I characterize myself as an Evangelical Atheist

Sent in by Arthur

I was forced to go to a catholic grammar school where we attended mass every weekday morning and also attended as a class on Sundays. Teachers were all nuns who weren’t very well educated and it was obvious that most didn’t choose the job because they liked children.

We spent lots of time learning about all the sins we shouldn’t commit and the penalties we would face for committing them if we died before we were able to confess them to a priest. As I remember, we could go to hell for purposely missing mass on Sunday or a holy day. And eating meat on Friday was also a sin that could send you to hell.

In the ‘60s the pope decided it was OK to eat meat on Friday after hundreds of years of prohibition. I’ll bet that really pissed off all those people who went to hell for doing it. Of course, it was also possible to murder someone and go to heaven if you were sorry for your sin and made a ‘good’ confession.

I particularly remember a couple things the nuns told us kids. One related that she met a woman who was pushing a crippled kid in a wheelchair. The woman told her that the child was born out of wedlock and she figured that this was god’s way of punishing her for her sin. As a second or third-grader I didn’t know what ‘out of wedlock’ meant but I couldn’t grasp why the crippled kid was also paying for his mother’s ‘sin’. Another nun once told us about a girl who drank water out of a stream and ingested snake eggs that later hatched inside her. Well, I guess if you buy the story about virgin birth and resurrection you’d be ready to believe just about anything. I wonder what Freud would have said about that story.

My lack of belief was first revealed when I was in (I think) 4th grade and all the boys were given permission slips to have parents sign, “if you want to be an altar boy”. I threw mine in the wastebasket on the way out and was the only one who didn’t return it. When asked why I didn’t I pointed out what the nun had said and, since I didn’t want to be an altar boy I had thrown it away. As a result, my parents had to come to school for a conference and I soon became an altar boy.

Masses then were said in Latin and we had to memorize the responses to the priest’s prayers. At the end of each mass the last thing the priest said was, ”Ite Missa est (the mass is over)”. And the altar boys’ response was, “Deo gratias (thank god)”. I don’t think any other altar boy said it as loud as I did. I have to admit that none of the priests ever attempted to seduce me, leading me to wonder, years later, whether I just wasn’t cute enough.

When I graduated from 8th grade I refused to go to a Catholic high school and since there was no nun to check me in at Sunday mass, I no longer went unless my parents insisted I go with them. In high school I did a lot of reading about religion and even tried going to other churches but they all had some ridiculous story about god that I found impossible to believe. For many years afterward, I just ignored the whole religion thing as something that I had no interest in.

Eventually, I had to recognize how dangerous religion is to the world. Instead of just being a passive observer I began to question people about their reasons for believing things that can’t be proven and over the years I have become more aggressive in that area. Now, I belong to the Freedom from Religion Foundation and write letters to newspapers who have printed religious claptrap or other letters from overtly religious nuts who would like to have a 10 commandments posted on every street-corner and prayer in the schools. I characterize myself as an Evangelical Atheist and I believe that more of us have to take an activist stance.

A small minority of ultra-conservative Christians have been making trouble all out of proportion to their numbers because they take every opportunity to exert influence to push their agenda. We atheists need to follow their example and let everybody know that we exist.

Part iconoclast, part theist

Sent in by Roland

'Never wishing to throw the baby out with the bathwater', I have yet to do so and won't -ever.

I am part iconoclast and part theist, ExChristian to be sure, -not that it was my original intention nor have I chosen to be, -but the 'icon of Christianity' that I came to know should not have been created in the first place. I am not particularly sorry for breaking that which should never have been made in the first place (hence 'iconoclast').

I did not start 'the lie', -I only learned of it and am more than willing to post what I have learned as a result... both about the lie and, more importantly the truth (as I know and/or understand it).

My 'theism' stems from (my) love... being loved and loving... (extremely difficult and private to articulate and/or explain...) of life, nature, learning, etc., etc., etc... the list is practically endless... suffice it to say that without 'love' one can not live rightly, nor understand correctly.

My being an ExChristian does not mean that I 'hate' Christianity... it is, after all is said and done, 'irrelevant'. Nevertheless, I hold these truths to be self-evident... That I was (and am) 'created', 'exist' (What an awesome wonder, miracle and blessing...), -knowing full well that I don't know shit about more things than I can even count... save only that I love (because I am loved), and that I am 'here' for a reason.

Although there are x many 'members' within this Honorable Site, I am in a company of One... like a drop of water in the Ocean... I lovingly welcome all comments re. my position herein.

