Just Curious

Readers are (obviously) under no obligation to answer any of the following questions, but I hope you’ll be willing to share. 🤞🙂

If you were once a believer but are now a non-believer/atheist/agnostic/deist — what denomination did you leave? Pentecostal? Catholic? Lutheran? Baptist? …… ??

What was the FIRST inclination you had that things were not as they seemed? I realize that once you leave religion, you discover many things that were “off,” but if you can remember, what was that one thing that triggered your move in the “other” direction?

Is there anything you miss about being a believer? Perhaps the regular get-togethers with people of like-mind? Singing in the choir? Getting up early on Sunday morning? 😖

Is there ANY event/circumstance/happening that might cause you to return (or consider returning) to your faith?

And finally, for those who are “closet atheists” (and are using a pseudonym!), do you have any suggestions or advice for others in your position? What would it take for you to reveal your true feelings?

Thanks for taking part in my just-for-fun survey. 🙂

56 thoughts on “Just Curious

  1. Was raised Catholic.
    I don’t know whether it was the trigger, but it started with discussion around the Trinity. I am not sure I recall correctly.
    Not that I can think of.
    Senility
    I am out of the closet

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    • I too was raised Catholic. My memories include being scolded and struck (with a wood pointer) by really mean nuns because I dared to question the inconsistencies of the Bible, being forced to play dodgeball where the aggressive kids are allowed to physically abuse the weaker kids, as an alter boy having to hold upright our staggering priest who was drunk on sacramental wine during Sunday mass, and watching some of the girls strip off their uniforms in front of the boys behind the school building.

      I never came out of the closet because I never went into the closet. Instead, I ran fast from that friggin’ nightmare the very first chance I got!

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  2. I was a poseur when I was young. Ambiguity was the shield I used to cover for my lack of belief. Not until I got to the point that I began to understand the corrosive blowback that faith has on the human experience that I went from passive indifference to militant anti-theism. I’m not all that good at it but I’m in it hook line and pun.

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  3. I, too, was raised Catholic. About ten years ago or so, I realized I simply did not believe in any of the stuff I was taught to say I believed in during my days at Catholic school. Never was very devout or deeply religious, but, it was odd the first time I said, “I’m an atheist.” Kinda felt like I was doing something “bad” by saying it. THAT’S the power of indoctrination, eh.

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  4. I was raised in literally a dozen different denominations of the Protestant church. Mother was an organist so we went where she played. by the third denomination I began thinking something was really wrong. All these people are Christians but believe such different things? I KNEW something was wrong when we started at yet a fourth church and I had to use a different Bible. I lost my faith completely after going through Seminary. I miss singing with a choir. I won’t ever go back. I’m more connected now with the planet and people on it than I ever was when I “believed’. I am not an atheist. But I am no longer a theist either….just call me agnostic.

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    • And the truth shall set you free.

      I’m not sure how Apropos it is but it sounds meaningful. To me the best part of religion is the exclamation vocabulary it has provided me. Jesus H. Christ and God damn it are in frequent use.

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    • At one point I was preoccupied that I had been baptized as a child and not undergone a ‘believers’ baptism by immersion. I eventually had a Pentecostal minister baptise me as an adult. But what really troubled me was if the issue of baptism was so important and led to church splits and could potentially affect a persons salvation why didn’t ‘God’ make the matter clearer in the Bible?

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      • Oh, alright. But I’m not responsible for the eyerolls from those who have heard it and have to suffer through it again.

        As a kid we never really went to church. I knew a lot of kids that did, but was spared that particular torture for reasons unknown. But then one day, I assume due to some invite to my parents, we got all gussied up and went to church.

        Well when we got there the kids (I was somewhere between 6-8 YO) are separated from the adults and get shuffled off to Sunday school. The kids there were busy coloring, doing puzzles and whatnot, and the lady in charge began inquiring as to my level of churchy education. Well once they pegged me as a noob, the lady told the rest of the kids we would have to start at the begininng and I felt most of what enthusiasm there was immediately slip out of the room. It was obviously old hat to the kids there and they would have to slog through it all again.

        Well the lady starts informing me on the first day, light was created, on the second day, the sky, on the third day plants and oceans and land, on the fourth day the sun/moon, stars… and I raised my hand. They afterall did call this Sunday School, I assumed I could ask a question. The lady looked a bit surprised but my hand stayed high. She asked me what was it? And I responded “how could there have been light on the first day, when the sun was created on the fourth day?”

