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Continuing Dread...


sgs83
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Growing up, I received heavy doses of hardcore Conservative Christianity on almost every front. I was homeschooled through the tenth grade and spent the eleventh grade at a private Baptist school. My parents, most of my extended family, and most of my childhood friends were very conservative fundamentalist Christians. Church was a huge part of my life; we attended Monday nights, Wednesday nights, and twice on Sunday mornings, and for a while I attended a Sunday night Bible study at our pastor’s house. Religious concerns, not surprisingly, became a very large part of my interior life.

 

I didn’t know any non-Christians, and the people in my life viewed unbelievers with nothing but scorn, smugness, and contempt, a mindset with which I am sure most here are familiar.

 

Doubts periodically flitted through my brain, but like most people I did my best to suppress them. I remember thinking even as a child that the Armenian vision of salvation was incoherent. Being rewarded for a decision that involves absolutely no personal merit struck me as self-contradictory, particularly when the consequences of not making this unmerited decision involved being tortured alive forever.

 

I also noted that many people in our social circles disagreed on incredibly vital beliefs. Our friends in the Church of Christ, for example, technically believed that the rest of us were going to hell, although they paradoxically treated us like fellow believers arrayed against the secular world, which when you think about it is insane. The teachings of our church, conversely, suggested that our Church of Christ friends were doomed since they had added a baptism requirement to and thus perverted the salvation formula.

 

Many Christians, I came to realize, were reading the same Bible, taking it very seriously, but nevertheless differing on vital issues like eternal security and the very nature of salvation. It’s not like one group was clearly following the Bible while the others were ignoring it; everyone seemed to have tenable Biblical support. The difference between heaven and hell hinged, apparently, on subtly parsing verses pointing in opposite directions. A misreading could lead to preaching a false gospel, potentially leading oneself and others to hell. Heady work indeed. He who has the greatest powers of textual interpretation will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.

 

I repressed the questioning until I admitted to myself in 2003, at 19, that I just didn’t believe anymore. Reading the Bible for myself, I recognized that the salvation message was hopelessly muddled. I could not accept that an inerrant book written by a perfect God would express its most vital message so poorly. The fundamentalists, meanwhile, seemed lost in the trees, claiming smugly that the book had no contradictions while bickering endlessly over verses that said completely opposite things. I considered Catholicism and more liberal forms of Protestantism but ultimately couldn’t find a justifiable reason to believe in Christianity, particularly when I realized that the historic evidence for the religion is far less persuasive than the propaganda suggests.

 

Fortunately, my parents understood my questioning and were very civil, even though we had a few heated arguments. They believe in eternal security, and so they continue to think that I’ll be OK.

 

After a few months of near-debilitating trauma and uncertainty, I settled into an inquisitive agnosticism that still continues. Years later, I remain baffled by existence. I don’t think anyone understands what’s going on, and ultimately we can never know. I find the inscrutability of life terrifying but haunting and searingly beautiful. I feel much more spiritual than when I was a Christian.

 

Every now and then, though, I start wondering if I’m wrong. Old lines about unbelievers being arrogant fools who willfully reject God come back to mind, and I wonder if Christianity really is correct, and I’m willfully deluding myself due to arrogance and pride. Maybe God has intentionally hardened my heart, punishing my pride by causing the only available avenue of salvation to seem more and more silly as I drift further and further away. Christianity, particularly fundamentalist Christianity, continues to look absurd, yet on a purely emotional level I am horrified that I’m overthinking things and will end up in hell. I don’t talk about religion with my fervent believer friends and family, but that many of them believe that people like me will go to hell has grown very disconcerting and surreal.

 

Anyway, I’m currently in law school and trying to get ready for finals, and for some reason I can’t get off of this issue. My studying has been horribly inefficient because my mind drifts to religion, and it all seems pointless since I worry that I’ll end up in hell anyway. My hope is that venting will help, and this seemed like a good place to do it.

