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Here is my story about how I became a Christian, what I went through later and how I finally got through and transcended my beliefs. I have shared a lot of personal things in this that I've never shared with anyone before. Originally I had not meant for it to be this long, so I apologize for that. But while I was writing it, I felt like I was reliving all those suppressed memories again and so lots of details came out of my mind that I had to write. Several times I had to stop and pause for a moment because those memories brought back a lot of overwhelming emotions and I felt on the verge of tears. But I'm glad that I finally wrote it all out cause I have been meaning to for a long time. It also felt therapeutic to me to write this all out too. I stayed up almost all night for 2 nights writing this. I hope maybe you the reader may be able to get some kind of lesson out of it, whatever it may be.
It all started in 1983 when I was 9 years old at a Christian Summer daycare school called Fremont Christian. I became a Christian there when I was a 10 year old boy by receiving Christ during the Chapel session. I liked the Christian teachings because they made me feel good and I liked knowing that Christ would always be with me and that I had eternal life to look forward to. I didn't know it at that time, but it gave me a sense of power that I never had. Having Jesus in my heart was like having a supernatural power that I could call on at any time, kind of like how Clark Kent can turn into Superman whenever the situation calls for it. I needed it at the time because in 4th and 5th grade I was teased and disliked by most of my classmates, which completely destroyed my self-esteem and trust in people, and scarred me for life. But I never thought about the full implications of being a Christian, so I wasn't that serious about it until 4 years later when my interest in Christianity soared to great heights. I re-dedicated my life to Christ then and decided to become a devout passionate active Christian from then on and make it a serious part of my life. Everything suddenly seemed to click. My prayers were getting answered. God gave me a lot of Christian friends who came into my life by strange coincidences, which helped me out a lot during my first year of high school. Everything was great. I had a lot of joy and passion for Christ and had a lot of fun with my Christian friends. I was actively involved with my youth group at Church, and I learned a lot about Christianity through books and Christian radio as well. In Sunday School, I was like the only one who had all the answers to each question posed. With the power and truth of Christ, I felt safe from the uncaring secular world which lived in darkness. Nothing could go wrong I thought, because no matter what happens, I'm still saved and had an eternal life to look forward to and be happy about. I thought I had nothing to lose or fear. But I was dead wrong, because the following year, I would lose my own mind.
By the end of my first year in high school, summer started, and a big tide was about to turn. During the Summer of 1988, two bad things happened which later turned out to be signs of even worse to come.
1) That summer we went to Taiwan to visit a lot of relatives for a few weeks. (During the flight, I read the book of Job in the Old Testament, which was ironic because I didn't know then that for the next few years I would experience a lot worse than I could ever imagine.) I had a lot of fun in Taiwan and my relatives were very loving and supportive people. These people liked me for who I was, not for what I had to offer them like most of my friends in California did. While I was there, I brought some Christian gospel tracts that I ordered in Chinese so that I could share my faith with them. I didn't usually hand out tracts, but I felt I had to in this case because I hardly ever saw those relatives so this was a rare opportunity to witness to them and hopefully convert some of them so that they wouldn't go to hell as I believed they would. You see, I knew that they would hardly ever hear the Gospel in their lifetime because the Gospel wasn't heard much in Taiwan, so that meant that if I didn't convert them then in all likelihood they would go to hell and suffer in pain forever and ever. So I saw myself as the only hope for them from an eternity of pain. That felt like a huge burden to me, but those were the facts according to my Christian views. I mean it's huge when you think about it, all my relatives were non-Christian and on their way to hell, and I was probably their only chance to escape that! That's a lot of pressure for a 15 year old kid!!!!!!! Can you imagine that? Anyway, all the relatives that I gave tracts to just giggled and thought it was silly but cute. My mom even said "Winston, stop it. You're making a fool out of yourself. They already have their own beliefs." But I believed that I was trying to spread the truth. Anyway, none of my relatives showed even the keenest interest in my Gospel