A long journey

sent in by Rachel

I was raised in a Christian family and my mother remains one of the people I respect most in the world. A desire to please her, and a natural child-like acceptance of what I was taught in, I do believe, good faith, led me to 'give my heart to Jesus' at 8 years old. My parents became disillusioned with the congregational church they then attended and moved to the Brethren shortly after my own conversion. Thus the religious influences on my adolescent years were strict and uncompromising; I had to cover my head in services and was expected to submit to male authority. Cinema, dancing and 'worldliness' was disapproved of and I think I welcomed those clear rules. I was different and I liked that distinction. Once I left school and went to university to study literature (a subject I was warned against because of its influences), I was exposed to a broader Christianity and was very actively involved in the student Christian movement. I learned about speaking in tongues etc and wanted to be 'filled with the spirit', feeling i was an inferior Christian. I prayed earnestly for this and had no answer(!)

I began my first job as a teacher well away from both family and friends. for the first time my immediate circle was not Christian. I joined a church but never felt part of it and the questions in my mind were getting bigger all the time.

I prayed; I asked for prayer; I was desperate.

I met and fell in love with a divorced man who had a vague connection with Christianity but barely thought about it (like most Brits). This was crunch point. How would my parents react? I couldn't bear disappointing them and I realize now that this was part of the reason why I decided to work abroad. I ended up in a Muslim country where I met locals who were devout and wonderful people and ex-pats who were completely irreligious - and wonderful people. I encountered kindness, generosity, etc etc, all of the qualities claimed by Christians as their own. Gradually, over this time, I admitted I was no longer a Christian. I saw too may things I couldn't reconcile and asked questions which the church could not satisfactorily answer.

On my return I married my 'non-Christian' man and we've been together for 13 years now. We're happy but he struggles at times to understand why my Christian past still has a hold.

My Father died recently. The support given to my mother by her church (not Brethren - she persuaded my Father to leave some years ago) has been great and reminds me of what I valued in the church community. I also miss the comfort she finds in believing that their separation is only temporary. I seethed through his funeral where the vicar warned the congregation that they were sure to be condemned to hell if they didn't share Dad's faith. i don't find being an ex-Christian easy; I do, however feel that I am being honest with myself and others. I thought I would find the same certainty elsewhere. I haven't. Maybe one day it will no longer matter to me. Meanwhile I find many things in life to enjoy and believe that I am still a decent respectable woman with a personal morality which stands up to scrutiny!

UK
8
Left: gradually, through my twenties
Was: Christian Brethren, evangelical
Now: open-minded
Converted because: family
De-converted because: too many doubts/ had to be honest with myself

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Bravo Rachel! I especially like your last comment: "Meanwhile I find many things in life to enjoy and believe that I am still a decent respectable woman with a personal morality which stands up to scrutiny!" I wish I had had those words when I was sitting at lunch with some Indian co-workers, and a Seikh said to me with mystification, "You're not religious? But you're such a good person!!"

Naomi

Lorena said...

Rachel,

You are a true warrior! You dug yourself up from a very strict belief system. Kudos to you!

I don't think it is wrong to believe that one day we will meet the spirits of our loved ones who have passed. As long as I am not paying anyone to help me believe in something, as long as I am not believing stuff our of fear, as long as it makes me feel good, it is fair game.

I hope you will soon find a belief system of your own that fits your needs and is not impossed on you by anyone. You know, Christianity and Islam aren't the only belief systems out there. Some philosophers have great ideas for living well. I highly recommend Leo Buscaglia. He has a non-religious approach to life based in pure unadulterated love.

Be well!

Nvrgoingbk said...

I loved that comment you made about your personal morality too! I do not adhere to any one particular set of moral beliefs, but I do believe that as the Bible claims, for now we see dimly but that one day we will all see clearly. Christians so smugly claim the monopoly on morality and yet the church has now surpassed the world in divorce. The organized church has been guilty of some of the most atrocious acts committed against mankind. The church, on a daily basis destroys people's souls even if they are no longer taking part in inquisitions, slavery, and witchhunts. I too believe that my morality stands up to scrutiny. I attempt with all of my heart to live as sincerely and honorably as I ever did when I was a Christian. Christians seem to think we have left the fold and have somehow lost our moral compass when the fact is that our lives and the lives of many outside of the church come far closer to meeting the standards of Christian love and morality than their own do.

Gretchen said...

