Reconciling the reality of my experiences with church teachings on life

March 21, 2009 at 6:18 pm 16 comments

My de-conversion came about as a result of trying to reconcile the reality of my experiences with what I had been taught by the church about life. In reading others’ stories I see a lot of common threads. So I know that I am not alone in that my slide into nonbelief started with “being hurt”. I used to think that if the church (of whatever creed) would listen to those of us who had suffered as a result of trying to live its teachings, that maybe a lot of de-conversions could have been prevented. I no longer believe this.

Basically, I was brought up Catholic, the conservative kind. On the way I detoured into a Jesus People group, the Charismatic Movement, and a couple of others before I finally gave up on organized religion.

Ok, so why did I leave? Well, it is a long story. I have a condition called Asperger’s Syndrome. Some of you may be familiar with it, some of you may not. It is a form of autism. Except that when I was growing up they did not call it that. We Asperger’s people can be very intelligent but we suffer from social deficits. I did not realize that I was different until I started school. That’s when the persecution began (and I do not use the term lightly). Here is my view on school prayer: I went to a Catholic school where they went to Mass daily and I went to a secular public school where God was mentioned not at all, and I was treated equally badly in both. Not one adult in authority ever stood up and put a stop to what was going on. In fact I had one teacher who joined in the persecution and actually encouraged the class to pick on me. It was well known that this was her practice, to single out one student for such treatment and it is my understanding that she sent at least one student to the State Hospital by her actions. This happened BEFORE I entered her class, so obviously nothing was done to remove this seriously disturbed woman. As far I know she continued to teach for years.

While all this was going on I was learning about someone named Jesus who went out of his way to befriend society’s rejects. That Jesus I didn’t have much trouble with–at first. It was only natural that I would turn to religion for answers–why is this happening to me over and over.

Then came adolescence and puberty. I was hit with a double whammy. Sex was holy, sacred, saved for marriage; it was also sinful (to the point of being mortally so). Now not only could I go to hell for my own thoughts and actions (yes, even thinking about it was bad), I, because I was a woman, was now a source of temptation to men and could lead them into damnation as well. Well, I bought into the whole chastity thing hook line and sinker. I wanted to be good. I wanted to be pure. But the problem is God gave me size DD breasts. So now on top of the Asperger’s and its associated problems, I had sexual abuse to deal with. And it was my fault!

About that time I ran into a group of Jesus People who offered what looked to be a safe haven. So, instead of facing my problems I retreated into a cocoon of Bible studies and prayer meetings. Let me tell you it is so easy to surrender your thinking to a group. If it hadn’t been for outside intervention I don’t know where I would be today. The Jesus People were very nice people and probably very sincere, but they were not what this troubled adolescent needed. It did not bother them in the least that I was not acquiring critical social skills but instead retreating further and further from reality.

However, through all that time, a portion of my mind remained free. Little by little, I started realizing that the road that I was on was not working. I started reading, started searching. Jesus talked about a house built on sand not being able to stand, so I decided to start digging around the foundations called Christianity to see if indeed it was built on rock as was claimed. I wanted to find out the truth, not just what I had been told. I read the classic Christian authors, Lewis, et. al. I also read books written from “the other side’s” viewpoint. And I started studying the sciences, psychology, biology, evolution, etc. And what I was reading was making sense. It was from my SECULAR reading that I learned that the problem that had plagued me all my life was called Asperger’s. And with every new discovery, little by little the religious foundation weakened. I found I could no longer wholeheartedly believe in the God I had been taught to believe in. That is why I call myself Eve’s Apple, because I have bit into it and I cannot go back.

– Eve’s Apple (guest contributor)

Entry filed under: ~Guest. Tags: , , , , , .

Suppose God does exist. I don’t need god. God doesn’t need me. I’m okay with this. Dear God,

16 Comments Add your own

  • 1. writerdd  |  March 21, 2009 at 6:59 pm

    Thanks for sharing. This is a lot like my story.

