Was I saved or brainwashed?

May 19, 2009 at 12:22 pm 61 comments

Part 3 of My journey into and, later, out of Christianity

A few weeks ago, ironically when I’d been planning to speak at an atheist meeting, I went to church with evangelical friends. I almost called them fundies, but I’m not always sure what that means any more. These days it carries a connotation of negativity, so I’m choosing not to use it to describe my friends, although I’m pretty sure they still hold to the “five fundamentals” with which the name originated. These were friends from my teenage days in New York, when I was on fire for God, a spirit-filled, born again Christian with a mission.

The experience made me wonder how I got that way, because when I think back to my younger days, I was a nominal Christian. I was born again when I was nine, but I didn’t spend most of my time reading the Bible, praying, or witnessing. But when I was 14, all that was starting to change.

Friends from church invited us to their house to hear a preacher from Texas. Ernie greeted everyone at the door, and Helene ushered us down the stairs into the basement. The long, narrow room was filled with metal folding chairs lined up in rows facing a makeshift pulpit that was nothing more than a cheap music stand. There was no organ, but two electric guitars and a microphone stood in the corner of the room next to a small amplifier, and a tambourine waited silently at the foot of the pulpit.

My mother, as usual, found seats near the front. I turned around looking over the back of my chair as the small basement filled up. It seemed like each person brought a personal leather Bible. Many were wrapped in homemade fabric covers. Some of the women brought tambourines, too. I bit my lip with suspicion. I’d never been to a church without pews before and I wasn’t sure what to expect. In a few minutes a middle-aged woman dressed in a denim skirt, a Western-style blouse, and cowboy boots walked up to the podium and picked up the mic. Her dark auburn hair was curled in the tightest perm I’d ever seen, short on top and long around her shoulders.

“Praise the Lord, y’all,” she said.

The mic squealed with feedback and she moved away from the amplifier.

“Are you ready to worship Jesus tonight?”

She picked up the tambourine and shook it.

A few people in the audience echoed her “praise the Lord” or shouted out “hallelujah!”

Two teenage boys, also wearing cowboy boots and Western shirts, picked up the guitars and strummed a couple of chords. Another, much younger, boy remained in the front row when his mother and brothers got up to lead the worship service.

“My name is Shirley Shaffer and I’m here to praise the Lord!” the woman said. “Stand up and praise God with me.”

I looked around and everyone was standing up, so I did too. We usually stood up during the worship service at church, so nothing strange about that. The boys were strumming quickly now, and the woman started to sing. It was a song I’d never heard before.

I will sing unto the LORD,
for he hath triumphed gloriously:
the horse and rider thrown into the sea.

Bum-bum-bum went the guitars and tambourine in unison. “This song is from Exodus 15, verse 1,” Shirley said, “Open your Bibles and sing along.”

The Lord, my God, my strength, my song,
has now become my victor-ee-ee-ee.

The Lord, my God, my strength, my song,
has now become my victory!

The singing went on for a long time, perhaps an hour, with the music echoing off the concrete floor and bare basement walls. We sang fast songs and slow songs, loud songs and quiet songs, many with words out of the Bible and others with simple choruses that could be memorized quickly. And we sang each song enough times to memorize it. Five, ten, fifteen repeats of each chorus. As the music went on, some people fell into the rhythm and clapped their hands and jingled their own tambourines. Others looked a little nervous, used to singing hymns and quiet choruses to the accompaniment of the organ and piano.

When the singing finally ended, a chubby man with the same tightly permed, but shorter, auburn hair came up to the pulpit. He was dressed like the rest of his family, in Western wear and cowboy boots. His pants were a little too snug, and his tucked-in shirt didn’t hide his pot belly.

“Glory to GOD,” he hollered into the mic. “This place is like a house-a-fire!”

His pudgy fingers opened a huge, leather Bible and set it down on the pulpit. Before he started his sermon, he passed an offering plate around the room, collecting money to support his trip from Texas to New York to bring God’s word to us.

Three hours later, Tom was still preaching.

“Are you listenin’?” he’d yell every now and then, perhaps when he noticed someone nodding off in the back of the room.

Most of the adults were alert and awake, following along in their Bibles, taking notes, nodding in agreement, and yelling “amen, Brother,” from time to time. The younger kids were fidgeting in their seats or sleeping on the floor. My mind wandered and I didn’t even try to pay attention. I’d rather have been home in bed, but the extra time to daydream was just fine with me.

As Tom started to wind down, returning to the scripture verse he’d started with to remind us all of the theme of the sermon, the boys and their mother came back up to the front and got ready to sing some more. I looked at my watch and wondered how I’d be able to wake up for school the next morning. It was after midnight and I usually went to bed at nine.

Fortunately, it wasn’t much of a problem for me to be tired at school. I hardly paid attention anyway. Most of my classes were too easy, and I could read over the chapters we’d covered the night before the test and get an A every time. I was more concerned with being too tired to hang out with my friends. My mother liked what Tom had to say so much that we started going to services four or five nights a week, only going to Smithtown Tabernacle on Sunday mornings. I was glad when he disappeared and went back to Texas with his family so my life could get back to normal.

