A very reluctant atheist II

Sent in by Paul D

Homeless young man with a Collection CupImage by SamPac via Flickr

I am deeply grateful to all the people who responded to my previous testimonial and all the kind and helpful comments, believe me, you showed me more compassion than I received from fifteen years as a Christian - I thank you. I don't always have access to a PC but when I do I always reply to messages.

As before, the Christians I am talking about are those whom label themselves as "born again," and this is where I will start.

I am an atheist for one reason and one reason only - Christians - and what I observed for over fifteen years. The sheer magnitude of hypocrisy between what they SAY and how they actually ARE as people. The staggering arrogance of Christians and the distasteful, mocking, style they have in dealing with beliefs that are different to their own.

The unbelievable COLDHEARTEDNESS of Christians is matched only by their indifference in the presence of human need and suffering. Make no mistake about it, I really believed with all my being that I had a personal relationship with Jesus. I really believed that I could hear the small still voice of the Holy Spirit, and that He was living inside me. I would firmly but gently jump to the defense of Jesus whenever I heard his name being slandered, just as I would for a dearly beloved friend - and I was proud to do so. I also greatly miss this relationship, but I cannot in all good conscience force myself to follow what I believe to be self delusion.

Here's the crunch: Christians claim that they have had a life changing experience with the risen Jesus, they have been born again, they are being transformed by the renewing or their mind, they are a new creation in Christ, and on and on and on and on. And yet, while making these wonderful claims, not only are they no different to anyone else, but most of the time they are so much worse! I accept that it is unreasonable to look for perfection in anyone, but Christians can't have it both ways. If they really were "born again," and if they really did have "the Holy Spirit living within them," there WOULD be a positive difference about them. This is not an optional extra. They would really be a "light to the world," if any of it were true, regardless of the "free will" cop out they use to justify themselves. Just because a small minority of Christians are good, compassionate, genuine people - and it is a small minority - it is just as unreasonable to judge the validity of a whole belief system on this small minority.

The nature of my work took me to all ends of the UK and I cannot begin to number how many times I have heard the same story. People would be genuinely searching for something to fill a void in their lives and would be introduced to Christianity, with open minds. They would go to the Alpha courses and perhaps a small house group and get into reading the bible, then they would see what Christians are really like outside the church: the back stabbing; the corruption and perversions of people in leadership; the shallow and dishonest and shallow way they would pretend to love them and others. The newly converted would turn away in disgust and disillusionment. Then there is another, darker, more sinister side to Christians - the way they latch on to very vulnerable and damaged individuals and pretend to be their best friend in order to get their spiritual scalp. However, when that person stops being what the Christian wants, and having created a dependence, then they dump them, just like that! Very often you will discover that a person has committed suicide soon afterwards, but hey, why should Christians care? They were only going to hell anyway, weren't they?

To give a visual image of my journey to the place I am now it is rather like the Angel in the film Michael, throughout the film John Travolta keeps shedding his feathers till his wings are completely gone by the end and he is an angel no longer. As a new Christian I couldn't understand how anybody could not believe in God or Jesus. It seemed absurd to me that anyone couldn't see this truth. I threw myself into church, Bible reading, and sharing my new found faith. Although most people in the church always kept me very much at arms length, I respected what they were to each other and hoped that I would one day be accepted as one of them. I eventually realized that was never going to happen.

By chance I came across a guy I knew who had been a real bad character, and I saw a different person as he started talking to me about what God had done in his life. This was a powerful evidence to me that the Holy Spirit was at work, and I praised God. For three months we met and studied the Bible, and I was awestruck by the change in this man. Then I discovered that he wasn't a Christian but a Jehovah's Witness!! The point is I couldn't tell the difference between his life and a Christian's life. Supposedly it is only Christ that can change a person's life this way. This happened with quite a few people I knew who turned out to be Mormons, Christian Scientists, etc., and I began to notice how much more sincere and caring people from other religions were compared to Christians. This struck me as being very wrong, but I would push the feeling down such was the fear of hell that had been drummed into me.

A year or so on and I turned up at house group to an atmosphere of crisis. By their reactions, I thought something terrible must have happened to a person we knew. It turned out that one of their number had come out as gay -- the same person who had lead me to the Lord... a nice guy. I thought , so what he is gay? That shouldn't be a problem. After all he is part of this group of people who see him as their own brother, right? - WRONG!!! Over the next few weeks I watched as they all turned on him in the most disgusting way. I could scarcely believe it, and I felt feelings of intense anger, sadness and deep and profound disappointment at how shallow this "unconditional Christian love" was in practice.

Over the years, the way I was kept at a distance began to wear me down. I wanted to belong but they would have none of it. I was always told that there was sin in my life because I was uncomfortable with the "because the Bible says so" dogma. They would use this to justify their indifference in the face of need and suffering. I would ask too many awkward questions when I should be submitting without question to those in authority over me. For example, when Jesus healed the man born blind, he said that he saw people walking about like trees. How did he know what a tree looked like he was born blind? When the women went to the tomb to embalm the body of Jesus, they wouldn't have known that an angel had rolled the huge stone away, so how did they imagine they would shift it themselves? Where is it actually written that the BIBLE is the word of God? What about all those prophesies about Jesus that don't actually exist in the Old Testament? If God was the father of Jesus, why did the gospel writers go to such pains to record the genealogy of Joseph? All this questioning was judged to be "sinful rebellion" and with my Alice Cooper sense of fashion, it meant I couldn't be accepted into the fellowship.

Eventually I submitted. Off went the hair and out went the clothes and you know what? It didn't make a damn bit of difference.

Christian TV came to the UK and after less than an hour watching John Beveare and Steve Hill I didn't know who God was any more which was the start of my slide into depression which would lead to my suicide attempt. I was twice made homeless by evangelical Christians - one of whom stole my property, forcing me to find legal help. His response was to tell the most gross pack of lies about me saying he had no choice and smashed the place up. Then he would go out preaching "The Word." The other was the manager of a Y.M.C.A and evangelist who treated her tenant like filth and would throw out anyone who dared to stand up to her, and so for the second time my home was my car. Of course Christians would say they loved me and would pray for me, but were they willing to put a roof over my head till I could find my own place? Hell No! The exception to the rule was a dear Christian family who did take me in and whom I am still friends, but these were the only ones to to this in thirteen years of my being a Christian.

I noticed that the corruption and perversion of people in leadership was always hushed up, and the very ones telling others what to do were the most immoral people behind the scenes and would seek positions of authority to indulge their sick behavior. One such person was well known a serial womanizer both in and outside the church and threatened to end the marriage of my hostess if she didn't have an affair with him. The church wouldn't do anything, so I did something to protect my friend, and for my trouble I was hauled into the office and curtly told to go back where I came from, which proved to be the final straw to my faith. I had to know if Christianity was the truth or not. I would test the water by giving bullshit prophesies in church and "lo and behold," it would be confirmed - in tongues!!! I would lie and say I had received a vision which would be backed up by other Christians having the same vision -- Hallelujah!!! I would lie again and say I saw and heard angels in the meeting and ALAKAZAM others heard and saw the very same. Praise the Lord!!!

I am not so much angry at them as angry at myself for wasting fifteen years of my life being deceived. I am angry that I allowed people as wicked as paster John Brewster I spoke about in my last testimonial to steal my best teenage years from me that I will never get back. The opportunities I missed to go forward with my life, the women I rejected because I was told to - by men cheating on their own wives I later discovered - gone forever, i will never get those encounters back. I betrayed myself for the sake of less worthy men who took advantage of my enthusiasm for the faith.

What do I do now?

Thank you all for your kind attention.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Glad to be an English Atheist with my mind intact

Atheist advert on the DLRImage by flashboy via Flickr

Sent in by John

Looking through this site, I see that most of you are American. In England, religion doesn't play such an integral role as it seems to in the USA. However, it is just as pernicious.

I became a Christian at the age of 15 (I am now 43) when I was 'evangelised' by a Charismatic, Pentecostal church. At first, everything was great. I believed that I had found the answer to life, the universe and everything. I read my Bible diligently; I witnessed to all at my school; I prayed and I studied Christianity.

Studying Christianity was my downfall.

