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My Deconversion & Current Dilemma

Guest Marie LaPagina

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Guest Marie LaPagina

Hi all,


I'm new to this forum. I came upon it after trying to have another conversation with my Sikh husband about my bitterness towards my Christian experiences. He actually told me what I was saying sounded dumb. I can see how it would to him. I have had my assurance of an eternal soul taken away from me by respecting my intellect. Now I feel alone in the world, with no god. But his religion (he really just believes all religions are a different view of the same god) never offered him those things so he can't relate to how I feel empty. I told him I guess I would have to find someone else to talk to about this stuff.


So I came across this website and feel that it might be a good place to fish around for people who might understand where I'm coming from. Just a brief-as-possible background:


I was raised Christian (Lutheran, then Baptist). My parents took/take their faith pretty seriously, but aren't fundamentalists themselves. But going to church, private school and having all Christian friends really helped solidify doctrines in me.


My freshman year of high school, I attended my first religion course at my private Lutheran school. I didn't know the teacher, so I wasn't aware this was all a ploy, but he started challenging us by pretending to say the kinds of things that "heathens" would say... like don't take the Bible so seriously, god is in the trees, etc, etc. Finally he exposed that it was all a ruse, but I was shocked and he unknowingly initiated my faith crisis.


Around age 14, I started having doubts about my faith. Between age 13 and 18 my faith was like a rollar coaster... extremely high or extremely low. I would be an atheist one day, arguing with all my Christian friends, then a Christian the next, trying to convert others. At age 17, I did my first full summer missions trip alone.


When it came time to consider what to do after graduating, I knew I wasn't going to college. I wasn't smart enough. You see, I had been so brainwashed by religion that I was an idiot in every sense. So I decided I'd want to volunteer to work at an orphanage in Mexico (I LOVED Spanish!) But after researching, I determined that my faith was so shabby that I shouldn't put myself in a position to help others, that first I needed to make my own faith stronger.


My sister had just returned from a missions school in India and I saw how much she had changed. She was much more patient and kind now. So I enrolled myself for the same exact school but in Mexico.


YWAM was a big brainwash party and I had a hard time. Again my intellect was fighting, but I really wanted to believe. Its always been about fear, shame, and "shoulds".


I finished my semester as a student and felt revitalized in my faith. I was thoroughly brainwashed and it felt great. But then I flew to India for my sister's wedding and my doubts came swelling back. I thought that I was being attacked by an Indian demon. Other countries apparently have super bad demons.


Regardless, I still flew back to Mexico to the same school to work on staff at the missions school. This was despite the fact that I had already confirmed to myself that I was an atheist. I even told the director of the school once I got there, but he told me that I should stay... that my faith would more likely be saved there than back home (Only now I realize he kept me around because I was the best translator on the base). He STILL had me LEAD one of the mini-evangelism trips with a group of students. It was extremely painful. There were emotional, spiritual evangelistic preachings, altar calls, prayers, what have you, every day!!! And I was fighting so hard to not succomb, but eventually I converted *AGAIN* to be a Christian during an emotional evangelical performance we were doing.


I went to another part of Mexico after that semester because I was really into this one guy and his church was going to have a mini-missions school. So I flew over there and worked with them. I even committed myself for 2 years to their goal of making their own bonifide missions school. I really liked this boy. But I tried to make it all about Jesus.


So the whole team went to the original school for another semester to get trained so we could run out own school. My Christianity was pretty firm at that point. I felt pretty good about God... I was reading the Bible and felt pretty spiritual and in touch with Him and His will, bla bla bla....


But once I found out that this guy was starting to date this one girl, that did it for me. That's when I realized that I was still in missions (particularily in this school) because of him. Only 8 months into my commitment with this school, I left missions forever. I took a long 48 hour bus ride home so I could do some thinking. At this point I was 21 (which is embarasssing, because most of the deconversion testimonies I've read on here never got nearly as fundamental or long-suffering as mine... I feel I must sincerely be stupid for trying to do this for so long).


Once I got home, I got my first full-time job where I was sent to Texas for training for 3 months. There I met my future husband from India. There were started some conversations about my faith and his particular views. I started therapy where I was able to forgive my mom for being awesome (yeah, I apparently thought she was the worst mom in the world for some time).


The next stage has really been long and undefined. Through a slow, painful process of almost 4 years, I have now gotten to the point of being able to say I am not a Christian. Rather, I can relate mostly to Unitarian beliefs, though I have no affiliation with them.


This brings me to my main dilemma. Through all my intense, evangelical experiences of trying to be a Christian, trying to believe, trying to avoid hell, trying to fit in, trying to make my parents proud... I have come to hate Christianity. Christians annoy me. Once in a while I'll come across some of my old photos from my mission trips or some old journals where I am either manic or depressive about my faith. I read them and I just start shutting down. My eyes just glaze over and I don't want to move. I feel like puking and I can't think. This keeps happening. I am seeing a therapist about this, but of course she can't relate. I feel my experience is pretty unique.


