I am an ex-Christian because I know the Bible isn’t actually true and I am an atheist because I see no evidence at all that a god of any kind actually exists. God never says, thinks, or does anything at all except in the minds of believers, and that’s a sure indication to me that he/she/it does not actually exist. But, I spent 15 years of my younger life as a very devout fundamentalist Christian. I also have bipolar disorder, so I spent those years swinging between periods of devout religious belief and periods of doubt and unbelief that usually featured heavy drug and alcohol use. I realize now that both methods were my attempt to self-medicate the bipolar illness that I didn’t know I had at the time. And I have realized recently that religious belief is so tied to my bipolar disorder that, for me, it can never be real. When I am manic, God seem very REAL to me, and I become very spiritual and sometimes I flirt with a return to Christian fundamentalism. But when the mania dies down, the religious beliefs inevitably go away too. My feelings of the presence of God, which have been very intense at times, are just a product of mental illness and nothing more. There is a part of me that misses my religious days and a part of me that wishes that I could share in the faith of my Christian friends. But, I know it’s not real. God doesn’t actually exist, prayer doesn’t actually work, and Jesus Christ, if he indeed lived in history, is long dead. And the Bible? It has been thoroughly debunked online for many years now… so, though I wish on a purely emotional level that it could all be true, I know it isn’t. And I think facing reality as it actually is and living in the REAL WORLD is very important, so that’s what I strive to do. Knowing that this life is it — the only one I will ever have — makes life so much more precious and I value every moment I get to experience here on Earth, and I value every moment I get to spend with those that I love because I know that life is not forever and that it will really and truly end. There isn’t a heaven waiting for believers and there isn’t a hell waiting for nonbelievers. There is just very likely… nothing. But that doesn’t really bother me. If there is no life after death, then I won’t exist to care that I don’t exist. And if there is something after death, there is no evidence that there is anything to be feared. So… I do my best to be a good person and a contributing member of society and I live my life as though God doesn’t exist… because there is no evidence that he does. And I believe that that is the Truth! Glory!
Posted this to Facebook and thought I would share it here too. Glory! 🙂
Those of you who have been friends with me on Facebook for a while know that I used to bash religion – a lot, and usually I wasn’t nice about it at all. But back then I was still stuck in the “anger” phase of de-conversion. Walking away from 15 years of devout religious belief was not just a matter of me shrugging my shoulders and thinking, “Oh, well, that sounded nice but it’s not actually true” and moving on unscathed by the experience.
There are phases to religious de-conversion that closely correspond to the stages of grief. They are essentially the same. The five stages of grief are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Most of the time now I find myself in the acceptance stage of grief, but for a long time I was stuck in anger and also in depression.
When your God dies, that is an event of major importance! We all grieve when a human or animal loved one dies. But when your God dies? That’s far worse, and it’s just as painful as a human death is, if not more so. Because when your God dies, so does the hopes you had for an awesome and eternal afterlife and your hopes of being reunited with lost loved ones at some future date. And what also dies is your hope that at some future date your God will dispense righteous judgment, right all wrongs and wipe away all of the suffering associated with this life.
When your God dies, so does everything supernatural associated with that belief. What dies too is belief in angels, demons, heaven, hell, and activities such as prayer that require a supernatural component to actually work. When your God dies, what you are left with is what is actually real and that we know actually exists — the natural world in all of its grandeur and beauty — the vast cosmos consisting of billions of galaxies, of which our solar system and our beautiful planet are but a very small part.
When your God dies, what dies too is the belief that you were specially created to serve and worship this God. What dies too is your belief that you are special to this God and that He loves you and cares about what happens to you. When your God dies, you realize that you are not the special creation of a God, but rather the product of millions of years of biological evolution, and you realize how amazing it is that you are here at this moment in time and you realize how precious and incredible and amazing this life is.
My God died almost 17 years ago, in early 2000. It was a death brought about by doubts and questions that had plagued me for years that I never found satisfactory Christian answers for. It was a death brought about by a great deal of thinking, reading, and research. It was a death brought about by seeing just how easily people on the skeptical side of the fence dismantled my cherished Christian beliefs not with ridicule and derision, but with solid, credible evidence and verifiable facts.
My God died a long time ago, and I have lived quite happily free from the fear, guilt, shame, and ignorance that so defined and drove the fundamentalist religion that I was once so deeply involved in.
So… when your God dies, that is a life-changing, life-defining event of major importance. When your God dies and everything that you believed was real dies along with him, it takes a long time to process and to come to terms with. It takes a long time to rebuild the framework that defines your reality. But it is possible to come out on the other side of the grief and all of the processing of it through its various phases complete and whole and happy and grateful to be alive.
If you want to know more, I wrote an article describing what it’s like to make the journey from Christianity to Atheism a few years ago. You can read it here:
I can only speak for myself and my experience, but I hope this gives you a better understanding of me and what it was like for me to experience the death of my God all of those years ago.
I’m depressed. There is so much hatred in the world, and sadly, much of it stems from the fact that in the 21st Century, people are still killing each other over mythological religious bullshit that ignorant men dreamed up thousands of years ago. We are still killing each other over whose Imaginary Friend is better or more powerful! Here and now in the 21st Century! I would like to think that most of us know better than that now.
Fundamentalist religion is a HUGE problem here in the US and throughout the world. Fundamentalist Christians routinely use their religion to hate on gays, transgender folks, and women. It is particularly nauseating to hear hatred against gays regularly preached from the pulpits, yet these hateful, bigoted religious assholes never say a word against eating shellfish or wearing clothes made of mixed fabrics, both of which are condemned by their ancient holy book.
Christianity has been anti-woman from the word “go”. According to the ridiculous creation myths in Genesis, it was the woman, Eve, who convinced Adam to eat the magic fruit from the magic tree after the talking snake convinced her to eat it. Eve was the bad gal! Women have been getting the short end of the stick ever since, though obviously, the ridiculous mythical story never actually happened. According to the same silly ancient myth, God in his infinite love, made childbirth extremely painful for all women because Eve made the mistake of listening to a lying talking snake and she ate the magic fruit from the magic tree that God had told them not to fuck with. Religion has been used for centuries to subjugate women and relegate women to the status of second-class citizens. For a very long time, women were little more than property. And according to the Apostle Paul, they should be silent in church and they should not have positions of authority. And in the here and now of the 21st Century, religious Republican politicians are continually trying to deny women the right to decide what they can do with their own bodies! In the minds of these women-hating religious assholes, it would be better for a woman who has a legitimate need for an abortion to get it in a dark alley with a coat hanger than in a much safer modern hospital setting. I’m a guy and I don’t have a vagina, but I am 100% with the women shouting at these assholes to stay out of their vaginas! Oh, and according to many of these religious assholes, rape is consensual or the woman asked for it by the way they dressed! Holy shit!
The Christian religion has a very long and very sad history of suppressing social progress and scientific discovery. The Bible is a flat-earth, geocentric book from cover to cover, and for centuries people believed that the earth was flat and supported by pillars because the Bible says so. And it was believed that the flat earth was covered by a solid dome firmament with the stars stuck in it because the Bible says so! It took Copernicus and Galileo to move us away from this ridiculous primitive cosmology, and the Church resisted every step of the way!
Scientific discovery was flourishing in ancient Greece and in other places in the ancient world, but then Christianity came along and snuffed it out for centuries. The Christian religion is directly responsible for that awful time in history that we know today as the Dark Ages. The Church had tremendous political power, and religious ignorance reigned supreme for centuries. The only place that science had a chance is in the Islamic world, and we owe a debt to Islam today for preserving what scientific knowledge had been gained before the Christian Dark Ages snuffed out the proverbial candle.
The Bible quite clearly teaches that mental illness is caused by demons, and that belief was used to, well, demonize the mentally ill. We know today that mental illness has genetic and environmental causes, and obviously it has nothing to do with mythological evil spirits. But, of course, this same Book claims that the cure for leprosy is a magical incantation and the blood of a slain bird…
In the Islamic world today, fundamentalist religion is still used to marginalize women and to deny them even the most basic human rights. Women have to cover themselves completely, and they can’t vote and they can’t drive a car. I’m pretty sure that in countries such as Saudi Arabia, women are still little more than property… if they do enjoy status better than that, it’s not much…
And fundamentalist religion is being used right now to justify mass murder in the form of suicide bombings and other acts of terrorism.
Isn’t it time for the RELIGIOUS MADNESS TO STOP??
