Why does God care if we love and worship him or not? Is he really that insecure?

Sent in by Johnny

Being brought up by evangelical parents in a very strong Christian community it was only natural that I was indoctrinated with falsehoods from as far back as I can remember. I even spent the first 14 years of my life living in a church house for the first seven and then in flat above a church for the following seven. I was taught the same stories and morals as many of you on here; the doctrine of the trinity, heaven and hell, the resurrection and countless other miracles. My parents were unwavering in their faith, and most of our family and family friends were Christians of some sort too.

Despite this, my parents were not overly strict, openly admitted they could not answer all of my questions about God, and wholly accepted the fact I was to ‘experiment’ with other religions/world views before committing to anything.

I have always had a very inquiring mind and can remember grilling them from about the age of 4 or 5 with difficult questions such as ‘who created God?’, ‘why does there need to be a God?’ and ‘why does God send some people to heaven and some people to hell?’. Even more trivial issues puzzled me and seemed illogical. Why is it wrong to swear? It’s only an expression of anger through words that are nonsensically deemed offensive by some higher authority. Why does God care if we love and worship him or not? Is he really that insecure that he needs to be validated by the attention of billions of humans, whom he created anyway and are intellectually amoeba next to the Great I am? How can God subject one of his beloved ‘children’ to the tortures of hell for eternity and justify it with the reasoning that it was because they did not meet his criteria for heaven, which vary widely depending on your source in any case? Any crimes we commit on this earth cannot be reconciled by an eternity of torture, no matter how grave. Would a human parent punish his/her child by anything even comparable to the torments of hell no matter how far they had gone against their wishes? Exactly.

Sorry for digressing. Point was, despite my parents’ best efforts and heavy indoctrination from different angles I always remained skeptical varying to different levels. This was in all likelihood because I was aware of other adults I admired who did not share their views and also went to a high school were very few of my classmates were Christians. That said, I never really considered the notion that there was no God at all until I started university. I first came across the atheism as a world view at the age of 11 or 12 but really gave it no value at all. I had serious issues with several aspects of Christianity, which seemed absurd and or irrational but generally held faith in the notion that there was a God.

At the age of 17 I made what would be called a ‘response’ to God. Evangelicalism is different to many other denominations of Christianity in that you are not baptized at birth and hence technically not saved until you make a personal choice to commit your life to following God. I was away at a Christian summer conference (read ultra-indoctrination), and still had trouble finding answers to my questions but found myself in awe of what I thought was the undeniable presence of God in the meetings I was attending. To cut a long story short I committed my life to God and over the next few days felt myself on a spiritual high. It died off when I returned home from the camp to my non-Christian school friends and social life, and overall was somewhat anti-climactic for a day that would supposedly change the course of my life. Over the next year I continued on the same path I had been on beforehand, with many questions still remaining unanswered and feeling intellectually and spiritually unfulfilled.

At university I reached a point of agnosticism, through a combination of my own reading, anti-religious sentiment in the Politics department I studied in and regular contact with avowed atheists. Another part of my life that pushed me further down the road to atheism was 3 months spent in the United States (I'm from the UK) in summer 2005 at the age of 19. I was working in Utah and came into contact with many people I could only describe as completely deluded by religion. Whether it was Mormonism, fundamentalist Christianity or Scientology, my eyes were opened to the power of dogma to brainwash otherwise intelligent people. Why was Christianity any different? In the end I concluded there was very little evidence to suggest it was.

In my second year of university I made the transition from agnostic to having a fairly strong belief of a God in some kind. With hindsight I recognize I was taken in by the argument from design and intelligent design theories, although I had not actually researched them, came to that opinion through my own personal thoughts. At that age my mind was not as sharp in an analytical sense as it is today and I now realise intelligent design is pseudo science - not one scientist of note will endorse the theory.

Atheism developed a grip over me when I read books such as ‘The F*** You Up’ by Oliver James, ‘The World As I see It’ by Albert Einstein, ‘The End of Faith’ by Sam Harris, ‘The God Delusion’ by Richard Dawkins and various articles by Noam Chomsky amongst many others. Through study of human psychology and basic philosophy, I came to understand that as humans a great deal of our behaviour is conditioned by society, in particular our parents, and this includes religious beliefs and behaviour. Further, ‘The God Delusion’ presented to me the core arguments against religion in a passionate yet concise manner. ‘The End of Faith’ highlighted the damage religion has done and is doing in North America and the rest of the world.

Not only did all of the intellectuals I admired espouse either atheism or agnosticism, my own personal experience of Christianity really exposed the religion’s flaws during my final year of university. I came to realise that I had never had a tangible answer to prayer in spite of probably 20 years of requests. I read the Bible for 4 hours in one sitting and found at least 7 direct contradictions.

I have been an atheist for around 9 months and cannot see myself returning to Christianity. My close family are aware of my views and seem to accept them, although I think this is largely due to them not thinking about it. I must admit I find atheism depressing at times, which tends to be the case for apostates who have been indoctrinated with doctrine for years on end. On the other hand is it more liberating and intellectually fulfilling than Christianity had been or ever could be.

