10/28/09                                                                                       View Comments

My path to spiritualism vs. religion

sent in by Belladonna

I am the illegitimate child of a drug addict/prostitute. When people found out who and what my mother was, they were not very accepting, especially in a small, conservative community. When I lived with my mother, I was brutalized; I have had every rib broken, my skull fractured, my jaw broken at least 3 times, my eye sockets broken and my nose broken. I still have scars, nearly 30 years later, where she broke bottles over me, and if it wasn't her beating me, it was the men she brought home. And I also know what it's like to have to beg for money and rummage through dumpsters just to eat; at 9 years old, I weighed 36 pounds.

I was taken from her and brought to live with my grandparents. When I started school here in 4th grade, my grandmother met with the principal of the school and told him my history and asked that it remain confidential; although she was assured it would, a school secretary made sure the elders of her LDS Church knew, so that the children of the church would be protected from me and any influence I may have. I was ostracized, attacked and beaten up.

I began to attend a Baptist Church in a different town; I thought I was at home, but found out they were also merely tolerating me. I had attended this church for nearly 3 years when I decided to question the statement of a Sunday school teacher regarding his assertion that Mother Teresa was going to hell. He said she was, I said, "No way"; that night, I was informed I was not a member of the church when I was told I could not go to a revival meeting with the rest of the kids, and the next week, I was asked to leave and not return, because I was a blemish on their church. They wished me well and told me they hoped God had pity on me, but they were sure to point out Deuteronomy 23:2 to me, and behind my back, they stated they knew I would never be anything more than what my mother was.

For years, I could not step inside a church - any church - without becoming physically ill. I have tried, but I don't last very long, and I don't tolerate any church that tries to convice me about the evils of homosexuality, because when I was 15, I was adopted by a gay man, and he saved my life. He gave me love and a solid home, made sure I was educated, and cheered louder than anyone when I graduated from high school, something no one thought I would do. He made me realize I really was worth something.

I have never been able to let go of my faith, but letting go of religion is no longer posing a challenge. Christians so often pose as all accepting; yet, as I am finding out once again, are some of the harshest, most judgmental of individuals. And when you try to have a conversation with them regarding their "faith", then they resort to attacks, reminding you that you are not one of the chosen few.

I feel I have nothing in common with any Christian any longer, because I simply refuse to look at myself as being above anyone else, even in the name of Jesus.

10/25/09                                                                                       View Comments

The begining of the end for my belief

By a Loving Friend

Fourth version of the painting The Sick ChildImage via Wikipedia

I didn't grow up with God in my family. It wasn't until I was about eight or nine years old that I started to believe. I thought that it was cool and something fun for me to do. So I started to read the Bible a little and memorize prayers, and I prayed at night when I remembered. I became a Christian on my own, because I wanted to. I did not grow up with God hanging over my head and my parents dragging me to church every Sunday.

I met my best friend in the whole world when I was 10. Her name was Yvonne and she was the littlest in her family of a single mom and two older brothers. Her oldest brother was an older teenager and her other brother was a mentally retarded 10 or 11 year old (my age). Though she was younger than me, we became friends very fast. We played outside together everyday we could, and really loved each other. I felt like she was my little sister at times, if I said my favorite sport was soccer so would she, if my favorite color was baby blue, so was hers.

One day we were playing outside and she was complaining about how her leg/hip hurt. She said she told her mom about it but her mom said it would go away and gave her some pain pills. It didn't go away. She complained for maybe two more weeks, and then her mom finally went to the doctor to get some x-rays. A few days later I learned that my best friend had cancer. I was 10 and couldn't completely understand the severity, but I did soon.

About a month or so after we found out she had cancer, they started her on chemo-therapy. And one day she came home with a hat on and everyone was fussing at her to take it off. I didn't really understand until she took off the hat. All her lovely, long, wavy hair was gone. I can remember the look on her face; she looked so sad, and all I wanted to do was make her feel better. After that we stopped going outside a lot because the treatments had made her sick.

A few months passed and now she is in a wheelchair. I take walks with her and push her around outside, but it wasn't the same. She just seemed to get sicker and smaller every week. Then when her and her mom got back from the doctors one day late at night, her mom called my mom outside to talk and I had to stay outside. But I wanted to know what was going on because her mom was crying. So I peeked out the window to watch them talk and the next thing I see is them just holding each other and balling. I got that horrible feeling in my stomach and I knew at that point what was wrong. There would only be one reason for so much crying. Yvonne wasn't responding well to the treatment, she was going to die.

After that, everyone got really depressed and I didn't know what to do. I just kept doing what I always did with her. I stayed over at her house more often, tried to stay happy. It was coming up to my 13th birthday, and when it arrived she came with me to my grandparents house. I felt bad because she slept a lot, but I was glad she was there.

So now I had had Yvonne for 3 years in my life. Starting out, she was an energetic little girl who loved to play; now she was a sickly, sad little girl that knew she was going to die. But we prayed. We prayed all day and night for her, begging for her to get better. Her mom even had the church come to her once, and they had a whole big thing just for her. We had almost the whole city praying for her. Her mother was a good Christian lady who took good care of her children. Yvonne was an innocent little girl who gave her heart to god. And I was a devoted friend who prayed very hard for her.

I can remember the day she died quite well. I woke up in my room and was getting ready to go and see her. My mom told me that I had to take a shower before going over there, so I pouted as I took my shower. When I came out of the shower and was all dressed and ready to go, I heard someone crying. My father was in the bedroom crying, my dad didn't cry. I asked him what was wrong but he wouldn't tell me. So I went to search for my mom. I was walking down the steps as she walked into the door just below me. She was also crying and I was starting to panic. I asked her what was wrong, and it took her a minute to tell me. She told me she was dead, and i collapsed on the stairs.

