Returning to Sanity

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.

18 comments:

Serenity member of Ex-Christian.net said...

Wow, Daniel, what an amazing undetailed Eximony! :-) LOL...

I haven't even been to your page yet to view a more in-depth version but your story touched me right off the bat. One where you wish you could reach through the screen and give the other person a big ole' hug. Of course, maybe thats my natural instinct being a wife and mother. :-)

One of our assistant pastors was a Teen Challenge leader and my DH drove a van load of men from Teen Challenge twice to a meeting. I remember the pastor going on and on about how good god is to save these troubled youths. Of course it makes "god" look good, afterall, some of these youths are at the lowest point in there lives. The opportunity for effective evangelism is perfect; they are down, brought down even further when they "realize" what worthless pieces of shit the bible says that they are and then, with that same CRAPPY book, they share some info to get their spirits up...Jesus died so your pathetic ass could live eternally blissful in heaven praising god everyday and singing to this ego given god praise songs about how wonderful he is! (Sidenote: if there's a heaven and the god requires worship like that someone please promise to shoot me while I'm half-ass praising the almighty). Like you mentioned too, you are confined for a specified amount of time, there is no chance to do any drugs when you cannot go anywhere. Well, Teen Challenge guys could choose to go back to jail/prison/halfway house if they don't want to praise Jesus. So it seems god cannot work a miracle on his own to cure one of addiction, there has to be a manly intervention? Just like medical situations. Doctors bust their ass to save people and god gets all the glory. (EYE ROLL)

I applaud your courage to dare and read other materials outside of the bible, so good for you. Also, to be out of the mindset of Christianity at such a young age is even better. You now have your best years ahead in this life, cult free! Free to be who you are in YOU, not in some imaginery friend in the sky. The way the bible goes on about Jesus you'd think we would be pathetic losers, turns out, we're just fine all on our own. Praise self!! I hope your years are joyful ones.

Glad you posted Daniel, thanks for sharing your story. This site really is a place of encouragement, only not encouragement in god....but of self.

ex-pentecostal preacher said...

Daniel

Good Post. Teen Challenge, wow, isolation, indoctrination and total control, sounds like a POW camp. Same techniques and methods.
Welcome to free thought and logic.
As spoken in the previous comment, glad that you are out at an early age, I didn't get out till about 50. Personally it took many years of reading and study to get enough pieces put together to realize what a fraud xianity is. There is probably federal laws that could be brought forth to outlaw xianity due to the harm it has done to this society. Unlikely that they will be enforced any time soon.
I've got a post here, which might be of interest to you.
ex-pentecostal preacher

Keep on keeping on with reason and logic.

ex-pentecostal preacher

Jim Lee said...

People swap one addiction for another and most never realse it. They swap an addition for drugs to one of always being made to feel guilt. The best and only cure for drug addiction is cold turkey.

Clint the Cool Guy said...

Daniel,

Thanks for the story. Man, I can definitely relate to the whole "I need to argue with Christians" thing which gets gradually transformed into the "I'm sick and tired of arguing with Christians and why the heck am I still doing it" thing. It really gets old after a while.

And then you just get struck with the ridiculousness of arguing. Why am I attacking their beliefs? Why am I having to defend mine? People are going to believe what they want to believe. It's better to just get on with life and get over it.

As I like to say, let Christians be the ones to spend their lives arguing about the afterlife all the time. I want to spend my life actually living!

Lorena said...

Daniel,

Daniel,

Thank you for telling your story. Glad to hear you're now both religion and drug free.

I am also married to a fundamentalist. But he is a nice guy and I am not trying to de-convert him, perhaps for the same reasons you don't like to argue with christians.

I don't argue with my husband or any other christian, because I think doing so just makes it harder for them to see the light.

I, for one, had to come to my senses all by myself. Most people I have seen "coming out" did it by themselves, as a natural progression of their spiritual growth. I sort of outgrew Christianity, had others tried to convince me, they would have failed.

Thanks again, Daniel

Lorena

freedy said...

Great post Daniel!Your honest and
transperant eximony touched my heart. Your your lack of bitterness
is also refreshing......peace.

Anonymous said...

I am so glad I found this website. My 23 year old son is in Teen Challenge. I had NO idea it was Penecostal. He is being ostracized for not speaking in tongues. He is court ordered to complete the program. IF he fails the judge ordered 3 years of prison. LONG story. He's not a criminal. Just suffers from substance abuse. He called me crying from the pressure of them. They are trying to recruit him to IRC, which is another program after he does his 11 months left. Then he will officially be a TC staff member. I am sick and heartbroken. I told him to fake it, which is so counter-productive to recover. (I am a recovered alcoholic, through AA.)Any words of encouragement is greatly appreciated. I will remain anonymous, as I fear retaliation if anyone leaks out to Teen Challenge. Does anyone know if our taxes go towards this organization?

freeman said...

Yes, Teen Challenge does receive tax dollars. http://www.aclu.org/religion/govtfunding/16078prs20030710.html

I would call the local ACLU and talk to them privately. If it were me, I'd push the case all the way to the Supreme Court! But, that is just me.

