Conversion Story

I wasn’t raised in church. My parents had been raised religious, but this trickle-down barely got to me. I heard whispers of Jesus thanks to private catholic school, but knew little of the bible stories, and thought them to be untrue, until about 16.

I grew up awkward. I was smart, scrawny, and didn’t quite understand social conventions as easily as the rest of my peers. As such, I was picked on, insulted and degraded, and as I didn’t go to church with any of these other ‘good southern kids’ (south Carolina by the way), I had no outside contact. I had tried a few churches with my mom (who has much of her current happiness thanks to a church) but found everyone to be rude, self-centered, and general stereotypical southern Christians. Then after my freshman year of high school everything changed.

I visited my sister who had just had her first child, and got my first guitar. I loved that guitar. Then I went to school and got my first girlfriend. She went to church; so naturally I followed. I stayed at that church until my junior year of high school. The second church I went to was a good group of kids, that were really freakin nice to me for no reason! Didn’t they know I was weird and bad at jokes and everything? Nope. They didn’t care. They just wanted to be my friend. I dove headfirst into their youth group, into praise and worship leading, and falling all over myself to make up for the years I’d spent without Christ, and got saved the winter of my junior year, baptized in the spring; raised to walk in newness of life. There was also a girl(friend) at that same church but would be extremely sexual after church. Thus the beginning of my hypocrisy and sexual repression… And I went off to college with the assurance that I would be a famous praise and worship leader someday, to study music education and electrical engineering (my two passions) with a new girlfriend that was not permiscuous, but was a pastor’s kid, encouraging me that I was destined for god’s work.

I don’t half-ass stuff. I study and work and understand. As an engineering student, I wanted to understand why Christianity worked. I studied the origins of the Bible, using Josh McDowell’s books as a resource. I read about the council of nicea, about the objections, and I had functional answers to everything. I believed that if Jesus could turn water into wine, then he had absolute grasp over time by creating something with the appearance of time (wine). God created dinosaurs and the ideas of evolution to give us something to discover, and to give science a framework, but not because it was just that way. I believed most of Answers in Genesis was incorrect, as it was incompatible with science; the dinosaurs never existed; just their bones. God, after all, could create time, and create an earth with a long date, though it may not be that way. I researched Islam, the Koran, its inception, about the Zaid codecies and the destruction of it, and scoffed at the “stupid arabics’” holy book, full of errors. I didn’t understand how people were so blind. I studied Mormonism, scientology, Calvinism, Armenianism, the early church fathers, everything.

I was the president of Fellowship of Christian Athletes. I participated in CRU (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ), Baptist Collegiate Ministries. I worked as a youth intern at a local church, and was a college group bible study leader in another church. I changed churches because I thought one was focused to much on Armenian ideas of salvation by works, and not enough on the glorious grace of Christ. But, I still took every opportunity I could to allow God to make me the praise and worship leader I prayed so diligently to become. This never happened. I was made the president of FCA, when I wanted to be the leader of the band. I led worship for a youth group of about 11 kids. I never led in front of anyone of note. God was blind!

Parallel to all this, my other face was that of struggling with lust and sexual sin. I would keep it at bay for a time, but would always come back to it, pornography, and girls, girls, girls. I was constantly guilty and ashamed. I blamed myself for ruining two girls’ lives, who got pregnant with guys that they dated after me, because I felt like I’d pushed them towards sinfulness instead of holiness. I would date girls, be promiscuous with fondling or lustful thoughts, and flee, as it says to do in the scriptures, leaving tens of girls with emotions and frustrations. This all came to a bit of a head when a girl I kissed on a date contrived a story about assaulting her to her bible study leader at my old college church (the one I’d left). This went around the chain of command and came back to me, removing me from stage. This was one of the biggest steps in my deconversion. Christians were supposed to forgive, not invent stories that consist of defamation and slander. I’m probably going to thank her someday for helping my emancipation. I started doubting. I went to bible study and church, but I no longer cared. I showed up to help out, but nothing more. I started reading evidence to the contrary:

[the evolution of hell],[the death of judas], the [QualiaSoup videos], a history of god and a look at [evolutionary psychology] and its take on the sexual frustrations i had felt for years.  God never came through on his promise to make me a praise and worship leader, or to help with sexual sin.  The biggest resource game-changer was a book from an atheist friend (that I wish was still nearby so I could thank her for everything) called “A Moral Animal”, and it is an introductory book on evolutionary psychology.  The explanations it gave for everything: sex, intrapersonal relationships, anger, envy, altruism, group think… everything about my Christian worldview and everything in it… were better. Christianity made less sense than this book.  I still believed, but I couldn’t quit thinking about it.  Sex and religion were natural consequences of evolution, not of a myth about a creator god that got angry about eating a fruit.

