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Seeing The Light At The End Of The Tunnel

By Jen ~

Wow. I honestly can't believe I'm here. But I am. I'm still fairly early on in my de-conversion, but all these stories are so refreshing. For the moment, I'm considering myself more of a deist, but there's still so much more to learn, I know.

I was raised in the Grace Brethren Church, a very conservative and fundamentalist denomination. My brother, who was 13 years older than me, even went to a bible college and became a minister, and worked for them for quite a few years. My mother never really went to church. She always had some kind of excuse, like she didn't have anything decent to wear, or she can't sit that long, or something. I never questioned it for some reason. But she did watch alot of religious programs like the PTL Club, Jimmy Swaggart, and Jerry Falwell. But yet she sat and watched soap operas every afternoon. Go figure. Very conflicting values that didnt make sense to me, but again, I didnt question it. Thats where a lot of my sex education came from. LOL!

My father passed away when I was 8. So my brother was the main source of "spiritual guidance" for me. I remember asking him questions like "so if all this magical stuff happened back in bible times, why doesn't it happen now?" His answer was usually something like, " well that's because God was there then" or something like that. I can remember being told that the church offerings were "giving our money to God"...but then I thought, if God is the leader of the whole universe and can do anything he wants, why does he need money? And how does our money get all the way up to him anyway? But I was always afraid to ask those kinds of questions.

My time at that church wasn't a pleasant one, nor was it horrible. I always felt like an outsider though, even though my brother was one of the pastors. Most of the kids my own age were stuck-up and went to Christian schools. I didn't, so I didn't have that in common with them. I remember having fleeting thoughts of " if that's what being a Christian is, being snobby and unfriendly to people just because they aren't like you, then I'm not so sure I want to be one myself".

In the years after I graduated high school, I stopped going to church, simply because I didn't feel comfortable (and never did) and just felt as though I couldn't truly be happy living the way they expected me to. So many rules, never feeling as though I was ever doing the right thing, and even when I did, or tried to, I was always taught that we are sinners, that we are unworthy of God's love. Kinda takes the joy out of it, doesn't it?

Speaking of which, where IS all this joy, the "freedom", the act of "breaking the chains"? How can you possibly feel all this unending love when you're constantly told what horrible sinners we are? How can you feel all this "freedom in Christ" when we're expected to live by so many rules, no drinking, no dancing, no secular music, books or other media, no (or very little) mainstream tv, being "encouraged" to let go of our old friends and sometimes even our family members if being around them hindered our spiritual growth. What kind of life is THAT? It's no wonder so many evangelicals stumble and commit horrid acts such as molesting children or cheating on their spouses. And look how many of them are closet homosexuals. The standard of living they expect from you goes against human nature. It's impossible, at least to me.

Anyway, being over 18 then, no one could force me to go anymore so I didn't.

From that point I lived pretty much like any normal young adult. Hanging out with friends, having fun, partying a bit... I didn't get into trouble, but I certainly didn't act very "Christian". It was also during this time that my brother divorced his first wife, after which, even though he was still an ordained minister, really relaxed the rigidity of his beliefs. His ex-wife was mainly to blame for a lot of his distance from our family. We became very close again, closer than we were as kids.

His core beliefs remain pretty much the same, and he is a hardcore conservative politically. We don't discuss politics, mainly because we're on opposite ends of the spectrum and its been a source of tension at times between us. I haven't even entertained the thought of discussing my doubts and the beginnings of my de-conversion with him. I've seen how ugly he can get when talking about politics, I don't want to imagine what he'd say if I went to him with this. He's asked before if my cousin and her husband (who are both atheist) have ever discussed the subject of religion with me and that he was worried about their "influence" on me. He doesn't speak to them for this reason. The truth is, of course I've discussed it with them. But my doubts and frustration with religion and churches began before any conversation with them.