The more I read and studied, the more I became confused. I was hearing one thing in church (God is love) and reading another (God commanding the slaughter of children and animals). To cut a long story short, the more that I questioned what I was learning, the more exasperated the church became with me. I was told over and over that I was allowing the devil/ the world/ my mind/ to control me and that i was sinful/ willful/ faithless etc.

Eventually the youth pastor of the church decided that I needed to be 'handed over to Satan' and I was forthwith excluded from the congregation for three months because I was too questioning.

The people that I had come to regard as my friends and family crossed the street to avoid me. During this time I was again evangelised by another church. This church was regarded by the local churches as something of a cult because they lived communally and shared all worldly possessions, but to me they were God's gift. They were everything in a church that I wanted. They were 100% dedicated to God: No TVs or radio; no flirting; out evangelising to the homeless, drunks, drug addicts and dropouts; AND they took them all in. They accepted me as I was -- a questioning youngster who wanted to serve God. (I was about 18 at this time.)

Unfortunately, my questions about the Bible, etc., proved too much even for them. Things soon began to go downhill.

Slowly but surely I was edged out. I was the questioning one. The one who wouldn't just accept the pastor's word. The one who wouldn't just accept the rules because an elder said so. The one who WANTED ANSWERS to my questions because without answers I couldn't move on in God.

Eventually I drifted away (helped along by being told that I was going to hell because God had supposedly told this to one of the elders in a vision).

Looking back now, I have to laugh at the stupidity of it all.

The ironic thing about it all is that most of the people that I once knew as 'brothers' are now religionless, backslidden, or dead. (Some committed suicide.)
Meanwhile, I'm still here, questioning and happy, and godless.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Ex-Preacher Boy

Sent in by Gary

The skies of nuclear armegedonImage by neojhun via Flickr

I'm writing this testimonial because I need some sort of outlet for my frustration. So, let's start from the beginning.

I grew up in a very strict Christian home. I went to church whenever the doors were open. When I was thirteen my mom decided to move my brother and I 300 miles away from the rest of our family because she felt that the "Lord" wanted her to. That landed us in Nashville where we started attending an almost cult-like independent baptist church. All of the families in the church were home schooled and that was one of the reasons we were drawn to the church because I had been home schooled since I was very young.

The church was very strict and had many different doctrines that weren't typical in most churches. I took part in street preaching, soul winning, and handing out gospel tracts on a regular basis. I wasn't allowed to listen to secular music, watch anything over a PG rating, or go to the movies. Those things don't even bother me that much, but the fact that I was brainwashed for years does.

I spent the better part of my teenage years in preparation for the end of the world known as Y2K. I worked on a farm growing vegetables, raising chickens and bottling water because those things would be necessary after the collapse of humanity. I remember being told that there was going to be dead bodies floating down rivers and that people would try to kill us for supplies while other people my age were hanging out with friends and being regular teenagers.

So, God spared us and Y2K never happened. Two years of back breaking work down the drain. How disappointing.

During all this time God had called me to preach. I had dedicated my life to the ministry. The pastor of our church gave me several opportunities to preach at our church. People thought I was such an amazing example of Christian young man. I read my Bible and prayed every day and occasionally fasted. My future was looking bright because I felt like I was going to be used by God in an amazing way. Then the doubting started.

When I was eighteen I began questioning many of my beliefs. I didn't understand why anyone had to go to hell. I didn't understand God's cruelty. I also starting noticing blatant hypocrisy in the church. I was confused and disappointed in what I thought was absolute truth.

I stopped going to church and started doubting everything I had ever been taught. I was having trouble coping with losing my faith and started to fall into a deep depression. I was living in a world I new very little about because of being so sheltered all my life. I had a job, an apartment and no clue about what to do with my life.

When I was twenty I attempted suicide. I felt so confused and frustrated and I thought I just wanted to end it all. I didn't think know if God was real. I didn't know if God even cared and that was too much for me to bear because God was my life when i was growing up.

It's taken several years for me to stop believing. I didn't just wake up one day and say "I don't believe in God anymore." It took me seeing religion for what it really is.

Now I don't worry about hell or heaven for that matter. I don't feel like God is judging everything I do. I don't feel like I owe my life to some invisible man. I take a lot of comfort in knowing God isn't real. The bogeyman is dead.

So now I'll enjoy my life and the simple things. I'll have to endure living in the bible belt for now. I'll have to be patient and get over the things that happened in the past. Thank "God" I don't believe in God anymore.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

My Story – Final Notes

By Neal Stone

I Am FreeImage by mufan96 via Flickr

As I shared my story I shared my beginnings dealing with Epilepsy and being visual impaired. I also shared my learning disability. These are all the thins that helped set the stage for the usury that is Christianity. When you are insecure and unsure of yourself and your life you are easily used and manipulated. This was my life for over 20 years.

While good things did happen to me and some nice people helped me along, it was good old fashioned human nature and kindness that prevailed. Not God. God always seemed MIA. My overcoming the very things that held me back was nothing more than my own personal strength and determination to be a better person and have a better life. This is still a driving force in my life.

There are many things I left out of my story do to space and just too much to cover. But in the end I think you got the idea of what religion can really do to you.

After breaking free I had the quick and short downfall in my life where I was spinning out of control. Sometimes when you are driving the wrong road it takes a quick slip on the ice to wake you up and show you are headed the wrong direction.

I find it remarkable that my life has greatly improved in the time I have stopped going to church until now. It took someone (my wife) to show me true love with no agenda. Not only true love, but encouraged me to fix the things that needed fixing. No one else seemed to care and many Christian I encountered were more interested in getting rid of me than helping me. I guess they didn't want me to make their group look bad.

On march 17th I had my 44th birthday and 2009 marking my 11th year since breaking free of church and religion.

Many of you here are new to breaking free. I know the feelings you have and the fears you go through. The ups and downs, the doubts and pain. Keep moving forward. Don't focus on what you lost as it will slow you down, but on what you will now gain. Freedom, life and being who you are and want to be verses what the church guilts you into doing. Serving and helping others should be a natural desire, not one that is guilted onto you or based on getting some reward at the end. The real reward is knowing you made someone's life better. I don't have to go to Africa or Mexico to do that. I can do that here and have done that here.

I have true peace in my life, true love and true hope. I have a direction in my life and am an inspiration to those who really know me. No more sitting up till 2am praying for direction and God's Will. No more trying to fit in with superficial phonies who want to push me away because I may make them look bad because I “needed the Lord”.

Resistance isn't futile and I will not be assimilated. I AM FREE!


Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Christian by day and atheist by night

Sent in by TheOtherRainMan

James Bond. Indiana Jones. The Librarian Dude from those "Librarian" movies on TNT. What do all these men have in common? Well, technically, they have a plethora of things in common, such as the fact they are all men, they are all incredibly good looking, they always get the girl, and their third installment was usually considered "not good" by a good percentage. But one thing in particular that they all have in common is that they are men of action at night, but in the daytime - they are men of charm.

They would capture the bad guys, recover the stolen gems, save the girl and win her over, and yet, be able get to the President's Ball, dressed in their nicest tuxedo, looking like they spent the whole day getting ready. No one expects or even knows of the trouble they went through earlier. They are masters of illusion.

Although I haven't captured any bad guys, recovered the stolen gems, saved the girl and won her over, AND looked good in a tux, I, myself have become a master of illusion; On the outside, I am a conservative, McCain-supporting, Jesus-loving Christian who thinks abortion is bad and views "An American Carol" and "Fireproof" as acceptable entertainment. But in reality, I am an libertarian, Barr-supporting, Jebus-hating atheist who still finds abortion bad (for reasons other than what the church wants me to think) who finds "An American Carol" pathetic and will never in hell see "Fireproof" (Mike Seaver is starting to creep me out).

Simply put, I'm a Christian by day and an atheist at night.

Although a few months ago, in July 2008, I posted a testimony (or extimony) about my life and my decision to become a deist (at the time). I'm going to quickly retell why I left and my current stance.

Back around May 2008, my Catholic High School had "Vocations Day" and we had this young seminarian guy come talk to us about Jebus and accepting "the call".

Now, I am diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome (possible Borderline Personality Disorder as current research is starting to suggest), so sometimes I have trouble distinguishing whether a person is making fun or being serious, along with other problems.