It is empowering to have a concrete belief, and it is the first time I have felt complete confidence that I am in the camp with the most logical world view. I enjoy the feelings of superiority that come with watching people practice meaningless and, frankly, laughable moronic religious rituals. In the future I plan to study evolutionary biology to acquire a deeper understanding of evolution and how it affects human behaviour. I also hope to read books like ‘In Gods We Trust’ and ‘Religion Explained’ offering anthropological explanations for the rise of religions across the globe. I had aimed to study a post-graduate degree in Social Anthropology so I could write a dissertation on the area, but unfortunately it doesn’t tie in with my career plans.

Anyway, thanks for reading and keep up the non-faith!

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My de-conversion letter to friends and family

Sent in by Andrew

It's been about a year since I've stopped considering myself a Christian. I want to put together a 'coming out' letter to give friends and family some idea as to why I have given it up. Please let me know if you think I should add something, or leave something else out. Is it even a good idea to do something like this? I sent this letter to a close friend who is pretty devout, and she seemed to appreciate it.

Here goes:

Dear Christian Friend,

Because you mean so much to me, I wanted to give you at least some sort of idea as to the ‘why’ of my deconversion. I want to let you know, at least at a surface level, why I’ve chosen to ‘leave the fold’, to share a bit of my story.

To begin, I want to let you know that this is not something that has just come up or that I’ve decided on a whim. I’m sure you didn’t think as much, but I just understand that it can be difficult to comprehend why someone would ever leave Christianity, especially when it is so ingrained for so long. It has been a very long journey for me. One that started about 3-4 years ago, when I started thinking critically, step by step, not just about things relating to faith, but everything in life. I began to question everything I had ever taken for granted, such as whether western culture was the best, whether eating kraft dinner and hot dogs would ensure a long, healthy life, and whether this ‘relationship’ I had with God was something I could confidently espouse.

I began to understand the importance of objectivity, and that when the owner of a company tells me the product he sells is really great, that there is possibly cause for questioning and investigation, and not just acceptance. I gave up the notion of the earth being 6000 years old quite some time ago, and that in no way changed what I thought about Christ, or his sacrifice. I did an investigation, not caring particularly which way it ended up, and decided that the evidence pointed to the earth being old and to common ancestry among biological organisms. God did it of course, it wasn’t a big deal. It was the people whose worldview would come crashing down if they had to admit an old earth that I had to worry about. Their ‘evidences’ and ‘scientific studies’ were greatly dependent on the conclusion they had already decided on, which of course is not the correct way science is done.

Next I began to greatly question my charismatic [pentecostal] roots and after a good year of reading, studying, experimenting and writing, I decided that much of what I had grown up with thinking was the work of the Holy Spirit was really just socially learned group-think. It took quite a bit to convince me of this, but the evidence was really overwhelming. There was, at least to me, no good reason to think that I had experienced anything more than mob mentality; a peer pressured, psychologically explainable experience. If the exact same things happen in polemically different worldviews (such as new age, opposing religions, etc), and they were contrived experiences (since God wouldn’t bless mutually exclusive worldviews), what made me think my identical experience was the one real thing, given by God almighty? I definitely still believed wholeheartedly in the central tenets of Christianity, but my faith was changing, morphing into something new, and I had no problem with that.

Then, I began to question the things I was reading in the Bible, especially the darker notions of God himself, like him committing genocide, or ordering ethnic cleansing, and the concept of hell. Whenever I would bring them up to have a meaningful conversation it would just come down to: “You can’t question what God does, because he knows better than us.” So basically, I came to conclude that as an everyday Christian, I had to be able to say that genocide is good sometimes. God cannot be questioned on these matters, so he gets a free ticket to commit [or at least if they happened today, what would look exactly like] atrocities. I had a real problem with that and started looking deeper into the character called God in the Bible. He does all sorts of terrible things. Things I’m not comfortable typing out in this letter, things that the Sunday School teacher skipped, things that Pastors brush away far too easily.

Hell was a big one for me. How could an all-loving, all-good God conceive of this place of eternal torture? The way the Bible describes it, not even the worst monsters of history could come up with worse ways to treat people, and this is punishment for not being born in the right country, or for not thinking thoughts correctly about a guy who lived two millennia ago? All this for simply not believing in something for which there is no empirical evidence?

Anyway, when I finally (about a year ago) came to the place where I was willing to put some of my misgivings about not believing at bay, I was able to come at the question of the tenability of Christianity with even an ounce of objectivity. It wasn’t until I had a good talk with my wife about the remote possibility of me coming out the other side of this investigation as a non-believer that I really dove in.

You see, two years ago I was unable to think objectively about it for many reasons: fear of hell, fear that I would be tricked by Satan, fear that my relationship with my wife wouldn’t be as strong (more on that later), fear that I would lose my purpose in life, fear that all my friends and family would hate me, disappointment in never being able to see dead loved ones again…etc. As more and more of those things were put to rest, the final one being my conversation with my wife, I began to see the arguments in a new light.

Before, I had already decided the conclusion to the question: “Of course God exists! Is this even a remotely valid question in my life!?” Whereas, I had begun to think about things as if the possibility of the truth of Christianity were up in the air. I still wanted it to be true, I really wanted it to be true, but I was open to the possibility that it wasn’t, and wanted to follow the evidence where it led, even if it was down a road I wasn’t comfortable traveling.

