sent in by Chris
I was born and raised in rural PA, USA. My upbringing was pretty nondescript spiritually; I went to Catholic school and Catholic church every Sunday and viewed god as sort of a Santa Claus in the sky. When I was about 11 or 12, my mom was "born again" and went off the deep end. Sermons were always blasting on the radio, and she developed an obsession with the End Times, devouring every Hal Lindsey book she could get her hands on.
She was truly convinced that Jesus was coming back at any moment. She'd corner me every time some wingnut cult came out with a "calculation" that the world would end within the week, and tell me to pray and prepare. I lived most of my adolescence truly believing that it would all be over any minute, certainly long before I reached adulthood. Needless to say, this made me angry and depressed -- I had hopes and dreams for the future that I'd never realize because god was going to pluck me from my short life without ever giving me a chance.
Her pastor often visited the house for bible study and "fellowship," and somewhere around 14 I decided I couldn't beat 'em, might as well join 'em. I accepted his invitation to be "saved" and did feel better for a while.
At 18 I developed major depression in my freshman year of college that went undiagnosed; I simply came to believe I was a nut-case. I "fell away" from the lord for a while. A couple of years (and a suicide attempt) later, I pulled out of the depression enough to seek acceptance again. I found it in Inter-varsity Christian Fellowship, sort of a Campus Crusade for athletes (I ran cross-country.)
For the next few years, all was well. I had an instant circle of friends, the leaders of IVCF counseled and cared for me, I went to church and felt safe and loved.
That bubble burst about a year after I graduated from college. I got a job teaching in a Christian school and found a fundie church to attend where the acceptance I craved continued. My mom was delighted. Then, one night, I got a call from a leader of the IVCF fellowship who had been such a comfort to me. I was excited to let him know how well I was doing, but he never gave me a chance. He just launched into a scripted request for money. It was as impersonal as a cold call, and having a person I'd truly considered a spiritual guide speak to me like a walking checkbook shook me to the core. He had no sympathy for my insistence that I had little cash to spare (said teaching job paid a whopping $15K a year.)
That was when my fantasy of a loving. caring Christian family began to cave in around me.
Still shaken, I skipped church that week. And then the next. Then, the calls started coming. My phone rang off the wall for the next coupe of weeks, church members carrying on about "we missed you" and "whatever it is, lay it at the foot of the cross" and "if you are distanced from god, who moved?", yada yada, ad nauseum.
Finally seeing the cult for what it was, I cut loose. I quit my teaching job at the end of the school year, had another bout with depression that was finally diagnosed and treated properly. I married a fellow freethinker, went to nursing school, and am now gainfully employed and living comfortably. We happily support socially liberal interest groups and animal charities. We avoid fundies like the poisonous snakes they are.
There are still stressors, though. We moved to the bible belt last year (job opportunities) and are disgusted with the fundie sheep that run rampant here. My mom has since converted my dad to fundieism, and our relationship is at best strained. There are large parts of my life that I simply won't share with them. Most of their visits end in a conflagration because I'm not buying what they're selling, and they refuse to give up. In their eyes, one is either a fundie or a satanist, no middle ground.
So, I continue to do the best I can in an impossible situation. I am free from the cult, free to use the mind the Deity gave me, free of the users and manipulators, and free to both live for today and look forward to tomorrow.
Was: Nazarene, Evangelical Free Church
Converted because: Young & scared, believed these people accepted and loved me
De-converted because: Matured, realized I was being used
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)