I finally made my decision -- I couldn't possibly believe in a God

Sent in by Andrew P

Just to give a little background, when I was born, my parents both attended a Lutheran church. My father's parents were devout Finnish Apostolic Lutherans. His mother considered drinking, smoking, dancing, card playing, any gambling, and all forms of non-hymnal music to be sins. Obviously, being in the 1960's, my father rebelled against this, but had to keep it quiet from her. My mother had been raised Pentecostal, before going Lutheran at age 17. The night before she was baptized a Lutheran, her father said to her "One day you will find the Pentecostal church is the ONLY right church."

Fast forward fourteen years. This is where I come into the picture. My parents were married and attending a Lutheran church in Iowa. I was born in April, baptized in July, and officially declared a Christian by everyone. Of course at two months of age, it's a little hard to make any sort of statement of faith, so I'm not sure I can truly call myself an ex-Christian.

Soon after, we moved to Ohio and started attending a Finnish Apostolic Lutheran church. The minister, during a Christmas Eve children's sermon actually told all the children that there is no Santa Claus, that he is just a distraction from the true meaning of Christmas. Several families left the church after that, but we stayed, as I was only about two and a half years old and didn't understand much more than eating, walking, and pooping.

It didn't take me long to start questioning Christianity, as the whole thing just made little sense. A big guy in the sky watching everything we do? Where? Why can't I see him? When I was five years old, I actually told my mom that I didn't think Jesus Christ ever truly existed. Her only warning to me was not to tell that to my Sunday school teachers, and certainly don't tell my grandmother.

After Sunday school went from the fun stories, games, and crafts dealing with Biblical teachings, and actually turned to the more hardcore coverage of the Bible and quoting from it in classes, that's when I had enough. The minister retired, and in the ensuing commotion in trying to find a new minister to take his place, my family decided to leave. For about a year, we chose not to attend a church, then moving on to the Unitarian Universalist church near us. My mother and I began attending, soon followed by my father. He left not long after. He was employed at a nuclear power plant as an electrical engineer, and when a church member made a comment in opposition to nuclear power, he took it to be an attack against him. He called the church "nothing but a front for a left-wing political organization" and chose to stop attending.

The Unitarian Universalist church was an eye-opening experience for me in many ways. I learned I wasn't the only one who questioned the idea of the divinity of Jesus or the existence of a God. I was exposed to many beliefs, including Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, while also briefly covering Buddhism, Taoism, and Hinduism. At about this time, my father entered alcohol rehab, then treatment for depression. Not long after, he was attending Lutheran services again.

My parents began to grow further apart. My mom was a pagan, emerging from the "broom closet" after being a quietly-practicing Wiccan and pagan since she was 19. My father jumped on the Rush Limbaugh bandwagon and got more heavily involved with the Lutherans. Both parents believed in their own form of a God, and here I was, stuck in the middle.

I couldn't accept the divinity of Christ. I couldn't even accept the existence of a God. It all just went against all science and logic. After some particularly hellacious elementary and middle school years, I finally made my decision. I couldn't possibly believe in a God. I tried to go back numerous times, but every prayer went unanswered. All I asked for was some stability in my life and some inner peace. And I got nothing.

Throughout high school, I continued attending the UU church with my mom, and my opinions on any sort of church soured greatly. Several members of the church wanted to start a "CUUPS" group-- Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans. According to the minister, the board of trustees would not approve funding for it. Each time it was brought up for a vote, it never passed for one reason or another-- not enough funding, we didn't need it, it just doesn't have enough support. Most of the time, it was blamed on the board's chairman. The minister was a very polarizing figure. Many families chose to leave the church. When my mom ran into one family at a bookstore and asked why they weren't attending, they said "We'll be back once she leaves," referring to the minister. This past year, she left. It was also stated by several members of the board that she was the one who opposed the CUUPS group, not members of the board. She admitted halfway through her time with us that she was a "Christian Unitarian Universalist." While I was not in opposition to this, I did opposed the treatment that the humanist and pagan UU's received from her. This was my first glimpse into the truth that you can remove religion from politics, but you'll never remove politics from religion.

I didn't last much longer as a UU. Before one of the national elections, I opted to support a third party while most of the church supported the Democratic candidate. I was actually told by a fellow choir member "You know, my father once told me not to waste my vote on a third party because they'll never win. You should just vote for the lesser of two evils." My response was "By supporting the lesser of two evils, it's still supporting evil. And who's to say I don't believe the Republican is the lesser evil?" After being called a racist this past year by a fellow UU (just because I don't like European hockey I'm a racist?), I have chosen to end all association with the Unitarian Universalist Church, and organized religion as a whole.

