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  #1  
July 26th, 2006, 12:06 PM
Number_3's Avatar Mega Super Mommy
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I'm going to ask the age old question...

What made you conclude you are atheist / agnostic?

What was your philosophical background previously?

Is there anything particularly difficult to contend with because of this life choice?
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  #2  
July 27th, 2006, 07:52 AM
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What made you conclude you are atheist / agnostic?
Well, it's a long story, that started 10 years ago. To keep it short, my mother had an affair with our minister, which led to my father having an affair with my aunt (mom's sister) in retaliation. This led to 4 years of trauma (my therapist has actually diagnosed me with PTSD)...my father attempted suicide, my parents fought and put me in the middle, I began to rebel which put me in very bad situations, etc. Things didn't turn around for me until I got together with my now dh. But ever since this all happened, I haven't been able to enter a church without having a panic attack. I trust no religious figure. I just simply do not believe that a "god" would let such horrible things happen to innocent people. I'm not just talking about me. I'm talking about the mother who has to bury her child after they've been molested and murdered. I'm talking about the father who goes off to war only to be senselessly killed, leaving behind children who will never know the man he was. I'm talking about the American citizens having to pay freaking $4/gallon while the government puttses around in creating an affordable alternative. (a joke) People can feed me that "god gave us free will, he has a plan" crap all they want...I don't buy it. There's a postcard up on PostSecret right now that says "I think God is just a big placebo!" My thoughts exactly. My disbelief is not solely due to what happened in my childhood though. I had actually stopped attending church months before the affairs were found out. Even then I was not convinced.

What was your philosophical background previously?
I was raised in the Methodist church. Which is, I have no idea, just yet another Christian religion.

Is there anything particularly difficult to contend with because of this life choice?
Yes, my husband. He's a Catholic, and while he's not active, and he agrees with me that some of their beliefs are just way out there, he's still a believer. It makes for interesting debates in our home. The biggest problem is what to raise the kids as. We both agree we'd like them to go to church so they can grow up to choose what they want to believe in, but since I can't enter a church, and dh is too busy to take them to church, it's challenging to figure out what to do with them. My MIL has been taking them to church, which I would like to stop because she's drilling these ideas into their head in a way I don't approve of. I want them to have the option of deciding if there is a heaven, but she's flat out told them there is a heaven. And I can't tell you how upset I am at dinner every night when my oldest daughter wants to say grace, which my MIL is also responsible for.
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  #4  
July 27th, 2006, 03:18 PM
mrobinson
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Quote:
We both agree we'd like them to go to church so they can grow up to choose what they want to believe in, but since I can't enter a church, and dh is too busy to take them to church, it's challenging to figure out what to do with them. My MIL has been taking them to church, which I would like to stop because she's drilling these ideas into their head in a way I don't approve of. I want them to have the option of deciding if there is a heaven, but she's flat out told them there is a heaven. And I can't tell you how upset I am at dinner every night when my oldest daughter wants to say grace, which my MIL is also responsible for.[/b]
Would homeschooling at a time that works for both you and your husband be possible? Or have a spiritual leader you trust just come over for dinner on a weekly basis to discuss religion while you eat?

(I'm not a church go-er myself, but I thought some suggestions would be helpful?)
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  #5  
July 27th, 2006, 03:29 PM
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Quote:
I'm going to ask the age old question...

What made you conclude you are atheist / agnostic?[/b]
Like most kids I was dragged to church by my parents. UNLIKE most kids I was very questioning, and refused to take all the talk at face value. I read the entire bible the year I was 12 and found nothing at all in there to convince me a god could even exist. I have a life long interest in anthropology and related fields and have no doubt that science, not religion, has the answers. (Ohhhh, The Answers)

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What was your philosophical background previously?[/b]
Southern Baptist. I'm from the South! Woohoo!

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Is there anything particularly difficult to contend with because of this life choice?[/b]
During my day to day life, no, not at all. I don't hide the fact I'm atheist. We're living in a very strongly Christian community. In fact, Dh and I joke that there's a church for every person. Still, it's a pretty large city and everyone is extremely openminded. Sometimes I do find it hard to talk to Christians. Many of them invite my discussions but I'm not sure how much I can say before it starts to make them uneasy. But they can ask me anything they want.

~Nay
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  #6  
July 27th, 2006, 04:28 PM
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What made you conclude you are atheist / agnostic? The ability to question became my most valuable asset pretty early on, although I didn't engage it with very much intensity until I was about 20 or so (in college, thanks to an Anthropology professor). Perhaps I'm a bit too left-brained, but it really just made no sense that a higher being/creator would carry on as it has for thousands of years, as told by various religious doctrines. I think that man needs to feel a part of something bigger than him/herself so much so that he/she created god(s) in their image, rather than vice-versa.

What was your philosophical background previously? I was raised Catholic for a while, then when my parents divorced at 9 yrs old, I lived with Dad and I was raised without religion at all, although I ended up pursuing it on my own much later. I've studied everything from Christianity to Buddhism, and even the occult to no avail. Many of the teachings were wonderful, but all of those values could easily be applied in my life without all the dogma.

Is there anything particularly difficult to contend with because of this life choice? Family of course. DH is agnostic (also a former catholic) but he still struggles with stepping outside the box and full out owning a non-religious stance/philosophy. Between us there is no friction on the matter....it's his family that loves to stick in their 10 cents, esp. where my kids are concerned.
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  #7  
July 27th, 2006, 06:42 PM
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What made you conclude you are atheist / agnostic?

