No, I wouldn't burn a nun alive

From James van Aarde

(Before anyone has the potential to get offended, the bit about nuns is a joke. I have never in fact struck another human being and the idea of ACTUALLY burning someone to death is of course highly offensive)

I simply don’t know where to start. This is not exactly a story of de-conversion and I apologize if this is the wrong place to post this – If anything is certain it’s that the very act of writing this will make me feel a little better about the awful things I have witnessed tonight.

Let me begin with some background on myself – I live in South Africa and my parents sent me to a catholic school because apartheid (or at least the ripples thereof) was still in effect (what an awful situation that was) and it was one of the few schools in our city that offered a multi-racial education. I’ll give them that – Not particularly fussy about whom they brainwashed.

In order to label this a de-conversion story I’ll assume that at some point in my twelve years in this system I believed that Jesus was the son of God and there was this holy spirit (we were taught ghost) floating around. At some point though I began to acquire the amazing superpower of rational thought™ and (luckily for me) this was pretty much the dissolution of Catholicism (and all the other supernatural nonsense that was part and parcel) in my mind. It sucked though because I sure wasn’t falling for any of it but you are told in no uncertain terms that you are going to BURN IN HELL FOREVER almost no matter what you do, forced to attend mass, say confession (to a priest pissed on whiskey) as well as it being made perfectly clear that if you speak out or ask questions you are pretty much going to have your ass kicked by a nun. Ah, the wonderful memories of my youth.

I am now at the ripe old age of twenty four and I realized the other day that I only stopped praying about two years ago. Unbelievable. If I did not have a strict moral code to live by (gasp! morals in the absence of religion?!!) I would go back to that hell-hole (pun indeed intended) and take a flamethrower to the place. I’m ashamed to admit that the image of a group of nuns frantically flailing about, habits aflame is a slightly erotic one for me. No, I’m only kidding – I’m not actually ashamed to admit it. At least I’m not telling them that they have a chance of roasting in hell FOREVER. At least all I want to do is kill them ONCE. It’s impossible to conceive, this concept of eternity – I used to lie in bed at night totally freaking out with the thought that I might not dig it in heaven and if so, what the bloody hell am I going to there for all of eternity? The concept of hell for eternity was, I think, impossible for me to grasp, otherwise I would probably have tried to kill myself, except of course that would have sent me straight down (these people have an answer for everything don’t they?).

As I said I only stopped praying about two years ago so it has taken me a number of years to finally shake off the last vestiges of Catholicism/HellFearDeathHorror syndrome.

That’s my story of religion in my life.

Or at least I wish it was.

My grandparents are very traditional Afrikaans people and therefore very involved in their church – The same bunch of idiots who justified apartheid by quoting verses from the bible. Of course since apartheid ended the church has apologized but still… I think when it comes to something like that (for all intents and purposes treating non-whites as an inferior race) what’s an apology really worth? Anyhow, I could be mistaken about this but I really doubt that you are going to stumble upon a lot of black people in their church, even today. Although that’s great – The less people supporting that nonsense the better.

Man I’m waffling. I do apologize. It’s late (2:30 A.M) but I’m going to write until I have this all off of my chest.

Point is, aside from my nuclear family I’m related to a LOT of very religious people – Different churches but at the end of the day all Christian in one form or the other. And something I’ve had to put up with my whole life is a subtle yet very obvious feeling that I’m not… quite as good/special/blessed/whatever as my religious relatives. Don’t get me wrong I’m not boo-hooing or anything – It’s just unbelievable how people can totally disregard your character (I think I’m a relatively cool guy) and pass judgment on you simply because you have trouble buying into their particular brand of superstition.

I’ll try and cut a long story short:

Last week I had a band with two other very awesome human beings. We had played a couple of gigs which went awesomely and we were, I think, on the verge of international super-stardom ;). In all seriousness it was a future oriented activity for all of us and we were giving it our all in order to try and make a success of it.

Then last Thursday our drummer came over and told me (to nutshell it) that he had became a reborn again Christian and that he had to leave the band as a sacrifice to Jesus. To prove his love or something I think. Which brought up the question (which I posed to him) of why an all knowing god would need to have anything PROVED to him. I still don’t really get it – Seems he/she/it is a little on the insecure side.

