sent in by Vic
This testimony was taken from my Website "The Pyrrhonist"
My fascination with things "divine" started at a very early age. As a young lad, brought up in a Roman Catholic country (Mozambique, under the Portuguese) and attending junior school at the Convent in the city of Beira, the idea of becoming a priest was, perhaps, my first conscious thought on religion in general.
What brought that idea about has been lost in the recesses of my mind, but I suspect that the pomp and ceremony of the liturgy, and the influence of the nuns who taught me in those formative and impressionable years, played a major role in my first career decision.
As I grew older that infatuation with the divine grew colder and was eventually lost by the time I attended high school and it was not rekindled until many, many years later when I was married, and the proud father of a lovely baby girl.
This does not mean that religious thoughts were totally obscured during those intermediate years. I continued to read the Bible, and other books on the Bible, chiefly to be able to discuss, or rather argue, with people who considered themselves Christians and who believed they were privileged to enter Paradise while we rebels would go straight to Hell, if you were of the Protestant persuasion, or linger for a time in Purgatory if you were lucky enough to be a Roman Catholic (they believe that you have to be a real monster to go straight to Hell).
My first contact with really zealous Christians was when I was at school in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and who, to my amazement did not considered themselves Christians per se, but went by the name, or title, of Jehovah Witnesses.
It was all rather confusing and strange to me for I believed that if one followed the teaching of the Bible, and accepted that both the Old and New Testaments were written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, one could call oneself a "Christian". The only difference there was, as far as I was concerned, was that there were Protestants and Catholic Christians and that this division had come about due to the Protestants’ refusal to accept the Pope as vicar of Christ and that he had the gift of infallibility when ruling on matters spiritual, and for which they were castigated, and labeled as heretics, in Catholic circles. I had no idea that the Protestants were further divided into Anglicans, Baptists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Pentecostals – which were further subdivided into Full Gospel, Assemblies of God, Apostolic, etc., etc.
And now these Witnesses too, who seemed to have an answer for everything, no matter how illogical it sounded, like when one of them suggested that Adam and Eve were "coloured" to my query on how the various races of man had come to be. It was from these people that I got my first Protestant Bible and realized that this Bible had indeed less books than the Catholic one, which was exactly what my Catholic teachers had been maintaining all along and which, according to them, was ample proof of the error of their ways.
During discussions with these Witnesses the question of the validity of the claim that their Bible was the Word of God was one of the main topics. They claimed that every word in Scripture was inspired and that the true author of the Book was God Himself who had used a number of people (very much like one uses a number of pens) to write the manuscript, the completion of which took millennia. These manuscripts were then bound together by other individuals (who were also under the influence of the Spirit) into book form, and that’s how the present Bible came to be. And woe to anyone who didn’t accept this as true, for they would be annihilated. Christianity teaches that fire and brimstone, and a thousand devils would torment his/her soul for all eternity.
When questioned why they believed the Bible to be the true Word of God I would get "My Bible tells me so" answer, and I just could not get across to them that one can not prove a book to be true by referring to passages in that same book, and it made me wonder if logic had completely vanished from their minds.
The idea, too, that the Bible had been written, and was essential, for the instruction of Man in the ways of the LORD (and man’s salvation) also did not make much sense to me. As I saw it, if the total dictation was not completed until around about 100 AD, the folk that were born and lived before that date were at a disadvantage, not having the whole text available to them, and could well be labelled highly "underprivileged".
I dismissed the whole story as hocus-pocus and actually felt sorry for these folks, whose life revolved around the old pages of a not so ancient manuscript, which had been tampered with by countless scribes, editors and con artists.
I was to eat my words, so to speak.
In the early 1970s I would become a Christian in the full sense of the word.
To be more precise, I became a Christian of the sub-group "Protestant", genus "Apostolic", species "Pentecostal", also known as "the happy clappers", "sky pilots", "Jesus people" and other appellatives of this kind.
Total dissatisfaction with the way the World was being manipulated by a selected few, my own way of life, and the responsibilities which came from being a parent, led me to cry out for something more stable, more lasting, and, one night, I was ‘born again’.