"i don't find being an ex-Christian easy; I do, however feel that I am being honest with myself and others."

Rachel, I couldn't have said it better myself. Some xtians feel that us exs should just play a "just in case game". They would rather us lie about what we believe. How insane is that? They promote morality, but lying is okay. Great morals, eh?
Just wanted to say welcome.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for being transparent Rachel.

I was raised in a church, and committed my life to Christ, but as I went through college, I lived life as an atheist. As the exuberance of youth faded, I reevaluated my existence.

How did I get here : the question of origin ?
Why am I here: the question of Purpose?
Where am I going: the question of Destiny?
How do I get there: the question of salvation?

I found myself asking the same question as the man Jesus Spoke to in (Matthew 19:16-26, also recorded in Mark 10:17-27) What shall I do to earn salvation. As I examined various answers to this question from all religions, only Christianity had an answer that under examination held up to scrutiny. I went to every You can not earn it, you can not be good enough.

It is not up to me, it is in the hope and faith I place in my creator, and because of what he has done I live my life a certain way, not because I must but because I want to out of love and respect for my creator. I liken this to the same obedience I grew into when I was old enough to no longer fear the consequences my parents might impose on me for actions, and started obeying, listening and following their council, out of love and respect for them and the sense that they know more than I and have my best interest at heart.

If you examined my actions and prior to my reexamination of life, you would have viewed me as a ex-Christian, disappointed in what “religion” offered, but as always GOD is faithful and will complete the work he started in his timing. As some of you find yourself where I did and reexamine your view of life, don’t turn to another “church”, instead seek GOD and ask him to reveal himself to you, he is already seeking you and waiting on you to stop attempting to fill that emptiness with other things (rituals, things, activities) and come to rest in him and what he has already done on your behalf.

Just a bit of clarification, if you study Christianity closely you will find the following:

-there is no such thing as an ex-Christian (
1 john 2:19, Matt 7:21-23, John 10:27-28

) once a Christian, always a Christian. The faith that fizzles before the finish was flawed from the start.

-not everyone that claims to be a Christian is. What a real Christian looks like can not necessarily be seen by examining people that claim to be Christian.

-Sitting in a Garage does not make you an automobile, nor does going to a “Church" make you a Christian. You may open the doors of a garage and find a car in it, same can be said for a church, but there is no guarantee.

-You will not find anywhere in the bible a measuring stick to tell when you have been bad enough or good enough, it does not exist. There will not be any good people as defined by GOD his righteousness in heaven. Notce in the Matt 7 story, Jesus answered the man’s question concerning being good enough. Notice the difference between the two groups of people between Matt 7:21-23 and 1 John 2:19, one group were into rituals, the other a relationship. In Christianity Jesus came to destroy the ritual of religion, GOD intended to bind back creation to the creator, as only he can not through fear but love.

Lorena said...

Anony said:
In Christianity Jesus came to destroy the ritual of religion, GOD intended to bind back creation to the creator, as only he can not through fear but love.

Lorena responds:

huh?

So telling people that they will go to hell for not believing in him is LOVE? I must look up that word in the dictionary again; apparently, I've been wrong all these years.

Destroy the ritual of religion? What the heck do mega-churches do Sunday after Sunday, then?

Ah! I know. They collect money and make some people rich. No, that isn't religion, right?

J. C. Samuelson said...

"What shall I do to earn salvation. As I examined various answers to this question from all religions, only Christianity had an answer that under examination held up to scrutiny."

Why does one need salvation in the first place? Ask a believer, and they will say it's because of our sinful nature. Ask a non-believer, and they will answer that there is no need for it. But regardless of on which side of the theological fence one sits, one thing we can agree on is that both good and evil are a part of the human condition.

From the believer's perspective, this raises an uncomfortable question - why? Why create beings He knew would turn away from Him? His "plan" was already complete before creation because of His omniscience. He created the conditions, the actors, and the finale. Deviations from this plan are impossible for an omniscient designer, because the designer already knows the path and the destination.

In spite of this, it is the created that are assigned responsibility for the fall. Though it was preordained, the created are considered guilty for doing the very thing that was necessary for the designer's plan to succeed.

Under this paradigm, it is impossible to disobey God. Both those who live by the edicts in the Bible and those who don't play a necessary part in the designer's plan.

So to rephrase the question, what need of salvation if we are playing our assigned roles? Christianity cannot answer that question satisfactorily.

