7/20/2013 | Share this article: View CommentsBy StainedGlass ~
Let me start by thanking this community on Ex-C for being so open, honest, and supportive. The seeds of doubt in Christianity were planted at least 4 years ago, but honestly, 6 days ago, my complete de-conversion happened entirely by accident.
Let me share a bit about me (or a lot!) I was raised by Christian parents in a large, close-knit, "sheltered" (isolated) home. My father was a second generation Christian, and my mother a first generation Christian. Therefore, she was the most fundamental. My father was always very easy going, and my favorite parent. My mother had the most "sin passed down" that she was struggling to overcome.
As many Christian families do, my family started out as fundamentalist baptist, and I was taken to church and taught right from wrong since the time I was one year old. My memories of scripture verses are as old as my memories of my mother rocking me to sleep. These are memories that I still deeply cherish, experiences that shaped my very psyche.
I can remember in vivid detail standing up in my crib in my bedroom. It had dark red walls, and the curious glow of the nightlight. I will always remember the red walls because I associate them with my mother's voice quietly telling of the blood of Jesus, the sacrifice for sin. It was truely an indoctrination, a brainwashing. Now, I know it was, because the very teachings that I loved, also trapped me. I loved them because I was told to love them, because it was all I knew. I because trapped when my brain started to grow and I realized that the teachings didn't make any sense. In fact, they directly contradicted my own sense of developing morality and values. Even so, my deep memories of the story of Jesus are so ingrained, that I will always feel a warmth when I remember celebrating Christmas with my family, lighting the candles, and chanting, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me, will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." I believe the main reason I clung to Christianity for so long was because my family created so many positive traditions. My parents were, for the most part, loving and sincere, trying to teach us the right way to live, and become better people themselves.
My earliest memories of church, however, are not so positive. It almost seemed like our pastors were playing a game to see who could yell the loudest and longest! Just about every sermon ended because the pastor had lost his voice, was sweating profusely, and was so worked up emotionally that he was either crying or beating the pulpit with his Bible. I very quickly learned about the anger of God, and how punishing human sacrifice pacified his wrath. It would be completely honest to say that I learned about the justice of murder before I learned that murder was wrong. what I remember most vividly about that time is that I had a friend who was the pastor's daughter. He was caught in adultery, and her home was thrown into turmoil. My friend slowly drew away from the church and became an atheist. She was the first person I actually knew, who did not believe in God! I was curious, but she shut me out of her life, so I didn't get the chance to find out about what she believed.
When I was around 17 years old, my parents decided that in the best interest of the entire family, we had had enough of the yelling, Bible-beating, fire and brimstone teaching. My brothers and little sister needed a supportive, relevant, exciting youth group, and my parents were withering spiritually. I definitely think they have all the same doubts as I do, but they won't allow themselves to explore them to their fullest extent. My father, especially, felt that the family needed a closer experience of God. My father has had a huge impact on my life, and it has been all good, save for one instance. He taught me was true love is by always being quick to forgive, but always being constant in his expectations. I always hated it when I did something that angered him, not because I was afraid of him, but because I hated to see his disappointment in me. He was the truest example of a father God that I could ever imagine. My father, however, did not believe in genocide. I suppose my mind took a while to realize how inconsistent the Bible is.
My father obtained a bachelors in theology and a minor in Greek. He thought he might become a pastor, so he attended seminary. He did not finish because he had a family, and the Dean would not allow him to extend his studies so he could take school a little slower. In my dad's words, the dean made him choose between his ambition and his family. He chose his family without hesitation. For this and many other reasons, I will always love my father more than any other person. He led us to a church that was large, vibrant, and theologically much more logical. It was a nondenominational church, but Charismatic/Arminian in doctrine. I found that many of my early doubts were satisfied by the Arminian viewpoint, and I could once again trust in a loving God. I worshiped in fervent love to a moving, contemporary band, and stood with thousands of people, raising my hands to send healing towards ailed individuals. This is the part of my Christian life that I loved. I love being positive, happy, and healthy, and accepting others, no matter what state they come in. It was not this church that continued my doubts. My experience of Christianity there was very genuine and non-judgmental. I saw many of my parents' burdens lifted. They grew younger before my eyes. They did not worry about money so much, and my mother began to realize for the first time that she needed to take more time off from work to relieve her stress. At the time, I attributed this to a renewed connection with the Divine and all that he offers.