I have grown to hate Christianity with a purple passion

Sent in by Brian

Back in 2004 I left the Christian Faith after I found out that in reality there is no such thing as a personal and loving God who guides and directs our paths. However, according to these Right Winged Extremist Nuts, it's my fault that my faith did not work. I have grown to hate Christianity with a purple passion, and here is an example of why I have grown to hate Christianity here in the past four years. This is a constant reminder of why I have no desire to return to the cult known as the Christian faith.

Just today when I went out to eat breakfast with my parents (Who are ultra conservative Christians) my father asked my mom and I to bow our heads, and say the blessing before we eat. I had stopped this practice four years ago after I left Christianity, of course. Now days when I am around my family I usually just sit there real quietly and let them pray over their food like they always do.

Apparently my father did not realize that I had stopped praying over my food four years ago until earlier today. However, he has known for the past four years how strongly I disagree with his faith, and how I no longer want anything more to do with it.

Anyways, when my parents got ready to pray over their food, my dad told me to bow my head also. I told him and my mom to go ahead, that I was not going to bow my head. My dad got offended, and once again told me to "Bow your head." I then once again told my dad to go ahead that I have not prayed over my food in four years, and told him that he had apparently forgotten that I no longer subscribe to his beliefs.

As a result of this, my father got nasty with me. Not long after we left the restaurant, my father started reminding me remind me that I was brought up under Christian values, and was taught the word of God, and how dare I disrespect him the way I did. Then he went on to tell me these following things:

1) I am now full of the devil.
2) I am a pagan
3) I am going to hell.
4) I have disrespected him.
5) I have disrespected my family.
6) I have disrespected my family's traditions.
6) I have most of all disrespected his "GOD".

Sound familiar?

I told my dad that I did not disrespect his faith. What I did do, I told him, is that I chose not to pray over my food, and that is my right if I choose not to do so. I was simply practicing the my right not to practice his faith. I told him that if I choose not to pray or say the blessing that is my right, and he has no right to tell me to force his beliefs on me. I also asked him how would he like it if a Muslim told him to bow his head and pray to Allah. He ignored my question, and kept preaching at me of course.

Then my father went on to tell me that I am going to pay and how he is going to make my life a living hell and started threatening me with a reversed mortgage when he dies. My father is a control freak BTW. It's his way or the highway. He does not believe in diversity of any kind, and he also makes racist remarks about African American People.

My dad is a 80 years old, and I know he is not going to change what he believes, nor will he ever see things my way. He believes that he has his "God" on his side, and everyone else who I listen to are a bunch of "Left Winged Liberal Nuts" and assholes.

I'm sure some of you who also come from Christian backgrounds have experienced similar things from your family (Parents) also.

I find it quiet ridiculous how my father got so damn upset over what I consider to be a "Minor/Trivial" Issue. This also just proves how dangerous and destructive Christianity is along with all other religions.

I will not go back

From Annastasia

Hello everyone! I'm Annastasia, 32, and I'm having a really hard time right now.

I have been raised a Christian my whole life. I never knew anything else. I've been taught that all other people who did not accept Christ were going to hell regardless of belief in a higher power or a God of a different name.

I never thought I was going to have a future because every year was the "Last Days" and the "end times" were here. The fact that I went to church like a good Christian girl did not make all of my questions go away.

I was and still am the problem child in my family. I am the one who has continuously questioned the validity of Christianity and the one that Satan is controlling. I am now, according to them, corrupting my own children.

I have been searching and studying every aspect and opinion for the truth in religion and I cannot find it. Faith aside, it's just simply not there. Just recently it occurred to me that I really DO NOT believe in Christ or the Bible and that revelation has sent me into depression. All that has been in the back of my mind like a crutch is gone. I have been holding on to some hope that something miraculous would be unveiled to me and that it all would make sense.

I know it will not happen.

My husband is completely supportive since he's been more of a freethinker anyways and I vent to him. My extended family, parents and siblings, are not understanding, to say the least. I feel that if they tell me one more time that a "Spirit of ?" is attacking my life, I'm going to scream. They are praying for me, telling me to repent, and that I am being led astray, asking how I can do this to my children. I ask, how could I raise my children with it? It's been a form of mental abuse and I'm still having a hard time because of the brainwashing.

I will not go back. Anyways, I still believe that there could be a higher power or some universal intelligence and right now I'm holding onto it for some peace of mind. Eventually I may let that go also but for now, it's what I need.

Thanks for listening.

Religion does not make people happy. People make people happy.

Sent in by Andrew

The story of my faith starts out like every story here. Born and Raised in the Roman Catholic Church From Birth. Dragged To church, but eventually "became a believer". Was "Confirmed" in the church and currently a senior in a Catholic High School. You get the picture.

