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Dexter

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Everything posted by Dexter

  1. I would say leave it but unless it is a cathartic exercise for you. It's like poking the facebook hornet's nest for me when I see a friend or relative post something incomprehensibly stupid, I'll correct them, not because I think any good will come of it but it makes me feel just a tad better. And I NEVER read the replies. Ok, I sometimes read the replies. But in general, just don't.
  2. I'll just toss this out there, though I do not regard myself as remotely qualified to comment. I'd go with the flow, however that flow most easily goes. As a kid, the most exciting part of Christmas for me was, of course, the presents (and ugh, I'd always get CLOTHES as presents... my parents were monsters ) and seeing the decorations. The kids love the spectacle and the break up of the normal routine. So I'd say decorate in whatever way seems fit. I hope lights aren't pagan implements because those were always my favorite and the different colors they cast onto a room. And when giving gifts, remind the kids of YOUR love for them (and not the sky daddy's). I don't know, your milage may vary. But that's what I'd do. Kids don't really understand the politics of the situation. Just the spectacle of it.
  3. I am not typically an emotional person, though you wouldn't know it to see me of late. But while I took my faith intellectually, I put all of my motivation and conviction into it as well. Loosing god was genuinely like losing a relative. It's still hard for me to process at times.
  4. A question for those further along in their personal journeys. While the loss of my faith was slow, my actual moment of deconversion was pretty abrupt and emotional. For those who had that sudden loss of faith, did you experience episodes of crying and emotion from time to time afterwards? I find myself in such a state this morning. I am remembering the actual moment and as melodramatic as this may sound, I find it deeply traumatizing.
  5. I can’t claim this reflects anyone else’s experience but I got heavy exposure to the Bible as a child. Not just hearing stories but I was in Bible Bowl. It’s basically quiz bowl only for churches and, well, the bible (link below). I could quote large swaths of it before I was out of high school. I can still recite some genealogies even to this day. https://home.biblebowl.org/
  6. Interesting! Did that music contain instruments? Was the computer not considered an instrument?
  7. I am a writer so I recognize prose and sentence structure. When I write, I choose my words very deliberately. The Bible, regardless of its translation, has a distinct prose, a manner of sentence structure and phrasing that is unmistakable. Even The Message has some stilted, very decidedly “Biblical” phrasing. I have been experimenting with this some more and I am finding that this prose is a trigger for me. That when read, it bypasses a lot of my adult cognitive functions. It’s like my brain was hacked. It’s an unsettling revelation.
  8. I just realized, when I first tried speaking the story aloud to myself I said that god confused their language for the disobedience of gathering in one place and not expanding into the rest of the world. But that’s not what it says. That’s not the reason it gives. That’s why I couldn’t finish the story aloud. “The LORD said, "Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them.” ‭‭Genesis‬ ‭11:6‬ ‭NASB God was threatened by them.
  9. I’ve always considered myself to be fairly aware of my own cognitive patterns and biases but I am really deeply disturbed by a sudden paradigm shift that I did not see coming. Just today during lunch I hear the Tower of Babel story ready from the Bible and it kind of made sense to me. Then I hear someone recount it in plain English and it was utter lunacy! I read it again from the Bible and it sounded plausible again. Then I spoke the story aloud in my own words and I couldn’t even finish it because it made no goddamn sense! It’s like, hearing it aloud and outside the prose of Scripture... holy shit. I need to think on this some more.
  10. Wanna go see the Creation Museum for yourself but don’t want to give those lunatics your money? Well, I already did for you. If anyone wants to see it for themselves, hit me up. I have a lifetime membership pass and four lifetime guest passes. I gave them a grand back some time ago for that, now dubious, honor. Sorry, I cannot get you onto the Ark. i have a free passs on account of my parents giving them $5k during its construction but the Ark’s guest policy was loads more strict after lifetime memberships nearly bankrupted the Creation Museum. See the madness for yourself. They do have a really nice plantarium, though.
  11. Interestingly, the way I resolved it when I was a true believer was like this: God’s nature is not to torture so any hell of “active” torture is false. Rather, those who rebel against god, he will ALLOW to leave his presence utterly. And since his presence is goodness, peace and love, hell is just a place with the absence of those things. It is “like” fire and it is “like” torture but to keep my god model internally consistent, he took no active part in the affairs of hell.
