Larro's Story

(Via Ungodly Cynic)

I grew up pretty much secular/agnostic, but essentially went with the flow growing up. Looking back, I remember reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in school (public) and now resent it. I never gave any thought to religion or spirituality until I started doing drugs (namely LSD) in college (Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale). I'll add that I haven't traveled down that road in quite a long time.

Religion was always a non-issue up until that point.

I've dabbled in mostly new age and pagan stuff; Wicca and Qabala for the most part. With all seriousness I was considering Qabala to be a system I could believe in, down to getting the robes, athame, and accessories. Then, I met my wife and all that dwindled away being replaced by agnosticism.

My in-laws are church-goers and I went to Christmas with them for a few years (Methodist). I didn't care for it and knew it was a bunch of crap, my wife knew I felt that way, but I just didn't care about church. It didn't matter whether I went or not. I was just there.
Later, the in-laws decided they wanted to change their denomination to Episcopal (after some "goings-on" within the Methodist church there). My wife wasn't happy. She wasn't angry, she just didn't like the change. Anyway, there was a little bit of friction regarding this "change". Needless to say it all kinda ticked me off, I guess because of the whole situation in general, and I said, "To hell with all of it, no more."

Since. I have only gone to church once, and that was a Christening, which I would not attend today. Note: I had not "come out" to anybody yet, but only in general conversations whereas I never said: "I'm an atheist. I don't believe in God."

A couple years down the road my father-in-law is over and we are partaking of some beers (I rather enjoy having a few beers with him and discussing politics and current events). Most of what I remember is just flat out telling him "I'm an atheist. I don't believe...", after getting into some debate about a secular issue. His answer was "I feel sorry for you." My retort: "I feel sorry for you." And I honestly do. That was the first time I ever came "out" and told somebody. Him and I are still on speaking terms and we still love to engage in political discussions. He's pretty open-minded about that. Though he'll never change his stance as a true-blue Blue Dog Democrat.

I might add that the whole religious issue arising within the political spectrum in the run-up to the 2000 presidential election really got me riled up. This prompted me to find out what these particular people stood for. And I found dirty truths that drove me further to disregard such jack-asses and...to tell the truth, this (religion and politics/separation of church and state), above all else drives me ideologically.

NOT whether a god exists or not, I could give a rat's ass about that debate. I get so incensed reading blogs written by ex-Christians debating with Christians about the existence of god. What the hell is to be proven? Or disproven? One thing remains untouchable: faith. If one wants to believe in some fairy-tale, then so be it. One other thing remains untouchable: Don't frickin' shove it down my throat. Because I am free to believe what the hell I damn well please to believe.

Sorry, getting heated. Why am I getting heated? Because Christians (and I am lumping them altogether) do not see the cultural implications. They don't see that the "foundation" of religion has influenced almost every aspect of society. That their inaction and complacency enables the problems that arise from putting trust into the hands of "faithful" politicians. I don't know how to put it any other way. When our president starts speaking in code about a "crusade", that should tell you something unless your brain-dead about history. When our dumb-ass president says "I looked into his eyes and saw a kindred spirit." (speaking of Putin), the same man who said "I trust God speaks through me. Without that, I couldn't do my job." Who does he think he is? The messiah? Seems some people do.

Coming To Terms With the Letter A (And Other Isms)

(Via American Scot)

From my earliest memories of childhood I can recall to having had an adverse reaction to going to church.
My father was raised in a Mormon family that was quite devout, my mother's family on the other hand was a mix of Presbyterianism and Alcoholism.( the latter,my grandfathers religion, later to become mine) So my parents felt it was important to put on a good face for my grandmother( dad's side) and have all of us participate in the LDS Primary and Sunday school classes that other children my age participated in.

I remember being dragged from the gymnasium of the church( where we would play before primary) more than a few times to these little indoctrination classes. Mainly because I really couldn't stand to hear about some guy, who looked like my Uncle Leonard (a biker who was killed in a motorcycle accident in 1973) and what he had to say about "The Kingdom of Heaven", or about his father. I did however find the prospect of a "Holy Ghost" kind of cool! ( I was 6) Then they would begin to drone on about some man by the name of Joseph Smith, and how he was a profit of our heavenly father. Just like Spencer Kimball. (LDS President at the time) And some jazz about golden plates and a bunch of other hullaballoo! Needless to say, this was all too boring for me. But for my baptism at 8, I stopped going to primary and Sunday school until I reached the age of eleven. All reluctantly for two reasons,to attend Boy Scouts and look at cute girls.

As a teen I became involved in the LDS Priesthood almost by accident. All of my friends at the time were forced to attend church on Sunday. So I started to tag along for kicks. It was seventh grade, and since my birthday is in August, most of my friends were half a year older then me. So they all "graduated" from being Deacons, to Teachers before me (to much time to explain, read this) So I was given the post of being the Deacons Quorum President. I'll never forget how it all came about. I was asked in to see the Bishop of our ward. He sat me down and proceeded to tell me and I quote "We (the brethren) have been praying for guidance in choosing a new Deacons Quorum President, and God has directed us to you." I just about fell out of my chair! You see, at the time I had been smoking marijuana and drinking regularly for a year! At first I thought, "well maybe this is a sign for me to change." Then later after accepting the position. I realized it was a "warm body" thing, and the whole thing was a farce! My parents made me stick to this responsibility, half assed I did, but I still continued to get stoned and drink!

By the time I was in high school, I had completely given up on Mormonism. I renounced my membership, and made it abundantly clear to my classmates I was not the least bit interested in going back to their church! Of course this made dating a challenge, as most of the girls in my high school were LDS. More than a few tried to talk me into going to church with them, but I resisted.

Once out of high school, I met more like minded people, and began to broaden my horizons so to speak. I ran with a crowd that was made up of a Lutheran, a Catholic, a Baptist, a Greek Orthodox, and another ex Mormon. We had many discussions about religion and I was exposed to different ideas. Our common thread was that we were all unhappy with religion of our parents. We shunned religion, and looked for god in drugs and booze.

This trend lasted for quite some time. Then in my early twenties, my addictions began to take a toll on my mental health. As I blogged before, I ended up in a psych ward of a Catholic owned hospital, after a futile attempt at my own life. (Thank goodness!) While in the ward I was visited by a social worker who was also a Nun. She was very kind to me, and comforted me a great deal. We discussed my "spiritual" condition and I asked her some questions about her faith, which she readily answered. So upon release I contacted my friend who happened to be going through conversion classes at a Catholic Church nearby where we grew up. He invited me along to see what it was all about. I had always had a fascination with Catholicism, I then remembered going to Midnight Mass with an old girlfriend and how I was awed by the pageantry. So I felt like maybe it would be a great help. After a year and a half of classes, and the dating of a girl from a devout Catholic family, I was baptized and confirmed at Easter Vigil. After the relationship with the girl ended, and the priest whom I respected retired, (He admitted that the Old Testament was all story and not meant to be taken literally) I grew disillusioned with going to mass, and as quickly as it began I was no longer a practicing Catholic.

I then began to question the existence of a heavenly guardian again, but this time I was influenced by the astronomy class I was taking at school. I read of the Big Bang, and of star nurseries, where old materials from stars are reformed to create new ones. I also learned of how all the elements that make up our universe are contained within us. I saw a cycle that made more sense to me, then any mythical creator working with magic and clay to create us and our environment. This was the foundation of my agnosticism.

Again I was forced to make a choice of belief. Again it was over my drinking and drugging. I hit a bottom and ended up going to AA. I was desperate to find help, so when they (the other members) spoke about god and how he/she/it was the answer to not drinking, and the only way to find god was through the 12 steps. I tightly held my nose and drank the medicine. Soon I was sober,and things began to look up for me. I was experiencing acceptance from others like me. And it felt good. How could it not? I wasn't drunk every night and hung over every morning! All the while I was being told this was all "gods will" for me. So I faked my beliefs, and held fast to the people around me. I didn't want to rock the boat, so I kept my agnosticism inside.

I then moved from SLC to Chicago when I took my current job, and I really had a hard time getting involved in AA here. So eventually I stopped going to meetings. Well as you might guess, I relapsed and struggled in and out of AA for the next six years. All the while finding it harder and harder to believe in a god. And the more I struggled with my belief, the more I struggled with staying sober. Finally in 2003 I gave up the drinking and went back to AA. But this time I decided to do it on my own terms. I decided from day one that I wasn't going to pray to any "higher power" or work the steps in the manner that most think they should be done. (belief in god) I soon found out that there were others that felt the same way as I, and some openly talk about their atheism. I still attend AA, but not to hear about god and the steps, but to be reminded of why I don't drink anymore. The support of others who know what it is like to suffer in addiction is a very powerful thing, a "higher power" if you will. Having said all of this, I can honestly say that I am more at peace with myself, then I've ever been.


So I guess this is where I will own up to that Red A on the right hand side of this blog.
I am an atheist! I don't believe in a god, nor can I prove there isn't one. I'll leave that up to you!
If you have the same struggles as I have had, don't despair! You can be an atheist and stay sober, and do it with a smile!

My Path to Atheism

(Via Imago)

Mine's a straightforward story. I was brought up by reasonable but traditional, older parents - both parish christians of what I now realise was the 'best type'. They both took their beliefs for granted, and were diligent in their participation in the life of the church. They were really good, and caring. But apart from one memory of praying at bedtime with my father, I know I was completely bored by the religious view of the world, and the rules we were supposed to live by.

Although my elder brother was more taken by the whole thing, I remember only pretending to be asleep when it was time to go to church, disliking Sunday school, feeling offended when I was supposed to say 'we are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy table'. I only liked singing the hymns.

