“Coming Out”

“Do you believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for your sins and that is your only hope of heaven?”  The question hung in the air…I knew this moment would come.  I actually looked forward to it in some ways.  Pretending to be someone I’m not, is not my strong suit.  I had two choices, lie and make her feel better, or tell the truth and get it over with.

I took a deep breath and said, “No, I don’t believe that–not anymore.”

I expected the anger, the defensiveness. and the hurt.  Even though she was my sister, she was also a staunch Christian and I had basically just told her I was doomed.

“What?!  This can’t be true, why, how, do you realize what you are saying?  Don’t you ever tell mom and dad.  It would kill them.  This is a nightnare!”

I struggled to answer her questions, seeing she was about to lose it, and we were in a very public p;ace. but I was surprisingly calm.  I told her I hoped to never tell mom and dad, that I had never wanted to tell her.

“Do you really want to hear why my views have changed?  Do you want to listen with an open mind or do you want to argue?”  I asked.She said that she really wanted to hear my reasons and would listen with an open mind.  By the way, never believe a hardcore Christian when they tell you that.

I won’t go into the sorted details about the back and forth arguments, which I honestly did not want to engage in, but suffice to say they went nowhere.  How do you have an intelligent debate with someone who says they don’t need evidence, they just simply know that what they believe is true and they would never read or study anything outside of Christianity because they don’t need to and the Bible tells them not to anyway?

She said that she knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that Christianity is true because she feels it to be true.  I reminded her that people from all religions feel that way and asked her if she thought they were right too.  She said that they weren’t; they were deceived.  I let that answer sit there for a moment.  As I looked at her, it was as if I were looking at a pod person or someone who had been hypnotized.  I don’t really know how to explain it.  She then told me that she had never heard of anyone who had been truly born again and then had “turned away.”  I told her that she would be surprised.  The lunch actually ended well, surprisingly.

It was the next day, after she had had time to talk to someone, I don’t know who, that she called me and informed me that what I was dealing with was a “heart issue.”  She wanted me to tell her why I had rejected Christianity, “from my heart, not from my head.”  I was stymied…I finally responded by telling her, I couldn’t do that, because it was my brain that had given me the ability to sort through all the evidence and well, my brain is in my head so…  She proceeded to ask me if perhaps it was because I had taken philosophy at school last semester that I had become confused.  It took everything i me not to burst out laughing.  To be honest, I took philosophy because of my questioning, not the other way around.

She finally told me she wasn’t really worried because she “knows that I’m just going through a phase.”  I calmly, but firmly told her that I was not.  Then things got ugly.  She began to explain to me (loudly), that I was destined for hell if I didn’t “turn back.”  She said that she is going to be my “intervention” and not let up.  She was not about to let me go to hell.  She said that if I thought that all my Christian friends were not going to confront me I was wrong and that I would have to move to another state if I wanted to be left alone.  I felt my heart rate increase–she was pushing all my “fear buttons.”  I asked her to please not do that and to respect my beliefs.  She said she couldn’t do that.  The Bible commands her not to.  I remained calm, but I was shaking.  I asked her if she was going to force me to estrange myself from her.  She said she didn’t care, she would not ever give up.

Let me just stop here and explain that because I come from the same religious background, I completely understand where she is coming from.  A couple of years ago, I would have said the same thing….ugh, I hate that, but it’s true.  She feels it’s her God given responsibility to “save me from the flames.”  I understand it, and at the same time it scares the hell out of me (excuse the pun) because how am I ever going to live my life openly and honestly in the city where I have lived for 20+ years as a Christian?  Right now I’m thinking that will probably be impossible. But, I digress…

Our phone conversation ended with her yelling at me that I will literally burn in hell if I don’t come back to Jesus.  Okay then, bye-bye and have a nice day…..

She called me the rest of the day leaving voice and text messages, I didn’t pick up.  She said she was sorry if– if she had hurt me with anything she had said and that it was all said (yelled) in love.  She hoped I wouldn’t cut her out of my life.  I finally called her back.  She didn’t answer, phew!  I left a message telling her that I only mentioned cutting her out of my life after she had said she will never leave me alone and that the whole, “you’re going to burn in hell scenario did make me feel a bit uncomfortable.”  I accepted her “if” apology.  I love those.  I agreed with her that the subject of religion will be taboo for us from now on, which I think is sad.

