I've been pondering posting a testimonial thread here for a while; much of my testimony is rather scary, and I've left parts out... But....
Family of origin! My parents raised me into a fundamentally pentecostal home. My father, a former minister, met my mother in a Church while visiting his sister in California. He wanted to move to Texas. @_@; In any case, my mother, recently widowed, had been in a relationship since puberty. She even married her first boyfriend, but, he died after 15 years of marriage because of renal failure. My parents started dating, then one day, when a guest speaker came to our church, he "prophesied" over my parents, saying that they would get married, have two daughters and live for the Lord. Within 5 weeks of their meeting, they got married. My mother, told by doctors for years that she was unable to bear children, prayed to God for children. Surprise! She finds out that she's pregnant. Joyous occasion. Around Christmas, my parents went to church to see a Christmas performance, she started bleeding, so she went to the bathroom and found out that she had miscarried. She went to the doctor's praying for some sort of miracle, and... surprise! There's still a fetus inside. The doctor's explained that she was carrying twins, and one of them had ended its gestation preterm, but, she still had one healthy looking baby left. A miracle! My parent's rejoiced and cried, thanking God that they had one child, cursing Satan that one had left to go to heaven. Anyway, I was born 13 months after their marriage. I was their miracle.
During my mother's pregnancy, however, more misfortune befell my family. My father began to manipulate my mother, emotionally abusing her, slowly tearing down her stability and ensuring that she would forever be his. My mother, the one bringing home the largest pay check, started to lose her sanity. One day, my father's brother decides to visit my father and his new wife and got my father re-involved with drugs. He did some shady things, spent my mother's life savings on drugs, overdosed on drugs, nearly died, claimed that God brought him back to life, and then quit drugs permanently. My mother, whose bipolar disorder became too much to handle while un-medicated, checked into a mental hospital to deal with her hallucinations. Soon there after, my father got into a head on car collision, claims God brought him back to life. Their medical bills became too pricey, so they filed for bankruptcy, and applied for, what she thought would be, temporary welfare assistance.
My father began to physically my mother and me. He used to pinch me to make me cry, because he thought my mother and I looked cute when we cried. At 6 months old, my dad took the abuse too far and snapped my right humerus. I had my first and only broken bone, but I don't even remember it. I've seen x-rays, pictures, I've read the lie they told the doctor. Meanwhile, my mother prayed for a way for god to deliver my father from his violent ways, and help return him to ministry. My sister, an unplanned pregnancy, came after I turned 2 years, 6 months and 1 day old. By that time, I had read my first word ("lucky") and could use the toilet on my own. She and I shared a crib for a while, before eventually graduating to a shared twin bed. My mother prayed that the new baby would help my father remember his calling to preach.
As far as I can remember, I've always believed in God, but that belief was beat into me. Anytime I misbehaved, my father would hurt me. He'd say that it was his biblical God-given right to make sure that I not become spoiled, that I would not turn away from God. So, he beat me. With belts, with fists and feet, with water, with words, and more... My strongest memories of him "teaching" me about God involve me, crying in a corner, as he kicked me, several times, telling me that disobedient children would go to hell unless I asked for forgiveness of my sins. My mother would stand there, pleading him not to, but he did it anyway... Until I would lie there, too weak to stand, as I watched him beat my mother for disobeying her husband.
I eventually began to protect my mother and sister from him. Anytime he would try and hurt one of them, I would scream at him, and he would stop hurting them and hurt me instead. It was the only way I knew of at the time to protect them. So I gladly took the beatings... Thanking the God my father beat into me that I was able to stop him from hurting them, if only for a little while. I prayed daily for him to stop, and sometimes... he would stop... and he would be really wonderful to my family, do things that helped make everyone happy. Like... cooking meals that tasted really good! or playing games with us... or whatever... But, he would always find some reason to be angry again.
School friends were no help, because I had no school friends. Any friends that I did make, which was like one or two, quickly moved away within a year, and I was left alone, made fun of at school for being "white trash" who lived in a trailer park across the street from school and shopped at a thrift store and wore long sleeved clothes in the desert. I got beat up often, during recess and lunch... But school... I loved school... I was good at school. My parents did help me learn to read and write and count before I began kindergarten, and school was the one thing I knew I could do right, and have teachers notice me for it. <3 I really loved school.
But, my dad figured it out, and began to ground me from school. :/ I used to run away in the morning to go to school, but yeah... I've been through a lot more, but...I eventually went to a foster home, my father went to jail, and I was saved. My family got custody of me from the state quickly, and from then on, he didn't physically hurt anyone anymore. He'd yell and call names occasionally, but he stopped beating people up...
In middle school, I dedicated myself to my studies, began learning the sciences more extensively, and even more about fossil records and dating the earth to a time that defied what the bible said. So, I started to doubt creationism. When I learned about evolution, I began to take the creation story as figurative language, as an allegorical tale instead of a literal one. I then became a Christian who believed in Evolution!
After that, I began to make friends in high school, some of them were gay. I saw nothing wrong with them, unlike what the bible said, so I looked for a way to explain why homosexuals existed even though the bible said they were an abomination. I concluded that, the bible was written at a time where homosexuality was bad for population growth, that it was nothing more than intolerant people who feared the unknown. I also studied Greek and Roman mythology while learning Latin.
I graduated high school, got scholarships for academics too, went to college. In college, I began to study other religions more extensively. I realized that they had common qualities, and that their God was likely no less real to them than mine was to me. So, I asked myself: how did I know I chose the right one? I reconciled that God existed in many religious texts, that my God was no different than theirs, that men who wrote their religious texts interpreted God in a way that made the most sense to them on a cultural and geographical level.
I began to discuss religion with atheist friends, both online and in real life, and thought to myself, how could an omni-benevolent God condemn non-believers to hell? I found that atheists were, for the most part, amazing people. So, I couldn't understand why they were going to hell despite being good people.
I'm still in college, I've recently abandoned my Christian title, I still believe in God, but I am afraid... because if I tell my father... I don't know what he'll think of me. He's proud of me now. I'm married, I'm pregnant, I'm a university student, I've accomplished a lot with my life, I even helped him take care of his dying mother.... But, I'm afraid that he'll feel like he's failed, because the one thing he's proud of the most, is the fact that I believe in God/Jesus. My sister long since abandoned her beliefs, I doubt she ever really believed, and lived a very..."sinful" life, making poor life style choices with drugs and sex and alcohol...She even became abusive towards me.... and he fears that what he did to his family when we were younger caused it. That she'll go to hell because of him. He looks to me and feels like he hasn't messed up completely. Like, he's done something good with his life because I turned out okay. He feels less like failure and more... like a Good Christian man who back slid, who couldn't get a job to support his family, who couldn't go back to the ministry, but with me... he feels like he did at least ONE thing right. And, I don't know if I can take that away from him.
However, God is one of the only things that kept me sane through all that, I don't know if I'll ever be an atheist...but, I doubt I'll ever call myself Christian again.