Thursday, November 24, 2011

My journey to atheism...

I wrote this a few years back on www.rationalresponders.com, and I figured you'd be interested. I'd like to add that I'm not really a Jesus Mythicist anymore. I don't think Jesus was a mythical person, however, the Biblical Jesus was clearly a mythical being based on a real preacher. If you want to get to know me better read the whole (long) thing. If not, well...it's up to you. Click the "read more" link to read more.

I was raised in a fairly secular home, though my mother, raised a Catholic (but she fell away from the church because of the Latin masses and the "Mary worship"), would pray with me every night before I slept. I never understood it, though. My first church service was a funeral for my maternal grandmother. All I remember of it was me, as a kid, screaming "open that box, my grandma's in there!" but mom recalls me speaking "like a chipmunk" for about a year afterwards. [likely due to stress] One thing you should know is that rejection and racism occur often in my life, especially early on. My mother's family, outside of her mother, opposed the marriage of their Connie to my half native American father (we thought her adopted brother, Kent, accepted the union as well, but it turned out he was trying to break them up by causing fights between them and sowing seeds of distrust when alone with one of them). The reason was purely racist, didn't want to dilute the bloodline with us damn mixed breeds. As a kid in preschool, I was rejected by other kids, mostly due to my attitude. I was a bit of a jerk, to say the least, which I believe is behaviour I took from my father, an emotional mess and a bit of an abusive person, emotionally. Occasionally physically too. And I'd of course abuse my poor little mentally handicapped brother in turn.

When I began kindergarten, my first (and only) friend was a well-to-do Christian kid named Danny who lived down the block. This was the first time I felt accepted and appreciated by someone other than my mother, so the association between Christianity and Acceptance was forming, and becoming strong. We watched a lot of his Christian videos like Gospel Bill, McGee and Me and Hanna Barbera's bible tales show where three kids went into Bible times...the name escapes me. He also took me to church once, but I came back obsessed with blood. That night when Mom ran my bath I said "No, mommy, not water, blood! I have to be bathed in the blood of the lamb!" or some such, and mom thought it unhealthy (it was!) Plus, Danny's mom did something that took colossal cojones. When preparing a guest sermon on Remembrance Day (November 11, I think Americans have a corresponding holiday) she called dad and asked him, since he was a Vietnam Veteran, a few questions about the experience of war. One of them was "what's it like to kill people?" I wasn't told WHY I wasn't allowed to see Danny after that, but I found out about 10 years later when Dad had accepted that Danny was a cool guy, but his mom wasn't. The religion stayed with me, sort of. I even had a prophetic dream that year, where I "predicted" my sister's birth, 6 weeks before mom knew she was pregnant. Jesus led me through a gingerbread house with assembly lines of angels manufacturing babies, and at the end gave me a beautiful little sister named Cyndal. Of course in the dream she was taller than she is now, much more sweet and kind, and has long blonde hair. The fact she was BORN with blonde hair seemed to confirm the prophecy, the fact it fell out soon afterwards due to Alopecia didn't deter me at all, I prophesied something.