I don't remember what happened after that but I remember being told that we should go and see her before the people come and pick her up. I was afraid. I didn't know what a dead person looked like, and she was my best friend. But I went with my mom anyway and just remember that there was a lot of people and I was sitting on the living room floor staring at my dead best friend being held by her mother. Everything after that just blurred together.

Yvonne died of cancer when she was just nine years old. Why? Is it because she wasn't worth saving? Was it because she didn't believe enough? Was it because we didn't pray hard enough? Or was it because there wasn't a god to save her in the first place? These questions haunted my for the next year or two. Eventually I came to my senses and realized I had prayed so hard to nothing. How could there be a god if a 9 year old can die? It doesn't make sense. The funny thing is that I was told that god wanted her to be with him in heaven. Then I concluded that god was greedy, horrible, and unfair.

If God existed, my best friend would still be alive, the world would be a peaceful place, and people would be happy. Because this is not so, I feel betrayed and now believe that the whole god thing is just another way to make people compliant and obedient.


10/24/09                                                                                       View Comments

Trying to Keep the Baby Without the Bathwater

by Chris Cormier

I was raised Catholic and sent to Catholic school for most of my childhood. I had a wonderful experience within my Catholic faith but left the church at 17 because I felt that the central claims of the faith are absurd. I developed into and remained an intellectually clear-minded and outspoken atheist for 25 years. Despite this, I spent years painfully grieving the loss of faith. I was quite literally tormented on a daily basis by the question of God for years at a time. It almost drove me mad. It was if I sensed God but nonetheless felt intellectually compelled to reject the whole idea.

About a year ago, after receiving the 6th vicious and unnecessary lawsuit from my ex-wife (we've just wrapped up number 8, by the way) I found myself at the "end of my rope," i.e., that I seemed to have no more personal strength or courage left. I had been painfully emptied over a decade and had nothing left. Amazingly, one night I found myself driving to the local Catholic church feeling like I was being compelled by a force that originated outside of myself. It was as if I had been grabbed by the scruff of my neck and thrown into the church. I dropped to my knees, begged for forgiveness and mercy (even though I had no idea what that meant), and somehow...it came. My chest convulsed repeatedly as some kind of spiritual power coursed through me and restored me...It was unbelievable...Every time I prayed for the next several months I felt this power and my body would begin to shake involuntarily. I started going to Mass and receiving Communion on a daily basis. Even though the homilies were frequently very uncomfortable for me and I still struggled with dogma, I loved going to Mass ands had a faith that lifted me above all my concerns in some mysterious way. My reading of Thomas Merton was incredibly helpful in this regard as well.

Now, a little over a year later, I find myself still being very drawn to the church and my faith but astounded and deeply disturbed by the bizarre and archaic tenets of dogma, including the belief in a "Living God" that not only tolerates suffering but will ultimately levy infinite punishment on many. As one of Woody Allen's characters once said, "If there is one thing we can say about God, he sure is an underachiever!"

My question is this, I suppose: What is someone in my position to do? I can't help but acknowledge that I am experiencing something "very real" (i.e., something of the "divine" and "transcendant," for lack of better words) within the context of my faith/doubt but reject basic Christian (and all other) theology and dogma, as well as claims for the authenticity of the Bible (and similar documents). Much of both are simply atrocious and stupid by today's standards, even allowing for differnces in culture, history and ethical standards, and allowing for creative interpretations of the former. Thomas Merton acknowledges these problems but promotes working through them over time by praying for grace and faith... Paul Tillich promotes a symbolic interpretation of the Bible and basis for faith...But it seems that much of Christian dogma and the Bible remain unredeemably horrible despite these efforts.

Also, and perhaps more fundamentally, it seems that humans by their very nature may be evolutionarily designed (perhaps as a byproduct, exaptation or even psychological adaptation) to experience something of what we call "the divine." Perhaps "God" is really a name we apply to a deeply human and infinitely valuable experience that is legitimate and perhaps even necessary for some, but that nonetheless lacks any external basis. In this case we would say that God is purely subjective, not objective. If this were so, we should not be looking for the "right" religion, or even to rejecting the impulse to religion and faith, but the best means of cultivating one's deepest spiritual potential without reference to archaic, dangerous and empirically incorrect philosophical/theological systems.

I think that "technically" I may still be an atheist, but now sense that we should not throw out our deepest humanity and spiritual potential ("the baby") with "the bathwater" of religion. But how one is to do this in the modern age and without the conventional tools of "religion" remains a mystery to me.

ANY IDEAS? Seriously...Where do we go from here?



10/23/09                                                                                       View Comments

Atheist after 40 years a Christian Minister

by Jeff

I just found this site and figured I'd check in, as I too am an "ex-christian." I became a Christian at 18 after a rather dramatic conversion experience...lots of emotion and a total change of direction in my life.

I was a senior in high school at the time and making decisions about career and college. I was "led" into the full-time Christian ministry shortly after my conversion, so I chose to attend a rather well-known Bible college in South Carolina.

After four years there, I sensed that I'd most likely eventually become an overseas missionary, the which I did. But before accepting a missionary assignment in Italy, I graduated, got married, was a youth pastor, a Bible teacher in a Christian school, put in a year towards my Master of Divinity degree, and finally pastored a church in Philadelphia for three years. Six years after graduation from college, my wife, two children, and I moved to Europe to evangelize and start evangelical churches.

