Before being "saved" and initiated into the better life with Christ, I enjoyed a wonderful career as a circus ringmaster. I had money, a high public profile, respect from my peers, and most important of all, a happy family.
My flamboyant, carefree lifestyle attracted the attention of the born-again Christians who dedicated themselves to pointing me to Christ. I found their love and concern for me, a stranger, impressive. Maybe they were right. There had always been a nagging feeling inside of me that maybe, just maybe, I had been missing out on the true meaning of life by not accepting Christ. If I did release some of my independence and self-reliance, perhaps God would indeed be able to do a real work in my life. By trying to do it on my own, in my own strength, I had actually restricted my possibilities.
It became a question of priorities. Maybe too, this would settle down the worrisome insecurities I had played host to since my early childhood of rejection. The born-agains swiftly zeroed in on this vulnerable spot and went to work to soothe those feelings. They assured me that God loved me despite my imperfections that brought on these insecurities. I would feel complete with Christ and this would eliminate my feelings of inadequacy.
My new Christian friends overwhelmed me with their love and acceptance, as they guided me toward their intended goal — recruitment. Because of their outward show of gentleness, love, and compassion, and by virtue of their professed relationship with God, I felt I could trust them completely.
Somehow, the information that the circus ringmaster had become a born-again Christian made national news, and representatives of the Assemblies of God church made it a point to greet me in every city and town where I appeared with the circus. They asked me to give my testimony in their churches as I traveled through.
The postitive feedback from all of the church members confirmed my calling. I heard the words, "I can see that God has His hand on you and has anointed you," over and over again. Others told me that they felt the hand of God give them a healing touch as I spoke. At last, my real purpose in life had been defined, and the supreme acceptance that I had so long sought had come to me. Like an addictictive drug, I wanted more and more of it as I allowed myself to become totally immersed in this church setting, accompanied by haunting gospel hymns.
Shortly after my born-again commitment, cancer struck me. It made no sense to me that this could happen right after dedicating my former selfish life to Christ. The Assemblies of God declared that this was an attack of the devil to stop me from serving God. Furthermore, God allowed this to happen to show me His healing power! Next, they hustled me off to an Assembly of God-backed Full Gospel Businessmen's Fellowship International meeting, where an evangelist with the gift of healing would pray for me.
All the Pentecostals I knew, including my daughter's piano teacher, proclaimed that when I returned home from that meeting, I would be completely healed. With such an elaborate support system around me, I found myself primed and ready to receive it. After the evangelist prayed for me, I felt a rush of adrenaline go through my body. Excitement was at its peak. With prompting, I agreed in front of the audience that God had healed me. Praise the Lord!
Following the prayer, I was told to hold on to my healing. If any of the old symptoms connected with the cancer should crop up, they advised me, I should reject those false symptoms as a temptation of Satan to get me to turn loose of my healing. Convinced that what these loving people told me was true, I discontinued medical help.
Out of gratitude to God for my healing, and at the nudging of Assemblies of God leaders to acknowledge my faith in God, I began giving large sums of money to the church organization. My wife vehemently objected to my involvement with this evangelical religion and to the huge cash donations I was giving to them.
These Pentecostals who had worked their way into a close relationship with me advised me to associate only with fellow believers in order to protect my faith. My total healing, of course, rested in my faith. The devil, they told me, who is the prince of this world, would try to steal it, and the devil works through people who are close to you. For my own protection, I needed to surround myself only with born-again, spirit-filled Christians.
I began dropping good friends that I had known for years because they might possibly, even unintentionally, deter me from the faith. I spent every minute I could in church. While traveling I would seek out preachers on my car radio. I fervently read my Bible.
When my wife became more vocal in her objection to my involvement and financial support of the church, every one of my new "family members" told me the same thing. My wife was of the devil! Satan knew that God has chosen me before I was even born to be a minister. Satan cleverly put that woman in my life early to thwart the great ministry of miracles God would entrust me with. By this time, I was so hooked on the Bible and church that I agreed with them, that since my wife wasn't with me in my faith, she was against God and of the devil. My marriage ended in divorce.
Without my wife standing in the way, I made even larger cash donations to the Assemblies of God. They got it all. My entire life savings. Once they got all my savings, their conduct towards me changed drastically. To my horror, I began to see the church for what it really was — the hypocrisy and severe sexual problems with the leaders. I am the individual who walked in on Jim Bakker frolicking naked with the three nude young men in the PTL health club. I saw the phoney financial crises, the millions of dollars collected for non-existent overseas ministries. Shocked and feeling like a fool, I left Christianity and the church for good.
