REM123

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I'm not sure if this should be posted here or in testimonies, but seeing as this is my first post I'm opting to post it here. My apologies if this isn't the place for it!

 

This site, therapy, and new friends have helped me battle guilt and anxiety the last few years since I left my former church and my faith in an all loving God behind. I've read testimonies on this site off and on and only recently decided to create a profile. I enjoy writing and being reflective, but for some reason, typing out the chronological sequence of events that led me from skepticism, to being fully submerged in a non-denominational liberal church for five years, to my completely unexpected de-conversion seems exhausting. At the same time, I long for the type of fellowship and connections that I had in church. Connections that felt unmatched because of having a shared purpose in and understanding of something that's not even tangible and in retrospect is absolutely ridiculous to me now (the kingdom of heaven, a righteous battle for souls, a loving, all knowing, and all powerful maker). The only way to make connections is to share part of your human experience so here's a little of mine.

 
It's been three years since I've known in my gut (a term I now use loosely and a concept I don't really trust as I've realized guts are often at the mercy of emotions) that I'm no longer a Christian. I loved my church, I loved my perception of God and the feeling of being completely known, cared for, and loved by him. I loved my lifestyle, the activities, sense of purpose, and the ways my anxieties were allayed by my beliefs and the support of my close Christian friends. In the time I was a Christian I rediscovered old passions and "gifts" as they were called (singing and performing in a group), found new ones (playing an instrument and writing songs), created new neural pathways for unhealthy coping mechanisms that had plagued me for over a decade. And I felt connected to my late grandma who's belief in God left an early imprint on me. I thought a relationship with Jesus was a big love story and things had come full circle when I finally gave my life to him at 24. And I felt the exact same way when others gave their lives to Jesus and it was never not on my mind to share the love of God in non-pushy subtle ways. I regularly looked for opportunities to pray with people (and now realize that prayer gave me a sense of control where there was often none and helped me to feel helpful in uncertain times). 
 
I always had an affinity towards non-believers who had a hard time grappling with Christianity logically. I related to them because I too had a really hard time believing in my early twenties. I didn't really question faith in my teens, wasn't active in any church, and just accepted Jesus as the son of God. It took me being in a very vulnerable place in life feeling scared, sad, helpless, and living across the country from my family to give God a real try. My current boyfriend of four years was the straw that broke this camel's back. A former Christian and also a musician who was previously heavily involved on worship teams, I felt that God had brought him into my life so that he'd recommit and we'd both worship and lead people to Jesus through our music and marriage. It makes me blush to write that. It makes me blush to remember a lot of things that I used to believe and just accept as reality and truth. 
 
Long story short: I'm the one who had my eyes opened, reluctantly, and painfully over the course of about a year and a half. There were things that  I just couldn't deny, inconsistencies, and tough questions that I never found satisfying answers to in the bible or through leaders at church. Premarital sex and dating someone unequally yolked were also factors. The cognitive dissonance became too much as I was on "leadership" (something I always felt ill-equipped for as I never studied the bible comprehensively) and involved in leading a connect group and the worship team. So I eventually stepped down and gave myself some breathing, praying, and thinking room. I remember being in a hotel and saying to God, "If you're there, you better intervene, because I can tell this going to go south ("it" being my faith which I had previously been convinced I'd never loose, especially not for a guy-I was steadfast and my faith was stronger than my flesh)."
 
I like my current life. I know that I'm better off and feel more like myself (even though I used to say the same thing after becoming a Christian lol). I've paid off a lot of debts that I accrued while giving my church tens of thousands of dollars over the years that could've gone elsewhere. I have more time to spend doing things that actually matter to me and building the life that I want vs the life I feel called by God to. I've learned to address my emotions and work through stressful situations in more constructive practical ways than praying and speaking things into existence, quoting scriptures, or rebuking the devil. And I now have new friendships and can relate to people in ways that I couldn't have if I still had the same convictions that I did while in church (like laughing and talking about sex outside of marriage or other "sinful" things). 
 
