Hi there. Here is my 'religious biography' and a little about who I am today.
I was raised in an Independent Baptist church in a small midwestern town. It was very sheltered. The teaching was fundamentalist, and there was an influential contingent of John Birchers in the church. In my young mind, Christianity was mixed up with racism, anticommunist fervor, homophobia, and antisemitism. Sincere, earnest, and going through puberty with all of the hormonal urgency, I started reading the bible word by word, line by line, page by page. An evangelistic group, David Wilkerson Minsitries, came into town, hoovered up money from impressionable young people, and left. Family members gave me tracts from the Herbert W. Armstrong Ministries, the Worldwide Church God, which I soaked up, and believed, every word. I couldn't understand why my family, and church, was not following the literal word of god, and had major dilemmas about submitting to my parents when told to clear my dinner plate, when clearly the ham was not allowed in the scripture. If we are obeying the 10 commandments, why aren't we honoring the Sabbath (Saturday)? Jesus came to fulfill the law, not to change it. Among other issues.
Prayer, more bible reading, followed by more prayer, and more bible reading, infused with the doctrine of biblical infallibility and literal reading, led me to question scripture, then compare different sections and their contradictions. I started to wonder why the concept of a loving god would mean the merciless, impetuous, cruel killings that Yahweh condoned. Why did we celebrate christmas, when that clearly didnt correspond to the bible story of jesus' birth? Contradictions piled on contradiction, and ultimately I decided that it can't be contradictory and still be true; Yahweh can't be love AND hate, god can't have many sons and one son, christianity can't condemn paganism and then practice it. You can't say that it's literally true, then pick and choose.
Watching the bigots of my Baptist upbringing, knowing that they smoked and drank (very nonbaptist), hearing them curse, hearing the gossip about sexual adventuring by the church deacons and other fervent members... the cognitive dissonance grew. The 'good' churchgoing teenagers would impregnate their girlfriends / get pregnant by someone not their own race (look at the baby), and be shuffled out of church, then be welcomed back minus the baby. Meanwhile maintaining that it was to remain an all white church. Meanwhile there was bullying, violence, and incessant gay scapegoating. Once I was thrown out of sunday school, after stating that "From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs", by Karl Marx, sounded a lot like something Jesus would say. This makes me laugh today. I especially hated myself for my unacknowledged, and unacted upon sexual awakening. This is understandable, given the unending obsession of those Baptists with sex. I attended church until finishing high school, then left that church, town, and area, and went back only to visit family.
Life took me thousands of miles, into various cultures, subcultures, countries, and states. I dabbled for a while in Unitarian Universalism, and I liked their liberalism and inclusiveness, but was never able to get into the de-christianized ceremonies, services, and rituals. It felt like eating a Twinkie without the filling. So I gave that up as well. I studied science, was a professional student, a lab rat, a research microbiologist, then decided it was time for a 'real career' and went to medical school. The last change took, and now I practice internal medicine, concentrating on chronically ill and elderly patients. I live with my long term partner who is also atheist, but came from atheistic upbringing, having grown up during the cultural revolution in China (and now being completely capitalistic). We have a quiet life, like any other middle aged couple, work excessively long hours, work on the house, grow organic veggies and fruits in the yard, and travel once in a while.
I have tried to forget about religion. I thought that I did. It's been a long, long time. I truly don't give a damn what people do behind the closed doors of their silly temples. Then, during the Bush years, there was continuous promotion of religion. There was increasing agression and power hunger among religious demagogues and polititians. It feels like more people are more open about their religion, and more aggressive about it, than in the past.
Even though I never labeled myself 'an atheist', I have been exactly that since my late teens. Now I'm more anti-religious than before.
I wonder if it would be better to have no memory of those earlier years. Most of the time I don't think about them at all.
Alex, yes you have been brainwashed, yes it is "a bit scary to look this stuff in the face".
YOU, however, are a thinker, thus you have arrived here. I am also a person who had found it frightening, so I get it.
