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

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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.

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.

God Encounter; or Not

Before getting into this part of my story I want to mention what a “third heaven encounter” is within the Charismatic and Pentecostal cultures, since this part has much to do with that.  The “first heaven” is the physical realm that we immediately see and experience now. The “second heaven” is the realm of angels and demons on Earth.  The “third heaven” is the realm of God, basically Heaven.  A third heaven encounter is an experience with the heavenly realm of God.  This would include visitations from angels, a physical encounter with Jesus or other Biblical characters, seeing and exploring Heaven as if you are really there, seeing God as if He is really physically there, etc.

My Charismatic phase began in July of 2007 after experiencing and becoming a part of a year long renewal at the church I grew up in.  Before the renewal I wasn’t really a hard practicing Christian.  I believed in Christ, but was starting to lean into agnosticism, because I wasn’t seeing the demonstrated power in my life that Christ supposedly can offer.  I was in a punk band that just got back from a 2 month U.S. tour.  I was getting burned out touring with the band members, because they were always very negative and angry and it got annoying.  I wanted to quit the band, but touring and putting out records was the only thing keeping myself from living an average life.

The last week of the tour I was in Austin, Texas when my dad called me to tell me about all the miracles happening at the church.  He told me about a pastor from Texas who has been speaking at the meetings that had a third heaven encounter with Jesus during a mission trip in Brazil.  After telling of his encounter with Jesus multiple people at the church started having visions of Jesus and angels.  My dad asked me to come to church after the tour to see everything that was happening.  I wasn’t opposed to going to church and liked the idea that miracles might be happening, so I told him I would go.  I have been to these type of meetings before when the church was going through another renewal around the same time  the Toronto Blessing was happening in the mid-90’s.  I was just expecting to see a lot of people drunk in the Spirit, falling down, laughing and crying.

The night after coming back home from tour I went to the church.  The church was packed to standing room only (The church, which is an old YMCA gym, holds about 600 people).  I learned the meetings that were happening started out as a weekend long conference that turned into a nightly meeting with the title God Encounter, after people at the conference were starting to have divine encounters never before experienced in the 40 year history of the church.  The church leaders and the congregation didn’t want to quench the Spirit by ending the conference on the second night, so it was turned into a nightly meeting.  Word got around to the other Charismatic and Pentecostal churches in the area, so people from all over the city were visiting to see what our Pentecost was all about.  The main focus of the meetings was to pray for the city, press into God’s presence and have a divine encounter.

The meeting started with the usual worship routine – beginning with fast energetic songs about the joy of the lord and ending with soft emotional songs about the love of God.  Being a music snob and mostly into punk and post-punk stuff, worship music never really played much with my emotions and influence my spiritual life, so I just sat in my seat and observed everyone worshiping.  It wasn’t until the pastor from Texas started to speak that I felt something in my spirit move. He talked about his visions of Jesus and how angels visit his bedroom at night on occassion.  He talked about how history will be changed.  I don’t know how I got caught up in what he was saying. Maybe it was because I was frustrated where my life was going, tired of negative and emotional vampire friends and wanted something new and exciting in my life. I wanted the visions he saw.  I wanted the miracles.  I wanted my life changed.  I wanted to change the world.  He called everyone up to the stage to be imparted with his spiritual gift of visions and prophecy.  I went up and I was imparted this gift.

I was unemployed at the time, so the day after this first meeting the church asked me to work at the meetings every night because there was no telling when it would end.  For the next year, 5 days a week, I worked at these meetings setting up, tearing down, stacking chairs, cleaning up after people and locking up the building after everyone had left. I became close to a lot of the people who attended and some of the church leaders from all around the city.  I couldn’t get away from the renewal.

These meetings became known all around California within the Charismatic and Pentecostal circles.  Over the year we had visitors from all over the state.  This was going on around the same time as the Lakeland Revival in Florida that Todd Bentley started, so it felt like God was doing something with America and getting ready to bring revival to our generation.  We had well known speakers come in to help kindle the fire like Bill Johnson and his Supernatural School of Ministries from the Bethel Church in Redding, Mark Dupont from the Toronto Blessing, Lance Wallnau came in with his New Apostolic dominionist ideas about the Seven Mountains of Influence and lots and lots of others.  I was surrounded by people speaking about pressing into the presence of God to have divine encounters.  The speakers were always talking about their visions and angelic ecstasies, third heaven encounters with bible characters, healing testimonies and prophecies.  People in the congregation would start seeing and having these experiences. One woman even claimed to see Jesus mounted on a white horse riding between the aisles.  Gold dust, and feathers were seen falling from thin air during worship.  People claimed to have gold teeth and feelings mysteriously appear in their mouth during the meetings.  It seemed like magic was happening all around me.

