Image via WikipediaFirst off, I can't believe I'm actually submitting this and putting my past on display, but holy crap!
I can be a jerk. I know this and anyone who knows me knows this. I'm stubborn, pig-headed and I think I know everything. I know quite a bit about a lot of stuff, but I like to pretend that because I have mad debating skills that I know more than most people. This simply isn't true and deep down I know that just because I might have a little more knowledge about a subject doesn't mean that I know everything there is to know about it. Ask my wife and she'll tell you.
I don't like to be wrong and I'll try weird and exotic tactics to be right. The one thing I do have going for me though, is that if I know I'm right, I will not let it go. I know I can't convince you to change your opinion but if I can get you to at least look at it from my point of view and say, "Yeah, I can understand that" then, I’m perfectly content. I couldn't give a damn that you think I'm wrong; all I want is to be acknowledged. People who blindly believe everything they are taught piss me the hell off. It may be a flaw or it may be the beginning of a road to greater understanding, I don't know.
I used to be a person who believed everything I was taught. Everything I was told had to be true. You can ask my dad about a story I once read in the tabloids. I was naive and stupid. I had conversation with a co-worker about history and he lent me a book entitled, "Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong". I took it with a grain of salt and rolled my eyes. I assumed it was a conspiracy book about how the Illuminati and the masons or some other secret society were controlling history. Instead, it introduced extremely well thought out ideas with a citation every 2 sentences. Instead of taking a history book and examining it, the author took 12 history books, compared them and then proved them wrong using facts, teachings and writings from hundreds of other sources. I learned that not everything in those history books were wrong, but in fact exaggerations and half-truths with the scary and horrible details left out. It truly opened my eyes to the world and I went from a blind follower to a student of how the world actually was.
It may not sound like some great epiphany but that book truly changed my life. I began to question not just history, but everything in my life. The government wasn't some great benefactor who knew what was best for me (I was a republican), Religion didn't make a lick of sense and who determined what 'good and evil' were? My entire belief system became objective. I went from hating everyone because they didn't agree with me to understand and accepting that their beliefs were different than mine and I couldn't change that by fervently getting in their face and forcing them to change. I began to understand that you had to challenge someone's beliefs by showing them the other side of it and in a way that would let them see without feeling backed into a corner. I hope she doesn't get mad at me for using her as an example but my greatest success story is my wife. She's English and learned things in the English school systems from their own point of view of history. They are taught histories differently than we are, not just on their own history but on the same subject, like the world wars. This may seem obvious to you, but she was never taught that America participated in World War one. It seems like an oh my gosh, what the hell sort of moment, but it doesn't make them stupid or ignorant or bad. It's just different. I've met Americans who comes to Europe expecting everyone to know the complete history of the US. Anyway, back on subject.
I got into a heated discussion with my wife one night about the hydrogen bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. She was adamantly opposed to the idea that it might have been necessary. I happened to agree with her that there could have been some other way and an alternative solution could have been found with the same effect but I understood that the bombs were necessary. I spent hours trying to wear her down to the idea and I failed miserably. I decided to take a different route. We talked until we cooled down and I began to explain to her the rational and reasoning behind why the President at the time gave the signal. Why they weren't animalistic monsters and why to them, it was perfectly reasonably and just. I was careful to explain that just because they thought it was right, that it doesn't make it so. I had to explain that I was playing devil's advocate and I didn't really believe it was right myself, just that there was more reasoning behind the decision to drop the bombs then blood lust.
The result? It worked! I didn't change her mind and she still hates the bombs, but I got her thinking outside the box. Horrible cliché, I know.
I found it easier to slip into that 3rd party and examine both sides of the issue. I looked at both sides of the argument, understood why they believed the way they did and then chose the side that most appealed to me. In certain subject like politics, I chose the opposing view of both sides. As it stands, I'm Libertarian and I think that both the Democrats and Republicans are the same.
The main problem with this objective thinking is it inevitably leads to misunderstanding and arrogance. You start to think that you are enlightened and your ability to think past things makes you better than those who don't. I constantly have to remind myself that just because someone doesn't think outside the box, doesn't make them inferior. God knows I get told this on a daily basis by Gemma. I know for a fact that she's smarter than me and she can see through my bullshit and has no problem telling me when I'm wrong. I am extremely grateful for this as she knows exactly how to knock me off of my pedestal and out of the clouds.