Hi Winthorpe - I grew up in a cult as well (Home in Zion). It gets easier to face in time. I spent the first several months after realizing my brainwashing stoned out of my mind, so I think you're doing great :p
I get that whole downward spiral thing Winthorpe. In spite of all the knowledge I've accumulated since letting go, I can still find myself drawn back in to the emotion of that place every time I read or hear their rhetoric.
I wish you all the best and would be happy to talk with you if you ever want to.
When I was seven years old, my parents decided that our family would start going to church, and so began my indoctrination into Christianity, "General Baptist style." Before any of this started, my father enjoyed his occasional beer and constantly had a lit cigarette in his mouth. After his "conversion", any alcohol was sinful (strange that cigarettes were still okay), and I would later learn that the movie "The Planet of the Apes" was a sacreligios abomination.
I soon learned that Jesus died for my sins and loved me very much. However, if I didn't believe in Jesus and love him for what he did for me, I would "go to Hell when I died and burn there forever." I was also told that God knew every move I made, every thought I had, every move I would make in the future, and every thought I would have in the future. If I doubted or questioned God, I would "go to Hell when I died and burn there forever." I was taught that God wrote the Bible; that it was his living Word; every bit of it true. If I doubted or questioned the Bible, that meant I doubted or questioned God. This was a lot for a seven-year-old to worry about, and I did worry.
Questions kept coming to my mind. Questions like "How do we (Christians) know that we've got it right when other religions claim that they are the ones that are right?" "How can belief or non-belief be a sin?" "Are we supposed to turn the other cheek, or take an eye for an eye?" There were many more questions too, more than I can list here. I never got any satisfactory answers. The only answers I did get were always something along the lines of "You musn't question God."
I grew up in fear of my questions. I lived in fear of my own thoughts. I believed that at some point God would most likely mark me off as a lost cause and I would be doomed to Hell.
At the age of 12 my mother died from a malignant brain tumor. My father was remarried a year later to a Catholic woman. My new step-siblings were a lot more knowlegable about the world than I was, and this made for a really crappy relationship with my new "family." My father had suddenly decided that drinking was okay "in moderation" (I guess God must have changed his mind on that subject and made it okay). I became very confused about everything and thus, my teenage years were blurred with drugs and alcohol. I figured I was doomed anyway.
By the time I was in my mid-twenties I finally realized that the fear was the whole problem. I decided to pretend the fear wan't there and ask myself "Do I really believe any of this stuff?" The answer was a resounding "No." I tried to talk to my father about it, but he just pointed at the Bible and was adamant that "only through the Blood of Christ can we enter the Kingdom of Heaven…blah blah blah…"
At this point I guess I was more of a Deist. I believed there was a god of some sort, but that was about it. My father died of a failing heart when I was 27. We had just gotten to the point of having a "friendship" in addition to our "father-and-son" relationship. Ah well, God's will eh? Bullshit.
I'm 45 now and my belief has slowly dwindled from belief in a personal god, to some sort of impersonal "force," to absolutely nothing. Today I feel a sense of freedom (from the oppression of an immaginary tyrant that reads minds) and a fuller appreciation of the the one life I've got.
I was raised in a Southern Baptist fundie family. I was the family 'scape goat' and while everyone around me could do no wrong, it seemed that I could never do anything right. I remember that I used to pray to god every night to help me be the kind of person my family wanted (from about 4 until I was 7) and god never listened to me, so I assumed that god too must think I was the worst person on the face of the earth.
When I was in my mid 20's I moved a couple of counties away from my family, which allowed me to meet people who helped me to break out of the mold that my family had put me in. I think being referred to as 'innocent' was what first got me to thinking, wondering what else my family had lied to me about. Suddenly, I wasn't so evil... suddenly I was a 'good' person... then suddenly I started learning about different religions, beliefs and traditions... suddenly (I'm not sure when exactly) I was an atheist.
I do remember the first time that I said out loud that I did not believe in Jesus, or god... I felt startled that this came from my mouth... then I felt a sense of relief and freedom that I had never felt before.
