25 Years of Turmoil

sent in by Diogenes

I was raised Catholic, attended parochial schools through high school. I had a joyful and normal childhood, and still appreciate some of the traditions and trappings of my upbringing and the good education I received. When I was 16, my brother became a born-again Xian. He was influenced by a man he worked with, whom I never met, and that man, I found out, would later end up in a mental institution. As a kid I always looked up to him, so I listened to him when he would spout this new-fangled stuff in our home. My parents at first, were resistant, but then, to keep the peace, would attend and let me attend these "born-again" meetings with singing and clapping and preaching. I attended at first for curiosity, then for interest, and then because of peer pressure. I once made an altar call, and still don’t remember why I did, maybe to get him off my back.

I was a good athlete in high school, but my attention was diverted to thoughts of hell and damnation, apocalyptic prophecy, etc. (pretty heavy stuff for a young kid to think about), so I stopped pursuing less serious things like sports and normal teenage activities. At the same time I started to experiment with drugs and alcohol. I received two academic scholarships at colleges close to home, but decided to go far away to college, mainly to get out from under my brother's influence. He was married and quite a bit older than me. When I went to college, I spent the first year partying, having a good time, studied enough to get good grades. When I came home that summer, I was influenced by my brother to find a good Christian group on campus for the next year. For whatever reason, I did. It turned out to be a campus ministry of a very controlling "Discipleship/Shepherding" church. I guess I thought that if I’m going to do this and if it’s real, then I might as well be with people who are serious about it. For the next three years, most every aspect of my life became devoted to "ministry," and being controlled by the church hierarchy, including my own personal "shepherd," who would have me do his chores and tell me what to do, where to live, who to date (or rather mostly not date), with whom to associate, even sometimes what classes to take. It got so bad, I hid it from my family. I lived in houses with other members of the church, in a neighborhood with several houses owned and occupied by church members We spent our time trying to recruit new members and in endless prayer, study and worship meetings, at times 5-10 meetings a week! Even my brother would have thought this to be extreme. Here I was having tried to escape it, and I fell headlong into something much worse!

During senior year, I was permitted to "date" one of the female church members. It was then recommended that I marry her so we could be a couple in ministry with a vision to plant new churches of this kind in other places. I ended up marrying her, even though she told me things about herself only shortly before the marriage some things which otherwise would have given me pause. I was told we were engaged (or "betrothed") and that was as good as married and Jesus accepted me when I wasn't perfect. Anyway, after being married and not able to find a decent job in the area, I was offered a position out west and for the first time in several years, a spark of reality flickered and we decided to move. Of course I was shunned and would never hear from people in the church for years after we left - people who we thought were our best friends. Leaving the church meant being a non-person, obviously backslidden and in danger of losing one's soul. Today that church is a little more mainstream, the head pastor having left the ministry due to alcoholism and some assistant pastors have had severe scandals too.

After I left, I began to study and read voratiously. Knowing that what I had come from, wasn't what Xianity was supposed to be, but unwilling to throw out the proverbial baby with the bath-water. I thought I could find answers by studying the scriptures and theology. I ended up becoming a hard-core Calvinist and reconstructionist with a very legalistic mindset. Meanwhile my spouse had clear psychological and emotional issues. The marriage was always stormy. Many of her actions would have caused me under normal circumstances to leave the marriage. After several years, we separate, but holding to a legalistic view of marriage and divorce (and heavily influenced by a Xian counselor/pastor), we got back together to try again. We ended up back together, had children and only recently we got a divorce. Looking back, we were never a good match at all. She still attends a wacky "word-faith" church.

I would like to completely step away from any sort of church or Xian mentality. For years, I have had only friends within churches and am afraid of being alone. I still go to a church occasionally and maintain friendships there, but I have no interest in what the church is actually about. I am trying now to rebuild my life, find myself, and make some sense of the past 25 years of turmoil. I'm excited, scared, and regretful. Just writing this is cathartic and therapeutic. I hope to join in further discussion.

Sex: Male
Ceased being a Christian: >40
Labels before: Catholic, charismatic, born-again, Baptist, nutcase
Labels now: hopeful agnostic, Taoist leanings
Why I joined: age 16
Why I left: asked some new questions

How Heathenism Set One Christian Free

sent in by Jennifer

My mother changes religions the way a restless lover changes relationships. "This church is dry and stale" she inevitably exclaims. "But this other church, this one is alive!" The honeymoon would end with one religion, and before the seat of her favorite pew had cooled, she was putting on her Sunday best to court another. She was smart though, because she didn't just go from the Baptist Church on 1st Ave to the Baptist Church on Langley Rd. No, because Baptists are not EXCITED to receive other Baptists. They are, however, excited to receive their archenemies. What a prize for a Baptist to bag a Catholic. Or for a Jehovah's Witness to bag a Pentecostal. And while saving the soul of your garden-variety sinner is a great prize, it is nothing compared to the sweet victory of converting a soul with roots firmly planted in an opposing religion.

Now, I don't fault my mom for her spiritually promiscuous ways. It gives her a great sense of purpose and affords a lot of attention to someone who would otherwise blend in with the wallpaper. But this is where I enter the picture. As a child, I was unable to process all the psychological needs of my mother, and really, it has taken many years of de-programming and drunken nights to truly appreciate the genius ness of the ways in which she met her need to feel important. As a child, however, what I heard was my mother telling me plainly, "This Church is salvation. The last one? They are going to hell. But this one, this is it. We are officially saved."

"Whew!" my child-brain would think silently, "Good thing I didn't die YESTERDAY in a FREAK ACCIDENT." The thought of residing in hell terrified me. Yet, not a month later, I would find out that the church I thought saved me was actually a ploy by the devil to torment my soul in eternity. But thank God for this new church, because once again, we were truly saved-- this time for really, real, reals.
So I grew up. And like the rings of a tree, with each one representing the year and amount of precipitation that tree had received, my bookshelves told a story too. A scientist could look at my dusty shelves, and with mathematical equations and precise measuring instruments, be able to tell which religions I had been involved in, and for how long. With each religion came books promoting that particular brand of faith, and anti books, explaining away the others with logic they wouldn't dare use on their own.

Then I turned 22. I was a lioness pacing my cage, trapped by a belief system that proffered freedom, but in reality offered nothing but loneliness and misery. Marry Jesus! They told me. Abandon the flesh! Do this, don't do that! Everyone was hearing God's voice, but it was all contradictory. Was God schizophrenic? How could anyone truly know? Then one day the thought occurred to me, if God truly IS who he says he is, THE CREATOR OF ALL, AND ALL TO BE, then maybe he should be A LITTLE MORE CLEAR. Like, hang a neon sign in the sky or something. That would be a small feat for an entity who turned a woman into a pillar of salt, or who allowed a donkey to talk. But no, nothing like that happens anymore. The wind is your proof, they say. God's word is written on the heart of every man, others recite. And when my questions continued unabated, my fellow Christians agreed an exorcism was in order, to cast the demon of confusion from my young, inquisitive body.

That was right about the time I decided to enjoy my very first cocktail. I was already in hell. I figured, what did I have to lose? So I got drunk, and then I got crazy, and deep inside a giant awoke with an insatiable hunger.

Like a girl who had purged her whole life, I was ravenous to experience everything I had denied myself, and I binged on the pleasures of the world. I got drunk, and I fornicated. By 23 I was a stripper. I did drugs, and had sex with my girlfriend. I cried-- a lot. I indulged in the pleasures of the flesh until the sting of their decay infected my soul. But I learned, and most importantly I LIVED.

I am a product today of my childhood, and my adulthood choices. Of course I wish some things were different, but on the other hand, I count myself very lucky. First of all, I survived my years of worldly purging and then binging. I am now the pendulum swinging happily between both extremes, enjoying the simple pleasures of life, but only because I can. And I can because I have experienced the extremes.

Today I am a peaceful spirit, I have nothing left to prove to the world, or to God or Satan or to anyone else. I have only to myself to answer to. If I go to heaven, or hell, or simply cease to exist, well, those are things that will happen of their own accord.

So one day you might see me driving down the road, singing off-key at the top of my lungs like I don't give a damn because I don't. I am the haphazard driver of a bright yellow crap-mobile, and on the tail of my car you will read my one and only bumper sticker, a prayer to our dear Lord above: "Dear God, please save me from your people!" Honk and wave hi. Or, just honk. And if you are a Christian and you see me, please tell God I said hi.

City: Modesto
State: CA
Country: Your Country
Became a Christian: 5ish
Ceased being a Christian: 22
Labels before: Baptist, Catholic, Episcopalian, Greek Orthodox, Pentecostal, Jehovah's Witness, Mormon
Labels now: Born Again Heathen
Why I joined: Because I was raised to believe, and so I did.
Why I left: I asked too many questions, and was told I was possessed by the demon of confusion and needed to be exercised-- a definite deal breaker
Email Address: Jennifer4465 at yahoo dot com

Forty Years of Oppression

sent in by Sue Waldemar

We lived out in the country, and my mom would occasionally take me to the popular Baptist church in town. One time in Sunday School, when I was only 8 or 9, we were learning the 10 commandments. I piped up and asked why we didn't go to church on Saturday instead of Sunday, according to the 4th Commandment. Of course my teacher had no reasonable explanation, but it was my first experience at critical thinking. Later, living in a Catholic convent for "wayward girls" (I kept running away from an unhappy home) I was dismissed from the catechism class for asking unanswerable questions. But, I loved the religiosity of the whole thing. Daily mass was a high point for me, with all the pomp and mystery, and beauty of the chapel.

