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Showing content with the highest reputation since 07/05/2009 in Posts

  1. 31 points
    Dearest Heavenly Bible God, Father, Jehovah, Jesus, Holy Spirit, The Creator of the Universe, I come to you with the utmost sincerity of my heart, to talk with you. I have wanted to please you all my life. I have searched for you all my life. I have wanted to be one of your chosen. I never wanted to worry on this earth about going to your hell. So I tried to be good. Yes, I screwed up quite a few times, made quite a few mistakes, but they told me it was because I was 'blood and 'flesh' and that you were like the potter, taking this ‘blob’ of sinful clay and turning me into a diamond. I have always asked for your forgiveness and to give me another chance to prove myself to you. I hated letting you down. I always wanted to strengthen myself and be a woman of god for you – but you did not want to prove yourself for me, no matter how much I asked or prayed to you..... Please forgive me for missing any signs that you did try to give me. I have also, throughout the last 30 years, asked for more faith because I always felt as if I didn't have enough. I was honest with you about this. I told you everything. I confessed everything. I was told by many, that the 'mustard seed’ was good enough and that's all I had to have. But I wanted more than a seed of faith. I wanted big faith; enough to convince my mind of you, enough to stop the questions that I continued to drive you crazy with. Enough to move all the mountains in my life.... Please forgive me for this lack of faith that I had during all the past years. I even joked with you, so many times that YOU were the one who gave me this inquisitive personality. You are supposed to be all powerful and therefore you could have changed me? I asked you to change me. Why didn't you? Why did you hesitate? Were you testing me all along like you did your servant, Job? I was even straightforward about that and told you that I would not pass that kind of test. Then I asked you why you would even want to test us? Why would you – a loving, kind father, even permit this devil you allowed to fall from grace, sit by our side and watch as we suffered through many horrific things in life? We are your children. You made us. You created us. You didn’t answer..... Please forgive me for my reservations with this issue. Now I am learning that you might not be there at all. You have watched me at my computer. You have seen the research I’ve been doing in the past 5 years. You have seen and heard me questioning the bible since the night I was ‘saved’. I have asked you a hundred times in the last year to show yourself to me. I have screamed in agony. I have told you that are about to lose me. I have asked you if you care that I am falling away from the faith. And still you do nothing. You don’t even kill me. I was honest before you concerning this ‘doubting Thomas’ syndrome... Can you really see what’s in my heart? If you can, and you are truly a loving entity - will you please forgive me? You give me no clues whatsoever. The world is falling apart. We are killing each other. There are murders, rapes, poverty, and slavery. There are people fighting over whose land is whose and bombings everywhere. Do you see this? Did you understand that your ''Holy Bible' promotes this?? There is torture, starvation, cancer, drowning, dismemberment, and very painful diseases. You are supposed to be ‘all knowing-all powerful’. You could give us the cure for cancer and yet you remain silent. There is an epidemic of depression and suicide and thus far - you do nothing. How could a good and powerful God who loves you stand aside, unmoved to action, while such things happen? Please forgive me for being angry at you. My biggest problem with you is you are supposed to be all powerful; Omnipotent, Omnipresent, and Omniscient. You are supposed to be all good...full of love and yet all this evil exists? They have reassured me that when I get to heaven, you will explain all these mysteries to me. Why wait? Why not explain them to me now? Why not appear at the bottom of my bed in the late of night to have a talk? Why not appear in the sky (or wherever), even one community at a time and tell us that ''you will bring all things together for good'' as you promised in your bible. So many unanswered prayers... Please forgive me for questioning your invisibility and indistinguishable lack of presence. You are hiding from me so effectively, that the world looks just as I would expect it to look, and be, without a God running the show. It doesn’t have any of the characteristics I would be anticipating to find, if there was a caring, intervening, superseding God. All of my attempts to confirm your existence have come up empty handed. You are hiding so successfully. I have to admit that in order to believe like I did for years, I must do it by ignoring the contrary evidence. I must resolve to this concept called ‘faith’. You are hiding so stubbornly, I must conclude, among other things, that you do not want or care if I believe anymore. If you wanted me to believe, you think would show me evidence in a thousand obvious ways, because my heart has yearned for the proof.... Please forgive me for giving up the search. One last quick discussion. Why didn’t you make us the way you wanted us to be in the first place? It could have been so simple – you are the God of the universe! Why tempt us in the garden? Why make hell? Why scare people? Why would you do this to us? I have been taught that all who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour will go to heaven, but the amount of reward in heaven will be directly related to how closely each one followed God's will in his life. I really tried to do this. Likewise, all those who reject Jesus Christ will go to hell, be tortured forever and will be punished to the degree of how much evil they committed in their life. Please forgive me for thinking you are cruel. Why did you need to resort to human sacrifices to ‘satisfy’ the sin disease - which you created and tempted us with in the first place? Why be so cruel? Obviously, I will go to this hell you created for people who reject. It’s not that I want to reject you – I just don’t trust you anymore. Trust is reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety, of a person or thing; confidence. It is the confident expectation of hope that someone really cares for your well-being. It gives you confidence in the certainty of the future. It is a loving person on whom one relies. It is the condition of one, to whom something has been entrusted with, like custody or care. It is a commitment of love, and that love would not hurt you..... Please forgive me for not trusting you anymore. I loved you for a long time and yet, you scare me with hell? And then you tell me that you are a loving God. Would you be affectionate and forgiving enough to take my hand and walk in hell with me? I really wanted to believe in your existence, but you have gone to extraordinary lengths to make that difficult for me. The world looks just like there is no Bible God to me and I am heartbroken. It saddens me from the bottom of my heart to admit that I do not believe that the Holy Christian Bible is the ‘Word of God’ anymore. It grieves me very much to say goodbye to the God of the bible. It is your ‘Holy Scriptures’ taken literally from all over the world has made the planet into the mess it’s in today..... Please forgive me for saying this. One last prayer of forgiveness: I pray that you will understand all my questions and forgive me for not believing the ‘Holy Bible’ that I was brought up to believe in. I am asking for your forgiveness for my doubting. I am asking for forgiveness for not really believing in you – but please, if you do exist and I have missed it – before I end this letter – would you always try to remember the heart that searched long and hard for you? I will forgive you – if you will forgive me. Sincerely, from the bottom of my heart – Your Child, Margee
  2. 21 points
    A strange thing has happened over the past few weeks - and I think it's a good sign: I haven't felt the need to logon to ex-christian.net EVERY SINGLE DAY... Don't get me wrong, this site is AMAZING. It has played a huge role in processing my deconversion experience, finding my new worldview, growing in confidence in what I believe and why, finding freedom from all of the fears Christianity had gripped me with. Everyday for nearly 3 years, I signed on - eager to hear another extimony, hoping people shared their thoughts about the issues I was facing - and they did. I had to RE-HASH everything over and over to deprogram myself from all of the indoctrination and to get over the fear. I needed to be SURE that I was on the right path. I'm sure now =) I've reached a really fantastic place in my mind - I have peace. I love the person I am now so much more than 4 years ago when I was still a Christian. Honestly, I was an anxious, chauvinistic, self-righteous, judgmental, authoritarian who preached grace and had very little... I have peace as an agnostic. NOT having all of the answers is a much lighter load to bear than claiming to know them all and having to square reality with my “certainty”. I live now in the present - eager to suck every drop of joy and goodness from each experience - whether that is a conversation with my wife, helping one of my patients, or taking my oldest daughter out for a plate of her favorite Vietnamese noodles (like I did tonight) and watching her gulp them down with sheer delight. I derive deep satisfaction from helping the hurting – supporting causes that improve the lives of orphans throughout the world, etc. I love getting to look at amazing creatures and just marvel at how they came to be. I don’t have to feel confused about why God created them with defense and attack structures if they were just all vegetarian. And it doesn’t cause me anxiety when their evolutionary relatedness is apparent. I can just appreciate it! I used to feel the burden of trying to make it all make sense with my worldview… I love not having to used convoluted explanations to defend the Christian worldview to my daughters. I am so proud of them for their bright, curious minds and I am thrilled to no longer be squashing their precious curiosity with “the truth” that I’ve already arrived at. Facing the coming death of my wife’s mother (she’s in her final weeks of life), my oldest asked me, “Why would God make us so that we die?”. Great frickin’ question! Four years ago, I would have said, “he made us to live forever, but we sinned, and the punishment for sinning is that we die.” Now, I can say “That’s a GREAT question. I don’t know. What I do know is that death is a normal part of life and not something to be afraid of. Flowers die and animals die. What death makes me do is focus on how precious each day is and live it to the fullest!” [I would like to tell her why her great question is actually evidence against God’s goodness/existence, but I’ve agreed with my wife not to go there…]. FINALLY, my marriage is beginning to heal from the ways that Christianity has screwed it up, bigtime. IF you take the Bible literally, like I did, verses like these absolutely WILL impact how you view your wife: “3 But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.” And “9 Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man.” And “…For this is how the holy women of the past adorned themselves. They put their hope in God and were subject to their husbands, just as Sarah obeyed Abraham and called him lord.” And “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.” Is it any wonder that my wife resented me for treating her like someone who needed to be under my authority/headship? Who should “obey” me just like Sarah obeyed her husband?? After all, that is how “holy women” acted… The irony is that most modern, educated women do NOT want to be treated this way, even if they revere a text that says they should. Pity the fool (aka ME) who tried to live that out. Finally, though, we are seeing healing. My wife is beginning to revive – to define her own identity as distinct from me – which is so healthy. We are no longer “complementarian” in our marriage, but “Egalitarian”. And it is great. I don’t spank my girls any more – haven’t in four years. Nor do I want to. (OK, maybe once in a while it’s tempting when they’re being total punks…=)). But now it is completely offensive to me and just plain wrong. And I feel awesome about my position on that. I spent 3 years being afraid of my old church friends “finding out” about me… especially because it would get back to my wife’s brother and cause chaos in the family… well now, most of the friendships have dwindled to nothing anyway – and I no longer care who finds out what. I’m not afraid any more of what I believe and why. Fundamentalist belief is so much like a computer virus – it hogs all of your system resources to the point that the computer can barely function. Well, when a mind is preoccupied with constantly trying to make a round world fit into a square worldview-hole, constantly feeling guilty about normal behaviors and short-comings, always wondering if your faith is genuine enough, if you’ve given away enough, if you’ve shared the gospel enough… then that mind is not free to run like it’s supposed to – to live, to work, to love, to experience, to share… Now the virus has been removed and my computer runs fast and free… And as I’ve come out “the other side” of this deconversion process, my existence is no longer defined by the struggle / the processs / the sorting-things-out. I’m actually living my life now on the other side. I suppose this site is much like a rehab facility for substance abuse: you should come and stay while you are sick, get the treatment you need, then get out and live a meaningful life. Some people will stay back as volunteers and help the newly-sick. Some will relapse and show up every now and again. And some will just ride into the sunset. I’m not sure which one I’ll be, but I’m pretty sure I’ve completed my treatment program. =)
  3. 20 points
    You won't be around here very long before you hear people refer to deconversion as a process, rather than an event. It hardly needs saying that making the transition from being a True Christian to being an Ex-Christian does not happen overnight. Looking back at my own deconversion journey so far, and learning about the similar journeys taken by others among us, as well as seeing new members show up here "dripping wet" and frightened or in shock at realizing that they are in fact on the way to being Ex-Christians, I wanted to share why I think it is so important to "complete" the deconversion process, and also to show you - if you are new to this - some of what you can expect as you go through it for yourself. Getting stuck in the deconversion process is not a happy situation to be in. You have already seen some of the problems with Christianity, with the Bible, or the supposedly all-loving, all-powerful God that it serves. That's why you came to this place. But you may also be racked with fear: fear of Hell or the fear of getting it wrong, fear of living without a Heavenly Father, without a god-given moral law. That fear can keep you from moving forward and leaving Christianity behind you. It can dominate you, paralyze you, make you miserable. Yet you can't go back either because, deep down, you know it's not true. We who have already taken the journey can assure you that it does get better as you continue onward. Our archives probably contain many records of such journeys, but I wanted to point out one testimonial that was shared recently by one of our newer members, DarkBishop. I hope you will read his post before continuing... DarkBishop's experience highlights two things that happen in the later stages of deconversion: The feeling that you have reached a 'Point of No Return' with regard to Christianity. Experiencing the benefits of living without religious dogma or theology. A successful deconversion means that at some point you realize there is absolutely no going back to Christianity. You realize that you have seen enough, that you couldn't possibly believe it again even if you wanted to. It's not a case of God "changing the locks" when you leave the house, it's more a matter of realizing that faith is not a sound guide to what is true. Christians have it, Jews have it, Muslims have it. You once were sure the Muslims and Jews were mistaken, now you realize the Christians are too. Some people, early in the deconversion process, worry that they will one day realize that they were wrong, that Christianity is actually true, but it's too late to go back. It doesn't work like that though: realizing you're past the point of no return happens when you're convinced, as sure as you can ever be, that it's not true. Dark Bishop shared some of the rewards that appear in this stage of the deconversion process. He says it better than I could, so I hope you read his post above. Does this sound like somebody who has "no purpose in life" as they like to believe about us? It sounds to me like a man who has a renewed purpose, a renewed energy in life, without trying to satisfy an imaginary (and often contradictory) god and a one-size-fits-all-times-and-all-people moral code handed down from the clouds. So if you are early in the deconversion process and you're fearful and unsure, be reassured, the road ahead is often lonely (Dark Bishop also talks about the challenges of being an Ex-Christian in a world of believers) but it does get better and you can reach that point of confidence, joy and peace. So how do you get to that point? Some of it is just the passage of time. But there is plenty of help available here in this community. Old and new discussion topics, lots of testimonials from various stages of the journey, suggestions for books to read, blogs and podcasts to follow. When you first hang out among us unbelievers, the talk may sometimes seem foreign to your ears, used as you are to being immersed in Christianity, but a funny thing happens over time: there comes a point when you realize that it is the Christians who now sound strange and rather nonsensical. Guess what: you're just about there, starting to feel the benefits of the journey you've taken. Soon YOU will be eager to welcome and offer a confident hand up to the new arrivals. Remember, courage is not the absence of fear, it is going forward in spite of your fear. You will get lots of enCOURAGEment from this community! TABA
  4. 19 points
    I have a special moment to share with you all, I hope it makes you proud. As many of you know, I am a bit outspoken and feisty on the forum at times. I don't mind throwing "fuck" around or calling people out. It may surprise you to know that I'm not outspoken about religion in my personal life, I usually just shutup and think snarky things to myself. On Saturday evening, I let the snark show and it was pure beauty incarnate. Allow me to give you the details. I had a headache, but went to my sister's birthday dinner anyway. The whole table knew I had a headache, because I was impatient for the bread to come out so I could have food on my stomach for the advil. Towards the end of the meal, as we were all preparing to leave, my mother asked how my head was feeling. I said it felt a lot better and she said, "I prayed for you. It was Jesus." Mind you, this was not an audible prayer, she could have just as easily not said she prayed if my head still hurt. Nonetheless, she was completely serious. I, chuckling good naturedly, said 'I wonder how Jesus would have done without the advil!" And then I just moved on before she could sass me. She said nothing about it to me later. For many of you, this may not seem like much. I assure you, it was a huge step for me. I asserted myself to the family who has not yet had the "I am agnostic" talk yet. I think there is an unspoken understanding of where I am, but there is not much discussion about it and there has not been a line drawn in the sand. I put up with religious talk all day long and I am extremely proud of my retort. Cheers!!
  5. 18 points
    It was 7 years ago tonight that I made my very first post on Ex-c. Sweet mossy, I was a mess that night. I guess you could say I was fantasizing how to get off this earth. Yep. My whole life was a mess....again. And now, no god to pray to this time. That was 2010. You guys don't know the whole story because some things ya just can't tell on a forum. Ex-c saved me. Not god. You guys. You gals. For the first time in my life, I started to feel sane. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart. And Merry whatever you are celebrating this year. The very best to each and every one of you. I truly luv you guys. Let's keep helping each other through this journey. It's a real, hard serious road for some and that's what this site is really about. (((hugs)))
  6. 18 points
    religion is evil... it's so evil I can hardly find words to describe it's vileness... My deconversion, if you will, seems to have gone in a spiral... in steps. For a very long time even after I rejected christianity I clung to my various conceptions of god, or whatever—fuck—I don't even know what to call it anymore. I've studied and practiced various forms of theism.. from pantheistic witchcraft to Rosicrucianism, to Pentecostal, to... well, let's just say I've been to a lot of different branches of this faith thing, always thinking, nay believing, deep down that somehow there must be a loving force and if so, I can find it... call it god for lack of a better descriptor. I'm a seeker... it's my nature... but what I really desired was truth.(still do) The truth is I'm an evolved and intelligent and MORAL being. I've always been this, even as a child—there isn't a time when I can remember being different... I wasn't raised in religion, and even at 6 or 7 I remember being concerned about others and CARING about the world. I was BORN THIS WAY. I've done a lot of reading, here and elsewhere, I've watched video's, studied history, science and well... done my best to be well-informed and use the reasoning abilities I was born with, and I'm fucking pissed off. Because I've come to the conclusion that religion is evil. It's evil and it exploits human nature and needs in the worst ways possible, It negates reason, morality and humanity. This is not even close to the rage I am experiencing...or the thousand reasons why and how I have come to this conclusion... and expressing it is hard. Just getting over the hurdle of not being 'tolerant' and 'understanding' and 'accepting of others views' is like climbing Mount Everest... being afraid to 'offend'..etc.. blah blah blah... fuck it all because this is a truism... "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing. " - Edmund Burke I think about Victor Frankl's, "The Search for Meaning" and many other books I've read that illustrate the true nobility that humans are capable of and I can see that religion negates all of that—makes it worthless, and teaches that we are less than, NO, REQUIRES that people are less than they can be. How much more despicable than, "without god you can do nothing" can anything be? It devalues people, it devalues people and makes it possible for atrocity. Religion requires that we see ourselves and especially others as not worthy... of anything, much less compassion or kindness. If our own creator can't accept us as we are... And christians are upset to think we are related to chimpanzee's, because they believe it devalues them? Their own book devalues them—the entire concept makes us less worthy than any animal.. animals are innocent! But we are the scum of the earth, and by making us believe that we become so incredibly gullible that we will do ANYTHING to relieve that sense of vulnerability and worthlessness, whether that's believing lies, or killing others... anything. It's an untenable psychic state. Throw in a good dose of fear (but make us believe we deserve it) and that's it folks... wrap it up.. you just created a battered woman out the majority of the human race. FUCK THAT! and Religion REQUIRES violence. Seriously... what is more abhorrent than blood sacrifice of the blameless? It requires that we accept this concept as fucking holy? What the hell is holy about being joyful that innocent blood is shed to keep you from taking personal responsibility? The whole concept is... makes me nauseous. I can see now why the religious are so damn quick to be violent—it's ingrained in their very matrix of how they see reality. How can they be peaceful when their 'creator' in who's image they are, (think about it) is such a violent, bloodthirsty monster? And i don't give two flying fucks if it's fundamentalism or moderate belief because in the end it's the same damn thing... if you really don't believe the world and humanity is intrinsically worthy, or stand against religious batshit crazyness then you ENABLE the worst of you and you are culpable. Religion, by it's very nature, opens the way for people to exploit and abuse others. Interpretation, vague texts, emotional understanding, giving the morally immature a parent figure so they don't have to grow up, feeding people's need for acceptance and society and approval, setting up systems where the immoral can whitewash their crap with 'righteousness'. Taking advantage of the simple human need to be loved, who does that? I'm a parent... of a rebellious teenager I might add... do I ever look at her, even in her worst moments (and boy oh boy, she can dish it out sometimes) and wish her any harm... EVER? The opposite is true... I want nothing for her EXCEPT the very highest happiness, wonderful life and self-fulfillment possible. If she rejects my 'way' would I disown her? never. God is love? Not from where I stand. And the evidence is all around... in spades. AND... If there is a different god, a loving god, why would it hide from me? I call bollocks. Fuck faith and the horse it rode in on. Absurdities. Religion makes people unbelievably stupid, mentally unbalanced, vengeful, arrogant and morally bankrupt. Yet hides behind this 'light and love' clothing. It's the very definition of passive-aggressiveness, malignant narcissism, and delusional projection. This particular wave of my enlightenment was precipitated by the muslim violence over that stupid ass movie (trailer actually) that was made by another group of religious nutjobs who think they have the truth... I'm sick of it. It's UNACCEPTABLE. Religion is a plague on mankind. A mental and moral social disease.. I'm thoroughly convinced now. I am not an atheist anymore... I am firmly an anti-theist. I believe that religion should be fought, torn down, whatever... with all the strength we have. sorry i went all over the place... it's hard to organize it all... because it's a whole lot of everything and it affects every single person on this planet. There is no longer anything that can convince me there is anything good about it.
  7. 18 points
    Hi, all. This is my first time posting my very own topic, and I apologize if this sort of story is old hat. Thanks for reading my cathartic word jumble! I grew up in a very conservative Baptist church in the south. Went to youth group and all the Christian summer camps, memorized all the verses and did all the mission trips. Won lots of youth group awards. I mean, I was an obsessive student at school, why wouldn't I be one at church too? I did my devotionals almost every day, prayed, and even tried to model my high school dating relationships on "Biblical principles." I went away to a Christian-based college at 18 where everyone had to take Old and New Testament survey classes. This is where everything started to fall apart. My professors, though Christians, had studied Greek and Hebrew and textual criticism and wanted us to look at the Bible academically. I was so blown away by the two creation stories, the contradictory histories in Joshua and Judges and between the Gospels, and all the other problematic aspects of the Bible that I decided to become a Religion major just so I could better understand them. I mellowed out in my theology, started reading the Bible as a source of social justice and felt I was "called" to get people to stop being such fundamentalist jerks. I learned Hebrew and Greek, and took theology and philosophy classes. I worked as a youth leader for 2 summers at a Baptist church (despite my female-ness and nose ring!) and tried to teach the kids to think critically about the text and to just be really good to people. During all this time my church attendance was pretty sporadic. I didn't really feel the need for any church fellowship when I was taking so many religion classes with awesome people. After college I got into the graduate religion department at a prestigious American university to study the Hebrew bible. The divinity school there was multi-religion and extremely ecumenical. I met and became friends with Jews, Humanists, Muslims, and a myriad of adherents to various Christian denominations. I decided to become Episcopalian because they seemed the most social justice oriented and allowed gay people and women to be priests. I thought this was my happy medium. But as I delved deeper into the textual study of the Hebrew Bible, I realized that the text was more than just a little problematic. I mean, there are MULTIPLE Hebrew words whose meanings we can only guess at! I took a class studying and translating the Dead Sea Scrolls and realized, "Damn, we really don't know what a lot of this actually says." I took classes doing feminist and womanist and LGBT and Liberation interpretations of the text, but still the Bible taunted me with its dickishness. It often took so much work to make the Bible not say terrible things. But I couldn't stand the thought of it saying terrible things! Over time, I found myself both more and more troubled by the concept of God and at the same time just not caring any more. It was truly exhausting to try to stick up for God/Jesus when the things they did seemed pretty indefensible. Eventually I stopped going to church at all and told myself that I just was taking a break, and that I would consider myself "not religious" for a bit. Then two thoughts came to my mind. 1) How can I believe in a God who is less kind and just than humans are? and 2) If I'm having to work this hard to defend the concept of God and Christianity and to suspend this belief in my mind, maybe this belief isn't worth having. Despite thinking these things I still did not consider myself an atheist or an agnostic, just really not religious. A few weeks ago I visited my parents in the south. I went with them to church and it was one of the most depressing things I experienced in a long time. All these truly kind people believing truly stupid and cruel things. When I got back from the trip I realized that I was more than "not religious," I was an agnostic/atheist (still researching to find where I actually fit). And now I am more pissed than ever. HOW ON EARTH can these "pastors" and "priests" who actually studied the text stand there and lie to their congregations every week? I give the congregations more of a pass, but if you have studied the actual language of the Bible and still believe it to be infallible, you are an idiot and a liar. I can't deal with it. And now I sit and simmer as my Facebook is constantly populated with idiotic Christian sayings and verses and ideals. I am so angry. But I don't want to be. So here I am to blow off steam and read other Ex-Christians' experiences and to rebuild my philosophy for living. If you've made it to the end, you are a trooper. So thanks.
