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About Deviant Evan27/Male/United States Group :iconindispute: inDISPUTE
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Lived, learned, and loved.

This is a second account where I feel safe being involved in the LGBT community. My main account is :iconeternalgeek:. However, I ask you to please, PLEASE not discuss LGBT topics there or link anything on that account back to this one. This is my alias where I can be safe in who I am. Thank you for your understanding.
  • Mood: Miserable
Mama, Daddy, I am truly sorry that you have left me.  I will always miss you.  I will always wish that you would choose to want to know me again.  And I will always appreciate the things you did for me that helped me become the man I am today... with all of my strengths and flaws.  There will be many things I will remember fondly and many things that I will not be able to recall without tears or pain.  I cannot say at the end of this "it was all for the best."  Nor can I say "this was meant to happen for a reason."  All I CAN say is "this happened" and "this changed me" and "this was part of my journey to being the man I am today."  And I suppose that is all the closure I can hope for, and I think in the end, it will be enough.  I hope that you have found or will find some closure as well.  I hope that you will live on in peace and heal as well.  I hope that you find fulfillment in your own ways as I have found mine.  I hope that you never forget how to love me, as I will never forget that I love you.  And I hope that you can be happy in this life and whatever may come next.  I hope that, if there is another life, we can start over there and find our family again.  But if not, know that I still carry pieces of you with me and I always will.

Love, Evan


Part 7

One long story later, I have finally reached the end. So far, there have been three points I wanted to bring home. First is that I was a born-again Christian; my faith was not fake or shallow, and it was deeply important to my life. Second is why I did not leave the faith. It was not because I wanted to sin, it was not because I was mistreated by Christians, and it was not because I disagreed on a specific doctrine or denomination. Thirdly, I wanted to drive home that why I did leave the faith: because I found so little evidence to support it that I was physically incapable of believing anymore.

So what’s left? In this last part, I want to tell you what I love about being faith-free. I want to tell you how losing belief in god behind made me a better, kinder, more moral, and more whole person. There are many wonderful things about being a non-believer, but I’m going to list my four favorites.

1) My ethics and morality belong to me now. Back when I believed in god, even a progressive-Christian god, I believed that morality was defined by him. The goodness and badness of thoughts and actions were god-given attributes. As such, no matter what methods I used to define my own ethics (scripture, prayer, experience, observation, compassion,etc), I always felt that I was guessing at someone else’s mind. I was constantly glancing sidelong over my shoulder like “did I guess right? Is this the right one?”

This had several negative effects. First, it demotivated me from developing my own personal set of ethics. After all, they weren’t really my ethics, they were god’s, and I was just trying to figure them out rather than actively developing them myself. Furthermore, it increased my feelings of guilt for moral failings while simultaneously reducing my initiative to right my own wrongs. The fact that I felt I was sinning against god was a distraction from the harm that I might be doing to actual people, and trying to seek forgiveness from god took my focus away from trying to make things right with other human beings. Finally, I value my ethics and morality much more now that I am a non-believer because they are mine. They are a work-in-progress, shaped by my experiences and observations and constantly open to scrutiny and revision, and deeply personal. I created them, I take responsibility for them, I own them, not god, and not anyone else.

2) I don’t have to forgive people who wrong me. Evangelical Christians are probably clutching their pearls right now, but I don’t care. There is such freedom in being able to determine one’s own thought-life, and the Christian commands to forgive are a huge impediment to that. It turns the attention and burden off of the wrong-doer and onto the injured party. Rather than being allowed to reach my own peace and process grief and healing at my own pace, Christianity demanded that I must immediately forgive abusers, regardless of the abuse, and regardless of their own repentance. If I retained any anger, that was a sign that I was at fault. Indeed, not absolving an abuser of their sins is often treated as a worse crime than the abuse. This sort of theology is toxic from top to bottom, and is inevitably used to protect those in power who are harming others. My own suffering under this command was small compared to many, but it was still a wonderful feeling to be able to say “no, I don’t forgive you for hurting me, and I don’t have to. My healing process is more important than your desire to be affirmed and forgiven.”

And in case anyone’s wondering, yes, I have forgiven most people who have done me wrong. But I did it in my own time, on my own terms, without pressure from god, and that made it so much more healthy.

