Sent in by Stephen
I am a long time lurker on this site and I just felt the urge to "come out" as a ... well I don't know if there is any word to describe my belief system but I'm sure you'll all get the idea once you read what I have to say...I guess the term "truth-seeker" is about as close as the English language allows.
My upbringing was of the loose catholic variety where we belonged to a church but were about as far from any extremist belief as you can get. I live in New Zealand and here, any kind of extremism is generally frowned upon, even the Christian variety and extremist Christians are often a target of public ridicule (yay! :o) ) . So I wasn't wrapped up in any evangelical/extremist type belief system, but I was still influenced by dogma to believe that there was a god, who was watching over us and was basically in control of the universe and everything and that everything was going along according to his will. Luckily the denomination of Catholicism that ran my school (the Rosminians) were a rather practical bunch and they would explain how god would use various natural phenomena to get his message across. I have rather vivid memories of being taught in "Christian living" class how the pillar of cloud that led the Israelites through the desert was probably a tornado etc etc and thinking "that sounds reasonable and not as far out as the bible made it sound". Also, they were very heavily into the "new law," i.e., everything Jesus said that did away with the old law. Jesus sounded like my kind of guy. He sounded like he was more interested in being correct than popular and as an extremely unpopular kid at school this ideal appealed to me like water to a fish! We stopped going to church, which was boring as hell except for the priest who is now the bishop of Auckland. I was always impressed with the quality of his sermons and now think that this was probably because he focussed on the positive words of Jesus (who I truly think never existed), but he would carry them out and at one stage after becoming bishop he offered pregnant women financial incentives not to have abortions. He was basically using the Catholic churches money to support single mothers. What a guy! But when I was 15 we stopped getting up every Sunday morning and trudging off to a church full of people who were more interested in dressing up than "receiving the message".
From the age of 15-18 I was still at the Catholic school and made it out without being too indoctrinated, but after the age of 18 I felt a "spiritual yearning". I'm sure most here know what I'm talking about, the sort of feeling that there must be more to this fantastic creation than what we can see, feel, touch, smell and hear. I tried various sects of yoga and meditation groups but sooner or later, these would end up with some kind of guru worship. The original goal did not seem the same once I had gotten in a bit deeper and it seemed so facile that I would just leave these groups. Still, I'd often continue to receive mail and emails from them.
After this phase I went traveling (NZ is a small place!) got into the international travel scene: drugs, cults, you name it. After awhile all the "spiritual" paths seemed like so much bullshit, refried and served up with a different flavour, so I basically gave up on the idea that another person was going to be able to show me "the way". I had serious doubts that "the way" even existed in the sense that most people think, i.e., a narrow path that if carefully trodden, leads to "salvation". Oh I had moments of clarity, bliss and a feeling of calling, but none would last past the initial motivation to stay on the "path".
Then, to the consternation of many of my Christian associates came my physics education. I turned into a modern day Galileo (one of my heroes), discounting all their bullshit dogma with rational and more importantly reproducible science. The best time I had at university was arguing with Christians about how the universe worked. Many of them seemed to still be thinking that the sun orbited the earth. The most fun was arguing with a lecturer of theology who said that because something was not detectable doesn't mean it doesn't exist. He used the example of my brain. He said that no one had seen my brain so therefore we couldn't be sure that it existed. I burst out laughing (I was 30 years old when I first went to university) and went on to say that if we went to the CAT scan machine at the medical school, we could indeed see that my brain existed in reality and that any obfuscation by him would not change that fact and all the other things he said existed without detection (i.e., the wind of all things!!) could be detected and evidenced by alternative scientific proofs. I began to see the importance of proof in any rational discourse. Needless to say the lecture theatre was pretty quiet after that. :o)
Anyway, I began to look into religion in general and read the entire site at www.jesusneverexisted.com in a weekend (another mind-fuck) and came to the conclusion that religionists are nothing more than a bunch of power-hungry elitists who aren't interested in the truth nearly as much as they are interested in power over others. After tallying up the number of deaths that can be attributed to the Christian religion (I'm quite the math Nazi as well) at almost half a billion, I cried inside for 2 whole days over what had been done in the name of "Christ" and "god" and thought, "Never again am I going to believe anything anybody tells me without hard proof." It was a tough and gut-wrenching time, but looking back it was well worth it as I see the universe (the world is such a small place for an astronomer :o) ) with much clearer perception now that I have dropped the whole religious ideology way of looking at life. To be honest, I feel much better and more fulfilled without it. Even disclosing myself here has bought considerable relief.
Thanks for reading and letting me share.