  8. 17 points
    If someone told me that I would be on this website posting about de-converting from Christianity, I would have said laughed at the idea. Then probably started praying for that person to come to Jesus and for him to lift the veil from their eyes so that they could come to the truth. My name is Aaron, and I’m an ex-Christian lol! Is this what an AA meeting is like? This is awesome. I feel like I’m 16 again, rebelling against the machine all over again. I became a Christian when I was 18 years old. I attended a very loving church with an extremely empathetic pastor. For the first 4 years or so of my conversion I was extremely happy and very involved in my faith. I held bible studies, witnessed to many people, and even led some close friends to Christ during that time. I was forced to attend Methodist services as a kid with my mom but I hated it. When I became a “born again” believer it was a huge event in my life. I experienced a radical change and stopped using illicit drugs and partying and improved my grades enough to graduate high school. I was basically a kid who felt very lost and alone and Jesus gave me something I didn’t have before. I was what you would call an “on fire” Christian. I ate this stuff up. I was like a sponge. For the first few months after I became a Christian I read the Bible for at least 4 hours a day. Sometimes as much as 6-8 hours. I loved going to church. Sunday, Sunday night, Wednesday etc. If church was open, I was there. Anyway, at 22 I joined the Marine Coprs as an infantryman. I just recently got out after 14 years. While I was a Marine I went to Iraq, Kuwait, Philippines, Japan, Australia, Afghanistan, just about everywhere I guess. After I joined the Marines, or even slightly before, I was in a “backslide” as some call it. I was very much a believer but I no longer was “on fire.” I basically just felt guilty all the time. Through the years, I was up and down in my faith. Always chasing those early days of my faith when I felt so good about everything. So sure of my salvation. My first church I got saved in was a Baptist Church in Texas. It would be considered more of a non denominational church though. They had a band and always made alter calls at the end of service. That sort of thing. I tried to find that in California but I never did. The closest thing was Calvary Chapel. But I never really felt connected to a church like I did the first one. Through the years of bible study, I found numerous contradictions in the Bible. I wasn’t researching them online. I was finding them in my own. Very early on this happened. The first one I remember or one of the first ones was Judas’ death. Another one was conflicting accounts of the same story of David counting the army in Samuel and Chronicles. Actually there were several contradictions I found in Chronicles where numbers and names were off. I went to the pastor and he explained them I’m sure the same way you’ve probably heard yourself if you’ve went to someone for clarity about scripture. So then I began reading apologetics. Case For Christ etc. I was always searching for more answers. But I always had that fear of finding out things I really didn’t want to know. I couldn’t even fathom this not being real because of the big conversion experience I had. But my questions got deeper and deeper over the years as I got older. Especially into my 30s. Understand that I converted my wife, her brother, and her sister. I was as serious and strong a believer as anyone I know. And I felt more versed in the Bible than most as well. So these were serious problems I was having in my mind. Meanwhile I also cannot live it anymore. I was a Marine. I was a part of a warrior culture in every sense. I was just having internal conflict in general after a while with all of it. My self esteem was really suffering because of the unrelenting guilt. God it was bad. I felt guilty all the time. I stated having serious issues on my Iraq deployment. My platoon sergeant was killed and I knew he was not a Christian. He was a good dude and I had a real problem with believing he was in hell. Not just him but the Iraqi civilians that sometimes got caught in the middle and were killed. They were Muslim and didn’t believe in jesus either. And this bothered me. And for years I had all this guilt that we had sent people to hell. Fast forward to this past year. I heard about the Epic of Gilgamesh and then I watched a video or series of videos on YouTube one night. My mind was blown. Absolutely blown away. I had finally started to thoroughly research non religious sources for all these questions I had had. I was a sponge all over again. Day and night reading. Mind blown over and over. This was all fake? I had to reevaluate everything I had ever known. I had this strong feeling that I had been in this system of control. The more I researched the more I was floored. Literally. For about a week I was depressed. I was extremely disturbed at all I had learned. Because I was no longer trying to spiritualize the Bible or the contradictions. What am I now? Atheist? That one didn’t fit for me. I knew I believed in the concept of a higher being, god, the universe or whatever you want to call “it.” I just didn’t even know what that even meant. I definitely had zero belief in the god of the Bible and had zero interest in religion. After about a week I came to the realization that I just didn’t have all the answers and that was ok. I accept it. That’s when I had a strong feeling that everything was ok. And I became very excited about living a new life at 37. It’s like I got re-saved. Or the realization that I was never lost. I found myself again so to speak. And it was and still is amazing. I absolutely love life now. I’m very interested in hearing others stories and what they believe. Naturally because before I had all the answers and thought I had the truth. Now I’m very open. I’ll never go to another religion but I feel very spiritual (not sure if that’s the right word) in the sense that I just feel connected to everything and everyone. Before it was such a “us vs them” mentality. I think that’s why I feel that way. I don’t pray anymore but I found that taking to myself is still a positive thing. I’m just so excited about life now and for my family. I even called off a divorce and got my marriage back on track. I’ve so much enjoyed learning subjects that I was previously afraid to learn about. I’ve really enjoyed reading Allan Watts and others like him. But I’ve also enjoyed hearing atheists lecture and agnostics. I’m not sure what I would classify myself as now (maybe a deist?) and not sure it even matters. In fact it doesn’t. That’s the beauty of life for me now. I'm living it on my terms without religion! Ugh! What a drag that life was. So free to be out of it. Never looking back. Super excited to be here and happy to be apart of this community. Proud EX-christian!
  9. 16 points
    In the matrix when Morpheus is ready to take Neo out of the matrix he offers him a choice. He holds two pills out front of him and says: "You take the blue pill, the story ends. You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes." We here at EXCHRISTIAN have at some point for whatever reason taken that red pill. I've been trying to keep up with the posts of other new comers and all have mixed emotions. Some are elated, some are depressed, and some have gone as far as to wish they could return to the old life that they new. That's the bitter sweet nature of the red pill. In the post by @skysoar15 in rants and replies skysoar points out that Athiests and agnostics seem to be a minority in the deep south, which is also where I am. It turns out to be a lonely life at times. Me personally I have to watch what I say around my wife as she is still a believer. Most of my family are believers especially my parents. So telling them isn't really an option. When your whole life has been established around the belief that there is a bible God and all of a sudden that foundation is no longer there, it becomes difficult to keep a habitable balance with everyone around you. For lack of a better word, we have become the outcasts. As skysoar said. When we were Christians we thought the world was against us, that we were fighting the good fight of faith, and that we had a higher purpose. Now that higher purpose has turned out to have been mostly a waste of time. I'm reminded of cypher on the matrix who made a deal with agent Smith so he could return to the matrix. Relating that to our own lives, it may seem at times like it would be so much better to just go back, to believe again. But the problem lies in the fact that the red pill completely changes your concept of reality. Once you've come to the knowledge that we have here, that we were fed horse shit our whole lives, the rabbit hole does go deeper. You find out how the bible really came to be, you start seeing the lies for what they are, and there is no going back from that. I mean sure if I really wanted to I could play church and go through the motions. But to what end? It would just be pointless now. But here's the sweet part of this. We know the truth. Or at least we know that the bible is not a true account of God as we were lead to believe. We can look at life with knew eyes and arrange our priorities to what really does matter. And that is our personal happiness and that of those we love. I am a strong supporter of our Constitution in america. We have certain rights as Americans. And we have certain rights as humans. The bible takes some of those rights away and now now we are free. The bible is filled with restrictions, rules, and oppressive ideals. We no longer have to live under that. There is no "devil" making us do "bad" things. There is no "god" watching us, making sure we don't break his rules so he can happily throw us in the fire when he feels frisky and comes back. We are the masters of our own reality now. This in my opinion is worth it. I didn't know that day when I was searching for proof to show my son that the bible was truthful, that I was actually about to pop the red pill into my mouth and swallow. I know my life will continue to change as a result of it. But I feel emboldened now. I feel a knew since of purpose arising. Far more so than I have the past few years while my faith was faltering. My family is first and foremost in my life now, not some imaginary diety. And I follow a close second. I have the rest of my life to live and I plan to make every moment I can of that life mean something to my family and myself. I'm going to make my mark on the people I love. Not Christs mark. I don't need to be someone else, I only need to be me. There won't be anyone at my funeral that says that I lived the life of Christ. But they will say that he was a good man, and I am better for having known him and have had him in my life. It is truly honorable when a man or woman makes that type of impression on those around them and I really hope I do. I hope this little spill encourages other new comers to Ex-C. I know it may seem rough now but eventually the storm will pass. We are here to help in any way we can. Time heals all wounds, Even this one. You may not know it but you have now joined an elite group of individuals. We have all been indoctrinated, brainwashed, and in some cases abused by religious theology. But we are overcomers. We have looked God and The Devil both in the face and called BULLSHIT! You are EXCHRISTIAN. Be proud! sincerely, Dark Bishop
  10. 16 points
    Hi, ex-c fam! Wanted to let everyone know that I was recently involved in a car accident where I fractured my skull, got myself a couple concussions, a subdural hemotoma, broken capillaries in my eye.....and I'm alive. I'm okay. I'm here, been healing for about 6 weeks now. And with all the "God has saved you," "what a MIRACLE," "God had his hand on you," "I've covered you in prayer," yada yada yada. No, I didn't see Jesus. No, I didn't experience some miraculous epiphany that I've been saved from my "sins." No, he did not use this to bring me back to him. No, he does not have some kind of plan that involves using a severe brain injury to reclaim my faith. I have a shit ton of medical bills now, thanks for that, Lord. I just wanted to let you all know that I'm okay, still kicking, and more determined to see the reality of life as it is than ever before. I can't believe I ever fell for that shit.
  11. 16 points
    Hi, all! Sorry if this isn't the best place to post this topic. Mods, feel free to move it. I promise I'll get around to an ex-timony, when it feels right. As for now, I just wanted to let everyone know that things are going pretty decent between Mr. ag_NO_stic and I regarding our faith differences. He is "unsure" to the point that he's not actively calling himself a Christian. Now he will still resist me on many points, but I have been REALLY making myself keep my opinions and rants to myself, not challenging him on belief stuff. When it does occasionally come up, I've been practicing and forcing self-discipline and not reacting out of emotion. This has done wonders! I think he also sees how content I am, as I've calmed with time, and how my new "beliefs" are not going anywhere. It helped in my case that he has never really been "up to fundamentalist" standards with his faith, his parents did NOT raise him like me so he doesn't have some of the wounds.....he doesn't understand some of my bitterness. But things are looking up as of now, fingers crossed! I just wanted to post this for those who know what's been going on with me and the husband, as well as give some encouragement to those with believing spouses. Show them the "fruits of the spirit" which ironically is just coming from yourself because you are in control of your actions. A calm and rational demeanor paired with facts/logic and not seeking out an argument all the time really has helped over time. He has also had some time to adjust to the changes and can see that I am still me, without being a pious asshole. I even got him to listen to little bit of Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens and he chuckled a couple times, so it can't be long now! Cheers!
  12. 15 points
    It is with great sadness to learn of Marks' death this morning..... better known to us as BAA. Today most people refer to the internet and boards like these as if they weren't 'real' life. But the internet and boards like Ex-c are real life for many of us. It is part of our real life. And we get to know people in this internet world. And they become our friends. And it was part of BAAs' real life. For many, many years, people had no choice but to write long letters to each other and those letters were how people stayed in love.... and in touch with each other. Many times (back in my day) you could find a 'penpal' and write for years and never meet them in real life. We may have never met Mark/BAA in RL but he was our friend. BAA has written and left us many letters on this board. He was a relentless teacher and loved helping us understand the cosmos. He has helped me and many others on this board. I am shocked this morning. And I am very sad. I hope his atoms will become part of the sun. That way, he can continue to help us stay warm and comforted like he did in his posts. That's how I am going to try and remember him. Every time I see the sun or feel its warmth, I will take a moment to say, 'Thank you' BAA, for everything you taught me. We will miss you very much in our community. A person that departs from this earth never truly leaves, for they are still alive in our hearts and minds...it is through us that they live on. Please accept my condolences that BAA will not be forgotten. I wish his whole family much comfort and love as they grieve during these difficult days. Rest in Peace my friend.
  13. 15 points
    Okay, folks.... It's time to come clean. I've had an extremely hard time being honest about something, but I've decided that now is the time to let it all out. My father was a respected minister of a huge church with hundreds of faithful members. He authored a number of Christian books, and he won many awards and commendations for his "service" to the Lord. The only problem with all of this is that he turned out to be a child molesting rapist... He molested my little sister for a solid five years before she finally got the courage to come out and tell all of us what had been going on. I could probably write volumes about how this experience has changed me, shattered my worldview, messed me up on a personal level, and caused me to lose my faith completely. But, I'm not going to. All I'm going to say is that God sure does have a "funny" way of choosing the people who he wants to use to spread his wonderful message. My dad led hundreds of people to the Lord (salvation), and he influenced hundreds more to give their day to day lives over to Christ (service, etc.). The whole time he was a sick freak of nature who was using his charisma, charm, and his ability to lead people in a church setting for the purpose of making money and building an empire. After he was exposed, it didn't take long for me to give Jesus a big "fuck you." However, it actually took me many years to let go of my Christian faith completely. What can I say? When you've been brainwashed and programmed to believe something is true, it is nearly impossible to reprogram yourself overnight no matter how badly you might want to or feel compelled to. In other words, I didn't immediately lose my faith because I was mad at the church or my father, even though I was heartbroken and furious to the point of rage. However, those events are what caused me to take a few steps back and open my eyes to take a closer look at everything I had been raised to believe in. Once I started asking the really tough questions, the doubts started pouring in like a flood, and eventually, after years of soul searching, prayer, anguish, and research, I was forced to let all of it go. I eventually ended up taking a number of history courses in college that really opened my eyes to the fact that the Bible is not an academically reliable source of history, and after coming to that realization, it was so much easier for me to overcome the fears that I had been silently harboring about losing my faith and going to hell. Long story short, when a person has been brainwashed to believe that Jesus is completely in control of every aspect of life, reality, and the world in general, it is extremely hard for that person to ever completely wake up on his or her own without a little bit of outside help. Had I not had my eyes violently pried open via tragedy, I'm not sure that I would have ever fully caught on to the charade that is known as Christianity. So, for anyone out there who might be reading this, please remember that not everything is as it seems. The man or woman you look up to the most could be a monster, and the faith you cling so dearly to could be nothing more than a total sham. I sincerely hope none of you ever have to go through what my family and I have been through... We went to hell and back, and it wasn't pretty. Please take it from someone who has experienced a dark side of reality that few people ever come into contact with. Christianity, the church, and the Bible are nothing more than tools of mind control that were created for the sole purpose of manipulating the masses. There is nothing sacred and holy about any of it. If the God of the Bible really does exist, why in the hell would he choose someone as sick as my father to do "his will?" If Jesus truly does exist, why would he allow one of his faithful servants (my father) to rape his own daughter repeatedly in his "temple?" The fact of the matter is that the God of the Bible does not and never has existed. He is a man-made fabrication, and he is only kept alive and relevant by people like you and me who refuse to let go of the fantasy. I really don't have anything else to say about this... The next time you want to defend the church or the Bible, just remember that you are defending an institution that has been a safe refuge for not only my father, but thousands of others like him. Just look into the history of Catholic priests who have molested their tenants if you don't believe me. Yeah, the God of the Bible is awesome, right? Give me a fucking break.... smh :/
  14. 14 points
    I remember the first time I stumbled onto this website. I was deep in ministry, saving souls for Christ, and left the site in prayer for the souls of all those who’d turned away. Today, after 30 years of devotion to the faith I proclaimed as a kindergartner, I revealed to my husband of 11 years that I’m no longer a Christian. This five-year deconversion comes as the biggest part of a life change I’m going through. Personality-wise, nothing has changed, but as far as beliefs go, everything has. It’s challenging and unnerving, but necessary. My husband, who’s been in ministry for several years, who I built a life with on the foundation of Christianity, was more understanding than I’d anticipated. I’ll spare the details for now, but man, I don’t really know how we can make this work. Anyhoo, I’m glad this space exists, as opposed to a few years ago, when I wished it didn’t. Irony.
  15. 14 points
    My grandma died last weekend at age 96, one month shy of her 97th birthday. She left instructions that she didn't want a funeral saying that as she had outlived all of her friends and most of her family (my dad being her sole surviving child) so she wished to be cremated and have her ashes added to my grandads in the veterans cemetery. She made sure to state that she wanted no priests, no prayers and none of her money to go to the church. She was born and raised a Catholic but turned against them when her sister had a still born baby and the church said as it was unbaptised and born into sin it couldn't be buried on church grounds. There was no support just rejection and the whole family broke ties with the Catholic Church most switching to Anglican or deist beliefs. My grandad was anti church but wouldn't talk about his belief so I don't know if he was deist or atheist. He said that his dad was a vicious abusive man who quoted the bible to justify his violence (spare the rod, spoil the child), he literally had religion beaten out of him. What really amazed me about her life is the massive amount of change she saw occur. Born in 1922 she was a teenager during WW2, married my grandad when he returned from the campaign in Egypt and had my dad in 1945. In her lifetime there has been cars, planes, TV, computers, phones, even electricity itself. The nearest supermarket was a 5km bicycle ride and she had to buy lamp oil to keep the home lit as they didn't get electricity connected until the early 30s. International travel was primarily by slow boats, with air travel only becoming available after WW2 but with very limited runs and high prices. As far as I know she never travelled outside of NZ. She lived through the depression, WW2, Korean and Vietnam wars, was married for 66 years with 2 children, 4 grandchildren and lived long enough to meet my daughter, her great grandchild. Sadly my daughter was too young to remember the meeting but I gave her my grandmas name Kathleen as her middle name. A full happy life through some of the worlds years of turmoil. A long life of joy without religion.
  16. 14 points
    Hello all! As I’m new to Ex-C, I thought I would take a moment to introduce myself and give a little background on how I stumbled upon this community. I grew up as a Roman Catholic in the Bible belt. Ironically, combining my geographical location with my belief system in a way isolated me from the evangelical Christians that inhabit much of the South. Catholics are a minority where I’m from and I would often receive questions such as “Catholics are Christians, right?” or “But, don’t you worship Mary?” This isolation in turn drove me to take refuge in Catholic communities my whole life, which began to determine who most of my friends became. But I digress: this is not a story of being Catholic, but one of becoming a non-believer. I added this anecdotal history merely to show that I am used to the feeling of being isolated when it comes to religion. So to begin...fast forward to the end of high school, where I first learned about a branch of thought that seemed terrifying: philosophy. Philosophy was the catalyst for my deconversion by offering me viewpoints differing from my own and forcing me to expand my mind and think critically rather than rely on the thoughts of others. I began to experience doubts about God, and strove towards “proofs” for God to justify my beliefs. Ultimately, all of these proofs failed when I critically examined the arguments they tried to uphold (ontological, cosmological, teleological, moral--I guess). Upon realizing this, the authenticity of the Bible was called into question and I began to recognize its flaws. Then I noticed extreme hypocrisy within the (mostly Catholic) Christians I called my friends; they would glorify teachings of love while doling out hate through much of their wider social discourse. Finally, I began to research the beginnings of religion and started to learn about the psychological tactics religions use to perpetuate indoctrination in order to gain followers. With this last point, the veil came away from my eyes and I finally saw truth. The moment of me lifting the veil from my eyes was recent—as in, within the past month, though the journey to this point has been several years. Now, I believe we live in a godless universe. (Most) everyone else I know believes the opposite. I am at odds with most of the people I love and trust and am unsure how to express these feelings. Cue the wonderful thing called the Internet, and my search finding other Christians who have deconverted. That was when I found Ex-C, this wonderful community full of resources and support for anyone who has or currently is undergoing this painful transformation of beliefs and ideals. I am so happy to be here and am willing to learn and listen and grow in my experience!
  17. 14 points
    Here is my letter of what I would say to God. Thanks for reading. I admire each and every one of you for questioning things that were once the foundation of your life. I admire your courage. That couage serves a person very well in life. Dear God, I want so much to believe in you. Whenever something good, yet unexpected happens to me, I want to think it was you who was behind it. I want to think it was you behind setting up me and my boyfriend. I want to think it was you who led me to be bapized. I want to believe it was you there who helped me find the resources I needed to fight my depression. I want to believe that you are there in my suffering. I want to believe you are there to hold me when I am sick. I want to believe you are using physical sickness to help slow down my life and bring me closer to you. When I see something beautiful in the world, I want to believe it was you who created it. When I step inside a beautiful church, I want to believe you are waiting for me there inside it. I want to know you. I want to open a Christian theology book and believe I am unlocking the secrets to a loving creator of the universe. I want to believe that you are the source of all truth, morality, and goodness. I really admire the faith of the person who told me what it meant to be a Christian. I want to emulate his simple, childlike trust in you. I can’t though. I can’t believe anymore and it absolutely breaks my heart. It leaves me with a deep emptiness inside. I can’t believe in hell. I can’t believe that you, a loving God, would send people to such a terrible place just for having the wrong religion or making a wrong decision in their life. I can’t believe that you would send my mom to hell to burn forever, simply for being an agnostic. I can’t believe that you would send the suffering here on earth to suffer more in another eternity. I can’t believe that someone as privileged as myself would hear about you and go to heaven- …but someone on the other side of the world who is without food and happens to be Islam would burn in hell. I can’t believe you would allow 27 million people to be slaves and then send them to hell if they never heard your name. I can’t believe you would answer my prayers to find a nice boyfriend or book on depression and let someone else’s prayers for food to survive, or basic human dignity and freedom to go unanswered. I can’t believe people have used your name to start wars I can’t believe so many Christians persecute homosexuals when what they do is in love and harms absolutely no one. I can’t believe the false pride of your followers. Not all of them are like this but some of them have been the most nasty, judgemenal people I have ever met. I can’t believe they would use your name to justify their own superiority. I can’t believe churches tell us so often not to do silly things like get drunk or have pre-marital sex, yet do so little to help hurting people in the world. I can’t believe the only evidence for your existence is one small book. The same can be said for many other religions. I can’t picture my mom burning in hell any longer. I couldn’t worship a god who would do something so awful. I can’t believe in you anymore. It brings me so much pain and emptiness, but I have to follow truth. God, if you are there, please reveal yourself. I want to believe that my assumptions about you are mistaken and that you are truly there. I want to believe you are a God of love who cares for all people and would never send anyone to hell. All I hear is silence. All I need is truth. Despite your absence, I still have the beauty of the world around me to see every day. I still can see the dignity and value of every human being- a dignity that is immensely greater now that I don’t believe anyone is “damned”. I still have the people in my life who I love very much. I can still help those oppressed people in the world that you have seemed to be ignoring. I still have my thoughts and a deep curiosity about the world around me. I can still ask questions and devour books by sociologists, psychologists, and philosophers- all trying to make sense of the world. I can enjoy life. I can laugh, I can sing, I can explore new places, new thoughts, new ideas, new experiences. I am so sorry I had to let you go, God. I feel a deep emptiness without you. I realize, however, that the world is beautiful whether you created it or not. There is good in life whether you are behind it or not. Regards, FloridaGirl
  18. 13 points
    Hello, My name is Jerry, I am a closet atheist, and recovering Christian. It isn't that I'm ashamed of being an atheist. I'm proud of myself for realizing the lies that I've been spoon fed over the years, and for coming out of the dark ages. I must remain closeted in fear of losing my family, friends, even my job. You see, my wife is a still a practicing, and enthusiastic, Christian. I must go through the actions and pretend to believe what she does in order to retain my family. As terrible, and deceitful, as that is, it's the life I've created for myself. I first began to question the very existance of a god several years ago. The whole god narative didn't match what I knew to be true from science classes, books, and common scientific theory. The more I learned about the world around me, its history and the history of mankind, through evolution, the more I realized the lies I had been told for almost forty years. I must admit however, it was difficult to give up on god. I was taught that we were nothing without him. I truly believed that without his "guiding hand" my life would spiral out of control. Regardless of my common sense, telling me that it was all a hoax, I was actually relunctant to step away. Then, one day I just stepped away, quit praying, stopped looking for his presence, basically just stopped believing. After two years of being free from religion, at least internally, I'm still fine..and a lot happier. I feel as if I can accomplish great things by myself, and feel free to relish in my achievements. Nothing is the work of an invisible man in the sky. However, it is the work of humanity. I'm glad that I escaped the hand of religion and the hatred it breeds. I am glad to be free from its sexist, abusive demeanor. I'm proud of being wise enough to decipher fact from fiction.
  19. 13 points
    Kia ora (Hi) everyone from New Zealand. I've been devouring the material on this website over the last few nights since I searched Google for "Former Christian Forum"! Thought I'd say thanks for the material, and also how great it is that other people are going through or have gone through similar journeys to me. This post is also somewhat for my own sake to help order my thoughts, keep me accountable for continuing to ask questions, and learn in community, so hi! My name is Sam you can also call me by my handle (Rangi). The brief version of my story is as follows- raised in a Conservative Christina home by two parents and three siblings- had a great, happy childhood and was loved and looked after by my family. Always went to church, went to a Christian university, lived in a Christian hostel etc. My journey of questioning started around this time as I made a close friend who was a very liberal Christian, and we had many great (and friendly) debates where my faith was questioned. I was very black and white in my worldview at the time! A few years later and around 4 years ago I had had enough of Church (the institution), as it was the same every Sunday, nothing really changed in anyone who went, including myself, so I thought "If I'm really a Christian, I should be able to live my faith out authentically without a cheer-leading session every Sunday." Well. after a couple of years of trying to do that and slowly feeling like I was losing this battle and losing myself, I questioned everything layer by layer, all the way back to "Does God exist?". I decided that yes, he did, and rebuilt my faith from there, finding a Church and life/small group that allowed me to throw controversial subjects up for discussion. The result of this was that I regained my faith, but I was different to other Christians- I saw the world as more grey than black and white, and kept asking questions until this year, when I identified with Universalism (scandal!). However, once you decide that there are many roads to God, even if Jesus is the bridge over which these roads go, it's very difficult to reconcile Hell for any reason, so I then came to an impasse. I then had a conversation on a date last week where we both got very deep and discussed our spiritual journeys (she isn't Christian, but has a religious background). I struggled to justify the main tenets of the Christian faith and had to honestly say I really don't know what I believe. This motivated me to resolve this tension that has been going on for the last decade, and so I ended up here, and as a result have been having my mind blown constantly for the last few days. I know I need to take time and work through things, and I know I'll get through this, but man...it's kinda terrifying to have the entire framework on which your life has been based slowly torn away! So yeah, good to meet you all, and thanks in advance for your patience, support and help!