  • 2. Yurka  |  March 21, 2009 at 9:25 pm

    the problem that had plagued me all my life was called Asperger’s

    Being tone deaf to social cues and having to learn them is not a sin. The problem that plagued you was the depravity of those who mistreated you – but can evil really exist without God? Are you a materialist? Doesn’t that exclude any sort of ethics? What did you make of the first few chapters of Mere Christianity that deal with the question of morality?

  • 3. edwinhere  |  March 22, 2009 at 3:19 am

    A lot like my story. I left after my beliefs hurt too..

    I am pretty sure, if these believers experienced half the hurt we’ve experienced, then they would be unbelievers too.

    To be frank, I really hope they experience some life changing trauma like you and I did.

  • 4. Joshua  |  March 22, 2009 at 5:56 pm

    Wow, incredible story, I really liked it.

    Sorry to hear about Asperger’s, but I’m glad you finally freed yourself from the twisted confusion that is Christian theology 🙂

  • 5. Eve's Apple  |  March 22, 2009 at 6:14 pm

    To Yurka, it’s been many many years since I read “Mere Christianity” so I can’t remember Lewis’ exact arguments. However, I believe my reaction to him then was something along the lines of what a Native American leader said after reading the New Testament for the first time: “An interesting book, but strange the white people are not any better for having had it so long.”

    I do not know if there is or is not a God, but I try to live my life according to the ethics I was taught, which made sense to me at the time and still do. Basically do not do anything to others you wouldn’t want done to yourself, treat all people with dignity (that comes from Jesus saying that whatever you do to the least of these, that you do unto me). In that respect, and that respect only, do I nod my head towards religion.

    As far as evil goes, again, I do not know if there is a God or not, but I do know that evil does exist. I do not bother myself with its source. There are verses in the Bible, most notably in the books of Isaiah and Job, that seem to indicate that God is the source of both good and evil. When Job poured out his heart and spoke harshly of God, God (speaking from the whirlwind–what an apt image!) did not contradict him and say you are wrong. Instead God rebuked Job’s friends who had been sticking up for God, and said he was very angry with them “because you have not told the truth about me like my servant Job has.” So what does that make God, then? If this book were not part of the Bible, it could be easily dismissed, but if you believe in the Bible then you have a problem. Most Christians deal with Job by ignoring it.

    So whether this makes me a materialist or not I don’t know and don’t care. Part of my deconversion is learning who I am, not what others say I am. And to be able to look in the mirror. If someone who does not know me wishes to judge me as evil that is their problem, but I prefer to let my life speak for itself.

  • 6. grace  |  March 22, 2009 at 8:40 pm

    I definitely agree with you Eve’s Apple that alot of deconversion experience seems to begin when people become deeply hurt, and disillusioned by church, feeling rejected, wounded in someway by other Christian people. I also think that depression, anxiety, stress, etc. can also wreck real havoc in people’s lives spiritually over time. God can begin to seem more, and more distant, church irrelevant.

    There’s certainly alot more to decoversion than this, I know, but I’m able to see a pattern.

  • 7. Ubi Dubium  |  March 23, 2009 at 9:26 am

    A pattern for a few, perhaps, but not nearly all. For me I wasn’t hurt or wounded by my childhood church in any way. I think trying to lump any large group of us into one “pattern” is not going to work.

  • 8. ArchangelChuck  |  March 23, 2009 at 10:44 am

    Ubi’s point is valid. Though patterns emerge, those patterns are not a “rule” by any stretch of the imagination. Indeed, I myself have never been “hurt” by the church or the Christian religion. I’ve never felt duped, lied to, whatever, in having associated with it in the past. Instead, I simply made the choice — of my own free will and conscience — not to subscribe to the Christian religion any longer. I believe that others have the capacity to make that choice on their own accord if they are strong enough to face the alleged possibility of their own eternal torment with courage. I was able to do so simply by realizing that such a concept is nothing more than the concoction of priests to manipulate the masses through guilt and emotional pandering.

    It seemed to naturally follow that, when I found my ability to discern truth from priestcraft, I also lost my belief in: fairies, flying spaghetti monsters, orbiting teapots, and ancient desert gods.