Isn’t it time for the voices of REASON and SANITY to be heard above the din of religious INSANITY and HATRED??
I realize that this post will be ignored by my religious friends and it’s gotten way beyond TL;DR status anyway for most folks… but that’s my 2 cents…
I am tired of the religious hatred and insanity that is tearing this world apart! It is PAST TIME for us to throw off the chains of fundamentalist religion and this ancient mythological religious bullshit that has NO DISCERNIBLE BASIS IN REALITY, and it is time now for us to work together to build a much better and much more peaceful world!!
Again, my 2 cents… Glory!
These are books that I have authored that I hope will be helpful to others.
This is my story of my struggles with bipolar disorder and bouts of extreme religious belief.
This is the story of my journey from devout Christian religious belief to atheism.
This is my tribute to my cat Tasha. I had her for 16 wonderful years, and I held her in my arms as she passed away at the vet’s office on February 5, 2015. Worst day of my life, and the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.
I recently attended a freethinker meet up in my area. I was looking forward to the meeting since we were all bringing food to donate to a local food bank called the Freestore Foodbank. This is a cause I’m always up and ready to contribute my time to since I know pretty often what it’s like to live on a scrap food budget. My cupboard is chock full of discounted food like scratch and dent can goods, re taped dry good boxes, and tons of dollar bags of beans and rice. Yes, I appreciate all too well the assistance of a food bank.
This group get together wasn’t just about the food drive though. There was also a guest speaker by the name of Derrick Strobl, who was visiting on behalf of the Humanist Community of Central Ohio. His visit was to better clarify what humanism was all about. In that process, he shared quite a bit of his personal experiences as a youth that brought him along the path to becoming a humanist. There were several stories he related that I had completely identified with. I was probably shaking my head in agreement during most of his talk without even realizing I was doing so. One story in particular was to do with a Sunday school class, and being taught via a construction paper book, the colors of salvation: black is sin, red is the blood of christ, white is purity, and gold represented Heaven.
I distinctly remember this same lesson, but not with a homemade booklet. My teacher used large cuts of fabric in those colors, and he would drape himself with them as he explained each one. Except, he had two black drapes instead of one. This youth pastor would always start with the black of sin, explaining how it permeates every aspect of who we are. Then he would wrap over Christ’s redeeming blood, which cancelled out the sin for those who repented. White, being purity, was the result of said redemption. And then he would drape the yellow-gold cloth on the cross on the wall by the podium, explaining we had eternal reward waiting for us since we accepted God.
Then our pastor would get very quiet, still clutching the mis cut draperies around his body, nothing showing but the toes of his shoes and his stern face bobbling on his exposed neck. He would walk over to the second piece of black cloth, telling us how once we accepted God there was no going back to sinning. If you went back to sinning? He would then dramatically cover the previous three layers with the extra piece of black cloth saying seriously, his eyes looking almost wrathful,”You get nothing but darkness in your life. No rewards. No blessings. Nothing.” That son of a bitch would walk around like that the rest of the lesson! I must have seen this routine at least half a dozen times while attending that church, and it always riveted me.
It did more than that really. That black cloth quite literally colored my thinking. It covered every redeeming quality I thought I had going for myself. Just knowing that any good I had done could be so quickly discounted to nothing because of sin really upset me. I already was living in a home of impossible standards. Now this? I was overwhelmed. Of course, I knew that all I would have to do was pray for forgiveness every time I sinned, but how many times were allowed? Was there a limit to how much sinning I could be forgiven for? And I was also skeptical. If you pray for forgiveness, part of your motivation is trying to keep on God’s good side, so was it really genuine repentance if part of your brain evenly remotely worried about going to Hell and wanting forgiveness to avoid it?
I believe in my case, lessons like the colors for salvation do more harm than good. At least, the way my youth pastor delivered it wasn’t the best example. I left those speeches always focused on trying to be rid of sin. I never invested time in the purity part because I was constantly praying to be forgiven for thinking about my mom in mean ways, or for sneaking into the pantry and having eaten half the canister of the French’s fried onions. There was never any purity because all I saw were the mistakes I made. That programming is still very much present my mind today. It is very hard for me to recognize any benefit I bring to the table in relationships, whether they are personal or social. For my entire childhood my home echoed with constant criticism of who I was.
Some have often told me after hearing this part of my Bible studies as a child that obviously my church focused more on “talents” than grace. Grace, which according to some and not others, should be all you need to get into Heaven. Which never made sense to me either. Why have a judgement day if I accepted God? Does it matter how much I sinned if I’m automatically saved by grace? I thought you didn’t lose grace. These were questions I never received a good answer to simply because no one could completely agree. I walked away from the question with the idea that I’m saved by grace, but the palace high life is optional. After all, why should I care if I had a nice palace or lived on the streets of Heaven? I mean, we’re talking about Heaven here. Anywhere in Heaven. A street corner was suitable enough to me so long as I didn’t burn forever.
This type of psychological abuse was taught to me in church, and taught to me at home. This is all I’d come to learn about understanding myself in the first twenty-five years of my life. The phrase “It’s all your fault” became “It’s all Kate’s fault” and I embraced it wholeheartedly, totally believing that there was always something I was doing wrong that was ruining the happiness of others. But it didn’t stop at just letting myself be the whipping boy so to speak. No, this programming took an even more sinister turn as I got older.
So, if I was black with sin, God could reject me. Essentially, He could potentially take away that which Jesus–which is ironically part of Yahweh in mortal form–granted me. Kind of like the way my parents would take away their approval of me over the littlest of things, and it was such a bear to earn that favor to begin with. Or like the way a lover demands the return of all he has invested after a break up, even if the relationship lasted nearly fifteen years. And sure enough, my distrust of those offering help, gifts, and even love, was born. Everything had a hook, and I decided that I just wasn’t a good risk to bet on. The hook wasn’t a normal type of tit for tat catch though. The hook was something worse. It was a disbelief that this person really knew who I was and still wanted to be with me, and at some point I was going to trip a switch and send this person running for the hills angry and hurt by me. This led to a very controlling nature about my environment, my personal possessions, and willingness to be vulnerable. Distance became my best friend. Despair flavored every sip of life I tried to drink.
This is just one small layer of the damage I’ve been peeling away year by year, day by day, sometimes hour by hour. I went through a lot in order to get myself out of the emotional battering of my mind in a religious community, and the physical abuse still follows me around. But there are those who have it worse. There are those who are stuck. Completely helpless at the mercies of a doctrine they don’t even want to believe! Some of the things these closeted skeptics go through easily dwarf my own experiences growing up religious. Can you imagine being denied contact with the outside world if you don’t attend church? What about mandatory corporal punishment when you’re nearly twenty years old? There are things that go on in this country that many in the atheist/skeptic/humanist societies do not realize. Some say,”How hard can it be to say no and just move out?” If you aren’t raised in an environment where you have personal liberty, it’s hard to even realize you can say no to begin with.
Take the story of Lauren and Jennifer. Home schooled in a Christian setting. Mother controls nearly every aspect of what they think, do, dress, eat, or even read. No major extra curricular events. Total isolation. No freedom. The eldest sister gets out, but had to leave her younger sister behind. Her sister almost didn’t go to college because her parents took the liberty of planning her life for her. No choice in the matter. The sisters had to communicate secretly since all email and phone calls were monitored. Christ, the younger sister wasn’t even allowed a key to the house. It took until her 18th birthday to get out, and her older sister had to come and get her. That mad dash for freedom still ended up in a physical altercation with their mother. Without her older sister, Jennifer might not be attending college, possibly set up for marriage by a man of her father’s choosing.
Now, this isn’t the norm, but it isn’t uncommon either. Most religious families aren’t going to let one of their members “just say no and move out”. You’re their property because you’re their child. That’s how you are viewed, even in biblical doctrine. And I’ve seen instances of extreme control like I showcased above in families where all the children are grown and in their thirties. If you substituted mom with boyfriend or girlfriend in the story of Lauren and Jennifer, one would automatically think this was a notable domestic abuse situation. And this is where the problem lies. Many atheists do not recognize that the type of control exerted on Lauren and her sister is indeed domestic abuse. The only difference is that the violence is being perpetrated by a parent in the name of belief. In this country, it’s pretty much a protected type of abuse unless it makes headlines because of a “God told me to drown my kids” type of situation.
