JMT is a member of FRDB who is now a Buddhist, but his deconversion from Christianity still holds good.
I was raised in a Missouri Synod Lutheran home, A actually my Mom was the religious one and my Dad, for most of my childhood, was agnostic. I attended St. Peter’s Lutheran School from 2nd grade all the way through half of the eighth where I was then placed in public schools.
Growing up was confusing for me because my Dad was also an alcoholic and there was turmoil in the home. I spent most of my time as a teen up in my bedroom playing the guitar and listening to music, it was a great escape for me.
I went through a time of drug experimentation during my mid teens, mostly just pot. Anyway, I was trying to get involved in a good band but I didn’t have the contacts I needed. Most of the guys I ran with who played an instrument were not all that serious about it, but I was. I wanted to become a musician and a great guitarist someday.
I started hanging out with another guitar player during the summer previous to my junior year in high school. All we would do is get high, play guitar and listen to music. It was fun, but it would lead nowhere and by the end of the summer I began to feel real empty.
I had been listening to Jimmy Swaggart a lot on the TV (this was before his scandal) and I was beginning to take him seriously. I especially liked his emphasis on the end times as I had a keen interest in it for some reason. I would also tune into Jerry Falwell’s broadcast and various other televangelists.
One August evening I was laying in bed getting ready to sleep and I was thinking about existence. I remember thinking to myself that the mere fact of existence somehow proved there is a god (don’t ask me the logic of it because I wasn’t running on logic at the time). And you know what? I also had the good fortune to know that if there was a god the only true god, obviously, could only be Jesus.
Remembering the stuff I saw on the televangelists programs I was prompted by emotion to ask Jesus into my heart and to promise to live for him all my life. So in the solitude of my bedroom I, then and there, asked Jesus into my heart and life and I made the promise to live for him no matter what.
All of a sudden I felt a flood of exhilarating, deep peace like I had never felt before. It was physical too, it was as though I felt Jesus enter into my soul and awaken me. I was saved! Or was I?
The very next day I marched over to my guitar buddy’s house and his Mom let me in. I went upstairs to his bedroom, where he was busy smoking a bowl, and I grabbed my guitar gear, turned to him and said “Dude, I’ve become a Christian and I won’t be hanging out anymore.” Thereupon I left and never returned…
I started attending St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, my Mom was very pleased. I remember thinking to myself that what was once so boring to me, church, had now become full of meaning. I would almost always find something of value coming from the pulpit that I took as “a word from God” directly to me personally. But the Lutheran church wouldn’t hold my attention. I was very interested in the claims of miracles and signs and wonders that I heard about from the televangelists.
About this time I would run into a Christian guitarist through a mutual drummer friend and we started a Christian Thrash band called “Tsaba” meaning “lord of the armies.”
I played with Tsaba for three years and just when we were getting ready to cut a demo I left the band over doctrine. I also, regrettably, left playing the guitar behind.
I left the Lutheran Church and started attending “The Vineyard Fellowship.” It was a heavily Charismatic church. Speaking in tongues, Singing in the spirit, Healings, Prophecy and all manner of ecstatics typical of the movement. I was in deep and walked with my head in the clouds 24-7, until I read a controversial book called “The Seduction of Christianity” by Dave Hunt.
This book was painful for me to read. It was an attack, by a Christian, on the very practices of the charismatic movement. This book convinced me that I had been deceived by the devil. I, with some disillusionment, left the charismatic movement and started attending fundamental bible churches.
It was about this time that I left the band also and for many of the reasons that Dave’s book outlined.
I would stay a bible only fundamentalist for the remainder of my Christian walk, except for the last year where I experimented with more liberal ideas.
As a fundamentalist I would ignore things like all the evidence for evolution, the observable age of the universe, the absurdity of the biblical flood. I would just pack those things away in the back of my mind and plod on believing.
I had several stints at a “backsliden” state. I would, for a time, in my twenties go to bars and get plastered with friends only to latter turn my back on those friends and repent.”