I had another shaping experience in college. After my freshman year, my mom decided to divorce my dad. I knew about it because she told me in July, but I couldn't tell him. She wanted to do it, and she wasn't going to until October. I had to live with this on my mind, weighing me down for three months. In that time, from the stress, I lost 30 pounds. I repeatedly got into fights with former friends. And when I went back to college in August, a once-close friend of mine never wanted to speak to me again.

And then I discovered Buddhism. Finally, a religion that had structure while not requiring the absurd belief in a big guy in the sky who we can't see, but will reward us if we do as he tells us! For once in my life, I was finally finding peace. I could deal with my problems while not letting them completely bog me down. I found for once in my life that there is good in everything if you just look for it and that there is no use in doing anything if it doesn't make you happy.

It can be hard at times to stay perfectly with all the tenets of Buddhism. I'm only human after all. But being a good Buddhist is so much easier than being a "good Christian." There are too many theories on what makes a good Christian, and all are too different. To be a good Buddhist, you basically only need to strive for happiness while not harming others. It's so much easier and makes so much more sense. And after all, as the Buddha once said, "Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter even if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense."

Currently, I live in Wichita Falls, TX, home to one of the largest Baptist congregations in the state, if not in all of the country. I am certainly a minority here as a Buddhist atheist, and possibly the only one here, but I am a much happier person in my beliefs now than I was in the Christian beliefs that dominated my upbringing. And didn't the Buddha teach that one should seek only happiness?

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24 comments:

Anonymous said...

wow! what a religious rollercoster ride you took! i am happy that you are exploring other things, may you find truth and happiness!

Aspentroll said...

I have always known that religion of any sort acts like like bad drugs on some people.

At least you now know that you are not alone out there. Hang in there and let common sense rule your thinking, not some imaginary "sky daddy".

ComputerGuyCJ said...

Welcome to post-Christian life! It's good to see that another has come out of the cult.

Left of Center said...

My own family dynamic is a bit odd as well. I'm a strong atheist and my wife is a CUUPs member and Wiccan initiate. We have three boys under the age of nine, and sometimes we have minor conflicts. Though the kids are free to believe what ever they wish. One thing my wife and I most definetly agree on is that we loath when people try to evangelize our kids. (something that happens quite often here)The last time was when an adult at the local pool tryed to tell them about Noahs ark. My six year old said that was silly. When asked why he said that there were no dinosaurs on the ark because they lived millions of years before people exsisted. When the adult countered with "biblical infallibility" my eight year old told her that radioisotope dating proves the story to be wrong. The Christian was red faced at this. My sons were laughing. I didnt need to say a word. (hmm did I stray off topic?)

Lorena said...

Computerguycj
Welcome to post-Christian life! It's good to see that another has come out of the cult.

Lorena
Wouldn't that make a great domain name? www.PostChristianLife.com

stronger now said...

"To be a good Buddhist, you basically only need to strive for happiness while not harming others."

Very close to the wiccan rede.

Epicurienne said...

Welcome, Andrew. Good to have you here.

Left, I love how your kids talked to the bible-pusher at the pool! Even a six-year-old (when taught the facts) is more logical than most fundies.

Astreja said...

Hi, Andrew! Welcome to Ex-C. Liked your testimony.

"But being a good Buddhist is so much easier than being a "good Christian."

I concur. For one thing, it's actually possible. :-)

Nvrgoingbk said...

Oxymoron: Good Christian

I agree with so many of the tenets of Buddhism and Tao, but I don't pay allegience to ANY god or religious leader. I am, however, always on the prowl for people who think like me. It's always nice to have one's ideas validated :-)

My husband and I have alot of good fights, but happily, we NEVER fight over religion. Christianity is what brought us together, and Atheism is what has kept us together. It's good to know that your differences in religion from your wife is not hindering your marriage. Too often, it does.

Your post was quite entertaining. Isn't it amazing how differently we come to think as adults?

Anonymous said...

u said in ur article that u were questioning the actual existence of jesus. there is no debate on that, history clearly shows that there was a man by the name of jesus in that time that claimed to be the son of god. now there are a few things with ur "testimony" worth mentioning. as u can see from reading it, your lack of faith in accepting the religion you were was fueled by the problems your family was having, and coincided with them. Like you would be blaming god for your problems and pushing him away to ultimately not believing in him, by seeing what your mother believed was wrong to do, then seeing ur dad do those same activities. Seeing your parents split apart. The other problem that most people have is bundling ALL religions, and denominations together. Just because the church you were going to had problems doesnt mean thats how they all are. Many churches try to use their religion to control their members, which is wrong, obviously, but thats just how humans are. Now, the last interesting thing is, how people can sit here and say that they just cant believe that there could be a god, but so easily believe that we evolved ultimately from a rock (the earth) and somehow without any higher power all these thousands of unexplained accurances of the creation of the universe came to be.