I paid a heavy price for engaging in the born-again Christian fantasy. Not only did this involvement result in the destruction of my family, my life savings, and my health, but it also took a heavy toll on me emotionally when I realized that I had participated in the ultimate fraud. I had been had, at a terrible cost.
When my bubble burst I suddenly felt very alone, torn out of the mainstream of life, and isolated. The friends who had taken over my life for 10 years, to the exclusion of all others, would no longer talk to me. What I had considered to be deep friendships turned to instant hate. I received threatening phone calls at all hours and obscene mail from my former brothers and sisters.
Bruised and shaken, I thought I must be the only one in this world undergoing such an experience, to think certain thoughts, or to question established authority. What hurt me the most was to learn that the church people never did love me. It proved to be later, that they really hated the circus and everyone connected with it. They merely tolerated me for the money they expected to get from me, and the publicity advantage to their involvment with me.
This was positively the most painful time of my life. Shadows of darkness fell heavily around me, accompanied by the disconsolate intimation that nobody cared, agreed, or even believed my report. I hesitated to share these feelings and frustrations for fear of opening myself up to criticism and ridicule, launching more of the self-doubt injected in me by the church. To take a stand in the matter publicly would have been more intimidating. This confusing and grievous time proved fertile ground for depression to nourish and grow to alarming heights. What's more, I found myself in the midst of a struggle with my health. Perhaps I had not been healed after all. The church had absolutely no concern over that. They got the money, even tearing apart a family to get it. That was all they cared about, even if it cost me my life.
Tyring to break a cemented mindset, created by ten years of Pentecostal brainwashing, is extremely difficult. I found myself being pulled like a robot to my Bible and flipping pages to hungrily read scripture verses, any verses. It had become a necessary fix that I could not do without. The withdrawal symptoms were fierce.
What helped me the most was to learn that I was not alone in my disillusionment. Hundreds, thousands of people have gone through similar experiences and inner conflict. The book Holy Terror by Flo Conway and Jim Siegelman (Delta Books) started me on the road to recovery. To read the testimonies of people from all walks of life who had been fed the same lines that I had, in this carefully orchestrated recruitment program, helped to reaffirm the truth about these Christian zealots.
Madalyn Murray O'Hair, whom I had met on a television program, gave me a copy of The Bible Handbook (American Atheist Press) which lined up the hundreds of contradictory scripture verses side by side. This especially had a positive effect since it showed me the gross inconsistency of the Bible, while at the same time satisfying my addictive need to read it. I highly recommend this method of withdrawal. It works.
The X-Rated Bible by Ben Akerley (American Atheist Press), "A Christmas Sermon" by Robert G. Ingersoll, and a subscription to American Atheist magazine all became a part of the healing. These publications show us beyond doubt that the church and Christianity are lies. This is the most important of all. Once this is fully comprehended, the guilt feelings must depart and find another victim. Skipp Porteous, with whom I bercame aquainted later, publishes two excellent newsletters, The Freedom Writer and Walk Away.
The writing of my own book, Don't Call me Brother (Prometheus), completed my reentry into life. The hundreds of letters I have received in response to my book, many from disillusioned ministers, showed me that perhaps I was not the colossal failure to God and man that I thought I was.
A final problem had to be faced. My health continued to deteriorate, with discomfort so great that I finally sought the medical help that I had neglected for possibly too long. The tumor was found, the cancer confirmed. Eighteen years (along with my savings account) had passed since I had been stricken. The type of cancer I had would normally be fatal within ten years. To dare even hope that the deadly disease had not spread would have seemed naive.
Early Monday morning, September 11, 1989, I faced the radical surgery that would determine my future. The five-hour operation, performed by three doctors, was 100 percent successful. They got it all. Incredibly, the cancer had not spread, despite overwhelming odds. After two days in intensive care, my rapid and complete recovery astonished everyone. I was damn lucky. Not everyone who believed the church for a faith healing has come out that well. During my recovery I wrote another book, Setting the Captives Free (Prometheus). I will continue to write and speak out against the church in books, newspaper articles, and media interviews.
I have managed to reclaim my life and I am happy again. I keep my new family protected from any Christian intrusion. Now, when an individuals tells me that he's a born-again Christian, I say, "Thanks for the warning."
The church-god is the creation of man — in man's own image. One does
not find the real God through man-made church rituals. God is only
found in the individual heart. As long as He remains there, He can
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