Sent in by Ken
I was born into the Catholic faith. As a young boy, all I can recall was that it meant making sure I attended Sunday Mass and going for Sunday School. You could do anything you wanted during the week but God forbid if you ever missed a Mass. When I was about 12, I went for Confession. I rattled off some typical young boy's sins. The priest listened quietly until I said I missed Mass last 2 Sundays. I got a stern rebuke from the priest. He upped the number of Hail Mary's I had to recite in penance in the hope that "Mother Mary" will lead me to attend Mass.
At 14, a certain disillusionment had already set in about the liturgical approach to God with an emphasis on what to do especially on certain days (eg don't eat meat on Fridays).
In school, a friend of mine introduced me to a Christian group called the Navigators. They were a group which emphasized a lot on converting your friends and family (evangelism). As I liked to read, their approach to reading the Bible and introducing a personal Jesus who is interested in my everyday life was appealing. So, I began to attend their Bible Studies and soon got more and more involved in their activities.
Soon, I realized there was a price to pay for being involved - they wanted to control your thought process and started putting pressure on a young teenager like me to start converting other people. At that age, there was always a desire to fit in and so I gave in. I even went on the streets trying to convert total strangers. Those who brought back results were praised and extolled.
However, a part of me enjoyed my independent thought process and felt resentful that my views were not welcomed. For example, one leader declared that no one should watch the Steven Spielberg movie "ET, the extraterrestrial" because it "mimics" Christ. No debate about it. When I tried to express my view that it is only a fun movie, I began to experience a shift in attitude. They would smile in front of me but slowly began to distance themselves from me. This is just one of the many instances where a non-confrontational expression of views was viewed as "undesirable".
I was also a minority race in this country and soon realized that some of the leaders and Christian friends were uncomfortable interacting with me. They preferred to be close with those who share the same sub-culture and speak the same dialects (although English is prevalent here, many speak their own local dialects with their relatives and friends).
My isolation was increasing. No one would dare tell me straight to my face they had a problem with me. So, they smiled and ignored me.
One day, when I was 21, I was called by my Bible Study leader for a private one to one. This was the first time in one and a half years he had arranged for it. I was excited as I thought he was going to shepherd me. When the meeting started, he wasted no time. The leaders had met and no one wanted to pastor me. He asked that I leave. I was shocked but asked for 6 months as I had a student ministry which I wanted to transition over. He said, "No, leave today itself. Don't worry about your ministry. I will take care of it." Before I left, he said, "If you want, we can still be friends but I want you to know that as of today, I am no longer responsible for your spiritual life."
He knew I was not attending any church. He just left me in the lurch.
By then most of my Christian "friends" sensed I was no longer in favor with the leaders. Soon, they began to ostracize me. I was no longer invited for outings. I had a very good friend (or I thought so) and I can still recall him saying to me : "Like the Proverbs say, only an iron can sharpen iron" and with that he abandoned me and joined another group of Christians who were favored by the leaders.
I did not give up on God although I felt let down by the Christian group. Only one Christian friend kept me company and he suggested we both look for a church. I soon joined a Presbyterian Church.
My disillusionment with the Church grew. They were only interested in how much I donated and the activities I can help out on. I could be Adolf Hitler and they could not care less as long as I paid the dues and carried all the tasks they wanted. No one was in the least concerned about genuine love and spiritual growth. It was all lip service.
Once an Elder asked a Deacon to speak to me to lead a certain Ministry. I said I would like to focus on the youth ministry instead. The Deacon replied that the Elder's response was "If he does not want to lead that Ministry, he might as well leave this church". The straw that broke the camel's back. I left. After 7 years of serving the church, not a single soul called me to ask me why or how I am doing. I began to realize that I was only fooling myself that I was in the company of people who loved and cared for others. Like anyone in society, they got along only with those they can get along with. Even gangsters do that today - so I don't see what was so unique about that.
I initially tried to look for another church but a deeper disillusionment crept in. About that time, there was a seminar by a guest speaker from US who claimed he was so filled with the Holy Spirit, he can prophesy so accurately and he can even call you by name. I guess at that stage, i needed any form of affirmation that God exists. After all it appeared he had abandoned me more than once.
The seminar fee was not cheap but I paid up. When the "prophet" came, he said he was going to change the agenda from the scheduled prophesying to a sermon. He said God loves each one us. It is important to know that Christ died on the cross...what! I don't need to re-hear this message again. I paid for proof he exists. After giving that woolly speech for 20 mins, the "prophet" trotted off. The next speaker gave an hour speech on "giving". He shouted that we all should empty our wallets and have faith that God will bring us home.
I left the seminar in emotional tatters. I told God that he either send someone special to minister to me or to intervene directly in my life. No response. The 3rd choice was to intellectually evaluate whether there is a God.
The next 3 years, I spent reading up on the history of the Christian church and the quest for the historical Jesus. I was shocked as I read more and more how unreliable many of things that are touted as modern Christianity.
I also grappled with the concept of God. I went from agnostic to atheism. All the evidence seem to point to the non-existence of God (eg plurality of religions each claiming they own the true god).
Today, I am a happier person because I am not caught up in the mind control games of religion.
Joined: Born into the faith
Was: Roman Catholic; Protestant; Presbyterian
Converted because: I felt that was the Truth
De-converted because: Did not find evidence of God in his people and directly
Email: kp68sg AT yahoo DOT com