8/29/07                                                                                       View Comments

I can no longer force my heart to follow what my mind cannot justify

Sent in by Chip S

I was not raised in a Christian home. My parents had not made a conscious decision for atheism, I suppose. But their daily lives and lack of religious practice certainly would label them as non-Christians. They were always in that ambiguous category of people who simply had no time for theism or atheism. It was simply a non-issue.

For a whole I attended church with a friend, in elementary school. Of course I didn't comprehend enough to understand what was being taught, let alone make a decision to subscribe to the beliefs advocated by that church. But I did learn enough to remember certain things... John 3:16, the claim that Jesus was God, etc. I had this vague understanding of the person called Savior.

It was in middle school, which I now quaintly think of as the “Dark Ages” of my life that social awkwardness and intense depression led me on a search for more. Perhaps it was not as conscious of a search as I would now imagine, but a search nonetheless. I found an old family bible gathering dust on a shelf somewhere. I've always loved books, and to find a book in our house was rare. So of course, I read it.

My adolescent mind was floored. From the battle scenes of Joshua to keep me entertained to the eternal life-giving promises of Jesus, I was caught up in the promises of this Bible. I supplemented my knowledge of the Bible with videos from the Trinity Broadcasting Network. The text itself plus the constant cries for conversion from the hosts of the channel led me to a conversion experience without stepping into a church.

I was immediately enthusiastic about this idea of Christianity. I demanded that family members begin dropping me off Sunday mornings at the local Methodist church which continued to send us monthly newsletters even though no one had attended in my earliest recollection. Of course, the calm atmosphere of the Methodist church would not fulfill my insatiable boyish desire for excitement.

After my first visit with a friend to the Apostolic Pentecostal Full Gospel Church my freshman year of high school, I was caught up in the loud music, the cheering even the idea of speaking in tongues. For six months I attended this small church, one time I was even grounded from church for quite a while because the Friday night youth service lasted until 4a.m. and I didn't call home. Eventually as the "emotional high" of the services began to wear off and have less effect, much like (I hear) the effects of drugs, I began to question. They made some pretty radical claims. The people at the Methodist church would not be in heaven, for example. You had to speak in tongues to be a child of God. They made extraordinary claims about the ability to do miracles and prophecy the future, but no actions ever seemed to follow the rhetoric.

Though it was hard, I wrote them a letter outlining my problems with them. Things didn't seem to make sense. Their denomination had only existed for a few decades, what about the two thousand years in between? Was everyone from that time in hell? Surely, not. Speaking in tongues seemed to be so silly at times, like they were all just making up things off the top of their heads. None of it sounded anything like a different language, and none of them sounded similar. A few days after I delivered the letter, four of them came to my house to explain to me why I was going to hell. I had committed blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, you see, and that was unforgivable. Though some might argue that it could be very psychologically damaging to tell a fourteen year old that he was damned to hell, I can't help but think it was at least courteous for them to let me know. As I was now an apostate, all but one of them cut me off from their social lives, and she only because she held out hope that I hadn't completely damned myself.

I hopped churches for a while. Back to the Methodist church, to an Assembly of God church, a Freewill Baptist church, even another Apostolic Pentecostal church (maybe they were right, and surely these people wouldn't know about my blasphemy!). Eventually I found a home in a Nazarene church, where though I've always felt a bit the outsider, the people were generally good and accepting of me. The youth group was huge, and almost immediately I was thrust into leadership positions.

As my high school years passed, it seemed only natural for me to pursue full-time ministry. With my negative experience with the Pentecostal church in the back of my mind, I found that I was a "good Christian." Leading small groups at youth group, leading my school's Fellowship of Christian Athletes and spending nearly all of my time witnessing to anyone who would hear me out. I had found a skill, if you will.

At the (extremely persistent) prompting of my youth pastor, I shipped off to the regional Nazarene University for college. For the first time in my life I was surrounded by Christians. It was thrilling at first, people were all generally nice. Classes all began with prayer. Chapel was held three times a week. For the first semester I was happy to finally be in a place that advocated my values.

But over time I found that I was in the minority. In the fall of my freshman year, the White House was up for grabs. Of course the majority of my school was in love with George W. Bush. My Kerry-Edwards poster was taped to the urinal of my dorm. Some of my friends referred to me as a "baby killer." When I suggested in a class that homosexuals weren't in fact destroying America, I was sneeringly labeled "liberal" by a classmate. A label I have proudly worn ever since.

It was as I began to explore more deeply into my religion classes that I first began to seriously question. Of course throughout my years as a Christian I had asked questions, but always had come back to the idea of "faith." I found it disconcerting that my freshman biology professor gave me a "C" on my final paper because I refused to write about how creationism made more sense than evolution. I was frustrated by my Christian Life and Ministry Professor who prayed for the forgiveness of Democrats. I was frightened by my history professor who mentioned the "mystery cults" during the time of Jesus who seemed to have many similarities to Christianity... and no body wanted to hear more about them.

As my freshman year turned to sophomore year, some of the inconsistencies of faith began to strike me. Some of the poor arguments for Christianity started to bother me. Some of the doctrines of the church shook me. For a while I pressed on. Then I found myself attached to Calvinist theology of election and predestination. I became convinced that the reason things didn't always make sense to me and the reason I still struggled with the same "sin" as when I was a new Christian was that I was simply not elect. God did not love me.

Out of sheer willpower I broke free from that notion and again became enthusiastic about the cause for Christ. My frustration with the shallow religion courses prompted a change of major to philosophy. My passions began to thrive around the philosophy of religion and I was bound and determined to prove the existence of God, particularly the Judeo-Christian God. My desire to be a minister was replaced by a desire to be an apologist.

As I became aware of the cosmological, teleological, ontological, etc. arguments for the existence of God, I became obsessed with the need for a rational explanation for Christianity. I devoted countless hours my junior year of college to reading anything I could get my hands on. Books from atheists, journals from Christian thinkers, videos of lectures by Christian apologists.

In my Systematic Theology class which dealt heavily with philosophy of religion issues, I found that I thrived. The class was the hardest religion course I'd taken. The professor was brilliant, and serious about his work. He required his students to read, a lot. And his exams consisted of nothing but very intense essays. I would study for weeks for those exams, and often got them back with notes that read along the lines of: "Great work, best essay I have read yet."

As the year pressed on; however, my doubts only increased. So much didn't add up. And the parts that did add up required that I work from the conclusion backwards. I pressed further, beginning to read much more technical philosophy of religion works.

