Well, the introduction forum exists, I know what to do: Hi, my name is Josh and I'm a former Christian. I'm still at the point where fully embracing the term atheist makes me slightly uncomfortable, but I try to call things what they are and as such, I have to call myself a godless heathen whose going to burn in fire until I'm nothing but ashes when I die. I'm planning on being cremated and scattered anyways...and that way if Jesus does surprise me and come back and wants to resurrect me it'll give him a bit more work finding all the pieces, lol.
I've only read a couple threads on the site so far so I don't know how my story stacks up with you guys, but it seems pretty par based on my reading the testimonials on exchristians.net.
Yeah...so I was raised in a mostly Catholic charismatic community (see yeslord.com for more details if you want to know specifics) going to Church every Sunday, prayer meetings Wed & Thursdays, music practice (the community's music ministry) on Mondays, boy scouts (the community's troop) on Tuesdays. I took Bible classes k-12 in their private Christian school, except 1st grade where I went to an actual Catholic school.
I hope I don't have to explain any of this to people, but I can if I need to...unlike I've had to do with Christian groups, I'm going to assume you people are knowledgeable enough to know or intelligent enough to google it.
A normal Catholic kid growing up, from the point of Catholicism, with one notable exception. When it was time to be "confirmed" I sat in the pew with my friends listening to the bishop spout the same thing they always spout and I contemplated the "voluntary" nature of the confirmation sacrament. While I personally didn't give a crap one way or the other, I acknowledged that if I had actually had a desire to not be confirmed, I would find that I did not have that option.
The inevitable condemnation of my peers, probable out-casting, disapproval from my parents, and so on flooded through my mind. I acknowledged in my mind that I probably shouldn't be being confirmed since I didn't really feel it, but it was these thoughts of impending torture that kept me glued to my seat instead of running for my freedom. However even though I've said the same vows numerous times before and after, (it's the Nicene creed they want you to agree with, if I remember correctly), I did not say them when the bishop directed us to as a group. I will admit, that same fear probably had something to do with why I moved my lips ceremoniously up and down (not forming words, just straight up and down) when everyone else was saying the stuff.
So when I graduated and moved out, I do what all normal Catholics do and I became a hedonist. It's the logical move for an invincible 18 year old Catholic. All I had to do was make sure I didn't do anything so bad as to actually die from it and I could go confess to the priest on Saturday night before evening mass. The whole death thing probably is what kept me from getting into drugs too much, I think, the fear of overdose...dying while sinning was not an situation I was willing to risk. I didn't consider alcohol a drug (sure it is, it's obvious now) so it was my drug of choice.
At this point, I kinda lived 2 distinct lives, one for my family and religious friends and one for my bar buddies. They didn't interact much until I got one of my bar buddies pregnant. We eventually got married (it was a lot more story than that, but not relevant to my religious history) and she moved to my family/religious friend list. She wouldn't even step in a bar nowadays.
So I tried to "clean up" my life a bit. I abandoned all of my bar buddies altogether. I started going back to church regularly and me and the wife joined the Alleluia Community. Sure, it's a cult by any normal definition, but it's not any more dangerous than normal Christianity. It was the same place I grew up and I knew their effective motto was that they were Christians helping each other be better Christians. Went back to Wed & Thursdays prayer meetings, etc. All the motions.
I'll admit at this point, I never really was full-hearted in it and left the community (as in membership and participation, not location, I'm still physically located in their midst) because of this half-heartedness, for my own intellectual integrity. Slightly before I left, however, something amazing happened...
I was having a crisis of faith one night, and while outside I looked up at the sky and prayed for some sign...the next day I found Creationism. I considered it a miracle and an answer to prayer, but now I realize it was simply that I started looking for something and hence I found something. You see, at the school I attended, not only was Creationism not taught, no origins discussion ever occurred. The evolution section in high school biology was simply skipped (as was the human reproduction system...don't worry, I figured out where to put things when the time came). Otherwise, it's a pretty decent school. Having no direction in the matter, except the cutout board animations in CCD, I simply assumed that Adam and Eve really existed, that David was always a kid with a slingshot and that Jesus was a hippy (not the word I would have used then, but the same idea) and didn't think anything more about it at all, ever...until that day.
Creationism spawned my interest in the Bible...I was now of the utmost certainty that anything it said in a matter of fact sense (as opposed to parts like the prophecies and psalms where you're supposed look for "spiritual" meaning) were absolutely true. In a matter of days, I went from half-hearted to utterly obsessed with Christianity. I read everything I could about Creationism and studied the Bible like a maniac. I found myself in the midst of groups I had never even heard of arguing like crazy. Much of the time I spent correcting the Creationists for using bad arguments, you know, like the banana being "designed." I literally face-palmed at Cameron when I saw him pull out the crocoduck...yes, even Creationists think he's a numb-nut.
Now, Catholics are not creationists generally (apparently anyways, at least in this area), but since I grew up without any direction, I had no idea who was what. So, I ended up chatting very much with protestants...who have on their list of things to say, a number of complaints against the Catholic Church. So I went on a mission to prove to them that the Catholic Church was correct. That's when I found out that the Vatican doesn't believe in Creationism...it was confusing, but I set it aside for the moment. I never actually came back to it, I realized they were bullshiting before I would have.
My first goal was to tackle the Saturday/Sunday issue (thanks SDA). When the reason for disregarding one of the 10 commandments was not readily apparent, I stopped going to church...just in case. I was extremely disappointed to know that there was absolutely no rationality behind moving the rest day to Sunday...in fact, it's not a rest day at all, it's a worship day. Catholicism did not have a rest day and every argument in favor of Sunday was effectively based on "you should worship all the time." I had to reject Sunday worship on the basis that it ignores and causes people to violate the 10 commandments. If you're not aware, the Sunday they worship on is the 8th day of the week...retards. The commandment says rest on the 7th day, not worship on the 8th day. I could go on, but I'll move on. I started with Catholic resources only, but even the "8th day" protestants didn't have any reason.
During this time, I found that some people had an issue with the Trinity not being in the Bible. I knew it never directly said it, so I made up a list of the minimum requirements needing to be met and gathered from different parts of the Bible...I searched and searched and searched literally for years before I had enough to say matter of factly, it is not in there. With a handful of other doctrines I was simultaniously researching, every one of the Protestant complaints that xxx doctrine wasn't in the Bible were true. And I never found a church which had freed itself of all the unbiblical doctrine. The only thing they seem to be able to say correctly is that all the other ones are wrong, well you're wrong too! I'd have had to pick a church based on which wrong doctrines they had I was most comfortable with and I wasn't willing to accept any lies with my truth so I went to none of them.
By this time, my family and religious friends didn't discuss religion at all with me. No one came to me and asked why I stopped going to church. I raged on facebook a decent amount and on my blog which I since removed...kinda. It's still stored in blogger, just not displayed. I found one guy I could relate to as he was going through something similar. I even drove from Georgia to Ohio for Passover which was fun, not the Passover, the trip in general was fun, and we visited the Creation Museaum, yay!
Both of us had been banned from Answer's in Genesis for discussing that the Trinity doctrine was incorrect. They banned us before they banned the atheists. They went on a banning spree in order to hide banning two of their most active Creationist members on the facebook page, Allen and I. You see, an atheist isn't a threat to Creationists. Most of the time, atheists will refuse to discuss anything from the perspective of being within the creation model framework (i.e. "world view"), just like a non-Catholic will refuse to discuss things from within the perspective of being inside the Catholic viewpoint. At that point, the atheist is dismissed as not understanding the grander scope, or something like that. Also, atheists would clearly lack "the Spirit." Another easy dismissal.
