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BarnOwl

Losing my faith while finding myself

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Hello, my name is Joseph. I’m currently 23 years old and have been closeted gay since I was 14.

 

I spent years of my life questioning my sexuality and what I liked and didn’t like. For all of those years, I isolated myself more and more. I also became angry and irritable towards my family.

 

My mom would inquire about my attitude, but I would always shrug off her questions as me just being a “moody teenager” or being under stress from school. In reality though, I was keeping this major part of my life a secret and was even resenting her and my family for making me feel like I had to keep it a secret.

 

Until recently, I had never even considered leaving my faith. Surprisingly enough, I actually decided to look up atheist arguments against Christianity while reading some books by CS Lewis my mom had just bought me for Christmas. Reading his writings, I realized that I had never taken the time to see what the other side of the argument was. Rather, I had always assumed what I believed to be true and kept my gayness in check because of that.

 

Soon after some Google and YouTube searches though, I was beginning to realize that I had been doubting my faith for years. Many of the arguments against Christianity were similar to the questions I was already thinking but too afraid to ask for many years.

 

Now, I’m in this state of limbo, feeling stuck with these beliefs that I’m not really sure I have anymore but also feeling this desire to let go of it all and finally allow myself to be the person I’ve been hiding for years.

 

The more I realize how not-unique my story is and how many people share a similar experience and walk away feeling better because of it, the more I want it for myself. I still feel stuck though, like I have to get God’s permission first to stop believing in Him, even though I know how ridiculous that sounds. I don’t necessarily want to believe, but I also can’t escape the feelings and experiences that have propped up my faith for the past 23 years.

 

Thank you for taking the time to read this. I look forward to maybe finding a community of people that I can actually talk about these things openly with.

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Welcome to our community.  I understand the feeling of being a square peg forced into a round hole very well.  Having been out of religion for nearly 20 years now, I still find parts of myself that I have kept hidden or not allowed myself the freedom to experience or explore.  But knowing that the only permission I need is my own has been the most liberating knowledge I have ever gained.

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Welcome BarnOwl (cool name!).  Glad you came to ExC to let it out and talk about the things that are bothering you.

 

It sounds like there are two issues with which you are struggling.  The first is coming out as gay.  The second is coming out after leaving the Christian faith behind.

 

i have some thoughts on this, but I am curious as to where you see these two issues intersecting in a way that, from my reading, you could hardly separate them.

 

i ask this in a friendly and nonjudgmental manner and look forward to your response.

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WELCOME BarnOwl.  This is a good place to find information, and people who understand.  Snoop around the forums, read some articles at the home page, and read some in the TESTIMONIAL section.  Make posts at a pace you are comfortable with.

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Many of us had great experiences in church and in private worship times, it's just that eventually we had enough legitimate questions with only vague nonsensical answers, reams of Bible verses that gave a very different picture of the Bible god than we worshiped, actual historical evidence that belies the stories of the scriptures, and the complete silence of god when we really needed answers (which stands in stark contrast to the pleasant sounding promises that drew us in as converts "Ask and it shall be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For all who ask receive, etc" "If your child asks for bread, will you give him a stone?" etc). It turned into a constant shell-game of "Oh He's always faithful! He answered, but it just looks different than you expected or wanted." "He's not a cosmic vending machine you know" "Maybe God wanted another little angel at his throne" 

 

I experienced things that seemed to confirm the reality of God at the time, but in retrospect leave me wondering what it really was. I've been out of the faith now for 12.5 years after 30 years of on-fire pursuit of God's presence. Since then, I've read a lot about the reality of world history, and the complete lack of it matching the Bible. Then the logistics of a whole people group and their animals leaving Egypt without a trace of that being found in any writings outside of Judaism, trying to get water to millions of them from a magic rock drinking fountain, talking snake, talking donkey, and loads of God blessing mass rape and genocide. I swallowed all of it while a believer and hoped I'd experience some of that magic, especially after Jesus promised that God would dwell inside each believer. 30 years and tens of thousands of dollars later, there was no reality to it. Lots of smiles and fellowship in the cult, but no reality of God in it. No answers to honest questions. No explanations for the primitive tribal violence and taboos replete in the scriptures (including the anti-gay ones). No revelations to the primitive peoples about germs or cooking their food properly, or any science at all. Lots of stories about magic, but nothing for us but promises that aren't kept. 

 

Now that I'm on the outside, life makes a ton more sense with no invisible battles between angels and demons. Sex is simply a drive we all have (or mostly all have), and there is a variety of wiring in that regard. We are products of the Earth and part of the variety of life left on the planet. I find joy in that connection and in trying to be kind to others.

 

Anyway, I hope you find the inner peace you need. 

