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From: "Ken Hark"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: WebMaster:_Positive_Atheism_Index
Date: Thursday, January 18, 2001 4:32 AM

I was into the Christian faith until I finally read and thought my way out of it. While I was a Christian , I did find out that the US was mostly a Godless lot until the Great Awakening sometime around 1840 when the Christian Scientists, Seventh-Day Adventists, Mormons, and Jehovah Witnesses all came charging out of up state New York around 1840. Now I'm trying to get a handle on the true history. The Christians now are saying that this nation was godly from it's beginning. I'm certain it was not. Can you help me find sources of the true history? I just went on line and here came the Born-Agains with barrels full of bullshit. I have been ask to speak at the Unitarian Church. This one my planned topics. The other one is going to be" Morality with out God" I've already spoke about the "Separation of Church and State". I obtained much material from Your sources for that one. You are a great service to us out here.

Thanks again,

Ken Hark

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From: "AC"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: FORUM My De-Conversion Story 9371
Date: Wednesday, July 11, 2001 7:19 PM

Hiya,

My deconversion story? Well, it all started when I was 9, my father (a bachelor of divinity with a degree in theology) is a good man and has always treated me with love and kindness since day one. But I can't help feeling bitter about all the times I got dragged out to church on Sunday morning. When I could have been lying in bed or watching cartoons, I was sat in a freezing cold, smelly church listening to some Intelligent but oh-so-boring person blabbering on, trying to strike the 'fear of god' into me. The hour long services seemed like five hour long services and quite frankly I hated the whole thing, it wasn't helped by the fact that the church he went to was the strictest in Scotland.

Unfortunately the truth is it did strike the fear of god to me, I couldn't do anything fun without hearing that nagging question in my head -- is this breaking any commandments? At that age I was gullible enough to believe that a single unrepented sin would cause me to go straight to hell -- to appeals, no questions asked.

Obviously, these rather selfish reasons aren't the only things which have prompted me to ditch religion. The first time I realized that religion breeds hate and intolerance was the Omagh bombing over in Northern Ireland, it was the first time I realized that the 'troubles' weren't anything to do with Northern Ireland staying British or joining up with Southern Ireland, It was really about religion, British Protestants against Irish Catholics.

Second came the realisation that the Yugoslavian civil war was all about religion too! Muslims vs Orthodox Christians.

The straw that broke the Jesus-camel's back was the Nuremberg Files website which I believe is located at www.christiangallery.com, I saw this several months ago and was totally mortified by what I found. A site which used Christianity to advocate the murder of abortionists and the women who have them performed. There is a list on that site which lists the names of abortionists then simply crosses off names as 'fatalities' when one of their warped supporters goes out and murders them!

This hit home on a much less distant level than the troubles or even the Balkans which at the time were nothing more than something on the TV to me. It made me realize once and for all that religion is the root cause of almost all of the bigotry, intolerance, war, and hate in the entire world.

I'm 16 years old now, and I know it ain't happening in my lifetime, but I hope one day that our human race will have evolved far enough so that it doesn't need a 'security blankey' like religion and that science will have answered all the questions that troubled ancient man as he invented religion to explain them away.

AC

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From: "No.6"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Date: Friday, May 04, 2001 2:23 AM

Hi Cliff,

What a great site, I visit all the time, well, when I get the time.

I am a PhD student in biology at the University of New Mexico, not a very Christian subject unless you're talking about "creation science." I'd like to relate my own story about deconversion from being a Christian. I was supposedly raised as a Catholic, although my mother stopped attending church when I was about 6. I attended private Catholic school for two years and to tell you the truth I have mostly bad memories of that experience. Since discovering your site I have relived many of those memories and more.

Some of my earliest memories of Catholic private school include nuns punishing me for being disorganized (I was in first grade for gods sake) and telling me that Jesus himself would not stand for such disorderliness. Great way to start a relationship with the almighty eh? We all wore the typical uniforms, dark blue pants and light blue shirt for the boys, little plaid blue skirts and blue shirts for the gals. One wonders where the Catholic school girl fetish arose from (unless we consider theories posited by evolutionary psychology, or should I say evilutionary) as Catholic school was not a bright and happy time for me. When entering the second grade my parents could no longer afford to send me to Our Lady of the Annunciation and I was off to public school. (An interesting side note here is that my father is an atheist, having gone to seminary school while simultaneously taking classes in biology and chemistry. Needless to say he discovered the two did not mesh well.) I remember taking one last check into the office and being reprimanded by the principle for not having my uniform on. Later I would realize that this conformity was just grooming me to be ready for service to our lord. While in public school I had a classmate who would not listen to a record which another kid brought from home. He covered his ears and refused. When I asked him why he told me that his father said those who listen to the rock and roll music were certain to burn in the lake of fire. This was in second grade. Sadly I considered this. How does a kid that young counter a story such as that?

How does a young undeveloped mind deal with something as adult in nature as hell and eternity? My fear of hell was strong. My fear of the great god in heaven was strong. He could see all, know all, be everywhere. Oh no, he knew all the bad thoughts that were in my head, he knew and he'd send me to that burning lake! All I could do was say that I was sorry, constantly. Repent and ye shall be forgiven, even though I, the lord almighty, hath programed your mind to think the way it does.

This was how I thought. Oddly enough I also had basic questions that no one could answer, for example, where did god come from? Was he always there? Who made god? Where did he get all this stuff to make everything? I obsessed over this as a child, obsessed to the point of panic even. Once I formulated the thought that maybe god didn't need any motive force to create himself, maybe he just came from nothing, zero energy. An oddly sophisticated thought for a kid. That did not compute. I liken it now to trying to divide something by zero. The computer crashes. I had such crashes. I panicked often. Perhaps I was not looking at it right, I was not using my "eye of faith." In any case, I wasn't going to accept it. So, instead of thinking about it, I dropped the subject for years, avoiding the question of god and his existence beyond the fact that he existed and knew everything I was thinking.

When I was in the fifth grade my mother decided that I needed to go through Catechism. It was boring. I would sit in the classroom while the nun quoted scripture after scripture. It is interesting that I paid so little attention. I could not. God's word just wasn't that interesting to me. It had never been. Years earlier I would get into trouble with my mother for pushing Bibles along the pews and pretending that they were cars during mass. In any case, when the big day arrived and I went to give confession, I could not think of a sin I had committed. I sat before the priest, clueless as to what to confess to. The pressure was on. The priest then began to ask me questions about my daily life in an attempt to find something for me to confess to. It all came down to him asking me if I treated my parents as I treated my pets. He asked me that very question, do you treat your parents like you treat your cat and dog. Now here is the interesting bit, I said yes, thinking to myself that I treated my pets with as much love as I treated my parents. Yes, I did treat them very well. They were my pets! What normal kid does not love his or her pets? I felt that this was true, I loved my parents, I would not want to be separated from them, it was the same for my pets. So I said yes. To the priest this meant that I was treating my parents like dogs. "Ah" said he, "You should really treat your parents better." I was confused, but I figured it out fast, this priest had turned my innocent kid emotions, love for my pets, love for my parents, into something that fit the needs of the moment. I was a sinner who was treating my parents like dogs. I had to have sinned, everyone sins. It was humiliating. I left confused. I had worked for this moment and it was, as the nun had told us, going to be a great wonderful god loves you moment. It was not. It was embarrassing. It was dishonest and I knew it. In my answer of yes I had meant yes in the absolute best way, I love my pets I love my parents. Years later I would finally admit to myself that the whole damn thing felt rigged. Then, when I was in junior high, 11-13 years of age, I developed some very serious problems with my old faith. I was very interested in girls, I was thinking of them constantly, in less than "innocent" ways. God knew, and he was pissed. I was racking up my tickets to the lake of fire my the second. I even tried to stop swearing at one point so as not to offend the creator. It never caught on. When I was 13 I remember reading something about the apocalypse. It was in a classroom, which is a frightening thought to me today. It described the commotion about the year 1000 coming to pass and the incredible things that people were claiming. Later in life I would realize that this is all a bunch of bullshit. The article the went on to question the happenings of the year 2000. This thought would not leave my mind for years to come. Too bad the real millennium was 2001. These sorts of things would happen all too often and I would fret about them constantly. I would also fret about nuclear war, but looking back on history I was much more justified in worrying about that than worrying about god smiting me.

When I was a freshman in high school I read revelations. I was depressed and afraid for days. Another thing to fret about, another thing to worry about. Hellfire and damnation. Yikes. How nice to be 15 and in fear. When the Gulf War started I remember the TV evangelists taking advantage of the situation and claiming that the signs were in place, Saddam was rebuilding Babylon, tanks and war machines all fit the prophecies. Bad bad bad! Jesus was on his way and man was he pissed. I just knew he was going to sick his plagues on me. I just knew I was guilty even though I had asked forgiveness. Terrified by all these things I began to question god's infinite love for me. I was just a kid. I could not help feeling the way I felt about the girls. Does not the Bible say that the simple act of looking at a woman with "evil" intent in one's mind constitutes adultery? I was particularly hell-bound. God was awfully unfair. Why did he tempt me so? Why did he put these girls here to tempt me? I tried to make philosophical excuses. Its to test my faith, that's why. When I was a small child I had taken an interest in astronomy and now that was coming into question. Why did the Bible say the earth was flat when it clearly is not? I tried to explain this to myself, another test of faith? Why is the sun so old, why is the earth so old? All this science was leading me down the path to perdition. It was opening up doors to things like evilution. In years past I had learned that dinosaurs had dominated the earth millions of years ago. No mention of such dinosaurs in the holy book. Why not? I still had that question but now I was faced with Jesus and his glorious (albeit painful for myself and all the other sinners out there) return. How could I stand before god and say that I believed in dinosaurs or fantastically old stars? God would surely cast me into the lake. How horrible would be my punishment. Why it said so in the great Bible. And my questions about that very book were still unanswered. My mother told me it was written by men who received god's word and they were bound to make mistakes. It is her answer to her own questions, but more on that later.

Well, the gulf war ended and no Jesus. Saddam continues to build Babylon, or so someone wanted me to believe as I cannot really verify that, and no Jesus. Where the hell was the guy, I was expecting the four horsemen and all I was getting was algebra, evilution, and increasingly flirty girls. At one point I engaged in a serious conversation with one of the more religious young women who went to high school with me. I asked her about the signs, the end times, Jesus, forgiveness etc. Someone had to explain these things to me as my own explainations were, in a Christian sense, not adequate. The Bible wasn't cutting it but I couldn't accept that because it would get my ass a one way ticket to perdition (is that the right term or is perdition=oblivion or purgatory?) Oddly enough my questions were too much for her. She could not answer them. She referenced me to a pastor at her church. I never went. The only thing I gleaned from those conversations was that there were not enough signs yet for the world to be ending. Great, I started to look for the other signs. Some were there I suppose. They seem so open to interpretation now that I suppose one could look at various times in history and make the case that the world was ending then!