  12. I am aware of this but I often find that it doesn’t matter. Every time I’ve tried the approach that, “no, your religion actually teaches...” I’ve already lost my audience. Hell, I’ve had to refute a people I called “Brownies.” They are readers of Dan Brown’s fiction, the Davinci Code, and believed it as true. It’s all mythology. So I start where the mythos starts. But what a great imagery, no?
  13. Well, simply, somethings things happen. Even in non-religious, non-faith scenarios in hospitals, a body will do something totally unexpected without obvious explanation. A person expected to die gets better or something incurable just vanishes. This is not uncommon or undocumented. The reason I do not immediate jump to the divine as the reason for the anomaly is because if it was God or a spirit who did the healing, they are inconsistent AF. And that's the ultimate problem. A person may pray and against everyone's expectations a person gets better. Evidence of the divine, right? But would they have gotten better if the praying didn't occur? "Miraculous healings" do also occur in the absence of prayer so how do we resolve those? At the end of the day, the only ones who can say they can perform miraculous healings reliably and consistently are charlatans. Other instances of faith healings have a lot of question marks and personal experience surrounding them. But to immediately point to the divine is a presupposition. Another flavor of "I can't explain it, therefore God." But if you want to get into some really trippy and really well documented cases of bizarre medical effects happening, google 'The Placebo Effect'
  14. The Lake of Fire. A place so far from God that his goodness and light do not shine there. Torture. Wailing. Gnashing of teeth. You live with your pain and sorrow and no goodness exists there.... wait what? No goodness exists there? But what of the good people who do not accept God? Some denominations claim that just being a "good person" is a free admission to heaven but most do not. So let's deconstruct this real quick. Why I feared hell: As a Christian, I feared hell. I feared pain and torture, sure. No one wants that. But this fear was more visceral than just the cringing fear that the future was going to hurt. I feared being in pain and being alone without my friends or my family. I was going to be hauled away to be tortured, never to see my loved ones again. There is no fellowship with non-believers: Bad company corrupts good morals. Do not be unequally yoked. The way is narrow. Only goodness comes from God. The message is clear, do not associate with those outside the faith. Convert them, if you can, but guard yourself against the ways of the world. You see, if you realize that their goodness is really just God all along, then no man is intrinsically good. Don't make close friendships with non-Christians. Don't give them names. It just makes it that much harder at the slaughter. And if you, young goat, end up in the slaughter, how will you ever bear the lake of fire where the goodness from God no longer exists. What the free-will, man?! So the goodness expressed by non-believers is actually just God's explicit action without consent? Well shoot, we never had free-will to begin with then and are literally just sock puppets. No point worrying about being good. Just do whatever and God will control you however he feels like. If you are meant to burn, you'll burn. No sense worrying about it right now. What the hell would actually be like: It would be awful. A lot of people would feel betrayed by a god they thought loved them. But after the initial shock and turmoil, people would rally together, form communities and start to help each other out, as we always have and as we always will. While I cannot speak for others, I know that my first thought would be tending to those worse off than me. I know for a fact I would not be alone. But wait! "Nu-uh!" says the Christian. "You're gonna burn! You won't be able to think straight you'll be in so much pain." Really? This didn't seem to be the case for the rich man in Luke 16. But let's say you are right. If the pain is so severe that I cannot string two thoughts together, then I won't have eternity to worry about anyway because I will be tortured into madness. Some poor creature will surely suffer for endless eternity, but it will not be me. I, the consciousness that is me, will be gone. Dead. "Nu-uh!" says the Christian. "God will give you a perfect body that can never go insane. You'll be aware of it forever!" Really? So by God's will, I will be healed of all defects and maladies so the my torture can be fresh and pure. I thought that hell was a place away from God's presence where those who reject him and do not wish to be dwell within his light can exist, outside of his light. But now you say that God is present and has an active role in my torture. He WANTS me to hurt. He WANTS me to suffer and burn. So tell me, do you pray to him out of love, or fear of his perfect torture? For if it is of God, then it must been good. Hell only works if God is a monster: If Hell is a place removed from God's presence: Then in spite of whatever bad conditions this reality brings, humanity will band together against whatever common enemy or common adversary we face, as we always have and always will. After all, pretty much all liberals are going to hell according to American conservatives. There will be no shortage of grief counselors and mental health professionals to help us through. If Hell is a place of pain so immense: Then don't fight off the madness. It is disgusting beyond imagine that God would watch creatures that can never die burn in fire (see Luke 16 if questions on whether God can see hell from his vantage point) but without your right mind, you are not you. Shed a tear for the husk of flesh and jibbering madness you leave behind but do not fear letting go. If God heals you so that your torture is never ending: Then God is the devil. All of the pop-culture depictions of Satan with a pitchfork tormenting the damned, that is in fact God. If you argue that God is using Satan to deliver this torture, then it is still from God. Is a General innocent when he orders his troops to slaughter civilians even though he himself has never killed anyone in his entire life? This is the hell Christians fear. The never-ending torture. The ability to feel all the pain most intense and never ceasing for all eternity. But it only works if God is, in fact, the Devil.
