sent in by Ex-COG
I've been reading this website for quite some time now, and think it's great! Along with other ex-christian and ex-fundamentalist sites, the deconversion stories here show how there are people turning from christianity, despite the evangelists assertions that they are winning the world for Christ! This will be the third site that I add my story to, so it's possible that some of you have read it before.
I grew up in a fundamentalist group called the Church of God. Both of my parents had grown up in it, although my Dad did not attend anymore when I was a child. We only went off and on, mainly because my Mother didn't always drive. (Driving was one of many things she was "nervous" about. She had an abusive childhood, which may have set her up for fundy religion). This group was very strict; women couldn't wear pants, men couldn't have long hair, no one could wear jewelery, rock 'n' roll was sinful, yadda yadda yadda. The congregation was small, only about 50-70 each Sunday, and I was related to at least a third of them. Sermons were at least an hour in length; anything less was a "sermonette" proper for other "false" churches but not us. They seemed to attack other Christian groups more than non-christians as they thought they had the "truth".
I was interested in things about God, but many of their teachings were so poisonous. For example, they believed that it was possible to lose your salvation, and of course, any sin separated you from God. Because of this, I remember thinking that I had to pray for forgiveness every night before bed or I would go to hell if I died in the night. They also were big on the end times, and were often talking about the end of the world, the Whore of Babylon (Roman Catholicism) the False Prophets (Protestantism) and of course Jesus coming again and sinners being thrown into the lake of fire. My mother would say "This world isn't going to make it to 1980". Well, I figured out that I would be 18 that year, and I would pray that if it was true, that God would let me die before then so that I would not be stung by the scorpions that Revalations said would appear. I could go on and on, but...I'll write my book later.
We stopped going to that church when I was a young teen because my Mother let her driver's license lapse. I was a voracious reader, and read everything from psychology to history to horror fiction. I think that reading was my saving grace, as it broadened my mind and revealed other viewpoints other than the fundy view.
After high school, I entered a local college so I could save money by living at home. I didn't finish college, because I had no set goals for what I was aiming for. I did not know I needed plans, it always seemed that things worked out for me. I guess I let other people make decisions for me even if I didn't like the choices presented. We were not raised to be independent, however asking for help was frowned upon. You were just supposed to go out there and "do it", I guess. I often felt as if I had to learn everything by osmosis. This was different from other fundamentalist families who tried to control every little thing. I suppose my parents had felt that taking us to church was enough. Plus, we were (obviously) very disfunctional and I lacked life skills for making it on my own.
When I dropped out of school, I ended up just living at home and not knowing what to do. Even though I had made good grades in high school, I didn't know anything about finding a job or dealing with people or stress. I slumped into depression. Yet all through this I always had the thought that there was something more. This is what brought me out of the dumps, and into religion as an adult.
I continued my heavy reading schedule, which included reading topics of religion. I explored everything, but maybe because of my fundy beginnings, I was unable to connect with other religions or liberal Christianity. I read many Christian books, and finally gave in and asked "Jesus into my heart". I was just tired of thinking, and wanted to stop searching for answers.
So at the age of 25, I began attending church again. It was also a Church of God, but not as fundy as the one of my childhood and without the superstrict rules. (They had common roots, but my original church thoght the others were "backsliders"). You would call them conservative and evangelical in the holiness tradition. Again there were relatives who were members. I realize now that I did the same thing that some women do when they get the courage to leave an alcoholic or abusive husband; they unknowingly find another guy who turns out to be the same way. I went to every service and bible study, all special meetings and events, and eventually taught Sunday School for years. Becoming a Christian did give me confidence enough that I could finally go out and get a full time job. Of course I could do "all things through Him who strengthens me". Maybe it was really an inner strength I always had but never knew how to tap into.
During this time, I considered myself evangelical, although not as pushy about it as others. I think all my reading helped in this respect. I would share my faith, but only if others showed interest in it first. I was actually embarassed by some of the things christians would say and do. This, and the increasingly more conservative way that my church was leaning lead me to begin quietly questioning. This was in the late 90's, but I wasn't ready to leave Christianity yet. It was more like I was hoping to find the "real" Christianity. I was always more of an internal person than an extrovert, so teachings on the interior life fit me better than the outward image control that so much of the church seems to favor.
Finally, I made plans to slowly disengage. Early in 2001, I quit teaching Sunday school and helping out with the Youth group. Then my mother became critically ill and passed away. There were some things that my pastor and fundy family members did that really turned me off during this period ( including finding out that my fundy sister (from my original church) had asked my mother on her death bed if there was anything she needed to confess to get right with God--can you imagine someone under the influence of pain killers and facing death being hit with that? Of course in my sister's eyes, my mom was a "backslider" because mom had gone to church with me). I started skipping some Sundays to visit other churches. No one suspected anything; they thought I was working overtime. I was afraid to say anything yet in case they tried to talk me out of it.
Finally, at the end of the year I made an appointment with the pastor and his wife (who had been a good friend of mine) and told them I was leaving. I said I wanted a more modern church. His reply? "Don't go to the Unitarian church". I haven't looked back since.
I visited different churches over the following year. I found a few that I would have liked if I had left a few years earlier, but I was really becoming uncomfortable with the whole christian world. I tried a New Thought church because I had read some books with their teachings and liked some of their ideas. I do think that they are a healthier belief system that what I had before, but there were things I learned about this particular congregation that I decided I didn't want to get involved with (such as certain families running everything--this was also a problem at my previous church).
I have finally ended up at the Unitarian Church (thanks, former pastor, for the idea). I need the organization of a group for socialization (I'm not a self starter), plus this seems like a safe place to explore my beliefs, which at the moment I would describe as "eclectic spirituality with a taoist flavor". My family still does not know I'm with the Unitarians, I tell them I'm still visiting churches. But I know I soon will have to let it be known that I, too, am a backslider--and I don't really care!
Became a Christian: 25
Ceased being a Christian: 39
Labels before: Church of God, Church of God (Anderson, IN)
Labels now: Unitarian, eclectic spirituality with a taoist flavor
Why I joined: Desperate, no direction in life, looking for someone to guide me
Why I left: Failure of Church and christians to adjust to today's world, no evidence that christians live any better than others, disgust at rise of religious right, growing confidence in myself to make decisions
Email Address: shadowself711 at yahoo dot com
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)