The Shaffers were back soon enough. They didn’t come in the dead of winter, but waited until the spring thaw. The nightly house meetings started up again, but at least I knew what to expect this time. Or almost.

One night a boy with the ice-blue eyes was there, talking to a girl with a high, tight ponytail. They were with a chubby boy who had brown curly hair. They were the only teenagers in the room.

“What the hell,” I thought, and went up to talk to them. I didn’t see anyone else near my age, and it wasn’t like I had anything better to do.

“Open your Bibles to 2nd Corinthians 10, verse 3,” Tom said after the singing was over and he’d taken the offering. He read the passage aloud:

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.

Tom preached his messages in seasons, like TV shows, focusing on one verse or passage for months at a time. He’d start and end each sermon by reading his key passage, and in between he’d take us on a three-hour journey where, seemingly, no man had gone before. Night after night it was the same message, with different stories to illustrate the point: we couldn’t trust our own thoughts, we had to crush any thought that disagreed with the teachings of the Bible, we had to capture every idea that didn’t conform to the knowledge of God.

Jimmy and Katie—it turns out blue-eyed boy and ponytail girl had names—followed along in their Bibles, taking notes and paying attention to whatever Tom said. Their friend Mike was less interested.

Somewhere along the way, I’m not sure when, I started paying attention, too. I know this because the pages of the New Testament in my old Bible are like a rainbow. Jesus’ words, of course, are red. But I’ve highlighted, underlined, circled, and annotated verses in every book using every color pen and marker that I had. The verses of 2nd Corinthians 10:3–5 are highlighted in yellow, underlined in blue, and marked in the margin with a large parenthesis to draw attention to the passage.

I still had trouble getting up for school sometimes, but Mom decided if we were too tired my sister and I could stay home from school every now and then. Better to miss a math class than another night of preaching.

I didn’t know it yet, but I was on my way to fanaticism. Looking back, I can’t help think that I was brainwashed. The church we started attending was very cult-like. But at the time, it all seemed very natural. I was never forced to do anything against my will. But the peer pressure was very strong. My transition from lukewarm Christian to on-fire for God took about a year. In the next installation of this series, I’ll talk more about that transition. Was I saved or brainwashed? I still find it difficult, over 30 years later, to answer that question.

- writerdd

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Religious Disenchantment Narratives and the Arts Dissertation 10 Reasons Atheists Are More Moral Than Religious Fundamentalists

61 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Quester  |  May 19, 2009 at 1:42 pm

    I look forward to reading more. Saved or brainwashed seems a strange dichotomy to me. I’d think there should be more options than just the two.

  • 2. atimetorend  |  May 19, 2009 at 1:46 pm

    The church we started attending was very cult-like. But at the time, it all seemed very natural. I was never forced to do anything against my will. But the peer pressure was very strong.

    That is so true, the line between being cult-like and being conservative evangelical can be a very fine one. I have to be extremely careful in describing my church experience with my Christian friends, because it really doesn’t seem like brainwashing when you are in it. My church wasn’t controlling, would not be considered a cult. But the pressures like peer pressure you describe are so strong.

  • 3. Beth  |  May 19, 2009 at 6:48 pm

    I feel the same way – maybe it was more of a brain’cleansing’ instead of a full out brainwashing, but there is something to what you say about that. I bought into it hook, line and sinker too. And when I look back at that time in my life I can’t believe that was actually me.

  • 4. writerdd  |  May 19, 2009 at 7:27 pm

    Beth, that’s just how I feel. Since I left (almost 20 years ago), I feel like I have turned back into myself.

  • 5. Scott M.  |  May 19, 2009 at 10:46 pm

    Saved or brainwashed? Doesn’t matter. We’re looking forward, not back. That’s the ‘atheist way’.

  • 6. writerdd  |  May 20, 2009 at 11:09 am

    Just to clarify, when I say “saved or brainwashed” I don’t mean that those are the only two possibilities. I don’t believe that there is any such thing as “being saved” the way I did back then. That is, I do believe that something life changing can happen to someone when they convert to a different religion, but I don’t believe that it is anything supernatural. It is cognitive — mental and emotional. That doesn’t make it any less meaningful or important, however. So in my question, I’m essentially asking “was this a good or a bad thing that happened to me?” and I really can’t answer that question.

  • 7. Beth  |  May 20, 2009 at 10:57 pm

    writerdd,

    That’s exactly what I’m doing right now – turning back into myself. For me personally, I’m leaning toward the idea that that time in my life was more bad than good. I base that mainly on how I treated people while I was a “Christian”. I actually believed I had to save the world. Blah. And in the process I lost a good friend. But on the other hand it was good because I’m a lot more open minded and tolerant now. But I can totally relate to what you’re saying.

  • 8. writerdd  |  May 20, 2009 at 11:46 pm

    For a long time I told myself that my Christian life was more bad than good. But if I’m honest with myself, it wasn’t. I was happy most of the time, had great friends, and enjoyed my life. Just like now. Maybe I had to remember only the bad parts for a while so I could get away.

