Ending my relationship

Sent in by Weetie

Chains of love at Seoul's Namsan Tower
-- Image via Flicker

After reading a lot of de-conversion accounts on this site, I've come to feel like I got off lucky - very little real trauma or abuse at the hands of the Christian community, no rejection from loved ones, & the scars I do have are healing nicely. However, I've reached a point in my recovery and life where I feel the need to tell my story and connect with the ex-Christian community to continue finding my way forward, so...

Christianity had a pretty mild role in my upbringing. My mother belonged to that most bland of mainline denominations, the Presbyterians, whos motto seems to be "Just try to stay awake through the sermon. That's all we ask." Dad was a lapsed Catholic who was content to leave it all in my mother's hands. Mom herself is one of what I expect are the silent majority of Christians. She has a balanced perspective on things, is respectful of others' opinions & beliefs, isn't dogmatic, and is content to leave things in God's hands rather than wade into the melee swingin' her Bible. If there were more Christians like her, the world would be a saner place.

My middle & high school youth group also was excellent & probably the only thing that kept me from destruction of self or others during my adolescence. My experience there left me with only good memories & some lasting friendships.

My journey to the "dark side" (cue Darth Vader music) began just after high school when, for no particular reason, I came one day to the realization that here was this whole big mass of stuff I'd grown up believing - John 3:16, the Christmas Story, the Gospels, etc. - but had never given the serious commitment I always knew OUGHT to accompany genuine belief. So...sitting up in bed one night after lying awake pondering this, I just went ahead & got born again. Then laid back down & went to sleep. Easy as pie.

My problem is that I'm a compulsive people pleaser. I HATE to disappoint. I'd always rather get my feelings hurt than hurt someone else's. Generally a good thing, I think, but when the person you've set out to please is one who's standards, by definition, you will NEVER be able to satisfy, it's a psychological disaster just waiting to collapse on you.

The next few years followed a course I'm sure you all know (too) well. The slowly ratcheting up of pressure to perform: MORE self-sacrifice, MORE tracts to pass out, MORE prayers to be said, verses to be read, tongues to be spoken in some grunting guttural "prayer language" while squatting on your bedroom floor wondering if twenty minutes is long enough or should you go the full half-hour & wondering what you're saying to Jesus anyway, hope it's something really beautiful that expresses your joy and gratitude to him & maybe they'll give you a transcript of it when you get to heaven...Drop out of community college to work full-time at a Christian bookstore, street witnessing in Georgetown on Friday nights in the company of former Hell's Angels who make salvation seem SOOO much cooler than you can with your pimples and peach fuzzy mustache. Passing out tracts to co-ed hotties while other boys your age are learning how to actually PICK THEM UP. Let us in charity pass over other scenes in my joyful relationship with our Savior, related to the conflict between Paul's admonishments to self-control and the raging hormones of a typical twenty-year-old boy. Suffice it to say that it really SUCKS that you can't pull the blinds closed over God's watchful eyes when you really need to. Some moments in life don't appreciate an audience.

This much I did to myself, but I was lucky enough to find some people to help me abuse myself even harder, Oh, excuse me, I mean grow in my faith.

There's a group called the Navigators. Ever heard of them? They're somehow connected with Campus Crusade for Christ, I believe. Their little gimmick is "discipleship". By this they mean that a more "spiritually mature" brother will take a less mature brother under his wing & guide him along the path of spiritual growth. They base this model on Jesus' practice of "discipling" the apostles, & sort of spiritually hand-raising them, so to speak. The point they seemed to have missed is that Jesus (assuming, of course, that the Bible is true) was perfect & therefore perfectly suited to teach these guys. My mentor was a professional engineer who had all the social skills of one of the bad characters in a Dilbert comic strip. His mentor was our pastor who had built his own little "band of brothers" from a group of sheep-in-men's-clothing who'd followed him from town to town for several years as he took new pastoring positions.

You know, this is starting to run on, you've heard it all before in other testimonials, & I'm starting to get too worked up & whiny reflecting on what a load of festering crap it all was, so let's cut to the money shot...

What ended it for me? Basically it was taking at face value all I'd been taught about how it's a "personal relationship" with Christ, & the implication inherent in that idea that a relationship is a two-way street, & then seeing how there's really nobody holding up the other end of that relationship. For instance, I'd been taught all the stuff about the mustard seed of faith, claiming your healing, & all that Kenneth Hagin shit that leads you to believe that God actually WILL divinely heal you from illness. I got the flu one day working at the Christian bookstore & happily spent the day praising Jesus & claiming my healing in his name until they basically FORCED me to go home with 103 degrees. Of course I rationalized it all after the fact that I should have stood my ground & refused to go home & that was the moment I failed Jesus.

Or the time a couple of years later when I was dealing with a quite painful personal situation & begging God for, basically, just a pat on the head, chuck on the arm, ANYTHING to help me through & know that I wasn't alone. I mean, if you're dating someone, for example, & you're whole relationship amounts to you calling them up to talk on the phone except THEY never say anything & there's really no perceptible difference between your talking to them & talking to a dead receiver, where's the fucking RELATIONSHIP?? It was never a matter of faith to me. I believed my ass off. It was a matter of sometimes you need more than words in a book, you need a hug, or a touch, or some kind of sign. You need interaction. You need connection. You need the other person to participate in the relationship.

All the people who still have their faith, I can't help wonder that they've never had that kind of moment despite the fact that they've probably all gone through the same amount of suffering I was going through at that time in my life. How in the world do they still hang on to their beliefs???

The letting go process was slow. It started with this sense of hurt & neglect, & increasing bitterness that in the face of my growing doubts this omnipotent all-loving creator who sent His own son to die for me couldn't throw me the tiniest bone. Then one day the nausea came, borne on My Very First Suspicion Ever that maybe it wasn't real. The people who've never lost their faith, or the ones, like my wife, who never had any to begin with, can't begin to grasp what it's like to have that rug pulled out from under you.

A lot of the years since then have been a process of not knowing how to come to terms with the sense of anger and rejection from a person who doesn't really exist. How do you get closure? It's like being angry at a character in a book. The closest I can come to finding a target for my feelings is to blame the people who contributed to my head trip - my pastor & mentor & some others. But as I've gained distance I've come to the reality that they're just people too, & they meant well. Perhaps unintentional abuse is easier to forgive that something intentional. I sometimes want Jesus to really exist so I can kick him in the balls before I jump into hell, but that's just fantasizing.

As I close in on middle age ( middle age always being about 10 years older than I am at a given moment) I've finally, through therapy, through reflection, and through experience, started to come to a sense of peace and release about all this. The other day I was freshly struck with the absolute ABSURDITY of believing in the story of Noah's Ark. Yet I believed it wholeheartedly for years. Seeing what a fantasy it all is, how laughable it is, that all these people believe Noah's Ark, & Jonah, & Samson, somehow is healing. I guess finding the humor in something makes it seem smaller than yourself & if you can find enough humor in the idea of God & the Bible they become small enough for you to step over & walk on down the road.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Religions are ridiculous

Sent in by Ray

The golden Dome of the Rock is seen peaking fr...Image by AFP/Getty Images via Daylife

I believe that the best testimonial is the shortest one, at least in my case.

About twenty years ago I started studying religion seriously after having completed an M.A. in History. Of all the thoughts that started hitting my brain, the theme of how ridiculous religions are was (and remains) a recurring theme. Anyone studying history is reminded that most religions were invented with blind obedience or "faith" in mind, and with no rational explanations whatsoever required. This applies to all of the five major world religions, and not just Christianity. The other four are: Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism. My point here, is that if you are abandoning Christianity, don't fall into the trap of embracing another religion.

