i estimate), i would get occasional doubts in my mind. E.g. How could a perfectly benevolent god create evil? and if he didn't, wouldn't his omniscience and omnipotence enable him to prevent ANYTHING from creating a malevolent presence? Or if all of creation was ruled by god, why did he have no choice but to sacrifice his son?

But every time, I would cast off these thoughts as evidence that I didn't know enough about the Bible.

Then, just a couple of weeks ago, I had my revelation. After hearing a lecture from my Geography professor, I decided to do some research on the age of the Earth. I realized that there is more than enough physical evidence that gives way to the idea of a billion-year old earth, but the Bible only accounts for an earth around 7000 years old. This was not the first time I had this thought. My pastors and Bible study teachers would always dismiss such evidence with biblical passages about "not following the way of science, but the way of faith" or something like that. But now, 19 years old, I had a new thought: If God wants nothing more than all mankind to follow him, why would he create an earth filled with endless amounts of proof against his Word? Sounds like a pretty deceptive god to me. Even if he was real, he isn't the kind of god I'd want to live for. This revelation made me realize that almost all the proof that I had rested my faith on in the past was evidence in the Bible itself. Circular logic at its finest.

I still haven't pinpointed what exactly I believe in yet. I know that the near perfectness of the earth (axis tilt, nearness to sun, etc) gives way to the possibility of intelligent design, but not by the Judeo-Christian god. Then again, if the universe is indeed infinite (as some believe), then maybe Earth is just one of infinite outcomes of chance.

Now I have mixed feelings. Everything I had ever known to believe has been shattered by intelligence. The greatest fear I have is telling all my friends and family of my newfound beliefs. Almost all my friends back home went to my church, where I was an avid member. Worst even, my parents are some of the most blindly fundamental Christians I know. I have little doubt that they will cease to fund my college education, if not completely disown me.

So for now, I'll keep relatively quiet, at least until I am firm enough in my beliefs to face them as more than just a confused teenager.

1/28/08                                                                                       View Comments

Losing My Religion

Sent in by Brandine

It's amazing how a little time and a lot of information can completely change your point of view. I never was really touchy about my religion. That's not to say I didn't get offended when someone said something I considered blasphemy, but I wasn't the one who was going to get up in their face about it. I pretty much accepted that everyone had their own road to walk.

My sister, Layla, posted a testimony on this site a couple of weeks ago so I won't go into too many of the same details. Suffice it to say, we grew up in the rural south, bible belt where religion isn't so much of a choice or epiphany as it is just a way of life. Even our crackheads are somewhat practicing Christians. It wasn't until I was a teenager that I started questioning my faith. I can pretty much pinpoint the high water marks.

I never really gave much thought to my spirituality until I was about sixteen. Until that point, I knew I was saved, and that was good enough for me. Then I moved in with some relatives who were deeply into fundamental Christianity. Doomsday doesn't even begin to describe these people. Everyone and everything had an agenda, and oddly enough they were all negative towards our "faith". According to them, the world was supposed to have been over like three times by now, but here we are still trucking.

I pretty much fell for the hype for a while, and I went through an extremely religious phase. One of the major problems I faced was the bible - the "Holiest of Holy texts". No matter how hard I tried to read and feel connected to it, it just bored the shit out of me. It didn't feel like it applied to me at all. I decided that the bible is overly complicated in that the basic message is "do unto others as you would have them do unto you". Why couldn't I just do that? In my mind, that covered about 95% of my bases. Stick a fork in me, I'm done.

It's at this point in my life that I feel Christianity began to reveal it's true nature. I still considered myself a Christian, albeit a liberal one. However, once I found one fault in the bible all the others seemed so obvious. The bible, though, wasn't the final nail in my Christian coffin. More than anything, just watching the Christians around me showed me it's hypocrisy.

One year on my birthday, my Aunt gave me a bible with my name engraved in the cover. Although I found the book handsome, I was puzzled by it's inscription. Inside the cover, she'd written "When all else fails, seek here". Now this was not the first time I'd heard this quote, but it was the first time I'd pondered it's meaning. Firstly, I thought, if I'm having a problem isn't my bible supposed to be the answer for everything? Wasn't I supposed to seek there first? And secondly, I'd never seen my Aunt read the bible my whole life. In fact, I'd only ever seen her read gossip mags while sipping cocktails. No, no, this was all wrong.

My cousin, with whom until recently at this time I was close with, became a bible thumping tyrant. She actually went through my bible when I wasn't around once (the handsome, personalized one I spoke of before) and underlined in red ink a few "appropriate" passages for me. To be sure I knew who'd sent these blessed messages, she'd initialed near the verses she'd underlined. I thought I was going to be sick at how sanctimonious she was.

With every cigarette I smoked or cocktail I ingested, I could sense her accusatory stare and cold shoulder. I once challenged her on a few of her beliefs, and I was countered with the accusation that I was being defensive because I felt convicted around her. How is a person to respond to that statement? She was basically telling me that I was lashing out at her because she mirrored my inadequacies with god. I stopped talking to her about religion after that. Some people don't want to be informed.

Shortly after, a family friend was to be baptized at a local church. My other cousin begged me to go so she wouldn't have to go by herself. I'd never been to this church before, but these particular family members I've spoke of had. I was not surprised to find the preacher of this church was all fire and brimstone. I'd been around these snake healers my whole life, so I didn't think too much of it. Within the first ten minutes, though, the preacher ranted on about how Muslims, Islams, Buddhists, Catholics, and etc. were all going to HELL. I was immediately offended in a profound way. I realized these people didn't even know their own beliefs. It was appalling. They were just a few steps away from the Salem witch trials.

This preacher scowled and hissed as he looked around the room. I was one of only four non-members of this small church. He went on to preach about our nations youth (very convenient considering the only four non-members were all young people), and I found him more and more seething in mine and my cousins direction. Each time he would look towards us, she would cower her glance to the floor. I, on the other hand, had decided I would not be intimidated by this obviously godless man. I imagine this is what drew his attention to me because when he finished his sermon and stood in the water getting ready to baptize our family friend he stopped. He said, "Sometimes God calls upon our hearts, and we must obey God".

