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greylight

The Path That Lead Me Here

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Hello everyone. I am very new here, although I lurked for a bit before posting anything. Here is my testimony of deconversion. Well, I guess I’ll be rambling for a while so if you stick with it, it is much appreciated.

 

 

Finding this site was an extreme relief for me. Some of this stuff is still triggering for me though. I can’t read something about End Times or Hell without becoming anxious and scared and have to leave the page.

 

I don’t really have ANYONE to talk to about this, besides one friend who grew up in the same Church I did and also became an ex-Christian. Oh, and my therapist. This comes up a lot in therapy.

Anyway, I guess it’s pretty straightforward. I grew up in a Baptist, mostly conservative Church. From I young age I’ve always had a deep fear of hell. My mom’s Christian and my Dad is not, so I would have nightmares he would be in hell, and at my young age I knew there was nothing I could do about it. I would lay awake at night, fearing I was going to hell and would ask Jesus to save me continuously. Just typing this is making me angry, because I was just I kid! I shouldn’t have had to deal with knowing my dad (not to mention the majority of my friends and family) were going to hell.

 

It wasn’t until my pre-teen and teenage years that I became “serious” about my faith. I accepted Jesus Christ into my heart (although I did when I was younger?? Or as much as a young kid can truly “understand”. So I guess this was “re-dedicating myself”). I went to youth group, read the bible. I wanted to follow Jesus with everything I had. Thinking back on all these experiences I had in the youth group, I can’t really say that it was negative for me...at the time. It gave me somewhere I belonged, because I didn’t really hang out with people from highschool. I suffered from severe panic and anxiety disorders, and I’m still partly convinced if it wasn’t for my faith, I probably would have done something rash to myself. I was one of the young people, on fire for God. I would look out to the rest of the world ‘lost in darkness’ and know I was one of the Chosen. I was always fascinated with the spiritual warfare aspect of the faith, maybe because I liked Lord of the Rings a lot or something. There is A LOT of stuff about my experience in the youth group. Many of the lessons came back to haunt me, and became fodder for my doubts. I guess I could sit here and try and pick a few specific memories, but I don’t really feel like it right now.

 

So when we were all going away to college the youth leaders gave the “this percentage of kids lose their faith when going to college blah blah blah”. I just felt ambivalent towards that factoid because that could never happen to me! It was inconceivable for me to be anything other than a Christian. That Summer was our last youth retreat and I was baptized in the ocean. It was something I never got around to and I figured that I had to fufill this commandment and go out into the world renewed.

I went to college in New York City.

 

I immediately started trying to find churches and small groups to be connected with. At this point, maybe sophomore year, I began to seriously struggle in my faith. There were a couple of reasons for this. It is when I first became sexually active.. Not even with anyone, just began to masturbate. I felt like a sexual deviant. It was horrible how much shame this caused me. I would pray and ask for forgiveness and the strength to have self control but inevitably end up doing it again. More doubts began and the more I would pray for solace and guidance, I wouldn’t receive anything.

 

By this time I was attending a Presbyterian Church I liked. I would go, but slowly I began to feel like an Outsider. I stopped taking communion, because I felt I couldn’t take it in good conscience. One of the guys I met there became a friend (not really, he was pretty annoying). It turns out he was an opinionated Calvinist, which is one of the worst things to be when talking to a struggling believer. The cracks in my faith were getting bigger and I was growing so exhausted from the constant emotional toll it was taking on me.

 

It was around this time I met my boyfriend (who I am still with three years later). He’s not a Christian, and when he asked me out and I said yes , I stepped back and had to examine myself. Going out with a non-Christian, as any Christian knows, is a no-no. ‘Unequal yoking’ was talked about again and again in my Church. And when I was younger I promised myself I would never go out with a non-Christian because my Mom is a Christian and my dad is not. (side-note my mom didn’t become Christian until after she married my Dad).

 

So this could only mean… I wasn’t that serious about my faith anymore. There were too many doubts, too much heart-ache for me to struggle with it. Later in my years of college, I was still in a Christian small group. I remember talking to the head person of the group and telling her my doubts about Christianity. I remember her looking at me with judging eyes. And I didn’t really care anymore.

 

There was a time after that where I tried to hold on a little longer. I went on and off to this church near me a few times, but then I just stopped when I realized, I was only kidding myself. I remember crying on multiple occasions because I literally felt nothing for this faith I had for the majority of my life. I felt like I was mourning something. There were a few times I tried praying to God again, asking him to help me with the unbelief if He’s there. Prayers you’re probably familiar with.