        Well her face turned a shade of red I wasn’t accustomed to seeing, she looked at me like I was the damn devil himself, and abruptly got up, announced to the kids to just color in the coloring books, and she stomped out, never to be seen again by me.

        In the car on the way home my mom asked me how it went, and I related as best I could what had happened. We never went to church again.

        Later in my youth there was a knock at the door and a cute blonde with a huge smile was going door to door to ask if any kids wanted to go to Sunday School. Well I was taken by a blonde with a huge smile and decided to try it. Maybe I was around 12 or so. Well I went, this time I was too old for the kiddy pool Sunday school, and I went to regular sermons, by myself. After several weeks of sitting in the back, listening in on what was being said, and rolling it around in my noggin, I finally decided to wait one day and ask the preacher some questions after a sermon. I can’t remember exactly what I asked but I know I got around to something along the lines of “so with all I have heard on your religios history, how and where do the dinosaurs fit into your timeline?” (I’ve always been a pesky inquisitive sort) and the look in his eyes told me what I needed to know, just before he went off on his “you just gotta believe” thesis.
        I never went back. The blonde long forgotten…

        Later as a young adult my mom had remarried, we had moved to Tn. and we admittedly were going through a time of financial hardship. Some nice folks invited the parents to church, and they went for a while, and I finally decided to maybe give it one more shot. So I went for a while myself. I sat there watching and listening, but in all honesty everything I saw and heard just kept raising more and more questions I knew I’d never get a good answer to. This time I just quit going altogether without putting anyone on the spot with any of my damn questions.

        As the years went by I progressed from a wanna be believer to a not so interested sorta wanna be believer, to an agnostic light to an agnostic heavy, to finally an all out atheist.

        Science I had found answered my questions with much more plausible explanations and to this day still does.

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  5. Raised Presbyterian. It was nice. So nice that it was easy to overlook the inconsistencies
    .
    The trigger was a combination of things in college, including encounters with Campus Crusade-addled students and Brother Jed, finishing my second full read-through of the bible, and a ton of other reading. It gradually just clicked that it was all fiction. That was a looong time ago, so I may not remember all the triggers from then.

    I miss potlucks. I would miss singing in the choir, except that I’ve been singing with community choruses ever since. In May I’m singing the Verdi Requiem with a local symphony, and church choir was never at that level.

    For re-converting: I have a passcode. It’s a sentence in plain English, that isn’t a quote from anything, and I have not written it down or told anybody what it is. It’s grammatically correct, but won’t make sense to anybody but me, and would not come up in a normal conversation. If there’s a all-knowing god, that god knows what it is, though. So if an evangelist comes up to me and without prompting starts his spiel by saying my passcode, I will give a serious listen to what he has to say. Any evidence that would make me consider changing my mind about religion has to be at least that amazing and unlikely, at a minimum.

    I suppose I am a “semi-closeted” atheist. My immediate family and close friends all know, but they are mostly non-believers too. I don’t make any pretense of being a believer, but among some social groups or extended family, I don’t discuss religion. If they try to press me on it, I put my foot down that it’s a private matter that I simply won’t discuss. That’s been an adequate way to kill the conversation so far.

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  6. Growing up, it was with Churches of Christ in Australia.

    The first thing that I began to notice, was the hypocrisy. I considered remaining a Christian, but keeping outside the church.

    Then it started to bother me, that Jesus referred to himself as “The son of man” and not as the son of God. I searched the gospels, but could not find a clear assertion that he was the son of God. Yes, he referenced “Father”, but that seemed metaphorical. So I began to question the divinity of Jesus.

    And then I carefully reread the gospel accounts of the resurrection. And, by this time, I was now old enough to see that they were not credible as reports of real events.

    About the only thing that kept me going, was that there were so many millions of Christians and you could not have that many people believing fiction. But then it occurred to me that there are millions of Mormons, and that’s an obviously made up religion. So maybe there can be millions believing fiction.

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  7. I’ll try my best Nan to keep my answers short. 😉 😛

    What denomination did you leave?

    Presbyterian-Reformed Theology (college & seminary) and Non-Denominational (ex-wife), with strong ties to most Protestant Catechisms, but open to some Catholic Catechisms. I was not at all seeking divisions, but commonalities and unity in my 11-years as a Believer.