This was my life and ministry for over 28 years, but all during this time I was struggling to maintain my faith. I had so many questions about the Bible and its teachings. I kept suspecting that Christianity really didn't "work." I mean, prayer didn't really work. Faith didn't make me a new person. My old "sins" were still plaguing me. I rarely sensed any "presence of God" in my life. I looked for God's guidance, but rarely was sure I got it. And even then it often turned out to be patently erroneous. I experienced church and missions from the inside and became very disillusioned with it. For an enterprise headed by the God of the universe, it sure was awfully human, and terribly fallible. I really saw precious little that could be called "evidence of God" in it all.

My questions about the Bible and its teachings just multiplied over the years, until I had to intentionally close my eyes to them in order to maintain anything like enough faith to continue my ministry without feeling like a total hypocrite. But the struggle only got worse...along with depression and very real self-loathing (for my feelings of hypocrisy.)

Finally, after 28 years overseas, I came to that place where I just could no longer consider myself a believer. I could no longer represent Jesus and the Bible, as my missions agency called on me to do. Honesty demanded that I quit the ministry and return Stateside.

It is now almost five years that I've been back in the "secular" world. I no longer attend church. I have come to peace with my unbelief. In fact, I am happier and enjoy greater contentment now than at any other time in my adult life. The dust has slowly settled in my mind and I have come to realize that I actually do not believe in God at all anymore. I haven't looked to become an atheist, but I guess that's what I am... and I'm very happy in my unbelief, thank you very much!

That's my story in a nutshell. If anyone wants to comment on it or jot me line, feel free (rjtrueman AT gmail DOT com). I'm not crusading for atheism, but neither am I ashamed of it. Quite the contrary.

Be well!

10/21/09                                                                                       View Comments

The Story of a Recent Doubter

by Sarah

My parents were never the crazy fundamentalist type that other people have talked about. I love them both dearly and have never doubted their love for me. Yet they were deeply religious. My Dad came from a Southern Baptist background and my mother had been Catholic but converted to Protestantism in college. I remember religion being an integral part of my childhood. We attended a relatively small church and so everyone was like family. Almost all my friends were from my Sunday school and I remember us playing games after church like Noah’s Ark We would pretend to be different animals and scurry under tables that were supposed to be the ark. We were completely oblivious to the fact that the rest of the animals and humans were drowning outside the ark. I sang in the kid’s choir and acted in the Christmas pageant.

When I reached school age my parents decided to homeschool me. I actually don’t hold this against my parents as much as you might think. I received an excellent personalized education that has served me well in my later studies. But all the books that we studied had a Christian slant to them. In history class we read books on missionaries, the spelling exercises often involved biblical stories and I would do math problem involving how many bibles could be distributed to x number of people. For me it was perfectly normal. After all if everyone in my world said that Jesus was true, then why would I doubt? I knew that a few people didn’t believe, but they were either bad people or just confused. And it was my job to set them straight. I can still remember distinctly “leading my first soul to Jesus”. I was probably all of six and playing with one of the three “unbelieving boys” in my neighborhood. I asked him if he wanted to go to heaven. He said sure and I told him he had to ask Jesus to save him. He said ok and I ran home absolutely thrilled at his conversion. I was convinced I had brought my cousin to the Lord as well after a long deeply theological conversation (at age ten). My agnostic aunt was quite upset when I proudly told her that I had turned her daughter into a Christian. I don’t think that any of these “conversions” lasted more than a day or two.

I can still remember one Christmas when my Dad decided to purge the house of all Santa paraphernalia because it distracted from the real meaning of Christmas. You’d think I would have been upset, but I eagerly joined in, almost throwing away my Mom’s heirloom 1950s Santa statue (she wasn’t as thrilled about the purge as my Dad, but who was she to question him).

Life continued on in this way up until high school and college. I kind of lost my fervor during high school when I stopped homeschooling. Partly because I was exposed to non-Christians who were actually good and cool people and partly because when we moved we didn’t really find a solid church to plug into. But I didn’t ever doubt that Christianity was true. I may have drifted away early during college if it wasn’t for the fact that I ended up rooming with a fellow Christian and living next door to two other Christians. And this was not the most religious of schools. I was convinced that this must have been God’s way of keeping me in the fold. We had bible studies together and prayed when life got stressful. We even got involved in the local Assemblies of God church. It was different than I was used to. People would sometimes prophecy or speak in tongues. I was a little wary of that as it wasn’t part of my background, but it was the only upbeat church that I could find and the people were extremely friendly. My roommates got really into it. One had been raised Catholic and she found the personalized religion of A of G much more appealing. The other roommate was from Africa and she firmly believed in the existence of devils and miracles and speaking in tongues. With her, life was always a struggle between the demons and Jesus.

They were extremely nice though and so much more genuine than many of the other people at my school and we quickly all became inseparable. We became well known at church as the foursome and often were invited to their houses. It felt like a community and I enjoyed it. I definitely had doubts but always managed to quickly shove them out of my head when they became uncomfortable.

My deconversion actually starts with a relationship that I had begun to develop with one of the young men at the church. He had come from a rough past. He used to be involved in drugs and crime, but he had gone through one of those religious programs and had found Jesus. He was now living on the straight and narrow. His conversion story was exciting and inspiring. And who doesn’t like a reformed bad boy? It adds a touch of danger and mystery. We began to sort of date. He talked enthusiastically about God and what he was doing in his life. I responded in kind, maybe a little more so than I would usually have done. I wanted to appear like a fervent Christian as well. I saw us together, on fire for Christ and making a difference in this world. It gave my life a feeling of satisfaction and purpose. But, as most of you probably can already guess, this guy was less than perfect. At one point he got massively drunk (apparently hadn’t quite gotten over those addiction problems) and tried to sleep with me. I went along with it further than I should have although we never actually had sex. A few weeks later he told me that he couldn’t continue to be in a relationship with me because of what we had done. He said he was disappointed in both of us. I apparently hadn’t done enough to stop him and save him from himself. All of our other experiences and conversations apparently meant nothing compared to that mistake. But his “guilt” didn’t stop him from starting to date a more “holy” girl from our church two weeks later. I have my suspicions as to whether or not things between them had already been going on even before he broke up with me. They got married less than a year later and are considered to be a model couple at our church. I still get sick every time I see them.