So now I have a pretty good idea about how the whole “coming out” thing is probably going to go. I’m already learning from it. So, the next time one of my Christian friends or family members asks me if I believe the only way to heaven is through Jesus Christ, I will say, “Say, have you lost weight?”

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21 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Zoe
    Aug 18, 2007 @ 23:05:58

    Oh joy! Not fun is it? *sigh*

    It’s amazing that it says in the Bible that it’s okay to hound and to stalk a deconverter? Where is that? 🙂 Ask her for chapter and verse.

    I suspect that the next time a family member or friends asks, they’ll alreay know the answer because sister will have informed them and the entire community. Ugh!

    I remember the day I told my sister I wasn’t a Christian anymore. She looked at me with shock and then said, “When did this happen?” She listened carefully and said, “Well I don’t believe I’m a Christian anymore either.” So, my coming-out was a gentler one.

    Although it won’t be easy, at least you have the understanding of where she is coming from. As you’ve said, you were once there as well.

    (((Hugs for you)))…sounds like you handled it very well. Let them do the yelling. Hopefully, she will eventually let up.

    Good to see you writing again.

    Reply

  2. Thinking Ape
    Aug 19, 2007 @ 12:46:43

    “She said she was sorry if– if she had hurt me with anything she had said and that it was all said (yelled) in love.”

    I am not looking forward to this sort of love. My family has known for some time that I have made off-the-cuff remarks about “leanings of agnosticism,” but being an ex-Bible apologist I say enough of the right things to keep them happy – for now. My sister sounds exactly like yours. I haven’t had to go through this yet – she lives on the other side of the continent now, which makes it easier.

    “She then told me that she had never heard of anyone who had been born again and then had “turned away.” I told her that she would be surprised.”

    I suppose she doesn’t spend too much time with people outside of her Christian “bubble,” does she? When she goes online I doubt she checks out freethinkers, atheists, and agnostics’ websites (shameless plug: de-conversion.org, no seriously, she should check out the site – the majority of the community members are ex-“born-again” evangelical pastors, theology students, and “hardcore Christians”).

    Reply

  3. notabarbie
    Aug 19, 2007 @ 19:18:49

    She has already told me that God clearly commands that she save me from eternal destruction…she would probably use those verses that talk about going and confronting the believer and then bringing along a friend, etc., you know the drill. Thankfully, she has kept the news to herself because I asked her to, but I’m not sure how long she can keep that promise.

    I think the hardest thing for me to hear from her, which I didn’t mention in my blog, was the idea that I’m going to harm my children in some way by taking this path “away from righteousness.” She inquired as to how I could raise them to be good and moral without Christ….I guess I’m just going to have to show her. Unfortunately, every error in judgment they make from here on out will be because I have rejected Christianity…I can’t win. It’s not like her kids are paragons of virtue, but that’s just God trying to strengthen her faith of course.

    I know I’ve already told you this, but you being there for me has saved my sanity at times…truly. I hope I can do the same for people who come behind me.

    Reply

  4. notabarbie
    Aug 19, 2007 @ 19:33:11

    TA-
    I have done the same thing, saying what I know believers need to hear to keep them satisfied, but it feels increasingly uncomfortable. I’ve always been one to voice my opinions and just the fact that I’m not saying the same things about religion anymore cause friends and family to question me. I am still determined at this point to play my cards very close to chest unless they back me into a corner I would have to lie my way out of. I can’t do that.

    I thought the very same thing about my sister when she said she had never heard of a born again rejecting Christianity. She is in a Christian bubble like most Evangelicals. It’s comfortable for them. It was for me. I considered telling her about d-c and exchristian, but I frequent those sites and sometimes comment and right now, I don’t want her there. Does that make sense? On ExChristian, the blog Thomas wrote recently was so good. It just summed it all up so simply. I thought of sending it to her, but she really doesn’t want to see. I will point her in that direction eventually though. I love both those sites, BTW.

    Well, thanks for reading and commenting. Only those who have been there can truly understand, eh?