As I was beginning my research on this about a year ago, I had a very important conversation with my wife. I was sitting outside our apartment, having a drink and generally enjoying the weather getting warmer while reading my first book about all this. I was into the second or third chapter when she walked up, home from work. We chatted a bit and I mentioned that this book was really interesting. She looked at me and asked me if I was going to become and Atheist, I asked her whether or not she would be mad or stop loving me if I did. She laughed, looked me straight in the eye and said that it wouldn’t change her opinion of me whatsoever, she loved me no matter what. We laughed and possibly my greatest fear of taking a look down this road was assuaged.

As for my relationship with my wife, it is one of the things that led me to this point in the first place. Over the course of our marriage, our relationship has grown and gotten sweeter. I had grown up through Church with the understanding that my relationship with God had to be number one, and accepted that wholeheartedly. When we got married, we were told several times that our relationship would only grow closer if we both put God first, then, like a triangular celestial threesome, the closer we both grew to God at the top of the triangle, the closer we would grow to each other.

The opposite became the case. As my faith became more and more cerebral and less and less of an emotional reaction to my life, I spent all my emotional energy, love, care and attention on my wife, and our relationship flourished more than I ever could have imagined. I remember several times wondering how it was possible that I was becoming more and more happy, more and more fulfilled in life, more and more content, the further I got from God. I only read the Bible in scholastic and intellectual pursuits, and only prayed when asked to the dinner table or every so often in class (I went to Bible College) or church groups. I had very little of the personal relationship with God, and felt absolutely no need, emotionally, intellectually, personally, to pursue one, since nothing was lacking in my life. I began questioning how my experience could so contradict what I believed ought to the be the case. It made me question this ‘relationship’ further.

With my wife I experience a beautiful, deeply satisfying relationship. I talk with her and she responds. She relies on me during hard times and I can trust her with anything. Neither of us is ‘above’ the other. No one has more power than the other. Neither of us rely on the other exclusively, but are balanced in our love and appreciation for each other, understanding that together we make each other better. How is it that the closer I feel to her, the further I feel to God. Moreover, how is it that our healthy relationship with one another makes this other ‘relationship’ in my life seem so useless, so made up. I finally came to admit that my wife was far more important to me than God. I didn’t particularly like the notion, and thought I should probably take steps to change it, but it was what I was feeling at the time.

As I researched, it was becoming more and more clear that perhaps there aren’t any great reasons to believe. I haven’t had traumatic experiences with the church or Christians. There are nice and mean Christians, just like there are nice and mean non-Christians. I’m not sure how the numbers work out, but it seems to be about the same nice to mean ratio inside and outside the Christian camp. This is not a factor for me in deciding the truth of the claims of Christianity. For me it’s about evidence.

I spent the last year of my studies at Bible College focusing on apologetic classes. I did extremely well at them and they kept me off this path for a little while. But the arguments ultimately fell short.

This is how I honestly think about this stuff: that there isn’t a reasonable basis to believe, and I understand that is very difficult to read and may sound arrogant or condescending, but one thing that I’ve really come to understand in talking with Christians is that there is no getting around this, and having a mutual understanding of our worldviews is key to having conversations about it without driving each other crazy.

At the core of our worldviews, we think each other are deeply mistaken, which when articulated, sounds arrogant and offensive. I was surprised at how arrogant and offensive I found our Pastor during much of his series on apologetics, but he was just speaking from his worldview, which just happened to put non-believers on par with ignorant toddlers, unwilling to see the obvious truth. Many non-believers, on the other hand, think believers are committed to a delusion. One of these is a truth (at least to some extent). So when people who hold the opposite points get together to talk about it, it is a must that they understand that those on the opposite side have a basic idea of what they stand for, and be willing to give up a few potential offenses, otherwise they’ll just offend each other to high heaven (so to speak).

When I talk to a Christian I expect them to say something that has the potential to offend or be mean, but I understand they are speaking out of the way that they understand the world, and that they themselves are trying to deal with the idea of myself not only giving up my faith, but theirs also, thus creating the need to be defensive. I understand that can be painful. I continually remind myself of this and strive to understand people’s responses. So far it has been surprisingly fantastic. Perhaps people are afraid to share their true feelings about it, although I wish they weren’t, but so far every Christian I’ve talked with about it has been supportive. I’m sort of expecting that trend to change.

One last reason I wanted to respond, was that I wanted to make sure you know that I’m alright, and our (my wife and I’s) relationship continues to grow. While at times it has been a bit of a scary journey, it has also been exciting, and in so many ways, freeing. I remember at Pentecostal summer camp and youth retreats we would often sing songs of freedom and yell about being ‘free indeed’. I can honestly tell you I’ve never seen the world in such vivid colour, never felt so unchained, finally realizing that my every thought, action and decision is not part of some grander plan that may or may not end in my favour. The universe is such a grand and phenomenal place, and I’m just glad to be here, to have the great fortune of living my life, of loving my wife, family and friends, of experiencing life to the fullest. I realize now that for me, religion (defined as belief in the tenets of Christianity) was a set of chains: guilt, remorse, continually second guessing God’s will, fear, trying to decipher to fluid labyrinthine text of the bible, and being in a relationship with a being that never really related.

I would welcome your thoughts and ideas regarding this stuff. I’ve had plenty of great conversations, through email and in person about this and I feel we’re all intelligent, thoughtful people capable of having meaningful talk about it. I think we can learn from each other. If I am mistaken, I want to know, since this is obviously a very important issue. It seems the world is becoming increasingly non-religious (again, defined as belief in a religion, like Christianity), so I think talk on these topics will become more and more relevant for both believer and non-believer alike. I will do my absolute best not to push anything on you, or anyone. I understand this is a deeply personal issue, and I don’t want to strain our relationship because of an idea. I agree with Bono: “Ideas should never come before people.”

