I was raised in confusion. My mother, a devoted Southern Baptist, demanded that I attend church services every Wednesday night. On the weekends; however, I lived with my father, a devoted Southerner. Although some might think that these two worlds could peacefully coincide, nothing is farther from the truth. Monday through Friday I was a squeaky clean little boy. I didn't curse, I used my manners. The weekends were a different story. At my fathers house, I could (and did) curse excessively; I could drink if I wanted; It was pretty much anything goes.
Church was never optional but devotion was. I never had faith and I still don't. That is until I was saved. After a screening of the overdramatized bullshit cake of "The Passion of the Christ", I asked the lord Jesus to come into my life. Finally, my life had direction! I didn't have a care in the world because Jesus would take care of it. It was a wonderful and magical feeling and I left the theater with a feeling of invincibility that lasted until I woke up the next morning, at which point I relapsed into a feeling of sameness that had plagued me my whole life.
So for months nothing changed about my life. But my hometown church got a new pastor, who invited his younger brother to become youth pastor. That's when my "faith" got more serious. It seemed to me that these two guys were on the level about there religion and I really thought I understood "church" for the first time in my life. It was a glorious six months.....What happened next hurt me for a very long time afterwards.
Our youth group was very close, like a big family. Even our adult counselors (The people who we were to look up to for spiritual guidance and advice) were more like friends than adults. Which is why I was hurt and confused when I found out that one of those counselors had lured one of the younger girls from the group out to his house where he molested her. He also offered her a ride in his car a few months later and parked in a secluded playground where he molested her again. I was enraged and immediately called my youth pastor and told him what I had found out. He called a meeting at the church that afternoon with Two deacons of the church, the molester, the molested (accompanied by her mother and father), and me. I sat in the pastors office directly opposite of the Counselor and was horrified when the outcome of the meeting was this: The molester was not punished at all. Nothing changed. The young girl stopped attending church and apparently no one lost sleep about it.
Basically the system failed. God did not protect this girl. Jesus did not come down and wave his magic nails to make everything better. Once again, confusion fell on me. I was treated as an outsider for blowing the whistle on a very sick man.
Christianity is an excuse. An excuse to do nothing but sit back, close your eyes, speak your problems to a man who does not exist, and believe that he will take care of everything. It's bullshit and I have not believed for over two years.
I was raised in your average moderate Christian home. My parents, who are nondenominational Christians, brought me up to believe in Jesus Christ, but left me up for my own interpretation of the Bible. We never attended church regularly, as they didn't agree with many of the beliefs and values of fundamentalist Christians. On times when we did attend a church service, I was left in a youth group room, where I was told that Jesus Christ was coming soon, and we'd better prepare immediately for his return. I usually never understood what the youth pastors were ever talking about.
As I grew older, I started getting more interested in the Bible. There was no outside pressure do so, just my own curiosity. I believed in evolution, and since the Bible contradicted it, I was confused whether or not to take the Bible literally. I had a belief in god, but not a good knowledge of my faith.
One day in middle school, I befriended a girl who rode my bus. Her name was Jackie, and she was a Christian. She introduced her beliefs to me and opened me up to a world of religion I never had before. She told me that it was bad that my parents didn't take me to church, that I was destined for Hell if I didn't change my ways. started going to an Evangelical church with her and her family. Her family was poor and rather large, she was the middle child of 11 children, had an abused mother and a tyrannical father with fires of hell in his eyes.
Her father was the scariest man alive, he refused to let her befriend nonbelievers, forced her friends to participate in all their church activities and prayers, and even yelled at her and made her cry numerous times in front of me, calling her a spoiled brat, which she really wasn't. The man was unemployed and forced his wife to work three jobs to support the family. He had a hard time finding work due to a felony he received for child abuse. I still don't know the whole story to this day.
As time went on, our friendship grew stronger, and by the time we reached high school, I had been fully indoctrinated. I was a creationist fundamentalist Evangelical Christian. I was pro-life, anti-gay, and anti-evolution. Together we were a team and preached to our peers at school, arguing with them about their evil beliefs and how they needed Christ in their lives. I took her every word, without question, as her beliefs were not only supported by the Bible, but by her ever knowledgeable pastor. If I questioned anything, I was an enemy to Jesus. She even threatened to end our friendship when I started dating guys who were not Christian. I still had liberal ideas, that I managed to salvage during this time.
I was always interested in science, but never took it upon myself to learn it. Surprisingly, she also was interested in science, as long as it included creationism. We started reading books on physics, ones that tried to support proof of god. I took it upon myself one day, to claim a quest, to prove the Bible scientifically and historically. Of course I had to do this by doing what research I could with available materials, i.e. books and the internet. By this point in my life, our friendship was fading. Being alone for the first time allowed me to start thinking more clearer. I was reading things that not only didn't support the Bible, but was disproving it before my eyes.
