Sent in by Amy
For those of you that may not know, Jim Bob Duggar is the Arkansas man whose primary claim to fame is that he has managed to father 17 children, at last count (or the last time I cared about counting…). He has also served in politics at a local level and his platform is primarily built on the total abolition of abortion. (How fitting!) Anyway, I like to credit Jim Bob and his lifestyle, broadcast for the entire world to see on the Discovery Health Channel, for my leaving religion altogether. His lifestyle is of course dictated by his fundamentalist view of the Bible, from which he and his wife have extrapolated that it is their duty to fill the world with mini-Duggars, dressed in a weird combination of fashions from the early to mid 1980’s and Little House on the Prairie. But enough about them. How did Jim Bob facilitate my complete and total apostasy from Christianity?
First let me share that I was raised by nice and well-meaning parents. Their conversion to evangelical Christianity when I was a year old was motivated by the fact that they could not bear the thought of me going to hell. We were a military family and the church gave us an “insta-community” with all the moving around we did. This life included homeschooling, church every time the doors opened and no Halloween. My parents considered themselves pretty liberal by the standard set within “those” circles. My mother wore pants (literally and figuratively…without her interest I suspect my father’s faith would have faded years ago, not long after his collection of 70’s rock records were nearly committed to the fire by one of my mom’s favorite pastors. Don’t worry, he rescued them.), limited the size of their family to 4 children, and allowed us to listen to Christian music. All of this would have probably resulted ultimately in my attending a Christian college, marrying a pastor and settling down to a life of homeschooling, Bible studies and wifely submission. However, when it was time for me to decide on college my mom did a curious thing, for which to this day, has expressed regret. The college I wanted to attend was located in Tennessee, and she and my father had settled in southern Ohio upon his retirement from the military. She simply could not bear the thought of me being so far away and so forbade me from going there. I obediently enrolled in community college, and after two years ended up at a very liberal state university.
College and university were my first real exposure to an array of ideas. Ideas purported, explained and taught by very intelligent and articulate people. People much more so, than the preachers, teachers at my Christian schools, or youth leaders that had heretofore been my source of information. And so I played with their beliefs, trying them out as if they were my own. “What if there is no GOD?” I remember saying bitterly to my parents, who sat in stunned silence. We had of course, been arguing about my lifestyle of sex and booze—a lifestyle I had adopted when I arrived at public university because well, it was fun. Anyway, I eventually graduated and started out on a life of adulthood. At that point I didn’t consider myself a non-believer. Primarily just backslidden, I felt that one day, when I was finished having fun, I would return.
Well, all of a sudden I was 25 and pregnant with my long-time on-again-off-again boyfriend/ex-fiance’s child. We decided to get married and so we did. My parents were actually glad, probably because it meant I was settling down and would perhaps soon be living the life they had raised me to live. I did try attending church. After all, I didn’t want my daughter to go to hell, right? But a few things troubled me. My own experience with church and Christians wasn’t all peaches and roses. Corporal punishment (could I really let someone else effectively beat my child?), humiliation of those that didn’t quite fit the prescribed mold, the graphic descriptions of hell, fear mongering with threats of being left behind when the rapture came…was I really going to give my precious, intelligent, and beautiful daughter over to these things too?
So where does Jim Bob enter the picture? Well, one night, during this “I need to go back to church, it’s now or never” period, I watched "14 Children and Pregnant Again," the story of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar and their 14+ names that all start with “J” (gag) children. I watched with amusement and fascination. Their lifestyle was familiar, although more extreme, than mine had been, but a kinship was undeniable. I called my mom the next day to share my amusement and, well shock, at the way they were living. My mother had watched the special too (I think that she harbors wistful thoughts of a more Duggar-like existence had my father been more gung-ho about the religion thing in general…thanks Dad! No really, thank you.). She was ecstatic with praise and admiration. I barely get a word in edgewise. So the next day, I logged onto the Internet and found a thread on Television Without Pity about the show. With glee, I reveled in the snark, sarcasm and derision I found there. I finished reading the thread and was left wanting more. Surely, there was more, somewhere, on the wide, wide Web. Going to Google I typed in the following: fundamentalism, quiverfull. Several sites popped up. Many of them were supportive of the lifestyle—over those, I skipped. But there was one site I could not ignore: WalkAwayers, or “Walking Away from Fundamentalism.” What?!!! People that walked away??? I couldn’t help myself, I was intrigued. I spent the next several days reading testimonies, discussions and articles. They expressed my doubts, my questions, my opinions—things I had barely dared to think, much less express. These were people that had backgrounds similar to mine, which had the courage to face those nagging thoughts and walk into the dark unknown.
Well, it was pretty much downhill from there. I remember vividly the “deconversion” experience, as real as any tearful altar call. I was on my way to pick up my daughter from her babysitter, I thought, “I don’t believe in God, Jesus, the devil and all that shite…anymore.” My whole body seemed lighter, somehow. As if I had instantly lost 20 pounds (the Holy Spirit leaving perhaps??) and was free from some unseen bindings. Life now, a couple of years later, has a depth and breadth that it never had when I was a Christian. And thanks to the World of Jim Bob, I have found my happiness.
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)