I declined to be confirmed when I was about 14. The sticking point was transubstantiation. Drinking blood seemed an odd thing to do, and also impossible for that blood to actually be wine, or vice versa. The minister came to talk to me but somehow I held firm. Really I think I did
not want to experience the boredom of confirmation classes, and I was probably shy of the other young people.

There was a group of christian girls at school and I did (honestly!) try to ask god into my heart, probably just to have some friends. But I couldn't say it worked. I stopped going to church, and my parents let me.

When he went away to university, my brother joined a fundamentalist evangelical church, and my parents started to worry that he was being exploited by the minister, who lived off student donations, a very nice life thank you. My brother's view of me (I was the voice of the devil) became insufferable at this time. Another nail in the coffin of my belief.

When I got married, we did it in church, but I always wished I had been able to say 'no' to this. The prospect of what our parents would say was just a bit too scary. Likewise we did not say no to being godparents to my nephew, which I regret, even if it was a bit of a formality. Fortunately the minister did not ask us to stand up and say anything publicly! Our children are not baptised.

The two final wriggles of my religious life were to take my daughter to church (once) and to engage in a debate in the local newspaper with an evangelical minister who was saying that children ought to be taught the ten commandments, and then they would be better behaved. As my daughter was being bullied by an obnoxious christian girl at the time, I felt obliged to claim that our godless three were at least as aware of their social responsibilities as any so-called christian child. And then, the first Gulf War, during which a local church proclaimed prayers for 'our boys' only. The end.

Although the Church of England is a moderate place, and does as much good as may be, it is nevertheless, in my view, founded on a lie - that there is a supernatural being who watches over us. We can be good people or not, but it is nothing to do with our beliefs. I still have christian friends, but I have remained at a great distance from my brother. After studying biology, psychology and philosophy, I think I understand some of the reasons why humans have been attracted to religion, but I am relieved I no longer have to pretend that I am. I think it is a
manipulative, limiting and ultimately repellent practice, and to raise children in any religion is an offence against their freely developing minds.

I wish I did not hate religion so much, and I do not know quite why I do. I would prefer to simply ignore it. But is is such a force in the world that I now feel obliged to stand up for my non- belief. I am glad to be able to do this here.

Steve's Story

I can’t really say that I’ve been an atheist my entire life, but I don’t think I was ever a genuine believer. My parents both come from a southern baptist background, but we never went to church regularly when I was growing up. I’m pretty sure that all of my parents’ siblings and their families regularly attend church now, and one of my uncles is even a music minister in a baptist church in Texas. We would sometimes go to church on Easter and there was a period where we attended a weekly bible study led by some family friends. I think we finally stopped attending because of some silly theological dispute between my parents and the study leaders about what was required to “be saved.” This was a big deal to them, of course, but it all seems ridiculous to me now. I will always be grateful to my parents that they didn’t shove religion down my throat as a child, though grace was always said before dinner and my brother and I were taught to say our prayers before bed when we were very young.

I officially became an atheist over the summer after my freshman year of college. I think that the moment of truth came while reading Ayn Rand’s “The Fountainhead” for a summer literature class. The hero of the novel, Howard Roark, was a very appealing character for me, and when he stated at one point that he didn’t believe in a god, that seemed to fit with his integrity and honest view of the world. I don’t think I had really been exposed to atheism that much growing up, and certainly not in a positive light. I do remember reading Camus’s “The Stranger” in high school and responding sympathetically to the main character’s atheism, though I didn’t consider myself an atheist at the time. One of my high school classmates was courageously outspoken about his non-belief, which earned him much condemnation from certain classmates. I also remember being sympathetic towards his views, but I wasn’t courageous enough at the time to defend him in class debates, in which he was hopelessly outnumbered.

After my Fountainhead experience I read more of Rand’s works, as well as books like “Atheism: The Case Against God” by George H. Smith. One night in July 1998 I stopped saying my prayers before bedtime, which had always been more formulaic than heartfelt, and I now officially considered myself an atheist. I was still living at home, so I kept my atheism to myself, not knowing how my parents might react if they found out. My parents are wonderful, loving people, but I was still unsure of how they might react. I remember being very nervous around Easter of 1999, feeling that I would come out as an atheist and refuse to go to church if my parents decided that we were going. I didn’t think I could stomach the church experience at this point in my life, but luckily we didn’t go to church that Easter, or ever again while I was living at home.

I finally came out to my parents on September 4, 2001, a few weeks before I was scheduled to leave for a one-year exchange program in Germany after I graduated from college. I was about to move away from home for the first time, and my dad wanted to make sure I was a christian. The two of us were driving to town in his truck and he mentioned one of my best friends who I’ve known since 4th grade, whose family is from Puerto Rico. He asked if this friend was catholic, which made me sort of uncomfortable, since I never really discussed religion with my friends. I had several friends who attended church regularly, and I would occasionally go with them when I was younger, but I thought of them as individuals, not members of a particular religious group. I told my dad that I assumed this friend of mine was catholic, but that I wasn’t sure. He then asked what I believed, and I told him that I was an atheist. I could tell that this made him uncomfortable, and he kept interrogating me about my views (but not in an overbearing or intimidating manner) over the next week. My mother naturally found out, though she seemed to take the news a little better than he did. My brother considers himself a christian (though a very liberal one), and I’m sure that the idea of the four of us not being united in
heaven was quite painful to them. My explanation that, even if there was an afterlife, I wouldn’t want to believe in a god that rewarded blind faith over good deeds, didn’t seem to reassure them very much.

The terrorist attacks of September 11 occurred a week later and helped to make that month one of the most traumatic of my entire life. I finally made it to Germany near the end of September, though my dad bought a couple of books for me to read while I was over there, a bible and a few books by Lee Strobel. At one point, Strobel was trying to answer the question of what would happen in the afterlife to people like Gandhi, who were not Christian but did great deeds. When he answered that god would surely make “exceptions” for people like that and let them into heaven, I shut the book and refused to read another word. So much for the argument that blind faith alone would grant one admittance to heaven. It never ceases to amaze me how the religious will make exceptions to rules or selectively interpret evidence to reinforce and justify their beliefs.

I have a good relationship with my family (we just don’t discuss religion) and the tension that followed my coming out certainly seems to have eased. My parents probably think that I’m not “really” an atheist (how could such a good person be an atheist?) or that I’ll have a change of heart. My wife was raised catholic but considers herself an agnostic, and our wedding ceremony was officiated by one of her best friends, who happens to be gay and was ordained online! Our outdoor ceremony had no mention of any god (except for one vague mention of a “universal spirit” or something like that) and none of my religious relatives made any mention of that fact. I don’t know how many of my relatives know about my atheism, though it’s definitely not something I mention around them.

I see no evidence for a supernatural being and live my life as if there is none. Though we live in a chaotic world in which there are reasons to be cynical about the future of humanity, I find hope and meaning in things like family, music and the other arts, cooking, wine, coffee, books, etc. One of the biggest disadvantages of being an atheist is that you don’t have the automatic social network that a church provides. My wife is working right now while I try to finish grad school, and she doesn’t have much in common with many of her coworkers, many of whom are very religious and vocal about that. There are only a few of my school colleagues who I am reasonably close to and it is certainly easier to feel isolated as an atheist here in the Bible Belt than as a believer. I am encouraged by the recent crop of books by prominent atheists like Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens, and I hope that we will see a gradual shift in the U.S. towards greater secularism and acceptance of non-believers in politics and culture.

Anonymous Letter to Richard Dawkins

Dear Dr. Dawkins,

I have no idea if you yourself will read this, but I wanted to share my story with you anyway because you are such an important figure in my life. I can never thank you enough for the ways that your work has set me free and enhanced my life. This isn't so much a story of how your work has converted me to atheism as it is a story of how your work has made me confident and secure in my atheism.

I was born into a strange family. On the surface we were Mormons, but our lives moved with a deeper current of Evangelical Christianity. When I was six years old, my parents divorced - the greatest scandal my family has ever seen - and my mother moved my sister and me out of rural Idaho and into the more open-minded "blue state" of Washington. I shudder to think how I would have turned out if I'd stayed solely under the influence of my patriarchal, bible-thumping Idaho family. My mother still felt that it was important for our development to know our father and his side of the family, and to spend time with them. We spent every summer in Idaho. I am certain that if I'd had the skills and the courage to tell my mother what my father and his side of the family were doing to us, or even if I had the understanding to recognize how wrong it was, that I never would have been subjected to such abuse again. But I believed that was I was being told was right and good - such is the power of religious indoctrination.

Nurturing mental illness seemed to be the hobby of my father's side of the family. My father himself was incorrectly diagnosed and treated as a paranoid schizophrenic (much later in his life, he received the correct diagnosis of severe bipolar disorder). Part of his delusion was a belief that he was the true prophet of God - or perhaps that he was Jesus himself, come again - it was never entirely clear. He was a charismatic man, and he convinced his family that it was true. Of course, they were already primed and ready to believe anything that came to light by means of "revelation" - if Dad said that Jesus had revealed his divine prophecy to him, then damn it, it had to be so. My father could even point to passages in the Bible that seemed to support him specifically as the prophet that would herald in the End Times and Jesus' return to Earth. The passages seemed convincing to me, but I was only a little girl - what logical processes could I really apply to such a story?

Every summer, I was surrounded by Evangelical beliefs and was immersed in this strange culture of listening with reverence to any "prophecy" that my father made. The pastime of my family was looking for signs of the Second Coming and discussing the Trepidation to follow. I had not yet been baptized, but I was too scared to ask that it be done for fear that I would reveal myself as a sinner, in need of cleansing, and that the Holy Family would cast me out.