There were a lot of steps along the way, the first when I was in college and sitting in church and the priest was lecturing about how we all had to ban together to fight abortion. I am very pro-choice and felt quite hypocritical. I left church at that point. Then one day I had this realization that the Ancient Greeks and Romans created their Gods to explain what they couldn't and modern people are doing the same thing. Anytime something happens that is lucky or unlucky, God is thanked or blamed. It just doesn't make sense to me.

What was your philosophical background previously?
I was raised Catholic

Is there anything particularly difficult to contend with because of this life choice?
My husband was raised Jewish and he feels pretty much the same as me. I really have no interest in raising our child in a religion but told him if he wants to teach him Judiasm then he has my blessing. Telling my mom this is not going to be a fun conversation.
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  #8  
July 31st, 2006, 09:39 PM
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warning: My "Story" is ultra-long. This is what I wrote about it on a secular website 6 months after admitting my atheism to myself. Please note that I am no longer a hard-nosed atheist but I don't believe in god per se, either. And I don't think I'm agnostic. I'm not sure what to call myself. I'm just me. I don't think there is a label to describe my beliefs. Hope you don't mind me posting here. Well, enough with the intro. Here's the story of my journey out of Christianity...

Quote:
For as long as I can remember, religion has played a central role in my life. I can still remember playing in the church nursery before I was old enough to go to Sunday school.
When I started kindergarten, I went to a private, Xian school, where a subject called "Bible" was taught along with reading and math. We also attended church every Sunday and Wednesday night. I must admit that my very early church experiences were quite positive. They were filled with friends, family, laughter, and love.

But then it all fell apart. The church had a big "falling away" in which many people left the church. Among those who left were my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. My mom and dad split up. My mom, brother, and sister also quit going. My brother and sister are from my mom's first marriage in which she was left a widow. I lived with my mom during the week and my dad on the weekends. My dad and I were the only ones left in the family who went to church.

I quickly began resenting going to church. It went from a fun, warm place to a boring type of prison. I hated going, but I believed everything I was taught about god, Jesus, the holy spirit, and the bible via the church and school. I thought that there was a big guy in the sky who loved me, who died for me, but who would throw me into hell if I sinned against him. I lived my life in total fear that one day I'd tell a white lie, then die and be sent to a lake of fire forever and ever. I also constantly worried that I'd be "left behind" from the rapture.

Although my parents' separation didn't really matter to me, events that followed forever changed my life. Slowly, I watched my mom slipping away. She became someone I didn't know. She was no longer the loving mother I had known all my life. I didn't understand what was happening to her and it scared me.

It also came out that my mom was in a lesbian relationship. Her family disowned her. My grandpa made my grandma take down every picture of her in the house. No one spoke to her or acknowledged her existence. If they saw her in a store, they acted like they didn't see her. In disowning her, they also disowned me in a way. By trying to distance themselves from her, they also distanced themselves from me.

My dad married a lady, Jean, in the church. I really liked her a lot at first; but after they got married, she was no longer nice to me. She used to try to tell me that my mom was strung out on drugs and that one day either she'd sell me for drug money or someone would take me for her not paying them for the drugs. I didn't believe it. Not drugs. Not my mom. Drugs was something bad people did. Not only did I think she was lying, I hated her for it.

In addition, Jean was also very controlling. Simply being in church wasn't good enough. I also had to stare at the preacher the entire time or I'd be in trouble. I had to give 15 cents, 10% of my $1.5/week allowance to the church. I couldn't tap my foot or move my legs in church. I couldn't eat a peppermint, unless, of course, my dad gave it to me. I couldn't sit with my friends. I had to sit next to her. She made me hate church even more.

One day, it turns out that Jean was telling the truth. The cops raided my mom's home and she was arrested. I was there while they searched and I wasn't even worried. Even with Jean's warnings and the way my mom just didn't act right like herself anymore, it never crossed my mind that the cops would find anything. But they did. I was promptly sent to live with my dad. I lived with him and Jean until the day I got married.

I was extremely depressed about living with my dad & step-mom. I cried every single day after school for a couple of years. I wanted to go back home. I wanted my mom. I just wasn't comfortable around them. I couldn't be myself with them.

The church we went to was a charismatic type of church. It was a Church of God denomination. If you're not familiar with it, it is very similar to the Assembly of God denomination. Basically, it's the speaking-in-tongues, jumping, shouting, raising your hands, being "slain in the spirit" type of church.

I went through quite a few cycles of being a committed Xian. In a way, I wanted to be a Xian and in a way I didn't. I honestly believed that I lost my salvation every single time that I sinned. Sinning can also be of the mind, like not wanting to obey my dad & step-mom. I was taught that everything that I liked was evil and "of the world." You could only listen to Xian music and watch Xian movies. Don't even begin to think about boys. Do everything cheerfully. Obey without question. No complaints. Always smile. Because god placed Jean in authority over me, whatever she tells me to do is god's will for my life. I really tried, but no matter how hard I tried, I'd wind up cursing my dad & step-mom out in my mind and flipping them off when they turned around. Also, at this point, my mom was off drugs & clean as a whistle. When I visited her, I would have so much fun just being myself, without all of that god stuff. I worshipped the ground my sister walked on (don't ask me why!), and she wasn't into it. She did her own thing.

