sent in by mynameisnotbob
I, like a good many people on this site, was born as a Christian. My parents are into it in a fairly big way- my dad is, bless his heart, a fundamentalist wacko since his semi-midlife crisis; I don't entirely blame him- he needed a release from his stressful and demeaning job, and religiousness is at least less destructive than blowing my family's savings on a sports car or something. My mom is tied up in the social aspects and the like (she actually works as our church's treasurer) even if she doesn't agree with everything. She has a wonderfully open mind and has inspired me to the same, though religion and I do not get along, it seems. My church is an unusual one; I am, or was, a Quaker, or a member of a Friends Church, as we liked to call ourselves to dodge the somewhat anachronistic connotation of the former. I still rather respect the denomination, though at this point I consider the underlying aspects of all Christianity rather silly...
Bear with me, this is going to be really long. :D
My childhood was that of the fat, asthmatic, over-intelligent kid. I had few friends, did horribly in sports despite occasional attempts, was made fun of semi-regularly, and was generally a wonderful little student to my teachers and an overzealous kiss-up to my peers. Eventually, I began reacting to the feelings of rejection and affirmations of my outcast nature, eventually becoming quite an ass to many people that could've been my friends. I also suffered from guilt trips, even back then, blaming everything on myself. I reacted most frequently by retreating into a self-inflicted fantasy world, one where God and I had a very close relationship that seemed to make up for the lack of affection I was getting from my peers. My parents weren't really at fault, here- I was a damn jerk as a kid, and yet I wondered why people didn't like me. At this point I am more or less aware that it was because I wasn't reaching out to anyone else to be liked, simply remaining content to be that nerdy guy in the back of the class who always asked all those questions when I was in a good mood and beating myself up over my failings at social outreach when I was in a bad one.
By seventh grade I was a bit of an emotional wreck. I started hanging around with two other disaffected fat kids and one longhaired skinny guy; we would've been cool, "maverick loner rebels against society", except that we were too fat and dorky even for that. The main excitement in our playground lives were the passive-agressive insult and the prurient joke, the latter of which was very strange for me since I still existed under a heavy blanket of spirituality: sex was something I had nothing and likely never would have anything to do with and adultery- horror of horrors- was something that I'd rather choke on my own spit and die than commit. My innocence had been shattered one day on the playground in I believe second grade- some kid asked me if I knew what sex was, and when I replied "no" he informed me that it was when a boy put his penis into a girl's vagina, something I'd heard mythical rumors about but never comprehended. So, despite my "knowledge" about the proceedings, I hung around with these punks out of a sort of horrified fascination, gaining an interestingly foul mouth in the process. I still remember the first time I actually used the "f-word" at home... my mother was so shocked that I was simply shamed into not doing so. To her credit, she did tell me that it was just a word, after all, but just not something that you go around saying...
Seventh grade also resulted in a very large amount of people asking me if I was gay, something I suppose was attributed to the fact that I wore facial hair (I had a mustache in sixth grade, which I thought was cool and everyone else, evidently, did not. Evidently, the bulk of my testosterone was expended upon the furious growth of facial hair and not upon any more enviable things such as muscles or penis size). The rumors of my homosexuality spread, and I eventually became so defensive and angry about it that I turned into a rampant homophobe. I started thinking, "well, what if... horror of horrors... I AM gay?" Then, of course, the well-conditioned guilt centers in my spiritual conscious took over and firmly ground myself into paste. I determined that I'd rather commit suicide than be gay.
Anyway, in eighth grade I finally found some reputable geek friends and moved wholly into computers, fantasy and science fiction, more classic geek pursuits. In a sense, they saved my self esteem, though I was still very damaged. I took to wearing sanctimonious Christian T-Shirts to school each and every day, to the exclusion of all else save plain color shirts here and there. These were, sadly, almost an attempt to remind myself of that which I believed, since I obviously knew that I was a sinful and wayward soul.