The whole Christian thing was starting to fall apart. I was a doubter. I wasn't sure anymore. I was afraid. If there is no god then what? If there is then I am screwed. What is a kid to do?

College was the end.

I began as a physics major, facing real scientists who made no mention of god or Jesus but just cold, hard, verifiable facts. The universe is old, man likely evolved from more primitive life forms. Evilution was very llkely the cause of all the variation in life forms we see today etc etc. I had ethical prblems as well. I was meeting people who were not Christians, people who beleived differently. Nice people in fact. People who were going to hell because they weren't into Jesus. But how, how could god justify sending them to hell? How could this great loving god send these folks, who were my frieinds, who ARE my friends, to hell just for not confoming. It was frustrating. I asked my mother. She said she did not beleive god would do such a thing. Not even to Hitler. Not to anyone. My faith eroded. I did not ask her anymore. I feared that I would bring the same erosion to her, or worse, that she would be ashamed of me. I took my first class in evilution when I was a junior. It was Evolution of Human Sexuality. Taught by Randy Thornhill, who recently wrote a book on rape. My jaw dropped, I was stunned, my mind changed. I saw everything differently. Everything. My already eroded faith was nothing but a mudslide. The light of Jesus does not compare to the light of reason. I had already had firm doubts, I had already heard evolution and so forth, but that class was probably the greatest blow to my faltering faith. Here was evidence, clear, logical evidence, that man had no other origin. It made sense. It ran the same gamut of skepticism, the same sort of scrutiny, that god did. God failed where science succeeded. there was no more God-did-it, no more relying on the big guy for anything. Nope. None.

The final death knell would come in the form of a Christian fundamentalist who visited our campus one fine spring afternoon. He called himself Brother Jim, stood atop a grassy hill, and told us the story of how he come into gods glory. The University of New Mexico is not the best place to do this, it is a liberal campus with a lot of free thinking. People argued with his brand of staunch fundamentalism. He said at one point that women were to be subject to their men because, you guessed it, the big Bible said so. A Christian that I went to high school with stood up and disagreed. After a heated exchange he told the gathering crowd that "this woman is not fit to be married." Guh?

From that point on I heckled him, I stood at a higher point and started asking him about my ethical dilemmas. How he knew I was hell bound, how he knew that I wasa sinner simply because I was in a fraternity. Which is a den of "sin" I admit, but only if you're a Christian. I asked him about the inconsistency in the Bible, the contradiction, how god could order that we not kill and then order us to kill in his name. "Is Gandhi in hell?" I asked him. He started to ignore me and continue preaching. But I had started a fire and soon there were a multitude of people standing there arguing with this man. When he finished he blessed our "dark hearts" and told us that he is suing some university somewhere for interfering with his 1st amendment right. I suppose that was a threat. I am still not sure what that comment was supposed to mean. What I saw that day destroyed any tiny shred of faith. Here was one Christian denouncing another in the name of the same god that they both worshipped. Guh? I realized that the same shit was happening in Ireland. No longer could I be a Christian. I renounced it. I even said the words aloud.

No more Jesus.

Over the years more Christians have visited the campus, I have been annoyed with them, spoke my mind, found them to be unfair in their tactics and have decided that they are not worth the effort. Each time a large crowd gathers, people begin to heckle, and the frustrated Christian leave having made some stupid comment or other. Then one day I was talking to my mother, the Catholic. She told me that she wanted me to be confirmed so I could be married in the Catholic church. "Mom," said I, "I am not a Christian." My mother was shocked, "yes you are! You believe in Jesus don't you?"

"Yes, I believe there might have been a man named Jesus who opposed the Jewish hierarchy, but whether he is the son of God I cannot say." was my reply. My fears of shame did not materialize. My mother accepted and life went on the same way it had gone for years. No judgement, no preaching, nothing. Acceptance. But one thing I have never done is try to convince my mother of gods non existence. If it comforts her so be it. She never preaches, I never rebut. This was something that I found people to have a hard time understanding. I try to convince no one of anything regarding existence of gods etc. Unless you are talking science that I can either verify or not, it isn't worth my time.

I have had discussions with my mother about religion since, and about what I think is wrong with Christians. Its strange that she agrees so much with my thoughts. She believes that her god is a fair and just one who will not send her son to the burning pits of hell simply for not being an Christian. On the same note I think she has never really scrutinized the Bible and I am not about to point out its faults to her. Let sleeping dogs lie. So that is my story. I am an atheist in the sense that I lack a god belief. I see no evidence for a divine god (or "super cloud man" as a friend of mine and I affectionately call him).

I will say that I believe that reality is far more complex than our minds can comprehend. If it does indeed include some form of higher intelligence, I'd have to think that that intelligence wants nothing to do with us, since it has never once called me up to chat.

This raises another point about atheism that I think people do not understand. Atheists can still hold philosophical views. Some people don't believe it. I read a lot of eastern philosophy, I find it fascinating. I have read the Tao Te Ching several times, I have read teaching of the Buddha several times. I cannot recall the Tao pointing to a heaven or hell or whether or not I should stab the guy next door for being Jewish. Its just an interpretation of reality. Something that, in a sense, is up for interpretation. But Christians cannot accept this. Oddly enough their book tells them what reality is and that's it.

Oh well, so much for that.

OK anyway, I apologize for the random ranting at the end there. I am very much into Zen and Taoism but I'd never pawn it off on anyone. If you include this letter, please feel free to edit it for brevity, typos (there should be several since I am a very sloppy typist), and other errors. It was mostly stream of consciousness.

