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Actually, Two Files of
De-Conversion Stories

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(the other half of our latest collection -- or so)
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From: "Nick R."
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: FORUM_My_De-Conversion_Story
Date: June 24, 2002 9:57 AM

My deconversion story began at the tender age of seven. I was attending a catholic school and in the second grade, this was the year that the class was to go through first confession, but during the class where we were taught about confession, the sacrament seemed to make less and less sense every time the teacher spoke. If we are forgiven as soon as we are sorry, then why go to confession?

The second thing that didn't make sense to me was that during school mass every Friday, the priest never once made the wine during communion. I asked my teacher about this during religion class, right after she had finished telling us about how the wine literally becomes christ's blood. She told me that alcohol was bad for children and that was a silly question.

My father told me not to read the Old Testament because all that ever happened in it was god killing people.

Once, after I had transferred to a public school I accidentally attended a club meeting for Christian fundamentalists. Every one of the kids there was totally brainwashed, they kept saying that the only happy people are christians and unbelievers are hollow and evil. To test their theory, I told them about myself, me being a new member, and they said they were glad to meet such a happy person. I replied,"Would you have said the same if I just didn't believe one thing that you do?" They said that I would surely go to hell for that rude comment but they would pray for me. Now I ask, what is the point of praying for someone who is already surely damned?

After that my religious faith was hanging by threads, until an atheist friend of mine asked me to read some debates between atheists and christians from the wonderful site Atheism Awareness. This converted me completely, and I am much happier for it, not having to fear eternal pain and suffering.

Nick R.
PS: Great Site Cliff!

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To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: FORUM_My_De-Conversion_Story
Date: June 24, 2002 7:59 PM

My story is not so much a deconversion as it was a nonconversion, later confirmed. I grew up in a moderately religious home in Wisconsin. We attended both Lutheran and Episcopal churches fairly regularly, largely at my mother's urging. My father supported my mother on this, but it was obvious that, for some reason, he was much less interested in religion than was my mother. In any event, I was forced into Sunday school, but I don't recall believing in any of the stories told at any period of time.

Every once in a while, I did ask questions about the absurdities so readily apparent to me. For example, "How did Noah make an ark big enough to hold all the types of animals? How did he get animals from Australia to put in the ark? Why did God make people so bad he had to kill them with a flood? Why didn't he make them good enough the first time so they didn't have to be killed? Wouldn't it just be easier to remove the bad ones instead of having Noah create an ark, then flood the entire world in order to kill all the people and animals. If it was only the people who were so bad, why kill the animals along with the people?"

The teacher got quite upset with me on the day she taught us about Noah's Ark.

On those occasions when I did ask questions, I was always felt I was answered in a way that made it clear that they were there to tell the stories, not to entertain serious questions. I was made to feel like I was the only one stupid enough not to understand the stories. So despite my hating going, I continued attending church, even going so far as enduring the confirmation process.

This entailed regular meetings in a group of others my age with the Episcopal priest. Once again I felt like I was the only one asking questions. The priest tried to answer my questions, but his answers kept coming up short in my mind. He kept stressing that while the logic of religion may not make sense, it was important to have faith. I couldn't help but look at it the opposite way. In my mind, I could only have faith in something where the logic actually makes sense. Eventually, I stopped asking questions because my confirmation class was getting tired of sitting around listening to the extended discussion. They just wanted to put in their time and get out of there. Frankly, I couldn't relate to anyone in my class -- they just sat there, nodded attentively like good girls and boys, then met together afterwards to smoke and drink, or broke off into pairs for encounters of a more personal nature. I found them entirely hypocritical. Nonetheless, I proceeded through Confirmation to please my parents, though I never could understand the concepts of Christianity. Afterward my Confirmation, we continued to attend church, albeit more irregularly than when I was younger.

When I was 17 I moved out to go to the University of Wisconsin, where I studied zoology, genetics and cellular chemistry. I learned philosophy on the side. I absorbed the material enthusiastically, which only served to confirm my previous absence of religiosity, and I've rarely been inside a church since. Over the next 20-plus years, I've traveled much of the world and studied more religion and religious philosophy than anyone I know, (particularly Christians, who I find rarely are familiar with their own religious text). I've concentrated primarily on Christianity, Judaism, mystery religions, Buddhism, and Islam. I have two entire bookshelves of religious books in my library. While I have enjoyed learning about the historicity of Biblical times and reading alternative translations and interpretations of various biblical passages, I have always looked at this discussion as an interested but dispassionate observer of the topic. I've never felt any sense of religiosity. Indeed, the only religious books that ever made sense to me and "clicked" in a spiritual way, were those on atheism. And atheists were the only people with whom I could relate on the issue of religion, and they seemed to be the only ones who could look at the topic without feeling like they had something to lose.

