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.
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
Online Reading List
- An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish by Bertrand Russell (1943)
- Bible Teaching and Religious Practice by Mark Twain
- God is Imaginary
- Is there an Artificial God? by Douglas Adams (1998)
- Skeptics Annotated Bible
- The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine (1795)
- Which Way? by Robert Ingersoll (1884).
- Why I Am Not A Christian by Bertrand Russell (1927)