  20. 13 points
    I've been a member of these forums for a few years, mostly just lurking and very occasionally commenting. I've never actually dropped my story in here. Like most white Americans, I was born into christianity. My dad was never what you would call steadfast, or devout, but he claimed to be a Christian and as far as I know, still does. My mother on the other hand, was a christian fundamentalist, through and through. She was fanatic about her faith, and tried to instill that fanaticism in my brother and I. When we were little, it worked. It was easy. Why wouldn’t it be? We were little kids and we believed anything our mother told us. We grew up right in the thick of the satanic panic, and man, that shit had me and my brother terrified. I can remember, very clearly, the fear that any talk about “the devil” invoked at the time. We were afraid of everything. Cartoons, toys, movies, games, you name it. It all had the power of satan behind it. When mom told us the smurfs were satanic because there was magic in the show, we believed her and we became afraid of the smurfs. When she told us He-man was satanic, the same went there, enough that when I would see a He-man toy at a friend’s house, I would be afraid to touch it or even be near it. The same went for Dungeons and Dragons (kind of a given), rock music, MTV, you name it. If someone at church, or on the 700 club, said something was satanic, my mother was all over it, and it was banned from the household. My brother and I saw the movie “E.T” in the theater when we were kids, and of course we loved it. We had the books, the toys, the story cassettes, the stuffed animals, the posters, the t-shirts… E.T. was huge to us. Then one day, I believe in the third grade, it all just went away. I never saw what happened to it all but the murmur about the church was that it had all been burned. When I was four or five years old, we lived in a little trailer park on the outskirts of Casper, Wyoming. My parents had somehow decided to take in a foster child. She was a teenager and her name was Claudia. I’m not sure if it was supposed to be a permanent situation or if she was just staying with us for a while, but the situation was volatile right from the start. Somehow, my mother had become convinced that Claudia was practicing witchcraft. My mom claimed to have seen a demon in the living room, and that Claudia had made the vacuum cleaner move on it’s own. Again, being a small child, I believed all of this without question. I would go on to repeat the stories my mother told me about Claudia, to my friends growing up. At some point, Claudia packed up her things and ran away in the middle of the night. I never did find out what happened to her. Looking back, I feel sorry for her. I have no idea what kind of family situation she came from, or how she ended up in foster care, but to get dropped into our family… that had to be awful. I haven’t thought about her since I was a kid. The rest of my childhood, up until high school, was a parade of incidents like this. Not knowing anything any different, I never really thought much about it all. It was the world I knew. Demons, witches and satanists were every where. The devil was constantly trying to influence us, and he had followers sacrificing kids, and raping babies in day care center basements, in his name. God was around, but you had to spend a lot of time looking for him. Or rather, you had to spend a lot of time looking REALLY HARD for signs of him, but you’d never actually see him. He worked in mysterious ways and such. The turning point for me started in high school. I got a job, a car, and started making friends and having a life away from the church, something that didn’t go unnoticed by my mother, and by the church. It wasn’t as if my friends and I sat around picking apart christianity, quite the opposite in fact. My friends all thought of themselves as christians. The difference was that their christianity was not the focal point of their lives. It was peripheral. It was something they believed, but that belief did not occupy every waking moment of their lives. This did create enough distance for me to start seeing things just a little bit differently. I had time to start actively contemplating some of the things in the bible that just didn’t add up, and to take a step back and actually, critically think about some of the things I was being taught in church and at youth group. I started to notice patterns of behavior in the church that bothered me. I remember standing in the church one day after a sermon, looking around the room and listening to what people were saying about homosexuality, and thinking to myself “This is not love, this is hatred disguised as love, and no one here can tell the difference”. At some point I went out and bought myself a Strong’s Concordance. I was then able to cross reference things, look for other places that certain things were mentioned, and instead of revealing more godly wisdom to me, it cast a glaring spotlight on all of the cracks and inconsistencies in the bible. Shit didn’t add up, and no one in the church wanted to address those things. It was a collective willful ignorance, and I was chastised for speaking up about it. Pretty soon I was asking who Adam and Eve’s children married, and what people was Cain worried about so much that god marked him to tell them to leave him alone, if there were no other people around? I wanted to know how we knew that so many other civilizations existed in the world, at the time of “the flood”, and yet they were not wiped out, and apparently failed to even notice the raining for forty days and forty nights, and the subsequent flooding. Egypt was a perfect example. They kept impeccable records of everything they did, and yet somehow this flood is never mentioned, and their civilization was untouched by it. I had a lot of questions. The answers were usually something along the lines of “I don’t know, but god does”, an answer which somehow satisfied everyone else in the room, all of whom were more than happy with the non-answer, and who felt comfortable with the idea that god knowing the answer was good enough. It wasn’t good enough for me though. Eventually my questions were brought to my parents’ attention, and what I was told by them and the church elders, was that I should spend more time meditating on god’s word, and less time asking questions. They didn’t put it like that, of course, but that’s what they were saying. It wasn’t just the unanswered questions, it was my increasing awareness that all of these people, not just in my church but every other church I had dealings with, were incredibly judgmental. They were spiteful, and hateful, and yet utterly convinced that they were the exact opposite of those things. By the time I hit college, what was left of my faith was hanging by a thread. The only thing that kept me calling myself a christian, was fear of the unknown. Christianity was all I had known, all my life. I was twenty five when I was finally comfortable saying out loud that I was not a christian. Nothing monumental happened that lead up to this, just more little experiences. Lots of little life lessons that showed more and more, that everything I’d learned growing up, was wrong. Not simply factually incorrect, but often morally wrong, and even harmful. I didn’t want to be a part of it anymore. To say that I have some lingering anger at christianity doesn’t really describe it. Yes, I am angry. It’s an internal struggle that I deal with every day. I’ll admit that when I learn that someone is a christian, it colors my view of them immediately, and they have to work harder to earn my respect. I know this is wrong. It’s difficult to shake. The de-conversion process was mostly about learning to recognize old behaviors, and eventually to see them coming so that I could choose to behave differently. Things like attributing every good event to god, and whispering a prayer of thanks under my breath, or a prayer of forgiveness when I did something I thought I shouldn’t have been doing. It took a while to shake attitudes toward women who behaved, or dressed in ways that the church taught me were unacceptable. It became this game of asking myself why I felt the way I did about certain things, and boiling it down to one simple question. Is a behavior harmful? That simple question became the litmus test by which I judged everything I did, and everything I saw other people doing. If I couldn’t find some harm in an action or behavior, then I could begin to see it differently, and think about it more critically. This was quite different from what I’d grown up with, which was simply “because god” or “because the bible”. It took years to change my thinking. I still look back at old behaviors, I look at the way I judged people, and I feel utterly foolish, even ashamed sometimes. I’m now forty-two years old. I no longer look at anything through the lens of christianity. I also no longer have to consciously play that mental tug of war with my old, christian beliefs. I don’t live in constant fear of the devil and satanists anymore. I no longer spend all of my time wondering what god thinks of what I’m doing at any given moment. In general, I’m a much happier person, and to be honest, much less of a judgmental ass.
  21. 13 points
    It is my intention to encourage you on your journey......You wonderful young 'freethinkers' on EX-c! A few of my thoughts this morning. You are the new generation of 'rebels' who, through a lot of hard work and persecution, will have the ability to alter the world you live in. It's not going to be easy. You cannot change people and their old ways quickly - you can only influence them.... probably slowly. But please, march ahead anyway and do not be afraid to be different. You young ones have dug your head out of the sand much earlier than some of us older people and have truly opened your eyes to the fact that the world has been hypnotized and brainwashed throughout the generations. There are multitudes of people that will require you to 'conform' like the majority and believe in a christian god that doesn't give evidence of 'himself' in a world of suffering. Because you will be no longer bowing to the world, you will be bullied, harassed and ostracized for being different. You will be insulted and belittled for being a freethinker. Your journey will be hard in many ways, as you buck some of the nonsense that has been handed down since the beginning of time. In a way, you will be an 'outcast', much like the jew, the homosexual, and the black slave has been. The reason for all the 'bondage' of these dear people throughout history... is religion. You already know that. So you must fight back in a strong, gentle way. You may not be respected by your friends, co-workers or family members, but you must stay strong in your convictions. You are the new agnostics and atheists, a new brave, breed of people, rising up to stop the madness on this earth. You will be the reason the world will eventually change over the next few generations. Your own children and grandchildren will rejoice because of your efforts. They will thank you for making life a little easier for them! You must stay strong and trust your instincts that there is no talking snakes, no talking donkeys, no virgin births, no walking on water, no little devil running around in the atmosphere to destroy you and no punishing god that sets you up to fail because of the foolish doctrine and myth of 'sin' and 'fallen' man due to a woman who ate off a tree. To continue to believe this would be the same as believing in flying dragons! When in doubt, study the first couple chapters of Genesis and ask yourself if any of it makes sense to you. This will help to keep you strong on your journey. You must continue to search for the new information that the scientist presents and also, take the time to learn how all these myths started. Fill your head with all the knowledge that you can jam into it. Knowledge is your key to life-long freedom. You must be willing and brave enough to tell the older folk - 'You are wrong.' You don't need to come across as a 'rebeller' to be a free thinker. You must try to do this hard job with as much love as you can 'muster up' and stay calm and cool, as you present your 'case'. Many times, you will have to face rejection. Be prepared for this. If you fight with aggression - you will be like the rest of the world. If you are going to think differently and make a difference in the world - then you must act differently. Be kind and loving, but remain strong. Continue to influence - show the world how happy you are, having a mind of your own without all the indoctrination from the ancient bibles in the world.. You must always realize that the world is brainwashed. They are in a trance and have been deluded and lied to for centuries. Many do not want to give up their beliefs. They want to believe what their ancestors told them. The 'non-thinkers' of this world are like robots....they do what the world tells them to do. You have knowledge that they don't. Most of them are not bad people. Keep this thought close to your heart - it will help you to feel compassion for your world of friends, family, and co-workers. You must realize that it's O.K to be different. Do not cover this up with drugs and alcohol if possible. You must be stronger than the drugs or alcohol. They are a 'cover-up' to temporarily make you feel OK about yourself. Go ahead and party - but be careful not to get hooked. Let your hair down every now and again. Have a lot of fun. Remember, when you truly accept and love yourself for who you are - you will not need a false 'high' every day. Have a party everyday (without booze or drugs) ....just to celebrate yourself!! Being different means not only thinking in a 'non-conformist' way but also taking a stand at what the world considers educated, ugly, pretty, smart, etc. You must buck this system also - the 'unfalse' world of 'beauty' - the old book of rules that says you must weigh this or wear that, to be popular. A lot of depression stems from this silly system and has ruined so many young lives. Show the world that you are smarter than following this degrading structure - teach the beautiful people that they can have what you got... true confidence. So always let your 'beauty' come from within. Again I plead, do not count on your looks or your body to give you the true self-esteem you need to feel good about yourself. If you are not as pretty, handsome, skinny, etc., as the magazines or the other people in the world - do not let this throw you. Some of the most beautiful people lack the true self-esteem it takes to feel confident because they are not true to themselves. You are! Many of these dear 'beauties' count on their appearance to make it through life and they are not always happy and confident. Let your beauty always come from a confident frame of mind! This will make you shine prettier and more handsome than any of the so-called movie stars on earth or stars in the sky!! If you are still living under the roof of your believing parents, you may need to be very patient. No one can make you believe..... you already know in your young mind that you don't believe what they do. Your parents can make you do things, such as attending church, going to bible study, or saying prayers, but that’s stuff you might have to do for a while on the outside. Inside your mind, you’re free to think your own thoughts and believe what makes sense to you. This is when you may have to practice the art of 'silence' and patience. If you are depressed because you can't be who you really are while living under someone's roof, know in your heart that it won't be like this for very long. Silence can be golden at times. Learn to make 'silence' a friend for you. Right now, the part of your life that you can control is inside your mind! Also, try to remember, that your parents love you and think they are doing what is right for you. So, go forth, strong youth...... and create a new world of liberty and freedom! Be who you are! Best of love and good wishes to you as you confidently go on this journey! Love and hugs from an old member on EX-c!!
  22. 13 points
    I know I already don't feel *that* new on this site, but it really has only been a little over two weeks. After an emotional post at midnight this morning on a different thread, I am taking @Margee's advice and just taking a breather to focus on the positive things for a while. I truly feel I have gotten in over my head a bit in trying to "rush my deconversion" and "have all the answers ready" for all my loved ones. I want to really thank all of you for taking the time to post your thoughtful feedback when you really don't have to; hugs all around. Anyway, it's really high time I introduced myself. I jumped right in and started posting, but I didn't take the time to let you all know who you're dealing with. I am Jessica (Jess is fine too). I am 25 years old, have a husband and two fur-babies named Connor and Mila. I love to bake and make chocolate desserts like truffles, definitely a passion of mine. I have the distant and unrealistic dream of having a little hole-in-the-wall bakery/truffle place some day. There is truly nothing like baking something tasty and watching other people close their eyes in appreciation, knowing their in "yummy food land," a place I visit regularly. I love food in general, I truly enjoy how textures and flavors blend together to make an experience. When I'm not in the kitchen or at work, I love to watch dark shows like Dexter or Breaking Bad, currently watching Handmaid's Tale (unsure if I like it or not...) on Hulu. I was a sociology major, psychology minor in college. I didn't think through how that would affect me with getting a job, but I am fascinated with how the brain and genetics work with our environment to make us who we are. I watch youtube videos on current political issues and then proceed to rant to no one in particular when I'm driving, because I like my opinions more than anyone else will. I LOVE to laugh and have a self-deprecating sense of humor (among many, can't go wrong with a terrible pun), so I'm kind of an asshole to myself for the lulz. No need to go into a "deep history" or anything. Long story short, I am the first born daughter to two really successful parents who had pretty high standards for me and my siblings. I'll tell a therapist all the drama that comes with that, but I don't think a sociology majoring baker is what they had in mind for me when I was a toddler. I know that I am my own person, that it's my life and my dreams that count, not to worry about what they think, but that doesn't change a child's desire for their parents to be proud of who they are becoming. It is still devastating to have accepted who I am and know that, on some level, my parents might have picked a different path for me and are "settling" for what I'm passionate about. When you pair that with a fundamentalist christian upbringing, you don't have a very good product, I guess. As for as being an ex-christian, I ended up where I am now because I have always questioned things, even as a really young child. "Mom, why does a GREEN light mean 'go' and not BLUE?" "What color hair does God have, Mom?" I remember growing up that I really wanted to genuinely please God and tried to be very sincere in my faith, to "die to my flesh" and to relinquish my understanding of reality for His ultimate will. This desire for sincerity of faith ultimately led to me seeing through it, whether I wanted to or not. The more I tried to find answers to my OWN questions, to answer them for others, the more I realized that I was wrong and that I couldn't reconcile them. Assuming it was about the "relationship with Christ" and ignoring the fact that I was extremely bothered by the very existence hell, why do you not answer me in the way I need, when you know I need it? Isn't a "relationship" mutual? When I'm sitting here "knocking" and "seeking," why am I not "finding"....anything? Why would I need to so desperately fear a being that claimed to love me so much? Why should I worship something so fervently when, after knowing the deepest parts of me-- my fears, dreams, passions, intentions, desire for truth-- he could cast me into eternal damnation on a whim. What kind of being would do that to someone they claimed to love so much? I remember I would regularly chastise myself for my "conviction of sin" and "shame" for knowing God was disappointed with me or with a decision I had made. This deconversion process, while comforting in a few ways, has been very devastating for me because of this being that I was raised to believe in, who is in total control and created me exactly the way I am with purpose for my life, not being real. I now feel a bit aimless, a bit "just one of billions" and not all that unique. It's true, which I appreciate, but kinda sucky. Now, other values of mine are beginning to change (I hate change) and it's begun a quarter-life crisis. Everything will be ok, I know and trust that, I'm just embracing the crumminess of it all for now. Longer than anticipated, but all of that to say: Here I am, flaws and all. This post has been cathartic, I'm taking it one day at a time, taking all kinds of new information in stride, and it will get better. I am TRULY thankful already for the past few weeks where I have found support and encouragement. Nice to meet you; This site is a treasure.
  23. 13 points
    Hey guys... I'm new to the site & newly ex-Christian. Born & raised in a southern Baptist family, I am now 41yrs old. I married a Christian minister in '96 and we had 2 kids. We continued in the Baptist religion & raised our kids in its teachings. Fast forward about 20yrs - I started stepping away from Christianity. Bored & worn out with all the "churchy" stuff. It felt so fake to me. I quit going & I started re-examining my entire life. I divorced the minister, married an atheist! lol. (side note: I never knew he was an atheist - we never talked about religion). He's been so good though. He hasn't pressured me in any direction. So last year we started watching that Scientology series by Leah Rimini. Its funny because I actually think everything started making sense when I started watching those shows - I was like "that is such a cult! I can't believe people would believe such nonsense & follow it without question." It was then that I started researching more into my own faith. Much to my surprise, I saw some of the same type things in my own religion!! Believing nonsense blindly, but calling it "faith"...and so much more. I remember thinking "I can't believe Scientologists believe in the Xenu story".... but yet I believed the story about Eve and a talking snake. It was like a light bulb came on in my brainwashed mind. And immediately I felt sick & like I was going to pass out. Everything I had ever been taught & raised was "right" was suddenly a bunch of lies. Anyone else feel this way? I'm still in the early stage of de-conversion... any advice to share? I have read so many posts on this site & it has helped me SOOOOOO much! I feel such a connection with many of you!!
  24. 13 points
    Wow. I can still scarcely believe what I've read here. BAA, as he'll always be known to me, was one of those rare posters with a sharp wit, an analytical mind, and a commitment to truth. I could write endlessly about positive qualities of his upon which others have already expounded. But what truly impressed me about this man is that he is the only person I have ever known who was a self-made cosmologist. When most of us think of self taught hobbies, activities such piano, woodworking, knitting, and auto mechanics come to mind. Never in my professional life could I ever imagine someone teaching themselves theoretical cosmology - one of the most challenging and intricate fields in all of physics - in their spare time without any formal training. Yet BAA spoke about cosmology and educated others with an insight generally possessed only by practiced researchers. He defended established physics against the pseudoscience of Christianity from an informed posture I have only seen from trained scientists. He would often ask me probing and incisive questions about astrophysics in order to bolster or debunk a particular scientific argument which would require a significant research effort on my part. I have rarely seen such passion for scientific truth even from tenure track professors in the field. We will all miss BAA as a friend and fellow ex-Christian poster. But today I feel as though I've lost something irreplaceable. I have lost a rare kindred spirit, one who shares both my apostasy from Christianity and my determination to understand the nature and origins of the universe from a scientific and mathematical standpoint. Goodbye BAA. You were the only self-made cosmologist I have ever known, and I do not think we will ever again see one of your intellectual stature.
  25. 13 points
    Personally, I don't find it helpful to consider what I've lost or gained because of Christianity. It has had an unalterable effect on my life. It has shaped who I am in ways that can never be reversed. Things might be better if I had been raised differently. They might be worse. I don't know who I would be without Christianity, and I can't know who I would be. All that I know is who I am now, and all I can do is go forward from here.
  26. 13 points
    No one is expecting me to work. With no stress on my mind and good medication bipolar episodes are not resurfacing. I am living a normal life for the first time in a long while. I have peace and sanity. No more voices and visions that come with constant hypomania.