    Reply

  5. Heather
    Aug 21, 2007 @ 09:58:34

    I can’t relate to what you’re going through, as I don’t come from this background. My parents would be fine with whatever religious path I took, because they’d know I put thought into it. My brother is either atheist, Buddhist, or Muslim, depending on what day it is. Given how much he’s studied WWII, it generally leans towards atheist.

    So I’m not sure what help I can provide, other than sympathy.

    But I do know there’s a verse in the Bible where Jesus tells his disciples to go out into towns, and if the towns don’t listen, the disicples are to shake the dust from their feet and move on. Is there any way you could … well, “use” that when talking to your sister next? Or is there any way you can print an article from one of the sites you visit and give it to her? Granted, I’m not sure if she’d actually “read” it in the sense of trying to process it.

    **She inquired as to how I could raise them to be good and moral without Christ….I guess I’m just going to have to show her.**

    This comment isn’t meant to disrespect what you’re going through, or belittle it. It’s born from the frustration that you have to go through this at all without family support, and are essentially under attack, but is there any way you can say you’d raise them to be like Gandhi? He was good and moral without Jesus.

    Reply

  6. notabarbie
    Aug 21, 2007 @ 12:10:56

    Heather,
    Thanks for all your great advice. It helps to have someone from the outside of fundamentalism to give me a different perspective. I really loved the Gandhi comment. I’m going to use that one. It was good.

    Reply

  7. Maria
    Aug 22, 2007 @ 11:03:54

    I got a card from my mom this week. She was trying to encourage me in a rough time that I’ve hit right now after losing my job. She wrote how she was worried that I was slipping into depression and that I should remember where my hope comes from (shout out to the heidelberg catechism) and to keep reading my Bible. She ended the note by saying she was confident that I knew where my comfort comes from. All this after we had a conversation where she encouraged me to find a job that used my God-given gifts instead of one that just paid the bills.

    I hate these conversations with her because either I continue hiding what I really think from her, and in so doing, hurt her less than I already am, or I tell her what I really feel. That if God gave me so many f-ing gifts why wouldn’t he give me a f-ing job? That she doesn’t know what I think, mostly because I’ve intentionally hid it from her. Your story is exactly the reason why I haven’t said anything at all. Why I don’t say “I’d rather you didn’t” when she (or anyone) tells me she’s praying for me.

    I don’t have any wise words. All I can say is that I sympathize and I count you as brave for walking down the road of sharing with your sister.

    Reply

  8. notabarbie
    Aug 22, 2007 @ 12:51:35

    Hi Maria – thanks for your encouragement and you are probably wise not to tell your mom although I know how hard it is to hold your tongue when people say things you don’t believe. As the days have passed, things have gotten better with my sister; at least for now. What I mean to say is that she says that she will keep her emotions in check and try to find common ground in other areas. I hope that happens. It’s a little scary when I think of all my friends knowing–Right now, I’m hoping that never happens, but I do look forward to being stronger and living my life openly and freely.

    Reply

  9. Heather
    Aug 23, 2007 @ 08:16:06

    ** I hope that happens. It’s a little scary when I think of all my friends knowing–Right now, I’m hoping that never happens, but I do look forward to being stronger and living my life openly and freely.**

    I don’t know if this will help or hinder, but this one I can relate to. I have two friends who are evangelical: one is non-denominational, and the other was raised Baptist. They pretty much have the same beliefs across the spectrum, as do their parents. I’ve asked one if she prays for me, and she said she does, “until I come to know the truth.” (I loved the “until” in her statement, as though one day I’d stop being so prideful).

    Their families and other friends share the same belief structure, and some days it is hard being around everyone, because I feel like I have this huge neon-blinking “UNSAVED! UNSAVED! HELL-BOUND LIKE THERE’S NO TOMORROW!!” sign over my head. And I just want to scream that I’m not stupid/blind/rebelling against God, I do have valid reasons for my beliefs, and here’s why they’re all wrong.

    I think part of this comes from the fact that I hate when other people think I’m stupid, and to them, it is stupid to not believe as they do, since everything is “so clear.” This could mean that I’m not comfortable with my own beliefs, except I am — I guess I just want them to acknowledge that I have validity in this, since it’s so important for them.

    So you might not feel this way with your friends, if you don’t care what they think.

