How (and Why) I Went From Christian to Atheist

One of the greatest challenges of my life has been the journey of discovery that led me to abandon the religion of my upbringing, and the core beliefs about myself and the world around me that went along with it. Although tremendously challenging, the journey has also been one of the most rewarding; which isn't surprising since it's when we step outside our comfort zone and encounter challenges that we truly grow.

I was raised in a conservative church-going family in middle-class Australia. Every weekend my parents would take me and my two older sisters along to our mildly-progressive local Christian church. I went to Sunday School every weekend where I learned stories from the bible, learned to close my eyes when I prayed, heard about Jesus, sang cutesy Christian songs, and generally ran amok as often as I could. I was an energetic little boy, and the thought of sitting still in Sunday School every Sunday morning really didn't appeal to me. But at least it meant I didn't have to sit through the long church service my parents went to at the same time though, where they sang boring hymns and listened to sermons that didn't make much sense to me.

The stories they taught me in Sunday School seemed a little odd: God turning Lot's wife into a pillar of salt just for turning around at the wrong time. Jonah being swallowed by a fish; I doubted a person could survive long in a fish... how would they breathe? And Jesus being crucified for my sins and rising again, all before I was even born. The New Testament turned out to be almost 2000 years old; that's hardly what I considered “new”. Even as a kid I could see that the technological and scientific progress since then probably shed a new light on the interpretation of biblical events.

Every week I would be told to confess my sins in prayer and ask God for forgiveness. Often I would struggle to think of something to confess; surely I couldn't just keep confessing every week that I hadn't cleaned up my room like my mother was always asking me. Even when I did do it, she was never satisfied. I felt like a bad person for having so many sins that I didn't even know about, and having caused Jesus to die that horrible death on the cross. Something didn't feel quite right about all this, but over time I learned to suppress my intuition and came to believe that the problem was something wrong with me.

My parents were extremely private people, which is another way of saying that they withheld their feelings and had dreadful communication skills. They never talked directly about anything personal, especially not about how they felt or what they believed; as a result, they had a stormy relationship. I was a sensitive kid and found their arguments tremendously scary and traumatic; I could sense the tension in the house and often felt like I was walking on eggshells at home. My mother was stubborn and highly critical, and my father often seethed with resentment he couldn't express. They were so stoic, I never saw either of them cry, nor express affection towards each other and I thought they just didn't love each other. Although they were very involved in our local church and took us along every week, they never talked about their faith in God or Jesus at home. I grew up feeling uncomfortable and awkward, ashamed of who I was and what I believed.

During adolescence I started attending more senior fellowship groups at the church, and had a fairly close-knit group of church friends. I also did other activities such as Boy Scouts, and had friends from school; but these separate worlds never collided. I was a highly sensitive kid with mediocre social skills and a total lack of self-confidence, which made me an easy target for bullies at school. At high school I kept my faith under wraps most of the time; I had enough attention as it was from the local bullies without needing to be teased for being Christian. Looking back, I think I sensed at the time that the whole Christian thing wasn't really defensible, but I suppressed my intuition and kept going along to church, fellowship, and bible study groups. I loved going on church camps, getting away from home and hanging out with my other Christian friends. The friendships I made at this time have become some of my longest and most enduring.

On many occasions, I specifically prayed to ask God to forgive my sins and accepted Jesus as my personal lord and saviour. I can't say I ever felt the presence of the holy spirit, but it wasn't for lack of praying for it. I tried to read the bible every day, but frankly it was pretty boring. I went to regular bible study groups with other Christians which helped to assuage my doubts, but I often felt frustrated with a lack of guidance from God and always seemed to have to make decisions on what to do myself.

After leaving high school I went to university to study Computer Engineering. I was extremely busy studying part time while working a full-time day job, but I maintained and even deepened my involvement in the church where I grew up. I served on the Youth Ministries committee, became a steward to welcome people and help run the evening services, and later became an Elder. I was about as involved in church as a lay person could possibly be. For several years I dated a girl from my social group at the church, ultimately breaking up because I didn't want to marry her; at the time, this was the most painful experience I had ever been through. I was devastated and felt the most excruciating emotional pain I'd ever felt. It took at least two years to get over. She left the church and three months later got engaged to another guy. Ouch.

Shortly after graduating from university I took up regular volunteer work at a Christian-based telephone crisis counselling service. We were trained to be non-judgemental, to get callers to talk about their feelings, and to avoid shoving Jesus down their throat. I liked this approach, and got heavily involved in the counselling service assisting with training, taking calls, and even seeing clients face-to-face. While leading a small group on one of the counselling training courses, I met a sprightly young woman who quickly became one of my closest friends. She was disillusioned with her church, so I invited her along to mine and she became a regular attendee. She had a tempestuous relationship with her boyfriend, and when they eventually split up we started dating.