 

 

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Welcome BarnOwl. I'm so happy you found Ex-c! Just remember my friend, you are going to be confused about all of this at first because your mind is pulling you back and forth. Once you learn more about the christian god, you will be able to become free to be who you really are! Stay with us. Post. Read. Ask us questions. And remember.....jesus himself never said one word in the new testament about being against any loving, gay person. Don't you think if this topic of being gay  was that important, Jesus

himself would have said something about it? Yet he didn't.

 

So breathe and relax for tonight. Get ready for the journey you are about to take. It will be a little bit of a roller-coaster ride as you find your new life and form a new 'world view'.

 

You got this!.

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5 minutes ago, Margee said:

 

.jesus himself never said one word in the new testament about being against any loving, gay person. Don't you think if it was that important, Jesus

himself would have said something about it? Yet he didn't.

 

 

And some have even suggested he was gay himself.  And some don't believe he was real to begin with.

 

And Margee is right about the rollercoaster ride.  It will be exciting, at times scary,  and at times it may be a little sickening.  But not living a lie is the most freeing thing you can do for yourself.  And "travel" at your own pace.

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13 hours ago, BarnOwl said:

I still feel stuck though, like I have to get God’s permission first to stop believing in Him,

  

Feeling that way is normal because you've been brainwashed and your rational brain and your emotional brain are dueling it out. Eventually your rational brain will win. On the first day of spring, get out early in the morning to a secluded place with a view to the east and watch the sun rise, and with it a new life for yourself. 

 

I've posted this several times recently and I hope the regulars will forgive me for posting it again, but I find it worthwhile:

Start where you are.

Use what you have.

Do what you can.

     —Arthur Ashe

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13 hours ago, TheRedneckProfessor said:

Welcome to our community.  I understand the feeling of being a square peg forced into a round hole very well.  Having been out of religion for nearly 20 years now, I still find parts of myself that I have kept hidden or not allowed myself the freedom to experience or explore.  But knowing that the only permission I need is my own has been the most liberating knowledge I have ever gained.


Thanks! That does sound liberating, but also terrifying if I’m honest. I’ve been taught my whole life that I can’t trust my own heart and head, so even now I question the validity of my reasoning.

 

3 hours ago, Overcame Faith said:

Welcome BarnOwl (cool name!).  Glad you came to ExC to let it out and talk about the things that are bothering you.

 

It sounds like there are two issues with which you are struggling.  The first is coming out as gay.  The second is coming out after leaving the Christian faith behind.

 

i have some thoughts on this, but I am curious as to where you see these two issues intersecting in a way that, from my reading, you could hardly separate them.

 

i ask this in a friendly and nonjudgmental manner and look forward to your response.


Barn owls are my fav animal, so that’s what I went with :)

 

Your analysis is very accurate and made me sit back and think for a minute before I could continue reading.

 

For me, the two are intertwined because whatever I choose for one, the other follows.

 

If I’m honest, I probably wouldn’t even be doubting my faith so much to feel the need to post here if it wasn’t for being gay. But being gay and wanting what that means is forcing me analyze my faith and why I believe the way I do.

 

Part of me even wonders if the idea of losing my faith is an emotional one in order to give myself permission to live the life I want. I can definitely say that thought is one that prevents me from being able to even trust my own judgement right now.

 

Essentially, being gay means leaving the faith. Staying with the faith means either staying celibate or trying to find a way to “be straight.”

 

I don’t see a way to separate the two, personally. They basically go hand in hand in my mind.

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3 hours ago, Weezer said:

WELCOME BarnOwl.  This is a good place to find information, and people who understand.  Snoop around the forums, read some articles at the home page, and read some in the TESTIMONIAL section.  Make posts at a pace you are comfortable with.


Thank you for the welcome! I’ve been reading a bit, but I’m kind of overwhelmed with the amount of information available.

 

I have to keep reminding myself that I spent 23 years indoctrinating myself into Christianity, I can’t expect to learn all of this overnight.

3 hours ago, Fuego said:

snip

 

 


Thank you for this. Those experiences are definitely one of the hard things for me to dismiss.

 

I’ve been asking God for help and answers for over a year now, only recently realizing that there might not be anyone there to answer.

 

I have read and had similar issues with the Bible in the past, though of course there is always some apologetic with an answer and context to make it make sense. In fact, I could probably give apologetics answers for majority of what you stated.

 

However, for me I’m exhausted with constantly trying to make the Bible make sense. If it’s God’s inspired Word, we shouldn’t need special logic and historical knowledge for it to make sense today.

 

3 hours ago, Margee said:

Welcome BarnOwl. I'm so happy you found Ex-c! Just remember my friend, you are going to be confused about all of this at first because your mind is pulling you back and forth. Once you learn more about the christian god, you will be able to become free to be who you really are! Stay with us. Post. Read. Ask us questions. And remember.....jesus himself never said one word in the new testament about being against any loving, gay person. Don't you think if this topic of being gay  was that important, Jesus

himself would have said something about it? Yet he didn't.