 

It had been a really slow, detoxing process. In it’s wake the loss of my faith has left a plethora of stresses and phobias I didn’t have before. It also left me with a sense of dysphoria, because I felt I couldn’t trust myself or anything, because what I had believed was true with all my heart turned out to be one big illusion. and Coupled with my anxieties I became very depressed.

 

Over the last year or so I've been seeing a therapist, partly because of this. As I mentioned I have triggers about certain religious things, especially hell. Some of the anxiety is still messing with a sex-life I want to have. I wish I had more of the experience of some of the people on here, that had a sudden epiphany and a great sense of relief. My relief didn’t come until much later in the process, when I realized I don’t need to feel guilty about being human.

 

I couldn’t give a shit what people in my home church think, including the youth group people. The only person I’m terrified to bring this up to my Mom. I don’t know how I’ll go about doing this. I know it will hurt her immensely.

 

I am now an Outsider looking in, and I’m pretty much out of that cycle of shame. It’s replaced with anger and a sense of betrayal.

 

It’s getting better though. I feel like I’m slowly going somewhere I’m not entirely sure where. I don’t know what my spiritual views are yet. I’m going back and forth between Deism and agnosticism. I do still consider myself a spiritual person. . So I don’t know! Maybe it can be a fun thing figuring this stuff out, I just have to keep telling myself it’ll be ok.

 

If you read this much, thanks for sticking with it. It felt pretty good to get that all down.

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Welcome greylight!

 

It's great to have you here. Your story has a lot of similar elements to my own and those of others on this site. I know it all feels very scary now. The fear that the church instills in the faithful to keep them in the fold is truly awful. It will get easier! I think you'll find that the discussions here will help you to work through all of the feelings you're dealing with right now, with people who really understand what you're going through.

 

Thanks for sharing and I look forward to hearing more from you!

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thats not a long story at all. Welcome to the club. continue to surround yourself with people that think like you. Its counter productive to talk to religious people who have a completely different mindset than you and you'll just feel crazier.

 

EDIT: Also, dont sweat being mad. I think we all go through that phase. you were deceived and led astray. You have reason to be mad but its not beneficial. On second thought it may be beneficial reading this back.

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My relief didn’t come until much later in the process, when I realized I don’t need to feel guilty about being human.

Welcome, greylight!

 

I can relate to a lot of your story. Mine was a gradual ongoing, and only now that I'm on 'the other side' do I feel relief. I can finally enjoy being human!

 

Hang around at Ex-C--it's a great form of therapy in itself! smile.png

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Welcome Greylight. Our stories often contain similarities. I think this will be a good place for you to detox. The de-conversion procedure is usually a lengthy process and by lengthy I mean years not months or weeks, but it does get better and easier with the passing of time. I’m sure you will find this a good place to vent.

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My childhood was also filled with the terror of hell and then it didn't get any better once puberty hit. Am happy for you that you are working through your issues - welcome to Ex-C.

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So when we were all going away to college the youth leaders gave the “this percentage of kids lose their faith when going to college blah blah blah”. I just felt ambivalent towards that factoid because that could never happen to me! It was inconceivable for me to be anything other than a Christian.

 

Two thoughts:

 

1. I remember hearing that same factoid a lot. I went into college on the offense because of it. I left college as a Christian, but a disillusioned one. I think the biggest thing is simply being removed from your environment where it is routine to go to church and do the same things as everybody else. It is also the age when people start to really reason and take some thought provoking classes...maybe meet some people of a different background than your own.

 

2. I had that same feeling of inconceivability. How could I not be a Christian? I had always been Christian and it was rooted in most of my relationships. Yet, my Christian testimony etc. was always really boring and uninspiring because by nature I am fairly low key and I followed all the rules. I felt like the people who were really into Christianity for the most part had some dramatic experience with drugs or sex or turning away from the faith or something like that. No cool story.

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Welcome to EX-C greylight. I'm glad you found this site. It helped me (and my wife) through deconversion.

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Welcome greylight,

 

Welcome! I think we all go through the anger though maybe some for different reasons. Anger at ourselves for believing, anger at our family and community for keeping us dependent on the beliefs and even anger that we still have to live in the middle of it even after we've left it.

 

I thought this was right on the mark when it was written four years ago about the time that I was finally admitting to myself that my disbelief was more than just being agnostic. http://www.ex-christian.net/topic/21830-phases-of-deconversion/

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Welcome Greylight. Thanks for sharing your story with us! Hard stuff...helps so much to write it all out.

 

We're here for ya! The whole bunch of us at EX-c know exactly what your going through. You don't ever have to fell alone again my friend!! I'm glad your here with us!!

