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ubersiren's avatar

Any former Christians out there?

Asked by ubersiren (15031 points ) March 15th, 2009

What made you no longer believe in Christianity? Did it happen because of a single event, or did it happen gradually? Do you still have “the fear of God” in you a little? Did you convert to another religion or just fall out of the Christian church? Did you really believe all along, or did you “try” to believe, and eventually give up?

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39 Answers

essieness's avatar

I don’t want to go into it mainly because I don’t have the energy for a debate today, but yes. The first glimpse was during church service in high school, and then during my marriage to a very Christian man, I saw the side of Christianity that I didn’t like and chose to investigate other areas of spirituality. I’m happier now than I ever was in a church pew.

Lothloriengaladriel's avatar

I think the bible is just gossip, Its going from person to person, and everytime someone tries to translate it in their own words they forget to mention something and add there own ending..how many times has the bible been changed? I really don’t know what to believe.

adreamofautumn's avatar

I was never really forced into “believing”, but my mum sent me off to CCD at the request of my grandmother. My mum had converted many years ago, but my grandmother wanted us to get our sacraments. For me personally I don’t have a problem with the idea of christianity, I walked away because I don’t believe in the catholic church. It’s the system that I don’t believe in, not necessarily the religion.

Ashpea9288's avatar

I became a Christian freshman year in high school and had fallen away by the time I was a junior. I wanted to believe, but I just had too much trouble buying everything, probably because I wasn’t raised in that kind of environment.

A lot of it had to do with clashing political beliefs; everyone in my youth group was very conservative, and I’m quite liberal, and while everyone else accepted that, there was one girl who was so rude to me and tried to make me feel ashamed about what I believed. It never worked, but the final straw was during Bible study one night when she straight up told me that since I’m pro-choice I wasn’t a real Christian. No one else in the group joined her on that, but no one defended me either. I left the church after that and haven’t looked back since, and I’m infinitely happier than I was when I was involved with that group of people.

asmonet's avatar

I am no longer Catholic, darling.
It happened gradually, I discovered it had happened suddenly. I fully believed once, I prayed, I begged to go to church, hell, I begged to be baptized. But logic and reason won out and I could no longer live by it’s teachings. I was eleven.

ubersiren's avatar

@Ashpea9288 : Wow, that’s nearly a carbon copy of my story… I tried a few times more to be a believer, but it just never felt right to me. Can I be blamed? Another question I should’ve asked is, if I were to “stick it out” even though I couldn’t believe when I really wanted to, is that blasphemy? Seems like only those who are willing to go without question into the arms of the Lord are the only ones getting to Heaven. It was just an ongoing cycle of disbelief and disappointment to me.

SeventhSense's avatar

A profound experience that was apart from any religion or ceremony that I had was the opening of my third eye. It was a deeply illuminating and liberating event that was followed by a sense that all was perfect and exactly as it should be and that there were no accidents. I felt a sense of equality and equanimity with everything and everyone. There was no inferior or superior. Of course it has been a process of the last 25 years integrating this into my life.
Thereafter I think my understanding just expanded with the ideas of people like Joseph Campbell and Eastern books like the Tao Te Ching which just struck such a deep chord within me. The thread that ran through all disciplines began to intrigue me.

MrItty's avatar

I was raised Christian (Catholic), but I stopped believing around age 11 or 12. Basically, when I was mature enough to critically evaluate what I was being taught. None of it makes any sense. It’s no different than any other mythology. I still go to Church when I visit my parents on Easter or Christmas, simply because it’s easier than arguing with them. Other than that, I’m atheist through and through.

arnbev959's avatar

I used to be very religious. I was brought up in a rather religious household, and started going to Sunday school when I was two. Even so, I was more religious than most of my family for a while.

I was one of those Christians who couldn’t be swayed by reason. Evolution says we weren’t created by God in one sweeping motion? Well, that’s just a trick of the devil’s; you have to have faith in the Bible.

I’m amazed how suddenly I changed my entire way of viewing the world. I had been thinking quite a lot during that general time, and I had taken up the practice of entertaining ideas that I didn’t actually believe in. One day I decided to think: Okay, let’s pretend for a minute there is no God. Why might someone believe this? I researched the arguments for and against the existence of a God. Other changes in belief followed (gays are not sinners, pot smokers aren’t going to hell). I was a completely different person two months after that initial thought.

asmonet's avatar

And that pete, is why I have fluthercruch on you.

