I am a former youth pastor

Sent in by Caleb C

I recently de-converted from Christianity a couple of months ago. I am still very conflicted and am struggling with the idea of telling my friends. I have told one though, and have had several conversations with him about it since. Every time I talk to him, I am ever repeatedly reminded of the fundamentalist way of thinking. In the face of whatever rational information / history / science you offer them, they can only respond with a confused and agitated look. In their mind, they keep thinking... "there must be some explanation, some conspiracy to this. I just don't know what it is yet."

To me, the biggest problem is that the "Christian message" is always delivered in a very protected way. A way similar to brain-washing. Go to a fundamentalist with a question of doubt resulting from something you read or watched on TV, and they will often give the same response (they often did to me). They'll tell you to "guard your mind" from information of "that sort." They'll argue that it is Satan's way of confusing you and making you doubt. Of course, they are either unwilling or unable to even address the issues you bring up. In the early days of the rise of the Christian religion (because of good ole Constantine), they just murdered and burned unbelievers as a way of erasing potential doubters of the faith. Nowadays, I really feel it is done with mind control tactics. The Christian must only put in their mind information designed to convince them of their religion's superiority.

I am a former youth pastor and skateboard ministry director. You see, my de-conversion story actually started with my desire to preach a message that would convince my youth group of the superiority of the Christian Faith and of Jesus Christ. I started researching religions, because I felt in my heart that Christianity had to be more unique and full of either older or more original revelations about God than all of the other religions. You can imagine my dismay when I found that Christianity is really an eclectic copy of stories from ancient mythology and pagan religions.

But I digress, this story isn't about that. I want to write about what happened when I recently visited the Christian skate park I founded and directed for three years. I just wanted to fellowship with the kids. The current director of the ministry is a close friend of mine. He is the friend I wrote of earlier, so he knows of my current atheist beliefs. He is a good guy though, and trusts me not to push my beliefs there. I sincerely just missed the kids and wanted to hang out. My mistake came when I decided to sit in on their Bible study (the same Bible study I used to deliver twice a week), and was shocked and disgusted by what I witnessed. The leader of the study was actually having each kid in turn speak and describe the worst sin they struggled with the week prior. You should have seen their faces. They were so remorseful, and so conflicted. I mean, I know every one of those kids. I know that most of the time they just struggle over whether or not they even believe God exists at all. I had to speak up. I told them that they were putting the wagon before the horse. I said they shouldn't be so focused on beating themselves up over their so - called "sin" when they weren't even sure if they believed in God in the first place.

Then I felt bad when I realized that's what I had done as a pastor and preacher. And I felt even worse, when I realized that was what was done to me my whole life by men and women of the faith that I looked up to. People are taught to only program their mind with what I now equate to "religious propaganda." Nothing that could potentially cause doubt is let in. Then, when they stay so focused on their sin, and how worthless, evil, and pathetic they are, who has time or mental energy to believe or investigate anything else? Now I know this post comes off rather brash. I also know that most fundamentalist are very caring, well-meaning people. They just don't know any better. They, like I, had simply been trained that way. Therefore, they do it that way too. At least I know I was, and did.

To monitor comments posted to this topic, use .

30 comments:

Joe said...

Powerful stuff, Caleb. Thanks. You're absolutely right about the "guarded" nature of the "case for Christ" as presented within the church. It is as if the matter were being put to a jury, but only supporting evidence was presented. All contrary evidence is either excluded, or presented in a skewed way that shows it to be proof of the positive. Does some questioner use his reason to understand what is good? Ah, but leaning on one's own understanding -- wickedness -- the original sin.

Thom Yorke said it well: "What will grow crooked you can't make straight. It's a price that you've gotta pay. Do yourself a favor and pack your bags, buy a ticket and get on the train."

Funny what a house of cards the church's control turns out to be when you walk away.

Bloviator said...

Caleb,

Thanks for your article, as it is very thought-provoking. I have been struggling to understand the general mental attitude of (mostly) evangelical christians, especially as presented in response to commentary both here and on other ex-christian sites.

As I see it, humans are, like baboons and chimpanzees, a mostly social animal, with a distinct social hierarchy. Further, like many mammals, we have a general herd-instinct, most likely a survival mechanism, which helps keep society from breaking down into chaos. To borrow a phrase, 'group-think' grows out of the above propensities and is well displayed in religious and political institutions.

Taking fundamental/evangelical christianity as an example, this group-think becomes the social glue that binds the herd together. Therefore, any deviation is seen as a distinct threat to the group. I believe this answers questions as to why so many ex-christians are shunned by their former friends (and sometimes family). Simply put, it is a variation of a primitive survival mechanism that has not evolved out of our consciousness. Anyhoo, that's how I see it.

Of course, this doesn't remove the pain and anguish many of us suffered in our deconversions. I still find it profoundly saddening.

