11/30/08                                                                                       View Comments

How long does it take before you feel normal again?

sign tacticsImage by SoStark via FlickrSent in by by Kathlene

Wow, I am so glad I found this site. I am now only on my second day of turning away from God and it is so liberating on one hand, but terrifying on the second. My journey has taken 3 years, so it wasn't an overnight decision although it feels like it. I feel like I have taken my own brain back and I am giving myself permission to have my own thoughts. I am 35yrs old and I became born-again when I was 22. I was so young and naive back then. My husband and I had just broken up and I was angry, lost and hurt. My best friend had become a born-again Christian. I went to visit her and gave my life literally up. I am still in the anger phase of how many years I have lost by not living.

I spent the next years alone raising my son. I became very active in a charismatic church and got right into the gifts of the spirit and speaking in tongues, etc. I was on fire for God and nothing would stop me. During this time though, I hadn't realised that I had given up on who I was as a person. Every waking thought was will God like it if I did this? What is God's will for my life? How do I live waiting on all those stupid prophetic words I got.

I felt 'called' to go to Israel which I did with my 6yr old son all alone with a Christian group. It was the most stressful event in my life. I nearly had a breakdown during it. I was there for 3 months, and when I came back I spent 7yrs trying to work out in my head where my future lay. Should I be back in Israel? Where is God leading me? What should I do with my life?? During this entire time I STOPPED living because I was so wound up in what God's will was for my life. Three years ago I stopped going to church, but was still on fire for God. I helped run a kid's club, went to prayer meeting still and was totally submitted, absorbed, indoctrinated on God. I found there were too many questions I started to have that I couldn't find the answers for.

A good friend who was non-Christian pointed out things to me like evolution, rational logical points. Why is it that Christians stop using their brains and rational thought? Why did we dogmatically hold onto irrational ideas when plain common sense is staring us in the face? This has been the most painful decision ever for me. Its like losing your best friend. It's worse when you realise it was all a joke anyway. My brain is still living in fear of what God will think of me(even though I don't believe he is there anymore). I know it will take time for those thoughts to eventually fade away..and my own thoughts, desires, rational thinking, will come back. I feel like I have been brainwashed.

If Christianity is so freeing, fulfilling, peaceful, etc why do Christians spend every waking hour in confusion, fear of God's so-called will, pushing down natural desires, and being so smug and superior. I am so embarrassed about that side of things too. Oh what a fool I have been in all my secret thoughts around non-Christians. Well they have the last laugh now. All that time they were living, and I was not.

I feel so free. I am so thankful I could stumble across this site. It's been a lonely journey, and I had no idea that other people had made it too. How long does it take before you feel normal again in the real world. I feel like my eyes have been opened and I finally belong. I don't want to be around, hear, or have anything to do with Christians now. My stomach churns at the thought. When I tell my Christian colleagues I know exactly what they will say to me. They will try to talk me out of it and pray for me.

So theres my de-conversion story. I am glad that I could leash it out in an area where I will be heard and understood. I really needed to know that other people are doing the same, and have gone through the process and survived.

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11/29/08                                                                                       View Comments

We Are All Just Humans

Detail of Religion mural in lunette from the F...Image via WikipediaSent in by Trans-man

I didn’t grow up in a very religious environment. My father has been an atheist for as long as I know, making fun of religion and people who believe. However, he wasn’t a good father, and not a good role model. Had he been a better role model, maybe I would have had more conversations about religion and would have never gone into a church in the first place. Truth is, I was looking for a home of sorts, where I could experience some acceptance and friendship, and unfortunately, churches are good at filling some of those needs.

My mom was raised catholic in a small town, and tried holding on to her faith. The rest of my extended family, grandparents, uncles and aunts, all faithfully attend the catholic church, pray before meals, and use Bible verses as needed to prove their point. When I started going to church for a short time at 17, my mom seemed to like it, and for the next 20 something years I always saw her sadness and regret that she couldn’t attend church regularly.

I moved away, went to college, worked, and then moved to Texas about 11 years ago. I attended church from 2000 to 2005, partly due to marriage to someone who liked the attention of the religious congregations.

I found out quickly that those who call themselves Christians are driven and motivated by the same things everybody else is. Most people do not make extreme sacrifices that will hurt themselves or their families. In fact, often enough it is the other way around and people either market their belief or make money with it.

I drive by the highway and see “Christian Automotive” businesses, Christian bookstores, Christian home health agencies, Christian counseling or Christian foot care.

Can you get better automotive service at a Christian place? Or at any normal place simply because the guy checking your car is attending services at XYZ church? No. What kind of service you get depends mostly on the business decisions of the company, the honesty and good will of the individual who works on your car, and the integrity of the place. If the whole company promotes charging for services that were not rendered, then even the Christian coworkers at the place will most likely fall into that same routine of checking off things on the list without checking on them on your car. Most likely the individual will not sue the company, expose the company or tell on the company. Why not? S/he wants to keep the job. Also, if the company puts the individual under pressure to perform a certain way, whether honest or not, then most likely that individual will yield to the pressure.

Does the Christian bookstore employee never take money out of the cash register? Maybe. Just because the person at the register goes to the same church as the owner of the store, or the manager, doesn’t mean theft will never occur. Otherwise, why is it necessary for even those employees to have their own register code? There is no more trust to employees in Christian businesses to run the cash register correctly than in other businesses.

Is the Christian chiropractor or doctor better than the atheist pediatrician or nurse? I don’t believe so, although I have not done any studies. I am just speaking from my own life’s experience.

