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Author Topic: Converts to any form of Christianity from atheism?  (Read 5310 times) Average Rating: 0
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The Caffeinator
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« on: December 08, 2003, 05:15:06 PM »

I hope I got enough options in.

I converted to RC'ism, but had no religious upbringing, and was once passionately opposed to organized religion. Anybody else here?


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Bogoliubtsy
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« Reply #1 on: December 08, 2003, 05:48:33 PM »

Somehow very drawn to Christianity before I was a teenager. At around 13-14 got interested in Eastern religions. 14-16 I was a diehard punk-rock atheist. At 16 got back into Eastern religions  but started to become pulled back to Christianity. I refused to accept a watered down Christ though and it prevented me from really practicing any kind of Christianity. This quote from Justin Marler, an ex-punk-rocker turned monk kind of sums up my sentiments at the time:

We, the youth of today, see how reality is warped and twisted into escapism by those who have swallowed the lies of this world and chosen to live in the shadow of evil. We see how our society has made the dollar the justification for all means, even to the point of trying to sell us "god" in the market place like a slave, bound and gagged. We don't want a homogenized smiling American god, who is merely the refuse of the rotting system around us. We have been raised on commercials and billboards; we don't want to be sold god in silver wrapping paper and a pink bow. We want to discover reality, not in an abstract way, which will make us feel good about ourselves, but hard grueling reality. We want truth, raw and real. We are desperate to know Christ crucified not a plastic imitation of Him. Only the Man of Sorrows can understand our sorrow, and only a God crucified and resurrected deserves our faith.”

Anyway, I read "The Way of a Pilgrim" and The Philokalia and wondered "Is Christianity practiced like this anywhere today?" I thought these books were a product of a bygone age of True Christianity. Funny how Orthodoxy, in the religious sense, didn't even cross my mind when reading these books and having Orthodox family members!(The family part of it is kind of tragic, showing how indeed we can lose our salt as Orthodox Christians.)

Finally found a local Orthodox monastery and parish from conversations with a Roman Catholic guy who was on a personal mission to convert people to Christianity from pagan Eastern religions....
« Last Edit: December 08, 2003, 05:53:42 PM by Bogoliubtsy » Logged

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« Reply #2 on: December 08, 2003, 05:50:38 PM »

Wait...I guess I didn't convert from atheism. Sorry to hi-jack your thread.  Smiley
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« Reply #3 on: December 08, 2003, 05:55:01 PM »

You left out "I went from one D*mned Heresy to another."
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The Caffeinator
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« Reply #4 on: December 08, 2003, 06:29:47 PM »

Hey, D.P., that's straight from the graceless heretic ghetto! When will our people rise up? Tongue

Bogo, (sorry, having difficulty with the name), I don't think you hijacked the thread. You did said you went through an atheist period in your teens. Smiley
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« Reply #5 on: December 08, 2003, 06:48:45 PM »

Pardon my French, but doesn't "Bogoliubtsy" mean "lover of God?"  If that is the case, shortening this moniker to "Bog" or "Bogo"  would the same as referring to Bogoliubtsy as God!  (Correct me if I'm wrong.  Poor third generation Ukrainian, who calls God "Boh.")
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The Caffeinator
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« Reply #6 on: December 08, 2003, 07:10:57 PM »

I certainly didn't mean to address him as such! But I know no Ukrainian, (although I've got some Ukrainian blood as well.) Have you got a nickname I can call you by, Bogoliubgitsby? (I'm really not trying to be funny.  Embarrassed)
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« Reply #7 on: December 08, 2003, 07:47:14 PM »

Yeah, it does me "lovers of God"... like many on here though, that's not my real name(maybe that's obvious?) Anyway, my first name is Peter, but I've spent most of my life going by my middle name which is Josh(ua). Either will work!
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« Reply #8 on: December 08, 2003, 07:55:54 PM »

I went from an athiest to an agnostic to a baptist to a pentacostal to an almost Catholic (I was about to ask to be received into the Church, so I was never Catholic, but I believed everything the Catholic Church teaches and that's where I attended for about a year.  A year later I was received into the Oriental Orthodox Church (Coptic), so I really don't know which option on the poll to check.
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« Reply #9 on: December 08, 2003, 07:59:25 PM »

I went from a Baptist to an evangelical Assembly of God speaking in tongues praise the Lord Holy Roller to a complete agnostic (so what does THIS tell you about the "gift" of speaking in tongues?). I stayed an agnostic for 30 years. Then I got re-married and found the Orthodox Church through my wife.
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« Reply #10 on: December 08, 2003, 08:47:03 PM »

[Have you got a nickname I can call you by, Bogoliubgitsby? (I'm really not trying to be funny.  )]

How about the English translation - Lover of God!

