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Thread: Post Your Religious Deconversion Stories

  1. #1
    Tawaci ki a Gnaska ki Osito Polar's Avatar
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    Post Your Religious Deconversion Stories

    Tell us about your religious deconversion!

    I've long been interested in this topic. How did breaking out of a religious worldview effect you? What about your family's reaction to your deconversion?

    I sometimes come across articles like these about Religious Trauma Syndrome or talking about people with fundamentalist religious beliefs as suffering from a mental illness and I wonder how real that is. It's pretty far outside my own life experience for me to really know one way or the other.

    If you've had experience with this, what was it like?

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/0...n_3365896.html

    http://awaypoint.wordpress.com/2013/...me-is-it-real/

    http://www.marlenewinell.net/religio...-syndrome-its-
    "I don't have psychological problems." --Madrigal

    "When you write about shooting Polemarch in the head, that's more like a first-person view, like you're there looking down the sight of the gun." --Utisz

    David Wong, regarding Chicago
    Six centuries ago, the pre-Colombian natives who settled here named this region with a word which in their language means "the Mouth of Shadow". Later, the Iroquois who showed up and inexplicably slaughtered every man, woman and child renamed it "Seriously, Fuck that Place". When French explorer Jacques Marquette passed through the area he marked his map with a drawing of a brownish blob emerging from between the Devil's buttocks.

  2. #2
    In it to win it 99Problems's Avatar
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    I endured extreme religious fundamentalism from age 8 until I turned 16 and managed to get emancipated and became a legal adult. Any of you want to know why I have a little hate in my soul it is because I have been on my since 16, after having been abused and screwed up. I was really seriously traumatized and the fact that my mother & step father made it a life mission to destroy me when I left home made it much worse. This was in the rural NW and there were no "services".

    In my late 30's I finally became full blown atheist after hearing about my then girlfriends story of childhood sex abuse. Not that I was a practicing christian until then, that was just the final coffin nail. I disowned my mother and now have no elder family or siblings. Don't feel sorry for me, I am way tougher than most of you and content.

  3. #3
    Tawaci ki a Gnaska ki Osito Polar's Avatar
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    If you don't mind my asking, what did your mother and stepfather do to try to destroy you? Why did they react in that way?

    I don't feel sorry for you exactly, but that whole situation sounds like it sucked. I mean, congratulations getting out of it with what passes for your sanity mostly intact.
    "I don't have psychological problems." --Madrigal

    "When you write about shooting Polemarch in the head, that's more like a first-person view, like you're there looking down the sight of the gun." --Utisz

    David Wong, regarding Chicago
    Six centuries ago, the pre-Colombian natives who settled here named this region with a word which in their language means "the Mouth of Shadow". Later, the Iroquois who showed up and inexplicably slaughtered every man, woman and child renamed it "Seriously, Fuck that Place". When French explorer Jacques Marquette passed through the area he marked his map with a drawing of a brownish blob emerging from between the Devil's buttocks.

  4. #4
    In it to win it 99Problems's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Osito Polar View Post
    If you don't mind my asking, what did your mother and stepfather do to try to destroy you? Why did they react in that way?

    I don't feel sorry for you exactly, but that whole situation sounds like it sucked. I mean, congratulations getting out of it with what passes for your sanity mostly intact.
    After I left home they told the cops a bunch of lies about how I was a bad kid, never obeying, causing problems etc. They tried their level best to get me put into a boys home that had a horrific reputation. My saving grace was that I had befriended a picked on fat kid over the years and his family threatened to kill mine if they didn't back off, they backed off. In the years following my mother knowing I needed a motherly figure would offer family if I would get right with God which involved completely giving up any dignity I had left. So I eventually moved on with no family.

  5. #5
    Hasta Siempre Madrigal's Avatar
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    I was always actively encouraged to be an atheist, because my anarchist father does the ideology in my family (my mother does the politics). I wasn't allowed to go to Sunday school or buy a Bible for school when it was a requirement while studying in a religious country. When in Canada, I was not given authorization to receive a free testament at school. I was not allowed to become a scout because they said they were patriotic and religious. They also tried to stop me from becoming a Girl Guide, but ended up letting me (I quickly got bored). My father said people who prayed were idiots. However, I did take up praying on and off, in secret, and reading the Bible in secret. This lasted until around the age of 16 or so, when I decided it wasn't giving me results. Then I read Bakunin.

