9/30/09                                                                                       View Comments

A Personal Funeral

by MtlRedAtheist



Last week was the 9th anniversary of my grandmother's passing. She died on my mother's birthday.

I decided to visit her grave site for the first time since the funeral 9 years ago. I needed to have some alone time to remember her. The circumstances surrounding her death were rather terrible, but I needed to revisit them. I needed to say a final farewell and set her to rest in my own mind. Aware she could not hear me, I still shared a few personal words with her. I felt I owed myself the therapy.

I loved her very much. Sometimes I get emotional, when I see her strong features in my children's faces. I see her in my father and his sisters and when I look in the mirror and a sadness comes over me, because I miss her.

It took many years following her death before I felt I had the strength to visit the site and have that much needed moment alone with my thoughts and memories. The reason it took so long dates back to my childhood. When I was 6 years old, my parents converted to Evangelical Christianity. From that point on, I was raised on the Christian fundamentals of the Bible. I believed. I was a child.

I was taught that death is not the end, but that we have a spirit that lives on. I was taught that this spirit, by default, is condemned to suffer for eternity, burning in a lake of fire. This notion utterly terrified me as a child, but I was also taught that there is a way to avoid this fate. I was taught that if I believed in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and accepted his "gift" of salvation, my spirit would not be cast into the fiery pits of hell, but rather go on to live in a paradise of eternal bliss with God. This appealed to me much more than the alternative.

Shortly after my parents conversion, my father shared his beliefs with his parents and siblings, hoping they would believe and be saved like him. They were not convinced and did not convert. Considering what I was taught, I believed that my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins were at risk of being thrown into the lake of fire to be tortured forever. This grieved me to no end. I spent the rest of my childhood in fear for them.

About 14 years later, these fears culminated when my cousin nearly died in a tragic car accident. I clung tightly to my faith and prayed fervently for my cousin's recovery and even more fervently for her spiritual salvation. The thought of my innocent cousin suffering for eternity in more excruciating pain than what she was already experiencing in her broken body weighed so heavily on my mind that I became sick whenever I thought of it.

I recall that night that following her first surgery, it looked like she was going to live. My fear for her spiritual salvation subsided gradually, but not completely. During my cousin's lengthy recovery, I began to examine the toll my beliefs in hell were taking on my mind. Then without warning, my grandmother became very ill and died within a few weeks.

Without any evidence of her having converted, I believed that my innocent grandmother, my love, was suffering in eternal torment. This tortured me. This is why I could never return to her grave site to personally pay my respects for so many years. I was sad, hurt, angry, worried and fearful. My faith was causing me such torment. How could the beautiful person that was my grandmother be punished so severely for merely not being convinced by the words of the Bible for which there is no supporting evidence?

Over the next few years, for reasons unrelated to this story, I lost my faith. I became an atheist. I became aware that death is final, but people live on in the memories of loved ones and those they touched in life. Thankfully there is no heaven or hell, only our short life here on Earth that we should make the most of in every possible way. Life is far more valuable with this outlook, because it's the only one we got.

After putting this religious days to rest, I realized that I never properly grieved my grandmother's death and never properly said my good-byes, as I was too concerned with my beliefs that she was being tortured indefinitely. I don't know why it took so many years, even after losing my faith, but I finally made it out to my grandmother's grave site and made my peace.

Now that I'm a father, I notice time go by very quickly and I realize that life is short. Life is too short to hold grudges against those we love and dwell on our own hurt feelings. Life is too short to cut loved ones out of our lives. Life is too short to marginalize our loved ones because of our faith. Life is too short to marginalized our loved ones because of their faith. Life is too short, so live it to its fullest.

9/28/09                                                                                       View Comments

Intolerable

by Patricia

New Zealand Marmite and a New Zealand-made var...Image via Wikipedia

Some of you might of seen me around posting from time to time on a few things, but not really know who I am or what I am about.

Well let me start by saying my mum is a Catholic, born in Egypt where most of the country is Muslim who hate Christians (she claims) and would say disgusting things to her. In the end she immigrated to the land down under where we enjoy the black salty yeasty brewers tar known as vegemite.

Well for as long as I can recall, my grandmother (her mother) had lived with us until her death a few years ago, my parents had long separated.

I was born with serious heart and birth defects and was baptised in the hospital because the doctors thought I would not make it, and then once I was well enough, I was baptised in a church.

I did my sacraments of confession and communion.

My Mum’s Brother is a priest, her sister is a nun and another brother was studying to become a deacon.

As you can see the religious side of my family runs very deep through them.
I am a secret disgrace and shame for my poor mother who wishes I could be more like my brother and embrace god and Jesus.

I recall when I was younger I would go to some spiritual “healing” sessions where some people would pray over me for my heart, and they would ask if I felt anything which I said yes, but really the answer was no.

We went to this big group church thing I cannot recall what it was, some large outdoor park venue, we were told if we prayed hard enough or if we had faith god would appear to us or perform some miracle. Well I guess we a) did not pray hard enough, or b) had enough faith.

I recall feeling disappointed thinking we were praying why hadn’t we seen anything spectacular?

When I was younger my auntie (who is married to the deacon), told us of a miracle she had seen the sun “spinning” and came and told my mum enthusiastically, I still do not understand what it could possibly be a sign of, but whatever.
So we were over at their place one day and my auntie was pointing at this miracle she had seen it showed itself again, my auntie was saying to my mum that she had prayed to god and the Virgin Mary to repeat that miracle so we wouldn’t think she was crazy. And it happened! (ta-da), I do not recall exactly what I saw but how could that be a miracle? What does it exactly signify?

My mum told me not to tell anyone at school the next day because they would not believe me, well she was right, I told my two best friends and they looked at me like I had sprouted a second head!

As I got older I started to think for myself a bit more, mum would love to have religious discussions with us and go on and on as if it was the only thing in the world, I became increasingly frustrated at what I saw as her narrow minded answers to my questions and her in ability to not be able to mesh them with reality and her constant want to debate and fight over everything. I recall when my grandmother was around she would say if you don’t do this (insert task) god won’t love you!

