Unanswered prayers, hypocritical theists, my step-dad dying of cancer, my dad currently dying of cancer, and working in a cancer center. I have no doubt that I've made the right choice in leaving Christianity. Importantly, my wonderful atheist husband, who calmly and lovingly challenged my beliefs and asked me to honestly look into what and why I believed what I did.
I was sitting at the bar (and feeling very guilty, I must say) and a lovely atheist friend who was also a PhD in Philosophy was discussing his own reasons that he was not a christian, despite having been raised in a christian community. He said that he didn't understand why a god would tell people not to do the things that he had created them to do, such as "don't eat this pretty apple" or "don't have sex." Why put the option there in the first place as a "test?" I remember giving my "trained" responses, since I had taken sunday school classes to learn how to respond to questions such as these.
In that moment, as the words involving theological explanations for the fall of man began to emerge from my lips, I realized that I was curious about that question too. Suddenly, this very intelligent friend, who was far more "moral" than most of my evangelical peers, helped me to realize that it was okay to think. Prior to this, I feared such questions and looked for pat answers that sounded intellectual. I decided that I would permit myself, at least temporarily, to entertain the fact that god might not really exist. It took another seven years to completely embrace atheist, but that first step was critical.
I envy your permitting yourself to entertain the fact that god might not really exist. After 12 years in Catholic schools and their daily doses of dogma, I wasn't able to permit myself that freedom. But that was long ago and I have enjoyed decades of freedom. I hope you enjoy your freedom at least as much.
Nice bit of opening up of your own mind cbenhamcox in light of questioning. It was something I have been prone to doing since the age of eight, when my parents purchased a full (massive) set of Chambers Encyclopaedia and a Science Encyclopaedia set. I started researching those from the moment they were placed in the shelf, since my reading ability was already at secondary school level, I found them fascinating. I even found the section on the history of Christianity, which was a very open minded look at Jesus Christ and even included the possibility that he may not have existed in the form purported by the New Testament since much of the stories surrounding him were created long after his death.
My parents at the time had me attending church and Sunday school, where I started to question the teacher on aspects of the silly, childish parables being taught us, to which she became rather angry at me and then completely ignored me when I would raise my hand to speak. Where she put me at the back of the class and ordered me to stay there every Sunday.
Later my parents sent me to an all male Christian boarding school where I had to attend church every Sunday and a midweek service held in the school hall which was very church like anyway.
Though I ignored most of the lessons and spent the time exchanging hand signals to an awesomely beautiful female member of the church choir. Though I was never confirmed, I still took sacrament as I liked the taste of the wine, but I hated the wafers and would peel it off my tongue later to feed to the birds outside the church.
So, you could say that I had leaned enough in my childhood to totally ignore the lessons in the church, though I did study theology for a couple of years, for two reasons, firstly, too answer the overriding question in the back of my mind of: "Is there any possible truth in Christianity's claims", which is a bit like your deciding to ponder a niggling question. Secondly, if there was no truth in Christianity's claims, then I will have the training and knowledge to defeat them in any arguments. Since I was often attacked by priests for my lack of adherence to and ignorance of the bible. So I decided to fix their wagons, which I did.
I learned enough in theology classes to destroy everything the priests threw at me.
One told me that he considered me the most evil student the school had ever had.
Because I criticized his every lesson and played pranks on him, with the help of some other students, until he suffered a severe nervous breakdown and retired from teaching.
One of the pranks was to replace the Christian choir music records with rock music records and swap the labels over. This upset him greatly! LOL!
Though I did join a Pentecostal church a few years after leaving school to give up smoking, where I did exactly the same, learned enough of their theology to be a threat to the organization, after I worked out that the Holy Spirit doesn't stop people smoking, nor does it make people speak in tongues.
I also shared accommodation with a group of Muslims and read the Koran, plus received an education on Taoism from a college room mate (trainee monk) I spent a year with.
That ended my sorties into the idiotic world of superstition/religion/Christianity.
Now I just look around for an occasional stir or do a bit of trolling of religious forums, most of which I've been banned from.
