sent in by clearview
The crystal sky with perfectly puffed clouds refused to speak as I lay on the floor with the rest of my classmates, gazing out the 2nd story windows. In my 11th year (12th If you count kindergarten,) of plaid skirts and nuns, I was suddenly struck by the absence of god.
Our religion teacher had not long since exposed the horrors Christianity had imposed on mankind, and the pagan origins she taught us of the candlesticks, garb, and hoopla that went along with the Catholic faith were still fresh in my mind as I gazed at no god-evidence, but rather the glory of science and pure nature. I cannot help but wonder if our teacher had not presented these things to us in such a way before sending us to muse on the floor in order to expose the folly of our beliefs. Regardless, this moment was my undoing.
I wrote something in my Confirmation class about the awe I felt staring out that window; I suppose it was for a lack of anything good to say about Jesus, but nevertheless someone (the bishop of Cleveland) took it as god-evidence and read it aloud at our confirmation. This girl gets it, he told us. My mom later scribbled on the confirmation booklet something to the effect of, “Clouds, sky, how can anyone not see God in this?” and wrote that those were my words. Au contraire!
Religion was all silliness to me for years after that, until it came back to slap me in the face and really make me examine my thinking. Like many, I still believed in God. I wished that I could pray more earnestly, that I could learn to hear God’s voice, that He would show me his will for me. I had rejected organized religion, but I still thought I had a god.
Early this summer, along came the means to my total deconversion: a preacher. He taught a personal relationship with god, and he was also interested in a personal relationship with me. Since he was so kind and likable, we carried on for a few months. So things went well except for the fact that I did as he said and got a NIV bible and I read it. Then, wanting to know all I could about the things he told me, I researched each concept on the Internet. Holy crap, did I find a lot of conflicting opinions among the saved as to who was really saved and which bible was real, etc. I was so worried because I didn’t want to go to hell, but I realized that I couldn’t tell who was right and who was wrong. I nixed most of the charismatic junk right away because I already knew about mind-control techniques and hypnosis. Then I started to question more boldly, until the day I Googled: “Is Jesus a myth?” Oh my, you can imagine what I found! Shortly after I looked for kindred spirits by Googling “ex-christian” and that is how I stumbled across this website.
I will never forget the moment I took a fresh look out my window and saw once again the great beauty of the world I am so fortunate to inhabit. It was exhilarating and terrifying. It came upon me all at once that I can make a difference, that I am not someone’s barbie doll being posed according to their plan, that it is my personal responsibility to take part in caring for the earth, it’s people, and it’s creatures. It was overwhelming. I wasn’t meant to sacrifice and suffer! I can live freely and it is my choice to be happy! Oh, thank Go—oops! All this didn’t mean I suddenly became entirely different. For a few mornings, I realized that I started each day greeting the Invisible Man. Wow. I didn’t even know I did that.
On the flip side, I’ve also suffered some terrible panic attacks. Deconversion has not been painless. After all, the notion of everlasting happy life has been thrown out and a great sense of personal responsibility and the reality of mortality has taken its place. No wonder christians are so stupid-happy. They really think they are not going to end. Everlasting life is a neat concept, but it’s just a concept.
It hasn’t been as simple as it sounds. I tried buying in with the preacher’s nonsense (before I knew better.) He tried to give me the baptism of the holy spirit. I sat, uncomfortable, at his kitchen table while he read selection after selection out of the bible because he thought they were all fitting for the moment that was about to take place. It was taking forever, and my eagerness was vanishing. I started to feel weird, like I knew this was ridiculous and a little scary, but I shouted down my thoughts and told myself I was going to receive this gift. Even though I didn’t believe it in my head, I thought god would do some work on me and fix me. Later we stood, he laid his hands on my shoulders, said a few prayers, blew on me (I laughed right there—couldn’t help it,) and then started speaking in tongues. That’s where I started to cry. Tiny trickles of tears slipped out and I couldn’t stop them. I was so scared. No holy spook came, just sadness and fear.
This was so weird, so wrong. I was angry that I had let this happen to me. I was transported to the time when, at 8 years old, I was sent to spend the weekend with my bi-polar sister. I awoke to her laughing hysterically on the steps to the room. She was rocking back and forth, consumed in laughter. I knew she was “sick,” but I never thought I’d have to deal with it. Alone. She saw that I was hiding my tears by crouching down into my sleeping bag. She came and bent over me, decided that I was possessed by demons, and shouted loudly to come out. She tried real hard, but I guess it didn’t work.
It wasn’t until now that I realized that the church she had been attending was the kind that taught demon possession and deliverance ministry. So maybe my ordeals and process of deconversion was just what I needed to understand this. Reading other people’s stories of how they believed themselves to be demon-possessed and let themselves get some good old-fashioned deliverance really makes me think that what I went through was nothing. And to think I have been carrying this around with me for 20 years, like a big freakin’ sack of rocks.
I suppose the best part started when I separated myself from the preacher. He was a good guy in spite of his fundo-charismatic mumbo-jumbo, but I knew he would never understand me. When I had come to the Great Realization, he had come to believe that God cured him of skin cancer. I could only be so enthusiastic for him. So he asked me if something was bothering me and if maybe it wasn’t the right time to discuss it. Oh, it was the right time, I replied. I told him I couldn’t handle his religious beliefs and gave him a few snippets as far as how speaking in tongues and being slain in the spirit can also be experienced through hypnosis or certain types of yoga. “Of course,” he said, “the devil has a counterfeit for everything, and yoga is very demonic!” It took everything I had not to burst out laughing at the imagery of a bunch of leotard-clad soccer moms at yoga class unknowingly worshipping the Prince of Darkness. (I wonder if he ever wonders if his “personal relationship with God” isn’t one of the devil’s crafty counterfeits.) Wanting to break free, I refused his offer of waiting to have a real religious experience so that I could understand, and told him we needed to just go our separate ways. He said we could still be friends. He’s friends with many a non-believer, but I had to understand that he could never marry one. Wait a minute, I thought to myself, I thought I was breaking up with YOU!
Became a Christian: born into it
Ceased being a Christian: 28
Labels before: Catholic
Labels now: Freethinker, maybe Atheist
Why I joined: My parents were Catholic
Why I left: It cannot be proven
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)