All the while, I was preaching at regional churches through a campus ministry. And I was good, I think. Often, with or without an altar call, people would come and pray. After services old women would approach me and tell me, "You need to do full-time ministry!" The church board of one congregation approached me at the end of service as a group and told me I had "saved their church" from infighting.

But none of this would confirm for me any kind of "call" on my life. I was unable to work past the contradictions, the absurdities, and the missing gaps of Christianity. Why would God command the Israelites to murder entire people groups? Why did the psalmist glory in the thought of bashing the heads of Babylonian babies against rocks? Why did Jesus tell the gentile woman she was a dog? Why did Paul say that women should not be allowed to speak in church? Why is homosexuality an abomination, but pride is "okay?"

For the summer I worked two jobs and took two classes. I kept incredibly busy with little time for a social life. And all the while, one phrase would float through my head each and every day: "Does God even exist?" I kept reading, and kept reading. I kept questioning those things that had always bothered me, and yet I found no answers. Only ridiculous explanations: Judas hung himself and then he fell off a cliff and his innards burst out.

I finally made the decision that I knew my mind had made months before: it really was a myth, a legend. An attempt by a primitive society to explain the world around them. A failed metaphysical explanation of the universe. Having not been raised in the church, I feel more foolish that I was an outsider who was duped. I pride myself on my reasoning ability, on my rationality. And yet, for years I believed in a deity that now seems completely ridiculous.

Now here I am, a week away from returning to an evangelical university where belief in Jesus is a requirement for admission. I've used the internet to make public my newfound atheism to avoid having to do it personally. Though at this university I have formed some of the closest interpersonal bonds of my life, I find myself dreading the return for my senior year. I have been flooded by e-mails and phone calls of people trying to re-convert me. Yet I can no longer force my heart to follow what my mind cannot justify.

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8/27/07                                                                                       View Comments

The Infinite Psychopath

Sent in by Chris A

Although the Biblical concept of the human experience had always seemed somewhat unfair, my doubts really began with the issue of homosexuality; specifically, why did the Christian god despise it so much?

"Why," I asked myself, "Would God kill everyone in those cities for following the urges that He created them with in the first place?" It was shortly thereafter that I realized that this irrational act on god's part was just a microcosm of an even greater injustice: "Wait..." I thought, "If God is all-powerful, why must He persist in creating sinners instead of saints? And why must He then damn people for following the sinful natures that He gives them?"

You'd think, wouldn't you, that such impious ruminations would herald a formal conversion to atheism?

You would, however, be mistaken. Rather than having the courage and mental fortitude to pursue my inquisitions, I resolved to deal with my growing uncertainties by becoming profoundly religious. For me, this entailed having me very Southern Baptist Grandmother read the Bible at me, occasionally stopping to relay her interpretations of the verses, regale me with accounts of times she'd "spoken" with god, and break into outbursts of incoherent gibberish ("tongues"). These sermons punctuated the end of each day for me, the remainder of the evening to be spent either in miserable sorrow at the prospect of a "good, Christian life", in mind-numbing fear of hell, or in tearful frustration when my prayers failed to bring forth any affirmation from god.

Of course, I could never keep this up long enough for a formal baptism to be arranged; I would have gone certifiably insane from fear and grief within the year. I started scouring the Internet for arguments against religion as soon as I could work up the nerve, and once I found them, I never looked back. I still have moments of doubt, since I can't scientifically prove there isn't an Infinite Psychopath patiently waiting to torture me for all eternity because I refuse to wallow and grovel like a worm before him... Then again, I also can't scientifically disprove Allah, Odin, or the Invisible Pink Unicorn, so there's really no hedging bets, I guess...

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8/24/07                                                                                       View Comments

I realized I was an atheist

Sent in by L.S.

Some people think I'm lying when I tell them that I just woke up one morning and realized that I was an atheist, but that's what really happened.

My parents are Christian but they don't go to church. We stopped going to church when I was about 6 because they disagreed with how that particular church treated a family with 3 young daughters who couldn't always make it to Sunday worship. Because of the hypocrisy, they rejected the idea of organized religion but maintained their beliefs. They pray at dinner and do the whole Christmas thing and occasionally will talk about god, but they aren't zealots.

It was because of their attitude that I grew up thinking of god/Jesus as that distant relative that you know you're related to, people talk about and you're supposed to love them but you don't really know exactly why. God wasn't a being to me. God was an idea that I never really understood.

I was a really sheltered child. I (mostly) did what I was told, thought what I was supposed to think and had few friends who might have influenced me in negative ways. So I grew up as a christian. Not really because I understood what being a christian meant, but because my parents raised me that way.

When I was 15, I started realizing that I was missing something, something important, but I just couldn't figure out what. So I became extra religious - or tried to, rather. My best friend was/is a christian and she was the one who tried to answer my questions because I was afraid to go to my parents with them, fearing the forced bible studies and trips to church on Sundays. For about 6 months, I tried really hard to be a good christian. I prayed regularly, though I had no idea what I was doing, and even wrote a couple of religious poems. I wanted to believe. I really and truly wanted Christianity to be the answer to my problems, to make me a happy person again.

After 6 months, however, I still wasn't happy. I wasn't fulfilled in what I was supposed to believe.

And then, one morning I woke up, and realized that I didn't believe it, any of it. I realized I'd NEVER believed any of it.

The relief I felt upon this realization was immense. It was like shrugging off years and years of repression and guilt. I felt lighter. I felt free. Most of all, I felt happy.

I hid my atheism from my parents until I became an adult. While I know that organized religion isn't important to them, having their kids be christian is, and I knew what would happen if they knew I had rejected that belief and all subsequent religious beliefs as well. When I finally told them, at age 18, they were saddened and disappointed but also believed that it was nothing but a phase. It's been 10 years now and nothing has changed as far as my atheism.

My oldest sister is now what she considers a Pagan and that two of 3 daughters are not christian is a major disappointment to them. My mother has admitted that she feels she is a failure as a parent because we are not christian. I told her that she should feel pride that we are all individually unique, that we were taught to use the brains we were born with, and that we each found a belief, or lack thereof, that we are happy with instead of lying to ourselves and being miserable with.

10 years ago, I was struggling with trying to figure out what I believed. Once I became an atheist, my life became better. I've never been happier.

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8/23/07                                                                                       View Comments

My doomed fate to hell

Sent in by Marie

I don't know how to summarize my story. I was raised Lutheran, and then moved into being a Baptist. I went to a Lutheran private school for several years of grade school, and then went to a private Lutheran High school for the entire 4 years.

