8/28/08                                                                                       View Comments

My official de-coversion testimony

Sent in by Bryce

After a couple of weeks of browsing this site and after agonizing over this issue on and off for the last few years, with the most recent being the last couple of months, I've decided to accept the fact that I'm not a Christian.

My story:

I grew up in more or less a religious family overall. In my immediate family my mom was religious and my dad wasn't and this would sometimes cause an issue when mom wanted to take me to church and my dad didn't agree with her forcing me to go.

Anyways, eventually my parents split, and I stayed with my mom. They got back together for a while, and my dad did started getting into church and all, but it didn't last and they finally split for good. Being that I lived with my mom and had minimal contact with dad, coupled with the fact that my mom was absolutely devastated by the break up, she became EXTREMELY devout with her faith and believed that the reason my dad left/cheated was b/c "God was removing the very thing in her life that she continued to choose over Him." As a result, I spent a very large chunk of my time involved in church/church related activities (I grew up in a predominately African American Baptist Church in Miami).

During the teenage years when this was all going on, I'd say that I was pretty into the whole Christian belief, mostly b/c I didn't know anything else and a very large part of my social life was centered around it. Eventually I went away to college and still went to church and tried to live like a good Christian and would actually feel guilty for 'sexual immorality' with my girlfriend or drinking too much, which I didn't do much of unfortunately in retrospect. My girlfriend at the time was a Christian so it was a little easier to live that way. Fast forward a couple of years: my mother came down with breast cancer and after 2-3 years of suffering, died of it.

Now here I am 22 years old, just out of college, and my mom, the most unwavering symbol of faith that I've ever known, was not only taken from earth at 49 years old but had to suffer for 2-3 years before losing her life. Now of course I'd hear my fair share of "She's in heaven with the Lord" or "Don't question god, HE doesn't make mistakes," blah blah blah... I'd agree outwardly, but inside I'd say to myself, "No, fuck that, God has to give me some damn answers now!!" I felt that, yes, I should absolutely question this so-called perfect god that would do this to the most devout and faithful.

Well, I moved away from home a few months after mom died and traveled with my job for a few years, but still tried to have faith. But as time went on, I'd come up with more questions than answers, and then it dawned on me that it totally goes against my innate makeup to accept something blindly without question. I mean if this so called Judeo-Christian version of god is so perfect, then why would HE create man with frontal lobes, and then expect man to not rationally question things that don't make sense??? THAT doesn't make sense. That's what I'd tell myself, but by then I was so deeply indoctrinated with years of Christian dogma that I don't think that I knew which way was up. So, I backslid for a while and just didn't think about religion. I ignored it.

Then, last year, I met a girl here in the city where I now live and after a couple dates, found out that she was Christian. Now at this point I had started to toy with the idea that I needed to deal with my issues regarding belief, one way or the other. When I met this girl, I thought, hey, maybe "God" put her here b/c this Christian thing is what I'm supposed to be doing, and I was just being a brat and being mad at God about my mom dying, etc.

Well, she and I would go to church and share ideas, etc., but the more I'd go to church this time around, the more disgusted I'd get by what I heard: gay bashing, anti-abortion, you're going to hell if you don't believe this, that or the other. I was like, "I don't agree with this shit." But by this point, I've started actively thinking about my beliefs and the more I'd think, the more silly I'd feel. I mean, some hippie Jewish guy that was allegedly around a couple thousand years ago was supposedly executed... I guess I could buy that... but, he ascended to some unknown realm in the sky... are you serious... have I really admitted to believing this shit my whole life??!! It's like Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy that never goes away!!!

So at this point I really started reading a lot and browsing this forum and figuring out how this eminent de-conversion is going to change my life. I mean, I loved this girl, but I was pretty sure that she wouldn't take the idea of me not being Christian very well.

Well, two nights ago I sat her down and told her, and if I was a betting man I'd say that I'd hit the jackpot. She cried and she looked at me like I was crazy, like my head was about to explode.

She said, "So I guess that's it, huh?"

I then said, "What are you talking about?"

She said that we shouldn't be together b/c of my beliefs or lack thereof. Then, in almost a double take, asked me, "So you really don't believe that Jesus died on the cross for our sins?"

She asked me that as if to say, "What the hell is wrong with you? Everyone knows that Jesus died for our sins and that everyone that believes that is going to heaven, and if you don't, you're going to hell."

She didn't say all of that of course but thats the kind of look I got. She might as well have said, "Everyone knows that 2+2+25, what the hell is wrong with you?" ... lol.

I'm being sarcastic about it b/c I'm sad, and that's how I'm dealing. It's hard to hear someone that you love say to you that they love you, but they can't be with you b/c you don't believe that some 2000-year-old guy that said he is God actually IS god.

That's just bonkers.

I guess 2000 years from now there will be people worshiping David Koresh or Yahweh ben Yahweh simply b/c when they were here on earth they convincingly told a bunch of people that they are God.

Anyway, I know that my wounds will heal and that at the end of the day I have gained more than I've lost (gained freedom from crazy beliefs at the expense of losing my love).

Sorry about the long post but this has been brewing for a while and I had to share. Thanks for reading, and I look forward to exchanging ideas with you all very soon.

This has been my official de-coversion testimony.

Peace to everyone!!!!!

8/25/08                                                                                       View Comments

I found "me," and I was "born again"

Sent in by Awlheart

I was always a very religious person. I was born into a Sicilian-Catholic family. I went to Catholic school and was the kid that always had questions on religion because so much of it didn't make sense. But I was brainwashed very well and bought into it 100%.

Then the teen years hit. I met this wonderful Southern Baptist boy at 15. He brought me to his church. I loved it, but now more questions came up. How come his church puts down what my church believes in? Why do we have different beliefs? So I begin bible study with a friend who is Evangelical Christian. She teaches me so much and shows me all the great things God does and all the things I need to do to go to heaven. All these years of being a Catholic I thought I was going to heaven if I was good, then I learn it has nothing to do with being good, it has to do with saying a prayer that I swear to believe in Jesus as my savior.

So I head on down to my Catholic Church with bible in hand and full of knowledge of the bible. I talk to a priest at my church. I show him all this evidence, and ask tons of questions on why are these beliefs so different. I want to go to heaven, not hell, and I had to be sure I was making the right choice. After all I have to say to this priest he just has one thing to tell me, "If you believe in the bible, you can't be a Catholic. It's a choice you have to make." A choice I have to make?!?!?! Isn't there someone who can tell me "THIS IS THE ABSOLUTE TRUTH." (There were tons of different denominations that told me they were the true believers as I set on my path to find the right church.)

I became Southern Baptist till I later found out after being married to a Calvary Chapel Christian that having a denomination is a bad thing, that those are religions, not God! So I end up in a non-denominational church. Whew! I was safe now! I'm for sure going to heaven! Unfortunately my parents acted as though I was this criminal who sold my soul to, well, I'm not sure what they thought but they acted like I was a triator. Of course the people in the church told me that sometimes becoming a true Christian means sacrifices like losing one's family. Well, I didn't lose them, but they were hurt which really didn't feel good to me. But I was learning what God wanted and he was my father too!!! Which father do I listen to?!?!? Ugh!!! The bible is clear that both fathers are important, but the god the father rules over my father so he is the one I should please.

From Calvary Chapel to Harvest. You know Harvest? It's Greg Laurie's Church. He's the Calvary Chapel run-away because he had better ideas I guess. All was going great. I broght my daughter safely in the right church. Oh, don't get me wrong, she was baptized Catholic because I had to please my parents and I had to be sure she was safely going to heaven no matter who was right or wrong.

Then one day something happened to me. I was now 28. Big trouble ahead. I realized I'm a lesbian. That's another story in itself! But it took me 10 years to come out as a lesbian due to my fear of the lord, losing my family and going to hell.

Now my relationship with God gets weird. How can I love a woman when God doesn't want me to love a woman? How can I stay in a marriage and cause my husband to suffer when I was unable to have sex with him. It literally made me sick to my stomach! God insisted that I submit to my husband, but submitting made me ill! So he suffered too. I ended up divorced of course.

Harvest was too Evangelical for me and I left the church. Oh, I was still a very strong Christian, but now I conveniently realized the bible was just being interpreted wrong because it doesn't talk about loving lesbian relationships, only about sex. So I chose to believe that God loved lesbians and I can be a Christian and a lesbian. After all, if God is a loving god, what is wrong with love?

At this point in life I was with a woman who is very Pagan oriented. Pagan? Wait, I heard of them in the bible! Weren't they the bad people? That's a religion?!?! You mean I left one out?!?! So into Wicca classes I go. Oh my f*cking god, this is like Catholic Church only with tons of gods AND goddesses! It was at this point my mind said, something is just way wrong here. People make up this crap! ALL OF IT! There is no god or goddess! There is us, humans, and the earth.

My personal studies turned to where religions come from. I learned it's all made up. It's all stories told so many times from thousands of years before a so-called savior called Jesus. These are all the same stories with different names. Religions evolved from ideas!!! Everyone conveniently made them fit their own lives. I went through a lot of heartaches losing my god. I felt very alone for a while. Mainly because after having the thought that someone was always with me, always listening to me, no matter what the world had in store for me, I thought he was there. Now I had no one but me when things went bad. It was scary! I lost my imaginary friend I called Jesus!!!

BUT, guess what!?! I found ME! I was "born again" into knowing that I have control over me and my life and no one else does. Not any god and not any human. I had this new saying I love, "If it's going to be, it's up to me!" I found out I am a god and goddess. I am able to help others, save others and do good in this world. I get to make decisions by using my very own conscience. I get to be proud of the good I do and know I did it because I chose to do it.

My mission in life is to help wake up everyone to the dangers of theocracy and how it enslaves them. I think just about everyone who knows me knows I'm a Lesbian and an Atheist and I'm very proud of me! It was a long ride but I made it here safely! Thank me!

I was Born from a human, became a Born Again Christian, "Came out" as a lesbian then as an Atheist and now I'm Born Again Me!