Orthodoc
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The Caffeinator
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« Reply #11 on: December 08, 2003, 11:24:27 PM »

Quote
I went from an athiest to an agnostic to a baptist to a pentacostal to an almost Catholic (I was about to ask to be received into the Church, so I was never Catholic, but I believed everything the Catholic Church teaches and that's where I attended for about a year.  A year later I was received into the Oriental Orthodox Church (Coptic), so I really don't know which option on the poll to check.

It would be in the spirit of the poll to choose the Oriental Orthodox option. By "before" I did not necessarily mean "immediately before."

As far as that goes, immediately before I was Catholic, I was sort of an armchair evangelical/mainline prot, but I never went to church!
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« Reply #12 on: December 09, 2003, 12:10:55 AM »

Born and baptized Lutheran; became a Southern Baptist as a teenager; became enamored with Calvinism in my late teens and wound up in a genuinely Calvinist sect (Orthodox Presbyterian). Calvinism and doubts about the Bible (which I had read nearly a zillion times) drove me around the bend, and I abandoned Christianity altogether.

For many years I teetered back and forth between agnosticism and atheism. Not a very satisfying existence.

When I was an atheist I was constantly warding off doubts about it: maybe there is a Supreme Being . . .

It finally struck me that as an atheist I was struggling to hold onto NOTHING!

As a Christian when I fought off doubts at least it was for SOMETHING!  Grin

There was a lot more to it than that, but, to make a long story short, I decided to become a Christian again. I looked on Lutheranism as the "faith of my fathers," so I returned to the Lutheran Church.

A lot of factors - study of Church history, meeting certain persuasive and/or impressive people, etc. - eventually led me into the Orthodox Church, thank God.
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« Reply #13 on: December 09, 2003, 01:55:32 AM »

I have been a very trouble-maker guy, I joined the Troskyist youth when I was 14 years old and I was a convinced atheist myself, and somehow it seemed that I was happy and self sufficient.

Through Trostkyism I started to see that the problem was more complex, and that both systems Communism and Capitalism were intrinsecaly evil and that if they both were trying to forbide or falsify Christianity it was because they were the ones who were wrong.

I started reading the Bible, particulaly the Old Testament, and when I found that all the prophecies about Jesus Christ were real I converted to Christianity. I as particularly impressed by how the book of Issaiah converted me. It was the passion time and I saw how all was true.

I became very Nationalistic and "conservative" in my points of view. Although my grandmother and her sister were originaly baptised Greek Orthodox, I was led to Orthodoxy through the stories and texts from the Cristeros (Catholic fighters), and the texts of Codreanu and Leon Degrelle.
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amhalaba
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« Reply #14 on: December 09, 2003, 02:09:05 AM »

My mother was a fallen-away Catholic (birth control issues - my parents had six children under very difficult circumstances), so I was raised without any religious structure. Whenever we traveled to the city, she would take us into cathedrals and spend time praying and lighting candles. Once, as a know-it-all teen, I said something derogatory about the church, and in a very un-characteristic manner, she let me have it between the eyes. I think these experiences had a big effect on me... which says a lot about how powerful the smallest of actions and words can be.

I went pretty typically through college as a secular agnostic non-believer... feminist, liberal, anti-organized religion, thought Eastern religions and paganism were "cool", and married someone with similar views.

After the birth of our first child, my father was diagnosed with an incurable cancer and I had a powerful dream about a wonderful, glorious meal (it was Mexican food!) being served in the front of a altar in a glorious cathedral. I was in counselling for depression at the time, and my Jungian therapist (who unbeknownst to me was a closet Christian! in our ultra-liberal town) told me I needed to find a faith walk.

I started by renting Joseph Campbell videos (this all sounds so ridiculous!) who in my weird liberal "science" minded way, made it sound ok to need "ritual". I thought about pursuing Buddhism, but thought it was kind of phoney for westerners to attempt to find any kind of truth there so far outside it's cultural tradition. So that left ChristianityGǪ and my frail Roman roots. I told myself the deep history of the church, the incredible art, and the Saints drew me in, but it wasn’t a very cerebral decision.