Let's take Islam for example. The followers of that religion (called Muslims) believe in the Koran (the Muslim Bible) which is based on revelations given to a "prophet" in Arabia in the 7th Century of the common calendar era. For Muslims, whatever the Koran says is absolutely true. Among the other things you are expected to believe is that the said prophet was "translated" to Jerusalem one night (by an angel or whoever), and rode up to heaven on a horse with a woman's face and conversed with God directly before returning to Mecca or thereabouts the next morning. If you visit the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, Muslims will tell you about this, and how you are standing in the approximate location of where all of this happened to the prophet. Needless to say, this goes against all logic, but Muslims believe this, and will get very angry with you if you let them know that you think that is absolute nonsense. This is what real thinkers have to deal with when debating with the practitioners of the five major world religions.

In closing, just let me say that I am still in the process of "deconverting" from all religion in general. With that said, I would strongly urge you to consider to start doing some serious research and compare Christianity with other religions. A good place to start is by taking a look at the three so called monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam (in the order of their invention) and then tell yourself what you really believe in or think you should believe in.

A very good starting point in this process of "deconversion" is to read Charles W. Sutherland's masterpiece "Disciples of Destruction: The Religious Origins of War and Terrorism". It is available from Prometheus Books for the rather stiff price of $45.98, but can also be obtained free through interlibrary loan systems. Even if you have fully "deconverted" from Christianity it will probably reinforce your decision. If you are still in the process, Sutherland's book might just serve as your premise. Your intellectual premise should always be your starting point, with your personal experiences as secondary. I say this, because a considerable number of us have quit religion based on emotional personal experiences and hurts with no real learning foundations.

If you are lucky, the end result might be a belief in a Supreme Creator or Ruler of the Universe based on a rational premise, and without the claptrap of any formal/institutional Christianity or any other religion. You will become your own "Church of One" and this will include those who decide that atheism is best for them. Finally, I would urge you not to fall into the trap of making politics a religion. Keep in mind that Communism and Nazism were both religions, and with all sorts of disastrous results.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Finding myself.

Sent in by Jay

Finding MyselfImage by nijocamus via Flickr

Let me start off by saying that I am new to this site. I randomly found it on Google by typing "ex Christians", and viola! It was like a gift from God. lol.

Anyways I am 18, male and for a year now, I have been an atheist.

So here is my story. Hope I don't bore you.

I grew up in a Christian Baptist home. My parents had instilled many strong Christian values that today I still abide by. We attended church service every Sunday, and it was rare that we did not go. In fact today I still go, but not as often. When I was a child, me and my siblings grew up in a strict home. Our parents were over protective and would not allow us to invite people over, nor could we go to someone else's house. PERIOD. We were not allowed to play video games, watch T.V., use the computer, or even play board games during the weekdays. Weekends, however, were the exception. But there was a catch; it had to involve the whole family. I guess from an outside perspective that this was rather excessive. But in our family, we made it the norm.

Besides the rather strict lifestyle I grew up in, we had some fun too. Growing up, me and my siblings had to compete in "Biblelympics" in our church Sunday school. My siblings and I were always helping each other memorize verses from the Bible and such. And every Friday, my mom would test us before we go to Biblelympics. If we memorized 5 verses every week, than we got one cookie.

But as you all know, nothing lasts forever -- especially fun. When I was 8, my father wanted to leave the family. I was shocked, confused, and I didn't know what to do. I was only 8 and torn apart. But luckily he stayed. But it was this moment that triggered reality. If I had to pinpoint in my life where things had changed the most, it would probably be that. Ever since then, I had to be more responsible, look after my family, be a good Christian, etc., etc., etc. I took it upon myself to change and convert nonbelievers. I even managed to convince one of my classmates who was a nonpracticing Christian to attend our church. But it wasn't before long that I realized that I was different -- different than the rest of the kids. I realized that I was attracted to people of my gender. I was gay. But I didn't know what being gay was, nor did I know it was a sin. I remember back when I was in grade 6, one of my teachers claimed that she was once a lesbian, but grew out of that phase. She even had a baby to prove that she was not a lesbian anymore. But of course being naive and young, I believed her. So I waited and waited until this phase went away. But it didn't, and thank god.

Church didn't help either. During one of the month's "missions", they "helped" parents try and raise awareness of this disease-ridden lifestyle that is being gay. They have propaganda clips showing how the gays would come and normalize their lifestyle. And how they are using Hollywood as a platform. They even taught parents on how to raise their children to be straight. What's worse is that my former pastor was even advocating "straight camps" to children who were suspected of being gay.
After enduring a month of the church's propaganda, I realized that I had to do something about my condition. I remember when I was 14 or so, that I even thought about going to those "straight camps" in secrecy. I even had a set age of when I am supposed to turn hetero. I think it was like 24 or something.

Let's fast forward to high school. During high school, I felt more distant from god. But I remember one teacher who changed my life indirectly. I was in 10th grade. My teacher was giving a lecture on math. We were talking about derivatives, exponents, and all that, when suddenly our topic was now on Tom Cruise. And from there it went from Scientology to religion in general. I remember one girl asking our teacher what religion he was in. And he said that he didn't have one. This caused me to wonder. Why? I mean, I knew there were nonbelievers. But the nonbelievers I had always imagined or had always thought where people of different religion. Not once in my sheltered life had the word "atheist" come up. I didn't know what it meant, nor the meaning. When the girl asked if our teacher why, he replied that there was evidence. Again this sparked my attention. I wondered, and pondered a lot. I remember thinking that either (A) this man was nuts or (B) this man had not been touched by the grace of god. But I ought to thank him. For it was him that had led me to discover atheism.

At first I was a bit scared of this atheism. But I guess curiosity got the best of me. You know what they say, "Curiosity killed the cat." But in this case, the cat was my former life.

From then on, I did some research, did some soul searching, etc., etc. And came to reason that the Christian god that I grew up with was nonexistent. And from then on it was smooth sailing.

I was going to talk more, but I would probably bore you. And besides I only wrote this cause I am procrastinating. LOL. Oh yeah, my parents don't know any of this. I try and keep my personal life off their affairs.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Re: Religious Disenchantment Narratives and the Arts

Sent in by John

Christ en majesté, Matthias Grünewald, 16th c.Image via Wikipedia

This is in response to Philip Francis' request for stories of people who left Christianity and the role that the arts played in the de-conversion process.

Hello, Philip,

What you will probably discover is that people who leave religion do so for a wide variety of reasons. But one common thread that you will most likely observe is that most people do not leave their faith easily; in fact, deconversion can be a slow, arduous and emotionally taxing experience that can break friendships or destroy marriages. What follows is my own story as it relates to your dissertation.

I was raised in a nondenominational Christian home, the son of a single mom. My parents divorced when I was three years old. As a kid, I always remember my mom being a very loving person to me and to the people that we associated with. She always had love for people who were down on their luck in one form or another. She had what I would now call a genuine compassion for humanity. But although I didn’t see it then as a kid, a lot of people that we went to church with back then didn’t seem to have the same level of compassion that my mom had. And in some ways, they seemed impressed my what they saw in my mom.

As I grew older, I thought that my “relationship” with Jesus Christ should be stronger so I made a commitment to follow him. After High School, I joined the Air Force and went to England for my first assignment. It was during my tour in England that I began to build what I thought was a relationship with Jesus. I participated in the chapel activities there, spending a lot of time praying, studying the Bible and doing those things that young Christians do to strengthen their faith. But even back then, I remember having serious questions and doubts about my faith.

