615 W. Uintah St
I was sexually abused by my missionary grandfather; my mother fell prey to the Satanic Panic of 1982, and accused me of being a priestess in the occult. Those were very traumatic events that showed me the church wasn't the safest place, but when home isn't safe, it's sometimes the ONLY place to find any kind of redemption.
As for loss, though, the kind that rips your heart out--well, I lost my family. My mother never recovered from the spiritual psychosis of the Satanic Panic, and sent me back to live with my father. I never saw her again. I left my house when I was 17 and never went back. I haven't seen my father since I was twenty five. He became even more conservative and apocalyptic in his beliefs. My family was the most unsafe entity in my life, so I had to leave it. —N.H.
1850 North Academy Blvd
I lived with my Dad during the summers. He was completely non-religious and would take me to bars and try to get me laid. One summer staying with him, I started smoking pot early (around 15) and lost my virginity. My guilt was staggering and I tried to convert the girl who had just "made me a man", as she was the wayward one, not me.
But I liked both sex and drugs.—K.S.
1715 4th St.
In high school a teacher mentioned that there were several myths that involved virgin births and I piped up “You mean Jesus wasn’t the only one?”. I seriously believed that his birth was not only factual but widely understood to be unquestioned fact.
At that age I believed that homosexuality was an aberration and was terrified that I might be gay to the point of obsession and that anyone who had premarital sex was stupid or evil. Everything was sexualized and everything sexual was evil. I thought women should accept their place as followers.
I was flabbergasted by how common and accepted it was to be sexually active or homosexual or a woman who did not change her actions or opinions after being confronted with all powerful masculinity. People outside of my culture were surprisingly unashamed of bodily functions. People were more casual and there was less perfectionism about pretty much everything. There was less emphasis on everything being sacred. I'm not sure how much of this abnormality was from the church and how much was from my family. The two seem so enmeshed. —A.R.
1115 North Academy Blvd
My parents chose nondenominational Pentecostal gatherings as a whole and we became immersed in the culture. I would attend church both Sunday morning and evening, Wednesday evening and Friday night bible study. Our lives were filled with every traveling tent revival and every stage performance by the likes of Jimmy Swaggart and Ernest Angley that came through.
I witnessed possessions, exorcisms and all sorts of fear-induced demonic attacks. It was crazy. —K.S.
317 East Boulder St
Religion for me was always more about discovering the truth about the nature of reality, and then living accordingly, than about a feeling. Metaphysically, I don't see any reason to believe in divine or supernatural things. My world is fundamentally "disenchanted," and I think it's much less frightening because of that.
There is no all-powerful being who will punish me for not trying harder to believe in him. There aren't demons and angels fighting for my soul. I'm just a clever primate, who will live for a little while and then die forever. And in the meantime, I'm making the best life for myself that I can.—H.D.
324 North Wahsatch Ave.
I think the biggest thing I realized was my lack of navigational skills. I was given a bible to answer life's questions. My parents would flip a coin an pray before any important decisions. That prepared me very little for a future of much of anything. I'm still stunted by that lack of understanding and feel it often in my professional life. —K.S.
20 E St Vrain St
I don't believe there's anything after we die. I feel our connection to each other and the earth is all that really matters. Here. Now. We are all connected and part of the universe on a cellular level. How we live nd how we treat others and our world defines us. Good and bad actions have consequences. People make mistakes, we say things we don't mean, we do things we aren't aware are hurtful or are totally aware, we are basically self centered—it's the human condition.
Being selfish is a choice though. It's very different than being self centered and religion seems to excuse being selfish. It allows judgement and condemnation all across every religion known. Sure we have non-religious selfishness, but when large populations collectively choose to see and condemn others based on religious teaching, it's the kind of brain washing that starts wars, permits atrocities, and does damage over and over throughout history.
In my search for belonging and "family,” I've been hurt more by the institutions of religion than by the people in my life who know how to actually love and accept others. The communities who have been outcast and reviled hold more compassion and empathy than all the religions I've interacted with in 50 years. —G.U.
