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De-Conversion Stories

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From: “l l milnes”
To: “Positive Atheism”
Subject: Re: Tell Us Your De-Conversion Story Date: Monday, June 19, 2000 11:42 PM

Hi from a vineyard-strewn and cattle-farming area called Te Kauwhata, just south of Auckland in New Zealand.

There probably are a few other atheists in the area concealed under bushes, but I can’t recall meeting any. There is quite an active population in nearby Auckland, though some of the freedom-from-religion groups have been deliberately fragmented by the usual divide-and-rule tactics of the more powermongering and walnut-brained of the local religiosi.

From what I can gather, I come from generations of rebels and freethinkers.

As is typical I believe among people who fight organised crime — oops, organised religion I mean — our family has been fragmented by attacks and has been on the move a lot. We have been taken very far from our roots. My grandfather came out here from England via Canada with my dad aged two, in 1906, and brought him up to be a good freethinker. My mother came out here alone on a boat from England at 15, in 1925, both her parents dead, and the rest of the family having put what they could into resettling the younger children in a new land. She was the product of a catholic father and what seems to have been a jewish mother, each of whom had probably annoyed their families greatly by marrying the other. I was never privileged to meet any of my grandparents. Some of them must have been great thorns in the side of the religiosi, and they sound like marvellous people. I believe members of my family have been attacked deliberately for our views, and for opposing religious corruption. Certainly I have been. The most likely reason for being on a hate list is our opposition to Catholicism.

We children were raised to think for ourselves, and allowed to go to Sunday School if we wanted. I got sent to a girls’ boarding school where the nice but slightly religious headmistress had us praying several times a day, and I think I genuinely tried out the strange concepts of religion at that stage but found them lacking.

New Zealand is sometimes looked on as a freer land, but the tyrannical duo of religion and witless would-be hereditary pomp have been oppressive here, as elsewhere. We are not so lucky as to have a constitution which guarantees freedom of (from) religion, like the USA. Some of the exploitation has come from the USA, actually, from our point of view: it seems that “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” carries the rider, “but only for American citizens, who are entitled to take from other countries in order to get more of it”. We tend to lose our intellectual elite all the time, by death or migration, so there is not as much resilience against dumb ideas as you might find in a country like Britain or France or, so I am told, the Czech Republic. Yet the ordinary New Zealander is a really fine person: decent, brave, stoical, resourceful, and good-humoured.

My country has a population which is only 14 percent catholic. Over the last twenty-five years or so (contemporaneously, strangely enough, with the rise of the use of electronic weaponry against unaware civilians in their homes, and with the rise of the use of hypnosis to create crime and sway politics) the Catholics have suddenly become very powerful here and have almost taken over many key areas. The Calvinist authoritarian faction has done fairly well too, but nothing like the uncharacteristic recent rise of catholic power.

At present we are being shoved down the sheep-ramp into a quick union with Australia, where the catholics pretty much have a hold thanks to decades of catholic control over immigration. Lots of Italians and Croatians and catholic South Vietnamese have supplemented what was just a few Irish among the traders and convicts who were the original settlers. If Australia-NZ union happens (give us a direct vote on it now and it won’t), I suspect we’ll be shoved by the Catholic Church into fighting Indonesia because it is Moslem. I can see them lining us up for the job already. Make a change from their usual strategy, though, of shoving the USA or Germany into fighting their wars for them.

In short, I am more into the politics of it all than into philosophical debate. Start talking to me about proofs of whether god exists, and I go to sleep.

Graphic Rule

To: “Positive Atheism”
Subject: FORUM_My_De-Conversion_Story_9371
Date: Saturday, July 08, 2000 1:20 PM

My deconversion comes about from having lived for 76 years and by doing so have learned to think for myself and not “buy” what others have “preached” for so many years: If there were truly a god, then he must be a most cruel one to allow the horrible things that man does to his fellow man. To call the villains of our society “animals” does the animal injustice. Most animals are not cruel to one another — they kill one another for food or to protect themselves and their young, but they do not kill for the sheer “joy” of killing. I do not believe man is created in the image of god, but that god is created in the image of man.

Martha Stanard

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From: “Steve”
To: “Positive Atheism”
Subject: Re: Tell Us Your De-Conversion Story
Date: Tuesday, June 20, 2000 2:12 AM

Dear Cliff

At 6 I was in church playgroup and I asked why they never shut the church door. The answer was a burglar would never steal for God because God will make him pay. I said but some one will steal I know this. They ignored me, so I asked and asked again. I realised they were telling lies and I simply thought this is all rubbish and never went back. I’ve been an atheist since I was born and will remain one.

Steve in Brisbane

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From: “Ryan Boehning”
To: “Positive Atheism”
Subject: FORUM_My_De-Conversion_Story_9371
Date: Sunday, June 25, 2000 2:02 AM

i was like, shit, this is fucking stupid.

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From: “K1zw”
To: “Positive Atheism”
Subject: De-conversion story
Date: Tuesday, June 20, 2000 5:59 AM

My de-conversion story is a rather simple one. As a child I was raised in a cult (Jehovah’s Witnesses), but by young adulthood, I had drifted away. After a couple of years of college had discovered that the Bible and science were not compatible.

Once I learned that the cult I had once believed in was in error about many, many things, this led to a generally skeptical outlook regarding all religions.

After years of self-study in philosophy, religion, science I finally came to the conclusion that there are no gods and there had never been any gods. The whole god thing has been nothing more than an invention of humans looking for answers to the fact of existence.

As I look back on the whole process I wonder why it took me so long to reach this obvious conclusion. I believe that the acceptance of the fact of evolution was the deciding factor in the conclusion that gods did not and do not exist. Evolution and the natural evil in the world settled the matter for me.

