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

  1. 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. =)
  2. 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)))
  3. 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.
  4. 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!
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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
  8. 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.
  9. 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!!
  10. 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.
  11. 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...
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. 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.
  18. 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.
  19. 11 points
  20. 11 points
    Hi everyone. I actually signed up here in December, 2016, but haven't felt ready to start sharing. I spent a good deal of the past year or so dealing with significant emotional wounds, and I only now feel healed enough to be safe interacting with others. Hopefully this isn't as tough a crowd as where I came from. As for me: I spent 25 years of my life in evangelical Christianity. I wasn't fundamentalist, but the denomination (Baptist) was pretty conservative. I was one of those sold-out, all-in believers that signed up for every ministry, and every outreach. I headed up women's bible studies, did outreach to the homeless and did recovery work at rescue missions and the Salvation Army. I was also a professional (blues) musician prior to my conversion, so worship team and choir were also in the mix. During my time in the church, I "filed away" many things that either were "not OK to ask" or were "just the way things are." But cognitive dissonance as a coping strategy can only get you so far. Looking back, I'm amazed that I lasted as long as I did. Especially since I didn't come from a religious family upbringing. When I finally had my done moment and left, I'd been wearing a mask, hiding so many areas of disagreement with church doctrine or policy, that no one really "knew" me. I was a perfect little rule-follower, and as long as I did as I was told, or as I should, all was well. Except for all was not well with me. My husband and son and I had moved up to the Pacific Northwest from California, and our entire social life was wrapped up in this church. When we left, I lost every friend I had. Worse, after 25 years, I literally had no idea how to make friends outside of belonging to a church. It's been a long, hard road, but I think I'm going to make it. I look forward to sharing my ex-timonial at some point soon, and thank you for being here for those of us who arrive as walking wounded.
  21. 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.
  22. 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
  23. 11 points
    I realized earlier this evening that tonight is the eve of my 5-year deconversionversary! I just pulled out my old journal and read through pages and pages of the stream of consciousness, questioning and mental gymnastics leading up to it, when everything finally came together and the ecstatic joy, and the aftermath of figuring out how to "come out." The last four years or so have been lived in pleasant complacency and normalcy after all the dust settled and don't really think of things much anymore. I haven't posted here in a while! As much of a wild ride my deconversion was, I can't deny that it was a time when I felt truly alive and life burst with meaning. In a way I kind of miss that. Just wanted to share it somewhere because it's something worth celebrating!
  24. 11 points
    I am saddened by the news of Mark's (BAA's) death. I'm finding my thoughts and emotions are focused towards a celebration of his character and composition. Mark was an excellent blend of intelligence, knowledge, skepticism, curiosity, determination and compassionate cleverness, among other worthy traits. His participation in this forum was honest and caring and always focused on the purpose of this website. Mark was a stellar human being. He will be missed.
  25. 11 points
    Awhile back, I crashed my car. My whole life was thrown into a tailspin because of it. I had to find alternate transportation to work, and I nearly lost my job over it. But, things are better now. I believe Jesus allowed me to crash my car so that I could learn to better appreciate the things I have. Just the other day, I had to take my car on a long trip through the big city. I nearly got into a huge wreck when a truck driver forgot to hit his breaks. The truck came about six inches from smashing right into me. I really believe that Jesus caused the truck's breaks to work just a little bit better than they normally would have. I'm sure that my car would have been totaled and I might have even died... But, Jesus saved me from crashing my car! Hallelujah! A long time ago I tripped on acid, and I really believe that Jesus spoke to me in a vision while I was tripping. He was so real and so kind. Because of that wildly spiritual acid trip, I came to the realization that Jesus is real. I really believe he worked through the acid trip to reveal his true nature to me. Thank you, Jesus! About a month ago I smoked a little bit too much weed. I got too high and started freaking out. Within minutes, I was having a full blown panic attack. During that time I swear I could feel the devil's angels trying to rip my life away from me. I started frantically praying, and Jesus calmed my spirit. It was almost like I could hear his voice speak to me telling me that everything was going to be alright. He showed me that day that drugs are bad, and there is no place for them in his beautiful world. Now, I'm going to do my best to make sure no one ever touches the devil's lettuce again! Praise his holy name! A few years ago, my wife and I had the opportunity to help a young Ethiopian girl out of poverty. She came here with a missionary, and we volunteered to let her live in our home. Jesus used us to keep her from living a life of poverty, pain, and misery. She is now going off to college here in the U.S.A. She is going to become a minister! Isn't Jesus great? Two years ago, I saw a video that showed thousands of poor Ethiopian children who were on the brink of death by starvation... I knew there was nothing I or anyone else could do to help them. I said a prayer for them and turned the television off. I guess Jesus just allows those things to happen so that we can appreciate the blessings he's bestowed upon us and our beautiful country. It's really a shame, but sometimes we've got to be able to see the bad to appreciate the good. Can I get a witness?! A year ago, an entire town was wiped out in a tornado. Over 100 people died. It was such a terrible tragedy to witness. However, I know there was a reason that Jesus allowed it to happen. Since the disaster, I've heard that so many people have given their lives back to him. They probably wouldn't have had the disaster never struck their town. But, thanks to the efforts of the church and Jesus' wonderful grace, those people have been able to find a true calm after the storm. About six months ago, a tornado swept by the town I live in. The weather forecaster said that had the wind direction been just a little more to the south, our town would have been wiped out for sure. Thankfully, it didn't. I really believe that Jesus spared our little town. I mean, what would we have done? Praise him for his eternal mercy... Two weeks ago, my grandpa died from lung cancer. He was such a good man, but I guess it was his time to go. My family and I prayed for him day and night, but I guess Jesus was ready for him to come home. I know he's not in as much pain now, and I know he's in a better place. The craziest thing about it all is that unbeknownst to any of us, grandpa had a secret inheritance of a million dollars that he left behind for us. Now, my family can afford to do all of the things we've always wanted to do. It turns out that Jesus knew the whole time what we really needed even when we didn't. Five days ago, my aunt Lorraine came home from the doctor and told us that she was officially cancer free. We were all so happy and overjoyed. I know in my heart that Jesus worked through the doctor's hands and the drugs to bring about a miracle recovery in her life. Isn't Jesus great? He truly is the great healer! Eight months ago, my wife and I celebrated our anniversary. We each drank a bottle of wine, and we had the most romantic and fun night of our life. There was candlelight, dinner, plenty of dancing, and lots of lovemaking afterwards. What a memory! That night revealed to me just why Jesus didn't mind turning the water into wine every once in awhile. Praise Jesus, the true vine and the creator of real mirth and joy! Four months ago, I met a poor sap who had a drinking problem. I invited him to my church recovery group, and now he is clean and sober. Jesus really did a miracle when he delivered that young man from the demon spirits that surround alcohol! A few weeks ago, I experienced a real miracle. I went to my mailbox and found a letter that was addressed to me with no return sender. I opened it up, and it contained five fresh one hundred dollar bills. It was the exact amount of money that I needed to pay my electric bill. I was so overjoyed. I'm so glad I told the members in my church to pray for my finances because Jesus sent me just the amount of money that I needed to keep the lights on. That day he showed me that he truly is the Giver of Light! Glory! Two and a half weeks ago my neighbors had their electricity shut off. I hated to see it happen to them, but in my heart, I understood why. The father of the family of four has been backsliding for some time now. He hasn't been to church in nearly a half a year. He can't really expect Jesus to reward him for that kind of behavior, now can he? I'm sure that Jesus is using this bad experience to teach him a lesson. Maybe he'll get his life right and come back to church! I'll be praying for him regularly - you can count on it! I looked in the mirror today and realized how strong and healthy I am. Jesus sure has taken good care of me. I know that I'm going to need my strength and health to participate in all of the work he has for me to do. For example, next week I'm helping to build our wonderful pastor a brand new house! Thank Jesus that I have the strength and the know-how to accomplish this huge task. I know that I couldn't do it without him. Yesterday, I ran into one of my old friends that I used to go to the gym with. I hadn't seen him in awhile, and I was shocked by how terrible he looked. He told me that he had been diagnosed with muscular dystrophy, and his health and strength was fading fast. Tears welled up in my eyes, and I gave him a big hug. I know that Jesus is using this terrible turn of events to teach him a lesson that he needs to learn. Maybe he needs to learn to not be so prideful? Or maybe he needs to learn to rely less on himself and more on Jesus? Either way, I'm going to be there for him because that is what Jesus would want me to do! ************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************* In case you missed it, the moral of this story is that Jesus didn't have a thing to do with any of the things I mentioned above. For many people, Christianity is nothing short of a live action role playing game in which each participant makes up the rules and the explanations for things as he or she goes along always being sure to fit the miraculous and powerful interventions of Jesus in when applicable. Now, to be clear, I'm not trying to make the point that a god, a higher power, a higher order, or a collective consciousness etc. doesn't exist. I don't claim to have enough knowledge to make those kinds of assertions. Maybe science will eventually figure it all out... or maybe not. It really doesn't matter. What I do know is that Christianity is a mind control game that saps its participants of their intellect, their common sense, and ultimately, their ability to clearly see the true nature of the lives that they lead in this world. There is nothing holy, sacred, or miraculous about any of it. Thanks for taking the time to read!
  26. 11 points
    Vigile, I cannot tell you how much this relates to something I have been going through in the past couple of years. I haven't been completely honest with Ex-c because I am so ashamed and embarrassed about 'coming back out into the sunlight' again. (I always feel that I have to be strong) But I wore those chains around my neck for years. The church had convinced me that I needed to be saved and that I had a personal god looking after my life and safety. The whole doctrine made me feel safe and I needed to feel safe because I came from a lot of dysfunction. Let's just sum it up without any gory details and say my childhood was not a completely safe place. As I just stated on another thread...at the age of 20, I was a 'sitting duck' for the doctrine of getting 'saved'. When the pastor told me that god had a very special plan for my life, I was naively hooked. After about 5 years of being on this board and writing here every day, I found I was hiding more and more in my house and making excuses for not going out into the big world. The big world became so scary to me knowing that I did not have the protection of any god. So I needed to protect myself from my own death and the only way I could do this was by staying as close to my 'safe' house as possible. I very slowly and without realizing it, became quite agoraphobic. I won't bore the board with all the details about my recovery from this.. but let's just say that every day right now, I am forcing myself to go further and further from my home. It's very hard to understand for some people how hard it is for me to go to the local grocery store. To drive to my little summer trailer is torture for me until I get there. But I am doing it and I am proud. We were financially strapped this year because my hubby was laid off for 5 months and we could not take a winter trip and I was soooo happy about this (not about him being laid off) but because it meant I did not have to worry about going away from my house on a winter trip. I literally became afraid of everything in the past 2 years. I couldn't even go for a walk around my neighborhood for fear of getting hit by a car or a hoodlum jumping out at me. I hope I don't regret writing this out and coming out of the closet with it. But I feel it's time to come clean. Deconversion and learning how to come out into 'sunlight' again has been very hard for me with my anxious personality. When I say on the board that forming a 'new world view' has been very hard, it is alllllll about those chains coming off of my neck and leaving the dark cave to go out into the light and learn how to feel safe again. When I say chritianity screwed up my life, it did in many ways that believers could never understand because they still have those 'smoke and mirror's' of the fantasy that they are protected by god. Last night we had company over and my girlfriend who has a very wise husband said something to me that hit home so much. (as they completely accept me as I am and they know my struggle because they were both once born again believers) He said, ''you only have to die once but this condition has me dying my death every day because I am not truly living.'' I am trying to control how I die. I know that's what I am doing. And I just can't do it anymore. I need to live again. Really live and not be afraid. I need to go back outside and take the chance that today I won't get hit by a car, I won't get in a car accident, I won't get shot in a mall by a lunatic, etc. Taking those chains off my neck has been one of the hardest things in the world for me. But I am going to fight to my death and learn how to live again. There, I'm out of the closet. I have tears in my eyes as I write this because it has been a roller-coaster ride. 7 years on this board to learn how to live again. So when people come here and write how afraid they are, I truly understand. Thank you for posting this today. The timing was perfect for me to make this admission. So today, I am going to force myself out into the sunlight. I will make this breakthrough and then try to help others who go through the same thing. I am determined. Thank you again, my friend. I think this condition (agoraphobia) describes the analogy you posted today so much. For an analogy like this to be created, it shows me that I am not alone. Thanks to everyone of you who have helped me just by being on this board and by being honest. Love to you all.