tracts. And so that's how it was. On the return flight back home to California from Taiwan, my failure to convert them started to sink in as well as the eternal implications. I sat on the plane wondering if maybe I didn't do enough to try to convert them. I thought maybe if I had been more dramatic or vocal about it or showed off some self-sacrificing Christian acts of love to them like in the Evangelistic stories I read about, then it would have gotten their attention. But it was too late, I lost my chance. I let God down. Maybe God was angry at me right now because I didn't do enough to witness to them, and because of that they would probably end up in hell for an eternity. I pictured them tormented by fire and brimstone all around them and cursing my name for not having witnessed to them better. I pictured what that would be like for them for all eternity. A million years could pass in hell and they would still be in total torment and pain. A billion years could pass and they'd still be in hell. A trillion years could pass and it would still be the same, because an eternity was forever and a billion trillion zillion years wouldn't make the slightest difference! This was unimaginable! This was a very scary thought and I wasn't sure how to make sense of it so I tried not to think of it. I had never realized the implications of the horror of an eternal hell until then. Furthermore, since my loving nurturing parents were very adamant about never converting to Christianity, I pictured the same fate for them too. I just couldn't believe it, my relatives were the only people I've ever known besides my parents who liked and loved me for me, and they would probably have to go to hell for an eternity because of me! I didn't want to believe it, but it had to be true according to the Bible, which was the direct word of God. It was all too hard to bear. I wasn't sure how to handle this burden or even what to do about it. How would you have handled it as a 15 year old? (Note: This paragraph was difficult for me to write because it brought back memories that I had suppressed for a decade. I was on the verge of tears while writing this. That was a very sad and painful period for me to try to bring back while writing this, and the memories I re-experienced were vivid.) Anyway, I came back to the States reluctantly, because I sort of felt like a failure. This all made me somewhat depressed.
2) The second thing happened in the latter half of the summer. I went on a Christian summer camp near San Diego with my church youth group. I was hoping the camp would help me to feel less depressed about what happened in Taiwan. Then I met this beautiful girl who looked like the ideal girl I've always wanted. She was like something out of a dream and she was nice to me too. I tried to fight it, but I was bit by the love bug. Unfortunately though, she was too young for me and we couldn't really see each other even after the camp was over for a lot of reasons which I don't want to share, so I just tried to enjoy it while it lasted. When I came back from that camp, I felt depressed and lost because of the emptiness I felt knowing I could never have her and missing the way she made me felt. It was like the 5th or 6th time I struck out in love.
So you see, both those events during that Summer made me feel depressed and hurt and confused. I didn't know how to handle it all. I was too sensitive too so things affected me more deeply and intensely than most people. Anyway, I was not emotionally ready to start school because of those two big issues, but I had to anyway. So start it I did. And believe me, when I went back to school it was a different world. Most of my friends, both Christian and non-Christian either left or had changed so much that we couldn't really be friends anymore. My new friends weren't that great and they didn't even really care about me. I didn't like any of my classes either because they were overwhelming and I wasn't interested in studying because of those two events during the summer that I was still emotionally attached to. And on top of all that, I felt lonely and isolated too because all my friends were either gone or had changed. I couldn't believe how one summer changed everything! :( For the whole year nothing changed no matter how hard I tried to change them or how many times I prayed. I wanted get back the joy I had last year but nothing I did helped. I soon realized that I also seemed to have lost my fire and passion for the Lord. I tried to get that back too because maybe if I did, my life would turn around again and be fulfilling. But no matter how hard I tried to jump start my passion and fire for the Lord, it just wouldn't. It was like trying to start a car with a dead battery. It felt like God had left me or something. When I prayed, I didn't even feel that he was listening anymore. I was wondering if maybe all this was my punishment for not being able to convert all my relatives in Taiwan, resulting in them losing their souls.
(Things get even much worse than you can imagine! Read on if you dare.)
