Saturday, July 20, 2013

My Deconversion Story

Benjamin Chung, DMD

August 18, 2012 Common Era

East Orleans, MA

I had been a Christian all my life. I was born into a Taiwanese Presbyterian family, with a few generations of service to this Scottish church. My great grandfather served this church under very meager and harsh condition since his graduation from Tainan Theological Seminary in 1888. He died early in his career, and it was attributed to his work. He was overworked as a minister and the pay was meager and difficult to raise his eight children. As a result, he suffered poor health and died early, when my grandfather was eight. His wife converted to Catholicism, and for that, the removed his name from the roaster. This is how the Scottish Church paid him for his honest work. He left some writing, some recorded the extreme inequality of the pay scale: the masters, the white missionaries got pay ten times than the slaves (local natives). This type of pay scale continued for sometime after his untimely death. We call this practice “exploitation.” This is going to be a continual pattern in Evangelical Christianity.

I no longer hold the god of the Evangelicals true nor do I pray to it or worship it. If I believe in God at all, it is in the human community, the good earth, and values that I share with my fellow humans.

Early in my life, I was baptized as a child. In my upbringing, I started to read the bible, and as part of the Sunday School education, I memorized quite a few verses. This continued when I moved to Canada in the summer of 1980. I was accepted by a local independent Charismatic church called “Glad Tidings Temple.” I spent the next four years in this fundamentalist church, became quite acquainted with Premillennialism, and had a dramatic conversion experience at the age of 16. At that time in my life, I was separated from my own family (my parents were not allowed to stay in Canada), my community (I was cut off from Taiwan), and I received regular indoctrination of man/sin/salvation at this church and my day school. My school, Temple Academy used an irregular and non-accredited fundamentalist curriculum called Accelerated Christian Education. It holds one of the most extreme views on Protestant American Christianity, and it was designed to supplant modern education, and to roll back advances made by modernity. It keeps kids from studying natural sciences, and provides them with a constant bombardment of an out-dated cosmology (Genesis), values, and codes of conduct. I suspect most of kids that completed such curriculum do very poorly in life, and perhaps were kept at the bottom of this modern society because they have no useful skills other than to regurgitate bible verses, and to wait constantly in fear of the second coming. These folks are decidedly 'left behind' by their own inadequate education. My teachers, narrow minded fundamentalists, told us not to study in a regular college/university, less we would be affected/contaminated by humanism. With education like this, you can imagine how many bottom feeders of this society they could produce. My luck was in the switching of this school to another regular Christian school, Prairie High School, in Alberta. It was accredited by the Alberta Education Ministry. Even though it was still a fundamentalist education, I received a much superior education which eventually allowed me to make application to any Canadian university. It was with this regular post-secondary education, I gradually moved on from this type of mind control.

My education by these religious Christian fundamentalists taught me to pay little or no attention to modernity. It permanently damaged my thinking in evolution. After a bachelor degree in Biology, graduate education in dentistry, I still find it difficult to comprehend this scientific theory. I attributed this to my tireless teachers and the damnable curriculum that drilled into my head to disregard science and modernity. It also gave me the anger about the changes that occurred in the development of modern theology. I was told of the great chasm between us as fundamentalists and secular humanist society. We were so certain in the inerrant, inspired word of god. Furthermore, when science and the word conflicted with each other, to disregard the obvious and trust completely in the bible. I was also taught as a Dominionist, that is, our faith is supreme to all other human conventions. My faith in the ancient and stone age teachings of Jewish writing, would uphold the unfair treatment of women (subservient to men, due to their fault at the Garden of Eden and the introduction of sin into the world), of gays (for the longest time, I fear and hated gay folks, thought them as sinful, unnatural and god will destroy them in the future), and slavery ( I find it justifiable that whatever scriptures advocated, it would be fine with me). I also see no trouble with massive genocide described in the bible, and the modern on-going genocide in Palestine between the Jews and the Arabs. I was taught that every thing must be placed under the feet of god and his messiah (Ps. 2).

I no longer do.

