sent in by Chuck S.
My name is Chuck S. and at the age of 23 I became a Christian out of a sense of hopelessness in life and a fear of death. Though I was young I had bouts of depression mainly because of drug and alcohol use that left me in morbid states of mind and I turned to Jesus as a means to eternal life and to reach peace of mind in this life.
I started out with a small Baptist group in Baltimore Maryland where I graduated from college and from there joined another Baptist group in northern Virginia near Washington D.C. when I moved down to the D.C. area for a job as a stock broker.
As any Christian, my faith in the begining was enthusiastic and exciting. I was introduced to some very nice people and I acquired some hope and a reason to live. However as the years went by I found my state of mind to become even far worse that it was before I became a Christian even though I had stopped drugs and alcohol. When I read the Bible I believed it to be literally true and I found myself judging all of my thoughts and actions according to what Jesus taught and instead of finding hope and peace, I found myself to be self hating and overwhelmed with guilt even over things that were very trivial. I also found myself to be very hateful and judgmental towards others since they could also never be good enough. My frustration level became almost intolerable since I could never "be perfect as your Father in Heaven is perfect" and I continually put myself down mentally. As a result of my frustration towards myself my temperament became more and more surly and disagreeable.
Any small action would make me feel unworthy. Looking at a pretty girl, becoming momentarily irritated at the heavy Washington D.C. traffic; letting out a a four letter word after stubbing my toe. Every little thing made me feel unworthy of Christ, shook my faith and caused me to hate myself just that much more.
As the years went on, I noticed that the same things were happening to many if not most other Christians; the self loathing, the harsh judgmentalism towards others; the fear of any contact whatsoever between the sexes. The unbelieveable agonies we suffer on this planet with accident, disease, murder and war also made me question God and His so called love for mankind. I began to see God as a monster who almost seemed to love maiming people and killing everything. The Old Testament is filled with horrible mass killings by this "loving God". God increasingly seemed more like the devil to me than Satan.
My sense of hopelessness reached unbearable limits since I realized that I am woefully imperfect as the Bible taught me, I expected God to chastise me and cause bad things to happen to me all of the time. Since it was almost impossible to please God with perfect thinking and behavior, I expected the worst all of the time and my hopelessness at times nearly got the the point of total despair.
I believe that the terrible hypocrisy, extreme judgmentalism and outright hatred you find to be so prevalent in the church is because of the religion itself and what it does to you. It is not necessarly due to the inherent nature of the people themselves, but much of the awful nature of the churchgoers is due to the insane expectations everyone has for one another and it leads to hatred and frustration.
Finally last year I could not take it anymore and I made a break with the church I had been attending. Though I miss some of the nicer people there I am finally much more at peace with myself because I realize that I am just an ordinary man and subject to making mistakes which is OK. Now I can forgive myself and not have to live up to unreasonable expectations. I am free from the burden of perfection and the impossibility of pleasing fellow Christians and a God who cannot be pleased. I wish I had done this many many years ago!
Joined at 23
Left at 49
Was a Baptist, Bible, Episcopalian
Now an Agnostic, rationalist
Converted out of fear of death and wanting peace of mind.
De-converted out of overwhelming guilt at not being perfect; hating myself and others.
email schnn1 at aol dot com