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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 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.

Atheism: It Just Fits

I haven’t written about my atheism and how I arrived here since I started this blog several months ago. I’ve often wondered why I haven’t the desire to do so. In those times of consideration I’ve come to the same conclusion. That my lack of belief in gods, the supernatural, miracles, divine intervention, prayer as a useful tool, and so on is truly a well-reasoned and thoroughly analyzed understanding of reality. The peace this feeling has given me is so deep that I find it challenging to describe. What I can tell you is that it just fits. Beautifully.

All of the dependency on God that I had for much of my life has been erased. At first I felt a great sense of loss. Feelings of disorientation, resentment, and nihilism loaded my mind. I had so much I needed to work through. I was audibly irritated for a while. I know I hurt and jarred many with my commentary and rhetorical questions. My sarcasm was in high gear. A clear sign of my hostility toward the fact that I had been indoctrinated as a child and forced to shuffle along with the herd, being kept in place by those who saw themselves as deserving of that level of authority over me. I didn’t shuffle passively. I’ve always been curious and certainly felt and continue to feel entitled to ask questions. My stance on perceived authority has been and remains rebellious. This pattern became super loud now that I had the atrocity of religion in my sights.

I see religious indoctrination as an act of violence against humanity. To take a new and currently forming mind of a child and mold said mind to suit the needs of a cruel, all-encompassing machine is most unethical. Add to that the seduction and consequent assimilation that is exercised and cultivated by religious enthusiasts toward adults who are in seeking mode and you’ve got a big old ball of horrifyingly injurious human behavior. The potential achievements that can come from the human mind should be nurtured and encouraged vigorously. Religion and its supernatural cousins stand like a concrete wall between potential and its realization. This is completely unacceptable. Of course I am aware, and have been since my early teens, that religion came about as a form of government. Boundaries and rules are necessary for a productive society. But truly, people, we’re way beyond the point of needing government to be driven by religion now. It’s simply absurd.

When I first began using twitter I was tweeting about politics, news, and the bullshit that goes along with all of that. Eventually I bumped into one or two outspoken atheists and I felt like I had struck gold. Intellectual and emotional gold, that is. As I watched them go head to head with theists I was comforted to see that there were many more minds out there that shared my world view. At that point I was already beyond my nihilism by approximately two years. I had offered my family and friends, some religious, my renewed exhilaration for life and all the contemplations that created it. Some were excited and some were disturbed. It made no difference to me. I knew I had made my way to the true beginning of the rest of my days. So I tossed myself into this lovely sea of free thinkers with complete abandon. As I made my way around the atheist section of the twitterverse, I found that what I had to say and what I had learned was nothing new. I found this to be an amazingly beautiful sensation.

Now more than six months later I have found myself in a space in my real life where it’s not even necessary to discuss my atheism unless I’m involved in a civil debate more often triggered by questions about my perspective from theists. On twitter I see these debates being handled rather well. I enjoy seeing the different styles of those I follow and applaud them whenever I have the opportunity. My interest has rested, temporarily, in the area of intellectual, psychological, and emotional empowerment. I find that the more one feels their own worth, the closer they get to utilizing reason and logic to find their way through life and all of its challenges. The continued use of reasoning often allows for a more developed and tempered recognition and use of emotion. If one can set up this sort of mental foundation they are more likely to think independently and ultimately will offer a greater contribution to themselves and the world around them. I have no desire to remove anyone’s coping mechanisms prior to giving them the opportunity to at least grasp the notion that there may be another way. Religion, faith, prayer and the perception of an all-powerful being looking out for specific humans are all common coping mechanisms. Albeit primitive but nonetheless utilized by many to ‘get through’ life. Life isn’t something to get through. It’s a beautiful mess of fun, fearful, risky, indulgent, satisfying, challenging, and sometimes-brutal experiences, all to be relished and appreciated. I wouldn’t want to pray my way through such an incredible and fleeting experience. Would you?

