I can't believe I've become an ex-Christian

Sent in by Scott D

After reading "exchristian" for quite some time now. I think it's time to submit my own story.

I was born into a non religious family consisting of an older sister and my Mother who seemed to use churches when it suited her for company. My Father left when I was three but from what I here of him I don't think God was high on his list of priorities. My first real experience with Christianity came about after I was expelled from the state school system for being somewhat of a disruptive menace at the age of ten. Some friends of my mother came to the rescue and managed to persuade a local Seventh Day Adventist primary school to accept me. The catch was that I had to also attend their church. Being a somewhat messed up child already (by this stage I had already lived through a few years of watching my drunk step dad beating my mother on a weekly basis), I must have stood out to the youth paster as a perfect candidate for his special brand of attention. After careful grooming and gradual introduction into His form of pastoral care for a few years I was ripe to completely go off the rails.

By fourteen I was hanging out on the city streets throwing myself with reckless abandon into a criminal lifestyle. I was stealing cars breaking into businesses, getting hooked on speed and heroin, pretty much any drug offered. It all gave me something I was desperate for by that stage, a sense of belonging and being better than the idiots living a humdrum life and to get back at the world that so far had not treated me too kindly. Of course I wasn't particularly careful about anything I was doing as soon enough I started serving short custodial sentences at youth detention centers. This continued till I was getting close to the eighteen mark and about to graduate to adult prison and the adult court system -- a thought that terrified me. My Sister who had become a full blown born again holy roller had managed to convince the youth court to sentence me to a Christian rehabilitation camp called Teen Challenge. To me it just meant that I wouldn't be sitting in a cell so I gladly accepted. Unfortunately I didn't realize that they had their own cell ready for me. One that would take me years to escape from.

From the minute I was there the indoctrination started. At first I didn't really care one way or the other, I just thought of it as 'their thing.' I was here because it's better than jail. It soon became hard to ignore the constant bombardment. Plus, did I really want to continue living this way. The games would be over soon, adult prison and adult sentences. I noticed those that did give in to the pressure seemed to really find something; the smiles on their faces seemed to glow. I felt my resolve to not give in to the wackos giving in. So, in a last ditch effort I tried to escape. Now this meant over a 40-mile walk in the middle of winter. I got as far as a main road when it all became just to much effort, so when I can to a phone booth in a small village, I rang teen challenge up and they came and picked me up. The next Sunday night at church I gave in and answered an altar call at the Assemblies of God that the camp attended. After saying the sinners prayer, I felt a peace and warmth I had never experienced before.

From that moment on I became the perfect success story for the group: on fire for the Lord and cutting of all contact with all my old friends (definitely for the best). After returning home once my sentence was finished, I started attending my sisters Foursquare Church, hungry to live my life for the Lord. Unfortunately, not many people at the church were my age or could relate to me in the slightest.

Not long after I bumped into some old crime friends, and to my amazement they had become Christians too. They invited me to visit their church, a local Potters House. From the moment I entered the doors, I was in love. Amazing services, old friends, so many people my age from similar backgrounds, all on fire for the lord as much as I was. I straight away swapped churches. I received many warnings from people at my own church about legalism and authoritarianism but it fell on deaf ears. I took on the mold of the church with vigor, moving in with others from the church.

Having always been an avid reader and intellectually curious, I was always a bit concerned with some things I saw and heard. But I just compartmentalized it and lead a secret intellectual life. Reading all the theology I could (something frowned upon in Potters House). Over the years my theology matured and developed into a traditionally Reformed view of Christianity. As you can imagine this was setting me on course for a confrontation with the 'headship' of Potters House. I had already stopped speaking in tongues, seeing it as purely psychological. As much as a Reformed outlook is so incompatible with such an over-the-top pentecostal church like the Potters House. I still felt they at least they were on fire for God. Over time I started to see the result of all this endless zeal: burn out, destroyed people, broken children. I decided I had to leave. I left with my wife who had always had a hard time conforming to the idea that a mindless pastor should run our lives mentality. After we left all our friends at the church cut us off. As far as they were concerned, anyone who would want to leave for another church could not possibly be saved. People from the church would go into my wife's work to tell her to leave me and return to God. It was a horribly hard time for both of us; we both felt so lonely having so many friends turn their backs on us. And the boredom, it was so intense. Potters House is like a drug of endless activity and pride. It was hard to come down from. Through it all I never wavered in my faith in God.