Dying for my own encounter with God, in the Fall of 2007 I enrolled in the churches Supernatural School of Ministry, where I can learn how to be in the presence of the Holy Spirit, learn to perform miracles signs and wonders and learn the ways the Spirit speaks to me.  I figured an enrollment in this school that Fall was the perfect time to learn how to be the hands and feet of Christ, since our church was going through a revival.  I wanted to see miracles, perform miracles and experience miracles in my own life, but most of all I wanted to see angels and have a divine third heaven encounter of my own.

At this school I learned how to prophesy, give words of knowledge, pray for healing, prepare sermons and speak in public.  We did a lot of street ministry on the weekends.  I did very well in healing and prophecy.  Some of the nights in class were spent in silence trying to hear God and sit in his presence.  This was always hard for me because I could never feel anything or see anything.  Most of my classmates would talk about how they felt the presence of the Holy Spirit and talk about their visions, but I had nothing. This frustrated me.

For months I would lay in my bed every night praying that I would have an encounter with the Lord.  I’d pray for my eyes to be open to see angels.  I’d pray that I’d see Jesus.  Some of those who have had these kinds of experiences would prophesy that I’d have divine encounters regularly.  I looked to those prophetic words as encouragement that someday I will have an encounter with the third heaven.  I’d try to sit in the Lord’s presence while working at the renewal meetings and it seemed the people around me were having these amazing experiences but nothing was happening to me.  I was getting tired.

The renewal meetings came to a quick end after about a year when the pastor from Texas was caught cheating on his wife with one of his assistants.  He was told by the church leaders that he couldn’t lead the meetings any longer.  This was brought up publicly to the congregation at one of the meetings.  The meetings were still to go on without him, but the attendance at the meetings dropped after that night.  I started questioning his stories about his encounters with Jesus and angels.  And I started wondering why people would leave the renewal meetings if they really believed they were experiencing God, with or without this cheating pastor. The meetings were originally about praying for the city and pressing in to have a God encounter. So wouldn’t God’s presence be all you needed to not be bothered by a man who cheated on his wife?  Didn’t the city still need prayer?  When the attendance dropped so did all the stories of divine experiences.

For a couple years I still tried to press on.  I still experienced nothing.  Not one physical manifestation of God, only the occasional dream I’d convince myself was from God.  I never fell down in the Spirit, I never felt drunk in the Spirit and I never cried or laughed or had any feelings take over me.  I wondered if anything was wrong with me.  Was I using too much of my head?

Yes, I was using too much of my head and that isn’t a bad thing.  I started to figure out that it was all just mass hysteria.  The reason the divine encounters stopped when the attendance dropped was because the excitement and stories of everyone in the congregation wasn’t there to make someone think they were experiencing something miraculous.  The other’s who may not have been taken by mass hysteria may have just been lying about their experiences.  The gold teeth and feelings that would appear were most likely always there; no dental records were ever shown.  When I cleaned up after the meetings I never saw any feathers or gold dust left over on the ground or chairs.  After thinking about all that I’ve noticed first hand working at a revival meeting, being part of a supernatural ministry school for a year and taking into account my lack of experience I came to the conclusion that miracles of this kind don’t happen and if I can’t experience God then there may not even be a God.

I Was A Street Walking Faith Healer

I had lots of prophetic words spoken over me about my spiritual gift in healing. Sometimes I would feel a burning sensation on my hand and I took it as a sign that somebody needed a healing prayer. I’d pray and ask God who it may be.  I loved praying for people.  It was always exciting to see God’s healing power used in my hands.  I was on the prayer team at the church I attended, so I got to pray for and see lots of people healed.  It was magical.

My father oversaw a skatepark that one of the churches youth pastor started.  The skatepark was opened two nights out of the week in the church parking lot. About 200 skaters on average would show up each night.  This was a great place to see God’s healing power as there were lots of kids with injuries needing prayer.  There were countless times I’d pray for a kid who claimed to have a fractured finger or sprained ankle and were healed within minutes after putting my hand on the injured limb and call down the power of God.

Being one who use to heal people with the power of God, how can I turn around after seeing the miraculous and become an atheist?  There were a few circumstances I put myself through that made me question everything I have done and seen.

I use to love spending afternoons on the weekend driving around my hometown asking God for direction to find someone specific on the streets who may need a divine encounter.  One Saturday afternoon I was with a friend who also loved jumping out of the boat to pray for people.  We spent about 30 mins in the morning praying for direction. I thought I felt God direct us to a small town outside our hometown, so we got in my truck and drove about 35 mins to this town.  We parked in the downtown area and started walking and asking God who it was we needed to pray for.

We saw a woman in a wheelchair crossing a street.  I knew for sure it must be her.  We ran after her, calling to her.  She stopped, confused why we were chasing her.  I explained what we were doing and asked if we could pray for her.  She said it would be ok.  My friend started the prayer, thanking God for the moment and thanking God for His love for her. I told her I believed God could heal her and she wouldn’t need her wheelchair any longer.  I’ve seen lots of fractured fingers healed and sprained ankles healed by my own hands and have heard a million second hand stories of tumors falling off of people after prayer and paraplegics walking out of wheelchairs at churches, so I believed this would be a great opportunity to see God heal somebody in a wheelchair on the streets, change a life, plus have a great testimony. I asked her if she believed God could heal her and she hesitantly said “yes”.  I knew she was nervous but I was too enthusiastic and I believed it was what Jesus would have done.  So on that hot Saturday afternoon on the middle of a sidewalk in a small California town, I prayed for her and commanded all of her body to be healed in the name of Jesus, on Earth as it is in Heaven.  I really felt she was being healed and it was now her turn to step out of the comfort zone and walk.  I asked her if she was ready to walk and she declined. I could see in her face I made her very uncomfortable and I felt awful about it, but I tried to tell myself it was what Jesus would have done and God was proud I jumped out of the boat to do His work, even if nothing happened.  But I still wondered why God didn’t heal her right there and right then.  We watched her wheel herself down the street away from us as we hoped she would be healed one day.

Another weird situation during my faith healing years, it was just after midnight when a friend of mine called saying he was heading to the hospital across the street from my apartment to pray for an elderly man in a coma. Excited by the chance to maybe see a Lazarus healing from God with my own hands I walked across the street and met up with my friend in front of the hospital. We walked into the emergency room, into the ICU and found his room and snuck in. The old man was in his 80s. He was alone, hooked up to tubes, a breathing machine and whatever else can keep an unconscious person alive. We stood over his bed and began praying in his dark hospital room. 

We prayed and prayed, I wasn’t totally expecting him to wake up from his coma and get out of his bed.  I thought it would be great if he did and I believed it could happen, but it wasn’t expected. We were in his room for about 30 mins praying over his poor old and almost lifeless body and prophesying how great it would be that his family would spend more years with this old man. We felt God say it wasn’t his time to die and even well into his 80s he still had years left in him. We didn’t see him wake up that night.

A few days later I saw my friend and ask him about the old man.  He told me he the next day he the old man had woken up and argued with the nurses.  I was stoked!  I couldn’t believe our prayers worked. Even if he didn’t wake up in front of us that night, it was still unbelievable that he actually woke up from his coma the next day and was aware enough to argue with the nurses.  I went to my home group that night and gave the testimony.

Later that week I found out the old man actually never woke up from the coma and ended up dying a couple days after we prayed for him.  I felt like I was lied to and felt crushed by it.  The testimony I gave to the home group happened to be recorded and played for the church congregation later that same week.  People cheered and told me how awesome it was that our prayers were answered and felt encouraged to pray for their loved ones.  I felt awful and was too embarrassed and overwealmed by their excitement to tell all of them I was lied to. This got me questioning everything. Every testimony I heard from then on was now under my microscope.

I started reading up on the placebo effect, the power of suggestion and other weird psychological happenings that helped explain away all the healings I did in at the skatepark and on the streets.  The fractures were probably never there, the sprained ankles were probably not as bad as it seemed and just went away with a little dopamine and endorphine power.  Some people even told me later that after I prayed they still felt pain, but they just didn’t want to hurt my feelings or they only told me they were healed so I would stop praying for them.

Every big miracle testimony I questioned I found to be exaggerated or lies.  I heard second hand testimonies that got bigger and more extraordinary as the story was passed on.

I never saw anyone with real miraculous healings.  The old man at my church who was severely crippled by a car accident when he was younger didn’t have one inch of healing even after all the prayer he went up for at church.  None of the major prayer warriors could heal him.  None of the major prophets who visited the church that told him he would be healed completely could never do it.  I watched this old man crying for healing numerous times.  It only broke my heart.  And those I prayed for who had terminal cancer never lived to tell of a healing.  I can’t believe in the miraculous healing of God after that.

Sleeping With God

In my last post I gave testimony of my Christian conversion to deconversion.  In these next few posts, I want to write in a little more detail about the spiritual experiences I started questioning that help start my journey into deconversion.

