My name is Alex, and I'm excited to finally be on this site! Without the words of your experiences I wouldn't be where I'm at today. This looks like a necessary part of my recovery from indoctrination. So I have just this week told my dad, who in turn told my mom, that I am no longer a Christian. I haven't spoken with them since telling my dad, so we'll see what happens.. I was very hesitant to ever even do that, fearing that it would break my mom's heart, and sever my relationship with them, and potentially damage my financial support from them (I live on my own and support myself, but extra income never hurts). Basically every worst case scenario played through my head, but i finally worked up the courage to speak up for myself. I found it harder and harder to bite my tongue while talking with them. My mom constantly talks about how great church service and worship was, wants to pray over every little thing in life, and my dad has said pretty ridiculous things like him "seeing" a demon, which he later described as having a vision of a demon. He also seems to think that neanderthals were a product of demons breeding with humans... At least he acknowledges that they existed! It boggles my mind that he can say that stuff, being the brilliant guy that he is. So I'd had enough of listening to this stuff and just told him on a trip that I really didn't want to ever tell him I didn't believe in God, but found that I had to, and that I owed him the honest truth. So here's my story: I've finally outgrown religion through freethinking, reason, and lots and lots of research, and being honest with my doubts and actual beliefs. Through my soul searching I realized that my faith was simply not legitimate, in a journal i wrote "I don't have a faith muscle." I grew up in a non-denominational, charismatic, evangelical, spirit-filled mega church. I still consider most people I know from there to be very nice and well intentioned people. Unfortunately my experience was a nightmare that I am only just reckoning with. I initially accepted Jesus when I was around 5 or 6, for the single reason that I didn't want to go to hell. The following days and weeks consisted of uncertainty that I was actually saved, and sheer terror if I wasn't. I had nightmares of satan, hell, and demons. I would lay awake in the dark feeling helpless against possible demons attacking me. I was afraid of the number 6, I thought I might be the anti-christ. Eventually I must have moved on, convincing myself I was indeed saved. From there I became a pretty standout Christian kid, becoming on fire for God for a month or two at a time. There was another side to church life though, one of seriously dreading going to church on Sundays. Occasionally I convinced my parents I was sick, but mostly I was forced to go. This forcing me to go was important in defining my relationship with the church. It was obligatory. I dare not refuse or I would be punished in some way. So I gave in. I gave in to going to bible camps, sharing personal stories, crying during worship about our sinful state because every other kid was crying (little did I know that my sins paled in comparison to everyone else's). The defining moment of giving in was when my sister and I were summoned by our parent's small group to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit. They sat us in the middle of their circle, and said that we would likely speak in tongues if it worked. So I remember them praying, laying hands on us, anointing us with oil, and I remember the inner turmoil of what I should do. I wanted it to work to please my parents and get a taste of the supernatural, but nothing was happening. So I forced it, pretending to speak in tongues (quite well I must say). Following that, I remember hearing advice about speaking in tongues, to not question if it is legit. So I started to convince myself I didn't pretend after all. I continued to do it during worship, and would sometimes feel a rush of energy on the top of my head. I thought it was the Holy Spirit. Turned out to be the same chills I get at concerts. Then came two more moments of giving in, this time on a missions trip in early high school. During a service we put on in the Dominican Republic one of our leaders was doing the classic Benny Hinn style "slay them in the spirit" routine. It was my turn to be slain. I went with her push and fell back, and layed there with eyes closed, just like one does when they are in bed, pretending to be asleep. Again I tried to force an experience, vision, whatever. Nothing. Later on in that trip we were on the beach and the same leader was with a local lady who braided tourist's hair. I was far away when there was a commotion and when I asked what had happened people said the woman's hands were healed of arthritis, and that her fingers had magically straightened out. I was pretty convinced, and wanted to tell people when we got back home. So I repeated what I had heard but said I'd actually seen it happen. I remember telling this story to quite a few close friends and family members, and regret having lied. What I know about healing stories now is that they are almost certainly not true or verifiable... I have plenty more stories like these of false claims of the supernatural either by me or told to me. So, from this point until 2 years after college I considered myself a serious Christian. The bumps in the road I encountered had to do with sex. I had, and still have, an underdeveloped understanding of sex. I never got a sex talk from my dad, and had a Christian school version of health class. I never had a girlfriend in high school, and was told to guard myself against any sexual thoughts. I did a great job at it until college. In college I made a choice to given in a little bit, never crossing the forbidden home base. Unfortunately, anything that I experienced was followed by serious guilt and paranoia that my parents knew what I had done. The only