Deconversion Stories

As a former believer myself, I have a soft spot for those others who have been able to break free from the chains of religion as well. I share in their pain and resentment toward religion, and even their heartbreak at having to let go of something that was once so much a part of their identity. It’s not so difficult for some – maybe they were better questioners than we. Either way, I have always been eager to see how others escaped.

This page will serve as an archive of stories from those who have “deconverted” from religion. I urge you to read their experiences with compassion and thoughtfulness, and click the headings to follow them on Twitter, as they’re all lovely people!

A big “thank you!” to Sandra, who originally hosted these stories and mine on her website. When she informed her Twitter followers that she was closing down the site, I offered to put the stories on a page here so that they wouldn’t disappear. These are too moving to miss!

Please check back often as there are a lot more stories that I will be adding to the collection!

I guess I’ll start. Here is my story as originally posted on Sandra’s site:

I went to Catholic school from grades K-12, and attended a Catholic university as well. Even within the Catholic community, we were kind of seen as religious freaks because we went to church every Sunday (most were only Catholic in name and wanted private education), read the Bible and prayed the rosary every day, and were “Charismatic” Catholics. My mom would try to distinguish herself from the “charismaniacs” of the 70’s, but we attended prayer meetings every Friday night where people spoke in tongues and were “slain in the Spirit”. It wasn’t as bad as what you see on TV, but it was close. My favorite part was that we sung songs with guitars and drums, not like those boring hymns in church. I loved it! I felt close to God and Jesus, I had a sense of community, and we got to sing and dance and socialize.

Religion was always one of my favorite classes in school. It was easy; I knew all the stories. I loved arguing with my less religious classmates and even teachers. I could quote the Bible and I knew a lot of the answers to the arguments against Catholicism or God/Jesus. I was an altar server, a CCD teacher, a youth leader, and in a traveling church play every year. I wanted to study religion and apologetics, be a “defender of the faith”. Pretty much everyone I knew thought I would be a nun one day.

The earliest recollection I have of questioning my religion came around the age of 14. I remember asking my friends and my mom, “If Jesus says to give away everything you have and give your money to the poor, why do churches have all these big statues and gold chalices and such?” If a church melted down all their gold, they could feed a LOT of starving kids. The earliest disciples met in houses. What did we even need churches for? From being an altar server and my religion classes, I knew that the “Host” (communion wafer) had to be kept in a chalice or other container made of precious metal. HAD to be. This made no sense to me — the guy was born in a stable, washed his disciples feet… why would he demand to be kept in a gold chalice? My mom tried to impress upon me how Catholics follow both Scripture and Tradition (the man-made laws) but I didn’t really buy it. Strike one.

Strike two came in high school during religion class. My freshman year, we were taught the origin of the Gospels and I found out that the Gospel writers were most likely NOT eyewitnesses. I always believed that they were apostles and were there with Jesus. They weren’t written until decades after Jesus. I have said for a while now that if I went to public school instead of Catholic school where religion classes were required, I might not be an atheist. The more I actually learned about my religion, the less it made sense.

Even though I was having doubts, I still participated in all the activities I previously mentioned and continued to proselytize to my peers. My prayer group started a sort of crusade against homosexuality — we wore rainbow bracelets, shoelaces, whatever, as a symbol of God’s love and not gay pride. I had a cartoon of Noah’s Ark printed out on my locker which said “Reclaim the Rainbow”. In my very small all-girls Catholic school, I got no flak for it. This is one of my most cringe-worthy memories. It wasn’t Westboro Baptist-level, but it was hurtful nonetheless.

Around this time, I became very good friends with the new choir director at my church. It turned out he was gay. At first I maintained my stance that you could be gay as long as you don’t act on it — homosexual acts, though, were sinful. As I developed this friendship with this guy though, it became harder and harder to maintain that belief. How could I tell this awesome, friendly, happy person that he wasn’t allowed to love who he wanted to love? Who he couldn’t HELP loving? It just did not seem fair. Strike three.

Now, when I say strike three, I don’t mean I became an atheist right away. I began by rejecting the doctrines of the Catholic Church — their stances on homosexuality, divorce (really? if a man beats his wife she has to stay with him?) and a few others. I asked a lot of questions in my college religion classes, and not a lot of them got answered. I started to do some real research, not just reading websites that affirmed my beliefs. There was no PROOF. We require proof to believe in just about anything in our world. Why does God get a pass?

Things began to crumble pretty quickly after that. I came across the website whywontgodhealamputees.com and godisimaginary.com which offer such videos as “10 Questions Every Intelligent Christian Must Answer”. I think the first time I watched that video is when things REALLY clicked for me. They had me down to a science: they asked a problematic question (why won’t God heal amputees?), I tried to rationalize the problem (well, God must have a plan) and they pointed out the fact that I had to come up with rationalizations to make it all fit. This happened TEN TIMES. Then, at the end, they point out that if instead of making excuses, you imagine that there is no God… Suddenly there are no problems. It was like the proverbial light bulb came on over my head. It was the only rational answer: there was no God.

I felt an enormous sense of relief: I thought of all the time I spent trying to be a good Christian, being held to an impossible standard. I also felt a deep sense of loss. I had often turned to Jesus when I felt alone, and I no longer had that: a friend when I had no friends. But above all, I felt FREE. It took a long time to get there, but I finally felt like the world made some sort of sense.