There are still questions that science may not be able to answer, and I still wonder why there is something instead of nothing and the complexity of life still awes me and I miss the comfort of the old legends but I prefer the truth instead of lies and falsehoods, however cold the truth may be.

As a personal note I am 61 years old with four children, of which three of them express skeptical views regarding religion. I have always stressed a reliance on logic, reason, science and a tolerance to believers because I was once there myself.


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To: “Positive Atheism”
Subject: How I Decided to Atheism
Date: Tuesday, June 20, 2000 3:55 PM

I was raised as a Polish Roman Catholic: attending Sunday services, confessions, communions, retreats, etc.. I was not a “devoted” Catholic. However, I did get those same answers to “tough” questions at bible study, “God works in mysterious ways” or “We’re not meant to know”.

After joining the Air Force in 1968, and stationed at Fort Campbell AAF, Kentucky, I read The Late Great Planet Earth by Hal Lindsey. My first reaction was considering to convert to Christianity to become a Christian Soldier if Revelations was to become true. However, while contemplating the novel and what it means to live in a Democracy and to be an Air Force sergeant defending the U.S. Constitution, I began to doubt a religious fundamentalist Theocracy in the U.S.. I also reasoned if all the gods, goddesses, and spirit beings every imagined, worshiped (temples, sacrifices, poems, songs, wars, etc.) and honored by the Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, etc., “died” or were replaced by other gods, goddesses, and spirits or “God-Christ,” when those civilizations ended, then all gods, goddesses, and spirits were imaginary and make-believe and didn’t exist. So, I self-deconverted in the summer of 1970.

I hadn’t been a problem for me for many years because I never did get into my more critical mode until the late ‘80’s when I began to be more outspoken and bolder — still in the Air Force in W. Germany. After that, I became an activist Atheist with letters to the editor, joining American Atheists, confronting religious persons, and researching, researching and researching about religion and the “Holy Bible”. The more I understood the “holy book” the more I became concerned that too many didn’t know the historical context of the book they “worshiped.” Finally, a U.S. Army Judge Staff Advocate in Honduras, ‘93’, tried to get me court-martialed in a confrontation he setup because he couldn’t stand having an Atheist on the same Army Post with him. He was unsuccessful because the Air Force commander agreed that I was set up.

Currently, my family tires of hearing my criticisms of religion, especially the fundamentalists’ attempt of getting creationism in public schools, school prayers, the 10 Commandments, and other religious intrusions into the government and public sectors. I have also not sent some letters to the editor of the local paper, put decals on my car windows, or worn T-shirts critical of religion because my wife is concerned that some parents of students she teaches in elementary school my find some “excuses” to harass her or the school. One of her fellow teachers did develop an “attitude” after I had printed a letter to the editor critical of the Christian Christmas mythology.

And, it is still difficult to tell people I am an Atheist or that the “Holy Bible” is mostly fictional when they mentioned biblical stuff. But I try, and I won’t be a “closet” atheist.

Chester Twarog

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From: “chante94k”
Subject: de-convertsion
Date: Wednesday, June 21, 2000 5:01 AM

I am 17 and was brought up in the Roman Catholic Church, a cradle Catholic, so I didn’t have any choice in the matter. The fact is that from the age of 5, I understood the Mass inside out and back to front and was a model RE student. It has always been one of my best subjects.

It wasn’t until I was about 14 I started questioning things. There was too much which didn’t make sense. If God was supposed to be forgiving and hear everything you say, why go to confession? I came to the conclusion that I could live me life how I wanted and it wouldn’t matter because God would forgive me in the end. Great wonderful life, do what you like.

By the time I was doing GCSE RE, I found that everything I had been taught as a younger child, I was now having to contradict. I began to look at it more openly and the way in which other religions carried themselves and they all seem to conform to a similar formulae, a bunch of stories on how to be good people and be controlled by something else, which didn’t seem fair to me.

Now as an A-level Christian theology student, the more and more we discuss topics, the more I can see that for something else to be directing our lives would be completely illogical. It is interesting to watch the way some people in the class react when we challenge what they believe (there are two other atheists in my class). Their sense of security seems to fall apart, because they have to look at themselves, and the idea of being responsible for your own actions and fate scares them. They don’t like it.

I’m still looking at all aspects and areas of religion and he way it is constructed. Even those without a formal sense of religion but faith seems to account everything else in their lives as down to someone or something else. I really don’t like that.

I think it will be a while before I fix myself. One way of thinking is for me to move away from 17 years of mind control completely just will take a little more time. I still have another year of disagreement with my mum and her side of the family over why I don’t go to church anymore.

Your magazines are a real help and eye-opener and would like to thank you for your interest is such a worthwhile thing. Allowing people the chance to make up their own minds is the most important aspect of this and you’ve certainly given me the opportunities to do this without trying to force people to conform to your way of thinking

Yours Truly,
Katie Chanter

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From: “Janet Voska”
To: “Positive Atheism”
Subject: Positive_Atheism_Letters_Section
Date: Wednesday, July 05, 2000 10:19 AM

I gave up my efforts to believe in Christianity when I realized this “God” had no power, that “He” was just a jealous, cranky, vindictive, psychopathic despot who demanded obedience without any pay-off to his subjects other than a bone-weary existence fraught with pain, guilt misery and peril. Thousands of years of praying, rejoicing and worshipping “Him” has done nothing to enlighten the human condition and has quenched the human spirit for knowledge and freedom and has placed the world’s burden’s on the weak, vulnerable shoulders of “His” creatures. (Old Testament)

“His” only begotten “Son”, a poor illiterate peasant — most likely born illegitimate into the dreariest of suppressed, outcast Jewry — was a “saviour” to the oppressed because he taught them how to be oblivious to intractable misery through passivity. It worked, of course, and what “Good News” it was to the poor, the ill, the socially condemned. They could find joy in their tormented lives and life without options suddenly became life with freedom in the passive power of acceptance in their status of “god’s” children. They were now connected to the realm of “love” and “power” beyond the yoke of the “Law” and the Romans. (New Testament)

Now about the “Holy Ghost” — the spirit who would breathe life into the “unsaved” and bring all souls into the truth — what a screw-up! Just look at Christianity’s history and hang your head in shame (if you are a “Believer”). A history of intrigue, murder, mayhem and constant adjustments to make the unpalatable palatable for the subjects of an all-powerful “Kingdom of the Cloth” (my moniker for the realm of “God’s” spokesmen here on Earth).

