sent in by John
I was born into Christianity, and I was brought up to "know" god existed. And I was taught that Christianity was the only way to god. My parents were very devout and active Christians -- my father even considered going into the evangelical ministry at one point. So, there's no sugar coating it, we were fundies. I tried to take my religious beliefs seriously, although as a young teen I could tell I had a problem relating with other Christian kids my age. Looking back, even at that age I had a strong aptitude for human reasoning, and so I tended to be skeptical about what I was told if I couldn’t somehow verify it empirically. To the contrary, most Christian kids just seemed to accept what they were told without question, and that made it hard for me to have anything other than superficial conversations with them, which I found rather pointless.
As I continued to learn more about god and Christianity, I started to sense that certain things about Christianity and the Bible seemed illogical and contradictory, although at 13 I wasn’t really sure how to articulate it…..I just knew things were “not right”. So I started asking questions, like why does a god described as "loving" send people to a place as horrific as hell. They were usually met with typical “I don’t know but please go away” answers like "we can't fully comprehend god", "pray for understanding", or "read the bible for your answer", etc. These answers made even less sense to me than the perceived contradictions, but since I really wanted to believe I tried to push all my doubts back into my subconscious in the hopes they would go away if I ignored them. Ignorance is bliss.
Once I got into high school, we start going to a pentecostal church and I think that was when Christianity just started seeming strange to me. At this point I was introduced to salvation and "gods free gift of eternal life through jesus". And all I had to do was let Jesus into my heart to receive it. I have to admit, I did have a problem trying to fully grasp this conceptually. The whole idea of having to be "saved" and to let some invisible person I couldn't see "into my heart" just seemed, well…….weird. But I did what they told me, because my understanding was that I would fry in hell if I didn't. So I said a few words and asked Jesus to come into my heart and repented of my sins, which was very sincere. I guess I felt better that I was officially saved and wasn’t going to be tossed into hell to burn, but otherwise nothing happened. I didn’t feel “reborn”, I didn’t feel like a “new person” and I didn’t feel filled with any holy spirit. I really felt no different inside than I did 5 minutes before. Aside from being saved, there was other stuff.......people speaking in tongues, crying, wailing, shaking, etc. As a rational person, this environment was rather problematic for me….. it scared me. It was like being the only sane person in the middle of a mental hospital during group therapy. And no matter how hard I prayed, I couldn’t experience what everyone else did. I can think of many times sitting in church while everyone around me was overcome by the holy spirit speaking in tongues, and I actually faked it because I didn’t want anyone to notice that I couldn’t do it. However, all this did was fill me with doubt about my own salvation, as I was led to believe that if you couldn’t speak in tongues you didn’t have the holy spirit in you, and if you didn’t have the holy spirit you were not a True Christian and were not saved. However, I still believed Christianity was the truth, and was determined not to give up that easily. In hindsight, I now realize that I was so scared of going to hell that I had deluded myself into believing Christianity was the truth….”just in case”.
But things got worse. By the time I got to be about 15, I realized (to my ultimate horror) that I was sexually attracted to other guys. To me this was basically the worst possible thing that could happen, because I was taught that homosexuals were vile, evil abominations of God. The problem I had with all this is that my attraction to other guys was NOT something I chose, as many Christians claim. And while I believed that attraction was wrong, it was “there”, and yet I was not the one who put it there. I then became very angry with God, because I felt he created me only to damn me. And from that point forward, my personality forever changed.
Although nobody knew my secret, I felt very alienated from god and other Christians, due to the amount of time they spent preaching the evils of homosexuality, more so than all other sins combined. And all the while never forgetting to insert the word “abomination” as many times as possible to emphasize the unparalleled disgust and revulsion god felt towards homosexuals. Christians like the word “abomination” when referring to homosexuals. That word has sort of a special ring to it, especially when you say it with authority, it comes out sounding very intimidating and ominous. So even if you don’t know what the word means, you know it isn’t anything good. Anyway, it soon became very clear to me that homosexuality was far worse than murder, since even serial ax murderers were not explicitly referred to as “abominations” in the Bible. Yet I was one and there was nothing I could do about it. The worse part of it all was no matter how much I prayed, god never took away that sexual attraction. It looked like I was always going to be an abomination.
As a kid I was generally happy and outgoing, but that kid was now gone. What I became was a depressed, nihilistic teenager with a very dim outlook on life. I no longer cared about school or my family, and I pretty much hated everybody with the exception of my closest friends (who coincidentally were all straight). Eventually I started partying, drinking, listening to “evil” music like Metallica and Nine Inch Nails, and doing drugs, just because I figured I was going to hell anyway so it didn’t matter what I did. I eventually dropped out of high school, moved away from my family, and decided I was just going to party and drift my life away. I also wanted to meet some gay people so I could experience that life. However I was soon to discover that the “gay lifestyle” was not at all what I expected. Lets just say I found it to be almost a “religion” of its own (and equally as dogmatic as one). I found that if I didn’t act, talk, walk, dress or think a certain way, like certain music or tv shows, laugh at certain jokes, admire certain people, take a certain political stance, or otherwise live a certain way that I was “not being true to myself” (or so I was told many times). Just as some Christians think there are “True Christians” and “fake” Christians some gay people apparently think there are “True Gays” and “fake” gays, as absurd as that sounds. Anyway, after several years of trying to “fit in”, I found I was always at odds with who I was and who I “should” be. To me, this was no different than the alienation I felt with Christianity. I finally decided I couldn’t take it anymore, and wanted nothing more to do with that lifestyle. Good riddance.