But this also put me in a weird position. I was scared that they were all going to hell. My mom was still a lesbian and by this time I had been thoroughly taught about the dangers of hell-fire to homosexuals. My sister was a stripper. My brother was high all the time. None of them ever set foot in a church or cracked open a Bible. I didn't want them to go to hell, so I wanted to be a witness to them. At the same time, I wanted to join them and forget all of the "no's" associated with a strict, "true" Xian life. I was having an internal war.

The straw that broke the camel's back, so to speak, came when I was about eleven. Up until this point, I had NEVER given my dad & step-mom a reason not to trust me. Nevertheless, they never trusted me to begin with. I don't know why except that maybe they were scared because I looked up to my sister and she was as wild as they come. I really can't explain it. They searched my room all the time. Despite my dad's suspicions, I didn't have a rebellious bone in my body. Yes, my thoughts were quite rebellious at times, but I never talked back to them in the first place, much less acted on what I was thinking. NEVER! But this one day, I went to an ice cream social held at the church for the youth group. We made our own ice cream. As we all know, vanilla has a peculiar smell. When I got back home, my dad accused me of drinking at church and made me sit there and breathe in his face so he could see if it was alcohol. Finally he let me go because he couldn't prove it. (But he really did think it was alcohol.)

That was it! I had had it! I thought, "If they don't trust me anyway, then why even try? I can't do anything as it is and they still accuse me of everything under the sun. So why not do what they think and live a little?" Thus began an extremely rebellious phase of my life. At this time, I still believed every lie associated with Xianity. I thought that if I died right then, I'd go to hell. I just didn't care. There were a couple of times when I retreated for a little bit back into the Xian lifestyle. Looking back, I think it was only because I was scared of going to hell. After all, self-preservation is one of the biggest instincts. For the most part, smoking, drinking, dabbling with weed, sneaking out, having sex, and telling my dad & step-mom exactly what I thought of them were a big part of my life. It stayed that way for a few years.

Finally, my dad & step-mom had enough. They couldn't control me, so they moved me to Mississippi. It worked. But the biggest reason it worked was that it was in Mississippi that I met my future husband. I fell head over heels for him. The thing was that he lived right next door to me. Before then, I never introduced my dad to any of my boyfriends. There was no getting around it since he lived so close. So he had Andy hanging over my head. If I screwed up, I wouldn't be able to see him. Simple as that.

Also, Andy was four and a half years older than me, and a little more mature. He went out and everything, but he wasn't stupid about it like I was. Andy calmed me down A LOT.

Another difference is that back home (close to New Orleans), you know who the Xians are. For the most part, you won't catch the people in church drinking the night before. And the people who aren't Xians, don't claim to be. They don't go out all week long, and then sit in church on Sundays. It just isn't like that. But here in Mississippi it is very much like that. It was here in Mississippi that I embraced the "once saved, always saved" doctrine. I thought, "Great! Now I can do my own thing and still go to heaven!" I loved it. I had the best of both worlds. I prayed, read my bible, went to church, but also had sex with Andy, listened to regular music, and watched whatever I wanted to on T.V. But it wasn't just me. Almost everyone in my school was like that. I remember one boy talking about preaching in his church one Sunday. Then, one day the next week he was absent and some of his friends were making comments that he was still trashed from the night before. This one girl who was the biggest advocate of "True Love Waits", pressuring everyone to join was pregnant upon graduation. It was just like that. People's religious lives did not affect their social lives.

Gradually, though, I became more and more committed to god. By this time, I was married and living on my own. I "knew" from my upbringing that I wasn't living right. God is supposed to be everything. Everything else is supposed to revolve around him, not the other way around. Pretty soon, god was my everything. This time it was for real. This wasn't a cycle. I gave him all of me. I completely surrendered myself to him.

But there was this one little issue of church. I didn't go. The reason is that I had never found a church that I liked in the area, even though I visited just about all of them and had been living there for a few years. For a long time, I just studied the bible on my own. I held my own "worship services" in my living room. I woke up early every morning just to pray, worship, and read the bible. The only thing I listened to was Xian radio and Xian music. I quit watching my T.V. shows that I used to love and “R” rated movies. God was my life at this point.

Eventually, I felt convicted that I should be going to church. I went all over the county & beyond looking for a church. Finally, I found a Church of God about thirty minutes from home. I fell in love with this church. It reminded me so much of my old church back in Chalmette. I really, really liked it. I went as often as the doors were opened. I couldn't get enough of it.

But then, I started noticing little things about the church that I didn't particularly like. It seemed to me that EVERY service was an emotional one, crying out to god for help. We were at the altar all the time, praying, crying, "seeking god's face". The preacher was always calling us to repent and give more of ourselves to god. But I had given every aspect of my life to god. I spent my breaks at school and work reading the bible. I praised him all day long. I made it my mission to "pray without ceasing." I memorized scripture daily. So, when the pastor would call for us to repent, sometimes I'd go up because of something like having spoken a harsh word to my husband. But it got to where he'd be calling us up there to repent and I hadn't sinned yet. So I'd be like the only person in the church who stayed in my seat. And it was like, "What's wrong with her?" I got the feeling that they were playing with people’s emotions. And it just didn't seem right anymore. So I quit going.