 

So thanks for listening. Any comments or observations are of course appreciated.

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Hi sgs83, welcome to ex-C!

 

Vent as often as you like. I can relate to the dread. Those fears are the hook that Christianity uses to keep Christians loyal. Keep at the books and good luck with your finals.

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Every now and then, though, I start wondering if I’m wrong. Old lines about unbelievers being arrogant fools who willfully reject God come back to mind, and I wonder if Christianity really is correct, and I’m willfully deluding myself due to arrogance and pride.

Greetings, sgs83

 

I really enjoyed your story. I also really enjoyed your writing! I certainly hope to hear more from you.

 

I hear you about the "what if" question. We have truly crossed over to what we once viewed as the dark side. Have we become wise in our own eyes and hence are fools? I think this is how Christianity cripples its adherents--it hacks us off at the knees. If you have simple faith, this is good. If you think, this is bad; therefore, don't think. If you don't think, you won't leave the faith, outside of which is eternal damnation.

 

One thing I am trying to do is live my life according to the best available evidence. At one time, pat answers were good enough for me and the "God buzz" was good enough evidence that he was real. Now that I've seen the man behind the curtain, the magic is over--this is the new evidence that has come to light. This evidence is stronger than previous evidence, so what else can I do but follow where it leads?

 

I hope to hear more from you!

 

Peace.

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After a few months of near-debilitating trauma and uncertainty, I settled into an inquisitive agnosticism that still continues. Years later, I remain baffled by existence. I don’t think anyone understands what’s going on, and ultimately we can never know. I find the inscrutability of life terrifying but haunting and searingly beautiful. I feel much more spiritual than when I was a Christian.

 

I was moved by this statement. I like the "inquisitive agnosticism" and I can identify with the last sentence very strongly.

 

I have worked as a legal assistant for 20 years. Please try to focus on your studies. It is a hard world to survive in right now. You are young and you have youth on your side. With the perspective of years I can tell you this is a great advantage.

 

Life does not make sense to me. I, too, am baffled by existence and also death, which makes no sense to me in some deep way.

This is why I turned to Buddhism, it makes more sense to me than Christianity.

 

Every now and then, though, I start wondering if I’m wrong.

 

Eventually, this thought goes away, like all thoughts. You just need time. I don't know, what works for me may not work for you. I recite mantras. If you say them thousands of times, you aren't focusing on these things. Before that, I read every book I could get my hands on about church history. Find out how these ideas got started. That might help, too.

 

 

Maybe God has intentionally hardened my heart, punishing my pride by causing the only available avenue of salvation to seem more and more silly as I drift further and further away. Christianity, particularly fundamentalist Christianity, continues to look absurd, yet on a purely emotional level I am horrified that I’m overthinking things and will end up in hell.

 

If an almighty God doesn't want you to know him by "intentionally hardening your heart", then he cannot be a loving God. Does that make sense?

 

All lawyers overthink. All good legal assistants overthink. It helps us in our profession. but it doesn't do anything for us in the spiritual life, trust me on this. What you have to do is unlearn this programming. Focus on that.

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If God is perfect, He created everything we see, and the evidence of his existance and perfection is in His creation, then everything you are going through is precisely what you are meant to be experiencing. Follow it through with the understanding you've done nothing wrong.

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Maybe God has intentionally hardened my heart, punishing my pride by causing the only available avenue of salvation to seem more and more silly as I drift further and further away.

 

You know how unbelievably sick and cruel that would be, to do that to one's own creation, a limited mortal human with all kinds of weaknesses and inabilities, as well as no say in his own existence in the first place? Think about how horrible that would be for Christianity's "God of love and mercy" to do that to some people, while sparing others, for reasons that he won't even tell us.

 

Of course I don't believe in the Christian god anymore, but, the above idea led me to realize even if the Christian god did exist Christians could still be screwed. If the Bible was the word of this god then this god is sadistic, evil, and plays mind games just so he can torture people forever. All the Christians could get to the judgment and say "Lord I have done all you asked, I accepted you as my savior and trusted you." and god could laugh at them, cast them into hell and call them "fool!".