    On the other hand, I never felt like I was good enough, I was never praying enough, reading the Bible enough, witnessing enough, etc. Now I try to do what good I can, and don’t kick myself in the head all the time because I am not perfect. I’m much more content and at peace now.

  • 9. Luke  |  May 21, 2009 at 2:18 pm

    wow! this is so far beyond anything i’ve experienced in Christianity.. my roman catholic background assumes that these type of protestant tent revivals only happen in Steve Martin movies in the early 90s and maybe historically in the 20s and 40s… or maybe some places in the God-forsaken south… wow. just wow.

    this hurt my brain. thanks for sharing your story.

  • 10. writerdd  |  May 21, 2009 at 2:25 pm

    LOL. Luke, these things happen all over the United States. Yes, even today. I’m sure I could find one this Sunday without too much problem… if I wanted to attend…

  • 11. Quester  |  May 21, 2009 at 3:09 pm

    my roman catholic background assumes that these type of protestant tent revivals only happen in Steve Martin movies in the early 90s and maybe historically in the 20s and 40s… or maybe some places in the God-forsaken south

    Ha! Last time I attended something like this, it was in a barn, not a tent, and was part of the Charismatic movement within the Roman Catholic church! Don’t think the Protestants have this sort of thing all to themselves, Luke. *grin*

  • 12. Joe  |  May 21, 2009 at 3:28 pm

    Writerdd– You said:

    “Just to clarify, when I say “saved or brainwashed” I don’t mean that those are the only two possibilities. I don’t believe that there is any such thing as “being saved” the way I did back then. That is, I do believe that something life changing can happen to someone when they convert to a different religion, but I don’t believe that it is anything supernatural. It is cognitive — mental and emotional”.

    I will try to state this as delicately as possible—but it is that kind of statement that is so hard for me to understand when it comes to deconversion. You see, when I became a Christian it was actually “falling in love” with Divinity, more than just changing a life-style. It is impossible for me to ask “was I brain-washed or saved”? because I KNOW what happened.

    It would almost work for me better if a deconvert said “Oh yes, I believe Jesus exists, I just don’t want to follow him any more—I’ve “fallen out of love” with him”. That would actually make more sense to me. Because how can one be unsure of whom they fell in love with? You fall in love with a woman for instance—-perhaps later you say “it was just infatuation” or “I fell out of love with her”—but you do not deny the REALITY of the relationship.

    When one asks “was I brainwashed or saved”? it is almost admitting that you never had a relationship with the Person themself. I hope you understand what I am saying. I am not questioning your sincerity—-it is just very difficult for me to understand that question.

    When I was “saved” it was so real that to this day I find it impossible to deny it. And it is because of the great love of God towards me, and the reciprocation of that love. I was alone when it all happened, so no one was there to “whip me” into an emotional frenzy. A very real change took place—a great love for God entered my life. I knew his presence, and knew his love.

    This is why deconversion is so hard for me to understand. Though I am still trying! I have tried not to “preach”–hope I was successful. :>) All the best though Writerdd–I know you are being very sincere with your testimony.

  • 13. Luke  |  May 21, 2009 at 3:48 pm

    yikes!

    i’m getting more exposure to this in seminary, but i still find it shocking… because it does seem very much like hyper-emotive brainwashing or group conditioning or herd-mentality. i’m both facinated and appalled by it.

  • 14. LeoPardus  |  May 21, 2009 at 4:38 pm

    luke:

    A gal at out EOC parish told us of the first time she went to a Protestant church. She thought they were having a concert or something. After 45 minutes she asked her friend (who had invited her), “When does the service start?” :D

  • 15. LeoPardus  |  May 21, 2009 at 4:39 pm

    “at our”

    An edit function! An edit function! My kingdom for an edit function!

  • 16. orDover  |  May 21, 2009 at 8:22 pm

    Ah, this talk is bringing back memories of the mandatory Christian summer camp my school forces all of its students to go to. We sat in “chapel” from 9-12, took and break for lunch, and were back in our seats again until dinner. We had a little free time after dinner, but then it was time to go to the bonfire. Even now it fills me with dread. The bonfire started with singing a few slow, contemplative worship songs to set the mood. Keep in mind it was practically dark. Then prayer circles were formed, where we confessed our sins to one another, and laid hands on one another. Basically, if you didn’t break into tears every night, you were going to hell. It was basically one dark, spooky tear-fest. Much wailing and gnashing of teeth. Obsession over how awful we all were.

    I hated it so much because I never actually felt moved to cry. I’d fake a little alligator tears not to stand out. I also couldn’t think of anything to confess, because I was a good kid and a strong believer in following the rules (that included my parent’s rules and God’s rules). Eventually I started making stuff up, again, so I wouldn’t stand out.

    No. Actually, the worst part about it all is what would happen the next day. We would all be worked up in this self-loathing religious fervor, spilling our guts, telling our friends our darkest secrets. And then when morning came everyone acted like it never happened. So awkward!