I ran into this the other night at a Freethinker meeting I had attended. At the end of the meeting, when everyone kind of wanders around and takes a few minutes to talk with the guest speaker or event organizers, I took a few minutes to ask a few members about what the group does to help those wanting to escape, or are just biding their time while hiding their growing disbelief. Looks of confusion greeted the question. I clarified a little bit, explained I was wondering if there were any support for individuals who were literally trapped in religiously abusive situations, like with family that won’t let them leave the home, or those who are subjected to excessive priest interventions because a mother cannot handle her child rejecting God. The reply I received from one was,”I wasn’t aware that these kind of situations occurred.”
Now, I’m not in any way trying to criticize someone’s ignorance. How can I? If you didn’t know, you didn’t know. To clarify, it was explained to me that Recovering From Religion has branches within both of these skeptic groups, which I am thankful to hear. The guest speaker’s own organization has crisis line information to be offered as well, but not in relation to domestic abuse. This initial lack of understanding was probably a surprise to me and these two members I spoke with. More than anything though, it really highlighted what I’ve been seeing in attitude around the web and at other skeptic groups the last eighteen months.
I’m not talking about money here. I’m talking about privilege of personal freedom. While atheist and humanist groups all over the United States will have guest speakers who escaped cults like the Branch Davidians, or former ex-Muslim soldiers who are now atheist, there is almost zero dialog about those escaping the mainstream Christian faith. I expect this lack of coverage if I were attending a faith ministry, but not a skeptic society. There is a genuine need for activism on the parts of the helpless in the Christian faith community. If you read the story I linked to Lauren and her sister, you can see that even their own faith community didn’t want to step up until after things had reached critical mass and their mother had physically struck Jennifer in the face. And it seems the skeptic community hasn’t even reached that place yet.
I don’t know if it is a situation where unbelievers want to see that others in their community have “earned their stripes”, or if religious domestic abuse isn’t a territory we’re ready to start addressing head on. But for all the cries of how religious indoctrination shouldn’t be forced on the young, that religion doesn’t belong in the classroom, and teaching children that they are grievously imperfect is abuse, how can we not be ready? I would wager if more cases of domestic abuse of a religious nature were brought to court, we might see a clearer path to more definitive legislation that guarantees the right to choose what you believe without abusive retribution.
Look how we rally against towns that have a large Haredi Jew majority that won’t allow their women to drive? The cause for the disbelievers at the mercy of religious parents isn’t any different in importance, regardless of the brand of faith. Right now there are grown men who had to move back home to be able to finish college, and if his parents have made it clear he must renew his faith or leave to the streets. Don’t you see? We do have a social form of Sharia being practiced in this country already, and it isn’t just utilized by some members of Islam, but by its sister’s believers in Christianity.
Atheism is about liberty of thought. The freedom of self to decide what you want to believe or not. There are many who know they don’t believe, know they need out, but they don’t know how to accomplish this. This is where many humanism and atheism groups could step in and at the very least have information to succeed in doing so safely. I’m not saying we need a team of special atheist forces to storm castles and rescue people, but sometimes just simply having a resource to vent with, a regular meeting once a month, or even an anonymous online group, just to have a haven for information to be shared can make a huge difference in the lives of those who are trapped.
For those who would like to read more about the types of difficulties today’s generation of youth face when coming out atheist, please check out this link. Here is a prime example of the absolute extortion some grown adults go through even when they are out in the open atheists. The problem is real.
This is probably one of the most absolutely ridiculous notions in America today. Seriously. What makes it worse would be the fact that everyone wants things to be like Mayberry. They wish for Mayberry whenever they hear news about legislation that favors quicker immigration is being considered. They cry for Mayberry’s Christian family values whenever they hear yet another state is willing to acknowledge and offer benefits to married gay couples.
Even politicians use the good ole times excuse when passing discriminating legislation. Take Asa Hutchinson, governor of Arkansas for example. He was just about to sign into law one of those Religious Restoration Acts, and after seeing the backlash in Indiana, has become nervous about what he is about to do, deciding to send the legislation back for revision instead. His public statement? “….in ordinary times this bill would not be controversial, but these are not ordinary times.”
Which basically is saying,”Why can’t we be in Mayberry again?”
I hate to break it to you, but the circumstances of Mayberry never existed in America. Never, ever. Never, ever, never, ever, ever, EVER. People see that 1960’s family show and treat it like an honest representation of the all American family. God, common sense, and small government. This governor I was mentioning grew up watching the show, and others with similar themes. He doesn’t understand that Mayberry, while set in the 60’s expanding economy, was based on the simpler times of the 1930’s. There was a desire for nostalgia to be brought into the show, and that is why folk music, church, and focus on family were incorporated.
So, what? Then let’s go back to the 30’s then. They were good times, right?
You tell me.
The only thing good about the 1930’s was the increased desire for simple living, and that’s mostly because they didn’t have a choice back then. With the desire for simple living came an increased demand for folk music and art. Jobs were scarce thanks to the Depression. Add the agricultural disasters like the Dust Bowl on top of it? Food was scarce too. Tradition became king during that decade before WWII broke out, and so did a tough as nails attitude when faced with desperation to survive. Mayberry never bothered with any of that. It had the lush economy of the 1960’s story setting to keep the ugly struggles of the Depression away.
The Andy Griffith Show was brilliant in its almost seamless meshing of our cultural past with the modern reality of the 1960’s. Writers of the show used the traditions of the past and the modern conveniences of the future to show an ideal situation for us all to admire and look toward for our own lives. But in reality, it was an illusion. It was used to cushion the depressing news of Vietnam’s bloody loss of lives. It was an escape from the torrid television coverage of news coverage of the draft, desegregation, and outright riots in the streets at major university campuses.
Mayberry never truly existed in our history. The good ole days, depending on which generation you look to, never had it as good as Mayberry. The entire purpose of the Andy Griffith Show wasn’t to highlight reality. It hid the ugly racism that demanded blacks sit at the back of the bus. The show didn’t touch on sexual revolution that was occurring in America of the 60’s, preferring to focus on what would be seen as wholesome and Christian like in nature. And that is what a television show is supposed to do. Provide a feel good atmosphere to distract its viewers from the harsh reality of the world around them for a little while.
I doubt the writers ever intended for its young audience to actually twist their story into an unconscious remembrance of actual time and place though, but that is what has happened. Certainly the producers never intended for their little imagined town of impossibility to become an actual goal for modern society. It just won’t work.
Yet, that is what many who long for the good ole days want. They want modern convenience, traditions of the past, and all the issues of the world to magically go away and just follow their desired story line. Keep things simple by making everyone follow the same structure of reality. If you don’t want to play along, go away and be quiet so everyone else can be comfortable. If you don’t be quiet, then they’ll legislate you away. These ultra conservatives refuse to accept Mayberry’s perfect store fronts, comical barber, and admired sheriff as the illusion they truly were. Much like their bibles, conservative Christians cling to the idea that simpler times are a panacea for all the sin in the world. That in a Mayberry setting, who can say no to God? After all, there is less temptation, less opportunity wander off the divine path to Heaven.
And if everyone is godly, then society will automatically improve. This is something that Mayberry never ever even remotely insisted upon.
Ironically, Mayberry has several characters that never quite fit in. Even more ironic is that, despite not fitting in, or even truly conforming, one character really did have a positive impact on the town. I think you all know who I am referring to in particular.
Yes, Ernest T. Bass is who I’m talking about. Deputy Fife saw him as a nut. Myself? Ernest was an innovator. He showed ingenuity, determination, a knack for making people think outside their own interest. He even managed to garner support from Sheriff Taylor himself. All the while he completely clashed with the fundamental principles the town operated on. And he wasn’t the only one that showed doubt about the moral reasoning of his fellow townsfolk. I particularly enjoyed an episode where Barney and Andy get into a bit of a debate about psychic phenomena.
Again, there is wiggle room, and even a willingness to understand where the other is coming from, as you see Andy completely indulge Barney’s agnosticism about Aladdin’s Lamp. While this particular scene is meant to be humorous, it shows a willingness to meet in the middle, and at least discuss why a person feels a certain way. On top of that, you also see it is okay to just agree to disagree. This is how society has to work in order to succeed. How all these truly wonderful examples of functioning society have been blatantly ignored in favor of an impossible one size fits all lifestyle is beyond me.
Many evangelicals are simply banding together because they share a common belief structure, with little care of how crude and divisive their behavior is to the society around them. They are removed from the rest of America’s citizenry. Rather being pit against the entire world than be willing to compromise, this mentality will cost them dearly in the future. Someone needs to effectively demonstrate that strength isn’t necessarily in just numbers anymore, but in that of overall unity. Being contrary simply because of cultural differences is both foolish and costly for our future.