Surely humanity can do better than this “God”. And so it has when free-thinking men and women have followed their consciences and fought and died for their innate curiosity and used their intellect (and emotions) to improve their lives and the lives of their fellow man (not to mention their fierce independence in discovering the answers to so many “mysteries” of science, medicine and technology and even coming up with new questions). Without sounding too dramatic, have not the greatest strides in human development come from men and women who have refused to buckle under to the church and challenged the status quo? Yes, the church finally capitulated to enlightenment in some areas when denial would fly in the face of undeniable facts and public opinion, but it was brought forward with heels dragging in the dirt.

One may claim the many “martyrs” of Christianity who died for their beliefs, but alas, many of them to the furtherance of the “Word” — which seems a shame, to die for such an ill-found premise.

I can’t help but mention America. The Church came to this country, hung on the shirttails of freethinkers and blatantly capitalistic immigrants, and not a few English prisoners sent here to be out of the Crown’s hair, so to speak, and to this day continues to believe this nation was built on Christianity.

I have been general in my statements because to those who have been curious enough to question, challenge, investigate and conclude on their own through study, observation and discernment, have most likely come to these same conclusions.

I no longer argue with “believers”. They have too much to lose through honest inquiry: their world view (simplistic), their loyalties (often misguided) their values (questionable) their morals (some very confusing) their very souls, (open to doubt) in fact.

The beauty in being a freethinker is the freedom to think along any path your questioning little mind may conjure up without fear.

Graphic Rule

To: “’Positive Atheism’”
Subject: RE: Tell Us Your De-Conversion Story
Date: Thursday, June 29, 2000 1:32 PM

I was raised Catholic. However, my parents always taught me to think, ask questions, and understand. In that way, they raised my brother and I to evolve into atheists, which we both did.

I remember, when I was perhaps 8 years old, going to see a display of the Shroud of Turin. I still believed in a god at the time, and I was in awe of this memento of Jesus. However, several days later I heard a report on the radio which said that a scientist had declared the shroud a hoax. I remember thinking at that moment, “Wow ... there’s a possibility for doubt.” It was an extremely frightening moment to me.

As I became older and my doubt began to grow into lack of belief and I became more and more scared, I decided I needed to talk to someone about it. (It was probably around the time of my confirmation in the Catholic church). I said to my mother, “I’m not sure if I believe in god.” She responded, “You mean, you hate our church that much!?” I then knew that I had no one I could talk to about it. I just cried and felt all alone.

My brother went to college when I was 16 and I wasn’t able to spend as much time with him as I had when we were growing up in the same house. My atheism was very much a personal issue and struggle for me during this time of my life. When I was about 19 my brother and I had the opportunity to live in the same apartment building. I was able to see more of him and once we happened to talk about religion. It seemed that, although we had been apart and we had never talked about religion before, he and I had both decided we were atheists.

It was very difficult for me to “come out of the closet.” When I was 16 until I was 18, I dated a religious young man who had a lot of trouble with the idea that I “wasn’t sure I believed in a god” (which is what I told him ... figured it was less difficult to deal with that than “I’m an atheist.”) When I broke up with him, I decided to be honest with myself and slowly admit my atheism. However, when I was 19 I was stupid enough to date a born again Christian. I spent two and a half years with him being made to feel like the most worthless person in the world because I had ‘chosen’ to reject god. That experience taught me that I definitely need to be proud and stand up for my atheism.

My parents have finally come to terms with the fact that my brother and I are atheists. It still freaks them out, I know, but at least they accept it. My father even said, “There’s no way to prove the existence of God. Either you believe in it or you don’t.” I respect that statement very much as it shows me that I am being accepted by him, no matter what I believe.

In my adult years, I am facing some new challenges in regards to god belief and religion. The decisions I have made so far have been satisfying ones and I hope future decisions will turn out as well. For example, there was the challenge of deciding who would perform the marriage ceremony for my wedding to a non-practicing Jew. I didn’t want a rabbi because a god would probably have to be mentioned in the ceremony. My fiancee had some friends who were ministers in some very liberal religion. However, I didn’t want a representative from ANY religion marrying us. Finally, my mother came up with the idea that my brother should marry us. Being able to have my brother there and to have no gods at all at our wedding meant so much to me.

Another small challenge for me was how to celebrate Christmas. Christmas time was always a wonderful time to me and I wanted to continue that tradition with my family. I spoke to my brother about it, about how it seemed contradictory to celebrate the birth of Jesus and how other atheists might look down at me. His response: “Being an atheist means never having to say you’re sorry.” I have loved Christmas ever since. We don’t have any Santas, angels, or mentions of Jesus around the house, but we have a ton of presents for everyone!

When my husband and I have kids, I’m sure they will bring many challenges. I’ve watched my brother begin to raise his 2 and a half year old son. My little nephew is already growing into someone who sees the importance of asking questions and understanding why the world is the way it is. If his father doesn’t know the answer to a question, they will research it together. I think this response is so important, rather than what I’ve seen other parents do: “Mommy, why is the sky blue?” “Because God made it that way.”

