I guess the title of this article is rather quite sufficient. Before I go back and delve into the many reasons why I don't believe in God anymore, I'm going to go a little over my background a little bit.

     First of all I was raised by great, Christian parents, and my youth was a pretty "normal" upbringing. I was born in 1982 and that's where we start. I remember growing up and hearing about the Genesis story and how God created the entire Earth, Moon, planets, stars, animals, etc. From what I can remember, there was never a time I wasn't immersed into Christian theologies and dogmatic practices, I thought that was normal. I was a child of five years old and remember attending a Billy Graham seminar with my parents in Denver, Colorado. We lived there because my father was stationed out of Fort Carson while serving in the U.S. Army and from what I can remember; church and Christian theologies have always been a part of our lives. Anyways, I remember being at the Billy Graham "crusade" and he had an altar call, he asked that if anyone hasn't received Jesus in their heart to come on down and say the "Sinner's prayer," and then we'd receive Jesus in our hearts and be "born again." I can remember wanting to go down there and get "saved" because all I knew, at five years old, was that I was a bad boy and that no matter what I was going to do, I'd go to hell. What's wrong with this picture? I remember going down there, saying the prayer, and feeling like something great and special happened. If I said I didn't feel anything, it'd be a lie, but I did. I saw how proud my mother and father were that I, at five years old, made the decision for myself to accept Jesus as my personal lord and savior. Looking back at this, I know why I felt that way. I didn't receive anything different in my life; it was the satisfaction that I made my mom and dad proud of me. Keep the previous statement in mind, because that will come up a lot later on. I felt like I did something great and I was really special in God's eyes.

     All throughout my youth I remember praying many occasions for various things to happen and for God to change my life, and it really was hard and difficult. I felt like no matter how hard I sought God I was missing out on something. I was missing out on a lot of things, but let's push that back a bit. I can remember moving from church to church, house to house, city to city, because my father said, "its God's plan." All throughout my youth we moved a total of thirteen times in twenty years searching for "the right place." I know this sounds a bit reminiscent of Goldilocks saying, "It's just right," but it's true. We moved so many times, uprooted us out of school, torn away from friends, just because we were chasing what God wanted us to be doing as a family. I can remember getting comfortable with our surroundings, school, and possible friends and then having to get up and move again. It really was a hard life for me, and it was grueling to be moving around so much.

     All throughout those times of moving, church shopping, and friend searching we rarely found anything up to God's standards and having to re-pack and move on out again. It wasn't until the 1990s until we started settling down. We moved into Berlin, WI and everything seemed to fall into place. I remember joining Faith Community Church, which is an offshoot of Assembly of God affiliation, and it seemed like we were home. We found a great church, great school district, and were able to settle down for once. I remember going to church every single Sunday morning, night, and Wednesday night to stay strong in my faith. I joined the youth group in FCC and started immersing myself into youth ministry and really looked forward to sharing the word of God with my friends that weren't saved at Berlin High School. It certainly was difficult then because I started making friends, good friends and now I was worried about them and going to hell. That's what every Christian is taught, no matter how good of a person someone may be, if they didn't believe in Jesus, they would die and go to hell. No matter how much I cared for my friends, I was always told that they were sinners and were going to hell.

     During that time I shared God's word many times with many of my friends then and I prayed and prayed and prayed for them and cried for them because I knew that they were going to die and go to hell. I didn't just believe that, I knew that. During that time I ended up discovering heavy metal music and I instantly fell in love with it. If anyone out there is familiar with Christianity and heavy metal's reputation can foresee that is going to be a problem. At that time I was growing up, adolescence setting in, and naturally like all teens, I started rebelling. I started questioning my faith, my life, God, everything. I started thinking that I was actually possessed by demons because I enjoyed heavy metal music. I remember many times getting into arguments with my dad because heavy metal was "demonic" and I constantly struggled with it. There were actually a few times I actually took my CDs and destroyed them to "free" myself from the addiction of heavy metal. Even though, heavy metal, helped me coping with growing up, friendships, school, and heartache, I felt like I was wrong for enjoying it so much. I struggled with this for my duration of high school and into my twenties.