Thanks for the great website and much luck with everything.

Phill Baker

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From: "Lana"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: De-conversion
Date: Sunday, July 08, 2001 5:42 AM

I never have believed in Christianity, but the point when the full realization of how ill-conceived the entire religion is came when I was six. We were learning how to read in school, so I picked up a Bible and started flipping through out of curiosity. Suddenly the thought struck me that god couldn't very well have created him/herself, so where could "he" possibly have come from? It's plain impossible. If there was nothing before god, how could some being just spontaneously form out of thin air? And no Christians I've met have even placed great thought on that question. How scary.

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From: "vania iankova"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: my de-conversion story
Date: Monday, May 28, 2001 4:38 PM

Hi, I've enjoyed reading others' deconversion stories many times and I've decided it's a good idea to write my own one too.

I live in a small country in Eastern Europe called Bulgaria. I am 20 years old and study English Philology at a local university.

Well, I was brought up as an Eastern Orthodox Christian, which is the dominant religion in Bulgaria. My father is very religious and he naturally influenced my world-view from an early age. Since my early childhood through my teenage years I was a fanatic believer and a regular church-goer. I couldn't realise there was something very important missing in my life. I had no social life, no friends, no boy-friend -- religion was everything for me, I devoted my time to prayers and reading religious stuff.

When the winter of this year came, I realised I couldn't go on like that any more. I was not happy. I began to search for atheistic sites on the Internet in order to get more info about atheism. I discovered your site and -- it changed my life. This is not merely a compliment, no! Your site changed my life.

Learning more and more about atheism I accepted the world-view which it offers and I feel happier now because I concentrate on my life here and now and I freed myself from the illusions about afterlife. I don't believe in god any more either.

When I was changing my world view it was the biggest emotional crisis in my life till now. As if a new human being was born-more mature and more clever. Information can change your life!

I'd love to see my story on your site!Please notify me if you decide to put it there!

Thanks for changing my life for the better!

Vanya Yankova

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From:
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: My deconversion story and some other stuff :)
Date: Thursday, July 05, 2001 12:04 AM

A friend of a friend in the college where I was a music major raped me, not violently just wouldn't hear take "no" for an answer "because I love you so much I had to" and, broke and emotionally shattered, I wound up moving in with him. Several months later I found myself in the delivery room giving birth to a child I was too abused and depressed to admit to myself I was pregnant with. My father, a Presbyterian elder, told me "you made your bed, now you have to lie in it." Social worker: "Do you want to talk to an adoption counselor, honey?" Me: "No, God gave me this baby as a consequence of my behavior; he entrusted me with this child so I could learn to be a good mother and a good person, and I have faith that He won't let this sparrow fall." In obedience to God I married the baby's father.

He beat me again but this time I got away by some chance, running through cold wet streets, not knowing where I was going, until I reached the church on the corner -- sanctuary, safety, warm red-velvet-cushioned pews, I'm a Christian and this is the House of my Father, oh Father save me! I crawled shaking up the steps hoping nobody was looking at me in my shame, wondering why a badly-dressed unkempt bloody-mouthed young woman was going to church on Tuesday afternoon; I just hoped the preacher wouldn't blame me again and tell me it was my fault. The door was locked and noone answered my knock. I knocked again and again, went around to the side door and knocked, went back to the front door and knocked; no response, not a sound. I sat down and cried and felt a little better. God just didn't mean for me to be too comfortable right now, he wanted a sacrifice, he wanted me to prove I was sincere, that I repented. The widow in the Bible gave two mites, all she had; I had three dollars, all the money I had been able to sneak out of the grocery money he suspiciously doled out to me from my paycheck. I folded up the money, stuck it in the door handle, believed that this time the Lord would have to listen and help me because I trusted him so much.

I cried all night the first night and the Salvation Army shelter worker shook his head in disgust when he heard the story. The social worker at the battered women's shelter took my three-year-old away, out of my arms, and gave him to a woman in a car. She put me in another car and drove me to the Salvation Army. My crime had been to take ten dollars of the money I got from pawning my wedding ring and buy a few flowers to place around the shelter's dismal common room. He told me, "God can't condemn you, you did your best for your kid and for yourself; you'll see, everything will be all right." He gave me a hug and I felt better. The next day he told me I had to leave and not come back until it was night again because they didn't let people stay during the day. I went to the Salvation Army church to find a piano to play since I had to sell mine when the baby came, and a hard-faced nasty woman chased me out saying "we don't let you 'shelter people' in here."

The van started to shake and sway as my friend from the community college (where I was taking an accounting class) drove us to Bible Study, talking about Revelations. He said, "Satan is sending demons to distract us -- quick! pray!" and we prayed until the shaking stopped. When we got there I found out my volunteering as a music helper had been turned down because they wouldn't let a divorced woman act in a position of leadership.

My mother married a Vietnam vet who was a fundamentalist radical, drunk and on drugs, cunning and paranoid. While I lived with them he wouldn't let me go to class unless the house was totally clean -- I was basically considered a servant -- my mother (instead of defending me or helping with the chores) told me it was God's will that I submit to his authority as the head of the household, since a woman who wasn't a proper mother or a proper daughter should learn proper discipline. A few days later I saw him hit her.

