Staying Home on Sunday Morning

by Cowboy

I'm lucky in many ways. If I were still Christian, I would probably say that I've been blessed. I was lucky enough to attend a public school, whereas many of you out there attended Christian schools for your entire school career. At 11 years old, I was the kid in elementary school who was getting into trouble with some frequency. I was quite smart, towards the top of the class, but I got bored and stirred up trouble. It didn't help that I was excessively overweight (I actually weigh less today at 20 than I did then), so I was constantly a source of jokes for my classmates. And at 11 years old, my parents, who up until that point taught me Christian beliefs, never took me to church, decided it was time.

Well, the story goes better at that point actually. I made a few friends who accepted me, on my own I began to loose weight, and the Baptist church and God gave me a source of comfort if nothing else. I was saved at 12 years old and baptized. Many had bad experiences at church, but my experience was generally good. There were some sermons on how we were sinners and needed Christ, and told us all about the devil, but it was always backed up with a "but God loves you and wants to save you." It lured in the frightful 12 year old, as many of the youth of the church decided "on their own accord" to join the church. (Looking back, how many people under the age of about 15 can REALLY decide for themselves? At such an impressionable age, you could convince a child of anything. Only now in retrospect have I noticed how mind damaging religion is at that point in time.)

I spent a few years of my childhood, up until about 15 or so, taking in Sunday School lessons and sermons, learning all ab out God. At the same time, I continued to struggle with depression secretly. My parents would have done nothing but tell me how I needed to lay it all before God and he would heal me. I didn't want to hear that because I already was. As you probably know by now, it didn't help. I contemplated suicide at two different points in time. Throughout my life up until leaving God, these bouts of depression and suicidal thoughts lingered. Many times, I never considered acting on these thoughts, but they were there. "If I'm going to heaven anyway, why wait? What's the point of this life if the next one is so much better?" At 15, I began to "wrestle with God's will in my life" as well. I considered that God wanted something out of me, and set out to find out what it was.

Passport camp turned out to be the answer. To me, Passport was not what many have talked about church camp being. My parents gave me the choice of whether to go or not. The messages were always uplifting, we sang great songs, and a great bond with friends I have to this very day formed. The mentality of the group causes a very strong emotional experience, which I believe can easily be mistaken for a spiritual one. I went 2 years with the youth group. In the second year, at 17 years old, I participated in the Echo program of Passport camp, which is geared for those who feel that God is calling them to a life of ministry. The pastor gave the youth the Sunday's following Passport, and I ended up taking the sermon.

This was the beginning of my preaching. I preached on occasion, with increasing frequency, usually on the youth Sunday's, and eventually without the Pastor's supervision and even preaching on Sunday's when he had other obligations. At 17, 18, and 19 years old, I was told by nearly everyone who heard me that I had wisdom beyond my years and a "superb" understanding of the Bible. It was settled. I would go to school to be a preacher.

In my senior year, I was convinced I wanted to go to a Bible school. Living in North Carolina, Southeastern Baptist Bible School and Seminary in Wake Forest seemed to be the answer. I visited, and decided I would attend, but before deciding to go, another "blessing" in the form of two other pastor's convinced me I needed to go to a University and not a Bible school, as I would be challenged to think and not just told what to preach and believe. The decision not to attend the Bible school was probably the greatest I ever made.

It was off to Campbell University, where I am still a student, in my sophomore year now. I entered as a Religion major with about 15 others in that department. The Religion department here is considered by several students to be "very liberal" and "misleading and harmful to the minds of its students." However, at first, I loved it! I was on my way to a life of ministry. An introduction class to this department teaches the students to open their minds, reading different theologians, and learning how to critique what we hear.

We studied what religion meant for different people at different points in time, and read a few books such as NT Wright's and Marcus Borg's "The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions " and "Understanding the Scriptures." The books challenged me to consider why I believed what I did. However, I still had a great foundation for my faith and considered it to be growing stronger.

In my second semester as a religion major, I began to quietly question the faith. Why is it that so many people come away with so many different points of view? And what about the other faiths? It began to appear to me that everyone, at every point in time, bent religion to fit their own template. I won't go into any examples, as it has been gone into several times on this website. But I will say that I began to see the biases in everything from the Old Testament psalms, prophets, and the new testament gospels and letters. What made Paul right? Because he "saw" Jesus on the way to Damascus? And what decided what books would go in the Bible? A council, which choose the books in essentially a popularity contest. The thoughts were bubbling to the surface now, and towards the end of the semester, I was wondering what I would do with my degree in religion if I decided that the God I held so dear was fake....

Well over the summer was the time of revelation. After having to study for college, I decided to begin reading some atheist literature. I realized that the whole time, to me, the case for God was much like a court case. There were two sides, and for my entire life, I had listened to one side of this case. I listened to it's side, and what it thought of hte other side, and what it thought the other side thought. Finally, I decided to listen to what the defendant had to say and was amazed at how much SENSE it made!! Everything I thought I was the only person wondering about, it turns out people had been wondering the same things for years and realizing the same things I was realizing! Here again, I won't go into too much detail, but if you're a frequent reader to this site, you know the rest of the story. I tried to transfer to NC State. While 34 credit hours would transfer, only 12 would transfer towards a degree in engineering. Meanwhile, I gave up attending church, staying home to mow the grass or work on my car restoration project while my parents went to church.

At this point, I was more thankful than ever that I did not attend a Bible school, because I would have wasted an entire year, or perhaps worse, I may have never begun to question the faith. I may have continued on, as I did in the church for years and just take what I was fed. Perhaps I could have been a great preacher, as many in my church believed, or perhaps I could have wasted the entire year. At this point, I am a history major while going for a teaching certificate, and instead of finding the gloomy and oppressed world as I always thought it would be without God, I have found a happier, more thought provoking world. And back to the depression, I have discovered that I never consider suicide any longer!! When you quit living this life for another that is "promised" to you, it really reveals what is good in this life. You begin to look past the "sinful" lives of humans, and see the good in the world and not the bad. This life can be whatever you want it to be. And I still intend to use mine for a sense of fulfillment in teaching, but only now, it will not be in teaching about God, but about history and civics to high school students, and I am happier than ever with how life is turning out.

From Christian Ex-Gay to Gay Ex-Christian

by Adam

Sometimes you are just left wondering... did that really just happen to me? I look back on the past two years of my life and I ask that question, seeing how my social network has completely changed, friends have made continuing relationships with them impossible unless I believe what they believe, and how ridiculous my coming out processes were...all because of Christianity. It was a double-whammy; not only did I come out of my faith, but I also came out of the closet.

I became a Christian at the age of 13. I'm 20 now. It makes sense now as to why I chose to become part of the faith; I had almost no friends in school at that time, and my parents took me to church where I met all sorts of potential friends...who were all extremely serious about their faith. I think now I see it also as a way for me to have hidden the fact that I was gay...after all, no one who was THAT big of a Christian could POSSIBLY be gay right?

And by BIG Christian I am not exaggerating at all; I went to all sorts of youth group retreats, led bible studies, attended church sometimes 3-4 days a week, prayed and fasted, was in all the Easter and Christmas plays, and went on to become the captain of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, or FCA, in high school (I wasn't an athlete but it seemed that my extreme faith made it appropriate for me to take the title)

So since I was FCA captain, I waited until I graduated to come out as gay... I was not about to deal with that kind of drama in addition to pre-existing normal high school drama. But I came out as gay to my parents and some close friends, and the first time I said those words out loud it was SO liberating. But as I went through my first semester of college I confronted a very serious issue -- how to mesh my new-found gay identity with my pre-existing strong Christian Faith.

So I was advised by Christian mentors to take a route that begins the "did that really just happen to me?" part of my life. I became an "ex-gay" through a group known as Exodus International. This is a group that is bound to determine you that you can live as the straight man or woman that "God" apparently intended for you to live as. One of their books actually says that no matter how strong your homosexual desires are, that deep down everyone is innately heterosexual. Silly.

