The straw that broke the camels back

Sent in by Neil S

I was a fundamentalist Christian for 27 years. I became "born again" after joining the Air Force in 1979. I remember reading a bible I had bought and for the first time read what the New Testament said about salvation. I realized that I was a great sinner and needed help. I was upset with the way my life was going and saw no way out. I was in my barracks by myself reading the bible when I came across the passage "If you will confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved". I bowed my head and repeated this to God and put my trust in him. I felt great release and love flowed into my heart. I started to go to church, go out with Christian friends, sing and witness in the park and of course read my bible day and night. For a year I was on cloud nine but then I was sent to an Air Force base in England. At RAF Lakenheath (a nuclear bomber base) I was charged with guarding the various weapons we had and prepare for nuclear war with the Soviet Union. It was an exciting time for me since I truly believed that the Rapture would happen any day and was not worried at all about the world situation. In fact the worse it got, the better I felt. Remember, this was the time of President Reagan who was dancing toe to toe with the Russians.

But during this time began to notice that my spiritual life was leveling out. I found it harder and harder to keep my body from sinning. I struggled with thoughts of sin and battled everyday with unclean thoughts. I was going to a Full Gospel Charismatic Church that believed in all the fruits of the Spirit. I remember being asked which of the spiritual gifts God had given me, and I answered that I didn't know. That got me to thinking as to why I didn't have this gift. It was probably because of my sins. But while realizing my worthlessness I also started to notice things going on in the church which started me thinking. I remember watching the healing services and seeing the same people go up week after week with the same complaints. Never did I see someone healed of a major illness, it was always a back problems or cold. We had a guy who was completely paralyzed and in a wheelchair and even though he was prayed over week after week he never did get up. When Kenneth Copeland (the TV preacher) came to England, he even prayed over this man but he still wasn't healed. How could this be? I read in books how this Kenneth Copeland had healed people with cancer and many major illnesses. So why couldn't he heal this man? Oh yes, I remember now, the standard answer given to sick Christians. "You were not healed because of some hidden sin.”

I also began to see what power does to people. The pastor was only part time but he wanted to be full time and bullied the members of the church to pay him a full time salary. Anyone who opposed him was belittled in front of others until they changed their minds. He then took a firm hand in the church and began to attempt to control the lives of his flock. I was finally forced to leave. I was shaken by my experience but my faith in God was still strong.

I returned to the United States, still in the Air Force and went to another Full Gospel Church at my new assignment in South Dakota. I was beginning to see problems with the bible. I saw that there were some very real contradictions that couldn't be explained but I just let it go, believing that God had a reason for everything in the bible. One thing that really bothered me was the violence that God used in the Old Testament against various nations. I just couldn't understand how God could order Israel to kill entire cities, including women and small children. I imagined them being lined up for execution, the woman holding onto their children who were crying and then getting a sword run through both of them. It didn't make sense to me at all and I was very upset at this. I imagined myself an Israelite soldier being ordered to kill children. "Would I do it?" I thought. If I didn't I would be disobeying God and would be killed and sent to hell. That thought put terror in my mind and I quickly thought of different things.

The idea of the end times also bothered me. How come Christ hadn't come back yet after 2000 years? I read many books on the subject and was told not to worry, that Christ would come back when it was time. But then I saw how the prophecies being uttered in church were wrong. They were all saying that Christ would be coming very soon. This was supposed to be God Himself telling the church members that the end was soon. But it never came.

I also questioned the idea of an eternal hell. Again I thought how could God send someone to a lake of fire forever and ever? How about all these people in the world who never heard of Jesus? Were they doomed? The Church was telling me that they were and that God was justified in sending them to hell and in fact one day we would all rejoice at the justice of God for sending those people there. That also made me think that God was being cruel to wait so long for the end of the world. How many people had been born the past 2000 years? Billions probably, and most were going to have to go to hell and be tormented forever. Wouldn't it be more merciful for God to have returned after 10 or 20 years after the death of Christ? But by waiting so long He has condemned these billions. I began to wonder if I truly wanted to follow a God who could so cruelly torture people for ever who didn’t even get a chance to hear the Gospel. I know that the bible justifies itself with the verse in Romans 9:21 which says “Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour and another unto dishonour?” So that gives God the justification to torture His creation if he chooses? As a bible believing Christian for many years I would have answered that as “yes” and thought nothing of it. But is that the kind of God I wish to worship? Is God so cruel that he must hurt and torture people who have never heard of Him?