"My boyfriend went back to his ex-girlfriend the same day I came to town to live with him -- I can't stop crying -- I burned all my bridges and rushed to his side and now I'm alone and I don't know anyone here." I worried hard as I stood by the window of the cheap small-town apartment he rented for me so I wouldn't intrude on him and the other woman. "Well, I'm a Christian, and there's a church just up the street." I called the pastor -- a woman, hooray! She'll understand -- and could only put the phone down in quiet grief when she said, "I'm afraid there's nothing we can do since you're not a member of our church." He came to the apartment later that day to give me the first month's rent and to pressure me for sex I did not feel able to refuse.

Cold, alone, and ashamed after the latest sexual session, I wrote my poem "much afraid" that I sent you before.

"Houston is a good city, and I've got some good temp work; my best friend [Deleted] is going to art school and helping me with the expenses here. I'm glad I met him, even though it was one of those risky online deals and he's an atheist to boot!" I saved the e-mail draft to my mom, and sat back in my chair. Mom's husband had been killed in a drunken brawl with a drunken buddy, and all of a sudden she needed to talk. I preferred to talk to [Deleted]. He and I had been having some great intellectual discussions; I had read the entire text of Atlas Shrugged out loud to him, and he was reading "Mere Christianity" and "Miracles." C.S. Lewis made so much sense, [Deleted] couldn't help but see the light in time. I hoped he did soon, I didn't want to fall for him while he was still an atheist.

Saturday, and I'd been up all night reading Steve Allen's commentary on the Bible, one of [Deleted]'s books, the last book left in the house that I hadn't read yet. He stirred groggily in bed next to me and mumbled something about coffee; I took the book with me to the kitchen; I came back with his mug in one hand and the book in the other.

Sunday -- Easter Sunday -- I woke up on the futon couch with the book and my cat on my chest -- oh, that's right, I'd finished the book, reading straight through at about four in the morning. As the light poured in the window I thought about how ironic it was that this was the day I picked to finally realize that God was a monster and the Bible was a load of crap, not to mince words. I woke up [Deleted] and told him, "I don't believe in God anymore." He said, "That's a big thing to say -- are you sure??" I said "I'm sure, honey, believe me." "Are you going to tell your mom?" "Are you crazy? She still thinks Benny Hinn healed her stupid bone spur." [Deleted] moped around the house for two weeks after that; he evidently thought that if I could change my mind about God, I could change my mind about him too. But I proved to him that I was better and happier for not being shackled with the guilt and unreason and divided loyalties of religion anymore, and our relationship improved.

"Mom on the phone? Thanks, honey. Hello Mom? How's the cancer therapy going? Oh, good. Yes, I still have that good job and I've been really busy. What? You had a talk with Grandma and she what? I thought she was too into her poker group with the synagogue girls and their bagels-and-lox-and-gin breakfasts. However did you talk her into, um, accepting Jesus? Really? It must have taken a lot of guts to come right out and say she felt 'in need of God's love.' I remember the time she was nasty to our preacher because he said he was a 'completed Jew." I would never have guessed she would have felt 'incomplete' herself. Ok. I'll tell him you said hi. Bye, Mom, love you too." I must have sighed, putting the phone down. [Deleted] asked me, "Are you ever going to tell her you're an atheist?" I said, "I don't know." It's been two years; I still don't know.

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From: "Damien Sorresso"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: FORUM My De-Conversion Story 9371
Date: Monday, March 05, 2001 4:56 AM

Good thing the forum says "atheist or skeptic." I'd consider myself more of a skeptic than an actual atheist. The only thing that I know for sure is that I have pretty much rejected all of Christianity.

I'm 17 years old and a Roman Catholic only by name. My skepticism started at around the 7th or 8th grade. I've been going to Catholic school since 5th grade. Up until then, I never really questioned much. I didn't care. All I knew was that I hated Church. Every so often in 8th grade, we'd have a priest come in and let us ask him questions (like "Heavy Mystery Time," for those of you familiar with George Carlin). I'd always be the one asking those questions that resulted in the "it's a mystery" answer.

When I entered my Catholic high school, I was forced to take a theology class every year, big surprise. At this point, I was only disagreeing with the Catholic Church on some stuff and not rejecting Christ outright. For example, I thought that birth control wasn't immoral and that premarital sex was just fine under certain conditions.

I'd say that my junior year was when I just said, "There might be a god...", a.k.a. Agnosticism, the cousin of atheism.;) I tried to believe in Christ. I really did, but the more I looked at everything the Bible said, the more contradictions I found, the more questions I had and the more skeptical I became.

It was around this time, as well, that I began getting into George Carlin, whom I'd recommend to anyone who's skeptical about the Catholic Church or god. Just go on Napster sometime and download some of his bits dealing with god, they're absolutely hilarious and make a ton more sense than anything in the Bible. Listening to his stuff really helped me understand that Christians, while their intentions are good, are full of shit.

During that time, I began to become what I like to call the "Arrogant Agnostic." I was very vocal about my distaste for the Christian religion and why. That was a relatively short phase, though, thankfully. I was being the very thing that I criticized the Christians of being: intolerant. I realized this quickly and I began to just take a more tolerant and accepting approach. I think that people should believe what they want without having to be penalized for it by others.

Junior year was also the time when I took the World Religions section of my Theology III course. This was a class that every student had to take. We learned about Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam. Unfortunately, that part of the course was only half-a-semester. This broadened my horizons, although I had independently learned about other religions beforehand, it was nice to do so in a classroom. The teacher for the course was very open-minded and encouraged a discussion-type environment.