However, my "walk with god" continued strong. I felt that I was growing even closer to him than before. I continued to "have church" in my own house just as I did before I found that church. God was central to every aspect of my life. Nevertheless, I was in constant agony. You see, I worried about the salvation of my family quite often. I was convinced that they were going to burn in hell for eternity. I prayed day & night for them to be saved. I tried to let "the light of Jesus" shine through me. It was my solemn prayer that my life would be a witness to my family and others. I prayed that they would turn from their wicked ways and ask Jesus to come into their hearts.

That's where I was in life when I first started having questions about my faith. The first question came from a Xian message board to which I belonged. A young girl asked, "Did Jesus have to die?" My obvious knee-jerk reaction was "Of course he did! Or else we couldn't be saved!" But then, she asked why would god require a death in order to forgive us. It didn't sit right with me. I prayed about it, but no answer came. So I just chunked it into the huge "Don't think about this" category that I had been building for years. Anytime I had a doubt or a question, it was a sin and I just needed to have faith. It was my fault for not trusting god enough. I'd throw all of my doubts & questions into that category and promptly forget I ever had them. But this was the first question that I couldn't do that to. It wouldn't stay down. No matter how hard I tried, it loomed over me like a dark cloud. I gave myself the routine, "Who are you to question the almighty god?" lectures and repented for being so presumptuous. But despite my efforts to "battle the flesh", I couldn't understand why god would require a death to forgive us if he loves us so much.
After that, more atheists, agnostics, and freethinkers invaded that very same message board. Sometimes they offended me so bad I couldn't even begin to consider what they were saying. But one—make that two—positive things came out of their presence on the message board. For one thing, their judging god's actions by our moral standards of today was what made me start thinking that maybe, just maybe, it may be okay if I did the same. (The second thing is that they led me to the Sec Web, which led me to my WONDERFUL friends Tim & Anna!

Then September 11th happened. I didn't blame god or anything (even though the terrorists were religiously motivated, I didn't make the connection between them and my god). I just questioned him why Jesus couldn't come back RIGHT NOW. I was tired of this earth. I wanted to leave it all behind and join him in heaven. Even though my first reaction was to run to god, it wasn't long after that that I finally decided to that it would be okay to assess my faith and beliefs. I prayed to ask god if it would be okay, but he never answered. So I made the decision myself.

I decided to step back, away from everything I've ever been taught and believed. Then decide does it make sense? Do I have valid reasons to believe the way I do? That meant using non-Xian resources as well. After all, to make a "fair" assessment, I had to see what the other side had to say. When I started, I just knew I'd end up back where I was. I didn't realize it then; but now I see that the day I decided to explore my faith was the day I decided that intellectual honesty was more important to me than blind faith.

As soon as I opened myself up and allowed myself the freedom to think about uncomfortable subjects that I had never previously dealt with, it was as though a floodgate had opened. Question after question after question came to my mind. I lived with this day in and day out. I couldn't sleep. I'd lie in bed at night, just pondering these questions. I'd wake up in the middle of the night thinking about them, just to wake up hours before I had to, to think and pray about them some more. I couldn't get away from them. They consumed me. Pardon the expression, but it was pure hell living like that.

After 9/11, the biggest thing on my mind was other religions. I thought about the terrorists. I thought about the way they were raised to believe in Islam: the same way I was raised to believe in Xianity. All my life, I had been taught that Jesus was the one, true god. It never crossed my mind that I could be wrong. And I bet it never crossed the terrorists' minds that they could be wrong. There are countless other religions with adherents raised in that religion who are also certain that they are right. We can't all be right, but we're all searching for the same thing: something outside of ourselves, something to believe in. No one deliberately tries to believe in lies. Why would god punish someone who is honestly trying to find him with eternal torture? Then I realized that the real reason that I believed in Jesus was that I had been taught all my life to believe in Jesus. What if I was raised in a different part of the world? What if I had been taught all my life to believe in Muhammad? Would I go to hell? Am I just lucky that god let me be born in the "right" part of the world, where we believe in Jesus instead? And since god let these people be born in those parts of the world where they believe in religions outside of Xianity, knowing how unlikely a conversion to Xianity is, isn't he kind of tipping the scales, in favor of them going to hell? Why would a loving god do such a thing?

This was the first subject I explored. I read the bible and prayed about it. I asked god to guide me in his truth. I must be missing something. Surely, my god wouldn't be that cruel or unjust. I prayed and prayed and prayed and prayed. Then I prayed some more. No answers ever came.

During this period, I also spoke with a universalist, although he doesn't call himself this. He helped me out a lot. He gave me a book to read and I realized that there is a biblical basis for the universalist theory (that everyone, including satan, will eventually be reconciled back with god) once I take the spin off of scriptures that I had always been taught to put into them.

I also started really reading the bible like I had never read it before. No subject or verse was off limits. I couldn't believe my eyes! You wouldn't believe the atrocities recorded of the god of the bible! And the contradictions! WOW! I was stunned. Of course, I tried to get Xian explanations. I tried to figure out the meaning behind the text. But when you look at one verse and it DIRECTLY contradicts another verse, there's no getting around it. I was getting tired of having to come up with creative explanations of why there was such a discrepancy or why a loving god would do such a thing.
Pretty soon, I came to the horrific realization that I couldn't serve a god who would eternally torture people because he let them be born in the wrong part of the world and into the wrong religion. I'm not sure of which happened first, but I changed two things about my beliefs. One is that I quit believing in an inerrant bible. Two is that I quit believing in a hell of fiery flames. And gradually, after exploring concepts of punishment, I accepted the universalist theory.

