Saturday, April 3, 2010

Carmen's Story

I met this young lady on the Ex-Christian forum and have been struck by her wisdom, integrity, intelligence and honesty. Even though she has not yet finished school, she writes with insight and knowledge way beyond her years. I trust you will enjoy her de-conversion story as much as I did. Steve.

I can’t remember the first time I started having doubts, but I remember that it started at about age 14. I had grown up in a Christian home, accepted Christ at age 5, and been surrounded by religion in every part of my life. My parents put me in a Lutheran school, then they pulled my out in grade 3 to home-school me. As I grew up I became involved in a number of home-school activities, all started by Christian organizations. In the younger years of my life there was not a question in my mind about whether this was really the truth, I just believed. I remember not understanding all of the doctrines of the faith completely, and misinterpreting them. I didn’t really understand the concept of eternal life. I remember lying in bed one night, thinking about what it would be like to just not exist anymore. To just die and be completely gone. Hearing about heaven was a huge relief to me.

At the age of ten I went to a summer Bible camp and had a very emotional experience there. I re-dedicated my life to Christ and found a new religious fervour. Little did I know that the emotions would fade, and that as I grew in my ability to reason abstractly, I would begin to question the things I held most dearly.

At first I brushed away the questions, thinking that they were harmful. It wasn’t until I went to a child evangelism class that I begin to take them seriously.

“Eighty-five percent of people who convert to Christianity are between the ages of 4 and 14. As people become older, their hearts become harder. This is why it is so important to share the good news with the children while they are still young.”

The people around me nodded and murmured their agreement. The teacher at the front went on to give us clever ideas about how to make the gospel sound appealing and relevant to children, how to tell Bible stories in a way that kids could understand them, and how to show children the importance of their need for God. Suddenly I realized “This sounds like nothing more than brainwashing!”

My faith quickly went downhill from there. I started looking up atheist websites, and they all made so much sense to me. I almost rejected my faith at that point.

Then my parents caught me looking at the atheist websites. They started to try their very hardest to prove that Christianity was the truth. We started reading through Christian apologetics books together, stuff like Mere Christianity, Case for Christ and Francis Schaefer. They sent me to pastors and theologians to see if they could answer my questions. I struggled and struggled.

Finally I told myself that I just had to have the faith of a little child, I just had to choose to believe despite the fact that it all seemed so unreal to me. From then on I tried as hard as I could to be a good Christian. I was respected in my youth group and among my friends for having wise Christian answers. I read my Bible every night and tried to “pray without ceasing”. I made every effort I could to snuff out the doubts when they came back to my mind.

But the cardboard walls I had tried to build around my faith begin to fall apart around my junior year in high school. I can’t point to one specific thing that made my faith fall; it was just a combination of reason, experiences, and growing up. The arguments and apologetics just did not satisfy me anymore; there was just something terribly lacking in them. When I read the atrocities in the OT, I just wanted to throw my bible at a wall. I met a couple of atheists and I realized that these people were not immoral and heartless, they were people just like me. I became increasingly frustrated at the republican ideologies, and my views became more and more liberal. I had my first boyfriend, who was a Christian. All my life I had been told that relationships should be based around Christ. I tried very hard to “put God first” in our relationship. But the more I tried, the more God seemed like a cold and distant idea. The heart of our relationship wasn’t in God, it was in our love for each other. I realized that it was the same with other relationships. I didn’t love others because God wanted me to, I loved them out of my own heart. There was no other explanation for it.

The breaking point came when I attended a teen Christian conference with my friends. It was a huge conference, set in an auditorium packed full with thousands of teens. The main focus of the conference was hell. The doctrine of hell was one that I had never really been able to accept fully. I finally came to grips with the fact that my worldview was completely bizarre, empty, and false.

This happened a couple of weeks ago. I have told my family that I no longer believe. I have hinted at my disbelief to a couple of friends, but I am trying to break the news to people slowly. My sister has many of the same questions I have, but she isn’t ready to make a definite decision about what she believes yet. My parents still want me to go to church and “be open to the word of god” while I am still living under their roof. I’m going to do as they ask, but when I go to college in 1 and half years, I am going to start a new life, free from the lies I’ve believed in for so long.

The amazing thing is that I don’t feel that different. I am still the same person inside and I still have the same morals and values. But now I have a newfound sense of freedom. I don’t have to be boxed in by religious dogmas or fears. I am free to learn about the world and grow as a person without being constrained by imaginary deities and blind faith.

Better a cruel truth than a comfortable delusion.

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