  27. 13 points
    I became “saved” when I was 12 years old, not long after my family started attending a Southern Baptist church. Our old church taught about God and Christianity but I never got a sense that they expected people to have it consume their whole lives. That all changed at our new church. The first thing I found strange about the church was the ridiculously long prayers during the worship service. I entertained myself sometimes by timing them on my watch. When I complained about this to my father, he rebuked me and told me that long prayers were good and that good Christians should pray a lot. I guess I learned early on not to talk about things that seemed weird or unreasonable to me at church. My sister was the first to walk down the aisle during the long, drawn-out emotional hymn after one Sunday sermon. I remember how proud my Dad was about that. On the way home from church that afternoon he announced, “at least three of us in this family will be together in heaven”. Well, there were only four of us so I knew he meant that I was the one still on track to go to hell. I didn’t like feeling that I was being pushed into doing something that wasn’t my idea, so I held out a little longer. I did feel scared about it, though. My Sunday school teacher told my class one day about when she became saved. She said when she prayed for Jesus to enter her heart she felt this enormous weight lifted from her shoulders. She described it as a real, physical feeling to her. When I made the decision to ask Jesus to enter my heart not long after that, sitting quietly in my room, I felt nothing. I thought maybe I did it wrong. I prayed every night for days for Jesus to enter my heart and still felt nothing. I would say, “if you haven’t come into my heart yet, please come in now.” I apologized to Jesus for asking so many times. After a week, I figured God must have heard me and assumed Jesus was there. Much later I asked my dad about this physical feeling experienced by my teacher and he explained that it was probably because she was older and had a lot more sin on her heart. That comforted me a bit. Not long after I prayed for salvation, I planned my walk down the aisle. I started sitting up front in church, as I gained my confidence, and it sure did make the walk a lot shorter. My father seemed happy but he didn’t make as big a deal about it as I thought he would. Anyway, I was just glad that I wasn’t still going to hell. In middle school and high school, I was very much an outsider. My church was teaching me that I needed to stand up for Jesus and proclaim my faith, but I didn’t want to do anything that would cause me any more ridicule than I already suffered. The times I did try to stand up for my faith I just ended up making a jackass of myself. I told myself often I would reinvent myself and really live my life for Christ when I went to college. A few years after we started attending the Southern Baptist church, they got a new pastor. Somewhere around that time, the church started assigning spiritual mentors to new Christians joining the church. Because my father was a deacon and I had been saved for a while, I was selected to be a spiritual mentor to a girl a little bit younger than me who had recently been “saved”. They must have asked if I was willing to serve in that capacity, I can’t remember, but seriously – how could I have said no without bringing shame to my father or embarrassing myself? I stood in front of the entire congregation and accepted this responsibility, but never had a single conversation with her about God. I felt awful about it. I didn’t know how to help her because I didn’t think I was a great Christian myself. What assuaged my guilt about being such a poor mentor was the fact that I realized I didn’t have much to teach her. By the time I was a senior in high school, the church pastor had done a thorough job of ripping the church in two. I don’t remember all of the reasons, and I wasn’t privy to most of them anyway, but the bottom line was that my father and several other long-time church members had discovered that the pastor was a liar, and over the course of several months many families, including mine, left that church. We initially started attending a very small church made up mostly of members from my former congregation, which I liked because my best friend from church also went there. Unfortunately, my father decided that he preferred another Southern Baptist church that was more established and larger. I had one long-time friend from church there, but the others in my Sunday school were exceptionally rude to me. I hated going there and couldn’t wait to stop attending church altogether when I went to college in the fall. The ugliness I experienced during this period convinced me that I would never set foot in a Southern Baptist church again. So no, I did not reinvent my life as a Jesus freak when I began college. I was so excited to finally be building a social circle and making friends that I did not want to jeopardize that by coming out as an evangelical Christian. I did talk about it with my closest friends, though. I gently proselytized to my roommate, who grew up as a Catholic. She told me she couldn’t buy into the part where everyone who never heard of Jesus went to hell. I told her I didn’t have an answer for her on that and later talked to my uncle, an American Baptist pastor, for guidance. In short, my uncle told me that Jesus will judge us on what we know, not what we don’t know – we will be judged by the state of our heart. That sounded reasonable and comforting to me. I remember having some discussions through the years with my father about some parts of the Bible that were hard to accept. He reasoned away Paul’s decree that “women should be silent in the church” as an admonition to one of the ancient churches where some women had been disruptive in the congregation and was not intended to mean that no woman should ever speak in church. He seemed to agree with me when I told him that I thought of the Adam & Eve story as an allegorical tale designed to teach the importance of obedience to God to a primitive audience. But I am ashamed now when I look back at how little I questioned the church teachings and how easily I accepted any explanation that bolstered the dogma that I had been taught. Why had I never thought about how awful it would be if millions of people who had never heard of Jesus were condemned to eternal torture in hell? Why did I think that I could enjoy a blissful existence in heaven if I knew that people I had cared about during my life would be experiencing that everlasting suffering? I was not an unintelligent or uncaring person. I know that somewhere along the way I comforted myself with the thought that God was in control, and whatever system he employed to sort out the good from the bad would be fairer than anything I could develop in my own mind. I recognize now that it was a cop-out for what was really going on in my head – that I couldn’t make sense of the church teachings but I was too afraid not to believe. After college I moved back and forth across the country for my job and eventually turned back to church to make friends and reconnect with the God I had been ignoring for so many years. I got completely sucked up in it and vowed to start living my life for Jesus. Shortly after that I broke up with my college boyfriend, which was extremely traumatic for me. My life became even more difficult when I moved across the country again. I found a new church and was making friends but it was hard to connect with most of the people there, as I was the only one in the singles group with a degree and a professional job. I remember on New Year’s Eve being on the verge of throwing myself off the balcony of my apartment. Everything reminded me of my ex and I didn’t know how to live my life without him. Ironically, the thing that kept me alive that night was not any comfort from God or the Bible. I realized that even if I quit my job, sold all of my stuff, packed it all in and showed up on my parents’ doorstep – although they would be disappointed in me, they would far prefer to support me than to bury me. I knew that I could never actually take that step because of the incredible pain it would cause the people who loved me. I continued following Jesus as I worked through this difficult time in my life. I attended a fundamentalist church regularly, attended small group Bible studies, and was an active member of the singles group. I listened to very little secular music and didn’t even watch much television. Encouraged by friends in the church to develop my “relationship” with Jesus, I began setting aside quiet time every day where I sang worship songs, praised God, prayed, studied the Bible, and had quiet time for God to “speak to me”. I tried as hard as I could to enjoy this boring routine. I tried as hard as I could to convince myself that it was meaningful. I asked Jesus to bless this time that we spent together so that I could feel his presence. Ultimately, I could not get past the emptiness I felt during this exercise and the acute feeling that I was just talking to the wall when I prayed, so I stopped doing it. I volunteered for the visitation ministry at church, where a small group of people from the church would go to people’s homes who had visited our church and indicated that they would like more information about the church. I wanted to become more comfortable with sharing my faith and leading others to Christ, but it somehow felt wrong to me to enter a house and initiate conversations that made the people who lived there uncomfortable. Despite the fact that I did not feel that the visitation leaders were disrespectful or even pushy, and that I really didn’t say more than hello, I just felt strange about being part of the process at all. I told myself that perhaps this wasn’t “God’s calling” for my life, although I don’t think I ever reconciled that idea with the Bible command to “go tell all the world”. I tried in other ways to profess my faith to people I knew but it was always accompanied by a decidedly unpleasant feeling. I stopped doing that, too. I started reading books on Christian apologetics to try to bolster my faith and address some of the questions that continued to develop in my mind. I read other books about loving God and building a relationship with Jesus. The apologetics helped to prop up my beliefs but the relationship books fell flat. Looking back now I think the first seeds of my deconversion were planted at that time in my life, although I was far from realizing it. I moved again when I took leave from my job to attend graduate school full-time. It was an incredibly challenging program but I still attended church when I could. When I graduated, I moved across the country again to take a new job. I shopped around for a church to join, but couldn’t find one with people I could really relate to. I tentatively settled on a very small fundamentalist church, and although the people were very nice, I never fit in. I remember going out with a few of them for dinner one night after work. The restaurant was packed and we had a long wait for our table. I went to the bar and ordered a beer to drink while we waited. When I joined the rest of the group I could see how uncomfortable they were and knew that ordering a drink had been a mistake. To their credit, they didn’t say a word about it. But that wasn’t the only discomfort I experienced that night. One woman in the group could not talk about anything other than Jesus. I found it totally annoying and had nothing to contribute to the conversation. I did not seek their company again. I was very lonely. I had met some people at my new job and was making friends, but I spent most of my time outside of work by myself. My love life was utterly non-existent. I continued attending church on a less regular basis, but started to have trouble during the worship service when the words in the songs seemed to poke at the most painful places in my soul – songs about how happy we are because Jesus is in our lives, how our hearts rejoice because of the prayers that God has answered, etc. I felt completely abandoned. I met one Christian friend who brought me to her church one Sunday and I broke down crying in the middle of the songs. My friend pulled me into another room and I told her that I just could not make myself sing those words anymore. I did not feel that Jesus was there for me. I did not feel his presence. I could not understand why Jesus would leave me with this horrible lonely feeling. She comforted me and sympathized with me, but after that Sunday we never spoke of it again. A few years went by and I finally got to the point where I was simply angry with God. I had tried to suppress that emotion for so long because I was afraid of what would happen if I actually told God how I felt. I finally decided that since Jesus was supposed to be my friend, and God knows how I feel anyway, I let myself express those thoughts out loud. I asked him why he took away the love of my life. I asked him why he hadn’t brought anyone else into my life. I asked him why it felt like he was not there for me and why I had to be so horribly alone. And I apologized for my impertinence at demanding answers from the all-powerful God. After being in this stage for probably another year, I decided that I needed to “take a break” from God. I simply asked him to give me contentment so that I would know that my life was going in the right direction. I finally started making friends, joined a beach house, and made a lot more friends. I partied a lot, drank a lot, and hooked up with a lot of guys. My life didn’t feel perfect, but once I didn’t feel so lonely all the time, I felt pretty content. I was quite confused that God would want me to feel content while living a life that was so diametrically opposed to the church teachings, but I didn’t argue with him about it. I always thought I would eventually “repent” of this lifestyle and go back to church. What happened first was that I got bored with that lifestyle. It didn’t take long. I was still having some fun, but grew tired of the bar scene and all of the childishness that goes along with it. Many of my friends were pairing off in relationships or getting married, and I was still single with no prospects. Sometimes I hung out with friends as the “third wheel”, which was okay, and I also tried to entertain myself with solitary pursuits – like taking myself to movies or dinner or doing puzzles at home. Yeah, that wasn’t going to be fun for long. Fortunately a friend of mine introduced me to a friend of her fiancé’s who she thought I would like. The four of us went out together and their friend and I had an instant connection. We started dating and quickly got serious. I know we discussed religion at some point, but it was not a big deal in either of our lives. He grew up in a Catholic family and had fallen away from that. He infrequently attended a Unitarian church and liked that very much. He was glad that I believed in God because his last girlfriend was an atheist and he didn’t like that. After we got engaged, we attended some church services here and there but didn’t find something that we both felt comfortable with. He wasn’t as interested as I was in finding a church after we got married, but it wasn’t something I worried about a lot. Now that my life was happy and the loneliness issue had disappeared, I thought about ending my “break” with God, but keeping a respectful distance had been working out pretty well so far and I didn’t want to mess with it. So life moved along, and after a few years I got pregnant, my husband took another job and we moved to a new place. We both had terrible commutes for work and once the baby came our free time nearly vanished. My husband showed more interest in joining a church now that we were starting a family, but there wasn’t any time and we figured we would wait until we got settled in our new location. One thing that I find wonderful about my husband is that he is always trying to learn new things. During one trip to the library, he picked out a book called Monkey Girl, a true story about a school board in Pennsylvania that required its biology teachers to promote the theory of intelligent design. In my science classes in high school, I am pretty sure that they just skipped right over the pages that talked about evolution. I had always been taught that scientists had never discovered the “missing link” that connected humans to primate ancestors, and I believed they never would because I thought God had created humans in his own image. I did believe that other animals had evolved, but that God probably had some hand in that process. I was not sure that I believed in “intelligent design”, but didn’t know exactly what that meant. I believed that God created the Earth, but felt that he probably initiated the Big Bang. A few years back I remember debating with my friends from church who believed in a 6000-year history of the universe. I thought that was ridiculous. I did learn that the debate was useless, though – because even when I found information in the Bible that refuted some of the key points my friends made, they just stopped the conversation when they could not prove me wrong. Anyway, my husband knew my beliefs about evolution but thought I might enjoy reading the book. He always throws good books in my direction, so I figured I’d give it a look. Evolution was not an issue for him as it was not against the teachings of the Catholic church, so reading the book had no impact on his religious belief. In one post on this site, I said that reading this book was the first big “chink in the armor” that really started my deconversion. That is an understatement. It was more like an earthquake. The book laid out the clear evidence for humans’ evolution from primates and showed how the Christian people of the town fervently tried to hide this evidence from their children in fear of it shaking their faith. I suddenly realized that my own school had done me a grave disservice by not presenting this information to me earlier. While I had long believed that the Adam & Eve story was an allegorical tale, knowing that humans had actually evolved from primates and were not created by God kicked off some serious doubts about the teachings of the church in general. I ruminated on this in the back of my mind for years. So time marched on, I had another baby, my husband took another new job and we moved again. This time we thought we could stay put for a while. After a few months we found a small Episcopal church in our neighborhood that seemed like a good compromise church for us. The people were very nice and were not judgmental or preachy at all. The kids seemed to enjoy their time in the nursery. The sermons were usually not that great – we often talked afterwards to see if we could determine what the point of the sermon was – but I didn’t know what I really wanted from a sermon because I no longer really knew what I believed about God. My husband really only wanted to go to church for the sake of the children – to give them some spiritual grounding. We started talking about getting the kids baptized, but scheduling was always a challenge. Ultimately, my husband got another job and we moved again, leaving us in the same position of waiting to find a church until we got settled. During my adult years as a Christian, I wrestled with the church ideology and doctrine on a variety of issues. I continued to comfort myself with the old idea that God’s justice system would be fairer than any I could devise, but now I really struggled over what to believe about the Bible. Was some of it allegorical, some of it literal, some of it intended to be taken in context of the time in which it was written? My ability to believe that it was the infallible, perfect word of God was completely shaken by my acceptance of human evolution. I guess I’m not surprised by how easily my faith folded in the end. It was all built on an intricate web of lies that could not withstand critical analysis. Years before, I studied books on apologetics with the desired conclusion already defined. I allowed myself to hide from the truth by never challenging the fundamental assumptions that my faith was built on. But ultimately, I had to be ready to reach the point where I was truly ready to face reality. I had long since tired of banging my head against a wall to figure out how to “feel God’s presence”. I had no remaining desire to tell others about Jesus or attempt to convert them. I was weary of trying to manipulate the facts to make a case for the “truth” of the Christian teachings. My mom had bought a children’s Bible for my oldest son, which he enjoyed having us read to him. It was never a book I selected, but I would read it if he brought it to me. Boiled down to their basic elements, it suddenly seemed very clear that the stories were not, and could not be, literally true. I started to feel very uncomfortable about reading the book to my child, and began realizing that I didn’t believe any of the fairy tales anymore. I cringed when my son asked how Jesus was able to do the miraculous things described in the stories, and I told him either that Jesus was ‘magic’ or that it was just a story. I found myself hoping that he would interpret these stories in the same way he does when I read to him about Winnie the Pooh or Thomas the Tank Engine. Finally, I could not kick the can any further down the road. I needed to do my own research about Jesus, the Bible, and Christianity. I watched a documentary about Jesus that I thought did a pretty good job describing what the world was like in the time that he was supposed to have lived, and describing what he may have been like if he actually existed. People contributing to the documentary included both Bible scholars and archeologists, and it did not draw any conclusions on whether Jesus or the resurrection was real or not. Then, since I figured I already had exposure to Christian apologetics, I looked for some material arguing against Christianity. I watched a snarky documentary that was not extremely well done, but made some good points. I watched ‘Religulous’, which I had previously refused to watch with my husband. I also started reading material written by Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and other prominent atheists. I allowed my mind to open up to facts and arguments that I could not bear to listen to in the past. I realized that there were only two things that had held me to Christianity during all of this time I had been away from the church. The most obvious one was fear. The insidious one was the mental programming that resulted from being told my whole life that the Christian god was real and the Jesus story that was jammed into my brain for the first half of my life. That combination is what caused my otherwise curious, scientific mind to search only for corroborating evidence and find ways to explain away the parts that did not make sense. I came to the conclusion that I could not believe in the Christian god anymore. That none of it was true. I went to a mirror, looked into my own frightened, bewildered eyes and repeated several times “I am an atheist.” It is not a label I ever thought I would apply to myself. Suddenly, a flood of ramifications of this new belief system washed over me. There was no supernatural force watching over my life and protecting me. There was no powerful being that could comfort me if things go wrong. The people who I have loved who have died were really gone forever and I will never reunite with them. There will be no happy ever after in heaven when I die. Even though I didn’t think about these things regularly in my conscious mind, recognizing them as false comforts was a huge jolt. I can only imagine how much more difficult this would be to accept if I had still been actively engaged in church life. I knew I had to talk to my husband about this, but I was afraid that it would upset him. I couldn’t just keep it inside because it was upsetting me. When he came home from work one night, and we had a moment away from the kids, as my heart pounded in my chest I told him that I thought I was an atheist. He just looked at me and smiled, saying “That’s alright!” That was a relief. But I know he doesn’t totally understand where I am coming from. Later he told me that when he looks at our boys, or thinks about how much he loves me, he “sees” God. Not literally, but that he sees something wonderful and beautiful there and believes that there is something good behind it all. He believes that there is something after this life, and that we will be together in it. He doesn’t try to force these beliefs on me, and it doesn’t impact our marriage. I do know that he wants to take our children to church, but I don’t want to impart that awful mental programming on them. Attending a Unitarian church could be a good compromise if I can bear to attend a church at all. I’m so glad I found this site because I don’t have anyone else to talk to who would really understand what I am going through. I don’t plan to tell my parents because I figure they don’t need to know. They are both die-hard fundamentalists and would be too worried about me if they knew I have lost my faith. My mom would worry silently, but my dad would probably try hard to challenge or even denigrate my beliefs to bring me back to Jesus. My father and I don’t have much of a relationship now (although we are on good terms) and I don’t want the little time we have together to be poisoned by religious discussion. And there is no chance of me returning to the church. I can see that the world makes so much more sense without god in it. As scary as it can be to adapt to life as an ex-Christian atheist, I also feel empowered by it. I see that good things and bad things randomly happen in life, and it’s not part of some messed up game or “master plan”. I know that my accomplishments are my own and not because “God” helped me along the way. Now I can relax and live my life without worrying that I’m not doing enough for “God” or that I’m not tithing enough or that my life doesn’t “glorify” him or any of that other mumbo-jumbo. I realize that you have to tell people that you love them now, because they won’t hear you “from heaven” after they die. And I understand even more now that every single day of life is precious and that I should do my best not to waste a single moment. I know that this is a ridiculously long post, so if you’re still reading, thanks for listening. You will probably not believe that this is the edited, shortened version! I hope that my story can help others in some way.
  28. 12 points
    I was raised in fairly conservative churches/schools. Gradually I started to move away from some of the more extreme elements of that, I believed in evolution, didn't take the Genesis creation narrative literally, was open to certain Bible stories being myths, exc.. Even since I was a little kid and first found out what gay people were I've never understood why anyone cared what gender you liked. The reason I ultimately rejected the whole thing isn't because of anything in the outside world, though, to go along with the whole idea of "faith" you need to accept believing in things that aren't verifiable anyway. Instead it's that the central premise of Christianity doesn't make sense to me now that I've finally seriously examined it, and that the god described in the Bible doesn't sound all wise or all good. It boils down to- A- One thing I've always struggled with is why Jesus needed to die on the cross in order to save people. I got into a lengthy exchange with a school teacher when I was 7 or 8 about this and never got a satisfactory answer. The Bible makes very clear that god can do anything, so why can't he forgive people without killing someone else? Recently I've thought about this in even more depth and it goes beyond the issue of whether god is omnipotent. Forgiving people because Jesus died doesn't make any sense. If I'm going to forgive someone, I don't insist that some random, unrelated person be punished before I can forgive someone. I can either forgive them or I can't. Someone might respond by saying "but that's why god is merciful" but if he were truly merciful wouldn't he be able to forgive someone without killing an unrelated innocent person? Christians consistently say that we should "forgive as god forgives" but wouldn't that mean that when someone asked our forgiveness we'd have to go and crucify someone first before we could forgive them? That kind of thinking only makes sense in the context of a society built around animal sacrifices. It makes the Bible sound less inspired by an all knowing, timeless god and more like a product of a primitive ancient civilization. People try to explain this with the analogy that Jesus is like our parent and it's like he paid for a window that we broke. But that analogy doesn't work because breaking a window isn't a moral issue, and paying for it isn't retribution. It's just an issue of someone suffering a loss and that loss being made right, irrespective of who actually is the one paying. A better analogy would be someone being sentenced to death and Jesus taking their place. But nothing works like that. Even if someone for some reason volunteered to be executed in another person's place, that wouldn't nullify the sentence of death on the other person. Retribution is attached to the person who committed the crime. Again, Christians would say that that is why god is merciful, but if he were truly merciful why couldn't he just forgive people. Killing Jesus was irrelevant to any sins anyone has committed. Another thing Christians say is that the crucifixion was to satisfy god's wrath against our sins. That makes him sound like an unenlightened barbarian, not an infinitely wise god who created the universe. He's so angry that he wants to take it out on someone who did nothing to him? Yet the Bible says humans are supposed to control their anger. But it also says we're to be "holy" like god, and being holy apparently includes murdering innocent people to punish them for things other people did. Add to that that Jesus' sacrifice isn't at all proportionate to evils he's answering for. Killing one person supposedly answers for the death that everyone who has ever existed deserves? Add to that that Jesus didn't truly "die" in the narrative, he never went to hell and came back from the dead. If God is merciful enough to accept a non-proportional sacrifice why isn't he merciful enough to just forgive anyone who asks? Continuing on the topic of forgiveness, for me not forgiving someone means I stay angry at them, it doesn't mean I want someone to be sent to hell and tortured for all eternity after they die. I don't really want that to happen to anyone. Even for someone like Hitler, I'd be sufficient with just letting him die, or just not letting him into heaven and having stay in cosmological limbo. Wanting to endlessly torture someone is vindictive, sadistic, and evil. Especially when it's not just mass murderers but even someone who commits a "sin" as small as stealing a cookie from a cookie jar as a small child. B- I've had some serious bouts of depression recently and I thought in relation to god that if I truly loved someone and I could ensure that they wouldn't feel like this, then I would. Of course the common rebuttal to this is that there are lots of people with worse problems than me, but that just compounds the point. If you look at all the suffering that has occurred throughout history, would a good and loving god allow it all to happen? If a person knew about a child getting raped by someone, didn't tell anyone, and did nothing to stop it, there isn't a court in the world that wouldn't convict that person. Any Christian would agree that it was a sin to not intervene. And yet that's what god does for every murder and every rape that has ever occurred. Again, if we're supposed to be "holy" like god, wouldn't that mean that we'd be as indifferent to all this as he is? I know that the Christian conception of god gives people the free will to sin and that's why we're responsible for our actions. That makes sense for sins that don't directly effect anyone else, like getting drunk, gambling, consensual fornication, lust and so forth. But in the case of sins against others, if it's such a serious sin against another person to justify sending someone to hell, then wouldn't it also be a sin to be able to stop that sin and not do it? Christians talk out of both sides of their mouth on this issue. They defend god allowing, say, 9/11 to happen by saying that people's souls are eternal. But if killing another person is serious enough to warrant sending the murderer to hell, wouldn't it be serious enough for god to intervene and stop it? C- This is a smaller thing and it's an issue I've always had, but the New Testament is terribly inconsistent in regards to how to attains salvation. On the one hand there's John 3:16, and on the other hand there's the book of James, which pretty much goes full Catholic. People try to explain away the book of James by saying that the "works" described are simply an outgrowth of faith, but the book specifically says "faith without works is dead" implying that someone who actually does have faith but doesn't couple it with good works is going to hell. Even more blatantly John says "whosoever believeth in me shall not perish but have everlasting life" but then James explicitly says that belief in Jesus is not enough noting that "Even the demons believe and shudder". That sounds like something written by two different authors and not inspired by one source. I could write more, but this is the main stuff. I just finished graduate school and am stuck living at home until I find a job. I'm going to keep going to church with my parents and not rock the boat for now. I'll probably formally "come out" once I'm living somewhere else. I thought of myself as a "bad Christian" who didn't pray that much, but it didn't occur to me how much I really did throughout the day until now, I find myself thinking "Oh yeah, he's probably not real" a lot of the time now. I get the periodic worry about going to hell, and worrying about not being able to pray when I'm afraid, but mostly I feel really good, because I think these are things I've known deep down for a long time. PS- I was automatically logged out when I spent a lot of time writing this and worried that my long post would all be gone and thought "thank god" when I saw that it was all here. Some habits take a while to go away.
  29. 12 points
    @ConsiderTheSource @Geezer @Weezer @DanForsman @disillusioned @DestinyTurtle @Fuego @LogicalFallacy @TheRedneckProfessor @ag_NO_stic @Citsonga @Mariana @Margee @florduh @Joshpantera @DevilsCabanaBoy @RealityCheck @sdelsolray @Derek @Lefty @Lerk @LifeCycle @Blood @buffettphan @Positivist @Realist If I forgot anyone....that's the Alzheimer's setting in...
  30. 12 points
    The land of enormous flags and women with perfectly coiffed blonde hair. I wasn’t born here though. I’m from the north east and it was me,my younger brother,mom and dad. We moved a lot and didn’t have much. Focus on the Family came with us and blared from moms kitchen radio wherever we went. Dad’s narcissism and listening for the Holy Spirit on every detail of my life was just normal. We were charismatic,speaking in tongues,fundies with no Santa or Easter basket, or god forbid trick or treat. I just feel sad now remembering it. I grew up,went to a small Bible college,met a good man and married him my senior year. I found a gentle parenting internet site and told my dad “women aren’t less than” and “god isn’t punitive”. That was my first big step away. I had three kids and suffered anxiety and depression while trying to read the bible to scare it all away. I prayed so hard. I guess maybe this all would have continued for much longer but for two things. 1. My brother is gay and I couldn’t deny the conditional love he got from my parents. 2. Trump came on the scene in 2016. I watched the map turn red Election night and realized I didn’t want to be associated with evangelicals anymore. Two years of depression later,I went to therapy. It took about a month for everything to just crash down to my feet. My brother and I talk every day now. My kids went trick or treating for the first time this year. I dressed up as a red devil and it was awesome. A lady invited me to her church. This is Texas after all. So that’s my story. I guess I’m a hopeful agnostic. I like the idea of a higher power in nature or something like that. But mostly,I love my freedom to live my beautiful life.
  31. 12 points
    I wanted to write this post because I believe there are others who can benefit from it. The journey from believer to atheist is difficult, more so if you were truly committed to the belief system. Though this process probably applies to other religions, I will strictly be speaking to Christianity because that is the only religion I have serious experience with. As I have stated more in depth elsewhere, I was an extremely committed Christian. What I mean by that is that I took the faith seriously. So serious, I was dedicated to figuring out what God wanted and what was my duty as a believer. This was actually one of the major reasons I left Christianity. I was never so hubris to think I had all the answers, I thought everyone else did though. I would scour through CARM, GotQuestions.org, Apologetics Press, and any other Christian website out there, no matter how wacky it was (for example, Dan Corner's Evangelical Outreach). Problem was, none of these groups could agree on anything. The nature of God, what did God want, what was orthodox, what was heresy. It was such a huge mess I just became disenchanted with all of it. It occurred to me that my potential eternal fate was on the line and I did not know how to get on track. Did Jesus really teach pacifism; were we supposed to sell our goods to the poor, if so, why....what would that accomplish other than everyone is poor? That does not seem like a long term economic plan (teaser....if Jesus taught the end of the age was right around the corner, it does make sense....and the NT does teach that); was God predestining people to hell; was there freewill. On and on it went and there were no answers, because there was no evidence to back up the claims. That is the game being played - merely make a statement and then proof-text the Bible to back up the statement. Everyone in the Christian community does it, and nobody is winning. Through all this, I went through the various stages of deconversion: full on Calvinistic fundamentalism (eventually the idea God was jettisoning people into hell started to make me physically nauseous), Arminianism, Annihilationist, Universalist, Deist, agnostic, now atheist (technically agnostic/atheist since I cannot say I know there is no god being). The deconversion process is fairly ubiquitous in the main points, that is, Believer - then Universalist - Deist (perhaps followed by spiritual but not religious) - agnostic - atheist. Make no mistake, this process can be especially painful to go through. When I was a through and through believer, I could not even frame what atheist were trying to say. I was taught to read the Bible one way, and as Dr. Robert M. Price would jokingly put it, "The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it." Of course I believed it only from a fundamentalist standpoint. It was all I was taught growing up. I thought liberal theology was flat out heresy, and truth be told, I never even heard of the historical-critical method until a year ago. The process of leaving religion starts with losing fear, at least that was true for me. I spent so much time defending the Bible, God, and dogma out of a fear of hell - that is, punishment. I did not want to be punished so I toed the party line no matter how absurd it may have been. It is not until you are able to defeat your fears will you be able to start framing dogmatic stances differently. My first breakthrough was when I said I would no longer defend God's character when it came to difficulties in the Bible. I stopped trying to play the game where God was innocent of all wrong doing in every circumstance. I then decided I would be honest about how I really felt about hell, especially those who believe infants are in hell. I just could not do it anymore. I could not see how eternally punishing someone was just or fair or loving. It is not, it is terrible; and to say a being that "is love" is doing so is just ridiculous. It completely evacuates the word love of any real meaning. These were my initial breakthroughs, after which, I realized that other people do not have the answers. They do not know the Bible, God's heart, or whatever else they are attempting to claim; they are just as lost about the nature of reality as everyone else, if not more so. I say this because at least secularist are willing to go wherever the evidence takes them. Seculars do not believe something and then attempt to rationalize it (well, this holds true if they are doing it right). It was at this moment where I was feeling extremely tumultuous. I remember getting on my knees multiple times asking God to reveal to me what it actually meant to be a Christian. I would give anything if he would just give me one hour of his time to answer my questions and get me on the right path. As others before me at this point in the journey, my fervent prayers were met with silence. Not to deviate too much from the topic, but I find this to be a good talking point. For all the talk about how much the Christian God is so loving, and can be viewed as a father, does it not seem odd that he will not actually fulfill that role? What father, or mother, if they truly had the authority to judge their child's life would not fully explain what to believe, what to do, what not to do, and the consequences for each - in person. Why the hearsay? Why the divine hiding? If this deity is so damn concerned with what we are believing and how we are living our lives, then why not just come to everyone and lay it out. To me, any good parent would do so, and if mortals are so terribly horrible compared to this thrice Holy God, it would seem the aforementioned would be natural action this deity would take. Talk is cheap, no matter who is talking. After the failure of any deity to show up and give me divine inspiration, I finally broke down and decided to listen to what the secular atheist had to say. I had one condition, I was not willing to listen to any atheist who had not been a former Christian. Only former believers know what it is like to be in the game and to make their way out of it. I started by visiting sites such as this. After that, I began to watch YouTube videos by atheists: Seth Andrews, Matt Dillahunty, and the like. I was obsessed with what they had to say. It was the first time I ever heard anyone actually question the existence of God in a rational manner, and it made me pause. I must have listened to 24 hours of videos before moving on to other media formats. I joined the Bart Ehrman blog and ordered a few of his books. Reading what Dr. Ehrman had to say regarding the veracity of the Bible was completely uncharted territories for me. Little by little I was able to start pivoting from a fundamentalist reading of the Bible. Again, it was not easy, I was often afraid. Afraid of being wrong, that was my primary fear. I felt as though I was opening a can of worms that cannot be put back once they were out, and if I was wrong, I was going to pay for it eternally. Following Dr. Ehrman, I ran across the name Dr. Robert M. Price. He has a couple podcasts, The Human Bible, and The Bible Geek. I went back and downloaded every Human Bible episode I could as well as Bible Geek episodes. What an eye opening discussion from Dr. Price. I listened to all the Human Bible and Bible Geek (there are a ton of these so I have not been through all of them yet) episodes I could download on Podcast Addict. I then ran across other names such as David Fitzgerald, Dr. Richard Carrier, and Jerry DeWitt (former Pentacostal preacher). Each with YouTube videos, audio books, and the written word which aided in breaking the spell of fundamentalism. I also found websites ran by former believers that also helped to break the spell: https://brucegerencser.net (was a pastor for 25 years) https://rejectingjesus.com https://christosophical.wordpress.com I mention all of these names because I believe others will find value in hearing and reading what they have to say. It was these authors who helped me on my journey. There were so many times I wanted to run back to the safety net of fundamentalism, but more and more I realized, I can not go back, there is nothing to go back to. Nothing changed in the Christian community, there was still no unity. Each church believed the church across the road was going to hell. In reality, hearing these secular authors discuss the Bible was the first time I was getting an honest and frank discussion regarding the Bible. No spin doctors, just academics seeking to know and understand....you do not get that in church, you get a theologically loaded discussion with an endpoint in mind. As I mentioned before, the journey is wrought with self doubt and fear. Each breakthrough is a major victory because it is so difficult to get there. My advice would be to keep learning - keep listening and keep reading. Over time, the dogmatic beliefs you once held will start to loosen, little by little. At first it is terrifying, but as your skepticism grows, you will look back and be astounded at the ridiculous notions you once believed. Do not get me wrong, every now and then I am blindsided by my own mind and wonder if I have this all wrong and will be eternal BBQ; well, if that is the case, then so be it. I did my best to figure out the truth and if I end up eternally punished, it is the deity's fault I am there (this is a discussion for another time - long story short, the Christian God only has himself to blame for the sin in the world [not that I believe this is a true story, but merely speaking to the logical conclusions you would have to draw from biblical narratives]). Looking back, I am not really sure when I started on the journey towards atheism, but it was relatively recent, only within the past year and a half. I can say this, if you stick through it, it can be liberating. No longer the guilt, the shame, the sense of worthlessness, but it can also be troubling. I had to come to terms that this is probably the only life I have to live. Once I go, I likely will never see my son again, I will never experience pleasure, or pain, or love, or a sunset, or all of these aspects of our human existence. That was a tough pill to swallow, but I got through. I gave other religions a cursory look to get over my anxiety regarding death, but none of them made any sense either, and eventually I abandoned the whole notion. All I can say is this, I made peace with the idea that this is probably my only life to live. How I did it, I am not exactly sure, it was not one single thing that brought me peace about it, it was a myriad of thoughts; again, this would be a whole other conversation. Perhaps another time when I am able to put thoughts to words. Everyone on this site is at a different point on the path. I happened to be on the super highway to atheism, but for others, it takes years to find chinks in the armor and expose them. Make no mistake, I am still educating myself and re-framing Christianity. I am currently listening to The Case Against the Case for Christ by Dr. Robert M. Price and On the Historicity of Jesus by Dr. Richard Carrier. Never hesitate to reach out to me if you are questioning and are stuck on the path. I may have some words of wisdom to impart (or at least I have some resources you should look at) because I have been there, and likely I know what it is like to be where you are. I hope this post helps some people. I am grateful for the fact this website exist and there are others on here who have helped me escape the death grip of religion.
