my de-conversion story
18 July 2002
Once a fundamentalist asshole, now a gay atheist
This is a very quick summary of what led me away from Christianity. I don't have time right now to write in detail, so please excuse the newscopy style of this article.
I grew up in a fundamentalist Christian household. My parents are generally good people: they try to actually live what they believe, unlike most folks today. I was a cradle Presbyterian (Presbyterian Church in America), baptized as an infant, and accepted Jesus at the age of eight. I led my little sister to Jesus when she was about the same age, which pleased my parents immensely. Growing up, I just knew that God was in his heaven and all was right with the world. I never doubted that for a minute.
In junior high, I was heavily involved in my church youth group. Many of my core values as a fundie were formed during this time. I was an awkward, geeky, scrawny girl, and turning to the structure of church and God was the way I dealt with the torture of school.
In high school, I went through an obnoxious "Jesus freak" stage. I still wince when I think of the judgmental bullshit I spewed when I didn't know any better. At that time, I had started reading the American Family Association's propaganda rag (the AFA Journal), which was informing my views in what you might call a slanted manner. I didn't think to get the other side of the story, because AFA is a Christian organization, and Christians wouldn't lie to me. Right?
When I entered college, I got to know a lot of different types of people, some of which I had never encountered before (Muslims, atheists, gays/lesbians, etc). I started to see that the world wasn't as black and white as the right wing would have everyone believe. That was probably the beginning of my deconversion. As an art major, I was trained to look at the world sideways and to see different points of view in the making of my art. After a lifetime of entrenchment in fundamentalist, literalist, Bible-inerrancy dogma, it was a whole new world. I began to really think through the things I'd been taught and never questioned before. By the time I left college at 23, I'd say I was a liberal Christian more than anything.
When I was 25, I got married and came out as a lesbian in the same year. That's a really long story I don't have time to relate, but needless to say it was the death knell to my faith. Not because I was gay, but because it exploded my little worldview and forced me to look at what I really believed about religion, social order, history, morality, and just about everything else. I struggled for years to do the right thing about my sexuality. I researched Scripture, read books, and prayed to be made straight. Finally I decided to find out all I could about homosexuality and Christianity and base my decision on that. I wasn't looking for an excuse to sin; I really did want to follow God's will, regardless of what that was.
Well, there are too many incidents and points to relate here. At the end of it all, I realized there was nothing wrong with me as I was made. I am a lesbian. I decided God was okay with that, so I tried to make myself be okay with it to. It was difficult, because I was still married, and my parents were very upset with me about the whole thing. We had serious conflict for the first time in my life, which caused a fresh round of self-recrimination and angst on my part. If not for my girlfriend (I'm still with her), I would be a very bitter, angry woman today. I have been through my bitter, angry stage, and sometimes I fall back into that, but these days I try to have hope, even though I'm more cynical about the world than before.
Gradually, I began to question God's existence, after doing so much research on Christianity and reading up on subjects like Scriptural contradictions and politics within the church. I finally got to the point where I had to admit to myself that the odds of the Bible god existing are so astronomically ridiculous as to make no difference. Admitting to myself that God probably didn't exist was extremely disconcerting. I realized everything I had been basing my life on -- the historical "fact" of the resurrection, the divinity of Christ, the existence of the Trinitarian God -- was a fairy tale. You might even call it a lie. It was devastating.
Even though my reason knew this to be true, my heart hadn't caught up and I was still playing at going to church and trying to hang on to a religion that didn't appear to want me. I finally got fed up enough to sever all ties with the church, and with a God I didn't believe in any more, on 12 July 2001.
This is what I wrote in my diary the day I rejected Christianity. Keep in mind that what made me finally break ties was a very visceral, emotional experience, and therefore this may not make much logical sense. However, it's a valuable record of what I was feeling at the time.
Today I formally rejected Christianity, the Bible (as an authoritative presence in my life), and the Christian church, not to mention the entire Christian concept of God. Hi!
This has been coming for a while, I guess. I've been concerned with the intellectual dishonesty of fundamentalism for a couple of years, but still maintained Christianity as a presence in my life, only without the fundie bullshit. However, having engaged my brain, it wouldn't shut itself off. This crisis of faith got too big to ignore when I began to question in earnest the concept of personal salvation Chrstianity, after reading Bruce Bawer's "Stealing Jesus". The whole concept of a bloodthirsty deity being appeased by the murder of his "beloved" son, and this being required for humans to basically buy afterlife insurance from this god... well. And then to be told that is is a god of love?? This did not make sense to me.
So the whole Christian concept of a deity seemed pretty weird after I stopped blindly looking at it from a religious viewpoint and started thinking. I couldn't believe in a bloodthirsty god that would arbitrarily condemn some people to hell, while choosing to pre-destine others for salvation. ("I will have mercy upon whom I will have mercy.") I have experienced divine love before, and what I felt was not a hot-tempered deity you have to appease for fear of hellfire.
