Sent in by Nathan
I stumbled upon this site and I would like to briefly share my story.
I grew up in an ultra-conservative fundamentalist household. Bottom line: Christianity was my life! I attended a Christian middle school and high school. The brand of Christianity I was taught was “hell fire and brimstone”. I believed every word, never questioning. I attended door to door witnessing, and I helped with the church bus route. I personally led several people “to the lord”.
Following high school, I attended “Clearwater Christian College” (similar in beliefs to Bob Jones University). Here, I began to have my first suspicions about Christianity. Essentially this school was like a cult. Students were highly restricted to campus, and every move was monitored. All students had to sign a statement promising to follow all the rules in the handbook. This hand book was extensive with petty rules such as “no mix swimming”, “no secular music”, “no movies”, etc. Now, there were constant reminders about this “promise before God,” and any deviation was termed out right disobedience toward God himself.
This experience was mentally and psychologically exhausting, so I transferred to Liberty University. The environment was more relaxed, but the underlying foundation of Christianity was still the same: that any deviation of focus away from God was sin. There were just too many social questions which made no sense. I felt awful knowing that many people around me were going to burn in hell. Some Christians watched secular movies and listened to music yet, I was taught these activities were wrong. These folks didn’t seem to be committed 100% to Christ. Should I really be friends with these people? Christ was supposed to be #1, yet I saw many Christians focused on social activities. Why weren’t they spending more time focused on God? Didn’t they know the world is going to hell? As for me, wasn’t I sinning against God by not making him #1? Man, I felt just awful. Life just made no sense. I just wanted out of the mental burden! I just wanted life to make sense!
So, over a semester’s time, I decided to quit Christianity. I left Liberty. I quit church, etc. In fact I promised myself I would never go to church again! Now, outwardly, I became non-religious, yet deep down I stilled believed in all the foundations of Christianity. Remember, I had been brainwashed for 20 years! The Christian world view was still at my core.
OK, I’m going to “fast forward” about 10 years. Over all life was pretty good. While deep down I still had Christian beliefs, and rid myself of the burden of hell, and the oppressiveness of fundamentalism. Professionally, I was doing OK. I had just finished a Master’s in Chemistry, with several research publications, and I was moving on to PhD studies. This could have been the end of the story, but it was not meant to be…
In the fall of 2006, as I began my PhD studies, I hastily signed up for lasik surgery. Unfortunately, I had some serious complications which basically ruined my vision. As a result I had to quit school, and I plunged into severe depression. I had a nervous breakdown. In this time of despair, I was desperate. I thought maybe god had planned this situation so that I could get “right with him”. So, against all odds, I decided to give Christianity another shot. So, I started going to church, and making Christian friends. As my health permitted, I read C.S. Lewis, Purpose Driven Life, the Bible, etc. I consistently prayed with family members through this tough time.
Several months after reclaiming Christianity, my eyes continued to be problematic and I slipped further into depression. I didn’t want to be alive anymore. I just wanted to go to heaven. I was suicidal. I was definitely not looking for a miracle, but I just wanted some comfort, some piece of mind. As I went to church and prayed, it was an empty experience. There was no comfort. There was no holy spirit from god. Again, it was totally empty!
My downtrodden perspective radically changed when I realized that this may be the only life I will ever have. I realized that when you die, you really are dead! Life on earth is all I will ever get. Through this perspective, I was no longer suicidal. I wanted to live, and experience this life for whatever its worth. Then and here, I truly shed my faith once and for all (an act I was never truly able to do before).
Two more aspects encouraged me to truly shed my faith.
First. I read the bible. Contrary to fundamentalist beliefs, the bible promotes many hideous acts: genocide, sacrificing children, raping women, slavery, incest, etc. Indeed these ideas are mixed with many wonderful morals. Yet, they reveal the bible as just another book authored by humans.
Second: Science. The same empirical method that allows modern technology (laptops, medicine, spaceships, etc) shows the universe is 13.7 billion years old, and the earth is 4.5 billion years old. The evidence also shows all life evolved from a common ancestor. This is not philosophy, culture, or modern opinion. These are scientific facts supported by libraries, museums, and universities overflowing with evidence!
In conclusion, truly losing my faith was hard to do, especially after being brainwashed for so many years. Losing faith does not guarantee happiness. Yet, it provides a tremendous opportunity to see the world for what it really is. It allows me to ask “what can I do to increase the happiness of myself and others” in light of reality.
Good luck to us all.
Online Reading List
- An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish by Bertrand Russell (1943)
- Bible Teaching and Religious Practice by Mark Twain
- God is Imaginary
- Is there an Artificial God? by Douglas Adams (1998)
- Skeptics Annotated Bible
- The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine (1795)
- Which Way? by Robert Ingersoll (1884).
- Why I Am Not A Christian by Bertrand Russell (1927)