My name's Kitty. I was born into a Fundamentalist Baptist family. My dad's parents were fundamentalists and so were my parents. We attended a Baptist church in Ohio and learned all about hell fire and brimstone, and occasionally of the love of God. I went to bible school in the local Lutheran church, which was a bit more liberal, and I liked their rituals and music better. At the Lutheran church, there was a young man who molested me (he was 18, I was 10 or 11). I thought it was OK because many of the people in our Baptist church were older men with younger wives (women who could bear them many children). I didn't like it when other, older men molested me, though, but I thought I had to because I'd been taught in no uncertain terms that men were in charge of women and they know best.
Then I learned about fornication being a sin and felt really guilty and dirty. After all, it was MY fault, due to Eve's influence, the fall of humans etc. I had somehow tempted them, simply by being a female. I was so ashamed, and I felt wicked and repented a lot.
Later on, there were Baptist Bible camp days and youth groups, with the word of God beat into us, basically.
They'd have big bonfires of rock and roll records at the youth group outings. I wouldn't participate in them because I didn't like the pollution aspect. But of course our youth pastor would just tell us that this earth would soon pass away anyhow and Jesus would bring us a new heaven and a new earth. I didn't believe it was OK to pollute like that though, and my parents just told me not to be such a liberal.
By my early teens I was a hot little number, and liked to make out with the boys, and sometimes the girls in the back seat. Usually we were two couples. I remember feeling things were getting a little too heavy once, so I sat up and called out the name of Jesus. Out loud. (pastor had said if we find ourselves tempted, call upon Jesus and the temptation will disappear). HA! The temptation disappeared alright! My girlfriend still brings it up!~ Everybody in that car was pissed off at me that night!
My parents were heavy handed with discipline. They believed "he that spareth the rod hateth his son... if you beat him, he will not surely die." So, I guess they figured it's in the Bible, so do it.
Instead of making me honor them, I hated them for it.
So I rebelled and if I got in trouble I'd run away instead of going home to face the music.
At age 14 I ran and when caught later by the cops, I was taken to the detention home. Actually, it was weird. Even though I was locked in a cage, I was freer there than at home. I could talk about what was on my mind, and not have to censor myself.
Soon, a woman from United Way told my folks about a program at Akron General Medical Center for troubled people like myself.
Soon, I was in the psych ward, with the psychiatrists telling my parents they could change my way of thinking and make me more compliant. So I was locked up with adults, put on heavy medication that made me walk and talk funny, and given shock treatments. Guess what? Adult men on medication had sex with me, a teen on medication in the hospital. I had 10 or 11 shock treatments and then my dad's insurance ran out. So I was sent to a Fundamentalist Baptist home for troubled girls in Louisiana called New Bethany Home for Girls. I was still coming off the drugs, and was supposed to take some pills to prevent bad things from happening while my body detoxed. BUT since God heals, the pills were thrown away and I ended up in a hospital after convulsing from going cold turkey.
This place was nuts. But being straight from the hospital with my mind all wangled up, I was ripe for indoctrination. Nothing much was different, just stricter. And man the prejudice that was spewed from that pulpit. (Noah's son, Ham?, who looked upon Noah when passed out drunk had his seed cursed and so there began the black race). There was much physical abuse; the place was eventually raided and shut down decades later.
I came back home never wearing pants and generally pissing off my parents by being so devout.
I was sent to a baptist school and so the dogma continued.
Eventually I met and married a man who believed in the patriarchal family structure and we married and had a couple kids. He cheated on me a lot, and I felt it was my fault for not satisfying him.
We eventually divorced. Since he moved in with his mother, they got custody of my babies, since I was only one woman and they were a whole family.
I felt betrayed by God, whom I knew I had honored because I wouldn't even bring up my husband's infidelity in court, knowing it would not be pleasing to God. Also I felt betrayed because my pastor lied in court (good man of God, that) and when I asked him why, he said that I belonged to my ex and had no business on my own.