I would turn to my Bible, struggling to believe what I could. I kept running over disturbing passages that I never heard nor read before. I started realized that god was sexist, violent, pro-slavery, malevolent and the Bible just stunk of scientific and historical fallacies. I couldn't take it anymore, nothing was making sense. I didn't want to believe in the Bible anymore.I was stuck in hard place, I couldn't prove nor disprove the Bible. I started examining humanity's life views.
Now, I was in college and taking a broad range of classes including environmental biology. We were given a book called Ishmael, by Daniel Quinn. I found it's cover quite curious. I had a funny feeling about this book. I began reading, it was bringing up ideas that I had hidden inside me all along. The world was not created for mankind. It was not god who made man in his image, it was man who made up god in his own image. This sparked a whole new philosophy inside me and I had a new adventure to pursue, disproving the Bible. I started learning about Christlike figures that came before Christianity.
I learned that Christianity took on ideas from Zoroastrianism, Mirthraism and gods like Horus, which all predated it by hundreds of years, and even longer. I realized that Protestantism was a reformation of Catholicism that began from the actions of an anti-Semite named Martin Luther, in the early 1500s. I learned that the Bible was missing gospels that scholars chose to throw out because it made Jesus into a person people didn't want him to be. Nothing in the Bible suggested to me that someone more intelligent that myself could have written it. It wasn't. I was written by fallible man, with little knowledge of how the world really works. Why would god appoint fallible man to write an infallible book?
I used to be a devout practicing Christian. It didn't take long before I realized that Christians are basically no different than anyone who isn't a Christian. People are still just people no matter what. The problem that I personally found in Christianity was that the people I had in my life who claimed Christianity took it to a whole different level. I found my life being controlled and manipulated all "in the name of God," and the pastor made decisions that directed how my life went while saying that he had been ordained by God to do so and that I would be going against the Lord if I refused to comply. It wasn't too long before I escaped that torturous environment.
Now I'm out here on my own, and I've never felt so lonely. I stand here, wishing I could have the good things about Christianity in my life but not believing I am strong enough to chance the bad stuff. Walking into a new church is like walking on a field of land mines. You never know when somethings going to, figuratively speaking, blow up in the name of God and His Word.
The worst thing about this is that I have turned very bitter toward God for this. I read the book of Job and found that he mentioned some variation of the word "bitter" in each turn that he talked except for one. Job knew what it felt like to be bitter toward a God that seemed to have let him down. Christian Bible fundamentalists will scream "but it was the devil!" I say that the devil could not do anything without God's permission first, as the story goes; who then is really responsible for letting a deranged demon maniac torture his own child? While you're thinking about that one, think on this one: God does it to each of us every single day too. I confess that I am pissed at Him for this. As much as I wish I could love Him, there is this barrier that I can't get beyond, this lack of trust between us for that reason.
I suppose that I should not give up on God, but then, I don't have anywhere else to go, do I? Who is going to stand up for me to Him? Job asked the same thing, and even though my life circumstances now don't compare evenly with Job's, it doesn't make my pain any less tormenting for me.
I can't be the only one who's pissed off about that, but I'm probably one of the few who has the guts to admit it. If not, speak out. In a demented way, I would find comfort in knowing that I am not alone.
I wrote the following in 2003 for posting to my original religionisbullshit.com website. I am sharing it again now in an attempt to relate what happened to me when I pulled a successful site off the web and suffered a reconversion to my former beliefs. Thankfully I recovered and am now seeking to mend any broken bridges that occurred as a result of that time period.
I have not ever kept the fact that I have Bipolar Disorder a secret. I have openly acknowledged it on this site on numerous occasions. I was diagnosed with this mood disorder, also known as Manic-Depressive illness, in February of 1998, but the illness has affected me from the age of ten, with the symptoms becoming markedly worse and very troublesome in my teens, and the affliction continues to cause many problems in my life now, at age 37. Bipolar Disorder has a strong genetic component to it, but in my particular case, my story regarding it really begins during my birth. I was born in November of 1965.
At the time, the Community Hospital there in the town that I was born in was a good one and I know that the medical staff meant to care for my mother and I well, but as it worked out the nurses on duty were inexperienced, as was the doctor. He had just begun his practice. I was born breech, and had a very difficult birth. Pressure put on my skull during birth caused damage to my right temporal lobe that eventually caused a seizure when I was ten years old. There is no question that I should have been delivered by C-Section, and I would be beyond any doubt if I was being born today, but things happened as they did and being angry about the poor decisions of the nurses and doctors in attendance at my birth 37 years ago serves no useful purpose now.
I had that seizure during the summer of 1976. My life changed permanently that night. I went to bed the night that it happened a happy, reasonably well-adjusted kid. I woke up a couple of hours later in the hospital a changed and unhappy, insecure young man. Bipolar Disorder, already present in my genetic makeup, emerged and there is no doubt that by my early teens I was a full-fledged Bipolar individual. In 1976, the medication of choice for seizure control was Phenobarbital. I was on it for six years. The seizure itself and the Phenobarbital changed my personality markedly. I was a troubled kid, and my behavior showed it. By the age of 16, I had grown out of the need for anti-seizure medication. I was taken off of the stuff, but it is the opinion of my parents that my withdrawal from Phenobarbital was progressed too quickly, and it wasn't long before I headed for the bottle. Substance abuse is very common in people who suffer from mental heath issues.