Through a series of coincidences, I now live in British Columbia, Canada -- which, I am proud to say, is the most atheistic location of significant size on the North American continent. (According to Statistics Canada, 30.4 percent are non-religious, a higher atheism percentage than any other Canadian province or state in the U.S.) Interestingly, my sister, who grew up in the same home that I did, has moved the other direction, both geographically and spiritually. She lives in North Carolina, one of the least atheistic locations in North America. (11 percent atheist in the 2000 ARIS survey.) She's become fervently religious and supports only the most conservative Christian of causes. Unfortunately, while I have only spoken to her about religion on two occasions, she has begun isolating herself from me because of my beliefs, (or lack thereof).

By the way, as I mentioned above, when I was growing up, I never quite knew why my father wasn't as enthusiastic about religion as my mother. But I found out years later, well after his death, why he never seemed interested in religion. It turns out that he was excommunicated from the Catholic Church for getting a divorce after a brief but awful one-year marriage. Odd that the Catholic Church felt a need to excommunicate my father, yet never could find a big enough reason to excommunicate Adolph Hitler. I guess to the Catholic Church, it's like, "Hey, what's a few million Jews? Who cares about throwing the entire world into a horrific and devasting war. But a divorce, now that's serious." It's just another one of those things that makes no logical sense, but you have to have religious faith to justify the otherwise untenable position.

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From: "Mary Hartery"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: FORUM_My_De-Conversion_Story
Date: June 29, 2002 10:47 AM

During my childhood, I was raised in a rather loose Catholic family. One of the things I used to have to do on Sundays was attend "low mass" and go to Sunday school right after. I hated Sunday school with a passion, but I didn't mind necessarily going to church, so one Sunday I went to High Mass instead, and when I got home, I was given a beating because I didn't do what I was supposed to be doing.

I couldn't believe a lot of the hypocrisy of the Catholic church as I was growing up. I believed in a myriad of different things that never reconciled themselves to the Catholic faith, including things like reincarnation, war, spiritual existence, ghosts, etc.

Over the years, I've started to look at the world with eyes that have seen a lot of faiths and religions bogged down by often contradictory beliefs. I've seen the religious right with their totally militant and nasty ways, Catholics who can't understand that some things just defy belief, Moslems with their fanaticism, and so many others whose ideals are simply polar opposites in one form or another. The concept that evolution doesn't exist from the fundamentalists is one of the most horrifying ones I've ever listened to: one of my dearest friends has become a fundamentalist, and she is a teacher! She goes on to state that the concept of a 4 to 6,000 year old world is possible, because scientists have never been able to prove it otherwise! I was aghast listening to her talking so matter-of-factly about this, because with all my heart, I can never get sucked into such narrow-minded obsolescent thinking.

Anyhow, I believe in a wide range of things now, but most of all, I believe that we, as humans, need to have more respect for animals of this world, as well as Earth itself, and how we treat this planet as a whole. I do not believe we are the only intelligent race out here in the universe, and I can never reconcile harming others under a banner of religion even if there were a God.

Mary Hartery
Visit us at http://www.psifi.net

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From: "Dale Jackson"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: FORUM_My_De-Conversion_Story_8524
Date: July 03, 2002 7:19 AM

I don't know when my deconversion to Christianity began because the change in my thinking was so subtle. I was brought up in the Presbyterian Church and my mother was a Sunday School teacher and took me to church regularly. Later I converted to the Independent Christian Church when I was 18 and the next year I went to Bible College to study to be a missionary.

The Independent Christian Church which is a conservative cousin of the Disciples of Christ. Both churches sprang from the Restoration Movement of the 19th century with the Disciples being the most liberal element, the Independents the middle of the road gang and the non-instrumental Church of Christ being the most right wing conservative element. These three church groups don't have much to do with each other anymore even thought their founders started the Restoration Movement to promote unity.