Anyways, I suppose that's all I had to say. I'm hoping to get some kind of validation, advise or sharing or similar experiences. I appreciate you all reading this,


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Hey Marie welcome to the site. And no you dont need to feel embarassed, you arent stupid for staying in the cult for so long. I deconverted at 19 (still 19) Im one of the young ones on the site. Your experience definetly has some unique aspects, but I can relate to some of it. It sounds like our church backgrounds were somewhat similar. I too did missions in mexico (not as much as you though), and while I wasnt in it am pretty familiar with YWAM (your dead on about the brainwashing) and know some people still in it.


So while Im no sage adviser (there are plenty on the site though), I can relate a little to what your going through. The things you mention at the end of your post that still affect you, photos etc. Thats something we all still have pangs of hurt from. Whenever you invest a lot of time and emotion into something, whether its right or wrong good/bad the emotional ties remain. But its just that purely emotional, and it will fade, I hate to say it but its like some kind of low-grade post traumatic disorder. We really were in a cult and lived alot of our lives and built alot of relationships through it. Its only natrual that losing that part of yourself or changing your outlook on all those times will hurt.


But your life is moving forward it seems, with the marriage and all. And thats the point, whatever happened is over. It may cause some grief, but now you can move on. I dont claim to know "exactly" what your experiencing but it sounds similar to what Ive felt and some of the members here have gone through it too. They can tell you it will get better, and I can say I'm already starting to get better.


And on the subject of no afterlife I'll be brief, yes it sucks, but as far as I can see there isnt one. Not to make light of such things but its like a cruel Santa myth carried to adulthood, or the Tooth Fairy. As much as we would for there to be one, there isnt. But if anything it makes this life and what we do and how we treat others all the more important.


Anyway heres a hug and I hope you find what you need here. :grin:

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I agree with what The Doctor said about needing to be deprogrammed from the cult. You need to give yourself some time. I'm almost 20 years out and I still get a queasy feeling when I look at photos of myself in those days. Just this year my parents were moving out of our family home and Mom gave me a box of photos. In there was one of me singing in an evangelical musical ensemble I was in for years, and one of me with friends at a 40 hour fast we did every year.


I think the queasy feeling for me is embarassment. That I was ever that stupid. And that I worked to bring others into the stupid faith. And that my family is still trapped there.


Ask your councellor if she has any experience with cults or people who have come out of cults. Perhaps she is just not able to see Christianity as a cult, so she has trouble understanding what you are saying.


Welcome, and I hope you find some solace here.



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That's true. I'm between 20 and 25 years out. It was 7 years between my first tentative doubts and my "official" deconversion, and maybe two or three years after that while my deconversion really "gelled." And if continue reading these forums, you will see that it was a long process for most. It is a slow process is by no means a sign of stupidity, rather of how strong and compelling the grip of the cult is, the built in mechanisms to keep people in, and that we really did start from a position of taking it seriously.


Also, anger, or resentment, of a feeling of hating xianity is a perfectly normal part of the process and not unusual at all. It's just one of the stages we pass through and it should eventually subside or diminish over time.



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  • Super Moderator

Marie, don't feel bad, you are not alone.


I was in the cult for five years and have been free for the last fifteen. I wasn't in a crisis or anything like that when I got hooked, and I am embarrassed that I was so naive to fall for it all. However, I try to remember that so many people wiser and smarter than I have been or still are mentally shackled by this powerful and pervasive religious movement. When you are immersed in the propaganda, all your activities and friends are about the religion, it's hard to manage a free, honest thought. Congratulations on figuring it out, and welcome to freedom!


- Chris

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Hi Marie....


I'm new here and can relate to much of your story. My last two years especially have been interesting, to say the least.


I too have had professional counseling. It has been up and down...and still is, but I'm mainly thankful now. My life has been rough (as much of my fellow humans has been), but it could have been much worse. Bitterness eats away at the soul, yet it seems to be part of what some folks (including myself) have had to deal with/process through, and I still am processing through....but it has less "grip" on me than last year. And hopefully, this year will be even better.


I've heard it said that exiting a "cult" after being so very involved is similar to a divorce, with a whole range of emotions depending on one's experiences and relationship with the group....similar to a spouse.


One thing my counselor has worked with me regarding is to understand the purpose of the bitterness/rage. I've felt it, wrote about it, talked about it, sat with it, talked to it, and now I'm kinda tired of it. lol I still don't know if I understand its purpose.


I know not everyone is a reader, but books have helped me. I have read different books regarding emotional and spiritual abuse which have helped me recognize patterns in myself, and it also helped to read accounts of other folks' journeys. Hopefully that will help me from falling prey to a group-think mentality. I don't know if that is fully attainable, as we are social creatures.


