I grew up unchurched but believed in the God of the book of Genesis. I loved the stories and as a child believed them just like I believed in Santa and the Easter Bunny. My grandmother gave me a child's Bible Reader. I read half of it. These stories left an impression on me that God was up in the sky somewhere and bigger than life, and if I wasn't good God would punish me. Went to Vacation Bible School a couple of times, made a birdhouse and learnt the 23rd Psalm and my teacher taught me how to say the word pretty instead of purdy. She didn't like "purdy" at all.
I went to a Pentecostal church as a teenager with my boyfriend for about a year and was indoctrinated to believe in salvation and the baptism of the holy ghost. My future mother-in-law urged me to go to the altar to get saved, I didn't want to go, but she kept urging and my boyfriend nudged me. She told me to repent and I said I didn't have anything to repent of. She asked me if I ever told a lie? She then told me the bible says "all men are liars". I bowed my head, and my mind was a blur, then, because she kept pressuring me and wouldn't let me go, I shouted, "OH GOD SAVE ME!". She laughed and said call upon Jesus. So I asked Jesus to save me and the whole church rejoiced. I was free to go - sort of - I was told I needed to be baptized by being submerged in water, then by the holy ghost and speak in tongues or I'm not saved. I went back because my boyfriend had to go to church there, and he could only date someone in church. We were later married and moved away. I was glad to be out of there.
Well, we had a rocky marriage for about eight years. We were told by in-laws that it was because we weren't in church. Divorced, and still unchurched, I had numerous problems, and was still being told I needed to go to church. I remarried and was still unchurched, but believed I was a sinner because I moved in with husband before we were married. I felt guilty for years.
Years later, I was watching Christian TV and was convinced I needed to be in church. A friend invited me to her church, a Baptist fundamental one. I dragged my family there and attended for about three years, and then one day a strong feeling came over me to get out of there. Was it the devil?
I was having a hard time believing the bible then. Later, I told the preacher when he visited. He said if I didn't believe the bible I was lost (paraphrased).
Over the years I went to several different denominations (and counselors) and was baptized twice and repented continuously for thinking a bad thought. I wasn't satisfied with any of the Christian denominations. However, I met some very nice people. Quaker meetings were my favorite, but, I lived 45 miles away so I didn't go often. Once during a really crazy time, I joined a Christian Science church - my husband attended with me. He developed cataracts and there was no healing. He was almost blind with them. Also, the people were aggressive at the business meetings. So we left them in the dust.
Once, in between churches, I searched the word "Deism" which I had heard somewhere, This was after I thought I was an atheist, but I was still searching for something ( I didn't know what either really was). I read Age of Reason and thought how true it is and was very interested because the bible stories were unbelievable as an adult, and, in the back of my mind I had doubted the virgin birth and resurrection when I did attend church, but I was too timid to say anything to anyone for fear of rejection . Then I went back to being an atheist because I still associated God as the bible god.
Strangely, I eventually went back to church, mostly because I missed the people. I wanted to be part of something. I fell into the trap again and for three years I was singing the songs that I didn't really believe in, but I liked the music. I also found myself praying to and praising the bible god.
Then a very close family member was afflicted with sepsis (infection in the blood) and he was deathly sick for a whole month, and then he died. I had prayed, the whole family prayed, the church prayed. and the hospital he was in was a Catholic hospital, and I'm sure their administration prayed. I don't believe a lot of the bible and now I absolutely don't believe what Jesus promised "Ask anything in my name and I will do it." It's a lie. The church survives by preaching verses like this and they make people feel guilty for breathing. It's all a sham and I'm ashamed that I fell for it after I had read Age of Reason.
I went back to reading Age of Reason and felt I was home. I am done with searching and I am done with needing a church family. (Boy, am I glad that's over!). I have family and since I went back to Deism I have become closer to them and appreciate them more. I realize that there is no god that will magically make things better, we are responsible for our lives and doing our best to make things better, and if we can't, we can turn to friends, family, and doctors and become educated about whatever is bothering us.
I know now why I felt like I had to be in church, it was because my first in-laws and the preaching made me feel guilty and pressured me to go to church. And, the fact that it was a social gathering. I have had thoughts of suing them.
I am at peace and no longer searching for something. I tell people that I'm a Deist. Some of my family have told me not to lose faith, and I say I have, and they just shake their heads and say they will never turn their back on God. I tell them I believe in God, the Creator, but not the bible god and I don't believe most of the bible and that the bible god is cruel, and I tell them that God gave us a mind and we are to use it. Also, I tell them the real God gave us reason and we need to figure things out for ourselves, be responsible for our lives, and we need each other.
I am thankful for life and love nature. I thank God though not knowing if he/she/or it cares. I hope for a life after this one, but trust God that all will be well after I die. And, I walk with my head held high and not thinking I am a worm and need to be saved from a forever burning, tormenting hell. I feel like I've found 'heaven'.
A special thank you to Bob Johnson for his work in promoting Deism and for writing God Gave Us Reason, Not Religion.