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The Bible Set Me Free

Blame it on my parents. They always told me to “think for yourself”.  I doubt they ever considered what would happen if I really did that. Now, I suspect what they meant was, “Think what we tell you but do it in your own words.”

Too late.

When I was 13, I began to question everything and soon the total absurdity of religion became apparent. Because I have been “encouraged” (forced) to read the bible several times, it was easy for me to see the contradictions in the book, what christians professed to believe, and how they really lived. When I refused to go with them to their church, they said they would “make me go.”

I asked them, “How are you going to make me? How will forcing me to attend church change my mind?”

Already, their attitude was starting to harden me against everything else about religion they would tell me. Their next idea was to have their minister talk to me. I told them it was a waste of everyone’s time. They persisted and had him come to the house to “talk some sense into me” (as if that ever works for anyone). After about 15 minutes of him quoting the bible to me and me pointing out that he was either wrong in his quotes or showing him how it said something else in another place, he became very angry and told me I was going to hell. I suspect it was because I knew the bible better than he did and was, at age 13, able to prove how ridiculous his arguments were.

I told him, “If there is a Hell I’ll see you there. Save me a nice place, OK?”

He said I was an impertinent, disrespectful child. By then, I was angry myself and for the first time, I told a christian that he was a hypocrite, a liar, and a fool. My parents insisted that I apologize. I refused and left the room to a lot of yelling and threats. For the next four years, I heard about this at least once a week. So the night I graduated high school, I left my parent’s home and didn’t see them again for well over a year. By then, with the credits I had accumulated in high school and summer school, I had completed a couple of years of college.

Fortunately, I was able to pay for this myself.

I was entering the army and wanted to try to make peace with them, but had to listen to the same old recriminations and arguments again. The next time I saw them was two years later when I was getting married. After several years of an on-again, off-again relationship they finally agreed to just not discuss it any more. I’d like to say that worked, but  subtle hints slowly became outright condemnation. Then I took a job transfer from Ohio to Arizona, so family meetings were rare enough to become occasions for something other than contention.

I do have to say that I appreciate the other things they did for me, like encouraging my education and equipping me with the work ethic and attitudes I needed to survive and thrive at that early age. In those areas, they were excellent parents and I am grateful for those things.

What did I learn?

Even your family can turn against you if you refuse to share in their illusions. There are times, if you are to become your own person, you must stand firm in what you know to be true.

My name is Brandon and I’m a 25 year old humanist. Most of my life I’ve lived scared to truly be myself due to social, family, cultural pressures. Not too long ago I decided it was time to take control of my life as my anxiety issues were getting far to hard for me to handle. One of the first things was to no longer hide my true religious views (basically atheist but refer to myself as non-religious), and then to also no longer hide anxiety issues. I do feel more freedom than I’ve ever had but now I also fear for my future. A large part of my personality is based on open mindedness and freedom of expression, yet I don’t feel that this is possible for me. I long for a life where I can use my knowledge, rare personality, and unique views in their full capacity, and not be subject to group think. I’ve recently been working very hard to be active and network until I land in the right place.

Have you navigated through things like this? Honestly I’ve grown so much yet I’m at a point where I need guidance.

I have been desiring a comfortable place to communicate honestly my reasons for coming out of the faith. Thanks to the “Not Alone Project” for being that comfortable place! Though I have been meaning to write a post about my long journey to becoming an atheist months ago, I admit I have been dragging my feet. It has been a long difficult process, and I have found it hard to put my journey into words. So, even though it’s hard… I will saddle up and share the story of how I lost my faith.

A BRIEF RELIGIOUS HISTORY

Religion, Christianity in particular, has almost always been a very important part of my life. I was involved in Christian groups through church and school since I was in middle school. When I went to college I got very involved in an interdenominational Christian ministry through my university. Completely separate from my church involvement, I attended weekly worship nights, regular prayer meetings and if I wasn’t leading a weekly bible study, I was certainly attending one. I discipled multiple young women, studied and memorized scripture, and met with accountability partners to attempt to remain pure and “on the right path”. I could continue to share about the different aspects of my religious background but to sum it up a bit more quickly, God and Jesus were the center of my activities, my thoughts, my conversations, my life. If I wasn’t a true and devoted believer, nobody is.

QUESTIONING SIN

I would say that my deconversion from Christianity began about 8 years ago, in early 2006, when I was newly married. We moved into a small basement apartment of a house in “Old Town”. Several people lived upstairs and across the hall in the basement there was one other apartment next to ours. That’s where Nick lived. Nick was purposefully and awkwardly funny, he introduced us to the world of Ultimate Frisbee, and frankly he turned out to be a great neighbor. We swapped keys at some point and if we were out of town Nick would sometimes call and say, “Can I borrow some milk? O, and can I hang out and watch the game at your place?” And he offered the same hospitality to us. That’s really the best kind of neighbor.

The first time we had Nick over for dinner we initiated our common ritual, praying before the meal. Right after the prayer Nick said, “So, you guys are Christians, huh? You ever seen Broke Back Mountain?” I laughed at his intentional prodding but even though I hadn’t seen the movie, at the time the idea of a film “promoting homosexuality” made me feel uncomfortable. I certainly would struggle to admit it back then, but I was homophobic and I thought homosexuality was a sin. I believed you should love the sinner and hate the sin of gay sex. In a later conversation Nick, my husband and I got into a more in-depth discussion about being gay and there were a few things Nick said that struck a chord with me, big time. He said:

– Most of the stuff that is in the bible makes sense to me because it usually forbids hurting someone in some way, but I’ve never understood what it says about being gay… if you’re gay, you’re not hurting anyone.
– Imagine if we lived in a world where the “normal” or common thing was to be gay and everybody discriminated against or looked down on straight people.
– Why would someone choose to be discriminated against by choosing to be gay?
– Why would god let someone be born with homosexual tendencies and then punish them for those tendencies?

Huh, I had never thought of it from that point of view before. It’s amazing how these questions planted a seed in me that I mulled over for years. I really struggled with the thought that I was discriminating against people who had done nothing wrong, even if my discrimination was frowning at them in silent judgment of their lifestyle. But on the other hand, the bible was the infallible word of God, it was God breathed! My insides were telling me “I don’t like this dogma that I have been brought to believe about gay people” but the bible was telling me “Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? … Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men … will inherit the kingdom of God.” 1 Corinthians 6:9-10

My response to all of this was: well, I will just set those types of verses aside and try not to worry about them. At this time I didn’t fully throw them out because that begs the question, what other verses can be thrown out? This was the start of my cognitive dissonance and for the time being I was able to keep my doubts at bay.

QUESTIONING GOD

Gradually, over the next 5 years I transformed from a conservative Christian (biblical inerrancy belief and devout religious practice) to a liberal Christian (personal biblical interpretation and relaxed religious practice).

But then, at the end of 2011, the floodgates opened and the questions just started flowing. Below are some of the things I could not reconcile with my god belief. Keep in mind that I may have asked some of these questions earlier in my life but this was the first time I asked them without assuming I already had the right answer from god.

– Why are there so many religions? There are many good people of various religions but they can’t all be right. If I put my belief in the wrong god, yet I live a good, well-intentioned life, why is it justified for me to go to hell for eternity?
– How is it that god is all knowing, all powerful, and all good and still he allows evil?
– Eternal torture for not believing in the right god is an exceptionally vengeful punishment, is it not? Eternity is a REALLY long time.
– It’s self-centered to look at my situation and say, “I am so lucky to have been born in this day and age in America, thank you god”, when so many terrible things have happened and continue to happen all over the world. Why does god allow all the terrible stuff to happen to people yet he gets credit for a successful surgery completed by a trained medical doctor?
– Why does god get credit for things that have another explanation?
– If I don’t know why something good happened, why should I just assume “well, it must have been god that did it”? If I attribute good things to god, why don’t I attribute the bad things to him as well?
– Why is it necessary to “catch ’em young” (teach religion to our youth)? If something is true it shouldn’t matter when or how someone encounters it, it’s still the truth.
– When I look around and see beautiful and magnificent things in nature, just because I don’t understand the mechanisms that happened over time to make it happen, why should I attribute it to a god?
– Why does the holy spirit say contradictory things to people?
– Why does the bible contradict itself?
– How is a bible verse good evidence for god? Why should I believe the bible just because the bible says so or Christians say so?
– Why does god need our financial help to do his work?
– Why is god so sneaky? Why doesn’t he just reveal himself to everyone on earth and save us all?

LETTING GO OF FEARS AND FAITH

I spent months wrestling with many of these questions and working through my fears. While some may be able to come away from all of these questions with some justification for god, ultimately, I can no longer suspend my disbelief. If I am to put my trust and belief in a god, I need sufficient evidence that such a god truly exists. So far I have found no such evidence.