The experience was rich and fulfilling and I found myself a completely different human being. It could be considered a true miracle and from thereon I believed in miracles, in the power of the God of the Bible, and His loving concern for each and every one of His creatures, and I looked at my new self as a channel to convey that love and His Word to bring others into the light that would guide them to the heavenly ‘mansions’ which awaited all those who truly believed and remained faithful to the cause.
It lasted four years.
During this period of ignorant bliss, where the heart ruled the mind, and as I read the Book through the tinted glasses of faith, that first yearning of becoming a priest returned, only that in our circle such person was called a "Pastor". They were happy days, where death was looked upon as a door to a better world and funerals were to be considered joyous occasions.
My church group, however, was treated as pariahs and considered "beyond the pale" by other Pentecostal groups simply because we did not believe in the Trinity and preached that God was one and not three. That we baptized "in Jesus name" and not "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost" further alienated us from the other churches and we were looked upon with suspicion, perhaps even as instruments of the "Evil one" sent to the world to try and ‘deceive the very elect’. Discussions between members of other denominations and ourselves became at times heated, as we tried our best to show them that we were right and they were wrong. It gave us double joy that we were not only saving souls from the ‘fiery furnace’ but were also showing our fellow Christians ‘a more perfect way’. It did wonders for moral and made us fell unique.
So, what made me return to the path of unbelief?
A couple of factors contributed to my "back sliding". The first was moving away from the group influence of the church due to me being transferred to another city and, secondly, my continuous search for more knowledge of the divine to satisfy myself that my belief was based on fact and not just on emotion; that what I held as Truth was indeed genuine, and not only a desperate attempt at clutching at straws because of some deep-seated anxiety.
I came to the realization that this ‘born again’ phenomenon, which had transformed my life and given me so much comfort and happiness, had nothing to do with the Bible being the Word of God or, for that matter, with the God of the Bible. It had to do with my psycho, with my sub conscious mind and did not require the help of JEHOVAH.
I realized too that all religions teach the basic concept of ‘Good and Evil’ and that divine revelation and ‘born again’ experiences were not the sole property of the Christian faith. I further realized that all religions, to some extent or another, have had a negative influence on the advancement of knowledge.
Christianity, in particular, has been guilty of teaching its followers to regard life on this planet as a transitional event to be endured by keeping one’s mind focused on the spooky world beyond the grave. It is thanks to Christianity that the Western civilization was plunged into the Dark Ages for it extinguished the torch of knowledge and reason, which had been passed down through history by previous civilizations, a torch that only very recently has been rekindled.
It is thanks to its doctrines, which have its roots in the teachings of Saul of Tarsus, that so much damage has been done to the spirit of man and contributed in no small manner to the historical and present slavish attitude of the masses who are incapable of rising against the crushing yoke that has been placed around their necks by the oh so very human ‘principalities and powers’ that make their lives a living hell on Earth. And all religions seem to look after their shepherds far better than their flock.
And so I came around full circle, and this work* reflects my present belief – that the Bible is nothing more than a collection of stories, some with a historical background (in some cases distorted), others borrowed from much older sources and presented as pertaining to Hebrew history, and others still, which are wholly fictitious.
*'work' reffers to my Version of the Scriptures that can be read at http://www.geocities.com/avflf/BibleIndex_1.htm
How old were you when you became a christian? Baptized R.C.
What churches or organizations or labels have applied to you? Roman Catholic from birth. Pentescostal for 4 years.
What labels, if any would you apply to yourself now? Agnostic
Why did you become a christian? Read the story
Why did you deconvert? Logic vs. faith
mwfenton at iafrica.com
Online Reading List
- An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish by Bertrand Russell (1943)
- Bible Teaching and Religious Practice by Mark Twain
- God is Imaginary
- Is there an Artificial God? by Douglas Adams (1998)
- Skeptics Annotated Bible
- The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine (1795)
- Which Way? by Robert Ingersoll (1884).
- Why I Am Not A Christian by Bertrand Russell (1927)