Then during that same year in October, on Halloween, a very bad and scary thing happened that was a sign of what was further to come. That afternoon, I found that when I got home from school, I couldn't get around the house or do normal things without performing rituals to cancel out bad thoughts over and over again. It was weird and I didn't want to do it, but if I didn't I would feel a lot of anxiety and panic like something was very wrong. I kept having to enter and re-enter through the front door. This was really weird and I had never done that before. Then just to move into the living room took and put my backpack down took a lot of effort as well. What was going on here I thought!?!?!?!?!? I couldn't believe this was happening. It was so bizarre. I ended up spending about 3 or 4 hours in the bathroom because I couldn't get out of there because every time I tried to do the perfect ritual, my body would itch or something else would go wrong and I had to redo the rituals over again. After a few hours, I wanted to get out of there bad, I felt like a prisoner in my own bathroom! What could be stupider than that? The trick or treaters came by since it was Halloween and while they came I was stuck there in the bathroom trying to get out!!!!!! Afterwards I was so exhausted and drained, and I hoped that that would be the only day I would have to do those rituals. I thought tomorrow I'd be back to normal again. But I was very very wrong. It went on each day the same way. I had to fight hard to not do them, but I had to do them. It cost me a few hours each day. Sometimes less, sometimes more. My grades plummeted too as you might expect. I got a lot of D's and F's on my report card. I didn't tell anyone beside my parents because no one would understand and I was ashamed of this too. On some nights when the rituals were costing me too much time, I would yell at myself saying "Come on you @#$%, let me go!!!!!!!"
After a few months of enduring this inner hell, my parents took me to a psychiatrist. I didn't know how to describe what was happening. My communication skills were bad and I was too shy too and I was ashamed to admit this weird disorder. From what he had to go on, the psychiatrist diagnosed me with schizophrenia and gave me Prozac. Schizophrenia I thought?! Now I'm really done for! How could I ever be a good witness for Christ now? Would a crazy deluded schizophrenic who was unable to control his own thoughts be a good representative for Christ? Of course not! I would give him a bad name if I told people I was a Christian now! My witnessing life was over I guess. My dreams of becoming a Missionary and Evangelist and converting many people to Christ were shattered. What would I do now? Since I heard there was no cure for Schizophrenia and I might have it for the rest of my life, this means I might never be able to even live a normal life again! I might as well forget about any other dreams in general as well.
Anyway, I tried the Prozac, but all it did was increase my anxiety to the point where every minute felt like an hour and I felt like a Mexican jumping bean! I couldn't even sit through an hour of class under Prozac, so I had to discontinue it. That psychiatrist moved, so I was referred to another one. This one diagnosed me as having Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). He prescribed another drug called Mellaril or something. It didn't have bad side effects and I wasn't sure if it worked or not, hard to tell. Anyway, he was cold and uncaring even though I liked his assistant, who was a talking therapist. So for some reason I don't remember, we went to a third psychiatrist and he diagnosed me with both disorders, Schizophrenia and OCD! Oh great! That whole year I went to church and my youth group every week and for Wednesday Bible study too, but it was never the same. Everyone I liked at the church moved away. I kept praying and hoping God would do something to make my life better and especially take away my Schizophrenia/OCD or whatever. Nothing happened. Nothing changed. In fact, it got worse and worse as the year went on. I didn't understand why God, who has absolute control over every atom and molecule in the universe, didn't do anything about this. By the end of the year, I felt so helpless, powerless and confused that I became depressed too. Then summer came and I was glad to get away from school at least so I wouldn't have to deal with the pressures there and my disorder at the same time. But I still had no idea why my whole life changed just after one bad summer. I didn't understand why God let this happen. It didn't make sense! I mean I know about the story of Job, but come on! Dealing with the outer world is hard enough, but when you're mentally ill you can't even deal with your INNER WORLD, how does God expect me to deal with the outer world! How would I ever be a good witness for Christ in the state I'm in? How would I even live for Christ for that matter?
After Summer, school started again and I was a junior now. I was hoping this would be a better year, but instead this turned out to be the ABSOLUTE WORST HORRIFIC period of my life! I have labeled this period as the "Holocaust" of my life. I'm serious! When I hear or see the word "1989" I still feel a slight shudder of fear. My mind has blanked out this period so much from my memory that I don't even acknowledge that it existed. When I went back to school, I found that I was completely overwhelmed and didn't even have the will or interest in going to school or doing any homework. School felt threatening to me now. For some reason I could not cope with anything in life now. I even lost the desire to go to church because I didn't feel important to anyone there and the sermons didn't connect with anything I was going through. They were boring, repetitious and empty. Plus my prayers were never answered anymore and I had lost my fire for the Lord. I was too depressed and had no motivation to get up in the morning. Why get up when there was nothing but pain, loneliness, and schizophrenia rituals to look forward to everyday? I couldn't face all that and concentrate on tons of boring homework loads everyday. This also happened to be the most academically challenging school year in high school as well. Do you think I was in shape to deal with that? Yeah right. I had to stop going to school because it was pointless, lonely, and if I continued I would get all F's in every class.
