Monday, May 17, 2010

Embarrassed by Faith

Embarrassed by Faith

Sometimes I run across an atheist or ex-believer who was so embarrassed by their prior religious affiliations that they don’t even want to talk about it. Granted, this is their right, but for me personally I find that by addressing my past embarrassment I can get it out there as a cathartic exercise in showing what not to do, how not to think, how not to act. 

In fact, I think it will be more than cathartic to address my past proclivities in the hopes of not only better understanding why it is atheism makes so much more sense, but perchance it might act as a beacon of reason to help guide others out of the stormy waters of unreasoning dogmas.

I grew up in the Assemblies of God Church. You can look them up if you don’t know their basic tenets. In essence they are an Evangelical branch of Pentecostal Christianity which takes a legalistic and fundamental approach to Biblical authority. They believe the Bible is the God inspired word, believe in divine healing, and baptism by the Holy Spirit.

First off, I should consider myself lucky, because I grew up in small rural communities where the Assemblies of God churches I attended were not charismatic brainwashing camps, although I saw my fair share of those too. Strangely enough, nearly all of my friends were raised Catholic, so they grounded my perspective and balanced some of the radical beliefs I held onto.

What did these beliefs entail? Well, as I said, faith healing was popular. If someone in your church had the “gift of healing” it meant that God and Jesus Christ had blessed them with the power to heal in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Who could be healed? Why anybody who had enough faith, of course. If you went to a healing session and weren’t cured instantly, then it was because of your lack of faith, not the fault of the healer… and certainly not the Lord’s problem.

Another peculiar belief I held was that speaking in tongues (glossolalia) was considered a sign that the Holy Spirit had descended unto me! Modern psychology and neuroscience have confirmed that religious glossolalia is in fact utter gibberish—and furthermore has shown that the language part of the brain actually shuts down, so it cannot be considered a divine language by any stretch of the imagination—since the very part of the brain which is meant to try and comprehend it has shut down. Never mind though, it’s a matter of faith remember, if you don’t have faith then it’s not going to work. Anyone as skeptical enough to believe what science says doubts the validity of the claim, their faith is weak at best, and so they could never be considered to understand or appreciate the profundity of speaking in tongues. So on Sundays my friends and I would raise out hands to the sky, and in a trance-like state, beging to say things like: "Eiplora extol ni exubrihim nilohim, sanctus molifik Jesus, oh Lord, sorben tai qaulifique oota ootoo loo… Hakuna Matata Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious…” and all that jazz. People would occasionally faint, but only in the large more crowded churches. Wherever there were large crowds there was a better chance of people becoming entranced or hypnotized by the smooth talking pastor.

At any rate, it was all a bunch of nonsense.

Baptism was another big deal. I remember being baptized when I was an infant, later as a child, and then again when I became “born again.” Three baptisms seems symbolic of the Christian Trinity, but believe you me, it’s a redundant waste of time. Of course I say that now, but when you’re a believer it seems necessary, in fact, vitally important as your very soul is at stake! Each baptism is a way to shed your sins, be forgiven all over again, and get a fresh start. You’d be surprised at how many Christians will take you up on the offer to be re-baptized. They can’t get enough of it.

These were the strange rituals I partook in. Needless to say Pentecostalism has many other stranger beliefs still. In some more radical sects they believe you can drink snake venom without poisoning yourself. How does one go about doing this? Do they train with animal professionals? No. Do they learn the tricks of the trade from an illusionist? Not a chance. They take it all on a matter of faith.

Oddly enough, no matter what natural disasters were happening in the world, it was all the work of the Devil. Either that or God was deliberately punishing people for their sin (which he supposedly forgave them of during their numerous baptisms—but never mind). We were warned each week that we were being tempted by the anti-Christ away from the savior. Everything from music, to movies, to a pretty prom date could potentially be the devil in disguise. Most enthusiastic Pentecostal churches ban music, movies, and showing public signs of affection. Children have been told they can’t even join prom because it would include dancing with a girl, gasp, it would include physical touch, oh now, it would include bodies rubbing up against each other and pulsating hearts beating to the rhythm of the DJ—God forbid!