 

Christianity and the Bible are absurd. They don't make any sense so they had to be invented by humans.

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Welcome, sgs83. I really enjoyed reading your story. Thanks for sharing it with us! I'm sorry for all the pain and turmoil you've been through - I can definitely relate. Hope you can find the time to stick around and share more of your life here.

 

Hey, if you haven't yet, you should check out prplfox's story. If you do a search on the forums you'll find him. His story seems similar to yours.

 

Good luck on your exams!

 

2H

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Every now and then, though, I start wondering if I’m wrong. Old lines about unbelievers being arrogant fools who willfully reject God come back to mind, and I wonder if Christianity really is correct, and I’m willfully deluding myself due to arrogance and pride. Maybe God has intentionally hardened my heart, punishing my pride by causing the only available avenue of salvation to seem more and more silly as I drift further and further away. Christianity, particularly fundamentalist Christianity, continues to look absurd, yet on a purely emotional level I am horrified that I’m overthinking things and will end up in hell. I don’t talk about religion with my fervent believer friends and family, but that many of them believe that people like me will go to hell has grown very disconcerting and surreal.

 

I'm also agnostic and have shed my former fears about the Christian god tossing me into hell.

You've been subjected to hard core Christianity and that's a tough trap to escape from because it plays so many games with your head.

What I finally came to understand is that Christianity is full of holes on so many levels.

So many of the standard preaching points are not "absolutes" at all, they're merely subjective talking points.

The Bible is not harmonious, it is not inerrant, and Judaism and Christianity are not compatible.

Christianity also displays many cult attributes:

I strongly recommend this ex Christian site for anyone that was brought up to believe in the doctrinal absolutes of Christianity.

http://web.archive.o...ab5/BIB/toc.htm

 

This is an archived site, the pictures won't display, but all of the reading material and internal links still function.

 

My opinion is that fundamentalist Christianity is fundamentally dishonest and deceptive.

There's really no point in being afraid once you decide not to be part of such a system any longer.

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Common sense, logic and education are the mortal enemies of religion. The emotional baggage is residual brainwashing.

 

Anyway, lawyers do go to Hell, as they should zDuivel7.gif so don't sweat it.

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Welcome, sgs83

 

Hopefully you will find the relief you need.

 

Religious concerns, not surprisingly, became a very large part of my interior life.

 

With all that rigorous training what is surprising is that you still have the healthy ability to question, doubt and to test things for yourself. Your story is an amazing example of human resilience, both of body and mind!

 

Doubts periodically flitted through my brain, but like most people I did my best to suppress them. …A misreading could lead to preaching a false gospel, potentially leading oneself and others to hell. …He who has the greatest powers of textual interpretation will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.

 

I repressed the questioning until I admitted to myself in 2003, at 19, that I just didn’t believe anymore.

 

Generally speaking (with an emphasis on generally) most people repress. What is interesting about is that you “suppress” and later repressed your doubts.

 

Something that was of tremendous help for me when I began my own quest was when I learned that repression may be distinguished from suppression in that repression does not occur because the individual consciously wants it to. Repression happens without the awareness or conscious intent of the individual. In suppression, the individual consciously decides to not express a feeling or to not even think about a disturbing event.

 

Both repression and suppression are extremely important self-defense mechanisms that can render an array of “nasty” psychological results if left unto “themselves.”

 

None the less, self-defense mechanisms help the psyche control dangerous and unacceptable desires; and may protect one form sudden, traumatic experiences until time has somewhat desensitized him or her to the shock. Seems like your time has come!

 

What I gain from your post is that “time” has brought you to a “terrifying but haunting and searingly beautiful” place--a crossroads--where you now get to decided for yourself the road you must take.