Cold rushed through my body. I knew that with just my stare I'd challenged this preacher in some way. He wasn't going to let me go without first making an example of me. Sure enough he informed the congregation that god spoke to him about the girl in the black shirt (yep, that's me). The preacher called me up to the front of the church. I would like to say that if this had happened to me now in my life I would have given him the finger and walked out (which is why I don't go to church), but at this point I was stunned. I sauntered forward only to be bombarded with him telling his minions to lay their hands on me. It was obvious to me, even at the time, I was supposed to speak in tongues and receive the spirit. I just stood there, though, dumbfounded and stewing. He gave a speech that was supposed to be from god to me. He then baptized the family friend and let church out.

I got outside as fast as I could and took a deep breath. I couldn't understand why this so called man of god had embarrassed me in front of a congregation of strangers. I knew I'd stared him down, but it's not like I stopped the sermon and challenged him. I began to get angry. If he really thought I needed god's help then surely he would know to take me aside and speak to me alone. Why was it so important everyone else hear too? He'd won. I tried to talk to my family about it. "Didn't you think that was inappropriate?", I said. Apparently not, because they all sat silent.

I think that's what did it. Ironic, one man's desperate attempt to bring a perceived nonbeliever to god, and all he managed to do was to turn a believer into a nonbeliever. I decided from that point on that if the Christian god is so petty and vindictive to send people to hell for not worshiping him and his son, then that was not a god I wanted to worship. From that point on, my beliefs have only been confirmed through things ranging from day to day encounters to internet websites (see: Godtube.com : A Letter from Hell - LOL).

The silver lining of this whole story is that once I realized I didn't believe in Christianity anymore, I felt as if a huge weight was lifted from me. I spent so many years being scared of god. I was scared of burning in hell for eternity. I was so scared if I sinned before I was able to repent and I got into a car crash, I would be sent to hell. I was scared of god. That's so fucked up. I still believe in god. I choose, however, to believe him as NOT a petty and vengeful god. I realize that god may not exist, but I don't fear reprisal for that thought.

As for my happily ever afters, I simply believe there is not one true road to god. I do not think Christianity is false in it's entirety. I find a little bit of truth in almost all religions. However, I personally think we would all be better off not trying to please an ambiguous god. Our time on this Earth is much better served serving our fellow man. If god can't understand that, then fuck him.

Former pastor, ex-Christian, and super-villain

Sent in by Matt

It has been almost two years since I called myself a Christian. In my last days as a pastor I decided to take a break, I had grown tired of the stress of the church I assisted at, and the questions I had when I was younger in the faith were still unanswered. It was time to finally deal with them. I walked away, scared of what was ahead for me as all I "knew" was what god had called me to be, but not who I was or what I wanted to be.

One night it hit me. "It" was actually a bright balloon that hit my face during a wonderful concert. But as the balloon smacked me I was overcome with laughter and wore a smile -- something I hadn't had in some time. Not only was it okay that god didn't exist, but it was a beautiful thing because all my joys were now mine. No longer was happiness something given to me for being a good solider.

Recently I performed at a local "spoken word" event. It was only the second time I had been in front of a microphone since I was a pastor, but this time though my words were not soaked in an idea of righteousness. I spoke about what it was like to have been a pastor, and how it is to be a former pastor and a former Christian.

This is what I read:

A Heroes Lament

For a good number of years I spent my life on the road, this was not a Kerouac kind of thing, this was not listless…there was a clear-cut purpose to having my early 20’s spent that way.

My favorite trips were the later ones; once I had a little name recognition I traveled via the sky more than the roads. I did a tour via greyhound bus once- it was a disaster in more ways than I can explain, and on a bus from Long Island to Pittsburgh I sat next to a figure of a man who had just gotten out of jail, and as we all boarded the economy travel bus some kind of law officer handed this man his bags, who was predestined by ticket to sit next to me through the whole night, and said, “Your free now, you have a second chance.” I had no idea what this mans back story was, and I didn’t want to know. The whole trip I just sat in my seat and tried to black out by over thinking about how horrible of idea it was to do a speaking tour in a DO It Yourself/Punk Rock way.

The plane trip years were the best even though I always got off the plane with disheveled hair from trying to sleep while sitting up, and my legs were slow to move due to being stapled together to fit into a space smaller than the nook for my bags. Despite all that discomfort I always had a smile on my face because I knew what was awaiting me at baggage claim, my favorite moment of those days, the ego stroke to keep going.

My smile would be glued to my face as I met my ride to the church, college, or event. Then accompanied with a shake of nervousness in their voice I’d hear it, “Thank God you’re here,” Oh yeah this is a good ego stroke I’d think, “Were so honored to have you here,” he’d continue on and I’d wait for the money shot. “We know you have a great message for us.” There it was, what a hard stroke, they needed me!

Not many will admit this, but this is the exact moment any pastor knows their purpose. This is the moment of triumph, this is the touchdown dance in the end zone; this is watching the death star be nothing but sparkly bits in space while you roar off in the falcon. You see there is no way to not feel smug when you are greeted like this, people have their own pastors, but still they needed you. There pastor may have a private line to God he shares but still they need you, you’ve got wisdom that they can’t do without or apparently get on their own. It was these moments that sealed it in my head that I was a superhero (even if it was of the Christian persuasion).

I had no doubt in my mind in those days. Even if I tried not to separate myself from people it was the moments like this that just screamed out, “your different!” People treated me like a hero so I acted like it. And I get this question whenever it’s discovered I had such a religious past, “What was it like to be a pastor?” Simplest way to paint the picture is, you lived like a super hero. People called to you for help and you answered their calls, you didn’t wake up in the morning, you awoke to get a new mission.

However though that I saw myself in those days I’m not that anymore, I’m a vagabond now. Many of the same people who picked me up from air ports, bus stations, and let me crash on their floors after preaching or teaching won’t even look me in the eye anymore. In there eyes I’m nothing more than a Batman who sealed up the cave to go sell stocks, or a Spiderman who moved to the burbs after selling his suit on e-bay, or a Hellboy who got his wish and became a real boy. I’m sure most of those people, and even the people I so called saved couldn’t even pick me out of a line up today if given the chance.

“Come on up, pick the savior of your soul- the one who led you out of the valley of evil and brought you to the land of good,” the salesmen will pitch it. “If you can remember the face that went with your tears of joy you’ll get an i-pod attached to an LCD TV that with a touch of a button can get you more money back on your taxes.”

