A Reluctant Atheist…

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!

My Books

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.

Bipolar Disorder and My Religious Experience

I wrote a book last year about my struggles with bipolar disorder and my religious experience. I would like to offer it for free to my readers here on this glorious site. I have experienced several thankfully short-lived but very intense returns to religious belief during bipolar manic episodes, but other than those, I have been an atheist for 14 years now, and I plan on staying that way! Glory!

Bipolar Religiosity – Bipolar Disorder and My Religious Experience

http://alaskanatheist.me/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Bipolar-Religiosity-Bipolar-Disorder-and-My-Religious-Experience.pdf

My Thoughts on Robin William’s Death

This post has nothing to do with religion, but I thought it was worth sharing here…

I posted this to Facebook, but would like to share it here as well. I hope it helps someone in need. If you are suffering from depression, there is help available! The national suicide hotline number is 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Please seek help if you need it. There is no shame in depression, and it can be treated and recovery is possible!

I have always been very open and honest about my struggles with mental illness. I have never hidden the fact that I have bipolar disorder. My feeling is that the more mental illness is talked about and brought out into the open, the less stigma there will be because of it. I started having symptoms of mental illness after I had a serious seizure when I was ten years old. That was in 1976. The best anti-seizure medicine they had at the time was phenobarbital, and I was on it for six years. My mother’s opinion is that they took me off of it too quickly because I went straight for the alcohol, and so began many years of serious substance abuse. I was seriously bipolar by the time I was in high school, and most nights I was so manic I would have to drink myself to sleep. I would either hit the liquor cabinet, trying to be careful not to wake my mother up, or I would sneak out of the house late at night to go buy beer at a couple of convenience stores nearby that I knew would sell it to me, underage though I was. Back in those days there were not such strict laws for selling alcohol to minors like there are today. It was easy to get if you knew where to go… Anyway, school was not easy for me. I had few friends and I endured a lot of hell for being different. I know now that I was different because I was mentally ill. We all know how cruel kids can be if you don’t fit in… high school was a living hell except for band, a few true friends who accepted me as I was, and cool teachers who liked and cared about me. I have never had the opportunity to go to a high school reunion and I’m not sure I want to. It’s been thirty years, and most of those people back when we were in school wanted nothing to do with me. I participated in band and had great fun doing it, but I was left out of all the stuff the cool kids got to do. I never went to a beach party or hung out with friends at Dunbar Park (they were drinking or doing drugs anyway, so it’s just as well that I wasn’t there… I did plenty of that on my own or with the friends I did have…) or anything else the “normal” kids got to do. I didn’t even know most of this stuff went on until years later…

Anyway… while most of my peers were going to school and building their adult lives and careers, I was absolutely miserable with then undiagnosed bipolar disorder. I dealt with it either with extreme religious belief or with severe substance abuse. I spent many years trying to get through school and failing because I was so mentally ill and usually too drunk or too stoned to learn anything. I spent many years working many dead-end, low-wage jobs, barely managing to scrape by. I never had any extra money and at Christmas, my mother would loan me about $20 so I could go buy some cheap books and cassette tapes to give as gifts. There were many times that I would have been homeless on the streets of Houston, TX if my mother had not helped me out financially. She didn’t like doing it, but she loves me unconditionally and was always there for me.

I’m sharing all of this because of Robin William’s tragic death from suicide. He had money and fame and the adoration of millions, but none of that protects you from the ravages of mental illness. I know what it’s like to suffer from DEEP depression and to have no quality of life whatsoever. I can remember back around 2001, I was so miserable and so depressed that I slept almost all the time. Being awake HURT! My idea of getting out of the house was to go visit the apartment office and visit with the leasing agents. They knew that I was deeply troubled and they cared enough about me to try to help. But most of the time I was in my apartment asleep or wishing that I was asleep or wishing that I was dead so I didn’t have to hurt so bad. Sleep was the only escape I had from the unbearable pain of severe bipolar depression.

I have a great life now in Alaska and my mental health is so good now that I can’t tell most of the time that I even have bipolar disorder. I have finally completed school and I am looking forward to a rewarding career as a health coach. I get the incredible privilege of helping others live healthier and more fulfilling lives! I am looking forward to helping others who suffer from mental illness recover so that they too can truly enjoy living. I know what it is like for life to be a living hell of depression and failure after failure and having no money and feeling no hope that life can ever feel like it is worth living. I KNOW that I can help people who are suffering from mental illness feel better. I also know that many of them will not be able to pay me. But it’s not about the money. It’s about compassion and understanding and empathy and helping because now I can do it and I WANT to do it. If I can recover from years of severe mental illness, I know that I can help others to do the same. Just the other day at the NAMI meeting a woman shared how miserable and frequently suicidal she was. She has had struggles similar to my own. I reached out to her and offered to help and so far I have not heard from her, but at least I tried.