The Assemblies of God regulations varied depending on the rules of each independent congregation and church committee. It was left up to the elders to decide. My own church merely advised against such things, but other than this stern warning, didn’t deem it worth denying them to us. This probably had more to do with the fact that we were all stuck in a small farming community within a town that had no movie theater, no real restaurants, and just a few pubs and churches. It was better you were at home watching a film than causing a ruckus at the local bar or tavern.

Some people grow up their whole lives under the spell of religion. They never question it, because they never know anything of the world outside of the confines of their rural community. This is why a college education is so vital in liberating one’s mind, prying it open, and cramming all kinds of valuable information in there. Most of all, though, it teaches us to ask questions. Even as I was a gun-ho Evangelical going into college, I came out of the University system a learned and more level head, well rounded, individual. Chalk it up to experience, but an education helps (see HERE).

Moving to a foreign country and learning another language opened up my horizons even more. With a worldliness comes a much broader perspective, and I learned to have an even greater sympathy than anything my prior faith had to offer. In fact, the compassion of my past faith seemed tribal and barbaric to the multiculturalism which now compelled me to think more humanely about the equality of peoples. I learned patience and tolerance, but I didn’t learn that from my faith, I learned that from engaging with the real world and dealing with the people there.

Faith was only able to teach me so much, and in rhetrospect, it wasn’t much at all. That’s why I feel such embarrassment when I look back on my religious days, because for me, it shows how truly self righteous, arrogant, and foolhardy I really was. In actuality, I was a know-it-all know nothing.

The photograph I include with this essay is a reflection of that cocky religious attitude, because I was in the mind set that I had a mission to spread the good news, to share the message of the Gospel, and to proselytize, evangelize, and win souls for Christ. When I met my wife I was still an intolerable, wanna-change-you, Christian. 

Before we were married I bought my wife an NIV study Bible, and on the dedication page I wrote the message that you see above. At the time it didn’t cross my mind how insulting it would be to tell someone else from a totally different culture that they were wrong, to expect them to change for me without justification, and to relinquish their entire upbringing along with societal and cultural beliefs because (for some reason) mine were true and hers weren’t. 

I don’t know how she even put up with me those first few years. Insulting, impertinent, and insolent know-all doesn’t even begin to describe such lack of respect. But do you want to know how I justified it? I’ll tell you, it was because I had faith and she didn’t. That’s how I knew I was right and she needed saving.

Buying my wife a Bible, at the time, seemed like the best way to express my love. I wanted to share with her this deep and meaningful faith I had. Not only this, I wanted to save her eternal soul as not to suffer being apart from her. How greedy and self centered is that? Not only was I so lonely that I wanted to bring her over to my side as to keep her, since my church had strong opinions on marrying others outside of the faith, it was the only way I could ensure both happiness and a continuation of my faith. 

In retrospect, it looks damn selfish not to mention flagrantly foolish. Here I was telling a gorgeous intelligent woman not to be who she was but to be something other than what she was. Basically, don't be Buddhist because I'm Christian is not a valid argument. I’m lucky she didn’t leave me completely for a more level headed man.

Well, what can I say? The heart wants what the heart wants. Love is more powerful even than faith (see my Deconversion Testimony HERE). And it was because of this love that I was forced to re-evaluate everything that I thought I knew. Even so, in the end my rational brain finally turned on. After years of indoctrination into a bizarre faith with even stranger beliefs, I finally came to see the light of reason. Better late than never, if you ask me.

Now that I've studied the fringe movements of Christianity quite a bit, and have dealt with people worse off than myself (ever hear of the cult called Universal and Triumphant?) then I think you'll understand why I can identify with embarrassing and wildly asinine religious ideologies. I have sympathy for those caught up in such muddled thinking... and that's one of the reasons I write—to act as a beacon of reason. May it help to guide others out of the confusion of parochial, inward-looking, partisan types of faith. 

