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Can I add a fifth group? Those of us who were completely brainwashed into the church, forced it down our own throats after enough brainwashing, but just never could accept the roles assigned to us, despite it all.

 

That's me! And I argued and argued as a kid in the mainstream church and as a teen in a Fundamentalist cult. I was in turn yelled at, made to feel unworthy of God's love for daring to think for myself, and told that I was not old enough to come to any conclusions since people had known Jesus as their person savior for two thousand years. Who was I to question them?

 

This is probably why I am such a rebel today and why I have such issues with power structures. It is also why I teach the way I do and, I like to think, why so many of my students like me and comment on how I respect them and their beliefs even if they are not the same as mine.

 

I cannot stand for religious strongarm/guilt/fear tactics. What happened to the love?

 

The temptation to want to fall sometimes into the embrace of an all-loving God and feel peace within the self and so on is extremely powerful for some. I would even say that there are those who cannot live without such a feeling, or some kind of a belief in such a concept. For such a thing we know that a person can even willingly lay down their life, either in an act of extreme virtue, or flying a plane into an office building.

 

That's me too. I crave that which is not there, and for that reason I have been a science fiction and super-hero fan all my life, even when I was Christian. (Actually, this is common among Christians whose sects do not condemn science fiction and super-heroes. Even C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, both staunch Christians and, at least in the case of Lewis, very theologically conservative, wrote fantasy books full of magical creatures. It is also common among atheists...) I need to

feel (at least in my imagination) that there is something sentient that is greater than I and loves me even though I know there is not, and I live vicariously in my novels and comics and DVDs. In my fantasies sometimes I am that greater sentience and sometimes that sentience is a good friend--although it is never a god and never has godlike powers. Just super-hero powers.

 

There is also sometimes a sexual element to these fantasies, especially when this sentience looks like Jensen Ackles, but I'll keep this thread family-oriented... ;)

 

And yes, if I could believe that deeply, I believe I could kamikaze into an office building too. That's why I thank the goddess I am an atheist. ;) ;) ;)

 

And now, back to florduh's initial post:

 

 

Even though they have experienced that life outside goes on the same without prayer or contributing to the building fund, they miss the social group. They miss the comfort of thinking a magical being is looking out for them. They need to believe they will see Granny in Heaven some day. They have never witnessed a miracle, but must believe they do happen somewhere. They are hooked on the emotional group support.

 

I wonder if that is why I have become so obsessed with Judaism of late, particularly since I am learning Yiddish (one step below the holy language Hebrew?) in a synagogue. I also ooh and aah every time I explore the huge historic 19th-century synagogue, which is stunningly beautiful and fully restored inside. I have even begun to think of myself as Jewish and identify with Jews to a large degree...

 

Just being inside transports me to another state of mind and thinking. Two of my photos appear at the end of the post. The lighting is a little off since I could not use a flash.

 

But I do keep it in perspective. Before a recent lesson I went to a Vietnamese restaurant and ordered pork to remind myself that I can love things Jewish with all my heart but that embracing religion, any religion, is not the way to go. Also, some of my classmates are atheists of Jewish descent, and I suspect that my professor is as well. The religious Jews in the room respect the atheists and we in turn respect them. This is far healthier than anything I experienced in Christiantity.

 

Judaism has its problems too, and I don't want to idealize it. But, unlike Christianity and Islam, Judaism is not based on proselytyzing. One can convert to Judaism, but no one is out to argue for conversion to save your soul.

 

EldridgeStreetSynagogue-Sanctuary-2.jpg

 

EldridgeStreetSynagogue-Sanctuary-3.jpg

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I'm definitely not in the second group. I do not miss that social network. The people I was around were some of the worst people I've ever known. But, I HAD to like them since we were a part of the same club. Now I look at them the same way the mainstream looks at people with tattoos or piercings. I've seen more undiagnosed mental illness, more backstabbing, more gossip in the name of prayer, and just more genuinely vile personalities in church.

 

I suppose I would fit more into Florduh's first group.

 

I was raised Baptist fundamentalist and indoctrinated from childhood. A Methodist minister came to our house when I was about 3 and my mother was "born again". The beginning of all my sorrows.