We started attending an evangelical Presbyterian church and I decided to start attending seminary. This was a BIG mistake: textual criticism, the history of the formation of the Bible, church history, the mind-boggling way the New Testament writers interpreted the old to their favor. Even though it was taught through evangelical eyes, it open my eyes to so many of the problems in the Bible. At the same time, my step brother was studying philosophy and cultural studies. He was up to his doctorate, and I couldn't get enough of reading everything he recommended. I had always said that the truth has nothing to hide, so I never shied away from reading various views. No matter how much I tried to ignore it, I just couldn't escape the fact that everything I believed in was just that: a belief. The concept of belief, knowledge, how do we know what we think we know, what is belief anyway, why does Christianity in one sentence say "we believe" and then by slight of hand, the next minute, assume absolute knowledge. Is this not deceptive?. I remember the moment I realized that I no longer believed; it was almost like an epiphany. Their was a tinge of sadness, anger that so much had been lost in my life for superstition, also a feeling of such freedom like the first time in spring when the sun has strength enough to warm your face. No doubt many around me have put down my de-conversion to all the abuse at the hand of a youth pastor or the treatment from Potters House upon leaving. The truth is, none of those things touched my faith. It was simply knowledge: knowledge of the Bible and knowledge about the true nature of belief and faith, and how we all work from assumed "a priori memes" that often have no real basis other that cultural imprints.

Could I have ever believed I would become an ex-Christian? No. An atheist? Never. Could I ever go back to Christianity? Not on your life.

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Anonymous said...

Yeah, I grew up with some kids like you. Real jerks, always making my life miserable.

Fortunately I moved from there a couple of years ago.

You were a real asshole. Your "testimony" doesn't impress me. You were a jerk, you are still a jerk.

Bye Bye.

Jamie said...

I really enjoyed your testimony. It's true for so many here that knowledge is the undoing of our Christianity. It seems we seek out the knowledge for differing reasons, but in the end the truth really does set us free.

I especially liked your mention of the way belief becomes absolute knowledge in Christian circles. Yet, when the knowledge can't be backed up it goes back to belief (or "faith"). It makes me angry when I hear pastors talk about "our assurance" or say we "know" such and such. Now I see it as a blatant lie from the pulpit, though I don't think most pastors or their congregations can even see it for the lie that it is.

Thanks again for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Disregard the anonymous jerk who called you a jerk even though there was no hint of jerkiness in your essay. He's probably just one of those nasty trolls who stop in here from time to time to share their christian "love." Us non-jerks appreciate your posting and wish you the best.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your support. But to be honest, yes as a kid I was a jerk. Sure I had some shit happen to me but many go through the same yet don't go and steal off of other people. I accept that and as much as I can't change the past I am happy with the person I have become and know I would now never intentionally hurt another person - unlike most Christians that frequent this site. Funny how it's always the religous that show the least forgiveness. You shall know them by their fruit hey!!

Jim Arvo said...

Hi Jamie,

Adding to what you said... I am also very put off by how frequently Christian apologists use the word "truth". They refer to their collective assertions as "truths", often capitalized: "Truths". They speak of themselves as "truth seekers", and casually mention that they bring a message of "truth", or even "TRUTH". All of this is a thin veneer atop dogma that is accepted uncritically by "faith". How incongruous! I find that the more a person trots out the word "truth", the more they are to be doubted. I'll go so far as to say that when someone proclaims to possess an absolute "truth", that alone is sufficient grounds to dismiss what they profess as complete bunk as it indicates an acute lack of critical thinking.

Anonymous said...

dont here what'anonymous 'says
i have seldom hear someone in your situation write a de conversion testimony.Welcome here.

[quote]Jamie:It makes me angry when I hear pastors talk about "our assurance" or say we "know" such and such.[/quote]
I wonder why they r so assured.Too high confidence.

TheJaytheist said...

Anony-mouse your an asshole!


Thanks for your story. I think I know, somewhat, how you felt as a kid in those circumstances. I am glad you were able to write it. Does anger creep in too often? It does for me. I hope you continue to see things for what they are.

Anonymous said...

