Skip to main content

What it Looks Like From the Outside

By ExCBooster ~

I'm not an ex-Christian, because I was never Christian in the first place, but I thought I'd write some encouragement in the form of a different perspective on the problem: not what it's like to leave, but what Christianity looks like from the outside looking in. Some personal background might be in order. Both of my parents were raised Catholic, and left Christianity long before they met or I was born, so I was not raised Christian at all, and they explicitly encouraged me to come to my own conclusions about philosophy or belief. I never see the inside of a church except for funerals or weddings, and because of family friends, I've been to as many Wicca, Hindu, or Jewish religious functions as anything else. Nevertheless, since I live in a society with a lot of Christians, and much of my extended family is Christian, I've had plenty of contact with the religion, and I thought I'd share a few anecdotes of what it's like to be on the outside looking in. To sum up, because this is a long, rambling thing: it looks to me to be completely loony, and a lot of the way Christians go about converting people ends up in the Completely Stupid and Deeply Offensive mental waste-bin.

When I was about nine years old, my best friend from ballet class was Catholic, and once I stayed the night at her house, from Saturday night over to Sunday – on the condition that I'd go to mass on Sunday morning. Parents were okay with it. I thought: great excuse to rock my best lacy summer dress. Stylin'. Sitting in the pew, looking around the church, I check out the stations of the cross (gruesome torture), and the giant crucifix up front and all. Altar. Bread (body) and wine (blood). Conclusions: the legends were true!! It's a human sacrifice and ritual cannibalism cult! Hardcore.

Flash forward, and in high school, I had a really fundamentalist classmate. He didn't believe in dinosaurs. I love dinosaurs. We got along well, until the Big Argument About the Flood. Some of his arguments were the strangest stuff I've ever heard in person (not in print). As I pointed out the utter insanity of these ideas – how do kinds of fish manage to drown, for example, or how there is no boat big enough to contain two of every species of insect alone, and what about New Mexican Whiptail Lizards, which are all female, and reproduce entirely by lesbian sex and cloning – he eventually fell back on the Bible. By that point, I had read it, cover to cover, and I told him, it's a book. Just a book. Nice mythology you've got there, but there's nothing about it that will magically make me believe it any more than any other people's book of mythology. It's why I don't go around worshipping Thor, for example, although he is a cool God, and has a whole day of the week named after him.

Skip ahead to college... and I had a very sheltered, home-schooled, Christian roommate senior year. She was in comparative religion and philosophy, and the cognitive dissonance was almost literally killing her. She stayed up all night worrying about things I never thought once about in my life. Things like: Jesus has already come, and all those people on remote Pacific islands are going to go to Hell if they've never heard of him. It was eating her alive. She asked me if I worried about them. I said, well, no. She looked shocked. I explained that I wasn't Christian, so I didn't believe all that. I figured that, if there is some uncontacted headhunting cannibal tribe of the kind that loomed large in her imagination, well, they've got their own belief system (is it really all that different?), and if it works out ethically, then that's cool too. She didn't even know how to handle that, and ended up huddling in her room in stunned silence. She once asked me if I didn't believe in the Bible being true, then how did I know what was right and what was wrong. I wanted to say: that's the most insultingly patronizing thing I've ever heard, and I'd be pretty offended if I didn't know it comes from ignorance. I actually said: well, society has rules, right? About what it means to treat people fairly, and with respect for their needs. I try to do right by that, and I understand that it's not always the same, everywhere in the world, or in history, but, oddly enough, there are some common themes. Y'know: don't be an A-hole. In the Confucian Analects, there's a nice version of the Golden Rule, but negatively stated – don't to anything to people you wouldn't want to happen to you. (By placing the burden of choice on refraining from action, it nicely avoids the masochist problem, namely, if it's DO unto others, then if you like to be whipped kinkily, then you should kinkily whip people.)

My roommate just suffered horribly all through the school year. We didn't stay in touch, but she is one of those people I wonder what happened to, even a few years later. While I was dithering about online recently, I was thinking of her, and wondered what it would be like if I were Christian and questioning my beliefs. In the course of research, I stumbled onto this site. There are a lot of people, I see now, just tortured by ideas that don't have to be a prison. I don't have all the answers, but I do know that I've lived happily without religion, and a lot happier than many people with religion.

Christianity really holds little weight with people who aren't brought up in that framework. The least effective arguments, from my point of view, seem to be exactly those that fundamentalists put all their stock in: those based on the Bible itself. I've read all sorts of holy books, and there's nothing to convince me that the Bible is any different than the others. If anything – and I've found this to be a good counter to the Bible quoting types – the Bible (Especially the King James version), with it's long history of editing, censorship, political game playing, and really bad translations, is one of the least clear and well-attested religious documents anywhere.

A great contrast, and a nice one to bring up in argument if you're willing to play dirty, is the Koran. That's why the Koran is always, always in the Classical Arabic it started in: explicitly to keep the message clear. If you can find a copy of the Koran in translation, there's usually a lengthy apology in the preface for even translating it, because even the best translation changes or loses the content of the original language. Very interesting. Since Christian fundamentalists seem to have the greatest objection to fundamentalist Islam (a little too much like themselves?), they tend to flip their wig if you ever bring that point up. My issue is with fundies, universally, of any religion or belief system. Anybody willing to kill or condemn to eternal torture (this goes for some stripes of Buddhist or Hindu too) people who don't think like themselves regardless of their choices, isn't someone I'm willing to play nice with. People are people, and you have all sorts in this world. An example, while we're on the subject of Islam: Saladin was acknowledged, even by his enemies, as an all-around great guy, but his contemporaries (and sort-of arch nemeses), the Hashashin, were reviled almost universally.