Jim Arvo said...

Anonymous,

It's very disturbing that the court can order participation in an overtly religious organization. I'm not a lawyer, but I'm guessing that you would have a good shot at challenging that decision. I'd follow up on freeman's advice and contact the ACLU. Another option would be the Freedom From Religion Foundation, or FFRF, whose charter is to safeguard the separation of church and state by challenging various encroachments of the church into government affairs. They will often file briefs on behalf of people who have grievances similar to yours. They've also taken on a number of high-profile cases in which plaintiffs had religious doctrines or practices foisted on them. You can see some of the legal cases they took on here. I'd give them a shot. Go to this page to seek their advice on a state/church violation (which is what I think you are faced with). Click on the link "Email re: state/church violation".

Best of luck to you.

Anonymous said...

THANKS so much for your suggestions.I can tell you for a FACT that I personally heard on Sunday the speaker tell the graduating class that God had a surprise for them all when they first entered thinking it was only 1 year. They really make you do an additional 4 months to "complete the program". Then you are told that God is calling you to do the additional year at TCMI. SO TC gets 2 years 4 months out of the residents. The residents are farmed out to work. TC is making money hand over fist. The speaker addressed the graduates that did NOT sign up for the additional time, and told them to show their appreciation for what TC did for them, they should give their very first paychecks to TC. If they even suspect you are looking for another program, they will "fail you" and tell you that you need more jail time to be broken. They will NOT refer to another rehab. They have NO PROBLEM LYING to probation about why you failed. I am afraid to state my personal experience on this. The whole place was told that God brought them there, and if anyone rejects by leaving, that "7 times the demons" will haunt them. That their drug addictions will be far worse, and they will end up in prison or dead. If not dead, they will realize that they ran from God and will come back to TC. Talk about scare tactics AND brainwashing. While I see how this program may be beneficial for some, what a nightmare for others who do not believe in baptism by holy spirt and speaking in tongues. I believe they are VERY misguided and feel that it is ok to actually be responsible for sending people to prison if they don't accept Jesus and become healed from being addicts.... This has had such a devesting effect on me. I can't even listen to my christian music anymore. I'm sick over this... I'm now signing off to look at the sites you sent me. ACLU is gonna LOVE this. I hope they kick some ass.

Daniel said...

Anonymous said...
I am so glad I found this website. My 23 year old son is in Teen Challenge.


You know, I certainly don't agree with TC's philosophy, but I think that the program is useful in getting people away from their influences and giving them time to develop character qualities that they need. I feel quite ambivalent about the program. I certainly don't think they should get our tax dollars.

I had NO idea it was Penecostal. He is being ostracized for not speaking in tongues.

No surprise to me.

He is court ordered to complete the program. IF he fails the judge ordered 3 years of prison.

Typical situation.

LONG story. He's not a criminal. Just suffers from substance abuse. He called me crying from the pressure of them.

Well, it is a lot of pressure, but in the end, your son just has to remember that this time is much easier and better on his record than prison.

They are trying to recruit him to IRC, which is another program after he does his 11 months left. Then he will officially be a TC staff member.

Yeah that's typical too.

I am sick and heartbroken. I told him to fake it, which is so counter-productive to recover.

I think you're right. And I think he understands.

(I am a recovered alcoholic, through AA.)Any words of encouragement is greatly appreciated. I will remain anonymous, as I fear retaliation if anyone leaks out to Teen Challenge.

I understand. You can email me if you wish (dmorgan @ chem DOT ufl DOT edu).

Does anyone know if our taxes go towards this organization?

Most of the TC centers are independent financially from the national organization. I can't say much about how the individual ones receive the monies. But yes, the new "faith based bullshit" does send orgs like TC money.

freeman said...
I would call the local ACLU and talk to them privately. If it were me, I'd push the case all the way to the Supreme Court! But, that is just me.


But her son is in a delicate situation. He should get clear of his "required time" first. I promise they'd retaliate and he'd end up suffering. She can still file a suit after he has done his required time.

Jim Arvo said...
It's very disturbing that the court can order participation in an overtly religious organization.


That's tricky too. The program I entered specifically required that you "agree" to go. IOW, you could always go to prison :)

I'm not a lawyer, but I'm guessing that you would have a good shot at challenging that decision.

Those sorts of things are typically plea bargains or "mercy" from a judge's perspective. If she wins, people like her son would be automatically sentenced to prison. They don't sentence people to secular facilities much.

Anonymous said...
THANKS so much for your suggestions.I can tell you for a FACT that I personally heard on Sunday the speaker tell the graduating class that God had a surprise for them all when they first entered thinking it was only 1 year.


Yeah I was there 14 months. I had friends that were there longer, much longer in some cases.

They really make you do an additional 4 months to "complete the program". Then you are told that God is calling you to do the additional year at TCMI.

Of course...

The residents are farmed out to work. TC is making money hand over fist.

