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Goodbye Jesus

My Journey


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Hi. This will probably be rather long, and a bit more personal than I'd ordinarily be comfortable with, but I hope that it can provide a bit of inspiration for others questioning their faith, give me a way to promote something positive as opposed to when I promoted xtianity, and maybe even be a little cathartic for me, although it's been many years since I deconverted.


I was raised Catholic until I was 12 years old, shortly after my Confirmation. That was when a Pentecostal lady witnessed to my mother. She talked to her a bit, handed out tracts to us, and invited us to church. Now up to this point, I'd sustained no particular damage due to religion, I remember "if God exists" conversations I'd had shortly before the fundie days that didn't conflict in my mind with what I was supposed to believe. So I sat one evening by myself in the living room, reading the tract that was laying on our end table. In the same spirit as I was accustomed to approaching religion, I read/said the sinner's prayer that the tract said I should. It seemed reasonable enough. Were it not for the reinforcement from the flashy church services that my mother had started to embrace that probably would have been the end of it. I probably never would have considered myself to have become a "born again."


You know the drill from there. Soon I was spending ten hours a week in church in three services, two on Sunday and one on Wednesday, not including the church social activities and events that are so encouraged. Unfortunately for me, I was a particularly gullible youth and pretty much believed anything my mother, teachers, pastors, adult authority figures told me without question. So soon I was immersed in the culture. It peaked when I was about 15. I was speaking in tongues (or rather babbling under the assumption that it was an actual language and coming from the holy spirit). I was avoiding "sin" going though great contortions to not even open the page of the newspaper with the horoscopes. There were demons everywhere in the world of my church.


The worst thing about living in a world like this is the ironclad prohibition about questioning your initial assumptions (your initial assumptions being the portrayal of god offered by the church's interpretation of the Bible). You could ask, "where do these bones come from that the paleontologists dig up and how do they fit with God's historical proof?" But you COULDN'T question the infallibility of the Bible or what you taught about God with something like, "The Bible says that god created the world 5000 years ago and this is contradicted by evidence from the fossil record." That's because part of the core of the religion was a blind and ironclad faith. THAT'S why it's so hard to break away. It took years, starting with the tiniest little cracks for me to be able to question the teachings.


The roots of the first cracks were when I was involved at my most intense, just as I was going into adolescence. One of the attributes of my particular congregation was a deep seated guilt and fear of anything involving sexuality. That's feature of virtually all churches of this type, but I came to realize years later that it was one of my local congregation's "specialities" (the other being demons) and the evils of lust were emphasized particularly strongly even compared with most other Pentecostal and Fundamentalist churches. As puberty hit, I was convinced that I was inhabited by the demon of lust. While my peers were losing their virginity, not only was that out of the question for me, but so was any alternative. Waging "spiritual warfare" against the demon of lust, I didn't masturbate, either. Of course as a matter of simple biology this resulted in having wet dreams. Eventually, I got to the point where I could sometimes cut those off, waking myself, SHOUTING in my head, "I REBUKE YOU SATAN IN THE NAME OF JESUS!!!" I learned to invoke Jesus' name to get rid of erections or keep from getting them in the first place, which seemed to be as grave a sin as having sex according to the propaganda I was being immersed with by my church. Just in case there's any question about it, let me point out that these crazy ideas weren't coming from any warped ideas from ME, this was the stuff I was being incessantly brainwashed with from my church. EVIL BASTARDS! That was more than 30 years ago and it still gets me angry if I think about it... like I am while I recount this tale.


The corker is that there ended up being quite a sex scandal between one of the pastors whose church I attended and a lady in the congregation. I find it quite entertaining that an evil godless heathen like me (in my ex-fellow-fundies' assessment, not mine: I'm godless, maybe, but not evil, and heathen is just a non-sequitur), that an evil godless heathen like me would have so much less problem living by their moral code than they do (and in general, mind you, I'm not just talking sex scandals)!


The inevitable outcome of all this led to the first tiny thin cracks in my belief. I started to notice that some of the things I was stopping by conscience control were now not there even when I didn't apply control. By the time I was 18 or so, I was impotent. The first thin cracks in my belief was when I saw this starting to happen and relaxed a bit about trying to control the lustful impulses, at least in my thoughts and mind, although not in my actions. I think the incongruency or something helped pave the way for a gradual cooling down in my Christian fervour over the next few years. By the time I was in college I was doing some things that most other college kids do that clearly fell into the category of "sinning," and I was going to church a LOT less. The cracks in my belief were expanding, but I was still far from being able to address the forbidden questions.


I'm not sure whether I thought about Matthew 19:12 much in the context of this or not at the time ("For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.") Doesn't seem like much help, does it? Besides, Matthew 19:12 is one of those areas that zealous Christians selectively dance around. In environments like mine, you were SUPPOSED to never have a lustful thought or action your entire life, yet instantly have a full sex life with your spouse from the evening you get married. I managed to perceive that it doesn't work that way.


The expanding cracks stage is a difficult one. Well, the entire time between when you start to question and when you are pretty sure of your conclusions. Many times we'd be out shopping, or I'd be at the house, and I wouldn't see my mother--and my stomach would sink in a sort of panic: had the rapture occurred and I'd been left behind?