 

Sincerely, Margee

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Hey everyone,

Thanks so much for the supportive replies! They definitely mean a lot happy.png

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Thanks for sharing your story, the whole hell doctrine makes me really angry, especially when it's taught to children. Fear is the most powerful tool religion has, and realistically, if it didn't have that it would has far less followers because it asks so much and is worth so little given it's lack of evidence. I think that if there were a being intelligent enough to create this universe and everything in it, it wouldn't be as petty and manipulative as the Christian god clearly is. You can't claim to have uncondition love for someone but at the sane time threaten to torture them for not doing what you want, that is not love at all! Christianity also teaches that there is something inherently wrong with all humans, so really, the starting place for accepting Christianity is a position of low self esteem. People with low self esteem are somewhat easy to control and manipulate, and the way Christianity's doctrine is, I can't see it as being anything less than abusive. It takes advantage of fear and low self esteem and guilt and seeks to separate people from the rest of the world by telling you it's too dangerous to get too deeply involved with the world lest you be lead astray by 'the devil'. I believe it's a very detrimental psychological state and I wouldn't wish it on anybody.

 

Given it's nature, Christianity is a difficult mindset to get out of. One has to gain courage and self confidence to question it which the faith system constantly tries to make sure you don't do. It can also put you on the outer with your friends/family, so the doubted potentially has a lit to lose which is is what's so dangerous about this faith system. It really is designed to keep people in for life.

 

The other thing it does is tell you that you are stupid and evil if you don't believe in it. I don't known anyone who likes the thought of being considered stupid or evil by anyone. This faith system really pulls out all the stops to keep people involved in it. For me personally, learning more about science and logic was the key to shedding the belief system and getting to a peaceful place in my mental state, perhaps this could also help you with the lurking fears you continue to have. Thank you for being brave enough to share this with us and food luck on your journey with it all. There are plenty of good people on here who are happy to help by providing an ear if you need it :)

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Thanks for sharing your story, the whole hell doctrine makes me really angry, especially when it's taught to children. Fear is the most powerful tool religion has, and realistically, if it didn't have that it would has far less followers because it asks so much and is worth so little given it's lack of evidence. I think that if there were a being intelligent enough to create this universe and everything in it, it wouldn't be as petty and manipulative as the Christian god clearly is. You can't claim to have uncondition love for someone but at the sane time threaten to torture them for not doing what you want, that is not love at all! Christianity also teaches that there is something inherently wrong with all humans, so really, the starting place for accepting Christianity is a position of low self esteem. People with low self esteem are somewhat easy to control and manipulate, and the way Christianity's doctrine is, I can't see it as being anything less than abusive. It takes advantage of fear and low self esteem and guilt and seeks to separate people from the rest of the world by telling you it's too dangerous to get too deeply involved with the world lest you be lead astray by 'the devil'. I believe it's a very detrimental psychological state and I wouldn't wish it on anybody.

 

Given it's nature, Christianity is a difficult mindset to get out of. One has to gain courage and self confidence to question it which the faith system constantly tries to make sure you don't do. It can also put you on the outer with your friends/family, so the doubted potentially has a lit to lose which is is what's so dangerous about this faith system. It really is designed to keep people in for life.

 

The other thing it does is tell you that you are stupid and evil if you don't believe in it. I don't known anyone who likes the thought of being considered stupid or evil by anyone. This faith system really pulls out all the stops to keep people involved in it. For me personally, learning more about science and logic was the key to shedding the belief system and getting to a peaceful place in my mental state, perhaps this could also help you with the lurking fears you continue to have. Thank you for being brave enough to share this with us and food luck on your journey with it all. There are plenty of good people on here who are happy to help by providing an ear if you need it smile.png

 

Frankly, fear is the only thing that Xtianity has. Notice the huge loss of membership in denominations that do not use fear, either at all, or very little (mainline US Protestantism, etc). The only groups of Xtians that grow at all still use fear of Hell as an important part of its thoughts.

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I could not have overcome this conditioning without about 8 solid years of work...and before that maybe 30 years of some doubt. A lot of that time was before computers were readily available. I also grew up Baptist, Greylight, so I understand the challenge of getting yourself free of this programming.

 

Being on this site helped me a lot, and prior to that, I studied the teachings of J. Krishnamurti. Might not work for everyone, but JK showed me a new way of thinking about everything that turned it around for me.

 

I also wish this doctrine of hell, as well as original sin, was never again taught to children.

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Thank you for sharing that greylight.

 

One thing that's hard about making sense of the transition, is that there is such a soup of emotions and interpretations going on at the same time. You mention mourning, I think it absolutely is a grieving process for some of us, how could it not be? This was someone who we thought we were in a relationship with, who we talked to almost every day, who we went to first with any of our cares or joys. We were told he was our father, our best friend or our lover, or all of the above. Many in the secular world don't get this, they think it's socially acceptable to have a hard time getting over a break-up or a loss of someone close, and when it comes to religion you need to "get over it". But actually losing faith is the same, it doesn't make much difference to how we feel just because that person wasn't there - we believed they were, and we behaved accordingly.