The Unsettling

When I was in Germany, I got a phone call from my mom. She started off by telling me that she loved me and that she would always be my mom no matter what. Then she told me that she was gay. For a brief moment, I had a hard time processing this information. As a Christian, I knew what the Bible had to say about homosexuality. Here was a woman who took me to all those churches as a kid, those evangelical, roll-on-the-floor, speak-in-tongues, bible thumping, fundamentalist churches who would most assuredly not approve of what my mom had just told me. I remember being overwhelmed by what she told me but to my own amazement, I accepted her and still loved her. I had no feelings of judgment or hatred toward her and within a very short period of time I came to love and accept her partner. But I still had to mentally “square up” my mom’s sexual orientation with what I thought I knew to be “God’s Great Plan” because up to this point, they didn’t seem to agree. You asked what role the arts played in this phase of my life. I played guitar at church and while I listened to and played a lot of contemporary Christian music, I also enjoyed a lot of non-Christian music as well. I was (and still am) a fan of Roger Waters and Pink Floyd. In 1991, Roger Waters came out with the album, “Amused to Death”, which was largely about the effect of television and how it is used as a tool to sell things to us—not only goods and services but ideas like our national identity and foreign policy. One of the main themes that ran through the album was the idea that whenever our political and religious leaders tell us about a policy decision, God is behind us; God is on our side. God wants peace, God wants war, God wants (fill in the blank).

The Liminality

By this point in time, Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart both had their sexual scandals exposed and for the first time, I began to have serious doubts about the role of Christianity in my life. After I got out of the military, I went through a series of very low-paying jobs and had trouble paying rent and buying groceries. One day I was so desparate that I tried to go into a Catholic church to pray and wanted to talk to a priest but I was told that there was no priest available and I could not come in. I was stunned and angry and right there on the steps of that church, I stuck both middle fingers up to the sky and said, “God, I’m beginning to doubt that that you are even real but if you are real, then you, Sir, are a major-league f***ing ***hole.”

A few years later, my career situation improved and I even had serious plans to settle down with a woman and her two children. But it was not to be and I found myself alone. I had a great job but no one to love. This was another issue that has always plagued me. I’ve never been good at socializing and dating. I always seemed to get left behind and had to watch the women go off arm in arm with some other guy. By this point in my life, I really began to ask myself the hard questions. Is there a God who loves me and has a Divine Plan for me? How do I reconcile my mom’s sexual orientation with the Bible? And for that matter, is the Bible the true book? IS there a “true book”? I began to have a nagging suspicion that all of this stuff was a load of rubbish, made up by mortal men as a tool of social order to keep people in line. This was about the time that Richard Dawkins’ book “The God Delusion” came out. I read that book the very first week that it hit the shelves and I devoured it. I realized then that I was an atheist but I didn’t need Richard Dawkins to tell me who I was. I already knew; I just didn’t have a label for who I was. As to your question about the role that the arts played in my deconversion, I would have to say that I already had a basic framework of my world view but books, music and film all played a big role in helping me to crystallize my thoughts. In fact, I have a play list of music and spoken word immaterial in my music library titled “Atheist Stuff”.

This phase of my life was the roughest for me. I found myself alone and depressed. I realize that there is most likely no God looking out for me. I will probably be alone and involuntarily celibate for the rest of my life because I just don’t seem to be attractive to anyone that I am attracted to. I am as certain as I can be that God doesn’t exist but as said before, if he does exist, he truly is a major-league ***hole to create so many people who can’t seem to find someone to love and be loved back.

The Aftermath

You asked about things that may have filled the void that faith once filled. I would like to call myself a Secular Humanist and I would hope that at some point I could truly adopt that label but I can’t do that at the moment. Right now, I find myself hating the men and women because I don’t have a wife or a girlfriend and can’t seem to get one. I don’t feel like I am a part of the human race. The way I see it, if you don’t have sexual magnetism, you won’t find a partner and there is no god anywhere who is going to intervene. I hold out hope that my life will change in this area but I’m not holding my breath. As you can surmise, my journey has been dark and bitter. Other atheists have had much more positive and liberating experiences.


I will add one final thought, about this journey. I have noticed that Christians will frequently ask atheists the following question: “Why are you mad at God?” This is the wrong question to ask. Asking an atheist if they are mad at God is like being mad at Santa Claus because you found out that he isn’t the one who brings you your presents on Christmas Eve. If atheists are angry, then the anger is directed toward those people who continue to perpetuate the myth.

Salinas, CA

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

The Bible is no longer worthy of my faith

Sent in by John

6: bible nerdImage by jamelah via Flickr

Unlike many ex-Christians, I was not born into a religious household. My parents have always been atheists and remain so to this day. When I was a child I was introduced to Christianity through friends and families of friends. I remember when I first encountered a picture of Jesus crucified, with nails on his hands and feet and blood dripping down, it gave me the creeps. I also remember when I was first introduced to the concept of hell: a place of eternal torment and sadness and suffering, where whoever sent there would burn in agony forever and ever. That also gave me the creeps.

In elementary school, I remember one afternoon just praying for something very fervently and honestly. When looking back it was a minor and childish prayer; I wanted to play with a friend and I prayed to god that I would be able to play with that friend that day. The prayer was not answered. I was very disappointed.

While I was growing into my teenage years, many of my friends were or became Christians. They would witness to me and tell me how great god was and how I should read the bible. However, I had also started developing a cynical rationalism by high school. Didn’t the bible give a phony sounding creation story when science had proved the truth of evolution beyond a reasonable doubt? And why didn’t god answer audibly whenever someone prayed to him? Didn’t that prove that there was no one there to begin with?

In college, things began to change somewhat. I was lonely and insecure, and unsure of what to do with my life. For reasons I cannot remember now, towards the end of college I registered for a class on the new testament and really got to read the bible. I was amazed at the words of Jesus. As Matthew 7 says, he seemed to speak with authority, and his teachings were unlike anything I had ever heard or read before. I was stricken by parables like the good Samaritan and the prodigal son, and the way Jesus treated the poor and the sick.

Looking back, I believe I may have responded to the bible the way I did because I was, at the time, obsessed with the meaning of life. Questions such as: Why are we here? How should we live? What is the “good” life? I was looking for some kind of answers to these questions, or someone to follow, or some worthy cause to devote my life to. I also studied other religions such as Buddhism at the same time, and decided Christianity was the most appealing, both morally and intellectually.

So after graduating college, I decided to squelch my skepticism and distrust of religion and join a church. I attended a Pentecostal church near my home for about a year. I took bible study courses there and learned about the life of jesus, prayer, and the basics of evangelism. I began to read books by Christian authors like CS Lewis and Philip Yancey. I also spent many hours in prayer and did outreach to the homeless once in a while. Despite all this I wasn’t sure after 6 months whether I was “saved” or not, so one night I knelt and prayed to god, asking him to grant me salvation. I felt no rush of emotion or “indwelling of the spirit” or anything like that, but felt like what I had just done was enough, and that I had been saved.

After a year at the Pentecostal church, I decided to respond to an invite from a Christian friend and began attending a smaller, more fundamental church. I developed a close relationship with the pastor, and I was a devoted member of this church for over 3 years. I attended bible studies, led bible studies, attended prayer meetings, led prayer meetings, taught youth group, tithed faithfully, and went to many retreats and fellowship events. I truly believed that jesus was the son of god, that I was a sinful person who had been rescued by god, that my life should be focused on the things of god such as ministry and evangelism, and that life on earth serving god, however difficult sometimes, was worth enduring in order to spend eternity with him.

But, there were things about the church, and Christianity in general, that became more and more troubling to me. The pastor was a fundamentalist who preached 6 day creationism and did not allow women to collect offerings or give sermons. I noticed that Christians gossip and fight just like non-Christians do, and that churches regularly split into different factions. In fact, it often appeared to me that the church was more dysfunctional than my own (non-Christian) family. I prayed for the conversion of my family and relatives, for the spiritual revival of the church and its members, for the Iraq war to end, etc. etc., none of which were really answered. Although there were always excuses and justifications for unanswered prayer (i.e., God is testing you and building your faith and patience, etc.) I started wondering whether prayer really made a difference to anything. And although I “knew” I was prideful and lustful and greedy (i.e., a sinner), I also began to realize that no matter how many times I prayed or read scripture, I did not seem to be improving as a person, and did not notice any significant changes in other Christians around me either. To put it bluntly, being a Christian and doing Christian things didn’t seem to work or make a significant difference in my life or in others that I thought it should.

