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Now What I Do With These Christian Tattoos?


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Hello all. I first have to say I am very grateful for finding this site. I'm still deconverting I guess, but essentially atheist a this point, and through this difficult and even sometimes painful experience I've gotten comfort just knowing others are out there who can understand where I'm coming from.

 

I'm not sure I should explain my entire testimony here yet, as I tend to include a lot of details and it's very very long. I also just came out today to my fiancee as no longer believing in God, so I'm still a bit of an emotional wreck. But I'll give a brief overview about my roller-coaster ride with Christianity.

 

Like many I was raised in a Christian home. Unlike many we were all over the place as far as churches, I've been in a church for pretty much all the larger Christian denominations (including Catholic). My parents eventually settled with Calvary Chapel, and took a more mainstream approach, though I would be hesitant to call them fundamentalists (and they've usually been against right wing politics). I remember telling my mom when I was about eight years old that I had "given my heart to Jesus", though I really had no idea what that meant then. Ironically it wasn't much later when I first started thinking seriously about suicide at the age of about nine, maybe ten. Depression has been something I've struggled with deeply all my life.

 

During my teenage years I rebelled against my parents and the church, though I still held a belief in God even if I denied it openly sometimes. I was dragged to church despite my protests. Once I was even dragged to see Frankly Graham, I still remember how awkward it felt to sit there watching all those people running to the bottom of the stadium to get saved, and how I felt pressured to myself even though I also thought I already was saved from that stupid prayer I said when I was eight. There were lots of weird things like that growing up. I loved heavy metal music, but that was strictly forbidden (I had a friend buy me a Pantera CD and I listened to it in secret), at least until they gave up. I would get huge punishments for swearing, and it always seemed ridiculous. All the morality parts of Christianity were forced on me, but there was never very much attempt to explain why, I suppose they just expected me to understand based on Sunday sermons. Looking back I was a bit of an asshole, but when my parents were working too much to give me the time of day most of my life and then would just force dogma on me with little to no explanation, I think some of it was justified. While in high school I started talking to this girl from Canada, who I met up there on a very rare family road trip, and all the money I made from my crappy after school jobs just went to my visiting her. As soon as I hit 18 I left home for Canada.

 

That's when things fell apart. The girl I had fallen in love with and moved to Canada for (and had been in a relationship with for over two years) dumped me flat on Valentine's Day without giving me a reason. The job I was told I had before I moved fell through with no explanation, they just changed their mind about hiring me I guess. So here I was in a new country with no friends, no support, not much money and no job. It was a big low in my life to say the least. I fell on my face in tears crying out to God to save me, to help me. I searched the Bible for comfort, though I didn't really understand what I was reading.

 

At the time I thought it was God answering my prayers, now when I look I can see it was simply my desperation looking for things familiar to me. I found a church, which happened to be a Calvary Chapel (surprise surprise), and was welcomed with open arms. I will say, as bitter as I've become with the church, that church in Canada was very good at being open to people (to a point, they still managed to hurt a good friend of mine who went through a divorce, some things are just a big no-no to any church I guess). I got plugged in, maybe more out of boredom than anything, going to prayer meetings and Bible studies, I had something almost every day of the week. I even found a guy at the church who gave me a job, though since I was an immigrant without a work visa he paid my rent directly and fed me, rather than giving me money. I got baptized in the Okanagan Lake there in Canada that summer (still have a tattoo of the sails that are a symbol of the city), and I was "born again". Life was actually good for awhile. Then reality struck, immigration yelled at me saying I was living in Canada illegally (though technically I wasn't, I was still on my six month visa), and I was forced back to the states. I had nowhere to go but back to New Mexico with my parents.

 

I took it as a sign from God. I had a new view on life, and tried to mend things with my parents. I threw away all my "evil", "Satanic" music, quit just wearing black (because that's an evil color...), quit swearing, read the Bible and tons of Christian books. A metalhead friend of mine from high school had also found God while I was in Canada, and turned me on to things like Kent Hovind and creationism. I was obsessed with theology, and "on fire" for God. My parents had found a new church that wasn't a Calvary Chapel, and I got involved there (even though I still went to Calvary sometimes since they were more Bible based). I got involved in the prayer ministry, even starting my own 24 hour prayer house for ten days before the Global Day of Prayer (not many people showed up, and those who were supposed to help me abandoned me so I had to man it myself, but I just spent the time praying and fasting and reading). For awhile I became pretty fundamentalist myself. Though I did have some strange experiences that impacted my views of the church in negative ways (like going to a church in El Paso for a concert and seeing security with guns in the church and the pastor asking for billions of dollars while people were falling on the ground speaking in tongues).

