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Advice Needed


Guest socalobjectivist
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Guest socalobjectivist

Hi all...

 

I'm new here, so I thought I'd post my testimony. I'm mostly wanting some advice on breaking the news and actually, whether or not that may even be necessary. Here goes:

 

I was raised in a weakly Christian (mom), atheist/agnostic (dad) family. We went to church when I was between the ages of 5-10 because my mom wanted my brother and I to make friends with people who have good morals; we never talked about God and pretty much celebrated Christmas and Easter in very secular ways. I think my parents wanted to introduce my brother and I to religion so we could choose for ourselves if we wanted to believe or disbelieve. We were given the choice on whether or not we wanted to go to church anymore and we decided NO, of course we'd rather sleep in and watch TV on Sunday mornings! From that point on, I pretty much decided I was an agnostic and my brother, after some experiences at a Baptist school that he doens't like to talk much about, became fervently Atheist. We never talked about any of this, but I think my mom wanted us to be Christians so that we'd be "good, moral people."

 

Such was life until college, where things were great freshman year, but I fell into a severe depression sophomore year. I decided to return home to get better. Before I packed up to go, one of my Christian roommates told me "I believe God has a plan for you." It rang true for me in that moment of weakness, because I felt so weak that I don't know how I gained the strength to continue on and try to get better; I was surprised that I was strong enough to avoid suicide, so I attributed that strength to God because I didn't think it possibly could've come from me. I had another experience my junior year that led me to believe that God may exist. I took an introductory philosophy course where we discussed the different classical proofs for God's existance (ex. Watch-maker, etc) and I started to think for the first time about why the universe exists. I certainly didn't believe in the creation story as told in Genesis, but I felt that perhaps it was a god who placed the initial ball of mass that exploded in the Big Bang into the universe; where else could it come from? Perhaps it just "is"? I still can't answer that question, but I doubt anyone will within my lifetime. Another question brought up in my philosophy course was the mind-body connection. As a biology major, I was very familiar with the decision making pathways of the brain, and how the hippocampus is where we get emotions, and the frontal cortex houses our personality. I was sure that the mind = body. Through the process of debating it in that course, I began to be confused about free will. I always (and still do) believe that I am not predestined to move my hand to the right or left at any given moment, that I can change my mind and do the opposite, but my views of the physical world did not permit free will. If everything is physical, then the electrical and physical properties of our bodies and our environments would work together to produce our behaviors, which is a concept that I struggle with because it goes against the possibility of free will. Perhaps the notion of free will is something I need to examine further...

 

From my experiences with successfully overcoming debilitating depression and my study of philosophy, I allowed myself to toy with the thought that there is a God. And if you're a white person living in the US and you believe in god, well, it's practically understood that it's the Christian God you should be following (especially given my church-going past). I put off going to church for a while until I moved for graduate school and didn't know anyone in the area. I became involved with my church and its various young adult ministeries and I went on a short-term mission trip. At first I struggled with accepting that Jesus = God, and I never fully wrapped my head around that one. I just justified worshipping Jesus by telling myself that he was recorded in the Gospels, which I had believed were somewhat historical in nature, and then after he died he had many followers and the message spread and now millions (perhaps billions, trillions...no idea) follow, so he probably did exist and what was recorded about him was mostly true (like Jefferson, I didn't care much for the supernatural aspects but liked the rest). After a year in the church, more differences between my beliefs and those of "true Christians" surfaced. Here's a short list:

 

1) The Bible is infallible.

2) Pretty much the entire book of Revelations from the Rapture onward.

3) The Trinity.

4) Premarital sex is bad (and being sexually repressed is a good thing?).

5) Homosexuality is wrong.

6) Drinking is bad (hey, even Jesus made wine from water!).

7) The concepts of Heaven and Hell (I don't believe in an afterlife.).

 

I had been attending a pretty liberal church, so these topics didn't come up too much, so I didn't have too many problems. It wasn't until I was sitting around at a bible study and everyone was gushing about how much hope the concept of the second coming gave them that it clicked for me that my beliefs are WAY different from theirs! I just sat in silence until the meeting was over. I drove back home in tears only to come home to my Christian roommates. One of them suggested that I take a break from church and church groups to pray and study the Bible. I've been doing that for a few weeks now and have realized that my differences with what I believe and what Christians believe are so dramatically different that I cannot honestly call myself a Christian, and no longer can I go to their services and just fake my way through. I haven't told my roommates yet, although for some reason I don't think they will care too much. I'm more concerned about telling my small group/bible study. I haven't gone for a few weeks now and they've been calling or emailing me almost daily to try to get in touch with me. I started this off with saying I need advice, and mostly I need advice on what to do regarding my small group. I have no interest in going or even in seeing them again as we only know of each other in the context of Christianity. I know that if I email them about it, they will either email, call, or (cringe) show up at my door wanting to talk to me about it or to pray with me. I feel guilty about not returning calls and emails (because humans evolved to experience empathy; it's useful, just not in this instance!); I hope they'll get the message that I'm not interested. I'm lucky that I have secular friends and family who don't really know too much about my experiences with Christianity who seem to be taking me back with open arms!

