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The Search for Meaning

A podcast by Dr. Marlene Winell




Dr. Marlene Winell, psychologist, educator, and writer in the San Francisco Bay Area as well as author of "Leaving the Fold," talks about her loss of Christian faith during an interview on the Australian radio program, "The Search for Meaning with Caroline Jones"

Caroline Jones (born Caroline Mary Newman, in 1938) is a distinguished Australian television journalist and social commentator. "The Search for Meaning."



You can also purchase an ebook version of Dr. Winell's book for $12 here. This includes two documents: The book, and a workbook with accompanying exercises.














Being a missionary showed me light

By No Longer Afraid ~

Indian broochImage by exfordy via Flickr
I was raised in Kansas City, MO by my Charismatic Christian parents. I got "saved" when I was five years old, as do most children born into a Christian home. My mother homeschooled my seven siblings, and I and most of our friends were those from our church, raised in the same way as I.

We attended a non-denominational Christian church in Kansas City in which we practiced extreme Christianity. Worship services were more like raves, with people dancing in the aisles and speaking in tongues, having what seemed to be seizures on the floor. The documentary "Jesus Camp" reminds me of our sermons. We were "warriors for Christ." The church also sent some of it's members on mission trips, primarily in Mexico.

I submitted to all of this. My life goal at that time was to get married, have kids and serve the Lord. I was a typical teenage "Jesus Freak."

When I was 14, the church announced that they were looking for the right people to go on a mission trip to New Delhi, India. I felt that I needed to go. Another contributing factor to my wanting to go to India was that my best friend was also going and I did not want to be away from him. I raised money all summer; mowed lawns, sold Gold-C books, babysat, collected donations, etc.

So here I was, 14 years old on an airplane to India. The goal of our mission, as quoted by our team leader, was to "scout the land" and plant "house churches." We met many amazing Indian natives. We dressed in their native clothing and lived among them in a small village in New Delhi. The problem was, many of them practiced Hindu and Buddhism. We prayed over their "evil ways" and asked Jesus to come into their land and show them the light. I was completely for our cause. I prayed along and even cried for these "evil worshipers."

At the time we were in India, there was a religious holiday called Diwali, which we got the opportunity to experience. We saw the dedication these people had to their faith and how their religion is such a big part of their culture.

When I returned to the states, my 5-year-old sister became very ill. Because of my parents belief that God is the "Great Physician," my sister died on January 9th, 2004. (Google "Victory Halbert.") My parents were under investigation and my siblings and I were put into foster homes. We spent a total of about 3 years moving from foster home to group home and finally were returned to my father, who was now divorced from my mother. My father was depressed and drank a lot and pretty much let me do whatever I wanted.

Coming from the type of home I was raised in, being thrust into the secular world came as a shock to me. One day I was being home schooled by my mother, the next I was forced to go to public school in one of the worst districts in the state of MO.

I rebelled against everything I knew. I skipped school frequently, which led to me dropping out, partied with my new high school friends and eventually moved in with my boyfriend, who I met at school, when I was 17. Soon after, I got pregnant. I moved on with my life and let go of everything that was holding me back. My boyfriend and I got an apartment together and got engaged. In 2008, we had another baby and finally got married when I was 19 and he was 21. We moved into a new house and I ran a daycare out of our home and he, having a college degree, had a great job and we were financially secure.

My husband came from a Baptist background. He claimed to be a Christian, as did I, but we both struggled with our beliefs. Being young and not knowing what to do with that, we never really talked about religion.

I struggled with guilt about my trip to India. I started to realize what I was really doing there; preaching the word of God. Remembering how committed those Indians were to their faith, I realized that I had infiltrated their culture with my beliefs, which now don't even make sense to me. I read the Bible and tried to make sense of it, but I just couldn't. I greatly questioned the Christian religion and felt awkward talking about it with my husband, as I didn't know how he would react, being that he was Baptist.

Eventually it came out that he questioned the Bible and Christianity as well. I was relieved, but we still didn't know what to do about it.

In the summer of 2009, my father, who had radically denounced Christianity and somewhat "gone off the deep end" in his obsession with conspiracy theories and constant talk of religious dogmas, invited us to go on a camping trip in Mclouth, Kansas for a celebration called "Laid Back Labor Day." We were hesitant, as it was a Pagan campground...as Christians we were always taught that Pagans were "devil worshipers" and witches. We ended up going and it changed out lives. We now call ourselves Pagans, although we don't really practice anything, but are open to magic and mysticism and in love with nature.