Another big problem was Church history. The problem was that it was very bloody. From almost the very outset the Church was set with problems that I figured wouldn't have happened if God was truly leading. Then as time went on when the Church took over the Roman Empire and turned it into an Empire of horror. It's hard to imagine a loving God in charge of such a mess. The death and destruction caused by the Church was mind boggling. The entire 2000 years since Christ was filled with violence, hatred, greed and powerful Christians doing bad things to others. People with different opinions were called heretics and hounded out of the cities. When the Empire finally fell and the Church was the only law, things really got out of hand. I don't know how many people were killed in the name of Christ, but it was not a few.

The other part about the Church which ties in with Church history is what Christians act like now. I saw very little love in the Church. I saw greed and people seeking power and money. I saw various churches that didn't care one lick about their members except how they could continue to contribute money to the Church. I was amazed that I never found a man or woman that I could say truly lived the life I envisioned a Christian should live. It seemed that the Church as a whole was even worse than the general public. Divorce was rampant, various sexual sins were all the rage and money was the new god. I saw pastor after pastor fall in various sins.

The straw that broke the camels back for me was Rev Ted Haggard. I didn't know much about him except that he was very big in the Church. When he fell like he did I finally said to myself "THAT IS ENOUGH!" I didn't know what to do or what alternatives I had. I was tired of all this, so I then did the unthinkable. I began to read articles critical of the bible and saw that my past concerns were also the concerns of others. I started reading books about how the bible was written and the various problems with the resurrection accounts. My eyes seemed to be open for the first time. I saw the problems with creation science and began reading books on evolution for the first time with fresh eyes. I felt like I had been in prison for many years and that my learning was very far behind. I loaded up with science books and read many articles questioning the bible. I read testimonies of former Christians who believed exactly like I did and saw that they truly believed the bible at the time but had the same questions that I did. I then promised myself that I would examine the evidence fully and then decide if the bible is truly the Word of God. If it is, then it must be fully followed without question. If not then it is to be cast away.

I read every book I could on how the bible was put together, problems in the bible and about the men who decided what would go into the New Testament. I wasn’t impressed at all. For the first time I saw how flawed the bible was, especially the New Testament. I read about the different Christian groups vying for top position, each with their own Gospels and Epistles, until finally one of them succeeded and eventually took over the Roman Empire and which is alive and kicking today. I also read pro-Christian books including Josh McDowell’s “Evidence That Demands a Verdict.” I was not impressed with their points of view and saw large holes in their arguments. I read various websites and went onto Christian forums that defended the bible and was actually struck with the condescending attitudes of the Christians over people who questioned the bible. Their questions were answered like they were answering a naughty child and their contempt was not hidden. But the answers they gave didn’t actually answer the question. When asked for further explanations, the standard answer was: “it was answered for you. Why are you being rebellious?” This attitude and the way they answered didn’t do much to help their cause in my eyes. It also struck me as to how vicious Christians could be when challenged. Where was the love? The understanding? The patience? I found that Christians as a whole were not “patient and kind,” but “mean and spiteful.”

I gathered all my information and studied it and chewed it over for several weeks. Then I went for a walk and had a long talk with God. I explained my concerns, my questions and asked why the bible was so full of vile and distasteful things such as various atrocities by God fearing men and such evil laws such as slavery? My all time “favorite” law was in Deuteronomy 22:28 which says that a man who rapes a woman using force, he must marry her. God said this? He sure did. Can you imagine if the bible was followed to the letter today? Anyway, I continued my talk with God and after laying out my case I asked him with all of my heart to help me. I told Him that if He is real, please answer my prayer and give me insight into the bible and why it seemed so flawed. I suppose a Christian telling this story would then say that God answered his prayer and he then turned with all of his heart back to God. With me there was silence. Cold, hard silence. I waited a day or so and still felt nothing. At that point I went to my computer and wrote out a statement which said:

"As of this date,December 31, 2006, I now hold the following beliefs:

1. I do not believe the bible is the word of God.

2. I do not believe in the God of the bible.

3. I am no longer a Christian of any kind. "

I then signed it and that was that. I was no longer a Christian. For a brief few minutes I thought that maybe something bad would happen to me, that maybe God was really there and would either punish or reveal himself to me. Nothing happened. An hour or so past and I was still alive. I then started my new life and begin to read. I read like I never did before. I read more books on bible manuscripts, science and various other topics. I soon began to feel a great weight lift off my shoulders. The guilt that I had carried around for 27 years suddenly went away. I no longer woke up with fear in my heart. I felt so relaxed and happy! I found my morals stayed the same. I didn’t feel like going out and killing someone or stealing candy from babies. I felt the same except without the guilt. As I felt myself grow stronger and stronger in my new way of life I began to feel so foolish. Why had it taken me so long to leave the Christian faith?

So, how am I today? Very well thank you. I have not turned back. I have never, and I mean never, have felt any type of guilt whatsoever in leaving Christianity. You would think that if God was really there he would have worked on my heart by giving me great supernatural fear. But there is nothing except peace. I actually feel more compassionate with the world. I can see that God isn’t going to return and fix everything like the environment so we must do it. We are responsible for what we do to this earth and our fellow man. If we want changes, we must do it and not wait for some Deity to do it for us.

My name is Neil. I am an Atheist.

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28 comments:

Andrew H said...

Awesome testimony! I can relate to it on so many levels. Sadly, you are one of the relative few to have escaped after being involved for so many years. Congrats! :)

ComputerGuyCJ said...

Bravo! You actually brought tears to my eyes!

Anonymous said...

wow. thank you.

except for the military service, I could swear this is my life story as well. Yes, I also waited to see if lightning would hit me during the first few days.

Jim Arvo said...

Hello Neil,

That was outstanding. Congratulations on freeing yourself from the mind control of religion. You are absolutely right; it's up to use to look after the environment and each other. In my view, you are now on the road of greater compassion and responsibility, despite charges to the contrary from those who still labor under the Christian dogma. Just keep reading, Neil. It must feel wonderful to be able to contemplate any possibility now without fear of reprisal. Doesn't it seem absurd that an all-knowing and compassionate god would punish you for your honestly-help opinion?

Welcome to the site. I hope to hear more from you.

Anonymous said...

Welcome to reality,A constant unchanging unrelenting force,Wow,you write so well,i hope you will use your intelect to help free more minds,AL in GA

Nvrgoingbk said...

Amazing story. It so mirrors my own. I relate on EVERYTHING you said regarding your coming out experience.

I too would try and reconcile contradictions within the church, the Bible, and the faith on my own, but couldn't. I too, began to look to outside sources, not to discourage my faith but to strengthen it. I too, began to feel my faith crumble and begged god for answers. I begged "him" to not let me go. I warned him that I was teetering. I even went to the extent of writing "god" a letter on Word and begged him to answer it. Surely an omnipotent god would have no problem with reaching out to me via modern technology if he used a burning bush or talking ass! And just like you, the only thing that echoed back to me was SILENCE. I too saw that my morals stayed much the same and in some instances became even more civil. I too felt nothing but peace after I left Christianity for good. There has never been any real guilt, only a "what if I'm wrong" fear that has been born out of sixteen years of fundamental brain-washing, but it rarely surfaces.

You are so very brave, my friend. Welcome to the site. I hope to see you contribute more to our little hedonistic community

Anonymous said...

I am a Christian. I am sorry to hear about your experiences with religious people.

I, like all Christians, am far from perfect. Christians are often far from appealing, but Jesus still remains perfect, merciful, and loving. Despite the many shortcomings of those who are supposed to represent Him, He still draws countless people to Himself every day.

I need and enjoy Him, every day. My name is Ariston. I love Jesus.

freedy said...