One thing I miss is the feeling of ‘community’ that I had with our church. My goal for the very near future is to become more involved with our local atheist organization and possibly do what I can to help it grow. I’d love to have that same kind of community again, especially somewhere children can grow up and create memories.

Graphic Rule

To: “Positive Atheism”
Subject: FORUM_My_De-Conversion_Story_9371
Date: Wednesday, July 05, 2000 5:12 PM

I owe my de-conversion to the Catholic church and school. I felt guilt over fearing God without loving him. I forcibly repressed rational doubts from the very beginning of my indoctrination.

When my mother divorced and remarried, the thought of her willingness to burn in hell for the sake of love gave me the courage to openly question my faith.

My love of science books and study of opposing religious beliefs occupied my decade as a recovering Catholiholic. I had to de-program my brain. Listening to the entire King James version of the Bible clinched the deal. I can never go back.

I thought perhaps I should raise my 24-year-old son as a Christian to provide him with a strong moral base. But I quickly discovered I could not live that lie. He has turned out no more selfish than any of his religious friends, and far more compassionate towards all people and other creatures of our wonderful planet.

I know no other atheists here in Florida at all. In recent years I have become alarmed by the frequent attempts to subvert the First Amendment. More upsetting is the need of politicians to pose as believers in order to survive, and the authoritative statements by them, implying that unbelievers can have no moral code.

I have explained my beliefs to a very few intelligent, decent people who genuinely wanted to know. They all expressed surprise that someone as “kind and caring” as I am could be an atheist. Talk about brainwashing.

I don’t feel safe enough to come out of my closet.

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From: “J. Steck”
To: “Positive Atheism”
Subject: Re: Tell Us Your De-Conversion Story
Date: Thursday, June 22, 2000 9:51 PM

I think I was raised this way. No one talked about it. We went to church, but as I look back on it. It was a social thing (1930s). The Four Square Gospel minister was shunned by anybody who was anybody because he always wanted to say a prayer right there on the street (loudly). i.e.: cross the street to avoid him. Loud, boisterous, etc. — not exactly a good role model. I suppose somebody went to his church, but it wasn’t anybody I knew.

Church was something you selected for the quality of the social atmosphere. You did your share of the work to support the church, but that was about it. When company came, “grace” was said at the table because it was good manners. Good manners and good morals were taught at home. Doing the right thing wasn’t done because of fear of God’s punishment.

I became Roman Catholic for awhile-until they changed the mass. I was going for the quiet time and the beauty of the mass.

Now when some says to me “I’m Christian, you know.” I am afraid that my first reaction is to say, “Oh, I am so sorry.”

It’s the re-borns and the [fundamentalists] that bring out the beast in me.

I’m just a card-carrying atheist trying to get along in a you-should-be-religious world.

Friends, Jan Steck in Vina, CA

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From: Sharon Payant
To: Positive Atheism
Subject: FORUM_My_De-Conversion_Story_9371
Date: Tue, 27 Jun 2000 09:41:26 -0700

I was born into a very religious family. My grandfather was a Southern Baptist minister, and most of my aunts were Sunday school teachers. My parents were the outcasts of the family (they drank alcohol, and my mother was — (shudder) — a Lutheran), but they were pressured by my dad’s family to bring us up in the church, and they did.

I always felt uneasy about the religion, especially when my questions were answered with the phrase, “you just have to have faith.” A great tactic in our church, and probably in most churches, was to make us feel guilty and unworthy if we ever doubted the word of my grandfather, who was supposed to be a messenger of god. As a result, I grew up thinking there was something wrong with me because I did have doubts and questions. (They also had me believing that I was flawed because I was a female, but let’s not get into that.)

I eventually learned to just accept the whole “god concept” and I spent many years of my life not really thinking about it. Then I went through a very traumatic incident that forced me to rethink my position on the subject of Christianity. This came about mostly because I was tired of hearing everyone tell me that, “god wanted it this way.” I just couldn’t follow their logic.

At this time I had never met another atheist — I didn’t really think such a person existed. So the thought of giving up my belief was totally foreign to me. I thought that perhaps if I just changed religions, then everything would be fine. But as I started researching other religions, I realized how ludicrous the whole concept of a higher power is. I had also met a real-life non-believer and I realized that it really was OK to just not have a god belief at all.

It took a while for me to feel comfortable with the label “Atheist”, but as soon as I let go of all the Christian garbage that I had grown up with, I felt so relieved. I have a new outlook on everything now. My primary concern is for humans, other living creatures, and the environment, not how I think a god would want me to think or act.

I have grown intellectually and emotionally since I have become an Atheist. It’s probably the best decision I’ve ever made. I also have two children who are being raised without a god-belief. They know that they are free to choose between atheism and theism when they are older, but for now I am teaching them to think critically about spiritual claims before buying into them.

Graphic Rule

To: “Positive Atheism”
Subject: Re: Tell Us Your De-Conversion Story
Date: Thursday, June 22, 2000 9:27 PM

Dear Mr. Walker,

All of my life I had been raised a Catholic. I attended Catholic grade and high schools. My freshman year of high school, though, brought about a big change. I began to challenge the Church. I actually began to listen to what my theology teachers were saying, and began to realize how amazingly hypocritical the Church was. I began to read the bible and found numerous passages that did not comply with each other. Upon reading a passage found in Luke, which said in order to follow Jesus, one must hate themself, their friends and family, my resolve grew in stength. I put together evidence of my own which showed the falacy of the Church’s doctrine. I began to discuss with fellow Catholics my thoughts, who also began to see the error in Catholicism. I rationalized “god” in terms I could relate to. For example, if I created the “I love you virus” knowing full well the repercussions its existence would have, and knowing the harm that it would cause, I, the creator would be the one to blame for it’s “sin” or wrongdoing. In the same sense, if “god” created us with original sin, but was omnipotent and knew what harm we would bring to ourselves and others, he in fact would be accountable for our sin, since he is the higher and more powerful being. Therefore, his punishment of us for a sin he himself brought about would be unjust and hypocritical. Also, I rationalized that no higher being would create and then destroy (with the great flood) knowing full well that he would have had to destroy us anyway.

