Why I left the church

Growing up, I was fortunate to have parents who raised me in a religion-neutral environment. Well almost. When we were young, we said a ritual prayer before bed and before meals, but by my teens I had forgotten that we had ever done this. I attended a church service with my mother only once and was unaware that my parents had both been confirmed Anglicans. By the age of seventeen, I gave no thought to religion whatsoever. I was an insecure teenager with no discernible skills and a small group of friends, none of whom were particularly close. The summer after my grade 11 year, I began to work at a bible camp where I made a lot of friends and was exposed to the christian faith for the first time.

It was a turning point in my life and I began to go to church and read the bible. Although I was beginning to be exposed to christian values, I was still drinking to excess and behaving irresponsibly in other ways. I would add that the excessive drinking often took place with my 'christian' friends from the bible camp. Eventually, I asked God into my life and my newfound faith gave me what seemed to be a dramatic boost in confidence. At the time, I thought I had undergone some supernatural experience and was changed into a new person. In reality, I had found a supportive community for the first (but not the last) time in my life and my friendships were helping me to grow as a person. I began to attend church regularly. Meeting with longtime church members when I knew next to nothing about the christian faith is intimidating and it stifles one's inclination to ask questions revealing the obvious inconsistencies of the bible. The church's constant teaching that the bible is infallible means that you have to simply accept all the old testament stories in which whole races of people are slaughtered and many other such atrocities. When you are brave enough to question these events, you get trite responses such as "That race of people lived to show how much God loved the Jews.", "God works in mysterious ways." and other such nonsense. At the same time, you learn that God loves everyone. It must have taken a lot of 'tough love' to slaughter whole races of people.

Looking back now, I can't imagine how I bought into christianity.
I went on to become a teacher and work at two different christian schools. I taught Sunday school. I led bible study groups. I was a youth leader for a number of youth groups. Ironically, teaching at a christian school was the beginning of the end of my faith. The subculture of a diverse, evangelical christian school includes people from many different branches of the christian faith. You see the best and the worst, but mostly the worst. It became evident very quickly that the people I met there were so wrapped up in their faith, they were completely unaware of problems of the world outside. They would refute evolution on the basis that there was no evidence for it, but they restricted their studies to the bible and spiritual books and could never have come across evidence of evolution in their readings or their sheltered social circles if they had several billion years to do so (not to mention five thousand or so). They supported the fact that Israel occupies Palestine and oppresses the Palestinian people in every way possible. This was acceptable to them because the Jews are "God's Chosen People." Obviously, things haven't changed much since the days of the old testament. Other christians I knew supported politicians who claimed to be christians. They knew nothing of these politicians' personal beliefs, their backgrounds or their political history. There was no analysis. We were supposed to vote for the Reform Party (Canada) en masse because some of their candidates claimed to be Christian. My suggestion to my christian friends that they should evaluate them as politicians and analyze their backgrounds were met with blank stares. Furthermore, the christian schools' approach to thorny issues like evolution, evil and suffering in a world with an 'omnipotent' god, Halloween and many other things were to avoid talking about the issues so that no one would be offended. This pattern would be repeated in other settings such as the various youth groups that I was involved in. Bringing up these issues, I was told, would alienate certain families. It would be far better to focus on other subjects. The fact that no one, including the christian scholars whose works I had been reading, could answer the questions I had, began to hammer more nails into the coffin of my faith. This process took many years. The multitudes of political battles I witnessed in the churches I attended, included behavior that no intelligent christian who has read the bible could condone. This hypocritical behavior took place at the highest levels of the churches I attended without exception. Teachers I worked with at the christian schools would go to chapel and sing songs about love and then the moment they were back in the staff room, they would engage in behavior that included envy, pride, gossip, backstabbing, revenge and other vices. No one even seemed to see a conflict. Christians have often told me not to judge god based on the behavior of 'fallen christians'. The church teaches that the holy spirit comes into your body when you ask god into your heart. Presumably if one-third of the holy trinity rests in my physical body, I should have some advantage when it comes to resisting temptation or making the right decisions. Although I am not basing this statement on a scientific study, twenty years of anecdotal experience in both christian and secular settings has taught me that there is absolutely no basis for the idea that christians behave better than atheists, agnostics and people of other faiths. In fact, if you look at the idea historically (the crusades, witch hunts, the 'Troubles' in Ireland, to name a few), it is clear that christians have committed a shocking number of atrocities in god's name. Of course, atheists have been responsible for atrocities, too. The difference is that atheists are not claiming to have the holy spirit living in them. The details of the event that led me to finally throw off the shackles of the church are unimportant. In brief, it came down to a couple of people who didn't like me or the way I ran the youth groups I was leading. Lies and half-truths led to a request from a representative of the church council for me to move on and I did. Interestingly, when it turned out that I had support from many of the parents whose children were in my youth groups, the propaganda machine was fired up and the truth began to take on several shades of grey. After many years of witnessing others experience such treatment, I realized that my turn had come.

Retrospectively, I think that it was the best thing that could have happened to me. In the church I was taught that the truth shall set us free. In fact, it was the lack of it that set me free. The fact that people were willing to slice and dice the truth, not to mention making bald-faced lies, convinced me that I was better off without the church. It is worth pointing out that it was not this one event, but literally dozens of such events involving others that made me begin to question the teachings of the church. These episodes made me wonder what I truly knew for sure. After much reflection, I realized that prayer was just what I had always known in my heart - an empty one-way exercise. Also known as talking to yourself. When I began to really examine all the 'answers to prayer' I had experienced, I realized that an answer to prayer is when you get what you want. All the times I had felt that God answered my prayers, 'luck' or 'coincidence' had resulted in me getting what I wanted. Because when you get what you want, god is answering your prayers and when you don't get what you want, God has some mysterious reason that only he could understand. The newborn baby that died. "God loved him so much that He took him up to Heaven." Perhaps such an answer would comfort a distraught and somewhat feeble-minded person, but it only fed my skepticism. The whole process of questioning my faith probably took over ten years. The final incident was the little push I needed to help me to decide to leave the church. The analysis of my experiences over those twenty years was sped up by the web of lies and deceit that marked my last experience in the church.

To those christians that may respond that this episode is sad, I would like to say at the outset that what is sad is that it took so long for me to realize that I had been duped into believing a fairy tale. It is nearly tragic that it took twenty years to learn that one can live a guilt-free life. On the positive side, I truly believe that my life is richer for having been involved in the church. Besides learning values and the importance of serving others, I also can do something that almost no christians can truly do. I can evaluate the church and the bible's teachings from the dual perspectives of an outsider and an insider. I have a rich life and am thankful that I can move ahead knowing that my future will not be clouded with superstition, but be enriched with understanding based on observable evidence and reason.


22 comments:

Sacred Slut said...

Yeah, but you were never a TRUE CHRISTIAN.

Interesting story; thanks for sharing it. It's always fascinating to see the process.

Lee Randolph said...

Welcome aboard!

Glenn Kachmar said...

Sacred Slut Is anyone? BTW, nice online name.

gwc said...

how ironic that xtians often characterize non-xtians as living in a dream world, striving towards intellectual utopias instead of living on earth.
such inconsistency.

John W. Loftus said...

I like how you write Glenn. I look forward to more of what you have to say.

Paul M. Harrison said...

Welcome!

Glenn Kachmar said...

Thanks Lee, John and Paul. I am thankful for the opportunity.

Anonymous said...

Glenn-

I would like to thank you for your story and the tale of how the church affected you. I would also like to say I am so sorry that the effects the Christians you were in contact with had such a bad effect. You are right- I am ashamed to say that there is HUGE amounts of hypocricy in the Church, and the Christians you were in contact with are no exception. It makes me feel terrible when the members of a belief that stresses acceptance, love and forgiveness would act in such a negative manner. Not all Christians are like that Glenn. It makes me ashamed that those in contact with you were such poor examples of the religion they claimed to be apart of. Let me remind you of 2 big things about christianity. Firstly, all people are sinful and make mistakes. The beautiful thing is that regardless of the mistakes you have that support and faith in the fact that regardless of how terrible a life you are leading, there is hope in the grace of Jesus that there is something better than this world. It's a proccess of growth- everyone faces hard times in their walk and the strength that lets you persevere through the rough times rests in the faith of your salvation. A second thing I couldn't help noticing is the way you made reference to what you were getting out of religion and how the church affected you. but Christianity is not about you. It's not about the people around you. It's about in what way you can show your gratitude for Someone who loves you enough to die for you so you wont have to ever experience suffering of Hell. I think society today has so warped the view of the church into making it seem we should be getting something out of religion. it's actually about what we can give to God. When we truly grow and mature in our walk with him is when we start to experience the gifts of the Holy Spirit- Love, joy, peace, etc. not that nonchristians cant experience these things- but the only reason you can is because without your knowledge God works in your life giving you a sense of what is good moral behavior. without your knowledge or ackowledgement- he's still doing it. And lastly for all the non believers reading this- I respect your opinion and belive me i agree with you that there are some crazies out there who in the name of religion do terrible things. but please, give us a chance we dont like these crazies either. the majority of us arent like that at all and dont let yourselves give us a stereotype from people like that. the only difference between me and you is that we admit life is a pretty crappy state of affairs and realize we cant make it on our own. even if we are wrong about the existence of a God, isnt it good to have a little insurance in case we are right? is it wrong to hope for something more? hope for something better! it makes life that much more bareable. who can claim loving your neighbor is a bad thing to do? the qualities Christianity teaches greatly outway its downsides. Glenn i will be praying for you. remember life is a journey, and when it's hard Jesus can carry you through.


-christian student
11th Grade, Chicago Christian Highschool

Anonymous said...

Glenn,

You have two choices.

1. Repent and obey God.

2. Suffer torment in Hell forever.

Anonymous said...

You have two choices.

1. Repent and obey God.

2. Suffer torment in Hell forever.

Don't forget secret option 3. Live your life happily and without regret, never knowing the fear of supernatural folk tales.

christian student,11th Grade, Chicago Christian Highschool. Thank you for having the decency and good manners to post such a calm and leveled headed post. I don't agree with you in the least, but i respect your ability to present your views without the threats and scorn that many (on both sides) use.

That said, a few comments on your post.
You said
"there are some crazies out there who in the name of religion do terrible things. but please, give us a chance we dont like these crazies either"
Of course you don't. 99% of religious people aren't like that. I'm sure are a very pleasant and well adjusted person. BUT, you do make it possible for those people to exist. You do this by promoting the idea that faith (Believing in something with no proof) is a virtue. Once you propagate this idea, it allows people to lurk on the fringes of religion and use that belief to do great or terrible things. For some very devout men like Ghandi or Martin Luther King this can provide solace and strength when they are faced with seemingly overwhelming foes. For others like Osama Bin Laden, the inquisition and the taliban, it allows for terrible atrocities. These men that did these terrible things were very devout men who believed deeply in their religion. Their belief was created, fostered and abetted by moderates.
In any gathering of people there will be those on the extremes and extremes of religion allow for extreme actions. An extreme atheist (left or right politically) would be hesitant to sacrifice his life or anothers for fear of death/punishment. What does a matyr fear if he believes he is going to paradise? Its not just the fringe that preach paradise, its you.

Glenn Kachmar said...

anonymous 1 (gr. 11 student)
Sixteen or seventeen years ago, I would have responded exactly the same way you have today. Sadly the only way that you will find out the truth about the church and christians is to get involved. Join some committees, work with the youth (when you aren't one of them), teach Sunday school and especially, watch the process of hiring a new pastor once or twice. The only real advice I have for you is don't hesitate to ask the tough questions. Looking back now I wish that I had done that a lot more. You said you would pray for me. I am tempted to pull a 'Brian Sapient' and say that I will think for you. But I prefer that you make sure to think for yourself. If something seems hard to believe, there may be a reason.
anonymous 2
If you wish to believe these are the only two options, it's your choice. I personally agree with Anonymous 3's third secret option. I am living my life happily without regret.

Anonymous said...

To All,

Glenn, thanks for sharing your story.

I'm pretty sure you must be aware of this, but thinking for yourself and living a life without regrets are what the Apostle Paul advised people to do. He said that regrets were from the world and when approached by others' advice (even those professing to be prophets) to decide for onesself.

11 student, that's in scripture - I'll leave it up to you to find it in there, okay? As far as those crazies that no one likes, Jesus was not offended by even the blind, naked and violent demoniac -I wonder why we can't see people the way He did? We seem to get offended pretty easily - Jesus is my hero!

Thanks!

Anon 1035

Newton said...

I, too, have many doubts as to the 'christian community'. Some how, christians (or those that hold themselves to be so) have a very distorted view of their religion. I am a Christian. I try desperately each day to follow in Jesus Christ's discipline.

First: Christians should read ALL of Jesus teachings first. Then go the appropriate parts of the Bible that pertain to what Jesus taught.

Second: Once you have established that you want to model your life according to Jesus...then concentrate on WWJD (What would Jesus do?)

Third: Once you have done these things, you should have one thing in view. Jesus!

We have to remember that Jesus told us to "Keep God's commandments", "Love God with all of our hearts", "Love your neighbor as yourself", and "Do not hold on to laws and traditions"

Think about this: If one is a follower of Jesus; thinking and acting as Jesus did; would you harbour hate? Would you want to talk about a co worker in a negative way?

Would Jesus walk by the homeless person asking for a dollar without giving that person something? Jesus most likely would have provided something for the homeless person.

Would Jesus work every day 9 to 5, for a paycheck, so He could have a huge house in the suburbs, electricity, SUV, and all of the other EARTHLY riches that we christians accumilate?
Probably not!

My point is this: In my honest opinion; Heaven won't be nearly as crowded as most of us christians think it will be. We have been misled by modern day pharisees to the point that we have become pharisees. Myself included. Money has replaced the one true God. We have become so reliant on money....our own faith has dwindled to words only. Who of us would have the courage to sell everything we own, give the money away, and follow Jesus? Until we actually do it, we are mere chasers of a false god. Any one that cares to dispute what I have said, I have many scriptures to back it up.

John W. Loftus said...

Great question Newton. What would Jesus do?

Michael Ejercito said...

Jesus went around condemning Pharisees, calling them fools.

Maybe we should start by picketing Cardinal Roger Mahony.

Newton said...

John Loftus: very informative link. Is that yours? I looked, but did not find who the author was.

There are many points to which I have no immediate response. I do have a question. When the writer states 'Jesus looked on' referring to some obvious massacre in Numbers 31, where does the information come from that Jesus was actually there?

As I stated earlier, Jesus teaches to obey God's commandments, love God with all of heart, love your neighbors as yourself and let go of laws and traditions. The passages that the author references, are man made.

Christianity is based on the teachings of Jesus. Anything prior to Jesus obviously cannot be connected to Christianity. This is my point. All references to anything old testament other than the 10 commandments, would have to be considered heavily before lumping them into the teachings of Jesus.

I tend to agree with the author on most of the post, however it is clear that the lines between what Jesus taught, and what was someone's interpretation, cross many times.

It is clear to me that Jesus was all about peace, and love. Any different thoughts would have had to come from misinterpretations of the language used or faded memories of the apostles, or both. In no way do I adhere to every word of the Bible. I do not see how that would be possible.

Jesus teachings are a good foundation in which to build a good society, however the rest is up to us and we have failed miserably. By that I mean the church, through it's arrogance, has mislead the followers of Jesus. Now, the lines are so entangled that we have no idea what is correct and what is not.

Newton said...

One more thing, and this is opinion only. The old testament, as we see it, does not describe a loving and forgiving God, but a vengeful one. The Isrealites were a murderous people. The description of God in the new testament clearly is a different God or at least a different description of the same God. IMO, the OT is a history lesson moreso than life lesson. NT (particularly the gospels) are more for life applications.

John W. Loftus said...

Newton: The description of God in the new testament clearly is a different God or at least a different description of the same God.

Which is it? It cannot be both. Is this the same God or not?

me said...


You have two choices.
1. Repent and obey God.
2. Suffer torment in Hell forever.


And christians wonder why everyone else thinks they're stupid!

Anonymous said...

I'm still not sure you understand what im getting at. It makes me extremely frustrated when people call themselves christians but then can come on to a site like this and say repent God or suffer torment in Hell forever. That is the exact fanaticism that puts Christians in a bad light. Christians repent and obey God because we are thankful for the free gift of grace he gave us. It's how we show our thanks. Thats really it. Acts dont save us, salvation was free. Because we want to try to imitate Christ to show our gratitude is why we obey God. theres nothing more destructive then forcing the idea of OBEY OR SUFFER HELL down someone's throat. Whoever said that religion allows the crazies the possibity to exist (i think it was anonymous 3) is right. The only thing is you cant call a religion bad just because of the few examples of atrocities carried out in the name of religion. You dont stop using a tool like a knife just because it was used in a murder. Just because a possiblity of atrocity is offered doesnt make the basic good, moral principles of something wrong. believe me, im not advocating for any of those crazies who carry out terrible things like blowing up abortion clinics, etc. in the name of religion. For example Osama Bin Laden killed thousands of people in the name of Islam- but doesnt Islam claim to be the religion of peace? Just because you do something in the name of a religion doesnt mean you are truly following that religion. But enough about Islam because I'm a Christian. being a student in a Christian school definitely does not make me an expert on Christianity. Some of you have probably been Athiest since before i was born. But the one main idea i cant get over with your belief is there is such a lack of hope. Say you guys are right hypothetically. All humanity goes about life hoping for something more than what is given. Life is a pretty crummy state of affairs isnt it? how many of you can say you are truly happy with the life you are living? But with your belief or lack of belief means that we die and we can hope for nothing better. Christianity is all about the hope of something better. Thats the only difference between me and you. I say that there has to be something better out there than what we can life. And having that hope makes life all the more bareable. Isnt that more comforting? what have you got to loose? Even if we are wrong we just die and thats the end. But what if we are right? theres a chance for something better! a place with no more death, sadness or hurt. A place where no one will ever leave you and a place where Christ will always give you love and assurance. I think it's much more attractive my way.

Christian Student, 11th grade

ps- a great book that maybe will give all of you a better description than what i can give of the basics of Christianity is called Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis- dont be afraid to read it, it might give you a better argument if you understand my religion's concepts a little better.

Glenn Kachmar said...

anonymous high school student
There is something you need to know. The writers of this site are probably a lot better read than you realize. I have read Mere Christianity several times. It is well written, but still is nonsense.

You wrote how many of you can say you are truly happy with the life you are living? [sic] Let me say it again because obviously you didn't read it the first time I have a rich life and am thankful that I can move ahead knowing that my future will not be clouded with superstition, but be enriched with understanding based on observable evidence and reason. I am truly happier than I ever was when I was a christian.

I hate to do this anonymous high school student, but your real reason for believing the christian story seems to be what is commonly known as 'Fire Insurance.' You have stated this two times, "what have you got to loose? Even if we are wrong we just die and thats the end. But what if we are right? theres a chance for something better!" [sic]

I suggest you read the first post of my friend's blog. He is called Atheist's Wager (not really). His first post is based on his response to Pascal's Wager. Read the post. It deals nicely with your Fire Insurance. Here is the URL:

http://atheistwager.blogspot.com/2007/04/first-post.html

Anonymous said...

"...isnt it good to have a little insurance in case we are right?"

Yup, fire insurance. I used to believe in Christianity and was very zealous (with liberal ideals), especially in high school. Over time, I realized that my inner peace and strength didn't come from God, it came from myself. Knowing that, I am even more stronger and happier. Fuck insurance! Question the inconsistencies. Answer your internal "What ifs?" Don't turn to a pastor or church member, research and answer FOR YOURSELF.