A few years later she was keen to get married, but I was not. History repeating itself painfully. She convinced me to go and see a counsellor, where I started dealing with my terribly low self-esteem and revealing the emotional impact my parent's fighting had had on me. I was so ashamed that it took months for me to open up and talk about how scared I had felt as a kid when they fought. Even just being able to cry freely in front of the counsellor was so shameful, it felt like having broken glass stuck in my eyes. I had a deep-seated fear of showing how I was feeling to other people.

At the same time, I began to question whether the God I had believed in for so long was actually real; and this frightened me. I had serious doubts and felt very uncomfortable being an Elder at the church, so I resigned but kept attending as a regular lay person. I was overloaded anyway and on the road to a serious burnout given my heavy involvement at both the counselling centre and my local church. Something had to give. Eventually my girlfriend and I split up because I didn't want to marry her either, and this breakup was even more painful and devastating than the previous one. I had no idea that a human being could feel so terrible. It took at least another two years to get over, and was worse this time around. The guilt I felt was overwhelming. My family were less than supportive, and as many of my friends had also become her friends, socialising with my friends felt painful and awkward.

After a lifetime of attending the church where I grew up, I decided it was time to leave. My ex-girlfriend was now a regular member there and it was just too painful to keep showing up and feeling awkward. I didn't want to repeat what had happened after my previous relationship where I stayed and the girl left. I was also losing interest in my job, and one of my flatmates treated me like I didn't exist. My life was a painful mess and I needed to sort it out.

My counsellor was, by his own admission, a slightly crazy off-the-wall minister from a related church with a degree in psychology. Although I was a counsellor myself, I felt terribly ashamed about needing to go to therapy and having to walk my own talk. I wasn't real keen on debating existential questions that have entertained philosophers for centuries at $120 per hour, so I started talking to the minister of my local church about what I actually believed regularly. At one of our sessions tears ran down my face and my whole body shook nervously as I revealed my true inner thoughts: “You know... I think God might not exist”. I was thoroughly distraught at the prospect. If God didn't exist, Christianity was a sham. I wouldn't be going to heaven. Death was the end of the road. That prospect scared the living shit out of me. I had only one life to live, and I'd messed an important part of it up. The repercussions were enormous.

The more widely I read, earnestly I prayed, and deeply I contemplated the teachings in the bible, the more Christianity began to unravel. My church had always taught that the 7 day creation story wasn't meant to be taken literally, so that wasn't a problem for me. What about the rest of the bible though? I discovered that the story of the virgin birth is the result of a simple misinterpretation, leading to the obvious explanation for how Mary became pregnant. I started thinking more about the historical context of the bible, the limited knowledge that its author's had and their primitive understanding of themselves and the world around them. Poorly educated fishermen make great followers, but may not be the most discerning when it comes to interpreting events. I had learned in my counselling training that people often experience hallucinations during intense grief, but since most people don't know this they think they're going crazy when it happens. It seemed quite plausible that the resurrection and Jesus's reported appearances afterwards were hallucinations and never actually happened.

The minister was open to an honest dialogue, which was a tremendous help to me. He suggested I read some relatively liberal Christian literature that had a slightly different perspective from the mainstream conservative evangelical books I'd been devouring; but I got a sense that even these authors were avoiding a fundamental obvious truth. I kept reading more and more widely, including more radical Christian authors, agnostic and atheist philosophy. For a while I felt agnostic; unable to decide whether it was all true or not. One day during our conversations he asked me “Are you still sitting on the fence Graham? Because sitting on a fence is pretty painful, isn't it?” He was right; I had to decide one way or another.

At the same time, I went church hopping. I used the opportunity to visit a wide variety of churches from conservative to pentecostal, and to ask people what they really believed. People were falling down and lying on the floor in the middle of the service at one; it was quite a spectacle. I was no longer the responsible Elder who felt that I had to have the answers; I could be the one asking the tough questions. Few people had answers I found satisfying. Most people seemed to be avoiding fear of one thing or another: feeling unloved, death, loneliness. I went to an introductory Christianity course called Alpha, and didn't hold back on expressing my doubts. I sensed that people were looking for community more than they were looking for truth, and would believe pretty much whatever they were told in order to get it. I wanted to know the truth, goddam it, I didn't want it sugar coated. I decided that truth was more important than happiness, and I would pursue the truth whatever it cost me.