After rationalization, I began to research other religions, coming to the conclusion that the existence of a higher being was improbable to say the least. I think this realization had made my life harder in the fact that when something went wrong in my life, I couldn’t pray to god to make it all go away. Also, when a loved one died I had to deal with the fact that they were dead, and in no great paradise in the sky. But, it has also helped me for the better in that it has forced me to more greatly rely on myself, and my own strength. It forced me to identify myself as being important not because I was a child of god but because I was me.


Graphic Rule

From: “Clancy Halsted”
To: “Positive Atheism”
Subject: Deconversion story
Date: Saturday, July 08, 2000 9:06 PM

I was sitting in my anthropology class in my first quarter of college when I just realized that I no longer believed in god, and that I hadn’t for a very long time. It wasn’t really a major revelation, or any feeling of betrayal. I had long since realized that god doesn’t answer.

I used to be very involved with a youth group which was run by two Southern baptists. Very nice people, but the kind who urged us to burn our tapes because they were satanic, that kind of stuff. Anyway they were always on us to “ask Jesus into your hearts, then you’ll be saved” yadda yadda, I’m sure you’re all familiar with the concept.

Being very eager to please, I would often beg Jesus to save me. Expecting trumpets and angels, or at the very least a pat on the head, and getting nothing, I think I just eventually realized god wasn’t going to answer.

Actually it wasn’t until after I realized I didn’t believe in god that I started questioning the christian religion. So now I am a very content atheist, with a pretty good grasp on my place in the cosmos.

Anyway, I have just one more statement to make, and this is a very important part of my beliefs. I do not believe that people who hold religious beliefs are stupid, foolish, superstitious or somehow inferior to atheists, and I include christians in that statement. I have spoken with many christians about my atheism, and since I didn’t attack their beliefs, they never attacked mine.

Well thats my soapbox, and now I am finished. Thanks for Listening, Mr. Walker.

Sincerely yours,

Graphic Rule

From: “Randy S”
To: “Positive Atheism”
Subject: Re: Tell Us Your De-Conversion Story
Date: Thursday, July 06, 2000 8:42 PM

Dear Cliff,

I was re-reading over some email and read your instructions for unsubscribing and laughed right out loud.

I’m going to try to put my de-conversion story into words. I would love to communicate with others who share my un-belief, but I am terrified that people I do business with will find out and discontinue using me. I live in a small Virginia town with the proverbial “Church on every corner”. My experience has been that some of the most cut-throat, and vindictive people are the well-to-do church crowd. I know from 20 years experience of being a Baptist/Presbyterian/Wesleyan. So, for that reason, I will leave out some details that I fear might aid those christians with a Nazi mentality, in their attempt to rid the world of hideous sinners such as myself.

My upbringing was not particularly religious. Church attendance was only done on easter for us (thank god).

At about 17, I fell in with the wrong crowd (christians), and became a believer. I was saved, but continued with my “sinful life style” which consisted mainly of chasing girls. I attended the occasional church service, had people lay hands on me and speak in tongues (that was spooky), prayed, sought forgiveness, etc., etc., etc.

At about the age of 21, I meet a family while I was in the military, and away from home, that were very devout christians. I found their dedication fascinating, (plus, I was fascinated with their daughter).

I soon found myself attending church every Sunday, Sunday night, and Wednesday night. I got myself baptized, studied the bible (King James Version only), and spent every spare moment in prayer, and fellowship with other believers. I began to alienate myself from my co-workers, who were my friends before my new found dedication to the lord. (This story is so sad, it’s almost funny)

Well, life went on. I got married, had a few wonderful kids, got transferred a few times in the military, spent the better part of the next ten years going to church, studying the “word”, witnessing, listening to preaching, debating bible doctrine with those from other denominations. But under the surface, in secret, the thing that was really occupying the majority of my time was the battle with sin. Any thought, word, or deed that was contrary to the bible was a tragedy. If I looked at another woman in a lustful manner, I agonized. If I cursed at a project I was working on, I agonized. If I watch a TV show that could be considered “un-holy”, again with the agony. I lived with guilt for years, with no relief. I prayed, had some close male christian friends pray for me, read the bible, beseeched the “holy spirit” to “fill me”, wept, and prayed more. Any relief was temporary at best.

After my stint in the military, things only got worse. Add to these “sinful tendencies”, financial problems, job problems, and self-worth problems, and you have yourself one confused christian.

For the next ten years I spent very little time in church. I couldn’t find a church that had a membership that I felt was really leading the christian life.

Last summer I went to my old neighborhood to visit with some friends I hadn’t seen in 25 years. I came across an old girlfriend and we chatted for hours. The conversation soon centered on her religious faith and my backsliden condition. Along comes the internet.

We maintained contact through email, always talking about Jesus and her firm belief that he would see me through my “spiritual valley”.

I wanted to believe, but had seen no evidence in the past 20 years of my christian life to convince me that I would ever receive any relief from my guilt and sin.