I think our friendship will continue to flourish. While this strand has withered, the original way we met and became friends is a historical fact and cannot be changed. I grew up in Christian culture, understand the language and continue to have meaningful conversation with Christians about their faith, not necessarily bringing up any of my own misgivings about it (unless they ask of course), and hope we can continue that. I look forward to many great memories together as we continue friendship into the many years ahead.

Love, your friend...

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I was paralyzed by the fear of hell

Sent in by Jacolyn

I'm a 29-year-old female who has been an ex-Christian for about six months now after being a very devoted Christian for at least 20 years!

I was brought up in a Christian family (Baptist), and when I was 18, I started going to a Hillsong style church, and never looked back until six months ago.

The short story is that I could never understand why a good and loving God would send people to hell, no matter what the reason. Not long after I changed denominations (when I was 18) I was forced to think about hell in a more pragmatic way, as the church spoke quite openly about hell. I went through a period of depression, as all I could think about was, "Most people around me are going to hell.” Every day, with every person I encountered, I looked at them thinking, "They're probably going to hell," and I kept thinking, “What's the point?” I managed to get past that phase; I think I just tried to put it out of my mind. Eventually I managed to stop thinking about hell, and I continued going to church and being a devoted Christian.

I went through another period of depression a few years later, perhaps when I was about 24-25. I went to a youth conference where they talked about hell and urged us to think about our "unsaved friends and family” and to "cry out to god" for them. Well, I cried, but just to myself, depressed, thinking everything is so pointless because most people in the world are not Christian and are going to hell.

Again, I eventually got past the depression.

After a few eventful years, and after my strong Christian grandpa died, I decided to go to Japan as a missionary. I felt "God" calling me there. This was a time in my life when my faith was the absolute strongest, and I guess also where I put Christianity to the test the most. This was when I was 27.

After about 15 months in Japan, I came back to Australia for a short visit for my cousin’s wedding. While I was back in Australia, I attended church; the pastor preached a very awful, awful sermon about hell. He actually said, "People often say to me, ‘If God loves people, how can he send them to hell?’" His response was, "God sends people to hell BEACAUSE He loves us so much!" That made absolutely NO sense to me whatsoever!

But again this made me confront hell in my mind and again I got depressed, and I went back to Japan depressed. In Japan I would often walk passed funerals of old Japanese people -- most of them probably not Christian, as Japan is only about one percent Christian. As I walked past these funerals, my mind was in turmoil, my faith was in turmoil, and I was thinking, "How is it possible that that Japanese person who just died is now in hell for all eternity? That's just not acceptable!”

Let me just stop and say here that the one thing that stopped me from turning away from Christianity was a complete and paralyzing fear of me going to hell. Finally I overcame my fear of hell and have decided to leave Christianity. I don't fear hell anymore, and I don't get depressed about others going to hell either.

There is some stuff I miss of course: the church family, hope in heaven, believing that there is a God out there looking after me. But those things are not enough to make me believe again. The thought of hell is just absolutely unbelievable to me.

Does anyone out there have a similar story?

Long, hard road to disbelief

Sent in by Melenie

I realized at an early age that something was very wrong with the Baptist church I went to. It was pretty bad when a eight year old child can tell a place is corrupt.

My first of many churches was in north Alabama, a very horrid and dim place where half the population cannot read or write. At the early age of four I was taught that homosexuality was wrong, and if you were you would go straight to hell. In fact, you would go straight to hell for lots of things it seemed.

If you read anything by Darwin, you were doomed.

If you talked back to your husband, then I hope you enjoy fire.

If you think about sex you are a dirty whore and you will go to hell.

The place was really more like a cult then anything. The people were brainwashed into believing that everything they did was evil.

Luckily we moved from there, not long after we found out that a small religious faction that had developed in the town was over throwing the pastor because his daughter was a lesbian.

We moved to Montgomery when I was ten, which was when the big topic of the 10 commandments being in the capitol building was being disputed, and I think that was the real start of my fall from faith. Not from the big deal that society was making out of religion, but from the new church that I had become a part of making such a huge deal.. I remember my preacher saying loudly at the top of his lungs one sunday morning as I sat in the pew hanging on his every word, that the only reason that the people were protesting was because they were dirty,filthy atheist homosexuals. I thought to myself "Why would they care though? It's not hurting anyone if it is or is not in there."

As I grew older I began to learn new things about myself that worried me: I liked girls. I had always grown up learning that if I did like girls, I would go to hell and god wouldn't love me anymore because I was an abomination. I struggled with the issue for a year before coming out to my best friend. She said she did not agree, but swore to never tell anyone. I felt better finally letting someone know that I am a lesbian. That Wednesday I went to church like I always had since I was eleven, and I walked over to the preacher who was a friend of mine and said "Hello." and he would not speak to me. He looked through me like I was not even there.