Now I made the conscious decision to ignore all of the parts in the bible that spoke of a lake of fire type of hell, as well as all the parts that portrayed god as anything other than a loving being. As you well know, that is A LOT of the bible. At first, I was so happy with this. I had a pick-and-choose religion of my own design. Anytime someone challenged me about something horrible the bible attributes to the will of god, I could tell them, that's not the part of the bible I believe in. My god wouldn't do that.

This religious system did not last very long. Soon enough, I was beginning to wonder how do I *know* the parts that I choose to believe are true? What if I have it all mixed up? What if it's the other way around? How can I fully trust any of what the bible says?

Part of my journey was to find out for myself the "why" behind everything that I had ever been taught. Since I'm not just taking other people's word for granted, and since I can't trust the bible, what other proof is there that god exists? This is the point in my life that I knew my faith was crumbling. I was struggling to hold onto it. My faith was hanging on by a thread and it scared the mess out of me. I couldn't imagine life without god. I didn’t want a life without god. Anna recommended that I read Dan Barker's Losing Faith in Faith, but I refused. I was scared that it would put me over the edge. I knew my faith could not withstand anymore attacks. I wanted to believe.

It was then that I somehow learned about pantheism. At first, it really appealed to me. God equals nature. That's something I could believe. I was just about ready to sign up and become a member. At the same time, I didn't want to jump into anything. I was on the religious rebound. I realized that in order to be a pantheist, I could no longer believe in the god of the bible. That was what first allowed me to whisper to myself, "I don't believe in god anymore". It's like deep down, I knew I didn't believe, but I had never allowed myself to think it, much less speak it before. Pantheism put me over the edge. I am glad for that, but I am also glad that I took my time and found out more about it. I can safely say now that pantheism is most definitely not for me.

I first admitted my atheism to myself in December 2001. I've definitely had my ups and downs. However, no matter how "down" I've been, I've never even given half a thought to returning to religion. It is not an option. I did go through quite a rough patch of anger and resentment, with feelings of betrayal. But now I *think* I'm getting past that. On the upside, every waking moment is so much more precious. I enjoy life so much more now. It's great to be alive! My mind is free to think whatever I want and not feel guilty about it. Being solely responsible for myself is exhilarating. I'll never forget the feelings I had right before I was about to take a test. My automatic response was to pray that I would do well. Then I started laughing, realizing that it's just me. It's all me! Whether I do good or bad, it's me. I took the test and made an A! And it was 100% me who made that A! I made that A because I studied, not because some god decided to let me do well. Yes, there is life after god. And it's beautiful![/b]
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  #9  
August 1st, 2006, 10:06 AM
Number_3's Avatar Mega Super Mommy
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That's a great treatise Crystal! Not unlike my own, albeit different denominations. I love these types of discussions....it's my 'drug' so-to-speak. Glad you're here
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  #10  
August 1st, 2006, 12:18 PM
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warning: My "Story" is ultra-long. This is what I wrote about it on a secular website 6 months after admitting my atheism to myself. Please note that I am no longer a hard-nosed atheist but I don't believe in god per se, either. And I don't think I'm agnostic. I'm not sure what to call myself. I'm just me. I don't think there is a label to describe my beliefs. Hope you don't mind me posting here. Well, enough with the intro. Here's the story of my journey out of Christianity...

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For as long as I can remember, religion has played a central role in my life. I can still remember playing in the church nursery before I was old enough to go to Sunday school.
When I started kindergarten, I went to a private, Xian school, where a subject called "Bible" was taught along with reading and math. We also attended church every Sunday and Wednesday night. I must admit that my very early church experiences were quite positive. They were filled with friends, family, laughter, and love.

But then it all fell apart. The church had a big "falling away" in which many people left the church. Among those who left were my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. My mom and dad split up. My mom, brother, and sister also quit going. My brother and sister are from my mom's first marriage in which she was left a widow. I lived with my mom during the week and my dad on the weekends. My dad and I were the only ones left in the family who went to church.

I quickly began resenting going to church. It went from a fun, warm place to a boring type of prison. I hated going, but I believed everything I was taught about god, Jesus, the holy spirit, and the bible via the church and school. I thought that there was a big guy in the sky who loved me, who died for me, but who would throw me into hell if I sinned against him. I lived my life in total fear that one day I'd tell a white lie, then die and be sent to a lake of fire forever and ever. I also constantly worried that I'd be "left behind" from the rapture.

Although my parents' separation didn't really matter to me, events that followed forever changed my life. Slowly, I watched my mom slipping away. She became someone I didn't know. She was no longer the loving mother I had known all my life. I didn't understand what was happening to her and it scared me.

It also came out that my mom was in a lesbian relationship. Her family disowned her. My grandpa made my grandma take down every picture of her in the house. No one spoke to her or acknowledged her existence. If they saw her in a store, they acted like they didn't see her. In disowning her, they also disowned me in a way. By trying to distance themselves from her, they also distanced themselves from me.