Every single moment of my young life became a constant, fearful watch for signs of Christ's imminent return. Every lunar eclipse was the moon turning to blood; every hint of war or negotiations to avoid war was the Last Battle; Schoemaker-Levy 9 smashing into Jupiter, an event that should have thrilled me, was the "stars falling from the sky," an event that instead filled me with dread of what was surely to come. I fancied seeing Jesus' face in benign cloud formations and was sure that it meant He would show up to smite me tomorrow. I must have played and had friends, but I literally have no recollection of anything occupying my time other than worrying about my destruction at the hands of an angry Christ. I was constantly afraid, and constantly depressed. I remember having no solace from my fears of the Second Coming, and every moment I was around my father's side of the family, my fears were compounded. My childhood was a complete wasteland of family-imposed terror and religious lunacy. I was too afraid to do anything that normal children do. How could I find it fun or safe to ride a roller coaster or a horse when God, who loved me and wanted the best for me, was so much more dangerous and unpredictable? I did nothing; I went nowhere; I made no friends. My life was devoted entirely to listening to anything my insane father spouted and trying to find some way to fit it into current events.

Strangely, this knack I developed of finding correlations between "prophecy" and current events was the only thing that provided me some comfort. It gave my life an air of predictability and security. If I could see what this all meant, then surely I could avoid the worst of the disasters to come. The closer I grew to my father and the more I paid attention to his prophecies, the safer I felt. After all, what better place to be when Christ came back to smite the world than next to His divine prophet?

Unfortunately, my worldview was shaken yet again when one of my uncles decided that he wanted a stake of the attention my father was getting from the family. My uncle was better than a mere prophet - he decided that he was actually Jesus Christ himself. And he, too, had all the revelation and scripture to prove it. My family became even more unstable and weird. Soon somebody had decided that they both couldn't be Jesus - clearly one was really Jesus, and the other was the Antichrist.

Well. Now who to choose? Suddenly it was no longer safe to be my father's little handmaid - what if I'd chosen wrongly, and he was the Antichrist? I lost my taste for interpreting world events and descended deeper into depression and fear.

Around the time I was 15, my mother caught onto the way my depression seemed to wax with my trips to Idaho and decided that I needed to stay in Seattle during the summers and spend time with my happy, normal, teenage friends. I didn't go back to Idaho again until my grandfather's funeral a couple of years later. Two years' distance from the craziness gave me marvelous perspective. Suddenly, my entire family looked pathetic. It made me sad on their behalf, that they'd led themselves so far into insanity. My fear of the Second Coming became less pervasive, but it still persisted in the back of my mind whenever there was a threat of violence in Israel or whenever a lunar eclipse occurred.

Throughout my teenage years, I felt that I needed some kind of spiritual polestar in my life and I began learning about varying religions, trying to find where I fit. I liked the idea of a loving, kind God rather than the wrathful bogeyman I'd been raised with. I soon discovered that the Mormon church didn't teach the kind of wacky End-Times prediction games that my family had ascribed to it, and that it was in fact a kind, caring, supportive community that believed in a "user-friendly" Jesus. I had myself baptized at the age of 19 and felt happy and secure with faith for the first time in my life.

Alas for my faith, it was not to last. I decided around the same time I was baptized that I wanted to be a biologist and work to conserve habitats and animal populations. I had very little money and, being white, qualified for disturbingly little aid from the state even though I was living ridiculously below the poverty line. I saved my money for several months and then enrolled in a single biology class to begin my education, planning to continue working and applying for aid until I could afford a full quarter of classes at a time.

My biology class utterly changed my life when we began learning about evolution.

I knew "the basics" of evolution - animals change over time in response to changes in their environment, and over time new species arise. I understood that we evolved from apes, but I believed that God guided evolution according to His plan. But learning about it on a college level completely opened my mind to the awesome power of biology and genetics. I was hooked and when my money ran out I continued to eat up every book I could find on the subject, including The Selfish Gene.

It was about this time that I began to realize that God's hand wasn't necessary in guiding evolution at all. It guided itself most ably. But surely God was necessary to have started the universe. This led me to a couple of years' worth of self-education in cosmology, astronomy, and chemistry. It wasn't long before I'd formed a clear picture of the universe existing quite well on its own without God, thank you very much.

But I still held that kernel of fear of God. What if it was all true anyway? Couldn't God be testing me with this knowledge of the universe? Couldn't he be setting me up for damnation, backing me into this corner of atheism so that he could ride out of the heavens on a white horse and spear me some day soon? Maybe after the next lunar eclipse? The "god box" in my brain was in an all-out war with my reason, and it was most uncomfortable. I began to have panic attacks and was even hospitalized with one especially severe one. I was put on anti-anxiety medication, which did calm me down enough to learn how to beat the god box into silence and let my peaceful reason control my thoughts...most of the time.

Around this time, I read an essay on the internet written by a young Airman. It was a to-the-point debriefing for the religious, telling them what atheism was and was not, explaining why one becomes an atheist, and what an atheist's world view is like. I was so enchanted by this simple logic and clear thinking. I'd never seen atheism described so eloquently and simply before. I thought, "I would like to be an atheist. But what if God wouldn't approve?" I began writing to the young man and we soon developed a strong friendship. He helped me slowly shed religion in favor of rationality. Our friendship intensified and soon we were visiting each other during his military leaves. When he was finally released from service, incredibly getting out at the height of the Iraq war, he told me that he had no home to return to. I invited him to come live with me. He accepted, and soon we were planning our wedding, which, I am pleased to say, was completely non-religious.

However, I didn't fully let go of the idea that God MIGHT be lurking out there somewhere, waiting to get me, until my father died in 2003. The fact that trumpets from Heaven didn't herald his ascension into the sky as a divine prophet had a little something to do with it. He simply died alone in his apartment, in his sleep with the television on, as any regular human being might die. That simple death cut the last thread of belief in God for reasons I may never fully understand.

On a recent vacation, though, I realized that my religious indoctrination still had some hold over my mind. My husband and I were both a little bit drunk in our hotel room, and a news story came on about some stupid political event or other. I think the alcohol allowed the god box to spring back to life. It just triggered something primal in me - I began to panic and cry in total terror. My husband tried to comfort me and tried to understand what I was so upset over. I couldn't even identify it myself. What was it about this news story that made me fall completely apart? After much careful thought, I decided that I'd been trying to use it to predict the Second Coming again, and that had in turn brought up the old terrors of my childhood. How stupid, to worry about something I didn't even believe in - and I truly did not believe in the existence of God any longer - not one little bit.

This episode made me realize how deeply my brain had been wounded at such a young age. I could still have psychological relapses into a fear that was so strong that I would cry over a fictional character's wrath. I was so angry that I could barely enjoy the rest of our vacation - and when we got home, I headed to the local book store and perused the atheism section (which is sadly tiny, by the way). I found The God Delusion and read the whole thing during a two-day power outage with a flash light. I went through many batteries during those two days.

In The God Delusion, I found the answers to my questions about why and how my brain could continue to have this deep-seated, primal reaction to something that I knew to be false. I was so relieved to know that I wasn't crazy that I cried all over again, but this time it was a wonderful release of all the pent-up fear and tension. After reading the book, particularly the parts about your discussion with Jill Mytton, I felt NORMAL for the first time in my life. And I felt secure for the first time in my life, too. I understood that God was a fantasy, and I understood why and how my brain continued to fear that fantasy. Once I had that knowledge in my hands, I was able to master my fear and completely tamp it out.

I feel so free and happy now, and I feel like I have you to thank for it. Thank you so very much, from the bottom of my heart - your work is amazing, inspiring, and enlightening, and it has saved my sanity. I feel that I owe you so much. I will be grateful to you for the rest of my life.

Dust's Story

(Via Dust)

