The paradigm shift

sent in by don't-know-what-I-believe

Growing up I was a child prone to deep thoughts and depression. My family life did not help matters as there was much violence and strife in my home. I remember getting very depressed when I was around 11yrs old as I would think about God, existence, how the universe came to be. My big fear was that I would cease to exist and that the whole universe would one day cease to be.

As a child, Christianity seemed to be a foreign concept to me. My family would occasionally attend a church and in the summer time I would go to a vacation bible school. I remember simply not "getting" it. Even though I was exposed to Christianity on several occasions in my childhood, it was a mystery to me. I suppose that my troubled childhood contributed to my lack of understanding Christian religion.

During my teen age years I dove into the library and would read much in the para-psychology section. I had a hunger to learn about people and why they behaved the way they did. I also had a hunger to learn about God. As time progressed I was open to some New Age beliefs. I was open to reincarnation, astral projection, and who knows what else. (fuzzy memory) All I know is that I believed there was a God.

When I was 18 I was severely depressed and made a suicide attempt with OTC sleeping pills. I stopped taking them mid way through because I feared I would go to hell. I hadn't believed in hell prior to that day and for a few years after I didn't either, but that day it was one of the things that stopped me from taking my life. Honestly I think I really wanted to live.

Years 18 - 21 were strong searching years. I was looking for God, talking to God, and trying to find meaning in my life.

When I was 21 I remember seeing a Christmas play at a friends church and I started to believe that Jesus was real after that. I remember praying to God and telling him I was sorry I hadn't believed before. When I think about it now, I am not really sure what it was that convinced me that Jesus was the son of God.

For the next 9 months I was trying to figure out Christianity. I attended a couple churches briefly and attempted to read the bible. Then comes the International Church of Christ. I was 'reached out' to by a customer at the bank I worked at. Two or three weeks later we met for our first bible study and then two weeks after that I was baptized into this cult. See www.reveal.org or www.rightcyberup.org to learn about this cult. The ICC had a discipling hierarchy. Every member was convinced they needed to have a more mature Christian disciple them in the faith. I can't begin to tell you of the psychological abuse that occurs in the ICC. (Now I know that many other denominations have similar abuses just on different scales.) I bought into it hook, line and sinker. I believed I was a part of the one true church and that all those other "Christians" were really not saved. I also was constantly labeled as proud and independent by the leaders in the cult. I had such a hard time submitting to the authority of discipling, but I became brainwashed into believing it was needed.

Eventually my eyes were opened in March 2003 after reading a letter that a leader in the London Church of Christ wrote. This letter was leaked in the Internet and it spread like wildfire through out the ICC. I was finally validated after 11 years of spiritual abuse. The letter talked about many of the issues that I struggled with over the years, the biggest one concerning the issue of discipling. It also brought up the MONEY issue. This was an issue I was blind to and hadn't let my self question over the years. I learned how much people were making in the ministry and was appalled that they were making more than the average member of the church.

I left the ICC in March 2003 and started to visit several churches. After a few months I settled in at a Baptist church where John Piper preaches. It was a very large church and the majority of the church were Calvinists. I got involved in small groups right away. I believe that was to help fill the void after leaving the ICC cult.

During this time I was processing my cult experience. I was troubled with the similarities of evangelical Christianity with the ICC cult. (I won't get into all the nitty-gritty because this is already getting to long.)

After about a year or so I decided to quit going to church altogether. I also stopped reading my bible and having "quiet times." I had been having those daily QT's for over 13 years.

I also had started school for massage therapy right before I stopped attending church. The school I attending was very "new age" and they did shove their belief system down our throats. I felt very conflicted as this wounded Christian going to a new age school. I was working full time and going to school while continuing to process my cult experience and to sort out Christianity.

Something else disturbed me. A good friend who also left the ICC cult eventually became an Ex-Christian! I was so sad! How could she stop believing? I feared that one day I would too stop believing and that would mean I could go to hell. (Good grief!)

Also in the past couple years I married a good friend who had left the ICC over 10 years ago. He still believed in Christ but had become much more liberal over the years. My husband and I recently listened to a lecture series from Bart Ehrman about how the New Testament came to be and how the scribe change things. I heard how some of the Pauline letters are considered to be written by others well after the life of Paul. That lecture series helped fast forward my breakdown of Christianity and being able to use my mind to evaluate the Christian teachings and the bible. I have been pondering the things I learned in the lecture series for the past month or two since we heard it.