I'm glad that I'm no longer a Christian, but I still miss it and occasionally feel like I've done something wrong. I think I miss the people more than I miss God. I can accept and genuinely believe that the likelyhood of the God that I believed in to be highly unlikely and it's hard to miss someone you don't believe actually exists. But friends are real and something will always be missing in my conversations with old Christian friends now, unless they also de-convert which is a unique and trying transition. What made our connections feel so meaningful doesn't exist and we have differing beliefs about that. Loosing my former best friend was the hardest thing. She was my rock, my favorite human, someone who inspired me and that I confided in about absolutely everything and vise versa. I never imagined something coming between us. I used to feel much more guilty and like I traded her in for my boyfriend. But I didn't know how to allow myself to change around her in the ways I knew I was changing, because she was my doorway to Jesus, and I was exiting the building so to speak. She hated how critical my bf was of Christianity and that I eventually lost my born again virginity to him. I understand that she was also struggling and was entitled to go on her own emotional rollercoaster. I recently wrote her a long email, she responded, and we both apologized for any hurt we caused one another. But five years have still been lost and I'm not sure what will become of us as friends. 
 
Something happened recently that's been on my mind and likely influenced my visiting this site again and writing this. I went to a baby shower for friend's of my former church community and was talking to a couple of friends. They're both educated and generally thoughtful individuals. One is a social worker, the other works for a non-profit, and they're both tolerant of non-Christian views. The latter is from New Zealand and was commenting on something he'd recently read about there being many Christ-like themes in Aboriginal religions. He said that there's accounts of stories of a virgin birth etc. etc. What caught me off guard was both of their reactions. They were in awe of how God in his infinite love, knowledge, and timelessness, before Jesus was even born, was laying the groundwork revealing himself in so many different regions through "Christian narrative."
 
I was astonished and dumbfounded. My brain's automatic reaction wasn't awe but instead, "Yeah, quite simply that means that the bible isn't very original and it's authors borrowed themes from pagan religions." I didn't say anything though. Nor did I nod in agreement. Luckily the noise at the party was a nice buffer for my apparent indifference.  I didn't feel as uncomfortable as I would have three years ago. There's a lot that I don't know and many critical thinking skills I've yet to foster, but I do know  now that I'm not being deceived by the enemy and that my thinking and pliable mind isn't a hindrance.
 
Thanks for reading and for also sharing your stories.
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I really enjoyed reading your story REM123. There are a lot of stories on here involving prior christians who loose their faith after partnering with a non believer. The problem is that once you look at christianity from the outside it doesn’t make any sense. Maybe that is partly what makes christian’s so great at tribalism. There is a closeness that develops from sharing a world view that is peculiar and all encompassing. I am afraid that nothing outside the cult will fill that particular gap. I think it may be possible to reconnect with your long time friend but the christianity will probably be very hard to work through. 

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Welcome!  Giving up the community of church was difficult for me also.  But there are other "communities" where you can find friendships.  Hang in there!!

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Welcome. I hope you find this site helpful. 

 

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Welcome to Ex-c, @REM123, from the self-appointed VP of the non-existent Unequally Yoked Club!

 

Stick around and read/write. It helps with those lingering thoughts and guilt. They'll be gone soon!  ;)

 

    - MOHO (Mind Of His Own)

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Welcome @REM123! You are clearly a person who thinks deeply and carefully. I'm happy you've found your way out.

 

I hope you stick around, and dive right into our discussions. We can always use another articulate voice.

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I was commuting to work on public transportation when writing my comment this morning and didn't have enough time to finish. Nothing is worth sacrificing you reason for in my opinion so there is absolutely no question that you have made the best decision for your long term mental well being. Life can be very difficult and being committed to finding the very best answers to every question is a fantastic advantage over trying to twist reality to suit a bunch of archaic presuppositions. So I think you should be thankful to yourself for caring enough about you to take back control of your thoughts and your ability to freely reason. Most of my life here in the US I have kept my atheism pretty well under wraps in order to have the best chance to succeed. This is a changing situation and there are more and more people just like you who are leaving christianity in need of some support and a secure place to share experiences. There are many groups gaining members that are trying to address this need like free thinking groups and churches that cater to all, any and non religious congregants. Along these lines Recovering from Religion has just now started facilitating the formation of local support groups. There aren't many yet but there could be one near you or you might be interested in starting one and helping others while you help yourself through your deconversion. Here's a brand new little YouTube they're coming out with that describes some of the needs they're trying to meet:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T3dTJqgdYXY