Anyhow, this brand of Christianity, while not being totally new to me was mostly pretty alien territory and I have spent the last week attempting to understand it all. I know that I haven’t scraped the surface of the whole issue but I think I may have a definite handle on the whole thing. I’d imagine that you are probably the last people in the world who need to hear about the absurdity of original sin (what’s it got to do with me) and Jesus dying for those sins (again, what’s it got to do with me? And he’s an immortal all knowing god who must have known how the whole thing was going to play out anyhow). For sure I’ve heard or read just about all the arguments and rationalizations in the past couple of days but EVERY SINGLE TIME I bring up ANYTHING that would actually challenge their universe it’s either I don’t know yet/the other Christian (brain #2) will know or the lord works in mysterious ways/Puny humans have not the right nor the capability to even begin to understand God. I’d love to be tolerant but it’s a pathetic cop-out. I think, above all, we as the human species have to try and find a way to operate smoothly on this earth together and I’m rapidly coming to the conclusion that without religion that would be about half the battle won.

Back (finally) to the events of tonight:

I went to church with my ex-drummer because I still hope (in vain I’m beginning to realize) that his massive emotional paradigm shift can be opposed with a good sensible dose of reason and I want to show him that I’m willing to check out his side of things. Well, it was sickening. Being outside of their lovesick/delusional? framework the service, I think, really showed itself for what it was. The charade began with a bit of praise and worship (swaying/singing/muttering/flag waving) which was followed by a rather hectoring (it seemed) request for money. I was even told that I could (should/must) borrow money from my neighbor if I had none… While asking (demanding?) for money the pastor brought up two things that disturbed me – He said his cousin (a non-believer) had died two days ago and that if his cousin could rewind the day died, he would have accepted Jesus into his heart. I don’t think I need to point out how unbelievably presumptuous and callous a statement like that is not to mention the thinly veiled reference to death/hell/worship = more money to God if you don’t want to fry. The second thing that annoyed me was he kept on harping on about how Gods love is priceless so give, give, give! As much as you can afford plus 10%. This really pisses me off because South Africa is a seriously poor country for a lot of its inhabitants and I somehow doubt that *god* for all of his priceless love is actually going to see any of that money…

Then the guest pastor spoke. Horrible little toad of a man. Wobbling jowls, the lot. Again, two things that really grated my carrot – His entire sermon was based on a mistranslation of (I’m a little hazy here, hadn’t eaten the whole day and I smoked (used to) cannabis for six years which has not done wonders for my memory) I think the Greek word for word. Now the guy was somehow trying to explain why God never actually seems to respond even though you, as a devout Christian, have dedicated your entire existence to him. What struck me as odd though is that he stated that the entire bible (“from Genesis to Revelation”) was translated from Greek. Now, in my last couple of days of admittedly rather amateurish research the bible (or at least the various bits and pieces that eventually became the bible as we know it today) stems from Aramaic, Hebrew and Greek. To base an entire sermon on the lie that it was all written in Greek is, well, a LIE. I mean the guy really made it sound like somewhere out there in the world is the original bible which is similar to the modern bible except that it is written in Greek and that even ordained ministers/scholars have a hard time translating it. Ridiculous.

I’m almost done! Have you read this far? I commend you ;).

The second thing that got my goat was that after all this he started telling a long story about a woman who had cancer and how her faith miraculously healed her (!) never mind the fact that she had undergone an operation as well as chemotherapy. I honestly cannot think of many things more pathetic and irresponsible than leading people to believe that their faith is going to cure their illnesses. Not to mention that if they do die their faith was obviously not strong enough which does not bode well for them…

I had to leave at that point. I simply could not take it any more.

Crazy. I feel like I’m living in the twilight zone.

I’m all for freedom of religion (freedom of anything really, providing it does not hurt you or the species that have to inhabit the earth with you) and I will stand up for people to have the right to believe whatever they wish. But a mind-control cult that teaches people that they are worthless sinners and that miracles are possible. I think not.


I DO feel better. But tired. Its two minutes past four in the morning.

I’m a high-school drop out so please excuse all the commas :)


James van Aarde
Port Elizabeth
Eastern Cape
South Africa
email: twenty_five_hour_day At hotmail dot com


Anonymous said...

My poor dear young man. My own de-conversion was years ago, so allow me to pass on some advice:

You must make new friends. It's a great pity that your family have -- for all intents and purposes -- made you an outcast, but it can't be helped. It's a greater pity that your musician friend was forced to choose between you and a nonexistent deity, but that can't be helped either. You need people who -- no matter what they believe -- will not force you to be something you're not. Reaching out via this site was a good first step.

