5/31/2015 | Share this article: View CommentsBy American Apostate ~
I must first start off by saying how grateful I am that this forum exists. I have been encouraged by the fact that I am not alone in this very personal journey. The fear, anxiety, and loneliness that accompanies walking away from a religion you've had your whole life can be overwhelming at times. It is during those times I have come here for encouragement, and keep the fear at bay.I have read many, many stories here, and now I feel confident enough to share mine.
I was six years old when I first prayed the sinner's prayer. My family are Christians, so I became one too as soon as I understood that I was going to go to hell if I didn't accept Jesus into my heart. Seriously. That's what prompted me to do so that first time. I was taken to see this evangelical drama designed to "win souls" for the Lord. It was called, "Heaven's Gates and Hell's Flames." It was basically an anthology of stories featuring people discussing Christian Theology right before they died. Unlikely, yes, but it got the point across. Some people went to heaven to be with Jesus and others were dragged to hell kicking and screaming. Imagine a young first grader sitting there, watching this. It was absolutely terrifying. I remember sitting in that pew, curling my knees to my chest, shaking, praying desperately to Jesus, begging that he wouldn't send me to hell. And that was the start of my Christian experience.
As I got older, I had some trouble dealing with stress at school. Also,my hormones were out of wack and I was frequently depressed and I went through a rebellion phase, as many 14&15 year olds do. I still went to church, but not as much. My parents weren't sure how to deal with my getting into trouble and my bouts of depression, so they sent me to therapy. The Therapist put me on medication, and that's when things got worse. I suddenly had thoughts of suicide and obsessed with harming myself. After being sent to the mental hospital when I got caught at school cutting myself in the bathroom, my therapist decided to take me off the medication. My condition immediately improved. The suicidal, self harming thoughts were gone but I still felt very lost and in a fog of confusion. Teenage hormones have a way of producing that lost, foggy feeling....but I didn't know that. I needed a refuge, a place of peace amidst the chaos in my life. So I turned back to God.
I went to Bible college and decided I was going to be a pastor. It was there that things started... I went to this Baptist Tent Revival in town, and that was where I was told that Jesus loved me, and he wanted me to love him back. I was told that he didn't want to send me to hell, but that he wanted a personal relationship with me. It was that moment that I truly felt the presence of the Holy Spirit in my life. I felt very peaceful and very happy for the first time in a very long time. I felt like I truly had the answer to every problem in my life: Jesus. I immersed myself into hard-core Christianity. I was a complete, total Jesus Freak. I went to Bible college and decided I was going to be a pastor. It was there that things started to get a little strange for me. I took several theology courses and I started to see some strange inconsistencies in the Bible. My theology stated that God is a loving, merciful God, and never changes. But He also committed mass genocide and had His people do the same. The God of the Old Testament, Yahweh, was angry and violent. I was taught that this was the same God who incarnated himself as Jesus and died on the cross for our sins because he loved us. Logically, it didn't add up. God incarnated himself....to make a blood sacrifice....to himself.....to appease himself....because we are a flawed creation and He is so Holy and just. Okay. I did some mental backbends to reconcile this, as I was always instructed not to think too deeply about it,lest I "reason my way away from God". Yeah. People told me that. I noticed other believers got really uncomfortable when I asked too many questions. They told me to just pray and let the Holy Spirit reveal the answers to me whenever I asked super hard questions. Questions like, how did Noah fit 100 million species of animals on his ark, and how did he take care of 12 tons of feces a day, and what did everyone eat for a whole year? Why did God destroy Sodom and Gomorrah for sexual immorality, yet immediately afterward, Lot's two daughters got him drunk and raped him....not once, but twice (Genesis 19:30-36)...why was God completely silent about it? I searched for answers, prayed, and got nothing.
So, with doubt's creeping in, I plunged deeper into ministry and church, accepting a Youth Pastor job at a small church. O figured the doubt's were from the devil and the only way to get rid of them was to push harder spiritually. So That's what I did. After a couple years, I got fired from the youth pastor job, because the pastor's wife accused me of looking at pornography on the church computer. That was absurd, because I never was interested in pornography back then, and even if I was I would have used my own computer, not the church computer, duh. I was later vindicated when the pastor's daughter confessed that she was the one, not me. I was still heartbroken from the ordeal and left that church anyway. I continued seeking after God and was active in ministry for several more years, but similar situations kept arising. I was always under the thumb of a controlling pastor and something would happen where I would get really hurt. Burned out, frustrated, and sick of ministry, I just quit.
Lately, I have been revisiting my doubts,and I have been immersing myself in my real passion, science. I always had an aptitude for it and I love reading research papers and watching the science channel. I have given serious thought to the problems Christian theology has, and I have decided to walk away from Christianity completely. I still have faith in God, but I find myself clinging very hard to this faith, but I don't know why. I struggle with fear and anxiety from time to time, and that may be part of it. Letting go of a faith I've had my whole life is very difficult. I think back on the pain this religion has caused me and that makes it a little easier. In the end, common sense and rationality tends to win over everything. I figure that of God is real, all the things I have been told about Him is a lie and he's not going to be angry at me for waking away from this religion. He wouldn't want me to be so afraid all the time and cling hard to something that makes no sense. These thoughts put my mind at ease when I wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat from a nightmare of burning in hell for being an apostate. Hopefully over time, all of these fears will fade and I can continue living my life to the fullest, religion free, faithful, or faithless.