At my particular place, we did work in order to make money for the TC, but I don't know how much money they had. We sold Xmas trees, did walk-a-thons, in which we would literally canvas thousands and thousands of houses to solicit donations, we did auto repair work for people, sold handmade rocking chairs, etc. More scandalous, IMHO, is that we were required to sign up for food stamps. All of us were on food stamps. I cannot say whether or not we also were signed up for some kind of welfare. I am not sure. But we certainly didn't get the checks, if so, or the food stamps. TC took them and used them to feed us, presumably. I have to admit, though, that we were well-fed.

they will "fail you" and tell you that you need more jail time to be broken

I was forced to restart the program after 6 months in. Some of my friends refused because they had been there even longer. They went to jail.

They have NO PROBLEM LYING to probation about why you failed.

It's worse than that, actually.

The guy that ran Appalachian Teen Challenge would brag about how he would go to court and testify against you in order to have you given the maximum sentence if you failed to complete the program, or ended up in trouble again afterwards.

I am afraid to state my personal experience on this. The whole place was told that God brought them there, and if anyone rejects by leaving, that "7 times the demons" will haunt them.

Yep. Typical line.

That their drug addictions will be far worse, and they will end up in prison or dead.

Funny, I'm clean, sober, and healthy. Of course, I graduated, but now I'm an atheist. They said that if we stopped praying/believing we would get re-possessed and get 7 times worse, of course.

If not dead, they will realize that they ran from God and will come back to TC.

Some of my friends did just this.

While I see how this program may be beneficial for some, what a nightmare for others who do not believe in baptism by holy spirt and speaking in tongues.

Yeah it's tricky because some people need that sort of mental crutch to get through.

I believe they are VERY misguided and feel that it is ok to actually be responsible for sending people to prison if they don't accept Jesus and become healed from being addicts...

That's "the love of God," huh?

This has had such a devesting effect on me. I can't even listen to my christian music anymore.

How old is your son?

I'm sick over this... I'm now signing off to look at the sites you sent me. ACLU is gonna LOVE this. I hope they kick some ass.

I hope everything works out for the best for you and your son, whatever that entails.

Daniel said...

I just wanted to update this page to point out that my wife is no longer a Christian.

Daniel said...

I also wanted to say that I spoke with Jim Nickels, the director of the TC I graduated from, and he told me that they stopped using the food stamps, and that they refuse all government funding. I think he should be commended for that. I respect the man greatly, although we disagree on many things.

Anonymous said...

Thanks SO much for taking time to respond to my statements Daniel....My 23 yr. old son said that he was signed up for food stamps AND welfare. This was 4 months ago. (I wonder if Jim Nickles is LYING...possibly.) ALSO, President Bush visted TC in Riverside a couple of years ago, and they were apparently recipients of faith-based initiative money. It makes me wonder if our government supports the abusive prosletyzing that is going on at TC...I have a tendency to believe that it's pretty well covered up. The floor and room he was in was totally re-modeled,(just for his visit)and the staff working there was told to "tone down" the religious tones in his presence... I also feel that the truth about TC will be revealed soon, as this type of POW mentality cannot be tolerated in our country...My god, Jesus Camp,... that is some SCARRY stuff. Those poor kids don't even have a choice!

I sent you a personal E-mail. Thanks again everyone for your support and encouragement. I'll keep you posted of any progress or changes.

Anonymous.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I am the anonymous Teen Challenge mother. I am pleased to inform all of you caring people that I was able to legally transfer my son into a secular program. I had written a very long expose about all that had transpired, however, due to pending legal actions, I am holding off on sharing the details... All I can tell you is that TC is oppressive, and anyone that supports it must be clueless regarding the mental abuse that is happening in there. Most residents have no supportive family, and many are put in prison by Teen Challenge 's report they give to Probation after vehemently kicking them out. What we accomplished is rarely done...Teen Challenge does NOT believe in secular rehabs. Anyone out there with any suggestions on how to expose the truth about this organization, please respond. Anyone that has been abused and imprisoned by them wrongfully,(as a result of lies) please respond. If you know someone personally who is incarcerated as a result of Teen Challenge, please respond.A day of reckoning looms in the horizon for the victims of religious persecution under the guise of being the cure for "drug addiction". Thank-you all.

Anonymous said...

I can help you on this- To learn more about Teen Challenge, I highly recommend paying a visit to the following websites:

"Investigating Teen Challenge"- at http://teenchallengecult.blogspot.com/

"Investigating Teen Challenge" Web Forum at- http://wwf.fornits.com/viewforum.php?f=57, which is now proudly hosted on Fornits Home for Wayward Web Fora Forum (http://fornits.com/wwf/index.php), which covers many of the Treatment Abuse, Behavior Modification, Thought Reform facilities!

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, let's see if I can make those links clickable this time-

Investigating Teen Challenge at- http://teenchallengecult.blogspot.com/

The Web Forum - http://wwf.fornits.com/viewforum.php?f=57

(Sorry if they are not clickable again!)

Not of This World said...

For those trying to make a decision about sending a loved one to Teen Challenge, voluntarily entering the program, or entering under court order.

Resource clearing house and place for testimonials both favorable and not.

http://vocalizeinprint.blogspot.com/2007/07/teen-challenge-experiences.html

Archived Testimonial Pageviews the past 30 days