You must continue your education. I'm sure I needn't explain this.

Finally, you must allow yourself to grieve, and rage, for as long as need be. Your feelings are perfectly valid and must be acknowledged. Please know that you are not alone.

Anonymous said...

It's very possible that we are subject to exactly the same fear, prejudice and downright stupidity that afflicted folks in the dark ages.

At least we do have science and rational thought, so there is a different balance. But the people who buy into Christianity are no better off than those in the 1300's. (take that back - they get the benefit of hygiene, novacaine, improved medical practices, fair labor laws, unions...)


Anonymous said...

It takes some courage to walk with-out the crutch of christianity.It can be lonely and difficult.
So I commend you for leaving a messed up and controlling organization and encourage you to hang in there,...what other choice do we have?
We have pass through a portal of reason and truth, never to return!(let the poor sheeple of your past go, and make some new friends)*peace to you James,freedy

Anonymous said...

It's unbelievable.

Such warmth and good advice from you satan infused infidels. ;)

The complete opposite from the purveyors of eternal love.

I'm just so damn glad I escaped.

man, I read through my post now... I was so tired it's a little stream of consciousy sounding but I think I got the point across.

This site and everyone involved has, I think, the potential to do more good for the world than Christianity has in a couple thousand years.


Cheers all and... thanks.

Steven Bently said...

Gosh James, you express such wisdom and insight at such an early age too. I wish I was a good drummer, I would pack up and come over, I wish you all the best life has to offer. You write so well never mind the education, you're already surpassed the majority of people's level of intelligence.

That is alot of the problem, you've leaped ahead of your fellow peers and some of them will want to remain steeped in fear, mostly because of fear of death and dying, that is the only foundation that all religions are based upon.

Please keep in contact with us and keep us informed with what is going on in your life. Great read!!! TC

Anonymous said...


It seems I caught a trout or two ;)

I cannot be held accountable for what I say at 4:00 AM although I am indeed a school drop-out.

It's great to get in contact with like-minded people - I've discovered much to my dismay that South Africa is, on a lot of levels, a seriously conservative country.
I could probably count on my hands and feet the amount of athiests/doubters I know altogether. I'd need to be a gigantic mutant octopus to begin making a small dent in the believers...

I've been a bit involved in my ex-drummers church recently 'cause I'm still trying to be his friend and I want him to remember that I stood by him even as he lost his mind and I've discovered that horrifyingly all of the churches in the country seem to be banding together to stop gay marriage. Not something I've been paying a huge amount of attention to since I'm neither gay nor planning to get married anytime soon. These blithering idiots have been marching around for their 'cause'. You know, I sometimes wish this rapture thing would happen and take them all away... if that's how it meant to work. That would be great. :)

Thanks for the comments and knowledge.


Anonymous said...

Don't burn any nuns. They are dispicable people, but association with them is entirely voluntary in most parts of the world. Unfortunately, your parents signed you up for that abuse.

Samuelson was correct about the Septuagint. It was from the time before Jesus and was a respected translation in ancient times. It has influenced all translations since, and there are direct English translations from it. The King James OT was primarily based on Hebrew and Aramaic sources though.

It would be interesting to know what Pastor Wobble Jowls said about the word, "word." He probably started with the introduction to the Gospel of John, where the author borrowed liberally from Heraclitus (cr. 535 – 475 BC).

We recently had lengthy discussion of a video, The Naked Truth. Some of us thought it was weak because it grasped at straws. This is a more obvious parallelism to extra-biblical literature, and also an instance where theology was undergoing radical changes.

Jews during the Wisdom period had been taught that Sophia, a godess, was with God at creation. See Proverbs.

Heraclitus had used the word "logos" to refer to the underlying order of reality, the totality of the "laws of nature." He said, "the common is what is open to all, what can be seen and heard by all. To see is to let in with open eyes what is open to view, i.e. what is lit up and revealed to all." That sounds a lot like the beginning of scientific thought. Logos became logic in philosophy (love of wisdom).

The author of John distorted both ideas by saying the logos was with God at creation, and that it was Jesus, not Sophia. He also turned the logos mystical by saying it "became flesh and dwelt among us."

This may not help you in your separation from the church, except for providing some background in case you see Pastor Jowls again.

Nvrgoingbk said...

