Sent in by Brandine
It's amazing how a little time and a lot of information can completely change your point of view. I never was really touchy about my religion. That's not to say I didn't get offended when someone said something I considered blasphemy, but I wasn't the one who was going to get up in their face about it. I pretty much accepted that everyone had their own road to walk.
My sister, Layla, posted a testimony on this site a couple of weeks ago so I won't go into too many of the same details. Suffice it to say, we grew up in the rural south, bible belt where religion isn't so much of a choice or epiphany as it is just a way of life. Even our crackheads are somewhat practicing Christians. It wasn't until I was a teenager that I started questioning my faith. I can pretty much pinpoint the high water marks.
I never really gave much thought to my spirituality until I was about sixteen. Until that point, I knew I was saved, and that was good enough for me. Then I moved in with some relatives who were deeply into fundamental Christianity. Doomsday doesn't even begin to describe these people. Everyone and everything had an agenda, and oddly enough they were all negative towards our "faith". According to them, the world was supposed to have been over like three times by now, but here we are still trucking.
I pretty much fell for the hype for a while, and I went through an extremely religious phase. One of the major problems I faced was the bible - the "Holiest of Holy texts". No matter how hard I tried to read and feel connected to it, it just bored the shit out of me. It didn't feel like it applied to me at all. I decided that the bible is overly complicated in that the basic message is "do unto others as you would have them do unto you". Why couldn't I just do that? In my mind, that covered about 95% of my bases. Stick a fork in me, I'm done.
It's at this point in my life that I feel Christianity began to reveal it's true nature. I still considered myself a Christian, albeit a liberal one. However, once I found one fault in the bible all the others seemed so obvious. The bible, though, wasn't the final nail in my Christian coffin. More than anything, just watching the Christians around me showed me it's hypocrisy.
One year on my birthday, my Aunt gave me a bible with my name engraved in the cover. Although I found the book handsome, I was puzzled by it's inscription. Inside the cover, she'd written "When all else fails, seek here". Now this was not the first time I'd heard this quote, but it was the first time I'd pondered it's meaning. Firstly, I thought, if I'm having a problem isn't my bible supposed to be the answer for everything? Wasn't I supposed to seek there first? And secondly, I'd never seen my Aunt read the bible my whole life. In fact, I'd only ever seen her read gossip mags while sipping cocktails. No, no, this was all wrong.
My cousin, with whom until recently at this time I was close with, became a bible thumping tyrant. She actually went through my bible when I wasn't around once (the handsome, personalized one I spoke of before) and underlined in red ink a few "appropriate" passages for me. To be sure I knew who'd sent these blessed messages, she'd initialed near the verses she'd underlined. I thought I was going to be sick at how sanctimonious she was.
With every cigarette I smoked or cocktail I ingested, I could sense her accusatory stare and cold shoulder. I once challenged her on a few of her beliefs, and I was countered with the accusation that I was being defensive because I felt convicted around her. How is a person to respond to that statement? She was basically telling me that I was lashing out at her because she mirrored my inadequacies with god. I stopped talking to her about religion after that. Some people don't want to be informed.
Shortly after, a family friend was to be baptized at a local church. My other cousin begged me to go so she wouldn't have to go by herself. I'd never been to this church before, but these particular family members I've spoke of had. I was not surprised to find the preacher of this church was all fire and brimstone. I'd been around these snake healers my whole life, so I didn't think too much of it. Within the first ten minutes, though, the preacher ranted on about how Muslims, Islams, Buddhists, Catholics, and etc. were all going to HELL. I was immediately offended in a profound way. I realized these people didn't even know their own beliefs. It was appalling. They were just a few steps away from the Salem witch trials.
This preacher scowled and hissed as he looked around the room. I was one of only four non-members of this small church. He went on to preach about our nations youth (very convenient considering the only four non-members were all young people), and I found him more and more seething in mine and my cousins direction. Each time he would look towards us, she would cower her glance to the floor. I, on the other hand, had decided I would not be intimidated by this obviously godless man. I imagine this is what drew his attention to me because when he finished his sermon and stood in the water getting ready to baptize our family friend he stopped. He said, "Sometimes God calls upon our hearts, and we must obey God".
Cold rushed through my body. I knew that with just my stare I'd challenged this preacher in some way. He wasn't going to let me go without first making an example of me. Sure enough he informed the congregation that god spoke to him about the girl in the black shirt (yep, that's me). The preacher called me up to the front of the church. I would like to say that if this had happened to me now in my life I would have given him the finger and walked out (which is why I don't go to church), but at this point I was stunned. I sauntered forward only to be bombarded with him telling his minions to lay their hands on me. It was obvious to me, even at the time, I was supposed to speak in tongues and receive the spirit. I just stood there, though, dumbfounded and stewing. He gave a speech that was supposed to be from god to me. He then baptized the family friend and let church out.
I got outside as fast as I could and took a deep breath. I couldn't understand why this so called man of god had embarrassed me in front of a congregation of strangers. I knew I'd stared him down, but it's not like I stopped the sermon and challenged him. I began to get angry. If he really thought I needed god's help then surely he would know to take me aside and speak to me alone. Why was it so important everyone else hear too? He'd won. I tried to talk to my family about it. "Didn't you think that was inappropriate?", I said. Apparently not, because they all sat silent.
I think that's what did it. Ironic, one man's desperate attempt to bring a perceived nonbeliever to god, and all he managed to do was to turn a believer into a nonbeliever. I decided from that point on that if the Christian god is so petty and vindictive to send people to hell for not worshiping him and his son, then that was not a god I wanted to worship. From that point on, my beliefs have only been confirmed through things ranging from day to day encounters to internet websites (see: Godtube.com : A Letter from Hell - LOL).
The silver lining of this whole story is that once I realized I didn't believe in Christianity anymore, I felt as if a huge weight was lifted from me. I spent so many years being scared of god. I was scared of burning in hell for eternity. I was so scared if I sinned before I was able to repent and I got into a car crash, I would be sent to hell. I was scared of god. That's so fucked up. I still believe in god. I choose, however, to believe him as NOT a petty and vengeful god. I realize that god may not exist, but I don't fear reprisal for that thought.
As for my happily ever afters, I simply believe there is not one true road to god. I do not think Christianity is false in it's entirety. I find a little bit of truth in almost all religions. However, I personally think we would all be better off not trying to please an ambiguous god. Our time on this Earth is much better served serving our fellow man. If god can't understand that, then fuck him.
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)