  15. No such place, my friend. And even if there were, you'd still have all of us there with you to help each other through.
  16. The years that followed the second World War were not easy. While history recounts the victories of the Allies and the era of prosperity that began for the United States, it was not immediate prosperity for all. Millions of men had returned to an economy that had learned to operate tight and lean, and a culture that had learned to ration and live without. The nation was growing but it was not equipped to absorb over a million strong, able-bodied men back into the workforce. Times were hard and starvation was again a familiar companion to those who had grown up in the pre-war depression. Communities bound together and in a small Denominational Church of Christ nestled deep in the midwestern corn fields, people found support in each other. No one had two pennies to rub together but in this farming community, no one would starve. They met every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and twice on Sunday to praise God and tend to each other's needs. Their voices raised to the heavens but never would an instrument play. For the church leadership knew that the Good Book laid out the framework for worship and that framework did not include instruments. Yet it was not thought to dwell on much during teaching and ministering for almost no country church had instruments. Such things were not practical. But time continued on, industries grew, idle men found work. Even at this remote little Church of Christ, the farm hands and foremen found an extra dollar sitting in their pocket and the community took a cautious sigh of relief. Some families started to buy practical luxuries, a sewing machine, a freezer, a cow, a tractor; one family chose to visit their kin-folk who lived a long way away in a very different community. It was another God-fearing community just like the little Church of Christ. However, during this community's Sunday worship, their voices were propelled to the heavens awash with a sound of beauty from a brilliantly gleaming, perfectly tuned piano. Upon their return to their Church of Christ community, their spirits were high and they rallied their in-laws, cousins, second-cousins and friends to talk about their spiritual experience, and described the sounds that cascaded through that distant church like the Spirit of God was stirring within them. All who heard were in wonder and wanted to experience the melodies of God. In their excitement they resolved to get a piano for this tiny Church of Christ. They dug deeply into their pockets, giving as much as each could give. One family even had a daughter who was learning to play at school that could play for the church. Then unbeknownst to all but the conspirators, a glistening new piano was brought into the church. On the morning of the Lord's day, the rest of the community was shocked to come into that small church to worship the Lord and find the sweet melody of a piano being played. It gave new life and beauty to the songs they lifted to the heavens. Some were skeptical but before the end of service, the community's spirits soared with the sweet melody of a musical instrument. Many sang with tears streaming from their faces, others smiled feeling that the dark times were over. All spoke to the leadership that there was no greater surprise any of them could have ever experienced. Now, at last, they felt hope and optimism for the future. In a hastily assembled meeting of the church elders and preacher, silence so absolute that only the buzzing of flies could be heard settled upon the men who just stared at each other, their Bibles open and showing signs of having been unceremoniously riffled through. Long moments passed until the oldest of the church elders gently closed his Bible and asked, "So tell me, how important actually is that doctrine?" And so the Non-Denominational Church of Christ continued to worship together in brotherly love as a new era of peace finally started to melt away the fears and hardships of war. ---- Author's notes: While, of course, a dramatization, this is basically how my church went from a non-instrumental Church of Christ to a non-denominational Christian Church. The basic details were recounted to me by one of the old-timers in the church who actually knew they were supposed to be non-instrumental but was himself surprised when a piano showed up one day. But everyone loved it so much (and probably the politics didn't dare allow the church leadership to tell the most influential families in the church to send it back) that everyone just went along with it and never again was any mention made about it. He told me this story after I started asking around why our church was named "Church of Christ" when we were not affiliated with the Church of Christ denomination.