I did not arrive at this point in my life accidentally, or by careless wondering, I lost my faith. Instead, I came to this point in my life by some life changing events and intellectually integrity that gradually moved me and propelled me to this current position.

  1. Life Changing Event #1

    I met my wife in my final dental school year. I had not previously understand my folks, but in this incident, I realize what their religion is. Their religion is their stomach, their desires. As the sacred teaching taught, “their god is their own stomach.” My wife and I came from very similar back ground. We were all raised as Taiwanese Presbyterian, and later on I found out that her great grandfather was in the same seminary class as my great grandfather. My folks main concern was that she did not come from a wealthy family. On that point, I was mercilessly persecuted, yelled at, and humiliated. I was forced to take a job and worked in order to acquire my independence. I had to demonstrate the courage and the will to be, otherwise, I could not married her.

All that time, I wondered often, of what went wrong. I studied at a very prestigious school, Harvard, and I did everything was supposed to do to please my folks. At the age of 28, I seldom date other women, for the fear to upset my folks. My previous adventures were utterly failures, all my former girlfriends were repugnant to my own folks, as they made many excuses whether it be race, culture, or timing. At the age of 28, I grew tired of this talk. I realize that the fifth commandment is not about blind obedience, it was about honouring the parents. But in my folks mind, their own honour was link to their face, and had I married to their will, I would just marry any body they put up, and live with that person for life (Christianity forbids divorce except very strenuous circumstances). My goal at that time was to study theology after my dental training. I even made application to Princeton Theological Seminary, and my wife did not seem to object this as some others had done. Meeting my wife changed all that, and I recanted my application to Princeton, and went to work.

As I stepped out of 'the will of god' began my self-reliance, I was extremely fearful of an angry god, in addition to my own angry folks. That god might strike me down for this blatant disobedience to his teaching. I should have broken up with this MIT educated girlfriend, and married anybody they say. I worked in the slums of Lowell, spent three hours commuting daily for about 5-6 months, until my folks reluctantly granted me permission. As I took the hour long commuter rail from Boston to Lowell, I read Kierkegaard. I admired his courage to do what is right. He taught me that the courage to be. That was a life line to me as a fundamentalist, since beneath the angry, there was fear. The god we worshiped told us to blindly obey our parents, less it would strike us down. I actively disobeyed this god and my folks. I rather be dead than to live like a coward. So far, god did not kill me, and I am still alive, with a lovely family of 7. My lovely children in many ways, repudiated this ridiculous teaching. This first life changing event taught me that this god does not exist, and we need not to fear it. So I became 'depersonalized' of my relationship with it or to its jesus.

  1. Life Changing Event #2

I served as a Board of Director at Prairie Bible Institute during 2003-2004. I had spent a lot of time and money at this school. I paid my own way to the board meeting, I donated a good sum of money to this school. I stayed up at night agonizing over my decision to close my own high school. I called the chairman, spoke to other board of directors. They assured me that this is a christian organization, and it would be different from 'secular organizations.' Instead, this is the same if not worse than regular organizations. There was no transparency to all the decisions made on the Board. Every decision has been made prior to my joining the board, they were looking for a rubber stamp. This would have a last impact on my understanding of “the moral superiority” of Christians. They all claim that since they are the new creation, that they have moved from darkness into light. Their actions are blessed by god and they are indeed truer human beings and higher moral beings, and they act much more justly than their unenlightened unsaved neighbours. This is actually a self delusion. They are like their neighbours, and if not, much worse than their neighbours. I would come to this point later in this testimony. My board experience allows me to see past this egregious christian claim, and as I sat there in the midst of an autocratic president, deceitful agendas and uncaring and intellectually inferior board members, I had another life crisis. I had trusted god and these men. None of them are trustworthy, I felt betrayed as my school was closed. I tried unsuccessfully to arouse any alumni by calling them and emailing many. It turned out that they are just as bad as the Board. It seems to me that they have been taught to blindly trust god and this president whom they thought has the will of god to guide school into bigger and better thing. Events would unfold that his unpopular tricks would resulted in the anger of the bible college community and the whole town. They literally ran him out of town. Through this whole thing, I see no hand of god, just merely our own foolishness and the blind trust in a being that is not there, that is not at all powerful, or knowing. And worse yet, I had given a large sum of money to something that would have definitely helped my own desperate financial situation.