Okay, this, under most circumstances for me, would be a very hard thing to clarify. However, I am on the edge of drunk, on Bacardi 151, so I'm more at liberty to slew out my opinions of the moment, on my journey from general religion to general atheism (for the most part) or where I stand now. I'll start out with my childhood. My dad was a Jesus freak, for the most part, or as far as I can remember. I remember him having us watch the sermons on TV when we woke up late at his apartment when I was visiting him. He was also, and I assume the overlapped, deep into drugs. Which was apparent in his death by heroine overdose. But I remember once, long ago, when I was probably five or six, my father and my older brother discussing revelations in the bible, and the end of the world as we know it, and how horrified I was, in my own quiet world (I've always been shy) sitting on the couch listening them talk about "doomsday". I also associate this with, at this time, my first contemplation of oblivion, or imagining what it would be like to not exist at all, or to have never been born ,and the weird empty pulling that is associated with such a consideration. Then, another event involving my father, when we were at a pool in a hotel with a Chinese restaurant, probably 4 years later. There was a big golden Buddha outside the restaurant. I rubbed the Buddha's stomach, I believe, and right after, my father told me an old superstition, that if you rub the Buddha's stomach it's bad luck, but if you rub his head, it's good luck. (it could have been the other way around, I haven't heard of this superstition since, and I don't remember exactly what I rubbed) but either way I rubbed his head or stomach and thought that was bad luck. I thought of this while swimming, and until bedtime. I remember at bedtime I would pray, and this was my only connection with a god that I for the most part, disconnected with our Lutheran faith and the boringness of church. I would pray to pure light and not even a humanly figure (which later became the basis for my "religion" while I had one, but after Christianity.) Yet, this particular night, I prayed to this essence of pure forgiveness, goodness, etc. A pure philosophical ideal: that I could be not be punished for rubbing the Buddha in the wrong way. I was praying to a christian god, to forgive me for enacting a superstition upon a Buddhist "god". I find this ironic and hilarious in retrospect. Anyway. While drifting through the Lutheran church. Which, to me, is the democrat to republican, in Lutheran to catholic, and I later chose a third and more informed option on both right-left choices. (maybe logic) Yet, the entire time I felt something was off. The church did give me insight. Often in my later years, into things about philosophy and poetic concepts, yet never did I fully take them seriously, as they did themselves. I got confirmed, told them my idea of god (without selling out my beliefs) and was still confirmed into the church. (which is a process of carrying candles for the pastor and taking bible classes) I did all this at the will of my mother. Yet, when they asked me what seemed to be the final question about god, I told them as I actually did believe at that time, that god was a standard of good, and Jesus was a representation of that. The only place I stretched my beliefs with this question was in telling them that I thought Jesus was a representation of that whole good, when in fact, I was already considering the fact that he was just a smart prophet of the time, if he existed at all, and that there were many others since him more enlightened that A Christ or a Buddha. Since confirmation, I never went to church. it was a funny thing. I basically stopped right after that. I only go when my grandma comes to visit. Yet, since then, I have once been what is called a Deist. Which is a general philosophical notion that there is a higher power, expressed through nature, and that it's not a personal god, or necessarily represented in any specific person. Yet, it is evident to me that some people are "smarter" or just generally more with their own act than others, and that these people are becoming more and more, and that awareness is spreading, not in a religious way, but in the way that possibly Jesus, as a character was, and that people will awake to freedom, and discard establishment and government. This is just a hope of mine. After Deism, I became intensely intrigued by Buddhism, Zen Buddhism in general, (not the folklore over the man Gautama Siddhartha the Buddha, but general Zen Buddhism, for peace of the mind) Anyway, this realization came almost side by side with psychedelic drugs and my journey into trying to discover the beyond, or what we can glimpse of that beyond us, while alive. This gave me a more democratic god view, which I haven't totally discarded today. I considered the works of Huxley and Allen Watts, as what if everything is truly god, and that we all suffer the same way. Which still much intrigues me today, as do all religions, if thought about in combination or studied, but as they apply to politics and real life, they become dangerous, so I guess at this point, when I realized the combination of stupid religions and dangerous politics, have realized that we cannot afford group religions, because it becomes, like race, a way to separate people, and that all we can assume is that everything is god and that we must leave the balance to the nature of things, that which can never be understood or explained, so I remain agnostic, but with a strong inkling that the afterlife does not exist, which makes me feel more atheist, yet I've heard that even some Buddhist religions are considered atheistic, and I still sway toward eastern religion, it seems more fascinating, maybe because it is further from me. I even consider Christianity in a general sense, I do not like to take down the bible itself, however outdated, like other atheists. because, it all is metaphor, for what really is and can never be spoken, and from what really is and is here in front of us. It is all archetypes and myths of the great One man, the self, in search of whatever he must find in his pointless life, for the game of it. I think, if life is meaningless, you can have more fun with it. Society's problem is making it serious, you do not NEED to achieve anything in life, but simply to live in peace. I leave you intoxicated, hoping to forget this section of my overall accumulated belief, but that it is genuine, and that I do believe it all amounts to nothing, but that is the beauty. A poet, a philosopher, an artist, yet not doing this for a god other than which I know is a metaphor for the ironic struggle, that is I.

Godless in Akron

(Via Village Green)

Spotted down town, this ghastly spectacle of a vehicle. I will defend their right to free speech, but I'll be damned if I can defend their right to park by a fire hydrant. There was no adult in the vehicle, just a bored kid hanging out by himself while daddy stood on the corner spewing forth. He tried his rant on me and I politely informed him that there is no god, have a nice day.

Speaking of that, readers please note the graceful scarlet letter A in the column to the right. It is courtesy of Richard Dawkins and PZ Meyers of Pharyngula who are instigating a global wide coming out party for atheists and agnostics. We are the last of the oppressed still waiting for something approaching acceptance. Mostly we are told that we will burn in hell. In graphic detail usually involving boiling oil and flesh that never is consumed totally, rather magically remaining burnable for all eternity. Quite a trick that. But I guess Satan is all powerful, so they tell me.

Nevertheless, I am happy to "come out" as an atheist and join my godless comrades in this endeavor. The idea is to reveal ourselves as ordinary people who are your fellow workers, bosses, shop keepers, soldiers, even teachers! We are harmless, really. We believe in one less god than you monotheists. As for pantheists, well -- I have a soft spot in my heart for the ancient Greek gods. They were the first ones I came to know.

For the record, I had the incredible good luck of being born into a godless family. We didn't go to church on Sundays. We went to museums, concerts and theatre. We'd go on family outings to historical sites or on nature walks. Instead of religious indoctrination, we discussed philosophy, science, literature and the arts. We created our own family values with much thought and debate. We learned to be polite in the face of great pressure to conform as well as in the face of horrendous prejudice. I learned what it was like to be hated for something irrational, so I grew up identifying with blacks, Jews and other minorities.

Even though Bush 41 said that atheists should forfeit their citizenship because this is a Christian nation, we are still here and we vote. We tend to avoid voting for those who base all their decisions on a book of old myths from primitive cultures. For a list of celebrity atheists, agnostics and skeptics, look here. And check out my friend Kevin's blog entry in which he comes out as an atheist.

Atheist of the 1st Grade

(Via Captain Joe Kickass)

Mrs Stone asked me to lead the class in The Pledge of Allegiance. Being an extroverted 6 year old boy, I jumped at the chance. Me, lead the Pledge? I was thrilled.

Mind you this is no small task. Whomever leads the pledge has to stand in front of the class, place their hand over the heart, speak clearly and loudly, and most importantly not forget the words.

I had practiced many times, for this, my big chance. I strutted to the front of the class as everyone stood and then faced my classmates.

"I Pledge Allegiance" came out loud and clear as did "to the Flag". An approving nod and smile from Miss Stone urged me to continue, and I did.

"One Nation" and then silence. Mrs Stone prodded, "under God" I just could not say it. I could not stand in front of these kids and say Under God. This is an OATH. I didn't believe in the bible stories my great aunt pushed on me, or the invisible "God" watching over my shoulder. Why not say "One Nation under Mother Goose" I thought, but rejected.

"Under God" she said, expecting me to mimic. I replied, "Indivisible, with liberty and justice for all"

You forgot the "Under God" said Miss Stone as I headed to my seat. I replied, "No I didn't Miss Stone. I left it out"

Not surprisingly, I received an unsatisfactory mark in cooperation that year.

Tormented's Story

My story I was forced religion all my life. I always felt my family lived through its own hellish conflicts all of my life being apart of a religion and all the responsibility that were forced on us. I feel I have been tormented by people whom support religion for several years. Not only that but I was also deceived within the religion itself and by my family and more than once. I never received many what people call good times. I always felt some dark cloud over my head most of my life. I always hated religion and everything it represented since I could remember growing up as a child. I guess the situation has not changed much. My feelings are even stronger as an older adult.

I could give you several reasons why I hate religion but would you really listen to me or continue to place somewhere I desperately hate? I love science and a higher education. I have decided currently I do not appreciate my constitutional rights being violated. I do not like being placed by people whom think they know where I should be. I have no love for any God or peoples who practice religion. This is why I chose to be an atheist and I want to find other people, make friends, and find employers who do not discriminate.

I rather have NO God what would the world be like without the stereotype of heaven and hell?

Freeflo's Story

(Via freeflo)

reading some of the stories of courageous and deliberate action posted here, i find myself embarrassed at the mundane quality of my story. it has been said that most people grow up with the same beliefs as their parents, and i guess that's all i did. oh, i've rebelled in countless, occasionally beneficial, usually self-destructive, ways. but as far as religion; opposing the worldview i was born into would have meant becoming a catholic nun or perhaps a born-again fundie!

i was born jewish to secular jews. my folks were both perhaps agnostic, probably atheist, in terms of belief in a supernatural god. (mom's gone, dad "admits" now that he is an atheist.) however, the sense of our jewishness, our identity as jews - as a culture, a heritage, a POV, the tastes in foods, home-centered (not much synagogue-centered) family traditions, the larry david sense of humor, a feeling of being "apart", and a slightly arrogant view of our own smarts - prevailed and colored everything. i guess - i know - i did not fall far from this tree.

my life has not been conventional or easy. as i alluded to above, i've spent most of my life rebelling in other ways - underachievement, dropping out of college when i was "supposed" to become "at least" an optometrist like dad, years as a hippie, drugs early on, one interracial marriage, domestic abuse, two divorces, eating disorder battles, never wanted kids, social activism, whatever...but the fact remains i'm, religiously-speaking, much like my folks - a culturally jewish atheist.

i've never had the slightest experience of, or need for, supernaturalism. my long-ago 15 minutes of baba ram dass "be here now" stuff was peer pressure; new age was play and decorating with candles. christianity seems dangerous to the health of both my jewish and non-believing aspects - though i thank them for so much of the world's wonderful art and architecture. i love to learn and experience: having enjoyed a christmas eve celebration at the magnificent anglican basilica, st. john the divine, in my beloved new york city, i marvel at the artistry and beauty and majesty that humans can create.

the natural world and the mysteries of science work for me. the experience of a magnificent sunset, the profundity of looking at the exquisite specialization of a spider or sequoia and seeing evolution at work right in front of me - how can supernaturalism or superstition compete?

it was through technology - on the internet, starting especially at myspace - that my "coming out strong" as an atheist grew. reading the works of richard dawkins, sam harris, david mills,et al., being introduced to atheist groups and bloggers, joining the brights, atheist alliance, etc., enjoying the churches of the flying spaghetti monster and the invisible pink unicorn - all this has created a proud sense of community and changed me from an atheist to an Atheist...