  • 9. SnugglyBuffalo  |  March 23, 2009 at 11:42 am

    Might as well add my voice to the list of those who were not hurt by Christianity. It just didn’t make sense anymore, so I left. For an additional pattern-breaker, I went from a fairly fundamentalist theism (I was finally beginning to consider the possibility of theistic evolution) to atheist in the span of maybe 4 months, max; de-conversion usually seems to be a years-long affair, for most.

    I like Chuck’s characterization; there may be patterns to de-conversion, but there certainly aren’t anything like rules. And the patterns are weak enough that you’re better off not making any assumptions about de-cons.

  • 10. atimetorend  |  March 23, 2009 at 1:40 pm

    Right, there are a vast multitude of catalysts for people questioning their faith, different for different people. But the end result is the same, the person who leaves their faith behind found found it lacking, found reasons they did not believe it. Just because one version of christianity is not morally repugnant or intellectually untenable or says it is built on Relationship instead of dogma does not make it Truth.

  • 11. Kane  |  March 23, 2009 at 5:29 pm

    I stumbledupon this website and am glad I did. Although my de-conversion had more to do with irreconcilable differences between christianity and my personal reality, the result was the same. However, I have some fond memories of the church and I support anyone who to be a part of it. It was good to me and is the cornerstone in the lives of many good people I know. Too many (most) non-believer sites are full of arrogance and lack of understanding.

  • 12. icanseeformilesandmiles  |  April 23, 2009 at 3:23 am

    Eve’s Apple,
    I have a friend who has Asperger’s syndrome. It has been a difficult road for her too, although she still believes (as far as I know).
    I think the religious delusion persists against all logic and facts until something causes a crack in the glass bubble. Whatever the cause, I don’t think the hurt itself leads to deconversion, but it gives the person a flash of reality. An honest person looks at the crack and follows the path until more cracks appear and finally the bubble comes crashing down. I remember walking out of my office one day, looking up at the sky and saying “My goodness- it’s not real!” It was an amazing revelation, refreshing and powerful as the dissonance and cloudy religious thought faded away.

  • 13. Eve's Apple  |  April 23, 2009 at 7:33 pm

    Icanseeformilesandmiles – I think you have hit the nail on the head when you said that you don’t think the hurt itself leads to deconversion, but it gives the person a flash of reality.

    One of the reasons I have always found it difficult to reconcile religion and experience is that on one hand I was constantly being told to face “reality” by the same people more or less who were also insistent that I believe in an elaborate fantasy world called Catholicism. I was told that there was something wrong with me, that “how I saw life was not really how life was”; and that it was NOT all right for me to openly have a fantasy world–but if it involved God, Jesus, Mary, saints, angels and the like, that was not only ok, I HAD to accept it without question. I remember getting into an argument with my brother about the nature of fairyland (I think we were about 5 or 6)–he kept insisting fairyland was one way and I kept insisting that no, it was not the way he saw it. And I did believe in fairyland back then. But in the middle of the argument it hit me–this must be what grownups do when they argue about religion. Of course I kept that heretical thought to myself!! I wasn’t stupid, I had a pretty good idea what my parents and the powers that be around me were capable of doing, and so I went along with the game for the sake of survival. If you were one of those lucky people who grew up without fear that you could or would be locked away in an institution then I envy you. Many children do not possess any civil liberties whatsoever. There was a case not too long ago in a town near me where a teenager died in a house fire because she was chained to her bed with a dog chain. The parents’ excuse was that she was emotionally and developmentally disabled and needed to be chained for her ow good. Not one person, not even Child Protective Services or government officials, were able to step in and help this girl, even though they had been repeatedly told of the situation! And yes, her parents are church-goers, and, I am told, their church is standing behind them. When I hear stories like that I think there but for the grace of God, or luck, or whatever, go I . . .