  27. 11 points
    Overcame Faith......it never surprizes me when you post a topic that would mean so much to me. Your timing is also 'right on'! I want to be brief tonight. No. That's impossible for me. First of all, I want to thank Dave for the site he provides to the people who come here in desperation like you and I did. I was beyond depressed.... extremely desperate when I joined this site. Suicidal thoughts plagued my mind. I had had enough in life. I couldn't lose the last thing that gave me hope in life!! If there were no god, then what was the purpose? Well, I learned that there was a purpose within the time I have been on here. I was in agony trying to find out who I was. I didn't know who I was anymore. My whole world view fell apart. Not only did I get support time and time again when I knew in my heart I might be driving the people on this board crazy....but they never made me feel like that. Ever. Even florduh's one sentence, short, sometimes curt answers helped to kick my ass. I needed it. He knows that because I have thanked him time and again. The friends I have made is incredible. I remember writing a member one morning and we do not even communicate on the board because we simply have different interests and I said in a PM, ''Just seeing your name at the bottom of the page makes me feel like I am 'home'..... and that's how I felt that day. Safe and secure. And that's the way it's been for me. I can sit back here in the quiet of my living room and read about all the experiences that everyone is going through. And I can relate to most of them. I can watch the guys and girls as they fight back and forth about politics and the difference between us males and females.... and I smile to myself. Most of the time, I see them make up or at least tolerate each other! Lol I have even tried to understand mathematics and what all you expert physicists on EX-c are saying about universe!! My mind can go wacky from trying to learn so much! The people on this board are the smartest people I have ever met!! Don't any of you put yourself down!!! Freethinkers have an intelligence that 'followers' don't. We were smart enough to ask some very hard questions. I have gone into hysterics so many times as I read some of the funny responses. Me and Buffetphan have spit our coffee a few times over our computer screens..eh Buff? You can be completely down in the dumps and someone says something to make you laugh or help you develop hope again. I have read poems that people have written from their hearts. I know what kind of music my friends like, I know who has suffered health and emotional problems. And you have listened to my pain. I watch the people who are desperately trying to find the replacement for god (like I did for the last 3 years) and my heart breaks because I know how lost one can feel. The long time members are very special to me. It shows me that EX-c is a place worth coming back to. I know that some have gone their separate ways and I respect that their time is over on EX-c. I'm not sure how much longer I'm going to stay. I see a whole new bunch of wonderful faces here to take over now. Ex-c has been my safe home now for 3 years now. It is in my cells. It is part of me. I will always continue to visit this place. I can't see how I couldn't. It is the place I come to get help or give help when needed. I don't post as often as I used to either because of 2 reasons. 1. I am ready to go back out to the world of believers and enjoy other aspects of them that I can. I have shut myself in for 3 years and it's not good for the mind. I am also quite busy in my life being a full time 'nurse'. 2. The second reason is.... because of the people on Ex-c, I have come from this heartbreak: http://www.ex-christian.net/topic/44259-please-forgive-me/ .....to this peace that I feel tonight: http://www.ex-christian.net/topic/60475-my-journey-into-atheism-imagination/ I can't say enough about my time on Ex-c.... or you Overcame Faith.... and many, many others.........Everyone of you have a part to play in the peace I feel tonight. *hugs* and thanks... Sincerely. Margee
  28. 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.
  29. 10 points
    I never in a million years as a Christian would have guessed that Jesus would be who lead me to reject him. But it is being a devout follower of him that made my faith cave in on itself. I was never that Christian that just swayed with the ebb and flow of cultural Christianity pervading almost every corner of our society. I wanted to take my belief to the next level and do exactly what I thought Christ was telling me to do. As so, I got very involved in my church's youth group, which, in retrospect, was an incredibly toxic environment for a prepubescent mind to be exposed to. I still struggle with self-esteem issues as a result of being told I'm essentially worthless without God! But I digress. At this time in my life, I read my Bible with my Matthew Henry Commentary alongside it every single morning. A chapter a day. And I prayed A LOT... probably at least once per hour that I was awake each day. I also tried to convert my lost friends like my church encouraged me to, but mostly to no avail. But I didn't let it trouble me. It was out of my hands and I already knew that most of humanity would reject God. Satan must have had a wicked strong grip on their souls for them not to see the miraculous joy of our Lord, I thought. Only now I see how neurotic this kind of thinking is... that a such small sliver of humanity, only a few "good" Protestant denominations here and there, are worthy enough to bask in God's glory for the rest of eternity, and of course, tragically, the vast majority of man will be subjected to eternal conscious torment, where the worm will not die and the fire is not quenched (Mark 9). Yeah, even then I recognized that this is pretty messed up, but it's just the way it is. That's the consequence of the Fall of Man in the beginning of creation. It's an impossibility than an infinitely good God could be in any way at fault for men deliberately rejecting him, for all men have an innate sense of the one true god out of probably millions of deities created since the dawn of man, Yahweh. And, of course, I mustn't trouble myself with the trifling philosophical details. That's for God to worry about - my only duty is to unquestioningly obey, I thought. I'm on the right team and that's all that matters - I'm assured of MY salvation. So I read my Bible and unquestioningly did as I was told. I thought God gave me the sense to do things. It lead me to do a lot of absurd things. I practiced speaking in tongues when I was bored, for example, and I once threw away a number of video games in middle school for having content that “disturbed my spirit”. But one thing I never experienced was actually “hearing” his voice. I never actually “heard” his voice like many believers claim to have experienced, but I always felt like his spirit was within me, leading me to do things I wouldn't otherwise do. The hesitance not to follow this sense within me, of course, was just temptation. I vividly recall reading my Bible at 6AM and sometimes thinking about girls I found attractive at my school without clothes. I remember I would, in my head, tell Satan to back off and pray to request God to cause the lustful thoughts to leave my mind. Sometimes it worked, usually it did not. In retrospect, it's funny how much more powerful testosterone was compared to God. My natural bodily urges made me feel like a dirty sinner who constantly needed to repent. I was always inadequate in his eyes and I always had to do more to get closer to him. It is both funny and troubling to me that such a normal expression of myself and my body was painted as such an unnatural, perverted, rebellious act against the Creator. But I knew that victory was inevitably mine and, with God, I would prevail against leagues of demons tempting me to be unrighteous and unholy. I could talk on and on for hours about how dehumanizing Christianity is, but I will write about this another time instead of writing this here. Anyways, moving on to the events leading up to my doubts. The Bible to me was easily the best book ever written. It was the only "living" book that I could think of (although I will admit that I was tempted to call the Lord of the Rings trilogy a living book when I first read it, but I quickly extinguished those heretical thoughts as I read about Sauron and Mordor crumbling into ash). I had read the New Testament over and over again, and though I found Paul to be a little politically incorrect at times about the gays, I had no qualms with the New Testament. They were wonderful stories of redemption, miracles, and the eventual return of Christ that legitimately excited me and gave me an abundance of hope. The four Gospels, however, were like a drug to me. I felt like, in the Gospels, Christ talked to me through the scriptures, painting vivid images of his life and crucifixion as I read those red letters over and over again. But one morning, I had a sense that Jesus was leading me to try something new! I decided he was telling me read the whole Bible cover-to-cover, starting with Genesis and ending with Revelation, and that this would help me see something important to bring me closer to him. So I thought that I should do that and couple it with the wisdom of Matthew Henry like I normally do, and prayerfully sit with the Lord and the Twelve Tribes of Israel in their numerous battles and plights against those evil heathens and learn about God's awesome power and infinite love. I had heard so many good stories about the Old Testament in the audience of a church service, but I had never read it for myself. What a great opportunity to grow closer to God, I thought. So I started in Genesis, like Jesus was leading me to. The first six or seven chapters were awesome, especially since I thought the earth was only 15,000 years old at this time like a lot of conservative Christians in the United States do. I did not think anything of it. But the rest of Genesis and the Mosaic books felt off to me. For one, I found God to be really legalistic, and I was previously told that Christianity was not about religion, but relationship, and that "false" denominations of Christianity like Catholicism were legalistic like that. I was shocked to see what I was reading. I can't eat shellfish or pork? I can't wear clothes with more than one kind of fabric in them? Women who cheated had to drink water that caused her bowels to swell? You cannot even put two different types of seeds in a single field?! Why would God care? Doesn't God just want you to follow and love him? But I had read in the New Testament that Jesus came to fulfill the law, not abolish it. This created a troubling dilemma for me and placed a knot in my heart that I simple could not unravel. And this not to mention the abhorrent moral code our great God advocated for and practiced in the Old Testament. I never knew God had rules for slavery. I never knew God said odd-looking people should be denied the "bread of his God" (seriously, see Leviticus 21:17-24). I never knew God commanded the Israelites to slay thousands in Bashan, Jericho, and the rest. And though I learned about the mass murder in the Noah's ark story and the slaying of infants in Egypt in Sunday School as a child, they felt a lot more disheartening and troubling to me as I read them on my own, framed in a more gruesome way than the colorful images on worksheets I completed in elementary school. And so many more atrocities I read of... it made my stomach churn. It made my whole worldview feel as useless as straw. And, more importantly, I felt like a major ass as I realized that the superiority I felt as a result of my religion was bullshit. I had a mini existential crisis and I felt like I was completely alone. I continued talking to Jesus, but I felt like he stopped giving me so many answers. I felt like he was disappointed in me that I could not accept God the Father. But I simply could not accept the behavior of such a moral monster. I tried devising elaborate theories, such as that the Old Testament was fabricated and distorted the true, loving God of the New Testament, but I knew that it simply did not add up. I was trying so hard to repair a wall in my life that was destined to crumble apart. I needed answers, and fast, because I was beginning to doubt my whole entire foundation in life, and it gave me a perpetual nausea and fear of a life without God. I felt liked I had been lied to and people were hiding the truth from me, and I did not know why. I also had a fear in the back of my mind that all of this was a waste of time and Satan was trying to trick me. Why did Jesus lead me into this trap? Why did he show me this scripture that is leading me to question his nature? I looked on dozens of Christian forums for unanswerable questions I had, read apologetic books, and read the New Testament exclusively all while I had my doubts, but I could not repair the blow that the Old Testament had inflicted upon my faith. None of the Christian answers were satisfactory to me and my beliefs started to morph into something completely unrecognizable. Somehow, in my search for answers, I stumbled upon a video series on YouTube by a channel called Evid3nc3. The series is an incredibly emotional, intimate story of how a fundamentalist Christian, much like me, deconverted and found that atheism was the only reasonable position to assume given our current knowledge about the universe. I highly suggest you look into this series if you are currently questioning your faith, if you recently deconverted, or if you simply enjoy hearing deconversion stories. There was so much I could relate to... how he started to have questions, much like me, as a direct result of reading the Bible... how he was actually genuine and not just a cultural Christian, just like me... how hard he tried to defend God to no avail, just like me. It all made sense. And the creator of the series really helped me cope with my growing skepticism and doubt about my faith. I watched all the videos in two sittings, and it was amazing to me how fast the other pillars of my faith crumbled once the fundamental aspects, such as the goodness of God, became less evident in my own life as I watched the videos. And with those chains being taken off my mind and body, it was only natural to accept the scientific truths revealed by denying Christian fundamentalism. Suddenly, the universe was no longer 15,000 years old but 13.77 BILLION years old. And the universe, physics, and biology were instantly way more interesting than God to me because it’s actually substantial, demonstrable, and not paradoxical. The universe does not have to sacrifice itself to itself to save us from itself. The universe does not have three consubstantial persons somehow wrapped up into one. The universe is a benign, indifferent machine. This thinking was so comforting to me… no more judgement, no more worry about an afterlife? I couldn’t have dreamed of a better universe to live in. In a sweeping motion, like a chalkboard being wiped clean, the earth and the cosmos were no longer depraved, evil, or soulless… they were beautiful and marvelous in their vastness and mystery. It’s funny how realizing how small and insignificant I am when considering the scale of the universe was so liberating. It’s almost paradoxical that moving from a worldview where earth is the primary playing ground in this universe made me feel more worthless than a scientific worldview that revealed we are just a speck of dust orbiting a star in a galaxy of 100 billion stars in a universe with 100 billion galaxies. Maybe it was just freeing to realize that there probably isn’t a god watching me while I am in the bathroom. Being able to take the reins in my life and come up with my own meaning and purpose makes life feel so much more important. And since I only have one shot at life as far as I can tell, I have to make this worthwhile. It’s a dramatic turnaround from the belief that this life is just a “test” for the next, eternal life that really matters. Anyways, as I was watching the videos, it almost felt like Evid3nc3 was reading my mind and deconverting step-by-step along with me. It's ironic to say this but those deconversion videos felt incredibly spiritual to me. I did not feel so alone in my doubt anymore, and I was delighted to find a plethora of channels on YouTube by other atheists, who further exposed the contradictions, absurdities, and ethical issues related to Christianity and religion in general. I eventually graduated to reading books by Dawkins, Harris, and related authors, and they absolutely blew my mind. I could not believe how blind and brainwashed I was. I consumed popular media associated with atheism and evolution for the next 12 to 18 months after my deconversion, and learning well established scientific data about the origin of life and the scientific method that I missed out on up until this point made me very angry. I hated Christianity and all religions and wanted to start a campaign to rid the world of all of them using reason and the rhetorical skills I had picked up, starting with my own community. Lofty goal, I know, but at the time I was really full of myself and thought I was actually capable of convincing people I was right and they were wrong. I eventually started discussing my atheism with my friends and many of them told me what I said made sense and changed their position on some of their views in life. From this, my ego was a little inflated so I thought I was ready to progress onward to my parents. One day from school, I randomly confronted my parents and told them I had my doubts and was skeptical about the entire Bible. I thought, naively, I would be able to deconvert them with the new knowledge I have gained and save them from a wasted life and perpetuating such a parasitic belief system. Boy was I wrong. They were shocked, concerned for my soul, and told me how arrogant I was and how I needed to repent immediately. It spiraled into a 4 or 5 hour gabfest and neither of us were willing to even listen to each other. It wasn't an argument at all. It was just preaching loudly to each other. Neither of us were willing to be open to the possibility that our minds might change on the issue... our minds were already made up. It was a dramatic waste of time, and I eventually lied and told them that I "have some stuff to think about" because I was sick of talking and tired. From here on, I decided to be less combative with not only my parents, but most people I encounter. Religion is not about reason... it's about emotions. And when you attack religion, you attack feeling and passion, not a cleverly designed intellectual argument. I sometimes talk to people about my beliefs if they seem open or ask questions about my religion over lunch or something, but I don't try to randomly debate my friends and family anymore. And, to this day, I have never followed up with my parents or told them exactly how I feel. I do not feel like it is advantageous to "come out" until I graduate college and live completely on my own. Now, a couple years later, I still read a lot and I am still pretty angry about the harm religious beliefs can cause, but not nearly as much as I was in high school when I was a baby atheist and tried to deconvert my parents. I found that I still have a lot of emotional problems as a result of my religious upbringing, but I am working on it. I think a lot of my normal development was stifled by my religious upbringing. As a result, I used to struggle with severe self-esteem issues, I continue to struggle with sexual expression, I regularly feel an incredible amount of guilt about trivial things among many other things. tried to reconvert back to Christianity a couple times, trying out the Episcopal Church and Eastern Orthodoxy on for size in an attempt to be "open-minded", but I just can't swallow Christianity's basic assumptions anymore. I think my attempts were more so to feel like I fit-in with the dominant culture and connect with my parents rather than from an actual conviction that Christianity might have some kind of mystical validity that needs to be reexamined. I follow what seems to be true where it lies, based on all the available evidence... and God, Christianity, and spirituality do not seem to follow from this path of inquiry. I still have a lot of questions about life and my purpose, but I now know that in my life, Christianity is a dead end road that for me only lead to emotional anguish, self-doubt, guilt, and a never ending sense of inadequacy beneath the eyes of a wrathful God. And that’s more than okay. In fact, it’s great that I am comfortable being as intellectually honest as possible. If you have reached this point, thank you so much for reading this very long story. I am interested in hearing your thoughts or answering any questions if you may have them. I hope that this is helpful or comforting to anyone who may share my background. It’s not the craziest, most dramatic, or most action-packed deconversion story out there, but it’s mine and I’m very happy with who I have become. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. There was a lot of growing pains involved, but deprogramming after years of religious indoctrination happens very gradually. I am a much more happy person without a religious faith and am way less anxious about life in general. If you just now started having doubts, please know that you will make it through this, no matter how hard it feels. You are stronger than the religion that binds you and any of its representatives. And for people that are out, please know that you are not alone. Many of us in your community are in hiding.