I'm an artist. I don't think in a linear way very well. I didn't research anything, or read anything...maybe a little Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton. I just walked into the rectory, had a talk with an odd priest who discouraged me more than anything, and entered RCIA... the whole time needing to calm myself and repeat little mantras just to keep me from bolting out the door. The parish I entered was very middle class, safe, brand new, protestant-ish with pink tiles and the tabernacle to the side in it’s own little space. After the kiss of peace, the well-loved Irish priest used to give a little Mr. Rogers wave to everybody. I hated it. Felt in my very self-centered way that I had nothing in common with anyone thereGǪ and I stayed anyway.

I really believe the Holy Spirit and my Guardian Angel each had me by an ear, and they dragged me in like a bound and gagged hostage. It felt like I just let my brain whir around with all these arguments about how awful everything in the Church was, while I kind of removed myself and observed from Mars.

It was a huge change. My friends were shocked, and I wasn’t able to articulate why I was doing this. Five years before I was volunteering to "escort" women walking into the local Planned Parenthood past protesters who seemed like raving lunatics to me. I forced myself to seek out and sit next to the man who, week after week, prayed for the unborn babies during the prayers of the faithful. I sent away for materials from "Catholics for Choice" (aiiighhhhh, this is true confession time, folks) and then never opened the package.

Then grace really kicked into high gear, and I met a woman who has been practicing Eastern Catholicism, and studying orthodox Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy for years. (our meeting is a story of crazy "coincidence" in itself). I read Poustinia, Way of the Pilgrim, A Different Christianity, Story of a Soul, The Orthodox Way, some Philokalia, and St Francis related stuff. I am currently very fond of Blessed Fr. Seraphim Rose. I began visiting a Ukrainian Catholic monastery, Mt Tabor, with my friend and the liturgy just ruined me. Then I discovered a much more traditional Catholic Church near my home, where there is a truly wonderful priest, who reminds me of John the Baptist.

So, it’s still very strange. I feel like so much has happened in such a short time, it’s like being turned inside out. My husband is still agnostic (we should discuss how to bear this heavy cross sometime!), and the community I live in is as pagan left as it gets. I pray a lot when I’m around old friends, which is more and more infrequently. I feel like the only real "witnessing" I do is to help a lot of people not despise Jesus, to give it another look, to realize there is more to Christianity than Evangelists.

The further I go, the more I love both Orthodoxy and traditional Rome, but I get kind of frustrated with wordy arguments about the failings of each. I don’t know if I’ll stay with Rome or change to Eastern Rite or convert to Orthodoxy. I’m more concerned right now with developing and discerning a vocation and a rule, PRACTICING, confessing, and frequent communion.

I really like OC.net and have learned a lot here. I lurk occasionally at a Catholic and a Byzantine Catholic site, but this one is by FAR the best, and have been mostly lurking since May. I'm going to miss Hypo-Ortho dearly (memory eternal!) and because of his sudden passing, I'd just like Serge, Mor Ephrem, Katherine, Slave and many others to know I look forward to the wisdom in your postings!

Sorry this is so long, I’m not a good writerGǪ probably should have just put it in my journal! Oh, and hey! I'm now a junior... very cool!
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Robert
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« Reply #15 on: December 09, 2003, 08:49:41 AM »

Wow, great post Amhalaba.

It makes myself(and everyone else) very happy to know that OC.net helps people in some fashion. Sometimes we around here get caught up in the externals, and forget what it's all about and why we're here on earth. It is refreshing to read your story.
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« Reply #16 on: December 09, 2003, 09:58:08 AM »

I grew up in a christian home as an agnostic, then converted to evangelicalism, went to the fundamentalist schools, then baptist seminary. I left dissillusioned, and went no where for many years. The past 2 years I have studied orthodoxy, especially reading the works of the early church fathers. My nearest orthodox church is over 650km away, so I only get to visit about once a year. Has anyone converted from baptist to orthodox???  
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« Reply #17 on: December 09, 2003, 10:33:51 AM »

I grew up in a christian home as an agnostic, then converted to evangelicalism, went to the fundamentalist schools, then baptist seminary. I left dissillusioned, and went no where for many years. The past 2 years I have studied orthodoxy, especially reading the works of the early church fathers. My nearest orthodox church is over 650km away, so I only get to visit about once a year. Has anyone converted from baptist to orthodox???  


There are lots of Baptists who have become Orthodox. I was a Southern Baptist as a teenager and even taught Sunday School in a Southern Baptist Church.

Have you read Clark Carlton's book, The Way: What Every Protestant Should Know About the Orthodox Church ?

