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Growing up out of Christianity

By Ethan August ~

There are many ways for someone to give up their belief in their religion and then become agnostic or atheist. This is my story, one more unique story of how a person stopped believing, one more list of reasons.

I'm the 5th son of an 8-person Christian family. I was born in New York but when I was about 3 my family moved to California where I was raised. I had and have a great family. Everybody has problems with their family me included but I have no complaints. I was homeschooled till 8th grade. At this time I was enrolled in a Christian school. Growing up I noticed that I took my Christianity at little more to heart than a lot of my peers. I followed the rules like not kissing girls even when I really wanted to. I was that high spirited nice kid who would tell you that he wanted to be a missionary when he grew up. When I was 14 I even volunteered part of my summer to be a counselor at a Christian camp for junior high and junior kids and did that every year after and I would go on missions trips to foreign countries.

At about the time high school ended and college began I really had to start preparing for my goal in life which I thought was to go over seas and do missionary work in other countries. I had been on a couple of missions trips to Mexico and one to San Salvador. I had been very moved by the way the Christian gospel seemed to help people through the heavy sorrows and pains life had put on them. I believed that Jesus could change people's lives around here on earth and of course save them in the next life. The emotions of Christianity were also very much living inside of me as well and would often help me feel better about my guilt or whatever it was that I was going through.

When college started and I got out of my Christian school bubble I got to have real conversations with all sorts of people about religion and all sorts of things. I talked to Atheists, Agnostics, Mormons, Hindus and Muslims. I realized very quickly that if I wanted people to listen to my message and take it seriously then I had to listen to them and take their message as seriously as I would expect them to take mine. But it was more that just that. I realized that If I wanted someone to consider that their religion or beliefs where possibly wrong then I had to consider the same about my religion. In order for me to change their mind about what they believed I had to be willing to change my mind if our discussions seemed to point out that I was wrong.

So then freshman year of college my attitude about Christianity was that it could be wrong even though in my heart I knew Christianity had to be true. But in order to be a better missionary for my faith I had to be able to convert people effectively and to know beyond doubt that I wasn't preaching a false religion like how everyone else certainly must be doing. So I began to ask all my questions and explore all my doubts and fight the battles that would make me an effective missionary for Jesus. The answers to my questions where not what I expected.

There are a thousand reasons for why I now know that Christianity and all other religions are not true but I don't want to talk about that here. I'll just continue talking about my journey.

There are a thousand reasons for why I now know that Christianity and all other religions are not true... When I first decided to become agnostic and tell people I was agnostic and not Christian anymore I didn't mean it to be final. I believed that my saying that I wasn't sure about god and that I was still looking for the answers was what I had to do in order to be a better missionary. I didn't doubt Jesus in my heart, I loved Jesus with all my heart. I did what I did so that more people could someday know the love I knew because I would have the answers. I was like this for a year. As time wore on I began to know in my mind that God didn't exist but Jesus still meant everything to me in my heart. I felt a little like a deer staring into headlights.

In high school I feel in love with a girl. We will call her Betty. Our chemistry was perfect and she made me feel better than anything. We loved each other. I feel like I'll never find something so amazing ever again. Betty had serious issues with depression and insecurity, she was on medication and went to weekly therapy. As time wore on she told me that she couldn't be a missionary. She would never be able to follow me because of her depression. I had never before been nearly as happy as I was when I was with her and I haven't been as happy since. But I bailed out gave some lame excuse and chased a more stable girl who wanted to be a missionary also. This is how much my dream of being a missionary meant to me.

My "deer in the headlights" reaction to the direction my mission took continued. I got really depressed, my grades dropped and I felt walled off from nearly everyone I knew and I was very close to committing suicide for a period of a few months. I made my own poison.

My story hurts like many other people's stories about leaving the faith. But the hurt I felt is different from the usual way people leave the faith. I loved my Christianity, it never failed me. Christianity didn't push me away. I left when times were good and stepped into sorrow and developed a new very depressing philosophy for a time.

The message of my story is that times don't have to be bad for a person to reevaluate their beliefs. Truth is the most important thing in life, without it you may grow up believing that you should blow yourself up for your 70 virgins or that black or gay people are subhuman. I just want to do the right thing.