"I liken this to the same obedience I grew into when I was old enough to no longer fear the consequences my parents might impose on me for actions, and started obeying, listening and following their council, out of love and respect for them and the sense that they know more than I and have my best interest at heart."

So do you live by your parents' dictates, or do you have a will of your own? You've never disobeyed them or disregarded advice that you felt wouldn't work? Are you capable of making decisions without considering your parents' wishes? If not, you can hardly consider yourself a healthy adult.

Likening God to a parental figure is a common argument, but it fails on one significant point; the possibility and severity of the consequences for disobedience. If your parents are mature, well-adjusted human beings, they would never disown you for something so mild as not listening to them or believing them. They would never consign you to an eternity of torture for failing to acknowledge them. Yet this is what your God does to His "children," according to your Bible.

And yes, the "offense" really is that mild. Though once again we must ask, is this not unwittingly doing God's will in order to fulfill His plan?

"The faith that fizzles before the finish was flawed from the start."

Ah, the old argument that whoever falls away was never a True Christian™ to begin with. What arrogant nonsense. Oh, ye of little intelligence, how little do ye know of life and the human condition.

Change is the only constant in the universe.

"What a real Christian looks like can not necessarily be seen by examining people that claim to be Christian."

Then there is no way to identify who is, and who is not, a Real Christian™. By your logic, even by examining their "fruits" you cannot know if that person is authentically Christian, or if they harbor doubts that could cost them salvation. Therefore, pointing to someone and judging them as real or not is both offensive and a waste of energy. It is a highly negative pastime.

"...GOD intended to bind back creation to the creator..."

Setting aside for the moment your arrogant assertion that you could possibly know an unknowable being's intent, riddle me this: How did it become separated from Him if not by His will? Is there another force that is equal to Him in power that could separate Him from His creation? Certainly not us. Satan, according to your faith, is not God's equal either, so if not him then who? And if it was His will to separate from it, then the onus is on Him to correct it, not us.

Your logic would have us chasing a relationship with God in order to bridge a gap that God created in the first place.

Your whole post is rife with logical errors and dogma. I, for one, am not moved.

boomSLANG said...

Finally, for a change, a "True" Christian says:

"I was raised in a church, and committed my life to Christ, but as I went through college, I lived life as an atheist. As the exuberance of youth faded, I reevaluated my existence.

So let me guess, you were never a "True" Christian to begin with, right? Oooooo, yikes!.... then you might not be one right now, either!

True Christian asked his/her self:

"How did I get here : the question of origin ?
Why am I here: the question of Purpose?
Where am I going: the question of Destiny?
How do I get there: the question of salvation?"

Yeah, I feel ya...I asked those same questions:
"How did I get here?" My parents had sex.

"Why am I here?" Because through procreation, me parents gave life to a thinking human being who has the ability to reason, and who has self-awareness.

"Where am I going?" Well, I'm going to the 7-Eleven in a minute, but when I die?.. I'm dead...like any OTHER living animal, and I no longer have that self-awareness.

"How do I get there?" In my car.

True Christian said:

"I found myself asking the same question as the man Jesus Spoke to in (Matthew 19:16-26, also recorded in Mark 10:17-27) What shall I do to earn salvation. As I examined various answers to this question from all religions, only Christianity had an answer that under examination held up to scrutiny."

Interesting. So, you scoured ALL the other world religions looking for an answer to the exact SAME question that the man who spoke to Jesus in the Bible asked? Hmmm....that's like trying to find a Big Mac on the menu at Burger King. No wonder you didn't find a satisfactory answer. And anyway, who says we NEED "salvation"? Oh, let me guess...the Bible?

True Christian said: "It is not up to me, it is in the hope and faith I place in my creator, and because of what he has done I live my life a certain way, not because I must but because I want to out of love and respect for my creator."

Oh really?...too bad your "creator" will only reciprocate that "love and respect" if you worship him, otherwise, to Hell you go. Yes, I'm in awe of the diplomacy.

True Christian said: "As some of you find yourself where I did and reexamine your view of life, don’t turn to another “church”, instead seek GOD and ask him to reveal himself to you, he is already seeking you and waiting on you to stop attempting to fill that emptiness with other things (rituals, things, activities) and come to rest in him and what he has already done on your behalf."