One of my mum’s sister’s is going through a hard time and asks why god is doing this to her and how it must be his will to cause her all this suffering in life (her husband is I believe emotionally and verbally abusive towards her). It causes me pain to hear her speak as if god would actively participate in handing out this punishment to this lovely woman who is so kind. I just cannot fathom the type of god who would do such a thing to someone who converted to Greek Orthodox for her husband for him to turn around and say in front of the church people her opinion doesn’t matter because she is not a real orthodox. (If I heard him I would have dropped the C bomb, but again I am just a disappointment).

When I was about 16 just before my 16th birthday I was in hospital for a week because I had tried to commit suicide, because of things happening to me in my life that time, Instead of having a loving mother who would comfort me and want to find out what happened to make me go down this path, I got the cold shoulder, I got my mum coming to the conclusion the only reason I did this was because I saw it in a horror movie that I wanted to emulate, then she said if I ever did it again she would leave me at a half way home, and then the final icing on the cake was, when I was upset about that, my grandmother told my mother to just ignore me because I was acting up for attention! (Imagine that)

So that is what they did, ignore me, ignore that I was going through depression, if is very hard for me to type this because It stirs up those emotions of rage and anger that were perpetrated by so called Christians.

But then the bible is full of hate so I can’t really be surprised or blame them for their attitudes, because it comes from this so called book of “love and peace” should be titled “war and hate.”

I haven’t been to church for many years and I do doubt the actual reality of there being god who gives us free will but puts us in families who as another poster pointed out indoctrinates us from birth into their chosen religion, so we don’t really have any of this free will. Well now that I think about it I have exercised my free will to refute the existence of god.

Now fast forward another 15 years give or take a year or two (a lady never reveals her true age).

My mum is now suffering from depression and actually came to the conclusion that since she was 19 she never felt happy in her life, no joy or anything. She believes her ex boyfriend from another country had this curse put on her by her sister’s ex boyfriend (who also claimed he did black magic), that still lingers to this day.
She told me I do not know what it is like to be depressed so I have no idea of what she is going through (see the ignoring of my attempted suicide).

She has told her poor sister (the one married to that nasty Greek Orthodox) that their ex’s got together to put this curse on them both.

So they both pray for this curse to be removed, she also enlists the help her priest brother who has done exorcisms of houses or “cleansing”.

I cannot fathom the level of this superstitious non-sense but she claims people all around Greece and Egypt and in Spain all believe in black magic (As if it is credible).

She refuses to get proper treatment and help claiming they are all quacks and they do more harm than good.

I say religion has had a terribly negative impact on my mother’s side of the family, I can only see it as compounding the problems that they face, and not helping in any way other than to teach them to honour your family even if it is wrong. I am not sure if it is a cultural thing as well but it seems religion plays a big part of their decisions as well.

Because I always hear “A good Christian doesn’t do x,y,z”
So I cannot pinpoint why or when I stopped believing I can only say my experiences of the people around me people who claim to be good Christians are actually liars and perpetrators’ of horrible abuse.

And that is why I cannot follow a religion like that, or any that claims god is loving yet allows starving people to live and die in poverty to which I asked my mum why god won’t help them, she claims he can’t do everything for people and people must help themselves, and I point out that the governments in those countries are corrupt and so this god should step in and help the people who are suffering unjustly because of corrupt governments she said they won’t get help because they don’t believe in god and Jesus.

So I just throw my hands up in the air at so called Christians and want nothing to do with any of them anymore, I find their human rights practices do not coincide with actual human rights.

9/26/09                                                                                       View Comments

How I escaped the monkey trap

by Godless Vagabond

LeashedImage by TimOve via Flickr

My life has been the epitome of cognitive dissonance. When I was a little girl in church I remember wondering why there wasn't a goddess because it didn't seem fair that the boys had a divine role-model and I didn't. I also knew that women are moms and if we were all children of god and if he is father in heaven and if we were made in the image of god then there should be a goddess mother somewhere. I thought later that it was the Earth was our mother but still there was no mention of her in the bible. But still I liked that idea since I loved nature. I read a lot as a child. I loved fairy tales and mythology and fantasy and sci-fi. I saw the similarities in all the mythologies, including the one I was told was real. I fell in love with horses and Native Americans and read their legends and read about the different tribes and how they held respect for nature. How they saw themselves as a part of nature instead of apart from it. I read how white people treated the natives and the land and all living things upon it. I was ashamed of how Christian Europeans treated our native peoples. I still have shame that my ancestry is the same as those bigots.

I noticed that women were, at best, second-class citizens in the bible. My mother was a single parent who got help from her parents to raise me. I remember being miffed that the bible had such a low opinion of women while the only parent I had was my mom. If men were so superior then why wasn't my father man enough to help raise me?

I wondered why we had a tree in the house for Xmas when there wasn't a mention of one when Jesus was born. Nor was there any mention of Santa Clause or Easter bunnies or colorful eggs. What did they have to do with Christmas or Easter? I later found out that eggs and rabbits were symbols of fertility and that Santa first appeared in Western Europe as a form of the god Odin. Easter is a corruption of the name Ishtar, a fertility goddess and that rabbits and eggs are symbols of fertility.

I remember having communion one Sunday and literally almost throwing up at the thought that we were symbolically consuming a body. "Eat my flesh and drink my blood" on one hand and the sin of cannibalism on the other. I didn't take communion for a long time after that. Even now the thought makes me a little nauseous.

I was told that there would not be animals or plants in heaven because heaven was for humans to praise God forever. I thought that heaven sounded very boring and wondered why a God would need us to sing his praises. For a brief moment I wondered what hell would be like and if it would be an improvement. And if pets would be there, as well. But that thought was sacrilegious so I quashed it. More or less.

I wondered how God could send people to hell just because they never heard of him or Jesus. How was their ignorance their fault? And if you had to be baptized and believe in Jesus to be saved then what about all the people that lived and died before Jesus? Did that mean that EVERYONE, including Noah and Moses and David were going to hell? All of the Hebrews who were dead before Jesus came and now too, even though they are Gods own chosen? All of the people everywhere who had never ever heard of Jesus? That didn’t make any sense at all.