920 East Cache La Poudre St.
I don’t want to stereotype but sometimes I encounter a woman of a type that exudes Catholicism. Usually with a mushroom haircut, no makeup, greyish hair and a motherly air. I am drawn to these women up to a point. They seem very comforting until they are confronted with something they don’t like at which point they make a face which expresses pity, disapproval and sadness on the surface and rage underneath—or at least that’s what I see. It makes me angry and sick to my stomach. Sometimes these women are actually Protestant. But they feel Catholic.
They seem pompous and arrogant outside, terrified and weak inside. The Catholic version is smug. The Protestant version is angry. —A.R.
930 S Prospect St
My mother, as a white woman raised by wealthy parents in the south, was raised some kind of Protestant Christian, which she and her mother found boring. They would sneak into Baptist churches within black communities for something "more lively." —E.F.
4040 E Bijou St, suite 110
I came to stop believing in the God of my youth, because I didn't want to worship a deity who would let a bad person who had been saved go to Heaven but condemn a good person who didn't believe in a Christian faith.
The final nail in the coffin for my belief in a god were two experiences of rape - one at age 19 and one at age 21, combined with my remembering of long-suppressed childhood sexual abuse from a family member. The idea that there was a god who would let these things happen, who would not protect me and who would - even worse - allow that family member to go to Heaven because he believed in God...it was unthinkable. —E.F.
1204 East Bijou St.
The new pastor was younger and my family didn’t have the same connection with him as the previous one. But all the way through high school, I found his sermons fascinating. Later I found out there was a whole different homily style sermon in other churches, but what I grew up with was extremely Bible-focused, sometimes taking months and months to crawl through a book like Romans, maybe just one or two verses each Sunday. There was a lot of cross referencing with other verses and digging into the meaning of original Greek and Hebrew words to aid in the interpretation. I really got a lot of intellectual stimulation from that, particularly as I entered my teens.
Years after I left home, this pastor resigned after having an affair with a woman in the congregation. They both left their spouses and got married. He gave up the ministry and became a construction worker, I think. When I heard about it, his hypocrisy really struck me. It made me wonder what goes on in the background while people are mouthing holy words. —T.W.
926 Farragut Ave
I was having continuous thoughts of suicide. Sometimes it was just images of myself jumping out the 10th floor window at my office job, popping into my head unbidden. That's not a sin. But if I stopped to think it over, if I looked over the edge and thought about jumping, that was a sin. The line between the unbidden image and the intentional thought is kind of hard to discern. Mostly, I just felt bad all the time about feeling bad all the time. Ugh. Also, my misery made me doubt God, but not believing in God is a sin, too.
So I was going to confession every week, always confessing the same things: I don't believe in God and I'm thinking about killing myself. —H.D.
1409 Palmer Park Blvd
I never felt as if I belonged in church. I never quite believed and I asked too many questions. The moment that I realized that it really didn't matter was when my son was in the hospital where his heart had stopped and he died clinically 7 times. He was the least critically ill child in the neonatal unit.
There were mothers with children from all over the world from all different religions. What I found out that it didn't matter where we were from, what religion we practiced or what language we spoke, we all loved our children and we were dealing with life and death with each passing hour.
It was at that moment that I rejected my religious indoctrination. It didn't matter. It only mattered that we were all people, we all loved our children and we all supported one another even if we couldn't understand the language or if we looked different from one another. —G.S.C.
11025 Voyager Pkwy
The biggest realization I had from my childhood at New Life was how much of a cult it really was. We were home sponsors for a program at New Life called 24-7. It was basically boot camp for college age Christians from all over the country, sometimes the world. It was a 3 year program.
Having them living in our home, we had an inside scoop on what went on in the program. These 18-24 year olds were completely governed by very common cult tactics. They were robbed of sleep, for example. They would be kept up at the church until at least 2—4 a.m. They were required back at the church by 6 a.m. every day for a military style workout. It was called 24-7 for that reason, and they did not take the name lightly. Everyone at the church revered the "24-7s" as if they were celebrities.
