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By Cecelia ~

I grew up in a time and place where almost everyone was a Christian.

On Sunday mornings, my neighbour would drive a big bus around town to round up happy, eager, little children and bustle them off to Sunday school.

On Saturday nights, my sisters and I would sleep with hair in curlers (ouch!) all ready for the best day of the week; Sunday school in the morning, roast lamb for dinner followed by fish and chips for tea.

My father was a lay preacher who would practice his sermons out loud to anyone who would listen, even our cat. Puss had heard so many sermons that even she was a Christian.

I stopped going to church when I was too old to attend Sunday school.

My absence wasn’t a rejection of God or of Christianity. I still believed but I just wasn’t into it. As an infant, I had been taught to say my prayers at bedtime. I remember, at the age of about five, thanking God for bananas!
(I hate bananas now.) Beyond that, I don't recall ever praying on my own. I knew all of the popular bible stores and that Jesus had died to save me from my sins but I had never been taught, nor been interested in, the doctrine behind it.

I would say that I had a passive faith in God, that is, I had been immersed in the faith since childhood. I had been marinated in it. I had a strong Christian flavour.

As a young teenager, I felt an inner pressure to “make my decision” as we used to say in that denomination. I guess my decision was to put Christianity on the shelf for a while. After all, I knew where it was if and when I needed it again.

When I was in Year 12, I met a bunch of new kids who introduced me to a social life beyond pie nights at Youth Club! Suddenly I was going to BBQ’s, discos and parties with dancing, alcohol and boys.

I enjoyed all three. I went a little bit too far with one boy and then a lot too far with another. (Not on the same night!)

I felt a twinge of guilt every now and then but was able to put it aside. I just wanted to be normal teenager.

After graduating from secondary school, I moved to the city to attend university and continued to live the carefree life of a young, single adult.

Then I met a lovely Danish man named Adam. He was strong, masculine and chivalrous. He cared for me for in such an intimate and tender way that I blossomed as a woman. He was my first love.

But there were many obstacles in our way and we were both too young to get past them.

Reluctantly, we parted.

When I was in my early twenties, my health began to deteriorate to the point where I could no longer work full-time or live a normal, active life. I tried every orthodox remedy I could get my hands on, to no avail.

In desperation, I explored spiritual healing: transcendental meditation, Scientology and the power of positive thinking.

Then, I stumbled across a book called 'Healing through Faith." It stated, in a matter of fact way, that my health could be restored by confessing my sins to God and asking him for healing. It was that simple. It spoke a lot about the Apostle Paul and of how he was the author of most of the books in the New Testament.

I was curious. Who on earth was Paul? I had never read the bible myself so I borrowed one from the library and dived into it.

The more I read about Jesus, the stronger my urge became to respond. One evening, as I was in deep meditation, a voice said to me, "Get baptized."

"That's it!" I exclaimed. "That's the response I want to make!"

God had spoken to me. The message was so clear, so concise and so real. It wasn't my idea. I hadn't said it to myself. It was God.

And so my journey into Christianity began.

For month's after my conversion, I was ecstatic. I would cry during worship services, especially when we sang the beautiful, melodic choruses over and over and over. I was so happy to be saved and to have God in my life, that I forgot all about healing and just basked in my new life.

Healing would come eventually. There no rush. I didn't doubt for a minute that God would keep his promise to heal me.

I got on very well with God, but his followers were something else!

The confident, assertive "in crowd" had very high opinions of themselves. They had all the answers. They had a direct line to God that the rest of us plebs weren't privy to. More and more I found it impossible to have a normal conversation with other Christians. They were so condemning, so patronizing, so super-spiritual, so touchy. Everything was wrong. Everything was a sin. I was constantly tip toeing around on egg shells, lest I offend or upset someone.

Meanwhile they were offending and upsetting me with their crazy, judgemental behaviour.

Instead of finding the fellowship and connection I longed for, life with those Christians was one misconnection after another.

But I still loved God. And he still loved me, didn't he? Mmm? I wasn't so sure. I was told that, without God, my best deeds were nothing more than filthy rags. There was no good in me at all.
I had been born sinful. Sinning was inevitable. But if that was the case, why did God judge me for sinning? Well...I was told, "God is the potter and you are the clay. He has every right to
make you the way he wants. Who are you to judge God?"

But I wasn't judging God. I was just asking. It seemed like a fair question to me. Why shouldn't I ask questions? I was thirsty for knowledge. I wanted to understand it all. But, whenever I asked the difficult questions, I was warned harshly,

"That's not a good question to ask."

Me thinks that they just didn't know the answer!

Instead of finding the fellowship and connection I longed for, life with those Christians was one misconnection after another.I learned that sickness is caused by sin. God couldn't and wouldn't heal me until I confessed my 4,569 sins. But I couldn't think of any more to confess! Well, there you are! That thought was a sin. Better confess that. Mustn't be proud.

Still, I held onto the belief that God would heal me--one day...after all, he had promised.

I was a single woman who lived alone. Deary me! God hates, independence, I was told. Women need a covering--a man to tell her what do--any man, even someone else's man. The elders organized a family for me to live with. But I didn't need a man to boss me around. I had my cat for that. She was the head of my household.

Some of the beliefs and habits of the congregation were laughable. One lady, taking up her authority as a ruler on planet Earth, would command flies to leave her kitchen in the name of Jesus. A man stood up during a church service to earnestly praise God for reminding him to check his carton of eggs for cracks before buying them.

