After reading many others deconversion stories for the past few months, I feel I should share my story as well.
To really tell the truth, my story started long before I even considered leaving Christianity. In seventh grade social studies back in 2006-2007, we were instructed to learn about ancient civilizations such as the Egyptians, Romans, Greeks, Persians, etc. and gradually work our way through to the Columbus voyages. One of the first few things we learned was of the creation stories each civilization believed in to justify how we got here. Every time I heard one of them, I thought of how utterly ridiculous it was to believe such nonsense. Sadly, I had never thought of questioning the christian creation story that I believed in. I couldn't blame myself because I grew up in a christian family and I didn't know any better. I thought what they told me was completely true.
For me, my family and I went to an Assemblies of God church which some people in town referred to as the “culture church.” I believed everything they told me and never questioned it once. But for my own sake, my shy and rebellious personality (how does that work?) I still have even to this day. I was too shy to sing along during worship, participate in communion, or even go up front to pray. And I was too rebellious to want to behave in Sunday school after I got out of my mom's kindergarten class, in “children's church” while the sermon was being preached, or want to listen to bible stories at home during the week. If I was not forced to, I'd never have prayed before a meal, getting on the school bus in the morning, or before falling asleep at night. To simplify all this, I just wished to do my own thing and not have to be told again and again how to live in church.
When I entered middle school in 2005, I decided to join the church's Royal Ranger outpost which was the Assemblies of God's version of the Boy Scouts. Nobody told me to join, I just went because I was interested in what they had to offer. For three years I worked towards earning the Royal Ranger's highest honor, the Gold Medal of Achievement, which I did in November of 2008. To this day, I'm still grateful for learning all of the camping skills they taught me along the way. But I was required to learn more about the bible and become a “better christian” to earn the award though. At the various camping events held throughout the year, they spoke of how we needed to have our name written in the “book of life.”To accept Jesus as our lord and savior. Be filled with the holy spirit and simply be “saved.” At the time, it all seemed believable and not once did I question it. I sure wish I had, but I didn't know any better.
Fast forward to June of 2009 when I was finishing my freshmen year of high school. After much thought, I announced to the outpost I was no longer going to participate in Royal Rangers as my homework once school started in the fall would get out of control. Although it never really did unless I had a project to finish, everything was the same except for not being in Royal Rangers. But what did change at that time was I began to realize I had nothing to replace the hole where Royal Rangers had been in my life. I'd go to school during the week and return home as though nothing had happened. I became frustrated that I had no money coming in from working on the family farm. And I could not go anywhere except to church because I could only legally drive with a parent along. Since I could not see my friends outside of school, I grew colder towards my family, and I became depressed. The only “friends” I could see were the ones at church when I started going to youth group. For a time, they were people I could be around once or twice a week. Over time, I felt as though they were ignoring me because I was different than them. Some weeks when I'd go to youth group, I just didn't feel welcome at all. But through it all, I still believed what they told me anyway and didn't question it once.
During the summer of 2010, I went along on the church's yearly trip to summer camp for high school students. I had no intentions of taking in anything what they said at the services held at sunset. All I wanted to do was get away from the farm and have some fun playing sports and kayaking out on the lake nearby. But by the last night, they had finally penetrated my thick skull and I went along with what they had said. “Accept Jesus into your heart”, pray so you can be forgiven of your sins, and read your bibles everyday. They even got me to consider going to the university where the band was from. I went home at the end of the week changed into a “better christian.” I believed everything they told me and didn't question it once. And now I was taking it all very seriously.
A month later, depression began to set back in from not going anywhere or talking to anyone outside of my family and church. Every week I'd go to church and youth group as though nothing had happened. I began to fall back to how I was before going to summer camp. But I took everything they said very seriously and put it into action to still try and be that better christian I thought I wanted to be. In the end, all I had really accomplished was trying to be someone who I wasn't.
Then one day in August of 2010 while waiting for youth group to start, a group of girls came in and stood before me. At first, they were talking among themselves, but quickly changed their minds when I heard them say they were going to talk to me. In my mind, I thought they were just being nice since I was sitting there by myself. The three of them sat around me and started asking me questions like they were playing a game. But the game ended after two of the girls left to talk to other people and I was left with the third whose name was Kristi. This girl wanted to know more about me and be my friend. For what seemed like forever, we continued to talk to one another until it was time for youth group to start. I sat down towards the front of the sanctuary on the left side where I always went week after week. To my surprise, the three girls followed me and sat down next to me once again. For the rest of the night, I didn't feel depressed anymore and was actually having a good time. Afterward while my brother was in the meeting for the adults, I followed her outside to talk to her some more with her friends. And just like that, she walked over to me and hugged me quickly so “we wouldn't be caught by the others inside.” From that moment on, I loved her since she was so friendly to me even after she moved on and loved me no longer. The love for her lasted so long that some days when I see something she posted on Facebook, I'd remember those times I got to talk to her. Either way, she filled a portion of the hole in my life when I had no one to talk to personally.
