2/09/2012 | Share this article:By S.L. Nield ~
First of all, let me introduce myself. (Or rather reintroduce myself. I wrote my first testimony not long after turning my faith in back in 2005 on this site).
My name is Sarah L Nield (Sarah) and I was born and bred and still live in one of the small market towns in the south east of Greater Manchester, where it meets Cheshire and Derbyshire.
Unlike a lot of the ex-Christians here I was brought up in a very reason driven atmosphere, where I was told to question and think for myself.
My (late) Dad was an anti-theist. He hated religion, especially Christianity, and seriously believed it was a lie to con people into behaving and not thinking for myself.
My (still with us) Mum is an atheist, brought up in a Christian household and gave up her faith at fourteen when she realised that it was all (her words) bunkum.
I was also born with a life-threatening congenital disability which (amongst it's symptoms) made me lose a ton of schooling. I was also bullied.
Anyhow, at sixteen I was an odd kid, rejected by my peers I would rather do things on my own, and it was then I met a group of young people who were friendly and accepted me. They asked me to attended their church because they said I desperately needed a friend and Jesus could be that friend.
So I went. When I was seventeen I went in for confirmation (had to be baptised as I never was) and then gave my heart to Jesus, became a Christian, out with the old in the with the new. This was in December 1980.
Much to the horror and disgust of my Dad who actually broke a lifetime of treating me with love and acceptance and shouted at me: "What's the matter with you? You're an intelligent girl, why are you being sucked into this falseness."
He would never attend church, not even when I was confirmed and took part in small plays. My Mum was bewildered by my conversion but I was her daughter first and a Christian second so she came along and afterwards let out a tirade of why it was all nonsense.
The years went by. I never left home because I had too much of a good home to do so. I learned to respect my Dad and not talk about my belief and try and convert him. My Mum told me flat out not to waste her time.
The regular churchgoers loved me as (they said) I had been saved from a terrible sinful situation. I was taught Sunday school and was one of the leading lights.
I can remember exactly when the questioning began. When Jesus made his triumphant entry into Jerusalem and he got his Disciples to steal an ass for him to ride in on.
In three of the gospels it said there was an ass, but in Matthew it said a colt and an ass.
So how many were there? One or two? There were eyewitnesses, disciples, locals, some reporting back to the Pharisees. They wrote what they had written. Surely such a gross total mistake could not have been overlooked.
Then I purchased a second hand copy of Bishop John Robinson's 'Honest To God' and it blew me out of the water. It was there I was introduced to the concept of the unmoved mover, the deist god.
I was pulled for a quiet word when I told the children at Sunday school in answer to their innocent questions 'why did god let my hamster die?' That god just wound things up and left it. This, of course, was not official Christian doctrine.
I was told by my minister to not worry too much, that god was in control and he loved me and every question had been answered way, and then more firmly that doubt was a sin.
So I decided to risk the ire of god (after all he gave us a brain and reason so why not use it?) and learned more and more about the possibility that it wasn't all fully true.
Bishop Spong's fair goes for all gospel got my attention but it was a no no.
Other questions. Why did the god of the Old Testament murder thousands of people, drowning every living thing,(even the innocent animals). It seemed as if Stalin was lord. He was too petty and capricious, too human, to be the almighty creator of everything.
Some Christians believed works were necessary. Others didn't.
Some Christians believed anyone could be saved, others only god could decided.
All from the same Bible.
Was this god the god of discord or harmony?
What are my beliefs now? Agnostic deist.Funny thing is, I suppose it was my grounded in reality upbringing that saw to it I was never afraid of hell. The idea of being punished for eternity just seemed too silly and pointless to be true.
And while I was on the subject, where was the location of hell? Centre of the earth? Where?
I spoke with the minister and others and was told (again with respect) not to question god's ways as I was unsettling members of the congregation with my doubts.
My Dad died in January 1998. My Mum had a subarachnoid haemorrhage in February 2002. Apart from a few mumbled platitudes no one from the church cared. No one gave a hang.
Then a woman came with fake tears telling me how sorry she was that my Dad was in hell and my Mum was in danger of also heading for hell.
About five years before I eventually admitted it was all made up, a book of fairy tales, I got down on my knees by my bed and cried and prayed with every atom in my being for god to please reveal himself to me, that the he'd tested me enough and did he go out and rescue the lost sheep and leave the other ninety nine. I was becoming that lost sheep.
Why was he ignoring me? What was my sin? Attempts to discuss it with other Christians were rejected as questioning and testing the lord which was a big no-no.
No one helped.
They did a lot of praying for me, but as my Mum said, (once she was home);
"Praying's no good. Why don't they go and do us some errands instead of quoting the Bible over the phone at us?"
Christmas 2004. I was sitting on my bed reading my Bible and still struggling to gain some presence of god when it hit me full on: 'This is just silly. You're wasting your time. There is no god.'
And yet I hung on, the thread holding me up was getting thinner and thinner until in May 2005 I finally gave up. Became an ex-Christian.
I didn't sleep for three nights. I was in a fever of confusion. My feeling of loss was acute. Best way I can describe it was letting getting a divorce from someone who had never really done me any harm.
But I had to be true to myself. And if god existed he would have made himself known to me.
So I went to church and told them that I could no longer in all conscience admit I was a Christian.
The proverbial hit the fan. I never had been a true Christians, and I had turned my back on the lord, spit on the cross, and had condemned myself to hell.
Only one woman stood by me. She had been a Christian since the 1950's and she said that I had to be allowed to find my own path. She was the one shining light in that terrible time when I was rejected by people, considered an enemy who existed to pollute them, show tares amongst the wheat, those I considered friends, whom I genuinely liked, but who turned on me because I no longer fitted into the box they had made for me and for themselves.
The worse thing of all, apart from the phone calls warning me with dire eternal consequences if I didn't drop my lying and turn back to the lord, was that I was walking on the street one day and one of the women of the church, whom I had had coffee with and swapped stories with and babysat for saw me coming and her little girl whom I had taught in Sunday school ran to me and this woman shouted her away like I was a child molester or something.
That still hurts six years later, the echo of the memory.
Anyhow. . .
Six years later, I am heading for fifty, have left home, have a job and a small social life, and am still a recovering Christian. Even now, I dream of praying and having a friend in Jesus. It will take me a while but a big dollop of logic reaffirms that god is imaginary and the Bible is just men writing to get others to obey and putting words into the mouths of a god they invented.
The latest reinforcement comes in the form of: If god created this planet and showed such an interest in one species of this planet, then why did he make such a massive universe, billions of light years. Why didn't he make a little universe, with just a handful of stars and the earth going around the sun?
And there is still the thrill of being able to try on new philosophies like trying on new coats, to see which fits, discarding some and wearing others. After a quarter of a century of forcing myself to see things one way this is still wonderfully liberating.
What are my beliefs now? Agnostic deist. Confused, or what?
Anyhow, I am going to shut up now.
Thank you for reading and thank you for this place where it is possible to start a sentence 'when I was a Christian' without being called a liar and a sinner.
You take of yourself.
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