In elementary school, I was what you would call "a retard". This was before I was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome. I stabbed myself with pencils and safety scissors. I cried nearly everyday for some stupid reason. Most of all, I wanted to die because I was tired of being made fun of. The thing was that was when my belief in Christianity was at my strongest at that time. I always participated in church, had strong beliefs in the Bible and Ten Commandments. I also had strong respect for anyone who was a priest. Once I entered high school, though, that was all about to change.

During my early high school years (freshman/sophomore), my views of the Roman Catholic Church changed. I came to the realization (one way or another) that church was just a mild form of crowd control. I realized this through the fact that this is why most people behave and do what they do; because their religion encouraged it. Sadly, this was at a time when I was going through with some life-changing personal issues, including a diagnosis with Asperger's Syndrome, so I was more worried about these issues than my view on religion.

My views, though, drastically changed, though, Junior year. In Junior religion, the main priority was to learn more about the history of the church and the sacraments (remember those?). As I we were learning about this (mainly the sacraments), I began to realize that church was nothing more than just applied psychiatry. Reading the textbook, it went on about how the sacraments have ceremonies for the sake of being tangible, and that the sacraments bring the community together.

This got me thinking about something. What makes people truly happy? I know money, wealthy possessions, and lust don't make them happy. I also know (thanks to Britney Spears) that alcoholism and other addictions don't make people happy. What I have discovered is one simple thing.

Religion does not make people happy. People make people happy.

People go to religion hoping to find acceptance by others who promise to accept them no matter what they've done in hopes of finding happiness. The truth is that religion alludes to happiness, but you can never truly be happy. From what I've seen with the world, I am more happy when I am socializing with people rather than reading some history book.

I was a little hesitant on my thoughts, though, namely because I am surrounded by Christians. This caused an uneasiness in my stomach which went into the summer months. As this was happening, George Carlin had died. This launched a media frenzy and HBO began showing Carlin's specials like crazy. I was bored to hell, so I decided to watch them.

I'm not sure which one I watched, but he began to rip on religion and started saying how religion was a load of crap. I was intrigued and began getting hooked and laughing out loud. It was at this moment that I realized it was ok to think differently, even when everyone in the room will be against your decision and you can be successful. It was that moment that I officially denounced my faith.

I have decided, through getting called "ignorant" in chat rooms and forums, being spat upon by everyone, and some internet research, that I believe in deism. I do believe that there is someone/something that created us, I just have no clue on who created us.

I just want to make two random comments about "revealed religion" that I couldn't fit into the main body of this that I want to address.

1) It's funny that religion can question what I believe, but when I question something about religion, I get told to shut up and believe.

2) I want to say that although religion is applied psychiatry, all religions teach love and tolerance. Sadly, some jackass hijacks religion with hate -- all in the name of God.

As I conclude this piece, I just want to say that I am scared to admit it to everyone around me. Just about everyone that I know is Christian is some aspect and with most of them being the "go to church every Sunday and I love everybody" type, I worry that they'll reject me and basically turn their backs.

Now, I have read some of the other testimonies and mine is mild considered to what I have read. I just hope that this is a step in the right direction.

I realised, once and for all, that what I believed in didn't exist

Sent in by Jessica

As most stories go, I had been raised in a Christian household. No we weren't the stable Christian family, and we didn't attend Church every week, but we were believers, said our prayers, read our Bibles... Well, that's a lie. I didn't actually read the Bible myself until my teens. I even tried once to read it from cover to cover (Oh dear... what a dire and feeble attempt I made... three pages in, I gave up.) I gave my life to Jesus quite young, around the age of nine or ten, blindly, and I can't recall why or how it came about exactly, but I put it down to living with Christians and witnessing people doing the act. Monkey see monkey do, right?

I was a 'hardcore' Christian over the past few years, on the flipside of a messy divorce between my parents, and I was fully immersed in the message of the Bible. I did this partly to support my blubbering mother, who clung to her religion like she had nothing else to live for. We attended ALPHA courses at Church in an attempt to enrich our faith in God. I was sixteen at the time, and upon reflection now, was probably at the highest threshold of my Christian faith.

But what goes up must come down, and slowly but surely my thirst for attending Church every week with my mother faded. "Why don't you come to Church with me anymore? You don't love me," she would say. My answer to that was that I couldn't be bothered. I eventually became one of those Christian types who didn't believe that attending Church every Sunday was mandatory in order to gain entrance into heaven.

But this year, things changed. And by my life, they changed for the better.

