The Awakened Mind

sent in by David Williams

Most of these stories are emotional. I could tell mine that way, but I consider those emotions sick now, so I will not indulge them.

The day I stopped being a Christian was when I was reading the Bible and realized it was all only a belief. You had to "believe" the stories were true. I asked myself, "What does it mean to believe?"

Then I realized, believing is accepting claims without proof. Now what mature person would conduct their life that way? You would be subject to every con, wacko scheme and political crook that came your way. Why would I be obligated to accept a claim without proof?

Christianity's short answer is God will kill you if you don't. I summarize it this way now: There is a giant invisible man who will kill you if you don't believe there is a giant invisible man who will kill you.

My moment of freedom came when I realized that the fear was a belief too. This has led to the realization that I choose my emotions by choosing what I focus on. If I focus on a Mad Daddy in the Sky, pretty soon I will be afraid. If I focus on reality, I relax and live realistically.

All this flooded through my mind after that first flash of freedom, and once I stepped outside the manipulation of being told to accept claims without proof, I never went back.

By the way, I discovered that all the guilt over leaving the faith was a choice too. I could choose to give others control over my choices, or I could take responsibility and choose productive feelings.

Today I recognize that supernatural beliefs are behind the worst attrocities of our time. Allah wants terrorist to kill innocent people. God wants us to kill Iraqis. Jesus plans to come back and kill all non-Christians (John 3 16). The world's major religions all promise to resolve the problem of non-believers with violence.

I have realized that belief in Jesus, the so-called Prince of Peace, has led to Christian Terrorism throughout the ages, from the Crusades to the Ku Klux Klan. The Bible records terrorism in the name of God in 1 Samuel 15 3, where Saul is supposedly commanded by God to murder infants. Early terrorism.

Today, I do not accept any claims of invisible creatures, magic powers, "energies" or thought power. I would gladly change my mind with proof. Happily, I know I will not be killed for recognizing belief (accepting claims without proof) as a dangerous habit.

For those of you in the middle of fear and guilt over doubting the faith, I am here to tell you that you do not have to feel bad for labeling nonsense as nonsense. I live prosperously, lovingly and joyfully without any invisible creatures.

Became a Christian: Born one
Ceased being a Christian: 30
Labels before: Chrurch of Christ, Presbyterian
Labels now: Atheist
Why I joined: Because Jesus was introduced to me when Santa Claus seemed real--while I was still gullible
Why I left: I decided to get real

Waking up

sent in by Anonymous

I was born into a fundamentalist family and "saved" at the
early age of 4. While I was younger, i was not embarrassed to flaunt my religious beliefs and would strongly argue anyone who disagreed with me or seemed to threaten my beliefs. I remember trying to convert everyone I met, feeling genuinely concerned about whether or not they would go to hell. My parents' religion was very strict and my earliest memories are packed with heavy indoctrination.

I was taught that the only way i would go to "heaven" was by praying and asking jesus to forgive my sins. After that I would have to live like jesus would...a sinless, righteous life, doing nothing but good. I was taught through example that women should submit to men and obey their husbands unconditionally...if not, they were sinners. I was supposed to read the bible daily, and pray throughout the day, and enjoy it. But as I grew older, constant prayer became nothing more than the result of a deeply engrained fear of death and eternal damnation.

I remember lying awake in my bed late into the night, terrified and praying that god would somehow protect me from earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, fires, robberies, or any other disaster that might occur while i was sleeping. This was the effect of being taught to not use logic, and only have faith. The definition of faith is to believe in something which has not been proven. In order to have faith, one must ignore all logical evidence for what's real and believe entirely in something they don't have scientific proof for. The older I got, the more obvious the faults in this way of life would become to me.

When i was about 8, my parents decided to become missionaries. I was thrilled! I couldn't wait to go to a foreign country and share my religion with other people. During the process of deputation, i was further brainwashed into letting other people think for me. i was taught how to battle others, using the bible.

After about two years of deputation, we moved to south america, where my father's main goal was to plant churches. After a few attempts over a couple of years, we managed to establish a small congregation of about ten or more families. The people were very receptive to the teachings we brought them. During our stay in chile, we began to leave behind our fundy ways and began to live more comfortably. but there were still problems created by the several years of hard core programming of legalism. the funny thing is, people who are brainwashed, have no clue that they are.
they think they are thinking for themselves when in reality, they are completely controlled by the church and its leaders. they will swear up and down that their religion is the way to go, that their church does not pressure them at all in any way to do anything. the church is sneaky though and can get its members to do anything with group pressure, no matter what denomination or religion it is...because the church creates an environment where at first, people feel like they can belong. once they become involved, they can't get out. humans have an inborn need to belong to a group. this was an instinct that evolved in early humans that helped them to survive. a group of people was more likely to survive in a blizzard than a single person.

Anyway, as we grew further away from fundamentalism, we began to see how it had affected our family. we began communicating more efficiently, but there was still a blockade created by religion that didn't quite allow us to be ourselves around each other.

about three years into our stay in south america, a family of charismatic pentecostal background joined our church. they brought with them a whole shitload of new ideas and methods of worship. our church services became more noisy. people began swaying and waving their arms during prayer. but the really disturbing changes came when this family persuaded my father to take our congregation to their old church, a member of the G-12 movement.
by this time, i was beginning to have serious doubts about the existence of a god. the discovery channel was starting to really make sense to me.

when we began attending services at this pentecostal church, it scared me.
people seemed to be going crazy, speaking in tongues, casting out demons, convulsing on the floor.

Little did we all know, at the time, my father was having serious doubts as well. He has studied the bible inside and out, and understands it very well. As he now tells us, back then he was scared of his doubts and that was the reason we became involved with the pentecostals.

