sent in by Chad
I became a Christian when I was 17 years old. My cousin invited me to a revival at a local church that I attended on and off while growing up. I wanted to run from it all at first, but I was drawn by the youth group there that seemed to love me and care about me. They were very nice to me and that was such a radical change from the "friends" I had at the time. Overnight I went from being cynical and condemning of the Christian religion to fully embracing it. I remember attending youth rallies, retreats, Wednesday night services and other events where I was always on the front row. I was so very zealous. My stepdad was agnostic then (still is) and I remember praying for him and requesting prayer for him. This was my senior year in high school. My new friends and life made me happy then. Life was tense at home with my stepdad which I realize was mostly my fault in my attempts to convince him of the new truth I had found. My mom followed right behind me in becoming a Christian. Wow, how clearly I see things now. He must have felt like we were so against him. We had joined a big church in our area with 2000 in the attendance on Sunday mornings. He thought we had joined some kind of cult and had been brainwashed. I don't think this was the intention of these people. I don't think brainwashing and making people feel guilty are done on purpose...at least in my experience at this church it doesn't appear that way. I know I wasn't trying to brainwash anyone in my years of going door to door with the church or talking with newcomers to the church.
Anyway, I went to college and struggled a lot. This is the first time in my life when being a Christian was hard. Not because of the partying because I ended up at a Christian school where not a lot of partying took place. Rather, my first year was so easy being around all my new friends and having such a strong support system in place. It was fun during that first year, but in college it became hard. Eventhough I was at a Christian school, I was outside of my support system and in the real world in a sense. I had roommates that were not Christians and my faith was challenged. Plus deep down inside I wanted to go drink with them and at times I gave in and went. I always came running back to the church because of the extreme guilt I felt. I was also very scared. I was so convinced in my mind that what I had found in Christianity was the truth that it scared the hell out of me to think that I was on unfavorable terms with God.
I found another group in college in my junior year and I felt safe and happy again. I was having fun with my new friends from a singles group at a church I had joined. And these were very cool friends. We had a great time together and they were a little more liberal in their thinking about things as I've always been. We drank sometimes, but not too much...never to get drunk. We enjoyed going to secular concerts at local clubs. We had a great time and I wanted that time to go on forever. I still miss it. It made me feel like I was ok and safe from hell and "right with God" yet not some weird fanatical ultra conservative Christian. I had been starting to the feel like that and that caused war to take place inside my mind. I now felt at peace because I could be a true Christian and safe from hell and even more than that, safe from God's discipline. But I didn't feel so weird. I was an enlightened Christian.
In my senior year I started dating a girl and after a couple of months she got pregnant. We got married and started our life together. She grew up very differently than I did. Her parents actually stayed married, a new idea for me, and her dad was a Southern Baptist minister and former missionary in Venezuela. I really looked up to them a lot (and still do as they seem to be the most genuine people...never in it for money, always practicing what they preached). I've always been an approval seeker. I wanted their approval too. We were heavily involved in church, going out witnessing, singing in choir, teaching Sunday school and then eventually became missionaries. This is where my struggles began....
In 2001, we went to seminary to prepare to be missionaries. It was there that my doubts came to surface. I was in a very conservative seminary,but in a very liberal anti-Christian town. I remember feeling that I had to witness to everyone I encountered or I wasn't a committed follower worthy of becoming a missionary. I am not a pushy person and have generally been a "live and let live" type person. Now I was in a town that was very anti-Christian and I felt I had to witness to people. I longed to have stories of witnessing to people to share in my evangelism class and gaining the approval of everyone. I longed to tell my father-in-law and brother-in-law (both ministers) of how I was sharing Christ like a true missionary. I was scared to death though and I got the point of being very depressed and even dreaded going on a normal evening out with my family to a local restaurant because that would mean I'd have to strike up a conversation with a stranger while waiting in line hoping to turn things in a spiritual direction or leave a tract with the waitress and tell her God loves her. It made me sick to my stomach. I managed to make it through and actually had some very interersting conversations with people that talked openly with me about Christ. Some of these people were going through some difficult times and it felt good to listen to them and pray with them. I thought I was the hands and mouth of Jesus in this world reaching out to the lost and hurting doing his work.