I’ve come to the conclusion that if God does exist, he gave me my rational brain, and will understand why I could not believe in him. I choose to do good for the sake of other humans, not because I am afraid of eternal punishment. I choose to live well and cherish this life, not always looking ahead to the “next life”.

Thomas Jefferson summed it up best: “Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear.”

——————————————————

@75ominac:

My religious background is Catholic. I lived it strongly, because in Latin America, Catholicism is part of the culture – it’s the idiosyncrasy of a whole country.  We live, breathe, and cry Catholicism.  The streets are flooded with painful rosary beads that sing a false salvation song.

I left Colombia when I was 22 years old, and like Nancy, I was big on religion. I grew up in an all-female private Catholic school from Kindergarten to High School graduation. The school was run by Italian nuns and you can imagine the level of dedication I was raised with. You should have seen me in the chorus during mass!  I even was a finalist in the archdioceses’ contest to meet John Paul II, who was scheduled to visit the country in July 1986.  We shook his hand, I felt holy. Mom died one month later.

I was an only child and lost my mom to breast, ovarian, and lung cancer when I was 11 years old. She died in front of my eyes, at home. Everyone expected she would deteriorate and die in a hospital, but she fought hard the 6 months she was given after diagnosis, and never reached the hospice point.  She did not lose weight, and although she lost her hair due to the chemotherapy, she was still home, doing normal things.  One night, she asked me to get her a glass of water.  When I came back to her bedroom with the water, she was on the floor, choking and looking at me. The look in her eyes was as if she was playing her life in her mind like a movie, as her body shook and the body fluids began to flow.  She died moments later. My world shattered. The magic kingdom she had built for me was destroyed.

The funeral was as traditional as those of 1986 in a Catholic home. My mother was a well-liked woman in her neighborhood:  she was always kind, helpful… in other words: a “nice lady”.  I was standing there, next to her casket, staring at her, numbed. I would like to expand Mom’s story… but maybe in another missive.

I began to ask myself how Jesus could be so deaf to all of my mother’s prayers, to all the things she did to get better, all the peregrination we did, all the missionary work.  After all the rosary beads I counted while we waited for the chemo sessions!  Why had he chosen her and not my dad? Dad was more of a sinner than Mom!  Why had he decided my glittery world had to end?   I silenced those questions with more prayers and continued with my Catholic education.

My grandma (Mom’s mom) took over after Mom died. Strong woman she was. She made me believe that Mom went to be with God and Jesus because I was such a bratty and spoiled daughter.  That I had to learn from that lesson.  I was only 11 and the indoctrination was well ingrained in my mind. The guilt haunted me for years.  I began my pre-teen years without the only person who seemed to believe I was a princess.  The fear of being punished more by God kept me from speaking my mind, from crying all the time, from questioning the absurdities I was reading in a Bible I was supposed to study with a closed mind and open heart.

I was part of the Legion of Virgin Mary and had rosary prayer every Wednesday at the teen women’s group.  In school we had religion, and yes, I excelled at that class. I was the one putting flowers to the Virgin Mary and Saint Dorothy’s altar in our classroom.  The smell of Mother Superior’s musky habit as she sat at her desk with the Bible was something we all dreaded.  By going to the altar and arranging it, I could miss that first contact with her mean look.  I devoted myself completely to my task!

I don’t understand how I am not some bitter woman in a mental ward.  I complied with all the Catholic requirements, because I wanted to be re-united with Mom, because Jesus took her to keep her safe, and I had to be good — otherwise I would not only go to hell, but I wouldn’t see Mom again. I was a feisty defender of the Bible, and was also the kind that will start sentences with “The bible says…”

The pain of losing mom was great, and the idea of a God loving me and keeping me strong was better than the reality of “You are on your own, toughen up, keep moving”.  Beside the Religious pressure to be a good Catholic, I also had the social pressure to be pretty. According to my family’s comments, I was not.  I was very skinny, with frizzy hair, unruly curls and almost a hunchback from trying to hide my breasts. Self esteem was non-existent.  I always thought everyone was better / prettier / more pious / smarter than me.

Women in my city are known worldwide because they are pretty (by magazine standards), but not me.  I was a tomboy with a sassy personality, and the only place where those “ugly” girls belong was church activities.  At age 16, my body changed and my boobs bloomed into two huge wonders that aggravated my self esteem problem.  God, why did you make me so bony, so skinny and with these big breasts? God, why did you make me with this bad nose, God, God, God.

One day, a guy 10 years older told me I was pretty, and courted me for a few months. I lost my virginity and lived an 8-month affair with him.  It was a secret relationship, given he was 26 and I was 16.  Later I found out that it was not hidden because of our ages, but because he was married.  Another low punch from a God I was praying to protect me and guide me. Why did he guide me to that?  Now I had no virginity — and who would want me now?!

My grandmother almost died when she found out I was not a virgin. “Your Mom is crying in her tomb,” she said. The guilt was horrible. She convinced me that I had abandoned the only thing that makes a woman worth anything, that I was condemned to be an old maid and live at home because no man wants a slut.  Dear reader, the power of words is very strong.  I felt like the scum of earth. But was I? I was just 16.  According to my grandmother and “everyone”, I was already doomed.

