sent in by CJ
My first experiances of religion came from my childhood going to Church. When I was young, going to Church was something you just did, I used to think probably it was just a place to go on Sundays and listen to stories and sing songs; A place where you dressed up and went, I didn't understand about God, Jesus or Christianity until I was older.
I went to Sunday school and read the Presbyterian Chetichism and the King James Bible, I done all the colouring in stuff, bible stories and picture books, I enjoyed it as a kid and thought little of it.
When I was 7 or 8 I was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy, which is a muscle wasting desease that causes disability, I remember the day I had to go and get the test done, because of the pain, they had to remove muscle tissue which wasn't pleasant. I don't remember a great deal of the affects of MD in the early days, but gradually I needed the use of a Wheelchair, which I am now totally dependant on.
Being disabled wasn't something that I thought much of when I was around 10 or 12, it was just a fact of my life. I still went to church and I joined a boys group in my Church, which I enjoyed, it was a uniformed Presbyterian version of Sunday School and the Scouts.
The people in my Church where kind and good people, they did do the old "Does he take sugar" thing, they sort of baby-talked me in a way, not that they meant it or thought of doing it to embarrase me. I had doubts about God when I was around 15 or 16, the usual "If God's good why am I disabled etc.etc", but I had the idea that the good people I knew who where Christians obviously must be good because of God, and everything happens for a reason, right?
As I began to question God and his purpose for me, I began to look more at why if God is kind, why then would he allow disability, disease and conflict. I read the bible, and searched for certain things to help me believe. I felt bad for questioning God, as I felt he was testing me, and I had failed. For the first time in my life I heard about revelations and the end of the world, and fear of Hell kept me from turning my back on God I began to pray for enlightenment, I asked God to show me a personal sign of his existance just so I could have proof beyond doubt.
All the people at Church, including my minister, I thought had unshakable faith; they just knew and never questioned that made me feel weak and unworthy. I was worried about my soul and sinful behaviour, I found it difficult to think straight and for me it was easier to stop going to church, mostly because of my feelings of frustration towards God. I had arguments with my parents at first, but they accepted it, it was partly because they where what in Northern Ireland are called "Cultural Protestants", that they allowed me the choice ie they weren't fundamentalists.
After praying alot, I found no answers to questions, I couldn't ask anyone else my doubts especially my minister or other people at my church, who seemed to have no trouble believing, they accepted my not going to church as they thought it was for reasons of my disabillity.
I am now 20 and haven't been to Church since I was 14/15, I respect people who have faith, although I don't like fundamentalists or evangelism. I am unsure of Gods existance and am still open to his presence, although I don't hold out on that. I have little understanding of theology or science, but I understand basic evolution, and this has given me more to ponder as to gods existance. I have given some thought to the idea of the universe as my God, and nature as the wonder of creation, not that I believe some man with a white beard created it, but that the universe and nature created itself.
I still have trouble with belief and whether or not God exists, I worry about my decision not to follow God, just in case I am wrong. I still have not lost my religion, but am still struggling with the ideas of theology and the whole hell and end-of-the-world concept, which bothers me. If anyone has any info which could help me understand more about exercising myself from these ghosts, i'd appreciate it, someone with more education could perhaps help me break with the back-of-the-book christian baggage of fear and damnation.
Country: Northern Ireland
Became a Christian: From Childhood
Ceased being a Christian: Around 15
Labels before: Presbyterian, Ulster-Protestant, Unionist
Labels now: Semi-Agnostic
Why I joined: Always went to church, tradition/culture, society
Why I left: Began questioning Gods existance
Email Address: cjp2004 at hotmail dot com