  32. 12 points
    I've retyped a response so many times now and nothing does BAA justice. I just found out and I'm shocked, grieved, and tearing up. It hurts. Yet, even in his death, his parting words have filled me with wonderment and appreciation. We all may be made up only of atoms, but special were his indeed.
  33. 12 points
    BAA was my friend, just like he was to everyone here. His patience and his willingness to post and respond with honesty and consistency to everyone here all the time will never be equaled. I learned so much from him. I would push and push sometimes, especially about the science of space I so love but barely grasp, and he would respond in such an honest manner, and he always went above and beyond what anyone could expect. I haven't been able to bring myself to post here in "my own" thread, since I heard the news about Mark, and thank you to the wonderful mods that let me know what happened. Mark said not to cry because he died. Sorry buddy, I did anyway. I know that death is inevitable, and he said that if I cried, to cry because I miss him. Well, I did that too, and I'm doing that right now, but even after the crying stops, the things I learned from BAA about science, patience, logic, humor, consistency, honesty, teamwork, and compassion will remain. I probably won't live up to them but I'll try. The thing is, Mark would understand that. Thank you Mark for being my internet friend at a place online that is like no other.
  34. 12 points
    Yet people still lurk here annonymously and then sign up and tell their story. It still helps people deconvert, so this is good.
  35. 12 points
    Life was a lot simpler before. I was a Christian, who hung out with my Christian friends. I was always religiously supported by my parents (one of whom is Christian, the other goes along with it.) I lived in a Christian community (Young Earth and fundamentalist). All of my friends were Christians whose parents believed as I did. I was taught this by clever Christian teachers at my Christian school, who seemed so adept in the purest forms of sophistry that it seemed they could answer almost all my questions. Man is born free, but everywhere he is in chains. Only now do I realize the true gravity of that statement. I had no reason to doubt. Life was hard, but I only allowed that to convince me that God was testing me, and that he was going to “bring me through the storm.” That in the end it would all be worth it, because I was going to Heaven. Me. Yes, out of all the religions ever conceived, mine was right. And by the purest accident, I just happened to be brought up in the right faith, while others were brought up on faiths that would lead them straight to hell. But one day, I was reading the news and pulled up a story about a child sex trafficking ring that had been uncovered. The details were horrific, and I went to bed (I read the news before bed, I know, not the smartest thing ever…) with that on my mind. I was furious, sad, and horrified all at the same time. The one question I had was, how could God allow something like this? For children, innocent children to be subjected to sexual torture and mutilation, and eventually death? For the parents who suffered because their child never came home? The parents who cried out for god to just save their child, which seemed to me like a decent request. I never found an answer, and I doubt I ever will. That instilled the first seeds of doubt in me. I began to doubt whether God was really good. So, with a reluctant heart, I began to read my Bible to look for answers. Now I don’t remember exactly how I got into philosophy, but for some reason I was so intrigued that I bought a Socratic dialogue, Gorgias I believe. It was great, and I recommend it to anyone interested in philosophy, if not for the topic discussed then just for the Socratic Method that Socrates employs. It’s come in handy during the many debates I’ve had. Well, with my love of philosophy growing, I went out and bought The Age of Reason, by Thomas Paine. My mother, the devout Christian out of the two of my parents, would never have let me bought it if not for my father’s insistence that I be allowed to read what I choose. What I found from Thomas Paine was enlightening, it changed the course of my life forever. I still, from time to time, read a few pages of the Age of Reason, just to refresh myself. After that, I threw out my Bible and all the dogma I had in my room. I replaced it with philosophy books, which I can attest have been far more beneficial to me. I became a Deist, and was hungry for more philosophy. By this time, my mother began to worry about me. She set up meetings for me with different pastors in the area, and I felt intellectually outmatched. But I would not give in. I began to browse YouTube and watch atheist speakers and debaters, like Hitchens, Dawkins, Dillahunty and the rest. I read David Hume, Plato, Voltaire and other intellectual giants. I took notes from them, and went over and over again in my mind what they said and how they said it. I began to speak to my parents about it, and question them, but they would hear none of it. They would take my privileges away and attempt to censor my queries. They would also force me to go to church. In response to these things, I began to argue more and more violently, and now I regret that. But a few months ago, I began to ask myself this question. Is God even necessary at all? Do I need a God to explain the universe, or is there a simpler explanation? You see, the concept of God began to raise more questions than it answered. Sure, it answered the cause for our existence, but it left me with questions like, “If God created the concept of time, does that mean he existed before time? How could he move if there was no time?” or “If God is infinite (which he must be, according to the Cosmological Argument), does that mean he exists everywhere in space, or outside of space, or outside of that?” or “what does it mean to have no beginning and no end (immortality)? How could something have no beginning at all?” Also, as David Hume pointed out, the argument from design is a poor one. If we conclude that things are designed because they are complex, then God to must be designed because his mind must also be infinitely complex. This would progress ad infinitum, so I began to question if there really was a God at all. Plus I now realize that many of the arguments I employed were just arguments from ignorance. I would look around at all the mysteries of the universe, and appeal to a bigger mystery (god) to explain them. Only now do I realize this error. Because I could not answer these questions, I became an agnostic-atheist (I do not believe in a god [as traditionally defined], but I acknowledge the remote possibility of his existence). I remain so today, and I’m glad I finally can identify as a ex-Christian. I can think for myself finally, instead of groveling before my imaginary friend for pre-prescribed morals and opinions. Good bye, grand delusions. Hello reality.
  36. 12 points
    I promoted an evangelist missionary preacher from Louisiana for the last 9 years of my faith. When I heard him preach on a video series called "Faith to Raise the Dead", I initially scoffed, but then was caught by his "regular guy" appearance and attitude. He didn't think much of rich believers sitting on their butts in sin, and neither did I. He and a few guys were down in the boonies of Mexico living roughly and doing their level best to reach the Indians (not Mexican, but indigenous Indians, some of whom don't even speak Spanish). They were going to "the least of these" and getting hurt in the process. That caught my attention. He also described how they had field services where they could feel the presence of God tangibly, and he was just sure that God would heal a little deaf boy through him, and talked about laying hands on him and praying in tongues and nothing happened. He said "That impressed me. That much of God right there and nothing happened. I had to ask myself why." He then described a path of total commitment fasting for weeks and still working hard, intent on not blocking God with hidden sin. Then he described an incident where a pissed-off Indian man confronted him and said "My boy is dead, and YOU are gonna do something about it. You are always telling me about your God's power. Prove it." He then described the shock of being in that situation, and what he did. Laying hands on the boy and praying and praying for hours, and then... they saw his shirt move with a heartbeat. Very exciting stuff! And being a master storyteller, everyone listening was in rapt attention. And we were all convinced that everything we were hearing was true and real. I began devouring this guy's preaching. My wife and I flew to England because we knew he was going to be preaching there. We got his permission to start a website and give out his preaching for free. During a service there, we both felt power coursing through our bodies, shaking us like the old Shaker and Quaker traditions had. I was utterly convinced at that point that we were in God's will, doing something significant for the first time, and ready to set holy fire to the world. Fast forward 9 years of earnest belief, doing our own level best to seek God and get his presence. People were sending me videos and audio tapes of his preaching from all over the world. His crew were now famous in the Pentecostal churches and they were being invited into nearly every country in the world. I loved these guys. They were tough, jeans-wearing, regular people that absolutely loved Jesus and were giving their lives to reach the poorest of the poor in our part of Earth. I sat down one Saturday morning and began viewing tapes of him preaching in Germany. I knew that pastor via the website and this service was much like the hundreds of others we'd been to where he preaches via storytelling about miracles, a translator translates for the locals, and then people line up to be prayed for for the next hour or so. The translator had problems understanding the preacher's Louisiana accent, and sometimes would stop translating, which visibly frustrated the preacher. But nothing unusual happened. I watched all the videos and went on to the next video from a service in Kansas where he preached after being in Germany. He spent a long time setting up a story about preaching in this church in Germany, how during the worship a group of people dressed as witches came boldly in and sat down, arrogantly challenging the power of God. He said he didn't do anything at first and began preaching. But when his translator suddenly couldn't speak, he leapt off the platform and walked right up to the female leader of the coven and faced-off. He described in detail the clothing she wore and the things she had woven into her hair. He described a power battle where they both were shaking and then she and her group were suddenly knocked out and she was thrown for several feet by the power of God into the large glass doors of the auditorium of the church. The Americans listening to this went wild with praise for God and the power of Jesus. I sat there in stunned silence because I realized he just made up a very involved story, citing several details, and it was completely from his imagination. I realized that everything I had invested in over the last 9 years was because of his amazing storytelling, and because I felt power. I also realized that his men were not discounting his tales, but backed him up. At first I couldn't fathom why. Then my years of studying cults reminded me that when there is a charismatic leader to a small group of intensely committed people, the followers will typically believe and follow and not question. This was the first crack in the seeming reality of Jesus and the power of God for me. I talked with friends who had hosted the preacher in their town, and they said he claimed miracles from that visit also, and they knew there were none. I shut off my website and began praying and fasting, seeking a genuine answer from God. I got silence. For a year, I kept pursuing an answer, and I was used to getting answers. The silence was my answer. I was at work one day and thinking about cults in the news at that time (a polygamist cult in Oklahoma) and wondering why anyone would believe such foolishness. Then I said to myself "I believed foolishness and thought it was God. I wonder what else I've believed that is a lie." I felt my guts recoil at that thought, for the first time I was questioning my faith. But I said, no I'm on a roll here. I want to know the truth. I'd been earnest in seeking and only getting silence instead of power, instead of a voice talking to me as I'd had before. Eventually, I searched on the term ex-Christian, and found this website where I soaked up the deconversion stories of many people, some of whom had been pastors. Within a month I posted publicly that I was an ex-Christian. I had read enough in that month to see through the Bible as myth and lies from primitive people, that the so-called eyewitness testimonies of the gospels were anything but that. Reality had not changed, but my view of it changed dramatically. The constant invisible war between angels and demons, God and the Devil, went silent. None of them even existed. All of it had been in my mind from the beginning. But because I had been meeting with other people that believed, it all seemed more real. When my faith would wane, theirs would fill in, and vice versa. We all believed a lie, just like every other religion that has existed. Some built huge temples to their gods by hand, there is even a passage in Acts about the Ephesians chanting for hours "Great is Artemus of the Ephesians!" They really believed, but were wrong. All of us that believed were mistaken, tricked, manipulated, and deceived. Life outside the faith has made a LOT more sense. I stopped making excuses for god not answering prayers. Believers often make up reasons for silence like "He has a better plan". But he doesn't. And his promises such as answering prayer for anything you ask for fall flat continually. When one stops making excuses, one can see through the lies more easily. I'm still processing what the power was that I and others felt in various services, but it is clear that the god of the Bible wasn't the cause. It is some part of the human psyche or such that we don't fully understand yet. I wish you well on your journey from the faith and all of the emotional manipulation that controls the sheep.
  37. 12 points
    I'm sure variations of this topic have come up before. But I wanted to start this thread to pick apart as many barriers as I could think of that are used as scare tactics (intentionally or not) that are used to keep Christians from questioning their beliefs, searching for knowledge outside of Christianity, or accepting new evidence. Here were my top mental barriers (as I remember) but please add more or elaborate if they applied to you: 1. Don't look at what people who believe differently have to say: They might trick you or the devil gains a foothold. Look at everything only through a Christian filter. This works on us in several ways: Tribalism (stay with your own kind and stay similar to them) as well as fear of the unknown (devilish trickery.) I was also worried about displeasing God by seeking the wisdom of man, since this is often warned against in the Bible. But doesn't God give us the discernment (with the Holy Spirit) to know truth from lies once we are "saved"? But it scares enough Christians to make them refuse to look at evidence directly from a scientist rather than through a Ken Ham sort of apologist. He comes across as smart and well-studied... let's just take it from him that he looked at it and decided it was foolish and has answers to rebut all of it. Relying on a Christian expert is easier than looking at the evidence yourself directly and coming to your own conclusion... especially if that conclusions may be different from your family and community and church. 2. I can't be wrong about God existing--haven't I "felt" God during worship service, during prayer? This is about putting aside logic and embracing emotion and feelings. Once I studied psychology (and read a lot about "supernatural" experiences) I came to understand how easy it is for us to delude ourselves or to have feelings that are neurologically generated, but not supernatural. Moving music can make us cry, even if it's just a musical... not fact based. We cry during sad movies we know are fiction. Also, we can feel a transcendence in crowds. Also, we can dreams that feel very, very lucid and convincing as signs. But they are just products of our brain chemistry. 3. Look at all the people who don't believe in God... they have nothing to live for, and no morals. They drink and smoke and swear and have sex and get pregnant... and their lives are miserable. This one got debunked as soon as I got my first job in the real world, meeting people of all ages who weren't religious but good and kind and happy. They weren't supposed to exist. I'm alarmed that so many parents now get their kids religious jobs (working for their church or Christian bookstore or Chic fil A or whatever...) and then ship them right off to a Christian college so they never get a peek into real people's lives who aren't Christians just like them. (And for the record, I knew more Christians who got pregnant as unwed teens than non-Christians. And the stigma from their loving community was awful shaming that's unimaginable to me now.) 4. All these people (in my community, state, country) can't be wrong. I mean, my parents believe it, and they're older and wiser than I am. They can't be wrong, can they? Yes, they can. When you're in a red state surrounded by other Christians, you feel crazy at first by even questioning what everyone else believes to be true. But mass delusions happen. And it's big world out there... if you're born in another country, you'll have just as much evidence that another religion is correct... because everyone around believes it. But if you disagree with the majority religion... you might lose your family, community, or job. There's too much to lose by exploring or questioning, so if sometimes you doubt the whole thing is true... just shove those doubts away and don't ever admit it to yourself or anyone else. 5. My teachers say that evolution is not proven. It's actually dis-proven. Carbon methods for dating don't work reliably. Sometimes people believed an entire hoax of a fossil based on one tooth. Evolutionists are just grasping at straws trying not to believe in God. There's a huge world-wide hoax of scientists in on it, trying to trick people into giving up God. There's no real evidence for it. It's "just a theory." My teachers were wrong. They probably didn't even know they were lying. The textbooks had old hoaxes (but not newly discovered fossils, and by newly discovered, I mean in the past 50 years) that verify evolution beyond any reasonable doubt. I mean, it would hold up in a court of law as evidence. But it was withheld from me, and I was lied to. I don't know if the textbook writers meant well, or not. I just know it was factually incorrect and very, very incomplete. And it repeated Christian hoaxes, like a footprint of a dinosaur and man in the same creek bed. (Found to be a hoax before it was taught to me, but went unacknowledged in my textbook... so Christian hoaxes are okay, but evolution hoaxes are a sign that it's all built on lies. Okay.) That "just a theory" argument makes me the most angry. A theory in science is a fact. It's the highest you can ever hold process. I don't know why we ever started saying, "I have a theory..." when we mean "I have a hypothesis." A hypothesis is a guess. A theory is a well-documented fact based on evidence. 6. Satan / the devil is very smart and powerful, and he can trick you. Don't trust your own senses, your own mind. Nothing like a little paranoia to seal the deal to keep you from questioning. No one wants to be a "doubting Thomas." 7. If no God... no heaven. Maybe no afterlife. You've been looking forward to eternal bliss... and now it feels like if you stop believing... it's like going to the doctor and finding out you have terminal cancer. This one is hard. Loss of a promise of eternal life of bliss with God. You were counting on that. Now you have this let-down of realizing Santa isn't real. The very same sadness and loss. Maybe even panic. But we know heaven isn't up in the clouds (like the story of the Tower of Babel assumed) because we know what's up in the clouds, and it's just... space. 8. If you're wrong... hell. It doesn't matter if you're a "good" person. Works can't save you from God's wrath for rejecting Him. And it's worse, because you heard the gospel message and then rejected it. God will have no mercy on your soul. You deserve fire, flames, and torment for eternity for not being able to believe in God with all your heart. At first, this is really scary. Your whole life, this has been a literal place to you. It's only when you've been outside for a little while that you see how truly awful and ridiculous the whole idea is. And it doesn't happen immediately. You think people who don't believe in hell are in denial so they can do sinful things... you don't realize they're searching for truth and realized that hell can't exist, that it comes from previous historical superstitions, that it's absurd for a God to send anyone there (unless it was super sadistic and evil anyway) and that it can't possibly exist anywhere. I mean... where would hell BE? We know what's inside the earth, above the earth, and in outer space. It's not there. 9. The Bible should be taken literally. Adam (which literally means "a man") and Eve were the first humans. Ignore fossil evidence and dating methods and history and tree rings and ice cores. Once I found out that history pre-dated the Bible... I was stunned. But there it was. Truth. Stonehenge, you name it. The world was happening long before humans, and human history long before the Bible. We just forgot and became ignorant of that or willfully rejected the truth. 10. Cognitive dissonance: I already know the truth and I believe it. I can't change my mind now, and why should I? I know I'm right. This is where most of my family is. They are simply not interested in exploring. Maybe once they were intellectually curious, but now they are comfortable in their beliefs, set in their ways, their minds are made up, and they aren't interested in changing their mind, seeking new answers when they already have one that works for them... and can't you please quit talking to them about it when they aren't interested in that nonsense? They don't want it. They don't want to look at it. They don't want to think about it. They already know what they believe. If you point out how they are wrong with real examples, they'll get mad and double down on what they already believe. Or they'll leave the conversation. Or they'll resort to sarcasm or name-calling, because they're uncomfortable and don't know how to answer you, so they'll fall back on the easy answer: I believe in God and the Bible. I don't have all the answers, but God does. We'll all figure it out some day when we die and we're in heaven. Until then, don't discuss it. And that's that. 11. How could an atheist's life have any meaning, devoid of God or spirituality or purpose? I could only figure this one out after de-conversion. But life still holds beauty and fascination for me, joy and delight. Life is even more precious to me. My actions are even more important. My purpose becomes mine to define: How will I contribute to life, humanity and the world? 12. Without eternal consequences, why wouldn't everyone just turn into serial killers and rapists and drug addicts? In my heart, I believe people are still basically good. Ann Frank was right. The Bible says that humans are basically wicked, and sure, there are sociopaths in the world, and whether or not they are Christians, they will do bad things to people without any pangs of conscience. Their brains are damaged or scarred or just not functioning like the majority of us. But the good people out-number the bad. The Bible is just flat-out wrong about the evil nature of humans. If you are brought up in a loving, secure home with supportive and kind parents (and sometimes even if you aren't) you are programmed to be a kind and loving person yourself. You'll do good, and others will do good to you in turn. You'll create loving bonds with others, and you'll feel secure, happy, and joyful. You'll do your best to contribute to your family, community, and the world. No life is devoid of suffering, but you'll strive to survive as all life does. And isn't it amazing to be connected to life that way? I'm happy I broke through the scare tactics. I'm sure there are some more I left out, and I'm sure some of the above applied to you too if you managed to break from Christianity to ex-C. For me, it took learning about history, science, psychology, and other religions to break free. I also had to overcome my own internalized fears and brainwashing in order to summon the courage to even look outside in the first place. How about you? Please share.
  38. 12 points
    Since I’ve come to ex-C.net in October, I’ve read the deconversion stories of other ex-Christians and even though I thought about posting my own deconversion story, I just didn’t know if I wanted to yet. I have lately read quite a few that were quite similar to mine, yet quite different. Reading those made me consider posting my own deconversion story again and now I think I’m willing to do it. Near the end of my time as a Christian, as much as I wanted to serve the god I believed in, I just couldn’t be who or what the Bible said God wanted me to be, and not because I didn’t want to be that way either. I struggled too much with emotional problems and violent thoughts. I still have problems with it, but to a lesser degree than before. There were some days when I had to deal with too much stress, which isn’t very much, I never really learned how to cope with it very well, but I was angry all the time, and my anger basically controlled my actions and thoughts. Sometimes, I was afraid that I might have been turning into some kind of monster and I prayed that God would save me from this evil that I thought was in me, but I never got any answers. I got nothing. Absolute silence, but I managed to deceive myself into believing I had gotten an answer. Just by thinking he would help me, it made me feel better sometimes and in those instances, I really thought my prayers were answered. There were also other sins that I had a really difficult time dealing with. Lust was a tough one for me and it always has been. The majority of my prayers were for the strength to resist temptations to sin. There was nothing selfish about those. I asked for the strength to be a better follower and servant of Christ, because that is what I wanted and what I thought the god in the Bible wanted too. Apparently he either didn’t care or was not real. What I have just described were not the actual cause of my deconversion. I guess if I were to compare my faith that I once had to the foundation of a building, the things I struggled with just before my deconversion put cracks in my faith everywhere and weakened it greatly. Now when my deconversion actually started, it was when the doubts started. My main doubt arose when I realized that there was a big contradiction between the god of love I thought I believed in and what the god of the Bible actually was. I was beginning to see that he was more of a monster than I could ever be, considering my anger problems and often extremely violent thoughts I sometimes had. The difference between Yahweh and I is, I actually didn’t want to be a monster, while Yahweh on the other hand, real or not, didn’t seem to care that he was a monster and at times seemed to even enjoy being so. The idea of being burned and tortured forever in Hell was the worst thing for me. I began to realize that there isn’t any good justification to torture people forever for a lack of faith. I knew Hell was supposed to be for repentant sinners, but the thought about finite crimes not being justifiably punished with eternal torment didn’t ever cross my mind until after I fully deconverted. But I was beginning to see that this “god of love” was really the most sadistic narcissist I had ever heard of in my life. Even though the signs were always there in the scripture, I either chose to ignore most of them, or didn’t know they were there. The fact is, I didn’t know as much about the Bible then as I did after my deconversion. When I tried to study the Bible on my own, I just couldn’t keep focused on it and there were always other things I was doing that my focus was on. Even though I knew as a Christian I was supposed to know what was in my Bible, I just couldn’t stay dedicated to it. So I mostly relied on what I was taught about it and I even tried devotional books a few times, only to once again get distracted from that. Anyway, when I began to actually notice the signs about Yahweh being some horrible monster, at first, I didn’t know what I was supposed to do. My mind kept telling me “God’s a monster. He doesn’t love you or anyone else but himself.” I tried to convince myself that what I was thinking was just lies from Satan. I even tried to talk to my Christian family members about this, but I could barely explain to them what my doubts were. I almost couldn’t get the words out. It was painful and scary because it felt like my faith in the one who was supposed to be number one in my life was slipping away and that I couldn’t do anything about it. The advice I got was “Just have faith”. And that is what I did. Every time the doubts came, I just ignored them and told myself, “It’s Satan trying to trick you. Ignore it.” It actually worked eventually, for a while, but then the very same doubts came again. I was beginning to think that maybe “God” was the deceiver and that “Satan” was just some trickery of his. I thought maybe Jesus Christ and salvation was nothing more than a sham used by this deceptive being to get people to worship him, just so he could feel good about himself and show off to them. “Have faith” was advice that got me nowhere the second time around. I absolutely could not do it. I could not make the doubts go away. But, these doubts caused the foundation of my faith to start crumbling all over the place. Cracks were forming in it all over. That is when I finally talked to a nonbeliever, someone that I actually did not realize was a believer, but when I wanted to know why he did not believe, he explained to me. Hoping to defend my faith that I still wanted to hold on to, I used every argument I knew of to defend it, hoping to defend it from myself and hoping to somehow save my friend again (he is an ex-Christian by the way). But he started giving me information and asking me questions about my faith. I realized that Christianity didn’t have all the answers I thought it did and that I had no good answers for believing what I believed. My faith was absolutely destroyed. The foundation of my faith just collapsed completely and everything I had built upon it, my views of the world, myself, and other people, just collapsed with it. I researched everything I could to find out if the things my friend told me about Christianity was true. He pointed out the logical flaws in the belief and showed me information about some of the stories in the Bible being borrowed from other, much older, religions. I realized that even though I both wanted and did not want my friend to be right, he was. He knew what he was talking to me about. For quite a while, this new information, the doubts I already had, and my fear of losing my faith just plagued my mind and I was afraid of losing my faith completely. I knew it was inevitable, but my fear of Hell is what prevented me from giving up on my faith completely. I realized that my fear of Hell was irrational and that there was evidence to back up the new information I had received, so I just left my beliefs behind and when I told my friend, we started joking about how we would see each other in Hell, knowing that there was no such place. The fear of Hell resurfaced many times after my deconversion and I had to re-convince myself each time that the fear was irrational. I had to read over all of the logical problems and the evidence against believing in Christianity’s claims, in order for the fear to go away. When I was not fearing Hell, I felt like I was free. I was free to think for myself. It made me wish that other believers could be free too. So I right away got in to trying to get Christians to deconvert, so they could experience the same freedom I had. All it did each time was lead to me fearing Hell all over again, and/or attacking the other person, which did happen once, when I told them they were closed-minded and such. Debating when you are an inexperienced and extremely recent ex-Christian is a bad idea, as I learned. Now I feel like I’m safe enough to do it, which is why I’ve been participating in the Lion’s Den. Well, this is my deconversion story, and this might not be very well organized, but I did my best to present this. I made sure to explain my experiences I had just before I actually began to deconvert and the ones I had just after, because I thought it was important to mention. By the way, I deconverted just a little over a year before I joined ex-C.net, in September of 2011.
