An Old Church Friend Visited Me

I haven’t written anything on this blog in almost two years.  I kind of lost interest in talking about my experience in the Charismatic culture and losing my faith in God.  It’s been around 7 years since I started losing my faith in God and a little over 5 years since I distanced myself from my Charismatic Christian upbringing that the distance has separated that part of my history so much that it almost has no part of the life I’m living now.  Other than the occasional conversations I overhear at work from coworkers after the weekend about the church services they’ve attended on a Sunday and posts about how great God is from old Christian friends and family on Facebook,  I just don’t get much Christianity in my life these days.  It’s been pretty nice.

Last month an old church friend of mine came to Colorado for a visit.  I took a day off of work to hang out with him.  He is a good guy, but the epitome of Charismatic culture.  He’s very into the bug-eyed Bethel supernatural prophetic ministry.   We haven’t hung out in 5 years and I was excited to hang out with him.  Before I moved to Colorado, he was one of my few friends in California that I was still hanging out with as I was beginning to lose my faith.  I knew hanging out with him there’d be talk about God’s work in his life, but that didn’t bother me.  I figured I could just get the general idea about what was going on in his life and take it for what it is.

I’m not going to go through every detail of our time together, but I felt a distance in our worldview.  I haven’t talked with someone so involved in the hyper spiritual side of Christianity in so long that it was almost jarring.  I asked him what’s been going on in his life and he went off on what “God was showing” him and how God was really pulling him “closer to his call.”    He told me about some miracles he saw at a service he recently went to and how the people in attendance were “rocked by the Holy Spirit.”  I could tell he was trying to minister to me with these stories by helping me remember all the miracles I experienced in the past.  But it wasn’t working.  I just listened to him.

He asked me how things were going in my life.  I told him about my new life in Colorado.   My relationship, my friends, job and the new interests in snowboarding and hiking I’ve picked up out here. I let him know how genuinely happy I was.  I could tell he didn’t know what to make of it cause I seemed happier and  more content now than I was when I was living the Christian thing.  He told me it was great to see me happy, but then he went on  about some old prophetic words that were spoken over my life in the past and how it may play out with my new interests and life.  It was really odd.   It’s been so long since I heard Christianese phrasing and prophetic culture lingo that I felt so beyond everything he was talking about.  I moved away from it and he was still stuck in Charismania.

I dropped him off at a house church in the Denver area after hanging out for the day.  I gave him a hug and told him I loved him.  As I was driving home I thought about how nice it felt that I freed myself from Christianity so much.  All of the cognitive dissonance and the hang ups about morality and immorality, trying to walk in my destiny and  wondering if I’m hearing from God and what He may be telling me no longer concerns me.  I can just be.

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The Secular Barbershop Podcast: Absence of Christ Interview

Last week I was interviewed by The Secular Barbershop ; a podcast “Run by an Secularist of Color; For Secularists of all Colors.” Below is a link to listen to us talk about speaking in tongues and other weirdnesses of the Charismatic culture within Christianity:

The Secular Barbershop Podcast: Absence of Christ Interview

While you’re at it follow him on Twitter and like him on Facebook:

The Secular Barbershop Facebook
The Secular Barbershop Twitter

The First Couple Journal Entries from my Charismatic Phase

I’ve been pretty busy the last several months so I haven’t been keeping up with my blog like I should.  I have a few draft posts that I’m still working on about topics such as The Satanic Temple and Atheistic-Satanism, Elijah List prophecies, thoughts on death after losing my faith and stories  from Christians about the dead miraculously raising after prayer.

Just to keep my blog active during this time I thought I’d post a couple old journal entries I wrote at the beginning of my Charismatic phase during the renewal meetings I talk about in my past blog entires.

In this first journal entry about the renewal meetings it really shows I started off skeptical about the miracles and God Encounters but wanted to believe it all true.