A second man showed up in my life at the end of my 17th year.  He was fun, charming, lived in USA and was in Colombia visiting his mom.  He saw me on my way home from school.  He asked me out, told me I was pretty, and even invited me to church. I thought Mom sent him from heaven.  After 2 weeks of dating him, I told him I was not a virgin (like that was a disease) but he said:  “Moni, I live in USA, virginity is not like it is here in Colombia.  You are great, and I want to marry you, and God will protect us.”  He was 31 years old at the time and I was about to turn 18.  I felt blessed by divine mercy and devoted more time to praying and praising the Lord for such amazing man.

I told Grandma.  Grandma did not think twice and told me I should accept because men like that are rare.  Who else would take me since I was not a virgin?  That must surely have been a sign that God had mercy on me and sent me a man to give me honor since I was such a “sinner”. This sounds so far-fetched as I write it, but is a sad reality that although not as common these days, is still going on in third world countries like mine.

So after dating him for six weeks (yes, SIX WEEKS) I married him.  Not officially sactioned by the Church because we were running out of time and needed legal documents to file for a visa. But we had in mind a religious wedding by his next visit from the USA.  We began the immigration process so I could go live with my husband.  He knew how to make love, he was older, he told me what to do, he “protected me” and life seemed better because I was married, and honored.  My relationship with Jesus was starting to give results. Life was less gloomy.

During my husband’s absence when he was back in the USA, I got tempted by a man who moved in to my neighborhood.  I was so confused and felt dirty for even thinking about a man other than my husband.  In fear for divine punishment, I attended confession. I needed advice, I felt unclean, I was lost.  Father Antonio questioned me a bit, and when he found out that I was not married by the Church, his tone changed.  He said I was in a bad situation because in the eyes of God, I was living a concubinage and not a marriage blessed by Him. I was in an adulterous relationship and therefore could not get absolved of my sins through Confession, or take Communion.  “In the eyes of God, you are sinning already by not marrying like He established it.  It really doesn’t matter who you sleep with, you are sinning.”

I asked Father Antonio if God could not see how much I loved my husband and know I was following the rest of his commandments.  Father Antonio shook his head, and said he was sorry. “You must seek a Catholic wedding soon, and we have discounted packages for situations like yours,” he said.  That exchange with Father Antonio started my deconversion process.

I went home more than worried, very upset.  Nothing made sense: I was almost 20 years old and was not understanding how the Church was being so dismissive and did not offer me help to overcome the temptation to cheat but rather put me down and bury me in fear and guilt. I stopped going to Mass that day. What for, if I could not get Communion anyway? I began a nominal Catholic life, going to Mass only when it was absolutely necessary.

I was proud that in the middle of everything, I was married and soon would have a family. Well, WRONG, my husband returned to Colombia and the domestic abuse began. Little pinches in my arms, pushing against the wall, name calling, belittling… he broke my nose one of the many times he hit me.  But it was in the Bible that a woman has to submit to her husband, and divorce was not an option, even if it was not a blessed marriage. My family, his family, encouraged me to pray for patience, to pray for him to change his ways.  I felt the presence of Jesus/God giving me strength to carry on my “mission” as the wife of a man with anger problems.

I prayed, not even to get out of the marriage. I prayed to Jesus, my loyal friend, for strength to stay married, to be a good wife, to not provoke him, to stay in the path that Jesus Christ had laid out for me,  and to do better to please my husband and God. Yes. I was that kind of dumb.

I endured 10 miserable years of marriage, crying in silence, hiding the abuse, convinced that God never gives us more than we can handle and according to the plan I was expected to fulfill my role of submissive wife.  I learned to disguise bruises with make-up, to make up excuses for my husband’s behavior… all the while he was very dedicated and punctual for his prayers or church services.  I was so deluded with the idea that all these dysfunctional situations were OK, and that I was being tested by God — and I was passing because I was strong and he kept giving me more challenges.

I finally divorced, and by then I had two kids.  It was very scary to be alone with two sons depending on me, trying to start a life in a huge country like USA.  God was my strength, God would guide me.  Since I was so upset at Catholicism, I started to venture into other denominations:  Baptist, Pentecostal, Calvary Chapel, Joel Osteen, Reformed Catholics, Born Again International Church of Christ.  I would be strong on those for about 2 months until my questions surfaced over and over again.  Why would God ignore so much suffering? Why were women so repressed in the Bible? What about Genesis, etc, etc, etc.

I could not find answers, and I thought I must pursue other spiritual paths.  I tried going to angel therapy, crystal healing, animal spirits, tarot, psychics, and a whole bunch of other new age hocus pocus fads with the hope to find that God, that peace that everybody always talks about.  I ended up paying a lot of money for candles, incense, courses, healing sessions, therapies… and God was still absent.

I bumped into Kabbalah, and I must say that was the enlightening path. My Kabbalistic teacher would force me to think about why we do the things we do, why we say the things we say, and so forth.  I studied it for about three years and learned a lot of self control. I understood many things.  Kabbalists, or at least the ones I came in contact with, are very humanistic, and it was a breath of fresh air to learn about accountability.  I had to walk away from it because I could not afford their courses, required on the constant quest for knowledge. I arrived at the next question: Why are most spiritual paths paved with layers of currency?  If something is true, like the law of gravity, why do we have to pay so much for it?  And so I departed, but I must say I did learn great and positive things during those three years, plus I had a lot of fun.  Learning something new was exciting.

Writing about all the aspects of my life manipulated by religion would take a whole book. I wrote you about the top two darkest moments of my life.  I tried to be as concise and clear as possible because there are so many stories I still want to share.  How I crossed the USA border, how I learned English, and my days in abused women shelters are some of them. Let’s say life is better now, really better now.