  30. 10 points
    So, I have a family friend on Facebook still who is charismatic christian and posts ridiculous things all the time without thinking what it really means. Below is the excerpt of what she recently said. "God is always protecting us and because he sent the snow I worked a half office morning I always stop here and get gas at about this time and I knew I needed gas today...man pulled a knife and a handgun on three females Wednesday morning at a Speedway gas station in Lower Macungie Township and forced one of them to get cash from an ATM before he fled with the money, police said. The robbery happened at 9:28 a.m. in the station at 5640 Hamilton Blvd., state police at Fogelsville said. God is our protector" So, not only is she crazy enough to believe that God sent our snow storm just to keep HER from getting robbed at her regular gas station, but she also praises him for protecting her. I guess the three women who were emotionally scarred by this tragic incident are just fucked or hated by God or both? So, I have another question. If two or more people pray for snow and two or more other people pray that it doesn't - how does God calculate the votes? How does he know what to do?!? Anyway, I'm sick of this stuff.
  31. 10 points
    I am stunned and saddened by this news. This is an irreplaceable loss. I find myself in tears again, and I don't yet think that the full loss has hit me yet. Many of you have known BAA/Mark for many years. I knew him only for a year - since October 2016 - the briefest of blips in time. It was Mark who helped me as a person struggling from recent de-conversion. From the get go in private messages we were on first name basis. He patiently talked me through a lot of issues I was having regarding family and the like. I'm am not sure if I ever expressed how great an impact Mark made on me, how much he helped, how much I valued his friendship. Alas now it is too late to tell him but for everyone else here never let anyone ever tell you that you don't make a difference. Mark made a difference not only with his knowledge and keen intelligence, but with his compassion and caring. Mark truly cared about truth, and about helping others. On the forum it was Mark that gave me my first grounding in cosmology. For a creationist whose education was woeful, I was slow to pick things up, but Mark, true to form, patiently walked me through examples and explanations. I can say that much of my scientific understanding of cosmology is directly attributable to Mark. To my great regret I will not be able to finish the threads I started with BAA over a year ago. Mark was the first atheist I felt I could call friend, and I hope he felt the same about me. To Maureen, if you read this: You have my sincerest condolences. There is probably nothing anyone could say that can ease your pain, but please know that the man you loved truly made a difference in this world. So farewell Mark. We will pick up the torch that you carried so well on the forum, and though we will never reach your impact we will try to carry the message of finding truth. Rest in peace Logical Fallacy
  32. 10 points
    Over the past year I feel like I have addressed something in the deconversion process that I and I feel many other Ex-Christians wouldn't even really have thought of as an issue in this new way of living. I am specifically referring to getting over the negative things that Christians have said about us as Christians and as Atheists. The most obvious thing we tend to focus on are arguments for and against the existence of god. It is the easiest and most obvious choice after all. We spend so much time focusing on the external that I feel we never fully take the time to evaluate the internal and existential struggles that we all face. As Christians we were taught that man is evil and born into sin and that the only hope we have is through a savior. We reject the savior but some times still feel like we need to be saved. We feel evil and unwanted and even dare I say worthless at times. In response to Atheism as Christians we were taught that without god life has no meaning and no purpose. We were told that without god we might as well give ourselves over to riotous living in gluttony, drunkenness, and shallow relationships. Let me be clear. THIS IS NOT WHO I AM. And I want to suggest to you all that it doesn't need to be who you are as well. These ideas are not secular beliefs they are religious beliefs and I will not just accept them without being insanely critical of them. It is THEIR problem that they have a morality so shallow that the moment they would believe that god doesn't exist that they feel justified in giving into darkness and falling to the depths of depravity. Well that's not me. It is they who need to use god as Viagra to get their purpose and meaning going in the morning. It is they who see themselves as inherently a problem and a parasite rather than someone who has the same right as everyone to live in the best way that they can without a heap load of baggage debt and guilt weighing them down before they even got started. We are free. But more than that we are free and NOT crippled. These things we allow to cloud our thinking unconsciously on so many topics is nothing but a mind-forged manacle. Losing religion wasn't losing everything. No, I gained the opportunity to find my own way without religious imposition. So do you still hold any of these things to be true sometimes without even realizing it? Time to truly make yourself free of religion.
  33. 10 points
    This is objectively wrong. For a full discussion, you can see The Bible Made Impossible by believer(!) Christian Smith. Short version: Even if we grant the assumption that the Bible is God's perfect revelation, the fact that Christians in different groups, times and places interpret its meaning so wildly differently mean that in practice it is not perfect or even effective communication. If every sincere Christian who sought to get communication from God all agreed, then that would be strong evidence to suggest that some kind of being was out there, communicating, and was able to make itself understood. But in practice, you can have two guys in the same conference of the same sect of Christianity, both completely sincere in their beliefs and in seeking to understand God--like John Piper and Greg Boyd--and have them come to completely different answers about what God is saying. That doesn't match with any kind of reasonable definition of "capable of making himself understood." So while I'm mostly agnostic, not claiming to know about anything "beyond" or even much caring, one thing I say with confidence: if there is/are any god/s, she/he/it/they are unwilling or unable to communicate with humans in a clear and consistent way. Because if they could and wanted to, we'd know it, because the message would be consistently received. Now, Stranger, I know your answer to this because I have amazing supernatural revelation: you will say "god is capable of making himself understood but only does it for who he chooses." And "who he chooses" will, when we poke at it, turn out to be "Stranger and all the people who happen to completely agree with Stranger." That answer won't satisfy anybody here because it's so obviously contrived and arbitrary. ANYBODY can make a similar argument, and we can't really disprove any of them. A Buddhist, a Muslim, a Hindu could all say that god is able to communicate clearly, and has communicated clearly to them and anybody who agrees with them--and everybody else is wrong or lying. And I can say that the true god is Boobaloo the Moderately Cranky, and she has revealed her truth to me clearly, and anybody who disagrees she has chosen to conceal it from. But you aren't going to find that convincing, and neither will anybody else. So what you've got there is not an argument and not evidence. It's just a convenient rationalization of what your believe. And you want to keep believing it because it feels good to think that you're one of the special ones who's been let in on the Real Truth. That kind of belief gives you certainty and a feeling of connection and importance, so it's an easy way to load up on dopamine. So as long as those feelings continue, you'll keep deploying rationailzations to keep yourself from seeing that it's not convincing or even particularly sensible. (and maybe someday, you, like us, will finally have enough accumulated expereinces that fly in the face of those rationalizations that they will break. and honestly, if that happens, it will suck, for a while. and then it will open up a whole better way of being. and then you can come here and talk to people who've also been through it and will get it. My contribution to that is just to provide you an experience of "I told a bunch of ex-christians that god could communicate clearly, and they were very unimpressed. And some of them had clearly already thought about it a lot more than I have. And my answers didn't convince any of them." None of that will change your mind, but as a piece of a larger thing, they might contribute.)
  34. 10 points
    I don't expect anybody to notice that I didn't praise a deity or a spirit, but maybe someone will at least think about what a great job the doctors did. I had the same problem with my surgery and recovery. I'm fortunate enough to be a medical anomaly. I was actually on the transplant list for heart and double lungs. I actually did die a couple of times in the hospital and they were certain I'd need a heart and lungs within six months. My recovery is literally unheard of and has never happened to anyone before ever. I recovered thanks to therapy and an open heart surgery and it looks like I'll be basically normal in a year or two at this point. Well, relatively normal, I'll be on expensive drugs for the rest of my life to keep my condition stable. I should be able to resume normal activities and get a job again in the next couple of years. I'm actually being studied and having several papers written about me and what happened. I'm 'uncharted territory' according to my doctors. Of course, all of my family praises God for what happened as if I simply sat in a church and prayed to be healed or something. Going on about what a miracle I am and all and how I'm proof of God's mystical powers. I'll have none of that and usually redirect credit to the hospital staff and doctors, but then they act like I'm the one being 'ungrateful' about my 'gift' from their imaginary bestest pal. They go on about how many people prayed for me and how much that 'helped' me. As if their psychic mind waves made the medications work better and guided the scalpel of my surgeon with little angel wings or some equally asinine bullshit. Yes, oodles of nuns went prayed a few rounds of magic prayer beads and that's why I'm alive. It had nothing to do with the three months I spent in the hospital, my major surgery, the $10,000 a month worth of medications I must take, or the over one year of therapy I am still undergoing. A bunch of sex repressed women dressed in penguin suits totally used magical mind waves to fix me up good. It's seriously annoying and I consider it ungrateful to the doctors and nurses who helped me to give credit to magical powers from Josh's Dad and psychic mind waves from various people I don't know and some of my family. Seriously, they act as if I was just miraculously cured of all ailment and defect and I'm perfectly healthy now. I'm still disabled as fuck, just not as bad off as I was when I almost died. I fucking hate dealing with it so much. I've started responding to people who blame God for my current condition. If he is responsible for it, I hope he sits on his cosmic nuts on the galactic equivalent of a pile of sand spurs for putting me through this shit.