    What was the FIRST inclination…that one thing that triggered your move in the “other” direction?

    One of my soccer/football teammates from northwest India (Kashmir) asked me ONE question when I was attempting to evangelize to him. He asked, “Given how Earth-changing Yeshua’s birth and first 12-years were for all of humanity, can you please tell me exactly where he was and what exactly he was doing and WHY between the age of 13 and 29?” I went near mad trying to answer that… and it started the entire collapse.

    Is there anything you miss about being a believer?

    I miss the social activities — however, I REALLY didn’t like their angry opposition to Halloween! Geezz! — that honestly can be obtained and nurtured with ANY type of social non-religious organization. What I DO NOT miss was the frequent, sometimes constant flirting (some bordering on very inappropriate), secret fornication, and marital cheating when the Christian canonical New Testament CLEARLY and UNEQUIVOCALLY teaches not to behave with sexual promiscuity or intentionally flirt in those ways! The blatant hypocrisy was sickening.

    Is there ANY event/circumstance/happening that might cause you to return (or consider returning) to your faith?

    NOTHING will ever convince me to return to those days and people of double, triple, quadruple standards or more. But then again, in the end… it is their 4th-century Hellenic canonical Bibles (and its origins) that are the root problem, the chronic disease of all their confusion, contradictions, and Scriptural and Faith disunity for the last 2,100 years that nurtures all the hypocrisy, and most do not even recognize it. It’s very sad really.

    Great post/questions Nan! Enjoying all the comments/answers. 🙂

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  8. I couldn’t help being a childlike believer, because my – mildly Protestant – parents were credible. The puns, of course, are not intended.
    My main doubts were the biblical tales of the creation of this mighty universe, full of life, in just a couple of days by clicking fingers, and of the rather silly miracles of Jesus curing people’s blindness, walking on water, multiplying bread and fish, turning water into wine.
    At the of 15 to 17, family circunstances forced me to live in a religious boarding school. Fortunately, they were just abolishing the Sunday (Sabbath, Day of Rest) habits of going to church twice, and prohibiting the use of public transport because those conductors and inspectors did not observe the Lord’s Day. But many other customs remained, which really made it very easy for me to reject religions..
    There is one thing I still like of that period: church music. Disregarding the lyrics, many hymns and psalms have beautiful melodies, and community singing accompanied by a resounding organ can be moving.
    .-

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  9. We were Catholic. We were not of the intellectual kind of believer, and our family did the Mass and the Holy
    Days and such, and it was only when the first serious changes came that i started to back off. I don’t do change well.
    The Latin Mass began to sound more like the protestant services, (no more Latin), the priest now faced the congregation, and I didn’t so much rebel as wander away. I was in my early twenties. I never went back. But it wasn’t until I was probably 50 to realize how many gaps and holes there were in the entire religious thing. Reading about ancient gods, I discovered Astarte, who dressed in blue robes and had a baby fathered by a God, in the middle of the desert. during the winter solstice– I kept delving, and reallzed that all of our church festivals were borrowed from other religions and cleaned up to be less sexy and more holy.
    I also recalled our parish priest telling us firmly that we should never watch magicians, or read about magic. Then i understood that the Bible was all about magic, sleight ot hand, mass hypnosis, and shell games.

    And when I realized that meditation was exactly the same as praying to God (only you look inside yourself, instead of upwards) that the penny dropped. Aha. Aha.

    I never looked back, and have never regretted the loss.

    But I just understood something. The Catholic church I left was not the one I grew up in. Too many changes, too fast. I suspect if the church had remained as it had been in the early fifties, I’d still probably be a believer, a congregant…Not so much me ieaving the Church, as the churdh I remember leaving me.

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  10. I was raised Mormon. Since my teens I studied other religions in depth to try to prove my points. I understood all the differing interpretations and seesawed my way in and around it all and in and out of reason. What did it for me was Violet (ain’t no shrinking) said something to make me think—what if I’m all wrong. What if it is all a facade. I put away the books and the web and started to observe the world as openly as I could.
    Nothing was as it was reported. The blinders came off and my ability to see the blatant and obvious was accentuated. Every jot and tittle was an alter unreality to what we observe and I was at a crossroads. Faith, or integrity. I am now without friends and most of my family for not believing the story. It’s tantamount to treason I suppose.