Around the beginning of this year (my senior year), I began writing for my school newspaper. The very first article I wrote was on World Religions, as an editorial. I'd heard that it was being "phased out," and that it would no longer be taught because the diocese felt that the school should teach more Christian values. This absolutely disgusted me, and I wrote on it in a very arrogant and inflammatory tone. I did this only to provoke a reaction from our new assistant principal, who was a priest, to see just how understanding he was that there were other religions in the world. I got my answer. I was called into his office a few days after it was published, and he explained to me that the course wasn't being phased out and that he wanted me to write a retraction. This I had no problem with. What he told me to do next was unspeakable. He forced me to write an apology for the arrogant and cynical tone of the article! If I didn't, I wouldn't be able to write for the paper again. So, I bit the bullet and wrote a half-assed apology in which I never said the words "I'm sorry." I, along with the more liberal teachers at the school, was appalled at the fact that I had to apologize for sticking up for the those who had no representation at my school and freedom of thought.

Up until recently, I was really afraid to tell my parents what I believed. That I was a skeptic. But, one day, at a dinner-table conversation, that all changed. My sister was back from college, and we got to talking about religion and my squabbles in school with our new priest. My sister just just said, "I think it's a load of bullshit," in regards to the Catholic Church. And, amazingly, my mom and dad said, "Honey, I do, too. We just have to appease your grandmother, Okay?" It felt so good that my parents understood the way my sister and I felt. I found support for my views.

I also started taking Physics. I love Physics. I think that it's the greatest science and subject matter ever. We'd watch videos about other galaxies that other kids found boring as hell, but I thought were so fascinating. Just seeing the beauty of the universe was awe-inspiring. And just thinking about how things work in terms of physics was thought-provoking. I concluded that there was just some form of higher intelligence out there. Not a god. Gods, traditionally, have been jealous, arrogant vengeful beings. To call this higher intelligence a god would be an insult. I simply believe that the universe itself is an entity that just exists. It doesn't judge. It doesn't impose nonsensical rules, and it doesn't threaten eternal damnation. It just is.

This is not to say that I don't have morals, although some Christians just love believing that atheism and rejection of their precious religion is motivated only by immorality and sex. I don't believe in sex without love. I don't believe that killing is right unless in self-defense. Does this sound familiar, my interesting Judeo-Christian friends? These are conclusions that I came to through hours of thought and self-reflection. I have a conscience, just like everyone else. The only difference is that I choose to think for myself and develop my conscience independently, rather than having a Pope thousands of miles away tell me what is right and wrong.

This is stuff is only a short part of my whole story. I really became skeptic through one, principle action: thinking. I would just sit and think about god, religion, etc. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that I had only believed in god for one reason: Just in case. I figured that, if the Christians were correct, that I'd rather present myself to God as an honest skeptic than a dishonest Christian. If God is truly all-knowing and all-understanding, I'm sure he'll sympathize if I get judged, like the Christians say I will.

So, to all my fellow skeptics out there, I'm glad I found a place where we can all come together, express our ideas and share our stories without fear of repression by the Christians. Positive Atheism Magazine is a god-send.;)

I also recommend that you guys read this essay on Religious Bigotry, written by one of this site's members (I'm assuming), Mike Wong.
http://www.stardestroyer.net/Creationism
It definitely opened my eyes about some of the stuff in the Catholic Church. Also, I think it'd be nice to get some personal communication going with some of you. We can just talk about our opinions and stuff. I love just having an intelligent conversation with fellow skeptics.

Damien Sorresso

Graphic Rule

From: "Swapnil Deshmukh"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: FORUM My De-Conversion Story 9371
Date: Sunday, May 13, 2001 1:04 PM

Hi,

I was reading the deconversion stories on the site, and didn't notice a deconverted ex-Hindu one (or did I not read all of them?) so thought it was time I wrote.

I remember going to temples.around the idols with parents and relatives, chanting Sanskrit words. Let me clarify: I come from a highly educated family, my father was an engineer, and mom is a science masters. Intelligence and knowledge was taught to me. They were my only assets -- and yet, religion and God played a role.

I never believed in God a single moment in my life. But as a child remember having a respectful fear for the concept, because, all those I loved followed it. It seemed like a higher power which can make or break my life, and so must be kept in good humour always.

On one hand, I had the realistic teachings of my parents, which led me to stand top in my class and have immense respect for education, as a means of career as well as quality of mind. On the other, the reverence towards God was expected of me.

Around the age of 12, though, I had seriously starting doubting the existence of an entity such as God, who had such a big ego to be praised with zillions of chants -- in spite of being omnipotent -- and whose only desire was to get all to pray and accept his dominion, to be hapless before him. You needed to pray to deserve a happy life.

Far from strength, I started seeing a marked weakness added to the contradictions in the mythology.

I refused to put my future in the control of such a power. The fear I had as a child was overcome with the rebellion and blood of a teenager. But I dared to rebel against this so called supernatural control of my life. I was ready to be crushed by life than surrender it to someone. Amidst the fears that such a rebellion in a religious society would invite from others, I waited until I started college (age 16) to tell my parents.

My parents took it with a shock, but loved me too dearly to force my thoughts otherwise. I must say I have been extremely lucky in this respect.

Being a student of science helped me a lot along the way. The theory of evolution presented to me the argument to first cause. In fact, I read the first instance of this argument in sci-fi writer Arthur C. Clarke's 'Rama' series. I recall a strong feeling of connection with the world, where there are people who doubt and think the way I do, and ask the same questions that I dare to ask -- questions which were taboo in my society. Socrates, Russell, Voltaire and Ayn Rand would come later.

