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Leaving Behind An Unhealthy Religion


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Hi,

I'm new to this site and I'm looking forward to getting to know you all. I'm an ex-Christian. I'm not sure how much detail I'll go into as I write this - I just want to summarize my experience so you can get to know me a bit.

I grew up in a non-church attending home. My dad was an atheist. My mom believed there was some sort of god or power out there with slight nod in the christian direction ("maybe there's a Christ in the sky somewhere, or some sort of power" she'd say).

As a teenager approaching young adulthood I had my share of guilty pleasures but longed to be "a good person". I also had that unusual sense that our minds can so easily generate when contemplating the skies above or our own consciousness - "surely their must be more?" I was ripe for religion. When a friend of mine had me over for dinner their family was discussing a girl who was lacking descretion severely when it came to her choice of clothing on Sunday mornings at their small born again chapel. Looked like a hooker. That was the gist of it. "I'd like to visit your church." And they took me up on that. Now my intentions in going were obviously not to seek out a higher calling initially, but I was moved by the pastors presentation of Jesus, the friendliness of the people, and the idea that I could be aquainted with whatever "more" there was to life, have a purpose, guidance, and a clear conscience and forgiveness. I feel in love with Jesus, who I believed at the time was alive, risen from the dead and at the right hand of God the Father.

I know that this is a site primarily for ex Christians but I also know that Christians seem to like to drop in, read a testimony or two, and blast at everyone here, so at this point I also want to put something clear here for those born again Christians who are likely to read testimonies such as this and insist that (since they believe a truly saved individual can never fall away) I must never have really been saved.

To you, dear born again believer, let me say that I knew what it meant to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior, repent and believe in Him, trust in Him and his death and resurrection for my salvation, and not my own God works. I knew as well as you what it means to have faith in Jesus and be born again. I truly believed, trusted, had faith, I lived it. Where you (born again believer) and I differ is that I believe that I was, and you still are, just human beings experiencing ideas, beliefs, and emotions. You believe there is a real spiritual change attached to all that. Why did I cease to believe that?

Well, we must fast forward close to 20 years later. During those 20 years I Loved and obeyed God, studied the bible, worshipped and attended church and fellowshipped, I was discipled and I discipled others. Eventually I became a bible teacher and an ordained elder in an evangelical interdenominational church. I've led others to Christ and I've counseled many in their faith.

And of course I found many things troubling too about Christianity.

I wrestled with what were certainly contradictions in the bible and got my hands on every scholarly Christian work defending inerrancy and infallibility. Sometimes the Christian arguer had a good point and I could grant that two texts might not be contradictory after all, but other times it seemed that there was no good answer and the contradiction remained self evident. Sometimes what was at stake was more than just history or a detail, it was something pretty core to the faith. (Isn't it funny that so many Christians in protestantism gloss over the many texts that unavoidably teach salvation by works and/or twist and rend them to the point of meaninglessness to defend their understanding of the gospel? When people are comfortable stretching texts to that degree, and are even sure they're right, it's no wonder that they have a hard time even recognizing a genuine contradiction in the bible). Still, I suspended belief. There may be an explanation. It may just be beyond me.

Then there was the issue of Old Testament attrocities. That I suspended on the backburner for a long time, but it's absolutely awful stuff. Still, I thought, if God is just and righteous and Lord over life, he can do what he wants? As much as I didn't like that, I tried to chalk it up to my "sinful nature".

Then there's the question of hell - for me I pretty much handled that as I did the OT attrocities.

But disturbing things start to surface when you repress what's right in front of your face. Somewhere inside, you sort of know this stuff is contradictory. What about the atrocities. There are texts that have God ordering infants slaughtered. There are texts that give the women as spoils to the Israelites which tacitly endorses rape as I'm sure not all women in question were willing partners. If I were willing to swallow this, is there anything that was so evil that I could swallow it, if the bible said God said to do it? What could be worse than slaughtering infants and raping women? (It's ironic that so many pro-life Christians don't even blink at the Old Testament). What about hell? Well everyone's totally depraved - born in sin. Deserving it. Actually, the bible's more concrete than that. That's theology, but the bible, in romans has Paul basically saying everyone's out there doing evil, they're quick to shed blood, they're liars, there's no one good among them, not one. Well now, I thought of the people in my life I knew well, Christian or not, and it was evident to me that this assessment of humanity is false, yet Paul says it. Innocent men and women out there who don't even deserve to spend a night in prison, roasting for all eternity? "But it's because they defied an infitely holy God." "God doesn't see things as man does". Yeah, right? That's sort of how we get above the slaughter and stuff too right? His ways aren't our ways? Funny how they're so much like a nasty dictator's ways though. I'd expect higher and more profound sublime ways.