By the age of 17, I was a full-fledged teenage alcoholic. My problems with alcohol lasted until the time of my diagnosis as Bipolar in 1998. I have not drank since that time. Other than alcohol, my drug of choice was marijuana and I smoked a LOT of it in my junior and senior years in high school and off and on throughout my twenties.
Bipolar Disorder has no cure. It's symptoms can be managed, but living with the illness is still a living hell most of the time. I would not wish this affliction on my worst enemy – not even the Talking Snake! Medications help, but they do not cure. I almost never am in a manic phase of the illness although I experience a few of the traits of mania such as difficulty sleeping and "racing thoughts" from time to time. What troubles me on a daily basis is depression. I am ALWAYS depressed - how depressed is just a matter of degree. I do have periods of time when I feel basically "normal" but even those times I am well aware of the underlying depression that is still there. I have been clinically depressed for so many years that I have no idea what "normal" feels like.
Bipolar people tend to wear their emotions on their sleeves. We feel our emotions INTENSELY, and that is certainly true of me. My emotional life is an intense one, whether what I am feeling is pleasant or not.
Now, to get to the point of this post. At the time of my recent brief but intense reconversion to Christianity, I was going through a very bad Bipolar episode. I was very depressed. My financial situation, which has always been a struggle had become critical, and that is what led up to my move to Alaska to stay with my Dad. The move itself was very stressful, as big changes in life usually are. I was severely emotionally stressed at the time, and I needed RELIEF.
I did not expect to ever return to Christian faith in any form ever again, but what happened to me does have a perfectly rational explanation, of course, in spite of my earlier insistence that it did not and therefore it had to be god. I was indeed wrapped up in a lot of HATE, ANGER, and BITTERNESS towards Christianity, and I did need to let go of it, and I have done so to a large degree compared to where I was but I would be lying if I claimed that I was totally free of those negative emotions. I'm not, but I am much freer from them and being obsessed with them than I was before. But, there was no miracle and no mythical deity involved in what happened to me. I was aware that I was taking things too far in some of my posts and also aware that the way I was treating Christians wasn't right. I don't apologize for mocking ridiculous beliefs, but the attitude with which I did that was indeed wrong and I knew it, and that was starting to really bother me. In addition to the bad Bipolar stuff going on, I was experiencing a lot of guilt and considering a lot of things about my site and what I was doing with it. It particularly bothered me, considering the nature of some of my posts, to discover that Junior High School-aged kids were visiting my website. This website is definitely for a mature and critically thinking adult audience. I do have an important message - a critical one - in my opinion, but I don't want to be responsible for exposing children to content that is inappropriate for them to see. I have not ever used an excessive amount of profanity on my website, and I don't do so in my normal, everyday speech. It's just not a large part of my vocabulary and it doesn't need to be. But, the language on this site will be cleaner- although not necessarily profanity-free in the future, as will any pictures that I decide to post. For a long time, I failed to take into consideration the fact that I might have some younger viewers and that I need to bear that in mind.
So, I had Bipolar issues going on, guilt issues going on, questions to myself about my own personal character in some areas going on, and all of this stuff was snowballing on me and coming to a head, and like I said I had reached the point where I had to have RELIEF, or the pressure cooker that was my emotional life was going to blow, and probably not in a healthy way. At the time, I was getting dangerously depressed and I was not coping with life very well at all. I did have a spiritual experience that I cannot deny although I know it didn't have anything to do with the Bible God or Jesus any more than it had anything to do with Allah or Mohammed, for example. What did happen to me was a catharsis which I interpreted in religious terms at the time.
In the past, when I couldn't handle things, I self-medicated with alcohol and drugs. I have also self-medicated with religion for years. The only times that I felt "normal" and like I "belonged" was when I was drunk, stoned, or high on god and radically religious. None of those things - alcohol, drugs, or religious belief - are necessarily bad things when handled in a responsible and healthy manner. But, when taken to extremes, all of those things can be very destructive. That's what has happened and does happen with me. I self-medicate in a variety of ways when the emotional suffering caused by my Bipolar illness becomes too much for me to cope with. Back in my 15 years of extreme Fundamentalism, I was in and out of church. When I wasn't attending church and obsessing with my religion and how RIGHT and TRUE my beliefs allegedly were, I was drinking heavily and using drugs. ALL of it - the alcohol, drugs, and religion - were self-medicating coping strategies that I used to try to deal with the emotional pain and issues in my life. I have come a long way in the last five years or so in learning how to deal with my Bipolar illness in healthier ways. I have particularly made progress in the last year.