Harp's avatar

@petethepothead I remember being surprised at how all those years of belief just vanished as soon as I stopped making myself believe. I hadn’t realized that the whole edifice of faith had been held up by my constant effort to believe. As soon as that effort stopped, the whole structure just pancaked.

essieness's avatar

@Ashpea9288 Something similar happened to me. I got swept up in the youth group and it became my life. But it started to get weird when they told me I should witness to everyone at school all day every day. Apparently, I would die with the blood of anyone I could’ve witnessed to but didn’t (and consequentially wasn’t saved because of my not witnessing) on my hands. That scared the living hell out of me. And frankly, I thought it was a little weird. Ok, a lot weird.

Ashpea9288's avatar

@essieness Uh, yeah, that’s a little intense…luckily my group wasn’t that crazy or it would have taken a lot less than 2 years for me to bolt! haha. We were encouraged to witness and pray in school, but I never did…it would just be too weird, plus I never felt sure enough about my own faith to lecture to someone about how they should think like I do and believe what I believe. Good for you for being sane, haha.

ubersiren's avatar

@essieness : I had several experiences like that looking back. I was told that retarded children were born because their parents did something to deserve it. I was also told that I must be a devil worshipper because I asked if God could make a boulder so big he couldn’t lift it at age 8 or so. Also, you are guilty of murder if you make fun of someone. Not, that taunting was an equal sin, but you are actually killing someone in the eyes of God if you say something hurtful to them.

I know there are more, but I can’t think now. Those were all in my first church at probably around 6–10 years old.

essieness's avatar

@Ashpea9288 and @ubersiren Yeah, I might have had some experiences teetering on the edge of extreme, but as crazy and frightening as they were, I wouldn’t trade them for anything. Those experiences led me to think differently about faith and Christianity and humanity and ultimately led me to my own investigations about my spirituality. I’ve been chastised for “questioning my faith” so many times, but in my opinion, blind faith without questioning is scarier (and worse) than not questioning anything. Like my great granddad Alvie said, “Believe half of what you see and none of what you hear.”

artificialard's avatar

Yes, when I was about 13–15 I think? I’m not saying religion is bad but my experience was in retrospect quite horrible. As a young person growing up, having these values that didn’t agree with aspects of myself that I already had trouble reconciling myself being impressed upon me only made me feel guilty and confused. When I left the family that brought me became incredibly upset even though I was told that I could leave whenever I wanted.

I think the attitude of the person who had me attend was that it did ‘no harm’ to expose me to these church activities but being made to spend time with people in an institution that fundamentally expressed beliefs contradictory to my own was harmful, and difficult, especially to a growing teenager who’s confused enough.

I can only hope that parents of religion truly have an open attitude towards their children’s spiritual development and let them discover for themselves what they want. Religion requires faith, and that can’t be coerced into a person no matter how beneficial you think it might be.

aprilsimnel's avatar

I was raised a Pentecostal, but never truly believed that Jesus was a real person or that any of the miracles happened or in virgin births or resurrections. Never. God was like Santa Claus to me, and I’d never believed he existed either. I kept my mouth shut, though. I would’ve gotten in serious trouble as a kid for saying I didn’t believe. The church I had to attend was led by a pastor who said Satan hid fake dino bones for people to find to get humans to reject the existence of God. :/

essieness's avatar

@aprilsimnel “The church I had to attend was led by a pastor who said Satan hid fake dino bones for people to find to get humans to reject the existence of God.”

Oh. My. GAWD.

aprilsimnel's avatar

@essieness – He was an ordained Episcopal minister from a seminary in St. Louis who rejected his original ministry for something a little more… fundamental. I understand where he might have found the “Frozen Chosen” to be a little dry in their worship, but geez Louise!

SeventhSense's avatar

@essiness
Hahaha. That is funny. That sounds like something a little kid would make up.

