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Hi! I've been lurking here for almost a year, but it was only recently--with the brouhaha going on with Mars Hill really--that I've really felt brave enough to join the conversations. You guys are an incredibly lucky group to have such an amazingly supportive moderating team and such a gracious and welcoming atmosphere. I joined the United Pentecostal Church in 1987--when that horrible "88 Reasons" Rapture scare was going on. I was from a household that was both overly permissive in some ways and punishing in others with parents who were lapsed Catholics, so I didn't have a really good sense of boundaries or self-respect. I'd always been a very faithful child, though, even walking miles to go to church while my parents slept in, and without the faculties to recognize the logical fallacies I was hearing, I got sucked right in. When the 1988 Rapture didn't happen, I left in disappointment and became a normal teenager. I rejoined when a boyfriend of mine "got saved." He was a manipulator, a pathological liar, and a narcissist, and when he found out I'd briefly been UPC, he decided to show up during a revival and give them trouble with his inescapable (19-year-old's) logic. I still really don't know why he thought this was a great idea. I didn't attend, but he and others told me later that they'd cast demons out of him; he became a gung-ho fundie and because I loved him, I followed him back. Though we had very different ideas of what we wanted in a spouse, he insisted it was God's will that we marry. The pastor concurred, and so we were married. I cringe typing that, but that's pretty much how it went. I tried very hard to do what I perceived to be God's will. Others told me how strong I seemed in the Spirit and how gifted I was with prophecy and discernment (though as others have said, it was really just being perceptive). They were sad that I didn't speak in tongues all the time like they did, but I'd already gotten a suspicion that the way they did it wasn't really God's doing. They were all pressuring me to have kids, but I'm thankful to say that I disappointed them there too. I can't really say what the straw that broke the camel's back was. I'd already noticed that most of us were panicked about missing the Rapture, which made salvation seem precarious and capricious. I saw how God didn't really answer prayers unless he was in the mood to do it and it was 100% already something that was his will anyway. He healed people's acne, but not the co-pastor who died of cancer. He gave my preacher husband great parking spots, but kids were dying of hunger all over the world. My husband was super-popular on the evangelism circuit and often asked to testify, but he lied constantly on the pulpit about having been an ex-Satanist (uh, no), ex-Wiccan priest (NO), and drug addict/dealer (NO NO NO). No, he wasn't Mike Warnke--just very similar! I was expected to smile and nod and go along with the lies, or else I was standing in the way of God's work. I began to wonder if everybody else was lying about praying and fasting--I knew we never did either, but he was telling people we did. I began to notice how Christians had been behind the curve on every single social issue that'd ever been, and how the UPC especially seemed terrified of technology. This transforming faith didn't really transform anybody, I saw; my husband was still a lying douche, other Christians were mean, or petty, or vainglorious, and committed a host of sins. For every Christian I knew who was awesome, I knew five who were, to say the least, not. For people who knew the truth, we didn't seem to live it at all. I still remember the day I thought "I sure don't want to go to any heaven that allows this person in." But while people are the Church, they are not the message, and I struggled on. My prayers became less about requests than about simple desires to touch God, but those touches had been almost nonexistent to start with and were now getting even sparser. As fundies say, my prayers were bouncing off the ceiling; I just couldn't "break through" to him. I felt like I was talking to myself. I'd already been questioning, but my faith actually broke on the awful day I ran across my husband's training manual for his "Crisis Pregnancy Center" counseling position. It was like finding a serial killer's diary, in retrospect; I remember turning pages and barely breathing, I was so beyond furious and horrified at the outright lies the group was encouraging, the faulty science, the utter manipulation of hearts and minds, all in the name of doing God's work. The thought came to me: what if the so-called feminazis were right and the entire pro-life movement was about getting women back to their place? Seeing that the entire pro-life movement was lying to people, that it was all one big attempt to theocratize the country again, I immediately became the only pro-choice Pentecostal on the planet, I think, and threatened to call the cops if I ever again heard my husband "joking" about bombing a clinic. Once the worms were out of the can, it was all over. I began reading more and more about Biblical criticism, and began the painful process of sorting through all the lies I'd been told over the years. There wasn't really an internet then, so I was reinventing the wheel at every step. I'll shorten this already long account by saying that I began to have the same concerns about Biblical errancy and its historical claims that most starting-out ex-Christians have, and the answers were not making me happy. A Southern saying is "little lie, big lie"--which guided me as I searched the Bible. F.e., if it was wrong about the Resurrection account, what else was it wrong about? But I discovered after leaving that as many problems as I'd noticed then, I'd totally missed hundreds of others. One of these days I want to do a blog called "Stuff I Wish I'd Noticed While I was Fundie." In the end, it was the "Problem of Evil" that finished me. I could either go through mental gymnastics to make it all make sense, or I could go with the easiest answer: that the Bible just wasn't true. I began to skip services, to my husband's utter dismay--though in retrospect he was far more worried about what his prodigal wife's behavior meant for his prospects for advancement in the UPC than what it meant for my soul. I'd have put up with all of it and stayed with my husband, though, until he began to threaten me physically to bring me back into line. I fled the country immediately and was viciously, violently stalked for the next year and a half, through our divorce and right up to his wedding day to another woman. Like many ex-Christians, I was a ghost for a while. I drifted into Zen Buddhism, which really got me centered in the here and now. Later, realizing that deities don't have to be all-powerful, all-knowing, or all-benevolent, I very happily converted to paganism and a mindset that explained what I saw going on around me, didn't make any extraordinary claims about what I had to do to find favor with the divine, and encouraged me to be a good member of my community and do all I could to advance science and education. I can honestly say that I've never been happier or felt more fulfilled in my life than I have the last decade or so as a pagan. I think it's important to say here that while sucky people were the spark that made me question my faith, they were not the reason for my leaving, though many fundies have mistakenly thought this. Like a secretary who desperately needs her job to feed her hungry kids, I'd have put up with ANYTHING from my church, husband, and God in the name of not being sent to eternal torment. If I'd have only been able to believe its tenets, it wouldn't have mattered what anybody--even God himself--did to me in this ephemeral present. The stakes would have been too high to care about such temporary abuses. It's hilarious that Christians would even use that tired chestnut as a strawman. To all of you, thank you for reading this far and letting me be part of the community. I'm glad I took the plunge.