Probably the most jaw dropping example of what was done in the program was "missions training.” This was basically a 72 hour period of physical and psychological torture to prepare them to spread the good word to the most hostile areas of the world. They would be released "early" with no idea about what was going to unfold over the next 72 hours. At that point (the 1st years) had no idea about mission training at all. We as the home sponsors knew what was going to happen, of course. It was actually exciting for us.
Around 4 a.m. the 3rd year students along with other facilitators would "break in" to our home and kidnap the students. They would be dressed in all black from head to toe (masks and all) and rip the students out of bed, beat them, and throw them in a van. They would blindfold them and drive in circles for hours to disorient them. They were faking being kidnapped by an anti-christian government as the premise. The 72 hours consisted of beatings, emotional and psychological torture, and other rein-actions of what the program fantasized it would be like to be a martyr. The food they would be fed, extremely sparingly, would be crawling with maggots (sometimes worse) to teach them to never turn down what they're fed. At the pinnacle of the training, after not sleeping on top of all the various other tortures, they would be placed in an execution-style position with a fake gun behind their head and urged to deny christ. If they did, they were out of the program.
Thinking back on that was when I knew I grew up in a cult. —J.H.
also: Iglesia Gracia Verdad (Evangelical). 3830 Van Teylingen Dr.
I have been surprised to discover that under certain conditions I *do* still kind of believe in God. When I'm very depressed and I've been drinking heavily, I get so angry at God that I can't stop screaming at him. If there is a God, he's an asshole, and so he deserves it. But it's just weird that most of the time I don't think there's any such being, then every now and then I yell obscenities at him. It's been a little while since that happened, but whenever I hear about suffering children I just really want a God I can blame. —H.D.
1 South Walnut St. (south campus)
One of my earliest memories of terror and religion was when my mother forced us to go to an exorcism at the church because she believed our family was cursed with "generational demons". It was a terrifying experience to see people shaking and vomiting and screaming knowing I was next. Luckily the church sent us away and said we were too young. —J.H.
2306 Sijan Dr.
The Christian faith in the U.S. has fallen into complete ruin. Like a dying fire, there are embers here and there that glow, but by and large, it is a failed effort. It is every bit as decadent as the Jewish world in Jesus's time, and it builds and perpetuates actual evil in the world. It is a negative force that has completely lost its moorings. The Evangelicals' support of Trump is the most obvious symptom, but there are many others. It's a lost cause. We need a new prophet. —S.J.
145 Fontaine Blvd.
I experience a range of emotions, given the political climate right now, and how many evangelicals support Trump. But also, I am still in contact with old church and boarding school friends, and so I would say "it's complicated" best describes the relationship. After all, I am still a believer. I didn't leave the faith. I still believe in many aspects of Christianity that I did as child, so that's a strong bond with any faith community. But I have also changed position on a number of subjects such as homosexuality, gender and power, sexuality, and social activism. I think the evangelical church is horribly racist and sexist. I still believe in its redemption, but I want to see it called into accountability. I want Christians to call other Christians on their biases. —N.H.
731 Castle Rd
I feel sickened and angry with anyone who puts their religion above actually caring for or treating others with compassion, empathy, and aid. When they start spewing about "let god" or "I'm praying for you", I want to shake them. I don't need prayers, I need real human contact and help with life's trials.
I'm especially sensitive to this now that I have cancer. People who barely know me have come up to me and said, with such pride and self glory, that they are praying for me every week. As if I'm supposed to be eternally grateful to them for sitting on the asses and saying a bunch of words. Not one of these people have brought a meal, offered a ride, or any other actual helpful action.
Praying for someone brings relief and comfort to those that are doing the praying. I do no believe it does anything for anyone else. —G.U.