    Reply

  10. Suit Lin
    Aug 23, 2007 @ 23:28:35

    Reading your blog has been refreshing and encouraging.

    I am also in a process of asking hard questions about my faith recently, I don’t believe in God as much as I did a few years back.

    Somehow, I don’t have the courage to come out in the open with it. I have this fear that I don’t know what I am doing in life, that without God my life will cease to be meaningful anymore, I am trying hard to stop thinking like that and move on in life. I am only 22 years old, yet I feel so burdened and bitter because of a faith that had promised me joy.

    It was uplifting to know that I am not the only one struggling with how to answer my loved ones about my faith, and whether I will still have friends should I come out of this (I haven’t decided). I fear that I will be lonely and rejected because I don’t subscribe to the same faith that they do, yet I can no longer believe in God just to have them as friends.

    Indeed, it is such a messy divorce.

    Thank you for writing. 🙂

    Reply

  11. notabarbie
    Aug 24, 2007 @ 01:32:20

    Suit Lin:
    A messy divorce indeed… Thanks so much for writing…I wish that I could tell you that you can continue on your journey of spiritual discovery unscathed, but it would be dishonest of me to do that. You will lose friends, but as others have reminded me; were they truly friends to begin with? I can tell you this—you will make new friends and you will find other places for community. This past July I went on an all women’s adventure trip and all the women, but one, were not religious at all. I can’t tell you how freeing and fun it was. I developed new friendships based on human commonality not on religious dogma. As your journey continues, you will discover that you are definitely not alone; not by any means. Be thankful you have begun this journey at such young an age. You have so many years to grow and discover life.

    You are brave and courageous to step outside the religion box and use your mind; I know this because I understand what it takes to do it. I’m going to leave you with a quote that has encouraged me: “The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.”
    Friedrich Nietzsche

    Write anytime and thanks for reading,
    Barbara

    Reply

  12. notabarbie
    Aug 24, 2007 @ 01:36:03

    Heather said: “I feel like I have this huge neon-blinking “UNSAVED! UNSAVED! HELL-BOUND LIKE THERE’S NO TOMORROW!!” sign over my head. And I just want to scream that I’m not stupid/blind/rebelling against God, I do have valid reasons for my beliefs, and here’s why they’re all wrong.”

    Oh man, I can so relate to that! Only those of us who have been there know what that is like. I hate it too and it really does hinder relationships with believers. Who wants to hang around people who think that way about you and they really can’t help themselves…they simply can’t

    Reply

  13. Heather
    Aug 26, 2007 @ 05:32:21

    Thanks, notabarbie. And I am sorry for dumping this on you, when you were probably looking for reassurances. I’m not sure my post did that.

    However, it did give me the opportunity to go “Yes! I can finally relate to an ex-fundamentalist!!” (As in, I have a first-hand experience in one of the areas). Because in a way, based on those friendships I have, I do kind of feel like I’m in your position. Maybe 30% or so, because my family is a “live and let live” family. So I can relate to having this viewpoint, needing to share/talk about it with people, only not being able to because it’ll just be used to exploint one’s vulnerability, and they won’t really listen to begin with.

    Reply

  14. Slapdash
    Aug 28, 2007 @ 09:05:14

    Hey notabarbie, just a note to say I can totally relate. TOTALLY. I wrote about a similar ‘coming out’ experience I had with a family member on my blog (http://slapdashgal.blogspot.com/2007/08/i-ruined-my-moms-vacation-and-maybe.html if you’re interested).

    Keep the faith (har har)… you’re definitely not alone. 🙂

    Reply

  15. notabarbie
    Aug 28, 2007 @ 19:16:46

    Slapdash-

    “Keep the faith” 🙂

    Thanks for commiserating. It’s not ever going to be easy–that’s just the reality of it. Things are better with my sister now, but it is hard knowing that she will always look at me as someone who is less and going to hell if I don’t believe again. How can one make themselves believe something that’s not believable?

    I’m glad my parents don’t know. They were supposed to come out and house sit for my sister and my sister actually got someone else to do it so the three of us wouldn’t have an opportunity to “talk.” My poor sister–

    I loved your blog it was a lot like my experience except it sounds like your mom is not the confrontational type. That’s kind of good in one way, but as I thought about it, if my sister had responded like your mom, it would have been harder. I don’t know about you but it’s easier to deal with anger than tears.

