sent in by Gina
I was born and raised Catholic, albeit not in a very observant household. A belief in God/Jesus was always there, and all of my siblings and I were baptized as infants, but we never did make Communion or anything that. My earliest memories of church are of me dozing off in the pews - not that we went very often. Every once in a while, my parents were "convicted" and we had to go for a couple weeks, but it never lasted.
My mother was and is what I would consider a pious woman. Granted, she smokes cigarettes, plays the lottery and swears, but she has a heart of gold and has no enemies. In fact, people often comment "I could never dislike your mother". She's the type that is so friendly (in a sincere way), that you cannot help but love her.
Anyway, my mother had the May Procession every, well, May. A young girl in our extended family came over, all of us kids lined up, the Ava Maria was played, the older people all said the rosaries about a hundred times, then we marched up to the lawn statue of the virgin Mary and placed a crown of flowers on her head. Um, hello, pagan much?
That was my early childhood religion experience. As a discontent teen, I began to seek out faith. I studied all there was to study: Mormonism, Jehovah's Witness views, Lutheran views, Rastafari, Buddhism, New age-type stuff, and Wicca. I even dabbled in Satanism a bit - I was searching, motivated by fear in the unknown and an unhealthy fear of death (as a child, I spent many sleepless nights in tears, afraid I wasn't going to wake up the next morning).
Right around the beginning of the new year, at 21, I was gripped by a fear in the Apocalypse, and the end times of the earth. The timing was right, as I was spending a lot of time with my cousin, who was a born-again Christian (though at the time "not practicing"), and she quelled my fears with tales of Jesus from the Bible. I was content, I said the sinner's prayer, and I was born-again.
I was no longer afraid of death, and immediately forsook many of the things I had done prior - drinking, cursing, sex, etc. I stopped hanging out with my friends, carried a bible around at all times, and proudly proclaimed that I was a fundamentalist Christian. I watched televangelists, bought myself many different Bibles (study bibles included), was in constant prayer, and we did Bible Studies almost every night. I even got myself a Bible-believing boyfriend, and attended a Baptist church twice per week. It was all going well, people declared I had changed for the better.
But I started having doubts, the more I read the Bible, and sought out apologist answers on the web and in books. None of them satisfied me for long. I'd get an answer, convince myself it quelled my doubts, and let it go for a while, but the doubt always resurfaced, each time more pronounced, and harder to ignore. I had been a liberal lover of philosophy at University, and though I tried, I couldn't just shut my mind down.
I began to doubt my salvation. I prayed fervently, begging God to help me through it. But doubts filled my head. I couldn't sleep at night sometimes, the feeling was terrible, and I cried to God to help me. That's when I sought answers elsewhere - the secular web. I was horrified by what I read - atrocities of the OT committed in the name of Yahweh, things I had read but either glossed over or put out of my mind. The brainwashing that had occurred during my tenure as a born-again Christian began to melt away, and I have adopted an agnostic, intellectual approach to life.
Christianity told me Evolution was stupid - I know now that it's not so stupid after all. My cousin told me I was going to hell, and she doubt I was ever saved. I told her that Christianity was a temporary fix for some emotional problems I clearly suffered from; problems that the Bible told me were demons or Satan trying to trick me. I finally forsook Christianity and the Bible relatively recently and have finally found some peace.
My pulling away from faith is somewhat recent, but I wanted to share my story nonetheless. I still fear that I could be wrong and that I am going to hell sometimes, and it's not easy to get out of that "everybody is a dirty evil sinner (including myself)" mentality, but I'm working on it, and working on me finally, not trying to mask my problems or seek a quick fix with religion or God(s).
Became a Christian: Born and raised Catholic, born-again at 21
Ceased being a Christian: 22
Labels before: Baptist
Labels now: Agnostic
Why I joined: One word: fear.
Why I left: Research, reading, study.