 

So breathe and relax for tonight. Get ready for the journey you are about to take. It will be a little bit of a roller-coaster ride as you find your new life and form a new 'world view'.

 

You got this!.


Thank you, I really need that reminder to just breathe. I have a tendency to throw myself into things too much and overwhelm myself, so I needed the reminder that I just need to take it easy and work through all of this. I know it’s going to be a lot of work, but I feel better already knowing that I have somewhere I can go with questions or concerns. Thank you.

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2 hours ago, Weezer said:

 

And some have even suggested he was gay himself.  And some don't believe he was real to begin with.

 

And Margee is right about the rollercoaster ride.  It will be exciting, at times scary,  and at times it may be a little sickening.  But not living a lie is the most freeing thing you can do for yourself.  And "travel" at your own pace.

Moving at my own pace can be a little challenging for me, lol. As I said in my previous post, I have a hard time pacing myself and ensuring I’m really taking things in rather than overwhelming myself.

 

2 hours ago, older said:

  

Feeling that way is normal because you've been brainwashed and your rational brain and your emotional brain are dueling it out. Eventually your rational brain will win. On the first day of spring, get out early in the morning to a secluded place with a view to the east and watch the sun rise, and with it a new life for yourself. 

 

I've posted this several times recently and I hope the regulars will forgive me for posting it again, but I find it worthwhile:

Start where you are.

Use what you have.

Do what you can.

     —Arthur Ashe


I really need that, some time alone to just think. I’m thinking about planning a day like that this week sometime, not sure when yet though. It’s just been a really stressful and exhausting time for me, and I think some time doing something by myself is needed.

 

Also I love that quote, so thank you for sharing it. If it matters, I forgive you for posting it again for me ;)

 

2 hours ago, AcrobaticDetective said:

I'm new here (this forum and the journey of lost faith) myself. Welcome.


Hey, thanks! Glad I won’t be taking this journey alone, then, at least :D 

 

——————————

 

A couple things I wanted to add that I thought of while replying here:

 

I like to ask lots of questions, so apologies if it ever feels like I post a ton later on with lots of questions- I’ll try to make sure I try to find the answers on another thread first, if I can. I also can be very wordy, so sorry for any long posts.

 

I’m still reconciling myself with being gay. I don’t think I’ve been entirely clear on that front, but while I can easily say that I’m gay, I’m still struggling and debating with the idea of whether or not I should act on it. My family knows that I’m gay, but I’ve convinced them since coming out that it is just “my struggle” and not something I want to act on. (So I traded being closeted for being out and just not doing anything about it. I guess small steps?)

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2 hours ago, BarnOwl said:

If I’m honest, I probably wouldn’t even be doubting my faith so much to feel the need to post here if it wasn’t for being gay. But being gay and wanting what that means is forcing me analyze my faith and why I believe the way I do.

 

Part of me even wonders if the idea of losing my faith is an emotional one in order to give myself permission to live the life I want. I can definitely say that thought is one that prevents me from being able to even trust my own judgement right now.

 

Essentially, being gay means leaving the faith. Staying with the faith means either staying celibate or trying to find a way to “be straight.”

 

I don’t see a way to separate the two, personally. They basically go hand in hand in my mind.


Yes, this is the struggle I saw in your OP.  If I understand your struggle, there are two things that you want, but in your mind, you cannot have both.  So the struggle is whether to remain a Christian but not act on your natural desires as a gay man, suppress it, in other words, or give up Christianity and express your true self in the sense of being gay.

 

Don’t make life any more difficult than it already is.  If you still like Christianity and don’t want to give that up, then by all means, don’t.  There are denominations out there that are very gay friendly, perform gay weddings, ordain gay men and women, etc.  look for one of these churches that will accept you as you are.  If you then want to leave Christianity, then deal with that issue once you are comfortable with yourself being gay.  One step at a time.

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5 hours ago, BarnOwl said:

Thanks! That does sound liberating, but also terrifying if I’m honest. I’ve been taught my whole life that I can’t trust my own heart and head, so even now I question the validity of my reasoning.

Same here.  I've gotten better at it; but it takes time.  I am still learning to recognize my own emotions, and even instincts.  Along with my own thoughts, emotions and instincts were beaten out of me through childhood indoctrination, as they were evil and not of god.  Now I give myself the freedom to be angry, laugh like a deranged banshee, cry... and also not to trust people I get a bad vibe from, put boundaries for those who hurt me, and love whomever I choose.  I'm still wrong sometimes; but it's not because my reasoning skills are ungodly, fallen, sinful... it's just because I'm human.