I didn't have any other experience with religion at all up until the age of about 8, when dad was re-united with his foster mother (one of about 30 foster homes he'd been in was a Salvation Army minister's house, and it was the only one that treated him well. Ironically, when he was sexually abused by a clergyman a year or two after leaving that house, it was a Salvation Army minister.) He'd been taken away after her first husband died, due to a law barring single mothers from having foster kids, and hadn't seen her since the 1960s. I started going to Sunday school, and church, the former of which was fun, the latter of which was boring. I was picked up every Sunday, rode in the old Salvation Army van, and had fun learning about Jesus. I was not serious, though. Meanwhile, kids at school constantly picked on me partly for nerdiness, partly for being a bit darker, and mom urged me to start participating in sports, because I was too "bookish". Well, OK, because she and dad thought I was gay. So of course, with the racism and bullying, I was totally into anything that would make me stronger and more tough. At age 10 I hit puberty, and things really turned around as I was now bigger, more developed muscularly, physically fit, and in karate and boxing. So I started kicking a lot of arses, became a schoolyard bully, while still having my Sunday fun. Juniour Soldiers (mid week Sunday school for pre-teens) started in the middle of the week, and I joined. I was the "rebel" kid there, and thought I was the shit. They actually gave me Jr. Soldier of the year once, which was awesome.
This kept up for a year or so, until Grade 7, when a kid from Vancouver named Skylar moved here. I befriended him at first, but we had a falling out. Long story short, it was the first ever attempted murder on a primary school playground in British Columbia, probably first one in Canada. He brought a hunting knife to school (his reasoning being that I once said I'd kill him, which I probably did, but in no way meant it) and we had our daily word-war. That time it turned into a fight between me, Skylar and his one friend, Mark. Teacher broke us up, made us wait outside the Principal's office (actually outside the school, next to the flagpole) and Skylar spit on me a few times. I spit back, he said "I don't care how much trouble I get into for this" brandished the knife, and I jumped back while Mark held him back and talked sense into the 13 year old who was about to kill someone over a soiled jacket. They walked away, I told the teachers what happened, Skylar got suspended for several months (though not expelled until a little later). The fear of death was in me, I accepted Jesus for serious, and actually started caring about religion.

I got "saved" at church, and mom saw the new devotion to Christianity. Knowing that another kid from my school, named Steve, would be going to an A.C.E. (Accelerated Christian Education) private school named Praise Fellowship next year, she signed me up to protect me. Of course, I was in no danger as a restraining order prevented Skylar from attending the same school as me, but mothers are rather overprotective. Praise Fellowship was a very odd time in my life.

Despite having lower numbers, Praise Fellowship actually had a better ratio of non-white to white students (including me, 7 out of the 39 students were something other than white, compared to about 5 of 300+ in my other school). In the previous school I'd attended, Highlands Elementary, I'd experienced racism in minor forms (a few racial slurs here or there, one kid not being allowed to play with me because I was a "stupid indian" but nothing more), in Praise, I'd encounter my first White Supremacist, and my first taste of class warfare. He was a rich kid whose father was donating a lot to the school, so the administrators turned a blind eye to his jackassery. When he assaulted me in gym class, severely bruising my thigh and breaking a hockey stick...nothing. Didn't even have to replace the stick (his dad was paying enough to more than cover it). When he wrote an alternate version of the Book of Revelation, where the Angels of the Lord came down to wipe out the native Americans and grind their children into dogfood (in reference to a horrendous act of brutality the Americans committed against a tribe in the Appalachians) and force their parents to eat it "like the dogs they are", he was made to apologize to me personally. After the apology, when he showed me the pictures he drew of the events depicted in his alternate Revelation....nothing. When he physically assaulted one of the other native kids, nephew of the local chief, member of the only influential native family at the time, immediate expulsion. I was kind of sad I wasn't there that day.

Despite the racism and classism I experienced in Praise, I went radically conservative Christian, in accordance with their beliefs. I hated Communists and Evolutionists (VERY ironic, considering that I'm now a socialist and a believer in evolution), felt passionate about Santa Claus trying to take over Christmas, knew all the words to the Canadian Pledge of Allegiance (which they said was banned in public schools here in the 60s, but in reality was never in public schools in Canada...it was a direct plagiarism of the American pledge of allegiance, with "Canada" instead of "United States of America") hated gays, hated the British (because of what I found out they did to the Mohawks...conversely, dad loved the British for how nice they were to us, and hated the French for what they did to the Mohawks, though I didn't mind what the French did as their persecution of us was less severe, and the British were pretty nasty to them here too), hated catholics and atheists and abortionists and people who had pre-marital sex as well as people who didn't put stock in the KJV (yes, it was a KJV only church). While opposing racism, I was becoming a bigot myself. This is around the time the Aryan Nations moved into my area (the bully who got expelled for hitting the rich native kid went and joined them).