In the meantime, when I was 11 our family moved into town, and there was a little Southern Baptist church just a few houses down the street from where I lived. I took myself to church every Sunday morning, Sunday evening, Wednesday evening, and any other time that there was something going on. One Sunday the pastor preached an exceptionally moving sermon, and I found myself going forward at an altar call. I cried buckets of tears, and knew that Jesus had saved me. I was very happy and wanted to be baptized, but my father would not allow it, telling me that I needed to know my own mind, and I was not old enough. That saddened me terribly. My dad abused me emotionally, socially, physically, and sexually from the time I was 8 until I just stayed completely away from him by about the age of 12. He was not a believer, but had Jewish roots in his family background. Later I was to discover that he also had suffered terrible abuse as a child. Church was my safe haven, and the people at that little Baptist church were all genuinely nice, caring folks.

Even though my Dad was an atheist, and never once set foot inside a church, that I knew of, by some weird turn of events, he decided to become a Lutheran. My mom always said that the family should be whatever religion the Father is. Boy, did I learn submissiveness at an early age! So, I took the catechism class for teenagers and the whole family was christened in a wonderful ceremony one summer Sunday. I think Dad went to church half a dozen times after that, and then never again. My brother also never attended. But, my mom and I belonged! We looked forward to going on Sunday mornings, and to all the secular type events that the church held in the social hall. But, my interest in religion began to wane as my interest in boys began to wax!

I had a very troubled childhood, and the teen years were particularly tumultuous. I ran away numerous times as my father was so abusive and also very restrictive. I wasn't allowed to do anything or go anywhere except to church and school. My mother occasionally attempted to stand up for me, but she was also terribly oppressed and had this idea that since my father was the head of the household, his word was law. Of course she did not know at that time about the sexual abuse that had gone on previously. And in those days, it was nearly impossible for a woman with no marketable skills to support herself and her children. If she had known, she would have been stuck anyway.

After a year in the Convent, I came home. By then I was 17 and just wanted to be a free person. No word was ever mentioned of me going to college, learning any useful skills, or even doing what I would love to do. I was told over and over that I was just a dumb kid that would never amount to anything. I was still psychologically troubled, and very immature. All I wanted was to get married and have children, and then I thought I would be happy! Well, I found someone to marry me, and soon after we began to have children. Of course, I was still miserable, and so began thinking of my old church days. I knew that my children should be raised in church.

I started to go back to the Baptist Church, and then one day I saw an advertisement for "The Bible Stories"---a 10 volume collections for children. I sent the card in, and a man came to my house and sold me the set of books. I read them voraciously. They were so interesting, and for the first time, the bible came alive for me. Later, the man, called a colpourter, came back and offered me bible studies. I was so enthralled with them! I learned that God is love, and that he does not really burn people in hell forever, just long enough to burn them up, and then the memory of them is forgotten. And here was a group that kept the Sabbath that I had questioned so long ago! With that, I joined the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. Now, bible studies began in earnest. Every enjoyable thing was a sin, (playing cards, music, dancing, chocolate, bowling, movies, women wearing pants, etc.) I was a terrible sinner, and no matter what I did, said, or ate, I was condemned. But, it was the truth! I could see that, and began to condemn other Christian religions for not obeying God.

I learned that Jesus was coming real soon, and we had to get ready! That meant moving out to the boonies where we had no job, no social interaction, and no skills for providing for ourselves. This was to protect ourselves from the coming 7 year tribulation that was just around the corner. My husband escaped and took refuge in a truck driving job. I lived with my four children in a make-shift dwelling with no phone, plumbing, or electricity. We "home schooled" such as it was, to avoid the evil corruption of public schools. I did nothing but the daily necessities of preparing food, hauling water, sewing clothes, and chopping firewood, and READ! I think I read every Seventh-Day Adventist book that was ever published. Especially Ellen White. I became so depressed that I was suicidal. My kids managed to survive by playing outside most of the time. They were very healthy, and that was one good thing. But, they hated my restrictive religion, especially the Sabbath, as they were not allowed to play on that day. How long could this go on? After four years of isolation, I took wings, and flew away....but this time right into another religion.

I moved from the mountains of Washington State to Kentucky where I lived a life of complete abandonment. By this time I was divorced, or course, and was a terrible backslider. I felt guilty, and also a terrible need for spirituality. Occasionally I would attend the Adventist church, but always thought to myself "What am I doing here? I cannot stand this. The people are so cold, the church is dead, etc. etc." But, I still believed, and spent hours and days on my knees in repenting. Then I would go right back and commit more sins of eating meat, or having sex, or smoking, or some such horrible thing. I also let people push me around, use me, and treat me badly. I never could stand up for myself, and even now, at this age (53) still am just learning to be me, and not let others tell me how to live, or what to think, or what to do or not do.

A few years went by, and one day I was watching television, (at someone else's home---having a t.v. was a sin!) and a program called "Jewish Jewels" came on. I was captivated! Since I had Jewish blood coursing through my veins, I was particularly enamored by the whole concept of Jews and Gentiles together. I bought books and prayed for a Messianic congregation in my town. My prayers were answered in a most unusual way (surely the hand of God!) and so began another journey down the religious path. One thing that the fellowship I joined did each Sabbath was to read a designated portion of the Torah. Then discuss it. I was filled with questions. Questions that simply could not be answered. For instance, why was it okay for Abraham to lie to Pharaoh and give him his wife, telling him that she was his sister? And why was it okay to marry his half-sister anyway? Why was light created the first day of creation week, but the sun was not created until the fourth day? Why were there so many contradictions in the Bible, especially the N.T., as I saw it then? Why was it that a man could rape a woman, and then he got to marry her? These and many other questions laid on my heart for years. As part of my bible study, I kept a Strongs Concordance right by my side. Word studies just added to my growing confusion. For example, El Shaddai, translated God Almighty, comes from a Hebrew root word that means "destroyer."

Although the Messianic religion is much more "liberal" than the Adventist faith I suffered with for so long, it's still restrictive in many ways. Can't say Lord, must say Yahweh. Can't celebrate pagan holidays such as Christmas----even if only the secular is emphasized, must learn the holy language of Hebrew, must memorize Hebrew prayers, must wear certain garments or prayer cloths, must light candles, must plan on eventually moving to Jerusalem to fulfill bible prophecy, must do this or not do that, etc. Some traditional things in Judaism are more fun than Christianity, to be sure.

I started thinking about how that stories always grow and get embellished over time. So how was it that God gave his word to the world, and its essential to know this word in order to be saved, but it came from the ancient middle east and translated a zillion times over thousands of years, and some authorities (both secular and religious) decided at different times and places, which books were to be included in the "sacred canon" and which were not. Some churches even go so far as to teach that those pagans who never even heard the truth were going to hell. That always bothered me, and I could not believe it. It began to make less and less sense to me.

To further compound my anxiety, I became interested in energy healing. I'm a registered nurse (at the insistence of my ex-husband, and against my own will, at age 42.) To fulfill continuing education requirements for re-licensure, I took "healing touch" workshops. At one point I knew that the next level involved inviting spirit guides that assist in the healings. I did not go, because these "guides" could only be demons! See how I was so brainwashed? But my studies into alternative healing, spirituality, my own personal growth, etc. caused such a conflict with my religious beliefs, that I was tormented day and night. One day, out of sheer desperation, I decided that I would read the bible from Genesis to Revelation, and try to discard all pre-conceived ideas, and devote myself wholly to God. Then he would give me the gift of healing that I so coveted, I would know God and the Bible like I had not known it, and everything would be hunky-dory.

I started in Genesis, and wrote down every question that came to mind. One day, on August 15th, 2004, as I was reading, I literally heard myself say out loud "I just cannot believe this anymore." I was shaken! It was like a voice that came from deep within me, that had been silenced to death by the oppression, repression, suppression, and depression that had controlled my entire life. I immediately sent an email to my very outspoken daughter who from time to time would torment me about my ridiculous bible beliefs. In the letter I simply told her that I no longer believe that the Bible is the divinely inspired word of God, and that I thought she would like to know. Within a half hour the phone rang, and she practically yelled at me---"Mother! Have you gone crazy?" After some discussion of why, she reminded me that she has been trying to tell me this for years! Old fossilized beliefs are hard to let go of!

Since that day, just a little over two months ago, my eyes have opened wide! I've gone online and discovered that others have been through the same or similar experience. I've been very enlightened by the written word in books such as "The Great Lie" and "Is it God's Word?" The most difficult part was telling my Christian friends and the people at the home fellowship that I belonged to. In my enthusiasm for my newfound freedom, I've made a number of mistakes, and discovered that others simply are not open to examine their beliefs, or they make the same affirmations that I previously made when my beliefs were confronted. They sound so silly and stupid now!

Although I have not changed in terms of my core personality and character, for the first time in my life, I feel free! I'm growing by leaps and bounds, having finally cast aside the ties that bound me! Do I still believe in God. Possibly, but not the god of the Hebrew bible. Any god that may exist must be so far and above any human notion that it would be foolish for that god to try and reveal itself to the majority of humankind. At least at this time in human evolution. We make our own gods. I do believe in the Divine, but what that is, I don't know. I've had spiritual experiences, answers to prayers, seen angels, etc. I do believe that there are beings that exist on a higher plane than what can be seen by the human eye. Who or what they are, is beyond anything that I can possibly, objectively explain.

