Untroubled self

Sent in by an agnosto-ette

I’ve never joined an online community or posted to a forum before. I am a good lurker and have been lurking for several months. But this is important enough for me to come out and make my first post…so here goes!

I was raised as a Conservative Baptist and accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior at age 7. I would have done it earlier—not because I believed I was a sinner but for a more innocent motivation. I felt sorry for our pastor. At the end of every sermon, with a soft, droning and pleading voice he would ask for someone, anyone, to just “raise their hand”. I was more than happy to comply and raised my hand as often as I could while my mother calmly kept pulling my hand back down. Eventually I reached the ‘age of accountability’, my raised hand was deemed (finally!) acceptable, I was saved and promptly baptized. I did love Jesus (for Yes, Jesus loves me) and so it was.

My young life was a happy one. My happy home life merged seamlessly with my Christian beliefs. My wonderful parents were born-again Christians--devout but not extreme. We attended church every Sunday morning, many Sunday evenings, Tuesday night visitation, Wednesday prayer meeting, VBS etc. (I guess I don’t need to spell out the acronyms here). My mom made the communion bread for the church (it was her homemade pie crust). I remember very clearly at age 8, sitting up in our apple tree overlooking our garden and contemplating my beautiful life and the beautiful world and the reality of God and Jesus who loved me—just as real as my parents who loved me.

So I learned to believe that the Bible is the Word of God. I worked hard on my ‘memory verses’ and enjoyed the felt-board Bible stories of the patriarchs and the adventures of Peter and Paul in the book of Acts—and most importantly—the stories of Jesus. I believed in a literal heaven and a literal hell—but didn’t worry too much about hell because I was a happy and nice and loved little girl. I was a bit of a geeky girl in that I loved science (having become totally smitten with the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo space program) and had an innate intellectual curiosity and an analytical mind.

At age 13, I developed teenage angst and stopped attending church as frequently. I felt it was boring (remember—our pastor had a soft droning voice). At age 14—after being witnessed to by two cute guys---I rededicated my life to Christ and truly meant it. The two cute guys were Jesus Freaks which was just too cool to me—guys my age, with long hair and ripped bellbottoms who listened to rock and roll and were Christian?! In search of more, I went to a coffee house downtown that was a Jesus People center. So I became a Jesus Freak and pursued my faith with an intensity and passion that was quite real and lasting.

I played gospel piano at the Jesus People center five nights a week. I witnessed my little heart out—to friends, family and complete strangers. In witnessing to a biker, I laid hands on and prayed for a Harley that wouldn’t start—with success! I even ‘witnessed’ to Madelyn Murray O’Hare during a brief elevator ride. The best I could summon was a pointed “Jesus Loves You!” She was unaffected. I attended many, many Bible studies and conferences and read volumes of Christian literature. I sat next to a young man during a prayer circle who was so caught up in the spirit that a big snotty booger blew out his nose and hung there (seemed like an eternity) while he continued to sway and pray. While this has nothing to do with my Christian street-cred, it is one of those things you don’t forget! I was anointed with the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues…alot. I prayed fervently for God to heal the sick—though I never really saw anything truly miraculous (I think I was too analytical too see what others saw). I was ‘slain in the spirit’ at a Kathryn Kuhlman revival. My fiancé was coerced into playing the part of Jesus in a ‘street theater’ presentation. On Good Friday, he dragged an 8-foot cross back and forth in front of the department stores downtown. I along with the other ‘sisters’ handed out ‘bloody nails’ (red spray paint) to the shoppers while informing them that “You crucified him”. That one made the front page (after the police let us go).

So I married the man who played Jesus—and we went off to a Christian liberal arts college for a time and for no evil reason except that we were so very young—we divorced. During the same time, my wonderful mother became seriously ill—and died. My wonderful father—lost in grief and loneliness--.married the pastor’s wife (The pastor and his wife had divorced several years before due to his infidelity).

While my mother’s death and my father’s remarriage threw me for a loop (I was only 21), I wasn’t bitter and never even considered blaming God. I had good relationships with my fellow Christians. I did not reject my beliefs—but I slowly stopped attending services, stopped praying and stopped reading the Bible. In my core, I was still the happy, nice and well-loved girl. And I was still a Christian—but not a practicing one.

