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Question: Why Did You Leave


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This is sort of gruesome, so I'll throw that warning out here before I begin.

 

I had some doubts about Christianity that I didn't feed until I stumbled upon a situation that I couldn't ignore. My sister and I decided to go on a mini vacation to New Orleans, and because we're the morbid sort we decided to take a walking "ghosts and vampire tour" (I recommend it highly).

 

At the end of the tour they saved the best for last. I'm certain some of you are historians and the name "Madame Delphine LaLaurie" means something to you. If not, let me inform you that she was such a disgusting, terrible human being that she became a character on the horror show "American Horror Story".

 

The tour guide was telling us how this socialite found pleasure from torture her black slaves until they died. One story specifically gripped me about how a girl was found with her skin pealed off from the top of her head to her feet.

 

I remember that night laying in bed and looking at my twin sister, the person who I love most on this entire Earth, and thinking how I would do anything and everything to protect her if she brushed elbows with a psycho, no matter the cost. My delusions of God's love and protection shattered like the Kool-Aid man busting through a wall. It's common sense if you love someone you would never let them get their skin pealed off or come to harm if you could protect them. The "God of love" fell woefully short in loving that black slave, because I think even someone who was a stranger who didn't love her would have done something to save her from such a cruel, slow death.

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MilesAway: Sorry for your experiences.  A good church can be a source of friends and relationships, a bad one can be a drag on everything in life.  We attended a church once where the pastor had an affair, wrecked both marriages, and destroyed the church.  He actually wrecked three marriages because his marriage to the woman he had the affair with broke up as well (that happens something like 95% of the time when a relationship starts as an affair).  I remember mentioning to my wife that I wondered how many people never again attended church as a result of that.  I said that I didn't know what the number was, but I was pretty sure it was more than zero.  We all have influence, whether we like it or not.  The question is how we use it.  I remember mentioning to someone once who did a sermon about making disciples, that we often make disciples without knowing it.  There is an old saying about children that "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree".  While children don't necessarily have to repeat their parent's mistakes and dysfunctions, it is not uncommon for them to do so.  Because it's the only model they have when they are forming their views of the world.  That's a key theme of the book "The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce", which I mentioned in a post on another thread.

 

 KaySutt:  I told someone not too long ago that it wasn't the love of God that stopped Hitler, Japan, and Italy in world war 2.  It was the industrial capacity of the United States, coupled with the willingness of soldiers to carry guns into battle and shoot enemy soldiers.  And it won't be the love of God that stops ISIS.  It will be men with guns, unless the organization just falls apart because of internal inconsistencies.  What I see (I wrote about this quite a bit in my book) is that the only things that happen are the things that we make happen - whether good or bad.  We choose.  The world is what we make because nobody is going to fix it for us.  If we let ISIS make the world a Sharia pigsty, then that's what we'll be living in.  If we let the angry, bitter, resentful people control the culture and the terms of discussion in our country, then we'll end up with a dysfunctional society.  Guaranteed.  If we treat people with decency while recognizing those who are unhealthy, we make our little piece of the world better.

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First post! Here are my answers to your questions:

 

I allowed myself to get far too busy with ministry to take the time to address any concerns or questions that arose. This went on for years. There reached a point where my pastor was talking about drawing a line in the sand for the leadership team over a minor grey area issue, and I disagreed with him. Because I knew he was going to be forcing the issue, I sat down and searched the bible to determine exactly where I stood and why. The bible showed the pastor to be wrong. This situation started me acknowledging that it was probably not an isolated thing for this pastor. Meanwhile, my husband hit a big, crisis-level question in his faith, and I had no substantial answers for him. This launched me into facing the full realization that I had no real answers to far too many questions. I decided at that point to stop attending church, and face these questions head on.

 

My search for the truth only led into a frustrating quagmire of history and controversy. Why would God allow his church to become so horrifically fractured over the centuries -- from the beginning, even? Who was right? They couldn’t all be right. I got sick of it all after a while (this was compounded by the explosion of  leaving-church drama). I took a bit of a break from doctrinal searching and just tried to sort out a new life outside of what I came to realize had been a consuming, cult-ish church environment. I was able to embrace aloud many liberal views I had kept hidden from my pastors (believing in evolution,  marriage equality, etc).

 

My subsequent reading and watching on some of these topics continued to further distance me from the conservative worldview my former church held. I was learning so much and there came a new passion to understand the world around me without limitations of what someone else said was appropriate or what would cause me to “fall into deception.” I watched evolution vs young earth creationism debates and was sickened by how pathetic the voices of Christianity could be.

 

For some time, I still thought I was a believer. I saw my process as dismantling the lies and abusive doctrines of my past, seeking freedom in a God that was higher than everything else. At some point, though, I realized I never prayed and didn’t actually care about God or Christ. They had faded to symbols. I started asking myself if I even believed in God anymore, and it occurred to me that I did not and likely had not for quite some time.

