Beliefs & Choices
Part One

I like inspiring. Really. When you read or hear or see something inspiring, it often gets you a rush of chemicals that make you feel good, feel... inspired! And this usually makes you want to DO something! To save the world! Or at the very least your little section of it... to make things more like they ought to be. Sometimes you can get a law passed or get one repealed or a mess cleaned up. You might do a public protest about something, make your voice HEARD! If you have ever experienced being "on fire for Jesus" you know what I mean. I have. Aww, man, when I was singing in the bass section of the choir on TV I put everything into it... I bellowed Handel's Messiah along with my fellow singers and the rafters literally vibrated, and the spirit of the Lord filled me and I felt so incredibly pumped and powerful it was just amazing.

The drugs usually came off with the choir robe and by the time I got to the parking lot and saw I still had to drive home in a broken down car, I started to feel a little less pumped... which was why I stared looking forward to Wednesday evening church and choir practice. I really wanted another fix of faith, of reassurance that God was in charge and never mind the view of physical eyes, being with brothers and sisters in Christ helped me to see with I>spiritual eyes which, the Pastor often reiterated, was necessary in this evil world. Yeah, we had to be IN the world, but not OF the world. We were God's people, doing His work, and often it was necessary to be reminded to put on the whole armor of God to go out in the world, and to guard our thoughts, lest Satan rob us of our joy and plant seeds of reality negativity.

After I had managed to get rid of most of the fear that came with the horrible cloud of atheism and nihilism which inexplicably had settled upon me and I had found FFRF and Pat and Roger Cleveland and a small group meeting in a library in Birmingham, I began to feel much better. These people seemed actually REAL to me. There weren't any orgies or blood sacrifices, as I had been told I might expect from "those lost people"... just plain old country folk, for the most part, but who didn't have the bizarre "plastic" quality of church people which I had glossed over when I was with them. I mostly chalked up any odd feelings I had to just the fact that most of those folks were rich, at least by my standards.... I certainly didn't know of any others in my church that lived in a trailer park and drove rusty cars. The folks at the Alabama Freethought Association had a cigarette and a beer if they wanted, they didn't seem to "guard their thoughts", but were just folks going about their lives without any sense of pretentiousness.

I began to feel good again, hell I felt downright "born again"! After the Clevelands donated land to FFRF and we were actually building our own building to have meetings in, I was pumped again, and I took on the job of editing the newsletter. Sometimes it would come to me with a start, that I used to believe the Christian stuff... all of it. I still remember the guest preacher we had once who was explaining that just because you took your car out of the garage and drove it all over town, it didn't stop being a car. Likewise, when your body dies and your soul no longer has its "garage", it doesn't stop being a living soul, it just goes (hopefully) home to be with God. This made perfect sense to me. But now, that seemed amazingly absurd and how could anybody possibly take such nonsense seriously.... but I did. Not because I wanted to, I simply did. And there was no point at which I set out to be an atheist. It simply happened to me.

When I was eleven and a Jehovah's Witness told my dad and I that Armageddon would be in 1975, it literally scared the piss out of me. I peed my pants. I was really scared. I knew this meant I would never live to be seventeen. But I kept telling myself that it was ok because God was going to instantly make a whole new earth, and even if I didn't get into heaven with the 144,000 at least I would be in paradise on the new earth, even if I died in Armageddon, God would resurrect me. The Bible said so right there in Revelation 21.

When 1975 had come and gone and I was still here, I came to the conclusion that those niggling little thoughts and questions I'd had about the Witnesses were probably right. I mean, why would they call all other Christians "Christendom" and say they had it all wrong about Jesus being only the Son of God and not really God? Maybe THEY had it wrong! And what was with that blood thing... granted I had no interest in drinking any, but that wasn't the same as getting a transfusion in a hospital was it?

After casting about for some years I finally got married and my wife and I started going to church because I thought it was a good thing. A man is supposed to be the head of his household and lead his wife in the ways of the Lord. When the Baptists seemed a little too bland, and the Holiness seemed a tad too... um.... animated, we tried the Assembly of God. Bingo, we had a church home. It was cool cuz they were with it, as far as technology and stuff... At the Baptist church you felt like you were... in church. Everything subdued, only a piano and the choir. This place was rockin'! It had a whole orchestra! Horns, drums, guitars, keyboards, and when they sang, they SANG! I could feel God here and Philis (my wife) said she could too. We joined the choir; she into the sopranos and me into bass, right next to our mechanic, the guy we went to for a front end alignment.

During this period we were big supporters (well, as much as we could anyway) of the 700 Club and of Jim and Tammy... we thought one year we might get to go to Heritage USA, maybe for the Christmas Lights thing. I really got into studying theology big time. I read books by Pat Robertson, Danuta Soderman (later Pfeiffer), Ben Kinchlow; I got Jerry Falwell's cassette Bible study course from Liberty University and devoured that. I always watched The Hour of Power, PTL, 700 Club and, along with all the local church shows I could get in... a few odd ones like Garner Ted Armstrong, and was interested enough to read his magazine The Plain Truth. Then I came down with the atheism.

I had the zeal of a new convert and threw myself into activities at Lake Hypatia... it only ticked me a little that there were only meetings monthly instead of weekly. I wanted more, I wanted to DO more. I loved it when Dan and Annie Laurie came down and even went to a few of Dan's debates that were close enough to get to. Just as I had swam deep into the seas of Christian apologetics and hermeneutics, etc., I now threw myself into intense study of everything "freethought". The history of freethought, joined FFRF, American Atheists (before Madalyn was murdered), met people like Jim Lippard, Clark Adams, Eric Pepke, and was pleased to attend A Sermon On The Mount by Delos McKown, and had very nice talks with James Randi. I read, voraciously, through Bertrand Russell, Robert G. Ingersoll, Twain, Paine, Randi's books, Karen Armstrong's A History of God, and a multitude of others. Sometimes I would think that those niggling little doubts I had while a Christian were valid after all. The odd "masks" that so many wore, the fact of ignoring things which were illogical (to the rational mind)... after all, the spiritual is far superior to the vulgar or mundane... or reason.

to be continued...................

TRB

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