 

That's one thing, and then there's the trauma, the anger, the recurring fears, phobias, anxiety, that we also associate with this relationship. How on earth do we deal with both of these things at the same time? When you lose a loved one you can concentrate on missing them, mourning them, celebrating what they meant to you, then try to make sense of life without them. What if that person was also a source of great pain and suffering, anguish, or fear? What if they were, in a way, your abuser? How do you mourn them then? Where's the textbook on that kind of mourning? I'd like to know.

 

On the plus side, there is much to be joyful about. In some ways, life begins here. Freedom. I was in despair when I thought that after God I was left with nothing. A friend smiled and simply said, 'or perhaps you are left with everything'. Think of all the things you can do now. Life is ahead of us, think of the possibilities. There's no set path we must stick to, we can experience life to the fullest now, sample and taste a little bit of everything. Can we be joyful while we're experiencing such depths of sorrow? Maybe, maybe not. What I do know is that if we think we can, we must never feel guilty about it. Life is ours and ours alone to live, no one else can tell us how we should or shouldn't do it.

 

That also means a great deal more responsibility, things aren't just going to fall into place like it's meant to do in Christianity. It's up to us to make our lives happen, which is both freedom-giving and daunting, if you're not used to taking your own decisions and facing up to the consequences. It's called being an adult thinking human being. This was a big shock to me when I came out of faith, believe it or not. I'll tell you what, I'm starting to really appreciate it now. I wouldn't have it any other way.

 

In many cases we have to figure out for ourselves how to deal with all of this. After all, in terms of the details, we each have had unique experiences. The wonderful thing about this forum is we don't have to do that completely alone. We're all here for each other and through sharing experiences, resources and a listening ear, we can hopefully figure it out together.

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Thanks everyone... wow, I'm getting all emotional here. Thanks Max (maxmaxmaxmax?), this really means a lot. I didn't actually think about this God I loved being a source of trauma during a lot of my deconversion. I placed the blame on myself and my failings. Finding some of the articles on this site helped me with that too, that it is possible to inflict inner emotional violence on one's self. And I agree it's something secular world doesn't really get.... I guess the easiest way to explain it is the feeling of loss of someone close.

 

 

On the plus side, there is much to be joyful about. In some ways, life begins here. Freedom. I was in despair when I thought that after God I was left with nothing. A friend smiled and simply said, 'or perhaps you are left with everything'. Think of all the things you can do now. Life is ahead of us, think of the possibilities. There's no set path we must stick to, we can experience life to the fullest now, sample and taste a little bit of everything. Can we be joyful while we're experiencing such depths of sorrow? Maybe, maybe not. What I do know is that if we think we can, we must never feel guilty about it. Life is ours and ours alone to live, no one else can tell us how we should or shouldn't do it.

 

 

Wow, what that's really a beautiful thing isn't it? I feel like now I can start to be joyful and excited about life and the possibilities instead of feeling like my life was in shambles and being scared about my future. I'm still concerned about how my mom will take this... but I think by now she must have figured something was up.

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Welcome :) I am glad you're here, and even gladder that you're taking steps to find peace in your life. Having someone to talk to is just wonderful. It sounds like you need it, especially if you're still having panic attacks over those harmful extortion tactics Christianity uses to terrify doubters. If it were real, they wouldn't need to threaten you to keep you in line! Sometimes it just takes a while to realize that, though. You'll get there if you keep learning and reading. Things are topsy-turvy now, and it sounds like you're mourning What Might Have Been. Especially for us religious women, we get this idea in our heads of what our lives will look like, how we'll live, what we'll do, and when something up-ends that expectation, we get hit especially hard. I did that with life, with men, with religion, with jobs. I don't know about you, but I was mourning not the loss of Boyfriend!Jesus, my church life, my happy Stepford marriage, my work... I was mourning what those things could have been with enough coaxing, enough straining, enough trying, enough submitting, enough behaving, enough ignoring my real needs and talents. None of those things were actually worth the mourning, but their potential seemed like they were, at the time. In time I realized there were LOTS of other men, other jobs, other religions, you name it, that were a lot closer to healthy for me right out of the box than what I was struggling so hard to try to force to be halfway adequate. I spent a lot of time mourning till then, though. I wonder if you'd see similar parallels in your current situation.

 

But either way, you're welcome here :) You're safe now and at some point soon, you will be joyful and excited again.

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Welcome, greylight.

 

I'm glad you saw the truth about Christianity and were able to walk away. I hope therapy helps you get over the fears and anxiety.

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