I am no longer afraid of going to hell and being condemned by god. I realize now that NO ONE is right. How can any one religion be right? I think that religion is more so a matter of culture, I realize that now, especially because of my trip to India. The Indians are not evil just because the worship a god of a different name or because they have not accepted Jesus into their hearts. I know that now. I am free.

I'm not sure what the purpose of this story is. I think it is more of an affirmation of who I am than it is a testimony. I just know that I am happy now and that I am lucky to have my husband to share in my beliefs and realizations of our past as christians. I am glad that I can come here and share my story without being told that I am going to hell (which I am told a lot, even though I do not believe in hell anymore!)

I was not scared into my beliefs. As a Christian, I obeyed for that very reason: fear. I didn't want to be condemned by god to hell, and I tried to live my life according to the bible solely because I wanted to go to heaven. I have a lot to say about the bible, but I won't go into that here.

I must admit that I DO still struggle with fear because of Christianity. I sometimes find myself thinking "what if I'm wrong...what if there is a hell and I'm headed there?" Then I have to shake myself and remind myself that hell was invented by the christians in order to make a perfect world.

Any thoughts on this? I would love to hear from you.

Thank you for reading.

Leaving the Church

By Kenneth S. (via Carl S.)

Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic C...Image by sarowen via Flickr

I was raised in a Catholic family, and went to a Catholic school for almost eight years. In my last year I had an older nun, Sister Raymond, around 65 years-old, who did not like me because I used to ask her things that she could not explain. At the time I was following the crowd and dressed and acted the way I thought was popular (wrong). The nuns used to pull my hair and punish me because I had a DA (duck’s ass) haircut and wore pegged pants.

I told my mother, “I have to get out of that school,” but she said, “You have to go to Catholic school.”

Anyway, the next week, I was wrestling with a friend outside the church’s side door, and I pushed his head through it (stained glass). Guess who was right inside? Sister Raymond!

The next week I was in public school. WOW! All the girls had breasts and nice legs, and were friendly. I didn’t know that life could be so free, where I could think and act as I pleased without sinning.

Anyhow, after experiencing a pretty good life for a few years, when I was seventeen years-old I left home (due to circumstances beyond my control - another story). I joined the navy.

When I got out, I was ready to settle down. I had a girlfriend who wanted to get married in a Catholic Church, so she went to classes and converted. When we went to get married, she was baptized by the same priest who baptized me 22 years earlier. Everything went good.

Nine months later, we had a baby girl (very good). About a year later, we were having marital problems, so we went to see our priest. We were talking to him and the first thing he asked was, “Are you practicing birth control?” And I said “Yes.” He responded, “I or the church can do nothing to help you.” I said, “Take your goddamn church and shove it.” Never been back.

2/1/10                                                                                       View Comments

I was de-converted by the Bible

By Sylvester

Bible with Cross ShadowImage by knowhimonline via Flickr

I converted to Christianity when I was 17, without knowing much about the bible and the religion.

I began attending church regularly when I was 18 and soon was all "on fire" for Jesus. I "served" all I could, spent all my time in church and soon was promoted to become an "area" leader, in charge of about a 100 youths.

I began to doubt when I was 22, after 4 years in church.

I questioned the rules ands regulations of my ex-church. Rules like prohibiting girls to wear "tight" fitting clothes, prohibiting colouring of hair, and compulsory attendance for service and cellgroup. Of course after a while, I brushed it aside. I prayed and thought that god would take those doubts away.

A year ago, my doubts were still not going away. In fact, things became worse. I began reading the bible thoroughly, hoping to find an answer for my doubts.

But the more I read the bible, the more I was appalled at the contents. I couldn't believe that there were errors, inconsistencies and many scientific errors in it. I was also horrified that "god" actually commanded the deaths of so many innocent people (babies, women, children) in the bible just because they were his enemies.

I approached my leaders regarding the bible and of course, in all Christian fashion, they told me that I was questioning too much and gave me ridiculous answers such as "God had to kill them because they were sinful".

I also began arguing with my pastors about the church's rules and restrictions. Of course I was immediately labeled as "wayward" and "unsubmissive".

Finally in 2009 February, I decided enough was enough. There were enough reasons for me to leave the religion.

AND so I left church and Christianity, and today I am so much happier.