6/28/08                                                                                       View Comments

I create my own life

Sent in by Emily

I'm living in a country where Catholicism is rampant. Atheism is considered evil here, for the religious people here are so deluded by their faith. I almost became one of them until one particular night made me question everything.

I was depressed; all of my personal problems were killing me. I was praying all the time to make them disappear. Nothing worked. I talked to my friend who is studying to be a priest about it. He said that I should go back to the Catholic Church (I denounced my Catholic faith back then). I was moved by his words at that time.

But at the same time, it hit me: I thought, "If God loves me, He should make all my problems gone because I always prayed." I remembered being taught that God doesn't want us to suffer, so why I was suffering?

A lot of questions were entering my mind about religion, God & everything else. After a lot of thinking, I realized what was taught in Catholic schools is illogical, inconsistent & wrong.

Catholic schools teach that all humans are born sinful because of Adam & Eve's sin, a teaching I find stupid because babies did nothing in their mother's womb except live.

They teach that nuns & priests have no money, because they are taught to be poor like Jesus. But as I observed them: the nuns have the nicest digital cameras, the biggest house in the street, & have maids. Is that what you call poor?

But I was scared to tell anyone about my doubt, since it's considered taboo here. But that doesn't mean that I should or could stop the doubt.

With the help of the Internet, I found sites that are run by atheists & freethinkers. After reading & researching, I've slowly turned from an agnostic to an atheist.

I'm loving my atheism my right now. It made me realize that I create my own life & live it. It made me go from the delusions & wrong teachings of the Church. I've become a real person. I'm not a person who depends on someone who doesn't exist. I depend on myself & to the people I love when I need help.

Even though I still don't have enough courage to tell I know that I'm an atheist, I know that my life became more real because I'm not into false hopes anymore.

6/26/08                                                                                       View Comments

Frustrated with Christian in-laws

Sent in by JP

I grew up Lutheran and never really had any problems with Christianity until I met my in-laws.

My wife's family is a very staunch,conservative and fundamental bunch. They are anti-homosexual, pro-life, anti-Santa, and very Republican. My family on the other hand is the exact opposite. I was taught to accept others for their differences and to do my best to love others unconditionally (which is a very difficult thing to do, I might add).

Anyway, after four months of dating, I knew Trish was the one. I had met her parents twice prior to purchasing a ring and felt as though they would have no problem accepting me into their family.

I called my soon to be father-in-law and informed him of my intent to marry his daughter. The first thing he asked me was "What are your thoughts on Christianity?" I told him that I do not believe that Christianity is the only way into heaven, that there is truth to all religions, and that I can not ignore that. He then asked me what my thoughts on Jesus were. I told him that I felt Jesus was a common man who had an innate ability to connect with people on a very personal level. I then told him that the true meaning of Christianity was to be Christ-like and to do your best to tolerate and love others unconditionally. My father-in-law then said that I was wrong on much of what I said and that he will not give me his blessings until he has spoken to his daughter. I told my father-in-law that his daughter is a grown woman and can make an informed decision on her own without his influence. He then asked me if I were going to propose regardless of his thoughts, then what was the point in asking. I told him that I figured he would be happy for us and that being a supposed "Man of God" (he's a pastor) that he would love me and welcome me into his family without hesitation. He told me that my thoughts on religion were ignorant and that I didn't know what I was talking about. That hurt me more than anything.

I have never been so disrespected and had never been judged so harshly by a supposed Christian.

Anyway, I went ahead and asked my wife and she said yes without hesitation. My father-in-law did not want to officiate our wedding and things have been very awkward the last two years between us. He really had an opportunity to show me what it meant to be a Christian, and he failed miserably.

Up until a few months ago they referred to me as "the situation" to their friends. I can understand them treating me this way if I had no direction and/or a means to take care of their daughter, but I own a house, I'm a college graduate, and my career is centered around helping troubled youth.

To this day my in-laws pray daily that I find Jesus and that I make it into heaven. My wife does not agree with her parents on any of this. She still practices her faith, but at least approaches things with an open mind.

This world is an ugly place, and religion is the root of it. We have killing in the name of God and organized protesting against homosexuality -- as well as bombings of abortion clinics -- all in the name of God, not to mention a world divided. Where's the good in this?

Anyway, I will never conform to a single religion and never will I conform to religion in order to gain acceptance from others. I am adamant that people learn to accept me for who I am versus how I spend my Sundays.

