I am an avid goodwill shopper.  This week I happened to discover a copy of "The Reason Driven Life" by Robert M. Price, a lovely parody of Rick Warren's "The Purpose Driven Life."  I started on my path to nonbelief long before Warren's wildly popular book came out, so I only had a vague awareness of what was written in its pages.  I was immensely enjoying Price's blow by blow responses to chapter headings, and I thought to myself, "Perhaps I will enjoy this even more if I purchase Warren's book."

Since joining the heathen fold, I have not ventured to crack open a single religiously themed book other than some self help books that I give to religious clients from time to time (something I need to take a look at within myself...)  I have been desensitizing from the "religious speak" for several years.  However...I was at my weekly Sunday evening goodwill trek, and found a copy of Warren's book.  Score!!!  

Side note, there were about 10 copies of Warren's book at the GW...chance?  I think not.  Maybe, just maybe, this isn't working for people.

Last night I decided to take the "40 day challenge" in my own way, by reading the two in tandem to reinforce my newfound commitment to move out of the sidelines of atheism into the socially active role.  I also decided it was important to re-familiarize myself with the jargon.  Sometimes I read writings from evangelical atheists and think to myself, "is Christianity really so bad?  I mean really, people have a right to their own beliefs, don't they?"  

One paragraph into Warren's book, and I discovered the following:

  1. Chest tightening
  2. Shoulder's tense
  3. Multiple cringes
  4. Embarrassment
  5. Intrusive images of church
  6. Momentary fear that I was "off the path" and needed to come home
  7. Shame over not being more active as an atheist

I actually found myself unable to directly read the words.  Despite willing my eyes to read word for word, left to right, I found myself skimming and not actually registering the words in my brain.  This was a rather interesting experience.  The words that once felt "normal" to me were suddenly foreign, and exceedingly uncomfortable.  

Joy began to block out the RTS (Religious Trauma Syndrome) symptoms, and I read Price's rebuttal.  I am an intelligent, educated woman.  I am a psychologist.  I am able to look at the world with reason and focus.  I suppose that I also am a human that has been victimized.  I have the ability to maintain mindful awareness of arising emotions, and evaluate them for what they are...signals to me, generated by the sympathetic nervous system, telling me that something is amiss.

I often wonder what it would be like to be an atheist that had not been victimized by childhood indoctrination.  I am experiencing an incredibly hefty amount of cognitive dissonance.  I have tried as a psychologist to remain completely neutral from a religious/spiritual standpoint.  I don't think I can continue to do that.

I find myself delighted and inspired by this experience.  

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Comment by cbenhamcox on August 12, 2013 at 11:59am

Ha!  I am slipping!  I am very much looking forward to the day that the only response I have is face-palming!  Thanks for reading, I'm new here.

Comment by Loren Miller on August 12, 2013 at 10:21am

What, no face-palming?  Yer SLIPPING! [chuckle!]

For even more fun, have a look at A|N's own Steve Shives' dismantling of Warren's BS in his YouTube series, "An Atheist Reads Rick Warren's 'The Purpose-Driven Life."

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