I found this site a few days ago and have been reading some of the posts. I've been impressed with how much support the members seem to give to each other, and the loving, non-judgmental attitude I see in many of the replies and interactions. Thank you for this.
I grew up with a very conservative Southern Baptist pastor/evangelist for a Father. My Mother studied Bible/Christian education at Bob Jones University in Greenville, SC (some of you may know of this very legalistic, conservative school), and she and my Father shared the same literalist, inerrant view of the Scriptures, and narrow-minded, God-oriented view on life. Our home life revolved around God and Church. Literally every decision was based on "God's will", or "what the Bible says". We attended church every Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night, and any other time that "the doors were open" basically. Even when we were traveling or on vacation, my parents made sure to be in Church if it was normal Church time. We prayed before every meal, had family devotions and Bible reading, and were taught that a personal relationship with Jesus was really the only important thing in life.
My sister and I were homeschooled or in Christian school throughout many of our school years. We were not allowed to listen to any music except for Christian/Southern Gospel. We were not allowed to wear certain things like skirts above the knee or sleeveless shirts. We were not allowed to watch movies above a G or PG (even PG was iffy depending on the movie) rating even as older teenagers. We were never allowed to miss a Church service unless we were quite ill. We were never allowed to go with friends to a different church unless it was also Baptist. We were also not allowed to question the validity of what we were being taught, we were just expected to believe. I remember as an older teenager asking my Mom some questions about doctrine and basically getting the answer, "Well if you don't believe that than you just don't believe the Bible, end of discussion".
My parents used the Bible as an excuse to discipline us harshly, believing that it would produce obedient adults who would surrender to "God's will" easily and willingly. We were spanked often with either a hand or an object such as belt if it was available. Spanking was not only reserved for serious offenses, but used as the primary discipline because, apparently, that is what the Bible teaches parents to do. I once got spanked with a belt for using my Father's hair brush and leaving my hairs in his brush. I was only about 10 or 11 years old and can still remember his angry, red face as he brought the belt down on my backside. My sister's very first memory as a child is of getting a spanking. My Mother used to tell me that she started spanking us when we were about 3 months old and we first started showing "defiance" by crying and stiffening our bodies up. I'm not sure about any of you, but when I think about hitting a 3 month old (and I am now the mother of a toddler) it makes me so very angry that it actually happened to me.
My Father had 2 sides to his personality. He could be very outgoing, jovial, and friendly, and everyone who knew him liked him. He was an amazing pastor in the sense that he had great people skills. However, he also had a nasty temper that not many people ever saw. His temper usually only affected his immediate family. He made us (myself, my Mother, and my sister) walk on eggshells most of the time trying to keep him from blowing up. I would watch couples from our Church come over to our house for marriage counseling at times, and would go to my bedroom thinking, "How can he counsel other couples now, and then verbally abuse his own wife later?"
Even with the problems within our home and family, I never questioned the truth of the Bible or the existence of God while I was growing up. I was truly indoctrinated and brainwashed to believe that I would certainly go to hell if I didn't accept Jesus as my Savior, live the Christian life, and believe a literal interpretation of the Bible. I was saved as a child, baptized by immersion, and then saved again when I was 15 years old, just to be absolutely sure. I was active in Church, sang in the choir, participated and helped with youth group, and as a young adult, active with the Church ladies groups. I have to admit, however, that I always had these nagging doubts. I wondered about that peace that "passes all understanding" and the joy that Christians always talk about being unique to those who have been saved. Was I experiencing or had I ever experienced those unique feelings? What about God's will? Had I ever really heard the voice of God or felt his true presence? Would I know if I did? All of my Christian friends, family, and other Church members didn't seem to have questions about these things. I felt like everyone else seemed more confident in their ability to feel God's presence or discern his will. These questions bothered me, but I tried to just go on knowing that I had done what was required to be saved, so I must be a Christian.
My de-conversion started to happen when I was in my early to mid-twenties and was in college. I have a bachelor's degree in nursing and am now an RN, so, in college, I had to take many science classes. I was no longer in a Christian school being fed the Genesis story, but was actually learning about evolution and scientific facts. I began to question whether the literal 6 day Creation story was actually true. (Now I can't believe I ever thought it was!) Over the next few years, I researched, studied the Bible, looked at the doctrines of other religions, studied history, looked at scientific and archeological evidence, watched documentaries, read about issues from different perspectives, and did a lot of thinking. The more I read and the more I thought, the less Christianity made sense.
I had so many questions. Why does all the evidence point to a very old earth if the earth is only 6000ish years old. Doesn't the Bible say that God's creation is evidence of him? Why would he create the earth to look as if it were very old if it really isn't? What about the ice age? What about Neanderthal bones and Neanderthal DNA? How was it possible for Noah to get every single species on earth on the ark? What about species that have only recently been discovered? Did they somehow survive the flood? Because without evolution in the picture, every species had to have been created separately from another species, right?
My questions started at the beginning of the Bible and continued on through right into the end of the book. And I found out that NONE OF IT MAKES ANY SENSE! Although it was hard to let go of my belief, my prayers, my fear of hell, my fear of the "end times", my hope for a wonderful afterlife, and all that comes with the Christian life, I had to follow my intellect. There is no going back. Now, when I think of some of the things I used to fervently believe in, it makes me laugh and shake my head. And the most awesome thing that came out of my de-conversion is that I am now FREE! The Bible says that the truth shall set you free. I never understood that passage as a Christian, but now, as a non-believer, I do! I am free from the fear, I am free from the judgment, I am free to be accountable to my self and to society and not to a supreme being, I am free to do what is right, not just what is required by my religion. I am a more content, self-disciplined, moral, ethical, kind, understanding, and accepting person now than I ever was or ever would have been as a Christian.
I am now in my mid-thirties, happily married to an awesome U.S. Army soldier (we are currently living in Germany), and am a proud Mom to an almost 3 year old boy. My husband shares my non-belief. We are raising our son with peaceful, positive, non-violent parenting, and will teach him as he grows older to decide for himself if he should be a part of any religion. As for the family I grew up in, my Father has been dead for several years now. My Mother is still living and is remarried to a wonderful man who, although he is a devout Christian, has helped to soften my Mom's heart a little, and help her become more accepting of others. My sister is unsure of what she believes in at this point, but shares many of my views. Although, she has become an amazing, successful, well-adjusted adult, she has spent many years in therapy dealing with and overcoming our childhood. Unfortunately, I have not been, and probably never will be able to share my lack of beliefs with my Mother. She knows we do not attend Church and knows some of the reasons why, but she will never know the whole truth. She would not be able to accept it, and it would irreparably harm our relationship. So I've had to let that go. We have a distant and somewhat decent relationship now and I would like to keep it that way.
I am very glad to have found this site. I have been wanting to put my ex-timony in words for a long time now and it's great to know there are many others who have gone through similar experiences. :-)