After he told his "Hollywood" style story about why he decided to be a priest (filled with him going into details about how he got down on his knees and cried when he saw the cross one day and such), this seminarian guy then opened up for questions and a lot of what my classmates were asking seemed (at the time) either trivial or just something stupid to make fun of the guy. When class ended, I felt bad for the guy so I go up to thank him for talking to us. I shake his hand and after that, the first thing to he said to me was:

"So, you thinking about being a priest?"

At that moment, my stomach dropped. It was this weird feeling like something was amiss; Something Rotten in Denmark (as one might say).

Now the idea of being a priest was suggested my entire childhood, mainly from people within the ministry themselves. Hell, I remember as I left the confessional in fourth grade, the priest giving the confession said that I should think about becoming one.

But that day, my stomach dropped and in a rush to get the hell out of there, I said "I dunno" or some neutral response like that. He then replied, "I'll pray for you" My stomach dropped even lower. I got the hell out of there fast. What this priest said oddly stayed with me for weeks afterward. It became so bad that it distracted me on the SAT's resulting in a lower score (it doesn't matter anymore as I already got into a college).

Long story short, I decided that I needed to take control of things and that it was time to get the fuck out of Christianity. At that time, I took up deism because it closely fit to what I believed. As time went on (including religion class, full of brainwashing), I began to see that the idea of a God was just..... child's play. A nice, convenient lie of sorts, made to help us feel better when we feel alone. So recently, I came to the conclusion that I am an atheist.

The part is.... I'm tired of lying to everyone when I say "Oh, I'm Christian" or "Yeah, I'm Catholic". Recently, we took the ACRE (assessment test, which is a big standardized test which compares how a school is doing teaching Catholic stuff to the rest of the nation. On this test, there was a section where you had to put down Strongly Agree, Agree, Disagree, or Strongly Disagree to certain statements. Seeing as this was anonymous, I decided to tell them how I really think. Some of the questions on this section were:

"I look upon Jesus as my Savior and Friends"
"When I pray, God listens to me."
"Being a Catholic is important to me."
"I think about becoming a Priest or Sister." - This one was a truly "What the Fuck?!"

All I did was just disagree with all those statements. It felt good to get it out, but it also felt oddly dirty.

What I am trying to get at is this. I no longer want religion. I don't want it at all. I'm tired of being told how to believe or what to feel for certain issues. I'm tired of the fact that I am scared to come out about who I am for fear of persecution. I CAN'T STAND any of it anymore! I feel like a little robot whose main goal is to do as he's told and not question.

I want to be me fully. Not the fake fucker me who puts on a show just to keep the delusion up and everyone around me happy. I wanna be able to wake up and know that its ok to think differently or be a little crazy and such.

Is it so hard for a boy to dream that we can all co-exist one day?

- TORM (Who hasn't been here in a long time)

P.S. Sorry if this seemed overly rantish and such. I'm typing this a 2am in the morning and I am not thinking perfectly straight.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Looking for direction

Sent in by Confused (Ex?)Believer

My journey into Christianity began in high school when a friend of mine invited me to a Pentecostal church. Since I have been raised as an Orthodox Christian (nominally, our family wasn't really religious), I have accepted the teachings of a protestant church because they seemed to be based on the Bible more than the Orthodox's teachings.

Its been five years now and I am writing this letter with a tormenting feeling, lack of peace, or joy inside. I hate what has happened to me and don't know how to ever go back, at least not yet...

To be fair to Christianity, I have been experiencing some anxiety, OCD, and maybe even depression-like symptoms during my teenage years, and I know that most Christians don't experience what I did, but it is still my story and it is still real to me. So, before my conversion, despite me having some problems, I was still managing to do really well in high school, have a girlfriend, be that popular guy in school, etc. In grade 12 I got serious with my faith, and more so in 1st year university.

What happened few years into my Christianity was beyond anything I've ever been through. My OCD developed into religious scrupulosity and affected me so much I couldn't focus in school and almost failed some courses. In my 4th year of University, my anxiety and OCD was so severe I had to drop 4 courses (keeping one) and move back home. I had suicidal thoughts because I saw no reason to live if Christianity was true. If hell was real then it would mean most of my family and good chunk of my friends was on their way there, and it was my job to preach and pray for them to save them. The responsibility was overwhelming and the thought of this being true was terrifying. I was in a deep depression, and went through literal hell, inside of my mind.

I soon learned about the idea of hell not being known to 1st century believers and how apparently the church changed the definition of hell later on. That gave me some relief, but not to a full extent. Because of this turmoil, I started wishing Christianity was not true, but would feel guilty about it and ask God for mercy. Later on I became more courageous and was thinking these thoughts in full swing. This is when I found this web-site and clearly realized that i wasn't the only one with questions and problems, and there is a way out, and peace can be achieved.

So I read all I could get my hands on, starting from this web-site to books suggested here, or that I could find at a book store. My research and soul searching lead me to clearly rejecting the faith I strongly cringed too and tried advertising to others, and that's when I found true freedom that I had before becoming a Christian. I didn't feel a need to confess my 'sin', and be responsible for people's souls, etc., but my honeymoon wasn't long lived...

I was a part of a Pentecostal movement and you hear and see some unexplainable things there that seem so TRUE and REAL that they are hard to forget, and dismiss as being untrue... I am now unable to fully let go, forget, and move on with my life, and I spend minute after minute trying to figure out if Christianity is still true even though I don't want it to be, or if it is false. All of the arguments presented on this website and in books are pretty convincing for my mind, but my heart is still full of that emotional experience, seeing/hearing about people prophesying, faith healing, demons obeying counselors who used the name of Jesus as their authority, people speaking into my life randomly and out of nowhere as if though God himself was speaking to me, etc.

So I don't even know anymore. I even feel like I am sinning deeply against God by writing this because He might still be real and I am trash talking about him and showing him in a bad light to all the world, and thus being responsible for other people's souls. So once again, most Christians I know never went into depression because of faith, and I had a predisposition to have OCD and depression even before becoming one, but it intensified because I was dealing with unseen and supernatural.

So I don't know if anyone has anything to offer to me, an ex-Pentecostal who wants to leave, but can't because of all the unexplainable that I saw/heard (gifts of the Spirit, demons obeying, etc.). Any advice? Anything at all? As you can see I am pretty desperate here and don't know what to do anymore. All I want is peace and freedom, I really want that...

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

In the name of Jesus...

Left Hand Independent Baptist ChurchImage by jimmywayne22 via Flickr

Sent in by Andy

I was born into a hardcore legalistic home school Christian family.
We went to the local Independent Fundamental Baptist church "every time the doors were open".

This was all fine when I was a little kid (age 9,10) because I did not understand any of it anyway, and it was normal to me because i was so used to it.

My parents, and their cult/religion believed in separation from the world. This meant no music, no movies, no TV, and formal "church" clothes everywhere we went. My parents believed that god speaks directly to the parents, and then the parents to the kids... I guess that makes parents god?

My parents beat and abused us and forced us into their mold.

They had absolute authority, and absolute control.

I made professions of faith because I was afraid of going to hell, and I was afraid of them. Most sermons at church were on hell, and how I'll go there if I don't obey my parents.

My parents followed the teachings of two people: Peter Ruckman (on churchy stuff), and Bill Gothard (on child raising, and stuff at home).

Although all this religious craziness was going on, both of my parents have P.H.D.'s and gave us a really good education.

Anyways, when I hit my teens I started to realize how truly screwed up all this was. All the abuse!!

I began to realize Christianity is a control/scare tactic. In my mind I hated it, but on the outside I faked it. Throughout all my teens it was like all out war constantly in my house. Constantly fighting with my parents, they would try and "discipline"/"beat the shit outa me", it was a really bad time.

I ditched it when I was 16 and joined the military when I turned 17. (I'm out now)

I'm the kind of person that tries not to dwell on painful experiences in the past. But every time my mind wanders back to anytime I spent at "home" with my parents, it makes me sick. The kind of shit they did to me in the name of Jesus. They try and act like nothing bad ever happened. They will never understand how much emotional/physical abuse they caused , me, let alone even admit they were ever wrong. They are so so brainwashed by Christianity, it's unbelievable.