Reminds me of the joke about the little boy who made the drawing of Jesus Mary and Joseph and a nativity. And overhead was an airplane. The teacher remarked, “I see that you’ve drawn Jesus, Mary and Joseph but what’s with the airplane?” The little boy said to his Sunday School Teacher with perfect seriousness, “Oh, that’s Pontius the Pilot”

AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

I believe that religious and spiritual are two different things. To me, identifying with a defined religion is ascribing to “group think” which is fine for a large segment of the population. And organized religion offers a community structure, which is important and valuable to a lot of people. If I returned to church it would be for that purpose, not for spiritual or moral guidance. I periodically go to church, and frequently come away with valuable understanding from a sermon that has nothing to do with organized religion (such as the difference between scribe and prophet in religion.)

essieness's avatar

@AlfredaPrufrock I completely agree with you. When people ask me, I tell them I am spiritual, but not religious. So many people, unfortunately, don’t understand the difference. For me, it is a wonderful feeling to know that I don’t need or have to go to church to be one with God. I can access God directly.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

I was raised by a Rabid Baptist mother and a father who handled snakes. Not for any religious reasons, he just had a fondness for creatures that others found creepy. Dad had his own god, he worshipped Alcohol. I outgrew the need for a giant imaginary friend over the course of my life. I went from Christian, to Panscientific Universalism (or whatever you call it when you assume the universe is one large living entity and life is its way of trying to figure itself out), dabbled in Wicca, dabbled in Animism, hovered as an agnostic, (looked at Ba’Hai briefly and found it unsatisifying) and alighted in the group known as Atheist. As an atheist I am told by fundies that it is arrogant to say there are no gods. So instead, I say, I don’t believe in ANY gods. the really arrogant ones get this reply: show me evidence of god, or shut the fuck up.

And if I had a dollar for every time I heard someone say I was never a REAL Christian, I could afford the 50 caliber machine gun I want to mount on the roof of my Toyota. :-)

augustlan's avatar

I’ve been like a Yo-yo on the issue of religion. I was raised as a sort of ‘passive Christian’. When I was very young we attended church regularly, a straight out Christian church (Disciples of Christ). The minister was a lovely caring man who had a way with words. When he retired, the new minister just couldn’t fill his shoes and we stopped going.

Fast forward to 5th grade: I made a new friend, whose family was very religious. Joined a youth group with her and read the bible from beginning to end. Through reading the bible, I figured out that one need not go to church to commune with God. I quit the youth group.

At 13, I got caught up in a Baptist fervor while visiting family in the bible belt, and got baptized – making me a ‘born-again’ Christian. My enthusiasm waned as soon as I returned home.

By 14, I was a self-described Agnostic. Since that time, I have at times been certain there is a God and certain there is not a God. Today I am an Agnostic with atheist leanings. Even if I were 100% sure that God exists, I would not subscribe to any man-made religion. I would worship directly.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

@augustlan thanks for reminding me that I was never Baptized as a child. As an ordained atheist minister, I perform anti-baptisms for those who want them. Mostly it involves pouring a beer over your head and having you repeat either (a.) God is dead, or (b.) a really filthy limerick. Your choice. :D

laureth's avatar

When I was a kid, I was raised by a pretty much not-religious mom and religious grandparents on a kind of time-share custody basis. During the week I lived with mom and went to school, and on the weekends I stayed with the grands. They took me to the Methodist church where I was quickly picked out as a leader. (They had me help the teacher in Sunday School, made me an acolyte/altar-girl, that sort of thing.) At first, I believed in God and Jesus the same way little kids believe in Santa and the tooth fairy – because the adults said it was true, I didn’t have reason to question them, and presents showed up under the tree and quarters under the pillow on a regular basis – proof positive!

When I got old enough, I read the Bible. I had a lot of questions. Parts of it didn’t make any sense. My grandparents had me talk to the Methodist minister, who didn’t have any answers either but who said that I was smart. Basically, the whole God thing didn’t add up once I read the manual, and if a twelve year old can defeat the minister with questions, well, that didn’t sit too well with me. In the meantime, we were studying the Greek myths in school, and while those were just as improbable, they were at least more entertaining and “human.” By that, I meant I could see how people made them up to explain things. I figured that people made God up to explain things, too.

