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My De-Conversion Story

Over the break, I got a lot of e-mails asking me about my de-conversion story. To be honest, my story isn’t that interesting. I was never a fundamentalist nor did I have a lot of family pressure to stay religious. But it’s a new year, so I guess I’ll tell the story.

First, it is important to understand the demographics of the area I grew up in. I grew up in a small suburban town in Northern Jersey just outside New York City. The area is very diverse and liberal. More importantly, there are no fundamentalists. I never met a fundamentalist until I went to college. On Sundays, Christians might go to Church and on Fridays, Jews might go to Temple. But not everyone did. My family only went to Temple on the holidays.

My parents are Jewish and I grew-up going to Hebrew School on Saturdays and for a few hours after public school two days a week for about 8 to 10 years. I learned about God the same way I learned about science. I accepted that God was real and never even thought that it was something to be questioned.

Shortly after my Bar Mitzvah (13th Birthday), I started to have a rough time in school. I saw some kids in my school doing some illegal things and told my friend what I saw. My friend blabbed and as a result, I started to get harassed by those kids and their friends (many of whom probably didn’t know what was going on). The harassment really got to me and made me a social outcast. Looking back on it, it doesn’t seem like a big deal, but for a 13 year old it seemed like my whole world was being destroyed.

I remember asking God why this was happening. How could God allow these people who were doing illegal things to prosper? I was a good person and yet God did not seem to be on my side. Maybe God just doesn’t exist, I thought. That was the first time I ever even conceived the thought. I remember telling someone (can’t remember who) that I wasn’t sure that God existed. The person told me that I must be an atheist then.

However, when I told people at school that I was an atheist all of a sudden everyone got very religious. No one in my area was religious really and so this really surprised me. But I really didn’t think much of it at the time. Religion wasn’t that important to me and it really didn’t come up much in my small suburban town.

When I went to college in Pennsylvania that all changed. Early along, I met my core group of friends, but within the first few weeks I also met a group of people who were so nice. They went out of their way to be my friend and spend time with me. After hanging out with this new group of people for about a week or two, they asked me to come with them to their Christian meeting. I told them that I wasn’t Christian; I was a Jew. But they didn’t really care. They said that they thought I was open-minded enough to listen to new ideas. Nothing gets an open-minded person more eager to do something than challenging their openmindedness. So of course I went.

The group was called CIA (Christians In Action). When we got there, I saw about3 or 4 people doubled over each other outside as if they were all tackling a football or something. The thing is that they were all shaking. I asked one of my friends was they were doing and she told me, “Jesus was moving them through the Holy Spirit.” I had never seen anything like that and I have to say that it seemed really wacky to me at the time and even today. So I was already on my guard when I went into to meeting.

The meeting was a typical fundamentalist meeting. There was a rock band playing Christian music, everyone was waving their hands around and dancing in their seats, the Pastor gave his sermon, and then there was more singing. I just sat there and took it all in. Toward the end of the meeting, the Pastor asked everyone to stand. He then said that everyone who has been saved by Jesus should sit down. Now there were only a handful of us still standing and all eyes were on us. The Pastor then stated that he felt the Holy Spirit in the room tonight and that if anyone else felt it and has become saved this very night they can sit down too. The room was completely silent and everyone stared at those still standing until one by one they all sat down… except me. For about 5 minutes the room was silent, everyone staring at me, and it was very uncomfortable. Finally, it became clear to the Pastor that I was not going to sit down, so he told me that perhaps the Holy Spirit will save me next week and then the band started playing again and everyone broke out into song.

After the meeting, a bunch of us went out to a diner for a late snack and conversation. I loved talking to these people. They wanted to convert me so badly and I had a lot of fun discussing life’s issues. I of course went back to CIA the following week and became a regular at their meetings. I even started to go to other Christian groups too. I had never met anyone who made religion the center of their lives and it was fascinating to me. While I believed in God at one point in my life, I never really made that belief the center of my existence. In fact, I never really thought about religion all that seriously except that one time when I was 13. When I did think deeply about religion, religion just seemed silly. While in college, I was able to think deeply about religion all the time and I had a lot of religious people helping me. Yet the more I thought about it, the more silly religion seemed. But it was fun to talk about and I really was interested in learning more about why these people believed these crazy things.

It wasn’t long before I switched my major to Philosophy and started learning about other religions and other philosophies. It didn’t take long to realize that most of the points that my Christian friends would bring up had already been answered by philosophers hundreds and even thousands of years ago.

I still enjoy discussing religion with my fundamentalist friends.

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