DestinyTurtle

A Destiny to Defeat Destiny

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Well, here it is. A destiny to defeat destinies… 

 

You can say I left “christianity” about 10-12 years ago (there was a significant gray area), but I was a devout and sincere follower of a Calvinistic-Baptist theology throughout my childhood. My father is a missionary and a preacher who did not affiliate with any particular denomination, but had a very strongly held belief of a self-styled Calvinism. For those of you who don’t know, Calvinists believe the opposite of the “free will” theology that is popular and taken for granted in many denominations today. They believe in something called “predestination”, which is to say, God decided whether or not you were going to heaven (that you are a member of the ‘elect’), and whether you were going to hell (not a member of the ‘elect’). Your actions and behavior can’t redeem you because everything a human does, no matter how hard they try, is inherently and utterly evil (It is a doctrine called ‘Total depravity’). Theoretically you’re not supposed to be able to be certain as to whether someone is elect or not (because one cannot presume to know the will of God), but in practice this usually devolves into a self-elevating rhetoric of elitism (I am elect and you are not, and there’s nothing you can do about it). Needless to say, my parents decided that I was unelect and that God hates me and that I was created by God solely for the purpose of going to hell and suffer eternally for His glorification. Any suggestion that salvation is available to anyone through Jesus’s sacrifice is considered blasphemous (This is called the doctrine of ‘Limited Atonement’). My parents believe that in their afterlife, in their regenerated state, they will rejoice at the eternal suffering and damnation of the unelect - even and especially that of their friends and family. 

 

Calvinism is a pretty dark interpretation of Christianity, so it is not especially popular in the mainstream churches (although there has been a resurgence of Calvinism in a modern movement called ‘New Calvinism’). In my observation it is popular with small, cultish churches of people who want to isolate themselves from society and convince themselves that they are inherently spiritually superior to everyone and that anyone who disagrees with them are inherently so evil and deluded that they do not even possess the possibility of understanding them. I remember looking up information about the Westboro Baptist Church to find out that they are theologically Calvinistic. This makes a lot of sense to me because they clearly believe they are better than everyone and they practice Christianity mainly to be cruel and to damn others, and not to save them. 

 

My father is a textbook Narcissist. He does not listen to any living person for moral or intellectual guidance, but he has developed an incredible obsession and fetishistic fascination of a late, American Puritan theologian named Johnathan Edwards. You may have heard of Edwards in high school, as his most famous sermon, ‘Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God’ is a literal textbook example of a hellfire-and-brimstone style preaching. His sermons are so powerful that one of the members of his congregation committed suicide after listening to them. He is a very influential Puritan theologian, and his theology was Calvinistic. I believe this theology gives my father a rush of adrenaline and a sense of spiritual proudfulness that he craves to supplement deep insecurities. In any case, Edwards is my father’s love and life, and to this day he writes sermons and articles about his writing. 

 

An early childhood memory I have is that I once scared myself to tears by watching a late-night TV movie. It was an action movie about someone who had died, went to hell, and made a pact with the devil in exchange for something or another. The scene where he goes to hell was very vivid and scary for a little child. I went crying to my room, and either my mother or my father came into the room to try to comfort me. I asked them “I don’t want to go to hell. Am I going to go to hell?”, to which they responded “There is nothing we can do about that, honey. If God wants you to go to hell you are going to go to hell no matter what.” Parents are supposed to tell their children that the monsters under their bed aren’t real. My parents told them they are real, are coming for me, and that there is nothing that would protect me, and nothing that should.

 

Even before I was even a teenager, I diligently listened to my father and attempted to absorb/adopt this very complicated theological system. I was awarded by my father with love and affection just so long as I validated this particular obsession of his, and was viciously reprimanded if I questioned anything. He rarely if ever taught me actually practical life advice, like social etiquette or how to get a job. He frequently complained about the world and saw himself as a persecuted victim of a literally demon-saturated world that is out to get him, even though he has been fairly fortunate in his career. So deep was my desire for his approval that I spent most of my childhood avoiding socialization, reading the bible, and understanding the complex historical conflicts between the theologies of free will and predestination.

