One of my grandmothers was Catholic, and the other was Pentecostal. They alternated taking me to church on Sunday. Needless to say this was very confusing. Aside from the conflicts in dogma, the difference in the ceremony was difficult to keep in sync. I had to really focus to remember whether I was to jump, holler, and wave my arms emphatically or just stand still and hang my head in guilt. The real problem came when it was time for my 'confirmation' in the Catholic church. My Pentecostal grandmother said becoming a full fledged Catholic would mean burning in hell for eternity, because they worship idols (the saints). She insisted that I be baptized in the Pentecostal church, but my Catholic grandmother said that would result in me burning in hell forever because the Pentecostal religion didn't follow the Pope and was therefore not descended from Christ. Fuck, that was a hell of a conundrum for an eleven year old.

Then I had an epiphany. Both religions told me that Jesus would tell me what to do when facing difficult decisions. All I had to do was pray and believe. I prayed, and I prayed. I would stay up half the night praying, trying a Catholic prayer with my head hung in guilt, and Pentecostal prayers where I rolled around on the floor in a mock seizure. No luck. It made no sense whatsoever to me because I truly believed that Jesus would talk to me, and most of my family claimed to have heard from him on a number of issues. Finally I asked one grandmother what the voice of Jesus sounded like. That's when her story got shaky. She said that you don't actually hear his voice, contrary to everything I had been told up to this point, but that I would 'feel' what he wanted me to do. Thing was, I was getting no good vibes one way or the other, I was just filled with terror at the thought of burning forever in a pit of fire because God loved me so much.

The only option left seemed to be that God wanted me to read the bible - that I had to find the truth for myself. That's when I decided to put off confirmation and baptism until I solved my conundrum. I felt I had made a responsible decision, but the reactions of my grandmothers were less than encouraging. While at one grandmother's house I told her that I had decided to read the bible, because if that was the word of God then it should be clear what being a Christian means, and from that I could chose my path. She was horribly upset, and asked why I couldn't just believe her, and she told me how much it hurt that I thought she would ever lie to me. When I told her that she had already lied to me about Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny she slapped me across the face. When I repeated the conversation with my other grandmother, she hit me on the head with a wooden spoon.

I did read the bible, but at that age it took me almost 2 years. It was especially difficult because as I read it I wasn't finding any references to most of what either religion seemed to be about. The worst part was that there was no real dogma to 'worship' Jesus, in fact it seemed that we were supposed to 'follow' rather than worship. This did not sit well with any Christians I knew at the time.

Slowly I came to realize that if a god did exist, he didn't communicate with us - any of us. Furthermore, he offered no recognizable set of rules for us to follow, and really didn't seem to mind that most religions claiming to worship him seemed to make up their own set. So if there is a god, then he has completely hidden himself from us, covered up any trace of 'creation' with evidence to the contrary, and has no expectations of us whatsoever. With this in mind, he is not the god professed by modern religion in any way, and therefore the god they proclaim to exist does not.

I read the bible again, and partly read some English translations of the Koran, but eventually gave up looking. My crisis of faith eventually faded as I realized and gained confidence Atheism.

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Hah, that's a pretty good reason too (there's that word again). I was raised Jewish, and drinking wine was also a ceremonious thing, at least at Passover where 4 glasses are mandatory. Every Jew's favorite holiday because we all get fershnicken! Judaism is weird looking back. there's no concept of heaven or hell, no apocalypse, and faith isn't even mentioned for the most part. I guess that's why jews turn into atheists so easily, we are raised to use reason and not to accept authority. I guess it just wasn't suuposed to be used on itself. I don't even remember any particular problems I had with Judaism, though I do remember having some in a general sense. I used to question the rabbis at my school constantly, and never got the answers I was looking for, or at least I got the answers I didn't want to hear, which was that I "just had to believe', or worse, that I would "change my mind when I got older", as if I was somehow too stupid to understand something because I was too young. But my upbringing wasn't really wacky like yours was, well, not in the same way anyway. I mean religiously I was given all the freedom I wanted, and even when I came out and told my parents at age 12 that I didn't believe there was a god, there weren't even upset with me. That probably just convinced me more, since I think if you are going to believe something you had better really believe it. This half-assed stuff seemed like they either didn't really believe it themselves or if they did, it wasn't too important to them. But how could anything be MORE important?
I can actually respect the 'family bonding' aspect of religion but I can't begin to understand how people cling to it even as it tears their family apart.  I think some of those rabbis might have better answered your questions by saying, "Because that is what makes us who we are, what gives us our sense of identity."
Yes I think this is one of those things that is right at the "heart" (no pun intended) of religiosity - it gives people a common identity and unifies them under a common heading. And you are right, it is also one of the things that can tear people apart. Firstly because there are different religions out there and they are all exclusive of one another, but also as you say because if it obviously isn't giving help when and where it is most needed, then what the hell good is it? And sticking stubbornly to it only puts nails in the coffin of those relationships.
People would be better off organizing their social identity around sporting teams - but don't get me started on those cults, ha ha!
That was rich, and quite similar to my process really, as I too was always searching for some sort of sign. I was raised strictly as a Baptist and my deist phase lasted for a decade at least.

You mentioned being told that you weren't going to ever actually hear god tell you anything but that instead you would feel him somehow. That was what I was always looking for- the feeling of being filled w the holy spirit. At last one nite I felt it and that I finally had found t key, and that from that moment on religion was going to work for me. This feeling faded inexplicably and I soon enuf realized that my "'feeling of gods holy spirit" was due to nothing more than me having hyperventalated.

It was nothing but hot air all along, I suppose.

You can actually induce that feeling again in almost any really charismatic group setting.  Some of the really high end motivational seminars are good for that.  I felt it a few times in some Pentecostal rituals, the freedom of just totally letting go, letting yourself be convinced that everything is chocolate and candy canes, or whatever.  I've felt it in some good motivational workshops, although the relief comes from convincing yourself that you can conquer anything just by focusing your mind hard enough - usually paying another $700 to do so, ha ha.  I saw an article that suggested there was a scientific study that showed the experience could be addicting - which would explain why some Pentecostals seem so drugged out and dependent on their dogma.

 

Thanks for commenting - I appreciate the feedback.

hahaha   "nothing but hot air"    I love it.  Dan Barker (Freedom From Religion Foundation or FFRF co-president) describes in his writings how factors such as cadence and repetition can trigger deep emotional responses. Ministers are trained to speak in ways that affect their congregations, just like advertisers learn how to target consumers. If you know the tricks you can do it to yourself. Would that be considered masturbation?  ;~0

Only if the cadence and repetition lead to orgasm.  :)

http://www.atheistnexus.org/profiles/blogs/jizzing-for-jesus?xg_sou...

 

As if you didn't think it could happen?  hahaha

LOL!  As far as the cadence though - slower....slower...slower

Ewww, nasty! These people are sick. They actually turned religion into some quasi-sexual mental orgy. Oh! I get it now! Religion allows people to mentally fuck themselves, figuratively and, apparently, literally!

Very interesting story Heather. What were your grandmothers thinking when they both decided to go Moe Howard on you (assuming they were, indeed, thinking)??

 

It's crap like that which makes people wonder sometimes...

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