Sent in by T
I was raised in a fairly sizable town in the south of England. I attended the local Church of England church, more specifically "Anglican", with my family, from an early age - before I can remember. As is common for Anglican Protestants in England I was baptized as a baby. The church is one of the oldest buildings for miles round. The Norman church was built around and altered as the years went on but there's still a lot of the medieval building left, including some graffiti carved into the wall. I joined the choir aged seven and my Christianity grew organically, steeped in the literally awesome feeling of tradition gained from the quiet, ancient, stones and timber and participating directly in the canon of centuries of sacred vocal music - one of man's greatest achievements. Religion was tangible to me. Ritual became hugely important to me and praising God through beautiful music was my most pious goal.
My parents never directly instructed me in any religious way. Aside from being made to say some basic prayers as a child, my spiritual development was left up to the choir, Sunday school and later the youth group. Most importantly, my parents led by example, apparently without feeling the need always to relate "good" to "God". As I became more and more interested and proficient in music, I attended various summer residential courses run by The Royal School of Church Music. This really kept my faith alive. I sang in magnificent cathedrals, secluded chapels and even on stage with a philharmonic orchestra. Leading The Responses in a chapel whilst away on a course made me feel a real connection to worship - "O Lord, open thou our lips..."
Moving towards puberty, various issues affected my life. The deaths of two friends, chronic acne and bullying were particularly hard. I was confirmed at about 14 years old. As I knelt before the Bishop I felt strangely empty. Christianity was becoming very serious to me but something was missing.
I found Christian friends but none whose experience was anything like mine. I turned to my Evangelical friends and was quickly accepted into a youth group. I attended my Church of England youth group but that consisted of at best about five people, including my sister and was rarely intense in terms of spirituality. In retrospect, It was all about support and compassion. A very warm and understated group. The Evangelicals, however, went on exciting excursions, offered fizzy drinks and cakes and of course, had more girls.
I met my first girlfriend through music and she too was a Christian. We encountered all the usual awkward liaisons but with the added pressure of massive guilt regarding lust. We were advised to avoid too much physical contact, which of course fueled our frustration.
Around this time the Evangelical youth group became heavier. i was awarded with a "Youth Bible" for my birthday and discussions led more and more to salvation, the Holy Spirit etc. As far as I was concerned The Holy Spirit was what I felt when I sat silently in church or whilst singing Mozart. To them, it was about talking in tongues, "being touched" and awful rock music. I was getting increasingly involved with the local rock scene and what I heard in Evangelical services seemed neither to touch anything sacred or to rock!
I decided that as this Christianity thing was starting to confuse me, as I didn't have anything relating to a "relationship with Jesus" like my friends and as I was wracked with guilt i should look into it a little deeper.The various events listed above seemed hard to put into the context of my faith. I believed in all the "good bits" that Jesus taught - love thy neighbour, treat others as you would like to be treated and above all, forgiveness - but I couldn't get my head round a sizable chunk of the rest of it. My parents had always had gay friends, had always encouraged me to think historically and scientifically and yet my friends were telling me that a lot of this was downright wrong.
I read the Bible twice. I was doing well academically at school and decided to read it with some close attention. I still believed whole heartedly but needed a little help. I read some Bible guides and some Bible criticism. I came away in shock.
I can't remember the exact chain of events. It was pretty harrowing. I was around seventeen or eighteen at the time. Over the next six months, maybe a year I pulled at threads and soon realized that the whole sweater was unravellings. I had no signs or anything resembling answers to my prayers. I had no relationship with God. I couldn't stand up in church and wholeheartedly join in the creed - I didn't believe in the resurrection of the body or the miraculous conception. I realized that the Creation, original sin, crucifixion, salvation chain of events wouldn't work anyway I tried to comprehend it and I saw more and more examples of Christianity proudly standing up for things that were not what I was about.
One day, I broke down in church. It just all came out in tears and a voice in my head finally, long after the intellectual realization, announced that it was over. I did not believe any more.
The carpet was pulled from under me. I couldn't put anything into a frame of reference any more. I became deeply unhappy and paranoid and to make it worse, felt unable to talk to my parents, who still attend church. I attended with them and focused on the music. I felt like a fraud and tried to avoid joining in any of the spoken parts of the service whenever it would go unnoticed. My moral code was no more and I felt that I never knew whether I was being rude, drinking, smoking, getting off with girls etc. because I wanted to, or in response to my new "freedom" from religion. It was a deep ache that still resonates to this day.
Things have become better. Moving to Music College meant I was could stop attending church. My interest in Agnosticism found channels and I now practice "Buddhism". I am not a member of a religion, I just use the example of the Buddha in my life. The Buddha's emphasis on basing action on what you personally experience rather than any doctrine was exactly what I needed. His refusal to answer "metaphysical" questions about the next life etc. as they waste time in this one and his focus on compassion have helped give me back some feeling of a frame of reference without the -need- for faith, doctrine or evangelism. I find good in things of this world and I try to do good for its own sake, not in the hope of a ticket to the VIP area in the sky, or fear of hellfire.
For a while I was almost "anti-Christian" and I am always sad to here or read of these sorts of opinions. That first girlfriend, mentioned above, is still Christian. She's also still a very close friend. She's a no-nonsense Christian with a healthy real - world attitude. She's one of the most well - balanced, kind people I know and she doesn't take the Bible literally. She's able to live "Christianly" without facing the problems so many of us have. The same could be said of my parents and sister. Whilst I have been firmly uprooted from Christianity, never to return, I would see criticizing such upright human beings as an utter waste of time. It's just sad that, to me, in our present world, they seem to be rather in the minority.
It's taken me about three or four years to be able to write this testimony. ExChristian.net and similar sites helped me, an anonymous reader back then. Recent discussion amongst my friends (mostly atheists) caused me to start thinking about this aspect of my life again, and i feel that this has been a big step in finally dealing with some of the issues of my ex-Christianity that still haunt me.
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)