I made some changes to my diet that have brought a great deal of relief from Bipolar symptoms. I no longer feel a need or desire to turn to substance abuse for relief, and that in and of itself is a wonderful reality. But, sometimes my coping skills are still very inadequate. Although I didn't think through the reality of the situation at the time, I did what I always do when I have a Bipolar crisis. I self-medicated. I turned to religion, and I did indeed find temporary relief. I knew the whole time deep down inside that what I was professing to believe was bullshit that I couldn't rationally or factually defend but at the time, I NEEDED to believe again until the crisis was over.
Karl Marx said that religion is the opium of the people, and he was right. I am aware that he did not say that in relation to using religion as a coping device for mental illness, but it still applies. I used the opium of religion to cope with emotional issues in my life that had become unbearable.
All of that said though, I want to stress the fact that I am well aware that people who don't suffer from mental health and addiction issues can and do use alcohol and the less dangerous recreational drugs without experiencing terrible problems in their lives due to the use of those substances.
The same is true of religion. Religious belief, although no religion is literally true, does serve a positive role in the lives of many people, as does healthy Spirituality outside of the structure of organized religion. I do not deny that there can be and are healthy forms of religious/spiritual belief. What I have tried to accomplish and what I hope I have accomplished in this post is to relate some very personal realities about me and my life and the Bipolar illness that I suffer from, and its role in my recent brief return to religious belief.
This was not an easy post for me to write since it is rather personal in some respects. I know it was rambling, but I put a lot of thought into what I wanted to say and I hope this helps folks to understand my recent changes in belief and why that happened and worked out as it did. So, I submit this with the hope that this information will bring greater understanding of me as an individual and the struggles that I have in my life with this Bipolar illness, and also I hope it will bring a greater understanding and awareness of Bipolar Disorder and the suffering that it causes in the lives of those afflicted with it - suffering so intense and unpleasant that it caused me to turn to a belief system that I know to be untrue and that is obviously and provably untrue in my desperate need to find relief from my emotional suffering at the time.
OK, that was 2003. This is now – early 2008. What I would like to do is explain what happened with my original religionisbullshit.com site and my religionisbullshit.org site. In mid-2004, I had grown so burned out on my site and so afraid that it was a negative thing that I really honestly thought that I was ready to shut it down and be done with it – and that’s exactly what I did in spite of good advice from several good friends to the contrary. I have deeply regretted my decision to shut down my original site ever since then. I was so sure in July 2004 that I was done with my site that I turned my domain name over to a friend.
In early 2005, I went back online with a new RIBS site, but grew frustrated because I wasn’t experiencing the success I had enjoyed with my original site, and I was still having struggles with my bipolar illness. This led to an unfortunate history of taking my site on and offline several times over the course of a couple of years. I wasn’t and I am not currently having a struggle over whether I believe in Christianity or not. I was experiencing bipolar episodes that were really troublesome to me, and I was experiencing frustration at the lack of success of my site. And both of those things combined led to the history of taking my site on and offline.
Again, I deeply regret my actions, I can’t undo what happened, but I learned from it. I am moving ahead with new fresh ideas and some good old fashioned humor! I know that only time will prove it, but my current www.christianityisbullshit.com site is online and will remain so for the foreseeable future. I love doing it and I love entertaining folks and stomping fundies, and I can’t imagine NOT doing my site. I am really dedicated to exposing the fallacies, lies and absurdity behind religion – all while putting giving the reader a chuckle first!
My health now is much better than it was a few years ago. My bipolar illness is much better controlled than it used to be, and I’m better educated about it now than I was before.
I know this has been long, but I appreciate your time in reading it. Thanks and “Glory!”
Most of my life I have been very superstitious. Just the thought of an upcoming Friday the 13th made me very anxious. Anything with the number 13 made me very nervous. I would avoid black cats, walking under ladders, and of course a broken mirror caused me great distress. I had lucky numbers and unlucky numbers. The same was true for colors. Along with all my superstitions I also suffered from extreme obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) which is superstition gone mad. OCD is manifested by many ridiculous rituals. I used to tap each door knob I walked by seven times and if I didn’t feel I did it right I had to do it again. My shoes had to be placed a certain way, my shirts had to hang in the same direction. I had to rinse my hair a certain way or I would have to do it again. With the obsessive compulsive disorder I became a prisoner to my rituals. They controlled my life. With OCD one gets this irrational belief it they don’t perform their daily rituals something will go terribly wrong.
Now I could never have called myself religious (I’ve always seen through the bullshit of organized religion), but I truly believed in a loving God and the power of prayer. Each day I also had very specific prayer rituals I would perform at specific times. I always felt that if I didn’t perform my prayers correctly that something would go terribly wrong. I prayed to God often and gave thanks in huge doses when I felt the loving God in which I believed blessed me with something nice, or got me out of a jam.
In March of 2006 I opened a huge can of internet worms and completely read myself out of God belief. By reading a few well written articles refuting religion, I became an atheist virtually over night. The hardest adjustment from the start was living my life without prayer. I never realized how ingrained into my mind set the prayer process was. Shortly after my de-conversion my wife had an abnormal mammogram and had to go in for further tests. I was very scared, but realized for the first time in my life that to pray would be futile. Thankfully even without prayers the additional tests proved to be negative.