During all that search I kept my sons at a considerable distance.  I never brought them to the churches, or introduced them to the New Age stuff.  I did bring them 2-3 times to Kabbalah lectures. They did not like it, so I never brought them again.  My sons began to open my eyes about fantasies, ie: The influence of the moon on our bodies.  They lectured me with scientific reasons about things I thought were magical and divine.  I understood finally that my path was simply to live with kindness, and teach my sons about love.

After joining Twitter, I started to see that there are thousands of people like me, that I was not the only one with the struggle. In 2013 a book I had bought from a great guy and Twitter account, @CEKBooks, What Are We Without God? arrived, and my mind exploded. I even had physical reactions as my brain finally had a logical way to put the “religion myth” behind.  His second book, I AM played a great role in the process as well.

The last stop on the deconversion process was meeting an Israeli man, who told me: “People change religions and have the idea that they are thinking outside the box, but the thing is: we don’t need a box, our mind is meant to be free. You are your own god, you are the architect of your life, build something good for humankind.”  I thought, Wow, if someone from the promised land, raised in Judaism which is supposed to be the root of the three major religions is an atheist, it must be that we are all been wrong about religion. I learned lots of self respect and respect for others every time I got the chance to talk to him. He calls himself a Jew but it defines his nationality, not his religion.

I kept learning, sharing with people on Twitter, and discussing with my sons.  It was impossible to try to educate my sons in a humanitarian and moral way by staying close to religious thought. My motherhood pushed me out of religion and crazy beliefs. My sons deserve a future with a good balance between love and logical principles.

Another chapter in my life is unfolding: My sons are free from indoctrination, my scars are there as a reminder to be kind.  I look forward each day to learn more about others and less about god.

Maybe this is not really a deconversion story, but one of the many testimonials out there about the dangers of religion, the tragic vulnerability of low self esteem, and the negative impact that religious doctrine and condemning words can have on a young mind, as well as the triumphant victory that can be achieved with a lot of effort and a caring community.

Be kind, encourage younger people to love themselves, to educate themselves, to be fearless in their discovery, and enjoy the magic trip called LIFE.

Thanks for reading.

——————————————————

@CynicalReality:

I grew up in a conservative Christian home.  Gospel Hall.  Think Baptist, but grumpier.  Every Sunday, without fail, we trotted off to church in the morning. Then Sunday night. Then on Wednesdays for Bible studies.

And church picnics.  And retreats, camps, conferences… our entire life revolved around the church and what was in it.  I was a willful and rebellious child, and my parents were forever punishing me.  Don’t think for a second that they were abusive; they were not. They were kind and loving parents, but no son of theirs was going to shame the name of God with his ill behavior!

Childhood was a lousy time. I was bullied in school, likely because I just didn’t get the stuff they were talking about.  Mostly-innocent TV shows were verboten to us.  We were always dressing up in suits and going to church, never out on the street playing hockey on Sundays.  We were the weird ones.  To top off my odd sheltered existence, I was always in my own world.  Separating myself from the church stuff.  It never made much sense to me.

It did however, put endless fear in to me.  I thought I was going to roast in hell.  I thought no matter what I did, I was doomed.

Fast forward to my late teens.  I had rebelled in full. Always uneasy, always still playing the good Christian boy, I got my girlfriend pregnant.  We married.  It was a sham of a marriage, and she was the worst human being I had the displeasure of knowing.  We separated three years later.  I became a weekend dad to the most incredible child I knew.  Still I clung to my faith.  Prayed for things to get better.  Years passed in a flash. My daughter grew up.  And she began exhibiting signs of depression.  She withdrew into herself more and more often. At 14, she had had enough of her mother, and came to live with me. I had since remarried to a wonderful woman, and welcomed my daughter with open arms.

Her depression grew, however.  She slipped lower and lower, and nothing that we did made a difference.  Therapy, pills, nothing.  We worked our hearts out trying to help.  And we prayed.  All of us. Daily, endlessly, to make things better for my child.  I never tried to convince my child anything about God.  I never broached the topic with her.  But I fervently prayed to the God who promised to make all well, to do so.

It was to no avail.  Not long before her 17th birthday, my daughter took her own life.  I was the only one to come home at the time, and found her.  My world shattered and collapsed. And even still, as I held her in my arms and screamed to the heavens, I screamed to God. “No! Save her!  Not her! You promised us that you would fix everything if we asked.”

The funeral came and went.  My daughter was cremated and buried, and my wife and I were left to struggle on alone.  Well-meaning messages came in. God will lift you up.  He knows your hurts. HE WILL MAKE IT BETTER.

It all came crashing down. Every doubt I ever had over the years was confirmed.  Every suspicion that it was untrue, every belief that I clung to despite overwhelming evidence against a God existing.

He was not there.  There was no benevolent maker who was going to make it all better.  I was lied to my entire life, and when I needed this God the most, is when it became most readily apparent that there wasn’t one.

I grieved, but differently. Not as one who was betrayed by God, but one who lost a precious child.  It was deeper and more painful, but it was without the veil of untruth. And as I recovered, I realized that it was ok.  There is no heaven.  There is no hell.  I will not see my daughter again.

But one day, in the dark future, when the universe explodes again; when the cosmos reorders itself, we will be joined together once more as matter racing across the universe.  And that is better than anything false religions have to offer.  We cannot be destroyed. We will always be a part of the natural order, together.