3) I am much more generous. I think this ties in a bit with #1, but it has a few of its own distinctions. When I was a Christian, I was of course encouraged to be charitable and do good deeds. But in a Christian ethical system, the most important thing I could possibly do was “be right with god”. And being right with god was a matter of internal belief and behavior. It had nothing to do with actually doing a lick of good out in the world. Sure, I wasn’t supposed to treat people like shit (and my naturally empathetic nature wouldn’t let me anyway) but I didn’t really need to treat them well either. Kindness, giving, respect, acceptance, and charity were all good, but none of them were necessary the way “knowing god” was necessary. So you can guess which one I spent more time and effort on.

Besides that, removing god from the equation placed me in a position of equality with other human beings unlike anything I had experienced before. No longer was a relationship with the divine competing with my relationship with human beings. And no longer did I have special knowledge or a special relationship with the divine that was not shared by the majority of humanity. Instead, we were all equally alone, equally uncertain, equally mortal, and equally human. That feeling of connection with others tapped into my compassion more deeply than anything I had known before. I felt much less deserving and entitled to the things I had, and much more willing to share them with others. Leaving god allowed me to tap so much deeper into my human potential to be kind, generous, and compassionate.

4) I am finally free. The bible pitches Christianity as a religion of slavery. Before we know god, we are told we are slaves to our “flesh” and to our “sinful selves.” But, although god “sets us free” that is only in the sense of a property transfer. We are told that we are “bought with a price” that “you cannot serve two masters… god and mammon” and that “you are not your own” and you are a “living sacrifice to god.” Your body is not your own, it is a temple to god. Your will is not your own, it is to be brought into subjugation to god. Your soul, spirit, and life are not your own. Even in my most progressive expressions of faith, I did not have full ownership of myself.

Christians always painted being a “slave to your flesh” as a terrible thing, but do you know what I call it? Self-ownership. It means that my life and body belong to me. It means that my choices are mine alone to make and that I alone am responsible for finding meaning in them. It means that I am a free man. And despite the dire implications that this would cause me to succumb to my basest desires, I find I have more self-control now than I had as a Christian. My self-control is motivated solely by my own will and determination, not guilt or external commandments. After all, being free is not the same as being lawless or undisciplined. Only a slave-driver would claim that.

And my spiritual slave-driver is now gone. Thank the god I don’t believe in, I’m free at last.

So, at this time in my life, do I want my faith back? No. I can honestly say, I’m so much better off without god. That doesn’t mean I don’t occasionally miss it. That doesn’t mean there weren’t good things about my life with faith. But leaving faith has made me more moral, allowed me to feel my full range of emotions, made me a more generous man, and set me free. I am a better and happier person without it.

If I was ever offered some evidence compelling enough to make me believe again, I would not reject it out offhand. But I have to say… I’d be a little disappointed. My life without a god is so much better than my life with one. This is the truth. And, as an ancient book once taught me, I will not be ashamed of the truth.
Part 6  

I want to start this part with a disclaimer. Religious belief is upheld in my country as moral and necessary and it's a stigma that non-believers are constantly trying to overturn. Because of this, I want to emphasize that religion is not necessary or good for me. In fact, I am much happier and better off without it. All the same, losing my religion was deeply painful and I am still in the process of grieving it in some ways. I will discuss all of the wonderful things about being free of faith soon. But for now, I want to confess this truth: losing my faith hurt. And that's what this part is about.

You see, I didn't want to stop believing. I desperately wanted god to be real. He had been a part of my life as long as I could remember. He had been my friend, companion, comforter, and someone to rely on. My life, experiences, and personality had all been shaped by my former beliefs (I'm still not sure if in good or bad ways). I didn't want to lose that. I wanted to still believe he was there. I didn't want to give up.

Unfortunately, I had no choice in the matter. I was rapidly learning that we don't actually choose what we believe. Sure, we can choose to go to church and surround ourselves with people who agree with us and repeat our doctrines back to us. We can choose to read scriptures and look for meaning in them. We can choose to pray or meditate. But we can't really make ourselves believe something. I can't make myself believe that the sky is green. I can't make myself believe that the earth is flat. I can't make myself believe that the president is a lizardman. And I couldn't make myself believe that god was real. No amount of saying "I believe it" could trick my brain into accepting something that it knew there was no evidence for.

I was heart-broken. It was like a close friend had utterly betrayed and abandoned me.

And that made me angry. Yes, just like so many Evangelical Christians' wet-dream, I was a non-believer who was angry as hell at god. It's a little odd being angry with someone that doesn't exist. But I was. I was pissed that he didn't exist. More specifically, I was pissed that I had made him a part of my life for so long. I had spent so much time and effor serving, reverencing, and prostrating myself to this god, sacrificing my safety, wants, needs, and health to honor him, following his "leading" and performing his "requests" only to find out he wasn't even there. It was equal parts heart-breaking and humiliating.