(One side note: the sheer arrogance and hypocrisy of 6-day creationists continue to amaze me to this day. These people argue that all the scientists who claim the earth is billions of years old are wrong, that carbon dating is worthless and inaccurate, that evolution is a ridiculous belief system invented by atheists who want to eliminate god, etc. etc. But on the other hand, they have no qualms about using all the other conveniences made possible through modern day science and technology. The science that gives us computers, the Internet, cars, airplanes, vaccines, x-rays, DNA evidence, cell phones, etc. etc. also tells us that this world is over 4 billion old and that all known life forms evolved from a common ancestor. There must be something to this “science” we have developed in the past two centuries, wouldn’t you say? How these creationists can so easily dismiss the science that does not conform to their narrow creation beliefs, while readily accepting the fruits of the other breakthroughs and discoveries that those same body of scientists have worked so hard to develop, is beyond me. You can what you want about the Amish, but at least they practice what they preach and forsake modern technology altogether.)

So recently, when I was still a Christian, I decided to do a morning devotional bible study. I started as I usually did, with a short prayer asking god for guidance and wisdom through his word. That day I came across the story of Jesus’ anointing at Bethany in john 12. This is the story of how Mary (sister of Martha) poured oil into Jesus’ head during a meal, which was met by indignation by the disciples and a subsequent rebuke from Jesus. But that’s strange, I thought. I had remembered it was some unknown, unnamed woman who poured the oil and got rebuked. I decided to do some research on the Internet. This was the beginning of the end of my faith.

I found out that the anointing at Bethany is detailed three different times in the gospels: john 12, Matthew 26, and mark 14 (there is a similar account of anointing in Luke 7, but it is different enough to be considered a separate incident). In Mark and Matthew, the name of the woman is not given. However, the stories in all three accounts are almost identical: the woman, supposedly Mary, approaches Jesus and his disciples at a dinner table and pours an alabaster vial of expensive perfume of nard on him. The disciples, seeing this, say something to the effect of: “Why are you wasting this expensive perfume? It could have been sold for 300 denarii and the money given to the poor.” And Jesus rebukes the disciples, telling them to leave her alone, that she is preparing him for burial, that the poor would always be with them, but he wouldn’t, etc.

But this is the problem: the episode in John happens BEFORE Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, while in Matthew and Mark the anointing happens AFTER the triumphal entry. So there is no way it could have been the same event… yet the stories are so identical, that I found it IMPOSSIBLE to believe it happened twice, within the space of a few days!

My research led me to skeptical sites listing bible contradictions and absurdities, and I discovered the bible contained many other contradictions, some I had noticed before (and tried to ignore) and others that I had not. The death of Judas Iscariot is another example. Matthew 27 states that after Judas had betrayed Jesus, he became remorseful, flung the 30 pieces of silver into the temple and hanged himself. Acts 1 says he bought a field with the silver, then somehow fell headfirst into it, and died when his guts spilled out after his stomach burst open. So the “Field of Blood” was purchased by the chief priests according to Matthew, and by Judas according to Acts. The cherry on top of this whole confusing contradictory episode is Matthew’s reference in 27:9 that Jeremiah is the prophet foretelling the whole 30 pieces of silver incident; the problem is, there is nothing about 30 pieces of silver anywhere in the book of Jeremiah!

There are hundreds, maybe even thousands, of other contradictions in the bible, such as the conflicting genealogies in Matthew 1 and Luke 3, the conflicting accounts of the discovery of the empty tomb, the conflicting accounts of how the disciples were first gathered, etc. (and I haven’t even gotten to the old testament). So basically, my deep investigation of the anointing story opened the floodgates to my skepticism and doubt of the bible, and my faith in the book began to crumble and did not stop. For quite a few days I was in distress, trying to find a way to reconcile all the errors. The entire worldview I had developed and lived for the last few years was breaking down! Eventually, I remember flinging the bible on my table, looking at it, and saying something like “You are full of errors. You are not reliable”. The next day I prayed my last real prayer, where I asked god, that if he was really there, to give me or show me an explanation of why his supposed book had so many contradictions and confusions, otherwise I could not keep on believing. I think the reader knows by now whether there was an answer to that prayer.

I understand now why fundamentalists always insist that the bible is inerrant. It is because once you concede that the bible has errors, it is a slippery slope. Who decides then what is an error, what is sound doctrine, and what is not? Biblical interpretation becomes very subjective, and Christianity becomes a salad bar for each individual, who chooses what to take literally and what to take as metaphor depending on their own reasoning and sensibilities. Salad bar Christianity is much of what I see today among Christians, and partly why there are so many different Christian denominations and schools of thought. John 16 says the holy spirit guides believers into all truth, and 1 Corinthians 14 says god is not the author of confusion, but these exhortations are false and ridiculous considering all the divisions and differing interpretations of scripture among Christians, both now and throughout church history. No book has created more confusion and conflict than the bible, because there is no holy spirit guiding anyone who reads it.

Now when I look back, I wonder how in the world I ever convinced myself that a serpent/devil deceived Eve and cursed the world, or that Noah took all the animals into his ark to save them from a flood that covered the entire earth, or that languages were uniform before the tower of Babel, etc. etc. I was so taken by Jesus and what I perceived to be his wise and other-worldly teachings, that I chose to ignore the other parts of the bible that probably deserve as much belief as Santa Claus. As a Christian, when I would encounter unbelievable stories in the old testament or statements that seemed to contradict each other, I would often push it out of my mind, reassuring myself there must be an explanation, or that things were different in those days, etc. But now my faith no longer exists and I see the bible for what it really is. I still think that the bible is a remarkable piece of literature that has had an enormous impact in western history and thought, both for good and ill. But it is also no longer a book I can base my life on.

There may have been a historical Jesus, but people and institutions have deified him over the ages and now he stands as the son of god in the eyes of many. In Jesus’ time there were quite a number of people that claimed to be messiahs and died for it. It appears that Jesus is the lucky one out of the group and now has his name called and displayed ubiquitously around the world. Many historians see Jesus as an apocalyptic figure who believed the end of the world was coming soon and preached that way. Based on many of Jesus’ sayings (i.e., “This generation will not pass away until all these things takes place.”), I find this view very convincing now.

As far as religion goes, I think it will always exist as long as humans are around. For some people, it gives their lives meaning and purpose. Other people’s lives are so difficult and hard, that they need something to hope for, some assurance that things will be OK in the end, and that is the hope religion gives and why they cling to it. Whatever the reason, as long as we have to face death and our own mortality, some form of religion that explains human origins and the afterlife will be around, I am sure of it. As of today, I consider myself an agnostic, maybe even an atheist. I believe this is the only life we have and that we should all make the most of what we have been given.

So there is my de-conversion story. I was converted through reading the bible and also eventually de-converted through reading the bible. It was my choice to join Christianity, and also my choice to leave. I spent over 5 years as a Christian. Although I can lament the fact that I spent so much time and effort believing something that turned out to be false, I believe it was also important for me to seek and investigate religion for myself, and come to my own conclusions. After reading other stories of ex-Christians on the Internet who spent decades of their lives as Christians before de-converting, I feel rather fortunate to have gotten out as early as I did. I am not bitter towards other Christians. Many of my friends are Christians and I have not told any of them yet about my loss of faith.