And one of my mentors described my homosexuality as something that I could easily get rid of if I put my mind and heart to it, just like taking off a heavy backpack. I mean we all now how easy and black and white these things are when you are a Christian right? So I went to ex-gay retreats/conferences, made some ex-gay friends, and attended different group therapy sessions.

I mean if you think about it long enough, you could see that it's a win-win keep all your Christian friends but you also get to reveal to them your secret (that you are not exactly on the "straight" and narrow -- hehe.) You don't get disowned by your Conservative Christian family and you feel freedom...that is...until you ask yourself a one word question..."Really?" Finally, after about a year, I answered that question with a loud and proud "NO."

One of my friends, for whom I will always be thankful to this day, challenged me to think about my inner desires that I was holding captive for, as he saw, no logical reason. Somehow the light just clicked. I did not want to be in that kind of denial for the rest of my life. The next day, I essentially came out of the closet...again. Except this time I did it so that there was no doubt. My closet door swung open, rainbow confetti went everyone, and it went on the one place that really DOES make it official...Facebook. :-)

Another series of questioning came as a result of this decision...WHY in the world was I a Christian? Why did I believe it? And Why is it SUCH a big deal in the relationships with my peers and my family? I began researching skeptically, and finally came to the decision that, at age 19, I was dropping the faith that I held for 6 years. This decision caused so much more controversy than my coming out as gay; I had in-home interventions, Facebook-harassing interventions, the lovable glances of my old Baptist church when I would seldom attend to appease my parents, and of course, the loss of about 50 friends, one of whom I thought was my best friend.

What is really sad is that, and I'm sure many can relate, I realized that I had wasted so much of my life away over this faith. I didn't give myself room for very many hobbies; and without my faith I almost felt like I had little to no personality. I have had to rebuild an entire identity from the ground up since then. It's really difficult to tell someone about yourself when you have such a heavy past, so I try my best to look from my de-conversion forwards when describing myself...almost like I have to consider myself reborn from that moment (hmmm...where have we all heard that before?)

I believe in God, but not Christianity

by Leslie

2008-09-18 Hammersmith, St Paul's Church, Alph...Image by that_james via Flickr

I was born and raised in the church while growing up in the South; a place where fundamentalist Christianity is seemingly (and quite correctly!) ubiquitous. My family and I wound up in Texas and I lived there through high school. We attended a Methodist church in Mississippi and Arkansas and Texas, but in small towns in the South, a Methodist church often has the same doctrines and is run like all of its fundamentalist neighbors.

From an early age (under 4 as we were still in MS) I remember my well-meaning dad reading from an illustrated Bible story book at bedtime each night. I didn't think of these stories as any more valid than my other story books, but I was often dismayed and sometimes frightened by their content. Specifically the story of King Solomon, in his famous wisdom, threating to cut a baby in half. I felt the same way about Moses almost killing his son because God asked him to. I thought God must be pretty scary. These were not great bedtime stories for a little girl, especially one who would prove to be rebellious, stubborn, and outspoken as she came of age in the church and became a free thinking adult.

Growing up, I didn't mind the well-intentioned people at church, who were friendly and caring most of the time. I really liked the hymns and music, because I loved to sing and play music. What I DID mind though and what greatly upset me, was the departure from logic and the narrow view of the world I witnessed in Christians. I ESPECIALLY disliked the harsh judgment of others that often reared it's ugly head. But most of all, I abhorred the sense of dread, fear, and recoil I had when people would throw their hands up, lay their hands on others, engage in faith healing. I hated the forced and artificial trip down to the altar at the end of worship to be "saved" or to confess some big transgression or issue. When I went to Southern Baptist Church with friends, things were even scarier. If I knew the words then, I would have described all this as contrived, artificial, and, as i like to say, group psychosis. I was a very sensitive kid and so I I was picking up on the fact that something was seriously wrong, but at the time I attributed to something being wrong with me. Sometimes I even thought that I was evil, because I did not feel inspired to do these things and was even repulsed by them. Many of these experiences happened when I attended summer Bible camps. I remember being about 11 and being forced to take a vow of abstinence, when I had not even an inkling of a concept of sex. I was also indoctrinated, not successfully, with the Creation Theory, both in Bible camp AND in high school AP Biology. !?! (we also had prayer in school!)

At 12 when the attempt was made in Bible camp to trash the theory of evolution, I was outspoken about what I saw as an obvious transgression against logic and common sense. I told my twenty-something camp counselor that the story in the Bible was symbolic because people back then didn't have science, and that the evolution theory was the same story of God's creation told in another way, and that they could coexist easily. At the time, I probably didn't know how to say it in that exact way, but i guess this was my way of rationalizing my Christian beliefs with the science I had learned and read about. She was not pleased. If I recally correctly, she didn't respond at all.

Everything really fell apart at the end of high school, when my Bipolar Disorder made it's grand entrance. At that point I was thinking and feeling in ways that I had never experienced. I was soon to be acting in ways which i had never imagined. My world was turned on its head by the time I was in music conservatory and I completely lost my faith, or should I say, what was left of it. I began to despise Christianity and myself for believing in it. I realized it was all a lie, and that if there were a God in the Christian sense, he was quite sadistic, and not a God I wanted to worship or trust in. I dreaded going home to my hyperChristian family, dreading seeing my highly judgmental sister and mother who were disappointed with what I had become, would not understand that it was an illness, and would constantly attack me verbally, and in my mother's case, physically as well. But this family dynamic had begun long before. So Christian, eh!? For me, Christianity and my family became one in the same, because they had both rejected me and I had no desire to reunite with either.

At this point I began a spiralling descent in to self destruction and madness. If there ever was a nihilist, it was me. I had known no other reality besides a convoluted and unhealthy Christian one, with which I didn't fit, yet I had no conception of how to live a life outside of that. I didn't care. Nothing mattered. There was no point to life. I wanted to die. I didn't have the fortitude to go through with it, so I did the next best thing and drank myself into oblivion for 6 years, supporting myself stripping, while going in and out of dysfuntional and/or abusive relationships. Surprisingly, I was not even an alcholic, or a lost cause. I was just a self-loathing and self-medicating manic-depressive exChristian who had found no way to come to grips with reality.

My saving grace came in the form of medical marijuana and a cocktail of psychiatric drugs, surprisingly enough. I moved to Colorado to be near my wonderful, understanding and supportive uncle. I met supportive friends and had supportive family on my side finally. My parents decided to help by financing my medical care. For the past year or so, I have been on medication with a great psychiatrist and have gotten my life together and plan to go back to school. All WITHOUT the "saving grace" of the false Christian god, but instead by something real, which I think is evidence of the REAL God, if there is one. I like to say the Christianity is the REAL antichrist, if ever there was one!

Christianity misleads people and quite often inspires them to hate those who are different, be it people like me, the GLBT community, people of other faiths, and anyone else who disagrees with them and/or challenges their narrow beliefs. I can hear my sister and others like her right now say that Christians don't hate others, they just think they are sinners and need to repent. I think hate is pretty apparent when all outsiders are referred to as sinners and must conform to certain beliefs to be otherwise. Worst of all, if they don't become Christians, they are damned and burned in hell. Pretty hateful... Are these Jesus' teachings!? She also says that people like me shouldn't try to make people in he church change their minds about homosexuality because it is their religious right to think that way and I am violating those religious rights. Oh really? If that were the case there would have been no abolition, civil rights, suffrage, etc. She just doesn't see it that way like most hateful Christians in denial of their hatefulness. She says she is accepting of GLBT because she goes to a church that allows them to attend, "because everyone is a sinner and gays are no different", right!? Their "sin" is homosexuality...they way they are made, and if ther is a God, the way he designed them. So i guess God prefabricated them to burn in hell. This disgusting view is pretty Christ-like, huh? I thought Jesus abolished all this crap. Oh wait, he did. Then why do today's Christians unknowingly promote hate? I think Christ had many great teachings and and a message which I agree are fantastically wonderful; but the religion that has sprung up around him is quite often a vile and convuluted distortion of something right and good. I believe in the possibility of God, but that God is not found in Christianity.