That amazing prize wouldn’t matter; cause I’ve been forgotten, and many of my achievements as well have passed away from peoples memories. I’ve become merged with the same shadows I’ve hidden in. I’m just a silhouette of the hero that I once was.

I didn’t save anyone though, not that tow truck dude on the side of the interstate on the way to Detroit, or any of the kids I prayed with outside of events while the snow rained down on us. I had good intentions that did help people in need, but in the end what are those?

“Beware of good intentions. There the pavement for the road to hell,” my mother used to always say that, many times as I was leaving for the day, like this was her biggest fear to protect me from. Intentions.

But you see it’s this ball fused in gravity, our blood, this soil, our chromosomes and even our hearts. Those are what are born in good intentions. Even a bear slaughtering a prey has the best of intentions in mind. Good intentions, that’s just a euphemism of our time for surviving on what you got in hand or heart. So it was six or seven years I lived my life with at least a hero complex on my shoulders. Some of those plane trips were just to tell one person that there life was going to be okay, which I hold no regrets for, I guess my only lament was believing all that hero shit I was given in the old term of righteousness.

But I do have to accept something, as much as I hate to. I’ve gone back and forth with this, biting my lip and crying, but this is how it is- there is nothing I can do. If I was a superhero to some people, then what does that make me now. I’ve had friends turn away from me simply because I believe what I did in those years was not me working out of a call from a divine voice, but just me working with what I had in my heart: to care about people and this world. Why is that so hard to believe, that good can be done by someone on their own.

No matter how much I try to explain and plead that I’m still the person of love I was before: in those fables, tales, and old literature I’ll always be:

The bane.

Living a Lie.

The Shit that went wrong.

In their righteous words I knew love and walked away.

I’m a super-villain now!

1/22/08                                                                                       View Comments

Then it happened -- the hell-fire sermon

Sent in by Heather

In truth, I have already written a testimonial recently. "Look ma, I'm an agnostic!", but I wrote that out in pure blind anger. I thank all who replied to that, but now I'm a little less angry, and probably can write the whole story. Since I was born into a christian home, it is basically my LIFE story, I'm afraid, quite literally.

I was born in the later part of 1987, the first child and daughter to two doctors in a small town within Northern Ireland. My mother was of the Church of Ireland (Anglican), my father a Presbyterian and I was baptised within the faith my father belonged to as a baby. Just over a year later, my sister was also born, and went through the same motions.

Living and growing up in Northern Ireland is very different from the rest of the UK, and even down south in the rest of the Island. It can sometimes make you wonder if you've stepped back 50 years, if you ignore the Internet access and other conveniences of a modern world. Socially, it seems to be stuck in a time warp sometimes when you talk to the older generations.

The ISLAND of Ireland is in general more religious than its neighbour, Great Britain- by a long shot. 55% identify themselves as Protestants (in the religious sense, not just in the political form), and 35% are Catholic.

Think about it, that's NINETY PERCENT WHO ARE CHRISTIANS.

(I am sure American ex-Christian's minds just exploded, they have it bad enough with 75%)

A measly 0.5-1% (or similar) are Islamic, and the numbers for other religions are barely worth registering. I don't think, apart from Islam I have ever SEEN anyone in my home country who was anything other than a Christian, if any religion at all.

Before you rave and cry out in horror, I must add it is not ALL bad, and what you probably see or hear on the news is most probably an exaggeration. I do not, as of the Protestant community for instance want to, or ever have wanted to, shoot up the place when a Catholic enters the room. I am also not a 'Queen lover' (I don't hate her, just don't love her, she's just a person and I don't know her personally).

I also have friends who are 'catholic' (In the sense that there parents are anyway). I went to a 'mixed' school of both faiths in both Primary and Secondary school. As for the Ireland V Britain debate, I couldn't really give a damn. I didn't even as a christian give a damn about it. People who think it should continue being a 'big deal' are lunatics. It's gone on long enough. No one sane cares anymore. GET A LIFE! Stormont acts like a bloody circus, like children, sometimes I just want to slap them and put them in the corner.

Despite this, as I said, I never really had a 'bad' childhood. Even though I currently am in England for University, I can say it was hardly traumatic. Northern Ireland isn't as bad as the news makes it to be. Not great, a little dull even sometimes, but hardly a war zone like many think. It used to be, but not now.

I can walk down the streets without fear of getting blown up/shot at/beaten up to the same degree as my parents had to when they were my age in the 70s, for instance.

(They both went to Belfast for their medical degrees, which made the whole experience 'interesting' putting it mildly)

But I am getting away with myself, back on track now.

As I mentioned- I was brought up, with my sister, in a Presbyterian church. My first few years were uneventful.

Although I had when I was younger had enjoyed the novelty of going to church, I soon grew bored and tired of it, as did my sister. I was naturally a tomboy, and my sister wasn't exactly a girly-girl either. My mother would have to force us into our (in our minds) revolting Sunday best with threats of no television and sweets, so we'd eventually relent.

For an hour of boredom- complete and utter boredom. When you are five years old, that hour seems like forever, doesn't it? I attended Sunday school, then church, then CHILDREN'S church, which released us from the mind-numbingly-dull adult sermon.

For the most part I liked Sunday school and Children's church. It was just the church itself which bored me. That and Orange parades (even before I grew a disdain for them when I realised what they represented and caused, they bored me).

At least Church bored me at first.

Yes my first 7 years of my life were largely worry free and happy. My parents as moderate Christians, did not expect much other than for us to say a prayer before we went to bed each night, and perhaps reading a bible story to us once or twice a week on a day which wasn't Sunday. Other than my aunt, who was uber-religious and who had always struck me as a little odd even as a kid didn't scare me. I still loved her, I mean she was family after all.

No I was happy.

Then it happened.

I think we've all heard it.

The hell-fire sermon.

To be fair, it wasn't our regular minister who gave this sermon to me, it was an English visitor of a Baptist church who we had ties with, one which a few members decided to visit, and I tagged along, only mildly interested, and so bored even an evening service seemed tempting. Without my parents, but with friends of the family.

I don't have to go into details, but I was absolutely terrified. The man ranted and raved about the internal punishment that as time went on, I felt sure I would face. I wanted to cry, to run, DO ANYTHING, but I remained frozen to the little plastic seat as he glared at each member in turn.

I gave myself to Jesus that night, as I shook in my room, crying my eyes out.