I read Drawing Down The Moon by Margot Adler and thought that a goddess focused religion was better than the patriarchal one I had been dealing with. I ended up meeting some witches and studying Wicca. I liked it. Wiccans view the Earth as sacred and the place of humanity was to protect the planet and work with it. Women were cherished as sources of life and as embodiment of the Mother who sustains us all and that male and female were mutually dependent. Wicca also teaches personal accountability, a most refreshing concept from the pass-the-buck mentality of Christianity. I never liked the idea of me being sinful just because two people somewhere in the nebulous past ate from some tree. What was I supposed to do about that? Hop in a time machine and go stop them? And why should someone suffer and die because of me? I couldn't blame anything I did on someone else. And if I were inclined to shift the blame to anyone I doubt they would smile and nod and let me do it. But, I never stopped thinking that God and Jesus were real in some way or another. I just started worshiping other gods.

Wicca was also accepting of everyone. Everyone was seen as a child of the goddess and worthy of respect, unless the individual acted otherwise. Wicca acknowledged all gods and goddesses. I met people who had affinity mostly for the deities of Scandinavia and Britain but met one Christian Wiccan. I ended up being a solitary practitioner but gave it up. I didn’t get any real answers to my questions and was always left feeling dissatisfied after a ceremony. I liked the rituals but had a hard time finding privacy and was having life full in my face and just didn’t have the time.

I eventually investigated the Mormon church. I thought I had found the True Path! They had some really good answers to my initial questions and taught that women were closer to God because we created new life. Much better option than being viewed as worthless except as a baby mill. I studied scriptures and loved Sunday school classes. I learned that when Jesus came back the Earth would be glorified and perfected. That was the best thing I have ever heard. Then I was told that only people who would be on Earth were the ones who had committed some sins that weren't totally forgettable. They were good enough for heaven but not good enough to be with God or Jesus. I began to wonder what sins I would have to commit so I could stay on the perfected planet. A perfected Earth sounded like heaven much more than some freaking house made of gold and jewels, up in the clouds and all lit up all the time. I hated that idea. I wanted to be able to walk in restored forests in all their majesty, visit the plains and tundras and mountains. I wanted to see clean rivers flowing freely to the sea. I wanted to learn about all of the plants and animals and smell the fresh air, feel the rain falling on me and watch the endless sunrises and sunsets. THAT was my idea of heaven. It still would be, if there were such a thing. (That and a library of every good book ever written). Then I started asking more questions. I got standard apologetic answers that sounded good on the surface but were no answers at all. The church had only recently gotten revelation from God that blacks were to be allowed to hold the Priesthood after all. I was amazed at that. I thought this was an advanced church with a living prophet with a hotline to God and yet only recently have our brothers of African descent been granted the priesthood? Only now is the church catching up with desegregation? What was up with that? I noticed subtle racism and sexism in the church too, which soured their preachings of how they were the true church.

Then came the clinchers. I was married to someone who became abusive. Most of it was mental but there was some physical also. I tried to be a good wife and prayed to God and Jesus that my husband would become a better person. We attended a joint meeting between the womens and mens groups on marriage and relationships. They spoke well and honestly on how people in a relationship should act. I was thinking: "Awesome! The Holy Spirit was there, speaking through the teacher to men and women who need to change. Things should start to get better soon." On the way home my husband told me that he knew that we both needed to change to make the marriage work but he wasn’t going to. I remember thinking “What the fuck?” I was stunned. I didn’t say anything but I didn’t forget his words. A few years later (yes, I stayed too long but I kept hoping Jesus would work a miracle) he lost his cool and put his hands where they didn’t need to be. I left a few weeks later once I had made living arrangements. The church sent us to a councilor (three free sessions) and upon his insistence I went to a shrink because he was convinced I had some issues with abandonment by my father that were making me want to get out of our marriage. I went to appease him as I knew good and damn well what my problem was and that a divorce would fix it. The shrink asked me questions and didn’t find anything wrong with me and said I was right to leave. I was told I was strong and that he wasn’t gonna take my money because I didn’t need his help. I also talked with our bishop and a person in the church I had admired greatly. They both told me that I needed to forgive my husband, move back in and make my family whole again.

I became…. angry. Incensed. Furious. Seething. I was the one being abused and had been “forgiving” it for all those years yet this was somehow MY fault? I needed to “get over this”? What about him? What about how the Holy Spirit is supposed to guide the church leaders and let them know who needs help? Bah. They didn’t do or say anything to him and somehow I was the bad person for leaving. I supposed he said he was sorry (yeah, I had heard THAT one before) and downplayed how long this had been going on. I didn’t care. They all had shown me their true colors. I was done with them.

Long story short, we got divorced and I have never looked back. I left that church altogether and researched other faiths. Buddhism looks good on paper but they and the Muslims there are happily killing each other and who knows who else so forget that. Islam was out of the question, though I understand that they teach a better land ethic than Christianity does. That may not say much since I don’t think Christianity HAS a land ethic. I thought about Wicca again but decided to just quit searching. All of them just tried to baffle people with bullshit, some more than others. I figured maybe I was agnostic. Agnostics believed in a god of some sort, right? Kinda maybe? I couldn’t prove there was one but I couldn’t prove there wasn’t either. And did it really matter as long as I treated people with kindness?

I went back to school to get a degree and happened across a book in the library there by Richard Dawkins with a garish, shining silver cover blazing on a shelf. I read the spine of the book: “The God Delusion.” It sounded horribly sacrilegious so of course I took it off the shelf and started reading.

I was amazed. So many of my questions and doubts from when I was six or so till I opened the book were here. All of the inconsistencies and illogical things I had noticed were pointed out and so were more that I had not considered. All of the stupid arguments and 'proofs' used by church leaders were shredded and so much more. This was the first book on religion I had ever read that made complete sense (I suggest you read that book if you haven’t). I realized that I wasn’t the only one who had grown up with sticky questions and I had finally found a new answer: None Of The Above. I didn’t have to believe in any god at all. What an amazing, liberating thought. I have no idea why that had never occurred to me before. Maybe because I wanted there to be a god somewhere to fix all that humanity is ruining. Maybe because I was raised to believe in a god. I don’t know. I do know that I felt as if weights were lifted off of me. I was free. Suddenly that shrill, edgy, background whine of cognitive dissonance that had been pulsing in my head for all my life was gone. I was able to wonder anew at nature and the planet and the stars and... everything. I gained an even stronger respect for life. This life is all I have. This isn’t a dress rehearsal, there won’t be Jesus coming with armies to slaughter the enemy (can you just feel the love?) and take his people home with him.

I escaped my religious monkey trap with the same method used to escape all monkey traps: I let go.

