My sister is getting her doctorate in social work, and one of her friends was doing her thesis on religion, so I typed up this long description of my multiple conversions and my deconversion. It's rather long (3 pages, single spaced) so I'm going to just be putting in the most relevant parts.
Why I am not a Christian
I grew up in a Christian household, but by the age of 6 or so, my father did not want us in Sunday School, so we all went to the big service together. I didn't really understand what was going on, me being 6 and not knowing much about the Bible and all, but that was just the way my dad was. I remember seeing the baptism of some kids and knowing I was never baptized I wanted it done on me. After the Northridge quake in 1994 (I think) we stopped going to church because it had been damaged in the quake.
A couple years later, my mom had custody of us on weekends so we would go with her to work. It started out that I would go with my brother and sister to the local Baptist church while my mom worked. I grew to love it, and threw myself fully into the church experience. I joined the teen ministry and even went on a mission trip to Mexico. During that trip I re-pledged my life to follow Jesus. I even became the president of the Christian club at school. All this time, though, I was living a lie and didn't know it. I was a bully for most of my life (up until about the age of 17). I would punch guys, kick them, and a bunch of other things that I am deeply ashamed about. I remember there was a time that I got out of leading the Christian club and then on the way down the hallway I kicked a guy that was sitting on the floor. I was a genuine hypocrite, and I realize that now.
My journey changed when I was about to get baptized into the Baptist church. I told my friend Chris that I was going to get baptized and he asked me if I knew what I was doing. I said I did and it was fine. That Sunday I was baptized into the Baptist church. My behavior stayed the same. My friend Chris kept inviting me to his church. I finally went with him. I met a woman, named Kris who I started studying the Bible with. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
As I was studying the Bible with the new church (the International Church of Christ aka the ICOC) they challenged every belief I had ever had in Christianity. This was to get me to a deeper relationship with Jesus. They were focused on living a life by the standards of the Bible-no more of me being two-faced. They also put a great pressure on bringing out new members, which they called “sharing your faith”. Kris told me that I would need to be re-baptized because my first one was invalid, since I didn't repent before I got baptized. They saw baptism as the key to salvation.
I finally finished my last Bible study in mid-November. They said my hindrance was my pride, and I would need to repent of it to get baptized. One night I resolved to “PUSH”- Pray Until Something Happens. I prayed for hours, and then I felt what I thought was an angel come visit me and take away my burdens. I was tested and repented. I then got baptized into the ICOC on November 26, 2000.
While I was in the teen ministry, everything went well. I continued to share my faith with people (we would go to malls, grocery stores, wherever there was people). I was pretty good at it. When I was about to graduate from high school and move on to college, they introduced me to the USC ministry. I met with the female leader, and in retrospect, I should have been shocked, but I don't know if it was the brainwashing or the pull to feel like I fit in that made me gloss over what she said. I've always been a tomboy, and came to meet her in some jeans and a shirt, hair in a ponytail as always and no makeup. We ate dinner, and then when we sat down to talk, she told me that if I dressed like that at USC nobody was going to respect me. She took some makeup and did my makeup, and did my hair. I now know that it wasn't the people at USC who were not going to respect me, it was her that was not going to respect me if I didn't look like a sorority girl.
This was going to be the tone set for my college church life. I moved in with 7 other girls from the ICOC at USC into a big house. For the most part, they acted like a sorority, with membership from the church being the initiation. For a couple of the girl's 21st birthdays, they got paddles with Greek letters on it, and there were jokes about putting some fake Greek letters on the house. The girls were all about looks and Jesus. They were genuinely trying to live their life by the Bible, minus their obsession with sorority girls and converting one of them. My freshman year, I let my roommate go through my closet and take out all the clothes that they deemed were to tomboyish. I was desperate to fit in, and willing to do almost anything to fit in. That's how most of my first year of college went.
My second year of college I was faced with some new roommates who were worse that before. I've already written a lot, so I will just say that they made my life a living hell. I had a breakdown in college and was diagnosed Bipolar 1 and Borderline Personality Disorder. My roommates did nothing to help me, and in some cases, made me worse. I finished my year by the skin of my teeth and took a semester off.
I ended up leaving the church in 2004 because I came out as a bisexual and entered into a relationship with a good friend of mine. I ended up breaking up with her, and then a while later met my future husband online. I still had inclinations towards the church (I believe I was brainwashed) despite all the bad things that they had done to me. When Geo told me that he was an atheist, I didn't really have a problem with it, but I could see that in the future when I wanted to go back to the church (at that point I kept thinking that I would go back and somehow it would be better) that it could be a potential problem. I stayed with him anyways.
Geo and I got along pretty well, and I moved in with him when I graduated college in 2006. The next summer, I decided I wanted to try going to the same church again. I introduced myself and said Geo was my husband (we would have been married years ago, but there is a legal issue preventing us from getting married, so we just say we are married). I eventually told the woman who was helping me go back that we were not married and the harassment began. I went back and forth for months, putting Geo through hell. Eventually it came to a standoff between me and my beliefs and Geo. I chose Geo and didn't go back to the church.
Geo and I had always had talks about religion and why we believed what we believe, and he would find things to discuss with me. In early 2009, he sent me a YouTube video in a series called “Why People Laugh at Creationists” by Thunderf00t. I became intrigued and watched the whole 22 part series (I believe there are more videos now). Suddenly religion didn't seem to make the same sense that it did. I never believed that the earth was 6,000 years old, but I did take the Bible literally. I was exposed to the things that they never show you in church, for example if a woman virgin is raped by a man, she must marry him (Deut 22:29). I couldn't believe in a God who would condone such a thing.
Slowly, I came to deconvert. I started reading atheist news and blog posts, and even read “The God Delusion” by Richard Dawkins. It was a long process, and there was a lot of stress involved. I prayed and prayed some nights to see if I could get some sort of response. There was nothing. I wanted to believe- it had given me some sort of comfort, as well as friends and a social life. I looked back at my conversion to the ICOC and my “visit by an angel” and concluded that it was most likely a stress induced hallucination (I hallucinate with the disorders I have, so it's not at all uncommon).
My mind began to open. I have studied other religions in my course (in the ICOC they wanted us to know the most we could about alternate points of view so we could discredit them and convert) so I didn't have any other religion that I could go to.
I now find it hard to believe that there is a being out there looking over us that isn't repulsed by the things done in it's name here on earth. If there is a god, then it doesn't care about his reputation.
People also say they need God to be moral. That is not true. There are so many laws in the Old Testament and even the New Testament that we don't follow. Stoning gay people for one (although if some people had their way, then could see that) and not working on Sunday. I don't believe in any god, but I'm not going to kill anyone. I have dated girls. That's against the Bible, but it is the most natural thing in the world for me.
In conclusion, I have been everywhere from not going to church to being a “True Believer”. I just don't see any evidence for a god. If someone came up to me and had proof that there was a god, and it stood up to scientific tests, then I could change my mind. That's the way science works. You have a hypothesis, and it changes as the evidence is presented.