Still - could've been my human nature talking. Better turn to Jesus.

Oh yeah, Jesus. Here's the thing - I began to think of the whole central Christian message from God to us.

"I love you

But I also hate you (make no mistake, the bible is clear in places that God HATES the sinner as well as the sin, regardless of what any pastor or bible believing christian says)

It's ok though. I kill'd my son.

I killed him for you.

I also killed him for me."

This was the very gospel!! The very thing that my heart was set on. Jesus loved me enough to die for me!!! That used to mean so much.

But then I began thinking, if that's true, what's wrong with God? There's something wrong with a Being that requires a human to be slaughtered in order to make peace. We're called to forgive, why can't God? A christian may say that God does, but true forgiveness, even forgiveness in a justice situation, is removal of the debt, a letting go, a pardon. Where the price must be paid (even if it's by someone else like Jesus), the debt isn't forgiven, it's paid. That's not forgiveness. I began to realize that the gospel itself didn't make sense. Believing really is something you do. If sin could be in the heart, and obedience in the heart, then good works could be done in the heart. Like not lusting, like loving, that's in the heart. Well then so is believing. It's rediculous to deny that believing is also a "work" in that sense. And that is why the gospel from a born again point of view makes no sense, if we're saved by grace and not works, then believing shouldn't be required . . . but enough of these pesky details.

Another factor was the personal one. Paul himself says if Christ isn't risen, our faith is in vain.

For me being a Christian didn't only mean punishing myself everytime I had a "sinful thought". It also meant disagreeing and alienating others, and adopting political and moral views that actually seemed politically or morally inferior - but nontheless apparently right because as far as I could tell, "the bible said so".

All this stuff was weighing on me when it began to dawn on me - "I never really understood that excepting Jesus was going to mean buying into all this". I started wonder, if I had evaluated it all, would I have decided differently? Is it possible that it isn't true after all?

The key question became - "Is it possible that I can know for sure that it's false!?"

When I suddenly was willing to seek the truth even if it hurt. Even if it meant admitting I'd been wrong. Even if it meant many friends would dismiss me and I may become a bit of a social outcast among the community of people I had grown to love, even if my wife would be grieved over it. When I was willing to seek the truth it became all too painfully obvious - of course nobody deserves to roast for eternity for not believing a bunch of ideas about Jesus. Of course these contradictions in the bible are evidently undeniable. Even Christian leaders admitted about as much when they say that some "discrepancies" in the bible remain unresolved. They never will be resolved. They're contradictions. It became more clear that Matthew's gospel does clearly teach a gospel of what Paul would call "works". I began to read Paul with new insite - what a manipulative guy he was. Reading 1st and 2nd Corinthians I began to wonder if he didn't have any underhanded motive for financial gain in his ernestness for collecting money from the corinthians (though I'm unaware of any scholarly corroboration of this hypothesis among critics of the bible). The justice of the OT and NT clearly stood out as wrong. If God exists, he's not like this. Some Christians might say how can you know? Well, the ideas I find in the old testament are much more consistent with the ideas of somewhat more primative tribal minds, the old testament may have been a step in the right direction compared to the even more deplorable moral codes that surrounded the fertile crescent, but not much more - certainly not enough to be supernatural in origin. This wasn't from God. It was the ideas of men. Hell - terribly unjust. It should be obvious enough that time shouldn't be wasted trying prove it. "Could it possibly be - that an all powerful, good being would torment most of humanity for all eternity with suffering beyond the imagination?" The proper answer is "No," And it should be said immediately upon the completion of the question. If the doctrine of hell were real, it would mean that God will be responsible for more people experiencing more suffering than Hitler, Stalin, etc etc combined have brought about on humanity. How could such a being be worthy of worship? What about proofs for the resurrection? It boils down to this, apparently some people claimed to see Jesus risen. That's the most we can say. It's far away back in history that it's rediculous to insist that the only possible explanation for that which can't be ruled out is that Jesus was actually risen. Beyond that, considering how preposterous christianity is if one thinks about it freely, the idea that Jesus actually came back from the dead, is not only impossible because dead people don't do that, it's also impossible because it would mean all these insane contradictory bible things would be true - and they're obviously not. There's as much evidence to support big foot, the loch ness monster, ufo's, alien abductions, and so on, as there is for the resurrection. Clearly the evidence is insufficient and the Christian assent and appeal to the evidence is largely faith and emotionally motivated.