This crisis affirms my suspicion that god is not there. We have blindly trust in a being in the sky that was thought to be all powerful, all knowing, and all present. No, this bible college was struggling against the tides of time. It is no longer attractive to young men or women, as the interests in missionary enterprises died, and the money evaporated. This man, Jon Ohlhauser had a very limited education in the fundamentalist college (Liberty University), his dictatorial habits came from his reading of the bible, of his own assimilation of biblical Moses. Neither was the Exodus event historical or if there were other archeological findings to back this ( Many of our faith community attributed to the appointment of this man as the will of god, and toward the end, the installed the Chairman of the Board as the next president as the will of god. This new president knew all along that Jon was destroying the school, failed to stop him, and is awarded the presidency of the bible college. I am not sure this is the will of god or is it our own foolishness.

    1. Life Changing Event #3

I studied biblical Hebrew as an elective course in college. I am very familiar with the first 12 chapters of Genesis. It began to dawn on me after 20 years, that my reading of Genesis is tainted with my own fundamentalist beliefs. These few chapters contradicts modern science, advocates polygamy and the subservience of women, blood shed and human sacrifice. There are many things we no longer accept as valid, and the deity in the Genesis is a vengeful god and his sons had lustful sexual intercourse with human daughters which resulted in the extermination of the supposed human race. This Noahic story is to be a pattern for the future destruction as it was foretold by Jesus in the Gospels. This time, instead of using water, it would be the unquenchable fire. The creation myth is closely approximating Gilgamesh tales, and it would make sense that this myth was perpetuated in Near East where the Jews came from. Stars, little or great light (obviously the author was careful not to use Shamash the sun god) was placed into the firm-dome called the sky. The author had no proper modern cosmology, and there was no way for his imagination to the creation of this world, other a stone age understanding. This is not how the world began. Stars are billion and trillion light years part, and in order for their light to reach the earth, that light had to be travelling a very long time. Geological records point to a very old earth, with many layers of fossils that contain intermediary forms. DNA points to the common ancestors that we share in this gift of life. Furthermore, my understanding of inerrancy was a product of American ingenuity against the development of textual and higher criticism of the christian scriptures. Bart Erhman through his careful studies, established the same conclusion that much of the christian sacred texts were not totally fool-proofed. Much of the textual formation is directly related to the faith communities they come from, and the details of much dispute can be traced to the changes of the ongoing faith communities of shifting and changing christians all over that Roman era. Details in the Gospels conflict with each other, confuse each other, and in a way nullify each others. Jesus has two different genealogical accounts. His teaching varied from gospel to gospel, and the details of his life, crucifixion and resurrection all varied significantly from gospel to gospel. Whether he was silent on the cross, or murmured a prayer, or held direct conversations to his contemporary at that time. Whether there was a large earthquake which resulted in the raising of many dead people, or there was none. Much of these lore cannot be historically verified, and even the person of Jesus is in doubt, much of his life seems to coincide with the deities of that land, during that time.

Lloyd Geering taught me that we create the concept of god. This god is not a person, and at the end of his interview, he believes in the human community and the earth. He has a profound influence in how I see the question of faith.