High school came around and I was pressed into the honors track, having been in the "Very Intelligent" bracket my entire educational career. I progressed further into my anti-homosexualism campaign, eventually encroaching on sexuality as a whole. I determined that the sexual response in an organism was solely to make new organisms, an interesting scientific inset into largely irrational beliefs. From this and my own extremely low feelings of self-worth I determined that not only would no rational future woman would want such "weak" genes as mine, but that I would rise above not just average temptation but every temptation and simply not marry at all, ever. I seem to recall writing some quotation of Paul's about how "it is better for man not to marry" into my life and, depressingly, lived by it for the better part of two and a half years. I never once dated anyone or really even entertained any sort of sexual fantasy about anything, thinking instead that I would just remain sexless and androgynous ("pure", as I thought of it) my entire life. No one had ever bothered to create any sort of deep relationship with me before, (except, of course, for my whole God fantasy) and I had no conscious thought that they ever would hereafter, since I wouldn't be marrying anyone and therefore had no real purpose to pursue anything except platonic friendship. I retreated even farther into Christian things- I attended ministry training camps, regularly attended a Youth Group with people I hated just because it was God, and eventually forced myself to throw out my beloved Magic card sets since they were, well, technically maybe not super-innately evil, but they "distracted me from God". At some point I prided myself in not even having gotten an erection- obviously a sinful reminder of the sack of flesh the "pure" me was stuck in- in over four months.
Interestingly, this all changed one night when I was sitting up late at night, alone, on the computer, feeling absolutely miserable. I had just turned seventeen years old at that point, but in certain areas of my life I may have just as well still been stuck in seventh grade. I was angry about something at the time, angry at myself and at God, so I did the unthinkable- I loaded up a search engine and found myself some pornography. I was intrigued mostly from a technical viewpoint; up until then I really had no idea what a vagina even looked like. My first porn was really just some black-and-white "artistic nudes" (interestingly, somewhat like the ones on this site) which didn't do anything for me at first, but as soon as I'd given up and gone to bed, I accidentally brushed up against something and then decided that I should "do something" about the arousal I'd built up. That led to my first accidental masturbation, inside my pajamas and everything. At that point the miserable emotions were wiped clean away and I was left with nothing but a glowing feeling of... could it be... self worth? That I had actually done something that made me feel... good? That was when I knew something had been wrong with what I had believed all along. All the abstinence lectures... all the moralizing anti-adultery tirades... the whole of the damn thing, really. I'd invested so much of the religious process in some damned version of sexless, androgyne celibacy that when I started questioning that the whole thing came spiralling down.
I passed through several "Download a whole bunch of porn, masturbate furiously for several weeks, then repent and delete it all" periods over the next year, but I still knew something was wrong. I affirmed that I was, in fact, heterosexual and became comfortable enough with that to allow for the existance of homosexuals, God's Extensive List of Holy Fucking Commandments to the contrary be damned. You know the ones I'm talking about, the huge lists of what is and is not able to be fucked? I finally began realizing some of the real problems and inconsistencies in the "Good Book"; possibly what moved me the most was the sexism and the like espoused therein. Even if it was "progressive for it's time", as one of my youth pastors is fond of reciting, it's still chock full of degrading references to women and their roles in society.
When the moderately liberal pastor of my church moved on and was replaced by an older, far more conservative "preacher" it was pretty much the last straw. Interestingly, I actually still attend sunday services- I'm the audio technician, so it's really a job to me. I am interested in the actual music, making sure the band sounds good and everything, but I sometimes get just struck by the silliness of it all. God is, like so many T-shirts have proclaimed, no more than Santa Claus for adults, and at times I actually feel guilty for helping propagate that illusion. I still respect many of the people at my church, regardless of whether or not they want to live a life of delusion, but it's just not something I can continue believing in. No amount of willpower is going to make Grandma come back after she's died, save you from your own faults or fill the enormous gaps in a faulty, two-thousand year old myth.
I've still got some scars from growing up like that. I'm still a virgin (working on that, though- finally) and I still have a mostly "christian-ish" moral outlook, though thankfully as I broaden my experiences in college even that's beginning to wane. With any luck, I can make up for not having passed through all the standard high-school era "rites of passage", et al, in time to save myself from the celibate fate I so had my heart set on as a kid. ;)
Became a Christian: 2? 3?
Ceased being a Christian: 20
Labels before: Quaker, Friends
Labels now: Religiously Indifferent
Why I joined: Born into it.
Why I left: Realized myself and grew out of it
Email Address: mynameisnotbob at hotmail dot com
Online Reading List
- An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish by Bertrand Russell (1943)
- Bible Teaching and Religious Practice by Mark Twain
- God is Imaginary
- Is there an Artificial God? by Douglas Adams (1998)
- Skeptics Annotated Bible
- The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine (1795)
- Which Way? by Robert Ingersoll (1884).
- Why I Am Not A Christian by Bertrand Russell (1927)