12/22/2011 | Share this article: View CommentsBy Jason ~
First off let me say that I have been reading the testimonials here on Ex-Christian for some time now and it always invokes a range of emotions within me. So I have finally worked up the nerve to share my story in the hopes that someone out there who is struggling with their own faith can find a little comfort and know that they aren't alone. De-converting, for me, was an extremely painful process. Combined with absolutely no support and a sense of disgust from my family, it almost took my life.
So... here we go.
I was raised in a fairly strict Southern Baptist family smack in the middle of Oklahoma. Religion was a VERY big part of my life starting at the earliest that I can remember. Hell, my parents even had me in a small private christian school which oddly enough was Assembly of God in denomination. As you can imagine this confused me quite a bit. Here we have two different sides of the same religion each pushing their own special set of beliefs upon me from about the age of 5 until I was 12. My church taught me that once I was "saved" I was always "saved" and could never be "unsaved" and if anyone claimed to be "unsaved" then they were just never really "saved" to begin with. On the other hand there was my school that taught me that I could, in fact, be "unsaved" and that if I messed up I'd be on a path directly to hell. I had better get "re-saved" lest I face eternal damnation in hell... this scared the shit out of me. One of my teachers even told me in the third grade that if I even break one of the 10 commandments I'd be back on the path of fire and brimstone. Coming to my parents with these concerns, they of course told me that this other brand of christianity was incorrect and that the Southern Baptist point of view was the correct one, why they didn't take me out of such a confusing situation I shall never know. None the less I listened to them and was a good little Christian boy up through the rest of grade school.
The summer after 6th grade my family moved to a different part of town. I was plucked from my comfortable little christian class of about 20 students and placed deep into the dark bowls of the secular public school system with hundreds and hundreds of other 7th graders. This was a huge culture shock for me. I didn't know but maybe two or three other friends that came from the same old private school as me. I felt like an outcast and my parents certainly didn't help the situation. Because of their convictions, I wasn't allowed to have any friends outside of the youth group at church, watch any movies above a PG rating, listen to any music other than what was on the christian radio station. Basically I was considered to be a good-goody, I was picked on and bullied heavily because of it. At church I was told that this was because I was a Christian and that the secular world hates the righteous, and as christians we are to be persecuted for christ by the world, that somehow it made me a better christian and I ate it up. I stayed strong in the faith and continued to let them spoon feed me their apologetics and circular logic.
The next few years weighed heavy on me, and then what (at the time) I thought was the worst thing to ever happen to me happened... I began to notice other boys. I thought it was a phase at first, a test from god, temptations from the devil. I blamed whatever I could to take the focus off of myself. There was absolutely no way I was going to let myself be one of those dirty homosexuals. Those feelings never did go away though, they only got stronger and stronger. Growing up I was taught that gay people are filthy and disgusting, and thats exactly how I felt. No one knew I was gay, I managed to keep it hidden for years and years. I lived my life in constant fear that someone at church would find out, that my friends would quit talking to me, that I would be shunned, that my family wouldn't love me. I heard the horrible way my friends and family would talk about gay people at church, and school and home. These supposed christians, the same ones that preach love and compassion and forgiveness also preaching hate and condemnation. To the young developing teenage mind it's an enormous cluster-fuck.
I prayed and prayed for god to take this away from me and he never did. I felt like he had abandoned me, and so I became deeply depressed. This deep depression led to me doing bad in school. Doing bad in school led to me being in trouble at home. I was grounded constantly and never allowed to see my friends. I was so depressed it made me sick, literally. I began getting these terrible stomach aches. I told my parents about it but they didn't seem to think anything of it and told me that depression is a normal part of being a teenager, it was just a phase and I'd get over it. Well I didn't, I got so sick and so bad I couldn't even keep food down. By the time I was in the 10th grade I weighed about 84 pounds. I missed so much school I wouldn't have passed the grade without a doctors note. That summer I was hospitalized for about the entire summer. Once my parents finally figured out that just praying about it wasn't going to work. I was finally diagnosed with Crohn's disease and guess what it can be caused by? Depression! DING DING DING! that's right folks! any way to cut a long story short I ended up having surgery to take some of my intestines and my appendix out. They were swollen so large that the passage through was about the size of a .5 pencil led.