Invisible Pink Unicorn's Story

(Via IPU)

I was born and raised in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, a beautiful place where the forests are thick, the lakes are clear and cold, and the roots of religion run deep. I don’t have a single complaint about my childhood, my dad was a cop, my mom a social worker. I’m certain that even if we had not been Catholic, we would have been raised with the same solid morals and sense of civic duty. My younger sister and I were not forced or pushed to go to church, we just went. It was just what you did, it was what everyone did and it seemed like the right thing to do.

Looking back now, I can see that there were three main Catholic doctrines that caused my trepidation, an unholy trinity, if you will. The first of these was presented to me in third grade, and is called “Confession”. This is the practice, if you’re unfamiliar, with entering a small booth and confessing your sins to your priest. To a nine year old, this would be a dark, scary place to enter, even without the prospect of being in there with a priest and having to tell him the things you’ve done wrong. You could go in on one side and be “face to face” or you could be a coward and go in on the other side and hide behind a screen while confessing. After you confess your sins to the priest, he gives you a few prayers to say as your penance and he gives you “absolution”, meaning that you have been cleansed from these sins.

This practice did not make ANY sense to me. Why, oh why, if God can hear our every thought and prayer, knows our intentions, and they were part of his plan, why the need for the middle man? Why do nine year olds have to tell a stranger that they lied and fought with their sister, why can’t God just hear them and forgive them himself? Of course, no one ever gave me a suitable answer.

This issue came up with me again, during Confirmation classes in 11th grade. “Confirmation” of course, is the practice of saying to the congregation…. “Hey, I’m an adult now (sorta) and I concur with the baptism that was imposed on me before I could say ‘original sin’”. I had gone to confession maybe three times in the meantime, and never by choice, but now they wanted me to go again before being confirmed.

The person who wanted me to go most fervently was my sponsor, Sister Maria. I’ve told quite a few of you about this part of my story. I went into the confessional just to please her, told the priest I was uncomfortable confessing anything, and he absolved me anyway. I thought this would satisfy her. It didn’t. She ended up telling me that I couldn’t “just pick and choose what I wanted to believe!” Well, I thought, yes I could… and someday soon I would, once I figured it out for myself. As an interesting side note, the young and beautiful Sister Maria eventually was forced by her Mother Superior to move away from my area because she had developed feelings for our priest, “Father What-a-Waste”. Ahhh, suppressing human nature, isn’t it grand? We both thought for awhile that I might have the calling to be a sister, fortunately the calling to be a mother was much stronger for me and I knew I couldn’t give up having a family. I did end up teaching CCD for two years, to fifth graders. Our main subject that year being the Seven Sacraments, go figure.

So anyway, on to the second thing about Catholicism that I could never grasp, “transubstantiation”. This doctrine, I would learn, was one of the main things that set Catholicism apart from other similar religions. What it actually means, is that when the priest blesses the wafers and wine of communion and says his little chant and waves his hands over them… they don’t just “symbolize” the body and blood of Christ anymore, they actually “become” the body and blood of Christ. I liked this sentence from wikipedia: “while all the appearances open to the senses or to scientific investigation were still those of bread, exactly as before.” So if you’re a rational person reading this, I really don’t even need to explain to you why I had such a problem with this.

The third Catholic doctrine, and the one that finally pushed me over the edge for good, was “Annulment”. I was married at 19 to a good Catholic boy, dropped out of college and had my first baby a year after that. I was well on my way to the life every girl dreams of… every girl born in the 1940’s anyway. The marriage was basically doomed before it even began, but it didn’t officially end for four years. The guy didn’t have two brain cells to rub together, and I knew I would never grow or learn anything as his wife. When I see him today, I think about how lucky I am that I wasn’t morally bound to spend the rest of my life with him, like his mother and father. He is not a mean person, he’s just not for me, and I’m just not for him. Since when do human beings not make mistakes, especially when they’re 19 and sex is involved?

Anyone who’s been through a divorce can tell you how emotionally crushing it is, how once it’s over your basically a husk of a person and it takes awhile to rise back up to the person you were. You’re physically drained, you’re mentally drained, it’s no walk in the park, even if it’s not a particularly ugly divorce. Church would actually be a nice place to hang out during this time, if you were welcome, that is. Unfortunately, once you divorce, you’re not really welcome anymore. They don’t say it in so many words, but it’s really quite obvious. As if you haven’t been through enough, to be welcome at church, you must also have your marriage “annulled”. And this term doesn’t mean, “we tried, it didn’t work out”. It means “It never happened!”. You literally have to site a reason, such as mental incompetence as to why this marriage should have never taken place and why it is now null and void. Well, I’m sorry, I had a child from this union and I refused to pretend it never happened. So, and here’s the kicker, in the church’s eyes, I am still married to this person, and on top of that you can’t take communion anymore if you don’t annul. Huh? I have never been to Catholic mass since, and never will again.

Fast forward about two years, I have remarried and had another child. My husband is Presbyterian, which seems like a nice enough religion. We were married in his church and our daughter was baptized there, and those are the only times we were ever there. I was virtually faith free for those two years, never even thinking about religion, it just wasn’t an issue. I was in a book club at the time, you know the 12 books for 1 cent type of deal, not the sit around and talk about what you read thing. If you didn’t send the card in each month saying you didn’t want anything, they would automatically send you the “Selection of the Month”. One day in the mailbox is a package… oopsie! Forgot to send the card back, what do we have here? I opened the box and discovered this book: “Don’t Know Much About the Bible” by Kenneth C. Davis. “Blech…” I thought to myself, a bible book, ick. I was too lazy to return it, so I just stuck it in my closet where it sat for probably another two years.

I am surprised, while reading others’ coming out stories, how often a book was part of the final conversion, and it’s no different for me. When I did finally decide to give the aforementioned book a chance, due to sheer boredom or whatever, it changed my life. The funny part is, it’s considered a “Christian book” and claims to be unbiased in it’s examination of the bible. To my eyes, however, it definitely leaned to the “this is a crock” school of thought, although maybe that’s not the authors fault, it’s just the inherent bullshit finally seeping through. I want to include here what the description of this book is on amazon.com as they put it better than I could:

this entertaining historical study will likely compel listeners to reach for their dusty copies of the world's most-owned but least-understood anthology once again. And not simply because the author reminds us of the drama and intrigue, the tales of rape, impaling, and ethnic cleansing routinely found in its pages. Davis paints the larger historical context in which the Bible was written, providing a sense of the culture and environment in which the familiar stories came to life. Calling on new research and scholarship into the Bible's composition, he provides fascinating background to dimly remembered stories that gives them renewed impact. Using a series of easy-to-follow questions and answers, he offers explanations about when and by whom the Bible was written; how the stories of other traditions influenced the Judeo-Christian teachings; where the Garden of Eden might have been located; why an earthquake may have played a part in the "walls tumbling down" at Jericho; why Jesus may not have said everything we think he did, and much more. He also points out that mistranslations from the original Hebrew have made their way into modern versions of the Bible, explaining where and how they occurred. Conceding that his program will anger some, as it challenges many cherished but mistaken assumptions about the Bible, Davis also hopes that listeners recognize that Christian belief and uncovering the truth are not at odds in this program, but rather that learning and wisdom, even when they reach unsettling conclusions, can ultimately complement faith.
Around this same time, after having had another child, I joined an online message board for stay at home moms. Among the advice on introducing solids and toilet training, there was a section on religion, and a subsection for Atheist and Agnostic Moms. Finally, I had found them! My kindred spirits! This was when I finally knew, I was an atheist. Gasp! I didn’t tell anyone, though, and my third child was also baptized Presbyterian. The forum had probably 200 members, and there were only 5 or 6 of us “heathens” but I learned and grew so much during that time. And also taught, sharing with them my own synopsis from that book I was so engrossed in. “Don’t Know Much About: Abraham”, “Don’t Know Much About: Moses” I titled my posts, and they loved them. Know thine enemy, right?

As I’ve become more knowledgeable over the years, I have become a more and more outspoken atheist. I will frequently slip things into conversation to make people think. I’m not totally confrontational, but if people who know I am a good person also know I am an atheist, maybe it will make them question the status quo a little bit. My personal myspace page (not the IPU page) has been a big part of my coming out, as well. It’s just like, “here I am, take me or leave me!” No old friends have deleted me, although I tend to use the IPU account for the more controversial bulletins. I have the Darwin fish on my vehicle, and my boyfriend has the evolve fish. I guess I should mention that I divorced for a second time after having a fourth child. However, you’ll be pleased to know that this child is neither baptized nor vaccinated, so that should tell you a little bit about my enlightened state of mind.

My boyfriend of three years is one of the first people that I “came out” to, and during our very first conversation. I guess I could tell we had a connection, and I wanted to put it out there right away so as not to waste my time, or his. Not only was he okay with it, he got on one knee and proposed to me after hearing it! He was also an out atheist and said he had never met a girl who was smart enough to be one, nor brave enough to admit it. This is by far the best relationship I have ever been in, it’s amazing how free you are to love and be yourself once you shed the shackles of guilt and shame associated with religion.

I guess the main thing for me is that no one is going to tell me what I can and can’t do, what is okay and what isn’t. That’s for ME to decide. I’ve made mistakes, lots of them, and have learned from them and become who I am because of them. I wouldn’t have it any other way. As a mom and a nursing student, and just as a human being, I have devoted my life to the compassionate care of others. I want people to realize that you don’t have to believe in an invisible dictator to do good things, you don’t need fear as a motivator to live a good life.

Thanks for listening.

