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My Long Hard Road Out Of Hell


lunchbox
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I’ve been lurking at this site now for about half of a year. I’ve been meaning to share my testimony for a while now, and so here it is. I’ve omitted large sections so as to make it quicker to read. I hope it doesn’t come across a bit choppy because of it. I’ve spent the last 4 months or so editing this so I’m at the point were I can barely read It anymore. I hope it’s consistent and flows well. I hope you guys can relate in some way, because I’ve sure been able to relate to a lot of your testimonies. I want to extend my gratitude to you all, because this website really has been the only source of comfort on nights where I felt all alone in my deconversion.

 

I became a Christian when I was fourteen. I was at a concert held at a local church when the pastor came up and told us about a terrible place you go when you die. He said that it was your choice as to whether you go there or not, and that God would give you a way out if you truly wanted to be saved. I completely freaked out because of the idea of hell, and that night I became “saved”. I was typically zealous after that. I read the Bible and prayed every single night. I eventually got baptized at a non-denominational fundamentalist church. I was very relieved afterwards. I used to stay up at night thinking God might send me to Hell if I didn’t get baptized. I felt at home with the Christians at that church, especially at the youth group. I met a few people there and found a home away from home. All seemed right in my little bubble.

 

I also dated a very sweet girl at the time. She was a very strong atheist. I didn’t see it as a problem at first, but then slowly I kept hearing concerning things from the sermons at my church; things about not being equally yoked with non-believers. While I can’t blame our break up entirely on Christianity, I feel that it certainly put a lot of stress on us. I would stay up at night and wonder if she was going to burn in hell for not believing in God. It was terrible. After she left me I lived in a delusion that God would bless me with a woman who had a “heart after God”. I prayed to God everyday to bless me with a godly woman, and he never answered me. In fact, the more I tried aligning to God’s will of me being with a Christian, the more I found out it wasn’t what everyone made it out to be. I started to see different sides to my new religion that upset me. I didn’t like the judgmental attitudes that the church had, but I was too scared to say anything. Eventually I become a different person. I starting believing homosexuality, sex before marriage, drugs, and abortion was evil. Worst of all is that I simply believed that people could be so bad as to deserve torture for all eternity. I now believe that there is absolutely nothing you can do to deserve a punishment that lasts forever. I started becoming defensive when it came to theological and philosophical arguments concerning my religion. I became militant. Now I see that the more dissatisfied someone becomes with Christianity, the more serious they become about their faith.

 

Around my junior year in High School, I suppose due to the condemning nature of Christianity itself, I was extremely depressed. After a few years of hearing you’re a sinner, and that anything you do is filthy rags before God, it kind of starts to affect your self-esteem. Eventually the guilt became too much to bear. God wasn’t answering my prayers, and I felt incredibly alone. I lost my girlfriend, who was also my best friend, and now God seemed to leave me to. I considered killing myself many times. I constantly prayed to God to help me. I’ve struggled with depression my entire life, but this time it was different. Now the entire weight of the world weighed on my shoulders. People’s salvation depended on me effectively communicating the Gospel to them. In Ezekiel it states that if you don’t warn someone of their offenses to God, you are completely responsible for their sin. That kind of responsibility is too great for any man to bear.

 

I remember once my youth pastor preached a sermon that made mention of how he felt a “real” Christian could never be truly depressed if they really believed in what Jesus did for them. Of course I started wondering if I myself weren’t a real Christian. I later found out where this statement might have originated from. My youth pastor had a friendship with someone who was manic depressive. A very nice man, as I have met him a few times. When I decided it might help me to confide in my youth pastor about my own depression, in the hopes that he might have some kind of biblical wisdom to give me, he brought this guy up. The pastor said that he could understand a nineteen year old such as myself being depressed, but not the twenty-five year old manic depressive. He said that at that age you just need to get over it and “grow up”. He made depression a thing to seem shameful. I was taken aback by his lack of sensitivity regarding this old friend of his, as I thought sensitivity and compassion were hallmarks of a Christian.

