sent in by Sharon Watts
Growing up in a Christian home can be a lonely spirit crushing experience.
As innocent young children we accepted what we were told by our parents and adults because we hadnt yet developed reasoning ability or a deeper understanding of how the world works.
My parents were strict Baptists. Had switched from being Mennonites merely because there was no Mennonite church in the area we had moved to.
Now. I dont blame my parents, they did their best, loved us, gave us everything they could, taught us integrity, never physically hurt us and provided for all our needs. Except one.
As they believed it was their duty to do everything possible to keep us out of hell, we were trained "in the way that we should go'
Tough enough were the guidelines that almost everything that was fun was a Sin; playing cards, dancing..even television, except that once the new pastor happened to have a television in his home, maybe God decided TV wasnt evil after all. This was long before television evangelism.
There was also the heartily enforced message that we were but a worthless speck in God's eye, had somehow displeased him by being born. Since we were born sinners. That any love we got from God was because that was the way he was, not that we actually deserved any love. That we were all undeserving sinners and could gain heaven only by the grace of God.
The message that we had this one desperate chance...we might possibly, perhaps win more of his favor if we were to always be good. God of course knew what we did in every moment, if we thought bad things even God was sure to be displeased. Not to mention stealing a piece of cake from the pantry or wearing pretty things.....which would take glory away from God somehow.
If we did sin, however, we made God unhappy.
Church was 3 times a week. Almost continously we heard about the sinfulness of other religions....oooo, those Catholics!, the sinfulness of heathens, of "backsliders"...and on and on. While the pastor castigated the Communists for their "brain washing" he did exactly that to us. While he pounded on about how much easier it is for a camel to enter the gates of heaven than a rich man, the deacons of the church were the richest people we knew.
My church played a big part in foreign missions, delivering the word of God to the heathens. Not because we respected them, liked them or even loved them, but because it was God's holy commandment to spread his word.
The pastor spoke often of God's love and how infinitely superior it was to human love. Also followed closely by something along the lines of "he that believeth not is dammed"
There was also the message that we must'nt enjoy ourselves too much, for this too would mean we were not loving God. What a sober unhappy guy he must be, I thought even then.
In humility I sat out of dance class in school because my Mom had asked the teacher not to teach me such a sinful thing.
My Dad though must have made God happy cuz when I was 6 he took him "home" to be with Jesus and the angels. That's what Mom told me anyway.
After what I might describe as an impassioned, or perhaps forceful alter call at a youth meeting I accepted Jesus into my heart in the quiet of my own room. Just me and JC were there and I offered as much reverence as my 10 yr old heart was capable of. I was also buying into the concept offered me by the church that once I accepted Jesus into my heart I was guaranteed safety from hell, even if I should change my mind later--I was now safe. I was now born again.
My Dad, my real Dad was gone and I was aching for love. But not one word of kindness from JC or his Dad. Not one soft touch on the shoulder, not a single whisper from the dynamic trio. I tried, my God I tried. I prayed several times a day, went to church always and read my Bible.
Like any book, I started at the beginning. Along about the time I read about God instructing his people to hamstring the horses of other tribes I felt revulsion, trying desperately to believe that my buddy God knew what he was doing. That I had no right to judge.
But of all of my relationships in my young life, it was my pets and other animals who had shown me unconditional love. Lonely and aching for love I felt rich and perfect in their accepting presence. Horses I loved above all animals.
I finished the book and before I was done, my one way relationship with JC and his dad had ceased and I thought of God as a monster. I saw how some of the members of my church were anything but God loving Christians. Saw how the pastor's daughter, who was a friend of mine was put in an impossible position of being the epitomy of a righteous God loving pastors child. The last I had heard of her was that after reform school, she had run away from home and eventually gone to jail for armed robbery.
I'm not saying this in judgement of her but because I knew that even as a young girl she was forced into a role that no child can play. If my youth was lonely and confusing, hers was even more so.
By then, I was a young teenager. Stopped going to church and as much as possible tried not to think of my certain end in hell.
At 16, aching for love and possessing minimal self confidence I accepted a marriage proposal from the first person who said he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. The details of my physical and emotional abuse, self hatred and guilt I need not share with you. I accept that it was I who made the choice.
Eventually I began to seek strength and love, looking as I often do in books. I have always been a voracious reader, and found a great interest and strength in Deepak Chopra, Joel Goldsmith, Budhism, Hinduism, spiritualism. And finally after I had turned 30 I found the one person who could love me in the way I needed to be loved.
That person was me.
Going against what I was taught as a child in church that self love was among the greatest of sins I began to learn how wonderful, magical, divine and special I was as is every one of us. Somewhere along the way clear logic provided that an omnipotent unconditionally loving God is not consistent with an angry, vengeful, jealous God, whose love is conditional on whether or not you love him. It is an impossibility.
If your story sounds something like mine, I must tell you, that until we know how to love ourselves and accept ourselves just as we are, we cannot know how to love others. My love and compassion for you is real. It doesnt matter what you have done, what you believe or even how you feel about me. Be at peace, seek what you need, love or hate me as you wish.
There are many Christians who think we left Christianity because we got "offended" I left Christianity behind for good because I understand it to be a monstrous lie. If believing in God is your truth, you are welcome to it. I would not wish to change you. But if you seek a more wholesome relationship....know this. It is already inside of you. Freedom is there for those who take it. Love, real love is free.
Am I saved? Hell yes! Saved by the understanding that I am free to believe what serves my truth best. I have a deeply spiritual life. A life of joy, peace, magic, deep compassion and opportunities which present themselves to me as problems.
As for the Big Guy...if he were real....he can go to Hell!
Became a Christian: born into it
Ceased being a Christian: early teens
Labels before: Baptist
Labels now: Divine consciousness hidden behind the human veil of forgetfullness
Why I joined: Well, Hell, it seemed like a good idea at the time.
Why I left: I realized there was nothing to fear.
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)