I was tired of superficial Christian small-groups that never got down to reality. One night I was at a bible study where we were discussing the finer points of interpretation of a Paulian epistle, when I said “Look, what does it matter? This is just Paul's personal opinion. The God he's talking about probably doesn't even exist!”. I felt everyone was missing the forest for the trees. The group leader was perplexed and responded “Well... I kind of wonder why you're in a Christian bible study if you don't even believe in God”. Good point, I thought. It was time to give up the charade.

I quit going to church, stopped reading the bible, and kept expanding my world view even more widely. If God didn't exist he couldn't have created the universe, so I wanted to know who or what did. I read widely on the topic of creation, cosmology and evolution until I felt I had a reasonable understanding of a better explanation for how I came to be here than the simplistic one Christianity offered. I found many inconsistencies in Christian doctrine that I'd been prepared to overlook before, and realised how naïve and closed-minded I had been. It was fascinating to consider that a universe like ours could spring into existence in an uncaused quantum mechanical event without a God behind it. I found it remarkable that the very brain we use to ponder the question of the origin of the universe is a product of that same vast, incomprehensible universe. Little wonder ancient people came up with the notion of a God to explain so many things they couldn't understand. As an engineer, I'd always had a great respect for science and now this considerably outweighed my diminishing respect for religion. I felt fortunate to live at a time when we understand so much more about the world around us than the people who wrote the bible did.

Around the same time I was going through this faith crisis and relationship breakup fallout, I switched jobs in the hope of finding more inspiring work. A few years later, I was thoroughly burned out. I quit full-time work with no idea where to head. I started my own consulting business, which was fun for a while but my heart wasn't really in it. I had been passionate about computers for much of my life, but looking back I can see that in a way I was just avoiding the pain that I felt in relationships with people. Being highly sensitive and insecure, I hurt easily and criticism from other people stung deep. Computers didn't do that to you. But you can't relate emotionally to one either, so something inside me was being left unfulfilled. I became more and more interested in personal development work, emotional healing and finding deeper ways to connect with other people. I began exploring art , music, dance, theatre, writing and other creative endeavours now that I wasn't working.

Giving up the belief system behind Christianity was one thing; reversing the deep-seated emotional impact that its teaching had on my neurology was another. It wouldn't be fair to blame Christian teaching entirely for my chronic low self-esteem, since most of that was probably inherited from my parents and goes back several generations. Christianity just reinforced this dysfunction with it's notions of sinfulness, the need for salvation, labelling pride a sin, shame about sex & sexuality, and avoiding dealing with the finality of death. Over the years since declaring myself an atheist, I've healed many pockets of emotional damage deep in my psyche that held me back from being free to be my true self. This is a work in progress, and I'm not yet where I want to be... but I'm on the journey.

The underlying issues that make us want to bow down to a God that someone else invented don't just go away simply because you recognise that man made God in our own image, rather than the other way around. I still have a fairly deep sense of powerlessness, unworthiness, not being good enough and shame about who I am and what I want from life. Gradually this is being healed through meaningful, emotionally open relationships with loving people who don't have an agenda of spreading the Christian gospel.

I've often felt that I lived in a prison of my own inhibitions, and now I'm doing whatever I can to break out of that cage: acting courses, public speaking courses, spiritual, emotional & sexual healing courses. I'm making inroads into the heavy layer of guilt, fear and shame I still carry from my past. I realise that people respond to me in the way they do because of the way I communicate, so I'm learning new ways of communication which are more powerful. My self-image is gradually changing in the process, but it doesn't happen overnight. I'm aware that many people suffer the effects of religious indoctrination and may never overcome it, but I figure that so long as I'm alive, there's hope.

I sometimes wonder whether people are happier when living in reality, or when living in denial; if they're happier in reality, why do so many choose to live in denial? Research shows that religious people tend to be happier on average than those who don't believe and the most obvious payoff is the connection you get with other people from living in a faith community. I'm a little less attached to being right nowadays, but authenticity is still important to me. I can't profess a belief that doesn't ring true to me. On the other hand, I've believed plenty of negative beliefs about myself which feel true but actually aren't really, for a long time. Now I'm gradually letting them go. I'm also connecting more deeply with many people outside of the narrow and often judgemental confines of christendom, and I no longer feel the need for a church community to sustain me.

