Quotes from ex-Christians
"It is a counterfeit love that is contingent upon authority, punishment, or reward. True love is respect and admiration, compassion and kindness, freely given by a healthy, unafraid human being."
- Dan Barker, Losing Faith in Faith
"Let me make one thing perfectly clear: I do not reject Christianity because of my desire to go around sinning without any guilt; I reject Christianity because I have closely examined its claims and I have found them to be unsubstantiated."
My son thinks I am going to hell. He has followed his mother's path of fundamental Christianity and has become a fundamentalist minister (much to my regret.) Perhaps he will grow out of it as I did. I was just like him at his age. I love him. I honor where he is at. I hope he gets past it.
Jerry, Former Minister.
I was constantly trying to smash the square pegs of what I was learning from science, sociology, psychology, history and comparative religion into the round hole of my conservative Christian paradigm. [........] . I reached the point where I was bordering on biochemical treatment for depression because my mind was always wrestling with philosophical problems and not getting acceptable solutions. Julian Huxley had a similar experience, which he described as developing a "thought tumor."
I started reading about brainwashing techniques, and found out that while brainwashing rarely works, there are methods of manipulation that are far more subtle and do work if used skillfully and in the right combinations. I started to recognize them in use not only at youth retreats, but in general church services as well. I found out that seminaries and magazines for preachers actually teach these techniques. Now, these people often don't even know that's what they're doing! They're just picking "appropriate" music, or learning how to "be a better speaker".
It blew my mind. Even though it didn't shake my faith that much, I never broke down at another youth retreat. That was probably the start of my deconversion, since it was then that I gave up on an emotional basis for faith as being too unreliable, and started reading the Bible and books on apologetics.
One of the things that helped me greatly was reading non-theistic material. I got a look at how the "other side" thinks, and I must say it wasn't what I expected. I thought atheists had no morals, but I was wrong.
I wanted the truth, not a fantasy or something that made me feel good. To be frank, if I'd known the pain I was about to endure, I probably would not have been able to make that decision.
To make a long story short, I found that as I probed into my religious world view, pulling threads here and there, it fell apart like a cheap sweater.
It took me over a year to leave the ministry.
Over the next three or four years, I read the bible every night. I'd read the whole thing, and then start again. I read it four more times in this period. By then, I had noticed scientific fallacies, contradictions, and supposed "moral precepts" that I knew damn good and well weren't moral.
Anyway, after those agonizing years were over, I felt more free than I had ever felt. I guess it is analogous to ridding yourself of a drug addiction. During the withdraw, life is hell, you don't want to give up the drug, but after it is over, you feel much better. Now I feel liberated. Strangly enough, I seem to be a more moral person now that I have forsaken religion.
I felt a bit like a child, as though I was rediscovering the world. In particular, I remember a monthlong period in which I became flat-out fascinated with trees-- there was something beautiful about the way they branched out, cutting a tangled silhouette against the sky. I also became enthralled with sunsets, and to this day I still love watching sunsets. Everything seemed fresh and new. It was as if in my enthusiasm for the supernatural, I had overlooked all the beauty the natural world has to offer. Now I was playing catch-up, discovering all the neat stuff I'd missed. I also read dozens of science books during this time-- I decided it was time to find out how the universe really works, as I didn't want to ever be fooled again.
The most annoying thing is that all the people who used to be my fellow Xians and used to believe that I was as good as the rest of them explained my losing-of-my-faith away by claiming that I "probably never had any faith anyway" or "It's just a rough period, you'll return to Jesus". I know that for that period of my life I had absolute faith and devotion and then to be told that you probably didn't is insulting.
I attended Adventist schools from first grade through college. As almost everything that I learned was filtered through the Adventist belief system, I learned next to nothing about art, literature, music, evolution, and other ways of thinking about humanity and the universe.
I'm glad to be alive, relieved that I won't be around forever, happy to be free from dogma and guilt, and firmly convinced that the truth is its own reward, even if discovering it can be painful at first.