The first time I started having doubts about my faith can be pinned on the first religion class I had of my freshman year. The teacher thought he would be really clever and came in talking like a neo-paganist, talking about how we can worship the trees, and don't take the Bible too literally. He was messing with our minds to, I suppose, open our minds and prepare us for the future. Someone I had trusted had exposed to me ideas that weren't Christian. From that point on, I struggled between labeling myself a Christian and an atheist.

All of my friends were greatly concerned for me, and I became a source of a lot of drama. Everyone wanted to save my soul. I was so frustrated and cried at night about my doomed fate to hell. I had my ups and downs throughout high school, Christian-status speaking, and converted back at one point when I saw a giant hand knocking on a door. I felt that was God.

My senior year I started getting rocky again. I decided I wanted to work at an orphanage in Mexico after graduating. But just then my sister returned from her trip to India with Youth With a Mission (YWAM). I noticed she had changed so much for the positive and decided I wanted that. So I went to a YWAM school in Mexico after I graduated.

I don't even want to go into the details of how they attempted to brainwash us and make us will-less creatures submitted to their authority. But the whole time I tried SOOOO hard to believe everything. I felt like I had to get this Christianity thing. I felt only by being a full-time missionary could I maintain my status with Christ. The school, in the end, left me in a spiritual place where I was happy.

So I decided to come back after 6 months to work at the school. But shortly before I left, I found myself in another bought of atheistic thoughts. I decided to go anyways. I gradually told the director of the school where I was spiritually and asked him if he wanted to send me home. He said no and placed me as a group leader for students and an outreach leader for a 3 month trip. This time on staff was TORTURE. I tried so hard to believe it all. But at the same time, my intellect wouldn't let me. I became so emotional about it all.

During the outreach, I revealed to the students that I wasn't Christian right now. I was so embarrassed and felt pressured. At one point, I was overcome with emotion and spirituality and found myself converting back to Christianity and crying like a maniac.

I left the school, returned to the US and found myself committing to work in a starter school in Mexicali. I only joined because the guy who asked me to come, I had a huge crush on. I worked there, and found myself committing to go under training at the original school I worked at to eventually commit 2 years to this new base in Mexicali. I didn't have any spiritual problems at that time, and felt peaceful (looking back though, I was a nut).

At the end of the training, I was to return to Mexicali. However, I found that my reason for being at the base, this guy, was now dating a chick and I wasn't getting any, even platonic, attention. I become depressed and realized the errors of my motives of coming back to the school this year. I realized I had to leave and get my motives in check.

I left the school. I got on a bus in Mexicali and drove all the way to Minnesota, giving myself 48 hours to ponder the last 2 years of my evangelical living.

I immediately settled into depression for the next 2 years, dealing with what happened in Mexico, and what has happened my entire life with wanting to be Christian, but having such a hard time.

I have finally found myself in a much more comfortable position, spiritually. I consider myself something in between a Unitarian or a Quaker, but I don't associate with any religious organization. I am now just trying to come to grips with what really happened in Mexico and throughout my life, since now I am finally confident in the custom faith I have created for myself.

Its a really painful issue to have to consider all that I have chosen to believe and do for the sake of avoiding hell in these last years. Whenever I start to think about my spiritual past, I feel ill to my stomach and find myself curled up in the fetal position. It is really hard for me to deal with. I feel extremely bitter towards the religion (but strangely enough, not the God) and everyone else who has excommunicated me because of my choice to trust myself over anyone else.

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I realized the Bible God is fictitious

Sent in by Danny

Hi to everyone here.

I will try to keep it short...well, as much as I can.

My name is Danny, the youngest of a family of 10. I am Filipino. My family is of Catholic background. Most Filipinos are. I grew up spoiled (I am the youngest). My family is well to do. That's really sad knowing most Filipinos live below the poverty line. My brothers sisters and I went to private Catholic schools and to good universities. We were all indoctrinated (brainwashed) to the Catholic way of thinking. Every Sunday (Mithra's Day...hehehe!) we as a family went to Catholic Church. After church, my parents always treated us somewhere usually good. That lasted until I was a teenager. After that, my parents let us go to church on our own time.

My father (a businessman...he owns several apartments) was a good mathematician and finished first honorable mention in his school. My mother is also a good mathematician. She graduated salutotorian in the same school. My brothers, sisters and I (maybe because of the genes...I don't really know) are mostly good in math. One of my brothers who we consider dumb (compared to us) became an accountant. The rest became mostly engineers. One became an architect. I became a statistician. I didn't really use my degree because now I am a programmer.

In school (catholic school), I had ADD (attention deficit disorder). My teachers would say 3 sentences and I started day dreaming. Obviously, I did poorly with most subjects. I only excelled in math. Math was very logical so I didn't really have to study. Some of my classmates were envious because they were amazed at how good I was at math. A lot of them called me abnormal. I didn't take offense to it because I knew it was only for good fun. Also, I was very popular with them because I tutored them in mathematics.

My brain is flowing with logic. I like analyzing things. In religion class, I asked "If God created everything, then who created God?" I wasn't really satisfied with the "Nobody created God. God is the Beginning, God is the End." answer. But I nodded in agreement. What else could I have done? While growing up, questions filled my head. "If God is a loving God, then how come he lets millions of people live so poorly? Why are some born crippled? Why are some born blind?" I am not gay but this question always bugged me..."Why is homosexuality an abomination?" I already saw in my own eyes that some people are just naturally born gay...what is their sin? "How can we be born with original sin? If Adam and Eve sinned and we came from them, then how can their sin be passed to us?"
"Why are the Jews the Chosen People? If God was fair and I believed He is, then why just them, why not all of us? Aren't we all God's children?" and so and so forth...there's just tons of questions.

I started not going to church when I was a teenager. It's not because those questions flooded my brain. It's just because of laziness. Even then, my belief in Jesus as our savior was very strong.
The very first atheist I met (I didn't know they existed...then) was one of my English teachers in college. I was totally shocked when he revealed to us that he was atheist. The idea to me (then) was an eye opener. I really respected this teacher. I just disagreed with his opinion.

Back in December 2005 it was Christmas season and the office was almost empty I began to search the internet for world beliefs...like death, reincarnation, other religions. Every day for 2 weeks this is what I did. I started to become depressed. I started to have nightmares. I thought it was a wake up call. I went back to church. I tried my best to re learn Christianity. At the same time I also started some drugs prescribed to combat my depression. Eventually my depression left. The drugs worked. My questions still hounded me so I started to look in the internet again. I opened my mind to a lot of ideas not consistent with my christian upbringing.

That's when I realized the Bible God is fictitious. God just cannot choose one race. He cannot show favoritism. He cannot condone murder nor rape nor incest. But all those nasty things are in the Bible. Homosexuals are normal people. They are not an abomination. I also saw the similarity of Jesus with the other "saviors" who preceded him. How can you explain that? If the other saviors are pagan gods, what about Jesus? He is as pagan as the rest of them. Plus, the very existence of Jesus is highly questionable. The gospels (the chosen ones...politics played a role in this I guess) were not even written by the eyewitnesses. The historians never mentioned Jesus. A few mentioned Christ (not Jesus) in a few sentences. And...if Jesus really existed and is really the savior, why did he come 2000 years ago? What about the people that were born before him? Are they all hell bound? If yes, then isn't that unfair? What about the people who will never hear of him? Hell bound? Yikes! The Muslims? I bet most Muslims are good people. Are they hell bound? I don't think that's fair.

What am I now? Certainly I am not a Christian. I still go to church. I have to pretend. It's all show. My brain just wanders during the entire mass. Am I an atheist? I have read quite a few testimonials and debates here in this website and I really think the atheists are much much more logical and reasonable than any of the Christian apologists. But no I am not an atheist. I am a deist. I still have faith...not in the Biblical God...not in Jesus...I still believe in a higher power. I think a higher power created us through evolution. If not, then a higher power must have created that alien race that created us. Or something.

Do we have souls? A lot of you will be shocked but I do believe we have souls. Why do I think this way? I forgot to mention it but when I was a kid our home was filled with ghosts. Not a lot, but some. I heard them...my brothers heard them...it's not my imagination...we experienced them at the same time. I saw knobs turning. Remember my mind is logical so I thought someone was just tricking me. I tried to recreate the same thing using a key and the knob wouldn't turn. I heard a story about my grandfather (father's side). He died in 1955. After that his ghost haunted some of my brothers...calling them...sometimes he pulled their blankets and legs.
The soul thing is just my belief. I cannot prove anything.

What else? I also believe in reincarnation. Can I prove it? Certainly not. I just believe it.

That's my testimony. I hope you like it.

Danny

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8/14/07                                                                                       View Comments

Cartoon-character Gods, prophets, saints and virgins

Sent in by Julie W

I can still pinpoint the exact time and date that I turned my back, forever, on any form of organized religion, whether it be Christianity, or any other. I often wonder if there are any others out there who experienced the same life-changing force, as I did, on 9/11, when I witnessed what humans will do to each other ‘in the name of God.’

That brisk morning in Colorado, happened to be my daughter’s first day of kindergarten at Coal Creek Elementary School in Louisville. It was an exciting morning and she had dressed herself proudly, choosing to wear a new outfit purchased just for that first day. I had turned on the usual morning show on TV, so I could catch up on the overnight news as I fixed her breakfast. As the TV warmed up, the screen remained black at first while voices of panic and disbelief screamed from the television reporter and news anchor. I rushed over to the TV and witnessed the horror, while my daughter walked over to me and slid her hand inside mine, instinctively knowing that something was wrong. I stood in front of the screen, connected forever to my daughter as our hands held tightly, and we watched on live TV as the 2nd plane smashed into the WTC tower and I heard myself say quietly under my breath, ‘that was not an accident.’ I knew at that moment that I was watching hundreds of souls perish, as my daughter also watched in horror. It was that day, at that moment, that changed me forever.

As the days and weeks slowly passed during that monumental time for our country, we all learned the names of the terrorists, learned about their own faith, their cause, their leader and that their horrific act was carried out with the blessing of many others who also followed their particular religion. For several weeks, I struggled with my own internal religious belief system and could not see the difference between a Muslim extremist and a Christian extremist, both factions killing innocents, harming children, destroying our world, in the name of their God.

At first, I became enraged with religion, hating and mocking its very existence. I had been raised as a Presbyterian and had never followed any ridged dogma or rituals, whether it was baptism, regular church attendance, Bible reading, etc. However, I had always believed in God, of a higher presence, but never the cartoon-character of ‘an old man sitting in the clouds, thumping us all on our heads if we strayed’ type of being. And I believed that Jesus was a good teacher, a prophet like Buddha or Mohammed who instilled love and kindness in others. I had even believed that, yes, he could possibly be supernatural, immaculately conceived and possibly raised after death. I believed these things because I never had a reason to question my beliefs. But now, after the horror of 9/11, and religion being the forefront of this event, I was instinctively forced to look inward and define my beliefs, not only for myself, but for my children as well. I did not want anyone, or any religious group, to take my children down a road, that I would not follow myself.

That was many years ago and that horrific event galvanized my core forever. There is no going back to organized religion, for me, and I feel utterly free and strong in my own belief. And I believe strongly that we do not need to send our beautiful, innocent children, to church, in order to raise them to be moral people. On the contrary, I believe that raising our children, free of the guilt-ridden church environment filled with cartoon-character Gods, prophets, saints and virgins, will enable us, as parents, to grow mentally-strong, and independently-minded young people, who will help to change our world for the better.

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I would rather poke my eye out

Sent in by Meredith T

I recently de-converted after 15 years as a Christian while going through a divorce and enduring hypocrisy in the church. If I had a nickel for every email I got saying, "God Hates Divorce!" and, "I love you but I don't agree with you," I would be rich! I even got one saying "I'm sorry to hear you gave up your space in eternity for this (divorce)!"

OK, well who the f!#k do you think you are to take a stance whether you 'agree' with me or not? Is that any of your business, and did I even ask you?

One former friend said, "We have the right to know why you are doing this." I’m sorry, but why do "close Christian friends" feel the need to decide everything as a group -- even to declare someone's marriage as "divorce-worthy" or not?

Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, I de-converted not solely because of what my church and Christian friends did to me (even though that got me 'thinking'), but ultimately I discovered I could no longer see how divorce as taught in the Bible was "true." There is no way I can believe that anymore, since I view my divorce as the healthiest thing possible for me. Someday, if my ex can break free from his "brainwash" in Christ, hopefully he will see this as a positive for us too. But currently he still hates me for breaking my "sacred covenant," even though he admits to living five years of "hell" with me.

I married while I was "on fire for God" at age 22, and even though I knew deep down I didn't love this guy, he "loved god," and "instantly forgave me" for what a bad person I saw myself as. So I thought, "How could we go wrong with GOD on our side?" We thanked "Jesus Christ for putting life and love in our hearts" in the top billing of our wedding program. And we had two (yes, two) ministers marry us. Wow, I felt good -- it doesn't get any "holier" than this. "Everyone, look at me! Aren't I a good person? Look at all my Christian friends, all so proud of me! Look! We can have fun without drinking!”

I'm just thankful we got out before we had kids together.