I’m not saying anyone must agree with me or believe what I believe, but that by challenging their religious beliefs, and by questioning them, they might begin to think for themselves and, perhaps, learn to see things less myopically, less one-sided, that is to say, if willing, less blinded by faith. For them, a new way of seeing, a better way if you ask me, awaits them.


  1. "Some people grow up their whole lives under the spell of religion"

    Tristan i`d be a little dishonest if i didnt simply admit finding the place i was born somewhat embarrassing at times during life.But you do get used to it more and more as time goes by.Its natural humans wish to feel normal and accepted as human beings,specially growing up as kids.But my embarrassment started in first stages of youth, we were simply not (allowed) or able to be like all other kids around us.We had to have our hair cuts at regulation standard of the cult and what specially effected the girls was clothing standards etc.There was no playing after school with the neighbours they were considdered to be going to hell seeing they didnt worship in our church,and TVs,Radios,Tape Recorders,Record Players,Movies were all considdeed things of the devil so when other kids mentioned certain things we didnt know what the hell they might be talkin about.As the cult drifted more and more into weirdness,things like even beaches,and going fishin,and even having pets became BANNED.

    If you went to the beach,the idea was you might see a bikini or girls might see a bloke legs and the devil would enter your mind and corrupt you and carry you off hellbound.And going fishin was sports which wasnt seen as keeping your mind for god.And pets ,well them things turned your love and emotions away from a attachment to Jesus also.

    And yes it got even worse after i had escaped.They banned all other sorts of stuff.And people even had to install separate sewer pipes to the road if they live in a house down a shared right of way section,the idea was supposedly you could become corrupted through the sewer.And if you owned a flat in a block of flats,you needed to install another wall between you and the neighbour,to create a space between so you were not corrupted by devils.Even your fence between you and the neighbour next door,had to also be built in this way.Garage door openers, faxes,computers,cell phones all were banned for some time.Im sure there is many more new rules i still havent heard about yet from other ex members who left long after i did.

    Thankfully many of these rules have now been stopped.Many they finally realized were just totally stupid and laughable,other rules they stopped because of business and they like lots of money and power.Specially to use for suing anybody who dares to try mess with them.

    Reading up on the cult Universal and Triumphant was handy,even though i was already well aware our weird cult sure isnt the only one around on this planet.There is a number of wacky christian based cults,even just here in little old NZ.

    Im not really so much embarrassed,because the fact is i never decided to join them..NOBODY i mean NEXT TO NOBODY ever joins this cult,you loose all most freedom and even must shun and excommunicate from any family and friends that are not with "them".

    No people dont choose to join.You are born there,and so thats where my embarrassment stops I DIDNT CHOOSE TO BE BORN THERE.And thats the part what makes (unregulated) religion so very very dangerous .In a way i can just be kind of glad we wasnt born to "peoples temple" in Johnstown.It could have turned out worse.

  2. So with further a due here is some links so you folks can read up on them a little.

    (Ex members and public site on internet)

    A site where many ex members chat

    Small collection, recording some of those who committed suicide

    You might want to check out the forums


    The churches only official site


    Google Images


    Make sure you check out some you-tubes i googled for you, you can learn a whole lot from them.

  3. This vids about a young man who was gay who was excommunicated and totally disowned by his family and the cult.But not before they had tried to use medications to try to cure him of what they considder as only a type of illness.

  4. Gandolf-

    Wacky stuff. Sounds like you had a time of it.

    Glad you were able to get out. I always feel bad for those trapped in the confines of religion, such as the women and children in the Fundamentalist Mormon groups in America and the many shut up women in more radical parts of Islam.

    I guess we must keep fighting the good fight. Someday truth, reason, and justice will prevail. As long as we don't give up, as long as we keep informing others about the truth and let the facts speak for themselves, as long as we keep scrutinizing the wayward and reckless practices, and long as we keep offering valid critiques, I think people will come around... eventually they'll have to wake up and smell the coffee. We just need to keep on brewing it.

    Peace! Have a good one and take care.

  5. Hey Tristan!

    Thanks for another fine post. I really enjoy hearing other peoples stories. Very enriching!