I still feel the guilt sometimes, of not believing.  But my mind rules now, instead of my indoctrination.

We can be ok, without God.

——————————————————

 @Gnoscere:

Three Things I Need to Know About Your God

“Just have faith,
Just believe me,
Then I believe that you will see,
How necessary it must be,
That you perceive divinity.”

Oh jeez,
Okay,
let me just begin to explain,
Let me highlight just 3 things,
Let me start by simply saying, stating:
These aggressive attempts at persuading,
at sedating any skeptical interest

Are a back step.

I’m beginning to detect you have no prospect,
nothing to even begin to validate your requests for address–
This whole thing is suspect!
You demand respect while exhorting yourself as some sort of prophet?
You say that you’re some infinite object?
That’s a bold claim and it needs to be backed up.
That’s a bold promise with no good evidence to substantiate it.
Please dear god,
Deliver us from this nonsense that you call progress.
Asking us to live in fear of judgment does not free us,
It enslaves us!
You’re attempting to impeach the very freedom that released us
From divinely inspired prisons that somehow
Are supposed to sustain a position outside our questions.
Meanwhile!
Irrational mention of god’s perfect intelligence
Provides unquestionable justifications for any insidious plot you people can cook up!
“It’s god’s will to (insert travesty here)!”
“God loves a cheerful giver, so give all you hold dear!”
“Just pray and believe you’ll be healed and receive!”
“God says to stay” in this abusive mess…

But I’m the one who’s moral-less?
What is this shit?!

You call me offensive and don’t understand why
I’m offended by your dangerous superstitions,
If you don’t see this bile as offensive I have to reckon
You’re simply not a thinking or rational person,
But I guess that’s just my opinion.
Still that’s all irrelevant to the simple proposition.

You made an outrageous claim;
I’m asking you to back up your presuppositions.
Do you have anything to substantiate your
Deluded, idealistic, anachronistic, masochistic, sadistic, religious fixations?
Or will you concede that this boring allegory story is nothing more than
Wishful thinking, special pleading, & empty threats of divine judgment
From an all-loving, all-knowing, all-powerful genie
Who’s allegedly only a prayer away from all who call on his awesomeness?

Totally indistinguishable from absolute nonsense:
Faithful prayers that fall on deaf ears, yielding zero consequence.
****
But that’s just the first aspect,
Because even “IF” not “when” but “IF” you can begin
to validate your ridiculous propositions
of divine deliverance and original sin,
Assuming you can provide reasonable support
for this divine epistemological statistician,
This holy mathematician,
Who somehow possesses the right to simultaneously
define and defy the moralistic laws
that appear to govern our lives…

In part TWO of this unabated bash on your religious motivations
You’re now faced with the problem
of defending your specific affiliation for its particular allegation of divine inspiration.
Can you demonstrate that the holiness inferred
By your now vastly more capable presentation
Agrees with your denomination’s prophet?
AND his or her description of divine revelation?
Thousands of religious prescriptions
With conflicting positions
And contradicting predictions
Make it seem highly unlikely that your particular inference
To this proposed Divine intelligence is the correct one,
Demonstrating or dictating the perfect path for us all to be taking.

I know it’s cliche but let’s not take this for granted:
You have a serious problem defending your standard.

Any one of you would say to me that you are the one true ideology
And yet, conceivably,
I have good reason to question the methodology
That’s been implemented in achieving this decision.

So in order to sustain this perceived position,
Of god’s holy people operating in god’s holy graces,
I’m going to need to ask you to undress this demonstration,
And somehow, without being racist,
Show that your particular congregation is the fixation
of some ultimate divine presence.
Otherwise,
Even if you could prove divinity to begin with
You still hold an empty hand trying to claim
That you’ve achieved any sort of forgiveness…or self-righteousness.
****

Now, hold on one more second, we’re not quite done yet.
I still have one more question I would like to pose to you:
Where is evidence I would need
To begin to conceive a belief in your particular creation creed?

Let’s say you can prove your god is real,
AND that you are part of his one true religion.
Yeah, I’m going to give you both of those premises,
and I still have a problem with your proposed perfected system.

What is there to tell me,
convince me,or show me,
That this is any ideology which I should believe?
What is to be so worshiped from the god of your religion?
This insane all-knowing entity who would kill people freely
seems to have done nothing worthy of worship from me,
To deserve or earn a follower of me.

“He’s supposed to exercise morality beyond observable reality” you say?
But I see NO evidence to suggest that this mythic hero really exists!This subjective view of moralistic definition, where it’s all subjective to some perfect position.
You can give me a justification for everything that occurs in your proclamation, goddidit!
But the fact of the matter is,
I will still protest and defend that
your special holy text,
In many effects
Appears indifferent from any snuff novel written by men.

If that divinity is real, I have to say he’s morally bankrupt
He stands on the cusp of being completely morally and socially inept,
Incapable of being even the most basic functioning member of society.
Sorry if that’s hard for you to see, but,
Honest to god, that’s what I perceive in your deity.
So demonstrate to me how it is that
These actions normally reprehensible,
Through the eyes of your invisible overlord
Are somehow acceptable.
It’s deplorable to me
How your all-powerful deity
Seems to be utterly incapable of exercising even the smallest shred of common decency
In the actions which conceivably define the very definition of what makes up his entirety.
The point is,
If you want me to take you seriously,
You must demonstrate these three things to me.