Anyway, some very sweet Christian friends who had been through a divorce tried to help me with my doubts about the teaching against divorce in the Bible with words like "god forgives," and "god still loves me" and "grace is the most important thing." But once I saw the Bible as containing falsehood, I started reading. It was like I became addicted. I read this site for hours on end, and everything else I could find. Slowly, my eyes were fully opened, and it was like over night and I "got it." My mind was opened. I agree with one of the recent posters to this site who said "What was I thinking?" OMG – what WAS I thinking?

Anyway, that's my story. It feels good to write it out and I'm still trying to figure out how to tell my friends and family, almost all who are Christian and trying to get me to go to church somewhere. Frankly, I would rather poke my eye out.

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The conflict burned inside me for years

Sent in by Brent S

I have been reading many of the testimonials on this site for a while now and so have decided to share my own brief account.

Like so many others, I was raised in a barely Christian household. We considered ourselves Christians, but beyond Chuck Heston movies, we didn't really know much about religion. Christmas and Easter, and the occasional renaissance painting, since my Mother is an artist who well emulates that style. Anyway, when I reached junior high, we started having bible studies with a couple of Jehovah's Witnesses. They were a very nice couple and came to our house every Wednesday for a reading and a discussion. I also started going to a centrist Christian Youth group with some friends from school. I was quickly addicted for several reasons: the first was that I had recently discovered my own homosexuality and was desperate for some form of escape from that terrible affliction, and secondly, stemming from the the same core issue, I was an outsider among my peers and found comfort in the imaginary bonds created by religion.

Diving into Christian study did not cure my sexual proclivity, but in fact only deepened my depression, but did allow my to convolute the idea that if I were a good enough Christian, the latter might be forgiven. During this infatuation with religion, which eventually led to me joining a Baptist church while in High school, I did the one thing that religion never wishes of its followers; I paid attention, and thought about what I had learned.

Over time, the vast number of inconsistencies mounted. I think the number of sects that I dabbled with helped to propagate this revelation. Also, I developed a love of science and began to read in that direction. When faced with conflicting ideas such as God saying "I can conceive no evil," with the scientific reality that something cannot just spontaneously appear without a cause, makes you then wonder where evil could have come from. If one God created everything and allowed for free choice, then He must have been the one to define the choices, and therefore must have had a pre-existing knowledge of those choices. When I asked my "elders" about this, the usual answer was something to the extent that we cannot understand God's ways.

Oh.

The conflict burned inside me for years. Even after my first, second, and more sexual experiences, I still struggled with all these questions. Finally, with adulthood came more sophisticated ways of thinking and college provided me with philosophy and the tools to recognize things in a clearer light.

Eventually, I had an epiphany! Mankind had been inventing Gods since the first human crawled from the primordial slime and stood erect. Gods created to gleam power over our fellows; to explain what is beyond our ability to understand, and to rationalize our own prejudices and almost anything else you can name. Rationalization, to me, seems to be the number one function of religion.

To me, accepting the fact that we are here on our own, that we are born because of simple biological acts, and only oblivion is likely to meet us on the other side, was the truth that set me free.

Instead of being a blind worshiping machine, I now make choices based on rationality; morality based on experience and empathy. I do not fear punishment, nor do I hope for rewards. I have learned that kindness and charity are rewards in themselves, and being perceived as a prick by even one person is punishment enough, and the guilt that follows if I know I have done wrong by someone.

However, I do still enjoy Christmas since the phrase "solstice decorations" do not roll naturally of the tongue. And I do still appreciate renaissance art; having several Madonna's around the house, because, as I say, all mythology has some purpose.

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8/13/07                                                                                       View Comments

I loved having access to the sole ‘truth’

Sent in by Chris S

I arrived at University in the autumn of 2004 never having given religion of any kind much thought, I was every inch the wide eyed fresher! I quickly encountered the local group of evangelicals who ran the Christian Union at the University and I found they gave me a great sense of fellowship and warmth when I was around them. As a result I thought I would go along to the variety of events they were putting on, that target new students, such as film nights and discussions over coffee. After a five week course in the local coffee shop looking at the basic of the Bible’s message in Romans, I decided it all seemed to make sense and gave my life to Christ at the end of the final session through a prayer. For the next two years I was every bit the convinced, fundamentalist Christian, a somewhat bizarre species in Britain, but they do exist! Not far off a million of them in a variety of shape and form, and they exist in almost every University. I attended many conferences, endless talks and sermons, bible studies in groups and one to ones, prayer groups and even went abroad to help spread the ‘truth’ about the Lord. I couldn’t believe that it would happening to me, but there it was. I loved having access to the sole ‘truth’, it was intoxicating not having to see things in nuanced shades of grey anymore and being able to be absolutely certain in something’s righteousness or otherwise, it satisfies the inner child in all of us. My parents (especially my mother) were pretty torn up about this sudden life change, as was I, as I now believed them both hell bound sinners in the eyes of God. Towards the end of my first year of study I was finally baptized and read out my testimony to all my gushing Christian friends, who were so proud to have hooked a genuine atheist from the pond. The Christian worldview provided me with an ideological framework to understand and explain the world, a coherency that had been lacking previously in my life, and I loved it.

It was towards the end of my second year that I began to have doubts. Some of the people I was around began to scare me, for want of a better word. They seemed so sure minded and confident about the authority of the Bible, that any ideas about really questioning and finding truth were entirely secondary. I was increasingly finding that the analytical and academic skills taught by my History course were in direct conflict with the approaches taken to the Bible by my Christian colleagues. It gradually dawned on me, after actually reading through the whole Bible (due to my studies it took around a year) that something such as Noah’s Ark could not possibly be an actual historical event. I mean its little better than a joke! And yet when I took this complaint to some of my Christian friends they were shocked and could barely conceal their horror at such a heresy. From that point onwards, my literal Biblical Christianity began to fade, slowly at first, but obviously the Bible could no longer be accepted as the ultimate guide to my life, and must be treated with caution in the same manner as any historical document. I tried to find answers in Christian literature, but it was all pseudo-scientific nonsense, I’m sure you know the kind of books I mean, they are a travesty to real thought. I found Christian books in general to be of a consistently poor quality, being repetitive and simple minded. Most of my Christian friends seemed to have only a vague interest in learning more about the history of the Bible and were entirely satisfied in listening merely to the pronouncements of out leaders.