  6. #6
    In it to win it 99Problems's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Madrigal View Post
    I was always actively encouraged to be an atheist, because my anarchist father does the ideology in my family (my mother does the politics). I wasn't allowed to go to Sunday school or buy a Bible for school when it was a requirement while studying in a religious country. When in Canada, I was not given authorization to receive a free testament at school. I was not allowed to become a scout because they said they were patriotic and religious. They also tried to stop me from becoming a Girl Guide, but ended up letting me (I quickly got bored). My father said people who prayed were idiots. However, I did take up praying on and off, in secret, and reading the Bible in secret. This lasted until around the age of 16 or so, when I decided it wasn't giving me results. Then I read Bakunin.
    Lucky you, you had geniuses I had idiots.

  7. #7
    Shiny and New Charde's Avatar
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    I was born into Christian conservatism. Everyone on my mom's side was hardcore Christian, and a few on my dad's side also were (although my dad was not). Still, my dad was not home much and my mom did more of the raising.

    I remember praying the sinner's prayer when I was 4-5. I attended sunday school weekly. I was involved in release time programs when I became old enough and was going to Bible camp by 5th grade and later was a counselor during the summer. I was confirmed in the Lutheran church (one of the many denominations I attended over the years) as a teenager, I was actively involved in music ministry in church from about age 10-39. When I was a teen, I actually aspired to be a CCM writer/musician. In the very last church I attended, I was one of the worship leaders and put together a modern worship band (guitars, drums, etc.) I also wrote some church program materials that were used by everyone in the church. I also attended some worship and spiritual direction conferences, and was on a first-name basis with a well-known Christian author/psychiatrist.

    I mention all that to only stress the amount of exposure and involvement I had in Christian activities over the years. But my journey was always more private... and far more conflicted. I grew up in a time where I lived in a rural area, didn't have a lot of exposure to outside ideas, the internet did not yet exist as we know it today, etc. So Christianity was the law of the land, it made sense to me in terms of the conceptual truth (and my broad values haven't really ever shifted), but the problem was that the older I got and the more information I got from sources outside of the faith, the more I was confused as to how much was probably historically accurate. I probably was a YEC in my late teens, but that only lasted until I really got on the Internet and started running across more and more conflicting information. In my college years, I was reluctantly down on homosexuals but nowadays I support same-sex marriage. My view of the Bible has changed a lot; I used to be an inerrantist, now I see the Bible as various documents compiled together written for various purposes by different authors and not necessarily a divine coherent document. There's just a lot of room for likely error, especially when we try to triangulate the Bible's content with science, history, archaeology, etc. It doesn't mean that some of the concepts are bad (although some seem kind of crazy now) or don't have value, but I can't accept the orthodox line either.

    So my shift was partly intellectual based on data comparison points. I also had a lot of struggle over the years from my own existential doubts and the notion of faith. At some point, my understand shifted enough that I felt like I couldn't have the same level of faith as I had had in the past. Also, the reality is that there can be no CERTAINTY about it. So much religious experience is understood by one's own decisions of how to interpret it. There is no "proof" of anything. The same experience can be read by one as mundane, another can read it as signs of the divine. I think I finally truly understood this sometime around age 32-33, that there was no way to "prove" Christianty was right; it really was just one's choice of how much one wanted to believe. And yet so much of my religious experience involved being compelled to say things with certainty that I didn't think were certain at all; that was the part I hated. Why couldn't I just say, "Well, the faith <says this>, but I really don't know whether it's true or not?" That would have been honest; instead I was told what I had to push as true and all the specifics of what I was forced to believe if I wanted to be Christian.

    For me, coming out of faith was actually a positive step. I felt so torn all those years, and finally I felt like I had acquired some personal integrity. I was no longer going to church and having to do lip service to say things were more true than I really thought they were. I no longer had to pretend I agreed with all these people who voice things I found at best uncertain and at worst ludicrous. I no longer had to pretend to uphold social policies and values that I thought were misguided or just plain wrong, if I was going to "follow the Bible." But it did make me pretty much a pariah. I can't say I had true friendships in the church (aside from a few people I would have been friends with regardless), but pretty much everyone treated me like a traitor once I left. Very few people I know from church still talk to me. The sad thing is that these are not "evil" people and many mean well, but if you are not a believer, you are placed in another category outside the fold; they have good intentions, but many of their beliefs seem to dissolve/disrupt relationships with those who do not agree with their beliefs.

