sent in by EternalDarkness
The original version is in the "Testimonies of Former Christians" section of the ExC boards. I've since expanded upon the story to include more information. It was originally supposed to be a little jot in reply to one of the other posts here, but it turned into an essay.
My story basically goes like this:
Like most of you ExC'ers here, I grew up in a Christian home. However, I always felt... "disconnected"... from the religion. I feel somewhat unique, however, because I was exposed to different denominations. My mother was a Catholic who converted to Methodism to marry her second husband (when I was in kindergarten). My aunt Cynthia is a Greek Orthodox. The rest of my family is largely Roman Catholic Italians.
My mother used to bring me to Sunday Mass when she was a Catholic. I loved the pomp and circumstance, but it meant nothing personal to me. Rather like dangling a fascinating new toy in front of a small child's eyes. There was nothing personal or deep behind it, however.
When my mother converted to Methodism, she didn't take me to the Methodist church until I was about 7 years old. Again, while I enjoyed the Sunday School arts-and-crafts sessions and sing-a-longs, it was of no import to me.
When I sat in the church -- often for hours at a time -- I would easily become bored and restless. I would even fall asleep during the pastor's sermons. It wasn't until I was of confirmation age (13 years old) that religion began to have any meaning for me. At that point, I became curious of other possibilities and faith systems. I started studying ancient Greco-Roman and Egyptian mythology. I also wondered about Judaism.
Ironically, at that time, my stepfather had became one of the laity in our church. He was a cruel, abusive man and I was afraid of him. I began drawing mental conclusions about the similarities between him and the God I was supposed to love. "If he loves me, then why does he continue to hurt me? Why should I be punished for a mistake? If God loves me, why won't he protect me instead of letting this happen to me?"
Eventually, my parents -- apparently concerned that I was delving into alternate religions to satiate my need for understanding -- contacted the pastor of our church. The pastor came over and talked to me about becoming a confirmed Christian. When I raised questions about how Christianity compares to Judaism and other religions, the pastor was shocked. She basically insisted to me that Christianity was the be-all and end-all of religions.
I was a little hacked off by this lack of enlightenment, but I went ahead and got confirmed as a Methodist. I still remember that horrible, sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach as I read my confirmation vows at the pulpit the week after that. I felt like I was being sentenced to death.
I quietly continued my research into alternate belief systems, however, and I even briefly delved into Wicca in private while projecting the false image of the ideal Christian. I eventually stopped attending church regularly to pursue my goal in finding my faith full-time. I spent much of my late teens drifting from agnostic to sort-of Christian.
Meanwhile, my stepfather's abuse continued. When all else failed, I prayed to the Lord regularly to save me from the abuse, to protect me from my stepfather. Jehovah never showed up, and the mental and sexual abuse at my stepfather's hands continued. I began to think that perhaps it was my fault, for not being a good enough Christian.
I despaired, eventually believing that I might be better off dead. I attempted suicide -- twice. The first time was in June 2000 and the second time was in early 2001. In November of 2001, I went into counselling, and confronted my fears of my stepfather and, in turn, my fear of the invisible sky-daddy who would condemn me to hell for not being a perfect Christian. I had been manipulated into fear enough at the hands of my stepfather, a supposedly "ideal" Christian, and I didn't need any more condemnation at the hands of a manipulative God or His followers.
My beliefs began to change. I began to put my faith in a more tender and compassionate entity that could substitute for the loving father figure I never had. I rejected the warring Jehovah in favour of this kinder, gentler, unisex Deity who would accept me for who I am -- all of who I am, and not just bits and pieces of what anyone thought I *should* be. So, knowing my believes didn't jibe with the image of the Christian God, I walked away from the church and didn't look back.
It wasn't until late '03 that I discovered the Gnostic Gospels. And it made more sense to me than Christianity ever did, so I -- at this point in my life -- consider myself a freethinking neo-Gnostic. I don't think Jesus was the saviour of mankind. He was just a man, if indeed he existed at all. And that's what gets me into hot water with my family.
A few weeks ago, I had an occurance that made me grateful I'm not a blind worshipper of the sadistic Yahweh. I was told by my aunt Cynthia (the Greek Orthodox aunt, who I happen to admire deeply) that "you better believe in Jesus, or you'll end up in Hell". All because my mom innocently blurted out over the dinner table that she noticed and was sorry that I cringed when she (my mom) said "in Jesus' name we pray" while saying grace.
I realize that when I chose my path, I would be censured for it. But I never expected it from my aunt. Ouch. I just hope that she will try to be more understanding when next we talk.
One good thing about the whole thing is, though: Mom's trying to be understanding about it, because she knows I'm searching for answers, just as she did at one point in her life. She's even defended me. I think she sees being supportive of my choices as part and parcel of both being a good Christian and a good mom. She even once told me that "you are at this moment, exactly where you need to be".
But I still get calls and notes from people at my old church asking me when I'll be coming back. The last time I showed up there was almost 2 years ago, because my mom asked me and my then-boyfriend to go at Easter '03. I haven't been back since. What makes them think I'll be back anytime soon?
City: Pt. Pleasant
Became a Christian: I was baptized at birth, and confirmed at 13 or 14 years old.
Ceased being a Christian: 20
Labels before: Methodist
Labels now: Freethinking Neo-Gnostic
Why I joined: I was more or less born into it.
Why I left: Inconsistency in Biblical text, hypocrisy of Xtians, etc.
Email Address: hellishalchemy at msn 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)