You are the real asshole and jerk here! Leave Scott alone you Troll! We have all picked on or offended somebody, or had to defend ourselves in our lifetime Hey Scott
Great Testimony and Welcome! I also did not think that I would lose my own faith, but it happened. Frustation with Jesus, and logic and reason prevailed.

Valerie Tarico said...

What an amazing story, Scott. It gives me more empathy and hope for the kids that keep spray painting our retaining wall, smashing our neighbors' car windows, tossing beer cans and hypodermic needles into the parking strip, etc.

I believe that the Jesus experience is psychological, that it taps a power that lies dormant within us as individuals and as members of a community rather than one that is external to us. But I keep wondering--is there any way to tap that power without the falsehoods? Does the transformation require certitude and submission? Any thoughts?

Anonymous said...

Good testimony, Scott. I agree with you regarding how so many churches turn faith and hope into certitude, especially when comparing to other religions or denominations. Makes me wonder why Paul, in my mind the actual forefather of christianity, kept using the word 'hope' in his letters. The overuse of the word 'truth' (or as Jim Arvo says, TRUTH) is what caused me to investigate the history of christianity to see where the idea of stock christian phraseology originated. Oops, there went my faith and belief. ;}

Jim Arvo, spot on! That crap always drove me batty (we have here the TRUTH, the difference between us and them is we rely on the TRUTH, etc.) and I always wanted to stand up in a service and ask "what the fuck are you talking about?" Notice how the idea of absolute certainty and humility don't often mix well.

Valerie, regarding your comment, I also believe there is some sort of inner transformative switch that humans seem to have, and that something about the 'born-again' moment taps into this. I see it as pure emotionalism, but with an added oomph that makes it last much longer than a typical emotional high -- geez, there are hundreds I have met that were 'saved' as youth who are now old men and women. That said, I also have witnessed the finesse with which the evangelical churches create what amounts to a fever-pitch of emotionalism in their services. I don't think there is any accident there. We are by nature herd animals and a dissection of any riot (soccer, politics, rock concert, etc.)will offer clues into the operation of mass hysteria on the human psyche. Not sure if it can be accomplished without the use of falsehoods, but I'm not a psycologist. ;<>

The Bloviator

Blogger said...

Sounds like you have been on a real spiritual journey. This comment addresses what you said about believing speaking in tongues was psychological. Because you have such an inquiring mind, I thought you might be interested what I posted as a psychology of tongues

Father Don Board Certified Psychologist

Nvrgoingbk said...

Really enjoyed your testimony.

The search for truth is what kept me moving from one denominational mindset to another. The sad part was, that the Bible seemed to support many of the various denominations' mindsets and doctrinal beliefs, so I never could quite seem to find THE TRUTH or THE CHURCH. One of my favorite verses in the Bible was: John 4:23-24

"23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.
24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

Yes, truth was the most important thing to me, and so I set out to find it within the scriptures, but the more I studied "to show myself approved" and the more I researched, the more lies, contradictions and errors I uncovered. How disappointing on one hand and how liberating on the other.

Unknown said...

That's really sad. You need to read Mere Christianity.

Wes said...

"That's really sad. You need to read Mere Christianity."

Kristen YOUR situation is sad. You need to read The God Delusion..

There. How does that feel?

Now, before you come back and tell all the ex-christians here to RE-DO all the stuff we ALREADY DID as christians (especially re-reading old apologetic books that we are all probably more intimately familiar with than you), why not go out and read a few books critical of Christianity, OK? Thanks. -Wes.

scottnogod said...

How many times do we exchristian have to explain this. Most of use have read way more apologetics, theology, church history, and the bible itself than most Christians. It is usually the very reason we are know exchristians. Do you miss the part were I said I went to Seminary. For God sake I was learning Greek and Hebrew. I think I know a bit more than your average egg head christian. And yes I have read mere christianity and many other C.S Lewis (sp) books. They are pretty average as far as apologetics go.

scottnogod said...

Father Don Board Certified Psychologist
Sorry to be blunt but your web site seems to have a rather pathetic argument for tongues. You hardly deal with any objections of the psycological or theological form. All I see is a diatribe about Baptists being to rational. I would actually argue the opposite. And I fail to see what the rant about dispensationalism has to do with anything. If you bothered to read my story you would have picked up that I was of a reformed theology which follows a traditional covenantal understanding of the new and old testament. But after reading your web site I'd wouldn't be suprised if you didn't understand the differences.

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