I walked over to my best friend and sat down beside her, still hurt. To my surprise she got up, and everyone in my youth group followed her. I left, and went home crying. The next sunday the preacher told us about the evils of homosexuality, and how no matter what you did you were no longer a child of god, but of Satan. My mother, being sympathetic looked over to me and offered to take me home. I shook my head refusing and stayed through the whole service. At the end I was close to tears, but I was filled with a new understanding. Something that I had never knew was in me before. Something that the people of the church could not see because they were blinded by their stupid convictions.

God failed. Not God himself, because he does not exist; he was just an idea started by some people who needed hope for something. But the idea of God failed. In the start God was made to give people hope and a reason to live a good life of humility and purity. But soon, those same people changed it. They turned it into something ugly and hateful, damning whatever they did not like, or fixing the words to make whatever they wanted it to say.

I went home and cried for three hours that day, and my mother thought I was sad because of what had happened at church. But I wasn't. I was crying tears of joy, For the first time in my life I felt free. I felt like I was my own person, I felt free of burden or depression.

It has been for years since that day, and I can happily say that I have not stepped foot in a church since.

This is my fall from god I suppose, there is nothing remarkable about it. And there is nothing heart breaking about it. But it feels good to get it out in the open.

My journey to apostasy

Sent in by Jimmy

Okay, maybe "journey" is bit of an overstatement.

It's quite simple really. I was born and raised in a Christian household. I went to church every Sunday (though it bored the piss out of me when I was younger). I was taught that the Bible was the inspired Word of God. I was taught that evolution was a big lie perpetrated by the scientific community. (Or was it liberals?) Oh, wait, I know! It was the Devil himself. Eh, I can't remember which one it was; all those things were taught. Every time I would hear the big, bad 'E' word I would loudly and proudly announce to anyone who gave a crap that "I didn't come from no monkey!"

I was taught that to be a homosexual was a sin and an abomination against God. Yep, "God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve," was one of my favorite sayings. I was taught that everything written in the Bible were historical accounts of actual events. I believed all these things without question. Then about two years ago I actually began thinking about these so-called historical events in the Bible -- I mean really thinking about it. For the first time in my life they seemed ridiculous. Fucked-up is a more fitting term. The reality that was forced upon me since at an early age started to look like something out of a Dr. Seuss book or something.

I started searching the Internet for evidence for creationism and their so called "proofs" just seemed, well, retarded. I began reading up on everything on evolution from a non-biased viewpoint and actually started to learn something. I realized that I rejected it my whole life without ever knowing the first thing about the topic. The only reason I believed in any of the things I did was because my parents told me since I was barely old enough to walk that this was the real deal.

I was indoctrinated, which is just a nicer way of saying brainwashed. I was taught that being a good person won't get you into Heaven. How fucked up is that? You could beat your wife, beat your kids, be hateful and intolerant of those different than you, lie, cheat, steal, hell even commit murder and none of that matters as long as you just "accept Jeezus into yer heart and ax fer fergiveness!" and you will get a pass through the pearly gates. On the other hand, you could be the most selfless, compassionate, loving person who dedicates your life to helping people who are less fortunate, never judge those who are different than you, but because you were not "saved" you will go to Hell where you will be tormented beyond imagination for all ETERNITY just because you didn't choose the right religion among hundreds of others.

I had never really taken the time to think about this before. Once I did, though, the idea seemed cruel beyond words. I used to think I was a better person than non-believers because I had "good Christian morals". Looking back now, I realize that I'm a better person now than when I was a Christian. I was a HUGE homophobe. I was that type of asshole who would physically assault you just because you were attracted to the same sex. These days I support gay rights, especially the right to marry. Some of the most ignorant, close-minded, hateful, intolerant, self-righteous, arrogant, hypocritical, judgmental people I know are Christians.

This all began for me in 2006, but I didn't finally admit it to myself that I was no longer a Christian until last July. I never really came out and told my family, but I drop some hints every now and then. My old man pretty much thinks I'm going to Hell. I know it. We even came to blows one night last summer because I dared to criticize his belief in the Biblical flood. I now absolutely cannot stand the Christian cult and I have nothing but contempt for it's fundie followers. Notice I said fundie. I realize not all Christians are fundies.

Every since I de-converted I feel as if this huge weight has been lift off of me. I now feel free to actually think for myself and to be more open minded. The Bible that I once called the "good book" I now refer to as the ol' ball 'n chain. Today, I consider myself an agnostic. I'm open to the possibility of a higher power and if their is a God I don't know who He/She/They is/are. All I do know is that if a God does exist, I don't believe it is the petty, childish, cruel, tyrannical sociopath of the bible.

Or should I say, "the ol' ball 'n chain?"

Never again am I going to believe anything anybody tells me without hard proof

Sent in by Stephen

I am a long time lurker on this site and I just felt the urge to "come out" as a ... well I don't know if there is any word to describe my belief system but I'm sure you'll all get the idea once you read what I have to say...I guess the term "truth-seeker" is about as close as the English language allows.

