sent in by Roy
This is a long overdue post . I would have liked to post this way back earlier, but due to my work commitments, I have decided to post this a little later than I would have wanted to, especially since Pope John Paul II's death. Better late than never, so here goes.
I have, for the past ten odd years, declared myself an atheist. And for some reason, people do not have a accurate perception what atheism truly entails, especially religious fundamentalists, who approach me from time to time, attempting to pry me away from the clutches of medieval demons and beasts.
Perhaps, before I begin to broach on the subject, it is perhaps prudent for me to explain what atheism means to me, or to the majority of atheists out there (If there ever is such thing known as a atheist majority, that is). Atheism is a state of non-belief of any phenomenon, creatures, deities, demons, objects, and everything that cannot be validated by the basic tenets of science.
Over the years I have had many religious friends coming forth to me, explaining their religious beliefs, and why it is dangerous, and sometimes immoral, not to have a basis of religious faith in my life. Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, they have all approached me, Christians especially, at some point of my life. No disrespect to them, I like the way I am now, well, maybe not entirely, but I have no need for a belief in a god above me which I can neither speak to nor hear from (Unless you are talking about a bad case of schizophrenia) to sustain my emotions. I am not an adrenaline junkie, for goodness sake!
Having said that, it would be terrible easy and high-handed for me to simply criticize them as simpletons, or label them as religious extremists. The truth is, most of them are simply sincere, ordinary folks, which makes it all the harder to refuse them, although eventually I did, and sometimes it does get a little too difficult for my liking.
Perhaps a little explanation of why I became an atheist, will shed some light into my journey towards self enlightenment.
I was raised in a Baptist Church in Singapore. By that definition, I do not mean to say I was born to a Christian family. My parents were Buddhists, as stated in their identity cards, but technically they are no more religious than the average man on the street. And so I became a Buddhist too, by birth, but that is not a issue of contention.
At the age of five, my Christian aunt somehow managed to persuade my mom to haul my sorry ass to church every Saturday and Sunday. From what I could recall, my father was pretty neutral about it, while my mom thought I could use some good old discipline, since at a young age I displayed a complete lack of discipline towards life (And I still do, by the way).
So it was, at the age of five, I was brought to my first bible class on a bright Saturday morning. My first impression of the church was that it looked very alien, so foreign that I couldn't associate the church with anything I had ever seen in all my five years on Planet Earth. It was a odd building, two storeys high, and inside the Church you could almost smell the odour of medicine emanating from the Bible study classrooms. It reminded me of a very unwelcome visit to a doctor, most depressing for a young, impressionable little boy I was then.
I was unceremoniously chucked into a class full of young kids like myself. The kids, they didn't really like me. I was kind of a sore thumb sticking out of the whole class of twenty-something kids, because almost all of them could sing the little kiddie Christian songs, and I couldn't sing a word of it. I wanted to bolt out right there and then, but being timid and nervous I restrained myself, and went through the motions. The whole process was tedious and burdensome, one which I was to suffer for the next ten years.
The class ended by afternoon. I ran out into the carpark, expecting my Christian aunt to send me home. She was nowhere to be found. Feeling, lost, helpless and entirely screwed up for a whole wasted Saturday, I cried. In fact, I cried so hard, I attracted a lot of attention. Of course, my aunt came and chided me for my entirely "unnecessary, immature" backlashes.
And so it was, that I was initiated into a fundamentalist church. As the years went by, I began to comprehend the basic fundamentals of the Christian religion, based on the Church's definition of the bible. My aunt tried her darn best to convert me, but somehow I always seen to elude her "fisherman's net" (Remember the one when Jesus brands his disciples "Fishers of Men"?)
Back then, I was pretty much a curious little lad, and throughout the next four years I was constantly indoctrinated by fundamentalist beliefs. I was taught that God created Man, and that we were born sinners, and that if we did not repent from our sins, we shall be burned in hell for eternity. At that point of time, hell didn't seem so scary to me, I mean, I was only a kid, although I must say some of the new kids who came and went didn't react to well to it. I could see it in their faces, that they really dreaded hell. Not that I loved it, but at that point of time, I just couldn't be bothered.
There were loads of issues that the Baptist Church frowned upon, chief amongst them being the mainstream media. I remembered that on one occasion, there was this newspaper cutting on the Christian Bulletin Board, about a bunch of kids who went down to the sewers to look for Ninja Turtles, after watching an episode of the cartoon series. They were finally discovered by the school authorities, who promptly put a stop to such a dangerous nonsense. I think i was about 8 years old then, and I thought:" Man, how stupid can the Americans get?" Jeez. I mean, out of millions of kids watching the Ninja turtles series, how many of them truly believe they exist in the sewers? I couldn't believe it. I thought, if they could cook up delusions about ninja turtles living in sewers, will not allowing them to watch the cartoon series make them any more smarter than they were? A classic example of stupidity, or bad evolution?
And there were the American sailors, who checked in with the Church from time to time, along with their Battle Groups from the United States Navy. I remembered this pastor, who told me that these guys, they were the righteous fellas, that they were the ones who were protecting the world from evil. I remember him saying, that America was a righteous religious country, and he showed me an American coin, bearing the four words:"In God we Trust". I was so in awe with these yankee sailors then, and when the first Gulf War came, I was thinking, oh, here comes the "Crusaders" to the rescue. Yes, pretty dumb, I must admit.
Before I was ten years old, I had pretty much asked her many questions that were to be the basic foundations of my atheism in the later stage of my life. Questions such as:"If God created Man, who created God?", and "If God consists of three characters, are there not three Gods, instead of one?", had already been figured out by my inquisitive mind, even though I had never read any of the atheist stuffs at that point of time. My Christian aunt, being a pious Christian she was, dismissed my questions, chiding me for my ignorance, or that the devil (Oh yes, the devil is blamed for almost everything) had planted just devious thoughts in my head.