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    • My disabled sister is Mormon, but she’s active in that church probably for more practical reasons. She pays them $50 per month and they help her out with things she can’t do for herself (e.g. driving, moving furniture, etc.). Every time I ask about her religion, she refers me to church leaders. Once, I joked that the Angel Moroni who supposedly visited Joseph Smith was actually an extraterrestrial; but, she had no idea what I was talking about!

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      • The church came out a few years ago with an historical transparency program to open things up a bit. Nobody but the scholarly types have even heard of it. It’s very damming to the cause but it’s buried in the warehouse with the ark.

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  11. I was baptised Presbyterian and went to a Methodist school, but the whole idea seemed so obviously ludicrous to me by about the age of 10 or 11 that I never really took it seriously. I assumed that everyone else felt the same and was playing along with the game out of politeness ( a bit like your parents and Santa). To some extent I still make that assumption.

    It would literally take a miracle for anything to change me. Probably more than just one, actually.

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    • Some of us are more prone to trust our judgment tan others. Well done to you for doing so.

      In my case, looking back, I realise sort of assumed it must be true if so many people believed it and I had a lingering fear of going to Hell forever. When fear rears it’s head then logic can be quickly cast aside.

      I have thought long and hard on these issues and now conclude that personality type is a big factor. Studies have shown that around 20% of populations are essentially non religious personalities. In some societies such folk just go along with it so as not to get in trouble with zealots, but don’t actually believe.

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      • Studies have shown that around 20% of populations are essentially non religious personalities. In some societies such folk just go along with it so as not to get in trouble with zealots, but don’t actually believe.

        Peter, I’d imagine that even “20%” is a conservative percentage; it’s probably more. You’ve perhaps seen me state this before on other blog-comments, but it bears repeating here with your dialogue with Richmond Road and reiterates and reinforces what you’ve stated here:

        Studies done from 2007 through 2011 in 40 countries around the world, including the United States show that the rational choice to adhere to a religion is heavily self-centered, not theological, not necessarily empirical, or not even miraculous, but instead based on the question, what will the decision cost ME?

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          • Sorry Nan. 🙂 I was only reinforcing Peter’s statement about studies showing how frequently many humans simply follow the crowd to avoid discomfort or confrontation, even more so when their public dissension risks complete ruin or possible death. I believe what Peter and I (and others here) are pointing out is the impact of peer-pressure, especially if it involves immediate family.

            Keep me in check though. 😉 😛

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            • I understand. But I meant for this post to be for sharing personal experiences.

              I realize it’s simply part of your nature to share knowledge … and in many, many instances, it’s very welcomed. But not always. ❤

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      • In this part of the world I think the statistic may be a little larger than 20%. Maybe more like 60%. Our convict heritage has made us instinctively suspicious of authority and more than a bit cynical.
        I can honestly say that when I do encounter anybody claiming a belief in God my immediate reaction is …. “Oh, come on. Don’t be silly.” But one encounters very few of them in these parts.

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      • Peter, I can say the same thing for myself. Almost everyone around me was a believer, maybe not bible carrying, church going every Sunday, but a believer somewhat. I think I first met a non believer in my 3rd year of college.

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  12. Wish I could partake in this, but I’ve always been an atheist….born that way, I guess or lack (thankfully) of any indoctrination by family or friends.

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  13. I suppose it depends on what one means by “believer”. Like most Kiwis in the 1950s I could perhaps be labelled a “cultural Christian” rather than a religious Christian. I accepted there was a God and that Jesus taught living by a set of values or principles was more important that living by a set of rules, and that he died for expressing those beliefs.

    At my mother’s bidding I attended Sunday school for a while but that changed after after an incident at school. If you are interested you can search for “The day God spoke to me” on my blog. Then, also at my mother’s bidding, I attended a Bible study group. From memory most of it was about applying the Golden Rule more than theology. I attended mostly because as a 12 or13 year old I was smitten by girl who also attended. When some theology, especially the concept of substitutionary atonement, I felt disgusted at the notion, and when the girl stopped attending, so did I.

    By the time I was 15, I was a non-theist, and had constructed God as a metaphor incorporating all the values I held important. Then in 1966 I heard Lloyd Geering (dean of Knox College (the Presbyterian theological college) speak, endorsing what might be called secular Christianity. Essentially he confirmed what I already believed, and for a while I was comfortable to self identify as a Christian on those terms.