But eventually as time wore on I realised I didn't know what it was to BE a christian. I was only a kid after all, I never really knew what that meant. No-one had ever explained it properly to me and my biblical knowledge wasn't exactly extensive, especially then.

So skip forward to the age of 12, still a 'True believer', but unknowing of what that really meant.

I was in for the shock of my life when I entered secondary school.

I had been sheltered all my life, apart from that one awful sermon, I did not know hardship, I knew nothing. I was one of the freaks, the oddball, for I had never even known SWEAR words let alone innuendo which seemed to enter the conversation every day. I was shy and timid before, and grew quieter even more so then.

I found some solace in the Scripture Union of the school, but until eventually, half way through my school year, I made 'friends'.

But they were not all real friends, at least not at that point of time. Many of them took advantage of my naivety, and took delight in the fact my feelings were so easily hurt. The ages of 12-15 were quite literally hell for me, in many ways.

Then something happened again.

When I was 15. One of the 'friends' (In truth, one of those who was a little less than kind), was involved in an accident.

Despite her cruelty, I felt terrified, and scared. Had I subconsciously brought this on her? Had God done this?

Scared once more, I turned to 'God' once more. Crying again, I called for him, saying I was sorry for everything and for her to become better again. I said "I'll do anything if you can make her better again!"

I felt in a bizarre way almost responsible. I had thought in my head that I'd hated her upon on occasion, perhaps God had got the wrong end of the stick, perhaps he'd thought I'd wanted this!

I visited her regularly and helped her out when I could, though I couldn't do much.

After a few months of intensive care and physiotherapy, she survived, and has moved on from the accident.

And bizarrely we became better friends. In fact we're still friends. And when I go home for a visit, I see her too. I used to treat her like glass if I'm honest, but she now stands on her own.

In fact I became better friends with all of them, they didn't take advantage of me anymore, I didn't act such a baby about the littlest thing all the time.

I was convinced that her recovery was a miracle.

I immediately started spreading the 'word'.

When I look back I sometimes wonder why I never attributed her getting better to her will to live, or the hard work of the medical staff.

I mean my parents ARE DOCTORS. Why hadn't I ever considered that?

Eventually however I found my faith tested by my friends, many of which did not give a thought to a religion unless I asked. My friend got understandingly pissed off when I said her getting better was because of Jesus.

Like many people I mentally ran and cowered.

Testifying and converting was just not ME. I was shy, I still am, and I felt in danger of disbelieving.

So instead I found a new type of testifying which could apply to me.

The Internet.

I must add, I was 15, and if you ever met me at that time in the years 2002-5 I am so terribly and terrifically sorry. It almost became my calling, I set to spread the 'Good News'. Apart from fights with my aunt (I believed Catholics were 'saved' too, she didn't), I was the good little christian girl. My friends still stuck with me, despite their annoyance at me when I sometimes felt if briefly the urge to 'testify'.

Sometimes I got challenged on the net, and sometimes I didn't. If I was challenged, I'd mentally block myself from it. (Does this sound familiar?). I didn't preach face to face, I felt that was risky.

Eventually however, I went to University, and boy was I in for a surprise there.

My flatmates and I got on really well, though most of them were agnostic, they accepted me. Within the first week I found out that one of them was a lesbian.

That didn't shock me, what surprised me was that I realised I really didn't care. I didn't feel any differently toward her. I even encouraged her to not to try and force herself to be straight for her Grandparent's backward views.

Then within my course (Biology- I know, I was just ASKING to be de-converted), I met up with real science, I became fascinated with Evolution (which, I still am). The Creationist 'science' book I was given before I left by church members (I think they sensed the end before I did), was reopened, I suddenly found out most of it was completely and utterly bullshit, not to mention out of date! It seemed like it had come from the 70s, despite it giving a birth date of the year 2000. Their arguments were flawed and transparent, that even I with out even one year of university education, could plainly see through.

I found myself questioning my beliefs around that stage seriously and it all came to a head when I made friends with not just agnostics/atheists but also (GASP! HORROR!- My aunt would say). Members of the Islamic faith.

This bothered me.

I liked these people, they were good people, all of them, Islamic and of no faith, yet my own religion condemned them to eternal hell fire for eternity.

All because they picked the wrong religion (or none). This didn't rest well, and I decided, to sit down and actually READ the bible from cover to cover.

I was disgusted and questions flowed. How could a God condemn innocent children? How could he condone the rape and murder of countless people? Why were there so many contradictions? Why was Paul (putting it bluntly.), such an arrogant ass who seemed to go out of his way to destroy Jesus' own teachings rather than reinforce them?

Then I realised, I'd been taken in, duped and played for a fool. I did not believe in Allah as some of my friends did, so why did I believe in 'my' version? What made their system any less valid than the one I was currently in? I'd only had latched on to Christianity because it was convenient for me.

Why had I placed so much faith in a book over 2000 years old without any proof?

I still ask myself that question. It' s not even been a year since I've 'seen the light'

My parents still don't know. I don't think they'll stop loving me, but I wish I didn't have to disappoint them into thinking that their eldest child is going to hell.

They don't know either that I expect I may be bi-sexual. An odd version, which seems to be only sexually attracted to the male gender but still find females attractive in a kiss and hug sort of way.

I'm still really going through it. I'm at a fragile place right now. I need to sort my head out.

Someday, I will tell them. And someday they may be able to come to terms with it and be happy for me.

But a part of me is wondering if my aunt will poison her younger sister (my mother) against me somehow. The most religious member of the family, to a point where it scared me even when I thought myself a Christian.

We'll just have to wait and see.

I am now on a journey of discovery, and while some people (like my aunt) would say I'll end up in hell for taking this road, I'd rather say I'm on the road to finding out who I really am, after having my teen years taken from me. It is scary, yes, but at the same time exciting.

Life is an adventure. And its a gift, whether or not you believe in some big bloke in the sky.

What can I do?

From Kristen

I'm 21 and still live with my parents. I go to college and they foot the big so I have to. I don't believe in god but I am forced with the burden of playing pretend. I don't feel I am don't well at all, as my mom (who is a missionary in the church) keeps saying " I need to talk to you".

I hate church. I go to a pentecostal church. They are sexist, homophobic, and elitist -- full of pomp and circumstances. Someone else described church as a side show, ladies dressed up in ridiculous hats and elaborate dresses while large men shout from pulpits.