At the age of ten (Or eleven), I was involved with the Vacation Bible School during my December holidays. Not the first time I attended, but it almost became the turning point of my life. I had reached the point of my life that I began to become a little too depressed for my liking. I had been in church for 5 years now, some of the kids in my original bible class had either been baptised, or were already Christians. Throughout this time, I couldn't bond with the majority of them, saved the Pastor's grandson (Larry I think his name was), and another Chinese guy. The rest, they treated me like some freak from a circus show. I didn't think I was too aloft, but I was quiet, and these kids seem to have a morbid fear of me (A case of the Beastly instincts peaking right about now? Probably) Whatever it was, Larry was the one who talked me into Christianhood, and being a fence-sitter I was then I didn't really want to make a decision, until the Vacation Bible School came along, and I was almost on the verge of being on my knees on the very last day of VBS. I was constantly bombarded with religious doctrines, that I became quite remorseful, that somehow my doubts were really planted by the Devil himself. I almost nearly converted. Somehow, I didn't. I couldn't be sure Christianity was what I truly wanted in life. Now I know.
When I went back to school I confided with my close friend, Han, about my near-conversion experience. He started hurling abuses at me, and after he calmed down somewhat, he gave me an hour-long lecture, on the importance of critical thinking, and why I should never fall prey to religious fundamentalism. He did strike a chord in me, despite the fact that he started off with a very terrible rant. My doubts were once again stirred up by his rants, and I decided there and then, that I must start to study and ponder on not just mere Christianity, but other religions as well, just to make sure, you know, that I don't drop into the wrong religion and plunge straight into hell (Very funny, I know, but back then it was serious stuff. Its my eternity, you know. Tsk Tsk)
Then came the period of self -enlightenment. For the next couple of years I began studying the world's religions, and in the midst of it all,my Christian aunt was sent off to America to take care of a dying Church member. I began to see less of the Baptist Church, but at the same time I was attending a Pentecostal Church near the secondary school I was studying in For the record, I was enrolled into a Catholic School for my secondary school, and by then I was a full-fledged Beast. I would miss homework, skip classes, and get into trouble with the school authorities, not to mention the famous incident when I was caught red-handed for a unpardonable crime: attempting to escape Mass after class had ended. The school disciplinary mistress was shrewd enough to lock up all the gates, and I was caught red-headed by her, since I was the only guy in shorts attempting to get out of school. The rest in long pants were from the upper secondary classes. A humiliating experience, to be dragged up to Mass by the disciplinary mistress. In fact, the feeling was quite akin to a infidel being dragged into the fires of the Inquisitors.
The Pentecostal Church I attended was located right in one of the bomb shelters built underneath a HDB flat, and three of my friends tagged along with me. I could still remember the enthusiasm etched onto their faces, as they sang praises of worship and uttered prayers to their God. Two of my friends showed a inclination to conversion, and I talked their way out of it. The church members, well, they were quite insistent with regards to our salvation. I declined, politely of course, since they were the ones who graciously granted us the study place for us to study our exams. My friends, well, they were, for the most part, toying with the idea, since Christianity was considered a hip religion at that point of time. After a year or so, I stopped attending the Pentacostal Church, and my friends ended their liasons as well.
The more I read, the more I couldn't reconcile the Baptist faith (Or any other faith for the matter), with my own logical mind. I could find no proof that God existed, neither could I prove God didn't exist either. But that logic applies to fairies, elves and what-nots too. Am I supposed to believe in elves, since I cannot prove they do not exist? There was this one bible class, when the preacher made a valiant attempt at discrediting evolution. He builds a pyramid of lego toys and asks the class: If this pyramid was to remain untouched for a billion years, would the pyramids be dismantled, or would the pyramids grow taller, or evolve into some other structure other than a pyramid? Of course he goes on to discredit Evolution further, by saying that if you place all the parts of a Swiss watch on the table, that if no watch maker is available, would the parts evolve and join up to make a watch. Of course, by that time it sounded to me as silly, though I thought he was right about the watch analogy. As for the pyramid, I do think that the pyramid would have disintegrated into carbon, since the lego toys are made of plastic, and plastic does self-decompose, abet after an extremely long period of time (Time to recycle, folks!). As for the watch, sure, Man made the watch, but not all things can be created. After all, the age-old argument holds: If God created Man, who created God?
Just before I decided to call it quits, I was asked by a pastor to become a full-fledged member of the Church Team, by taking up a rather misery post of Sunday school teacher. Having been a pain in the ass for generations of teachers, I have no love for teachers, much less serve as one. Very politely, I rejected. I may have disagreed with their teachings, but I have always held a certain level of respect for them, because they were upright, honest folks, and that is something I will always credit them for.
Anyway, after my last visit at about the time I was 16, I finally resolved never to go back to the Baptist Church. I became an atheist officially after my first year as a polytechnic student a year later, on the grounds that I finally came across the meaning of atheism on the internet. In reality, the day I finally decided to turn my back against the Church, I had effectively renounced religion. I have never gone back to that Baptist Church ever since. I do attend other Churches once in a while, though, usually at the behest of friends, or when friends request that I bring them in, since I have a lot of connections from which to fulfill their morbid curiosities.
There goes for de-conversion tale. Its a really long tirade, but hope the folks out there will enjoy it.
Passive Christian, since five yrs old
I left at 16 yrs old
I was a Baptist, evangelistic, pentecostal
Now I am an Atheist
I converted becuase I didn't have much of a choice
Why did you de-convert? Logical, critical thinking
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)