I’ll continue to express my opinions and share my experiences as I see fit. That’s the reward of becoming and being a free thinker. As for the strong foundation I have built as I moved along the path to atheism, it just fits. And I’m realistically certain it will remain.

Be sure to follow Jen on Twitter @jen_august. Also follow her blog here.

 

My name is Kevin, I am a high school senior, and I am an atheist. My reason for submitting this story is that I haven’t seen any posts from fellow students, and I know there are many out there that are looking for some reassurance that they are not alone in their day to day struggles in being nonreligious, and I know from experience that hearing the “good news” so to speak from a fellow student is beneficial, as it was for me.

I come from a small town of Lexington, in the thumb of Michigan, on the beautiful shores of Lake Huron. I’m sure nobody reading this post has heard of it, it’s a very small town, so small that they school must combine the two neighboring towns of Croswell and Lexington, hence its name, Cros-Lex, as well as a great amount of the surrounding rural area.

I want to emphasize the diminutive size of the community because it contributed a great deal to the “aloneness” I felt in my coming to atheism. A rural community, as many of you are aware, is not often accepting of the kind of free-thinking that fosters ideas, such as atheism, that challenge long-held beliefs and traditions. And when an individual comes to such ideas, they are often made to feel isolated, as I was, and I’m sure many of my fellow students out there do as well.

The road to atheism wasn’t simple for me. It was a constant struggle starting back in the Catholic elementary school my parents put my siblings and I through. When I’d ask an honest question about some church doctrine, all I would receive was the old, ironed out responses of “god loves you” or “it’s a mystery”. And, like every other 10 year old, I would accept it as such, although I harbored grains of salt with them.

Through middle school, my first experience with public school, I was exposed to so much more than what my sheltered life before had prepared me for. My natural reaction was to hold close what was familiar, religion. However, the closer you hold something, the closer you can examine it. And we all know that religion has a tendency to crack under examination, even that of a twelve year old. But still the natural clinging to what was familiar kept me in the church.

High school was where the major transformation happened, as with many people. Sophomore year I gave up my Catholic label in favor of Agnosticism, and by my Junior year I accepted myself as an Atheist, but I held these beliefs in for fear of the repercussions from both the community and my still Catholic family. But I couldn’t hide them forever.

And the repercussions came! I first came out to various friends and in casual conversation with people to get myself used to the feeling. I received many dirty looks, many accusations of being a Satan worshiper, and was ostracized by the community in general. And to this day I still get odd looks from teachers when I omit “under god” from the morning pledge.

When I came out to my parents I had to face many facets of adversity I never experienced before. At first my mother wanted to throw me out of the house and take away any family money. She backed down from this, but she works to make me feel unwelcome in the house. Immediately after she bought many religious symbols (statues, prayer cards around the house, and even handbags) and made sure we were now going to church every Sunday. My parents both informed the aunts and uncles, and a few close friends, making sure I was there to be stared at. My only solace, as far as family goes, is that I’ll be off to college soon, and moving out.

I didn’t loose hope though. Upon coming out to my community, I discovered which friends were true, several of who also came out. I also found solace in a wonderful girlfriend, with whom I’ve been with for nearly a year, who has also come out as an atheist.

My message to my fellow non-believing students who are still hiding their beliefs, or have come out but don’t know where to go is that there is nothing to fear. Even if adversity is all you see when peaking out of the close door, you may be missing the full, wonderful picture of life after religion. For your own sake and the sake of others who may be hiding in your community, open the door, come out and allow others to see what an atheist looks like.

 

I just need to ask a couple of things and make a couple of observations.  Maybe there are answers, maybe not – but at least I’m putting it out there. (Writing about something has always been a part of any process for me)

I am very new to this, but I’ve felt it brewing, just below the surface for a while. When things don’t add up, they don’t add up.

