I posted this question in a blog post, but it might mean more in this group. Nate's experiences were truly horrible. Sharing those experiences, and transcending them, gives others a sense of hope. Nate, if you could somehow go back and erase all of those memories, would you? Do the memories, or your experience of overcoming them, give you meaning? What about other members who had difficult religious experiences?

I've gone back and forth on this issue in my mind. Sometimes I would erase it all. Other times, I think that I have at least been inoculated against any future religious infection. Sometimes, I feel like it happened to someone else, and I just recall it like something that I read in a book.

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I would probably erase it, I have so much guilt (not sure if that's the right word but hey, it's 5:30 in the morning) about "what if I'm wrong", "I'm disappointing mom and dad" etc etc. The ONLY thing I miss about church would be the camaraderie, the sense of community. That's the only thing the free-thinker community lacks in.
I feel I was deprived of knowledge as I am currently scrambling to learn all the things I should have know upon graduating high school. I also know,however, that I can not put all the blame on the xtian schools and I should have started my self-education a long time ago.

I wouldn't erase it for nothing else then the fact it provides proof of how poorly educating and deceitful xtian schools are.
I would keep my whole history. All parts were who I was, all parts had good and bad. How am I to chose?
Am I embarrassed about past deeds, yes -- atheist or theist. Where does this thinking take you?
Our experiences and our unique reactions to them make us who we are. Growing up in a religion that taught that I would most likely live forever caused me to spend most of my life postponing personal happiness and fulfillment for the advancement of the interests of "God's Kingdom". Leaving that mindset behind makes me appreciate every moment of this life- the real one. My view of others has also changed drastically. Instead of seeing individuals as potential converts, I now see them as having something to teach me.

I no longer feel bitterness about what I missed out on. When I look at those still mired in the brainwashing, part of me feels badly for them, but part of me also recognizes that they stay because they want to, just as I left because I wanted to.

In my opinion, the move from confusion to clarity has been a beautiful and exciting journey.
You are a kind spirited and insightful human, Nate.
This is an interesting question. I think it is something that every person must examine at some point in their life if for no other reason than to discover how truly well off they are now and how that came to be.
There are some things that make me wonder 'what if' on occasion, but that also gives me the ability to appreciate what is.
Where you are on this question is usually a good indicator of how far you are along your personal journey to feeling satisfied about who you are, with a hint of humility to advise future choices. I can see very clearly how my childhood of fear and brainwashing helps me feel more compassionate towards those still in religion and those just coming out of it as opposed to those who never had to really go through that experience. The levels of atheists I've met are:

Q: "What do you think of Religion?"
A: "I don't"

Q: "What made you come to this decision?
A: "God, you mean Santa Clause for adults? A bit obvious.
(Underline text from Greydon Square, The Compton Effect album)

Q: "What happened that you left the church"
A: "It was a long, difficult struggle, but eventually I just couldn't believe any more"

As far as the relationships, I've lost my share. Real friends will stand by you no matter what your differences. My life long friend went to bible college at got his ministry degree while I was becoming an atheist. We talk regularly and the debate only came up once so far in the past 10 years. We love each other in a way that it can not touch.
I've found that being honest is the best way to go. I don't just announce it, but it someone sends religious statements to me I no longer hesitate to point out what I believe and I've never lost a good friend over it, but it has shed some light on who that includes.
This took a great deal of time, almost 10 years.
Lastly, this site, and many more like it, along with music and in person groups are popping up all over the U.S. Just look on line and you will see Free-thinkers, Brights, Atheists, Agnostics etc.. Try "Meet-up", Facebook, or MySpace groups or start one. It is surprising how much interest there is right now. These groups really do help, especially for those of us who had more to walk away from when we stepped off the God train.
This question is thought provoking.

Like Wendy, I regret the uneasy feelings. There is enough guilt and creepy "what ifs" that last way too long. That's why it's wonderful to find these online communities, of which Michell wrote, and to linger and read.

That said, I would not erase my fundy past. It was difficult, terrible at times and downright unhealthy, I think I've got a better grasp on what people are like, and appreciate what they believe and overcome.
Actually, I'm learning to appreciate just what I have overcome! Also, I can warn others away from this cultish foolishness. I am aware of the dangers.

All of my past creates the tapestry that is now me. For all my "flaws", I like me.
I have my own version of that quote "Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger - or more broken." Yes we can learn from tough times, but that doesn't mean they weren't freaking HARD, and may still leave lasting negative effects.
I don't believe for one minute the "whasoever does not kill you makes you stronger" line.
Look what you must overcome every single day. Look how scarred many of us are and how we must consciously edit our thought patterns just to be sane!
I admire you and take strength from your story.

Your response makes a lot of sense to me. In a sense it's like being a cancer survivor - there is pride in overcoming it, and meaning in helping others overcome their own struggles. It can even become a cause. But very few people would want to go through having the cancer in the first place.

I have times when I feel like my childhood experience as a Baptist was a loss if innocence, a type of child mind-rape. On those days, I do wish that there was a mental etch-a-sketch that I could just jiggle and have a clear slate.

Overcoming those experiences leaves a true sense of pride, and sharing the experience and how you overcame it gives inspiration and hope to others. Without trivializing that experience in any way, that is the silver lining. If we can prevent even a few people from going through religious abuse, then there is some meaning in that experience.
"mental etch-a-sketch" equals priceless imagery - thanks. I'm telling my therapist that one :)
I wouldn't. For one thing, as you suggest, it's given me inoculation. I may have spent decades switching between denominations, or even trying out Islam or something else. Things were bad enough that I started to question the "revealed truth" and found it to be about as hol(e)y as swiss cheese. Also, since other people are still in, I think it would be impossible for me to reach out to them if I didn't know where they were coming from. I've been there, done that, understand the appeal. It's hard to get anyone else out of a cult, if you don't know what it's like to be in one yourself.


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