 

I still wanted out of Santa Fe, New Mexico, so I decided to move to Washington state, where I could be close to my Canadian friends. I was also interested in a ministry near there, Chuck Missler's Koinonia House, who I took some "theology" courses on (anyone familiar with Missler knows it's not entirely Biblical theology, more like creationism meets X-Files). I moved to Spokane Washington, even though I didn't really know anyone there. I had met this one college student at my church in Santa Fe who was going to school in Spokane, which even now the odds of running into him seem kind of strange, and he introduced me to a church there. It was very formal and there were hardly any people my age, but I loved the pastor, he was Welsh so his sermons had an extra kick with his accent I think. Once again I got involved with the church, but I never felt like I belonged to this one. I did manage to get a job out of it (again), as the associate pastor was neighbors with the manager of a big book store. I ended up working there for three years. But I found another church that I felt was more for me, it was younger and hip. I remember when I first walked in to that church, I saw the bass player for the worship band had a full sleeve of religious tattoos, I thought that was the coolest thing I'd ever seen. I was used to my socially conservative parents, and my ultra conservative crazy Texas grandparents, so this church was a very new experience for me.

 

I got very very close to a small group of people there. I could write a book on my experiences over the next couple years alone, so I'll just say it was a very up and down time, with the ups very up and the downs almost killing me. For a year I lived with about six guys, all from the church and they were either Moody Bible students or Young Life leaders, so I was sort of the spiritual lightweight in a sense, and with six guys in a house you can imagine the chaos. That was also when I started to feel the guilt the most. I felt guilty all the time, and when I prayed I just felt more guilty and unworthy of God. I started to drink more, and that made me feel guilty, so I would drink the guilt away and that would make me more guilty, etc, it became a viscous cycle. Somehow I survived the worst of the alcohol abuse, but when I moved into my own apartment my depression started setting in more, and I started flirting with suicide. That also made me feel guilty. It was becoming difficult to go to church, I didn't enjoy it anymore, I was just obligated to, and the Bible studies even with my closest friends never seemed anything other than superficial. I didn't feel I could talk with anyone about things, in fear of judgement, I felt isolated and alone...which just lead to more guilt, because it must be my fault, my sin separating me from God and the church.

 

I was ready to move on again, and when I got the opportunity to go to school at the University of Oregon in Eugene, I took it. I was very excited about Eugene, it was a new beginning, in a town that was both beautiful and kind of weird artsy (I'm an artist so this is kind of important), not to mention liberal (I was always pretty left politically, but increasingly more so as I got out of my fundamentalism). Though once again as soon as I was settled I went to find a church, which was a little harder in this town for some reason. I eventually settled on one, but despite trying very hard to be accepted I always felt very much like an outcast. No one made any effort to talk to me, they never wanted to know my views on God or the world, and I think they just assumed looking at me that I was bad news (I had started getting back into metal once I realized some Christians could accept it). I never made much for friends in my classes, because they were all anti-religious, not to mention noticeably younger (I was about 23). So I was stuck between the secular and the religious, I couldn't fit in anywhere, so I became very lonely.

 

I started talking on the phone a lot to my best friend from Santa Fe (I've known him since second grade, and interestingly he has never been a Christian despite my occasional attempts to convert him through the years). He had just been to Europe, and I was very interested. One of my secret goals for going to college was to be able to better my chances of moving out of america. We decided to go together, sort of a drunken spur of the moment decision at the time actually, we bought tickets to Amsterdam without really knowing how we would afford food or hotels or anything. We managed though, I found a place for us to stay in Paris for a week too, it was the trip of a life time. I hated going back, and prayed God would let me go to Europe, and I thought it was my calling. So I guess it's not surprising that through a Christian website I found a nice Swedish girl that I started to talk to.