July 3, 2007: 7:30pm
How can I explain the last several days?  When I got back into town after the tour, the church asked if I could work for them at the nightly meetings they’ve been holding since two Fridays ago.  The best I can describe are my feelings of confusion and frustration.   Confusion, because there’s a lot going on in the church: miracles, healings and stuff I can’t grasp my mind around to try to understand.  Frustration, because a lot of the times it seems others can focus on these happenings and except them as real.  I am walking a line. Is this real or not?

This next entry about some of the miracles I thought I experienced I’ve already taken apart in some of my past blog entries.  The part I want to point out in this entry is the glowing picture taken of the pastor while he was preaching about Moses’ radiant face.   This was taken at a time when camera phones weren’t as common as they are now and pictures taken on camera phones didn’t look as clear and detailed as they do now.   Looking back on this picture now it was just a bad glow from the stage lights reflecting off his body.  The angelic flashes I saw when I closed my eyes were the flashes of camera light.

July 4th, 2007: 4:00am
Ok, things at the church are getting extremely weird.  The other night feathers were falling from thin-air, and I mean they were literally falling out of thin-air and  Gold dust appearing on people.  Someone took a picture on a camera phone, and I am a witness to this, of the pastor while he is on stage talking about Moses glowing after spending time with the Lord.  I’m not talking about a glow, he was actually a beaming light entity.  Nothing logical can explain that.  There is no way someone can doctor that picture within seconds of taking it.
People are seeing angels.  I’ve been seeing flashes of lights when I close my eyes.  I’m not sure if its camera flashes or not, but I’d like to think its a miracle for myself.  Words can’t express how I feel about this. It’s honestly unbelievable, even for myself.  I feel like I’m gonna wake up and it all never happened.  It’s frightening and exciting.  I’m still waiting for myself to feel God.  I hope it happens soon.  All I want is my own encounter with God.

Indeed I woke up and it all never happened.

Podcast: Everyone’s Agnostic Interview With Absence Of Christ

I was recently interviewed by a deconversion podcast out of Nashville called Everyone’s Agnostic.  Below is a link for the show.  This podcast has a lot of great interviews by others who have left the faith, so be sure to check those out too.

Podcast: Everyone’s Agnostic Interview With Absence of Christ

My Ouija Board Experiences

I was always told that the Ouija Board is a dangerous tool for speaking with the dead and it was a gateway into the demonic realm.  I remember hearing stories from my cousin about how he played with an Ouija Board and started having visions during his sessions of his room on fire and furniture moving on its own. I heard stories in youth group about how people would throw their boards in a fire after having demonic experiences and the boards would start hissing and spitting out flames in an unnatural way. I’d listen to Art Bell’s Coast to Coast AM show late at night on the radio and hear callers talk about their scary experiences with the Ouija Board.  Even some of my non-Christian friends had bad stories.  Hearing all these stories from different people it always seemed like the Ouija Board may actually have some power to it.

The first experience I personally had with an Ouija Board was really late at night at a friend’s house with a couple other friends a decade ago.  We were all in our early-20s.  My friend pulled out an Ouija Board, turned out the lights and put on a Robert Johnson record just for atmosphere.  My friend’s were skeptical and were only trying it out for fun.  I was a little more superstitious and decided to stand back and observe.  They put their fingers over the planchette and started asking questions.  The planchette seemed to move on its own as the spirit answered.  Within 10 mins of their conversation with the spirit a cat started screaming outside the bedroom window and it freaked all of us out.  They put the board back in its box and laughed.  My friends took it as a funny coincidence but I thought a spirit spooked the cat.  It was too much for me to blame on a coincidence.  During my Charismatic Christian phase I would use this story as personal proof that there is a realm outside the experience of our own senses.

When I started questioning my Christian faith, I began looking into what Christians believed to be the darker sides of spirituality.  I wanted to know if there were any other spiritual reality outside of the Christian belief in demons and angels.  Inside and outside of Christianity it always seemed people had more experiences with evil spirits and ghosts than they did with angels and God.  I suppose it’s because fear is a strong emotion that can make people exaggerate what they see and believe anything. I went through a short period looking more into occult practices and spirituality to see if I could learn something about the spiritual realm outside of Christianity.

