sent in by Reverend Jeremiah
The longer I have been an Atheist, the longer I realize that I was never much religious before my conversion. I can remember my earliest Sunday school experiences rather well actually, my mother practically had to drag me into the church on Sundays! While I was in the classrooms, I would drift uncaringly into the land of unrestrained imagination, resulting in poor "grades" on my religious assignments. This of course, even at the tender age of seven, did not worry me one bit. Sometimes, now that I'm mentioning it, I would straight out skip Sunday school, making sure that my mother would see me enter the classroom hallway, smile and wave at her, look around to make sure the aggravating teacher didn't see me, and dip out with my friends. I found that walking around my neighborhood with my friends was more interesting than coloring pictures of a dead man on a stick. I had to be on my toes though, and make sure to return on time for church service (or "nap time", as I thought it should be called). Don't get me wrong, our pastor Rev. Napier was a good person in my mind, for not only did he marry my parents for free, he also gave them pots and pans for a wedding present when their parents were against them getting married to begin with. He wasn't your typical "fire and brimstone" southern Baptist preacher either, in fact he was VERY mellow during his services, and it wasn't uncommon to hear a congregant wake himself up with his own snoring...lol. My mother would sit on the bottom row with her friends, and I would get up in the balcony and play under the pews or sleep.
During summer break, my mother would enroll me into summer bible camp against my wishes, and send me off for many hours during the day. Now I realize that she did it more for her own peace of mind than for my indoctrination because my mother hasn't been to church in a long, LONG time. I cared about art and technology more than church in my early teen years, it was around that time that the internet was starting, and anyone with a phone line and a TRS 80 color computer could share games with other people, a 13 year old boys dream come true!
It wasn't until my junior high school years when I discovered Dungeons and Dragons, this game completely opened my mind and encouraged me to learn as much as I could about many things in our past history. Ancient weapons and armor, ancient traditions and superstitions, and of course, other religions. In fact there was one D&D book (Deities and Demigods) that was instrumental to my conversion from Liberal Christianity to what I now call Pantheistic Paganism. The only thing better than paganism to me at the time was the pagan women. Pagan women taught me things that Christian women would never dream of. Actually, as of this date, the majority of my life was spent in the mentality of paganism more than anything else. Many of my pagan friends joined a local bible study class (I was chasing after 3 women who were part of it) to better educate our selves to Christianity. It was in that class that I had my first lesson in freethinking, though that was not what the teacher originally intended. One night, in class, the teacher opened up the bible and spoke the verse "Thou shalt not steal", he looked up at us and said "I don't like this verse!" and proceeded, to the absolute shock of the Christians, to rip that page out of the bible. I could do nothing but grin! He then found another page "For God so loved the earth..I don't like this either!" and ripped that page out as well! This went on and on until he asked what our opinion was about the lesson. All of the Christians said the same thing, "Your going to go to hell for that", but my pagan friends and I answered with what he wanted to here "If you don't follow every word of this book, you might as well be tearing out what you don't want, because then it is no different from any other book" The funny thing is, what he originally intended to be a plea for literal fundamentalism backfired into the greatest example of freethought that his students probably have ever seen in their lives! And in a church, by a church leader no less! Oh sweet, sweet irony.
This experience was not the final straw that brought me to conversion, no sir. Because, at the prime male age of 21, a friend of mine shot himself in the face with a 12 gauge shot gun, MY shot gun. He was terribly depressed, and I was devastated! He was my greatest friend at the time, and also my room mate, which also added considerable financial strain as well. I was forced to move back in with my parents. I suffered from severe depression for many months afterwards, making it near impossible for me to keep a job. It was then, at my most weakest of mental states, that the predator known as born-again-fundamentalism found me through two distant relatives. They said that angels were singing and the devil was stomping his feet when I accepted Jesus into my life, and I felt all goose-pimply and stuff. Now that I have a skeptical mindset, I see it more as a time where I needed to be accepted by my peers, and to be loved and excited, as opposed to living in fear and depression. I had already read the bible once so far, in bible study class, but this time I was reading it from a Christians perspective, instead of a pagans perspective. That didn't last long, I read EVERY word, from cover to cover, and was left feeling completely confused. When I asked for help, I was given the blame, instead of the bible, that I was sinning somehow, and it wasn't being translated by god because of this. Or that I needed to pray for every verse or some other strange excuse. I even went so far as to fast and abstain from sex and read it, NOPE, still no good. Hindsight being 20/20 now tells me that the seeds of freethought were already sown, and without the constant supervision of charismatics to hinder my doubt, I slipped into a deep agnosticism.
I was now ripe for atheism, yet I didn't even know it. I read much philosophy, especially Epicurus' argument from evil and the other Atomists (Democritus is my favorite). It was then that it happened, the day that everyone will remember, 9-11! I was out traveling for another job at the time it happened, but the economy dropped and there were no more jobs after that day. I had a brand new baby boy to take care of, and no job for either me or my wife. Reality hit hard that month, I came home, sat down cradling my infant son watching the news repeat the horror again and again with no sign of financial relief for my family in sight. It was at that moment that I looked in my sons eyes and said "There is no god". And even though some would think that I should have been even more depressed, I actually felt better! In fact, it felt as though a million tons of bricks were lifted from my chest, every thing seemed brighter, clearer, and suddenly I realized that this must be the enlightenment that so many philosophers have spoken of. I felt as though the sun was only a few inches from the back of my head, and that the fear of death and all of those mental demons we all have created sense birth through our fears completely melted away! Yes, 9-11 was a wake up call, a call for us to wake up to the fact that this is the only life that we have, and what we make of it, be it good or bad, is our decision that has consequences upon everybody. And as for me and my house...we will follow the Enlightenment.
Now I have a wonderful parody site, with original flash animations. go check it out at www.reverendjeremiah.com
P.S.: I must also give my thanks to Skeptics Annotated Bible.com, my great friend Atheistar, and American Atheists for making me a stronger Atheist...Kudos!
Country: United States
Became a Christian: 21
Ceased being a Christian: 24
Labels before: Sothern Baptist, Born-again
Labels now: Strong Atheist
Why I joined: depression
Why I left: I read the entire bible
Email Address: jeremiah at reverendjeremiah dot com