I now believe that human nature is not as fundamentally flawed as Christianity suggests. We are not going to hell if we don't repent, and never were. Believers are not going to heaven either. Jesus didn't die for our sins, and we don't need salvation. That anxious feeling of abandonment that we all get at times, which Christians relieve by believing in a loving personal God, can be relieved more fully by healing the emotional wounds which cause the anxious feeling in the first place. Connecting with other real, live people helps too; it just requires better social skills. The relief from guilt and shame that we get be believing in redemption via Jesus can be felt more permanently by finding less judgemental people to hang around with until we learn to forgive ourselves, take responsibility for our lives, and make amends for the things we regret. This is better because it goes deeper, it's based in reality, and you don't take on someone else's control agenda ending up with more guilt and shame in the process. The feeling of connectedness we gain from communities with strong us-and-them boundaries defined by doctrinal differences can be gained by learning to communicate with people from the heart, and finding social groups defined by something other than a common belief system that must go unchallenged. All these things are more difficult initially, but ultimately more rewarding than importing an invented belief system into your life wholesale.

Giving up the belief system of my childhood was hard, but it's one of the most important things I've done to be more true to myself. My family are mostly still church-goers and I'm something of the odd one out; letting go of the need to fit in has been difficult and speaking the truth in front of them still causes me anxiety. The great challenge for me remains overcoming the sense of guilt, fear and shame I inherited while growing up. Connecting with loving, supportive, non-judgemental people is helping, as is speaking out against religious indoctrination.

I think the antidote to all forms of bogus religiosity, from conservative Christianity to Islamic terrorism, is education. Fighting deeply entrenched religious beliefs head-on just reinforces them and causes further division. We need to give everyone a better understanding of how our brains work and why we are susceptible to taking on superstitious beliefs in the first place.

Ultimately discerning the truth has been the most liberating thing I have done in my life, and I am tremendously glad that I am travelling this difficult and rewarding road. I no longer bow in submission to a God that doesn't exist, but there are still relics of cultural, religious and emotional baggage to deal with. Although I would no longer turn to it as my first port of call, there is still some wisdom in the bible: as Jesus is reported to have said, “The truth will set you free”.

I'm interested in your story too... please leave a comment with your thoughts.

About Graham

I combine trauma awareness, emotional healing and comedy to heal painful events from your past, so you can live a future life you love.
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45 Responses to How (and Why) I Went From Christian to Atheist

  1. Duksoo says:

    Hi Graham,

    Totally agree with you !!
    I am trying to rid myself of guilt which I wouldn't have felt If I wan't a Christian.

    It's a big shame that religious belief make people feel guilty of doing what is absolutely normal from a scientific angle. (ex. Eating certain food, feeling sexual desire)

    All the best, Graham.

    • Graham says:

      Yes, the guilt thing can sure be a challenge. I'm curious what you're finding helpful for dealing with it?

      • Duksoo says:

        What a quick response!

        First of all, I kept myself away from all Christianity-related materials (ex. listening to sermons, reading bible & religious books).

        Then I tried to behave as freely as I can within the legal boundaries.

        Soon, I realized that nothing bad happens to my life even if I do things that the bible defines as sins and not just me but all human beings have lived, live and will live this ordinary life.

        It was my thought which makes myself suffer from a guilt complex. I simply let the thoughts go and an inward peace was restored.

        This took time but turned out to be definitely worthy. Even now a lot of people are consumed with guilt for what they've read in the bible.

        If they still feel uncomfortable trying what I have done in order to release themselves from feeling a sense of guilt just because they do not want to displease God, I strongly suggest them to personally ask God through prayer whether what they are about to do would make him unpleasant or not as God himself urges us to do so(James 1:5). What if God does not response? then that they find a perfect reason not to feel guilty =)

  2. Ellen says:

    I'm sitting on the fence - and your story is so remarkably similar to mine.. For a while I thought you were writing my story - as many troubled and doubtful Christians feel the same away. I wonder about all the hocus pocus. But then how do we justify prophecies.. How does science explain someone telling your past when you haven't uttered a word about it?

    • Graham says:

      Hi Ellen,

      Thanks for your comment!

      Our brains are wired to match patterns, and they do it unconsciously. Being able to quickly notice coincidences in order to recognize potential danger is an evolutionary survival strategy. We notice and remember seemingly significant matches, like being told accurately about our past; yet we don't notice and easily forget the things that don't match, like all the times people have said something that didn't match our past. Our unconscious also loves to make up stories and connections between things. Biblical prophecies are always vague, such as the old testament prophecies about Jesus which fail to mention basic information like his name. Our brains (or the brains of theologians and preachers) love to invent retrospective connections that aren't real. When survival is at stake, it doesn't matter that the pattern matching mechanism throws up a few false positives; that's better than missing a potential threat that would have killed our evolutionary ancestors. This all operates on an unconscious level, so it's important to remember that the feelings we get when someone seems to know things about us that they can't possibly know is an illusion.

