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Goodbye Jesus

The Long-winded Story Of Me

Mad Ethel Rakem

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Okay. Here it is in all it’s lengthy glory! I’ve finally gotten around to actually writing my ex-testimony. Here goes...


It all started with an idle thought in the shower. “I wonder what it would be like if I didn’t have a connection to God?” Of course, it was silly. Me, without God. Haha! How utterly unimaginable!


Yet I couldn’t let it die down. I kept wondering, turning it over in my mind. Was I really on fire for God? If no, then why not? Oh no! I must be a terrible person! I have to beg for forgiveness!


This went on for a few months before summer break of my Sophomore year of High School. At this point, I was seeing signs of the end times everywhere. The world was an evil place. Everything and everyone in it was a terrible person, and I had better make sure not to be swallowed by teh ebil!


Yet, I was 16 years old. I was starting to try to find out who I was as a person. I wasn’t doing the classic teenage rebellion yet (as I was a late bloomer and that came a year and a half later) but I was fully aware that I liked, needed,to have a good reason to do something.


The actual beginnings of my deconversion process happened that fateful summer at a Christian camp. I was a volunteer, a “Leader in Training” (the position below Counselor in training... which is when you get to stay in the cabin and hang out with that week’s kids). I hadn’t really been enthusiastic about it, but I’d gone there as a child and had fun, so I figured it couldn’t be too terrible. I was just nervous.


Looking back, it strikes me of premonition. The Force was warning me.


I spent half of my summer living in what were basically college dorms, two bunk beds per room and a few communal bathrooms. Now, there were basic rules to be obeyed. One of my favorites is, for LIT’s anyway, no cd players. For communal listening, only Christian music was allowed. This irked me big time because I am a music fiend. My favorite genre is movie scores. Considering that most of my CDs (at the time) had no words at all, I asked if I could play those, since there wasn’t anything that could possibly be offensive. The answer? No. They weren’t Christian soundtracks.


So I smuggled my own CD player in with my own CDs and listened to them whenever I could get away with it.


I’ve never been one to follow rules I think are idiotic.


The other favorite of mine was that every arrival day we all had to dress up in costume (which was Western gear, since that was the theme the camp revolved around). Everyone. Even those of us who had kitchen duty and therefore wouldn't be interacting with anyone. This normally wouldn’t be a problem save for the fact that the camp was fairly large and it was something of a hike from our little dorms to the kitchen. Which meant that I had to change, hike, sit around for an hour or two in a really warm costume in a small, overcrowded, overheated room, only to march my happy ass all the way back just to change and march, once again, to the kitchen area.


I considered this to be stupid, and made a remark about it, at which point I was shot down. “That’s just how it is. You’d better get used to it.”


And this (much later) got me thinking. Perhaps the micro reflects the macro? Alas, this wouldn’t show up for another year or so.


So I grit my teeth and went along with it. Every passing week saw me more and more angry. More and more desperate to get out. To make matters worse, there were a lot of power plays behind the scenes. Overly cruel pranks upon those who were loners, such as a counselor friend of mine (we eventually bonded through our shared misery).


Now, I have authority issues, in case that isn’t apparent. I do not do as I’m told if I can see no reason for doing it. But constantly being forced to follow by ridiculous rules, scraping and serving with a handful of hours of sleep yet still be expected to be chipper? Being surrounded by an atmosphere of repentance because we’re all unworthy?


I’m not a people person. I do not “go with the flow.” I’m certain this has to do with my childhood, but that’s not something up for discussion here.


Thus, one day, I had enough. I sort of exploded at the people around me and stormed off before I actually hurt someone (proof that I have something of a conscience).


It wasn’t anything too big. No one was hit by my shrapnel, but I had rocked the boat. And that got the leaders’ attention real quick. Thus, little ole me was literally corned by three counselors (one of the an ex-football player and thus very large and very intimidating).


I crumbled. It’s something that still something that still gets to me. I wish I had acted differently or, at the very least, told them where to stuff it. As it was, I folded over and did as I was told. As soon as my stint was over I got the hell out and have never been back.


That started it. I started wondering about things, comparing the camp experience to my years of experience in the church with different eyes. And I started seeing stuff I didn’t like.


Humans are supposed to be sheep to their god. Sheep are too stupid to find water on their own. Thus god must guide them to it. Isn’t it amazing?