As I stayed home on school days not knowing what to do, I felt hopeless and sank further and further into depression. I felt like my life was over. There was nothing but doom, gloom and hopelessness. I lost even the ability to enjoy very simple things. I tell you, you've never known what true depression is like until you experienced what I experienced at that time. It's like you're so depressed that you can't even muster the energy to raise a finger simply because there's no point to. All the happy and fun times I ever had seemed like a false illusion now. There was no logical solution to my life. I saw no way out. Not only was I depressed and hopeless, but since my Schizophrenic symptoms hadn't lessened after a whole year, it looked like it would be with me forever. There was no way I could ever live a normal life if I had to spend hours each day in rituals and had trouble with even simple things like getting around the house. And there was no cure for Schizophrenia either. This means that not only will I never be able to live a normal life, have dreams, hold a job, get married or have children, but that I would also eventually have to spend the rest of my life in a mental hospital and be looked upon by society as a pitiful thing to be sorry for. There was no point to that kind of existence. I felt like the only escape was suicide. But I didn't even have the guts to do that. So all I could do was lay around feeling too depressed to even move and I tried to sleep as many hours as possible to escape all this. All I felt 24 hours a day during that time was doom and gloom. Even when the big San Francisco Earthquake of 1989 struck, I was lying down on the couch at my uncle's house too depressed to move. I felt the house shake and just thought "An earthquake? Big deal. Go ahead and kill me. Make the roof fall down. Then I won't have to endure this anymore." I still can't believe I said that even today. Anyway, what I experienced during those 6 months that year will never be forgotten, and I shudder even today when I think about it. What I experienced is not describable with words. It's like your soul and life are being sucked dry to death and you are completely helpless to do anything about it. It's very very very difficult to conceive that I went through this and at the same time conceive of a God that exists.
My parents were at a loss as to what to do, so they sent me to a local mental hospital. I was scared at first, but the staff turned out to be very supportive and I enjoyed the environment. It became a great getaway and I enjoyed the pool, volleyball and other activities. For the first time in a while I felt able to enjoy things again. I didn't feel the pressures I had in my school and home life. I even played a lot of chess there and beat all the staff and other patients :) After a month or two I was discharged from the mental hospital. I was reluctant to leave though, which was funny because I was dragged kicking and screaming in there but now I felt sad to go and leave such a nice and supportive place. Since I didn't want to deal with that snobby school I hated again though (by the way this was the same school Kristi Yamaguchi the world famous ice skater graduated from just to let you know), they decided to send me to a different high school for just a few classes because they didn't want to risk me being overwhelmed again. So I only took 2 classes at the new school and did the rest on home schooling. This worked out and I felt refreshed and at peace for once in a long time.
After the school year, I decided I wanted to take a big break from all that I went through and go to Taiwan for a year to teach English and be with my relatives who were the only ones who liked me for who I was. I hoped it would be a good way to recuperate from what I went through. Everyone in my family agreed that it was a good idea because 1) We were afraid that if I just started school again after summer then I might be overwhelmed again by school, life, Schizophrenia and depression like I was last year and not be able to function. I certainly didn't want to take that risk. 2) After a year in a good environment with lots of caring people, my mind might develop and become mature enough to deal with school when I came back. 3) Also, it would give my Schizophrenia/OCD rituals a year to heal or lessen somewhat, which would further help me to deal with school when I came back. It turned out that we were right! When I came back, I was a whole different person in a lot of ways, which I'll get into later. I had a lot of fun there and made a lot of friends too. It was the first time in two years that I felt really happy and enthusiastic again. It wasn't that I just had a good time there, it was that I was so relieved to have made it out alive through the last two years when I thought my life was over. I wasn't doomed after all I guess. It was just such a relief, and I felt this relief everyday for an entire year. After all when you go down to the bottom of a pit, there's nowhere to go but up! It was a wonderful refreshing feeling, kind of like the feeling you get when you get out of the shower you know, except that you feel it for the whole year! Because I felt so much better and free, my Schizophrenic symptoms lessened so fast that I forgot about them soon!