Yesterday my neighbor stopped by, who is running a non-profit organization that has something to do with praying for people who are sick and also with pandemics that are to be expected in America, but with information being kept secret. Not sure who keeps the secret, it sounds a bit apocalyptical to me. Things aren’t going well, and the lady lost her house, then her apartment, and now she is trying to get a small apartment next to me. She is selling her furniture, she explained to me, at a church garage sale, so people can get a tax write off, and then the money is given back to her, because the church pays money to her business. Aside from the fact that I never had a garage sale and I don’t know if anyone actually would have to pay sales tax if they sell their junk once a year, this sounds like a bit of a money laundry to me. I personally don’t care, but it sounds like she is using the church sale to maybe get more money, as people might be willing to pay more if they can write it off, or buy something they may not have really needed, just to help out their church. But I am sure the people do not know that that same money goes back to one individual person, to help her pay her rent. Does she act human? Yes, of course. She needs the dollars and she does everything to make the most out of it. Does she act like a good little Christian? I don’t know. My common sense alone (since I am not a Christian) would advice her: get a regular job, then you have regular income and you can pay your regular expenses, such as rent. If I was a Christian, I would expect her to act in this responsible manner.

Not to mention the jail population, I have seen people who show up in church on Sundays, steal from each other, abuse their children, lie to their family, take advantage of others, be disrespectful, beat their wives, cheat on their spouses, commit the “gay sins” or run businesses without integrity and honesty. I see people market their faith, make money from other people’s spiritual needs, and judge, accuse and generally make others feel bad because of their own opinions and agendas.

There is no difference in behavior. Non-religious parents foster or adopt as much as religious ones, and there was no god telling them to do it. Religious parents don’t foster because god told them so, it is because they want to (for several different reasons, not all of them good ones). Non-religious people volunteer, help out, donate and have as much human and social behavior as those who think that only their religion makes them good people.

Over time, I have found that those who consciously make the decision not to belong to any religion and to dismiss any and all belief in supernatural beings are often better educated and have more integrity than those who do believe. Maybe my view is biased.

For the most part, however, I see Christians, people of other religions, and atheists, live together in the same society, pursue their happiness, take care of their families, keep their jobs and provide for themselves and their children, go to a doctor instead of praying for that blood pressure to go down, and vaccinate their children as well as give them appropriate medical care. The expression of religion is mostly reserved for Sunday mornings only and otherwise they are content to be able and call themselves Christians.

My point is, religion does not change people. Their lives are not a reflection of their faith, but their behavior in church is a reflection of their personality that they already have. Except, they give their god the glory and gratefulness for it and believe that they are doing wonderful things in the name of god and with his help only.

To briefly go back to my own story, I was diagnosed in 2004 with an intersex condition and had surgery to correct the condition. I also received a name and gender change court order and new birth certificate. A few months after that, I was attending a non-denominational church and had made some friends there.

When they found out about my condition, I was of course asked to leave, then was told I should meet with the elders of the church and bring all my medical paperwork to them. Then I was told I could never date a woman, because I used to be one (well, not quite), because that would be gay. I laughed and said, what, should I date a man? Of course, they said, I couldn’t date a man, because that would be gay also. I asked them who I could date then, so I wouldn’t be gay, and what was wrong with being gay anyway? It was all against the Bible of course, no matter which way it was turned.

At this time, I had already many doubts about this particular religion and had started doing research about religions in general. I happily left the church at this time and dismissed religion for good.

Although I never made important life decisions based on religion and could never figure out how this heaven or hell place was supposed to work, I am happier now than before, and I feel stupid for ever having believed the stuff. Once you are outside looking back, it’s really dumb and ignorant, and inhumane.

I’d say it’s time for a new book. I just wish the wise men and women of this world could get together and write a book on how we should treat each other, what are some good values, and what we shouldn’t do to each other. Of course, this book would get regular updates in the next few thousand years and never claims to be the ultimate truth. If we could just stop cramming religion down the throats of our kids and offer more critical thinking and higher education instead, we would be a great big step ahead.

Thank you for listening.

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11/28/08                                                                                       View Comments

The more I was taught in church, the more questions I had concerning Christianity

By Marshall

I was not brought up in a religious home. My mother and stepfather never went to church or talked about it or God from my memory. I never remember thinking about religion when I was young other than when I was with my real father on weekends. He would drop me and my sister off at a church for Sunday School class every now and then. He would drop us off and then leave and come back and get us afterward. He never went to church.

I really don't know why he took us to this day.

In the summertime he would take us out of state for the two weeks we spent with him. We always went to one of his brothers house. He and his wife were very religious Baptist. I remember them speaking to us about Jesus and a place called HELL. They told us about Hell and if we did not believe in Jesus we would go to this horrible place when we died. I was very young and don't think I ever really took it very serious but it was always in the back of my mind as I got older.

Many years later I meet a wonderful girl that happens to be a Christian. She lived with her parents and they all went to a Christian church. They introduced me to the minister later on, and he goes straight to work on converting me. He talks to me about God and Jesus and the reality of the story and then follows it up with the HELL story. Again he tells me without truly believing in my heart that Jesus is really real and the son of God and then being totally immersed in water baptism, my soul would spend eternity in this horrible place called HELL.

Now I am much older and take it serious this time.

He seemed to be a trustworthy man and had a lot of credentials in the field of Christianity and apologetics and religion in general. I wanted to trust he knew what he was talking about and also the fact I was now scared stiff about this place called HELL. I was converted and immediately baptized into Christ.

I am not sure if I actually believed it all then or was simply scared not to go through with it. After all he hammered the fact that if I did not believe and got killed today after leaving I would spend eternity in this horrible place called HELL. Pretty intense scare tactics I must say.

