Sharing Our Truth with the Vaguely Religious

Sent in by Bill

I recently heard Richard Dawkins express this point in one of his short interviews. He stated that we as enlightened non believers must do all we can to reach out to the vaguely religious or the “fence sitters” and lead them to our truth. I am a shining example of why this is so important for us to do. I could not officially classify myself as an ExChristian. I am more like an ex wishy washy believer in some sort of generic God. I have faint memories of attending Sunday School as a small child, but I don’t recall ever attending church services with my folks after about age seven. My parents could also fall into the category of the vague believers. They rarely discussed anything about religion, but lead by example to live by the Golden Rule. My parents acts of kindness or generosity were never meant to please an invisible man in the sky. Due to the fact that we had a very beloved gay extended family member, my parents were often critical of the intolerance of most mainstream churches.

Most of my life I professed a God belief and I usually did have the reward of Heaven and the fear of hell in the back of my mind, yet I’ve always had my doubts. Despite my doubts I prayed daily and I would often give God huge thanks when good things came my way. At the lowest point in my life from my alcoholism, I tried to become born again. I got down on my knees and asked Jesus to come into my life. I professed to accept him as my personal savior. My attempt at becoming a born again Christian didn’t take. I just never felt the power of His love. I abandoned the born again concept, but I still thought I believed in God. After becoming sober, I got my life in order, and my wife decided it would be a good idea for our family to join a local church. We got our two kids baptized and we decided to become a real church going family. I remember listening to sermons and just shaking my head. I made it through about four Sundays and I was done. I could not just go through the motions of embracing organized religion if my heart wasn’t in it. I told my wife she was on her own with the church thing, but she soon rejoiced in sleeping in on Sundays right along with me. We never went back to church, yet I still professed a belief in an all loving God, and continued to pray daily and give thanks for the good. But in a way I was in a religious no man's land, I couldn't really find God, yet I couldn't let go. It was an uneasy feeling at times.

After a lifetime of wishy washy God beliefs, for no particular reason at 43(last March), I did a Google search for atheism. I just started reading a series of short articles on various sites that just blew me away. Everything these non believers were saying made perfect sense where as nothing in my world or religion made any sense. I became obsessed with reading all of these convincing articles I could get my hands on, and within a couple of days my God belief was virtually gone. The final irrefutable straw came when I read Dan Baker’s book, “Losing Faith in Faith.” How I wished someone would have shared all this wonderful material with me about 25 years ago. The case against there being a God is just so simple to explain, yet those simple explanations just don’t make it to the general public.

My workplace is a microcosm of society. We have a few hardcore Christians(whom I wouldn’t think of approaching), a few confessed atheists, and a whole lot of wishy washy believers in the middle, from those who profess to be Christian, but don’t attend church, to those who attend church to basically polish the pews with their pants. We must start dialogue with those in the middle whom we feel comfortable talking. If it were so easy for me to embrace non belief, it could happen with so many others out there on the fence, who just haven’t been exposed to the facts. If only everyone would just pick up Dan Barker’s book and read it.

Now to those Christians who are reading this; you may be asking why would we non believers impose on others with our views. The reason is simple. Religion is creeping into government at an alarming rate, and we must make a stand. If people kept their religion to themselves and it had no effect on my life, I would not be writing this, but when religion flows into government and public policy is highly influenced by a 2000 year old obsolete book of nonsense, we should all have a problem. If the religious right sinks their claws deep enough into our legislative bodies, the freedoms we now take for granted, could fall by the wayside, and we may be soon told what books we can read and so on a so forth.

The internet is such a wonderful resource of information. If it weren’t for the resources out there I would probably be trapped in a tepid God belief for the rest of my life. If each of us could just reach out to one other person, who is caught in the middle, perhaps we could start a snowball effect, that could greatly increase our numbers, and insure our country doesn’t become a Puritan State somewhere in the near future.


Please feel free to email me.
xrayman at chartermi dot net

Never Really a Christian, but Had Vague God Belief
Stopped God Belief at 43
Had a Very Brief Affiliation with an Episcapal Church
Atheist...Or I Guess Actually I Would be an Agnostic Deist
Believed because: I Believed in God Because of the End Reward
Left because: Because I Stumbled Upon the Real Truth

Why I despise religion

Sent in by Ryan

My first memory in relation to god was at the age of 4 when my aunty (who in her youth had nearly become a nun) had told me “Now you must always be good because god is always watching you and knows everything you do.” As young child who despite going to church and even Sunday school really had no grasp of this whole god concept, yet had also been filled with the notion of “stranger danger,” I immediately slotted the two together and was thus terrified of being on my own outside the house. My head filled with images of a strange, scary bearded man with many eyes on stalks that could see everything in every which way.

Time passed as it does, I had my first communion and didn’t question it too much (other than why the catholic children got to do this thing and get out of class whist the other children stayed behind in class. To which I never got a satisfactory answer.) Yet over time I began to see less and less point in it (through a few minor incidents which need not be mentioned). When time came for my conformation, my father said something to me which I am still thankful for. He took me aside and asked me if it was what I really wanted, that if I went through with it, I was making a commitment, and had to be sure it was what I wanted. Realising even though at the time I believed in what was told to me, I really had no make this commitment to the church, so I said no, thinking that if I ever felt differently about it I could always do it at a later date. It was the first time I made a life choice, and though I still considered myself a catholic led me to question things more.

More time passed and it was really two incidents of learning history that actually made me hate religion. One church history, the other family. I saw the movie The Crucible and was quite taken aback. It led me to read the book, other things about the history of the church, and the bible itself which up until this time I had not read. I realised the evil and corrupt priest from Ivanhoe (a story I loved as a child) was not an exception but the historical norm. Needless to say I was disgusted; the audacity of Christians to constantly site the crimes and persecutions against them throughout history was nothing but a justification for some of the worst cases of persecution and genocide committed by themselves.

The piece of family history was discovering that my grandfather was not my genetic grandfather. My genetic grandfather (whom I do not consider to be my grandfather) had been a violent abusive drunk, my grandmother was a proper catholic woman, and played the organ for the local church for the last 10-20 years. Everyone in the parish knew my grandfather was abusive, but said nothing. One day my grandmother had enough and got a divorce. This was in the 60’s and she was asked to hand over her keys to the church and effectively shunned by the rest of the parish, including her daughters. Many years later she met Bert (my real grandfather) he loved her, and helped her buy the house she’d been renting, he was hated by my aunties despite all he did for my grandmother, and when she died they fought him for control of the house he was living in, and had been living in with my grandmother.