 

Perhaps the earliest moment of my schism with my father was in my late adolescence, when it’s a natural developmental stage to question the adults around you. I was by every means a devout believer at this point, without a doubt in my mind. I didn’t even masturbate during my teenage years - that’s how devout I was. I asked questions as a way to reinforce my faith and prepare for any unexpected questions non-believers will have me face along the way. My father took my questioning as fundamental betrayal, and he would quickly become angry and accusatory. Now let me be clear - my father (despite his delusions) is an extremely intelligent and educated person. He can actually form very complex arguments and is good at picking out fallacies in other people’s thinking (although it does not prevent him from making the fallacies himself). However, he only engages in theological debates in controlled, sterile environments along the lines of a pre-written socratic dialog. Any  attempt of debate or argumentation by someone he actually meets will quickly be met with an Ad Hominem attack (“You’re just a brainwashed liberal”) or authoritarian dismissal (“Clearly you are ignorant and I am much more read about this issue”). His attitude toward the matter, and not the lack of a logical argument, is ultimately what shook my faith. If he was so quick to be angry at a contrarian perspective is it not because he himself is afraid and aware that his arguments are wrong? This doubt continued to grow later into my life and into my college days. 

 

In college I had many doubts, and I was afraid that my parents would discover my doubts and take me out of college. It didn’t help that I began to make many friends, some of which were gay, atheistic, or otherwise part of some group of irredeemable and depraved sinners. I didn’t have the ability to make friends and socialize while at the same time harboring secretly hateful and vindictive beliefs about how they should all go to hell. It didn’t help that I ended up dating an atheist girlfriend. I kept my girlfriend secret from my parents because it became clear at the time that they believed in cutting all contacts and communication with any christian who dared to date or marry a non-christian (although why this mattered - considering that they believe most christians are fake - are lost to me). Either way, I was extremely successful in my studies, and I could not afford to have my tuition payments revoked. I kept my head low and plowed through to my graduation.

 

In graduate school for the first time I was able to financial support myself fully (although it was with great struggle). It was then that I developed enough courage to come out to my parents that I no longer believed - especially and particularly in the sense that they believed what it meant to be a believer. I was met with a kind of retroactive dismissal ; they said that they had already wrote me off as damned ages ago - even through the years in which I was devout and struggled sincerely. In their worldview no one could possibly be sincere and ever dare to disagree with them at any point in their lives. They believe I was faking it from day one. None of my internal struggles, pain, or years of waking up with night terrors mattered to them. 

 

My coming out as a nonbeliever in Calvinism forced me to face the darker emotions that I had been repressing over the years through diligent scholarly study, and my parents’ rejection and dismissal accelerated the feeling. What followed was a couple years of extreme depression. My parents still communicate with me on a occasional basis, but my father has completely emotionally cut me off. On the rare occasion I visit he goes out of his way to avoid me. He hasn’t visited me in more than ten years, even though I have expressed over and over a desire for him to meet me. He has not come to my graduations and I believe he would not come if I ever had a wedding or similar milestone. It took a long time and a great amount of effort to bring myself out of the depression, but in the end I succeeded. I’ve had great professional accomplishments since then, of which my father can’t care less about but to whom I achieved for myself first and foremost. 

 

My dad to this day publishes articles and sermons about predestination, election, and Calvinistic theology. Fortunately, there are not that many people who are that interested in that level of theological discourse, and the ones who are probably already ascribe to the belief system. His writings are tantamount to generic flailings of a narcissist wanting to prove to the world how right he is. It still hurts me deeply, though, as in effect it is him gloating about his son burning in hell (though other people may not see it that way). It triggers me when I see a new article of his posted online, and I freeze, hyperventilate, and panic. One of the times this has happened I wrote the following note to myself.

 

“Sometimes, in secret, I whisper to myself ‘God loves you’. I don’t even mean that in a specific way, as I know the word ‘God’ is a complicated word that means something different to different people and you have to be really careful about how you’re using it if you’re trying to convey meaning. You can say something similar about ‘love’, though it is possible to know what it is without being really able to describe it. I say, ‘God loves you’, to me, because there was a time in my life when I was led to be convinced that God hates me, and that I only existed to burn in hell for eternity for his enjoyment. I say it like it’s an inward breath in a moment of panic, because the pain that made me freeze wasn’t a pain of anything real, but a pain of a very well constructed lie meant to scare me and break me. I say it like a mantra, where the incantation itself is an expression of a truth that is revealed in a new way through circumstance - a truth that goes deeper than any specific misuse of the word. I say it in a way that makes sense to me, and most importantly, it is reassuring to me. It is breath. It is life. It is going to be ok… Everything is going to be ok…”

 

I know this is an X-Christian forum and the above can be misconstrued as a statement of Christian belief, but I assure you it is not. You don’t have to interpret it rationally - it’s not meant to be. It is merely meant to convey the feeling of panic and self-assurance I’ve felt in these moments. 