A few years go by and we had been married and were really involved in this church and working hard for God. I had small questions arise at times but never went too far with them until one Sunday in an adult class taught by one of the church elders. It was about the creation time line. He taught grown adults it was approximately 6500 years from the time that God created everything to the present time. I asked in class how he knew it was fact and he said because the Bible shows it without doubt and the bible is truth in everything it says.

I did not come back to this class because I just knew it could not be fact. I started thinking, "If the Bible teaches this, then what else does it teach that is not truth or fact."

I started having all kinds of questions, and they went unanswered. I was told not to question the few things I brought up. Some things were answered with nonsense replies and based on some scripture in the Bible. Things went downhill and we ended up leaving this church and going to another where a few friends attended. It ended up worse there and we later found the preacher at this church and his wife lost a previous church due to adultery. They were each married to other people and he was the preacher. They started the affair and were caught. They all divorced and the two ended up marrying and starting this new church.

After we got out of that place we later moved out of state and tried one more church where we moved. It was a Methodist church this time. I soon set up with the minister a one-on-one meeting. I needed some things about the Bible answered. You see by now I had actually started reading the Bible. Before I was like 90% of Christians and just peeked in it at church and carried it around with me. The ones that do read it I found only read bits and pieces and mainly from the New Testament or Proverbs & Psalms. This is what is taught from my experience. When you really open the Bible at page one and start reading in the Old Testament, you really start seeing some crazy and horrible things.

I asked him specifically about the genocide God commanded people like Moses, Gideon, Joshua, and others to carry out. Also I wanted his view on this thing God seemed to desire every now and then called burnt offerings. He did not know much of what I was talking about other than the flood and the wiping out of Sodom which he said God had to do because the people were sinful. I couldn't believe it. He really did not know about these other things right there in the Bible. He had graduated from the Methodist college and had not even read all the Bible even up to the present time.

He did not know about God telling Moses to go wipe out large amounts of people saying don't leave anything breathing not babies pets or even livestock. He did not know God said only bring back the young virgin girls and let your armies have them. He did not know about the thousands wiped out by other elite men in the Old Testament all ordered by God. He did not seem to know that God at times needed to have animals slaughtered and burned because he loves the smell of the burning flesh and also this thing called atonement. What about when God said not to pillage from them. But...do bring back their silver and gold.....WHAT? Nope he didn't know about that. Well, I did not have another meeting with him and we ended up leaving this church too.

We have not been back to a church since and that was six years ago. A couple of years after leaving that church I was in contact with my first minister where I was converted. I asked him specifically about all the pagan god myths and all the similar things those myth stories had with the Jesus story in the New Testament. All those myths were pre-Christian era as far back as at least 2000 years prior in a couple of cases and farther possibly in a couple of others. It seemed there were several similar writings and sometimes almost mirror images with the mythical god stories and the Jesus story. He said he knew all about them and the reason for it being that way was that "Satan" put all those mythical god stories throughout history before the real son of God came to earth. Satan did all this he said to confuse human beings and make it hard for them to believe in the real Jesus. He said it has worked out very well for him because many people throughout history were confused and did not become Christians or left the faith just as I had.

That's a pretty lame explanation if you ask me. I did find though later on that this is the explanation taught in seminary and Bible colleges and has been taught to Christians since about 100 years after the Christian faith began. I wonder why? Because it was obvious way back then to people because they were still in some cases worshiping the pagan myth gods. I found out awhile back my first minister lost his church due to a big split because of doctrinal disputes between him and the music/youth minister and the members were all divided and the church split. After that it just dwindles down from what I was told and he and his wife moved so he could take a position teaching as a Bible college professor.

At this point in my life I don't believe in Christianity being true or even truthful for that matter. I believe the Bible is like all religious books throughout history all over the world -- man made and man conceived. I think man wrote these things in different time periods for different reasons for the times. There are many reasons but it does not make it real or truth. I am a truth-seeking person and if it was real and the truth I would take it serious and to heart because it would be important.

I think I am like many of our founding fathers in America -- a deist. I am open to there being a supreme being somewhere, but these hundreds of religious books written over the centuries is not him. If so they would all be alike and in unison and direct humans to a common good creator. Instead they have caused horrible things in human history and hundreds if not thousands of wars. The Bible teaches slavery is good in Gods way of thinking and other stupid things like that. It also teaches God promotes war and genocide as in the Old Testament. I don't like that and I believe it is just the ancient warlord mentality writing things and saying "Thus sayeth God."

My wife has not searched or studied as I have. She understands and thinks I am mostly right on my views but at the same time still believes in a creator that is all good and wonderful but that some time in history whenever it was, started it all some how and then pulled back. Then said "There you go, you have what you need to make it and have a good life so do as you will." Then what happened after that has happened.

It is very evident a god does not control what we do, but we control what we do and always have. A God does not control the events of the earth because if so it would mean that God is a horrible hateful entity because of the horrors that take place in nature at times.

SO, here is my testimony. I know it was long but I needed to say it this way. I hope I did not bore anyone. I appreciate your comments if there are any. Take care and just be a good person and do the very best you can in this life. That is all we can really do I believe.



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11/25/08                                                                                       View Comments

Never again will I voluntarily set foot in a church

Sent in by Elizabeth

I accidentally stumbled across this website while I was Googling the Duggar family, and I have been browsing on here for the last four hours. I am intrigued because I had no idea that so many people shared the same frustrations as I do. I was raised in a strict Church of Christ home. For those of you not familiar with the COC, it is a small denomination of Christianity primarily concentrated in the South. Each congregation is independently owned and operated.

The denomination has several colleges, including Lipscomb University in Nashville and Harding University in Arkansas. Funny story about that: When I was 17 a lady at church asked me if I would be attending one of the COC colleges. I replied, "No ma'am, I'm going to a REAL college".