Bill said...

Great post Caleb. I was a youth pastor once. I remember some of that same stuff too. Tell me what really inspired you to give up what you so obviously loved.

Caleb said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Caleb said...

In response to Bill's Request;
-Tell me what really inspired you to give up what you so obviously loved.

Answer: At first it was the wealth of information so steeped in reason, and science. Then, it was the inability of anyone to share any rational information to dispute it. The Bible is the only original source for Christian belief, and it is a mess of impossible stories, rewritten pagan beliefs, and chock full of contradictions. I guess the straw that broke the camel's back came when I decided to test my faith and relationship with Jesus Christ. There are so many guarantees in the Bible. Guarantees that equal God giving you something in exhange for holy life. These just never seemed to come true for me in any rhyme or reason. See. I have kept a prayer journal for several years. In it I chronicle all my specific prayer requests, and I tally how often I prayed for them. That way, I could describe what happenned when God answered it. Reading through this journal, I saw no rhyme or reason to how God supposedly worked. I also saw how I constantly accepted something other than what I asked for as if it were God's answer. I think about Jesus' parable of the woman who wanted justice. The judge did not approve of this woman so he refused to give her what she sought. However, Jesus describes that she continued to return to the judge each day seeking justice. Well finally even though he didn't want to, the judge gave in and granted her the justice she sought. This was because of her persistence. Jesus ends by saying it is the same with God. This tells me that God will even grant requests that are not his "will" if you are persistent. I saw this to not be the case in my prayer life. I know other verses in the Bible contradict this, but remember these were the words of Jesus. Any fundamentalist will tell you that Jesus' words are the most important words in the Bible. You know this was just the last little straw though. All of the previously mentioned enlightening universal truths that before I could not accept in my little "God Box" in my mind, began making sense. To me, the most obvious began to seep in. The bible is so contradictory because it tries to cover all bases. If I tell you my about story about the woman seeking justice, and how it did not work for me, you say... "well maybe you didn't pray for it long enough." You see it is so convenient for christians to write the story based on what happened. If the prayer was answered, then it was God's will... praise Him! If the prayer was not answered, then it wasn't His will... sorry, God knows best! You see it in the Bible too. The story is written to fit what happenned. Anyway, I hope this answers your question. Why do I sense a rebuke coming from you?

Bill said...

Caleb,

No worries. I'm not a Christian either. I also de-converted. I wondered why you gave it up. It's hard to let go of something you love. When I left ministry I didn't do it because I de-converted. One of these days I will add my story to this site.

I was defensive about my de-convertion for while because I still had some doubts. I even got into an arguement with my brother over it. He can't let go of his faith, even though he doesn't go to church. He still believes in God because he swears that he cast out a demon from his ex-wife when they were still married. He gets very angry when I ask him to reconsider the evidence.

I've submitted a few articles on this site. Just look up "Bill J" in the search engine.

Anonymous said...

I see that you, like most people appeal to "reason and science" as the reason for leaving Christianity. I agree that once you think about it, Christianity is nonsense. However, be careful about the science aspect. Science involves aspects of religion too, especially when it comes to evolution. For example, where did the first life form really come from and how in the world did sex come about? These are the questions that scientists say, "We don't know the answer for now, but we will through investigation". What they fail to tell you is that the odds are so stacked againt some of their claims that it would indeed take a "miracle" to make them true. I have to say that it's kind of scary not knowing the truth even when you have a keen reasoning ability.

A. Ford

Caleb said...

Sorry Bill, I thought you were setting me up. I will definitely check out your posts. I recently sent a good friend of mine who has a masters in theology (he is still very devout in his faith), an email with a lot of my doubts and the evidence / reasons that cause them. I asked him to respond to each of the issues. I'll try to post some of his thoughts here. Perhaps you might want to read them.

Bill said...

I am a differnt Bill. I used to come up as xrayman but somehow my first name shows up.

One of my best friends who became born again tried so hard to suck me in. When I would question him on certain things I thought were bullshit he would say the number one bullshit line of all time.....

"Bill you can't let your intelecutal mind get in the way of faith."

Well my intellectual rational mind won out and after discovering this site any belief I had in a God, fell like a house of cards.

Anon Said,

"Science involves aspects of religion too"

You can't be serious. What the fuck are you trying to say? Nothing could have possibly come about without the magic wand of God I know.



xrayman

Spirula said...

Science involves aspects of religion too, especially when it comes to evolution.

Bullshit. Hypothesizing, predicting, experimentation, and inquiry are hardly aspects of a religion. Having unanswered questions in science (quite common actually or research would have stopped) by no means that anything speculated on those issues is just religious "mumbo-jumbo". How do you think a scientific hypotheisis gets generated anyway? And how quickly do scientist have to answer them for you to "trust them"?