     During that time I grew really fond of music and wanted to learn how to play an instrument. Of all people that really supported me in this was my best friend Kurt at the time. I ended up talking to my dad about it and he wasn't really supportive of me playing music because of the type I listened to and the type of music I wanted to play. I am so fortunate that my mom really supported me in music and it was through her I was able to get my first bass guitar and start learning to play music. It was then and there I fell in love with music. I then was later supported with music when I decided to play it at church for a worship group, but that was a little too late for me to accept that.

     Later on, when I turned 18, I started smoking cigarettes and my dad found out. I ended up getting kicked out of the house for doing that and I moved in my friend Don and his family. At that time I was out of high school and was working at Rippin' Good Cookies during the graveyard shift. I had a good time living with my friend and his family, but naturally I missed living at home. I missed my family. During that time I attended church as well out of respect to my parents, and I started losing interest in it. From my dad kicking me out of the house and the lack of compassion I have seen, I started to wonder. Why would God allow this? Why would God do this to me? I was a pretty decent kid until high school, and I wondered if I was encouraging God's wrath at the time. I then moved back home, still working, and still followed the rules at home. I didn't know what I was doing with my life then. I was still working at the factory, graveyard shift as usual, and I still had to go to church. After being up all night until seven in the morning I still needed to make it to the service and stay awake to run the P.A. system. Then I started having problems at work. I started falling asleep while driving, falling asleep on the line, and getting into trouble because I was losing out on sleep, just so I could go to church. My sense of being and soul was intact but I endangered myself and others every time I would drive to work and home after work because I would fall asleep at the wheel. I would beg and plead with my dad to let me skip church and catch the night service, but he wouldn't hear it. As long as I would be living under his roof I would follow his rules, which is understandable. That is just the beginning of my fall from God, and from church.

     After many failed job attempts and losing jobs, I finally decided to join the U.S. Navy. I wanted to go to college eventually and they had the G.I. Bill, and plus with some issues at home with my dad, I just wanted to get away. I wanted to live my life for once and be able to do what I wanted. Granted I was pretty immature for being 19 years old, I enlisted with the navy. I finally had my chance to get out of a dead end town and a dead end job market. One of the events that happened that helped make my decision to join the navy was 9/11. I remember praying about that and questioning God about that. Why let all those people die, and it turns out it was apparently God's wrath for living in our godless nation.

     So I go off and join the navy, go to boot camp and start my training. It was the first time in my life I was able to get out on my own at the time and get some structure and discipline that I desperately needed. It came up to the first Sunday we were there and found out they had a chapel there. I started attending chapel just to get away from the regular daily routine of boot camp. Everyone else stayed around the barracks to shine their boots, write letters home, and iron their uniforms. I just went to church like any good Christian would and still followed God. I then started noticing a lot of talk during the sermons about Iraq, "the enemy," praying that God would help out our brothers in arms to defeat the "bad guys" and it started to hit me. We were actually praying to kill the bad guys and for God to watch over us while killing people because they were different than us. I really started to question God, my faith, and why we were praying for that. I remembered getting mail from my family and my dad always telling me to, "Keep the faith," and it was slowly fading from me. I always said I would keep it and try harder to be a better witness for Christ so the rest of my division could see that God loved them.

     Boot camp soon ended and it was time to go to school, get my technical training, and get ready for the fleet. I was stationed in Pensacola, Florida. Then on out my faith started bleeding out like a severed artery, I actually thought that there was something wrong with me. Truth is, I was starting to get tired. I was tired of church, tired of staying up late to read the bible, tired of praying and getting no results, just tired of everything. I wanted out and I was too afraid to get out of Christianity, mainly because of my family. I never went to church once since I was stationed down in Pensacola and to be honest it was nice. Although I was in the navy, I actually started to feel free for once. Free from going to church, free from feeling obligated to read the bible, free from praying…I just felt free.