Astreja said...

Anonymous: "u said in ur article that u were questioning the actual existence of jesus. there is no debate on that, history clearly shows that there was a man by the name of jesus in that time that claimed to be the son of god."

Unfortunately for your assertion, this "history" was written by believers, or dishonestly inserted into the works of non-believers (The Testimonium Flavianum of Josephus is one such passage in dispute.)

I find it very interesting that there is no record of Jesus in contemporaneous Jewish records. Even more interesting that neither the residents of Jerusalem nor of the surrounding lands recorded any of the geological and astronomical weirdness described in the Gospels.

If an unscheduled solar eclipse darkened the sky for hours and an earthquake caused the dead to rise from their graves, someone outside the Christian cult would have written about it. The Very Strange Day in Jerusalem would have quickly become known all the way from India to Gaul. Guess what? It didn't.

This is why there's currently a research project underway to determine if there's any genuine historical evidence for the life of Jesus.

But, even if that evidence is found, there's a big gap between someone claiming to be "the son of God" and actually being the son of a supernatural being.

RubySera Martin said...

I just find it really weird, not to mention utterly frustrating, when people like our anonymous Christian here choose to OVERLOOK the facts of the story. Andrew states very clearly that he left Christianity--not because of the way PEOPLE treated him but because of how GOD did not respond. It was a theological problem. Christians inevitably see it as personality problems. And it's not hard to figure out why. The old "not all churches are bad" argument fixes that one. But they have no remedy for the bad theology issue. Sometimes I wish hell was real so they could burn a while for their coarseness and insensitivity. Maybe in their next reincarnation they would think twice before discounting the reality of the situation.

Only problem with that ramble is that a lot of things would have to be true that I doubt are true. There's probably no hell for anyone to burn in and there's probably no reincarnation to give us second chances.

But then, you never know. The idea of reincarnation and second chances is flatly denounced in the Bible. A lot of things the Bible denounces turn out to be true--at least, more plausible than the biblical account.

All of this is more or less just crapping over xians for being bad listeners when it comes to our deconvertion stories and that SUCKS.

Jim Arvo said...

Anonymous said "...history clearly shows that there was a man by the name of jesus..."

I'm going to float several hypotheses and I'd like to see if you can shoot them down, Anonymous. Here we go:

I posit that you are repeating something that you've been told by your fellow Christians (e.g. your pastor, your friends, something you read in a devotional book, etc.). I further posit that you have never tried to discover for yourself what that historical evidence consists in, or how reliable it is. I further posit that you have never read a single book by any scholar who doubts the historical existence of Jesus.

If I'm wrong on any of these counts, please correct me. If I'm right, then perhaps you would like to soften your claim until you can address some of these deficiencies in your position.

Have a nice day.

RubySera Martin said...

Jim, you must be right. No response to your post.

Anonymous said...

One problem, all of all of the comments and assumption regarding the existence of Christ and God are based on the presupposition that obviously fallible humans have infallible logic and that just don’t add up,
Ps Zen Buddhism claims that all this life is just an illusion so why bother, writing and sharing with all these people who by Buddhist belief just don’t exist.
Pps, from your testimony it sounds like you never were truly Christian. So you’re knocking something you haven’t yet tried.
Peace.

Anonymous said...

I also find it rather interesting that every commenter is signed onto this site to try and gain assurance for there insecurities at there choice to not be a christian, are you all really that unsure?

stronger now said...

Anonymous said...
I also find it rather interesting that every commenter is signed onto this site to try and gain assurance for there insecurities at there choice to not be a christian, are you all really that unsure?

What a whopping generalization.

To answer(at least as far as the reason I am here) It is not assurance that I gain from this sight or the commentors here. It is insight into how other people think. I don't do well in other social situations.

Let me ask you, why is it christians go to church? Is it to gain assurance for your insecurities over your choice to be a christian? Are you really that unsure?

boomSLANG said...

Stronger Now asked: ...why is it christians go to church? Is it to gain assurance for your insecurities over your choice to be a christian? Are you really that unsure?

I would have to agree that this is an excellent point. I think the propensity and/or obligation to meet up once a week to "affirm" one's beliefs doesn't say much about being secure in that belief. As far as this site and it's, uh, "commenters"....well, this site offers support for those who escaped the mind-cult of Christianity. Not everyone here is an "Atheist". Discussions on whether or not "God" exists wouldn't even be an issue if it weren't for people popping in and insisting that "Jesus is REAL!".