Will they ultimately decide to leave our shores and found their own country like the Pilgrims or Puritans? I hope not. The Pilgrims at first found England too corrupt, so they left to Holland. In Holland, their children were assimilating to Dutch culture, and they found that unacceptable and then left again, this time to America. The Puritans left England and started over in America later. What happened once in America? They started to divide against each other, and formed their own separate churches. You had witch trials. Heresy charges. Adultery? Capital charges that could get you jail time, public whipping and more.
The bottom line here is that Christianity has to quit running away from the world and consider picking up a few lessons from other cultures. This doctrine, and its leaders, obviously can’t handle it out there on their own, constantly running away from problems or insisting everyone else must conform to their standards. It’s time for them to make reasonable accommodation for the world around them, not the other way around.
There isn’t a land large enough or a television show’s interpretation well written enough to give these zealots the perfect Christian theocracy they desire. They are the authors of their own destruction, even when on their own with only the same ilk around them.
I just lost a friend over on Facebook over religion, and I posted this rant:
Just lost another online friend over religion. She couldn’t handle my outspoken atheism, she accused me of hating her god, and then she unfriended me and blocked me. Good riddance, I guess. I don’t apologize for being outspoken about religion. Religion causes tremendous harm in the world to the world as a whole and to individual believers. It’s not something that I can or should be silent about. I don’t really give a shit what people choose to believe privately, until they try to force it on everyone else. And hatred — hatred is NOT OKAY. I don’t give a shit what your ancient holy book says, hating gays is not okay! Oppressing women is not okay. Threatening children with Hell is not okay. Teaching ridiculous ancient myths in our schools in place of real science is not okay. Bombing abortion clinics is not okay. Murdering children is not okay.
If you are offended by my outspoken atheism, tough shit. Accept me and love me as I am, warts and all, or get off of my friends list. I am NOT going to change to make anyone else happy or comfortable. I agree to disagree with plenty of my friends about politics and religion and other things as well, and I expect the same consideration in return.
I will post whatever the hell I want and I’ll be as blunt and “in your face” as I want as well. I am doing my part to make this world a better place, and I will not apologize for doing that. If you decide to no longer be a part of my life, don’t let the door hit you in the ass. Plenty of people love and accept me exactly as I am, and I’ll take them any day over people who want me to change to make them happy or people I feel like I have to walk on eggshells around… Enough said…
I would like to expand on that a bit. Other things that are not okay include faith healing and crediting God with healing instead of hard-working doctors and nurses. And prayer… prayer accomplishes ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. I am sick and tired of hearing about the alleged power of prayer. Prayer has no power whatsoever other than making the person doing the praying feel good for accomplishing NOTHING.
It is not okay for faith healers to bilk gullible religious people out of millions of dollars. It is not okay for Pat Robertson or some other religious nut to blame gays for natural disasters. It is not okay to advocate murdering gays so that we can have an AIDS-free Christmas.
It is not okay to condemn all non-Christian people to an eternal flaming Hell where they will be consciously tormented forever.
It is not okay to accuse atheists of “hating God” because we don’t share Christian religious beliefs.
And the list goes on and on and on… Christopher Hitchens was absolutely right when he said that religion poisons everything. Religion is the greatest tragedy ever to afflict mankind.
The aim of this glorious post is to contrast what freedom means to Christians vs. what it means to atheists. Of course, I think real freedom comes from being absolutely and totally free of religious beliefs and fears. But, let’s take a look at the different views.
John 8:36 says “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed!”
The Word says that we can be free in Jesus. And we need to be free, man. Everybody wants to be free. There ain’t but one way to do it. You can’t be free in religion and you can’t be free in yourself. You can be free in Jesus. We have something that is real to celebrate. It is new life. New life in Christ. This new life didn’t come from our parents. I just read in the Word today that the life that comes from our parents will fade away someday. But this new life that comes from Christ is real and true and it lasts forever. … God is love, and his love lasts forever. This is freedom. Enjoy yours!
And here is his song titled “Freedom” that celebrates what he considers to be true freedom — the freedom supposedly found in belief in Jesus as Lord and Savior, and in surrendering your life to him. I still love the music, though I no longer believe the message.
I can’t help but like Mylon as a person, though I know that he is a typical big name Christian preacher and musician who has made a career out of religion, and he has made a ton of money from it. I disagree very strongly with his religious beliefs and with his definition of freedom now, but I saw him in concert a couple of times back in my Christian days, and once when I was backstage seeking counseling and prayer, I actually got to shake the man’s hand. I commented to him about the concert that “that was fun!”, and he said something in return agreeing that it had been. It was awesome actually getting to meet one of my Christian music idols of the time, brief though the encounter was. Glory! 🙂 Mylon came across as a genuinely nice guy, and I’m sure that he probably really is. And to me, he was the definition of a “cool Christian” back in those days. I may still have a bit of hero worship going on with him though I no longer agree with his message, lol…
Mylon’s definition of freedom I can no longer agree with. It’s impossible to be truly free when you are enslaved to a bunch of fear/ignorance-based ancient myths that make no sense to modern, educated minds and it’s impossible to be truly free when you are constantly worried about religious concepts such as sin and about pissing Jesus off. It’s impossible to be truly free when you are worried about Hell and about people you care about and love possibly going there. I didn’t find freedom in religion at all (and Christianity is a religion. This “it’s a relationship, not a religion” nonsense is just that — nonsense).
The truth will set you free, but first it might piss you off. – Anonymous
I didn’t find true freedom until I got totally free from religious belief and totally free from religious fears! TRUE FREEDOM is the ability to live life authentically and honestly without being wrapped up in endless cycles of fear, guilt, and shame caused by religious belief and indoctrination. TRUE FREEDOM is being able to BE YOUR REAL SELF, free of religious programming and religious fears. I am free to be ME now, warts and all! I am FREE to choose a life for myself now that makes ME happy and that hopefully serves others and makes them happy too. I am FREE to ENJOY LIFE, totally free of concerns that what I think, say or do might piss Jesus off. I am FREE to live my life just being ME, with no reference to God or religious or spiritual beliefs at all. I am a much better person now than I was when I was a Christian. I am no longer concerned with the belief or even in the possibility that there might be a God to fear or a Hell to fear. I am no longer concerned that I or anyone else might be headed for an eternity of torment in a flaming Hell. I left that fear-based religious nonsense behind long ago in favor of the real world. Now that I am FREE of religion and religion-based fear, guilt, and shame I am free to live life honestly and authentically as ME! I am free to love everybody, and that certainly includes people who happen to be gay. People that I would have condemned to Hell when I was a Christian I am good friends with now, though I personally am straight as an arrow. One of my most valued friends over at the ex-christian.net forums is bi-sexual with lesbian leanings, and she is in to BDSM. Does that bother me now? Hell no. Not one bit. She is an awesome person, and I really enjoy hanging out with her online. We have visited over Skype once, and it went really well. I don’t have to be into the same things she is or have the same sexual orientation that she does to enjoy an awesome friendship with her. Our differences simply don’t matter, and that’s one of the most awesome things about being free of religion is letting go of unnecessary and harmful and often hateful religion-based judgment. I really don’t give a shit now what sexual orientation people have. I don’t even really care what beliefs they hold, as long as they are not hurting themselves or others and as long as they are good PEOPLE. Now that I am free of religion, I am free to love PEOPLE exactly as they are, warts and all. I truly love just about everybody on the face of this planet as people. I think I can name the people in this world that I truly hate on one hand, and that’s after 48 years of life on this planet. That was certainly not true of me when I was a Christian. I was busy hating myself for being such a sinner and I was busy hating others because of their sexual orientation or because they held religious or political beliefs that were different from my own. Now, the differences don’t really matter. I happen to be a very liberal American Democrat and an atheist. But I am free to be good friends with anybody I choose to be friends with because I find them to be good people, regardless of what their religious or political beliefs might be. I have good friends who are conservative Republicans and Christians. I don’t agree with them on those subjects, but I am FREE to not discuss or really care about our differences, and that is awesome! I think I have made my point. REAL FREEDOM is amazing, and it is awesome, and I wish it for everybody in this world. Glory!