I am thankful for my illness, painful as it has been, because it made me aware of the reality that Christianity had almost stolen from me, and continues to steal from others. I think my illness is a blessing in some ways. I guess you could say I am truly born-again. I have gone through fire and have come out for the better on the other side: Purged of these backward, harmful and hateful beliefs.

No more genocidal gods for me

by MichaelRix

Genocide IIImage by daveblume via Flickr

For me Christ-insanity was like a drug. I was raised in the Southern Baptist tradition, I lost my faith after an incident at the church got me questioning. My youth pastor suggested I read the bible to find my answers. I read Joshua: the genocidal atrocities committed were enough for me to leave the church and become an agnostic. After a time I became a Satanist, but that didn't last long. It became obvious that I was still playing in the same playground just on a different team.

Later in life when I learned I would be a father, I gave Christ-insanity another go, thinking maybe I just didn't really understand what I had read; God wouldn't really promote genocide. Well I became a full blown Jesus Freak; throwing away "evil" things and living the "righteous" life. This, understandably, caused strife with my wife and children. It came to the point of choosing between Jesus or my family. Well I chose my family; no god could come close to the love I have for my family. Having learned this you would think I wouldn't fall into the pit again.

My third, and most certainly last, go with the Christ-box came about when I was at the lowest and weakest point of my life; this brought me to my knees which is, of course, where religion wants you. My conversion was all but complete when I picked up the bane of Christ-insanity, the bible, and began to study it.

Well, in seeking answers I stumbled upon this website and started to compare the Christ-box with the testimonies, thoughts, and revelations discussed here. Needless to say, this got me doubting Christ-insanity all over again.

But what really turned the tide for me was a post on this website by Dr. Marlene ( I forget her last name; sorry Doc) about experiencing the world around you. This brought back a flood of reasoning that I could not ignore and I thank her and this website for that.

You live your whole life in a box because it is all you have ever known. I freed myself from that box just to jump back into that box for the comfort of the known. In the end it is just a box and no amount of religious slight of hand will change the fact that what religion really is: a way to hide in fear from the reality of this world.

Messages of hate, discrimination and malice

by Ashley R

The Faith, sculpted in stone from Badajoz in 1...Image via Wikipedia

I'm new to this site and just thought I should share my deconversion story with you guys.

Im just 21 years but Ive had maybe 15-16 years of total brainwashing in my religious faith.

My mother was unable to become pregnant even after doing all the medical stuff. When she attended an open air crusade, the "pastor" told her that she would have a child before the year was done. I was born on the 29th Dec. Because of this I was drowned in Christianity -- church every Sunday and all that BS.

I grew up in the Pentecostal faith with all the trappings- shouting, being filled, speaking in tongues, etc. I never thought much about it except that if I sinned I would go to hell. I was scared shitless about doing the wrong thing.

In my family so many "miracles" were performed -- from my sister being deathly sick and how many ever specialists could not figure out what was wrong with her and then when they took her to church she was healed in maybe a week's time...

I wasn't all that enthusiastic about church, but boy oh boy did I believe.

All these miracles sealed in my faith for maybe two years until I started actually trying to listen to what the preacher was saying (those damn long boring sermons). All I got were messages of hate, discrimination and malice. I just couldn't understand why.

I am in college at present and realized to myself the reason why religious folks believed and accepted what they did. Its because they never stopped to ask themselves whether what they were being taught was the truth. They never questioned what the preacher or the bible said. If the bible told them spare the rod and spoil the child, they would not stop to think about other less harmful ways of discipline etc. Of course most of what I thought about directly influenced my life (where I live corporal punishment is accepted and even encouraged etc).

One thing I learned in college is that there is great need to question, to understand. It doesn't make sense to rattle of some long formula or something without understanding the relationships and the dynamics behind it.

It was then I decided to really look into other religions --- see why Christianity was the "correct" religion and why everyone else who didn't think just like me were going to die... ( I know most of this sounds so cliche but this was exactly what I was thinking). I realised that no religion is perfect. I believed there were many paths that lead to the same place... Then I found Wicca. I loved it. Witches, spells, nature, it called out to what I loved the most. Mostly it was about me.

Now I love to argue (debate) and generally am very open to what I think/believe and I do think I am very open minded. Once you make sense and disprove my theory I will change my belief. So on one fateful day I was having a conversation with a group of friends about religion and I was explaining why I liked Wicca so much and one person asked me a question that forever changed the way I thought. Do you really believe in The Godess or even God. After that I basically had an epiphany. No I didn't. All this time I was too scared not to. I was brainwashed into thinking that there had to be a God when in fact I never questioned that belief. Why did I think there was a God? Why did I think he was good Why did I think he created humans? WHY WHY WHY? And the answer is I DONT KNOW. I just believed because I was told to believe. Then I realised that If I were born in a Muslim Country and was raised a Muslim I would be thinking the same about Allah and therefore this was all based on circumstance.

I have told my parents that I did not think going to church made any sense and I gave them a couple reasons why but I have not told them that I do not believe in the bible and in God as I am still very much dependent on them and they will force me into doing things I do not want.

Since de-converting so many things I had to change, the guilt at maybe being wrong, the fear of being ostracized, ridiculed by others, but all of that cannot change the fact that I do not and have no reason to believe in a God, much less the Christian one.
I still don't have answers to these "miracles that occurred but I no longer believe that everything I don't have a reason for is due to "god"

Listening to 5000+ sermons in my life

by Paul

A Mennonite Boy @ St. Jacobs Farmers MarketImage by Antony Pranata via Flickr

I grew up in Fundamentalist Baptist and the ultra fundy semi-Mennonite "holiness" denominations and schools. A family heavy involved in the ministry. I am the only one out of five siblings and two sets of parents to have left Christianity.

The other day I calculated I have heard at the minimum, 5000 Baptist flavored sermons in my lifetime!

YES, I get it already! It's all about having a dysfunctional relationship with your ego and convincing yourself it's a personal relationship with an invisible 2000-year-old Jewish Zombie!

Einstein said "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results."

Madness and Dysfunction reigns in fundamentalist churches.

I grew up with pastors, pastors kids, and missionaries. I saw the physical, emotional, and sexual abuse in the church -- the overwhelming undercurrent of sadness, stagnation, guilt, abuse, depression, and the never-ending pursuit of maintaining the emotional connection to a faith that is tired, worn-out, fear based, and false -- and the mental illness that results from decades of hiding and demonizing one's own humanity.

I outgrew Christianity and thank Zombie-Jesus. I escaped that cult with my sanity still intact.

How many sermons have you listened to?

God became as Santa Claus

by Jessica

The modern portrayal of Santa Claus frequently...Image via Wikipedia
I was born into a born-again Christian family. I had the whole photographic family – mother, father and a younger brother. When I was a child, my mother talked to me on our couch about loving God and accepting Jesus Christ into my heart. After I did what she told me to do, she gave me my first Bible. It was pretty and it clasped shut -– with pictures sporadically placed throughout.

We went to church every Sunday morning and all my friends were other Christian kids. My mom was very strict – TV was heavily monitored as to what would be acceptable by Christ and what wouldn’t. I attended Christian schools from second grade until high school. Christian friends, Christian teachers, Christian parents. We didn’t associate with non-born again people. My parents taught me that Catholicism was of the devil; that every other faith but the one which we practiced was of the devil.

My family changed churches when I was in grade 7. We moved to a Baptist church that housed not only a church, but an elementary school, high school and college. This particular church was extremely tight-knit for such a large institution. Even though I was young, I still looked at things quizzically. To my young eyes I still realized that the women of the church were looked at as though inferior to men and incapable of doing things that the Bible taught us was just for men -- being called to the pulpit to become a pastor, for one. The other thing that caught my attention was the fact that women were not permitted to wear pants – these were the clothes of men, and women were told to wear skirts or culottes. If you didn’t follow guidelines such as this, you were looked down upon as though you were an inferior Christian -- not welcome to join the choir or participate in other church activities.

My family decided to enroll me in the church’s school. I felt like an outsider even in our small class of maybe a dozen students. My family wore pants at home – we lived on a farm – it just wasn’t practical to wear skirts when you’re up to your knees in horse poop. My family tried, though – we really did. We went to church Sunday morning, Sunday evening and even the less well known Wednesday evening. We had pot roast Sunday afternoons for lunch because it was special and things needed to be special on the Lord's Day.

I looked forward to Sundays. I got to go to Sunday school with other kids my age who believed the same things I did. And when I stopped going to Sunday school and was considered adult enough to attend church like the other youth my age I looked forward to that to. All the other girls had beautiful bibles, often bound in hand sewn cases with floral designs as well as a notebook to take notes on each and every sermon. Then after church, I met with the other church goers – all who were more than friendly and welcoming.

The church had its own fleet of buses – buses which are sent all over the nearby towns to recruit people to attend the church. They focused on bringing in people who couldn’t drive and kids whose parents didn’t believe so that they could attend Sunday school with all of the Lords good little flock.
I tried so hard to be a good Christian girl. I wore skirts, I studied the bible, I went to church – but I never felt like it was enough. If God loved us unconditionally, then why did we have to go to church? Shouldn’t he know that we loved him from our thoughts? Why did he need to be worshipped? Why was he a “jealous god” if there were no other gods to be jealous of? The questions in my mind were growing in rapid succession.

The little spark of rebel in me (which would have still garnered me a “goody two shoes” title outside of the church) decided I would stand up for myself over an issue with the size of my earrings. My teacher decided to make a rule based on earrings my mother had given me for my birthday. A rule that said from this moment onwards, earrings could not be larger than a quarter. Of course – this was only for the uniformed students. Not for her. She continued wearing her grandiose gaudy Clementine sized earrings. This argument put into motion my leaving the Christian school system.
I was in for a rude awakening as to the real world and how people treated each other. I was put into a public high school and found myself feeling very much alone. My parents stopped attending church and became somewhat more flexible with the things I could watch on television.

I begged and begged my parents to be able to take a world religions course in school. They were afraid that my learning about other religions would make me lose my connection with Christ. Well; they were right. I did my final paper on Wicca and took that opportunity to search the internet for the religion that fascinated me the most without my parents getting upset with me. World religions class was really an out for me. I had been losing my faith since I had been given that bible. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t wear pants, or why I wasn’t allowed to learn about other belief systems, why I had to believe in a god I was taught to fear, why everything outside of what they told me was supposed to be evil. Why would a loving God allow abominations against him on His planet? Why did everything seem like it was bad or wrong? Why was the god of the Old Testament different from the god of the New Testament?

In my mind, God became as Santa Claus (someone whom my parents never let me believe in). Disillusioned at all of the gaps and holes in the dogma of Christianity, I grabbed all the books in the house explaining “scientifically” how evolution was wrong and how God must have created everything; books on cults and religions outside my own. I wanted to learn these things that were supposed to be ‘the big bad’. I wanted to know why these religions were wrong and what made mine right. I found no such answers. I found people grasping at straws trying to rationalize what they themselves didn’t understand.

Upon deciding that the Bible was fallible –- a work written by men for men -- arguments began to fall apart. I would have questions that could only be answered by Bible verses. If the Bible was so important and was the word of God, why did it contradict itself?

One of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life is deprogramming myself from Christianity. There was no longer any circus net to catch me in life –- I had to live on my own – take accountability for myself. In the end, though –- I’ve become the sort of person I can live with. My thoughts are strong and my morals are secure. I don’t need an invisible superstition to shout “Doom!” at my head anymore.

I haven’t gone to church in over ten years, but I still feel that loss in my life. I don’t know that I can replace it, or that I even want to. I’m on a new path in my life and I believe it’s the right one.

It Felt So Good To Be Right

Door To DoorImage by rbieber via Flickr
by Dan

Ok, ok, ok...I will finally share my testimony (geez, just like in church). But this is only a small picture for now and not in chronological order, kinda random, just off the top of my head sort of thing.

I graduated from New Tribes Bible Institue. Yep, step right up and memorize the WHOLE book of Ephesians. No PDA either! That is, no Physical Display of Affection (but my girlfriend and I got as close to each other as possible!). Hey! I remember looking at Sports Illustrated magazines that the school received and seeing pictures cut out of it! Wow... nothing like censorship. So sad to look back now -- those years wasted. My mind could have been learning science, history and math. *Sigh*

I attended Capernwray Missionary Fellowhip. One day, outside, during a break in classes, I remember pointing to a flower and said to a friend, "Something so beautiful as that, how could anyone not beleive in a Creator?" She said, "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder." I know she didn't mean to (maybe?) but that was just another little "doubt straw" added to that ol' camel's back. I hadn't thought about it that way, you know, that beauty could be subjective. Thank you my friend.

I remember standing at a Farmers Market and seeing all these smiling and nice people and thinking, "So, most of them are going to hell? Really?" That just doesn't make honest sense. I know, I know -- "God's ways are higher, He hates sin, Hell was made for the devil and his demons,..." Still, does that make sense? All those nice people? And most seemed nicer than me (not that my standard is high, but you know what I mean).

I remember going "door-to-door witnessing." Man, did I hate doing that. I felt like such a dork. Come on, that has to be the uncoolest thing to do for anyone. I was always hoping not to meet anyone I knew (I think I never did, lucky me!). And what do you do with the bible you lug along? You want to hide it so know one will see you with it as you walk the sidewalks, but that sure wouldn't be too spiritual now would it! And such a sigh of relief when it was over. But a nice little brownie point for me to show to other christians (you know, you just sorta quietly mention it to them as you "fellowhip). Now that was a good feeling. One leg up on them!

Saying the blessing over food. Ok, this can feel kinda good when done as a family, one of those group/cultural feelings that the socialogists know about. But hey -- when alone? Come on -- mumble a few words so you can eat lunch without feeling guilty -- that's all it was. And hey -- when out in public and all alone -- forget the whole thing. Not going to look like some kinda religious crazy nutjob! Oops, unless there is some christian there who you know and he/she is watching you from several tables away. Always feeling like you are being watched, man I hated that feeling.

Thoughts in my mind while growing up:
  • "Cave men/women" -- "Adam & Eve"
  • "Billions of years ago" -- "Earth created 6,000 years ago"
  • Fossils of extinct animals all over" -- "Ignore it; it will go away"
  • "Plate tectonics, land moving" -- "World made as we see it now"
Man, oh man! Have that tossing around in your mind as you are growing up, wondering, and not knowing. But eventually getting preached and taught at, enough to convince me that God can be trusted and man cannot. I am so jealous of those that saw the fallacy and went the other way.

Hearing and seeing the trouble with certain verses, you know, the last part of Mark, those couple of verses in I John, the woman caught in adultry story in John, etc. Obviously all added later. Yet my strict christian friends who only trusted the KJV (King Jimmy version), well, their thinking is, "Those verses are in there so we can trust them and that is that." No more thinking! But come on -- I never liked the KJV -- just too hard to follow. I was raised up using the American language. Hello? -- can't we use a version that talks our language and trust it? And the unwritten response was, "Well, uhm, yes we can, for those spiritually immature, but once one has grown up in Christ then you will see the need to use the proper version (i.e KJV)." I never did like that (un)reasoning (stuck with my NIV or NASB). But I flowed along and stayed with the group.

Wait, wait, I don't get it -- if we are going to live in heaven for billions of years and live here on earth for only 80 or so...then why are you (my good spiritual christian friends, not those worldly ones) buying the SUV's, life insurance policies, latest cell phones, coolest digital cameras with the most pixels, investments in good financial products, latest clothing fashions, etc. It never made sense to me. And no arguement does. Come on -- if you really, truly believe, you'd better be storing up your rewards for eternity not here on earth. This place is going to burn! But no one really believes this, except for a few whack jobs out there -- and you notice no one (and I mean no one!) wants to have them over for dinner?

I believed:
  • All the animals got on the ark (but I never really thought about it)
  • Adam named all the animals (but I never really considered it)
  • Sun standing still for Joshua (I knew nothing of astronomy)
  • In a literal, physical hell for all sinners (but I could never imagine it)
  • The Scripture is true (well, except for some of those verses,...)
  • There is Power in the Blood (what a dumb song)
  • A President who was a Believer would be good for our country (sigh...)
Crap, I just believed all that stuff in the bible. What a dork I was.

What I didn't believe in:
  • Those images of Jesus people would see (Dumb; and no bible backup)
  • Pope, Lutherans, Unitarians, Anglicans, etc. (not "true believers")
  • Speaking in tongues, new revelations (felt kinda wacky to me)
  • Tithing (that's for OT times not NT times. Keep your mitts off mine!)

Oh my, but some how, through many means, I came out of it all. And if I did, I know others (that I think can't) can. No one is lost (for the most part) to religion all can use their minds again. Think back -- did you expect to become an atheist/unbeliever? Remember how horrible those words were for you? It was unthinkable. Avoided at all costs. But it did happen to me, to you. And it can happen to others.

You Can Call Me Faithless

by Ren

Touched by His Noodly Appendage, a parody of T...Image via Wikipedia

I'm one of those people who is still trying to sort things out, but I came to the conclusion long ago that the god in the OT scripture and the god in the NT are not even close to being the same being. I also know the god from the OT is definitely sadistic and sounds evil when I think about it.

Recently, I found some old friends who are now Reformed Calvinists, and when I have asked them questions they give me the spiel that the Fall introduced evil in the world; God abhors sin; we are all as rags before god and deserve his wrath because we have sinned; and all of this is to glorify God. Sometimes they refer me to the verse that says, "I knew you before you were born," when I bring up their doctrine of predestination and how that can possibly be merciful or just. Then they ask me how I reconcile whatever response I give with whatever verse they come up with (usually something in Leviticus or Exodus), and I smack my forehead.

What I can tell you with certainty is that I don't believe the bible is true or accurate any more than I believe that the Flying Spaghetti Monster (may he touch me with his noodly appendage, Ramen) is true and that the Pastafarians are the ones with the Truth. I do know for certain that I am agnostic leaning towards atheist, but in any case I am a recovering ex-Xtian. Admittedly, I still feel some apprehension about hell and have no idea how to get past that since it had been ingrained for many years, but I am working on it.

The thing that really started me trying to get an understanding of how people can believe that the bible is the inspired inerrant literal word of god in light of how evil it is, how counterintuitive it is, and how it promotes such hate, is seeing that most of the people I know are now nothing like me anymore. Many of my relatives have gotten involved in the "Teabagger" movement and have swung way Fundy/Evangelical recently, when they had always been moderates before. Also, many of the folks I went to school with (a Church of Christ) school have become Evangelicals or Fundamentalists and are also "Teabaggers". They found out I am a Libertarian and no longer associate with me, so I don't dare tell them anything about my de-conversion. They would probably stone me to death.

It is certainly interesting that most of the Tea Party movement self-identify as "born again" yet are racists, hate-mongers, gay-bashers, and generally the worst human beings I have ever come across.

When I was growing up I really didn't hear that much hate speech from my relatives, but it was there in spades when I went back to visit over Thanksgiving. It made me furious, my 12 year old has decided never to go to her grandma's again, and I am still stunned, shocked, angry, and confused by what took place around the dinner table. My mom has become the worst, and was cackling when someone sent her the text message of "pray for Obama Psalms 138:9." I told her I was aware it had been going around and in no way found that cute or funny, and she got really upset with me. It devolved into a tirade that I am going to hell and it will be worse for me for not taking my child to church, their movement IS going to bring our nation "back to god" and she is willing to die for the movement, and other bizarre things that horrify me.

Old habits die hard, and I still felt momentary fear when my mom asked me if I wasn't scared that I was going to hell, and why take a chance that I am wrong. But I also know that "love" out of fear is not love at all. It is nothing more than coercion and a means of control.

I would like to end with something from the CD Snakes & Arrows by Rush that resonated with me the first time I heard it:

I don't have faith in faith
I don't believe in belief
You can call me faithless
But I still cling to hope
And I believe in love
And that's faith enough for me

Got away twice

by Red

De-conversion 1

My parents were “born again” when I was five years old. They quickly became zealots. They used our house for church gatherings and backyard bible study. People were constantly coming and going. My parents became extremely active in their zealotry, witnessing door to door and going to church three times a week. This was the mid-seventies, and I have nostalgic memories of the long-haired Jesus freaks coming over with their sandals and guitars. At this age I picked up and filtered the messages I was hearing at church: We are the best church. We are saved and others are not. We are good and they are bad. I was five when I formally accepted Jesus Christ into my heart. In elementary school, I was an active crusader, genuinely concerned about my schoolmates’ souls.

When I was about seven, my dad and two other guys from our church broke off and founded their own church, which rented out a space at a private school. It was exciting to me. After intense worship with the Jesus freaks on their guitars, the “elders” would gather after the sermon and have adamant theological discussions. Of course I was far too young to understand what they were talking about, but I imagined that they were spiritual explorers constantly testing the endless bounds of the universe in search of the ultimate truth. This was great, because, I never understood the concept of God. My parents taught me how to pray but I never felt like anything like “God” was out there. It seemed as foreign as learning the alphabet – a system that you are taught, rather than something innate that you are connecting to.

Around this age I developed a fascination with nature and especially animals. I picked up every book I could find about animals and learned as much as I could. One day in Sunday school when I was about 10 or 11, the teacher opened up a strange new kind of “animal” book. This book had nice illustrations but the concepts it was showing were very different from the animal books I had been reading. On top of that, it showed its arguments in a clumsy and artificial way. It was attempting to show that all of the animal species were “created” and couldn’t have “evolved.” I couldn’t accept this. It seemed contrived and dishonest. Because of that I began to be skeptical of the other concepts taught at that church. I paid close attention at the sermons. I became suspicious and would silently challenge the teachings of the “elders” in terms of logic. I gradually became horrified. These people weren’t spiritual explorers – they first decided what they wanted to believe in and then employed everything and anything to try to support their beliefs. Almost everything they said appeared to be circular. I can’t tell you how betrayed I felt. Not only were their beliefs defended with circular arguments but if anyone disagreed with their beliefs they lied, bullied, threatened and used anything in their power to overcome. Not only all of this, but I started to become aware of the dark side to the born-again experience. They seemed to prey on the emotionally weak. They had a systematic way of latching onto the unconverted and circling like vultures, waiting for a breakdown, which they helped set in motion by constantly telling them about their sins and guilt and how Jesus would forgive them if only they accepted him. They went to hospitals waiting for the alcoholic or severely depressed to give in, they would pile people in a van and drive to someone’s house who just reached “bottom” and have an “intervention”, and list goes on and on. Inevitably these broken people would show up weeks later completely “changed.” Endless testimonies were given about how people accepted Jesus.

There I was, an early adolescent, totally alone, estranged from my parent’s church, suspicious, distrustful and no one to turn to. My thoughts remained absolutely secret. You have to understand the terrible vulture mentality of this church. These people are finely tuned to a person’s demeanor. If they detect the slightest deviation they LOCK ON TO YOU. So I learned to be a spy behind enemy lines. I thought my parents would disown me if they knew the truth. This was such an unhealthy way to grow up. I learned great stuff – how to stuff my feelings, how to hate, how to be subversive, deviant, cynical, manipulative and angry. I learned how to reject religion and all things “spiritual” without learning how to adopt anything positive.

By High School I was a terror. I couldn’t hide my rebellion at this point. I took to punk rock like second nature. I loved the most destructive kids. I hated religion with a passion. I pretended to go to youth group on a Wednesday night but before the session began I would collect as many kids as I could and go to the park and hang out instead. I tried to convince these kids about the lie of Christianity.

De-conversion 2

My life went from bad to worse. By my junior year of High School I was drinking every day. I was always in trouble. My parents were convinced I was on drugs (and possessed by the Devil – I was fond of items deemed Satanic by the church- black T-shirts with skulls, skull rings, anything shocking!). In spite all of this I still managed to go to college. But after three semesters I dropped out and moved to a large city. There I drifted in and out of homelessness and disaster, in a complete alcoholic haze. To make another long story short, I eventually sobered up and went to AA.

A couple of months after sobering up I had an extremely intense experience. For as long as I can remember alcohol was all I could remember that I cared about. When it was suddenly taken away I had a terrifying, empty, scared feeling. I had no coping skills to speak of. At the place where I lived I knew these two girls who were hard-core Christians. One night we spent all night talking about my experiences with the church, alcohol and my sobering up. Afterwards by myself at 4 o’clock in the morning I had this sudden, intense feeling of total, unconditional love. Then I had this thought: What if I had been wrong about Christianity and who am I to say there is no God? It was absolutely crushing. My whole world changed.

I carried this experience with me and at the time I think it was exactly what I needed. It helped me get over the initial hump of trying to get and stay sober. I was still extremely distrustful of organized Christianity. This time around I decided to do an experiment – I am not going to commit to a church. I am not going to surround myself with fundamentalists. The parts that I have trouble accepting, I’m just going to not question for now, and the parts that other Christians are telling me, I’m just going to try to keep an open mind and try to understand where they are coming from.

At that point I had a nominal belief in Jesus Christ and a vague belief in the God of the Bible. I’ve gotta say, this helped me incalculably for a couple of years. I tried never to let my mind question too much, but at the same time I did not associate with fundamentalists. My life got better – significantly better. I could keep a job, I went back to school, I became more responsible, my clarity of mind started coming back, my relationships with others got better, etc, etc. In essence I was “growing up.”

After about three years or so things started to bubble up. Internally I never really stopped questioning religious ideas. Somehow I began to realize that Christian beliefs were hard to maintain because there is a hard-to-ignore concept of “fooling yourself.” There are concepts in the religion that deep down I found extremely hard to accept –not because they are super-spiritual or fantastic, but because they seem so artificial. Anyway, about this time I became involved with a girl who was a hardcore Christian. It was a short, intense relationship. It bothered me how intolerant she was of anything not Christian, but was very quick to ascribe the most mundane events to the work of demons and angels. She was also a very fearful, unstable and unhappy person, filled with a lot of guilt.

Everything came to head around this time. I just couldn’t accept the concept of Hell. If God is an all loving, omnipotent being who only wants the best for all creatures, then why Hell? When I honestly and thoroughly thought about this, it just absolutely did not make any sense – nor could I ignore it. I don’t want to believe in a God who could do this to people. This began the quick work of the whole thing unraveling again. It wasn’t long before I was a non-believer. Not just Hell, but many other concepts seem to me to be artificial, disjointed, self-serving and obviously created by humans over time.

The difference in de-conversion this time, was that I had developed coping skills, I was stable and I had all my intellectual and emotional capacities intact. I didn’t feel like I had to belong to this religion or that religion. I began a journey of trial and error. I learned to just keep an open mind and that it’s okay to let life and spirituality just be an unfolding process and my beliefs never have to be set in stone. I feel this life is one of exploration and growth. I cannot stagnate in a crazy religion that seeks to limit a person to arbitrary boundaries unquestioningly. In fact I think that is absolutely the worse thing a person can do to themselves and others.

The intense experience that I had when I first sobered up, never said to me, “I am the Holy Spirit “, or “Now you have to believe in Christ.” It was simply a pure feeling of love, which opened me up to the possibilities of the universe. Even though I was not a Christian before this experience, I was as closed and narrow-minded as any fundamentalist. Christians think that the born-again experience is a trump card which proves their religion, but they don’t realize that it is also common to a variety of other religions, spiritual awakenings and even non-religious realizations.

I feel extremely lucky that I got away and found a path that seems appropriate for me. However, fundamentalist Christianity, my experiences with it and my getting away from it are the biggest issues in my life, sometimes eclipsing alcoholism. Because of the way I grew up and the fact that my whole entire family and extended family (excluding an atheist grandfather), are fundamentalist Christians, I feel as if the whole thing has left a huge scar that is healing slowly. Sometimes it’s no big deal and sometimes it hurts a lot. The same way some ex-Catholics have the famous “Catholic” guilt, I think that I suffer from some kind of ex-fundamentalist “you’re still going to Hell!” syndrome. Sometimes Christian propaganda is clumsy, but some of it really, really tries to burrow it’s way inside your brain and break you down. It feels sometimes like recovering from a disease.

Sometimes I want to tell all of those people off, and sometimes I feel sorry for them. If there’s one aspect of that religion I wish I could change it is the concept of the fact that they think there is only one path. I don’t care what people believe in. As far as I’m concerned, that’s for each person to decide for themselves and has nothing to do with me. The thing is, when people start believing that their way is the only way and others are damned, causing others to be damned and sabotaging eternal life, things get ugly. I can’t change that. This is what we as ex- or non-believers have to deal with.

Another Catholic Breaks Free

by Freed Albert

La leçon de cathéchisme - Jules-Alexis Muenier...Image via Wikipedia

For anyone who was raised Catholic, you know what it means to be indoctrinated. In Catechism we had to memorize answers to questions like, "What is the one and only true church?" The answer: "The one and only true church is the Catholic Church." There were a whole host of rules we had to obey like never setting foot in another church, attending mass every Sunday, not eating meat on Friday, women wearing hats to church, etc.

Sometime during my youth, the Catholic Church began to change some rules. Mass was said in English rather than Latin. Then suddenly we could eat meat on Friday. Then women could wear hats to mass. This is when it began to dawn on me that the rules, which I had been led to believe came from God, were actually just made up by men who could change them at any time. The veneer began to crack.

When I got married at age 20 (because my girlfriend was pregnant), the priest insisted that we recite an oath, before he would sign the marriage certificate, that we would not engage in the sinful methods of birth control. I recited it, all the time thinking, "How the hell do you think I got into this predicament in the first place?"

The more I thought about it, the angrier I became over the Church's prohibition against birth control. Over the years, when I wasn't struck by lightning for not attending mass, I began to consider myself non-denominational. Then I began to consider myself an agnostic. But I still couldn't describe myself as . . . dare I say it . . . as an Atheist.

But then my daughter-in-law gave me Richard Dawkins' book, The God Delusion. Suddenly my eyes were opened. Dawkins gave me confidence to disbelieve all of the superstitious myths that had been stuffed into my head over decades. He unlocked the chains and freed my mind.

Suddenly I found myself reading more and more atheist books, and they made me feel good. I was able to think of the world and my life in terms of science rather than myth and superstition. Wow! What a revelation!

I'm born-again, but not in the way Christians use that term. I am born free, and it's now clear to me that our species, for millions of years, invented religion to explain all of the mysteries of life (thunder, lightning, illness, pregnancy, etc). They had no scientific knowledge whatsoever, so this is perfectly understandable. But now our species is preconditioned by our genes to believe in the supernatural. It takes courage and insight to break free. But once that occurs, we see all of life in a new perspective. I am very happy to now call myself an Atheist. Thank you Richard Dawkins!

I thought I was OK

By eveningmeadows

Sun shining..Image by FrogStarB via Flickr

Before I became a Christian, some 25 years ago, I really don't know what I was. Maybe an atheist, like my father who had become disillusioned by the Catholic Church, but I think I liked to think I was someone who was "one with nature." My "god" or whatever it was, was in the great outdoors. It gave me peace, hiking in the woods, smelling the scents of the forest, seeing the colors of the sunset, the fall leaves, the wind blowing the snow in the winter, it was enough for me. I also figured that if I was a better parent than my parents, gave my kids the parenting I didn't get, I would be alright. Even thought I struggled with depression, not knowing it was a medical condition at the time, trying to find out what to do with my life, since my parents didn't give me any direction, I thought I was okay. Not perfect, but I never thought about that.

Then enters the born-againers. My ex's brother invited us out to some Christian coffee house, and after the hour and a half drive my ex and I promptly fell asleep at this coffee house -- not the reaction everyone there was hoping for from the fresh new recruits. Later that night, when talking to one of the spiritual elites, he started out his conversation with, "Well at least, Bob, my ex's brother knows where he's going when he dies." There started the strange introduction to born-againism. It's funny how certain images stay implanted in your memory. I can see the table where I was sitting, where he was sitting, that I was in a kitchen, his cocky, arrogant demeanor, but I remember nothing much after that first statement. I'm sure he talked about how I was a sinner, and how I was going to hell. All those conversations have to include those statements. I can remember my reaction. His comment hit me in a way I cannot explain even now. I never considered death, I was 19, I didn't consider myself sinful, my ex was involved in all kinds of stuff, drugs, etc, that would make him "more" of a sinner than I was. I was a "good" person. Surprise, I really wasn't.

I've read testimonials from people who said that their mental condition was a reason for their becoming "saved". I would have to say that I was ripe for feeling like a total loser. I was struggling with depression for years, and at that time, had no idea what was wrong with me. I thought maybe I was "crazy". I had no other explanation for my feelings. Of course, depression brings on low self-esteem, self hatred, and feeling not as good as others. So when this spiritual person told me I wasn't good enough, it felt right with me. We left there without me "accepting Jesus," and I never saw those people again.

I married my boyfriend and had a miserable marriage. But, I thought that at least I was a good mother. I didn't have any problems with Halloween, Christmas, etc.; it was all just good fun for my daughter. I brought her up to be independent, I was proud of myself for that.

Then I met the born-againers again, and the doubts started all over again. I was going to hell; I was a retched sinner; my kids were going to hell; I needed to believe and accept this invisible, scary god. At that time the church on the Army base in Germany where my ex was stationed showed an "end times" movie. I don't remember the title, but there were scenes where giant scorpions were biting the "left-behinders," and the mother and child that were looking at a wordless book before being beheaded. That was a movie for recruitment, including recruiting children! I was terrified! I had never heard of anything like that before! "The hellfire sermons weren't enough, lets show the scorpion movie!" Does anyone remember this movie? Well, right after that movie that put god in such a good light, I went right up to the pastor and asked him if you could accept Jesus out of fear? No, it had to be out of love! Love? How can you love something that your terrified of?! That was it; he just walked away leaving me with the images of scorpions and killing. Now I really didn't know what to do, because I was obviously one of those "bad" people who was going to be left behind to deal with all this horrible stuff, as well as my kids! I didn't know I was such a sinner. Months later I did become a born-againer, but it wasn't out of any love of god, or my desire to know Jesus better. It was out of shear terror. I never felt any love for god in my 25 years of being a Christian. I was never taught that.

Then started my journey of guilt, feeling like I was never a good enough parent, Christian, person. Works don't get you to heaven but I hoped into the good graces of the people in the church and god. And of course tithing couldn't help either. Everyone around me had it together but me. And my doubts and questions made me feel more like a phony. God never healed me of my major depressions. Why? No answer. I tried to hold it together in the church for years, until my mental peace said I couldn't believe it anymore. All the church did for me was lead me to guilt, more depression, even lower self esteem, self doubts, never, ever being good enough, no matter how much I tithed or worked myself to death in the church.

Religion, or god for that matter, never gave me the peace that surpasses understanding. I was miserable. I've been out of the church for about six years now. It's a long process. I'm trying to get rid of the never-ending guilt that I was programmed to have. I was okay before. I had peace in nature. I loved to ride my bike and enjoyed hiking. Now I have this heavy load that I'm trying to get rid of. I don't have the joy that I used to. People I see from church tell me they feel sorry for me because of course I'm going to hell. They have to tell me how wrong I am. I feel that if they talk to me it's just to re evangelize me. I feel used, abused, and lied to. I still have the depression, but instead of agonizing over what a sin it is, that I need to "give it to the lord", and feeling guilty for being depressed, the first victory I had was to embrace my depression. Sounds strange, but I've just let it go. I struggle with depression. It's a brain chemical problem. Unless there is some miracle and a new anti-depressant is created, I'll always have some aspect of it in my life. So what? I don't have to dwell on it and fight it anymore. It's who I am. There is victory in just allowing myself to be who I am. Who "god" supposedly made me to be. It's okay to be me. Religion was supposed to make me feel happy and whole. It was supposed to accept me for who I was. It's sad I had to leave god and religion to find any kind of peace and acceptance in my life.

Freedom from the Bondages of Evangelical Christianity

By Lamya

A view of AnkaraA view from the fortress in Ankara Turkey

I have been visiting this website for several months now reading everyone's stories and comments, and I am so grateful for this site and everyone on here. It's been such an encouragement, because I've been feeling as though I'm out in some field by myself for a while now.

I was brought up in a Baptist church. From birth until I left for college, my parents took me and my older brother to church almost every Sunday for Sunday school, morning service, and usually evening service. I went to a Christian school for most of my primary years and through jr. high. I memorized Bible verses at Awana clubs every Wednesday. I went to Word of Life Bible camp every summer, as well as Bob Jones summer theatre and music camp for two years (which was quite enough!). As a teenager, I went to Word of Life youth group at my church and was even involved in Bible quizzing. My point being I've had a hell of a lot of Jesus going on in my life.

I wasn't totally dragged to these activities; I actually enjoyed many of them, though I always felt somewhat out of place. But I believed what my parents and teachers told me about God and the Bible 100%. I can remember at the age of seven wanting to witness to people in order to save them from hell; I was truly concerned for others and felt selfish for being too shy to tell them about Jesus. I actually carried the guilt of that around with me for many years, it just hurt so much that friends who I cared about were going to suffer in hell.

My first doubts about religion began my senior year in high school. Though I wouldn’t admit it to myself at the time, I was severely depressed. I hated myself; I felt like a cancer ruining the lives of everyone around me; I felt worthless and alone. The depression started in childhood, but escalated when my high school boyfriend broke up with me (over the top I know). My ex-boyfriend wasn’t a Christian, and I thought the pain that I felt was God punishing me for being "unequally yoked with an unbeliever." I begged and pleaded with God to forgive me and to help me, but it was all to no avail. After months of trying to appease God and just crying for him to get rid of those feelings of despair, I saw a glimpse of reality; for just a moment I realized there was no one there.

That, however, was short lived, for I was off to Lancaster Bible College (LBC) the following fall. I was going there much to my father's chagrin, because he was afraid I'd turn into a Calvinist. But, I was actually excited to get away from home, and maybe even rekindle my relationship with God; it was the only bright light I had in my foreseeable future.

It didn't take long for the infectious love those Bible college students had for Jesus to rub off on me, and it was actually pretty great for a while. My roommate and I got really close, and I still love the friends I made there. Although I was somewhat different from most everyone else, almost a "rebel" by their terms, I had a giant Led Zeppelin poster in my room and thanks to my brother and N.T. Wright, I didn't believe in the rapture; I didn’t quite fit in to the scene.

My year at LBC was an overall great experience; I didn’t feel so alone and my depression had lifted for the most part, however, behind the contentment my mind was telling me things didn’t quite fit. The students and faculty at LBC were quite different than most of the Christians I grew up with in my family and church. They weren’t all “fire and brimstone,” and even displayed a level tolerance and love; in fact, it was a breath of fresh air. One professor who I really admired at the time always talked about “loving people as Jesus loves people.” The doctrine of free will I was brought up on doesn’t seem to promote loving and caring for people at the spiritual AND physical level. In fact, it has a way of causing Christians to look down on unbelievers, for somehow in their sin they are deliberately rejecting the Lord of the Bible who they know in their hearts is the true God. But, people don’t hold to their beliefs because of free will; there is a series of events that cause people to acquire certain ideologies, which is partly based on one’s upbringing and of course exposure to certain beliefs, as well as the social and psychological costs and benefits of maintaining some religious views and rejecting others. For after all, people don’t exist in a vacuum, and choosing or rejecting Christianity cannot be equated with choosing or rejecting to be good or bad. LBC faculty included free will and predestination advocates, as well as those who tried to combine the two, but none of it settled right with me; free will seemed like an entirely insufficient and naïve doctrine, while the doctrine of predestination was (and is) the most tragic scenario I could possibly imagine for the world. At the time, however, I didn’t want to confront those issues, I was happy for the first time in a long time, and I didn’t want to ruin that.

During that year in Bible college under the influence of that professor whom I admired so much, I realized I wanted to be a missionary. In a world in which I viewed the ultimate purpose in living was to please Jesus, I felt there was no better way to do that than to share his love with others. That spring break I went on a mission trip to Turkey with a group from the college led by that professor. In class and prior to departure, the professor kept talking about the scarceness of Christians in Turkey (99% Muslim) and the tragedy of it all thanks to evil Islam. We had to read all kinds of apologetic books, some explaining why Christianity is better than Islam, others explaining ways to defend the faith, and even others describing how we can know without a doubt that Christianity is true by using simple “logic.” I was never surer of my faith, however, there was something that kept irking me in the back of my mind. Why was I so blessed to have the right beliefs while the entire nation of Turkey was so NOT blessed? Our second or third day in Ankara, we were taken to the top of an ancient fortress over looking the entire city, which was a view meant to be a visual reminder of just how many people are living meaningless lives without the knowledge of Jesus and are ultimately on their way to a “Christless eternity.” Several days later we went to a mosque where we had a question and answer time with an Imam. Before heading in, we were given some examples of questions we could ask pointing out flaws and contradictions in the Koran, which were meant to make him sweat and stumble for answers. I was amazed, however, that nothing like that happened. In fact, his answers were similar to those that Christians would give regarding, for example, the contradictions in the Bible or flaws in theology; it was Muslim apologetics. No one else seemed to understand that (at least no one else dared mention it); in fact, it really doesn’t matter what he said, for no answer he could have given would have been sufficient enough of an answer as long as he said Allah is the one true God. Many in my group even felt disgust towards him for turning the minds of the local population, especially the youth, against the true God of the Bible. When the trip was over we got on the plane feeling a sense of remorse for the lost souls we encountered throughout the ten-day trip. Looking back now I see that part of loving people as Jesus loves them, in practice, means pitying the poor wretches. Through the lenses of Evangelicalism it appeared that everyone in the world besides Evangelicals followed illogical and oppressive beliefs; all they needed was Jesus to set them free. But somehow I knew I wasn’t seeing the whole picture. I didn’t understand how Christians could criticize Muslim apologetics for having unsatisfactory answers when I knew Christians didn’t have the most sufficient answers either.

The following year I transferred to a local university to study Anthropology. Initially, I wanted to learn about mankind in order to become a better missionary. But, I knew I would be forced to learn things I didn’t agree with, particularly human evolution. I was raised a seven day creationist, and by this time I still held onto a fairly literal interpretation of Genesis. I had read all the Answers in Genesis (AiG) arguments against evolution, many were even taught to me in my Christian jr. high science classes, and I went into this feeling quite confident that I could not be swayed. But, it didn’t take very long at all, in fact, I soon felt betrayed by my upbringing; I had been misled my entire life! Now I realize what a joke creation science is, and AiG “scientists” are either utterly delusional or total frauds! They mislead people by misquoting and misrepresenting the work of real scientists and use highfalutin words as to mask their true inadequacy; people just assume that because it sounds so scientific, it must be true! I can’t believe the glaring ignorance they spew is taken seriously by anyone, but then again these are the same people who think the rapture is imminent; their world is already a fairytale.

But even after I abandoned any belief in a literal interpretation of Genesis, I still considered myself a Christian. For, after all, there are plenty of Christians who believe in evolution. But the clincher for me came when I stumbled upon a work by Thomas Paine, in which he criticizes the Christianity (sorry, I’m not sure which work specifically). At first, I read it skeptically, until he examined a passage of scripture I had never come across before. The passage was Romans 9, and if you are not familiar with it here are a few verses.

19One of you will say to me: "Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?" 20But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? "Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?' "[h] 21Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use? 22What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? 23What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory— (NIV)

I was suddenly confronted with the very issue I didn’t want to face while in Bible college; the fact that it cannot be man who chooses God, but God who chooses some men. I was completely horrified at this. I could find no reason to be a Christian anymore. The gospel no longer seemed like the “good news”. It’s the worst news imaginable; God created the world and mankind, though he didn’t have to; God allowed sin, though he didn’t have to; God created some for glory, but most for destruction. I find no hope for the world in this, only the hope that one’s ego could live for eternity.

It’s been almost a year since I’ve lost all hope in Christianity, and I feel as though my mind has never been clearer. I no longer have to ride on the merry-go-round of Christian living. My depression has also decreased now that I no longer have a “personal Jesus” to make me feel like the center of the universe. My mental state has improved over all.

Not everything has been great though. About six months ago, I had to tell my parents the truth about my beliefs. I started dating an atheist, and being that I live with my parents, I knew I couldn’t keep him a secret for long. When I told them about him, of course, one of the first questions they asked me was if he was a Christian. He wasn’t raised with any religion, so I knew there was no sense in even trying to pass him off as a Christian; and I made no attempt at hiding the truth. But, it was only after they kept badgering me to bring him to church and get him saved that I cracked and told them how I truly felt about it all.

I know most of you know how hard it is to tell your family something like this, and it’s makes me sad to have to hurt them like this. Right now, they think it’s a phase that I’ve just been corrupted by the secular university I’m attending. My mom thinks I just need to go to church and be in a place where the Lord can reveal himself to me. They both keep insisting I read some apologetics books, because they think somehow I’ve just forgotten everything that’s been shoved down my throat since infancy. My boyfriend doesn’t really understand either, because his family has never been religious. He thought I shouldn’t have told my parents, but he doesn’t understand how difficult it is to have to pretend to be something you’re not. I know for the rest of my life I’ll be making decisions that do not coincide with my parents’ beliefs, and I’d much rather them know that I simply do not believe as they do rather than have them look at me like a hypocrite.

It is so hard living in a house with my parents right now, but this site has made me feel not so alone. Most of the friends I’ve grown up with are Christian and do not know, and I’m worried they might not be my friends anymore if they did. It’s nice to come here and see people who have been through the same things I have. I don’t feel like such an evil infidel.

Thanks everyone!

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