It didn’t take long to see through the occult and New Age.  I’ve experimented with the Ouija Board  and most of the time it would answer with random letters and numbers.  It wasn’t enough to convince me that there was actually a ghost or demon moving the planchette.  By this time I was looking into a more psychological answer to my wonder about these Oujia Board experiences and found the ideomotor phenomenon.  Like my spiritual Christian experience I found that there was a more natural answer to my questions than supernatural.

My last attempt at looking for a supernatural explanation of the Ouija Board I went to a seance in a supposedly haunted bar a few blocks from my house. Even with a medium on site asking the questions the answers were always still random letters leaving us to guess what the spirit may be saying.  It wasn’t until she supposedly went into a trance and started conjuring up the spirits through her body and changing her voice that we started getting answers from whatever spirit was there.  And I still wasn’t convinced.  I couldn’t help but feel that everyone around me was being tricked into thinking something supernatural was really happening just like what I experienced in church.  I gave the medium a $20 tip for the entertainment anyway.

Interesting article explaining the psychology behind Ouija Boards:
Science Explains Ouija Boards, Retroactively Ruins 1,000 Sleepovers

What Happens When You Blindfold Ouija Believers?

What I Personally Believed When I Was A Christian

I never really got into explaining my beliefs and influences that helped shape my personal theology when I was a believer.  I won’t go into much history in this post, since I’ve already done that in my last few posts.  I just want to talk about what I believed and who influenced my beliefs.

Spiritual Beliefs:
 My hyper spiritual belief’s weren’t always there. Like I said in a couple of my earlier posts, I was starting to flirt with agnosticism before my conversion into the Charismatic side of Christianity.  I grew up in a non-denominational house church that got hit with the Toronto Blessing in the mid-90s when I was in elementary school.  Even as a child I was a little skeptical of all the charismania going on in my church at the time.  But I trusted the people around me to think that it may be real Godly experiences they were having.  Even though I didn’t have my own experiences as a child, I still looked to the Toronto Blessing as a big influence on what I believed God can do to a person.
The renewal meetings that got me involved in the Charismatic culture I talked about in my post God Encounter; or Not influenced me in what it may be like to encounter God.  I started reading books like Bill Johnson’s Supernatural Power of a Transformed Mind, Graham Cooke’s When Heaven Opens: Discovering the Power of Divine Encounters, John Crowder’s Miracle Workers, Reformers and the New Mystics and lots of others in that vein.
Supernatural stories I heard about Heidi Baker, David Hogan, Todd Bentley, Randy Clark’s Global Awakening, the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry and some of the Kansas IHOP stories were an influence. As well as miracle stories I heard from missionaries I knew personally.
The Supernatural School of Ministry also influenced my spiritual beliefs in that God was a miraculous God and we, the Church, are Christ’s body so we can do the miracles, signs and wonders of Christ, plus more (John 14:12).
The Gospel of John, the Book of Acts as well as other mystical passages and stories in the Bible were huge influences on my belief in what it was to be a spiritual follower of Christ.  I use to read John and Acts constantly for encouragement.

Social Beliefs:
Coming out of a liberal punk scene before my conversion into the Charismatic culture I had a hard time finding anything I could relate to or believe in the more Conservative and Fundamentalist cultures of Christianity. So I found my inspiration in the social gospel.  I saw the social gospel as more on the lines of what Jesus was all about.
I loved the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew and Luke. The stories of Jesus driving out the money changers in the temple, calling out the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, feeding the multitude and his love and care for the “least of these” made me want to be more like Him.
I was inspired by books like Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship, Shane Claiborne’s The Irresistible Revolution (even wanted to spend time at his Simple Way community in Philadelphia) and Leo Tolstoy’s The Kingdom of God Is Within You.  I read and listened to Tony Campolo.
Other inspirations were the Catholic Worker Movement activists like Dorothy Day, Peter Maurin and Ammon Hennacy, the Catonsville Nine, Christian Civil Rights and Labor activists. I also loved knowing that Bill McKibben, the environmentalist author and founder of 350.org was a Christian.
The early Jesus People movement in the 1960’s and early 70’s was also a source of inspiration.
During the Occupy Wall Street days I often imagined God had a place for me in that movement.

