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There And Back Again; A Tale Of Dwarves, Prostitutes, Church Camps And Deconversion.

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This is my life story so it will be somewhat of a long post. I write to you from a place of despair. I feel the need to write for catharsis. I know that by writing this I may be exposing my real world identity and airing my dirty laundry in public, so to speak, but I do not care about that right now.

 

Origins

My mother grew up as a minister’s daughter, she and my father met at something church related. If I think back to my earliest memories the setting is often in church. We used to go to church twice on Sundays, when I got older I sang in the choir and helped with the nursery. We would attend a midweek bible study sometimes or it would be held at our house. On Friday it would be Girls’ Brigade or later AWANA and ‘Christian Youth Club’. All our family friends were church friends. My husband and I were actually children together at the same church. Our extended family was religious. In the holidays we would go to church camp as a family and then to church day camps during school holidays. I believed in it wholeheartedly, I felt sorry for those who did not know the truth.

 

But at home we never really talked about anything religious. In fact we never really talked about anything. We would say grace, and prayers before bed, but it was almost as if real feelings or opinions were ‘not quite the thing’ and to be kept to yourself. Sex was never discussed nor were relationships, or how to approach adulthood. I am not attributing this to religion per se, rather it was just our family dynamic.

 

Questions

I spent all my time reading; the classics, fiction, sci-fi, non-fiction, biographies. In addition we had a church library and every week I would take out a couple of books – those prairie Christian books, fictionalised accounts of the lives of the disciples etc.

 

When I finished most of what was in the main library the Pastor lent me some of his books. When I was in high school sometimes I would question him; ‘why is God so silent?’ he would urge me to have faith and hand me another book. Who was I to pit my wits against the likes of Ravi Zacharias and CS Lewis?

 

Love

In my final year of school I met a boy. He was charming and wonderful he said he wanted to be a youth pastor. We planned our lives together. Finish school and college, get married and have a whole bunch of kids and serve God. He lived in a different city so I saw him every few months and in between pined for him. We were always chaperoned. It took me about a year to allow him to kiss me. He stayed with a youth pastor when he came up to see me and we started to spend time alone together. As is natural, two hormone filled teenagers, who set out to watch a movie would end up making out when left alone. We never had any form of intercourse but of course I was consumed by guilt and shame. He even said to me once ‘So how come sometimes “God is watching us” but sometimes he isn’t?’ He asked me to marry him and I agreed. He could not afford a ring, he said. We ended up studying in different places, a plane ride away. We saw each other once a year but I was buoyed by our regular phone calls and letters (this was before facebook and Skype!). After four years of this relationship including being engaged for a year, the year before University graduation when we were to get married we slept together once. He persuaded me with lines like ‘God knows our hearts and he knows we are married already’. It was awful and fumbling and I ended the relationship consumed with guilt.

 

For a few months it was on again off again and I found out just before my university graduation that throughout our relationship he had had a string of different girlfriends. He apparently saw me as a nice but dim naïve girl who was good to trot out to show the parents etc. while he had fun. Years later I found out he had even had a baby with one of these girls while we were ‘together’ but the child had been sent to be raised by the girl’s parents. I think about the Tom Petty song ‘Freefalling’ as describing this scenario quite well.

 

University Church life

I threw myself into every university activity, I went to the gym, I was elected into office, I worked, I got good grades. I spread myself rather thin and had different friend groups. I was in the Christian Union and led a regular bible study in my dorm. I would always cringe a bit at the street evangelism and things like that. I knew really that the answer to all the debate questions was ultimately ‘you had to have faith’. I could see how stupid it sounded, but that was just the devil trying to tempt me.

 

I shared a house with four Christian girls and we were next door to five Christian guys. Three of them became couples and were married after uni. We would have prayer groups about being chaste. These girls would pray in tongues, and much as I tried, I was never chosen to have this gift. The four girls would have morning bible study together. I did not have a student loan for various reasons and my parents were not supporting me financially. I had to do all sorts of shift work to pay my way. Sometimes when I would have come back at 7 am from a night shift at a factory and just as I drifted to sleep I would wonder whether the noisy 9am prayer session with singing and loud praying in tongues was the kindest thing for them to do, but God’s will and prayer were more important than my rest.