  39. 12 points
    Stop reading my posts and telling my parents. This site is supposed to be confidential. You're a jerk and a jack ass whoever you are. Thanks also for hurting my folks. Good Christian actions. NOT.
  40. 12 points
    While trying to find the approximate date of my deconversion, I found this old email dating 10 years ago. This is a message I sent to 5 or 6 Christians, including 3 Pastors who never replied: Please excuse my accent, English is not my first language. - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - October 1, 2003 I was brought up to believe that the most important thing in life is to have a personal relationship with God. When I was 19 years old, I had a spiritual experience. It was so wonderful, it made me believe that God loved me personally. I was so happy, I started devoting most of my spare time reading the Bible, praying and talking to Jesus. I thought I had a personal relationship with him. I was so convinced, I knew this was what God wanted, and that this was why Jesus had come to earth. As the years went by, I slowly started to feel like my relationship with Jesus was imaginary and not real at all. The more I tried to convince myself that it was real, the more it was obvious that it was not. I tried many different approaches, I did everything I could not to lose it, but the relationship just gradually evaporated. There was no Jesus present after all. I dedicated twenty years of my life to this. Twenty years! Today I look back and admit that I never had a personal relationship with Jesus. It was all imaginary. This is the biggest deception of my life. In order to have a personal relationship with someone, I need good communication. This is, to me, the number one ingredient: good, clear, communication. I have worked very hard at having a good, clear communication with Jesus. I have never been able to get it. I can get a good, clear communication with almost anyone, but not with Jesus. How can we communicate with Jesus? The only way I knew was through prayer. That's how I got the communication going. I would talk to Jesus, then Jesus would reply in whatever way he chose. But even his means of communication were unclear. So I would use my discernment. If the reply I got was not in line with the Bible, then it was probably not from Jesus. If the message I got was in line with the Bible, it was not personal anymore. A personal relationship with Jesus Christ was what I wanted more than anything. I am now 40 years old. I gave my heart to Jesus when I was 19. I was born again and I am still able to glorify Jesus with my mouth, I can even speak in tongues. But I don't have a personal relationship with Jesus. I went through some pretty difficult periods in my life, and I would always ask Jesus for help and guidance, and then listen to his "voice" in my heart. His messages have always been unclear. Jesus' messages have always been unclear at a personal level. When I decided to get married and asked him if it was a good decision, his answer was not clear. So I got married trusting he was guiding me. After eight years of misery, I decided to divorce and asked Jesus if it was a good decision. His answer was not clear. So I divorced trusting that he was guiding me. When I decided to get married a second time and asked him if it was a good decision, his answer was still not clear. When I asked him how many children I should have, his answer was not clear. When I asked how I should serve him, his answer was not clear. When I asked him which church I should go to, his answer was not clear. Whenever I have an important decision to make in my life, the will of God is never clear. If the personal communication I have with Jesus is not clear, what is it worth? How can I call it a good relationship? It makes me very sad to hear someone say he has a personal relationship with Jesus. I know it's not true because I have been there. It's easy for anyone to IMAGINE that he has a personal relationship with Jesus. Believe me, I know. But sooner or later, we have to admit to ourselves that it's not true. I cannot have a personal relationship with Jesus unless I hear him clearly on a personal level. If my personal friend Jesus, my Savior, my God, my Guide is concerned with the important decisions I make in my life, he must provide me with a simple way to "hear" him clearly. If he is concerned, but has no way of communicating his will clearly to me, then what's the use having a relationship with him? How can I follow him if he can't make his will known to me clearly? I have tried for 20 years to know God's will for me and he won't tell me. I can't say Jesus cares personally about my faith. I can't say God has a will for me. So meanwhile I do what I want. What else can I do? Wait for Jesus to tell me? I can't hear him clearly, and I can't wait all my life! Sometimes I do bad things and it turns out good. Sometimes I do good things and it turns out bad. I soon realized that it doesn't really matter what I do. There is no God out there who tries to get personal with me. To Christians, doing what I want means I'm sinning. Because the flesh is weak, I can't possibly be doing anything good by myself. If I happen to do a good action, it's Jesus doing it through me, right? Even though I don't believe in Jesus any more. I don't believe he ever existed. If he did exist, he was a liar, and all his followers are liars, all pretending to have personal relationships with him. Not one honest Christian can hear Jesus clearly. Therefore no one has a personal relationship with him. The people who claim they have cannot agree among themselves about the messages they receive. Even when two Christians agree on a personal message from Jesus, half the time the message turns out to be untrue or misleading or not quite what they had heard in the first place. I speak from years of experience as a Christian. So I have to conclude that a personal relationship with Jesus is good only as long as you don't tell anyone. What kind of church is that? If the only agreement we have is in something that was written thousands of years ago (the Bible), that's not good enough. Jesus is supposed to be alive today! Can anyone agree on anything personal Jesus is saying to his followers today? Of course not. That's because Jesus is only alive in our imaginations, and everybody has his own imagination. If two Christians happen to get the same personal message from Jesus, it's only because they happen to imagine the same thing at the same time, and this is not uncommon, especially when the two are praying for the same thing. There is no Jesus behind such a coincidence. Jesus could as well have never existed and the result would be the same. Ask yourself this: If we had no imagination, could we have a personal relationship with Jesus? If anyone can explain to me how to get a clear, simple, personal communication going with Jesus, I would like to hear it. No one has ever been able to. I did everything possible, and more. I know Jesus better than most priests and ministers. I loved and trusted him more than anyone I ever met. I know what it is to be personal. I know all about personal relationships. I know how to open my heart. I know how to be true and honest and sincere. If you could see the number of love letters and personal messages I have written to Jesus in the last 20 years, you would be astounded. I spent all this time believing and trusting and devoting all my energy at not losing this "relationship" I had with Jesus. All for nothing. At the end, all I am left with is confusion and disappointment. Why doesn't Jesus care about my faith? Why doesn't he communicate clearly with me? Is Jesus so handicapped? Or mute? Doesn't he know how damaging it is for us to not hear him clearly? He acts like a fool. I would love to be his witness, but a witness to what? To his total lack of communication skills? Even a dog communicates better than he does. I can’t believe such a Christ can exist. It's time Christians start being honest with themselves and admit that they don't have a personal relationship with Jesus. At best, they can say they have found happiness, or love, or harmony, or joy, or a good book to read, or a pleasant way to use their imagination, but not that they have "a personal relationship with Jesus". They should choose their words carefully, and not just repeat what others are saying. They were mislead by hearing this phrase and they are misleading others by repeating it. The longer they keep doing this, the more it's going to hurt when they realize that there is no such thing as a personal relationship with Jesus today.
  41. 11 points
    ...I could not reconcile that a god could make something perfect only to have it rebel and suddenly is not perfect. How can a perfect entity suddenly be not perfect? Makes zero sense. That was when I started researching, even more, then one day the question hit me..."Where have all the gods gone?" It was at that point I realized that the truth is far from true! From then on, I smelled the stench of man, not the hand of a god in writing that book. So, after much thought and research, I came to the conclusion that I had to admit there are no gods. We have so many religions because we have so many people with their own understanding of why we humans even exist, but we all wonder why we are here. And it is that very wonder that has moved some people to offer up their own answers, even to the extreme of forming a religion behind it. Some are sincere, some are not and have had ulterior motives for their doctrines, but the bottom line, not a single god has come forward and saved their creations from themselves. NONE. Humanity is the same now as it always has been. Nothing has changed but the humans involved. Dare I say, I found the truth to be that humans who sincerely just want to know the truth have been played by their fellow humans. If you really want to know the truth of a matter, go looking and you will find it, but be prepared for the answers you might not want to hear.
  42. 11 points
    I’ve shared my xtestimony briefly on the introduction forum but I wanted to share a video I made of my story. The reason being, watching ex Christians share their stories on video was extremely helpful for me during the pre and post deconversion process. Eventually I worked up the courage and did one of my own. I hope this video will encourage you on your journey out of Christianity and into reality. If you think it would be helpful to someone else, pass it along. I thank all of you who invest so much time and energy into this website and community. You have truly helped me grow.
  43. 11 points
    Hi all, First of all, thank you for your warm welcoming. Specially to Logical Fallacy and Travi for being so nice in Discord. Alright here it goes, I hope it's not too long. Be aware that some of this content may hurt some people's sentitivities. Oh well, my dad has been a missionaire since he was 14. My mum became one when they married. I was raised into ministry- I started my pastoral leadership training at 8 years old so go figure. And here's soemthing you may find unusual to say in an ex christian testimony. My childhood was awesome. Looking back, there is very little I am not happy about with my childhood. My mum and dad were loving, supportive, I always had my little brother with me and he was the best friend I could have. I went to kid's christian camp, I was allowed to play / hang out with as many kids as I wanted, my mum was the kid's bible Sunday teacher. My dad was my hero, I thought of him as the most perfect human being ever existing, probably the most powerful man on Earth in the eyes of God, and I wanted to be just like him in every way possible. So I behaved extroverted like him, intellectual and imaginative like him, and always tried to plan my life day to day (like him) and follow ''God's will''. Despite of having to move to 2 different schools, since I was very little I didn't feel like that had an impact on me, plus most of my friends were of the church. We went to the beach, we had barbeques, we sang and played games, what else could I ever want? I loved my life, and my childhood, from ages 1 to 11 years old, and no matter what I will always be thankful to my parents for these years of my life. There was a moment where things got lamer, very boring and depressing- Puberty. I was no longer allowed to play with the boys at the church because my body could tempt them. EVERY DAY I would get a thorough clothes check from my mum to make sure I wasn't revealig too much of my body at school. Any time it was too hot (we are talking about Southern Spain FFS!) and I took off clothes in front of others, they'd ask me whether I was trying to seek attention from guys. I dismissed all their overwhelming protection, a careless child I was. My first years of high school, I still found kissing gross and had no idea of how sex work or wanted to know. What for? I didn't have to care, I hadn't met my future husband! But when I turned 13, since we had moved yet again to a smaller city in the countryside, I changed high school and it became impossible to hear sex jokes and puns everywhere. I wasn't living the normal high school experiences (crushes, hanging out with people on my free time, all the dumb teen stuff) so I could no longer relate to the people around me. I would refuge myself in books, prayer, and developing a core made of intellectual superiority. It became obvious to me that I didn't really have friends. But I wasn't allowed to hang out with anyone. This was weird, just because I have boobs now it means I have to be isolated? Even when my step brother came around (he is 4 years older than me), my dad would tell me off and many times yell at me because I wasn't allowed to have any physical contact with him. No hugs, no tickles ('Juego de manos, juego de marranos'), NEVER CLOSE THE DOOR when you are alone with him, better yet don't be alone with him, ''because he's a man and you're a woman, and you didn't grow up together like you and your little brother did''.My step brother complaints to this day that I have been cold and distant with him, oh well. My dad would tell me that friends are bad. ''You don't need friends, your best friend is Jesus. And one day, when you marry, your husband will be the only friend you need''. Since I adored my dad, I believed it, and concluded I didn't need anyone. I think this is when I became less and less social, leaning towards introversion. If someone invited me to do something like going to the cinema, they wouldnt' allow me (age 13 to 15) because I wasn't allowed to go out unless my parents came with me. Nedless to say my social skills vanished to many extents. I was used to always being around other kids, and now I was always alone because those other kids now were seen as potential sin influencers on me. When I was 14, my dad decided to let me and my older brother go to a youth group together. I was so excited! The music was awesome, all Hillsong in Spanish by the way. Lots of people I had met as kids (and lost contact with) were there and they were as cool as usual. I felt like I gained back a part of myself I had lost when we moved to this small town. I had friends, although I still wasn't allowed to hang out with them on the ''after-youth sermon-Burger King dinners''' I could still see them in the reunions. Only my older brother was allowed to go to the cool going-out gatherings like going to the river or barbeques, and that did upset me a lot. Maybe that's how my dad realised that we were getting too attached to this youth group, and he decided to forbid us from going again. I was 15. I remember I cried for days, hiding the sadness but ''acting out'' all angry teenager-like. Further proof that I had been under those teens' influence for long enough. My older brother would get away from still meeting with them and other people from other churches, and one day he opened my eyes ''You're sheltered. You and little brother, dad over-protects you and isolates you, although he does it for your own good''. The next church my dad helped, giving pastoral training, was a congregation of Bolivian and Ecuatorian people. They were kind to us, but they didn't have a youth group. There was only one teenage girl there I could talk to. Eventually, we met a family of musicians (father, mother and 4 children, 3 boys and 1 girl) that would help with the Music Ministry, along with my older brother. I used to participate in singing lessons, bass and guitar lessons too. That same year in high school, my older brother introduced me to the girl who became my best friend- and still is despite the distance. So life was looking up a bit again. I still felt like an alien in my high school class, but now I had people to talk to in the breaks. All thanks to my older/ step brother, without whom my teenage years would have been a complete hell and I probably wouldn't have any friends if it wasn't for him. The amazing musical ministry we had with that family vanished the following year after they decided to start their own ministry. I no longer saw my 'new' friends, luckily I had my best friend in high school. But by age 16, I had already become a skeptical pessimist without knowing. I became fascinated with Ecclesiastes' view of the world (I still am to be fair). Everything is meaningless, people leave you and nothing is guaranteed, everything changes but there's never anything new under the sky. I bet Nietzsche loved Ecclesiastes. This is when I became the most introverted, I would often choose to spend most of my time writing about deep philosophical thoughts that pretty much differed from ''all things God works for the good of those who love him''. My musician friends leaving plus two girls from high school saying nasty things about me after I gave them my friendship made me have the loneliest 1st A-level year ever (Primero de Bachillerato). But I was about to graduate, and go to university, so I had ''bigger things'' than my social awkardness in mind. On my last year in high school / A-levels, my dad decided he wanted to come and work in England because things in Spain weren't well economically speaking. My English was very good, I had studied English on my own and practised it with my older brother since I was 12. I had given up on high school English lessons and took charge of my own education in the language, which my English teachers noticed and encouraged me to keep learning. So when the moment came, I asked my dad to let me go to England too. I prayed, and fasted for 1 week for God's will and God's will only to be made: I was going to ask my high school's principal to let me finish my last year in April instead of June, which meant I had to take all my exams in 2 weeks. As if a miracle was happening, my school principal told me that she would allow it, but in the eyes of the City's Education Directive Board this wasn't happening because a student wasn't allowed to finish their school year ''express-mode'''. She said she was willing to take the great risk because she understood my need to find a job in London and help my family financially. So I did it, I passed all my exams in two weeks with an A+. I think I kinda became a legend amongst my teachers and the students, but that's anther story ;). I came to London and found a job in a cleaning company, because I needed to start working as soon as possible and that's the first thing they offered me at age 17 only, decent pay and with no work experience. This part of the story is where things get really messed up. My dad hated London, I loved it. His plans of creating a ministry here and finding a good job didn't quite work out (what a shocker! Wanna make a decent living in England without bothering to learn English first!!??). I became the only person of my family who was working full time. At first, that felt like a privilege. I woke up at 5 AM, spent 2 hours a day travelling by bus to the workplace, worked for 8 to 12 h a day, spent another 2 h in the bus going back home, and went to bed at 1AM to wake up at 5 AM again. Luckily, this lasted for only about 3 months. My dad changed. Maybe the loneliness, maybe missing home, maybe feeling like he was too good for such poor living donditions. He became hostile towards me, and made me cry almost daily. My mum and brothers were still back in Spain so it was just him and me, and the family with whom we were living. I have always been so vulnerable to WHATEVER my dad thinks of me that he didn't understand he could make me or break me with a single word or action. Really don't wanna go into detail, but here's where I started to question why was all this happening, when I had prayed and fasted for God's will to take place in my life. My dad would travel to Spain every moth to visit my mum and the church. When that happened, I was left here alone with the family that was hosting us. One day, I got harrased and abused. Somebody insisted that God had revealed to them that I had to lose my virginity to them, and if I didn't sleep with them, I would be disobeying God. This person was one of my spiritual mentors, this wasn't something I could think ''happened by accident'' like when someone walks alone in a dark alley late night and gets abused. I got verbally harrassed for entire days, me trying to ignore it, until one day I was forced to masturbate this person. They said if I didn't, they were going to go crazy because they couldnt get off on their own, and since I was there under that roof I would probably suffer more severe consequences than this. He had tried to force himself into me, I feared for my safety, so I had no choice than giving that hand job while trying not to cry loudly.There were kids sleeping in the house. I was 17 and I had never had a boyfriend, no proper sex ed, I hadn't even kissed a guy, I had the sexual awareness of a 13 year old. This was somebody I trusted like a family member. And it happened again, this situation and the mental torture didn't end until my whole family moved to London. I went into a mental state that was so dark sometimes I have trouble remembering exactly what happened. I never told my family, because of reasons I don't want to disclose- But basically, this would jeopardise entire family relatioships like one of us was the abuser (I know reading it like this doesn't sound like I had a motive to hide it, but remember I am not giving you BY FAR all the facts. This is like the movie adaptation of Eragon). I tried to come to terms about this with God, why would this happen to me after I prayed for his will on my life? Did this have a purpose? What kind of loving God would allow me to go throught this just because he had a purpose? Was there any at all? My dad always used to say that the 'chosen' of God don't have freewill, like Jonah. He tried to scape God's calling and he ended up in a whale's stomach, to then be thrown into the coasts of Nineveh. I became obssessed with the topic of Freewill, years after this I had stopped taking prayer seriously, but was in denial of my faith crisis. I enrolled to university and studied Law, while working pretty much full time hours as a receptionist. My mum and dad had cleaning jobs that made them too tired for anything. They were no longer the happy, friendly parents I had as a child. I hated London, I hated the system, I hated religion. My years in university were lamer than my high school years. I made a couple of friends, but my university was heavily involved in religion- Muslim to be specific, so I had no interest on participating in most of their social stuff. Besides, I didn't have much free time due to also working. I came across a typology site where people discussed topics like religion and politics, where I found lots of the resources I was looking for in my study of the logical flaws in religion and freewill, the damage religion dogma causes in society (especially for women), and how Christianism was no more perfectly founded than other religions. This helped me overcome a lot of doubts and self -questioning, and I will forever be grateful to those who provided me with a safe place to talk about my doubts. I was no longer welcomed to raise theological questions at home. Now that I had read books like ''Jesus Interrupted'' by Bart Erhman and ''The illusion of Freewill'' by Sam Harris, I asked things I never thought about before. My dad accused me of trying to corrupt my little brother's view of christianism for saying in front of him that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were not written by the apostles and were more likely recollections of verbally transmitted narrations. I was so upset, I thought we were different! I thought we supported asking question! Apparently not, if those questions raise doubting the bible's validity. But the environment at home was very tense, not only due to my irreligiousity. My mum and dad were unhappy about their jobs, plus they couldnt continue with half of them. I again was the only person working full time in a family of 5, my brothers had no luck one due to visas, the other due to being underage. This situation lasted for most of my undergraduate years, and I became the ''main provideder'' and the one my mum and dad would nag the most. I didn't do anything besides working, studying and reading, yet everyday they would find reasons to nag me and tell me off. I felt like everybody was taking advantage of me and planning my life for me (I guess you're also more prone to take verbal attacks more seriously after an abusive experience). Maybe they took their life frustrations out on me. This lasted after I finished my degree, gathered some savings and the strenght to move out. My boyfriend is an atheist, and he has been a great support in my life, making me grow as an independet thinker since the moment we met.I met him in that typology site I mentioned before, and he has been the most patient, logical and understanding friend too. I pray (lol!) that he doesn't get shot by my dad or brother when I introduce him to them. I believe I have been an agnostic athesit for over a year. When I moved out, my relationship with my family improved after they accepted that children move out and it's natural (I try not to talk about religion with them as it's still a sensitive area). My mental and physical health have improved, I've talked to a counselor about my bad experiences and that has helped. I have finally come to terms with the fact that no suffering of the innocent has a greater good purpose, ever. Not the fact that millions of children die of starvation, not the fact that 1 out of 20 children in the UK have suffered sexual abuse according to the NSPCC, not the deaths caused by Earthquakes or Tsunamis. ''God's Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question — Why We Suffer'' By Bart D. Ehrman was another great help for me in regards to all this. I know I still have a lot of work to do, a lot of life to live, and although I get frustrated to see how much I've missed out sometimes, I am more excited than ever to live my universally-unimportant, ephemeral and meaningless life, free from the dogma of thinking that nothing I do should come from my own wants or wishes but from the questionable Will of an an arbitrary God. I will just conclude here: Living for learning, living a life of meaning and learning to enjoy what I live. “Do you really mean to tell me the only reason you try to be good is to gain God's approval and reward, or to avoid his disapproval and punishment? That's not morality, that's just sucking up, apple-polishing, looking over your shoulder at the great surveillance camera in the sky, or the still small wiretap inside your head, monitoring your every move, even your every base though.” ― Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion
  44. 11 points
    Hi, everyone. Missed many of you, I've been insane crazy busy pursuing my baking business dreams, working, etc. I hope everyone is doing well. I haven't been active, because the forum posts were starting to blur together into this left vs. right bullshit of which I grew quite weary. I had a few minutes, logged in, and kinda skimmed through all my notifications. After reading through several forum posts with inflammatory titles and/or responses, I was getting worked up and crafting all these responses in my head....and then I realized that there is no point to it at all. Why should I bother to respond to things and throw in my two cents? Nothing happens. There are some people I truly respect on this site, I respect sticking to the arguments and disagreeing without being an asshole. Bouncing ideas off each other, challenging your thinking together, and checking your own biases and misinformation. But there is MUCH assholery here and I'm pretty done with it. I'm barely even on this site anyway and one day of scrolling through all of these posts has me heading straight back to my busy life without looking back. How are we supposed to grow together, learn from each other, help each other navigate through life, or do anything remotely productive on this site when we're too busy slinging shit at each other? There is pure gold in these forums from people who lost their faith and we are going to lose people who need help freshly deconverting by demonizing each other and put each other in boxes, with labels like "snowflakes," "racists," "ignorant," "stupid," etc. As someone who prefers to think critically about any various issue as opposed to holding to some party line or whatever, I'm seeing it on both sides. I don't know how many of the people on this site that I hold in high regard have the diligence and patience to respond to such mind-numbingly dumb shit with respect and thought-provoking material. I will fiercely defend anyone's right to say whatever they want to say, free speech and what not....but god DAMN what is the POINT of trolling? You think it's funny or something? What is the POINT of trying to make another person feel inferior or ill-informed? Sure, I'll chuckle at a potentially offensive meme every now and then....but like, there is just so much unproductivity in many of these discussions that it's overwhelming. Congratulations, you have free speech, now are you gonna doing anything useful with it? You're free to say whatever you want, by all means, but I don't have to listen to you say it. And before a select few of you want to say I'm throwing a snowflake tantrum, do me a favor and f*** right off. I won't put up with it, the way this place has been lately. It's called self-respect, not inability to hear things I don't like. I can't be the only one observing this crap or feeling this way, for the love of Zeus.