Now you may be asking what does this have to do with god Jason? Why lead into this long story about health and whatnot? The answer my friend, is that it played a huge role in me beginning to question my faith. Why did I have to suffer like that? The people in my church and my pastor told me it was all a part of god's will. Part of the master plan and all that shit. I was suffering for god so that I could be a living witness, so people could see that he blessed me with the miracle of life. And you know what? For the first time I didn't buy into it. Why on earth would god let all this suffering happen? Now I don't mean just my suffering, I mean all the suffering in the world. He would certainly have allot more followers if he weren't such a stingy prick about it and all now wouldn't he? Why are there starving children in the world, why is there homelessness, war, famine, disease. Why does a loving god allow this to happen to his children and if it's all because it's in his will, his grand master plan, I have to wonder just what kind of fucked up plan is this? The only good that came from it was I got to get shot up with Demerol every two hours on the hour!
Yes... the wheels in my head were beginning to turn (of course I never let my family on to this)
Still being a believer at the time I felt bitter and angry with god. I held onto these questions all through my high school years and eventually the depression began to kick back in... and then I wen't to college.
My first year of college was quite the experience. I began to see the world for the first time, the real world, the logic, the lies I had been told my entire life were for the first time in my life plain as day. I began to see inconsistencies and contradictions within the bible. My mind was full of questions and when I went to my family and church with these questions I could never get a straightforward answer.
Why is there a hell? Why would an all loving god send his wonderful, beautiful creations to hell? Why would he send someone there simply for having never had the chance to hear the gospel and love of Jesus?
"Well you see son, everyone can see the glory of God in everything around them if they just open their eyes and look, it would be stupid to assume that this world wasn't intelligently designed, thus everyone is held accountable and actively choosing not to believe in him because they don't want to quit sinning! God can't let that go unpunished"
You know... stuff like that.
I could go on and on with examples but for the sake of time I wont.
So about this time in my life I started coming out to my friends, it was a loooong and drawn out process. Eventually due to certain circumstances, I was outed to my parents. They just sat there and stared at me for what felt like hours, while this was happening I decided to just go all in and tell them I didn't believe in god anymore. In retrospect, it probably wasn't the best idea at the time but I'm glad I got it all out in the open.
My parents and I argued over these things furiously for the next few years. Eventually I became suicidal so they sent me to a "christians counselor" (FYI: a fake psychologist) who tried to exorcize the gayness out of me...yea well that didn't fly to well with me so eventually they sent me to a real psychologist who helped me work through my problems. He didn't judge me, he listened to me, which was something I had never experienced outside of my friends. He helped me get off of drugs and helped me get back on the right track in school.
You know what my parents did when they found out he wasn't trying to de-gay me though? They told me they weren't going to pay for sessions any more. In my time with him though he recommended several books on faith and doubting your faith, it was something I struggled deeply with. When I realized that God wasn't there, that what I had been taught basically my entire life was a giant lie my heart was broken. All of a sudden I felt alone, a small speck in the universe. It was painful and I ended up turning to drugs and alcohol for quite some time before getting my life back on track. About a year ago I finally ended up becoming comfortable with my loss of faith. My family still stands by that old idea that I was never a Christian to begin with and it was painful for a while.
I moved out of state for a while to experience the real world on my own without the blinders on and I couldn't be happier. I've grown as a person in ways I never could have with the shackles of religion. I've learned that I'm ok with who I am and that I don't have to hate myself for being who I am. I'm living for me in my life now and not for a tyrant in the afterlife who wants to damn me FOREVER for something temporary.
The best advice I can give is to talk to people and do what you have to do to make yourself happy. It won't always be easy but it will be worth it and you will be SO much happier in the end of it all. Find a friend, get support. You DON'T have to suffer alone.
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