Steve's Story

Well, I grew up Roman Catholic and was a believing Christian until 17 or so. More and more I came to see that things which I'd explained religiously, such as the existence of life, had perfectly naturalistic explanations. I remember that the last thing that held me to Catholicism was consciousness, which I assumed could only be explained by a soul. Gradually, I came to see that that view was grasping at straws, and I gave up all religious belief.

KevinBBG's Story

(Via Daily BBG)

For most I think they had to fight out of the claws of a Christian family, for me it was different. I always was an atheist, even when I didn't know what one was. My mom tried to raise me as a Jew but it didn't take and after my Bar Mitzvah I told her I was done with this religious stuff.

In my late 20's I became a Buddhist which was pretty interesting and I still retain some Buddhist ideas, but really, Buddhism shouldn't even be called a religion though it is often practiced that way. It is also completely atheistic. The type of Buddhism I was in required faith which is something I was never good at, my natural skepticism just kept coming out and I had to give it up. It really is quite a relief to no longer need to make sense out of nonsense. With a rational and skeptical world view everything just makes sense and there is always new amazing knowledge - real knowledge - waiting just around the corner to discover.

But I'm very glad to say I was never a Christian.

My Journey to Atheism

(Via Kausik Datta)

I am a working scientist, though I am quite low in the pecking order, so to speak. I am a lowly post-doctoral researcher, with not much academic activity (or rather, activity, period!) outside of the lab for lack of time. But I do have a passion for science and scientific thought, and value science education tremendously.

I don't know if my story would sound familiar. Not too long ago, I was a believer. Perhaps you may have guessed from my name - I am an Indian, born to and raised by parents who practise the Hindu religion. But to them, the Hindu religion (I avoid the term 'Hinduism') was not at all about the kind of teeth-gnashing, attention-clamoring, mosque-destroying, intemperate, uncivil, hooliganism that has become the face of Hindu-ism in modern India. To them, it was a philosophy; a unifying theme of 'One God - many manifestations' - that easily included the God-heads of other religions of the world; a kind, understanding, all-embracing way of life, that taught temperance, the value of life and love, and worship through discharge of duties to the fellow human being. It was such a basic and deep understanding that they never stood on ceremonies and rituals. Growing up in this environment, I never really felt any clash between my spirituality and my science, because I felt that the two belonged to two completely different non-intersecting planes.

It was in the past ten to fifteen years or so, when the world situation began to change around me, that I acutely became aware of a disconnect. I saw people killing and being killed in the name of religion; I found a growing sentiment of 'my religion is the best; the rest are all hogwash'. I watched with horror religious observances taking such precedence in people's lives that they oftentimes forgot, or started ignoring, the basic, fundamental qualities that make us human, including logic and reason. I was shocked and amazed to see the so-called religious leaders tout faith as the panacea to all problems, when clearly blind, unreasoning faith was inciting more hatred and mindless violence in many parts of the world.

I thought, "This cannot be right! If there is a God who cares, this is not the kind of madness that should be pervading mankind!" It shook the foundations of my beliefs, and I started deconstructing religion with cold, hard logic. Soon it all came away unravelled to me; I found that religion had nothing to do with a higher power or divinity. Instead, it was fraught with the basest human inequities, craze for power, greed, lust, subjugation through fear and guilt. The rest was all myths built by humans around this core to give it a lasting aura of respectability and prestige. And this was not unique to any particular religion; all of them, Hinduism, Judea-Christianity, Islam, even lesser-known religions of the world, were full of hypocrisy and glaring inconsistencies. I understand that morality and ethics, in order to be viable guidelines for a way of life, did not really need the crutches of religion and observances; on their own, they could survive as eminently sound logical and reasonable practices to build a life around. It did not take me long thereafter, to renounce any contact with organized religions. It must have pained my parents; but they were gracious enough to leave me to my thoughts, rather than try to impose theirs on mine.

Jon Qing's Story

My name's Jon Qing. Let me share my story with you. My parents are both catholic, where they attended a catholic school taught by nuns. This apparently had a huge influence on them, as they (especially my mom) keep religious propaganda and objects around the house (glow in the dark statue). As I was growing up, I was forced to attend church and go to catechism (ex Sunday school) where we were brainwashed. I was naive back then, with no mind or words to think for myself. In my teens, nearing the end of grade 5, I moved towns because of my dad's job transfer. At my new school, I encountered racism and prejudice, where I got into fights and trouble constantly. Being one of the only few Asians in the school, I was often picking fights because of racist remarks. However, i often got suspended/detention. This one time, my mom got really upset and through her constant henpecking and yelling (while driving extremely fast) she drove me to a small church with several small books and forced me to pray to St. Jude (hopeless cases). Another time is when I got tired of the routine and brainwashing that I finally tried to stop going to church. Note the word "try" here. I was in my early teens, and having an Asian parent you can't really rebel that much. My mom yelled at me and threatened me that I was going to go to hell. I reluctantly gave in that time, but I found ways of skipping the dreaded Sundays. I slept in (trained myself to sleep in until 2), I had plans with friends. Soon I was in high school. unfortunately, it was a catholic high school. Religion throughout grades 9-12 made me even more cynical, and the mindless brainwashing through the assembly's and "retreats" made me want to give up religion all together. I cracked down and studied hard, focusing my major in science, which was to me a true way for logic and reasoning. Science has proof and working experiments while religion was based on "faith". Again, I was one of the few Asians in the school, so there was a huge prejudice. The talk of love and peace, love thy fellow man is all crap. The concept of a god who punishes and sends you to hell also loves you? What a paradox load of bullshit. Day in and day out the same religious brainwashing was given to us over and over. The higher level religion class showed the "moral" and "ethics" of Christianity which was a total waste of time. The more I was forced to study religion and Christianity, the more I saw how irrelevant and meaningless it was. I stopped going to church and I stopped believing in God. All the fakeness, the justifications, all for brainwashing and controlling people. Even when I attended university, the reaches of religion where there. In my biology class, there were staunch defenders of creationism and ID. I realized that many catholic people I knew had the same, fake smile, fake confidence, and a you can do it attitude where they justified and bragged about their good deeds. My parents forced me and my friends to attend a lunch party with their religious friends, and it sickened me to hear how they "good" they felt for doing this or helping that. I still feel that my parents try and pressure me back into religion, but I still resist. I have my own beliefs and morals, and I don't need a book written by a group of people to tell me what is wrong/right. My best year in going away from religion was my first year in residence. I got to meet people from around the world, who had different views and ideas, but they were all atheists. Now, I finally realized what Christianity was: A crutch for people to lean on, a place where people can join in a community because of peer pressure and tradition. People are social animals, and they can be lead like lambs to the slaughter. (excuse the pun) Being social animals, human interaction is necessary to feel comfortable. I leave you with the words of Issac Asimov:

There is no belief, however foolish, that will not gather its faithful adherents who will defend it to the death...To surrender to ignorance and call it God has always been premature, and it remains premature today.

The Shafts of Light Found Me

(Via Alexis)

I never went looking to become an atheist. I went to a Christian and Missionary Alliance church in St. Pete., Florida from as early as I could remember, singing “Jesus Loves the Little Children, All the Children of the World, Red and Yellow Black and White, They are Precious in His Sight...” While I am glad the song helped make me non-bigoted, now I realize it was a call for us to send missionaries all over the world and CONVERT these little children, whether they needed it or not. We’d tiptoe past the big church” where the grownups sang songs like “How Great Thou Art.” It was the late fifties and I wore dresses every week – I was shocked once that a girl wore a skirt and blouse instead of a dress. In the summer I loved the arts and crafts part of Vacation Bible School.

The first flash of light came when I was looking at a plaque on a bedroom wall in my house, saying “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and Thou Shalt Be Saved.” BELIEVE? BELIEVE? I was about seven, and had thought everything told me in Sunday School was FACT. Things seemed less certain.

I kept going to Sunday School, to keep my mother happy. Then came a Sunday School evening taffy pull, when I was nine. The teacher boiled up the taffy mix and we got to take turns pulling it. Things got weird; I don't remember exactly what the teacher did, but she must have set this up - we had never been taught anything anti-Catholic, only vaguely knew who the Pope was, and certainly didn't know anything about ring-kissing. The group of kids dressed one boy up as the Pope and put him on a "throne." I was blindfolded and told to kiss his ring. I bent over an d kissed it, and everyone screamed with laughter. I pulled off the blindfold and found out he was wearing the ring on his toe. I just melted into the crowd and didn’t say anything, but I never felt safe again – my feeling was why did they pick ME, who never said anything skeptical or bad. I never attended that church again, and some of the kids, who went to my school, never asked me why I quit. I think they knew.

I found Isaac Asimov and watched science and nature shows on television. I decided I was an atheist, and stopped saying the “under God” part of the Pledge of Allegiance. I remember a Jehovah’s Witness boy in our class who would stand each day, like he was in front of a firing squad, and NOT say a word of the pledge. Everyone left him alone – I think they were afraid he would try to convert them if they even talked to him. To this day I have respect for the Jehovah’s Witnesses, partly because they gave ME, the closeted atheist, cover. My other little joke was, when we were FORCED to recite the Lord’s Prayer, I’d say under my breath, “My father, who AIN’T in heaven.” To this day I would fight any forced prayer in school. It’s intimidation. I read the entire Bible, like I read the Iliad and the Odyssey, as classic mythological fiction, but I wouldn’t have dreamed of publicly arguing for atheism. I was too young, I didn’t have any skeptical framework, and it was too dangerous to argue about the contradictions of scripture.

