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
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)