Dreams played a huge role in my life as a miracle believing Christian that had access to the spiritual realm. For a few years I believed the creator of the Universe sent me prophetic dreams on the regular. My dreams were usually filled with angelic encounters, spiritual gifts and healing, prayers and apocalyptic images (storms, tsunamis, earthquakes, etc).  Some mornings I’d wake up wondering what my dreams meant, what God was telling me and how I should use this divine information to better advance the Kingdom of God or help myself and others.

The first time I had a dream I considered spiritual was in my early-20’s.  At the time I wasn’t very active as a Christian.  I dreamed I was outside of the church my dad pastors and someone came up to me and asked me to pray for their friend.  I followed them and saw that it was one of my really good friends at the time, who wasn’t and still isn’t a Christian, that needed prayer.  I started praying for him in my dream and was startled awake by an unseen force holding me down on my bed strangling me.  I couldn’t breath or cry out for help so I started to pray until the unseen force lifted off of me. This made me realize there was something outside of myself; something good and something evil. And I was somehow important enough for these two supernatural forces to fight over me at night.

After that night I didn’t have another dream or experience like that again until my mid-20’s a few years later.

The church I grew up in went through a renewal in 2007 that lasted about a year.  Churches all over California and throughout the country were visiting our church to take part in this renewal.  People were claiming to see angels, feathers and gold dust that seemed to appear out of nowhere during worship, visions and visitations of biblical characters and even Jesus mounted on a horse riding through the aisles and on stage.  It was a very exciting time to be in church.  I really took to the miracles and testimonies of all the things the congregants claimed to see and experience. Almost every night for a few months my dreams became pretty intense and vivid.

In a church that was going through a renewal where people were seeing angels and miracles, I started dreaming a lot about miracles and angels.  My dreams seemed highly spiritual.  I’d wake up sometimes with a euphoric sense that something angelic was in the room. And every once in awhile I’d wake up feeling like something was holding me down and strangling me after a God-given dream and I’d pray thinking demons were attacking me.  I’d tell people about these dreams and experiences and I became known as the guy with a prophetic gift in dreams at the church.  Sometimes I’d dream about people I knew or seen in church and believe it was God giving me something prophetic about the person.  I’d tell these people and some would either feel blessed or creeped out by it. But I felt I was jumping out of the boat and learning how to hear God’s voice through me.

It wasn’t until I started looking into dream theories that I started questioning if God really was giving me these dreams.  I remember reading a Christian dream interpretation book I borrowed from a friend that mentioned if you see a “black or dark-skinned person” in a dream it was symbolic of a demonic force, which I became immediately disgusted by because of it’s racist interpretation.  I couldn’t finish reading the book after that.  I tried reading a couple other Christian books about dreams, but could tell none of the writers had any idea what they were talking about.  There was no critical thought behind their ideas on dreams and was usually based on their cultural upbringing and their personal theological ideas of God.  It seemed way too unstable trying to understand dreams reading books by people who had no understanding of the psychology and science behind dreaming. So I decided I should look into dream theories by secular dream theorists like Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud to help my understanding.

Carl Jung’s ideas on archetype dream symbols and how it plays into the conscious emotional life, the subconscious and collective unconscious really sparked my interest.  I thought maybe this was the way God may talk to us. I started using his theories trying to interpret my own dreams and found it to be a lot more concrete than the Christian interpretation, but the foundation still seemed a little unstable as a way God directly communicated with me.

I downloaded Sigmund Freud’s book “The Interpretation of Dreams” onto my Kindle and this really made an impact on me.  He mentions how people will usually see in their dreams recent things or subjects from the days before the night; for example, if you happened to see a basketball during the day sometimes it’ll appear randomly in your dream at night. I started noticing I’d see images in my dreams of things I barely noticed during the day. This got me questioning a lot about what I’m actually seeing in my dreams and if it even means anything.  I started questioning if the angels and miracles in my dreams were just a subconscious product of the supernatural stories and beliefs coming from the Charismatic culture I was surrounded by at the time.  The more I questioned the more I found it to be true.

The last nail driven into the coffin of God-given dreams was when I learned more about sleep paralysis. The demons attacking me at night were nothing more than my mind waking up before my body, which is actually kind of scary in itself.

My dream life is still very important to me even though God isn’t the one talking to me. It took awhile for me to understand the importance of listening to my dreams without a God and now I see dreams as a mystery of what it is to be a conscious being. And that’s exciting.

Toward the end of my deconversion I had a dream. I dreamed 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.

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.