I have tried a number of times over the years to explain to people who have never walked the path from Christian –> ex-Christian –> Atheist what that journey is like and what it means to me and to others like me. It is not an easy path to travel at all. The journey from devout Christian religious belief back to the real world is one filled with doubts and questions and a great deal of strong emotion. As I explained it to my high school band director a couple of years ago or so:
My journey from devout religious belief to atheism has been a long and interesting one. I spent 15 years as a very devout fundamentalist Christian. I was the type who annoyed everybody. I wrote evangelistic letters to my family. I tried to convert my friends and co-workers. I handed out those ridiculous Chick tracts to convenience store clerks and toll booth operators. I was at church every time the doors opened, including early morning prayer meetings. I forced my beliefs on everybody all the time and though I meant well, I made a huge nuisance of myself. Despite all of that religious activity and belief, I still had questions that that seemed to have no good answers from my pastors or from the Christian apologists I read. Those questions finally built up to the point where I could no longer ignore them or write them off as coming from the devil.
In early 2000, I got on the Net as it existed back then and started researching my faith on both sides of the fence. I was absolutely stunned to find that the religious skeptics had far better answers than I had encountered from Christian apologists and I was also very surprised to see how easily they ripped my once cherished beliefs to shreds, not through ridicule but with facts. I started reading the skeptical side at www.infidels.org and went from there.
After I got over the shock of having my Christian worldview ripped out from under me, I became very very ANGRY! The fact that I was also very mentally ill at the time with not well controlled bipolar disorder didn’t help matters any. I felt foolish, used, and betrayed when I realized I had been intentionally lied to for 15 years and I had bought into it hook, line, and sinker.
Having doubts and questions about religious beliefs is normal if you are a reasonably intelligent thinking person, but in fundamentalist religion, doubting and questioning is strongly discouraged. Just pray about it and have more faith, we are told, and God will take care of it. Sounds nice, except for the fact that it isn’t true. For Christians who want answers to their questions, a whole industry of apologetics has come into being over the past few decades. For some Christians, the answers given by Christian apologists may be enough to keep them in the faith. For others like me, the answers were not satisfying. They did not resolve my doubts or my questions, so inevitably, I went looking elsewhere and found good answers that made sense to me from the place that I least expected it at the time — from the skeptical side of the fence.
I can’t speak for everyone who has made the journey from devout Christian belief to Atheism. But I can share my own personal story and what my journey was like.
I was raised United Methodist until I was ten years old. At that time, I asked my parents if I could stop attending church because I didn’t believe what they were teaching. Since we attended church mostly for social reasons anyway, they agreed. For reasons that I cannot recall now, I was back at that church when I was in my early teens for the Confirmation process. I didn’t think much about religion after that until we moved across town and I got into some interesting religious conversations with my new fundamentalist Christian neighbors. I was a teenager at the time, and Bob and Roxanne were nice people. I discussed religion with them a lot and even attended church with them at least once, but at the time religion just didn’t “take” with me. I became a typical teenage party animal and was totally turned off by religion. A few years later when I was in college, I met a guy named Mike who was a devout Christian. He shared his faith with me and I gradually became more receptive to it. Mike finally got me out to his car to read some Bible verses, and when we read Hebrews 4:12 I felt something stir inside of me, and I thought maybe there really was something to this “Jesus” stuff. Shortly after that, I went to a public showing of the Jesus Film put on by a local Baptist church. I was extremely moved by the movie, and I knew by the time that film was over that I wanted what this Jesus had to offer, and I became a Christian on March 7, 1985. My transformation from a typical teenage party animal to a devout fundamentalist Christian was rapid and dramatic. I stopped drinking and using drugs and threw myself totally and enthusiastically into my new-found faith. I made friends with the music director at the local Baptist church, and I hung out a lot with my friend Mike. We engaged in a whole lot of religious activity and talked about how wonderful and awesome Jesus was all the time. Mike introduced me tho the popular Christian music of the time, and I fell in love with Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith and particularly with Keith Green. I loved Keith Green’s music and his strong and uncompromising approach to the Christian faith. I wanted to see him in concert badly, and when Mike informed me that he was dead (plane crash in 1982), I was devastated. Shortly after my conversion, my mother bought me a nice Bible and she arranged for me to attend East Texas Baptist University in Marshall, TX. I arrived there expecting a church-like atmosphere and students who were just as devout as I was. What I found was indeed a religious school, but my fellow students, for the most part, were just typical young adults who happened to have religious beliefs. That was, I suppose, the beginning of my disillusionment and questioning. While I was at ETBU, I began to have serious doubts about my faith. I can remember a friend of mine there using his wallet as an evangelism tool. He tried to assure me that Christianity was for real and that once I was saved that was a done deal that I could never lose.
We did not know it at that time, but I had bipolar disorder that was not diagnosed and so was untreated. What began at ETBU was a cycle of swings between devout religious belief and periods of doubt and unbelief featuring severe substance abuse that I would be trapped in for 15 years of my life. I had a great time at ETBU while I was religious. I was able to put my doubts and questions aside enough that I could keep the faith, at least for a while. I had a great time traveling across the border to Louisiana for Christian concerts featuring the stars of the time. I particularly remember seeing a band called Cruse 2 and Mylon LeFevre and Broken Heart. Mylon’s music was awesome and I loved the sincerity with which he delivered his message. I jammed for Jesus to their music for years! Back home near Houston, TX I went with my friend Mike to see Michael W. Smith and Mylon LeFevre and Broken Heart. I had some really fun times in my younger Christian days! Here’s just a sample of his music from back in those days. I still love the music, though I no longer believe the message.
I had my first bout of doubt and unbelief while I was at ETBU and I started drinking and using drugs again — at a Christian school! Needless to say, they were not happy with me, and they kicked me out after the first summer semester of 1986. If I remember correctly, it was officially an academic suspension because I was not doing well in my classes.
Back home in the Brazosport area of Texas, I soon found a really fun church — Church on the Rock in Brazoria, TX. It was located several miles out of town on Hwy 521. It was a very fun place as churches go. I made friends with the pastor and other leaders of the church, and loved the Charismatic-style praise and worship services, and for a while I participated in the praise and worship choir. I sang solos frequently, and when I could manage to drag my young body out of bed early enough, I attended the 6:00 am prayer meetings. At that time, I was engaging in a great deal of religious activity. I prayed a lot, I worshiped for hours daily, I read my Bible frequently, and I told everyone who would listen about Jesus. I also frequently handed out those Chick tracts, which I thought were an awesome evangelism tool at the time. But even with all of that religious activity, doubts were creeping in. I suppose I could never see the connection between my cherished religious beliefs and the real world, and I know now of course, that that is because there is no connection between religious belief and the real world. I never read anything in the Bible that made me question my beliefs because at that time I had not been exposed to much of the Old Testament, other than scripture that was supposed to be about Jesus. I remember at one early morning prayer meeting, I was so filled with doubt and unbelief that my friend Mike had to pray me through to belief again so that I could enjoy the rest of the prayer meeting. I guess I found it hard to believe in God at 6:00 am in the morning. 🙂 There was also a time during one particular praise and worship service that I was so filled with doubts about the reality of it all that I couldn’t enjoy the service, but everybody else was experiencing a “powerful move of God”, as if we were getting a small taste of what Heaven would be like. Everyone else was awed by how awesome God was, but I felt nothing. I remember testifying later in that service about how I had missed out on the blessing of the awesome worship service, but that God had blessed me anyway. I don’t remember now how I thought God had blessed me or what I said, though. That church was fun. We had slogans for each year such as “Storm the Gate in ’88” and “Draw the Line in ’89”. A few times, the pastor allowed me to spend the night at the church. I played Christian music through their awesome sound system and prayed and worshiped and sought God all night long. At the time, it was an awesome experience, and I was grateful that the pastor trusted me enough to leave me alone in his church all night.
By the time the early 1990’s rolled around, I was working for my mother at her travel agency in Lake Jackson, TX and I had found a new church that I also enjoyed — Brazosport Christian Center. I made friends with the pastor there too, and I sang solos there as well, though not as frequently as I had at Church on the Rock. I made many good friends at both churches, and we all had a great time hanging out together. In 1992, I had the opportunity to perform one of my favorite songs at the time, Dallas Holm’s “Rise Again” at the Brazosport College Follies. I still have the video of that performance:
The next several years I was still a believer, but I was not nearly as religious as I had been when I was a bit younger. But I still believed in God and I still believed that the Bible was His Word. But by early 2000, my doubts and questions had built up to the point that I could no longer write them off to tricks of the devil, and I was not getting good answers from Christian apologists. As I related earlier, I got on the Net as it existed in early 2000, and went looking for information that was critical of the Bible and the Christian religion. I honestly was not expecting to find much. After all, the Bible was the inerrant, infallible Word of God, so what could really be said against it that was valid? I stumbled across http://www.infidels.org and I quickly began to get an education. I found my cherished Christian religious beliefs brought into serious question and basically debunked not with ridicule or derision but with solid evidence and facts. I soon also discovered http://www.rejectionofpascalswager.net and my education continued. The author of that site unemotionally but thoroughly debunked the Bible and showed it for what it really is — a collection of ancient religious mythology, most of which was written anonymously. I became aware for the first time that Adam and Eve were not real historical people but rather they were part of an ancient creation myth that makes no sense to modern minds when taken literally. I learned that the first eleven chapters of Genesis are pure mythology. I was exposed to parts of the Old Testament that I had never laid eyes on before, and I learned that on numerous occasions that God had either ordered or directly committed mass murder and genocide. I began to learn that the character of the God of the Bible is not loving as I had been taught. I learned about failed prophecy in the Bible, and that was a shocker at the time because I had been told that fulfilled prophecy was a proof that God had inspired the Bible and that Jesus was the Messiah. I learned many things that brought the beliefs that I had held as Christian into very serious doubt. When I looked into what Jews had to say about Jesus, I was shocked again at how easily they proved from their own scriptures and religious beliefs and traditions that Jesus was not their long-awaited Messiah. I learned also that the two contradictory creation myths found in the book of Genesis have no scientific basis, that the Noah’s Ark story was borrowed from the much earlier Epic of Gilgamesh, the Exodus event never happened, that the events depicted in the Tower of Babel story is not how different languages came into being, and much more. I learned about the hundreds of meaningful contradictions contained in the Bible, which are graphically illustrated here. I learned about the atrocities in the Bible and also about the absurdities in the Bible, many of which I now find hilarious. For example, the book of Leviticus makes the claim that insects have four legs (Leviticus 11:20) and Psalms makes the claim that snails melt (Psalm 58:8). The Bible also clearly teaches a flat earth (see Isaiah 40:22 and Daniel 4:11 and Matthew 4:8), and the first chapter of the book of Genesis depicts a solid dome firmament (Genesis 1:7) with the stars stuck in it covering our flat world, which is supported by pillars (I Sam. 2:8).
While I was discovering all of these things and processing this new knowledge, I had some strong emotions to deal with. I became very, very angry that I had been sold a pack of ancient myths and lies for 15 years of my life and that I had mistook them for Divine Truth. I was rapidly losing my belief in God and I was realizing that Jesus was not and could not have been God in the flesh. He did not rise from the dead and he was not alive forevermore in heaven. Losing religious faith is a very painful and very emotional process. I didn’t just wake up and decide one day that I no longer believed in God and that I was no longer a Christian. It was a process that took months, and once I was no longer a believer, processing the anger and rage and betrayal that I felt for having years of my younger life stolen from me by a cult took several years to process, and it was not helped by the fact that I was dealing with serious mental illness at the time. It took a lot of research and a lot of time and a lot of thought for me to make the journey from devout Christian religious belief to atheism and the real world.
Leaving the Christian faith and becoming an ex-Christian does not automatically mean becoming an atheist, though that’s what it meant for me. Many former Christians find other faiths that they are happy with. I no longer find the Bible believable as the “word” of a God and my beliefs about Jesus have changed from “He was and is God in the flesh” to the much more realistic and mainstream among serious Bible scholars “he was an ancient Jewish apocalyptic preacher” who was the historical person behind the myths we find about him in the Bible.
There are five stages of grief that are generally recognized as valid, and I had to go through every single one of them as a part of losing my religious faith. I wrote about it recently on the http://www.ex-christian.net forums and I’ll re-post it here for your consideration. I apologize for the overlap and repeat of some of what I have already had to say.
The first stage of loss/grief is Denial and Isolation. I can’t really say I was in denial for very long about there being serious problems with my faith, but when I first started looking for information that was critical of the Bible, I honestly didn’t expect to find much! After all, the Bible was the Word of God, so what could unbelievers really have to say about it that would mean anything? I seriously roll my eyes now that I was once so uneducated and so naive, but I guess we all have to start somewhere. I believed that the Bible was the “inerrant, infallible Word of God” for many years because I was told that it was by people that I trusted at the time to tell me the truth. I had never actually read the vast majority of the Bible for myself, but the inerrancy of scripture was a major doctrine and for a long time I accepted it with little, if any, questioning. I was even quite impressed at the time with apologists such as Grant Jeffrey, whom I thought did a glorious job of defending the Bible as God’s Word. Anyway, when I came across sites such as www.infidels.org and www.rejectionofpascalswager.net I was shocked to discover how easily the Bible and my once-cherished Christian beliefs were ripped to shreds, and it was done not through ridicule, but with good evidence, the latest biblical scholarship, and verifiable facts. I can’t say that I was in much denial about what I was discovering because what I was discovering about the Bible I was also discovering that Christians couldn’t logically or rationally or factually refute, but I did isolate myself a lot. I spent hours on the internet with my glorious 56k modem connection, reading and researching and learning everything I could that was true and factual about the Bible and the Christian religion.
The second stage of loss/grief is Anger. After I got over the initial shock of discovering that the Bible was absolutely not inerrant or infallible, that it contained many ancient myths, and that it was definitely not authored by God, I became very, very ANGRY. All I could feel for quite a while when I thought about religion was ANGER and BLISTERING RAGE!!! Back around 2002, I put my first “Religion is Bullshit” website online, and with webmaster Dave’s glorious suggestion to turn it into a blog (those were new at the time), it ended up becoming quite popular. I ran that site until August of 2004, and much of what I posted reflected the DEEP RAGE that I felt for being lied to, brainwashed, indoctrinated, and severely psychologically damaged for 15 years of my life. I was ANGRY that I had wasted so many of my younger years trying to please a nonexistent god who never gave me any feedback, and that I had wasted so much time and emotional energy worrying about sin and worrying about whether I was really saved or not, and about my family and friends going to hell. And, once I realized the morally reprehensible nature of the concept of Hell, I was shocked with myself that I had ever bought in to such a demented and evil concept as being for real and that I had thought my loving God would send anyone there, much less my family and friends, all of whom were and are good people. The flip side of my anger about Hell was anger and deep disappointment that Heaven was not for real. I was so mentally ill at the time and I was so looking forward to that wonderful place where God would wipe away all of my suffering and tears, and I would live forever with Him in eternal joy, happiness, and total bliss. And then… I realized that it was all just an ancient myth. That realization was extremely difficult to accept, and I stayed angry about it for a long time. And, of course, letting go of belief in God was extremely difficult too. I was very ANGRY that God was not actually real and that I had spent so many years of my life loving and worshiping a nonexistent being. Then, once I became aware of the many atrocities in the Old Testament that portray God repeatedly ordering or directly committing mass murder and genocide, I was ANGRY that I had been taught that God was Love, and that I had believed it so strongly for so long. There is no way now that I can accept the God of the Bible as loving, given what I know about the Old Testament, and even how he is portrayed in the New Testament. In Acts 5, God murders two people simply for lying to him about their finances, and if the book of Revelation were to come true in our modern world, billions of non-Christian people would die horribly and then be sent to an eternal hell to be tormented endlessly without any hope of reprieve, forever. This is a loving God? I don’t think so… And what about Jesus? I trusted him as my loving Lord and Savior for years! I never once thought about the fact that it was him who introduced the morally reprehensible concept of Hell to scripture, and I never once heard in church about how Jesus said we had to literally hate our families to truly be his disciples (Luke 14:26), and I certainly never heard that he ordered those who refused to follow him to be killed in front of him (Luke 19:27). And what about hacking off body parts that cause you to sin (Matthew 5)? Sure, I read that many times, but with my Jesus Goggles firmly in place, and I never gave it much, if any, critical thought.
The third stage of loss/grief is Bargaining. I can’t really say that I did a lot of bargaining, but I did still desperately want God to real and for Jesus to really be real and Alive in Heaven forevermore. I am sure that I did some bargaining in the form of prayer, asking God to prove Himself to me in a way that would be undeniable. Of course, he never did…
The fourth stage of loss/grief is Depression. I did indeed experience a great deal of depression when I realized that the Bible was mostly ancient myth and legend, that there is no God and that the God depicted within the pages of the Bible was not good or loving, and that there was no heaven wonderful beyond description waiting for me after I died. Depression and anger, at least for me, were two sides of the same coin, and I spent years flipping between them. Some of that, of course, was due to my bipolar illness, but a lot of it was a normal part of working through the loss of my God and my once-cherished religious beliefs.
