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Changing Sides

By SciFi Chick ~

When I was eight years old, I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior. I still remember standing outside my house and waiting for the school bus to take me to the Revival that I'd been invited to by my friend down the road. It took me to a Baptist church nearby, and we children were ushered into our own service in the fellowship hall in the basement.

The preacher told us the story, and what I took from it was that if I didn't accept Jesus, I would disappoint him and God. I wanted to be a good person, and I've always had a bent towards believing in the fantastical, so it was very easy for me to raise my hand and accept.

When I went home that day, I couldn't wait to tell my parents what had happened. My father was in the living room reading a science fiction novel, and he wasn't terribly pleased to be interrupted, but I just knew he'd want to be informed that I was going to Heaven and not Hell, so I plowed ahead. I was devastated when he told me that he didn't believe, and I was even more devastated when he got angry with me for being worried about him going to Hell.

My father's reaction is particularly significant to my story, because he was far from a good father. He emotionally abused me for all of my formative years. He cheated on my mother, then left her, and in general, spent most of my youth telling me that if I ever learned to think, I would leave Christianity. Couple this with a Christian mother who was really good to me, and the whole situation reinforced my belief that I just needed to be a good witness to my father and he would turn around. I simply needed to keep forgiving him.

When I was eleven, I got hit by a car, and this resulted in my missing almost a year of school. I had already skipped a grade and was a year younger than my peers, so missing a year with them did nothing for my social skills. I ended up being an outcast. In an effort to fit in, I joined the Future Homemakers of America, and went through an initiation process that culminated in being a slave to one of the other members for a full day. She thought it would be nice to cover my entire face in lipstick, and when I went to my first class, one of the students said I looked like moron, and I ended up with the nickname Moron for a year.

By the end of that year, I was completely miserable. I remember sitting in English class one day, and noticing a story that had been posted on the bulletin board. It was all about suicide, and it made it seem like going to sleep forever and then just not feeling pain anymore. I became obsessed with the idea of killing myself. I planned it out and the idea of doing it was as tempting to me as anything I've ever felt. The only thing that stopped me was fear of what God would say when I showed up having thrown away his gift of life.

I wrestled with this problem for several months, until one morning, my alarm clock went off and the Christian station I had it set to blared out the song, "We Are the Reason". It's all about how we are the reason that Jesus gave his life, and the last verse talks about Jesus being the reason we live. I took it literally and decided to devote my life to living for Jesus, which was a different step to me than getting saved. From the moment I made that decision, peace infused my being. There is something to be said for the peace that passes understanding, for the relinquishing of all responsibility for your life into the hands of another. It is seductive and I bought right into it.

I began looking for ways to be kind to others, to help others, to make the world a better place. I clung to the idea that maybe I would be happy at some point. For awhile, I thought I was happy. I was never entirely free of guilt, and I always felt like I was missing something, but it was all I knew, and I assumed that as my relationship with God deepened, it would all work out.

That was a long intro, but I believe it's important to hammer home that I was really a Christian. I wasn't in it halfway. I was in it all the way. I went to church every time the doors opened. I read the Bible daily. I went to church camp. I went to prophetic conventions. The only thing I was never good at was converting others to my way of thinking - at least in one on one exchanges. That changed.

I've always enjoyed writing. I've been a writer of stories since I could pick up a pen. It was only natural that I would use this for bringing people into the Kingdom of God. I even ended up with prophesies from people who could have no way of knowing that I was a writer. Everything pointed in that direction.

At nineteen, I took it upon myself to write a screenplay based on the book "This Present Darkness" by Frank Peretti. He was coming to town to speak, so I audaciously took the first act and handed it to him after the engagement. To my surprise, he actually read it, and liked it, and wrote me a letter explaining that he had no control over the film, but that it was being developed by his manager in Tennessee. My mom contacted the manager who put us on to the producer, a man by the name of Howard Kazanjian. I sent him the script, and he read it. What's amazing about all of this, is most people won't read unsolicited scripts. I thought I was on my way. I planned a trip to Los Angeles, and fantasized about how my life was about to change.

Just before leaving for L.A., I got a letter from Mr. Kazanjian, and he declined the script. He said that he loved my writing, that, in fact, he would love to read anything I wrote in the future, but unfortunately, I had no name, and to get this script off the ground, they needed someone with a name.

Still convinced this was what God wanted me to do, I got on that plane and I flew to L.A. I rented a car and I drove to Burbank, and I showed up at Mr. Kazanjian's office unannounced. The receptionist called his office, and it turned out he was on the set of another film at Warner Brothers studios. He invited me to come and meet him. I was over the moon. I drove to the studio and they sent me right on through. At the time, I didn't realize how unprecedented this was. It's just not done in Hollywood. I parked and went into his office. I looked around at the posters of Return of the Jedi and Raiders of the Lost Ark, and I was overwhelmed.