     Eventually I was stationed out in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and I loved it. I had a great ship, great crew, great shop, great work center, and great friends. It seemed that things were working out for me for once. I started feeling bad that I wasn't going to church or praying anymore and I was eventually was sought out by some navy guys that had a home church. I went with them once and it started to feel odd. People speaking in tongues, rolling around on the ground, and just acting crazy. I then distanced myself from that guy and his friends and eventually they stopped calling me and coming to the ship looking for me. That was the last time I ever went to church.

     Finally after spending about 5 years in the navy, I got out. My wife and I decided to stay in Hawaii and make our life out here. Granted it was hard after I got out. I spent many years abusing alcohol to cope with my feelings of abandonment and feeling alone, I finally gave it up. Don't get me wrong, I still drink from time to time, I just don't abuse it anymore. Throughout that time I went into Alcoholics Anonymous and decided to get the help that I needed to kick alcohol. I thought it was a decent support group system and guess who decided to rear their head and make it into my life again, god. They preached about having a "higher power," God, giving your life over to AA and becoming a servant to their organization for life while serving them and others. It was a good concept, but after about 90 days of that, I quit AA and attained sobriety on my own for two years. During that time I didn't pray, I didn't go to church, I did it on my own. I made the choice to drink; I made the choice to not drink. God had nothing to do with it.

     During the time I started AA and my sobriety I was hit with a bombshell…after 29 years of marriage my parents were splitting up. I was told many different things on both side, and it doesn't matter anymore. At the time I was devastated, I was an emotional wreck. I started praying and seeking out god again to deal with my pain and the depression I was in. I still stayed away from alcohol, I still tried to become a Christian again, and it worked out for the time being. I actually stopped talking to my mom for about a year because she was a "sinner" and I totally cut her out of my life. After that was done for a year, I finally started talking to her and found out there are always two sides to every story. I found out where "God" really played out in this and my life and realized that God is nothing more than a lie. God is the reason my parents split up, God is the reason why I almost took my own life. God was the problem, not the solution or the answer. Also after starting college and learning about science, philosophy, and history I drew the conclusion that religion is dangerous and its followers can be dangerous as well. With all this science out there, our solar system, our universe, our galaxy, I think it is impossible for there to be a God. To think that one supernatural entity created the entire universe out of nothing is ridiculous. I no longer follow God; I am no longer a Christian.

     Ever since the wake of me walking away from Christianity and god, this is the first time in my life I feel like I am free. I am no longer weighed down by guilt nor am I forced to go to church and belong to something I don't believe in anymore. I have relaxed a lot, grew up substantially, and am finally to move on with life and finally treat all people with kindness, love, and respect. Although, as humans, we are all different and have different beliefs, I accept you for who you are and will care about you no matter your faith, sect, religion, race, sexual orientation, or whatever. I care about you for the human you are and for the life that you bring to our world and our existence. I can honestly say that in all my time in Christianity and religion, if you weren't interested in our church or converting, I wouldn't have given you the time of day and told you that you were going to hell. Now I see a person, a human, and an equal standing before me. It doesn't matter to me what you believe in or who you are, I care about you for the person that you are. That is why I don't believe in God anymore. I care too much about people and the world to let myself ever get bogged down by religion ever again.

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Tags: atheism, coming, out

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Comment by Tricky-D Frontenac on December 21, 2012 at 4:27pm

Wow, powerful stuff.

This hit home for me big time; my love of metal/punk music was what ultimately had me cast out of organized religion when I was junior high age.

Since then, music has become my religion.

Thanks for this blog Zach, all the best

Comment by Daniel W on December 9, 2012 at 10:28pm

Zach,

Thanks for telling your story.  A lot of people probably have stories like yours.  You sound like a good guy, too.  Hang in there and keep your spirits up!  (Spirits in the figurative sense of course).

Comment by Zach Jones on December 8, 2012 at 12:15pm

Now, a couple weeks later, my life is a lot better. Although I have a couple family members that have written me off totally, I still feel free the first time in my life. It is a tough choice to "come out," but it's important. It's important to be true to yourself because in reality, you have to live yourself and your beliefs and make yourself happy.

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