Christianity will never by my answer to happiness. Happiness solely relies upon you and only you, and when it comes to direction, my moral compass is the Golden Rule. I feel that too many Christians use religion as a crutch and find themselves so far out of touch with the world that it's a detriment to society and their own personal growth.

Anyway, there it is in a nutshell. I love my in-laws very much, and there is a lot of good in them, but to sacrifice a close relationship with me and my wife out of beliefs, I feel is a shame. They are free to believe in what they want, but I guarantee that God would never ask anyone to sacrifice a family member to prove their love for Him. That is just way too egotistical and arrogant for a supposed all-loving and caring God.

6/25/08                                                                                       View Comments

I was lost, and now I'm found

Sent in by Travis

I wasn't exactly raised in a strict Christian household, but we were Episcopalian and went to church regularly from when I was in the 4th grade on through to High School.

I was baptized at first and when I reached my teens I was confirmed and began taking communion. At the time I was told that when I took communion for the first time I would 'feel' the Holy Spirit come into me. Of course that never happened since there's no such thing, but my child mind was disappointed and felt let down.

As I started getting older and making friends I felt more and more different as everyone in Texas is pretty hardcore about their faith. I went to praise concerts and baptisms at my friend's pool and was so scared to admit to not believing it that I even faked speaking in tongues once.

Through High School I made no attempts to hide my lack of faith and was subjected to so many questions and interventions that I couldn't be civil about it anymore when it came up. It wasn't until I moved to New Jersey for college that I even found out I was an Atheist. I met people like me that knew the freedom of loosing one's religion.

The only answer that made sense to me was that there was no answer at all. I was finally complete and everything made sense.

Now I'm almost 29 and I'm married to the most wonderful woman. She's Christian, of course, and the conflict has created a few problems. We work through most of it. She doesn't drag me to church all the time and I find the good parts of the religion and try to implement those things in my life. I feel bad because I know she thinks one day I'll accept Jesus as being real, but it's never going to happen. Believers don't understand that once you leave there is no coming back. If you do come back then you never truly lost your faith to begin with.

I was lost, and now I'm found. Remember that character is based on what you do when nobody is looking - and trust me... nobody is looking.

6/18/08                                                                                       View Comments

The cult of church leadership

Sent in by JSH

I used to attend church multiple times per week. I now no longer attend at all. My story:

I was raised Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (PCUSA). I went to a PCUSA church in Southeast Texas. I won't name the church; let's just say its name implies there weren't any other Presbyterian churches in the immediate area when it was founded. This large church is split between yuppies and fundies (and fundamentalist yuppies). When Bush was elected, the fundies (in other Protestant churches also -- this was at least a statewide phenomenon) decided this was the time that "strong leadership" would take back the church, the nation, the planet, the Milky Way, etc. In the quest for strong leadership, the session nominated a woefully under-qualified con artist who knew exactly what to say to leadership-starved fundies. You know, like how they voted for Bush.

While the session maintained as much silence as they could on the subject, the new pastor was abusing staff to the point where many quit. The session covered up his bad behavior so as to avoid accountability for hiring him (and to keep the sheep from knowing how unworthy of submission and obedience their leadership was), and he kept ramping up the bad behavior as he got away with more. Eventually, there was a committee formed for the sole purpose of examining his sermons (the term 'plagiarism' came up) and they took away his church credit card and put a lid on his expenses. Many consultants were hired. Said consultants, paid by the church, concluded that those protesting the new pastor needed "loving church discipline,, and that it was un-bibilical to leave the church or withhold tithes in protest of the pastor.

Here is where I point out that many conservative PCUSA churches withhold donations to the denomination in protest of it's left-wing (on some issues, in their opinion, whatever) slant. Hypocrites.

None of this caused the pastor to lose his job. That took a relationship with a woman not his wife that can be best described as "improper as hell." That was covered up by the session and the pastor was allowed to resign 'voluntarily' -- to spend more time with his family. This was during the pastor's divorce; he is marrying the "other woman."

Have I mentioned that when you get divorced, your ex-spouse gets subpoena power over your employer, and if you use an employer-provided cell phone to call your sweetie-pie, that will wind up being documented in a way that's available to the general public? I'm just sayin'.

