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So Confused...!


MWTP
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I’m SO confused!!!!

Hello. Like everyone else on this forum, I’ve been lurking here for months; I even joined up, but have never posted until now. I’m almost 47, a pastor’s kid (PK), and for most of my life I have been a diehard believer actively involved in the church. I’ve been a Sunday school teacher, youth group leader, Sunday school superintendant, Kid’s club leader and co-ordinator, Christian concert promoter, and a deacon. I was hard-core... That is until about eight years ago when something happened to me. I came into contact with a guy who said he was a “Christian Universalist.” This contact drove me to do my own personal study on the doctrine of “hell.” Using Strong’s concordance I looked up the words that we have translated in English as “hell” and examined them in their original languages and contexts. I came to some startling conclusions. It seemed to me that when you looked at the original languages and manuscripts, the whole concept of hell as a metaphysical torture chamber, in fact the after-life itself as a metaphysical state of being, seemed VERY fuzzy. This can’t be right, I thought to myself, and I decided to read a book by well known, conservative Christian scholar John Blanchard called “What Ever Happened to Hell?” I found it to be VERY weak. From here I decided to talk to a Hebrew professor at a Christian University. Surely if anyone could set me straight it would be this guy. To my complete and utter surprise I found that this professor totally agreed with all of my findings. This was my first real turning point. If this doctrine, that I had believed for my whole life as absolute truth, was fuzzy when examined in the original languages, then what other doctrines were there that I clung to, that upon closer inspection, would end up also being fuzzy? From this point on I began to read voraciously. I began questioning EVERYTHING I ever believed. The blinders came off! I read about early Christian history, original manuscripts, textual criticism, the development of the Christian cannon, the Dead Sea Scrolls etc. etc. etc. During my readings I encountered Bart Ehrman, and reached my second turning point. I soon began to ask all of those questions that previously I would refuse to ask because even to think those thoughts might just upset the almighty! I began to examine all of the religious constructs that had been set up in my mind as ways of harmonizing Biblical ideas and concepts that were illogical or contradictory, to see if they were valid. What I soon found was that the beliefs that I had clung to for my entire life were now starting to crumble. I then began to look very seriously at my life itself, and my own personal problems, and I came to some other interesting conclusions:

 

1) I take now take great issue with the fact that I grew up with my head being drummed full of the idea that I was a "worthless sinner," utterly vile, it was in my nature, if it wasn't for God I could not do spit, I'm a worm, and even the good things I do are filthy menstrual rags (yes I was taught that on numerous occasions). You know, I have also read a number of books by people who were successful in various business ventures in their lives (it's not all religious reading LOL) and I couldn't help but notice that in ALL of them the authors said that the key to their success was being 100% positive and believing in themselves. This is something I battle DAILY to achieve and I am very aware that it is a battle against my upbringing where I was taught to feel the opposite. I do understand that others with DIFFERENT TEMPERAMENTS can withstand this kind of indoctrinating, but for someone like me who has a very artistic temperament this has produced some very negative results. I see it in myself, my kids, my wife, my mom, and MANY other friends I have, who were also raised in reformed Christian homes. The number of people I know who were raised in a Christian home and struggle with self esteem issues and depression is unbelievable. Personally, I am convinced that there must be a connection.

 

2) There were TOTALLY misplaced priorities emphasised in my home growing up. ALL THAT MATTERED IS THAT I WAS SEEKING THE KINGDOM... PERIOD. As I look back I realize that I missed out on a great deal of valuable teaching about many things that I SHOULD HAVE RECEIVED. Instead it was assumed that it would all work out as long as I was seeking the Kingdom first. The major one for me was money and finances. I was not taught the importance of money and finance and how I needed to be working to establish a financial future... No, it was don't you worry... The Lord will provide... You just keep doin' that church stuff and seeking the Kingdom.

