sent in by Daniel M
I was raised in a Southern Baptist church in the heart of the Bible belt--SW Virginia, Appalachian Mountains. At 12, I did what I had always been taught I ought to do, which was "repent of my sins and accept Jesus as my savior". I was a somewhat precocious child, though, and always skeptical of Noah's Ark, Creationism, and always curious why so many people were not Xians. During my early teenage years, I was a voracious reader, and mostly enjoyed non-Christian material--fiction and science. I was exposed, through my ever-growing library, to a world of ideas which challenged my worldview. At 16, I had already developed pretty deep doubts about god's existence and attributes. When my father got cancer (a devout Xian) I lost all faith in the idea of a personal god. Unfortunately, I was also quite immature and emotionally unstable, and I started using pretty hard drugs during this time of intense confusion and pain.
To get "clean", a court and my parents decided a Xian rehab named "Teen Challenge" was the best answer for me. After 14 months there, this young, confused, hurting person came out a devout Xian again. I had stability in what I believed, and the evidence for god's existence was the "change" that god wrought in me. After all, I was drug free!! Nevermind that I was seriously programmed, and that during that 14 months there was absolutely no way I could've gotten drugs had I wanted to. Nevermind that my problem was a mental and philosophical crisis rooted in confusion and disillusionment, and not the drugs themselves. Nevermind that deep down, I never bought into the creationism because I already knew enough about science and reason to reject a literal reading of Genesis. I was 19, and fresh out of Christian boot-camp/rehab.
After slowly regressing over the period of years to a moderate Xian, I found I finally had the courage to acquire books that would help me to resolve some inner doubts and conflicts. After all, if the Bible was true, if God existed, I had nothing to fear by reading books about the history of the Bible, right?
A few years after beginning this spiritual quest, here I sit. Is it because I chose to believe lies, or because I finally exposed the ones I already believed?
I am now without god, so effectively and for all practical intents an atheist. However, I hesitate to use the label around most people because I still live in the south, am married to a Xian, and I cannot defend the intellectual position of god's nonexistence, and don't really care to argue with Xians anymore. I went through the phase of months and months of intense debate forum activity, but finally have come to a place of semi-ataraxia. I think losing religion was similar to a religious experience at first for me. It has been difficult at times, but in retrospect, I am profoundly grateful to be free of so much confusion and fear and irrationality.
Thanks to any and all who cared to read, and I hope you find the peace of mind that I have.