sent in by Cris
Where do I start.... this is so recent.
I have been in some kind of church since I was born. I was "saved" at least a couple of times when I was a kid (just to be sure as I didn't feel any different)
I have always believed in God and Jesus, I had no other way I could think. Sunday has always meant get dressed up and go to church, go to Sunday school then go to the main service and sing hymns, listen to the message and then after church maybe go out to eat (always a treat for us kids!) I heard the messages and tried my best to be a good Christian.
When I was a teen the center of my life was the Assembly of God church where I went, all of my friends were there, there was always exciting music (the main reason I am a musician today) and interesting programs such as the AoG answer to the Boy scouts, "Royal Rangers".
On Sundays and Wednesday nights I had my spiritual/emotional "high" for the week and felt the peace and joy inside that I needed and felt convinced that God was real because of the amazing things I saw happen such as people speaking in tongues, people passing out from the "Spirit" and other things that seemed to indicate that there was something abnormal, supernatural happening.
On these events and general feeling peace at these services (and not to forget a very real fear of burning forever in hell), I based my total belief in the reality of Christianity. During this time I listened almost exclusively to Contemporary Christian music and went to Christian gatherings with the youth group whenever possible.
It was the rest of the week that I suffered.
The questions would come to my head then: "Why did God do that to Job??? Why did God always order all those massacres of innocent people???" And the big ones: if God is all knowing then how can we possibly have free will???????? If God is all knowing, then why would he create Billions of people that he knew would go to hell? What happens to all the people in the dark jungles of Africa, the sands of far away deserts that have never heard of Jesus? Dozens of other things.
I always I prayed constantly throughout the day at school for God to give me peace and to help me not to have immoral thoughts, to give me understanding,etc.
I KNEW that if I persisted in entertaining any doubts that I could possibly be in a car accident or something at the wrong time and I would go to hell by default.
As I got older I eventually found myself "backsliding" , meaning that I stopped going to church when I moved to a new area and I ended up playing in a few rock bands. I still believed in everything I was taught but the "worldly way" was so attractive and the endless worry over not being quite good enough for God was so much less overwhelming.
This period of time has lasted pretty much the last 15-17 years. In the last 5 years I started going to a church again, a small presbyterian church. This church did not seem as "threatening" or should I say "Spirit filled" as the fundie churches of my past. I still considered myself as "backslid" or "away from God" but at least I wasn't been told this repeatedly to keep my mind from wandering.
I started getting bolder. I started entertaining the doubts I had as a teen, really thinking about them and praying more for God to help me to understand. If "possession by the holy spirit" as I saw it so many times in my youth, was real, why did it only happen at certain churches? Why did it never happen in the Presbyterian church,the Catholic church of my friends, the Baptist church? Did God pick a certain few denominations for this?
I kept praying and praying and asking God to show me somehow that he really was listening. I didn't expect a miracle or anything, just a response. Anything.
I finally told God a few years ago, "I guess I can't believe in you anymore, you NEVER have answered me"
I waited for lightning to strike, but nothing happened. So what outcome did I come up for to this? I figured God wasn't listening and continued to believe in him, I mean REALLY believing that God did not exist was still an impossibility for me, I just wanted to get his attention.
So, to make a long story even longer, In the last month I just happened to have a lot of things come together at the same time. I discovered an Atheist's website on the Internet completely by chance and decided to go look and see how this guy could possibly not see that God obviously exists. I mean God has always been there for me, just silently and in his "God works in mysterious ways" kind of way.
I was especially impressed by the fact that this guy used to be a preacher (Dan Barker). As I read through the site the most amazing thing kept happening, I kept seeing the questions I had always asked myself written in black in white with answers that made sense to my mind, and in my heart.
but, still, all those amazing things I saw in the "Spirit filled churches? Those people were not faking! I FELT personally the "Spirit" moving through the church! This was the final proof that God existed, no matter how much I was conflicted by the inconsistencies in the Bible and teaching I had heard all my life.
Then I started reading more and more and realized that except for the theology, people were having the EXACT same "spirit filled experience" in Voodoo ceremonies, in native American dances around fires, in Shamanic ceremonies around the world, by Buddhist monks etcetera. What was the explanation?
Trance states and forms of hypnotism.
I realized what I took to be "The Spirit" was actually the combination of trance/self hypnosis/meditation brought on by the rhythmic music, fiery preaching, repetitive hymn singing, "meditating" on God,etc.
Speaking in tongues? Glossolalia, It's known all over the world (Christian or not).
Trance states or other altered states are quite easy to induce by many different methods, and once entranced its not hard to have a "vision" otherwise known as a "hallucination".
In this last month I pretty much have stopped believing anything. Not just Christianity but ANYTHING at all that I have been told and have not seen or can see plenty of things proving it's non-existence. I have had more peace of mind and heart in the last few weeks than I have ever had in my life. I feel like I did when I was "saved", but it doesn't stop! I have found even a little sloppily done meditation gives me more deep lasting peace and relaxation than years of praying into the silence has ever given me.
At this point I am not really sure what to do. I still go to church but now I am going for the social aspect and to actually listen to the messages and look at them from my new viewpoint. I don't see how I can just say to my friends there "oops, I suddenly had an epiphany and realized that I am not a Christian anymore and doubt God even exists" or tell the preacher and choir members I can't play bass for them anymore. I couldn't possibly tell my parents or...well.. really anyone in my entire family as that would be LIVING HELL! (They are almost all serious church goers)
I do not think I am any different as a person, if anything I feel more compassion for my fellow man, I still don't cuss in public, unlike I was led to believe in church, I found my morals are built-in, I haven't turned in to a heroin junkie porn cannibal!
If anything, I think if the actions of God as told in the bible were judged according to the ten commandments, well... the whole thing would ... the whole thing HAS canceled out for me.
Joined at 10
Left at 35
Was: Assembly of God, Baptist, Evangelical, fundamentalist
Now: Undercover agnostic
Converted because that is what everyone I knew believed
De-converted because I finally listened to my conscience
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)