  35. 10 points
    I found this letter from Jesus and I am so pissed that I can't stop myself from sending a reply: Dear Jesus: How are you? I just had to send you this letter to tell you how much I am disappointed in you. I read in the Bible that you were walking with your disciple friends. I waited all my life, hoping that you would come and walk along with me too. But you never came. Every evening, I would pray and ask you to come spend some time with me, and I waited. You never came. Oh yes, it hurt me, but I just kept on loving you. Each time I fell asleep, I longed to touch your cloak so I would be healed. I pleaded for any kind of sign of your presence. Again I waited, but you didn't even think of me. I wanted so much to rush up so we could be together and talk. I had so many things to share with you. Every morning, I asked you to be with me, and hoped that this day would be the one you might reply to me. But it's like you didn't even notice me. My heart became heavy and I felt abandonned. Oh, how I loved you! Some days I felt so sad and alone. My heart would ache because I didn't understand. It's like you were letting me down but I kept on hoping. Oh, if you would have only listened. I loved you from the deepest part of my heart, and my soul longed for you day and night. I shouted it in every word I wrote to you in my journal, I even wrote poems for you. My love for you was deeper than any ocean and greater than the biggest mountain. If you had only realized how much I wanted to follow you. I thought we could spend eternity together in heaven. You know how hard it is on earth. I really needed your help. Why didn't you talk to me? I thought this was what you wanted. I was there, ready, willing and able. I had accepted you. I waited and pleaded for years. But I couldn't wait forever. My faith eventually failed me. I did everything I could to hold on to it, but it evaporated. It's too late now. Your ex-friend, Denyoz
  36. 10 points
    A more Biblical message, brought to you by SquareOne
  37. 10 points
    Some of you may remember me, I used to come here quite a bit a while back. Don't worry, I didn't go and get saved. Nope, I went and discovered I've got a congenital terminal heart disease and require a heart and lung transplant. My heart disease gave me what's called 'pulmonary hypertension' and destroyed my lungs. This is actually a recent development, and not what actually kept me from here. I was living in a stable environment, with no real contact or thought about religion in my daily life. I just drifted away as I thought less and less about it, and it wasn't a source of annoyance for me on a regular basis. I didn't need support so much, and discussing it was kind of a waste of time. Much the same as discussing the existence of Santa Claus is a waste of time for most people. I liked it here, but first my old PC died, and I was staying with another Atheist. Once I replaced my PC, I just sort of didn't bother with returning for a while. I'm just out of a three month stay at the hospital. On the plus side, I'm now managed with medications. I'm stable, and could be for quite some time. The doctors are amazed at my recovery. I was on 100% oxygen, bedridden, unable to walk more than about 20 feet, and my heart was about 3X the normal size. I am currently not using oxygen, my heart has shrunk down to only about double in size, and I can walk for more than a mile at a slow pace. I'll still be needing a heart and lung transplant at some point, but currently I'm doing so well that I could be managing my condition for quite a while. This is a very good thing for me. The life expectancy for someone who has had a heart and lung transplant is about five years. The longer I can put it off, the better. It seems as though I might be able to put it off for a long while. A transplant will definitely help me, and I'll die without one at some point, but once I get one, I'm pretty much on a timer. Make no mistake, what I've got is terminal, despite being able to manage it with medications and therapy at the moment. Barring an accident or murder, I now know how I will likely die. Well, maybe. The doctors tell me if I can go another ten years or so without a transplant, they'll likely be able to grow me some organs with stem cells. It's a possibility I might be able to as well. Not incredibly likely, but there's a better than slim chance of it. That would be nice, and would likely help my survivability rate a great deal as I'll be able to avoid anti-rejection drugs, which basically nullify your immune system pretty much completely. It's kind of like contracting HIV, but without the admittedly minor positive side of having sex once. Instead, I just get an invasive and dangerous surgery that will knock me on my ass for a couple of months. On the not so plus side, I am now 100% disabled and can't work anymore. Not just to keep my disability, I'm physically unable to work. It's kind of strange, I can't run fifty yards or lift more than 25 pounds or so without getting severely out of breath. Pretty much anything that gets my heart-rate up and/or requires heavy breathing is right out the window. I'm deceptively healthy looking. Being around someone smoking a cigarette could hospitalize me for months. I can't own cats, birds, or reptiles. My dog is okay though. I must wear a mask in public or crowded spaces, and can't be around any one who is ill at all If someone I know catches the flue, I must now be away from them until they are well. I can no longer drink alcohol. [That one sucks a little, but I didn't drink much anyway, so it's not too bad.] I have to clear any medications with my doctor before I take anything for even the most minor things. I can't use aspirin or ibuprophen.I can't be around young children anymore. [That last one doesn't bother me much. It's actually kind of convenient.] I can't go to the ER or see a doctor who isn't part of my transplant team for the rest of my life. I now live in Gainesville Fla, where I am getting medical treatment from Shands at UF. It's awesome here, the hospital is great, and it's pretty much the best place I can be given my condition. Despite how bad off I am now, I was much much worse when I was first hospitalized. In fact, every doctor I've seen has been amazed at just how much I've recovered. I was expected to get worse and worse until I was transplanted. Now, I'm not well, but stable and can live relatively normally. I seem to be much healthier than I am. Despite my new limitations, most people assume I'm perfectly healthy. I'm also still an Atheist. Yes, that's correct. I have been an Atheist in a Fox Hole, and I'm now an Atheist with a terminal disease. I am now being -two- impossible things every day before breakfast. I was really bad off. I died on an operating table. My heart literally stopped for a little over three minutes. I was bed ridden, stuck on oxygen, and barely able to move. I woke up with a tube in my throat and my arms bound to a bed. I lost three whole days and it took me two more to realize it. I had every reason to believe I might die at any moment. For an entire week the doctors and nurses attending me were extremely worried that I might pass at any time. I was stuck to an IV pole for months, had to pee in a bottle and keep track of my fluids, and generally had lots of very uncomfortable procedures done to me on a regular basis. It sucked a whole lot. And of course, all my religious relatives descended upon me. Don't get me wrong here, they meant well. I know they did. However, it was something I'd almost forgotten about. Something I'd not had to deal with on this level since I was a teenager. It stressed me the fuck out dealing with it more than my condition did. It doesn't sound like it, but I was upbeat, cheerful, and had a great attitude throughout all this. I'm not afraid of death, because I'm not afraid of hell. I don't -want- to die, but if I did, nothing would bother me anymore. As far as I'm concerned I will simply cease to be. It might sound a little self centered to say that about myself, but I got a lot of praise and surprise from just about everyone who met me with how well I reacted to finding out I've got a terminal disease that will require major surgery. I was joking with other patients, visitors, and nurses, didn't really get depressed, and the worst thing about it all was the food and a bit of boredom on occasion. I ended up playing a lot of video games. People constantly told me they weren't expecting me to be that way when they saw me. My attitude helped me get through it, and according to the nurses and doctors, it probably had a lot to do with how quickly and much I recovered. I was up as much as I could be, kept my own spirits up, and didn't let myself fall into depression. In fact, my family took what happened to me worse than I did. Even during the worst parts of it, when I was nearly dead, my family got more upset about it all than I did. That was about the point things started getting irritating in regard to religion again. Especially as I got better and better. It wasn't the doctors, medications, and therapy. It was 'a miracle'. Apparently I 'had better appreciate what God did for me'. Up to that point, it had been a few people telling me they were going to pray for me, and maybe a well meaning prayer card. Most of the people I know didn't really expect me to survive very long. Not much to deal with. After I started getting better, everyone expected me to see some sort of miracle in it all. As if I would have some born again experience because of it all. I'm still dealing with it, and it's fucking irritating. Somehow, because I had exceeded the expectations of the doctors, that meant that I had gotten magical help from a divine being. There was just no other explanation apparently. Everyone seems to conveniently forget that I spent three months in a state of the art medical facility, with the best possible specialist doctors, an expert nursing staff, and the latest in medical technology and medications.. No, it was all 'God' looking out for me and the 'power' of all those prayers I was getting. I'm doing better because a lot of people I know, and quite a few I don't, sent psychic mind waves to the invisible all powerful sky man to make me get better. [i'm actually not 'better'. I'm still not very well, I'm just stable. Something that is often conveniently forgotten.] I'm expected to believe this, and be grateful that all this magic power aided my recovery and that the magic sky man reached down and touched me with his finger of healing. I should thank all the people who used their psychic abilities to communicate with the Omnipresent being, as it wouldn't have noticed me otherwise apparently, and adopt an insane belief in gratitude for this conveniently unprovable 'help'. I am grateful for the well wishes and care of my family and friends. I do not for a moment believe it had anything to do with my recovery whatsoever. Having a good attitude does indeed help, other people kneeling and chanting wishes at the sky does not. I'm now living in an apartment with my mother. I'm very grateful for her being here to help me. She's been a great help and I require a caregiver to help me out with some things. She's done a lot for me, but she's also Catholic. My Dad will be moving down here later this year, and he is not. I'll be moving in with him, while she returns home to northwest Florida again. I love my mother, I'm grateful for her support and help in getting me through this. It would have been much more difficult to do without her, and I wouldn't be nearly as well off as I am now. However, having her tell me about how Jesus saved me, and wander about the house singing Christian hymns, playing obnoxiously loud christian youtube videos and pro-life videos, and listening to christian hymn CDs in the car whenever we go anywhere is most definitely not amusing. I think she's expecting me to get inspired or something, but the truth of the matter is I'm simply annoyed. Plus, it's easier for my other Christian relatives to bug me, as well as her other Christian friends to bother me with her around. I love her, I'm grateful, but I'm looking forward to...not living with her again. I don't complain as she's done so much, but that doesn't make having religion shoved in my face again any less annoying to deal with. She's not a reasonable person either, and discussing it would just end up with both of us being angry. I always refuse offers to participate in any religious activities, and I'm not shy about stating that I still don't believe and that this experience is not going to make me 'born again'. I've explained many times that I'm about as likely to believe in Santa Clause or the Easter Bunny again as I am to believe in Jesus again. It's not something I can't deal with by any means. I've got nice headphones, and I'm not shy about informing her that I'll stop wearing them when she stops listening to that stuff loud enough to bother me with it. I can deal with her well meaning friends and relatives simply be remaining silent and letting them talk. It never lasts long enough to be anything more than a mild time waster. I've got lots of time now, unfortunately, and it usually stops once they realize I'm intentionally creating an awkward silence for them to deal with in regard to the subject. I'm not receptive to the idea of God period, much less the specific idea of Christian God. Getting terminally ill has tossed me head first into the deep end of the shit filled pool that is religion again. More people bother me about how grateful for Jesus I should be than ever before. It's severely annoying, more than my disease in fact. Invasive medical treatment bothered me less than dealing with this again does. I had a long stretch where I was able to ignore it completely and almost forget that Christianity even existed. It was great. Now I feel like a soup cracker that's being sand blasted. I am in fact, much less inclined to consider Christianity as a viable philosophy than ever before. As soon as I became weakened by illness, the vultures swooped in to try and take advantage of my weakened emotional state and fear of death. Fortunately, I was not afflicted with either of these things. Now, I'm simply a theist annoyed Atheist who is sick of hearing about the crap. I'm closed up because I've been under such heavy bombardment, and most of the Christians I know aren't observant enough to realize it. They've made the situation worse rather than better. My lack of belief is stronger than ever. It's nice to be able to tell Christians that both being in a fox hole and having a terminal disease does not actually cause someone to believe in the fantasies they subscribe to from first hand personal experience. I have to admit, I'm enjoying that more than a little bit. Still, it doesn't make dealing with it on this level once again any less annoying. It's sad that it's actually the worst part about finding out I have a terminal illness. My life was saved by Science, not spiritualism. It was highly trained specialists, the latest in medical technology, and medications that have kept me alive and kicking. Not the psychic well wishes of people on their knees in front of a decorative torture statue. Credit should go to those who deserve it, and magic mind waves had nothing to do with it, period. Anyway, I'm back now, I'll probably be hanging around here quite a bit again. Nice to see a lot of familiar names on the boards. Glad I knew of a place I could go where I don't have to deal with it and cand find others who understand. May Google bless you with it's infinite wisdom...as well as much porn and many kittenz..
  38. 9 points
    Any idea why that is? Perhaps because Islamic countries can get away with throwing homosexuals from rooftops and more enlightened societies can't. It takes a special kind of hero to come out and admit who they are when their life is in constant danger. It's tough in an open society, suicidal in repressive regimes.
  39. 9 points
    Overcoming Religious Indoctrination: 6 Steps Towards Sanity David Nicholls Religious indoctrination is real. It is a traditionally-based process of all cultures. Its power is such that peoples so affected have a ‘belief’ they have chosen their particular ‘faith’ above the many on offer throughout the planet. All religions work on the principle of exposing each new generation to a single worldview, to the exclusion of all others, in a repetitious and authorative manner. Doubts, as to the veracity of such ‘teachings’, are not encouraged, indeed, are not tolerated. Once learned, the information so gained is retained for life, allowing it to take on an instinctive mantle in later years. As with all acquired knowledge, such as learning to ride a bicycle or rote remembrance of mathematical time’s tables, once taught, unlearning is not an easy option. This is not to say that the results of such methodology are not practically overcome-able. Youthful brains soak up information with little effort, establishing permanent neuronic pathways. Older brains require considerably more effort to alter this situation. There are many Atheists to attest to this. In fact, it is the rule rather than the rarity that most Atheists were raised from infancy under some religious regime or other. Even the most intense religious indoctrination can be overcome. Here is how it is achieved: First, one must become acquainted with and become used to the correct terminology pertaining to religious indoctrination. Even though the religious are quick to point out that others have been brainwashed (such as communists, other religious adherents and even Atheists), it is they who have succumbed to this process. Brainwashing/inculcation/indoctrination is one in the same word in meaning. These words are used in reference to promoting a one-sided opinion as being truthful, without allowing access to other ideas and with no reservation in calling it unjustifiably, the ‘truth’. Considering the adverse ramifications of such methods and results of brainwashing, this is nothing less than mental child abuse of the worst kind and one day it will be viewed that way. Just seriously think about this for a moment. If you are religious or harbour religious thoughts, it is more than most likely the result of being abused and mentally used as a child. There is no escaping this fact. That the abused can then go on to abuse others in a likewise fashion is near enough to proof positive of the reality of the situation. Under the guise of a good for humanity, the fear of death and/or eternal damnation is instilled into the pliable and susceptible minds of children and continues into adulthood. Sprinkled with tales of eternal life, temporal wishes supernaturally achievable, the unworthiness of humans and the existence of a ‘good’ and an ‘evil’, sets the mental scene for subservient confusion. Second, after recognising one has been abused and brainwashed against their will and without their knowledge, if escape is required, then effort to combat this negative outlook must be more intense and prolonged than the unwanted religious input. A good start is to fully appreciate that all religious people of the thousands of religions that have and do exist, have been similarly abused, with them considering that they have the correct religion and all others are wrong. Even religions under the same name can state unequivocally that their counterparts have it incorrect. As an example, fundamentalist Christianity classes the Pope as the Anti-Christ and Catholicism a heresy. Third, take a proper look at Earth. 50,000 Iranians have been recently killed by earthquake, 3,000 many-denominational people died in the Twin Towers, 6 million Jewish people died in the Holocaust etc etc. Where were their respective gods? They were remarkably silent as they have been throughout history in humanity’s darkest hours. Look at the system that sustains life on our planet: Every life form preys on another life form to exist. Some of this in such brutal and horrible fashion as to totally exclude the idea of a ‘loving’ god as the creator. Look how the dice of life favours some and is more than wretched to others. Look how natural disasters and pathogens kill and maim indiscriminately. Fourth, it must be consciously recognised that books and ideas of old came from ignorant times, and were written and passed on by ignorant men living by the malleable rules of all-encompassing superstition. Fifth, and most importantly, it must be remembered that religions have held sway since consciousness arrived many tens of thousands of years ago. It is only in the last few hundred years that science has leapt onto the scene, and in doing so, has began to devour the very pillars holding superstition aloft. Although it is not fully accepted yet, the one part of science that will eventually be seen as the most profound is the principle of evolution. Not only has science found no evidence for a supernatural realm, it has shown that evolution requires no such thing to sustain it. Sixth and lastly, it therefore has to be asked as to why a super-being or thing would initiate a universe with us as only an infinitesimal dot within it. The Universe works on definite laws in a rational manner. Even if quantum structure appears not to be so! Such a rational creative force would hardly expect us to accept the irrationality that is religion especially as it is introduced in the heinous form of child abuse. An all-loving god with control over every particle in existence, that chooses to allow immense suffering, cannot exist. An all-powerful god incapable of creating perfect happiness for its creation is an oxy-moronic concept. An all-knowing god that cannot see the inherent goodness of humanity and does not nurture and aid its creation in a fair and equitable manner is a god of immeasurably immoral proportion. These thoughts and similar must be the constant companion of the adult psyche wishing to escape the foolishness of religious mind control. Victims of child abuse can overcome the strong hold it has on them and in doing so can benefit greatly from the conflict. The brainwashing will always remain but in its subjugation it will eventually be replaced with feelings of pride of accomplishment.
