Letting It All Go

by DH

After wandering through Baptist, Pentecostal and Episcopal churches – on the way to a career as a minister – this man walks away from Christianity

I have to smile each time I see one of those bumper stickers that says, “No Jesus, no peace; Know Jesus, know peace.” The premise behind this clever play on words is that the driver of that automobile has perfect peace because he/she has accepted Jesus as “personal savior” and people who have not, or those, like me, who once embraced Jesus but have subsequently rejected him, are crawling through life in turmoil, torment and indescribable unhappiness.

As others have observed, most Christians find it unsettling to think that there are “former Christians,” people such as me who were completely converted, born again, filled with the spirit – people who had all this but, after sober reflection, walked away from it. We must be unhappy, they say. Perhaps we were not “genuine” Christians in the first place; had we been deceived by Satan?

My own de-conversion was not hasty nor undertaken without a lot of study and thought as this essay will show. For years I felt as does the driver of the car with the bumper sticker – I was sure I had “the peace that passeth all understanding.” I recall standing hundreds of times in church singing “Just As I Am Without One Plea” as the pastor urged the “unsaved” to come forward and accept Christ. Only then would they know true peace. The transformation would be immediate, we were told; we would feel the “burden” of sin lifted from us. The joy of the lord would come upon us as we were made whole by the washing of his blood. We would be given the tools of victory over sin, thanks to the holy spirit.

Yes, I felt for years that I had that blessed peace but, fortunately, I came to realize that it was not a genuine peace; it was a transitory feeling based upon self-delusion – and the Christian “walk,” as any former Christian will tell you, is fraught with uncertainty and a sense of sadness (one example – Christian workers are often proud to tell how they “agonize” in prayer for the “lost”). When I finally said “good-bye” to Christianity, THEN I felt at peace! I felt liberated, set free, then the burden of all the “dos and dont’s” along with the neurotic mind-set that kept looking for sinfulness in everything went away. No longer was I mentally casting about, frantically trying to learn if I was “doing the Lord’s will.” It was liberating to walk away, but I’m sure Christians can easily dismiss my relief (that has lasted four decades now) as the influence of a “lying demon” or, at best, a bit of mental trickery. My only response to these comments is, “How can you be so arrogant to assume you know how I feel? How can you justify projecting your concepts upon my life experience?”

With the hope of helping someone else, I’m happy to provide details about my religious experiences – a path that nearly found me living in the rectory. Many readers will no doubt recognize parallels with their own lives.

I was raised in a good home in a smaller Oregon town. My parents were not especially happily married but they stuck it out together for more than 60 years. I was the youngest child with siblings who had grown up and left home by the time I was beginning school. My father, while a church-goer when courting my mother, had for years refused to attend church. He was very interested in science and I suspect his decision to stay away from the pew was based upon some inner knowing that what he would hear there didn’t really mesh with the way things were in nature. Given our family environment, he was smart enough, though, not to talk much about it – he only encouraged us kids to study hard, go to college, and learn all we could about the world. But his moral inclinations and way of life were very much in the pattern of how he was conditioned – while not being called “Christian,” his way of life was, nevertheless, identical with that of my mother’s.

Mom was a died-in-the-wool Conservative Baptist (that’s both the name of the denomination and an apt description of their theology). She had met Dad, I was told, at a revival meeting conducted by the Rev. Dr. Charles S. Price, a protégée of Aimee Semple McPherson, founder of the Churches of the Foursquare Gospel. (See my friend’s beautifully sensitive biography of this early troubled Pentecostal evangelist: Least of All Saints: The Story of Aimee Semple McPherson by Robert Bahr; Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1979.) Price conducted revival meetings in my hometown for many months, several years perhaps, as the crowds kept coming (the meetings graduated from a tent to a huge, permanent wooden “tabernacle” built by volunteers). My folks eventually married and gravitated to a non-denominational church and, later on, Mom returned to the church setting she was most acclimated to, the Baptist faith. She made sure us kids attended Sunday school, sat still for the main service and we usually returned for Sunday night services and Wednesday evening prayer meetings. Ours was a large, active church and in junior high and high school I became involved with the youth group. That experience brought me many friends and it was a good time, despite the religious teachings. In all my years of close association with various churches I encountered predominantly good people who were sincere in their faith.

As I was growing up, though, there was a pressure to “become saved.” Although I was fully known and accepted in the church, there was an unspoken attitude by others that made me feel guilty because I hadn’t “gone forward” to receive Christ as my savior. In other words, I was treated well, but others weren’t sure if I was a “real Christian” because they hadn’t seen me make that trip down the aisle and that, of course, must be followed by baptism (total immersion – nothing less would do). I was sensing the unspoken pressure and it was causing me to feel guilty – that feeling, we were told, was the Lord “convicting us of our sin.”

Our next door neighbor was a spiritualist; I knew this from overhearing conversations at home. One of my friends in school once handed me a copy of Fate magazine. Each month it contained amazing stories about psychic phenomena and I believe it is still being issued.. I asked our neighbor about all these topics and she eagerly shared what she knew, all of which was far from what I’d been told in Sunday school. I continued to read with an open mind.

Then I became introduced to the amazing Little Blue Books published by E. Haldeman-Julius. (I was probably in junior high school at the time all this was going on, in the late 1950s.) I began collecting these little booklets and some of them contained pretty amazing stuff that made me ask myself some serious questions. There were essays by Robert G. Ingersoll, the legendary 19th century lawyer, orator and agnostic; others by Clarence Darrow, Upton Sinclair and other freethinkers.

While in the eighth grade my older sister, who was then in a Christian college, gave me paperback copies of the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita, holy books of Hinduism, along with Joseph Campbell’s Hero With a Thousand Faces. These would eventually open up great vistas for me.

So, when I made the decision in church one night after an especially emotional service to “go forward” and accept Christ as my personal savior, I was indeed acting on a sincere understanding that this was something I needed and wanted to do. I had believed what I’d heard in church – I was a sinner who needed redemption. However, I wasn’t making that decision in a vacuum; I had already been exposed to some other ideas.

As I made my decision and rendered my prayer of submission, clouds did lift. Looking back, I’m certain that sense of relief and joy was probably prompted by the fact that I’d finally accomplished something I’d been prepared to do but had been putting off. Also, by walking forward I was in the public limelight; everyone in that huge crowd was proud of me and joyful that I’d, finally, fully joined the ranks of the redeemed. That realization no doubt contributed to my inner joy.

From that point my assimilation into Conservative Baptist church and devotional life proceeded rapidly. I was elected president of the Baptist Youth group at our church, organized a church library (which is to this day one of the largest church libraries in the area), attended regional youth events and made the decision to aim for a career as a minister. I visited our church’s impressive seminary in Portland and got ready for the necessary undergraduate work.

At this time I also began seriously reading the Bible. Of course I’d heard all the familiar stories from my earliest days onward but I was told, and I accepted, that Bible reading was an important part of the Christian life. Years later I found that my approach to reading the “good” book was far different from that pursued by most Christians – I read the whole thing! Not just once, but several times (I’ve been through the whole book verse by verse at least seven times, much of the New Testament in both English and Greek versions). It’s a funny thing about many serious atheists – many of them have a better working knowledge of the Bible than do most Christians!

As I read the Bible I also began asking some serious questions about what I was discovering. For instance, what about all those laws in the Pentateuch – there were, of course, the Ten Commandments (actually a couple of versions of them and more than ten, one of which my church directly violated, the one setting aside the Sabbath as the day of worship... their excuse for using Sunday doesn’t hold water!). But aside from that there are the multitude of other commandments that nobody but the most orthodox of Jews pay any attention to – my favorite one, appealing to my newly awakened teenage sexuality, concerned menstruating women and the fact that because they were “unclean” they had to live outside the community until they were over their period and received absolution from the priest. That just didn’t seem quite right to me. There were hundreds of others that made absolutely no sense to me, even when I tried to look at them in their historical context (see Ex. 20-23 & Lev. 20). All the needless bloodshed in the Old Testament bothered me a lot, too. I found numerous inconsistencies and troubling statements in the New Testament as well. In summary, I was beginning to realize that the Bible wasn’t all it was cracked up to be; this realization came from my independent study and no other source. Years later I was to learn that much of what I was discovering had been written down in many books that are condemned by Christians, one of the best being The Encyclopedia of Biblical Errancy by C. Dennis McKinsey (Amherst: Prometheus Books, 1995). The Bible, upon close reading, was not appearing to be the infallible “word of God.”