There was a very strong culture in that church of people going around "sensing" messages and pictures from God. What was wrong with these people, I wondered? Were they overly-confident, delusional, or just plain frauds?

I couldn't--and wouldn't--play the game. Of course, this made me the subject of even more criticism and judgement.

Every now and then there was some light relief. A lovely and lively young man called Cameron joined my bible study. Cameron was interested in knitting, flower arrangement and interior design. His best friend was his Mum.

It didn't occur to me, for a minute that he was gay. Just as well. I couldn't handle gayness then. Cameron and I grew close. He was like a girlfiend. We shared many frivolous hours together. We laughed at the silly things Christians did.

Then along came Glen. Glen was an art teacher who enjoyed creative dance. He and Cameron clicked straight away. I was dropped for Glen.

The Minister of the church was a very overweight, very controlling, very arrogant man. One day when he rose from his seat to speak, one of the little kids called out, "Here comes The Fat Controller." Some totally inappropriate person let out a big, loud, unauthorized laugh. Oh, that person was me!

But those moments of merriment were as scarce as hen's teeth. The ongoing judgement and loneliness I experienced, finally took its toll.

Six months after finding God, I went all delusional and decided to contact Adam. He was so pleased to hear from me, and to hear of my conversion, that he invited me to stay at his place the following weekend.

I was giddy with excitement. God was bringing us together again. Adam would be impressed with the new me and be converted too.

But between the phone call and my visit, three days later, something in Adam had changed. He wasn't pleased to see me. He wasn't interested in the new me. We spent an awkward day together, and an even more awkward night--sharing his bed--before I left, confused, hurt and heart broken.

The grief of losing Adam all over again sent me into a spin and onto a path that I had not imagined I would ever take. Overnight and out of the blue, I became a sex addict.

I decided to go out to night clubs to allow myself to be picked up by strangers for anonymous sex. The first time I ventured out, on a balmy summer's evening, my car wouldn't start. Obviously, God had done it! He was protecting me. "Well I won't do that again!" I said to myself.

The following evening, I did it again. Such is the nature of addiction. This time, the car started just fine but, while I was in the night club, my car was broken into and vandalized. That was God punishing me.

"Well, this really is the last time," I said. And it was...for a while...until my car was repaired.

As the weeks, months and years went by, my addiction soared and plummeted depending on how rejected, lonely and disconnected I felt.

My Christian life did the same. I wrestled with my addiction. I wrestled with God. I persevered with Christians. Week after week, I dragged myself along to church. I still needed the fellowship.. as dysfunctional and disconcerting as it was. Then one day, after a particularly upsetting encounter with a rude, judgemental woman, I simply walked away. It had taken me fourteen years. I cried all the way home--tears of sorrow, anger, and relief.

For the next six years, I experimented with numerous other churches of different denominations. The people there weren't as crazy as those of my first church but they were crazy enough.

My depression deepened. My sex addiction spiraled out of control. I became totally disillusioned with God. I no longer loved him. He hadn't answered any of my prayers. He hadn't healed me. He was a rip-off merchant who made empty promises to gullible, vulnerable people. I wished I'd never met him.

Gradually, I stopped going anywhere at all. What a relief...except for my fear of dying and going to hell.

After a year or so, my guilt got the better of me and I decided to pursue a relationship with God, on my own. Looking for inspiration on the internet, I googled "Jesus." Somehow, up popped a reference to Jesus being a mythical person. Apparently, Jesus wasn't the first messianic figure of his kind. There were a number of other "sons of God" who were born of a virgin. Like Jesus, they turned water into wine, they died and were raised three days later. Their sacrifice was celebrated with bread and wine. This list of similarities went on...

I couldn't believe my eyes. How could this be true. I had to find out more. I couldn't stop half way. In the middle of my research, I kept on saying to Jesus, 'I'm sorry to be doubting you but I have to know for sure, one way or the other."

Finally, I accepted the truth of the lie about Jesus. Discovering that he wasn't real was like finding out I had been adopted. On and on I read. I discovered that the bible stories are related to astrology. Just as there are twelve signs of the zodiac, there are also twelve tribes of Israel and twelve disciples. Joseph--with the coat of many colours-- was one of twelve children. Well, fancy that! How ironic that Christians are dead set against the occult, and, yet, the bible is based on it.

As I knew the bible so well, I had to unravel it from every angle. There was so much to learn. The story of Adam and Eve is an ancient myth based on even more ancient myths. The Jews aren't a chosen people who were given the promised land by God. They were just a group of murderous, blood thirsty thugs who took what they wanted and then justified it with sensational stories.

Finally, after months of research and contemplation, I accepted that Christianity was a complete fabrication.

What a liberation. I was free of it! It had wreaked havoc with my life for over twenty years.

With relief, I realized that I hadn't been born a sinner. But neither was I expected to be a saint. I could be something in between, just an ordinary human being. My depression slowly began to lift. My self esteem improved. My sex addiction gradually tapered off.

But I still believed in God. I was still a bit scared of him. I hadn't read anything that showed he wasn't real...until, seven years later when I read a book written by a scientist that explained the impossibility of God being all present, all powerful and all loving--at the same time. It was an incredibly heavy, scientific book. It was all I could do to read a few pages at a time. I hated that book but it convinced me.

That was only a few months ago. All of the garbage in my head that had been strangling my brains, for so long, has gone. Science is what sense to me now. It has set me free, to decide for myself what is right and wrong, to make my own decisions, to be myself.

I still have health problems and, to an outsider looking in, my life isn't that great. But I'm happy, very happy. I'm free.

And I still live alone with my cat.