    Decades later, I discovered the Quakers, and felt I found my religious home, and as time passed I realised that many, perhaps most Quakers hold somewhat similar beliefs. One thing Quakers don’t do is theology – it’s up to the individual to work out their own. These days I identify as Quaker, but not Christian.

    I think one aspect of growing up in Aotearoa New Zealand is that religion is a very private matter, and fundamentalism was almost unknown until towards the end of the twentieth century, and even now has a small (but growing) following. One attends a particular church because one likes the type of service or prefers the church community, not because of matters of doctrine.

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  14. Baptized United Church of Canada, but no one asked my permission. Raised in some kind of non-denominational Sunday School, all I can remember is Protestant. My abusive father was born Catholic, but as he put it, was kicked out for some reason (probably caught raping little girls).
    As a kid I was very black and white. I got beat if I did what my father called wrong–just about everything I did was wrong–except going to Sunday School. I learned to pray for someone to stop him from beating me. That never happened. God could do anything he wanted to, but he could not stop my father. I think that was my first sign. Everything grew from that.
    I miss nothing about being a believer. My apologies to those who have no sight, but the blind leading the blind. Imbecils teaching imbecils.
    There is no way my deconversion could ever be reversed. At first I just moved away from religion. Eventually I stopped believing god existed, but I never really defined it that way until I was older. I just lived in a godless universe. After my experiences on LSD life became all impirtant, not the fact of being alive, but the fact I am filled with life.
    God could show up on my doorstep, and create all kinds of miracles around me, I still would not believe. He had his chance years ago. He blew it!
    I rely only on myself, but I accept help from those who truly want to help–no strings attached. If there are strings attached, it is not worth it…

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  15. Nice collection here! I was born into a Presbyterian household and sucked it all up unquestioning until my late teens. Reading Corinthians on my own started alarm bells – women as second class and gay people reviled. I suddenly couldn’t make sense of or justify the clear wording and it all fell from there. I can imagine Quakerism or something more spiritual like that making sense given a supernatural type revelation but there’s nothing about the Christian tradition that I think could be made real with any occurrence. As Maka suggests, dementia might tell me otherwise at some point in the future, just depends what region of my brain rots first. I’m completely open about atheism, it’s perfectly normal where I am and while my parents were/are very religious, they accept that everyone comes to their own conclusions about life.

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    • One aspect that challenged me was the gay issue. For years I accepted the party line that being gay was a choice. Indeed in my sheltered youth I did not think I knew a single gay person (I realise in retrospect that this is incorrect but no one was openly gay).

      It was as I came to see that in so many cases it was not choice and I read of scientific research that supported that view I was challenged.

      My particular church was not judgmental and had at least one gay member, he kept quiet about his sexuality. I came to realise how tortured he was by the whole matter. He could not change who he was and traumatized by the judgment passages in the Bible.

      My problem was that The Bible was really quite clear on the matter. I still remember thinking to myself (shortly before I left faith behind) that if it is proven that sexuality is not a choice then the Bible must be false.

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  16. I’ve been a Disciple of Christ, Methodist, and Southern Baptist.
    The SBC harped on biblical marriage in protest of the marriage equality legislation being presented at the time. Doubts arose over complementarianism as the subordination of women seemed culturrally abberant. Personally, being a single unemployed woman for a solid decade made me wonder if God was really there and what sensible plan entailed neglecting his daughter?

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  17. I was born to a Catholic mother and Jewish father. Talk about conflict of interest! Born a pragmatist, I was about 5 years old when I first figured out that it was all just so much b.s. Must keep kosher, must not eat meat on Fridays. “But why?”, I asked. “Just because that is the way it is”. Thus began my disbelief. The final nail in the coffin was when I was about 20 years old, married to a Protestant, and one day on the streets of a small town, there was a man passing out flyers for a “revival” the following weekend. Declining his flyer and hoping to put paid to any conversation, I said “No thank you, I’m Jewish”. His reply drove the nail in the coffin: “That’s okay, honey, we can forgive you for even that.” F*** You, buddy! I am a realist, a pragmatist, a person who believes in what I can see. No, there is nothing I miss about the rituals mankind creates to help promote religion. I don’t think I ever believed, so I surely don’t miss it now.

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    • The first Christians were Jews that separated themselves because they believed in a Messiah. Doesn’t that make them heretics?
      Anyway, I find it difficult to understand the arrogance of “I forgive you for being Jewish”.
      .-

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  18. 1) I attanded several demoninations over the years, I was a member of a UK Baptish Church when I eventually left.