Carlton was a Southern Baptist seminarian who became a convert to the Orthodox Church. His book is excellent. In fact, I have read three of his books, and every one of them is excellent!
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« Reply #18 on: December 09, 2003, 11:10:54 AM »

I didn't vote because I became Eastern Catholic after spending the majority of my life as an agnostic.

I have a weird story...

My mom is a fallen away protestant my father treats the Serbian Orthodox church like the dentist... twice a year.

My parents had considered converting to orthodoxy, however the priest wanted them to get "remarried" before they could baptize my sister and I. Also, it was made very clear that we were "half breeds" and "not serbian enough" to participate. So my parents gave up. The serbian community always struck me as clannish, violent, alchohalic (my father is a severe alchohalic and drug addict) and just all around mean and stuck up. I wanted nothing to do with the community, but I found the orthodox church to be so beautiful. It was hard for me to fathom as a child and teenager why a community so ugly could have a church so beautiful.

I spent my teens and part of my 20s dying my hair black and listening to Punk.  Wait... I still listen to alternative music and a cd my husband burned of Orthodox...  chant....  I'm wierd...  I just can't into "christian rock (rap R&b etc) " I find it lacking, tasteless and with an overwhelming protestant message. Well back to my story...

Despite my agostic front (pardon the pun) I always felt that I believed in something, I didn't know what it was but it was something. In college, I went church hopping.

I tried a hanging out with people who claimed to be "Wiccan"... Betty Crocker magic sums up my thoughts on the subject. It has no origins and no meaning. I felt persistantly dissatisfied, plus the "wiccans" and "pagens" that I knew all had a strict religious upbringing and were in the midst of a rebellion. I had nothing to rebel against, plus I never felt the need to hate christians.

My 2 seconds with a Missionary Baptist.. I had a friend in college who "Found Jesus".  He spent too much time witnessing over me, praying for my soul and bugged me to "get saved". Out of curiosity, I started attending church, the clanging tambourines and the "amen screaming" was foriegn to me. I had never seen anything like it. They had rock concerts for Sunday service as well, which was simply weird to me. What really got me was thier Easter Service, after watching a movie everyone "took communion" which were little cubes of wonder bread and a dixie cup of welches grape juice.  Although I was not raised with any particular tradition, I knew enough that this was supposed to be the body and blood of  christ the people who were partaking treated like food which irked me.

So I started reading and tried out Buddism, hinduism, Roman Catholicsm, Mystical Judaism and Wicca again. All with the same results...  nothing...

Fast forward to 2000 when I met my husband. He had been attending a Byzantine Rite parish for several years (He's Roman Catholic, technically) He invited me to go with him to liturgy on christmas eve. By this time, I had graduated from school and had put religion behind me, so I thought. While attending liturgy, I started to cry. I actually felt  like I belonged somewhere. 6 months later, I found myself in conversion classes. I was baptized Byzantine Catholic on St. Patricks Day 2002. My husband and I were married at the same church one month later.

I continued on my journey, I read the Philokalia, The Orthodox church by Timothy Ware, The Way of the Pilgrim and some essays by Frederica Matthews Green. My husband and I moved 200 miles away, where there wasn't a Byzantine church for 60 miles. We were aware there was an orthodox church in the town we were moving too, we decided that we would attend the local RC church as well as the Orthodox church. Even though it was far away ( My husband is a student and we have 2 crappy cars) we would try to attend the Byzantine Parish at least once a month.

So we continued with our formula. We found the BC to be a holding pen for SSPX'ers, and angry RC's who wanted thier "pretty latin Mass back!" The priest wears high heels under his robes and has a real thing against women who work out side the home..... I'm not kidding.  So altered our formula a bit and would alternate between the RC parish and the Orthodox church. Soon we discovered that we were doing a great job of being Orthodox and not such a good job at being Catholic. We decided that our thoughts, way of life and beliefs line up with the Orthodox church.  This is the readers digest version, you'll have to believe me that there's much more.

Currently, we are in the process of selecting sponsers. We plan on being rechrismated soon.
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The Caffeinator
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« Reply #19 on: December 09, 2003, 11:39:25 AM »

If there's anything to be learned from my unscientific poll, perhaps it's that most of us had some period of unbelief. A sign of the times?
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Doubting Thomas
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« Reply #20 on: December 09, 2003, 01:17:03 PM »

I grew up in a christian home as an agnostic, then converted to evangelicalism, went to the fundamentalist schools, then baptist seminary. I left dissillusioned, and went no where for many years. The past 2 years I have studied orthodoxy, especially reading the works of the early church fathers. My nearest orthodox church is over 650km away, so I only get to visit about once a year. Has anyone converted from baptist to orthodox???  