  40. 9 points
    "7Then I cried out unto my Mod, and saith, 'Oh merciful Mod, how long shalt thou suffer this false prophet in thy midst? 8For he hath surely come that he might deceive the people and lead them astray from thee. 9Cast him down into The Lion's Den that he may be torn limb from limb by thy faithful servants, 10even unto the depths of Sheol, that thy name be glorified.'" The Book of Second Redneckians chapter 6
  41. 9 points
    You can take the woman out of religious patriarchy, but you can't take the patriarchy out the woman, at least not very easily. That's what I've learned in the last two years. I want to speak about this topic, because I've considered myself a liberated woman (even before I left religion, as ironic as that is). But sometimes, you don't see the ropes, until there's another mind shift, and only then do you see the ropes that were tying you down. I want to speak in particular to any women out there, particularly those of the ex fundamentalist variety. Maybe they might benefit in some small measure by this insight. The patriarchy is so invisible sometimes, that even we women don't recognize it, or how it works. In particular, it's difficult to see if it has been upheld in some ways by the women around you, who have played a large role in your life. I have a relatively forward thinking mom. She always impressed upon me that it was OK to desire the best of both worlds, a career, a husband, and a family. However, even if it wasn't said, it was taken for granted that every woman in the church wanted a husband and family. You were abnormal somehow if you expressed another wish. I was one of the ones that actually wanted a husband and family, so I never struggled with that issue. I always struggled more with what I wanted in building a career. But I excelled in education and I loved learning and would have continued down the academic path as a career, if things hadn't become so challenging on some levels. Anyway, fast forward to my mid 30s, and deconversion, at which time I started to pick apart the patriarchy on a whole other level, and recognize how religion had influenced and ordered my life. One of the first things I did relatively soon after escaping the church was join the dating world. That can be summed up in one word: disillusionment. A few people close to me questioned this. Didn't I want to find out who I was without religion first? Why didn't I take some time? I myself figured I was doing it because, well, I could (dating outside of the church was outlawed and I had no interest within the church). Well, fast forward one year later, and another mind shift, and I can tell you guys, I'm unsure how many fetters of the religious patriarchy are left to tie me down, but some clearly were. It's so difficult to recognize how deeply we have internalized all the messages in religion, culture, the surrounding world around us. I somehow thought I was immune to all the messaging in the church that a woman is less/diminished without a man in her life, but no, I had internalized that on a deep level, and the first thing I wanted to do after getting the hell out of the church was find myself someone, and prove that I was an equal to all those women (and the system as a whole) that had made me feel less than. In hindsight, it's so easy to recognize this motivation. But, I've only been able to recognize it now that I've made a more conscious decision, because I really want to, to exit the dating scene and focus on my own life and finding my own happiness. It really doesn't matter how much of a liberated woman you tell yourself you are. You're only liberated when you begin to truly believe that your value isn't tied to any other person, or relationship. And the patriarchy, particularly the religious variety, will have you think otherwise.
  42. 9 points
    Hello I'm 36, preacher's/missionary's kid, former southern Baptist. Almost 2 years ago I began to accept the scientific evidence that the universe is old, rather than 6-10k years old. Because my faith had been built around the necessity that the bible must be interpreted literally, and considered inerrant, my faith began to fall like a chain of dominoes. First was accepting evolution, then rejecting the idea of original sin, then rejecting the concept of hell, then believing possible universalism, then deism...which is where I am now. Its been a difficult two years, but I think when I come out the other side of all this it will be rewarding. My husband is still a believer, but is extremely understanding of my situation. I've explained to him that through all this I have realized that nobody on this earth has any more control over what they believe than they do which country they're born in. We have 4 young children and I'm concerned that they will be confused about receiving different answers to questions as they grow, but hopefully we will figure it out together. We haven't been to church in 2 years, so at least that's not an issue. Anyway, thanks for reading, I'm glad I found this forum.
  43. 9 points
    Sorry for turning this into a "let's remember the good times with BAA" thread but...what am I saying? Of course I'm not sorry! I was digging through old PMs between BAA and me. We used to chat every so often about astrophysics and cosmology, as well as argumentative strategies for dealing with specific Christian claims here in the Lion's Den. Once I was out of touch for a couple months because I was off in rural India getting married, and when I was back in civilization I sent him a message to let him know why I'd ducked out in the middle of one of our strategizing sessions. He replied by talking about a time when he and his partner Maureen had been on vacation and encountered a Hindu wedding party. Looking back on it, his ability to convey imagery via the written word was remarkable. Here is his message to me: ----------------- Bhim, About eight years ago my partner Maureen and I were visiting our British friends Neal and Katy and we spent a long weekend with them in London. One afternoon we dined at the Belvedere, a fine restaurant in the middle of Holland Park. http://www.belvedererestaurant.co.uk/Intro.html It's a lovely place and every so often the staff have to shoo the peacocks out, because they wander in from the park! Anyway, while we were there I noticed a small group of very elegantly-dressed Hindi (is that right?) gentlemen entering the hotel foyer. They all wore dazzling white, formal outfits with what Neal told me were Gandhi collars. Later we saw that a large private room had been booked by them for what was clearly some kind of family celebration. Because it was high summer, all the doors leading out to the park were left wide open and we caught glimpses of the party moving to and fro as they circulated and mingled, chatting and laughing. What caught Maureen's eye was the sheer beauty and vibrant colors of the ladies sari's. Peach, aquamarine, cobalt blue, rose and many other gorgeous shades. Many decorated with delicate filigrees of gold. They wore exquisite and elaborate jewelry too. We soon realized that we were seeing a post-wedding celebration involving the bride and groom's extended families and their many guests and friends. OK Bhim, what I'm describing here happened in an urban setting, but if your wedding was anything like this colorful and joyous occasion, then I'm very, very happy for you. ----------------- BAA, I must say your ability to freely absorb the grandeur of your surroundings knew no distinction between the terrestrial and the astronomical. I wish I had taken even more opportunities to converse with you while you were with us. I regret that I didn't take the time to reciprocate your profound musings on the seemingly trivial activities of life during our conversations, but now that you're gone I'll do my best to learn from your example.
  44. 9 points
    Wow. This is a shock and very sad news. We are left with a BAA-shaped hole that none can fill, but may we all take comfort in knowing that his contributions have been immortalized on this board. R.I.P. Mark
  45. 9 points
    May you visit a multitude of Stars during your long journey. Goodbye BAA/Mark, you are missed already. Jeff
  46. 9 points
    Many of us were believers when we studied the Bible and started to see the major problems with it.
  47. 9 points
    All my questions about Christianity have already been thoroughly researched and answered. That's why I'm here now.
  48. 9 points
    I will tell you of my earliest childhood memory; I was four years old when it happened. I had not yet learned the days of the week, but I did know that different days had different significances. I had learned to tell the significance of the day by the clothes that were laid out on my bed for me after breakfast. For example, raggedy hand-me-downs meant that I would stay home that day and get to play outside; contrariwise, clean, newer clothes meant that I would go into town. Then there were the two scratchy, collared, plaid button-down shirts. If either of those shirts were laid out on the bed, it meant that I would be going to church. I hated those two shirts with the kind of red-eyed enraged passion that should be completely unacceptable for a child of four to feel. If asked at the time why I hated those shirts so much, I may have replied that they were ugly and uncomfortable, if I replied at all. Nevertheless, one day after breakfast, I went into my room to dress and spied one of those plaid shirts on my bed. A blinding fury overtook me and in a brief moment I snatched the shirt up with clenched fists and began tearing it to shreds, my older brother looking on aghast as the ribbons of fabric whirled through the air as though flung about by a tempest. I was beaten twice that day. My father beat me for wasting money we didn’t have, but my mother, she beat me because she knew that, with the other plaid shirt in the laundry, she’d have to bring me to church in clothes that weren’t quite churchy enough. I can’t imagine the shame and indignity that a mother must feel at having to present her four year old before the church in un-churchy clothes—the horror… the horror. I’ve often wondered why that memory has stayed with me through the years. Perhaps it was because of the inexplicable revulsion I had for those plaid shirts, or maybe it was because I had been beaten twice for the same offense. It may be nearer to the truth to conjecture that maybe that memory has had such a lasting impression on me because it was the first time in my life that I had a sense that there was something more important in my parents’ lives than me. Either way, having since gained at least a rudimentary understanding of human psychology, I’ve come to realize that I didn’t actually hate those two innocent, albeit uncomfortable, plaid shirts; I was merely projecting. What I really hated was what the garments represented. Needless to say, I was rather dumbfounded to discover, years later, that at the tender age of four, I had already decided that there was something not quite right about church. Nevertheless, over the next 16 years or so, my indoctrination would be so complete, my brain so thoroughly washed, that I would not be able to leave the church, nor publicly admit disbelief, until well into my thirties. Since my story is not much different than most of the other stories about kids growing up in extreme religion, especially those of the fundamental, evangelical sort, I won’t belabor the finer points of my childhood, other than to address some of the highlights. My parents were of the Pentecostal flavor, Assemblies of God for those more inclined toward precision. I participated in the Royal Rangers program, which is essentially the same as The Boy Scouts except that Jesus is the ultimate Scout Leader and I doubt the Royal Rangers will ever officially accept gays. When I was in the sixth grade, I was plucked out of public school and plopped firmly down into the Christian school where my mother was a teacher. This school was conveniently attached to the church my family attended, as was an assisted living center into which I’m sure I’ll eventually find some excuse for enrolling my parents. As you can see, I grew up, not just within a bubble, but within an entirely closed system intricately designed for controlling its inmates, quite literally, from the cradle to the grave. I remember once, when I was around seven or eight years old, a missionary came to the church. Now, there were two types of missionaries who came to my parents’ church: there were the ones who came to tell wondrous stories about God’s love, and ask for money; and then there were the ones who came to tell horrible stories about men’s evil, and ask for money. This particular missionary had come to tell horror stories. Since the Communists were still very much in power in the Soviet Union during my childhood, many of the horror stories I heard growing up involved the terrible plight of the Christians in Russia—they were made to spit on their Bibles, their churches were confiscated by the government and turned into grain silos, and any number of other atrocities one might think of. However, the story this missionary told still sends shivers down my spine to this day. He claimed that going to church had been outlawed in Russia and that the Christians had to meet in secret, lest the government found them out and imprisoned them until they either denied Christ or were sent away to some gulag in far-flung Siberia. As the story went, one such congregation had the grievous misfortune of being discovered, and in the middle of their church service, a band of soldiers from the Red Army marched in, weapons at the ready. The soldiers pulled all of the children away from their parents and lined them up in front of the church. They, then, went down the line holding a pistol to each child’s head and demanding that the parents of each child stand up and deny Christ; otherwise they would scatter the child’s brain into more pieces than even God could count. Naturally, there weren’t very many children enjoying Sunday Dinner with their families when the story ended—a testament to the awesome power of faith, indeed. I’ve been married to a Russian for the past ten years now. When I first told my wife this story, she laughed and said that nothing like that had ever happened in Russia; she also remarked that Christians and Communists often employ the same types of propaganda. But when she asked me why I was so terrified by that story, and why I still get a chill thinking about it, my answer shocked her. I told her that I wasn’t terrified by the thought of what those poor parents had gone through, nor by the trembling of the innocents patiently awaiting their fate. I was terrified because, at the age of seven or eight, I knew that if anything like that had ever happened in my parents’ church, they would have been the first ones to stand up, point to me and my brother, and tell the soldiers to go ahead and get it over with, because my parents would never deny Christ, not even to save us. As I muddled on towards whatever maturity my church-stunted life would allow, I remember a Wednesday night, when I was seventeen, driving home from youth group with my mom riding with me. She was determined that I was called of God to become a missionary in Europe and I was trying desperately to make her understand that I didn’t want to be a missionary, or an evangelist, or a pastor, or any other man of the cloth. I was able to fend off every argument she threw at me that night except for the last one. She told me that the Berlin Wall had just fallen, that Europe needed me to bring God’s healing, and that if I didn’t go, the blood of all those people would be upon my hands. With a guilt-ridden conscience, I applied to a private Christian college in central Florida, with Pastoral Ministries as my declared major. I won’t mention the name of the college or give any details about it other than that it has since become a University in the Southeastern region of the country. My first semester went about as typically as any American college student’s first semester. I dutifully gained my freshmen fifteen, wrote longing, passionate letters to my girl back home, and engaged in heated though rambling discussions during which all parties involved went to great lengths to demonstrate their supreme knowledge concerning the topic at hand. It was during my second semester when I finally came across the first hurdle, the crossing of which would put me upon the path of ultimately becoming an unbeliever, but the ducking of which would have kept me upon the true course with happy unconcern. In addition to daily chapel, to which attendance was compulsory, we students also had to attend a number of classes in Theology, Bible, and general churchy-type stuff that we who would eventually lead the Lord’s work should know. One fine example of the latter was a class called The History