For a while, all this creepy nonsense going on in the church somehow made me want to believe and i did...until they sent me to a YOUTH ENCOUNTER. just the name ENCOUNTER gave me the creeps. the purpose of these retreats is to teach young people about the way god wants them to live. It is meant to create a tight bond between youth and god and the church. but for me, it had the opposite effect it was supposed to. I was 14. the first day nearly pulled me in. they told us all these awful stories about how jesus had suffered for us. they told us how much he loved us and wanted us to live righteous lives so we could be with him after we died. but on the second day, they did what they call a LIBERATION. that's when they cast out demons and do all the annointing and stuff. they had us sit in a circle and try to make ourselves vomit, telling us that it would cast out demons. then they had the whole room of 300 girls stand up as the LEADERS walked around carrying little bottles of oil and annointed us. they had told us that after annointment the holy spirit would fill us and we would fall to the ground weeping. i watched as all the other girls in the room actually did fall to the ground sobbing. we were told to close our eyes and speak in tongues as they annointed us. i didn't fall. when they had passed me up, i opened my eyes and looked around. My sister and i were the only people still standing in the entire room. something happened to me that day. i realized that all those other girls had fallen only because they had been told they would. That woke up my sense of being an individual. the rest of the encounter, i found the strength to resist what they were trying do to my mind. i didn't follow suit when the others prayed or sang or spoke in tongues. instead i spent the rest of the time in introspection...studying myself on the inside and realizing that the whole thing was just a bunch of bullshit. I still believed in god at that point, but i didn't like him. he was slowly beginning to look like a tyrant...a bad, no horrible parent.

our envolvement in the pentecostal church eventually drove us back to the US. my dad might have lost his job had he stayed. there were some fundy missionaries who threatened to tell the baptists what we had been up to.
Upon our return, we promptly disontinued our once mandatory attendance to church. We began discussing our adventures in the mission field more freely and about a year later, much to our surprise, every member of my family admitted to not believing in god. from that point on, life became incredibly comfortable. we no longer had a need to shove our beliefs down other people's throats, or the desire to argue with people who wanted to debate us about it. the way we see it now...let everyone believe whatever the hell they want. it's not going to affect them in the end anyway, because when they die, they cease to exist, and their beliefs during life will no longer matter. it will be the end. i no longer fear death on any level. while i still want to be alive, i do not fear dying because unlike before, i don't believe in heaven or hell, so i don't have to worry about which one i will go to. the way i think of it now, when i die, i will be no more. there's nothing to look forward to and nothing to fear, so why should death matter. it's only a part of life. death completes life.

And now, for all you fundy nuts who might want to comment on my testimony...let me just tell you this...I'm happier than i've ever been in my life because i don't have a religion. before you try to convert me, let me just tell you, you're wasting your time because i have no need to return to where you are...attending church once or twice a week, praying every's all just unattractive to, i like having sundays off and i'd rather be watching about evolution on the discovery channel than praying before i go to bed. Good night everybody!

Sex: female
State: arizona
Country: US
Became a Christian: 4
Ceased being a Christian: 15
Labels before: Fundy Baptists, Charismatic Pentecostal
Why I joined: Born into it
Why I left: I started thinking for myself

Silently Breaking Away

sent in by Wandering~

I’m not sure how to tell my story, but I'll try.

First, a brief background. My near-fundamentalist grandma was the biggest religious influence in the family. First she had a fit when my parents weren't married in a church she wanted. She kept trying to make my dad divorce my mom because she wasn’t a catholic like they were. When I was born my she had a big role in making sure that I was baptized and had a "proper upbringing."

I went to after school religion class in elementary school, went to church, was made to feel guilty when I didn’t, and was afraid to go to sleep without having holy water put on my forehead for "protection." however, I don’t think i ever fully believed in a "God".

I was raised in an ultra-catholic country in central america, where like 99% of people are catholic. seriously, for my fist 10 years of life i only met one Jewish person, everyone else was catholic.

Unfortunately for me, my grandma's ultra religious ideas eventually got into my mom's head, and she became (and still is) the main religious force in the family. for example, she yelled and grounded me because i yawned in church. my dad was never very religious, but he never complained about churchgoing or anything.

I had my first communion when i was about eight or nine, but at the time i had no idea what i was doing. i had seen all my other classmates do it, so i thought it was something we all just had to do. it was a total humiliation, i had no idea what to do (my religion teacher had been lousy, all she ever did was make me read the bible) The priest was in a really bad mood, the flowers for decoration were taken to the wrong church, only to be brought in during the middle of the ceremony, my dress caught fire on a candle, and a lot of other stuff.
I was so embarrassed that i forgot to pay attention to the priest.
After the ceremony, my mom yelled at me the whole car ride to the after communion party.

well, i still believed in all the catholic stuff after the communion, my first real doubts came when i was eleven, when I heard about evolution for the first time. our teacher mentioned it for some reason, and most of my class started ranting the usual "god made the universe" and "He created us" stuff.
while they were arguing w/ the teacher, I looked over the explanation in the worksheet. it just clicked, like it was obvious. that paragraph made more sense than years of Adam, eve and creationist lectures.

I started asking questions, such as "If the bible story is true, who did Cain get marry?" "Where are the dinosaurs in the story of creation?" "What about all the proof they've found to back up evolution?"

I was told to stop causing trouble and shut up.

i couldn’t speak about my doubts, since where i was growing up doubting the faith could make you an outcast, so i stayed quiet.

i started reading about other religions (something i had never done before, since i had been taught that other religions were wrong and my grandma belonged to a prayer group trying to convert everyone in the world to catholicism)

the more i learned, the more i became convinced that xtianity was wrong. when i was around 13 or 14, i silently became an atheist and made excuses to stop going to church.

when i was 15, i started exploring Paganism. i was inexplicably drawn to it. (maybe i had pagan ancestors, that would make sense)

I’m pagan now, but my family has no idea. My dad thinks earth religions are a joke, and my mom thinks they're just dangerous witchcraft rituals. my little brother is just cluelessly taking after my mom's religious beliefs. telling them anything is out of the question.

I’m glad I managed to escape the church and the xtian way of viewing things. I just wish I hadn’t spent part of my childhood afraid of going to hell.

Sex: F
Became a Christian: born one
Ceased being a Christian: 13 or 14
Labels before: catholic
Labels now: Pagan
Why I joined: not my choice
Why I left: realized it was fake

Honest With Myself At Last

sent in by Evelyn

I was initially raised in the Presbyterian Church, though I don't remember much about it. My parents were medical missionaries (Dad a doctor, Mom a nurse) who served in Asian countries right after World War II. I was born in the United States when they were home on furlough for a few years.

When I was three, the Presbyterian Church mission board assigned them to a small town south of Bombay, India, so I moved with them there. My siblings were sent to boarding school.

