sent in by tigg13
I don't remember the first time I was told about the god of Abraham. His existence and that of Jesus always seemed to be a given fact - like Lincoln or Napoleon. The bible was just as trustworthy as a dictionary or an encyclopedia. I never heard anyone questioning Christianity in any way.
The first church I ever attended was with my father, I couldn't have been more than 4 or 5 years old. All I really remember was a man in the front yelling and everyone else sitting quietly. Oh, and the round, mint candies I got for going.
My mother's relatives didn't feel comfortable with me or my little brother going to that church, so they decided to take me to their church - a non-denominational Christian Fellowship, populated mostly (if not entirely) by people who were related to me. Church was as much about keeping up with (tabs on) other members of the family as it was about preaching the word of God. This was when I first started to ask questions. My first questions were like "If Jesus is all around us all the time, how come he won't let us see him?" and "How did Noah get all those animals, did he live next to the zoo?" and "If Paul was blind, how could he see Jesus?".
I wasn't trying to cause trouble, I just thought there were perfectly logical answers to these questions and I just wanted somebody to tell me. When I was told not to ask such questions I was confused, it didn't make sense that they wouldn't want to answer my questions.
The other big problem I had with church was my shoes. I have always had very wide feet (I currently wear size 6 and a half triple E extra-wide) and the "good" leather shoes that I was suppose to wear just for church were excruciatingly painful. I would whine and whine every Sunday and look for excuses not to go just to get out of those shoes.
My mother and father didn't go to church. And, as my older sister and two older brothers grew up and moved away, that just left me and my little brother. Eventually, our unwillingness to behave made us unwelcome as well. I didn't see myself as moving away from God. (He was, after all, all around me anyway.) It was just something that I thought I would deal with when I became old enough to understand all those unexplained things.
My father died when I was eleven. He was a dominating, psychologically abusive man and when he died my mother, younger brother and I were left with no direction or support. I began a long, slow spiral into depression that culminated in my being committed to the adolescent, psychiatric ward at the University of Michigan Hospital in Ann Arbor at the age of 16. It was shortly after I was admitted to the hospital that I received a package from my sister. She had been overseas for several years and this was the first time I had heard from her in all that time. She had recently become a born again Christian and her package was full of Christian literature and a letter telling me that my problems were not psychological but demonic - that it was God's way of telling me that I needed to let Jesus into my heart and get saved ASAP!
Lost, confused, depressed, alone, scared and on a high dose of anti-depressants, I was a sitting duck.
I began reading my bible, along with the books she had sent me, day and night. I prayed and prayed and prayed. I confessed and repented all of the sins I had committed - and then all the sins I wasn't sure I had committed - and then all the sins I probably had committed but wasn't aware that they were sins.
I wasn't sure what was supposed to happen. I knew that I shouldn't have expected any grand miracles or anything (That would be tempting god), but there should have been something different. Maybe, I had too many material possessions. I immediately vowed to give up everything I owned; my life, my future...everything for God and Jesus. I was ready to be their unquestioning servant forever, go where ever they'd have sent me, done whatever they'd have wanted.
Every story of salvation I had ever heard or read ended with the hero having an ecstatic moment when either Jesus or the Holy Spirit or some other divine force would enter into them and they'd just know that they were saved. I was still lost, confused and depressed.
Looking back, I believe it was loneliness that really hurt me the most. I had no future to look forward to. No purpose or meaning in my life. And I desperately wanted something, someone somewhere to validate my existence. Jesus seemed like the obvious solution, but I just couldn't seem to get his attention. I knew that it had to be my fault. I wasn't saying the right prayer or my faith wasn't really strong enough. I was determined to find the path to salvation.
So I started to REALLY read the Bible.
I forget the exact chapter or verse, but it was somewhere during the story of the Hebrew conquest of the promised land that I read of a certain kingdom that heard about the mighty army of Israel and decided to send a messenger to negotiate a peaceful settlement to the situation. The Hebrews minced the messengers, attacked the kingdom, slaughtered everyone (except the young, virgin girls), stole everything of value and burned the rest.