My dad married a lady, Jean, in the church. I really liked her a lot at first; but after they got married, she was no longer nice to me. She used to try to tell me that my mom was strung out on drugs and that one day either she'd sell me for drug money or someone would take me for her not paying them for the drugs. I didn't believe it. Not drugs. Not my mom. Drugs was something bad people did. Not only did I think she was lying, I hated her for it.

In addition, Jean was also very controlling. Simply being in church wasn't good enough. I also had to stare at the preacher the entire time or I'd be in trouble. I had to give 15 cents, 10% of my $1.5/week allowance to the church. I couldn't tap my foot or move my legs in church. I couldn't eat a peppermint, unless, of course, my dad gave it to me. I couldn't sit with my friends. I had to sit next to her. She made me hate church even more.

One day, it turns out that Jean was telling the truth. The cops raided my mom's home and she was arrested. I was there while they searched and I wasn't even worried. Even with Jean's warnings and the way my mom just didn't act right like herself anymore, it never crossed my mind that the cops would find anything. But they did. I was promptly sent to live with my dad. I lived with him and Jean until the day I got married.

I was extremely depressed about living with my dad & step-mom. I cried every single day after school for a couple of years. I wanted to go back home. I wanted my mom. I just wasn't comfortable around them. I couldn't be myself with them.

The church we went to was a charismatic type of church. It was a Church of God denomination. If you're not familiar with it, it is very similar to the Assembly of God denomination. Basically, it's the speaking-in-tongues, jumping, shouting, raising your hands, being "slain in the spirit" type of church.

I went through quite a few cycles of being a committed Xian. In a way, I wanted to be a Xian and in a way I didn't. I honestly believed that I lost my salvation every single time that I sinned. Sinning can also be of the mind, like not wanting to obey my dad & step-mom. I was taught that everything that I liked was evil and "of the world." You could only listen to Xian music and watch Xian movies. Don't even begin to think about boys. Do everything cheerfully. Obey without question. No complaints. Always smile. Because god placed Jean in authority over me, whatever she tells me to do is god's will for my life. I really tried, but no matter how hard I tried, I'd wind up cursing my dad & step-mom out in my mind and flipping them off when they turned around. Also, at this point, my mom was off drugs & clean as a whistle. When I visited her, I would have so much fun just being myself, without all of that god stuff. I worshipped the ground my sister walked on (don't ask me why!), and she wasn't into it. She did her own thing.

But this also put me in a weird position. I was scared that they were all going to hell. My mom was still a lesbian and by this time I had been thoroughly taught about the dangers of hell-fire to homosexuals. My sister was a stripper. My brother was high all the time. None of them ever set foot in a church or cracked open a Bible. I didn't want them to go to hell, so I wanted to be a witness to them. At the same time, I wanted to join them and forget all of the "no's" associated with a strict, "true" Xian life. I was having an internal war.

The straw that broke the camel's back, so to speak, came when I was about eleven. Up until this point, I had NEVER given my dad & step-mom a reason not to trust me. Nevertheless, they never trusted me to begin with. I don't know why except that maybe they were scared because I looked up to my sister and she was as wild as they come. I really can't explain it. They searched my room all the time. Despite my dad's suspicions, I didn't have a rebellious bone in my body. Yes, my thoughts were quite rebellious at times, but I never talked back to them in the first place, much less acted on what I was thinking. NEVER! But this one day, I went to an ice cream social held at the church for the youth group. We made our own ice cream. As we all know, vanilla has a peculiar smell. When I got back home, my dad accused me of drinking at church and made me sit there and breathe in his face so he could see if it was alcohol. Finally he let me go because he couldn't prove it. (But he really did think it was alcohol.)

That was it! I had had it! I thought, "If they don't trust me anyway, then why even try? I can't do anything as it is and they still accuse me of everything under the sun. So why not do what they think and live a little?" Thus began an extremely rebellious phase of my life. At this time, I still believed every lie associated with Xianity. I thought that if I died right then, I'd go to hell. I just didn't care. There were a couple of times when I retreated for a little bit back into the Xian lifestyle. Looking back, I think it was only because I was scared of going to hell. After all, self-preservation is one of the biggest instincts. For the most part, smoking, drinking, dabbling with weed, sneaking out, having sex, and telling my dad & step-mom exactly what I thought of them were a big part of my life. It stayed that way for a few years.

Finally, my dad & step-mom had enough. They couldn't control me, so they moved me to Mississippi. It worked. But the biggest reason it worked was that it was in Mississippi that I met my future husband. I fell head over heels for him. The thing was that he lived right next door to me. Before then, I never introduced my dad to any of my boyfriends. There was no getting around it since he lived so close. So he had Andy hanging over my head. If I screwed up, I wouldn't be able to see him. Simple as that.

Also, Andy was four and a half years older than me, and a little more mature. He went out and everything, but he wasn't stupid about it like I was. Andy calmed me down A LOT.

Another difference is that back home (close to New Orleans), you know who the Xians are. For the most part, you won't catch the people in church drinking the night before. And the people who aren't Xians, don't claim to be. They don't go out all week long, and then sit in church on Sundays. It just isn't like that. But here in Mississippi it is very much like that. It was here in Mississippi that I embraced the "once saved, always saved" doctrine. I thought, "Great! Now I can do my own thing and still go to heaven!" I loved it. I had the best of both worlds. I prayed, read my bible, went to church, but also had sex with Andy, listened to regular music, and watched whatever I wanted to on T.V. But it wasn't just me. Almost everyone in my school was like that. I remember one boy talking about preaching in his church one Sunday. Then, one day the next week he was absent and some of his friends were making comments that he was still trashed from the night before. This one girl who was the biggest advocate of "True Love Waits", pressuring everyone to join was pregnant upon graduation. It was just like that. People's religious lives did not affect their social lives.