      Cheers, Graham

  3. W says:

    Aside from the baseless historical claims that christianity declares absolute certainty about, its greatest poison is that its followers are obliged to think all humanity deserves eternal damnation.
    What damage must it cause a child who internalises that this is what their ‘loving christian’ parents think of them?

  4. angelo says:

    Hi graham,

    I am an atheist working in a christian company, and the way they integrate their church teachings and practices in the office makes me uncomfortable and unmotivated everyday. The thing I fear about is losing my job if I confess or be judged according to what I believe. As an introvert, it was a big struggle for me to cope up with what they do and what they teach. Im planning to leave but still I have a project to handle for at least 4-6 months or so, and also to support my family is my number 1 priority. I have been handled with respect by the company and I have nothing against them. It is just that I might broke their trust on me if I told them who I really am. I am in a messed up position to decide what to do. I hope I can get a few advice from you.

    • Graham says:

      Hi Angelo,

      I appreciate that you're torn between supporting your family by keeping your job, and being authentic about your beliefs. Given that your work environment seems reasonably supportive aside from the impact of your colleage's religious differences, my suggestion would be to recognise the child-like vulnerability in your christian colleagues. Remember that a lot of religious belief is based in fear, especially the fear of death which we often prefer to avoid confronting. See if you can recognise the vulnerable inner child in your co-workers: In the same way that adults don't like to spoil children's beliefs in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and fairies, try not to spoil your colleagues' belief in God and Jesus. They'll grow out of it when they're ready. In the mean time remind yourself that you don't need their approval for your beliefs. I think a lot of religious proselytizing (by both theists and atheists alike) is about insecure people wanting to shore up their own belief systems. The more security you can build in yourself and your own beliefs, the less messed up you will feel about being surrounded by people who see the world very differently, and perhaps have an unspoken agenda to convert you.

      If you want to talk more about this, please drop me a line.

      Cheers,
      Graham

  5. Rachael says:

    That moment you talked about, the fear of this life being it? I'm there. Im still sitting on the fence, I guess. Torn between the fear of going to hell and the fear of wasting my life. I thought I could live sitting on the fence indefinitely, but now I'm laying in bed next to a toddler whose spiritual future is in my hands. Now, I go to hell, he goes to hell. It's up to me to decide what my son believes. And honestly, if there IS a God, I'm pissed off that he put my beautiful, perfect sons eternal life I'm MY stupid hands. That's so unfair!
    I know I can't expect anyone else to have all the answers, but if there is anything you can tell me, I'd really appreciate it.

    • Graham says:

      Hi Rachael. I hear that you're afraid of getting this choice wrong; and while that was scary enough when it came to your own destiny, the thought that you could adversely impact your son's eternal future is really freaking you out. Recognising the absurdity of the idea that a loving God could consign someone to hell for all eternity for getting this choice wrong was one of the final straws that helped me to break free of the whole charade. The truth is that it's up to your son to decide what he believes, not you. I appreciate that the fear of judgement about being right or wrong is intense right now, but I believe that once you work through it you'll come to much richer experience of life than you can possibly get from fairy tales based on an afterlife. Then you'll be in a much more confident place to guide your son to the truth. I believe you're on the right track, and would be happy to talk to you in person about it if you'd like to drop me a line. Cheers, Graham

  6. Claire says:

    I have had a very simular background. I grew up in care in the UK. I was brought up in the church and it became my life. Not only was I left with more questions than answers I always knew that what I'd grown up believing didn't feel right. Never did God speak to me through all my begging prayers asking to show me the truth. And the more I read the bible the more I thought wow! The contradictions where huge and plentyfull. One thing I can not get away from is how its prophecies of end times is happening now and can't be argued. However there is lots misinterpreted quotes and words that didn't exist in the days the Bible was so called written in it I'm thinking maybe it's not as old as we are really led to believe. Thanks for sharing.

    • Graham says:

      Thanks Claire. I think every generation who reads any end-times prophecies probably thinks "It's talking about the situation now!", as though that's remarkable. Until they realize that there have always been wars, famine, plagues etc etc. It was going on when the prophecies were written; that's where the prophet got the idea in the first place. Cheers, Graham

      • Claire says:

        I understand that. I was thinking more of the waters and seas turning red. Spoken of in Revelation. That's only been going on a few years hasn't it?