 

3) I am socially inept with people outside of a church context. I do not know how to love them or relate to them. Again, this is something I am now battling and learning. I look back on my upbringing as almost cult like. It was ALL about church and church people, the world was bad and a potential detriment to my soul. People on the outside were the "unsaved." It was your responsibility to bring them the gospel... after all, they will go to hell if you don't! As a result of that permeating attitude, I honestly believe that I really don't know how to just love people REGARDLESS of "where they are at spiritually." Also again, this is something I see in my wife and a great many other friends who have grown up in Christian homes.

 

4) Christianity's negativity (and this ties in with my first point). I actually think Christian teaching is VERY negative. I was thinking about this the other day. I can sum up, in one line, almost EVERY SINGLE SERMON I HAVE EVER HEARD IN CHURCH. It was the theme of last Sunday’s sermon at the Pentecostal church I attended. Here it is- you are not good enough. That's it, that's the whole message in a nut shell, every Sunday. You just do not cut the mustard. You gotta pray more, you gotta read more, you need more faith, you gotta struggle, struggle, struggle, cause you're just not good enough. That to me is negativity. I'm not saying you should never be challenged this way, yes sometimes you should be, but when that is the constant message you are hammered with... It's wrong. But it also gets coupled with the other negative message- the world is bad! It's all cursed. It's all sinful and horrible, watch out for it. Be on your guard... all around you there is sin and evil and devils and filth. Stay away from the world, its vanity fair, it's corrupt, and on and on it goes. A totally negative message that brings many negative and judgemental attitudes into a person’s life.

 

So what do I believe now? Heck if I know. I know I’m very suspect of all the beliefs I was raised with. I really have to wonder if anyone can know absolute truth by reading a 2000 year old collection of letters and books. I’m still reading books on textual criticism like crazy and I’m actually scheduled to have coffee with a professor of church history in March. I guess I'm looking for answers. With my father being a pastor and all, I can so relate to the post by Bruce that went up a few days ago and my heart goes out to him. I’m feeling the same way... That sick and dreadful feeling that you may have just wasted most of your life! It’s a terrible feeling.

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I can relate! I wasn't a PK, but have struggled with the same issues...as have many others here. Welcome to the forum- I think it will be a great help to you!

 

Deb

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Welcome MWTP! I came to the same conclusion about the cultic nature of Christianity back in November. I wasn't raised in church, but I spent 30 years in it as a totally gung-ho believer. It took a bit of an emotional shock about a trusted pastor for me to step back and re-examine my beliefs, but when I did they all came tumbling down. This forum has been, well not a God-send obviously, but you get the meaning.

 

As far as relating to those outside the church, this is something that takes time. Overcoming decades of mental conditioning takes time. Don't be afraid to experiment. Most unbelievers aren't the vile hopeless scum we were taught about. There are some great folks, and even the pagans are often very sweet and generous.

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MWTP,

 

I can never know your stuggle. I'm only 19 and I was raised in a home with just about as close to zero religious influence as you can get. I've been an atheist by default and over the last year or so, by stark disgust at what I see from religion as well.

 

All I can say is....WHY CAN'T THEIR BE MORE PEOPLE LIKE YOU! People who can see through their doctrine. People who question the very basis their lives have been built upon such as yourself. Good on you for doing it. It takes a lot of courage I hear.

 

Just keep reading and do not settle with anything that gives you the slightest bit of an ilky feeling. If it can be broken down....then break it the fuck down!

 

Good luck :)

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Welcome to ExC MWTP.

 

You'll find many of us here came to our disbelief through research of our faith and more importantly the bible itself.

 

Deconversion can be a difficult time and I wish you the best!!

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Welcome to ex-c MWTP!

 

I deconverted at a very similar age to you - one week before my 49th birthday. That was almost two years ago. The "I have wasted my life feeling" was there for me but as time passes I see it that way less and less. Hopefully you will too. Our past experiences, both good and bad, make us who we are today. It is what we decide to do going forward that is important.

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Welcome! I too, have done a lot of reading into early Christianity, the manuscript traditions and all that jazz. And like you I was surprised when, upon reading the NT in one of my Greek classes I saw no mention of hell, just Hades and Tartarus and other places which were different concepts entirely from the modern Christian conception of "hell". The thing that drove the last nail in my faith's coffin was studying the mystery cults of the Greco-Roman world, there are a lot of similarities to the Christ story there and I think, based on your past research, that you may enjoy reading about them if you haven't already.

