sent in by Ben Milligan
First of all, I want to thank the webmaster for putting a site together like this one where I can vent my story. Five years ago I would have shuddered if I came across a site such as this, and rightfully so considering what my upbringing initially instilled in me. Anything that isn't Christian, is of the "world", and therefore, of the devil. Fear was the most influential instrument convincing me as a child that there is no other whole truth except 'gods word' and christianity. That said, I'll draw the background...
My family had been members of a charismatic-style, non-denominational church for several years even before I was born. All my earliest memories stem from the friends I had met through church. I was raised in church and it was imperative that I attended every Sunday. (At such a young age, however, personal choice is limited regardless of creed.) I was entered into a private christian pre-school, and stayed in that school up until grade 3. The earliest I recall being "encouraged" to accept Jesus into my heart was about when I was 5 or 6. I even questioned the possilbility then because I couldn't understand how a man could fit into my heart physically. However, fear of hell was taught to me even before the age of 5, and I was reading the Bible before most kids my age could read. Hell scared me so much that I HAD to accept Jesus, there's no way I wanted to go to hell and suffer eternally.
I was taught all around the age of 4-5! I only see now the brain damage that level of fear could have done to for the rest of my life! I did accept Jesus, however, and was so happy in doing so, I wanted everyone to know. I told neighborhood friends about hell and Jesus while playing in a sandbox. It was so imperitive that everyone heard this because I didn't want them to go to hell. (That very same mindset angers me to a boiling point now.) I continued to attend church every Sunday, and absorbed the words preached and taught to me like a sponge. I often got in trouble in sunday school for asking questions "I shouldn't ask." I asked questions as a child that the preacher couldn't even answer, and those questions always lingered.
I transfered to a public school in 4th grade, but my faith endured. I even believed that the students of this new school were "of the world", and therefore inherently evil. I remember being in fifth grade calling my mom from a friends house because I thought I was going to hell for looking at a penthouse. (and this made sense?) A friend brought over a metallica tape when I was in fifth grade, and my parents yelled at him for bringing that "trash" into their house. I hit middle school, and still attended church, and still believed wholeheartedly that Jesus was coming for us. I started loosening up a bit and listened to music that I enjoyed behind my parents backs because I know I'd get in trouble for it. Sometimes, they would find a tape they didn't approve of, and destroy it right in front of me. I remember a sermon that condemned all this "worldly" influence, and was so frightened (fear again) that I got rid of every piece of secular music I owned. (At least I sold them, my best friend at the time took a knife to every cd he owned and scratched the piss out of them.) I'm still mad at myself to this day because I miss the music more than my former faith.
Continuing on, high school was more of the same. I would "stray", then hear some preacher on sunday convincing me to be scared again and come crawling back to the lord, so to speak. Church was mandatory according to my parents until I moved out, and I didn't get allowance if I skipped. The moment I moved to go to college, I quit going to church completely, but still carried the belief system with me. I ran into big trouble living in Cincinnati, where I attended school, and had to confront my self on what I believed. I'm not going into detail, but the situation was very negative, and it seemed I only went to god when I was at the bottom of my problems. I started reading the bible again, only this time, I studied it throughly, hoping to reassure my shaky faith. Fear of hell caused me to do this, and the result shocked my parents.
I told them I was reading the bible again, and you would of thought I won a million dollars they were so happy for me. But a year or two of intense bible study to "find my faith", showed me the bitter side of the book that I was never taught in sunday school. I saw the contradictions and this messed my mind up so bad I was in a whirl of doubt, angst, and depression. The fear I was spoonfed did this to me, and now I knew that. The moment I realized this, I finally felt good. It wasn't anything like I was raised to believe; that nonbelievers were lost, immoral, and destined for eternal hellfire. I felt free the minute I killed off the notion that I'm inherently evil because Adam bit that apple. I came to this conclusion from STUDYING the bible, not ignoring it as christians would assume happened to me. My parents and my two sisters aggressively attack me with doctrination and the like to this day, and it does nothing more than make me feel more justified in what I DONT believe in anymore.
I conclude by saying thanks again. Thanks for a website that let me vent this to people who walked a similar path to mine. It's hard to leave a faith that says if you leave your'e going to hell, so at least now i know that my inner battle isn't only mine.
Became a Christian: So young, I dont remember
Ceased being a Christian: 20-21
Labels before: Non-denominational/Charismatic
Labels now: If any, freethinker
Why I joined: I was spoonfed by my folks
Why I left: It's illogical
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)