Sent in by Brent S
I have been reading many of the testimonials on this site for a while now and so have decided to share my own brief account.
Like so many others, I was raised in a barely Christian household. We considered ourselves Christians, but beyond Chuck Heston movies, we didn't really know much about religion. Christmas and Easter, and the occasional renaissance painting, since my Mother is an artist who well emulates that style. Anyway, when I reached junior high, we started having bible studies with a couple of Jehovah's Witnesses. They were a very nice couple and came to our house every Wednesday for a reading and a discussion. I also started going to a centrist Christian Youth group with some friends from school. I was quickly addicted for several reasons: the first was that I had recently discovered my own homosexuality and was desperate for some form of escape from that terrible affliction, and secondly, stemming from the the same core issue, I was an outsider among my peers and found comfort in the imaginary bonds created by religion.
Diving into Christian study did not cure my sexual proclivity, but in fact only deepened my depression, but did allow my to convolute the idea that if I were a good enough Christian, the latter might be forgiven. During this infatuation with religion, which eventually led to me joining a Baptist church while in High school, I did the one thing that religion never wishes of its followers; I paid attention, and thought about what I had learned.
Over time, the vast number of inconsistencies mounted. I think the number of sects that I dabbled with helped to propagate this revelation. Also, I developed a love of science and began to read in that direction. When faced with conflicting ideas such as God saying "I can conceive no evil," with the scientific reality that something cannot just spontaneously appear without a cause, makes you then wonder where evil could have come from. If one God created everything and allowed for free choice, then He must have been the one to define the choices, and therefore must have had a pre-existing knowledge of those choices. When I asked my "elders" about this, the usual answer was something to the extent that we cannot understand God's ways.
The conflict burned inside me for years. Even after my first, second, and more sexual experiences, I still struggled with all these questions. Finally, with adulthood came more sophisticated ways of thinking and college provided me with philosophy and the tools to recognize things in a clearer light.
Eventually, I had an epiphany! Mankind had been inventing Gods since the first human crawled from the primordial slime and stood erect. Gods created to gleam power over our fellows; to explain what is beyond our ability to understand, and to rationalize our own prejudices and almost anything else you can name. Rationalization, to me, seems to be the number one function of religion.
To me, accepting the fact that we are here on our own, that we are born because of simple biological acts, and only oblivion is likely to meet us on the other side, was the truth that set me free.
Instead of being a blind worshiping machine, I now make choices based on rationality; morality based on experience and empathy. I do not fear punishment, nor do I hope for rewards. I have learned that kindness and charity are rewards in themselves, and being perceived as a prick by even one person is punishment enough, and the guilt that follows if I know I have done wrong by someone.
However, I do still enjoy Christmas since the phrase "solstice decorations" do not roll naturally of the tongue. And I do still appreciate renaissance art; having several Madonna's around the house, because, as I say, all mythology has some purpose.
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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)