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!


Marc said...

Try to see if your area has any AA for Agnostics and Atheists or "We Agnostics" meetings.

American Scot said...

Marc: It does, I'm OK with the meetings I go to though.
One of my best friends who is an Atheist also attends them, so we both chuckle at some of the silly things we hear come out of peoples mouths.
We've both talked about trying out the AA for A and A, we just haven't gotten around to it.