Losing my religion after examining the source

by TheWrathofDog

I grew up in a religious household. I don't mean that we were Fundies or any such nonsense, just that we were a typical middle-class family living in a "Leave It to Beaver" suburb and we attended church and Sunday School every week until I was 10 years old.

My mother taught Sunday School for years and wanted us to grow up as Protestants, as she said, "To give you a sense of reverence," although why this was automatically supposed to be a good thing, I don't know. My dad worked for the Government and his bosses felt that having the family in church was good PR. So we went. I and my siblings learned all the usual stuff about the Creation, the Fall of Man, God's picking the Hebrews as his favorite team, the coming of Jesus and the whole Passion Story.

And I believed. I remember lying in bed at night pleading with God to forgive my sins should I not wake. I held on to the belief that nothing i did in this world was important compared to the world to come! Yes, sir, let the school bullies pick on me, God's got their numbers!

My deconversion occurred as it often does. I had a Bible and had picked through it, but one day, on a camping trip, I started to really READ it.

I couldn't believe it. The lack of logic in God testing man when he KNEW what the outcome would be, the war crimes committed by the Hebrews in the name of their god, the stories that were obvious mythology, the "stories of Jesus" which I began to realize were preposterous.

But the thing that angered me was the obvious hatred of women and championing of slavery in this book. Women were nothing to the scribblers of the Bible— women were too inferior to teach men, were to keep their mouths shut and not ask questions in church, etc. I wondered what in hell was so attractive about this trash to my mother and women like her, who devoted their time to a religion that despised them and a God who cared nothing for them!

And I understood miracles thereafter: I had NEVER had a "prayer answered" in ANY way that couldn't be accounted for by normal, mundane agencies. If I got a job, it was because I DID IT, not because I prayed for God to give me one; I realized that if Justice was to prevail, we all have to abandon the view that vengeance is God's and he will repay. He won't, sorry.

By the time I was thirteen, I had lost my belief in the Abrahamic nonsense (and yes, that means that I concluded that Islam is a load of rubbish, as well.)

Today I look back on the childish, empty-headed belief system I swallowed as a kid, and I know that there is no God out there of the type spoken of in the Bible. I shake my head at my stupidity.

I still read the Bible, but for what I think it is: writings by a primitive people who were trying to make sense of the world around them and find a way to fit themselves into it. From that standpoint, the book is a good one.

So in closing, let me say that I am an example of the fact that nothing will turn you into an unbeliever as quickly as reading the source material.

9/18/09                                                                                       View Comments

They Overplayed Their Hand

by Larry Spencer

Winning HandImage by smlp.co.uk via Flickr

I would still be an Evangelical today were it not for Christians overplaying their hand.

About four years ago, a decision we had to make as a family forced me to get off the fence about young-earth creationism (YEC). Having been an evangelical/fundamental Christian for over 35 years, I had always rooted for the YECs. I had had my reservations (for example, the conjecture of better-developed animals seeking higher ground during the Flood [http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/am/v1/n1/humans-and-dinosaurs] was preposterous enough, but how did the advanced plants climb the hills?), but I cheered any “evidence” that YEC was true.

But now it was time to get serious. I had always trusted creationists to present both sides of the debate. (They were Christians so I could trust them, right?) This time, I decided to let evolutionists speak for themselves. I bought the book Scientists Confront Creationism and was overwhelmed with the evidence for evolution as corroborated by completely independent disciplines. To my shock, I discovered that YECs had never mentioned much of the evidence for evolution, and what they had mentioned they had misrepresented. (No transitional fossils? Ha!) By the time I reached the final chapter, which devastatingly compared YECs to flat-earthers, I was a convinced evolutionist.

That did not damage my faith, but I felt extremely betrayed by the Christian leaders I had trusted. The YECs at the Institute for Creation Research and Answers in Genesis were PhD scientists, supposedly very spiritual, and at the top of their profession. Now I knew that their greatest competency was neither in science nor Christian character but in telling convincing lies. Perhaps they had taken Martin Luther’s famous words [http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Martin_Luther] to heart:
“What harm would it do, if a man told a good strong lie for the sake of the good and for the Christian church … a lie out of necessity, a useful lie, a helpful lie, such lies would not be against God, he would accept them.”

Although I held onto my faith, I felt I could no longer trust Christian leaders. To be sure, the ones I knew personally were good people. None of them would endorse Martin Luther’s idea that a lie can be acceptable to God. However, I had just learned that even good, honest people can easily ignore evidence for their entire lives, and teach others from a position of ignorance. I certainly had. What’s more the fine leaders in my life had only taught me what they had received from other people -- people who might be as bound up in falsehood as those at the top of the YEC movement.

If I felt betrayed by the Christian elite, I felt even more acute disappointment in myself. The truth about evolution had been available to me for my 35 years as a Christian, yet I had chosen to remain ignorant. I had alienated many people dear to me for the sake of a Just-So Story and had wasted years invested in a lie.

I promised myself I would no longer believe things on the basis of trusted authority. If I was going to be convinced of anything, I would have to evaluate the evidence myself.

I also promised myself that I would never again let ignorance and go-along-to-get-along replace knowledge and reason. All my Christian life, I and those around me had denigrated the “wisdom of this world” (1 Corinthians 3:19). We were happy to “become fools so that we might become wise” (1 Corinthians 3:18). That attitude had led me straight down a dead-end of ignorance and embarrassment.