The problem with Allen and I was that we were discussing the Trinity from within the Biblical framework the Creationists wanted us to use in order to be Creationists, but not within the framework they used for devotionals, spiritual truth, etc., which is where they wanted us to worship. It's a bait and switch tactic honestly and I wasn't falling for it. Allen and I spent a few months writing up a very well documented list of why AiG's Trinity "proof" was a pile of crap if based on the method of reading the Bible they recommend when discussing creation. They largely ignored it. The best I got out of them was that they were too busy...right, too busy to discuss one of the most fundamental aspects of Christianity, sure. I can post a link if anyone is interested in that.
I had a long search trying to find a group that actually believed the whole Bible...and what an adventure. I nearly joined a ton of them, but stopped short at every one. Then I found a guy who investigated Islaam and found it false...and went on to investigate Paul. Paul was a liar who disagreed with Peter and Jesus. I didn't take that's guys word against Paul, I investigated his reasons and they were sound. I learned a lot about Bible translating at this point. I became a Sacred Name'r (someone who believes YHWH should not be replaced with "Lord" and should be pronounced correctly) and eventually dropped Luke's gospel (he was Paul's lackey) and all Paul's letters from my Bible (mentally, anyways, I always use online ones) as well as Job, because he's a retard too. Also, Job's description of Satan's activity didn't mesh at all with the rest of the Bible and it's full of a bunch of crap philosophy from people who don't matter on any scale for a great part.
I want to mention at this point, that the past 5 years are a bit of a jumble in my mind. Some of the events happened simultaneously with each other over the course of months or years, but it's logically coherent as I started one part and starting it led to another in roughly the order they're presented above. Today, I've still got at least 4 different worldview's stuck in there and I hate Christianity from each and every one of them. But removing tainted books from my Bible is when it all really broke down...I eventually realized I had no way of knowing which other books should remain.
The end result was that I had to face the fact that if I knew there were alterations and additions that weren't in the originals, I could not trust those parts, but I knew that there was no way for me to know which parts should be and which should not be. The entire thing had to be trashed because with this uncertainty, the entire thing is unreliable.
What I was left with before I discarded the whole thing still had two distinct concepts. There's the Westboro concept, wrath of an angry God, and there's the Hippy Jesus concept, love dude. Ironically, I found myself the only Creationist as a non-Christian surrounded by Christian evolutionists. (Think about that for a sec.)
That's pretty close to where I am now, but I never stop thinking...being an atheist creationist sounds retarded, so I'll probably have to think about that a bit. Anyways, after that, I came to the same conclusion of statistical likeliness of prayer that you can find on Why Won't God Heal Amputees? before I read that site. Though I would add that the statistic for answered prayer is actually higher than he's indicating because prayer requests are a gamble and people naturally weigh the gamble before making the request. Just an example, kid's don't normally pray for snow unless their parent's prime them with, "It might snow." By that time, the parent has already analyzed that there's a decent likeliness to get a "yes" before the kid even prays.
I realized the psychological effects of praise and worship prayer are completely physical, psychological results of the imposed stimuli and activities. I had to come to this conclusion because I remembered the feelings but knew that where I was when I had them was not what I was told it was (that being "the truth") and their God was fiction. I had made a mental distinction between their God and mine shortly before my dad one time told me, "I'd offer to pray with you but you don't worship the same God I do." That was the day I stopped saying "grace" with my family at family gatherings and participating in any of their prayer or worship.
My ultimate conclusion regarding Christianity is that it is a drug. It is a very powerful drug. I am currently going through withdraw, but the beer and ranting on facebook seem to help a little. Priests, monks, nuns, popes, and every other Christian leader is a conman and a drugdealer, and he is that regardless of whether or not he's fooled himself too. My older brother is a conman. He is a music leader in Alleluia as well as a high school teacher and a "head" (their title for the leader of one of their smaller hierarchical structures).
He not infrequently uses scripture out of context, sometimes for jokes, but normally as part of a bad rationalization probably passed to him from some Catholic book or website. I've called it on him a number of times and now he simply avoids talking about the Bible around me. My father will not discuss anything with me either. My mother will discuss things to a certain extent, and she is the only one in my whole family who will, but it does quickly get beyond her tolerance level. My older sister won't listen, but she will give an occasional advice something like, "You do realize that not celebrating Christmas will permanently scar your daughter, right?" I don't know if I've ever had conversation with my younger sister that was more than small talk in my whole life...things didn't change between me and her as far as I can tell.