Our next door neighbor, a year older than me, knew I didn’t go to church and, obeying the commandment to haul in lost souls, dragged me to Southern Baptist church a few times. It was so colorless and preachy I couldn’t get into it. She also got me to go to “Pioneer Girls” weekly meetings at a nearby Methodist Church where we did rugged things like make frilly aprons. I remember being shocked by the painting of Jesus in the church hallway, because in previous churches it was one of the Ten Commandments to have no “graven images.” Somehow I babbled some excuses and escaped these outings without having to declare “I am an Atheist.” I found out decades later that this girl’s father had an affair with his wife’s brother’s wife, who lived next door, and this produced a boy. So my friend was half-sister and first cousin to the same boy, yet her family was so snobby about being tight with God.

In home economics at age fifteen, I got cornered. My four or five girl partners in cooking class would take turns saying a prayer, and finally it was my turn. I remember the triumphant glare one girl gave me. Out of sheer fear, I closed my eyes and said the only prayer I could remember “God is great; God is good, now we thank you for our food.” And then I never had to pray again. I was racked with guilt and shame over being such a coward and betraying my own integrity.


At 15, I went into an eclectic phase. I took up yoga and astrology, which worried my mother, though I had perfect grades and no vices, so she mostly left me alone.

My mother started getting depression when I was sixteen, so to cheer her up, on Mother’s Day, I started going to an Assembly of God church. It was growing rapidly from a few hundred to HUGE. I sang in the choir with bemused enjoyment, like I was an anthropologist. The choir director was the pastor’s wife, blonde and perfect. Once while in the choir the person next to me started breathing wildly, then leapt to her feet and spoke in tongues. The pastor stopped his sermon and everyone watched, rapt. She finished and slumped back into her chair, while congregation voices said "Praise God," and "Thank You, Jesus." I went to teen Sunday School classes in my little dresses, my two main memories being a gory description of the crucifixion, and being embarrassed that I’d forgotten to save my legs. On a church outing to a go-kart park, we were in a great mood on the bus ride home. I watched wide-eyed as the two youth leaders did side-splitting impersonations of the pastor and his wife, and they showed us how you could sing “Amazing Grace” (Which was THE song of that congregation) to the tune of “House of the Rising Sun,” and vice versa I got to see a wild fundraiser where the pastor gave an electrifying sermon and then people jumped up to give THOUSANDS for a new sanctuary. As I left (with relief) for college, a new sanctuary was rising, and the pastor was found guilty of adultery. The place is now a mega-church.

In college I continued with yoga and tried transcendental meditation and tai chi. I still like them for the physical benefits. After college I started reading New Age Journal and even believed in that old fraud, Yuri Geller.

When I had children I felt compelled to take them to the closest church, an Episcopalian. I was enchanted by the ritual and the music, and the hands-off attitude that as long as you did the ritual, nobody was going to get into your face about what you really believed. I had both of my children baptized, figuring it would save them having to undergo the intrusion of an adult baptism if they married someone who cared about such thing. I thought being a Christian was still a worthwhile thing even if I had trouble with faith. I felt second class in the church, because my husband refused to go, and I couldn’t contribute much money. I contributed by teaching Sunday School, and had lots of a rts-and-crafts projects for the kids – the kind I loved when I was a kid. I became resentful when some of the parents would NEVER teach Sunday school because they were “too shy,” as the religious education director put it. The real reason seemed to be because they were big contributors and they felt it was somebody else’s job to do lowly things like teach. The first grade boys especially were a difficult handful, and I didn’t like being alone every week, but at least the five-year-olds and up got to spend a few Sundays inside the big church which gave me a break. Each week we’d take the kids to a children’s chapel for a little service and try to keep the boys from crawling under the pews and laughing. I also didn’t like overhearing one of the teachers stressing how it was the Jews who crucified Jesus. The last year I was there, I taught four-year-olds, who never had a Sunday when they went straight into the big church, so I taught every Sunday from September to June with no help and no Sundays off. I only got to meet the equally overworked Sunday School teacher moms (there NEVER were dads) from other grades. I felt socially shut off from the rich moms and non-parents who of course could network all they wanted in the big church. Once a year I was able to lead the four year olds into the big church, on Palm Sunday, with all the children proceed behind a big pretty cross. I led my little lambs, waving palms as the congregation sang “All honour power and glory, to thee Redeemer King,” and felt a bit of acknowledgment. It wasn’t enough.

The final shaft of light hit when I read a book called “Orpheus,” an old skeptical history of religion, which pointed out that Jesus was only known to one historian of his era, as a leader of a rebellion, and that even Josephus wasn’t telling the whole truth. I then realized I just wasn’t ANY kind of Christian anymore. I moved to a Unitarian Church, which finally felt like home, since atheists go there happily. Even my husband was willing to go, and my kids were happy there. Every parent had to help teach, so I got lots of Sundays free to go the the big church and enjoy the sermon and fellowship. When I did teach, I had a second teacher in the room. The kids were much better behaved than in the Episcopalian Sunday School. Nobody ever laughed out of turn, or jumped up or crawled under the seats in Unitarian children’s chapel. We got to teach comparative religion, where when the kids ask why the Hindu’s don’t eat beef, I’d ask the kids questions like why don’t Americans eat horse meat, while the French do? I felt really free and enjoyed all the kid’s fund-raisers for Heifer Project, cleaning homeless shelters, and other worthy causes.

The public library in my town finally subscribed to “Skeptic” magazine, and it knocked my socks off. Finally, I could get back to my early love, science, and just leave the whole “supernatural” stuff behind entirely. We moved west, and I stopped going to church entirely. Now I read skeptic sites and science, always science.

My brother joined Scientology in the 1970’s and is still in there. He disconnected from my mother and sister and then recently disconnected from me, probably because I wouldn’t break off from my own mother and sister. His daughter is an underpaid middle manager in the Church of Scientology and looks twenty years older than her real age. The ideas and insights of skeptics have helped me focus my thoughts as I frequently post anonymously to anti-Scientology sites like www.xenu.net.

I utterly respect the solitary soul-searching that goes on in pre-teens and teens, and that often leads to atheism. The Alliance Church children sang "The Wise Man Built His House Upon a Rock." This impressed me to choose house sites carefully, but also to found my arguments on fact, not mush. I want schools and parents to respect the search for natural truth, and not treat children as blank slates that will believe if you stuff more and more and more dogma down their throats, and if you forever protect them from any skeptical knowledge. I was never looking for skepticism when the shafts of light hit me. I found doubt with that first plaque that said “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ” that really started me saying, “Why do I have to BELIEVE?” The contradictions of religion just CREATE millions like me, young people who learn to doubt all by themselves. Like sunlight, the shafts of light FIND THEM.

Jamie Guinn's Story

(Via Jamie Guinn)

I wasn't raised in a religious home. My parents divorced when I was five and my dad, my little brother, and I, moved to Chickasha, OK in 1990. I can't say that I ever thought about a god or religion, at least not until I started dating a girl who went to church. Since I really didn't fit it socially to any group I had a lot of fun at church, and so I got saved at 14.

Looking back I think if I would have had better critical thinking skills I never would have bought into religion, in the same way my dad didn't. Unfortunately, I didn't have those skills, and I bought into all the fascinating claims about Christianity right off the bat.

Thinking that it all was real I couldn't think of anything more important to pour my life into. From the beginning I was hardcore and lived the life. I also dived head first into reading my Bible, or reading only books that supported the Bible. My world view focused to the precision of a laser, I narrowly blocked out anything else.

The next year I told my dad that I believed God was calling me to be a pastor. It was one of the few times my dad voiced his extreme disappoint with me. He later came to accept it, but we never talked about religion.

For the next few years, especially during high school, there was no doubt that I was a ''Jesus Freak''. I occasionally did suffer a few questions after experiencing cognitive dissonance. There were some things I couldn't wrap my head around, but that made me want to dig deeper.

I started in the United Methodist Church, but couldn't get over the fact that they were about to condone homosexuality in the leadership. I moved to the Assemblies of God after getting ''baptized in the Holy Ghost'' and started speaking in tongues.

I was there a few years until I felt that they weren't doing everything that God had wanted them to be doing, so I moved to a non-denominational Word-of-Faith church that was starting up in my town. I got plugged into people like Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland, Creflo Dollar, John Hagee, Joyce Meyer, and Jesse Duplantis.

I was there a few years until the new pastor and me just couldn't get a long. I thought he was a bully, so my wife and I went to another similar church 45 miles away.

It was during this time that I began to have some serious cognitive dissonance. It got to the point where I couldn't stomach any sermons anymore, it all just sounded rediculous. I loved the praise and worship (the music and the emotion), but everything else just got obnoxious.

I basically started thinking that the only ''real'' Christianity had to be how Jesus and his disciples lived in the 1st century. They lived Jewish, so I started looking into Messianic Judaism. We dived into that for about two years until I started questioning the deity of Jesus and how the Jews of Jesus day, and even today, viewed him and what they were expecting in a messiah. I also started looking more into biblical criticism and early church history.

I ended up doubting that Jesus could even be the Messiah, and so I left Christianity and started considering Judaism. I still believed that there had to be a god, so I figured since I went back to the roots of Christianity I should keep going back, back to the roots of Judaism. I ruled out Orthodox Judaism, my wife wouldn't go there, and thought about Reform Judaism, but it seemed too syncretistic so I didn't go there. I also found out that Judaism had hidden polytheistic roots.

It was during December of 2006 that my whole worldview came crashing down. I don't think I ever felt so hollow and numb in my life. I didn't believe in any gods and was confused about my purpose in life. I wanted answers to some really tough questions about my existence. So I turned to the internet, and started reading about atheism, since I knew that was what I was now. This lead me to all kinds of different places and resources. I changed drastically not only religiously, but politically and socially as well.