I was never given a choice as to whether I wanted to attend church or not, and was forced to do so three times a week (plus youth group activities) until I left for college. As a child, my mom's favorite punishment consisted of forcing me to write scriptures over and over again pertaining to whatever sin I had committed. By the time I turned 16, I hated attending services so much that I was punished by having my car or allowance taken away if I was late or failed to show up all together.

Going along with that, I guess as an adolescent I started to notice that I was questioning things a lot more than my peers and did not feel passionately about evangelism as they did. Curiously, as I began to seek out answers for myself, I began to learn some interesting facts. For example, statistically, the higher one's education level is, the lower is their rate of church attendance. Also, hearing the famous quote from Karl Marx about religion being the opiate of the masses pretty much sealed the deal for me. There is no possible way that the closed-minded and conservative way I was raised could be the only correct way to live and believe. COC circles are way too small for the rest of the world's population to be doomed.

In short, at age 18 I had a heart-to-heart with my parents explaining that I would never again voluntarily set foot in a church, and I haven't. I am now 24 years old.

Sorry this is so long, thanks for reading.

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11/18/08                                                                                       View Comments

Sincerely reading the Bible broke my faith

Sent in by Jessica

I have never sat down and actually written this in its entirety. I can imagine it to be pretty therapeutic. Anyway...here is the shortish version :)

I am 18 years old and currently in my first year of university. I have been brought up in a fundamentalist Christian environment where the family's core is the bible. Everything within my parents' lives is based on 'the word of god'. My dad was an elder in the church until they made the whole family up sticks and move away in order to start a house church. The thinking behind this was stripping church back to its old testament roots. A number of other families moved away to embark upon this venture with us. Needless to say this resulted in a closed, tight, little Christian community. All my parents friends were Christians, all of my extended family were also of the faith.

This way of life was completely normal to me and I was actively involved in church life. I enjoyed the social aspect of it and having a massive support network for me there. This all happened when I was about 11 years old. However as I grew up I started to notice things about this set up which were not good. The community was very shut off to the point of intimidating any newcomers, the members of the church were very judgmental and seemed to take it upon themselves to make those judgments heard. I just took this as normal and carried on with my life.

It wasn't until I was about 17 that I started to have many doubts about Christianity and ultimately my entire belief system. I found myself entering debates with friends and losing. I had always been openly Christian and therefore people liked to question me. I got to the point where we would be debating and someone would come up with an excellent point about evolution, or sex before marriage, etc. I also found myself arguing mindlessly and saying what I had been taught to say rather than because it was what I believed.

The negative thoughts and doubts were pushed to the back of my mind as the implications of them were too scary for me to contemplate. However over a period of a few months I could no longer ignore these niggling doubts... I had to face them.

Over the last 6 months I have done endless amounts of thinking, researching, reading, praying and talking to the point of exhaustion. However it has led me to what I believe to be the truth.

All of the evidence was pointing me towards a conclusion that I didn't want to believe. I turned to the Bible to save me, wanted it to reassure me and for me to read something that would make all the doubts go away. However it was the proper reading of this book (something which I had never done before, despite claiming to live my life by it) which broke my faith.

I came to one of two conclusions:

1. The bible is a book which was written by some good men, many thousands of years ago but is not the word of god, therefore I do not need to live my life by it....or.....

2. The bible is absolutely the word of god and represents him exactly as he is. If this is the case then the unloving, devious, revengeful tyrant presented is not someone/something I want to spend my life trying to serve.

I think I would describe myself as agnostic these days: I am in the middle, undecided, I don't know!! However one thing I am sure of is that I cannot invest my life in Christianity and the bible when I do not believe it to be true.

My friends and boyfriend all know about my journey however my parents, nor the rest of the church know about my walk away from the faith. The day that they find out terrifies me. My parents are good people and I'm sure they love me but I know that this news will break their hearts as their lives are completely devoted to Christianity. I don't know that I'm ready to see that disappointment in their eyes.

However I do know that I have found the truth, or lack of it. I am now grown up enough to make my own decisions and life choices. I just hope desperately that when I do feel ready to tell my family, the will do their best to accept them.

That was much longer than I thought it would be, but thanks for sticking with me :)

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11/17/08                                                                                       View Comments

Why would I ever want to go back?

Sent in by Danny

I don't think I've ever really sat down and wrote out the story of my deconversion. You'll have to forgive me if it comes out a bit jumbled. Like many of the stories I've read, it wasn't something that happened suddenly for me. I was a slow and arduous process.

I was born into a Presbyterian family. My mother and father were very active in the church. In fact, my mother worked in the office as a secretary and taught sunday school classes. I went to church every Sunday, attended almost every church function. During the summer, I would go to Vacation Bible School, and would be at the church almost every day. My parents weren't literalists. They didn't believe, for example, that the human race had started in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve. They didn't tell me this when I was young, of course. I guess they didn't want to confuse me too early. My Sunday School teachers taught us all the nice Bible stories about Moses's heroic rescuing of the Israelites from Egypt, and Jesus's teachings. I didn't hear any of the nasty stories.

I always believed in God, but for some reason, I never really liked going to church. Partly because I didn't like getting up early and getting all dressed up, but mostly because, from an early age, I preferred to study on my own and come to my own conclusions. I was a very introverted and thoughtful child. The first time I read the bible front to back I was perhaps 9 years old. Of course, I didn't understand a lot of it. It was a King James version, so I had a hard time grasping some of the passages, and this was compounded by the fact that I simply was unaware of certain adult concepts like sex that I found in my reading. It did, however, start me questioning things. Even at that young age I could see contradictions in the text, and they confused me. I hadn't yet been instructed not to take everything literally, and I knew nothing of the origins of the bible. The first question that ever came to me was about hell. I was, understandably, terrified of ending up there. I knew that there were any number of sins that could land me there, and though I knew god would forgive me any of these sins if I'd ask him to, but I wondered what would happen if I sinned, and then died before I could ask for forgiveness. This bothered me quite a bit, and I began praying fervently every chance I had, just to make sure I didn't die without a sin being forgiven.