Still, I did hope for positive evidence for the Christian faith. Just because YEC was false didn’t mean the whole thing was a lie. I was determined to find some evidence for my faith. I looked into one issue after another, and was disappointed at every turn.
  • I hoped for empirical evidence that God answers prayer. I had heard rumors of formal studies that showed he did. Turns out that God does not grant our supplications more often than we’d expect by chance [http://www.ahjonline.com/article/PIIS0002870305006496/abstract], even prayers that are in his will [http://www.geocities.com/inquisitive79/prayer.html] according to the Bible. Entire classes of worthy prayers are never answered [http://whywontgodhealamputees.com]. Furthermore, I saw that Christians who had reported on prayer studies had done so dishonestly -- reporting only the favorable portion of the results and failing to mention the rest. From one or two incomplete reports, a rumor starts and pretty soon everyone is believing it.
  • According to Romans 8:9, the Holy Spirit should cause Christians to live better lives than other people. However, according to both my anecdotal observations and systematic studies [http://www.christianbookpreviews.com/christian-book-excerpt.php?isbn01065410], born-again Christians behave no better than the rest of the population. They are just like everyone else in behaviors ranging from losing one’s temper to adultery. There are good Christians, but goodness is just as plentiful among atheists.
  • I had always thought that something as incredible as Christianity could never have gotten started if it weren’t true. But once I learned about memes [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meme] I had to admit that they adequately explain the rise of miracle-doctrines such as the virgin birth and the Resurrection. They also offer a natural and convincing explanation of virulent doctrines such as hell -- far more convincing than “progressive revelation.”
  • I observed that Christians fall into logical fallacy [http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/] just as often as everyone else, if not more often. They do not seem to have any particular wisdom from God.
  • The Argument from Morality [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument_from_morality] had always been important to me. Then one day it hit me that secular morals are just as real as prices in a free market. (See my post on Free-Market Moralty [http://exchristian.net/exchristian/2009/09/free-market-morality.html].)
  • The Christian faith is replete with doctrinal in-coherencies. In the past, I accepted these are “paradoxes” but in light of everything else I was learning I could no longer be so charitable. For example, I had always been taught that hell is necessary because God cannot dwell with evil (Psalm 5:4). So how did God-in-the-Flesh manage to get on so well with the dregs of society? I had been taught that evil is a necessary consequence of free will, without which we could not truly love God. So how will we love God in heaven, yet manage not to sin during an eternity of free will? (Demons are angels who sinned in heaven, according to Christians.)
  • The biblical accounts of the all-important Passion and Resurrection contradict [http://atheism.about.com/od/gospelcontradictions/Gospel_Contradictions_Gospels_are_Full_of_Contradictions_Errors.htm] each other. In any case, the decades between Jesus’ death and the writing of the gospels were more than enough time for wild legends to develop. Even in modern times, a faith as outlandish as Mormonism took root rapidly.
  • The formation of the biblical canon was a messy and very human process that took hundreds of years of tussling. Rarely does a biblical book give its own author, much less claim to be infallible. The Old Testament (OT) canon was not closed by the time of Jesus, yet he left us no list of what should be in it. Neither did the apostles give us a list of what should be in the New Testament. In light of all this, why does the Church claim that the Bible is infallible and includes all the right books?
To find that all the evidence pointed in the opposite direction than I had wished was bad enough, but the final straw was when I examined the Bible itself with new eyes and found that many of the atrocities I had glossed over as the acts of evil men were in fact the acts of God himself, or commanded by God.

I spoke with a friend who had been a missionary to a tribe in the Venezuelan jungle, and is now doing missionary work in New England. I asked him if he thought the Baal-worshippers of OT times were like the Venezuelan Indians of today in the sense of being more “lost” than “evil.” He thought they were and cited an example: Although members of his tribe loved their children, their superstitions were strong enough to compel them to kill their own offspring. If twins were born, the witch doctor would tell the parents which twin was evil and which was good, and the parents then had to leave the evil one to die of exposure in the jungle, his cries and death-whimpers audible to the entire tribe. (Thankfully, this practice changed when the tribe saw that both twins of a missionary couple were good!)

Realizing that the Canaanites who were wiped out at God’s command (Deuteronomy 7:1-2) were probably no worse than the Indians of Venezuela, but merely in miserable bondage to their superstitions, I looked at the biblical genocides in new light.

The final molecule of the final straw was Leviticus 21:16-23. There, God prohibits the deformed and the lame from presenting offerings to him or even approaching his altar. He says these human beings are “defective” and would “desecrate” his sanctuary. I read this passage at about the same time that someone very dear to me was diagnosed with scoliosis, her back already deformed from this congenital condition. If there is anyone whom God ought to welcome at his altar, it is this sweet, sensitive, spiritual girl. I also know a Marine who has stood firm in his faith and morals during 4 years of service to his country, in spite of temptations that have literally spanned the globe -- the finest young man anyone could hope to meet. I realized that if he were to be seriously wounded then the God of the OT would have regarded him, too, as “defective” and his presence as a “desecration.” At the thought of God turning these wonderful young people away from his altar, I was angry for days. Christians with whom I spoke offered various excuses, but they rang hollow. I was done making lame excuses for the God of the Bible. If there’s a good god out there somewhere, the God of the Bible ain’t it.

I am thankful for those young-earth creationists. If they had not overplayed their hand, I probably would have continued to trust the Christian elite. I never would have discovered how wrong I was. I would have continued in my faith-fog for the rest of my life.

Well, it’s time for a new hand. My 52nd birthday is approaching -- one year for each card in a deck. Let me now discard the old deck of misguided faith and prideful irrationality. I hope time remains to play at the table of science, logic and reason.



9/16/09                                                                                       View Comments

Ducklings, Death and Belief

by William Howard Agnew, OD

Hello all. Praise the FSM and pass the parmesan.

My story is completely different than most I've read on this site so far.

I cannot believe the horrors described by most of the testimonials I've read here. How people who think themselves to be loving creatures of their god can be so hateful to anyone, let alone a family member, is beyond the comprehension of anyone without the psychic disease of religion.

As Blaise Pascal (of the infamous wager) himself said, "Men never commit evil so fully and joyfully as when they do it for religious conviction."

I was never really indoctrinated with christianity, but I believed as a child and young man.

My parents, a lapsed Catholic and an indifferent Methodist, got married and decided on the middle ground of Episcopalianism. We moved to Harrisonburg, VA and joined the emmanuel episcopal church, where I aattended sunday school. Chapel service was reserved for the adults except on major holidays, when we all attended the sermon of the celebration.

I attended my Cub and Boy Scout meetings at the church (a bizarre facet of Scouting which goes without the examination it deserves), made a lot of good friends in sunday school and generally enjoyed the experience, particularly the McDonald's orange drink and cookies. This went on in a benign fashion until I was 13 and we moved to suburban Philadelphia (although looking back on the school-sponsored bible lessons on the bus parked on the street right off my elementary school grounds makes me more than a bit queasy).

After we moved to Philly we never attended church services regularly again, only on Christmas and Easter.

I maintained my "faith" throughout high school and went off to college and began to study biology and genetic engineering.

