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!
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
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)