  17. This was introduced to us but this 87-year-old revival minister who was was always jumping and dancing on stage. Dynamic fellow. But my dad and I enjoyed the original because in the sheet music, the bass clef does a very interesting crescendo that I cannot easily describe in text but it would throw off the more timid singers around us. That was kind of our entertainment. Oh! But in term of outdated vernacular... So we were doing a Christmas special one year and I was asked to be in the choir. Well, that was an issue because I had just built our new presentation system and was still training others how to rub it. But my mother guilted me into it (she wanted video of dad and I signing together). But come the day of the special, all my trainees, kids, were in the program too! When I built the system, I had set it all up to be controllable from my iPad. It was for debugging purposes but I’d never dare use it for a live performance! But I had no choice. My iPad could control but not edit. Everything had to be queued in advance so I am rushing trying to get this done. One of the songs was “What child is this” Didn’t have it in my dadbase but it’s a common song. Import lyrics and queue. So while singing in the choir, I had my iPad which didn’t look too out of place. Everyone else was holding song books so I am sure the people who saw me just had a silent “kids these days” gripe. All was going well (as well as could be hoped for with a two-man system running in remote operation) but as I could see the upcoming slides I had a silent gasp. It was an older form of the song “...the ox and ass are bleating...” At the terminal I could’ve done a quick edit but not in remote. Well, nothing to do but to plow through! Set slide - active. It was the funniest thing to hear the congregation stumble on that word. It was like they were sinning or something. Some sang out loud and bold “ASS!” Others dropped to a barely audible mumble. Some looked around with a guilty conscience and some turned to glare at the empty operators terminal then get terribly confused how no one was there. One of my priceless memories.
  18. Thanks! No offense taken. I do not claim to be the ultimate arbiter of truth. Well, anymore. I do not claim to be the ultimate arbiter of truth anymore. This rant is the product of years of unignorable irritation. It’s like K-Pop. Only, I can ignore K-Pop and pretend like it doesn’t exist. This was inescapable. Funny story, once I was running the slides on the main projector and one of the songs was “I could sing of your love forever.” As a semi-pro at live presentations I knew that to keep the words visually fresh you put no more than two repetitions per slide and make each slide just a little visually different to keep it interesting and not stale. But I was so sick of that song that I made one slide for the chorus that looked like this: I could sing of your love forever (X10) The song leader was not happy! My home church actually underwent that evolution while I was growing up. I started on old hymns that my dad and I enjoyed because he sang bass and I sang Baritone. Then we went through some weirdly unpleasant hybrid phase that made no one happy then finally to contemporary. Don’t get me wrong, I do not pine often for the old hymns but to a low-key singer they were more in my register than the alto range contemporary music is often sung at. —————— To be completely fair, I don’t hate ALL contemporary. I like Days of Elijah. It suffers from repetition too but at least it feels like the song was written by someone having fun and has a nice folk sound to it. I also liked In Christ Alone because that song writer actually learned his scales and arpeggios. But I still stand by my rant. After years of subjection, contemporary is just abysmal and I can’t tell the difference between songs half the time. If you like it, that’s fine. I won’t call you a bad person for that. I’ll just think it silently.
  19. Now that there are no devote Christians to report me to my church or my family, I HATE CONTEMPORARY WORSHIP SONGS!!! God, they are just awful. Just whiney mopey drudges of insipid trite! Oh, this is not my first complaint as even as a Christian I'd gently critique that "I feel many of these praise songs are somewhat repetitive and... guitar-centric." But no, let's not mince words kiddos, it's musical cancer. It's made of music but it's gone completely rogue and is filling musical works with this tumorous mass that devours anyone with skill. These songs were written by stoned out college students who were trying to serenade some shallow girl who was completely enamored because her talentless boyfriend is an "artist" for being able to play 4 whole cords on an acoustic guitar. And I say talentless because most of this music is four cords and a handful of lines repeated FOREVER! “I could sing of your love forever?” YES! I believe you! Now stop it! Holy hell in a hurricane, batman! These songs are just awful. I would say they are like the high of snorting pixie sticks of they weren’t – so – aggressively – earnest. It’s like they have stumbled upon some secret first uncovered by the Gregorian Monks, only, it’s like they are pining over their highschool sweetheart who’s about to dump them. I am convinced with a little more repetition the singers will devolve into Pokemon. Yes, I’ll match up your Shouttothelord against my Goodgoodfather. You can keep your Woahs and your Yeahyeahs because they are about as effectual as a Rattata. Meaning you should grow out of it almost immediately! SO, IN SUMMARY!!! I don’t really have a strong affinity for modern praise and worship.
