RELIGION FREE ZONE

sent in by TWJ

Just thought I'd add my two cents. My father was a conservative, fundamentalist minister who is well known to many in the mid-west. I remember when I was first questioning my faith and I wished I could just hear about someone like me who had left his or her faith. It wasn't easy at first, but has become much easier and more comfortable as time passes. I'm 45 now and have a lovely wife and family.

I found that leaving my parents, extended family and friends to live in other states helped make leaving "the faith" much less painful. It can be difficult at first, but it can be done successfully.

I'd recommend that if you're a young person who is a "free thinker", if you've found the courage to admit that no one knows if there is a God or not, just keep it to yourself. This is particularly true for PKs (preacher's kids) and MKs (missionary's kids). Don't let people know that you're a non-believer until you can afford to become financially independent. Get yourself through school - far from home if possible, then get a decent job and move away.

I'm really talking to young adults who are trapped in very tight, high profile religious families. No one can imagine the grip that this type of life can have on a child unless you've lived it and have successfully escaped it.

Only the brave of heart, only those who have the courage to face the truth, will leave the faith they were born into. That's why Muslim kids become Muslims, Buddhists become Buddhists and babies born to Christian parents become Christians. This is particularly true if the parents are "faithful" believers in their religion - fundamentalists.

As you go through life, you'll find that very few people are brave enough to admit that they don't believe in God. Truly INTROSPECTIVE, curious, intelligent individuals who are willing to reflect upon the truth of human existence will come to a point in their life when they do not believe in any religion.

This "enlightenment" or period of "doubt" (depending on your perspective) can be brought about by numerous things. In my experience, I've found that comprehensive education, literature, science, music, art, conversational comments, study of philosopy or negative personal experiences in a religious setting can trigger the lucid thoughts that allow us to contemplate the possibility of living life without religion.

This realization can take place within a few minutes or a person may struggle for years with this "doubt". At some point most people will make a decision to free themselves from religion or go along with it because the alternative is so painful.

Although there are people who really believe that their religion is true, many people go to church or claim a religion simply because they can't imagine any way of fitting into society without it. Some fear what would happen to their relationships with family and friends without the common bond of their belief in religion. The sickening truth is that sometimes the very people who at one point realize that God is not real, actually make a conscious decision to "fake it 'till 'ya make it" or "believe" because the alternative is so frightening to them.

Read as much as you can, learn as much as you can, be truly honest with yourself, and you'll find that you won't be able to remain a christian. In fact, you won't be able to have any "faith". You'll find that you've become one of us, one who honestly recognizes that religions were born of man's need to have explanations. Religions 'fill the gaps' and provide a crutch, an opiate, for the masses that are not courageous enough to face the truth.

I've come to think of myself as an atheist. Not because I know there isn't a god, but because I've chosen to live my life as if there isn't one. I have no reason to believe in god and every reason to believe that we are not very different from the other life on this planet. More advanced in many ways, but still, probably just the lucky result of nature's crapshoot. Now I choose to live by the rules of society that humans have subconsciously recognized from the dawn of time rules that preserve humanity and insure the survival of our species.

When we die, we die. There's no afterlife, no heaven, no hell, we just stop breathing and loose consciousness. Once you wrap your mind around it, it's a beautiful, freeing thing. On the other hand, this is the very concept that most people aren't prepared to face. The fact that you're responsible for your actions, that you get a few moments of consciousness, and that you pass away into nothingness without anything to show for it - no one judges you - no one takes your hand to lead you into the clouds because you were such a good person, sends you back to live life again so you can learn more lessons, or kicks you into hell... you just die.

Good luck in your personal search for truth.

To thine own self be true!

11 comments:

MadBuni said...

TWJ, excellent post.

I can relate to what you said about young people who question their faith. I experienced it first hand. It is very hard, and really impossible to state your true feelings while being dependent upon your folks. Most christians do not give their children a choice, even when they are older. They send them to christian schools, make them go to church, and force god down their throats until the mind virus has spread and infected them.