I was around ten when my faith took it's next hit. I spent a lot of time at the church in those days, running wild and exploring while my mother worked. I knew every nook and cranny of our church. One day, I wandered into the auditorium while a man was speaking to a crowd. I stood in the back of the room and listened to him for a while. He was talking about how some stories in the bible were metaphor rather than literal fact. By this time, I had had some serious questions about a few of the old testament stories. I knew that some animals only existed in certain parts of the world, and since Adam was supposed to have named all the animals, I didn't understand how he got to Australia to name the koalas and kangaroos, or for that matter, why nobody could tell me where the garden of eden was. I had thought that a beautiful garden surrounded by a giant wall and guarded by an angel with a flaming sword would be pretty easy to find. This new idea of metaphor helped answer some of these questions, but it raised another huge one. If some of the stories in the bible were real, and some were not, how could I tell which was which?

Fast forward a couple of years. I'm in the youth group program. I still don't like going to church on Sunday mornings, but now we get to do fun stuff too. We went on weekend trips, did volunteer work at Union Station feeding the homeless once a month, and of course there was summer and winter camp, where I got to go up to the mountains and sing and play games and hang out with other good Christian kids. I always came back from these weekend and week long trips feeling energized and spiritually high, ready to recommit my life to Jesus. It usually wore off in a few daysto a week, and the questions came back. These questions were never sufficiently answered, and they always led to more complicated questions.

In junior high, we were required to write a report on the historical person of our choice. I wanted to do my report on Jesus, but my teacher told me I couldn't do that unless I could find historical information on him that didn't come directly from the bible, or another source that got their information from the bible. I didn't think this would be a problem. I figured an important guy like Jesus was bound to have tons of third party historical records. After a week of scouring the library and what was at the time a very primitive Internet, I found nothing. This confused me. How could the most important person in history not have any mention of his existence outside of the bible?

When I was 16, I was going to weekly family therapy sessions, for unrelated reasons. It was at one of these, in the middle of an argument with my parents, that I told them I didn't believe in god anymore and didn't want to go to church. With therapist's encouragement, they agreed to let me stop going. The problem was, I didn't really mean it. I still believed in god, and I was scared that what I'd said might condemn me to hell, but the questions had piled too high at that point and I just couldn't go to church any more.

Up until the time I stopped attending church, I can't say I had any bad christian experiences. This changed soon, though. I had few friends at the time, and all of them were from my church. When I stopped attending some of them were reluctant to talk to me at school anymore. My parents also seemed a little more distant from their heretic son. By leaving the church, I had torn a huge hole in my life, and I felt compelled to fill it with something. I began to study other religions. My parents didn't mind this so much when I was studying Judaism, Islam, and Zen Buddhism, but then one day when I was 19 I came home from the library with 3 books about Wicca. My parents saw these, and were furious. They accused me of devil worship. My father told me if I didn't throw that shit away, he would kick me out of the house. I didn't throw the books away, and in fact began taking Wicca classes at an occult bookstore an hour away. I didn't tell my parents about the classes, and I didn't throw away the books, but my already strained relationship with my parents neared the breaking point as a result. Shortly after my 20th birthday, I left my home in southern California and moved to Las Vegas, a Wiccan true believer.

I got involved with a woman who was also Wiccan. She claimed to have telepathic and telekinetic powers, and be a 30th generation witch. I believed everything she told me, despite the fact that I never saw any evidence of these so called powers, except for a few cold readings and mention of parts of my past that I'd mentioned to her before, but forgot telling her about. She loved telling me about my past lives, and how she was involved with me in them.

The relationship lasted about a year and a half and ended badly. Later, I began to question the things she had told me, and after that I began questioning Wicca itself. Over the next few years, I studied more religions, rejecting one after another. I can't really pinpoint when I became an atheist, or what made me make the last leap, but I spent the first 16 years of my life firmly in the grip of Christianity, and the better part of a decade after that struggling with general theism.

Nowadays, I'm proud to call myself an atheist. Every once in a while, a stranger or coworker will try to witness to me and convince me to come back to the church. When this happens I become uncomfortable, and if they're persistent enough I'll get angry. I've spent the majority of my life in a bad relationship and a flurry of rebound relationships. Why would I ever want to go back?

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11/16/08                                                                                       View Comments

The More I Learned, the Less I Believed

FreedomFreedom by Funky64
(www.lucarossato.com)
Sent in by Jackee Gianfelice

I was brought up in a devoutly Christian household. As a child in Sunday school, I learned biblical stories (carefully selected biblical stories, to be sure) and stories about Jesus. God and Jesus were presented as loving, caring, and compassionate, with all the unsanitary parts of the bible edited out in the readings and lessons we received in church and Sunday school.

Even so, I was shocked when, at the age of about seven, I was sitting with my mother in church and the pastor began his sermon by stating, "Aside from a few cranks and revisionists, the vast majority of historians and archaeologists agree that Jesus did exist."

I was stunned. It had never occurred to me that anyone would think Jesus was real! I thought of the bible stories as superhero tales, with the character of Jesus just that--a character, there to point up the moral of the story. I quickly looked around and was doubly shocked that all the adults were nodding in agreement. I couldn't understand how they could believe in multiplying loaves and fishes, people walking on water, and people coming back from the dead, etc.--things that obviously did not happen in real life.

