Your Questions

I would love to answer any questions you have.  They could be personal or philosophical or theological.  Ask away!

Important!  If you want to receive notification of my reply to your comment you will have to click a box with this option when you post your comment.  Otherwise you will just have to keep checking back to see when I’ve replied.

Dave posted a pretty long and involved comment so I’m going to copy and paste it here so it’s easier to read – and so I can do it justice in my reply.  I’ll date the interactions so you can follow along.

FEBRUARY 2, 2011

Hey Bren! You know that I have been pouring over this; I like you, like to read, so as always, anything that you send my way, I read. I appreciate your willingness to be so vulnerable with your thoughts, questions and beliefs, especially in light of the circles that you’ve grown up in and your friends; I can imagine that not all have responded well (understandably?).

I have no questions for you I don’t think. You know that we love you, your husband, and the kids and your beliefs don’t change that [I edited out names]. Call me a Christian, call me a Christ follower, call me whatever you like, but I know this, in my pursuit of Christ, Heaven, eternal security the one thing that I have found constant is that in all things Christ has called us to love each other. As I see it, I have no right to judge any other, in any way, including their beliefs and views on God and Christ. This was the problem initially when Adam and Eve ate from the tree in Eden. They became judgemental; judgemental without the capacity to properly judge. We all judge one another and it is impossible to not, regardless of how much we may detest it. I too sometimes will find scripture confusing, but one thing I don’t find confusing is my experience. I guess perhaps I do have a question for you (for my own curiosity); what has been your “experience” with Christ? Not christianity, not religion, but Christ? As you know, the idea of Christianity, or of Christ himself, is based upon a personal relationship. What did that mean to you? I guess why I ask this is my personal experience is the only thing that has kept me from disregarding what sometimes confuses, and often frustrates me (truth be told). I have numerous life experiences that simply cannot be explained outside of a God that wants intimate interaction with me. I have “miracles” that I have seen and even happened to me that cannot be denied or explained through rational fact or scientific means. For example, when Rachal and I were trying to get pregnant, we were told that we never would. We saw multiple specialists, tried different fertility drugs and finally Rachal had to have surgery because of stage 4 endometriosis. After that surgery the surgeon had to tell Rachal that her uterus had not formed properly and that the right side was completely blocked off and that we was not able to get into her tubes on the right side. Of course she was devastated. What do you say to your wife when she finds that out? More importantly where is God when something like that happens? We were told to move forward with trying to get pregnant anyways and that he had taken out as much of the endometriosis as he could. Through out this we were in the middle of an adoption through Ethiopia. Needless to say, Rachal got pregnant, and you know that Camryn came 12 weeks early by emergency c-section. While the doctor was performing the c-section we asked how everything looked inside Rachal; her uterus, tubes, etc. “Fine” was his response, “everything looks normal, why?”. We relayed to him what we had been told by the last surgeon for the endometriosis surgery and he couldn’t believe it. He looked again and reconfirmed that everything he saw was normal and in it’s place, that “Rachal was developed completely normally.” From this point forward the doctors were fascinated by her case and booked an MRI to try to determine what was happening. The term they began to use was “Uterine anomaly”. To this day, after seeing numerous doctors it has not been explained.
The stories just go on and on like that. I can’t explain it other than to say that it was answered prayer for us. I wonder about your experience Brenda, an experience that would push you to such a radical search of fact to confirm truth. I can’t begin to understand I don’t think because your life and mine are completely separate lives. This to me is why judging just doesn’t work. When you look at a picture, what you see may be completely different then what I see, yet we are looking at the same image. We may both watch the same movie, in the same theatre, on the same day, sitting next to one another, and yet take away a completely different experience.
This is all me just processing what I’ve read of your questions, experiences, bookended with my life experience and personal encounters with a God that to me, obviously has a vested care, love and interest in my life.
Thanks again for allowing me to read all through this and for sharing! Thanks also for allowing others to post questions and thoughts! You are truly a fascinating person Brenda and I am always intrigued by the way that your mind works (this is a compliment)! We love you guys very much!

Dave

 

My response:

Boy – when I first read your comments and questions Dave, I didn’t realize I was going to have so much to say in response!  When people have contacted me I try to really think through what they’re saying and give a well thought out answer.  So here goes!

Response.  I said right from the beginning that I did not leave Christianity due to anything Christians had done or said (to me personally or in general).   They have gone and proven me right!  The Christians who have contacted me have been kind and thoughtful.  There are others who have contacted me (who were once Christians) and have come to similar conclusions as I have (most have been more agnostic than atheist though).   So it’s been interesting to hear from people – and it’s all proven to me that I’ve had a lot of decent people in my life.  I wish more had contacted me on this site so then everyone could read their questions/comments and my responses, but oh well.

My experience with Christ.  I’ll be honest, here’s where my thoughts went when you asked that question.  When I was a Christian and I heard about people leaving the faith, I assumed that something bad had happened to them to make them angry at God or that they cared too much about facts.  You brought up another one – maybe someone who leaves the faith didn’t have the kind of relationship with Christ that I had.  How could someone have that kind of amazing relationship and then turn their back on it??  Hard to fathom as a Christian.  It’s so real and it infuses every part of your life.  What can I say to that?  How do I prove that I had a genuine relationship with the Creator of the universe?  All I can tell you is that in my opinion I had a relationship with Christ that was just as real as any other Christian I’ve known.  I didn’t buy into religion – I bought into Christ.  He was my Saviour, Lord, best friend … I could go on.  And I will be completely honest with you.  I MISS it.  And all the Christians are now saying ‘aha’ – she misses her relationship with Christ.  That proves SOMETHING.  No – I don’t think it does.  For 20 years I had a best friend who knew me completley inside and out and who wanted the best for me.  Whether it was real or not – who wouldn’t miss that??

I’m going to combine two things you said here.  You said that you’ve had ‘numerous life experiences that simply cannot be explained outside of a God that wants intimate interaction with me.’  Later in your post you refer to the idea that two people can look at the same image and yet come away with a completely different experience.  Well – that’s kind of my answer.  In your life you’ve chosen to put the god glasses on.  Everything that happens to you is seen through those lenses.  I did that for 20 years as well.  There wasn’t anything that happened that didn’t make sense through my Christian worldview.  I had very few substantial doubts in all those years.  I did think about things a lot and wanted to make sure that I was living the way Christ wanted to me to live.  But looking back I am still stunned that I got to where I am now.  Never would have dreamed it in a million years.  My god glasses were firmly in place.  Now I have atheist glasses on and I see almost everything differently.  Experiences are subjective – how we see those is a choice.  You’ve made one choice.  I’ve made another.

Miracles.  There’s a big one.  I’m going to break this one up.

God of the gaps.  I’m reading a book right now called ‘Quantum Leaps:  100 Scientists Who Changed the World.’  Fascinating book.  It’s done chronologically and you can see the progression of how people viewed the world over time and how their understanding changed.  When people didn’t understand how the world worked, everything had a supernatural explanation.  There was a huge ‘gap.’  Over time, as their understanding grew, that gap has become smaller and smaller.  This is how I view ‘miracles’ now.  To me they are just things that we don’t have an explanation for.  And here I’m going to quote Billy Joel of all people.  “I gradually decided that just because I didn’t have or couldn’t find the ultimate answer didn’t mean I was going to buy the religious fairytale.”  I can no longer think that every time we don’t yet have an explanation for something that the answer has to automatically be god.  That isn’t the only option.

Miracles downgraded.  The Old and New Testament are filled with miracles.  Obvious miracles.  What type of miracles do we see today?  Nothing even close.  There is a website at www.whywontgodhealamputees.com.  I briefly checked it out a long time ago – but you don’t even have to check it out to think of the question.  Why won’t God do something obvious like heal an amputee?  I see the miracles that Christians claim on facebook all the time.  Sorry – not convincing in the least.  Miracles have been seriously downgraded.