The fifth and final stage of loss/grief is Acceptance. This is largely where I am now, and I bless the Lard mightily for it! Glory! When I write about religion here or on my glorious website or on Facebook, I do still often write with great passion and emotion, and sometimes I take trips back to the Anger phase of loss/grief, but I always end up coming back pretty quickly to Acceptance once I had done my writing and had my say. I have come to accept the fact that there very likely is no God and that there very likely is no afterlife waiting for us after we die. We just simply cease to exist, in all likelihood, and I am at peace with that probable reality now. Knowing that life is incredible and amazing and fun — but TEMPORARY — has given me reason to wring every last bit of happiness and joy and fun out of it that I can in the HERE and NOW! It has given me reason to show my loved ones how much I care about them NOW! I enjoy my life IMMENSELY with no religious or spiritual beliefs and no reference to God. It took me many years to work through the stages of loss/grief to finally arrive at Acceptance. I stayed ANGRY for years. But now, I am completely and gloriously FREE of religion! I am absolutely FREE of all religious fears! I am free to be ME and to enjoy the one life I have on this earth FULLY, with nothing held back and with no worries about pissing Jesus off or angering his father (who is also somehow magically Him). I don’t have much money and right now I am just beginning to work on building my health coaching career, but I am HAPPY, and I feel extremely grateful to webmaster Dave for creating this glorious site (his blog and these glorious forums), and I feel extremely grateful to have so many online friends here who share the bond of having left religious belief behind in favor of the REAL WORLD and who love me and accept me exactly as I am!
I am not really that angry about the years that I spent as a Christian believer now. Yes, I wish that things could have been different, but I think we all have some regrets in life once we have lived long enough. I am quite happy now as an ex-Christian atheist, and I firmly believe that the best approach to life is facing the real world exactly as it is — as brutal as that can be at times — instead of hiding from it through religious belief. Even the hardest blows in life, such as the deaths of loved ones — should be faced head on. There very likely is no afterlife waiting on us after we die. When people die, they really die and are gone forever. That’s why it is so important to spend as much time as we can with those we love and to grab every moment of life where we are here to enjoy it!
I apologize if this post has seemed rambling and somewhat disjointed. That’s a natural result of trying to cover thirty years of life and changing beliefs and thought and research in one post that is reasonable in length. But I hope I have conveyed at least to some extent what it is like to travel the road from Christianity –> ex-Christian –> Atheist, and to some extent why I am no longer a Christian believer..
For those who may be interested, I wrote a book in 2013 on my experiences with religion and bipolar disorder. I am happy to make it freely available to my readers.
I hope this post has been helpful to those who have not been in our shoes to make the journey from Christianity to Atheism. It can be hard to understand the life experiences of people who have lived through things that you have never had to experience. Trying to explain mental illness is difficult to relate to someone who has never had experience with it. In the same way, explaining the journey from religious belief to the lack of it can be difficult to relate, but I hope I have succeeded here at least to some degree.
I am extremely happy now and I enjoy life immensely with no reference to God or to any religious or spiritual beliefs whatsoever. I find the real world exactly as it really is interesting, exciting, and enthralling. Life is amazing and fun and very enjoyable indeed, but it is not permanent. It is a very precious thing because it is temporary and impermanent. Enjoy this life while you have it. There is no good evidence that there is another one waiting for us on the other side of the grave.
This article is almost too ridiculous to take responding to seriously, but what the hell? It might be fun. What is for sure is, that while some Christians might take this seriously as a reliable and serious guide, no educated, thinking atheist would. I won’t take the time or blog space to respond to the entire article, but a few choice selections should suffice. Glory!
Conversion to Christianity is a beautiful thing that requires that the person believes in God and in Jesus as the way to salvation.
Conversion to Christian faith is not at all a “beautiful thing”. It is a tragedy that often leads to years of totally unnecessary fear, guilt, shame and ignorance. Not to mention clinical depression often caused by needless fears over an imaginary religious concept called “sin” or over needless fears that one is not really “saved”, given the fact that there is no God and no such thing as “salvation”. Also, there is no such thing as “saved” or “lost”. That is a false distinction drawn by a demonstrably false religion.
Remember that Jesus doesn’t try to argue his way into an unwilling mind or soul. He simply loves unconditionally, forgiving sin of believers by God’s grace, through faith, not of works lest any should boast; it is the gift of God. Rather than trying to convert someone to religious beliefs, simply love them unconditionally, realizing Jesus said: “Neither do I condemn you — go and sin no more!” It’s that simple kind of concept that can introduce Jesus’ non-condemning approach to life. Then as you need to show Bible based good news to other people, here are some step-by-step approaches. Avoid working straight through a religious agenda.
Jesus loves unconditionally? Have you actually read your own damn holy book? Jesus introduced the morally reprehensible concept of Hell to scripture, he said that we must hate our families to be his true disciples (Luke 14:26), he commanded that those who refused to follow him be killed in front of him (Luke 19:27), and he advised us to hack off body parts that cause us to sin and piss God off (Matthew 5). According to the Book of Revelation, Jesus and his father (who are somehow magically Each Other while somehow magically being separate Persons at the same time, according to the doctrine of the Trinity) will someday murder billions of non-Christian people and then torment them in Hell forever. Hallelujah! There is not much good news to be found in the Bible, if you read it as it actually is, without Jesus Goggles firmly in place. It is impossible to discuss religion with the intent to proselytize someone without having a religious agenda!
Be ready to have your own faith challenged. You might get confronted with well-formulated factual arguments. Many atheists who are interested in Christianity will be able to explain Evolution, the Big Bang or other scientific theories in their stories and opinions. They might refer to certain scientific evidence and people to support these theories. Before starting a discussion, you must expect that they have a non-religious orthodoxy with their evidence aligned in their favor, as they see it, regarding origins from the vacuum of space, universe and life from a black hole, from nothing but (mindless) energy changing to matter by no plan, yet results so astonishing, with no design — matter “rattling around” to create all the orderly, interdependent processes — as the basis of theories of origins (unobservable stuff form into theories of what they believe) may be arguable, perhaps logical, but how so?
I can guarantee that if you talk to me about your faith, you will have it challenged. 🙂 What, exactly, is “non-religious orthodoxy”? Atheists have no gods, no creeds, no rituals, or anything else to be orthodox about! We do not “align” evidence. We simply accept the findings of science as they are, and most of us understand how the scientific method works. As is sadly and unfortunately common with Christians, whoever wrote this has little understanding of science or current scientific theories. We have very good evidence backing up our scientific theories such as the Big Bang (cosmic background radiation, for example) and overwhelming evidence in favor of theories such as biological evolution. There is no discernible divine plan governing our universe or our world, but the origin of the universe and our world and the diversity of life on this planet can all be explained quite well and quite coherently without referencing God or any religious texts, including the Bible. Hell, the Bible gets the origin of the universe and the earth completely wrong in the very first verse of Genesis and then degenerates rapidly down into two contradictory and absurd creation myths. Our current scientific theories are quite logical and can easily be explained logically, but the same cannot be said of irrational and illogical religious beliefs such as Christianity. The central message of Christianity is that “God had to sacrifice Himself to Himself to save us from Himself because a talking snake convinced two obviously mythical people living in an obviously mythical place to eat magic fruit from a magic tree”. How, exactly, is that logical?
Understand that the Bible presents “infallible” logic in Genesis 1, by presenting creation in several phases, clearly, understandable as simple to complex!
Infallible logic? Seriously? Genesis chapters 1 and 2 presents two contradictory and absurd creation myths that have absolutely no scientific basis and which both contradict known facts about how this planet and the diversity of life on it came to be. Chapter 3 of Genesis rapidly degenerates into an absurd story involving two obviously mythical people, an obviously mythical place, a talking snake, and magic fruit from magic trees. Modern, educated, thinking people are supposed to take these ancient myths seriously? I don’t think so…
Check whether you believe that the Bible is scientifically correct enough for you point of view, every time it mentions science, even though it isn’t a science text. In perspective, 3000 years ago, before Greek geometry or Arabic algebra, the writer of the oldest Bible texts said correctly, before science existed, that the universe was dark and void “in the beginning” (Genesis 1). The Bible prophet Isaiah stated that the Earth was round 2500 years before Columbus sailed westward, for the East Indies, speaking of “the circle of the Earth”, spheres are “round/circular”, and, no, The Bible never said the Earth is flat.
