Thank-you God for opening my mind

Sent in by Trudy H

I am beginning a journey to find truth.

The problem with religion, all religions, including Christianity, is the belief theat they have all the answers. The truth is, no one can ever have all the answers.

We are all on a journey to find truth. As soon as you become part of a religion you get a "package of beliefs," and you no longer need to search for truth or answers: You are right and everyone else is wrong.

Anything that stops you from thinking, growing, searching is not beneficial. Truth should cause you to open up, not close up. People come to church for friendship, fellowship, comfort, etc. which are good things to find, but it is a high price to pay if you no longer are able to challenge beliefs or search for truth.

Thank-you God for opening my mind. Help me to continue to search for truth.

I wrote this yesterday while sitting in my church.

I have just started on this journey. I was raised in a good Christian home. It is hard for me to think about leaving a faith that has given me hope and meaning for many years but I cannot remain in it if it is not true. My husband actually started this journey over 10 years ago. He attended church as a child with his grandparents, but came to the conclusion as an adult that it was not true. I have been slower in coming to that conclusion. My husband says that it is hard for me to give it up because of my close relationship to my family and friends who are believers. I am interested in seeking truth, but I also do not feel a need to put down Christians.

Why the pic of Calvin peeing on the Jesus fish? Not necessary for intelligent discussion. Why the pic of the demons and the naked women?

Sometimes I think people who leave the church are just bitter and immature. Why can't we discuss beliefs without putting down others beliefs. If I wanted things shoved down my throat I could stay in the church.

Have any of you gone through this?

Sent in by Lance K

So I'm done with Christianity, but I have a question that I need your help with. I could give you all my reasons, but as I read the other testimonies here, my own issues resonate well with them. And really, my reasons for leaving are not why I need help. A quick but not complete summary of my reasons would be that I find atheists can have more integrity, tolerance and love than Bible believing Christians, that the search for truth has shown me that Christianity does not have it, that the god of the Old Testament is quite an A-hole, the ugly history of the church - especially the support of slavery in the US, the Christian right-wing and their hatred of gays, and of course that listening to the creation/evolution debate made me realize these people are simply not honest with themselves.

So now for my question. I am 45 years old and have a great wife and three kids who are not quite with me on this whole adventure. I'm in the middle of pulling the family from the the Evangelical Church we now attend, and moving to a more liberal church as a bit of a compromise. I don't really buy the stuff at the new church, but at least I can listen to this pastor without wanting to vomit. I love my wife and kids and don't want something as unimportant as doctrine to fuck that up. Have any of you gone through this? Is moving to a more liberal church enough? Is is possible to slowly undo the damage the old church has done to my kids (ages 6, 9 & 11)? Will the new church keep messing up my kids? I feel I can't stay home on Sunday morning because I need to do damage control on the kids after Sunday school.

Luckily my wife is a thinking person, and is not dogmatic, but this is a stretch for her, as she grew up in the church. There is tension but she is not completely freaking out.

One last piece of history. We had been in a large diverse church in California that could tolerate my free-thinking and questions, but we moved to a rural area and ended up in a more fundamentalist church. It was here that I was confronted with the "inerrant word of god" crap and slowly started to realize that my questions did not have answers. And worse was the the answers these people gave made my head spin with the number of logical fallacies, and just plain screwy reasoning. As I dug deeper, the whole thing came tumbling down. I finally realized that I could be a more whole and loving person by being a ex-Christian.

My mind is still too twisted by the many years of Christianity to completely shake myself yet from a belief in God, but the odd thing is that the love thy neighbor stuff of my Christian up-brining actually helped me see what a load of crap the industrial Christianity of America is and helped me find my way out.

I'll end with a quote from Margaret Mead. She said "The best thing one can do for oneself is to have a religious experience and then get over it."

Thanks for listening. Any ideas would be appreciated. Unless you are going to quote scripture at me and tell me to go back, which will just piss me off. And if you are a Christian that sees this and wants to "help" me, please rest assured that there are lots of people praying for me now. Please let God work through them. This is an ex-Christian web site and I want the perspective of the folks here, not you. Thanks for understanding.