 

 

And don't think about how "you wasted your life", instead think about how you can now go out and enjoy the things you want to without feeling guilty about "well, I should be doing x and y for the kingdom instead of this..." and to live and love.

 

I hope you stick around!

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I was never a PK but I certainly can understand where you came from and how you feel. I feel better knowing I am not the only one converting later in life, I am 37 years old. I sometimes wish I had done this sooner but hey better later than never!!

I, too have been doing my own research. I read the Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels... a bit boring but I learned a few things. I am reading the Gospel of Judas right now and I plan on reading the Nag Hammadi... it may take me awhile to get through that one, LOL! I also have been scouring the Bible looking for all these inconsistencies. I mean the "Greatest Story Ever Told" is not very consistent between Matthew and Luke. In Matthew Jesus and his family fled to Egypt but when Herod died, Jesus and his parents went back to Galilee but in Luke, they never left and Herod had John the Baptist beheaded... I mean how can he do that if he died when Jesus as well as John the Baptist were kids??? John was roughly a year older than Jesus and he baptized Jesus when he was presumably a young adult. Also in Matthew there is no mention of Jesus being born in a stable in fact Matthew 2:11 states the Magi came to a house to see the Christ child... not a stable.

So, this is fun and maddening.

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Welcome to the forums, MWTP, and congratulations on doing all the hard examinations of the negative premises you were made to live by. It's very disorienting -- we all know -- and I'm pretty sure you're also questioning how your research and conclusions are going to affect life with Christian family and friends. Many here have faced this, and many are still in the process of figuring it all out.

 

Take your time... you still have a lot of it... and remember to sometimes turn to your artistry for affirmation of the goodness and rightness in you.

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I was never a member of a fundamentalist denomination so I can only vicariously relate to your situation. My thing was to try to find extraBiblical sources that corroberated something (anything) in the Bible. It's surprisingly difficult. It seems the Egyptians had no knowledge of any Moses or Joseph. And the Xmas story is a real hash. You see there really was a Quirinnius who was governor of Syria, he became governor in 6 AD according to Roman historical sources. This was also about the time that the Romans occupied Judea and so there would be the need for a census and taxation. The problem for the Xmas story comes when the same Roman historians record Herod as dying 10 years earlier in 4 BC.

 

My son had me watch a movie called Zeitgeist. I'll warn you now the first 10 minutes really suck so just skip them if at all possible (the screen is black and a barely intelligible foreign accented voice is talking almost gibberish). The movie itself is 2 hours long, but only the first third relates to Xtianity. It makes a strong case for Xtianity being an invention of Emperor Constantine and explains much of Xtianity's symbolism. I do wonder how much of it is accurate because the second third discusses 9/11 and makes the case that it wasn't a terrorist attack. If that information is accurate then we've got some big problems.

 

It's great that you've freed yourself from the Xtian mindset and world view, but all sources of information are suspect. Our challenge as world citizens is to live according to our own best judgment. Discerning what you believe is a lifelong process, not a destination.

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The blinders came off! I read about early Christian history, original manuscripts, textual criticism, the development of the Christian cannon, the Dead Sea Scrolls etc. etc. etc. During my readings I encountered Bart Ehrman, and reached my second turning point. I soon began to ask all of those questions that previously I would refuse to ask because even to think those thoughts might just upset the almighty! I began to examine all of the religious constructs that had been set up in my mind as ways of harmonizing Biblical ideas and concepts that were illogical or contradictory, to see if they were valid. What I soon found was that the beliefs that I had clung to for my entire life were now starting to crumble.

 

MWTP, I really enjoyed reading your story tonight and wish you the best as you continue through this struggle! I can relate to you in many ways. I'm also going through an eye opening experience in similar ways, studying early Xian history and learning more of the origins of the bible. The truth is scary and shocking, but liberating. Good luck and hope you find the additional answers you seek!