8/24/08                                                                                       View Comments

Almost every regret I have is somehow affiliated with a decision I made based on my beliefs in the Bible and Christianity

Sent in by Brian

My story of leaving Christianity is a little different than most I’ve heard or read. The focus of my story is how much I regret now, looking back on my life, that would have been different had I not been a Christian.

Starting from the beginning: I wasn’t raised in a Christian home. My parents never really went to church, except occasionally on holidays my mom might take me to a church. The first time I ever attended a Catholic mass, I was with one of my mom’s friends. I turned to her about half-way through the mass and asked, “Who is getting married?” My parents had been brought up Christian, but they never really forced anything on me.

I made friends with Christians at my elementary school. One of them invited me to attend some Bible camp. I think it was during the summer after first grade. I had no idea what it was, but I went. It was pretty fun, we got to do crafts and play games. I think it was three days long, but I only went on the last day. I remember that there was also a chapel service at the end where the preacher asked, “Have any of you not accepted Jesus?” I of course had not, so I raised my hand and went to the altar, along with a few other kids. We all said the sinner’s prayer and asked Jesus into our hearts. My mom was there with me, and I think she was happy that I had made a decision about religion on my own, without her pressuring me into it.

After that, I didn’t think too much about religion, since the preacher had said we were now saved. I thought that was pretty much the end of it, and I had better things to do. Besides, I was seven or so, and my parents didn’t attend church. As I learned how to read better, I began to read a Bible that my grandmother (who is extremely religious) had given to me. For some reason, I absolutely believed that every word in that book was God’s word, handed down to the men who penned it. I’m not sure how I came to that conclusion, but I do remember at one point asking my mom, “Was Jesus real?” And she said yes, there were historical records of him. Then I asked if he had been resurrected. She said, “Oh yeah, he walked around and talked to people!” That was probably enough for me at that age. That aligned with the book, so it must be accurate, right?

I had met one of my closest friends in second grade. Into middle school, he asked me to spend the night several weekends, and would always say, “Oh, and we can all go to church on Sunday!” I never really understood why he would say that. I thought, however, that church was more of a family thing, and I didn’t want to intrude on his family, so I would always ask to be taken home. Of course, he was actually sincere in wanting me to get into church; he just never really told me that. Anyway, this same friend asked me to attend a summer vacation Bible school, I think the summer after seventh grade. I went, because he had described it as a place to go and hang out with people our age, to go swimming and play sports and just hang out. I decided sure, it’s a great chance to hang out with my friend.

I quickly realized that I was very different from most of the other kids at VBS. I was listening, at the time, to what I later learned was known as “secular music.” I would try talking to other people about popular artists at the time, and most of them didn’t know what I was talking about (or, more likely, were scared to death to admit that they did). I had also expected that camp would be a place for us to just sort of pick our activities and do what we wanted within the confines of the space provided. Instead, the schedule was tightly controlled. There were three chapel services per day, and in between, it was sports for the boys, and crafts (I think) for the girls. There was only maybe an hour per day of individual time, just before lights out, at which point we were required to be in our rooms. It wasn’t what I expected, but it wasn’t so bad. But the environment produced an atmosphere where, even if one were inclined to question the teachings at the chapel services, one couldn’t because there was absolutely no time to sit back and reflect on it. Instead it was off to play sports, so the teachings became ingrained.

At the end of the summer, my friend asked me once again to attend church with him. I no longer saw church as a family activity, so I agreed. At the end of the service, his pastor asked whether anyone was uncertain about whether they were going to heaven. I raised my hand and, again, confessed Jesus as my lord. I felt relieved at the time, though not much really changed.

I then began to read my Bible more carefully. I decided to read it cover to cover. I started, of course, with Genesis, but got bored around the “begats.” So I skipped ahead. The first odd thing I came to after that was Genesis 17:10–11, “This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; every man child among you shall be circumcised. And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you.” Now, sorry to be so personal, but I was never circumcised. So this scared the hell out of me. But somehow, fortunately, I got the idea to research circumcision in the New Testament, which clarified that it was not something that was required for a gentile like me. Thus I didn’t go find a doctor and endure that mutilation, though I just might have had the New Testament not made that strange contradiction.

I also read Exodus 22:16, which says, “And if a man entice a maid that is not betrothed, and lie with her, he shall surely endow her to be his wife.” At this time, I knew what sex was, and for some reason, this command stuck with me. I had been taught at this camp, or somewhere, that sex before marriage was wrong. But now, at least I thought I had an out—just marry her! Around this time, or maybe a little later, I was actually taught by my parents that it would be okay for me to have sex, so long as I was safe about it. It was around this time that I decided I knew more about Christianity than my parents did, because I knew what the Bible said and they were teaching me contrary to it. I naively believed that they, therefore, had no idea what they were talking about and that I knew how to live life much better than them. If only I had listened to my parents (as the Bible actually commanded me to do—Eph. 6:1).

I had never had a girlfriend before, but in eighth grade, there were two girls I was very interested in. One of them was extremely interested in me and let it be known, the other was also, but she didn’t let on nearly as much. I was shy and extremely afraid of rejection. So although I wanted the one who played hard-to-get more, I asked the other one to be my girlfriend, because she was a sure thing. Of course she said yes, and we started dating. For a long, long time. Now, at VBS, I had made a commitment to remain a virgin until I was married. This girl had other things in mind and put a lot of pressure on me to have sex. I thought that I was in love with her, so I didn’t leave her. I had also learned the Christian virtue of forgiveness, so any time she did something to hurt me (such as kissing another guy, which she did frequently), I thought it was my obligation to forgive her and go on with our relationship. Eventually, I thought that if I had sex with her, that she would stop messing with other guys and would focus on me. And remember my learning of Exodus 22—it wasn’t technically wrong, as long as I married her (in my head). So one night we had sex, and I committed to marrying her, and even told her that. Now I was truly committed to her and our relationship because that was the only way, I believed, I could avoid being sinful. So of course I was even more obligated to forgive her for things she did that wronged me.

I don’t want to bash this girl, because that’s not my intent in this writing. I describe this relationship only to show how committed I was to this strange ideal taught by the Bible. Anyway, she was an absolute bitch to me. She kissed other guys, as I said. She was into experimenting with drugs, which of course I was absolutely against. She did things to psychologically torture me for her own amusement. She would ask strange, awkward questions to, in her words, “see what I would say.” Before we slept together, she asked one of my best friends if he would sleep with her. He told me, but I believed, for whatever reason, that he was making it up and that the girl I “loved” would never do such a thing to me. She also told me once that she wanted to be pregnant at 16, and that she wanted me to be the father. When I asked her why, she said, “Just to piss off my parents.” I certainly didn’t want a kid at that time, so I eased off the sex. That just made the torment from her worse. But of course I couldn’t leave her, that would be sinful, so I stayed. Until, eventually, I decided that even if I was a sinner, I couldn’t take this any more. I read that I was forgiven of my sins, so I broke up with her. That was after almost three years. The kicker is, the other girl I was interested in, I learned throughout that time that she was interested in me. AND she even encouraged me to break up with her to be with her. Had I not believed fully and entirely in this strange command from the Bible, I would not suffer as much regret as I do to this day, because I would have immediately ended the relationship with the weird girl and been with a girl who actually liked me. (I was inspired to tell this story from the XKCD comic titled “Regrets”, No. 458, http://xkcd.com/458).

Fast forward to my senior year of high school. I still believed that the Bible was the absolute word of God. I still wasn’t attending any regular church service. By this time, I had also become “filled with the Spirit” and was speaking in tongues, because I had attended a weekend Bible course that taught me about charismatic stuff. I didn’t believe that most of the churches I tried were “of God” since most churches I went to didn’t believe in the charismatic stuff. One day I prayed that God would show me a church that he wanted me to attend. Soon afterwards, I volunteered at a money drive for a Christian radio station I listened to. There, I met a guy who invited me to attend his church, which was very close to where I lived. Prayer answered, right? And of course, I went to visit the church, which was non-denominational, full gospel, word of faith, charismatic, evangelical, fundamentalist… whatever label you want to attach to it. It was one of *those* churches. And I bought into it fully and whole-heartedly. I went every Sunday to learn more about it. I soaked up their teachings like a sponge, because this church was obviously alive. People would run around during church service, speak in tongues, the whole bit (fortunately no snake passing, people who did that were “misguided”).

I began attending this church right around the time I was deciding on where to go for college. That I had found such a “good” church heavily influenced this decision—I chose the college near my hometown so I could continue attending this church, despite having been accepted to other, better colleges. One of the church’s teachings was on sowing and reaping, that if you give it will be given unto you 100 fold. Well, I gave all the time, and my parents paid for my college in full. Rather than giving credit to my parents for working hard and saving up for my education my entire life, I thanked God for giving me this “blessing.” Sorry, Mom and Dad, you deserved all the credit.

I spent every weekend during college back at home so that I could attend church. EVERY weekend, all through college, I was there. I went to school to be an engineer. I had dreams of participating in all sorts of engineering activities before beginning with the church. One, for example, was the DARPA autonomous vehicle challenge (think cars that are able to drive themselves, no remote control). I thought that would be awesome. Another was the solar car project. Geeky, I know, but it sounded awesome to me, and it would’ve been great experience. But, as a good Christian, I decided that none of that was important. I didn’t need experience, because God would direct the hearts of men and give me a job or whatever I needed because I tithed, I gave, and I did what he told me to do. Just a few weeks ago, I was watching Discovery or something, and saw the finals of the DARPA challenge from this most recent year, and just broke down upon realizing that I never even tried to participate in it.