The moment of decision

Sent in by AJ

Names changed for anonymity

This moment of decision was triggered by my conversation with Ryan at Erica's wedding. He was trying to pull me back into the "fold." But, the more I look, think, read, and talk, the more I am pushed away from faith. I even finally admitted to my parents last night that I don't have a clue. Their answers weren't very satisfying. They've closed their minds to make themselves happy. Their opinions and rationalizations seem senseless and misguided. They are robots, controlled and blinded by their faith. Which is sad, because they will not open their minds and really listen to what I say, instead they reply with the pre-packaged Christianese answers I rejected many months ago.

After Ryan's urging, I decided that it would be a good thing to go to Great Big Church with my roommates. Hurray! All the roommates go to the same church. How harmonious! The sermon was on the "peril of falling away." AKA, you cannot leave this cult. "Don't fall away, Don't fall away" Keep playing your delusional mind game, keep out bad opposing thoughts, only allow good ones... What if they actually enticed the apostates with reasons to believe?

Ahh, Christianity, an emotional aneurysm it is. Where is the risen Christ??? Where are the healings? Where is the holy spirit? They are in the WORD. And in that book only.

Everyone told me to pray and read the Bible!!! What the?!?! That's not right. The people in Acts at least pretend to have some knowledge of a risen Christ, and make their appeal based on that. I will not believe unless I see Christ himself. There are not sufficient grounds for belief.

Why should the question be on me, if you cannot give intelligible reasons for your belief?

I will not delude myself, or engage in wishful thinking, just to get what I want. It is tempting to live a lie, profess a falsehood, to get into the social circle, get the Christian wife, etc,. and to be a miserable hypocrite

I will not be that person. It will take nothing less than the living God, if there even be such a being, to change me.

The God of the Bible is not worthy of my worship or praise. And even if he were my creator, judging from His supposed works as written in the WORD, I would still scorn him. I would never obey a command from God to sacrifice my son or to kill a woman and her sniveling child. The God of the Old Testament is a bloodthirsty savage. A despicable bastard. The God of the New Testament is worse, a sadistic torturing fiend.

I am even more driven away from my faith than after I first spoke with Ryan. I suppose I am under demonic attack, under the cavils of the devil himself. Yep, I ate three demons for breakfast this morning...

This is sad because I come from a family and circle of friends that is drenched in this stuff. And breaking from the dogmas will in some sense break me from them... But in the end, I care more for being truthful... Here I stand, I can do no other.

This is my first attempt to explain my brain, so, bear with me?

The first part of my life was a blur with only a few memories that stood out. I do remember going to church with my grandmother and wondering why people were kneeling in front of the bench with their heads down and looking very grim. As I grew older, my mother and step-dad didn't go to church and neither did me and my brother. I don't think we (my brother and I) cared about going to church, except to make my grandmother happy. She would say, "Are you boys going to church with me today? I sure would be glad to have somebody come along. I think you boys need to go, wanna come with me?" Something like that.

Anyway, it was like that for most of my life and I wondered why people believed in god. I could believe that Jesus was real because I knew that there were stories about people in history and how great they were, so, I thought it was pretty much the same thing. A history lesson. For the most part, I thought I was doing the right thing to believe in god and his "son". When people in the church or around me elsewhere would say good things about being christian, I believed it and felt the same way, except that I didn't go advertising and preaching like others. I thought it was too arrogant and shameful to be trying to tell people about something that they could care less about. Guess I was wrong. My peers acted high and mighty and I shuddered at it and wondered why their heads were so big just because they "believed" in "Him". I was taught to be humble in serving god and that if people wanted to believe in him, I should help to guide them on their path to being closer to their creator.

Of course, the confusion didn't stop there. I was informed by my peers that other religions were evil and that any other act that didn't have to do with the "Lord" was vain and to serve this divine king was to live. I couldn't see that, but, I still pretended that I was one of them to "fit in". I stopped after a little while of doing this. Hell, I was in band in middle school and my band director would hold bible studies at his house with all of us attending. I could tell that I wasn't the only one who was there to hang out with my peers and fit in. I laugh about it to this day, thinking, "What was I doing?" The point that made me realize that it was dumb was when my band director said that he was out with a couple of his christian friends at a restaurant and their waitress stood out to them. They saw that she wore all black and she had a pentagram around her neck. This is where the stupidity and cruelty of the christian faith kicks in. They asked her if she knew Jesus and her reply was that he was a good man. I don't even remember what they said to her because, at that point, I knew that it was going to be a stupid remark, but, in the end it made the poor girl walk away crying! At this, my director laughed and encouraged my peers to laugh too. I thought it was the meanest thing someone could do to another person. Especially since she was working and I would hate to be embarassed at work like that.