But I don’t want you to think that I turned away from the church because of a personal vendetta or anything. Although that did keep me from going to that same church for a while. I felt so worthless after that experience. Not only did I feel rejected by him, I felt rejected by God. I was convinced that I was evil and that I was a hypocrite. I did everything I could to make up for it. I listened to sermons online, I prayed my heart out, and I read my Bible. But nothing helped. I didn’t feel closer to God. I felt angry that I had to go through all this to appease him. I also felt angry at thinking that this guy that I now despised was going to heaven just because he had said a little prayer while my good friends who were not Christian (but were just as moral and often nicer and more fun) would be going to hell. And for some reason, right then, the concept of hell became real in my mind. I had always believed in it in a theological sense but had never really thought about it. Now I pictured all my non-Christian friends literally burning forever in that place. That is an extremely frightening thought. And I couldn’t get over the fact that we as Christians were having potlucks and camping trips and reveling in our salvation if we really thought even one person was going to hell. Shouldn’t we all be in mourning all the time over this tragedy? I couldn’t see the purpose in life or the world if the vast majority of humans end up in such a terrible place. It would be better to die as a child before you reached the age of accountability than risk not believing and go to hell. And I wondered about my brother who has Autism and Down Syndrome. Did he get a free pass into heaven because he couldn’t understand about religion? I hoped so but at the same time it didn’t seem fair. I’d rather be born with mental problems as long as I was guaranteed an eternity in heaven afterwards. Things were starting to not make sense the more I looked at them. I spent hours on the internet looking for answers. I heard all the pat answers repeated a million times but none of them satisfied me. I developed severe depression. Every time I walked on the streets I pictured the people that I saw in hell. Not a fun way to spend your time but I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I became mad at God for putting me through it and for not giving me comfort or explanation when I needed it.

I stumbled across this site and it opened possibilities I didn’t even know existed. I never considered not believing but the arguments on this site made sense and every story I read sounded like my own. I never thought I would find people who had gone through the exact same feelings as me but there they were. The atheism thing frightened me at first. I couldn’t be an atheist. It just wasn’t part of the package. And losing the illusion of heaven was a frightening concept as well. I still wanted to believe in Jesus and God but without the hell part. But I knew I couldn’t have my cake and eat it too. I lived in limbo for a long time. I tried to tell my parents about my doubts. My mom would cry and my dad thought it was Satan’s influence. It was hard not being able to share my pain with them. My friends were the same way. They tried to give me answers but they didn’t really have any. After a while they just kind of ignored it. For a while I went along with still going to church but I felt awkward standing there and singing songs to a god that I was no longer sure existed and whenever the pastor spoke I just thought of ways to refute his argument. But I felt lonely. My friends did not ostracize me but I no longer felt part of the close little group because I couldn’t fully participate in the religious aspects that were such a part of our relationship. I began to get annoyed at them constantly singing gospel around the house and attributing everything to an act of God. I still can’t understand how people ask God to help them on a test when there are people in the world starving. If God cares more about my Econ midterm than a baby with cancer then I think there is a problem.

The last part of my story involved a mission trip to Africa that we took that summer. I was still very much in doubt, but this trip had been in the works for a year and they convinced me that I could do other things besides religious stuff. It was one of the most awkward things ever. I enjoyed the experience of traveling and I was able to teach English and do some other work but I was constantly surrounded by the most intense Christians that I had ever seen. Christianity in many places of Africa is extremely Pentecostal. They fully believed in tongues and miracles and shouting and being slain in the spirit. I had to sit through more than one all night prayer service. I went to a spirit soaking in which people waited to be filled with the spirit and then began to yell, cry, laugh, fall over, or whatever else struck their fancy when they believed the spirit had come. I just kept seeing it as more and more ridiculous but my roommates really got into it. They all came out of the summer so much more “on fire for God”. Since I was traveling with them everyone expected me to be a Christian too and I went along with it because it was easier than trying to explain the truth and listen to them try to bring me back into the fold. I hated being the wet blanket. For a while I tried to point out the flaws in logic to my roommates but after a while I just felt like I was alienating them and being the killjoy. I think the most poignant part of all the deconversion stories is the loss that you feel when you can’t connect with your old friends and family in the same way. Now I’m back and I have stopped going to church. Ironically the summer of missions, which was supposed to strengthen my faith has only left me more doubtful and confused. Now we are supposed to attend a session with the bible study at the church that helped partially support our trip and talk about what we learned. I don’t know what to do. I don’t want to say the truth and alienate all my friends and church family, but I am tired of being hypocritical. I know that once I officially say something, it will drastically change the dynamics of my relationships with many people.

Any advice?

10/20/09                                                                                       View Comments

Love comes from Jesus

by Sara

Scary Jesus loves you from the bottom of His b...Image by jcolman via Flickr

I was raised Catholic and became Presbyterian in high school. I was so serious about my faith, excited about finding a church that acted as if God was real instead of trapped in a Latin Mass. And in all honesty, it was mostly wonderful. I was pretty awkward at that time and it was a place to belong. I didn't experience any of the horror stories many people relate. The people at my church were for the most part caring and conscientious. I left my hometown and went to college still a fluffy doe-eyed Christian. At that time it was the most important aspect of my life and there wasn't a close second.