Hey, Jay (That's also my first name, by the way):

I'm currently a Southern Baptist and have been all my life.  I informed my pastor that I was "stepping down" as deacon this past Sunday for theological reasons (didn't mention Orthodoxy in particular, however).  I've been reading a lot about Orthodoxy over the past year or so, and I plan to visit more parishes (the closest ones being an hour away) after the holidays.  I, too, have read Clark Carlton's book, The Way, and I echo Linus's assessment of it.

God Bless,

DT
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« Reply #21 on: December 09, 2003, 02:32:07 PM »

If there's anything to be learned from my unscientific poll, perhaps it's that most of us had some period of unbelief. A sign of the times?

Definatly!  Cheesy
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« Reply #22 on: December 09, 2003, 02:33:24 PM »

Despite my agostic front (pardon the pun) ]

Ha ...nice.
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« Reply #23 on: December 10, 2003, 07:03:38 AM »

Thanks for the replies. I'll look for those recommended books too! After reading more of the early Fathers, I'm not suprised that i questioned so much at the seminary. It seems that there is a big difference between the words of Christ and those of the 'modern theologian'. It seems that now the emphasis of protestantism is to be 'Rapture ready', whereas the early fathers seem to strive for holiness & obedience. To be honest, I'm a long way away from God. I went to a ROCOR service not long ago, and it blew me away, I can't get over how respectful & solemn the service was, not your typical 'sunday circus'. I haven't lost my faith in God, I guess i just need to find who God is! Prayers are appreciated.
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« Reply #24 on: December 10, 2003, 08:02:18 AM »

Hi Jay,

if you want to try and get a handle on holiness and obedience, you really can't do better than reading the lives of the saints. You might find it beneficial to start with saints who lived in the last couple of centuries as they are not so far removed from the modern world that we live in and they can help us to see holiness as something that we too can attain, not just an impossible ideal reachable only under times of great persecution.

I presume you already know of Saint Seraphim of Sarov Smiley
Add to your list Saint John of Kronstatd, Saint Nektarios of Pentapolis/Aegina, Saint John of Shanghai and San Francisco, Saint Kosmas Aitolos, Saint Silouan and Saint Arsenios of Cappadocia. These are but a few and I'm sure others will add to the list. There are also many who are not yet canonised as saints but are recognised by many as such. Father Porphyrios, Father Paisios, Mother Gavrilla, and Father Sophrony among others.

All you need now is a bookshelf and the means to fill it Grin

John.
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« Reply #25 on: December 10, 2003, 08:47:47 AM »

Hi Jay,

if you want to try and get a handle on holiness and obedience, you really can't do better than reading the lives of the saints. You might find it beneficial to start with saints who lived in the last couple of centuries as they are not so far removed from the modern world that we live in and they can help us to see holiness as something that we too can attain, not just an impossible ideal reachable only under times of great persecution.

I presume you already know of Saint Seraphim of Sarov Smiley
Add to your list Saint John of Kronstatd, Saint Nektarios of Pentapolis/Aegina, Saint John of Shanghai and San Francisco, Saint Kosmas Aitolos, Saint Silouan and Saint Arsenios of Cappadocia. These are but a few and I'm sure others will add to the list. There are also many who are not yet canonised as saints but are recognised by many as such. Father Porphyrios, Father Paisios, Mother Gavrilla, and Father Sophrony among others.

All you need now is a bookshelf and the means to fill it Grin

John.

John,

Great suggestion!
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« Reply #26 on: December 10, 2003, 09:43:26 AM »

Indeed, great suggestion.  To the books and not-yet-canonsied list I would add Father Arseny(book of the same title).  A truly awe-inspiring account of love for Christ in the soviet gulags.
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« Reply #27 on: December 10, 2003, 09:54:43 AM »

Despite my agostic front (pardon the pun) ]

Ha ...nice.