Now, l will never presume to know a lot or anything for that matter, but how can a loving god (and I’m loathed to use this term in any form) allow the things that he does? I don’t want to elaborate on this too much – turn on the news and open a newspaper, you’ll get the idea.  Besides, it makes me so incredibly sad to see images of starving children, raped woman, families displaced by war, people killed while they do shopping (all in the name of god) and so on. What made me so special? Why is god protecting me and saving me from those circumstances? I don’t the need help. Those children do…

In saying and feeling that, the clutches of religion are strong and I continued to lead a good life, like a good Christian should, until I met my boyfriend. He is Muslim.

You know the story and how it goes from here.  I converted to Islam around 4 years ago. All those feelings are still there, but pushed way down because… love of course!

Now, most of you will probably know this, but Muslims have a day/night of prayers where all your sins are forgiven.  Really.  Anything you might have done, gone? During Ramadan (fasting) the devil is apparently locked up and all the sins you commit is because of your own sinful nature? If you do not pray in exactly the right way – sequence and in Arabic and facing the right way, your prayers will not be accepted.

I have not told him about my new orientation.  I don’t know how.  (Granted, we don’t live in a place where I will be killed for making the above statements and I have always referred to him as “Muslim-light” due to his lack of commitment to ‘standard Islamic rules’) But it will probably be the end of it when i do.  I sort of touched the subject a few nights ago (just a general statement I made) and he started defending the faith passionately…

People that I use to look up to, all Christians and of similar orientations – how am I suppose to look at any of them in the same way ever again?  How can intelligent people be so, well, so damn dumb or ignorant, or both? I know it’s not really their fault and I should be the last one to even judge – but I am judging and I cannot help it.  There is so much information out there and still you don’t question anything? I do not know how to get past this one in particular.

Believe me, I am not a drama queen.  I am just above average intelligence (although, all that IQ does not seem to help most religious people either…) and I am a happy person for the most part.   So, how is it possible for me to make that realization and my very intelligent religious family/friends cannot?  Why do we still live in a place where you have to be careful who you tell that you don’t believe in a god?

I will not lie.  I do feel a bit alone at the moment, but it will pass (part of the personality). Maybe I’m just rambling on because it is so new and because it seems to occupy every waking thought at the moment.  Or maybe I am just a little pissed off because I have wasted half my life on a bloody control mechanism!

Again, don’t mind me.  This is early days and certainly part of the process. I am, after all, a very insignificant part of a much bigger picture.

Thank you for the time and space that allowed me to share. I have found this site through the twitter community, who is a lovely bunch of crazy, accepting individuals. (Could not fit all this into 140 characters)

Follow @NotSoDamnFunny on Twitter.

I was born to a very “normal” loving family. In fact we were so normal, we were abnormal. My parents were and still are deeply in love with each other. We had very little beyond the material necessities in life but there was no abuse of any kind in my childhood. My parents are Christian but of the moderate variety and our church was the United Church of Canada… the most liberal Christian denomination imaginable. The church is all about social justice. They ordain gay clergy and are very “accepting” of diversity. We didn’t attend church often. It was more than C&E but was not overly frequent. In my early adult years I taught Sunday school (all the glazed over, so-called, “Happy” stories). When my children were very young I was on the Worship and Sanctuary committee and the Christian Education committee in the church. I was even a member of the church council. Now this might sound like I was extremely religious, however, I really wasn’t. In my early years, I likely believed the Jesus myth but in my late teens and early twenties I had become somewhat of a deist. I thought that perhaps Jesus had existed but was just a revolutionary of his time. I thought his teachings were “good” and so reconciled my beliefs with this idea. I even considered entering the ministry. I “religiously” attended bible study with a minister who had a doctorate in theology and was actually very learned in the historical elements of the bible. He was an anti-“fire and brimstone” theologian and in some ways, I’m not even sure he believed the Christianity myth. He was an extremely kind person and very intelligent. I even took Religious Studies courses at University during my first two years. I gave up the idea of ministry when I felt I wasn’t “in it for the long haul”. I really did have a huge life outside of the church. When my children no longer wanted to attend Sunday school, they simply stopped going. It wasn’t an issue and they were quite young at the time.