I would have to say that I have a deep appreciation for science and reason. I consider myself not only an atheist, but a secular humanist, philosophical/metaphysical naturalist, objectivist, freethinker, Bright, scientific skeptic, and even a libertarian to a degree.

My wife, though no longer a Christian, takes an agnostic theist position....for now. She has told me that she thinks that I am so much a better husband now. That makes me glad. It has been difficult for our extended family, but so far it has been okay. I am glad we have made this change since we are expecting the birth of our first child next month.

The only challenge now, now that I have slowly settled into my new found position and am not so angry any more, is how much should I be active in atheism/secular humanism? I am looking for that balance, but I am interested in start going to the monthly AOK meetings, especially since there is so much that needs to change in Oklahoma.

I left out quite a few details, but I'll keep it short. The longer version is on my blog. Thanks.

What WOULD Jesus Do?

(Via Rich Black)

My parents never attended church, to my knowledge. They certainly never went while I was living under their roof. My Mother, I suppose due to her upbringing in North Carolina, had some screwy notions about Sunday, however. She had a standing rule, in fact, that we could not go out and play on Sunday unless we attended church. Otherwise, please don't ask me to explain the logic behind it, we would be committing some kind of sacrilege. So, if I woke up on Sunday morning and it was raining, in which case I knew I wasn't going to be allowed to go outside anyway, I just rolled over and went back to sleep. Otherwise, I hopped out of bed, dug out what passed for my Sunday-Go-To-Meetings and trundled off to whatever church we were directed to attend at the time. Usually a Protestant or Reformed Baptist of some sort or another. Definitely not EVER a Catholic or so influenced one. Again, something sinister there, to be avoided at all costs.

Anyway...

I was not cut out for religion. Just didn't work, one with the other. They were forever trying to force feed me all these bullshit stories and ideologues and I was just as consistently asking them to please explain the unexplainable.

Your average conversation would go something like this:

"Okay, so where did his wife come from..?"
"The Land of Nod."
"Okay, but I thought you just said that him, his now dead brother and his parents were the only human beings on the planet at the time."
"Well, yes, but.."
"Okay, then who was this woman he married..? His sister?"
"Of course not, son. That would be a sin."
"I understand, but that doesn't really answer my question."
"Some things you just have to take on faith, young man. It is not for you to question the wisdom of your elders, in any event."

Etcetera.

Or..

"Really.. and how did they get all those animals on that boat? What did they feed them, anyway?"

And don't even get me started on the Holy Trinity. Or angels. Or the Jews in bondage. (Amazing how the Egyptians, as a matter of fact, have no record anywhere of them ever being there. I mean, we're talking about people who were so anal about keeping records that people who were actually expunged from history still somehow managed to get logged in. And, come on.. how many hundred thousand souls wandering in the desert for forty years and no-one noticed them passing by? Where's their trash, for chrissake?) I mean, I went round and round with these people on these subjects, for years, with the same result each and every time. It was either something I was supposed to accept on faith or that which I, as a child/teenager/young adult had no business questioning in the first place.

And do not, for a single moment think that I didn't look long and hard at this. Yes, I lived with Jesus Freaks in California, but it wasn't just because it seemed like a kick to hang out with them for a month plus. I really did want to know what it was they were so enthused about. I really wanted to know if they actually had found an answer to all this. But, in the end, I came away, as I always came away, whether it be from a Baptist church, a Pentecostal Revival, Latter Day Saint or Jehovah Witness gathering, or any of a number of other attempts to understand this thing, with the same exact feeling. It was all bullshit. It IS all bullshit.

And, of course, in the intervening years, I have dug even deeper and found truths that none of them want anyone to be aware of. That all of it, every last syllable in fact, has been, in one way or another, borrowed from some other, far older, belief system, that, in most cases, it has supplanted. Jesus Christ, whether or not such a man even existed, is but an amalgam of several other like figures, right down to the day of his birth and the fashion of his death and resurrection.

But still they persist in their spurious claims that all of this crap is not only the true word of their myopic, angry and jealous god, but that their linear notions of time, space and humanity's place in the Universe should take precedence over even clearly defined scientific realities. As if, for all continents and porpoises, knowable reality does not actually exist. (See: Creationism; aka Intelligent Design)

Losing my Religion

(Via angelsdepart)

I was raised in church. I know that this statement is not profound. Roughly 80% of Americans are raised in church. Now don’t get me wrong, when I was young I believed in this stuff intensely, but some of the questions I had then were profound for a child. I remember being in Sunday school at about the age of 10. I was having difficulty taking the story of Jonah seriously. I remember saying to my teacher “the great thing about the Bible is that even the stories that are not true still have value because they teach us morals.” My teacher responded that my statement was true but that the Biblical stories had even more value because they were true.

One time in youth group (a term for a church geared towards young teens) I was in charge of putting out a column for the church paper to represent our group. I wrote an article about how being drunk was wrong but drinking was not. I mean how could drinking alcohol be wrong if the foundation for our religion (Jesus) drank wine? I was reprimanded by the pastor of the church (Pastor Craig) for posting the article because he said that all alcohol consumption was wrong. I argued with him and quoted scripture. Pastor Craig’s rebuttal was to say that the wine that they had in those times didn’t have any alcohol. Here was someone who spent 8 years in college studying the Bible and he was making up his own rules that weren’t even backed up by his holy book.

In my late teens I pioneered a Christian punk band named DERT that had some mild success. We played with many popular Christian bands and one thing that I began to notice was that Christian bands were not much different than secular bands when touring. There was just as much drinking, drugs and sex in Christian bands as there was in secular bands. When my band was destroyed because of the sexual misconduct of our drummer, Shannon, I went to L.A. to audition for a well established Christian band named Blackball. I was a huge fan of this band and the lead singer, Chris, was a personal hero of mine. He was a very intelligent man and a philosopher. His lyrics were insightful and his music was heartfelt. I thought that I had arrived in my place and that I would finally be around people that had the same conviction and love for God that I did.

I am sure that it is no surprise to the people reading this but I was caught off guard. I moved over 600 miles to join Blackball and the first thing that they did was change their name to SuperUnknown. From there they decided to change the style and start over to appeal to the secular market. We brought in a keyboard player named Darrin who was eventually fired because he couldn’t come up with original material but we kept the second guitarist, Damien, even though he couldn’t properly play half of the songs. Damien was fucking his girlfriend despite not being married to her. I would see the old guitarist Rocco running around town, always strung out on god knows what. I remember one time being in Chris’s house when he broke out a giant six shooter and started giving lessons on how to handle a gun. He was talking about flying guns down to these missionaries in a hostile area in Africa so that they could defend themselves. I had a hard time reconciling the violence with my Christian upbringing. One of the catalysts for me losing my faith was the bass player Tom. Through this part of the band he was in the process of changing his name. He was dating a 16 year old. His favorite joke was something about killing babies and doing drugs with a spoon. He got drunk a lot, and he was a huge jerk to me. We would make plans to do things together and he would simply not show up. He was close friends with Damien which is likely why Damien was allowed to stay in the band despite his lack of ability on the guitar. Tom was one of the worst Christians I had ever met. He was known for being a good Christian, but I assure you he was not. Tom is a really cool guy though; he was just a bad Christian. Tom was the straw that broke the camels back. It was because of him that I started seeking out other answers. To this day I owe my mindset as a free thinker to him. I will be eternally thankful to Tom. Because of him I am not living my life in a na├»ve religious mindset.

I started attending atheist forums online and had an ongoing dialogue with a character named MelanieWalker. We had many insightful conversations. One thing that she said to me really stuck though. She said that as a Christian that I was brainwashed and that as soon as I got over the fear of looking outside of my preprogrammed mindset that the truth would be as clear as day. Although she was correct it was still difficult to reconcile the truth with my religious indoctrination. My life spun into a downward spiral. While still a member of this prestigious Christian band I began drinking heavily, doing drugs, and having sex with random girls. I had become everything that I despised but little did I realize at that time that the whole experience was part of my healing and eventual enlightenment.

When I discovered the truth about the falsity of Christianity I was angry. I wanted all of the Christians that had fed me lies and mislead me to pay for their deception. I started becoming very vocal about the bullshit that was going on in my band. This ultimately led to squabbles and the eventual breakup. I accept full responsibility for it. The band stole $1000 dollars from me and I bailed. Everyone was supposed to put in $1000 to fund an E.P. Only the Drummer, Larry and I did though. I never saw any of the fruits of my labor or money. Everything that went wrong in that band was a direct result of my inner explosion. I was very vocal about hating Christians. As a result the large majority of my Christian friends and acquaintances simply abandoned me. Of course as a Christian they should have shown unwavering love and acceptance for me in my time of crises, as humans they did what I would expect.

As I started my new life as an Agnostic free thinker I had to acclimate to a whole new world. This was a world were the people were honest and upfront. People spoke their mind and responsibility for ones actions had to fall solely on that individual. You were never caught off-guard because you went into every situation with your eyes open. The friends that I made during this period were some of the best and most loyal friends. I am still very close with many of these people. These people didn’t buy into fantastic claims. Science was revered. The world had more meaning. Love was more real. Relationships had more depth. Suddenly I was spending less time trying to please an apparition in the sky and more time building solid friendships. Everything suddenly made sense.

I know that freeing a mind is a difficult thing to do. Our massively complex and over developed frontal lobe just has a difficult time accepting that there may not be much more to this life than the short time that we get here on earth. Everyone that breaks out of the shackles of organized religion will have different experiences. One thing will be in common though. Your experiences will be richer. You will live for this life instead of the next. Your life will be full of meaning and you will prefer action to prayer. Best of luck to all of the aspiring free thinkers. “Welcome to the world of the real.”