In a college history of religion class I recognized myself in a chapter about salvation. It discussed the ‘troubled self’—the person with an “ontological sickness, a crisis of identity and meaning”. But further along in the chapter it described me—the “untroubled self”.

“Untroubled personalities….do not endure intense crises of the spirit…Untroubled selves find little in themselves to reject; they do not see themselves as seriously, inescapably flawed. They are optimistic and happy. Life is not experienced as a problem but as an opportunity for celebration. The healthy-minded accept themselves and know that they are accepted by the sacred as well.”

For years I struggled with a simple yet maddening barrier that froze my ability to ask doubting questions about Christianity. My thought barrier went like this: I am intelligent, and that intelligence causes me to ask questions. But if I question the foundations of my faith, I am told to believe that the source of those questions is Satan. I knew it was ridiculous bunk—but it was hard to shake. And I was pretty pissed that I had that bit of “reasoning” about Satan running around in my otherwise clearing head.

I knew I was still saved—though probably backslidden. I was pretty sure I could reject literalism and still be safe. But then, if I read the ‘miracles’ as metaphor then what about the virgin birth—and that is mere pages away from the granddaddy of them all--the death and resurrection of Christ. I knew full well that if I rejected the inspiration and infallibility of the Bible that there was great danger of my rejecting everything.

Often it was easier to just set it all aside and not think about these things—for fear of where it would lead.

It’s so very hard to fathom not being a Christian. One of my friends labeled me a ‘rogue Christian’. Not sure what she meant—other than I don’t attend Church-- but I adopted the label. It let me hang onto being a ‘Christian’ in a way that was palatable to me.

This past year I started homeschooling my teenage sons for good wholesome intellectual reasons. However the homeschool community is largely fundamentalist Christian—especially here in the Bible Belt. I knew I’d need to interact with them to get homeschool support and information. So to prepare myself, I Googled things like ‘backslider’ and ‘unbeliever’ to see what the Christian’s were thinking these days. I skipped right over the Christian fare because I immediately found sites like ‘Losing my Religion.com and ‘Questioning: An Examination of Christian Belief’ and you wonderful people at Ex-Christian.net. I didn’t come up for air for weeks. I read every article and testimony I could. I looked up all the Bible references and...aw shit! There it all was. So I started reading the Bible from Genesis—both in the KJV and the Living Bible to make it easier--and oh, no! God! This is awful! Yahweh is a take-off of a bronze-age warrior King! No wonder he likes glory and worship and judgment and blood lust so much! Ok, ok, but what about Jesus? He fulfilled the law—right? So we can just focus on the New Testament—its much more peaceful and loving there. Shit. I know better. You can’t have Christianity without Yahweh.

So here I am—about 6 months down the road and no longer freaking out, somewhat less angry, rarely still throwing up a prayer (look God! I’m serious! This is it! Are you real or NOT!…..silence) and bouncing somewhere between my sweet, smart, rational self and the demon dogma still lurking in my head. Grrrrrr.

So thanks be to you dear ex-christians—your words are encouraging and help settle my aching head.

Kind regards to you all!

NC
USA
How old were you when you became a christian? 7 then re-dedicated at 14
How old were you when you ceased being a christian? 50
What churches or organizations or labels have applied to you? Conservative Baptist, Assemblies of God, Jesus Freak
What labels, if any, would you apply to yourself now? agnosto-ette
Why did you become a christian? Sincere desire to do so
Why did you de-convert? Logic and reason and reading the Bible

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

You will find peace and happiness on what you do from day to day to your own peoples and the abundance of nature that surrounds you. Your mind is your greatest blessing. Use it well and you will have lived a good life

Anonymous said...

Why were you speaking in tongues? Where you doing a Linda Blair act or were you mentally disturbed?

Anonymous said...

I had a similar story, obviously with some changes here and there. But the "rational self and the demon dogma" is the one thing that makes you go slower with the "de-tox" process... I think that God (or Jesus) would undertand my "thirst for truth"... it is in the Bilbe, isn´t it?
And like has been said, we were given life and nature... i still think that many of the christian principles are very good, but not necessarily chained to the "Christian rules" of salvation, redemtion, sin, and etc...

Nvrgoingbk said...

That was a wonderful post!