I'm not saying that I'm always like this, I usually only get that way when it concerns a belief of mine that I hold dear and is important to me. The one that always crops up with me is my religious beliefs, or lack thereof. Now, if you're my father reading this, then you've probably just been hit hard. Fortunately I have matured and while I do care deeply about what my dad thinks, I also believe it is extremely important to live life the way you want to and if you believe in something you should not be afraid to believe it openly. As it stands now, I am agnostic. To me, an agnostic person is a person who claims that they cannot have true knowledge about the existence of God (but does not deny that God might exist. I don't disbelieve in God, but I do disbelieve in religion.
I've always had mixed feelings about religion, specifically the Christian religion. I was raised Baptist and spent a huge portion of my childhood going to church, blindly believing what I was told because I didn't know any better. I was told that Jesus loved me no matter what and that if I was good, I would get to go to heaven and if I was bad, I would go to the bad place. A place which is a swear word and isn't, depending on how you were using it. This is not a rant to bash religion, Christians or anything like that. All I am doing is creating an explanation about why I no longer associate myself with a religion and hope that someone reads it and says, “Hey! That makes sense” or “I can totally relate to that.” If not, well I hope you come from this with a greater understanding about why people are turned off from religion and to ask yourself whether your blindly following a belief or if you’re following because it makes sense to you.
When it comes to Christianity, I’ve been on all sides of the fence. I’ve been that fundamentalist who thinks that everyone is a sinner and needs to convert in order to be saved from going to hell. I’ve also been the skeptic that questioned everything the bible has said. From the first time I went to church until about 19 years of age, I was a Christian. I tried to live my life as pure as possible, I chose not to drink, smoke and I even gave up on masturbation because it was a sin and I wanted to be the perfect Christian warrior for Christ. It was my mission to show everybody how happy I was living this life and to convince them that this was the way to be and no other lifestyle would do.
Emotionally, I was pretty fucked up. I managed to convince myself that all of these negative emotions and urges would go away if I believed hard enough that all I had to do was give myself over to Christ completely and I would be happy. So I repressed all of my feelings. I already grew up with a warped sense of what sexuality was because I was taught that sexual feelings are evil and it’s wrong to have sex and have sexual thoughts before marriage.
I withdrew upon myself and took up the mantra of “It’s all good” and became a shell of my former self. I would allow no emotions and I took anything that cropped up and hid it away where I couldn’t get to it. I became an asexual robot and I didn’t see anything wrong with it. I shied away from alcohol because I was told that it’s wrong and that alcoholism ran in my family and that if I drank, I would become an alcoholic too. Everybody I knew saw it and told me numerous times that I had become an asshole. I judged everyone and I became holier than thou because they were all sinners.
The first time I went to the desert (Qatar) it started to fall apart around me. I began to lose control of myself and had established a pornography addiction. This may sound weird as I just previous said that I considered masturbating to be wrong and a sin. I still did and to be 100% honest I rarely did it. It wasn’t the act of pleasure or the women in the pictures and movies that turned me toward porn, it was the overwhelming loneliness. I lived a life of complete and utter loneliness where I would not let anyone get close to me because the bible said that you should not associate with anyone who would turn you away from the path of Christ. I took this idea and ran with it.
My first deployment came and I can tell you that being utterly lonely with only a God who doesn’t talk back to you to lean on is depressing, especially when you add on all the stress of being in an environment of long days and extreme heat. I gave in an opened up a little and made friends. They wouldn’t take no for an answer when I told them that I didn’t drink and I had my first beer. I only drank one night a week and there was a three drink maximum so getting drunk was out of the question. For the first time in a long time, I enjoyed myself.
The loneliness came back after I got back from the desert and my life only got worse. I was on the Internet all the time, throwing myself at video games, books and movies where I could detach myself from reality and be someone else for a while.
Eventually I moved here to England and made the conscious decision to change my life. I discovered that my religious views and belief in God did not follow the hypocritical path that Christianity dominated. I became almost fanatical in my attempts to convince people that they needed to see the light and see that they were not true Christians and should stop pretending that they were. In short, I became no better than they were.
I met my Wife, Gemma and got together with her knowing that she was not Christian and was in fact pagan. She was raised by an atheist Father and a Mother whose background included the Church of England. I knew my Dad wouldn’t approve and I didn’t really care, I thought myself enlightened and was pretty proud that I fell in love with someone of a different religion.