I understand why Robin Williams committed suicide. I understand the unbearable pain that deep depression must have been causing him. Money and fame and the adoration of millions cease to matter when life is nothing but unbearable pain. I wish he had not chosen such a tragic way to end his suffering and I wish he could have been helped. But I understand, and I’ll always remember him fondly as the hilarious Mork from Ork on the old “Mork & Mindy” TV show…

My life has been very different from that of most of my peers. It has not been “normal” by any means. But I’m not ashamed of it at all. Mental illness is not something to be ashamed of. The mentally ill should not have to endure the additional suffering that stigma causes on top of what they already suffer from their illness. The mentally ill deserve compassion, empathy, understanding, and all the help that they can get from those who care about them…

The Tragedy of Religion

jeffhagueThis is me in the Hague in 1984. I was enjoying a trip through Europe after graduating high school. I was a typical teenage party animal at the time. I drank heavily, I smoked cigarettes heavily, and I smoked pot every chance I got. I remember getting so stoned in Amsterdam one time I almost passed out. I was barely conscious as I went from the bar where I was partying to a bookstore down the street to browse. Those were fun times, and I had an absolute blast in Europe. The tragic thing is, though, just nine or ten months after this photo was taken — in March of 1985 — I caught the religion mind virus bad, and it took me 15 years to get free. I went from being a typical teenage party animal to being a young religious fanatic in record time. The transformation didn’t take long, and in retrospect it was not a good change. Sure, I temporarily dropped the alcohol and drug use, but in exchange I bought into the religious bullshit hook, line, and sinker. I know my friend Mike meant well when he “witnessed” to me about Jesus, but I have to say now that getting so heavily involved in religion for such a long time is one of the worst things that ever happened to me. I lost 15 years of my life that could have been spent much more productively. I missed out on the opportunity to grow out of my “party animal” days normally, without religion. I lost some of the best years of my young life to religion, and in retrospect it’s hard to fathom the change I went through from having so much fun in Europe to being a religious fanatic in such a short amount of time. I was not just your average religious fanatic either. I annoyed everyone I came into contact with about Jesus. I wrote evangelistic letters to my family. I handed out those ridiculous Chick tracts to convenience store clerks and toll booth operators. I told my loving mother repeatedly that she was going to hell if she didn’t get saved. We fought over religion many times, and I couldn’t be reasoned with. I had religion really, really bad. I hate to admit it now, but I sent money to the 700 Club and TBN back in those days. What a fool I was… I once pledged $1000 to the 700 Club during one of their telethons back in the late 1980s, but they never got the money. I didn’t have it to give. I just wanted to hear my name called out on TV… lol…

It took 15 years, but now I am FREE and I have been that way since early 2000, with the exception of a few short-lived bipolar-induced “re-conversion” experiences. The last one of those happened last year and I was rapidly becoming a fanatic fundie again. It was a scary time, but I came back to my senses as I always do, and I am still FREE. I plan on staying that way for the rest of my life. I had some good times while I was religious. It wasn’t all bad. I made some good friends and had some fun times at church. But overall, religion had a profoundly negative effect on my life. It made my suffering from the effects of bipolar disorder much worse than it had to be. I was prayed for many times back before I was diagnosed and I hit the floor many times for Jesus, but I was never healed, of course.

I know now that the Bible is mostly ancient religious mythology with some known bad “history” and some atrocities thrown in for good measure. It hardly qualifies as the “word” of any god worth worshiping. But I bought into it for a long time. If I had read the Old Testament much back in those days, I might have broken free a lot sooner. But, of course, I back then I stuck with the “church-approved” “good” parts of the Old Testament. I never knew about the atrocities depicted within its pages until after I broke free. If I had known back then that the god I was worshiping was guilty of ordering or directly committing mass murder and genocide on multiple occasions, I would have broken free a lot sooner, I think. If it had dawned on me when I read Acts 5 that killing people simply for lying was a harsh and totally inappropriate punishment, I might have broken free a lot sooner. If I had considered that if the book of Revelation were to come true today, BILLIONS of non-Christian people would die horrible deaths, I might have broken free sooner. But… I was always reading the Bible back then with religious blinders on. I had my Jesus Goggles firmly in place. On the rare occasion that I read the Bible now, I see how ridiculous blind belief in it as a literally true divinely-inspired book really is. I can’t believe now that I ever believed it to be a book sent straight from the throne of God. I know now that several books in the New Testament (Ephesians, Collosians, 2 Thessalonians, Titus, the letters to Timothy) are known forgeries. And we have no idea who wrote the Gospels (it wasn’t Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John).

I bought into a pack of ancient myths and lies for 15 years of my life, and it’s 15 years that I will never get back. I deeply regret my religious years (I was young and foolish) and I wish that things could have been different. I would love to have lived a normal life free of religion. But that wasn’t to be… but I am FREE now, and I plan on staying that way for the rest of my life. Glory!

Religious Trauma Syndrome

This syndrome, which deeply affects millions of people (including me) and which causes a tremendous amount of suffering, should have a prominent place in the new DSM V. I have diagnoses of bipolar disorder and most recently of BPD in addition to that, but I have have always known that much of my suffering from mental health issues has been directly caused by my involvement in the fundamentalist Christian cult. The brainwashing and the indoctrination and the false and harmful beliefs I was subjected to for 15 years of my life has done permanent damage. Christianity destroyed my life. A harmless belief system? Divine Truth? HARDLY. Fundamentalist Christianity is a dangerous cult that destroys the lives of many of its victims  and harms them all.

Symptoms of RTS:

Continue reading “Religious Trauma Syndrome”