Then during the summer of that same year, I had a foreign student move in with me for a couple of months who was also a Christian. We began talking, and he confided in me that he had doubts. At that stage I was not ready to admit that I too was doubtful at the type of teaching I was receiving. By the time he moved out my foreign friend had de-converted completely, and it was informative to see how much happier he seemed, finding himself a girlfriend and actually having sexual relations! I can’t believe I gave it up coming into University! After that, I attempted to walk a middle path, attending the same church with the same Christian friends, but trying to use the Bible as a guide not an absolute law unto itself. As time went by, I sensed this simply wasn’t working and I began to do some real reading into the real origins of man and the development of religion as part of human psyche, as well as the actual genesis of the book we call the Bible. This finally allowed me to see what should have been obvious from the beginning.

During my third year, as my special subject I was lucky enough to be included on the module for the Third Reich, an intensive study of every aspect of the regime. Current ideas on the nature of Nazism tend to view it as a political religion, along with such phenomenon as Marxist-Leninism-Stalinism from the Soviet Union. Although such a comparison may at first seem crude (in terms of content all of them are obviously very different!), they all attempt to teach ultimate truths that define reality. Nazism loved to use its own relics and use religious language in mass ceremonies. Some scholars have even compared the SS to the clerical class, as the administrators in chief of any ‘religious’ ceremonial rites! My tutor unashamedly called the Church a totalitarian institution, and by the end of the course I was coming round to the idea. All of them attempt to create a new man, a person who reflects the ruling ideology like a mirror with no independent thought, whether through propaganda and the Hitler Youth and League of German Maiden’s or through church groups. Both try to change you completely! The commitment to both causes must be total or it is nothing at all! (For a faith that seemed so simple to commit to, it was one that seemed to be making the most total of demands, demanding access to all of my time and efforts, all should be given up the Lord, if you truly love him that is?) The comparison does have its limits obviously, but it is not surprising to see its popularity in historical academia.

Having read many of the testimonials on this site, I feel somewhat fortune that my time in the Christian fold was relatively brief, and that the levels of time, effort and money invested were comparatively low. I feel a deep sense of shame that I could have been taken in by such a shallow, one track philosophy. All the richness and variety of life awaits me away from Christianity’s restrictive straitjacket. However it must be said that I bear the people who led me into it no grudge, I chose to give my life to Christ freely. Although misguided, that doesn’t change the fact that they are good people and I still remain friends with many of them. I had some truly wonderful fellowship with so many great people, but they really don’t need a religious justification for any of it! As a person I am much the same now as I was before, and the same will be true for them as well. To be quite honest I think there is a deep underlying sexual motivation for a lot of young Christians who are using their faith as a means to acquire a partner who will be committed to them in totality, especially the men who clearly get the best end of the submission stick. But deep, satisfying relationships and marriage don’t just exist within the walls of religious faith, its dependent on the people involved. It is obvious that many of them are deeply disappointed with me, having invested a great deal of time on me in terms of sermons and personal bible study times, but obviously this can have no impact on my decision. I have moved onto a greater study of politics, I have developed quite a taste for anarchism and its many variants. I can’t quite decide now whether to leave my experience behind me in its entirety or whether to do something about the friends I have, as to be honest, they scare me with their single mindedness and I won’t be able to sleep at night properly knowing that there are any people out there to whom reason means nothing. Or maybe I’ll just relax!

All the best to everyone on this site, and thank you for reading.

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8/10/07                                                                                       View Comments

I am an Agnostic

Sent in by Rip Woodward

I remember at an early age thinking of Jesus as Santa Claus. If I pray to him ,and I am good, then I will get what I want. I contemplated becoming a priest at 16. I delved into the bible and really questioned what the verses meant. I got no greater pleasure than stumping a so called "bible expert". One thing that always bothered me was the notion of G-d not being accessible to me. I had to go through his mediator, Jesus, to talk to him. It did not fit in with my belief in a loving G-d. Later in life I began to experiment with drugs and eventually developed into what most people would call a junky. One thing that drugs do well is equalize people. When you are an addict there is no better than or less than, only who has dope and who does not. To make a long story short I used for too long and eventually got clean.

I joined a program for recovering drug addicts and was given some instructions, one of which was to turn my life over to a higher power. The catch was that it has to be loving, caring, and more powerful than me. Those three requirements had me to question who G-d was. Was banishing people to a burning pit loving or caring? Was requiring me to go through a middleman loving or caring? The G-d I had grown up with in Christianity seemed a bit like an ego maniac. Like a powerful person who was insecure so he threatened people.

After much more research, including bible study, I came to one conclusion. Christianity was not G-d. Jesus was not G-d. Christianity was nothing but years of subtraction and addition done by leaders who thought their ideas would be better than the ideas before them.

The New Testament was full of contradictions and the kicker was that the so called Christ did not even fulfill all of the prophecies that the Messiah was supposed to fulfill. He was obviously not the Messiah.

Ostracized from friends and family, arguments with strangers, and feelings of loneliness were the results of my decision to move away from Christianity. Whenever the subject of Religion or G-d came up I would excuse myself from the conversation because Christians tended to be very angry and judgmental to those that don't believe like they do.

I did find G-d. I asked him to reveal himself to me as he wanted me to see him. And he did. I didn't find him in Christianity. I did not find him in phony threats of a magical place of fire called Hell. I did not even find him in new age religions. I found him exactly where he had always been. Right here inside me.

The biggest hurdle in my leaving Christianity was my fear of Hell. Ironic huh? My fear was not in not knowing Jesus, it was burning in hell. I think that is called propaganda. Didn't the Nazis use propaganda? Christianity is a far cry from Nazis but their methods of scare tactics and pressure sure are similar.

I am so glad I have left the cage of Christianity. I do not need anyone to tell me who to believe, how to believe, or when to believe. Isn't G-d powerful enough to do that on his own? I think so.

I am an Agnostic. Literally translated it means without knowledge. To me, knowledge is the attainment of information based on evidence. No one has concrete evidence of G-d. So I am without knowledge about G-d. I have some theories but they are just that, theories.

Thanks for this site. It is good to know that I am not the only one who feels the way I do about Christianity.

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8/9/07                                                                                       View Comments

When I was 15...

Sent in by Robert W

For me, the worst part of being a Christian was this: taking things on faith, even when my mind totally, utterly disagreed with what Christianity wanted me to believe in. I'm soon going to be 31, and I had my first moments of doubt when I was about 15. I can't remember what, exactly, set me off, but the end result was that I became a bit more fanatical about my belief in the truth of Christianity. That's not odd, I suppose. How many Christians who, when they feel doubt, begin to fear that Satan is working his wiles upon them? They, like I was doing at the age of 15, cling more tightly to a sinking ship. The water spills out of the ship, the ship goes down to the deep, so to speak, but the faitful remain unawares in a mad, blissful sort of way. That's how I was at age 15, and up on through till my mid-20s: unaware, mad with faith of a sort, and blissful with that happy sort of stupidity that only a complete denier can possess.