 

I’m tempted to skip ahead a lot as this is getting long already, but I have to say this time was a very important one in my spiritual life I think. I had left the original church I found for a more fundamentalist one (I didn’t think it was too fundamentalist at the time, since there wasn’t a lot of “gifts” seen, but it was). Actually over half that church left, because the pastor came out and said he did not believe in the inerrancy of scripture. He stated his position clearly once it was being gossiped about, and even held a very long Q&A for those interested more intimately what his views were. I went and found his views on inerrancy very reasonable, and I admired his honesty and courage. He stated in very real terms his faith, his theology, and his determination to continue to teach the Bible as it is, because he still believed it was inspired if it there was human error. The community still attacked him though, people accused him wrongly of absurd beliefs, and I’m ashamed to say that I allowed the gossip to influence my decision to quit supporting him despite my own similar views on inerrancy. This little episode also made me more curious about the supposed inerrancy of the Bible, and I began to research. Also at this time, through my school, I was beginning to question ideas I had about creationism, as I was constantly challenged with facts even in my classes not dealing with science. I also read more about the church throughout history, and was appalled by what I learned, how could Christians do those things? Most important though was how I was treated in the current church, as the new fundamentalist church was rejecting me more than the previous one. I felt I was the only one who questioned things, who had a liberal view politically and theologically sometimes, and obviously my dark artist side did not sit well with that crowd. My views were looked down upon with open contempt and scorn and ridicule, even though no one bothered to learn what I really thought. Once the right wing rhetoric started about how Obama was a socialist trying to kill everyone, and I protested saying the church should focused on God and the Bible, not pushing political agendas, and while they smiled and said “oh yeah, sorry” it still continued, only now an open target for their mockery. I hated that I was going through difficulty personally, with depression and my own walk with faith, and not only did the church not show compassion or bother to help me but seemed they knowingly made me feel like shit.

 

To put this part simply, I dropped out of college (too expensive anyways), and moved back to Santa Fe to save money for going to Europe. I was fed up with the church and american religious hypocrisy. I went to Sweden twice to visit, the first for Christmas in 2009, and then for several months in the summer 2010. I had fallen deeply in love with this woman, Christine, and when I wasn’t with her I spent as much time as possible talking to her. She was hesitant at first, she’s smart and careful with her heart, but she eventually was ready to commit to a relationship and we talked of our future together. As soon as I returned from my summer trip I applied for my residence permit, a rather grueling process , but my case was pretty quick to go through and in just under four months I was going to Sweden permanently. I thought things would go quickly and smoothly then on, and I thought I was finally fulfilling God’s calling for me. I thought all my prayers had been answered. I proposed to Christine in January (though not as nicely as I wanted).

 

Things did not get easy. They in fact have been incredibly difficult. Once again the job I thought I would get no problem didn’t work out. Our living situation is hard to explain and no one is very understanding, but essentially we’re trapped in a small place with her mother (who does not speak English). Apparently this town is impossible to get an apartment in, I’ve never experienced anything like it. Even once I got a good job we were told we would still be at the end of waiting list for years even for the crappiest apartment in a terrible part of town. Yet through it all I continued to pray and think God would work everything out. I did get a job, things were looking up. Then I injured myself on the job, I couldn’t even walk for several weeks, and ended up quitting for my boss’s sake. He gave me a chance (hiring a non-Swedish person is a big deal apparently) and I felt terrible not being able to work, I thought it would be easier for him if he just found someone else, though he didn’t see it like that and actually got really pissed off (like I wanted to get injured…). So after a long difficult time just finding a job, I was suddenly back to square one, except this time it was clear even if I did get a job we wouldn’t be able to get an apartment in this town.

 

It’s been months of unemployment. Depression consumed me, I eventually just sort of gave up. I had spent all my energy just getting to this point only to keep getting knocked down, I couldn’t do it anymore. I still kept thinking God would come through, for awhile, though now I really doubted it. People had been praying for me for months (supposedly, everyone says that but do they really?), I didn’t see any evidence of prayers answered. Christine’s mother even had some event she said was an angel at the store who told her things would get better soon, which even at the time sounded like bull and by now I think it’s safe to say has been proven false. With all this free time I started reading, a lot. Except now I read things from a critical perspective, I didn’t just take things on faith anymore, because faith hasn’t been working very well. Small doubts turned to big doubts, curiosity lead me to more questions. Piece by piece my theology eroded (ok, maybe evolution is possible, but the Bible is still inspired. Ok maybe there are contradictions, but why would they lie? Ok maybe they weren’t who they said they were, but the story is still the same...etc etc). I’m sure this part of the story is familiar by now, I’ve seen it a lot on this site. I eventually just came to the point where everything was uncertain, but was the resurrection of Jesus real, because if Jesus really rose from the dead then that would certainly mean he was something if not the Son of God. What at one point in my life, if not most of my life, was the one unthinkable question was suddenly on the table, and I came to the point where I had to say it was not possible he didn’t rise from the dead but maybe he wasn’t even real, but he definitely was not who everyone says he is.