527 East Vrain St.
One of the largest bouts of anger happened while my mother was dying of brain cancer. My stepfather had died a few years earlier and my mom had remarried. With the new stepfather, a new preacher entered the picture. Unable to speak any longer and obviously on the edge, my mother would snap back into a lucid state when the preacher would come into the hospice to visit. He would sit and coo at her and tell her that god came to him and said she would live. He would do this while rubbing her bald head, exclaiming, that the small hairs that were growing back was a sign. As far as I can tell, my mother felt guilty for dying, as it wasn't god's plan. I wanted to wring his neck. I was angry with them all for continuing the farce. —K.S.
402 Conejos St.
I believe that Jesus had it right when he said that the Kingdom of Heaven is within. I think the parable of the vine dresser pruning the vine for a greater harvest rings true. I seek to respond to society around me with sensibility and understanding and empathy. I don't think Heaven is an existence beyond our lives. I think we create beauty and love and peacefulness within ourselves and try to include others in it. I don't think God is controlling anything. When a tornado destroys my neighbor's house, I don't think it's punishment, and I don't think I deserved to be spared. These are random events. Jesus also said that once, about a tower falling on people, not because they were unlovely, but randomly. It is within the power of the human brain and body to generate peace and love, and I think we should try to do so. —S.J.
1318 N. Circle Dr.
Three things led me to reject my faith:
First was that my brother and my best friend both came out as gay. It was hard for me to take a biblical stance on the issue when it became personal. This was in 2008, when I was eighteen.
The next was in 2014, when my best friend and my mentee died in a car accident. I could no longer believe God did everything for good or had a purpose for everything—there was no purpose worth losing her to me. I became really depressed and continued doubting my faith, becoming very cynical of the platitudes.
The third phase was in 2018, specifically when Trump began separating families at the border and Christians I knew were defending his policies using the Bible. This coupled with the #metoo and #churchtoo movement helped me see how the church and Christians in general have used the faith to marginalize and HURT people. That was the final straw and I left. —Anonymous
1133 N Wahsatch Ave.
One thing that I sometimes miss is that feeling of being 100% right with the world. When I was Catholic, I usually felt terrible about myself, but after confession my soul was cleansed of all its sins. So, for about five minutes, I'd feel like I was absolutely good--no question, no doubt, I was a holy person.
Now I don't usually feel terrible about myself, but I also don't ever feel 100% great about myself. I know that I could be doing better in a lot of areas in my life, so I never feel like everything is perfect. Maybe I had a mild, religion-induced bipolar disorder? Anyway, my feelings about myself are much less extreme. —H.D.
5235 Palmer Park Blvd.
For me, my relationship with God still makes up the core of who I am, which still astounds me to this day, given the horrific abuse I saw in the church. Perhaps because I have seen the darkest kinds of sins enacted on upon the weak, I have to believe in redemption. Maybe because I'm bipolar and have a voice in my head that tells me to die, I must believe in a God that demands that I live, and love.
I am a woman of extremes. My spirituality is messy and full of doubt, as it should be. I respect and have many friends of different faiths, and I find their faith beautiful and full of wonder. Faith is no longer about church or a body of believers (though they have their place)—it's a journey. Maybe there's something to that walking the "straight and narrow"—a path that demands wonder and gratitude, that brings me to a place of daily repentance for not seeing the marginalized, that daily challenges me to believe in redemption, not just for me, but for others. —N.H.
254 S. Academy Blvd
When I was 24, I knew I had broken the chains when on a rock climbing trip with my brother and a friend. I had been leading a climb outside Seattle. We were up about 5 pitches when I went off route and ran out the rope. I found that I could go neither up nor down and perched on the edge of a small rock trying to figure out what to do. I remember looking down at the kayakers being dashed in the rapids 1000 feet below thinking, "well, if I just lean forward a little, it's all over." The wind was blowing and I couldn't communicate with my brother. Finally, another climber saw me and sent word.
After being rescued from the rock face, I realized that in all my panic and fear, I never once called out to god for help. At that point, I knew I was free. —K.S.
865 Westmoreland Rd,
8605 Explorer Dr.
3150 S Academy Blvd.
272 S Academy Blvd
801 N Circle Dr