I guess the point is that you aren't alone. Pretty much my whole life I've been periodically treated to unthinking, rude, and outright offensive behaviour by Christians. I do fight back ruthlessly with a vicious verbal take-down if I feel it crosses the line, and I think it's important to support people who need it. I didn't need a book to tell me that.

P.S. I do celebrate “Christmas” - it started as a non-denominational mid-Winter holiday, anyhow, so have a happy Sol Invictus (December 25)!


Popular posts from this blog

Are You an Atheist Success Story?

By Avangelism Project ~ F acts don’t spread. Stories do. It’s how (good) marketing works, it’s how elections (unfortunately) are won and lost, and it’s how (all) religion spreads. Proselytization isn’t accomplished with better arguments. It’s accomplished with better stories and it’s time we atheists catch up. It’s not like atheists don’t love a good story. Head over to the atheist reddit and take a look if you don’t believe me. We’re all over stories painting religion in a bad light. Nothing wrong with that, but we ignore the value of a story or a testimonial when we’re dealing with Christians. We can’t be so proud to argue the semantics of whether atheism is a belief or deconversion is actually proselytization. When we become more interested in defining our terms than in affecting people, we’ve relegated ourselves to irrelevance preferring to be smug in our minority, but semantically correct, nonbelief. Results Determine Reality The thing is when we opt to bury our

So Just How Dumb Were Jesus’ Disciples? The Resurrection, Part VII.

By Robert Conner ~ T he first mention of Jesus’ resurrection comes from a letter written by Paul of Tarsus. Paul appears to have had no interest whatsoever in the “historical” Jesus: “even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, we know him so no longer.” ( 2 Corinthians 5:16 ) Paul’s surviving letters never once mention any of Jesus’ many exorcisms and healings, the raising of Lazarus, or Jesus’ virgin birth, and barely allude to Jesus’ teaching. For Paul, Jesus only gets interesting after he’s dead, but even here Paul’s attention to detail is sketchy at best. For instance, Paul says Jesus “was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” ( 1 Corinthians 15:4 ), but there are no scriptures that foretell the Jewish Messiah would at long last appear only to die at the hands of Gentiles, much less that the Messiah would then be raised from the dead after three days. After his miraculous conversion on the road to Damascus—an event Paul never mentions in his lette

Christian TV presenter reads out Star Wars plot as story of salvation

An email prankster tricked the host of a Christian TV show into reading out the plots of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air and Star Wars in the belief they were stories of personal salvation. The unsuspecting host read out most of the opening rap to The Fresh Prince, a 1990s US sitcom starring Will Smith , apparently unaware that it was not a genuine testimony of faith. The prankster had slightly adapted the lyrics but the references to a misspent youth playing basketball in West Philadelphia would have been instantly familiar to most viewers. The lines read out by the DJ included: "One day a couple of guys who were up to no good starting making trouble in my living area. I ended up getting into a fight, which terrified my mother." The presenter on Genesis TV , a British Christian channel, eventually realised that he was being pranked and cut the story short – only to move on to another spoof email based on the plot of the Star Wars films. It began: &quo


By David Andrew Dugle ~   S ettle down now children, here's the story from the Book of David called The Parable of the Bent Cross. In the land Southeast of Eden –  Eden, Minnesota that is – between two rivers called the Big Miami and the Little Miami, in the name of Saint Gertrude there was once built a church. Here next to it was also built a fine parochial school. The congregation thrived and after a multitude of years, a new, bigger church was erected, well made with clean straight lines and a high steeple topped with a tall, thin cross of gold. The faithful felt proud, but now very low was their money. Their Sunday offerings and school fees did not suffice. Anon, they decided to raise money in an unclean way. One fine summer day the faithful erected tents in the chariot lot between the two buildings. In the tents they set up all manner of games – ring toss, bingo, little mechanical racing horses and roulette wheels – then all who lived in the land between the two rivers we

Why I left the Canadian Reformed Church

By Chuck Eelhart ~ I was born into a believing family. The denomination is called Canadian Reformed Church . It is a Dutch Calvinistic Christian Church. My parents were Dutch immigrants to Canada in 1951. They had come from two slightly differing factions of the same Reformed faith in the Netherlands . Arriving unmarried in Canada they joined the slightly more conservative of the factions. It was a small group at first. Being far from Holland and strangers in a new country these young families found a strong bonding point in their church. Deutsch: Heidelberger Katechismus, Druck 1563 (Photo credit: Wikipedia ) I was born in 1955 the third of eventually 9 children. We lived in a small southern Ontario farming community of Fergus. Being young conservative and industrious the community of immigrants prospered. While they did mix and work in the community almost all of the social bonding was within the church group. Being of the first generation born here we had a foot in two

Morality is not a Good Argument for Christianity

By austinrohm ~ I wrote this article as I was deconverting in my own head: I never talked with anyone about it, but it was a letter I wrote as if I was writing to all the Christians in my life who constantly brought up how morality was the best argument for Christianity. No Christian has read this so far, but it is written from the point of view of a frustrated closeted atheist whose only outlet was organizing his thoughts on the keyboard. A common phrase used with non-Christians is: “Well without God, there isn’t a foundation of morality. If God is not real, then you could go around killing and raping.” There are a few things which must be addressed. 1. Show me objective morality. Define it and show me an example. Different Christians have different moral standards depending on how they interpret the Bible. Often times, they will just find what they believe, then go back into scripture and find a way to validate it. Conversely, many feel a particular action is not