  • 17. CheezChoc  |  May 21, 2009 at 11:12 pm

    When I went to those camps (voluntarily) in summer during junior high and high school, they only had the bonfire at the end of the week. It was called Victory Circle. Much crying, as I recall.
    Your story sounded familiar, except that there were lots of us and we were not compelled to confess or anything.

  • 18. ArchangelChucl  |  May 21, 2009 at 11:24 pm

    Isn’t it funny how these priests love to emphasize obedience?

  • 19. ArchangelChuck  |  May 21, 2009 at 11:25 pm

    Ugh. That’s ArchangelChuck, not Chucl.

  • 20. SnugglyBuffalo  |  May 22, 2009 at 2:59 pm

    Ah, Bible Camp, that brings back memories. Mostly emphasizing how I’ve always felt like an outsider in church, even when I believed most fervently. It doesn’t help that I’m extremely shy, but even when I’d get past that I wouldn’t really connect with most people I met in church. Bible Camp always made it more apparent – surrounded by kids my own age, and unable to forge any bonds stronger than acquaintance.

    On the other hand, it certainly made leaving the faith easier.

  • 21. writerdd  |  May 22, 2009 at 4:11 pm

    Sorry my posts keep giving people flashbacks!

  • 22. Eve's Apple  |  May 24, 2009 at 9:20 am

    I want to comment to Joe’s post. He says he has trouble understanding us de-cons, that he would have an easier time of it if we just admitted that we had fallen out of love with Jesus and didn’t want to follow him anymore. Instead, he feels we are denying the reality of the relationship.

    Well, the “reality” of the relationship is exactly the heart of the matter! He talks a lot about feelings and knowing in his heart, but can he produce one shred of physical evidence that this relationship exists anywhere else but in his mind, where nobody else can see it? Does he have any photographs, any recordings, anything at all? Can he introduce this person he is having such an intense relationship with to someone else and have them shake hands? If the answer is no, then how do we know that his Jesus is not just another imaginary friend?

    When I was a child I was diagnosed with something called “perceptual disorder” which basically meant, according to the adults around me, that I had trouble distinguishing fantasy from reality, among other things. If others could not see it, hear it, touch it, smell it, etc. basically it was fantasy, no matter how *real* it was to me. They spent a great deal of time and effort trying to break this bad habit. At the same time, however, many of these same people insisted–on pain of physical punishment!–that God, Jesus, Mary, saints, angels and so forth–were all real, even if they did not otherwise meet the criteria for Reality listed above. The question remains to this day, how the hell does one tell the difference, and is there even a difference?

    I am not discounting what you feel, Joe. I am just saying there is a vast difference between the “reality” in your head and Reality. I know from personal experience just how real the world of the mind can seem. But it is not Reality. At least not how I was taught to define it. (At great cost, I must add). I think if you talk with other de-cons, you will hear the same thing. How do we know that the Jesus you are having a relationship with is the real Jesus? A relationship that is only in the mind is not a relationship, no matter how many warm and fuzzy feelings it produces. The difference between your “relationship” and mine is that you are allowed (even encouraged) to indulge in it. I had to let go of my “imaginary” relationships or face being locked up in a mental ward. I am not exaggerating here.

    Which brings me to my next point, if Jesus is so real and a relationship with him so wonderful, so irresistable, like falling in love, why is it that so many Christian parents are so quick to punish any expression of doubt? You’ve probably heard it before: “My child is going to believe in God, or else!” The little boy in the story “The Emperor’s New Clothes” got off easy, in my experience. He was not beaten for his disbelief, nor locked up. But children are not free to question when it comes to religion. They are to do as they are told. What it boils down to is that religion is not really a relationship, as you claim, but a method of social control.

  • 23. orDover  |  May 24, 2009 at 2:45 pm

    Not to mention that Joe’s prescription of de-cons just deciding not to follow Jesus any more fits right in with the comfortable Christian canard that atheists want to be the god of their own lives and don’t want to have to submit their wills to the will of God. Sorry Joe. I know that would make the existence of de-cons easier for you, but that just isn’t how it goes, despite what your pastor might have told you.

  • 24. SeekerWithQuestions  |  May 26, 2009 at 1:08 pm

    It seems to me that my experience with evangelical Christianity was more like “cultural indoctrination” rather than formal brainwashing. The “herd mentality” phrase really hits home as I’ve been thinking this issue more and more in recent years. Even now as I continue to attend a fairly fundamentalist church because of my wife, it is pretty clear that you begin to adopt certain practices, beliefs, and even thought processes in order to fit in.

  • 25. Cindy  |  May 28, 2009 at 8:13 pm

    Fundys are
    Fundamental christians

    I like positivedeism.com

    or

    christian deism for people understanding Jesus, for your wifes understang maybe

  • 26. Anonymous  |  May 29, 2009 at 5:50 pm

    “Does he have any photographs, any recordings, anything at all? Can he introduce this person he is having such an intense relationship with to someone else and have them shake hands?”