A few years later I got a call from my best friend. He was working for a missionary in Japan, teaching English to help raise funds for the mission. Much of his background and some of his experiences were similar to mine, although he had never been so fully taken in and overzealous as I had at my peak. He had a tendency to question somewhat, sometimes more, sometimes less, and my family considered him to be a bad influence, squeaky clean as he was, and we're still friends to this day. By this time I was to the point where I could talk extensively with my friend about questioning whether I was the kind of Christian the missionary would want working for him. The conclusion was that he needed a Christian, but not a perfect or completely overzealous one. That was the category my friend fit, and me too, so I was off to Japan.


Without the church of my teenage years to compare to, it may have seemed like I jumped into a pretty strict Christian environment, but in comparison to my previous church, it was extremely laid back. But the ongoing process in my head, questioning, ever so tentatively nibbling around the edges of the big taboo questions continued. After about a year in Japan, my friend and I took a vacation. One night, away on vacation, we talked about our doubts the entire night. Of course we'd talked about our doubts in a somewhat more limited capacity before. By this time, I was one notch away from openly asking the forbidden question. One thing we talked about extensively that night was about just that: asking the forbidden question. My friend first decided he was going to earnestly seek the truth for one month, and if he wasn't satisfied that god existed and was there for us ad advertised in our religious indoctrination, that he would give up the faith. It took an extra hour or two for me to come to that point. The conversation of that night really helped. Somehow my friend was able to persuade me, or rather perhaps help me persuade myself that if god was as advertised, he'd provide such that we'd KNOW.


Now I still wasn't at the point where it had ever occurred to me to explore an opposing viewpoint. Any resources I had in Japan would be extremely limited, of course, given both my limited fluency in Japanese and in the lack of helpful material for someone in my place with a background in Western culture. If there was today's Internet back then and an ex-christian.net, it would have been extremely helpful if I had used it, but I wouldn't have looked for it. My search for the truth focused ENTIRELY on the case for god, not against. And I focused mostly on the Bible itself, reading it extensive over the course of the entire month, as well as prayer, prayer, prayer... LOTS of prayer. Ernest, fervent prayer. I tried to focus on what I perceived as the "meat" of the Bible for Christians: the New Testament in general and the gospels in particular. Amazingly, I STILL didn't notice some of the contradictions: some of the easy to spot contradictions in genealogies. That would have been very helpful at that point: it had been hammered into my head how every last word, every last dotted i and crossed t in the Bible was gods literal, perfect, and absolute truth. How could I have not noticed the contradictions? I had never really thought that there WERE, I guess, I had all those years of indoctrination that had it hardwired into my head that there weren't any contradictions to be found in the Bible. Nevertheless, after the full month of intense prayer and Bible study, I found no god to impart even one tiny shred of assurance for his case. I was almost taken a little off guard...


Meanwhile, my friend had taken a different approach. When we got back from vacation he told the missionary and one of the church leaders about his decision to question. Now as I say, although there was a fairly strict code of conduct there, this was nothing like the church of my teen years, and my friend actually met with the missionary and church leader working with him and counseling him in an honest manner (from their point of view) rather than ostracising him, and I know from my other observations and from lurking here, that being ostracised in a case like this is quite a common thing to happen. Otherwise, he did basically the same things as me: praying, reading the Bible, but it included counseling from the church and getting reading recommendations from them as well.


On the last day of the month, I went for a walk with my friend. I asked him what conclusions he had come to. It seems he had wavered on his original plan. No, he hadn't found god any more than I had, but with the night on vacation a month old memory, he was ready to keep torturing himself without a conclusion. I was not. On that night 21 years ago, with much angst, I was un-born again. My friend's active role in my anti-testimony ends here, so before I go on, I'll take the opportunity to say that over the years my friend continued to waver, even to this very day. It actually pains me to see that he had to continue to struggle, and it goes without saying that I think I've had a richer, certainly more unfettered life than he has because I came to a decision that day.


Of course now I was in a very awkward position. I had committed to two years with the missionary, and I had the better part of a year where I was obligated to stay. I was obligated to stay, but I was also obligated to be a Christian to work for him. At the time, I felt like I couldn't openly renege on my commitment, so I stayed, with nobody but my friend knowing that I had just as sharply become un-born again as I had been "saved" when I was 12.


When I got back from Japan, I was able to continue the healing process in ernest. There were so many taboos, and freedom in my mind always, always happened before any other sort of progress in my life. Needless to say none of the freedom I found involved going out and doing bad things, as xtians assume it would. There was only one unusual exercise I performed, and it was really an exercise about freedom and the ability to choose rather than doing "bad" things. I taught myself how to swear! As an xtian, and for awhile after until I performed this exercise, I never uttered any such language so strong as a "darn." I actually had to practice to be able to do this! Well, I still don't go around swearing, but now it's not because of any religiously imposed hang ups.


So after my deconversion I spent years being my own best therapist. Amazing how many areas it impacted. It was much more than not being able to say "darn" or being able to read a fortune cookie for entertainment. I eventually learned to not carry around a plastered on smile 24 hours a day, but to be more expressive of how I actually felt. It took a number of years to get to that point, but it was growth.


