Below is my story told from a religious perspective. See my About tab for different angles on my past. Also linked below are some of my posts that further describe events or thoughts from that period. For those interested, the posts from 1971-1977 will serve as my “Confessions of a Christian” index posts — those are my fervent Christian years.
My mother was raised casual Methodist in rural Ohio town, my father was raised casual Episcopal in a large city. They met at a Lutheran college though neither were personally very religious, though they were culturally religious. Both in college and in their young married life, they did not go to church, but with having kids, like many people, they decided it is was important that their children were taught good morals and they felt a church would be good for this. So my family went to a local large Lutheran church where I was eventually baptized and confirmed. From 12-13 years old during my confirmation classes (“catechism classes”)I embraced Lutheranism and even daydreamed of becoming a pastor. Also, at 13 years old, I became the youngest Eagle Scout in Ohio — so I was a good, upright boy.
But at age 14, I changed my mind and embraced atheism. I wish I could remember why, but maybe it was at that age that I began thinking for myself. And soon after declaring my disbelief in any god, I refused to go to church. My parents grounded for several months hoping this would bring me back to church, but it didn’t work. And soon the rest of my family stopped going to church also — obviously the foundations of my family’s faith were not very deep.
High School Baptist Days (1971-1972)
In High School, I really only had two friends (I was a bit of a loner). Both my friends came from conservative Baptist families. And at 17 years old my new girlfriend was Baptist also — she was a neighbor of my best friend. Then, one summer day, shortly after high school graduation, I found one of those friends dead. I watch my friend’s father handle his son’s death with exemplary Christian fortitude while the mother fell apart and was devastatingly depressed for years. Shortly thereafter, I converted to Christianity which temporarily secured the girlfriend but also was a valuable life preserver in those tumultuous months before college. My initial teaching were thus all Baptist – the classes and readings I did were all from Dallas Theological seminary graduates.
- Hearing Voices : post about finding my best friend dead
College Charismatic Days (1973 – 1975)
But after 1 year of straight-lace Religion, I attended Cornell University and there was involved with a very hip, Jesus-freak, communal charismatic church run by Scott Ross — laying on of hands, baptized again as an adult, speaking in tongues, much miracle prayers helping people of drugs and lives of crime. But I dropped out of Cornell being disillusioned with science after watching the Andromeda Strain (I am sure there were many other factors) and went back to Ohio to work in the steel mills.
- Scott Ross: a teacher tribute: my Charismatic Christian teacher
- Forgive Me : An apology I wrote for the way I approached others when I was a believer.
Evangelical College Part I (1973-1974)
I decided to go back to college but this time in a field where I could use my faith to help others so I switched to a Evangelical Christian college (Wheaton) and studied Psychology. There I hung both in conservative Baptist circles and emotional charismatic circles — the two rarely mixed. My girlfriend during most of those years was born and raised in India to Mennonite Missionary parents from rural Indiana. I got to know many missionary kids (they formed a clique) who had grown up around different faiths. My friends were from South Africa, Taiwan, India and Pakistan. I quickly grew to envy of their broad experiences in the world.
The Cross-Continent Hitch-hike (1974-1975)
I dropped out of college a second time and went to live and study in Europe. While in Europe I visited Francis Schaeffer’s L’Abri in Switzerland. I hoped to find an intellectual Christianity to answer the questions which were starting to form in my mind. But I was very disillusioned with that group. (I hope to post on this later). After finishing my studies, I hitch-hiked from Europe to India (taking one year) and my ideas began to change. On the road again, I met people from many faiths and since I had no money on my trip I ran into generosity from people of many faiths. I eventually got a job substitute teaching in a missionary school in Pakistan and then in a Christian halfway house in Delhi India (The Dilaram House (here is a 1973 Time article on the Afghanistan house which I also stayed at – started by Floyd McClung-and they are still at it).
- Peeing Epiphany : On of my stories from my Dilaram days in India
- Religious Sell-out: A story of a compromised position in Pakistan
- Taking Magic for Granted: Learning Magic to eat — the gullible religious mind
- Hinduism was my Undoing: Why I began to change
Back to Evangelical College Part II (1976-1977)
After returning to the USA from Asia I could feel myself slowly transitioned out of Christianity. Here are some initial reasons for the doubt and transition:
- I no longer believed all believers were damned.
- I saw no unique moral difference between sincere believers of other faiths and Christians.
- If wondered how the prayers of non-believers were really different than mine.
- I started disbelieving the veracity of the Bible.
- I had seen no amazing miracles.
- I started to doubt that prayer was nothing more than self-talk
So, in trying to be honest to my Christian roommates and friends who were starting to question my commitment to Christ, I started admitting that I was “not a normal Christian”. Later, after more readings, I called myself a “mystic Christian”. I then attended a reform synagogue for a year before fully extricating myself from Theism.
- Christian Suicide: A friend kills himself at my Christian College
- In Jesus’ Name: My deconversion: An autumn stroll and an unraveling insight during prayer
- Jesus as an Imaginary Friend: Prayer as self-talk
- Am I Still Save? : My religious “credentials” and a survey of my fate.
- My Pathetic Deconversion: Failed Christian Exceptionalism : not so much about the Bible
Graduate School in Philosophy (1977-1980)
After graduating in Psychology and Education, I taught in High School a while but decided to go to grad school so I got jobs in psychiatric institutions while I went to Grad School part-time. I studied and taught comparative religion & philosophy in graduate school and explored Hinduism and Buddhism. I made a hobby of attending different churches every week for 18 months and kept a comparison journal. I then received graduate fellowships from the government which sent me back to Asia to study.
Back in India & Pakistan (1980-1981)
- Insh’allah: My Muslim Lesson: about my Pakistani “mother”
- Religious Sell-out (12/2009): Making a friend conform to Islam
- “Walk Behind me Woman” (02/2014) : ooops, I accidentally wrote this story twice!
Japan Years (1982-1989)
But when returning to finish my Ph.D. I staying on in Japan to do martial arts in a Buddhist temple and then to study Oriental Medicine. That 2 week vacation in Japan on my way back from India became 7 years — ah the turns of life ! Living in Asia for a decade, I rarely had to face the questioning of Christians and the expectations of Christian society — I was essentially free of burden of evangelical religions by being a foreigner. I did run into rare evangelizing Buddhist odd sects occasionally.
- Divination: Japanese superstitions
Duke Medical Training (1989-1991)
Seattle Years (1991-1995)
Back in China (1995-1996)
Hopkins MPH Days (1997-1999)
- Your God is Weird (Sikh & Hindu parochialism)
My Dad Years (1999 to present)
But on coming back to the States, and now having children, I have had to again start taking a stance on my beliefs about religions as they hit me and my kids right in the face. I had several families break relations with my family when they found out we were not Christians — and of course Jews and Hindus are slow to associate with those outside their fold. But I taught my children to be respectful of other people’s faiths until one night I found my son crying alone on the couch. It took me a while to get him to explain his tears. He said that kids at school told him he was going to hell because he did not believe in their god. At that point, I told my son that the gloves are off. When religion is in your face, you can fight back and I decided to start giving him the skills. On the other hand, he totally understands that if he should ever decide to be a theist, his Dad would still love him completely ! I am trying to teach him and my daughter that all of us have silly ideas and we should try to get along in spite of them.
It was those experiences that were part of the reason for starting this blog.
- God Slapped them Down : some Christian friends meet harsh Christianity