There are a lot of things that people point to that led them to change their mind about God but there was no revelation for me. It left me slowly. I both became more liberal politically as I tried to nestle myself deeper into conservative Christianity. I began hanging out with the orthodox christians. But bits and pieces of what I held dear began falling away anyway. I ignored and ignored and ignored the problem until I got turned inside out and upside down.

My husband (then fiancé) and I had been at a picnic with some church friends and some fairly annoying church-planter had dropped by. While he preached away at his patient audience it occurred to me that I hadn't believed what he was talking about for along time. I wasn't a Christian anymore. I was terrified and horrified at this realization. I was devastated, I thought that life had pretty much ended for me. I even offered to break off my engagement with my husband because I was not the person he proposed to anymore.

I had a lot of trouble following my de-conversion. I became depressed and had a lot of difficulty finishing my senior year of college. It was a terrible time. I wept and pleaded with god to kindle that faith in me I used to have. I grieved as if someone had died. I was unspeakably angry with god and the people in my church. I forgot who I was. I couldn't figure out where i was going.

At the bottom of this funk I was getting married (my patient and caring fiancé not only did not break off the engagement but sat with me through all the various crying/screaming fits). My husband and I decided to have a conventional but god-neutralized wedding. Because I was honest with our two officiants about my own doubts and our choice of wedding service both backed out of marrying us. I was understanding with my husband's friend backed out. I wasn't very close with her. But about a week before the wedding my high school youth minister informed me that not only did he feel he couldn't do the sermon, he couldn't come at all. The stunned silence on the other end of this phone call was enough to encourage him to amend at least the second of the two decisions. When I asked him why he couldn't be a part of my wedding he said, "Well, I believe love comes from Jesus". It was the cruelest thing that I have ever experienced.

A year after getting married I have mostly picked together the pieces of my inner life. It's tough to have lost what I had in common with many of my friends, to lose my bearings in the world, to keep up a lie with my parents (they are wonderful and not scary conservative at all, I'm just a scared-y cat). But that refusal to marry my husband and I by someone who I respected and cared a great deal for still smarts.

Maybe I'll never change back to being a Christian, maybe I'll decide to be Buddhist, maybe I'll decide it doesn't matter and I don't care. But I'll never refuse to be part of someone's life because of what they believe.


10/15/09                                                                                       View Comments

Former Fundamentalist with Ph.D. from BJU is now an Agnostic

by Ken Pulliam, Ph.D.

I was saved (trusted Christ and Christ alone) and baptized in an independent, Fundamental Baptist church (Galilean Baptist Church). Later I became a member of Forrest Hills Baptist Church in Decatur, GA, which was started by Curtis Huston, a former editor of the Sword of the Lord publication, the periodical originally begun by John R. Rice (Mr. Fundamentalist) in 1934.

I graduated from Baptist University of America (BUA) in Decatur, GA in 1981. BUA was associated with the Baptist Bible Fellowship, which was started by followers of J. Frank Norris, a major fundamentalist leader in the early part of the 20th century. Then I went to Bob Jones University in Greenville, SC, perhaps, the most well known fundamentalist Christian college in the world.

After earning an M.A. (1982) and a Ph.D. (1986) in Theology at BJU, I went to teach at International Baptist College (IBC) in Tempe, AZ which was founded by James Singleton (also the Pastor of Tri-City Baptist Church). Singleton was a board member and active speaker in the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship, a group that originally came out of the Northern Baptist Convention in the early 20th century. The term "Fundamentalist," while a pejorative term for many people, was held as a badge of honor by the people with which I associated.

After teaching for about 6 years at IBC, many doubts began to accumulate. I taught Apologetics, Theology, English Bible, Introduction to Philosophy, Elementary, Intermediate and Advanced Greek courses. On the graduate level, I taught N.T. Introduction, N.T. Biblical Theology, Historical Theology, and advanced Greek courses.

I remember fielding many difficult questions from students in these classes and I always responded with the "pat" answers that I had been taught at BJU or had read in evangelical theology books. These usually satisfied the students but in my heart they did not satisfy me. I continued to study and research, thinking that somewhere, someone must have an adequate answer to these questions. For example, one which I could never resolve was the "justice of an innocent person (Christ) being punished in the place of the guilty parties (sinners)". This is counter-intuitive to what every man knows is right. Punishment, in order to be just, must be directed towards the guilty party. To substitute an innocent party, even if that party is willing, does not constitute justice.

In Dec. of 1996, I left the ministry. I "layed-low" for many years because I did not want to debate and I did not want to disappoint my dear Parents (who had paid for my education and who were devout Christians). Beginning in 2003, I started posting on TheologyWeb anonymously under the name FormerFundy. I enjoyed debating the so-called apologists who frequent that site. This year, I started my own blog, formerfundy.blogspot.com in which I am systematically discussing the reasons I left the faith.

I am also working on a book which may be entitled: "The Death of Christ for Sinners was both Illegal and Immoral."

Thanks,

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D.

10/9/09                                                                                       View Comments

Teenage Life in a Christian Home

by AST

Crucify album coverImage via Wikipedia

When I was a teenager the family went to a week long course called "Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts." It was Christian driven, encouraged by our Baptist church, and kind of fun. I look back and I am sure I believed we all did the right thing.

One thing we had to do was purge Satan from the house. The would of course involve "sending him back to hell" which can only be done via fire. We could not sell or give away any Satanic items, they had to be burned.

That meant, being a teenager, just about all of my record collection. BeeGees, Beatles, Steve Miller Band, Ramones, anyone NOT specifically singing the praises of God was either Satanic or Satan trying to get in. We could not give him one inch. I even had to burn a little Tiki doll that I was i the house when we moved in. My stepmom was uncomfortable over it but I saw it as simply wood, not the idol claimed.

So one day we all took our Satanic materials and burned them on the back porch in a small fire. We were cleansing the house by sending these materials back to Satan.