As you may expect, this put a major dent in my "faith." I went home after my freshman year and explained to my parents that I was experiencing doubt. My dad, one of the most gentle people in the world, got all blustery and told me, "You've been raised to believe in god in this house!" I was quite taken aback, not realizing the importance he still attached to something we hadn't participated in regularly for over 5 years. My mom, having experienced the horrors of catholicism, might have already arrived at the same sense of doubt and said nothing.

That was that, and we've never spoken of it again.

Later, as I was completing optometry school, I took a new shortcut on the way to my friend's house just outside of Princeton on Cold Soil Road. On this road is a Ducks Crossing sign; a yellow diamond with a mamma duck being followed by three baby ducklings, one theatrically flying upside down.

When I saw it I felt an immediate sense of panic, felt I had to pull over and slammed on the brakes. I sat there, breathing heavily, reliving a past experience that would forever change my "faith."

The college I attended was on a hill, and there was a stream flowing along its base. Next to the stream was a little road you used to get to the far side of campus that I had traveled dozens of times in my years there. I remembered thinking back to something that had left me unfazed at the time but now filled me with a sense of dread.

There were dead baby ducklings on that road every so often, squashed flat by the tires of oncoming cars. No big deal, I thought at the time, sh*t happens. But when I saw that Ducks Crossing sign I flashed back and realized that those baby ducklings crossed the road at the same place every time, and that the place they crossed was visible for a good 200 yards in either direction, day or night.

It dawned on me that the people who ran those baby ducklings over had to have done so on purpose, perhaps even speeding up to make sure they were killed. There was no other explanation.

I felt my chest caving in. How could this be? How could the benevolent, omniscient, omnipotent creator of the universe allow baby ducklings to be killed at the whim of some sadistic f*ck?

What the f*ck kind of plan is that?

This simply could not be. Either god was wrong or I was. So, after 25 years of studious avoidance, I pulled out my bible and began to read.

You all know where this is going. After reading about the genocides, hatreds, fantasies and lies (and that's just the new testament), I gave up the ghost for good.

It's been 11 years now. I'm wonderfully married to a woman of similar disposition and couldn't be happier with the direction my revelation has taken me.

The reason for all this rabbiting on is that I'm finally going to tell my family after we move back to the US later this year. I don't think they'll disown me or anything, and I hope that after I tell them my story they'll use their own faculties of reason and come to similar conclusions.

I just really needed a dress rehearsal, and this seemed like the best place to do so.

9/11/09                                                                                       View Comments

The light of the world, and the chief glory of man

by Kristyn Rosato

Tetragrammaton (God's name, see Jehovah) at th...Image via Wikipedia

I like to tell people that I was birthed in the church, and it’s pretty much the truth. My mother’s water broke when she stood for the final benediction. I’m sure if the Bible held a clause about the importance of birthing a child within the walls of a church, she would have made sure it happened. I say this to impress upon you the fact that I was indoctrinated with Christianity since I was a small child. I was raised in Church and in private Christian schools. The path I took from what I was taught growing up to where I am now has been the biggest struggle of my life.

When I tell people I don’t believe in God, they tend to believe it’s just a phase. That it’s a period of doubt that “everyone” goes through. To me, this was initially offensive. They were saying that I didn’t have the logic and integrity to reason through something and be true to myself. They thought it was just something that I wanted to do because I didn’t want to be a good person. “I wanted to be liberal.” I didn’t want to listen to the rules that the Bible demands we live by. This, in fact, was the exact opposite of the situation. I wanted there to be a God. I wanted it all to be true…badly. And, I didn’t have too many issues with the principles of Christianity. In fact, I think Christianity helps some people be a better person. But, the reality is it’s not necessary to embrace any religion to be a good person. This, though, is not the point I am trying to make.

As I searched through the Bible, through what the religion claimed to be the infallible word of God, I started to become confused, and later on, appalled. I’m embarrassed to admit, but this whole journey started with the book, “The Da Vinci Code” by Dan Brown. It is, of course, a work of fiction, but the boldness with which it questioned and contradicted the Bible was something that I’d ever been exposed to prior to reading this novel. I began to think about the pieces of the Bible that never really sat well with me, and the more reading I did (as an adult), the more I became shocked and disgusted.

The stories I was taught to admire began to swarm in my head. Abraham being asked to sacrifice his son, God drowning almost everyone on the planet with a flood, God raining down sulfur on cities, God killing firstborn children. These were just a few of the terrifying, murderous stories housed within the book.

I was taught at church that Abraham was almost a saint. That he had so much faith in God, he was willing to kill his own child, because God had asked him to do so. I used to be in awe of that story. He had immeasurable faith. How awesome.

How awesome? I couldn't believe I had actually thought this! What type of God tests the loyalty of a follower by asking for the sacrifice of his own child? How sadistic! And, in my humble opinion, I don’t care who asks you to kill your child, the correct answer is no! Added to that is the fact that this is only one of the many child sacrifice stories found within this "holy" book, and most all of these executions were carried out! God didn't put the brakes on the rest of them like he did with Abraham.

The flood is a whole other story. Now, I’m not sure exactly how many people were on the earth at this time, but apparently that was immaterial to God, who effectively murdered all of them, sparing only a drunk and his immediate family. This is another story that was twisted all sideways in Sunday school. We colored fun pictures of an ark, and giggled about all the animals that Noah would house on his biblical Titanic. We marveled at the rainbow, a symbol of the promise God had made to Noah, which was to remind us that he would never again cause a worldwide flood.

Reading as an adult, I realized that God annihilated his entire creation! What happened to the loving, compassionate, kind, forgiving God that I had been taught existed? The people on earth were honestly so evil that God decided he made a mistake creating them, and the only way to fix the situation was to murder them all and start over? And wait, God could make mistakes? And on top of all that, there really was no alternative except mass murder? He was the Lord! Surely he could have conjured up slightly more compassionate idea than genocide!

How about these rainbows I was taught to admire? After reading this story through un-biased eyes, rainbows had become a reminder to me that the God I had believed existed had purportedly killed 99.9% of his creation! I’m not even going to go into the fact that that would mean we are all inbred, since the only people that were left to procreate after this were Noah and his immediate family! Although, I supposed they were inbred too, I mean who did Adam and Eve’s children have to marry but each other??

By the time I got to the story of the firstborn children being killed, I wanted to vomit. How many excuses could I make for God before I just couldn’t take it anymore? The Bible had become the most offensive book that I’d ever read, and I was more than ashamed that there was a point in my life that I had loved it. But, sadly, I had.

