From Miracles to Atheism: Deconversion of a Charismatic

I grew up in a good Christian home. Both of my parents have always been very loving and caring.  My parents come out of the 1970s Southern California skateboard culture and 1980s heavy metal scene.  Both came to Christ during the Jesus People movement in the late-70s.  My father is now one of three pastors at an average sized, but very prominent Charismatic church in my hometown.  He also runs a venue through the church that hosts mostly secular bands and oversees a skate park that’s run by the youth pastor of the church.  My dad is very relatable, thoughtful and easy to talk to.  My mother is the receptionist at the church office and helps out with the skate park and venue.  She is also very relatable, hard to offend and is a genuine sweetheart. They have always been sort of a second parent and mentor to all of my friends, both Christian and non-Christian. My parents are well known in my hometown community in both the church culture and the local music scene.

I’ve always considered myself a levelheaded individual, but I have this wild imagination that can get the best of me at times and at my worst I become an idealist. I’m naturally observant and tend to investigate everything I get into.  I’m pretty introverted and I’ve always kept to myself.  The friends I make are usually very mix-matched from different walks of life. Befriending different kinds of people in my life has given me the chance to see that there are different personal realities that I may never totally understand, but should always respect and try to learn from.  Growing up in a charismatic home and making friends with people of different religions and spiritual beliefs (or lack of) may be why I have an interest in the supernatural.  I was never too sheltered and had a very long-leash during my adolescent years so it’s safe to say I was raised in a very unorthodox home.

My earliest memories were of going to Sunday school at a small Baptist church that my grandparents were very involved in.  I was probably 6 years old when I accepted Jesus as my Lord and personal savior at a vacation bible school at this church.  My cousin of the same age talked me into it.  I didn’t know what I was doing.  I’m not even sure if I was even able to understand if Jesus was real or not.  But I just went along with everyone’s reality and it became my reality. Being 6 years old it was all I knew.

My parents were part of a small home church in the early to mid-90’s around the time the Toronto Blessing, a charismatic revival that spread to the UK and US, was going on. This was the first time I encountered people drunk in the Spirit, falling over, shaking, shouting, speaking in tongues, praying for healing and prophesying.  I remember finding it funny, but it was church and I was too young to really question everything on my own.

Around 1995 my parent’s home church merged with the church that my dad pastors today.  The spiritual gifts seemed to become a little more intense as the attendance of the church grew.  I never participated in expressing spiritual gifts because it was too weird and intimidating for me, and being more observant and introverted, I never got caught up in emotions with large groups of people.  At this time, Lou Engle, the future leader of The Call, and other charismatic leaders would speak and prophesy over the church.  Lou Engle prophesied and prayed over me once. I was in junior high and started bringing my best friend to church.  Both of us would talk about spiritual gifts and were somewhat skeptical of the whole thing, but trusted the church enough to believe it could be real, because they were genuinely trustworthy people and this was all I knew of Christianity.

In high school I was a good kid.  I didn’t have a reason to rebel against my parents. My parents were the “cool” parents and basically took in a lot of the kids who had a troubled home life.  My dad started leading a youth group on Tuesday nights that brought in a lot of the punks, goths, metal-heads and just about any other alternative subculture you can find in a high school in the late-90s and early-2000s.  As far as spiritual beliefs it was a mixed group of Christians, atheists, agnostics, Wiccans or others’ experimenting with the craft and the occult. Some were there to learn and connect with the Spirit and some to have an excuse to hang out with friends after school. We’d go on camping trips during the summer, snow trips during the winter and we’d go as a group to concerts, etc. This was a very influential time in my life in that I was seeing some of these kids, who I thought to be very level headed, skeptical, rebellious and very angry have these spiritual experiences, cry and have their lives turn around.  Now these experiences weren’t only happening at my church, but also with kids I knew in school. I was still very intimidated to pursue having my own experience with the Spirit. But I trusted that these experiences with the Holy Spirit were very real to these teenagers.