And you realize that abiogenesis is not addressed by The Theory of Evolution? Right? (Even so, you know that biochemists recently created primitive RNA containing "cells" that were self-replicating?)

And that the most primitive form of a sex-like type of genetic exchange occurs in bacteria in what is called "bacterial conjugation"? So sexual reproduction itself is probably very, very old.

Yeah, sounds like science is a long way off from explaining those things in which the odds are so stacked againt

(Sorry, but ridiculous assertions like that just irk me)

jfraysse said...

Caleb: Another meaningful post - Thanks! Please keep sharing!

jfraysse said...

Spirula: I know this is off topic (sorry Caleb) but do you have a reference for the experiment where biochemists created primitive RNA containing "cells" that were self-replicating? This is fascinating and I would love to read about this experiment.

Also, do you have any info or links on the universal common ancestor of plants and animals and any scientific revelations on how and why these primitive cells “decide” to become a plant or an animal? Does this common ancestral cell(s) exist today? If you don’t want to clog this link, you can email me directly at jfraysse@aol.com. Or you can just ignore me, no worries! Thanks for your time!

pikd said...

Strong one,Caleb,thought i think i will say a little here,it's nice 2 hear yours.

Cogito ergo blog said...

This is really revealing stuff. I am an ex-worship pastor, and I've become discouraged by the church. I'm still a Christian, but my faith in the institutional church is waivering.

I understand that the church is run by humans, and that's why it's as messed up as any other institution, but the degree to which it's messed up is confusing.

I recently started reading some sad statistics about pastors. Long story short--pastors as a profession seem to live worse lives than other professional groups! If I didn't know I was reading about pastors, I'd think--wow, that's a job that attracts jerks. Well, as a former jerk, I think there's a lot of dark things going on.

I know that the church is manipulative--that came out in Caleb's blog (the incident about confession their worst sin, that just sucks), and that's crazy to me. An institution that relies on faith seems to often try to sway the very outcome which REQUIRES faith. As a worship pastor, I've been instructed in all the tricks--lighting, the "worship curve," smooth transitions, etc--get the show right, and people will believe.

That just seems a little crazy to me.

As to the fundamentalists you're meeting who don't approve of you... I guess it makes sense from a human perspective as to why they're doing it (even though it still hurts/annoys). They need to discredit you in order to make themselves feel superior. Religious people have been doing this forever, even to Jesus.

I'm glad there's a support group out there for ex-Christians. I hope I can find a good one for ex-pastors.

Spirula said...

jfraysse,

For the RNA cell here is one

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/09/040903091444.htm

(IIRC, there is another more recent experiment, but I can't recall the exact title or publication.)

As to ancestral plants/animals, I think you would want to read an article on The Endosymbiotic Theory of Eukaryotic Origins. The closest living examples would be single celled algae (plant) and single celled protozoa (animal).

twincats said...

Thanks, Spirula for saying what I was thinking when I read the anony-bot’s post!

Assertions like that bug me, too because the people making them haven’t bothered to do any research when they start in with “science can’t explain (fill in the blank)” It gets very tiresome when they do this! Unfortunately, it seems to be a bad habit that they can’t break.

Caleb said...

To Cogito ergo blog,

Thanks for that input. I like how you talked about "the show" and how you knew the tricks to making it go right. Even before my deconversion, I disassociated myself from the traditional church. Years ago, when I became a para-church ministry director, I formed bonds with other ministry leaders in my area. They like I, saw the agenda promoting, money making, personal kingdom building monster that the church had become. It seemed so far off from the New Testament Church described in the Bible, specifically the book of Acts. We left the traditional church for a more Biblical approach. We met in each others' homes, gave our tithe to the needy or to support ministry, and just sought to hold each other accountable. Even now, being the group member that is no longer a Christian, these guys are still my good friends. Oddly enough, even the two I've shared my reasons for deconversion with, still hang-out with me. I like your idea of an ex-pastor forum. If you make it happen, let me know!

Bill said...

This is the first Bill ( Bill J) again.

I was also a former associate pastor. I finally left the church after being disillusioned. I looked for the church to be more like I thought it was supposed to be. After awhile, I came to doubt even that type of Church. When you really look at the bible and its history, you really begin to stop taking it so literally or seriously.

Caleb, I'd be interested in chatting with you via email or phone. It's been a long and solitary road meeting people of like minds. This is the only place I have been able to articulate my thoughts and feelings. Let me know if you are interested and I will give you my email.

Bill J.

jfraysse said...

Spirula: Thanks, man! Let me know if you (or any of you) need to know about Aerospace stuff! G&P, John

Caleb said...