Now, at almost 31, I'm having, I hope, the last battle with Christianity and Jesus. There have been moments in my life when I've seriously waffled between belief and disbelief; a part of me wants to believe, that credulous and irrational part of us that will accept any little thing “on faith.” Another part, the rational part, of me rebels at the very notion of being locked back into a religion that drove me out of it in the first place. Who is going to win, what part of me will walk away after this last-man-standing battle between Jesus and myself? I want to win of course! I don't really care about Jesus or his religion any longer, even when I take into consideration all of the moral platitudes and niceties that have been written about this dodgy, so-called savior. Do 2,000 years of wishful thinking and, I'll admit this freely, eloquent apologetic writing by Christians truly justify the internal, existential misery that I've gone through for all of these years?

Christianity may have a great deal to offer to those who need a savior or who fear the hellfire, but what about a person like me? Is the world a cosmic chess board between God and Satan, with black and white, absolute good and absolute evil? Or, rather, is it merely, as Carl Sagan said, a “pale blue dot?”Well, I can say with a great deal of certainty that notions of cosmic good and cosmic evil are fodder for comic books and Hollywood, not for real life. I can also say that, from my experiences, life actually comes in shades of grey. As to pale blue dots, time will tell if mankind exists at the center of the universe; I'm open to notions of other intelligent life forms out in the universe, but I've also studied Fermi's paradox a bit, too.

A part of me has always wanted to believe that Christianity is true, but how can it be? I think that, empirically, I've more than amply disproven Christianity. My rational, reasoning side sees it for the sinking ship that it is, but it's my gullible, faithful side that wants to hop back onto the Jesus train. Skepticism is far harder than one might think and I'd decry anyone who says that skeptics are cowards or quislings. It's taken me nearly 16 years, swinging back and forth between belief and disbelief, to come this far. At one time “faith” dominated my life; now "reason" seems poised to dominate. What is going to win, faith with all of its superstitious accouterments? Or, will reason win out in the battle for my heart and mind?

I can't recall who said that "Faith without reason is dead." I'd like to see this quote placed in a better context; I've seen Christians and other theists use it to justify their own religion, but what does faith mean? Protagoras quipped about 2500 years ago, "Man is the measure of all things." So, if I had faith in God and Jesus, I'd be lauded to high heaven by the believers. I'd be one of the elect. But, if I instead said that I had faith in myself, as a human being, I'd be accused of hubris. I'd be on a trip to hell with Satan and the devils. But, this is what I have the most faith in: myself. I put my entire trust in my own humanity, my intellect, intuition, and ability to reason, rather than in a shady savior and a God that never seems to be around when you need him the most.

Examining my life, I'm reminded of a bit of poetry from Aeschylus's Agamemnon:
He (God) steered the mortal mind to thought,

making one law: suffer and learn.

How correct that is, if God is anything more than a hopeful figment of imagination!

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8/5/07                                                                                       View Comments

Running afoul of GOD

Sent in by Nick M

I like to occasionally visit this site and read testimonials of people who've drifted away from their faiths, and admire the courage of many of them. Still, one thing strikes me every time I hear it, and that is the fear associated with giving up one's faith. I can understand the stigmas associated with it, affecting your family and friends, but I'm talking about the, if I may be so blunt, illogical fears associated, such as the continued belief one might still 'run afoul' of god. Just so you understand where I'm coming from, let me give you a little backstory on myself.

My childhood was as normal as any suburban family. I went to church every Sunday, never asking questions, just listening attentively, and waiting for the reverend to rescind his pulpit so I could go home and play Super Mario BrosAt the age of eight, my life took what some would call a rather startling turn, though I know for a fact it was the best thing that could have happened to me at such a critical time in my childhood development. It was Christmas morning, I’m not entirely sure of the exact year, and I happened down the hallway, excited as ever to see what gifts Santa had left for me under the tree, only to catch my parents in the final stages of putting together the bicycle I had begged for in my lengthy letter to the North Pole. It would be an understatement to say this came as quite a shock, but my parents gave me the classic explanation of how there really is no Santa Claus, Tooth Fairy, or Easter Bunny. Though I wasn’t told this specifically, I naturally assumed god was just another imaginary character my parents told me about so I would be good, or something. Just to re-iterate, I was eight years old and much more concerned about Sonic the Hedgehog on my Genesis than any philosophical questions that might naturally arise when someone loses their faith. That's how I became an atheist.

Over the next few years, I continued to learn about atheism, and developed myself as a somewhat outspoken atheist in my small community. I waited until I was 14 to tell my parents that I was an atheist, and although visibly disappointed at first, they still understood that I was serious, and allowed me to go my own way, as it were. For this, I will forever be grateful. Occasionaly, I would be drawn in to debate the reasons behind my beliefs (or lack therof, rather), but those arguments were trounced pretty quicky, as the average 15 year old xian kid isn't very knowledgeable, especially about their own religion, when it comes to arguments for the existence of god. That leads me to this point in my life.

Going back to my original point, though, I can understand some fears that come along with giving up god, such as the idea that there is no afterlife. I can see how that may be hard to cope with at first, and it's long been my idea that that though is what drives many into the 'safety net' of religion, but the idea itself has always brought me comfort. The assurance that I'm not being judged for every little mistake, and that I can live my life and not have to answer to anyone but myself. I don't know... maybe it's just me, but I would still like some feedback either way. Thank You.

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8/4/07                                                                                       View Comments

Truth? What truth?

My parents were saved before I was born, and can be labeled religious fanatics! To their credit, they have been consistent in their beliefs for more than 50 years, and as far as I know, their only sins are little ones … but let me start at the beginning.

My first church attendance was at the age of 2 weeks, the first of too many to count. At the age of 16, I went with my parents to the mission field, and ended up staying overseas for 29 years, working in the secular world and raising my children. This whole time I was heavily involved in music at church, Bible studies, etc. and my parents were pursuing their missionary career.

I always dreaded the prayer meetings when everyone was expected to pray around the room. I don’t think I ever prayed for God’s benefit. Not a public speaker, I was more concerned on my presentation to those around, and would think of what to say until it became my turn. And if somebody before me prayed about my chosen subject, I panicked!