Of course we spent a summer week at a Christian Camp with singing and praising and all sorts of fun activities. Church included Bible Study for an hour before church, the church time, Sunday evening, and Wednesday evening for kids in similar age groups. I suppose it gives an idle mind something to do, but I could have done without the guilt.

I was taught that AIDS was God's punishment on the homosexuals. Okay, I can understand that, it is simply action/reaction. But when my step-brother died of AIDS I had to ask myself something. You see, I never liked him, but I'd not wish him dead. Does that mean I have a more forgiving nature than God? I am not a liberal by any means. And now that I ask questions my entire background is questioned.

One of my high school teachers pointed out conflicts of information in the Bible. When I confronted my parents, they tell me that any conflict is simply Satan twisting my mind to see what is not there. This was not an answer at all. And for one point of record, a bat is a mammal and not a bird. But the Bible says it is a bird.

Needless to say, the only options I had were being a Christian or being a devil worshiping, masturbating, drug dealing meth addict strung out on porn, weed, loud music, and late night TV. Not very nice options.

I turned 18 on the 22nd, I moved out on the 11th of the next month. No surprise.

Since then I have traveled around the entire world. I have seen the love brought by a religious belief as well as the hate. I have experienced those who wish to share with me every bit of their beliefs, and those who feel that I am invading their privacy by asking. For the most part the main attraction to other people does not involve religion, only personality.

I still have questions. I believe in God, or at least a Creator (the latter does not require worship). I reserve judgment on specific written materials until all the facts are in. I am scared I may be wrong. I am even more scared I may be right. I cannot pray without ceasing. I cannot avoid thinking impure thoughts at least 30 seconds a day. I cannot understand why those who say they are the most forgiving are the least forgiving. I cannot understand why asking questions is wrong.

Tori Amos once said, "I love Jesus. It's Christian's I can't stand." And Napoleon said, "Religion is what keeps the poor from killing the rich."

My life is about half over, and if I die in a natural way I have trouble understanding why my life will be judged by everything from a divorce to a dirty magazine under my mattress that my parents never found. It seems the good means nothing in the long run and only the bad marks are recorded for eternity. Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

I wonder how screwed up I really am.


10/8/09                                                                                       View Comments

Religion is Bullshit

Sent in by Billo

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I have always asked myself about the existence of God.

I was raised up in a Christian family and sent to a Christian school. For many years I was afraid of Hell even though I got "saved" many times, but I was never peaceful, because I was always depressed by guilt.

I was taught that it was a "sin" to sexually desire a woman. Human nature is based on sexuality. We live to reproduce! Why should it be wrong for me to follow my nature?

Honestly, if it is a sin for a man to desire a woman then it is a sin for birds to fly and fish to swim.

More than that I hated the false hopes that Christians give to people. For example, they tell a blind boy that if he prays and prays he will be see again. The poor boy has the hope that he will recover and so prays and prays. Giving false hopes is like making fun of person. Yes they should comfort a person in trouble, but more than that they should tell them to accept reality and live life as it is.

I learned while I attended a Christian school that Christianity is all about hating everyone who thinks differently from you. Take for example the poor Israelites who were constantly invaded by other nations. They deserved what they got, the Israelites came into the Promised Land and killed everyone including women and children who didn't think like them -- by the order of God, who supposedly loves everyone. Not only that but they wiped out the whole race of the Canaanites and destroyed entire cities and then waged war on neighbor countries and tribes for no good reason.

I am trying to set myself free form religion. I have learned it is ignorant and intolerant. Of course I am still scared of hell and demons, because of all of the religious bullshit that was hammered into my head since I was a kid.

I thank you all for you testimonies that have helped me give this step and thank you for this great web site who inspires me to continue

Sorting it all out

Sent in by Allan

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I recently became agnostic. I stopped believing in Christianity awhile ago when I realized that nothing in Christianity makes sense.

The Trinity is found nowhere in the Bible, yet somehow I'm required to believe it in order to be Christian.

When I did a little research, I found out the the matter of Jesus' divinity wasn't settled until 300 years later in a council. That's right people actually voted to decide whether or not Jesus was God.

I was also disturbed by the fact that two of the founders of Christianity couldn't agree on whether circumcision was required. If both these men were led by the Holy Spirit, how were they disagreeing on a matter as important as this? Shouldn't the Holy Spirit make them agree on everything since they are inspired by God?

After this I thought, "Well, Israel fulfilled many prophecies when it came into existence in 1948. Also, I always admired the Jews for producing so many intelligent people throughout history. They also receive Nobel prizes way out of proportion to their numbers. I began thinking maybe Judaism had the truth. I listened to lectures by a rabbi named Tovia Singer who goes around debunking Christianity to prevent Jews from converting. He made me positive that Christianity was wrong because it takes Old Testament verses out of context to make Jesus look like the messiah. So, for a brief period I was a gentile who believed the Jews had the truth. However recently I became honest with myself. Israel depends heavily on the United States. If God is behind Israel why does it need us so badly? What if Israel is a self-fulfilling prophecy? The Jews knew of the prophecy of a restored Israel and worked their butts off to accomplish this. It doesn't seem to impressive when you think about it in those terms. Also, most of those Nobel prize winning Jews are agnostic. Seems a little strange that God would bless people who don't believe in Him.

Now that I'm agnostic I can completely accept evolution without feeling guilty about it. I can dismiss the Noah's Ark story as complete idiocy.

I sometimes feel frightened that when I die my consciousness will cease to exist, but it only makes me appreciate what time I have here more.

10/7/09                                                                                       View Comments

Leaving the compelling love of Christ

by Maestra

My husband and I got a mass email from our former pastor (we were still on the mailing list until a few weeks ago) with an attachment about how Muslims were going to storm the White House to pray and noted that a Muslim leader wanted to turn the White House into a Muslim White House. The tone of the message was fear for our nation; that Christians needed band together and pray before the Muslims took over. Even though the email didn’t suggest we wage war, it was enough for my husband and I to be disgusted. That night, as I considered the possibility of a Muslim/Christian war brewing in our country, I felt an outrage toward religion-a feeling I’ve very much been trying to temper since that feeling conflicts with my ultimate goal, which is to live peacefully and lovingly with those around me. I am surrounded by Christians and the last thing I want to do is be labeled as angry and intolerant. My Christian family and friends are very dear to me.

In January 2009 we notified family members and friends that we were “taking a break” from church. They knew we felt like we didn’t believe and were having faith issues, but we didn’t at that time dis-identify ourselves with Christianity. After that email from my pastor…we were ready.

Unfortunately for me, this admission has plunged me back into extreme sadness and frustration. Up until then, I was experiencing a nice stretch of joy and peace. When I started the school year, the joy hit me (I am a Spanish teacher). I looked at my students and it hit me hard that we’re ALL o.k. NOBODY is going to hell. I am part of them and they are part of me and we’re on this journey of life together. I don’t have to “be the light” for them, but maybe I can brighten their day and they can brighten mine (which they do)! I was enjoying a reprieve from the mentally and emotionally taxing issue of de-conversion.

But now it’s back. I called my brother-in-law who is on the board at our former church to tell him. I wanted him to hear it from us first. Matters are complicated because he and my sister live right next door. Needless to say, he was very disturbed. I am frustrated because when we first announced our doubts back in January he was sympathetic and even told us our doubting made him question his faith. I sent him a few things and his response was that the points addressed were “very disturbing.” But since those early days, I believe he has talked to his very devoted family members, my sister-who deeply believes, and he is reading many books encouraging him in faith and he is full on board with Christianity. I asked him a few months ago if he really believed women have pain in childbirth because Eve sinned (he is a doctor-and a very good one) and he said he does. Sigh.

After specifically denouncing my belief in Jesus as the risen savior (Is that blasphemy? I’ve always been confused about what that is…) my sister and b-i-l changed appointed guardianship of their kids to my b-i-l’s side of the family. I knew that was coming, but to hear my sister tell me this was painful. My sister and I went out to dinner to discuss this issue and I told her how hard this was for me because I know I lose when pitted against their faith. I knew if somebody said, “Deny Jesus now and for the rest of your life or your sister dies…” I would lose. She didn’t respond. I had told her back in January that when my husband and I told my pastor we were taking a break from church and having religious doubts that she (my pastor) basically compared us to the worst child criminal. She told us if we were abusing our kids or not sending them to school she could call social services on us but in this case her hands were tied. She also told us that we, nor anybody else has heard the worst of what she thought of situations like this. I imagine she thinks it is better for us to drown in a lake with a millstone hung around our neck as Matthew 18 suggests. She did not say this though. My whole family knows my pastor said this to us. I told my sister that if she and I worked or volunteered for some organization together and she told me that our boss told her these same things our pastor told us, I couldn’t continue to work or volunteer for that person who had such a negative view of my sister when I know what a wonderful mother she is. I just wouldn’t tolerate being around somebody who thought that way about my sister. But in this situation, not only does the whole family continue to embrace the pastor and the organization-they must also on some level adhere to those views about us. Nobody will consider what we have to say, nor read anything that doesn’t promise to support faith. They prefer to love, support, and commune with the very person (and probably people) who have such a lowly opinion of who my husband and I are.

It is hard. I remember being a devout believer and what I thought of people who left the faith. I never would have considered marrying a non-Christian. I wouldn’t spend much time with a non-Christian. I also would never appoint guardianship of my children to a non-Christian and if my original selection deconverted…I would change guardianship too. But now that I see this all for what it is I want to share it with my family. I want us all to close this crazy chapter of our lives together, take each other by the hand and walk into the sunset together…with full support and allegiance towards each other.

But I lose. Their flesh and blood…visible and real…I lose to Jesus. They are very sure about Him. One thing that Jesus got right is that he didn’t come to bring peace, but a sword and to turn family members against each other (Matt 10:34). It just shouldn’t be like this.

So does anybody have advice? Am I over-reacting? I have such hurt feelings over this but I know they do too. My goal is to not become cynical and angry, although I feel both of those things. I want to be kind and loving and live in peace with them, but I don’t know how. I think communication is key to working problems out, but this seems to be a topic where discussing the issue makes things worse. Nobody wants to hear what I have to say regarding the Christian religion nor anything I’ve learned from reading about the history of the Bible. I’ve forced it a few times and it never goes well. Who has “been there done that” with family members and been able to maintain a healthy and loving relationship? How do people do this?

10/5/09                                                                                       View Comments

Searching for clues to God's existence

by The Truth Seeker

You might say that I am a slow learner. It’s taken me 72 years to finally conquer my fears about going to Hell for being a constant sinner.

I started out going to a Baptist Church when I was 5 years old. I lived in Houston and rode a bus every Sunday to the Baptist church off of South Main St. I learned about all of the old Bible stories that are taught to most children, and I believed them all. Why shouldn’t I, the adults told me they were true, so they must have been true.

When I reached the 5th grade I was sent to a Baptist military school and every day, Monday through Friday we would go to chapel and hear more stories about the Bible and Christianity from a Baptist point of view. I went to church on Wednesday evenings and went on Sunday in the morning and in the evening. After 8 years of this kind of indoctrination I knew all about the superficialities and stories about Christianity. No one ever told me about the bad parts of the Bible and all of the atrocities that God commanded the Israelites to do to its enemies. I guess it was too embarrassing to let us children hear that sort of stuff.

When I graduated from high school, I went straight to college, and I didn’t spend any more time going to church because I was tired of it after 8 continuous years of the most concentrated indoctrination one could imagine.

I went through college and got married after about 3 years to, of all things, a Catholic woman. I figured we could work out any differences we had through a rational discussion between the two of us. Wrong. This woman was a religious fanatic, and I never knew that while we were dating. Back in those days, if you married a Catholic you were supposed to raise your children as Catholic, no discussion allowed.

Well after 8 years of going to college, I received a BS, MS, and PhD. During this time I converted to Catholicism because I knew if I didn’t, there would be no peace in the family because of my fanatical wife.

So after 23 years of marriage and seven children, you know Catholics were not supposed to use birth control, things had just about gotten out of control with my wife. She had become more irrational over the years. First it was her fear about the communists taking over the world. She constantly made predictions about when this was going to happen. I got so tired of hearing this I finally began to write down her predictions and would show them to her when they didn’t come true. Of course that didn’t make any difference because there was always a good reason why they didn’t come true. She then wanted to get out of the US and wanted me to take the whole family to Australia, where the communists couldn’t get to us. I wouldn’t do this, because there was really no good reason for doing it.

Then she became obsessed about the stock marked. She believed it was going to crash and the whole economy would crater. Of course this didn’t happen, but every time there was a wobble in the market downwards she was encouraged even further in her belief. If she could have held out for about 25 years, she would have finally been right.

Next she became obsessed with a group in New York State who claimed they had seen a vision of the Virgin Mary and this was happening on a continuing basis. Of course the Virgin was predicting the end of the world if the US didn’t stop sinning and she didn’t see any sign that we were stopping sinning. My wife then began to collecting humongous Mason jars and filled them with wine and grapes. She did this so that when the end came near and all the grocery stores were destroyed we would have something to live on. The grapes wouldn’t do much for us, but after drinking all the wine, we wouldn’t care anyway.

She had to make a trip to New York to see the Virgin Mary and she had to take several of our children with her. This incensed me that all of this craziness was continuing to go on, and now she was trying to drag our children into this craziness.

I had endured 23 years of this craziness and I held on because I didn’t want to leave my children with this crazy woman. It turns out she was a paranoid schizophrenic and this illness was getting progressively worse. I finally couldn’t take any more of this craziness and I had to leave. We divorced and, of course, she got all of the children so she could continue to indoctrinate them with this craziness.

She did a real job on several of our children, but after they began to leave home and live a life on their own and mixed with other normal people they began to see how sick their mother was.

I reminisce about all of these bad memories because they began to make me think more about religion and what it can do to sick people. It can also do the same thing to sane people who are weak and afraid of going to Hell because of the constant indoctrination that all religions do to their adherents.

The fear of going to Hell is a real fear in most Christians and it affects them through out their life. It’s amazing to me what power all the various Christian religions hold over their adherents with this fear.

After getting divorced, remarrying (a sane woman this time), and working through my career and retiring, I finally realized how little I knew about the Christian religion. I knew all of the good Bible stories and all the rules, doctrines, and regulations of both the Baptist and Catholic religions, but I realized how ignorant I was of how these things actually came about. Who was it that said and why did they say that Catholics couldn’t use contraceptives, that priests couldn’t get married, that women couldn’t become priests, that Baptists couldn’t dance or gamble, that we were all born sinners because of original sin, that Jesus was born from the Virgin Mary, that Mary was sinless and always a Virgin and ascended into heaven without dying, that Jesus was crucified and rose from the dead, that you would commit a mortal sin if you ate meat on Fridays, that masturbation was a mortal sin, that you could only perform certain specified sexual acts and not others, that wine and bread would be turned into Christ’s real blood and real body only if a priest said the correct words, that you could have your sins forgiven only if you told them to a priest, that abortion is a mortal sin, that you could only go to heaven if you believed in Christ and his resurrection and were given grace, and what is grace?, that God from all eternity knows who will be saved and there is nothing you can do about it, that there really is no free will since God knows what your fate is no matter what you do. Who made these rules and when did they all start?

Well I studied and read the Bible, read scholarly historical and archaeological findings, read Christian literature, read agnostic and atheist literature, read the history of Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Mormonism for five years, and I have finally decided that there is no God and that the Christian religion is based on a supposition that Christ was crucified for our sins and arose from the dead. This is the supposition that all of Christianity depends on and if this is not true then the whole religion falls apart like a house made of cards. It turns out that there were no eyewitnesses of the resurrection that wrote anything about it. All of the gospels were written by people (and they weren’t the actual people named for these gospels) that were not eyewitnesses of Christ and all the miracles that he was supposed to have performed and they were all written 30-60 years after his death. The apostle Paul wrote his epistles closest to the time of Christ’s death, but he never saw or knew Christ. So if no one actually saw Christ arisen from the dead, how can we really believe what the gospels say? Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Mormonism are even more fantastically outlandish than Christianity could ever be.

If there was a God, don’t you think he would leave some clue that he existed? With all of our scientifically modern technology, don’t you think that we could get a small clue of God’s existence? Where is that clue? Scientists have searched this world and the universe over and there is still no clue. Why is it that miracles seemed to have come to an abrupt end after the gospels were written? If there was a God, don’t you think that miracles would still be taking place? Why did the twelve disciples get all the good luck and none was saved for the rest of us? What else can one conclude except that he’s not there? Have any of you ever actually spoken with God like they supposedly did in the Old Testament? Why did all the communications with God stop two thousand years ago? If anyone knows of a good scientifically valid clue that God exists, I would like to know about it because I’m tired of searching for it.