One last thought. Some friends have been so puzzled by my new beliefs, and honestly cannot comprehend that anyone could not believe in God, and still have morals. HA! Now that I know that I'm responsible for me, my own personal morality has taken on an entirely new character. A much higher level. I can't do anything that will hurt another person and then expect the God to "forgive and forget" and then go on my way. That is a bad conscience! There is more immorality as a result of bible belief than any other defined belief system. (Except possibly Islam.) Look at history for proof! As Ayn Rand said..."One does not live for the sake of being moral. One acts morally in order to make the most of his life." She also stated..." I will not sacrifice myself to anyone, nor sacrifice anyone to myself." Well, I have sacrificed myself, my longings and desires, even my talents, at the altar of the controlling Christian religion long enough! Now, I'm free and I am thankful.

City: Paradise
State: California
Country: USA
Became a Christian: 11
Ceased being a Christian: 52
Labels before: Baptist, Lutheran, Seventh-Day Adventist, Messianic
Labels now: Agnostic, possibly polytheistic
Why I joined: I thought that it was good, and would make me a "good" person.
Why I left: I came to realize that the Bible simply is not true, and I was miserable!
Email Address: slicedright at saber dot net

Deprogrammed, At Last

sent in by non conformist

I grew up in a very Catholic home in the Dominican Republic.
I lived with my grandparents and my aunts, while my mother was here in the States working (she came here before I turned one). I took religion very seriously. I remember at one point I wanted to be a nun!!(the horror!!) I was very involved in anything that had to do with the church; I sang in the choir, went faithfully to catechism, volunteered in everything. It wasn't till I got older that I realized I was using the church to escape my home life. I was being sexually abused, and my grandmother REALLY believed in Not sparing the rod. Let's just say that I was not spoiled AT ALL. I found peace in the church. I bought all that Jesus is love bullshit, and I fervently believed that the Virgin Mary was praying for my sins, and that she always would. I memorized the names of all the saints, and I remember my aunt being really proud of that. She had pictures of saints all over the house, and had a very elaborate altar (in the caribbean, that's major).

I came to the States when I was eleven to live with my mother. I remember thanking God so much, cause I finally got to be with her. I can't think of anything worse than being hurt and not having your mother there to comfort you and make it all better. I noticed right away, that my mom was not a practicing catholic. She believed, but she wasn't going to church and so, because I wanted more than anything to please her, I stopped going, too. I always wore a gold Virgin Mary medallion around my neck, as is common in my culture. I felt protected by it. It's incredible the bullshit you cling to when you're scared, or lonely. Anyway, even at my mother's house I couldn't escape the sexual abuse that always made me feel like the dirtiest of creatures. The same cousin that had molested me since I was five, came to stay with us. And needless to say, he picked up right where he left off. I never told anyone. I had tried to tell my grandmother when I was younger, and the consequences were not good; so telling was out of the question. I clung to that medallion like never before, but he didn't stop. Then one day he moved out, and of course, I thought it was my faith that had driven him out.

I carried on this way until my sophomore year in high school. Then I noticed that a group of my friends started going to this church with one of our teachers. It was a Pentecostal church. I had never heard of such a thing. So I asked that particular teacher about it. She proceded to show me, with biblical text, how I was wrong for worshiping saints and the Virgin Mary because Exodus says that The Lord is a jealous god, and he would be angry if I worshiped any but Him. She also showed me how our bodies are a temple and how women should not wear pants, or earings. She taught me about the Rapture, and the mark of the beast and all that fun stuff associated with the second coming. I was scared shitless. So I went that very weekend and converted and became a born again xtian. I felt good, cause I thought I was doing the right thing.

That church was an experience. I mean they casted out demons, spoke in tongues, etc. I don't recall every being happy after my conversion. There was always something to feel guilty about. The congregation made sure I knew all the things about me that would displease God, and how they could change them for me. I was waiting for all the magical things they talked about to happen to me. I never spoke in tongues, never heard His voice or any of that nonsense. I heard them whisper about me; how I was resisting, and my heart wasn't in it, and how I would be sorry when the hour was upon me.

And my mentor? That teacher? I received a phone call from her one night and she started telling me how she was in prayer and the spirit told her that I was having sex, and the consequences would be dire. I was not having sex, yet. I had come close, but was too scared of Hell to go through with it (when I think of all that wasted time...=). Anyway, I told her this and she didn't believe me. That was the moment that I started questioning, when I started to see the other side of this cult. She didn't give a shit about me and my soul. She was working on commision for the Lord. All she cared about was the precious star she would get on her crown in the glory of Heaven. I harbored a deep resentment for the church and everything it stood for. I left the church, but was still living with horrible guilt and fear for me and my family. But I figured, that before I went to Hell, I would make sure I told this God exactly how I felt about him and accept my punishment. From that point on I lived my life to the fullest. I went to therapy and came to terms with my past and all the things I had gone through and truly embraced myself.

The guilt and the fear were the longest to last. It wasn't until I came accross a website (www.davidicke.com) that I was finally deprogrammed. I learned about the bloody history of religion, especially xtianity. How the powers that be manipulate the masses with religion in order to enslave them. I began to embrace nature, see the world for what it is, and enjoy being alive, guilt free and happy. I have a wonderful husband and a beautiful son. When life gets tough, I don't cling to an invisible being for a solution. I use my brain, my intellect and make things happen. Life is great when you're free. And I am, finally.

Sex: Female
City: New Brunswick
State: New Jersey
Country: US
Became a Christian: Since Birth
Ceased being a Christian: Around 22
Labels before: Catholic, Pentecostal
Labels now: Free
Why I joined: Was born into it
Why I left: Woke up, opened my mind, and purged it.

Where do I begin?

sent in by Emma

I'm a little nervous about sharing this with anyone, but here goes!

Where do I begin? I became a Christian at the age of 3, lying in my bed alone one night after hearing Bible stories from my mom. I don't recall being scared into it; it just seemed like a really good idea, inviting this nice man named Jesus into my heart.

My mom was raised in the Lutheran church, but said she didn't become "truly saved" until she was 14 years old, as the result of attending bible camp. My dad was raised Lutheran as well, but he never really put much stock in it until after he married my mom. They attended a showing of a Billy Graham video, and he "became saved" as a result.

Shortly after, they began to attend the Baptist church in town.

My dad was an unusually temperamental and angry person while I was growing up. He loved to use Bible verses such as "Wives, submit to your husbands" to ensure his position as the "head of the house." I remember cowering in the
other room, listening to him yelling at my mom and throwing things around. He made the mistake once of hitting her,
and she ran away to my grandparents. She only came back after telling him if he ever hit her again or laid a hand on us kids, that she would leave and never come back. To his credit, he never again got physical, but this did not mean he was a changed man.

Notwithstanding, my religious life was relatively happy and unchallenged. I knew (because my mother said so, of course) that my dad took these bible verses out of context, and I happily believed that every word of the bible was literally true and inherently good. I went to Baptist Sunday school and loved the stories, the singing, and of course, the candy at the end.

When I was a few years older, my mom decided to start attending a non-denominational charismatic "fellowship" in the same town. She took me and my brother and sister, and my dad eventually followed. At first, all the clapping and shouting and speaking in tongues bothered me, especially because I was afraid of what all my friends would think when they found out I went to this type of church. However, after a while I became good friends with the kids there and started "speaking in tongues" myself after one of their youth rallies. During my years at this church, I became even more convinced of the infallibility of the scriptures (as if any other ideas were entertained), and even more convinced that all of my "non-charismatic" friends and family who went to other churches (read: Catholic, Lutheran, Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian) weren't "true" Christians. They might go to heaven, sure. But they were wrong about everything else. I became baptized when I was 14 or 15 to show the world my faith.

When I was 15, I started dating a boy my age whom I went to church with. My family became really good friends with his family and we all began spending time at either their house or ours to play games, watch movies, etc. Of course, at 15 years of age, our hormones were racing at full speed, and we began to experiment sexually whenever we could steal away from our families. As devout Christians, you can imagine the guilt we felt about breaking god's rules and engaging in sex "outside of marriage," but we justified our behavior by never going "all the way." We dated for 2 1/2 years, being sexually active the entire time. I even broke down one time under intense guilt and confessed to my parents what we had been doing. They were apalled, and tried to lay down rules and monitor us more closely, but we always managed to find time alone anyway. We were convinced we would get married, so maybe it would be okay with god when it was all said and done.

When I was 17, I moved to a town an hour away to attend college. My boyfriend broke up with me shortly after, and I was devastated. My mom took it upon herself to get me involved in a church in this new town, so I would have a new support group. I started attending another charismatic church, only this was the "name it and claim it" type who believed you could have whatever you wanted if you claimed it by faith. They were just as fundamental, and just as convinced that they had the "corner on God," as the last church. I jumped in with both feet and bought it hook, line and sinker. I was even more devoted to god, more devout, and more convinced that I was on the fast track to heaven. I went on prayer walks, spoke in tongues every day, and joined the church's read-the-bible-in-a-year plan (which, interestingly, only covered the new testament.) I taught Sunday school to 1st through 5th graders and loved it. I went on a mission trip to China to smuggle in bibles. I gave ten percent of everything I earned to the church. If the church was open, I was there. Sunday morning, Sunday evening, Wednesday evening, bible studies, special speakers. I was a leader of a high school youth group. I went to different cities to see famous word-of-faith preachers such as Marilyn Hickey, Joyce Meyers, and (cringe) Benny Hinn. (Even then, I thought Benny Hinn was a bit of a fake. It didn't affect my faith in god in the least, however.) I was completely devoted to god and just as devoted to my "church family." Any man I dated had to be a devoted Christian. I was even baptized _again_ to prove that I was serious about god. (I never felt any different afterwards, however, and do remember feeling some mild disappointment.)