I decided to ask some respected Christians about a few of my questions. Our Sunday School teachers, I found, were barely-thinking people with only a thin, transparent film of understanding. They mouthed the stock answers when they had them or dismissed questions out of hand. I asked our pastor and my good friends who owned the local Christian book store – devout Christians and knowledgeable, members of another evangelical church. But answers were often not satisfactory. I later learned that those I talked with were expressing answers prepared by conservative theologians and taught to seminary students in a required class called “Apologetics.” In other words, this coursework attempts to find answers (or “apologies”) to the many contradictions and inconsistencies that I was discovering in the Bible. In my high school days I often found those so-called answers unsatisfactory and incomplete – usually the logic was stretched to a point that it was as unbelievable as was the Aesop-like story in the Old Testament explaining the origin of different languages (the Tower of Babel).

My bookstore friends were asked one day, for example, about the doctrine of sanctification. I had learned that their church, springing from the Holiness tradition, taught full and instantaneous sanctification while my church tended to believe in gradual or progressive sanctification. I asked these kind folks if there was a book that laid out the pros and cons of each doctrine. They said, “no.” Nor could they recommend a source book that compared Calvinist and Arminian doctrines of salvation. Apparently us evangelicals weren’t supposed to do serious thinking on these weighty matters.

One Sunday evening speaker at our church made a tremendous impression on me. His sermon – actually it was more of a lecture on church history – fascinated me and afterwards I went up to talk with him. He had a bunch of booklets from our denomination’s home office that were for sale and one I looked at with interest concerned the history of the Baptist movement. This minister showed me on the back cover a flow chart that started with Jesus and proceeded with an unbroken line through the early church to the Anabaptists and on to other groups, ending with, believe it or not, the Conservative Baptist Church. There was, this clergyman explained, clear historical evidence that the teachings put forth in my local church had been alive and preached throughout the ages in their present-day form. Incredulous, I asked if, in fact, our Baptist movement had emerged from the old Roman Catholic Church, much as the Lutherans had. “No,” he said. “We have direct linage back to Jesus himself.” I guess this is the Protestant version of “apostolic succession” and that night at church I had to restrain my laughter. I knew his thesis was awfully flawed and I was dumbfounded that he had the gall to preach such obvious falsehoods.

Late in my high school years there was some sort of a flap in our church concerning our minister (something that is quite common in evangelical churches). I was working one evening in the church library and in the fellowship hall next door much of the congregation was holding a meeting about this pastor. I liked the fellow and respected him. He was smart, articulate, delivered good sermons and his son was one of my best friends. I’d been in their home a lot. As it turned out, the congregation either asked for his resignation or fired him, I can’t recall which. He hadn’t taught any heretical doctrines; there was just a bunch of people in the church who didn’t like him and wanted him out. As it turned out, the pastor left, the trouble-makers stormed off anyway to form their own church on the other side of town, the pastor had a nervous breakdown and withdrew entirely from the ministry. It was a tragic turn of affairs that caused me a great deal of sadness.

We teenagers were told repeatedly to be wary of sinfulness. Jesus was coming soon and how would we feel if we were doing something sinful the moment he appeared for us in the clouds? What if we were in a movie theater? Or playing cards?? Dancing??? Or, heavens!, masturbating???? Yes, we were saved and that salvation couldn’t be taken from us, but we could still SIN.

Puberty and dealing with sexuality is an extremely difficult time for any teenager and I certainly wasn’t immune to these conflicts, new desires and emotions. Evangelical Christianity in my teenage days was ill prepared to provide any helpful advice. My father had told me that masturbation was the cause of all mental illness and that those who played with themselves ended up in insane asylums. What a horrible thing to learn! After struggling with this news for months and months I finally decided that my fate must be sealed – asylum here I cum! At least I’d be enjoying myself on the trip to the state hospital! At church the message was not much different. We were provided feeble alternatives to school dances and other secular venues where boys and girls could meet and have a good time. But there was always the unspoken message that we were to avoid the “ways of the world.” Things that were too much fun (like orgasms and even dancing) were sinful and off limits. Everything that had a positive ring to it was suspect because, after all, we were humans and as such were grounded in a sinful nature. Satan was the lord of this world and we had to keep our guard up continuously. Today I ask, is this what is promised by the bumper sticker, “Know Jesus, know peace”? I fail to see much peace in this mindset.

After our pastor was dismissed, an older man took over as interim pastor. He and his wife were wonderful and he was doing a grand job. Those people who were left in the congregation liked him and offered him the job as full-time pastor. There was a sticking point with the denomination, however. Fred had ordination from a full-gospel fellowship and no formal seminary training. He would have to be “examined” by a board of ministers from the Conservative Baptist denomination to see if he was qualified to receive ordination by them. This was required before he could take the job. I sat through the two days of grilling and found it to be a nit-picking exercise of the first order. His application for ordination was refused and our parish had to look elsewhere for someone to fill the pulpit. Everyone was disappointed, including me.

I had been accepted to attend Whitworth College in Spokane, Washington, the following fall. Whitworth was affiliated with the Presbyterian Church and everyone in the church was concerned that I’d be corrupted with “liberal” thinking. A Baptist minister gave me a copy of Gresham Machen’s 1923 book Christianity and Liberalism. Machen had led a number of congregations in a major split of the Presbyterian denomination. Ironically, his New Testament Greek textbook was the one used in my classes at Whitworth!

My four years at Whitworth were a roller-coaster ride intellectually and spiritually. During my first week there I met another freshman, Dan, who eventually ended up in the Presbyterian ministry (albeit in their most fundamentalist wing) and who became a close friend who went through many of these transitions with me. I had been instructed to seek out a “Bible believing Baptist church” and attend it regularly as a safeguard against the “modernism” and “liberalism” of the Presbyterians (Presbyterians were viewed with suspicion by us Baptists – most of them probably weren’t “real” Christians because they had not been “born again” – they were, rather, just “playing church” – AND they practiced infant baptism, something the Baptists strongly objected to). I followed the instructions from home and began attending a Baptist church; but it just wasn’t the same as what I was used to so I tried the campus Presbyterian service once or twice. It was boring!

Then one day that first fall, while standing in line at the college cafeteria, Dan and I were engaged in conversation with a couple of upper classmen who, they said, attended a small, exciting congregation. Quite a few Whitworth students went there; would we like to try it out? Sure, why not! We arranged for them to give us a lift the following Sunday.

We had been forewarned that the Church of the Rock of Ages at Spofford and Post avenues was a barn of a building outside but that the worshipers there were wonderful. And the pastor, the Rev. C.A. Brown, was amazing. All of this proved true.

Dan and I learned that first morning that this church was unlike anything we had ever experienced. Although it didn’t label itself as such, this independent congregation would have many of the earmarks of those fundamentalist charismatic churches (aka “Pentecostal”) lumped together as “full gospel” churches. Worship was very spontaneous; there were times during the services, especially when there was congregational singing, that the ecstasy and joy was thick. We would sing praises spontaneously and individually but the mixture of all this was gloriously harmonic and uplifting. Our hands were in the air, tears of joy streaming down our faces and hearts racing. Occasionally there was speaking in tongues but, more often than not, there was prophecy from either Pastor Brown or one of the others in the church. This congregation took Eph. 4:11 literally – there were supposed to be apostles in each congregation today, not just in Bible times. Also, there were supposed to be prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. This was ordained by the Bible.

Prophecy was often general in content (it was tape recorded, transcribed and mimeographed – I still have much of it) but occasionally there were specific “words of knowledge” imparted to one of us in the congregation. These personalized prophetic messages often contained detailed instruction or information. It was always appropriate, I observed; nobody was ever told to do something that was not for their own good. Occasionally these “words of the Lord” were pronouncements from Him as to who had been selected as a future leader in the church – both the local church and the Church worldwide. After attending only a few times, I was singled out for one of these “words of knowledge” from Pastor Brown.

This man was a giant of a man, both in body and personality. He stood over six and one-half feet tall and had the physique of a body builder. Handsome with his thick, wavy silver-gray hair and mustache (he was perhaps in his upper 50s or early 60s at this time), he had an infectious smile and boisterous laugh. I have never heard a more powerful preacher from any pulpit anywhere, before or since (I was told once he had been one of the top officials in the Assembly of God denomination back in Missouri before he acted on his belief that the denomination had gone down too many wrong paths and struck out on his own, first starting a church in Great Falls, Montana, then this one in Spokane). On the day I received my word from the Lord, Pastor Brown came down from the platform, walked over to the benches where all of us Whitworth kids always sat, and strode toward me in his spit-polished size 16 shoes, placed his massive hand on my forehead and said, “Thus sayeth the Lord....” I had been set aside by God Almighty as a prophet in the church, he continued; a prophet in training, perhaps, but an instrument of the Lord nonetheless.