I don't think anyone needs to read religious or no religious text to see the truth. History, physics, and biology books are a wealth of factual information to make an educated decision. It is easy to question FAITH (belief without proof) but, is very difficult to argue with history, physics and biology.
I was born and raised a Methodist and spent my childhood going to church. To this day I couldn't tell you the difference between Methodist, Catholic, Lutheran or Baptist. Sunday schools that I attended were not there to teach but to enforce. When I asked questions they were rarely answered, and when I pushed the same question it was either met with punishment or threats. Looking back I wonder if anyone could believe in Christianity if it wasn't pushed on them from birth.
When I was young I believed in the bible in a literal sense. At some point I realized that the creation story and the flood and the dates listed in the bible conflict with what we know about history. At this point, I was told that the stories were figurative, that there wasn't an actual Adam and Eve, that Moses was like the parables. I started to evaluate the validity of the bible and decided that it is absolutely unreliable.
So I guess finding out that the bible is not true in a literal sense is what caused me to start doubting.
Mine was a saying that said something like, if god is all knowing, all powerful and does no wrong, then why did he/she/it mess up and have to start over? Why didn't he/she/it do it right the first time?
The seeds of doubt for were first planted, in my case, in my Catholic Elementary School and even more so in Catholic High School, there were just so many inconsistencies in the teachings and hypocrisy in the instructors. By my second year of college I was pretty much Catholic in name only although there were periods where I made a concerted effort to return. I studied all different beliefs and reached the conclusion that one single belief system couldn't be the correct one, therefore they're all wrong. I'll go into more details in later posts..this is my first post here. One story I'll share immediately. When my first son was about 2 years old things just weren't right with his progress and we eventually had him evaluated. He is moderately autistic and his IQ tests put him at mildly retarded. It has been a challenge for my wife and I, but a couple of things well meaning and religious realtives have said really got under my skin.
"God never gives us more than we can handle" - I love this one, my usual response is something to the effect of "I guess the young guy that just jumped off the tappan zee bridge didn't know about that".
"God only gives special children to special parents" - Again, well intended, but after being in and around the community of parents with special needs or, to use words that are near forbidden in the community, mental handicaps, I can assure anyone that there are plenty of parents who basically abandon their children.
I hear these two statements made on occasion and think of a guy I knew that committed suicide because he just couldn't handle the life of being a father to such a child.
Rather than appeal to an invisible father I accepted it as something that happens in life that I have to deal with. My son is now 18 and he's a joy, a lot of work, but he is who he is and we make the best life we can for him. He's happy and our family is too.
An interview with Madalyn Murray in Playboy when I was 12. Though my family went to church sporadically, I didn't take religion seriously after that. When I began teaching at my current institution in 1995, I was plugged into World literature, about which I knew very little. First on the schedule was the epic of Gilgamesh. which features a flood story essentially the same as the Noah story, but hundreds of years older. So much for "inspired" Scriptures. I started studying out of curiosity, gradually realizing that I was surrounded by people who think the Bible is LITERALLY true. Amazing.
Craig, your mention of Madelyn Murray brings to mind my encounter with her.
In the 1950s I was in college in Florida studying math. I quit Catholicism and visited the college atheist club, where I heard students claiming to know that no god existed. I believed their claims were as unsupported by evidence as the claims I'd heard in 12 years of Catholic school religion classes and chose agnosticism.
Twenty years later I was in San Francisco and still an agnostic. American Atheists were convening there and I wanted to hear Madelyn Murray, the woman whose efforts resulted in taking religion out of public schools.
I left the convention persuaded that she needed religion because, without it to fight, she would have to find a new life purpose. I remained an agnostic. Politically I was an independent, but when Reagan brought the xians into the Republican Party I knew I wouldn't vote Republican until the xians quit the Party.
I now tell people I'm an atheist. I pay dues to several church-state separationist organizations but engage xians in verbal combat only when they push their beliefs in my direction.
The essay winner in the recent FFRF newsletter who cited the religious provisions in the constitutions of two Islamic nations supplied the best evidence I've seen that America is not founded on religion. To see his evidence, search on Pakistan constitution or Afghanistan constitution.