Fairness.  You may have experienced a miracle – I can’t know for sure.  But why not someone else?  In his handing out of miracles – god is pretty selective and stingy.  Why not the 5 year old girl in my son’s class who is battling a rare type of bone cancer as I write this?  Why not _______.  You fill in the blank.  “If I had the power that the New Testament narrative says that Jesus had, I would not cure one person of blindness, I would make blindness impossible; I would not cure one person of leprosy, I would abolish leprosy.” (Joseph Lewis)

And here is my final point about miracles.  God gets all the credit but none of the blame.  How convenient.  Something wonderful happens and he is praised.  But what about all the people he didn’t help?  Does he have any responsibility for that?  What about responsibility for creating the problem in the first place?  “If indeed, there were a judgment-day, it would be for man to appear at the bar, not as a criminal, but as an accuser.” (William Winwood Reade)  If there is a god he has a lot of explaining to do and I don’t think even a few true miracles would be a sufficient answer.  Do you want to know what pushed me from agnostic to athiest?  This quote sums it up, “I don’t know if a god exists, but it would be better for his reputation if he didn’t.”  (Jules Renard)

Thanks for your questions and comments.  Keep them coming if you like!

FEBRUARY 3, 2011

From Dave:

Brenda, very interesting. I guess I can see where you are coming from with looking at life through different lenses; makes sense to me. I would say for me you are right. Christ is central to my life and therefore the good that happens to me in life I attribute to him.

I find the concept of Christ as a Saviour very interesting to look at through the lens of western culture. How do you explain to someone who has pretty much all they want, let alone all they need, that they “need” Christ to be saved? I guess that I just find it very interesting to read writing from western culture talk about a God who is notably absent from life because of all of the “bad” that happens. It’s pretty easy to miss the abundant good, for the moments of “bad” that happen in life; this is a statement coming out of recent personal experience. People simply tend to focus on the negative or difficulties in life. Some have far more difficulty than others, and not to down play or disregard someone’s suffering, but I would say that as a whole, we in the west don’t really understand the term “suffering”. I could be diagnosed with cancer tomorrow and die in a week and truly, I would have nothing to complain about. Is it fair? What is fair? I have a 16 month old daughter and an amazing wife, so how could that hardly seem fair for me to die at this point from a disease that the God I serve, I believe, can heal? Or, I can look at this as incredible fortune that I was born in a country that gave me so many liberties; a family that loved and supported me so much; that I had the privilege to have such a wonderful wife and daughter. Honestly, I don’t know but I would say that this largely depends again, on the “lenses” or “glasses” with which you choose to view life. Is the glass half empty or half full?

In terms of miracles, there is still LOTS happening these days. Again, I would say that honestly here in the the west, there probably is not much happening at all. Not to say that there are not any, but again, we are largely a culture that simply doesn’t “need” God. Think on relationships and friendships that you have. Are there any in which it is fairly one sided? Now I am not saying that you relationship with Christ was this way, but I know that often mine is like this; it is very easy for me to disregard, or largely ignore Christ when things are smoothly sailing along in my life. When things get tough I certainly turn shouting for help in an awful hurry. I do this time and again. I try not to but for some reason my nature seems to not feel the “need” to experience my bond, or have a relationship with him unless “I” have a need you know? Funny enough, even though this is the case, I still quite often feel justified in my anger or resentment when my prayers are not answered the way that I feel they should have been; according to what is “fair”. Am I so “good” in all of my nature, all the time, behind closed doors, that I feel that things should go the “right way” all the time for me? Should I never experience suffering in anyway? I’m not so sure… What about any sort of evil in all of this. I know that you’ve touched on this but looking at everything that happens in life, good and bad, and placing everything at God’s feet saying “your fault” completely ignores three things; free will from a God that desperately wants us to choose him of our own accord; any consequence for poor choices that we or those close to us make; any existence of Satan, evil, that have any impact on daily life.

Man, my head is COMPLETELY spinning! Thank you Brenda, I am not sure that I will be able to shut down and sleep tonight (hahaha! 🙂 )! All so very fascinating to turn over in my head.

Not sure that you do but if you are ever curious about some of the miracles that I am referring to I can pass along books and websites. As I have said, they are largely from other parts of the world although there are some pretty cool events (no matter how you view what has transpired) from North America as well!

Anyways, thanks for sharing your thoughts! I am sitting here listening to my daughter receive praise for putting all the pots back into the cupboard that she dumped out, so needless to say I am not sure how complete my thoughts are here but nevertheless, here they are :).

My response:

Wow – a lot to cover!

Christ in Western culture.  When I was a Christian there was this idea that the church was expanding in less developed countries and struggling in more advanced ones.  The spin on it was that it was our fault.  We didn’t have enough faith, commitment, etc.  We were too complacent in our cushy, comfortable lives to really live for Christ.  This ties in to miracles too.  The miracles were happening elsewhere in the world because we had come to rely on reason rather than faith.  Again – our fault.   You said, “How do you explain to someone who has pretty much all they want, let alone all they need, that they ‘need’ Christ to be saved?”  I’m going to annoy everyone here with yet another quote.  I have a list of my favourites and frankly – others often say things in better words than I can.  “Christianity must convince men that they need salvation … Christianity has nothing to offer a happy man … Just as Christianity must destroy reason before it can introduce faith, so it must destroy happiness before it can introduce salvation.” (George H. Smith)  I’m just going to keep both issues tied together here – where Christianity is expanding (and not) and where miracles are happening (and not).  Here’s a link to an article that may seem a bit off topic – but bear with me.  Society Without God   So I guess my question is this: Are Christianity and miracles struggling in developed countries because the people there have become too arrogant – relying too much on reason?  Or are Christianity and miracles struggling there because those societies have moved beyond those things?  Maybe developed societies are just less gullible?  Less willing to believe second-hand information, etc.?  And let me finish on this topic with a few questions.  Would miracles prove God’s existence?  I haven’t done any reading on this – maybe I will.  I’m sure philosphers have tackled it before.  Also, do miracles prove Christianity specifically?  All religions claim miracles so I don’t see how miracles point to one religion over another.

Glass half-full or half-empty (and the problem of suffering).  Do atheists see the glass as half-empty and then ‘blame’ god for that? (Can you blame someone you don’t believe exists?)  Hmmm.  Basically do atheists only focus on the bad in the world?  It can seem this way.  I think this is because when we are debating the existence of god – the topic of suffering is a major issue that has to be dealt with.  So it gets talked about a lot.  But if you were to see me and talk to me in my daily life – I’m a very thankful person.  Like you – I have so many wonderful things in my life that I can never be too upset by the bad.  But my personal experiences do very little to deal with the issue of suffering in the world as a whole.  The best book I’ve read on the topic of suffering and God is God’s Problem by Bart D. Ehrman.  He is a biblical scholar and in this book he systematically goes through the Bible and looks at how different authors explained suffering.  While Ehrman has written numerous books about textual criticism of the Bible – that isn’t what turned him into an agnostic – it was the problem of suffering.  I think every Christian should read this book so they can say they’ve looked honestly at how the Bible tackles the problem of suffering.  I don’t think atheists always see the glass as half-empty.  But we do have a problem with the concept of a god who is supposed to be all-powerful and at the same time all-loving – and yet still allows so much suffering.  Get ready for some more quotes 🙂

“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?  Then he is not omnipotent.  Is he able, but not willing?  Then he is malevolent.  Is he both able and willing?  Then whence cometh evil?  Is he neither able nor willing?  Then why call him God?”  (Epicurus)

“When it comes to believing in God, I really, really tried … but … the more you look around, the more you realize … something is wrong here.  War, disease, death, destruction, hunger, filth, poverty, torture, crime, corruption, the Ice Capades … This is not good work.  If this is the best God can do, I am not impressed.  Results like these do not belong on the resume of a Supreme Being.” (George Carlin)

Should we expect no suffering?  Well – not in this world obviously – but was this world with suffering the only option?  Is suffering somehow necessary?