As my God belief and my need to pray completely faded into oblivion, a wonderful thing happened. All of my superstitions and OCD neuroses slowly faded away and are now completely gone. When my mind no longer believed a God had any control over my life's outcomes, it became obvious that superstitious thoughts or actions certainly couldn't effect any outcomes either. I never considered religion to be a superstition, but now as I look at if from a different perspective I realize that religion and superstition are exactly the same. Ironically I prayed thousands of times over for God to deliver me from my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, but it was only cured when my God belief flew completely out the window. This has been by far the most wonderful by product of my atheism. Atheism essentially cured me of a serious life altering psychological disorder.
Along with the passing of all my superstitions and my OCD, I have also thrown out a couple other commonly held beliefs. Gone is my belief in intuition or the “hunch.” For instance how common is if for someone to say they were thinking of a friend they hadn’t heard from in years when the phone suddenly rang and it was this person. Many call that intuition where as I now know it is nothing but coincidence. So often people will often say they had a hunch something would happen and it did. It’s all coincidence when you really analyze the million thoughts that go through one’s head in a given day. It’s a simple matter of counting the few hits of our thought processes and ignoring all the misses.
I work at a very busy big city hospital and despite the popular notion, I no longer believe that a full moon causes increased ER activity. Sure there are nights when we are busy during a full moon, but there are many crazy nights without a full moon and many mundane nights when the moon is full. It’s all about statistical averages and laws of chance and nothing more. I will say that on very warm summer nights we are often very crazy for obvious reasons. When the nights are hot people are out doing crazy shit in the big city. On a side note, one fact that is funny about my workplace is the fact that the number 13 does not exist. They won’t even end a room number in 13 as in 413. They just opened a brand new intensive care unit this week and it goes from ICU 12 to ICU 14. The same holds true for the new cardiac intensive care unit slated to open next week. It just cracks me up how the number 13 ensues so much fear into mainstream society that a hospital must make the appropriate accommodations. We have 14 operating rooms and it goes 10, 11, 12 then A and B. We are only ten stories high so they don’t have to do any deceptive floor numbering.
In conclusion I am just blown away by the unexpected benefits my atheism has brought fourth. Only one who has been a prisoner to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder will ever know where I have been. It can sometimes drive one near the point insanity. I would love to send this letter to a leading specialist in the treatment of OCD and see if they have ever seen this sort of thing before. Is there anyone out there who can relate to my story?
My first doubts began when I was 8 or 9, wondering why I never saw the god I was learning about in Sunday School, while he seemed to put in so many appearances in biblical times. Was he really watching our every action from up there in the sky and jotting it all down to be used against us on Judgment Day?
Though I was "confirmed" at the age of 18, mainly to please my parents, I was never a religious person, and Christianity never formed a big part of my life, until my 8-month-old daughter died. I received kind, moral support from my Seventh Day Adventist neighbors and this period in my life was the closest I ever got to becoming involved in church activities.
But I gradually drifted away, mainly over the requirement to literally believe everything contained in the Bible, though much, obviously, stretched one's imagination.
So my doubts grew, though to be quite honest, I really didn't give it all that much thought, nevertheless, I guess you could call me a dormant fence-straddler for want of a better term.
Then came my epiphany! December 26, 2004. The SE Asia tsunami, which took the lives of almost a quarter of a million people. An article in a newspaper headlined "How can religious people explain something like this?" caught my eye and registered. It simply ended any doubts I had had over the years, especially over the non-appearance of the biblical god in roughly 2,000 years.
First, being a former Christian, I decided to read the Bible in its entirety so that I would be able to reply to any who questioned me, though obviously I cannot remember all that I read. I can only say that my close examination of the Bible revealed that it is nothing less than a book of horrors, which I never read in Sunday School. Obviously, I was never taught about the violence and cruelty and killings at Sunday School; I remember, like everyone else, the nice, beautiful verses, which I later realized had been carefully selected to lull us into a false sense of comfort, while the "bad" verses were deliberately hidden from our view.
It took me over a year to complete my reading, which naturally brought me in touch with other religions, all of which required one to go back to olden times when people believed in myths, legends and superstitions.
My studies became in depth, full-fledged research covering Christianity in its various forms, Judaism and Islam. I quickly realized that Judaism, from which Christianity had sprung, was itself formed from Hinduism, which is replete with thousands of gods. I could, of course, go into much deeper detail regarding my discoveries, but suffice it to say that I became convinced beyond any doubt whatsoever that religion is simply a form of belief in a supernatural being, a savior, that primitive man created to alleviate his fear of the unknown, especially that of death. That form of belief later morphed into unadulterated mind control.
Religion is another word for cult, for that is what ALL religions are, without exception.
Well, perhaps there is one exception, Islam, which is nothing more than a terrorist organization, started by a band of robbers around the year 610. It began as such, and continues as such today.