and Polity of the Church, which we had endearingly renamed The Heresy and Fallacy of the Church. It was a lovely spring morning when the professor of this class announced to us that we would be having a guest lecturer as a special treat. I cannot recall any of the many indistinguishable features of the lecturer that day, but I remember his lecture was on how to get more money in the offering plate. Granted, church funds are always in a desperate state as is testified to by nearly every pastor in nearly every church on nearly every Sunday of the year; so the idea of getting a few helpful hints wasn’t necessarily a bad one. But when that pious little white-washed tomb of a lecturer got around to encouraging us impressionable godlings to have some ninety year old grandmother give a testimony just before passing the plate, that was just a shade more than this Southern Gentleman could stand. I called my parents that afternoon and announced that I would not be pursuing a major in Pastoral Ministries any further. They countered that, as they were paying for my education, they had every right to control the manner in which their money was spent. I told them they could keep their money; I wanted no part of ministry. After an indeterminate amount of counterlocution, a compromise was eventually drawn up wherein I would be allowed to take a degree in Secondary Education with a minor in English and they would continue to pay for it, but I had to agree to stay at the Christian college. I had always thought it would be fun to be a writer or a journalist, so the degree in English Education, I reckoned, would be helpful. Thus, with the hurdle crossed and with a comfortable major declared, I set out to endure the remaining three years of my education as best as I could. I’d never really known loneliness until my second year in college. Consider this; if a school prides itself on having the best football team, then naturally, the most popular students are the football players and the cheerleaders. But imagine a school that prides itself on churning out the best preachers in the denomination. Who are the most popular students in such a place? Imagine further, what happens to a student who leaves Pastoral Ministries in favor of taking a degree in Education. I was an overnight reject. At first, I still tried to run in the same social circles, but that didn’t last long. With godlings, mere rejection is never enough; it has to be enhanced and flavored with a bouquet of judgment, a heavy note of condemnation, and a nice finish of self-righteousness, like any fine wine distilled from water by the miraculous hand of our Lord and Savior. So, for the next three years, I was merely a defective unit crawling around somewhere in the middle of the discard pile. To my amazement, despite being lonely at first, I found the experience wonderfully liberating. Looking back now, I realize that I was getting my first tastes of the freedom and peace I would eventually, and rightfully, claim, once I was able to put religion down for good. Naturally, I wasn’t the only defective unit on the discard pile; there were a number of others, some of whom were even Pastoral Ministries majors who happened to disagree with many of the Party Lines. I am even fortunate enough to still call some of these same people my friends, even the ones who went on to become pastors, though we do get into the devil of an argument now and again. But, I’m getting ahead of myself. To pass what free time the college would allow, between classes, daily chapel, and nightly curfew, I took long walks, shot pool at a local billiard hall, and worked hard at becoming a tolerable writer. During my junior year, I started holding poetry readings at local night clubs. I would hold them on weeknights when business at the clubs was generally slow. The club owners enjoyed it because it brought in a little more money for them; I enjoyed the exposure I was getting as a budding new poet. Unfortunately, this move nearly got me expelled from college. While I saw what I was doing as a means of ministering to the lost (most of my poetry at the time had heavy spiritual overtones), the school merely saw that I was going to places of disreputable account, thus, whatever my intentions were, my actions were clearly against the rulebook. This was not the first time I had been hauled in before the disciplinary board; in fact, I was on a first name basis with most of them. But this was the first time that I had both a dean and the professor of Humanities standing up for me. In the end, though, the Grand Inquisitor issued a decree from on high that I could either continue my nefarious breaching of Christian doctrine by reading poetry in dens of iniquity and face expulsion, or I could submit myself to the yoke of our Lord, which yoke, he reminded me, was light, and I would be allowed to continue pursuing and, God willing, eventually earn my degree. Initially, I decided to give the old bollocks to what the school thought and continue right on holding my poetry readings, but I was checkmated by my parents, whose money I would be squandering if I got kicked out so close to earning my degree. I capitulated, having no other, more sensible, alternative. This was the first of several breaking points I reached with religion before finally kicking it out of my life completely. I don’t know if that is a testament to how thoroughly engrained my religion was, or just another example of how unbefitting stubbornness is. As it happened, though, in what is arguably the most self-righteous act since God first decided that He should die so that He could save us from His own judgment of us, the year after I graduated, the University in the Southeastern region started offering poetry readings in nightclubs as one of its student ministry options. By that time, however, I was tired enough of religion to declare that, for the foreseeable future anyway, I was done with it. The next three years or so were perhaps the happiest of my life, certainly among the happiest. When I attended church, I went to a very laid-back church peopled mainly with fellow rejects such as myself. I married a gentle young agnostic whose beauty was matched only by her kindness; she was the daughter of a former Southern Baptist, a fiery woman whose ire against all things religious made the very flames of hell seem like a mere campfire, but she had raised the most tenderhearted of ladies one could ever have the pleasure of knowing. On weekends, I sat up many a long night over pints of Guinness discussing the finer points of life, theology, purpose, and reason with my friends, and during the week, I worked as an electrician, a trade upon which I would eventually build a career of sorts. I found I was no longer constrained by the compulsions of religion. God’s calling upon my life, of which I had been compelled to believe since I first started speaking, would happen as God willed it, with or without my help. God’s plan would unfold itself in its own time. I wasn’t going to concern myself with such matters anymore. Instead, I found meaning in life simply by enjoying it. A warm pipe filled with the finest tobacco, a laugh with friends, a good single malt—these were the simple pleasures that made life fulfilling. Sadly, it was not to last. Religion builds itself on pointless fear and sustains itself though overbearing guilt. Once instilled, this dark and sinister double threat engrains itself into the deepest nether-reaches of the host psyche, like parasitic symbiotes, quietly preying on the host in times of peace, but ferociously attacking the host when it seems that the host might be strong enough to evict them. Even in my happiest times, these two old friends of mine haunted me, spurred on with every call from home in which my parents besought my immediate return to the true flock, simultaneously lambasting the debaucherous manner in which I was living my life. I would have fits of repentance, during which I would declare before the Sovereign Lord that I was going to find a true church and start attending regularly again. I would pore over the pages of the sacred text and devote hours at a time to prayer. Then I would remember the true nature of religion, what it made of those who practiced it, and what was done to me by those who practiced it. I would resign myself to struggle on trying to find the happy medium between believing in God but not in all of the presumptuousness that goes along with it. My restlessness grew; my sleeplessness did not abate. The feeling of guilt became increasingly unbearable and with it the fear that God’s divine destiny was not going to be fulfilled in me and it would be my fault. In my dreams, when I had dreams, I saw the blood of nations covering my hands; I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Who will go for us? Whom shall I send?”, but instead of the victorious reply of, “Here am I!” I would hear only silence, my silence. My unanswered call… And God’s wrath that so many would die without hearing the gospel because I wanted a warm pipe filled with the finest tobacco, a laugh with friends, a good single malt. I had come so close to liberating myself. It was just within my grasp! So many years of fruitless misery could have been spared if only I had been more of a man and less of a boy. Nevertheless, with a guilt-laden conscience, I capitulated, having no other, more sensible choice. In the year of our Lord 1999, I, as had been C.S. Lewis many years previous, was dragged kicking and screaming back into the presence of the Lord. I moved back to North Carolina, to the gentle hills of my childhood, the bosom of my heritage. My bewildered wife was by my side. I returned to the church of my parents, the church that had caused a four year old to rend his garments like the mourners of old, the church that had put the fear of Russian soldiers into the young heart of a seven year old, the church where I could finally start to wash the blood of the nations from my hands. Divorce soon followed. I was increasingly obsessed with finding God’s will for my life and fulfilling the Divine Destiny He had for me. My omni-skeptical wife, however, suspected that the idea that God had a plan for me, or anyone else in particular, was unlikely at best, pure rubbish at worst. Resultantly, although she still cared very much for me, she was not quite willing to give up the hopes and dreams she had for her own life in exchange for something which, to her, was essentially a lie. I never faulted her for this conviction; and ultimately, I grew to admire her for it. Many years later, I sent her an email to apologize for my behavior and to admit that she had been right and I wrong. She responded that she had always known I would eventually realize that God’s Will was a lie, but that, given my stubbornness, she feared that not only would it take many years, but also many heartaches, for me to finally reach that conclusion. She was right. In the year 2000, I left home to become a missionary in Northern Ireland, in a little town just outside of Belfast. I had been prophesied over by several people independently, plus I had the evidence that God had laid a burden on my heart for the people of Ulster, so I knew that going there was God’s will for me and that I was finally going to start fulfilling His divine destiny. I was working with a Pentecostal church there in Northern Ireland and had hopes that they would eventually bring me on their full-time staff. In the meantime, I had found gainful employment with a local electronics firm and had even made arrangements to rent to own a humble little terrace house in one of the Protestant neighborhoods. Not long after arriving in Northern Ireland, I was approached by a man who, as his name isn’t relevant to my narrative, I will simply call Polite. Polite was an extremely intelligent man—a college professor, to be exact—and he took a highly intellectual view toward his faith, if such a paradox can be believed. Polite was also a member of the church with which I was working. During the course of our conversation, Polite asked me what I thought I could do in Ulster that God couldn’t have found an Ulsterman to do. In other words, what did God find in me that He couldn’t have just as easily found in someone who was already there? Arrogantly, I responded that a disciple of Christ doesn’t trifle over such questions; a disciple merely obeys the voice of his master. Although there did seem to be the slightest hint of reproof during the remainder of our conversation, I didn’t really get the feeling that Polite disapproved of my answer, or my presence in his country. Years later, as my perceptions of life, people, and the world began to recover from the stained glass blinders through which I had been taught to look, I realized what Polite’s intentions had been during the course of that conversation. His question was not aimed at knocking my faith; so much as it was aimed at knocking my motivations. Polite, I think, was hoping that I would begin to question why I was really in Ulster and he was hoping that I would see that while I might really believe that God had called me there, in reality, I wasn’t needed. Although the next six months made clear to me that Polite’s assessment had been completely accurate, I simply refused to believe it. I could clearly see that I did not bring anything into the church or even the town that any other bipedal humanoid couldn’t have brought; but God Himself had brought me there, so I assured myself constantly, I must be needed. There were two proverbs I was known for saying in those days: “Faith that cannot be tested is faith that cannot be trusted”; and “There is a thin line between faith and stupidity.” I still adhere to the latter, but maintain that the line is blurred beyond all distinction. Looking back now, I think the pastor of the church indulged me, not merely because I was still a shade on the side of young and naïve, but also because he genuinely wanted God to be able to do miraculous things in his church and I was his Abraham. I was his proof that God could do wondrous works through his ministry; I was the one he could hold before his congregation and say, “Here is a man who has been called up from the land of his fathers, a stranger in a strange land, upheld by the mighty hand of God.” I know now that we were both kidding ourselves; I wonder if he does… The electronics firm for which I had been working had been attempting to get me a proper work permit since they had first hired me on. They were pleased with the work I did for them, though not always so fond of the arrogant manner in which I carried myself. They had been paying me from their petty cash account since they couldn’t officially have me on the books until the permit had been granted, but they made sure that I got a Christmas bonus that was comparable to everyone else’s. They really were decent people and I have often regretted what little trouble I caused them. Ultimately, the work permit that they tried their best to obtain for me was denied and it became necessary for them to terminate my employment or face legal ramifications. Fortunately, since there was nothing ever on paper concerning my employment with them, they were easily able to claim I had never worked there. Unfortunately, however, their attempts on my behalf had placed my passport under the scrutiny of the immigration office and I was contacted by a representative of that particular governmental branch. During the course of my exchange with this official, I was made to understand that I had entered the country on a visitor’s visa, that I was not entitled to work or receive wages, that if I had worked or received wages there would be consequences, and that, as a visitor’s visa was only good for six months, I had two weeks to get an exit stamp put on my passport otherwise I would be deported and denied entry back into the country for five years. Isn’t it amazing that a government employee can clearly say exactly what he means, but the Word of God is so vague, mysterious, contradictory, and confusing? That aside, I was left dumbfounded by the circumstances in which I suddenly found myself. I had been prophesied over, not just once by one person, but many times by many people. I had known for a fact that God needed someone in Northern Ireland. I had been called to be that person. I had been… wrong? No, I simply would not accept that. How could I have been wrong? I assured myself that if God was pulling me out of Ulster, He must have His reasons. I was sure I would be back after a little while; He just had some perfecting He needed to do in me before I was really ready to help bring about the revival He wanted for the people of Northern Ireland. I told myself all the fanciful things the faithful always tell themselves, but the reality is that my faith had been shaken so hard that a couple of pieces—insignificant little shards, really—had broken lose and fallen