Up to that point in my life, I struggled between deism and agnosticism but didn’t ever consider that religion was a negative influence on society in general. I thought atheists were bitter because of bad experiences with religion. I understood their feelings but didn’t ever contemplate that they might actually be right about reality. I never thought atheists were bad people. I always thought they had a right to their opinions but I assumed my “belief” in a “greater power” was more logical than believing in nothing. The problem was, I actually didn’t allow myself to ever think critically about the question. I’ve since come to the realization that not believing in a deity or supernatural forces does not mean believing in nothing. I now ‘believe’ in the awesome power of nature. I have confidence in natural processes that occurred to produce a massive universe, create life out of chemicals and energy, and that biological changes and evolution over vast periods of time has produced varied and complex life and will continue to do so. Those things are not “nothing” and there just happens to be tons of evidence to support those rational concepts.

My flip-flopping between agnosticism and deism lasted a very long time but my transition to atheism wasn’t gradual. It actually happened rather quickly. Sorting out the awe and wonder took a bit of time but the atheism hit me like a ton of bricks. It was on the morning of September 11, 2001. At that point in time, I didn’t know that religious zealots were behind the attacks that day but that discovery some time later simply worked to reinforce what struck me on that clear September morning… that religion is a destructive aspect of civilization. If there was a benevolent god, what happened on September 11 could not have happened. There could never be a justification for such horror, nor for all of the horrors around the world that preceded or succeeded that event. No ‘mysterious way’ could ever reconcile the emotional pain and devastation that I felt on that day. Thousands of people and their families did not deserve death or to deal with loss at the hands of other human beings. For me, it was a sudden moment of clarity. No benevolent deity or force would treat any creature it loved with such malice. Personally, I would die to protect any one of my children from harm. I truly love them more than life itself.

My experience with religion in my own personal life had always been positive so I didn’t “hate” god. I simply realized there was no god. After accepting there was no “greater power” I spent the next several years researching and reading. I’ve since determined that there is no evidence to support ANY supernatural claim. I’ve discovered that there isn’t even evidence to suggest that Jesus was a real human being. If there was any evidence whatsoever for any supernatural or religious claim, the million dollar prize offered by the James Randi Educational Foundation would have been claimed. It has not been.

I’m still in the closet to a degree about my atheism but this is primarily for business reasons. I am self-employed and run my company in a very small town. Although there is a large population of intellectuals in this area, there are still some who are theists and I need food and shelter to survive. I also have not told my parents. Although they are not fundamentalists and I know they would not love me any less, I think they would be sad thinking I might not go to heaven. My parents are elderly. They’re not racists or bigots. I have no desire to make them sad for any reason at this stage in their lives. They are very good people. My husband and children are all atheists or agnostics. My brother is agnostic. My sister is the only religious nut in my family and I rarely talk to her for several reasons other than religion. I’m content with the way things are. I don’t need to be a “radical” atheist in my personal life to fight injustice. I live in Canada so religious nonsense, for the most part, does not influence law, policy or education. As long as it stays that way, I will not become an activist locally. I am much more aggressive on-line because of the horrific abuses that are happening to women, children and the LGBT community in other countries around the world. I’m saddened and angered by every tragedy that occurs because of religion and I’m extremely angry and frustrated about the contempt that the religious and conservative factions in society have for our environment. This planet should be protected for all life that follows mine.