I've dealt with that church's "leadership" on other topics. Based on my dealings with them, the ex-pastor is clearly just a symptom of the cult of leadership that has infected the church. The leader supposedly submits to God, and you submit to the leader. If you can't submit to the leader, whom you can see, how can you submit to God, whom you can't see? That, and since faith is defined as believing in baseless claims presented as fact, if you believe what your leader tells you to believe (the world is 6000 years old, the leader isn't a sleezebag, etc), the leader gets the blame if you've believed wrong, and Jeebus won't send you to hell for your error.

Basically, this church treated its pastor the way the Catholic church treats molesting priests; pawn them off on another church somewhere else, but keep it quiet so the organization as a whole doesn't take the hit. This 'ex' pastor is still ordained and eligible for another ministry position. He's taken part in ordinations in other presbyteries as "The Rev XYZ". I give him two years to fast talk his way into another pulpit, blaming church politics for his ouster at 'my' church.

6/8/08                                                                                       View Comments

I am not blindly following anymore -- I know why I believe what I believe

Sent in by S.H.

It's hard to tell this story. The fact that one day my parents or church friends might come upon this testimonial and identify it as mine, despite the anonymity, scares me. But, as soon as I saw this site, I knew that I wanted to share.

I was "born Christian," meaning that both my parents were Christians and I was essentially raised in church. They were then, and still are, extremely active members of the Vineyard organization, a non-denominational national church group. The church has since updated it's sect to "empowered evangelical." Aside from weekly service, I went to bi-weekly Bible study and attended private school until 5th grade.

My parents imposed strict moral conditioning on me from a very young age. Not only was I supposed to go to church regularly, but I had to "experience" the Holy Spirit and be able to "talk" with God. I distinctly remember being seven years old in our dining room, crying because my parents were trying to force me to be able to speak in tongues, and I couldn't figure out how to do it (eventually I made it up so they would stop).

They were also complete believers in corporal punishment, and I was spanked on many occasions with a large wooden frat-style paddle from the time I was five. My mother in particular would get suddenly angry with me about things as small as not putting my shoes away, and she wouldn't hesitate to scream at me and hit me. She said I was disrespectful and strong-willed. One day she sat on my chest and hit me over and over again in the face. I don't remember exactly why.

Basically, anything that was a problem in our house could be solved by prayer, the Bible was a better reference than the encyclopedia, and I wasn't allowed to watch anything with over a "PG" rating. This is how things went until my last year of high school.

That year, I took some post secondary courses at a local community college where I met my boyfriend. He was a philosophy major, and as we began to get to know one another, we would spend hours discussing different theories and ideas. He was probably the first person in my life who asked me WHY I believed what I did. Up until that point, my answer was always "Well, the Bible says..." or "At church we learned..." or "My mom told me that..." I never really knew for myself what I believed, and he encouraged me to come up with my own reasons. At first these were still based on the Bible and my upbringing, but for the first time I understood why I believed things and could explain my beliefs out loud.

Eventually the two of us moved to another city to attend college. We started going to a very liberal church, discussed philosophy and other religions freely, and decided to have sex for the first time. Eventually, we moved in together and are still together today. My parents, who are supposed to love me unconditionally (regardless of church), turned on me. They developed an intense hatred for my boyfriend who they felt was leading me astray, and they denied me the right to have my 9-year-old sister come to visit me because they thought what we were doing was wrong. This reflects the teachings of their church: God only loves you if you are conformed to the church's standards. If you don't, you're screwed.

For the first time I began to see the hypocrisy of my parents and their church. I was confused as to why an "all loving God" could send people to hell just because they were different. If believing in Jesus was the key to heaven, why didn't Jesus visit ALL the areas of the world and tell ALL the people about God? Why would God force people in little tribes in Africa to go to hell even though no one had told them about Jesus? Why would God make people gay then punish them for it? I had so many questions and all of them pointed to God being this angry, vengeful being who delights in breaking apart families and sending people to hell — quite the different message from that Jesus gave. The fact that my parents were angry with me for seeking answers other than those provided by their church proved to me that Christianity was less about "love" and more about "control."

Eventually, I began to drift more and more away from Christianity all together. My boyfriend and I got involved in the BDSM lifestyle, and I became his submissive. I also eventually identified as a masochist and a bisexual, both no-nos in the church's books. I stopped going to church. We are into a lifestyle that rejoices in differences, sexuality, and freedom of choice. Being in such a suppressive environment as a church makes me feel uncomfortable. I always feel like someone is coming up over my shoulder to judge me. I know there are good Christians out there, I have even met a few, but the majority I know are so paranoid about their eventual heaven-hell outcome that they will do anything to rack up points with God. Judgmental attitude, close-mindedness, and a feeling of superiority are traits that are MUCH too common in Christians today.