    2) There were several moments or things, hard to recall the first. It was possibly when I realised that some religious experiences can be explained naturally.

    3) I occasionally miss a group sing song.

    4) It is possible, but I can’t imagine one.

    5) I don’t consider myself a closet atheist, I do podcasts about it afterall!

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    • I remember being confronted by reading of some religious experiences of Mormon folk. The reason it challenged me was because it was very similar to some of the experiences/feelings that Christians give as evidence of the Holy Spirits activity. Well I ‘knew’ that Mormons were not Christians so this made me wonder about the so-called Christian experiences.

      Folk would so often cite the emotion in singing a rousing Chorus, but this is no different to how people feel at rock concerts. It took me so long to see these things clearly.

      I realize now that whilst I was a Christian there was a lot of confirmation bias going on.

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  19. I grew up in the Methodist Church. Our family sat in the seventh pew back, on the right side, for years. In our mild-mannered church, everyone knew their place. The incident that started my slow separation from the Church occurred when I was fourteen or fifteen. It had to do with the dying Jesus quote: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me.” It confused me to no end. I went home and looked up “forsaken.” Deserted, abandoned–what the hell? I asked my mother, and she had no idea. So off we went to the preacher. Who literally told me, with one of those condescending giggles, that Jesus had simply experienced a “brief moment” of fear–something we all experience, he said. He gabbed some more and that was it. When we got home, I realized quite forcefully that he hadn’t answered my question at all. In short, he was full of shit.

    Over the years, as my literary (I was a literature major) and worldly knowledge increased, my faith eroded. I quit going to church in my early twenties. I didn’t miss it one bit. In fact, I remember thinking how Sunday morning is so much nicer without the church. Still is. My favorite poem to that effect: “Sunday Morning” by Wallace Stevens.

    I’ll never go back. In fact, my neighbor down the street, a man I like and respect, has invited me to the upcoming Palm Sunday Service and the Easter Service. I intend to refuse the invitation. I’ll tell him that while I consider myself a spiritual person, I do not and cannot support institutionalized religion. I think he’ll understand.

    My advice for an undeclared non-believer in faith-based religion? I’m not sure. I might first congratulate her/him for being saved–from Christianity that is. I probably would give that person my support, but so far as announcing to the world their belief, that would have to be their decision based on their personal circumstances.

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  20. I was raised an Anglican and for some time assumed that the deficiencies I saw in that Church was because people were more likely cultural Christians than ‘true believers’. So I became involved with a Pentecostal Church.

    It was my involvement with a Pentecostal Church that expedited my exit from religion. There were so many issues, but I could list a few:
    – Going to a special healing rally run by a ‘prophet’ and finding out the guy was a money hungry jerk;
    – seeing a person who worked in ‘signs and wonders’ operate up close. He would only pray for people where ailments could be relieved temporarily by psychological factors. A lady with visible scarring was desperate for him to pray for her, he said he would do so later, I observed very carefully and noticed that he never called her up for prayer (at the time I felt very sad for her);
    – Being involved with the Church long enough to see that the words of prophecy about the future (including some very specific prophecies about me) were not fulfilled;
    – Being told in sermons that one must literally believe the early chapters of Genesis.

    But what really broke the camels back was studying the Bible at a postgraduate level with a theological college.

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  21. I wasn’t raised in a specific denomination but I have been to several different churches. Pentecostal was by far the most “out there” experience out of all of them. I always had questions and doubts about things as I grew up, but my parents were always there to reassure me that God was real and Heaven awaited the faithful. it wasn’t until I became an adult that I really wanted to take my religious life further. I wanted to be more and do more for God.

    It was at my last church that things really changed for me. I was at my peak of religious interest and desire to please God. I disagreed with some of the “Pagan” and “unbiblical” things the church did such as celebrating Christmas with Santa decorations and Christmas trees. I made the suggestion that we try to be different and stand out from the crowd by focusing on Jesus and leaving the traditional man-made holiday stuff out of the holidays. They weren’t having it and tried to straighten me out. They made it clear that there was no room for dissention in that building. They did things the traditional way and my suggestions were rocking the boat. The way they treated me and also the way the youth leaders talked to my son when he asked why the kids had to bring their Bibles but they never opened them was the last straw. We were outcasts because we challenged them. It was obvious we were not welcome to openly question the leadership. We left for good.