Other beliefs:
– I always believed in evolution.  I thought evolution was God’s way of creating all the living things on earth. So even as a Christian there was no doubt in my mind that evolution was a reality.  I just thought it was a mystery on when exactly God breathed his Spirit into the animal called Man.
– I was on the fence about Hell.  I had a hard time believing that Hell was a reality with a loving God in control of the universe.  I wasn’t sure what to believe about it.
– Homosexuality was another hard thing for me to put my head around.  I had a lot of gay friends and had trouble figuring out why it would be a sin.  I wasn’t sure what to believe about the nature of homosexuality with a Christian worldview.  I tried to stay away from the topic. But would always end up siding with the homosexual community.
– The Rapture was a joke.  I knew enough about the history of Christianity to know it was only a recent belief within Christendom.  I believed the Church was the Second Coming of Christ, because we were the Body of Christ. And we were here to bring the Kingdom of God to Earth.

How I thought Christianity should be:
With my beliefs coming together I thought Christians were to live a radical life similar to that found within the Social Gospel movements while performing miracles, signs and wonders, because we are the Body of Christ.  All of this together would bring the Kingdom of God to Earth.

And that was the fantastical Christian utopia I believed in.

Demon Possession Helped Me Drive The Last Nail Through God’s Coffin

This is the last of my more detailed posts about the experiences that started my deconversion from Christianity.  This experience happened just as I was beginning to question everything around me.  It was one of the last nails I driven through God’s coffin.

I was raised believing the supernatural was all around me.  I believed God and angels were present in my life, but nothing seemed more real to me than demons.  Fear is a powerful emotion.

In elementary school I remember laying in bed at night and I would sometimes feel my bed shake.  I would get scared and cry out to my dad and have him pray over every corner of the bedroom.  He would tell me that I had more power than demons because I had Christ in my life and all I needed to do was tell them to leave in the name of Jesus.  This would give me a little more comfort at night, but the fear was still there.

Throughout high school I was fascinated by ghost stories.  I spent hours online at night reading about true ghost stories and looking up pictures and videos of what might be spirits caught on film.  I wasn’t sure if ghosts were the spirits of those who have passed on or if they were demons deceiving us into believing they are ghost.  I only knew that there was something else unseen outside of the physical realm. I enjoyed the mystery and even enjoyed the paranoia I’d feel at night, but I feared I may have been inviting demons into my life.

I was in junior high the first time I experienced a person who was supposedly demon possessed.  I was at my friend’s birthday party when her mom all of a sudden changed into another person.  She started acting like a 5 year old little girl.  My friend’s and I didn’t know what was going on.  We just assumed she was just being funny and embarrassing her daughter.  My mom was at the party and called my dad, who is a pastor, to come to the house and help ease the situation.  My dad came to the house and took her into the garage and prayed over her with my mom.  Later, when I was older, I was told that my friend’s mother manifested a couple of other personalities in her garage as my dad prayed over her that night and even attacked my mom with a sharp object, cutting her arm.  Over the years the story of that night was explained to me by my parents as an experience with a type of Multiple Personality Disorder and demon possession, interchangeably.

Being a pastor, my dad would always come across situations like this.  When I was in high school the youth group he was in charge of would bring in a lot of goths and punks from the high schools in the area.  I remember seeing kids I went to high school with start acting out in wild manners while being prayed for. One girl would rip off her cross necklace while my dad prayed for her.  One boy would growl and start acting out in the middle of my dad leading a meeting.  I would later find out that some of these kids were just messing around with the church kids and my dad.  I’d tell my dad about it so he’d know not to take it serious, but there were other experiences that would go unexplained (usually behind the scenes) that ended up reinforcing his belief that some of these kids were actually being bothered by demons.