What about the whole "where did we come from?"

Well, despite the fact that science actually does offer better answers for some aspects of this question (e.g. evolution does account for how we developed and the case and science behind it are way more solid than Christians can acknowledge) -

but even if we didn't have answers to the question "where did we get from?" That doesn't necessarily mean that God - much less the Christian God - is the answer.

It may be surprising to christians, but I'm much more able to be a healthy, happy, moral, self controlled, loving, realistic, honest, decent person since abandoning my imaginary friend. Well, I must sign off for now.

Already I've gone longer than I've anticipated. I guess it's because I wanted to related the experience without going into details about the case against Christianity that formed in my mind, but in the end, it's hard to relate one without the other. This doesn't even touch the tip of the iceberg though and I can ramble endlessly.

 

Mike

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hi Mike,

 

your testimony rules. You are the fucking best. Rock on.

 

-this is what we like to refer to as a focused, non-terminal, repeating phantasm, OR a class five full roaming vapor.

 

Hi,

I'm new to this site and I'm looking forward to getting to know you all. I'm an ex-Christian. I'm not sure how much detail I'll go into as I write this - I just want to summarize my experience so you can get to know me a bit.

I grew up in a non-church attending home. My dad was an atheist. My mom believed there was some sort of god or power out there with slight nod in the christian direction ("maybe there's a Christ in the sky somewhere, or some sort of power" she'd say).

As a teenager approaching young adulthood I had my share of guilty pleasures but longed to be "a good person". I also had that unusual sense that our minds can so easily generate when contemplating the skies above or our own consciousness - "surely their must be more?" I was ripe for religion. When a friend of mine had me over for dinner their family was discussing a girl who was lacking descretion severely when it came to her choice of clothing on Sunday mornings at their small born again chapel. Looked like a hooker. That was the gist of it. "I'd like to visit your church." And they took me up on that. Now my intentions in going were obviously not to seek out a higher calling initially, but I was moved by the pastors presentation of Jesus, the friendliness of the people, and the idea that I could be aquainted with whatever "more" there was to life, have a purpose, guidance, and a clear conscience and forgiveness. I feel in love with Jesus, who I believed at the time was alive, risen from the dead and at the right hand of God the Father.

I know that this is a site primarily for ex Christians but I also know that Christians seem to like to drop in, read a testimony or two, and blast at everyone here, so at this point I also want to put something clear here for those born again Christians who are likely to read testimonies such as this and insist that (since they believe a truly saved individual can never fall away) I must never have really been saved.

To you, dear born again believer, let me say that I knew what it meant to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior, repent and believe in Him, trust in Him and his death and resurrection for my salvation, and not my own God works. I knew as well as you what it means to have faith in Jesus and be born again. I truly believed, trusted, had faith, I lived it. Where you (born again believer) and I differ is that I believe that I was, and you still are, just human beings experiencing ideas, beliefs, and emotions. You believe there is a real spiritual change attached to all that. Why did I cease to believe that?

Well, we must fast forward close to 20 years later. During those 20 years I Loved and obeyed God, studied the bible, worshipped and attended church and fellowshipped, I was discipled and I discipled others. Eventually I became a bible teacher and an ordained elder in an evangelical interdenominational church. I've led others to Christ and I've counseled many in their faith.

And of course I found many things troubling too about Christianity.

I wrestled with what were certainly contradictions in the bible and got my hands on every scholarly Christian work defending inerrancy and infallibility. Sometimes the Christian arguer had a good point and I could grant that two texts might not be contradictory after all, but other times it seemed that there was no good answer and the contradiction remained self evident. Sometimes what was at stake was more than just history or a detail, it was something pretty core to the faith. (Isn't it funny that so many Christians in protestantism gloss over the many texts that unavoidably teach salvation by works and/or twist and rend them to the point of meaninglessness to defend their understanding of the gospel? When people are comfortable stretching texts to that degree, and are even sure they're right, it's no wonder that they have a hard time even recognizing a genuine contradiction in the bible). Still, I suspended belief. There may be an explanation. It may just be beyond me.

Then there was the issue of Old Testament attrocities. That I suspended on the backburner for a long time, but it's absolutely awful stuff. Still, I thought, if God is just and righteous and Lord over life, he can do what he wants? As much as I didn't like that, I tried to chalk it up to my "sinful nature".

Then there's the question of hell - for me I pretty much handled that as I did the OT attrocities.