I try!  Grin
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« Reply #28 on: December 28, 2003, 03:46:51 AM »

Thanks to all for the book suggestions. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of publishers carrying these books here in Australia, but I am tracking them down one by one. I can get the books by Fr Arseny, and I have one by Abbess Thaisia.  I also went through this site, and got onto the radio station via internet (Incarnation Broadcast Net). Really top stuff. Thanks for the replies to all. Jay, thanks for your e-mail in particular. You got an e-mail?
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« Reply #29 on: December 28, 2003, 08:13:42 AM »

Well, I was pretty much completely atheist until I was 12 years old. My father was an atheist when I was small (not quite so today), my mother had some beliefs but not strictly Orthodox ones, and religion was not a big thing in the family, though I had been baptized at 9. I started believing in Orthodoxy at 12 after a talk with my grandmother. So I think I could qualify as a convert, though my Serbian ancestors were orthodox - including at least one known priest.
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« Reply #30 on: October 08, 2008, 12:17:09 AM »

Well, I was pretty much completely atheist until I was 12 years old. My father was an atheist when I was small (not quite so today), my mother had some beliefs but not strictly Orthodox ones, and religion was not a big thing in the family, though I had been baptized at 9. I started believing in Orthodoxy at 12 after a talk with my grandmother. So I think I could qualify as a convert, though my Serbian ancestors were orthodox - including at least one known priest.

This is very similar to my atheism to Orthodox story except my parents are both theists. It was my grandmother that helped me understand God.
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« Reply #31 on: October 08, 2008, 01:25:46 AM »

Old thread but here's the really, really abbreviated timeline.

1. Assembly of God age birth to 17

2. Uninterested/bored of church age 17 to 23

3. Converted to Islam age 23 to 31ish

4. Atheist age 31 to 32ish

5. Agnostic age 32ish to 33

6.  Agnostic to Christian 33 to 34

7. Glory to God!  Christmated/Baptised at 34 into the Holy Orthodox Church!

8.  Orthodox Christian 34 to present. 
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« Reply #32 on: October 08, 2008, 01:39:00 PM »

Very interesting thread, thanks for reviving it.

In a way, I am one of those people who converted to Christianity from atheism.

I was born in 1957 in a family of two urban intellectuals (scientists) who lived in Kyiv (Kiev), Ukraine, back then part of the USSR. Officially, the old Soviet Union was a country where the freedom of religion was guaranteed by the 1936 Constitution, but unoficially it was a country where people with religious beliefs were never promoted, and often persecuted.

My parents were not "ideological," "convinced," aggressive Communists - in fact, my mom even managed to graduate from a university, get a job in science and work as a bench scientist (radiobiologist) without ever being a Communist Party member. My dad, largely because of his own father's strong Communist convictions, became a Communist Party member when he was in his early 20-s; however, as much as he was passionate about his work in science (electron microscopy), he was completely indifferent to anything in the sphere of politics or ideology. According to his own admission and also to testimonies of several friends, he always slept soundly during the Party meetings at his scientific institution.

My dad, as a Communist Party member, was formally required to be an atheist (not being an atheist was considered incompatible with remaining in the Party ranks). However, as far as I recall and as far as I knew him (and he was, in some respects, a very introvert person who would not easily get others in certain aspects of his life), he was an agnostic. He loved liturgical music - both the Orthodox liturgical chants or bell tunes, and the Western organ music, particularly by Bach. At a moment of delight caused by some beautiful piece of old Eastern or Western Christian music, he would sometimes close his eyes and say something like, "mmmm, heavenly, isn't it... there must be SOMETHING up there." On the other hand, he was always pretty sarcastic about churches, priests and "all that stuff."

My mom was an adamant agnostic and "universalist," or "ecumenist." When she was young, she became a fan of Tolstoy, and always retained the belief that "God's Kingdom is within us," which she interpreted as "whatever spiritual thing you believe in, is the same thing for all people; all faiths teach the same intrinsic, deeply humane, spiritual truths." Now, when she is 78, she is exactly the same in this regard as she was when I was little. She is curious, interested in all religions, but she would never agree with the notion that a person should choose ONE particular faith, because there is only one Truth. She, essentially, believes that all teachings about human kindness, goodness, self-sacrifice are equally truthful.

Older members of our extended family - my grandparennts' generation - were very diverse as far as faith went. My paternal (and only living) grandfather was a convinced Communist and a Communist functionnaire (educational bureaucrat), so he was pretty often vocally negative about religion, church etc. However, when he began to approach 80, he started to read a Russian Synodical translation of the Bible (later also a Ukrainian translation of the Bible, which he understood better), and expressed a sort of remorse about his militant atheist youth - especially that he, as a youngster, participated in demolishion of several old Orthodox churches. His wife, my paternal grandmother, said about herself that she was an "atheist," but she actually believed in all kinds of superstitions (evil eye, black cats, number 13, etc.). Her sister, my paternal grand-aunt (whom I always called simply "aunt Katya"), a widow of a military surgeon and a medical doctor herself, was a very devout Orthodox church goer. She lived in a different city, so I did not communicate with her on a regular basis, but I knew that she had the habit of going to church. She was an amazing woman - a true saint in everything; incredibly kind, soft-spoken, careful with people, always afraid of offending anyone, going extra mile to help with any chore, etc. However, when aunt Katya visited my grandparents or my parents and I was there at the kitchen or dining room table, she never spoke about God or faith - she knew that these things can harm me in my school, if my classmates or teachers found out.

Finally, my maternal grandmother, a woman whom I really loved for her outstanding intellect and ability to keep my attention for hours by reading and story-telling, was a very convinced militant atheist. She, a librarian by profession, loved everything French (spoke and wrote fluent French, had a ton of French books in her tiny one-room apartment), and her most favorite author was Voltaire. I have no idea why, but for some reason she had a very strong, focused, concentrated anger against religion and especially Christianity and Orthodoxy. She called Christians "g****mned idiots," and priests or monks "disgusting tricksters, deceivers and blood-sucking scumbags." If she saw a priest walking down a street, she would immediately curse aloud (even though she normally was extremely "cultured" and never swore), and spit on the ground several times. She used to say that the humankind made such a tremendous progress from barbarianism to its present day when we have cars, airplanes, telephones, and all this wonderful literature and arts; and it's just these crazy, stupid "religionists" who stand on the way of this wonderful progress.

My schools were, of course, rabidly anti-theist. From kindergarten to the senior high school year, and also throughout the university education I, like all other young Soviet people, constantly heard the message that there is no "god," that all these "gods" are stupid and evil fairy tales invented by the "exploiting classes" to keep the oppressed masses in fear, etc. etc. etc.

I became thinking about God, religion, Christ largely because I was very often bored and irritated by my schools. It was a rebellion thing in me. Still is. Smiley

« Last Edit: October 08, 2008, 03:25:32 PM by Heorhij » Logged

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« Reply #33 on: October 19, 2008, 11:54:03 PM »

PhosZoe,

don't be disheartened by the attitude of the Serbian Orthodox community. not all of us are like that!!! Smiley

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« Reply #34 on: October 20, 2008, 01:16:07 AM »

I grew up in an atheist/agnostic family (several generations worth) and was not baptised (the family belief about baptism is that it is a terrible to think that if you don't baptize a baby it will go to hell - there is just no explaining to them though that Orthodox Christianity doesn't believe this - they cut me when I attempt to clarify this). Early on I was just ignorant /oblivious, but at the age of 12 I declared myself most decidedly at atheist. Interestingly, when I was baptised Orthodox at the age of 29, my father said that he always knew I wasn't truly atheist.

I attended the odd church service throughout my life (all Protestant up to the following experience), but the only one that affected me in any way, before I stumbled across Orthodoxy, was a Catholic service I experienced when I was 17 and my Mexican boyfriend took me. I bawled my eyes through most of it. Don't know why. That and when I was 22 I was backpacking and one early morning wandered into an ancient, as far as I know unused chapel in the Plaka below the Acropolis. I fell to me knees and cried a little too, and just stayed there for awhile just feeling an amazing sense of peace. But I never pursued anything further at this point - I guess it was just so outside my realm, and no one I hung out with was remotely religious. I knew a couple of people who were but thought they were odd. I had no proper knowledge of what Christianity was about. In my mid-20's I had a boyfriend who was a fairly observant Ismaili Muslim, and was interested in further understanding what this was about, but that boyfriend was (and still has, which he fully admits to - we keep in touch) issues around letting people get close to him emotionally. After we broke up I had this vague feeling I needed to understand something more, and stumbled across a book review in the Globe and Mail about a book called Why Religion Matters by Huston Smith. I read the book (I'll admit the book will seem very basic to the well-informed, but it is what I needed at the time). I ended up setting up a shelf (maybe this seems hokey?) with candles in my bedroom and read the Bible all the way through. I also looked into Buddhism a bit, but while I respected elements of it, I just didn't connect with it. I, however, really had no idea of where to start, and   I couldn't imagine wandering into a church without an invite. Then I met my husband (I know, it seems my religious experiences all seem tied to boyfriends, but I think that was inevitable since I had quite a few of 'em - at least a couple were bound to introduce me to something since my friends were more set and they certainly weren't going to direct me anywhere). I'd only been dating him casually for a month though, and we hadn't gotten into really any religion based conversations. I had planned a trip to Australia to visit friends I'd met while backpacking years earlier. A roomate of mine at the time offered to call up his uncle, a Catholic priest, so I could meet with him and have a chat while in Australia (my roomate wasn't religious, but somewhere deep in his psyche there was an ingrained Catholicism, and he knew I was starting to search). I didn't take him up on his offer as I was still resistant. When I got back from my travels, I did end up going to an Orthodox vespers - my husband grew up atheist in the former Soviet Union, but he and his first wife were  baptized in Moscow. He didn't attend services that often, but did sometimes at that point. Anyway, I cried then too at the vespers (no, I'm not normally that emotional), and again felt an overwhelming sense of peace and awe. I started to study, research, etc., and convinced my then boyfriend/now husband to take me more often. The priest's wife asked me to chant the English portion of vespers (our church's services are largely in Slavonic with a large minority of English thrown in) and as it turned out I was somewhat decent at it (and was soon after invited into the choir, which is amazing, and wonderful since before that time I had only ever sung in the shower). Sometime afterward (I don't remember how long the process was), I was baptised. With fits and starts (because of rather onerous work obligations, and then children added to the onerous work obligations) I have continued to try to grow in Christ (am I wording that the right way? - sorry if I sound ignorant). I don't sing currently though in the choir as we need both my husband and me monitoring our little boys - one parent just doesn't cut it. It will be nice once they get a bit bigger because then maybe my husband and I can actually properly experience a liturgy again  Smiley