 

God was extremely real to me as a child, although I did not like all portions of the Bible. I remember when I was about 12 that I rebelled against this Bible memorization crap the Baptists were so big on and my mother forced on me. I threw a big scene about it. Wasn't it enough that we had to go to church on Sunday nights and miss the Disney program? I guess on some level I could not accept God just being confined to this book-- a lot of which I did not like to read. Not an Old Testament fan ever. I much preferred to be out in the woods watching birds.

 

Later on there were problems once I learned about evolution and how Noah's ark could not possibly be real. The other problem was what Kyle is writing about. The pastor of the church was a real jerk, as well as the deacons. Honestly I think I was put off of any ability to return after listening to some of the things the pastor said and how stupid and egocentric he was. Because of this I remember thinking "God cannot possibly be in this place". I thought of God as being good, you understand.

 

I still took it seriously though, and considered myself a Christian until around 1998, about 40 years although I did not attend church much of that time. I spent many years of struggle trying to figure out some way to remain in it. This I attribute to early indoctrination by authority figures, my parents.

 

I would never go back, knowing what I do now.

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I absolutely abhor bible study and systematic theology. If that is a route out it's not one that would have worked for me.

 

Actually, I'm quite thankful for bible study and systematic theology, because that is the route that made me realize that the bible is bullshit. I was into reading the bible and apologetics materials, memorizing large passages of scripture, and trying to get the full picture of how everything fits together. The more and more I dug into it, though, the more I realized that there were things that simply could not be fit together and therefore were clear contradictions, thus completely undermining the inerrancy dogma I had been brainwashed with.

 

I did read the bible, but merely as a devotional.

 

I believe that most christians fall into that category. That bugged me when I was a christian, because I believed that as believers we should want a better understanding of "the word." Now it bugs me as an ex-christian because I see that the devotional approach won't likely open very many eyes to the problems with the bible.

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If a Christian insisted I was never a real Christian, I would not argue with them. I had sincere belief... as a child. But it was a belief in God and the love of Jesus, never a blind belief in the Bible despite the fact that I grew up in the church of christ. I figured it was close, but the moral problems I saw in it were chalked up to human error and as a child I was able to ignore the inconsistencies. I deconverted at age 16 so its hard to say how Christian I really was. I had no Christian friends, hated Christian music, didn't think homosexuality was evil, never witnessed... Christianity to me represents everything I disliked about my childhood and the painful lie that was my parent's relationship. It also contributed to my inability to deal with traumatic events in my life and the psychological problems I had as a young teen. I did make the attempt to find god and get that feeling of love and peace, but when I found that love and connection in other people I no longer needed god. So I could not go back because I never really believed and also never received the feel good benefits other people seem to get.

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NOTE GIVEN THE DRAMA THIS PAST WEEKEND: I am writing to fellow atheists only. I do NOT want a Christian response. I am writing about my feelings here because this board is a safe place for ex-Christians.

 

Continuing my theme from three posts up...

 

I realized today that I wanted, truly wanted, to be Jewish. I don't mean Jewish in name only, I mean Jewish in the sense of being kosher and studying torah, of praying to a divine being and feeling loved by that being, of learning to feel love on a deeper level than I do now, of feeling as if there was a reason I was put here, of being part of a close-knit community.

 

Of course, I recognize the dangers of falling back into theology, and for that reason I am careful. But the desire--perhaps need--is there. Despite my having two very close friends and my being an enthusiastic professor who gives much of himself to his students/an enthusiastic OCD volunteer who gives much of himself to people worse off because of OCD, I have of necessity had to be a loner (given my being gay, a person with OCD, an Arab-American, an atheist, and, worst of all, a person who thinks and --GASP!-- reads for pleasure). It isn't what I would have chosen, and part of me screams for Yahweh, Judaism and community.

 

Also, when I needed to get out of my abusive Christian religion and deal with my OCD, my medical coverage did not include therapy and I did not have much money since I was much younger and struggling to pay my bills. The Jewish Board of Family and Children Services took me in on a sliding scale basis even though I was not Jewish, and I have never forgotten this kindness (this mitzvah, if you will) or the kindness of those who helped me. I also find myself surprisingly at ease in a synagogue, something I do not feel in a church or a mosque. And so many Jewish people have been good to me in so many ways throughout my life... I'm idealizing, I know.

 

Being half Arab and hearing the stupidity that comes from all sides in the Middle East, I want even more to embrace those who are supposed to be on the opposite side but are as human and as deserving of justice and security as I am.