away. The first sermon I heard upon arriving back in my parents’ church in North Carolina was given by an Australian evangelist whose name escapes me at the moment. In his sermon, he talked about how God sometimes gives us the big picture without revealing to us very much about the details. He gave the example of God making it clear to Mary that she had been impregnated by the Holy Spirit, but He failed to mention to her how exactly she was supposed to break the news to Joseph. I could certainly relate to the message that day; God had had the power to bring me into Northern Ireland, but had failed to clear it with the immigrations office first. Eventually, I learned that there is a reason why God gives us the big picture without providing any information on the details, and the reason is because the Devil is in the details. For the next couple of months, I was adrift on a sea of confusion. God clearly had a calling on my life. I clearly had answered that calling. That calling clearly had fallen through. Clearly, something was unclear. I found work again as an electrician and started attending the weekly men’s prayer meeting. My parents’ church was a large church that offered three separate services on Sunday mornings. This resulted in the parking lot becoming a caldron of chaos when attendees of the early service were leaving at the same time that attendees of the second service were arriving and by the time the third service was coming around, it would descend into pure anarchy. The pastor in charge of men’s ministries approached me one day with a box of safety vests, a dozen walkie-talkies, and a pleading tone in his speech. He said there was a need for order to be brought to the parking lot and asked if I would be willing to be the Lord’s instrument. So, I became the leader of the parking lot ministry, where a dozen or so stout-hearted men directed the sheep of the Lord’s flock to their respective stalls in a safe and orderly fashion. If I had ever had any doubt that the hypocrisy of Christians truly knows no bounds, working in the parking lot Sunday after Sunday alleviated me of it. Men who would willingly, and patiently, endure hours of waiting to get out of the parking lot after a Panthers game could suddenly justify damn near running a man down to get to a closer parking space on the simple grounds that their wives were late for the choir. Women would bark at us that they had no time to wait for a parking space because they had to be in the nursery; then, upon finally arriving at their destination, would slowly turn down their sun visors and begin applying their make-up in the vanity mirror. Yet, this was the ministry God had for me; these were His people, the members of His body. I told myself that God was preparing me for bigger things and that I needed to be faithful in the little things so that I would be ready when He was. After all, I was called to see the nations brought to revival. During this same time, I began to develop a number of theories concerning the bible and religion. I use the term “theory” here, of course, as it is used in the commoner’s tongue, not as it applies in scientific verbiage. One of my favorite theories was the laughable notion that when people were speaking in “tongues” they were actually speaking the common language that all humans spoke before the Tower of Babel and that the curse God placed on language as a result of said tower was the reason it was so difficult for an adult to learn a new language. I’m fairly certain Kent Hovind might even smile at the cleverness of that particular gem. I also began developing a model or strategy for taking a city for Christ through prayer. As God’s plan for my life unfolded, I planned to expand this strategy for taking entire nations. The plan, which I had codenamed “Guerilla War-Prayer”, involved sending out teams of elite prayer warriors to hit strategic points throughout the city and cover them with prayer. One team would circle the city to establish a perimeter; another would systematically tackle the strongholds of the city, such as bars, strip clubs and such. Still other teams would lay siege to their respective targets such as a team for governmental facilities, one for institutions of learning, and so forth. I believed that if enough prayer were laid down over a city, God would have to come in a mighty way and bring revival with Him. Of course, my attempts to garner interest among the men at the weekly prayer meeting to put this strategy into practice in our city were generally met with regretful explanations about how truly busy their lives were and, even though they really did want God to bring revival, they just didn’t think they would have the time to commit. I guess, now, I’ll never find out if it would have worked or not. Around May of 2001, I received an email from a young lady whose name I will render as Fearful, since, as with Polite, her real name is also not relevant to my narrative. Fearful had also attended the University in the Southeastern region of the country at the same time I did; but since God’s plan for her was that she should become a minister’s wife, we never knew each other in those days. At some point during the time following graduation, while I was still living the lascivious lifestyle of being happily married and enjoined in well-rounded friendships in Florida, Fearful had made her way to North Carolina and had gained employment at my parent’s church. She had left before my return to the Tarheel State in order to join up with a musical group that travelled around the world performing in Catholic Churches in an effort to win the Roman Heretics over to the true faith of Protestantism. In the email, Fearful indicated that she would be flying into Charlotte on an upcoming weekend in order to participate as a bridesmaid in her friend’s wedding. She was contacting me, she said, in order to inquire if I’d be willing to pick her up from the airport and see her to her friend’s house, and perhaps, join her for dinner along the way. She further intimated that, other than the rehearsal dinner and the wedding, she had no other plans for the weekend, but would need to be back at the airport on Sunday morning in order to reconnect with her orchestral troupe. As mentioned, I knew little of Fearful, but I did recall that she was pleasing to the eye; so the prospect of spending some time with her sat well with me. I met her at the appointed time and we had a very pleasant dinner; I found her company to be quite agreeable and even stole a kiss before seeing her to her friend’s home. The next evening, I met with her again and we engaged in a lengthy discussion of our visions for ministry, revival, and claiming nations for the Lord, even as an entire double-order of hot wings sat before us getting cold, untouched. Our outlook upon ministry was so uncannily similar that, naturally, the idea that we had both suddenly stumbled upon “The One God had for us” began gaining ground in both of our minds. By the time I dropped her off at the airport, we were officially an item. She had to see out the rest of her tour with the ensemble, of course, but it would only be until the end of August. After that, we could be together and find out just how big God’s plan for us was. This event, as one might expect, did short work of restoring the faith which had been so violently shaken by my sudden and unceremonious removal from Northern Ireland. It all made sense: God had pulled me away from the mission field in order to pair me up with a helpmate suitable to the calling He had for me. It all happened according to God’s perfect timing. Fearful and I spoke via email and telephone several times a week over the next few months while she was travelling, with the exception of a few weeks during which her group was somewhere in Latin America. It is amazing to me that love can be as blinding as religion, yet for all the grief it has caused me, I could never give up on love like I did church. Nonetheless, put love and religion together and that creates enough lumens to blind even the acutest of eyes. Throughout the course of our long-distance relationship, I was given several clear indications that things in Fearful’s personality were not quite right. There were subtle hints spoken by people who had known her in college. There were whispers among members of the church who had known her during her tenure there: tales of broken-hearted men awash in a swath of destruction left in her wake. There were tearful midnight phone calls during which she would elucidate her fears that maybe our relationship wasn’t God’s will after all, or that she didn’t know how to trust me, or that she didn’t know if she could commit to me. I would try to sift through the anfractuosities of her mind to find some means of reassuring her. I would point out the numerous prophesies that had been given over both of us and all of the signs and confirmations God had given us. I would promise her that she would feel much better once we were together. I would do all of these things; but I would not take a hard look at the evidence that suggested that she and I were simply not right for each other. I was far too blinded by love and by religion to see the warning signs along the way. Finally, the day came when she got off the airplane for the last time. I ran to embrace her with the hope that things would finally get better for us in my heart, and with a diamond worth two month’s salary in my pocket. She readily accepted both, and for the next few weeks, we were in the full flush of love. Then I started noticing faces on her that weren’t her face. I recognized the faces, just not as hers. They were the faces of two old friends of mine: the faces of fear and guilt. I had had a taste of her fears during the few months we had been apart; but that taste, it turns out, had been mild compared to how truly fearful she was. Moreover, the guilt I witnessed her experiencing was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before or since. Anytime we kissed with just the slightest hint of passion, she would be racked with remorse for days—conscience-stricken by our lack of purity in the sight of the Lord. It was pretty much the same with any physical contact we had. She was in a state of constant penitence for sins neither of us had even committed; but reality is 95% perception and the combined effect her guilt and fear had on her perception led her to only one conclusion: that I was not holy. Things started to grow darker between us. She was torn between her belief that I was God’s Chosen for her and the belief that I wasn’t holy enough to be the man she needed. She would go through near-bipolar episodes wherein she would run into my arms declaring that she loved me, she trusted me, and she couldn’t wait to marry me; but then 15 minutes later she would be curled up, weeping on the floor tearfully confessing that she didn’t love me, didn’t trust me, and wasn’t sure she could commit to me. I begged her at one point to just once, put Jesus aside and speak to me like a human being. I kept telling myself that if I just loved her as Christ loved the church, then the healing she so desperately needed would come. I genuinely believed that. But what had started out as merely an emotional rollercoaster for me had become a whirlwind, tsunami, and earthquake all breaking over my heart simultaneously; and in the end, I found myself in Gethsemane asking that this cup be taken from me, but resigning myself, nevertheless, to not my will but Thine be done. Misfortune, it seems, has a way of breeding itself. Within the span of two weeks, I had been laid off from my job, lost my fiancé, and developed a toxic cyst at the base of my spine. It happened so quickly that it should be a blur in my mind; but I still remember every detail with lucid clarity. As soon as I was laid off, I decided to take Fearful to the local headquarters of the Assemblies of God to see if there were any ministries we could get involved in. I thought this move might be the proverbial stone with which two avians were slain: Fearful would be reassured of my intentions of following God’s plan with her, and I could maybe find some means of supporting myself, and eventually her, without having to rely on electrical contractors. Unfortunately, the Assemblies of God has a policy that a person who is divorced and remarried cannot be ordained as a minister; murderers, rapists, and even child pornographers can be ordained, provided they are really sorry, but woe unto the man who’s had two wives! When the minister at the corporate headquarters found out that I had been divorced and was planning to marry Fearful, he apologetically informed us that we would not find gainful employment within the denomination, and quickly hurried us out of his office. Fearful had never really been willing to accept that she would marry anyone who was not ordained and as I drove her back home I could feel the discomfort of the cyst forming at the base of my spine, as well as the pain of knowing that in her mind at least, I was just another defective unit to be thrown onto the discard pile. A few days later, she handed my ring back and made it official. I, again, found myself dumbfounded by the suddenness of my circumstance; again plagued by the nagging questions. How could I have been wrong again? We had been prophesied over. We had been given signs and confirmations. God had brought us together at just the right time for both of us. How could it not have been God’s will? And the most nagging question of all: Why is it that every time I try to do God’s will, I always end up getting my teeth kicked in? These questions would remain with me for the next two years as I tried to recover from the emotional holocaust that my relationship with Fearful had been and move on toward learning to forgive her. I still believed God had a plan for me; or maybe I didn’t. Maybe I just wanted to believe that; or maybe I just believed it because I had believed it my whole life and didn’t know how to believe anything different. All I really knew, in the aftermath of Fearful, was that I was tired of God’s plan for my life being so painful and confusing; and I hoped the next chapter He wrote for me would be happier and more stable. Something deep down inside of me had been broken. I didn’t know if it could be repaired, but more significantly, I wasn’t sure if I cared whether it got repaired or not. Additionally, my faith had once again been shaken to the point that pieces of it had fallen away, and it would take more than the strings and duct tape of doctrine to hold what was left of it together. The next two years were most definitely the blurriest years of my life. I vaguely remember the pastor of my parent’s church talking the congregation into taking a loan in excess of $12 million in order to purchase and renovate some properties across the street from the church/school/retirement center campus. I vaguely remember that there was a scandal months later when not a penny of the money could be found. But the struggles of my spiritual life were becoming increasingly overbearing. I had believed in an all-powerful God, but His plan had been too weak to even match up to the bureaucracies of an immigration office. I had believed in an all-loving God, but His plan had left my heart, not merely broken, but ground into a bloody pulp in the carpet by a cavalier wench who still had the audacity to take the moral high road and claim that my unholiness had nearly cost her God’s plan for her life. If mustard seeds could move mountains, then surely the amount of faith I had displayed should have shaken the very foundations of the earth; but it hadn’t… Coupled with the struggle to stay spiritually alive was the increasingly difficult struggle to stay physically alive. 