I have been going to this church for my entire life. I grew up there. I have been a Sunday school secretary, a youth teacher, and participated in youth group when I was younger. I remember the good times and feel guilty when I realize I want to leave. They could hold that against me.

As I have gotten older, I have tried to distance myself from this church. I go to college and come home once a month. I stay away from youth services and anything else that isn't Sunday worship. I have tried to skip Sunday school and just show up to Sunday service, with little luck ( as my parents want me to be a part of Sunday school).

The "first lady" (pastors wife) pulled me aside and said:

" Pastor____ is looking at you. When are you going to give your life to the lord? I want you to say something to the church ...".

So my question is difficult:

How do I play pretend?

I don't want them to come on to me and realize I am not a Christian anymore. They look up to me, because this is a small church and they have known me all my life. They know my mom and my dad. I suppose they notice I don't care anymore.

Wish I could talk to my parents, or stand up for myself but I feel like a GLBT person in the closet, I really can't take the risk of coming out as an unbeliever. I have given my mind the gift of reason and reality, I see there are options to life and no one way to live it.

The thought of having to wait maybe 3 - 5 years before I graduate and move out scares me. I would take a job on Sunday, but I don't know how my dad would react, as he can be a spoiled child and a patriarch at the same time. I assume once I get out of college and have an official job I will be able to work on Sundays and my decisions will carry more weight with them.

Any ideas ???

1/19/08                                                                                       View Comments

How do you escape a cult when it is all around you?

Sent in by Layla

Like many others here I was raised in the way that Christianity wasn't presented to you as a choice; it was a lifestyle. It just... was. Even if you didn't go to church. It wasn't that you weren't a Christian, you were just a backslid Christian, in need of a little prodding, belittling, but all in the name of God's good works, you see. We weren't really church goers, my sister, brothers and myself might go every now and then but that was mostly just to hang out with the other kids. I never "felt" what I was "supposed" to. If anything I was always a little weirded out by church, everything about it vaguely resembled a sideshow if that makes sense. Old ladies in their best flowery dresses, a loud round man shouting from the stage about hellfire and damnation. People shouting left and right agreeing with everything the pastor says. I felt sick inside sometimes, I still do when I think of it. Still even with every nagging doubt in me , I never let myself question that Jesus was my savior and he alone could deliver me from damnation. Saying that now is so laughable to me, yet sad at the same time...

How long has it been since I lost the faith? Hard to tell, I image it was a lot longer ago then I let myself know. Maybe I never had any faith to begin with. I now know no religion, but I can't help feeling like the connections I made in this life are tied to something, something greater I don't know about, could never hope to know about. Then again, maybe that is a way of making myself feel important, feel good about death. I do not know, and I will never know, and I'm okay with that now.

Now that I feel I am deprogrammed, I fear the worst part is the years ahead. It is not acceptable to think as I think and believe as I believe. I find solace in my immediate family, we have all opened our eyes around the same time. But the fact remains I live in a Christian society through and through. How do you escape a cult when it is all around you? There is no escaping my Christian past. Only holding my head up in the Christian world as high as I can, while deflecting the zombies constantly trying to "save me". My boyfriend and I feel as thought we are dedicated to one another the same as marriage, and do not feel a ceremony under someone else's God and written in ink by the State is necessary to seal this. We have a beautiful little girl. Also we have deeply religious in-laws. They love their granddaughter but every time I see them I can see the contempt for me- the scarlet harlot that has stolen their baby boy away from the ways of God and coerced into having a bastard-child.

So thats my story. I don't even mind the years of life wasted fearing a "loving" God. I feel proud that I was strong enough to explore my doubts, examine the evidence and make a decision on my own despite being indoctrinated from birth. My greatest sadness is the years ahead for me, and possibly for my baby girl should she choose any belief other than Christianity. It doesn't matter that I give my baby all the love a mother could, or that I am devoted to my partner in every way, or that I am eternally loyal to my family and friends. I am and always will be, in the eyes of the people around me, a sinner worthy of pity and contempt. I am going to hell. So how do I escape what is everywhere? Well, I'll let you in on a little secret. If not being judgmental, self serving, and pious is sending me there, then Hell I embrace you with open arms.

1/17/08                                                                                       View Comments

Has Satan been feeding my daughter lies?

Sent in by DK

My family is extremely fundamental, evangelical –- most of them missionaries. I let go of my beliefs about two years ago, but in order to not rock the boat, have stayed low key and have not come out of the closet yet.

Over Christmas, my 27-year-old daughter told my 81-year-old mother that she believes the search for truth is revealed from within and you must follow your own heart wherever it leads even if it doesn’t lead to Christianity, because one must be true to oneself.

Here is my mother’s comment:
“Sorry about what *** wrote, but at least we know where she stands. We are fervently praying the Lord will open her eyes. She doesn’t know her heart is deceitful and desperately wicked. Also Satan is the father of lies and he has been feeding her lies and she has been believing them. We pray she will believe Jesus, who is the way, the truth and the life.”


How close-minded, arrogant, and judgmental. I feel sickened ... but not at all surprised.

DK from Atlanta

I honestly believed in the Christian god. No longer; no more.

Sent in by Jake

Sometimes, I miss being six years old and really believing that there were fairies and dragons and wizards out there somewhere, with the dinosaurs that maybe, just maybe lived in places of the world no one had found.

When I was little, I dreamed of being an explorer and finding those places. I ran around as kids are wont to do, pretending to be storybook characters, exploring lost temples and forgotten jungle civilizations with Indiana Jones, slaying dragons with King Arthur, fighting off hordes of space invaders with lasers only I could see and all manner of other imaginative forms of self-amusement.

It was a great dream, and as I was an only child of a poor family, typically the only reliable entertainment available to me. Someday I might just write books about it all. They'll be categorized as fiction, and I'll fondly keep copies of them on my bookshelves, to eventually read to my children/grandchildren, provided I ever have any.

To arrive at my point, there's nothing wrong with a dream. Similarly, there's nothing wrong with fondly remembering a dream, or even with taking lessons spun from circumstances only perceived in the imagination.

There is something wrong with refusing to move on when it is very well time to move on, however, and that which many religions posit as god-figures have, in this author's opinion, long out-worn their welcome.