He talked with me for a good half hour, essentially reiterating what was in the letter, and encouraging me to move out to L.A., because it was easier, back then, to get a career off the ground if you lived in L.A. or New York.

My mother and I packed our things and took off on faith. We had very little money, but we knew God would take care of us. Eventually, I ended up in a church, writing for a group that, like me, wanted to convert people through the arts. I wrote a play for them, a play I had to fight hard for to get the ending I wanted. This play was performed for a week to a room that would seat three hundred but was standing room only. At least fifty people got saved at the end of each showing. It was the most successful play they'd ever had, and that spelled doom for me.

The leader of the group was jealous of my achievement and decided to make it into a movie without my involvement. He assigned the script writing to a hack who changed it from an ensemble piece into a story about one woman, while dumbing down all of my characters. I refused them the right to do this. They challenged me. Then I contacted my lawyer, and being a good Jewish atheist, he took them down a peg or two, and refused to charge me for it.

I was called into the pastor's office. He couldn't "believe I called a lawyer on the church." I calmly replied that he left me no choice. He decided it was a good time to relay to me how God struck Aaron down and killed him when he stood up against Moses. I took that as my moment to exit his church.

By this time, the Internet existed, and I decided to do some research on whether or not the church I was in qualified as a cult. It wasn't, but in my travels, I wandered into a the Religion forums on Compuserve. I then wandered into the Free Thinking forum, which consisted of a bunch of people that either never believed in Christianity or had walked away from it.

Those poor souls, I thought. They must not have ever had the truth revealed to them. How could you walk away from God's love if you had truly known it? I stupidly decided to post the nonsense that was running through my head. I challenged them to pose to their unanswered questions to me, and I would find the answers for them. So they did. Boy did they ever. And I didn't have answers. There are no answers to why God would authorize genocide. There are no answers to the idea of stoning someone who disrespects their parents. There is no good answer as to why God needed to kill his only son to save us, when he created everything to begin with and could just say forgiven. There is no good reason for sticking a tree that is lovely to behold with irresistible fruit in a garden, saying not to eat it, and then cursing you and all your seed for having a bite of the fruit. There is no good reason for having an eternal punishment for a temporal crime, for eternally punishing people who simply seek evidence before committing to a path.

I ran from the computer, apologizing to God for opening my mind to doubt and the lies of Satan. But it was too late. The questions wouldn't go away.

My deconversion was not instant. It took a couple years to complete it. And each step was an agonizing step full of fear. After all, Christianity had saved me from suicide. Christianity was my total reason for existence. What would I live for if not God? By the same token, my life was miserable, a big long waiting game, waiting on God to send my husband, waiting on God to start my career, waiting on God to do anything. The first step was the hardest. I realized that I had to risk hell, because I wanted to live my life. It was the only life I had, and I couldn't bear to miss all the experiences that is has to offer. The pressure to change became more intense than the pressure to remain the same, and so I took the first step.

I stopped reading my Bible. I stopped praying. I stopped being a Christian. Things went from bad to worse. I went to visit my father, thinking we could finally connect because I had finally "learned how to think". His response was to drug me and try to seduce me. I'll never forget seeing him stand naked in the living room and ask me to come to bed with him just to "cuddle". It's every bit as nightmarish as you might imagine. When he realized that I was not cooperating, he allowed me to go back to my bedroom, where I promptly fell on my knees and begged for God to forgive me. I cried out the name Jesus over and over, seeking the peace that passes understanding. What greeted me was the knowledge that I no longer believed, that if God was there, he was no longer listening, and I was on my own.

The next day, after my father went to work, I called a taxi, got on a plane back home, and began trying to put the pieces of my life back together. A few of my Christian "friends" called to see what was going one. When I told them, I got responses along the lines of, "You're blaming God for what your father did." and "This is a test of your faith." And then silence. They couldn't deal, and so they abandoned me. I had to start over from scratch.

I went back to the Free Thinkers forum on Compuserve. I found other connections online, and I began to build a life for myself without religion. Over time, all the tapes stopped playing and I made real friends. I met the man of my dreams and I married him - with the caveat that if he ever converted to Christianity, I would leave him. It was a joke, but not.

I knew I was truly free when I realized that if the Bible is true and God really did create everything, I would still stand against him, because he is the epitome of evil, and I would rather burn in hell than serve a being that is so selfish and unloving.

I still suck at converting people. Not one person I know that believes has listened to a thing I have to say. But I still seem to have the ability to reach people through writing, and so now, even though it kills me that my play is still being used to get people into the mess known as Christianity, I am writing stories that I hope will give them the courage to get free.

I take responsibility for all of my actions now, and it means I get to learn from my mistakes and enjoy the fruits of my successes without having to blame Satan for everything bad and give God the credit for everything good.

Ironically, I no longer struggle with depression or thoughts of suicide. I never knew what happiness was until I got free from the brain washing. Life is good.


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