        • Graham says:

          Well, the meaning of prophecies is always open to interpretation. That's why they're always vague and non-specific. I believe water pollution has been around since long before the biblical prophecies about it. For example, Moses crossed The Red Sea a long time ago. Cheers, Graham

  7. Carley says:

    Hi graham. Thanks for sharing your story! I went through a similar process. It was long, painful, confusing and scared the crap out of me! As I live in a conservative town I feel as though it is easy to stumble upon religion and church but there is nowhere to look for a different story, or real answers to questions that aren't denying the real truth. I wish I had read this during my journey rather than after but I'm glad it is here because perhaps it can help other people along. Great job, cheers.

  8. Willie DeJarnette says:

    Please don't let "Satan" change the way you were always taught. You are looking for things to be right here on this earth. Jesus never promised you that. He said He will go and prepare a place for you. I will be praying for you. It is not too late.

    • Graham says:

      Muhammad offers an even better deal in the after-life. But these promises are empty because they never get fulfilled. This life right here on this earth is the only one you get. It is not too late for you to make the most of it. Cheers, Graham

  9. I became a member of Grayson Freewill Baptist Church, and it wasn't long before "Brother Derrick" was leading the congregation in prayer before Sunday school services. I was pretty nervous the first couple times, because I don't like speaking in crowds. However, it did get easier, and I didn't mind hearing my name called out to lead the morning prayer. It was also my desire to one day become a Sunday school teacher, so I tried to learn as much as I could from my teacher. That dream would never come to pass.

  10. Brandii says:

    I am having trouble with my religion right now.. and this didn't help me... I don't know what to believe and its annoying. You are brave though, and I love your story.

    • Graham says:

      Hey Brandii, thanks for stopping by. In my experience, the most important thing is learning to develop and trust your intuition and what your feelings are telling you. Then you can let go of needing to be right about what you believe, and this will set you free. If you'd like to chat over Skype or email, let me know. Cheers, Graham

  11. Muriel says:

    I agree with everything you feel and I believe that you are probably on a journey inspired by God. But here's a thing, what about people who experience a lot at conversion. When I became a Christian I had personal one to one communication with a saviour who lowered himself to stand beside me and because of that vividity I cannot therefore every deny he exists. Now further to that I've had 2 divorces (both with christians), I came from a very broken home and 40 years later still trying to come to terms with the long term scarring. I have few friends, (mostly my fault), have been rejected by christians over and over again for being different - not fitting in. I am an open/sharing person and when I believe in something I don't shilly/shally. At the moment (I moved home a year ago, which I believe was God's will), I'm going through a v. difficult time finding a church that operates on an equal male-female basis and is warm and consistent. I have turned away from God many times because of hurts but when I have turned back he welcomes me home unreservedly. He is still dealing with me and I am still sinning but I believe this is part of the christian walk. People are always quoting text when they come up against a sinner to me there is no one rule. In my walk with God, he takes our whole personalities into perspective and moulds his theme around us. Good families do not give up on one another because of differences I would urge you to keep putting God to the test alongside your explorations, Furthermore, God is outside our dimensions. If the bible says he created the world in 6 days He did because he can do anything outside of time. We must see Him as the God of the Spirit which is not understood by natural mind. If I can still believe in Him after everything and if He can still care for me after all. I have put Him to the test so many times and experienced His love. I'm sorry I'm testing your'e patience her, and why? because one day (like me), you may desperately need help that cannot be found or you may be too helpless to find for yourself that help - if you are His then He will never let you go - you could say He waits, He is very patient but not forever.The Christian life is lonely - other christians often don't seem to care they all have their own agendas so God wants people like you and me to be there for others - that I suppose is the endgame.
    CHEERS.

    • Graham says:

      For me, dramatic conversion experiences are a testament to the power of emotional healing and the creative imagination in our subconscious, which we are often out of touch with; especially after going through the western education system and given the pressures we often feel both as children and adults, to conform to a societal mold. The thought of a loving God who truly cares for us and "lowered himself" to our level is particularly compelling when we feel bad about who we are. Dreams, visions and sensory-based perceptions generated in our brains create our view of reality. The emotional healing we get from imagining feeling truly loved, perhaps for the first time, is undeniable. I believe this is why the Christian message of love and forgiveness is so compelling and popular even though I don't believe the God behind it exists. Love comes from within ourselves, and from other people. The authors of the Bible just didn't realise that. All the more reason why I agree with your suggested endgame: to be there and care for each other. Thanks for your comment.