I finally left the church to attend graduate school. I really wanted to leave the state by this time, but I didn’t want to leave the atmosphere of the church. I talked to my pastor about it, and he gave me the okay to leave, so I went to grad school in an entirely different state. I’m still not certain to this day what I would have done had he said that it wasn’t God’s will for me to leave. He also recommended a church to me that was in the area. Upon arriving, I tried the recommended church. I even joined it. But it was really different. My hometown church had just over 200 people, and I knew pretty much every one of them by name. This new church was a megachurch, with over 2,000 people per service, and the service was held three times. I never really got to know any of them. I was there for about six months before I decided it just really wasn’t for me.

Soon, I heard that some of my close friends from my hometown church had left the church. At that church, leaving was seen as absolutely wrong (hence my fear of what would happen if the pastor said I couldn’t leave.) We were always taught, “Don’t rise up and go, be trained up and sent.” Well, the church saw them as rise-up-and-goers. But I believed that they simply wanted to try a different church. That’s when I began to see behind the veil of the fundamentalist movement. I learned that the pastor had sucked money out of his people for “God-inspired” projects, only to later say that he had “missed God in the timing.” You could get your money back, but only if you could prove exactly how much you had given. That was incredibly hard, seeing as how it was collected in cash almost exclusively. And besides, he had owned up to the mistake and he would put the money to good use elsewhere, right? That’s what the church believed, but I began to see differently. The leaving friends were socially outcast from the church. I learned a lot about their personal research on cults. I don’t believe that I can really call that church a cult in the purest sense of the word, but it definitely has cultish elements.

I had also convinced myself that the teachings of this church were right, over all other ways the Bible could be interpreted. Many of the internal contradictions were elegantly resolved by a simple explanation from the pastor. Upon learning that this church was a fraud, it wasn’t too long before I began to doubt that the Bible was true at all. I began to really think about some of the oddities in the Bible.

For example, back to circumcision. Why is it that God had this be a command in the first place? Why did he create this piece of skin, only to require that it be removed? There is absolutely no medical benefit to this procedure, so why require it? Seems like an odd way to manifest a covenant, especially since only men can participate in it. Doesn’t God love us all equally, men and women alike? God isn’t a respecter of persons, right (Romans 2:11)? And God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, right (Hebrews 13:8)?

For that matter, why is it that God seemed to change so drastically between the Old and New Testament? Lewis Black, the stand-up comedian, addressed this very point humorously, but quite accurately. God in the New Testament is awesome, but God in the Old Testament is spiteful and wrathful, smiting all sorts of people. But how can God be no respecter of persons if the Jews are his “chosen people?” How can a loving God burn people’s houses to the ground?

Other aspects of the law began to bother me. Why is it that God created pigs, but made it his law not to eat them? I convinced myself that there was some medical reason why Jews couldn’t eat pork at the time, like they didn’t know how to prepare it. But a Messianic Jewish friend of mine told me, “Pork is easy to prepare, just like every other piece of meat—put it over a fire until it turns black and eat it!” Yup, that sounds about right. His explanation was that it was required to show obedience to God, but that made no sense to me. Wasn’t the fact that a man had clipped one of his most precious body parts enough of a sign of obedience? And how could God change this sign so drastically, from all these strange rules, to just the one rule of accept Jesus as lord, and you’re done?

Now questions continue to spiral around in my head, none of which have good, clear answers from the Christian perspective. But stepping out of that role, the questions all have a very clear answer. The Bible isn’t the word of an all-knowing God. If we start from that assumption, then it all makes sense. There is a shift in personalities because that’s how different authors of different books at different times perceived this deity. These rules were simply made up to require obedience to other men.

I still don’t know entirely what I believe, except to say that I’m almost entirely sure I’m not a Christian. I say almost because I still have that lingering fear of being wrong. And of course the fear of being wrong brings with it, ultimately, the fear of hell. But, what about hell? I find it most fascinating that the biggest description of why we should fear hell is because it is a place of eternal torment, that is, pain. Medical science has shown, however, that pain is a mental response to a physical stimulation. If we don’t have a body in hell, how are we supposed to feel pain? Once I realized that, I became a lot less scared of it. The arguments for why I don’t want to be there sort of fell apart. The only one left would be eternal separation from God. But I’ve been praying recently, for the past few months, that God reveal himself to me. Whether it be Christianity or some other religion, I have asked for some sign, any sign, that I am supposed to follow God. And I’ve had no answer. So God, I’ve asked, I’ve sought, and I’ve knocked, but there has been no answer, contrary to Matthew 7:7 and Luke 11:9. If one day I am judged and told that I didn’t follow Jesus, I have two responses: a) yes I did, and it brought me nothing but regret, and b) I did exactly what the Bible says in a time of doubt (e.g., James 1:5, I lacked wisdom and I asked for it) but I got no answer. Why does Paul get a major sign of being knocked off his horse and taught the mysteries of God, when I get absolutely nothing, if God is no respecter of persons? Even if I lose some blessing, I want the same right as Timothy, who got to put his fingers into Jesus’s hands and side, if God is no respecter of persons. I’d rather miss out on the “blessing” of those who have not seen (John 20:26–29) than commit myself any further to something that makes so little sense.

I’m not certain whether or not there is a God. I have been studying evolution recently, and find it fascinating. It’s interesting to study it without a preconceived bias that there’s no possible way it’s true. I learned about genetic algorithms in engineering, and, lo and behold, evolution works on a computer model. That didn’t entirely convince me that it could work in biology, but I’m becoming more convinced every day. I’m still interested in the “beginning” and I’m agnostic as to whether it was truly caused by the big bang or by some divine creator. That had always been my major hang-up on evolution; while I could see it as possible once life began, it makes so little sense to me how life can just suddenly start without some other life.

Pascal’s wager was also interesting to me. I read on someone’s testimonial, or somewhere (and I apologize for not being able to give proper credit) that, while Pascal’s wager may be all well and good, why does it necessarily lead to the Christian God? Wouldn’t it apply to every possible deity out there?

There’s much more to my story, many more regrets, but I’ve rambled on long enough. In closing, thank you to everyone who has read this whole story. I’m sorry I rambled on so long. Thank you to those of you brave enough to post your stories as well. Your stories are inspiring and helpful. I’m sorry to my friends and family, especially those of you I abandoned to be at church. I did that often while I was there, and it was absolutely wrong of me. I’m sorry to those of you outside the church who I hurt by condemning you or, even worse, by leading you into Christianity. I’m sorry to those of you who were in the church while I was, who I condemned when you did something that was wrong in the church’s eyes.

Most importantly, to you who are in Christianity, or thinking about entering it, let me tell you that, looking back on my life, almost every regret I have is somehow affiliated with a decision I made based on my beliefs in the Bible and Christianity. Don’t waste away in a church that does nothing but help out its leadership, get out there and do what you want to do, as long as it doesn’t interfere with the rights of another. The founding fathers of America described, succinctly, the rights of an individual as the rights to life, liberty, and property (our past, present, and future), and so long as you respect those rights of everyone around you, you can be a moral person outside of a book that was compiled almost two millennia ago.

8/22/08                                                                                       View Comments

I Watched a Good Christian Woman Suffer. Where was her God?

Sent in by Tina

I've struggled with faith my entire life, and now I truly believe that religions were established so power mongers could control and oppress people (especially women).

My late mother walked away from her church as a teenager and never looked back. She was still very much a believer in the bible but did not believe in the trinity theory that so many Christian churches teach. She did encourage her children to go to different churches with friends and decide for ourselves what we wanted to believe. As a youngster I frequented Catholic, Baptist and Methodist churches and even visited a synagogue once.

My mom spent years studying the Bible on her own and obeying all of the “rules." Virgin until she married, never cheated on my dad (and he probably cheated on her), gave birth to children she really did not want and tried to live by the rules spoon fed to us by our Christian based society.

What did my mom get in the end? A miserable and slow death from cancer (dying that way was her biggest fear). She fought it for 5 years and suffered so much on and off through those years. I loved my mom so very much; she was the only thing in this world that I had any faith in. If her God does exist then I hate him/her/it/whatever for making her suffer in the way she feared most.

I have done some bad things in my life, but I look at those as crimes committed against self and other humans, not crimes committed against some god. A Christian friend once told me to confess my sins and beg forgiveness so I can be saved. Forgiveness for what? For being human? Saved from what? From being able to think for myself?

I have asked for forgiveness for my past transgressions but I only ask it of myself and of those I have wronged. I will now try to move forward and be a better person for myself and those who love me, not for some imaginary god.

Why do we need the fear of an invisible god or a place like hell to love and respect one another? This is a question I ask of Christians all the time and cannot get a straight answer.

I find it hard to believe that a god would let billions of people (especially children) suffer so some prophecy can be fulfilled. I find it hard to believe that if I do some bad things in an estimated 75 years of life that I will be condemned to burn in some hellfire for eternity (that does not seem fair).

I see good people who have bad things regularly happen to them and I see bad people who have everything go their way. I am guessing all of those good people are required to wait until after death to receive good things. Total BS in my book!

I used to blame myself for bad things that happened to me and those around me. I thought it was my fault because of my “sins.” Finally I realized that all things, good and bad, are just part of the cards that life deals to you. Sometimes we are dealt good hands and other times not so good hands. It is all about choices, coincidence, luck, timing and sometimes just plain hard work.

If there is a god who will make countless people suffer (including his own son) to fulfill some prophecy, then I want no part of it. If this god loves us so much and is so powerful then why subject the innocent to unspeakable cruelties?

I was once told that god is supposed to know the good people from the bad people before they are even born. Why is this god allowing the bad people to be born? Is the purpose of the bad people to tempt the good people? Does this god need to prove to some other being (Satan) that it is superior because its followers will resist temptation? To me it just sounds like some sadistic chess game in which humans are used as the game pieces.

I was insulted and hurt when my boyfriend recently said “there is nothing wrong with believing and having values.” I pretty much took that as him telling me that I have no values because I don’t believe in something that is nothing more than a fairy tale. I am now reassessing my relationship with him because of that statement. One can develop values without joining a cult (I believe all religions are cults) and one can have values without believing in an invisible being in the sky.