 

I didn’t know how to tell my fiancée these doubts. I tried to drop hints, but they weren’t really picked up. I got her to admit that there are contradictions in the Bible, and that some evolution is possible, but she already had a more liberal perspective on these things and a greater understanding of the world and history and science (she is European after all). But she had made it clear before we were in a relationship that she had to be with a Christian. I was scared to death that revealing I no longer believed in God or Jesus would mean she would be done with me. Scared because I not only couldn’t survive the heart break, but I would also be homeless in a foreign land as I’m very dependent on her in many ways. Also being on the receiving end of heartbreak many times myself, I did not want to hurt her, more than anything I didn’t want to her. But I kept learning more and more, and my doubt grew and grew. I fought it for awhile, but I quickly realized telling myself it’s true doesn’t make it so. I don’t know when I was supposed to tell her, I suppose from the very start, but when was the start, and if she knew what I was reading she would protest (as if knowledge is evil, Christianity sure is weird). I haven’t been able to sleep for a long time, and she thought my depression was only about our situation and my unemployment (which some of it was). I wanted to tell her but knew she wouldn’t understand, and that the only person I had for comfort was the one person I was scared to tell only made it more difficult. The loss of a personal savior isn’t an easy thing emotionally, hiding it from my significant other was just horrible. I wanted to scream in rage and cry my heart out and bang my fits on something, but I pretended everything was fine.

 

I don’t know what made me tell her today. I didn’t plan on it, in fact I had determined this weekend was definitely not the time to do so. I wanted to ease her into it, whatever that looks like. But I also felt pressured to hurry because I felt she had the right to know before living with me and before marrying me. I broke down in tears this morning, and she eventually squeezed it out of me. She immediately blamed herself. Of all the reactions I tried to foresee I was completely unprepared for that, I felt so awful. I can’t imagine how I would feel if it was the other way around, but I know I would feel terrible if I felt I was the cause for someone I loved losing their faith. It’s been a difficult day, full of tears and awkwardness. She’s made it clear she’s determined to bring be back to God. Though I know this is just the beginning of probably more difficulty and uncertainty, I also feel much better getting it out. And I feel freer and lighter than I have in a long time.

 

Well that was a long explanation, to bring me to this strange point. Thank you for reading all of this, I’m grateful if you have. I’m not even sure what the purpose was. Despite its length I don’t feel it does it much justice. There’s so much I didn’t explain, each day was full of difficulty that brought me to this point. All the times I spent crying for a father to save me, all the times I cried out for forgiveness despite never really doing anything worth the amount of guilt I was smothered with. The many many times I felt like an outcast, that I wasn’t good enough, the constantly trying to feel accepted and loved. All the injustice I saw done in the name of God, all the times I stood by the church despite of it, all the times I saw people hurt or all the people I might have even hurt myself for the spreading of a message I no longer believe in. And I continue to hurt those I care for most by now speaking the truth of how I feel and see the world, what a fucked up world.

 

 

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Hi, panterace, and welcome to ExC.

 

I can tell you are in much pain over your fiancee and your having told her about your lack of Christian belief. Here's my one and only advice to you: she told you from the beginning that she wanted to marry a Christian and now you're not one. Think very carefully about whether marrige to her now is the right thing for both of you. Maybe it is, I don't know, but think very carefully about it.

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Hi, panterace, and welcome to ExC.

 

I can tell you are in much pain over your fiancee and your having told her about your lack of Christian belief. Here's my one and only advice to you: she told you from the beginning that she wanted to marry a Christian and now you're not one. Think very carefully about whether marrige to her now is the right thing for both of you. Maybe it is, I don't know, but think very carefully about it.

 

Thank you very much. Yes, you're absolutely right. I did not expect to be here when I started to question my faith, I certainly did not expect to be here when I proposed. It is something I have been thinking about and will continue to think about very carefully. I tend to over analyze things though and freak out about things occasionally. When I thought about how to explain my views to my fiancee I didn't know what would happen, so it was hard to concentrate on something beyond this in a very realistic sense (like I said, I was worried she'd boot me out and I'd be homeless, so there were a lot of bad case scenarios running through my head). Now that we can talk about this openly I think figuring out our future together is the next step. I also have more trust that we can talk about things seriously as adults now that the cat is out of the bag. We've gone through a lot of bullshit together, it's difficult to imagine this just ending. But yes, I don't take marriage (or commitments in general) lightly, it's going to be an interesting few months I think.

 

Thank you again for your input, and for taking the time to read and respond.

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"all the times I cried out for forgiveness despite never really doing anything worth the amount of guilt I was smothered with."

 

This says it all. You are not born damaged. You are not born a sinner. You are a human being, worth as much you let yourself be. Will you let yourself be? I think you can and will.

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She’s made it clear she’s determined to bring be back to God.

Run away. She believes that she has the right to an opinion and you don't. That mindset goes well beyond mere religion.

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She’s made it clear she’s determined to bring be back to God.

Run away. She believes that she has the right to an opinion and you don't. That mindset goes well beyond mere religion.

 

I agree. That sounds too much like a cul de sac in a sewer drain when the road above leads to enlightenment.

 

Best dry your eyes and make your way home unless she is willing to adapt.

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Well, just from a practical point of view, let's assume I wanted to "run away". What would I do? I'm in another country with little money, I couldn't even afford a plane ticket back to the states (assuming that's what it means to "make my way home"). I hate america with a passion, I think I would rather die of starvation in the streets of Europe than live a life of relative comfort in america, though that's also assuming I could even find a job back in the states (it's not exactly a booming economy). And once my family knows about my deconversion they certainly won't be supportive. It seems my best option at simply surviving is staying like this at least for now, since I'm close to securing a job here.

 

But I can't just walk away and fuck someone over like that. And downplaying the pain I would cause her just so I can justify my own beliefs is no less selfish than her wanting to bring me back to God, at least then she's concerned for me even if it is misguided. I certainly can't hurt the only person I actually care about. And I love her. What am I supposed to do? I understand the negative implications of our different beliefs in the relationship, but what is my alternative besides poverty and heartbreak?

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what is my alternative besides poverty and heartbreak?

I guess a miracle. You are finding every reason to not change anything.

 

If you're incompatible (and from here it seems like you are) breaking up sooner rather than later is better by far. The alternative is to live the life of quiet desperation, making sure you don't cause her any pain.

 

I'm pragmatic and blunt, so sorry if I sound harsh. You have described an unworkable situation, and necessary change can be painful. Since you say you would rather starve on the streets of Europe than live in America, apparently she is your meal ticket as well. I say work toward financial and emotional independence while trying to avoid mistakes so early in life.

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You will face a battle of the wits sooner than later. She has already said she need a xian husband so whatever that entails, that mold is what you will need to conform to.

 

If we assume she is not a fundie but merely a observant xian, then possibly you can make it. However the concept of bringing you back to god as a mission statement does suggest she is more than simply observant.

 

If the big wedding day should be a church wedding with all the frills and thereafter being observant/confessional, maybe it can work.

 

The unequally yoked parts of the bible are there plus the ones of the woman being in servitude to her husband so that she may win him back etc. are all part of the ingrained illogical crap that women have pushed upon them.

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The two of you need time to work out your emotions. Once she is ready, the two of you can sit down and she can listen as you explain your journey of knowledge and how you got to where you are now. Be patient with her but be honest. I would focus on the truth, in that you are always seeking the truth and would be open to more information if it came your way. Moving forward with marriage without working through your issues will not help. Again, my strongest recommendation is patience.

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Thanks for writing your story. I actually visited Eugene a couple times as a kid (and yes, the visits were church related lol).

 

My wife is still a christian, though she took my deconversion very well, considering. She told me that what she liked most about me was my 'godliness' and christian drive. Hopefully she likes more than that now! I grew up fundamentalist, so like you I went through many years where I had my head stuck in christian books, prayed every day, fasted often, etc. When I finally gave up christianity, I explained to my wife some of the reasons why. She agreed with me on many points, though still insists God must be real. Our discussions about the subject have been pretty much debates rather than actual emotional arguments, so I'm impressed with how well she's taken it.

 

I've always been grateful she was never a church kid like me. She didn't get 'saved' until she was an adult. One thing that attracted me to her was that she wasn't so brainwashed like the other church girls. I almost married a girl that grew up in church, and I was glad it never happened. I don't think she would've handled my deconversion. Fundamentalist church kids that grow up and remain christians (like I was) are most of the time very naive and stuck in the rut of their indoctrination. At least from my observations.

 

Anyway, I guess what I'm saying is that if your fiancee is a bit more of a liberal christian (like you mentioned), then she may be able to handle it. If she's been a church girl all her life, this hurdle may be too much for her to get over at this time. You'll just have to talk to her and go from there.

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