You say that “placing everything at God’s feet and saying ‘your fault’ completely ignores three things.”  I’ll cover those one by one.

1.  Free will.  Here’s a link to one of my posts where I cover that topic.  The Hiddenness of God and Freewill

2.  Consequences.  We agree!  “In nature there are neither rewards nor punishments – there are consequences.”  (Robert G. Ingersoll)

3.  Satan, evil.  I can’t get over the fact that God created Satan and allowed evil.  If He’s all-powerful then he is ultimately responsible for these things existing.  If His hands were tied, then he’s not all-powerful.

But I haven’t dealt with humanity’s role in all this.  Aren’t we responsible for a lot of the suffering in the world?  Isn’t our sinful nature responsible?  Well this doesn’t explain natural disasters.  We don’t cause those.  Again, some quotes:

“We must question the story logic of having an all-knowing all-powerful God, who creates faulty Humans, and then blames them for his own mistakes.”  (Gene Roddenberry)

“A being who can create a race of men devoid of real freedom and inevitably foredoomed to be sinners, and then punish them for being what he has made them, may be omnipotent and various other things, but he is not what the English language has always intended by the adjective holy.” (John Stuart Mill)

Two more items for you.  God’s Checklist and An Almighty Screwup.  Notice in these how many times god could have made different choices.  We take for granted that the world had to be set up this way – but I think sometimes we need to step out of the box and look at it impartially.

Ok – I don’t know how much green tea a person can safely drink in a morning – but I think I just broke the record!  This has been a long one – but I hope everyone is enjoying all this back and forth.

February 4, 2011

Dave sent this comment:

Brenda, very well thought our and put forth. In the end, you and I both know we will need to agree to disagree (but we both knew that before this back and forth started ), however, if you have the book “God’s Problem” by Bart Ehrman, I would love to read it.

I find it very interesting how very different people are, and how differently they view minor and major topics. You have obviously read, and dug much harder than I, in a scholarly sense, to discover where the rabbit hole goes. I guess that I feel undeniably, through my life experience, that I have experienced Christ in a very personal and intimate way. Religion is a whole other topic, and where as you may not separate them, I feel that my belief in Christ is absolutely separate. While I do think that it is healthy and challenging to attend a church (where you do feel the teaching does stretch and challenge you) I can honestly do without all of the ritual, and framework that seemingly surround Christ. I have never felt like I need to work through such a systematic process in order to speak with Christ; just like I speak this to you, I speak to Christ, and I don’t use any other language. At the same time, I also think that it is healthy to speak back and forth and challenge one another, with who you disagree on your points and foundations of belief. After all, how can you be certain of what you do believe unless you allow those beliefs to be challenged? Again, I really appreciate your willingness to share so openly and candidly – I would have hated to debate against you in high school….

Let me know if you have that book!

 

I waited to post this response from Dave because he offered to read God’s Problem by Bart D. Ehrman.  I in turn offered to read any Christian book of his choosing.  He has chosen Has Christianity Failed You? by Ravi Zacharias.  So Dave is getting his from the library and I’ve ordered mine from Amazon.  We’ll let you know what we think of them!  I will post any commentary Dave has about the book and I will likely post my views about mine.  Isn’t this fun?

31 thoughts on “Your Questions

  1. Hi Brenda,

    If you don’t mind, I would like to take a crack at attempting to answer some of your questions on the prev. tab. That way I slow down my thought process and search things out for myself as well.

    I don’t “believe” in absolutely everything that is preached or written in the bible but still consider myself as a “Christian”. I think that it is a culmination of many people’s ideas and preachings over hundreds of years, most of which were at a time when man had much difficulty understanding abstract images and greatly need guidance. Jesus had a spiritual connection to something that was and is recognized. He was highly advanced for his time. Such is the same with Budda and Mohammad.

    I believe that there are many different views on religion, including Christianity, that’s why I like it, it gives me freedom to be.

    For the most part, I don’t take the bible at face value and have never blindly obeyed what a person at the front of the church has told me to do. He/She is only doing their best to try and get people to behave in a better manner, and live their best life.

    I’m not trying to persuade you to change your actions or beliefs in any way, just throwing my 2 cents out there.

    Re your question: “Why does God need to be so hidden”
    “God” to me is a symbol of a spiritual belief that makes it easier for us to personalize what we think, what we do, have done, how we may want to behave in order to make life easier and more comfortable for ourselves and others and to feel better about ourselves, some internal place where we can go in time of need (prayer).

    I can’t physically see a symbol in my mind, but it gives me a place to focus on when I have to center myself and need answers or when I want to focus on someone else that needs positive energy focused on them.

  2. Hi Brenda,
    I’m finding your site really interesting. I am not a religious person and I am always interested to read and hear discussions about religion.
    My question for you is: Having schooled your children, what do they now believe?
    Are you leaving it up to them to decide?
    I had a (rather heated) conversation with a christian cab driver the other day who along with the normal chit chat started to preach at me and say that the Tsunami in Japan was a good thing, and that if people pray, Japan will be fixed!
    This made me see red, and I asked if God caused the Tsunami (because he was saying that God is everywhere, and does wonderful things etc). (maybe it was one of the other Gods)
    “Oh no, he doesn’t do bad things, just good” So he claimed humans brought on the Tsunami, and now God would fix it, but only if we prayed. hmmm… I wanted to say that Japan will be fixed by people power, people working together to clean up the mess, but he wouldn’t have it!
    How can one have a rational discussion with a believer when faith so completely overtakes one’s logic?
    I don’t have any answers…just one of those interactions I wish I didn’t have, oh well.
    Anyway, thanks for your website!
    Ginny

    • Thanks for your comments! I truly appreciate them!

      As far as my kids. We homeschooled for 6 years. My three oldest kids entered public school at grades 5, 3, and senior kindergarten. My older ones are now in grades 8, 6, and 3. My 5 year old is in senor kindergarten. So they’ve been in for a few years now and are doing fine. I have mixed feelings about our homeschooling years – but that is another post altogether!

      What do I teach them now? Honestly? Nothing. My oldest is a born-again Christian. He knows I’m an atheist now. My second child also knows I’m an atheist. I should probably have more talks with her – but honestly I’ve mostly been focused on keeping things as normal for them as possible. It wasn’t normal around here while I was going through all this – so normal for me right now is good. I think I’m entering a phase where I need to be less hypocritical with them and just be honest and unashamed about who I am. I’ll let you know how that goes ;

      My younger three. I am at the stage now where I want to stop praying with my 8 yr old and my 5 yr old. I kept it up with them because I didn’t want to abruptly change things on them. Felt like accomodation was the best choice at the time. But I think I need to stop. They need to know their mom doesn’t believe in god anymore. It’s only honest. They are free to keep praying on their own if they want. I would never discourage it if that’s their choice. So that’s my situation with them right now. My youngest (age 4) is going to be my only child who will grow up with no religion whatsover. Mind you the middle ones had very little – they have no context for it now. The prayers are just something they are used to.

      As far as the cab driver. I find that notion with most people – god is to be praised for the good things – we are to blame for the bad. Interesting concept as far as I’m concerned. But it’s pretty common. As far as reasoning with people like that – I wouldn’t worry about it. You can only reason with people who are open to reasoning. All you can do is talk to people on an equal level and treat everyone with respect. I’m not any smarter now than I was when I was a Christian. My perspective has just changed.