 You're a bright person whose chosen a very good course for yourself and it won't be long before the benefits of your wise decisions will far outweigh the losses you're experiencing or have experienced do to leaving the christian cult. Welcome and I hope we'll be hearing much more from you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Welcome!  Hope you find a lot of things you can relate to here.     I'd take one of your statements a step further and say guts are emotions  (viscera&visceral)  (sp?)

Tom

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Thanks for all of your thoughtful replies and warm welcomes :)

 

@DanForsman, I appreciate the encouragement and support resources. I’ll definitely check out RFR’s website. I actually googled “ex-Christian meetings” in my area the day that I wrote my initial post, only to have Christian churches (including my former one lol) pop up. I opted to engage on this site after that. I must admit, I’m a little hesitant to jump into another community or in-person support group and regularly bond with people over our shared experiences leaving our faith behind. It feels like it could be a little too close to home and like I’d somehow be insulting or judging the people that I still love who are Christian by engaging in those groups.

 

I’ve come to tolerate and accept having many unanswered questions in life, but did realize a couple of years ago that I could no longer prioritize emotional comforts and relationships rooted in that peculiar and all encompassing world view. It is comforting to know that I’m not alone in that.

 

I can understand your hesitation to be open with your alternative views in the US because of the vast number of religiously inclined people that there are. Personally, living in a part of the country that’s largely liberal and forward thinking, I’m less inclined to feel the need to hide my agnosticism unless I’m talking to someone that at least knows I used to go to church and assumes I'm still Christian. It’s not something I willingly offer up unless I’m asked directly and I do find myself being mostly unresponsive when people make God comments or associations, which happens frequently enough. I can understand that there’s slightly different connotations between atheism and agnosticism though. And that the former can be more off-putting for people to hear and seem more harsh and definitive.    

 

I’m attaching a link to a video that I saw of an elderly Jewish woman trying bacon for the first time after becoming a free thinker later in life thanks to “The Google” lol. It’s relevant to something you mentioned (and both endearing/relatable) if you care to check it out! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XzZlsWMBOK0

 

@MOHO thanks for the laugh and encouragement :)

 

@disillusioned thank you! I look forward to hearing what you and others have to say and chiming in when I feel that I can contribute.

 

@BroTom I was expecting someone to comment on that and add some ideas lol, but figured it got my point across for all intents and purposes. I read a book called “On Being Certain” by a neurologist named Robert A. Burton that made me further question the validity of what my “gut” has to say, especially after relating my gut to the holy spirit for so long (oy). It talks about how there’s a variety of factors that influence our “feelings of certainty” or “gut inclinations” and how we don’t always know the things that we think we know. You might enjoy it! Or it might be too rudimentary for you. Either way, thanks for chiming in.

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Thanks.....I'll put that on my already-too-long reading list  :)

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Hey REM123 :)

 

Your style of writing and putting Your feelings and thoughts into sentences is wonderful :)

 

I wish I could write that well as You too, cause I would like to be in a future a screenwriter, maybe not super famous and professional, but really good in writing interesting stories (mostly about spiritual conflicts, mental health issues, social problems and a problem of losing parents through death or abandoment).

 

I like the way You shared Your story here and how You went into some details. You are not ahamed of all feelings that You were experiencing as a believer and how certain things and aspects of belief were helping You to go through some life difficulties. And Your understanding of things that You experienced in a whole process is really well-written.

 

You have a great chance to be the next great advisor on this forum!

 

Some people here ( I don't blame them, they are strong-minded individuals) are like...this whole Christian life that I experienced was a big BULLSHIT and now I am free and happy and all of that!