I so I started reading about religions, wondering which one was for me. I found a few bits and pieces here and there but over and over the picture was the same. One of the most stupid things that humans have tended to do through out history is the institutionalization of belief. Religion frees you from taking responsibility for your own actions, and in effect keeps you as a child with this looming Santa Claus/daddy figure hanging over you, promising to reward you if you’re good and go what your told, or spank you and send you to your room if you’re a naughty boy or girl. God may be out there and my love each and every one of us, but religion is of man not of some great and loving creator being.

This is the first time I've written this all down together, I found it quite liberating. Thank you.

Joined: Born and baptized Catholic
Left: 13
Now: Cynical free-thinker

Double Deconversion

Sent in by "RubySera"

I posted an eximony some time ago because I felt I had to explain about my background. I feel it was riven with anger, frustration, and confusion. I think my thoughts are more organized now so I will post another one.

Mine was a double deconversion. One was deconversion from cultural religion, and the other was deconversion from theological religion. The first was more traumatic. I had never fully bought into the second. What I had bought into, and trusted fully and completely, was the belief that the church had the answer. My mother, other women of her generation, and the ministers all said at the time of my (believer's) baptism that as teenagers we could not understand it all but that as we got older we would get deeper insight.

When I was crowded out of the church at forty-odd years of age, I "knew in my bones" that the highest authority on earth--the OOM bishops, preachers, and deacons who claimed to stand before the body of believers in Christ's stead--did not have The Answers. Something snapped inside of me that day. I knew then that never ever again would I have such complete confidence in and respect for authority as I had all my life for those men in black clerical collars.

I stopped believing in the wrathful orthodox Christian god long ago. At least twenty years ago. I replaced that god with a mystical, force of the universe kind of God. I stopped believing in Jesus at least that long ago. But I didn't know it; didn't dare say it even to myself.

It must have been about the year 1989 when things came to a head. Of all times and places, it happened in a church service on a Good Friday morning when the congregation was singing plaintive songs about Jesus crucifixion. I was in my early thirties. All my life I had wanted to know HOW Jesus' death paid for our sins. Everybody refused to answer that question--I wasn't even allowed to ask it.

All anyone ever gave in answer to the question was Bible verses. I had read the Bible and found no answers. As the congregation was singing that song, I found myself rebelling and telling Jesus I have no pity for his execution because the whole thing was his fault. He didn't have to do it. He chose to do it so there!

So desperate did I feel that I had to either find an answer or throw Christianity out the window. The latter was not an option. I was emotionally in no condition to leave the only social universe I had ever known. Doing so would have meant dealing with extreme ostracism and persecution from my family and everyone else I knew.

For several days I meditated day and night. An answer began to formulate inside my mind. In later years I learned that what I had come up with was the Christus Victor theory. It came to me out of my own psyche, or from the Holy Spirit, as I believed at the time. I had nothing but the Bible to go by.

That allowed me to live with Christianity for quite a few more years. However, I was desperately unhappy on many levels because the community had by unanimous unspoken consent relegated me to the no-so-bright category and refused to allow me any fulfilling work. It was "God's will" and I was admonished to submit to it.

By about December 1997 I was desperate enough to challenge (in my own secret heart of hearts) the possibility of breaking with tradition and getting university training for a career that I would find fulfilling and satisfying. That was the first time in my life that I dared so much as to contemplate open disobedience.

I got accepted into the university, did well, and made lots of friends, but told everyone not to tell my people about it. After fourteen months of studying in secret (from my people) I decided to "come out." That was in Aug. 1999. The church had not provided any solution to my desperation, and when they found that I was finding my own they disapproved so strongly that, for my own emotional well-being I had to leave.

I spent about 48 hours (from Fri. evening to early Sunday morning) in deep mediation and prayer. I took time to sleep but sleep was not easy to come by. About 5:00 Sunday morning I had a "break-through." I knew what I would do. At eight o'clock I called a neighbor whose church I wanted to try. It was a modern Mennonite church.

Today I know it was a fundamentalist church of the purest kind. I lasted about a year and a half there--until I was formally accepted as a member. I tried a few more modern Mennonite churches. I kept clashing with leadership everywhere I went and eventually I just stopped going to church.

All the preachers and adult Sunday School teachers raised issues for discussion, or made promises, or addressed issues, that set me off. I demanded answers to my questions. I challenged their professions and promises for answers. They seemed very sincere about their faith and I did not understand why they refused to answer.

After spending some time on this site I realize their professions and promises were empty and that this is why they attacked me and sent me to see a counselor rather than just answer my questions. After suffering through several really severe clashes I got "church shy." I tried a number of other churches but always got scared after one or two visits.

I would plan to go to church but when Sunday morning rolled round I had no energy to go. I felt guilty for not going. There were people who insisted one had to go to church for real worship and fellowship. "It's different being with a whole congregation than just worshiping in solitude," they said.

After a few years of this I concluded that they are are. It is different. It's debilitating. Worship or meditation in solitude was soul-nurturing and valuable. It brought me peace. Many and many a time did I leave church feeling totally upset even though I had gone in feeling good and positive.

Always there was this fear in the back of my mind. I had moved to the city and it was through church that I found places to live and people to help me move. I felt I HAD to be part of a church simply for the basics of life. I missed community. Then unexpectedly I had to move.

It was a severe test of faith but I soon found a place to stay and in the last minute people showed up to help me move. I had not been to church in a long time. Finding out that it was possible to find a place to live and people to help me move even when not part of a church was quite an eye-opener for me. Maybe I did not have to belong to a church for the basics of life.

I still craved community. I still tried to twist my brain to convince myself that I was a Christian. But I was afraid of social or any informal get-together where I might meet people. Too many serious personality clashes because I was so desperate for answers and deep conversation.

I found myself siding with anyone and everyone who opposed Christianity. I did not know what it meant. I explored a few other religions--mostly other Christian denominations, but I also took a serious look at paganism. Talked with people, did some reading. It wasn't exactly right for me.

Then I found this site. It is a community that resembles the Christian community except for content of belief. This is where I found the strength to stand up for my beliefs and to feel comfortable with calling myself an ex-Christian, or not a Christian.