      Glad you’re enjoying my site!

  3. Hi Brenda,

    I just came across your very interesting site today.

    I, too, am a former Christian. (Raised in Christianity, went to a Christian college, married a Christian guy, very involved in church, ran the Sunday School program, bible studies, led small groups, evangelized, homeschooler – the whole nine yards. In my early 40’s, I struggled with depression. Although I did all the “right” things, I never found relief from that depression. My religion didn’t help me, or give me peace, which was what I wanted more than anything. Finally, I decided to try a different path. I figured God would understand, even if I was horribly wrong. Well, I never did go back. It’s been several years now. I am still finding my way. But I have more peace than I’ve EVER had.)

    So, I still live in the same small town (12,000 people) where I was deeply involved in a church. After I left, only ONE person asked me what had happened. ONE! This was a church where I was ON STAFF! Naturally, I was very hurt at the time. Of course, I still see these people in town. Many of them are quite nice, and it’s all good. I don’t harbor any ill will toward them. But, some of my closest friends . . . well, it still hurts. I thought we were “friends in the Lord.”

    Have you had any of these issues? How do you relate to your friends from your Christian days? (From your site, it sounds like you might not have these issues.) I ONLY had Christian friends my whole life. It has been hard to find new people to hang out with. I don’t know who my “peeps” are anymore. Kinda sad about that. Did you find a new set of friends? (Thankfully, my husband of 23 years and I traveled our journey pretty much together, so we do have each other.)

    Thanks for your great blog. Loved Steve Martin’s atheist song. (Isn’t it nice to appreciate that humor now, instead of being offended by it?)

    Luanne

    P.S. I still homeschool, though. Love it. We just don’t do it for spiritual reasons anymore. I did find some great secular homeschooling families in our town. I’m thankful for that!

    • Thanks for sharing your story! I appreciate it. I originally started this site mainly to explain to my family and friends why I had left christianity but I keep it going now for two reasons. One is that I like having a place to collect all this stuff but also because I hope that hearing my story will help others who are going through something similar.

      In reading your story I’m glad that you have found peace .. and we are all ‘finding our way.’ The journey never really ends while we still have breath and that’s a great thing.

      Christian friends. Kind of a complicated issue for me I think because I’m a loner at heart. I’ve definitely been outgoing at times in my life but really I’m content to hang out with my husband and children (and a good book!) The people who were super close to me still accept me. The people I was sort of friends with – well – we just didn’t have anything in common anymore so they went by the wayside. I never saw it as them rejecting me – the connection just wasn’t there anymore. Sometimes I feel like I ‘should’ have more friends but can never seem to muster up the energy to care about it enough to make the effort. My youngest will be in school part-time this fall so I plan on doing some volunteering so maybe that will lead to some friendships, I have no clue.

      As a side note – I think people who leave the faith freak Christians out. They find reasons why that person probably wasn’t a true Christian in the first place or how it was some moral failing that led them away. They never honestly consider the idea that it was an issue with christianity itself that was the problem.

      Be very thankful for your husband – I know I am! I don’t know if most Christian guys could handle their wife leaving the faith (or vice versa). I used to think my husband and I had such a strong marriage because we were such committed Christians. Now it blows me away that it was so much more than that. There isn’t much that hasn’t changed about me in the past few years. I went from being a homeschooling Christian mom to a vegetarian, pulbic schooling atheist.

      I’d be interested to hear how your children have handled the change in your life. That’s my biggest issue right now. I’d talk about it more on here but I need to respect their privacy.

      I’d love to stay in touch if you’re interested. Just comment back and if you’re interested I can email you.

  4. Hi Brenda,

    I am sheepishly writing back. Only today did I see your response to me! (I thought I would get an email notification when you responded to me, and I never got one, so I didn’t realize you did. Just yesterday I was perusing your site again, and there was your response! Written just hours after mine! I apologize!)

    Thanks for your great feedback. What you said about how people who leave the faith freak Christians out definitely rang a bell for me. That is probably exactly why everyone has been so reserved toward me since I’ve left the church. When I put myself in their shoes, and remember back to my Christian days, I can imagine “shunning” a “backslider.” (Not that I EVER would have used the word “shunning!” Nevertheless, that’s exactly how I would have behaved toward the “sinner.”) But, gosh, it hurts!

    Another observation since leaving Christianity – Christians can be SO prideful! (I KNOW I was just like that when I was a Christian. And when I am reminded of some of the things I said and ways I treated others, it is embarrassing.) So often, in my conversations with Christians, I think, “If only you knew how uppity and better-than-thou you sound. You would be horrified.” Because I think so many of them aren’t really that way — but they are taught that they are “right” and have “the answer” and know “the way” and so they believe it. And who wouldn’t act cocky if they believed all that? (Now, it is so freeing when I talk to people and I hear their stories and I don’t HAVE to judge and condemn them – instead I can enjoy and even appreciate their approach to life.) Nevertheless, encountering that pride is so abrupt and off-putting.

    You asked about kids. Well, luckily, my kids were young when I left the church — 7, 8 and 9. (Yes, I did have my kids that close together!) At first, I think they just liked staying home on Sundays. They did miss seeing some of their friends, but they did eventually make new ones, of course. Sometimes I ask them about their memories from our Christian days. The other day, my daughter (now 13) told me she remembered the Sunday School room, and she didn’t like it. And that was about it!

    Both my and my husband’s parents are Christians. My mother-in-law actually told my kids they were going to hell if they didn’t ask Jesus to come live in their hearts! I would be more angry if my kids didn’t take it so nonchalantly. They are good thinkers, and they instinctively know that if there was a God, He wouldn’t send them to hell. So, it rolls off their backs. Also, she will make them watch creation videos, and makes them go to church when they stay with her. But again, this doesn’t seem to affect the kids to any great degree. And other than those types of things, she is a very loving grandmother – she doesn’t withhold her “love” from them.

    Currently, my two sons (now 11 and 14) think they are agnostics, and perhaps atheists. My daughter doesn’t know yet.

    Anyway, it has been a joy to raise them without religion! All that guilt and manipulation! Ugh! (Funny thing, though? As I write this, my oldest is at a Baptist church youth group! He has some friends who go, so he tagged along one night. They basically play video games, foosball, pool, etc. followed by a short religious discussion. He’s been pretty open with me about what they’ve discussed. He doesn’t put much stock in it. But he did tell me this — he feels guilty for having so much fun and eating the food, knowing he will never reciprocate by adopting their faith! Funny, huh?) My husband and I plan to meet with this youth leader soon, and let him know our “belief system” (if you want to call it that – can your belief system be “I don’t know what to believe, I just know I don’t believe this?”) So this guy is like, 40, single, has a house full of games for boys, and only does this youth group for boys. What does that sound like? A pedophile! Ha!)

    So, I wish I had more in the way of insight for you regarding the kids. Yours were much older when you left Christianity, right? (At least, some of them were.) I can imagine that could create some difficult situations. (I bet they pray for you alot!) You seem more of the intellectual type, but have you ever read any of Eckhart Tolle’s works? He says in one of his books that whatever energy we bring toward something naturally creates the opposite energy working against us. So, if we bring this huge energy of “You cannot believe that nonsense! that is crap! listen to me!” Then you get an equal force of opposite energy (“This is the truth! I know the way! Follow me!”) So, I’ve decided to bring energy that says, “That is very interesting. Hmmm. What do you think? I don’t know” – that kind of stuff. So I believe the opposite force of this would be, “You should think about Christianity, it might be what you want.” And I have absolutely no problem with that. Everyone believes what they believe for a reason, and who am I to judge? I was in Christianity for awhile – and now I’m not. Who knows where other people are in their path? But all this sounds like your way, too. You certainly don’t sound heavy-handed, and you are allowing your kids to find their own way. It think that is a wonderful parental gift you are providing. Much better than, “I know the way! I am right!”