During that year when my mom came to visit me in Taiwan for a few months, she took me to see some Spiritualist healers and to some Taoist-like temples to find out if we could get some help for the mental illness I had for 2 years. 3 Different spiritualists who didn't know each other told her that they could "see" two souls inhabiting me for a past karmic crime I committed against them. She was instructed by the leaders of a Taoist-like temple to perform these strange exorcism rites, which involved putting leaflet spells above the bedroom I slept in and having me take baths in some hot herbal water tossed in with yellow spell leaflets. It was all weird to me and my Christian world view taught that Satan was behind these kind of things. But I thought oh well, being a Christian never helped me through those 2 hellish years anyway, so why not give Satan a chance at helping me? Anything would be better than having to go through what I went through again. So I just went along with everything to humor my concerned mom. During some of their temple rites, I saw some strange things that I never knew existed in any religion. While in a trance, one of the spiritualists made a lot of fierce and fast movements. I was wondering if he was possessed or something. Anyway, after the spells and exorcisms, they said that the 2 spirits in me were gone and that I would gradually return to normal. To speed up the process of returning to normal, they suggested that I become a vegetarian as well. I tried that and liked it too, so I stuck with it up to today. My conscience felt cleaner when I didn't eat meat, plus the vegetarian food there in Taiwan was absolutely delicious! Anyway I had fun the rest of that year and I taught English in tutoring schools as well. My mental disorder thing had also decreased to where it was controllable.
When I came back after a year, I felt confident, energized, optimistic and ready to tackle anything. I started my senior year in that new high school that I went to before I left. I didn't make that many friends there because it was hard for me to break into the already formed cliques, but at least everyone was nice to me and respected me which I wasn't used to. It was a boring year, but at least I had peace of mind everyday and I easily faced each day with confidence and drive. Homework was easy because I could select classes that were easy or interesting so I finally started getting good grades. I found that I could think and concentrate clearly too, so I had a lot of control over my thoughts and emotions for the first time. Maybe it was because the vegetarianism helped clear my conscience? I don't know. But either way, I found it easy to read and write and to be excited by even the little things. Amazingly, some cognitive abilities and talents I never knew I had appeared out of nowhere! I suddenly felt like I had mastery over organizing my thoughts and words so that I could communicate any thought or idea I wanted. No thought or idea was too difficult to put into words, and I could do it all in a very organized coherent way too! I never was good at writing until then. My speech and writing became very articulate. Wow! I could write school papers and essays easily and could summon lots of creative thoughts and insights at will. It all became second nature to me. In addition, I found that my depth of understanding had greatly increased, and I could also see things from a lot more angles than I ever could before. This of course, made all my essays and school papers even better. It was like my cognitive, intuitive, insight and awareness jumped up a level by itself!
Later that year, I felt that it would be a good time for me to get back into Christianity again. I missed having the sense of purpose it gave me. I started reading the Bible and other Christian books again, and remembered all the intellectual arguments I used to support the Christian faith. I started looking for a church to go to again. I found a Christian Club on campus too, which I attended. Then I started going to a church referred to me by some of the people in the Club. Anyway, I started being on fire for the Lord again and started witnessing to people again too. I even came close to getting into trouble with some Muslim Afghan students at the school, because they were insulted at me trying to convert them to Christianity. They said that if I was in their country, a mob would kill me for attempting to convert people! lol But I didn't care and I was willing to take a few beatings for the truth of the Gospel of Christ because the true living God was working behind it, so I had nothing to fear. One day, I even went to my Art History teacher after class and asked him why after a week of teaching us about Christian Medieval Art he never once mentioned about what Christ did for us on the cross and the Gospel he preached. I left him a Gospel tract and said that he could learn about what Christianity was about in it. He just said that he wasn't the right person to be sharing this with and that I should be sharing it with fellow students instead. After I graduated from high school, for some reason I never again regained interest in Christianity. This had always been a mystery to me until now. Only recently have I realized that the likely reason was that I had probably used Christianity as a crutch to get through life and give it meaning. After high school my childhood problems were gone and I needed no more crutches. It was then that I could finally take an honest look at Christianity and deal with the negative irreconcilable aspects of it, which I always knew were there but didn't want to face it for fear of blasphemy and because I needed the sense of purpose it gave me. Soon, my doubts starting creeping in.