This, in a nutshell, briefly outlines my path to atheism. There is one other “event” in my life, however, that I want to mention. After reading this you might think that this should have caused me to be a believer but even this has not. When I was 8 years old, I had an “out-of-body” experience. I was very very sick with some kind of stomach bug. I had a fever of 104 degrees and was vomiting a lot. I honestly had the feeling that I was dying. I stumbled out of bed and laid on a bench at the end of the hallway and suddenly left my body and began floating down the corridor. I could even see myself laying on the bench. It scared me and I screamed and was instantly back in my body. I’ve thought about that incident from time to time over the years and there was a time when I thought that there could be some supernatural explanation but I have since come to accept that it was nothing more than an elaborate hallucination brought on by illness and fever. The brain is very complex and hallucinations occur. A natural explanation for that experience is far more plausible than a supernatural one. I think that my intellect and my ability to reason has caused me to toss aside far-fetched explanations for experiences that might have convinced others that the supernatural is real.

I’m a much happier person since becoming an atheist. I enjoy and treasure the life I have and no longer waste time conceiving of an afterlife. I spend a lot more time looking for the ‘silver lining’ these days. That’s not always easy on a planet where chaos, violence and noise are a constant but in the quiet moments, there is calm, there is peace and the wonder and beauty of life and this universe is crystal clear. Cheers!

Follow Wendy on Twitter at @AtlanticCanuck.

This is a first attempt to blog, and I just want to say who I am. I am a father, a human, a black American from New York, living in South Jersey and I have recently embraced agnostic atheism. For the Christians who may read this, no, I am not angry at god, I did not have a bad experience in church, I have come to this conclusion after reading the bible, having questions, and not getting any answers.

I was baptized Roman Catholic as a baby, took my first holy communion at 10, and was confirmed at 13. All this while I never read the bible. I had no need it was all done for me by the priest. He would stand at the altar and tell me all I needed to know about the bible. Every Sunday, without fail. I would sit, wishing I could leave and go back home and watch Wonderama, but I had to endure this hour. Catholicism was not so bad as boring. The rituals and processions and solemnities where just not a tune I could feel. Then we met some Seventh Day Adventist.

The Seventh Day Adventist is a Christian sect that adheres closely to Orthodox Jewish traditions especially in keeping of a Seventh day (or Saturday) Sabbath. When we were introduced, I felt this churches “vibe”. Lively hymns, lots of amens and hallelujahs from the congregation as well as a preacher that shouted out to you and inspired you to believe with his passion!

My mother was convinced and we were made to get up every Saturday, take the train to Harlem to go to Zion Temple Church on 116th street. I didn’t mind going to church here, lots of kids my age and color, not like the Catholic church. And after service we ran around and played not, like the oh so pious and quiet Catholics.

My mother was baptized first. As I watched her walk up the aisle as the preacher asked  ”Will you accept Jesus? Will you be saved by his grace?” Her along with a few others made their way up to the altar and asserted they would be baptized in the “blood of Christ” as a symbol of redemption and rebirth into a New Christian, washing away your sins. I watched as she was held by her arms and submerged backwards into the water. For a few seconds I did not think they would bring her back up but they did and the whole congregation erupted into a frenzy as if Jesus himself walked in and had a seat!

Seeing My mother take this leap of “faith”, I myself declared my love of Jesus and my need to be saved as well. And was baptized for the second time in my life as a Born again Christian! Hallelujah! but as the water rolled down my body and I shivered, I did not feel different, no spirit entered me, I still had my thoughts that I had. I still went home that night and touched myself in my shower. Nothing changed. I began to take bible study and for the first time in my life was encouraged to read the bible. They gave verse and chapter and we talked and discussed its merits and how it showed god’s divine mercy love and compassion for humans, and that he had great expectations as well as mansions and streets paved with gold waiting for us should we remain “faithful” and worship his eternal glory and divine wisdom. This is when I found out the dictionary meaning of faith.

Let me back up a little bit. I need you to understand that as a young man I was pretty smart. I walked into kindergarten at 5 years old knowing how to read, write and spell fluently thanks to my mother. And in 1967 that was pretty impressive. I was always told by my mother, “When you see or hear a word you do not understand, look it up in the dictionary.” And if for nothing else I thank my mother for that amazing bit of information.