Almost every time — if not every single time — the Bible mentions science, it gets it completely and often hilariously wrong! The biblical universe as described in Genesis 1 (small, three-tiered, and featuring a solid dome firmament with the stars fixed in it and a flat earth) bears little if any resemblance to the real universe as we know it to be today. The Bible prophet Isaiah did no such thing. The verse being referenced here is Isaiah 40:22 which states, “He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in.” This verse clearly teaches a flat earth since people would only appear “as grasshoppers” if seen from a great height and, generally speaking, you spread out a tent on a flat surface! The Bible indeed never explicitly states that the earth is flat, but it teaches that quite clearly, and not just in Isaiah 40:22. See also Daniel 4:11 and Matthew 4:8, both of which clearly teach that the earth is flat and which, in fact, require it to be flat if they are to be taken literally as true.
Be knowledgeable about Christianity. If you are a Christian and you believe that the Bible is the direct word of God, then have you read most of it and the four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John? If not, you may find the person you are trying to convert is better versed in the Bible than you. Remember that atheists live in a world that is mostly religious. They may have hardened their beliefs more than a Christian who lives in a mostly Christian society.
If you are a Christian and you want to remain one, this is very bad advice! Actually reading the Bible is one of the fastest ways I personally know of to become an atheist! Most atheists do indeed generally know much more about the Bible and the origins and contents of it than most Christians do. That’s a big reason why many of us who used to be Christian believers are now atheists! It is impossible to be aware of the contents of the Bible — the myths, the fables, the contradictions, the absurdities, the atrocities, the forgeries, the known bad “history”, etc. — and still take it seriously as the “word” of a god.
Familiarize yourself with some atheist arguments. If you’re going to present an argument for your beliefs, research how Christians answer what atheists have said about your arguments in the past. This will help meet the interest in the other person’s thoughts and time. You might see some atheist opinion, and hardened views online.
Another piece of very bad advice for Christian believers who want to remain believers! Research atheist arguments, and you are virtually guaranteed to find them much more reasonable and rational and fact-based than Christian arguments!
Be honest if feel your Christianity is being mocked. Give respect to an atheist, but also insist on respect for yourself. Discussion need not turn to an angry, harsh argument or put-downs. Don’t accept something said in a mean spirit without letting the person know how it makes you feel. However, realize that while you deserve respect, your ideas should stand on their own merit. Don’t be thin-skinned when your beliefs are challenged. Also, what you consider mockery might have a serious point that can be explicitly addressed. Don’t just assume that someone’s rebuttals are mean-spirited. Before reacting, make sure you understand the point made and keep a cool (and compassionate) attitude.
PEOPLE deserve respect. The same cannot be said for beliefs. Beliefs that are ridiculous or absurd can and should be openly mocked without apology! If Christians can keep their cool while their ridiculous mythological beliefs are being mocked, then awesome. If not, then that’s fine too. There’s not much that is more entertaining in an online debate/discussion than a supposedly “Spirit-filled” Christian losing their divinely-inspired cool and becoming very un-Christlike in a hell of a hurry when their silly beliefs are challenged or mocked. Glory!
Establish a common language. You will not convince an atheist that your belief has merit, if you use assumptions that the atheist does not agree are valid. You have to establish a common definition for terms and try to play with semantics to gloss over a point. When you have a discussion, it is best to speak the same language. This means that you will have to back up and use secular reasoning to establish your theological ideas.
There is no such thing as a common language that can be established between an atheist dealing with reality as it actually is and a Christian believer trapped in a religious fantasy world which has no discernible basis in reality. It is impossible to use “secular reasoning” to establish theological ideas which have no discernible or demonstrable basis in reality.
Ask why your friend is Atheist. Has your friend always felt that there is no (caring) creator? Has something happened to cause this person pain in life, or feel that religious leaders are hypocritical? Or does he or she simply choose to base a belief system on scientific proof? Whatever the reason is, you need to get to the core of your friend’s beliefs.
Do not assume to know anything about why. Ask whether he doesn’t believe because God made him mad. It’s a sensible question, and won’t hinder your discussion.
If I am asked, I will be more than happy to explain why I am an atheist, why I don’t believe in God, why I don’t consider the God of the Bible worthy of worship, and why I find it impossible to take the Bible seriously as the “word” of a God. The same can be said of most atheists. If asked, we will be more than happy to explain our position(s). I personally am not an atheist because I’m mad at a being that I don’t believe exists. I am an atheist because I see absolutely zero evidence that a god of any kind actually exists. God never thinks, says, or does anything at all in the real world except in the minds of believers, and that is a huge clue to his actual nonexistence. I do, however, object to acts that God is said to have committed in the Bible. I find mass murder and genocide (which God is recorded as either ordering or directly committing repeatedly in the Old Testament) morally objectionable, and I also find the concept of Hell, which Jesus allegedly introduced to scripture, to be morally reprehensible.
Discuss the tenets of Christianity. Remember: “People don’t light a lamp and put it under a basket but on a lamp stand, and it gives light to everyone.”(Matthew 5:15-16). Quoting the Bible at an opportunity isn’t counterproductive and saying “I thank God for [something]” is fine. Remember, an atheist does not agree, by default, that the Bible is a valid source of information. You would have to establish that.
Discuss the tenets of Christianity with any knowledgeable atheist, and you will find them rapidly and utterly dismantled and demolished. The Bible is not a valid source of accurate and reliable information, and that fact is easy to establish.
Explain why Christianity helps people to live better lives. It may also be useful to tell your friend about people you’ve met at church. When listing their good qualities, include that they are “religious, devout, etc. Their religious fervor is going to impress an atheist.
Create reasons for your faith that have everything to do with personal experience. An atheist may want definite evidence, not just a rehearsal of your faith. You’ll have to provide concrete facts and scientifically thought out arguments. Your beliefs based on faith, God’s love and joy of worship (all immaterial things) are not evidence to the unbeliever. In fact, a reliance on faith is evidence that you aren’t relying on facts. However, this will work in your favor as faith is, by its nature, non-corporeal (not material matters).
Lots of people think that their religious beliefs make their lives better. That is hardly exclusive to Christianity. But I have found that dealing with the real world as it actually is without reference to an imaginary God or gods or any religious or spiritual beliefs at all has greatly enhanced the quality of my life and the happiness and joy that I get out of living it. Religious fervor is not the slightest bit impressive to an atheist! 😆 🙄 There are no concrete facts or scientific arguments that favor belief in God or in the tenets of Christianity, so good luck with that!
Give practical advice from the Holy Book, such as from the book of Proverbs. Keep in mind that this may not be effective since arguing from the Bible expects him or her to acknowledge it. Don’t forget to point out the Scripture itself; that way, he or she will know that it’s not your own thinking.
Yes, I’d love to hear practical advice from the Christian holy book. Shall we derive happiness from bashing the heads of infants against rocks (Psalm 137:9)? Shall we stone disobedient children to death (Deuteronomy 21:18-21)? Shall we execute homosexuals (Leviticus 20:13)? Shall we piss Jesus off by wearing clothes made of mixed fabrics (Deuteronomy 22:11)? Shall we piss him off too by eating shellfish (Leviticus 11:12)? Any religious “thinking” is not going to be original thinking, but the thoughts of ignorant men who lived a very long time ago. As Dr. House (fictional TV doctor) is famous for having said, “if you could reason with religious people, there would be no religious people.” If Christians would just think for themselves and if they would just actually read their own damn holy book, they would not remain Christians!
Even if your friend feels uncomfortable with it, pray to the Father in Jesus’ name or pray to Jesus aloud. As your friend listens (or just allows you to pray), pray that God will bless your friend and draw closer. Remember, it is God’s work to draw people in as they learn the Gospel, the Holy Spirit who cleanses them — and Jesus who saves by grace, through faith, not of yourself, not by working, so no one may boast; it is the gift of God… as you are created in Christ Jesus to do good works that God prepared for us to do…
Sure, you talk to yourself and delude yourself into believing that you are addressing an Invisible Magically Undead Man who lives in the Sky, and I’ll think for you. I won’t be the least bit uncomfortable doing that, but I might have a hard time not laughing while you pray to an imaginary being and irrationally expect a nonexistent being to do magical things in my life.
This concludes my response to this ridiculous and, quite frankly, hilarious article. This response has been long enough, I think, and hopefully you have been as entertained reading it as I have been writing it. Glory!