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Welcome to the boards, and don't despair. The religulous dogma wasn't learned overnight, and it'll take time to unlearn. Be patient with your self. You've already found a wealth of both information and sympathetic friends right here. Read, ask, and lean when necessary. We've all been there.

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...all sources of information are suspect. Our challenge as world citizens is to live according to our own best judgment. Discerning what you believe is a lifelong process, not a destination.

 

Great way to put it Pantonality. That is a difficult thing for me to deal with...who or what source CAN I trust...we are relying on other's thoughts and biases in so much of what we read. But as you say I'm using my own best judgement and plugging along...

 

Deb

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Welcome!

 

I believe in God but not the religious version of God.

 

I was also a PK, and before I left the church I ran a ministry supporting the persecuted church raising money to support churches in other countries. It was difficult for me for the first few years to get over my Christian indoctrination and accept others as they are--people, like you and me.

 

Politics places labels on others so that everyone is categorized into little slots that give them an identity and a sense of belonging to something--Christians, Muslims, Jews, atheists, heterosexuals and homosexuals. When we close our eyes we see the insides of our eyelids, not the name of the category we are labeled with. Likewise, we should use our new 'eyes' to see people as people and not the label they have been given. It takes time to sort through the teachings of the cult of the cross we came from to determine what actually fits in our day to day lives and what does not fit can be discarded but to do that, we have to let go of the past. This is much easier said than done.

 

We are all in this thing called 'life' together and we have to come to a logical decision to accept each other for what we are and who we are without reservations. Some of us live with others of the same sex and some do not. This in no way diminishes a person's worth to society or to each other. Just meeting someone, even briefly, affects our lives. So, why place limitations on someone due to their gender, sexual preference, or religious beliefs or lack of beliefs? I get angry with Christians, not because they are Christians, but because they teach of 'sin' from their point of view and that anything outside the church or the dubious writings of the Bible is of sin and because they are who they are, the rest of the world is their enemy because the world rejects Christ. I found more love and acceptance outside the church than I ever did from within. Non-Christian people are more open, liberal, and honest. Everyone deserves to have someone special in their own lives wether heterosexual or not, and to teach one is morally depraved for being in a same-sex relationship is denying that love exists in all people and not just Christians. One does not have to be a Christian to express a fondness and love for another human being. Christianity teaches that love is no sin. That is why my favorite response to Christians is 'If love is not a sin, then peaceful activity between two consenting adults is neither sin nor a crime.' To rant against consenting people is a sin because it disturbs the welfare and peace of everyone involved and a crime because it denies a person's right to their own happiness. Because of the religious teachings of sin, Christians are among the most depressed, confused and guilt-ridden groups of people you will ever find. They cannot accept someone else's way of life because they cannot accept themselves.

 

I am a disabled person. When I was younger I could not find work for an extended period of time and I ate out of garbage cans and off the street because even though I was in Voc. Rehab. for disabled veterans, I got very little for money going through the program and it barely paid my rent on a one-room apartment. After rent there was no more money and the state gave me $10 for food stamps per month. Try to live on that! I waited on the Lord to save me, I prayed night and day for help. When help finally came, it was from someone that did not go to church and was not a Christian; a nonbeliever gave me a job. Christians told me I had 'unresolved sin' in my life and needed to get back to tithing. Non-Christians gave me food to eat, Christians gave me pamphlets about their church. Love and kindness is a choice just like hate and murder. I had to struggle to climb out of the hole I had dug because of the teaching of Christianity. Some people on this board may think I'm a raving lunatic when it comes to heated arguments with Christians but I know them for what they are.

 

After I left the church, I found myself being much more generous to those without than I did when I was a Christian. Now, when I read the Bible, and I still do at times, I interpret what I am reading in comparison with the real world today and not what the Hebrew thought six thousand years ago. Much of it just doesn't fit. I am suspicious of the writings in the Bible, how were they written and why and who actually wrote them and why? I don't have all of the answers but I also know Christianity does not have them either!

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