    My family was also pretty devastated. My mom started having nightmares about me going to hell and us not being able to spend eternity together. (I feel bad about that. And I want to say that, knowing what my mom fears, she still has treated me with love and respect out of everyone in my family.) Other people in my family were far more judgmental and have even attempted to witness to me. My sister just avoids talking about it with me, so our relationship isn't very close. My sister-in-law wrote me a letter over Christmas, after six years of silence, telling me about God's grace and how she wants me to be restored to my Creator. It's kind of crazy and rather insulting to me, since every big decision I've made in my life, I can honestly say I thought through and I made out of integrity (versus out of fear or selfishness). My leaving orthodoxy was an agonizing, long-explored decision, and I feel more honest than I ever was when everyone thought I was a good little Christian. It's hard to know how to respond to family, especially when I'm not even opposed to the idea of divinity and grace and "God" particularly, I'm just being honest about what I think is likely to be true and how dependable their specific theology is. I feel like I've treated my family and church body with more grace than I've received, which is the sad part.

    The funny thing is that I'm not the only one. Most of my cousins also have stepped away and are totally sympathetic towards me. And two of my own kids also have stepped back some, on their own, as part of their own pursuit of integrity. I'm sure the rest of the family blames me for their apostasy and "not knowing God," but knowing their thought processes, I'm proud of them for following what they believe even if it doesn't mesh with other family members.

    I have a lot of sympathy for people who come from REALLY crazy religious backgrounds, then leave. I know how easy it is to be in a situation that you're brought up with one idea of truth, and then later start to realize there are far many more options and frameworks to view life by. You don't really know how crazy it is while you're in it, if it is all you've known.

  8. #8
    In it to win it 99Problems's Avatar
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    ^^^ I am glad to see you are ok. What is truly enraging is when you see cases of broken people being kicked around by the original abusers.

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    NC-17 Delilah's Avatar
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    Mine was actually very mellow. I was raised Lutheran, and the church was a big part of our lives. I went to Sunday school and and at a very early age I had more questions than my teachers or family could answer. In 4th grade I went to a Lutheran school and lasted about a month. My younger sisters stayed on, but it was pretty clear to my folks, the staff and me that I did not belong there. I still did the church thing and went on to confirmation classes but by the age of 12 I just knew. I quietly told my folks that I did not believe in god, I was no longer going to attend confirmation classes and had no intention of ever getting confirmed or going to church. They weren't happy, but they went with it. I'm sure they thought at the time it was just a phase, but they knew how stubborn I was and I suppose decided it wasn't a battle worth fighting at that time.
    It was never really discussed again until almost 3 decades later when I offhandedly made a comment about being an Atheist. I guess my mom always thought I just wanted nothing to do with going to church and had not considered that, at that age, I understood and meant what I was saying. It was pretty funny.

  10. #10
    Shiny and New Charde's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 99Problems View Post
    What is truly enraging is when you see cases of broken people being kicked around by the original abusers.
    Totally.

    I just read some post linked on FaceBook about one woman's abusive experiences with her religious family growing up, and then she basically kicked them out of her life as an adult because they wanted to take her kids and raise them as theirs because she wasn't a good Christian parent like them. She will still need to work through all the shit they dumped on her, but good for her, to not be broken and ruined by them.

    It's not just Christians. It makes me ill when Muslims murder or throw acid in the face of women who have left the fold. Like, wtf? That is what "divine goodness" is about?

    Quote Originally Posted by Delilah View Post
    It was never really discussed again until almost 3 decades later when I offhandedly made a comment about being an Atheist. I guess my mom always thought I just wanted nothing to do with going to church and had not considered that, at that age, I understood and meant what I was saying. It was pretty funny.
    Yeah, it's mind-blowing. Had the same kinds of experiences with my family. It's like it doesn't fit into their life view, so they just dismiss your experience and decisions as authentic ones. These are the same people that thought when I didn't call them from Thailand a few years back, that I had changed my mind about my life direction and would be flying home later to return everything to the way they wanted it. (In reality, I was just still asleep.) I am just amazed by how other people's choices are generally dismissed. But again, that can apply to many people, not just the religious ones.

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