Show that there is merit to believing in your god,
Then show that your god is the correct god
Of all the gods that humanity has offered as god of all gods.
Only then can you begin the arduous task
Of demonstrating to me why I should worship this fraud.
Keep in mind,
I don’t care if he can give me divine forgiveness,
He’s not worth my time if he has no power to realize this:
How evil he appears in all his genocidal,
megalomaniacal, obscene commands and silences.

He should do something about it.

And though I don’t make demands,
I will make a suggestion:

If you can’t reasonably meet this standard of evidence,
You should be asking yourself why you believe this shit,
Stop asking me why I seem pissed,
It should be very clear why I’m over this.

****

Hello, my name as far as anybody knows is Clint, just Clint. My mother had a crush on Clint Eastwood to the point of giving me his name. My father is a Mormon priest and the only member of my family that knows I am atheistic, although he seems to be actively in denial. I am writing this in the hopes that someone may benefit from hearing these words. And for any of those who find themselves in a similar place to where I was, please reach out to me — no one should be alone. There are MANY walking out of faith right now, right where you are.

Some people relieve stress by running, others by working out or taking solace in loved ones. I relieved stress through fantasy, and I fueled fantasy through opiates, muscle relaxers, amphetamine salts, antipsychotics, anti-depressants, marijuana, cocaine, anti-anxietys, occasional poetry, and when I could get my hands on them, high-end barbiturates. Music made the tempo of my life, helping maintain REM movements to the hallucinations I used, to make the world seem less real.

I identified as Mormon until I was about 7 and was actually a pretty devout member of the Mormon Church. This may seem like a young age but Mormonism is a young church, as evidenced by this example of indoctrination that I witnessed: it was expected in my youth that I give testimony to “why” I believed in the teachings of Joseph Smith.  In Sunday school we were told to read portions of the Book of Mormon and the Bible, and upon concluding a specified section we were asked to give a personal reason why we believed it was true. Essentially the church very much likes its young members to state in their own words why they “know the church is true” as often as possible, telling themselves over and over why they believe it.

 Around age 7, I had my first bouts of skepticism. I remember sitting in Sunday school and reading the story of Moses, whose stick turned into a snake. I remember thinking back then it was preposterous — nonetheless, I wanted to believe it. I desperately wanted to believe it, and I remember I thought everybody else believed it. I wanted only to be like the other students, and there it dawned on me I was like the other students. That day I realized that they were all trying desperately to believe it because they thought that I believed. That was the first time I clearly and distinctly understood that everyone else felt just as insignificant and awkward as I did. We were all blindly following each other.

 When I was 8, my parents got divorced. My father, the priest, was so angry. I know now that he only wanted me to grow up right, but back then every word from his mouth seemed so unbearably harsh. Being a man of few words he very rarely told me he was “proud of me” — typically I’d have to start a fight with him to get him to say anything like that. If I haven’t painted enough of a negative picture of my father, it’s because I haven’t tried hard enough. I don’t hate him now, but I did back then. Needless to say, I decided to go live with my mother.

 I was a little older than 8 when I stole my first cigarette from my mother’s purse… then… I stole her pain killers, her money, and on at least one occasion, her boyfriend’s cocaine. I lost my virginity before the age of 9, was severely underweight and listening to heavy metal music. She was getting drunk with three fifths of vodka daily, and usually by nightfall I had to carry her up to bed. At the risk of revealing too much info, at that point in time it had become necessary that I… change… her underwear.. each night when I would put her to rest.

 My apologies if this is becoming a tad dramatic, but these are simply the facts. I only needed to explain all of that so that I could tell you why I so desperately prayed into my pillow every night as a nine-year-old child. I would have taken help from any Divine Being, either God or Devil — and at least once I explicitly remember shouting that out loud. Funny thing: neither of them came. I had to face it, my god had abandoned me.

 When I was 11, I was still part of several church groups, but the duality of my personal and public life at this point was in full swing, and I was beginning to lose identification with groups of my peers. One in particular was Boy Scouts, which had a loose connection with a prominent Christian youth group. This mingling between Mormon and Christian youth was something that my mother enjoyed me being a part of, on account of her Catholic roots.

 I had been taught from both of my parents that homosexual acts were about the most perverse and evil thing a person could do. At least once or twice I was told that homosexuality would lead to me being immediately disowned, but as I liked women, this was something I kind of shrugged off. One night I caught my mother passed out on the couch (drunk) with Brokeback Mountain on the television. When I woke her up to poke fun of her for it, her reaction was less than humorous. Fumbling for the remote, she quickly changed the channel, saying she “didn’t want that faggot shit in this house, not on her watch” before sloshing herself back to sleep. At that point the irony was obvious to me — my mother’s life was so perfect she had to ingest three fifths of vodka a day to feel normal, but these men on the TV were supposed to be the ones who were evil… her careful parental “watch” obviously compromised by her “sins”(drinking) while the men on the TV appeared perfectly attentive to the life around them, unhindered by their homosexuality. If god hated the homosexual more than the bigot, then why did this separation become a possibility?

Two of my friends who were in the Christian youth group had become rather close with me and had invited me to larger Church assemblies outside of my town. As I have been asked not to disclose the names of the persons who were involved, we will call my two friends Bill and Ted. Bill was skinnier, cocky, & a devout Christian; Ted was heftier and possessed a kinder demeanor, and was equally devout, if not more. One day meeting with them after scouts, Ted revealed to us a secret in confidence which he asked us not to tell to anyone, explaining that he was experiencing homosexual desires. Bill and I both promised not to tell and also compassionately offered help where we could.