What manner of silly person would I be if I ran around starting organizations, lying to people and maligning their trust by 'converting' them to believe in a dream I once, as a child, wished and yearned to be true, for example? Why would I do such things?

How pitiful would I be if I truly believed, as I so often permitted myself to do as a child, that I were a knight, a space soldier or a cowboy explorer of pseudo-mystical dungeons?

How sad would it be if I, lost in my childhood dreams, failed to see the wonders and marvels that exist in the world around me as they are, for what they are, to the best of mine and science's ability to perceive and understand them?

These questions are posed somewhat rhetorically. I would be, at best, benignly silly to do such things. At worst, especially if I were a sillyperson trying to spread my peculiar beliefs as a dogmatic religion, I would be a liar, a con-artist and delusionaly misguided, which I have no doubt would be swiftly pointed out by a great many who, themselves, could plainly discern my claimed 'truths' as fabrications.

Thankfully, such is not the case. I traded my imaginary sword and knightly armor long, long ago for the pen. In so doing, I turned in my heroic tales of imagined yore and fable for mysteries I never could've imagined as a child; mysteries of the human mind, mysteries of society, mysteries of the very people that surround me.

It wasn't something I wanted to do. From roughly the ages of nine on into my early teens, I would escape into anything that offered me solace from a reality I neither liked nor felt at all special in. I did well in school, but I never enjoyed it; I had friends, but I was never especially close to any of them.

The illusions I'd enjoyed were what I thought reality should be. They were what I'd yearned and dreamed of. Admitting that they were no more than childhood dreams was, for me, one of the hardest things I'd ever had to do in my young life, and when I finally did it, I felt hollow, wounded and confused.

Indeed, I felt as if I'd excommunicated a vital organ or limb. Without those dreams, I didn't know who I was. Without those dreams, I didn't know what to make of the world around me.

I read a lot, as a child. Dinosaurs were amongst my favorite topics, and by necessity, I became quite the scavenger at my local library, digging through books on paleontology, archeology and geology. With the passage of time, I also became curious as to the people around me, specifically regarding why they did what they did, why they believed what they believed, and it was in pursuit of such curiosities that I came to understand a great many things of lasting importance.

Everyone was as lost as me. I recall observing that over a period of time, and growing ever-increasingly certain of this observation being more than an idle projection of envy. Then, I started talking to people about it, at first confining my questions only to the most trusted of my friends; a process that brought me closer to them than ever I'd prior been; as well as a select few teachers.

The more I inquired, the more answers I found to my questions, but in so doing, I also found that every answer found was a dozen or more new questions in and of itself. I grew fascinated by this, and by the time I reached highschool, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life.

I wanted to study people. I wanted to study their minds, their societies, their cultures, their natures. I wanted to know what they believed, what they thought, where it all came from...and to do any of that, I'd also have to study a considerable amount of how. Only in so doing, which I knew even then, could I begin to hope to uncover the whys of it all.

Religion was, from the first inquiries I made on to this very present day, a dominating factor in nearly every discussion and research endeavor I've ever engaged in.

To begin with, I honestly believed in the Christian god. Even when I was very young, the existence of the Christian god was simply one of those things that 'was', and went without saying. All the adults in my life spoke of god as if he were real, all the people at the church I frequently attended regarded him as the immortal sovereign of the earth, as well as it's creator. It was just one of those things that I'd never even thought to question, though neither had I ever particularly thought to care much about it either.

God, to me, was never very real at all. God was just another part of the childhood dreams, as far as I was concerned; a notion I'd grown comfortable with abandoning by about the age of fifteen. What baffled me then, of course, was when I identified that same thing in others; that same tendency to have had and subsequently abandoned fanciful childhood dreams, stories and games...but not the parts about God.

It really confused me, to be honest. It only occurred to me that people really took the bible seriously after this revelation dawned on me, as prior I'd simply and thoughtlessly assumed that church was just the dream-game adults played with each other. It wasn't a thought I'd ever consciously formed as such, but in retrospect, I am able to paraphrase how I perceived it.

Imagine my deep, distressed surprise when I started re-examining the whole matter of religion. When I was sixteen, in the summer between tenth and eleventh grade, I engaged myself in serious contemplation and research of what was to me a most peculiar and baffling phenomenon, with the very basis of all my inquiries being the question "Does the Christian god, or any god for that matter, exist?"

It was a summer to be remembered. I do believe that I managed to gravely insult every pastor of every church within fifty miles of my home with my probing, prodding, never-ceasing questions, as this was a most direly important question, and I wasn't about to take the fluff answers they were prepared to give off-the-cuff to such inquiries.

Mine was a more serious inquiry than many of them were prepared for or fond of. That was the summer in which it was demonstrated to me, time and time again, that many of the very people that my elders and supposed betters looked to for guidance and spiritual learning were as clueless on this question as I was.

That was, in fact, the summer that I came to understand myself as being an agnostic. The arguments given, the tones used in their giving, the expressions worn, the body language evinced; in every case, I identified one of two things; baseless certainty that could not be supported with fact or just as much uncertainty as I, myself, felt.

That school-year was a most troubling one. My unyieldingly inquisitive nature did not even remotely begin to sit well with a number of my more Christian teachers and fellow students. It was not a topic most of my teachers would discuss with me for legal reasons, but it was not a topic they could prevent me dispensing with at every opportunity in class discussions, and so it was that I found out first-hand just how rabidly many of my own peers clung adamantly to certain childhood dreams of their own.

Dreams that I and my heretical words, comments and platforms were often very threatening towards.

I did not attend high school for a senior year. Simply put, I quit and got a G.E.D, for no greater reason than that I'd spent my entire junior year finding out, in no uncertain terms, just how very un-Christian most Christians actually are at that age.

This did not, however, even begin to curb or shake my resolve in pursuing the dream I'd fully embraced by that time; the dream to learn, to seek the truth of minds and societies, to carve away the embellishments and lay bare whatever facts I and science could find.

It is a dream I still retain; a dream I find more fulfillment in than ever I dreamed could exist as a child. It is the very sort of fulfillment my many religious colleagues and friends speak so passionately of...but so very seldom reflect in either their eyes or their lives.

It is the sort of paradoxically peaceful exhilaration that I felt as a child, imagining a large stick to be a huge laser with myself as it's wielder, fighting off an invading horde of creepy aliens.

