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4/17/09                                                                                       View Comments

Leaving Christianity in the midst of fears of hell and Satan and Antichrists and raptures with trumpets blaring and people flying into the sky

Sent in by Alison

Run!Image by Gabriela Camerotti via Flickr

My departure from Christianity occurred 11 years ago.

This is a letter I recently wrote to filmmaker Brian Flemming after watching the film The God Who Wasn't There.:

Brian,

For the first time in my life, someone has reflected back to me the kind of kind of utter confusion, anxiety, stress, and often panic that I experienced being raised in a fundamentalist, evangelical Christian community. I, too, was a Christian ▬ one who earnestly and perpetually tried to come to terms with "reality" inside of the "absolute truth" of Christian teachings. The constant presence of obvious inconsistency without logical explanation, however, which seemed rarely to weigh as significantly on the hearts of Christians around me as on me, was never overcome by that "peace that passes all understanding" that Faith was taught to provide.

The beginning of the end of my identity as a Christian was at the age of 27, when the lifetime of internal struggle finally gave way to the discernment best described as:
"This has never made sense enough for me to be absolutely sure of it (no matter Who says one can be absolutely sure of it) AND I'm tired of trying to make it make sense AND I'm tired of trying to simply accept through Faith what doesn't make sense AND I'm tired of being afraid of hell for myself and others because I/they can't feel honest in accepting it like it is."

My departure from Christianity occurred even as the programmed fear of hell and Satan and Antichrists and raptures with trumpets blaring and people flying up in the sky still held me. My journey beyond Christendom began with me watching an 8-part PBS documentary explaining Darwinian evolutionary theory (borrowed from the library). Prior to this, even though I was always very curious about the nature of the universe, I was too scared to research such things and I certainly had no mentors to turn to. I grew up in a world were Darwin was likened to Satan's right-hand man in deception ▬ I even remember 2 popular Christian pop songs by Steven Curtis Chapman and Geoff Moore and the Distance criticizing evolution (in fact, I just located the lyrics - see http://www.lyricsmode.com/lyrics/s/steven_curtis_chapman/blind_lead_the_blind.html and http://www.lyricsmode.com/lyrics/g/geoff_moore_and_the_distance/evolutionredefined.html).

I watched the Darwin documentary and the more I saw and heard, the more I cried -- for the first time basic questions about the nature of the world around me were not only answered, but making logical sense. My continuing, personal exploration to understand "how things work" has happily broadened since then to include many diverse sciences. And when I don't understand something or experience skepticism toward some concept, not having everlasting damnation as a likely punishment is a definite plus. :)

I am crying right now, so I don't think I will write much more at the moment even though the memories also leave me feeling compelled to provide you with details (I think because now I know there is another person who could even begin to understand these experiences). I truly believe most people not part of the mainstream Christian world have little idea of the nature of the specific ideologies perpetuated there. As an analytical, thoughtful, and creative child, not only were they confusing, they were truly frightening. Lack of acceptance being equated with eternal excruciating torment was only one of many terrifying concepts that plagued my inner world even as I was perpetuating pleasantness in the foreground.

Here is a recent promotional video for the school I went to -- very similar to yours. It wasn't a small school when I attended there, and it has grown incredibly since that time. I believe most who are part of the school have the best intentions in saying and doing what they do. However, they don't talk very much on the front end about their ideas that the God in whom these students will be taught to cultivate absolute trust is also the God who damns you if you don't trust. This video is only about the love and nurture, not the 'accept or else' dimension they just as readily believe and teach about God: http://www.lcsonline.org/about/video.asp

My entire family is still a part of Christianity, and my siblings' children are being brought up in Christian schools now.

I don't want to be an evangelist of any ideology, but I would like in some way to be a part of creating a new meme. I would also very much enjoy meeting ex-Christians who are not bitter about their experiences, yet mindful of the significance of this issue ▬ who could be better to heartfully and compassionately create new possibilities than those who have experienced life from both sides of this issue?

Ironically, my Netflix account delivered your movie later than expected, so I'm watching it on the day before easter. Mom invited me, yet again, to easter dinner with the family. I believe I'll pass. (lol)

- Alison

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