And this, was apparently OK with God?
Doubts were what I didn't want. I wanted to believe. I needed to believe. So, why was God showing me this? I remembered that Job was a story about not having doubts, so I read Job. Job had 7 sons and 3 daughters. God let Satan kill all 10 of Job's children. And to make it up to Job, God let him have 7 more sons and 3 more daughters. Forget the oxen and the sheep and the sores and the boils. One of my older brothers had had a son (my nephew)who died as an infant. Nothing can replace a child.
What the hell was God doing to me. I was asking for guidance and I was getting moral inconsistencies. Was it the drugs? Was it the total confinement to an institution? Those things shouldn't be able to stop God.
Maybe God just didn't want me.
I could not deal with that kind of abandonment at that moment of my life. So I made the most important decision of my life. I decided that I couldn't wait for Jesus to save me. I had to save myself. I did leave the door open to him, if he ever changed his mind and decided I was finally good enough, all he had to do was let me know. But I wasn't going to spend any more time looking for him.
I pulled myself together, got myself out of the institution, got myself through school and on with my life. I no longer considered myself a Christian (because I wasn't saved) but I figured that I would become a Christian whenever God thought I was ready.
About 4 or 5 years passed before my de-conversion was complete. It happen at Thanksgiving. My sister and my older brother (the one whose son died) were both going to be home for that holiday. She was still an Evangelical Christian. He had gotten involved with a very orthodox, very conservative, old testament centered denomination. They hadn't seen each other since his conversion. They argued for the entire week. They both knew their respective doctrines cold. They both could quote chapter and verse verbatim. They both had rock solid faith in their own beliefs. They were both convinced that the other was doomed to hell!
I was the unofficial referee. I listened very carefully, expecting one or the other of them to concede that their interpretation of scripture was inferior to the other's. When that didn't happen, I was perplexed. They both couldn't be right, but neither of them seemed to be wrong.
Then it hit me. If one of them had to be wrong and either of them could be wrong, then why couldn't both of them be wrong! And if they could be wrong, then all the other denominations could be wrong! Every religion! Every belief system!
Looking back now it seems so obvious, but at the time, this was a tremendous epiphany for me. Suddenly, I was no longer "not good enough". I wasn't abandoned by God because there was no God to be abandoned by!
Its been nearly 20 years since I first saw Christianity for what it really was. I have experienced many other philosophies and belief systems on my way through this life. I no longer worry about finding the "truth" (I doubt I'd know it if I saw it). I just like learning new things and ideas (And, hey, as long as I don't have to shave my head or anything, its all good!) Even though I still suffer from clinical depression, I am at peace with myself. I have a good job and I have managed to support myself and my family even though I have been out of therapy and off medication for over 15 years.
I had thought that I had put all of that Jesus foolishness behind me, then I found this website. Reading your postings has brought back many of my own personal thoughts and experiences. It seems that, though I have crawled out from under the theology, the scars of my spiritual abuse and brainwashing are still there. I realized, while reading other people's testimonials, that I have never really put my experiences into words myself. I needed to do this. Both for myself, and to lend my voice to all other ex-Christians.
I thank you all for giving me this opportunity to share my experiences and I promise that this won't be the last you hear from me.
Was: Christian (non-denominational), Backslider, Agnostic, Atheist
Now: Freethinking, Deist, Toaist, Chaos Worshipping Pagan Fool
Converted because: Brain washed
De-converted because: I like owning my own thoughts.
email: gdphelps at alltel dot net
Online Reading List
- An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish by Bertrand Russell (1943)
- Bible Teaching and Religious Practice by Mark Twain
- God is Imaginary
- Is there an Artificial God? by Douglas Adams (1998)
- Skeptics Annotated Bible
- The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine (1795)
- Which Way? by Robert Ingersoll (1884).
- Why I Am Not A Christian by Bertrand Russell (1927)