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8 hours ago, BarnOwl said:

we shouldn’t need special logic and historical knowledge for it to make sense today

 

Bingo! And there is no such thing as special logic, just logic. I have a fanatical "friend" who uses the most contorted thinking I've ever witnessed, and thinks it all clearly logical. Like when he was playing with a toy as a child and permanently damaged an eye, he says Jesus did this to protect him from pride that would have destroyed him later in life. That fits in great with the death of self in the Bible, but is just about insane. 

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Welcome @BarnOwl! There's been lots of good advice given already so I'm just going to add, that the emotions you're experiencing are completely normal and as you stated, you've been taught not to trust yourself. What can help on this healing journey is the work by psychologist Marlene Winell, she's written a book specifically for ex Christians who have left the faith (Leaving the Fold) and how to understand what you are going through and what you can do to grow, as awareness and understanding of yourself are key. She also runs support groups online if you think that would be beneficial. https://journeyfree.org/

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         First, I personally think it actually is harder and more schizophrenic to be openly gay and Christian than just openly gay and other things as secular of some sort. It is extremely clear, for me, that Jesus and probably Paul as seen in the Gospels were against ALL acting out sexual impulses. Paul clearly states that he desires that everyone be like him. Jesus said even a lustful desire is sin. And acting out sexuality is seen as a sort of compromise, in a heterosexual marriage. There was not and is not any early Christian school that I know of which considered homosexuality ok. And Jesus from the Gospels did not say anything about homosexuality because it was such a no brainer for the Jews at the time. He did not have to say it is not ok to rape women. It was clearly understood. He should have said something if he was FOR it. Make no mistake, 99 percent sure that Christianity thinks homosexuality is a perversion of human nature, and would have never been named "love". I feel only pity for the Christians that try to squeeze gay rights into the Bible/Christian doctrine. They have to be world class mental gymnasts and denialists to do it. 

          In general, to try and mend together some modern rights issues with Christianity just gives birth to MORE contorted thinking. Gay-friendly Christian churches seem the most self deceiving part of the Christian world. 

          Second, the general Christian idea is that we live in a fallen world, so most of our instincts are kind of poisoned and corrupted, in general. So its not just sexuality, it is everything, from the way we eat, talk, everything. We are taught to despise and try to tolerate/destroy this fallen nature, while waiting for the general ressurection. And a general disgust with this life. So, in the Christian sense, your life here, on this earth, means almost nothing in itself. It is a life of torment and the cross, in different ways, and those that dedicate themselves to happiness in this life will be severly punished - another contorted weird version is the prosperity Gospel which is like the anti-Gospel. Christianity is NOT a religion for anyone seeking happiness in THIS life. It is an apocalyptic religion par excellence. It does deny moments of happiness here, but its main thrust is the afterlife. So, from its point of view, your battle to abstain from homosexual impulses is just part of your cross which you will be rewarded for in the afterlife. The more one suffers for Christ here, like martyrs and monks, the more he is rewarded - this a common thread in most Christianity. The promise of Christianity is a happy AFTERLIFE, not a happy life. To the contrary. Everyone trying to live in Christi shall be persecuted, says the Gospels and the letters of Paul. The fact that many Christians seek a happy life here, a Christian government here, and that stuff just shows you how contradictory their behavior is when confronted with their beliefs. Of course, it does not preach obvious self mutilation, and permits some happy feelings and moments, but only as fleeting secondary things, in no case as the main thing. Like peanuts in a waiting room. Nice for snacking, but in no case the reason you came to the doctor. :)

           My advice is try to have as less contorted thinking as possible. This usually brings some peace to the mind. Our mind seems to CRAVE order. 

          

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On 2/3/2020 at 8:31 AM, BarnOwl said:

 

 I look forward to maybe finding a community of people that I can actually talk about these things openly with.

 

 

Hi Joseph,

 

Well I think you've found that community here.  This is a great place to be, where you can say what's on your mind and be among supportive people, including some who have been in places very much like yours, with regard to both religion and sexuality.

 

You've clearly taken a few steps along the road to deconversion.  It doesn't mean that you inevitably continue in the same direction.  This will very likely sort itself out in your mind, but it does take time.  Even for those of us who ended up without any god-belief whatsoever, it wan't a smooth, straight line.  Sometimes faith on the one hand and reason/skepticism on the other are at work at the same time, and in conflict with each other.  This can cause confusion and anguish for a while, but for most people it does resolve itself with one side of the argument winning out.  When faith wins, the partial deconversion process is reversed, either all the way back to some version of Christianity or maybe to a broader kind of god-belief.  For me and the other Ex-Christians, faith eventually faded away to nothing.  I would encourage you to stay around, to read, to ask questions and enjoy being among people who accept you as you are.  Welcome!

 

- TABA

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Welcome, BarnOwl! I too like your screen name, especially since I used to be an avid birder.

 

Like you, I struggled to reconcile being Christian with being gay. Eventually the injustice of God as depicted by Christianity, and the failure of NT promises to come true as the NT indicates they should, drove me out of the religion. Later on I came to see how flawed is the evidential basis it rests on.

 

I don't know whether the old archives are still accessible here on Ex-Chr. Below is my anti-testimony, which I posted back in 2004. Egad!  16 more years have gone by! Sorry for the length. I hope there is something you can identify with. I agree with you that we're not all that unique.

 

Time to say yes to life

 

      It’s been over twenty years since my fervent faith collapsed, and almost fifteen since I stopped going to church altogether.  I used to think I could never go on without believing in Christ as my savior.  Rarely, I miss it, but I realize it’s the social or emotional trappings-- Christmas carols on an icy night, incense breathed at mass, or tradition and the pull of ideals.  I know from reading posts on this website that many people who drop Christianity feel adrift and anxious.  From my middle-aged perspective, I haven’t looked back or regretted leaving.  I’d make the same decision again and know it was the right one.  Christianity was costing me my chance for a human life.  The god it represented was unjust.  It didn’t live up to what it promised.  As a system, it couldn’t be true.

 

     As a young child I was sent to Presbyterian Sunday School by parents who were also into Westernized, Hinduistic practices and ideas like vedantic yoga and reincarnation. I was attracted to God and spiritual things.  The summer after ninth grade I had been reading Autobiography of a Yogi and was struck by the meaninglessness of earthly life compared to the aspiration of becoming one with God.  All the same I wanted to fit in with other kids, plus I was attracted to other boys, but I didn’t confront that as a “problem” within myself until I was well into high school.  I wound up in college lonely and confused, resigned that I was gay but unable to decide what to do about that, wishing for a sense of direction and purpose.  I wanted to understand truth that would set me free (I used to say this biblical verse to myself).  I had fallen in love with philosophy and wanted to study more, even perhaps someday to be a philosopher.

 

     At the start of sophomore year I met some students who had been “saved” over the summer.  They seemed full of life and purpose.  I marveled at how they seemed transformed.  They and other Christian students all seemed to display instant love for each other, and they tried to show it to non-Christians like me, too.  It didn’t take long before I agreed to go with one of my new friends to an emotional revival at an Assemblies of God church.  I thought the emphasis on sin, repentance and belief was ridiculous, even too easy.  I had come to believe that, if knowledge of God is real at all, it can be obtained only through arduous searching and self-development.  I thought sin was more lack of awareness. Still, at the end of the night I asked the pastor to pray that I would understand I was a sinner.  My friend told me to read the epistle to the Romans.  Within two weeks I sat in the university chapel, prayed the sinner’s prayer, and gave my heart to Christ.  All my new friends rejoiced that another sinner was born again.  I became immersed in the Assemblies church and in InterVarsity Christian Fellowship on campus.  I had a multitude of instant friends.  People wanted to hear my testimony. 

 

     At first I still had doubts.  My upbringing and education had left me assuming that fundamentalist Protestantism was just for the ignorant and emotional.  I dove into the Bible and devoured books explaining prophecy, creationism, and so on.  It was not long before the Assemblies of God led me to seek the “baptism of the Holy Spirit” and to speak in tongues.  It seems another person's life now, but I remember kneeling with two other people from the congregation in a darkened living room one autumn night on a shag carpet waiting, and then receiving, the "baptism." My tongue took off and formed what seemed like complete utterances all by itself in an unknown language.  I now am convinced I psyched myself into an extreme emotional state with my own prayers plus increased rate of breathing.  While my voice was doing the tongues thing, my rational faculties were all intact and I was with another part of my mind sort of standing back and thinking, wow, I've gotten the baptism, hasn't God blessed me! plus also wondering how much my consciousness was controlling what my tongue was doing.  My influence was a role in my sister’s becoming a Christian.  She and her husband now are still deeply into the charismatic movement. 

 

     On campus I became aware that there were many versions of Christianity and much doctrinal dispute.  When I wrote a paper the next year on St. Thomas Aquinas’ doctrine of predestination (he held that God foreordains all events, including who shall be saved), I came to believe that the Arminian (God foreknows but doesn’t cause) approach of the Assemblies was not scriptural.  My adherence to Christianity was stronger than my natural resistance to Calvinistic doctrines like God predestines those whom He will punish forever in hell (the saints rejoice at their torments), and I drifted into Calvinism under the influence of some other Christian students who were also studying philosophy.  I was elected president of the campus InterVarsity chapter, and I had a lot to do as leader of an organization of 160 or so members.  I was “discipling” younger students and all sorts of stuff that amazes me - how did I think I knew anything?  I visited elderly shut-ins.  I was always in love secretly with some male friend and no prayer or religious exercise ever changed that.  I believed God would change me eventually.  I did seek counseling from adult Inter Varsity leaders.  Like everyone else, I jerked off every so often and repented.  At one college retreat, about a hundred guys went to a session on masturbation, while I and one girl and one other guy went to a session on homosexuality!  Every so often my friends would confess their lusts or that they’d looked at porn or whatever.  I dated girls here and there but didn’t feel any physical desire - which scared me, but I still believed God would change me.  Like many who are really into Christianity, I wanted to go into some ministry.

 

     In graduate school I met Eastern Orthodox and Catholic students.  For the first time, I was confronted with serious Christians who were not Protestants.  My Assemblies and then Calvinist associates had all just assumed that those traditions were unscriptural and works-centered rather than salvation by faith alone.  One Sunday I went with other students to English services in a side chapel at a Russian Orthodox cathedral on New York’s Lower East Side.  It seemed very foreign, but people were clearly into it as much as in the Assemblies.  I met seminarians from St. Vladimir’s.  Protestants tend to talk as though the Holy Spirit skipped over about twelve or more centuries.  I started to wonder, were the Reformers justified in breaking away totally?  My question changed from “how can these priest-ridden groups think they understand the Gospel?” to “how can the Reformers justify their radical break?” One of the most striking things to hit me as a Calvinist was in a footnote in Tradition and Traditions by Yves Congar, quoting another theologian who observed that the principle of "sola scriptura" does not satisfy its own requirements in the case; it's not taught anywhere in the NT, which on the other hand talks about traditions of the apostles as normative.  I was shaken by Congar’s remark that the formation of the canon of scripture had long been one of the trump cards of the Catholic controversialist.  Protestants claim to limit themselves to a Bible alone, when that Bible doesn’t itself state the list of books that go into making it up - the Church came up with that.  John Henry Newman’s Apologia pro Vita Sua also shook my Protestant assumptions.

 

     I went on to a year at a Calvinist seminary to give the Reformation a chance.  Someone mentioned Cornelius Van Til a while back on this website;  he taught at a nearby seminary, and I heard him lecture on his presuppositionalist apologetics and went to his house for tea. John Henry Newman’s Lectures on Justification and his Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine provided arguments that none of my Calvinist teachers could answer. I had been taught by Calvinists that “a dogmatic Christ founded a dogmatic church.”  They wanted the Westminster Confession and other Protestant documents to hold authority about doctrine over the individual.  They got impatient when I kept asking why that principle doesn’t amount to tradition and teaching magisterium, i.e. it leads to Rome. By the end of that year I was sitting in on mass at a local parish, and the other students and the professors abandoned me as an apostate.  I had pledged to judge all questions by scripture when I entered that seminary.  I believed I was still doing this. “This is my body.” etc. etc.

 

     By this time I had a girlfriend, but I wasn’t taking things anywhere.  I had sought pastoral counseling about what I called homosexual desires.  Nothing was changing.   I thought maybe if I just get married in faith I’ll learn to love her physically.  As I decided to become Catholic, though, my idealistic side turned toward the priesthood.  Plus that gave the obvious advantage of promising ways of not dealing with my sexuality.  It turned out that I was groped at one point later by a religious brother in the provincial house of his order, and other priests made passes at me.  I told my priest about it as well as the brother’s superior, but I figured to let charity be charity and forgive someone’s weakness.  In a meeting with a monk-therapist I was told I wasn’t a real homosexual but a case of arrested development.  I didn’t know what to make of that, but since I was more seriously planning to enter religious life, I figured God would enable me to transcend the flesh by his grace.  It was very painful to my girlfriend when I told her I planned to become a priest.  I am ashamed even now of how long I let her hang on, though I know a marriage would have been total disaster.

 

      Among educated Catholics I met many who developed their minds and did not get hung up on fundamentalistic prejudices.  All the talk of “the Lord gave me a burden for this” or “the Lord led me to say/do this” etc. ad nauseam is much rarer in Catholic circles.  Catholic friends also tended to remain friends with me after I left, when all but one of my former Protestant friends shunned me as an apostate.  As years passed, eventually the problems with the God of the desert as depicted in biblical texts, and with the mentality that the religions of those texts create, became too much.  I remember one summer visiting the monastery of Mt. Savior near Elmira, and another visitor, a Catholic seminarian, said, in answer to my questions about what he was looking for, replied, "I'm trying to learn how to be a human being."