I began immediately to see hypocrisy in both the organizations and the individuals with whom I associated. I married a man in seminary studying for the ministry but I knew from the outset that his heart was not in what he was doing and he was just there because his minister father had pushed him into it. I am still married to this man after 35 years and I still love him but I noticed a great unhappiness in him. He never went into the ministry, even though his father insisted upon him being ordained. Nevertheless, we both plunged headlong into church work and tried to be the best Christians and Christian parents we could possibly be. We moved around a lot and each church we were members of had awful problems, including infighting among the members, preachers getting fired for no reason, sex scandals among the members and clergy, bigotry, etc.

I had only attended Bible college, but after my children got older, I went back to school and attended a state college. Before, I simply had a few doubts about the Bible, such as how can a loving God destroy whole cities or command his chosen people to wipe out entire cultures? But after returning to college, I took several classes that encouraged students to exercise their critical thinking skills. I began to use logic more in my discernment of what I read. I just could not justify what the Bible taught anymore. My husband, being a PK (preacher's kid) just wasn't willing to give up his religion even though I knew way down deep he too didn't agree with it.

However, when George Bush the younger was running for office, we were living in Florida and of course it was all the talk about who you were voting for and the mess that followed. (We still think Al Gore won!) When the people at the church we were attending started saying people who voted for Al Gore were wrong and going to hell, etc, we walked away from church and never returned. I became a steadfast atheist. My husband is still somewhat of a Deist (believes in a creator but not a personal God). Even though he is very logical (he's a computer engineer), he still can't admit there is no god. I think it's more of an emotional thing with him since he was brought up in a preacher's home.

Our change of beliefs has brought us many problems. Our grown children, whom we raised as Christians have little to do with us now and there is a lot of arguing in the family when we do talk. They are very judgmental. I have tried to go back to church, but can't. I just can't be manipulated like that anymore. I am not so much anti-religion as pro-independent thinking. I am not going to turn my atheism into another religion. I can do without religion altogether and be quite happy. Frankly, I am happier now than ever before because for the first time in a long time I am being honest with myself.

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From: "Steve"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: deconversion or realization???
     PS ... Fantastic website ... I'll be visiting more often!
Date: July 26, 2002 1:34 PM

Mine was not a deconversion but rather a realization.

When you hear of my naivety as a child, please understand I was brought up in a very small town that was virtually entirely Roman Catholic and that I did not live in a family that encouraged critical thought.

It happened one day when I was around twenty years of age, that I realized, as far as I can tell, that I had "always" been a non-believer. I was raised Roman Catholic, went through the standard ceremonies of first confession, first communion and even experienced the pleasure of catechism through my elementary school years (yes, even in the public school system!).

I realized even as a child that all that religion stuff was rather strange but just assumed it was something we all had to live with. I was just a lemming going through the motions, never challenging it at all.

Then, after high school I met someone who said her family were atheists. "Atheists, what's that I said", "People who believe there is no God". Bam! Like a sledgehammer to the head, it finally dawned on me (what I'd really always known) that I had never believed all that mumbo-jumbo about god, angels, devils, and heaven or hell. The real irony here is that I never realized the concept of atheism. I must have believed that every one believed (except for me I guess).

I remember once, 6th grade or so, having been ill for weeks on end, being rather feverish to the point of suffering mild hallucinations (room distortions etc) that I prayed to god for help. But, I'll never forget that after recovering I was ashamed of myself for actually having prayed. I really wish I'd had it in me, as a child, to have been more conscious of my "atheism". It might have made for a more interesting growing experience.

Steve Lagasse

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From: "Karen L. Freund"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Sent: July 24, 2002 6:05 AM
Subject: Re: DeCon

I don't have any deconversion story or anything particularly stunning to submit to the website: I just look around me and nothing I see or experience ever makes me think there's more to this world than, well, than what I see or experience. I don't think I ever believed in a god or in anything supernatural, and considering that one of my biggest hobbies is Sacred Harp singing, i.e. singing traditional American Christian folk hymns, I find myself quite often surrounded by believers (as a Jewish atheist, I'm even more out of place than I might be!).

Plus I've recently married a former Franciscan seminarian (way lapsed now) whose daughter has become involved in a fundamentalist Bible church (well, as long as she can ignore the tenets of the church she finds inconvenient) and whose son likes to tell me about the Christian music he enjoys. Basically, I'm one of the few acknowledged atheists I know, and it's lonely out here, so, in short, thanks for being there and doing the magazine and the website!