When I was six, my dad had a nervous breakdown and we came back to the US, settling in the San Francisco bay area. My siblings were graduating from high school, so they made their way back to the US as they headed for college. My father was so ill he was in mental hospitals for two years. The Presbyterian Church mission board was no help at all during this crisis, so my Mom became acquainted with some Pentecostals. She went to a prayer meeting and was "baptized" in the Holy Spirit without even asking for it. Call it a stress reaction or whatever. So, we started attending various Pentacostal churches.

After a couple of years, my dad recovered enough to resume work as a doctor and got a job in southern California, so he, my mom, and I moved there. We joined an Assembly of God church. I was baptized in water at age 9, though I recall "asking Jesus into my heart" earlier than that. At a Bible camp, I was "baptized" by the Holy Spirit at about the same time. I spoke in tongues and everything and felt quite high for a while. I've never done drugs so that's the only high I know about.

The summer when I was 10, my dad was having some mental problems, so my mom sent me to live with my oldest brother and his wife for a few weeks. They and my sister were members of a independent Pentecostal church that felt it had the exclusive truth. We went to Sunday school and church in the morning, street witnessing in the afternoon, and church in the evening. We also went to the Wednesday night service. They spoke in tongues, believed in the gift of prophecy, and all that. I believed it, too. A few years later, when my brother and his wife left that church because they disagreed on doctrine, they were shunned by all of their friends there. I was shaken when they left because I believed in that church and was shocked that they didn't. They didn't leave Christianity, though, as they are fervant fundies to this day.

I always had doubts and recommitted myself to Jesus many times as a teenager. I went to a Christian junior and senior high school and had Bible class as part of the curriculum, as well as weekly chapel services.

When I was 18 or 19, I went to another church for a while, a "non-denominational" one, because I was tired of the church my parents went to. Some time later, I moved to Oregon because I hated crowded southern California.

When I lived in Oregon, I attended another non-denominational church. They were not Charismatic, though I found some members there who were.

I didn't really go nuts, so some Christian kids did, when I went to college. I had only one or two boyfriends and only had sex with one and felt terribly guilty afterwards. I dated a man of a different race who wasn't a Christian. My family gave me heck about that and eventually I stopped seeing him. We had a great relationship, though.

I moved back to California in my mid-20s and some time later starting dating a man who would become my husband. He wasn't a Christian. He was raised Catholic by parents who only went to church at Christmas and Easter. He went to a Catholic high school for two years until he was kicked out. So, he had a low opinion of Catholicism and Christianity. I tried to convince him otherwise. I gave him a study Bible and various books. He showed no signs of converting, though. We had a great relationship and I didn't want to give him up.

He was the one who encouraged me to examine my beliefs and that's when I first started to seriously look at what I had been told all my life and ask myself what I believed. I drifted away from Christianity at this point because here I was in a great relationship and I couldn't marry this guy because he wasn't a Christian. That really made me angry.

We got engaged and then I got heck from my family. My oldest brother and I flew to a family gathering and I had to endure a few hours of him telling me why I shouldn't marry this guy because he wasn't a Christian. Ugh!

We got married. Then, my husband became a Christian a month later! What?!? He said God spoke to him and became real to him.

He got acquainted with a man who had a Christian bookstore and who was the pastor of a small church of about 20 people which met in the back of the store. We started attending this church. Alarm bells went off in my head, as they were serious Pentecostal fundamentalists. I told my husband, "Fasten your seat belt, you're in for quite a ride" as I had been part of a group like this when I was 10 at my brother's church. Little did I know how true my words would be.

After we'd attended that group for about a year, we decided to attend other churches. Things were getting weird at the group, as the pastor's wife was forming her own group within the small church. My husband later told me he had a dream or wide-awake vision that a member of that prayer group had tried to seduce and blackmail him into joining, so that's when he suggested we go elsewhere for a while. When we came back to the group, this prayer group was totally whacko. The pastor's wife controlled everyone in it and had them go on wacky fasts and had endless prayer meetings and so on. Shortly, we went to a usual meeting and noticed people were very tense. The pastor and an associate of his talked about the Old Testament scriptures about the rebellion of Sons of Korah and how this was happening in this little church. The pastor's wife and members of her group kept hiding in the bathroom. Very weird. Then, at the next meeting (the church met twice a week), the pastor reported that he and his wife were splitting up and that she had thrown him out of the house. This split up the church, too, as she took her group with her.

This church split, which I didn't expect because the group was so small to begin with, really shook up my faith. I went through a long dark time. We found another church and attended there for a couple of years.

We both got tired of the fundamentalist thing and started attending an Episcopal church, drawn by a newspaper ad that said, "Jesus died to take away your sins, not your mind." We both like intellectual discussions and the priest was a highly educated man with two doctorates. We found more stuff to think about from his short homilies than we ever did with one-hour sermons from other pastors. We went through the confirmation class and officially joined. At that time, I was fascinated by the liturgy and ritual. It was so different from what I was used to. The church is liberal and several members are homosexuals. Local self-help groups can use their Sunday school rooms for meetings for free and they actively support various local charities. We liked this a lot.

I don't know when I started to drift away again. I just noticed that I did. A couple of years ago, I became interested in Buddhism and read a couple of books. I liked what I read. The teachings made a lot of sense to me. I felt I was being unfaithful to Christianity, though. I was awakened in the middle of the night with a question in my mind, "Are you rejecting Jesus and God?" This wouldn't go away, so I said, "no, I'm not, forgive me." Then I could get back to sleep.

After that, though, I didn't feel like I could continue my interest in Buddhism, yet I wasn't interested in Christianity, either. I felt spiritually frozen and very frustrated for several months. So, about a month ago, I said to myself, "Enough of this, I'm going forward in my spiritual exploring." Soon after this, I also said to myself, "I'm not a Christian. I don't believe in that stuff any more." I was a bit afraid to tell my husband, though he noticed I was pre-occupied and asked me what was going on. I initially told him I am undergoing a spiritual shift and am exploring other paths and he was okay with it. I have since told him I'm not a Christian any more. He said Christianity works for him, though he has his ups and downs. He believes "god" speaks to people in different ways and that whatever path works for a person is valid. I am so lucky he feels this way.

I've explored Buddhism and am currently looking at Wicca. I also understand that I need to recover from Christianity before joining any other religion, as any unresolved problems would probably follow me if I quickly joined another religion.

What is surprising me is how free I feel. I feel good, happy, almost giddy. I hope it's not manic-depression, as I do suffer from depression now and then, though I've never been manic. I don't know how long this feeling will last, so I'm enoying it. I'm not sure whether I just feel free from a religious system or am happy to be finally honest with myself. I forced myself to believe for so long. Now I'm not doing that and maybe that's why I feel so good.