My upbringing was of the loose catholic variety where we belonged to a church but were about as far from any extremist belief as you can get. I live in New Zealand and here, any kind of extremism is generally frowned upon, even the Christian variety and extremist Christians are often a target of public ridicule (yay! :o) ) . So I wasn't wrapped up in any evangelical/extremist type belief system, but I was still influenced by dogma to believe that there was a god, who was watching over us and was basically in control of the universe and everything and that everything was going along according to his will. Luckily the denomination of Catholicism that ran my school (the Rosminians) were a rather practical bunch and they would explain how god would use various natural phenomena to get his message across. I have rather vivid memories of being taught in "Christian living" class how the pillar of cloud that led the Israelites through the desert was probably a tornado etc etc and thinking "that sounds reasonable and not as far out as the bible made it sound". Also, they were very heavily into the "new law," i.e., everything Jesus said that did away with the old law. Jesus sounded like my kind of guy. He sounded like he was more interested in being correct than popular and as an extremely unpopular kid at school this ideal appealed to me like water to a fish! We stopped going to church, which was boring as hell except for the priest who is now the bishop of Auckland. I was always impressed with the quality of his sermons and now think that this was probably because he focussed on the positive words of Jesus (who I truly think never existed), but he would carry them out and at one stage after becoming bishop he offered pregnant women financial incentives not to have abortions. He was basically using the Catholic churches money to support single mothers. What a guy! But when I was 15 we stopped getting up every Sunday morning and trudging off to a church full of people who were more interested in dressing up than "receiving the message".

From the age of 15-18 I was still at the Catholic school and made it out without being too indoctrinated, but after the age of 18 I felt a "spiritual yearning". I'm sure most here know what I'm talking about, the sort of feeling that there must be more to this fantastic creation than what we can see, feel, touch, smell and hear. I tried various sects of yoga and meditation groups but sooner or later, these would end up with some kind of guru worship. The original goal did not seem the same once I had gotten in a bit deeper and it seemed so facile that I would just leave these groups. Still, I'd often continue to receive mail and emails from them.

After this phase I went traveling (NZ is a small place!) got into the international travel scene: drugs, cults, you name it. After awhile all the "spiritual" paths seemed like so much bullshit, refried and served up with a different flavour, so I basically gave up on the idea that another person was going to be able to show me "the way". I had serious doubts that "the way" even existed in the sense that most people think, i.e., a narrow path that if carefully trodden, leads to "salvation". Oh I had moments of clarity, bliss and a feeling of calling, but none would last past the initial motivation to stay on the "path".

Then, to the consternation of many of my Christian associates came my physics education. I turned into a modern day Galileo (one of my heroes), discounting all their bullshit dogma with rational and more importantly reproducible science. The best time I had at university was arguing with Christians about how the universe worked. Many of them seemed to still be thinking that the sun orbited the earth. The most fun was arguing with a lecturer of theology who said that because something was not detectable doesn't mean it doesn't exist. He used the example of my brain. He said that no one had seen my brain so therefore we couldn't be sure that it existed. I burst out laughing (I was 30 years old when I first went to university) and went on to say that if we went to the CAT scan machine at the medical school, we could indeed see that my brain existed in reality and that any obfuscation by him would not change that fact and all the other things he said existed without detection (i.e., the wind of all things!!) could be detected and evidenced by alternative scientific proofs. I began to see the importance of proof in any rational discourse. Needless to say the lecture theatre was pretty quiet after that. :o)

Anyway, I began to look into religion in general and read the entire site at www.jesusneverexisted.com in a weekend (another mind-fuck) and came to the conclusion that religionists are nothing more than a bunch of power-hungry elitists who aren't interested in the truth nearly as much as they are interested in power over others. After tallying up the number of deaths that can be attributed to the Christian religion (I'm quite the math Nazi as well) at almost half a billion, I cried inside for 2 whole days over what had been done in the name of "Christ" and "god" and thought, "Never again am I going to believe anything anybody tells me without hard proof." It was a tough and gut-wrenching time, but looking back it was well worth it as I see the universe (the world is such a small place for an astronomer :o) ) with much clearer perception now that I have dropped the whole religious ideology way of looking at life. To be honest, I feel much better and more fulfilled without it. Even disclosing myself here has bought considerable relief.

Thanks for reading and letting me share.

Atheism has made me a better person

Sent in by M. L.

It has been a long and often emotionally turbulent journey, but I can now state, without fear eternal damnation, that I am an Atheist.

I am not angry. I do not feel “done in” by Christianity. I do not even feel that my years as a Christian were wasted. In fact, I believe that I am who I am today due to the sum of my experiences. And Christianity played a big part in that.

That said, becoming an Atheist has had a greater impact on my life than all those years of Theism ever had.

I now go through life with eyes wide open.

My relationship with my husband has reached an all time high. I can be adventurous without feeling guilty. I can unequivocally state that he is the true love of my life without the nagging voice in the back of my mind reminding me that Jesus should actually hold that position. I can be the woman he loves, completely rebellious and devoid of all notions of submission - my true self!

But it is not just my marriage that has benefited.

I can now ask questions that I would never have dreamed possible asking. Imagine the joy of investigating without fear of being influenced by evil. I have even gone as far as checking out the official Satanic website, just to see what these guys are really all about! Interesting stuff. Not for me, but interesting none the less.

My point is, I do not need to believe anything anymore because church dogma dictates it. I do not have to mold my sense of morality and of ‘what is right’ based on what was preached from the pulpit last Sunday.

I can make my own rules based on what I believe is right and just. Just because I can.

My opinions have changed. I am more tolerant of other’s differences. I can look at other religions without judgment. Who cares what other people believe. As long as they do not try to impose their belief structures on me, what difference does it make? I am not threatened anymore. I am empowered by knowledge and reason.