 

Over the years and with a lot of work these feelings of panic and trauma have subsided to a great extent. That’s part of why I feel safe enough to share it with you today. I have great friends now who love me and support me, and I have also found healthy and supportive father figures in my life who substitute the emotions I’ve been deprived of. I do not hate my father ; I still love him greatly. I appreciate that he raised me to be intellectually fierce, albeit to an outcome he did not anticipate or expect. I appreciate the moments we shared together in my childhood, even though he has distanced himself from me now. I hope that someday his pride will subside and that we will be able to communicate as equals - although I do not anticipate it or expect it. 

 

A great source of my doubt about Christianity over the years has been that I could not get myself to believe that an afterlife in which my friends were all going to hell was an afterlife that could be a heaven for me or for anyone. I did not want to be miraculously transformed in a way that would make me rejoice in sadistic glee at the damnation of those who disagreed with my beliefs, and I did not find assurance in a heaven dominated by an angry God that takes pleasure in others’ pain. Deep down inside, I was willing to stare directly into the ethereal fires of Eternity and face the possibility of damnation if that’s what it took to defend the souls of my friends, and that courage has inadvertently saved me from the Lovecraftian prison nightmare that is the Calvinistic thought process. I am finally free, and I have defeated Destiny - or at least the toxic version of it that I was raised to believe in.

 

I'm sorry my testimony was long...

 

Eternity is a long way but it only begins with a single turtle step.

 

Peace,

-DestinyTurtle

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Welcome!

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14 hours ago, mymistake said:

Welcome!

Thank you! :) Feels good to get all that out of my chest.

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Maybe the first step in the healing process is to realize that religious people, especially fundamentals, live in a pretend world that only exists in the minds of believers. It is not possible to change them, reason with them, or even hold an intelligent conversation with them. They live in a make believe world filled with angels, demons, &  devils. Supernatural forces determine all of life's outcomes. 

 

They believe God has a plan for everyone's life & humans are simply God's puppets. Believers even have their own language. Darrel Ray, a clinical psychologist, wrote an interesting book called the God Virus. He notes that religion is a lot like a virus. It spreads by personal contact & infects the mind & takes control of it & turns people into religious zombies. 

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3 minutes ago, Geezer said:

Maybe the first step in the healing process is to realize that religious people, especially fundamentals, live in a pretend world that only exists in the minds of believers. It is not possible to change them, reason with them, or even hold an intelligent conversation with them. They live in a make believe world filled with angels, demons, &  devils. Supernatural forces determine all of life's outcomes. 

 

They believe God has a plan for everyone's life & humans are simply God's puppets. Believers even have their own language. Darrel Ray, a clinical psychologist, wrote an interesting book called the God Virus. He notes that religion is a lot like a virus. It spreads by personal contact & infects the mind & takes control of it & turns people into religious zombies. 

Thanks, Geezer! You are completely right, and I have slowly come to accept that their live in their own reality ; it helps to not take things they say personally and to accept that they are just bonkers.

 

Perhaps I'll read the God Virus at some point. I understand the parallels you are making. I do think, though, that unlike a physical virus, people have a choice whether or not to contract a theological/philosophical virus, and that people who do so often do it because this particular virus helps them escape from things like accountability and responsibility.  That's my theory, at least. Being a zombie is attractive because you don't have to think about your actions (mmm delicious brains!).

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Wow DT!  What a well-written and moving account.  Welcome to the community here.   I'm so sorry you were tormented with such frightening teachings and, most of all, that your father's acceptance of you was conditioned upon you believing them.

 

I'm so glad for you that you've been able to see things for what they are and find your way out.  I'm sorry for the ways fundamentalist beliefs have broken your family relationships apart.

 

You are obviously an intelligent and articulate person with a bright life and an amazing future ahead.

 

All the best to you!

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10 hours ago, Insightful said:

Wow DT!  What a well-written and moving account.  Welcome to the community here.   I'm so sorry you were tormented with such frightening teachings and, most of all, that your father's acceptance of you was conditioned upon you believing them.

 

I'm so glad for you that you've been able to see things for what they are and find your way out.  I'm sorry for the ways fundamentalist beliefs have broken your family relationships apart.

 

You are obviously an intelligent and articulate person with a bright life and an amazing future ahead.

 

All the best to you!