    After writing all this, I see why you keep your blog! It’s quite cathartic!

    Ok – another quick apology for my retardedness (not politically correct, oops). And now I’m off to bed. I look forward to hearing from you soon!

    Luanne

    • Thank you for your reply! I think you have to click a box when you make a comment that sends follow-up comments to your email. I looked around a bit to see if I could make that a default thing – but no luck so far.

      I had a very busy day today and still a lot going on this evening. I will reply tomorrow!

    • I printed out your reply and I’m just going to go through it if that’s ok.

      I don’t think any Christians tried to shun me (or vice versa) but when you’re a Christian – it’s such a HUGE part of your life and it’s what you mostly have in common with the people in your life. Once I left Christianity – we just lost that connection. Sure we could shoot the breeze about the weather, etc. – but that SOMETHING was now gone. Even though there are very few Christians in my life anymore – I don’t see it as intentional – we just ‘grew apart’ for lack of a better term. And yes – I probably freak them out a bit – especially when they see that I didn’t leave so I could rebel, etc but left after a lot of careful research and thought.

      Pride. Funny – I actually have to watch myself with this one – not to think that I’m smarter than Christians (although I do feel that having been fully on both sides of the fence I definitely have an edge in some way – not in general – but just on the topic of christianity vs non-belief).. But I know what you mean and I love how you put it: “they are taught that they are ‘right’ and have ‘the answer’ and know ‘the way’ and so they believe it. And who wouldn’t act cocky if they believed all that?” It is built into the christian belief system but they don’t realize it.

      Thanks for sharing about your kids! We’ve had a rougher go of it – but I’m hoping working through issues like this (even if it’s not fun at the time) will ultimately make us stronger. I had a pretty hands-off approach – I didn’t want to ‘force’ my views on my kids – but I’m finding two things in that regard lately.

      1. They’re my kids and all parents influence their kids. I don’t feel bad for doing this anymore. I just try to make clear what is just my opinion and why that is my opinion.

      2. My recent post, A Personal Response to a Talk by the Thinking Atheist made me realize that when I send my kid to a fundamentalist-type church, I’m not just sending to hear another viewpoint. They will be targeted for evangelism and conversion and a lot of brainwashing will go on. Those sound like very strong words but I believe they are true. The church will get at their emotions and try to make them feel guilty for being human and then present the Jesus story as the only way of dealing with that (as well as the only way to avoid a very real and literal hell). I’m not going to be as passive about it as I was before. I have no problem with my kids being presented different worldviews and viewpoints but I won’t hand them over very willingly to be targeted in the ways I just mentioined.

      Yes – the blog is quite cathartic!

      Thanks for your feedback! Sometimes I wonder why I still find this topic fascinating – but I just do! Hope to hear more from you (and feel free to subscribe!)

  5. This is my first time visiting your website and I like it. Thank you for sharing your story with others.
    I have a question/comment. I am an ex muslim, converted christian and I have to say since accepting Jesus as my saviour I was nothing but blessed. But, as I am reading more and more, doing more research and asking more questions I am becoming more and more an atheist. I have a good feeling I will get there. Before becoming an atheist did it ever cross your mind that maybe God exist but people took his message and corrupted it? So now years and years later we have a mess. Maybe his message was so simple and easy to grasp. I reject religion, hate in fact. How did you start beliving that there is no God out there at all?
    Thanks,

    Inho

    • Thanks for contacting me with your questions!

      The idea that people may have corrupted God’s message leads me to ask one question:

      If there is a god – why does he need people to spread any message at all? If there is some all-powerful, all-knowing god – why doesn’t he talk to us himself?

      Here’s one of my posts with links to a couple videos that address this issue:

      https://leftchristianity.com/2011/01/15/the-hiddeness-of-god-and-freewill/

      I think the issue of how god spread his message was one of the first doubts that I had as a Christian – although it occurred to me years before I actually left the faith. If his message is so important and people are going to go to hell if we don’t spread his word properly – then why would he rely on sinful humans to spread that message? Sounds like a faulty plan right from the start!

      As for how I started believing that there is no god at all – well – that was a painful 2 year journey. I think what led to atheism for me as opposed to some other religion or even agnosticism was two main things:

      1. The hiddenness of this god if he did exist. It just didn’t make sense to me anymore that there was some god out there who was all-powerful and all-knowing but chose not to reveal himself but instead left us down here with no clue as to his existence never mind some idea of what he expected from us. It just made more sense that such a god didn’t exist in the first place. No more having to come up with a million reasons why this god did things the way he did (which never seem to make any sense).

      2. Suffering. That’s a huge topic in itself, and it wasn’t what caused me to leave Christianity – but I think it is partly what turned me from agnosticism to atheism.

      Please click my page called Top Picks for Religious Doubters and feel free to ask any more questions!

  6. Really interesting to read your transition out of prayer and away from homeshooling. I, too, have mixed thoughts about that era of my life. My 3 are also young, 8 and 6. At this point, I beleive prayer is simply collective agreement (Carl Jung, collective unconsciouness; The Field by Lynne McTaggart–amazing book of compiled data re: the nature of the universe and consciousness). As for “miracles”, synchronocities that infuse my life more now than they ever did as a Christian and come to pass according to my own will and intention. That’s what I have decided to teach my girls–how powerful they are as conscious beings to manifest their intent. But I haven’t yet. Till just recently, I was trying to get my own head wrapped around life without a savior. Reading ancient history and books like “Suns of God” (astrotheology) helped me peice together where the concept blood sacrifice and hell originated (Babylonians)…It’s so insulting to me that Abrahamic religions try to convince us that one ethnic group is “chosen”…think about that…if they can convine the world by a “holy book” that they and their country Israel are set apart, and we are the beneficiaries of THEIR faith…where does that leave us? Second class citizens duped by patriarchy. Controlled. Enslaved. Not me!!!

    • Thanks for your comments!

      I’d be interested to know what you mean by manifesting your intent.

      And yes – it does seem so strange now to think that if there were a god of the universe that he would focus on one group of people – never mind a small nomadic tribe who had such a limited ability to share their message with the world. Yet another part of the story that just doesn’t add up. I know Christians would say that it’s because the story doesn’t make sense that helps prove that it must be true … interesting logic though. Maybe the fact that it came from a tribal mentality is a better and more accurate reason for why it doesn’t make sense.

  7. Have you ever had contact with a demonic entity? Have you ever had a face to face run-in with a demon or evil spiritual force?

    I’m not insinuating that you are under the influence of one, just to be clear. I’m just curious as to how real the spiritual world is to you. I personally had a very real encounter with a demon recently. Unfortunately, it wasn’t my imagination.

  8. Brenda,
    First of all I would just like to say that your blog is a breath of fresh air and I am happy to see you and so many others that are going through or have gone through this transition in their life. I have recently went through my ‘deconversion’ and could not be happier. My problem is that I come from a very conservative Christian background and I have also married the love of my life last year, who is also a Christian. I was wondering if you had any insight on breaking the news to not only my family, but especially my wife who I love and repect. My relationship with her is the most important thing to me and I don’t want this to have a negative affect on our relationship. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

    • Aaron

      Glad you found my blog! I hope it’s helpful to you!

      Let me start by saying that every situation and person and relationship is unique and you’re going to have to use your knowledge of your wife and your relationship with her to help you decide how to proceed. So I can’t give you any pat answers but I hope I can offer some help just the same.