    1. Life Changing Event #4

As I type these words, I no longer profess my belief in a personal god, nor do I have faith in a theological christ. If I have any faith at all, it is in the goodness of people, this community and the world, the earth. I have seen many went into the theological seminaries because they no longer can sustain themselves in a real work, or would hold onto a proper job. Their inability to find regular and meaningful work, propelled them to seek this easy life. They would study at a simple seminary for three years, and upon graduation, they could find a better employment that pays well, demands very little physical or actual work. Indeed, their work is virtual, they preach a god to the taste of their congregation: that is full of love (the congregation needs that), supplies all their needs, blesses them with wealth, jobs and children. That it answers prayers, and in the time of need, to provide virtual comfort. They also justify their being in this type of unproductive work by asking their parishioners for money. I have seen much of this lazy and deceitful practice that they pay no taxes, that they fooled the congregation of their time and money. Worse yet, this instant power allows some of them to sexually molest innocent children and adults. Their preaching of a submissive role of women, and the strict sexual purity practices kept the fear in their congregation. They then proceed to transgress that by sexually molest and rape the young women or children. It happened at my own bible college, and other religious institutions, be it the Catholic churches, Bob Jones University, or Jack Schaap of the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist church in Hammond, Indiana. Indeed, much of the abuses is not just sexual or physical, but emotional or spiritual. These parasites sucked life and money and energy out of their parishioners. I no longer see this type of faith is justified in the insurmountable evidences that point to the simple fact, that their god is their stomach, that they could not take a regular job so their turn to the religious who are simpletons. They dare not question the will of god, and they dare not to ask the obvious question. Should we or should we not spend money and time in these delusions??

Much of the evangelical god and enterprises rest with capitalism. They have an unnatural urge to increase the amount of money and followers. They seek to convert as many as quickly and by all means necessary. They have unexamined their own faith in god and jesus. If they truly believe in this fictional gospel jesus, they would have given all their possessions to the poor, live a homeless celibate life. They would walk “the narrow path”, and live a very modest if not austere celibate life, eagerly waiting for the second coming and the next life. They would abstain from taking the money since in the Acts story, the collection of money was for the saints in Jerusalem (ie. poor people), and no more. There was no mention of building elaborate church buildings, paying the clergy a sizable sum of money and putting them up on the pedestal as the kings and governors of the simpletons. This marriage of capitalism destroys families and rifts them apart from their actual communities. They want more and more followers and conversions, and devote all their energies, and by all means necessary. I see this delusion harmful, and anti-religious. God is not honoured and human communities and families have been unfairly taxed to build bigger and better looking buildings. As they increase in size and numbers, they propelled these men whose intellectual life this world rejects. So they in turn fooled others. These parasites are a burden to society, like all other forms of biological parasites.

My conclusion:

If anything that can be said about seeking a religious life, is to live a religious life. There is no need for any unfounded moral superiority in these evangelical churches. They fooled around as much as others do, and the divorces are more so in the churches than the infidels. Their intellectually dishonesty and their consistent greed is what sets them apart. As I alluded to the early part of my testimony, their god is their stomach (desires). I no longer do believe in this god.

If I believe in God at all, I do so, believing in the goodness every human being who honestly trying to lead a good life, knowing the faults of being human, but able to reconcile that with their neighbours and love and esteem others better than ourselves. Refrain ourselves to take what is not ours, and share the land and its bounty with the animals we live with, and in the world, with courage. That is God, that is God to me, that we have the moral courage to act and do the right thing, and be honest to ourselves.

It is “to do justly, and to love mercy and to walk humbly” with this God.

I wrote this deconversion testimony for a certain group of people. I wrote it first for myself, to summarize why I no longer believe in a personal Evangelical god. And it helps me to summarize why I no longer look to these churches for help and comfort. I also write this for another set of people, of those who are actively taking and sucking on resources of others to fulfill their own damnable desires. This parasitic activities have destroyed families and unfairly burden families in the fear that they had to in order to please god. No, they do not, but they have to have the courage to be. Finally, I write this as a warning to those ministers of the Evangelical faith, that they ought to cross examine their calling, perhaps they can take up meaningful jobs and live a life I can respect, and do not burden others for the work their should have done themselves. It is in the realization that their faith is unusually married to capitalism, that their insatiable greed in en massing great numbers of money, people and resources. Perhaps they will learn that there is no end in what a hell will acquire through this type of greed, and live a sustainable, humble life style, if any, they can also worship God in their meaningful work for others, in the greening of Christianity, and in building a more just society for their neighbours. It is then, the Kingdom will come to earth when we stop believing in fairy tales, and supporting delusions to enslave others. We are indeed able to believe in God and in this good earth. We will live the rest of our lives in this peace and to that end, we will be. Amen.