 

I suppose these girls did not see me as zealous enough. I could not pray long prayers or quote scripture. After Uni they cut me off and did not even invite me to their weddings. An occasional facebook post will pop up now and again these days from them; ‘Praise God, little Jacob came top in his nursery class’, ‘Hallelujah, Husband has been given a pay rise and promotion so now we can buy that house we hoped for’.

 

After Uni

I found myself adrift. My plan to be a youth pastor’s wife was now down the toilet. I got a job and shared accommodation with some male and female non-christians I had gone to school with. I had stopped going to church but still saw myself as a Christian. I was lonely and sought companionship with my housemate. You can guess the rest and because I was not planning on being sexually active I was not using any contraception. I was a graduate but really stupid about this. I knew of couples battling infertility. I did not think it was that easy to get pregnant. But it was. I ended up in hospital due to a complication. Church and family got to know of it. They held an intervention for me to pray for my sins. To pray that the guy and I get married. My mother and father were supportive of whatever I wanted to do but I felt so guilty I just went along with the wave.

 

I told him that if he wanted to be a part of the child’s life he could decide either way I would not hinder him. If he wanted to remain a couple though we would have to get married. He said he did not know what he wanted to do. We got engaged and were living together. I was in and out of hospital and feeling guilty at ‘living in sin’ but clinging to the hope a wedding would materialise.

 

He started disappearing for days. I found a strange pair of underwear in my laundry one day and he convinced me it was mine. Sometimes when he came back he would slap me. I thought it would get better. After a couple of years and no wedding one day I was sitting in the house. There was no heating because the power had been cut off and I did not have a job as I could not afford the childcare. I was sitting alone in a cold room, keeping the little one warm inside my coat. I cooked some rice to eat. There was nothing to eat with it. I thought ‘f**k this. I’m leaving’. This resulted in another church intervention. ‘You will get married soon, do you want your child to grow up a bastard?’ reluctantly I was persuaded to return.

 

Finally I went to my cousin’s house. My back was scraped raw from when he had pulled me down the stairs by my leg. I had studied all about manslaughter and I knew that most of the times someone gets killed it is not like Hollywood. It is not meticulously planned. People get killed in domestic settings by falling down the wrong way, hitting your head against the wrong thing. So to save my life I left. Yet another church intervention. Reconcile and get married. But I was done.

 

Bob

‘Bob’ and I had known each other since I was ten and he was eleven. His parents were our church family friends. We saw each other weekly and became good friends. Bob was a dwarf so I never considered him as a romantic interest. Bob was aware of both my ‘engagement’ and later on my child and relationship. We had always been good friends and we grew closer and eventually married. He was willing to come to church to make me happy and I was confident I could get him to see the light. Who else would marry a ‘fallen woman’ anyway?

 

Hiccoughs and bumps

Of course over the years I had had doubts. I tried to tackle my theological questions with books and the final answer was ‘have faith’. I was wracked with guilt over issues surrounding sexuality. I wore ‘modest’ clothing, long skirts etc. I even toyed with the idea of headsarves. Even so, attraction is attraction. During the time I was single, I had a few ‘encounters’, never sex in any form though. Living under my parents’ roof I was allowed to attend a total of five parties. I never ‘went wild’ at Uni, though I did get drunk a couple of times. I was always flip flopping from sporadic church attendance and guilt to renewed zeal. I always listened to the music I wanted (more guilt) and went to the movies etc. (more guilt).

 

I attended church as the special case single mother and was patronised. Still I went. I bore my shame and guilt as I deserved and was grateful to be forgiven.

 

A couple of years ago I started to visit websites like Fark that would have an irreverent take on things and openly dare to criticize God. I was shocked. I would think ‘Sit not thou in the seat of scoffers.’ But there would be a pull to this different way of thinking, which resonated with all my deeply secreted doubts.