Anyway, we left the states to be missionaries in Spain in 2002. I really enjoyed our year in Spain. It was brought to an end after a year because my daughter was having a very very hard time adapting which caused a lot of unhappiness for my wife and I decided at that point that I didn't care anymore if God was happy with me or not... nor did I care if my church back home which had been so proud of me were disappointed in me.... I just wanted my family to be ok again. I was the only one who enjoyed our time in Spain. I guess while I was at language school (my wife already knew Spanish having grown up in Venezuela) everyday and out meeting Spaniards, my wife was back home dealing with the trauma and stress this new life brought. I'm glad I finally realized there unhappiness!! During this year in Spain I continued to think about my seminary experiences... the pressure to be a good witness which I hated (except for the few times when it seemed to help people struggling), and my seminary classes which brought serious serious doubts about the Bible and everything I had believed for years. I was starting to become honest with myself about my doubts and questions. I was also now on the inside of the souther baptist organization. I saw much that I didn't like. Don't get me wrong, there are some very sincere people with good intentions, but there is a lot that finally made me tell our team leader on the field "I don't think I can be a Baptist anymore". It was just too legalistic and rule based for me and I just saw so many people for the first time that were fake and in the whole thing for the money, the fame, and the position. I was quickly on my path of leaving the Christian faith...which I am now near the end.
We returned from Spain. I began to question things more than ever. Why did my daugther struggle so much if we were doing God's work? Why did 9/11 happen? Why would God allow so many people to die that way. I had lived in Spain a year. They were a "christian" nation but they were very different than us. I saw a different belief system and it made me question my own. How could I tell them what I believed was right and what they believed was wrong? How can anyone know for sure? I had a lot of friends who were missionaries in other countries that were Muslim, etc. Some countries had people that had never heard of Jesus. How could these people go to hell for not believing in something that didn't even know about? There is no true without a doubt support for an age of accountability in the Bible, so what happens to aborted babies? What happens to kids who die before they even learn how to talk much less say a prayer asking Jesus to come into their heart and be their personal lord and savior. There were tons of issues with the Bible too. What about the geneaology (sp??) of Jesus? It was foretold that he would descend from David. His geneaology was traced through Joseph back to David, but if Mary was a virgin, Jesus had nothing to do with Joseph in that sense. Maybe Joseph and Mary were cousins and thus Jesus did come from David, but why would God leave something this huge and important out only to leave us in a state of doubt? I have read and heard many answers to these questions, but none that satisfy me. And its not because I don't want to be satisfied. I have hated going through such doubt over the past couple of years. I've begged God to show himself to me and put an end to my inner torture. So far it hasn't happened and the only thing I know for sure is that I have unanswered questions. Why would God create the human race knowing we'd sin against him and many would thus spend eternity burning and suffering. None of it sits well with me and nobody has been able to give me any answers to these questions.
My wife is a believer, but she knows of my struggles. She just thinks I'm going through a hard time and that I'll return to being a committed Christian soon. At least she's letting me work it out for myself and not pushing me. My mother has me on every prayer list that exists at the church. I'm sure my in-laws would be very very concerned if they knew all of this. I'm lonely now as all my friends that I've had (for the most part) are Christians. We're not involved in church like we once were, so we don't hang out with them much. I have a good friend who was a big part of me becoming a Christian that I hang out with a lot. He is actually struggling like I am, but he works so many hours that I rarely see him. It's tempting to go back to church and go through the motions just so I have friends again. Plus, I have to admit that I am very scared of being wrong and burning in hell. I'm scared God want bless my life. I still believe in God. I have had a very open mind about God/creationism vs evolution. I lean towards a creator although where he came from has me baffled, but so does believing that once there was nothing, but then given billions of years, something came out of nothing. I just don't know what to believe. I feel like I'm in hell right now. I'm glad I found this site. I know I've written a book here, but I feel better actually expressing what's been bottled up inside me for a long time. I hope to come to peace with all this soon!!!
Became a Christian: 17
Ceased being a Christian: 31 now, not quite left yet, but close!
Labels before: Baptist, Missionary
Labels now: Almost Agnostic
Why I joined: the love and acceptance I felt
Why I left: I think a lot and finally decided to face honestly the doubts and questions I have
Email Address: chadbryant5 at charter 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)