State: CA
Country: USA
Became a Christian: 8
Ceased being a Christian: 45
Labels before: Presbyterian, Assembly of God, Pentecostal, Episcopalian
Labels now: Agnostic
Why I joined: Preached at by family & church
Why I left: I realized I don't believe it any more.

Wicca - A path to personal truth

sent in by Sarah Macias

As a spiritual being, I think I've always questioned the way I've been told to accept the faiths and beliefs of others. I was born into a Catholic family, baptised and raised that way, but I always knew it wasn't right, somehow.

I was a good little girl, pretty, sweet and obedient...except when it came to church. I hated it. I hated the lectures, dressing up, the boring preist, the endless "sit down, stand up, kneel, sit down again," the saccharine songs we were made to sing, and, horror of horrors, being made to touch the people around me when it came time to join hands as we sung the "Our Father" or said "Peace be with you" to the people who happened to be sitting around the pew near us. Sunday school was a joke, ad catechism was worse. Youth group, for high schoolers was the bane of my existance for two years until my parents finally gave up.

I never understood any of what they were trying to teach me. As a second grader, I read books detailing reincarnation and past lives, and promptly decided that this made a hell of a lot more sense than the heaven/purgatory/limbo/hell sequence that Catholics believed in. So, like the innocent child I was, I brought this up to my catechism teacher. After my bold announcement about my belief in reincarnation, my teacher's eyes widened, then softened and a sweet, motherly smile graced her lips. "No, honey, you don't believe that. You're Catholic," she purred. I furrowed my brow and petulantly replied that she didn't understand what I was saying. This was what I truly believed in. My teacher just sighed, shook her head and, with a determined look on her face, growled, "No, dear. You..Are...Catholic. Go sit down." Not another word was said about the subject.

I can't say I remember any of that day's lessons. The entire time I was just thinking about her reaction and treatment of my beliefs. Were my personal beliefs and opinions really worth so little to these people who claimed to be interested in educating me? Why was questioning so discouraged? Why couldn't I explore other options? Why was it assumed that this was my path despite my own ideas?

Yes, at 8 years old I had a crisis of faith. My parents joke now about raising me to be a free spirit without knowing what it really meant. While I think that forcing any one religion down my throat while indirectly teaching me to question everything, including authority and popular beliefs, was a fool's errand, I know they meant well. I simply knew in my heart that it was wrong to deny anyone the right to question an establishment's reasoning. I couldn't stand to let this continue.

So, I started acting out. In catechism, I questioned everything. Loudly. The situation eventually escalated and the funny thing about the whole ordeal is that my parents and the deacon were never told. My personal belief is that the teacher didn't want to look stupid for being unable to answer my questions.

Church was far worse. Every Sunday, my parents forced me into uncomfortable, froofy dresses (oh, did I mention that I also stated going through a tomboy phase around this time?) at the ass-crack of dawn and then seated our family of 8 in the front row of church. First, I fussed about my dress, constantly scratching and fidgeting when I itched. This earned me a smack on the arm. Then I started to try to fall asleep. I was nudged awake. I started giggling at nothing (and got my younger siblings in on it!) Another smack. I kicked the wall in front of our pew. Smack. Played with the baby. Smack. Started to cry, smack. Refused to sing the hymns along with the choir, smack. Sang off-key (I'm tone-deaf,) smack. Crossed my eyes, drooled and tried to look retarded, smack. During the part of mass where we all held hands I grabbed my brother's hand and we started to swing our hands as hard as we could into the wall in front of the pew, effectively playing "bloody knuckles" on it. This was not a smackable offense. My father shot me a murderous look as he moved to sit between us. So, to get back at him, when we went up to recieve the host (that nasty, stale Jesus-cracker thay give you) I chewed it, didn't swallow, and blew raspberries (and Jesus-cracker bits) all over my brother's face. My father grabbed my arm and told me to stop it now in a tone that brooked no arguement. I sat sullenly for the rest of the service, but when it came time to kneel, I made a show of falling don every two seconds since the floor tilted towards the priest. I was also the first person to stand up to leave and practically ran out the door when it was over.

Afterwards, my father grounded me, "...for a week, so next time we go to church you can behave and prove you're not a baby. You'll just be grounded until you can stop." I shrugged, changing out of my dress into jeans and a T-shirt that I'd hidden in the car so that I didn't have to spend one extra minute in the hideous thing. We'd go to breakfast or brunch like this, with my whole family in "Sunday-best" except for me. Once, I was not allowed to change and I refused to eat.

This went on like this every week. My father finally got tired of grounding me and we went to church less and less. My mother began to cry when she thought about the problems it caused our family just going to church and being "good Catholics." She tried to talk to me about being the good example, since all my siblings were younger and did as I did. That talk never amounted to anything. My behavior never changed. I hated not being able to stay up on Saturday night because of church. I refused to let my parents force me into it without a fight.

As I aged, we went to church less, but I was expected to still go to catechism and, later, youth group. As a teenager in youth group, all my questions revolved around sex. Why was it a sin before marriage? Wouldn't only a cruel god give us such a gift and then tell us not to use it? What about birth control? Masturbation? Homosexual experimentation? Casual sex? Why should I marry someone I'd never had sex with? What if we were sexually incompatible? Wouldn't that be awful? Wasn't it better to make sure we were compatible first? Besides, what idiot would refuse to test drive a car before buying?

After a while, my youth group leader went the way of my catechism instructor and let me play pool in the other room until my father came to pick me up. It was a lucky coincidence that my boyfriend lived across the street. I constantly ditched youth group, had an hour of sex with my boyfriend, and returned so that my father could pick me up.

My parents had to listen to my constant complaints about the church, too. Why were we Catholic, after all? My parents had me two years before they got married in Vegas (and mom was pregnant with my little brother on that very day!) We were pro-choice and didn't believe in the samevision of hell and sin as the Church. We were also cool with homosexuality. None of this fit with the church. Why didn't we belong to a religion in which we agreed with everything they taught? Didn't one exist?

They told me our family had been Catholic for generations beyond count (I'm half Irish and half Mexican) and that just because we didn't believe in all the dogma,that was no reason to leave the church altogether.