But disturbing things start to surface when you repress what's right in front of your face. Somewhere inside, you sort of know this stuff is contradictory. What about the atrocities. There are texts that have God ordering infants slaughtered. There are texts that give the women as spoils to the Israelites which tacitly endorses rape as I'm sure not all women in question were willing partners. If I were willing to swallow this, is there anything that was so evil that I could swallow it, if the bible said God said to do it? What could be worse than slaughtering infants and raping women? (It's ironic that so many pro-life Christians don't even blink at the Old Testament). What about hell? Well everyone's totally depraved - born in sin. Deserving it. Actually, the bible's more concrete than that. That's theology, but the bible, in romans has Paul basically saying everyone's out there doing evil, they're quick to shed blood, they're liars, there's no one good among them, not one. Well now, I thought of the people in my life I knew well, Christian or not, and it was evident to me that this assessment of humanity is false, yet Paul says it. Innocent men and women out there who don't even deserve to spend a night in prison, roasting for all eternity? "But it's because they defied an infitely holy God." "God doesn't see things as man does". Yeah, right? That's sort of how we get above the slaughter and stuff too right? His ways aren't our ways? Funny how they're so much like a nasty dictator's ways though. I'd expect higher and more profound sublime ways.

Still - could've been my human nature talking. Better turn to Jesus.

Oh yeah, Jesus. Here's the thing - I began to think of the whole central Christian message from God to us.

"I love you

But I also hate you (make no mistake, the bible is clear in places that God HATES the sinner as well as the sin, regardless of what any pastor or bible believing christian says)

It's ok though. I kill'd my son.

I killed him for you.

I also killed him for me."

This was the very gospel!! The very thing that my heart was set on. Jesus loved me enough to die for me!!! That used to mean so much.

But then I began thinking, if that's true, what's wrong with God? There's something wrong with a Being that requires a human to be slaughtered in order to make peace. We're called to forgive, why can't God? A christian may say that God does, but true forgiveness, even forgiveness in a justice situation, is removal of the debt, a letting go, a pardon. Where the price must be paid (even if it's by someone else like Jesus), the debt isn't forgiven, it's paid. That's not forgiveness. I began to realize that the gospel itself didn't make sense. Believing really is something you do. If sin could be in the heart, and obedience in the heart, then good works could be done in the heart. Like not lusting, like loving, that's in the heart. Well then so is believing. It's rediculous to deny that believing is also a "work" in that sense. And that is why the gospel from a born again point of view makes no sense, if we're saved by grace and not works, then believing shouldn't be required . . . but enough of these pesky details.

Another factor was the personal one. Paul himself says if Christ isn't risen, our faith is in vain.

For me being a Christian didn't only mean punishing myself everytime I had a "sinful thought". It also meant disagreeing and alienating others, and adopting political and moral views that actually seemed politically or morally inferior - but nontheless apparently right because as far as I could tell, "the bible said so".

All this stuff was weighing on me when it began to dawn on me - "I never really understood that excepting Jesus was going to mean buying into all this". I started wonder, if I had evaluated it all, would I have decided differently? Is it possible that it isn't true after all?

The key question became - "Is it possible that I can know for sure that it's false!?"

When I suddenly was willing to seek the truth even if it hurt. Even if it meant admitting I'd been wrong. Even if it meant many friends would dismiss me and I may become a bit of a social outcast among the community of people I had grown to love, even if my wife would be grieved over it. When I was willing to seek the truth it became all too painfully obvious - of course nobody deserves to roast for eternity for not believing a bunch of ideas about Jesus. Of course these contradictions in the bible are evidently undeniable. Even Christian leaders admitted about as much when they say that some "discrepancies" in the bible remain unresolved. They never will be resolved. They're contradictions. It became more clear that Matthew's gospel does clearly teach a gospel of what Paul would call "works". I began to read Paul with new insite - what a manipulative guy he was. Reading 1st and 2nd Corinthians I began to wonder if he didn't have any underhanded motive for financial gain in his ernestness for collecting money from the corinthians (though I'm unaware of any scholarly corroboration of this hypothesis among critics of the bible). The justice of the OT and NT clearly stood out as wrong. If God exists, he's not like this. Some Christians might say how can you know? Well, the ideas I find in the old testament are much more consistent with the ideas of somewhat more primative tribal minds, the old testament may have been a step in the right direction compared to the even more deplorable moral codes that surrounded the fertile crescent, but not much more - certainly not enough to be supernatural in origin. This wasn't from God. It was the ideas of men. Hell - terribly unjust. It should be obvious enough that time shouldn't be wasted trying prove it. "Could it possibly be - that an all powerful, good being would torment most of humanity for all eternity with suffering beyond the imagination?" The proper answer is "No," And it should be said immediately upon the completion of the question. If the doctrine of hell were real, it would mean that God will be responsible for more people experiencing more suffering than Hitler, Stalin, etc etc combined have brought about on humanity. How could such a being be worthy of worship? What about proofs for the resurrection? It boils down to this, apparently some people claimed to see Jesus risen. That's the most we can say. It's far away back in history that it's rediculous to insist that the only possible explanation for that which can't be ruled out is that Jesus was actually risen. Beyond that, considering how preposterous christianity is if one thinks about it freely, the idea that Jesus actually came back from the dead, is not only impossible because dead people don't do that, it's also impossible because it would mean all these insane contradictory bible things would be true - and they're obviously not. There's as much evidence to support big foot, the loch ness monster, ufo's, alien abductions, and so on, as there is for the resurrection. Clearly the evidence is insufficient and the Christian assent and appeal to the evidence is largely faith and emotionally motivated.