Karen Freund

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To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: FORUM_My_De-Conversion_Story
Date: July 17, 2002 8:44 PM

Hello,

I am 18 years of age and a "strong" atheist. I feel that I have made a noble decision in rejecting the idea of a god for the rest of my life.

When I was younger in my pre-teen years, my parents put me into a Christian day care. In the beginning I had never even questioned the idea of god, I "knew" he existed. The reason I never questioned the idea was because the idea was never even introduced to me. My parents raised me in a neutral way; never have I been to a formal church gathering, preaching, etc. I do not even think that my parents were religious at the time.

Around when I was in seventh grade I started getting into music in the genre of metal and then punk rock the next year. A lot of the music I listened to was activist in nature and it put a lasting impression on me throughout my Junior High School years, even though at this time I was still indifferent to god. High School came along and my thoughts on life began to mature and develop. At this time I was beginning to question ideas presented in religion because of their "it doesn't have to make sense, it just is" attitude. This idea defies the logic that man has refined over the centuries and I decided there is no use for non-sense in my insecure teen age years.

The real activism and aggression towards Christianity was when I started getting into death metal in my junior and senior years of high school. The city I live in, Poway, California, is a very religious city I guess one could say. But there is a diversity of religions such as Mormonism, Judaism, Christianity and others. The door to door Jehovah's Witnesses are always good for a heated debate on why I do not need a god in my life, and how all they have achieved with god I have achieved without such non-sense.

Finally, when the going gets tough, I pull the Christian logic out and use it for my advantage. If someone asks why I do not believe in god and that I will burn in hell for not believing in god I say "I would rather burn in hell for eternity than to spend eternity in heaven with a bunch of fundamentalist Christians such as yourself." As you can see, death metal has had a lasting impression but since the atheist doesn't live his or her life according to fairytales then we can be safe to say we will just rot in the ground when we die.

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From: "Yowen"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: De-Conversion Story
Date: August 01, 2002 1:54 AM

My deconversion. Atheists are often said to be immoral, that we do not think that about really happened. My free-thinking parents let me choose for myself what to believe in and, as will happen in most cases if no strong religious influence is forced on someone, I became an atheist.

From reading about some of the pressure forced on other atheists by their families, I can realise how lucky I am. I also think that while atheists are often said to be immoral by ignorant or lying theists, we should not do what they accuse of us doing. I have many theist friends who are perfectly fine about atheists and do not think we are evil or doomed to Hell. All these theist friends have an open mind about most things, Some are even turning atheist or agnostic, but not because of me preaching my position, rather, because they have trained themselves to have open, scientific minds.

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From: "Ryan Cox"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: My deconversion story
Date: August 08, 2002 11:58 PM

I have always been skeptical of religion since the age I was able to reason. I was raised in a family that attempted to have religion, but instead, decided to corrupt itself with its own selfish motives. That is, I had (and still have) a complete lack of morals around me.

I was on a quest to find a moral code that I believed, so I studied religion, science, and history to a great extent to help me find these answers. I found no answers other than atheism that would suffice.

When I was in 8th grade, I was studying my cousin's biology book, which happened to teach evolution. I remember hearing things about how evolution was "incorrect" according to the sometimes Christian media. I did not completely dismiss the idea of god at this time, but it caused me to invalidate the idea of an actual organized religion because they were inelastic and unable to accept change or new ideas because their "holy" scripture was infallible. This was the beginning of my deconversion to atheism.

When I went to high school (which I am currently in. I am currently a senior of age 17 in Indiana) I was bombarded with a plethora of religious propaganda from teachers and, especially, other students. They wondered how I could possibly doubt the Christian faith. Well, that criticism tossed me over the edge. I began to research the "Holy Bible" (along with other religions) diligently on my newfound quest to disprove 2,000 years of "Jesus mind control".

I found the ideas expressed in wonderful piece of fiction completely illogical as pertaining to the real world. The characters (including god) were too full of bias to be able to unconditionally love. I found that science was a strong opposition to the story of religion. I found that most religions (especially Catholicism) promoted more hatred and selfishness than they do acceptance and selflessness. The thing that I found most shocking was the fact that the idea of free will was claimed to exist in the Bible. Why, if god had some special plan for the human race, would god give man free will? To give them a chance to fail? To condemn them to hell for not accepting him even though he gives no real proof of existence of himself?

