Browsing Archives for Journey to Atheism

I have received many emails over the past weeks and from what I have read, it seems that a lot of people lose their faith around the age of twelve or thirteen.  I keep wondering why it took me so long.  I never even considered questioning the validity of my faith until I was thirty five years old!  Oh, I struggled with my faith.  I wrestled with my faith.  I often abhorred and loathed my faith in the midst of celebrating and carefully trying to follow my faith.  I detested many of the things that the bible taught especially concerning women, but I never even considered that it was not the truth.

Over time, I did what most Christians I know do.  I re-fashioned my faith to suit my personal version of god.  I decided that the Apostle Paul was a moron and his views on women were neanderthal so I threw him out.  I decided that gay people weren’t hurting anyone and god couldn’t possibly be serious in his condemnation of homosexuality so I tossed that out too. I could not reconcile the story of Abraham’s aborted sacrifice of Isaac so I just tried not to think about it.  I decided that the creation story was a symbol for… for… for uh… for… um…for uh…for people… not having… science yet???  I tried hard to believe in the virgin birth, but everytime I had to teach the nativity story in Sunday school, I felt like the words were burning my lips as they came out of my mouth.

When I taught the junior high age kids, I tried to focus on the ‘literary value’ of knowing the stories in the bible. Just having a basic knowledge of the characters and stories in the bible makes all sorts of other classic literature more understandable. Besides!  Every once in a while, an actual valuable moral lesson would come up in these bible stories and that would lead to some good discussion!  But for the most part, the stories in the bible are designed to teach people about god.  They are supposed to increase faith – faith in hard times, faith under persecution, faith when god requires something difficult (like murdering your own child).  They also teach people about god’s character, god’s attributes and god’s desperate need for constant devotion and attention. The bible stories are generally NOT designed to teach people how to live a decent, moral life based on making sound decisions.

So I was always struggling, struggling, struggling with my faith.

But actually doubting the whole thing was true?

WHAAAAT?

No.

That was not even a remote possibility for me.

Until…

One Sunday…

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I was standing at the back of the church right before worship started and I was helping to prepare the acolytes to go up and light the candles on the altar.

In my former church, the acolytes wear white robes and carry long brass ‘candle lighter thingys’ that are used to reach up and light the candles on the altar.  The typical acolyte is between eight and thirteen years old. The lighting of the candles is supposed to be very somber procession that prepares the congregation for worship, but actually it is a nice, youthful, often cute, moment during the service.  There are always times when the acolyte can’t reach the candles, or the candle won’t light, or one acolyte has to rescue another acolyte because the long brass ‘candle lighter thingy’ goes out.  In general, the procession of the acolytes does nothing to prepare anyone for a somber meeting with god.  Instead, it just makes everyone smile. Which is nice.

As I stood in the back of the church helping the acolytes into their robes and lighting their candles, I suddenly looked up and it was like the sanctuary quivered.  The room seemed to bend in half.  I felt like I was in a Sci-fi film and the space time continuum was about to puke out a caveman or a camel or a brachiosaurus!  Because I had this sudden thought!

This mind-bending idea!

This crazy, bizarre, ABSURD, PREPOSTEROUS NOTION!

THAT THE WORSHIP SERVICE WAS LIKE A PLAY!

It was THEATER!

The whole service was a carefully contrived performance designed to elicit certain emotions from the audience…

I mean the congregation..

I mean the audience...

I mean…?

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I have written, directed and acted in many shows for various events throughout my life. Costuming the alcolytes, handing them their props, and then giving them the stage direction to slowly enter up center stage – it was all so danged theatrical!  It wasn’t really real.  Was it?  For a moment I let myself have this brain busting thought that I was just a stage hand in a live performance of the ‘God Show’.