 

It was a light-headed, heart-pounding moment when I first stated out loud to myself:  “I am an agnostic.” I did not fear hell or grieve a loss of faith -- I was just in shock that I had become what I never expected to become.  It was a core existential shift that left me dizzy.

 

I don’t think I was ever disappointed or angry with God. Certainly much anger directed at people. Guilt and shame for taking so long to do this. I’ve wasted decades in church and my life is behind where it should be. So much catching up to do.

 

I had not been feeling God much for years leading up to this, but I blamed myself -- I wasn’t the best at daily devotions and if I could get better at that, I would be stronger in my faith. I had some experiences in the past that had been powerful at the time, but looking back I can easily explain most of it psychologically. I saw, too, that some of the “gifts of the spirit” I operated in and attributed to God were actually just skills I posses. Other things that would be more difficult to explain could be coincidence and childhood hallucination -- both far more plausible explanations than the supernatural causes.

 

The hardest emotional part about leaving has been trying to navigate how to discuss all of this with friends who are Christians. I live in a very secular city, work in a secular job, and much of my family and inlaws are secular. But all those years in church mean that we have some close Christian friends. I don’t want to reinforce their fears that questioning will lead to apostasy. And, I don’t want to be witnessed to.

 

The hardest part in terms of effort is all the playing-catch-up with life and learning, and the unpacking of a lifetime of indoctrination to figure out what the fuck my opinions are on anything and everything.

 
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Daxjansen: I totally get the difficulty of telling people.  We have Christian friends we still hang out with (they don't suddenly stop being friends, right?) that I haven't told.  In fact, the only person who knows the whole story is my wife, and even letting her read my book was difficult.  You just don't know how people are going to react.  And, like you, I don't see it as my job to take anybody where I've gone.

 

I agree with what you said about being told that doing more religious stuff - being a better Christian - was the cure for doubt. Problem is, I tried all that.  I tried everything I could think of.  But God stayed just out of reach.  Maybe that's why in the church we used to talk a lot about pursuing God, the pursuit of God, and similar themes.  The problem was that we just couldn't ever seem to catch him....

 

One of the things that kind of sealed the deal for me was that very pursuit of God.  I could see God rejecting people who reject him (the Pharisees and teachers who opposed Jesus and wanted to murder him).  But I find it problematic that God would allow those who are desperately seeking him to lose their faith - one of the things he promised he wouldn't do.  Of course, the excuse within the church is that we didn't really want to keep our faith, or that we were really pursuing our own ends instead of pursuing God or that we didn't seek God "with our whole heart" so the deal was off based on a technicality.  But those are rationalizations to keep at bay the reality that there are people who genuinely try to find and connect with God, people who are desperate for something real, and who finally just give up.

 

I think maybe it's harder for those of us, like you and me, who have had a ministry role to walk away.  We've had to be certain when others were uncertain, we've had to present God in a way they could understand, we had to reassure the doubting.  But when it's us who is doubting, there isn't anybody to turn to.  And at some point we have to admit to ourselves that we were telling people lies.  We didn't know they were lies at the time, but they were.  Hard to get over that, yes?

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 And, like you, I don't see it as my job to take anybody where I've gone.

 

 

Well, I don't see it as my "job", but that is not what I meant. To clarify, I know that fear will often strengthen someone's confirmation bias and dissonance. If they start to fear deception, this may shut down their willingness to talk and question and look honestly at their faith, keeping them further trapped in ignorance. This may create a situation where they avoid any depth in conversations with me. 

 

I think maybe it's harder for those of us, like you and me, who have had a ministry role to walk away.  We've had to be certain when others were uncertain, we've had to present God in a way they could understand, we had to reassure the doubting.  But when it's us who is doubting, there isn't anybody to turn to.  And at some point we have to admit to ourselves that we were telling people lies.  We didn't know they were lies at the time, but they were.  Hard to get over that, yes?

 

 

Very much so. Which is why I am so cautious to provoke any backfire effect in people. I want to coax them into openness and dialog. To undo some of the lies I helped implant in their minds. If they stay Christians, that's fine... I just want to dismantle the culture that fears questions.

 

As for doubting, I technically did have people to turn to, but I felt instinctively that they weren't the right ones -- that I was not to trust them with my questions. Watching others try to question them proved my instincts were correct. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Welcome to Ex-c Daxjansen! I'm so glad you decided to join us. Thanks for sharing your story. I can relate to all of it. They are the same reasons I ended up here five years ago.

 

Looking forward to hearing more from you!

 

(hug)

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Jaxjansen: I'll tell you the same thing I told someone on another thread.  Don't expect anyone to get to where you are any faster than you did.  It was a very long process for you and for me and for most of the people here.  Very rarely does someone get there quickly.  So no discussion is likely to result in a sudden rejection of everything they have believed about God.  It would be unreasonable to expect anyone to come to the same conclusion you did any faster than you did.  Some will be faster, some slower, but you can't predict in advance which will be which.