After high school I was in and out of church and in and out of college. I still considered myself a Christian, but basically lived a lukewarm lifestyle and wasn’t living much for Jesus. I was in a touring punk band for four years and primarily hung out with more non-believers than believers.  My band members were more educated, but a little more negative and angry at the world.  They had good questions and arguments against Christianity that really challenged me. At the time I was starting to question my beliefs and played around with the idea of agnosticism, but tried to hold on to some of the good memories because I knew smart levelheaded Christians and I knew that not everyone in the faith healing and Charismatic church culture were fake or totally delusional.

The summer of 2007 was a life changing summer for me.  I just quit the first real job I had that I was working at for the past five years to go on a two month US tour with my band. During the tour I was really getting tired of my band member’s negative attitudes, constant complaining and violence. I was getting pretty depressed during that time because although I kept active in the band, I wasn’t happy with my life.  I would wander off alone before a show just to get away and would read the Bible at night when I was alone sleeping in the van for whatever comfort it could bring me. I was thinking about quitting the band, but felt that this was the only exciting thing really going for me. My band members, at the time, were also my best friends and I had been committed to them the past four years. They knew me better than anyone else, so I wasn’t sure how to go about quitting the band.

Toward the end of the tour I got a call from my dad telling me that a missionary part of Randy Clark’s Global Awakening team came to speak for one night and tell stories of his healings, visions and a third heaven encounter with Jesus during a mission trip in Brazil and impart his blessings on the church. This one night meeting ended up becoming a renewal that lasted a little over the year after church members started seeing gold dust and angel feathers falling from thin air and people were seeing angels and having ecstasies and visions of Biblical characters and their own third heaven encounters.  Other churches around the city started showing up to the meetings and the attendance every night grew.  When I got back into town after the tour I was asked to start working at the meetings every night.

Since I was getting pretty burned out with the band and my life at the time I really took to the meetings. Finally at age 24, for the first time in my life I got caught up in the mass euphoria during a worship set and the mystical testimonies from people being healed and stories of their visions were exciting.  This was the first time I believe I felt the Holy Spirit.  Everyone in the Charismatic circle of churches in my hometown and other churches around California that were catching wind of what was happening believed this to be the next Azusa Street Revival that started the Pentecostal movement in the early part of the 20th century. Others were saying this would lead to another Reformation.  The Lakeland Revival in Florida with Todd Bentley was going on around the same time.  Speakers from all over the US and the world were coming to the meetings to speak and see what was happening.  People like Bill Johnson and his ministry teams from the Bethel church in Redding, California and the ministry teams from Mike Bickle’s International House of Prayer in Kansas City were coming out to minister to us and be imparted with our blessing to bring back to their churches.  Lance Wallnau and other’s part of the New Apostolic Reformation would come and speak of the Seven Cultural Mountains that we as Christians are mandated to influence and have dominion over. Leaders that were part of the Toronto Blessing were showing up to our meetings to help kindle the fire. They were prophesying that these meetings would change the world. They even prophesied and prayed over me saying I would be one to change the world that I was unique and likened me to a young John the Baptist.

We believed what we were experiencing was historic. I wanted to believe it. I really wanted to be a part of something exciting and new. I quit the band and stopped hanging out with them because I felt they were hindering me from my God given destiny. I was on fire. The church and my family were proud that I was finally spiritually coming into my own.

The fall of 2007 I enrolled into a Supernatural School of Ministry to help equip me to change the world with miracles, signs and wonders. I believed that the only way to convince this generation that there is a God was not through preaching or good works, but through a miraculous divine encounter with Him.  At this school I learned how to prophesy over people’s lives, how to get Words of Knowledge, pray for people on the streets, sit still and soak in His presence and just about any other thing you’d want to experience and learn in the Charismatic culture. I was having pretty intense spiritual dreams almost every night, so I started keeping a dream journal to keep track of anything that may be prophetic. Dreams became very important to me. My dream life seemed very spiritually active and I sometimes couldn’t wait to sleep because it was the only way I felt like God was speaking to me.  I was also one of five people at this school that would meet once a week with a New Testament Bible scholar to study the Book of John.  I began prophesying over congregations and would be used for prayer ministries after meetings.  I’d see people healed with my own hands. At times it was hard to believe it. My life was exciting and becoming magical.  I thought this would last forever and there was nothing that could shake my faith.  This feeling didn’t last forever, of course.