They were wrong. Eventually it was. At 19 I discovered Wiccan and became the happy heathen I knew I always was inside. No more being told to be ashamed of enjoying sex or of questioning my beliefs. No dogma. I only had to remember two things: The Wiccan Rede and the Rule of Three. "An' it harm none, do as ye will," and "Remeber that all you do, for good or for bane, returns to you three times." Definetly spiritual rules I could live by.

While this weirded my parents out a bit, they'd been going their own way for a few years, anyway. After reading "Conversations with God," my mother became a New Ager and my father a theist. My youngerst sister is Wiccan, and everyone else is basically agnostic. I find it really funny that after all those years of torment at the hands of my own family for my dissent, they eventually agreed with me.

I now read tarot with my mother on occasion and am getting a degree in Studio Art with a minor in Religious Studies. Eventually, I'd like to get my Master's degree in Religious Studies with a focus on non-Judeo-Christian-Islamic traditions. I've been dating an athiest for four years, and couldn't be happier. I wrote this story because sometimes my absolute anger towards Christianity and its taint on my early years clouds my vision of how good life is right now. This has been an exercise to help me let go.

City: Tempe
State: Arizona
Country: USA
Became a Christian: Baptized at birth
Ceased being a Christian: 8
Labels before: Catholicism
Labels now: Wiccan!!!!
Why I joined: My parents tried to "bring me up right."
Why I left: questions about reincarnation at 8.....

I think I'm done w/Christianity

sent in by MsBok

Luckily, my parents did not force religion down my throat. My mother was raised w/o religion, heck, she was never baptized. My father was raised Presbyterian, but backed off when his church sent a collection agency after my aunt who was on her deathbed because she couldn't keep up with the pledge she made. My mother did send us on a bus to a Baptist church. That was a nightmare. My sister's purse must've got stolen twice & we always got our bibles ripped off. The vacation bible school was the last straw. They actually had scary monsters on the bus (I was only 6 at the time) who told us our parents were going to hell because they weren't going to church with us and only gave us a quarter to put in the collection plate. We stopped going to church all together except for Easter with my grandparents and whenever we spent the night at a friend's house & had to go to church with them.

In my late teens, I started to meet Catholics, listened to their beliefs & felt more at home with them. I went through the conversion & at 23, I was baptized, confirmed, and received first communion. Everything was well until I moved to a new area & couldn't find a parish I could relate to. Then September 11th happened, both my grandparents died, I lost my job & had to take a lower-paying job, found out my aunt made out like a bandit on my grandparents' estate (to the tune of $250K) and I suspect her in having a role in both of their deaths, had a bad breakup, trying to live the single life and don't know if I'll ever marry and/or have children, and now I have a serious illness that I don't know if I'll ever recover from. My faith has completely gone down the toilet. I feel like I never had a connection with J at all. I haven't been to church in a long time, and I am requestioning everything in the bible like I did during my teen years; the Bible has been translated so many times over, does anybody really know what the original scriptures really mean? One of the things that bothers me the most is that because my mother was never baptized, she's never going to heaven. I get so sick when I hear that. Although we got no religious upbringing from my Mom, I love her very much. Religion should be filled with love, not hate. Another thing is that all of us are born with original sin. I don't get it. Sometimes, I think that J was just another Jim Jones or David Koresh (sp?).

I am totally down with Protestantism (they're a bunch of money grubbers, imo), but will say if you are going to be a Christian - be a Catholic. Unfortunately, I don't believe that Christianity is for me; I still believe there is a G-d though. I am learning more about the Jewish faith and a lot of my personal beliefs fall into it, and I believe that is the avenue I should go down next, but very, very, very, very slowly. If you can/will, please pray for me that I will find the best path to worship G-d.

Sex: F
State: IL
Became a Christian: 4
Ceased being a Christian: 30 - I think
Labels before: Baptist, Presbyterian, Catholic
Labels now: worshipping G-d on my own terms
Why I joined: Friends were
Why I left: no longer feel a connection to J and Christianity

Me & My "Christian" Family

sent in by Rian

Whew! Where do I start? How bout pre-me.

My parents met at a small fundamentalist bible college Minnesota, and married in 1959. They intended to become bible translators/missionaries following completion of bible translation school. However, my father decided to pursue an advanced degree in American history at the Univ. of Minn. and he eventually earned his PhD in 1966. It was during his graduate studies that my father began to realize the inconsistancies and ultimately, the complete errancy of Christianity. He attempted to deconvert my mother, which, over time, caused my mother to cling more closely to her fundamentalist Christian beliefs. This growing division did not, unfortunately, result in divorce. My father accepted a job at a state university in Illinois in 1966, and, with my sister (born in 62), and my mother, moved from Minnesota and started his teaching career. (To his credit, he loved teaching, excelled at it, and was beloved by many students)

I came along in 1968, my folks bought a house, and we pretended to be a "regular" family. Some time during the late 60's/early 70's my father came to the realization that he was a homosexual. In addition, he began drinking more regularly. We rented out a room in our basement to one of his early graduate students, Dwight, around 1971. I don't know if he and Dad were lovers prior to this new living arrangement, but they were lovers during the early 70's, and Dwight even accompanied us on our occasional family vacations during the summers. My mother, increasingly in denial, continued to take my sister and I to church, and pray for my father's return to the faith. When Dwight broke up with my father around 1975, he was devastated (as I discovered after finding old letters following his death in 2000). His drinking increased and he began his slow, painful descent into alcoholism. As the drinking increased, so did the fighting; verbal and emotional abuse toward my mother. By the late 70's, the drunken, verbal abuse was a nightly occurance, always beginning at the dinner table and continuing after dinner until Dad stumbled downstairs to pass out (by this time he was living in the basement; drinking and sleeping there) Mom continued her life of denial, forcing me to attend our fundamentalist church twice on Sundays and one weeknight (a youth night).

My mother's basis for not divorcing him was one ridiculous verse in the New Testament by that nutjob Paul, stating that the believing spouse could reconcile the unbelieving spouse. She also adhered to the utterly pathetic notion that the wife must be submissive to the husband (how submissive was it for her to continue to attend church?). The whole thing was one huge hypocritical mess.