In the midst of all this somewhere, I began dating a man who was not as devout as maybe he should have been. We had a very open relationship, and eventually I broke down, broke the rules and had sex. And the next day, I was sure god would punish me. The guilt was intense, but of course, god didn't strike me dead. We continued our relationship for quite a while, and I always felt like somewhat of a hypocrite to be happily sitting in church, when I was so obviously breaking god's law most evenings. However, my devotion to god didn't wane in the least. I would always ask for "forgiveness" and felt that at least it wasn't the worst sin I could be committing.

During this time, I became very sick physically and that sickness in turn made me very depressed. I felt cut off from everything, everyone. I couldn't feel, couldn't think. I couldn't see the end. Thankfully, with the help of a doctor who sent me on the path to recovery, with both good nutrition and drugs, I was able to get well. And still I was completely devoted to god, utterly convinced that he had used the doctor to heal me.

I hope I have not lost anyone in my narrative thus far. I only aim to show that I was completely and one hundred percent convinced that god was real and directly involved in my life.

I began dating the man I am dating now, a wonderful, intelligent guy with two daughters from a previous marriage. He was very respectful of my views, but did not share them. He had been turned off by religion and by hypocritical believers long before. At first, it bothered me greatly that he didn't believe as I did, and I knew he would go to hell. However, as time went on, and I saw what a good person he was, what an incredible father he was, I knew that regardless of his beliefs, I wanted to be with him. I started attending church less and less regularly, not because I believed in god any less, but because I grew tired of church attendees asking me when I was going to bring my boyfriend to church. After awhile I stopped going to church altogether. My church "family" never called, never wrote, except to ask when they saw me around town why I wasn't in church. My boyfriend and I moved in together after dating for 2 years, and my parents were extremely upset about it. They asked me if I thought god approved. I said I thought god would surely respect my decision to be with the one person I love. My views of the bible had perhaps become more liberal, but my view of god was the same: he loved me and wanted the best for me.

Just three months ago, my boyfriend read _The DaVinci Code_. He explained the premise to me, and I remember feeling rather uncomfortable with some of the subject matter. However, I try to keep an open mind and so I read the book. I found it fascinating, even at the idea of there being a female part of god. It did not lessen my view of god at all, perhaps just expanded it. I still believed that the bible was completely true. I began reading _Secrets of the Code_, a book that explains in depth some of the subjects addressed in _The DaVinci Code_. While reading the section on the lost gospels, I came across an interview with the author Timothy Freke in which he was asked the question, "In your opinion, is there any evidence that Jesus lived?" He answered: "None at all. The only evidence we have is fake. I would categorically say there is no evidence at all for the historical Jesus, but loads to suggest that the gospel story is a myth." (Secrets of the Code by Dan Burstein; pp. 136.)

I couldn't breathe.

If Jesus didn't exist, that meant my entire faith was null and void. I immediately went to the internet and typed in "Jesus, myth." You would not believe how much information I came up with from those two little words. I spent _every waking minute_ of the next two weeks reading as much as I could on the subject. If I wasn't at work, I was parked in front of the computer, reading whatever I could find. Amazingly, it all made sense. Apart from my initial reaction of absolute panic, I realized how irrational I had been for the last twenty-one years of my life. It was as if the scales fell from my eyes and I could finally see the truth. In a matter of two weeks my entire belief system had been leveled to the ground. No Jesus, no God, no Holy Spirit, no Satan, no heaven, no hell. I began to read the bible, old testament included, and realized what kind of god I had professed faith in. I saw all of the discrepancies and atrocities throughout the bible and realized what an awful piece of literature I had based my entire life on. The process wasn't painful, it wasn't scary. I was suddenly just free.

I told my boyfriend, and he was just as supportive as ever. I have not told my family yet, as I know they will be devastated. If it comes up, I will answer honestly. But for now, I will hold my peace.

I find myself newly curious about so many things. And I look forward to spending the rest of my one and only life finding out.

City: Hays
State: KS
Country: USA
Became a Christian: 3
Ceased being a Christian: 24
Labels before: Baptist, Charismatic
Labels now: Atheist
Why I joined: I loved the bible stories I heard from my mom.
Why I left: I realized the Christian faith is based on a myth.
Email Address: emma_enlightened at yahoo dot com

It sucked

sent in by Lee

I was born into this silly Christian belief system with a catholic mother and protestant father, at the age of about five I was enrolled in a local convent school, naturally inhabited by NUNS aaarg!

These monochromatic creatures despite naming themselves after saints, Mother Malachy, Sister Teresa ect were quite violent in their outlook, being very keen to use the 'strap' a 18 inch monstrosity of quarter inch leather for the slightest infraction. I must have got this about twice a week across the palms of the hands or the calves for about three years. There is just something not right about a seven year old hobbling down a school corridor weeping and repeatedly muttering stuff like 'gentle f*****g Jesus'.

To make matters worse my early education consisted largely of 'catechism' a load of religious babbling that had to be learned off by heart, instead of stuff like Math, and English in preparation for secondary school. Disappointingly to date no prospective employer has asked me to quote any of the mumbo jumbo that was literally thrashed into my memory. I did fail a college entrance exam though because I had never heard of binary arithmetic.

I think my father, a seaman must have had a sense of humor he used to invite the priest and the vicar around when on leave and feed them duty free whisky, I think the holymen would have fought each other sometimes except the freeloading buggers were practically too pissed to walk.

My mother, a catholic completely ultra right wing all her life decrying every race under the sun, strangely enough left twee little poems to 'the virgin Mary' to be read out at her funeral. I thought to myself if Jesus is black or Mary is a 'wog' sic that she is going to be in a world of trouble.

Anyway my education did not work out and I was in the navy at 15 years old, I noticed people in other countries were all subject to this religion thing, different gods, different rules though, I reasoned people need religion of some sort cause they know they are going to die one day and are probably more than a little afraid, so why not cut out the middleman (religion, holymen ect) and just deal with the eventual death part. It was a lot easier without having to worry about judgmental patriarchs with long beards, psycho gods with multiple arms or any other of the mythical creatures that the theocracy use to coerce their flocks into compliance.

Recently I saw a video of a hostage having his head hacked off in Iraq, the perpetrators were yelling 'God is good' and it got me thinking that if shit happens in the world you don't have to look very far for words like Christian, Jew, Muslim, seik ect. trailing it down the corridor of life.

This non Christian believes that organized religion sucks.

Sex: M
City: Manchester
Country: UK
Became a Christian: Born into it
Ceased being a Christian: mid 20's
Labels before: Catholic
Labels now: Wanabee Buddhist
Why I joined: My parents and teachers made me do it.
Why I left: It went the same way as Father Xmas and the Easter Bunny
Email Address: msnet at mustalweb dot co dot uk

This is my testimony, not another lecture. I promise

sent in by Lila

Ok, this is my story. I'm really scared as I type this because I've never told it all before. I have a tendancy to intellectualise things, roll them over and over in my head, like a rock in a tumbler, until all the feelings have worn off.

I was in foster care when the church got its claws into me. I was six and my mother had put me in care the very day she found out that her boyfriend was having sex with me (on me, more correctly). He had been molesting me from the time I was three and all the things he warned me would happen if I told did happen.

My mother gave me away. She cried alot and I thought she'd stopped loving me. I was five.

After a very lonely year in foster care, shunted from one home to the next, sometimes with my little brother, but mostly without, I landed in a Xtian home.

It was November and I was six. My new foster parents were Baptists and took me to church the very night I arrived.

"What's this?" I wondered. Someone who will really love me forever? Impossible. Even my own mother didn't love me, how the heck could some shining long haired hippie give me what no flesh and blood person could?

The next part is, I guess, everyone's story. I, swelling inside at the thought of someone who would love me, accepted the little baby Jesus as my saviour. "And I will rock thee forever in the cradle of my heart."

Well, while I was in care, my mom got clean. More or less. So, when I was seven, my mom came and took me home with her. My foster parents hooked me up with a church that served my new neighborhood. The pastor was from the states and sounded just like those preachers on T.V.. Oh hallalooooya!

I loved the drama, the singing, the promise of heaven. All that shit. Not to mention, of course, that if I, little me, could convince my mother to accept our lord and slave-ior, she would get to go to heaven. If I couldn't save her, she'd go to hell and burn in everlasting torment, crying for all eternity for her babies who she would never see again. From hell. Where she was going if I didn't get her to accept Jesus.

I set to work. I begged her, I promised to be good forever. I promised not to be a bad girl and make any more boyfriends go away. Nothing. No way was my mom gonna do it. Although she had no trouble using the church as a babysitter from Friday night til Sunday night.

I did it all. Bible camp. Verse memorization. Peer recruiting. I was INVOLVED. And I knew it would pay off. Please don't let my mommy go to hell.

The summer before I turned 13, my pastor raped in while we were at Bible camp. I totally shut off. He told me that if I told, the whole church would fall apart. He couldn't help it, he was sooooo in love with me. "Let's pray for salvation Lila."

I believed him for over a year. There was always a reason to be alone with me. There were always things for an active Xtian to do. Alone with my pastor.

Well, it was November, I was 14 and I was scared that I was pregnant. I couldn't tell my mother, look where she stuck me last time I was bad and lured an innocent man into my bed!!

So I told the pastor's wife. I don't know why I went to her. I guess I thought that she would want to protect the secret and then no-one else would need to know.