Some cults appear harmless and benign; some are decidedly evil and malignant; ALL are unnecessary, and only serve to hold man back from even greater endeavors in this world.
That, in a nutshell, was my emancipation!
…but I’m not any more.
Every once in a while I get an email or a comment accusing me of being a liar, saying it’s impossible for me to once have been a “real” Christian and now to be an atheist. Of course, the people who are so sure of my history have never met me and certainly didn’t know me in my past life as a Christian. Even so, their assuredness that what I’ve said cannot possibly be true always makes me think.
Reading Infidel, I’ve been made acutely aware that Muslims don’t have this problem of understanding. They are quite certain that people of their faith can fall away, and therefore have a solution to stop the apostasy from spreading: kill the infidels. Hmm. It might be the only sure-fire way to control the flock.
I just finished reading an article from Psychology Today, called An Atheist in the Pulpit, by Bruce Grierson. In the article, Grierson interviews several ministers who have lost their faith for a wide range of reasons. Worth reading if you’re interested in finding out how and why this can happen and, perhaps, how you can be an influence for reason and sanity among religious family and friends. It will definitely give you insight into the struggles experienced by those who awake one day to find that their faith no longer makes sense to them.
Here’s part of my story, and some of my thoughts on this topic:
It was a very strange day for me the first time someone asked me “Are you a Christian,” and my answer was, “No.” I’d spent all of my life up to that point — over 30 years — proclaiming to be a Christian. First I was a Catholic, a Christian by tradition and baptism; then I was born again.
I was raised by my great-grandmother who during my early years taught the small children in the Mormon church we went to. I was a sickly child so she often read the lessons aloud. So I was reading "Little House on the Prairie" when I was five years old. At the age of eight I was reading from the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible. I was a voracious reader. The library was my favorite playground and curiosity my playmate. And I had questions by the bucketful. I would read the Old Testament and would feel really confused, so around the age of nine I started pestering Mama with many "Why does the Bible say...?" and "Why do we (Mormons) believe...?" Now here is the answer she gave that put my feet down the path of not accepting vague answers. She looked me square in the eyes and simply replied "I don't know." And then we would look stuff up together.
Fast forward four years and I am living on my own, pregnant and dumped by baby's daddy. The Mormons excommunicate me because I was not going to put the baby up for adoption. Why must I put the baby up for adoption? Because, single moms just can't raise kids up right! What else? Thankfully Mama died a few years before this. After being given the boot I felt relief, but I was still a young, scared, soon-to-be-mom who was a bit wet behind the ears -- an easy mark for the fundies. I ended up going from Mormon to Assembles of God (AoG). Talk about shock! Mormons are usually reserved in worship. AoG the opposite were the opposite!
Thus began the year of jealousy. I had a lovely little girl and the pastor's wife couldn't have children. Needless to say she hated me. So if I had to nurse my baby or she was too "fussy," I had to go in a small side room that had no air conditioning. And it was summer in New Mexico. I spent most of my church time in that room. Well I got fed up with the crap and started going to the Baptist church. I hadn't quit reading the Bible and I was now trying to find a church that went by biblical teachings. I was also unaware of how much I was conveniently ignoring the not so nice stuff in the Bible.
Some friends of mine started going to a Messianic church. I went with them and loved the church. (Must not smack self upside head.) I couldn't get enough. My friends would have weekly Bible studies and I drank it in. But my mind couldn't ignore the "kinder, gentler" things of the Bible. The one that really caught my attention was too lovely (I am being sarcastic here) part where if a girl is raped and the guy is caught (You know if she actually screamed loud enough), and he has to marry her or pay daddy for damage of goods. I couldn't help but look at my daughter and think, "There is no way I would want her to have to live with her attacker for the rest of her life. That was just sick!" Then I started really seeing what was in the Bible. I could no longer lie to myself. It was like a blindfold coming off. The light hurt at first but then it became beautiful.
Now my girl is eight years old and already sees through the manure the is called the "Word of God."
When I was young, and I mean real young (five at the oldest), I had like pretty much most of us, no real concept of human mortality, meaning I did not know I was going to die one day. I mean, death was just not something I ever had to consider. No family members I had ever spent time with had died, so my parents had just not really explained the whole death thing to me.
Now my parents were not really religious people. My mother was a self-confessed agnostic and non-practicing Presbyterian (by baptism), and my father was just a non-practicing Catholic (just weddings and funerals),
So, I had never really had any contact with strict beliefs in god.
However, my mother’s mother had started to become heavily involved in a new style of Christian church, a new American-style church led by a dashing dynamic young man with the title of “Pastor Mike.” He offered the reward of eternal life and happiness, but to achieve this status, there were rules to follow. And these rules were or are simple, as they are written in the bible and have existed for eons.
Now I just have to interrupt at this point as there are many different schools of thought on how the stories in the Bible should be interpreted. Many people believe that the stories are only elaborate myths that can be helpful to guide you through the rough times or when you are unsure of the best path to take -- a sort of guide book. Then there are the people who want to bring it all back to a literal interpretation, to assert that what is written is in fact complete and undeniable truth. They believe that an all powerful being created the entire cosmos step by step, bit by bit, until HE finally perfected it with Adam and Eve. You know the rest of the stories. This is what I understand to be a very fundamentalist view.