After I graduated from the Supernatural School of Ministry I started going through what I thought to be a spiritual dry spell.  The renewal meetings slowly ended after about a year when minster from Randy Clark’s missionary team, who helped spark the renewal at our church, was caught in an adulterous relationship with one of his church members back home in Texas, much like what happened with Todd Bentley around the same time. I stopped working for the church a few months later when I was laid off.  I’d pray and meditate and worship trying to get back the euphoria and God-like presence I felt that year.  I’d have my friends pray for me and would go to any meeting where I knew a person with a prophetic anointing was speaking to try to catch the fire again. My dreams didn’t seem spiritually significant any longer.  I’d pray for people and feel out of touch. I started feeling as though I was fooling myself.  People would still say they were healed or cry when I’d prophecy over their lives, but my mind was beginning to reason that maybe we were all fooling ourselves and it was all a hysteria. I’d look back at old journal entries and I was able to reason away some of the healings and prophetic words I wrote about that seem to have come true. I’d just pray and ask God to keep me from being too skeptical and to help keep me close to Him.

One night me and a friend of mine, who I’d go out and pray for people on the streets, found out about a member of a church we recently ministered to that was in a coma in the ICU at a hospital across the street from the apartment I was living in.  It was just after midnight, so my friend and I walked into the hospital and snuck into the man’s room.  He was laying in his bed, totally unconscious with tubes and wires and whatever else is used to keep somebody in a coma alive.  I don’t remember how he ended up in a coma, but he was an old man.  We laid hands on him and started praying and speaking life into his body trying to raise him from this deep unconscious sleep.  We really believed for and wanted a Lazarus experience for this old man. We’d hear stories of people in Africa and Brazil being raised from the dead, so we thought we could wake this man from his coma by the power of God because we were God’s children and we had His healing hands. It wasn’t time for this man to die.  We prayed hard and we prayed in faith. I needed to see this miracle because I was losing my own faith.

We said “Wake up from this coma!” in the name of Jesus. We spoke with authority and declared that he will live to proclaim this miracle from God because Jesus loves him and Jesus defeated death on the cross. There is no death in Heaven, so on Earth as it is in Heaven we commanded him to live.

Nothing happened that night.

A couple days later I asked my friend how the man was doing and he said he came out of his coma.I told this story to the church believing maybe God healed him on His own time.  The story got a lot of cheers and praises.  I later found out the man never came out of his coma and died a few weeks later.  I don’t know if my friend got some wrong information or just lied about this man coming out of the coma, but this is why I began questioning every miracle story I heard, no matter how trustworthy a person was. I also started noticing some of the people I’d go out with for street ministry would embellish or exaggerate their healing stories and prophetic testimonies to the congregation.

My beliefs were unraveling heavily and I noticed that a lot of the people who were broken beyond repair were still praying for a miracle healing from God no matter how much prayer they went up for.  The only “healings” I noticed were from injuries or pains that were small enough to go away on their own within a short time or through the release of dopamine and endorphins during prayer. Those who claimed they were healed from more serious problems always seemed to come back later with the same problem saying the Enemy was attacking them again.  Prophetic words over the church and over individuals were not coming true. I started seeing unintentional cold readings during prophetic words and words of knowledge. I knew everyone around me genuinely believed in what was happening, but it was no longer true to me.

I slowly stopped going to church and would lie in bed at night crying out to God for angelic visitations, divine encounters or anything to help restore my faith. I started reading more on psychology, secular dream psychology, secular books on Judeo-Christian and bible history which led me into religious texts and history outside of Western religion. Everything I believed was being reasoned away and I needed something beyond reason to keep me believing in the Christian God. What kind of God am I worshipping if I can find logical reasons to not believe in Him?  What kind of culture am I a part of when I can find reasons to reject this culture? I needed to be blown away to keep myself believing, but God didn’t amaze me any longer.  I felt like I was wasting my young adult life pursuing something foolish and delusional, but wanted desperately to be proven wrong.  I hated myself for dropping my old friends and music to run after what I thought would lead me to an amazing world changing destiny.