 

I hope to receive some helpful comments because I could really use some reinforcement right now. Thanks to others who post here; reading your testimonies has been extremely useful to me.

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Hi there and welcome on board :D

 

Sorry about your situation but heres something from your post that glared out at me.

I hope they'll get the message that I'm not interested.

I went to this Pentecostal church where they believed everything you have on that list. I thought I would play it safe and tell them that I am not interested but this gave them more faith ammo that I needed their help for salvation. I decided to become interested and study atheist apologetics and wholla, they have gone quiet all of a sudden.

 

There is a post here challenging any christian to summarize an account of what happened in the during and after the resurrection... I can find you the post after typing this.

 

http://godisimaginary.com/i39.htm

That offers an insight on the other side of our loving friend jesus. Take away the crass commentary that will offend your fundy friends and dress up the points in there to make a compelling argument. If they offer you that 'god is mysterious' and 'his plan is complex for us to understand it' then counter with what makes them sure they know his plan and his mysteries, use some bible verses to hammer it home. http://skepticsannotatedbible.com/cruelty/long.html

 

If all else fails where they show some true colors by hatefully condemning you to hell, give them a taste of 1 Peter 3:15.

 

Well, thats all I can say for now, use the bible, it is, to quote creationist Ken Ham "[atheists] patriot missiles", use it to shoot down their emotionally charged arguments and they'll leave you alone, or hopefully bring them out of their trance. One last piece of advice; let them don on the 'holier than thou' robe, stay as calm as possible or smile when you present your case.. if you leave or show hints of anger, they will think you're far into the palm of satan for them to help and that will probably compound your situation, well, thats if you want to be left alone, that would help :D

 

Good luck.

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If I'm reading you correctly, you don't want to hurt these peoples feelings, or argue with them at length.

My suggestion is to email them back and tell them you have been doing some thinking and have decided that Christianity is just not for you. be polite but firm and let them know that its not up for discussion or debate, that if they want to hang out they are welcome to drop by and see you, as long as they know that you have no desire to be evangelized at, and that any attempt will simple be met with silence, (or a door shut in their face)

 

Most likely they will either not talk to you, beyond a "hey hows it going" when you pass on campus, or if they are rude they will try subtle way to try to "bring you back into the fold" If the 2nd thing happens, tell them to get lost.

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  • 2 weeks later...
Guest socalobjectivist

UPDATE

 

Thanks for the advice and kind words. I finally told one of the members of my small group about why I'd been MIA recently. I picked one of the more liberal guys in the groop, one of the ones I can go drinking with :) I told him that I was struggling with questions and since I didn't have good enough answers, I didn't think I could go on attending my church and various ministeries just faking my way through. He asked me what questions I had, and I didn't really want to get into it or even let on that I've decided that Christianity is not for me, so I just said that I have a hard time believing that a loving God is going to send most of my family to Hell. That shut him up; he didn't try to answer at all. Instead I got an awkward silence. After a long pause he just asked, "well, do you still consider yourself a Christian" to which I replied "that's what I'm trying to figure out" (even though that's not really the truth, it was just easier for me to say that then to have him question me more about it, pity me, try to pray with me, etc.). It feels good to have said something to someone! I emailed another more liberal church friend to let her know that I was taking a "sabbatical" to figure out my faith and read the Bible (little does she know that by Bible I meant Skeptic's Annotated Bible!).

 

Now I feel like I'm kind of in this awkward transitional period of my life now. The best thing is how liberated I feel! For the last year, I felt like I literally could not breathe. I even ended up in the ER about it and I was diagnosed with anxiety. I dropped the Christianity and the praying and the guilt and suddenly I could breathe again. Life is so much better not having to worry about whether or not every decision I make is within God's will. I don't have to pray (to no one) and feel bad that I don't get any responses. The worst thing is that I had converted all of my social life to Christian groups. Different young adult ministeries during the week, small group, Sunday service, volunteer events, retreats, dinners out, and game nights (cringe! I hope I never spend a Saturday night playing Mafia again!). I'm pretty much starting all over again in building a new social network, and after having snubbed my non-Christian friends, it's been a large challenge. I've been very lonely recently. I'm hopeful that this is a phase that too will pass, but it's difficult to live in this reality right now.

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I'm pretty much starting all over again in building a new social network, and after having snubbed my non-Christian friends, it's been a large challenge. I've been very lonely recently. I'm hopeful that this is a phase that too will pass, but it's difficult to live in this reality right now.

 

Congrats on being brave enough to leave your unhealthy Christian relationships. It is tough. Very tough. Welcome to the group. I'm sure you'll find plenty of online friends here. If you happen to live in the Northwest (US) I could be a live, in-person friend too, since I also have to build up my social network.

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Congrats again on finding bravery to face up to ideals you cannot anymore, defend. That happened to me few months back and now I'm free to explore meaning and other aspects of life. I still have christian friends and family who tell me they pray for me and everything but as soon as it comes to discussing tenets of faith they recoil and tell me I talk about atheism too much.

I have a hard time believing that a loving God is going to send most of my family to Hell.

It's good you got silence with that, I got the "we must work harder then to show them the true God before it is too late" response, my family is a different denomination from this youth leader I talked to ... this was while they knew that I'm not really a believer in their church :scratch:

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