So, it was then that I started to think of ways that I could have said something back if I were the girl at the restaurant. I think that was when my direction toward the faith started to take a gradual shift in the opposite way. It was throughout high school that I started to study different religions and their beliefs. I found it particularly interesting and comforting that my true beliefs were parallel to a religion other than christianity. The ones that stood out to me were Taoism and Buddhism. Mostly, Taoism. So, I studied it more extensively in private and didn't really share my studies with anybody else. I hid it like I would either get in trouble about it or get ridiculed. I didn't really care, but, I think I would have been embarassed because it was different.

Anyway, I still pretended to be christian, and sometimes tried to get back into it, and married my high school sweetheart after I graduated. I signed into the military and started my career and my family. Over 4 years I'd been studying various different religions and spiritualities, including pagan. Specifically, Wiccan and Druid. I found it stimulating to my mind that I could get into these other religions just like I could with christianity. They have a sort of initiating process to get started, you pray to a deity/deities, they have focal points of prayer (chistianitycross/jesus on cross, paganaltar/deity image, buddhism/buddha figure, etc.).

After a while, I started looking into Buddhism and Taoism again and found that they were better suited for my personality, mind, and spirituality. I found that they made more sense than ol' christianity. Of course, my wife is still christian and I've expressed my disinterest in christianity to her, but, she still thinks that I'll just "come around". I choose to ignore that though until she tries to question me about it again. I've already made up my mind. Christianity isn't for me. It's mostly for people that can't find any other way to keep their minds in check than the bible. I find that the bible was made up by man, written by man, with man thoughts, man mentalities, and the man ego (when I say "man", I mean mankind, but, you can interpret it the other way too). I consider myself a free-thinker and wouldn't have it any other way. I'm not ruling out the possibility of a god, but, I'm also not ruling it in. There's no way to prove either case. If I'm wrong, I don't believe the buybull's version of the afterlife. All I can do is see what happens!

Cognitive dissonance takes its toll

Sent in by Troy W.

My backstory as a Christian is probably not too unique or interesting. Although when I was 'walking away' I felt very isolated and thought I was the only one who had ever gone through it. I later found out how wrong that was.

I was from a non-religious family and 'got saved' in 1984 at 13 years old when a travelling group of musicians came through my school and kicked up some religious fervour. I was later recruited into an Australian Pentecostal cult known as the Revival Centres International. They are somewhat similar in belief to the United Pentecostal Church. At 17 I left that group, rather I was kicked out for a time for having premarital sex once (yes, once), but I took it as a chance to leave and so never went back.

After a few years of avoiding religion and getting right into the thriving nightlife of my city, my religious guilt and fear of Hell and the devil caught up with me and I eventually joined the more mainstream Assemblies of God in Australia (AOG) at 20 years old. I was a member of one of the AOG's flagship churches, Richmond AOG. My more mainstream Evangelical church going experience began here.

As I had so many questions regarding my past beliefs and what was being offered by the the AOG, I started classes at Harvest Bible College (AOG) in 1991. This college was very dogmatic in both its course content and delivery. It was not the place for questioning anything. In my church I was a very active member of the youth group, Bible study, street evangelism, welfare outreach and I even sang on stage from time to time.

I started the road to ministry at college and eventually got a position as a youth pastor in the Geelong AOG and applied for ministerial credential (a years long process). That is a post in itself, but let's just say for now that I saw the dirty side of ministry and the AOG institution. I was quite disillusioned so I resigned my position but returned to Richmond AOG.

I eventually married a pastor's daughter, continued with Bible College and started to research the history and beliefs of the Revival Centre cult on my own. As I did this I was able to see not just the history of the cult but the larger history of Pentecostalism in Australia and the world. I guess I believed I would be able to trace this history back to some kind of more pure form of Christianity. However, as I continued my research, I saw that Pentecostalism's history was littered with scandals, wacky beliefs and strange practices. This hardly reflected the AOG party line about the move of God and revival that had supposedly spawned their movement. My disillusionment grew, the 'Pentecostal distinctives' seemed less and less in line with what I felt the Bible taught, and so I retracted my application for ministerial credential and left the AOG.