      My situation was a bit unique compared to some because our families were not fundamentalist Christians. My husband and I both became fundies (before we met) on our own as teenagers when we were both raised in a very relaxed and moderate type of Christianity. So we didn’t have any family backlash to worry about – or being part of an extended family that had a fundy Christian culture. Not that there weren’t consequences because of my deconversion – there were plenty – but the extended family aspect wasn’t one of them.

      Secondly – the initial part of my deconversion was very sudden and pretty traumatic to me. There was no hiding it – it was shaking my world and my husband knew it. And from that point on he was completely supportive and just kept telling me to be true to myself. We had a solid 15 year marriage behind us at that point and somehow I just knew that he wasn’t going to leave me over this. That’s not to say that over the long term it couldn’t have split us up. If he had stayed a fundy then it might have just not worked over the long-term, but he basically ended up coming along for the ride and I would describe him as an agnostic now.

      Every situation is unique – but let me point you towards a couple online people I know who are dealing with this exact issue in their lives right now. They probably have more in common with your situation than I do and I know they’d be open to discussing it:

      http://questionablefaith.wordpress.com/

      http://bittersweetend.wordpress.com/

      Nate at http://findingtruth.wordpress.com/ is another exfundy who had a very conservative Christian family so he might be of some help as well. Check out his About page. He and his wife are still together although that isn’t always the outcome.

      Here is someone I don’t ‘know’ online but has a wonderful deconversion story and as far as I know he and his wife have kept their marriage together even though he’s now an atheist while she is still a conservative Christian. http://sandwichesforsale.blogspot.ca/ Here is his deconversion story: http://sandwichesforsale.blogspot.ca/2007/09/my-deconversion-story-in-which-we-test.html (He has many chapters to his story. Just click on the next Chapter at the bottom of each post.)

      Here’s another online friend of mine. I’m linking you to his deconversion story: http://imbrocata.wordpress.com/2012/03/25/origins-my-personal-testimony/ He is still married as well.

      I’d apologize for all the links – but these are the main people I interact with online right now and I think their blogs might be helpful to you. You can also click on my Deconversion Stories category.

      As far as your particular situation, I wish I could give you more answers. I know people often put out ‘feelers’ – they’ll bring up a topic or question and see how their spouse reacts just to get an idea of how open they are to the idea of religious doubt or some other similar issue. They don’t even link it to themselves initially – they are just getting a feel for how their spouse reacts to those ideas. You may want to start there.

      Hopefully some of the info I’ve provided will be helpful and feel free to ask more questions if you like. If I think of anything else to add to my answer I’ll reply again to your question. I can understand your desire to keep your marriage at the top of your priority list. I wish you the best and hope to hear from you again. I’d love if you’d let me know how things go and I’d love to offer whatever help I can.

  9. Hi Brenda:
    My question to you is that when you finally realized that your view on god had changed, how hard was it for you to quit going to Church? I know for me that is what I need to do, but I cannot bring myself to do so, so I am attending the local UU.

    • Hi Gary

      I had to ask my husband about this one because I couldn’t remember exactly when or why we finally decided to stop attending church. My husband says he remembers it vividly. I had been trying so hard to have Christianity make sense even though I had all these doubts. I was pretty freaked out by the struggles going on in my mind. But that last morning we headed off to church and my husband says the sermon was on the Passover. Pretty typical stuff for a Christian church. But the reality of what the Passover story really says hit us both really hard that morning:

      ” ‘This is what the LORD says: ‘About midnight I will go throughout Egypt. Every firstborn in Egypt will die, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, to the firstborn of the slave girl, who is at her hand mill, and all the firstborn of the cattle as well. There will be loud wailing throughout Egypt—worse than there has ever been or ever will be again.’ ”

      — Exodus 11:4–6

      And as is typical in a Christian church, a passage like this was made to sound so wonderful and nicey-nice. It’s supposed to be part of some wonderful narrative about how God loves us. But that morning the reality of what the Christian God was like sunk in for us and we’ve never been back to a church since (other than for weddings or funerals, etc.)

      I actually attended a UU church on my own a few times hoping that would work for me. The people were wonderful but it was just too churchy for me. It definitely promoted the idea of tolerance, which is great, but I wasn’t in the mood anymore to be tolerant of any religion. I was tired of believing and focusing on things that had no proof whatsoever. I needed a clean break from anything churchy so I didn’t keep going.

      As far as I know, the UU churches are open and welcoming to atheists and agnostics though. Is there a reason you feel you shouldn’t be going there?

      The non-believing community is new and growing but so far hasn’t done a great job of replacing that sense of community that some people find they get from church. I actually haven’t missed it. I’d rather focus on developing friendships in my day-to-day life and build my support system that way, but I can understand why some people feel the need for something more.

      I’d like to hear more of your thoughts on this topic!

      • Brenda:
        Thanks for your response, which gives me quite a bit of food for thought. I have gradually evolved from conservative mainline Christian to liberal mainline Christian to atheist (I am in my early 50s now). My major issues which, with thought eventually led me to realize that I could no longer affirm a belief in a god, are the suffering of those with chronic illnesses, such as dementia for quite a few elderly, long term disabilities, etc, and the extremely loss of life in natural disasters. I could never really understand how a loving god could allow those things, and in the end I ended up as godless.
        For me, I guess I put a lot of my identification as a human being in my activity in Church. I think that is why I still attend the UU now. I do like the folks there, and I know I can be authentic about my journey out of theism there. I do feel the need for community in my life, and I have not found a humanist/free thinking/atheist group close to me (I have found about an hour to an hour and a half away, but that is too far for me). I wonder though, if I should make the complete break from religion, and leave the UU too. Other times, I think I should be involved there as a bridge between the wisdom of the past, and the wisdom of today. We will see what lies ahead.

      • My gut says if the UU is working for you and you can be open about your atheism there, then there isn’t really a reason why you have to leave. Obviously you’ll make your own decision though! Keep an eye on how you’re feeling about it as time passes. Maybe it works for you now but might not in the future. Or maybe you and the UU church will always be a great fit! If you’re enjoying it there now then just appreciate that it adds something to this part of your journey and don’t overthink it too much.

      • Since I wrote these remarks, a reason I have for considering leaving the UU is that in the end I question my commitment to atheism, I seem to be drawn back to the idea of god as the interconnectiveness of the Cosmos, but that makes no sense intellectually at all. I know in the end I need to leave organized religion completely.

      • Hi Gary

        I wish you the best on your journey as you make this decision.

        I was wondering if you have supports and social activities built up outside of the UU church. Knowing you’re not going from the UU community to nothing would help. You don’t necessarily need a specifically agnostic/atheist focused community – just thinking of friendships, sports teams, hobbies, and volunteering, etc. Maybe you already do – it was just something that came to mind. If you are looking to replace the sense of community you get through the UU church, then I would try to make sure you are including plenty of things that involve being around other people.

        I wish you the best whatever you decide.