 

      At that time I was in love with my roommate who then became engaged to marry.  Again I’d seen my emotions run into directions my religion fenced off.  I'd been praying, and people prayed for me, that God would free me, but nothing was changing.  My priest said, enduring homosexuality and remaining faithful to church teachings was God’s way for me of carrying the cross.  That year I felt depressed at what looked like a life of loneliness.  I might have handled my struggles if they’d been unique to me, but as a believer in God’s omnipotence and sovereignty, I couldn’t see how He could be a just god setting up a world with millions of people like me and letting us have human drives and desires, then barring us from experiencing their fulfillment the way He allows heterosexuals to do -- even those who can’t have children.  All of us gays and lesbians were the pot saying to the potter, why hast thou made me thus? and the potter’s answer was, because it is my will, and it glorifies me.  I would walk down my street wondering, is this the way Luther used to feel when he said he hated God?  Some gay Christians claimed the Bible verses against gays and lesbians really have different interpretations, but my study of the Greek never convinced me they were right-- though I’m still open to that possibility.  Any ex-fundy knows how useful hermeneutical dexterity can be.  I went into therapy with a priest but nothing changed.  Contradictions in the Bible that I used to shrug off started to disturb me.  A graduate-school friend died of cancer despite the prayers of our whole campus group, including children from a nearby parish who didn’t even know the young man.  My hope was that monastic life would give me structure, goals and direction.

 

     Then, a REAL miracle!  I fell in love with my present lover-partner of 23 years.  When we realized we loved each other, my religious scruples fell like a house of cards.  The thought of hell waiting for gays melted under the warmth of hope.  I realized I could choose life over fear and loneliness.  The day we declared our feelings to each other, I wept that I could never pray the rosary again.  Ken took me in his arms.  “Of course you can, Kit. You can if you want to.”  But I knew the man I loved was wrong on this.  I could never pray again from inside an infallible faith.  Whatever the gray areas, the Christianity to which I’d devoted myself - Protestant or Catholic - claimed to be inerrant in its essentials.  I had never taken seriously anything less than that.  Drop one essential and the edifice crumbles.  I let it crumble and smiled through my tears.  In the ensuing days, I walked on air and wanted to shout our love from the rooftops.  Over time, the Christian residue faded away.  The human part remained and grew into its proper spaces.  Sadness and grief and obtuseness alternate day by day with gladness and wonder.  They are just what they are;  it’s a relief not to spiritualize mental states anymore.  I chuckle that as years passed, I even became sexually attracted by females as well as males.  It took getting out of Christianity to feel that.  I’m loyal to my honey just the same;  only monogamy works for me. 

    

     Before that day, I would have propounded lots of arguments to convince myself that my doubts about Christianity's fundamental truths were smokescreens for my sins, lust, desire for guys, rebellion, pride in my education and intellect, blah blah.  “You never really gave your heart to Christ because you were attached to your homosexual desires/scholarly pretensions.”  Whatever.  I did and believed ALL the stuff.  I don’t know how I could have had stronger belief in the forgiveness of my sins.  After becoming Catholic I had stopped masturbating for years.  I felt and expressed in confession a strong sense of contrition for my mental slip-ups.  Religious types always say that a person’s decision not to accept their doctrines comes out of the person’s moral fault, not the fault of the doctrines. When I looked away from myself and at the evidence of unanswered prayer, contradictions in the Bible (check this website!), the moral depravity of the deity depicted in that book, absurd combinations of mutually exclusive ideas, etc. etc., I realized my own "argumenta ad hominem" were my insecurities talking.  Some genuine Catholic friends urged me to stay in the church, but picking and choosing what teachings to accept just seemed dishonest.

 

     Augustine read Plato and fell in love with the Form of the Beautiful. He wanted that abstraction to have a human face. He convinced himself that face was the face of Christ. How many of us do that? But I need a human face to look into mine. How much "grace" a selfish, flawed human being can reflect back when s/he just is open to acting in right sentiment? I think that's the most love we get and give in this world. Acting because God told me so doesn't bring more virtue and often weakens what virtue there otherwise would be.  When I first got saved, Christianity met some of my psychological needs:  direction, purpose outside myself, confidence with people, yearning to be loved. Nevertheless I believe Christianity blocked me from other developmental tasks that were important at that age, like integrating romantic and sexual issues, establishing my career, being at ease with the world outside Christian circles.  I always secretly hated feeling that non-Christians were fundamentally separated from me and that I had to focus on converting them because they were headed for hell.  As a Catholic I loved the sacraments, the slow rise of the Divine Office prayed six times a day, the best of the music (like Faure’s Requiem), the attempt to integrate reason into faith, the understanding of human nature of the more Italianate style of Catholicism.  I was like other born again types -  when pushed to the wall to give an explanation, I justified my conversion by my experience.  So why not appeal to experience the other way round and leave a self-contradictory system when you realize it damages your experience?  (Parts of this testimony are pieced together from earlier postings.  Apologies to those who are reading them for the second time!)

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34 minutes ago, ficino said:

 

I don't know whether the old archives are still accessible here on Ex-Chr. Below is my anti-testimony, which I posted back in 2004. Egad!  16 more years have gone by!

 

 

Wow, ficino, is there any major Christian movement you WEREN'T a part of??  I hadn't read your ex-timony before so I'm glad you posted it again.  I hoped you'd chime in here; I'm sure it will be a help to Joseph.