  45. 11 points
    How and Why I Left Christianity A few years ago, I used to be a Christian. Now I am sort of agnostic/deistic. And also antireligious. To give you a background:I grew up in a conservative Christian bubble for most of my childhood. All of my friends and immediate family are Christians and most of them are Pentecostal. I don’t know any of them who don’t think the Bible is inerrant. I never (and still don’t) have any non-Christian friends. Religion never felt terribly important to me, and I was slightly ashamed that I didn’t naturally feel religious in my day-to-day life like I was expected to. I would silently thank God for a pretty sunset, but didn’t feel overly-dependent or attached to God. Many people in my life would say that they relied on God for everything down to simply getting out of bed in the morning, and I found this weird because I could go a day without even thinking about God and I would be perfectly fine. I had a hard time believing that every mundane little blessing in our everyday lives was caused by God, or that God was causing good things to happen rather them being a result of our own actions or the actions of others. I secretly thought reading the Bible was boring and I would rarely read it without someone else encouraging or shaming me to read it. I rarely felt excited about my faith like other people in my life were. I couldn’t speak in tongues like some of my friends - even though I asked God many times. I did pray, but I never heard God’s voice like other people claimed to hear. For a while, I was very frustrated because of these things and I felt like God was either arbitrarily silent towards me or I wasn’t saved or I was doing something wrong. I felt like I hardly belonged, and I feared for my salvation for a while. I did everything I needed to be saved and I did truly believe the Bible, so finally I concluded that I did my part and if God didn’t accept me then that’s not my problem. Now that I’m agnostic and I look back at this, I’m still not quite sure why I never became “on fire for Jesus” like most other people in my life. I was “going through the motions”, as they say. Maybe I am innately too rational to fool myself into believing I was actually having experiences with God. I don’t know. By growing up always surrounded by conservative Christians, I used to always hear only their side to every religious or political argument. When I heard about what other people believed in religion and politics, it was always a warped, negative, misrepresented picture of it from someone who was against it. It was a classic case of indoctrination. When you are younger, it is forced on you. But once I got old enough, I was given permission to surf the internet on my own. That is when I started being exposed to information outside of my bubble of indoctrination. I began reading countless debates on creation and evolution online, and I also tried to defend my belief in young earth creationism in the comment sections. Through this, I got a sense for the rigidity and formality of debate, learned to spot fallacies, and realized in a way I hadn’t before that I could discover truth by logical reasoning and testing the validity of various arguments. This was incredibly important in my path towards irreligion. These online debate often drifted off into a debate about Christianity and Biblical inerrancy. I found myself having doubts about the accuracy and inerrancy of the Bible (not just about the book of Genesis but countless other parts of scripture). There were so many arguments that seemed to refute different passages of the Bible, and it felt like there were a bunch of leaks in a dam and I was scrambling to plug them up. Every time I found a satisfactory or at least partially satisfactory answer to a question, two more leaks would form. Some arguments against Christianity seemed solid at first, but after researching them, much to my relief it turned out that they were very flimsy. So I tried to encourage myself with that thought: That all the unanswered questions I had were nothing to worry about at all, and a good answer for it would come but I just hadn’t found it yet. Soon, however, I began thinking about the doctrines of Christianity many times a day, forming connections and trying to piece things together. I started daring to come up with new problems for Christianity myself and seeing if I could find an answer to them. To my horror, I found that there were whole realms of questions that led to other questions, all which I could think of few or no answers to. Searching for answers online didn’t help much either. Gotquestions.org and other sites failed me more and more often, and I started seeing logical flaws in the answers I received from them. I felt annoyed and uneasy when sites like Answers in Genesis would answer a scientific question with the Bible more than they did with science. I personally accepted the Bible, but I knew that the atheists I was debating would not, and I didn’t have much of a reason to give them as to why they should accept the Bible as well. The answers I got from Christian websites would only address part of the problem, and the main part of the problem would go unanswered. Or they would give an answer that relies on circular reasoning. Or they would give emotional reasons or other reasons that are irrelevant. Or they would simply say something along the lines of “I don’t know why this is the case, but we’ll just have to take it on faith. After all, it says here in the Bible that God cannot lie, so we can trust Him on this.” However, I saw that faith didn’t work very well in debates. Atheists wouldn’t accept it and I couldn’t blame them for it, so this answer always left me unsatisfied. Faith became a topic to avoid. I was on the same side as those using faith in arguments, but I was embarrassed by them. Faith was like a currency that only had value in my little Christian bubble, and outside it, it was worthless. People who believe different religions use faith to support ideas that contradict with Christianity, and I had no answer to why my faith should be accepted but theirs rejected. But logical reasoning, I saw, was like a universally accepted currency. Logic was incredibly useful. It is what enabled every scientific advancement. It allows us to truly understand the natural world. I relied on it more in my day-to-day life than I did on God. Logic was also necessary to be a Christian, else you could not even read and understand the Bible. I was reluctantly forced to admit the obvious to myself: Logic was superior to faith and it made no sense to make faith superior to logic in special cases. This was an important step in my de-conversion. I had liked to point to creation as the proof that God existed, but I realized that it told us nothing about which god (if any) created the world. Christianity didn’t really have any advantage over other religions. I realized that a great way to show yourself whether or not some argument in support of a religious claim is valid is to think of what other religions say about the matter, and ask yourself what logical reasons you have to think Christianity is correct about the issue and all the other religions are wrong. If you bring up Christian claims of miracles, supernatural experiences, or words from God, then just consider its equivalent in some other religion. If you don’t consider a Muslim’s supernatural experiences as evidence for their claims, why shouldn’t yours be rejected in the same way? I felt like I knew Christianity was logically true somehow (else I would reject Christianity) and I was grateful for being born into a Christian family so that I could grow up knowing the truth. Yet it scared me that in the 2000 years Christianity has existed, there were still no answers (that I could find) to some of the basic questions such as the problem of evil and others. You’d think that if there were good logical answers, everyone would be using them and I would have found them. I was terrified when some of my Christian beliefs could be logically forced into a corner where there were only two options: Believe in spite of the evidence to the contrary or admit the Bible is not perfect and Christianity is built on a foundation of sand. There was a growing pile of things that forced me (because of my indoctrination) to choose the first option, and this required me to have more and more faith that I was still right and all the answers were just hiding somewhere. With anguish, I started seeing that irreligion was winning over Christianity. I quickly became scared that I was losing the faith. I didn’t know if I was still a Christian or how anybody could know for sure that they were. I became afraid I would go to hell. I was afraid of my parents and friends finding out. I was afraid of people asking me about something that would force me to tell them about my doubts. I wanted to remain a Christian. I still wanted to believe in the Bible, but it was becoming difficult. I became depressed thinking that I might be going to hell for having doubts about the Bible, for not letting myself just stop asking questions, and for not being able to take everything on faith. I saw that praying for more faith wouldn’t solve the problems with Christianity – It would just sweep all the problems under the rug. I started constantly praying in my head, “Forgive me of my sins, God”. With all these thoughts about going to hell, my questions turned to the concept of hell, and that opened a whole can of worms for my faith. Thinking things through, I finally realized how evil and senseless God would have to be for him to send a person to hell. I realized the double-standards God has between the rules that he expects us to follow and the ones that He himself has to follow. It seemed that God could do whatever He liked and it would still not be considered sin. I began to see that Christianity essentially blackmails a person into making a low-information decision to follow Christ. It appeared like religion prevents a person from thinking critically about many things - keeping them in a self-perpetuating way of thinking that is almost unable to correct itself. I fully realized that truth is something that must be tested and shown to be true through research, discussion, and lots of logical reasoning - not something logically indefensible, unfalsifiable, and must be believed by blind faith and threats. I tried to console myself with the thought that Christianity only resembles a scam by some sheer coincidence. I used to think along the lines of “It sucks that a place like Hell exists, but that’s just the way things are”. But finally it occurred to me that God chose to create hell and set up all the rules that we follow, and being omnipotent, He could have chosen any number of other ways to set up His world. I thought that if God really loved us and He was omnipotent, He would have never created hell. But if somehow you can defend that He would, He could have made it temporary and bearable or He could have made it so that humans would never end up there. But if somehow you can defend this as well, God could have simply never created us. With the vast majority of humans supposedly going to hell, that seemed like such a terrible tragedy beyond words. I felt like it would have been better if humans never existed at all than for even one person to have to experience that barbaric, merciless punishment for any reason. What could be more important to a loving God than caring for his creation’s fate? For what could He possibly consider all this tragedy to be a net gain? For his glory. That’s it. God wants to be worshipped forever by a small, questioningly-chosen subset of his creation. This seemed to me like the most selfish, hateful act imaginable. Now to me, Christians were always the last people on earth who would try to justify sin. But when asked questions about hell or God’s terrible atrocities in the Old Testament, you could watch even a sweet old Christian lady transform before your eyes into an apologist for murder, torture, hate, rape, slavery, and abuse. But only in specific cases – namely, when it was God doing it or ordering it. At this point, it seemed to me like God was the ultimate hypocrite. I began thinking about the way God set up the rules for us: God determines what is sin and what is not sin. He makes many things to be sin so it is easy to sin, even accidentally. God gives everyone (or allows everyone to have) a sinful nature. A sinful nature ensures that you are tempted to sin and will sin at least once in your life. God decides the punishment for sin – hell. Due to the above two points, everyone is guaranteed to sin so everyone’s default destination is hell. God thinks it is a good idea to create man even with all the cards stacked against them like this. He doesn’t give them a choice of whether they want to be born into this world or not. A loving, omnipotent God would not set up everything so that hell is the default destination, I thought. If He loved us, He would not create hell. But if somehow you can defend this, he would at least set up the rules so that it is nearly impossible for anyone to go there if they didn’t want to go. God’s gift of salvation, the loophole to escape from inevitable torture after death… Maybe having this option available to everyone justifies the way God set up the world for us? And as shown above, God created the problem to begin with (because of the way He set up the rules and the way He created us), but does this loophole actually fix the problem? I began considering the way God set up salvation: Killing Jesus was needed to enable all-forgiving God to forgive us. But this doesn’t actually mean we are forgiven: God made sure that His forgiveness is conditional – depending on whether or not we accept this wonderful offer to solve the problem that He created. And don’t blaspheme the Holy Spirit – the omnipotent and merciful God is unable or unwilling to forgive that. In order to be saved, we have to believe God exists. If God exists, He makes His existence unprovable and requires us to go against what our rational minds tell us by forcing us to believe a huge collection of myths and legends without a shred of evidence. He calls this belief without evidence “faith” and chose to make it the backbone of the Christian religion. Why would God give us rational minds if they tend to lead us to reject the existence of God and therefore cause us to be damned? Why would He give us rational minds if He loves us and wants us to go to heaven? Not only does God give us no good evidence in support of His existence, He allows there to be plenty of evidence that leads us to believe that the Bible is wrong about many things and that God doesn’t exist. Many Christians say that God is testing their faith through this. But why would He want to do this? What is valuable about blind faith? Doesn’t God know that by doing this, He is gambling with our eternal destiny? Again, if God loved us, why would he make it hard to go to heaven? God chooses to give us the gospel message in a book written by mere men rather than a book written directly by himself. This causes rational people to question whether it is actually from God and this in turn causes them to go to hell. God allows there to be many competing religions in the world and does nothing to make His religion seem any truer than any of the other religions. This causes a person’s eternal salvation to come down to the chance that they will choose the correct religion. Again, why would a loving God choose this? God causes people to be born in a situation (geographic location, for example) where they will live their lives without ever hearing the gospel message and go to hell for no thought of their own. Why would God choose this? God chose to make his plan for salvation dependent on a person’s ability to understand His gospel message. Yet God chooses to create people who are mentally incapable of understanding it. Why would God choose this? God allows his gospel message to message to be distorted. This can cause people to go to hell. Why would God choose this? God does not spread the gospel message himself. If He did it Himself, it would simultaneously solve the problem of there being no evidence for God, the problem of His gospel message not being heard, and the problem of His gospel message being distorted. But He doesn’t do this. Why? Nearly everyone would go to heaven if He did this. Isn’t that what He wants? God lets Christians and non-Christians alike to sometimes die young. If He wanted more people to go to heaven, He would go to great lengths to allow non-Christians more time to make a decision to become Christian. If before we were born God gave us a choice about whether or not we wanted to be born and we knew the following: Endless torture would await us by default We most likely wouldn’t find or accept the loophole in our lifetime ….Then I don’t think anyone would choose to be born into this world. None of these things make any sense or have any reasonable answer if you are looking at them from the perspective that Christianity is true and God is omnipotent, omniscient, all-loving, perfectly just, and merciful. However, all of these points DO make an astonishing amount of sense if you consider them from the perspective that God does not exist and Christianity is an ingenious self-perpetuating scam. Suddenly I began thinking that things in Christian doctrine aren’t just the way they are because that’s the way they are, but they actually serve the purpose of keeping people dependent on the faith and spreading the scam. For example, verses like John 15:5, Jeremiah 10:23 and Matthew 4:4 demolish a person’s sense of control and self-esteem and leave them dependent on Christianity. Verses like Hebrews 6:4-6 keep them fearful of leaving the faith. Verses like 2 Cor. 10:4 and Matthew 12:31 discourage them of even thinking of leaving the faith to begin with. Verses like Proverbs 22:6 and Ephesians 6:4 encourage Christians to indoctrinate their kids while they are vulnerable to that sort of thing, thereby spreading the scam. Verses like Mark 16:15 also serve this purpose. Verses such as 1 Cor. 3:18-20, 2 Cor. 10:4, Proverbs 3:5-6, Isaiah 55:8-9, James 1:6, etc. encourage Christians to reject “human reasoning” in favor of faith in God and His wisdom - thereby preventing you from questioning the Bible. It suddenly makes perfect sense why verses like Luke 4:12 and Deut. 6:16 would tell you not to put God to the test, when putting God to the test would lead to the salvation of many people if God actually existed and answered prayers. You are encouraged to be like a sheep and to have the faith of a little child. The concept of infinite reward is a bribe to draw them forward in hope of gain, and the concept of infinite punishment serves as a threat to push them forward to avoid loss. Conflicting statements about what is required to be saved are probably unintentional, but nevertheless they serve the purpose of setting a believer down the path of ever increasing devotion to the faith just to be sure of their salvation (I know because this was my situation at one point). There are dozens and dozens of other conclusions I came to about Christianity and religion in general, but it would take me forever to write them all down. Most of them have to do with Old Testament laws, a few New Testament verses, details of God’s actions and overall plan for the world which contradicted with His supposedly perfect nature, contradictions in the Bible, God’s inaction today, the deliberate unreasonableness of most Christians, blatant misinterpretations of the Bible by Christians in order to avoid having to accept the obvious falseness or evil in particular verses, etc. With zero evidence in favor of Christianity, an ever-growing mountain of evidence against Christianity, and a convincing alternate view of what Christianity is actually about and how it even exists, I eventually found it impossible to believe any more. This deconversion that I had did not occur immediately, but occurred gradually over a period of almost 2 years. It was partially my fear of hell and my fear of what the Christians in my life would say if they found out about me that made the process take so long. By the end of that time, I considered myself to be irreligious. Then I soon became antireligious. My morals and politics have changed here and there for the better with my rejection of religion. However, I am still in the closet about all of this, so I still try to pretend to be Christian. It can be a really unpleasant business. Now I see everything that happens today as perfectly explainable by natural causes. I find it very silly to believe that some god must have been involved in the events of the world in order for us to be able to explain why something good or something bad happened to someone. The world looks the same as it would if there wasn’t any god at all and if the world just operated on its own. The laws of nature don’t attach any significance to whether a bolt of lightning strikes a tree or if it strikes a person. Only we do, and I don’t need religion to cope with that. Because there is no God directing my fate, I am fully responsible for making this world a better place. It is no longer forbidden to apply reason to subjects like morality and politics, and because of this, I have a method to improve the world rather than being dogmatic and stuck in the past. I consider that a good thing. I’m sure I could think of a lot more to say if I took the time, but this post is long enough already. Thanks for reading! - - dirwid
  46. 11 points
    I know several people who go to church and aren't terrible people. I guess you could be one too. That said...... "My mum starts crying and is genuinely upset I won't be in heaven and I can't deal with that." Well that's just too damn bad. What if she was upset because you aren't a Nazi or Scientologist? You are entitled to your own opinions and beliefs as an equal. Emotional manipulation is a primary tactic of those who would force you to agree with them. Don't fall for it. You are not the cause of their problem. You must be honest with yourself first and foremost before you can have any honest relationships. Do you want people to mistakenly love and respect the real you or a fake you? Obviously, people find unlimited opportunity for friends and activities outside of the church setting, so that's not an excuse. Show a little respect for yourself and others by being honest.
  47. 11 points
    I have been doing some thinking about this forum and in so doing, thought back to those days when I first deconverted. I wanted to share how this website helped me. I also invite anyone who so desires, to share their experiences, too. When I deconverted some six years ago or so, I thought I was all alone. It felt like I was the only person who made the decision to leave the Christian religion behind. I felt totally alone. I kept thinking of the word "apostate" and how that was what I had become. I will confess to you now that it scared me in no small way. There was not one single person IRL with whom I could speak about my thoughts, fears, concerns, and yes, the exhilaration I felt for having escaped the slavery that is Christianity. The reason for that is that in my community, Christianity is central to everything and to speak out publicly means one is an outcast. One day while I was alone, I decided to do a Google search and I think I typed something in like exchristian or some similar word or phrase. That is when the Google search engine brought up ExChristian.net. Oh, my, I thought, I can't believe it. I clicked on the link and came to this forum. Over the next several weeks, I read every single deconversion story and I was so totally delighted to find a whole internet community with people from all over the world who had experienced exactly what I had. I eventually signed on and have never regretted my decision to do so. It was only in finding Exchristian.net that I realized that I was not alone and that what I had been going through was something which I had in common with my fellow deconvertees. It was glorious for me. Though I do not post every day, I will tell you that it is a rare day that I do not log in and read the posts on this forum. Even now, it helps me to see others who made the same decision that I made. It lets me know that I am not just some outcast but that I am among some of the finest company in the world. I am in the company of those who freed their minds (or are actively working on doing so) from the chains of Christian slavery. How about you?
  48. 11 points
    DEAR EVERYONE!!!! I have a full-time job and my own apratment! yay! that is all
  49. 11 points
    I was born into a Christian family attending a Methodist Church in Ireland. My dad was very involved in the church and my mom (who grew up a Catholic) followed suit. When I was 5 years old, we moved to the USA, where we settled into an evangelical pentecostal Foursquare church. I grew up memorising bible verses, going to Christian summer camps, being encouraged to worship in the pentecostal style, learn my gifts of the spirit, and dedicate my life to Christ. I never considered that any of it was open to questioning or interpretation – it was just the way things were. The sky was blue, one plus one equalled two, and God loved me – it was that simple. When I was 12 years old, we moved back to Ireland. My dad ended up becoming a Methodist minister and I spent my teenage years attending the various churches he was appointed to. These churches were more traditional than I was used to and I did not enjoy them at first. But this changed as I became involved with the youth-friendly side of the church – youth groups, contemporary youth services, special youth-centred events, etc. My whole social life became based around it. I had become very passionate about music and an avid fan of many Christian bands. My church encouraged me to get directly involved in music, and I gladly immersed myself. Over the years, right into my twenties, I played multiple instruments in several worship bands and I ended up leading worship in more than one church. Some friends and I formed a Christian band with regular prayer, songwriting, practices and gigs. I was told time and time again how much of a blessing I was to so many, and how the Lord had bestowed me with my gifts and anointed my endeavours – I completely soaked up language like that and felt really proud that I was doing something for God. I dated Christian girls. I prayed and read devotionals daily. I regularly discussed Christian topics with my Christian friends. In fact, all my best friends were Christians. I was never rude to non-Christians, but I certainly felt it was important to not get too close to them. I wasn’t a perfect Christian by any means – I messed up a lot just like everyone else. But I wanted to try and be as good as I could, and live my life for Jesus. "There's nothing so absurd that if you repeat it often enough, people will believe it." – William James It would be dishonest to say I wasn’t happy growing up like this – I was. I did not have the horrible Christian childhood experiences that I’ve read in some deconversion stories (mainly those from more rigid fundamentalist backgrounds) and it breaks my heart that some people do. My family were, in hindsight, quite reasonable and liberal Christians. I was constantly surrounded by people who loved me and cared for me very much, which is of course something I completely appreciate and feel very lucky for. Growing up, I did have some problems with Christianity. They were never to do with experiences or how other people treated me, but more to do with struggles in my own mind which I often kept to myself. For instance, I grappled with the idea of hell (why would God create it, allow it to exist, and be OK with sending humans – who he apparently loves – there to suffer forever?). I was never entirely comfortable with the more pentecostal styles of worship (sometimes it was obviously an act). I was never satisfied with Christianity’s big NO (without further explanation) on sexual matters – I often felt guilty and self-loathing for just experiencing otherwise natural teenage hormone-driven sexual feelings, which could make me extremely miserable at times. I was discontented by the double standards and Bible cherry-picking that went on among different Christians and how to most people, God seemed more a projection of themselves. I was rarely satisfied with the Christian answers for many difficult questions. I couldn’t help but notice how people of other religions could be just as confident in their truth as I was in mine and I wasn’t sure what to make of that. But even with all this and more, my faith was never shaken. I suppose I simply felt immature, that someday I would understand why everything is the way it is. I always decided that for the time being, I just had to trust in Christ, devote myself to him, and everything would work out. And so my Christian life went on. “Faith does not give you answers, it just stops you from asking questions.” – Frater Ravus I got married at the age of 23, and my wife was soon (unexpectedly!) expecting our first child. My involvement and responsibility in church waned as I gave more time to family. We ended up going though a period of several years in which we did not regularly attend any particular church, but I was by no means less of a Christian. I kept up prayers, reading, podcasts, music, etc. and tried out various churches as we moved around. But as time went on, I felt more and more compelled to get back into proper church membership and offer up a more substantial part of my life to Christ. So at the very beginning of 2012, I found a small local newly planted church with some great enthusiastic people and an approach to Christianity that I immediately clicked with. I invested my time and my talents, and soon became involved in church activity, particularly the worship once again. For about four or five months, things were going just peachy, and I was excited about what the short and long term futures held, and really wanted to get more and more involved. God was good! But then something happened. I started to ... think. There was not a single event that triggered my deconversion – it just kind of ended up happening. In a renewed commitment to my new church, being older, I was more mature than I had been the last time I was part of a regular Christian community, and I guess reached a stage where I was no longer satisfied to just be told how things are. I wanted to know why. I stopped doubting my own mind and thinking narrowly. I became more and more aware of the world as a whole. Christianity made a lot of sense when looking back at my own life, but it didn’t always make sense when looking at many other people’s lives. I wanted to understand. I wanted to be able to give answers and not just ask questions. And so several things went on simultaneously, in no particular order, that led me to the path to deconversion. They all happened together and what I learned from one would interleave with and influence others. So it’s not clear where I should start! Well ... one factor was prayer. To be honest, prayer had always been a bit of an issue for me. Even though I prayed almost every day since being a teenager, I much preferred it when other people prayed. Why? Because truthfully, I had way less faith in prayer than I would have liked to. Often, praying simply had no effect. Being quite an introverted and independent person, I would rarely share problems with others – instead, I’d just pray about them privately. But really, I never knew if it worked – events would tend to play out the same whether I prayed or not. I had no luck at all when praying for obvious divine intervention. In fact, praying for anything tangible became a bit of a taboo to me, because I was always disappointed. All I could do was pray for something generic like strength or wisdom, and then assume that maybe doing so made a difference. I noticed how people who regularly shared and prayed about their problems with others did seem to get results – it almost seemed as if they were getting help from the humans and not God. I convinced myself that perhaps my prayers were too selfish, that I didn’t have enough faith, that I was asking for things that were against God’s will, that it just wasn't my spiritual gift, etc. I mostly stopped praying for myself, and instead trusted others would do that for me. And so my prayer became sort of a ritual in which I would ask only for non-specific things, or for things that I could never know the outcome to. I liked it better when other people prayed because they always seemed more sure of it than I did. In summer 2012, as I was picking the songs for Sunday worship in my new church, my wife requested that I sing “Mighty to Save” and do a special prayer. This was because she had been following a hugely popular internet thread in which a very young girl was dying of cancer, and thousands (millions?) of Christians across the world were getting involved. They were praying for healing, and many of them were singing “Mighty to Save” in their congregations as some kind of global appeal to God. I hesitated... I knew that it wouldn’t make a difference. The little girl was in a terrible state and I just knew she was going to die. I admitted to myself that I had always avoided praying for things like this because it made me feel stupid and embarrassed when they didn’t work out. But this time, I convinced myself to go for it. I was in the middle of a fresh commitment to Christianity and I wanted to go all in. So I sang Mighty to Save. I prayed many times for God to save her, and I thought that surely at least one of the involved Christians around the world had a strong enough faith. I was ready to see God in action! Well ... a few days passed ... and she died. I thought - why does God do this? How can we convince people that God cares? I was angry. I shared my feelings with my wife and she said that no, people on the internet thread were happy and encouraged because the girl’s family got a few more days with her than the doctors expected, and the girl’s suffering seemed to be lessened - perhaps that was God’s will, they were saying! I was livid. People were praying for healing! For saving! We invested ourselves! We cried out! No one was praying for “a few extra days”! If this was God’s will no matter what we prayed, then what was the point in praying at all? Am I the only one angry about this?! I felt that I went all in, and God let me down. Sometime after that I prayed what ended up to be one of my final prayers. While driving to work one day thinking of all the suffering and prayers going on in the world, I looked up at the sky and said with a tear, “Either you don’t care, or you don’t exist. Which is it?” No answer came. After that, I thought a lot about prayer. I pondered that people will pray for anything, and then figure out whatever they want the answer to be afterward. Answers to prayer and God’s will were always a hindsight revelation. It all just seemed like forced justification. Too many unanswered prayers are ignored while the odd prayer that seems to be answered receives all the focus, as if it couldn’t possibly be anything but God’s intervention. I started to get frustrated with Christians giving all the credit to God for what was actually effort and action by human beings. I formulated my own version of the ‘jug of milk’ analogy. I reasoned that if God knows each of our futures anyway (as many bible verses attest), then what exactly is the point in praying at all? When I finally came to the issue of theodicy (see later on) and how altogether narcissistic most prayers are given all that God fails to do for people experiencing real suffering in the world, that was the end of prayer for me. Before these prayer issues fully played out, another factor (arguably the strongest factor) which led to my deconversion was the discovery of information. “In the age of information, ignorance is a choice.” – Donny Miller As part of