Hey Bill J,
I am interested for sure. Do you have myspace? If not, you oughtta set one up. It's not just for kids anymore. Many of my adult friends have pages. It is free, and easy to communicate, and correspond via chat, blogs, and emails with friends. Check mine out at www.myspace.com/brahmatigga

By the way, I read some of your posts, and especially liked the one where you talked about the supernatural stuff. For example, that deaf woman who was healed. Whether her experience was valid or not, you gotta think that at least some of the healings we read about or have seen, have something to them. That's not to say that healings and things of that sort are exclusive to "In Jesus Name." I just remain curious of that whole subject. For example, the gifts of the Spirit (that I have never been able to experience myself) seem to be genuinely used in some people. Anyway, I'm just rambling now. Drop me a note!

Anonymous said...

So, what do you make of these verses in the Bible? Does it worry you?

"For how can those who abandon their faith be brought back to repent again? They were once in God's light; they tasted heaven's gift and received their share of the Holy Spirit;
they knew from experience that God's word is good, and they had felt the powers of the coming age. And then they abandoned their faith! It is impossible to bring them back to repent again, because they are again crucifying the Son of God and exposing him to public shame.
(Hebrews 6:4-6; Good News Translation)

Bill said...

I am not worried. I no longer have faith in the Bible. Years of study in college, seminary and personal experience have lead me to have little, if any faith in its credibility. I no longer believe it is inerrant or inspired. It is simply a book. There are simple truths in it but it is not the revealed Word of God. Keep reading this site if you want to challenge yourself. You can also look up some of my articles by using the search engine. Just put in Bill J.

Good Luck

William said...

I've been looking for more anonymous posting and there we have it!

To A. Ford:

I have no idea if you are the coward that posted on the other ones, but at least there was a name this time.... Science and religion are in no way related, other than in the fact that they try to answer questions. One tries to answer questions empirically, the other answers questions dogmatically rather than the aforementioned method. I do not see how they are so similar, except in the regard pointed out, of course. The reliance on science is at the very least reasonable, while religion relies on a person's irreason and popular biases (the exact same thing as "popular opinion").

To the second anonymous (Coward):

To the first: Jewish mythology. To the second: no. Does it bother you that other people will be tortured forever while you look on from heaven at it? Are you a sadist, or simply a sick bastard? Do you love to please giant sky narcissists?

freethinker05 said...

Anusmous, when I was a brainwashed christian, yes, that text and the one about committing the unpardonable sin used to scare the shit out of me, until after about 30 yrs., I finally researched, and learned the buy-bull was a madeup lie. Thank no/god, I,ve broken the chains of fear.

Caleb said...

Anonymous said...
So, what do you make of these verses in the Bible? Does it worry you?


Well seeing as God doesn't exist, nor does His Holy Spirit... It pretty much cancels out the ability for anything that fairytale book tries to scare me with.

Katarina Rose said...

Thank you for sharing, Caleb!

You said that you are struggling with telling your friends about your de-conversion...and that is something I completely understand! I think it is wonderful that you have told one of your friends so far and that is definitely a step in the right direction. I didn't come out of the 'religious closet' until four years after I had de-converted.

Anyway, I really enjoyed reading your post, and thanks again :)

Caleb said...

Katarina...

I like how you used the term "coming out of the religious closet?" I'm gonna have to steel that one from you, and use it myself. Til now, I've heard that phrase only being used by the gay community, minus the term religious of course. It seems funny, but that is one of the things I love about atheism. I can love and accept gay people now. I also don't have to feel like less of a person because I could never experience what so many others did from God. I don't have to lie about my relationship with Jesus being genuine anymore. The more of my friends I tell, the more bold I become! I feel better about myself too!

Thanks for the comment!

Caleb said...

You guys rock! From Joe, to the "Bills" to Katarina, I appreciate your comments (minus one or two... lol). This site is addicting for sure! Thanks to everyone that posted comments, and to the webmaster for starting this site.

whitehawke said...

Caleb - you really think you can have a meaningful dialog with funda-MENTAL-ists?

Look up cognitive dissonance on the web - then you'll understand the power of conditioning over logic.

Confucius said “never argue with a fool – and onlooker will not know who is who”

Richard said...

Caleb, I stumbled across this web site just tonight. I certainly am sorry that you have encountered the type of Christian you described. I teach at a University here in Phoenix (I will not make mention of the name). I teach Introduction to Logic, Foundations of Critical Thinking and Intro to Philosophy . I encourage my students to ask questions and to challenge everything and everyone ... since I myself do that. I wish I had an opportunity to engage a dialectical discussion with you since I never would state or even intimate that it is wrong to inquire discursively or even intuitively ... I would assert the opposite claim. If you summarized what is your major objection to Christianity, what would that be? (No, I am not setting you up for ridicule; rather, I would like an opportunity to reason with you concerning that or other objections.)

Archived Testimonial Pageviews this week: