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.


To Earthlings and Those Who Are Not Of This World

The last time I had a blog was during the Xanga years in the early part of last decade, so it’s been awhile since I’ve tried to write publicly.  At the time I was in my early-20s and have since been through a couple life changing journeys over the years.  I’d like to use this blog to write about what I’ve learned during and coming in and out of these phases in my life; everything from my early lukewarm Christian years to my on-fire Charismatic Christian phase and into my current atheist-leaning-agnostic life.  I’ll also be posting science, religion and religious studies articles that I find fun, interesting and thought provoking with my own thoughts and opinions on the matter.

My next post will be about my own Christian history and how I came to be an atheist.