I was, however, trying to retain at least a nodding acquaintance and an affinity for the Christian church, because I did grow up in it and most of the people I love back down South are still a part of it. I believed strongly that good could come out of the church and that denominations such as the Episcopals and MCC [Metropolitan Community Church, a primarily gay/lesbian organization] could redeem a church that was falling away from the love of Jesus. Even though I had fallen away from church, I believed I could eventually find a church home. We were trying to, by joining MCC of Boulder County. I thought once I was in a gay-friendly place, I could slip back into church mode. Instead, I found myself growing more discontented with worshipping a god I wasn't sure I believed in any more. [My partner] and I stopped going to church. I started growing more and more impatient with the smugness, the self-righteousness, the hypocrisy, the intolerance for those with differing beliefs. And I'm one who never thought it was right to leave the church because of hypocrisy - because everyone's a hypocrite eventually. That is true. But the church doesn't just have a few people in it who are hypocritical despite their best efforts. The church is utterly rife with hypocrisy. It is hypocrisy to say you love gay people and then do everything in your power to ensure we will not exist. It is hypocrisy to preach about a god of love and then have Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland killing each other over a difference in faith. It is hypocrisy to preach god's love and then justify slavery and apartheid using the Bible. It is hypocrisy, plain and simple.
They say that God can't be held responsible for the actions of his followers and that you shouldn't judge God by the actions of a few. I say, by their fruits you will know them. The concept of the Christian god is flawed and I cannot accept it, either intellectually or emotionally. It lends itself to oppression of differing cultures and beliefs, to the killing of gays, blacks, women, and other minorities that have the misfortune to not be in a position of power in a patriarchal religious system.
It is the perfect tool for social control: Get a select group of men (only men can be priests and ministers in most Christian denominations) who claim that God speaks to them specially. Have them preach from a cryptic book that is full of contradictions to a group of people who are told to overlook the contradictions and to chalk them up to being a "mystery of God". Terrify and guilt-trip these people into believing they're going to burn forevermore if they don't do exactly what the men say God told them to do. Then rent the people little pieces of salvation, but be sure to play the hell card if you don't like something the people are doing. Be sure to take the basic human needs and cast them as being sinful: need for food becomes gluttony, need for shelter becomes avarice, need to love and physically express that love becomes lust. This way every human you talk to can feel guilty just for being human and you can control them with your afterlife insurance, thereby insuring they will always do just what the men tell them... out of terror, if nothing else.
If I believed in the Devil any more, I'd think he came up with this scam... it's perfect.
All this came to a head today at work. Douglas and I were bitching about the proposed Constitutional amendment that would define marriage as being between a man and a woman only. For some reason this really got under my skin, more so than the right wing's antics usually do. I think what did it was I was thinking about writing Mom & Dad a letter, asking them to please not actively support the wretched thing. I know they won't oppose it, but I hope they just don't campaign for it with their neighbors or something. I contemplated this, knowing it was hopeless, knowing they would support it no matter what it did to their daughter. I wept inside thinking of how much the conservative Christians must really hate us homos to attack our families this way. Because it's always the Christians. Always, always, always. Gay marriage is already illegal; why get it in the Constitution unless you just hate gay people and want us to suffer?
That's when it got to me. They hate us, and they do so because their religion tells them to. It has always been thus. Yet they tell us they love us??
I snapped. I couldn't take it. It had finally come undone.
"Fuck you," I said to the church. "Fuck you," I said to the vicious, hate-filled thing they believe in. "Fuck you. I will never set foot in your churches again. I will not try to hang on to the fringes of a church that hates me and works for my extinction. I will not take part in a religion that is largely responsible for the suicides of many gay teenagers. I will NOT. If I have to go to hell, so be it. If I go to hell because I loved another woman fully and selflessly in this life, so be it. I'll just go to hell then. But at least I'll have lived and loved in my life, and didn't spend my time being small, hateful, and mean."
I felt free. No longer do I have to eat my heart out over the mainline church's non-acceptance of me and my love. It's irrelevant now. I just don't care. I don't have to turn off my brain to believe in God now. I am free.
Am I an atheist? No. I believe in a Divine other. There is magic and spirituality in the world; I have experienced it. I am still a spirtiual person, but I am no longer religious, and I am not a Christian of any stripe. I'm not angry at God, nor do I have anything against Jesus. I just don't believe in the same god the Christians do. It's good to be able to acknowledge that.
Since then I've done some more research, and I now consider myself an atheist for the most part. I am still a spiritual person, but I no longer believe an outside force is necessary for expression of human spirituality.
For further reading, you may want to follow up with the story of my eventual conversion to Judaism.