  20. No wait, Peleg, Eber, Shelah... you know what, it doesn't matter.
  21. I have never done a full cover to cover read through but I have read the whole thing, even the genealogies. I can tell you from memory (and yes this is from memory and not google... you'll just have to trust me on this, and no I am not looking up the spelling so there WILL be spelling errors) that Peleg is the son of Sheber is the son of Canen, the son of Arphaxed, the son of Shem, the son of Noah, the son of Lamek, the some of Methusela, the son of Enoch, the son of Jared, the son of (huge spelling guess) Mahalliel... Mahailel... Ma-Hey-Lee-El, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God. I just did a book at a time. Let time pass. Dive into another.
  22. I almost want to simultaneously laugh and cry the the knee-jerk thought in my mind at you coming from a Pentecostal background was “Of course it would be reasonable for you to abandon one of the CRAZY denominations.” Thanks for the hug.
  23. Thanks everyone. I do appreciate it. Here is my testimonial. It's really more for me than anything. I just needed to tell the story to get it off my chest. Thanks
  24. My Deconversion TL;DR: A husband and wife are at a party. The wife is in a room alone and her husband has gone to look for her. As the husband is about to round a corner he hears voices in the next room and so stops to listen. A third man enters the room with the wife and he asks her to leave with him so that he can show her a good time. The husband hears this but waits to see how his wife replies. She tells this stranger that she is married and not interested. The man then grabs her wrist and tugs a little trying to goad her on, telling her not to worry, it’ll be fine. The husband waits. She pulls her arm back saying that she doesn’t want that and to leave her alone. The man then tightens his grip, starting to hurt her, telling her she is coming. She gasps out in pain and starts to call out for her husband. The husband waits. Finally, the man is twisting her arm so hard that she collapses to the floor gasping and sobbing and at last says, “Yes, I’ll go with you, just please stop hurting me.” And the husband thinks, “I see, she never truly loved me.” My Deconversion; The whole story: I grew up a true believer. As a kid, there were those in the church who just went but didn’t live their faith and were no different from anyone else. We were different. Though, not a whole lot different I suppose. We were not the ultra-hard-core types who never watched movies or thought that women should only wear dresses. But we did take our faith seriously. More than that, we believed our faith was self-evident. So, easily provable and denied only be those who obfuscate the truth or confuse themselves with their own convoluted thinking. And so began my journey. Having a logical faith, I pursued the evidence for it. I read the books of many apologists like Norman Geisler (one of my heroes even to this day) who wrote a book on formal logic and is still one of the best books on logic I have ever read. I highly recommend it. I devoured everything that came out of Answers in Genesis. I revered people like Dr. Jason Lisle (a legit peer-reviewed PhD) and all of the scientific minds in Creation research (yes, I have since learned that most are not legit). It all seemed legit to me at the time. I as a kid. But I wanted to understand so I became an amateur Apologist. My faith had reason, other faiths were wrong and I could explain why. After high school, I joined the Navy and served for five years. Admittedly these were hard years of my life. I was so ill-equipped for this world that I didn’t even know how to apply my faith while I was in and had several crises that my brother helped me through. The Navy changed my faith hugely. See, it would have broken my faith completely because my faith was rigid that rigidity could not survive the military. But his faith was much more fluid and dynamic. In other words, it's not that we can’t understand the minutia of scripture, but not to get lost in it. Ultimately, God’s nature is goodness and that he wants all to repent and be saved. John 15:17 “This is My command to you: Love one another.” It gave me a new approach to my faith. Don’t sweat the details. You know God’s nature because you are a reflection of His nature. God is goodness and mercy and salvation. So too this should be you. And I came home from the Navy reconciled and ready to save the world, only to re-enter the one of rigidity I had left. I went to my parents Sunday School class and was shocked and horrified by how bigoted and closed minded it was. The views expressed were shockingly dense and ignorant. I didn’t understand what corruption had fallen on my church since I had left. It was losing members and dying. But I wanted to do something. I got active. I wanted to do outreach programs, go to the hurting and the suffering. I wanted to save the world. But more than this, I wanted to find a wife, settle down and have a family. I wanted very much to be a pillar of the community like my dad. The family thing wasn’t happening but the with a great deal of tugging and getting other young families (Gen-Y’ers) excited and active I got the church to begrudgingly start doing outreach. It wasn’t nearly enough so