After a brief stint of pew warming at a Charismatic Baptist church, I hooked up with the Churches of Christ in Victoria, applied for ministry credential and began a church planting project in the suburbs of Melbourne with my good friend (who is now a missionary in northern Asia). This didn't go as well as I had hoped and so we shut down after about a year and incorporated our group into the urban mission focused South Melbourne Church of Christ (now apparently known as Red). It was here that my faith began to be challenged. This church was more progressive than most Evangelical churches and many people there were fed up with Evangelicalism but not ready to step out into Liberalism or leave the church entirely. This church was one of the international epicentres of what has become known as The Emerging Church Movement. We were, to the pastoral team's benefit, free to explore ourselves and the ins and outs of our faith. Well, to a point anyway.

I had continued my exploration of Church history, having delved back beyond Pentecostalism and into The Great Awakening, The Reformation, etc. Though I couldn't have put it into words at the time, I was searching for some point in history where I could say, "Here it is. Here is a pure form of the faith I can emulate." By this point I had friends who were Methodist, Anglican, Lutheran and other more traditional forms of Christianity, who were on a similar journey and trying to find and live what one of them had called 'Classical Christianity'.

Now most importantly, this whole time, I was still exploring aspects of cults and why seemingly intelligent people do the most horrific or even stupid things in the name of religion or at the whim of the cult leader(s). I was also very interested in why people joined and stayed in pseudo-Christian groups like the Mormons and The Jehovah's Witnesses. I began to study these groups in depth, meet with their missionaries, visit their services and even tried my hand at de-converting members. I spent a lot of money on books, tapes and videos, not all of which were hostile to the groups. I figured the best way to know them was through primary source material. In other words, their own publications. As I came to understand what these groups believed and the worldview they had to adopt in order to remain as believers, I began to see the striking similarities between 'them' and 'us'. I recall consciously making the decision not to think about this too much as it made me more than uncomfortable. Eventually, I was forced to be more honest with myself than this as the cognitive dissonance began to take its toll.

I enrolled in a post graduate Religion and Theology degree at Monash University with the intent of bettering myself for ministry. It was a secular course but I chose only courses that had a Christian emphasis. After reading the course outlines, my wife commented that I was probably going to lose my faith if I did these subjects. My then mentor, Alan Hirsch, also suggested I not do the course seeing as I was having trouble finding any relevance in my church experience. I didn't buy it. Surely the truth was not that 'fragile'. Surely the Holy Spirit within me was not so easily spooked.

I was exposed to lecturers who held a more liberal view of Christianity. Some still attended church, others had long since given it up. All impacted me with what they had to say. My Hermeneutics subject did not parrot the dogmatic Evangelical 'rules' of Hermeneutics but rather looked back through history at different ways key figures in church history had interpreted the Bible. We also looked at postmodernism and its philosophical objections to inerrancy. For assessment in that subject, I wrote a paper that 'debunked' the AOG in Australia's statement of faith concerning inerrancy. That was it for me. I no longer held a fundamentalist theology of the Bible. In 1999, four years of Bible college indoctrination came crashing down after just one semester at a secular university.

I didn't totally abandon the faith for another six years after that. I tried to flirt with Liberal Christianity for a while by reading Marcus Borg, John Spong and briefly attended a Liberal Catholic parish. Nothing seemed to gel with me. It all seemed so hollow, so empty, so meaningless. I eventually started a brief dialogue with Robert M. Price who really helped me with some of my less rational fears about 'walking away'. Bob said something like, "If God really existed then he wouldn't be fooled. If you don't believe then you don't believe. Admit it and get on with your life." So, in 2005, I came to a place where I was finally able to say I did not believe anymore. I was also able to say that I had, in fact, not believed for years and had been kidding myself. Like I said earlier, the cognitive dissonance was a bitch.

Now I am a teacher of English to primary school children in China and have remarried to a local girl. I am completing a Masters in Journalism at UQ in Australia by distance education and even get the odd article published every now and then. I know this is going to sound trite, but I am truly the happiest I have ever been since my teens. I have reestablished meaningful relationships with my non-Christian family, assigned meaning to the everyday and began to live life in the here and now and not for some 'pie in the sky when you die'.