It feels honest. It feels liberating. It feels like what Jesus said life should be. Surrender, self-denial, taking up the cross for the sake of truth. Peace that passeth understanding. The entire bit. But without have to strain to believe in God. I think that more or less completes my deconversion from theological religion.

I don't anticipate fully adapting to modern culture where material culture is concerned. I did leave physically leave that community successfully, but there will probably be life-long scars.

Converted: Born into church
Deconverted: age 50
Past labels: Old Order Mennonite, modern Mennonite
Present Labels: agnostic, secular humanist
Reason for accepting believer's baptism at age 17: social acceptance
Why did you de-convert?: I was tired living a lie.
email: srbowm at hotmail dot com

Paradise Lost

Sent in by J Milton

I'm going to try to keep my little tale brief.

I've been reading the hundreds of testimonies on this site for the last week now. Thank you, webmaster, for creating this venue and allowing so many people to share their experiences and read the stories of others.

My story is somewhat unique as I was not indoctrinated or forced to go to church as a child (save for a few sunday school sessions at a methodist church) and never believed a shred of christianity during my childhood and teenage years. I actually came to the christian faith via more of an intellectual, mystical path... through the writings of John Milton, Edmund Spenser, C.S. Lewis, and the spiritualist and mystic Renaissance man known as William Blake.

I was in college during this time (of course!) and one year away from getting my undergrad degree in English literature. I was reading the last great epic work, Paradise Lost, which for anyone who doesn't know is the story of Lucifer's fall, Adam and Eve's temptation and subsequent fall, as well as flashing back to the war in heaven and going forward to prophesize all that will happen in the old testament and the ultimate redemption through Christ. As a student of lit., I had read MOST of the old testament and nearly all of the new before and was not captivated at all (had as much meaning for me as the Bhavagadgita). Yet Milton's descriptions and writing really did one on the bible and made it... beautiful... and even... rational.

Anyway, my conversion occurred while I read the first few pages of book 3, where the action pulls away from Satan in hell (after he rallied all the fallen angels and made his way out of hell and ventured into the state of chaos, between hell and the newly created sphere called earth) and then goes to god, who can see from the beginning and end of time not unlike Kurt Vonnegut's Tralfamogorians (aliens) in Slaughterhouse 5 and Sirens of Titan. In summary, what was laid out as the path of salvation made so much sense and was so eloquently presented I became a believer right there... even signed one of those little green new testament books fundamentalists give out all the time with the date of my conversion.

If you haven't read Paradise Lost, I highly encourage you to do so. It truly is wonderful... as is the Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser as well as Lewis' Narnia series... they all create mythological worlds on top of the bible, and in my mind, make it all come to life.

I never went to church. I had no need to. Hell, I didn't even bother reading the Bible, so I was kinda like your average fundamentalist zombie in that way. Yet I felt spiritual for the first time in my life and was confident in the fact science AND faith could exist in the world without contradiction.

But... in the end, I was a convert of John Milton, not the ridiculous jargon of the bible.

Fast forward three, almost four years. Here I am now, married for two years with our first baby due in early March. I live in a fundamentalist hellhole in the Bible Belt of the American south. My quiet and contemplative Christian mysticism of college has completely rotted like leaf fiber on the breeze.

John Milton encouraged higher thinking, logic, education, and most of all, reason. Today fundamental christianity strives to lobotomize the intellect, discourage free thought, and worst of all, obliterate reason. It's absolutely disgusting and I feel like such a fool now for having my little introspective college conversion when some goddamn baptist asshole comes to my door and has the gall to witness.

So where do I stand?

I'm still the free thinker I always was. And I still believe in the ethereal plane, sans any man-applied dogma. John Milton will always mean something to me and Paradise Lost will always have a place in my heart... separate from the others like Salinger, Eliot, etc because none of them ever reached me like Milton did.

So yes, I am an exchristian; I can assuredly say that.

I've read many of your testimonies. My wife experienced what a lot of you went through growing up. In fact, she still has sexual issues with what that horrible, oppressive religion instilled in her young mind. She grew up "Quaker," but was basically baptist... they had a pastor, sermons, youth camp, the whole nine yards... and boy did they push HELL on her early. She felt like she was shit and unworthy of anyone's affection and could not even look at herself in the mirror for an extended time thanks to the goddamn "quaker" disguised baptist filth she was unlucky enough to have grown up in.

I could say a lot more but I don't want to take up any more of your time so I'll close with one of my most favorite contemporary quotes:

"Organized religion is a sham and a crutch for weak-minded people who need strength in numbers. It tells people to go out and stick their noses in other people's business." — Jesse Ventura

How did I become an Atheist?

Sent in by Star Umbehant

A Christian friend of mine recently asked, “What led you to your current beliefs?” Here I will try to describe the evolution from my Christian childhood to my current state of atheism. I can’t, of course, cover everything – but I will attempt to touch on the most important aspects.

To say the least, my childhood was rough. Granted, it could have been worse – a lot worse – but it was bad enough. I don’t have many memories up until the age of six. That was pretty much when the shit hit the fan. My younger brother, age four, was hit be a car while riding his bike. I won’t get into the horrific specifics of the day, or the following months in the hospital, but the events left his body broken and he was in a vegetative state for four years until his death. It was also around this time that I was sexually molested by my uncle although I wouldn’t realize the full implications this would have on my childhood until later. It was also around this time that my mother had her first mental breakdown and was labeled manic-depressive, later to be renamed bi-polar. This also was the start of a constant state of anger and resentment my parents held for one another during the rest of their broken marriage.

You could say my doubts started then. I was taught that Jesus was a loving man who loved little children. I was taught that God loved his people. I wondered why God could let my only brother get hit by a car. Why that God could then let him live for four years, my mother constantly praying and faithful to the very end. Where was my guardian angel when my uncle was taking “naps” with me? Why didn’t God help my mommy and daddy when they were screaming at each other? Why did God allow my mother to see things that weren’t there?

These questions tugged at my heart through childhood. But every Sunday morning I would be assured that “God is an awesome God.” I sung in the choir. I attended youth services on Wednesday nights. I was in Christian musicals and went to vacation Bible school every summer. I recited loved Bible verses and played the bells in musical productions. I honored my mother and my father. I prayed to God every night. I was a good Christian. When my youth ministers asked me to repent because they knew I was not being the good Christian I should be, I cried and repented. I had entertained doubts. I had laughed when one of my friends had made fun of someone. I had felt anger and hate in my heart for someone who had taunted me. These were bad things for a good Christian girl.

