sent in by BeMuseMe
I was born in the peak year of the baby boom way down south and half way west in BIG D near ground zero of the Military Industrial Republic of Texas. My father was a Constable On Patrol from exactly the day before I was born. He was just a big ole country boy off the farm in the big bad sinful city with his sweetly naive teen bride at his side.
I am sure I was in church by the time I was a week old. In those early years church amounted to playing with others kids. I was exposed to both the city life and country life. My grand parents on both sides were southern baptist and there I got that old time bible thumpin off key singing fire and brimstone style religion. While back in the city it was a bit more laid back liberal free wheeling just say no gimme a hug see ya in church? kinda show. It was just a part of my life that I payed little attention to. I was loved and the wonderous world was mine.
As I became more self aware and less secure the fear rose up inside me. To be fair it was the whole crazy world of the time not just the preaching that caused my fears. I remember the tension of the adults during the cuban missile crisis and the looks on their faces when JFK was asassinated, in my home town no less. I was made to duck and cover in A-bomb drills at school. My best friends mother told us that Captain Hook lived in the woods behind our houses in an effort to keep us close to home (it did not work). THE END IS NIGH...
Well about this time, I'd say 7 years old there I was in sunday school one sunny morn. The teacher was telling us about the wages of sin or some such thing. He passed around an honest to gawd-awful photo of a man in the electric chair just as the juice hit him. He told us that as bad as his punishment was hell would be a millions times worse and forever. After that it was on to the main service. I had sung the songs, and otherwise day dreamed through the hour or so but enough was enough and I was starting to squirm. As they started the invitational hymn I squirmed even more wanting to get out of there. My mother saw it and took it to be the spirit moving in me, which it was, just not the spirit she thought. It wasn't Jesus but rather my own little imp trying to jump nakid out of the monkey suit they had me in. She started questioning me and pressuring me to go down front and be saved. So I thought maybe I am bad and I would sure hate to fry forever, and up front I went. Confess this(not that I had much to confess), pray that, hugs and kisses, pat on the back, well done my good and faithful servant, warm fuzzies AH man I'm saved???
After that life went back to the same ol same ol. School five days a week, church at least once a week, cub scouts boy scouts, carefree summers, weekends on grandpas farm. It could have been a Norman Rockwell painting, but for the times, they were a changing. As I grew, questioned, and learned it started to become much more Dali-esque.
Vietnam was raging, John Lennon said the Beatles were more popular than Jesus as the freaks sang Give Peace a Chance and the war for americas youth began. I had always been taught to think for myself, be truthful, and take reponsibility for your own actions. And now I was being told that rock and roll was evil, all those hippies who were against the war were godless communist, and I better watch out or the boogey man would kidnap my immortal soul. I was torn. All the adults I knew were good people if somewhat confused themselves but those hippies didn't seem so bad either. I saw the pictures of children burned by napalm and heard the nightly body counts over the dinner table. Then I saw the picture of a bhuddist monk setting himself on fire in protest. I thought he's not a christian but instead of harming others he is sacrifcing himself for a principle.I started to question the status quo. I wanted to know why if "Thou shall not kill" were we this great christian nation, in another land enforcing our will on another people. I asked if "All men are created equal" why do all the dark skinned people have to live over there across the tracks. And Why? Who Says? What for? etc. etc. etc. I asked at home, at school, at church. Answer-"Because I said so"!, "because it's always been that way"!!, because "Thus saith the lord"!!! on and on ad-infinitum. blah blah blah- set down and shut up.
So I did. I shut my mouth but kept my brain wide open. Adolescence passed with only the occassional run in with authority. And no, the rod was not spared at those times. I got good grades and did what my elders told me, at least while they were looking. Then puberty happened and my folks were too embaressed to talk to me about it. They gave me a book about sex with blank spaces for "your name here", but still could not answer my questions without blushing. So my church going parents got me a summer job with an old cowboy, at his stables on the edge of town. The idea was that I could see the whole cycle with the animals and talk to an adult who was not shy about sex. I think they got more than they bargained for. Here I was a kid from a close family where all the adults I knew stayed married getting my sex education from an old honky-tonker who had been married several times and all that summer had a live in girl friend. They were so free. He would pat her behind as she was bent over me with milk and cookies giving me a nice view down her dress. Then as he kidded me about the bulge in my pants she would give me a wry wink, as I flushed red. So by the end of the summer I was fully versed on human and animal sexuality or at least the what went where and such.
Now came the teen years and the parents made sure I became more involved at church. We were a church of a 500 people or so and had a full youth group. You know pizza fellowships, ball teams, and choir. About this time we got a new youth director. He was I must say not like any church man I had ever met. He was educated and getting more so all the time. He did not preach but instead teach always inviting open discussion. He never once made me feel bad for asking the tough questions, although I do think he caught hell sometimes from older members of the congregation. But for all the openess I do recall that when I wondered why our particular brand of religion was best I was given a book on comparative religion. Of course as it turned out the book was published by the Southern Baptist Convention and it was anything but fair and balanced. So I quit asking questions again.
We did musicals, which we took on the road in the summers. Served as councellors at church camp, and went on retreats. As time passed I became one of the older boys in a church full of cute girls. Me and a buddy played our guitars and sang modern christian music while the girls sighed in the front row. I was in heaven. So one night on weekend retreat I overcame my usual shyness and told one of the girls how much I liked her. She and I were the only ones who had not paired off and I felt kind of left out. Well she shot me down as she had a boyfriend at school. That night at prayer service I re-upped so to speak. I don't know what I was thinking. I think maybe I though if I just did everything right Jesus would hook me up with a beautiful angel. Thing was I wasn't thinking I was feeling sorry for myself and craving some special attention. This was when I was 17.
Now to be fair to my parents, from the time I was 16 I was free as long as I went to school and did my chores. I was allowed to read whatever I wanted, see whatever movies I chose, go off for the weekend with friends..."Just stay out of trouble"(dad) and "treat her like a lady"(mom). I basically stayed under their radar as my dad and older brother had knock down dragouts. Now remember dad was a god fearing law and order type while brother was a developing manic depressive with an IQ of 180. I just kept my mouth shut and did my time.
Big bro finished school and left for the marines. I did my last two years and the summer of my eighteenth year went with a friend to haul hay in kansas to make money for college and get away from home. That summer my little universe started to expand. I met a girl who was Christian Scientist and she had no concept of what I was talking about when I asked her if she had been saved. It was a real eye opener to find someone who was labeled christian but had an utterly different world view. I finished that summer with a romance under my belt and returned to Texas for the fall semester of college. Now against my fathers advice I went to a liberal arts school for a degree in fine arts. ( they rued the day) I was in for some more eye opening. There were people of all races, sexual orientations, nationalities, and creeds.
It was during these years with classes in anthropolgy, nude figure drawing, real comparative religion and such that doubt began to rise to the surface. I made it thru 2 1/2 years of university before finances and exhaustion caused me to drop out. Always figuring I would go back. Never did, oh well.
Now during the college years I had gotten a steady girlfriend who was still in high school. We came from simular backgrounds and her folks liked me so all was rosy. It was with her that I had my first sexual experiences. I was in love. I felt no guilt but looking back I realize that all though she liked it too it also scared her because of her age. So in the end I chased her away by wanting to get married too soon. I started dating around which I had never really done. I hooked up with old friends got a house and the party was on. For several years we tried better living through chemistry. Now I won't say I saw the face of god but I did take a good hard look at the inside of my psyche.
While still missing my first love I hooked up with a girl who gave me all the sex I wanted guilt free or so I thought. We did our thing for a time until old girl friend calls me up saying she is moving out of town and would I help her. Since I had made no promises to new girlfriend I said sure. We made the trip and as I started back I was informed that it was over between us. Back in town the other girl, though a bit miffed, took me back. Now I must say it was crazy times. It turns out (did not know this til years later) the girl I helped move was pregnant, not by me, and had left town to avoid a scandal. She returned months later looking for me but low and behold I had up and married the other because she was insecure having had a child out of wedlock(what a word) while going to a fundamentalist university, and the good little christian guy had deserted her. She had given the child up for adoption.
Soon I was to wonder why I couldn't just keep it in my pants. Why this need to be in love. Why couldn't I just have had sex with no love and committment involved. I dug in tried to be a good husband and both of us became more and more miserable. Needless to say the marriage did not last. As it turns out she was a major manic depressive with a mother who had been married five times. And guess what a lot of fundie influences going back generations. Her answer to any confrontation was run away. I was crushed. I felt like a failure as divorces just did not happen in my family. My family and friends gave me lots of support although the folks felt I should return to the fold and all would be well.
This is when I came out. I told them that I did not believe any more and that in fact I believed that the rigidity of their belief system was part of my problem. I was a young man who should have been out sowing my wild oats instead of looking for permanance just yet. I immediately got a mistress no strings attached and started exploring myself. That relationship did not last but neither of us thought it would.
That has been some years ago and sometimes I date sometimes I'm alone but I have a lot of good friends many of them women and my art is better than ever. Life is good. I enjoy skinny dipping in the creek, thrashing at the punk rock show, and catching the occassional buzz, all guilt free. I have studied all the worlds religions and philosophies at least in a cursory manner. I have no regrets and no fears.
Losing my father a couple of years ago was tough but no more so than it was for the believers in the family. He was an honest man who did what he thought was right. I blame no one for how my life has turned out but me. Those generations before me followed what they knew. Mom will always love me although she still tries to get me to go to church when I am visiting her. I generally go in the middle of the week and have some place else to be come sunday. The guilting does not work on me anymore. Older brother and his wife are committed atheist. Younger brother and his wife are christians but open enough to debate without getting upset and lil sister is a believer who isn't accepted by the church because she is gay.
I do think I might have had less troubles in life if I had been given the ethics without the hocus pocus. Here I am middle aged, finally with the guts to follow my dreams of working for myself come hell or highwater. And if Love comes along thats great but, I will do nothing anymore just because thats the way it's always been done. In many ways I am lucky. I have always had the capacity for great personal joy and wonderment. And damn it all people like me. Life has taught me much more compassion and tolerance than any of that religiosity ever did. My only worries these days are the right wing religious nuts in D.C. these days, but I do believe their days are numbered. I see a new day dawning when the Light Of Reason will illuminate the darkness of our world...ohm and AMEN!!!
Sex: 85% male
City: Bent-on Cow-n-treez
Country: The God-all US of the red, white,black & bl-ooze
Became a Christian: Bred and born to it- 1st conversion experience 7 -2nd ce/or rededication 17
Ceased being a Christian: Actually I don't think I was ever really convinced of the veracity of the tales I was told.
Labels before: Southern Baptist
Labels now: Bho-dis-ta-va-da-tin' Boo-gee Boy-ing glub gliberty glee
Why I joined: 1st I needed to pee and go play 2nd time envy pride jealousy lust seeking attention
Why I left: Blinded by the light!!!
Email Address: bemuseme at tds.net
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)