sent in by Kendall
this seems more than anything like an AA meeting, but anyway...
I was born into a christian home: fundamentalist mother (calvinist and dutch), a slightly milder father (methodist). and mom did speak, and there was faith. and she did speak again, and there were acts of faith. and she did speak again... and didst become angered when I couldn't figure out how to worship god in new and exciting ways. basically, my early childhood consisted of a) preschool (thank god it wasn't christian) and b) church- where I learned that satan was bad, but god wanted us to love everyone, and wasn't satan one of them? I got in trouble for asking the sunday school teacher that, fairly early on.
that was pretty much it for me: I attempted to convert my neighbors when I was young (and really set one of them off). that was about the time I started believing in evolution: I became an unofficial scientologist at that time (I was about ten). christianity was just starting to become exciting: I was discovering contemporary christian artists (DC Talk, Newsboys, etc). I became fairly heavily involved in it: going on retreats and so on. then several of the pastors did a whole series of meetings about how games are evil (specifically roleplaying games, but every type has its place in hell). that didn't sit well with me, but it took another couple of years before I figured out why: it involved a book I was reading (a fantasy novel) that had a 'sample RPG' at the back of it: a DND fast-play scenario designed to rope fantasy nerds- like me- into the DND fold. it worked, and it suddenly clicked what the wrong feeling was with the pastors: they had lied, simply because they'd had a bad experience and had seen several cases of players taking the game too seriously. and with that realization came a chain reaction: if they could lie about this... they could lie about other things. I became more heavily involved in roleplaying (I don't do much anymore, but I was exploring the depth of it at the time to see if they even knew what they were talking about: they did, to an extent. it had been 30 years at the time since either of them had played any RPG), and the 'character exploration' somewhat inspired me to question what I believed: up until that point, I had taken that there was a god for granted. then one of my role-playing friends confessed to being wiccan: I had heard of it once or twice (in church, about how evil it was) and decided to try it.
"communing with the goddess" did indeed give me a funny gut feeling. it took me another several years and a good bit more insight to realize that the 'funny feeling' was the subconcious realization that this was a bunch of shit. from there, I went straight to athiestm, fuelled in part by Carlin's objective (and hilarious) look at religion: it had convinced me that there was an invisible man! living in the clouds! who was watching me each and every second of each and every day. then I started to look back at what I had believed and became so repulsed I began hating all religion, but specifically christianity.
the key thing that I've learned from all of this is that christianity is a very helpful crutch. a group of people who will go through hell to avoid an imagined one and will help each other is the basis for many very successful organizations: such as religion and (in certain cases) a highly functional branch of the military. both of these groups preach protection of 'brothers and sisters', both are very concerned with who dies and lives, both are (ideally) tightly knit organizations that back up each individual with a group, and each individual backs up the group. both are very dangerous and are more than capable of a great deal of destruction, however, both are capable of a great deal of good too, if they can be convinced that it needs to be done (look at cathedrals if you'd like an example from religion, and the maginot line and the foreign aid stations from the military). If you've never been a part of a tightly knit group, then be warned: if you mess with one, you're messing with all of them, and any who take a fall usually become martyrs: "don't be like him, and make it impossible for others to make more like him!"
the other thing I've learned has more to do with my personal distaste of religion. in a very dispassionate way, I can point out the fatal flaws in most religions (mormonism being easiest, then wicca, then christianity, and so on): but I've figured out WHY I dislike religion- its because it fooled me, and I see others partaking of it as reflections of my own weakness. "they're taking the easy way out, and I have to take the hard way out? fuck them, I'm going to vent a little bit!"