I have so much more to say but don’t want to bore everyone. I feel so much better just typing this. Hopefully it will help me get over the anger and depression about my mother’s death and allow me to move on with the remainder of my life.

I am so glad I found this site!

8/21/08                                                                                       View Comments

I had always been a defeatist, pessimistic, cynical doubter

Sent in by Michael

I write this mostly as catharsis, not as a call to action or as a convincing case against Christianity. As I think more and more about it, I have come to realize that my life is far more valuable than I let it on to be, and that my deconversion a year and a half ago only opened me up to far more than I had ever experienced.

I was raised Catholic, in a family where religion was far less about belief and far more about heritage. Talk of God or Jesus was rare in my household, though my family attended Sunday masses as frequently as possible and my father taught catechism, leading untold numbers of children into the "fold" which most did not seem to care about anyway. I remember Mass as something very boring and monotonous, so I attempted to make the best of it, letting my imagination run wild by thinking up little stories about all the different things I saw around me, trying to visualize the events occurring in the stained glass windows and the meaning of the strange, arcane symbols that abounded. It was a time when I got to exercise my mind, with everything about God and Christianity taking a backseat. I never saw it as important. Good was good and bad was bad. Why suffer through an hour of hymns and speeches for that?

I would occasionally think of my religion outside of church, though mostly in the context of odd questions which I had dreamed up. My first one was pretty standard: Why the hell was God turning people into pillars of salt and torching cities in the Old Testament, then playing the nice guy in the New Testament? Nothing would go answered, since to me it was all idle musing. Catechism was no different. I'd learn of church doctrine and the sacraments, but most of the time I'd simply misbehave out of boredom and rebellion (and a rather serious case of ADHD which I have been struggling with for a long time). All in all, my faith was something that was never something to be taken seriously.

That all changed when, during one class, I saw a video depicting the physical nature of the crucifixion, describing in detail all of the horrible pain that Jesus endured. I still remember the description of the brutal lashings with barbel-shaped flogs, which would tear out hunks of skin, and the nails going through the bones of the hands and piercing nerves. There were no visuals of violence, but the general mood it set was enough to unnerve me, deeply affecting me and turning a once misbehaved boy into something of a believer, though this was really only for my own benefit, fueled by my own fears. I attended church regularly and dragged my parents to the front row, went to confession frequently, and tried to be good. Of course, by the average conservative Christian's standards, I was little more than a poser, but I sincerely believed that I was in with God, and at this point, I tried feeling his presence a bit more than I was. This was all when I was eleven.

Of course, I knew I was not perfect, but I figured that nobody was, and that fundamentalists were simply overzealous, angry people who hated themselves just as much as they hated sin. Still, religion did not tend to cross my mind a lot, just every once in a while when it came up. It was never a big deal until I began having doubts in high school. I was practically a social outcast due to my eccentricities and overall inability to fit in, and had very few friends. As I continued through school, I became more and more associated with a few close circles of people, and met my best friend during finals in my freshman year. He was, at the time, a die hard atheist and political junkie. I remember telling him that I was a "Da Vinci Code Catholic," somebody who accepts more liberal teachings and was inclusive, but pious nonetheless. Of course, we had our little philosophical discussions, and by the time I was a junior, I was sliding into deism, though I still did not have much knowledge compared to now, and was only slightly less ignorant than most of my peers.

As a senior, my social life suddenly bloomed, and I was with a great deal of people of various religious persuasions. I was also an agnostic, of sorts, shifting back and forth between that and deism, considering that the fear of Hell was still fresh in my mind and unconsciously driving my actions. I also felt that I needed prayer as an outlet to relieve my tension, a purpose it had always served. It was stress relief. Toward the middle of the year, I was beginning to read material by Sam Harris, and my favorite book, "Letter to a Christian Nation," finally put me over the edge. I was an atheist by then, after finally deciding that I was simply splitting hairs in calling myself an agnostic purely out of a philosophical need for consistency (my 1% chance that I was wrong). Around this time, I was a lot more vocal and outspoken (though I already was as a political anarchist), and began educating myself a lot more in religion and theology. Though it was not a complete understanding, I considered it sufficient for the average layperson to justify and defend his lack of belief. It was very refreshing to be free of Christianity and to have a new worldview.

This is only half the story, though, because my life never really took many dramatic turns for the better or worse until after I was an atheist, and after I fully understood most of the things that I was saying. I struggled with a fear of my own mortality for a little while, until this was finally reconciled by my own
realization that death was not something to fear, just as I should not look upon the time before my birth as being full of terror and pain. It was ludicrous to even consider death to be something to fear. Things were fine for a bit, and I thought that I had reached the sum total of my quest for religious understanding. Then I lost it. I met a girl, and though she was not my first or most significant relationship to date, the sudden breakup was enough to set me down a bad path. I suddenly realized that I was not a good person, the kind I claimed to be, and that I generally did not want to see the world in a positive light. I never did. I had always been a defeatist, pessimistic, cynical doubter, and I began to seek out a good outlet. For a period of time I had flirted with the possibility of joining the Church of Satan, and I was probably one of the few people I knew who took their beliefs seriously. I soon discarded this in favor of other concepts, original ones that the church drew inspiration from, cynical, angry, iconoclastic voices such as Nietzsche and Schopenhauer. All through my first year of college, I was slowly losing my mind and composure. Being thrown into a new situation gave me a serious kick, and I began having doubts about atheism, studying Christian apologetics and trying in vain every once in a while to be "saved" in a dramatic fashion.

I never fell to the ground weeping and wailing, and so I assumed that my sincere experiments were for naught. I assumed that I simply had to endure what I was beginning to see as an absurd cycle of sporadic ups and frequent downs, with mediocrity filling the spaces in between.

During this time, I developed a very strong hatred for Christianity as well, seeing it mostly as a group of smug individuals who wanted nothing but to boast of their own happiness. It made me angry that I could not reach their level of bliss. I fell for another girl that a friend of mine had introduced me to earlier that year, and spent a week in perpetual happiness, more vibrant and positive than anything I had ever experienced. A week after we met, I lost my virginity to her in what was quite possibly the greatest hour and fifteen minutes of my life, and she broke up with me the same day, leaving me broken, angry, and more depressed than ever. Soon, I turned to moral nihilism, which I saw as an accurate reflection of my views on the world. Life was meaningless and pointless, engineered as a placebo to dupe the weak-minded into thinking otherwise. I became more conservative and at one point was ready to call myself a Social Darwinist. I just wanted to burn the world clean of everyone and everything, and with that emotiveness, my humanism embraced as a high school senior mutated into a twisted misanthropy, fueled by the writings of the most misanthropic, bleak people I could find (Google "Pentti Linkola" and "Boyd Rice" to know what I mean). I also dabbled in Hermetics and considered ritual magick, though I quickly dropped this as soon as I realized that it was ridiculous, and that it would no more aid in expanding my locus of control than getting on my knees and praying for Jesus to "save" me.

I had friends, family, and very good grades, as I have always had, but I lacked meaning and direction, and I felt incapable of creating it without some guiding force. I suddenly realized that without theism, I was a fish out of water.

That was fairly recent, and at the moment I am still somewhat rattled by my own emotional distress, my loneliness, and my sense of alienation and self-doubt. It never arose from religion, but my beliefs have changed to reflect my own life and it's struggles. Now, I'm drifting from my previous, deep-seated anger with the world
and attempting to embrace a more positive outlook. I have always seen the concept of the ubermensch to be rather silly, but still metaphorically powerful, and I remain very much inspired by Nietzsche's overarching philosophy. I have also become close to nature in the intervening time between then and now, which I can attribute just as much to my desire for solitude to clear my mind as I can to my passion for black metal and folk music, two genres which I see as very misunderstood, but very powerful and meaningful to the open listener. I can still remember my time in the nature preserve of my university, listening to Drudkh and Burzum on my MP3 player as I and looked out at the expansive forests in awe. I have decided since then to pursue my interest in ancient European folklore and culture, and to major in anthropology. As of now, though, I am still changing, and I still feel as though I have a lot of growing up to do, so as of now, most everything I believe is tentative.

Religion never ruled me, it never broke me. It never made me do things that affected me so deeply that I had to scorn it for its damage to my mind. I was never exploited due to an outdated, fanatical belief system, but I have found that I have for a long time had tacit control over what I had believed, mimicking my internalized feelings externally in expressing my fear, desperation, isolation, anger, and self-hatred. At no point was I truly a "free thinker," unshackled from dogma, as I had promptly fettered myself in my own chains. If anything, my beliefs
had been an outlet for my own frustrations with myself and others. Still, I see a valid lesson in my journey, which happened almost exclusively within my own mind, defined better with feeling than experiences with others.

Humans are mentally powerful, passionate creatures, who have the capability to create and destroy with their ideas alone. If properly channeled by a sufficiently disturbed person, an extremist idea can turn deadly. This is a question of understanding the religious mindset, of knowing what makes people tick, of crawling into the heads of believers and nonbelievers alike and attempting to understand why people take positions. It is, in a way, a roundabout message stressing empathy, of understanding that behind an ardent fundamentalist might be a confused, angry, emotionally drained person, struggling to understand life just as much as some of us do.

8/20/08                                                                                       View Comments

I became an atheist as a 13-year-old

Sent in by Tressa

My dad was born to a Jewish father and a Protestant mother. They raised him to have a marginal belief in a monotheistic, omnipotent God and the existence of an afterlife, but other than that, for the purpose of compromise, he was not brought up under any definite religious doctrine. To this day, my dad holds vaguely deist beliefs, but is fairly distrustful of organized religion. My mom was born to a devout Anglican mother and a Seventh-Day Adventist father; keep in mind that in these days, the Adventist church was not as well-integrated into mainstream society as it is today, and was still quite a bizarre Christian offshoot along the lines of the Jehovah's Witnesses. My mom was baptized Anglican but raised in the United Church of Canada, as it was the dominant religious institution in the small Ontario town her family eventually moved to.