I wrote this account because I felt the need to get this difficult period of my life “on paper.” Thank you for listening to my story.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

My quest for truth

Sent in by Ned

"Soria Moria" by Theodor Kittelsen: ...Image via Wikipedia

I have been reading posts on this site for a while, and I taught I might share my experience as well. As almost everybody, I was born in a Christian family. (I was born in Chile, South America, where I still live today so my English is far from perfect. Sorry about that.). When I was young I went with my parents to an Anglican (Episcopalian in the states) church. Then when I was a teenager, my parents encouraged my brothers and me to go to our church’s youth group, and we ended up going every Friday night to the church. At the beginning it wasn’t a big deal, it was fun and interesting and a great opportunity to meet other teenager. But as the time went by, I found myself in charge of the youth group. At first I only had to find older people to prepare a topic to reflect on for the meetings and I wasn’t even very involved with the faith. But when I was 18, I received a new bible and started to read it every night, I also began to go to a Christian group at university where some people knew every bit of the bible… I was amazed by their knowledge and faith. With them I discovered the “power” of prayer and I stated to pray a lot. It was great to speak with Jesus and see his will been done in my life. My faith was getting stronger and stronger, and at that time I understood that god wanted me to be the leader of my church´s youth group because I finally had something to pass on to others; a strong faith and knowledge of god and the bible.

During the next 6 years I ended up preparing almost all the topic to reflect on during the Friday night meeting and to do so I read the bible completely several times and a lot of Christian books. I also started to listen to Christian music and even I composed Christian music since I play piano and guitar. A that time I also met friends form other churches and we started to do some activities together. I also started to attend to the services and spiritual retreats of my friend’s churches. With those friends we organized several missions to convert other peoples to Christianity and to tell the world the “truth of Jesus”. Furthermore, on my third year at university, I was chosen to be the leader of the university Christian group and some year later I was also chosen to be on my church´s directory board. It was a time when I dedicated almost all my free time to spiritual activities, Friday night youth group, some Saturday in the afternoon we visited a orphanage, Saturday night other youth activities, and Sundays we had our church’s main service on which I was invited several times to preach.

To make a long story short, I had Christian activities almost every day, and I seriously thought of becoming a pastor but I was studding engineering so I decided to finish my studies and then I was going to decide if I would become a pastor or serve the lord with my work. But everything changed…

At some point of my university studies, I though on doing a student exchange. Because of that I left the youth group leadership and other youth friends took it over. And that year, as I didn’t have the obligation to be so involved and to prepare a lot to topics to reflect on, I began to have a faith crisis. I didn’t doubt of anything but it was just that I didn’t feel god in my life anymore. That same year I took an optional course at university about the history of the world’s main religions. It was great, but disturbing. I always have taught that other people believed ridicules things that didn’t even make sense. But soon I realized that other religions had similarities with Christian faith. I also realized that people who believe different things had, from their point of view, good arguments to believe what they believe, and obviously they thought they were believing in the only true god. As I have always be interested to learn I bought the Koran and I began to read it, but I was feeling very guilty because I taught it was like reading the devil’s book. But I kept reading it and I was very surprised of what I found; I taught I was going to find a lot of violence but I found a message of peace, submission to the lord to have his forgiveness. (There are some verses that have messages of violence but I think the bible have more of those ones.) I found amazing that the Muslim faith wasn’t so ridicule and at some level the message was similar to the Christian message. On the history of religions course I learnt a lot of things that were disturbing, for example that some history of the old testament were based on previous myths that were changed to meet Jewish standards, that there were two Isaiah and that some portions of the bible weren’t literals (Genesis 1-12). That was becoming to be confusing for my faith but very interesting.

Eventually I did my student exchange to Australia and I took a course about history of the first century and another lecture about sects. Those courses where very interesting. With the one about sect I was amazed how people believed weird things because of a charismatic leader and with the history course I realized that the history of the first century was more complicated than what I was told at church. So I decided that I should read and investigate more on those topics and I should start a new group back in Chile to learn more about different religions, history of religions and those kinds of things. And I did, when I came back we started a group with some friends that had left church. It was a great group because everybody liked to read a lot and share what they have learned. But it was becoming scary, all the certitudes I had based my life on where falling apart. As the time went on, I realized that the bible has contradictions and some stories of the gospels don’t match. But I was still holding firmly the belief on resurrection. (A couple of years before I had read a book called “Evidence that demands a verdict” by Josh McDowell's and because of that I got very convinced about the historic evidence for Christianity.)

At some point I heard an audio course by The Teaching Company called The historical Jesus by Barth Erhman. It was a 24 lectures course about historical facts about Jesus, and I was great! I think it came just at the right moment on my quest for truth, because I knew some of the things I heard on the course, but at that time I got convinced. I learn that the characteristics of Jesus were common on the first century, teacher doing miracles, even resurrections… I also got convinced that the time that separated the facts and the writing of the gospels made impossible to know the historical facts, what we have are stories told and changed by oral tradition. Furthermore in the bible we only have 4 stories of all the gospels written about Jesus and of those, 3 are based on the same sources (and they don’t even agree). I also got convinced that there isn’t a lot of evidence for resurrection, there isn’t even a lot of evidence outside Christianity for Jesus. I realized that if you take the bible literally it all made sense, the fall in genesis, the prophecies about Jesus, miracles and Jesus’ resurrection. But all the evidence is based on taking the bible literally, and the literalism didn’t make sense for me anymore.
Then I read a book called “The wisdom of insecurity” by Alan Watts, and the message was that it is ok to be insecure, it is the normal state, to be sure about spiritual things is just an illusion. Unconsciously people fear insecurity so they believe in stories to reduce their insecurity.
Eventually I got convinced that there isn’t enough evidence to believe that Jesus was god and even I think there isn’t evidence for a god at all in the world. I loved Bill Maher documentary and his message that the best answer about if there is a god is “I don’t know”. Now I almost stopped going to church, and it has been sometime difficult to be understood by my Christian friends. So I go sometimes to church just because of social interaction, and to keep the friendship, but as it is difficult to speak with fundamentalist Christian a lot of friends of mine don’t even know that I don’t believe anymore, but that is ok, I have made new friends outside the closed circle of the church.
Now I think that everything is a about paradigms. Last year I hear a phrase that says “you see what your knowledge tells you to see” and I loved it. I think that if you believe there is a god you see it everywhere, but if you don’t, you see evidence for the non existence of a god also everywhere. I like the analogy of watching a sunset and seeing the sun going down. For some people in the past centuries it was evident that the sun moved around earth, and now it is evident that it is earth that is moving around the sun. Same fact but different conclusions depending on your knowledge and paradigm.

The last 5 years of my life had been a great journey in a quest for truth. Now I am an agnostic and as I learn more about science, astronomy and all the wonder of our universe I think that with our tiny brains we can’t understand everything. If there is something that created the universe, and hence should be bigger than the universe, I think we can’t say we understand it completely with our limited brains (we don’t even know the whole universe). Because of that we will always have unanswered questions and we will have to learn to live the wisdom of insecurity.



Recommended books that I have read on my quest for truth:
Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew, Historical Jesus (audio at TTC), & Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why (Plus) by Barth Erhman.

The Wisdom of Insecurity by Alan Watts

The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle (Great book about enjoying the present)

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson (Great book about science and how we know what we know)

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Broken dreams

Sent in by Ramos28

Broken Dreams IIImage by Tomás Rotger via Flickr

This was a long time coming... So I can finally say that at this point in life, my life is actually ruined, thanks to Christianity, thanks to the Bible, thanks to the church. And you can bet I am pissed..

To all the Christians who come to this web-site, I want you to all read this and think about what I have to say. Many of you are great human beings who happened to believe in Jesus and the Bible, and you preach because you think you're doing others a favour, but next time you are sharing your faith, I hope you'll remember me and my story. And I HOPE this will make you STOP and let the person live their own life, letting them belief whatever they want to belief... Also, I actually want you to respond to this letter and say what you think. So go ahead, post your opinions below...

This is my story...