I think not.

Man possesses the great power of intellect, of reason. A god would need machines, not dissidents.

After I reasoned this out, I became an ardent atheist. I have hope that much of society will remove the shroud of religion from their eyes in my lifetime, but it seems unlikely in a place like the one where I live until I go to college, where I hope to find a more liberal group of people accepting of atheism. Until that day, I thank you, Mr. Walker, for organizing PAM magazine. It has been a sanctuary from a corrupt world of deception.

Thank you again.

Ryan Cox

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From: "Toni Van Gothere"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: My De-Conversion Story
Date: August 11, 2002 2:31 PM

When I was eighteen I had a band that broke up when the drummer became a born-again Christian. He was my best friend, so I went with him. It was easy because I was raised catholic and already believed in Jesus and everything, and now I had finally really started being more fervent about my beliefs, which offended the Catholics I knew.

I joined a Christian rock band called "Altar Boys" and made my living going around playing concerts. After every show young people would gather to hear us tell them how to get Jesus to solve their problems. When nobody's problems were solved, including mine, I quit the band and went to school to study psychology, so I could do a better job at counseling. I took a number of philosophy courses as well. I never learned how to solve other people's problems, but I did learn some very important concepts which have solved many of my own problems.

One such concept is critical thinking. They didn't teach critical thinking in the Catholic schools when I attended, so I had to learn it as an adult. At first I thought "uh oh, this practice could lead one to doubt god." But then I realized that no supreme being would have a problem with me wanting to test the things that were said about him. Didn't the Bible say "pursue wisdom" anyway? So I realized that everything I had believed about unseen beings, the origin of the universe, the meaning of life, had been dictated to me by people who were no more capable of accurately determining these things than I was. Anything that one person says to another about unseen beings is hearsay.

Also if became clear that if "God" is supposed to be the most supreme being imaginable on all imaginable dimensions, then clearly no god of any theistic religion was that being. I reasoned that if knowing the nature and will of god is so important that your soul suffers eternally if you get it wrong, then a supreme being would not play 'hide and seek' with people's immortal souls at stake. I reasoned that if God is supposedly the most supremely advanced ethically, he would at least be as ethically advanced as the best of mankind, and the best of mankind does not require a man to be crucified and people to wash in that man's blood, symbolically or otherwise.

If I want to look back at my years as a Christian and lament the loss of time, I blame no one but myself. People who are as religious as I was are so because it serves them at the time, and (I can't help but borrow this ine from Madonna's "Substitute for Love") when I started, I got exactly what I asked for, wanting it so badly, and running, rushing back for more, I suffered fools so gladly.

Some say without god, how do you know if life has any meaning or purpose. I say in the absence of divine purpose, each persons life does have meaning. A person's life means whatever that person says it means, and whatever he or she means to those who love them. The meaning is more real this way, because a person is real, not invisible, not on some mystic plane.

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To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: FORUM_My_De-Conversion_Story
Date: August 15, 2002 9:33 AM

I was raised a Catholic, even though I'm only 17 now, and I thought "this sh¡t doesn't make any sense". If my god is the one true god, why were there other gods thought up before he was? If he is the one true god, are all the non-believers of him going to hell? Other stuff has slipped my mind, and I don't want to get molested, hahaha. Quoting the great Otep -- Your god is a fraud.

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From: "Sally Brown"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: FORUM_My_De-Conversion_Story
Date: August 17, 2002 10:06 AM

When I was about 6 years old, my divorced mom was on a quest to find a religious fellowship to belong to. For a while each Sunday she took my sister and I church-hunting, visiting many denominations of the protestant faith; Methodist, Lutheran, Episcopalian, Fundamentalist, modern Fundamentalist, Evangelical, Seventh Day Adventists and even Mormon. She settled on a fundamentalist Baptist church, and from that point on we were religious, diligently attending Sunday morning and evening services, Wednesday evening prayer meetings and all special church events.