My beliefs

Sent in by Daniel P

We all define our gods through our own beliefs. Usually we are given our spiritual identity by our parents based upon there belief system or religion. This is how I received mine, and for a long time, I defined my god with these teachings. My view of life and the supernatural were shaped by an early indoctrination into my parent’s system of religion. As time passed and my experiences with the world grew, I began to question some of those teachings. The questions that arose surfaced in different forms, but the underlying basis for these questions rested on a conflict that stemmed from the increasing disparity between what was my experienced reality and those early religious teachings.

Why do people believe in a god? What evidence is there that a god even exists? These questions and more have plagued my mind through most of my adult life. The lines of demarcation between two foes, Religion and Reality, were drawn years ago. A conflict slowly arose between my experience in reality and my studies of religion. War was the only resolution, as there seemed to be no reconciliation between these two adversaries.

I‘m sad to say, but the conflict is now over, there is a winner. Reality, more specifically, my reality is the sum of my experiences. Experiences bend and shape our view of the world. They help us learn what to expect in situations, and how to deal with and react to instances that occur in our lives. My experience with life produced a stack of insurmountable evidence for the case of a godless universe, while religion produced little proof.

My revelation did not come on a whim, plucked at random with no effort or forethought. I didn’t simply sneeze and open my eyes to the thought of a universe void of the presence of a god. I put my mind to the problem. I devoted considerable time and effort into finding the right path to god and salvation. I sought information from people who knew about such things as religion and god. I tried to be a True Believer and was even baptized a second time just in case it hadn’t been done right the first time.

No matter what I did, I always came back to the question of why my experiences in life failed to mesh with the religious stories I’d been told. Perhaps it was those very stories which began to relax religions carefully assembled grasp on my mind. Stories of great feats of barbaric slaughter of men, women, and children, all performed in the name of God. The bible is full of tales of murder and destruction delivered at the hand of such a god. I was told of the marvelous love of god for me. The kind of love that caused an incredible act of self sacrifice by God for me, and yet he has prepared eternal torment for my soul, the one he loves so much. It doesn’t make sense.

So I sought out stories told in other religions besides the one so liberally applied to me since birth. I read narratives from Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, and others. I waded through tales of magic and miracles, repeatedly finding the assertions from each that their god was the only real god. In my search I discovered something. Each time I looked deeper into a belief system, I found the same claims of miraculous deeds and astonishing power wielded by an active and vengeful deity or deities. This contention of an active god directly conflicted with my experiences with life where, it seemed, there was no manifestation of direct interaction between god and man. I began to understand that at one time Greek Mythology was, in fact, a religion. I took hold of the idea that many gods have come and gone, to only survive as fables and pages in history books.

Upon these rebellious thoughts, the supernatural fell apart before my eyes. The foundational truths I’d been taught in Sunday school exploded in a thousand directions. The egg shell of indoctrination received a crack as my curious beak explored life outside of dogma’s protection. The moment of realization was profoundly clear. I took a breath, and the air was clean. I decided. I put my hands to the hard membrane encasing my forced belief, and after a final look around, I broke the shell. There is no god.

It’s a terrifying feeling, really, not having an all powerful protector keeping an eye out for me. There is a sense of loss in not having the Big Guy around for those times of trouble. There is a blank spot in my psyche now that was once occupied by the idea of god. That idea is gone, replaced by the reality of my situation on this planet among billions of other people. Reality is setting in and I am suddenly quite aware of my own finite existence. Soon, another birthday will roll around, and then another. One day I will pass that birthday where I am closer to death than I am to birth, as I may unknowingly already have. Eventually, I will use my time up and cease to exist. As a normal human, I am afraid.

In as much as it is terrifying, the absence of a god brings freedom. I alone dictate my life. No one invisible is floating around the room. No demons, ghosts, or dead relatives hanging out with nothing better to do. They are all gone, or better to say, were never here to begin with. Each day is a new challenge into the absurdities and pleasures of this life. Every day I live is a day that I have to work with, to shape and bend in the direction I decide to go.

From an early age I was told about a god who could see and hear all. He would write down all that I said and did and thought at every moment in a book that I would later be judged against. Suddenly, my mind was private. The thoughts inside were firmly mine. There were no longer scribes scribbling down every flash of minutia that traversed my brain. No more did I live under the fear of a forgotten un-confessed sin, leading to an eternal barbecue.

