Cris' Story

Unlike most of the stories I've read through here, I actually enjoyed going to church. I was brought up since I was a baby in church. God existed.

I went up to the alter to get saved during vacation Bible school at about the age of 9-10. I was baptized in an Assembly of God church at about 11-12. The 3-4 years I spent in this church represents my most "holy roller" period.

The Assembly of God church is one of the pentecostal "singing in tongues/dancing around/getting slain in the spirit kinds of churches. I can look back and see that my "evidences" for belief came from the psychological effects of the emotionalism in the services. We had a full band with electric guitars and drums, singers and sweaty crying preachers, we didn't bother with singing out of old fuddy duddy hymnals, we sang short "praise songs" with endlessly repeating choruses. In short: We were mesmerized by the rhythms and emotional appeals and that created at minimum, a meditative effect of euphoria, to at worst- virtual hysteria. To a bunch of good, god-fearing folks, these emotional effects were evidence of God's spirit being around us.

Everything that entered my senses was processed through the Christianity filter. If something didn't fit the system, then the old catch-all phrase "God works in mysterious ways" was applied and the offending bit was shuffled away to the back of my mind.

The only doubts I can remember during my youth were basically:

  1. Why are there other religions?
  2. Why do good people that are not Christian have to go to hell?
  3. How does one know beyond a doubt that they got saved the "right way"?
  4. Is there any way to loose salvation?
Now I also had a problem in that God simply never answered any of my prayers. I might have "felt better" or "had a feeling" or something like that but I never ever received an undeniable reply from a source beyond me. I do not include this in my doubts above because I thought this was my fault until I lost belief completely.

As for the contradictions in the Bible and theology- I could not see them. I literally had no idea that there were problems in the Bible. I was a "Cherry Picker" when it came to reading the Bible, I liked the New Testament in general for the happy lovey dovey parts and disliked the Old Testament because of the "begats" and wars and general harshness.

So fast forward a bit, after I left the AoG church, the strength of the emotional hold it had on me slowly faded. I moved to another state to live with my Mom. My Mom formulated her religious ideas through various ideologies and ideas she passed through or studied in the 1960's, and finally decided on her "own view" rather than attending or associating with any certain religion or church. This was a big difference for me as I had grown up in a completely Christian environment up till this time. I had access to her books on various religions and philosophy and this was literally the first time in my life when I had an opportunity to learn these things.

We went to church a handful of times but it was like experimenting, we went to Primitive Baptist churches mostly (the exact opposite of a pentecostal church including no musical instruments, old fashioned pews and shape-note singing).

Although most atheists will look at leaving one church or religion and jumping into another as pointless and silly, It had a good effect on me: I became more and more open to different ideas and philosophies and became less and less a fundamentalist to the point where my religion was worn down to practically nothing except for a vague belief in Christianity and God.

At this point I left religion and church completely and started playing in rock bands and trying drugs,etc. I "knew" I was a "back-slider" but I just didn't want to think about it anymore. I looked back at the old days and remembered all the great times in church back at my AoG church, but I also remembered how I came off that high during the week and I would end up miserably praying over and over and over (almost constantly at times) for God's help. I also remembered how depressed I would get on a regular basis and it always seemed to have something to do with religion or belief- So I simply turned that part of my life off for the next 10-15 years.

To wrap this up, about 2 years ago I was fooling around on the internet, looking for interesting things to read to pass some time, when by chance it popped into my head to search for the phrase "preacher turned atheist".

One of the first results that came back was the Freedom From Religion site, in particular the story of Dan Barker. I started a little guiltily reading some of the excerpts from his book on the site and there was a feeling of excitement that started building in me:
This guy not only asked the same questions I always had, but actually searched for the answers and found them. I had put religion on hold because my mind could not take it anymore, but it took the rise of the internet and the ability to study anything I wanted to know before I could actually give my mind some hard evidence and facts to smash all the wishy washy contradictory and confusing beliefs that had been unchallenged defaults since childhood.

Over a period of about 2-3 months I studied religions, philosophy, I went on Christian/atheist discussion forums and learned. My mind was like a vacuum , I could not get enough. So here it is two years later and I look back and realize that my problem with depressive episodes disappeared with religion. This is something "God" could never fix. Apparently "God" may have been the problem all along...

So here I am a non-believer, I've been pretty open with my Mom and a few close friends but pretty much anyone else has no idea of my "defection" I still go to church a few Sundays a month! (am I insane?) no, I just happen to like some of the people, I play in the church band, the pot-luck dinners. I will eventually stop going, but baby steps aye?

1 comment:

Infidelis Maximus said...

I was an AoGer myself. Glad to have you back home in the Land of Reason where you belong.