 

I read a book once on linguistics. ‘Don’t Sleep, There are Snakes’ about this missionary living with the Piraha people of the deep Amazon rainforest and learning their language in the hopes of evangelising. In the end they evangelised him and he stopped believing. I physically had to put the book down when I came to that part and take a walk. How could a man of God, so well versed in the faith use logic to come away from faith? I read the short story ‘The Egg’ by Andy Weir. That was still six or so years from when I stopped believing but many seeds like this were planted and have now come to fruit.

 

Friends

I have always found full on Christian people a bit weird and Zombified. I preferred ‘normal’ people, so I always found myself with one foot in either camp, leading to connections often being tenuous.

 

Supernatural healing

I never heard God speak, but sometimes thought I could feel his peace. I wondered why I had such a hard time memorising scripture when the holy spirit was meant to seal it into my heart. (I now use mnemonics for such things).

 

When my husband was a teenager he lost his mind. For six months his parents sent him to psychiatric hospitals and he was given medication but that had no effect and he said he could see demons. Eventually his parents took him to a faith healer as a last resort. The whole family was told to pray the prayer of salvation. He frothed at the mouth then started speaking a language his father speaks. From then he went back to normal.

 

Supernatural job

When I had been unemployed for 18 months struggling to find a job one day I said to someone ‘I am going to stop looking and leave it with God. I will call the agencies on Monday to tell them to take me off their books’. That same day I got a call to do a temp job for three days and they ended on taking me permanently. It was surrounded by about 10 ‘coincidences’. 1. The manager went to my school (in a different country). 2. Another manager also went to a different school I had attended briefly (a separate different country). 3. A supervisor had worked with my grandfather 50 years ago (third different country). All these things came up in conversation in the first three days, oddly and there were about ten weird things like this. I still can not explain that bunching up of coincidences and of being aware of them. Then I thought it was God but not now.

 

Nightmare

Getting married and moving to a new city led me to looking for a new job. I could not find one. I ended up being a cleaner and working in a factory even though I had postgraduate qualifications. The minister at the church I had started attending said it was God using me at those places and to stick with it. I chose the church because it was a plain speaking, bible believing church. Every sermon was about Jesus, Salvation and Hell. The minister and his wife were poor church mice and humble and genuine.

 

About five years after we got married my husband started ranting and raving one day. Saying he was Jesus, he was in the FBI, he had alien powers. He would have moments of lucidity. He said he was cracking under the strain of living a double life. It escalated to a point where he took off his clothes and ran out of the house naked into the street. The police were called. He was committed to a mental institution and diagnosed with Bipolar. He received treatment and the medication worked but child protective services would not let him live at our house. The reason is that one of the things he said was that he was a pedophile. After he was discharged from hospital he said that the double life he was talking about is as follows. As a young man, he felt that because of being a dwarf he would never find love he was entitled to use prostitutes. He started using them and said he became addicted. He said he had thought he could stop when we got married but could not. He had also used the money we were saving to have a baby for this.

 

Soaring

I was hysterical and beside myself. Fortunately my daughter had been visiting my mother that weekend. I phoned her, phoned my sister & told them everything. As they were in a different city I went to the Pastor and his wife. For a few weeks I was in a daze on autopilot. I took time off work, most of my meals were with church people cooking for me. The take home from the situation was ‘Count it all joy when ye face diverse trials and tribulations’. I was never so zealous as then. Looking for God to comfort me and I was being tried by the devil because my faith was worth testing.

 

They told me God hates divorce and to reconcile. Divorce for adultery is only because we are hard hearted – don’t be hard hearted. I was at church for every service for about six months. I Prayed at my desk at work even.

 

 

Freefalling

I prayed for six months without comfort or answers or inspiration. All the questions and doubts I had always had came to the forefront. Why does the bible contradict itself (it doesn’t I was told, even while I was pointing to two verses on the same page). In a 2 mile radius in the city where I live there are literally eight different churches and denominations, never interacting. I pointed this out and questioned it. How can I be happy in heaven if I know my husband is in hell? Wiping my memory of him hardly seems like paradise? (We can’t understand these things). And so on, I emailed our pastor’s pastor about fifty questions I said I was struggling with and my regular pastor had not been able to help with (that email was not replied).

 

I had been taking Sunday school and realised how happy I was to go to church but not have to listen to the nonsense and just play with little kids.