That summer I was able to use my new found insight and understanding to re-evaluate the Christian beliefs I had. While on a plane on a vacation to Florida, I looked out at the night view below while we passed over Houston, Texas and the following thoughts came to my mind:
"There's something very wrong with Christianity here. I've known this a long time but was always afraid to face it. But since I value integrity of thought and a clear conscience, I might as well be honest now and face it no matter how blasphemous it may be. Now, I know that according to Christian teaching, billions of people out there in the world are going to go to hell because they're sinners and don't even know it. But why is it their fault when they don't even know it and were born with it? Sin to the Bible is any imperfection that we have, but since we were not born perfect no one can ever be perfect, so then why is it righteous to send them all to hell for an eternity for something they were born with? That's like sending Zebras to hell for being born with stripes! It just doesn't make sense no matter how hard you try to justify it. Now let's put myself in the place of a nonbeliever. Suppose I was a boy in Africa some time in the past who had lived and died without ever hearing the Gospel. This means that no matter how good or bad or anything I was, I was guaranteed to go to hell anyway not only because I was never saved, but because I was born a sinner as a result of the Fall of Man and never even knew it? This means that I would wake up someday before the judgment throne of God about to be thrown into hell for something I never even knew existed, which was sin. After being thrown into hell, I would be tormented for billions and trillions and zillions of years and beyond without end. All for something I never even knew existed. This would be the fate of billions of people who had lived and died throughout history without being saved! Now if I were that boy in Africa and had that fate, would I feel that that was fair in any way at all? To be honest, I wouldn't feel that that was fair in the least bit. In fact I would feel that that was 1000 percent unfair!!!!!! Something is definitely wrong here. Something is inherently not right about Christian theology. I am absolutely SURE about that! There's no question about it. There MUST be other answers out there somewhere that makes more sense than this! And I fully intend to find those answers from here on!"
At that time I knew that these thoughts I was having were blasphemous to the Christian faith, but since I was so SURE that there was something inherently wrong here, that certainty gave me the courage to continue to think these things through. That's when my search for truth, meaning and answers began.
Aftermath and the Spiritual Insights I Discovered:
The vacation in Florida was great. After summer, I started community college. It was there that I learned a lot about the world that I didn't know before, its diversity, different cultures and beliefs, different viewpoints and opinions from great people throughout history from the past up to the modern era, etc. At this point I started seeing the world from a whole new perspective which helped me appreciate life even more. No longer did I see the world as a world of sin and darkness as I had been taught. No longer did I see the world as a giant dungeon where everyone was enslaved and chained up by sin, darkness, Satan and demons. Instead, I saw the world as a rich beautiful diverse place with its own problems and challenges to work through over time. I saw that each unique person in the world was on a path to evolve which included challenges and lessons to be learned. I realized that it was wrong to try to convert someone from that path, and that it was best to let people grow, learn and evolve on their own path and find their own destiny.
But what about finding the answers about the truth of God and religion? I wasn't sure where to begin. I knew that each religion claimed to have the truth and that they disagreed with each other on many things, so they couldn't all be right could they? But how would I know which religion was true and which wasn't? I thought there was no way to really find out until after you die. So I just became an agnostic and left it at that for a while. But eventually, I believed that if there were answers out there, then there must be some way to find them. I wasn't satisfied with being an agnostic and dropping the issue for good, so I decided to search again. It was then that I found some New Age spirituality books that had caught my attention. I had remembered that a few years ago my Youth Pastor had warned of the dangers of the teachings of the New Age movement. I had no idea what it even was at that time, but now I was curious. Maybe it would show me something that the traditional organized religions didn't. Fortunately, it did. Many of the concepts made so much sense to me and showed me the big picture. It was like it borrowed all the truths from each religion and put it into a giant wheel that represented the total sum of cosmic divine truth. That was it, I thought! Each religion represented a different aspect of the truth, and when you put them all together you get a better view of the whole picture! Bingo! This was the answer I was looking for. Now I understood what that secular adage meant that said that all religions are different interpretations of the same God. Before I thought that was just a cop out, now I understood how much sense it made. The reason that the great religions contradicted each other were due to the differences in man's interpretations of the divine, not the fault of the divine. In fact, the more I learned about each religion, the more parallels I could see between them. The same underlying themes seemed prevalent and all pointed in the same direction. I also learned that since religion was man's interpretation of God, that God didn't really fit into any organized religion, but was far beyond the limitations that they imposed on him.