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1 hour ago, TABA said:

 

Wow, ficino, is there any major Christian movement you WEREN'T a part of??  

Well, heh heh, I never BECAME Eastern Orthodox. And with those βρωμικοί και κλέπτονες παπάδες (dirty, thieving priests), I'm lucky I steered clear. 

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Welocme aboard, Joseph! 

 

I see you're making new friends already. We have something of a unique community of ex christians going on here as you can see. Here for the taking. 

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On 2/4/2020 at 3:01 AM, Overcame Faith said:


Yes, this is the struggle I saw in your OP.  If I understand your struggle, there are two things that you want, but in your mind, you cannot have both.  So the struggle is whether to remain a Christian but not act on your natural desires as a gay man, suppress it, in other words, or give up Christianity and express your true self in the sense of being gay.

 

Don’t make life any more difficult than it already is.  If you still like Christianity and don’t want to give that up, then by all means, don’t.  There are denominations out there that are very gay friendly, perform gay weddings, ordain gay men and women, etc.  look for one of these churches that will accept you as you are.  If you then want to leave Christianity, then deal with that issue once you are comfortable with yourself being gay.  One step at a time.


As somebody later replied in this thread, the mental gymnastics that requires made me realize that I may as well leave the faith anyways if I choose to follow that path. Trust me, I’ve done months of research to see if there was any chance that the scriptures could be safely reinterpreted to allow for homosexuality, but I found they just don’t. If I’m going to be a Christian, then I’m not going to be one that picks and chooses which parts I want to live by.

 

Writing that though makes me realize how ridiculous all of it sounds though. “Safely reinterpreting...” We shouldn’t have to interpret the Word of God. If God is truth, wisdom and love, the you would think His word would be pretty clear as is.

 

So no, I have been living the past week in a state of high stress and anxiety at the ideas I’ve been considering. I know that I am either choosing to leave my faith or choosing to bare my cross.

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On 2/4/2020 at 6:40 AM, TheRedneckProfessor said:

Same here.  I've gotten better at it; but it takes time.  I am still learning to recognize my own emotions, and even instincts.  Along with my own thoughts, emotions and instincts were beaten out of me through childhood indoctrination, as they were evil and not of god.  Now I give myself the freedom to be angry, laugh like a deranged banshee, cry... and also not to trust people I get a bad vibe from, put boundaries for those who hurt me, and love whomever I choose.  I'm still wrong sometimes; but it's not because my reasoning skills are ungodly, fallen, sinful... it's just because I'm human.


 

Learning that just because I make mistakes doesn’t make me morally wrong at the core is one of the most liberating ideas I’ve read yet on here. I’ve always felt that everyone was good at heart and just made bad decisions because we’re not perfect, and we’re learning as a species. I’ve been avidly reading material on here these past few days and it’s been very thought provoking and forced me to really critically think on things I believe.

 

On 2/4/2020 at 9:13 AM, Fuego said:

 

Bingo! And there is no such thing as special logic, just logic. I have a fanatical "friend" who uses the most contorted thinking I've ever witnessed, and thinks it all clearly logical. Like when he was playing with a toy as a child and permanently damaged an eye, he says Jesus did this to protect him from pride that would have destroyed him later in life. That fits in great with the death of self in the Bible, but is just about insane. 

 

Lol, there is only logic, not special logic. Something that made me both laugh and also helped me realize a few things myself. Thanks :) 
 

On 2/4/2020 at 9:25 AM, TruthSeeker0 said:

Welcome @BarnOwl! There's been lots of good advice given already so I'm just going to add, that the emotions you're experiencing are completely normal and as you stated, you've been taught not to trust yourself. What can help on this healing journey is the work by psychologist Marlene Winell, she's written a book specifically for ex Christians who have left the faith (Leaving the Fold) and how to understand what you are going through and what you can do to grow, as awareness and understanding of yourself are key. She also runs support groups online if you think that would be beneficial. https://journeyfree.org/

 

I read the first two chapters of that book, and it’s amazing. I need to get my hands on a copy ASAP and read it through - it’s one of my goals this week.

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On 2/5/2020 at 6:52 PM, BarnOwl said:

Learning that just because I make mistakes doesn’t make me morally wrong at the core is one of the most liberating ideas I’ve read yet on here. I’ve always felt that everyone was good at heart and just made bad decisions because we’re not perfect, and we’re learning as a species.

   

Well written. I think we need to look at ourselves from a distance. Perhaps we could call it micro-self-evaluation vs. macro-self-evaluation. Every person on this planet has made major mistakes from the micro perspective. And it can be difficult for us to deal with the feelings of guilt and failure that can accompany those errors. But one way to work past that is to step back to a macro perspective. As you have written, most people are good at heart, and we need to look at ourselves the same way. If life's deeds were placed on a balance scale, if the scale tips to the good, we're doing OK.

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