The United Church of Canada is a uniquely Canadian institution. Despite technically being founded as an evangelical Protestant denomination, it has always been fairly mainline to liberal in its theological teachings; that said, its members come from all across the spectrum of Christian thought, so it is still prone to plenty of spats and threatened ruptures, sort of like the Anglican Church. And just like the Anglican Church in England, it has historically been the dominant Protestant church in Canada, and throughout the years has had quite a strong impact on Canadian culture and politics.

Like most children growing up in small towns in the 1950s and 60s, my mom was deeply involved with her local church, very keen on her religion, and still looks back on the experience fondly. However, for reasons unknown to me, she became less interested in organized religion as soon as she left home to attend university, and stopped going to church. When I was born, she did not even want to have me baptized, but was pressured into it by her family. I was baptized into the United Church as an infant.

Though I was raised with very basic Christian beliefs ("God loves you and you'll go to Heaven when you die"), my family was not devoutly religious; we were the typical "Easter-and-Christmas-only" church-goers. My first major exposure to religion was when I was hospitalized for pneumonia for an extended period as a seven year-old. I was watching the bedside TV when The Ten Commandments film came on. I was quite enthralled with this tale of plagues and rivers turning to blood, and I asked an attending nurse about it. She was horrified that I thought it was just another fantasy movie and did not recognize it as a Biblical story. She returned the next day and presented a Gideon Bible to me. I was a voracious reader as a child and, due to the blandness of my hospital stay, wound up reading the entire thing cover-to-cover. I cannot understate that it absolutely terrified me. God seemed like a psychopathic tyrant who would horrifically murder you for the slightest misstep, and since my parents had told me that this was all true, I was sure that it had all really happened and that God would get around to wiping me out any day now. I can't remember how my parents managed to calm me down about Christianity after that.

My lazy Christian existence came to a screeching halt when my mom's mother passed away. In her grief, she ran back to religion, and we were suddenly attending services every Sunday and becoming active members of the church community. I was now signed up for Sunday school, studying the Bible, and participating in church youth group activities left and right. My Sunday school teacher/youth group leader was an ex-Catholic who had only left the church because he married a Protestant and didn't want to upset her by giving into church pressure to baptize his kids Catholic. He always wanted to be "down" with the kids, so we would watch movies, eat ice cream, play sports, or go bowling, but with long discussions on Jesus worked in. Of course, his Catholic leanings were prone to slipping into lessons, like a fixation on sexual prohibitions. We were always being lectured on the evils of birth control and abortion, or how only sluts get HIV and/or unwanted teen pregnancies. I remember this one time, he was giving the lesson on how we are all sinners in the eyes of God. His example was "You might think that most of God's laws don't apply to you, but they do. For example, look at the incest prohibition. You might think 'That's gross, I would never break that', but then, remember that hot cousin you're always fantasizing about..." That was one of the first times I ever thought "Man, Christians are kind of messed up." (This was before Arrested Development too!) I was not much of a fan of participating in these youth church activities, because my peers were your typical cliquey, "holier-than-thou" bunch who had known each other since they were infants, and as both a latecomer and not the world's most devout Christian, they were just not interested in socializing with me.

I became an atheist as a 13-year-old, pretty much just on the spur of the moment. I was reading through the Bible and it just hit me that none of this really made sense based on what I was being taught about science in school. Additionally, though the church tried to moderate its beliefs, the Bible itself was too vicious a book for me; I had friends from many religious backgrounds and could not buy into the idea that they were all destined for Hell just because they were born into a different culture than me. I informed my parents of my newfound opinion on religion, and my mom proceeded to flip out and lecture me on how atheism was a symptom of selfishness, that atheists were all bitter, emotionally unfulfilled people with massive personal problems who wanted to wipe out everyone else's religion, that I was threatening her own shot at Heaven with these beliefs, and that I was too young to know anything about religion and would eventually come crawling back to Christianity. I stood my ground and told her that this was not just some little teen rebellion stunt; I had come to understand on my own that Christianity was not compatible with what I knew about science and, though the Bible did say some good things, when taken as a whole, its overarching message ran contrary to my own worldview.

I refused to continue attending church, and on the odd time that I was forced to go, I would just sit passively in on the sermon and avoid the Sunday school lesson. My mom was particularly outraged because I was only a year away from confirmation, and she was insistent that I needed to get confirmed regardless of my own personal beliefs. I was sure that I would be forced to go through with it, but luckily she eventually gave up on me and I was able to wiggle out of going to church forever.

In particular, I'm really glad that I got out of organized religion before I fully comprehended that I was gay, because I think it would have been too much for me otherwise. I remember that one of our junior youth group leaders was a beautiful young woman who I could not stop having "unholy" thoughts about! (In my defense, she was gorgeous, so I'm sure I wasn't the only one.) Despite my atheism, I still had to spend many years working through a lot of inner guilt thanks to all of the unnecessary sexual hang-ups I had beaten into me by Sunday school. It's been seven years since I became an atheist (I'm now 20), and I have never even once regretted leaving Christianity. I feel a newfound sense of privacy and freedom, since I no longer have to worry about some sky-being judging my every little thought, and I'm able to devise my own ethics based on logic and reason. Though I've since extensively researched world religions, I could never return to being religious, even if I tried with all of my might, because I find that once you leave (and read up on all the relevant science), it's near-impossible to ever mentally "buy in" again.

P.S. I didn't know where to cram this in to my story, but one of the most hilarious church moments that I ever experienced was when the minister gave a sermon in which he recounted a "harrowing" incident in which he had seen some vicious-looking goth teenagers coming down the street towards him and had raced the other way! Since I lived in the most bland, white suburb ever, I just had this visual of this 50 year-old man spotting a bunch of awkward 15 year-olds in ill-fitting Slipknot hoodies and their moms' black eyeliner, and still being terrified out of his mind and having to run off like a scared child.

8/18/08                                                                                       View Comments

I regret my trip through Christianity and I wish to apologize to those that I led to it

Sent in by Ian

I wish to post my testimony for a few reasons.

For one, I hope that just one person gets a bit of help from this. I've been so encouraged by this site and others like it that I felt moved to help in the only way I know how. Second, I want it known that I am a new person. I'm not the Christian that I once was. I'm not that judgmental, closed-minded conservative that worries about every action and is ruled entirely by guilt and false obligation. Anyway, it turns out that I even like myself.

Who am I? I'm one that was raised in Christianity. I probably have a more extreme background in it than most Christians, I admit. I'm about 32 years old and couldn't understand that somebody on an atheist blog wouldn't know what "equally yoked" meant. I am an atheist/agnostic/oh, I don't know what I am--but I'm entirely comfortable with "I don't know" as my status. What I do know is that Christianity is not true. I regret my trip through Christianity and I wish to apologize to those that I led to it. It is at best a nice tradition and at worst a brainwashing and damaging experience.

Christian readers--I know I've likely angered you or inspired your sense of compassion somehow. That is okay--I'm going to tell you where the point of brainwashing occurred in my life and how the church controlled ME and most of the people that I knew. Does this ring of any truth?

First, the reason for doubt: The further I dug into the bible and Christianity in order to get to know it and in order to be able to argue FOR it in any situation, the less I was able to seriously admit that I believed it. Every hard issue came down to a non argument. I heard "it is a heart issue" and "you have to have faith" way too much. Didn't they keep telling me that God created us to be in the image of God and therefor logical? Why doesn't this make sense then?

Then the inconsistencies began to pop up--when the bible should be theoretical versus true. New Testament vs Old Testament arguments started to become really weak. Why would God have two different rules for us as humans (pre and post Jesus)? How about the flood? Did God not see that all of that coming? If God set the world to be perfect but Adam and Eve screwed it all up, then I guess I'm not worshiping a very powerful god. I could list many more.

From there, I began to study the Bible itself--where it came from, its iterations, how it was selected and translated, torn and broken.

It doesn't look like what it did and when I asked the church elders why this is, they only answered, "yes it is different, and isn't it amazing that through all of that the Bible continues to translate to be perfect? It remains the infallible word of God." They didn't get it at all--and turned me off of Christianity forever.

It flooded in over the next couple of years. An epiphany here, a change in politics there. Soon I was reading things I would never read and saying things I would never say. I voted for a Democrat.

Don't get me wrong--I was and am damaged. I still have a natural reaction to WANT to argue with evolutionists even though I intellectually believe them to be right.. I saw somebody laying hands on another on TV and casting out in Jesus name and it made me weep because it made me realize how off I was and how normal I thought this was. I realized how much pain I actually brought on myself--but more importantly on my family and friends. I saw how I wasted my life and screwed up others'. You know, it took years before I could say "oh my god". I had never uttered those words in 27 or more years.

I became angry at Christians and everything related to them. This had an ill effect in my life and I had a hard time regaining my happiness. My family equated this to having lost my way, and it was spooky how right they were in a sense. I mean--my entire belief system just proved false. It was confusing.

So I stopped. I stopped it all. No praying, no going to church. I began to do what I found fun and fulfilling. I discovered so much about me--I'm not a stuffy jerk. I LIKE being by myself a lot. I enjoy the company of people who's views I disagree with. Diversity is fun and nice and people have a tendency to smile at you if you smile first. Fear of social situations have slowly gone away too! See, it turns out that once you stop fearing god or making a mistake, you stop feeling so much guilt, fear, and worry in every aspect of your life. Oh, don't get me wrong--guilt still rules me sometimes but it is better every day when I realize that I'm the only one keeping track.

It was that level of disconnection from Christianity that allowed me, though, to reach my deconversion moment. It was really set and sealed with one epiphany: I was brainwashed and I was afraid of my own thoughts. I'm serious.

Hear me out. Tell me...how do you control a person's actions most effectively? Well, control their thoughts. The Bible speaks in many places about God reading the thoughts of men. It speaks quite a bit about Jesus "having known the men's
thoughts". I was taught to pray silently. Why? Well, of course God could read my thoughts. Even Jesus said that adultery in your thoughts is just as bad as having committed it.