So, back up to speed.
It was around the time of my 8th birthday while staying with my grandma on a weekend visit that, without my parents consent, let alone mine, I was taken to this church and held under water, being instructed to ask some mysterious powerful being called Jesus into my heart as my life friend. This was my first taste of the “born again” version of the Christian religion.
My parents where furious with my grandma, but after the dust had settled, and in part due to my parents lack of experience with this church, that I was allowed to continue if I wanted to attend Sunday school at the church. It was OK at first. I met new friends and they told us cool stories of magical things from faraway lands and big bad monsters that punish the wicked. For a while I was hooked. It was fun.
But that did not last forever. I began to question the logic behind these stories. I could no longer believe that the entire human race with all its races and colours could possibly have come from Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden as well as all the other wonderfully elaborate stories that I was being fed.
Two years was all it took for me to realize that this was just all a crock of shit. I was being lied to in such an all encompassing way that I was being taught to fear an evil being that dwelt under the surface of the Earth and who would punish me for eternity if I stepped out of line. And then, of course, I was being promised all the wonders of heaven if I pledged my love to some big bearded guy in the sky surrounded by angels and family and other such loveliness. I had had enough. I knew I was being conned, so at the age of ten I openly denounced the church to my grandmother, to the shock of many, and told them all that I thought the whole thing was a load of nonsense and that I want nothing more to do with it.
This pretty much destroyed my relationship with my gram for awhile, and she sunk even deeper into her church activities. What was a once-a-week on a Sunday morning thing became a twice-a-Sunday thing, with more involvement in Bible studies, door knocking to spread the word, and then the ever bizarre speaking in tongues.
While I was spending occasional parts of my spare time examining and trying to comprehend the never ending contradictions and downright impossibilities and nonsense to be found in the Bible, my gram dove deeper into the church. She even participated in stints of Bible smuggling into China, missionary work in Israel and Palestine to convert Muslims, and months in parts of Africa to “Save the dark heathen masses from eternal damnation”
So it was at the ripe old age of 14 that I finally settled on my position, without too much external influence, that God did not create all that is around us, or us, but that we invented HIM. That conclusion made so much more sense. Religion worked (works) as a great method of taming the masses. Intimidation and fear mongering is meted out for those who did (do) not believe or follow, and an ultimate reward is promised for those who did (do) believe. This method was (is) successful because none of it could (can) ever be proven either way -- you just had to have faith. Faith: a blind belief in something completely un-provable. Also, it all makes for a great copout from reality when you start to comprehend your own mortality.
Well, I am thirty now and I still hold onto my non-belief in Christianity. Never has anyone truly given me a proper argument to make me think I am wrong. It just always keeps coming down to the faith thing.
That good old “unquestionable faith.”
Sometimes it just must be so easy to be so ignorant
Maybe it’s even bliss.
“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood.” 1 Corinthians 13:11-12.
When Christian acquaintances learn that I am a former fundamentalist that became an atheist, their shocked response is, “What horrible trauma did you suffer at the hands of some evil person to cause you to lose your faith?” This is expressed with an expression of a combination of fascination and horror, as if they were looking at a poisonous snake.
But the only horrible thing that happened to me was a liberal education. Of course, the most horrible thing that could happen from a Christian fundamentalist's standpoint.
But, I should start at the beginning of my story. My parents were moderate Christians. They occasionally attended church and never indoctrinated me with the hellfire and brimstone peddled by fundamentalists.
When I was in Kindergarten, a classmate invited me to his house to play with some of his other friends. Before we left his house, his mother gathered us all in a circle and told us she was going to tell us a story. She showed us some colored construction paper, a black sheet, a red sheet, and a white sheet.
She told us that the black sheet represented our hearts and souls, which were black with original sin. The red sheet represented the blood of Jesus which would wash our hearts and souls and turn them as white as the third sheet. And if we didn't accept Jesus and be washed in his blood, we would go to hell and burn forever and ever after we died.
Even at the age of five, I thought she must be out of her mind. Wash myself in blood or burn forever. Yeeecch! Let me out of here! I left her house as soon as possible and never went back.
When I was in the third grade, I stayed in a small town with my grandparents for several months. She took me to a moderate christian church every Sunday. It was mostly boring, but not so bad. There were several children there my age that I could play with.
A traveling revival preacher came to town one week and my grandmother took me to one of their meetings. While the preacher was preaching, the congregation was yelling and screaming. It was scary. I thought, “These people must be caraaazy!” We escaped unscathed and never went back.
Just before I started high school a proselytizing family offered to transport me every Sunday to their Baptist church. It wasn’t so bad, until a family in the church testified to the congregation about their wonderful blessings from the lord. The father had been fired from his job, their house had burnt down, they had totaled their car and several family members went in the hospital with serious injuries, the father had contracted a serious illness that required a long expensive stay in the hospital. As a result, they were broke and homeless. But, praise the lord for all his blessings, they were all still alive and together. I thought, “They must be carazzzy!” After their testimony, I didn’t return.