After replying to one of her emails a few months ago, I went to a search engine and typed in “faith”. I consider this act to be the most important event in my life. In a few moments I found myself looking at the “Freedom From Religion” web site. I read, with hypnotic amazement, a portion of Dan Barker’s testimony of de-conversion. I began to search out other web sites. With in a few hours the answer I had been searching for, for the past 20 years, was starring out at me from my iMac — there is no god, that means there is no Jesus, no holy spirit, that means — there is no — sin. I was amazed at this revelation. I felt as if I had discovered the double helix.

Now, several months later, I find it almost impossible to believe that I was a christian. How could I have been so thoroughly programmed to believe the biggest lie that has ever been feed to mankind?

I’m in my early 40’s. Half my life was lived with a fear that I really didn’t measure up to the standards of this loving/menacing god. Now, I can say with absolute confidence, that when I die...that’s it. No fear, no joy, just dead, like an old dried up apple core.

I have chosen to believe a theory, based on fact...not a theory, based on myth.

Graphic Rule

To: “Positive Atheism”
Subject: FORUM: My De-Conversion Story
Date: Saturday, July 08, 2000 8:49 AM

I’m 16 (oh, so young!) and grew up in a kind-of religious family. My mom is Roman Catholic, my dad is (or used to be?) Presbyterian, but doesn’t attend any kind of church anymore. Since I was about 8 or 9, I’ve had to go to church every week with my mom and my little brother, once he got that old. That weekly mass and RE youth group 2 or 3 times a month were all the religion I ever got. My family doesn’t pray, doesn’t talk about gods or religions or anything like that. I never really thought hard about anything I was being taught, although I do remember not taking everything too seriously.

In 7th grade, I actually stared becoming really active in my church youth group. I started going on retreats and the like, always looking more for a close group of friends rather than something religiously moving. It was about that time I started having something like doubts. I thought to myself that my religion was really quite selfish — who are we to be sure that we are right? Why are we condemning other religions like Buddhism, or if not condemning them, at least saying that they are wrong? I struggled with finding an idea that would make everyone right — my idea of “heaven” was a place were everyone “lived” what he/she had believed in their life, and that there was this one big central god-being. Still, this seemed Christianity-centered and selfish to me. (Strangely enough, I now find that many of my peers have this same idea of an afterlife.) Additionally, I started taking Bethel — a bible study class. I stayed in it for 2 years. I liked being informed.

I started actually rejecting Christianity about the middle of my freshman year, when I was about 14. It was due to the fact that I disagreed with the church about political issues. I kept hearing other people’s opinions on things like abortion and same-sex marriages, and I would think to myself, “You know, everything they say i agree with, but I’m going to take a different stance because of what the church says.” I finally got incredibly tired of this. I decided that if I didn’t agree with the churhc on these fairly superficial issues, why bother trying to make the rest work? I started finding flaws in everything they said, and in the bible. Hypocrisy became my biggest foe. But I still had a god-figure in my head.

The day I realized I was completely atheist was sometime last year in October, when I was 15. I’d been reading a lot of atheist and freethought literature online, and it was all making a whole lot of sense to me — a lot more than the church ever had. One day I was reading a very evangelical website to which my friend had sent me. It was full of the “jesus loves you” and “god knows everything and wants you to be saved” and the like, and I thought to myself, “Haha, joke’s over, when will you stop with this game?” It was a kind of revelation — I felt like it was obvious that there was no god or anything, and that people were just pretending. It was a very liberating day, when it just kind of all fell into place.

The rest of the year i spent becoming not just an atheist, but a very strong atheist — no afterlife, no soul, nothing. And all of this while going to confirmation class once a month and listening to [fundamentalist] rhetoric constantly. I live in Colorado Springs, home of Focus on the Family and more right-wing conspiracists than you can shake a bible at. And, of course, since I’m only 16, everything I believe is a phase. Sheesh. But in spite of all of this, I’m very glad. I feel like I know something that most people don’t, and i prefer informed hardships over ignorant bliss any day.

Whitney Hampson

Graphic Rule

To: “Positive Atheism”
Subject: FORUM_My_De-Conversion_Story_9371
Date: Monday, July 10, 2000 12:59 AM

Mine is not so much de-conversion — I never had the initial conversion into a dogma. Mine was just an absolute lack of any religion, on the wishes of my late father. My ‘de-conversion.’ so to speak, was just one day thinking, yeah thinking (a novel idea for most devout theists) just realizing that none of it made sense. And this also created some thinking about why people went to church, prayed, or believed any of it. The fact that about the amount of people with average or below intelligence was about the same amount of people who were followers in a theologist religion, gave me a real push to consider these things.

Graphic Rule

From: “none”
To: “Positive Atheism”
Subject: FORUM_My_De-Conversion_Story_9371
Date: Thursday, July 13, 2000 5:26 PM

I was raised without religion. My brother and I were never babtized — neither was our dad. Our mom was babtized, but didn’t go to church. Until recently, she often struggled with the issue of “god”, wondering if when things go bad, it isn’t because we’re a family of pagans. Overall though, she and my entire family have existed fine without god or the devil, heaven or hell.

I majored in math in college. I know there are infinite dimensions and obviously things I don’t understand, but I feel very confident that the Christian god is no more likely than any of the Greek or Egyptian or any other cultures’ gods that have existed throughout time. God is just like Santa Claus, except Santa played a more significant role in my childhood than religion. In fact, my family has strong traditions. We celebrate Christmas and most holidays — although a true Christian will tell you that the celebration of Christmas is pagan anyway. It’s simply a celebration — we baked, we decorated, we even sang the songs, but didn’t believe in them any more than Snow White or Puff the Magic Dragon, maybe even less. Religion just wasn’t really an issue in our home. I remember when I was about four years old, I was playing with the little nativity set we put out each year. I asked my dad if there really was a Jesus. He said, “no, it’s just a story.” It was that easy.

