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Freedom From Brainwashing

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I’ve been a lurker on this site for a couple months after stumbling over it accidentally. Reading the articles and deconversion stories has been so encouraging. It is wonderful to know that there are other people out there that have had the same experiences! Good work, Ex-Christian.Net! Some of your stories have been inspiring, some make me laugh, and a few have been heart breaking.

 

I live in Canada and was born to fundamentalist parents of the Calvinistic-Baptist-Reformed variety. (Incidentally, I believe this variant of Christianity to be very biblically faithful, which is why I hate it the most.) Growing up, my parents imposed a deal with my older brother and I: we would read the Bible every day for twenty minutes. When we had finished, we would receive one dollar for every book of the Bible, and throw a celebration! Naturally this was very appealing, although I don’t believe there was actually any choice in it. My brother and I started in Genesis and read straight through to Revelation. We each received $66 and our mom made a cake for us. Good times, right? I didn’t have a problem with it.

 

I implicitly accepted Christianity. My first “conversion attempt” that I can remember was at the age of seven. I prayed that Jesus would come into my heart and save me. I didn’t really know what it meant but I knew I didn’t want to go to hell. I was homeschooled for the majority of my life and I have to give my parents credit for being good teachers, even if they were using the insane fascist curriculum of Bob Jones University. My mom taught me the most of the time, but in the later grades my dad taught me math and science. Everything was God-oriented, which was what the Bible teaches. “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” I didn’t know any better, so I was content with it. We used to attend church twice on Sundays and have family bible studies every day at breakfast. It was impossible to escape.

 

At the age of twelve we moved away from the big city to a tiny town of two thousand people in the absolute middle of nowhere. We lived on an acreage outside of town, further isolating ourselves. It was during this period that I dove hardcore into Christianity. I continued reading the Bible through cover-to-cover, now on my own and without rewards. I read countless theology books and listened to innumerable sermons by preachers such as Paul Washer, RC Sproul, John MacArther, John Piper, Tim Conway, CS Lewis, Sinclair Ferguson, and other well-intentioned lunatics.  I was baptized publicly and gave a short, completely biblical speech calling myself a miserable sinner who deserved to burn in hell and was now saved by the grace of God through his son Jesus Christ. Religion tortured me for the rest of my teenage years. I really only became completely free of it about nine months ago.

 

Religion tortured me because living the Christian life is impossible. How many unanswered prayers does it take before you realize that you are merely talking to yourself, and that the only way to make something happen is if you go out and do it yourself? By the time I put my Bible away for good, I had finished reading through it seven times from start to finish, not to mention a lifetime (although 21 isn’t very old) of continuous indoctrination. I am convinced that there is a link between religion and sexual repression/distortion. When I hit about thirteen, lustful feelings would drive me almost to the point of insanity. I was completely unable to stop wanting what I wanted due to the chemical makeup I had been “created” with, and yet I was condemned to burn for eternity if I couldn’t somehow stop these feelings! What type of god would create children with powerful sex drives and then forbid them a healthy way to express these feelings until nearly a decade later, when they have just barely begun to be mature into adults? It seemed to be an extremely inept creator. I noticed that praying for spiritual help from God was completely pointless. I wanted to be healed from my “affliction” and God says that if we being evil will give good things to our children, how much more will our father in heaven give good things to those who ask of him? I was asking for a completely legitimate thing. I was sincerely asking to be cleansed from my desire for a forbidden thing that supposedly offended God. Those prayers were completely pointless and ignored. Doubt, anger, and severe frustration arose in my mind. It should not come as a surprise that so many priests are pedophiles. Religion seeks to control and repress the sexual impulse. But, since this is impossible, the sexual impulse is merely perverted and destroyed into something unhealthy. Religion is unable to deal honestly with sex.

 

I backslid many times. It was a very unpleasant cycle. I would try to please God and "be good" and yet I felt entirely abandoned and unheard - almost as if no one was listening! I would always return to God more broken and desperate, only to be ignored and filled with disillusionment yet again. There were no answers, and no mercy. I remember wishing that someone would shoot me so that I could escape. My logic went like this: I would be in church. Maniacs with guns would come in and say that they would shoot everyone who called themselves a Christian. All the fakes would file out and live. I would stay, proclaiming myself to be a Christian to the end, get shot, and go straight to heaven. Problem solved! No more struggle, no more failure. Today these ideas really creep me out: I was willing to die for religion. Islamic terrorists are willing to kill for it. How much of a step is it to go from one to the other?

