sent in by Ryan
I have been educating myself on this forum for several months now. I must say, I have learned so much from everyone on this website and I truly appreciate the inspiration and comfort I receive.
To begin with, I was raised from day one into the Southern Baptist dogma and culture. I was always taught the Baptists had the right way and no others. Catholics? Going to Hell! I can remember as young as seven being stricken with fear as the preacher asked all the saved people of our church to come forward in the altar area to fellowship. My mother had informed me beforehand that I would not be going forward because I was not “saved” yet. Well, when everyone went forward I thought I was going to hell, not to mention I had the deepest sense of being abandoned by my family, sitting alone in the pew. As you can imagine, I bawled like a baby. I guess the preacher thought I was being a repentant sinner, so he took me aside afterwards to ascertain whether I understood the plan of salvation. I remember crying a lot, yet not quite attaining that “born again” status. This was around the time that my father and several uncles had just died within several months of each
other. So I guess I equated church and the smell of flowers with death.
Almost two years passed, and my mother remarried and we moved to another small town in Indiana. We were involved in a very small country church that was pretty much Southern Baptist in doctrine and style but had Independent on the door. I do have several good memories of this church and the friends, families involved. This was the church I was saved in at 11 years old. The preaching was the fire and brimstone type, which certainly kept me awake. Now when I say fundamental, I mean this church was fundy to the max! The bible inerrant, every dot and tittle! My brother’s future Father-in-law even believed the earth was flat! Thankfully, no one else did though. But every story in the bible was believed without question.
Like I said before, I was 11 years old when I was “born again”. I bawled like a baby again! Although for the life of me, I couldn’t really think of any major sins I was guilty of! Maybe it was the guilt of blowing up my plastic soldiers with firecrackers! I was saved during a revival. A side note, why do Christians always need revivals anyway? Aren’t we supposed to have the Holy Spirit indwelled? Oh, the cares and snares of this world! I digress, my mother had just given her testimony during the Sunday morning service about how she thanked god for her salvation and that all of her kids were saved except one. Well, you guessed it. It was I! Oh, the guilt and pressure hoisted upon an 11 year old! In retrospect, it seemed like the natural thing to do. Like it was expected. You had to have that “experience”. You had to come to a realization that you were a miserable, disgusting sinner and then lay it at the foot of Calvary. I have often wanted to ask my mother if she
thought I would have gone to hell if I had died right before being saved. I am sure I may have fallen into the “age of accountability” loophole. Where is that in the bible again?
Well, the next night my stepsister got saved. What is ironic about that is it happened during a thunderstorm and the lights went out. She said she was up at the altar when the lights went out and got saved. My stepfather and mother always questioned that experience and they had their doubts. So, a month or two later I got baptized along with all the other recent converts in an actual creek! It was dirty and cold as hell! But, I got baptized just like Jesus in the river! No dunk tank in the church for me! Hallelujah, the whole family is saved and will be in heaven forever!
A few months later, our small church had a terrible break up due to some disagreement with the pastor. It was divided right down the middle and over half the church left, including our family. To this day I really don’t know what exactly caused it. It made me realize though, if Christians can’t get along with each other with the love of Jesus, what is the point? So for a while, we moved to a different church until that pastor left. The other Baptist church we went to for awhile was not quite as fire and brimstone, but it had great emphasis on the salvation
message. Every week the same message nearly. So I was thoroughly versed in the salvation plan by this time. It seemed like every week, a backslider or two would come forward to rededicate their life to Christ. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to do that throughout my life.
As I grew into my teenage years, I still carried this tremendous fear and guilt, always feeling I wasn’t living up to what a Christian should be. Always having those nasty, lustful thoughts! I read the bible, required to nearly every day. I always read the smaller chapters in Psalms to rack up a good count to turn in the next Sunday during Sunday school. We had to memorize chapters also. I just remember it being extremely boring to read the bible, except the war, killing and raping parts.
As I grew into adulthood, I joined the military at 18. Talk about an eye opening experience to the real world! For the first time in my life, I met people who didn’t think like I did or do things like I did. Now obviously there were worldly vices in my community, I just didn’t get involved in them until I joined the military. I had never even had a beer until I was 18! Yea, I was somewhat sheltered to the realities of the outside world. Keep in mind; we didn’t have cable back in those days!
When I joined the military, religion and Christianity took a back seat. I was free on my own! I went to Korea and had a helluva time! Wine, Women, and Song as they say, and then some! Then I married a Korean girl toward the end of my tour. Talk about the audacity I had of marrying a non-Christian, non-Baptist, non-white girl! I was unequally yoked according to my parents and they said leave her over there. They definitely didn’t think god would bless the marriage; she was a heathen
oriental after all! After she came to the states, they were a little more accepting, especially after she got saved herself.