I still experience struggles because most people I know outside of church, including my family and colleagues, find religion, including Christianity, deeply disturbing. I just want to get the heck out of my onerous work obligations so I can better attend to my family and my beliefs with my boys and husband, and spend more time around people who feel the same way, but I guess that is not to be, at least at this point. It's really hard to always be suppressing my wish to grow in Christ, to maintain a facade (yep, it's required in my line of work, and really in the society I live in, being that I'm in urban Canada).

modified to add a small piece of info I forgot
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« Reply #35 on: October 20, 2008, 01:19:57 AM »

It was a rebellion thing in me. Still is. Smiley



I have to admit, there is a bit of me that enjoys the rebellion involved in being Christian when surrounded by those who hate it. I can't remember who said it (perhaps Frederica Mathewes-Green?), but the quote was something to the effect that Christianity is counter-cultural. That said, I wouldn't give it up if it suddenly became mainstream.
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« Reply #36 on: October 20, 2008, 01:35:05 AM »

It was a rebellion thing in me. Still is. Smiley



I have to admit, there is a bit of me that enjoys the rebellion involved in being Christian when surrounded by those who hate it. I can't remember who said it (perhaps Frederica Mathewes-Green?), but the quote was something to the effect that Christianity is counter-cultural. That said, I wouldn't give it up if it suddenly became mainstream.

Actual Christianity will never become mainstream unless the definition of Christianity or mainstream changes Cheesy
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1915-1923 Հայոց Ցեղասպանութիւն ,never again,
ܩܛܠܐ ܕܥܡܐ ܐܬܘܪܝܐ 1920-1914, never again,
השואה  1933-1945, never again,
(1914-1923) Ελληνική Γενοκτονία, never again
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« Reply #37 on: October 20, 2008, 07:53:43 AM »

I still experience struggles because most people I know outside of church, including my family and colleagues, find religion, including Christianity, deeply disturbing.

Same here. Practically all people I know and socialize with - with the only exception of my tiny Greek mission parish in 50 miles from where I live, - are atheists or self-proclaimed agnostics, "progressive minded" and blaming "religion" (and especially Christianity) in all ills of the world and in all ills that can harm a human being (particularly me). To all my relatives and close friends, the less I pray, the less I read "religious literature" and the less I mention "church," - the better. My wife only likes the idea of fasting (i.e. me fasting, not her), because fasting makes me thinner and saves us some money.Smiley But even with regard of fasting, I have no right, according to my wife, to even mention it when people ask me why did I lose weight, because that's "embarassing." If I as much as say words like "Christ" or "Church" in any context when someone talks to me in the presence of my wife, she will later deliver a very angry lecture that I should not embarass her and myself by my idiotic, barbaric religious fanaticism.  Grin If I mention faith or church in a phone conversation with my mom, she will immediately change the topic, beginning to talk fast and at much length about anything, just to distract me, again, from the darned "fanaticism." 
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