Each Sunday morning and evening as well as Friday evenings were dedicated to the “work.” Friday nights were our favorite times as the college group always got together at the pastor’s lovely home near the college for a time of fellowship, singing and study. Pastor Brown always seemed to have just the right message and they were not superficial at all; we were being treated to some pretty deep stuff and we knew it. Sometimes the message was delivered by the church’s associate minister, Pastor Harding. Besides us Whitworth kids, there were a few others who came to these groups from time to time. Years later when my second wife and I were recalling those years we discovered that she had been to a couple of those Friday evening meetings when I was there. I was a freshman or sophomore in college while she was a high school girl. I vaguely remember being introduced to her. After our worship and study Mrs. Brown always had refreshments ready and we enjoyed a rollicking good time visiting.

This sudden turn in church affiliation caused me to change my career outlook entirely. The Church of the Rock of Ages (now known as Rock of Ages Christian Fellowship) was not part of any denomination so there were no seminaries and no clear-cut career path toward the ministry. I had no idea what I was supposed to be doing; I couldn’t find any career guide-books for prophets!

Although Pastor Brown didn’t preach much, as many Pentecostal ministers do, about the benefits of receiving the “second blessing,” the “baptism of the Holy Spirt accompanied by the gift of speaking in tongues,” it was generally understood by us college kids that this was something to be desired. We had been shown the scriptural basis for it. But we were educated folks and going to a wild revival meeting to get the gift of tongues wouldn’t fit in with our self-concept that well. At this time, in the early 1960s, there was a movement afoot in the Episcopal Church, a more sedate acceptance of the baptism of the Holy Spirit that had begun under the preaching of the Rev. Dennis Bennett in Van Nuys, California. One day we learned that Bennett would be in Spokane, speaking at an Episcopal church one evening. The opportunity would be available afterwards for Rev. Bennett to lay hands on us “seekers” so we could receive the gift of the Holy Ghost and the accompanying gift of tongues. A carload of us drove out to that church and, sure enough, after the orderly service, the invitation was given to come forward for prayer and laying on of hands. All of us Whitworth kids responded and that night at an Episcopal altar rail I was washed by a flood of spiritual joy and began babbling in tongues – very quietly but distinctly. There was no doubt; I’d been baptized by the Spirit and equipped with new spiritual tools just as it was promised in the book of Acts.

Between my freshman and sophomore years I worked for the U.S. Forest Service in Oregon as a fire lookout. It was an incredibly lonely assignment and I found it difficult but I continued to read my Bible, pray, and I was able at night on my mountain-top to tune in 50,000-watt gospel radio stations from Mexico that broadcast revival meetings nonstop. Tent evangelist and healer A.A. Allen was my favorite.

Returning to Whitworth the next fall I was exhilarated to get back into the social atmosphere that the college provided and, most particularly, to return to the “R of A” as we code-named the church. The old group was there, of course, with some drops and adds. Dan and I had become dorm roommates.

It wasn’t too many months, though, until something happened. From this distance I can’t put my finger on what it was that caused me to loose interest in the church and all the activities and teachings; I suspect it was a combination of things. I was having some relationship difficulties with a girl I was madly in love with (who also attended the church); I was having problems with my chosen major in college (English) and made a switch to a field I enjoyed much more (journalism); I was battling depression (I determined much later); and Dan and I weren’t getting along as well as I thought two Christians should (he had been singled out by a word of prophecy as well and, unlike me, he stuck with it). All of these things plus a whole lot more – like my growing skepticism about the validity of the Bible and Christianity – combined to discourage me and I stopped attending R of A meetings altogether. Frankly, I missed the fellowship a lot but I was being “rebellious” and stayed away. I recall riding my bicycle past Pastor Brown’s home a couple of times on Friday evenings, hearing faint sounds of singing. Those were very sad moments as I was missing the closeness of that group. But I had changed and needed to move on. Just as Dad’s information about masturbation was woefully wrong, so, too, what I’d been hearing all my life in church was being shown, bit by bit, to be inaccurate as well.

Despite my discouragement, my interest in religion didn’t wane, however. I continued my study of both Christianity in all its denominational forms and its teachings as well as non-Christian religions. One book on Christian origins from the Whitworth library shattered my remaining trust in the Biblical account and the understanding I gained from it has been expanded and strengthened by countless other books since. The Religion of the Occident, a massive volume by Martin A. Larson, started me down a road of scholarly investigation that continues four decades later. (I read the original 1959 edition published by the Philosophical Library. It was later reprinted by Littlefield, Adams & Co. as one of the titles in their Students Outline Series and later reissued, I think, under the title of Story of Christian Origins.) Larson confirmed my suspicions that what I’d heard about the early church from the pastor with the Baptist flow chart was entirely bunk. In recent years I’ve decided that the historical record as updated over the past decade or two shows pretty conclusively that the person we label “Jesus” probably never existed but was, instead, a creation of Paul. Later gospel writers got confused between this creation of Paul’s and an earlier, actual person, the Teacher of Righteousness, who began the Jewish sect known as the Essenes.

During my junior year in college I decided to get back into the church game again, though. I began attending nearby St. David’s Episcopal Church, thinking this denomination’s reputation, demeanor and career path would be more to my liking. It was. The rector was a “spirit-filled” man (a friend of Fr. Dennis Bennett’s) who I respected greatly and it wasn’t long before I completed necessary classes to qualify for confirmation and membership at St. David’s. That winter I was also selected to go cross country by train with a group of students to an international Christian student gathering at Ohio University, sponsored by the National Council of Churches. I believe there were 4,000 of us there over Christmas break. The week-long event introduced me to the civil rights struggle and confronted me with the reality that slavery and its long-lasting effects had been perpetrated by good Christian folks and justified by passages from the Bible.

In addition to my work at St. David’s, I began attending student meetings on Sunday evenings at the gloriously-beautiful Episcopal Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Spokane. I was selected to help conduct evensong services in that massive gothic cathedral and the art, sound and beauty of the services and surroundings impressed me greatly. Even now, whenever I return to Spokane on business, I usually find myself stopping at St. John’s in order to soak up this beauty once again.

I applied to the Diocese of Spokane for postulant status and after consultations with the bishop I was accepted. The cathedral’s dean, the Rev. Richard Coombs, encouraged me to consider applying to his alma mater, the Episcopal Theological School in Cambridge, Massachusetts (now Episcopal Divinity School, adjoining the campus of Harvard University). I applied, was accepted after a rigorous process that included interviews with psychiatrists and several clergymen who were on the seminary’s board of directors. I was assured that necessary financial obligations would be taken care of for me. However, my mother and members of her church (I had withdrawn my membership) were dismayed. There could only be two or three things worse than my heading toward a career as an Episcopalian priest – being sucked off into some cult, becoming a Unitarian minister or, gasp!, turning to Romanism (the Roman Catholic Church). Actually, most Baptists don’t see much difference between the Roman and Episcopalian churches.

What the folks back home didn’t know was that I had already rejected much of their social teaching and most of their theology. I smoked (Baptists then didn’t think one could be saved and smoke at the same time – I subsequently quit for health reasons), I enjoyed a beer now and then (more often than that, actually), and I even danced. (Which reminds me of the joke – “Do you know why Baptist couples never have intercourse in the standing position? Because it may lead to dancing!”) Besides this, I was thoroughly enjoying my sexuality through masturbation and occasional “flings” with friends. But my understanding of the Episcopal way was that most of these things, in moderation, were a normal part of life that should not hinder my spiritual development too much. There was NO way I would ever consider going back to the Baptist outlook. My foray into the full gospel at R of A had convinced me that the Baptist church was even more boring and misguided than the Presbyterian. Their Baptist dogmatism, based as it was on false and selective interpretations of scripture and their strange outlook, was repugnant to me by this time. The high-pitched tone of the Pentecostals didn’t appeal to me either; its circus atmosphere was fun but they shared some of the myopia of the Baptists along with a whole lot of other baggage they had created for themselves. Episcopalianism seemed a good alternative. I appreciated the rich artistic beauty of its churches, the dignified approach to worship complete with beautiful music and chant. Plus, that church encouraged the scholarship that already captivated me – Baptists and Pentecostals generally disparaged higher learning.