You don't want a rebellious child? Tell them that Jesus knows what they are THINKING about doing. Maybe you should also give them an example of stoning rebellious children somewhere in the old testament just for fun!!

Tell a child all of this as soon as they are able to understand. Once they accept that God knows their thoughts, try to tell them not to ever ever blaspheme against the holy spirit because it is a such an extremely horrible thing to do. Want to know what they are probably struggling with now? Probably, the poor child is screwing his face up trying to keep bad thoughts from slipping in. It happened to me....

For me, it was a constant struggle to control those thoughts. This continued (albeit with less and less admission) into adulthood! Even, as a child, when people thought I behaved well, Jesus and I knew better because I had already committed so many things in my mind! Better yet--when I inquired about this, I was taught that these were temptations. Those were "fleeting thoughts" that were placed there by Satan or a demon as a temptation to me. If I give into these, I allow them into my life. Now I was doubly scared because no matter how hard I prayed, God never took away these tempting thoughts. I didn't know that everybody was like this because everybody had their own natural, normal, conflicting, and analytical thoughts too. It progressed to sometimes being prayed for. At extreme times (but several nonetheless) somebody would want me to have demons or spirits cast out (further proving the inadequacy because you have to have done something to let that spirit into your life at some point in the first place).

At any rate, I came to know that I was, indeed, brainwashed to not allow my own thoughts to progress past anything that was indoctrinated into me. While I'm sure that those at the local churches (parents included) never intended anybody to be brainwashed--that just doesn't excuse the effects on my life.

Where do I stand now? Well, I can only be sure about today so today I will be happy. It is all fading and the real me has finally emerged. Truth does exist, but not in the form I once thought. It turns out that you just need to BE for it to come to you. Just be calm and know that Jesus Christ is not lord. Just as God changed Saul's name to Paul and Abram to Abraham, I am changing my name in the opposing manner to reflect me--the me that I actually like.

With pride, I introduce myself for the first time:

Your friend,

Ian

8/14/08                                                                                       View Comments

I sat down and said my last prayer. I can not go on believing that Christianity is true

Sent in by James

I've been visiting this site for a while now and it's been a real help during my deconversion. I thought it was about time I contributed and maybe help someone else who is looking for answers.

Well, eight months ago I told a friend "I am a Christian who loves God and has no ulterior motives or desire to not be a Christian. Yet I am willing to leave Christianity if it is found that its claims of Truth can not hold up. Anyone who would not abandon even their most deeply cherished beliefs if it became clear it was false would be a self-deluding fool." I still think that no one should have a belief so cherished that it could not be given up if evidence shows it to be false. That is why I no longer believe in the Christian conception of god, or any personal god for that matter. I am now an atheist. Through reading people's deconversion stories I have discovered the terms weak atheism and strong atheism. A strong atheist would say there is no god, period. A weak atheist would say that he (or she) does not believe there is a god. I'm not really sure if the distinction is a necessary one. I mean, I don't think anyone can honestly take the position that there is no possibility of there being a god. But just to clarify, I would call myself a weak atheist.

Now some might say whoa what's going on? Eight months ago you said you loved God and didn't want to leave Christianity what happened? That is what I want to explain. Before I describe the deconversion process I need to tell you the situation before that. Without giving you my life story I grew up in a Christian home with loving parents. I did not have a horrible childhood or have bad experiences with Christianity like some. Most of my time was spent at church due to it also being my school. All of my social activities occurred at school/church and all my friends were from one, the other, or both. I said the sinner's prayer when I was 6 but when I entered high school I did it again because I felt a 6-year-old couldn't actually make a decision like that.

Around the time I became a junior in high school I was introduced to apologetics. Apologetics excited me greatly because I was beginning to see that not everyone believed in Christianity. Also I already had friends who had left Christianity. Through apologetics I had actual physical evidence for my beliefs, or so I thought. My passion for apologetics mixed with my passion for teaching and I decided that I was going to save the world. That apologetics would be my career. My favorite apologetic topic was creationism, followed by the infallibility of the Bible. It is no surprise that creationism was a favorite of mine; after all, it was taught to me in all of my science classes! I can't remember how many times I said to people "What? You believe in evolution? Are you kidding me there is no evidence for that." What a fool I was.

Skip ahead a bit. I was well into college and had encountered all those kinds of people that I was warned would corrupt me. But just like I had been prepared for my faith came through intact if not stronger. That is until I took a geology class. I took this class because I loved science and had always had a special interest in geology. The professor I ended up with is the kind of guy you hope and pray that you get in college. He made class fun and learning easy. I wish there was a heaven for this guy to go to. He asked at the beginning of the semester what we believed about the age of the earth and if dinosaurs lived with man. I and others raised our hands. This did not phase him. He let it be known that it was fine that we believed this because the evidence speaks for itself and that he was not going to try to attack our religion or beliefs but was just going to teach us geology.

Near the beginning of the semester we learned about something called an unconformity. There are several different kinds but what really had an impression on me was angular unconformities. I just Googled around for a specific definition and this is what I found. An angular unconformity is "an unconformity in which younger sediments rest upon the eroded surface of tilted or folded older rocks". I was shown unconformities which had thousands of feet of fossil bearing strata below it and had as many feet of strata above it or had that many feet eroded away. This blew my mind. I knew this did not jive with Young Earth Creationism and flood geology. I would even call it a smoking gun against YEC. I emailed the Institute for Creation Research (where I wanted to work at the time) and asked their professor of geology about unconformities and how they fit with YEC and flood geology. I received a response but it was basically one long non answer. I learned more and more about geology in class and out of class and very soon I knew YEC was a lie.

Even though I quickly accepted that the earth was old (acceptance of evolution would come later) the shock that a huge part of what I believed was wrong hit me hard and lasted for a long time. When I discovered that an old earth was not a problem for Christianity, like I'd been taught, I was beyond thrilled. I had thought my world was falling apart. Some might say well your faith must have been pretty weak, but you have to understand that I had been taught that the idea of an old earth and evolution were 100% completely incompatible with Christianity and those who believed both were living a lie. So after I did all the research and discovered that the evidence for an old earth was incontrovertible my mind , as the ancient robot proverb says, could not compute. But I bounced back quickly and was soon espousing the marvels of Old Earth Creationism. Hugh Ross, who is the main proponent of this, was my new found hero.

However the horrible feelings that came with discovering something I had held as a basic and obvious truth did not leave me. I began to realize that many of my beliefs could just as easily be overturned because they were based on little if any evidence. The idea developed that I should take every single one of my beliefs and prove them so that I could eliminate any as misplaced as Young Earth Creationism. I never expected such tenants as belief in Jesus, the gospels, and God to fall but I wanted to be an apologist and if I couldn't defend my beliefs to my own satisfaction how could I do it to others? Thus the idea of a Search for Truth was born. When I said I was willing to not be a Christian despite all my wishes otherwise if the evidence was against it I was serious. That was the risk I was willing to take. Because, truth to me is so much more important than any traditions or my own personal feelings. What use is it being happy if I am living a lie?

My findings from the year plus that I spent on my Search for Truth are pretty extensive and I think I'd like to write a book some day about it but the reasons I left Christianity and the order they occurred in is easy to sum up. As I already mentioned my quest began by me learning the immense age of the earth. It did not take long for me to realize with an old earth evolution was probably true. Without flood geology all arguments against evolution loose a lot of force. I mean if the flood did not put all those extinct animals there then what happened? Did God periodically create animals to make up for disasters which caused extinctions? That is ridiculous. I began to read everything I could come upon dealing with evolution (something I still do with a passion) and it became painfully obvious how ignorant I had been when I told people they were silly to think evolution was true when there was no evidence for it.

Next I realized that the Bible could not be infallible. Once again it was because of my discovery that the earth was old. Old Earth Creationists make some convincing arguments on how to have an old earth fit with Genesis, and in fact most of them work, kinda. However I could not reconcile the concept of people hundreds of years old spending over a hundred years building a boat to save their livestock from a local flood. It just doesn't fit. This opened the floodgates, no pun intended, for me discovering how fallible the Bible is. Things like the prophecies supposedly foretelling Jesus lost meaning. The dates that the old testament was written and the stories they told lost meaning. The authors of the Gospels lost meaning. That is just a few of things too. And even though they don't have anything to do with infallibility themselves this same line of research revealed the inaccuracy of doctrines like original sin, hell, etc.

By this time I was in constant turmoil. However I still felt love for God; I still believed in Him and Christianity; I still prayed all the time and felt like I was being listened to. But even with all of that I had this mountain of evidence against Christianity which was literally growing daily. My grades began to suffer. I began to question if I could live at all in a world without Christianity. I even considered dropping out of school to devote all my time to the question of is Christianity the Truth. During this time I still believed in Christianity. If someone had held a gun to my head and said are you a Christian and if you are we will kill you I would have screamed YES! But at the same time a part of my mind knew that I was staring the conclusion of my search in the face.
That Christianity is false and that there is no personal god and probably no god at all.

Typing those words even now hurts. I was losing something that had been to my life what my bones were to my body. Everything was based on it, supported by it, and moved by it. Things like what was I going to do with my life all of a sudden began to gain a new significance. I had planned on becoming an apologist. Preaching to people and teaching them how true Christianity was and how their faith did not have to be blind. If Christianity was not true I would have to find a new direction in life. If I became a non believer and this got out I would loose many friends and become ostracized from my family. I felt like I should be mad at God for even making me where I had to make such a decision.

One day I just got tired of the tension. I realized I had known the answer for a while. I sat down and said my last prayer. I told God that I had loved him and followed his laws. That I had learned however that many of the things I had been taught about Him were not true. I told Him that if He is actually there and Christianity is true that I am sorry. But with the mental abilities I have and with the evidence that exists I can not go on believing that he exists or Christianity is true. I said goodbye. I then told myself that I was not a Christian.