I was indoctrinated with fundamentalist dogma my entire childhood. I remember being the only kid in Sunday school to outwardly question some of the garbage they were cramming down my thoat. It was around 14 & 15 that I began to realize the absurdity of the situation. I remember one night when I was 15, alone in bed, crying uncontrollably and knowing I had no one to turn to. Obviously, I couldn't rely on my parents. Every time I tried to explain a personal problem to my mom, her answer was in the form of a bible verse. She never knew how to just talk to me, mother to son. All the answers to life's problems were in the bible, even though I had no idea what these obscure and contradicting verses meant. I was even forced to memorize 4 entire books of the bible when I was 12 & 13. I can still recall a verse in Ephesians which was my mother's favorite to reference against 'dirty words' ("Let no corrupt communication proceed from you mouth..."). Yet, every evening a multitude of "corrupt communication" proceeded from my Dad's mouth in the form of "Jesus H fucking Christ," among other verbal tirades. Once, in a desperate attempt to inject humor into the situation, I asked what the "H" meant, but was not heard over the high volume screaming.

My mother expected me to grow up a wholesome Christian young man. She seemed to easily ignore (read deny) every aspect of my childhood surroundings, expecting me to follow in step with the fundamentalist ideals she (and God) had instilled within me. She was completely blind to the fact that she, with my father, were the perpetrators of continous child abuse.

Fortunately, my studies at the university, personal search for sanity, intelligent friends, counseling, reason/common sense, and an open mind to a variety of ideas, have helped me overcome the brainwashing and insanity of my childhood. I don't think I will ever fully recover, as my journey has not been without numerous difficulties; I have struggled with depression, drug addiction, a psychotic brother-in-law, as well as trying to maintain a relationship with my persistently evangelical mother (she is trying to convert S. Koreans as I write this).

My sister, now 41, continues to cling to fundamentalism, and to the best of my knowledge, has never strayed. Her situation is a continual source of pain for me, and if you're willing to keep reading, I'll explain.

She attended a strict fundamentalist college in upstate Indiana, where she met her husband, who "earned" a Master's degree in Marriage Counseling in 1983. They had 3 children together and currently live in California where they pretend to live the wholesome life. Reality, however, tells a different story. (From here on I will refer to her husband as The Counselor).

The Counselor, who no longer counsels because he lost his license (he's a patio salesman now), is a sex addict and a compulsive money spender. In 1996, he was caught masturbating in public and was bailed out of jail by my sister. Fortunately for him, the woman he exposed himself to did not press charges. Keep in mind that this family regularly attends a fundamentalist church where The Counselor teaches a Sunday school class. Let me interject here that I know all of this information because The Counselor decided to tell me (real smart right - telling your brother-in-law that you're cheating on his sister)

This is just the tip of the iceburg. The Counselor also told me that he regularly had strippers come to his "Christian" Counseling Agency to perform for him. He has had numerous affairs (which is odd because he is not very attractive), a few of which he has even admitted to my sister (who, in the pattern of my mother, lives in deep denial of the situation). I must say that The Counselor, upon initial meeting, is a very personable individual; that is why his abilities of deception are so acute. In fact, if I was not aware of all of his sexual and financial problems, I would probably still be friendly toward him.

The Counselor has twice filed for bankruptcy, cannot afford health insurance for his children, and has no retirement/college savings for his wife and children. Yet, the Counselor lives in a large house in S. California, where he owns 4 horses, maintains extravagant landscaping, and drives a gas guzzling Surburban. In addition, The Counselor enjoys taking showers with his children (I shudder to think).

My sister, in her infinite wisdom, has been "home-schooling" (I use the word schooling very loosely) her children since birth, because she is afraid that the secular public schools will imbue horrific worldly values upon her children. To say 'irony' would be a gross understatement. One of my sister's favorite sayings is "What Would Jesus Do?". Yes indeed, what would ole JC do?

Indeed, the "Christians" in my family have not been the best witnesses for the faith. Obviously, this has not helped their cause in their desire for my return to the faith. In addition, I do not reject Christianity because of their misgivings. I have a good friend who happens to be a Christian, not of the fundamentalist breed, who is currently working on his Doctorate in Theology at Cambridge. We engage in intelligible debates and I quite enjoy our relationship. I reject Christianity on philosophical and historical grounds, but I am willing to hear arguments and discussions from all angles, and from a variety of religions, if they are intelligible and thought provoking. I do not believe Christianity is wholly bad. I respect aspects of the Amish ideals (I grew up near a large Amish community), especially their cooking! At least they don't knock down your door asking you if you would like to have a 'personal' relationship with Jesus. What is that anyway, a personal relationship? Shouldn't it be a public relationship? Wasn't the early church based on community?

I digress. Anyhow, thanks for reading my story in a nutshell. I plan to write my life story in book form very soon (there is so much to tell). Please feel free to email me if you have any comments or would like to share your experience with me.

Peace to all,

Sex: M
Country: Germany (currently)
Became a Christian: 7
Ceased being a Christian: 18
Labels before: IFCA (Independent Fundamental Churchs of America) & Baptist)
Labels now: Atheist
Why I joined: My Momma said so
Why I left: Christianity is nonsensical
Email Address: socalsurfstrat at yahoo dot com

When I was honest, truly honest, it was clearly a lie

sent in by Willa

Why I "de-converted"

There are probably numerous reasons, that taken all together turned me away from Christianity and pretty-well all other religions. Without dwelling too much on the people of the Christian religions themselves (though they certainly are a good enough reason to leave as there is something about religion that brings out the most mean-spirited things in people), the beliefs of the religion itself eventually made me question the whole structure. The following is a summary of probably the most salient points that eventually turned me away and started me looking for the truth:

1. The idea of "eternal punishment." If an extremely bad person (eg Hitler, Stalin or Genghis Khan) were to be punished and therefore doomed to suffer a million years of excruciating pain for each second of each person whom they caused the death of, this would never even come close to eternity. Would God really punish someone "forever?" I can't imagine a crime or sin that a human could commit that would really warrant a literal eternity of excruciating, conscious torment and pain. A God that would punish literally "forever"is a barbarian, a monster and not worthy of belief or worship.

2. The idea of "hell" and excruciating, conscious torment for everything from insignificant sins to major and viscous crimes. Are we really going to be put in hell and be made experience excruciating, conscious torment for lying, cheating, coveting our neighbour's goods, being unfaithful, stealing and murder? Is the punishment really the same for lying as it is for coveting your neighbour's husband and killing her to get him? If so, then this God is insane!