far as I was concerned so I started going out and seeking those who were lost and abused myself. And the world got a little bigger. I started hanging around with subcultures, fandoms and people who even normal society would eschew. This was also at the peak of the gay marriage debates and I met many hurting and disenfranchised homosexuals who I befriended. I was shocked by number of people who were lost and confused and “…where the bloody hell is the church?!” I asked myself. I spent time with the lost and disenfranchised, the very people Jesus spent time with and there were no church, no missionaries, no preachers, nothing for these people. Not even secular help! I tried to get the church involved. They wanted nothing to do with these people. I tried to take aspiring preachers, elders, anyone who felt we didn’t have to travel to Timbuktu to send missionaries but that there were people just outside our doors for missionaries and missions to focus on. I got no help. This began my disillusionment and my loneliness. I was frustrated with the church and it’s un-Christlike behavior. And I tried to pursue a family. I bought a house, I secured a good job, I remained celibate (no easy feat to do while in the Navy) but it wasn’t happening. I prayed often for God to watch over my future wife and that we may soon meet. And so passed nearly 8 years, trying to get the church off its ass and petitioning God for my future family. The thing that was confusing me more and more with each passing year was how I wasn’t finding a wife. This confuses my family terribly as well. I didn’t understand why God willed it this way, or if I was doing something wrong. I was told he must have someone REALLY special in mind or that we had not reached each other in our own Christian walks yet and I kind of went along with this. But I was not faring well by doing this and no one seemed to know how to help. I moved to Chicago (well, near Chicago) and this loneliness hit harder than ever before. Family helped stave the loneliness some though not fully. But without family, I was deeply lonely and increasingly frustrated. And then began my rapid decline from faith. It started with one young gay man in deep Kentucky. He was a broken soul and one who I help through his depression and abuse. I came to care about him quite a bit and hoped for his future. And one day… he told me how special I was to him. How much he wanted to be with me. That he loved me. And he often fantasized about a future with us together. I did not relent on my convictions then, though he spoke right to the very core of my deepest longing. The thought then was that this was a test. God was testing me to see if I would trust him or give in to the sinful ways of the world. And this thought infuriated me. Why this? Why THIS? A point of greatest weakness. But then, would that not be the best angle for Satan to get at me? Would that not be the truest test of my devotion to God? Yet so long denied companionship, so long denied sex, I couldn’t shake the feeling that this test was utterly cruel. Like starving a friend nearly to death then calling the cops on him if/when he steals food from you. What kind of monster are you to do this to him in the first place? But the Bible is not short on these types of tests. Job being the number 1 example. As time went on, I grew bitter and I decided that I was going to experience sex. Marriage be damned, I resolved in my heart that this was a thing that was going to happen. And it was already sin, so being that it was with another male didn’t really make a difference. I did not lose my faith, I just decided that I’d accept the consequences of my rebellion, whatever they may be. And so I did. And nothing happened. I mean, sex happened, but there were no consequences. Nothing changed. And I remember the very first thought I had after being with another male. It was, “Huh… So that was it?” Like, don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed it, in spite of it being awkward and uncomfortable (first-time after all) but nothing in the world changed. Except perhaps me. You see, I for the first time experience a level of intimate connection that I have NEVER experienced in my life. And I wanted more. And so I continued to pursue that intimacy where-ever I could. Around this time, I met who is now one of my dearest friends, Chris, a gay man, a then employee of mine and blindingly intelligent (though no small amount of flaky). But most relevant to me was that he is an ex-Christian. And I do not mean he fell away as a kid. Rather, he converted in his adulthood, took his faith as seriously as I took mine, and fell away. He and I had many many discussions. He was once a young-Earth Creationist, as I was. He was once a Biblical literalist as I was. But what he had that I did not was time. When he started his adult Christian journey, he was homeless at the time living in a warehouse whose owner knew he was there but allowed it and didn’t call the cops on him. Chris at that time read the Bible. Prayed constantly. Went to churches all over. Asking preachers questions, trying to understand himself and understand God. He wanted to KNOW God. But he is gay in attraction and desire. Whereas I can leave it if I so chose, he could not. And he prayed fervently for God to take