Hello. My name is Alex. I'm 32 (33 in a few weeks). I reside in the Bay Area. I've been an Agnostic/Atheist for about a decade now, though I wasn't open about it until I was about 26. I was raised in an African-American Jehovah's Witness family up until the age of 13 when my parents separated and my Mother became Baptist and then "Non-Denominational", bringing myself and my two siblings along. I've always been into science (loved ZooBooks as a kid and wanted to become a zoologist or biologist when I grew up. Ended up in accounting) so early on I was very skeptical of some of the claims I heard in the Kingdom Hall and later in church because they never quite seemed to make sense or fit with what I knew (as a kid, and loving animals and dinosaurs, the story of Noah's Ark became a big source of doubt for me). As I got older and my critical thinking sharpened (as well as forming personal convictions and become socially aware) many of the teachings seemed to range from morally ambiguous to out immoral, but being young and wanting to be part of the group I hid my doubts and just kept going along.
The event that pushed me out of the flock was an experience I had at my Mom's church when I was visiting during college. We went to a service and her pastor gave a sermon about healing physical and emotional ailments, etc, then the music came on and people started dancing and going up the aisle to be "touched by the holy spirit". I went up there with a nudge from my Mom and younger sister and when I arrived before the pastor she told me to put my arms out to my sides and look up, then she spoke in tongues over me, poured some type of oil in her hands, placed her hand on my forehead, and said some words. Then absolutely nothing happened. I felt nothing. I was just standing there with a greasy face. The pastor played it up and and kept praying over me while the music was blaring and all the people in the congregation were dancing and clapping while other people who had come up were walking around crying or shouting "Thank you Jesus!!" In all the commotion the pastor leaned forward to me and told me to lie down on the floor and close my eyes. I thought it was odd but I went along with it and just laid there on the floor in the front of the Church and she went on the the next 3 people behind me. As I was lying there on the floor I made the mistake of opening my eyes and looking up and made eye contact with a young boy in the front row who just looked at me and then started laughing. At that point I thought to myself "What the hell am I doing here? This is complete BS."
I spent the next few years studying the history of religion and world history and came to the realization that not only had I been lied to for a very long time, I was never given the whole picture to begin with, and neither were my family members and friends. Initially I'd attempt to take a bit more militant approach to what I'd learned and tried to school my family members and friends on what they were missing, but I learned early on that while facts logically trump fiction, emotions are fact proof, and when someone is emotionally invested on to a lie based foundation to call it into question is seen as an emotional attack, so I'm a bit isolated among my friends and family. I became the "Apostate' to my girlfriend. My Mom attributed my beliefs to my bad relationship with my Dad and my rough childhood. They try to label it as a phase I would outgrow or a sign of depression. They couldn't accept that I simply found the stories untrue for intellectual and moral reasons, and I find it insulting.
So here I am, looking for other rational minds to connect with.
Greets and salutes, Alex. Welcome to a place where people won't accuse you of going through a phase or hating a deity that doesn't exist or any one of the half-a-hundred other different specious things you hear from believers. That scene in the church had to be uncomfortable as all get-out, and if you took a powder from it and whatever belief it represented, you are hardly to be blamed.
In any case, we're glad you joined us! Do enjoy yourself here and if there's anything you need by way of help navigating the site, give a shout!
Welcome Alex, great to meet you! Your story about your militant period made me think of this quote for the SECOND time today (I just shared it on FB for similar reasons) but it seems appropriate to share again here:
"It is difficult to free fools from the chains they revere." - Voltaire
It took a while, a few years in fact, for my immediate family to come around and now my mom even records herself as a 'none' on medical forms. Though she's still a believer, having seen what some of the more zealous family members tried to do to me and my child, she decided religion was quite ugly and dangerous and she wanted no more of it. Many of my family members I no longer count as family and they know it. I told one in particular that I wouldn't stop and piss on her to put her out if I saw her on fire beside the road, in fact I'd probably throw lighter fluid at her and beep the horn! She tried to get my child taken from me and when that didn't work, she set about to poison her against me using her children as the go between. Lesson learned, family will do you first and you can choose your friends.
If they don't love you as you are Alex and accept your love without reservation, they do not deserve you.
Welcome, Alex. Thanks for sharing your evolution in rationality. Sounds a lot like my evolution and probably many others on N/V. I look forward to seeing more of your contributions.
Nice to meet you! Welcome to the site. I hope you enjoy it here.
Hi Alex! Really glad you found us! You will find lots of support and cool people here! You sound like a really smart guy! Post often!~ Melinda
Welcome, Alex. Thanks for telling part of your story.
You are not going through a phase. Once someone knows the rational truth, you know it. Rarely someone will return to religion, but for the most part almost no one goes back.
Militancy is understandable. It's hard to see the abuses, intolerance, manipulation, hypocrisy, inane silliness, judgement, agendas, and profiteering of religion and not be militant. But it's hard living a militant life. Can wear you out.
The important thing to know is you are not alone. There are great minds and generous hearts in the world with you.
It's amazing how long we've been fighting religion. If you haven't read Robert Green Ingersoll, you might find it interesting. In the 19th century, he wrote many works on the topic, such as:
Religion can never reform mankind because religion is slavery.
It is far better to be free, to leave the forts and barricades of fear, to stand erect and face the future with a smile.
It is far better to give yourself sometimes to negligence, to drift with wave and tide, with the blind force of the world, to think and dream, to forget the chains and limitations of the breathing life, to forget purpose and object, to lounge in the picture gallery of the brain, to feel once more the clasps and kisses of the past, to bring life's morning back, to see again the forms and faces of the dead, to paint fair pictures for the coming years, to forget all Gods, their promises and threats, to feel within your veins life's joyous stream and hear the martial music, the rhythmic beating of your fearless heart.
And then to rouse yourself to do all useful things, to reach with thought and deed the ideal in your brain, to give your fancies wing, that they, like chemist bees, may find art's nectar in the weeds of common things, to look with trained and steady eyes for facts, to find the subtle threads that join the distant with the now, to increase knowledge, to take burdens from the weak, to develop the brain, to defend the right, to make a palace for the soul.
This is real religion. This is real worship.
I am really cautious about what I say
I live near the Chesapeake Bay
People hate Nontheists here
They effectively tie them up and burn them at the stake by making sure they can't make an income
Just Kidding.. most people seem reasonably tolerant of all faiths..
I was just standing there with a greasy face.
I liked that line. I used to have to attend church as a child, but I have never had faith. I put up with all the shit that the Presyterian church was dishing out, but it was pretty non-intrusive compared to what you described. I think I would have had a very public meltdown if someone tried to make me participate in such a ridiculous custom as what you went through. Welcome to the rational side of the internet.