This lead me deeper and deeper into a problem of faith that I had always struggled with, the question of whether or not I can and or have lost my salvation. When my Dad died this turned into questions about whether or not my loved ones were ever saved. I would find myself increasingly obsessing over the issue of eternal hell and if I and others I love would go there.
In my late twenties I married a woman who was a Christian but just as compromised as I was. We lived together and slept together before marriage and this nearly ruined my conscience. I was full of guilt…
Later in the marriage I began to obsess over the question of divorce and remarriage. My Wife was a divorced woman and I began to wonder, based upon some things I read, if this meant I had lost my salvation because we were technically “living in sin.”
This proved to be the issue that would cause me to ask questions about the justness of an eternal hell. I would obsess over the hell issue daily during this time and one day I asked myself important question. Would I want my worst enemy to be tortured in a hell for eternity? My reply was no… I then had the blasphemous thought to actually question God’s own justice. The question was “why then will God torture his own enemies forever.”
As a Christian I spent a lot of time reading apologetics especially anti-cult and anti-new age material. I was also very interested in prophecy and I expected the fulfillment of the return of Christ in my lifetime and I read quite a few books on the topic, some more scholarly than others.
By the time I had turn away from the Charismatic movement I had come to a theological stance known as dispensationalism. As I ‘grew’ older in the faith my dispensationalism took on more and more radical tones. Just before I tried liberal theology on for size I was persuaded by radical dispensational theologians like E.W. Bullinger, C.R. Stam, J.C. Ohair, Miles J. Stanford and Adolph E. Knoch.
What I liked about this theology is that it, especially the radical dispensationalists, divorced the church age from the old testament and emphasized that this age was an age of unparalleled grace as opposed to the age law, one passed and one yet to come. Miles J. Stanford was especially favored by me. His emphasis was on the mystical union of the believer with Christ, so much so that god is said to only notice the perfection of Jesus when he sees any of his children no matter how sinful they may be. This was good news to someone who was guilt ridden and having very low self esteem, like myself. It also was an attempt to answer for myself the perplexing question of my enduring salvation when it eluded me by my actions.
My actions, now that I look back on them, were not sinful. In fact there is no sin to worry about at all. I have only ever acted as a normal red blooded human male. I’ve made mistakes, sure, but where there is no god to sin against there is no sin.
I would also spend a lot of my time trying to figure out differences in theology within the church in a effort to find the “true” doctrine. This only led to greater confusion.
I asked the blasphemous question about the justice of a good god sending anyone to hell. This began my exploration into more liberal forms of Christian thought.
It was also about this time (2004) that I began to visit the internet infidels to “teach” them about true Christianity. Boy was I in for a lesson. A poster who goes by the screen name “Mageth” thrashed me with my own words.
It’s a little embarrassing that I used to be that preachy. The thread where Mageth gets around to hanging me with my own rope is still availible.
After my run in with Mageth I really could no longer tolerate the contortions I had to go through to justify some of my beliefs. I started out by modifying my belief in an eternal hell because it disturbed me the most.
I eventually turned to universalism and argued for it on the infidels, but the critical genie was out of the bottle and before long I was looking critically at the bible and finding it full of contradictions that I could no longer make excuses for. I determined that I wasn’t going to prop the bible up with faith anymore. If it couldn’t stand on it’s own feet then it deserved to fall, and fall it did.
It wasn’t long before I was calling myself an agnostic and then shortly after that, an atheist.
This isn’t the end of the story though, I would yet give theism one more pitiful chance. Not Christianity, but a wishy washy I hope I hope I hope I hope there is a good god up there sort of theism mixed with generous amounts of new agey feel goody fluff.
This reversion back to theism happened mostly because I had a nervous breakdown late 2005 due to the break-up of my marriage and near financial ruin. Me and my wife are patching things up now.
After I lost the need for an emotional crutch I soon had to admit that no other gods are any more or any less likely than the Christian one and I feel I have falsified him to my satisfaction.
It is now a matter of parsimony and honesty that I call myself an atheist.