 

I'm glad that You notice that some stuff in Christian life were good and helpful and You see now, why it's not that easy to just let it go quickly and put it in a BULLSHIT category. For emotional, sentimental and vulnerable individuals it's much harder to JUST let it go fast.

 

REM123, I wish You lots of success on Your journey out of Christianity and lots of joy in  discovering more and more about that what You really want to do with Your life :)

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Thanks @Lost for your encouragement and comments :) Writing in one form or another has always been cathartic for me.

 

I can’t say that I’m not ashamed of any of the feelings I experienced as a believer, but I have to acknowledge that for most of my time in church I felt safe, loved, encouraged, and nurtured. I guess I’ve been on a journey of becoming more and more myself over the last twelve years and church was an active and relevant part of that process. It’s hard for me to be super judgmental (although I definitely do have my judgments) about that time in my life because I was supported through something very hurtful and scary. I blossomed as a result of the community and my faith in God. It honestly messes with my head a bit, the juxtaposition between my good memories and gratitude to my old church community and my inability now to relate to them or believe in the same things any longer.

 

I’ve read a few more threads and stories on this site and realized that I was fortunate to not have anything really horrible happen and to be a part of a church that was very liberal and forward thinking where people were for the most part sane, stable, and practically inclined as well as spiritually.  That probably helps me to have a different perspective and less anger (on top of the fact that I'm always a mediator and see two sides to every coin whether I want to or not). My boyfriend has completely different reactions to Christianity. He gets furious because in his experience growing up it did real damage to his family financially and emotionally. I can only relate to that so much, and it’s hard to really separate ourselves from personal experiences despite how empathetic we are. I guess it's probably good to have both: people with little tolerance and people with a lot. Maybe we can all balance on another out.
 

That's neat that you're interested in screenwriting! Have you taken any writing classes or reached out to any local drama clubs? Perhaps there’s opportunities to begin honing the craft there. Those are emotionally compelling topics that you're interested in that definitely have the potential to attract and audience! I wish you luck with your writing endeavors!

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@DanForsman I happened upon another one of your responses on the site and saw that you're a vegan. I hope the video that I posted didn't come across as insensitive! There's definitely a scene in there (aside from her eating bacon) that might be off-putting depending on your reasons for opting for a vegan diet. I just love hearing Razie talk about her experience coming into her own (especially at such a later stage in life) and starting to think for herself. She's intentional with her words and has a lot of spunk! But I wanted to apologize in case that was grotesque or offensive in any way.


Also, I really appreciate how your responses are sensitive and personalized. You're very good at identifying underlying feelings or struggles that people might not directly articulate in their posts and encouraging them with practical suggestions as well as emotional support. You might be a counselor for all I know!

Anyway, thanks again and sorry for the bacon video...:49:

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Welcome REM!

 

Ex-C and welcome to this lil Community of assorted people and opinions. Not your average button up, tie on, best sunday-go-to-meetin' Forum.

We have the mission here to let folks as yourself find a voice, ask questions, DARE to  think against those 98% of religious folks, and spend quality on.ass on.line time learning to 'un'-conform.

 

Your opening post shares some quite a bit in many particulars with quite a few folks who have come here. If not riders on same trail, fellow travelers in the least.  Welcome, find a place in our various spaces, enjoy time here.

 

kevinL

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Thank you REM123 for the kind and thoughtful response and encouragement. I don’t think that bloody battered pig’s head will do anything to encourage eating meat so no problem on that score and Razie is awesome! How fortunate to have such a clear thinking capable mind at her age. I’m a 70 year old lifetime carpenter who has put considerable effort into “finding my passion” so i’ll transition well into retirement as l’m aware that retirement could be disappointing without some interesting plans. That has led me here as I have come to believe I have something useful to share with those involved in  deconverting and I have learned so much about the way humans think and how that is mixed with emotions and even quite possibly influenced by natural selection. Thank you so much for responding ; you really have a gift for communicating with your writing.