When she went back home four weeks later, it was time to go back to school for my junior year. Everything was much better at school as my classes were easier for me. But the thoughts of her and trying to be a “better christian” were still on my mind. Life at home just kept getting worse by the day and I was getting tired of going to church on Sundays. Somehow, I was still okay with going to youth group. Cause on Sundays, the pastor started preaching about how we were “stealing from god” if we didn't give our money, needed to contribute more money so the church can “prosper”, and told us we were going to hell forever if we didn't do what god wanted us to do. Then one day in October of 2010, a month after finding out Kristi was in love with someone else, I felt something needed to change in my life. I finally asked a question to myself about my christian beliefs when I said, “Why even bother trying to satisfy god to be able to get into heaven when I know I'm gonna screw up and go to hell anyway? In that case, I might as well just do whatever I want.” From that moment, I knew I no longer wanted to be the “better christian” I had been told to be. I didn't fear going to hell if that's where I was going because I knew that was a long ways off anyway. And when I thought I'd have to stand before god on my way there, I'd show no fear as he told me to go to hell to impress anyone else who was there. So the next week, I didn't go to youth group at all and my mom was concerned about this because she thought something was wrong with me. I knew what I had to do, I had to get out of this church completely and never come back; to escape the “prison” my mind was held in. At the same time, I could not simply say I don't want to go to church ever, that would just anger my parents into forcing me to go back. So I made a plan and decided to “save my time” by going to my grandma's church instead. There problem solved I told myself, but I was far from being done; it was only the beginning of my deconversion. Changing churches and not caring was not going to be enough.
What was the idea of thinking for yourself without anyone interfering? Nine months go by without much thought of what I asked myself the year before. When my depression couldn't get any worse, I soon learned my brother finally decided to buy the router he wanted so the whole family could receive a broadband internet connection. From that day on, I was no longer cut off from others and there was a treasure trove of information to dive into. But Christianity was still all around me, and I still believed it all to be true. But my beliefs were changing gradually though. I still believed in god but didn't care for anything else Christianity had to offer. For months this frustrated me as I desperately tried to find what this was called on the internet. And somehow, one day I put in the right words into Google and I got an answer, deism. I quickly researched it and felt a sigh of relief that there were people just like me.
For the first six months of 2012, I was secure in the fact I had made my own decision for being a deist. Soon after, I started asking questions which revolved around whether god existed or not. This was when I started paging through all the agnostic articles I could find. I then decided to be an apatheist and leave deism behind. I asked myself, does it really matter if god is looking over us or not? No, and even if they were, I believe they are far away and do not wish to interfere at all. By the fall of 2012 and after getting a job packaging cheese, I went back to the “center” and became an agnostic. This too was short lived when I red an argument on the shortfalls of agnostics. The author completely destroyed the argument by saying if you believe there could be a god, you must first invent a place for them to be. This crushed my current beliefs of god and became an atheist who I happily am now. (Note: I hold nothing against Agnostics, I simply moved on to being an atheist.)
But that was only half of the story, what was the idea of thinking for yourself without anyone interfering? For a couple of days earlier this year in January, I researched until I found my answer, freethought. Immediately after reading the information I had on the subject, I believed this to be who I could happily be. It was as though I finally hit rock bottom ready to bounce back up. And to put it all together, I was now a freethinking atheist who was once again strong enough to “return to reality” to face my fears and challenges. What bothered me was I still didn't have enough proof to denounce Christianity just yet. Then one day while looking for an online community for people just like me, I found this site after reading an article on “religious trauma syndrome.” I must have red the article a hundred times in shock that religion was much worse than I had previously thought.
Later on I found a series on YouTube called “Discovering Religion” which I really liked. At first it was an argument between creationism and evolution for the first 15 or so episodes. By episode 18, the series started talking about how the founding fathers were deists and how the US was actually “above” god. In episode 20, they then started debunking the bible and how horrific it actually was. I just stared at my computer screen in shock. I couldn't believe how I was told all these years god is loving and just, then turns around and justifies slavery, rape, murder, and unjust wars. Allows the stoning of people to death for being gay, a rebellious son, a girl who had sex outside of marriage, working on the Sabbath, etc. And this was the beginning, how could god only spend one day on the rest of the universe while he worked solely on the earth? How could all of the animals of the earth possibly fit into the ark when there are thousands upon thousands of species? So if we are supposed to hold our morality to the level of these desert savages, does that mean women must actually keep silent and be ruled over by their husband? On and on many of us can go listing the inconsistencies and evil found in the bible. Had it not been for religion, there wouldn't have been medieval crusades to the middle east to fight the Muslims over the holy land. There wouldn't be people indoctrinated to die in the name of their religion. And there certainly would be less war if the Abrahamic religions did not exist.
During this long journey from Christianity, I have learned so much. I no longer have to believe the threats by Christians that I'll go to hell if I don't accept Jesus as my lord and savior. There is nothing wrong for having a lack of interest in religion or believing there is no god. I don't have to be like everyone else, you can choose your own path to achieve my life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Although I'll still have to do things I don't want to, at least I have the ability to choose not to be a christian anymore. As long as I can be happy for who I am, that's just fine with me. If not, then I can change, there's nothing wrong with changing yourself when you need to.
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