Finally the paradigm shift occurred a few days ago. It's as if I have woken up from a dream. My mind works again. The fear of going to hell is no more. I have been soaking my mind with reading ex-Christian testimonies and essays. I just finished the "Dark Side" book that is advertised on this site. I feel free and happy! I also feel sad as I am grieving over losing my imaginary friend, Jesus. I also feel some similar emotions to my experience in leaving the ICC cult. I left the smaller cult a few years ago and now I am leaving the bigger Christianity cult right now.

I really don't know what I believe right now and that's OK.

Thanks for listening and thanks to all of you who previously wrote your testimony.

11 comments:

crazybeautiful-- said...

Hey there...I know what you are talking about with the whole church of christ cult business. I attended two of their summer church camps and it is very...odd. well thats amazing that now you are thinking for yourself...continue it!

John said...

I had a similar experience after I read Carl Sagan's The Demon Haunted World. It was like a thousand pounds just fell off my shoulders.

Lorena said...

don't-know,

Welcome to real life. Enjoy your newly found freedom.

ryan said...

Hello, don't-know.

You do not sound as though you need my advice, but I just wanted to say that it is just fine if you have no beliefs. I have none and I am getting along just fine. The last thing any of needs is a creed to live up to.

And that is why the single most aggravating statement on this site is "atheism is a religion too." As nearly as I can figure, such people have had their minds taken over by doctrines, and they cannot conceive of anyone who lacks them. I suppose that, to them, life is a set of ideas.

The greatest "blessing" for me, as an atheist, is that I can read a book and not have to decide if what I read is right or wrong; good or bad; true or false. I just enjoy the book.

So enjoy your books, and your life.

jim earl said...

Welcome, don'tknowwhatibelieve. I think you should be called don'tbelieveanymore!
Thanks for your story. I don't know much about ICC, but I do know that all of the churches are alike in that they use the fear of hell as a catalyst to make others tow the line. Good that you woke up. I have an atheist friend that someone keeps sending him church stuff without signing any of them. Once they warned him to "wake up and smell the roses before it was too late." I suggested that we atheists had already smelled the roses (the christian message) and it stunk to high heaven.
Anyway, welcome to the world of reality. Cheers.

Anonymous said...

Ryan,
it's good to hear that it's just fine to not have any beliefs. It does feel free.

I was talking with my husband last night about feeling more at peace. I feel this weight lifted off of me from always judging people. Are they a christian? Going to heaven? Going to hell? Always judging their lifestyles and decisions in life. The thing is as I heaped on my judgements towards others, the jugement toward my self was multiplied. I was never good enough. Never perfect.

I am sure that being judgemental is part of my nature. I was judgental before I became a cultist. The sad thing is that the Jesus religion only helped to enforce this part of my self and magnify it.

- don't know....aka Sherri
(I had trouble when I first entered this post and didn't think it went thru)

Sarge said...

Hey, there, 'Don't Know',

Glad to make your acquaintance.
As you've learned by now, most people "don't knpw," not really. They believe, have faith, feel...you get the picture. But have actual knowledge of these things which feed any religeon? They don't know.

People of "faith" say I have to belive in SOMETHING (many of them would like to make such a thing a legal requirement around here)and I have to paraphrase Terry Pratchett. I believe that I am here and it's now, and that I'll do what I can do to improve the lot of those around me no matter who they are.

ryan said...

sherry, I used to approach anything, not just people, in terms of whether it was "christian" or "not christian". Even harmless inanimate objects had to be judged. When I think back on those miserable days, I come as close to self-hatred as I ever get.

There is a funny side to this....I like to read authors like Nietzsche and Ayn Rand. I like Sartre but I do not quite "get" him sometimes. I am presently reading "The Secret Life of a Satanist" by Blanche Barton--this is the biography of Anton Szandor Lavey. There was a time that I would have turned pale at the very sight of that book.

How the righteous have fallen.

south2003 said...

hey ryan,

Good to see you again.

Sherri, Welcome!

ryan said...

hey south, I'm older and wiser.

Piprus said...

Hi, Don't-Know, welcome to ex-christian.net.

You're absolutely right...not knowing what to believe is OK. There's no pressure, no agenda to follow. You're on a journey of enlightenment and introspection, free to find yourself. Enjoy every step.

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