 

I started becoming more involved with the church around this time. I was participating in mission trips, movie nights/lock-ins, volunteering, and I was even a youth leader for a short time until the youth group disbanded. I want to make the point that I really did believe with all my heart that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the Living God, and that He was my Personal Lord and Savior. Most of the time when Christians fall away, people are quick to say that they were never “real” Christians. Since I’m familiar with this forum, I know that that tends to upset us ex-Christians quite a great deal. Of the countless de-conversion stories I’ve read since my own de-conversion, I’ve discovered that most of them were completely sold out for God. They all believed, repented, pursued righteousness, waited on God, read the vast majority of biblical text if not all of it, they did works, they evangelized, many we’re even pastors. Compared to most Christians I know, de-converted Christians were by far more passionate in their seeking after the heart of God. Perhaps that’s why we are the ones who leave, because only if you truly seek after the heart of God, can you realize it doesn’t exist.

 

It was also at this time that I started having what was called “disciple-ing” with the youth pastor; one-on-one accountability and Bible study with a mentor, usually a pastor or some type of deacon. At first I started bringing lists of oddities I’ve found in the Bible to find out what my youth pastor’s answers were. I’m sure your very familiar with many of these already; God’s immoralities, contradictions, absurdities, comparisons between biblical world view and reality, ect. I don’t mean to bore you with them, as I’m sure you‘ve heard them all before. He tried his best at apologetics, and even though I had doubts that he knew what he was talking about, I accepted most of his explanations, and what I didn’t, I put faith before any doubts I had.

 

I still continued disciple-ing for a while after that event, but my faith in the pastor seriously started to wane the more I realized this man’s moral character. For one, our Bible questions seemed to stop and he suddenly became much more concerned with my personal life than with my spiritual life. My freshman year in college I only wanted to take one or two classes, and when he found out he reacted completely irrationally and criticized me for not taking a full load every time I saw him. He’d constantly tell me I was behind the rest of my peers and would graduate later than everyone else. He made it seem as if I ought to give up on the idea of going to college. This obviously didn’t help my self-esteem. He’d constantly make me feel inadequate. I was going to school, working a job, going to church; all the normal things a regular Christian kid my age should have been doing, but it was never enough for him.

 

I remember when he, full of condescendence, told me for an hour that I was lazy compared to him at my age and should start my own business. I was only nineteen and he was harping on me for not having my own business. So I started a small car washing business with me and a friend of mine. It didn’t last very long though, which was good because I hated it. My pastor then started criticizing me for not working out enough and actually said I need to gain ten pounds of muscle and for a friend of mine to lose some weight. This man actually felt it his duty to criticize teenager’s body images. So like a little sheep I go to the gym with him one day, and he worked me out to the point where I literally couldn’t see from exhaustion and had to lay down on a bench. I honestly thought I might faint. I remember points where I couldn’t even hear anything in a busy and crowded gym; I was that exhausted. I laid down for about ten minutes in a complete daze and when I came to, he was gone. Just gone. He left without saying a word. So I called him and he said something like, “Oh I had to pick up my kids, my bad”. Despite all this I was incredibly loyal to him; a trait I’d later find out is very common to children raised by alcoholics, which is what I am.

 

You can imagine that after all that I started to think this man of God was maybe not all he made himself out to be, but I still kept going to church. I started getting more and more depressed too. I started seeing a therapist and even started taking medicine for my depression. All the while I kept praying every night, until I finally just started to lose my mind. I started thinking demons were constantly following me and that that was why I was so depressed. I even thought that a demon had actually possessed me at one point, and I bowed down to God in my room with tears streaming down my face pleading with Him to bring the demon out so I could live a life for Him. But the most memorable event at this time was when I jumped out of a moving car. I couldn’t tell you why I did it. I was just riding along with my grandfather when he asked me to print him a map out online; I flipped out and starting screaming and just jumped out of the car. My first thought was, “What if the tires crush my legs?” I was fine, luckily. When I got home I sat up against a wall and cried for maybe twenty minutes wondering why God had brought me here. I kept thinking Jesus‘ famous utterance, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” After this final episode my mental illness brought me, I stopped taking medicine, I stopped going to my therapist, I stopped praying, I stopped reading my Bible, and guess what; I started actually feeling better by taking it into my own hands. I didn’t have to constantly pay for treatment or waist time asking God for help. I ceased being a slave to my mental anguish, which I’m convinced only fueled it. But like a good little Christian, I immediately started saying to myself that God had finally answered my prayers and I had nothing to do with it. Immediately I began reading and praying again, thanking God that He was finally alleviating my depression and loneliness, even though within a few months it seemed to return full-force.

 

I could deal with everything up to this point. In fact if that were it, I’d probably still be a Christian today. But then the church’s new college service came. It averaged about two thousand kids every Wednesday night. The final straw in respects to my faith in my church was when the college service did a big series which they said would talk about the way I felt, that is to say; loneliness, hopelessness, depression, ect. I prayed God would use this series to show me what was wrong with me. And you know what; they never said a damn thing those three weeks. It wasn’t until I really started listening to those sermons in particular that I realized that they say a lot of words with no real substance. They’d say they know that my generation feels so lost and lonely, and then talk about random church jargon for forty minutes and then give an alter call at the end and maybe sixty kids would come forward each night. I felt so utterly betrayed. They didn’t have any answers. They just emotionally manipulated people into coming forward, and those sheep did every week, in flocks. I couldn’t believe that these people didn’t see that these sermons weren’t really saying anything. Every sermon ends in “give it up to God and He’ll take care of it”. It was that phrase that stuck out to me as such a vague, unpractical statement. I started to wonder again if maybe I wasn’t really saved, because I prayed every night for God to take my pain away and He never did, unlike what they promised would happen when you were brought into a relationship with Him. You could imagine what kind of anxiety ran through my mind when I started thinking down that path.

 

The end of my faith in God came when I spent a day with the ex-girlfriend I previously mentioned. I had so much fun just letting loose and spending time with her. I felt fully alive for the first time in years. I remember thinking, “Why on Earth do I feel so alive being with an Atheist, but so dead when I do anything related to God?” It greatly disturbed me. Now that I had remembered what life felt like before God, I realized that life had only gotten more shallow and empty with Him in it.

 

I can’t say for sure it was my final thought as a Christian, but it was certainly around the time. I was reading the novel “Fight Club,” and there was a dialogue in it that made me think; “If you're male and you're Christian and living in America, your father is your model for God. And if you never know your father, if your father bails out or dies or is never at home, what do you believe about God?” Maybe God was all in my head. Maybe my lack of having a father explained why my heavenly Father was never there either. I finally thought of God as an entity I was responsible for creating. I realized that I was molding Him into my image of what a God would be like. God had broken His promise that He would never put us through more than we could handle, but I can’t blame him seeing as how he doesn’t exist.

 

Now here I am. To be honest, I feel broken, hurt, angry, ect. I feel like much of my high school years were robbed by a lie. I’m still just as depressed if not more. Although I do admit that some days are good since my deconversion. I am taking medication again, but it’s not helping. It was comforting to think that God would make everything ok one day, but now I know that that isn’t going to happen. I don’t know where to go from here. I’m very scared for the future. I don’t even know if I want a future. It’s hard to see any optimism.

 

I was talking to a friend today (a Christian by the way, a very caring an open-minded one) and I was relating a bit about how I feel, which is something I usually never do. And there was one phrase that I said that I feel summarizes my entire life into one sentence; I feel like I’m waiting for life to begin, but I know that that will never happen. I spent five years waiting for God to take control of my life and make it amazing, like the church promised. Now that my life is in my hands, I don’t know what to do. I don’t see anything worth doing. I don’t feel like I can really end this on the positive note I would like.

 

Anyway, that’s my little testimony. Thank you for reading, and thank you guys for your stories and thoughts, because many lonely nights I’ve sat in front of a screen and related to them.

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"I stopped taking medicine, I stopped going to my therapist, I stopped praying, I stopped reading my Bible, and guess what; I started actually feeling better by taking it into my own hands."

 

Your sentence is brilliant.

 

As always, Direct Action Gets the Goods....

 

Don't worry so much about the past. It's over and done and you have lots of life left to live.

Focus on the here and now and all of your amazing potential. Today is a new day with a whole lot of new opportunities. Look around...follow your dreams...follow your passions. Stay active. Do art. Watch children and see the extremely cool ways they exist in and relate to the world. Get some exercise. Hang out in a museum. Go to the library. Experiment with photography. Learn trumpet. Sing (in the shower if necessary). Watch Fellini movies and become an expert on Italian Neo-realist cinema. You get the picture. Good Luck and keep up the good work.

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Thank you so much for sharing. There are parts of this that I really relate to.

 

Keep plugging and remember that life skills can be learned!!!!!!

 

Learn how to say to yourself "I am a little depressed today but so what, I have goals to accomplish and people to see and places to go." Read the article by Valerie Tarico on http://new.exchristian.net/2010/11/gods-emotions-6-pleasing-high-status.html which gives reat tips on getting other peoples expectations out of your head and finding what you believe.

 

I think you will be surprised at how much better you feel in a few months.

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Hello, Lunchbox, and thank you for your deconversion story. Parts of it brought back vivid memories from my own crisis of faith and all the desperate praying which failed to give me any peace and had a very detrimental effect on my mental health. Like you, I found that it was after I stopped obsessing about God that I started to feel better.

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Hello

Thank you for sharing this testimony, it helped me today with my depression. I can relate in so many ways. Just be very thankful that you only spent five years instead of 13, like me, or 30, like some others on this site. All of my twenties, poof, gone.

 

That youth pastor sounds like a real major luge ass hole, i'll bet it was a Calvary Chapel you went to. My best friends wife at the time had to go to the mental ward. Her pastor said it would all go away if she just took more communion. These ass hole pastors should be SUED, and held reliable for how they counsel depression.

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Hello

Thank you for sharing this testimony, it helped me today with my depression. I can relate in so many ways. Just be very thankful that you only spent five years instead of 13, like me, or 30, like some others on this site. All of my twenties, poof, gone.

 

That youth pastor sounds like a real major luge ass hole, i'll bet it was a Calvary Chapel you went to. My best friends wife at the time had to go to the mental ward. Her pastor said it would all go away if she just took more communion. These ass hole pastors should be SUED, and held reliable for how they counsel depression.

 

oops, I mean, thank you for sharing this story, not testimony...

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There are those of us that have wasted far more time. Please don't be mistaken, your feelings of having wasted time are justified. I always find that facts make me feel better. One fact I know is that you only spent part of your youth in christianity. You are still young - and now you aren't in it. No one has all the answers. Fuck, I don't think I have any. I know I felt better when I decided I didn't have to have any answers, that I was ok with just being.

 

Maybe none of this helps you, but no one on here is going to claim to have THE answer. However, we all tend to pitch in our two cents. Maybe one of us will say something that makes sense to you.

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Lunchbox,

 

Thank you for posting your story, because I can relate to so much of it. You nailed it perfectly on how Christianity condemns you, thus making you unacceptable to God. Also, I found out the same thing - most Christians can't relate whatsoever to depression.

 

It is hard to go from religion which proclaims to have all the answers, to the disappointment of realizing that it obviously doesn't. I'm still in the learning stages of being comfortable with not "knowing everything."

 

Your feelings of brokenness, hurt, anger, etc are all normal - I've been there and still have periods of time when I revert back to them. As someone told me recently when in one of them; "Cherish your anger." It is a stage in the process.

 

It takes time to learn how to think for yourself. Actually, all along you have been, but attributing it to God. As you begin the climb out of depression, your interests will start making themselves known to you. Your life is just now beginning! As the dust begins to settle, you will begin to see that also.

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Thank you guys so much. I want you to know that I read each and every response and that your guys words are ones I do take to heart. It's really comforting to not be condemned for feeling a certain way or thinking a certain way.

 

excalvinist - It's funny you say that because our church was actually planning on merging with Calvary Chapel. The only reason they didn't was because we held a mid-tribulation view piont, and I guess Calvary is extremely strict on end-time interpretation. My church isn't to far from Harvest Christian Fellowship which is a huge Calvary Chapel church. Whenever I went there it was like listening to the same sermons I was used to back at my home church. Now that I look back at how nonchalant they were about depression or any mental illness, it really makes me sad because I know a lot of other people probably feel as if there depression is invalid and just needs to be wrestled out with prayer. I know I did, and it sucked.

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