I live twenty miles from Kenneth Copeland Ministries and used to attend his meetings.
He teaches that divine healing
is real and that we all should walk in it daily.

I heared that he got very sick
a few years back. To hide this he flew one of his lear jets to Mexico for treatment.
He is one the biggest con-artists in churchianity today.He is a cult leader with great power and control over his people.
Great post Neil,..thanks.

ComputerGuyCJ said...

Ariston,

Do you realize you are only one person in a long line of people who has used this tactic here: "Jesus wuvs ewe! Forgive his imperfect flock and just listen to his voice."

All I can say is R-E-A-D before spewing your mini-sermon. Neil didn't say that it was the flock that ultimately let him down, it was Jesus. He asked Jesus to speak to him so that he could hear Jesus' voice. Neil understood that the flock was fucked up, so he turned to the master to see what went wrong. The only problem is, you can't get answers from dead men or non-existent gods. That's the same reality that hundreds of us here have seen.

Of course, now that I've typed all this, we'll find out that you're a troll and won't ever bother to read the comment that I just posted. Maybe it'll prevent the next troll from following your lead though.

Anonymous said...

Neil,

Great testimony, I enjoyed reading it. I also found it interesting that the Ted Haggard scandal was was did it for you. When that whole Ted Haggard thing happened I really wondered if any Christians would question Christianity instead of just wave it away. What a hypocrite Ted Haggard was.... I didn't feel a bit sorry for him for getting caught. Anyway glad you finally saw the light of reason!

Ariston,

Jesus isn't perfect, because he doesn't exist. If for some reason you're seeing Jesus, or hearing voices in your head that you believe are Jesus, it's likey you have an undiagnosed mental illness (i.e. schizoprenia or psychosis), and you should seek immediate attention from a trained professional.

Lance said...

Hi Neil,
Great post. As others have said, I also felt many parallels with my own journey. Especially wondering why it took me so long to wake up.

I was in the Air Force in 1980 stationed not to far from you, over at RAf Bentwaters / Woodbridge. I also finally tossed the whole Christian thing in the past year or two.

It seems funny how all it takes is a quest for the truth, and an willingness to challenge any belief, no matter how deep seated, in order to realize how we were deceived for so long, and to finally wake up.

I'm just glad to be awake and free now. Glad to have you with us brother.

Thanks for the story.

Lance

Anonymous said...

Hey Neil,

What a wonderful anti-testimony! Congrats!!! Like so many here, I can relate to it on, oh, so so many levels. Like you, I knew more peace than when I was a devout Christian for more than 12 years. Like you, I did not turn into a denegrate animal when I turned my back on "God". In fact, I find myself more compassionate to my fellow human friends because they are no more a "project", a soul to be snatched from the fires of hell. I can now relate to them on equal footing, people who bleed blood when cut and cry salty tears when sad.

Ariston,

People like you when you come into this site, never ever bother to read what is written with any ounce of understanding. Like Neil, it is not Christians that turned me away from church, it is God himself. In my many years as a Christian, I cannot remember one single prayer where it is answered definitively without a shadow of doubt. I read the Bible diligently. Oh, how I read them. But did God ever speak through it? No. Nothing. Silence. Absolute deafening silence. If my spouse or partner behaved the way God did i.e. utter silence, why I would have dumped her long time ago! And I wonder why it took me so long when it comes to God.

Have a great life, Neil!

Joe

Greg said...

The Christian life is a difficult one, and, as the last poster said, prayers are often not anwered...especially if you are asking for yourself.
And many Christians can behave like jerks, human beings being as prone to error and self absorption as they are.
I have no doubt that your rejection of Christ has made things easier in this life, and that you will probably have a productive future.
In fact, a very full life, probably happier than you would if you had stuck with Christianity.
Enjoy the ride.
But in the end, Hell will still be waiting.

.:webmaster:. said...

Greg said: "And many Christians can behave like jerks..."

Then he added: "In the end, Hell will still be waiting."

Ironic.

Remember: You must love Greg's unconditionally loving god, or you will suffer horrific, agonizing torment throughout all eternity.

Gemma said...

Thanks for your very thoughtful and well written testimony Neil, I could identify with many of the things you spoke about.
Best wishes!

stronger now said...

Greg..."hell will still be waiting."

It sounds to me like this guy fears hell more than he loves his gawd. At least he agrees that atheists can have happier lives than christians. Other christians think atheists are a sorrowful bunch of pricks, always searching for true happiness and never finding it.

So Greg, Why doest thou kick against the pricks?

paul said...

Neil,
Ditto everyone else (cept the Christians). I think the fellowship I have felt among exbelievers is far superior to that I ever experienced as a believer since the 'ties that bind' are real.

I had to laugh at what Greg said: "hell will still be waiting." Don't they say something similar about Las Vegas?

Anonymous said...

Man....Ariston.....Christinity Sucks.Coz, at my place or rather say in my country,ppl r poor enough to convert for the benificials and the money u ppl offer for converted.U know i seen in houses where they go to church every sunday for sake of ....u know. And worship their God secretly.

I'm an Indian and hate the things done by christians to convert the world into bloddy chri...

redtail said...

Greg said..prayers are often not answered especially if you are asking for yourself

Wow...cant count the times i heard that one...and you know
Greg-he wasnt asking for himself if he was asking god for faith because supposedly thats to glorify God. You need to try a different one next time. May i suggest the-"you recei
ved the answer but werent listening" one? Or maybe the- "you have some sin in your life youre not letting go of" one. That was the one that always got me!
Anyway.. Neil-that was a terrific post. I felt I could have written it myself-but much less eloquently!!

Anonymous said...

Jesus still loves you. In all these comments I can hear Satan`s voice. Please repent!

ComputerGuyCJ said...

LOL

"Jesus still loves you!"
Then tell him to get on the damned phone and talk to us!

"I can hear Satan's voice."
Well, at least someone's talking!

By the way, anony, I am Satan. And I've been talking with God. It seems he's going to let you be the next Job. Are you ready for some real persecution?

Anonymous said...

I think most people here can relate to your story. Personally, I was a Christian for 20 years, and I read the Bible intensely for most of that time. I missed out on so much of life because of Christianity (especially the wonderful works of literature I could have been enjoying instead of the Bible). The problem is that most Christians will never read the Bible, and when they do, it will only be little bits and pieces, and with a biased attitude. Even most preachers don't read it. Fortunately, you did what most people would not dare to do: you thought critically about what you believe. As a scientist, I cannot emphasize how important this is in today's society.

A. Ford

Anonymous said...

"I need and enjoy Him, every day. My name is Ariston. I love Jesus."

Ariston ! That sounded very gay dude. Do you an Jewsus wack-off together? Im beginning to understand why u fundy sickos want a "relationship" with Jebus.Well then...go ahead and enjoy your mindfuck!

whateverlolawants said...

Neil, this was beautifully-written, and I can definitely relate to your process of "deconversion." Thank you for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Neil

Do you believe that the words of Christ as recorded in the gospels were manufactured by men or do you believe that someone named Jesus did exist in antiquity and did say at least some of the things the gospels record that he said? I was impressed with your thoughtful words and am just trying to understand where you are coming from.

Jeff

Carolyn said...

I was angry at God too when he didn't answer me. I was told that when I was obedient, God would have favor.
I now see that I didn't recognize the lessons God was sending my way because I was too busy whining and being ungreatful.

I can understand how people rebel against their pastors. I can understand how people misunderstand the Old Testament (Historical, but its not the NEW Covenant).

But no matter how angry I got at how people manipulate and try to instill constant guilt/shame -- I always new the "REAL" Jesus was out there.
The true Jesus came to yell and stop all the crap that many people talk about in this site. He was a rebel against the establishment.
Just read his words, and you will understand the context within the entire bible. He questioned and changed many ideas that the Old Testament presented.

Jesus was different then, and still remains different among all the ugliness that organized relgion still spews out.

Porter said...

"Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. They on the rock [are they], which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away. And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of [this] life, and bring no fruit to perfection. But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep [it], and bring forth fruit with patience." Luke 8:11-15

Wes said...

Hmmm.. I think I read Porter's post in some fictional book someplace... -Wes.

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