“There are tons of religions in the world… but only ours is right?” I asked my mom, I couldn’t have been much older than five years old.
“Yes.” she said, and then smiled and chuckled in a way that seemed to say she was uncomfortable sounding so smug but she did believe what she said. For some reason that explanation was enough for me for so many years to come…
Hello, I am a person that knows the Xian community very well. Like many of you I grew up in the church, the Southern Baptist church to be specific. Like anyone I had no idea what I was doing until I was older so I will quickly skip to what Xians would call my testimony. To set the stage I had never really fit in with the kids at my church but my parents pushed me into the youth group. I’m actually happy for that part because it expanded my social comfort zone but that’s a different story. I had a couple friends from school but they were not that close, we just hung out without really talking about anything important and sometimes I wondered if they even liked me. I was in that state largely because my social growth was stunted by a bad decision I had made. In elementary school before I moved to a new city I felt like I said a lot of stupid things so to make a good impression I just didn’t talk much at all in my new school. That decision became a habit but in my freshmen year of high school I hit a breaking point.
I still remember, it was on the bus home one day and a pretty girl mentioned something that I knew about. I thought of some joke to tell her that would have started a conversation but I didn’t say it. I just sat there silently. That was the final straw. That day I vented to an online friend and vowed to break out of my shell. It was the beginning of an intellectual awakening for up to that point I really had not done much thinking at all.
Now, back to church. Wednesday night services had always been lonely and awkward for me but a group of people took me in even though I was odd and didn’t talk much. One Wednesday the youth pastor was talking about giving one’s life to Christ. I’d heard about believing but that part was new. I was desperate and felt that I knew nothing of what to do with my life so I earnestly prayed that God take my life and do with it as he wished. The next Wednesday night my friends were late so I aimlessly wandered around the sanctuary for a while and then stopped to watch a video that was on a big projector. To my right I heard the voice of a girl that I vaguely knew. She had visited another church on the same day my family had before we decided on staying at the church I was in at that moment. This girl, we will call her Veronica, recognized me from there and so she vaguely knew me. I went and sat with her and her friend Robin. These two were unlike the group that hung out with me, they were both pretty and I thought they were cooler so I wanted to hang around them more and eventually got a crush on Robin. My want to be with this girl turned out to be exactly what I needed to drive me far outside of my shell. However in my trying to woo this girl I found out that she was not impressed by how I would zone out during Sunday School so I began to listen for the first time in my church life and I was amazed at what I heard. I loved the lessons I heard and started to become a real Xian. Looking back I thought that the odds of me meeting up with those two girls was very low. I mean what were the odds that my friends would be late, that I would have visited that one church at the same time as Veronica, and that I would have stopped to watch the movie right where she was sitting, eh? God must have heard my prayer, taken control of my life, and had a plan to make me the person I wanted to be! Never mind that I would have ran into Veronica and Robin eventually in that church since they were regulars, never mind that my group of friends there were late every now and then, and never mind my drive to change my life I had made up my mind that God had officially began to guide me down his exciting path. Funny enough this was a story that supported my faith for years to come because I just couldn’t understand things like chance and coincidence. (Xians will swear coincidence doesn’t exist and that when things with low chances happen it must be the hand of God)
That awakening lead me to getting more involved in the youth group, coming out of my shell, and growing as a person more than I ever had in my life but then my family moved. The move threw me through many trials that I am still glad I went through. The Xian part of me back then would have told you it was God’s plan to move me there so that I wouldn’t just settle into my new friends and thus make a new shell that I’d need to break later, that God put me in a church where I had no good friends so that I would pass the test of just going to church just for him, and that my trials their made me start actually reading the Bible. The truth was it was my dad’s plan to be closer to his job that moved us there, not making another shell was a good thing, and I had no friends at that church because I don’t relate to rednecks.
My dad’s company moved him to a new city once I had made friends again but this time I knew that God knew what he was doing so I was excited. (There was also the fact that I had only been there a year and wasn’t very attached to that place). I had learned in the meantime an extremely value lesson, to be content and happy even when my situation was not the best. I learned it from the words of Paul and from Jesus’ talk on not worrying but really if someone I respected would have just told me “I just try to be happy no matter what my situation; and why worry about stuff? It’s not like worrying chances anything.” Then I would have still learned but I attributed these things to the Bible and my spiritual growth. I did not find any flaw with the Bible as I read through it because I read from the firm mindset that it was God’s word breathed. One can rationalize just about anything in their own mind so I found the Bible to be faultless. Don’t underestimate the power of years of dogma and a made up mind.