Surely, Mr/Mrs/Ms "Anonymous" doesn't have "insecurities" that Poseiden doesn't exist, right? Right..that notion would be rather non-sensical, if true.

Jim Arvo said...

No-name said "...all of the comments and assumption regarding the existence of Christ and God are based on the presupposition that obviously fallible humans have infallible logic..."

You are correct in one thing: we acknowledge that humans are not infallible logic machines. Does that seem unreasonable to you? I think we can probably agree on that, no? However, I do not understand what you are asserting. Is it your contention that we conclude something about god/Jesus based on this infallibility? If so, could you please clarify what it is you think we are saying? (It would help if you could accompany your assertion with a quote so we have some idea of why you think we are saying something this silly.)

No-name: "...So you’re knocking something you haven’t yet tried."

Haven't tried?! Have you read any of the testimonies here? Many of the regulars were devout Christians for decades. How can you so casually dismiss that as never having tried?

No-name: "I also find it rather interesting that every commenter is signed onto this site to try and gain assurance for there insecurities at there [sic] choice..."

That's an interesting assertion. Care to comment on how you reached that conclusion? I don't know of anyone here who thinks it likely that your religion is anything than a man-made belief system (and a pernicious one at that). Does that make you feel uncomfortable? If not, why is that simple and obvious fact about our position so difficult for you to acknowledge?

Jim Arvo said...

Ooops, that should read "...based on this fallibility?"

Mike said...

Hi Andrew,

Before I start, I'm a Christian who 'snoops' around here from time to time...so I want you to know where I'm coming from.

I think it is good that you question Christianity....but have you put 'all the cards' on the table' and honestly looked at these two religions?

You said, "It didn't take me long to start questioning Christianity, as the whole thing just made little sense. A big guy in the sky watching everything we do? Where? Why can't I see him?"

Interesting....I've spent some time in Japan and I've met some young Buddhist men (perhaps like yourself) who would say the same thing about Buddhism. One said to me, "The idea of reincarnation makes no sense. Me...coming back as a cow? an ant? a tree? How can we know this?" YOu reject the notion of a "Big God in the sky"...however this is shared by many Buddhist...so keep that in mind.

Could it be possible that if you spent some time in Asia, and lived with a Buddhist worldview for a while, you'd become 'burned out' on it too? Could it be that you'd have the same questions about it that you now have about Christianity?

Drew said...

Alright, time for me to jump back in here. I should first say I'm Andrew, the one who wrote this originally. I know it's a tad disjointed and there are a couple pieces I forgot to put in as I pretty much just wrote it as a sort of "stream of consciousness" rant.

In response to the last comment, while yes, many Buddhists reject the idea of reincarnation, it goes back to a quote attributed to the Shakyamuni Buddha that I quoted in my original post-- "Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter even if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense." So it is entirely possible to follow the Buddha without having to accept something like reincarnation. To me, reincarnation makes some degree of sense, but I'm not sure I can fully accept it, as reincarnation involves the soul (the true self) moving onward into another life, while the Buddha stressed impremanence of all things, that there is no self. Reincarnation comes primarily from Hinduism (as do a lot of early Buddhist teachings and beliefs), not as much from Buddhism.

It is entirely certain I could become burned out on Buddhism if I lived with it constantly around me as the people you have spoken with in Japan. It's possible to get burned out from anything and everything if you put up with it for a long time (Hell, I'm a huge hockey fan, and by the end of the season, I sometimes start feeling burned out from just watching and being around it constantly). The fact that it's not constantly around me and I can get away from it could be part of what keeps me going.

Thanks for the comments, everyone, from the Christians and ex-Christians alike!

Drew said...

Also, in regards to my comments about my talking about the non-existance of Jesus, as I wrote in my first post, I was about 5 or 6 years old at the time. You hear stories about someone doing things that are physically impossible to the average person (walking on water, turning water into wine, the neverending loaves and fish, etc.), it's a bit hard to swallow and can result in total rejection of the very existance of the person. So a better wording I think would be a rejection of the Jesus of the Bible, not a rejection of Jesus the man.

So by now, fast-forwarding about 12 years, I do believe Jesus existed as a person, a religious prophet, but not the part man, part deity that the Bible considers him to be. I hope that clarifies things a bit.

Patrick said...

umm, i dont seek to back up my views on this sight as i am a christian but i use my google account so it seems like im a member.
i always cringe when a christian jumps in and says something which is so badly worded or just flat out wrong and it tarnishes the whole idea of it for people.

if anyone wants a chat msn or email:

patrick.j.crooks (at) googlemail.com

later days

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