For the next few years, little by little I gradually developed the courage to read books with ideas from other religions and New Age beliefs as well. For a while, each time I picked up one of these books, the words "Satan" and "blasphemy" would come to mind, but I as I learned more and became more confident in my new knowledge, those fears lessened and eventually diminished. One day, I found another profound answer to what I was looking for. I saw a quote in a book that said "The more and more you look at the universe, it appears less like a great machine and more like a great thought." That's it I thought! We don't have to look for God out there in some abstract place. We are all a part of God. We are all like atoms and molecules in the large organism we call God. Like each atom and molecule in our body, we each serve a higher purpose that we aren't aware of yet. This made even more sense to me as I realized that everything in the universe seemed to be made up of something revolving around something else. For example, in an atom there are protons and electrons orbiting a nucleus. Likewise, on a planetary scale, moons revolve around planets. On a larger scale, planets revolve around suns. From an even larger scale, suns and stars revolve around the center of each galaxy. So if we are all made up of atoms which contain things orbiting around each other, then maybe suns, stars, and galaxies are also like atoms which make up a larger whole we call God! I envisioned that everything in the universe was like valuable parts of the inside of an intricate clock, each part was valuable, unique, and served its own purpose. We just don't always see or realize that purpose unless we reach higher states of being and consciousness. At the time, I thought I was the only one who came to the conclusion that God was the totality of everything. Soon though, I realized that I wasn't and that others searching for truth had discovered the same thing, and that this view of God in fact had two terms for it. One was "Pantheism" and the other was "Monism."
I also discovered that we could all find God and divinity in ourselves just by tapping into our higher selves and higher states of consciousness. It was like we were Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz who discovered that she had the power to return home the whole time because she had already been wearing those red magical shoes the whole time. Likewise, we could find God and the divinity within ourselves by just simply going within.
Finally, I discovered that many great great mystics and seekers of truth throughout history and in our modern era have come to the same conclusions that I came to as well. This said to me that there must be something to my discoveries after all! From their books and books written about them, I discovered very similar themes. These themes reveal that we are all souls from higher levels which have decided to come down to Earth to learn lessons and grow. We do this by either continuously reincarnating here or in other worlds or other planes of existence until we learn the lessons we need. As we learn, grow and evolve, we reach higher levels of consciousness, which allow us to enter higher heavenly realms. Some call these higher realms Heaven. Others call them Nirvana, Astral Planes, or Re-unification with God. There are different levels of these higher heavenly realms, and between 7 and 10 are named. In addition, I learned that millions of people who have had Near Death Experiences (NDE's) and Out of Body Experiences (OBE's) have had these same higher truths and themes revealed to them during their experiences. All this told me that there must be something to these themes if people from all over the world had the same things revealed to them somehow.
Then I started reading books and articles that critiqued Christianity. I learned that the version of Christianity that I had believed in was called “Christian Fundamentalism.” I was amazed at how many arguments there were against it, and also at how many irreconcilable contradictions there were in it. Before, I thought there were no good arguments against it. Now I realized that there were as many arguments against it as there were crops in a field! Whoa! The more and more I researched, the more came out. Just when I thought that was all there was, more kept popping out! I was amazed.
Now I realized why most non-Christians were so turned off by Evangelistic preaching. As a Christian it used to baffle me why anyone would turn down the Gospel and reject free eternal life. It was like they were rejecting a million dollars offered them for free. Now I realized that it wasn't as free as I thought. To non-Christians, the Gospel asked them to adhere to extreme beliefs, took away freedom of thought, used fear of punishment to invoke compliance, and forced values onto people that they didn't agree with. As I Christian I never realized this because my beliefs put me in such a warped frame of mind as to not see this. Now I realized that while non-Christians couldn't really relate to the Christian perspective, it was also true that Christians had lost the ability to relate to the perspective of non-Christians. Since I became a Christian at 10 years old, I never really understood the non-Christian perspective until now.