She slapped me and spit at me. She blamed me and made it clear that it was my impoverished ghetto girl white ass that tempted him when he was weak.

Yeah, yeah, I know. Crock and double crock, but I believed her. Turned out, I wasn't even pregnant. I stuck around for another year.

Something was missng. When the pastor spoke of Christ's love, I could feel his wife staring at me, and when I'd look she would be. "That's right, kid, Jesus loves everybody but you."

I just disconnected. I went through that part of my life trying not to feel anything because when I felt anything it was guilt and shame. My mom was right to have tossed me away. Mrs. Pastor was right too. It was me and I was bad bad bad.

I turned 15 in October and by the time December rolled around I was doing my damndest to proove those women right. Yep, I'm bad. Just watch me.

I was suddenly very angry and I suddenly knew that I HATED JESUS. Love? Oh come on! I still believed in him though. I just hated him.

So for a couple of years my life totally sucked. As if it didn't before, but at least then I had a bed to sleep in and a roof over my head. But, like most run-aways, I wasn't running from anything that had feet and could chase me, I was running form the only thing I could never escape. Myself. Trite as it sounds, it's true.

Anyway. I got knocked up when I was sixteen and when I was 17 I had my daughter. All through my pregnancy as my body changed so did my heart.

Oh, I knew now, there was eternal love. I knew there was something to have faith in. I knew I could worship this little body in my body and I knew I had found my salvation.

I changed my life for her the way my mother never did for me. I, for the love of Jazzalyn, not god, went back to school and found a life we could live together.

When I finally stopped running from the pain and guilt, when I stopped hating something that was never real to begin with, I fo undalltherealthingsthataremyeternity.

I found my man, Ron. We found our joy and we had a son and the temple in my heart grew and grew.

I was 25 and just finishing college. I was a quarter of a century old and I got it.

No one could love me for eternity until someone could find me TO love me. I had looked everywhere, I had thought, for that love. I looked for six years in the same place over and over and when Xtianity didn't have what I thought I needed, I believed that no one could have it.

Dudes, I got it at 25 even though I'd seen the Wizard of Oz at least a hundred times (I was Glinda in grade 8) I never knew that the truth was that simple.

It was in me all along.

So that's it. Never mind Jesus and anger and all that. This is my testimnony: I left the church, although I didn't have the emotional vocabulary at the time, because the fundies were all hypocrites. My pastor preached about virtue in the church. And then in the church parking lot, in the back of his van, told me to suck his cock.

And, here I am.

City: Calgary
State: Alberta
Country: Canada
Became a Christian: 6
Ceased being a Christian: 15
Labels before: Baptist
Labels now: Mystical Contemplative
Why I joined: I was sad and lonely
Why I left: I learned the word hypocrite
Email Address: lila_bender at hotmail dot com

Becoming Alive Again

sent in by kitty

Unlike many here on this board. I did not grow up in a Christian home. My mother is Buddhist and my father officially Protestant, though he never read the bible or went to church. I converted as a teenager because my very conservative friend seemed to be the most together individual I knew, and I felt like the least together individual (at least that wasn't doing drugs or binge drinking or sleeping with the football team).

The church I attended - and my friend's family, who "discipled" me - were very mission oriented. Sponsoring missionaries, having missionary speakers, mission trips for the high schoolers. The missionaries and their travels to exotic places fascinated me (just like National Geographic and PBS anthropology specials did) and it didn't take me long to come believe that I should be a missionary.

So (after a math/science heavy college prep curriculum in high school), I went to a Christian liberal arts college to get a degree in communications arts and a minor in theology with the intention of becoming a Bible translator. Complete with a semester at the Summer Institute of Linguistics at the U of O in Eugene. I had a great college experience, and met some awesome people and am still friends with some of them. My classes were fascinating. Theology. Cultural anthropology. Greek. Biblical studies. Linguistics. Missions related culture classes. And it was the beginning of the end for my faith.

A friend of mine recently said that no thinking person can be involved in a missionary community remain conservative. And that was true for me. I started my college career as a culturally and politically conservative individual. I would have called myself prudish. The missionary related coursework unraveled all of that. When you are discussing cultures where men felt naked if they didn't wear their jute string around their waist but never covered their genitals, it is hard to take seriously the argument that it is sinful for American women to wear spandex shorts to the gym. Missionary thought today has long departed from the "force those natives to wear muu-muus because toplessness is EVIL" mentality.

The theology, religion, and biblical studies courses, meanwhile, started to unravel the confidence I had in my faith being right. Much of theology it seems, is a long and elaborate vocabulary list of terms the definitions of which are up for continual debate even by experts in the field and many of which describe contradictory and opposing thoughts which are, paradoxically, all equally true. Not being immediately blown away in confusion by that made me feel like I knew the secret handshake to some exclusive yet esoteric club. Except... gnosticism was a heresy, so theology shouldn't be a secret handshake.

By the time I finished college, I could not go forward on my missionary goals. I was too disillusioned by the things that didn't fit together. I still clung to my religion (even though I rarely attended church my last year of college) but it had started to unravel like the flimsy ball of yarn that's been tormented by a playful kitten. I shoved the flimsy ball of yarn into a shoebox and stuffed it on a shelf. Though I would never have said it at the time, I sensed that if I continued to ask questions and press the issue, my beliefs would not survive. At the time I said that questioning would "confuse" things and lead me astray.

After college, I married, joined the workaday world, attended a church regularly with my husband, and tried to settle into living a Xian life instead of examining Xian thought. I went to women's Bible studies and couples fellowships with my husband. I saw Xian counselors to try to work out some of the problems that arose (quite naturally) from finding myself in the midst of several major life milestones at once and being suddenly career-less. We settled on a theologically conservative - but relaxed and casual - Presbyterian church. The services were upbeat, creative, had great music, and dance and drama ministries. The focus on the artistic and the aesthetic really drew me in and moved me, and the pastor was real, self-effacing, and had a wicked sense of humor. Being in a comfortable and uplifting setting helped to set aside most of my doubts.

The more time I spent around the Christians in my chosen church community, though, the more I felt alone. The women at the studies were, for the most part gossipy and shallow. I shared few of the concerns that they did, and they could not understand mine. The studies themselves were prepackaged, surface level schlock – difficult to get into for an ex-theology student. As little as I knew that I knew about the Bible and theology, it floored me that the average, intelligent Xian knew far less. Neither my husband nor I had much in common with the other couples in the "new married" group, and felt little desire to engage the people we met outside of the organized activities. I saw several Xian counselors in the course of two or three years, looking for the "right fit." All saw my presenting problems (dissatisfaction w/ career, discomfort w/ marriage roles, disconnect from my parents, loneliness) as manifestations of spiritual problems, and recommended small groups and prayer.

And thus was created a cycle… I felt lonely and adrift because I did not have enough Xian fellowship, so I went to Bible studies where I didn't fit in, became lonelier and guilty on top of it, and sought other Xian fellowship to ease the loneliness… which never filled the needs.

Sometime during my second year out of college, I rediscovered art and began sketching almost daily. I found it therapeutic in many ways, and was getting very good. My counselor encouraged it, but I think she was being indulgent of a nice little hobby. I still wasn't getting the fellowship I needed.

About a year later, there was a big scandal involving the heads of the Xian counseling center where I was both getting counseling and studying. Rape, embezzlement. And a cover-up by the counseling staff. Nothing that is terribly unusual in Xian organizations, but I thought that just happened to gullible charismatic Xians back east. I was devastated and felt betrayed. I quit counseling shortly afterwards, and started to shut down emotionally.

I continued to go to church and small groups, and continued to try to pray and study the Scripture on my own. More and more, it felt like habit. I had lost, completely, my enthusiasm and devotion to Christianity, and went through the motions only because I still believed it to be truth, and that these were things I had to do. When I went to church, I was seething inside.

It was a relief to me when we started to work on a movie project that involved weekend shoots out of necessity. We were busy Sundays, and could rarely attend church. It was an even bigger relief when I found out that he was dissatisfied with church as well – it was unbiblical, and in practice was contrary to the spirit of the command to gather together with other believers. Towards the end of the shoot, we decided not to go back, and instead found a small group of Xian artists that met once a month in San Jose.

It seemed that, finally, I had found a group of Xians that I could connect with in more ways than sharing the religion line on the census form, and it was a pleasant change. Too little, too late, as they say. The salve of having a teensy bit of meaningful fellowship with Xians interested in more than making nice at church made me wonder why it wasn't like that with the rest of the church… especially if we were "one in the spirit."

When my husband started to research theology and history to write a book on art, I picked up a few of the books he was reading to keep on the same page, and to be able to read and comment on his writing. His research brought him deep into the apologetics and mythology that I'd been afraid to look at eight years earlier. The two books that I actually read from beginning to end were Robert Price's "Beyond Born Again" and Jacques Ellul's Subversion of Christianity. "Beyond Born Again" is a critique and dismantling of Evangelical theology and apologetics as an immature and untenable belief structure–and then presents amature theology in its place. In Subversion, Ellul dismantles the distortions of Christianity created by the early church and by politics and power-layer by layer-to come down to a historical, essential core of Christianity, and then rebuilds that core into a new, improved Christianity. I found the core to be…empty, and there building seemed desperate, as if Ellul knew that he had been left with nothing, but had to hold onto that nothingness or lose his faith entirely.