this away from him. He resolved that he’d have to be celibate for the rest of his life. And after a few months of celibacy, he had dreams of other men. And Chris was confused why God was not helping him. And once he told me in a drunken moment of honesty that he nearly committed suicide because he could not bear the shame and pressure of it. To me, this is the instance where God should have reached into Chris’s life. This is like, all of the conditions for God to rescue someone. He was homeless and broke. He was hungry and cold (winter in Wisconsin). He read scripture and prayed. And nothing. Even to this day he still asks Christian apologists for answer to his questions just to make sure he didn’t miss something but when he tells them the story of his adult Christian journey, the usual response is, “You just weren’t sincere enough.” Which he takes great offense to. When I started to debate with him, I knew instantly I was outclassed. He took his blinding intellect and pointed it at deconstructing his faith far more than I ever had. My intellect was just pointed at how to patch the holes. And he pointed out a few times with frustration that my faith seemed to be very flexible. Like, too flexible. Like I was making shit up as I went along. And I could see what he was saying. It did seem that way and it ran completely opposite of what I actually believed about my faith. But by this time, my questions and frustrations had done nothing but grown. I tried to resolve again and again how I found myself in a gay relationship with this young man from Kentucky. I concluded that I must have failed the test. But then, my life seemed no less blessed than before. Should God’s blessings in my life have gone away? Then I wondered if maybe this relationship was what God actually DID have in mind for me and that thought scared me the most because if that was true, then everything was broken. I am ignorant in all ways and everything I once understood is now broken. Or could it be that God is… inactive? Chris was the best person I have ever talked to because he never found talk of God to be ridiculous. He took it seriously and he took my faith serious and even tried to help me resolve my own misunderstands at times. He actually corrected my theological misunderstandings when I was making them. And he had no agenda to de-convert me. If my conclusion was “God” he was not threatened by that in the least, but he did have some questions for me if that was my conclusion. But by this time, the idea that I was being tested was started to turn my hurt and confusion into anger. Like a person who is being abused when they suddenly realize that the relationship isn’t getting any better. Here’s the analogy I can give for how “God’s test” felt to me: A husband and wife are at a party. The wife is in a room alone and her husband has gone to look for her. As the husband is about to round a corner he hears voices in the next room and so stops to listen. A third man enters the room with the wife and he asks her to leave with him so that he can show her a good time. The husband hears this but waits to see how his wife replies. She tells this stranger that she is married and not interested. The man then grabs her wrist and tugs a little trying to goad her on, telling her not to worry, it’ll be fine. The husband waits. She pulls her arm back saying that she doesn’t want that and to leave her alone. The man then tightens his grip, starting to hurt her, telling her she is coming. She gasps out in pain and starts to call out for her husband. The husband waits. Finally, the man is twisting her arm so hard that she collapses to the floor gasping and sobbing and at last says, “Yes, I’ll go with you, just please stop hurting me.” And the husband thinks, “I see, she never truly loved me.” That is what it felt like to me. I spent many hours sobbing and in prayer. No one came to save me. But this was not the end of my faith. I was still confused as hell. I listened to Christian Apologists. I studied scripture again and again. I started studying and talking about my faith more than I ever had before. I needed answers. The one thing that I held to was at the very center of it all, I knew God’s nature. God’s nature was of mercy, peace and love. That was God’s nature. I didn’t understand why I wasn’t observing that. The world I knew to be true was not lining up with the world I observed. Then, not long ago, I was discussing with Chris about our thoughts on God and the various models for him that we understood and in a rare moment of emotion, Chris said, “If my God actually does exist, I have nothing more to say to him that I have not already said. I am resigned to the fact that he will torture me for all eternity. But at the very least, I will not do it to myself.” And I replied that “If my God does not show mercy and compassion to those whom I have come to love, then I harbor nothing but hatred from Him. Because…” And then I saw it. I saw it plain as day. And I cried for a solid hour before I could even finish that sentence. “…because those are my values.” What I saw in that moment is hard to describe except in metaphor because I have no words to describe it. I held true to my faith because I knew I was created in the image of God. That my goodness was a reflection of His