I sometimes think of how much different/better my life would be if my parents could have gotten over their crazy cult baptist religion and let me have the normal life I deserved.

One of my brothers stuck with it throughout his teens, and now he is exactly like my parents. He was always treated better, and favored though. I think my parents knew that I would never be who they wanted me to be.

The kind of things people will do to others around them (including their family, kids...) in the name of Jesus...

I'm very open minded towards other people's religions, ideologies, and beliefs, but if you're into a Christian "cult," please think hard about what you are doing to the people around you.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Religion comes at too high a price

Roman_Catholic_ChurchImage by Highway Huns via Flickr

Sent in by WizenedSage

The following is a testimony by my friend, Carl, who has no computer, but with whom I have shared much material from this site. He wished to give something back. All responses will be shared with him.

My parents moved a lot. And they were seriously superstitious Roman Catholics (miracles, rosaries, saints, etc.). These things are important in retrospect, for they explain how I ended up in a monastery at the age of 14 (my oldest brother was already there, but that is really irrelevant). The monastery where I found “God” was actually a return to the country, which I deeply missed when my parents moved to be back in the city. It was also an escape from school and, according to my ex-wife who claimed my mother told her, a place to put me since, “They didn’t know how to handle you anymore (a religious reform school?).”

For nearly three and a half years I threw myself fully into the regimentation, prayers, dogma, and silence enforced via the use of sign language. Cut off from the world as one transported to a medieval time, without radio, TV, newspapers, etc. “All for Jesus” was their official motto. I lived amongst camaraderie, chant, plainsong, a mighty church organ, Latin, incense, and the wonderful aroma of beeswax candles. The joys of anticipation and delayed gratification became powerful influences. However, they did not satisfy the needs of a sexual and curious nature. Still of a freethinking and ergo, rebellious nature, I became extremely introverted to the point that they probably concluded they didn’t know what to do with me either.

Nothing is colder socially than the abrupt dropping of one from a religious assembly (Audrey Hepburn showed this in the movie “A Nun’s Story”). On Halloween night 1954, I was taken to a room with “civvies” waiting and told I was leaving for home with two men who had come for a retreat. The only thing I had to connect me was a sentence, “Consider for a year whether you want to return.”

And so I did, and a year later told them I wanted to re-enter. Then the novice master said, “No you don’t.” And when I looked around me, I realized that the place I had invested so many emotions in had not only lost its magical “spirituality,” but was sterile. This is quite different from a divorce resulting from disappointments, differences, unfulfilled expectations or betrayals, although they are present here also. One can and does go on to love another and remarry. A love of a fabricated deity amidst a psychologically enforced atmosphere is quite different. When Christianity is defined as a cult I must truly agree. Taken very seriously, it is. When I read Hitchen’s “God is not Great,” my first response to his “how religions poison everything” was “this man is bitter, angry.” Now I merely see it as stating facts, because it does.

Why put this on ExChristian.net? Anybody who is an ex-Christian can use this info when I include the following: I’m 71, and 13 years ago I married my second wife, a Christian. I would go to Sunday church services with her. “Togetherness,” but it really wasn’t. I’d spend the time writing poetry and observing with my hearing aids turned off. Under those conditions I “attended” for years (Some notes: Why accept Paul’s interpretation of Jesus? And, if there isn’t a God, who are these people praising/addressing? Their own personalities?).

Then I started to read texts from the Bibles provided and decided I’d have nothing to do with that nasty, narrow-minded Jesus character. Then came “The God Delusion.” Science is the sunshine that burns away the fogs of religions. I told my wife that I would stop going to church, that I was tired of hearing people telling themselves things, and even mentioned that I became physically ill from it all. She did not understand why I went with her for so long and suggested I was a hypocrite, until I made it clear that it was out of love.

Matters are better since then, the relationship and love solid. The ghosts are still around though. Just the other day, she spent some time with a church member, telling him the prayer requests from the congregation. It’s another world, it really is. Bizarre, out of touch with obvious reality, perhaps a form of insanity – and they’re not aware of it. If, as an ex-Christian, you don’t see this, I recommend you go to a church service with your ears blocked from hearing, and observe. It’s enlightening and liberating and scary. When you “go back,” you realize you never want to be there again, and why.

Get your own incense, candles, organ music, ambiance, camaraderie. Religion is too high a price to pay for those things.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

I feel like I've awakened from a drug induced stupor

De: :es::en:Image:CommunityofChrist PeaceSeal....Image via Wikipedia

Sent in by Jody

My childhood was one of confusion, being raised by my RLDS mother and agnostic father. They married as a result of a whirlwind courtship during college, when my mom had sown her wild oats and dated this "heathen" non believer. She later returned to her conservative RLDS heritage when I was a young girl. (BTW: RLDS is a small, breakaway sect of Mormonism. It is now called Community of Christ, and happens to be very liberal). This was the cause of much division in our family, as my mom tried to "convert" my father. My dad was a great father, taking us camping and being involved in my youth group when we went on canoe trips and such. But I felt like what was missing was the spiritual dimension. I determined at a young age to marry a "priesthood man," and in my childish thinking, avoid the problems that plagued my parents. In my mind, God was something to be pursued at all costs. I gave my life to the church, to this belief in a God revealed in the Book of Mormon and worked hard to be "worthy" of being in Zion. "Of course, I never "measured up" and continued to emotionally beat myself up when I would fail. I did, after all want to please God and be a spiritual person and contribute to the ushering in of the kingdom. Early marriage to a priesthood member seemed to me to be the "ticket" to the kind of life I dreamed of.

I married Don when I was just 18 years old, and still in the last semester of high school. We had moved our wedding date up from June due to an end times prophecy that (obviously) never came true. I believed with all my heart in the teachings of Joseph Smith and the authority of the priesthood. But, one by one, prophecies did not come true and my confidence in the organization slowly ebbed away. My parents divorced (at the same time I married), and many other difficult events happened in my life made wonder where was the comfort of the Holy Spirit? There was much division in the church at this time due to conflicting prophecies and claims of priesthood authority. My husband took a new job, moving our young family 850 miles away from the only home I had ever known.

At first we were looking at it as an adventure, knowing that this position was temporary, and in two years we'd be back to our hometown. But here, without the support of the only social and religious network we'd ever had, we began to take an honest look at the church. We were welcomed into a small Bible study with some other homeschooling families, where we were exposed (for the first time) to the teachings of Evangelical Christianity. It was a slow process, but over time we left the teachings of the Book of Mormon and became Christians.

This was a difficult time, a time for stepping out of what had been my whole world and embracing a new way of looking at things. Our families (with the exception of my dad and paternal grandmother) were devastated. We spent many hours defending our position, and arguing for the truth of this new gospel we embraced. The next few years were ones of trying to figure out how to "do this" Christian life. I read every book I could get my hands on about Biblical womanhood, parenting, etc. trying to find the"formula" that would create this "heaven on earth" in our home. I worked at being a "submissive" wife, which was difficult for me, since I am by nature a very strong woman. I truly believed that Christ died for my sins and that God had extended grace to me, and I felt that I was the worst of sinners for having believed the lies of the Book of Mormon. I memorized the 5 points of Calvinism (TULIP), studied the Westminster Confession, and taught my children from the same materials. My self esteem was at the lowest for my entire adult life as I tried to "be spiritual" and raise my kids to know and follow the Lord, and purge myself of desires and dreams that were not in line with being a "submissive wife." My husband and I also became involved in ex-RLDS group aimed at evangelizing our family and friends still in that organization.

Well, life happens. I was determined that Christ had the answers to life's problems:
When I was lonely in my marriage, I was told to find comfort in the Holy Spirit, when I spent sleepless nights by the hospital bed of my sick daughter, I was admonished that maybe this is just "God's will" and I would need to accept. When I asked theological questions that had no answers, I was told to have faith. In a word, I felt like I was told to not think, not feel and or have needs. I constantly berated myself for not being able to measure up and have the faith I so desired.

A few years ago our family was going through one crisis after another. Our teenage son had turned rebellious and run away twice, and our daughter was in and out of the hospital, confined to a wheelchair and the medical establishment had little in terms of help for her. It felt like everyday it was a chore just to move through the day. I clung to my faith as troubles crashed down on us like waves upon the sand. We managed to survive the upheaval in our family, and life began to take on a new direction as our son came back to his senses and our daughters health improved.

Although the seeds of doubt had been sown awhile back, with all I had to manage on a daily basis (6 kids, homeschooling, health issues, hospitalizations, etc.) I gave myself little time to actually THINK about things. Last year (2008) my daughter discovered the raw foods diet (www.bethanysstory.com) and decided to try it as a way of dealing with her continuing health crisis. At this point she had been in a wheelchair for 3 years due to a tetanus shot reaction and various other chronic illnesses. We had sought the very best medical help, but with no improvement. This seemed so simple (eats lots of raw fruits, veggies, nuts and seeds). I figured, hey it can't hurt and maybe we'll both lose some unwanted pounds. On March 2 2008 we embarked on a journey that totally changed our lives. As her body slowly began to respond to the amazing nutrition she was receiving, we both noticed an increasing awareness, a "spiritual" awakening, a desire to be close to the earth, to be in the sun, to walk barefoot in the grass. I felt like my eyes were opening for the first time to the world around me. I started reading books by Melody Beattie and Louise Hay as a way of personal emotional healing. Gradually, I allowed myself the option of questioning the spiritual life I had been practicing for 20 years.

By the end of summer, her health had been completely restored, walking, dancing, and enjoying her life as a new person. My heart was open to meditating, and other practices that helped me develop a new way of moving through my life with more awareness. One Sunday I decided to stay home (What? My husband was not happy). Eventually it was every other week, until I could not bring myself to sit under the influence of the negative sermons and worship of a deity that I could no longer believe in.

It's not the end of the story, though. Being able to think freely, question, learn about this amazing world are all things that feel so refreshing. I feel like I have awakened from a drug induced stupor, to find that reality is indeed much better than fiction.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

My EXPERIENCE prevents me...

First Pentecostal ChurchImage by mrjmw via Flickr

Sent in by Sergio

My personal journey of de-conversion can be viewed in a similar light as a story of an addict. One day you feel great and have no fear of hell and the need to tell others about it, but the other day you wake up and feel like Christ is real, what you have experienced is true, and Christianity is the way.

This website and numerous books have been able to show me the logical reasons against Christianity, but since I've been attending a Pentecostal church, my EXPERIENCE prevents me from truly leaving my faith behind.

So I have a question to this community with a hope of finding some answers.

If you've been ever exposed to people prophesying over you, hearing words of wisdom or knowledge (when a person can see something in your life, kind of like a psychic), and other supernatural testimonies and stories how do you go about your life, not believing that there is some kind of supernatural power in Christ.

Also, when I was shaky in my faith, I had an experience of visiting a friend of mine, who at the time wasn't home, but his mom was. She didn't know what was going on in my life, but kind of ended up telling me how following God is great, adventurous, and the only true life. She didn't know herself why she ended up sharing that with me, but being a Pentecostal, I felt that maybe God was trying to get my attention through her.

These issues are almost the only ones that don't allow me to truly let go and forget about my faith. Has anyone experienced anything of that sort, any kind of "Spiritual" moment that seemed so real as if God Himself was speaking to you through a person, who had no idea what is going on in your life, but somehow it all fits perfectly and makes absolute sense?

Need some advice!

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Slain in Reason

Sent in by by rustywheeler

Charismatic churchImage by timabbott via Flickr

I was born in 1969 in Glendale, California, the last of four kids by a 9-year margin to my nearest sister, but my family moved to Portland, Oregon when I was five. My parents are Charismatic Fundamentalists; by the time I left home we had been plain old Baptists, Assembly of God, and Foursquare.

It's kind of wild: I've been visiting this site a lot lately, and it's got me remembering, sifting through the crazy shit I heard growing up, presented as truth. I distinctly remember a popular Young-Earth Creationist delivering a series of much-anticipated lectures in our church, explaining (among other riveting insights) how, since we know that the rotation of the earth is slowing, we can infer that if it was really billions of years old it would have had to originally be spinning so fast as to be centrifuged flat like a pancake.

We had our share of the Holy Ghost, speaking in tongues and the like. I can remember the tension in the room, that unique pregnant pause AFTER someone had babbled a coded message, but BEFORE the Spirit transmitted the translation to someone else. One woman in particular I remember was particularly vulnerable to convulsive aisle-rolling; I think the Ghost had a little crush on her. I mean, He was up in her business every week.

One incident is noteworthy because in retrospect, it was pivotal; a pre-awakening, if you will. A visiting minister (always a treat, for some reason) was cold-reading - oh, I mean delivering prophecy to and for various random - oh, I mean ordained members of the congregation. He turned to me and said - no, wait - revealed that I would become a real fisher-of-men, leading many to Christ in my lifetime. I was then summoned to the front for a full-on anointing, laying-on-of-hands, and spiritual slaying - although I didn't know, of course, that this was all going to happen.

I figured out that I was gay somewhere in sixth grade (it didn't take long to connect the feelings I was having with the message of damnation emanating periodically from the pulpit) so it's important to keep in mind that my primary objective in life at this point was to keep from being 'found out.' Which meant that, while I certainly wasn't overly shy, I was trying, in my way, to be unexceptional and avoid special attention. (I picked up the label of 'underachiever' in school, even as a straight-A student.)

So now here's this tool I don't even know calling me out and elevating me in this creepy way in front of the whole church. I did not want this blessing. My mother, on the other hand, was thrilled. I walked to the front row and was immediately surrounded by the Elders, who all touched me at the same time. I'd never been firmly grasped by a bunch of grown men before, and I remember both liking the feeling, and being terrified that I liked the feeling. It was over quickly enough, a little Wesson on the forehead and then - dude started pushing on me, on my forehead. Backwards. HARD. I wasn't expecting it, so I went to step back and catch myself, but... have you guessed?

My heels were squarely blocked, I went down like a board, and two men caught me and laid me down. Again with the liking/terrified conflict, accompanied by a revelation: I'd been scammed. Those people were never falling down for real, not all of them anyway. I certainly hadn't. But everyone was so happy about my wonderful news, and the new meaning in my life. And they sang and praised the Lord accordingly.

How does a twelve-year-old stand up and call the charade? He doesn't. He goes back to the pew whence he came; behold, reborn! His mother's beaming, tear-stained face awaits, a new hopefulness illuminated therein.

Perhaps these... curious tendencies she's noticed of late will now fall away as the youngest, very-late son accepts his new, clearly God-given direction? Perhaps the slightly unhealthy obsession with the handsome young Youth Pastor will abate?

Fat chance.

I feel fortunate not to have become a high-school suicide statistic; Lord knows I had the set-up and the inclination. I had plenty of friends, but not one who knew my secret, at least as far as I knew. (The twenty-year class reunion blew the lid off that theory!) In some twisted way, I think feeling naturally excluded from the Church's grace, if not God's, made escape relatively easy. But I still took my sweet time about it.

My beloved oldest sister died in '93, at the age of 36, from complications around her Lupus. The actual cause of death was a heart attack, so it's likely that she died more or less instantly. She left behind a ten-year-old daughter, my only niece, and my parent's only grandchild. Her death was a devastating blow. She was a real anchoring force in our family, and the only skeptic. She was candid with me, in the years before she died, about her doubts regarding God. Sixteen years of Lupus will do that to you, I guess. I miss her desperately now, and wish I'd had the sophistication and presence of mind to engage her more deeply than I could at the time. I also know that these doubts of hers had generated some friction with my mother and that the two were estranged when she died. This compounded my mother's grief exponentially, and it took her many years to forgive herself.

Through my twenties and early thirties I harbored a fuzzy faith. I wasn't a church-goer, but if pressed I'd say I believed. This was true both before and after my close-call with death via a nasty opportunistic infection shortly after my HIV+ diagnosis at the age of 27. In my longest, darkest night in San Francisco General's Ward 5A (also know as Ward 86) in October of '96, my oldest sister, via a vision, visited me. And told me that everything was fine, I wasn't going to die yet, that she loved me. She didn't say anything about God or heaven. It was warm and sweet and peaceful. Then the newly-released broad-spectrum antibiotic kicked in, and I recovered and became one of the first of many not to die from PCP (a kind of opportunistic pneumonia) in the mid-90s in SF.

If you ask me today, I'll tell you that I think that the vision was the intersection of my physical weakness and the painkillers,and that the significance of the experience had nothing to do with whether it "really happened" or not, but at the time it was simply real, and that was enough.

Several years later, without meaning to really prove or change anything, but simply to satisfy a certain intellectual restlessness that had kicked in, I decided that I wasn't doing a very good job of staying informed about my world and began three magazine subscriptions; Harper's, the Atlantic, and Scientific American. While I still enjoy all three, it was SciAm that initially got me thinking, realizing that I was, really, still on the fence about evolution. (My 'faith' at this point was little more than an abstract notion of Universal Benevolence with Beautiful Mysterious Plan - I mean, hey; I'd been to Death's Door and my life was pretty good, right?) I was still subliminally influenced by the pancake-earth argument, but a few months of solid cosmology articles triggered a cascade of theological questions, which I'm pretty sure, considering the audience here, I needn't list. A little reading lead to more reading, which eventually led to Sam Harris, and that's when the facade really collapsed.

Even at this late date, the surgical extraction of deep disinformation from my mind was difficult and painful. But I simply could not argue with Harris, and really, I didn't want to - he simply, finally, and mercifully articulated and bolstered every shadowy doubt I'd ever had and transformed it into irrefutable reasoning against everything I'd been raised to believe. I was free in an alarming way: the light of reason is very bright. I could never thank him enough, but for a while there, it hurt. Now, I find the empirical revelations of the natural world to be more heart-pumpingly fascinating and exhilarating than any tent revival or prayer meeting, Holy Ghost or no.

It was around this same time that I discovered the power of altruism when I participated in my first California AIDS Lifecycle, a spectacular fundraising event that involves bicycling from SF to LA, 545 miles in 7 days, proceed benefitting charities in the two cities. Absent all delusion about a next life, the primacy of the here and now took over. I embraced a humanist world-view almost effortlessly, and felt compelled to act in a way I never had as a sloppy almost-ex-Christian. Family and friends were incredibly supportive, and my niece was my greatest single donor. I raised $8,000 two years in a row and can honestly say that, from a moral point of view, it's the 'best' thing I've ever done.

I've recently 'come out' as a rational, secular humanist to my other siblings. In my initial unveiling of my views, I included the following paragraph - I include it here mainly because it echoes the point just recently made here by Joshua K:

And I don't think it's enough for the Bible to be clear about one thing - "that if we believe in Christ we are saved." I want the Bible to be clear about everything. No discrepancies, errors, conflicting accounts of important events. A lot of my work involves editing text, and I can tell you that if a letter from the client goes out to 5,000 customers with even so much as one comma missing or out of place, there is - no pun intended - hell to pay. God intends his letter to reach the entire world. Frankly, I expect perfect clarity, about everything, with no mistakes. Certainly this is within God's power.

My brother and sister are basically supportive, if not in agreement. They're probably more bewildered than anything. I'm currently quietly wrestling with the if/how/why-bother of going there with my parents. I'll be forty this summer, they are in their late seventies, and it's hard to see what good would come of it. They've already been through the gay and the HIV, and I'm afraid I'll just finally give one of them a bona fide coronary with this. I'll probably keep quiet until pressed, and then just be honest.

The most vexing issue for me today is if/how to deal with my niece. I adore her; she is incredibly smart and sweet. She also voted to repeal my right to marry in California last November, for religious reasons. When I called to ask for her support at the ballot box a couple of weeks before the election, it turned into a half-hour conversation in which I learned that she doesn't believe that 'actively gay' people can be saved. Quoted Leviticus and everything.

What killed me was the subtext: "You can't be upset with me, uncle - it's not me that says it's an abomination, it's God." From biggest donor to judge and jury. I was pretty floored, Thanksgiving was aaaaawkward and I came home early, and we haven't spoken since. This is one of those times in life where I'm just at a loss for the way forward, so I'm sitting on it.

I find myself devouring books on evolution and cosmology and atheism, and sometimes I wonder why so much right now. It's authentically motivated by curiosity (evolution is crazy cool and I read the cosmology just to bend my head), but I feel the tinge of defensiveness, combativeness. It's as though I'm prepping for a fight, but I don't know who it's with yet. So I'm rolling with it, soaking up the new info, and trying to creatively direct some of the tornado in my head by writing (ta-dah!) and beginning to concept a typography (my secret love) project based on cool quotable quotes relating to science and atheism. (SCONNOR - Thanks for the Twain.) That's the plan for now.

I'm fortunate and grateful today to have an incredibly loving and devoted partner who's been nothing but supportive as I continue to grapple with these things; when it comes to religion, he's as cranky and vociferous an anti-theist rabble-rouser as one could hope for, and a kick-ass cycling buddy to boot. My heart really goes out to the Xtimonials here that involve tension with a spouse or significant other.

This forum has been an invaluable resource for me. I enjoy all of your postings, and I hope that my story will resonate with some wayward Faithful's healthy skepticism.

Thanks for reading, may Reason bless you all.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

I’m still angry about the mental torture Christianity inflicted on me

They Use Electric TrichloromethaneImage by Jari Schroderus via Flickr

Sent in by Splashy

Hi all, I’ve been a lurker at ex-Christian for a few years now, and I think it’s about time I shared my anti-testimony.

My parents are not Christians in any way, which was helpful for my de-conversion (oh you’re not a Christian anymore darling? That’s nice, as long as you’re happy, pass the butter wouldn’t you?), but they didn’t exactly have any views on religion, which made me ripe for converting. Growing up in rural Australia, I was sent away to a boarding school when I finished primary school (elementary school for the USA reader). Therein began my indoctrination.

I went to a fundy Christian school that believed every word of the bible was true and infallible. They still administered the cane as punishment up until 1997, when the federal government finally decided to outlaw all corporal punishment in private schools (in public schools this had been done in the 70’s….go figure). Well didn’t that get attention. The school practically went into meltdown and protested the law change, even getting students to sign petitions to prevent the law being passed. Brainwashing was quite effective in my school, as in most fundy schools.

When I was 16, I, along with my fellow classmates was required to watch a video about abortion as part of our sex education classes. It was a 3rd trimester abortion which is not performed in Australia, unless for serious medical reasons, but we were told it was a 1st trimester abortion. A friend actually needed to leave the room, otherwise she was going to faint. Just a couple of choice examples of the fine educating that this school liked to inflict on its students. In fact I would never have heard about evolution if not for the fact that it was (and still is, thank goodness) mandatory study in biology.

But I digress. My conversion occurred after hearing a guest preacher speak about Hell in gruesome detail at a school function. Then after putting the fear of Hell into me and a few hundred others, the preacher had an altar call. Well I certainly didn’t waste any time. The Hell draw-card never loses.

I became heavily involved with the church at about the age of 15 (Assemblies of God) and spent many of my Saturday nights and Sunday mornings (and much of my hard earned part time job money) singing to God and about how much I loved Jesus. The constant highs of attending big concerts every few months, and then having to deal with the lows of mundane life afterward was a huge drain emotionally. I’m sure many here can attest to that. I had also spent a lot my adolescence wrestling with my attraction to other women, ignoring it, and then mentally castigating myself, only to repeat the whole process when I had another immoral thought. I couldn’t understand why God would say that homosexuality is evil, and then afflict people with these feelings. I always felt weak and lacking in faith that I could never overcome these urges. I thought that I would never be able to have a real relationship, or that one day I would be found out and ostracized. I never told anyone about my feelings because I knew I would never be accepted or helped, only ridiculed. I shutdown emotionally to cope, and avoided having close friendships with other girls so nothing could tempt me.

After I finished my last year of high school, I went on a missionary trip to Thailand, to help teach English at one of the universities there. And to indoctrinate others, of course. Free English lessons and a big helping of “Jesus is your saviour” on the side. During that time I got to know the students, hear about their lives, and what they wanted to achieve. Some were new converts, some were curious, and some just wanted to practise their English. It hit me how arrogant I was, waltzing into these people’s lives, claiming to know so much better then them. That I didn’t even know them, to assume that they needed what I was trying to sell. To cause disruption in their lives by converting them with no regard to how their families would accept the news, or how it would change their world, probably for the worst (to be Thai is to be Buddhist is a popular saying, and conversion is not looked on kindly, socially speaking). It was enough to start me on my road of de-conversion.

Beginning university in another town helped me to distance myself from the church I belonged to, and to encourage my budding independent thought. I did join a small bible study group in the first few months, but my interest waned against my increasing enjoyment of university life. Who wants to go to bible study when there were much more exciting things to be done (namely drinking). I also began investigating the origins of Christianity, trying to find something that proved the existence of God, and came up with a lot of interesting parallels in other myths and cults. After a year and a half, and many, many hours of research later, I proudly came out as an atheist. Unfortunately, my years spent as a Christian still left a lot of emotional scars, and it took me several more years later to actually come out of the closet. Only now, 7 years after leaving the church, am I confident and proud of whom I am, and not afraid to hold my partner’s hand in public. It also took a long time to finally lose my fear of hell.

I’m still angry by the mental torture and wearing down of my self-respect that Christianity inflicted, but I’m also glad that I managed to leave the fold a lot younger then others. I still can’t get into discussions about religion with those of the faith; it frustrates the hell out of me. I hear the arguments that my old friends speak, and I can’t help but think how easily I could still be in that position, living a life half lived, and being miserable whilst preaching about how fulfilling living for Jesus is.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

I'm glad I don't believe in God anymore

It's Fun To Be A FundamentalistImage by Куртис Перри via Flickr

Sent in by Cynthia

I was born into a military Fundamentalist Baptist Christian home where there was no option other than to also be a Christian, and the bible was taken literally. I grew up in America and South Korea, both very Christian countries. I of course realize I was born an Atheist, just like everyone else. But I was told very quickly that I was a Christian, just like I am half Korean. It was not something to have a choice in; it was simply fact.

The main language my parents spoke was gossip. They gossiped about everyone at church except the revered preacher man. They even gossiped about their children right in front of them, resulting in insecurities we have all carried into adulthood. My oldest sister was abused and put down for being bigger boned and has been through many eating disorders. She is still obsessed with her appearance to a higher degree than I have seen in others. My middle sister was put down for being “stupid.” She isn’t stupid, but she is pretty naïve and lacks in common sense. Go figure she’s the most religious of their children and even met her husband on a mission’s trip overseas. She wants to give her life to missions. This is the only way she can feel worth anything. It’s very sad. For me, they went after my personality and likeability.

I was a very happy child until 5th grade, when my best friend from 4th grade spread rumors about me. As a result I had no friends at all that year and fell into a deep depression. Just to add insult to injury, I got picked on at home too. My dad would call me a “loser” and if I did anything imperfectly he’d remark, “That’s why you have no friends!” He never took the time to ask what had happened with my friends. He never considered that I might be innocent in the situation. He just assumed that I wasn’t worthy of friends. Into adulthood he treated anyone spending time with me like charity and seemed unconvinced that anyone could genuinely enjoy my company. I still have some anxiety about close friendships because of this. They also said no one would ever want to marry me and they felt bad for anyone who was stupid enough to do so. This comes into play later.

The child’s mind is like putty to adults. I believed everything that my parents and other respected adults said, no matter how awful. A little side-note that’s funny now, but was very upsetting at the time, involved a conversation I had with a Mormon woman when I was really young. She told me that no, Jesus was not God, just a really important prophet. From then I only prayed to God and didn’t see why I wouldn’t go straight to the highest power from the start. It wasn’t until around the age of 13 that I cleared that one up. It just shows how impressionable I was. And I still don’t really understand the concept of the holy trinity. It’s clear to me now that the God of the Old Testament was of much different character than Jesus Christ, so even if they were divine, they were not of the same being and caliber.

I didn’t ask questions unless I was really troubled by something I heard. There are all these non-answers and safeguards in successful religions. From a young age these non-answers just pissed me off every time I heard them. I wanted real answers. Some include: everything happens for a reason, God works in mysterious ways, in His time, etc…

My mother also told me blatant lies when I demanded evidence that this book was true. I asked her once if the pillar of salt of Lot’s wife (who looked back *gasp*) was really still there. My mom said yes it was. I asked if we could go see it someday. She said yes we could. Complete crap, of course. I also once had a dream about a friend back-stabbing another friend and at the end of the dream there was a light with Jesus and he had his arms out and he said, “The light has come!” I seriously felt like I had just had a prophecy of sorts and I excitedly told my mom about this dream. It was actually Sunday and she told me she’d tell me what it meant after church. I was so excited for the answer and could barely contain myself. Right when church ended and people were getting up, I demanded an answer. What I got…was anti-climactic. She told me, “It means it’s morning.” WHAT?! That’s my great prophecy from God? That the sun has come up?! I was pissed. And this sticks out to me, because I became very critical of my parents’ religion and the “Holy Bible” after this happened. My mother reads the bible in its entirety every single year so I felt she really knew her stuff, and I trusted her very much in matters of religion. Plus, when I was born she almost died of blood loss, and claims she experienced ascending to heaven. She said she begged God to let her raise her children so he sent her back down into her body. I thought this experience gave her some insider knowledge. Regardless, she was losing credibility fast.

Another thing I was troubled by from a really young age was actually the concept of dinosaurs. Why did the bible talk about the beginning of time and the Earth, but completely skip over dinosaurs that lived long before people? Well my logic said, you know, oh the people that wrote the bible weren’t as advanced and knowledgeable as us. They hadn’t discovered dinosaur fossils yet. This caused a huge gasp in my mind. This statement that seemed so logical had a lot of dangerous implications. It suggested that the people that wrote the bible were less smart than modern day people and that the bible was the ignorant words of men, not an all-knowing God. I quickly made up my very own theory to brush this one under the rug. I carried this theory all through my years at University too. It was that God created the Earth and then made dinosaurs first. He wasn’t pleased with their animalistic violence and decided he wanted to make something better, in his own image. First, he had to wipe out these abominations though. This theory obviously doesn’t fit with a perfect all-knowing God or the biblical creation story, but it was the best I could do.

I kept going to church during college and during my freshman year started dating a hardcore Christian guy who had just converted to Christianity before he’d started college a year before. I see now that a lot of what drove him to Christianity was feelings of loneliness and wanting to be a part of something. He was definitely not good for me. I was with him for about 2 and a half years, during which he actually made me more and more bitter towards God. Every time I wasn’t in a perfect perky mood he’d shout, “You need to pray!” at me. He was extremely judgmental.

A big cornerstone in my journey towards Atheism actually happened when I was visiting home one winter break. One of the first things I did when I got situated was ask my parents about going to the base hospital for a bad ear infection that the flight had just exacerbated. We went the next day and I was given antibiotics. That night I was suddenly really itchy all over. I didn’t get any rest because of it and by morning my entire body was covered in an awful rash. We went back to the hospital where we found out I had mono and the antibiotics I was prescribed don’t mesh so well with it. I had actually broken up with my super Christian boyfriend a couple months before and hadn’t kissed anyone else. I’m pretty sure it was the Kindergarten classroom I was student teaching in. So I was pretty humiliated when my dad called the entire family to tell them I had the “kissing disease.” Anyway, that night I again did not get a wink of sleep because of the itchy rash and what should the next day be, but God’s day? I was exhausted. I had not slept in two days. I looked terrible. I was covered head to toe in a hideous rash. Mono makes you tired anyway, so on top of not sleeping I was in no shape to go to church. Duh. Not so obvious to my bible thumping mother. She screamed at me to get up and get ready. I used what little strength I could to close and lock the bedroom door. She pounded on the door screaming like a mad woman and going on about how her daughter isn’t a Christian. Eventually my dad calmed her down enough to get her and my older sisters off to church with him.

I was pretty outraged by this event and it basically took away some of my resolve to keep nodding along mindlessly. My mom also started calling me every Sunday to check if I was going to church, then she’d call my sisters to double and triple check. This was infuriating and I soon just quit the charade of going to church all together. I was pretty turned off by organized religion anyway. I saw church as a time for people to gossip, judge each other, and show off their nice things. I figured I could get more out of independent study. So much of what I read in the bible was troubling though and didn’t match my own ideas of what is right and what is wrong. I couldn’t stop myself from asking big questions like, “Who wrote this book? Did they have me in mind when they wrote it?” I wasn’t sure who wrote it but I felt positive they didn’t have me in mind. This book placed Israelite men at the top and it was probably never intended for someone like myself to have access to reading it. I was playing with some dangerous ideas and decided to just put down the bible and think, “Yes, I believe in God. I do believe he sent Jesus, his son, to die for my sins. I will lead a basically good life, though I can’t be perfect, and for this maybe I’ll get into heaven.”

I got married to a guy that had this same philosophy. The circumstances were very odd. He had been living penniless with his half brother, who kicked him out shortly after we started dating. I let him move in with me because I pitied him and didn’t want him to have nowhere to live obviously. My parents lived in a different state so I was able to keep this secret. But shortly after watching a fire and brimstone preacher my oldest sister felt guilty and outed the situation to my mother, who kept it secret from my father. Shit was about to hit the fan when my parents decided to drive down and visit everyone. I quickly eloped against my best judgment so I wouldn’t be “living in sin” when they showed up. I actually informed them of my getting eloped while they were driving down. It was all done very frantically because of my fear of judgment. He was a nice guy and I did love him. He wasn’t a good provider but he was loyal and a good friend. So I thought it would all work itself out. My parents weren’t as mad as I expected them to be.

Shortly after getting married, there was a big change in him. He became a raging alcoholic and basically treated me in some ways that the bible supports, that I do not. He expected me to work full time and still do all the “womanly” duties, while he complained about even working a low level part-time job. My money paid the bills and bought him toys. One night he got the “red ring of death” on his X-Box (which I’d bought) and his reaction to this was to rape me and yell at me for hours. The next day he quietly said, “Sorry” and avoided me and alcohol for a few days. Then things went back to normal and I was forbidden to mention it. I buried it in myself and told no one. I didn’t love him anymore after that. I wanted out, but didn’t know how. I couldn’t turn to my parents because they are very against divorce and I was incredibly ashamed. I didn’t want the “I told you so” speech. They hadn’t wanted me to marry this man, but mostly for financial reasons. I’d long since quit praying since I found this futile and arrogant. I felt stuck and alone.

Then about five months later something very significant happened. I met my current boyfriend. We started as just friends talking on the Internet about politics mostly and getting to know each other. One day he asked me point blank if I really believe in God. I don’t know if anyone had ever asked me this before. I’d always surrounded myself by other believers. I froze and then I just said it: “No.” I don’t believe. I have no reason to, except that my parents told me to. And they’ve lost so much credibility with me over the years. I could go on and on about confirmed lies they told me. Even when I really wanted it all to be true, God had never revealed himself to me in any way. Looking out at the world I see no sign of the presence of an all-loving, all-powerful deity. Admitting out loud that I didn’t believe in God and honestly feel like I’m alone in the world without a super-daddy looking out for me, opened a lot of doors. It was very liberating and scary at the same time.

It opened my mind up to science and the idea of human evolution for the first time. The first time I heard the word “evolution” I was told it was a dirty word and a pack of lies from people that hated God. When I found out basically what it was I couldn’t completely deny it like my religion told me to. There was actually evidence for this, while everything in my religion was based on word of mouth and unconfirmed events. When I didn’t play with the idea of denying God’s existence I decided okay, I completely believe in the evolution of animals and plants, but not people. It just couldn’t possibly fit into my religion. So instead of trying to jam a square through a circle, I just said, they’re taking this theory too far. We aren’t animals. Animals can’t think and create like we can. So upon admitting that God was not likely a real entity, I took a more serious look at the idea of human evolution and found that it’s actually very elegant and wonderful. Embracing evolution made me look at the world with more grandeur and the creatures of the Earth with more respect. The chains of religion were breaking fast. I also started researching deeply into where the religion of my parents came from and what I was finding was very troubling.

It wasn’t long until I told my husband I was unhappy with our constant fighting, his abusive alcoholism, and my fear of him. I was also falling head over heels for this other man, who represented honesty and safety to me. Things were coming to a breaking point, as my husband expressed wanting to buy a gun as soon as possible. I told him I didn’t want one because I didn’t trust him to not hurt me. He said he wanted a divorce and I said, “Okay”. He did not take that well. He seemed to think that through marriage I was his property, to do with what he wanted. I admitted to him that I did not believe in God and told him some of my issues with the bible, such as hatred of women. He listened quietly and didn’t seem offended by this. He tried to convince me that we could make the marriage work, but I knew we couldn’t. I didn’t love him anymore, and I now had feelings for this other man. I knew that it would be dishonest and self-defeating to not leave this situation. I also told him that I knew there was no way I could forgive him for the rape and drunken violence. He began sleeping at a friend’s house.

A little over a week later, he showed up in the early morning hours to assault me physically, verbally, and sexually. After about 5 hours he was asleep and I was able to sneak out and call the police. Shortly after I abandoned most of the life I’d built and moved in with my now boyfriend.

Obviously my actions were very upsetting to my family and I avoided talking to them. When I first tried to explain to my father what had happened he was sarcastic about it and told me that the choices I was making were not how he and my mother raised me. He asked if I was hurt and I said my neck hurt. He snickered and asked, “What’d he strangle you?” in a sarcastic voice. In fact he had. I clammed up after that and gave no more details. All the months of keeping quiet about the abuse and constant fighting were in line with how I had interpreted the bible. Admitting my disbelief made me see I had to take the reigns of my own life and not allow anyone to kick me around like that. My mother felt so sorry for my husband that she couldn’t sleep and anytime we talked began screaming at me over the injustice of him being in jail. I was the bad guy. I was the only one that committed a crime in her eyes. I had committed adultery. He was allowed to assault me.

My parents managed to illegally obtain my new address from my prior apartment company (in retrospect I should have given them a fake address) and they showed up. They insulted my boyfriend. My mother accused me of lying to the police and said that this was what I got for marrying someone she didn’t approve of. Her reasons for disapproving are still repulsive to me. Money is not everything, and certainly isn’t what made me leave him. And this idea put her at the center of my universe and made things that happened to me largely affected by her. I felt very betrayed by them. I am a private person, but I’m not a liar. Withholding information that I don’t care to share is not the same as lying. My oldest sister once informed me though, that my being so private, led my parents to feel that I’m the worst of their children. They have better reasons now. Plus, It’s absolutely normal for victims of violent crimes to not want to talk about what happened in detail. Re-living it is humiliating and makes us feel victimized all over again. They lost the last bit of credibility they had with me at that time. They only believed my story after having visited my husband, during which time he corroborated all I’d said. Even to this day, they still haven’t said, “We’re just glad you’re alive” or, “You did to the right thing calling the police.”

Now my only reason to believe in God and be a Christian (because Mommy and Daddy told me so) is now absolute nothingness. These awful events didn’t make me an Atheist. I already admitted I was one prior to them, but they did further my convictions in it. My parents’ “Christian love” was and remains emotionally abusive. This is all very recent. I have not resolved anything with my parents, my divorce isn’t final, and I often feel very isolated.

I can see no reason to believe in a God who never reveals himself, but sometimes has random events attributed to him. I think the most honest reasons someone could believe in God are: that [insert authority figure] told them to, to fit in, because not having a cosmic super daddy watching out for you is scary, and out of habit. If there were a God I’d be upset at how he ignores so many people in desperate circumstances. I’m ashamed that I believed such silly things as can be found in the bible. I’m ashamed that the fear of hell prevented me from allowing myself to really ask the tough questions and search for answers. I knew since childhood that what that big book said, and what my parents told me was truth, was not compatible with the world I saw around me. It didn’t make sense. If people asked me questions, I had parroted answers ready. I didn’t know God. I was never able to have imaginary friends, even though I laughably desired to. I always thought a separate entity only I could see and hear and that was completely interested in me was a very appealing idea. I’m not a child anymore, and the idea of imaginary friends is now simply mind pollution.

Truth is a beautiful thing. But truth must have proof and evidence. Nothing should be believed, said, or done, without justification. Higher powers were dreamed up by every ancient civilization. I assume the creators felt similar to how I felt as a child wanting an imaginary friend, and wanting something bigger than them watching out for them. Different people dreamed up their own, leading to polytheistic religions. And the rest is history.

I’m glad I don’t believe in God anymore.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Pageviews this week: