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De-Conversion Stories

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From: [unsigned]
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: My De-Conversion Story
Date: September 02, 2002 3:42 PM

Well, I was raised nominally Catholic, but for me, church was primarily a place where I went to get bored for two hours. Eventually, it began to dawn on me that if God really was all-powerful, then everything bad that happens in the world must happen via his direct approval; every starving child, every natural disaster, every murder. I wondered, "What sort of benevolent god could do that?"

Finally though, I figured out that the simplest explanation would be that God doesn't exist at all. This was actually a relief. Now I can enjoy my life without feeling bad about being punished for trivial things, like letting my hair grow long or eyeing my neighbor's wife (not like she's that pretty, it's the principle of the thing).

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From: "Tim Falk"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Date: September 15, 2002 7:14 PM

Hello.

I was thinking about reading some other De-Conversion stories before I wrote my own, then decided against it. I figure, if I'm not influenced by other stories to begin with, the unique parts will stay unique and the universal threads will stay unblemished as well.

I was raised in the Church of the Nazarene. I'd say until about the age of ten or eleven there was no question. God existed and He loved everyone. I was maybe about twelve or so when I remember coming back inside on a Sunday to find my dad comforting my crying mom. It seemed that some of the other women in the church had not-so-subtly suggested that she was not a good mother because they were stay-at-home moms and she was not. That's the first time I can remember thinking that that's not how I was taught Christians were supposed to behave. I also remember thinking I was a much better behaved child than the kids who had stay-at-home moms.

One of these stay-at-home moms was also one of my Sunday school teachers. The next most memorable incident came when I was about fourteen or fifteen. Somehow the subject came up in Sunday school that the Peace Sign was anti-Christian. They said it stood for an upside down Cross in a circle. I had no idea of the facts regarding it's true meaning (at the time), but this just seemed so illogical to me. As we were taught, it seemed that Christ was all about peace (I know now that this is not true, but that's beside the point) and it didn't make the least bit of sense for a symbol of peace to intentionally be a mockery of someone who wanted peace himself. Like many other times when I questioned, I pretty much got an attitude of "We're adults, you're a teenager. We know more than you do." That was the end of it. I began to wonder about some of the other things we had been taught. If they could believe so wholly in something so illogical and stupid, what else were we being taught that was illogical and stupid? (Now that I know what the symbol truly means, it's been my dream to find some of those teachers and point out how wrong they truly were.)

I began to find excuses to miss church. At the time though, it was more teenage laziness and the fact that I didn't like my teachers, than a problem with the Christian Church as a whole. The final turning point came when I didn't feel like coming up with excuses anymore. I was about seventeen and I told my dad I wasn't going to church anymore, simply because I did not want to. The answer I got was "Church is what we do." No real explanation, no attempts to make me feel guilty, just a blunt "Church is what we do." I asked why. I did not get an answer. I was told to be ready when they left. I was ready, but I took my own car and drove as far as I could. I was thinking maybe my dad should read The Lottery by Shirley Jackson. It might be a real eye-opener. "This is simply the way it's always been done." I also wondered if he had ever had a similar conversation when he was my age. His parents were strict Baptists. Did he ever question it? And if so, did he get an explanation? I doubt it very highly.

I'll spare you the rest. This is where it all starts to sound familiar I'm sure. I realized how wrong it was for my dad to go through life not questioning the illogical. (He still has no idea I'm an atheist, or if he does, he does not let on.) I realized how wrong it is for young people to be taught the illogical. Most of all, I realized Christians were not the people whom I believed they were.

Tim Falk

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From: "Pamela Brown-Seely"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Date: September 27, 2002 2:37 AM

I will make the beginning of this short and just say that I was raised a Southern Baptist. I was neck deep in religion until I left home to get married (big mistake). I returned home with my two young children nine years later, after my marriage fell apart. The church welcomed me back with open arms, but did little else for me. As a single Mom, I supported my two children and put myself through school.

In the private liberal arts Catholic college I attended, I found a more cerebral approach to religion that appealed to me. At this particular college, they systematically went about facilitating the natural process young adults go through at that time in their lives. They fed their students information about the development of American culture that was quite different from what they were fed in High School. They encouraged the student body to question the way things were, they exposed them to other cultures and to the theory of evolution. (I thought I had been slipped some acid when a Father stood in front of 150 students and stated that Creationists were "full of poop".) Then, in senior year, when students began reconstructing their belief systems, they gave them the Catholic religion as the best of all possible belief systems. They called it "Christian Humanism." This insidious plan worked for most of the students. They came out stronger Christians than when they began, but some of us were lost along the way.

For me it happened when I realized that nowhere in the Bible was there a moratorium on masturbation (I am not kidding). The Catholic Church had banned masturbation and the use of contraception based on an inference from one scripture. It was obvious that they were really stretching for this one. At that time, I had been single and celibate for seven years, and it galled me that I had wasted so many years because of a lie. If they lied about this for the purpose of making sure their Catholic churches were populated, what else did they lie about? Everything that I was taught to believe in was based on a man's interpretation of a book of unsure authorship translated by Monks (who I am sure masturbated) in the Dark Ages. Having gone through the fall of the great televangelists, having witnessed the immoral behavior of various deacons, pastors, and Church Ladies, and suffering through the infidelity of my Christian ex-husband, I did not have much trust in men, nor in their interpretations of anything. If this book was full of lies and inconsistencies, how could I possibly believe in a God based on what was written in this book? I was also a psych. major. I had learned how powerful and skilled the human brain was in creating interpretations of experiences that were not exactly based in reality. It occurred to me that the presence of the Holy Spirit was similar to the feeling one gets as one goes over the highest peak on a roller coaster, or when one is in love. I realized that my "personal relationship" with God was an internal creation. As a biology minor, I had learned that there was no other evidence that God existed. I was left with only one possible conclusion.

At that time, everything I believed unraveled. I felt like I was looking over the edge of a great abyss. I could not stay where I was, but I was too afraid to step off. Unbearable cognitive dissonance finally pushed me over the edge.

About the time that I admitted to myself that there was no God, I met my Husband. He loved me even though I still professed to be a Christian and ate meat. With his support, I have been able to come "out of the closet," and give up meat.

I must say that the air is fine out here in the abyss and that it is a much more pleasant and interesting place to be. This is the first time in my life that I feel consistent in all aspects of myself. It has been four years, and I am still dealing with the influence Christianity has had on my life. It is a great work to examine each premise, to deliberately decide if it has any merit beyond its association with Christianity.

My children have been successfully deconverted, although I would not be surprised if my son has a relapse one of these days. We celebrate Solstice rather than Christmas. On Thanksgiving, we talk about the first terrorists to set foot on American soil, and we celebrate the generosity of the American Indians who have suffered so greatly.

My family is less than pleased with this turn of events. It began when my Mom asked me on Mother's day (maximum guilt) if I still had my faith. Then, I had to tell her that she could not make my children go to church any longer. Things went downhill fast when my uncle, true to family tradition, made racial slurs in my home at Thanksgiving and I had the audacity to remind him of my Husband's multiracial family, and to request that he be more sensitive to the presence of my stepdaughter's friend who was East Indian. As a result, I am no longer the "good child," the "family darling," or the "peace keeper." I am now considered to be radical, confrontational, and untrustworthy.

My mother still prays for me, and I tell her that it is great that she cares so much for me. If she wants to waist her time, that is her choice.

Pamela Brown-Seely
Rensselaer, Indiana

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From: "Bigfoot"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Date: October 15, 2002 2:01 PM

Heylo!

Thank God I'm an atheist! But I was actually brought up as a fundamentalist (nut?). Both my parents are dyed in the wool of "fundamentalist born agains", who are convinced that the Bible is the "Inspired Word of God". I remember growing up in youth class, they made me memorize bible verses and brought cute little lessons about historically accurate personalities from the bible (which most bible scholars now know as mythology).

I don't think I ever believed in any of it in my younger years. I did believe in God and Hell and pretty much everything else in the bible, but for some reason I didn't want to be born again. I wasn't interested. It wasn't until my sophomore year in High School that I became a christian and dedicated my life to Christ. Although I laugh now, I was, at the time, convinced that the bible was the Inspired Word of God. I was also a devout young-Earth creationist, even though I had no facts to back up my faith. I remember going around the high school campus praising the Lord and trying to convert others. Some people thought I was crazy and others thought it was great that I was a good little christian. I even joined the school's bible club and became a "devout" member, bringing lessons that allegedly "proved" the power of god (argument from design).

Even though I had experienced a faith healing (which actually turned out to be a disease that had already run its course), I was "destined" to begin doubting. I think my skeptic nature was cultivated at a young age with my intense interest in science. So the summer of my sophomore year, I decided I was no longer a christian. This came about as a result of a sermon I heard, giving biblical reasons for males superiority over females. I remember asking myself if I had ever questioned my beliefs, if I had good reason for believing what I did. Although I wanted to investigate the faith, I waited about six months before doing so. Why? Well because I was afraid of what I might find.

My junior year, I would describe myself as a conservative agnostic. I had begun to doubt, but I was too afraid to really investigate. I remember I read a couple of articles online (Internet Infidels, http://www.infidels.org and of course Positive Atheism, http://www.positiveatheism.com) about whether or not Jesus was an actual man of history. That gave me enough of a reason to be an agnostic because I figured if the Jesus is so hotly disputed, then the whole christian faith can be called into question.

Toward the end of my junior year, I began getting into arguments and slowly I began learning the ways of the atheist. I ran into all kinds of "proof for god", everything from First Cause to argument from design. I remember thinking to myself that I hadn't done any extensive reading into the subjects, yet still found many fallacious points in each argument. It was then that I began reading: Isaac Asimov, Carl Sagan, Dan Barker, parts of Voltaire, Darwin just to name a few. And I found that there is good reason for my atheism.

When I reached my senior year, my conclusion was inevitable: there was no way in hell that god existed, at least not a theistic version of him anyway. I also went on to be the Founder and President of the my high school's one and only Freethinker's Club. We even debated the Bible club a couple of times. For this, I have a very well known reputation at my high school: loved by the more skeptical teachers, and hated by the more devout.

Although I am still learning and searching and ever strengthening my disbelief, I feel more secure and happy than I had ever felt before. Atheism is freedom. As Isaac Asimov once said: One man's religion is another mans' belly laugh. Or in the infamous words of Ernest Hemingway: All thinking men are atheists.

Jimmy (a satisfied fan of Positive Atheism)

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From: "Brent Feldman"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Date: October 22, 2002 1:59 AM

From the time I was a young child, I was given no reason to believe. Unlike many children, my parents were sworn athiests after coming from religious backgrounds. My mother a christian and my father a jew. After many years of being instructed to think a certain way, they finally decided (not knowing each other at this time), that religion wasn't for them. They raised me to be a freethinker and to embrace religion if I felt necessary. When I was young, they never criticized any religion and influenced me to explore. I took my time,I read and learned about different cultures and their religions. For some time I felt that I was agnostic, but then realized that I was doing it to avoid being a pariah. Most of the people around me were also agnostic or belonged to a certain faith. I, however, after taking Major Questions in Philosophy at my local college, began to question my beliefs more and more. After seeing that I truly didn't believe in anything, I felt free of constraint. I continue to believe in freedom of thought and accept all other faiths, but at the same time, I question if they believe or are they just avoiding criticism.

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From: "Misty Smith"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Date: October 24, 2002 10:12 AM

Cliff,

I read your correspondence "To all you intellectually dishonest thinkers". It was very enlightening. It was interesting to see that throughout the correspondence you were able to remain logical and calm where eventually the pastor crumbled and resorted to name calling and other things.

I was born and raised in the Southern Baptist Church. Let me assure you that at the age of about 10 to 12yrs. I was seriously questioning these people and their beliefs and their book. I felt that church was selling "fire insurance" (if you know what I mean). They taught people to believe out of fear and not out of knowledge. I am 25 now, and since then I have investigated Mormons. I would like to hear what you have to say about that religion and their books. I am trying to read the Bible, but honestly find it very confusing and contradictory. This book had been translated or rewritten 80 something times? Isn't that like playing the gossip game, where you tell someone a secret and pass it along a line of people and see what the last person at the line repeats. The sentence they repeat of course never comes close to resembling what was originally said.

Anyway, I am still investigating religion and spirituality. I am reading about ceremonial magick right now. How do you feel about that? I still feel like there is something greater than this earth and me, I am searching for that. I still believe in a "higher power", Why? I am trying to figure that out. I question myself all the time. Do I believe in a higher power because that is all I have ever know? Possibly. Or because people are born looking for it and die searching for it? Maybe. I like the thought that there are inner truths and to find the "Divinity", I have to look inside and not to organized religion. I must connect to my inner or higher self. I love to read and I want knowledge and an understanding. Do you believe that there is any "higher power" or something bigger than you and this Earth? I do not wish to believe in anything just because someone tells me to or else I'll die and go to hell.

I also wanted to know if you believe faith exists on any level? I read your reasoning on faith (the chair and it's ability to hold your weight ....) Example: Someone marries and has "faith" that the other person will keep their vows and stay faithful. Is that faith or something else?

I would enjoy hearing any comments you may have.

Thank you in advance for your time and comments,

Misty

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From: "Buz"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Date: October 29, 2002 7:25 PM

Deconversion -- What a delicious concept. Here's mine:

I was born in 1947, the second child (first son) to a devout Catholic couple that had just moved west from Washington, D.C.. I went through 12 years of Dominican nun-taught schooling, and then accepted a basketball scholarship to the University of California at Santa Barbara. I fooled around and lost my scholarship which resulted in my being drafted into the army in 1966. With Vietnam in full swing, that was quite a foolish thing to do. Lucky for me, I was sent to Korea.

When I landed in Korea in December of '66, I was a non-practicing, but pretty much a still-believing Christian. I didn't attend church too often, but liked the idea that all I had to do was straighten up a little bit, and I could reach the promised land. I wasn't all that sure that Catholicism was the only path, but I felt there was, for sure, a path. Korea was the beginning of the end for such views.

The change in me didn't happen because of some great dramatic event, indeed it was quite subtle. For the first time ever, I thought about the world. Prior to this time, I had always filled my life with outside stimuli. I was ultimately one of nine children, and always busy. I loved sports, both as a participant and an observer. I was in the Boy Scouts, and went on over one hundred camping trips as a teenager. I read all the books the school required of me and all of the Hardy Boy mysteries. I subscribed to Boy's Life and Field & Stream, reading every issue from cover to cover. There was never a time when I had nothing to do. Though we had a TV, I almost never watched. I was too busy. In Korea, for the first time in my life, I was bored.

It isn't that I didn't do all I could to keep busy, but as an infantry soldier, I spent an average of 8 hours a day on some kind of guard duty. No matter how seriously I approached my tasks, I found myself going wacko from the boredom. I started thinking about my miserable situation, and became more and more depressed. Finally my all-seeing platoon sergeant sent me to see the chaplain.

I didn't really want to go, but I figured it was something to do. I expected very little, as I knew this guy wasn't a Catholic. Though I expected little, I got something that changed my life. The guy was a chaplain, but he never once talked about god. He simply told me that I was dwelling too much on my current problems, and should think more about what my life was going to be once I got back to the States. To help me do that, he gave me a little tip. He told me to pretend that I could fly up to the moon and look back down on the earth. From that lofty perch, I could see how my problems compared to the rest of the world's. It was the single most important tip I have ever received.

That night, I climbed up to the moon where I saw the world for the first time. I saw the millions of homeless in India, I saw kids starving in Africa, I saw my own friends fighting in Vietnam, I saw old people wasting away in retirement homes, and I saw Me, a soon to be college student, whining about pulling guard duty. The experience was quite sobering. I realized how poorly I was viewing my life. When I returned to earth, I was a happier, healthier me. As I started to doze off, I vowed to look around me, and see what was going on in the rest of the world, before coming to any great conclusions. As I closed my eyes, something else struck me about my trip. I didn't see God when I was up there. For the first time, the thought struck me that I should think more about this subject. I decided to look at things a little closer the next time.

Although it may seem tame to the unknowing reader, the ability to detach myself from the world has allowed me to see things quite differently. Over my next several hundred visits to the moon, I have been able to see that, not only is there no god, but that there is no chance that there is a god. I fully realize that by deluding themselves with thoughts of souls and spirits, humans are certainly destroying themselves. Any time a creature "thinks" they are something they are not, they are lessened by it. People who think they are half-human, half-spirit automatically make themselves less human. Their belief in their absurd superstitions make them less, not more.

Thanks for reading -- Buz

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From: "Cheri"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Date: November 10, 2002 11:02 AM

I think my story is funny and will put a smile on your face. Born, baptized (#1) and raised a NY Catholic, I spent eight years in Catholic school, grades 1 through 8. By seventh grade, I was not allowed to attend religion classes because I would ask too many questions like "who made god"? This angered the Nuns and I was banned. I went to public high school.

From there, my search for something continued. I joined a "Born Again" group and got baptized (#2) and found nothing but falsehoods, ridiculous theory, two-faced back stabbing, and pressure. I ended up with more questions that went unanswered, so they said I was "filled with the devil" and out I went.

I found a Revival Church and joined, I was baptized (#3) and went to these revivals. I ended up getting baptized AGAIN at a big group revival. We were all kinda going crazy and in I went (#4). This religious group was kinda scary in the way the group acted when together. Once again questions got me the boot.

I dabbled with Southern Baptists which got me baptized (#5). Since the time that I had moved south, I found that the people were more sheepish, the religion got more scarier and controlling. Despite this, they pretty much retained the same theories. I didn't really fit in with the group so out I went.

I also dabbled with Judaism, but it was just the old testament. Surely didn't cut it for me, but at least I did not get baptized again.

Then I joined the Jehovas Witnesses and got baptized (#6). This group is insane and I found the theory going backwards faster. Really sheep like people that are pushy and and controlling. They told me somthing about "letting satan go" and "shaking a foot at me"? I don't know but I was out of there with the kinds of questions that I had.

No.. I did not stop there! Joined the Church of Latter Day Saints better known as "The Mormons". Yes, I was baptized again (#7) This was an interesting experience. I ended up sticking with this group for 5 years. It had lots of mysticism and the temples were like going to a haunted house, it was exciting and scary. I had already read the bible over 10 times and they had some new religious books, so I read them. It came down to this crazy ceremony in the temple where they seperate the men from the women, these old ladies strip you naked and put you in these funny white cloths. You get green fig leaves to cover the private parts and huge white chef hats for your head. You are not allowed to speak throughout the ceremony in there. Then you get joined back with the men and when I saw my boyfriend, I burst into laughter!!! I got into ALOT of trouble for that!!

I started to question the new theory they had and finally left the church. I checked into scientology but THAT was too scary. Was like a cult and I said nay.

I concluded there is no god. I believe I made a good effort to find out!! If there were a god, and people were supposed to find him through organized religion, then God would be a moron because religion just proves that men make decisions to control people, and that has nothing to do with any god. There is no god because religion breeds hatred of other religions. There is no god because people who believe in a god just want to feel safe about death or guilt of something. Fear of hell and death and group hatred of Evil and Satan is why people practice religion and believe in God. Fear and Hatred join people together under the premise of "religion". Now I see that the concept of a god is really dumb and I have a difficult time with religious folk.

Sorry, but "I have been there and done that".

Great Site, glad I found it.

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From: "Darin Guthrie"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Date: November 13, 2002 2:39 PM

I was raised in the Cult of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints: the Morons. As a child, I believed I would grow up to be the future head of the the church, called the Prophet. At the age of fourteen, I began asking annoyingly difficult questions of my sunday school brainwashers like, "Why do all religions claim to be true? How can anyone be sure that theirs is the correct one? Would God let all the Chinese go to hell because they never met a missionary?" My "teachers" told me that I needed to have faith, but that sounded too much like a con.

I continued to attend church services until I was sixteen, when I finally told my mother that I didn't believe. She breathed a sigh of relief and then confided in me that she didn't believe either. That was the last time we went to church.

After finding this website, I now realize that I am closer to a positive atheist than some other description. Thank you for your presence.

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From: [unsigned]
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: My De-Conversion Story
Date: January 07, 2003 5:37 PM

I am a 19-year-old South American guy, and I have been a declared atheist since age 17. My family, like the vast majortity of Latin Americans, is catholic. Moreover, I was demanded to engage in religious traditions such as baptism and communion.

Even though I questioned the "good book" thoughout all my rational existence, it wasn't until I traveled to a different country and was exposed to a different culture that I realized all religions were driven by the same two factors: fear and tradition. Inpite of this similarity, I noticed that many religions exclude one another because all of them purport to possess the absolute truth. In this way, religious fanatics go around the world transmitting their stupidity.

One must be able to detach oneself from culture in order to see the world objectively. I was fortunate enough to have this experience, and as a result, I feel liberated from the most criminal legacy left by my Spanish ancestors.

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From: "Chris Collins"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Date: February 12, 2003 4:46 PM

Hello,

My deconversion is actually still underway, and right now I'm Agnostic, as I feel that there could still be "something out there". I became a saved Christian six years ago, thinking at the time that the questions I had about theology would be revealed to me if I was patient and gave it time. Well, guess what! Time's up! I never felt like I really "got it" when I would sit there in church. It always felt a bit cult-like. People seemed to be in a weird sort of trance and it freaked me out. To make matters worse, I had to experience a Pentecostal church a few times. The tongues and the falling on the floor in hysterics were the beginning of a very long end for me. Also, the church works on fear while cloaked in a "goody goody" skin. (Some are more fire and brimstone than others) You all know how hard it is to get those notions of hell programmed out of your head. I still have many questions, but I know one thing though. I can't go back to the dark ages for answers, and I can't twist my rational brain into believing things that sound like complete nonsense. I feel kind of good about this new definition of myself, but kind of lost too. But, it is good to know that there are people who feel the way I do. However, as a person who searches the truth constantly, this won't be the end of my story.

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From: "Terrence Tyrka"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: My story...
Date: February 12, 2003 12:17 PM

I'm not new to referring to myself as an atheist, but the actual change came years after I first used that term in a personal description. I'd like to explain some epiphany or shocking experience that changed it all, but that's not how it happened. Fact is, I always carried the default thinking (even while pretending to be an atheist) that even if there was a God, he wouldn't hold my atheism against me and would let me into heaven due to my "thinking too much". But at some point a few years back (again, there was no great event, just a final realization) it really did hit me like a brick. It took every shred of observation and logical thinking that I possess, but the fact became abundantly clear: THERE IS NO GOD. I've always been one to examine the evidence before coming to a conclusion but then I had see the truth.

I have been a vegetarian for over 16 years as well as a union steward for four (the elections have been interesting considering how many people who know my beliefs will vote against me no matter what my qualifications are as a union rep). It still amazes me that, although I am completely humanitarian, I will be persecuted for my beliefs. Apparently that persecution is acceptable. If I were black, hispanic or homosexual, any disparaging remarks would be frowned upon. Yet, kick an atheist and no one will bat an eyelash.

In the meantime, I find the belief, that my life on this earth is the only experience I will have, to be the ultimate motivation to live life to the fullest. I've since skydived and become the union representative which I mentioned earlier (something I never would have done before, due to my shy demeanor).

Atheism has saved me. As a "God-fearing Christian" I emphasize the "fearing" part, I now can actually act upon the feelings I have rather than worry about how they might conflict with some archaic mythology that was forced upon me.

Anyway, off my soapbox, I just felt the need to communicate my feelings to someone. Unfortunately, particularly living in the "heartland" of Indiana, there really isn't anyone to communicate this to.

Thank you for providing such a resource filled with intelligent reference material. I will certainly be a frequent visitor and hopefully even contribute, given the opportunity.

Terrence Tyrka

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From: "Trish Randall"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Date: February 20, 2003 1:33 PM

Like so many others on this page, I was raised Catholic. My parents were violent criminals and abusive to us kids. They were Sunday school teachers, too.

At seven, I puked first communion. Everybody ignored this physical fact and acted like I had absorbed a piece of God exactly like everyone else. I felt vaguely trapped.

In the first three months of third grade I lost 5 lbs. The school nurse reported on this, which got my parents in trouble. Because of this, and the fact that she insisted on sending me home from school when I puked, they yanked me out of public school and put me in Catholic school, where my stomach distress was treated as a form of rebellion, and I was sent to church shrinks to get at the root of my sinfullness.

I was constantly being told, "No normal child gets this many stomachaches," as if this was proof that I was making it all up. Yet, there was also all the puking. I was just as miserable on vacation days as school days. Yet nobody ever thought of taking me to the doctor.

In all-girls Catholic high school I was constantly in trouble. I asked why everyone was mad at Judas. If God's plan was for Jesus to die crucified, wasn't Judas helping? Could Judas' suicide have been because he felt bad about the whole thing? The fact that I would ask such questions was used as evidence of my inherent badness. I was surrounded by people who were on the lookout for excuses to tell me I was evil. They used not only my questions in class and "attitude", but also my physical distress against me.

In my late twenties, I tried paganism because the idea of the goddess sounded so much more gentle than the religion I was brought up with. I found that the pagan groups were as political and corrupt as any other religion.

In my early thirties, I discovered that my lifelong digestive problems were caused by at least four different birth defects of my digestive tract. Multiple surgeries improved my functioning somewhat, but the technology didn't exist to make my organs function like normal people's organs do. One pancreas surgery relieved a feeling of pressure in my ribcage, which was not a result I had expected. One of my nurses asked me why I hadn't complained about that problem years ago. I replied, "I was raised Catholic. I thought it was guilt." She thought I was kidding. But really, whenever I had felt that sensation, I would assume that whatever I was thinking/doing was causing me guilt. You can imagine the confusion this brought into my life. I spent my twenties wondering why I felt guilt over my job, crushes, freindships, recreation and so on. I knew that even in the strictest form of morality I wasn't doing anything wrong, but the feeling persisted. I gave up my career in publishing to work for Greenpeace. I wondered why I could never do enough to relieve the guilt. I was really pissed at the Catholics about this.

So, once I discovered that my "guilt" was physical -- and gone -- I got to thinking. I had been raised by physically brutal parents. The schools they chose for me compounded my problems by supporting my parents in their abuse. The nuns happily confirmed that I was evil, that there was no need to consider a physical cause for my obvious ill health. In the meantime, I had all these birth defects (besides my digestive problems, I have reproductive defects, too). I also had caught Lyme disease before it was a known disease, and by the time I found out about that, I had developed Sjogren's syndrome (an exhausting form of arthritis that is often an aftermath of Lyme).

One day in my thirties, I thought, "If there is an all-knowing, all-powerful being who is capable of taking a personal interest in my life, and who is able to alter even the laws of physics in order to direct the course of my life, I can only conclude that he is out to get me."

The realization, that much of the misfortune of my life was just bad luck, was a weight off my shoulders. I had spent years thinking that something within me provoked my parents and the nuns into attacking me. Finding out that so much of this was beyond my control, was a relief. It wasn't my personality (whatever that is), it was the belief systems and the convenience of people who did not have my best interests at heart who were responsible for the greatest part of my misery.

Today, I am happily married (which the nuns, shrinks and parents insisted would never happen until I was somehow "broken"). My ill health does slow me down, but it is so much easier to cope with it now that I know that it is not something I did to myself.

I am glad that Catholic sex abuse is now public knowledge. I am saddened though, that this is presented as the only problem that the Church has with kids. They are brutal to kids in many other ways, and that is being ignored at present.

Trish Randall

Graphic Rule

From: "Barry Young"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Date: March 16, 2003 5:46 PM

I don't know if this is really a story of deconversion because I never was a real confirmed believer. As a child, my parents gave me the option to go to church. And as a child, staying home would be the most rewarding. When I did go, I found the environment very intimidating and confusing. It also appeared to be an environment that was a breeding ground for conformity. I don't mind conformity, but I do not like bowing down to it based on pressure -- especially when I have reservations and doubt.