My immediate next thought, however, was that if they all believed and I was the only one who didn't, there must be something wrong with *me*. I must be a real sinner, a really bad person, if I couldn't even do the minimum requirement to be a good person, i.e., have faith. That was the beginning of a long period of guilt, anxiety, and self-hate that darkened my life for a long time.

Finally, in my twenties, I began to read the bible to bolster my faith. It was a big shock. Suddenly there was god in all his "glory": bloodthirsty (commanding the Jews to kill their enemies' babies by throwing their heads against rocks); manipulative (deliberately hardening Pharaoh's heart just to be able to torture his entire country with another plague); chauvinistic (telling Lot it was OK to give his daughters to be raped by invaders so that they would not demand to have sex with his sons); devious (telling the Jews to say they would spare the Philistines if the Philistines agreed to be circumcised, then, when the Philistines had had the operation and were in pain, to go slaughter them); two-faced and conniving (just read the book of Job).

And I was supposed to love this "god"...or else he would torture me in hell for all eternity. I was terrified of hell, so I tried with all my being to believe, and to love god, but always inside was the seven-year-old girl who did not believe. I tried to drown out that voice for years.

I was in my early forties when the whole thing came crashing down. Due to many reasons, I had what might be called a nervous breakdown or crisis and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. This forced me to really face myself in the mirror and confront my life. I made some huge changes that were long overdue, and finally, with my life in order and medication controlling my illness, I undertook the most difficult task of unraveling my religious life.

The more I looked, the more I read, the more I simply thought for myself, the more obvious it became that religion (all religion, not just Christianity) was a nothing more than a convoluted, superstition-encrusted creation of human beings. It was scary at first to even entertain such thoughts, but the first view of freedom came when a woman in my support group said she was an atheist.

I had never heard anyone say that out loud, but when she did, it crystallized things for me. The god of the bible was not only a human creation but a repugnant one. My seven-year-old self had been right! It was all fairy tales. I could choose to let go of it and live in reality instead of trying to zombify myself into a "faithful disciple." At that moment I made the break to freedom.

That was six years ago, and I can truthfully say that life has been much better without god and religion. All the guilt and shame are gone, and by taking control of my own life I have improved it. I enjoy life instead of feeling burdened, and I have such a sense of freedom and possibility that I never had as a religious person.

I'm sorry this is so long, but for those who've managed to make it this far, I appreciate them taking the time to read it.

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11/9/08                                                                                       View Comments

What do you think of liberal Christians, and how do you deal with them?

Sent in by Lance

Let me start off by saying that I was a liberal Christian. I had gone through fundamentalist phases earlier in my 30 years as a Christian, but I moved to a somewhat liberal belief system before I ended up pitching the whole thing.

I rationalized hell by saying it was only a separation from God -- whatever that meant. But I did not think it was a literal lake of fire. I believed in evolution, and reconciled it with the bible by saying that just as Jesus spoke in parables, the god of the old testament used myth to convey truth. In the same way we humans can use fiction to convey truths about the human condition. I looked at the creation story in Genesis as if it was saying something like "The world, the stars, the physical universe in total, is just stuff that god made. We should worship god and not the stuff." That was enough for me. I did not try to make sense out of the 6-day creation, and thought it foolish to even try to twist an obvious myth into facts.

It got harder when I saw how the myth of Adam and Eve at the beginning of Genesis moved directly into what was obviously written as history in the later part of Genesis. I could not find a clean dividing line to separate the myth from the history. So I figured god must have used fallible humans to write the bible, so we did not need to treat it as if god dictated every word, and thus we could expect weirdness like that. But I still believed that god somehow was communicating his story to us through the bible in an imperfect and subtle way.

I had a even harder time when looking at the atrocities god commanded the Israelites to commit, but I kind of ignored that and figured he must have decided that was the best way to deal with such a primitive people. I just did not look too closely at this and chalked it up to the belief that we can't understand god's ways. To be honest, I simply did not think about it too much, and I would avoid reading those parts of the bible as they made me uncomfortable.

I thought the message of Jesus was about love and helping the poor, and not about hating gay people or forcing my opinions on others. I figured Paul was just an imperfect guy that god used for that time and place, so I did not need to listen to everything Paul wrote as if I was listening to god himself.

I think you get the idea. I had the same problems with fundamentalism and the bible that all of us have, but I was able to kind of wish them away and pretend they were not there, as I let what I thought was god's spirit guide my life.

It was a comfortable place to be, and I was able to maintain those beliefs for a long time. It was not until I left the liberal leaning San Francisco Bay Area and moved to Central Oregon that I was hit again with the fundamentalist belief system. As a Christian living near Stanford University, there were plenty of what I called "thinking Christians", who shared my "enlightened" way of trusting god and viewing the scriptures. (Kind of arrogant sounding, huh?)

At first I tried to reason with my new fundamentalist friends in Central Oregon, and explain my approach to finding biblical truth. But they explained how they had to believe the entire thing as literal truth, or else the salvation of Jesus was pointless. Why, they asked, would Jesus need to redeem the world that had fallen into sin because of Adam and Eve, if there had been no Adam and Eve? The long history of human evolution did not mesh with the concept of a fallen world in need of a Savior. If the world had always been like that, then what was the point of Jesus' sacrifice?

My fundy brother-in-law told me that if I did not believe in the 6000-year-old earth, and a real talking snake in the Garden of Eden, then the whole Christian religion would come crashing down. At first I said that no it did not. That we could still hold the Christian faith together even with an imperfect bible.

My liberal thinking did not mind leaving stuff like that in the realm of mystery, but my new friends got me to thinking more deeply about what exactly I did believe. I decided that if my brother-in-law was correct and if it did all come crashing down, then I was willing to let it crash if I was going to have to believe such craziness. I started to wonder why I was trying so hard to hold it all together when so much of it did not make sense.

