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10/26/06                                                                                       View Comments

Paradise Lost

Sent in by J Milton

I'm going to try to keep my little tale brief.

I've been reading the hundreds of testimonies on this site for the last week now. Thank you, webmaster, for creating this venue and allowing so many people to share their experiences and read the stories of others.

My story is somewhat unique as I was not indoctrinated or forced to go to church as a child (save for a few sunday school sessions at a methodist church) and never believed a shred of christianity during my childhood and teenage years. I actually came to the christian faith via more of an intellectual, mystical path... through the writings of John Milton, Edmund Spenser, C.S. Lewis, and the spiritualist and mystic Renaissance man known as William Blake.

I was in college during this time (of course!) and one year away from getting my undergrad degree in English literature. I was reading the last great epic work, Paradise Lost, which for anyone who doesn't know is the story of Lucifer's fall, Adam and Eve's temptation and subsequent fall, as well as flashing back to the war in heaven and going forward to prophesize all that will happen in the old testament and the ultimate redemption through Christ. As a student of lit., I had read MOST of the old testament and nearly all of the new before and was not captivated at all (had as much meaning for me as the Bhavagadgita). Yet Milton's descriptions and writing really did one on the bible and made it... beautiful... and even... rational.

Anyway, my conversion occurred while I read the first few pages of book 3, where the action pulls away from Satan in hell (after he rallied all the fallen angels and made his way out of hell and ventured into the state of chaos, between hell and the newly created sphere called earth) and then goes to god, who can see from the beginning and end of time not unlike Kurt Vonnegut's Tralfamogorians (aliens) in Slaughterhouse 5 and Sirens of Titan. In summary, what was laid out as the path of salvation made so much sense and was so eloquently presented I became a believer right there... even signed one of those little green new testament books fundamentalists give out all the time with the date of my conversion.

If you haven't read Paradise Lost, I highly encourage you to do so. It truly is wonderful... as is the Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser as well as Lewis' Narnia series... they all create mythological worlds on top of the bible, and in my mind, make it all come to life.

I never went to church. I had no need to. Hell, I didn't even bother reading the Bible, so I was kinda like your average fundamentalist zombie in that way. Yet I felt spiritual for the first time in my life and was confident in the fact science AND faith could exist in the world without contradiction.

But... in the end, I was a convert of John Milton, not the ridiculous jargon of the bible.

Fast forward three, almost four years. Here I am now, married for two years with our first baby due in early March. I live in a fundamentalist hellhole in the Bible Belt of the American south. My quiet and contemplative Christian mysticism of college has completely rotted like leaf fiber on the breeze.

John Milton encouraged higher thinking, logic, education, and most of all, reason. Today fundamental christianity strives to lobotomize the intellect, discourage free thought, and worst of all, obliterate reason. It's absolutely disgusting and I feel like such a fool now for having my little introspective college conversion when some goddamn baptist asshole comes to my door and has the gall to witness.

So where do I stand?

I'm still the free thinker I always was. And I still believe in the ethereal plane, sans any man-applied dogma. John Milton will always mean something to me and Paradise Lost will always have a place in my heart... separate from the others like Salinger, Eliot, etc because none of them ever reached me like Milton did.

So yes, I am an exchristian; I can assuredly say that.

I've read many of your testimonies. My wife experienced what a lot of you went through growing up. In fact, she still has sexual issues with what that horrible, oppressive religion instilled in her young mind. She grew up "Quaker," but was basically baptist... they had a pastor, sermons, youth camp, the whole nine yards... and boy did they push HELL on her early. She felt like she was shit and unworthy of anyone's affection and could not even look at herself in the mirror for an extended time thanks to the goddamn "quaker" disguised baptist filth she was unlucky enough to have grown up in.

I could say a lot more but I don't want to take up any more of your time so I'll close with one of my most favorite contemporary quotes:

"Organized religion is a sham and a crutch for weak-minded people who need strength in numbers. It tells people to go out and stick their noses in other people's business." — Jesse Ventura