'Twas long ago, and yet not that long, that I found myself on my knees blubbering tears of guilt and "giving" my heart to Jesus.
I'd just attended a chapel service at a youth camp on scholarship from my local church during the summer of '66. The minister was shooting fish in a barrel that year, it seems, as I wasn't alone there on my knees.
Several other kids were there blubbering along with me. It seems silly to me now, but at the time it was easily the most profound thing that had ever happened to me. I was "saved" from my sins...
The next summer, I was baptised in one of the lakes that abound in this part of Florida. Yes, I was dressed in Sunday best, and Reverend Black gently laid me back into the water and dunked me under for a few seconds.
Shortly after being removed from the water, it occured to me that something wasn't quite right about all of this.
Later that day, when he asked me if I wanted to join the rolls of the chuch, explaining that my folks would have to do my tithing for me, I had a stunning revelation.
Call it epiphany, if you like. I certainly do.
All that I'd been taught, the stories, the sermons, the parables - everything - finally made sense. Unfortunately for the church, the sense it made wasn't quite what it expected of me.
Finally I knew what it was all about, and it had nothing to do with Original Sin, Heaven, Hell, morality or any of the other things the church will tell you only it can tell you. Even the God I'd been taught was real was only periphery to the purpose of the church.
All in a flash I knew what the church was. By extension, I also knew what religion was all about, why the appeal was strictly to the emotions and not the intellect, why the promised reward was so "great", why the threatened damnation was so "horrific", and why it was so important that my parents do my tithing for me.
It's all a confidence game.
Now, I can imagine many of you reading this and saying to yourselves, "That's an epiphany?"
And I reply, "You're damned straight it was!"
There I was, 13 years old, suddenly feeling all of the things I was taught that Jesus would bring to me when I accepted him into my life, and I'd just rejected him.
Joy, freedom, lightness of heart filled me to the brim. Believe it or not, I still feel that way.
Maturity has brought me clearer understanding of the underpinnings of religion and why it is so successful an enterprise.
Maturity is the enemy of religion. That's why you have to be as a little child to accept it...
Some folks never grow up.
Was: Southern Baptist
Converted because: Emotional coercion
De-converted because: Good question - see testimony
email: dale-b at cfl dot rr dot com