 

For me that was a welcome, yet “haunting but searingly beautiful” place; full of danger, intrigue, suspense, death, old age, disease, unforeseeable catastrophe. And also, at the same time a place graced with others on their own quests. A place were integrity, honor, courage, honesty, authentic truths and yes, even contentment, satisfaction, and rest have the potential to be discovered as one moves toward an “undivided life” (Parker Palmer).

 

And no hell, at least the everlasting type!

 

Surprisingly I have discovered “the genuine article(s)” --Beauty, Goodness and Truth-- (you know, those "subjective" realities that religious traditions inaptly “fumble with", talk about and so reverently play "spiritual games" with). And I found them in this unknown and mysterious world with a breadth and depth inconceivable through cogitative intelligence (cognition is necessary but not sufficient for interpersonal, psycho-sexual, emotional, and moral intelligences).

 

For the most part, most of us who inhabit this site have taken (a) road less traveled.

 

As for myself there was no other choice worthy of the struggle --“Costing not less than everything.” (T. S. Eliot)

 

I didn’t know any non-Christians…

 

Well, get ready sgs83 to shake a few cyber hands--you’ve landed in the middle of an ex/non-christian world.

 

After a few months of near-debilitating trauma and uncertainty, I settled into an inquisitive agnosticism that still continues. Years later, I remain baffled by existence. I don’t think anyone understands what’s going on, and ultimately we can never know. …Every now and then, though, I start wondering if I’m wrong.

 

All that comes with the territory sgs83!

 

As mentor of mind said; “with any leave taking there comes guilt and shame.”

My taking “leave” from the faith of my father meant turning my back (betrayal) on the life force that had sustained and brought meaning to my existence. I was turning a deft ear to all that had kept me safe and alive. Along with that guilt came the shame of disrespect and “How dare you to think you can make it on your own without Authority? Just who do you think you are?” I had violated all the Taboos! I was unfit for the task! I was a functional disgrace not only in their eyes but more importantly in my own eyes!

 

The damage I was feeling was too deep to "suppress" any longer. The discontent too great. I could no longer base my self worth, my sanity, my contentment with life on what the “authorities” (parents, science, culture, religion) were proclaiming, regardless of their importance.

 

I was leaving behind, as best I could understand, a "pathology" that I knew from experience that would, in the end, "do me in." What I did not understand was how much of "their" pathology was also now my own!

 

For me it all came down to this:

 

The guilt I was experiencing from my sense of “betrayal” was not enough to counter the absolute guilt I felt for not trusting in what I was experiencing--in body and mind.

The security once offered was no long worth the price!

 

The shame I was feeling was not great enough to counter the shame I was feeling for my not becoming who I “knew,” at the deepest levels of my psyche, myself to be--a hidden wholeness that was mine to discover, to cultivate. A wholeness that was literally killing me be to be born.

The substituted sense of self no longer would pass as sufficient. My human spirit cried out for authenticity and liberty even if it meant damnation! Like I was I was unfit for the high calling of living a satisfied life.

 

I had to change or die! So I left Eden or was thrown out. Because, like Eve, to use words borrowed from Jennifer Michael Hecht's poem History:

 

wished to trade in all of Eden,

......

In fact, I gather that is why,

left and fell from grace,

That might have a story of [myself] to tell

In some other place. [my words]

 

Anyway, I’m currently in law school and trying to get ready for finals, and for some reason I can’t get off of this issue. My studying has been horribly inefficient because my mind drifts to religion, and it all seems pointless since I worry that I’ll end up in hell anyway.

 

Remember sgs83; “You can put off making up your mind but you cannot put off making up your life.” (words I heard from J. Claypool years ago)

 

It is tragic that you are “living a hell on earth” but what would add insult to injury would be to allow an inapt, inconsistent, partial, and incomplete, at best, framework (view, big picture) deprive you from what you have worked so hard to achieve (your law degree). It has you name on it!

 

Endure my friend for a while longer! You know what “finals” mean, an ending hopefully with degree in hand.