What would you say if you were happy, socially popular, doing well in school, living life to the fullest, and having dreams for your future-type of person. Pretty much things are going great for you and life is amazing. Then a friend comes along and invites you to a church and you're naive enough to believe what you hear...What happens next is you become depressed, anxious, your self-esteem goes down the drain, your ability to enjoy life is gone, your ability to study is non-existent and you fail a course for the first time in life!!!, you drop out of school and are forced to take a break from it, your dreams for a good paying job and happy life are replaced with an ability to only do very basic jobs that pay like crap, and finally, your ability to relate to friends and especially women is gone as well. So you start loosing friendships, and the last time you had a girlfriend and kissed a girl was about 5 freakin' long years ago. Oh and yeah, your ideas about sexuality and ability to enjoy it are f***ing messed up, and you don't even know how to go about it anymore.

Pretty much your life is on the verge of a suicide, you hate it, and you don't know how to get out of the worse emotional prison you've ever experienced...

All I can say is THANKS! Christianity for turning my manageable OCD/anxiety into a religious SCRUPULOSITY which is by far the hardest form an OCD can have. Thanks for this great gift, this free grace, this great news. Thanks for showing me the light that lead me into the darkest places within my own mind.

Where do I go from here? I don't know...sometimes I feel like just ending it all and ending this life, but i don't want to miss out on life as there is still a hope within me that one day I can be myself again. There is also the fact that I don't want to ruin it for my parents.

Some days bring a glimpse of a bright future you have always imagined, and you start thinking that maybe, just maybe, one day you'll learn self esteem again, that you'll be able to forget those 5 years of indoctrinations, that you'll be able to take a girl on a date and actually enjoy that present special moment, instead thinking of hell, heaven, sin, etc.... Sometime I still hope that I'll be able to be a good student that I once was, graduate from university, and get a job that pays more that $10 an hour, which I know won't allow me to support a family and kids I'd like to have one day. My hopes are endless, because if I look at it, my life is a one big mess, and almost every part needs fixing.

Yes, I had problems before I became religious, but they were manageable. However, if you do have OCD and you get into a religion, especially Pentecostalism, boy you're in for a ride!!! You don't need to fear hell after you die as you'll be in hell while still alive. If you want to know what hell is, then go ahead, get into a religion, get into Pentecostalism, believe the doctrines, take them to heart, serve on the ministry teams, be in the music ministry, and maybe even think of becoming a pastor upon graduation...which are all the things that I did during my years as a Christian...

Maybe after reading this post you'll think I don't have it all together and need some professional help... WELL YOU BET I DO...I just had one of the worse weekends (emotionally) where it takes you to the point of crying and wishing you have never walked into that church, never started reading the Bible, and never accepted Christ as your Lord. But I can't undo the past... I did go to that church, I did read the Bible, and I did accept Christ as Lord... and now I am hoping to be able to somehow pick up the pieces of my broken and damaged life.

To all the Christians, once again...I know you care and you think you're doing people a favour by sharing your faith... but remember, please remember my story, my life, and the broken dreams your religion has given me.

Thank you for everything...

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Escaping the cult of Methodism

Sent in by John

Description unavailableImage by ~Asturnut~ via Flickr

A little over a year ago, I was a serious Christian. In fact, I was a licensed pastor in the United Methodist Church. That's a not a flavor of Christianity normally associated with being a cult, but I discovered that any cause, if you get in deep enough, can become a cult.

I was in seminary and on the long and very arduous journey to become a fully ordained pastor in my denomination. I had been appointed to a small country church. It is common for the denomination to send seminary students to small churches that can't afford a full-time pastor.

I was doing fairly well, and I sure worked my ass off and led sincerely and passionately. But then a very charismatic woman joined the church. She began spreading stirring up dissent against me, spreading malicious lies, and having secret meetings with my District Superintendent (supervisor).

It's a long story, but in the end, I was booted out of the church and she was appointed pastor in my place. This was done with the complete cooperation of the District Superintendent, who undermined my leadership at every point.

Methodists are a people of order and rules, and there is an entire Methodist law book called The Book of Discipline, detailing how churches are supposed to be governed. The DS violated many, many of these rules, both in letter and spirit, committing serious acts of professional misconduct.

He then wanted me to take the blame for his screwups, and how seriously dysfunctional the congregation had become due to this woman's and his subversion.

It's a long story, but the short version is this: I told the truth to the governing committee, and reported his professional misconduct. In direct and specific retaliation, I was thrown out of the ministry.

I followed the complex complaint process through every step and to every level that the Discipline allowed. The various bishops involved simply refused to process the complaints, in plain violation of the Discipline. They were completely unashamed and brazen in their abuse of power.

Everyone involved in the process was so callous, so heartless, so over-the-top uncaring and savage to me, over and over again, that it essentially invalidated the Christian faith to me. So after much thought, I wrote this: A Declaration of Spiritual Independence .

I renounced the Christian religion. The fraudulent nature of the Church had become so clear that I simply couldn't go on believing. And because the Church claims a monopoly on Christianity (and throughout Christian history, always has), it didn't make sense to go on calling myself a Christian but thinking of the Church as a completely invalid theological concept.

Since that time, I have become more aware of how much of my mind and life was taken over and ravaged by Christianity. And that I was a willing participant in this destruction. I am angry at the Church for hurting me so terribly, and I am angry at myself for being so easily fooled.

But the days of destruction are over. Since then, I have not wasted a single moment in the parasitic entity that is the Church. And my life is only better for it.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

My Tryst With Christianity

Sent in by Shankster

I am 20 years old, male, and from Mumbai (India). By birth, I am a Hindu. My parents are (thankfully) not overly religious. They have a very modernist outlook towards life, believing in the power and benefits of education. Their liberal worldviews, I believe have greatly been shaped by living in the international, cosmopolitan environement of Mumbai and by the fact that both my paternal and maternal grandfathers were also essentially modernist in their outlook towards life.

Unfortunately, they have not had a very happy marriage, choosing to continue living with each other only because they felt a divorce would be harmful for their children. I admire their love for us, but in the same breath I would not hesitate to call their relationship unfulfilling and to some extent even abusive (not physically, but emotionally).

The unhappiness at home, my general social incapacity (I find it really difficult to make friends), the fact that the girl I really liked was going out with someone else from my class, my spending large amounts of time with a bunch of guys who cared for nothing in the world but rock music, my poor performance at high school (11th grade), and my general lack of direction in life led me to get interested in the Christian message when a senior of mine from school testified to me.

He told me about how his life had changed after he had accepted Jesus, about how he'd stopped smoking, doing drugs, drinking, fighting with his parents; he even attempted suicide. And the change in his lifestyle was evident and remarkable.

He told me that Christianity was about a relationship not about religiosity, that God loved me and wanted to help me change my life. He also told me that all other religions are false, and only the God of the Bible and the message of the Cross are true; everything else is from the Devil.

I was so desperate for change, that I took it all in (over a span of a month) and decided to follow Christianity and forsake my former liberal Hindu lifestyle. My closest friends (also from non Christian families) also accepted the Christian message and so I really felt that something big was happening.

This was in April 2005. As time passed I got deeply involved in the 'Word of Faith' protestant-evangelical movement. I never joined a church, but was part of a small prayer fellowship, led by the friend who preached the gospel to me and attended by a small bunch of people (the maximum number at one point was 15) called the Fire Fellowship For Christ. Our 'FFC' was supposed to be about purity and we were 'called to take the nation for Christ' and all sorts of things. During our meetings we would 'speak in tongues', 'prophesy', 'see visions', 'hear the Lord' and so on.

But at the start, we really enjoyed it, because we all felt that this Fellowship was a place of truth and freedom where we would be free do define our spirituality as we wished. We would conveniently push all the fundamentalist undertones of the Christian message that would be thrown at us under the carpet, mostly ignoring it or conforming with it unwillingly.

Things eventually started getting out of hand. We were told that God values obedience highly and that it would not be tolerated if we did not attend meetings, pray daily at 5 in the morning, take admissions in universities or jobs or do anything without 'asking the Lord', etc. There was also this constant subliminal pressure to engage in evangelism and win souls for Christ which is a really complicated and stressful task in Indian society. Essentially we had to 'put God first' - 'It is no longer I that live, but Christ that liveth in me' was quoted ever so often.