Later on, I tried to think about what was real and what was sacred. I realized that the things that sustain life are sacred and holy – the cycles of seasons, the crops that feed us, the water, the air, the spark of fire. While I was thinking about these things, I met a woman who was Wiccan, and she suggested some books. In short order, I realized that Wicca was what I’d been looking for, so I did that for quite a while. I practiced with a circle for about fourteen years. During that time I became less of what we call a “fuzzy bunny” Wiccan (think brainless new ager, not that it ever described me very well but you get the idea) and more of a serious, yet generic, Pagan. Even then, I didn’t believe in the God or Goddess as actual entities, but more of a way to put a human face on the Big Unknown Whatever that was out there. I was more interested in the tree-hugging aspects of Paganism anyway, and trying to take religion back to mankind’s first spiritual glimmers – Clan of the Cave Bear type of stuff. Even now, it fascinates me.

However, as time passed and I did more reading and study, I realized that pretty much all manmade religious systems were just that – manmade. Religion serves many functions in a culture. For some, it keeps a group together in the face of unbelievable odds – like the Jews. For some, it’s about dietary laws that meant something when food couldn’t be as well preserved as now, but they didn’t know what made them sick and figured God must not have wanted them to eat it. For some, it was early astronomy, and Apollo in a chariot was as good as it got as far as explanations of what the Sun is and why it moves. For some, it was an important ancestor who died long ago, but they felt better knowing that great- great-great- grandma was still watching and taking care of them. I believe most early people, once they realized what Death was, were afraid and came up with a ritual way to insure that they didn’t “really” die, just went to a place that was like a dream, or maybe came back in another body – anything but the Big Nothing.

What all of these have in common is that People came up with Religion. Once I had that realization creep up and blindside me, there was no way to go back. Suddenly, some things stood out in clear relief, like the abuse people have traded back and forth based on religion and its various heresies, or how religion could be used as a political tool, or to keep control of a population. You know, the darker side of religion. I could no longer buy into this system, once I realized what a sham it all was. It’s like in that movie, The Matrix, where Keanu Reeves takes the pill and suddenly sees everything for what it is. It would be comforting to believe that a personal God loves me and takes care of me, or that the Goddess choreographs the tides and the fruiting of the trees, but I’d rather have the cold truth than the happy falsehood.

Although I still went through the motions as recently as a few years ago, I’ve considered myself to be a Secular Pagan for a while now. I still like the idea of honoring that which keeps us alive, but I don’t necessarily see it as having a soul or spirit – or even, for that matter, that I have a soul or spirit. I’ll be compost when I die, rotting back into the circle of nutrients. But as far as believing in a Big Whatever, I can’t say as I do. If there is, it’s so far removed from anything like us, and so positively impersonal and unknowable and foreign to our brain that it’s useless to believe in it. I’ve Pinged, and gotten no Pong.

Sorry that was so long.

tiffyandthewall's avatar

well i stopped identifying with christianity around the time of 5th grade. i still think the church i went to is pretty awesome – they were very accepting as far as churches go, i loved seeing the biker dudes come in on their motorcycles every sunday – but i just thought about religion and why i believe in it one day, and i felt uneasy about it. i never really questioned it, but when i stopped going as often, i was like “do i even want to go?”. i never felt as into it as everyone else around me seemed. and when i really took the religion i followed into consideration, things just didn’t match up. and i don’t even know what i believe in. if/when i do, i don’t think i’ll be subscribing to a religious belief system though. i’d rather just believe what i believe, do what i think is right/my ‘god’ would want me to do, and live like that. i don’t need someone standing behind a podium to tell me how to live, tell me what i should believe if i believe something else.
i don’t have anything against people who do, but it just doesn’t sit well with me personally.

ubersiren's avatar

@laureth : That was a great depiction of a cycle that I think many people go through. Unfortunately, part of the cycle of “finding yourself” spiritually involves much confusion. In that confusion, and in asking questions, we are only given answers by religious people or religious leaders with an agenda. So it takes years of volleying between grounds before you reach a decision.

It bugs me that a lot of questions I’ve had about Christianity have been answered with, “We won’t understand that until we get to Heaven” or “Just have faith” or “If God would want you to know that, he would let you know.”

A_Beaverhausen's avatar

i like this question.

fireside's avatar

Well, I don’t know if I am qualified to answer this question, since as a Baha’i, I still have a belief in Jesus’ teachings. I also still have faith in God as a unifying force that we don’t yet understand.