thing I ever admitted to them was that I had kissed a girl, and then lied about our break up being because she wanted to go too far. This guilt was part of my indoctrination into purity culture. It placed a super high value on virginity, and as hard as it tried not to, it placed serious shame on anything other than that and abstinence. Anyone who strayed from this was treated differently, looked down upon, and badmouthed by supposedly loving people, even by myself at times. The consequences of this have been devastating for me. As I write, I am afraid of actually going all the way. I also know that if I did, I would still have an irrational guilt. I also have an instinct to fight attraction. If I see an attractive woman, my warning alarms go off, I look away, and can never initiate a conversation. This probably stems from a tip I got in men's group to have bouncing eyes to avoid lusting. It has taken away my self worth and confidence, and I can't currently see a hope in sight for being able to pursue someone I am attracted to. The few times I have been in a sort of relationship have been because she made the first move, and I was settling for less than I wanted, but I needed someone. Moving on to my deconversion, I had always had doubts, but those seriously picked up steam about a year ago. A coworker challenged my belief in a literal Adam and Eve and Noah's flood, mentioning DNA evidence and how we couldn't all come from one couple. I fought that by saying God is all powerful and could have used supernatural DNA. That quickly sounded dumb to me, so I researched it. That led me to re-evaluated the evidence of a global flood. Shouldn't the locations of types of animals point to a single origin around Mt. Ararat? Why are Marsupials only in Australia? Shouldn't there be evidence of a global flood in geology? Why aren't any human fossils mixed in with dinosaur fossils? Why do fossils lie in predictable rock layers which can be pretty reliably dated to very old ages through plenty of kinds of radiometric dating? How can I be seeing light from stars so far away that it traveled for 13 billion years? I used to solve all these questions by thinking God can do anything, like create things to appear older than they really are. But why would he do that? To test our faith? Well then he's playing hide and seek with us. He's forcing us to choose his Bible stories over our own knowledge and observations. That was where I realized I didn't like this god. Then I dug in to the things this god did in the Old Testament. I was absolutely disgusted. I remember a few times myself and others would explain away the horrors of the Old Testament as that all being under the Old Covenant, but Jesus came and fixed everything. That's a TERRIBLE answer and doesn't excuse the initial way God ran things. God commanded genocide, murdered Job's 10 children to test the faith that he already knew was solid, required circumcision (I thought he created man perfect, in his image), hardened Pharoah's heart before killing every first born son. This stuff started sounding like nonsense. But it made sense when I viewed it as man-made. God did not create man, man created God. Even Christians would agree with this, with the exception of their God. In fact, every religion would have to agree with this, with the exception of their own gods. Then I started thinking about how badly God did things. He created Adam knowing Adam would fail, and tried to fix things with Noah and the flood, but then regretted that, and it failed miserably. And to finally fix everything that he messed up, he sent his son/himself to "die" on a cross, but he was only "dead" for 3 days, before returning to heaven. And while he "fixed" things, he's been hanging out in heaven for 2000 years, allowing the crusades and the spanish inquisition and the holocaust to happen, when allll he has to do is come back. Well he'd better hurry up and come back before his religion is completely dead thanks to the internet... Once I admitted to feeling this way, I began reading books by Bart Ehrman, Christopher Hitchens, and Richard Dawkins (who I remember seeing get badmouthed in a creationist film). I wanted to make sure I wasn't crazy, wrong, and making a terrible decision. These guys were the brightest people I'd ever heard, and I couldn't believe how misrepresented their positions were by Christians. My nights switched from video games and netflix to books, podcasts, and debates on youtube. I was hooked. I'm still hooked. So that all has brought me here, seeking communication with like-minded people, so that I can start to live life again. I am struggling with occasional deep depression, anxiety, isolation, crisis of self, sometimes feeling disconnected from reality, emotional dullness, loss of joy, and trying to shake the thought that an invisible dude is watching everything I do. (Basically all the symptoms laid out by Marlene Winell about RTS) I've felt like I don't fit in anywhere. Christian friends don't understand me, keep trying to convince me i'm wrong, and add to the trauma i'm trying to fight. I also want to respect their personal faith, as I remember the pain of having it ridiculed and challenged. So I just can't talk to them in depth about this stuff. And my secular friends don't fully understand where I've come from. I never seem to fully relate to them, and I've missed out of years of normal secular life to I often feel like a fish out of water. All that said, I do have moments of feeling happiness and achievement in being true to myself finally. I've made the decision to attempt to heal, to live the life I want, and to accept the help I need to get there, and be ok with living life on my terms and no one else's. Thanks for reading this, and looking forward to your advise on where to go from here, self-care, therapy, local community, how or if to keep religious friends in my life, resources on biblical criticism, science vs. religion, etc..