  10. Brenda, my name is James.
    I was raised a Catholic. Born into actually. I grew up in CCD as well as public school. I just found out my Dad didn’t get baptized(was raised as a Wesleyan) until I was frakkin’ six! After the birth of my youngest brother, my Mom went downhill. She developed manic depressive disorder, Paranoid schizophrenia… Basically: She went insane. She told me about all these things about my Dad’s side of the family that wasn’t true as well as lies about herself. And I believed it all. Around that time, I had OCD-Scrupulosity- a religious/moral anxiety disorder. I was stuck with it for years. In that time, I had been at foster care for a week or two. I decided to stay with my Dad after that whole deal with Child Protective Services. After High School, I gave thought about becoming a protestant before, during, and after reading Tim Keller’s Reason for God. I have the God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, as I would like to see other peoples’ points of view. However the Delusion is really hard to comprehend a bit. I’ve been told I’m a deep thinker, but I’m not THAT deep or scientific. My Dad is concerned about it. (Personally, I’m thinking about going agnostic or atheist). People rightly point out the contradictions and inaccuracies in the Bible. So, I still go to Church and have often thought about confronting my Dad and Stepmom about it, as well as basically telling my pastors that they’re good people, but I no longer agree with them on some issues (in fact one of them knew me back when my parents were still together), but some of the stuff that they say… hard to digest and think about. Unfortunately, I’m a face value kind of guy. However, I’ve decided to take a bit of a closer look at what’s going on.

  11. I just found your blog as I was once again looking for articles written by people like you and me who have all come out! It will be 5 years this coming December 11, 2014, after nearly 40 years of being a ‘believer’. I got saved during the jesus movement in the seventies, I read Hal Lindsey’s book the “Late Great Planet Earth”, and halfway through he asked if you wanted to get saved and I did, I ‘got saved’. Now I am a freethinker, I feel like I have lost many years of my life, but the peace you have talked about I now have. It was a journey coming out, similar to yours, I had been the homeschool mom, the person who listened to only Christian music, the person who really wanted to please this god of the bible. I was a sold out Christian, who said many times I would never deny this god’s son. But I did come out , as did my husband and daughters. My middle daughter and I did much research, as we truly sought the truth about religion. The research that led us completely out lasted about two years. It was agonizing, and also a scary thing to deny this belief, as coming from the Christian perspective it meant going to hell, and once you denied this god and his son you could never come back. We had always been researchers about the bible, only researching to learn more of god’s truth, the Hebrew and Greek meaning of words, etc., always looking for more answers about this god of the bible and his son. We went to fundamentalist, charismatic, pentacostle, and messianic groups. Funny thing is, they all know how to twist and turn the words of the ancient people to fit their particular belief system. But, of course if you believe you are living in the last days, you can excuse the contradictions as you can say it is the great falling away from the truth that was prophised to happen in the end times. Researchers that we were, during a very bleak time in our lives, I started delving more into some books of the bible and in my quest for answers started running across some comments about the apostle Paul and his writings. These comments were disturbing and I could not forget them, and also at the same time some old testament stories were falling apart before my eyes, yet I still believed as I had to keep studying and researching. I kept this to myself, because I was in shock at what I was learning, but at the same time my middle daughter had turned to her bible in the middle of the night during a period where a family member was very sick, She just opened it to Leviticus and started reading, reading some words that she had not realized were in that book. It began her quest and what a diligent researcher she was. Soon our belief system was wavering and we just could not hold onto it anymore. As you know, there is so much I could say about our studying and research which took as across the centuries to ancient lands,
    to the roots of the old and new testaments. I just wanted to say I understand you and I thank you for your blog. We are free now, and like you, we are still honest , moral people, but we have a new understanding and love for people and the fear, judgmental ways, and the delusions of religion are gone. There is so much involved in
    this but I know you were a ‘real believer’ as I was, along with my husband and daughters. We are all much happier being free. Thanks for listening.

  12. Hi. I’ve never commented on a blog before… I hope this is the right place to communicate with you.

    I am thrilled to have found this blog. It’s timely and perfect and I wish I could read every word as fast as possible.

    I’ve been struggling a lot lately with trying to figure out how to navigate my personal beliefs with my love and respect of my family, and how to build a future that seemingly rejects everything they’ve ever taught me. I come from a very Jesus-centered family, the kind that talks and prays together, goes to church together, celebrates Christmas and Easter for “what it really means,” and so much more. All my family and friends back home are Christian, every adult I’ve ever admired is Christian, all my life experiences (both positive and negative) have been somehow rooted in Christian belief. You get it, right? I’ve been a skeptic as long as I can remember, but always a skeptic who nevertheless fought to believe in God. So I was compliant, served as a missionary in my late teens, went to a Christian college, was determined to be an “intelligent” and “progressive” Christian. I listened to the right things, read the right things, lived the right “moral” Christian life.

    Now I’m finally out of the bubble that I grew up in. I’m a student in a rigorously science-based academic program at an incredibly diverse and excellent school. Finally, I have found people that I connect with and think like… and most of them are not Christian. So I feel safe and free to begin this “deconversion” process as you call it.

    The thing is, though, I am terrified. And I recognize that as the most powerful and manipulative aspect of religion – fear. I am terrified of what this will mean to my family and friends. I am terrified of imagining my life from here on out, given the stories and ideas I grew up with. “There is a spiritual battle going on out there. Intellectualization is your stronghold that keeps you from God. Satan is working in your mind if you let logic steer you from the truth.” Maybe even worse is the fear that I am setting myself up for failure. “If it’s God who gives you strength, then you will fail without God. You’ll live a sinful life. There will be nothing outside of you that you can cling to in times of crisis. Your family will fall apart. Your husband/wife will not be faithful to you. Miracles will not happen for you.” And so on.

    I’m dating someone right now who I love more than ever. As two people in our late 20’s, we are trying to envision our lives together. He grew up in a very religious (not Christian) family, but finds it much easier to reject his family’s religion than I do. I think my struggle is with the fears I mentioned above, but also this idea that I’ve been mentally warped into believing since I was a child: that I will be a failure as a parent and spouse if I choose to have a family without God.

    I know you will tell me this is not true. Please, I guess, I am asking for some direct and pointed advice? Do you/did you wrestle with thoughts of disappointing your Christian friends and family? Did you ever fear you were letting your husband and children down by reworking your definition of what it means to be a good wife and mother?

    Tell me where to start in your blog, and what books to grab from your reading list. I am so absorbed. Thanks for existing.

    • Hi Leigh,

      I just wanted to say that I really want to reply to your post and questions, things have just been very busy and I like to be able to give a well thought out answer. I will reply soon!

      Brenda

    • Hi Leigh,

      I apologize for taking so long to get back to you!

      I am so glad that you have found my blog helpful. It is for people like you that I will always leave it up and running, even if I don’t post often.

      I want to respond to what you said here:

      “The thing is, though, I am terrified. And I recognize that as the most powerful and manipulative aspect of religion – fear. I am terrified of what this will mean to my family and friends. I am terrified of imagining my life from here on out, given the stories and ideas I grew up with. “There is a spiritual battle going on out there. Intellectualization is your stronghold that keeps you from God. Satan is working in your mind if you let logic steer you from the truth.” Maybe even worse is the fear that I am setting myself up for failure. “If it’s God who gives you strength, then you will fail without God. You’ll live a sinful life. There will be nothing outside of you that you can cling to in times of crisis. Your family will fall apart. Your husband/wife will not be faithful to you. Miracles will not happen for you.” And so on.”

      You are right to recognize that religion uses fear to control us. And in Christianity, also a fear of intellectualism – that is will steer us into damnation. I started realizing that anything/anyone that uses fear to try to convince me of something or to make me do/behave in a certain way – is trying to manipulate me and is most likely false. Truth doesn’t need to use fear – ever.

      I haven’t read this book in a long time, but you might find it helpful: “Leaving the Fold: A guide for former fundamentalists and others leaving religion” by Marlene Winell, Ph.D. It deals with the manipulations used in religion and walks people through the emotional journey out of religion. Looking at the table of contents, I think you might find it quite helpful. Here is a link to the Kindle version: http://www.amazon.com/Leaving-Fold-Former-Fundamentalists-Religion-ebook/dp/B00BD5ILAW/ref=sr_1_1_twi_kin_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1454172367&sr=8-1&keywords=leaving+the+fold+marlene+winell

      You can check out my ‘Books’ page and look up the books and their descriptions to see if others might be helpful for you.