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So irregardless of how far along you are in your deconversion process I'm sure you have a lot to offer others traveling down a similar path. Maybe just keep an eye on the new posting and you might see a place or two where you think you'd really like to add something or move the conversation in a direction that seems to you to have been overlooked or you'll see something that you feel should be given more serious thought, or you'll have a question you'd like to ask, encouragement you'd like to add, sympathy you'd like to express, etc. It could turn out to be really special for you as it is for me. Thanks again. The Canada that you describe seems like a wonderful place to live (except maybe a little extra cold weather?). Wouldn't it be great if you could keep your church friends and get rid of the church?

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14 hours ago, DanForsman said:

Wouldn't it be great if you could keep your church friends and get rid of the church?

 

"Y'all step outside a minute...the wrecking crew is here!"   :P

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On 3/29/2018 at 4:20 PM, REM123 said:

I can accept and genuinely believe that the likelyhood of the God that I believed in to be highly unlikely

 

I like to say that even if there are such things as gods, none of the ones that people believe in are real, especially the god(s) in the Bible. And the one god that Christians believe in isn't the only god that the Bible in various places says is real! The Bible starts out with multiple gods (The Most High and his sons), transitions to a place where one of those sons (Yahweh/Jehovah) is the god of Israel and way better than his brothers, then later to his brothers not being real and there being only one god, and finally to a place where there are three gods who are somehow actually part of the one god. If people understood that, they wouldn't believe in the Bible.

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@DanForsman thanks for seeking me out and sharing such thought provoking and supportive insight. I saw your response last night and started reading about Harry and his family and decided to I needed to wait until this morning when I was no longer tired to really digest, particularly the bit where you said, “In spite of all these important considerations I think you are avoiding and shielding your christian experience from the very significant responsibility it has for your present state. What exactly is the crime you have committed? Why is it that you feel reluctant to turn to the friends your christian experience has brought you in your current very real crisis? Is it really OK to offer help with so many strings attached?” I didn’t quite understand what you meant in my tired state, but after some sleep and fresh cup of coffee,  now do.

 

Perhaps I do largely shield my christian experience from my present state of reoccurring (although not super frequent at this point-thankfully) guilt and sadness, though I’ve committed no real crime. There are some friends I feel okay confiding in and sharing the mental anguish I’ve experienced leaving church, but with others,  I’ve been afraid of being reprimanded or of being a disappointment, though those fears have lessened throughout the years. In regards to the last question, in general I think depending on circumstances it is okay for there to be expectations (aka strings attached or boundaries) when help is offered, but not when that help is really just emotional support, regular company, and lending an ear or advice, which is how the intimacy largely grew with my closest friend/s at church. And not when those expectations are unreasonable and ultimately manipulative, even with the best of intentions.

 

I have experienced some anger since leaving church, though perhaps not in the full expression that needs to be released to fully grieve and move on. I suppose time will iron that out.

 

Sometimes I feel a little silly being sometimes caught up on the loss of my former faith because it’s not like I was a devout believer for 20-30 years like many people on here were. But I realized last night while falling asleep the depth of my early childhood experiences in my paternal grandmother’s church and the influence her faith and that community had on me. Though I wasn’t actively involved and didn’t feel it was my commission to introduce people to Jesus for the majority of my life, the belief that there was a god and that he was expressed through Jesus was always there. I talked to him,  praised him, and took comfort in my belief in him even before I committed my life to him and got involved in church. Subconsciously I guess it feels like I’m somehow disconnecting myself from my late grandmother who’s experience and belief was genuine and very much helped her battle alcoholism and abuse. Letting go of Jesus in part means letting go of something that she valued (and never pushed on me or anyone else to my knowledge) and something that made me feel connected to her, or that I now realize largely defined her. It also means acknowledging how damaged and probably depressed she was since belief/church was a coping mechanism. That means acknowledging the brokenness in my dad’s family, all of which is really sad if I allow myself to think about it (in part because they are one broken family out of countless others).