Oh boy!!!God is "seeking" us? Mr. "Omniscient" is seeking us?..and what?..he can't find my house? Listen up, you arrogant SOB---your God has had EVERY opportunity in the Universe to "reveal" himself/herself/itself to me. If your God is so "loving" and "wants" to reveal himself to me so bad?.... then I would think that He wouldn't resort to a power-struggle with a little mortal like me. If you witness a child getting separated from his/her parents in a large crowd, what will you do?...will you stand there with your thumb up your ass and WAIT until that child finds you?...or will you go to the child and help him/her? Think hard.

True Christian said: "Just a bit of clarification, if you study Christianity closely you will find the following: -there is no such thing as an ex-Christian"

So, the former wife of a man who emotional abused her a on daily basis isn't really an "ex-wife"...or she was never "really" a wife to begin with, right? Idiot.

True Christian said: "-not everyone that claims to be a Christian is. What a real Christian looks like can not necessarily be seen by examining people that claim to be Christian."

Not "necessarily"? But in some cases, you can tell by what they "look like"? This is getting more comical as it goes. LMAO!

True Christian said: "You may open the doors of a garage and find a car in it, same can be said for a church, but there is no guarantee."

No guarantee, and not only that---but NOT bloody likely you'll find a car in church.

True Christian finishes with:

"In Christianity Jesus came to destroy the ritual of religion, GOD intended to bind back creation to the creator, as only he can not through fear but love."

Another Christian trying to dress up a turd in Barbie clothes. The message of Christianity is crystal clear---Love Jesus...or burn.

barb said...

Anonymous,

Respectfully I say, you are an ass.
What hubris--do you actually believe you can change anyone's mind? Or more pertinent -- that you SHOULD?
As Boomslang said, is the abused wife not an exwife? Did she not try, and try, and f***ing try to do the right thing so as not to get slammed against the wall?
For a lot of us, we weren't burned by fake christians-- we were burned by your god-- your "faith--" we prayed and prayed and our prayers were not answered.
When I asked god for peace, for more faith, for a clear answer on what I should be doing, for an idea of whether I should go into missions, for a cancer not to take a friend, for my mother's life--
god pretended he did not know me.
When my 6 yr old asks me something--when he wants a snack, attention, a hug-- I give it to him and that's one way I show him love. Your god had many opportunities to do the same for me. I wasn't asking for riches-- I was asking for clarity, meaning, love and mercy. I got NONE.

barb said...

Rachel,

I'm sorry hon-- I was so annoyed at 'anonymous' I had to vent first. Now I address you- I'm
sending you hugs and affirmations, you brave thing. Protect your very original, smart and beautiful self from the religious wolves-- like anonymous-- and enjoy normal life.
No endorsement here-- my only endorsement is to each her own-- but I have joined a UU church and have found it comforting and unchurchy. Athiests are welcomed; all viewpoints are respected. Just an idea, but you will find the community that's right for you.
Thanks for a lovely post.

Nvrgoingbk said...

To Anonymous: How dare you come to our "home" and insult us! Who do you think you are Ms. True Christian? Do you think that my library of Apologetic books, my various versions of the Bible, my feel good Christian devotionals....were all sought out, purchased, and soaked up by my hungry heart and mind all because I was just playing church? Do you think my sobs in the dark or my muffled cries in the bathtub(so that my children wouldn't hear my moaning) to God were fake? Do you think sixteen years of witnessing and trying to be the right kind of Christian and always repenting and trying to live a transparant life for God was all a farce? How smug and presumptuous of you! We didn't wake up one morning after having a dream that Christianity was false and say "Fuck Jesus!" We didn't start waving our Ex-Christian flags proudly as soon as we found an error in the Bible.

Do you know how exhaustively I researched the doctrine of marriage and divorce, pagan holidays and practices in the Christian church, saved by faith vs. works, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the "rapture", Hell, the origins of the Jewish and Christian faiths...I did not search for answers just from the Bible. I sought out Biblical scholarly articles, opinions of friends, etc. I would pray that God show me which doctrines were true and which were "doctrines of men". I never wanted to believe a lie, and I wanted to worship God in "spirit and truth". I wanted to be a "true Christian". It wasn't until I could no longer account for the inaccuracies and contradictions in the Bible, that I finally had to admit to myself that THe Holy Babble is full of just that! I could no longer defend a book that was so obviously flawed, and if I could no longer defend the book, than I could no longer defend the God it talked about when the men who wrote it could not even agree as to what he even wanted from us or what he said! If I could no longer defend Bible-God then It made sense to redefine who God really was.