      • Muriel says:

        Hello Graham, thanks for replying. It seems you have built up quite a fortress for yourself against any light that might come piercing through a chink. Yes one reads all that you have said the info which is found in many self-help books the world is littered with. I too have done a lot of therapy, studied psychology, laughed with philosophers it is all very interesting. The funny thing is that when God converted me my life was very very good I was not searching nor did I believe I had a need for anything else neither had anyone informed me that I needed to be saved Jesus came to be and put it all in my heart and I didn't wake up thinking how wonderful I woke up in torment knowing there was something wrong. I'm sure I cd have directed my subconsciousness more positively? I had tremendous friends then and a very satisfying life. I mentioned when I was converted it was an amazing experience I think I am entitled to say that that and other experiences I have are certainly not from my subconscious imagination. I have never in my life been moulded nor have I ever conformed. I had a very unusual childhood which allowed me great expression and my schooling was explorative. 'Being moulded for me would mean listening to the general opinion of the world. I am reminded by yr reply of that beautiful passage you will know it when Nicodemus goes to Jesus at night to talk to him secretly and Jesus explains that spiritual things belong to the spiritual. As a writer you must surely be open to the supernatural. I finish by saying that C.S Lewis before his conversion often wished that there was a God. Faith is God's gift but I daily have to practise it and God reveals Himself to me in unexpected ways that are always so out of the ordinary.Peace to you Graham

        • Graham says:

          Hey Muriel. I don't question your experience; just your interpretation of it. We routinely underestimate the power of our subconscious, because we're not conscious of it. Have you ever felt an emotion without really knowing why? That's your subconscious; and it's just the tip of the iceberg. Without understanding this, spiritual people attribute many things to the supernatural; when really they're just a result of how our brains work. I appreciate that this idea is unpopular with believers with an emotional attachment to a God; this has been part of my story in the past too. But ultimately I like to think that the real truth is what sets us truly free. I'll finish with my favourite Douglas Adams quote: "Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?"

          • Muriel says:

            Hi Graham, fairies are way beyond my imagination but the question remains and I have to ask it what about your sin. Our moral conscience (as I'm sure you know) is Godly and by ourselves we have no power to deal with our sin we are defenceless against it. Before we have anything to do with God we are not very aware of it. Do you ever ask yourself if you are not being blinded now by another force which is more confortable as in conforming. Remember what the bible says about cleverness and God does not hold the wisdom of the world as something worth aiming for. Jeremiah 10 v12.to 14. In verse 23 he says it is not for man to direct his steps-our life is not our own. The greatest service I can do for someone is pray for them. Love comes only from God the creator of it. It is necessary to mention these things but painful to me as I can understand partly where you are - I too have a long history of living my own way it is less painful.

  12. Austin Parry says:

    An awareness that has just come up.
    I remember in my time in the Church as a minister, (Non conventional). when someone would say that they did not believe in god.

    My response was, "There is a very good chance that I don't believe in the god that you don't believe in."

    Always opened the door to see the myth that had been literalised.

  13. Austin Parry says:

    Hi Graham,

    I honour and acknowledge you for your willingness to journey through this area of faith, as well as Religious Belief.
    I am not going to say too much except to question that you seem to have replaced one form of absolutism with another.
    From my studies it appears to me that the original Christian ideal (which I don't have any issue with) has been clouded with much religious institutionalism which fairly early on became caught up in the absolutism I mentioned in the last response. (Over a long period of history, the human brain found that the more secure it made its position, the more power it had.
    As the leaders saw their truth, they then became caught up in arguing their truth with other peoples version of it. The powerful ones won.
    It is interesting to see that initially nothing was provable it was all experiential, subjective. That was taken and told as the one answer for all.
    You could say atheism was now seen as evidence based, logical, analytical. The issue with that approach is that there is a growing awareness in the world that there are things that are beyond the explanation of a purely left brain cognitive.
    Maybe it could be explained that just as christianity moved beyond the experiential and got caught up in absolutism, moving from this is my experience and its effect in my life to this is categorically what everyone must believe. Atheism got involved in rejecting the experiential claiming that it was not evidence based.
    For my position both commit the same fallacious arguments. Both are attempting to define what is better called as mystery, in absolutist term of it does or does not exist.
    To me it is as impossible by scientific academic processes to define the existence of a god than the non existence of one.
    Both ism's are at the fault of attempting to affirm or deny an individuals intrinsic right to experience their experience as real for them and rather telling them how they ought to experience it, rather than attempting to assist them to come to a deeper awareness of the significance of that experience for them.
    This is why coaching is so brilliant. The coach does not tell the client what their experience means, instead they assist the client to come to that deeper understanding for themselves, without judgement.
    The spiritual journey is not a club/group/institutional thing. It is humanities individual search for his or her meaning and significance in this universe.
    Sort of the heroes journey again where each individual goes out, comes to terms with their mythologies, questionable beliefs and experiences and returns a changed person, ready to go out again and redo the process learning and growing through the process.
    Most institutions that work from a position of moralism and absolutism deny humanity it intrinsic right to find out for one's self.
    Once again thanks Graham for challenging yourself and others to rethink the way we do life.