Gradually, though, I became more and more committed to god. By this time, I was married and living on my own. I "knew" from my upbringing that I wasn't living right. God is supposed to be everything. Everything else is supposed to revolve around him, not the other way around. Pretty soon, god was my everything. This time it was for real. This wasn't a cycle. I gave him all of me. I completely surrendered myself to him.

But there was this one little issue of church. I didn't go. The reason is that I had never found a church that I liked in the area, even though I visited just about all of them and had been living there for a few years. For a long time, I just studied the bible on my own. I held my own "worship services" in my living room. I woke up early every morning just to pray, worship, and read the bible. The only thing I listened to was Xian radio and Xian music. I quit watching my T.V. shows that I used to love and “R” rated movies. God was my life at this point.

Eventually, I felt convicted that I should be going to church. I went all over the county & beyond looking for a church. Finally, I found a Church of God about thirty minutes from home. I fell in love with this church. It reminded me so much of my old church back in Chalmette. I really, really liked it. I went as often as the doors were opened. I couldn't get enough of it.

But then, I started noticing little things about the church that I didn't particularly like. It seemed to me that EVERY service was an emotional one, crying out to god for help. We were at the altar all the time, praying, crying, "seeking god's face". The preacher was always calling us to repent and give more of ourselves to god. But I had given every aspect of my life to god. I spent my breaks at school and work reading the bible. I praised him all day long. I made it my mission to "pray without ceasing." I memorized scripture daily. So, when the pastor would call for us to repent, sometimes I'd go up because of something like having spoken a harsh word to my husband. But it got to where he'd be calling us up there to repent and I hadn't sinned yet. So I'd be like the only person in the church who stayed in my seat. And it was like, "What's wrong with her?" I got the feeling that they were playing with people’s emotions. And it just didn't seem right anymore. So I quit going.

However, my "walk with god" continued strong. I felt that I was growing even closer to him than before. I continued to "have church" in my own house just as I did before I found that church. God was central to every aspect of my life. Nevertheless, I was in constant agony. You see, I worried about the salvation of my family quite often. I was convinced that they were going to burn in hell for eternity. I prayed day & night for them to be saved. I tried to let "the light of Jesus" shine through me. It was my solemn prayer that my life would be a witness to my family and others. I prayed that they would turn from their wicked ways and ask Jesus to come into their hearts.

That's where I was in life when I first started having questions about my faith. The first question came from a Xian message board to which I belonged. A young girl asked, "Did Jesus have to die?" My obvious knee-jerk reaction was "Of course he did! Or else we couldn't be saved!" But then, she asked why would god require a death in order to forgive us. It didn't sit right with me. I prayed about it, but no answer came. So I just chunked it into the huge "Don't think about this" category that I had been building for years. Anytime I had a doubt or a question, it was a sin and I just needed to have faith. It was my fault for not trusting god enough. I'd throw all of my doubts & questions into that category and promptly forget I ever had them. But this was the first question that I couldn't do that to. It wouldn't stay down. No matter how hard I tried, it loomed over me like a dark cloud. I gave myself the routine, "Who are you to question the almighty god?" lectures and repented for being so presumptuous. But despite my efforts to "battle the flesh", I couldn't understand why god would require a death to forgive us if he loves us so much.
After that, more atheists, agnostics, and freethinkers invaded that very same message board. Sometimes they offended me so bad I couldn't even begin to consider what they were saying. But one—make that two—positive things came out of their presence on the message board. For one thing, their judging god's actions by our moral standards of today was what made me start thinking that maybe, just maybe, it may be okay if I did the same. (The second thing is that they led me to the Sec Web, which led me to my WONDERFUL friends Tim & Anna!

Then September 11th happened. I didn't blame god or anything (even though the terrorists were religiously motivated, I didn't make the connection between them and my god). I just questioned him why Jesus couldn't come back RIGHT NOW. I was tired of this earth. I wanted to leave it all behind and join him in heaven. Even though my first reaction was to run to god, it wasn't long after that that I finally decided to that it would be okay to assess my faith and beliefs. I prayed to ask god if it would be okay, but he never answered. So I made the decision myself.

I decided to step back, away from everything I've ever been taught and believed. Then decide does it make sense? Do I have valid reasons to believe the way I do? That meant using non-Xian resources as well. After all, to make a "fair" assessment, I had to see what the other side had to say. When I started, I just knew I'd end up back where I was. I didn't realize it then; but now I see that the day I decided to explore my faith was the day I decided that intellectual honesty was more important to me than blind faith.

As soon as I opened myself up and allowed myself the freedom to think about uncomfortable subjects that I had never previously dealt with, it was as though a floodgate had opened. Question after question after question came to my mind. I lived with this day in and day out. I couldn't sleep. I'd lie in bed at night, just pondering these questions. I'd wake up in the middle of the night thinking about them, just to wake up hours before I had to, to think and pray about them some more. I couldn't get away from them. They consumed me. Pardon the expression, but it was pure hell living like that.