9/11 had worked the economy over to the point that Charlotte had gone from being one of the ten fastest growing cities in America to a place where a tradesmen was hard-pressed to find enough work to keep body and soul together. I found myself constantly being laid off when work would get slow for one electrical contractor, finding work a few weeks, or maybe a few months later, and getting laid off again after the job was finished. The days were growing darker and the nights more desperate, yet the rider on the white horse still showed no signs of appearing on the horizon. An insidious thought began to worm its way through my mind: God’s plan isn’t working. I had always expected that God would launch me out into His destiny in some powerful and mighty way. I had never doubted that I was special, chosen, anointed. I believed that I would be sent to the nations and that God would do extra-ordinary things through me. Now, I began to question if I really had time to wait for God’s plan any longer. I began to wonder if I could even endure God’s plan any longer. Moreover, after the turbulent vortices of Ulster and Fearful, what guarantees did I have that God’s plan wouldn’t ultimately be the very death of me? I found myself stuck in an increasingly untenable position. I could never find steady work; money was always tight, but God still wanted His 10% every Sunday. The denomination wouldn’t ordain me to be a minister, and my parents’ church was happy to just keep me out in the parking lot directing traffic. With God in charge of things, I wasn’t making any forward progress at all. I started to think that maybe it was time I started taking charge a little bit more. After all, I was still youngish; I still had a few talents and gifts. Maybe if I took control and started living my own life, I could at least accomplish something more productive than waiting around for God to show up. Then again, I thought, the Lord was a jealous God, perhaps if He started to see how much better I can manage my life than He’d done, that will be the very catalyst which motivates Him to finally start pushing His calling on my life forward. My two old friends, fear and guilt, kept coming around and explaining to me that my doubts were sinful and that my thoughts were wicked in the sight of the Lord. I was inclined to listen to them at first; they were my oldest friends who had never steered me astray before. But instead of letting them talk me into or out of anything, I decided to give God a chance to show Himself. I remember clearly telling my mother that if her prayers garnered any clout with God at all, now was the time to use them. I told her that God had until a certain date to prove himself, after that, I was going to take the reins of my life into my own hands and He could ride shotgun. She gave all of the correct responses: Do not test the Lord thy God, you’ll be miserable outside of God’s plan, the devil is leading you astray, etc. But my mind was well on its way to being made up. If God really wanted to use me, if He really had a plan for my life, it was time for Him to reveal it. I know my mother prayed as fervently as she knew how. Remarkably, so did I. I still really wanted God to be all that I had expected and believed Him to be. I still wanted to see the nations brought into His loving mercy. I still believed that Christians could be better people than Fearful had been. More than anything, I wanted to see God come through for me, just once. So, when the appointed day arrived, I waffled and granted God a six month stay of execution. I decided that I had waited faithfully and worked diligently for His plan for so long, I could wait another six months. I also wanted to be absolutely certain that I was doing the right thing and with fear and guilt still loitering about my mind, certainty wasn’t going to be easy to come by. During that six month period, the most incredible thing I could have ever imagined happened: nothing. That actually is pretty incredible, if one considers it. An all-loving, all-knowing, all-powerful God is challenged to prove Himself to a weary, broken soul in the hour of darkest need, and He doesn’t even show up. How awe-inspiring! Where was the God of Moses who appeared in a burning bush? Where was the God of Job who appeared in a whirlwind? Where was the God of the Israelites who appeared as a cloud of smoke by day and a pillar of fire by night? Where was my God? I was ready to give up on God. I had pleaded my case before Him and He had treated it with contempt. I had granted Him ample time and space within which to demonstrate His character and He had rejected my invitation. My mind was set and my decision made. I would pilot the ship from here on in to the final port of call, come gale, tempest, or deadly Nor’easter. My only problem was that I had no instructions on steering the vessel. The instructions I had for living life—trust God, pray, read the Bible—obviously didn’t work in the real world. I was completely ill-prepared for advancing myself toward the goals and dreams I wanted to fulfill before my time was up, let alone for living from one day to the next in a constantly demanding and ever changing life. In truth, I didn’t even have the capacity to make sound, well-reasoned decisions at the time. I needed guidance from someone who lived in the real world. As my good fortune would have it, I fell under the tutelage of a man who, like Polite and Fearful, and for the same reason, will simply be called Wise. Wise’s background had been entirely different than mine, yet he still somehow managed to have many of the same misperceptions and misconceptions about life that I had. Wise had liberated himself from these ill-guided perspectives by declaring himself to be intelligent enough to make up his own mind about what God was like, and letting go of the interpretations, doctrines, and dogmas of others. Wise had thus gained an experiential spirituality completely divorced from the rigors and compulsions of mainstream religion. In our first conversation, Wise stated bluntly that the relationship I had with God obviously wasn’t working and suggested that I try something different. I was compelled to ask him how he knew anything about my relationship with God when he had only just met me five minutes previous. Other than a slight chuckle, his knowing stare was the only retort he offered. Over the next few weeks, Wise explained to me that any God, who is small enough to be explained by just one book, isn’t a God worthy of praise; and any God, who is simple enough to be understood by any one individual, isn’t a God capable of saving anyone. He patiently explained that each of us had the capacity to understand God as He revealed Himself to us individually, but that none of us could ever hope to understand God completely; and that even if we pooled our understandings collectively, we would only discover that God is a gestalt entity wherein the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. With this in mind, he encouraged me to think about the things that I believed were true and compare them with the things that I knew were Truth. He suggested that I consider what traits a truly loving God would have and compare them to the traits that the God I believed in had. As I slowly began moving away from The Father, The Son, and The Holy Ghost, I fully expected fear and guilt to hound my every step; remarkably, they remained silent. Once I had accepted the idea that I could believe in a God other than the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Wise discussed the very concept of belief with me, hinting that I should examine my beliefs by asking myself which beliefs did I hold because I really believed them, and which did I hold because someone else told me I should without offering a single scrap of evidence as to their validity. To my amazement, upon conducting this exercise, I discovered that I really didn’t believe anything at all—every single belief I had, had been planted in my head by someone else, and outside of the Bible, personal experience, and divine revelation, not a shred of proof had ever been offered. Wise then asserted that I was, in fact, a square peg, and that all of the misfortunes that had befallen me during my sojourn in Christendom had been a direct result of my having been forcibly jammed into a round hole and compelled to remain there within. Seeing the truth of Wise’s analogy was the most liberating moment of my life, but the most precious nugget of wisdom I would glean from him was the parable he told about how a person should live in relation to God’s plan. He said that the world was like a field on a hillside that was constantly being washed away by the storms and that God was like a farmer who wished to sow the field with grass to stop the erosion from happening. After dutifully cultivating the soil, the farmer then sowed millions of seeds into it, knowing that some would be eaten by birds, some would fall by the wayside, and some would fall upon the stones. But the farmer also knew that enough of the seeds would grow until the field was covered in grass. The farmer would never demand that one seed alone should prevent the erosion of the entire field, any more than he would expect that one single snowflake would turn the hillside white. This simple truth set me free from a lifetime of guilt and fear. I could now know with certainty that God’s will for my life, His Divine Destiny, had never existed; the blood of nations had never stained my hands and that my fate rested solely on my own shoulders. I was fortunate enough to remain under Wise’s mentorship for approximately nine months before the circumstances of his life compelled him to move to Florida in order to see his aged mother through the autumnal years of her life. During this brief time, I gained more wisdom, insight, and perspective about life than I had during the thirty years I had spent in the church. The transformation that ultimately occurred in my life, I credit mainly to Wise’s sage counsel. In deconstructing my beliefs, I had originally intended to use what beliefs remained in order to rebuild an experiential spiritualism similar to what Wise had. However, when I set my mind free and allowed it to function without barriers or predetermined boundaries, I discovered, and quite to my amazement, I hasten to add, that my brain is a highly critical, skeptical, and scientific machine. Having believed for so long without evidence, my brain was starved for proof and simply would not allow me to believe something on grounds no more solid than that I just wanted to believe. Instead, I had to start with something that could be proven and quickly found myself happily entertaining the question of whether the universe provably existed or not. This led me to the basal assumptions that have to be made if any philosophical progress is to ensue. In the beginning, I trusted science; by the end, I loved it. Trusting science allowed me to take the initial step of assuming that the universe does exist; cogito ergo sum quickly followed. I started studying the sciences in real earnest, particularly biology, though I did dabble a bit in chemistry, physics, and astronomy now and again. Of conspicuous interest to me were the relationships between different species within defined communities. I had been taught that God had created the harmony in nature; but with a budding understanding of natural selection, I began to see that as communities developed and as environments placed selective pressures upon the species living within communities, harmony would, of necessity, be one of the main by-products. I therefore had explanations for the universe, my existence, and the nature of life; and since none of them required the explicit presence of God, I could simply accept them as they were. Many other discoveries awaited me. Throughout this period, I would like to note that I was still praying, though not to Yahweh, Jesus, or any other God that I knew of; I was also still meditating, though I no longer expected any sort of divine revelation. I suppose the reason I was doing so, besides habit, was that a part of me still wanted to believe that there was a god, or at least a higher order of being. As a result, when it happened; I didn’t even realize it. I never felt any strange sensation, any tingly spine or goose bumps. I simply and gradually came to the vague realization that something in my mind had been corrected. It was almost as if, subconsciously, I had known all along; all that remained was for me to admit that what felt like the most natural thing in the world, really was the most natural thing in the world. So a few weeks after it happened, while getting ready for work one early spring morning, I looked into the mirror, straight into my own eyes and uttered the most natural statement I have ever made: “I am an atheist.”
  49. 9 points
    Hello, my fellow ex-christians. I was born the year before the attack on Pearl Harbor and the beginning or World War II. What I remember best during those years were the family times; we would regularly go to the Drive In Movies where we would watch Bob Hope, Bing Crosby and Esther Williams in some of the good old family classics. At home, we would sit by the radio and listen to "The Green Hornet", "Amos 'n Andy" and other shows; my father usually was there with his beer and his cigar or pipe. After the war my parents became quite active in our little non-denominational fundamental evangelical congregation. Oddly enough, my parents never pushed me to "get saved". However, everybody else in the church felt it was their duty to warn us kids about the Rapture when all the "saved" people would be taken to heaven; that scared me to death. So at age 9, I responded to the alter call at a kids evangelical meeting and went down front. A few days later, my parents congratulated me for "getting saved" and I thought I was done with that stuff. However, then came the horribly embarrassing ritual of Baptism where you quoted a bible verse and were then dunked into a tank of water built into the stage at the front of the church. The church didn't believe in going to Movies, smoking and drinking. So no more family fun time at the Drive In Movies. My father quit drinking and smoking…at least in public. He attempted to hide his evening drink from me but being a young boy, I noticed everything and I knew what was going on. My father did not have a drinking problem. He never came home drunk and beat my mother or me. He simply had a drink in the evenings, much like I do now. But I was confused; furthermore, because he hid it from me, I felt like an idiot. My self esteem and self worth fell through the floor and I still have problems with those issues. Years later my father and I reconciled but I knew that it was pressure from the church that actually caused those issues. Of course, I completely forgave him. Other than being a little rebellious, I was a good little Christian. I did 3 years in the Army, went to college, go a job and married a wonderful Episcopalian girl. We got married in the Episcopal church and later on I became a confirmed Episcopalian. I sometimes reflect that those little cracks of doubt which happen to our "faith" gradually widen into large fissures which begin to let the truth flow into our life. I was never a staunch, bible thumping Christian, but I still believed in some of the basic doctrines. However, some of those doctrines began to crack when I was about 50. Because of my self worth problems, I decided to go to a Christian counseling center where I met with a psychologist who recommended two books. One was a book about discovering your inner child and the other was a book by Matthew Fox titled "Original Blessing". He warned me that the second book was somewhat heretical, but I paid it no mind. Interestingly, when I called to make another appointment with the same psychologist, I was told that he was no longer associated with the clinic. I guess he was a bit to heretical for them. In the "Original Blessing", Matthew Fox countered the "Fall-Redemption" view with what he called "Creation Spirituality". The "Original Sin" was replaced with the "Original Blessing". In other words, we weren't condemned to Hell at all. It all made sense to me and I totally bought it. So, if we weren't condemned to hell, then why the need to be "saved". Why did Jesus have to die, rise again and become like God. No hell, no rapture…the crack had widened and the truth started pouring in. We moved to Colorado in 2000 and started attending a small Episcopal church. The Rector came to visit us and in the course of our conversation, he said that he had written two books about a fictional religion professor who had sought out a Native American Shaman or Medicine Man to help enlighten him about the Spirit. Those books had a profound effect on me; I loved reading about the spirits of men and animals being able to commune with the "Great Spirit". So here's how it went: there was no original sin which pretty much invalidated the whole christian argument of "getting saved", etc. So god sent his son? BS, the god of the bible was mean, vindictive and arbitrary. Good riddance. Heaven and hell were antiquated ideas that dated back thousands of years. Get real! What about prayer? Exactly to whom do we pray? After all those years of christianity, I found myself all alone in the universe; no personal god, no one to pray to. However, I began to realize that there was some kind of order in the Universe; not a predestined path that could not be varied, but more like a huge ever changing web that connected all things together. The universe provides us with life, sustenance, intrigue, hope; all the things that bible god was supposed to provide but could not. I could write more, but I am running out of space; maybe later. I finish by saying that I am more pleased, happy, content with my spiritual life now than I ever could possibly have been when I was trying to adhere to the whims of Christianity. May the FSM be with you, ramen.


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