 

I’ve had to live with depression and suicidal thoughts since then, although I deal with it. It’s just that now, I stop pretending that religion could ever help. If anything, it makes it much, much worse.  The more I read the Bible, the more disturbing it was to me. Today I am glad I know the Bible backwards and forwards, even though it caused me so much pain: Christians can’t pull the wool over my eyes anymore, because I know what it says better than the vast majority of them. Most Christians do not read their Bibles, and fewer still have ever read the whole book from beginning to end. I can quote it, expound it, and interpret passages in their correct context. I understand what it says, and it disgusts me. I’m sure I don’t need to explain every single topic to you readers here on Ex-Christian – you already know about them. But some of the major ones for me where the problem of evil (theodicy), predestination, original sin, vicarious atonement, and hell. Have I missed any? I would be hard-pressed to say which is the most vile to me. Not to mention genocide, rape, kidnapping, misogyny, and slavery. The Biblical worldview is not one of peace and joy. A truly Biblical worldview is one of death, despair, hellfire, damnation, and salvation for about 0.1% of the population. Before I came to the conclusion that the Bible was untrue, I came to the conclusion that it was evil. But then, since I could see that these evil doctrines were inconsistent with a loving God, it was a small step to conclude that it was merely man-made mythology created by fallible human beings. I told my dad, and he nearly blew up. There has been a rift between us since then. I’ve been able to see clearer that he is a very cruel man who has taken advantage of and mentally abused my mother and siblings for years. Part of the reason my mom accepts this abuse without complaining is because of the biblical model of headship. The whole “wives submit to your husbands” part. Ugh. 

 

Today it feels normal to me to be non-religious – so much so that it feels like I’ve forgotten how bad things really were – and then I listen to a fundamentalist preacher again, or read passages from the Bible again, and my blood boils. I remember how brainwashed and under its control I was. I become almost physically sick with anger when I remember. But thank “god” I’m free! I’m rid of it! I am not even remotely afraid of hell or damnation anymore. What is truly terrifying to me are the people who still believe this insanity, and are literally attempting to take over the world in the name of their own particular mythology. A sad part of it is that a lot of religious people are actually good, kind decent people – but their belief systems blind them to reality. I consider religious teaching to be child abuse. I am extremely glad that I did not carry this lunancy further with me into life. What if I had married already and been married to a Christian like the Bible commands? That would have been a complete train-wreck. I would have been trapped. I am so glad that I figured this out before I wasted my life on it. Thanks for reading, folks. I hope some of you can relate. I love reading the articles on this website. It’s a great community. I’m looking forward to a life free of illusions, where I can ask honest questions and where it’s ok not to know all the answers. 

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That was awesome. Great testimony! I liked many of your points, especially how the more you studied the bible and prayed and the more hardcore Christian you were... The more disgusted you became. I can totally relate. I know the bible better than probably 95% of Christians, and so I know how fucked up it is.... I doubt I could ever fall into the Christian delusion ever again after the intensity of faith and study I went through, only to be bitterly disappointed that god wasn't even there at all... Only in my mind.

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You read the complete Bible seven times? And didn't go completely insane? That alone is a huge accomplishment and a tribute to your inner fortitude. 

 

As part of your self-therapy, you may want to read a few Biblical minimalist scholars like John Van Seters or Philip Davies. They put the Bible in its actual historical context -- Persian/Hellenistic era fantasy writers pretending to be "prophets" from hundreds of years before predicting the destruction of Jerusalem; pseudo-historians imitating Herodotus by pretending ancient Israel had also once been a great world power like Persia or Assyria, when it reality it was just an insignificant vassal state that nobody noticed; and of course the "New" Testament, in which some second century Greco-Roman phonies pretend they're the inheritors of this supposedly great heritage by aggressively ripping OT passages out of context and pretending these grossly misinterpreted words were "prophecies" for their own man-god.  

 

The Bible is kind of like the Iliad (which probably helped inspire parts of it). It imagines a glorious past that never really existed, in which gods interacted with men, but always on the side of the author's country -- all others are heathens and barbarians. It's nationalistic/religious propaganda, aimed at creating the illusion of a national identity; but the Bible is far worse for its "innovative" idea that the people are always to blame for disasters by not being absolutely subservient to God, i.e. the priesthood and/or the king. That single idea has caused more damage to the world than any other concept from antiquity. Unbelievably, it is still ruining lives en masse today. 

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Welcome home, brother.

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Congratulations on your deconversion.  I also grew up in a Calvinistic home, but it was the Dutch Reformed variety rather than any kind of Baptist synthesis.  I have a good number of relatives in Ontario and BC.

 

No doubt Christianity and sexual anxiety is linked.  If you look at the writings of Paul the Apostle, you find the kind of self-loathing language that only bubbles out of tremendous sexual trouble.  I don't know if Paul is referring to masturbation, same-sex attraction, or what, but he was definitely dealing with some sexual issues:  "The good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.  I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.  I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?"  Romans 7:14-24.  It is a pity that Paul didn't also free his mind by deconverting as you have done.

 

A word of caution for you, though:  I would recommend that you leave behind any acceptance of the terminology of the religion like "lustful feelings" -- there is no such thing as "lust" in the sense of a vice.  But no doubt you have already seen the problems with the Christian language.

 

You may be interested to read the speeches of Robert Ingersoll who grew up presbyterian like you and me:  "No church has done more to fill the world with gloom than the Presbyterian.  Its creed is frightful, hideous, and hellish.  The Presbyterian god is the monster of monsters.  He is an eternal executioner, jailer, and turnkey.  He will enjoy forever the shrieks of the lost,-- the wails of the damned.  Hell is the festival of the Presbyterian god."

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Cool! I'll have to check this Ingersoll guy out. I briefly googled him and I think he might have some interesting things to say...

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