When I was 19, I joined the Navy. I'm not sure why, but I wanted to escape from my bubble of reality. Most of my friends had left for college or the military. I went to college near home for a year and a half, then lost my job and was left with a dilemma. I was earnestly seeking God to find his path for my life. Since I was a young child, I have been a loner, a passionate artist and thinker. I would draw and write every day, as well as playing the piano and reading. I read so much it was as natural as breathing. I loved to learn about culture, language, religion, and mythology. And that, my friends, is a lethal combination for a Christian. Eventually a thinking, imaginative mind will question, and will come to conclusions independent of Christianity. My sisters and I often imagined things about the afterlife, or extraterrestrial life outside the earth. We always limited our imaginings to confines of the young earth Creationist story.
Shortly before I left for boot camp, I began to be plagued by doubts in traditional Christianity. I started researching early Christianity. I immersed myself in my father's library, which was a Christian reader's paradise. It was filled with countless translations of the Bible, even some in the original Greek, the Gnostic gospels, ancient history books, and even books on hermeneutics and exegesis, written by my own great uncle, Moises Silva, a renowned professor. My father is by no means an ignorant, nor small minded man. If there was any truths to be uncovered, it would be in the library of my father, the most honest, truth-seeking person I know.
I read as many of these books as I could. I came to one conclusion: there were too many contradictions and varying opinions. How did I know that the canon was the inspired word of God? That is was my doubt came down to. I was smart enough to know that if I could not prove this to myself, my Christianity was unfounded and mythological. I wanted to believe in Jesus. I needed to, because my belief encompassed my entire life up to this point. I was anti-social, judgmental, and a perfectionist, thanks to my beliefs, and I knew I could not survive in the real world. I suppose signing up for the military was my way of testing my faith, and I didn't realize that until now.
Interestingly, my studies of early Christianity only pointed me toward Catholicism. I considered that maybe the Gnostic gospels held some hidden truth, but I never did read them. I still plan to. Even back then, however, I knew that when I read them I would consider them bogus, and it would be because I had already been taught to think otherwise. I was beginning to understand the hypocrisy of it all. I began to research Catholicism, because it seemed like it might be the answer. I made close friends with a catholic family. I admired their lifestyle; it was organic and innocent. They lived on a farm and one of their sons wanted to be a monk. I could never imagine that, because I wanted to have sex. I spent a lot time with them on the farm, learning about their beliefs. In a way, it attracted me, because it was much more clear cut. You sin, you get punished. So, you confess to the priest. You live a good life, and you go to heaven. I was leaning towards this when I left for boot camp.
I stayed a Christian all through boot camp, but it fell away completely when I attended my secondary training. I suppose it was because I was completely removed from my background, and had no reason to adhere to my faith. My backsliding began when I became truly attracted to man for the first time. Of course, we ended up having sex, and that began a whole new journey of guilt, and a subsequent relapse into Christianity to rid myself of the guilt. My parents, when they finally found out, were very disappointed, though they were actually very loving and not that angry. At the time, I planned to stay with this man, because he was my first love and I could not imagine leaving him. I was so innocent. I distinctly remember my father telling me over the phone that he would pray for me to be miserable so I would return to Christian life. I sometimes wonder if, had he not said that, maybe I would have returned by myself, with no hard feelings or pressure, and then I would have left again, just as easily. I tried to be a Christian again, however, because I wanted to feel connected to my family again, and I wanted to feel innocent again. I suppose my love for my religion has had a lot to do with those two things.
The Christianity did not last long, however. Shortly after I got my first orders, I moved to Spain. I don't know how this was supposed to help me keep my first relationship, but I think I was again doing something that made no sense to force myself to find my own truth in life. My boyfriend broke up with me of course. He had never loved me, and I recognized him for the deceitful, opportunistic man he was. This was the most painful time of my life. I completely shut God out of my life. I became so depressed I was suicidal. I wished the airplane taking me to Spain would crash and I would die. The following seven months were the hardest of my life, because I did not want to live. There was one person who supported me, a guy I met by chance at my new place of duty. We connected immediately as friends and we talked for hours. He was an atheist, and it was very refreshing to me because I knew he could see me more honestly and realistically than any Christian. He told me the truth when I could not acknowledge it, about my own struggles and his. He saved my life, because when I felt like hurting myself, I would go knock on his door and he would tell me not to do it. He didn't give me any reason, he just told me I was being stupid, and if I ever felt like being stupid, I needed to come and find him. He made sure I sat there until he could tell that I was feeling less crazy. I am not sure what he saw in me, but shortly after we started dating and now we have been dating for a year and a half. I trust him the same way I trust my father, and that is a good thing. We will shortly be engaged.
I wanted to believe in Jesus. I needed to, because my belief encompassed my entire life up to this point. I was anti-social, judgmental, and a perfectionist, thanks to my beliefs, and I knew I could not survive in the real world.My relationship with the man who I intend to spend my life with is what caused me to make a decision about my faith. For the two years that I have been in the Navy, I have been consumed by the military game. By working hard I have gained 4 pay grades, lead many people, and accomplished many things. The one thing I have done, without question, is lost myself. About a year ago I realized I could not draw or write anymore, and I could not sit still enough to read. I had no peace in my mind, no inkling of inspiration. I filled my emptiness with work, sex, and drinking. Soon, I got tired of drinking, and sex becomes a bit more comfortable with a steady partner. Work got extremely boring and frustrating. I yearned for my old passions, and this drove me to slow down considerably. I faced my inner struggle concerning God, and the fact that I am in a relationship with a non-believer, which has always bothered me. I started doing yoga, meditating, walking on the beach, and re-connecting with my intuition. This took the form of re-connecting with God, or at least, that is what I thought was happening. I began to listen to that still small voice again. It spoke to me about what was wrong inside my hearth. It told me I needed to be close to nature again, as I have always loved to do. I found healing in walking barefoot in the grass at twilight. I went through various problems with my hormones, and began taking natural herbs to help balance them out. I began to get a grasp on peace once again. The still small voice told me I needed to talk honestly with my boyfriend, no matter what it was I wanted to say. It told me not to care so much about work, and to express myself, however I needed to.
I thought the still small voice was God, so I sat down with my bf and explained that I needed to have a relationship with God again. I didn't know what it meant, exactly, but i was just going to go with it. He has actually been telling me for a while to go back to church. That is how distressed I have been: an atheist telling an almost ex-Christian to go back to church? My boyfriend said something else profound. We laid there, and I poured out my heart and my honest beliefs about Christianity. At one point, I told him that I was afraid that one day we would die, and I would never see him again. My boyfriend began crying as I talked. I was so touched, I had never seen even a Christian react that way to the topic of death and hell. He said, "That is the most touching thing anyone has ever said to me." I was thinking, wow, I guess your family wasn't very loving.
He then proceeded to tell me that even though he was an atheist, he would attend church with me if I wanted, and he would learn about religion with me. He said he would consider becoming religious if it would make me happy, and if it meant he could stay with me.
Thinking about this conversation makes me want to cry. It is one of those moments that I know has shaped my life. The least I can say is that I am in awe of my boyfriend's love for me, and this is exactly why I am going to marry him.
I was happy for a couple days, and felt an incredible peace. I finally had what I wanted. I could be a Christian without judgement from my partner, and he would even participate with me, even in the smallest amount. I had peace that I would not go to Heaven alone.
Now we come to the accident part. I was researching, of all things, the influence of the moon's magnetic field on the earth, and I stumbled upon a Wiccan website. I was interested because my boyfriend's mother is a witch. I began to read, and that led to more reading, and to a final realization that I should have acknowledged many years ago: Christianity is a myth, just like every other religion that I have judged. It is man made, a product of human development. This resolved all of my previous attempts to harmonize the irreconcilable passages of the Bible, or to excuse God's genocidal nature. It was completely logical, and I love things that make sense. It also freed me from all of my previous guilt about my relationship with my boyfriend, and allowed me to appreciate him fully and anticipate my life with him. Most of my old fear of hell is gone, from years of doubt, and that still small voice, I finally realized, is my own intuition, guiding me to the truth. As I matured, it matured. What I though was the spirit of God was simply my brain developing and learning emotional responses as I grew older. God was not getting closer, I was expanding. I could finally see myself in my total capacity: free, here, now, and unencumbered. This is the life I always wanted. Since I have made this realization, I have been completely at peace. No more doubt, no more seclusion. I feel this incredible freedom to go up to my friends and talk to them, to appreciate everything in my life. My family does not agree, but my "lost" status is nothing new. I just cannot understand how my wise father and sisters do not realize the same things by now. Maybe someday soon.
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