I grew up listening to Christian music. I remember a specific incident in middle school in which we were supposed to pick a song and do a “music video.” Most of the kids formed groups and did popular, secular songs of the time. I performed an Amy Grant song that I practiced constantly for day in and day out. I thought the choreography rocked. I was totally unprepared for the laughter and the teasing that followed for weeks after the performance. Even though these children were Christians who went to church, I was mercilessly tortured because I had sung a Christian song by Amy Grant. I didn’t know any other music. From the music I did know, I thought it was the coolest. I started to realize then that there was something I was missing from life; something that these other children were privy to.

My parents originally met at a Bible college and my father attended seminary while I was growing up. He was a hospital chaplain for a short time, and then in my ninth grade year he became a Southern Baptist preacher. The year he became a preacher is the year I started having even stronger doubts about Christianity.

I formed fast friendships with a group of outsiders at my high school. They were hoodlums and smokers, but they were real. They were passionate. We would hang out every morning before school and sometimes skip it altogether. We would go to a coffeehouse, play dots and talk about existentialist ideals all day. We would listen to Pink Floyd and occasionally watch A Clockwork Orange. Eventually I was moved to a different high school where I would meet my future husband.

Robert was the first person I would actually have debates with who didn’t believe in Christianity. Sure I had posed questions to my parents, but they believed in Christianity and always had an answer.

I was in constant defense of Christianity and God in my discussions with Robert. But in my mind, I doubted my own defense. Christianity began to look even more and more irrational to me. It was at this time that I read my first science book for fun – Cosmos by Carl Sagan – this book literally changed my life. When you begin to realize just how large the universe is, and just how small humanity is, it changes you. My whole perspective on life changed.

I was doubting Christianity at this point, but it still had its claws in me. It’s hard to un-brainwash yourself. I had been taught that dinosaurs and man roamed the earth together. I had been taught that Noah’s flood caused the great geological miracles of our times. I was taught that the Bible was the literal word of God. I was taught that God had a plan and that everything in my life was happening for a reason. So I was still a Christian, but of a different breed.

During this point in time a tragedy happened upon Robert’s family – the death of his brother George. I had formed a relationship with George and we had talked about his beliefs in God – or rather his lack of beliefs. He wasn’t a Christian and I questioned the location of his soul – was he now in hell? My mother assured me that he was most certainly in heaven because he had only been a child – fourteen years old. But this brought up even more questions – who gets to decide at what age you need to be to accept Christ and be saved at death? What about the people who are never exposed to Christianity? What about the people who actually got to SEE God? How was it fair to the people who had to accept blindly on faith?

My parents and I moved 400 miles south and I found a Christian church that catered to the kind of people I like. It was a youth ministry for goth-types and hippie-types such as myself. I met up with some older friends and we got along splendidly. Here I found a place where I could have my cake and eat it too. It is interesting how I always seemed to have sexual conflicts in my childhood, from molestation to almost-rapes and other things I don’t want to mention. During this time my youth minister pressured me into having “sexual relations,” if you will. He was adamantly sorry – but I never attended the church again.

It was after this that I encountered the new age revolution and began learning about the “healing” properties of rocks and crystals, the power of our own minds, hypnosis, dreams, etc. During this time I also read up on Buddhist and Hindu beliefs although neither struck my fancy. I did however like the tenets of Wicca. “Live and let live,” try to be kind, enjoy the spirituality of nature, oh yeah – and do fun rituals that are basically elaborate prayers. I learned that these types of prayers didn’t work either.

During this reflective time in my life I would not only realize how vast the size of the universe is, I would realize HOW LONG the universe and earth have been in existence. I would realize that humanity is but a speck of time in our long history. How could we be the realization of a creator if we didn’t come until much, much later? How could Christianity be right when there were thousands of gods and religions that came before? The great expanse of all these things shaped my beliefs.

While I studied Wicca, over the course of a few years, I came across a wonderful book, The Magickal Year by Diana Ferguson. This book described how Christian holidays were based on earlier Pagan holidays and described the mythological tenets of religion. After reading this book I was finally able to throw off the lingering shackles of Christianity. Not soon thereafter I gave up religion of any kind and realized that my life was not any less wanton for lack of spirituality.

I guess I went around for several years calling myself an agnostic – or pretty much ignoring what I was at all. Spirituality had lacked to have meaning in my life and I didn’t really pay it any mind. But society had a way of shaping the person I would become today.

I began to see in the news – accounts of groups of Christians getting together and rallying for the teaching of “Intelligent Design” in public classrooms. I felt inner outrage at the thought. They wanted to teach the same lies and bullshit that I had been fed my whole childhood – in public schools. When you have been lied to your whole life – you can’t help but feel some sort of resentment for the people who spread such lies.

This initial outrage led me to form more specific beliefs about the non-existence of a god. I became more interested in scientific pursuits and have since decided to become a science teacher in high school. Richard Dawkins is my new hero.

I haven’t even discussed my love for evolution and what affect that had on my previous beliefs. There is no way for a rational individual to deny evolution. It is a fact of life. There is evidence for it everywhere. If you deny the evidence and reality of evolution, how do you determine what reality is? If evolution is not safe from irrationality, what is? You can irrationalize-away anything. For me, I cannot equate the scientific facts of astronomy and the “big bang” (or however the start occurred,) geological time, anthropology, biology and more specifically evolution – with the existence of a god.

The fact that I don’t believe in a god means that I call myself an atheist. It doesn’t make me less moral, or more evil. I love my children; I want good things for humanity. I don’t have a desire to maim or kill, rape or plunder. I want to make a good mark in this world and be remembered for my kindness and intelligence. I was born an atheist, and I’ll die an atheist.

Joined: 5
Left: 18
Was: Southern Baptist, Baptist
Now: Atheist, Mother, Free-thinker
Converted because: Religion of my parents
De-converted because: Realized the irrationality

The truth shall set you free!

Sent in by Rob Johnson

My world was so small, so confusing, so depressing, so illogical, and so intolerant as a Christian. Whenever people claim that I didn't try to understand spirituality and belief I just have to laugh. I'm pretty sure I've read the bible more than the average christian--about 8 times. I not once found a cubic millimeter of comfort in the words found there and only had questions.