As captivated as I was with scholarship, I was also growing weary of study and wanted to “get on with life.” I graduated in 1966 and, as I did each summer, returned to Oregon to work with the Forest Service – that is, after a graduation gift I gave myself – a trip to see my sister in San Diego. While there I learned about a new federal government program that sent college graduates through a master’s program to prepare them for teaching in public schools. This intrigued me and I visited with a neighbor of my sister’s who was in the new program. I decided to apply and see what developed. After all, I already had my seminary locked in, perhaps I would have that plus another option to choose from.

One factor that caused me to look seriously at this new alternative was a fresh girlfriend I’d met just before graduation. We had “hit it off” and talk of marriage had come up. I didn’t know how I could juggle that with seminary. As it turned out, I was accepted into the program at San Diego State, I got married in September, and I didn’t go to seminary.

Just before graduation in Spokane I had asked to visit with the good dean at the cathedral. We had a long talk wherein I expressed doubts about many of the cardinal teachings of Christianity including the existence of God, the divinity of Jesus, the virgin birth and those other statements we had to say in the Creed each Sunday morning during the Eucharistic service. I will never forget the dean’s response because it blew me away. While I can’t quote the exact words, a very close paraphrase would be, “Don’t worry about those doubts. Almost all of us in the clergy doubt those things, too.” That summer while struggling with the choice between seminary or San Diego State I thought often of this conversation. I had to ask myself, “Even though it is apparently commonplace for clergy to doubt or deny the cardinal teachings of the Church, by virtue of their employment they are clearly bound to keep it pretty much to themselves and not tell their parishioners. How could I do that? How could I, knowing the truth that scholarship supports, go through the motions of leading worship and reciting the creed that I didn’t believe?” I finally decided that I did not want to set myself up in a position where I would have to live a life of hypocrisy. I would not live in the rectory after all and I was relieved with that choice. I have attended perhaps only half a dozen Episcopal services since my college graduation in 1966 and long ago considered myself divorced from that church, and all churches really.

Years later I read a book by a prominent Episcopal bishop that clearly shows how things have changed over my lifetime. Why Christianity Must Change or Die by retired Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong makes a strong case for abandoning dogmatic adherence to most of the cardinal doctrines of Christianity (San Francisco: Harper, 1998). Last year I told a friend of mine, a retired Episcopalian priest who is a fan of Spongs, that I agreed with most of what Spong says in his several books but that I didn’t think he had gone far enough. I suspect that the security of his pension may prevent that!

I grew up with a term that describes Christians who revert to their former sinful ways – they are called “back-sliders.” I suppose that in the eyes of my former Baptist and Pentecostal friends I was a “back-slider” slipping to my eternal death in the Episcopal Church. But I also made a couple of back-sliding moves back toward Pentecostalism during graduate school and over several years after that. Please recall the prophetic selection at the Rock of Ages Church that called me to the ministry of a prophet. One summer break in college I was staying for several days with an aunt and uncle in Portland. I had heard that there was a Church of Christ minister there who had received the baptism of the spirit (this experience is contrary to Church of Christ teachings). While in Portland I called him and he offered to pick me up that evening to attend a prayer group meeting in the home of one of his congregants. I had never met this man nor had he ever heard of me. I told him nothing of prophecies made about me in Spokane. During the prayer meeting, however, this minister was “moved” by the spirit and began to prophesy. Among the messages he delivered on behalf of the “Lord” was one directed specifically to me. I had been called to be a “prophet of the Lord,” he channeled.

While living in San Diego I had a similar experience. I found an ad in the newspaper for special services at a church I’d never heard of, being conducted by a visiting evangelist. There were some “code words” in the ad that tipped me off about this church – it would be much like the R of A church in Spokane (I believe the phrase was “A church of the living word” or something similar). I was right. When my wife and I showed up we spoke to no one and sat in the back pew. The service droned on and on and my wife finally decided to go out to the car and take a nap. I remained awhile longer, however. Finally the sermon was over and this visiting minister, who I had never heard of before this night, began to utter “words of knowledge” to several in the audience. He pointed at me and repeated, to my amazement, the same words I’d heard in Portland and Spokane: “You have been called to be a prophet of the Lord.” The coincidences are striking. While I firmly believe there is no supernatural influence in this coincidence, I am at a loss to explain the mechanisms that allowed them to occur. While my current and longstanding secular humanist perspective agrees that there is absolutely no valid evidence for a supernatural realm, I remain open to the possibility that there may be as-yet undiscovered mechanisms such as telepathy that appear much like supernatural agencies at work. Recent theories in quantum physics postulate a whole lot of things that might account for much of what humankind has long held to be supernatural. Time will tell. Some years ago we attended a seance where the “spirit” speaking through the medium revealed some things about my wife and me (even using proper names) that nobody in the room had any knowledge of (we hadn’t spoken a word to anybody there and everyone was a total stranger to us). Mysteries remain in this world of ours and it is exciting to contemplate them without the encumbrance of pre-conceived notions imposed upon us by religious dogma.

Anyway, we back-slid to Pentecostalism on this occasion in San Diego. Upon moving back to eastern Washington the following year we began attending services again at the Rock of Ages church, in the beautiful new structure they continue to occupy. Pastor Brown was out of the picture as he was gravely ill with Parkinsons, a disease that would take him before long (their belief in spiritual healing didn’t work in his case). The church simply wasn’t the same and I could not get “with it.” To do so would be to deceive myself. We drifted away again.

That first marriage ended in divorce. Fifteen or 20 years prior my oldest sister had divorced her husband and it was a scandal in my family. My parents were dismayed and hoped that none of their friends or, especially, anyone in Mom’s church, would get wind of it. In the intervening years attitudes toward divorce changed greatly in the church. It was much more common and those in the evangelical church, including clergy, had to deal with it from a practical point of view. Other things had changed as well. No longer were the women in the local Assembly of God Church in my home town prohibited from wearing makeup, jewelry or cutting their hair despite clear passages in the New Testament. The days were near when the Pentecostal face of cake-makeup Tammy Fae Bakker would appear on television and those Biblical prohibitions would be completely out the window. I doubt that you could get many ministers in these denominations to talk freely about how times, teachings and ways of life have changed within evangelical Christianity over just the past 50 years. To me these patterns have been healthy but they also point to a root inconsistency within the movement that essentially belies claims of supernatural guidance or even self-assertions that the movement is attempting to follow infallible scripture.

In my younger years I came across some writings by teachers, heavily influenced by Far Eastern ideas, that are lumped together under the broad term “New Thought.” From these teachings (those of Charles Fillmore, founder of Unity School of Christianity; Earnest Holmes, founder of the Churches of Religious Science; and my personal favorite, A.K. Mozumdar, an Indian transplant) came today’s “pop psychology” and “self-help” movements. Norman Vincent Peale and even the infamous Pentecostal/Methodist healing evangelist Oral Roberts borrowed heavily from New Thought to formulate their positive spin on traditional Christian teaching. The Rev. Robert Schuller’s TV ministry also tapped into the resources of New Thought.

After leaving Christianity for good in the late 1960s, following my brief return to the Rock of Ages Church, I spent awhile with the Unitarians and with organized Humanism. Then I delved more deeply into New Thought. Yes, that work employs some of the buzz words of Christianity but the doctrine is MUCH different. It is a positive expression of our intrinsic self worth and a road map to better living through better patterns of thinking. (By way of contrast, about 15 years ago my wife attended a Mother’s Day tea with my now-deceased mother at her Baptist Church. The event’s speaker was a woman who railed against efforts of schools and others to raise the “self-esteem” of children. After all, they are sinners in need of the blood of Christ – to make them think otherwise might thwart their chances to be saved! Mom was thrilled with the presentation; my wife was disgusted.) Off and on over the years I have dabbled with this New Thought teaching and find that it is, in most respects, a rewarding way to deal with our world. I’ve also done a great deal of reading in Eastern religion and I’m aligned with several freethought (atheist or agnostic) organizations. An open mind is a refreshing one.

In closing I’ll recount an experience during my senior year in college. As I have said, I was active at St. David’s Episcopal Church but I’d heard about a church downtown, Bethel Temple, led by Dr. Alexander Schiffner. He had a nationwide radio broadcast and his teaching was known as “Anglo-Saxon Israelism,” the idea that Anglo-Saxons are descendants of the lost tribes of Israel and, therefore, the chosen people of God. Curious, I called this pastor and made an appointment to visit with him. He was kind and attentive, freely sharing of his ideas. He seemed to have everything wrapped up in an understandable package.