 

And then this cry for justice and security changes into a religious fantasy; what is real and rooted in a terrible conflict becomes mental science fiction.

 

I cannot believe how deeply part of me cries out for God and religious community even at this stage of my life and atheism.

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I believe that most christians fall into that category. That bugged me when I was a christian, because I believed that as believers we should want a better understanding of "the word." Now it bugs me as an ex-christian because I see that the devotional approach won't likely open very many eyes to the problems with the bible.

 

It was my experience that the bible was just not that profound or deep to encourage me to try and dig in. I dug and found that there was nothing below the surface so basically read out of a sense of guilt or hope that I would see a deeper meaning. I was by no means just a pew-warmer; I really tried. Turns out there was less, not more.

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I cannot believe how deeply part of me cries out for God and religious community even at this stage of my life and atheism.

 

Is it possible that your desire to follow the rules of the Torah is a result of your OCD? It seems like a structured ritual experience and OCD go hand in hand. I'm no expert, just throwing this out there.

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Vigile's thought also occurred to me. Perhaps you've already considered it though.

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I cannot believe how deeply part of me cries out for God and religious community even at this stage of my life and atheism.

 

Is it possible that your desire to follow the rules of the Torah is a result of your OCD? It seems like a structured ritual experience and OCD go hand in hand. I'm no expert, just throwing this out there.

 

Vigile's thought also occurred to me. Perhaps you've already considered it though.

 

Thanks guys. I hear you. :)

 

I have no doubt that OCD plays a role in everything I have said; indeed, it was the reason I became a Fundamentalist. Well, that and my praying for help when I saw hypocrisy in my mainstream Prebyterian church--and then, at age 16, being approached by a guy I had a crush on (even though I was in the closet and unable to admit it) and interpreting it as God answering my prayers by sending him to me...

 

I think you misunderstood me on learning Torah--but that is because I did not supply enough information. Yes, I should approach even the fantasy with great caution given my OCD and the ease with which I could be suckered again. But I did not mean that I actually wanted to follow all the crazy rule (even if my OCD were to push me in that direction). Instead, I would want to be a liberal reformed Jew, not Orthodox or a member of the Hasidim.

 

In Jewish tradition, studying Torah gives great pleasure and is the honey of life. Although I do not like all the smiting, head bashing and condemning in that book, I do like the poetry of the words and the multiple meanings and interpretations that you can read into pasages you explore in various ways.

 

In other words, I am looking at Torah the way I would look at The Iliad and The Odyssey (which is not really kosher, if you will pardon the pun). In my real life I love pouring over texts and learning new things; at 44 I am engaged in the study of music and language for my own sake, and sometimes I embarrass myself on public buses by suddenly saying "A-ha!" aloud as the grammar of a foreign phrase suddenly makes sense to me. That is my honey...

 

...although I really crave some honey in bed too and wonder if I am looking at God... erotically?!! Oy vey!

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One type of ex-Christian has studied the religion in depth and discovered all the flaws inherent in the Bible and church doctrines. An intellectual understanding of the fallacy of faith no longer allows one to pretend. After Christianity there may be some dabbling in other 'spiritual' disciplines, but this type usually ends up as an agnostic or atheist after searching for a reason to believe in magic.

 

If by "going back" you mean re-embracing Christianity, that's one thing. If you mean "going back" simply by espousing some form of theism while rejecting Christianity, that's quite another.

 

There is a difference between wishing/pretending and being open to a possibility.

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That is my honey...

 

...although I really crave some honey in bed too and wonder if I am looking at God... erotically?!! Oy vey!

 

Spirituality can be very erotic. It makes sense to me, though it seems strange from the typical patriarchal religious standpoint. A have a friend who dabbled in Judaism. She didn't want to go through all their conversion steps because she didn't want to feel tied to it, but she certainly gained a lot from the Torah and reformed Judaism. She is a wild one and desires, if not needs, structure and boundaries in her life or she just goes all over the place.

 

God would have to be a very sexual being - creation always is. He would have designed the genders, the genitals and orgasms. There is not much more to basic life than eating (and pooping) and having sex. When I think about god (conceptually not literally) the heart of it is always erotic and sexual. The BIG phallus of our minds creation. Jehovah is, in my opinion, pretty much literally a big dick - overly on the the male dominance side, but I easily see how it can be arousing. Maybe I read too much into that line of yours, but spirituality never made sense until I explored the sexual and sensual nature of it. I didn't personally find much of it in Bible-god but I can understand why someone would.

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I think you get what I am saying, Midnight-mindwanderings. Thank you so much for your post. :)

 

I don't know that I need boundaries, but I too am a wild one who does much better when his life has much structure--and I always make sure mine does.

 

I once angered my mother back when I was living at home. I had a catalogue for CDs of foreign versions or Broadway shows, and in it I came across the German Godspell. The German actor playing Jesus was beyond hot and in tight clothes; I said that if Jesus were that hot I would definitely go back to Christianity.

 

Needless to say, that did not go over well... :twitch:

 

But I think you get it. :)

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  • 2 weeks later...

I think it happens mainly because dealing with the crushing weight of things without a sense of protection by an all loving, all powerful, entity becomes too hard to bear for some, emotionally. I tend to agree that those that have studied the logical flaws have the most reason to stay away and usually stay away, although I admit I think that general rule of thumb is a bit less "happening" than might be thought to be the case by your estimation florduh.

 

My two cents.

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I think it happens mainly because dealing with the crushing weight of things without a sense of protection by an all loving, all powerful, entity becomes too hard to bear for some, emotionally. I tend to agree that those that have studied the logical flaws have the most reason to stay away and usually stay away, although I admit I think that general rule of thumb is a bit less "happening" than might be thought to be the case by your estimation florduh.

 

My two cents.

Sometimes I think how my life is shit and it was so good when I believed and thought I had someone keeping me from screwing up. Maybe if I just went back things would straighten out.

 

But I know too much. It's like a superstition. If I just do certain things a certain way no one gets hurt. This actually works in surgery, but it's not effective for ordinary life circumstances.

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  • 3 months later...

I'm not sure if these two were mentioned. Given the nature of this forum, I highly doubt my first example was mentioned.

 

"A little philosophy inclineth man's mind to atheism, but depth in philosophy bringeth men's minds about to religion." -Essays 1597

 

I apologize for probably taking this out of context, the quote however still serves a point. Philosophy forces a religious believer to more critically examine his faith. If the believer had yet to critically examine his faith, it is likely that the depth of his faith, even if held with great conviction, is immature and childish. This new found reason may lead the believer into a false dichotomy: If my current understanding of my faith is untrue, then my faith altogether is untrue. Rather than prompting the believer to develop a more mature nuanced understanding of his faith, he is compelled to leave it altogether. It is only after further investigation, perhaps years later, that the former believer reexamines his abandoned faith in a more comprehensive and sympathetic light, thus leading to a reconversion so to speak.

 

Of course then there are those who recognize the inadequacy of their faith when critiqued by reason, and in a sort of cognitive dissonance, they attempt to maintain the validity of their faith as long as possible, until their faith is no longer tenable - ultimately forcing a complete departure and abandonment of their faith.

 

The second example is the person who returns to his faith out of convenience or comfort. This person once abandoned his faith, rejecting it as a lie, but returns to his faith as a sort of existential crutch.

 

Here is a lovely quote by Nietzsche which explains the nature of these "atheist apostates".

 

On Apostates:

 

Alas, all lies withered and gray that but recently stood green and colorful on this meadow. And how much honey of hope I carried from here to my beehives! These young hearts have all become old already-and not even old; only weary, ordinary, and comfortable. They put it, "We have become pious again."

 

Only recently I saw them run out in the morning on bold feet: but the feet of their thirst for knowledge have grown weary, and now they even slander the courage they had in the morning. Verily, many among them once lifted their legs like dancers, cheered by the laughter in my wisdom; then they thought better of it. Just now I saw one groveling-crawling back to the cross. Around light and freedom they once fluttered like mosquitoes and young poets. A little older, a little colder-and already they are musty mystifiers and hearth-squatters...

 

..."We have become pious again"-so these apostates confess; and some among them are even too cowardly to confess it.

 

Those I look in the eye, and then I say it to their faces and to their blushing cheeks: you are such as pray again.

 

But it is a disgrace to pray! Not for everybody, but for you and me and whoever else has a conscience in his head too. For you it is a disgrace to pray!

 

-Thus Spoke Zarathustra

 

-Kerplunk

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Philosophy forces a religious believer to more critically examine his faith. If the believer had yet to critically examine his faith, it is likely that the depth of his faith, even if held with great conviction, is immature and childish.

This new found reason may lead the believer into a false dichotomy: If my current understanding of my faith is untrue, then my faith altogether is untrue. Rather than prompting the believer to develop a more mature nuanced understanding of his faith, he is compelled to leave it altogether. It is only after further investigation, perhaps years later, that the former believer reexamines his abandoned faith in a more comprehensive and sympathetic light, thus leading to a reconversion so to speak.

 

Or his original religion was in fact as shallow and as simple as it seemed, then later he creates a new faith for himself tailored to what he has learned.

 

Francis Bacon said:

"A little philosophy inclineth man's mind to atheism, but depth in philosophy bringeth men's minds about to religion." -Essays 1597

 

Reminds me of this.

 

For truth itself will readily lead the remainder of the ingenious and the learned to subscribe to your judgment; and your authority will cause the atheists, who are in general sciolists rather than ingenious or learned, to lay aside the spirit of contradiction, and lead them, perhaps, to do battle in their own persons for reasonings which they find considered demonstrations by all men of genius, lest they should seem not to understand them; and, finally, the rest of mankind will readily trust to so many testimonies, and there will no longer be any one who will venture to doubt either the existence of God or the real distinction of mind and body.-Rene Descartes

Intro. Meditations on First Philosophy

 

Neither were big fans of the irreligious eh?

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I'm not sure if these two were mentioned. Given the nature of this forum, I highly doubt my first example was mentioned.

 

"A little philosophy inclineth man's mind to atheism, but depth in philosophy bringeth men's minds about to religion." -Essays 1597

 

I apologize for probably taking this out of context, the quote however still serves a point. Philosophy forces a religious believer to more critically examine his faith. If the believer had yet to critically examine his faith, it is likely that the depth of his faith, even if held with great conviction, is immature and childish. This new found reason may lead the believer into a false dichotomy: If my current understanding of my faith is untrue, then my faith altogether is untrue. Rather than prompting the believer to develop a more mature nuanced understanding of his faith, he is compelled to leave it altogether. It is only after further investigation, perhaps years later, that the former believer reexamines his abandoned faith in a more comprehensive and sympathetic light, thus leading to a reconversion so to speak.

<snip>

 

-Kerplunk

That is really a well thought out explanation. I'm sure that there are some that may have actually followed that path, but it suggests that after an initial rejection based on flimsy reasons, further study would then lead the apostate back to the fold.

 

I don't think this accurately reflects what generally happens even if it may be an occasional occurrence.

 

I speculated (perhaps in this thread) that some people leave for flimsy reasons, but without depth of study maintain enough susceptibility to religion that they can be "turned." Leaving religion because 1) some Christians treated them badly, 2) their prayers weren't answered, 3) someone convinced them there was no god, 4) they didn't find god to be omninice, or 5) they were taught that evolution didn't occur while the evidence for it is overwhelming are all examples of pieces of reasons that may not be entirely convincing in the face of apologetics. If they leave Christianity for flimsy reasons, they may return for flimsy reasons.

 

A deist that left the church because of the priest scandal still believes in god. Get them past the disgust with the priests and on to thinking about nice passages in the bible, and they may become pentacostals.

 

But with depth of study in many fields where the evidence is mutually reinforcing, an apostate will not only remain an apostate but be absolutely unable to return to believing in God or Christianity.

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I haven't read the whole thread, but the OP mentioned that those less likely to go back were the ones who left out of rational thought. But I left for emotional reasons - maybe looked at more rationally than most believers, but it was basically "this god is a jerk, the people who claim to love him most are asscrackers, screw this, it ain't worth it!" I never looked back. Not once. It's been about 9 years, I think. It was a process to get there, but once I spoke it to myself, "I'm not christian," it was done.

I'm still spiritual, so maybe I'm just a different kind of deconvert than most. I feel like my present outlook is more natural for me, like christianity was a mistake in my path.

My life isn't over, but I seriously doubt I'll ever go back. Doesn't feel like anything I'd ever consider, it's not a fit with my nature.

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I haven't read the whole thread, but the OP mentioned that those less likely to go back were the ones who left out of rational thought. But I left for emotional reasons - maybe looked at more rationally than most believers, but it was basically "this god is a jerk, the people who claim to love him most are asscrackers, screw this, it ain't worth it!" I never looked back. Not once. It's been about 9 years, I think. It was a process to get there, but once I spoke it to myself, "I'm not christian," it was done.

I'm still spiritual, so maybe I'm just a different kind of deconvert than most. I feel like my present outlook is more natural for me, like christianity was a mistake in my path.

My life isn't over, but I seriously doubt I'll ever go back. Doesn't feel like anything I'd ever consider, it's not a fit with my nature.

I would be willing to bet that you have since supplemented your initial emotional reasons with a wide panoply of other ways of looking at things. Even a casual reading of the science section of this board, or general theology, or - well just about anything (except the off-topic section) will only bolster your initial emotional decision.

 

If you had just walked away and said, "I'm not going to think about that anymore", then you might be susceptible to return. Maybe not. There are no sure things in this area.

 

But you are here, and that could make all the difference.

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The churches prey on the weak. They snag the addict, jobless, jilted, lonely and socially inept. It feels like a safe haven in times of stress and unhappiness. Everyone at times is vulnerable to some degree, even the wealthy business person or professional.

 

 

 

You hit the nail on the head. Every time I've gone back to church it has been after a relapse or emotional meltdown.

I'm particularly vulnerable because I've struggled with addiction.

 

I've learned to just say, "Life is what it is. I can't control shit. Next drama...." instead of thinking "God hates me."

 

The truth is....There's no freakin' plan...it's just chaos. Deal with it.

 

Saying "Oh...it's okay...God has a plan for me..." when shit hits the fan in your life is the equivalent to saying, "I just don't give a shit cuz I can't control most things in this world anyway..."

 

So i just skip the God part and move to acceptance. It activates the same center in the brain.

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I couldn't believe in God anymore than I would want to perform human sacrifice to Quetzalcoatl.

 

Hey! Quetzalcoatl is real!

 

At least he is to Shamans on Ayahuasca....

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I would be willing to bet that you have since supplemented your initial emotional reasons with a wide panoply of other ways of looking at things. Even a casual reading of the science section of this board, or general theology, or - well just about anything (except the off-topic section) will only bolster your initial emotional decision.

 

If you had just walked away and said, "I'm not going to think about that anymore", then you might be susceptible to return. Maybe not. There are no sure things in this area.

 

But you are here, and that could make all the difference.

Of course I've looked at other views since leaving. My curiosity is unstoppable, which got me in trouble at sunday school and in the fundie school. But I still left because I was let down by the community - though I followed that up with a study of the bible, looking for an explanation and/or the "right" way christians should act. That's when I read Genesis, and found out Abraham's god is pretty much an asshole. That made me VERY angry. So I stayed pissed, and eventually threw the whole mess out.

I continued studying many religions, even taking a class on the New Testament in college. Of course, this showed me how much of a melange of beliefs and cultures christianity is, and how anyone pretending it's a one, monolithic revealed "truth" is either gravely mistaken, or a liar. I never really rejected science, as such, so that was never an issue for me. But the history and reality of christianity was very revealing for me, even after leaving for "emotional reasons."

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But the history and reality of christianity was very revealing for me, even after leaving for "emotional reasons."

Yeah, I noticed that too. The history of Christianity, the biblical stories, just about everything seems "wrong" once you look at it objectively.

 

It's like a cube. No matter what angle you view it, it's still a cube.

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  • 1 month later...

I agree about them preying on people in weak states. Its like this "Aww you feel bad? Well you know what would butter those nuts of yours?! Jesus! he'll take all your pain away!" its like a bad 19.95 dollar product commercial. It would take literally something extraordinary for me to consider going back to xtianity. But I have a hunch that will never happen in my life time.

 

I see some people that ignore all the flaws xtianity has, and they sort of cherry pick the good parts out of it and call that xtianity. Maybe that works for some people, that is their own business, but for me I just couldn't bring myself to do that, I would always be plagued by questions, and thinking about how none of it makes any sense.

 

On another note, I have no problem with someone being spiritual, as long as they don't try to convince me of it and they are good people, I would not have any problems with them. I think thats great for them, I'm tolerant as long as they are tolerant of me.

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