Why the ridiculous complications of a "perfect" all-knowing, all-powerful God making a "perfect" world and "perfect" people knowing they wouldn't be perfect and fail the absolutely superfluous test of not eating a fruit he deigned as "bad" and then blaming them for creating them perfect, giving them the unnecessary law of not eating from the, ad nauseum. As a literal OR metaphorical tale it's flawed so much that it hurts. So we have huge problems in the first chpater of the bible.

My parents won't let me listen to the Beatles because they were a "bad" influence. I was brought up thinking that sexual freedom is filthy. I was brought up by parents and church leaders to rejoice in ignorance--"faith of a child"-- instead of questioning. I always had questions.

I didn't learn the FIRST THING about evolution until I was 30 years old. I am so ridiculously giddy with happiness that I came across Richard Dawkins' books. He has been instrumental in answering all the questions I had about life and the world in a humorous and intelligent way. I strongly recommend any Christian with serious doubts read "The Blind Watchmaker" and, now, "The God Delusion". Also, Sam Harris has been a voice of reason in this Christian version of Afghanisthan we call America.

I'm happier personally than I've ever been. I have such a concern for all people--i'm not perfect, I get angry and cuss at people under my breath when they drive stupidly or something, but I generally understand that this life is precious, wonderous, full of potential and joys far beyond anything religion can offer.

On the other hand, I'm so sad for people who believe in myths. Sad for radical religious people and moderate. The sad for radical bit should be obvious--they're utterly in their own screwed up world. Sad for moderates who have that modicum of intelligence to realize that we shouldn't stone our wives for committing adultery, but still waste precious moments of their lives in church and trying to believe utter crap. Imagine what we could do if we released that intellectual capacity on, say, curing cancer, exploring quantum physics, genetic research instead of going to church on specious reasoning and wasting large amount of your life studying almost completely worthless nonsense. We'd almost definitely be better off than we are now hadn't we wasted time on men with beards in the sky.

It's so obvious. I can only hope that more and more people wake up. I did and I'll NEVER go back. Thanks for this opportunity...

Rob Johnson

Joined: Brought up since birth.
Left: 23
Was: Lutheran
Now: Atheist
Converted because: Parents brainwashed me.
De-converted: Because the answers never were forthcoming. Couldn't believe the grab anymore.
eamil: rejohnsonil At gmail Dot com

What am I?

Sent in by Harry McNichol

I believe this is the fourth time that I have posted here. This time, I am as spiritually confused as ever. The good thing is I've gotten over my obsession with Islam. Now I am starting to question my own faith in the Church and questioning everything really. Last post, I believe I said that it seemed like I was afraid of the truth because it was staring me in the face.

This semester at school I am taking a Theory and Methodology of Religion class and the prof is an atheist. The readings I have been dealing with have really made me question the validity of religion and faith.

John Lennon's song "Imagine" is kind of my theme song. As far as hell goes, I don't believe in that. As far as heaven is concerned, who knows? Then I got to thinking, wouldn't it be nice if there were no religions in the world? No 9/11, no fundys banging their bibles or the alter boys, no murder in the name of Allah, Jesus, God....etc.,

To me, religion is man made. That's a given. As for the scriptures, they have about as much divine origin as these words on this page: these are my words, not God's. The bible and the Koran, and every other scripture for that matter, were written by men/women who wrote down their ideas about the super-natural.

Am I ready to accept the concept of Atheism? I'm not so sure. I'm probably more leaning to Agnosticism right now, but then again, what is the point of label's anyways? I am a free thinking human being, intellectually trying to sort out what I know and think I know.

FACT: I am Alive. I still view life as a mystery, though this mystery need not be from divine origin. Then again, the answers aren't always there. I acknowledge that I don't have all the answers, but the more I look at life and religion and my background in Christian belief, the more I am doubting it.

Genesis in the bible was probably copied from Babylonian myths and transferred into Jewish stories to explain the mystery of life. Fast forward through time and the Bible as it is today was decided by men hundreds of years ago, who decided which books were inspired and which books were heretical. Any book that didn't fit their perogative was burned or thrown out.

The origin of the universe is a mystery to me. How did this universe come into existence by itself, if there was no divine intelligence behind it all?

When I think of the concept of "God" I question the idea of eternality. Sure, we are finite and in time and space and our finite minds can't grasp what was before time. But God would have to exist before he existed. God had to have a beginning, just like the universe. So what really happened? Was God sitting up there in heaven and decided to create us? Who created God? And if God does exist, why did he create "Satan" and the demons and stuff, knowing full well in his omniscience that evil would run rampant in God's "perfect" creation? An omniscient God would surely have the insight to not create such a mess as we find ourselves in today.

The religionists would like us/me to believe that God has a plan. He has a plan for every single person on this earth. Life is a test and if we pass then our life will continue into eternal bliss. If we fail, then doom on us forever.

My preliminary beliefs as they stand now: Yes, indeed there is an eternity. When we die, time stops. Our lives we lived come to a finite point and we go into that abyss of eternal sleep. To the end of time, the materials that make us what we are mesh into the universe. All our atoms and molecules join the other atoms and molecules in this universe of ours.

What happened to my dog when we put her to sleep? Did she float off into some magical heaven where she can chase rabbits forever and ever Amen? We had her cremated and she sits in our living room to this day. The molecules and atoms that made her what she was spread out with the wind. Maybe she is still a part of us in some way, I really don't know.

Like I said, there are a lot of things I don't know. But I do know that if there is a "God" he/she/it is not some being that points fingers and says: "thou art bad, thou art going to burn forever in hell". If there is a "God", then God is merely the life force that is inside all of us. Then we are all connected to each other and to the universe. To me, that has a lot of bearing on how we should treat others. A morality based on mutual respect and understanding.

Biblical based morality would be a disaster, in my opinion. Imagine a world based on biblical morality where every person you disagree with, you are allowed to murder them. Every homosexual killed, every lesbian killed, every non-Christian killed. Every Atheist, Jew, Buddhist, Hindu, etc. you are allowed to murder. I know that on this point I am rambling and my knowledge may be somewhat limited, but I do know that when I read the bible, Old and New Testaments, I don't see a lot of love for fellow human beings. I see a bunch of laws that are oppressive and some that are down-right barbaric.

I believe that if the world is to make progress, then the religions of the world have to start looking inside themselves and realize that they are just as human as the rest of us and that hatred and killing and disrespect is no way to treat a fellow human being.