3. The idea of heaven. Why do we have to go through this life and not go straight to heaven? This makes no sense. Why put something like "life" as a stumbling block in the way. Why not make us perfect and incapable of sin and then put us directly in heaven? This is just dumb!

4. The idea of faith. Why bother with faith when all God has to do is show up regularly (every week or month or year even) and say "Hi, I'm God." Why bother with the Bible when he could just show up and say "Here are my rules. If you don't follow them, wow, you are really in trouble!" The idea of "faith" makes no sense at all. Just show up and there wouldn't be any need for faith.

5. The torments of living. The Bible says that even if you think something sinful, it is as bad as actually doing it. I don't about anyone else (but I expect it is the same for them too) but I can�t fully control my thoughts. I have coveted my neighbour's husband, I have cheated and I have done bad things in my mind like being glad someone was dead. According to the Bible I'm doomed! This is even more insane. If this is true then I suspect that heaven is going to be pretty well near empty because if everyone who ever had a bad thought is going to hell and not heaven then there will probably be about a handful of people in heaven.

6. The idea the Jesus had to die for us so that we would be forgiven. Really? How barbaric. A living, thinking being had to die so that we would be forgiven? Is God insane? How about just "forgiving us"? No bloodshed, no violence. Why the theatre?

7. The personal issue. Will I really go to hell because of a genetic condition? Was there something I could have done before I was born to change it? I have an intersex condition. Am I really to be damned to hell fire because my chromosomes were mixed up? What type of maniac God would make a person such as I and then punish her for being the way she was made?

I suppose in the end, what was for me the final nail in the coffin of Christianity was the concept of having to be MORE moral than God himself. As someone wrote and I quote here: "Why are we commanded to do things that God does not do? We are told to love our enemies; God sends His to Hell. We are commanded to forgive others even though they do not ask forgiveness; God extends forgiveness to us only if we come before Him and ask Him. We are told not to murder, yet God does plenty of butchering and murdering in the Bible � even of innocents and those who have committed no sin. Does God require our morality to exceed His own?"

Having read the above quote really made me think that if human morality must exceed God's morality, then we are truly doomed because, according to Biblical belief, we are imperfect and corrupted by original sin. This means most of us, if not all, are incapable of even coming close to God's desires.

This realization was the end, the end of my belief. I had to finally admit that it could not be true.

These are my reasons for dumping the Christian belief and any other religious belief.

In summary, all things considered I am not sure that God does not exist. Indeed, I think I would like it that God did exist and that there was an afterlife � apart from reasons like "not ceasing to exist", I think I'd like to ask "What were you thinking? What was the point of all this? I think I'd simply like to know.

Now, to end all this typing, my name is Willa Cartwright. I am 43 years old and I am the holder of a diploma of Psychology, a degree in Mathematics and a degree in Computer Science. I am also 2 and a bit years into a theology doctorate which I have just recently officially quit. (Yes, I read the feedback from the girl with the MBA on the "letter to the Christians" - was quite a chuckle.)

The point is that I do NOT, I repeat "do NOT", need some 20 year old "born again" telling me "like it is!"

The truth is that I have been an evangelical Catholic since before evangelical was "trendy." That is, since I was born in 1960.

Now my last point. Like I said, the last person I want to hear from is a 20 year old "born again." At the same time, I do not want to hear from some Priest, Pastor or other "authority on Christian scripture" either.

The simple and honest fact is the absence or presence of honesty. Try real honesty and I assure you, if you do, you will reject all religions.

Best Regards

Ms. Willa Cartwright
(P.S. Webmaster - keep up the good work!!!)

2nd of October 2004.

Name: Willa
Sex: Female
City: H?ngg
State: Z?rich
Country: Switzerland
Became a Christian: 0 years old. Was born into it.
Ceased being a Christian: 43 years old then I had "enough!"
Labels before: Catholic, Evangelical.
Labels now: Agnostic, bordering on Atheism
Why I joined: I was born into it.
Why I left: I had to be honest - it is a lie. The "truth" contradicts scripture.


sent in by Brandon

Ahh where to begin? As a child I was raised in a bible-thumping Baptist church until I was roughly 6 or 7. I am not sure as to the time my family stopped going. The church played a huge part in my family’s life, particularly in my mother’s. Rock music was evil, gay people were “ate up with the devil”…I’m pretty sure everyone has heard the rants of the church. Of course I was susceptible to believing these lies too. Iwas a naive child. Jesus loved me, or so I thought. I loved my parents and really wanted to please them. They were the moral authority in my life. I am not saying they were tyrants or anything. They were very loving and set me on a pretty straight course for life, albeit with some pretty disturbing Christian-opinions.

Anyway, my mother joined a local church and became pretty involved. She taught Sunday school and was involved in a lot of the church planning. She left because of the corruption she had witnessed within the church. After that our family pretty much stopped going to church. The word of God was still prominent within our household. The old ideas still stood regardless of the church not being part of the picture. The good old Ten Commandments plaque was a constant reminder. All of the relics of the “bible belt” adorned the walls. Having Baptist aunts and uncles also helps. I truly embraced this. Then again I embraced fairy tales and Disney movies too. What kid doesn’t like to believe in fantastical things and ideas?

I honestly believed that if I didn’t believe I was going to burn in hell. It is so horrifying to hear and to believe that at such a young age. Some nights I could not sleep because I thought a demon was going to get me. Anything I thought I did that would displease god worried me and I would obsess myself with it. I was also overweight and tormented by the kids at school. My first question of the existence of god (notice I am not capitalizing it) occurred somewhere along that time. I was reassured that he existed and that god doesn’t put anything more on your shoulders than you can handle. What a steaming load of bullshit. It sounded good at the time though. I hit the rebellious years in high school and had some atheist friends. I liked them as friends but worried about their souls. I also started listening to heavy metal music, another one of the “devil’s tools.” Once again I questioned god’s existence, and actually fell from the fold. I thought that my friends were good people, and wondered why they would be punished because they didn’t adhere to the laws of god? I finished school conflicted and angry yet I still believed in god.

I started college and began going to an Evangelical Church. The church had night services and primarily college students attended. The church had a very positive atmosphere. There was singing, sermons, and prayer at the end. I really thought god was reaching out to me and cried the second night I attended. I was severely depressed and wanted harmony in my life. However this joy faded quickly. I was still depressed. The depression extended to all aspects of my life. I wondered if god was so great why was I in so much emotional pain? If Jesus is in my heart why do I feel like killing myself? I left the church again. I still believed in god despite every contradicting idea in my brain.