When we moved again I realized I thought way too much and needed to just talk to people. Then I met some great people that are still my beloved friends today. I thought that after tons and tons of tests God had finally given me what I wanted. I had confidence, good social skills, and wonderful friends. High School was actually really fun after that. So is college, and so is life in general. Anyway, now for the turning point.
I’ve always been a fairly rational person, but often times it takes me a while to realize very obvious things about myself. The experiences I have shared above were the basis for my faith and so I continued to reason from the assumption that the Xian God, Jesus Christ is real, good, cares about me, and has a plan for me. I would years later tell a friend that someone would have to disprove these experiences to disprove Xianity to me. I thought such a feat would be impossible but as you saw earlier it was actually really easy. I just needed a wake up call.
Sadly the call would take about four more years. I went on my marry way but over time I wondered why I couldn’t so clearly see God in my life and that troubled me. I also looked more into atheist arguments, saw where they were coming from, but would assume, no, I would know that they were wrong because of my experiences that told me Jesus was guiding me. I also thought many atheists were smug and annoying because I was blind to Xians that were the same if not worse. Eventually I came to the point where I could even make atheist arguments myself to counter theist ones but I could from there make another counterargument to debunk the debunker. Like I said, about anything can be rationalized so I would continue to go with my experiences.
I’m not sure what exactly started the feeling in me that made me start to love the idea of throwing away Xianity but I think subconsciously my mind had been over the years rejecting the dogma that had been polluting it. One day I looked into myself and saw that these things had grown too big to be ignored any longer. It wasn’t a bad realization, though, it was fun and new. Even still prayers like “Oh God, please get me back on track” followed to no avail. Then one day at Borders I found a book (funny enough in the religion section) titled “Losing my religion” by William Lobdell. I’m not completely sure why, but I was compelled by this book and I felt that this man knew what I was going through and would offer great and interesting advice. At that point in time I was not ready to admit to myself that I was no longer an Xian, but I did know that there was a new love in me for books like that. I came back to Borders to read the book and I found that sure enough the man did know what I was going through. Lobdell too had come to God in a hard time of his life and then gotten back on track while giving God the glory. Lobdell too had experienced what Xians would call miracles, for instance when he prayed for a specific amount of money a friend ended up giving it to him. Lobdell also felt that his calling was to write for the religion beat in the paper but this would be the beginning of his de-conversion. There were so many great things in that book but some that stick out are that Lobdell points out that there are many people that would love to have faith but just can’t. That goes directly against what most Xians think about salvation because supposedly all one has to do is invite god into their life, right? Wrong. Some people just don’t have the capacity. In my mind this alone was a damning fact for Xianity. I suppose the predestination argument remains but who would follow a God that created a lot of people knowing that he would just end up damning them? That is what any decent person would cal a sadistic monster. Lobdell is an intelligent, open minded person that didn’t hate Xians or Xianity and reading his journey was extremely enlightening and encouraging. Xianity could be casted off. I still have saved in my phone a favorite quote from the book. Apparently priests were saying that those losing faith because of the priests that raped kids were committing “spiritual suicide”. To answer that statement Lobdell put into words why most of us are here at exchristian.net: “Spiritual suicide infers that people make a conscious decision to abandon their faith. Yet it isn’t simply a matter of will. Many people want to believe but just can’t. They may feel tortured that their faith has evaporated, but they can’t will it back into existence. If an autopsy could be done on their spiritual life, the cause of death wouldn’t be murder or suicide. It would be natural causes-the organic death of a belief system that collapsed under the weight of experience and reason.” Indeed, I think experience and reason growing inside of me was what caused my change in emotions which lead me to open up to the reality that my experiences were not miracles or God’s hand in my life. As a matter of fact around that time in my life no matter how much I wanted to think about an event as if it were God’s hand I could not control a rush that brought forth a rational explanation.
I remained a shy atheist for a while after that but over time I’ve found myself more and more fond of atheist literature, though being a poor student I can’t buy many books so thank you exchristian.net for giving me a free place to read up on very interesting debates, facts, and such that have greatly helped me to take the next step in my recovery from Xianity! I’ve found myself infinitely more happy and liberated without Xianity, I’ve made valuable self-discoveries that my Xian beliefs would have made me timid to accept, and every day the ridiculousness of that dogma I believed for so long is more and more apparent.
I would like to conclude by saying that I didn’t have a bad experience with the church or Xians, nor did a priest rape me, nor was I appalled by stories of the like. Many Xians say that we here were never Xians but that bad experiences or bad people turned us away. None of that was the case for me, and I was defiantly an Xian. If you asked any of my friends and some of my path youth ministers they would vouch for me and the youth ministers would be very, very distressed that I wrote this. I had the changed life, I had the zeal, but I also have an open and logical mind that eventually threw the yoke of dogma off and if anything I’m ashamed it took 19 years to do so.