I don't recall exactly how it happened that I started to question the origin of my faith, but nevertheless I did, and I was stumped. I couldn't remember why I gave my life to Jesus. Then I recalled the memory of lying in my bed that night. Then I thought about how I was raised a Christian. Then I got to thinking... I only ever truly believed in God when something was going wrong in my life — divorce, being overweight, having acne, losing hair, friend problems, fear of death. I thought about the Bible, who wrote it, when it was written, how many versions there were, how many times it must have been translated over the years. I scoured the internet like a madman, searching for evidence that Jesus existed, that he was truly resurrected, therefore solidifying him as the son of god. But contrary to my ambitions, I found nothing. I was believing in something that I couldn't validate. I was debating online and in person about god, Jesus, heaven, hell, the Bible, without reason. I only knew that it was real and that I believed. But then it was like a switch was flipped — I stopped believing.

I told my mother, 'I'm just questioning my faith, Jesus, and all this stuff.' Needless to say she was shocked and straight away feared for my life, because I would now surely burn in hell, for turning ones’ back on the light of god is the worst sin one can commit.

So the more I read, the more I learned, the more I researched about the Christian faith (and religion in general), I eventually came to a point where I realised, once and for all, that what I believed in didn't exist, and that like many thousands and millions of people in this world, I had been a pawn in the grand scheme of religious control.

Being part of the Christian religion has granted me more pain than good over the years. I felt more alone then ever to realise that maybe there is no God. It was certainly hard at first to rid myself of my faith. It was something so rooted in my soul, and I can tell you that it was as if I had ripped out a part of my being. But now I am finally free from the stigma of faith and its only now that I feel truly whole and empowered.

I could go on and on about my experience with Christianity, but in all honesty, I don't need to. If you can't see why Christianity and religion in general is wrong, and in my opinion the most evil poison of humanity, then I urge you to research. Scour web pages, books and articles like I did and discover for yourself. I'm so glad now to be free from religion and for the first time in my life I feel completely happy and can't wait to discover more about life, about our world and the universe that it feels as though I'm a child again.

I am an atheist, and I am happy.

And let me just say that it's much easier to discover why there is no God than it is to discover Him.

I actually tried to talk to my mom about God's supposed existence

The Trying Years

Sent in by Jerry

The Trying Years

Where to begin? Even as young as 5, I have never taken to Christianity. I was an outstanding academic pupil at the earliest age. That also got me into trouble with my religious mother. You see an inquisitive mind wants to know things that a zealous black American Pentecostal mother from rural Arkansas doesn't want it knowing.

I started reading fantasy books and comics as young as kindergarten. I loved reading stories and was fascinated by the most elementary knowledge from other cultures. I devoured National Geographic, Time, Newsweek, etc...

It was only when I entered early elementary classes that my mother noticed I took more to comics, fantasy books, sci fi, mysteries, and mythology than I did to the Bible. She would actually come into my room and snatch my Norse mythology tales from my hands to replace it with a Sunday School book. I found Bible stories boring and the Bible silly. It just didn't appeal, interest, or make sense to me. She did wonders for my growing apathy when I had a bug fly into my ear, and despite the debilitating pain she never took me to the hospital. What did she do? She poured "blessing oil", which is olive oil, down my ear and prayed for it to heal. I actually passed out from the pain when the moving creature didn't drown fast enough. You think I'm joking? When I was around 9, I had a rattling cough, swollen joints, high fever, and was bed-ridden. She spread "blessing oil" on my chest, laid on hands, and prayed for God to remove this demon of sickness. It worked after a week of prolonged sickness. Guess the demon couldn't take another second of her rants.

When I entered my teen years, things became seriously worse. My mother was in full evangelical fury and had occasional forced family prayers on our knees and the laying of hands. I was doing local teenage labor such as mowing yards, and could afford my own comic subscriptions or fiction books. She actually thought of them as witchcraft and when it came to my modern jazz it was the devil's way to lure you into sin.

Now get this. Around the age of 14, I actually tried to talk to my mom God's supposed
existence. I cannot tell you how bad that discussion went, but a stinging on my left cheek should give you an idea. After the "discussion" she surprised me with a little gift that Sunday. I was unexpectedly asked to the altar during the "Call to Prayer". When I walked up, I was surrounded by all the deacons and the elder stepped down. He told the audience (not a congregation at this dramatic point) about my discussion with my mother aka traitoress. Then the men of the church proceeded to pray and drive the devil that had driven me from the light. Have you ever heard of temporary hysteria? I experienced it. I started laughing at the absurdity of it all. Ready for it? The audience actually thought it was the possessing devil fighting back against the deacons' prayer! You should have seen how many women jumped to their feet to add their raucous to the performance. I am not kidding. Even upon returning home, my brothers and sisters looked at me with some fear.

Well into my adult years now, I have long since had the "discussion of belief" with mom. She is deathly afraid to discuss religion with me due to my calm approach. She doesn't even ask me to attend church with her when I visit. Why didn't she learn during my younger years?!?

Well, I did enjoy some aspects of the Pentecostal church. I liked the charismatic music and gleefully watched women run down the aisle, spasm, and pretend to pass out. Other than that, the screaming preacher kept disturbing me while I was reading one of my fantasy novels that I had snuck in.

I have tried to believe in Jesus

Sent in by Mike

I'm 21 years old and was brought up in a Christian home. My mom, dad, sister, grandma's, aunts, uncles, EVERYONE I LOVE... are all Christian. YET, it still isn’t enough to influence me to believe. I have always been very truthful with myself and was told to be a leader when I was a young child. I would ask myself even at an early age, "How does one become a leader when you must follow the bible? Isn't that a contradiction?"

I made my own decisions growing up, I never smoked weed; I never drank; I didn’t follow the crowd like everyone else. I didn’t do these things because I believed in god. Rather, I believed in doing what I felt was right in my heart and brain. I find it funny how most of the people who are Christians are ones who where the followers all along -- they smoked the weed, they drank, they "sinned," and now they believe in Jesus. Why? Because to me it’s nothing but a quick fix, an easy solution to their problems, an supposed answer for the unanswerable.

I was dragged to church ever since I was born. My parents made me watch only Christian video tapes, they gave me coloring books with pictures of Jesus to color in, they didn’t allow me to celebrate Halloween, and I was not at this time in my life allowed to be my own person. I have had the bible jammed down my throat for 21 years and it still continues daily. Even at an early age I was embarrassed that my parents believed Halloween to be "Satan’s holiday." I am embarrassed because I know how brilliant of a man my dad is, I know how smart my mom is, yet they believed all these silly illogical stories written in the bible.

I have tried to believe in Jesus, I have called out to him screaming at the top of my lungs to break me down and reveal himself to me. I have felt nothing... I see nothing...I hear nothing. In science class we all learned about our senses correct? Well if you can’t see, hear, smell, or touch something wouldn’t you agree its non existent? "oh well you have to have FAITH." I know, I know... I've heard it all.

The sad part is if god would reveal himself to me I feel like I would be the perfect Christian, if I 100% believed and knew Jesus was real than I would be a better Christian than any Christian I have ever met. Yet that doesn’t mean anything to god...why? Because he obviously doesn’t care to show himself to me but the people that claim to "100%" believe in him seem to be the ones that display him the worst. Aren’t Christians supposed to represent Jesus? My mother judges more people than a judge in a court room, my grandma laughs at me for my beliefs and tells me im lost, my dad wont even consider listening to what I believe yet I should DROP everything and believe his word(stubborn), my uncle rapped all my cousins yet now he is a Christian, my aunt who allowed this to happen is a Christian, my cousin had an abortion and is a Christian, my grandfather cheated and had an affair on my grandma than left her and remarried........guess what he was and still is a Christian! My whole life I’ve seen Christian’s DO things that they call EVIL and I sit here being a non-believer yet I have not done any such things. Yes I mess up of course..Im not perfect but I acknowledge it and get back on track.. I don’t judge people constantly. I accept them, I would never rape someone, I would never cheat or have an affair on my wife, I would never display any of these immoral acts. So you mean to tell me if god is real all these people will go to heaven and I will burn in hell for eternity? I ask why? Am I not a good man? Do I not hold my morals and beliefs together stronger than most Christians? I believe I do...

Simple facts to conclude my feelings are the following: Yes, Christians' faith does help them in times of need... it comforts them, makes them feel special and gives them all the answers of the universe. They believe this because it makes them feel better about living and dying. I am sorry I am not that open-minded that I could just hear something and believe it. It's not my fault I require proof. I seek the truth; I stand with open arms for god to show himself to me. Then I realize I'm talking to my ceiling. So who’s crazy? The atheist or the Christian? After telling my story I can re-read it and see it’s not me. If anything Christians should be praying more for themselves instead of the non-believers because we are just fine.

I've missed out on so much, and I'm angry

Sent in by Brooke

So my dad's wife is unfortunately one of those Christians who adamantly deny every shred of evidence against Christianity or any favorable information about other religions. She would likely ignore the fact that Paganism doesn't involve demons and witchcraft, and that Satanists don't actually believe in Satan (let alone worship him)... because it would completely contradict her entire worldview.

She would instead take pains to explain why YOU are wrong, citing the negative spiritual feelings she gets from those religions and how God "told her" during prayer that they were evil and demonic. She actually thinks that my seizures were caused by demons, and even appears to believe that the only reason why my medication is working is because I'm mentally making it work and therefore driving the demons out of my brain with the medicine's placebo effect. She didn't actually say that, but I wouldn't be surprised if that's the explanation she thought up in response to Lamictal's success.

It's the logical rationalization to satisfy her cognitive dissonance caused by the idea of spiritual forces being conquered with science instead of her oft-suggested prayer and fasting that kept me putting off going to a neurologist back when I was a demon-fighting fundie myself. Her words were like gospel back when I was younger and still believed her, because I was easily impressed by spiritual things and explanations. Now I'm just disgusted.

I can't believe how physically debilitated I let myself become, all because I was naive enough to believe her. I could have had a normal teenage existence, free of seizures, if I hadn't fallen for the demonic oppression myth. I'm 22 now; I have my license and I'm in college. But there's so much I missed out on. And I'm angry.

Living a life free of the intrusiveness of any organized religion

Sent in by Carol

My upbringing occurred in the 1950's and sixties and I was schooled in the mainstream religion of the Catholic Church.

My mother was an extremely abusive person. However, the nuns often said that if a person was a Catholic who participated in communion and confession, who went to Church on Sundays and did not eat meat on Fridays, they would be saved.

However the nuns also insinuated that my father, who was one of the best people on the planet, would not be able to enter heaven, as he was an agnostic.

Even at the age of seven this made no sense to me. I could not accept that my father would be left in limbo or purgatory because he looked at the world from a more scientific point of view than the Catholics that I knew.

By the time that I was in my teens, my life had become very problematic. A great deal of what happened to me involved my mother's methods of discipline. It has taken me decades to realize that just because the things she did to me were labeled "discipline" does not mean that they were not abuse. But at the time that the physical and emotional attacks against me occurred, I thought of them as discipline.

All through the long period of my mother's abuse of me, I wished for an adult to confide in. But I could not think of anyone who would believe my word over my mother's. The priests always seemed preoccupied. The nuns liked my mother too much to believe me over her.

And so I endured the weekly discipline sessions which were triggered by the slightest thing. Often if the bus bringing me back from my high school was ten or twenty minutes late, the abuse would begin. thrown against a wall, dragged back and forth the length of a hallway by the hair on the back of my neck, told again and again that I was "boy crazy" and that I should realize that being as "boy The scariest
part of it was when Mom would scream at me that she could have me committed to a mental institution before my dad would be home from work. If I hollered back trying to defend myself, then her anger would accelerate.

At one point, I did confide in a parish priest, but his comment was that it was good my mother was watching out for my soul and taking matters in her hands to see to it that I was not so sexually pre-occupied. In a way this is almost funny - I didn't even know what sex was about until I was fourteen. And this abuse strted at the age of twelve. At my all girl high school, meeting boys was rather difficult!!

I now realize that far too much of the Catholic Church is about the institutionalizing of the abuse patterns of adults. It is now public knowledge why I and many others saw the priests as being pre-occupied. They had their minds on the young boys in their parishes!!

Spend a few weeks or months looking into the Inquisition - that whole concept was about relegating women to a lower status than they had held under the "pagan" religions that preceded Christianity's spread throughout Europe. Whereas under paganism, young women were free to consort with several young men as lovers, under Christianity, the women were expected to be virgins until married, and then they were to remain faithful forever to that man. Except that the Inquisition also allowed for the local nobility to be awarded the wedding night with any young woman who married in their domain. Just one other example of the Catholic Church's hypocrisy!!

I am now involved in simply living a life free of the intrusiveness of any organized religion.

I am also fond of the Seth Teachings, written out in many books by Jane Roberts and now encapsulated in the writings of Mark Allen Frost.

Buddhism and druidism are also things that interest me.

Atheists... do you have a purpose?

Sent in by Jackie

A couple of days ago, in the middle of the thread about integrity of the Christian community, somebody posted an interesting question that I couldn't wait to jump all over. He asked "Atheists... do you have a purpose?"

I must have hit cancel instead of publish because my comment never went on the thread. So, I figured it would make a better discussion topic instead.

My response to this question goes something like this:

By purpose, if you mean divine, then of course not, because we don't believe in the divine. If you mean responsibility, then yes. We don't need motivation to do the right thing. We don't have to have a carrot dangling in front of us. (And by carrot, you could interpret that to be heaven, spiritual gifts, blah, blah...)

Sometimes I get quite an ego and like to think that I have more ethics and morals in my little atheist pinky finger than most Christians do.

I don't have an ulterior motive to be friends with someone. My relationships aren't fake. If I don't like someone, I don't get close to them. I can be friends with someone without planning a sales pitch and hoping for the day they change to being just like me. I respect diversity. I'm friends with people because I like them and enjoy having them around me.

I don't need a reason to help someone. No crown, no streets of gold, no mansion... just knowing that I might have made someone else's day a little better. I don't expect recognition from a choir of angels for making a good decision. I make good decisions because I have a brain. I do the right thing because I give a shit.

I care about the world around me. I am not awaiting the glorious day of Mithras' return... I mean Jesus.... oops. I believe in the one planet that I share with billions of other people on it and I take some responsibility to make it a better place.

I don't need a reason to help someone. No crown, no streets of gold, no mansion... just knowing that I might have made someone else's day a little better. I don't expect recognition from a choir of angels for making a good decision. I make good decisions because I have a brain. I do the right thing because I give a shit. Religion does nothing to make the world peaceful. Religious sects of Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, etc., each thinking they are the only one that is right and every one else should be eradicated from the planet, doesn't sound like a very good peacekeeping strategy to me. There is one planet... we all share it... we are all ruining it. The rest of the world needs to buck up, admit that they may not have all the answers, and start recycling!

And finally, to think that one has a specific "purpose" which is divine is a very egotistical thing to believe. What about the starving children in Africa? What's their purpose? Be born with aids and starve to death? Nice... Maybe you could take that purpose of a "higher calling" and do something intelligent with it, like find a way to end hunger and cure cancer. Forget preaching your bible crap... starving people will do whatever they must for food. If they don't mean it in their hearts when they prayed that sinner's prayer, just doing it for food, are they still saved? The bible I read says no, or maybe that's just my interpretation.

I've been there, thinking I had a higher calling. I devoted two years to ministry training and nothing else. I kept believing that God would have me doing something amazing to turn the world to Him. But here I am, 10 years later... working a job I hate to pay the bills -- because I chose not to go to an actual college and get a real degree -- raising a beautiful son, happily professing my atheism and living a life happier and more fulfilled than ever (despite the job). If I wouldn't have decided to take my life in my own hands and waited for that proverbial door to open, I'd still be going to the college-age Sunday school, waiting for my soul mate and believing that I was an ambassador to the world, all the while never leaving comforts of my church.

I came to realize that Hell doesn't exist

Sent in by Justin

It’s been a long, strange and incredible journey for me over the past year or so on the spiritual path. I guess it started when I began working on the fellowshipping.org website. I wanted to make it easier for Christians to connect with each other, but I also wanted to get the message of the gospel out to as many people as I could. I still believed in Hell at the time, and I couldn’t bear the thought of anyone going there (not just friends and family, but anyone).

Around that time, I started a blog and in one of my blog entries I challenged myself to pray for 2 hours a day for a week. I accepted the challenge.

During all of that praying, the topic of Hell kept coming up and one morning I woke up with a feeling that I should do some research on the topic. I googled Hell and a bunch of links jumped out at me claiming that Hell was not real or didn’t exist. I thought that was too good to be true, until I actually started reading some of the websites.

I ended up reading almost non-stop for three weeks. I barely left the house and I didn’t do any work on my websites. I just read everything I could find about this teaching called Christian Universalism.

Finally after three weeks I decided I was convinced. I came to believe that there was no Hell. This wasn’t a decision I made lightly. I didn’t believe it just because I wanted it to be true. I did the research and I concluded that there was no way that Hell could exist. (The main site that I researched was tentmaker.org for those that are interested.)

I felt like a giant weight had been lifted off my entire being. For most of my life I had been afraid of Hell. I knew that I had been “saved”, but whenever I read certain passages in the Bible, I started to doubt my “salvation” and wondered if I might end up in Hell. I never really felt secure.

But even in those moments when I trusted that I really was safe from eternal damnation, I “knew” that a lot of my friends and family were going to Hell along with a huge percentage of the rest of the population (unless they got “saved”).

I used to walk around depressed, thinking about every person or group I saw, and that no matter how much fun they were having, or how kind and loving they were, there was a good chance they were destined to spend eternity in Hell, because they weren’t “saved”.

That is what fundamentalist Christianity did to me.

So once I came to realize that Hell doesn’t exist, a lot of things happened. The most immediate change was how I felt when I saw other people. I didn’t have that sad feeling gnawing away at me any more.

For the first time in my life I felt like everything was alright with the world. I didn’t have all the answers yet (and still don’t), but I felt such an incredible feeling of love toward everyone. And I finally came to realize that a God who is truly loving and forgiving would never send his creations to Hell to suffer for eternity.

So now I still believe in God, but I no longer call myself a Christian. I believe there is a lot of truth in the Bible, but also lots of half-truths, lies, misinterpretations and blatant mistranslations.

I struggled for years trying to figure out how God could be the embodiment of love and the model for forgiveness, yet also punish people by sending them to Hell for eternity for simply failing to accept Christ as their savior.

That never felt right to me. But, I accepted that belief for so long, because I didn’t see another alternative. For some reason I thought that the only two options were Christianity and atheism. It had never dawned on me that God could still be real but that the Christian story could be false, or at least misleading or misinterpreted.

Once I was finally able to consider that as an option, a lot of things changed for me. I started to realize how many great spiritual books and teachers are out there. I realized how much I was limiting myself by viewing the Bible as the only spiritual text.

As crazy as it might sound to some, I believe that Christianity was severely hampering my spiritual growth.

Any time I would read something that conflicted with my belief system, I would be quick to dismiss it. Each time I did that, I would become more entrenched in my close-minded belief system. Why did I do that? Why was I so quick to defend my “faith” and dismiss anything that conflicted with my beliefs?

Because I was scared. Scared that I might be wrong. Scared that maybe God didn’t exist and that we were all alone on this earth.

And so I had to keep my belief system intact, because it was too depressing to think that we might be alone here with no divine protector, and again, because I wasn’t aware of any other alternative.

Looking back on how I first came to be a Christian, it was the same emotion that came into play. Fear. Fear of going to Hell and burning in eternal flames.

I can still vividly remember going to an all-night youth group event when I was about 11 years old. After a hockey game, a speaker came out on the ice and talked about Heaven and Hell. He said that I could make a decision that night to choose Heaven and therefore be safe from Hell.

I prayed a prayer to accept Jesus into my heart that night. Then, the next year at the same event, I prayed it again just to be safe.

Looking back at it all now, it is easy for me to realize that it wasn’t the speaker’s logic or scientific facts that convinced me as an impressionable 11-year-old. It was a simple fear-based transaction. I was afraid of Hell, and so I did what I thought I had to do to avoid it.

Then I started to read the Bible. I read things like “Love your neighbor” and “Thou shalt not steal/lie/murder” and I knew in my heart that these were spiritual truths. Then I read that the Bible was the word of God and it was inerrant. I figured that since there were so many spiritual truths, it must really be God’s inspired word.

This was, of course, before I considered all the questions that brought up such as:

Where did the Bible come from?
Who wrote the books?
Who translated them?
Who decided which books were the inspired word of God?
And how did we know that the Bible was never changed, mistranslated or misinterpreted?

Each of these questions weighed on me as I delved more deeply into Christianity. I really wanted to believe that Christianity was true, because I wanted to know for sure that I was eternally safe, that I was going to Heaven when I died. But the more I thought about it, the more “plot holes” I discovered in the Christian story that I could not resolve.

There were so many fundamental questions that I could never answer, such as:

Why would God create us knowing that so many of us would never be “saved”?
What would happen to people that never heard the gospel in their lifetime? What about kids who died too young to make a decision to “get saved”?
Wouldn’t it be better not to have kids at all than to have a child if there was a chance that he or she would have to spend eternity in Hell?

Nothing in my life has terrorized me more than the concept of Hell.

So when I was finally able to prove to myself that Hell wasn’t real, it made a huge difference in my life. I no longer had to worry about whether I was “really saved”. I also started to trust more in God, knowing that there was no chance he was going to send me or anyone else to Hell.

Since that time, I have been reading and studying lots of spiritual teachings, and continuously reshaping my beliefs.

I have come to see Christianity as one step in my spiritual evolution. I’ve tried to keep all of the spiritual concepts that I believe are true and beneficial, and I’ve discarded the limiting beliefs and concepts that never felt right in the first place.

I believe that God is love and that it is not quite accurate to call ourselves children of God, but more accurate to call ourselves God incarnate.

The more we act in love toward one another, the more we are acting as our true selves, uniting in love, and teaching each other to remember who we really are.

But if we continue to spread messages of fear and eternal damnation, we only separate ourselves — from each other and also from our true Divine selves.

We are God. We are Love. Let’s unite in love and live up to our true Divine nature!

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