 

Regarding going back to church and allowing myself to be open to possibilities, I did go back after like a year of not attending, to a Christmas Eve service with my former best friend, 2 or 3 years ago. I felt immensely out of place and couldn’t take anything my former pastor said seriously. It all seemed so trite, emotional, and illogical and I felt very out of place. I will be attending a wedding that will have lots of old christian friends there this June, so that should be interesting. I don’t imagine that I’ll feel self conscious this time around during the god-centered vows and thankfully I have one friend that I’ll be sharing a room with whom I feel comfortable being my complete self around, though she’s a professed Christian. Perhaps I could go to a church sometime, even if it’s not my former church (as many of my former friend circle have moved on to other churches for various reasons and as I just mentioned the last time I went it turned me off), just to see how I feel and maybe find some closure. When I was a fresh transplant to the east coast, homesick, and feeling vulnerable there was a church I went to seeking comfort and familiarity. Ironically there was a leader there from my small middle-of-nowhere hometown, which at the time seemed like too unlikely to just be a coincidence. I attended a 5-6 week introductory course for Christians at that church and then about a year later got my then boyfriend (who's faith was waning) to attend the course with me once he joined me on the east coast. Long story short, that church might be a good place to visit to try and bring things full circle for myself emotionally. I do think I'm beyond the point of christianity being a logical belief system for me to entertain, particularly as I now understand what compelled me to prioritize it's provided comforts over the lack of logically satisfying qualities that I've long grappled with. 

 

Harry and his family’s journey were encouraging and comforting to read about. Perhaps in time I will look to be a part of or to cultivate a community of encouraging secular individuals who enjoy fellowship and enriching themselves through shared, present, and real life experience. It does sound appealing, especially that "after church high."

 

Thanks so much for your support. I hope your elbow fracture heals in a timely fashion and that it’s not a big hindrance. Also, I’m glad that the bloody battered pig head didn’t offend you and that you enjoyed Razie’s story and her clear thinking abilities! I’m also happy to hear that you found your passion after putting considerable time into discovering it. Work does take up so much time in one’s life and planning for how to fill and use that free time in a meaningful and satisfying way during retirement is probably a good idea! Both my dad and paternal grandpa were also carpenters, and I grew up regularly visiting their work sites and riding in their work vans. I love the smell of a house under construction, it’s so nostalgic and takes me right back to childhood :)

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oops, posted that in the wrong thread!

 

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On 3/29/2018 at 5:20 PM, REM123 said:
Something happened recently that's been on my mind and likely influenced my visiting this site again and writing this. I went to a baby shower for friend's of my former church community and was talking to a couple of friends. They're both educated and generally thoughtful individuals. One is a social worker, the other works for a non-profit, and they're both tolerant of non-Christian views. The latter is from New Zealand and was commenting on something he'd recently read about there being many Christ-like themes in Aboriginal religions. He said that there's accounts of stories of a virgin birth etc. etc. What caught me off guard was both of their reactions. They were in awe of how God in his infinite love, knowledge, and timelessness, before Jesus was even born, was laying the groundwork revealing himself in so many different regions through "Christian narrative."
 
I was astonished and dumbfounded. My brain's automatic reaction wasn't awe but instead, "Yeah, quite simply that means that the bible isn't very original and it's authors borrowed themes from pagan religions." I didn't say anything though. Nor did I nod in agreement. Luckily the noise at the party was a nice buffer for my apparent indifference.  I didn't feel as uncomfortable as I would have three years ago. There's a lot that I don't know and many critical thinking skills I've yet to foster, but I do know  now that I'm not being deceived by the enemy and that my thinking and pliable mind isn't a hindrance.
 
Thanks for reading and for also sharing your stories.

 

Welcome to the community, REM123! 

 

I will advise you to go right to the general theology section to pursue this direction of interest. Many of us who participate there are very knowledgeable about this direction of inquiry, from years reading and personal research. And can suggest relevant reading material that will greatly increase your understanding of the landscape of this debate. 

 

Maybe start here: 

 

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Welcome to X-Christian! Yeah - it's trippy realizing that, despite popular belief, Christianity is not original at all. If I ever re-lapse into religion maybe I'll try Zoroastrianism instead? :P

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