goodness. And in those words I spoke, it was like I turned to look upon the face of God and… it was my face. God, at least as I understood him, as I worshiped him, as I was confident in his nature of goodness… was me. I had taken my values and personified them into god. And while a Christian would argue that this should have been the time for me to let go of my false idol and turn to the Bible (Chris actually had a great C.S. Lewis quote I wish I could remember about our mental idols) I had been training my skepticism since I was a kid. It was the tool I used to field strip other religions and denominations and see their flaws like a Marine could field strip a rifle. And Chris had helped train my skepticism even further by pointing me to the “Less Wrong” community. But I learned that day that skepticism is like a wild animal, looking to tear apart anything that shows weakness. And I showed weakness. And I could not stop my brain from deconstructing every facet of Christianity piece by piece. It was, not a pleasant experience. But at the end of the day, the lynch pin of my faith was predicated on knowing God’s nature. And when I realized I did not know God’s nature, I lost everything. Since then has been a hard road. But perhaps my first moment of shame came when my roommate asked me a question. He knows I am very Biblically literate and sometimes asks me what things are really in there. So one day he was watching a YouTube video where someone made a glib comment about God killing you because you jerked off onto the floor. My roommate asked me if that was in the Bible and I nodded. He paused the video and asked me to explain. This may seem off topic but follow me for a moment. Once when I was a kid, I played Final Fantasy 10 and loved the story. Soon after, I was explaining the story to my mother and it sounded like utter madness. Within the game, the story made sense because you had time to accept its rules. To explain the story to someone else who had not played the game was just complete nonsense. And so I just said casually that it wasn’t the whole “seed on the ground thing” that upset god but that the man, Onan, did it so that he wouldn’t get his brother’s wife pregnant. Which caused my roommate to give me an even more ‘WTF’ kind of look. So I started at the beginning with Judah’s three sons, Er, Onan and Shela and God killing the first two and Judah not allowing the third to impregnate his brothers widow so she dressed like a prostitute and tricked her father-in-law to impregnate her and he got upset and wanted to kill her because he thought she was being a prostitute… the illegal kind… but called it off when he found out the baby was his and called her more righteous than him because he did wrong by withholding his son and she did right by, well, getting pregnant because that was the highest honor for a woman. My roommates jaw was hanging and he just said, “THAT is some f***ed up shit!” And I actually let the raw madness of the story sink in for the first time as I actually felt it and felt crazy even recounting it. And all I could say was, “Yeah, it really is.” My family does not know. I cannot yet bring myself to tell them. About my love life, or my deconversion. I do not know which would hit them hardest. And part of me just wants the lie to continue. I don’t know what to do. But I do not think I am ready for action yet. If you made it this far, thanks. I really wrote it more for me than anyone else. I kinda needed to, to get this all off my chest. But thanks for listening. It means a lot.
  25. Hi, my name is Steven and I am from the midwestern US, right along the Bible Belt. There is still much that I am trying to parse through in my mental models and worldview that has been a more arduous journey than I anticipated. So, a little about myself, I grew up Christian (big shock, right). But in a family of true believers. To define what I mean here, I am not referring to belief in belief but rather, true belief. To clarify, I often hear, even now, the accusation of Christian hypocrisy because at a funeral, Christians grieve no differently from atheists. But this was never true for my family. We celebrated. Just recently my Uncle Carol, a very funny man, passed away and the eulogy was given by his brother who had those gathered rolling in laughter about the crazy stories and antics my great uncle used to get into. My mother and grandmother already have their funerals planned out and keep these event plans their Bibles, the cheerful songs to play, the refreshments to serve... We are true believers, unafraid and unapologetic. But, I think, we are also ignorant. And this is a crushing admission for me. We have always prided ourselves on our intelligence. Two of my sisters were Salutatorians and one only because she missed half of her Junior year due to mono. I am also (reasonably) well educated. At least, on the right side of the bell curve. And I am still a little lost at the moment. For the sake of my own therapy and to try to figure things out, I am writing my testimonial that I hope to have posted tonight on that topic board. Undoubtedly a TL;DR but something that I feel I need to write and post for me, if for no one else. I am kind of new to this. Please be gentle.
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