On my way back to campus I had to drive right past St. David’s. I saw Fr. Knight’s car in the lot, so I pulled in unannounced. He was happy to see me. I told him where I’d been and what I’d learned. He, too, was kind and attentive. After I made the statement that the other minister seemed to have all the answers and was secure and happy in that, Fr. Knight sat back, thought, and then said something very wise. “It is far better to feel somewhat unsettled while keeping an open mind than it is to close your mind by believing in something that is entirely false.”

While not expressive of the typical Christian outlook, that statement is, by far, the most meaningful and lasting thing I brought away from my experience with Christianity.

44 comments:

.:webmaster:. said...

DH,

That was an enjoyable and captivating read.

Thanks for sending it in!

RJ said...

DH, I really enjoyed reading your post! I have a question for you. When you experienced speaking in tongues, what do you now believe actually happened?

DH said...

That's a good question, one that's been looked into by psychologists alot over the past 100 years. I don't have any of this research available but I've read some of it. What bothered me at the time of my "baptism of the spirit" was reading in a charasmatic publication about speaking in tongues by those practicing other religions, such as Hinduism. The stock Christian answer was that this was an imitation from Satan. Bah! Apparently there are brain mechanisms at play here that anyone can employ. I can now, an atheist and at will, "speak in tongues" with the same emotional exhilaration I experienced the first time. There's nothing divine about it at all.

freddy said...

"Those who walk away are unhappy and not genuine christians in the first place."
This like saying a dedicated doctor who,"burns-out" & leaves medicine,.. was never really a physician to begin with!
D.H.,.I too can still speak in tongues ,1 year after my deconversion from the so called "spirit filled life"!

Jim Lee said...

Hi D.H. You must almost be a carbon copy of my thoughts. We have walked a similar pathway of church deception. I can still give a very good demo these days of tongue talkin'. I reckon I could walk into a church today and start sproutin' of in tongues and convince all and sundry that I was a man of (the churches mythological) God. It's not hard to fool the masses. For those who have the gift of the gab, conning people with religious crap is a pushover.

mq59 said...
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mq59 said...
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mq59 said...
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Anonymous said...

mw59, it's been such a refreshing vacation not seeing your ignorant posts here. Why don't you go away and stay away. It's really so obvious that you're not very intelligent by your own admission. Do you really think that we have a desire to read anything that you post? How about take the hint, insead of being so blind sided.

Bill said...

mq59:
That's just stupid and petty. Yes, there needs to be an accounting process to avoid embezzlement and stuff, but a WHEELCHAIR RAMP!!

They probabally had two wheel chair ramps already in place, besides why would anyone with a handicap want to go to church? To thank god for letting them become disabled?

mq59, You're really stupid!

.:webmaster:. said...

MQ is a troll.

freedy said...

Co la ta ba tay bay ,..yo sa ta kay bay,..no sha ta ba shia....etc.
I just wrote in tongues!!!!!

Can I get an interpretation?

Jim Lee,....what about you?

LOL,..if no one does,... I'll interpret it later!

Ben said...

Co la ta ba tay bay ,..yo sa ta kay bay,..no sha ta ba shia....etc.

Meaning; that whoever should believe in such shit must be totally insane. A-men?

Anonymous said...

One of the better stories I've found here... thanks for sending it in.

Steve said...

DH, that was really fascinating. I was raised a Seventh Day Adventist. A lot of parallels, but I think what you went through was more extreme. Thanks for sharing your life here. --Steve

Petrie said...

Interesting post. Reads like a novel. It is interesting that these "testimonies" generally follow the same pattern, and this one looks like a compliation of the best of them.

How would we know how much of this even happened?

Are we supposed to take your word for it?

After all, you obviously despise Christianity, so are we to assume you are being up front and objective.

Maybe, but I suppose you want us to take that on faith!

.:webmaster:. said...

Petrie,

You don't have to believe the poster. If you doubt him, you'll not be condemned to hell, you'll not be considered back-slidden or living in rebellion, or accused of wanting to live in religious lust.

You have every right to doubt his story.

Have a nice day.

freeman said...

Petrie,

Up front and more objective than any christian site!

DH said...

In reference to Petrie’s post, our webmaster is correct-- There’s absolutely no requirement that you believe a word of my story. However, being a writer by profession, if my goal was to make an absorbing fictional account, I believe I could have done a much better job! It should be pointed out that there are some specifics in the story (names and places) that could easily be verified, perhaps even on the Internet. While that doesn’t prove the account’s authenticity (much like dropping the name Caesar in the New Testament doesn’t prove the Bible’s accuracy), it does at least lend it some credibility. For the sake of the argument, I do verify that every experience in the account is accurate and truthfully put forth. I have found that many of these anti-testimonies (on this site and others) are much more vague than mine; perhaps if I write another I should supply footnotes and a bibliography! Now, as to his assertion that I clearly “despise” Christianity, I am baffled as to what brought about that conclusion. I make it very clear (and it is my chief thesis) that I once was a Christian but that after studying its history and doctrines found there was little to support the religion’s claims. I therefore walked away from the religion, even though there were aspects of the church that I enjoyed (and was prepared to make it my career). How this could be twisted to mean that I “despise” Christianity is a mystery. Indeed, I think my story bends over backwards to be charitable and objective. After all, isn’t that the loving Christian way? [A satyrical comment, perhaps, which points to the truth that one can be a good person, moral and ethical, dealing with others in a forthright manner, without being an adherent to any specific religious system.]

Dave8 said...

Petrie: "How would we know how much of this even happened?"

Not wanting to come accross as Mr. Obvious, but, if one wanted, I am sure they could interview this persons' family, friends, and many other empirically founded aspects of this story.

Many people, have lived aspects of this persons' testimony if not the majority to some degree. Tis', why the testimony makes that much more sense, people can take their "empirically" founded personal experience, and relate the life experience to this testimony.

Petrie: "Are we supposed to take your word for it?"

Not at all, use your own life experience to see connections and relationships, read a few scientific or peer reviewed journals, and most of all; if you really cared, do a little personal research to test the validity of some of the statements. I know this isn't the preferred method for the intellectually lazy, but then, the intellectually lazy shouldn't question the validity of anything in regards to matters of logic, they can just rely on pure "faith". Perhaps, you have "faith" that this persons' testimony is not genuine, but, that comes from one who is intellectually lazy, and well, many will weigh your words accordingly.

Petrie: "After all, you obviously despise Christianity, so are we to assume you are being up front and objective."

For those who have had similar experiences, there are little to no assumptions. However, if you have not had such experiences, then you can freely go do some homework. If you want to remain, intellectually lazy, then there is always the religious bloggs you can hop aboard on, and say whatever you want, because there is no ability to validate metaphysical claims. Hey, you can create your own personal god, and an entirely different universe in a different reality, enjoy yourself, bye.

Petrie: "Maybe, but I suppose you want us to take that on faith!"

Nope, I'd advise on never taking anything on "faith" alone. Its unfortunate, that many of us on this site, have "physically" witnesed first hand, similar events in our lives - and, you obviously haven't. So, many here, can "empathize" with the testimony, based on first-hand experience(s). This site is a support for those who have had similar/like experiences, and apparently there are enough people who can relate to the testimony, obviously with the exception of you. Hence, why some here seem to belong here, and then, you don't.

If you can't empathize because you lack experience & knowledge, might I suggest you take the time to gain some of that, before presenting yourself as a yokel [sic] in an open public venue. Your rustic logic, persuades me to feel embarassed for you - but, I'll get over it, I hope you do too.

.:webmaster:. said...

I believe your story DH.

What I was trying to point out, perhaps too subtlety, is that Petrie's comment of "taking your story on faith," in an apparent attempt to compare your story with Biblical accounts, is a flawed analogy. Unlike the threats of damnation and promises of "glory divine" woven into Christian rhetoric, whether one believes your story or not, there are no imaginary repercussions or rewards looming in the background.

In other words, there is no obvious personal gain to be had from the sharing of or believing of your most excellently written story, other than perhaps some satisfaction in knowing that you've encouraged someone else who is escaping, or trying to escape, the cultic clutches of Christianity.

I would guess that Petrie chooses to believe Biblical stories because it makes Petrie feel good and promises Petrie rich rewards on Mt. Olympus, or wherever, after Petrie dies.