Later on in college I began taking some classes in philosophy. Many times we studied theological ideas and arguments concerning the existence of god. Each side had good arguments. The arguments against the existence of god were compelling. This was the spark that led to my present beliefs. At the time I dismissed them as “merely arguments” and still believed in god because I didn’t want the consequences of not believing in case god did exist. On the other hand I really started to have more of an open mind. I was an intelligent person and thought that intelligent people should be open to both sides of argument, rather than sticking with one particular belief. If one does not, they are blinded and gullible. This was me before I started thinking for myself.

The final nail in the proverbial coffin was a few months ago when my father passed away. At his funeral, rather than remembering my father for the good things he did, the pastor instead deciding to pursue an open chance for some recruiting. He said that we were truly “preparing for our own funeral” rather than attending my father’s. He said that “if you do not accept Christ and walk in his blood then you are going to go to hell.” I couldn’t believe my own ears. How dare this man say this at my father’s funeral? I was mourning the loss of my father and this man had the nerve to preach about his fatalistic views? I came to realize that the bible actually supports this viewpoint (???!!) and began studying all of the contradictions of the bible. This book that I revered as the icon of morality was nothing more than a collection of stories promoting bigotry, misogyny, and death. I also came to realize that even though I don’t know how the universe started, that doesn’t mean some sky daddy created it. I was actually angry at myself for believing such nonsense. I found this website and was comforted to find that so many other people have had similar experiences and beliefs. I cease to be a Christian and am proud to be an atheist. Atheism was the key that freed my mind from its prison.

Sex: Male
State: Indiana
Country: USA
Became a Christian: 1
Ceased being a Christian: 21
Labels before: Baptist, Evangelical
Labels now: Atheist
Why I joined: Parents, fear
Why I left: Hypocrisy and reason
Email Address: bracox at highstream dot net

Thank you, Davinci Code, A Brief History of Nearly Everything (Bill Bryson), and The Origin of Satan (Elaine Pagels)

sent in by Ellen

My first memory of Christianity would be the day I became "saved" at the age of 3. Sunday School was fun, but I was a bit confused. I came home from church singing, "Jesus Loves Me," only I replaced the word "Jesus" with "The Devil." That brought me quite a disgusted glare from my father. It also motivated him to sit down and have the talk with me, the talk that told me I would spend eternity in a fiery place called "Hell" if I did not ask Jesus to come into my heart and to forgive my sins.

The following 15 years of my life involved many nights of intense fear, worrying that my salvation prayer did not take. I didn't feel like I had anyone in my heart or that God spoke to me, like he seemed to so often with other Christians. I became an insomniac at the age of 3 and have struggled with insomnia and nightmares ever since. I lay awake at night crying and doubling over in stomach pain caused by anxiety (I believe I had an ulcer). For years, I wondered most nights whether or not I was truly a Christian and going to heaven, rather than hell. It didn't help when my Fundamentalist Baptist pastor said things like, "If you have never witnessed to another person and brought them to salvation, you are most likely not a true Christian, or, "If you didn't notice a complete change in your life after you became saved, you need to search your heart and see if you are indeed saved."

The intense fear I experienced as a result of being born into an evangelical Christian family did not stop at the idea of burning in Hell for eternity. My family took the Bible verse, "Spare the rod, spoil the child" to quite an extreme. I spent many sleepless nights worrying about what I might have done wrong recently that warranted a belt-whipping. Also, I often dealt with the worry that the devil was going to get me. For example, according to my father, my misdeed of listening to 80’s pop rock music was bad enough to open the door to my soul for Satan. God could not protect me from Satan if I opened this door. Speaking of Satan, I don't know if I will ever fully recover from seeing my father (who fancied himself a preacher) perform an exorcism on my 16 year-old babysitter. Interestingly, she took her own life one week after the exorcism. To this day, I have nightmares of demons and worry that maybe it is really true and maybe there are demons that can get you. I have never seen the Exorcist and never will!

My liberation from Christianity was actually a gradual thing that started in my childhood. Even as a child, I recognized the discrepancies and hypocrisies in the bible and wondered whether there really was a God. Sadly, my worst nights of fear were after I let my mind entertain this idea. Surely God would punish me for doubting his existence or the existence of his son. I made a small breakthrough not too long after I started college. I decided that I was so sick and tired of worrying about whether or not I was "saved" and whether or not I was going to hell that I finally said, "I DON'T CARE ANYMORE." Even if I was going to hell, I was not going to waste my time worrying anymore. What could I do about it anyway? If the salvation prayer didn't stick any of the first 20 times, how was it going to magically work now?

Then, at 25, I met my first Atheist (who later became my boyfriend and then husband). He was the only person I'd ever met who was not afraid to say that he didn't believe in God. Hearing his opinion of the ideas and behavior of "crazy Christians" made me realize just how crazy and bizarre it was. We loved to talk back then, as we do now, about science and the origin of the Universe. I have an intense hunger now for the truth, which I believe lies in science. It is so sad to me that so many people go through life blindly, never experiencing the awe of the universe or the wonderment of evolution, for the lack of being able to believe anything that is not in the Bible.

I cannot describe in words the feeling of freedom I have now. Like so many others who've given their testimonies here, I am the only one in my family now who is not a Christian. While they're praying for my soul and looking at me in judgment, I'm hoping that one day, they'll get to experience what I have - opening of the mind and eyes and realizing what a magnificent universe this is.

I'd like to end with a sincere thank you to all the people who have shared their testimonies on this website. I just found this website yesterday, and I'm comforted and thrilled to find people I can identify with so well. I'm excited to see that there's so many "thinking" people out there who have decided to seek the genuine truth. I must admit, I still have my days (few and far between) when I think that maybe I am wrong, maybe God is going to get me for doubting him. If anyone out there still struggles and knows of a book or a source of information for me to read (I love to read books that make it obvious that the bible is fallible and that man created Christianity, i.e., The Origin of Satan), please let me know. I would greatly appreciate it.

Thank you for reading my story!

Became a Christian: 4
Ceased being a Christian: 20 - 25
Labels before: Baptist
Labels now: Atheist, & FREE
Why I joined: I was scared into it by my father
Why I left: I had doubts about Christianity for years and finally gained the courage
Email Address: ellenteachout at earthlink dot net

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