  6. Hey Gandolph!

    Thanks for sharing this information on the cult that you have escaped from. I did some reading at the website, which really helped me gain a bit of understanding of where you are coming from and what you have experienced. My apologies for being insensitive as to the depth of the experience that you are recovering from. On the brighter side it is good to know that such a resource is available to folks who might want to escape the tyranny of "The Brotherhood". I wish you nothing but the best as you reorder your life and hope that in some small way I can offer a bit of encouragement to help you on your way.


  7. Hey Gandolph!

    Thanks for sharing this information on this cult that you had the misfortune of being born into. Nothing to be embarrased about, as you say, the choice was not your own. I followed some of the links that you provided and did some reading at the website and gained a bit of understanding of the tyrannical nature of "The Brotherhood". My apologies as I had no concept of the nature of your life experience with this particularly malevolent sect of Christianity. On the brighter side, it is good to know that such an organization exist to help folks extricate themselves from this cult, although I can see that is not so easily accomplished. I wish you nothing but the best as you re-order your life and hope that in some small way I can provide a bit of encouragement to you. Perhaps just knowing that someone does care about what you have experienced, as I truly do, can help ease the burden of your past.


  8. Hey Gandolph!

    Third Times a Charm?

    This is my third attempt at this so,

    Thanks for sharing your story. It's not very pleasant to contemplate, and I am sure very much less so to have experienced. I followed some of the links that you provided and did some reading at and gained alittle undertanding of the tyranny that you have escaped from. Sorry for my previous insensitivity as to the depth of what you had experienced growing up in such a malevolent environment. It's nothing to be embarrassed about though, as you say, you sure didn't choose to be born into it! It's good to know that exist for folks who might hope to extricate themselves from the "Brotherhood". I wish you nothing but the best as you re-order your life in the aftermath of an experience more difficult than I can imagine. I hope that I am able to provide some small encouragement as you move onward.


  9. G Man!

    I guess you get to see the "evolution" of a comment! Pick the one you like best and go with that one!!!


  10. This is a really good posting. This is one thing that I am lacking, I have never seen the other side. It is good to hear of it. I also kinda think that the Bible that you gave her really reflects the core of your "beliefs" at the time. After all, does it not teach you to see the "others" as doomed and something that you need to teach and convert to save them.
    Gandolf- always amazed by what you write. Respect.

  11. @Tink-

    Tink! You kinky little pixie (I say that in the mythological sense). Where have you been hiding? Long time no see. :p

  12. Sigh.... Working alot these days. Taking stats, working, and getting ready to start my first official research project (with the book) in the fall. Insane in the brain.

  13. 1/

    @Tristan ..Wacky hardly even covers the depth of all the madness i experienced.Around age 15 1/2 i became very angry about many things i had experienced,and so the cult shut me and my mother up.Being shut-up means for the moment you are not allowed any contact with those in the church,and definatly no contact with anyone out of the church either.You are secluded from everyone, except priests who come around to your home now and then to talk about matters.

    I experienced them start to blame my mum for everything that had gone wrong in our family.Why some of my brothers and sister had been withdrawn from not obeying church laws and had been excommunicated from the cult,all Mums fault ..Not a good mother!

    Here they were abusing Mum ,who for all her faults had brought up 6 children all on her own since dad had already long died of cancer, aged only 38-or39?.

    I was even angier at this.Yet my anger only made my mum cry and become sad.And even for any of my mums downfalls,i still loved her and couldnt bear seeing and experiencing this heartbreak and sadness any longer.

    So i felt i must leave.Even though i knew my leaving would also cause her pain....I still felt it best in the long run that i just go.Thinking things would somehow work out,and after i was long gone she could settle down and be more happy among those many old friends there she had become so acustomed to and needy of being amongst.

    So folks one day i jumped on my ten speed racing bike (honest) and peddled on outa there.Escaping to the local vedge shop of the chinese brother-in-law of my already out of fellowship sister who had married his brother.He then put me intouch with my sister.

    Later that afternoon i had to ring one of the priests to let him know, and get him to relay the info on to mum also.I couldnt think of any other way to go about it,i didnt like the thought of mum hearing it that way...But couldnt think how else to do it.