My parents were both brought up in families with religious commitment, so out of respect, they accepted and responded by acknowledging faith. I notice this more, now that they are getting older. They are in the realization, that without faith, there is no significance or any dignity in their finality. It also forces them to come to terms with the possibility that they will never be united with their loved ones or be embraced by any such love, including that of a supreme being. I too struggle with this. In other words, after being part of a beautiful and loving world it ends merely like that, a dead end to nonexistence. Believe me, I can see the need to try to avert these thoughts, even if it comes with a little adverse baggage. When I think about the people I love, it's hard to swallow that when they die, that is the end. The end, forever! All they are is lost, as if they were never born.

When I did go to church, I did not understand how they could just hunt and peck in the Bible and make sense of it. I have learned over the years that preachers do this to point out the things that they like and feel are important. They do not want to display all the errors and foolish thoughts. So as of recently, I have started reading it from the beginning. The more I read, the more my assertions become clear and stable.

I want to first clear one thing up. I would consider myself an empirical agnostic and not an atheist. An empirical agnostic is one who believes that there may be a god, but feel that nothing will ever be learned or known of him, her or them. I take it a step further in saying that the burden of proof is with the believer. Thus far, I see no case. That is where I stand. Firm and true. I do not have the knowledge or arrogance to make a firm statement that there indeed, is NO god (an atheist). An open mind is more pleasing and allows other possibilities to show themselves. I still enjoy reading the Bible, because for me, I need to give it a chance. I also enjoy discovering the truth behind the scriptures so that I am more prepared when false assertions are launched. In other words, when people try to cram crap down my throat and try to make me out to be unjust and unworthy, I can defend myself.

I think the great men of the past knew the dynamics of humanity. They knew that even the great would succumb to their demise. Death does not discriminate. They knew how man's weak morals would create a corrupt and unappreciated society. He also knew that the death was something that could not be really understood. It would be like trying to understand infinity or some other phenomenon beyond our realm. We are limited in our knowledge. For them, they were determined to give man what he deserved and that is dignity. We are not merely rag dolls upon our death and our life long contributions must have purpose and respect. So with that, the Bible emerged.

Today people use the Bible primarily as a tool to judge others. They also use it for monetary gains and for status development. As I alluded to, I think it was created really for two main reasons. The first was to give man hope. This would include dealing with death in a respectful and dignified manner. The second would be cope. That's dealing with our shortcomings and trying to incorporate morals into our social structure.

Looking at the moral dilemma:

Mankind, from day one, has never been moral and nor will it ever be. The Bible often uses sin to explain this collapse. To me, the word sin is the biggest cop-out concept ever invented. How can God be perfect if He created an imperfect man Can't be. So the Bible continues to fail in enhancing our moral fibers mainly because there really is no clear message and it is too open to interpretation. Where is the credibility?

Secondly -- regarding hope -- I do think that spirituality and biblical scripture gives some solace to families that have to deal with death. Even though there may be no truth to it, it still allows people to have a continuation of love while demonstrating respect. Otherwise, people would just be silenced to emptiness and doom. We, as a people, would lose a sense of the real beauty of someone's existence on this earth. I'm not real sure how to otherwise confront this topic. In this area, I just say it's part of a civilized society. The tradition and the ceremony of death has a biblical foundation. I really don't see an alternative in this area. It still doesn't make any of it true, it just helps make things bearable.

The bottom line is that we are on our own. We are the top of the Animal Kingdom with no one to answer to and no one to guide us. There is no intervention and the word miracle just means we lack the knowledge. Science, the inner workings of physics, biology and mathematics answer it all. Scientist however, do not. Perhaps we will never figure it all out, but that does not mean explanations aren't there. I just wish others would think this way so that the walls of segregation would fall and the concept of discriminating judgement would be removed. The big irony behind it all is that the Bible was formed to fortify piece and love; history has shown that it is the catalyst to just the opposite. The ultimate no-win situation. The double edge sword of hopelessness.

Graphic Rule