Of course, I realize my daughter will have issues and I certainly wish for an alternative. Christmas is the most powerful drug I've ever taken and one of the worst times of the year for me now because of the withdraw. I was literally sick for 3 weeks and my mom told me she was worried about me Saturday a couple weeks ago...I told her it would be gone "by Monday." My dad took their Christmas decorations down Sunday and I was totally over my 3 week nausea the following day. I knew when it was going on that it was entirely psychological and going to a doctor wouldn't change a thing.
Hell yes, I want to celebrate in the style of Christmas, but I can't celebrate a bold faced lie with people who actually believe it's true. Who knows, I might be able to celebrate with people who know it's crap, but it wouldn't be the same...I think that knowing the truth about it's falsehood removes it's power to instill the desired brain chemicals. You literally have to actually believe in order to feel it, as they say. Some of their sayings have an entirely different meaning to me now.
I also want to have sex. However, I'm not willing to cheat on my wife and I cannot have sex with her because I know her main intent is to have more children and those children would necessarily be raised Catholic. I cannot make more Catholics, nor even more Christians. The idea of sex with my wife instantly brings up the idea of children because of her obsession. Even before I left the Church, that obsession made it difficult for me to have sex because I can't think about babies while I have sex. At least I know I'll never be a pedophile. She wasn't like that before we got married, she had sex freely without the intent to bare children. It was nearly instant when we got married that sex was now an action performed for the specific purpose of having kids.
She's perpetually mad at me for this, but after last summer when I told her it was going to ruin the marriage, she suppresses it much better. Though I actually told her that not being open and discussing precisely this entire post of what I've told all of you here is what will eventually ruin the marriage, she only heard that it was the being mad part.
Now you guys know more about me than 95% of my friends on facebook.
I missed the community I had in church and feared I would never have another without the binding force of religious concept and like-believers. Even my social groups were all religious and not interested in my questions, challenges or ideas. I sought out people with whom I could discuss such things, finding them first on Atheist Nexus and other local atheist sites and slowly people began to appear who share my interests. I have community of atheists and we discuss interesting things even as we have a lot of fun.
I had no interest in resisting religion until religious people began joining different groups I support locally. We had a project on building strong families, intending it to be religion neutral, supportive of single and GLBT families and very soon there were more religious proselytizers than freethinkers. I could see the role they played in dominating local economic and political matters in our community and telling lies about those of us who are atheists. That got sickening very quickly.
Now I am a very active supporter of speaking out about what I don't like about any religion and why I choose to be an atheist ... indeed, I join the parade of anti-theists, not because I want to be anti- anything, but because I do not like what religion teaches, disagree with their basic principles and feel disgust when I hear exaggerations and misrepresentations.
Religious have homes and places of worship where they can discuss their beliefs. It is very easy for me to say my piece when I hear "I will pray for you," or "Turn it over to god". That is a perfect excuse for not thinking a problem through. Lazy and cheap religion doesn't work for me and I want it known how I think.
Religion is "complicated"? Well, I suppose you can say that. I respectfully disagree. Religion is simplistic. Being fully human is complicated.
Perhaps we're talking about it from two different angles. I would word it that religion makes people simplistic, but the mechanics involved to get a person to do that are complicated.
http://www.amazon.com/Every-Day-Atheist-Holiday-Magical/dp/0399161562 I haven't read this book but I agree with the title. I have watched a fair amount of atheists on youtube including Penn Jillette, George Carlin, Ricky Gervais, many actors in Hollywood, etc. and I have found that most atheists are busy loving life and following their passions with as much energy as they can muster. I hope you are processing all these thoughts and feelings in a way that helps you feel good about who you are and what you have accomplished. Enjoy the journey. Kick ignorance's ass and just tell some people that are annoying like I can be to just STFU. hahaha, laters Josh.