The next twenty years of marriage and until my divorce, I was pretty much adherent to the faith, even becoming a spirit filled, tongues talking, charismatic deacon in an Assemblies of God church when I was stationed in Ohio. I also for many years was a Sunday school teacher for the various Korean churches, which my wife attended. Despite all this, I still felt like I wasn’t good enough to teach or serve as a deacon. The guilt and pressure were tremendous. During this period though, I never questioned if I was saved or not, and never wondered about the
validity of the religion itself. It was a given in my mind.
It was not until as recently as a couple of years ago right before my divorce that certain doubts came to mind. Throughout my indoctrination, it was always emphasized that one’s relationship with Christ is a personal one, not religion. That’s why we were different from all the other religions and those were all false except for ours. As I begin to question more and more, I felt we did as much “religious” stuff as the next religion. God’s love was unconditional, yet we had to witness and bring souls into the kingdom, tithe, attend services, prayer
meetings, ask people to come to church, pray daily, sing those silly little maranatha songs, and etc, etc. Doesn’t god get tired of the same songs
week after week? I know I sure did!
I began to question, why does it have to be like this? I mean the aspect of an omnipotent, omniscient deity requiring worship. Is it because he is insecure? Lonely? Doesn’t he have all those cherubim and seraphim to keep him company and grovel at his feet? At the time, I kept those concerns to myself and really did not feel the need to ask someone in authority. Once again, it was in my mind just a given. I mean what else was there?
During my last tour overseas before I retired, I stopped going to church and when I got back I never went again. After my divorce, on my own, I still did not go back. Neither did I contact any of the former people I knew from church. Even though I still felt I was a Christian I didn’t feel like explaining why I wasn’t coming back to church, or any church for that matter. I did run into one guy from my church where I was a deacon at a local restaurant one day and I told him I didn’t
feel like a Christian anymore. He pretty much said that was okay and just invited me to his new church anyway. He was always the type of Christian you would feel comfortable telling. Let me make this perfectly clear, I have been hurt, stolen from, lied to, backstabbed from other church members just like everyone else. That is not the reason I left. At first, it just became a habit of not going back to church, because the relationship to the deity is personal, right? Church is only a form of control. To keep the flock in line and give you strength to make it through a grueling work week. After all, we American Christians are so persecuted and oppressed by Satan and his horde of secular humanists!
It has only been this past year that I have come to the succinct conclusion that I am no longer a Christian and that I have lived a lie for the past 43 years! My family does not know, although they may suspect. They pretty much know I don’t go to church anymore. My parents asked me last year after I moved to Rhode Island, if I had found a church. I said, “Well they are pretty liberal up there.” They said, “Yea, I imagine so.” The subject was pretty much dropped. This past October I went back to Indiana for a friend’s wedding that I have known since high school. I have told him. He is a Christian but doesn’t have a problem with it. Anyway, I was at my oldest sister’s house and the subject came up about my niece going to the local tavern in our very small town and getting some Mexican food from there. My sister was explaining to my two nieces about how it’s not a positive Christian witness to go into taverns. You know, that appearance of evil thing. Well yes, I would agree, it’s not. If you are a Christian that certainly holds true. Being my obnoxious self I said, “Well it’s a good thing I don’t have to worry about that anymore, and that’s all I got to say about the subject.” They kind of looked at me funny. So I think they suspect. One of my nieces does joke around with me about being a heathen. There is one thing that really stands out in my mind during my visit. I was watching Fox news (yea, I know) with my stepfather, who is a licensed minister by the way, regarding a segment about gays marching in San Francisco. All
he said was, “Bunch of Faggots!” Then that very Sunday, he preached a message about compassion! I sat in the back (Yea, I had to go, it’s a respect thing for my parents) thinking, WTF? Oh, the irony! Don’t get me wrong I love my family very much, but I had to cringe and bite my tongue so many times during that visit.
About the only person I have discussed my deconversion with is a good friend of mine who I just met last year. Although she grew up in Wisconsin, she was never raised in church. I told her that was the best gift her mother could have ever gave her! She really didn’t have any idea what Christianity was all about and was fascinated by my experiences in church. Especially the speaking in tongues aspect. She was very curious about that and the laying on of hands and catching people who
were slain in the spirit. I told her I could still speak in tongues and that was how I knew it was all B. S. She is always asking me to speak in tongues, she really gets a kick out of it. She mentioned my experiences to a religious friend of hers and her friend told her I have a gift from god because I can speak in tongues and that I would come back to him. I could only laugh and told her to tell her friend she doesn’t know her bible very well. Hebrews 6:4, about the impossibility of coming back after having been enlightened and denying the faith. Another friend of mine, who I just recently informed of my deconversion, refuses to accept this verse even after I explicitly explained it to him. “I will still pray for you brother!” Why do Christians refuse to go by their own bible? I basically told him, that he needed to research his faith and why he believes the way he does. He bases it solely on personal experiences and he feels he would have never gotten to where he is today without Christ.
To sum this up, I have never felt more freedom and guiltlessness than I do today. Although I do not consider myself an atheist, I am certainly heading that direction. And to think I used to despise that word so much! A few years ago, I would have thought it impossible to be where I am at today in regards to religion. It was a given. Well, no more!
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)