Conversely, your story simply offers a glimpse of ordinary reality. Unfortunately, fantastic fantasy is what many people prefer.

It seems to me your personal essay had the unforseen result of making Petrie uncomfortable and nervous. For that, you have my applause.

Petrie, just for your further edification, Santa Clause is also a myth.

Oh, and I can still speak fluently in tongues too. Now I call it baby talk.

Dave8 said...

DH: "Now, as to his assertion that I clearly “despise” Christianity, I am baffled as to what brought about that conclusion."

DH, good to see you on the site, and great post. The WM said it best, your most excellently written testimony seems to have sparked a nerve in some of the less grounded in reality ;-)

Regarding Petrie, et al., you will see them from time to time posting comments which seem to have little focus on a testimony, and at first glance seem loutish [sic], disingenuine, and brazenly with no real focus.

However doltish their comment(s) seem, they do have an agenda. They consider Atheism to be a threat, to their way of life.

Now, I know, that there are many people who regularly visit this site, and do not claim to be Atheists. However, our little buddy(ies), really don't care, as they still view this site as a haven for Atheists, and the testimonies presented as support for the Atheist movement, regardless of the testimony authors' intent. So, its not personal, they pretty much attack each testimony the same, with marginalizing, or using some form of diversion tactic. To them, the author and their testimony is justified collateral damage, in the effort to combat Atheism. The WM does a great job of scrubbing their posts, when they get out of hand.

Petrie, et al., target anything that appears to be leading up to a unified effort. As long as they can keep everyone in turmoil, they can prevent any unified effort from advancing, no matter what the effort would be. I will say, however, the effort presented on this site per the WM's intent, is to bring people together to share their experiences, and to talk to others who have had similar experiences, in order to; vent, gain emotional support, and generally gain information from those who may have had similar experiences.

The unified effort on this site, is to expose some of the ills that religion brings to humanity; typically, from an ex-christian perspective. From that common theme, Petrie, et al., wants to prevent any "further" unified effort from going forth. Thus, they interject themselves into any conversation that seems to be headed that way.

One of the favorite methods, is to immediately shift the conversation to politics. Or, more recently, to assume the position of a regular on this site, and launch attacks against other regulars in an attempt to create disharmony and disunity.

Its part of their strategy, as long as there isn't a unified effort, and they can keep everyone running in mental circles, our little buddy(ies), feel they are being effective in their endeavors.

They really aren't that intelligent, but can be annoying at times, their tactics are sorely transparent, but I suspect that they actually believe they are covertly operating out in the open, with no one the wiser. Thus, is their intellectual mediocrity.

Anyway, enjoyed your post, keep up the good fight, take care...

Anonymous said...

I'm curious as to what you actually do believe. Life doesn't have to be lived with such strict guidelines. I'm not going to go into a whole dissertation here, but I truly do hope you find your way back to Jesus. You sound like a really special person. God Bless you. I will pray you find your way back.

freedy said...

Anonymous 12:00 a.m.,..Wow!,how did you time that? Every ex-christian on this this site is very special.
The fact that they are no longer Jesus clones/drones is what makes them special.Your blessing
is sort of uncalled for here,...but
your curiousity is always welcome!
peace,...freedy

Dave8 said...

Anonymous: "I'm curious as to what you actually do believe."

Not wanting to get into a dissertation myself, let me just sum it up like this.

Its not what one believes, its what they don't believe that is most provocative in life.

Here is the progression;

1) A person starts from a mentally neutral position, and as objective as possible, attempts to build a belief system. This stage naturally begins at birth.

2) A person is provided a belief system, and over time chooses to continue to reinforce the belief system, because they have "faith" in the source of the information, i.e., parent, next door neighbor, 2,000 year old book, etc. This occurs during a child's life, ages 1-6/7, for everyone. However, susceptibility to "suggestion" is possible in the entire life span, based on ones' mental state.

3) Some people bond with those they received their information from, and challenging the belief, is nothing short of challenging the bond they have. They tie their bond and their belief together, and aren't able to separate the two. When the need to continue to maintain social and psychological bonds exist, the individual will mentally reinforce the belief by repressing any information contrary to their desired reference.

4) Some people, rise above the need to co-dependently rely on social bonding for self awareness and acceptance. These people find that self care and unconditional acceptance of their self, is much more rewarding, as, without self value, nothing else matters. No one can take care of someone who isn't mentally capable of accepting the care, because they haven't found self acceptance. Once people are able to accept themselves and take care of themselves, they are much more capable of removing the bonds that hold "faith" in place. Once "faith", in another person, or object, is released, they are open to allow pent up information from the past to come forth, so they can honestly assess the information, and weigh its validity.

There are a myriad of places where a person could be in this process. Some, start out without being given information that is contrary to their natural instinct, and against basic reasoning. These people don't suffer from the psychological abuse that some others do. However, those who are not directly affected, are still subjected to those on this planet who were/are mentally abused, and have to deal with disharmony.

Those who seem locked up, and unable to mentally release themselves of unnecessary information, which creates their frame of reference are part of stage three. There are people, who are just too scared, of allowing their own mind to wander the universe, without being "anchored" to something. We all have a reference point, but each person that has finally found mental freedom, has done so, by finding themselves unanchored at one point in their life and able to let go. Some do this as children, and others as adults.

You ask for a persons' belief, but that isn't even the important question. The important question; can a person arrive at self-truth, or do they require another person to assist them. A person should come to their belief, from their own personal experience, and listening to someone else say something is true, does not equate to personal "experience".

Parts of the bible were written 2,000+ years ago, it is currently not possible to "experience" any of the events that "may" have transpired in the bible. If experience is an epistemological factor for truth, then using a timeline as a dimensional reference, its understood that the most important part of peoples' lives, is realized every second of every moment based on a persons' self awarness - carpe diem. The further away from "this moment" a person lives, the less objectivity and thus, truth.

Five minutes ago, I started this post, and it is still fresh in my mind, and I can recall that experience and place great confidence in the fact that I was typing. However, going back 2,000+ years, is so far removed from my reality, that it would be dishonest to place high levels of confidence in that information, unless there were empirical/physical evidence, I could experience in the "here and now", to make an assessment.

Thus, is the great problem with Jesus, god, etc., there is zero evidence. By definition, we can not live in this natural reality, and ever have an experience with a metaphysically transcendent god, living in a transcendent and supernaturally objective reality. Furthermore, regarding a Jesus, an "autobiography" would be much more worthy of evidence, than a "biography", that has been subjected to tampering, numerous translations, and moved around the world, changing with the political climate.

You ask for a belief, and for many, its a belief, in the personal experience of the here and now. Others, attempt to live their lives, based on someone elses' accounts of yesteryear, someone, I might add that they never knew.

DH said...

A couple of posts back “Anonymous” asked what it was that I believed. Does one have to believe something religious? I don’t think so. Been there, tried that! Instead, I prefer to align myself more closely with those broad statements that define a positive, here-and-now look at life. The organized humanists have done a pretty good job of articulating those ideals (http://www.americanhumanist.org/humanism/ ) and I generally agree with what has been put forth in the Humanist Manifestos I, II and III (note that I didn’t say I “believed” in them). You also made passing reference to the legalism I encountered in the church (“Life doesn't have to be lived with such strict guidelines.”) While I think I made it clear that I found many of those legalistic “dos” and “don’ts” troubling, confusing and in many cases ridiculous, a careful reading of the essay should convince anybody that my reasons for abandoning Christianity were far more substantive than simply reacting to these petty rules. Which brings me to your last thought, “I truly do hope you find your way back to Jesus.” You apparently didn’t read the essay very well. Why I would want to abandon the peace and joy I’ve found since my dis-conversion is beyond me. Why I would want ever again to dedicate my life to the mythological person named Jesus is even more mystifying. Each year there is more and more evidence appearing that makes the Christian and Jewish histories less credible. Even though head-in-the-sand fundamentalists believe otherwise, the creation claims of the Bible are looking more preposterous with each passing day. Many of the teachings of the church are psychologically unhealthy and, frankly, false. The “wonder-working power” of the gospel isn’t there as promised. If it was such a great thing, then why, after 2,000 years, hasn’t it transformed the world? Why aren’t people flocking to churches like thirsty people after water? One of the previous posters commented that he was raised a Seventh Day Adventist. I’ve read that this denomination is the only one in America (so far) that can boast that it has more living FORMER members than there are living current members! The church as a whole is having a much more difficult time of justifying its existence. I’m glad to be rid of the whole mess!