In the defense of the actions Bill would take next I would note: we were young, neither of us knew how to help somebody with an issue like that, we understood only what we were told prior to this bombshell, and knew that Ted certainly could not tell his family. Ted’s father died/disappeared very young — I remember that Father’s Day was particularly tough for Ted — and his mother was also deep in the church. Bill took it upon himself to speak with their youth group leader, who did what youth group leaders do. At some point this man pulled Ted aside and personally informed him that his homosexual desires were the results of demons and that he needed to purge himself of them. I assume he also gave more thorough information on the church’s views on the subject. And though Ted was upset with Bill for the lapse in trust, I remember Ted thanking Bill for speaking out, explicitly because their youth group leader had asked Ted to thank Bill for bringing his demons to light in the church so that they could be fixed. We were 12- or 13-year-old kids — none of us had any idea what all this meant, and it’s possible that nobody in the church leadership had dealt with it, either.

Fast forward a little shy of a year. Ted is probably the brightest person I know at this time with the exception of one other whom I would meet and also find out was gay — we will call him Jason. I will say, for the record, Jason is hands down probably, still to this day, the smartest person I’ve met in my life. Basically at this point the two smartest people I knew were gay. That simple fact was not lost on me at the time, and is the explanation for my actions to follow.

Ted was an intrinsically gifted speller, something I always admired him for. So when I got a message with debauched spelling from him one night thanking me for my friendship, and no messages to follow my replies, I felt the need to go over and visit him, with an intuition that something was wrong. And what I found was Ted, in his bathtub, his wrists slit. It’s funny how certain pieces of imagery stick with you: his skin was very pale… there was a lot of blood outside the tub… the water itself tinted a shade of pink… but somehow it seems he had gotten most on the edges and down the sides of the tub. His behavior was docile and lethargic, rendering me, less than half his size, capable of getting him out of the tub, bandaged up, and eventually on to the couch. I didn’t know much about how to treat something like this medically, but I found juice in his fridge, which it turns out was a pretty good idea.

It took me a great deal of time to clean his blood out of the bathroom, and I was able to force him to drink several glasses of orange juice, which seemed to have him holding more color in his complexion. When I finally sat down to speak with him I told him that I would not stop him if he wanted to finish what he started, but that I would ask him to hear me out first because I had begun to question his church’s teaching that his desires were wrong. What was funny is I remember him arguing with me, telling me he was broken. He seemed to think that overcoming these personal demons was an impossibility, but was simultaneously something he must do. It was as though he believed intrinsically that because there was no way for him to overcome or push aside these things in his head, his fate had already been sealed. He seemed less personally hateful and more burdened with an observably insurmountable goal.

I asked him if he was presented with a naked man and a naked woman which one he would choose. Still arguing, he insisted that he would try to choose the woman. I explained to him that I would choose the woman, and if anybody told me I was wrong for choosing the woman I would be left completely confused. If they thought I was broken for not choosing the man, in my personal choice of sexual desire, I might even become irate. I explained my sexual desire was seemingly just personal opinion to me, seemingly something I could not alter, and that he and the other “gay” I knew were the most intelligent people that I knew, and were indeed two persons that this world “should not do without”. I doubt I said it quite that articulately, but he agreed recently that was the message that got through to him, “more or less”. That was it, that was the entire conversation — I left and we never spoke of it again until just the other day when I asked him if he was comfortable with me telling of the time when we were so young and he had come so close to committing suicide.

There’s one other part of this story that I am immensely proud of. Before I quit Boy Scouts and severed my connection with the affiliated youth groups, I had an opportunity to speak with the leader directly. I sincerely hope that me as a 12-13 year old telling him he should “give his phone number to all the members of his youth group so that they could contact him next time they felt his words provoke them to end their lives, because I was tired of cleaning up his messes” had a positive impact on how he handled future situations.

These incidents were one of the biggest reasons I would later decide to further separate from the religious background I was raised in. It was the first time I had personally seen that religion can be detrimental even in its modern day “reduced” form. Though I still don’t believe religion to be intrinsically evil, I would ask anybody who reads this who may still be a theist, or a deist, to seriously consider the negative impacts of your beliefs. Beliefs like these in the hands of intelligent people who can handle them is one thing, but those same beliefs in the hands of those ignorant to the effects words can have on others, they can have terrifying repercussions on the people we love.

I am NOT an atheist because I think it’s cool, or funny, or popular. I am an atheist because the words and actions of many religious persons I have met and known during my time in religion honestly frighten me, far more than they comfort me. I am an atheist because the most peaceful, genuine, and congenial group of Christians I ever knew, nearly drove one of my best friends to commit suicide, because they condemned who he is because of what they claim their holy books claim their God claims a man shouldn’t be. I am an atheist because your god scares me, not because of who he is, but because his followers can’t seem to tell right from wrong, and act in the name of an invisible overseer with garbled instructions and a distinctly human air of bigotry.

I am not currently in contact with Bill — he took a job in another county after high school graduation and I haven’t seen him since. Ted is alive and well. I believe he’s currently working as an energy consultant somewhere in our home state, and though we don’t talk much we’re still very much friends. Last I knew, Ted was volunteering at his local youth group — yes, he is still religious! Ted is a genuine and awesome person to whom I literally owe my life, as he returned the favor and saved me from a mild drug overdose… but that’s a story for another time.