I got away by getting married (not a good idea btw) at an early age, and while I was free to do what I wanted, the stronghold of religion still caused fear and guilt and constant searches for the "right" religion until I finally realized as I got older that I didn't need god or a church at all. That was the day I finally got peace in my life, and haven't even wanted to look back.

I raised my children without religion because I didn't want them to be exposed, but I made a big mistake. I did not help immunize them from the virus while they grew up. When they got older my son was indoctrinated by my mom, but to a mild extent, and finally declared he was an atheist. My daughter is a different story. She married a catholic boy, and is taking classes now at age 31 to become RC. While this doesn't hurt our relationship one bit, (she knows I am atheist) it does make me sad that she will be sending her 2 little children through the RC schools, and she might have some real problems later on if she wakes up and starts thinking for herself again.

Jim Lee said...

As an ex Christian now of some years and now 71 years of age. I have this to say. If you have come to the conclusion that Christianity is fraudulent no matter your age then tell it to the world. Christianity needs to be exposed for it's fraudunlence. It has developed into a master of lies and deceit. Christianity is not easy to put behind you at first but once a decision is made then you go from strength to strength. To escape the dogma is to be free indeed.

Anonymous said...

You write: "When we die, we die. There's no afterlife, no heaven, no hell, we just stop breathing and loose consciousness."

I agree that is a very freeing concept. It takes a bit of getting used to after expecting to go to heaven for so long, but actually it helps me value this life a lot more than I did previously when I thought it was merely a prelude to heaven.

--Daniel

freedy said...

Great post! Ihave a son who just deconverted at a christian school
and will recieve a full scholarship
to colledge of choice .Do you think this "keep mouth shut" approach applies to his situation? Isn't honesty always the best policy, and should he compromise his intellectual stance against religion?,...peace freedy

Bob (Been There, Got the T-Shirt) said...

Great post TWJ, welcome.

I found this and thougth it might help-

http://www.atheists.org/:

"Coming Out - Atheism: The Other Closet" by Dave Silverman

Degrees of "Outness"
There are degrees to which one is open about his or her atheism. While there is often overlap, these are the degrees as I see them:

Degree 1:
Completely closeted. Not even your spouse knows. You tell everyone you're a believer, and you may even attend church services to convince those around you. You're living a lie, terrified that someone may learn the truth.

If you fit into this category something must change in the near term. Your spouse, who loves and trusts you for who you are, needs and has the right to know.


Degree 2:
Mostly secret. Your spouse knows, but most of your family and friends don't. You avoid the subject at all costs at work, and if it does come up, you will hide your atheism.


Degree 3:
Somewhat open. Some family members and most friends know, but you are hesitant to bring it up in conversation. It's still a secret at work, unless you are very close friends with a coworker or two who know. You have friends who are atheists, and may belong to an organization like American Atheists for moral support and connectivity. You may write a letter to a congressperson, but not to the local paper, because you don't really want your atheism published. You may avoid the subject when it comes up, but if pressed you will not call yourself a believer (though you may soften the blow by using the term "agnostic" or "freethinker", even if you're an atheist by definition).


Degree 4:
Mostly open. Almost anyone who knows you knows you don't practice religion. Coworkers, perhaps including your boss, all your friends and your entire family is aware. You don't shout it from rooftops, but you make no effort to hide your atheism when it comes up in conversation, and may occasionally raise the conversation yourself.


Degree 5:
Completely open. Every time the subject comes up, you state your disbelief with pride and frankness. Anyone who doesn't like you because of your atheism is a bigot and is not your concern. You've written letters to the editors of newspapers on the topic, and you may have an atheist bumper sticker on your car.

Lorena said...

Great post TWJ.

I'd love to read your testimony in more detail.

Do you have it posted anywhere?

Thanks,

Lorena

Jim Arvo said...

Hi Bob. According to your scale, I think I am a "Degree 6" atheist: One who is completely comfortable with label and who enthusiastically invites door-to-door evangelists inside for a free hour-long de-programming session. Okay, maybe that's just a skosh over "Degree 5"; maybe 5.1 or 5.2.

One mission I have for my life is to work toward the day that the word "atheist" no longer carries any negative connotations. I think we're currently a long long way from that, and I have no delusional expectation that I will see it come to pass (i.e. it won't happen in my lifetime). But, I think it's a worthy goal, and reason may ultimately prevail if enough people face the problem squarely and earnestly--in the same way that other civil liberties have been won, or are in the process of being won.

And, by the way, that was a great post, TWJ. With enough folks like you speaking up, those of us who choose to be free of religious indoctrination will one day be afforded at least the same courtesy as shown the sanctimonious fools who routinely get elected to public office.

MadBuni said...

Hi Jim, I am probably between degrees 4 and 5, not quite made it to your level yet, but I'm working on it! I still want to throw water on the door to door evangelists! (just joking lol).

I think your goal in life is a great one, and when I retire, I want to devote my time to a similar goal. I don't care anymore what people think about me being an atheist, I just get tired of the looks of shock when you say the "A" word, and the poor pitiful you kind of condescending remarks they make. I agree, I don't think I will live to see things change either, but I can hope. See, Atheists do have hope, hope that the religious fools will finally get a clue!! LOL

Take care,

TWJ said...

Thank you all for your responses.

I'd really like to thank Dave VanAllen, the webmaster of the "ExChristian.net" site. He's done a fantastic job of setting up this site and it's evident that there are a lot of us out here that are responding to the opportunity to share our experiences with each other. Thank you, Dave! You're super!

MadBuni: You really hit the nail on the head when you described what it's like being raised in a fundamentalist family. I liked what you said about how kids in these families are not being given a choice, how they get it "forced down their throats until the mind virus has spread and infected them". I guess those of us who made it out of the madness do have some things in common. I appreciate what you shared about your daughter and your grand children. I take comfort in knowing that you'll be there for them if they choose to think for themselves and question their religion.

Jim Lee: I can relate with what you said. It's ideal to be able to clearly define atheism to those around you - to be able to expose christianity (and any religion for that matter) for the fraudulence that believers have brought upon mankind. Of all the major world religions, Christianity is probably the one that has brought the most barbaric death, bloodshed, insanity and tortuous pain into the lives of human beings. More death, torture and destruction have been delivered in the name of Jesus than any other name in history. In some situations though, being outspoken about one's disbelief does bring conflict and possible retaliation by believers. If a person is dependent upon the good will of others, I think it's more valuable to protect oneself to fight another day - if you know what I mean. There is such a thing as winning the battle and loosing the war. I'm not saying that it's good or bad... only that there are different types of situations and each person must decide for themselves when the time is right to speak out against the madness of religion.

Anonymous: Your words really touched me, Daniel. What you said is so true. Getting used to the thought that there really isn't an after-life isn't easy. I think there is an incredible freeing power in this concept once you accept it. To be dust in the wind can be discouraging, but it is also incredibly wonderful to consider the magnificence and liberation of occupying consciousness for a relatively brief time, only to surrender it back to the cosmos at the moment of death.

Freedy: Honesty is such a relative term. Personally, I think it is of greatest importance to be honest with yourself. So few people take the time to really examine their own beliefs, motives and behavior. Once you know what you believe and why you believe it, you can decide whom to share it with. If you're a young person who has been given a scholarship to a christian school, or if your parents will only support you if you attend a christian university, I think it's OK to get your education and not make a big deal about the fact that you don't believe in god - particularly if your trapped in a fundamentalist environment. Here again, we're talking about being in situations where the good will of others is vital to your success and possible survival. In the US, especially in the current political climate, the safety net of society is spread pretty thin. I don't think there's any shame in keeping your beliefs to yourself if it means the difference between getting a good education, having a bed and three square meals a day versus shouting atheistic ideology from the rooftops and blowing your scholarship resulting in getting a minimum wage job or possibly living under a bridge somewhere. I'm using extremes in an attempt to communicate a concept. As you know, Freedy - honesty is relative as any parent, politician or attorney can attest. In answer to your question, I think that your son should do whatever is in his own best interest. From your comment, I'm guessing that he cares about others and is an intelligent young person who will contribute a great deal to society and his loved ones as he grows older. Your point about not compromising his intellectual stance against religion is well taken. I think that it's VITAL that he not compromise in his own mind, however his interactions with others may depend upon his personal goals. In my opinion, the end doesn't justify the means, but the fine line of the entire journey needs to be considered.