I remember a time i was laying in my bathtub when I was "comming out" of Christianity. My faith had been slowly eroding for some time. I laid there and prayed to God to help me hang on. I told him "It just doesn't make sense" over and over. I begged for years for Him to help me feel his love for me, because I suffered so much from constant self-loathing, guilt, and fear of Hell. I knew He was always mad at me. Other people spoke of the "love of God" like it was so real to them and didn't understand why I didn't get it. I would tell them of the many contradicting scriptures on Salvation, explaining that it was for that reason that I didn't "know" that God loved me or that I was saved. It was the very "Word of God" that confused me! I had to finally conclude that the reason he wasn't answering my prayer to feel his love was because A. He didn't exist, B. He really didn't love me or C. He was an ASSHOLE. Anyway it went, He didn't deserve to be worshipped!

For centuries people have believed that Noah who was like 600 years old at the time, built a fucking boat and loaded two of every sort of animal on it. They never asked themselves how in tre HELL he got the penguins from Antarctica, Kangaroos and Koalas from Australia or tropical rain forest tree frogs. For centuries people have believed in talking snakes and donkeys, and a God so fickle he considers a woman HE MADE to be unclean simply for having a menstrual cycle or giving birth when HE CREATED HER THAT WAY!

Fundies go on about the high moral teachings within the Bible as if they are somehow so fulled with wisdom that NO ONE could reject it when in fact, it is one of the most despicable pieces of "literature" man has ever published (right along side the Koran). It is full of bigotry, rape, incest, slavery, murder, war, adultery and lying. We see these things on television, the news and in theatres all the time, but as "entertainment" NOT as the result of commandments from God to commit such acts! The Bible claims that these acts are JUSTIFIED!!!

It is a crying shame that humanity allows such despicable teachings found within the creeds and tenents of the various religions to be upheld, read as truth, and instilled in the minds of Earth's inhabitants! It is sad fact of life that these superstitious HATE DOCTRINES are allowed to be perpetuated. Whatever wisdom exists within the Bible can not be said to be any more morally superior than many other religious and philosophical thought. Every Bible, every Koran, every BOOK OF HATE, should be thrown in the ovens of Auchauwitz as the world makes a toast to the end of fear, the end of a belief in a god that says one group or nation of people are somehow biologically, intellectually, spiritually, or morally superior to all the other people on earth.

I am proud to see another member of "the fold" escape the mind fucking that goes on within the Christian church. Welcome to the "other side".

pyrocrasticfro said...

Thanks for the kind words and the welcome! What I find interesting (and frustrating) is that I've had my Christian faith in cold-storage for so long that I would have expected the strength of the meme's (is that the right word?) to be drained like an old battery. I was suprised to find they still had power over me.
I liked your options A,B and C on why no answer to prayers. If god was real of course he'd love me (what's not to like?) so I also had to conclude--not real or asshole.

freedy said...

"Focus on the N.T.,..it much more peaceful and loving there?"

What about Ananias and Sapphira,..they were killed by god
for a simple lie!

*Jesus himself said he would personally send those "goats" who did'nt feed,clothe or visit the poor and sick into an everlasting torment,....right?
There is almost no mention of hell in the O.T.

I really enjoyed your post and welcome!

Bentley said...

What a ridiculous fool we have all been at some point in our lives! It's life's lessons! When you are raised in an environment that says the Bible is absolute truth and pure fact, we are mentally un-equiped to stand up and question the dogma bullshit, until one day it finally happens, something awakens our common sense and reasoning and says, What the Hell is wrong with me, how could I have fell for such ignorant foolish nonsense for so long?

The Bible was written to silence knowledge and reason, that being knowledge and reason is of Satan and evil, whereas the Bible holds wisdom and truth, why can't people see the contradiction?

One must realize that we have no way to test the sanity of the Bible writers, the Bible is a conglomerate of scripts written down by people strung out on cocain, heroin, wine, marijuana, fear of death and the unknown, they had no knowledge of germs or bacteria, many of the writers cooked their food over camel dung, many writers never took a bath but twice a year, many writers had halucinations from disease and drugs and unchecked personal hygiene, many writers wrote what they thought would be good for people to believe, many writers thought that a fantastic story would be perceived as being from a God, many writers thought that they themselves would be perceived as Holy or Saintly even after their deaths.

A God nor Jesus never wrote any part of the Bible, why not? Were they too illiterate themselves?

Welcome out from the pit of ignorance!

nvrgoingbk, said it best!