At this point in my life I felt very alone and depressed, and I didn’t feel I was a part of anything greater than myself. I had no aim or goals, and I went on like that until about my mid 20’s when my anger eventually went away a little. I finally realized that even though I was “cursed” with being gay, I was “blessed” with a very high IQ and a lot of discipline, and I decided that I was going to use that to my advantage and turn my life around. I was determined to be successful in life even though god had doomed me from any other kind of happiness. I assumed he wanted me to live a pathetic defeatist life like some gay people who purposely try and get aids or finally kill themselves over the conflict of being born with a sexual attraction god deemed as an “abomination”. But I was determined not to, if for no other reason just to spite him. And I ended up doing just that. Today I am the complete opposite of what I was before. I don’t do drugs, I am in perfect health, I am financially well off, own an expensive home, have a good career, and I have a lot of friends, the majority of whom are straight and atheist/agnostic. Interestingly, through the hard times in my life the people who seemed to always stand by me and support me were usually straight and non-religious. Funny that Christians and gays (the two groups that I thought would support me the most), ended up being the ones that completely let me down, over and over again. What I realize now is that I am a “free thinker” in every sense of the word. To me, free thinking is not just about questioning religion, it is about having the courage and conviction to question any form of dogmatic groupthink, whether it be religious, political, and even societal, and taking a stand, even if it means being shunned by the relative majority. In a sense, it is almost the antithesis of herd mentality. And so I tend to seek out those types of people above all others.
I should add that even through all of this, I never completely rejected God or Jesus as being the “truth” nor did I ever decide I wanted nothing to do with God. I was definitely mad at God, but I still held on to my beliefs thinking that if (and that is a big “if”) God really loved me, (as Christians say over and over) maybe in time he would somehow make me as “normal” as he needed me to be so he wouldn’t throw me in hell. Talk about illogical. But in the end I finally gave up Christianity, not because I was gay and wanted to devote myself to a gay life that I am really not even all that interested in, but because of a dream.
One night I had a dream that I died. In that dream I didn’t go to heaven and I didn’t go to hell, I just ceased to exist. And the reason that happened was because there was no god. I woke up in a panic from this dream, because this was the first time in my life I had ever considered the possibility that there was no god. At first the idea seemed ludicrous, because there was so much that could not be explained, such as existence, consciousness, etc. But the more I thought about it, the more distressed I became. I realized that I never had any direct evidence that god existed, I just accepted it as fact because that is what I was taught since birth. So the next day, and for several months after, I went on a quest for truth. I wanted to know what the evidence was for god, and I wanted to know why atheists did not believe there was a god as well as why Christians believed there was a god. I wanted to hear strong arguments from both sides, because I wanted to know the truth. Or at least look at all evidence to make some kind of intelligent decision based on what seemed more likely to be true. I also wanted to know as much as I could about the history of the Bible, the men who wrote it, and what proof anyone had that it was inspired by god, or how anyone could even conclude it proved the existence of a god.
Needless to say after 12 months of searching I never found god. And I do finally have the truth. The truth is, I don’t know if there is a god or not. But I find it highly unlikely that humans know anything about that god, should it even exist. I think all religions (including Christianity) are false and I believe “religion” as a whole was just a way in the past for each culture to give some kind of a personality to a creator they knew nothing about. Once they thought up some basic ideas about a god that fit into their culture, those cultures worshipped that god as a representation of the creator of all. And as time passed they slowly added their own myths, legends, cultural philosophies and even delusions to those basic ideas about their god, interwoven with actual real life facts and events, which evolved into religious holy books such as the Bible, Koran, etc. The real historical events and facts mixed in with anecdotes and stories is the glue that keeps religion and the belief system tied together. One could suppose that if some if it is true, the entire thing must be true. But that could be said about any religion, not just Christianity. And, I believe this cultural need to place a face with “god” is why there have been so many gods and prophets throughout human history from Zeus to Apollo, to Brahma to Jesus, to Mohammad to Mithra to Jehova to Vishnu, etc, etc, etc. If a god existed, and if it did reveal itself, I don’t think there would be any reason for so many gods and prophets with such conflicting ideas about god. Even different denominations of the same religion can’t agree on their ideas of god!
Became a Christian: Birth
Ceased being a Christian: 34
Labels before: Pentecostal, evangelical, fundy
Labels now: agnostic
Why I joined: Born into it
Why I left: weak/lacking evidence
Email Address: reddogg7788 at yahoo.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)