Have you done a comparative study of World Religions? Do you know how recycled the myths in the Bible are, my dear? I was shocked and heart broken to find that I had so staunchly held on to the bullshit the Bible reports when other religions had the same story but had been written down even earlier and the stories revolved around people of their culture such as the Epic of Gilgamesh that records a major flood. Go online and read the flood account in the Epic of Gilgamesh and find out how long before the Genesis account it was written. Find out if the story of Moses in the basket as a baby and being found and raised by royalty is original to the Hebrews. Find out just when and where the doctrine of Hell originated and then go read your Bible again and find out when your OT mentions such a place for the first time. Read up on the other virgin birth saviors who were crucified and raised again for the sinners and were half men and half God. Find out how much older those stories are than that of your Jesus.

Ask yourself this: If you were to read of the slaughters that you find in your bible that God supposedly sanctioned in another religious book, wouldn't you find that religion's God to be a monster? Wouldn't you be disgusted that this religion claims this God to be perfect and loving at the same time? Wouldn't you think these people completely brainwashed?

How dare you insult us by assuming that our experience with your god was anything but real. Once a Christian NOT always a Christian. We can testify to that. And ya know what? If it is true that we were never really Christians to begin with, and God just allowed us to cry and pray and fast and worship and witness and search IN VAIN and now will send us to Hell along side the likes Ghandi simply for not believeing anymore , than FUCK your God, because he doesn't deserve to be worshiped! I'd rather be in Hell with a man like Ghandi who is by far more interesting and consistent than your arbitrary God who answers prayers at random and choses some people for glory and some for destruction...well, just because he's God and can do what he wants!

Do you think you can come in here and recite the same old apologetic BS and have us crawling on our knees back to your imaginary God? Don't you people realise that the more you try to defend your god, the more sappy ass religious love stories you narrate, the more we cringe, the more our skin crawls?!? If you are truely a "loving" Christian than you should repent to Jesus tonight for unnecessarily offending us. I'll forgive you ahead of time for your ignorance if that makes you feel any better.

Go in PIECES! ;-)

P.S. By the way BOOMSLANG that remark about dressing a turd up in Barbie Doll clothes was CLASSIC man. I'll use that one for the rest of my life! LOL!

Piprus said...

Hello, Rachel, and welcome!

I enjoyed your post. You are obviously a good, kind and genuine person. It was refreshing to read of your courage, tolerance for other people, your sincerity. Best wishes!

Jota said...

Hi Rachel,

What kind of brethern group was the one you went to ? There are so many... sometimes you know, I think we blame christianity in its all, but.... there are in my oppinion more friendly christians than ex-christians in this world (at least the ones I know - more from traditional christian groups - luterans, presbiterians, baptists, etc....)

We have to be realy honest, and that is something we are not. A Christian who doesn't love his friends as Jesus loved us is not a Christian.... but I understand the ex-christians well since they had to do things they didn't wanted to do in name of God... that must be really painful.... I think the worst thing in the world is to act in a contradictory way... believe one thing and act diferently....

R Shelby said...

Rachel,

Thanks for leaving a post. I can understand why you miss the aspect of a community provided by a church, especially after spending so much time in its dubious grasp. I always think of the phrase “Time Heals All Wounds” when struggling with a problem that has no quick solution. Perhaps as time goes by the longing for what the church provided will soon pass.

I was surprised to read that you are from England. You must have been one of the 100 Christians left in England. Perhaps one day your country will see the virus of Christianity eradicated forever. Richard Dawkins warned us Americans that if the war monger George Bush was reelected we would have to simulate a Canadian accent while traveling overseas. Since Bushy was reelected by millions of trilobites, I have not had the pleasure of traveling overseas, but a quick disassociation with the “President’ should put me in good standing with my European neighbors.

Over here, especially in the Midwest, the number of hokum peddlers outnumbers the people of reason. Churches have become as large as shopping malls, replete with merchandise approved for holy rollers. They are a large part of the economy and pay no property tax. It is often that I come home and find several pieces of marketing material from churches taped or banded to the doorknob. There are also places of business, especially bookstores, that are “Christian Approved”, attracting believers of the holy book away from stores that sell secular merchandise. I am starting to see the formation of a parallel society here in America.

England is not a large place but your country may have to make room for a few more if America continues its path toward Christian fundamentalism.

R Shelby

P.S. I was going to respond to the inane post left by a Jesus-Jerk who decided to remain anonymous, but my fellow ex-Christians have successfully rebuked him.

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