I believed in all of it. I tried hard to learn as much as possible. I tried not to get bored and distracted during Sunday sermons. I enjoyed all the social events. I took Jesus into my heart. I walked down the aisle during the weekly come-to-Jesus invocation. I was baptised. I tried to be a good Christian. Years went by. I thought a lot about all the messages I received in services and sunday school. I started asking why. I had only a few questions at the time, but no one could answer them satisfactorily. Things like "Why did God create us?" and "Why is there a trinity?" and "Why do girls have to wear dresses to church?" It was the early 1970's. I was starting to think and reason. I asked more and more questions. I started getting one consistent answer from all believers: you must have faith. Continued analysis resulted in one consistent answer to myself: it doesn't make sense.

Start with the main question of why do we exist. There is no possible explanation for why God would create humans that is consistent with what we are taught is the nature of God. I was told that humans lacked the intellectual capacity to understand why God created us (then how could any of us understand anything about God?). I was chastised for who do I think I am to question the motives of God (was He an insecure dictator who will break your legs if you don't keep quiet?). I was told I must just have faith in God and all things would become clear (but of course I had tried this and things indeed were still muddled). I was told God created us to worship him (was He that vain?), that he created us because he wanted a world of children to observe (like my barbie dolls in their house?), that he wanted to create beauty (what about the ugliness?) and test free will (but he already knew the outcome right?) and challenge his angels (we were being used as pawns?) and that he just did it because he could (an egomaniac demonstrating his power?). Whatever. Again, nothing that made any sense at all, nor did it impress me as to the type of God I was dealing with. So why would God create us? There just was no explanation.

Then of course there were all those ridiculous stories and rules from the Bible and from the church leaders themselves. At the time I bought into it all lock, stock and barrel. But when my basic questions about God could not get reasonable answers, I started questioning all of these one by one, little by little. I would get no reasonable answers to any questions I asked, like "Why can't women be deacons?" There was one woman in church who was a dynamo -- always getting things done. She served as a deacon temporarily when there was an emergency vacancy, but took herself out of that role as soon as possible because she was tormented that she was going against God's will in doing a man's job. She was the best deacon the church had ever had, but she nearly had a nervous breakdown over it. I was also growing up and learning to be an individual, thinking for myself and preparing for adulthood and relying less and less on my parents to take care of me. I felt strong and young and hopeful and like I could be and do anything, but the role of women in the church started to make me aware that I would have to look elsewhere if I wanted to succeed and prove myself as a person who also happened to be female. Little things they were trying to teach me to keep me in my place started making me rebel against the church even more.

I declared myself an atheist at age 16. What a sense of freedom and fear I felt at the time. I knew it felt right, but then what if I was wrong. Maybe all that propaganda about the devil getting inside your head was true. Maybe I was being duped by the devil! How could I test it? I prayed sometimes just in case. I started asking for some kind of proof, any proof. I prayed to God and to the devil. No response. Sometimes I even shouted out to God "you are evil and I hate you and I hereby blaspheme you. Do your worst to me!" Of course, nothing happened. After a couple years of being away from the church I settled down into a very ordinary life speckled by normal highs and lows, completely devoid of both God and the Devil. I became utterly convinced that I was on the side of truth and had no more fear that I had renounced the imaginary God.

I'm now 41, and I find that 25 years later I've never been proved wrong. I feel like I was living in a drug-induced fog under religious influence, and once free of that was able to truly see the light. I laugh at religious people who try to scare me into adopting their beliefs by threatening the whole "burn in hell" thing. I worry about the religiosity of the world and the power wielded by the majority -- especially Muslims (whom I worried about way before September 11), who somehow are able to believe in the B.S. I resent my family members who insist on praying for and pitying me because I am a "fallen Christian," though I resent them even more for making me hold hands and say grace and other prayers with them at every gathering -- imagine if I insisted they not pray in order to respect my beliefs! I resign myself to not getting my point across, because arguing with a religious zealot is like trying to reason with someone on PCP. I carry on, knowing I'm right and hoping the world stays sane enough to continue allowing people to find the truth.

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From: "Bill Troy"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: Positive_Atheism_Letters_Section
Date: August 23, 2002 12:52 PM

I was raised in an average Christian home. My parents were normal Christians (not the crazy snake-handling, hands-laying, spirit-filled, tounges-babbling type), and we joined a middle-of-the-road Methodist church in a Texas suburb.

I was also a Boy Scout, and an Eagle Scout no less! These days, the Boy Scouts seem to want to make themselves out to sound like a church. It was not always this way. My troop was never very pushy about religion, though. We even had at least one member who professed to be an atheist. The most we ever had to do was, at each campout, listen to a five-minute reading out of one of those little pocket Bibles (New Testament only, of course).