    • Graham says:

      Thanks Austin. There are so many interesting points in your comment, I don't think I can do it justice right now. Perhaps I have gone from one extreme to another, but I didn't like being in that murky fence-sitting I-don't-know state of agnosticism. The appeal of the scientific approach for me is that it attempts to deal with our brain & senses' abilities to generate subjective nonsense and believe things whether real or not. Ironically I'm actually working on developing my right-brain creativity; but I wouldn't like to use what it comes up with as the basis of a belief system. I think I'll have to write more about this some other time though!

  14. What a confident , brave and enlightening discussion on your life's journey, Graham. The depth to your discussion is most impressive. You have stepped way out of your comfort zone to find where you feel you fit in. Not bowing to society's expectations and going along your path to discovery is amazing.
    There are some questions you raise which could be debated. However, we are all different and we are all on paths to discovery and growth plus need different things for that development.
    Your overview of your life's journey so far is so honest, open and engaging.

  15. Anthony says:

    A very interesting story and perspective. As someone with a similar background to you in white middle class Australia with a family with a similar backgound and disfunction to yours though quite a bit younger I am most interested in your journey. This is mainly because I am doing my journey in reverse. I am an atheist turning into a christian. I share similar doubt and feelings to you. I am learning to accept the comfort that religion gives me, though this is not something I share with others. Thank you for shedding light on many aspects of my own personal journey through your direct, honest and personal blog.

  16. Jonatan Kelu says:

    Ditto for most of that, as usual 🙂

  17. Murray Dwyer says:

    Hi Graham

    Thanks for making the effort and having the guts to share some of your more difficult life experiences. I really enjojed the read.

    Sadly, I fear it's an all too common story!

    Onward and upward my friend!

    Muz

  18. Trina says:

    I have so many questions that I wish we had a phone conservation planned. Thank you for being brave enough to share this.

  19. john says:

    Graham,

    Your blog was very well written and took alot of courage, I applaud you for this. I'll start off by saying I am a Christian, believe fully in God as creator, however, I do agree with you there is alot of things in the church that don't add up.

    I'll share a few examples. I was attending a men's bible study for several weeks, (about 8 men), and at that time I lost my job. One night during the study I mentioned I was writing a book and public speaking, not one person asked a single question like "what is the book about, what do you speak about?", nothing, it was as if I spoke to an empty room.

    I interviewed a pastor for inclusion in the book, he sent me his Master's thesis, I replied with compliments of his work, he never responded back. Not even a thank you for my compliments or anything about my book, I sum that up with one word, arrogance.

    I see this time and time again, I get more love and sincerity from quote "non-christian" friends then those in the church, (I am 45). I could write pages of examples and these are the people that should be on the other side of the spectrum. The arrogance and "clique" mentality has be doubting as well.

    There are stories in the bible I wrestle with too, like the men being struck dead simply because they stumbled when carrying the Ark of the Covenant, God favoring certain people (I thought we were all on a level playing field) so if the creator favors certain people, it reminds me of gym class where the weaklings like me were the last to be picked. Sorry I wasn't born in the royal lineage, so I guess I don't get the "favor" badge.

    While these issues cause me to question, intuitvely I believe there is far to much complexity in nature for "mere chance" to have brought it to fruition, just watching the ultrasounds of my children prior to their births signifies that for me. That being said, I am not sure myself that the way things are presented in the bible really are practiced by "the church" and that in some respects, it all results in more questions then answers (i.e. it was ok for Solomon to have multiple sexual partners but then along the timeline it all changed, that one always baffles me).

    Thanks again for your heartfelt blog, it struck a nerve, (in a good way!).

    Sincerely,
    John

    • Graham says:

      I can relate to your comments about arrogance. Underneath arrogance lies fear. It's frightening to question deeply held beliefs so many people don't want to listen when we start asking "Is this book really what people claim it to be?". Great to connect with you. Cheers, Graham

  20. Nikki says:

    Thank you for sharing this Graham. I have been avoiding this subject for about 10 years now, one thing I do know , however , is that my life has been richer for having met you and I'm glad that your journey included youth group and that our paths crossed then and now. : )

  21. Lou Lou g says:

    Really enjoyed reading this Graham!
    You're a brave man n hats off to you.
    Lou x

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