By this time, I had little love for my religion, and held onto it only out of the belief that it was truth. I had doubts about the interpretations of passages on a woman's place, or homosexuality. I did not believe that a 6-day creation needed to be literally true. But I believed that the core doctrines – that Jesus was the son of God born of a virgin around 6 BCE and who lived, preached, died, and rose again around 29 AD, and that this core story was unique to Xianity – was true. That was shattered. The "essential core" that was left to "rebuild" was 4 conflicting accounts written 50 years or more after the fact of universally told "dying and rising sun god myth" syncretized into one of the many 1st century Judaic Messiah cults. Nothing unique, nothing verifiable. Nothing that could be proven to be true, or even more likely to be true than any other religion. After that, the "rebuilding" by both Price and Ellul felt hollow, as if both knew the core was empty. For their best efforts at rebuilding a mature religion based on truth… the best I could come away with was a teaching myth that was "true" insofar as its stories communicated universal human truths in a way that inspired socially appropriate behavior.

For a brief time, I thought of holding on to Xianity as the teaching myth to guide me into being a better person, still believing, in some small way, that there was something special about *this* story which – though not literally true – better reflected eternal truth than other myths. And then realized that such a thing was being dishonest with myself. There were stories that drew me in, inspired me, helped me to live a more vibrant and fulfilling life far better than the tales of desert wanderer telling strange, sad parables and destined to be tortured to death. And those stories were written by a myth-loving entertainment moghul, a hopelessly optimistic utopian dabbling in Eastern mysticism, and a confirmed atheist – all less than 40 years ago. Even as teaching myth, established religion claiming to be truth fell short of works of fiction claiming to be nothing but.

Evangelical Christianity calls conversion becoming "born again." I can't help but think that they have it backwards. Thirteen years ago, I began to die – and 10 months ago I started to live again. It hasn't been an easy or painless 10 months by any means - there was lingering depression, and I separated from my husband of six years. But for the first time in a decade at least and possibly the first time since childhood, I am truly alive. I need no longer hide my feelings or myself behind a mask. I no longer curtail learning to "safe" boundaries to protect my world. I am free to be who and what I am - to be real and honest with myself and with all around me.

And I am - in spite of whatever pain real life brings - happier than ever.

Sex: female
City: San Francisco
State: CA
Country: USA
Became a Christian: 15
Ceased being a Christian: 28
Labels before: Envangelical Protestant, Liberal Christian
Labels now: Atheist
Why I joined: friend's life witness
Why I left: peeled back the layers, and found it empty at the core

I continued to believe until I became disgusted

sent in by Viper

Both my mother and Father and all people I knew were Christian. Since my Father was Catholic, I had to be indoctrinated in the Catholic religion. My earliest recollection of doubt occurred when I asked a priest if it was ok to visit my mother's Baptist church. He told me in no uncertain terms that if I did, I would be sinning and would go to hell unless I sat there passively and did not sing, clap or otherwise take part in the service. Now, I want you to know that my mother always was and remains a VERY good, and moral person. For MANY years, she has sponsored children in Africa (she even went to visit her "child" having to climb a mountain to get there). At one point, I even considered studying to become a priest. I'm glad I didn't because after my military life abroad during the Viet Nam war, I used my GI benefits to get a real education in Physics.

I believe the Catholic religion is the only one that says infants, mental incompetents, or those who never heard the "good Message" can get to the big Disneyland upon death through an invented escape clause (Purgatory ). Many Christians say you go straight to hell. Some say that an aborted fetus gets a free ride. If this were so, I and I'm sure most rational persons would immediately beg for a retroactive abortion instead of taking this life test which almost all will surely fail.

One final comment: I once asked a fellow engineer if he were to design a program to count from 0 to 10, and before he compiled and ran it, he discovered it would not work. Would he go ahead with a failed project and then curse the program all to damn hell, or stop and see where HE is in error. He just looked at me dumbfounded and derailed the conversation to a safe, non religious area.

Steve, if you're still interested (and anyone else) you can make, mix, amplify, save & otherwise alter audio recordings from several different sources, including the internet using the free tool "audacity" at audacity.sourceforge.net.

Sex: Male
City: Chicago
State: Illinois
Country: U. S.
Became a Christian: Too early to remember
Ceased being a Christian: about 40
Labels before: Catholic, Baptist
Labels now: Agnostic
Why I joined: Born into it
Why I left: Too many lies, no answers to the important ones

Seeing the Light

sent in by Wayne McCoy

I was brought up in a Southern Baptist family, in the '40s and 50s. My mother's side, with whom we had the most contact, were pretty on being Christian. My grandfather was instrumental in getting the pastor for our church, my mother played the organ and my father sang in the choir. I didn't learn until many years later that my father was not all that strong in his belief. But I think the strongest influence was my grandmother, a daughter of the Old South. In any case, by the time I reached high school, I was teaching Sunday School, singing in the choir, going to church about four times a week, praying regularly. I graduated from HS and went off into the Army. For some reason, some of my fellow soldiers saw fit to pick on me, perhaps because I was small. But I had my faith to sustain me. Looking back on it now, I can see that the faith did little to sustain me. I got more help from the black soldiers in my unit, who endured not a little prejudice on our bases in the Deep South.

I finished up my active duty and went off to college. Although I had friends, I was always lonely and unhappy. I called on my faith for support, still going to church, still believing. A class in humanities got me thinking about the basis of religion -- fear. But an experience I had sometime afterward caused me to question all forms of belief that have any mysticism to them.

One night I lay in bed in my dorm room, contemplating the "meaning of life, universe and everything," and the answer was not coming up 42 (this was many years before Hitchhikers). Suddenly, the room seemed to be bathed in a brilliant white light and a calm quiet voice said to me, "That is not the way it is." I took this to mean that religions do not explain anything, that I should find my own answers. And I have been a non-believer ever since. I know this sounds like a revelation in reverse, but it's really the way it happened.

I grant that some people need religious faith. I don't. And I challenge anyone to give me a reason for believing that does not already assume that belief at some level. People believe because they want to believe.

Do I think that science has "all the answers"? What an absurd notion! It would not be science if it had all the answers. Science is about the search for explanations and the trial of those explanations against observation. Are there things which science is inadequate to explore? Of course. Science depends on repeatability of phenomena and control of conditions in order to conduct meaningful experiments. Does this mean that I believe in supernatural phenomena? No, just that science is not well-equipped by definition to investigate such claims (science investigates repeatable natural phenomena). Does this mean I believe that non-repeatable phenomena occur? What says they cannot occur? They happen all the time -- they're called one-in-a-zillion events, and they do occur only once.

And what about absolute truths? How would you know one if you saw it? How did the universe get here? Theoretical physicists say through the collision of D-branes, resulting in the Big Bang. But until someone can verify it, it's in the same league as "In the beginning God created Heaven and the Earth...was for the ancient Hebrews.

What about sin and forgiveness? I ask, why do you feel guilty? Sin and forgiveness, outside of what you've actually done to another human, is one of those things that is the product of believing in the first place (see my challenge above).

Do I think religious belief has any positive value for humanity? To the extent it can get some people to behave in ways they can't otherwise do for themselves. To me, religious belief this day and time is either intellectual laziness or weakness of some sort in the personality, or both. Or I go back to my hypothesis in college -- fear.

Do I fear dying? No. Am I afraid the terrorists are going to hurt me or my family? No, it's much more likely we'll be hurt in tornadoes or hurricanes than by terrorists. What about life after death?

What about it?

Does prayer work? Only if you believe it does.

Miracles? They are supposed to be rare (even the Catholic Church says they are) but today it seems that they have become everyday phenomena. Why is it that some people get miracles while others don't? Miracles today aren't. Were they ever? No. Miracles occur only when we don't have a more cogent reason for something that happens, usually from a lack of information, knowledge, understanding or reasoning. That doesn't imply that a supernatural explanation is the truth.

What about atheist religions like Buddhism? You can access the things that Buddhism offers by yourself without all the ritual.

There can be no omnipotent omniscient being, because if one exists I can doubt that it exists, but it can't doubt that I exist, and it can't doubt that it exists. Consequently, it is neither omnipotent nor omniscient.

How about an infinite being? What does that mean -- infinite? In what regard is it infinite? Wisdom -- I don't think so. There are some pretty dumb things going on in nature. Love? How would you gauge it to be infinite -- we can't even tell for sure when someone human loves us (or doesn't)! OK, beyond any contemplation, then. So it must be felt rather than contemplated? Now we're getting to the faith issue, and the reason for my challenge. You have to have faith to have faith. Think in circles.

Why is there something rather than nothing? The solipsist would say that "something" is an illusion, but what is it that is creating that illusion? How do we know what a state of nothingness is? Perhaps we have imposed a binary nature on the question because of our need to have extremes, opposites, to fit comfortable patterns. Perhaps it is not possible for a state of nothingness to obtain (easy to get caught in the semantics of the double negative here). Quantum theory is beginning to suggest that nothingness is unlikely.

Why are we here? We evolved this way and we have no say in it. We're here to ask questions like these.

Sex: Male
City: Poolesville
State: MD
Country: USA
Became a Christian: Baptized at 12
Ceased being a Christian: 19
Labels before: Southern Baptist
Labels now: non-believer
Why I joined: family, peers
Why I left: belief was not offering me any comfort
Email Address: operarus at erols dot com

Away with a god invented by preachers...

sent in by anonymous

I remember the day that I asked Jesus to come into my heart. I was walking back from mass on a Wednesday afternoon (I went to the local catholic school) and I must have been around 6 or so. I prayed with all my might, clutching my little worn bible to my chest, opened my heart, and . . . nothing. I remember my distinct feeling of disappointment that nothing "magical" had happened: no miracles, no rush of feeling, no mystical voices or light. And that was the beginning of the end for me. I would ask half-heartedly if I could get baptised and be confirmed, and my mother strictly forbade it. Just wait until you know for sure, she would tell me, wait until you understand a little more about what you are asking.