And then I had a flashback…

A church camp flashback…

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I was standing at the back of the chapel at my old church camp in Ashland Kansas.  The same small chapel where I had sung, and prayed and put on the musty, faded biblical robes and acted out the story of ‘The Good Samaritan’ and ‘Mary and Martha’ and ‘Jesus and Lazarus’.  The same church camp where I recieved my first dry husky kiss from a boy named Ricky who was the tallest kid at camp and years later when I saw him again he was four inches shorter than me. The same camp where kids got baptized in the swimming pool.  The same camp where my sister and I worked as lifeguards all summer after we graduated from highschool and I saved my money to buy an expensive Swatch swimsuit that looked so cool on another girl and made me look like a two by four.  The same camp where I regularly stole tall stacks of the camp cook Trudy’s homemade chocolate chip cookies out of the deep freeze, careful to prevent the screen door from slamming as I snuck back out of the kitchen.  And the same church camp  where once, a few weeks after a particularly heavy duty make out session with my highschool boyfriend, I sat on the toilet in the camp kitchen bathroom (because it was the only bathroom with a lock) praying for my period to start.  (Please god.  PLEASE make my period start!  Please god!  I will never make out again!  I won’t let him touch me!  Just please let the rivers flow.  Let them flow like the NILE god!  Yes!  Like the Nile river that you so craftily turned to blood god!  You are so great god!  You are so AWESOME!  Just please!  Please let my period start! PLEASE!)

My period did eventually start, but not until after I spent a terrified hour at the local drug store trying to figure out a way to shoplift a pregnancy test because I could not summon the courage to take one off the shelf and schlep it to the store clerk where he would clearly see that I was an unmarried teenager!  (I didn’t shoplift the pregnancy test either.  I also didn’t buy it.  I just decided to rely on the power of prayer to start my period and end my pregnancy worries.  And it WORKED!  But I thought about  shoplifting the pregnancy test which according to Jesus is just as BAD!)

Where was I?

Oh yeah!

My first spasm of doubt!

So suddenly, I am back at camp.

I am in the back of the church camp chapel.

And I hear two ministers debating about a song.

One minister said, “I don’t like to use songs that manipulate the kid’s emotions.”

The other minister replied, “But kids are emotional beings.  I think it is okay to sing these songs.”

The first minister returned, “I don’t know… it seems like those songs induce a certain state.”

The second minister answered back, “It is just a song… I don’t see how much harm it can do.”

I was absolutely stunned that these two ministers could have such a pointed debate over music.  What did they mean by manipulating my emotions through a song?  Did that mean that something as innocuous as music could influence my brain, my thoughts, my faith?

I never forgot that conversation.  Twenty years later, as I stood in the back of the sanctuary getting the acolytes ready, I remembered it again.

And I looked around me and noted…

The music

The candles

The costumes

The stained glass windows

The dark stained wood

The shiny people in their Sunday best

The large open bible surrounded by beautiful flowers

It all seemed designed to elicit a certain response.

I leaned against the wall in the back of the church and let myself consider the idea for a few minutes as the alcolytes began their slow march to the front of the sanctuary.

“Is it possible that this church service is a craftily contrived show developed over years and years to keep humankind in a perpetual state of religious devotion?” I asked myself.

“Is this all being done to manipulate me?”  I wondered.

I walked over to my family and slipped into the pew beside my young sons.

I picked up the bulletin to read over the order of the service checking out the selection of hymns and the title of the sermon.

“Nah… it can’t be just a show” I thought, “It has to be real.”

“How could it all be made up?” I asked myself

“Impossible!” I decided.

And then the organ blared out a dramatic chord , the candles flickered on the altar and I flipped my hymnal open and began to sing…


Friday night during a wine guzzling gathering with a few friends, I learned (after the wine had loosened our lips) that a local Baptist congregation has distributed my website address to their congregation via tiny slips of paper on a recent Sunday morning.  I am not sure why the slips of paper had to be so tiny, but I am guessing it would be so that the recipients could easily chew them up and swallow them if they were ever taken into custody by the local Jesus police. 

I have also heard that the Baptists are praying for me.  

Let me check and see if they prayers are working.

Yes…

Yep…

Wait…

WAIT…

Yep…..

YEP!!!!

Wait…

WAIT…

No!

NO!!!

NO!!!!!

Dammit!

I am still an atheist.

But then, it is not that surprising that the prayers wouldn’t work is it?  

Prayer has been proven to be completely ineffective over and over and OVER  again! 

In fact, prayers for medical recovery can result in further complications!  

So stop praying for your sick friends and relatives!

Or at least stop TELLING them that you are praying for them!

You are only making it WORSE!

 

And welcome local Baptists!  

I am glad you are here!

Feel free to join in the conversation.