I still go to my United Church, when I'm not working Sundays. But do I believe what I hear there? Not neccessarily. This anti-religious tone of me, is not something I'm overly used to. But the more things that start to make sense, the more I realize that the rest of it doesn't make sense, and that the statement I just made doesn't make a whole lot of sense. LOL :)

What I've just written here today is a manifesto of sorts, a description of what I'm going through right now. I have no idea if my thoughts will change, or stay the same. I admit that I have rambled on here, but that's just my personality and me writing down my thoughts as I think them.

Like I said, there is a lot that I don't know. But if I live my life to the fullest and treat my fellow human being with dignity and respect, then maybe that's all I really need to know. If there is something beyond this life when I die, then I'll know it. And if there is nothing after this life, then I'll know that too, though I guess in that case I really wouldn't know it, eh?

My life as a paradox. That seems like a good title for my anti-testimony. Any support that you all reading this can give me, would be greatly appreciated.

Take care, and may the force be with you all. :)

Regina, Canada
email: spare AT accesscomm DOT ca

A Mother Now

Sent in by Athey

My whole family is Christian. Some stronger then others. My mom has told me stories about a short stint in her youth where she decided she was catholic, but primarily because the sermon was in Latin and that was really cool. Haha. Once the church she was going to switched to English and she could understand what they were saying, she lost interested and gave it up.

I was baptized. Had god parents. Was occasionally taken to church (but only really when my grandparents were visiting or some relative or family friend had died). And grew up knowing the basics of the kid-friendly bible stories. My mom never really pushed any serious religion onto me, but I never knew about any other options. I didn't realize that there was an option to Not believe in god. I never heard anyone even mention that.

I remember being young and hearing the term Jewish and knowing enough to realize it was something different then what everyone I knew believed, but that was all I knew. No one ever really educated me about religions. It wasn't a topic that was discussed.

I loved science fiction and history. My mom and I watched tons of Star Trek. I remember my science classes in 3rd grade, and doing little experiments with batteries, copper wire, and light bulbs and how awesome that was. Electricity was so freaking cool to me as a 3rd grader. And the cabbage juice experiments we did! Taking this stinky yellowish liquid and adding various different liquids to it and each one would change it to a different color. Bases and Acids. Really simple introduction to chemistry, but it was fascinating.

I loved watching the discovery channel and the learning channel, and Nova on PBS. Anything on the stars, or ancient Egypt, Greece, china - it was all fascinating.

But most strongly, I remember in 4th grade when I first heard the term "Evolution". It was like an amazing light bulb suddenly came on! It was like "Wow!! Here's something that makes sense!" Something that's real! Something that you can see evidence of. Something that doesn't sound like a child's fairy tale.

One of my cousins was very... VERY religious and she stayed with my mom and I a couple times through the years when she needed help and no other family member offered to take her in. It just so happened that she was staying with us the year I discovered Charles Darwin and had my little revelation.

Imagine an 8-year old girl having a VERY LOUD argument with a 29-year old evangelist about evolution in a Burger King at 9pm at night - haha. It really happened. I don't remember exactly how it started. I'm pretty sure she said something that just dumbfounded me. Something that seemed so ridiculous to me, but she honestly believed it with every bit of her. I was astounded into an argument.

But I was 8 years old. I'd never even heard the term Atheist. I honestly didn't even realize that there were people who didn't believe in god. But in my mind I honestly didn't see how any of it (Christianity) could make sense to anyone. I mean, how was any of this different from the Egyptians believing in Isis and Ra? Or the Greeks with Zeus and Aphrodite? But I thought my disbelief was something to be afraid to admit. That I'd get in trouble if I let anyone know that I didn't believe any of it.

I remember one day when I was 10 and I got up the courage to tell my mom I didn't believe in god, and... nothing. No big deal. In fact... she didn't really believe in it either. Not so strongly anyway. She told me that she was 'Agnostic". I'd never even heard that word before.

Many years later when I was in high school my mom and I had a discussion about religion and she was telling me what she did believe and I told her she was a Buddhist. She thought that was funny.

For most of my life religion (or my lack there of) didn't play any role in my life. I rarely even gave it a thought at all. My husband isn't very religious, but I don't honestly know where he stands on belief in god simply because we Never talk about it.

And then I had Kaya. My little baby girl. She was born in May 2006, and suddenly I realized that I was going to have to teach this little girl something about religion.

My mom didn't really believe in Christianity for much of any of my life, but she never discussed it with me. I guess she figured I could make up my own mind on the matter, but I was never given anything to work with. I don't want to do that to Kaya. I want her to know about everything. But what does that mean? What do I tell her?

I was talking with another woman who is an atheist and has two children, an 11 year old and an 8 year old. She told me that one day her 8-year old daughter came home crying, saying that the kids at school had told her she was going to go to hell for not believing in god.

I still have no idea how to handle this the best way. But suddenly it's important. Where in the past I could laugh off some religious extremist, now I worry about my daughter. When can I explain things so that she'll understand it? What will the kids at her school say to her? How do I protect her from the ignorance of blind faith?

I don't have the answers, but I'm still looking. I guess I can just do my best and hope it works out.

Joined: 1
Left: 9
Was: Catholic Methodist
Now: Agnostic / Atheist
Converted because: Born into it
De-converted because: Realized it was ridiculous

thank god for critical thinking... oh wait... never-mind :)

Sent in by Bob

Growing up I went to church every once in a while. I even went to two different Christian schools in between public schools. My Mother was not a big church-goer but she thought it did good for us kids to believe. In my early teens I was surprised to hear her confess to me that she was an atheist.

I was a gullible sort all around in that I believed a lot of other nonsense as well in my youth all the way up to short of a few years ago. I was an avid UFO buff and strong believer in just about anything supernatural in mainstream media. When I was 20, a lot of my friends started getting saved and having bible studies.

We were all musicians, and one in particular was a really good song writer. He wrote a song that was so moving it gave me chills about the torments that Jesus went through.

From hanging out at these bible studies and going to Christian concerts, it wasn't long before I was one of them. I found many contradictions along the way... I, like someone else mentioned in here, laid hands on people in circle jerks of prayer and spoke in tongues. Someone asked someone on here if they were insane because they had spoken in tongues. Honestly you don't have to be insane. You're in a circle of believers and someone says you are getting baptized in the holy spirit and you've heard others speak in tongues, and there's an expectation to live up to. So you start speaking nonsense... then you start doing it faster, and before you know it, you even believe that god is speaking through you.