First let me outline the events that directed me to atheism.
1. I had been taught to be a truthseeker.
2. I took a sabbatical leave which gave me time to travel study and rethink.
3. I came in contact with the Humanists who had a substitute for religion. Worshipping neither God, man nor beast their emphasis was on improving this world rather than preparing for the next.
4. Impressed with the fact that the rationalists, humanists, secularists and freethinkers were superior people I was driven to my books in order to learn whether or not the supposed existence of God was a fallacy. With a hundred questions on my mind I did not stop reading until I was completely and fully convinced that my most fundamental beliefs were based on error. I finally had to conclude that future civilizations would be better off without belief in this nefarious practice of superstitiously attempting to contact the so-called unseen or invisible powers. I quit belief in ghosts.
Why I Left The Ministry And Became An Atheist By G. Vincent Runyon
When I became convinced that the Universe is natural -- that all the ghosts and gods are myths, there entered into my brain, into my soul, into every drop of my blood, the sense, the feeling, the joy of freedom. The walls of my prison crumbled and fell, the dungeon was flooded with light and all the bolts, and bars, and manacles became dust. I was no longer a servant, a serf or a slave. There was for me no master in all the wide world -- not even in infinite space. I was free -- free to think, to express my thoughts -- free to live to my own ideal -- free to live for myself and those I loved -- free to use all my faculties, all my senses -- free to spread imagination's wings -- free to investigate, to guess and dream and hope -- free to judge and determine for myself -- free to reject all ignorant and cruel creeds, all the "inspired" books that savages have produced, and all the barbarous legends of the past -- free from popes and priests -- free from all the "called" and "set apart" -- free from sanctified mistakes and holy lies -- free from the fear of eternal pain -- free from the winged monsters of the night -- free from devils, ghosts and gods. For the first time I was free. There were no prohibited places in all the realms of thought -- no air, no space, where fancy could not spread her painted wings -- no chains for my limbs -- no lashes for my back -- no fires for my flesh -- no master's frown or threat -- no following another's steps -- no need to bow, or cringe, or crawl, or utter lying words. I was free. I stood erect and fearlessly, joyously, faced all worlds.
Why I Am Agnostic - Robert Green Ingersoll
Finally, in grad school, I decided I was going to read the whole Bible myself, and to heck with all the commentaries and Bible dictionaries, which my father was never without (and kept loaning me). It was an incredible revelation. There were things in there that nobody had EVER told me about, and I don't wonder why! And there was so much that I had been taught that was NOT in there at all!
It took me two weeks to read the entire Bible thoroughly end to end. I haven't read it since, and that was 30 years ago. Soon after that, I just gave up going to church. It was just impossible to listen to all the made-up blather coming from the pulpit. It was just impossible to believe all those hoaky stories.
Nelson USENET Testimonies
Another big factor, which went to the heart of religion, was the discovery of the book "Faith Of A Heretic" by Walter Kaufmann a well-known author, philosopher, and considered "the expert" on Nietzsche. This book was great literature. This book was a journey through philosophy and human thought and through the emotion and upheaval of religion. It was rich and full. It looked at the Bible and the characters in it. It paralleled the same ideas in philosophy. It was rich in emotion, and it was a joy to read. And it forever vanquished my emotional ties to religion. Now I understood. Now I was free! What a glorious feeling that was!
Rich USENET Testimonies
When I was a Christian, I said that if Christianity weren't true, I wanted to know; even if the truth were something horrible, I wanted to know what was true. I remember having conversations with friends about that, and, when pushed on the issue, most tended to admit that if Christianity is false, they didn't want to know. But, I did, and I believed that all truth is God's truth, and that I was supposed to love God with all my mind as well as my heart and soul and strength and whatever else it was that I was supposed to love him with. So I felt a Christian obligation to investigate these questions I had about Christianity.
back when I was a creationist and all I had read about the subject was written by creationists. I started reading about the real science of evolution, and realized how completely off base the creationists are, how very little they understand about evolution, and how very much they distorted evolution.