 

And so to there is at hand “release” from your existential suffering. There is peace to be had, relief of the genuine sort, with your name on it!

 

Endure the pain of leaving "the garden" as your quest leads you to vibrant and enduring “ways” of being that decrease suffering and bring fullness.

 

(I’m guilty of over thinking too. Hey, “large questions” demand “large thinking.”)

 

Welcome to the crowd!

 

saner

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I am a lawyer and I remember law school fondly, except for the end-of-semester exams. Today I am a criminal prosecutor. The beginning of my religious transformation began during my 3L year, and it was due to my studies in law school. After thinking long and hard about justice and punishment, I began to think that divine justice could not mean Yahweh's curses as described in the Bible when the Bible says: "The LORD detests a perverse man but takes the upright into his confidence. The LORD's curse is on the house of the wicked, but he blesses the home of the righteous." Proverbs 3:32-33 (New International Version).

 

Christians often use the criminal courts as a metaphor for the saving work of Christ. The idea is that we are guilty and are pardoned because Jesus is punished in our place for the crimes we have committed. As Christians say it: "We are justified through the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ." Christians for whom this makes sense usually have no experience with criminal justice. The more experience I have with crime, criminals, and punishment, the more I see that humanity cannot be divided into categories of people who can be described as "the wicked" and "the righteous" (using the language of Proverbs). Goodness and evil are present in every human heart. More importantly, no system of justice imposes "curses" upon law-breakers. The law punishes people, it does not curse them. The law itself is not a curse, but can be a useful tool for developing healthy society. As a prosecutor I try to never forget that the felons I prosecute are fellow humans that deserve to be treated right and will always be part of my community. (Those people from whom curses spew, like Yahweh of the BIble, are usually the very ones who we are in the business of punishing. If he was in the dock, I would try my best to treat him with dignity too.)

 

As for hell, I say "bring it." When the Bible teaches of "divine curses", the Bible requires us to say that what God means by "goodness" is sheerly different from what we judge to be good. If cursing is from his point of view 'good,' then truly his ideas of good are sheerly different from ours. The word good, applied to Him, becomes meaningless: like abracadabra. This, for all practical (and speculative) purposes, wipes God off of the blackboard. What he calls Heaven must be what we should call Hell, and vice-versa. We have no motive for obeying Him. Not even fear. The Bible's knot comes undone when you pull it tight.

 

I have come to believe that the idea of divine justice as retaliation is simply an unfortunate "mind virus" -- to use the words of Richard Dawkins. The name "Jesus" is part of that meme complex. If there is an objective goodness outside of ourselves, then the human conscience, imagination, and practical reason must be the best source of information about it.

 

If you are interested in thinking about justice, then I would recommend Plato's Republic and Plato's Socratic dialogue Gorgias. These books are much shorter than the Bible, and much more insightful on what divine justice can mean: "Justice punishes us, and makes us more just, and is the medicine of our vice." "The unjust or doer of unjust actions is miserable in any case,--more miserable, however, if he be not punished and does not meet with retribution, and less miserable if he be punished and meets with retribution at the hands of gods and men." "Communion and friendship and orderliness and temperance and justice bind together heaven and earth and gods and men, and this universe is therefore called Cosmos or order, not disorder or misrule." Today I call myself a Platonist rather than a Christian.

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Maybe God has intentionally hardened my heart, punishing my pride by causing the only available avenue of salvation to seem more and more silly as I drift further and further away.

 

You know how unbelievably sick and cruel that would be, to do that to one's own creation, a limited mortal human with all kinds of weaknesses and inabilities, as well as no say in his own existence in the first place? Think about how horrible that would be for Christianity's "God of love and mercy" to do that to some people, while sparing others, for reasons that he won't even tell us.

 

God does this multiple times in the Bible. Like when he hardened the Pharoah's heart and subsequently slaughtered thousands of adults and children. All to try and prove some point about how much he liked the Jews. That and Job are the two stories in the Bible that disturb me beyond belief.