Soon I read the Bible on my own without study guides. What a horrible book. What a nasty rotten god.
Got into paganism for a while, and am still considered a witch if you count the herbals. I like the rituals, as there's a lot of symbolism.
The best church for me was the Unitarian Universalist Church, because you can be pagan, christian, or atheist, and even we had transgenders in key leadership roles... I liked it because my kids learned about a broad religious spectrum, and there was a lot of political and humanitarian work done.
However, my kids did not want to go anymore, so we quit. I wouldn't force them.
Always have taken my rest in nature, and so the American Indian stories made sense to me.
Since I saw What The Bleep Do We Know, I figured a god is more a cosmic connection... a quantum connection, if anything at all.
But I truly think there is no deity. Nope. We are all connected alright, because we're made of the same stardust. I am so grateful for Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion. This book helped me immensely.
Now, I trust in logic, science and nature.
It's much happier here. And Truth? It does NOT betray!
To this day I still don't think of myself as having been raised in a Fundamentalist home. And yet every time I read someone discussing their fundie upbringing it sounds an awful lot like mine. So maybe it's true. Here's the basics.
I was born while my dad was attending Southwestern Baptist Seminary. He is still a Southern Baptist minister to this day, working with senior citizens. I was 'born again' at age 7 and attended Dallas Baptist University with the intent of being a minister myself. That plan was derailed by a marriage and three children.
One reason I think I may have been raised with a fundamentalist mindset is how often I was drawn to extreme teachings. I backed out of pledging a fraternity in college during a period where I was extremely concerned about the Satanic realm. My first wife and I joined a small independent Baptist church and regularly endured 4-5 hour sessions of church on Sundays. I was a big BIG fan of Keith Green's brand of christianity.
In-between marriages I moved to the exact opposite end of the spectrum. I began drinking, spending all my money in strip clubs, hung out in dance clubs and tried any and every drug I came across. Methamphetamines became a favorite. This lasted about two years, after which I cleaned up and went back to church, this time to a Charismatic Nazarene church where I met my current wife.
After a few years there we transitioned to a smaller non-denominational church where I quickly became the worship leader. I performed in that role for five years. At the end of that period we were burned out and took some time off. We re-thought what church should be, we laughed at the idea of Sunday being a day of 'rest' and began spending weekends traveling, rock-climbing and swing dancing. We visited several churches but nothing stuck.
Along the way my theological beliefs shifted from inerrantist/literalist to Preterist and eventually I discovered that the Bible was about as relevant as any other ancient text and much less accurate! When I attempted to answer some pertinent questions regarding the Noahic flood it all fell apart.
Fortunately my wife and I discussed this a lot and she was able to follow me out of christianity, although perhaps a few steps behind. Most recently she has finally dropped the 'agnostic' label, and I felt a strange sense of pride.
Even though my parents did not abuse me and always were a great example of love and care, the fundamentalist religious teachings have still had an effect on me. I was rather surprised when a therapist informed me that one thing she sees in fundamentalists is that they view everything as black or white, with no grey. They tend to be all or nothing. To this day I find that type of thinking affecting my life. It explains a lot, and knowing that I tend to be that way helps me to slow down and reassess. It affects my view of everything: job, free time, politics, relationships, my marriage.
ok, that's probably enough rambling for now. Glad to be here.
•The ongoing fear of Hell
•Rejection from family members
•Loss of community
Thanks for this group. I can honestly say that I'm free from feelings of guilt. As an ex-Jehovah's Witness, I'm also free from fear of destruction in Armageddon(Witnesses don't believe in Hell as a place of fiery torment). But the rejection from family and the complete loss of the community that was my life for more than thirty years affects me everyday. I have no regrets, but it hasn't been easy.
After 30-years of Christianity--I am now 35--and questioning the tenants of that faith for the past seven years, and a rough past 6-9 months of personal introspection, I am ever-so-happy to learn that I'm not alone in this quest for truth, and indeed that the truth is so much better than the lies I had once believed!
Anyway, today is my day to declare myself as an Atheist!