I went back to the bible and started reading again. This time I looked at what ideas the myths were actually conveying, and I also wondered why I went to such extreme lengths to create such a convoluted mental framework where so many conflicting ideas could be forced to live together in my head. I decided that if god was real, then he would meet me on my honest quest for truth.

I prayed about it, then let it all come crashing down. I wanted to see if there was any core truth in the midst all my scaffolding, or to see if my belief system was nothing more than a lot of carefully laid duct tape and bailing wire. I wanted to know god in truth, not in some mental construct I had created.

In the end, god never showed up. All I found was nothing but the duct tape and bailing wire. The recent post here by David H called "Under His Robes" sums this up much better than I can.

I am so much more free now that I don't have to try to make sense out of the craziness. My brother-in-law was right, the whole thing does indeed come crashing down. But oh how wonderful when you can look at the rubble and see it for what it is. And then just walk away.




But now I have a minor dilemma. What do I do with other liberal Christians that I meet and know?

These are not the fundies that threaten us with fire and brimstone. These are not the people that want to tear down science and teach creationism in schools. These are not the people that try to shove their beliefs down our throats. These are not the people who think the world is going to end because Obama got elected. Hell, a lot of these folks voted for Obama.

I actually enjoy a theological discussion with a liberal Christian. Although they are infuriatingly difficult to pin down, as they mold and shift their beliefs when they find it necessary. I still have lunch with a couple of them I know. I don't mind living side by side with these folks. When I have a discussion with one of them I often feel as if they really are trying to understand my position, and they don't accuse me of running away from god. They accept that I went on a search for truth, even if they don't think I have found it yet.

But what they believe is still nuts. And they are not that far removed from the rest of Christendom.

So do I encourage them to take the path of reason and leave their comfortable faith, or do I just let them be?

What do you think of liberal Christians, and how do you deal with them?

Thanks for listening.



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11/8/08                                                                                       View Comments

Curiosity killed my faith

Sent in by Eddie

I really don't know where to begin telling my story of de-conversion because it involves too many events over a long period of years. I will try to give the basic highlights and avoid a drawn out boring tale.

I was raised in a Church of Christ home attending services of the church three times a week up until I was 16. My dad had been an elder in the congregation and was basically the backbone of the congregation. He did not believe it necessary to coerce obedience to the Bible, and I was given liberty to not attend after my 16th birthday. I did however, attend on a not so regular basis.

I eventually obeyed the Gospel, as they call it, and married shortly thereafter. I was very young, 19, and eager to please everyone in the family both spiritual and physical. For some 30+ years, for all intents and purposes, I was the model Christian.

I developed the talent of Preaching and was called upon to do so at various times in my own congregation and at distant congregations of the same faith. I must interject here and say, I never really could figure out all the discrepancies in the scriptures when I would come across them, throughout my whole life. I was told not to worry about such things, and to just preach the word. What they were saying was, they didn't want to deal with these so called errors and contradictions and that I should not talk about them. This never set well with me but I obeyed the voices of years of experience and played the good little Christian the way they wanted.

I've always been the inquisitive type and eager to understand mysteries. One day while roaming through the Internet, on the home PC, an article caught my attention, Ministerturnsatheist.org. I began to investigate the site to see just why a minister would suddenly turn from his faith. I found many truths that day and I don't mean from the Bible.

I discovered I was wrong and he was right about most everything I had been taught all my life.

I left the church in February of this year and publicly gave notice of my intentions. To say that it wasn't received well would be an understatement! All hell broke loose. My sibling brother, who is an evangelist, jumped up and told me to consider myself dis-fellowshipped and that there was no need for me to ever come back, because I would just be a hypocrite by doing so.

That burst of anger, on his part, sealed my fate with my blood family that day. You see, practically all my relatives on both sides of the family are Church of Christ members, and according to church doctrine, you cannot have any contact with someone who has been dis-fellowshipped, EVER, from that day forward, UNLESS, they return to the faith repenting.

I'm not one to back down once I have found truth. The truth I found was that the God of that bible is no god at all but an evil tyrant and more times than not he can't even keep his story straight.

It has been an extremely tough year for me since I'm basically a hermit, for all intents and purposes. Living in the heart of the Bible Belt doesn't help matters either. My days consist of work, eat, and sleep most of the time. I do surf the net quite often in search of a really good atheist article or scientific proof against the Bible's lies and stupid ideas and fairy tales.

I'm just a simple married guy trying to hold on to my marriage. You see, my wife is still a member of the church and so is my 23-year-old daughter. It is tough so I take one day at a time and try to stay positive.

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11/6/08                                                                                       View Comments

If there is a god and his book is the Bible, then I don't want to serve him

Sent in by Brian

I didn't leave Christianity based on past experiences, I had no bad experience.

Many people think that I am angry with god, that my "ideas" come from my traumatic past experiences. And that is not right. I hate nobody, I have nothing against anybody.

I grew up in a Catholic home with parents who were not very religious. You know, visiting church only on special occasions, that kind. When I was about 14, a friend of my dad brought the Jehova's Witness message to our home, and we started studying the bible with some guy and JW's (Watchtower) publications.

Even though I was young, I always thought there was something wrong with Catholicism, JW's use the fact that people are not happy in their catholic faith to lure them into JW's. However, many things the JWs taught us I was very skeptic, deep inside me I wasn't buying it, but I was not mature enough to speak up. Stuff like, only 144,000 will go to heaven, and only white American JW's were in that group, and the government body was Jehova's voice in earth, so whatever the government says, it was like god's voice.

