sent in by Sage
My mother was the American Suburban version of "good Christian". That is, believes in the Bible word-for-word, does devotions and prayers exactly as they are written out on the book, prays before every meal - but doesn't go to church because she's fat, and she just KNOWS everyone is going to stare at her and she'll be so embarrassed and look so bad......Apparently God judges appearances a lot.
My dad on the other hand, nobody knows what he thinks. I think the best label to apply to him would be "pessimistic agnostic"; that is, whether or not there is a God doesn't matter to him, so long as it's the worst-case scenario.
My mom brought me up in the church. We went every Sunday, 8:00 AM sharp, in the frilly dresses and horridly uncomfortable tights my mother always made me wear. The kids in the church didn't get programs like the big people, we got little booklets with Bible stories inside to color. Only, we couldn't have crayons in church, so we only could use one color, gray pencil lead.
As I grew older I became a very good Christian indeed. My mother sent me to the same school she attended in her youth, the local Lutheran school, that sure did give you a Christian education but didn't have much to offer in the non-religious fields. I ended up having to leave in the fourth grade because I had ADD and my school, outdated as it was, just couldn't handle it.
Public schooling was a big slap in the face. I came across people who actually weren't Christian. Heavens, no! People that used words and did things I'd never even heard of. Worried, I sunk further and further back into Christianity, which didn't help because my father was a cheapass who spent thousands of dollars on himself in a month yet dressed us kids in hand-me-downs from Salvation Army centers - in a rich suburb, that automatically makes you the worst most unpopular kid at school, and since I already had chronic depression things only got worse. I was checked into the local mental health center at 12 after my first suicide attempt.
This was even worse than public school - most of the kids there were there because of court orders - the state didn't know what else to do with them. I was dealing with what my rich suburban white Christian mother would call "the scum of the earth". And not a Christian among them. I was alarmed and finally took it upon myself to spread the Gospel among my fellow inmates and all unbelievers who surrounded me. I can't believe I got through the mental health center stay, and back to school, without getting my ass kicked - luckily most of my peers just ignored me or made fun of me until I cried, whether than actually take offense at my proselytizing.
I found that I could not change the unbelievers myself. The answer, of course, was to pour every dime I had from allowances and later on from jobs into missionary work. I felt especially good about this - I wasn't only helping to convert the lost in my own country, but I was spreading the word of God all over the world, to places like Korea and China, with their ever-more-Christianized populations. Isn't that great?
No, it isn't.
A few years and three more suicide attempts later, a brief dalliance with Catholicism (I thought their ceremonies and churches were pretty), and a sad attempt to re-convert my lapsed Catholic boyfriend, I was just burned out. I had lost my job and gone out of school, and being unable to find work I spent lots of time staying at home thinking and studying. I don't know exactly when I quit on Christianity - during the year I was 19 but at what point I don't know. I just started thinking of all the hypocrisy in it. God loves you - but he hates gays, abortionists, and non-Christians. God is full of mercy and forgiveness - but you gotta bust your ass asking him for it or he'll send you to burn in hell for ALL ETERNITY. Just one little mistake, and you're a sinner, and God seems much more inclined to send you to fry for all time then take you up to Heaven, judging by all his threats. The "sins" I didn't understand either. I couldn't understand why God has such a beef with sex. Don't do it before marriage. Don't have gay sex. Have it only in this one position. Who gives a damn? Why is it that everything good in life - or really, just being human - is a sin? If Does God really want me to deny myself everything?
The Bible was a problem for me too. Why is it that as Christians, we can eat any animal we want, although it opposes the Old Testament? The pastor says that's because it applies only to the Jews. Then why do we have to follow the Ten Commandments, too? Why does God have a "chosen people"? Why doesn't he just have a "chosen dog breed" or a "chosen fast-food restaurant" too? If Jesus is the founder of our religion, why do St. Paul's words seem to hold more power than Christ's words - even if 90% of Paul's doctrines and declarations seem pulled out of a clear blue sky, issuing laws and sins and orders that Jesus didn't peep about?
I always knew there was a God. I still have no doubt of a "God" (for lack of a better word). It just hit me that maybe the Bible was misrepresenting God. Maybe God had nothing to do with it at all. I started thinking about what I'd been pouring all my efforts into for the past few years - and I felt ashamed instead of proud of it. I was helping people hate each other, condemn others, and what I felt worst about was that I'd put so much money into missionary work. I am a big believer in the rights of native cultures against the pressing waves of Westernization and Christianization. At the time I thought I was doing those cultures a big favor by "saving" them. Now I realized I was just helping to destroy them - telling them that saris are sinful because they're too "sensuous", that honoring their ancestors is idolatry, that bowing is a sin because no one should bow before a human being, even if it's the standard greeting in that society - one should only bow before God. I was helping to create a one-country, one-society, bland, hateful world in my support of missionary activities. What really killed me was that I was finally reading up on what missionaries actually do - assaulting and pestering locals, refusing to help their fellow man unless he converted (and giving plenty of shiny false incentives to do so), playing dirty tricks with people's minds. I felt like shit to think that I'd once supported all of that.
Now I just live with the God I've always lived with but chose to let others distort for me - a God that really is all-loving, all-merciful. A God that always gives a second chance, a God that truly loves unconditionally, a God without sex or race or creed that wants me to know Him/Her personally, instead of fear Him/Her. I am at peace.
Joined: Christian from birth
Left the flock at 19
Was: Lutheran, now they call me a hippie. Derogatorily.
Now: Hippie. Proudly.
Converted: Born into Christianity
De-converted: Left it out of disgust.
email: desperatemusic 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)