    After leaving, I still wanted to learn more about God and what to do to please him. So I read the Bible. Over and over again, I would read. Night after night, I would read it and study. I stayed up late doing online research and then I’d read the Bible some more. It was by doing this I realized that nothing I was told in church added up to what was written in the Bible. The Bible said many things I hadn’t heard before and that contradicted what I was taught on Sunday mornings. I read about all sorts of promises that have never been kept and prophecy that was never fulfilled. The Bible I read was not the same as the snippets used to get me “in the spirit” when I was at church. In short, the lies and omissions by the pastor made me feel good, but it wasn’t the truth.

    Leaving church forced me to actually read the Bible for myself. Reading the Bible for myself forced me to learn the truth about the source of the religion I belonged to. Learning the truth was what made me walk away. I learned that the book, when read in its entirety, could not be from God and was an incoherent, contradictory mess. Understanding where my religion came from and what it was really about made me leave my religion. All I needed to do to learn the truth was to read it for myself. When it was all told to me, it made sense.

    Fancy wordsmithing kept me in religion. The actual words forced me out.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. If you were once a believer but are now a non-believer/atheist/agnostic/deist — what denomination did you leave?

    I was a Baptist (Evangelical) for 40 years. And not nominal; I’m the son and grandson of people whose faith is the central defining element of their identity, who regularly attend church not as a duty but because it’s who they are.

    What was the FIRST inclination you had that things were not as they seemed? I realize that once you leave religion, you discover many things that were “off,” but if you can remember, what was that one thing that triggered your move in the “other” direction?

    I don’t remember what the first issue was, and I really wish now I had taken better notes (I had no idea where the path was going to take me). All I remember is that I was reading a blog article written by a non-Christian, and I thought to myself: “Huh! That’s a good point; how would I answer that?” It turned out to be the first thread I pulled that ultimately led to the whole sweater unravelling. The first issue led to others, and I started to take notes to organize them all, and about two years later I was reading another article and I was suddenly struck by the realization: “I’m not a Christian any more. I no longer believe this is true.”

    So if you’re a blogger or writer, never doubt that words have an effect! Many people are reading what you write, some are believers that lurk or use a pseudonym, and a few of them are starting to think seriously about what they believe. Some will deconvert.

    Is there anything you miss about being a believer? Perhaps the regular get-togethers with people of like-mind? Singing in the choir? Getting up early on Sunday morning?

    The music is a big one; I was very involved in music at church. Now I have this weird dualism: I love the music but completely disagree with the words.

    The other one is being on the same page with my wife, kids, and virtually everyone in my life (who remain Christians). We’ve achieved a reasonable détente (mainly by not talking about the elephant) and everyone is friendly, no one is harassing or proselytizing obnoxiously. But the boundary is there, and it gets awkward and wearying at times.

    Is there ANY event/circumstance/happening that might cause you to return (or consider returning) to your faith?

    Yes, and this is a question every ex-believer should be prepared to answer. (1a) If God actually showed up; was seen by everyone, answered questions, demonstrated knowledge and power, and made it clear that Yahweh/JC/HS really is One True God. Or (1b) If I saw evidence and reasons sufficient to convince me that I’m wrong, and such a God really does exist.

    That would be “necessary but not sufficient” however. Also required is (2) If I was convinced God was just and loving and worthy of worship and being followed. God’s hiddenness is a big obstacle, but also the Problem of Evil and many things in the Bible that contradict the notion of a perfectly just, perfectly loving God.

    So I continue to read what Christians write (though I see fewer and fewer new arguments as time goes on). And I continue to keep an open mind (all knowledge/belief is provisional; we may be 99.999% certain but never 100% certain). But I’m not holding my breath; I’m living according to my current beliefs.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Just a quick note to say THANK YOU to all who joined in on this blog post. And if you’re reading this and haven’t contributed, I hope you will add your story as well.

    While there’s a variety of “starting” denominations represented, Catholicism seem to be predominant. This isn’t surprising to me as there was a time when the Catholic faith was quite popular — more so than Protestantism. In today’s society, however, it seems the Evangelicals are ruling the roost, with a fairly large sprinkling of Pentecostals.