Christians trying to re-convert me just made it worse. I was alternately treated like a petulant child or a criminal. As far as they were concerned, I could not possibly have lost my faith due to honest seeking, valid experiences, and years of consideration and examination. No, either I was too stupid to see The Truth (and thus needed to have some more scripture and 1st-grade apologetics beaten into my head) or I was rejecting god out of some sort of malicious intent. Many of them were angry with me for not believing what they believed. My very existence was a threat to them; it was unfathomable that I could have reasonably and rationally come to a point of unbelief. They would stamp their feet and demand that I needed to read more scripture, try this church, talk to this person, read this book, pray more, seek more, and jump through more hoops before I was "allowed" to not believe. I had just finally broken free of their shame-based religion, so it was miserable and infuriating to have more blame heaped on me for it. As a result, I withdrew from Christians and anything church-related as much as possible.

Even so, for a while, I kept hoping god would turn back up. I picked up various different religious scriptures and read through them curious if anything would change my mind. It was fascinating, but ultimately futile. The qur'an was just as trite as the bible, which was just as trite as the ancient Hebrew and Gnostic myths and scriptures I read. Indeed, expanding my religious horizons just reaffirmed my lack of belief as I realized one religion's Truth was no truthier than anyone else's Truth. I sometimes prayed absently, usually starting with "well, I don't think you're really there, but..." It was partly habit, and partly wishful thinking. As expected, nothing happened. Little by little, I grew tired of yelling into an empty room. If god wasn't interested in answering or wasn't there, maybe it was time to stop.

Let me say something to any Evangelical Christians out there: do not dare tell me that I "walked away from god" or "hardened my heart against him" or any other such bullshit. Don't you dare tell me that god is still trying to reach me and I just won't listen. Don't you dare pretend that I'm responsible for the break-down in the "god relationship". I didn't turn my back on god; I chased him to hell and back again. I struggled to hold onto him for years. I only let go at the point where it was physically impossible for me to believe any longer. That might be uncomfortable for you. You might hope that you will have some trite and simple answer for me, like "just pray more" or "just ask god to show himself to you" or "just read these verses" or (most annoying of all) "just believe." Trust me, I tried all of that. I prayed, I begged, I read, and I wanted so badly to believe. But I can't. If god is out there and he wants me to believe in him, he should either give me some evidence of his existence, or he should not have given me a brain that requires evidence for belief. If he's out there, he only has himself to blame for losing me.

Alright, that's enough gloom. Next time I want to talk about what I love about being faith-free.
Part 5

Despite my misgivings, I continued to search for answers.  The more questions I asked, the more flimsy god became.  One after another, doctrines that I had once believed crumbled away under the weight of serious scrutiny.  Hell was one of the first to go, and it's the one that dealt the fatal blow to my faith.

Losing my belief in hell was as simple as reading a 1-sentence argument online.  "Infinite punishment for finite sins is not justice."  That was it.  I am certain that it could not have been my first time hearing some form of this argument but, for the first time, I actually let myself consider it.  For the first time, I realized how cheap and petty the idea of hell was.  The inconsistencies of god's reward/punishment system suddenly became clear.  God loves us, and yet is willing to let us be tortured for eternity rather than giving us a second chance?  God has to send us to hell because he is holy and cannot exist with sin, and yet he has existed with us in our sinful state for the past thousands of years without any sort of spontaneous combustion?  God is just and merciful, and yet thinks that our actions in a 100-year-or-less lifespan are enough to determine our eternal fate?  How did any of this make any sense whatsoever?

Deciding that hell was a bunch of hogwash didn't cause me to stop being a Christian.  After all, Christianity and hell need not go together; it was easy to find expressions of my faith that did not include it.  But all the same, it was a pivotal moment for me to realize that faith had allowed me to be duped by this lie.  Hell, it wasn't even a good lie.  It was a lie riddled with inconsistencies and with a pathetically obvious motive to manipulate and control church-goers.  It was about as realistic of a threat as putting a dollar-store ghost costume on and wiggling my fingers while saying "woooo."  And yet I had swallowed it 100% and allowed myself to be fucked by it just as it was intended.  I had let it so deep into my mind that, even once I realized how silly it was, it still could wake me up in the night, scared shitless.  It made no sense.  None!  What had I been thinking?

If taking things on faith had caused me to abandon good sense so thoroughly, what other obvious lies might I have accepted?  What other inconsistencies might I have papered over with the pretty but flimsy excuse called "faith"?