There is a book list on this forum, which you've probably already seen or someone may have recommended:



I also got involved online with folks of an eclectic bent...all across the board....from atheist and pagans to fundamentalist....but who all had a common interest (writing) outside and beyond beliefs. It has been the best thing (for me) in breaking through the group-think mentality....and I have fulfilled a dream of mine as well, which never would have happened had I stayed within the confines of my prior belief system.


I also found the following links on a website when I did a search on "anti-cult cults." Yup....I just jumped from one group think to another, basically....which isn't that unusual. One quote from here is: The best way to beat a cult mentality, is to be aware of what a cult is, then make sure you are not part of that mentality. The fellow who owns the site was once involved with Scientology and then the anti-cult movement, and realized they were similar...just on different sides. So he writes from that viewpoint. Whether one agrees with him or not, it makes for some interesting reading....


What is a cult?: http://bernie.cncfamily.com/sc/cult.htm

Mirrors: http://bernie.cncfamily.com/sc/mirrors.htm



Cheers to you Marie, from one newbie to another,



btw: You posting your story is what gave me incentive to post mine. And funny thing....yesterday I was researching about addiction and came to this board and saw your thread on addiction. We might be on the same wave length there too. Ha!!! :grin:

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Guest WarrantedPVC

Hi Marie,


My deconversion didn't last as long as yours but I also had fewer people brainwashing me into it!!


I think you are a very courageous person to have gone through all that.


As for the past experiences etc... Well, I too have diaries that have a similar effect on me. It was especially bad when I first heard Christian music after I left the faith... but in my case, the effect diminished with time. Eg. the first time I heard "I Surrender All" after my deconversion, I was basically paralysed for over an hour with shivers going up and down my spine. After that "fit" cleared up, I deliberately listened 2-3 times more with a deliberate attempt to "experience" the song from a different viewpoint now, from the viewpoint of an ex-Christian. It wasn't easy, but it got better and now I can listen to it without becoming excessively emotional.


The other thing that took time for me (and to be honest I'm still not "done" in that respect) is learning to respect my past self. It just feels like I've become a different person, and that past "me" wasn't me at all. When I read my old diary entries, it feels like a different person wrote them - but at the same time I completely understand them. I'm also often embarrassed about them, as well as a lot of my actions as a Christian... but this too gets better with time. I've only been out of it for two and a half years, and I quickly realized it wasn't going to be an overnight thing to have my emotions and psyche heal from the traumas.


Give yourself time. Live in the moment and take one day at a time. Respect yourself for who you are today, and respect for your past and future will slowly begin to come along. And remember we're here for you - you have come to the right place. :)



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PS: A couple other things that hit my noggin': I too have felt the grief and loss.....deep, deep, deep, painful grief and loss....for months and months and months. Even typing that tears well up. But it has lessened and now comes in waves and at further intervals. Will the grief and loss ever be gone? That, I don't know for it is very deep. And my husband, like yours, didn't have these same deep responses upon leaving the group we were involved with. But, he has been patient through my processing....


cheers again,


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I am 20 and I left Christianity around this time last year. And ever since, I am becoming more sure of myself, I am able to see the truth about myself and I was able to rediscover my transsexuality, without fear of fire and brimstone. I am attending therapy and I am working on getting scholarships for university and raising money for my surgery. I am planning to attend Naropa University and I want to get a Bachelor's in Writing & Literature.


Basically, life is becoming richer and richer now that I can love myself for who I am.

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Yes, Hello Marie - big welcome to the site!


I probably can't add much to the advice you're getting already. Many of us have been through what you have been through.


I will say that with time, you will find it does get better.


Even after a number of years, the thought that there more than likely isn't any afterlife, doesn't thrill me, but I would never go back to believing in something simply because it made me "feel good".


In deed, knowing that there probably is no heaven allows me to understand that this life is all I have so I better make a good show of it, and knowing this I can honestly tell you that my life is richer, my relationships a better and for the first time in my life I don't have to feel guilty because I thought or felt something that was entirely human.


Again, welcome. Feel free to ask any questions you want. We're very happy to help.





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Welcome Marie!

I myself am having trouble dealing with the idea there may be no afterlife. I'm not really fond of the idea that our selves go POOF when we die, but if it's the absolute truth, it's better than the idea that there's a grouchy old bastard living in the sky who would eternallly damn ninety percent of humanity for just being human. The best idea of all is to enjoy this life as much as we can so regardless if we go poof when we expire, or go on to a higher level of existence, we'll at least have enjoyed the lives we were given.


Best wishes,


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Guest localdude

Hi Marie,


Thanks for sharing.


No afterlife - that sucks! Heaven or something like it would have been great.


...At least there is no hell either :)


My realization that it was all just a nice story..and this all there is...has made every day more precious.

I try to really keep that in mind everyday.


Becoming an atheist has made me more patient, thoughtful and loving - Heaven was like a free pass to eternity

no matter how bad you screwed it up here on earth.



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Heaven is one of those things that we like because it makes us 'special' among animals...


There's no guarantee we're even the smartest beast on the planet, just a successful one...

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