SpaceMonk said...

Welcome Agnosto-ette / pyrocrasticfro,

Both cool names... :)

I'm glad your escape wasn't too painful.

Thackerie said...

Hi pyrocrasticfro!

I enjoyed your essay. Thanks for posting, and welcome!

I was never a fundie but I did try to be a christian (mainly, because everyone else I knew claimed to be one), but I just couldn’t will myself into believing. So I tried harder, I prayed harder, and there were times when I repeated the command “believe, believe, believe” in my head constantly like a manta.

When that had absolutely no effect on silencing the rational, questioning part of my mind, I began to study harder. I had already read the bible cover-to-cover twice. Apparently, the third time was the charm because I augmented my bible-reading by reading hundreds of books about christianty and religion in general. But, I didn’t limit my reading to apologetics; I looked at both sides, and that, as well as a college course on the history of the bible, did it for me.

I now conclude that christianity, like all religions, is wholly man-made and if a god exists (probably not), it is beyond human understanding and certainly not something that demands or needs “worship.”

But, the meme is strong and there are rare and fleeting moments when a thought pops into my head that runs something like, “What if the christians have it somewhat right and there actually is a cruel, psychotic god like the one depicted in their bible who encourages war and racism and justifies rape in certain circumstances and, worst of all, would consign the majority of humankind to suffer endless torment?”) I would fear such a god. But I certainly wouldn’t love it, or worship it, or want anything at all to do with it.

Strangely (or, actually, not so strange). I never fear Satan in those rare and fleeting moments. I figure that, even though Satan was depicted as god’s old gambling partner in the book of Job, if he was really such a rebel as the christians claim to believe, he would not do god’s bidding in hell and torture us just for being freethinkers anyway, so we need not worry on that score. Besides, eternal life kissing god’s great, big smelly butt in heaven along with a bunch of self-righteous christians sounds like a worse fate to me than spending eternity along with other rational, intellectual, free-thinking folks.

I agree with Mark Twain: “Go to Heaven for the climate, Hell for the company.” So, in the unlikely event that we ever get there, I’ll save a seat for you and we could, no doubt, have some very stimulating conversations. If, however, this life is all we have (and it most likely is), we’ll just have to go on living it to end, doing our best and making the most of it. In either case, I’m enjoying my freedom and, like you, I am untroubled.

Piprus said...

That's an inspiring testimony, agnosto-ette/pyrocrasticfro...congratulations on your seeing the light of reason. Welcome to the community!

Lorena said...

Agnosto-ette,

Oh, what a great read! I thoroughly enjoyed every word.

Like you, I was an analytical christian, and thinking that I would be heard, believed, or understood, I naively expressed my insights. The pious people of god would just look at each other in dismay at my "offensive" utterances. And then they would look at me as if I was this miserable sinner in need of so much help.

Well, I finally gave them the finger and walked away. And I am glad you did too.

Tiber Jumper said...

Agnostette!
I had a similar experience in the bible church conversion stuff and charismania, however my story recently diverged and this probably aint the right post here, but I became Catholic and rejected the Bible Only fundamentalists who require you to live in denial and reject science. I just wonder if your are rejecting your faith or a cult-like fundamentalist experience. If I could humbly suggest, maybe you don't nned to throw out the baby with the bathwater
:) I appreciate the honesty of all the folks who post here and hope to not go down in flames here!

Anonymous said...

Hebrews 11:6 and without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him

Yes, I am a christian
you will have more troubles as a christian because we aren't conformed to this world

Jim Arvo said...

Anonymous quoted Hebrews 11:6, "without faith...".

Okay, I agree with you so far: that is indeed what Hebrews 11:6 says, at least according to the NIV translation (and the KJV rendering is very similar). Now, is it your opinion that this passage is in some way true? If so, you'll need to provide some argument to that effect, otherwise we can just quote inspired texts all day (e.g. the Koran, the Bhagavad-Gita, the Book or Mormon, etc.) and not come to any meaningful conclusion. You might also wish to explain what is meant by "faith" in this passage, as Christians often understand that word in very different ways; for example, some explicitly equate it with "belief", while others assert that it implies far more than belief.

Anonymous "you will have more troubles as a christian because we aren't conformed to this world"

I'm sorry, but I can't resist... Truer words were never spoken!

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