THINK about your actions and words, and the impact they may have on another person’s life, for good or ill. If you see it, say it –take the time to care, to speak up, to ACT up for the causes that impact lives. Be respectful when challenging others’ opinions, but don’t be afraid to challenge injustice, wherever it may live.

——————————————————

@_k_j_s:

Promised this to Sandra Edwards a while back, so here goes. This will not be polished; I’ll put down the words as they come into my head. Warning: I have a VERY long memory.

I am 7 years old, sitting on a green chair at Sunday School. My feet don’t touch the ground, but I already know better than to wave them around, although that’s exactly what I want to do. I’m listening to the teacher talking about Noah’s Ark, and imagining the animals filing up the gangplank. My mind is filled with the absolute truth of the story. I believe it. I want to believe it. It’s a good story. Around this time (for a bit of context) Jim Lovell was fighting for his life aboard Apollo 13.

Back a couple of years. I’m in my classroom. My teacher is reciting a prayer and most of us are standing with our eyes closed, learning the ritual. Inevitably, one kid pipes up at the end of the prayer that so-and-so didn’t have his eyes closed during the prayer. Immediately, a gang of 5-year-olds round upon him, demanding how he could possibly know had his eyes been closed.

Forward. New town. New school. Every morning starts with Christian prayer, delivered with some eloquence by the metalwork teacher and a resigned boredom by the Religious Studies teacher. Church has become relegated to attendance at weddings, funerals and Christmas as my father realizes that he doesn’t have to toe the line of bullshit that my mother (Anglican) insisted upon.

Now I’m 15. I haven’t got a fucking clue what to do with all of the tales that I was told as an infant. The 15 year old remembers the stories, and almost manages to break free. At this point, I could have decided that I was an atheist, but…

(From my mother)…”My friend is a Jehovah’s Witness. I know you are interested in Revelations, and so are they, so why don’t you go to the meetings with her?” Sounds like a plan, so for the next 3 years, I’m off to meetings three times a week, Bible studies and reading from everything the Watchtower Bible And Tract Society has to offer. If I’m honest, I’m an avid collector (hoarder) and liked the fact that all of the little books were of uniform shape and size, so I bought the lot.

Then one day, I woke up. I realized that I knew the Bible inside out, had studied it with people who lived their lives by its teachings and I didn’t believe a fucking word of it. I KNEW there was no heaven, that death meant death… and I was gutted. The feeling of emptiness can only be equalled by the loss of a close friend. I felt that something had been taken from me — something real, something worthwhile. Why had I studied and complied all these years, with nothing to show?

It didn’t take long before I realized that I’d lost nothing, and gained much. I was now in charge of myself. I had lost god, but I didn’t immediately set off on an orgy of rape and pillage. At this point, I had no idea of the arguments that would come years later when Internet Christians would attempt to take morality as their own. In those days, there was no Internet and I was alone with my thoughts.

I never hated god for not existing. I was always rational enough to realize that I had been projecting my own thoughts and desires — only a nebulous form that could become whatever I wanted it to.

I briefly attended a church the first time I was considering marriage, and chose Baptist since their church was the closest to home, and I already knew a few people who attended.

And that’s about it. Atheism didn’t really change me. It was difficult to accept at first. I dealt with it alone, reading a few books by Dawkins and Hitch and then one day, discovered Twitter and Holy Shit! the world was suddenly full of people just like me.

Good times, but I never will, and never can, forget the emptiness, so although I want to tell everyone I meet that atheism is the way to go, I’m mindful of the fact that former believers will need a safety net, a mentor to guide them through those first moments of mortality; when they first have to come to terms with their finite existence.

And Sandra, I’m proud of you. You had the guts to go with what you knew was right.

Read more here.

——————————————————

@BJPrice1:

I’ve had a long journey into creationism and a long journey out of it. To this day I am still undoing the dogma. Only last week I learned that free will is not mentioned in the Bible.

My beginning was in the Church of England, christened and indoctrinated into hellfire and brimstone teachings. Then a calmer period of the United Church upon moving to Canada at the age of eight.

To understand how I ended up in the 7th Day Adventist church, it must be known that my father was a violent alcoholic. So when the opportunity arose to flee that environment, at the age of 16, I grabbed at it. Into the arms of a man 9 years older, who would become a marital adviser in the 7th Day church. From the frying pan into the fire I went. It was the typical abuse victim pattern.

Using the bible as an excuse to subordinate me and with full backing of the church, I was again in an abusive relationship and slowly being taught all of the beliefs that the 7th Days uphold. Like a fish being gently reeled in.

The marriage only lasted 3 years but the brainwashing lasted decades. The divorce freed me from the church (they turned their backs on me, literally), but not from the beliefs.

Over the years, some of the dogma naturally faded away and I joined the Unitarian/Universalist online ‘church’. This was the real beginning out of the belief system for me. The discussions on physics, evolution, comparisons between religions, finally had me truly questioning ‘The Truth’. I became interested in science. When I watch Science Saved My Soul video, that is exactly how I now feel.

Even giving up the idea of a God wasn’t the end for me. It took many years to rid myself of wrong beliefs and replace them with scientific facts. The Internet has been my true savior. Thanks to the atheists who are willing to question, I am a humane person now. My thinking is no longer black/white. No longer judgmental of others for imaginary sins.

So this isn’t so much of a deconversion story as it is a Thank You!.

 

Advertisements