Life has new meaning. When we die, that is it. So I love truly, live life fully. No more storing up treasures in Heaven. No more living to die so that I can live forever. I now enjoy the here and now and have peace with the fact that this is all the time we will ever get.

People ask the question, if there is no God, what is the point to our lives? In the greater scheme of things, what difference do we really make? My answer would be that without God, my life has more meaning. I take charge of my own destiny. I am responsible for all my actions. No devil to blame, no magical wiping clean of the slate whenever I stuff up. I bare the consequences, good and bad. My children and their children will bare the fruit of choices I make now. The impact is greater than I could ever imagine, and that makes me more aware.

Pre-destiny is such a dangerous thing. It robs people of the ability to think for themselves and take charge of their own lives. It cultivates a tendency to mediocrity and complacency.

Atheism has given me the courage to be who I am, without qualification, without excuses.

Thank Nature for Reason!

A discussion of why I no longer want to be identified with Christianity

By James M. Wilhelm

When I was a fundamentalist Christian it was the devil I couldn’t get out of my mind. Over thirty years later, as I finally give up Christianity, it’s that Jesus character I can’t get out of my mind. Jesus was supposed to save me from evil. Now, who will save me from Jesus? If you want to believe in evil then evil will be real to you. If you want to believe in a savior then Jesus will be real to you. Therefore, I have concluded it’s all in your mind. There is no eternal struggle except that which you chose to believe or allow in your thoughts. Christians will go through all kinds of mental gymnastics setting up the forces of good against evil, self-righteously using the Bible as their guide but in the end the Bible has no supernatural power to do anything except maybe take your money and make you feel guilty. I’ve decided to no longer let that happen. It took many long hard years to get to this point.

In the end, when all the books are closed and you shut your mouth and sit quietly in a chair and quit defending what you believe or don’t believe, you find reality. Generally, Christians can’t do that. They’re too intent on defending their position, quoting the bible, praying for your lost soul, casting out the devil and other mental gyrations to let reality be a part of their Christian experience. Praying, by the way, now seems more like whining and usually accomplishes nothing except maybe to make you look pious in front of your Christian friends. I no longer pray and feel pretty good about it.

After years of studying, searching, pondering and believing I’ve concluded that Christianity is nothing more than an acceptable form of superstition. Not unlike the belief that if you walk under a ladder or break a mirror you will be subject to bad luck. In the Christian form of superstition the mirror is replaced with the need to be saved from evil and the antidote or remedy is to accept the savior otherwise, risk an eternity in hell or, in the case of breaking a mirror, seven years of bad luck. They’re both the same and both ridiculous and I don’t want to be identified with either. Like the Roseanne Cash song says – “ I don’t want your tired religion, I’m not someone you need to save.” That about sums it up for me now.

I have a problem standing up for myself and when I do there is usually this underlying feeling that maybe I’m wrong or maybe I’ll offend this person. This has never really stopped me but it always seems to undermine my convictions especially in front of people who I intellectually know are not at the same level. It causes a certain insecurity and I’ve dealt with it all my life. In my quieter moments daily conversations and confrontations replay in my head causing endless unseen torment. The realization that Christianity is essentially invalid has, in an unexpected way, helped me cope with this better. This reinforces my understanding that religion is essentially cultural and has deep roots inside all of our motivations. I don’t want to get into a semantic argument about religion vs. a belief in God, as I’m really tired of all those discussions. They go nowhere.

I know more about the Bible than most people and for personal reasons I found myself studying it and researching it far more than I should have. This has caused much pain. Christianity works best when it is applied superficially and that the “peace beyond all understanding” is only attainable that way. To go deeper makes one miserable and judgmental or causes you to intellectualize the whole thing to the point where it becomes useless. The Catholics have turned this into an art form. The typical Christian timeline starts with an energetic, although superficial understanding of Christianity, and along the path you realize it’s not working well so you turn it into an intellectual pursuit and stay in that safe zone until you die or get honest. Most purveyors of the faith unconsciously know this but can’t acknowledge it because it’s painful on many fronts. It’s easier to stay in the intellectual zone rather than be honest. Besides, there’s a lifetime of Bible verses to support your position so why let honesty get in your way? The world is full of theologians, scholars and ministers stuck in the intellectual zone who would rather not jeopardize their status with a little honesty. Using the Bible to prove the Bible seems ridiculous to me now so I’ve decided to give the whole thing up and I feel better for it - really. Having no absolutes is absolutely OK with me.

An interesting footnote in history concerns Mother Theresa. A Catholic nun, recently deceased, she attempted to save the lost and dying in the streets of Calcutta, India with much fanfare. Turns out, she died with virtually no personal belief in Christianity. In very private letters, which she did not want made public, disclosed this to the church’s hierarchy. She had big-time reservations concerning God/Jesus for most of her adult life. But, went on to save the lost anyway because she didn’t have the guts to move on with her life. Besides, people put her saintliness so high on a pedestal she would rather live a lie than admit she might have been wrong about her faith. Don’t get me wrong. Helping people is OK and commendable and a human thing to do. Doing it under the pretense of saving lost souls doesn’t work and must have been pretty depressing. But, as expected, the Catholic Church quickly put their spin on it calling her spiritually void period something “all great saintly people go through”. Then started proceedings to move her into the saintly realm. Her “spiritually void” period lasted for 50 odd years. So much for honesty.

The arguments Christians make to those of us who have moved on usually start by questioning your previous commitment. How do you respond to that? I guess they should know since God is no longer on your side. I lost that one. Another ploy is to start quoting the Bible as if you haven’t heard every verse concerning the lost - over and over. I loose that one too. The final and most insulting stage is the “I’m going to pray for you” stage. Realizing some do have a sincere but misguided interest in your soul but knowing most wish you a lifetime in hell since you are no longer in the club. I usually tell them I appreciate the thought. To them this is final confirmation of my eternally lost soul.

There is no way of knowing but I would venture to say that I’ve heard or read every major Christian sermon know to man on every possible subject from the most simple to the most intellectual. I have pondered, thought and agonized over many of them. I really don’t need another. I’ve had a lifetime of them, in fact, several lifetimes. At this point I start to imagine what a world without religion would be like. Think about it. The implications are staggering since every major conflict has religion at its root. It took years just to get to the point where I would even entertain such a thought. What is striking to me now is the arrogance some people with religion have. Usually proportional to how deep you chose to go or how many people follow your every word. I now view the more prominent Christian personalities completely different than before. The confidence and surety the have is amazing and very compelling. No wonder people will drop their common sense at the door and drink the Kool-Aid.

To me one of the most damaging things about Christianity and probably all other religions is the worldview you develop. Even now, as I no longer want to be identified with Christianity, certain aspects of it still haunt me. It colors every area of your life depending on how serious you are or were about your beliefs. As a practicing believer it gives you a smugness that only you and your group have the truth. All others are suspect. Usually there’s an interrogation period when a newcomer happens to cross your path and you blow it as you set up the you against me defense system. A great way to meet new people. The worldview that is equally bad is the thought that there’s a battle going on all around and your mind happens to be the battlefield. The war of good against evil is going on – right in your head! This delusion makes for some real distortion and most never return. One part that doesn’t seem to get answered adequately is that if Jesus finished the work on the cross then why is it still going on in my head? You can spend a lot of time on that one. It goes nowhere. Believing that God, angels, demons, Satan, etc are reading your mind sets the stage for real problems. Don’t believe me? How about people who strap bombs to their belt and step on a bus? They’re not doing it to get to the other side of town. Pretty powerful stuff. The Middle East is full of people with a distorted worldview caused by religion.

Through the proliferation of media and information available the world is slowly discovering that there are no real heroes and there never were. In a sense, any one of us could be a hero when we stand up for what is right. And, each of us have things we’re not proud of. We are all alike. That is life. We create supernatural Gods and earthly heroes because we want the comfort of knowing that there might be something greater out there. The Bible is just another book about Gods and heroes created by man. I know that s hard for many to accept. It was hard for me. But you don’t have to go far to find information that previously wasn’t easily available to the average person. The Internet as well as many recent books by reputable authors contains volumes of information slowly uncovering historical errors, inconsistencies and genuine real problems with the Bible as fact. The very existence of Jesus is questionable considering the indisputable fact no contemporary documents mention of him during his presumed lifetime. Don’t believe it? Check it out for yourself. I no longer feel the need to prove anything. If you’re like most Christians you don’t want to find out anyway. It’s too painful. Funny, you’ll believe the Bible completely and on faith but you’re afraid to even consider an indisputable historical fact that might disprove what you believe. See, you’re going believe want you want regardless of reality. Besides the Bible says it’s the truth that’s all you need. No need to go further. Like I mentioned previously - to use the Bible to prove the Bible is an exercise in futility.

I dropped a lifetime of religious beliefs because I’ve come to the point where I know it simply doesn’t work; it’s not a valid way of thinking. To continue would be insanity. The issue is truly settled for me. There’s no turning back. No one is reading my thoughts; no spiritual battle is going on accept that which I personally allow. This conclusion doesn’t solve anything necessarily but it allows one the freedom to start thinking for your self. This is the starting point

To be honest, life is hard, very hard in many cases. I don’t know any thoughtful person that doesn’t what to believe in something greater than our selves. I know of thoughtless people who would kill you in a second if they could get away with it. This comes with being human. I don’t have an answer but I do know that neither Christianity nor any other religion is going to save anybody. There are good people and there are bad people. I don’t have to love or even like everyone. That is absolutely unrealistic. I don’t have to forgive everyone because that is unrealistic also. I know these thoughts aren’t new and I don’t really care. The point is it’s over for me and I’ll never turn back.

Do I think there might be a God. Yes, common sense tells me that all things seem to have a beginning or starting point. Do I think the God of the Bible exists. No. If a God exists do I think he needs or wants me to worship him. No, not anymore than I want my children to worship me. It makes no sense and is silly.

Is there an afterlife? I want to think so. Do I have proof? Absolutely not. People have clinically died on the operating table or during bad car crashes and claim to have left their physical bodies. They have even seen and heard things that would seem impossible if you were dead. Doctors have documented hundreds of cases like this and no one has really explained it adequately. I have talked to people who have some pretty compelling experiences about such things. Does it give me hope? Yes, it does.

The best thing about not being a Christian any longer is the freedom to explore, in a healthy sense, what I really believe or don’t believe. I can walk out the door feeling that I don’t have to view the world in any specific way colored by any religious views. I don’t have to judge people according to Bible standards. I can like or dislike a person based on who or what I think they are. I can feel what I want and think what I want to knowing that God is not judging me. And, I don’t have to justify anything.

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