It wasn't until I was in high school that I started to get more religious. When I was a freshman, there was a boy on my school bus who had moved in from out of town. (I'll call him Bus Boy.) He always wore a sweater with its arms tied around his neck -- kind of looked like a freaky Ken doll! What made him further stand out from the crowd was that he was always "witnessing" to the other kids. Granted we were in Texas, which is pretty much the Boil on the Bible Butt, but most kids could not "talk Jesus" with a straight face. It wasn't cool. So, the fact that he did so impressed me -- never mind the fact that he seemed to only witness to girls.

At about that same time, a nice girl in my English class handed me a little card on which she wrote, "Jesus loves you." I guess I was tickled at the attention a girl was giving me, so I began to think that maybe there was something to these Jesus-People.

So, I broke out of the Mild Methodist Mold and started listening to Christian talk radio shows like Bob Larson and others. It offered easy access to the kind of sensationalistic, evangelical message I had heard Bus Boy speaking about. Within a month or so, I had accepted Jesus "into my heart" as my "personal lord and savior". I believed in my heart the whole line of doctrine, and just knew I had found the answer.

My love affair with fundamentalism lasted about two years. Why? Christian radio talk shows were actually my fundamentalist faith's Omega as well as its Alpha! You see, many of the guests or callers for these shows were the type of people who liked to bash evolution, atheists, Democrats, etc., and to denounce this or that class of people as contributing to the general decline of western civilization, and the coming "end times". The sheer negativism which came bundled with these folks' "good news" was beginning to drag me down.

From those radio shows, I learned about Creationism, and about the alleged "lie" of evolution. I heard that the the world was only 10,000 years old, and that dinosaurs and people used to frollick together (probably mostly people running away from dinosaurs!), and how God intentionally (deceptively) made the fossil record to look like it was millions of years old so as to make blind faith necessary. Maybe the average Fundamentalist might have accepted this at face value, but I had always had a healthy respect for knowledge obtained through science. So, this was a bit of a tall order.

I went to a big backwoods summer camp in New Mexico, called Philmont Scout Ranch, with my Scout troop. There, I learned about the Tooth of Time, an igneous mountain which dated back several millions of years. Here was Scouting, a supposedly religious-based institution, teaching me about the old earth! I looked around at all the pine trees in "God's Country", expecting to find the wondrous fingers of Creation pointing to their Creator! Instead, all I found were a bunch of leaves, flowers, cow-pies, and horse-flies contentedly refusing to comment on the whole matter. It was then that I began to realize that you could be a Christian without being a extremist or a science-bashing Fundamentalist.

I continued association with my old Methodist church, though I did not find it particularly interesting intellectually. The hyped rantings of Fundamentalist theologians were more exciting (which makes me wonder if entertainment isn't an important aspect of popular religion). Although I had walked away from Fundamentalist Christianity, the impressions which the radio talk shows had had on me remained for several years. During the time that I had listened, I heard speakers constantly droning on about the way in which the Old Testament so obviously predicted the deeds of Jesus. They placed such a high importance on the "witness of the Old Testament" that I continued to believe it it was important even after I had returned to Methodism. This eventually led to my faith crumbling away entirely because, a few years later, I made the mistake of actually reading the Old Testament in whole. The Fundamentalist claims did not hold up.

College was the state-run right-wing Texas A&M University, a place where the minds (like the streets) are narrow, come with many holes, and are closed half the time. And this is how the Aggies say they like it. Needless to say, there were many Fundamentalist Christians there, and very little to stimulate their thoughts.

I had pretty much given up going to church because it was a waste of my time. Sermons were nothing but a one-way monologue espousing one man's rehashing of the church's official party line. Scripture readings were selective and there was no place for questioning. So, I continued to study on my own -- without peer pressure or spoon-fed sermons. Nothing is more dangerous to an established religion that truly individual study.

By the time I was half-way through college, I had read all of the supposed "messianic prophecies" in the Old Testament (Isaiah 7:14 and Isaiah 53 being two of the most highly touted). I read them in their actual pre-Jesus context, and saw quite clearly that they fit perfectly into that context. But, to make them apply to Christianity required too much hood-winking and downright mistranslation.