 

I can not afford to live on my own, my husband is still paying the rent here. I don’t have a real job. About six months ago I told my pastor I could no longer in good conscience be a member because I did not agree with the articles of faith. I was crying, I wanted him to convince me and show me where I was wrong. We sat for two hours with him giving out the trite answers I used to give out to other people.

My first post on this site is here about how it hurts to be told you never actually really believed anyway. http://www.ex-christian.net/topic/70039-first-post-here-it-hurts-being-told-you-never-really-believed-anyway/#.ViFxq-xViko

 

I still take my daughter to church. Her little friends are there and I feel like ‘what if I’m wrong?’ I sit through sermons listening to the guy saying the Boxing Day Tsunami was God’s punishment and think ‘what a load of bull’. I don’t want my daughter growing up thinking this. I mainly do something else in my head, like practice my mnemonics. The church family were my community. I am almost not allowed to tell the other members my position lest I infect them. The pastor says I am one of the ‘falling away in the last days’. I don’t know why I still go. I’m scared not to. I will not tell my mother and break her heart. I have brought it down to once a fortnight and only one service a day. I was taken off children’s church.

 

I am mourning the big family full of kids that I will never have. The life that is gone. Will I be single for the rest of my life? I am a 35 year old failure. I am afraid of death being nothing. What if I am wrong and go to hell?

 

I am happy to be free but I am also scared and lost. I am seeing a secular therapist and have just started on antidepressants.

 

I could write double of this and I am sure I will in the time to come. Thank you for the genuine acceptance I feel I have here for the first time in my life.

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Holy crap! You win for best thread title! Had to get that in. Now I'll go back and read what you wrote. Welcome to Ex-c!

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Wow, you've been through the wringer! Congratulations on finding your way out and not settling for trite apologetics. Your pastor has undoubtedly asked those same questions himself, as do most honest believers. But the fear drives them to go into "everything's perfect with Jesus all the time" mode and pretend that they never have doubts or questions. Faith is always a super easy thing when they are evangelizing you, but it suddenly becomes this contorted thing that you have to do just right when you tell them about deconverting. Apply all of the verses they use about being saved and they all fit perfectly with what we all did.

 

I hope you find some comfort here, and some relief at home.

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I'm so glad you felt you could share so deeply with us. The people here will not judge you or try to tell you how to live your life or what to believe. You can be yourself and ask any question and you will be respected. I deconverted less than a year ago and have not yet told anyone close, so have not had anyone tell me I was never a Christian in the first place. I'm sure someone would though. Anyway, you're new to this, the feelings are raw and you will hurt. Give it time, get to know us on here, and it will slowly get better. There will be a lot of anger as you realize what religion has stolen from you-the years, money, dreams, etc.-but you're free now and can start over without the baggage. Hang in there and stick with us. We'll help.

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Thank you. I found this site around the time I had already decided to let go but am only posting now. I finally feel like I have found like-minded people.

 

Secular people did not understand the background. With other Christians it now feels there was always an element of artifice, even in 'the good times'. Saying you fell asleep while praying earns you a bible verse on the importance of praying but never an acknowledgement that it's boring and feels pointless etc.

 

I know I have come out rather full on, but I am glad for once to be in a place I can be my true self with no pretence.

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Welcome aboard. As you become more familiar with this site, you will likely discover your experience with Christianity will be similar to what most of us experienced. You will also probably discover your journey out of religion, as well as the reason for your loss of faith, will have numerous similiarities too.

 

You have found like minded people here. We get it we have been where you have been spiritually as well as where you are now. It gets better with the passing of time.

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You had me at "dwarves."

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What a lot you've been through. I'm glad you've begun to find yourself amidst all this.

Welcome to ex-c, just remember you're not alone.

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Thank you for sharing your epic story. You have been through so much. You will find no condemnation here, just the love and support of others who have been there.

Keep reaching out, therapy is so important, and keep writing if it helps, and treat yourself to some self-care. You are not a failure, you are incredibly brave! I admire you for getting through what you've been through. Things can only get better. My deconversion started 2 years ago and I'm not scared of hell anymore. It takes time. Please keep holding on, and know that we are here. Hold tight to all the amazing qualities you have. <3

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Welcome.