To say she was right would be a vast understatement. To say I struggled with the tenants of the Xian faith would be putting it very mildly. I wanted to know why sex outside of marraige was frowned upon even if two people loved each other, while sex in a loveless marriage was considered sanctified. I wanted to know why this faith differed so from that of the Jewish faith (for instance, the creation of that oh so mythological place called hell, which is never mentioned in the old testament) and why it seemed that every major holiday was simply borrowed from earlier ancient pagan practices.

I then dug as deep and far as I could go and every avenue unveiled another lie, another untruth, another hypocrisy, and more and more destruction, murder, and the obliteration of all things opposed to it.

It is estimated that 9 million women and children were tortured, mutilated, burned at the stake, and slayed during the burning times, the inquistion, and the witch trials. Not to mention 200,000 Jews and Muslims slaughtered in the crusades as Xians pillaged, burned, and raped in their war against the "infidels". Their slogan was "Christ-killers! Embrace the cross or die!"

I know: it's horrifying. And do we learn any of this while in school? Of course not. Do we learn that all the so-called "demons" of Xianity are actually the old pagan gods and goddesses of antiquity, and that the cultures that worshipped them were matriarchal, peace-loving, and earth respecting? I came across sources of hymns, invocations, and psalms to the Goddess that were more than mere echoes of the biblical psalms. These were far older, by thousands of years. The writers of the bible had lifted things nearly word for word from pagan sources.

There's one thing I learned: Xians certainly aren't very creative. They took a religion that was nature-based, gentle, free, and passionate and made it into an old dead husk, where the followers are instilled with fear and shame, the children are violated by the church leaders, and everyone is kept in ignorance. Everything else is destroyed or burned. The more I learned the more it sickened me.

But don't take my word on it. I'll leave you with a couple quotes, from respected leaders and philosophers of the past:
"My earlier views of the unsoundness of the Christian scheme of salvation and the human origin of the scriptures has become clearer and stronger with advancing years."
-Abraham Lincoln

"What are the fruits of Christianity? Bigotry, superstition, and persecution." -President James Madison

"For seventeen hundred years the Christian sect has done nothing but harm." -Voltaire

"I do not find in Christianity one redeeming feature."
-Thomas Jefferson

"Away, then, with the Christian theology! Away with a god invented by preachers of the bloody faith, who, without their important nothing, by means of which they explain everything, could no longer revel in superfluity; no longer glorify poverty and live in luxury themselves; no longer preach submission and practice arrogance; but who would, through the march of reason, be hurled into the deepest depths of oblivion."
- Johann Most, The God Pestilence

Sex: F
City: Santa Monica
State: CA

I am Jesus

sent in by Lila

I lost, long ago, my belief in the Christian church. I lost my faith in Jesus and I struggled to maintain, even a glimmer of hope, that God was real at all.

I will never be a Christian again, but I do believe that Jesus really saves.

Christianity is a lie. All churches exploit the teachings of a visionary who opened the path to a garden of thought, hope, love and redemption. You can't save your soul from hell-fire by asking someone (even Jesus) to do it for you.

Jesus, the person, likely existed. Not the way the Bible depicts, certainly, but there is considerable evidence that he was real. I like the theory that Amenhotep IV was Akhenaten, who was also Moses, the first Kabbalist, and the blood ancestor of Jesus, son of Mary.

Furthermore, not only was Jesus a living man, but he was not of humble origins. In the language spoken by Jesus and his contemporaries, the word "carpenter" is the same as the word for "scholar". People of humble birth were not literate and were not scholars. Jesus was a scholar and a Jew who preached a radical way of thought that offended the VERY rich aristocracy.

Jesus was a wealthy scholar of important birth, being descended from Moses, and, on his mother's side. King David. Jesus betrayed his caste and preached equality among men. He decried the rich as unjust and called for a closing of the chasm between rich and poor. He spoke against human sacrifice, and the sacrifice of livestock and food stuffs, not because HE could wash away our sins, but because it was a horrid waste of life and of sustenance.

The way that Jesus saved mankind was by showing a violent, volatile, greed consumed world a way to its own redemption. Salvation lies in making the world a better place for all of its inhabitants. When we accept Jesus into our hearts, we are really incorporating his teachings into our lives.

That which is divine is not a Christ of no substance who magically safeguards against damnation.

Being saved is recognizing that we are all divine. In honoring all mankind, in fostering peace and kindness, in being charitable and loving and by manifesting our own possibilities, we are godly.

Truly, Jesus was a prophet. He was a prophet who used his divine human mind and his holy human heart, to teach a world blind in its suffering that redemption was in its grasp. Our salvation is in ideas. Those intangible things that only our actions can manifest.

Jesus Christ is the living God because we keep his teachings alive, and he lives in us each time there is kindness shared, bread broken--he plentified the fishes through the miracles of love and charity! His miracles were miracle of the everlasting human spirit. Miracles we all may know when we manifest our own divinity.

Miracles we can realize when we recognize that WE ARE GOD.

Seeking Fellowship with Ex-Xtians

Sex: Female
City: Calgary
State: AB
Country: Canada
Became a Christian: 6
Ceased being a Christian: 15
Labels before: Baptist
Labels now: Faithful
Why I joined: Come on, I was 6.
Why I left: hypocrisy
Email Address: lila_bender at hotmail dot com

I can only imagine...

sent in by anonymous

If I hear the song I can only imagine one more time, I'm going to be physically ill. Has anyone ever heard of the artist Mercy Me? I personally can't stand him. And of course I hate the song I can only imagine. Well, this is my story. I was raised in church. I got baptized early on. Well, 17 or so. Then I turned 21 and got into partying and did that for a long time. Till about say 28-29. I was just getting too old to be in the clubs with the early 20's bunch. They were starting to laugh. Saying things like "he's the Hulk Hogan of the club scene". Meaning I didn't know when to hang it up. That my time in the clubs had long since passed. And they were right. You're only in your early 20's once. As that bunch of clowns will soon find out when THEY'RE the ones being laughed at for being "too old".

Right before turning 30, I decided to give church another try. So I did. I had returned to being a christian. Things went okay for awhile. But then as I got to know more people, they started to really push the envelope. They knew good and damn well that I had been a party animal for a long time. I had struggles. Instead of helping me, they badgered me. If I missed a social on a Friday or Saturday night, they automatically assumed I had fallen back in with my old crowd. Well, I was getting discouraged to say the least. My friend who I had known from the party scene who first got me involved in church kept on saying "give it more time". Then, finally, enough was enough.

I had a tendancy to listen to him a little more because he knew where I came from seeing as how we had been in the club and bar scene together. But, as time went on he was getting more and more like them. He was getting very ill with me as time went on because I was not "progressing" like he had been. For instance, at the point he had been at that church for 9 months, he had done this, this , this and this. I had been there 9 months and still did the bare minimum. That seemed to irritate him to no end. I did not know how much plainer I could make it to him and to that so called "Sunday School Group" that I was NOT going to commit to that church UNLESS they backed down a little on their commitment policy.

When you become a member you commit that your church is by all means number one. Period. To the point that if your family is in any kind of trouble and you are by their side, if your church calls you, you are to leave their side AT ONCE. Church is at the top. NOTHING supercedes it. IF your job tells you to go out of town on business and you will be gone on Sunday morning, tell them no. Get fired, fine. But church WILL NOT be over ridden. Well, I was not about to sign anything to that effect. I told my friend that while my job runs Monday-Friday and I am free on the weekends, I can't promise that they'll never send me out of town. His reply, "not good enough". He claims he has actually told his employer no a couple of times because it would put him out of town during what would normally be service time. Now, I don't know whether or not this is true. He's pretty high up at his company, so maybe he's got enough pull to say no to them and live to see another day.

I on the other hand do not have that kind of pull. If I were to tell my employer no, guess what. Bam! I no longer work there! Well, just recently came the final straw. My now former Sunday School teacher basically called me out for attempting to "hook up with" a non christian. Number one, I was not trying to "hook up with" this awful awful person! This girl is a friend of mine. Yes, I think she is cute. I would not mind if she was my girlfriend. But I wasn't trying to hook up with her. She gave me a hug and a kiss on the cheek because I had recently had a family dispute with my parents. Comforting. That's all she was doing. But, because she has a tattoo, that is BAD! Kiss on the cheek, BAD! Hugging someone you're not married to, BAD! And guess what. Church. Done. Over. Pack it up and go home. I had had enough.

Initially my plan was to move on to another church. But, I was so fed up, I just said forget it. And so ends my second stint as a christian. If a girl who is a friend of mine can't even embrace me when I need it out of fear I might get a little aroused, then what's the point? So what if we're not married. We are close friends. Isn't that what God would want? His creatures to comfort one another? She was not trying to arouse me. She was comforting me. But, we can't be doing that! Plus, during the time I was at that church, this same Sunday School Teacher chastised others IN THE CLASS for hugging! You must hug from the sides ONLY! Face to face initiates arousal! As an added bonus, I'll never have to hear the song I can only imagine by mercy me again. That seemed to be the theme song for that church.
Well, thanks for everything. I hope to hear more and more stories of people breaking away. It's about damn time.