Although it took a long time for me to reach the conclusion that religion is a fairytale, the rejection of the god idea was relatively quick. The expression of that conclusion has been more calculated and cautious. The very admittance of this heretical belief would often get a person imprisoned or even executed not to long ago. My thoughts are transcribed in secret to preserve stability in my family.

But at last, I chose to write this down. I controlled the pencil and I held the paper on which it is written. What’s after this life will be answered to me one day, whether or not there is a consciousness left awake and intact to hear the answer. All I know is that life is for living. Since I only get to live once, I choose to live it in reality.

I am still a very spiritual person

Sent in by Larry M.

My goodness - am I ever glad to have found this site! I cannot say how much the comfort in reading others feelings/stories has helped me in my journey .. but first - some context:

I am from Canada - the Fraser Valley in B.C. to be exact. I was born in 1968 into a Christian family - Mennonite to be exact: If you aren't familiar with the Mennonite people, you might have a look at - for a quick synopsis. The Mennonite people are pretty pacifistic, and refuse to go to war for that reason. I think this led to a lot of confusion when I saw my American Christian neighbors forming what they called "God's Army" as a teen. Violence really didn't make much sense in my neck of the woods. Anyways, my parents became disillusioned in the 70's and stopped attending church altogether. I noticed that they were reading many psychological texts of the time - incl Carl Jung - and this led them finding an old church friend who was now a psychologist. Now this friend was also a "re-born again" Christian, and convinced my Dad to come back to church. As is custom in many Mennonite families, when big papa makes a change, so does everyone else!So my family started attending their old church, but found it "dead" for lack of a better term.

The time was the early 80's, and the big movement was "revival" - think of Hal Lindsey, Kenneth Copeland, Full Gospel Businessmens' Association etc. We started looking around for alternatives to the "Menno Morgue" and discovered the Pentecostal/Full gospel churches. Wohoo!! Word-Faith, Name it claim it, Glossolalia etc . .. all very exciting to a young teen in search of excitement. I was also forming my musician sensibilities at the time, and was attracted to the Christian music of Phil Keaggy, Roby Duke, Degarmo and Key, Rez Band (o ya - I am a guitar player .. can you tell?), Petra, Steve Taylor etc. I was also secretly admiring Van Halen, Led Zeppelin, and the metal rockers. This led to several interesting "Demonic deliverances", and the "laying on of hands" to deliver me from the powers of Darkness. My family also started to take in mentally ill people to help "save them" and probably to "imitate Christ" in the process. I often wonder if this is what contributed to a fear of mental illness I developed in my late teens ..

Anyways I graduated High school, worked a couple of years in odd jobs, and returned to College to study part-time. This was one of the best times of my life - there were so many options to me!I have a wise Aunt who at the time told me that I'd better do something musical, or I might miss the point of my life altogether .. I am so thankful for this (non-Christian) woman!I finished university with a Bachelor of Music, and became a teacher. I also married another Mennonite girl (which I vowed NEVER to do as a teen!), and had 2 beautiful daughters. I was attending church on and off again during these early years, but was becoming increasingly restless with my philosophical/mystical tendencies as a worship leader!

Then - something happened about 3 years ago: I heard Alan Watts.

Let me re-phrase that: I read, listened to, and watched videos of Alan Watts for the next 2 years. I had a 40 minute commute to work, so I would listen to his talks in my car every day. Something began to awaken in me that had always been there, but never allowed to express itself in quite this way. I also studied the works of people like Joseph Campbell and Ken Wilbur, as well as other Buddhists such as Jack Kornfield and Thich Nhat Hanh. I had NO idea of the ways of the East - to me they were always presented as poor and impoverished countries who were paying for their lack of belief in God. Now, they seemed far more insightful and wise than any Christian doctrine I had encountered before.

Well, these days my biggest struggle is that I am still a very spiritual person, but have no one I can talk to about these things. I have one friend who reads similar works (incl. Watts), but he comes from an abusive Christian background and quite hates anything to do with that world. I on the other hand, have a wife and family who are still quite devout, and find it really difficult to say anything without getting their backs up against the wall. I try to present thoughts/meaning in a non-threatening way (similar to how Alan convinced me - by playing on Christian terms and allowing me to follow through all the way on these absurd propositions), but it is very hard not to start a fight. Most of the time, the conversation ends with something like "Well, you're not going to convince me to lose my faith - as it appears you have .." Lose my "Faith" or "Belief"?

Anyways, I really hope that I will be able connect with someone (hopefully local) that can understand me. It gets quite lonely sometimes (esp. Sunday mornings) when my family has gone to church, and there is no one around. Perhaps a site like this can give us some hope that others feel the same way, and can spend some time supporting one another!

One of the lucky ones

Sent in by Keith P.

I grew up in fundamentalist Christian circles in the 1970s and 1980s. Raised in Lynchburg, Virginia, my parents had been friends with the Rev. Jerry Falwell early in his career, when he was still just an ambitious local minister, but they eventually left the Independent Baptist denomination Falwell was associated with and converted to Orthodox Presbyterianism (Calvinism). As a kid, I attended the Calvinist church with my family every week, while attending private Christian schools run by the Baptists. Early on, I noticed the doctrinal discrepancies between the two on such matters as free will vs. predestination, eschatology and other things. Obviously, both points of view couldn't be right, yet both groups claimed to possess the absolute truth on everything. At least some of them were wrong some of the time. I began to wonder what else they might be wrong about.

I first began have serious doubts about Christianity during my final two years at the Christian high school, my freshman and sophomore years, after which I would happily transfer to the much more relaxed and intellectually open environment of the local public high school. I began to notice the mediocre personalities fundamentalism attracted. If these are God's people, I thought, why does God pick such dullards to be his messengers?

During my time at the Christian school, I was exposed to missionaries and traveling evangelists from a number of prominent fundamentalist institutions, such as Bob Jones University. I began to regard the hysterical, cult-like demeanor of these people as distasteful and offensive. They seemed obsessed with hating homosexuals, liberals, secular humanists, communists, Catholics, pornographers, rock musicians, drug users and other outgroups. I decided I wanted nothing to do with this particular brand of Christianity.

After transfering to public school, I continued to attend the Calvinist church. The pastor was an adherent of R. J. Rushdooney's Christian Reconstructionism. While the atmosphere of this church was far more toned down and somber than that of the fundamentalists, the belligerent, hostile, threatening rhetoric was the same. The final straw was when the pastor delivered a sermon gleefully celebrating the death of Libyan civilians, including children, during the 1986 American air assualt on that nation. He clearly reveled in the death and destruction of these infidels. I was nineteen years old at the time, and I decided I would never attend church again and, at age forty, I never have.

I began to develop a burning hatred for the right-wing Christians, whom I had come to refer to with the derogatory term of "Jesus Freaks". I also began to explore my own religious views more thoroughly and extensively. The first small step away from fundamentalism and theocratic Calvinism was to read some of the writings of mainstream clergymen like Dr. Norman Vincent Peale and Dr. Robert Schuller. But these mainline Protestants seemed long on inspirational hype and short on intellectual substance.

I then began to study Church history and read of the abominations and tyrannies perpetrated by the Christian religion throughout history. I studied other religious perspectives like Buddhism, Hinduism and the then-nascent "New Age" religions. I failed to be impressed with any of these. Finally, I came across the works of leading freethinkers like Bertrand Russell, Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud, H.L. Mencken, Thomas Paine and Ludwig von Feurbach along with leading contemporary critics of Christianity like Daniel Barker, George H. Smith, Edmund D. Dohen and Edward Babinski. When I would compare the works of these thinkers with those of the Christian apologists like Josh McDowell, C.S. Lewis, Francis Schaeffer, Cornelius Van Til and William Craig Lane, I came to see the arguments of the apologists as so shallow, weak, contradictory and muddled that I became an atheist.

Ulimately, there is no argument for Christianity other than appeals to pure faith. Any thinking person should consider such appeals to be repulsive groupthink and anti-intellectualism. When confronting Christians with such matters as the inconsistencies and absurdities in the biblical texts or in particular Christian doctrines, I have found the unfailing response to be one of blind appeals to authority and ad hominem attacks.

I have no desire to convert Christians to my own skeptical position. I am content to allow others to proceed with their God-delusions. After all, it's their loss. How much can one appreciate life when one must constantly be preoccupied with whether or not one is truly saved, whether one's friends and loved ones will be saved, whether this or that thought or action will violate any of the labyrinth of rules Christians set for themselves? How happy can one be, going through life with an all-seeing Big Brother looking over one's shoulder, ready to punish this or that infraction? What's so great about the Christian promise of "eternal life" anyway, given that the biblical depiction of heaven resembles nothing quite so much as an eternal church service?