Now, I often tell my friends that I am "spiritual" but not religious. I am in a strange place right now, determining my beliefs, and sorting out my own moral code. Much of it comes from Jesus' teachings, some from Buddhism, some from Paganism, some from common courtesy. But each belief that I determine for myself has a REASON behind it. I am not blindly following anymore. I know why I believe what I believe, and I want to keep it that way. If I find out at the end that I was wrong, I'll burn in hell satisfied that I lived my life with love, hurting no one. That will be enough for me.

6/6/08                                                                                       View Comments

Why I am no longer a Christian

By Brother Jeff of ChristianityIsBullshit.com

A survey that I took the other day has had me thinking about why I walked away from the Christian faith. I didn’t walk away because I rebelled against God or because I was angry with God or because I was treated badly or hurt in the church. In fact, my church life was very good. I had good friends. I had a good relationship with church leadership. I even frequently sang solos during church services and sang in the praise and worship choir. I had a great time in church and I still miss the sense of belonging and the sense of fellowship with other believers that I enjoyed during my Christian days. There are other things that I still miss from my Christian days. I still miss the excitement and joy of praise and worship. I still miss prayer, and having intimate moments alone with a holy and righteous God. I still miss believing in an all-powerful, all-loving, Almighty God. So why in the world would I walk away from a belief system that worked so well for me and that made me so happy?

I walked away because questions built up that had no satisfactory Christian answers, and I could no longer ignore them. I walked away because I could no longer honestly believe in the claims and doctrines of the Christian faith.

I once believed very strongly in God. I never thought that I could let go of my belief in God, but it happened. My path to atheism was not an easy one. I didn’t just wake up one morning and decide that I no longer believed in God. The road to atheism for me was difficult and extremely painful. I really wanted God to exist very badly, but the more I learned, the more I came to realize that God is a myth - a powerful myth, but a myth nonetheless.

I once believed very strongly in the power of prayer. I used to spend at the very least an hour a day in prayer. I would often attend early morning church prayer meetings, and then go home and pray more. It seemed like I was always praying about something going on in my life! I also, of course, regularly prayed for other people, including my pastor and church leadership.

I absolutely loved Charismatic-style praise and worship. I could literally spend hours in worship if the opportunity arose, just basking in the presence of God and being awed by his holiness and love. I can remember times when I felt wrapped in JOY beyond description. I can still access those feelings. I remember how great it was. But I no longer believe that the God those emotions were directed toward actually exists. And I understand the incredible power of belief. Once the human mind is convinced of the truth of something, the incredible power of belief takes over and shields us from seeing the validity of any other point of view. The power of belief can shield us from reality itself!

I once believed that Jesus was not only the Son of God, but also that he was God Incarnate - God Himself come to earth. I believed firmly in the Virgin Birth and in the sinless nature and life of Jesus Christ. I believed absolutely that he died for my sins on the cross and I also firmly believed that he rose from the dead again for my sanctification and justification before God the Father. I never would have thought that the day would come when I would give up those beliefs, but it did. I now accept the fact that Jesus Christ is a myth. He never lived, never died, and never rose again. That is the conclusion that the research I have done over the last several years has led me to.

I once believed that the Bible was the “Word of God”. I believed it with all of my heart. I just knew that it was the inspired word of the holy God that I loved to worship and be around. It was just obvious to me. But now I realize that it is nothing but a collection of ancient religious mythology, with no God behind it as the author. The Bible clearly reflects the ignorance and prejudices of the Bronze Age men who wrote it. It is a Book of its time, not a Book for the Ages.

So, why am I no longer a Christian? It boils down to one thing - education. I know a lot more about the Bible now as an atheist than I did as a Christian. I know a lot more about Christian doctrines now as an atheist than I did as a Christian. Or, at least, I have a different understanding of them now that I no longer believe them. I have a different understanding of God now that I no longer believe that he actually exists. Education has made the difference. The education I gained reading skeptical materials has made the difference. But it’s a good difference. I know how to think critically now. I know how to think for myself. I know how to give my own life meaning apart from religion. I know how to live life happily free from the chains of religious mythology. My Christian experience was not a bad one, and I have no doubt in my mind that I was a “real” Christian. But education stretches the mind, and like a rubber band that is stretched, the mind cannot return to its original condition once it has been stretched. I left the faith primarily for intellectual reasons. I can no longer honestly embrace the doctrines of the faith, and so - I am no longer a Christian.