This is a paraphrase of one Youth Meeting sermon.


I would say that my one defining trait is my intelligence. Even the people at that damned camp remarked on this (something like “The first thing I noticed about you was your intelligence. Be careful not to fall, be vigilant.” How ironic.) Yet as a good Christian I am supposed to surrender myself utterly to one person? Let one, single person dictate every nuance of my life?


Excuse me?


And even there, amongst my “friends” were the same power plays. Those who were different, those who, for some reason or another didn’t quite fit in, those that had a sense of humor just a little too out of bounds, were mind-fucked. Were excluded or made fun of, sometimes to their faces, but most of the time not.


I started disliking church. I would make up excuses to avoid going. When I thought it started to look suspicious (or I wanted to go out to eat afterwards... a long-standing tradition) I would go, but would sneak out and wander around the halls for an hour. I usually fell asleep when I couldn’t get away. Then the intervals between visits got longer. A month. Two months. Half a year.


Then I stopped going all together.


I remember the last time I heard from the church. It was the day the space shuttle exploded upon re-entry (another irony!). Sometime during the early morning hours one of them must have driven the hour to get to the house (I lived out in the freaking boondocks) and left a pink flamingo with the church address written on it. That or it was my parents. I don’t know and I don’t really care. Underneath that pile was a mound (yes, a mound) of Hershey’s Hugs. I think there was some message about bringing the flamingo back. But my first thought, aside from “Is that space shuttle wreckage?” was “Hey! Free chocolate! Score!”


I did take the flamingo back, after careful pondering if I should just keep it and mount it on my wall. When asked if I was still going to church I told them I was going to a different one with a friend of mine. I didn’t even have to lie, which I always consider a plus (I went with my friend because they had really tasty cookies at their services).


There were a couple of other things that went on, but this is getting too long as it is. I think I actually stopped believing a few years ago. I never admitted it to myself and would occasionally have relapses involving “I’m so sorry God! I’ll try to do better this time! I promise I’ll be a better person! Have better faith!”


Then, about a year ago, I was researching paganism for a story I was working on and it was like being hit with a brick.


“I’m not Christian.”


I remember that I sort of mumbled these words to myself and there was this sort of gasp moment. But then, as I thought about it, I realized that, yeah. I really wasn’t. And I was okay with it. Happy, even. Overjoyed, really.


I’ve not gone back.


Sorry if I seemed to wander around. And sorry about the length! But I like to write and often get carried away. So there it is.



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Thanks for your story!


Two things had me grinning...

First, it seems to me the main element was that you were simply too self-reliant to tolerate Christianity; now that says something about religion :HaHa:


and then:


“The first thing I noticed about you was your intelligence. Be careful not to fall, be vigilant.”


On some level, that person must recognize intelligence as an obstacle to faith. Well, at least she got that much right...

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That was a refreshing breeze Mad Ethel.

You're sort of like me in self evaluation.

Your eximony was neither overly lengthy nor did you wander around.

It was precise and descriptive, clearly written and joyfully engaging.


Your heart and intelligence shines forth through your words.

“Hey! Free chocolate! Score!” Loved that bit !

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Interesting, Mad. A lot of de-conversion stories tend to take the usual form of study and frustration and more frustration, then defection, but yours was sort of a smooth ride into a new you. This definitely hits home with so many gradual closet doubters out there. Congrats.



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Everything you described are the same conflicts that occur in any social group based on ideas. If you hang around here long enough, you will see some of the same pressures applied to anyone who doresn't parody the "politically correct" reactions to issues. I think that is what is of overriding value to learn from your experience, and to also nurture the self-reliance that you have developed.


The more people depend on each other, the less thought it takes for any one of them to function, resulting in an atmosphere of stupidity devoted to the "highest ideals". That's the formula I see at work across the board, whenever people gather for a common purpose.

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Hey Mad Ethel,


I love your de-test. I am so much like you. I have always been a rebel.


I would love to read that article you wrote on paganism, but I guess it would be difficult to keep your anonimity if you show it here.



Great to have you in the forum,



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Now, I have authority issues, in case that isn’t apparent. I do not do as I’m told if I can see no reason for doing it.


All I have to say is three cheers for authority issues!


Well that, and I think you should have kept the flamingo. :HaHa:

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