Thank you so much, Insightful! I'm glad to be here :) Yeah, it breaks my heart that people squander real things like family and relationships for mere validation of a belief system. 

 

I feel pretty good about my future. I hope I can sometimes help others who have had similar experiences.

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On 2/9/2018 at 6:16 PM, DestinyTurtle said:

A great source of my doubt about Christianity over the years has been that I could not get myself to believe that an afterlife in which my friends were all going to hell was an afterlife that could be a heaven for me or for anyone. I did not want to be miraculously transformed in a way that would make me rejoice in sadistic glee at the damnation of those who disagreed with my beliefs, and I did not find assurance in a heaven dominated by an angry God that takes pleasure in others’ pain. Deep down inside, I was willing to stare directly into the ethereal fires of Eternity and face the possibility of damnation if that’s what it took to defend the souls of my friends, and that courage has inadvertently saved me from the Lovecraftian prison nightmare that is the Calvinistic thought process. I am finally free, and I have defeated Destiny - or at least the toxic version of it that I was raised to believe in.

 

This is how it was for me too. Everything in me rebelled at the thought of going to heaven simply as a chosen one, while people that I loved deeply would be punished eternally through no fault of their own. It confounds me how fundamentalists can accept this without questioning it, without seeing how sadistic it all is. Thanks for sharing your story, and welcome!

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1 hour ago, TruthSeeker0 said:

This is how it was for me too. Everything in me rebelled at the thought of going to heaven simply as a chosen one, while people that I loved deeply would be punished eternally through no fault of their own. It confounds me how fundamentalists can accept this without questioning it, without seeing how sadistic it all is. Thanks for sharing your story, and welcome!

Thank you! :) Cudos for breaking out of that thought pattern! I know it took a lot of courage and hurt to do it because I know it did for me. I think fundamentalists are so deeply entrenched in fear that if and when they have those realizations they don't have it for long because they're afraid they'll go to hell just for engaging in that thought crime. I think it's deeply sad that people live every moment of their lives in fear that they might come across a wrong thought or idea. I think one reason they're so hard on atheists is that their very existence introduces into their minds a thought of the possibility that they might be wrong ; it's an existential threat. 

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1 hour ago, DestinyTurtle said:

Thank you! :) Cudos for breaking out of that thought pattern! I know it took a lot of courage and hurt to do it because I know it did for me. I think fundamentalists are so deeply entrenched in fear that if and when they have those realizations they don't have it for long because they're afraid they'll go to hell just for engaging in that thought crime. I think it's deeply sad that people live every moment of their lives in fear that they might come across a wrong thought or idea. I think one reason they're so hard on atheists is that their very existence introduces into their minds a thought of the possibility that they might be wrong ; it's an existential threat. 

"Thought crime" is exactly what it is. We were supposed to ask forgiveness not only for our sins, but for our doubts/thoughts. It made me angry for a good long while when I realized how conditioned I was to policing my own thoughts, how successful the indoctrination had been. It's a long road, getting rid of all that. Another reason why they're so angry with atheists is probably due to the fact that they think they're controlled by the devil. This is what utterly destroys family relationships  - you're just something satan controls, and something to be opposed or avoided. Regardless of this, I have chosen to tell my family the truth because there is no other way to prevent them from trying to "save" me due to their own fears of hell.

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Welcome @DestinyTurtle,

     While reading your post I decided I would have to ask you if your fathers publications ever ended up in the Berea Baptist Banner. A lot of what you were saying reflected some of the beliefs that my own parents were brainwashed to believe. But it is a hybrid mix of what you described because they also believe in "once saved, always saved" which my mother holds on to because she knows I haven't attended church regularly in a long time. But they still have that eilitist attitude toward their specific thread of churches. They are all very small churches as far as I know. They believe they are the true church and the only ones that will be welcome in the holy city. They are very big on paying tithes. I was surprised to see their offering last week when I went there. They had about 5-8 families in attendance but their offering was over 1100 dollars. Most churches I have ever attended with that low of an attendance had offerings of sometimes less than one hundred dollars. 

      Anyway I have  read articles published in their Berea Baptist Banner that have absolutely infuriated me even when I was a believer. Things that I thought at the time were so contrary to the "word of god". 