There are many examples of things that never sunk in me. My dad, my mom and my two younger brothers got baptized when I was 17, I decided not to do it. I was getting ready to go to university in another town.

Many JWs, including elders, tried to talk me out of going to university, they said that the end was coming by the time I finish university, so I was better off dedicating my life to JW's service full time.

Fortunately I had my plans made. My mom supported me, and I left home when I was about 18. When I was in school I used to go to the JW's meeting hall just to make my family happy. I can say that I lived a double life for many years, I used to partied a lot, and, next day I had this huge guilty feeling, I felt like s... Time went by and slowly I stopped going to the meetings; none of my school friends knew about my double life. Preaching the Bible door to door on Sundays and worldly pleasures on weekends. But I did it because I did not want to offend my parents and jeopardize their support while I was getting my degree. I didn't know how to handle it.

By the end of my university studies I was not longer going to any meeting. Then I started working far from home, and I kind of stop paying attention to religion and god in general. I wasn't interested I was 23.

I married a Pentecostal-Evangelical girl who seemed like she did not care much about that. We started going to a Pentecostal church in London, ON, (crazy stuff, tongues, crying, yelling, etc). I was in an "I don't care" mood. Then we moved to a Baptist church, and they are very moderate Christians. So I felt comfortable for a while, but then I starting reasoning about that too. I started reading and thinking critically. I attended to a seminar in the same church about the history of Christianity, and I learned that there were a lot of human hands involved in all the Christianity history, and I thought, "Wait a minute! this is all BS then... How come we follow an old book full of errors where things are not even original, where everybody give to it their own meaning?" Every single Christian branch (JW, Baptist, Pentecostal, Catholic, etc.) talk about the Bible like they know it. Cherry picking, that is what it is. Many people have different explanations from the same book.

How come nobody else sees that is beyond of my understanding.

Then, I decided to bring god, Jesus, Bible and religion to the scrutiny. I said let's get to know you. And I learned about them, and I decided, if there is a god and his book is the bible, then I don't want to serve him, no way, even though if he comes and talk to me. I don't want to be his neighbour.

I am an atheist in the sense that I don't believe in god, I can't be certain that there is not god, as much as I can't be certain that there is not flying spagetty monster out there.

I am 37, and a year ago I decided to speak up and came out. I only feel sorry that I wasn't awaken before.

Now, my JW family cries for me: I am an apostate, I am not going to meet them in paradise. (Talk about mind control!)

My wife's family, the Pentecostals, said that I am being used by God like He used Paul, to give testimony and someday talk about my atheism. To be honest, I laughed a lot. My brother-in-law is a way-to-crazy evangelical.

Everybody thinks I have crazy ideas when I talk about humanism and secularism and the importance of freethought and critical thinking. I feel alone.

A friend from the Baptist church gave me a book from Lee Strobel entitled "The Case for Faith." He wants to help me! I am halfway through the book, and the more I read more atheist I become. This book is full of BS and misconceptions about atheism. It's way too bad. I even laugh reading it. But I want to talk to my friend without making him feel stupid.

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11/1/08                                                                                       View Comments

Recovering girltruth from the mask of Catholicism

Sent in by Stacey

When I was nine I had it pretty figured out. I was smart, fast, creative, bold, adventurous and curious.

Mom relocated us back to Michigan, first Hollywood and a then a brief stint in Oklahoma City. It wasn't just Michigan. We were in one of the most isolated pieces of land in the Western most Gogebic County --filled with a lot of elderly people, mostly very devout Catholics.

It seemed a bit strange. I liked the smell of incense and I loved carrying the cross when it was my turn to do class Mass. I was pissed I couldn't at that time be an altar boy or possibly work my way up to priest.

I was re-baptized at age nine. I didn't like that. And then it was First Communion. I'm the one in the photo snarling in my too itchy scratchy starchy dress.

I didn't like that by becoming Catholic I would suddenly have to give up my right for freedom --no questions asked. Being a girl baptized Catholic is a commitment to original sin and shame and very few options of how to grow as a woman. Magdalene or Mary. Sinner or Virgin. What's in between? You pretty much get split in half whether you like it or not. Soul is striving to be saved and body is confused about its natural healthy function as a woman. I'll never forget how horrified my sister was when she got her period. She kept it secret assuming she would go to hell.

Me on the other hand --I chose the path of Magdalene who they brainwashed me to believe was 'the other kind of woman'. I figured I wanted to be like her instead because it was much more interesting than the Virgin one.

I was recently in the same church of St. Sebastian --where my grandfather recently was carried out of during his funeral --and listened more deeply to the things we said day after day after day, mass after mass...'i am not worthy to receive you.' 'i am not worthy...'

i was thinking...that's quite a seed planted in a young mind in a collective setting. that's quite a wily weed. Who knows how it will grow later on into adolescence and then maturity and then elder years. That one seed 'i am not worthy' even in the context of communion, surrounded by shaming and sinning and punishment and secret confessionals...it is a recipe for low self-esteem and low self-worth and low self-love.

At least, that's how I saw it.

At nine, I was pretty sure that heaven is what you make of it, and that being a girl is a pretty cool thing no matter what. Odd how during confirmation, the girl part of me died and the realization set in that being a girl raised to become a woman in a Catholic tradition confirmed punishment of the female spirit --and punishment of the human spirit. I tried fighting but wasn't big enough. I entered the black and white 'this is how it is' reality.

I broke away by the time I left home. I never looked back until recently into my early thirties. I see now there are some beautiful gnostic roots in Christianity that I respect because they respect me. The rest --most of it --feels rooted in fear, manipulation and power over --patriarchal thinking to maintain a system of oppression.

It's a human rights violation as far as I'm concerned, and I'd like to see more people speak out against it.

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