Now, I am an atheist. I've made my examinations, I've both observed and engaged in more debates with myself and others than I can easily recall, and contrary to what I find many detractors saying of atheism, I found neither confusion nor sorrow in acknowledging that, if there is any sort of god-figure, we know nothing at all about it, have only the sorriest, palest glimmers of pseudo-evidence to support it's suspected existence and rather well ought to chalk it up to fiction.

Rather, I found peace. When I truly acknowledged myself as an atheist, all the miscast, religion-sourced doubts about the world around me melted away. All the confounding explanations given by religion's adherents; any religion's; suddenly came into a focus of clarity I was, prior, forever pursuing but never permitting myself.

For the first time, I could see the simple reality that'd forever surrounded me, but had always prior evaded me. There was no god. Bad things happened because things happened, and without fail, they'd be thought bad by someone; perhaps a great many someones; not uncommonly even myself.

Most importantly, and I must stress this as being the most singularly important revelation I have ever made for my own benefit, it was in realizing myself as an atheist that I was able to accept my fellow humans as simply being that; humans. Not fallen, twisted, sin-sorry mongrels deserving only every misery heaped upon them and a thousandfold more, but simply as people, as often as lost and afraid and desperate for anything that seemed to give them surety and definition as ever I had been.

When this revelation first struck me and I truly 'got' it, I wept. For a thousand reasons, I wept. At last, I could see. At last, I could hear.

At last, I knew what it was to be at peace, with both myself and those around me.

It was everything the Christians claim of being 'born again', for me. I felt like a new person, seeing the world for the first time with a clarity unfettered by judgment, unclouded by two thousand pages of the most apocryphal holy text contrived. For the very first time, I looked upon people without fear, I spoke to them without reservation and I walked without a shame-bowed head.

It had all been a dream. A bitter, agonizing dream filled with promises of hellfire, an outrageous desert-god that so weirdly confused hate for love and many strange, Black Wonderland-ish stories about resurrections and entire cities' populations turning into pillars of salt and giants and so very much confusing babble.

I traded one dream for another, when I began pursuing understanding of the world around me; a more real dream; a dream of the reality that surrounds me, that lives and is demonstrated in every man, woman, child, animal, plant and stone around me.

I truly began to understand the nature of my dream when I realized that there were no pits of hell I'd be cast into for being passionately curious; that there was no god who would only love me if I did not obey the ridiculous edicts of a viciously slanted book authored by the fallible for the foolish.

So it is that now I dream of the wonders that the human mind may yet hold for us. I imagine the marvels that I might really, truly find in exploring via science and explorative testing what the consciousness of the individual might contain.

I know precious little of cosmology, astrophysics or quantum mechanics, but I look upon the mysteries explored by those men of 'harder' sciences as well, and I marvel right alongside them, perhaps even less so for my lesser understanding than their own in such matters. There exists all around us a world of absolute wonder; an utter heaven if ever there was one of mystery so profound that it seems as magic sometimes.

The more I come to learn, the more I marvel. I am humbled by the magnificence of the human brain, for example; I stand in awe before the fantastic complexity and development of society across the ages; society, a thing so oft' referenced, so poorly understood, reliant upon such deceptively simple things as basic interpersonal communication...and yet, it is the very connection between all peoples of the world.

I do not need an imaginary sword anymore. I do not want for imaginary dungeons and ancient temples to explore. Once, I yearned for them, because I knew not better. No longer; no more.

I dream even still, of someday knowing more than I did before about what the imagination itself is, and I temper that dream with doings; real doings; that others can readily share in, take part in and know for themselves without me having to say a word.

I dream, ever on, about what and how and why the things around me are as they are. I stand repeatedly amazed by the things that are, as sure as the stone and earth I walk on, as interactive as the very air we breath, as mysterious as sentience itself.

If any god despises me for not subscribing to the views held by those who've clung to their imaginary friends, swords and fiery dungeons...so be it. Their despise, I shall answer with pity for their own sorry, narrow limitations if ever such a divinity makes it's case against me. Their anger, I shall answer with understanding, because I bear them no ill will. What ill will can I justify holding for a dream; a sometimes very good and necessary dream for those who've need of a dream?

I may remonstrate them sorely, if one or any prove to actually exist, but it's quite more probable that, in such instance, I would simply seek to know them better, as I would any other person or even being as that I became aware of.

Remember your childhood dreams, with as much fondness as you may. I remember mine with the fondness of one who looks upon stories written, pictures drawn and poetry scribed by one's own hand in grade school. I see in them the footprints of who I have been, what I once knew, what I once believed, and in so seeing, I see also that they were me, once.

I came from that. Once, I believed in dragons. Once, I believed in fairies. Once, in my mind alone, a carved stick was a magic sword that could cut through anything.

My dreams taught me how to dream. Now, I apply those dreams to exploring that which is. My dreaming mind leads me to imagine possibilities, contrive upon sometimes very silly theories, and then to test them, to question their nature, to challenge their veracity, to refine them and in so doing, explore them and the very world around me, because they are now of the world that is real; the world you and I and everyone share equally by merit of our similar senses and identical platforms of subjective purveyance.

My imagination, my dreams and the reality around me are at peace with each-other. Within me, they are friends and fast allies, no one threatened by any other, all as boon companions upon a path I do not walk alone. Let me tell you, it is a peace that knows no rival. It is as waking up every time I open my eyes and seeing something new every time I look upon the faces, in the eyes and in the very world around me.

Someday, I will look back upon that which I write now, that which I know now, that which I dream now, and I will say to myself "That was me once. That was what I knew then; that was what I thought then. I came from that."

I imagine that future time, and in so doing, I remember to realize that with every day that comes. In so doing, I am ever reminded to take nothing for granted; to take every opportunity to live up to my promises, to never miss a chance to share a moment with another, to never despair when there is so much joyful living to be doing.

Like a storybook knight gazing down a road untraveled into lands uncharted, I grin for the dreamed imagining of what it is that i might just know and thenceforth be tomorrow, and also for knowing that, if I am gone when tomorrow arrives, I will have lived a life fantastic, full of dreams and the curiosity of a child.

A life I would, in any afterlife or none at all, be proud to have lived.

Peace be with you; all of you, no matter what you believe.

-Jake

1/15/08                                                                                       View Comments

I could give two shits about religion

Sent in by Angela

I've been creeping around this site for awhile now, and thought I should finally come out of the woodwork and formally give my little story.