The intellect alone has a hard time overcoming emotional and psychological attachment; having a bunch of friends praying and worrying about your "eternal soul" etc. can't make it any easier.
- Kendall (From the Ex-tian archives)
There's a beauty to life, but you realize how bittersweet that beauty is when you've outlived your idols. From here you see things more clearly -- faults and all. You realize that love is a struggle in the face of separation, not a starting point that will springboard into eternity. You see the flaws that give Mona Lisa her beauty. The words "til death do us part" ring as loud as the chapel bell at your best friend's wedding. And you learn to make the most of your life, just in case this is all you're going to get.
Jason R. Tippitt (From the Ex-tian archives)
When I first announced it [atheism] (it was in my Advanced English class, and we just happened to be covering Charles Darwin's book), by the end of the day it was ALL OVER the school. By the end of the week people knew who I was, and would walk up and say "Are you Christy [...]? Don't you know you're gonna burn in hell?" There was shit written all over the bathrooms walls about me -- "Jesus loves you, Christy," God can forgive you, Christy," "You can be saved," etc., etc., etc. (Hmmm...I bet if I went back to my highschool some of that stuff might still be there!! It was only about 7-8 years ago! ;) ) And of course there were threats, people claiming they were gonna bring their church parties over to my house and "talk" to me so they could "save" me, and many, many prank phone calls, people calling, asking for me, saying I was gonna burn in hell, hanging up, etc. Basically it got so bad that I had no friends.
Christy (From the Ex-tian archives)
Well, eventually, I did leave, but it's too long a story. Over a 2 year period, I moved gradually from that place to the charismatic movement to neo-orthodoxy (as in Karl Barth) to reading the "death of God" theologians. Richard Rubenstein's "After Auschwitz" was probably the final straw. And Hyam Maccoby's book on the apostle Paul exploded any last vestiges of faith to smithereens.
My basic experience of fundamentalist Christianity is that it's contrary to human nature. Thus I suffered psychological and emotional damage, from which I'm still recovering from today.
David (From the Ex-tian archives)
My concrete doubts formed during my freshman year in college. After much study, debate, and agony, I realized that it was reason (tempered with a healthy dose of humility) that furthered my knowledge and understanding of the world. It wasn't faith. I eventually -- but not quickly -- discovered that the foundation of my entire worldview was based on one gigantic logical fallacy. Though I make it sound simple and painless, it wasn't. As most of you know, the transition is quite traumatic and developed over a long period of time.
Mark (From the Ex-tian archives)
The more I read in the OT, the more I was horriffied and disgusted by it. All god seemed to do was give commands and meet out horrible punishments to the disobedient. The death penalty seemed very popular for all manner of minor offenses.
Susan (From the Ex-tian archives)
Well, about a year ago I started to intensively question many things. The rest is history ... well, sorta. I'm still sorting through a lot of things by actively studying christian and secular apologetics, NT history, canonization, etc. I was deeply distressed by what I began to see (and still see). I went through a whole host of feelings (along with Susanne, my wife) such as bitterness and rage down to apathy. I have zero trust in organized religion.
In the belief spectrum of things, I'd say I range closer to being agnostic than anything else right now. I'm still studying and searching for truth... I'm still trying to grapple with what it's like to be a FREE MAN also! I'm new to the game, so I have a lot to learn (and unlearn...or deprogram) about life - REAL LIFE!!
Jim (From the Ex-tian archives)
I've felt religious euphoria many times before. This is the first time that I'd ever felt real PEACE. Gone is the fear of eternal damnation, the weariness of working for heaven. Once those things are gone, the rest of Christianity, with its glittering edifices of rationalization, all comes crashing down.
For the first time in my life, I am FREE. My mind is clear of contradictions. I don't have to assimilate the things I know into a clunky theology. Lack of God has made me anything but nihilistic. Life is even more precious now, the universe so much grander and more awe-inspiring when not viewed from the pinnacle of creation.