There was another benefit to all this as well. Because of all these discoveries along with my new views of God and spirituality, I realized that my parents and relatives weren't going to hell after all! This lifted a huge burden off me and gave me peace of mind. In a way, I had saved my parents and relatives from going to hell just by realizing that they weren't going in the first place! My parents had been right all along that I didn't have to convert them or any of my relatives. All I had to do was appreciate where they are, because they were already where God wanted them to be. I now had peace of mind to move on and discover my own potential. I was free now to explore the limitless possibilities of life, knowledge, mind, philosophy, spirituality, etc. A whole new adventure was just beginning.
Five years later in 1997 I met the most wonderful person in the world. I met her online and we talked for a year before meeting. When we finally met she turned out to be everything I wanted. She was very beautiful both inside and out. She was very much like Belle from Beauty and the Beast. Like Belle, she adores and is adored by children and animals. When we met, we knew we were a match made in heaven and the love between us was unconditional. I moved up to Washington to be with her, which was a good thing because I had always wanted to live in that beautiful state someday. We live together to this day. I now work in a Human Services occupation and I like to read and write about religion and spirituality in my free time.
I know that my problems aren't all over and that there will always be ups and downs in life, but my experiences have given me the ability to see a larger perspective which I otherwise wouldn't have had. Seeing the big picture helps me to not be overwhelmed by every little thing that happens, but instead helps me to be detached and see life as a process with its challenges that allows us to grow and learn so that we can ultimately achieve wholeness within ourselves and unity with God.
Thank you for reading this, and may you all find your true bliss, true self, and ultimate destiny.
Conclusion and My Own Theory About What Happened To Me:
Well there you have it. I'm sorry for making this so long. I had intended to write a much shorter version, but as I was writing all this, it was like I was reliving all the pain and joy of it again, so I was compelled to describe so many details about it. If that made it long and tedious to read this, then I apologize. But I hope that you will try to understand and appreciate the life story I just told you. In a way it was very therapeutic for me to write all this out. It had been hidden and repressed for so long. Many of these things I never wanted to tell anyone. Even today though, it's hard for me to make sense of it all really, there were so many ups and downs. I don't really understand why things went the way they did or if things went the way they were meant to.
But now I have a theory though. In summary here are the main events:
1. I was a passionate devout Christian on fire for the Lord and believed I had found ultimate truth.
2. A snowball of odd tragedies struck, which turned things around.
3. Along with that, Schizophrenia or OCD came and made my life an inner hell.
4. The powerlessness of not being able to cope with it all led to deep depression as well. I thought my life was truly over.
5. Things got better and with that my mental disorder symptoms subsided.
6. After recovering from all that, I attained a level of transcendence and awareness that I never had before. My cognitive, writing, speaking, communication, insight and understanding abilities suddenly reached a level on their own. It was then that I was able to understand higher spiritual truths.
So I was wondering then. Perhaps my soul or higher self wanted to evolve to a higher awareness level and when it was in the process of doing so, my physical brain had trouble adjusting to it, so it started misfiring and malfunctioning, which created those obsessions and delusions. Perhaps that is the reason behind some mental illnesses. The reason I postulate this is because I recently read some articles about patients who recover from Schizophrenia and become better than before. They become smarter and more successful in life. I thought that my case was a fluke or a mystery, but when I learned that this happened in other cases too, it made me wonder whether going through a mental illness was in some way a path to transcendence of some form. What do you all think? In case you want to read the articles on the websites I mentioned, here they are:
Thank you for reading this, and I hope that you can get out of it whatever lesson you see in it.
Update: My new article debunking Christian arguments
A few years after I made use of the knowledge I gained from the research I did on Christianity to understand it and give me the courage to leave it, and wrote a long treatise called “Debunking the Arguments of Christian Fundamentalists, Evangelicals, and Apologists”. If you are interested in reading it, write me for the link.
Became a Christian: 10
Ceased being a Christian: 19
Labels before: Bible-believing Christian
Labels now: Skeptic, Truth-Seeker, New Ager
Why I joined: It's promises appealed to me, and I needed a crutch to get through my childhood.
Why I left: I no longer needed the crutch, and there were too many things that were unjust about it. See my story.
Email Address: WWu777 at aol dot com