    Eve’s Apple— Granted– I cannot introduce you “physically” this person. But when you are in “love” with someone on this earth it is very real—–though extremely hard to describe what “love” is to someone who has never been in love isn’t it? You can say your heart speeds up when you are near to the person—or you feel intense joy and cravings–etc. etc.—but you cannot explain this “experience” to another adequately–they have to experience it themselves.

    That is why I am saying that anyone who has experienced what I experienced when I became a Christian would have an extremely hard time denying that it was REAL. I simply cannot deny it. I cannot explain it to you adequately–but I KNOW that the love that was poured out upon me did not come from my own inner emotions.

    As I mentioned, I was completely alone in my room at the time. I simply read part of the Bible. No one told me beforehand “You are going to have an intense sense of forgiveness, followed by a sense of a great burden being lifted, which will then be followed by the most intense sense of God’s presence imaginable”. No one had told me anything—-I simply read, accepted, and then experienced those things.

    OrDover— you said:

    “I know that would make the existence of de-cons easier for you, but that just isn’t how it goes, despite what your pastor might have told you”. (#23)

    I said nothing about about atheists not wanting to submit to God’s will. I was simply stating that if someone has to ask if they were “saved or brainwashed” I find it very hard to understand. Did this person have such a forgettable experience that they don’t know the difference? That was all I was saying.

    Neither do I need a Pastor to “tell” me what to think. A Pastor would most likely say to avoid all deconversion sites wouldn’t he? I choose to think for myself—I’m just trying to understand is all—and find it very difficult. Deconversion is an enigma to me—-it seems impossible on one hand, yet I know it is real on the other, because I read these testimonies. It is very intriguing to say the least.

  • 27. SnugglyBuffalo  |  May 30, 2009 at 4:52 am

    That you experienced something real and powerful is not in doubt. I had some very intense moments as a Christian. But how do you explain that people have similar experiences with regards to just about anything? You have a very real, unexpected experience after reading the bible, while another has a very similar experience after reading the Quran, while yet another has a similar experience watching a sun set.

    Being real and powerful, and coming from your “own inner emotions” are not mutually exclusive attributes of experiences.

  • 28. Change creeps in unawares « de-conversion  |  June 10, 2009 at 8:52 am

    [...] Part III: Was I saved or brainwashed? [...]

  • 29. atimetorend  |  June 10, 2009 at 12:06 pm

    SeekerWithQuestions said: “It seems to me that my experience with evangelical Christianity was more like “cultural indoctrination” rather than formal brainwashing.”

    I like this distinction, I agree it is more accurate. I have been apt to use “brainwashing” in trying to describe what’s going on, which has such negative connotations it is entirely counter productive in a conversation with a theist. I have been thinking through this same thing as I work out issues with conservative church and spouse.

  • 30. grace  |  June 11, 2009 at 8:02 am

    Yes, I think it’s probably true that you were conditioned (brainwashed) over time into a belief system. based on emotional experience.

    I think if faith isn’t built on a solid foundation that includes our whole mind (intellect), it will eventually fall apart like sand, or evaporate over time.

  • 31. Quester  |  June 11, 2009 at 3:15 pm

    I think if faith isn’t built on a solid foundation that includes our whole mind (intellect), it will eventually fall apart like sand, or evaporate over time.

    Now all we need is enough evidence to engage the intellect, and we won’t need sites like this anymore.

  • 32. grace  |  June 11, 2009 at 8:58 pm

    We’re all different Quester. There are some pretty bright, thinking folks out there who are people of faith, I could never accept any belief system if I felt my mind needed to be checked at the church door.

    But, what I was trying to share is that I think alot of folks really are simply culturally conditioned into the church. Often they’ve had some type of religious emotional experience as a young person, sometimes at a time of vulnerability, and need in their lives.

    But, they had never really struggled, or thought through in a deeper sense many of these issues of faith. Their intellect was not fully engaged,

    They were not encouraged to question, and explore both their own faith,and other ideas, and philosophies.

    So, eventually when disillusionment, and other challenges come, everything falls apart. The foundation was never really there. I think God wants us to know Him, and love Him with our whole heart, and mind.

    I’m not speaking of everyone in this by any means, but I think my observation does hold true for a great many people out there who are deconverts.

  • 33. SnugglyBuffalo  |  June 12, 2009 at 12:03 am

    It seems to me like the real problem is people try to know God with their mind in addition to their heart, and at that point realize there’s nothing to know.

  • 34. Quester  |  June 12, 2009 at 12:06 am

    We’re all different Quester.

    Well, we’re certainly not identical. I’ll grant you that.

    There are some pretty bright, thinking folks out there who are people of faith,

    I’ll agree with that, too.

    I could never accept any belief system if I felt my mind needed to be checked at the church door.

    I feel the same way.

    But, what I was trying to share is that I think alot of folks really are simply culturally conditioned into the church.

    Some are, certainly.

    Often they’ve had some type of religious emotional experience as a young person, sometimes at a time of vulnerability, and need in their lives.

    Some have; whatever that experience inspired.