Jason Steiner (From the Ex-tian archives)
When I accepted reason fully, accepted that I had no evidence except a lifetime of brainwashing and a book on which to base any kind of belief in god, I found I could embrace with peace even the concepts of natural mortality and no life after death.
I now feel more ALIVE and at peace with myself and others than I ever did the first 24 years or so of my life.
BluBari (From the Ex-tian archives)
I had a rather abrupt intellectual crisis my last year of college. I was planning to be a professional apologist and was taking three courses my fall quarter relating to biblical studies. I thought the best way to defeat the Jesus Seminar and the source critics of the Pentateuch was to know their arguments as well as they did. Ironically, I was won over to the historical-critical method. Given my background in comparative religions and my training as an apologist who liked to ask difficult questions, my view of the Bible and the religious communities that produced it quickly changed. More and more, I saw the Bible as a mere cultural production, a far cry from being the very breathed-out word of God To say the least, it was the most traumatic experience of my life. The worldview that I had spent a decade meticulously constructing was shattered forever. I felt as if I was going insane.
I'm still very much haunted by the ghost of my indoctrination and I don't think that it's leaving anytime soon. I have so much to deal with and have just barely gotten the confidence to go back out into the public and start looking for a job. I daily fear helplessly falling into a state of insanity. It's amazing how a deconversion experience can so affect the self-confidence of a once "all-knowing" apologist.
Matt (From the Ex-tian archives)
I feel about as sane as I ever have in my life. The joy I feel from seeing so many of the people on this list who have gone through similar experiences and are still incredulous as to how they could have ever believed what they did is without limit. The athiests position is based on things you can really connect to, but it is the awareness of how deep the old way have been absorbed into your being that truly continues the reality trip. To be able to do away with fear and guilt is breathtakingly pleasant and I still can't believe the positivity that infuses me. Feel free to connect, the support I have already received from some of you with web links and affirmation has really enriched my life.
Mike (From the Ex-tian archives)
One night I dreamed that I was in outer space at a space station that was trying to contact Earth for help. We were in danger of blowing up any minute, and I watched a technician calling desperately on a telephone. He did not know that the other end of his telephone line was not connected to anything. I remember the horror of realizing that no one was listening. The next day I knew the dream was about God. But rather than feeling terrified - or in addition to being terrified - I felt an incredible awareness of being alive. The dream had felt real; I had faced certain impending death. Being alive the next day felt like a wonder, as though I had woken up. I walked slowly that day and allowed myself to actually feel my footsteps. I can still remember the crisp air and the clear edges of the leaves on the trees. The day was long and full and I felt like I had learned something at a very deep level - something important that I wanted to always remember - to notice my life.
Leaving the fold By Marlene Winell.
The thing I like most about non-belief is the intellectual freedom it affords. I can study things without fear that it's going to shake deeply-held beliefs. In fact, I look _forward_ to such experiences, because every time I revise my opinions, I am (hopefully) learning more about the universe.
Life in general is a lot more simple too. I don't have to look at every little thing that happens to me and try to figure out what God's trying to teach me this time. There are no hidden plans, demons or other supernatural elements. I can just...be.
Jason (From the ex-Christian mailing list archives)
Some joys I have found in unbelief, though:
No longer needing to devote limited time and money to religious obligations (i.e. attending church services, Bible studies, paying tithes to the church, etc.)
Greater interest in and enjoyment of things around me (such as science, music, art, nature, etc.). Enjoyment of such things was discouraged when I was in church -- they said that we "shouldn't get too enamored in the things of this world, since heaven is our real home."
Less guilt feelings -- I feel much freer to try things and even make mistakes, since I don't worry about a God watching me and threatening me with punishment or misfortune.
More ability to make friends of other beliefs and backgrounds -- before, such friendships were discouraged since those people were "of the devil" and "might lead us away from Christ."
(From the ex-Christian mailing list archives)
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