Now, back to faith. I did not understand the word prior to church. I had heard it but it was now a requirement as an Adventist. So much more so than a Catholic because we were actually following God’s word to the “T”! So this word rolling in my head became a headache so I looked it up. Faith – Complete trust in a person or thing. Believing something without proof. This shook me. I had gone through two religions and I had faith, but in What? I never heard god talk to me. I never saw him in any actionable activity I performed, and His presence did not comfort me near as much as hugs form my nana! But I toiled on. Praying everyday, not for things but thanking him for his wonderful gifts of sustenance and compassion for not letting us die in our sleep. Our prayers to stay on the righteous path to him rather than the slippery slope that leads to worldly behavior, wickedness and eternal damnation.

During this time I had sex in the church with more than a few of the “church sisters” smoked cigarettes and did “ungodly” acts. I always prayed and asked forgiveness because that is how it worked, as long as I asked, Jesus would forgive! What a remarkable system! I found I could do almost anything I wanted and Jesus would give me a nod and a “Saved again pass”.

I was 16 at this time and the questions started to creep in. I had against my pastor’s warning, started to read the bible all by myself. What I came across was astounding! Not only was Gods eternal Love, glory and wisdom laced with some of the most horrific, twisted murderous and incestuous acts I had ever heard of, but I found contradiction after contradiction in “The Word of God”. I could not contain my self and asked my mother, she said she did not know what to make of it, as she only read what she was told to read. I asked my friends, they just didn’t read at all. And so I went to our pastor. He smiled, gave me a gentle touch on the shoulder and answered my question with a flash of brilliance that only smacked me in the face. He said, “These stories are taken out of context, You have to have faith” . Faith, I have to not believe what I read as the Word of God but believe blindly that this is his intention, to confuse and bedazzle me because he is “just to large for you to comprehend”.

I had enough. I searched over the next few years. From rabbi to Buddhist temples, Even to the Cult of Tony and Susan Alamo! Man, did I dodge that bullet! But no one, no one could help me “get God”. I had never felt him, or Jesus, in my life or do anything for me that I didn’t have direct responsibility for or that I could attribute to someone else doing it for me. But still I held on because He had to be true. I had spent my whole life so far worshiping and honoring and kneeling and praying and keeping his commandments, well, the ones that I felt were good to follow, just like most Christians.

It was not until I was in my 40′s, I would say 48, that I turned from God into Spiritualism. Here I had it easy. I believed in a Deity, but not the god of the bible. Something Had to create us right? But this still gave no solace. No peace, no comfort, as I still had this nagging fear of hell!. It was not until May of 2013 that I stumbled upon an atheist meme that asked, “Are you on the Fence?” As I read it, my head exploded! Yes! I am on the fence I have been forever! I then had the good fortune of having  a coworker give me a copy of Christopher Hitchens “God is not Good”. and then I knew! I watched his videos, saw some Richard Dawkins, some Sam Harris and these people, these thinkers, these people tapped in me something that religion never did. Freedom. Absolute freedom to be and do whatever I wanted without fear of Hell, demonization, excommunication or non-tolerance.

I knew that murder was wrong, the bible did not have to tell me that I deduced that long before I read it in there. I knew I loved my parents, long before I was ordered by the commandments. I was a moral, human in a world filled with all sorts of individuals and I was finally OK.

Now I must tell you, at first I was quite bitter and angry for wasting my time, life and money on religion and it stung just as any con job you find out you got had by stings. But then I found Twitter community and like minded people who not only were atheist, but embraced it. Some of these folks are brash and brazen, some are thoughtful and kind, and some are just batshit crazy! but one thing for certain, they have shown me a sense of respect and community that I never experienced in church, in the sense of judgement free sensibilities. and openness to new information. Free, funny, analytic, logical, reasonable. This is how I was born. And thanks to atheism. This is how I will die, and I am good with that.!