  • 14. Maria Tait  |  May 4, 2009 at 8:46 am

    I think a good few Christians go through the same process, sadly many don’t. There are alot of mixed up people trying their best and getting it wrong in our churches (as in all walks of life) and that is because you’re right, a lot of them never really truly take a good hard look at what they believe in before they start making burdens for mens backs (as Christ also said) never lifting a finger to help them. It is always about other people’s faults and rarely about them.
    However, and this is the crucial point, all true Christians have to lose that naive simplistic and engineered faith they grew up with and go find the new path for themselves….which you did.
    Another (unsourced unfortunately) quote is that noone should dare to make his religion responsible for his own salvation. Ain’t that the truth? We all have to stand up and be counted for our actions and chosen paths in the end.
    I was abused by my good catholic father throughout my childhood. He crushed my faith and my personality, the delusion died. But through faith in Christ and actually reading the bible and digging into the foundations and spirituality of the Catholic Church, as well studying other paths including atheism, agnosticism, talking to Mormons, jehovahs witnesses, buddhists, spritualists etc I came back of my own free will with a new and very different faith.
    Fantasy land it is not I can assure you but it has opened my heart and my mind. We are all built for faith, whether we like it or not we all have faith in something, be it religion, science, materialism, atheism as a life choice but that deconversion experience is an essential one. We all need it to move on. x
    P.S my DH and DS are both Aspergers. I love living with honest people 🙂

  • 15. JoAnne Braley  |  December 7, 2012 at 8:05 pm

    So much to answer here, but I’ll start with the “good” Catholic father who abused you…he was NOT a Good Catholic or father. I had the benefit of chosing the church myself when I was a child. I studied it and got baptized because Jesus made Peter, his rock, into his church. The reason the Catholic faith seems complicated is because it started out very simple, but as each heresy came along, they had to add some rules. From very smart leaders, with counsels. I went away from the Church because my first sexual experience was a rape from a Catholic boy (man), and he turned out to be a terrible person. Other things happened to me by Catholics…well, there are good ones and bad ones in EVERY group. Jesus said to do two things. 1. Love God above all others (and I’ve found if you don’t believe in God, you think you are god…so, who’s your god?), and 2. Love your neighbor as yourself (and neighbors are every person). I was fortunate to go to a convent school and taught to see Jesus in everyone, past the bad. Say a prayer for them. I finally came back to the Church after going to many others, Buddha, the Temple, New Age, Course of Miracles…and came BACK after reading lots of books about crusades and such, and found it is certain people in the church who are wrong…not the church. So, I’m unhappy that you were treated badly. I was also at times, as I went to 14 schools, and when you are the NEWBIE, the bully has a whack at you, but if you keep looking, there’s a friend. Many people have hurt me, betrayed me, taken my money, scammed me. Just remember “Many are called, but few are chosen.” Stick to the New Testament, Book of…I find I’m better off without the husbands I had, the fancy houses, country clubs, as there aren’t many friends there. You do have a friend in Jesus, and you will be judge only according to what you know. I believe you have done no harm.

  • 16. cag  |  December 7, 2012 at 11:58 pm

    JoAnne # 15, imaginary friends are not friends, just thoughts in your brain. They may be comforting thoughts, but just thoughts. The church is interested in you for your statistical worth and your wallet. The church is the people who make up the congregation. Without people, a church is just another abandoned building. Read your bible from the beginning in a critical manner. Ask yourself “Does this make sense?”. Does it make sense that the bible claims that the earth was created before the rest of the universe? Does it make sense that the earth took 5 days to create but the vast, nearly endless universe was all created in one day? Does making woman out of a rib make sense? Does a talking serpent make sense? Does any of it make sense? Some have examined and concluded that it does not make sense. Those people are no longer part of any church. Do not automatically accept the words of anyone who has a vested interest in convincing you that they have the answer if only you give them money.

    Think for yourself, don’t hire someone else to think for you.

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Whether or not you believe in God, you should live your life with love, kindness, compassion, mercy and tolerance while trying to make the world a better place. If there is no God, you have lost nothing and will have made a positive impact on those around you. If there is a benevolent God reviewing your life, you will be judged on your actions and not just on your ability to blindly believe in creeds- when there is a significant lack of evidence on how to define God or if he/she even exists.



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