There was no final straw. Over the course of 2 years, I figured this all out, and finally came out to my bible study.  To protect my musical interests and a few paying gigs, I haven’t been public about it, besides silently changing my religious views to pastafarian and telling a select few group of people about it.  I simply tell people I’m ‘evaluating other sources’ when asked about my absence.  There is no more guilt, only the freedom of my mind. Where there was unrest, angst, and shame, there is now only sober truth, and that truth has set me free.

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  • Sharon Mc

    Patrick, this is so sad. You are totally allowing Satan to lead you. The freedoms you say you have found are a false sense, and you will ultimately find yourself at a deathly end on this path. Please continue to ‘study’. While we may not find all our answers in this world, it is vital to trust God and be open to HIS leadership. HE has a plan for your life, and that should be your goal for life, not what you think HE should plan for you. I’ve struggled with some of your issues, and would love to help you through this important time of your life. Sharon McElveen Altman

    • lpmitch

      Sharon,

      Thank you for your care and response, and I’m currently in discussion with Joseph Ray, Stuart’s brother, a masters student in apologetics, my mom, my former pastor at midtown, and my good friend who swing dances. I do not think i am allowing satan to lead me, as i do not think satan is a real entity. The freedom i have is one of intellectual freedom; that i may freely question the things that are espoused as true, and i think it is detrimental to not ask these hard questions.

      As for His plan, assuming the bible is true (which i of course do not), god’s plan is to make me into a great atheist. He has given me the knowledge and skills to combat him, to point out the flaws in his existence. This was his doing entirely, and his desire is of course to send me to hell. Slightly annoying, but as he is the potter and i am the clay, i put the decision for my salvation squarely on him. He is the one that engenders grace and faith, and knows exactly what would need to happen to bring me back to the fold. Until he changes history to prove that a miracle working jesus existed, and sacrificed for a disease (sin) that actually exists, i will continue to doubt the Christian God’s existence.

      Than you for offering to help me through this time. My mom and i have been discussing the same thing, that she once went through a similar time. I too, went through a time of doubt in my sophomore year at USC. I read everything i could about how the bible came to be, the evidence for the resurrection. I followed 2 Peter 3:16, to be always prepared to give an accounting for the faith i had. Time after time i sought to please god, and time after time i felt the shame of failure. Once i read a book on evolutionary psychology, i realized my desires, my anger, my happiness, everything, was the result of evolutionary selection. The mentality that was most suited to survival was the one i’d inherited from previous generations. Prayer soon came to a halt, after i realized that things that i want to happen and work towards are far more likely to be trustworthy than praying to an invisible entity. The feelings i got that made me jittery and feel ‘god’ i could get from looking at a sunset or music; they did no more to prove jesus than allah, or any other god for that matter. Humans have emotion, and these are real. I do not doubt that. But then you read all of this.

      I encourage you to continue reading my blog and let me know where i have erred, in my knowledge or research. I currently believe i am more free than i ever was before, and i understand your perspective that i am going towards destruction, but this is not at all true from my perspective. This is only true if God, the bible, jesus, the afterlife, and all these emmensely unverifiable ideas are true. These extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and God knew that; yet he did nothing to provide more than ‘have faith’. my definition of faith is willful ignorance. You accept things as true by willfully ignoring what is actually true.

      God knows what i need. The ball is in his court.

      • rkrumel

        Hey PMitch,
        I finally checked out your blog after seeing a bunch of Daily Gamecock articles and hearing from people about your change, but I had to check it out for myself. Sorry I’ve been such a stranger. I actually read through this blog and some of the comments, and typed up a lengthy one of my own, but then I accidentally hit back on my browser instead of the other tab I was trying to hit, and lost the whole thing. :( It was about God’s plans for us as dancers and musicians too… and my experience trying to manipulate God to do what I wanted from Him – what I believed He wanted for me, but I can’t put all my words together again right now. :( Maybe again later.
        Would love to get coffee sometime and catch up. My views about my faith have been being challenged and are morphing and changing too, but I am beginning to experience God more as the real God I think he wants to be known as, not shut up in our theological Christian boxes. Anyway, I don’t know everything, and won’t try to preach to you, but I’d like to extend the hand of friendship again since I haven’t talked to you in awhile.
        I’ll be done with school and looking for a job, maybe at a coffee shop again until I figure out what I’m doing with my life… ha! Also, please come to house church one Friday nights. It’s an informal group that meets to worship and fellowship Friday nights at Grandby Mills. I don’t know how much longer we’ll be meeting there, because some people are moving on soon, but ask Jayson Sherod or Matt about it, or me (I’ll fb you my number again). We’d love to have you, and won’t put any pressure on you, and you can leave when you want.
        All the best,
        Becca

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  • reid1985

    Patrick,

    I remember seeing you many times at Midtown, though we were never friends. If you look me up on facebook, you will probably recognize me.

    I would like to say a few things after giving your recent blogs a cursory reading:

    1. I appreciate your honesty and willingness to question hard issues. It is also a very brave thing to leave one’s religion, particularly a systemic one involving relationships, emotions, significant parts of one’s past, etc.

    2. I agree wholeheartedly that the typical southern evangelical is not aware of the textual nuances of the texts that comprise the protestant scriptures (let alone the Catholic or Orthodox, which are significantly different!), the history of their composition and canonization, or the heavy influence of Greek philosophy on the development the doctrines they purport to espouse. I believe the Christian community is significantly poorer for lacking understanding in these areas, and the general attitude of churches to which I have been exposed is not to question these issues, at least not to a significantly. They recommend Josh McDowell (of whom I will say a bit more later), and do themselves a disservice in thinking they have really grappled with the issues.

    3. I am at least somewhat familiar with many of the issues you raise. I was first introduced to some of them 8 years ago when I took Bart Erhman’s “Introduction to the New Testament” course when I was a student at Chapel Hill. It was a great course, and Dr. Erhman presents a compelling case. His personal story is also captivating. Some of the more philosophical questions – miracles, evil, objective goodness, the nature of God, etc. – I was exposed to in my philosophy classes, particularly through the study of David Hume, Augustine, and yes, even Sam Harris (though I think it worth noting that there are MUCH better Atheists that Sam Harris. The consensus of the Atheistic philosophical community is that Sam Harris makes sloppy arguments, and is more interested in his conclusions than in providing rigorous methods of deducing them. He is like the Josh McDowell of Christianity :) If you want to read a good atheist, read Peter Singer.)

    4. My immersion in such material has not driven me to the conclusions to which it appears to have led you, though it has significantly changed my perspective on many issues. One thing it has taught me, and this I firmly believe: that I might very well be wrong about everything I hold as true. Seriously, I really do believe this. This stems from a foundational shift in my epistemic outlook and methodology, based on my exposure to these and other issues. Being a good modernist (in the philosophical sense), I used to think that every belief I held needed to be justified on the basis of some empirical evidence or logical deduction, and that without some broadly scientific or deductive verification, I would be unjustified in granting credence to a belief. This approach is, with the assumptions it entails, perhaps the centerpiece of the modern philosophical project who bore it, begun in earnest by Descartes. This was a project that clearly failed. Descartes attempted to justify the existence of God and the existence of self on purely rational grounds. Immanual Kant furthered the project by attempting to justify a universal morality on the same grounds. David Hume, and many after him, demonstrated the failure of Descartes, and even arguably of Kant (even though he wrote before him). This project failed just about as well in its scientific domains as it did in its moral and theological endeavors. Einstein, to his death, refused to let go of the definitive nature of quantum possibility. The proofs we have now of the non-locality of particles clearly demonstrate the inadequacy of such an approach for understanding the world as we find it. Einstein was, on this issue, simply wrong. Even though the modern project has demonstrably failed, I find its assumptions rampant in modern Christianity (and almost completely non-existence in pre-modern Christianity). I think we would it would be amazed at how differently people like Augustine thought about some of the most basic assumptions that underlie most current attempts to justify Christian belief (most contemporary apologetics and apologetic theories I have encountered are distinctly modern in their approach). Augustine did not share these assumptions, and in significant ways, because of this difference, came to different conclusion on the nature and function of scripture, theology, evil, etc.

    The most interesting comment you made (of the ones I read) was that you find your current beliefs making better sense of the world than the ones you formerly held. This I can understand, especially if you approach these issues with modernistic assumptions. I do not intend to imply by this that if you adopted different assumptions your beliefs would necessarily change. You may become more skeptical. In fact, most pre-modern, and probably all post-modern forms of epistemic justification lead to categorically less certain beliefs that modernism sought to establish. Personally, I have adopted a criteria of epistemic justification very similar to the one you mentioned. I am looking for the best coherent explanation of the world as I find it. In my case, that has not led me away from Christianity, at least not yet. I am more satisfied today than ever that the claims of orthodox Christianity, properly understood, best explain the complex nature of reality. This does not mean they explain well every facet of my understanding of reality – far from it!!! – but rather that, holistically, I find them more satisfying than any coherent alternative of which I am aware. But then again, who am I? Someone who doesn’t know much, and who simply might be wrong.

    I would love to see a post where you explore this issue in more depth. I am very curious what aspects of the world you find better explained by your current beliefs, as opposed to those of Christianity, in a holistic sense.

    In any case, regardless of whether or not you reply, I appreciate and respect your honesty.

    Regards,
    -Reid