There have been a lot of good and bad, happy and terrifying stories throughout time that were not true, yet idealized. The Iliad was believed and treasured like a “bible” for far longer than the Christian bible has been around. Unfortunately, I was raised in a predominantly catholic community. The other kids did make fun of me, and they did say there was “no way” I could have no religion. It didn’t bother me a lot though. I understood at an early age that weak and less-educated people need to follow. An all-forgiving figure that’s invisible and never makes an appearance is an easy scapegoat.

Unfortunately, god is also the figure people give credit for everything beautiful and good. I think it’s a shame that a person can’t find beauty in a mountain or a river based on the simple existence of nature and appreciate their own perception and ability to acknowledge moments of wonder. Being an atheist doesn’t make you cold or thoughtless. It enables you to take responsibility for your own actions, realizing certain choices may not always be forgiven. Atheism also provides the opportunity to live each moment to its fullest, because chances are, this is the only life we get. I strongly feel that as science, technology and art evolve in our society, so will our understanding of our existence. I look forward to the day the bible is on the mythology rack at the used book store and don’t think that’s too far in the future.

Graphic Rule

From: “Jane Doe”
To: “Positive Atheism”
Subject: FORUM_My_De-Conversion_Story_9371
Date: Saturday, July 15, 2000 6:20 PM

Honestly, I stopped believing when I was 12. My father ran off when I was 4, and my mother was — well, not stable. I almost died from neglect when I was 7. My IQ grew faster than I did, and by the time I was in third grade, they were talking about my being an award-winning physicist someday (as it turns out, I’m a mathematician instead).

The whole God-heaven-hell-weird religious rules-thing just made no sense to me. I found that the whole setup, regardless of the relevant religious stream, fell apart rapidly under only mild questioning. What is really sad, is that I was so desperate for some sort of community, or family (my own family being a scary mess), that I actually spent the next 20 years trying and trying to believe. I hung out with Catholics, Baptists, Episcopalians, Quakers. I even made a conversion to Judaism when I found out that I had Jewish relatives on both sides of the family.

But, it was just no dice. I stood up, sat down, and kneeled when appropriate, but I knew that I was chanting verses to the air. There was nobody up there, I was praying to AIR. There was no big moment, I just gave up one day. I was born and raised a skeptic, an atheist. That’s what I am.

I wish I could say that I have a great time baiting believers, but I don’t. Actually, they’re kind of creepy, and I feel sad for them — though not in a patronising way. Genuinely sorry. For me, the whole thing is just a big relief. Nobody to tell me who to love, or what to eat, or where to go, and an eternity of nothingness when I finally die. It’s liberating, actually. I feel a lot better now.

Graphic Rule

From: “Smith Design Works”
To: “Positive Atheism”
Subject: Re: Tell Us Your De-Conversion Story
Date: Friday, June 23, 2000 11:20 AM

My De-conversion story.

I believe in order to know why someone believes the things they do, it is important to know where they come from.

My name is Jeff. I was born at the height of the cold war. I remember as a child during my elementary school days the air-raid alarm sounding every Wednesday at noon and having to hide under our desks.

My Father was a physicist/aerospace engineer and worked for the NACA (NASA) then later, for Boeing. He was from Alabama and left the South because he felt that Religion was an absurd belief/institution and that racism was an unnecessary evil of Southern Christian society, something that he was criticized for. Throughout my childhood I was taught little about religion(s), but was not dissuaded from going to church services/functions with friends. I was an Indian Guide, Cub Scout, and a Boy Scout. I had two paper routes. I was a moral youth. I didn’t drink, smoke pot, nor did I engage in a lot of the rowdy acts that most of my other Catholic friends did, believing they would later be forgiven. I was obsessed with morality and honor. As a child I was always sticking up for the weak, I hated bullies. Because of my size no one bullied me, so I took in upon myself to protect those that couldn’t protect themselves.

I read every book imaginable about Knights, crusades and good vs. bad oriented materials.

In highschool, because I didn’t engage in drug use or have sex, I was pretty much a loner, I had few friends but most people liked me. Girls considered me cute maybe even attractive, but I couldn’t get a date because my peers thought my morality just didn’t coincide with my belief system. Two of my closest friends became Born-again Christians. In order to fit in a group and retain the close friendships I had had with the two guys I considered my closest friends, I started going more and more to church-youth functions. I had a close friend die in a fishing accident. I excepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior at his memorial.

During my period of grief, I started going to a church twice a week. While there the Youth Pastor would use fear tactics (lies) to scare us into believing Christianity was true.

I met a girl in the group that I lost my virginity to, whom I thought was a wholesome girl, it later turned out that she had been a teen prostitute from the time she was 13, I contracted venereal warts. I realized that most of the youths that frequented this program were ex-criminals, immoral, hypocritical and very confused. I did not fit in. I changed churches, again and again. The people I met there were either going to church to fulfill some youth parole related sentence or were just brain-dead, naive zombies who had some horrific upbringing and were trying to suppress it by acting like immature innocents.

When I was 21 I married a woman who was a Born-again Christian, (after all I thought I was one as well at this time), when the topic of how to raise children arose, she wanted to raise them in a Born-again atmosphere. This scared me, we were soon divorced.

In college I realized more and more that I was actually an Atheist NOT a Christian; and that the older I got the more I hated Religions. Why? It takes advantage of the weak.

I read everything I could get my hands on about Christianity. I’ve read the Bible four times in its entirety and used it as a resource guide hundreds if not thousands of times. I’ve taken many classes on Hinduism, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, Shintoism, Book of Mormon, Watchtower, etc.