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Growing up, I received heavy doses of hardcore Conservative Christianity on almost every front.

 

Every now and then, though, I start wondering if I’m wrong. Old lines about unbelievers being arrogant fools who willfully reject God come back to mind, and I wonder if Christianity really is correct, and I’m willfully deluding myself due to arrogance and pride. Maybe God has intentionally hardened my heart, punishing my pride by causing the only available avenue of salvation to seem more and more silly as I drift further and further away. Christianity, particularly fundamentalist Christianity, continues to look absurd, yet on a purely emotional level I am horrified that I’m overthinking things and will end up in hell. I don’t talk about religion with my fervent believer friends and family, but that many of them believe that people like me will go to hell has grown very disconcerting and surreal.

 

 

So thanks for listening. Any comments or observations are of course appreciated.

 

sgs, welcome to EX-c and thank you so much for sharing your personal story with us. My heart bleeds for every newcomer. This deconverting from years of brainwashing is very hard for some of us. You will get the support you need on this board. The people here to help you are fabulous!

 

I suffer every now and again with the same fear as you... I have said this on the board many times before......

 

Everytime I get these types of fears, I go back and read the story of Genesis and remember how god formed adam out of the dust of the ground, breathed into his nostrals and made life go into him, then asked him what animal he wanted for a mate........after the debate that the cows or horses wouldn't do, he laid Adam down and cut him open and took one of his ribs (bandaged him for good recovery) and made Eve.

 

Then they go happily to the garden where they fucked up real bad because a talking snake decieved them...............

The whole deck of cards falls for me.........

 

Works every time for me........Wendyshrug.gif Best of everything to you. Keep posting ......looking forward to hearing more from you!

 

Sincerely, Margee

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Every now and then, though, I start wondering if I’m wrong. Old lines about unbelievers being arrogant fools who willfully reject God come back to mind, and I wonder if Christianity really is correct, and I’m willfully deluding myself due to arrogance and pride. Maybe God has intentionally hardened my heart, punishing my pride by causing the only available avenue of salvation to seem more and more silly as I drift further and further away. Christianity, particularly fundamentalist Christianity, continues to look absurd, yet on a purely emotional level I am horrified that I’m overthinking things and will end up in hell. I don’t talk about religion with my fervent believer friends and family, but that many of them believe that people like me will go to hell has grown very disconcerting and surreal.

 

What you have described are some of Christianity's more perverse control mechanisms. The very idea that if one uses one's intellect to weigh the evidence of the truth or falsity of Christianity he or she is an "arrogant fool" is designed to stop the religion's adherents from questioning things too deeply.

 

Now, let's think about why a religion would want to stop people from questioning things too deeply. It must be that the questions, if taken seriously and looked into with vigor, will expose weaknesses. After all, if the answers to the questions would prove the religion's tenents, then the clerics would encourage such questions. This should tell you that your fears were intentionally imposed on you by a religion in which discovery of the truth about it will be its undoing.

 

And the threat of hell is the ultimate control mechanism designed to instill fear and obedience. Why would belief or faith in Jesus be, depending on one's reading of the bible, at least a major criterion for escaping hell (and for some the only criterion)? After all, belief or faith in and of itself does not make one a better person. What it does accomplish is help to perpetuate the religion through intimidation and threats of eternal pain and suffering.

 

Putting this together, the religion discourages questioning and calls those who discover the truth about it "arrogant fools" because those who overcome their faith will see that the threat of hell is a terrible lie and those who learn this will be free from the intimidation and slavery that is the true fruit of Christianity. Let the fears you feel be your greatest evidence that you have discovered the truth that the religion is a horrible lie.

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Thanks for all the thoughts and encouragement, guys. The beliefs really do put a stranglehold on the brain; it's quite something to go through periods like this even years after deconversion. There are several things that I want to respond to, but it looks like I won't have time until tomorrow.

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