When I was a little girl, my mother decided she was "searching" for something. This searching lead to me being dragged to many different churches, and learning many different faiths. And I'm not just talking Christian. There was the stint at a Catholic church, then about a year at the Unitarian. From the Unitarian we joined some kind of spiritualists, called (I think) CUPS. Or CUUPS. Something like that. Then it was back to Catholic for a while. Then a year or so of nothing. Then a couple of months at a Jewish temple. Then about a year or so at a Messianic Temple (Jews for Jesus - that made no sense to me, even then). Then some more nothing, then my mother 'discovered' the Christian Church. I was in the fifth grade.

At the time, I was dealing with a lot of 'emotional things' from my extremely verbally abusive mother. Nothing I did or said was right. But when I started going to church with her, things became different. I was the perfect angel. "Oh look how beautiful she looks singing with the choir!" "She is volunteering all her time with the nursery, how selfless and giving of her!" (I did this because I could skip the ridiculously boring sermon without getting the guilt trip). It went on and on. My mother seemed to believe it all so much, and I so badly wanted to feel the same thing, to believe the same things she did. I wanted to feel that tingle. I prayed so hard to believe, I screamed in my heard over and over how I wanted Jesus in my heart. It never happened.

Anyway, I went to this church for a couple years in middle school, played the part of the good Christian daughter at church. I even took missionary trips to Mexico in my 7th and 8th grade year. Everything was hunky dory. For the benefit of everyone, we smiled and everything was wonderful on the outside, but at home it was like walking of eggshells. My mother would preach about tolerance and love and patience and all those wonderful lip service good deeds, but never practiced them. At least not to her family (Myself, my older sister, and my grandmother).

So, all this time, I still am desperately wishing I believed. I had all these questions, which tied in with everything I had learned at all the other churches I belonged to. I guess a big part of it was the core concept of faith. I have always been an extremely cynical person. I do not trust people. I could not see putting all this faith into a book written thousands of years ago by uneducated men. My biggest question, which I asked many different 'church leaders' was, since god is the only perfect being, then obviously man is fallible. Therefore, if the bible was physically written by men, it cannot be perfect. There must be errors. How can I believe a book written by imperfect creatures and place the value of my supposed soul on just faith alone? For all the time I have asked it, I have yet to be given a real answer. Usually I got the "that is the meaning of faith" answer. Well, what the shit is that?

In my freshman year of high school, my mother left 'our' church in a huff because the preacher made a comment about a family being raised by a single mother wasn't really a family. (I agreed with that decision. Its one of the few I have.) So we went to another church. Literally, the name of this church was "Bibletown". Some of you may have heard of it. They have their fingers into everything.

Until high school, I had always been that chubby, shy girl that sat in the corner, and never really talked to anyone. I had a few friends at school, but I never really 'clicked' with anyone at church. About halfway through my freshman year I magically went through puberty, some self esteem, and a new group of hippie, hacky-sack playing skateboarding friends. I met this wonderful girl, Courtney, who was a straight up, practicing Wiccan. She opened my world up, and decided I was Wiccan too. I had all the books, knew everything I was supposed to know, did all the little rituals, but it still seemed kind of fake. I still lacked the faith to believe in these 'earth spirits' or 'nature god/dess' any more than the Christian god.

During this 'awakening' time, something very bad happened to me. I was attacked and raped in the apartment complex I lived in. When it happened, I was afraid and waited almost a week before I told my mother about it. The man was never found. My mother used this at church to get sympathy, telling almost anyone that would listen about my 'horrible tragedy'. Through the church, I was given 6 weeks of therapy with a Christian counselor. On the first week there, the counselor decided to talk to my mother too, without me in the room. After the 6 weeks, she told me that I seemed to be 'coping' well, and she thought I would work through it, be fine (I did, and I am). She recommended to my mother that she continue coming to her weekly. We never went back.

Since that happened, my mother has used what happened to me to explain anything I did that she didn't like. I made new friends and wanted to hang out, and not stay home every night, and this was me crying out for help because of my rape. We started fighting a lot when i was a teen, and it was because I was still angry about being raped and taking it out on her. I'm dead serious. She threw it in my face and reminded me about it ever chance she could.

At 16 my mother kicked me out of her house, and I moved in with the guy I was dating. He was 'Wiccan' too, and pseudo practiced with me. Flash forward 4 years, and this guy is just like my mother, verbally abusive, emotionally manipulative, the works. After I left him, I had so many other things going on in my life, I never gave religion of any kind a though for a number of years. I still called myself Pagan (Not Wiccan, I totally threw out the thought of witchcraft with my ex.), but never really did anything. Even being a Pagan, I felt uncomfortable with the thought of higher powers. But I still had the deep respect for nature and the concept of mother earth. Not as a deity, but as where all life comes from sort of thing.

I am 24 now. I call myself an Atheistic Pagan. I am an Atheist because I absolutely do not believe in any god or devil. Or heaven or hell. I am a Pagan because I love nature and all that comes with it. I do not worship it, but I respect it. It is difficult to try and explain to people, so I tend not to.

My mother has gotten better over the years (I think its senility), but she is still a hard core bible thumper. I may tell her one day my beliefs, but I try not to do anything that will lead to arguments. To save my sanity. For now I just give a little smile when she tells me that she is praying for me and/or my family or when she gives praise to god over anything remotely positive happening. Recently my husband and I have been having some financial difficulty (his job relies on new housing construction), and, dead serious, my mother told me to give my problems to god, because only he can take care of them. How does and atheist even respond to that?

My husband respects my beliefs. In his words: "I could give two shits about religion." We have planned to raise our children (a girl, 3 and a boy, 10 months) with knowledge of all religions. I want them to make their own decisions on if and what they believe. I know this will be difficult between my mother and my extremely Catholic in-laws. There have already been clashes over the fact I refused to allow either of my children to be baptized. In fact, my mother-in-law went behind my back and took them to be blessed by a priest a few weeks ago. I should probably be upset, but I'm not. There’s just too much other crap I have to deal with.

So that’s it for now. It was a lot longer than I thought it was going to be. For the most part, I try to avoid Xtian people, especially those that try to convert me. I do get a joy out of a good religious debate, especially when I stump them. It’s a good time. That’s about it.