The family couldn't afford to keep me in Praise, which was OK by me, I had my faith and was growing displeased with the administration for their complete jackassery. I went to the public school system again next year, was behind a bit because unlike most private schools, Praise was a lower standard than the public schools. Luckily, Skylar had mellowed out a lot so I didn't need to renew the restraining order, and I hooked up with a bible study. I also went to a Foursquare youth group called Hiz House, led by a black guy from the U.S.A. named Ron P (the very first night I was accepted like a brother. One of the leaders said to me that night, "in the body of Christ we're all a different part, and I feel like you're a leg, someone we can lean on. I think that if you didn't show up next week, we'd notice your absence," which for a kid who had almost no friends was the best type of message he could get.) I was going to Corps. Cadets (Jr. Soldiers for teenagers) on Wednesdays, Hiz House on Fridays, Hiz House leadership meetings on Saturday afternoons (seriously, this youth group of 170 made me one of their leaders a month after joining, partly because of my intense dedication and partly because Danny was one of the other leaders) bible study during lunch hours on Mondays, church on Sunday, putting on a service for the senior citizens home with the other corps cadets Sunday nights. Then a guy named Ron S from the Salvation Army wanted to start a weekend youth group for Saturday nights, and wanted me to help in leading it, as I had already decided to be a youth pastor at age 14. This Salvation Army Youth Group turned into a Youth Drop In Centre every night outside of Sunday, and I was there every night except Friday, barring homework. Church, and god, had become my entire life. At the age of 15, it suffered some setbacks, as both Ron P and Ron S had to leave their positions (P, married with 2 kids, had a "mutual crush" with a 15 year old girl, which apparently never amounted to anything more, but he was run out of town; S was caught stealing money from the Sally Ann). Hiz House continued under a different name with different leadership, but it went from 170 to 100 to 70 to 50 to 30, and the Salvation Army Youth Group and Youth Drop In Centre were closed down. I filled the void with Nights Alive and Young Life, but it wasn't the same, I didn't feel as accepted. So, of course, I doubted. It didn't last long after some intense prayer and a Franklin Graham revival tour, but I did doubt.

When I made it to High School, I started going to the Christian Centre youth group with Danny, Adam, and a bunch of other friends who were of varying degrees of faith, and kept up the Foursquare and Nights Alive and Young Life and Corps. Cadets. but in my grade 12 year, I moved out of Cranbrook, to Kimberley, so I had to leave all of those behind. I was quite sad, I figured I had lifelong friends at long last (though in fact only Adam is still a friend) and was thrown into a place where no one liked me (Kimberley's a racist hick town and they hate Cranbrook kids more than they hate minorities). I found, however, the closest knit church and youth group ever (there was a co-op between the Pentecostal and Presbyterian church) and I was in heaven. Friends, Jesus, and all that jazz. I kept going to it, and switching between the two churches, all throughout my first 2 years of college. However, in college, I met some intelligent atheists, and actually studied philosophy, so I actually analyzed my faith, and found many, many questions. Where did Cain's wife come from? Why is it that "God always existed" is a fine argument, but "matter and energy always existed" is not? How could Moses have written the Law when he DIED in the second book? If Jesus performed all those miracles, isn't it logical that everyone would have followed him? Why does a loving god still punish us for sins Adam and Eve did, and why was acquiring knowledge a sin at all? Some had adequate answers, most did not. After a year, I'd also come to the conclusion I'd never date Jen from the now-solely Presbyterian youth group. She said she'd never date a non-christian, and overlooked a perfectly good christian (me) for....a non-christian. By this time I was also mellowing out a lot on my hate, watching it dissolve, and in fact, becoming a liberal via Student Government and activism, and education (the more educated I got, the more liberal I got in my faith and in my politics. I convinced myself Jesus would do the same, and were he real, I bet he would). My political awakening opened my eyes to a lot of wrongs the church did, furthering my questioning and causing more doubt. And of course, getting a bit more in touch with my native American roots hurt my faith, as I saw all the systemic abuse the church put us through. But then I met Taylor.