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How long did it take you to really let go?  Months? Years?  And if you hung on for a while, as I did, was it because of fear that God might be real and might be really ticked?  Was it because, like me, you really wanted it to be true even though you were finding it harder and harder to hang on?  Was it because you were hoping that God would somehow show up in an unambiguous way and "save the day"?


 


To let go completely? Took me until, literally, February 13 of this year.  I tried to observe Lent again.  Then, during my personal, non-religious based meditation that night, I realized...and it was the post of my personal diary entry: "Why the FUCK Am I Doing This For?!"  I realized, FINALLY, I DON"T believe in this, it has NO RELEVANCE to my life, and ALL OF IT...the "liberals" included...is just b.s.  So that helped me release what little religion I had left.  And yes, I WANTED it to be true.  But every single documentary, every single piece of scholarship, and all of my reasoning abilities finally overcame that.  It was sad, at first, two years ago when I found this site.  But now I'm ok with it.  I'm still healing, still finding a paradigm to answer my existence in this world.  But otherwise, hey, I'm fine.  Most of all?  I'm FREE.


 


Were you mostly disappointed with God or more angry with God just before you left?


 


Can't be disappointed in God.  God, as an entity, in my viewpoint does not exist.  I believe in a "force" of sorts (think Star Wars, lol) that may have created the universe in of itself.  But that's as far as I go.


 


Finally, did you have genuine experiences that seemed to be God and that you had to let go of to let go of God?  Or was letting go of God more a result of never having that genuine, unquestionable experience that made God real?


 


Oh yes.  I had several experiences and coincidences that I believed were of God.  But now?  The experiences I think were just pure mental euphoria from the church groups, crowds, and "services" I was in.


 


Hope that answers your questions. :-D


 


Andrew

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Abrooks2007: Thanks. I think a lot of us really start to lose our faith when we want God to be real and not just abstract.  And that explains why so many intelligent and well-adjusted people can be Christians.  As long as our faith is in an abstract God, or as long as our faith is defined by what we do, it works out OK.  Faith is shaken when we start expecting God to be real instead of abstract, and when faith depends on God instead of just being a guide for our own actions.  And then we reach the "why am I still doing this?" point.  I reached the point where I realized that, if there was a God, he had broken numerous promises that were explicitly stated in the Bible.  In fact, I could see nothing happening that depended on God's action.  Even the things we attributed to God were the result of our actions.  God "acts" by empowering our decisions.  Kind of hard to prove that without an obvious supernatural action.

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It didn't make sense to me anymore.  I don't get how a loving God would even allow hell to exist in the first place.  I hate the whole "original sin" concept.  That basically means you were set up to fail, right from the start.  Hell, before the start actually.  The whole "End Times" thing played a big part in my decision.  I believed in it--Christianity--as a child.  I started questioning it in my late teens, but I kept my doubts to myself at first.  When I did feel comfortable and asked questions, I didn't get any real answers.  Just your typical ones--give it to God, read the Bible, do this, that etc.  Then I went to a camp retreat with a strong believing friend.  I guess the "Aha" moment happened during one ceremony.  Everyone around me was so peaceful and so happy.  At that moment, I realized that Christianity wasn't for me.

 

For a few years, I didn't practice any religion.  I was content with my life.  Your 30s are a funny time.  I turned 30 in 2014, and I think I experienced what you call a spiritual awakening.  I was reading some "End Times" articles on line.  One day, I had a panic attack.  I didn't know it was a panic attack until after I spent some time in the hospital.  A couple weeks later, I told my dad what had happened.  He told me that that happened because I was on the "merry-go-round".  He made it pretty clear that he wanted me to be a Christian again.  So I became one for the final time a few days later, and joined a local church. I was a something of a liberal Christian for a few months because they seem much more lenient than the system I grew up with. Then I did some research, and eventually realized--again--this isn't right.  So I left again.  I'll admit some days, I do think about going back.  But once you reach at a certain point, there's no going back.

 

So since then, I've been wondering "What the heck I am?".  Then sometime late last year, I realized that I am a deist.  At one point, I thought I might be an atheist.  While I agree with many of their views, it doesn't ring completely true for me.  I've been studying Buddhism.  It seemed difficult to understand at first.  But it actually seems pretty simple, and I will incorporate the practices in my life.

I also have a lot of Humanistic values.  I'm still trying to figure myself out.

 

I know you weren't expecting a novel, haha. 

 

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Thanks, Margee!

 

 

GuyGone: The username is "daxjansen".  I'm not exactly sure where you get the idea that I am unreasonably expecting anyone to quickly come to the same conclusion I did, when I specifically stated, "If they stay Christians, that's fine". As I tried to explain, my hope is to keep an open connection between my friends and I so we can have deep conversations. Perhaps you are not meaning to come across as patronizing, but that's how it feels. 

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daxjansen: Sorry about the typo.  I wasn't assuming anything.  But I do see people on this forum who spent years letting go and then expecting relatives or friends to get to the same place very quickly.

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