I decided that simply saying "I believe it" was no excuse to fail to prove my doctrine beyond reasonable doubt.  If something was true, there ought to be clear, impartial evidence for it.  I was not going to be duped again.  My rational mind was finally turned on full-throttle and it couldn't be stopped.  Unfortunately for god, he was no match for it.  No matter where I turned for proof, he failed to deliver.  Proof of Jesus' divinity?  Nope.  Proof that the Christian god is the right one?  Nope.  Proof of god's interference in the doings of men?  Nope.  Proof of miracles?  Nope.  Proof of god's existence?  Nope.  Sure, I could squint and tilt my head and say "if you look at this from just the right angle and say the right things and believe it really, really hard, you can see god there."  But if I looked at it face-on with both eyes open, god vanished into the patterns and complexities of reality.

At my work, I was often the lone skeptic.  I don't mean to say I was the lone non-Christian.  No, the school I taught at was full of astrology-following, Reiki-practicing, modern-medicine-eschewing, conspiracy-theory-believing instructors, both Christian and non (and I loved them, despite my occasional frustration with their strange theories).  I once found myself pitted, almost completely alone, against the entire Massage Therapy department in a debate on the existence of auras.  But I digress.  The topic at hand, one day, was whether or not Reiki was an effective healing tool.  I presented research studies indicating that it was not shown to be effective.  They were quick to counter with personal anecdotes and asked me if I would be open to changing my mind if I tried it and found it to be successful.  "Sure, I'd consider," I said.  "But I don't have any reason to think it would work."

"Well, if you don't believe it will work, then it won't work for you," they said.

"You know, the number one sign of a scam is when you're told you have to believe something is real before you're allowed to see the evidence," I said.

I might as well have been reprimanding myself.  If god was real, why could I not verify his existence independently?  Why did the evidence only appear if I already accepted the premise?  The sunset only looked like god made it if I already believed god made it.  The bible only appeared to be perfect if I already accepted that it was perfect.  God only worked miracles if I already believed he would work miracles.  God only seemed real when I believed he was real.  I was required to trust in the conclusion before I could see the evidence.  It was a scam.

Somewhere around that time, despite desperately wanting him to be real, I stopped believing in god.
Part 4

Where I left off, I had suffered terribly at the hands of anti-gay Christians, but I had not lost my faith. I understood that, while god was supposedly perfect, Christians would fail to exhibit the same perfection. This was not an impediment to belief... it was obvious. However, various Christians' demands that I reach their theological conclusions and my inability to do so did raise some questions. How could I know for sure what is true? It was a huge question, and I was eager to search for answers.

The first possible answer that I tackled was the assumption that Truth would be revealed in scripture, and whatever was most Scriptural was most True. My recent experiences had pulverized this idea thoroughly. Various different pastors, Christians, and myself had all studied scripture and come to different conclusions. Indeed, over the years, many people have interpreted scriptures in many different ways. Modern Christianity bears very little resemblance to ancient Christianity, despite being based on similar documents and events. Even in modern Christianity, there are tens of thousands of different sects, largely differing on interpretations of various scriptures or traditions. Even if one assumed that the bible did theoretically have all Truth within, that clearly wasn't sufficient for humans to actually have a clue what it was saying.

Furthermore, the assumption that scripture ought to be the ultimate authority on all Truth was looking increasingly silly. My sister loved quoting 2 Timothy 3:16 that "all scripture is god-breathed" 'til she was blue in the face as evidence for biblical inerrancy, but at the time those words were written, the bible as we know it did not exist. Did Truth not exist in any clear form until 397 at the Synod of Carthage? Is there any real reason to assume that Paul in the 60's A.D. was referring to a document that would only be officially canonized in another 330 years? It seemed like a stretch. Besides that, saying "the bible says the bible is true therefore the bible is true" is a pretty shoddy argument even by evangelical standards.

The next place to turn was tradition. Could church traditions provide a solid foundation for truth? This one disintegrated immediately. Relying solely on church leadership, whether past or present, seemed like a desperately foolish endeavor. Authority had let me down badly in the past. Could I really trust the decisions and decrees of powerful, political men who lived over a thousand years ago? Men who had obvious failings and conflicts of interest? Men who advocated horrendous crimes and oppression alongside their supposedly "pure" doctrine? Furthermore, considering "tradition" to be truth gave me no guidance on which tradition to follow. Many people claim to trace their traditions back to the early church, but in all likelihood, none of them represent the church of 2000 years ago.