My attitude towards my former fellow Christians today ranges from contempt for their ignorance and arrogance to pity for the misery they have inflicted on themselves. When I observe the large numbers of people who spend their entire lives absorbed in such nonsense, my appreciation for the fact that I found my way out of that mess by the time I was in my early twenties becomes overwhelming. I was one of the lucky ones.

If I'm wrong ... I’m off to hell when I die

Sent in by Mandy

First, let me say I hope there is no word limit to this. Secondly, that my testimony is a bit different from others I have read on this website. I don’t come from a fundamentalist or evangelical background and no life shattering tragedy tested my faith and found it wanting.

I grew up in rural Australia- while church was a focus of much of the charity work and social life of my home town, it was never hard-line: we were taught evolution in my tiny school, and all the local men, even the most “pious”, drank too much at the pub on a Friday night. My family were members of the Anglican Church. My mother was head of the Young Women’s Association, my father was heavily involved with working with the “at risk” teenagers. I went to church and Sunday school, knelt when told to, sang the boring hymns that were easy for the elderly women to sing along to with their shrill voices. I said grace at dinner, prayed before going to bed that god would keep my soul.

If I’m honest, I didn’t much understand it all. I believed because I was told I did. My memories of Sunday school were of colouring in pictures of a handsome, long haired man walking in the desert. I remember someone once asking me, aged seven, what my favorite bible story was, and replying I liked "the one where the donkey road on all those palm leaves".

My parents suddenly ceased attending church when I was about 12- I was never told why, although later I heard it had something to do with the secretary of Young Women’s Association skimming off the top of the donation account, and the subsequent decision of the church not to act. Prayers at bedtime and grace at dinner continued for a few years, but eventually dried up. My sister, slightly wilder than I, was sent to a catholic high school, I went to a government one. Too this day my sister holds on to the catholic doctrine, although her naturally scientific mind makes her mock her own beliefs at times.

I went on to university, studying to become a teacher, and although I never considered myself a "practicing" Christian, it was still there, I said prayers for those in 9/11 and the Bali bombings, and outright pleaded to god when a family member became seriously ill. Although witnessing a friend become "born again" by being baptized in a bright pink rent-a-spa in a suburban church did make me begin to raise an eyebrow at the Christian faith, It wasn't until I started traveling that I really began to examine the label "Christian" which I had always given myself.

In Britain, I began to feel shame when I saw the local father of the Anglican church that my school was affiliated with drive up in his Jag, leather jacket clad, to preach to families who were, by and large, struggling on or below the poverty line. In Budapest, I sat in a catholic church and felt both revulsion and fascination at the solid gold and marble pillars of St Stephens, after stepping over dozens of beggars laid prostrate on the ground, blue hands cupped in a silent plea for money. In Borneo I talked to an Iban warrior who had been converted by missionaries, and wondered why my god of blue stone churches and starched cassocks had more right to inhabit his lush green world than the ancient gods of the forest.

Finally, in Qatar, I met a person who became one of my greatest friends -- an Evangelical Pentecostal Christian, also from Australia. Far from home and church, I went with her as a kind of moral support to a new Christian church, the only one of its kind in the country and squeezed between two mosques. I sat in absolute confusion as flags were waved, people cried and sung and shook, and heard all about the sin that was inside me.

My friend allowed me to debate the Christian ideals that were firmly embedded in her and slowly seeping out of me, without judging. I came to a few conclusions. 1. I was not convinced that Jesus was the son of god, and absolutely did not believe that he was resurrected from the dead. 2. If some of the bible was completely against my own morals -- i.e., hating homosexuals, beating women, racism etc., -- than how could I justify believing any section of it? Either it was all true or not. I had no choice but to believe it was not.

So that leaves me here. If I'm wrong, and god is fire, brimstone and vengeance, than I guess it means I’m off to hell when I die. Many good people have gone there before me, most notably my grandfather, a man dedicated to his family, his country, hardworking, tough and loving and, technically, the least Christian man you could ever meet. I am not atheist. I believe in this world there is something that defies definition or classification, that can’t be put into commandments, or written in a book, be it Bible or Qur'an, and which cannot be effected by prayers or chants or sacrifice. Last time I was in Australia the national census was on, and I was asked to write what religion I followed. I put "TBA".

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