I became very depressed for a year and would stay in my room only leaving for work or a walk late at night.  I was going through a devastating existential crisis. The world changing destiny, whatever it was, that I believed in and hoped for was no longer true to me and it hurt.  I really believed for a short time that I had a huge calling on my life, but now I had to make up my own life. How do I go from a whole life believing in miracles, the impossible and being told I was partnering with the same creator of the universe who led Moses out of Egypt, raises the dead and changes the world and then finding out it was all just my own delusion of grandeur? How can I start a new life that will most likely end up mundane without a real purpose and be happy with that? I started making plans to move away from California, because nothing was working out for me and I really needed to separate myself from the past and start new.

I moved from California to Colorado in 2012.  I still have my ups and downs, but I’ve never been more comfortable with who I am than I am now. There are times when life becomes a little unpredictable and I think back on when I believed my life had this big calling and miss that feeling of comfort and knowledge of what I thought my future had in store for me. I’m learning to forgive myself for my past delusions. I feel lost sometimes because I’m 32 years old and just figuring out what I should do with myself since I never planned for this.

But life for me now is anything but mundane and I’m beginning to appreciate the unpredictability of it all.  I have new friends.  I work full time at a ski resort and I get to hike and snowboard on my free time. I still read a lot on Judeo-Christian, religion and bible history, which has opened up a new passion in me to uncover the truth about the religion I once believed and loved.  A lot of my new friends are surprised when I tell them about the time in my life not too long ago when I was a Charismaniac that would speak in churches and pray for people.  I’m now becoming more comfortable and open to letting people from my past know I’m now an unbeliever.

I once had a dream that I was alone in a dark church and could see light shining outside behind some curtains. I opened the curtains and the light shined inside the church, so I walked to the back of the church and opened the back door and walked out and into the light outside.

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16 thoughts on “From Miracles to Atheism: Deconversion of a Charismatic

  1. There is so much folly in the charismaniac movement. Toronto Blessing is a Kundalini serpent. See where Katie Perry ended up. I am glad you started seeing that most of these “revivals” are just demonic activity. Read my page Creation is an Act of Love for perspective. Because charismatic witchcraft hurt people like you, I hate that falsehood with a fiery passion. I am into my sixth decade and had the fortunate opportunity to have seen true miracles as a young child, so different from what you had seen. May Jesus, who is the Everlasting Father, reveal Himself to you. He is as real as charismania is fake.

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  2. I was interested in your recounting healing miracles. The experience is very similar to mine, people who claimed healing from chronic conditions invariably only had a temporary relief, then the condition returned worse than ever.

    The only sure healings tended to be those that had a prospect of healing through the bodies normal recuperative processes.

    I went along to one crusade and was puzzled why the healer only prayed for certain people. There was one lady with a facial disfigurement who wanted prayer. The healer said he would pray for her later, but I observed carefully and noticed he did not. This puzzled and hurt me at the time I was concerned the person would feel ‘rejected by God’. In retrospect I wonder whether the healer prayed for those ailments where psychology could lead to temporary relief and avoided those types of potential healings where it would be obvious to all whether healing actually occurred.

    I read a study which said that some inflammation type ailments can be helped significantly on temporary basis by the placebo type effect. But it is only ever temporary not permanent.

    I have heard people testify to healings of shortened legs and broken bones. The problem with all these testimonies is that there never seems to be objective external evidence before and after from the persons doctor. Surely if they really happened like that the doctor would be on the news?

    A study was undertaken of Benny Hinn’s ministry and they were not able to find a single verifiable case of healing. In fact the evidence seemed to point to those being ‘healed’ being worse off than people with comparable ailments who sought normal medical treatment. Most telling was when Benny Hinn had health problems recently he went to the doctor for Treatment.

    I don’t rule out miracle healings, but there is very little objective evidence of them, despite so many claims.

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  3. Some of your story resonates with me. I caught some of the tail end of the Toronto Blessing, being in the Portland, OR area. But what sticks with me, now that all the barking and crazy laughing has ended, is that Jesus , the Holy Spirit and God are real. The manifestations of angelic visitations are nice, but walking out faith day by day, loving people and surrendering to Christ on a daily basis make up the bulk of Christianity.

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  4. You heard of Peter Rollins? If you haven’t I think you would enjoy some of what he is talking about. Much of his work is about deconstructing religious damaging doctrine. One of his books, ‘The Idolatry of God’ is amazing. Soothing for our hurt and damaged inner being. As in hurt by charismatic religious claims and practises.