    Hang in there and thanks for reading and thanks for your encouragement.

    Reply

  16. Will, the "good" brother
    Sep 02, 2007 @ 11:13:50

    Excellent post. What makes me sad is that she didn’t yell at me. Maybe my soul doesn’t mean as much as yours?

    Reply

  17. Will, the "good" brother
    Sep 02, 2007 @ 11:46:57

    And to hear you quote Nietzsche is music to my ears. When I think back to when we were younger, and where we’ve gone, it makes me sad to remember those moments where fear took away something that could have been meaningful or beautiful. “You can’t do that, you’ll go to hell,” “You can’t have those thoughts, God will be angry,” “You have to believe in Me or you will suffer for all eternity.” I am so glad that you have decided to take your own journey and decide for yourself how to live your life. It took me several years to rid me of the chains of fear that the church laid on you and me. And I will be there for you as you do the same. You are already well on your way. It’s funny how even though our family is split, I feel blessed that we can become closer as a result.

    The thing that really gets me is the “you can’t lead a moral life if you turn your back on God.” I won’t mention Ted Haggard or Mark Foley (well, I just did) to make the point that morals have nothing to do with what may or may not be in the “heavens” but in our heads. I don’t kill because it’s wrong, not because I’m afraid God wouldn’t be happy.

    Besides, I think I’m probably doing things other than the “Ten Commandments” that would immediately send me to hell, do not pass go, do not collect two hundred dollars, but that’s a discussion for another day.

    And PS, I too am glad that the “other” sis is not on here. Her eyeballs would burst into flames and she would sprout wings to fly to us and convert us with God’s fiery sword. And if you knew our sister, you’d be laughing your ass off at the image.

    Peace and love,

    Will

    Reply

  18. notabarbie
    Sep 03, 2007 @ 21:08:43

    Thanks Will, (my good brother)
    You are so right, being under the threat of hell does cause its own destruction—destruction of free thought, creativity, and just living life to it’s fullest potential. I’ve also noticed, as I have begun my journey to break free from the bonds of religion, just how much it hindered relationships. I think of you and of Robby and then just simply people I have met along the path of my life; there was a wall, put there by me, caused by my beliefs. Robby told me recently that it never mattered how successful he was or what good was doing in his life, if he hadn’t “turned back to God,” it didn’t matter to me. That comment was like a slap in the face, mostly because it was true. I was glad for his success, but all I cared about was him being “saved.” All I ended up doing was estranging myself from my son and hurting him. I know there was a wall between you and me too because there was always this tension of thinking if we ever talked I would have to witness to you and “bring you back,” that you were somehow less because you had “walked away from the faith.” I understand why I thought that way, but understanding it doesn’t lessen the harm it caused, BUT today is a new day and I’m grateful that I am no longer blind and now I’m am working on making things better. So….I’m sorry for not being there for you in the way you needed me to be or supporting you in your life, work, talents, etc. I know that we can move forward from here and we will.

    In spite of the difficulty in de-converting, and difficulty is an understatement; the possibility of building lost relationships makes it worth the struggles that I have and will continue to encounter. I think the holidays will be the best ever this year and I was thinking it would be the opposite.

    The comment about our sis, yes, she would have a melt down for sure…you should have seen her face when she laid out why she believes what she believes and simply because she believes it and I responded with, “well, I believe in the giant spaghetti monster,” she looked like this :-O and then this :-} and then she said something like, blah, blah blasphemy….I think she missed my point.

    Reply

  19. Zoe
    Sep 03, 2007 @ 22:21:59

    Notabarbie and Will…hugs for you both and I need a tissue to dab these tears.

    Reply

  20. Will the bro
    Sep 05, 2007 @ 11:45:39

    Oh the spaghetti monster is a GREAT one! And, you know, I kept myself away from you, too, it’s not all on you. I can be a bit…jerky, to put it nicely…so What I want to focus on, as do you, is where we go from here.

    W

    Reply

  21. Liniasmax
    Sep 14, 2007 @ 10:28:09

    Hey NAB,

    You were right – very touching and eye-opening. I’m glad I came over and read. I may never tell another soul about my “falling away.” – Two people’s enough.

    Reply

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