State: Alabama
Country: USA
Became a Christian: Ages 10-22 then again from 29-30
Ceased being a Christian: stopped at 22 then stopped again at age 30
Labels before: What churches or organizations or labels have applied to you?
Labels now: What labels, if any would you apply to yourself now?
Why I joined: Raised in church
Why I left: At 22 because I just didn't want to do it anymore At 30 because of all the crap being shoved down my throat from people like Mercy Me and a crazy Sunday School teacher.

I'm a Chosen One; I chose to leave

sent in by Ah Haw

I feel that I've wasted 7 years of my life as a Christian. 7 years of suppression of common sense and desperate attempts to rationalize the absurdities of the Bible.

Back in 1998 I was won over by the persistent evangelizing of Christian friends. They sure know how to stress the LOVE of God for me. Since they appeared to be ever so friendly and helpful, I decided to try attending church.
But things went downhill almost from day one when I was converted:

    1) I was told that it's a divine obligation to tithe and offer even more to my church. But I noticed that the pastors are all filthy rich and live luxurious lives. WHERE DOES THEIR MONEY COME FROM? This was my first doubt.

    2) I began my bible study Sunday school like all new Christians do. But upon closer reading of the Bible, I was shocked by the atrocities commanded or approved by Jehovah in the OT. The Book of Revelations promised even more global mayhem to come. Strangely speaking, all these 'inconvenient' facts were skipped over by the teachers. When I summoned my courage to ask, I was told that God must have His reasons to do the things He did and that we mere mortals are not to question His 'divine righteous anger'. I was also chastised for allowing the devil to sow doubts in my mind. So, instead of offering explanations to difficulties in the Bible, the teachers gave me a lecture on 'spiritual warfare' to pray away my 'rebellious' doubts.

    3) Inevitably, the preachers made it a point to lampoon and criticize other faiths during every sermons. They called non-Christians by all sorts of names: pagan, heathen, infidel, the lost, the unsaved etc. The Christians arrogant attitude was that: 'if we convert the non-Christians, we are doing them a favour!' What happened to religious tolerance and peaceful co-existence? The ugly fact is: the Christians simply cannot accept people different from them so they must convert them over. (Killing them off is illegal nowadays)

    4) Even the 'brotherly love' among Christians is a farce. I learnt first-hand of the intense rivalries and competitions among the different churches. Everyone is trying to poach Christians from other churches to come over to their own. The reason: so that the MONEY of other church members will come flowing right in!

At first, I thought that I was unlucky to choose a wrong church. But after moving around five denominations; I discovered that all those Christians are the same.

Still, I didn't given up my faith. I started to pray alone at home instead. I also did some vigorous self-study of all things theology. But the more I study, the more doubts I developed. My desperate attempts to rationalize the illogical failed. I even resorted to believe in the Bible in a 'selective manner'; that is I focused only on the love of Jesus for us sinners. But even that sounded hollow as I realized that Jesus' so-called love is very conditional: if we don't have slavish blind faith in Him then we'll roast in Hell all the same.

The last straw came when I applied for a job with a Christian charity centre. When I told them that my practice is to pray at home; the interviewer categorically pronounced that if one does not belong to a church, he can't really be a Christian! Needless to say, I did not get the job.

My eyes are finally opened to the reality of Christianity and it's followers. I decisively break off with those bunch of intolerant, bigotry and hypocritical 'God's Chosen People'.

Yes, I am now proud to be the 'Unchosen'. I read widely about other faiths and find out that they are not the 'nonsense' those Christians depict them to be. I actually learn a thing or two. Being open-minded is bliss.
Good day everybody.

Are you 100% sure?

sent in by Zoe Grace

Are you 100% sure? Well, I don't know, are you? In this country since most of us have already heard about Jesus and yet there are those of us who think its bullshit, Fundamentalists have taken a new tactic, the "are you 100% sure tactic." They think this will put the fear of god in us. They are mistaken.

For one thing what does 100% sure mean? I'm not even 100% sure my car won't break down on the interstate, but generally it doesn't so I don't worry too much about it. Generally they appeal to Pascal's wager, a faulty piece of logic if ever there was one. They are following the "if I'm right then yay, If I'm wrong, nothing bad will happen." principle.

Actually that's not exactly true. The muslims could be right and then the christians will go to muslim hell. Hell, ANYTHING could be right and christians would be punished just like the rest of us "non-believers" But is living in this kind of state of paranoia and fear conducive to mental health?

"if i'm wrong nothing bad will happen" Not only is it illogical, but it is emotionally unfulfilling to live a lie just to be "sure" and play the odds against eternal torment. I was once a fundamentalist christian, and in that time (having nothing to do with individual christians and everything to do with theology) I was miserable.

I worried constantly. I was terrified of the rapture and hell and maybe I wasn't really saved, but no that was the devil attacking me. I was scared of demons and every possible stupid thing. What's more I was scared of biblegod. I mean it's a logical conclusion. Anyone willing to drown the world and torture most of it in a fiery hell can't be too damned dependable right? I was overwhelmed with guilt over stupid little things. I couldn't think straight. I couldn't enjoy life. I felt unfulfilled and a prisoner of my own mind.

Now I can't speak for every fundamentalist (and lets face it, they are the only ones getting in our face about "well what if you're wrong." moderate christians don't give a damn and mind their own business.), but most people I've met who are fundamentalists show signs of the above kind of behavior, and almost everyone i've met who has left christianity admits to the above.

I wonder honestly, does a christian think, if this is the only life there is that they want to waste it like that? Is what I've described really "no big deal"? Is it worth selling your emotional well being and mental freedom for something that's most likely just a big pipe dream in the sky?

What got me started on this essay was a tract that was left at my work. and it was called...do I even have to spell it out? "are you 100% sure" Here is the thrust of it.

they say: "here is how you can be 100% sure that you are going to heaven" (one would think that they would include some kind of proof that there is a heaven, but nope, just their holy book is used as evidence.)

1. realize and acknowledge: "all have sinned and come short of the glory of god"

um, no. must i even dignify this with a response? sin is an imaginary concept. an impossible yardstick where we are supposed to measure up to an imaginary deity.

2. realize and acknowledge: "the wages of sin is death."

since when did death equal torture for eternity? are they using a different dictionary than I am? and last time I checked all people die. (of course they bend and twist all of this to make death and life mean different things, but come on, this isn't kindergarten we surely are capable of logical thought.)

3. realize and acknowledge: "Christ died for our sins"

yes i'm familiar with this insane troll logic. Someone telling me this is enough to make me not interested. I try hard not to follow immoral systems. You can't pay off "sins" substitutionally. Just like you can't pick a random guy off the street to serve your prison sentence if you commit murder or molest a child. The whole concept is immoral. And that's not even getting into the concept of a substitution is a substitution, in order for it to work jesus would have to still be in hell, a three day death of an immortal being is not impressive. of course then there is the whole: there's not one shred of proof that this jesus man existed in the first place. and this tract hasn't given me one reason to put christianity above the myriad other superstitions vying for my approval.

4. realize and acknowledge: "the gift of god is eternal life through jesus christ our lord."

They also note that this gift is yours just by believing in a risen christ who arose on the third day and is alive forever more. Oh is that all? I have to have a lobotomy to get to heaven? neat. Also, I'm sorry but unlike most fundies I actually give a damn about the other people in the world, and I wouldn't spend eternity with biblegod laughing and singing and cavorting knowing that even ONE person was writhing in eternal pain. And I question the mercy and compassion of any human being who would. If they want to be honest and say: "Listen I don't want to roast in hell. I'm weak and can't follow my convictions. I just don't want biblegod to get me." well then at least I would respect their honesty.

5. realize and acknowledge: "whosoever shall call upon the name of the lord shall be saved"


(let me point out here that when you ask them about all the people who haven't heard about jesus you get this lame response: "god is no respecter of persons, everyone will have some opportunity before they die to accept jesus." um...ok. so what they are saying is, everyone but christians are supposed to...are expected to question the set of ideals they were raised on and deconvert from whatever it is they believe in and accept a whole new way of thinking. You know...if the moonies are right, I'm just going to laugh and say..well everyone had an opportunity, you saw them at the airport, why didn't you believe?

Of course christians aren't ALLOWED to do this (question etc.), what arrogance. maybe other faiths aren't allowed to question either. they just want to do the right things. are they going to be punished?)

and finally we come to the big payoff, the part we've all been waiting for:

6. confess and ask:

"why not pray this prayer (um because i'm not delusional), "Lord jesus, I am a sinner. Forgive me for my sin and come into my heart and save me. thank you for saving me. amen."

Dear fellow heretics...just so you can cover your bases and be 100% sure, please pray this prayer with me:

Dear imaginary man somewhere up in the sky: This moron who gave me this piece of paper says I'm a sinner, I don't know what the hell THAT means, but I'm assuming it means I've done something to offend you. Now ordinarily I wouldn't care if I'd offended someone I didn't know and who probably didn't exist in the first place, however I'm told that I will be tortured forever if I don't do this little prayer song and dance here. So here goes...please don't torture me forever for being what you supposedly made me. Don't roast me for eternity for using the brain you supposedly gave me. And please don't cast me into the firey lakes of hell for having the compassion and mercy to think such concepts are immoral and therefore, if you existed, so are you.


Zoe =)

Sex: F
City: Cleveland
State: TN
Country: USA
Became a Christian: 8
Ceased being a Christian: 20
Labels before: pentecostal, church of god, baptist
Labels now: agnostic pagan
Why I joined: was brainwashed from an early age, didn't know any better
Why I left: I decided I prefered logical thinking.

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