 

No, you are not a failure.  You've had a combination of very bad luck and a religious background that has made things several degrees worse by demanding your obedience when you should have been free to walk away.

 

Now you can start taking control.

 

All the best.

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Aaaaaaaah, FARK.  I'm pretty sure that that website had a big part in my deconversion as well.  Fark.com is where God dies.

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Wow!!! Love the title of your post AND what a tale!!! I'm glad you're finding your feet. It gets better!!

Please keep us posted. We're rooting for you!

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Your a good writer very entertaining. Welcome.

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Welcome! I'm glad you are seeing a secular therapist. In my experience, the antidepressants will help turn off some of the "noise" in your head and let you think clearly about this stuff (or not think about it at all, how refreshing!), and hopefully move on altogether. One day, I hope, you just won't need that bandaid on your brain anymore. In the meantime, keep plugging away at recovery. It will get better.

 

I want to address the idea that you continue to attend church, against your desire to be free of it. Two things. First of all, I'm sorry to say, you will one day realize (the hard and painful way) that those other members are not your friends or your "family." You really don't need them. Right now, they are probably all (or most) of what you have, so it's hard to think past that. But based on my experience and the testimonies of so many others here, those friendships are not real, and will not fulfill you as you hope. Breaking away cold turkey is harsh, but it will help you clear the clutter and figure out who you are and who your friends should be. You'll find a couple, and that's all you need, in my opinion.

 

Second thing, your daughter and her little friends. Is she in school yet? I got some advice from an atheist coworker when my daughter was about 3, when I was depressed and lonely as a mom and felt the need to find play dates for her. He told me that once she gets to school, I can get serious about meeting other moms and making new friends that way, for my daughter and for myself. Those people will probably live near me, and have at least a few things in common. This annoyed me at the time, because it seemed so far away. But he was right. Despite some other moms' obsession with play dates and socializing their kids at a young age, I don't think it's all that vital. Your kid will not be screwed up.

 

I would encourage you to find other outlets: a children's art class at the local art center, science center activities, or something. If your kid is in school, find ways to volunteer and meet other moms. You might just find one. If your daughter has one other child she talks about a lot (or two or three), find a way to set up a Saturday play date with that child's mom. It's better to have one or two real friends than a church classroom full of acquaintances. Please do not let your child's little church friends be the reason for your decision to keep dragging yourself there.

 

I hope this helps. Thanks for sharing your story.

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Aaaaaaaah, FARK.  I'm pretty sure that that website had a big part in my deconversion as well.  Fark.com is where God dies.

 

Yup. At least a portion of my deconversion process can be attributed to Fark.com. I remember reading a lot of the debates, and realizing that the Christian arguments made no sense at all, even though they were saying all of the things I had been trained to say as a Christian to people who questioned my faith.

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im very sorry you had to go through what you did. by the way, you are not a failure. reading your story, i hear a story of a strong warrior who made it through a lot of shit. give yourself a pat on the back, you deserve it. despite what you had to go through, remember that every moment has lead you to where you are now. the next step is taking control and deciding what to do next. you are definitely not alone in this, a lot of us here have experienced psychological damage from Christianity. We have also experienced family/friend/relationship issues because of Christianity. It has effected us in an unpleasant way, and most of us are here to share our testimonies.

 

it was brave of you to share your story with us. i know it must have been hard and it still is. just hang in there, we believe in you. the most important thing is to be yourself and live your life the way you want to. 

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No, you are not a failure.  Your dreams were derailed, but that doesn't make you a failure.  You have a loving daughter that you love and you are willing to do the best for her and yourself.  You're not afraid of questioning authority.  Once you get your life back under control, and you will, you will create new dreams.

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Oh sugar...what an awesome post. Thank you for sharing yourself so wonderfully. What a life you've had. I have nothing of encouragement to say, since I'm still very much on the fence myself. But...it will be okay. I'm glad you are shaking free of the nonsense. May you find the road to peace. Maybe we'll be on the same journey together.

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