Bob: Thanks for your super comments. I really liked the "coming out scale" that you outlined. I'm probably a 4 or 5 depending on the day / situation. At this stage of my life, I live and work in the heart of the American "Bible Belt". I'm surrounded by believers at work and have a supervisor who brags about how religious he is. At home, my wife and I openly marvel at the foolishness of adults who actually believe in religion. I guess my Darwin car plaque is the closest I've come to an Atheist bumper sticker.

Lorena: Thank you for your kind words. It's always nice, and incredibly refreshing, to think that someone is interested in what you have to say. I haven't written my testimony anywhere else -just here. Thanks for reading it. Is your testimony written on this site or anywhere else? I'd like to read yours. I'm sure it must be interesting.

Jim Arvo: I'm with you 100%. I look forward to the day that atheism is simply the way most people think. I think we're in total agreement and appreciate your comments!

*********************

I think being an Atheist is kind of like waking up one morning to find that 99% of everyone around you really believes in Santa Clause - not just for Christmas either - They believe in Santa and talk about him EVER DAY.

Just imagine waking up to find your adult neighbors, colleagues and family talking about how wonderful Santa is,... how he's blessed them... how he's been so good to them. When something good happens to them, the say, "Praise Santa! He's so good!” Imagine them talking about studying books about Santa Clause, in fact, they hold Santa meetings multiple times each week to read books about Santa Clause related stuff. They even have a book that’s a compilation of Santa Clause inspired Christmas letters. They say it’s the most important book in their lives and they study it daily.

Now after a while, any rational adult would say things like “I can’t believe how people are always talking about Santa. He’s just pretend – this is nuts.” Now imagine saying that to your adult friend and getting responses like, “You really don’t get it, it’s so obvious that Santa exists.” or “I’ll ask Santa to visit you with some presents so you’ll believe in him too!”

After awhile, you might just yell out, "There is no F***ING SANTA! Santa Clause is make-believe!! I can't believe how you're all talking about Santa all the time!!"

I guess that's how I feel about being an atheist. Living around religious people is ridiculous. I marvel every day at the apparent inability of most people to admit that there is no such thing as God.

I sure appreciate each of you and want to thank Dave once again for this super web site.

Take it easy everyone!

Peace - out.

Anonymous said...

Something doens't comefrom nothing. Take building material, nuke them and see if if makes a 100 story building.

Http://www.eHDMI.com

.:webmaster:. said...

Well, let's examine this idea of yours.

What you're saying is that a mindless explosion won't build a building.

Did I get it right?

So, I guess what you're also saying here is that the explosion that blasted materials all over the universe at the moment of the Big Bang was a mindless thing that had virtually nothing to do with a god. The stars that continue to explode all over the universe may perhaps provide random building materials, but it takes intelligence to actually build buildings out of those materials.

Am I still on the right track?

You may observe that only men build buildings. I don't recall a single story about Yahweh constructing a single story, so to speak. Perhaps it's a good thing we evolved so we could actually build things out of all the random rocks and minerals laying around everywhere.

Are rocks designed? Are minerals designed? Be careful how you answer.

Have I lost you yet?

The point is, you can't have it both ways. Either the randomness of nature is is evidence of design or it's not. You can't have it both ways. If buildings are better evidence of design, then people are the greatest, and only, intelligent designers we know of.

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