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Deprogramming, And It's Tearing Me Apart


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Hi everyone,

 

I am really glad you're here. I mean really. Before I found this site I thought Christians-turned-atheists were few and far between. Over the past year, as I've struggled with the utter destruction of 30 years of faith, I have felt terribly alone. Thank you for being here, and for sharing your stories and your thoughts.

 

I really need to get my testimony off my chest. There is no one in my life I can talk to. I feel you are the only people who will listen and understand, without trying to save my soul or excommunicate me.

 

To make a long, familiar story short, I grew up in an evangelical Christian background. One of my great-great-grandfathers helped found the Mennonite Brethren denomination, if that means anything to you, and faith as a way of life has been part of my family for generations and across continents.

 

The typical stuff happened in my teens and college years -- questioning, comparing with other religions, realizing evolution must be true, and rationalizing my faith within a new framework. My religious fervor waxed and waned, however, until 2005, when I became regularly involved in our church youth group. An older woman became a friend and mentor to my wife and I, introducing us to the more charismatic "spirit-filled" side of Christianity. I went to a Pentecostal youth conference as a sponsor that spring, and what happened I will never forget. As the music and atmosphere of worship in the auditorium built to a climax, suddenly I was overcome with emotion. Tears streamed down my face. I heard in my mind a voice, felt a presence, telling me I was loved, that my heavenly father loved me and my talents and abilities. I was utterly broken. I felt unconditionally accepted, something I had never felt before from anyone, not even my wife.

 

Fast-forward through the next year. Believing I had been baptized in the Holy Spirit, I was chosen to be a deacon in our church. In my private times of prayer and reflection, I believed I heard God and talked to him. I had intensely intimate and spiritual experiences that -- don't laugh -- I can only describe as spiritual orgasms. They were not physical -- my mind was in such an ecstatic state while I communed with God, that is the only way I can describe it. Four months later, my daughter and first child was born under extreme circumstances (she had to be born two months early, after my wife was airlifted to a hospital three hours away). It was a difficult, trying time, and our church friends and (we believed) God got us through.

 

One year later, I went along to the youth rally, again as a sponsor. Again, I had a mystical, spiritual experience which rattled me to my core. I felt refreshed, revived to be a better Christian and serve Jesus with all of my heart. Whatever I did, I would do it for him.

 

Same story in 2007. Every year I grew a little more in the faith, unlocking the mysteries which I had not seen before, reading profound insights in seemingly mundane or confusing parts of the Bible. The youth conference was now something I looked forward to, a "mountaintop" spiritual experience, and I got to help shepherd young people towards a dynamic faith it had taken me years to discover.

 

But in October 2007, something happened. My faith imploded. I can't even remember what exactly brought it on, but on a cold, frosty night, I was depressed and purposed to get drunk. I looked up at the twinkling stars through the bathroom skylight, feeling buzzed after drinking too much brandy, and whispered at God, "I don't believe in you anymore." I shuffled down the hallway to bed when suddenly I heard in my mind, "That's OK. I still believe in you." It stopped me cold. The next day, I felt refreshed and renewed and wondered why I had almost given up my faith. I carried on as I had before until two things happened.

 

First, in January 2008, we learned my unborn son was going to be born without a right hand, an amputee from birth. The news was a shock at first, but we quickly became positive and were relieved to learn he had no other health issues. We prepared ourselves for what it would be like to raise a child with a special need.

 

Second, in March 2008, when at a youth fundraiser car wash, a person I respected tore a strip off of me over a comment I made which she misunderstood. I never had a chance to explain myself, and a friend and mentor never stuck up for me. I spiraled into depression. How could they hang me out to dry like that? I eventually got over it, deciding to turn the other cheek, but only a few weeks later, my pregnant wife suddenly had to go to the hospital. My son was going to have to be born early, just like his sister was.

 

I watched them load my wife in the medivac helicopter, to fly her out of our island community to a hospital in the big city. The cold spring wind lashed raindrops into my face, and as I waved at the helicopter watching it get getting smaller and smaller, my body was suddenly wracked with sobs and sorrow like I had never felt before. I screamed at the sky, uncontrolled, my primal grief drowned out by the sounds of the rotors and violent storm around me. Eventually, I got control of myself and stumbled towards my truck, feeling drained, small and like some part of me had died. I thought as I walked through the hospital parking lot, "I'm either going to get through this with my faith stronger, or totally destroyed."

 

Well, guess which one came true.

 

Since then, I have found it impossible to think the way I used to. I no longer hear God. I begged and pleaded for him to help us, to bring us peace, to let me hear him or see him or show me a sign he listened or cared. I saw and heard nothing. I began to resent God. Why did he allow us to go through this again? What's the greater purpose of my son being born with no left hand? God heals cancer and bunions and mystery tumours, why can't he grow my son a new hand and show his glory to everyone? And why would God test me to the breaking point like that?

 

It wasn't long before everything I already knew about biblical criticism started to fill my mind. I stopped trusting the "good book" because I realized what I already knew on a subliminal level after years of study -- the book is a collection of tall tales, one-sided rants, revisionist histories and poetry written by borderline maniacs and lunatics.

 

The holy spirit was no longer guiding my life. Had I committed the unforgivable sin by questioning god's very existence, and the guiding voice of what I thought was the spirit? I didn't even care. I went to the youth conference one more time, carefully concealing my dead faith, and again lost control of myself, sobbing, but this time because I knew I could not ever go again. I wept like I would weep at a funeral, and it was a funeral, for my faith.

 

During the past year, I have slowly been deprogramming. I realize all my mystical and spiritual experiences, as powerful as they were, were all in my head but there is a part of me that gnaws away in the back of my mind saying, "what if you're wrong and they were real and now you're a terrible blasphemer destined for hell?"

 

I am almost ready to tell my wife I don't want to go to church anymore, but I still say a rote prayer with my three-year-old daughter every night. I have removed myself from all church responsibilities, but I still let my old friend and mentor come over and preach at us (she can't help herself, for her god is in everything that happens around her). I am two-faced and have trouble controlling my depression and anger. I think they are symptoms of my broken faith and my attempts to hide it.

 

I feel like my mind is being torn in two directions and I am eventually going to have to tell everyone how I feel, but I'm afraid it will strain or damage my marriage and cost me the only friends I have in this town. I'm not sure what to do next, other than go pour myself another drink.

 

Thanks for listening, and just for being here. See you around the forums.

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Welcome, Jabbrwokk and thanks for sharing! I think the feeling of being torn apart is normal, many of us here felt the same feeling as we began to leave the faith that defined us for most of our lives. The feeling fades as you go on and find other ways to define yourself. I would encourage you though to be more honest with those around you, tell them that you are doubting and that you need some time off from "Jesus stuff" to figure out exactly where you are and to get centered again. Being two-faced, while easy is not good for your mental health in the long run.

 

But I wish you all the best!

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Welcome, Jabbrwokk. I hope your children are doing well. I am sure it was painful to have gone through the early births and your son being born without a left hand. Such real life experiences, though exceedingly difficult and none of us want them, do tend to peel away the layers into which we wrap ourselves. There are so many promises in the Bible, particularly the New Testament, which have proven themselves to be lies. For example, John 14:13-14: "And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it." Obviously, this promise is false, but when we were Christians we made up excuse after excuse for why this and similar promises were not fulfilled. You know the excuses: "Not God's will," "God has a higher purpose...," and on and on goes the list of excuses. But the bottom line is that Jesus' alleged promise is false, and proven to be so over our last 2,000 years of human experience. For many, finally seeing that these promises are lies is what may bring us (sometimes quickly and sometimes over long periods of time) to the point of finally accepting the truth that, not just the promises, but the whole thing we call Christianity is a lie. Reaching this truth can be terribly difficult and painful as you well know. You are not alone in your pain as many of us on this forum have suffered through the deconversion process. The pain is real, but it is also natural. You will get past this and you will be glad that you have finally accepted the truth. Focus on what is important, loving your wife and children, being a good person, and constantly searching for and living in truth.

 

Best wishes!

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Hi Jabberwok, Good decision to drop the fakery. You might try asking questions of your kids and wife first to see what they think about questioning their god. It might work better than suddenly being "not a christian". Slowly introducing the change may be more palatable to them.

 

But that raises another feeling I got from reading your post. You seem to tend toward extremes of emotion, either really high or really low into depression. I have a couple of friends who have bipolar tendencies and it is not uncommon. I've seen Christians who felt they were hearing from God and seeing visions and claiming they didn't need sleep, and then crash a week or two later into terrible depression (especially after sleeping for a while). It doesn't mean there is anything bad about them, just some chemistry issues that needed to be tweaked. Something to think about anyway.

 

Welcome to the forums!

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Hey there,

First of all... *HUGS*

This is indeed a great place, isn't it? --Like a cold glass of iced tea on the 4th of July in Missouri.

I feel the pain coming through your words. I'm sorry you have to go through this, yet I'm so glad you're finally on the path to true freedom. You'll need to find someone to talk with about all of this...whether that someone be here or a flesh-and-blood counselor. I know you don't want to lie to your family and friends but I would urge caution when dealing with them. You shouldn't have to hide your newfound disbelief, yet at the same time you'll want to choose your battles. Keep coming here for support, read as much as your eyeballs will allow, and be proud of who you are now.

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I wish I could impart words I know would comfort you, but I can not.

 

My father wanted me to be independent and self-reliant, so he taught me to challenge things. This led to the voice in my head saying "You know it's fake" whenever I prayed. It was gratifying to come into congruence with what I knew to be true in my core, something that had integrity and did not rely on 'convincing' people with sly arguments and interpretations, but simply scientific observation and logical deductions.

 

So teach your children that adults can be wrong, that the church can be fallible. Take them to museums and art performances. Let them see the entire world instead of a small box constructed for their 'safety'.

 

As for yourself, perhaps think on this...Nothing you experience changes the existence, or lack thereof, of God. We are all inherently biased, and cannot trust our senses. The only way to know anything is to observe the world at large and look for experiences that occur everywhere that are common regardless of bias. Or even observe the universe at large. Sun-worshipping is fun, but less so when you realize it's as special and unique as a grain of sand on the beach.

 

Good luck on your journey.

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Jabbrwokk,

 

Thanks for taking the time to tell your story. A lot of us feel that tearing apart inside in terms of what to tell our family about the loss of faith - or the awakening to a reality-based view of the world, whichever way you want to phrase it.

 

Give yourself time and space as much as you can to think through these important issues. Give yourself permission to be a little off kilter too. You just changed your world view. You can't replace it instantly. It is unsettling.

 

Make sure you can realistically see an upside to telling your family. There may be one, but there may not be. You might want to try to see if you can gain a little inner peace before letting your atheism or agnosticism be known. I know it's hard because you an your family seem to be still active in church membership. I quit going to church for quite a while before finally leaving christianity.

 

I still have not told my family about my new outlook on life. But then, I've not been pressured to attend anywhere either.

 

With all things, do what you believe is right in your innermost being. But wait until you are certain about how you feel and what you think about the possible consequences of telling your family.

 

I wish above all things that you would find peace and fulfillment in this new phase of life's journey.

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Guest QuidEstCaritas?

Welcome.

 

R.S. Martin is around here somewhere, she was part of a Mennonite community as well as an Amish one if I am not mistaken.

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Thanks everyone.

 

I'll make this quick (I'm at work) but I just wanted to add a couple things. First, it's my son's left hand which is missing (I think I said right in there somewhere) so sorry for my error.

 

Second, thanks to those of you suggesting professional counselling. I have been thinking about that and considered it before I knew I had lost my faith. My old friend and Christian mentor (the one who introduced me to the charismatic side of Christianity) kept suggesting a Christian counsellor, but something inside me recoiled at that. I knew I needed to see a real professional, but never took the steps. Now I will, because I suspect I do have a mood disorder of some kind and saw the same symptoms in my mother and my grandmother. I am going to talk to a professional and see what they say.

 

Third, I too have wondered why it's a short jump from charismatic Christianity to atheism or agnosticism, and I suspect it's like the difference between Ripley's Believe It Or Not and a travelling sideshow. Ripley's presents something bizarre in a reasonable, professional way that can be stomached and ignored, but a circus sideshow is all about the quick, emotional shock value, and it works really well, even if you know in the back of your mind it's bullshit. But while you have no control over how Ripley's presents the program, at a sideshow it's really easy -- if you're determined enough -- to peek behind the curtain and see what's really going on.

 

Fourth, it's good of you to quote this verse: John 14:13-14: "And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it." That one always bugged me, because I knew it had to be bullshit. It requires a feat of mental acrobatics to justify that one, given the amount of people professing to be Christians starving to death around the world. Did they ask God for food? Probably. Why didn't they get help from God? Is he teaching them a lesson? If so, that's pretty cruel for a God of love. Is he using their plight to get richer Christians to help? If so, that's also cruel, and cynical too. And my life is pretty good -- my family isn't starving to death -- but when I asked God and Jesus Christ for an answer why my son had to be born under such extreme circumstances, and when my faith really hit the wall when I asked for some small meager sign of his existence, I received nothing. I guess that's because it's a lie. I refuse to accept the traditional reasons given by Christians that you already pointed out.

 

Finally, today I feel more at peace than I have in months. I am in no danger of becoming an alcoholic, don't worry. I don't enjoy puking my guts out so I am very careful about my alcohol intake, plus I don't get cravings for alcohol, ever. That's not a road I'm going to travel to deal with my stuff. But just talking about it here has made me feel so much better already, I know it was the right thing to do.

 

Thanks again for listening, and for your helpful, compassionate suggestions.

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Hey there Jabbrwokk, you've got one hell of a story. (Pun not intended.) And you've got a rad avatar, too. Who is that, David Carradine?

 

when suddenly I heard in my mind, "That's OK. I still believe in you." It stopped me cold. The next day, I felt refreshed and renewed and wondered why I had almost given up my faith. I carried on as I had before until two things happened.

 

Okay, I've had shit like that happen to me too. Where God would say shit like that in my mind just out of the blue. For example, one time when I was 17 I was lying in bed and contemplating all the bad-ass tattoos I was going to get once I turned 18. This was before full sleeves and neck tatts were trendy like they are now, back in the glorious days when it still meant that you were a dangerous fucking freak. So anyways, just out of nowhere, God says "you're not going to be paying for that with the money I provide for you." I was like "auuughhhhhh!!!!" near panic attack. My pastor later told me that since God provides everything in our lives, that I wouldn't be getting any tatts. So I thought "great, I either have to get them done for free or start robbing liquor stores to get around this technicality."

 

In hindsight, 'the Voice' did me a favor because I would've gotten a bunch of stupid shit, most of it Jesus-related with maybe a few Straight-Edge tatts thrown in. By the way, Straight-Edge sucks, too. No booze, no weed, and no pussy? You can shove that up your ass. I still don't have any tatts but I contemplate it from time to time. If I ever do, I'd get some like Henry Rollins, who was one of the first punk dudes to get tatted, and it freaked people out back then. Look him up on Google Image if you don't know what his look like. Basically, sleeves and shit are overdone, and getting shit on your neck and hands is too much shit to deal with in the real world.

 

Maybe one of you guys that knows about neuroscience could help us out here. Because years later, this is one of the things that still fucks with my head.

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but don't we all have a storage area in our brains jammed with shit we've heard from real and imaginary authority figures?

I really think there's something to that. After all, isn't it evident from the bible and the words of Christ and Paul that God only speaks to people who really, really want to hear him? People who have been absorbing like sponges information from preachers and priests and earnest religious friends? Yes there are fairy tales about talking donkeys and other strange ways God "spoke" to the unwilling but there are also newer fairy tales about hovering, talking crosses and 30-foot-tall angels which walked out of Christ's tomb that didn't make it into the bible for some reason. Guess it depends on the editor.

 

Here's another thing I heard from God. About one year ago, when our financial situation made it a hardship to continue tithing, I struggled and prayed about it and asked God if it was OK (tithing is Very Important, don't you know, because it's a small sacrifice we make to give back to God a little bit of all he gives us -- so I have heard since I was too small for my legs to reach the floor under the pews) and here's what I heard/felt: "it doesn't really matter to me, it's your decision."

 

By this point I knew the jig was up. Either teachings about tithing are very, very wrong, and God really doesn't care, or I was starting to hear stuff I wanted to hear (or maybe both).

 

VC -- my avatar is Robert De Niro in "The Deer Hunter," one of the most powerful films I have ever seen about friendship and sacrifice. If you haven't seen it, the scene depicted in my avatar chokes me up every time.

 

Henry Rollins is cool.

 

And Christian tattoos are pretty funny. My brother got one of a Jesus fish with a Canadian flag in it -- the two things he said he believed in most. Now he's gay.

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Finally, today I feel more at peace than I have in months. I am in no danger of becoming an alcoholic, don't worry. I don't enjoy puking my guts out so I am very careful about my alcohol intake, plus I don't get cravings for alcohol, ever. That's not a road I'm going to travel to deal with my stuff. But just talking about it here has made me feel so much better already, I know it was the right thing to do.

 

Thanks again for listening, and for your helpful, compassionate suggestions.

 

I think you'll find this feeling of peace more and more the further you come away from the church and start taking control of your life. Don't worry, the feeling of being torn apart doesn't last forever!

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Guest dragonfly310
but don't we all have a storage area in our brains jammed with shit we've heard from real and imaginary authority figures?

I really think there's something to that. After all, isn't it evident from the bible and the words of Christ and Paul that God only speaks to people who really, really want to hear him? People who have been absorbing like sponges information from preachers and priests and earnest religious friends? Yes there are fairy tales about talking donkeys and other strange ways God "spoke" to the unwilling but there are also newer fairy tales about hovering, talking crosses and 30-foot-tall angels which walked out of Christ's tomb that didn't make it into the bible for some reason. Guess it depends on the editor.

 

Here's another thing I heard from God. About one year ago, when our financial situation made it a hardship to continue tithing, I struggled and prayed about it and asked God if it was OK (tithing is Very Important, don't you know, because it's a small sacrifice we make to give back to God a little bit of all he gives us -- so I have heard since I was too small for my legs to reach the floor under the pews) and here's what I heard/felt: "it doesn't really matter to me, it's your decision."

 

By this point I knew the jig was up. Either teachings about tithing are very, very wrong, and God really doesn't care, or I was starting to hear stuff I wanted to hear (or maybe both).

 

VC -- my avatar is Robert De Niro in "The Deer Hunter," one of the most powerful films I have ever seen about friendship and sacrifice. If you haven't seen it, the scene depicted in my avatar chokes me up every time.

 

Henry Rollins is cool.

 

And Christian tattoos are pretty funny. My brother got one of a Jesus fish with a Canadian flag in it -- the two things he said he believed in most. Now he's gay.

 

If that fish is what I think it is, and if he is not a Christian, a quick and easy way to remedy that tattoo is to add a couple legs to it. :D Then it'll be a "Darwin fish."

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  • 7 months later...

there is a part of me that gnaws away in the back of my mind saying, "what if you're wrong and they were real and now you're a terrible blasphemer destined for hell?"

 

It just shouldn't be this hard to be a christian is what I have been telling myself for years. If heartbreak like yours is for growth or for greater eternal rewards, I say: "God, keep em' both"

 

When I started realizing that I'm kinder than the bible god, I started taking big steps backwards saying..."Wait a minute, something smells fishy in Denmark."

 

I don't know you at all, but I can tell just by your story that even if there was a hell, you wouldn't be the type of person ending up there.

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And why would God test me to the breaking point like that?

 

Oh, how I've been there before. After a severe mental breakdown years ago while attending college, I felt hung out to dry. I never recovered from that incident. I was abandoned by God. When I tried to reach out to a family member for help, she pretty much spit in my face. That, I believe was the beginning of the end of my hand being held out to Jebus. It was the birth of my suspicion that all was not as I thought it was.

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Firstly, Thank you greatly for posting your fascinating testimony! It definitely struck and cord with me.

 

Secondly, I have similar problems with hell now and deprogramming is rather difficult when you are surrounded by unquestioning believers. It feels as though the world is against you and it can be overpowering at times. My family regularly calls my beliefs extreme and ridiculous and I tend to be sensitive enough for it to be rather painful. Still, if you study science and rationality I have confidence that you can, even if it is only a slight amount of progress in increments, overcome religion's deleterious influence. Remember, your opinions are just as valid as theirs; and more valid yet if you can offer rational evidence!

 

Best of luck on your journey away from the skulduggery of religion!

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I don't worry about hell anymore. Ever since I realized the Christian/Jewish hell is a corruption of the Zoroastrian religion, that Jewish rabbis and Jesus were picking the most horrible threats of eternal damnation they could find to get people to follow their teachings, I left that behind. And if there is a God that's such a horrible monster to send the vast majority of all people who ever lived to such a place, I'd rather go there for being skeptical than go to heaven in fear, trembling and horror.

 

And I'm well on my way to becoming a happy, healthy mostly-atheist.

 

Thanks for responding to my story!

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