The biggest area of damage, of course, was to my sexuality, and that took the longest to recover from. As usual, I needed freedom in my mind before I could reap the more tangible benefits. I had for years reasoned out that I had been taught a load of bullshit here, but I didn't so much as date (nonsexually) for years. I had all these mechanisms built up to sort of automatically foil any opportunities, which I could only gradually tackle. For me, as with so many other things, Reason was my best deprogramming tool. By the time I was within a couple years of actually having a normal type relationship that is everybody's birthright, I found that women in general feel they have little use for impotent virgins in their mid 30s. Correction, not completely impotent (although certainly enough so at this point to preclude any hopes of a first encounter), I had already been battling (now figurative) demons for many years, this time with Reason. My affirmations that sexuality was natural and good were actually registering in my core.


There's no way to know what my life would have been had I not needed to rebuild it from the destruction wrought by my religious upbringing, but I think my wife is a sliver lining to that black cloud. She learned about the "demon" and remained at my side. We've been married the better part of a decade now and have two wonderful children. This was all accomplished for me as part of my deprogramming: little counseling and no viagra were involved (the latter because it was never available until the last stages of my recovery, too late). I think these would still be useful tools however, for those who may be in the same place I was (I haven't seen this addressed in any of the limited number of anti-testamonies I've read, but I KNOW that there are similar cases--know that when you give up your overbearing god and get to the business of recovery in earnest, well, you CAN recover whatever birthrights you've relinquished).


Another thing that happened relatively late for me is exposure to viewpoints alternative to my fundy conditioning. Early on, it was of course because of the very effective mechanisms in place to prevent us from questioning our faith. Later... I don't know, but it's only been within the past five years or so that I've been reading the applicable books, visiting atheist sites, and sites such as this on the Internet. It's another thing that can be very helpful, and would have been REALLY, REALLY helpful to me had I done this 20 years ago and not just relatively recently.


And what of my family and all this? My grandparents both got old and died some years ago, leaving my fundamentalist mother as my only immediate family. For many years I said nothing, allowing for the eyes-closed assumption that I still shared her beliefs, if she wanted to assume that. My wife, coming from a total position of not understanding, thought that it was very sad that I didn't have any real relationship with my mother, and encouraged a sort of reconciliation. I guess that on some level, I wanted some sort of resolution there, in spite of my conditioning that she had been responsible for. There was a sort of detente and the beans got spilled. Inevitably after such a revelation, I was eventually disowned amidst an extended rant of what a horrible evil person I am. My wife was flabbergasted, but while I was impacted, to be sure, I didn't feel even a trace of surprise. There has been no contact for the past four years and it's pretty inconceivable that there every will be again.


But it's probably better that way. Having cast off the shackles, intimidation, brainwashing, fear-mongering presented to me in the form of an imaginary god, my life is immeasurably improved. How I value the ability and freedom to think critically. I believe I've gotten to a point of being well adjusted after coming out of a fundamentalist imposed hell.

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Welcome, ShackledNoMore...


What an awesome testimony, and what a dramatic recovery. One thing I've noticed when reading testimonies of fellow ex-christians...the more fundamentalist/charismatic/pentecostal the entry into the cult, the more difficult the exit. Yet these pages are filled with stories of recovery that are inspiring, and yours is one of them. Your testimony proves once again the danger to health that is part of fundie christianity.


It's good to have you with us.

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Hey, thanks for your testimony, it was a good read. I had some pretty messed up ideas regarding sexuality when I was a Christian, but my mind is a lot clearer now in that area. Well I hope my next 20 years outside of christianity are as good as yours seem to have been, I've only deconverted this year.

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Thank you so much for sharing your story so honestly. It was a bit long but I enjoyed every word of it. Thank you for the details and emphasis on the damage caused by your years of devotion.


I always wondered if abstinence damaged sexuality. I'd been wondering for a while why nobody wrote about that. To be honest, I think both my husband and I were severely affected by the church's view of sexuality.


Take care.

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When I was born again, I felt like an angel. So pure; so obedient. But sex was not something I ever thought about. That's why I left the church. I wanted to get back to having frequent sexual encounters.

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....Inevitably after such a revelation, I was eventually disowned amidst an extended rant of what a horrible evil person I am. My wife was flabbergasted, but while I was impacted, to be sure, I didn't feel even a trace of surprise. There has been no contact for the past four years and it's pretty inconceivable that there every will be again....




Very moving read. Thanks for sharing it. I think your mother has shown her true character, after all of those fillings of the HS and all that crap. And the fruit of the spirit is A RANT. :ugh:


I know it's painful, but it sounds like you were ready for this sort of response for a long time. You've shown a lot of maturity, unlike your mother. Take care. Welcome to the real world.

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Thank you all for your kind replies. I'm honored to be among a group of people who have been through similar experiences and have reclaimed, or are in the process of reclaiming their lives and minds with courage. It's especially gratifying to know that you, and hopefully me too, are helping and encouraging each other after we may have helped spread repression, paranoia, and fear before.

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