6/4/08                                                                                       View Comments

Tell me about that hell part again?

By David J.

I accepted Christ at the age of five and since that time I have taken my journey very seriously. I read the Bible and prayed regularly. I graduated from a Christian school, then a Christian university and also from a Bible School. An underlying theme for the last 30 years of my life since my conversion was the concept of hell. Most Christians read a verse or two of Romans, say a prayer, and never worry about it again. I would have done the same if we were talking about getting a prize at the end. As it was explained to me we were actually dealing with whether I would be tortured around the clock for millions of years. With that at stake there could be absolutely nothing more important than making certain you will never incur that fate. I read, studied and asked questions to make sure that I wasn’t missing anything. I read that blasphemy guaranteed I would be tortured (Matthew 12:31) so I spent years agonizing in my thoughts to never think anything that could be considered blasphemous (If you ever take a minute to try not to think about something you will have a taste of the 30 years of agony I went through.) I also read that there is a narrow gate that “few” find (Matthew 7:14). If there are 2 billion Christians, is that a “few”? How do I make it in the few? I also read that if I sin intentionally it is all over for me (Hebrews 10:26). I’ve only done that a thousand times so what hope is there? I also read that God created some people for the purpose of destruction (Romans 9).

I spent every day wishing I had never been born because that is the cursed day I became eligible for hell. If my parents had not had me, I would not have to face even the possibility of the most horrible, terrifying thing that could ever happen to anyone. I never had children and still do not understand how selfish someone would have to be to have a child if they believe in hell. If hell is what I was told it is, a one in a million chance was too great a risk. Unfortunately, it is closer to two out of three since most people aren’t believers. My existence was a tortured one believing all of these horrible things, but I held firm to my faith and kept searching for answers from God and the Bible. I stayed in church, tithed, repented frequently and tried to live a “normal” life. Inside I felt hopeless and depressed, and the only thing that helped was alcohol. It took my mind completely off of my frightening reality. I only drank when I was depressed which was all the time. I became a severe alcoholic and turned to the Bible for the answer to that. My problem got worse not better as the Bible’s answers were the reason for my struggle to begin with.

A year ago today (6/4/07) I had my last drink. When thoughts of hell came up I said to myself that I would put that on the shelf for now and think about other things. During the past year, I stumbled on a website that said that the “Greek New Testament is a complete mess”. It challenged the readers to research it for themselves. I did, and he was right. I began reading the Skeptics Annotated Bible and could not believe I ever thought the Bible was infallible. I started to read about contextual criticism and read “Misquoting Jesus” by Bart Ehrman. When I believed the Bible was infallible, it felt hopeless, and I drank to drown that out. Now that I see it has mistakes and has been severely altered by men, the constant fear and depression is gone. It is ironic to think back a few years to me quoting scripture to try and stay sober. Now that my beliefs have changed, I have absolutely no desire to drink. I still believe in God and don’t know what to believe about Christianity. I will continue to read about both as I did about the Bible and see where the evidence takes me. I’ve been reading this site for some time and my anniversary seemed like the perfect day to share my story.

I realised that I didn’t believe any of it

Sent in by Jonathan S

It took me a long time to figure it out... but it finally happened. I’m 18, and I make absolutely no claim to being the most intelligent person alive, but I’m now an atheist. I refuse to say agnostic, as it is quite possible to be an agnostic theist as well.

I was born into a Christian family, and dedicated into Christianity (Pentecostal, if you find that relevant) by my parents. They raised me up in their beliefs as they swore to, and until 12 weeks ago, I had attended church every week, disregarding some holidays. I had my first communion at four years old, and was baptised at 12. I started to go to youth at 13, with probably now my most hated youth pastor. I’ll explain why later.

I started switching between churches, not particularly fitting into the perfectionist style that my parents’ church portrayed, and leaving eventually as a result. My life group, which I still attend at the moment (They aren’t threatening at all, and I’m good friends with a few people that go), strengthened my belief in God temporarily.

But my conversion to Atheism all started with a Christian youth conference called Planetshakers, in Sydney. It was an amazing time, and my parents put off our return trip home so that I could attend the last night with a few of my friends.