my renewed effort for a more thorough commitment to Christianity, I started to study more. I wanted to learn more about Christianity and be a respectable source of knowledge and moral values to my family, as well as to other people. I wanted to become wise and not repeat the mistakes (as I saw them) that were being made by other Christians. So as well as getting involved in my new church, I set out to learn as much as I could. I had eight hours of commuting to work each week, and had been enjoying various audiobooks for a while, and so I thought perfect – I’ll devote that eight hours a week to God. Not yet sure of any particular books to read, I decided to go with podcasts. After checking out a few options, I settled on the number one Christian podcast in iTunes at the time, which was Mark Driscoll’s sermons from Mars Hill Church in Seattle. To begin with, I was hooked. Driscoll is incredibly easy to listen to, skilled in rhetoric, and well rehearsed in bible verse. He preached about Christ and Christian living, and drew a lot of nods from his congregation, me included. What I liked most is that he backed up almost everything he said with a biblical source. Over the previous years, I had been sensitive to preachers who I felt were injecting too much opinion into their sermons, and not enough scripture. Driscoll seemed different. But it didn’t take long for things to go a bit awry. The Christian life that Driscoll was challenging everyone to take up was, well, not exactly enticing. I suppose it was all a bit more fundamentalist than I was used to, and I eventually became quite disheartened. I knew that if I lived how Driscoll preached we should (which, to his credit, he was entirely backing up with scripture), I didn’t think I’d personally be happy, and that my family as a whole certainly wouldn’t be happy. It just seemed to be an unfulfilling way to live. For example, Driscoll preached (as tactfully as he could) that men were in charge. That men had to act a certain way and conversely that women had to act a certain way. It says so in the Bible (which it does)! How can you argue with the Bible? If you’re not living like this, God is not pleased. He preached lots and lots of things like that. It all seemed very inflexible, and almost a bit too tailored to what his own life and his own marriage were evidently like. He gave no room for the diversity of human personality. He could be wince-inducingly judgmental, and encouraged others to do so as well. It just seemed to me like this biblical Christianity was completely out of touch with how society actually functions, and while I could see it working for small localised like-minded groups, it could not possibly work for the entire world. It was seriously closed-minded. But, as I have reinforced multiple times, Driscoll was backing it all up with chapter and verse! And so, my focus couldn’t help but shift to questioning the scripture itself. “Properly read, the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived” – Isaac Asimov Driscoll quoted a lot of Paul and other new testament authors. Why is Paul’s word the Word of God?, I thought. Can it not just be considered as inspired human writing, like say, a C.S. Lewis book, and not be given such unquestioning authority? Who decides these things? How do we know? I actually realised that I knew very little about anything, and had been living in ignorance. I had no idea where the Bible came from and I admitted to myself that I had read too little of it. So I set out to find real answers. I started with some Google searches, but in trying to find answers on the internet, I was put off. The most vocal voices on the internet seemed to be what I deemed both unreasonable Christians and unreasonable Atheists, throwing around opinions like they were experts, and reducing too many conversations to insults. I couldn’t trust anyone as conveying actual knowledge. I decided I needed to start at the beginning. I set it out to find a book about Christianity. A book as impartial and agenda-free as possible, that both intelligent Christians and intelligent Atheists gave 5 star reviews. I ended up settling on ‘Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years’ by Diarmaid MacCulloch (which was fortunately available on audiobook - all 46 hours and 35 minutes of it!) “If there is a God, atheism must seem to Him as less of an insult than religion” – Edmond De Goncourt And well ... Christian history is horrible! Horrible horrible horrible. Lots of people doing lots of very bad and idiotic things in the name of God. I can’t possibly expect to summarise it here. To say I was shocked would be an understatement. Why would God go through the whole Jesus ordeal and set the stage for a new covenant with humanity with eternal consequences, only to sit back and let humans completely bungle and pervert it? I could write paragraph after paragraph about all the appalling, horrific nonsense what went on. Killings – lots of killings. Killing non-Christians. Killing other Christians who believed slightly different doctrines. Killing muslims. Killing jews. Killing alleged witches and other unlucky victims of ignorant superstition. Killing humans for just trying to discover more about the earth and the stars. And torturing. Real horrific torturing in the name of God. The inquisitions. The crusades. The scripture-based justification of slavery and the oppression of women, black people and others. And don’t forget the lying, cheating, extorting, abusing, controlling and manipulating. I took fairly in-depth notes while reading this book and I documented incident after incident. I’m quite informed. If this was God’s perfect plan, then something is very, very messed up. As I complained about the actions of these historical Christian brutes and halfwits, others would point out that surely a bunch of good must have been done as well. Well, of course there was. But would you acquit a murderer of his crimes just because he also happened to feed some homeless people? “Religion now comes to us in this smiley-face, ingratiating way — because it’s had to give so much more ground and because we know so much more. But you’ve got no right to forget the way it behaved when it was strong, and when it really did believe that it had God on its side.” – Christopher Hitchens I read all about the absurd fatuities. The copious amount of doctrines that were just made up as they went along. The senseless reasoning. My jaw dropped when I got to the part about indulgences. I learned shocking fact after shocking fact. I couldn’t believe I didn’t know any of it before. I was both fascinated and disgusted at the same time. I had spent my whole happy Christian life knowing – just knowing – that the reason it was good was because I was a Christian, simple as that. To me, my experience was a proof of God. And yet the actual history of Christianity and the lives of Christian human beings for the last 2000 years were nothing like my safe little bubble of existence. I used to feel like a majority, and suddenly I felt like a tiny minority. Where was God in this history? I could go on about the Constantine-sponsored beginnings of organised Christianity and how it spread through Europe mostly by means of brute force and monarchial legislation. And the Protestant Reformation which, in an attempt to undo some of the nonsense by changing the focus from papal authority to ‘sola scriptura’, just brought in a new age of ignorance in which suddenly any Bible verse was enough to justify continued atrocities. And now we have a plethora of denominations of Christianity, from liberal to fundamentalist, all finding their own unique way to reconcile their own wishes against scripture. It turns out there isn’t a single doctrine of Christianity that hasn’t been contested by at least one denomination or another. It didn’t take long to discover that the modern version of Christianity that I am most familiar with, in which we all go to church to sing nice songs and listen to congenial sermons is a small fraction of Christian history, and like most changes over the ages, started out as a shunned minority. It’s just the latest in a long series of innovations tailored to the society-of-the-day, accompanied by a fresh cherry-picking of the Bible to help us convince ourselves that we’re finally ‘doing it right’. In fact, all the modern freedoms and comforts we enjoy (and rely on to enable modern Christianity to function) are not a blessing of religion, but rather a product of human democracy, justice and progress. This is something which only came into fruition in the last several hundred years as the Church’s grip lessened, the renaissance and enlightenment were finally able to play out unhindered, and monarchy powers dwindled. As insightfully recognised by the eighteenth century philosopher: “Men will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.” – Denis Diderot If Christianity had its way, you can be sure we’d all still be living in the dark ages. That is incontestable. If you doubt it, I encourage anyone to read the history of Christianity and find out all these things, and much more, for themselves. Of all the things that went on in Christian history, I find myself particularly aggrieved at how the church handled scientific discovery. Read the story of Galileo and tell me you don’t feel rage at the mad injustice. To think what advancements Christianity held back! All the great works that were burned and destroyed by the church because they felt that if it was not from God, it must be evil at worst, and useless at best. Entire libraries of knowledge were lost forever, destroyed by troops of ‘pious’ men. Christianity stole a significant chunk of human discovery from us, and we can never get it back. “Religion is an insult to human dignity. Without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.” – Steven Weinberg While still reading the history of Christianity, I was randomly introduced to the books of the New Testament scholar, Bart Ehrman. I really like Ehrman’s style because he manages to present raw evidence, separate from his opinions. I don’t always 100% agree with his conclusions, but the evidence alone speaks for itself. I started with ‘Misquoting Jesus’, which is the account of how the Bible was changed over time. It tells of how the Bible manuscripts we have are all different, sometimes in major important ways. How whole verses and sections appear in later manuscripts and not earlier ones. The pseudonymity. The illiteracy. The hand-copying. The amateurism. The admittance of problems while they were happening. The guesswork. The forced harmonisation. The poor translating. The theological, social and antisemitic motivated alterations. The disagreements. Ehrman gives compelling evidence. Even if he’s wrong about 90% of it (which he’s not), there would still be enough issues left to cause serious concern to any Christian. “The differences among the manuscripts have become great, either through negligence of some copyists or through the perverse audacity of others; they either neglect to check over what they have transcribed, or, in the process of checking, they make additions or deletions as they please.” - Origen, Church Father, 3rd Century After Misquoting Jesus, I moved onto Ehrman’s ‘Jesus Interrupted’. There is so much material in that book. The delayed biblical authorship timeframes. The poor, biased, oral means of author’s sources. The many, many biblical contradictions. The irreconcilable gospel stories, events and timeframes. The contrived formulation of “prophecy fulfilment" by Greeks scouring the Septuagint for usable material (with some obvious translation blunders). The widely varying agendas of biblical storytellers. The lack of concern with fact. The forged letters of Paul. The evolution of Christianity where once orthodox beliefs became heretical over time. The political canonisation process. The blatant inventions of doctrines and theological perspectives. The widespread differing interpretations and localised evolutions of theology. Et cetera. “One of the most amazing and perplexing features of mainstream Christianity is that seminarians who learn the historical-critical method in their Bible classes appear to forget all about it when it comes time for them to be pastors. They are taught critical approaches to Scripture, they learn about the discrepancies and contradictions, they discover all sorts of historical errors and mistakes, they come to realise that it is difficult to know whether Moses existed or what Jesus actually said and did, they find that there are other books that were at one time considered canonical but that ultimately did not become part of Scripture (for example, other Gospels and Apocalypses), they come to recognise that a good number of the books of the Bible are pseudonymous (for example, written in the name of an apostle by someone else), that in fact we don't have the original copies of any of the biblical books but only copies made centuries later, all of which have been altered. They learn all of this, and yet when they enter church ministry they appear to put it back on the shelf ... Pastors are, as a rule, reluctant to teach what they learned about the Bible in seminary.” – Bart Ehrman I also read Ehrman books like ‘Forged’, ‘Lost Christianities’ and others which expanded on some of the topics covered in Jesus Interrupted with much more evidence and detail. In his books, Ehrman also presents alternative theories about Jesus which he finds the most probable, such as the idea that Jesus was a Jewish apocalyptic prophet. Other authors present alternative theories about Jesus, with some even purporting that he never existed at all. Many draw striking, conspicuous parallels with Christianity and earlier influential religions. All these theories make both good and poor points, and the conclusions are impossible to be certain about. In fairness, they’ve got very little to go on, as apart from the biased writings which became the bible, there is little to go on: "In the entire first Christian century Jesus is not mentioned by a single Greek or Roman historian, religion scholar, politician, philosopher or poet. His name never occurs in a single inscription, and it is never found in a single piece of private correspondence. Zero! Zip references!" – Bart Ehrman And so here I was. One day I’m an ignorant but otherwise content Christian who wants to find a bit more out about why things are like they are, and the next thing I know my entire perspective has changed. When I was around three-quarters the way through reading the history of Christianity, and had also read the first Ehrman book, I decided I had to leave my church. I was definitely leaning more towards unbelief at this stage, but I still had some way to go. Every week I was still leading the worship at church and as you can imagine it all started to get, well, strange. I felt I was in a simulation and that everyone was pretending – and nobody but me seemed to be aware. In those final weeks at church, many of the lyrics of the songs I was leading jumped out at me for what they were. The lyrics said things like 'my sin', ‘my failure’, ‘my shame’, ‘I’m lost’, ‘I’m desperate’, ‘I surrender’, ‘my sinful soul’, ‘my mocking voice’, ‘my ransom’, etc, etc. And obviously, the other side of the lyrics were how great God is. Praise the Lord, etc. Some of them went into detail about the sacrifice of Jesus, and how we are the ones who apparently deserved death, but Jesus died in our place. I suddenly saw it all from another perspective. Just why do we deserve death? Why are we allowing ourselves to be labelled failures and sinners from birth, before our lives or circumstances even take shape? If God created us, then surely our inherent ‘failure’ is his fault anyway, right? Why are we OK with being made to feel this guilty? Why are we all having to apologise for simply being human? How is this fair? How have I not questioned this up until now? “In exchange for obedience, Christianity promises salvation in an afterlife; but in order to elicit obedience through this promise, Christianity must convince men that they need salvation, that there is something to be saved from. Christianity has nothing to offer a happy man living in a natural, intelligible universe. If Christianity is to gain a motivational foothold, it must declare war on earthly pleasure and happiness, and this, historically, has been its precise course of action. In the eyes of Christianity, man is sinful and helpless in the face of God, and is potential fuel for the flames of hell. Just as Christianity must destroy reason before it can introduce faith, so it must destroy happiness before it can introduce salvation.” – George H. Smith As a father, I would never inflict such mental abuse on my own child, so why do we not only accept such treatment from our ‘heavenly father’, but praise him for it? All the suffering through the millennia. It was the same thing over and over, just done in different ways: convincing humans that they needed to be ‘saved’, and promising all the answers (with eternal consequences, of course). And so I left. I had no choice. I wasn’t ready to tell anybody about my experiences just yet, and I didn’t want to create any issues, so I gave an excuse about the church not being child-friendly (which, in fairness, was an issue for my family) and well, that was the end of church. So, with the history of Christianity behind me, as well as all the New Testament knowledge, I decided to look at the Old Testament, the history of Judaism and biblical archaeology. And, once again, I was in for a shock. “One must state it plainly. Religion comes from the period of human prehistory where nobody had the smallest idea what was going on.” – Christopher Hitchens As many people have done, just reading the Old Testament with an unbiased and honest mind is more than enough to convince yourself that the work is a product of uncivilised bronze-age men, not an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent deity. It doesn’t take much – a child could figure it out. Never mind the poor sources, countless loose ends, rampant contradictions, absurd laws, fairy tale events and other things which just don’t make sense. The worst thing of all about the Old Testament is the blatant immorality and unjustness of a God who, as a Christian, I had once considered the epitome of all things good. I could give example after example. All you have do is read it. As best put it in The God Delusion: “The Old Testament God is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” – Richard Dawkins I can’t argue with any of this. Thank goodness that there is virtually zero evidence that any of the Old Testament events actually happened. Biblical archeologically has been practically given up as a lost cause. Cross examining with the recorded histories of other countries (such as Egypt, who has a much better history) reveals zero correlation. Jewish history itself reveals the extent of writing and re-writing of scripture that went on, and how it was traditionally something to be interpreted, not taken literally. It can be clearly seen what historical events led to the focus on the duality of good and evil in Judaism (and the associated inventions of heaven and hell, along with the popularisation of the character Satan). Karen Armstrong’s ‘A History of God’ gives fascinating evidence for how Yahweh was once a pagan deity of Canaan, and how the Jews started as a cult with specific loyalty to Yahweh (hence all the Pentateuch brouhaha over not worshipping other gods). While it’s hard to make absolute claims, these kind of interpretations are way more credible than taking it all at face value. The modern fundamentalist fixation on taking the Old Testament literally has no precedent in history. Thank goodness they don’t take Yahweh’s death sentence laws too seriously, or the world would be a very horrible place indeed. “I don’t know if God exists, but it would be better for his reputation if he didn’t.” – Jules Renard I read and I read and I read. The most surprising thing about the topics I learned was that the information (or at least the vast majority of it) is not actually controversial. Trained theologians and scholars know all of it. I find it quite unbelievable that there are Christians who know all that I now know, and yet do not falter in their faith. I can only imagine such people must be scared to death of death, or are playing some intellectually dishonest game of Pascal’s wager. I just don’t get it. Which brings me to ... apologetics. Perhaps my choice in literature over the past 12 months has been a bit one-sided. But I have read lots of Christian literature during my life. Decades of it – Lewis, Stott, Strobel, Yancey, Hurnard, and more. I soaked it all up. Been there, done that. But one area which I was surprisingly oblivious to was Christian apologetics – the sort that deals with difficult Biblical and theological issues one by one. And so I gave it a go. I looked up issues and with an open mind I listened to what the apologists had to say. Needless to say, I was far from convinced. Listening to people try and warrant the horrific acts of the Old Testament, or hearing people contrive facts from nowhere to “explain” biblical contradictions and fallacies only strengthened my justification and further rationalised my deconversion. Apologetics uses a certain rhetorical style which sounds all very reasonable and I’m sure there are people in the world who are easily won over by it. But being able to recognise the intellectual dishonesty and bias in apologetics, seeing the arguments that go on within the field of apologetics itself, and contemplating why God would even require these 21st century shysters to explain his words and actions for him, I have to say the whole thing is shameful. By the time I was through all this literature, I knew that Christianity was gone for me. But I held on to some tiny strand of attachment, still wanting explanations for Christian “experiences” and why people believe. “Sometimes people hold a core belief that is very strong. When they are presented with evidence that works against that belief, the new evidence cannot be accepted. It would create a feeling that is extremely uncomfortable, called cognitive dissonance. And because it is so important to protect the core belief, they will rationalise, ignore and even deny anything that doesn't fit in with the core belief.” – Frantz Fanon A book I ended up reading on the matter was The Believing Brain by Michael Shermer. This book is a little unstructured in places and I’m sure a better one probably exists, but it was enough. Scientists are still ignorant about much of what exactly goes on in the human brain, but substantial experimental research and other biochemical studies can at least establish certain facts and trends. Shermer demonstrates how humans are wired for belief. He explains our cognitive biases and our need for finding patterns and agents in explaining things we don’t understand whether they exist or not. How we convince ourselves of what we want to. How we can live a belief led reality instead of a reality led belief, in which we interpret the world and its events based on our beliefs, instead of basing our beliefs on observing the world. How the belief system operates when it comes not only to religion, but also extraterrestrials, conspiracies, politics, ideologies, etc. He gives the results of experiment after experiment which show how faulty humans can be when it comes to making decisions, how easy our cognitive processes can be fooled, and how staunchly we hold on to our biases. He talks about medical and psychological conditions (both permanent ones and short term ones) and how they can empirically cause hallucinations or other experiences, which almost always end up being interpreted supernaturally. As humans, we really can justify whatever we want however we want, and looking at the world (not just religion), it’s clear we all do. “Religious faith depends on a host of social, psychological and emotional factors that have little or nothing to do with probabilities, evidence and logic” – Michael Shermer If all the above wasn’t enough to completely destroy Christianity for me, the final death blow was the issue of theodicy. I highly recommend another of Ehrman’s books, ‘God’s Problem’, in this regard. Theodicy looks at the suffering in the world in the context of there being a God, and questions why it happens. This issue of course came up to some degree many times in my Christian life, and I tended to go for the “free will” argument without much further thought. I can no longer do that. There are places in this world where terrible, terrible things happen to people. Where disease and starvation cause more suffering than you or I could ever possibly imagine. Where people are tortured – really tortured. Where hearts are thoroughly broken and lives are utterly destroyed. The suffering of innocent children in particular induces a strong distress and outrage inside me. That any Christian can happily live day to day believing that God loves them and is answering their most inconsequential prayers whilst these events go on in the world is astonishing. It’s very difficult to imagine that the creator of mankind puts higher priority on helping white kids pass their driving tests than he does in intervening as a child is raped for the hundredth time. “The idea of God’s love really is the perfection of narcissism. Given all that this God of yours does not accomplish in the lives of others, or the misery being imposed on some child at this instant, this kind of faith is obscene. To think in this way is to fail to reason honestly, or to care sufficiently about the suffering of other human beings.” – Sam Harris Theodicy goes deeper still – natural disasters, natural diseases – far beyond discussions of free will. “Either God can do nothing to stop catastrophes like this, or he doesn’t care to, or he doesn’t exist. God is either impotent, evil, or imaginary. Take your pick, and choose wisely. The only sense to make of tragedies like this is that terrible things can happen to perfectly innocent people. This understanding inspires compassion. Religious faith, on the other hand, erodes compassion. Thoughts like, ‘this might be all part of God’s plan,’ or ‘there are no accidents,’ or “everyone gets what he or she deserves” – these ideas are not only stupid, they are extraordinarily callous. They are nothing more than a childish refusal to connect with the suffering of other human beings. It is time to grow up and let our hearts break at moments like this.” – Sam Harris Even if I was given some kind of tangible evidence for God, I could never return to prayer. How could I pray for anything in my own life knowing that there are millions in a much worse situation than me? How could I thank God before meals, as if he had something to do with providing my food, knowing that children are dying of starvation while I utter the words? And though I never let myself believe it even when I was a Christian, how can a Christian believe that after a horrible life of intolerable pain and suffering, a person who didn’t have his theology quite right, or whose parent’s told him about the wrong God, would be sent for even worse (and eternal) suffering in hell when he dies? “How can heaven and hell coexist? How can any sane and loving human being be happy in heaven knowing that millions of people, innocent or not, are being tortured for eternity? This heaven is a place void of empathy, an asylum for psychopaths. How is this heaven good?” – Anonymous When you really – really – consider these things, I fail see how a Christian can stay the same. So... that is some of my journey from Christian to Atheist over the past 12 months. There is of course more which I needn’t go into detail about. I eventually read authors such as Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, and Daniel Dennett. While I don’t agree with every last point they make, these guys have written some extremely thought-provoking material on the problems of religion and I highly recommend them to anyone. As a Christian I used to get defensive when I heard Christianity being criticised. I was extremely ignorant, and my problem was I never allowed myself to even consider that it could do any harm at all. If anything, the writings of these modern atheist authors make me realise how adolescent my own philosophies still are (I am new at this after all!). There is a world of knowledge and thought out there and I’m so glad to have widened my scope now that I’m free from the shackles of religion. I could write and write about all the fascinating things I’ve been learning about in these books. I’m currently reading the history of scientific discovery and am finding it absolutely riveting. The truth is amazing! I can’t believe that when I was younger I fell for so much nonsense about science from the mouths of Christians. “The lack of understanding of something is not evidence for God. It’s evidence of a lack of understanding.” – Lawrence M. Krauss The most popular reason for belief I hear from Christians today is that they can’t accept that ‘something came from nothing’. How such people can get their heads around where God himself came from, or even that this is some kind of valid or rational reason to immediately jump to the Judeo-Christian God as the only possible cause is beyond me. The same people dismiss modern science as if it in itself is some sort of religion – I used to entertain such thoughts myself. As if starting with a conclusion and working backwards to find the evidence (religion) is the same as starting with the evidence and working forwards to find the best conclusion (science)! Without going on a science tangent, it’s enough to say that I now find extreme comfort in knowing that through science, human beings are capable of discovering, understanding and producing amazing things, and that everyone, me included, can shape our future for the better. “Are you really surprised by the endurance of religion? What ideology is likely to be more durable than one that conforms, at every turn, to our powers of wishful thinking? Hope is easy; knowledge is hard. Science is the one domain in which we human beings make a truly heroic effort to counter our innate biases and wishful thinking. Science is the one endeavour in which we have developed a refined methodology for separating what a person hopes is true from what he has good reason to believe. The methodology isn't perfect, and the history of science is riddled with abject failures of scientific objectivity. But that is just the point – these have been failures of science, discovered and corrected by – what, religion? No, by good science.” – Sam Harris “I would rather have questions that can’t be answered than answers which can’t be questioned.” – Richard Feynman So I’m now an atheist. I wonder what my family would think. I mentioned at the start of my story that my dad is a minister. This is true. And my mom is a devout Christian, as are all my siblings. They don’t actually know about me yet. My wife has thankfully been more or less OK with it. She was never as religiously staunch as me and she is an intelligent woman and can understand my reasoning, and loves me for who I am. But she’s not very interested in talking about it. Aside from a few people in my life that I’ve been able to have piecemeal conversations with about my deconversion experience, I’m mostly alone. I certainly don’t intend to keep my parents and siblings in the dark about my deconversion indefinitely. If pushed to it, I’d probably start by sending them here to read this. Knowing they are the sort of Christian I was, I am of course worried they will read this and then despair, convinced that I’ve gone mad, or that Satan has gotten to me. I’m also worried that they’ll think I now must be an extremely immoral person, which is something I used to think about non-Christians in the past. I hope I can at least convince them that this is not the case. Being an atheist comes with a much more fulfilling morality. “True morality is doing what is right without the threat of divine retribution nor the possibility of divine reward.” – Arthur Paliden But I hope my family will at least see and appreciate my reasoning. To me, not being understood would be worse than not being agreed with. I don’t mean for my choice to walk away from Christianity to be taken as an attack, though I imagine it will be hard for some people not to take it that way. For as long as I can remember, I’ve just wanted everybody to get along – nothing has changed in that regard. Looking back, personally, my biggest issue with Christianity is that it teaches us to believe that this life does not really matter – that it’s nothing more than a trial with an eternal afterlife at the end. What a waste! As a teenager, I was drawn to the expression “You only live once”. I thought it seemed a really good way to live. I once said it in the presence of my parents, only to get a eyebrow-raised reminder that no, there is a much more important life after this one. Now, I am free from that. I recently calculated that based on the average lifespan for a male of my ethnicity, I only have around 2,500 weeks left of being alive. To not spend them enjoying life as thoroughly as possible would be a crime as far as I’m concerned. The freedom that comes with knowing that my life is just that – mine! – is exhilarating. I am more excited about the rest of my life than I’ve ever been before. Thanks for reading this. I’ve read many deconversion stories, and I know mine isn’t perhaps as entertaining or emotionally connecting as others. But I wanted to share it anyway. “I do understand what love is, and that is one of the reasons I can never again be a Christian. Love is not self denial. Love is not blood and suffering. Love is not murdering your son to appease your own vanity. Love is not hatred or wrath, consigning billions of people to eternal torture because they have offended your ego or disobeyed your rules. Love is not obedience, conformity, or submission. It is a counterfeit love that is contingent upon authority, punishment, or reward. True love is respect and admiration, compassion and kindness, freely given by a healthy, unafraid human being.” – Dan Barker May Goodness bless you all.
  50. 11 points
    It's funny - when I was a christian, I always avoided having to give a "testimony". I had been raised in the church - and didn't feel I had an "exciting" conversion story. Since discovering this site about a month ago, I have wanted to post something in the Testimonies section, but again, I have no dramatic story of deconversion. I actually belonged to a fairly liberal, loving, supportive congregation. So when I sat down to put my thoughts on paper, these 1st 4 lines came out....and from there, I just had fun with it, and when I was finished, I realized I had my story. Finally Free I tried to believe in the things I was taught: God, Jesus, and the holy ghost. I prayed; I sang; I knelt; I gave My tithes, my gifts, my offerings. But the voice of reason kept telling me This isn’t true! This just can’t be! Adam and Eve, Noah’s ark, parting seas, virgin birth, Miracles, resurrection, the dead walking the earth - Nowhere was there evidence these things had occurred! No proof of the presence of a loving god. If he were real, we would know, for our prayers would be answered He would make himself known in a way that was tangible, Instead of only providing empty words and cliches To those who are grieving or hungry or in pain. And the bible has horrible stories of men Who killed and raped and enslaved others when Told to by a god who condoned such things As blood sacrifice, torture, and suffering. So I turned towards science and away from religion To understand my world and all of creation. I have now found peace in the remarkable journey Of life on this planet. And I no longer worry About sin or guilt or heaven or hell. I am finally free! I can think for myself!

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