A big thanks to Nick for helping me start to question the bible. An even bigger thanks to my husband for helping me question throughout the entire process. Lastly, I am grateful to myself for resolving to say to god, “If you are real and you created me, I trust that you want me to freely use my god-given brain to question and process information in an honest way, without fear”.  It was that statement that allowed me to let go of my fears and ultimately be set free from the chains of religion.

Carl Sagan’s words resonate deeply with me as I share my story. He says, “We can judge our progress by the courage of our questions and the depth of our answers, our willingness to embrace what is true rather than what feels good.

Thanks for hearing my story!

I know I am a confirmed cynic.

Three of my grand parents died at a younger age than I am now. Both my parents died at a younger age than I am now. My two younger sisters died at a younger age than I am now. All passed on under the care (?) of qualified medical practitioners, at least two of them in monstrous distress, degradation and indignity. Against all such expert practitioners advice, I am the only one of my family who smoked and I have enjoyed the occasional alcoholic drink. As a child I was exposed to the sun ‘as a source of ‘Vitamin D’, as my mother was medically advised, now I have skin cancers and scars galore. I ate eggs because they were ‘good for me’, then was abstained from eggs because of ‘heart attack risk’.

I ate red meat because it was ‘good for me. but am now warned to limit it because of indeterminate ‘health risks’. I am injected every so often with Vitamin B12, and I am told a good source of Vitamin B12 is eggs or red meat. I took ‘Statin’ drugs because they were ‘good for me’, I stopped taking ‘Statins’ as they were ‘useless’, I am now taking ‘Statins’ because they are ‘good for me’ I spent a lot of my work and private life handling Government authorised and promoted asbestos plus many other deadly poisons, fertilisers, fuels and other substances. I survived working in dangerous Government regulated industries such as mining, road transport, electricity generation supply and distribution. In all the fruitless parliamentary discussions I have seen lately there is an insistence that I am not qualified to make a rational or sensible decision about myself. (But of course they will canvas, grovel and accept the vote of an irrational and non-sensible voter.)

Weird thing is that I have obviously made enough rational and sensible decisions to have lasted for the past seventy plus years. This is despite the fact that I have lived constantly hands on with lethally dangerous things such as petrol, electricity, town and bottled gas, motor vehicles, sail and power boats, and a variable medical advice industry, Is it any wonder I have doubts, most of all that if I decide life is not good, I have to seek the acceptance of a committee of total strangers, all younger than me whose results to date in my family is pretty darned poor. Also I wonder at the usurpation of my rights by various religious followers who haven’t woken up to the fact that they are a minority in the truth of our total population.

The discussions I have seen lately are purported to be leading to so called ‘conscience’ votes but seem to lack any form of conscience apart from ‘follow the party line if you want your election funding and assistance.’ All that I want is the right to make my minor choice and decide whether I want to get some simple clean end of life products and/or whether I shall even bother to take them. All that I want is the freedom to choose, and let me carry the can as always. Being a doubting type I can’t help but wonder if it is that filthy four letter word makes these suggested types so heeded.

Sorry, in case you are wondering, the four letter word I had in mind is FEES.

My family and I are from San Antonio, Texas.  Please publish my posting.  My Preferred name can be used.

Over the years we’ve been involved in a few Christian churches ranging from the Catholic Church, the Lutheran Church, the Baptist Church, as well as the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations. Ultimately we found ourselves flustered with all Christian churches and found ourselves fairly closely in line with the beliefs and values espoused by the Unitarian Universalists. We also came to the realization that we were frustrated and discouraged with most any religious organization or association and moved away from any church or association.

We have issues with atheism and agnosticism, since those terms infer negative or undefined views. We began exploring other views and ran across Humanists and Free Thought philosophies. Interestingly Free Thought movements within the United States evolved into the Unitarian Universalist Association. The definition for Humanism from the American Humanist Association is “Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism and other supernatural beliefs, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity.” Again a negative perspective (without theism and other supernatural beliefs) instead of focusing more on the positive. We feel like we relate to some of the Humanists views such as “Secular Humanism is a life stance that focuses on the way human beings can lead good, happy and functional lives.” The problem we have is that we don’t necessarily feel we need a church or association to help us lead the life we aspire to. That’s my question. Why do I need to be labeled? Is that for my benefit, or for others?

I guess becoming an atheist started when I was little, I just didn’t know it at the time. I was too young to understand, so I just went with what I was told.

All my family is Christian, my aunts, uncles, grandparents, siblings, mother and father. They are all Christian, some more religious than others.