It was really hard to do that. It is even hard now to write that. I guess after 3 months I am still transitioning. But I am sure as I can be that I have made the right decision if you can even call it a decision. C.S. Lewis called himself the most reluctant convert to Christianity. I feel like I was the most reluctant to leave it. I will continue to research Christianity and the evidences against it. I never documented many of the things which I read or saw which lead to my decision and I feel that I need to document them so that I can give an answer for why I am an atheist to any of my friends or family if they find out, when they find out. Also I find myself wondering if it was all just a dream. That Christianity is actually true and that I have just made some horrible mistake. This drives me to learn as much as I can and if I am some how wrong I will find out. But I doubt I am.

8/12/08                                                                                       View Comments

Quitting Christianity after 23 years

Sent in by Virginia

Christianity thrives on human suffering and yearn for community. It was precisely under these circumstances that I committed myself to Christ at 19 years old, when my family got into serious trouble -- father filed for bankruptcy, my parents separated.

With all the yearning for care and love upon the utter shattering of my family, my high school pals who were Christians befriended me.

I began fervently witnessing Christ, became a cell group leader on Bible study, witnessed to friends and relatives about Jesus and the salvation, using the tracts supplied from my church.

I was active in church and in my college years, also leaded evangelizing activities witnessing Jesus. However, I sensed in the entire ethos of this set of belief, some incompleteness.

It promised one being "new in Christ", with Christ Lordship, a person should be filled with blissful joy and contentment. It was not the case, the blissful atmosphere common in Christian community were mainly externalized activities expressing contentment.
In the core, the person's problem, their pains and hurts were never really addressed -- the religious experience serves only to numb one's sense.

I gradually felt the sharp incongruity as I became more aware of the many contradictions within the Bible, and contradictions with contemporary social reality.

For example, the Bible prohibits woman from assuming any leadership role or ministerial role, yet I saw many women who are talented leaders and fine ministers.
Similarly, the way Genesis described the origins of life do not reconcile with clear scientific evidence.

Yet the most disturbing aspect of Christianity was its hypocrisy. As I got acquainted with church leadership, with larger circles of Christian, their behavior and methods of dealing with others is so unchristian -- lies, deceits, double-talks, abusive use of powers etc. -- all carried out under the veil of a smiling face uttering Jesus' love.

For years, I wrestled the issues, trying to find ways out by reading contemporary theological works from Karl Bart, Hans Kung etc. -- I was overwhelmed with long elaboration of a set of belief attempting to "re-explain" the Bible -- which raised more questions than answers -- the Bible became so malleable that you don't really needed it -- just place any contemporary philosophical thought and slab the "God" label and that's it.

I considered Catholicism, primarily due to its beautiful liturgy, yet I found myself avoiding the key question -- Christianity started from a immutable assumption -- we owe our existence to God and God is the one that give us life and meaning. We are not permitted to ask if God existed, this is something the Christian theologian referred to as stopping "infinite regression" -- but is this the right place to stop ?

Attempt to use existing apologetic materials on the origins of life, creation etc. lead me to nowhere -- for I read enough materials that clearly debunks ideas like Intelligent Design etc.

I finally asked the question: do our cosmos come to existence because of a creation ? My discovery tells me that, we simply cannot find evidence that our cosmos are created -- Christians like the sound of a creation by God more and cannot bear the seemingly impersonal description of how matters/energy exchanges.

I look to atheist sites like infidel.org and books by Richard Dawkins -- and there I realize that Christianity is the "gap" worshiper -- whenever there's something inexplicable, "God" is the default -- the inconsistency of Christian's approach to answer questions about scientific truth prove to be a very strong push factor that cause me to say no -- I am not into superstition -- no matter how Christians packaged their "scientific ideas" -- that very assumption of God (requiring unquestioning faith) cannot be accepted -- it leaves the ultimate core in the balance -- we based our outlook of life, morality etc. on something that simply "accepted as truth".

Moreover, on issues of morality, God is silent and permits so many flavours of understanding -- hardly a sure way for basis of morality.

As I satisfied and convinced myself that God existence is so improbable, I announced my resignation from Christianity, and embraced atheism -- only to my surprise that I can let go of the burden of defending a set of inconsistent ideas and be free to be a person of reason.

Atheism is like a life raft in an ocean of religious despair

Sent in by BiMamaFemAtheist

I posted the short version; here's the long version - SP.

I was born at home in January of 1983. Six of my grandmothers eight grandchildren were born this way (the other two are adopted). My parents split up before I can remember, and my mother went back to school to get her degrees (ending up with a PhD). So my grandmother was my primary parent (although mom did live in the same home). My grandmother, who I have always known as Giggy, was both devout and insane. She made the rules and meted out the punishments. In the late 1970s she wrote a Xtian bestseller about the end times and promptly retired from nursing, a job she hated. After a few years of notoriety and fame in the Xtian fundy world (then known as charismatic) she became a "spiritual midwife", urging women to forgo traditional prenatal care and instead root out "defilements" in their lives that might cause a less-than-perfect birth experience. This is the world I grew up in: no Smurfs, Care Bears, or Fraggle Rock. No music outside of church and church choir. No movies till they'd been broadcast on basic TV and then recorded and edited by my grandmother (heavy on that fast-forward button through any bad language or dirtiness). No public school till 4th grade, when my mom graduated and we moved out of state to get away from Gig.

I was sheltered from typical childhood experiences like trick-or-treating (evil and pagan) and Santa (a threat to the "true" meaning of the laughably, equally pagan Christmas) but instead exposed to horrors like medically unassisted home births. I remember being maybe six years old, coloring in the dining room of a stranger's home for hours and hours and hours, when suddenly my grandmother pulled me into the bedroom where the birthing was taking place. There were complications, and my grandmother seemed to think God would be more amenable to the prayers of a child in this case, so I was brought in the room to lay hands on the laboring woman. Her baby was premature and so small. I don't know now how it turned out later in life. We were just there for the births, as far as I know. My grandmother wrote another book, this one non-fictional (supposedly) about her experiences in the "home birth ministry". This one has sold all over the world. My grandmother was invited to speaking engagements across the US and as far away as Perth, Australia to tell people how they weren't real Xtians if they didn't put ALL their faith in God. Did I mention we weren't allowed to lock our doors? Because that would mean putting our faith in things of this world, like man-made locks, instead of in our heavenly provider and protector.

We did not go to doctors. I got into the typical childhood scrapes, bruises and cuts. I also remember stepping on a rusty carpenter's nail in my cousin's back yard when I was about 5 and it going clean through my foot. No tetnus shot for me! Just prayer. It was the one-size-fits-all magic bullet. And it was all about manipulating God to do what He promised in that book of his. We had this huge wooden door hanging on the wall in our entry room, that my grandmother had painted blue, and had written the names of God from the OT in white paint (Jehovah Rapha, Nissi, Shalom, etc.) If you want a pop-cultural figure to relate her to, I offer Becky Fischer of "Jesus Camp" fame. Actually, watching that whole documentary was like some weird flashback, and what has triggered me writing this story.

So here was this incredibly "Godly' woman, well respected in the Xtian circles we saw (fundamentalist charismatic crazies), who would beat the shit out of us, supposedly because we were "in rebellion" and our "Adam nature" had gotten out of hand. Also that whole crap about "spare the rod, spoil the child". Gee, thanks Jesus, way to give child abuse some real religious authority! Fucker. But the weird thing was, for all the emotional, spiritual, mental and physical abuse, this was also the woman who would comfort me. When I had nightmares (which was frequently) she would rock me in her chair and sing Xtian hymns/lullabies about the peace of God to me, and hold me till I felt better, long after the age where I no longer comfortably fit in her ample lap.

My family was actually a bit open-minded in a close-minded way when it came to various denominations. We were non-denominational because NONE of them had enough "faith" as proscribed by Gig, but to get us out of her hair she'd happily send us to every single VBS (Vacation Bible School) in town: the Methodist one, the Mennonite one, etc. and we were involved in children's choir at the Baptist church.

In second grade I stopped being homeschooled and started attending a local private Christian school (I believe Church of God, but I'm not sure). This meant Bible class (easy for me, as it was all we GOT at home), typical school subjects, and of course Chapel on Wednesdays. I was friends with a girl who lived down the block my age, and I remember one Wednesday going to her house after school. Her dad said she wasn't home, but I could come in to wait and watch TV with him till she got there. He molested me. I will never forget that it happened on a Wednesday, because that's why I was wearing a dress that day. I'm older and now more about perverts and I'm pretty sure he would have tried at some point anyway, but as a kid, I associated it with being a girl and wearing a dress. That went on for over a year, till I finally broke through the "don't contradict your elders" teachings enough to tell my mom what was going on.

Being raised the way I was, I thought I was dirty, sinful, "impure" and above all, not a good woman. What man would want me? Also, I overheard the doctors (first I EVER saw was a freaking gynocologist doing a PAP smear on me at 8 to verify I had indeed been violated) telling my mother I would never bear children. This is all really painful to type, but I must get it out.

During this same time my older brother was getting into trouble with the law and at school. Mostly kid stuff, like shop lifting from the local 7-11, but also some kind of frightening things, like homemaking his own weapons. One day when I was in third grade a police officer came to my school to ask me questions about my family, because my brother had called child services to report we were being abused. I was so hurt that my willful, rebellious, sinful brother would dare make such accusations against our loving and godly grandmother! I still feel sick about not defending him. My family responded by shipping him across the country to go live with our stoner ex-Xtian dad.

Anyway, a few months after this my mom graduated with her doctorate and got a job very very out of state and we left. Now came public school, which I was totally unprepared for. Educationally I was actually ahead, but socially I was years behind. Imagine sending a five year old to fourth grade; essentially that's where I was socially/emotionally. I got picked on and bullied terribly. I remember the girl with leg braces picking on me, since it moved her a notch up the social ladder (she'd been at the bottom till I came). It didn't help that I had ingrained exceptionalism and elitism that belonging to a cult gives you, that totally out of proportion to reality arrogance and ignorance.