Warty Mammal said...

Yours is a touching, well-written story. Thank you for sharing it.

DH said...

I’ve stated above that, contrary to the claims of Christians, the Christian life is neither a peaceful nor a happy way to live. Below I quote an extreme example from a radio broadcast by “Brother” David Terrell, a fundamentalist evangelist who is still selling his brand of religion. Speaking as a self-proclaimed apostle of the Lord, Terrell delivers a message from God himself: “I shall smite ye with insanity. I shall smite ye with violence. I shall smite ye in your knees. I shall smite ye in your elbows. I shall smite ye in your shoulders. I shall smite ye in your bones... and man shall see diseases that medical science has not been able to diagnose. For the earth is fixin’ to be cursed with a curse. They that robbed me in America is fixin’ to be cursed. I’m fixin’ to make the rich be eaten. I’m fixin’ to eat the rich... There’s fixin’ to be a frog epidemic in Florida, like in the time of Moses. Two toads can produce 25,000 frogs a year so there can be millions in a square mile. Right now there’s a plague has hit this nation. Minnesota is being eaten up by caterpillars, and Canada is five inches deep in caterpillars. Beetles are coming across Mexico and headed this way. In Georgia, hail is eight inches thick. Automobiles have been beat to a total loss.” Brother Terrell urged his listeners to deny the flesh and to fast often. “Moan, my people. Moan until your bowels feel like they are going to burst in you. Moan until your voices are hoarse. Moan until you hurt in your chest... Cry until you weep, fast until you weep.... Let me hear the cry, the cry for renewal, or I’ll rip you apart.... Rapha, nissi, handa bahayah, lamaricosayahilatarisaya honodabbabayaya bokokori....” (Quoted from the fun-to-read book “Border Radio” by Gene Fowler & Bill Crawford, Austin: U of Texas Press, 2002, page 318.)

Even more sedate Christians extol the virtues of suffering, especially the evangelicals and Catholics. They also talk about doomsday, the battle of Armageddon, and all sorts of punishment God has in store for all of us. It isn’t a healthy lifestyle, a point forcefully developed by Wendell W. Watters, M.D., in his book “Deadly Doctrine: Health, Illness and Christian God-Talk” (Buffalo: Prometheus, 1992).

Arthur said...

In the end you have to ask the question, "what is truth?" "Is there truth?" If there is no truth, then everything you wrote is absolutely right on the money. However, if truth is found in God then you've departed from the only source of truth there is.

pc93 said...

What is truth and what is belief? In the end does it really matter? Enjoy LIFE and create a better world for all present and future generations. And in regards to "God" there are many thousands,. of different names, words,. for ALL THAT IS,. To some ALL THAT IS or "God" is just an empty abstraction. I believe that you cannot go outside of ALL THAT IS and that we are all autonomous but dependent/inseparable parts of THAT WHICH IS. And DH it was a pleasant surprise to find you once again on the net. I can be contacted at pc9323@gmail.com. I need to get your cell number. Your friend, Juan (aka PC93).

Anonymous said...

I am a sister of DH and simply want to affirm the truth of his "Letting It All Go" entry. DH is ten years younger than me, hence we weren't living in the same house for very many years, but the family and church background he describes is very accurate and my husband and I can affirm the veracity of most of his adult experiences. I'm responding to Petrie and any others that might call his work fictional or elaborated. It's not! Incidentally I'm not writing at his urging--he doesn't even know that I've read his account (my sister shared it with me; he didn't).

Michael J. Ray said...

Hey DH,

This will probably make me the "target", however, that doesn't matter. I appreciate your honesty. My personal experiences are different that yours. I should get equal time, right?
In my years I have seen the fraudulent preachers, and also the real thing.
In fact, I have seen people fake miracles, which made me not go that particulat church anymore. The fakers make me sick in my stomach to the point of vomiting. However, I have seen and experienced firsthand the real thing.
If anyone hates "bullshit", I am first in line. People who fake miracles and just go into the ministry just for the money and the show should be locked up and or struck dead.
I am not going to debate you, but I have been healed miraculously of two incurable diseases. One being Ulcerative Colitis, and the other being Rheumatoid Arthritis, and both of those ailments are documented by doctors and the hospital in my area. I am not saying that God does things like that all of the time, but He did something for me personally. Explain away my phenominal health for a man born in 1952.

I would strongly encourage you in spite of all you went through to come back to The Lord Jesus Christ. Like it or not, He is who He is, and it is just flawed,imperfect mankind that makes Him look bad. [excuse my being redundant].
Very Truly Yours,
Michael J. Ray
michaeljray2001@yahoo.com is my email address

boomSLANG said...

The only difference between the fraudulent preachers and the so-called "real thing" are the fraudulent ones got too greedy, too soon, and therefore, became too sloppy...and then?...THEN they got exposed.

BTW, a "miracle" is not the occurance of something that's merely improbable..i.e..the vanishing of an ailment, or tumor, etc. "My grandpappy's jock itch cleared up!" No, a miracle would be when something happens that defies physics..i.e..the regenerating of an amputated limb; someone coming back to life AFTER an autopsy; an anticephalic baby growing a brain.

I would strongly encourage you, in spite of all the religious programming you've been through, to come back to yourself, the rationally thinking Atheist whom you where born.

God 'less.

Shannon said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Shannon said...

Michael,

Let’s see, the miraculous part of surviving Ulcerative Colitis is getting to live. So, living: good; death: bad. So, it was in your god’s good grace to allow you to survive your illness and if surviving (living) is good then what of those who died of your illness? Were they less pious or less worthy of your god’s good grace than you? If not, then getting to live is not anymore graceful than getting to die.

You have no miracle.

uzza said...

I have heard a women speak in Spanish.i know her and It was the spirit speaking through her. She spoke clearly and with proper grammar and it was from Spain not fake. She spoke with authority that she has never spoke with before. The authority from God. You all say you were Christians. It sounds like you followed some preacher or some teacher and he wasn't truly following God. So you fell follow the blind, The blind leading the blind. That proves that man is faulty. Search for truth with all your heart and you find your self at the feet of the lord. Search science. Search yourself. When you started this blog you told us about these great burdens you held. The bible says that In Philippians 2:12,13 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. You where so much trying to be good but you don't realize that when you truly have a friendship with God that he makes you good. He removes That bad stuff, as you allow him to. I think you might pick up that bible and really read it. The only truth you know is what you have actually seen ,actually heard, and actually felt and actually tasted. Ask God to reveal himself to you through your senses and you will see wonders.

boomSLANG said...

Hey "Uzza",

By chance, did that lady who spoke with proper grammar from "Spain" happen to go by the name, "Seeking Truth and Peace"? 'Just curious.

Astreja said...

Uzza: "I have heard a women speak in Spanish..."

What a coincidence... So have I. It's a fairly popular language. Your remarks indicate that you know it well enough to recognize proper Spanish grammar. But are you trying to tell us that some other woman speaking Spanish to you is somehow extraordinary?

"...The authority from God."

¿Que? Oh, that invisible being some people believe in. Got any proof that it actually exists?

"Search for truth with all your heart..."

You know, that's mighty arrogant of you to assume that we didn't search for truth with all our hearts. How very, um, Christian of you.

"The bible says that..."

The Bible is primitive, superstitious crap.

"You don't realize that when you truly have a friendship with God that he makes you good."

More crap. People who want to become good people have the potential to do so. There is no Holy Spirit magically making good individuals out of bad ones.

"I think you might pick up that bible and really read it."

I think you might stuff that Bible up your self-righteous, superstitious ass. What's your definition of "really" reading it, anyway -- Agreeing with *your* understanding of the book?

"Ask God to reveal himself to you through your senses and you will see wonders."

We've been there and done that. Didn't work. Therefore, either your god doesn't want to reveal itself to us... Or it never existed, and those "wonders" are coming from your own powers of imagination. (I, Myself, favour the latter theory.)

Your preaching is not wanted here. Go away.

SamiB said...

DH thank you for a very interesting post, you've certainly sparked some debate.

uzza and michael J I find your posts incredibly patronising and hopelessly misguided. Your blind faith is a mental disease, we are the sane ones.

It is a pity that you cannot experience the full richness of life without depending on your imaginary friend, you obviously aren't strong enough as individuals to stand on your own.

Remember the book you live by was written and rewritten by MEN. It is a novel, nothing more nothing less.

And as for speaking in tongues, I guess when enough fantasists get together it's easy to get swept up into mass hysteria. Pity you people don't put your energies into something more constructive. Like, I don't know, visiting a psychologist!