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  5. Thanks for sharing your story! I, too, was involved in charismatic youth ministry for a while and so I totally understand being fooled by the mass hysteria and such.

    As I was reading, I could just imagine someone from another sect saying how you just needed to experience THEIR church because theirs isn’t bullshit, and lo and behold, your first commenter. I get this all the time. It’s easy to be dissuaded by varying forms of the same crap, especially those of us who WANTED to believe. They think we became atheist because we weren’t in the right church, or we were hurt, or just want to sin. Nonsense.

    I look forward to reading more of your posts!

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  6. I’m so glad I found this blog. I, too, am an Ex Charismatic Christian. I relate to so much of this. Tongues, prophecy, word of wisdom, healing…. all the expectation that I’d witness the living, breathing God of the universe manifest Himself in my life! That’s He’d use ME! Speak to ME! How Intoxicating until …

    Nothing happened. Years turned into decades and still, silence.

    Thank you so much for sharing your deconversion story! I feel a sense of validation from it.

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  7. I can relate. My parents bounced around back and forth between Pontiac and Detroit Michigan during the Jesus People Movement. I was a baby then and it was the early 1970s. I deconverted between Purim and Easter 2012.

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  8. I’m sorry that Christians are so hard to talk to, I wish more conversations like this happened more often in the public square.

    1) If you were wrong, would you want to know?
    2) If so, what is proof to you? A feeling? An experience? An X-ray?

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  9. My story has some elements similar to yours. I was raised in the child of a Seventh-Day Adventist minister. I went to the denomination’s schools all the way through college. While in college I decided to become a student missionary. After traveling a bit in Asia I ended up in Balikpapan, Indonesia. While there I met some Charasmatic Christians and was attracted to the emotional fervor. Soon I was going to The Adventist Church on Saturday and with this group of Charasmatc Christians on Sunday. I was feeling more connected to my new group of friends. Long story short I ended back in Massachusetts at college and continued to explore this new religion.

    A couple years later I accepted an opportunity to volunteer in a refugee camp in Thailand. All the while I was reading a couple books written by Chrasmatic Christians. Well one evening it all came together. I decided to try and speak in tongues and found myself swept away on a sort of spiritual ecstasy. It was really intense. Soon after I learned that at another home holding volunteers an alleged encounter with an evil spirit of some kind was occurring. After rattling doors and windows and making eerie noises someone used some information she recalled about “casting out demons” and essentially ordered the spirit out using the in Jesus name refrain. The coincidence of my speaking in tongues and the exorcism-like event happening at the same time had me convinced that the whole thing was real. When I got back to the States I found an Assembly of God Church and started going. It was then that I came face to face with a road block to acceptance in that church; that road block was my sexuality being attracted to men while I still considered myself a man, (I have recently gone on a gender journey). I confronted myself with the reality of this aspect of had been with me all the while and was unlikely to change. I didn’t want to spend my life in the closet so went searching for a church that was accepting.

    This was 1986 and there were only 3 that I could find at the time. There was The United Church of Christ, Reformed Judaism and Unitarian Universalist Church (UU). I chose the last one and eventually became a member of a UU Church. Since you can chart your own course spiritually, l became a Humanist after hearing our minister preach/talk about it for some time. Now all these years later I am a secular humanist and don’t currently believe in a god. I listened to a lot of different atheists and humanists and found a Stephen Fry to be closest to my beliefs. As for those experiences years ago, I see now how you can wind yourself up in a semi-delusional state and believe you are in the middle of a spiritual happening when in reality it’s just your brain playing tricks on you and you want something to happen so badly that you create it from your imagination based on what you’ve read or heard. I am happier now and have a circle of friends so love me as I am. That’s all a person can ask for.

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      • I just noticed your comment. I made the comment some time ago but, as I recall, I was responding to the post and focused on what lead me to look beyond Christianity. I could have and perhaps should have focused on my interest in science, and as I began to put my past beliefs up to the scrutiny of science and the end result was a conviction that their is plenty of evidence that no god or gods were needed to explain the formation of the universe, the evolution of life on this planet or many other findings of science.

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