      And yes, I had many struggles, but I knew I had to be authentic and true to what I was thinking and feeling. I would definitely recommend reading the book I mentioned above. Please share your thoughts with me after you have finished it (if you do read it). I think it will address many of the issues you have mentioned, including the ones with your family.

      Cheers,

      Brenda

  13. Hi Brenda! I have just recently found your web-site and have been glued to it for several days. I am so grateful for you and all of this information. I enjoy everything you post and the posts of other converts like yourself.

    I would just like to share with you a little about me and how I came to atheism and this site. I grew up in a non-religious household (parents are atheist). I fell in love with and married a Christian. When we were dating I was well aware that he was a Christian. He wasn’t hard core though…….he went to church on Christmas and Easter, and spoke about God every now and then, but it wasn’t really a big deal. We married and had 2 kids. While the kids were very young we went to church every now and then (a few times a year). At one point we moved to a small town and started to attend church more regularly, and were even part of small bible study groups. I really started to feel the pressure to conform. After a year in this small town I was baptized Christian. I wanted to stop feeling judged about the fact that I had never been baptized. I honestly think I did it just to “fit in”. Christianity and the church felt like a club that I wanted to belong to. However, I ALWAYS struggled with belief, I think I thought to myself that I just need to “fake it till you make it”…..I tried SO HARD to convince myself that God was real. I tried to believe the whole Jesus story, Noahs ark, Adam and Eve (even though I felt it was almost embarrassing that I would believe in stories like those). I liked to keep my Christianity hidden from non-believers, and felt like a fringe Christian.
    Fast forward to today. My kids are now 10 (my son) and 8 (my daughter). We no longer live in that small town. In this past year, my husband has become much more devout and into his Christianity. He feels its very important to attend church weekly, so we all went. He reads his bible daily and listens to Christian pod casts all the time. He goes to bible study weekly (luckily I got out of this one, because I need to stay home with the kids). The more and more I have been dragged to church, the more and more it bothered me. Over the course of this past year, I stopped believing for all of the same reasons that you did and that you talk about all over your web-site. I wasn’t being honest with myself or my family with how I truly felt. I simply couldn’t fake it anymore. Maybe its because I turned 40 recently, and now have the self esteem and confidence to be who I am. I was also scared for my kids getting brainwashed and living a life in fear of hell.
    I finally broke down one day last summer (in the car on a road trip), and spilled my guts and feelings to my husband about my non-belief. That was huge for me. I felt like the weight of the world had been lifted from my shoulders. I felt free. I was no longer a closet atheist. His response was…….”you need to pray about this. You need to read your bible more. We need to pray more as a family.” Etc….ect….ect….. So guess what, I did read my bible. I was actually horrified at what I read! It only reinforced my belief that I do not want to base my life on this, nor do I want my children reading this book!
    Now, my husband has been a bit more understanding as of late, he asks that I go to church with him, but doesn’t insist that I go. He does insist that the kids still go. He says that they must be raised to be Christian. I feel bad for them, especially my daughter as she hates going to church. I feel that my son is already hooked. But I think that his faith is shallow and immature so I hope that he isn’t fully indoctrinated yet. He said he believes in God because “I want to go to Heaven, and it sounds awesome there!” My husband is genuinely worried about my salvation, and that of our kids, so I understand his concerns. I sympathize with him. But this is my dilemma. I knowingly married a Christian, and I am the one who is doing an about-face. I almost feel guilty for allowing him to marry and love me, and now I turn into something completely different. But we all change, right? He has become much more religious and devout, and I have gone in the opposite direction. He has changed too.
    I want to share more with my children, but I don’t want to make them feel like they are being pulled in 2 different directions. I don’t want them to feel like they have to choose between Mom or Dad. I have told them that I don’t believe in God anymore. I have also told them that I want them to make up their own mind. I tell them to NOT believe everything they hear. Most importantly I tell them that I will always love them no matter what they believe or decide to be. I make a point to not shelter them from the discussions and debates that me and my husband have. (we are very good and keeping our debates diplomatic, fair, and we never yell). I need them to hear my side too. I hope that I am giving them enough of a view of what I believe so they are free to make up their own minds when they get older. I guess that’s all I can do. As for my husband, I just don’t know what our future is going to be like. His faith is so important to him, and becoming more and more important as he gets older. I just don’t see how me and my husband are still compatible. I know that my husband hopes and prays that I will one day return to Christianity. I will never go back.
    I know you are not a family therapist, it just feels good to spill to a fellow Mom about this. I guess I’m just wondering how you and your husband coped with this big change? How did your husband deal with you becoming atheist? Is he still a believer??
    I know you are super busy…….so please don’t feel you need to post a long reply. I just want to thank you for your site, and I will continue to follow you on-line, maybe I will even find the answers to my questions, as someone may have already asked you the same things.
    Thanks again…

    • Hi Sarah,

      Thank you so much for sharing your story! I am so happy that you have found my site helpful. It is for people like you that I will always leave it up and running even though I don’t post often.

      I want to zero in on what you said here:

      “I want to share more with my children, but I don’t want to make them feel like they are being pulled in 2 different directions. I don’t want them to feel like they have to choose between Mom or Dad. I have told them that I don’t believe in God anymore. I have also told them that I want them to make up their own mind. I tell them to NOT believe everything they hear. Most importantly I tell them that I will always love them no matter what they believe or decide to be. I make a point to not shelter them from the discussions and debates that me and my husband have. (we are very good and keeping our debates diplomatic, fair, and we never yell). I need them to hear my side too. I hope that I am giving them enough of a view of what I believe so they are free to make up their own minds when they get older. I guess that’s all I can do.”

      I think you are doing great. This was a big struggle for me. In my case, my husband was very supportive of my journey out of Christianity and he basically followed along with me. However, my oldest son had a hard time with it, so it was with him that I had to figure out a way to ‘be’ and live.

      I left the door open to discussions with him, but for the most part we agreed to disagree and knew that we couldn’t let our disagreements poison our home. At the time, I really found, for myself and in my relationship with others, that it was helpful to emphasize the notion of a ‘journey.’ That we are all on a journey and are free to change our minds and grow in different ways at any point in our life journey. And we need to respect the journey of others as well. Christianity really has an opposite approach – which is that everyone must make a once-for-all decision NOW – with the fear of hell hanging over them. I just kept insisting on the focus on a life journey. This helped me not feel so panicked and rushed with my own choices and decisions and it also helped my relationships with others.

      A few years later, my oldest son told me he was no longer a Christian so my whole family is atheist now. But this was not my doing. Like you, I allowed him to have his own journey and did not pressure him to follow mine. In hindsight this was the best (and most ethical) approach. Christianity teaches us that we need to coerce others and pressure them to see things our way. As an atheist, I embraced the notion of a journey and I let go of the need to control others. (There is a hint of Buddhism in this as well!)

      I hope this helps! I can imagine the struggle you are going through, but I can sense in how you describe yourself that we are alike in our need to live AUTHENTIC lives. I think I did model this for my children and I think it was good for them to see me ‘living my truth.’ But I did not do it in a confrontational way and I think this was a good example as well. Your example in living an authentic life is great for your children. And they will feel free (hopefully) to follow their own authentic path(s) in life.

      I wish you all the best.

      Brenda

      • Brenda, Thank you so much for your reply. I really appreciate it. Your words really hit home. It’s comforting to “talk” to someone who shares a similar experience/challenges in life. Even though you came from a place of much deeper faith, the quest to lead a more authentic life is the same, so reading your story and comments are more helpful that you know.
        Thanks again!!!

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