TheRedMan said...

DH

I am a Christian (Pentecostal, Assemblies of God, woot). I won't take up you're time with preaching or telling you of the prayers I'll be saying for you or tell you how much I hope you'll come back to Jesus. Not that I'm against such things, but you've obviously heard your fair share of it. However, I will take some time to defend the faith that I care so much about.

I am a pastor's son which some may say gives me a bias point of view.
And no, I am not a
"Jesus clone/drone", I have had the opportunity to choose my own faith and have done so. The idea that a family could force someone to believe something for 16 years when he has had the influence of all his peers to deal with (most of whom either believe in no God, or could care less about him if he does exist) is ridiculous.

I've got to admit you did a lot more searching looking for the right "brand" of Christianity than I would have. But perhaps that was the problem all along. Perhaps all this time while you were looking for a brand of Christianity that had all the answers, you failed to see that perhaps no such brand exists. After all, even the early church that all modern churches sprouted from had problems, otherwise there would be no need for most of Paul's letters. Some might say that this destroys the credibility of Christianity; I say instead that it shows the ridiculousness of the rules of men.
Think about it for a moment, in the New Testament Jesus spoke against the Pharisees, people who used their religious power to enforce man made laws. The laws of the Pharisees were fraud, not the laws of God. Similarly, perhaps the teaching of certain religious men are false, not the teachings of Jesus. Just throwing the idea out there.

And oh, no one ever promised me that Christianity was going to be a perfectly happy life with no problems. If life was that way why would the Christian religion have a heaven? However, having strayed from God before, and obviously knowing many people who aren't Christians, I wouldn't say my life is any unhappier than it would be otherwise.

When it comes to speaking in tongues I have both seen and experienced the real and the fake thing. I won't be brash enough to suggest weather or not you've experienced the real thing, but as someone who has, I can say with absolute confidence that I could not do it on my own. (I've tried) Speaking in tongues and speaking gibberish are two different things.

Pc93 claimed that truth doesn't matter. I hope that I don't have to take too much time on this. Truth is, in fact, all that matters. Even atheists, or agnostics, or whatever you label yourself as, can't argue with this. An atheist is an atheist because they believe the TRUTH to be that there is no God. An agnostic is unsure of their faith, but still believes in some way or another that there is truth. Try testing the truth of gravity and then tell me truth doesn't matter.

Boomslanger stated "The only difference between the fraudulent preachers and the so-called "real thing" are the fraudulent ones got too greedy, too soon, and therefore, became too sloppy...and then?...THEN they got exposed." Ha ha, if only it was true that most pastors benefit so greatly from their ministry. Let me ask you something, have you ever actually seen the paycheck of a preacher? My father has been a senior pastor for
about 20 years and we have financial issues like everyone else. Just this year he volunteered for a pay cut, in order to help out church, and I know several other pastors who have done the same. Giving away money for nothing in return; greedy? I don't think so. Obviously there are the fakes who are just out there for the money they may of may not find in the big tents, and those men and women are deplorable. Their practices make me sick. It is one thing to not believe in Jesus, but to preach what you believe to be a lie is beyond wrong.

Shannon, you suggested that God chooses who gets miraculously healed based on their worthiness.
I would like to explain why this claim is not supported by the Christian faith. For a moment, assume with me that God does exist and that Christianity is true. God will not force himself on anyone; he will not work in you if you do not come to him. Obviously, an atheist does not come to God for healing, so they cannot experience the healing that can come with it. Now obviously Christians die, however, assuming that Christianity is true, they will go to heaven, so them dieing is in fact not a bad thing at all. So, according to Christianity, many people take it out of God's hands and some of those who don't get to be in eternal peace.

Astreja, I believe Uzza was talking about a woman who doesn't know Spanish, but then spoke it through the spirit. You probably assumed this, but I was just making sure. I have also seen this and similar events.

SamiB, you said that the Bible was a book written by men, and therefore just a novel. However, lets look at the works of literature that many people put there faith in daily. The Constitution, The Bill of Rights, the laws of all nations, manuals on operating anything from computers to cars, and even the books and scientific journals that claim evolution to be true. I don't deny your right to question the Christian faith; I welcome it because such questions expose the fakes. But please, don’t question it on the basis that the Bible is written by men when in fact you yourself base your life around works written by men.

I didn't think that I would have to do this but it seems that I am forced to also defend the intelligence of Christians. Obviously, there are several people here who consider their intelligence to be above that of Christians solely on the fact that Christians believe in a God that you cannot necessarily see. In doing so, these people have put themselves above such figures as Benjamin Franklin, Franklin Roosevelt, Teddy Roosevelt, Isaac Newton, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John F. Kennedy, and many, many more. All of these figures believed in a God in some form. I don't think I need explain my reasoning here.

DH, I actually do have some answers for the concerns your expressed about inconsistencies concerning the old testament law and such, but I won't get into that mainly because this is already long enough.

When it really comes down to it I have put my faith in Christ because I've seen my life without him. I don't put it in the doctrine of others, or the experience of others. Honestly DH, I applaud you in that you have tried so hard to find the truth, you and I just seem to have disagreements on what that truth is.

I look forward to seeing what some of you have to say in response to this. I only ask that you show me the same courtesy that I have showed you and refrain from the personal attacks.

Chow

Jim Arvo said...

TheRedMan said "Speaking in tongues and speaking gibberish are two different things."

Please elaborate. How do you tell the difference? Given how ubiquitous digital cameras and voice recorders are these days, there are no doubt hundreds (perhaps thousands) of cases of speaking in tongues that have been recorded by dispassionate observers, right? Can you point us to some?

SamiB said...

Redman: I totally understand your side of the debate but I still do not agree with you.

We have no idea what the original 'bible' contained, it is something that has been rewritten over and over again in order to suit whatever ruling ideology of that time wanted people to believe. It has been used to control and to instill fear in the masses and is still being used as such today. We know for a fact that the current bible, in all it's manifestations, bears little resemblance to its original form. It tells a story, but how can anyone give that story any credence without questioning who wrote it and why it was written.

You mention the constitution and the law as works of literature. I don't disagree. However I do not blindly accept our laws nor do I respect all of them. How can a state that makes homosexuality illegal by law be right?

When I read a manual it is in order to learn how something works. It certainly doesn't effect the way I live. I think likening the bible to a DVD manual is stretching it a bit.

When you say I live my life based around works written by men, I would argue that I live my life SURROUNDED by works written by men but I certainly do not obey or believe anything with blind faith.

I am a questioner, I have a strong sense of self, I respect others and their opinions but I loath bullies. No one tells me what to believe in, and having come from a christian schooling background, that probably explains why I feel so passionately about indoctrination of any kind.

Astreja said...

TheRedMan: "An atheist is an atheist because they believe the TRUTH to be that there is no God."

Small correction: There is weak atheism and there is strong atheism. A strong atheist would assert "There are no gods", whereas a weak atheist would tend to say "I see no evidence for the existence of gods and am inclined to think that they don't exist."

And agnosticism is not about wavering faith. It's a philosophical position that ultimate truth is unknowable. I like to use the example of someone meeting a god in person. How do we go about verifying the divine credentials of this entity? How does one actually distinguish between advanced technology and divine magic?

And who's to say that there isn't an even more powerful being out there? Ultimately the problem of the existence of gods succumbs to the problem of infinite regress.

Regarding the god of the Bible in particular, and omnipotent gods in general, I am a weak atheist. Regarding the possibility of non-omnipotent gods, I am an agnostic theist. Regarding mundane physical issues such as gravity, I tend towards naturalism and pragmatism.

"Astreja, I believe Uzza was talking about a woman who doesn't know Spanish, but then spoke it through the spirit. You probably assumed this, but I was just making sure. I have also seen this and similar events."

Yes, that's how I interpreted it as well. The problem lies in confirming that the woman had no knowledge of Spanish before this event. I'm concerned that it could have been a scam intended to impress and deceive.

.:webmaster:. said...

theredman wrote,"After all, even the early church that all modern churches sprouted from had problems, otherwise there would be no need for most of Paul's letters."

Problems? That's for sure. Too bad Jesus couldn't keep control of things himself and needed Paul to help out.

Sheesh! Even Peter fell into error and needed a good tongue lashing from the mighty Paul.

Yeah, if it weren't for Paul, there'd be no Christianity at all! I mean, no one could launch a real religion on just the Gospel accounts.

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