So I went against my will distributing tracts at a metropolitan railway station, shaking with fear that I get arrested or even worse into trouble with some Hindu or Muslim fanatics. I would lie and go to prayer meetings. I would fight with my parents at home, refuse to go to the temple or fulfill religious obligations that they observed out of respect for their parents. I would type emails containing explanations of Biblical verses every day. I would stay up all night designing posters and tracts for Christian events. I would take everything I was told in, accepting it as instruction from the Lord. I would refrain from speaking my mind so that I would not be regarded as 'proud'. There were so many conflicting emotions and thoughts in my mind that I was sad and depressed most of the time, yet I would put it all aside believing that God was teaching me something and preparing me for some bigger calling.

Meanwhile, my friends started leaving the fellowship one by one, for various reasons. One of my friends wanted to take up a summer internship, but the guy who was leading our prayer group told him not to do it, and also said that the job was from the devil. My friend got pissed off and left the fellowship (this was in may 2007), he never looked back.

Similarly, all my friends began leaving one by one.

By the time it was 2008, there were just 3 or 4 of us left in our prayer group (me included). I still stuck on because I thought that God was planning something big and that all my friends who left had been fooled by the devil and would come back to him. It was during this year that my reservations against fundamentalist Christianity began to crystallise.

My education was a complete mess (I was doing my Bachelor of Arts) because most of the time I would be thinking about God and Godly things and about how everything being taught to us in the secular education system was wrong and un-godly. My social life was non-existent, my only close interaction being with other Christians; I could not relate to regular people who did regular things. I looked at them with pity and as being needed to be saved frm the lies of the devil and the things of the world. My relationship with my parents was abysmal. There was so much conflicting pressure - pressure to be a good son vs. pressure to be a good son of God.

The final blow came when my friend who was like my mentor-in-Christ, told me that eventually I WOULD have to join some church on a regular basis and get baptised in water, so easily contradicting the Christian message that had been told to me when he was giving me the Gospel. No longer was Christianity a relationship, it was veering back to being a religion.

Also last year in September both my grandparents were suffering from major health problems and my grandaunt was undergoing chemotherapy for cancer. I was mentioning all these things to my Christian friends and they told me that this was the time I had to step in for my family and evangelise! That really pissed me off big time. I mean what was I supposed to say to my ailing 80 year old grandfather? "Everything you know and believe is wrong, Jesus loves you and is the only God"??

His death in October last year only made my resolve stronger. And after a lot of debating in my head, I finally decided to cut off all ties from the fundamentalist brand of Christianity.

Today, my worldview is a mixture of Agnosticism, Absurdism, an unhealthy Nihilism and Realism. Like many of you on this website, I am ready to believe in a Godhead, if his/her existence is proved to me satisfactorily. I do not affiliate myself with any formal religious group or philosophy.

I have gotten back with my old friends who also left the fellowship over 2 years ago. We are much closer now and it amazes me to find that they are still recovering from their stint with Christianity - although they are over most of the stuff.

I'm trying to put things together and live a more meaningful life - personally and communally. I feel really nice whenever I read the posts on this website. I feel reassured that I made a wise decision by turning away from Christianity.

Thanks to whoever has been reading this through to the end. I hope it has been worth your time.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Confessions of an Ozark Bible Belt Girl

By Mriana

View towards the Saint Francois Mountains of t...Image via Wikipedia

Some generalizations were made concerning “Christian Girls in the Bible Belt” in a forum thread. I would like to address that from my own experience, which may or may not be typical or apply to all Bible Belt Fundie Girls. No, I will not be rude and crude like that “Su-tha-na fella” who was quoted.

Truth is, I think some young women from the Bible Belt are trying to find something they never received, yet greatly needed, as a child and probably do not have a clue what it was either. I question whether one can ever retrieve it even. In addition, since those in the psychology field, at least according to my relatives, steal souls, they rarely get counseling much less even consider it.

I left home at nineteen, still a virgin, and my mother’s last words to me, during a dispute, before I left were, “Young lady, I am your mother and don’t you forget it! You will do as I say even if you have left home.” “Honour thy father and mother” is taken way beyond what should be.

Just before I left, my mother told me what school I was going to attend and what I was going to study. Women in my family, even in the 80s were expected to become teachers, nurses, or secretaries, if that, and then get married… Period. Some young girls in the Ozarks do not finish high school even, before they have a child and get married- sometimes in that order.

I did finish high school, but dropped out of Business school against my mother’s wishes; to go to a secular State ran university and study dance and theatre. Again, that was even against her wishes, but after I moved out, I dropped that too and went to work at Hardees. I also looked into churches that were more appealing to me, so I could be a good girl and followed my relatives’ wishes about church going. I chose the Episcopal Church, which they did not like- too Catholic.

I turned twenty and sometime before I met my first ex-husband at twenty-one, I ran into a man who happened to be an alcoholic, just as my father was. I thought I could help him. What I got was a bruised face that not even make-up covered. My future husband saw it and asked what happened. I was honest and in his Floridian accent, he said, “You don’t need that.” That drawl was so attractive, not to mention how he also called me Daw-lin’. I would melt every time with that single word- “Daw-lin”. What I failed to noticed was some of his other activities and I was very naïve too. So naïve that just about any “city slicker” outside the third largest city in Missoura, as we natives call it down here south of the Mason Dixon Line, could probably have put one over on me. I have since learned to think with my head concerning the word “Daw-lin” and alike, but that does not mean it does not still have an affect on me.

I dumped the one guy for this smooth talkin’ man from the deep South, who is ten years my senior. At the time, the lovin’ was good and he even taught me a few things, which I will not go into, but I did eventually tell him about my childhood relationship with my father.

Have you ever heard the saying, “Bad girls don’t get pregnant”? My mother used it a lot as a means to criticize Women’s reproductive health outside of marriage, as well as added that pre-marital sex was a sin, and did not mean it as it sounded. She meant the opposite actually. Thus, I did feel a lot of guilt each time, but even more so after he took me out for my twenty-second birthday. That was the first and last time I ever got drunk. It was also the one time I have no clue if it was good or not, but obviously, something happened, because seven weeks later, I found I was a pregnant.

I felt even worse, but what made it worse, were my relatives pushing us to get married because of the pregnancy. Now how do two wrongs make a right? I have no clue, but he did not wish to get married at that time, so we “kept house” together, “in sin” and ironically, some older Episcopalians talk almost the same way about living together. It was a downhill vicious cycle of guilt, imposed by other human beings, not by some god.

I carried my son to term, but not without a lot of difficulties, in part to my small frame, but I was not able to carry children like other women either for other reasons. The other thing was I was losing weight and the doctor was not happy. By the ninth month, I managed to put on twenty pounds and lost it rather quickly after my first son was born. He made a nine on the apgar scoring, but was iron deficient. However, the first time I held him in my arms, as he studied my face, was a very numinous moment that I would not trade for the world- marriage or no marriage.

The relationship got worse and more often than not, he took it, even said, “I take what I want” and ignored my crying after it was over as he told me to “Get over it”, referring to my childhood relationship with my father. Therefore, I felt I had two choices- “submit” by going through the motions or deal with a six-foot abusive drunk and high man, all the while my relatives were pushing us to get married and it did not matter what I had to say about his behaviours. Submission, while separating my mental state from the situation, at that time appeared to be the best choice for survival.