When you already believe in a mighty being who popped out of nowhere and created everything it isn't hard to believe such things. Anyhow.. as time went on I was "tempted" to the point of going back to doing things the way I wanted. Over time I started becoming very bitter toward god. I went back and forth between believing in a god and not believing. Finally I settled on believing in god and not believing in Christianity. I was content with who I called "the god of Abraham" even though I didn't believe he existed.

I know now that I did still believe in him.

And a few years later I went back to Christianity. This time it was because of fear that I came back. I was afraid for my life at one point and prayed to god and felt comfort so what the heck might as well, huh. I went on again as a Christian.

Me and my fiancé who was also Christian, got married. She was very happy that I rededicated myself, etc. I believed stronger than I had in the past. I never went to church that whole time but maybe once. I believed in worshiping from home and with friends and family. after a couple of years I re-discovered an old passion: Astronomy. I started learning all I could about astronomy and soon found myself moving into new territory called Cosmology. The more I learned about our Universe, the more questions I had.

Eventually everything I believed in as a Christian collapsed under the weight of reality. It happened really slowly actually. and quietly. I didn't speak about it with my wife. I didn't speak about it with much of anyone. Eventually I told my wife that I wasn't sure how I felt about it. At this point I was sure I was not a Christian but I was not sure what to believe about god. Then seemingly out of nowhere my wife was talking about leaving me.

Come to find out she cheated on me. We ended up working things out and staying together. Long story and not really the point of this story. Anyhow I remember walking through a store thinking about my life and all the things that have happened and In an instant it hit me. There is nothing -- nothing at all beyond the physical reality we can sense and measure. Nature is all that is and has ever and will ever be. There is no fate.

Anyhow, I still didn't put make a complete decision until earlier this year when I realized by accident so to speak that I AM AN ATHEIST AND IT'S TIME FOR ME TO STOP PRETENDING I'M NOT.

So I told my wife.

That didn't go to well.

And then my mom passed away.

Hell of a time to be coming to terms with being an atheist. Anyhow, that's my story.

I continue to learn all I can in science and have learned to become a true critical thinker. The hardest part was coming to terms with the likelihood that this life is all there is. Once I finally learned to accept it, It felt like the world opened up for me. I think atheism has done more for me than any religion could ever hope to. I no longer have to look for the answer or feel conflicted by contradictions.

How old were you when you became a Christian? was raised as an Xtian and then became a Christian at age 20, around 22 I became an agnostic, and then went back to Christianity at 24
How old were you when you ceased being a Christian? 26
What churches or organizations or labels have applied to you? Baptist, Pentecostal, etc.
What labels, if any, would you apply to yourself now? Atheist, Critical thinker, Human
Why did you become a Christian? grew up believing in the bible and felt moved to really show it.
Why did you de-convert? Critical thinking

The perfect religion

Sent in by Andrew Hawkins

I am a 39-year-old male. I grew up in Somerset, UK. It was a pleasant semi-rural existence. My childhood is full of pleasant memories with a loving family. At about the age of 15 I joined the boys brigade, an organisation with religious undertones. We had to go to church services once a month. I suppose that all of those church services must have played their part in me becoming a born again Christian. Billy Graham was on a tour in 1984. I went to see him at Aston Gate football stadium. The sheer numbers of people there overcame me. I was also overcome by the showmanship of the event. On that fateful night I became a born again Christian. I was 18 years old.

Being a red blooded male and highly attracted to the opposite sex and being a Christian is a very difficult thing to do. I was heavily into masturbation and I tried and tried to stop but I couldn’t. I prayed and prayed that Jesus would take these feelings away. He never did, of course. I took communion and one day I read in the bible, I can’t remember exactly where, that he who drinks of the blood of Christ and desecrates his own body will spend an eternity in hell. I remember saying sorry to Jesus and asking for forgiveness but that one paragraph really took hold of me. I remember being really frightened, upset and angry that I was going to hell. Slowly but surely I remember slipping out of Christianity and so I hoped for a long life before I was to face my fate. Hell, when you are in your twenties is a long way off. I remember my Christian friends would pray for me to come back to the fold but they really didn’t know what the problem was.

At this stage in my life I was studying hard to go to university. Once at university I met my wife to be she was a Christian and I told her that I used to be. She then explained that I wasn’t going to hell and that I was misinterpreting that part of the bible about desecrating your body and drinking the blood of Christ. And so I became a Christian again.

After university I started work in Birmingham and my housemate had a Richard Dawkins book, which he lent to me. The book was “The Blind watch-maker”. At last there was an explanation for this life. I began to read other books on evolution. I read a very interesting book about Darwin machines. A Darwin machine is anything that has come about by the same processes that govern evolution. A religion can be said to be a Darwin machine.

1. It has improved due to the process of natural selection.

It has been improved upon century after century and it is still being improved upon. There are many different interpretations of the bible each one being better that the last. By the process of speciation various sub-religions (denominations are created). Many religions are in existence and many, over the thousands of years of humanity, have become extinct. Only two seem to be ahead of the field. Christianity and Islam.

2. It is open to mutations. – There are many different denominations

Looking back on my time as a Christian I can honestly say that I didn’t feel the presence of Jesus, not once. Not once did I see any evidence. One thing I remember which illustrates the absurdity of blind faith is a friend - who went on to be a minister - saying, “God will always answer your prayers. He may answer it with a ‘No’ but he will always answer your prayers”. I can honestly say that I never heard of one prayer being answered with a ‘Yes’.

Looking back another facet of religion and Darwin machines strikes me. The great religions have gone through many different improvements. The improvements are such that they make the religions seem perfect (not quite perfect because of all the contradictions and because not all accept it). Here is not the time to illustrate the contradictions. All the readers of these testimonies have heard them. If I were to create a near perfect religion how would I make it?

1. It would, of course, worship the creator of the universe. What is the greatest thing that a human can imagine? Why, God, of course.

2. There would be a prophet or Son of God to whom you must interface with God.

3. For all non-believers I would say that they would face eternal damnation and for all believers they would have eternal bliss.

4. I would make its moral code close to the natural moral code that all humans have. The moral code would be difficult to adhere to but I would promise rewards for following them.

5. For proof I would perform a few conjuring tricks like turning water into wine.

6. For all of those having doubts about the process of blind faith I would say that if they leave the religion they would face eternal damnation only their damnation would be more severe than the unbelievers.