When I started school I was sent to a Catholic school until first grade. I moved many times to different schools which opened me up to different ideas and helped me become the accepting person I am today. From a to a public school, to a private school, to a different public school, then back to the first public school. Finally, to the public school I go to now, I have been at since sixth grade. I am in tenth grade now.

I developed a logical way of thinking over time. So as I grew older and went to church, I would always ask many questions on what was being preached in the church and taught in sunday school. As a child none of the answers seemed to make sense but I just said “okay” and went with it. Even now they don’t seem to make sense.

One question that went through my mind was, “If god is the nicest being in the universe why would he send people to hell. Even if they have never heard of him and have done nothing wrong?”
I would always end up with the same answer, “God sends them signs so they can see that he is there.” For me I have never seen signs of this god except a person telling me he is there and telling me that the bible is all I need. To me this is not a sign. It’s just something someone says and the bible is just a story made by a person like everyone else.

What really pushed me was when I went back to my first public school. I was bullied and I was an outcast. The people I called friends pushed me away and I was alone. People said, “Pray to god, stay faithful, ask for forgiveness, you’ll be happy and god will help you be happy.” I prayed to god for love and to find someone outside of my family that would care, but nothing and nobody came. I was alone the whole time and it changed me. I was not a kind person for a long time. I stayed in the dark and did not take care of myself. I felt I was not worth it. By believing in a god I was only being hurt. I prayed when I could have done something to make life better for myself.

I was frightened of the idea of being alone when I moved to the school I am in now. But this is where I was told of the idea of an atheist, and where I came out as one. I have many friends and people accept me as an atheist. I became a better person and found myself. The mean person I was is gone and a nice person replaced it. I didn’t need god to do it. I just had to do it myself. People do look at me weird and judge me. But I’m not them and I don’t worry. I have the people I need in my life. I have a friend for life. She is Christian but she doesn’t judge me. She likes things with crosses and I don’t. So she told me to look at them as lower case T’s. I have an amazing boyfriend who is also an atheist. We have been dating for almost a year and he has very much opened me up to being an atheist and not letting what other people think get in the way of what I want for myself. My family did reject me when I came out. My mom wanted to force me to church and youth group. Any of the holidays my family celebrated they wanted to exclude me from. My mother even told me I had no love, was not caring and was a terrible person just because I believed in no higher being. I was able to rise above this and think better of myself, rather than what she thinks. Mean spirited people are all over the world and these people are also in every religion. I am not one of them.

Why am I atheistically inclined ?

During World War 2 my father was serving in the army and I was enrolled, at the age of 5, at the only pre-school available, one run by a sect of the Roman Catholic church.

Family legend told me I had been christened in the Prestbyterian faith. What faith a pre 6 year old has is still beyond me.

At this pre-school my fate was sealed by a simple error by my mother in sending me to ‘kindy’ (short for kindergarten) as we called it, with a meat filled sandwich for mid-morning recess ‘play lunch’, shock/horror, on a FRIDAY. In those days it was considered sinful and wicked or something to eat meat on a Friday. Years later this prohibition was repealed and meat on Friday became religously acceptable. Go figure?

I was dragged out in front of the class, my pants were pulled down, this was in the days before small boys owned underpants and I was beaten, bare backside in front of a mixed class, with a wooden ruler, by a floor length black robed Irish nun. This raised bruises etc I have been told. I was then deported to the adjacent church to repent my sins, damned if I knew how, and to wait till the school session was over. If I recall correctly I was also supposed to ‘confess’, again I did not have a clue.

Needless to say I did not return to pre-school but hung out till the next year when I was old enough to go to the local State Government run non-sectarian school.

At this school we suffered ‘scripture’ every week which was conducted by religious people of the local Protestant faiths. As I remember nearly all of the children had to attend these sessions with the notable exception of a couple of Jewish and Indian sub-continent or something children of wartime refugees. We did so envy them.

Now my uncle was a pastoralist and a former headmaster. He mentioned ‘in-breeding’ on occasion and the perils it caused the stock.

At ‘scripture’ one day the local Presbyterian pastor was carrying on about Adam & Eve and also Noah and the Cain & Abel legend when I covered my juvenile self with glory by questioning the probability of incest and the perils of inbreeding plus the impossibility of a human race, as he made no mention of any available female companions for said boys.

Talk about bringing a tempest down on my, about 10 year old head. I was cast out, never to return, and wound up with the ‘heathens’ in the library to the envy of my mates, most of whom did not have the guts or ignorance to do the same.

To this day I have not seen any reason to back away from my beliefs and adopt these illogical religious stupidities.