I was sitting in the Memorial Student Center, reading my Bible, highlighting the places where contradictions existed, when a man came up an put his hand on my knee. Startled, I jumped. And he said, "Excuse me, but, I noticed you were reading the Bible." Thinking this was a rather odd come-on, I looked down at the book in my lap and then back up at him and said, "Yes. It's true."

He introduced himself as Pastor John (that's not his real name), from one of the Christian youth fellowships there -- as he noted, a "Non-Denominational group". "Well La-Dee-Da!" I thought to myself, "Thank God, because you know those denominational ones can be so frightening. Okay, let me guess what this guy wants."

Well, the good pastor just wanted me to join his flock, and I thought, "Oh, what the hell, why not see what it's like?" I had essentially realized that Christianity was a bunch of hooey based on unimpeded, personal study of the Bible, reading it for myself, and not just selected passages chosen for me by a study group leader. So, I half-expected what I was to encounter. At the Wednesday night meeting, I met the flock. They were sufficiently nice, though a socially awkward bunch of kids. One girl came up to me and said she was so glad I had decided to join them, and not a rival Christian student union, because, as she put it, that group was a cult! Of course, I later discovered that I could not rely on her spiritual discernment since, the next semester, she was always trying to get into my roommate's friend's pants -- even though he was gay!

Anyway, at the Wednesday night meetings, Pastor John and his kids gathered in a circle and read the selected verses. They were asked to discuss how they thought they related to another preselected topic. At one point, they talked about the various ways in which Satan could hinder the believer against God's plan. I decided to get the ball rolling, and noted how, according to the Old Testament, Satan was merely a servant of God. Well, now! Didn't this raise a few eyebrows! These kids had never heard of this fact since their biblical education had always controlled by their church.

Then, whenever I was asked to read the selected, New Testament passages, I would (when I could) read just a little further, and sneak in anything which included Jesus promising his followers that he would return in his second coming within their lifetimes. That was always a real "Bible-burster" for me, I guess. But, I don't think this little failed prophecy even registered in the brains of those kids who were sitting in the circle 2,000 years after the deadline!

After that, I pretty much wrote off all Christian denominations as intrinsically blind to the the errors of their religion, and proceded to study the writings of other Biblical critics. Since then, I've learned about the contradictions of the gospels; the discrepancies in the resurrection accounts; the incongruity between the god of the Old Testament and the god(s) of the New Testament; the bogus nature of the messianic prophecies; and the bloody history of this religion down through the centuries. Ideally, Christianity has some good points, like teaching that we should be nice to people and stuff, but none of that originates from Christianity, and is contained in Buddhism and other peaceful philosophies. I figure we'd be better off with those philosophies rather than one which demands the bloodshed of the innocent to save the guilty.

And, that, in a nutshell, is the story of my becoming both an Eagle Scout and an Atheist. I will attest to my belief that Christianity is just one more problematic religion in a sea of them.

Scout's Honor!

(I wonder if the Bus Boy has figured this out yet!)

Bill

Graphic Rule

From: "Jason Deese"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: FORUM_My_De-Conversion_Story
Date: June 20, 2002 6:43 PM

Mine was really simple:

One day, when I was four or five years old, I got to stay home from church while my mother and four siblings went to church. I was able to spend some quality time with my father. I asked him a question about god and heaven, and was astonished by his reply: some people do not believe in god and heaven!

Well, I don't remember the specifics about the conversation, but do remember never believing after that point. Unfortunately, I was forced to continue going to church for an additional seven or eight years, when I finally exclaimed "I'm sick of this shit!!" (grounded two weeks). From that point, I never had to go to church again.

Throughout my life, I have pretty much remained quiet about my atheistic views, unless pressed by others or asked to go to church. I held a "don't make waves" philosophy. As a military officer, however, I have experienced quite a bit of "forced observance," as every ceremony or formal dinner begins with some sort of prayer. It is to the extent that I feel my constitutional rights have been violated. Once again, I am "sick of this shit!!" After all, I have signed on a dotted line that I will die to defend the Constitution of the United States (freedom of and from religion, in part). I'm pretty interested in finding out if there is any legal history about organized prayer in the military. I've seen some stuff on VMI (paramilitary but state funded), but not a whole lot on the mainstream military. I'd like to hear from any of you, if you are aware of anything along those lines.

Jason

Graphic Rule

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