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5:4 Stories of De-Conversion

Being the best ME that I can be

Melissa - Southern California

1. Your life as a Christian:
I was a preacher's daughter. There were five of us. As a Christian I was devoutly religious. It was a serious thing that each of us lived a very strict, orderly and doctrine-oriented life. The household was controlled through means of religion in an outwardly show. But our inner lives were one of confusion and anguish, shame, and deprivation. Poverty and abuse, all in the name of being a saint. If this was being a saint, what was it like to be a sinner? I struggled to stay uplifted. I struggled to keep my prayers. I struggled against sin and struggled against condemnation. If God was anywhere in this, if He loved me, why was I one of the most troubled souls in the world? I didn't' understand why God could allow this torture. Yes, I was full of questions, critical ones, but too much of a coward to challenge the inconsistencies that existed.

2. What Jesus and being a Christian meant to you:
Jesus meant everything to me. He was my way out of this life and into a life of bliss. If I could only continue in the faith undeterred I had determined myself to make it. If only I would avoid blasphemy, if only I would avoid sinning, if I could but transcend to a higher plane and leave the earthly cares of this world behind I would make it to that heavenly place where all troubles would pass away. I was determined to live the life of abstinence if but for the opportunity of being His. I would remain steadfast.

3. Why you left Christianity behind:
To say there wasn't a leading up to that moment is an understatement. In fact, my very young and troubled life had been a series of ups and downs in the faith since the very beginning. But the ups and downs were internal battles fighting for clarity with the outward battles taking place in my life. I was a product of the 70's fanatic "Jesus Freak Movement", attending every religious meeting up to 5 times a week or more, dragged along by a fanatical father, who was self-righteous and unholy.

I was the child of a pastor at a Pentecostal church in the white slums where ignorance, pride, abuse and every shameful deed manifested itself behind those tightly closed doors. Those unspoken deeds were hushed by threats and pardoned with the perpetrator's repentant flood of tears at the alter of a "God Is Here Tonight Ladies and Gentleman And He's About To Do A Miracle Right In Your Midst!" church revival. All those supposed godly saints were more clever than a rattlesnake, white washing their deeds by a false display of piety and religiosity. Those revivals were nothing more than a public show of who could ONE UP on the other and gain favor from those who witnessed it. They say they wanted to know Him, all the while beating their children and practicing unnatural affections within the family! Convincing sinners God was good because He came down in a flood of glory that they engineered through tears and jumping around and hooting and hollering and marching in unison. In truth the Church was a cover-up, a sham. Everything an illusion and a stench that I couldn't wash off. For all of the "carnal-mindedness" of it's followers, and the lack of following the scriptures, the scriptures were preached with such a conviction and force that the children sat at the edge of the pews, wide eyed, trembling and terrified of every sermon. We were too young to critically question the contradictions all around us in the lives of those who were supposed to be our examples. We could only absorb the personal message that each sermon had in store for our own behavior and consequences they would bring. We each felt responsible for what we had interpreted against the only reference point we knew... blind allegiance...blind obedience.

Everything I believed or knew to be truth was fueled with the fear of condemnation and sentencing for all eternity in hell. We weren't the once saved always saved type of folks. That promise of stately rest was not a promise of reservation on our behalf. The constant threat of hell's fire was a guaranteed reward for those who despite having persisted in the faith wholeheartedly might easily turn away. To do so one would surely deserve to suffer punishment. Our church believed in the act of continually "checking" your heart and deeds by the Word Of God. This was the only way one could ensure a continual conversion and washing of the mind and heart avoiding" the snare of the devil", as they say.

Living like that, living a life cleansed though a savior, sent contracting messages. This of course had me in a state of holy terror and torment. Oh that dreaded scripture Christians ,"work out your salvation with fear and trembling before the Lord." What right minded, sane, and normal human being would willing submit themselves to this kind of torture, and no less, what critically-minded, or compassionately minded human being would even want a less deserving person to be sentenced to such a life? So why cling on so tenaciously to something that was damaging to my psyche and personal peace of mind?

It is for the very reason that I would eventually experience my second nervous breakdown avoiding asylum confinement by only hours, that I would leave faith behind altogether in search of something that would appeal to my reason. After going through two years of therapy, my way of thinking changed drastically. My personality even changed. If I was going to live this life, I was going to live with purpose, with clarity, and most of all live with the commitment to make sure that I would prove the truths through applying reason in every decision I made. I wouldn't be moved by emotional appeal. I wouldn't be moved by wild claims. if I was going to find the truth and heal myself, the only way I could do this was use my mind as my ally.

4. How your life has changed since you de-converted from Christianity:
It hasn't been easy. There are days that I am convinced that I am a good person. There are other days when the old conditioning thought/ belief patterns that was programmed by the doctrine I was immersed within creep up and condemn me. However, I am growing in self-awareness, and courage. I am more open-minded, tolerant of other's beliefs and ideologies. I don't judge people based upon that old Christian doctrine I used to judge others by, but I judge people on merit alone. Doctrine doesn't make people good. People make people good. I don't obsess over some antiquated doctrine trying to gleen every morsel of truth from it as if my last breath demanded a Monk type of devotion. Instead I follow my heart in the duty of purposeful living but always strive to rule with my head in applying the beliefs I've adopted based upon logic and reason.

5. What your views are towards Jesus & Christianity now:
I don't believe that Jesus ever lived. I believe someone made him up. I don't believe that Christianity has an overly positive influence on the lives of people, especially children. I've studied to an extent the damage that religion actually is in connection with the brain and the results are quite alarming. I don't think Christians are bad people collectively. I do believe the Christians I grew up with in my formative years were an example of very misguided and ignorant Christians.

6. Are you grateful that you de-converted? Why?
I won't lie, de-conversion is a very lonely road amongst the many practicing and confessing Christian population. It's not like I can walk around and say,"hey, Not only am I not a Christian, but I don't believe." Being a non-christian isn't popular. Being considered a heretic can get you booted. If you were once a practicing Christian and then denounced altogether, other Christians would consider you an apostate, a Judas-Type, the Anti-Christ. In this sense the judgments/labels are as damaging to one's psyche as one allows them to be considered valid. I stay away from it altogether, choosing to focus on the positive outcomes of my decision. As far as what is ahead, I live each day, being the best ME that I can be at the moment and leave the future to the future.