I still fear to announce to even my close relatives regarding my views. In spite of the love they feel for me, this would invite a great wall between me and my loved ones. I may still be expected to follow the rituals in spite of my beliefs, bringing a greater torture on me than right now, since any defiance would mean an insult to religious-minded people like them.

Anyway, I would be a constant source of embarassment and awkwardness in any social situation, and in India, almost all social occasions are around some festival.

Man -- and so me -- is a social animal. I don't know which torture is greater, pretending in front of near dear ones or the thought of loneliness at the loss if I reveal [my atheism].

My love for reading led me to self-study philosophy and psychology. My study in management (MBA) led me to believe this as the very reason why many people need leaders -- they need someone else to take care of them rather than being autonomous and responsible thinking beings -- to believe all will be well.

As Russell said, the task philosophy can do even now -- is to address the fear of uncertainty with a rational outlook. Faith and God are too irrational solutions that rely on shielding the brain from reality.

I have lived in three countries apart from India, and have realized that in the perception of many people, being an Indian is akin to being a Hindu -- sometimes making me a kind of weirdo if I display any thoughts or actions to the contrary. (I love pastrami and pork barbecue, in spite of the holy cows I raise! If I hesitate from eating it temporarily, excuse me: its because of the foot in mouth disease.)

I still love Sanskrit like I love reading Shakespeare. I love Indian mythology -- as fantasy stories -- with moral teachings, just like I like Sci-Fi (Lord of Rings, Asimov, etc.).

I haven't got the answer to one question though: What is it that makes the people to cling to opium-like lies -- and faith? -- so much as to never allow themselves to ask the questions that I ask? even enter their consciousness when they are blatantly in front?

I am not talking of fear of social ostracism or group-think, but of self-delusion against all rationality.

Sometimes it feels plain like the not-made-here syndrome that leads to rejection of brilliant ideas in an organization.

Until then, I guess I will have to face the smirks and loss of intimacy of close friends and relatives for sticking to the truth.

Graphic Rule

From: "[name withheld by request]"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: FORUM My De-Conversion Story 9371
Date: Tuesday, May 01, 2001 6:47 PM

I was raised a Roman Catholic, immersed in the culture of Catholicism. My mom would kneel in my room every night until I was about 15 and would say the Rosary with my sister and me. I went to church every Sunday and would do Adoration Chapel every Wednesday afternoon. I read St. Francis de Sales's "Spiritual Exercises" before I was 15.

When I was 20, I was considering the priesthood, but I was also dating the girl who is now my wife. After she and I fooled around one night, and I was feeling guilty and beating myself up about what we'd just done (not all the way, just fooling around). She looked at me with all the contempt one would have for a convulsing smack addict and asked: "You know there's no God, don't you?" And that was it. It was like a switch getting turned off. It was childish and stupid to believe in a wizard in the sky, and she pointed it out with one sentence.

I've been an atheist and extremely happy ever since. I'm now 24 and married.

Graphic Rule

From: "Schmitt, Landis"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: FORUM My De-Conversion Story 9371
Date: Tuesday, June 05, 2001 5:31 PM

I was raised the son of a Catholic father and a Southern Baptist mother. My mother won the initial indoctrination right due to Motherhood being more predominant in the upbringing of children during the 1950's. Also, my father was not in good standing with the Catholic Church because he had married a Protestant.

This was all well and good when at the tender age of 9 years old during an old time Southern Baptist Revival, I saw the light. Really, I swear to My-Self I saw the light! When I went down to the front of the church, everyone was kneeling and praying and wailing tubfuls of tears. I didn't feel like crying -- after all, I felt Great, even joyful.

However, I was only 9 and I figured if the truly devout elders of the church were crying and repenting, then I had better feign remorse for my sins or they would not believe I had really seen the light. My feigned tears worked and for the next several years I was a good little Christian attending, Bible studies, Sunday school and church. I even took it upon myself to be the one who would breakthrough to the one stubborn (atheist) child who was resisting giving in.

A few years later, my teen hormones kicked in and I discovered, girls, alcohol and fast cars. I began backsliding to the point my only church attendance was to sit hung-over in the back pew on Sunday morning. This was in a concession to my mother who tended to ignore all of my other indiscretions.

I was going to join the Navy my senior year, but my father, a decorated World War II veteran offered the advice "I wouldn't join any damn branch of the service unless I had to." So instead of the Navy I was off to University and the mind opening effects of a liberal education. I discovered girls, the anti-war movement and psychedelics! Lo and behold, I saw the light again, only this time it was multiplied a thousand fold and it went by the name LSD. I did not become a drug addict, and always maintained a B average. But my ties with the Christian religion were becoming more and more strained.

I discovered Eastern religions, Buddhism in particular and yogic philosophy. Even though older than Christianity they seemed more progressive and more attractive. During this time I attended my home town church after a night of tripping. A traveling youth minister was lambasting the local folk for not accepting long-haired hippies into the fold. Being a long-haired hippie sitting in the back pew, I knew he was talking about me. After the service I went forward to the oohs and ahs of the locals who truly believed the prodigal son had returned.

Meeting with the youth minister, I was surprised that he had no knowledge of eastern religions and hadn't even heard of the Bhagavad Gita -- a Holy book that is sacred to about three-quarters of a billion people in the world! He was equally surprised that I was not feeling lost and depressed. He had never met anyone who had a positive attitude towards drugs! That was absolutely the last time I went to church except to attend funerals.