Finally, divine inspiration and interaction seemed like the obvious place to turn for answers. In the past, I had assumed that god had the ability and desire to work personally in our lives, giving us guidance and reassurance. I had lived with a very intimate faith; I talked to god like I would talk to a friend. One of my favorite ways to process my thoughts would be to just take a long walk and talk out loud to Jesus like he was walking beside me. I thought he was listening and, very gently, helping me find my way. I had taken the promises that god could answer prayer literally, even while still admitting that the answer might not look like what I expected.

So when scripture seemed difficult to interpret and tradition was lacking, I had always turned to my "friend" to guide me. But now I was forced to realize that this guidance was lacking. Specifically, many people believed they were being guided, but this guidance often led in different directions. How could I be sure that I was hearing from god and not they? How could I be sure I was not just reacting to coincidences, jumping at shadows, and feeding my own biases?

I questioned many spiritual people about this. All of the answers I got only led me in circles. "Test if the inspiration you feel matches up with scripture!" said the fundamentalists. Well, that's nice, except as I said that the scriptures are not clear about pretty much anything, are subject to 20-bazillion interpretations, and have no real claim authority. "Test if it bears good fruit," said the evangelicals. A nice thought, but "good fruit" is surprisingly subjective. Where some people saw good fruit in my relationship, other people saw prickles and spines. Maybe it was a pineapple. The bible never explains how to deal with pineapples. "If it brings peace and love, it's from god," said the progressives. For a while, I was willing to accept this, but finally admitted it was arbitrary. Why should I assume that god always brings peace and love? Jesus and god, as they are described, were complicated dudes. For every "blessed are the peacemakers", there was a "I did not come to bring peace, but a sword." For every mercy enduring forever there was some god-wrath being kindled. Why should I assume any of the attributes of god are consistent? How could I know which one to expect?

So now, with great reluctance, I began to turn my scrutiny towards even my most cherished memories of my walk and interactions with god. I didn't want to. But I needed to know. Surely they were different! Surely god's truth would still shine through them!

But each one evaporated once I turned the light on them like goddamn vampires. Speaking in tongues? I was 11 or 12 years old, under a lot of pressure to perform, surrounded by screaming adults that were shaking me by the shoulders for hours while I was overheated and dehydrated. It was no stretch to imagine that my stressed and disoriented brain had glitched, inducing a stammering, tongues-speaking experience. The many intense feelings of power and awe that I had attributed to god? All of them occurred while I was either extremely stressed or anxious for help, or else when I was otherwise being manipulated by my environment (music, atmosphere, collective behavior, etc). Even the miracle vision that saved my life occurred at a moment when I was in an altered state of mind, preparing to take my own life. Could I really claim, with any reliability whatsoever, that it was god?

No, I couldn't. Not a single moment that I had shared with my god could actually be verified in any way. All of them had natural explanations that made just as much sense... maybe even more sense. I had been squinting and tilting my head and imagining that I saw Jesus in a piece of burnt toast but, in the end, it was probably just a piece of toast. And it hit me: what sort of god only shows up in ways that, to an impartial observer, doesn't look like god at all?

Probably no god at all.

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HGWizard Featured By Owner Jul 6, 2015  Hobbyist Artist

The British Association for behavioral and cognitive psychotherapies wrote this report, I think you may find it very interesting if you haven't seen this yet! 
EternalGeekExposed Featured By Owner Jul 8, 2015
That is interesting, and I'm glad that there are people out there recognizing these mental health results of religious trauma.
Triska Featured By Owner May 6, 2015  Student Photographer
Come back as soon as you can on dAmn, I have a nice surprise for you! ;)
EternalGeekExposed Featured By Owner May 6, 2015
O_O  I'm a little nervous.
Triska Featured By Owner May 7, 2015  Student Photographer
That's a good surprise! :)
I'll be online in about 2 hours and will try to stay online throughout the day.
slateman Featured By Owner Nov 11, 2014  Professional Traditional Artist
Are you a boy or a girl?
EternalGeekExposed Featured By Owner Nov 11, 2014
I'm a man.  ... why do you ask?
slateman Featured By Owner Nov 11, 2014  Professional Traditional Artist
Your other account says Anna, Female. I was confused.
EternalGeekExposed Featured By Owner Nov 11, 2014
Ah, I see.  I am transgender.  I wrote about it a little here  eternalgeekexposed.deviantart.…
(1 Reply)
AngelasArtArea Featured By Owner Nov 10, 2014  Professional General Artist
Hug Just because.... 
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