    But, they had never really struggled, or thought through in a deeper sense many of these issues of faith. Their intellect was not fully engaged,

    Which issues of faith are we talking about here, exactly?

    They were not encouraged to question, and explore both their own faith,and other ideas, and philosophies.

    There are people whose experiences can be accurately described this way, yes.

    So, eventually when disillusionment, and other challenges come, everything falls apart. The foundation was never really there.

    Could be.

    I think God wants us to know Him, and love Him with our whole heart, and mind.

    Really? Why do you think this? What reasons for this thought have engaged your intellect?

    I’m not speaking of everyone in this by any means, but I think my observation does hold true for a great many people out there who are deconverts.

    Indeed? Why do you think this? Have you read the list of our reasons for deconverting that can be found in the archives?

  • 35. Cindy  |  June 12, 2009 at 12:15 am

    I understand they whole BS.
    I Deism ,I understand it is an ism but Atheism does not seem to acknowledge common Sense and reason, as for me. DEISM .

    Deists are people who base their beliefs on reason and conclude that God exists or probably exists. End of story. That is the beginning of a good personal philosophy, but it needs much more to be an adequate personal philosophy. As long as the Deist in question answers the rest of the big philosophical questions reasonably, I think that those ideas are rooted in Deism. Thus, two Deists can have opposite views.

  • 36. Anonymous  |  June 12, 2009 at 9:11 pm

    Quester,

    I think these reasons why some people deconvert are true based on not just what I’ve read, but also by personal conversations that I’ve had with folks.

    I’m not speaking of you, personally, Quester. And, I know that at one time you were an Anglican priest. But, often I’ve read statements from people who deconvert that reflect to me what is simply a caricature of the Christian faith, such as the “good news,” presented as nothing more than a fire escape.

    I mean if I believed what some of these people feel it means to be a Christian, I sure as heck, wouldn’t be one of em , either.

    Lord have mercy!

    Also, I think many times people have been hurt by the church, and deeply wounded by Christians, or even given advice that is just way out there, such as that there is something wrong with them spiritually because they are struggling with depression, or some other MH issue.

    I could go on, and on.

    It also seems to me that there is a sense of identity, and community that folks find in “deconversion,” that can make it especially difficult to even be open to faith, especially if there had been previous disillusionment, and deep hurt with the church.

    For me personally, some of the intellectual reasons that people give for deconversion are issues that I actually thought about, and struggled with, and considered before I came to faith, in some cases even as a young child.

    Does this make sense? I am kind of rambling on here.

    Anyway, Quester, thanks for listening. I have family over this weekend, and will probably not be back on line for a day, or two.

    Blessings!

  • 37. BigHouse  |  June 12, 2009 at 10:08 pm

    For me personally, some of the intellectual reasons that people give for deconversion are issues that I actually thought about, and struggled with, and considered before I came to faith, in some cases even as a young child.

    Didn’t Jesus say “When I was a child, I reasoned as a child..” Maybe you should reopen some of those issue to analysis again.

  • 38. SnugglyBuffalo  |  June 13, 2009 at 1:29 am

    Why is it that Christians always seem to know some group of mysterious deconverts who have stereotypical “convenient categories” reason’s for leaving the faith?

  • 39. LeoPardus  |  June 13, 2009 at 3:44 pm

    SB:

    We are all those sorts of de-converts. We just won’t admit that obvious truth to ourselves. But the theists can see it clearly ’cause they have spiritual eyes to discern our spirits.
    :P

  • 40. Anonymous  |  June 13, 2009 at 9:04 pm

    Leo, I’m certainly not able to discern your spirit. We’ve never even met, for heavens sake.

    Snuggly, I think it’s wrong to stereotype, too. I’m not speaking of every single person who deconverts, but just about my personal experience, and some observations. As I’ve shared before, we’re all different.

    Giving up, and backin out of the conversation now, before I cause further offense. :)

  • 41. SnugglyBuffalo  |  June 14, 2009 at 1:56 am

    Maybe your personal experience and observations are accurate, I don’t know. But it does seem like an awful lot of theists post comments here about the atheists they know, and they’re always stereotypical caricatures of atheism. It seems odd that all the de-converts I know and all the de-converts theists know are so different.

  • 42. Cindy  |  July 12, 2009 at 1:18 pm

    Grace:
    I can only share my personal witness with you that knowing Christ has made a tremendous difference in my life.
    GRACE,
    Many years i have thought that this was TRUE, too.

    After Chhrist-life.org I came to realise the annihilation of SELF, that is lived. as I came to understand Deism it began to open my Brain to an understanding that Christianity never helped, I was always in a confused state, separating myself from a GOD{(even thought I would CLAIM, that christ was MY LIFE.}

  • 43. Dealing with Doubt « de-conversion  |  September 11, 2009 at 12:55 pm

    [...] September 11, 2009 Part 5 of My journey into and, later, out of Christianity [...]

  • 44. sheryl  |  April 17, 2010 at 4:28 am

    I don’t get it. I seriously don’t get it.
    I’ve been a Christian since I chose that life since I was 12 years old.
    Yes, it is hard at times and sometimes I feel a bit overwhelmed by circumstances but I have never fallen “Out of Love with Christ.”
    Just like any journey in any relationship there are ups and downs.
    Sometimes you shut down. Sometimes you give up for a while but you don’t completely disconnect.
    Seriously, I just don’t get it.
    Help me to understand your point of view without anger please.
    SP

  • 45. HeIsSailing  |  April 17, 2010 at 9:54 am

    Sheryl asks:

    “Help me to understand your point of view without anger please.”

    Sheryl, in my case, the situation is very easy to understand. It is not that I fell ‘out of love with Christ’. I simply came to understand that there is no good reason to believe that supernatural entities exist. So I stopped believing it.

  • 46. Ubi Dubium  |  April 17, 2010 at 11:58 am

    Sheryl,
    Did you ever believe in Santa Claus? As a child, did you really believe that he lived at the North Pole, knew if you had been bad or good, and filled your stockings on xmas eve? How did you feel when you found out that he wasn’t real?

    And how do you feel about Santa now? Are you angry at Santa? Or is he a nothing more than a nice myth that some children enjoy believng in?

    For me, religion is Santa Claus for grown-ups. I figured out that the stuff peope were telling me to believe in wasn’t real. That’s it. There is nobody up there to have a relationship with, and wishful thinking does not make things true.

    The difference is that nobody is trying to force me or my children to become “Santa-ists”.

  • 47. Cindy Mulvey  |  April 17, 2010 at 12:33 pm

    44. Sheryl ,

    Many are angered because for your our minds were controlled with the “Christian mindset”.

    I said I love Christ/Jesus, but hated myself that was a an oxymoanic statenent, but I never realised that until I came to understand DEISM or Free-thinker.cin3@me.com

  • 48. Grace  |  April 17, 2010 at 8:22 pm

    Cindy,

    I agree that it is definitely an oxymoron for people to say they are loving, and following Christ, and hating themselves at the same time.

    If Jesus says that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves, this presupposes that we first must love, and accept our self. Otherwise His teaching makes little sense.

    That’s how I see it, anyway.

    P.S. It’s amazing that we are picking up this conversation almost from a year ago. I can’t believe how fast time flies bye.

  • 49. Cindy Mulvey  |  April 17, 2010 at 9:51 pm

    that is GOD : > )

    cin3@me.com

  • 50. john  |  June 26, 2010 at 3:51 pm

    it is not brainwashing or mental menipulation it is jesus our lord and savior, God almighty, and The Holly Spirit in you. Go to a Baptist fundumental church and they will show you the scriptures and get you into the right classes to understand you are a child of God now start acting like one.

  • 51. Ubi Dubium  |  June 26, 2010 at 7:51 pm

    It’s apparenlty also not spell-check.

  • 52. Joshua  |  June 26, 2010 at 11:34 pm

    rofl

  • 53. Lyra's Alias  |  June 27, 2010 at 2:01 am

    ZING

  • 54. Eve's Apple  |  June 28, 2010 at 9:12 am

    John–I agree with Ubi,

    Get you to a high school or college or adult education remedial English class and learn how to write properly!

    I am serious. When you post something on-line, you are using written communication. If you do not observe the rules of written communication, it does not matter how valid or true your argument is, you come across as uneducated, ignorant and possibly learning disabled. My personal experience with being labeled “learning disabled” (aka “retarded”) is that very few people will take you seriously. It will also make you a target for those people who like to prey on such.

    It is also not a good advertisement for Christianity. Because what you are saying is in essence, come to my church and be like me. Why on earth would any of us want to join a church or religion that encourages ignorance? I’ve said it before and I will say it again, the men who translated the King James Bible had such a respect for their native tongue as well as for the “Word” that they created a masterpiece. They were not semi-literate. They were men of intelligence. How do I know thiis? It shines through their writing–writing that has stood through the centuries.

    I would say that as a Christian you owe the written “word” the same respect. It really, really galls me to see posts by Christians who are semi-literate and uneducated. And it makes me, for one, wonder if you are even intelligent to understand our replies.

    Please, do yourself a favor. Learn how to write proper English. Use a dictionary, spell-check. Trust me, it will open real doors, instead of imaginary spiritual ones.

  • 55. Eve's Apple  |  June 28, 2010 at 9:14 am

    Correction, I meant to say intelligent enough

  • 56. Cindy Mulvey  |  June 28, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    Better off DEAD

    When was weary I realized that the Bible did not to make me stronger…
    (MAYBE MY TEMPORARY MIND,maybe )

    I was I not growing I was like Jake says here…..

    Jake says,
    For Pete’s sake Bobalou, how can you ask that with a straight face? Have you EVER met a Christian who didn’t think that he was going to be better off dead?…and who didn’t try to convince you to BELIEVE THE SAME THING!?