And my conversion is thanks to that decision.

I won’t go into monstrous detail (partly because it’s very personal, but also because it’s very long), but I had what I thought was a word of god that night. I followed it, and spent half the service meditating on that, as opposed to actually listening to the man up front. It really interested me afterwards, and really strengthened my belief in god. I vowed to actually follow up and actually partake in what every person should do before they really call themselves a Christian; analyse their own beliefs.

Once we arrived home from our trip, I spent weeks analysing the Bible, not what it taught me, but watching it for inconsistency with my own beliefs, and the actions of Christianity as a whole.

I soon realised that the Bible was quite far fetched. It taught great morals (which the church didn’t follow, but nevertheless), but the stories it tells are, in most cases, utterly ridiculous. This wasn’t what converted me, but it was what grabbed me and made me follow on to the next step.

It was then that I started reading up on atheism, and proof that god doesn’t exist. And whilst mostly subjective material, there as one article that I read that hit on one of my major concerns. I won’t go into a monologue, as you can find the article at
http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/quentin_smith/atheism.html

It was right at that point that I realised that I didn’t believe any of it. I’d spent years of my life conforming to a world that I didn’t really believe in, though I admit I tried to.

I don’t go to church each week any more, my Sundays now being spent going to friend’s houses for a few hours, or going for a walk. My parents still haven’t found out about my conversion yet, and I’m hoping I have a few months to leave home before they find out (I’ll tell them myself once I leave home, my father and his family are anal about Christianity). My good friends know, and whilst many of them are Christian, I was surprised to find that many of them are willing to accept the conversion, although there were some that were totally hostile to the concept of atheism. Needless to say, we don’t keep in contact any more.

I’ve met some great friends in my absence from the religion too. We have more in common than just a shared belief, which leads to great communication, and interesting conversation, as they can talk about more things than just how god saved them from an eternal fire. Although I still have many of the morals that Christianity teaches... I feel no need to follow them where it seems wrong to do so.

I have just one question though. I don’t talk to people so that I can have deep theological discussion, yet I find 90% of the people who ask me this question then monologue about Jesus Christ and point out my eternal damnation and basically all the "die in a fire" propaganda that I've already refuted as scare tactics. It doesn't help their case that I've looked through every book and seen every DVD regarding converting unbelievers that they have fifty times already.

So I ask you, how do I tell people I’ve never met, when they inevitably ask me about my religious beliefs, that I’m atheist, whilst avoiding theological discussion?

6/2/08                                                                                       View Comments

Mentally liberated, but socially imprisoned

Sent in by an Ian L

I really need some encouragement and feedback right now. I've recently become an agnostic, and, while I'm not afraid of what happens after death (if anything), I am afraid of how my wife and family will respond (I'm not brave enough yet to tell them of my change of heart and mind).

Anyway, the process of reasoning my way out of belief began when I realized that I couldn't bring myself to go up to someone of differing belief and tell them that I am absolutely right, and that s/he is absolutely wrong. Such a claim would be groundless.

My line of thought goes like this:

1. Religious belief is founded on fundamentally irrational assumptions (that there is a god, that a particular scripture is literally true, etc). With irrationality as the source of religious truth, anything can be claimed to be true, and anything claimed to be true based on irrationality is equally defensible and refutable using reasoning corrupted by irrationality. Therefore, religious belief should not be synonymous with absolute truth.

2. The apologist may counter this by saying that there are many good reasons to make the irrational leap of faith. But if you review them carefully, the reasons commonly given (design in nature, coherence of scripture, "look all the intelligent people who have been believers," etc, etc, etc.) are all applicable to one or more OTHER religions as well. Therefore, none of the reasons commonly given for belief are good reasons, and do not justify a claim of absolute spiritual truth.

3. The only good reason I see for belief is if one has had a mystical experience of a spiritual/divine nature (that can't be explained by epilepsy, an acid flashback, or simply a very emotional experience as a result of intensely wanting to see god).
However, while this establishes spiritual truth for the individual, it cannot be used to convince anyone else of this subjectively experienced truth. Further, belief is irrelevant if one has had a spiritual experience, since faith/belief is unnecessary in the presence of experience, so once again, belief seems to me to be invalid and groundless as an act and state of mind.

I'm not an atheist. I can't prove there's no god, nor can I prove that there is one. I refuse to squeeze 'truth' out of irrationality, have no good reason to believe, and I have not had a spiritual experience. I am therefore agnostic.