      I applaud you for getting out of that mire that you were born into and becoming the person you are today. It sounds like your life has been filled with great spiritual struggles. But you have seen yourself through. You did it all without using God as the "holy crutch" that gets christians through all their trials in life. I know now that every time I hear someone say that they are depending on God to bring them through "X" situation that they themselves don't feel they are strong enough to do it, and the only way they can make it through it to believe that someone greater than them are pulling the strings. It boosts their confidence so that they can then do it themselves. I used to pray before job interviews for God's help. Since i've left the church i've faired much better in my interviews by just having confidence in myself and my experience. When you are dependent on the imaginary man upstairs it leaves room for doubt during the interview.  "Does God want me to have this job", "what is his will?", etc, etc. It gives me much more pride knowing that I have done this alone rather than thinking my imaginary friend helped me do it. Your testimony is a great inspiration.

 

Best Regards,

Dark Bishop

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That's a helluva story. Your parents are insane, evil child abusers. You are well within your rights to not even acknowledge their existence. Now carry on with real life!

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3 hours ago, DarkBishop said:

Welcome @DestinyTurtle,

     While reading your post I decided I would have to ask you if your fathers publications ever ended up in the Berea Baptist Banner. A lot of what you were saying reflected some of the beliefs that my own parents were brainwashed to believe. But it is a hybrid mix of what you described because they also believe in "once saved, always saved" which my mother holds on to because she knows I haven't attended church regularly in a long time. But they still have that eilitist attitude toward their specific thread of churches. They are all very small churches as far as I know. They believe they are the true church and the only ones that will be welcome in the holy city. They are very big on paying tithes. I was surprised to see their offering last week when I went there. They had about 5-8 families in attendance but their offering was over 1100 dollars. Most churches I have ever attended with that low of an attendance had offerings of sometimes less than one hundred dollars. 

      Anyway I have  read articles published in their Berea Baptist Banner that have absolutely infuriated me even when I was a believer. Things that I thought at the time were so contrary to the "word of god". 

      I applaud you for getting out of that mire that you were born into and becoming the person you are today. It sounds like your life has been filled with great spiritual struggles. But you have seen yourself through. You did it all without using God as the "holy crutch" that gets christians through all their trials in life. I know now that every time I hear someone say that they are depending on God to bring them through "X" situation that they themselves don't feel they are strong enough to do it, and the only way they can make it through it to believe that someone greater than them are pulling the strings. It boosts their confidence so that they can then do it themselves. I used to pray before job interviews for God's help. Since i've left the church i've faired much better in my interviews by just having confidence in myself and my experience. When you are dependent on the imaginary man upstairs it leaves room for doubt during the interview.  "Does God want me to have this job", "what is his will?", etc, etc. It gives me much more pride knowing that I have done this alone rather than thinking my imaginary friend helped me do it. Your testimony is a great inspiration.

 

Best Regards,

Dark Bishop

Thank you, DarkBishop! The name 'Berea Baptist Banner' doesn't ring a specific bell, but I wouldn't put it past him to have articles published somewhere like that. I don't like to dwell too much on how many people read his writings (it depresses me), so I don't pay close attention to where he's publishing - only to the content of what he's publishing (it's good to have some insight to what the other side is thinking/saying). 

 

Thank you for your validation and encouragement! I find it deeply comforting, after spending so many years doubting my thoughts and very existence. I occasionally have an exhilarating "Whoah, I accomplished ALL of THAT" moment when looking looking back at my life so far. I think a deep sense of self-doubt is instilled in a lot of people, in a manner you described with a particular "God" narrative, perhaps to abuse their better judgement and lack of self-worth and squeeze more monetary donations out of them (your account of the large donations in such a small church is chilling - that's money they should be investing in their children or their future, or actually helping people in real charities rather than pocketed by a pastor or used as funds to perpetuate an ideology)

 

Many people on this forum inspire me. I believe it takes great courage to face the deep uncertainties and fears in life in the way that ex-Xians do. It's good to know I'm not alone in my experiences, as well :)

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Welcome!  Thanks for sharing!!  I haven't been on this site for a while- it was great to log back in and read this. A lot of what you wrote resonates with me. We got kicked out of my husband's family last year- his dad sounds similar to yours. 

 

Ive also noticed how good t feels to notice my accomplishments and think- "whoa!"  Early on, I realized how I attributed all my successes to god. All the failures, of course, were from a lack of faith. 

 

I appreciated you sharing that mantra. I've said something similar to myself and then kind of wondered about it. I like thinking about it as if I'm talking to my past, traumatized child self. 

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I am sincerely astonished by your testimony. I can't imagine how many hard times have you had to go through due to those beliefs of your parents. Thank you so, so much for sharing this. I have no words. 

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