I thought myself on top of the world when I took a required college course on contemporary moral ethics and I was the only non-Christian in the class. I beat the pants off of everyone in the class when it came to topics like, Homosexuality, abortion or any other number of hot button topics that are discussed today. I thought myself better than they were because not only did I believe in God, but I did so while believing that every person was equal and deserved a fair chance in life. You can see how hypocritical I was as well.
It all came crashing down when my boss told me of a friend who loves debating religion and wanted to meet me. I accepted the invitation to a luncheon and we spent two hours arguing religion. I threw out every argument against Christianity that I could think of, I spit it out poisonously, hoping to get him on a million different contradictions in the bible and in the basic tenants of Christian philosophy. He beat the pants off of me in every argument. When I say beat the pants off of me, I mean that he whipped my ass pretty soundly. He countered every argument and stumped me in a million different ways.
I thought that this was a sign from God and that I was being told that I was wrong and should change my ways. I promised to change and came home to Gemma and spent a few hours proclaiming the miracle of what had happened. She thought I was crazy and I convinced myself that she could think what she wanted, I had found God again and he actually reached out to me.
Unfortunately this feeling wouldn’t last. Instead of hating on all Christians, I began denouncing those who did evil in God’s name and told people that true Christians are not like that and don’t believe it. The majority are good and peaceful and tolerant. My views changed once again and this time for good.
The shooting of Dr. Tiller, the Doctor who performed late-term abortions. I was completely shocked to read this online and that it was done in the name of God. I looked forwarding to seeing church leaders and my fellow Christians to stand up and denounce the murderer and admit that even though they may believe that abortion was murder that he was wrong to kill the doctor. In reality, I saw the exact opposite. I saw dozens of preachers and religious leaders praise the cowardly act. I saw and heard of hundreds of thousands of Christians cheer and say that they were glad that he was killed and the murderer did the right thing. I saw prominent political figures like Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh tell their millions of followers that he deserved to die and encouraged their followers to think the same. I was shocked and horrified. I went to work and heard all my religious co-workers endorsing the murder and praising the killer.
Desperate, I turned toward the bible, trying to find anything that would either put this into perspective or let me know that I was right in not agreeing with the masses. What I found opened my eyes once and for all. I did not find a God who was loving and caring, I found a God that killed and murdered for his own purposes. A God that painted all non-believers with the same brush and committed mass murder to get his way. A God that kicked Adam and Eve out of Eden because of his own pride. A God that encourages his followers to kill those who don’t believe in him and to kill those who try to convert them. I tried to rationalize all of these actions and tell myself that he did it for the good of mankind, but then I started to think. How can God expect mankind to love thy neighbor and to not murder/kill when he’s doing it left and right?
Before anyone tries to tell me that God didn’t kill anyone, sending a flood and protecting one family and killing everyone else on earth is not just murder, it’s fucking genocide. Deciding that a whole world of people aren’t following you anymore and killing everyone in the world, even if there might have been devout followers and believers in him is just sick and not the actions of a kind and just God.
I turned from the Bible, no longer believing anything I read in it and turned toward the Internet. I looked up something that might restore my faith, something that could help me and instead, I discovered one website: www.exchristian.net. What I read wasn’t Christian bashing and it wasn’t God hating. It was ordinary people like me who used to be Christian and had similar stories. I read one in particular that left me in tears. It was at this point that I realized that I was done with religion and done with God.
As you’ve read I’ve always had problems with Christianity, but kept my faith in God.
I can safely and proudly say that I do not believe in God and never will. I know my Dad is going to flip his lid while reading this and I’m scared to death of his reaction. I once told him that I lost faith in Christianity and he told me that he was saddened that his son was going to hell, so I cannot imagine what is going to happen. But, as I said before it’s my life to live as I see fit and I am no longer going to live my life in the fear that an all loving God will seek his revenge in the afterlife.
I am deeply saddened by this loss in my life, I feel like there is something missing and my wife ended up becoming Agnostic in the long run and she told me that she felt the same thing. I am also joyous that I have been truly enlightened and a can live my life without that extra complications.
I do not feel the need to go around and “preach” the evils of God and Christianity and will not force my beliefs on anyone else. If you are of the mind that this story is doing just that, just remember that nobody forced you to read this and it was your choice.
I do however believe that once Human kind can move past this religious phase then we can reach our true potential.
As of submtting these, I've actually sent what I've written to my parents and I'm still scared to death of the reaction.