I met her in 2001 online, and fell in love quickly. She helped me strengthen my faith a lot. Through thick and thin, we stayed together. Even when I had premarital sex (with someone else, after e-dating her for a while), she kept with me. Even when she, a staunch conservative, found out I was a lefty, we were close. I transferred to a christian liberal arts school in Edmonton (King's College University), and she followed. The school both strengthened my faith and weakened it (being around christians helped, but Tay turned out to be a complete nutjob, and no one could answer my questions satisfactorily, except one guy who thought demons were after him because he turned down the job of being the Antichrist. Oh, he and Tay are now married and expecting a baby. Funny how life turns out.) My grades dropped because I stayed up until 5 every goddamned morning convincing her she was a good person and she shouldn't kill herself and blah blah. But we got engaged. She and her mother met my family, and her mother determined that my by now very christian (thanks in part to me) family was all going to hell for...some reason, don't know what. Her whole family hated me because I was a liberal, and liberals must be evil. But she still loved me, and I loved her. I had another prophetic dream, where we got married and lived in the Philippines and ran a missionary hospital, and it turned out to be false, as you can probably guess by her getting married to the Antichrist. So I went totally depressed, and suicidal. I didn't do it, obviously.

But then I began thinking...Tay and her family are more godly than I in almost every way, and they said god didn't want us to be together, and I KNEW that god told me were were to be together forever, so why would god lie to one of us? I had my knee "healed" by a guy from Tay's church, and then I went to the Healing Rooms in Spokane, Washington, then
I had to get one more operation on the knee that god supposedly healed, so why didn't I get really healed? I started questioning everything, even more so than I ever had, and even questioned my questions. Was I trying to prove or disprove christianity, rather than find the truth? Were my questions really important, or red herrings? Were the answers I came up with right or wrong, was there a right or wrong answer? Then, a few months after my faith in the institution of the church crumbled completely, since it was man made, I discovered many, many similarities to other mythologies in the OT, and the NT as well. There other myths that shared details with biblical stories predated the bible by centuries, and were from the same area as Israel, so there's a high chance the Hebrews would have known about them. Borrowing from other mythologies was a common thing back in those days, but if these other myths were false and the bible is true, how does it make sense? It doesn't. it was the straw that broke the camel's back. If you want I can show you some of them. Since then I found a few other problems (gross scientific errors that even ancient Hebrews should have seen, evidence of massive amounts of forgery and interpolation, especially in the new testament, historical errors in the bible....but you know all of that).
Anyway, when I came out as an atheist to my friends, most of them, treated me quite horribly, which caused some bitterness. When I even hinted at having more faith in evolution or the big bang theory, and when it was discovered that I was reading the holy books of other religions, my family acted very poorly. Much like the crazy catholic mother, though I maintained the lie that I was christian. So, basically, christians in general made me angry, and I was very angry at myself for falling for a lie for so long. I'm over it, mostly. But I'm still critical of the religion. Seriously, its holy book is so very flawed...anyway, that's my history of belief, and why I left the religion. What I believe now? I basically believe that no religion is true. Each one has serious flaws. As such, none work for me. If there is a creator, it doesn't matter, since it never made itself known to us. That's my belief, in a nutshell. Thank you for your patience.

5 comments:

  1. i really enjoyed reading your story, Ben. thanks for sharing it. i'm proud to call you my friend.