I think that agnosticism, based on this line of thinking, is an extremely reasonable position to take. Yet I find it so frustrating because I know that those around me will not accept this. They will say that I am just using faulty human reasoning (corrupted by my fallen nature), and that I should rely on scripture and prayer. They will say that the devil is misleading me. I know that they will say these things because several months ago, I began to question basic assumptions about Christianity and recanted after the intense backlash that I felt from my wife and in-laws.

I don't want to disappoint my family. I don't want to lose my wife, whom I love. But how do I, someone who desires to be rational, compete with the drone of irrationality?

While I feel spiritually and mentally liberated, I also feel, socially, more imprisoned than ever.

No sense of loss, only a feeling of relief

By Bob Patterson

While at our community of reason bible study (Sunday), I became aware that many ex-Christians, having become atheists, felt a loss in the process. Some even said they almost wanted to return to their previous beliefs for the comfort it provided. I thought this very interesting and different from my experience with religion.

First, let me say my parents agreed to have NO religious influence over me, as my mother had been a Catholic and my dad's family, although claiming to be Christian, didn't regularly attended church. So how did I get involved? Simple, It was the neighbors who took me to church with their son, who was my age. I remember liking the singing and the people, but the Pentecostal hell, fire and damnation didn't make much sense at all. I was only six or seven at that time.

I attended this church until I became a boy scout and switched to the Methodist church. There was a lot less hell, fire and damnation in Methodism than Pentecostalism, I noticed. I tried to be a 'good' Christian, earning both my Eagle Scout and God and Country awards.

By now, I was sixteen years old and discovering the sciences. It quickly became blatantly obvious that religion and science were incompatible. I then found my new friend Steve was an atheist, as were his educated parents.

It was all over. That was IT! No more would I demean myself by praying to or pretending an imaginary god who never responded.

The feeling was one of relief, not the feeling of having lost a friend. I was OUT of a mental bondage that was never completely comfortable anyway!

That was 57 years ago and I have never once regretted my escaping the mental confinement of religious belief. I realized I never had an imaginary "friend," just an adult imposed constraint.

Today I recognize that religion is another form of child abuse, and I do whatever I can to help expose this. My feeling about religion today is much the same as "buyers remorse," at having been duped. This may sound a bit bitter -- I'm not, this is how it happened.

I hope this can help another person struggling to break the bonds of religious confinement.

Note: My friend Steve is still my friend and has his doctorate in nuclear physics. My son Steve was named for him.

Ex-Catholic from Franciscan University

Sent in by Michelle R

I was born and raised a Roman Catholic. My parents were pretty devout Catholics and I totally absorbed their faith. During my teen years, I was exposed to charismatic Catholics and burned all my evil rock music records and began listening to Christian rock. I also began realizing that I might be a lesbian and began praying daily that I stop having these evil thoughts and began hating myself that I could not control them.

I attended Franciscan University, a far right charismatic Catholic school in Ohio. I majored in theology, attended daily mass, and explored becoming a nun. Amazingly, all my prayers that I become straight did not work. I even went to a counselor who suggested I wear dresses and put on make up in order to feel more feminine. I only did that for a week or two. Luckily, my younger sister was attending the same school and talked me out of dressing in drag.

Along with the teachings on homosexuality being caused by demons, this school also taught that women should be submissive to men. My parents may have been devout Catholics, but my mother was most definitely not submissive to my father. I had always been raised that women could do whatever they wanted. Luckily, I was never able to internalize the school's teaching (and felt guilty for it).

I went on for my Master of Arts Degree in Theology (such a waste of $$$!). Towards the end of my degree I started seeing through many of the judgmental attitudes of the leaders at the school and began questioning the teachings of the church about homosexuality and feminism.

After I graduated, I moved back to my liberal, northwest town. I sought out the gay and lesbian community and gradually accepted more and more my homosexuality. I stopped going to church and eventually read about and became a Buddhist.

I consider myself an atheistic Buddhist. I am not certain about reincarnation and some of their more esoterical teachings, but I find meditation to be very useful for becoming more self aware and for cultivating compassion.

I have never been happier since I have stopped believing in the Christian worldview. I no longer worry about some invisible person disapproving of every thought and action. I am now responsible for my life and choices. This is the only life I have and I will make the most out of it.

As a p.s: Are there any ex-catholics from Franciscan University out there?