But I didn't think I'd been raised in a cult, just in church. We still attended church up north, though oddly enough my mom, sister and I each went to our own. I went to a local Community Church, my sister went to youth group at a Methodist, and I believe my mom attended Presbyterian singles group. I liked the pastor at my church because he was gentle and none of his sermons were about hell. During the three years we lived out of state, we still came to live with my grandmother over the summers, so we could spend time with our cousins, etc. She was no longer physically abusive and was a lot more relaxed about things like food (I remember eating nothing but Pillsbury Strudels for over a month one summer) but still crazy restrictive on others, like "secular" music.

One summer, she had a two-week long tour in Australia, and my aunt was left in charge of us. There was an incident where she got nutty and decided that either my sister or I had stolen some of her French chocolate liquors (ew). So she locked us in my grandmother's room with Bibles and assigned us to look up and write out passages about our sin. The truly hurtful, insane and FUCKED UP part was that she assigned us different sins - I was declared and "thief" and my sister a "glutton". Now, if it was the same crime we were both accused of, stealing and eating nasty boozy chocolates neither of us wanted (and to this day, in talks with each other, both deny having done it - I believe her) wouldn't we have gotten the same punishment? Just another example in a lifetime of screwy dogmatic child abuse.

A few years later we moved back to my home town for good. I started spending weekends at my grandmothers, and started working for her ministry. I would mail out her books and newsletters, type, file, etc. I also built the "ministry's" first website and blog. I actually got a lot of really good skills and training from that work, but in retrospect wish I had not done anything to help advance her unhealthy message. I was really starting to believe the things she said, right down to where doctors did more harm than good and people shouldn't expose their kids to those egotistical perverts. (She really hated being a nurse.)

Thank God for high school (ha!). I went to a school for the performing arts and was suddenly and joyously exposed to all those heathens I'd been warned about - people who openly practiced witchcraft, lesbians, actors, stoners, EVERYONE! It was glorious and wonderful. I had my first girlfriend, I found my first truly close friends. I had a little bit of breathing room, for a few hours a day, to be as weird as I wanted or needed to be. I think it's what saved me from being completely racist, sexist, and anti-gay. My grandmother certainly put forth a concerted effort to indoctrinate those principles into me.

After that I was never a "good Xtian" again. I still went to church, meant it when I sang and worshipped, etc, but I had sex when I wanted, experimented liberally with drugs and alcohol, and listened to rock and punk and rap and just everything that had been denied for so long. It was my own stumbling renaissance.

At 17 my mom kicked me out of the house for stupid shit, so I moved in with my dad (whose sole purpose is apparently to be there when my mom gets sick of us, but I'm grateful to him for that at least). I messed around with extacy (yuck) and was consequently hospitalized for suicide attempts twice. Then I got alcohol poisoning. My dad's girlfriend decided I was a liability who would have to go. In order to persuade my mom I was "worthy" of coming home, that I was truly "repentant" I had to go to a Christian cult detox FARM in Texas, where all the animals had biblical names (swear to mythological creature). It was insane. They were trying to cast demons out of me and after four days of this I finally just started faking convulsions to get them off my case. They also took my science fiction books from me, told me I was a whore because my belly button showed in some of my tops (it was AUGUST and where I'm from that means skimpy tops, sexuality aside), etc. But they did let me keep smoking cigarettes, oddly enough. Anyway, after a few weeks of that I got to move back in with my mother for a few months until I could afford my very own mobile home.

Flash forward a few years of this mildly uncomfortable double life (though really, only mildly) and you'll find me pregnant by my loser alcoholic boyfriend. What does the family say I should do? Marry the jerk, of course! So I waddled down the aisle at seven months pregnant and promised "till death do I part" in front of an Anglican priest. That same priest just a few months later had the decency and good counsel to tell me I should consider a divorce; he saw what my family wouldn't - he was a raging alcoholic and extremely emotionally abusive. So, less than three months into my marriage, with a broken ankle and a six-week old infant, I dipped.

I went back to my mom's house. She wouldn't help me pay for getting a cast, so I hobbled around without one, caring for my son as best I could. Only within the last few months have I seen how unloving that was - for her to watch me in deep physical pain every day, but do nothing. But then, she had experience with the matter. Between the ages of 14 and 18 I spent almost all my time with a dislocated hip. It could easily have been treated by a doctor, but instead I was forced to suffer godawful pain for a religious belief she no longer even really held. I think she had just decided i was "faking it" (like when I told her I was suicidal and she said I was being "dramatic" or when i told her I was bisexual and she told me it was a "phase"). I smoked a LOT of pot both as a teenager, and as a new mom, something I'm not very proud of, but the only way I knew of to deal with the physical and mental pain.

When my son turned two I went back to college. I fell in love with two subjects, American History and Middle East Studies. I was fascinated by the convoluted situation in Israel/Palestine and the role that religious extremism played in sustaining the conflict and hiccuping attempts at peace. During a class this Spring in American History from 1800-1850 we learned about America's two "Great Awakening" spiritual revival movements, and the genesis of a lot of our homegrown cults: Jehovah's Witness, Latter Day Saints/Mormons, and Seventh Day Adventists. We also read a fascinating book on the Oneida Utopia and it's narcisstic-personality-disorder poster boy, John Humphrey Noyes. While all my classmates were saying "What a load of bull! Who would fall for this crap?" and "This is weird! This is bat shit!" I kept thinking "Why does this remind me of my childhood? Why does this all seem so familiar?"

So, one night a few months ago, I Googled my grandmother's name and the name of her ministry. Pages and pages of links came up, but the mostly fell into two categories: 1. Xtians and others refuting her teachings as dangerous and/or unbiblical, and 2. newspapers about cult deaths and medical negligence deaths, of people who had read my grandmother's books. One story, for anyone interested in Googling it themselves, was about the Attleboro Cult. After reading my grandmothers book on home birth, this small "home church" group went round the bend and turned into a full blown cult. One of the female members told another woman that she and her 4-year old son should stop eating and only drink almond milk. The little boy slowly starved to death in a house full of food. I still can't think about that kid without crying, and regretting all my complicity with the lies my grandmother spread so far and wide. (Though others with far more power are to blame also: she appeared on 700 Club and Pat Robinson, as well as Jim & Tammy Faye's PTL.)

Within a few hours of looking at link after horrifying link, I learned of people on four continents who had died following my grandmother's reckless "spiritual' advice, including an Australian woman who died in childbirth and an African couple who refused to get HIV/AIDS treatment because they believed if they just "prayed and had faith" God would heal them. (He didn't.)

That was by far the biggest blow to my spirituality I've ever faced. Coming to grips with the fact that I was raised in a cult, that my grandmother was a cult leader, that her wackiness didn't just hurt me, but killed innocent children halfway around the world. I'm not exactly over it yet. I think a lot of years of therapy are in my future. But the word "cult" was helpful, because it gave me a place to start. I researched cult characteristics, watched "Sorry I knocked" videos on YouTube, donated to SilentLambs.org (for sexual abuse victims of Jehovah's Witness' "pedophile's paradise"), and protested against Scientology. I started to look at all these religions I could clearly see were crazy. I knew the stories of Joseph Smith and Edward Miller and Brigham Young and John Humphrey Noyes and L. Ron Hubbard. They all had a lot in common with each other, and with my grandmother. Deep personal dissatisfaction and insanity. Untreated depression, and I'd wager a lot of serotonin imbalance all around.

This led to a greater questioning of my own dormant religious faith (I'd kept my son out of church semi-instinctively; like not trusting myself to find a non-abusive boyfriend, I don't trust myself to find a non-abusive church). Everyone on here has great sites they can link you to, but for my WhyWontGodHealAmputees.com did the trick. It confirmed what I was already beginning to believe (that God is imaginary) and gave me the push I needed to go ahead and let myself explore atheism further. I'm reading a wonderful book now "God is Not Good: How Religion Poisons Everything" and it's just incredible. I watched "Jesus Camp" and I swear I want to go kidnap every one of those kids and put them in "normal" homes where they won't be brainwashed into believing they are inherently sinful, evil, and wrong and that their natural desires prove they need a mythical hero to die and rise to save them from that same mythical God's curses.

Atheism is like a life raft in an ocean of religious despair for me. I look at my son everyday now and I am so thankful that he won't be subjected to the torturous childhood I had. I teach him to love himself, that his body is wonderful and his own, and that he should be proud of his accomplishments. I do not present fairy tales or mythology as truth to him and frankly, I'm not sure I'll tell him about Santa either. I don't know. My son is very bright but delayed in expressive and receptive language. In a lot of ways, I feel really blessed about this. He is catching up fine, but it gives me extra time to just *enjoy* him for who he is, and not for what he says or how he performs. We love each other so much. And I would never, ever, ever worship a God that would condemn him for hell for dying too young, for refusing to kneel before a tyrant, or for possibly being gay (who knows, he's 2). i don't yet get the great "Why?" questions or the screaming "No!" fights either; instead I see a child who does not question the nature of good and evil, of his own "immortal soul" or heaven and hell. He lives in the here and now, and that gives me great inspiration for how I can live my own life happier than it has been so far.

Thank you for this forum, and for letting me ramble on so long. Tears are streaming because I feel so glad to get this all out. Oddly enough, i do still love my grandmother. I'll never leave her alone with any child, but I forgive her for what she did to me. She is on antidepressants for the first time in her life, and has become a different person. I see now how much of her insanity was truly just that, chemical imbalance that is behind most insanity. What she did to me was awful and it will probably take me a long time to move completely beyond it, but I have the rest of my life to myself, with no God horning in on my happiness.

And to all the Xtian trolls - I *know* my Bible, so don't tell me to read it. I won a Bible Bowl trivia contest against kids twice my age when I was 7. It's not that I don't know it, it's that I don't believe it. I'll let other members explain to you why it is so improbable; this story was personal and not theological. Again, to the webmaster and other ex-xtian members, thank you for letting me get this off my chest.