Wow, James, it goes without saying (of course, i find myself saying it anyway), that you are a very talented writer. It was riveting! I love your sense humor.We Atheists HAVE to have a sense of humor or we'd go MAD among all these Bible toting, scripture quoting, fundies. It's a disgusing display of greed(on the leaders' parts) and ignorance and gullibleness (on the parishners' parts), this phenomenon they call a "church service". I 'pray' I never have to witness the spectacle again. Your experience at the charismatic, holy ghost- believing, tounge-speaking, flag- waving, homophobic church service is all too common an occurance (every Sunday to be exact) in all corners of the Earth. It's complete madness! But let's not be too hard on the Christians, hmm? Every Saturday the Jews pile into temple and continue to perpetuate their ridiculous belief in Yahweh, every year millions of muslims make their once-in-a-lifetime pilgramage to Mecca or pray seven times a day atop their prayer blanket in the direction of their most holy site and pray to a god called 'Allah' to rid the world of all the disgusing Jews, Christians, Americans and homosexuals,every year a Jain dies of self-induced starvation, and millions of Asians leave money at the Buddhist temples and shrines (making Buddha a very rich dead guy along with all the other gazillionaire gods of yore.)

I hope that we will live to see the end of this mental illness, but alas, I suspect, we will miss the dawn of true enlightenment for all men! How sad. Until then, this site is our holy temple-a place where the weary, the down trodden, the formerly brainwashed, can come and recieve a kind word, a pat on the back, a high five, or a cyber hug. Welcome to the family, James. We hope to see more of you.

---Tiffanie (Never Going Back)

Anonymous said...

Steamboat_Willey - Nuns aren't "despicable people." My sister is one, and she cares beautifully for terminally-ill cancer patients after they're failed by your scientifically-trained, evolution-believing hero doctors. Nothing that you do, I'm sure, is comparable to that. I know that I should expect to read that sort of thing at this site, and I have only myself to blame for coming here to read the sometimes-thought-provoking arguments, but what you said about nuns was despicable.

To James - I've been to a fair number of confessions in my time, and I've never had a whiskey-soaked priest. I'm good at determining that, having been to so many nightclubs, bars, and concerts, surrounded by drunk atheists. ;)

To be fair about your African experience, you need to share with us some of the native religious beliefs, rather than just attack Catholics. African "pagan" religions aren't exactly enlightened yet, either.

Anyway, I never hold it against anyone if their experience with Roman Catholicism wasn't positive. Mine hasn't always been. Go wherever your conscience takes you.

Anonymous said...

"Nuns aren't 'despicable people.' My sister is one, and she cares beautifully for terminally-ill cancer patients after they're failed by your scientifically-trained, evolution-believing hero doctors."

Yeah, those dumb-asses----but of course, if your girl's prayers would've actually worked in the first place, we wouldn't have to count on those idiot doctors, would we? Or wait...maybe they should try smearing dove's blood all over the patient to drive out those little demonic cancer cells? Yeah, yeah, that's gotta high success rate, doesn't it, jack'?

Anonymous said...

Yes John my dear blessed son, you perhaps should not be visiting websites such as this one, because you may get accidently exposed to actual truth, other websites I would highly recommend to you would be: or or or or

where you will find total inner peace and spiritual fulfillment within and no one will speak harshly of your sister and your childhood delusional beliefs.

We wish you well on your profound journey towards true spiritual enlightenment and your quest for universal truth!

May the Easter Bunny and Santa pick you and your Pope Blessed Sister, up on their magic carpet and fly you both to Candyland to visit the giant lollypops and fruited suckers and candy laces and pineapple rings.

May the Cotton Candy Queen, Bless you forever!

Anonymous said...

Shannon, that was a great story - It nearly made me wet my trousers I was laughing so much. Thanks :)

John - Hmmm... Listen just because I met some nuns who were awful and mean it does not logically follow that they are all horrible. I think the problem is that myself and most of the people on this site see religion as the problem and anyone ,nice or not, that is involved in any specific cult have a hand in perpetuating a very dangerous myth.
As for the whisky soaked priest - Who can blame him? He's forbidden to have sex for ever.
Mean nuns and drunk priests aside it is a silly, frightening bullshit story and I wasn't having any of it.


"Anyway, I never hold it against anyone if their experience with Roman Catholicism wasn't positive. Mine hasn't always been. Go wherever your conscience takes you."