What about the whole "where did we come from?"

Well, despite the fact that science actually does offer better answers for some aspects of this question (e.g. evolution does account for how we developed and the case and science behind it are way more solid than Christians can acknowledge) -

but even if we didn't have answers to the question "where did we get from?" That doesn't necessarily mean that God - much less the Christian God - is the answer.

It may be surprising to christians, but I'm much more able to be a healthy, happy, moral, self controlled, loving, realistic, honest, decent person since abandoning my imaginary friend. Well, I must sign off for now.

Already I've gone longer than I've anticipated. I guess it's because I wanted to related the experience without going into details about the case against Christianity that formed in my mind, but in the end, it's hard to relate one without the other. This doesn't even touch the tip of the iceberg though and I can ramble endlessly.

 

Mike

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hey,

 

good to see another testimony rolling in. When you consider the issues with christianity that you have brought up, you kind of wonder why more people don't deconvert. Glad to read that life seems to have been good to you since you left christianity. I hope your wife hasn't taken things too badly. Stay well!

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Hi Mike,

What a great, coherent, interesting testimony. You are so well spoken about your journey and I would have been all over the board because there is SO much to want to say about everything you now know. I followed your same path - from suppression (the 'you're a sinful human so you just can't understand God' stuff is so effective) to intense 'cognitive dissonance' to giving up the fear of pursuing the truth of the matter no matter what. I followed all your same simple and beautiful conclusions out of Christianity. I couldn't agree more with your statement "I'm much more able to be a healthy, happy, moral, self controlled, loving, realistic, honest, decent person since abandoning my imaginary friend. " Wow what a bullseye. There are so many of us here who feel exactly the same way. I honestly believe as your subject title says...that Christianity is truly an unhealthy, destructive belief system. You can't imagine it and don't see it until you've broken free and are looking back, examining the worldview, morals, and attitudes you used to have about yourself and others and realizing how far you've grown.

 

Good to have you here.

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Mike, it's good to see someone else raising the questions that bugged me, too, for decades. Takes a LOOOONNNNGGG time sometimes to be sure the Christians are wrong but most of us here have come to that conclusion in some way, shape, or form. It's not the same in every case.

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I've wondered the same thing. I used to think there was a kind of strength in those of us that become Ex-Christians that those who remain "sheep" don't have.

 

However, my brother said something to me this week that made me think. He was never a Christian. We had a mutual friend back when I got "saved" 17 years ago. They had many conversations about how I went from like NO religious beliefs to insane Bible thumper overnight. And now over night I have abandoned to point of fury against it. Our mutual friend was what "what makes that kind of thing happen?" In other words, without acutally saying it, he was saying that there was something wrong with me, in both cases. (both the insane conversion, AND the total abandonment.)

 

Out of fairnesss to me, they don't realize that it took me close to 10 years to totally abandon it. And if I had not married a fundy, I would have rather easily jettisoned it all by now. I have secretly belived the Bible to be shit for many years now.

 

Good stuff.

 

Your story mirrors mine -- the exact same questions and the exact same answers. I wonder why it is that some come to the conclusions that we did whereas others never do.

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Nice one Mick.

 

What I like about this site is it dispells the myth that Christians have that if you deconvert you were never a "True" Christian in the first place.

 

I described the depth of my belief to the Christians at Worthy boards but they couldn't believe it. They were and are convinces that if yoy have truly accepted Christ as your saviour, if you have known him in a personal, living way, you can never deconvert.

 

Its the old seed on various ground parable.

 

It's one of the things that makes me a bit angry, knowing I was so deluded.

 

Stew

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