Before I go on any further I want to mention that my parents are both very loving and caring.  I have a lot of respect and love for both of them, not only because they are my parents but because they are genuinely good people.  They aren’t very educated in mental illness or psychology, though. So their worldview is very much influenced by their personal experiences and the people around them.  Keep this in mind as I go on, because the rest of this story is a lot about them.

Do to childhood trauma and some bad experiences early in her adulthood, my mother has struggled with anxiety.  She has been in and out of therapy for as long as I remember.  For over 10 years she wasn’t able to drive, ride an escalator  or even write out a check publicly, because she would go right into a panic attack, start shaking and freeze up.  My mom was never really receptive to the therapy she got, so she would give up after awhile. In fact, the last therapist she went to found out she was a pastor’s wife, they started talking about church and he told her all she needed to do was give her problems to God.  The money and time spent on that therapist went down the drain.

I was living with my parents during the time my faith in God was beginning to deteriorate.  I tried to hold on to my faith, but it was quickly crumbling between my fingers.  One night I got up to use the restroom and heard my mom in her room crying, moaning and making growling sounds while my dad prayed out loud.  I knocked on their door to see if everything was alright.  My dad opened the door and stepped out into the hallway as my mom continued to growl in the bedroom and explained to me what was going on.  He said that for the last couple years at night my mom would sometimes start manifesting a spirit and that only a couple people knew about it.  He asked me to come into their room and pray with him over her.  This was the first time I saw my mom possessed by a demon.

My mom was under her blankets growling between begging us for help.  I pulled the blankets over to see her face and she started gnashing her teeth and hissing at us.  It was really unreal to see my mom in this way.  She was like another person.  We laid our hands on her and prayed in the name of Jesus.  She would start freaking out and contorting her body as we prayed.  We tried to get her to pray with us when she would become more aware, but she would start growling again. The next day my mom couldn’t remember what happened.  I believed my mom might possessed.

The next several months while living with my parents I was exposed to my mom’s manifestations.  It always happened at night and she’d wake up not remembering what happened.  It was bizarre.  One night, while my dad was out of town, I was getting ready for bed when my mom started pounding on my bedroom door begging for help.  When I opened the door she all of a sudden changed and started growling at me.  I began praying for her and the same thing would happen; she would continue growling while gnashing her teeth at me.  I’d pray for angels to come into the house, but nothing would change.  I’d start to wonder why it is my mom would never change when we prayed and calling for angels and Jesus to protect the house never showed any difference.  I began wondering about mental illness at this point and started looking more into the psychology behind exorcism and demon possession.

What I learned from looking into more reasonable explanations behind demon possession and exorcism was that it wasn’t completely unknown to psychology.  A lot of different personality disorders, like Dissociative Disorder and even Multiple Personality Disorder, sounded a lot like my mom.  Her anxieties may have triggered it since it was never dealt with properly by her therapists, or she gave up to easily while seeing a therapist.  I can’t diagnose my mom cause I’m not a psychiatrist, but all the signs lead up to some kind of mental disorder, not demon possession.  Looking into exorcism I learned it’s very similar to hypnosis.  I already knew the power of the placebo effect and the power of suggestion, because of my experience in faith healing, so it was easy for me to accept that exorcism was a practice in hypnosis.  Again my faith in God was challenged and it eventually led me into atheism.

I brought all of this up to my dad hoping he would try to give her real help instead of prayer.  But he brought up the last therapist who said all she needed to do was give her troubles to God, as if that was the last resort.  Then he mentioned how he sometimes got attacked by demons at night, which I have already learned to be sleep paralysis after my own experiences. I mentioned everything I learned to my mom but the experiences she was having was so real and scary she couldn’t see it as being a mental disorder. She also mentioned that last therapist she saw.  To them, if a professional can admit that it may be supernatural, then it must be true.

My mom eventually was exorcized by some well known Charismatic exorcist and hasn’t had an episode in 2 years.  I no longer believe this whole experience was supernatural, so I just take this as a sign of how powerful suggestion and the placebo effect is.  How the mind creates your personal reality is very strange.

Seeing how anxiety has tortured my mom when it was left untreated I fear that her “possessions” will return.