As I mentioned earlier, I went sporadically to an Anglican church near St Albans for a while. After Sue and I were married, Sue stayed at her old home back in London during the week and came up to see me at the weekends whilst Nadine was finishing school. I went to the homegroup meetings each other fortnight.
Sue is more or less atheist. She sees religion as something invented by men to benefit men and subjugate women.
Funnily enough no one at the homegroup asked anything about me or Sue, for example what the significance of the gold thing on my left hand might be about.
In some ways, I didn't really think about it. It was a complacent lifestyle. Then came a "blast from the past"
I've never actually met him, but here is a link to his web page. I met him when he posted an item on the uk.religion.christian newsgroup, which I used to follow, asking if anyone knew a Steve Dennett.
Well I responded and it soon turned out to be the same guy. I shared some of the information here and discovered that his interest stemmed from a long and tragic personal tale, not dissimilar in some ways to how I'd suffered at his hands. I'll leave him to fill in the details, but the important point for me was that Steve had got heavily into Young Earth Creationism.
It wasn't a topic about which I knew too much, but I soon learned about it all, thanks to the good people who created the well-known Talk.Origins Archives, and was aghast. I've put up a page about this here if people want to look.
Now in my travels I'd never really hit the full enormity of this before. Yet I was soon to discover that this, although not properly digested, was the unspoken assumption of so many of these people I'd known.
Many people do say it isn't to be taken literally, but here the Fundamentalists and the out-and-out atheists agree - with no creation as per the Bible, no fall, no flood, then much of the whole story falls apart, particularly the New Testament, which is so much a tissue of references to the Old.
Gradually what seemed to me to be a huge tide came in through my mind, and I started to question everything, until I found myself looking at the whole Bible in a different light. How could I not have seen, I asked myself, that for example the gospels are what they seem - imperfect accounts, rather than doing the doublethink of pretending that irreconcilable accounts are all "inspired"?
As I thought about all I'd known and believed over the years, what seemed to me to be the whole "garment" unraveled before my eyes.
The "final straw" was the "conversation" with a Creationist web site owner, which showed me the kind of dishonesty which is perpetrated in support of the "omnipotent" God who is supposed to disapprove of such things.
Accordingly I spent a few weeks contemplating the topics on this website, coming to the conclusion that not many, if indeed any, stood up.
I was just left with the tenuous thread of "experiences" to contend with, a few times in my life when I really thought God was moving. Bizarrely, one of them was close to the time of the bust-up with the Elim church. Was that, and one or two experiences like it, the evidence I sought?
It was actually a TV programme on "false memory syndrome" which convinced me of the subjectivity of those experiences. It was demonstrated just how easy it was to convince people, by hypnosis and other means of the reality and indeed importance of totally fake events.
So in July 1999 I decided that I had to take a grip on myself, say that there was no way it all hung together and that I was no longer a Christian. It wasn't an easy step to take. It was denying everything that had gone before in the previous 30 years. But I said a final prayer, "if you're there and I've got it wrong, show me by the end of the month". I waited out the month. There was silence. So as from 1st August 1999, it was all over.
The strange thing is that I felt I was stepping out on my own, without a crutch at first, but then it turned out that it was a dead weight, and my confidence rose.. Maybe the contradictions and general doublethink were bugging me subconsciously all the time. I'd never felt particularly comfortable about "sharing my faith" as a Christian. I'd always felt it was judgmental of people who at heart I felt inferior to. Yet suddenly I was on a par with all sorts of people. I hadn't realised, although I see it now in Christians I meet, just how the attitude prevails that non-Christians are an inferior form of life.
So that is how I come to say that I have "grown up" out of the belief system which has been part of my life for so long. I just don't believe it any more. I wonder more and more how I ever did accept it all. It certainly made me a very weak person, and my business has suffered badly from my not standing up for what was right.
I just hope that some of these comments and experiences will help people to see their way out of all this and make the best of the life they've got, which they can be sure of 100%, and not devote their lives to a false dream of something there is no evidence for.