7. And, of course, everyone loves a martyr. To start the religion I would die for it.

Does this sound familiar?

What am I now? I am a humanist. Which really is a sub-label for an atheist. I am tolerant of people’s beliefs. I can understand why people become involved in church. It is a great social centre. People feel a need to belong to a large social group. But, on the other hand, people feel a need for the truth. And I would prefer to live my life in truth and to hell with eternity.

Reality Sets In

Sent in by Danielle, a.k.a Sithprincess

Well, here I am. Still struggling with some things in my mind, but all in all, I'd say that this hasn't been as hard for me as for some, judging by what I've read in some of the testimonies here.

I was adopted into a Baptist family, whom I love, and am thankful for. When I was little, we didn't go to church on a regular basis, though I do remember being in Sunday school from time to time. I was still raised with Christian values, though, and when I was around 13, my mom and I began attending a Baptist church. We got involved with it, Sunday school, prayer meeting, youth group - the works. I was at youth group every Friday, and eventually my mom became the co-leader of the group. I sat in Sunday school and listened to things that I now realize aren't really even Biblical, like the degrees of Hell and "If you put someone else before God, He WILL take them out." Oh, and of course, most rock songs had subliminal messages in them - that seems to be such a fundamentalist stand-by, doesn't it? I tried to be a good Christian - went to Christian school, tried not to be too "worldly", felt horribly guilty for not being comfortable doing door-to-door evangelism... I couldn't understand why people always said that if there was something we couldn't do, God would do it through us, yet I just could never feel comfortable with the door-to-door bit. I had questions about some of the things God did in my mind, like Him asking Jacob to sacrifice Isaac; it just seemed mean to me. But I assumed He had a reason, so I let it go.

I never was really fond of reading the Bible. It frustrated me that I could never remember where verses were. And I just didn't find it interesting to sit down and read. If I was looking for something specific, then that was okay, but anything else, well... I did devotions out of Psalms and Proverbs, and never ventured too far into the rest of the Bible for my devotions. But I always tried to be what I felt I should be, asking immediate forgiveness whenever I did something wrong.

Time marched on, and I was as devout as anyone could be, truly believing that what I believed was right and the other religions were all false. I married a man I didn't love, someone who was a friend because we had dated on and off for many years, for several (wrong) reasons, one of them being this one (and I'm sure you've all heard it from the wonderful Christian relationship authors before): "The Bible never mentions falling in love, it's all about commitment, you should seek someone you have things in common with and is a nice person, a Christian of course, and you shouldn't be sucked into the "world's" idea of love; pray to God and He will give you love for your spouse." Needless to say, this never happened - oh, I prayed and prayed, but my husband was still just my friend, and God never changed anything. We talked about divorce, and of course we wanted to see what the Bible had to say about it. I had researched this a few years ago, when I was engaged to a divorced man, but I had forgotten much of what I had learned. So I set out to find out about it, and discovered that "putting away" a spouse was different than the actual divorce; the Greek words were two different words with different meanings. I thought men had screwed this up (actually, I thought the very early RCC had screwed it up on purpose, and I still think maybe they did), and it actually prompted me to read the Bible more, and learn about it. The Bible became very interesting to me at that point.

I began looking up different things in the original texts to see how they should actually be translated, and I found more and more that was improperly translated. At this point I started wondering how any of us could be accountable for adhering to the Bible when men had messed it up so much. Sometime during all this research, I stumbled onto a Christian Universalist website and found that "hell" is a GROSS mistranslation of the original words used in the passages dealing with the subject. This was a wonderful revelation to me, that all of God's creation would be, eventually, reconciled to Him. It gave me hope! Around this time, I was also becoming familiar with the Emergent movement and I really liked it. I thought, "Finally! Christians who behave like humans!" Then one night, while researching something else, I found a site that was rebutting Universalism, and for some reason, that really struck a chord in me. The concept of Hell has always really bothered me, and Universalism made it all make sense - there would be punishment for the wicked, then reconciliation, with none of this torment "forever and ever". And I thought "How can we, as humans with finite minds, be expected to grasp something infinite, like Hell? How can we truly take it seriously when we have no true concept of it?"

It bothered me that so many sects had so many interpretations of Scripture, all with support, it seemed, but I figured it was just man's interpretation.

I was also questioning once again the nature of God: the subject of gays and Christianity had come up a lot on the Christian forums, and I had come to the conclusion that maybe it wasn't the problem people had made it out to be. Then one night I looked in the OT and saw that God HIMSELF ordered homosexuals to be killed! I was heartbroken that He could order such a thing! What of the love the NT speaks of? For years, I had thought that the stonings in the OT were MAN'S laws, and that God didn't command these things. It was the antithesis of the way Jesus dealt with things, after all. But there it was when I looked for it, in plain black and white. I just couldn't see loving this god.

It was at this point that I took a deep breath and dove in to see if Christianity was the one true way, so I googled the phrase "proving the Koran is true" to see what they had to say. I had an open mind now, and I really wanted to learn. Much to my dismay, I saw that there were many valid reasons, most of them scientific, to believe the Koran was true! I had never even entertained the idea that any other holy book even would APPEAR credible! This shook me, and I broke down, and cried and cried and begged and begged God to please, please show me He was real and I was on the right path. I got nothing. Zip. Nada. Within the next few nights, I conducted similar searches, seeking information on how to prove other holy texts were "true" and what they said about their gods, and found interesting things like Krishna feeding a multitude with one grain of rice! Sound familiar? I don't know if Christianity and Hinduism could have stolen stories like this from each other, but it was enough to make me realize that all faiths have their miracles. Then I googled "disproving the bible" and related things, and it pretty much went downhill from there.

It has been hard at times, but overall I think I've adjusted okay. I don't know if there is a God or not, but if there is, I have a hard time believing he/she/it would reveal itself to us via the written word. My most recent agonising thoughts have been about the possible lack of an afterlife. To think we just end, close our eyes and that's IT, is a very sad thought to me.

I still go to church - I can't tell my mom any of this, it would break her heart, so I'll just keep my mouth shut and go along for the ride.

I am glad I found the other testimonies here. They have really helped me; so many others have gone through the exact same ups and downs and had the same questions! It's good to know I'm not alone in all this.

Joined: 10ish
Left: 29
Was: Baptist
Converted because: Felt the need to get saved
De-converted because: Learned too much
email: beetlegirl126 at yahoo dot com

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