I think there are common truths that all religions share, but I couldn’t reconcile my idea of God with the notion that God wouldn’t be there for everyone on earth. I spent 15 years exploring spirituality in a lot of different ways.

Ultimately, I still feel a connection to something greater than ourselves and think that the connection exists between all people. Maybe it is the Higgs field that ties us all together and not “God” but that isn’t the point. The point is that our actions and interactions spread an energy to others and if we are acting in a positive loving manner, then the energy that is spread is more likely to create positive loving environments.

God may very well be that collective subconscious that all people can’t tap into if they know the way. I find it striking that nearly all religions have a method for releasing the thinking mind and connecting with something deeper.

But as to the question, these answers weren’t available to me in the Christian writings, but I find them every day in the Baha’i writings.

ubersiren's avatar

@fire: Were you formerly a Christian? That’s an interesting faith that I wasn’t aware of before. I think you can live by Jesus’ word, but not be a Christian, absolutely.

fireside's avatar

@ubersiren – Yes, I was raised Catholic.
Just became a Baha’i last year.

essieness's avatar

I dig that about the Baha’i faith. I love the notion of honoring all the great teachers equally.

ubersiren's avatar

@fireside, @essieness : Yeah, I’ve been reading about it off and on today. Sounds groovy.

fireside's avatar

@ubersiren – I like Some Answered Questions by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá if you want to learn more.
I have it as a book, but it is also available to read online

Noon's avatar

I was raised in a Roman Catholic family (Azorian Family for those of you in the know). I also went to 14 years of consecutive Catholic education. Crucifix on the wall, and around my neck, prayed every day and night, I believed it all.

If I had to pick one moment I would probably say Sophomore year in high school. I’m sure it had started before. We were assigned the Bible as one of our text books. It was used for the required religion class. (Two full semesters for three years, and then just one semester your Senior year). I started to notice that we would often skip over large portions of the bible during class with no real explanation. So I started to read those parts too. If I had to pick a moment when I all started it was then. How could I trust a religion that would deliberately try to hide passages of it’s most sacred book from me? How could I trust something that had so much to hide?

Add several more years of educating myself, a few more books on my book self, a pinch of salt, And now I’m an atheist in a same sex marriage still with the same gold crucifix around my neck. May not believe in a lick of it, but I’m quite comfortable recognizing it as part of my culture. ;-)

Jiminez's avatar

I wasn’t raised in a very religious household. My mom wasn’t religious. I think she was more of an apatheist than anything else. She just didn’t care and we just didn’t care as a family. My dad was always secretly religious, though, I think. He would take us to church occasionally. I didn’t really know what was going on. I just thought it was boring, so I drew on things with the little crayons that were there in the back of the pews. That’s not to say that I didn’t think the churches were very beautiful architecturally and what not. I was always in love with the look and feel of churches. Still am. But, yeah, after my mom passed, my dad became hyper-religious and remarried a woman even more religious than him. I had gone to church quite often with my friends’ family after spending the night over at his house on Saturdays. We’d still be high from the night before. I always hungered for that communal feeling that the church community has, but I wouldn’t say I ever really experienced being part of any church community. I guess I was like everyone else. Tenuous belief in God was the default position to take. I hadn’t ever given it much thought. Then one night I was drunk, walking down the street with my friends in the middle of the night in our neighborhood, and for whatever reason I realized then and there that I didn’t believe in God. Haven’t been to a church since, other than weddings and funerals. I’ve studied almost all religions in some shape or form and can find good things and bad things with just about every one. Truth is more fluid than people want to believe. No one has a monopoly on it. It’s a frame of mind; a sort of groove you have to get into. “God”, to me, is just an archetype. It’s an abstract psychological concept that some people find romantic. I kind of find it creepy, personally…

NormanL's avatar

I have been a Methodist all of my life. Over than last 4 or 5 years, I began to read author’s who questioned the Virgin Birth and Resurrection. I still believe that Jesus was a Rabbi, but not The Son of God. He was born a Jew and died a Jew. He came to change Judaism not form a new Church. His followers did that by making Him into a myth bigger than life.

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