The height of my drug experiences involved one massive dose of pure LSD which pushed me over the line and I experience an Ego Death! A fellow mind traveler, (a Vietnam Vet who had just returned from the war) turned to me and said "isn't he beautiful?" I said, "who" and he said "God!" and it happened again, the world dissolved and I was no more. But it was not like anything I could even imagine "God" to be. It was, and this is as close as the English Language will let me get, No-Thing! There was no light, no angels singing, no heaven or hell, there was No-Thing. Well this gave new meaning to all of the Yogic texts I had been reading.

A couple of years later it was hasta la vista drugs, hello meditation. I joined one of the lesser known Yoga groups -- Ananda Marga -- and became a devotee of an Indian Guru. This culminated in a trip to India in 1974 and another near death experience. A year later, I sat down to meditate, and thought, "I am not going to do this anymore" got up, drove into town, and had a large Polish sausage sandwich (the first meat in over five years) and it tasted Fantastic! I have been free of all religious trappings since that date in 1975 and can truly say I believe in No-Thing!

Thanks,

Landis Schmitt
Foster City, California

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From: "Reneé Smigo"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: FORUM My De-Conversion Story 9371
Date: Wed, 13 Jun 2001 14:44:19-0400

Hello:

I grew up in a Catholic school. Specifically, I attended this (what I like to call a Nazi school, but that's too much attitude for now) private school from Kinder. to 8th grade. In the latter years, I started asking myself questions about Roman Catholicism. Then I grew moxy and started asking the nuns questions such as, "If birth control interferes with God's way, why don't antibiotics?" and "but doesn't the rhythm method interfere, too?" and so on and so forth. The answer to all my questions was either created along the way as the nun spoke, or, I got,"It's God's Plan." Oh yeah -- sometimes I got detention for asking at all, and more specifically, for "doubting".

After being raised for the first 16 years as a Roman Catholic in a Roman Catholic neighborhood in a R. C. town, I finally decided to analyze the community's circular arguments on religion. The credibility of the person preaching and validity of the arguments really seemed absent. I started to develop into, I suppose, an atheist as a result of very well thought-out reasoning -- not just because I was angry at the community for being sheep. Later on at Penn State, I spent four weeks training for an internship in a non-profit organization. It was a pregnancy crisis center with a slight twist on it of which I was not aware. They were affiliated with the catholic church down the street, and did not in any way promote or refer to abortion and its clinics. Which is fine, but when I respectively told the director of the org. why it was necessary for me to leave, she responded, "There is more proof of God than what science ever came up with for anything. You need counseling. Why don't you come in and let us teach you."

And so, I felt nauseated by the thought that older, mature, "reasoning" adults -- who pay bills and hold microbiology degrees -- actually made such a programmed statement. Today, I enjoy listening to George Carlin for comfort.

Graphic Rule

From: "Laura Pritchett"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: FORUM My De-Conversion Story 9371
Date: Thursday, July 05, 2001 6:13 AM

Until the time I was sixteen, I attended my Catholic church regularly, and went to youth group. I actually was considering becoming a priest, and was obsessed with biblical mythology and the prophecies of the end times. Mostly, because I enjoyed fantasy a lot, and thought the Bible was really cool because it was like a real life fantasy novel. The change came because of humanities class. We had to do experience logs, and one option was to visit a church and do a report. I wondered, what it would be like for someone doing that assignment and attending my church for the first time.

So, one mass, I sat there, and did not participate. I immediately noticed how hard it was to do that. My mouth almost moved by itself to say the prayers along with everyone. And that's when I realized how close to chanting everyone sounded. Nothing has scared me that much sense that moment when I realised I was the member of a cult. That was the tiny crack in my faith I needed to awaken me. I soon began to read obscure bible passages I didn't agree with at all, or that were contradictory to the churches teachings. I also looked at my life, and realized if there was a biblical God, I would hate him. Then, I realized that heaven would be as bad as hell, because with out pain and suffering our lives our like books without a plot.

Boring. Meaningless bliss.

I also saw the positives of finally accepting death, instead of dealing with it through fairy tales. I am not an atheist, because to me, that takes as much faith as any religion. I acknowledge the possibility of a god's existence -- but I do know that every organized religion is merely a cult, that inhibits free thought. My life (I am now 18) is so-o-o much better then it was before, and I am never suicidal at all. I still have to control the frustration I get from knowing that the sky is blue, when the rest of society has been mislead by religion to think it is actually purple.

Graphic Rule

From
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: FORUM My De-Conversion Story 9371
Date: Wednesday, July 04, 2001 2:38 AM

After being religious for 40 years I gave it up at the age of 46 after finally examining my faith from a rational and logical view point. I discovered that the religious dogma I had believed in all my life was completely illogical in it's primary concepts. I begin thinking if an omniscience, omnipotent being really existed would he do things this way. The obvious conclusion No. Nothing in the physical world pointed to a god, but instead pointed in the opposite direction. Why would a being that is perfect create in such a way that the data inclined one not to believe in the creator? How could some god that called himself perfectly good condemn a person for not believing when this god's own creation lack the proof to convince? It just didn't add up.

When I tried to explore the very concept of this god [its nature] I discovered the concepts that define this god are all contradictory in themself -- that is they all jettison each other out of existence. The necessary properties of divine free will and omniscience contradict. This god cannot possess both and exist, but in order to be considered a god he must possess both.

Because it is impossible for this type of being to exist I, by default, became atheistic in my philosophy. I found a freedom I never dreamed could exist when I finally realized the truth -- god/gods not only do not exist but cannot.

F.Sanders
Little Rock, Arkansas

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