Sure. :) FAR FAR away from any religion.

steamboat_willey, to be fair my folks sent me to the catholic school for multi-cultural reasons, my parents are actually really kick-ass people for the most part. I'm not saying this because I'm offended or anything (lol) just making it clear that they are not bible bashing crazies and they played a large role in helping me to escape Catholicism.
Pastor jowls kept on harping on about logos? and rema? I think. It was all greek ;) to me.

Nvrgoingbk, thankyou for the kind words. You are indeed right about all of the other cultural fairytales . I have not forgotten about them believe me - I've only really been at this for about a week now and there is so much to learn... I'm going to take it one step at a time and hope to have ridiculed them all by the time I am thirty. ;)

You guys all sound so nice. I can only imagine what an awesome party we could all ( have . How interesting would it be for everyone to meet in the flesh? I suspect it would have to be in a very large venue and alas, I am broke and live thousands of miles away.


Anonymous said...

James, as one of your fellow South African (Durban) atheists I welcome you and congratulate you on your break-out. Very few of my colleagues are atheists - most are ardent christians and I have learnt to simply ignore them. Arguing does not work. What amazes me is that although I am in a fairly high-tech business where most people are highly educated and clear thinking about business matters, they seem to put religion into a separate compartment in their mind. A compartment where logic does not reach.

One bit of consolation regarding your drummer friend - most converts to born-again christianity leave within a year. Its not that logic gets through to them, it is just that the excitement of the "personal relationship with jesus" wears off when he doesn't talk back.

Several comments have referred to the definition of "the word". There is an excellent discussion of this between Kenneth Copeland and Creflo Dollar that can be downloaded (about 6 MB) from

If you were not confused before, you will be once you have watched that little video.

Did you see Carte Blanche on TV last Sunday (apologies to the non-South Africans)? There was an interview with the author of a book which explains how the jesus story developed from the pagan myths about other godmen who were born of virgins on 25 December. I'm surprised it did not lead to a bigger outcry in our conservative country.

May I end off with a little story that shows that Catholic nuns are actually quite cool?

A cabbie picks up a nun and after a few minutes of silence he confesses that he has always had a fantasy about kissing a nun. The nun remains calm and says that provided he is catholic and single she will oblige him. The cabbie says that he is, and pulls into a side street where they indulge in a few minutes of passionate kissing. Once they are continuing with the journey the cabbie fesses up and says "I'm sorry sister, I lied - I am actually jewish and married". "Don't worry" says the nun, "my name is Kevin and I'm on my way to a Halloween party."

Anonymous said...

Very well thought out, James. In my experience, there are nuns, and then agai, there are nuns. My family was fundy baptist, but as a fellow musician I play in places where there are many nuns, retirement/nursing homes, hospitals, schools. I, too, would never burn one. Oh, there's a couple I'd like to punch in the mouth, but I won't do that either. I perform sometimes with a lady who was a novice, and is now a fellow atheist. The idea of xian love and service was a bit nuanced and stylized for her taste.

You've probably found that you think a lot better standing up straight. People bend all too easily at the neck, waist, and knee.

Anonymous said...


Your sister probably works in one of the "Houses for the Dying" established by Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Her Missionaries of Charity employ over one million people worldwide.

The Missionaries of Charity were built with lies and are staffed by incompetents. Mother Theresa was called a "living saint." She took hundreds of millions from wealthy donors who were told hospitals would be built. Instead, the money went into the Vatican Bank to help fund more missionary work, while Mother Theresa continued to preach that poverty and suffering are beautiful because they help people "share the passion of Christ."

People often die in the missions because the poorly trained staff can't diagnose treatable illnesses. Very often pepole go there instead of, not after seeking medical help. They believe God will heal them if they say enough prayers. Science has shown over and over that prayer does nothing to heal anybody.

These Missionaries of Charity also continue to teach that condom use is a sin, that "natural family planning" is the only proper means of birth control, while millinos are dying of AIDS and starvation.

Plainly put, the nuns who run these places are barbarians.

The Church uses missions to gain converts, and thus control. They build them wherever they can, and form alliance with despotic governments. They use poorly educated nuns to run the missions, reinforce superstition, and beat tbe school children for minor misbehavior.

Mother Theresa was the perfect nun -- a cheat, a fraud and a fanatic. Ask your sister what she believes about the authority of the Catholic Church. Ask her what she believes about birth control. Ask her what she believes about human suffering. You'll probably discover they were cut from the same cloth.

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