I always wondered why I didn’t feel on the inside like I was presenting on the outside. I didn’t love Jesus with all my heart, although I tried and wondered how to make it happen. I didn’t pray without ceasing, or meditate on the Bible, although I have memorized countless verses (KJV). I often had doubts, like how could God send all those unenlightened people to hell because they had never heard of Jesus, and how the contradictions of the Bible were explained. And which parts to take literally (which was almost everything, except those parts that could not be explained, which were obviously meant to be taken figuratively). I often thought that I would probably be a Muslim or Jew if I had been born in the Middle East. My brother and sisters are also missionaries, and I felt like I was missing something because I never received the “call”. Incidentally, they always had more material things than I had, but I put that down to God providing for them.

January 2006 back in America – As a single mother I had taken on yet another parttime job to make life easier. I let my Sunday School teacher know that I would be working short term on Sunday mornings and would miss Sunday School for several weeks, but would make it to the worship service. His reply astounded me. He pointed out that (a) I was aiding and abetting people by providing a service during church time, (he went out to eat after church every week – how about the servers in the restaurants that had to skip church to prepare his food?); (b) my heart would not be in the proper mode for worship after having to work right before church (how could he judge the condition of my heart – or who knew if even the minister may have had a knock-down, drag out fight with his wife right before church but manage to put on a happy face in time to preach?); (c) I was giving a poor role my daughter because it was teaching her she didn’t have to go to church if she didn’t feel like it (I don’t remember a verse stating that church attendance was mandatory); (d) If I worked on Sundays, which day had I chosen as my Sabbath to rest; and (e) there must be something deeper inside that I would make such a decision. (No offer to help a struggling single mother, who gave a lot of time and effort to the church in many ways).

I never returned to church there, and the minister told me that this deacon was only concerned about my wellbeing. Actually, I felt like a burden had been lifted off my shoulders. I didn’t have to “pretend” anymore, I didn’t have to try to believe the things that had always bothered me.

Over the last year and a half, I have started to reject all the teachings that have brainwashed me all these years. The fundamental, evangelicals are so narrow-minded and holier-than-thou and I was wrapped up in.

But I feel “superstitious” like I will be struck down (remember Ananias and Sapphira?) for thinking such thoughts. But as time goes by, I am feeling more comfortable with my new thought patterns. I am happy and free … so what is the truth that will set me free? Not the illusive standards that I had been futilely trying to grasp for years.

Then I began to date a Catholic man and now we are ready to marry. But I have to tell my mother, and although I am 55 years old, I dread telling her, because this will be worse than heresy. She does not know my true feelings of being an ex-Christian.

Finding this site has been an eye-opener for me because I don’t feel so alone now. I’m scared to vocalize my feelings to my family because it will break the charm and bring shame upon the family who are pinnacles of the spiritual community, both here and overseas.

Advice from those of you who have gone before is welcome.

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8/3/07                                                                                       View Comments

I spent a good part of my life in ignorant bliss

Sent in by Peter B

After nearly two decades immersed in Christendom I must concede to the idea that this life is simply a series of random events... but mathematically speaking there is sometimes pattern evident in chaos. These patterns can be sometimes interpreted as coincidences and luck. The more romantically natured people will fictionise such clusters of coincidence as divine intervention from a god who is pulling at the strings. Their God is a loathsome creature who 'allows' the most grotesque things to happen to its 'beloved children'. Any purely good god would have intervened and thought up a better way to make a set of toys to play with... without having to try melting them with a magnifying glass.

I spent a good part of my life in ignorant bliss. That's fine... at the time it felt fine. In the light of new information and a new mindset, I can see that it was a waste of time. I'll still live and die and will currently do things that will still seem to have been a waste of time in years to come.

I lost years and de-evolved somewhat, but worse things could have happened. People lose arms, and they lose children. People can be swindled out of their life savings, they can develop painful diseases that cripple and torment. We can find love only to lose it and suffer from the memory of it... people have a 'bunch of stuff happen' happen to them, because (pause) - because it's random and they sometimes don't take personal control and responsibility for their actions.

Earthquake, war, plague - shit truly happens and always, always has. Satan doesn’t exist. It seems he does because those things we consider to be evil - chaos, destruction, bad days - are the restive ways of the Earth. As a species, we have worked miracles to keep the violent world at our gate. Sometimes those miracles are baffled, because the universe is like that. "Against exploding stars, earthquakes and the tempers of men, we can only do so much to defend ourselves" (Jack Marx).

We have evolved to a level of self existence where we're intelligent enough to question own state of being. We got so smart that we began to label the random coincidences as part of a plan by a god that simply doesn't exist, or is doing a good job hiding out behind a Clark Kent type alias.

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8/2/07                                                                                       View Comments

Honest Closure for Grieving Atheists

by Best Blanket

Two people I love very much died within months of one another. They were father and daughter.

He was ill for a very long time and we all had been readying ourselves for the worst in one way or another, but she was killed first by a cancer that spread quickly after its diagnosis. We learned she was given 2 weeks to live while we were at a hospital here in New York awaiting a surgical procedure on her father. She lived in Florida and hadn't told many people about the diagnosis, but she had assured the few in the know of her doctor's confidence in there being a remedy. I don't think a month passed before she was terminal.

Her mother and I flew out to stay with her until she died. One of her sisters went a day or two earlier and her other sister stayed in New York with the father and the rest of the family. It was chaos and I could never put it in the most accurate and effective perspective. Hours before and moments after she died, everybody at her bedside was encouraging her to go towards the various family, friends, and pets that had died in their history. Everybody around me has always consoled one another that way. "She's with so and so now." "Oh, they must be having a ball up there!" I bent over, embraced her, and held that position. I may have been crying and I may have been trembling, but my head was perfectly clear. I knew this was the last time I would see her with my eyes and be able to feel her against myself. This was goodbye. We will never meet again, but I will remember her fondly for the rest of my life.

The father's death was precisely the same. The sister that hadn't been present for the daughter's death was there this time. She looked absolutely empty and said "they're together now" in a tone of voice that made it sound like a question. "They're together now, right?" While very prominent in this instance, the absence of closure in that sort of statement is always there. When applied to deaths that invoke nothing more than an "aw really," it's something like "he must be so happy to see everyone" with an undertone of "yes, yes, because that's what happens when you die, now let's move along." This time, uncertainty was loud and clear.

I am an atheist. I do not believe in an afterlife. I am very confident in my belief given that there's no evidence to the contrary. To believe otherwise would require faith. Faith can be challenged. Faith can be defeated. Faith can be lost. Faith can be delicate and faith can betray somebody. A bridge to closure built with faith can break when you try to cross it. I am very sad because two people I love are gone, but at least I can accept it. I am nowhere near the end of my bridge, but I have the benefit of knowing that it isn't going anywhere.

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