    In any event, all of you came across as being quite happy/content/relieved that you are no longer a “believer.” And I join with you in your joyous relief. 😍

    Liked by 1 person

  24. One thought about all of this: Nan, you mentioned that Catholics seem to predominate here, and one of the reasons is that the Church blew it, at least for me and probably for others. It’s always been a fairly insular religion, what with the Latin Mass and the strictures. I envied my protestant friends, they got to go on dates and make out, but never had to confess… But once the church started loosening the rituals with English masses, and repositioning the priest, and cutting out the confessional, the fasting, and half the saints in the calendar, people, I think, began to feel less ‘special’ in their faith.
    My mother was totally puzzled as to why we could no longer depend on st. timothy to find lost things, or St. Christopher to help us in our travels…and the final blow, when those ‘above it all’ priests began to be outed as child abusers.

    Suddenly priests were no longer better than we were (but humble, oh yes) they were less than we were. Sad, embarrassing, and lethal.

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  25. Baptist, Southern Baptist in Virginia but never fire-breathing, Bible-thumpers as I remember it. As a military dependent we went to base churches and in the 60s some were vaguely affiliated with Baptist most pushed a softer, more non-denominational, line.

    Single event, easy. The setup is that prior to age seven I observed that many people were just going through the motions. In hindsight I note that it was a time of many changes with women and blacks seeking to redefine their rights and roles, and then there was Vietnam, coming off the Cuban missile crisis, strikes, riots, war in the middle east … on and on.

    In the middle of this I was molested. On a navy base in Japan, surrounded by Marines, military police, a civilian police force, a fucking fleet of warships. Raped, bruised, head pounded on concrete, I stumbled home and was accused of wanting to kill my mother by being late for a meal. I was then stripped in the yard, and accused of stealing the five dollars the rapist had stuffed into my pocket to assuage his conscience. When my father found blood in my underwear nothing was said.

    Still traumatized, I was hauled off to church a day or two later. I remember the poster. We have all seen it. A long-haired white guy looking lovingly at the children at his feet. “Jesus loves the little children” in big letters. I shuddered. Somehow, likely without being able to name it, I knew both sides of that. The fucker was either a incompetent protector, or a pedophile. The nagging insincerity and previously subtle hypocrisy was blindingly clear, even as I lacked the language to speak of it.

    Surrounded by literal thousands of potential protectors I was raped in the dugout of an unoccupied and unpatrolled recreation area in Japan. We lived half a block from the police and fire station but a kid wasn’t safe there. My solid and safe world where authority figures controlled things shattered. A weak, or uncaring, God could not be trusted.

    My ‘personal relationship’ with the church/s and Jesus/God never quite meshed after that. After that my relationship with power, authority, money, religion, faith (of any description), and humanity in general were never right.

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    • Art … so very sorry to hear of your experience. It’s TOTALLY understandable why your “personal relationship” went down the tubes. And IMO, you’re far better off for it.

      Thank you so much for sharing. I hope you will become a regular on my blog. I think you’ll find some “love” here. 🙂

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  26. I was a catholic. The first problem for me was the description of heaven as a place where we would spend all of eternity worshiping God. I just always felt that if God was God he wouldn’t need that, or any kind of worship at all. Like wouldn’t he want us to spend that time helping others?
    I was always too curious.
    It was the glorification of suffering that was the final straw. We allowed suffering in ourselves and others to make God happy and “fix our souls ” and at a certain point that ended up in a place where we refused to solve problems because the suffering involved perfected the souls of the suffering and gave us the opportunity to “do good work” for God.

    Like

    • Hi Stella! I’m so glad you decided to join the conversation!

      I think many would agree with your comments as they seem to be pretty universal among non-believers. There’s just so many blips in the story! Yet to many, it all makes sense … or at least they tell themselves that it does. If they didn’t, they’d probably be where you are. 🙂

      Please visit us again.

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  27. I was raised by an atheist father and a Christian mother who “agreed to disagree”. Religion was not a part of our upbringing.

    My personal experience is that no good comes of proclaiming you are an atheist. Live your life and keep your opinions to yourself, unless you are sure you are among like-minded folk. Survery results haven’t changed much over the years. Most people would rather their child marry a Communist or a convicted felon than an atheist.

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    • Welcome SR! Glad you could join us. 🙂 And thank you for sharing your experiences … and thoughts.

      I tend to agree with you about “proclaiming you are an atheist.” While there are times when it may be necessary (as when you are being “encouraged” to become a Christian), overall, I see no point in advertising the fact.

      Thanks again for your comment. I hope you’ll become a regular visitor.

      Like

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