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I was raised in a Christian home, Lutheran Missouri Synod, in the United States' Midwest. I was baptized as an infant, attended Sunday school, did my years of Confirmation on Sundays on Wednesday nights and was Confirmed into the Lutheran Church as a teenaged boy. My family and I went to church every Sunday and read daily devotionals. I went to a public school, where during my elementary years, we said the Pledge of Allegiance daily, reminding me that we were one nation under god. My high school curriculum didn't involve any sort of nonsecular teachings, ie. Creationism, but it didn't include much mention of evolution either. I guess that was my school district's idea of taking the high road on that debate. Most of my friends growing up were Christians as well, either Lutheran or Catholic, as these were the only churches in our community. We came from a long line of Lutherans, on both sides of my family, and it was a huge part of our identity. As I grew up, moved out, started my own family and became involved with my own life, religion continued to play a huge part.  In my 20's I moved to the Southeastern US, married a Southern Baptist girl and subsequently started attending her church. While the service, and experience, was very much different than my childhood in the Lutheran Church, I quickly became accustomed to it and became active in the church. In my early 30's I was "born again" and was baptized, again, alongside my children, in our Baptist church. I remained active in church activities up until my late 30's when something miraculous happened. Somehow, a book ended up in my possession, a very remarkable book, that changed my life. It was The Third Chimpanzee by Jared Diamond. It introduced me to the very interesting discovery of evolution. I really have no idea how I came to possess this book. It was just there one day. Regardless, I read it and for the first time, had my eyes opened to a whole new, intriguing world of science, anthropology and human evolution. I was mesmerized. I went on to read several more books about biological evolution, genetics, DNA sequencing, anthropology, archaeology and a variety of other scientific disciplines, and had my world turned upside down. Still holding on to my Christian "teachings" I nonetheless felt very confused. I had almost 40 years of Biblical study and education that told me one set of stories and a newly discovered world around me that told me another. However, the world of science had proof. It contained a fossil record, archaeological evidence and other proof to support its claims. Religion only had faith. Regardless, it was difficult to break away from my religious background. If my adulthood in the Baptist Church had taught me anything, it was that I was worthless without god. I was taught that, everything good that had happened in my life was god's work. It was because of his grace that I had anything, or accomplished anything. And, I owed all thanks, glory and honor to him for blessing me with so many wonderful things, relationships and abilities. On the other hand, anything bad that happened to me was of my own doing. It was brought about by my straying from god and trying to do things my way and not his. As foolish as it sounds, I was afraid to take any steps in my life that may essentially piss off god. I tried hard to remain a faithful follower of Christ. Praying harder than ever before, I asked god for help overcoming my weakness and doubt. Of course, nothing changed. Then, I went to my pastor, who was also a close friend at the time, and asked him for his assistance. This is when I really began to realize the truth. I told him the whole story and he immediately started reciting Bible verses about the dangers of knowledge. He belittled me for falling in to Satan's trap of human, worldly knowledge and basically recommended that I refrain from learning anything that wasn't in his sermons. His exact words were, "you don't need any knowledge to get through this life other than what I preach from that pulpit". As far as he was concerned, that was the end of my dilemma. He thought I was cured by being told to remain stupid and only listen to him. Of course, this wasn't a suitable answer in my opinion. As I continued to struggle with my faith, I looked online for answers. I was overwhelmed with the huge amount of evidence against Christianity. As I learned more about the religion that had stolen its best stories from other mythologies, I found that I was becoming less and less dependant on god. All the while, continuing my church pew appearances. However, I did "retire" as a church Deacon at around this time, citing a busy work and home life as my excuse. Of course, I had to uphold my Christian persona around the house too. As my internal struggle continued, I found more and more information that refuted my religious upbringing. Then, I decided to conduct an experiment. I decide to go one week "without" god. This included no praying, no saying the blessing, no living in fear of his punishment. One week turned in to two, then, a month, a year and so on. My life wasn't spinning out of control without a supreme being, like I was told it would. If anything, I had broken away from Christianities chains. I started to realize my self worth, as well as the worth of others. Finally, one day I came to the conclusion that what I had spent most of my life practicing and believing wasn't even true. Thank you Jared Diamond. LOL. Now, in my late 40's I am basically free from religions stranglehold. While I still have to remain a closet atheist at home, in my own mind I know the truth; and it's amazing. It's like knowing a secret that no one else is privy to. It's refreshing. I'm a better person for breaking loose from Christianity. I know that because I was told that just the other day. I no longer judge people based on their denominational preference, or lack thereof. Nor, do I chastize people for not believing the "good news". I'm free!

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Welcome, Jerry, and congratulations on your new-found freedom.  The most precious freedom is freedom of the mind - nobody can take that away.  It's not easy being a closeted unbeliever, but I've found being part of this community - even if it's only online - can make a big difference.  You can come here and say what you really think and the people here "get" you in a way that nobody else does. 

 

I like how you used the word "refreshing" to describe how it feels.  That's a word I've often used myself.  No two deconversion stories are exactly the same, but we do all have quite a bit in common!  So again, Welcome, and I look forward to hearing more from you.  We all gain when a new member shows up and I hope you gain the most of all.

 

Cheers,

TABA

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Welcome Jerry, and I’m glad you found the exit sign. Leaving religion is difficult but also exhilarating. I know you will find this site helpful. 

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Great story, Jerry :)

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I may have under-emphasized the actual internal struggle that I went through. Years of being commisioned to "look to god" for the answers was extremely difficult for me to overcome. I truly believed that praying was somehow helping me overcome difficulties and obstacles in my life. In hindsight, I was actually talking out my problems, and ultimately finding solutions, all by myself. Or, I guess you could say that I was talking out my problems with my imaginary friend. Regardless, I came to realize that I had the capability to navigate through life all along. I still cannot figure out why religion leads one to believe that they're incapable without a higher power guiding them through troubled times. I really think that is the most costly effect of religion; the fact that it takes your individuality, creativity and self assurance away from you. It taught me that, not only was I incapable without god, but I was less of a person. I needed him, in essence, to perform the most mundane things. The entire time, not realizing how amazing I, and others, were all by ourselves. I was often demoralized by my sins, by what I couldn't do without god, with how worthless I was on my own. I don't know how others reacted to the "you need god" theory but, it made me feel incomplete. However, when I tried to break free from this phenomenon, I kept coming back to it. I was literally caught in a vicious circle of trying to escape religion by turning to religion for the answers. Thousands of unanswered prayers later, I was finally able to free myself. However, it wasn't as easy as I made it sound in my original post. My experiment failed several times, with me praying for signs, help, answers. Forty years of brainwashing had commisioned me well. I was certainly hooked. However, the truth of the world around me was always there nagging at me. I knew religion was fake. I knew it was nothing more than mythology. Still, I couldn't break its chains. I struggled with this for years. Religion is a very powerful form of brainwashing. Even when I could deduce that it had no real meaning, no actual power, and contained very little, or no, truth, I continued to look to it for guidance. If anything, I had become irrational with Christianity. Even when I knew it wasn't real, I, for some reason, defended it to myself. It had me to where I couldn't function without god, even though I had full knowledge that he didn't exist. It's scary to think about religions' power to make someone feel this way. Luckily, common sense eventually won out. But, it was a long battle.

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