Part Six: Conclusion
HA note: The following story is written by lungfish, a formerly homeschooled ex-Baptist, ex-Calvinist, ex-Pentecostal, ex-Evangelical, ex-young earth creationist, current atheist, and admin of the Ask an Ex-Christian web page.
Also in this series: Part One, Introduction | Part Two, Isolation | Part Three, Rejection |Part Four, Doubt | Part Five, Deconversion | Part Six, Conclusion
I can see my indoctrination clearly in each of Robert Jay Lifton’s Eight Criteria for Thought Reform. Most strongly in that of Milieu Control – “the control of information and communication both within the environment and, ultimately, within the individual, resulting in a significant degree of isolation from society at large.” And in Dispensing of existence – “the prerogative to decide who has the right to exist and who does not. This is usually not literal but means that those in the outside world are not saved, unenlightened, unconscious and they must be converted to the group’s ideology. If they do not join the group or are critical of the group, then they must be rejected by the members. Thus, the outside world loses all credibility. In conjunction, should any member leave the group, he or she must be rejected also.”
This was the normal for me when I was a Christian.
The world was, indeed, black and white, good and evil, and I had the fortune to be on the side of righteousness. Now that I see the world with different eyes, I am both ashamed that I once held to such a blind faith and frightened that countless people continue to be held by a doctrine that can so easily be proven false.
A common Christian reaction to a de-conversion story, such as mine, is to accuse the ex-Christian of being a prodigal who is only angry at God.
They believe that fallen Christian will always return to God because life without Him is purposeless and completely void of joy. They cannot understand a de-conversion because they have never experienced a de-conversion. No, I am not angry at God. Anger towards God is something I had never even considered. As a Christian, I believed that one does not have the right to be angry at their creator. I believed that God owned me and could do with me as He pleased. Any trial or tribulation I was put through was part of His plan and, even if I could not see how, He was making me better by it. I did, however, hold anger towards other Christians in my life for a time. People who I thought had wronged me because they could not keep their own sinful nature under control.
Now that I do not believe in God, I still hold no anger towards Him.
One simply cannot be angry at someone or something that he does not believe exists. I also hold no anger towards the Christians who wronged me. I view them only as deceived, repressed human beings. Human beings that bottled up their desires, their needs, and their functions until they burst into a spray of shrapnel that resulted in the collateral damage that I am today. If I am to be angry at Christians, it seems only logical that I must be angry at myself as well – and that is not how I want to live.
Where I once devoted my life to Christianity, I now set aside only a small part of my free time to fighting Christianity – a religion that, although once necessary for our survival, has long outlived its usefulness and now acts only as a source of social regression. In my activism, I adopted the internet moniker “lungfish” because, although I now identify myself as an atheist, some aspects of Christianity will always be a part of me. The stories and the characters of the Bible will always be in my head – but I now longer see them as examples of morality to follow. Instead, I see them as the history and myth of an ancient human beings less evolved and less socially developed then today. And I now recognize the psychological manipulation with in the pages of the Bible that has allowed Christianity to survive long after its usefulness has run out.
On the walk from my car to the university science building, my stomach would occasionally drop out and I would think to myself, “I am going to hell for this…” —
— but knowing that the Bible was so obviously written by mere men and not a god, I have largely overcome this hurdle. A Christian might think that this is the Holy Spirit trying to pull me back to God – but I know, without a doubt, that the Holy Spirit cannot exist. I was taught that the Holy Spirit lives in the heart of anyone who accepts Jesus. Humans are inheritable evil and it is the Holy Spirit that allows Christians to act morally against their own evil nature. Unbelievers are incapable of true morality because God is the source of all morality and unbelievers do not know God. Throughout my Christian walk, everything in my life was screaming of the falsehood of these claims; but I would not listen because I was told not to listen. Until a single sentence, so arrogant and nearsighted, uttered by a church elder behind a pulpit, shut down my faith and laid the ground in which doubt would eventually take seed.
This doubt allowed me to take the filter of Christianity off the lens through which I viewed the world and see my faith for what it truly was.
I know that this feeling of hell that I would often get is not the work of the Holy Spirit. This feeling, instead, is the result of the religious psychological manipulation of the indoctrination that held me for twenty years. Each time I quickly recover from this feeling because I now know too much about the Bible, its history, and the history of the people who wrote it. And, it was only recently I realized that it has now been years since ending my own life has even crossed my mind – an action I considered almost monthly in the last ten years of my Christianity. Without Jesus, I find myself to be more confident, happier, and more in awe of the world around me and the universe than I ever had been when I called myself a Christian.
The stories in the Bible will always be a part of me.
I will always be a fish.
But this fish grew lungs and can finally breathe the open air. And if this is possible for me, it is possible for anyone. Email me and we can talk.
End of series.
Thanks for this series, Lungfish. I too deconverted, and the Holy Spirit issue bothered me, too. I identify.
I am so sorry that your experience in the church and in your family led you away from Christ. Interestingly so my experience in my family led me to Christ. I have often wondered if many kids are just destined to grow up and reject what their family taught because of abuse.
I never walked towards a college science building thinking I was going to hell. I love science! Did you feel that way because you think or were taught Christianity is anti-science? Just curious. There are so many flavors of Christian- so I am just wondering.
Thank you for sharing you story. I have enjoyed reading you series.
Heidi, you know, my reading of this was that he felt the bad experiences were caused by and revealed underlying problems in the system. If your experiences led you to Christianity and Christianity helped you deal with what happened, I am so happy for you! But I wonder if its short changing what he wrote to say that this is a story of someone simply reacting.
Tegan – I don’t mean to short change any ones story at all. This story started out so awful and I am so glad he found happiness. I am just saying I find it interesting:-)