There is something wonderful about Christianity in the sense that it gives you a purpose. The church is a tight knit community. For the most part, it was a good experience for me. There is a feeling of love and security around other believers. You feel like you belong, like you have a reason for being on this earth. No matter what you do, there is someone that always loves you unconditionally, that will never leave you. Someone who will forgive you time and time again, every time you mess up. When you falter and fail, he will always help you back to your feet. Unconditional love is a powerful idea, one that is extremely hard to let go.

When I finally realized I didn’t believe in God, that I couldn't believe in God, it was a heartbreaking experience. The sense of love and comfort that I had harbored was gone. But I simply couldn’t continue to believe in God, because I realized that the God of the Bible and the God I had been taught about in Church were polar opposites. As Julia Sweeney says in her monologue Letting Go of God, "It’s only because I took God so seriously that I couldn’t believe in him anymore."

I walked outside one night, and I looked up at the sky. I stared for a minute, and finally said, “You’re not the person I thought you were, and I don’t think I am either. I just can’t do this anymore. I just don’t believe you’re real.” I’ll never forget that defining moment in my life. To my complete surprise, I felt a huge burden being lifted from my shoulders. All the guilt and fear that I had been unwittingly harboring had been lifted. I felt free. I felt empowered. I felt...happy.

As time went on, I started to look at the world in a different light. I realized how lucky I was to be here. How lucky we all are to be here. And as this happened, I started to gain a new perspective on life. If we are all we have, I realized it was infinitely important that we take care of each other. I understood that there was no God keeping track of everything I did wrong, there was no threat of hell. I felt unburdened, but more than that, I realized the true importance of being a good person.

There is an innate danger in religion, which I hadn’t realized until this revelation. It teaches us that we aren’t enough. It teaches that there has to be a higher power for there to be a good enough reason to exist. It teaches us that we cannot trust in ourselves, that we are sinful and terrible people and it is only through the grace of God that we can try to better ourselves and be the people we should be. This simply is not true. In fact, only since my new found atheism have I realized the strength that I truly possess. It was only then that I could truly trust and love myself. I was capable of being all that I needed. I didn’t need some ethereal being to give me reason and purpose. It was one of those crystallizing moments, and I realized that I’d never been happier, and never been more motivated to contribute to society.

My family is deeply religious, and they struggle with my decision. My mother still cries because she believes if I were to die, I would go to hell. I’ve never wanted to make my mother upset, or anyone else in my family, for that matter. But, I couldn’t respect myself if I didn’t start standing up for what I believed in. They did it every day, and I should be afforded that same right.

I still sometimes cringe at the word “atheist,” although it is how I now identify myself. I sometimes find myself falling back into the ass-backward thinking of Christianity because it was habit for so long. But, I am slowly learning. I’m educating myself about science, which was never taught to me in the school system growing up. I'm finally employing logic and reason in my daily life without feeling ashamed, or like I’m committing some type of unforgivable sin.

I’ve continued my research on the Bible, and have found so many historical flaws, inconsistencies, contradictions, and just plain offensive language, that I’m really embarrassed to say that I ever believed it in the first place. I have nothing against Christians, but am thankful every day that I no longer call myself a sheep. Only sheep need a shepherd.

I will leave you with a quote from Bertrand Russell, who wrote,
“Men fear thought as they fear nothing else on earth -- more than ruin -- more even than death. Thought is subversive and revolutionary, destructive and terrible, thought is merciless to comfortable habit. Thought looks into the pit of hell and is not afraid. Thought is great and swift and free, the light of the world, and the chief glory of man.”


I decided that I truly didn't believe

Sent in by Amy

Hi! I just came across this site and I wanted to share MY story. I was raised by two Catholic parents in Maryland. where I live, religion plays a major role in the daily lives of people. More than 90% of my friends are Christian, and the other 10% is predominantly Jewish.

Growing up I was taught that it was bad to question my belief in God; that He would become angry with me if I ever thought too skeptically. I went to Sunday school during my entire childhood and church on Sundays as well. I also attended a Christian summer camp and was read the bible every night by my mother. Despite my indoctrination, I began to question God when I was 12. You see, by reading the bible and thinking critically, I was able to ascertain that much of "God's word" was impossible or illogical, misogynistic, cruel, and racist. I was shocked to find that God, my beloved father, sent people to Hell for small mistakes or flaws in belief. At the time I remember I simply thought "But I thought God loved us all the same?" At that point I entered a state of weak agnosticism... I couldn't find any proof of God but I was too afraid to admit I didn't believe-- I would rather delude myself.

I was lucky enough to go to a private school which had the liberty to teach evolution. As I learned more scientific theories and at the same time more Christian beliefs, I decided that I truly didn't believe this lie I was being fed about God. After all, how could there be so many religions and only one answer? So at age 14, I put down my cross and bible and accepted a different text, The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins.

I'm happy to say that I'm an atheist, and never been happier. I am so much more satisfied following a secular humanist philosophy than a Christian one. All i can say is, thank God I'm an atheist!

9/10/09                                                                                       View Comments

Still confused...

Sent in by Yoonhee

Hello!

I'm a Korean woman who's in my late 30's.

I worked as an English teacher for a while, and now I work as a freelance translator. I visit the Korean anti-christianity site quite often, and I read about this site in there. Altough I'm a Korean, I wanted to share my horrible story with you. (Sorry for my poor English...)

I attended to the Presbyterian church since I was 19. When I was a university student, I was a church-maniac. I went to church from Sunday to Monday. And, I used to pray until midnight. Maybe that's why I've got married a preacher. I've met this minister from a church seminar, and he proposed to me. And, I thought that must be GOD's order, so I've got married him in 2 months.

But, after marriage, he turned into another person. Before marriage, he seemed like an angel, but after getting married, he became a devil. With no reason, he threw stuffs, lied, stole things, watched the pornographic videos all the time, etc. And, finally he hit my face, so my nose and jaw bone has been broken.

Although I truly believed in GOD, I couldn't live with such a devil. So, after I've got hospitalized, I decided to divorce. Now, 14 years has been passed, and for the past 14 years, my life was a total nightmare. I prayed to GOD so sincerly, but I'm still suffering from a serious depression and some phobias.

I just wanted to believe in GOD, and be a good person. That's all I wanted. But, that "GOD" tested me or punished me so cruely. I still can't believe the situation that I'm in now. Before that marriage, I had everything. I was beautiful, had rich parents, graduated from one of the best universities in Korea, etc.

But, since I've got divorced, I've lost everything. Even my own family turned their back to me. If GOD is alive, and if he loves me so much, why should I live like this? Is this "LOVE"? If so, I don't want to be loved by him anymore. I just wanna go back to those days that I didn't know about GOD or the church.

Now, I curse the church people who lies to the innocent people like me, as "Up there, there's a GOD who loves you so much, and he will protect you and love you no matter what happens..." those kind of bullshits. Those who never even went to heaven or hell, and lies about the life after death should be arrested so that they can't seduce the innocent people anymore.

Thanks to "GOD" and the "Church", I've lost my 15 years from my life. And, I don't know if I can be happy as before. My life has been devastated. I know that marriage was my fault and my responsibility partly. But, is GOD really not guilty for my miserable life? Whenever I cried out for help, he never helped me. He's just all talk!!!!!

I think this Christianity is like a virus on human mind, and all the so-called "sincere Christians" are insane! And, I'm gonna fight to clean up this virus in the world. GOD! I hate you! Do you hear me?????


9/3/09                                                                                       View Comments

My gift to the world: Fearless children

Sent in by Elaine

fearlessImage by Caucas' via Flickr

The moment I stopped believing was like waking up from a dream. My heart beat fast, may head ached, I cried. It was like the my world was suddenly spinning out of control. I was sick to my stomach. I was angry. I had truly believed in God with all of my heart. He defined my life and my relationship with him was personal. And now....

In hindsight, I guess I should have known. After I became a mother, I began to wonder how any sane parent could hit their child for acting like, well, a child. My parents never spared the rod, but they were completely sane. They trusted that the God's word was just. No one questions the Will of God. When I became a mother five years ago, I began to doubt that God knew what was best for my child. The studies showed that hitting is not the best way to raise a child. Nevertheless, I was determined to raise good Christian children.

When the first Sunday of my unbelief came, I did not go to church. I wanted to hide under a rock. I was ashamed at my disbelief. I still am. I grieve the surety that I lost. I grieve the connections I had with friends, and family. It hurts so badly that at times I wish that this too is only a dream and that I'll wake up. I hope someone understands. Some times I crave the warm fuzzy feelings I got from being at church. Church was my life. But the love for my children is stronger.

We dedicated our youngest child to the Lord last year. I promised that I would be a good parent and raise him to fear God. Who will forgive me for breaking my promise? I am still afraid of hell. It has been there since I can remember. It is really hard to forget. I am a condemned hypocrite. I have committed treason. I am worse than a sinner. It has been about 8 weeks now. I no longer have many friends, unless I reconvert. But the evidence against Christianity is undeniable.

I am committed to raising children who are not afraid to ask the questions I feared to ask. To live boldly and think fearlessly, knowing nothing is too sacred or out of reach. My gift to world has cost me dearly. I want nothing in return.

But now I must start over. My heart, though heavy, is free. Reason has destroyed my life. I am broken, but I have hope. I am thankful for those who took the time to write the truth where I could find it. Each passing day it becomes easier. The truth has set me free!

Boogerman under the floorboards

Sent in by anonymous

When I was a kid, I slept with all arms and legs tightly wrapped in a quilt and never hanging over the edge of the bed. My mother had always told us that if we didn't behave, the boogerman (devil) would pull us through a hole. When my sister and I got bunk beds, I claimed the top and wouldn't take turns. I figured the boogerman would have a hard time reaching me all the way up there.

When we began to question the existence of Santa Claus, my mother told us, "It's not the presents that count. It's the spirit of Christmas." So NOW I had to worry about a ghost flying around my house on Christmas Eve. I no longer wanted presents and just wanted it to stay away.

Boogerman under the floorboards, angels and ghosts in the air and god, well, everywhere watching me every moment--I was a very nervous kid.

But, as soon as I no longer believed in ghosts and the Boogerman and fairies and unicorns, I began to also doubt god. Everybody else I knew seemed to believe, so I felt like there was something wrong with me. So I pretended. For years. And years. And I joined the choir, thinking that would bring me closer since I loved to sing and the music is beautiful. And my Dad was in the choir, and I loved my Dad. He also spent the one day a week that he wasn't at work doing the accounting for the church. If we visited the grandparents on Sunday, he would be up far into the night counting the offering and balancing the books. He was devoted to the church.

But, as soon as I went to college, and didn't have my mother nagging at me, I never set foot in a church except when I was visiting at home and felt obligated. Nevertheless, when I was about to be married, I assumed I would marry at church like everybody else did.

But, our preacher wanted my fiance', who was Jewish, to convert before we married. He said our marriage could never last unless it was built on the same faith. We decided to marry in his town in another state, but his rabbi would not marry us. So we were married by a judge (a friend of my parents who also went to their church) in my parents' living room.

It's been 31 years and two children and one grandchild and our marriage is still strong. We raised our children to value education and to think for themselves. The both have higher degrees and both married scientists, and they are the most caring young people I know--one couple raising a foster child and adopting another, and the other couple volunteering to coach kids and do environmental work in their community.

Now, here is the kicker. My father became very ill and I went to take care of him in his final months. One evening, we were just sitting and reading, and he said, "You don't believe in god, do you?" I just shook my head. And he said, "I don't think I do either."

Unfortunately, I had tears in my eyes and was afraid I would cry if I said anything, so I didn't. I should have. I wanted to have a whole conversation with him. I wished he had had that revelation much much sooner and not just a few days before he died. Because he was still at the fear stage. . .the what-if stage. And I worry that he died afraid, either of the nothing he felt he was heading for, or of offending a god he wasn't sure was there. And, I think he may have been looking back at all the time he spent counting money for a myth instead of spending more time fishing or hiking with the kids. And I am sure he was lamenting the fact that he really never would be reunited with my mother in heaven.

And he may have regretted that, out of the three kids he raised, two are even more devoted to god than he was, and two of his five grand kids are out and out Jesus Freaks.

And, I sat there and didn't say a word because my eyes were brimming over and my throat was choking up and I wanted to be brave for him and not cry during his last days.