Which is what brings me to where I am now. My questioning of the bible and Christianity began with homosexuality. My husband and I have many friends and family members who are gay. I've only begun to see now that I'm older (I'm now 42) that being gay is something you're BORN with, not something you become. So my question is, WHY would god allow these people to be born this way, but be subject to a life of misery and an eternity in hell? It just didn't make sense to me. That's when I began to think that the bible was written by man, not god. I compare it to a lot of the religious fanatics I've encountered throughout my life. The bible could have very well been written by people just like them, but in a different time. People claiming that god "speaks" to them. Just like a time I was at a womens bible study and the woman giving the message looked right at me saying that god was speaking to her right now, telling her to minister to someone. Well, a particularly needy woman in the group, the type who threw herself up front and got "re-saved" week after week and always had a crowd of people around her praying for her, ran up to this woman after the bible study, convinced it was her she was talking about. I gave the woman a glance and found her watching me as I made a quick exit. :-) So I use her as an example of the type of people who may have written the bible...THEMSELVES. Not divinely inspired.

There's just no reason to believe that there's the kind of governing power ruling over us that they describe. especially one who would allow innocent people to suffer while others who make a life of swindling people in the name of religion and making millions from it, are allowed to do so. There's no justice in it. My brain hurts from trying to figure it out, and my heart hurts for feeling like I've been lied to all my life.

In 2005 my husband lost his father in March and I lost my mother in November. Out of despair, we decided to start going to church together. The first one we tried was a Methodist church, which was his father's family's church. While we met some rather nice people there, I just wasn't totally on board, as though I was just going through the motions. Aside from that, there was overwhelming pressure to become more involved, being on the church board, helping with functions, staffing the nursery. (we don't have kids of our own) which brings me to that point. Since we had trouble conceiving, there was also a lot of pressure to adopt. We started the process, but backed out because all they wanted to give us were special needs kids. I'm not heartless, but we just didn't feel we were equipped to handle that kind of responsibility. So we dodged questions as to why we backed out, and they finally dropped the subject. Then came the issue of a certain young woman in the church. She was very dramatic and charismatic, involved in just about every committee in the church. She was also a "3-time cancer survivor" according to her. And also married with 2 kids. She also used her sob stories to develop a friendship with my husband and me, which turned out, she was more interested in a "friendship" with my husband more than me. Since they were on the trustees committee together at church, after the meetings she would want to hang out and talk. She began calling him almost every day on his cell phone. She would never call the house phone. I intercepted one of her messages one day while he was napping, and she said how she missed him, and when he gets this message to call her. She ended it with "I love you". I immediately confronted him and he denied any wrongdoing, and that he indeed was becoming uncomfortable with her constant calling, and he was just trying to be nice because of all she's been through. But after that he did ask her to please not call him unless its church business and that her message greatly upset me. Instead of apologizing, she started crying hysterically and said he was betraying her, and she thought they were best friends, and she loves him dearly...he said "my wife is my best friend and what you're doing is upsetting her and I can't have that." After that, we didn't speak to them at church and began to notice that quite a few people were treating us differently. I refused to continue going, and we told his family members what happened, so if anything was said, they could set the record straight. It turned out she was having multiple affairs on her husband, she never had cancer, and ended up moving away after she and her husband divorced. We still didn't go back.

The next church we tried was an Evangelical Free Church. I don't know what we were thinking. All the "rules for living" I listed above earlier? Yeah, that was them. Throw in some arm waving, healing prayer circles, and lots of guilt and you get the picture. We left feeling spiritually beat up after hearing the pastor preach week after week about this jealous, hateful god.

So then I met a wonderful liberal UCC minister through mutual friends on Facebook. I finally thought we found what we were looking for. We attended his church for 2 years and became very close to him and his family. We met some truly great people there, who we continue friendships with even now. But since we live in a very conservative area, it came to light that there were a number of people, most in governing positions in that church, who didn't like him and wanted him out. They concocted a plan to do so. This caused a huge division in the church, and most people that sided with him, including us, left. That was last November. We have decided once and for all that we are through with churches for good.

So that's where we are now.

I'm much more of a deep thinker than my husband is, and I'm not entirely sure where he stands on the issue, but I do know that he still believes in god. We've discussed it a little bit, and was pleasantly surprised when he said he had a discussion with a co-worker about churches being a joke. My questions go deeper than that. In time I may discuss it with my former UCC minister friend, because I think he would be much more open than my evangelical conservative brother would. But I'm just not ready yet. Our minister friend also asked us to be his youngest child's godparents. The baptism is next month. Should I follow through with this despite my doubts?

So many questions. So much to think about.