If you are looking for the ‘cornerstone posts’ that explain why I became an atheist after 41 years of devout christianity – here are the links…

How I Became an Atheist  - A Parable

Former Christian Apologizes for Being Such a Huge Shit Head for All Those Years.

CDW Writes Better Ten Commandments Than God and It Wasn’t Even HARD!

And here is the story about when Two Baptist Missionaries Visited Me!  

Feel free to poke around my web site as much as you like.  If after exploring this site you discover that you are experiencing a few small twinges of doubt yourself and would like to talk to someone who will not fill your head with bronze age bible verses, please consider emailing me.  If you have long suspected that there really isn’t a man who lives in the sky who gives even half a mouse turd about the plight of humanity, you are not alone. There are many of us. Check out this post for some great resources.  And please don’t forget to read the comments. They are often the best and most entertaining part of my blog these days.  

Thanks for stopping by!

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In Other News….

Yes, I live in a small town and yes small towns have a tendency to be all up in everyone’s business which can be wonderful if your house burns down or you get really sick or you lose a loved one.  There are some nice advantages to small town life and my community does respond to people’s hardship if they know about it and can figure out a way to help.  Lots of different kinds of people respond to crisis in our town – both religious and non-religious.  The church-goers don’t have a corner on the market when it comes to helping out their neighbors.  

A few days ago, I was depositing my recycling in the big trailers down by the railroad tracks.  As I reached into the back of my van to pull out the last stack of newspapers, I looked up and there was ‘Bob’ (not his real name). Bob and I went to church together for eight years.  We served on committees together and even taught a Sunday school class together for two years. I had thought about Bob more than once over the past few months since my new ‘outlook on life’ became public and I knew in the depths of my heart that of all the people in my former church, Bob would be okay with it.   

Short note about my former church – I attended a somewhat liberal church.  The focus was truly service and fellowship.  It was not a bible beating type church nor a lunatic fringe church. The church had rubber walls and lots of people with different shades and severity of belief felt comfortable there.  But of all of the people that I knew in my former church – Bob was one of the most questioning, the best guitar players and the least likely to judge me for my stormy departure.  

So when I looked up and saw Bob leaning out of his truck and calling out a greeting, my face broke into a relaxed smile.  I knew he wouldn’t condemn me, wouldn’t hate me, and wouldn’t try to change my mind.  We talked for about fifteen minutes and it was a great conversation. He told me that he respected me for saying what I believed.  I told him that I always knew that he would be okay with my change of heart.  We talked about why we were the kind of people that could have this conversation without feeling defensive.  We talked about life and life after death and the difference between agnostics and atheists.  We talked about my kids and his dad and how life is so valuable.  We both teared up a few times.  The wind picked up and drug my tears across my face.  We finished the conversation by saying we hoped we could talk again some time.  Bob started his truck back up and headed back to work.  I closed the back door of the van and slid into the driver’s seat.  And that’s when I  glanced up at the rear view mirror and noticed that my left eye had dribbled mascara down my cheek in three black rivers.  I looked like a total freak!  I looked like I was channeling Richmond from the IT Crowd.  Thank goodness Bob was a longtime rock and roller so my goth look probably didn’t bother him much!


Have you not heard of Richmond?
Here’s a link to a brief synopsis of the life of Richmond and how he went from rising business executive to all around strange goth guy.  

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sFZP0bn40sg

I think Richmond is my new all purpose metaphor.

The Texas State School Board continues to be a potent force for the far right which dominates so many public policy decisions in American.  As a huge state with a large population, they wield ultimate control over the content of public school textbooks (not just for their own students, but for students in many states) because of their immense purchasing power.  Most of the members of the Texas BOE are conservative Christian Republicans and they have decided to give American History a re-write so that it conforms to their personal religious beliefs.

And the first thing to go?

Why, the unholy value of “separation of church and state” of course!

If the Texas BOE succeeds in their march around the public school curriculum, blowing their horns loudly enough to get god’s attention – the wall of separation between church and state is destined to come a tumbling down

And Thomas Jefferson will be buried underneath it.

These quotes are from a NY times article on the subject…

“I reject the notion by the left of a constitutional separation of church and state,” said David Bradley, a conservative from Beaumont who works in real estate. “I have $1,000 for the charity of your choice if you can find it in the Constitution.”

Cynthia Dunbar, a lawyer from Richmond who is a strict constitutionalist and thinks the nation was founded on Christian beliefs, managed to cut Thomas Jefferson from a list of figures whose writings inspired revolutions in the late 18th century and 19th century, replacing him with St. Thomas Aquinas, John Calvin and William Blackstone. (Jefferson is not well liked among conservatives on the board because he coined the term “separation between church and state.”)”

The Enlightenment was not the only philosophy on which these revolutions were based,” Ms. Dunbar said.

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So it’s out with Jefferson and down with the ‘wall of separation between church and state’ that our country has held as a sacred value and a vital way to live at peace with our fellow countrymen who may worship a different version of the deity than the one the Texas BOE prefers.  (You know the one… the Anglo Saxon, blonde, blue eyed, Jesus with the soft southern accent.)

What does the Texas BOE really hope to accomplish by allowing religion to have more influence in public education?

An increase in pogroms, lynchings and public burnings for heresy?

Let’s compare a few quotes of Thomas Jefferson – the horrifying infidel who first coined the phrase ‘separation of church and state’ – with the Texas BOE’s suggested replacement heroes (Aquinas, Calvin and Blackstone)

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From Thomas Jefferson…

“Educate and inform the whole mass of the people… They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.”

“Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day.”

“He who knows best knows how little he knows.”

“He who knows nothing is closer to the truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods and errors.”

“Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.”

“I abhor war and view it as the greatest scourge of mankind.”

“I am mortified to be told that, in the United States of America, the sale of a book can become a subject of inquiry, and of criminal inquiry too.”

“I believe that every human mind feels pleasure in doing good to another.”

“I cannot live without books.”

“I do not find in orthodox Christianity one redeeming feature.”

“I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have.”

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Now let’s move onto the hero of the Texas BOE – Thomas Aquinas…

“Since the Jews are the slaves of the Church, she can dispose of their possessions”

“If forgers and malefactors are put to death by the secular power, there is much more reason for excommunicating and even putting to death one convicted of heresy”

“As regards the individual nature, woman is defective and misbegotten, for the active power of the male seed tends to the production of a perfect likeness in the masculine sex; while the production of a woman comes from defect in the active power.”

“Clearly the person who accepts the Church as an infallible guide will believe whatever the Church teaches.”
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And how about a hefty dose of that great proponent of human liberty  – John Calvin…

“Yet consider now, whether women are not quite past sense and reason, when they want to rule over men.”

“Knowledge of the sciences is so much smoke apart from the heavenly science of Christ.”

“There is no worse screen to block out the Spirit than confidence in our own intelligence.”

“Build a man a fire and he will be warm for a day; set him on fire and he will be warm for the rest of his life.”

John Calvin was responsible for setting many men and women on fire – literally -  for acts of heresy. Including the Michael Servetus an early scientist who discovered the workings of circulatory system in the human body.

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And finally a few quotes from that inspired forward thinker, William Blackstone…

“The husband and wife are one, and that one is the husband.”
“That the king can do no wrong is a necessary and fundamental principle of the English constitution.”

“Man…must necessarily be subject to the laws of his Creator, for he is entirely a dependent being…And, consequently, as man depends absolutely upon his Maker for everything, it is necessary that he should in all points conform to his Maker’s will.”

“No enactment of man can be considered law unless it conforms to the law of God.”

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HOLY (and I do mean Holy) SHIT!

Is it really any wonder that American education has fallen so far behind the rest of the first world?

Texas seems intent on sending our country straight back to the dark ages!

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I anticipate someone bringing up Jefferson’s views on slavery and women’s rights in the comments.  Jefferson did own slaves and it is possible that he produced six children with one of them (Sally Hemings).  As a young man he was an abolitionist and may have freed his own slaves if he had owned them free and clear – but like the rest of his ‘property’ – Jefferson was mortgaged to the hilt and deeply in debt making it impossible for him to free his slaves.  He did educate his slaves and treat them well and devoted much of his time and writings to finding a solution to the American problem of slavery.

Jefferson was not a proponent for women’s rights.  On the other hand, he also did not blame women for the ‘fall of mankind’ or ‘original sin’ nor did he ever burn a single woman at the stake for ‘witchcraft’.  In this regard, Jefferson was light years ahead of both Aquinas and Calvin.