Eventually I lost a lot of weight, just as I did in my pre-teen and teen years after my son was born. Not long after that, I lost my grandfather, to suicide, which my relatives to this day forbid me to call it that. Not only that, my grandmother said, “I don’t want any Black Boy and Black baby at my husband’s funeral!” “The Mark of Cain” came up again, among other things. I heard about this in my teens and maybe even before, but I never dreamed my grandmother would use it against me, because I never heard such racist sentiments from her before. With her words, she added insult to injury as she banished me from my grandfather’s funeral, so I never said my good-byes to him for thirteen years, and after I married a White man. I also was not to go down and visit her at her home either, especially with my family. She saw her great grandsons twice in their lives when they were little, but neither went down there, which was further south, until she died. The two of us did make amends a few days before she died. She said, “You were a good granddaughter, Mriana.” I scolded her for using the past tense, because she made it sound like she was dying tomorrow. She died less than a week later, two years ago just a few days after her 94th birthday and sadly around our favourite time of year- Easter/Spring Equinox.

I became pregnant again a few months after the birth of my first son, but miscarried the baby about three months into the pregnancy. “Well, God didn’t want that baby to be born for some reason and you just have to trust Him on that. He had His reasons.” I had to question such statements that came even from Episcopalians too, because I learned that a miscarriage is a spontaneous abortion. Why would God kill an innocent baby and via abortion, when we are not to have abortions? It is OK for Him, but not for us? Why would He allow it to be conceived in the first place if He was going to kill it? It just made no sense to me. The Episcopalians said God is a loving god and the Evangelicals would make statements that God punishes us- even via “spontaneous abortions”, which they call miscarriages. Miscarriages, also called spontaneous abortions versus abortions. It was too illogical and mind boggling to ponder. Even worse, neither group agreed concerning the idea of punishment from God. One called it a punishment and the other did not. One called God love and the other did not. Which was it? Moreover, IF God is love, why such a heinous “punishment”? It just did not jive and such ideas seemed horribly abusive. Shades of Pat Benatar’s song, “Hell is for Children”, “where love and pain become one and the same in the eyes of a wounded child” and a continuation of my life up to that point. I lost any concept I might have had left about hell at that point. I did not know where I was going, but there was no hell except that which is created by humans here on earth. It put new meaning on abortions for me too.

The doctor’s scientific assessment was my body was not ready to carry another child so soon after the first one and nature does what it needs to do. That answer was far more comprehensible than any religious statements I had heard. After all, the ligaments in my left hip had torn, causing me to fall, in my eighth month of my first pregnancy, thus I ended up on bed rest… again. I was on bed rest at the beginning of my pregnancy, towards the middle, and at the very end, for various health reasons concerning the pregnancy. I could not see any god causing that either in return for what I had done nor could I see any god aborting a zygote near the end of the third month of pregnancy for what I did. Nature seemed to be on my side with that spontaneous abortion, especially so soon after my first child. My body truly was not ready to carry another child.

The doctor described my first child en utero as a leech, because it feeds off the mother and cannot survive any other way. Basically, I was getting an education about my own body with my first two pregnancies and none of my pregnancy problems had anything to do with a deity.

Well we did marry when our older son was around a year old and a few months later I was pregnant again, but this time was worse. By this time, I knew without a doubt my husband was doing and selling drugs, but I was trapped in a bad marriage. My relatives were against divorce because it was a sin and even IF it was justifiable, it was still a sin. I finally did not care what they thought and told my husband a few months before I gave birth, “If you do not stop doing and selling drugs, I will take the children and leave.” While high on crack cocaine, he viciously told me, “You take my kids from me, I’ll kill you.” The whole pregnancy was filled with such stress, but no matter how much I pleaded with my mother via phone while he was gone, I could not get her approval to divorce him. He was so much like my father and worse, because he did drugs too.

I had to deliver my second son at eight months due to a form of toxemia, called H.E.L.P. Syndrome. The doctor gave my husband and me a choice, “If push comes to shove, who do you want us to save?” My husband said me, because if anything happened to him, there would be someone to care for his first son. In contrast, I chose myself, because at the time, I believed all babies go to heaven and I knew I had done too many bad things for God to allow me into heaven. I did not have a clue where else there was, but I screwed up with this man and I knew it. The guilt, imposed by others, was beginning to build, but I did not have the time to think about it. I was too busy trying to survive.

After I gave birth, I suffered severe depression, which I passed off as post-partum depression, even when my younger son was six months old. My 4’ 11” body eventually weighed eighty pounds, but one day the ATF ran to the apartment upstairs and my soon to be ex-husband ran to where he hid his pipe and stuffed it under some garbage in the trash can. I knew at that moment, it was not post-partum depression.

The next day or so, while my husband was gone one of the members from my church stopped by to check on my sons and me. I invited her in, offered her a seat and refreshments, but she declined, wanting to sit and talk. Oddly enough, she had a gut feeling something was wrong and said it was showing all over me, because I was so thin and obviously not eating. Cherry Boone had nothing on me when it came to anorexia. We were nip and tuck; I’m sure, especially with fasting during various times during the liturgical calendar. Anyway, I started crying and told her everything that had happened recently. When I was done, she told me where a women’s shelter was and would arrange for me to get there, if necessary. At least some religious people had some sense about them, even here in the Queen City of the Ozarks. Keep in mind though, this eventually became approval from the bishop too, who annulled marriages. This does not mean the marriage never happened though. The Episcopal Church technically does not grant divorces, but annulments they do, which in turn gives one permission to remarry, if they so choose. It was the same thing, just not my relatives.

Three days later he left for wherever he went for the day, I grabbed some of my children’s and my things, and then I picked up my six month old and grabbed my two and half year old by the hand and we were gone. Apparently, he thought I would just cower and back down, never surmising that I had other means of fighting back, such as taking the children, running, and eventually going to court. I never looked back, eventually got some therapy, and even a degree in Psychology, against my relatives’ wishes, but the therapy was not sufficient, because my second husband was abusive to my sons. We left him too, unlike my mother who stayed far too long in her one and only marriage.

Two marriages and two divorces, I was now without a doubt an adulteress in the eyes of Evangelicals, as well as had a baby out of wedlock, which is not only shameful, but also extremely sinful. Not mention, to the Neanderthal Christian hate groups down in these parts, I am a “traitor to my race”. Thus, I do not accept the “Scarlett A” as readily as some atheists do, though you may find it buried on my Facebook page. Thus why I declined showing it so boldly on the day others did. Even though I denounce religion, I cannot bring myself to use the “Scarlet Letter” so boldly, because in the story, it was the letter “A” for adulteress she wore on her dress. Such literary work and religious ideology within that story is just too much to use such a letter so boldly. It carries a terrible stigmatism with it, due to that story, and I rather not use it, as a Humanist. It is degrading for me as a non-theist from such a background and although humanism is a non-theistic philosophy, the stigmatism the Scarlet Letter carries with it is degrading for me. In my opinion, that is not very humanistic, at least to myself. Of course, I will admit I never finished reading the book either, even though it was assigned reading for a literature class. I am hardly perfect. What human is? I just hope said professor does not stumble upon this and take back the good “A” I received for the class.

However, looking back, I think I was trying to find something, which I needed and did not receive as a child, but what I thought would get me what I believed I needed only perpetuated the stereotypical cycle of abuse that started with my relatives, especially my father. I can only guess that other young women from the Bible Belt are probably trying to find a need that is unfulfilled too. The thing is they are not going to find it with sex. Sex is not necessarily an expression of love between two consenting adults. It could very well be an attempt to find what one needs, but in the end, that is not what she needs.

She is also not lacking the need for a god concept either. If anything, the human concept of a deity is sadly lacking on many levels. I do not care what god concept one has, it does not fulfill any human need. If anything, a god concept reinforces the guilt imposed on the individual by other humans.

I do know what is probably missing is unconditional love, but I cannot state what that unconditional love is supposedly like or state for certainty that what other girls missed was unconditional love from their elders. I can dream of what I think I need, but I am not so sure that is it either and while both men want me back, they can never have me back, because they cannot give me what I need. Besides, the first one has now supposedly “found God”. Like that is going to work, especially when he is asking, “You don’t believe in God anymore?” Now why would I want to answer that one, probably triggering a discussion about religion with him, when I do not want anything to do with him, except for what concerns our sons?

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Pageviews this week: