Image by Jari Schroderus via FlickrSent 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.