Sent in by Alex C
I stumbled upon this site a couple years ago and found it to be a breath of fresh air. I knew on a purely intellectual level that there -had- to be others that had left Christianity, but I'd never met any. Sometimes, and I'm sure that you, dear reader, can sympathize, one feels dreadfully alone when recovering from the abuse and scars that fundamentalist Christianity can leave. I was so happy to know, finally really -know-, that there were others out there, like me, who had pulled themselves away from the church. I've read many anti-testimonies, and have seen my own struggle reflected at me in some of them. I've read accounts of the abuse that others have suffered and sighed the I-know-exactly-what-you-mean sigh. Now, I feel like it's time to share with you my own story, that others may see some of their struggles reflected in mine.
Unlike a good number of you, I wasn't raised in church. My mom was raised Catholic, and my dad was raised as a generic protestant, and neither were very religious when I was little. My dad's mom, however, really liked going to church. I remember when I was a little kid going to church with her on easter sometimes. All I remember about that is being in Sunday school, eating snacks and coloring pictures with crayons.
When I really started going to church, I was sixteen, and I went for all the wrong reasons; over a girl. Before I get too much further into this, the reader should be aware that I am transgendered. I was born with girl parts, but I now identify and live my life as a man. When I started going to church, though, I thought that I was a girl. You can start to see the problem, I'm sure.
The girl's name was Jessica, and she had been raised in church. The Assemblies of God, in particular. To make a very long story short, we fell in love, but only one of us was aware of it (and it wasn't me ). One Wednesday evening in February (in the late 90's), Jessica pulled me aside at Youth Group and told me that she never wanted to talk to me again. To say that I was shocked hardly begins to describe it. I felt like I'd just been blindsided by a Boeing 757. She said to me, "I'm having feelings about you that just aren't right." I didn't understand what she meant at the time, but I think I do now. She'd fallen in love with a female-bodied person, and that set her entire world on its ear. I had heard later, through a mutual friend, that Jessica had tried to kill herself that night. Evidently, one of her sisters walked into her room to find Jessica out cold on her bedroom floor; she'd swallowed a bottle of Advil. She was transported to a hospital, locked up in the psych ward for a week, and then subjected to some, "Christian Counseling." For those who don't quite know what that means, it's code for intensive brainwashing. I guess they had to get the gay outta her somehow.
Now, if my story had ended with that, it might not have been so bad. But, alas, it was not to be.
Since I didn't understand what Jessica had really meant, I assumed that I wasn't a good enough Christian. So, I tried harder. I went to church every time the doors were open; I prayed harder; I read the bible through in a month, and then read it again (though, I didn't pay much attention to the details - I might have left sooner if I had); I got baptized in water; I got baptized in the Holy Spirit, babbling in lounges and everything. All the stuff I was told that I was supposed to do, I did. At least, I tried.
I always had my struggles, though. When I was between 12 and 14, I was sexually abused by an older cousin. Most victims of sexual abuse think it's their fault. Add that to the fact that I kind of enjoyed it most of the time, and you've got yourself a formula for years of therapy. Since I enjoyed that, I thought I might enjoy sex with other guys. Thus, I became a pretty sexually active teenager. Even after I got 'saved,' that was still the case. I think that, through this time, I had about as much guilt as any Catholic. I knew that I wasn't supposed to be having sex, 'cuz Jesus said so (or was that Paul... I get so confused as to who's speaking for god at any given time ). I sure as h*%! wasn't supposed to be -enjoying- it, cuz women aren't supposed to enjoy sex. And I SURE as H@#$ wasn't supposed to be touching myself! After all, Jesus is watching you masturbate (the f'n perv)! I struggled with my sexuality constantly. Not only did I not understand that I was afflicted with a severe mental disorder regarding my gender identity, I also didn't understand that I was attracted to men and women more or less equally. Because I knew that I wasn't supposed to be sexually active in any way shape or form, I was riddled with guilt. I can remember countless nights that I spent sobbing and crying out to god to rid me of this horrible sin. The silence I received was deafening. However, I knew that my sexual sin was something I had to keep hidden at all costs. Don't ask me how I knew that, I don't know. I just did. At church, I was the happiest kid in the kingdom of god. At home, I suffered in my sin, and I suffered alone.
I got saved in 1995. In November of 2001, I had something of an epiphany. As I looked around me at church one night, I saw something. I saw perfect people. I don't mean the standard 'sinners-saved-by-grace,' thing. I mean actual, living, perfect people. None of these people cried at church every time they came. None of them appeared to be having any struggle with their faith at all, let alone the horrible sin that I struggled with. They came in, sang the songs, spoke in tongues, listened to the pastor, sang some more, and left. I pondered what that might mean for a while.
In December of 2001, I reached my conclusion. Either these people were not having the same struggles I had, in which case I was seriously out of my league. Or, they had similar struggles to me, but were much more adept at concealing it than I was. In that case, I was disinclined to participate in their mass delusion.
I remember it being unusually warm for December, and I sat on the tailgate of the pickup truck that I owned at the time. It was a clear night, and I looked up at the stars. I said, "You know, I think I'm done. At this point, I think we're both wasting our time here. I may come back at some point, but I wouldn't hold my breath if I were you. I wish I could say that it's been fun, but we both know that'd be a lie. Goodbye." After that, I got into my truck and drove off.
I told some friends at the time about my decision. Some of them said that I had been trying too hard; that I should have let go and let god. Others said that I hadn't been trying hard enough; that I should have prayed more or read the bible more or gone to church more. Then, they tried the old standby speeches to try to bring me back into the fold. I stopped them before they got too far, saying that I'd heard it all before and had said most of it myself. They didn't understand, and eventually, I lost touch with most of them.
Today, I have achieved one of my major goals in life - I earned my bachelors degree. In a fit of irony, my degree is in History, Philosophy and Religious Studies. I'm getting ready to begin graduate study in the fall and hope to begin my career as a College Housing Officer soon. I have found my gender identity and have come to terms with my sexuality. Even now, I sometimes wonder if I really did have The Truth when I was younger. Then, I remind myself that I'm happier now than I've ever been in my life. I love my life now, and I would not trade it for anything, even heaven. I also peruse Fundies Say The Darndest Things (fstdt.com) to remind myself where I've been and why I don't want to go back.
It's been a tough road, but I made it. There are also many others that have made it also. If you, dear reader, are struggling to make it, know that there truly is hope. I heartily recommend believing in yourself. It does much more than believing in god.
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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)