    (conditional on having your “heaven train ticket” of course) It’s the whole
    basis of Christianity!!!!!! “We’re all, by nature, real turds…who have to
    concentrate on holding ourselves in check while alive..(and accepting a
    human sacrifice to retroactively atone for us because we’re turds by
    nature/inheritance) ..but it’s all going to be BEAUTIFUL if we can just hang
    on till we croak!” GIMME A BREAK. Hey….I gotta give Mary credit
    though….
    They TRY ?????????

    As I understand it Jesus is not and issue when it comes to GOD , he was a son, Jesus of Nazareth should mean nothing….
    Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration by … that Jesus sees God face-to-face because he himself is God —

    The divine are WE the CREATION, the Bible is a written word about GOD there are many and many religions and many theories because GOD Spirit lives in those that believe, that is why the bible Is not meaningful to me, any more the GOD, word spirit LIFE of ME is ME.
    So do I bash the life GOD has chosen , no, I do not reject myself, when one can love themselves it is the TRUE TEST for yourself to know of your growth in the LOVE of GOD

    The Youth Solution
    The youth solution that is changing my Life.
    In 1981, I was blessed with a Traumatic Brain Injury, called then TBI, yes I had to have rehabilitation learning to walk talk having a sense of life , once again.
    Some might think of me as retarde or Brain Damaged, now Ican say ,no I as a christian for over 30 tears I mean YEARS. ( pun intened)

  • 57. Cindy Mulvey  |  June 28, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    Better off DEAD
    my new analogy for
    G R O W God Reality Offends the Weary.
    This is how it was for me…….
    When was weary I realized that the Bible did not to make me stronger…
    (MAYBE MY TEMPORARY MIND,maybe )
    I was I not growing I was like Jake says here…..

    Jake says,
    For Pete’s sake Bobalou, how can you ask that with a straight face? Have you EVER met a Christian who didn’t think that he was going to be better off dead?…and who didn’t try to convince you to BELIEVE THE SAME THING!?

    (conditional on having your “heaven train ticket” of course) It’s the whole
    basis of Christianity!!!!!! “We’re all, by nature, real turds…who have to
    concentrate on holding ourselves in check while alive..(and accepting a
    human sacrifice to retroactively atone for us because we’re turds by
    nature/inheritance) ..but it’s all going to be BEAUTIFUL if we can just hang
    on till we croak!” GIMME A BREAK. Hey….I gotta give Mary credit
    though….
    They TRY ?????????

    I began to understand GOD in a way I never understood before

    As I understand it Jesus is not and issue when it comes to GOD , he was a son, Jesus of Nazareth should mean nothing….
    Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration by … that Jesus sees God face-to-face because he himself is God —

    The divine are WE the CREATION, the Bible is a written word about GOD there are many and many religions and many theories because GOD Spirit lives in those that believe, that is why the bible Is not meaningful to me, any more the GOD, word spirit LIFE of ME is ME.
    So do I bash the life GOD has chosen , no, I do not reject myself, when one can love themselves it is the TRUE TEST for yourself to know of your growth in the LOVE of GOD

    In 1981, I was blessed with a Traumatic Brain Injury, called then TBI, yes I had to have rehabilitation learning to walk talk having a sense of life , once again.

  • 58. How To Blog  |  November 13, 2011 at 1:14 am

    Its excellent as your other content , appreciate it for putting up.

  • 59. Anonymous  |  November 14, 2012 at 9:43 pm

    Ok, being a Christian, I have a few things to say.
    Firstly, I believe on proof. I have been in and out of the faith numerous times!
    Secondly, I am not stupid. IQ tests say above 125.
    Thirdly, Christianity did not brainwash me because I have a difficult time living up to the standards. Sure, I sin less and less, but this is because of trust and belief in a God that will help me. I am not forced to do anything, and I can walk out whenever I please. I just choose not to.
    This definitely seems like a lack of brainwashing to me!

  • 60. cag  |  November 15, 2012 at 2:04 pm

    Anon #59, you come to this site for non-believers and talk about proof. Like every other christian in history, you never give any proof, just claims of having proof. Belief in a book that claims the earth was created before the rest of the universe does not speak highly of intelligence. Belief in superstitious nonsense does not speak highly of intelligence. Until you can present your proof independent of the bible, the book that is shown to be fiction after the first ten words, we will have to conclude that your claims are just vapour and your alleged proof is just the parroting of the words of those whose aim is to pick your pocket. Show us your proof so we can examine and critique it from a non-religious point of view.

    Your message definitely seems like the work of a brainwashed person to me.

  • 61. sbobet  |  September 23, 2014 at 4:42 am

    Hey there! I could have sworn I’ve been to this site before
    but after reading through some of the post I realized it’s new to me.
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Attention Christian Readers

Just in case you were wondering who we are and why we de-converted.

de-conversion wager

Whether or not you believe in God, you should live your life with love, kindness, compassion, mercy and tolerance while trying to make the world a better place. If there is no God, you have lost nothing and will have made a positive impact on those around you. If there is a benevolent God reviewing your life, you will be judged on your actions and not just on your ability to blindly believe in creeds- when there is a significant lack of evidence on how to define God or if he/she even exists.

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