But, like they say, “Fourth time’s a charm.” At the beginning of my high school years, I was invited to attend a Southern Baptist church only a couple of blocks from my home.
This was a brand new congregation having been founded the way many Southern Baptist congregations are founded, i.e. one group in a previous congregation had a falling out with another group, so one group stomped out of the old church and started a new one.
Southern Baptist theology has a plan of salvation which begins with the absolute statement that all have sinned and are destined for hell, unless….(But wait, I must give fair warning to anyone who has not heard this plan, that they may be in danger of being saved. If you feel you might be in danger, please skip the next few paragraphs. I refuse to be held responsible for the possibility of your salvation and your total loss of reason.).... unless they follow the Southern Baptist plan of salvation as presented in the Southern Baptist tracts and quoted from my Scofield bible. For that plan see http://www.chick.com/information/general/salvation.asp
For me, it began with a hellfire and brimstone sermon, and preying. Preying on my guilt and fear engendered by the sermon. I was scared sh*tless. Then the congregation sang a hymn featuring fountains and rivers of blood from Jesus. Sinners like me were invited to come to the front of the church, confess that you are a sinner and accept Jesus into your heart. Naturally I didn’t what to burn in hell for eternity, so slouched to the front of the church and confessed my imaginary sins. Then presto change-o, I was a saved and born again as a Christian. No matter what a Christian does after that he goes to heaven (unless he blasphemes the holy spirit. There’s always a catch, isn’t there? Maybe that’s catch-22) .
Afterwards came the dunking (baptism) up to my chest in ice cold water. A sweet, shapely young woman about my age was being baptized at the same time. I couldn’t help but notice the white robe clinging to her body as she emerged from the water. Oops, just saved and lustfully sinning again in my mind again already.
But I soon charged ahead in my new life, never noticing that I still only had one navel. I joined church groups witnessing to the unsaved. I diligently searched the scriptures and memorized the plan of salvation. Every Saturday night I boarded the bus to attend Youth for Christ rallies. I even memorized large portions of the bible and participated in YFC bible quiz contests.
YFC was growing at that time and building a new headquarters. I volunteered my time in the summer and help to build their new office. My reward was a free lunch each day. During the construction one of the other helpers a little bit above me dropped a hammer on my head. Perhaps I should have perceived that as the beginning of my enlightenment.
I continued to build strength in the lord, attending Sunday morning church services, Sunday evening services, Wednesday prayer meetings, YFC on Saturday nights, YFC club at high school, all the while praying and witnessing constantly. I even preached a sermon at a church service. Being a Southern Baptist meant no card playing, no dancing, and above all No Sex; doing or even thinking.
In spite of being shy around women and having a repressed demeanor, my hormones were raging as much as any other normal teen. So I had to spend lots of time in prayer and church activities in an attempt to repress my urges and fantasies. As a result, my social life in high school was totally destroyed.
Enough of that dreary story. After graduation, I enrolled at the University of Kansas College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. There I joined the small Baptist Student Union group and resumed the proselytizing and church activities that I had participated in at home. I am proud to say now that I never converted a single person in college. Those college students were a resistant bunch.
A funny thing happened on my way to my liberal arts degree. I was required to take a Humanities course called “Western Civilization.” In it I had to read the work of several eighteenth century philosophers from the “Age of Reason”. It was a flunk-out course and most students hated it, but I loved it. The scales fell from my eyes. At the end of the two-semester course (sophomore year), I was a full blown atheist. A little education is a dangerous thing.
I didn’t tell any of my friends at church or the Baptist Student Union. They were the only friends I had at the time. In my senior year, I was elected president of the small group. I had to fake the prayers and praising the lord on many occasions. I may hold the record as the only atheist that has been elected president of a Baptist Student Union at any college in the world.
Over the decades since then, with the growth of aggressive religious fundamentalism in the world, I have become more militant and public in my atheistic stance. There are many more stories and details I could tell, being branded as an immoral person by co-workers merely because I am an atheist, being thrown out of a Toastmasters group because all of my speeches were criticisms of religion; but this testimony is getting pretty long, so I’ll save those stories for another time and place.
I feel fortunate that I wasted only six years of my life in a Christian delusional state, even though it ruined my high school years. I sympathize and empathize with those of you who have wasted more years. But, I gained valuable knowledge during that time that will inoculate me against future delusions. And it gave me a deeper understanding of the fundamentalist mindset. To all ex-christians and want-to-be's I say, hang in there in spite of the trials and good luck.
You can see one of the speeches that helped get me thrown out of Toastmasters on the Internet at www.godsfavoritecolor.com or on the Youtube Comedy section under the title “God’s Favorite Color.” I plan to add more to my website, but I don’t have a lot of time now, so progress will be slow.
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)