    The priests threatened getting the cops to come and retrieve me ..I said fine...But take your eyes off me and ill only be gone again ...My mind is made up ....Im simply finished with all your nastiness.

    So thats how it went.And ive only been allowed to see my mum again one time in the last 30+ years....That one time was during a time the cult called the "review" and my time with some renewed contact with her, only spanned time of a period of about a month or so.When they saw i still wasnt interested in rejoining their cult,the doors closed once again and then once again the complete silence! and lonely sad effects of total excommunication and disownership of family connections was back.

    I now think the "review" only really came about during a time cult high priests were getting a little worried, about some bad press that was about to hit papers and TVnews,about things that had happened .The review was engineered as a way to create a false sense that things were about to change,in effect stopping certain folks from all telling their stories all at once....In effect lowering the impact that it would have on other outsiders and christians outlook of this cult.

  14. 2/
    People in this cult are real masters of creating themselves a image of being such wonderful godly people who worship blah blah ..They make a point of treating certain folks who have never been involved with them,like kings and queens ...Many outside folks are lead to believe ..butter likely wouldnt even melt in these cult members mouths!

    This is purposely designed to make any who chose to leave or any who get excommunicated etc from their cult...As looking like they must most likely only just be unhappy evil folk ...who must surely simply only be born moaners who would likely moan for no good reason.

    And so happens, it works.

    Tristan sadly its not just those within these cults that need to do some waking up.Its all the so called liberal christians ,who bullshit crap about supposedly caring blah blah ..wank wank! ...Yet keep pissing in each others pockets with tired old outdated suggested crap about "faith freedom".

    It about time these worthless religious twats worried a little less about regulating things like gay marriage and such like...Time they looked more at (their own mess),and considdered putting some "faith regulations" into place instead.

    Am i a little angry ? ..Damm right i am

    Many folks just dont quite realize or even seem to understand ...This to me is a lot like having my whole family trapped within a religious war and held inside some "Faith Colditzs Castle" for YOUR WHOLE FUCKING LIFE! .With yet STILL no even a sign in sight of any likehood of any forthcoming liberation at all.

    A Jew had far far much better chance in the war to escape the madness of Hitler in Coldizts Castle,than many folks in this world have any chance of escaping the madness of being trapped and enchained in the stupidious arrogant ignorant matter of faith freedoms

  15. @ Steve Schuler ..Thanks Steve ..much apreciated

    Steve said..."Sorry for my previous insensitivity" .. need !...I honestly didnt even take it as any such thing Steve.

    Yeah that site for ex members exists ...But still much of the bigoted faith tyranny remains ...You as a atheist are not welcome to be atheist ...And are still shunned and treated like some lessor being just the same by many faithful....Their beliefs are welcomed ...for instance saying "god loves and cares for us" yes is seen as quite ok and welcome ...However atheists may not really even suggest "god doesnt exist to even be able to even give us a thought, little own bother caring about us" this is considdered terrible ..This hurts their biggoted lil feelings....Yet the bigots dont ever stop for even a moment it seems, to contemplate and imagine just what a non believer might feel when believers spout shit like "god loves and cares for us"

    Duh !...Well hello ! ...If god exists like they try telling us and fu*kin cares like they say he does..then its about time he fu*king pulled funger and did something! ..aint it??

    Steve sure that site is helpful for many folks there ..But to be honest i dont go there ..because it still reminds me of much faith bigotry.

    But in saying that yes i still agree its good that that site exists to try and help folks.

    If i still wanted any help from those people there, id still very much need to become a faith suck-arse come christian cocksucker

    Yes at times life has been tough and ive been down and out quite a number of times ..But ive never really ever been the type to become a begger.Id rather suffer, if it seems looks like nobody really gives a hoot...Thats just how i am

  16. @Tink.."Gandolf- always amazed by what you write. Respect. "

    Cheers Tink our sweet lil pixie .What amazes me the most, is the blue coats still havent arrived with any straight jackets yet !


    Hey Tink so nice hearing from you again, as per usual


Advocatus Atheist

Advocatus Atheist