I have 2 BA’s, and 4 minors, from various Western Universities and 1 graduate degree from UC Berkeley. It is worth noting that while a US Naval Officer at Berkeley, I took classes in Psychological Manipulation brainwashing. Religions’ tactics are employed by the same means to achieve the same results. One should understand that thought manipulation is NOT teaching and that belief is not the same as critical analyses.

Looking back on my youth I realize that I wanted to belong to the good, true, moral crowd, what I found out is that it is not a moral crowd and its teachings are not true. As an adult I now know that the truth is always good. Religions are made up of lies and metaphor to scare its’ believers into practicing its’ sense of morality, amorality.

My conclusions: Man invented God. Man desires power. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Absolute power is always corrupt and is used to suppress freedom. Man feels guilt, fear, and compassion. These are the tools that are utilized to brainwash the uneducated/weak into believing that they alone are the moral elite. Brainwashed individuals that are infected with religious belief infect their children, this perpetuates ignorance and superstition. Religion = amorality/intellectual slavery.

My name is Jeff, I am a proud to call myself a moral Atheist.

Graphic Rule

To: “Positive Atheism”
Subject: FORUM_My_De-Conversion_Story_9371
Date: Sunday, July 16, 2000 8:49 PM

I have been an atheist for two years now. I was brought up as a Catholic, went to parochial schools, and was subjected to going to church. I always questioned the Bible, silently of course, when I was young you didn’t dare question God or the Bible.

So I kept my opinions to myself until my mother became ill. She was 86 years old and had several strokes until she landed up in a nursing home. While she was sleeping she had another stroke which left her unable to walk, she was incontinent, so she had to wear a diaper. Her food had to be pureed for she had difficulty swallowing. I visited her daily and cried with her watching her suffer and deteriorate every day she would ask me why wont God answer my prayers? I beg him to please let me die, I don’t want to suffer any more.

Every day she asked me this question, and each time I would tell her that I didn’t have the answer, when in fact I did. Obviously, there was no God. She begged and pleaded, if there is a God, he must be Heartless. She went on suffering like this for another month.

From that day on, I came out of the closet. I tell people freely now that I am an atheist. I am not bitter, like some people have said because can’t be mad at something that doesn’t exist.

Graphic Rule

From: “Cogi Hellandback”
To: “Positive Atheism”
Subject: FORUM_My_De-Conversion_Story_9371
Date: Tuesday, July 18, 2000 1:25 AM

Greetings. My name is Cody, and I am 14 years old. I live in Northern California.

I became an atheist because I realized I was one. I was born and raised in what I can only described as an agnostic fashion. When I was younger, I don’t even know what my dad was. Definitely not religious. He is now a Buddhist. My mom is — I’m not sure, either atheist or agnostic, I’ve talked to her about it and it’s not clear as either. She doesn’t seem to care either way.

Until I was about 12, I had no specific beliefs either way. I suppose I was agnostic. In the last year to year and a half or so, I’ve realized that I more-or-less definitely assert that I am atheist. From my point of view, I cannot think of any gods that are separate from the rest of the universe.

Now, I am fairly vocal in my atheistic point of view. I’m lucky that my friends are mostly atheist or agnostic, it makes life easier. I know not everyone is that lucky.

Graphic Rule

From: “David Garcia”
To: “Positive Atheism”
Subject: FORUM_My_De-Conversion_Story_9371
Date: Tuesday, July 18, 2000 12:49 PM

My deconversion comes from theological problems. I’m 29 years old now. I grew up a social Methodist (church going wasn’t spiritual, just a Sunday social function). I was raised in a wonderful home. I have a beautiful relationship with my mother, father, and sister. So that should squelch anyone’s idea that atheists must come from broken homes.

When I was in my early 20s, I started to become more interested in Christianity. I searched out every church under the sun for 5 years — Baptist, Presbyterian, Reformed, Catholic, and Non-Denominational. I was searching for the ultimate Christian truth. Which church had it? Who was right amongst the thousands of different denominations out there? I had formulated my OWN theological system and then measured the churches against my system. If they didn’t line up, I walked away. This went on for years.

One night, during my usual bible studies, something hit me right between the eyes. Where did sin really come from? The Christian is taught that sin originated with Satan when he rebelled against God. And when Satan was ‘thrown out’ of Heaven, he came to earth and tempted Adam and Eve to sin. That, in turn, brought sin into the world and has been passed down to every man and woman since Adam and Eve; therefore making all humankind accountable for their sin and in need of salvation through Jesus.

My problem was this: Adam and Eve chose to disobey God by eating the fruit from the tree of knowledge, and Satan chose to sin by disobeying God. Who created the sin of disobedience in order for Satan to have chosen it to begin with? In other words, a person can not choose vanilla over chocolate ice cream, if that person doesn’t know vanilla ice cream exists. So how could Satan choose to disobey, if he didn’t even know what disobedience was? My conclusion, therefore, was that someone before Satan either sinned or created sin so that Satan could choose to sin. That line of thinking led me to realize that the only other person to be held accountable would be God himself. And if that’s the case, then God could not (if he’s a fair God) punish Satan and all of humankind for sin if he is the one responsible for sin to begin with. And if he does punish us, then he’s a sadistic, vindictive monster who doesn’t deserve worship to begin with.

Awakened by these conclusions, I realized that there is no sin, no punishment for sin, no need for a saviour or ‘salvation’ and ultimately — no god.

I don’t walk now around downing others or their beliefs. I find it disrespectful to other people, regardless of their beliefs. I choose now to respect my fellow man and woman (something I didn’t do as a Christian) and to live my life being kind, giving, but most importantly — I live my life with my eyes open, my mind fully functional, and with logic and rational thought as my guide. And that has made me happier and more at peace than any blind faith or belief in a deity could.

Graphic Rule

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