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  2. Thank you Ben for sharing your life experience and your life with us. I didn't know that you had to go through so much. One thing I know Ben is that I am here for you my friend. Religion kills and destroy. I was quiet religious before I became Christian. And when I became Christian I was still religious until God the Holy Spirit told me that I have to change my ways and my thinking. It is not of Christ. I had to get rid of that religious spirit in me and let God deal with me, He had to do a lot of things in me. All the bitterness, hatred, rejection and etc.... in me. Yes, I had a story to tell too. But when I met this Jesus-the Jesus that I was ready for. You see I have met Jesus awhile back through a Mormon missionary but I was not ready to turn away from the world completely when I gave my life to Him. Even though I did the sinners prayers and all but something about me was not ready to fallow Him(Jesus) Maybe God didn't want me to join the Mormon church-that's how I would see it now and I thank God for that. Anyhow, until years later when I was 39 years old. I became very depressed. I searched happiness everywhere and thought I found it but it didn't last. I jump from one religion to another. I started to do soul searching/searching for the truth. I didn't want to accept that Jesus was THE ONLY WAY. After all i was raise Buddhist all my life. So I became very depressed and desperate. I was on my quest to find out THE TRUTH. I fast for almost 2 weeks. I ate very little, part of it because I wanted to die and part of it I wanted God to see that I was desperate for the TRUTH. So I was praying during that 2 weeks. Every chance I got I would fall on my knees and asking God to reveal the Truth to me. I always knew that there's only one God but thought that they're many ways to Him. Didn't want that Jesus way to God because I didn't want to be wrong. So I did this for almost two weeks. Sometimes I would just sat there and cried my eyes out to God and pour out my hearts to HIm because I ran out of words to say..... I told God that He that created me He would know my heart and can read my heart anyway.... so I asked HIm to read my heart and see what I want since I ran out of words to say to Him or prayers or whatever. So in away I dare God to know what was on my heart and what was my trouble and why I felt that way and why am I doing here, what is my purpose?? You know what? I didn't get any answered right away but that didn't stop me. I kept pressing in more because someone, somehow is going to answered me & I will not stop until I get the answer. One night when I wasn't expecting it...... God came into my home. I saw this bright light with my eyes close and it was 11 at night. In that Light I heard a voice said and felt a hand touched my head and said" Your sins are forgiven!" I went to bed that night crying all night and told God that if I died that night and never wake up in the morning and never sees heaven or Him. I believe that God came down and touched me and healed/set me free. I asked God one more thing that if I don't die that He would give me a new life, I wanted to start fresh again. I wanted to make new. And if He can do this for me I would give Him my life and worship/fallow Him all the days of my life. The next morning I woke up different.... as if I was in a dream... I felt very light like I could fly, all the heaviness was gone and depression. I then tested myself by trying to say something nesty... like the word "F" or " SH" I couldn't say it. It wouldn't come out, as if my tongue was tied up. So then I tried to think it... but I couldn't find it in my brain even. After that I pinched my self really hard and said...

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  3. "My God did I die??" Then I heard the voice coming from in side me saying...." You did die again with Christ living inside you!" After that I took off running around my house saying..." Hallelujah, Hallelujah!!" I was filled with a new Spirit right then and there without going to any churches or anyone/pastor laying hands on me. And do you know why??? It is because I was desperate.... I was determined.... I was real.... I was repentance.... I was ready for the truth.... I was at the end of the rope. The Bible says that when we seek HIm with all our hearts we will find Him. You see it's not because God is hidding from us. He is right there with reach... It's us that playing games with God. We kinda want Him/Truth but then we wanted on our own term. God is a God of just. He has rules and ways of doing things. It is on His term and His terms only. He will not make or force it on anyone to come to Him or seek Him. But He gives us that free agency/choice to choose. And when we really cried out to Him He is there to be real and reveal Himself/His love to you... Ben God loves you even now... even now that you are not seeking Him. He is waiting for you to come to Him with a sincere heart. His inviting you Ben. He doesn't love me more than you, the difference is that I want Him. God bless you my friend and you are in my constant prayers..... Love, Lui

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  4. Anon, I don't know whether or not I properly conveyed this, but I did believe & I honestly did seek the truth. It led me to atheism.
    Also, christianity is a religion. I skipped over my time in a non-denominational charismatic church where the "religiosity" wasn't present, mostly to keep this from becoming a novel, but I had plenty of experiences with Jesus, or so I thought at the time. I even had a prophetic dream with Jesus telling me something (I did detail that in the post). But I'm glad you're happy with your choice.

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  5. Wow, Ben...this is a brave entry--honest and real.

    I am so proud to call you my friend.

    :)

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