After 9/11, the biggest thing on my mind was other religions. I thought about the terrorists. I thought about the way they were raised to believe in Islam: the same way I was raised to believe in Xianity. All my life, I had been taught that Jesus was the one, true god. It never crossed my mind that I could be wrong. And I bet it never crossed the terrorists' minds that they could be wrong. There are countless other religions with adherents raised in that religion who are also certain that they are right. We can't all be right, but we're all searching for the same thing: something outside of ourselves, something to believe in. No one deliberately tries to believe in lies. Why would god punish someone who is honestly trying to find him with eternal torture? Then I realized that the real reason that I believed in Jesus was that I had been taught all my life to believe in Jesus. What if I was raised in a different part of the world? What if I had been taught all my life to believe in Muhammad? Would I go to hell? Am I just lucky that god let me be born in the "right" part of the world, where we believe in Jesus instead? And since god let these people be born in those parts of the world where they believe in religions outside of Xianity, knowing how unlikely a conversion to Xianity is, isn't he kind of tipping the scales, in favor of them going to hell? Why would a loving god do such a thing?

This was the first subject I explored. I read the bible and prayed about it. I asked god to guide me in his truth. I must be missing something. Surely, my god wouldn't be that cruel or unjust. I prayed and prayed and prayed and prayed. Then I prayed some more. No answers ever came.

During this period, I also spoke with a universalist, although he doesn't call himself this. He helped me out a lot. He gave me a book to read and I realized that there is a biblical basis for the universalist theory (that everyone, including satan, will eventually be reconciled back with god) once I take the spin off of scriptures that I had always been taught to put into them.

I also started really reading the bible like I had never read it before. No subject or verse was off limits. I couldn't believe my eyes! You wouldn't believe the atrocities recorded of the god of the bible! And the contradictions! WOW! I was stunned. Of course, I tried to get Xian explanations. I tried to figure out the meaning behind the text. But when you look at one verse and it DIRECTLY contradicts another verse, there's no getting around it. I was getting tired of having to come up with creative explanations of why there was such a discrepancy or why a loving god would do such a thing.
Pretty soon, I came to the horrific realization that I couldn't serve a god who would eternally torture people because he let them be born in the wrong part of the world and into the wrong religion. I'm not sure of which happened first, but I changed two things about my beliefs. One is that I quit believing in an inerrant bible. Two is that I quit believing in a hell of fiery flames. And gradually, after exploring concepts of punishment, I accepted the universalist theory.

Now I made the conscious decision to ignore all of the parts in the bible that spoke of a lake of fire type of hell, as well as all the parts that portrayed god as anything other than a loving being. As you well know, that is A LOT of the bible. At first, I was so happy with this. I had a pick-and-choose religion of my own design. Anytime someone challenged me about something horrible the bible attributes to the will of god, I could tell them, that's not the part of the bible I believe in. My god wouldn't do that.

This religious system did not last very long. Soon enough, I was beginning to wonder how do I *know* the parts that I choose to believe are true? What if I have it all mixed up? What if it's the other way around? How can I fully trust any of what the bible says?

Part of my journey was to find out for myself the "why" behind everything that I had ever been taught. Since I'm not just taking other people's word for granted, and since I can't trust the bible, what other proof is there that god exists? This is the point in my life that I knew my faith was crumbling. I was struggling to hold onto it. My faith was hanging on by a thread and it scared the mess out of me. I couldn't imagine life without god. I didn’t want a life without god. Anna recommended that I read Dan Barker's Losing Faith in Faith, but I refused. I was scared that it would put me over the edge. I knew my faith could not withstand anymore attacks. I wanted to believe.

It was then that I somehow learned about pantheism. At first, it really appealed to me. God equals nature. That's something I could believe. I was just about ready to sign up and become a member. At the same time, I didn't want to jump into anything. I was on the religious rebound. I realized that in order to be a pantheist, I could no longer believe in the god of the bible. That was what first allowed me to whisper to myself, "I don't believe in god anymore". It's like deep down, I knew I didn't believe, but I had never allowed myself to think it, much less speak it before. Pantheism put me over the edge. I am glad for that, but I am also glad that I took my time and found out more about it. I can safely say now that pantheism is most definitely not for me.

I first admitted my atheism to myself in December 2001. I've definitely had my ups and downs. However, no matter how "down" I've been, I've never even given half a thought to returning to religion. It is not an option. I did go through quite a rough patch of anger and resentment, with feelings of betrayal. But now I *think* I'm getting past that. On the upside, every waking moment is so much more precious. I enjoy life so much more now. It's great to be alive! My mind is free to think whatever I want and not feel guilty about it. Being solely responsible for myself is exhilarating. I'll never forget the feelings I had right before I was about to take a test. My automatic response was to pray that I would do well. Then I started laughing, realizing that it's just me. It's all me! Whether I do good or bad, it's me. I took the test and made an A! And it was 100% me who made that A! I made that A because I studied, not because some god decided to let me do well. Yes, there is life after god. And it's beautiful![/b]
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Wow.

~Nay
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  #11  
August 2nd, 2006, 09:39 PM
ManInTheMoon's Avatar Platinum Supermommy
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What made you conclude you are atheist / agnostic?
I started questioning things at age 11 or 12. I think it was all the miracles that I just couldn't buy -- Jesus raised from the dead, Mary's immaculate conception, etc. I'm a very logical, rational person. It just didn't make sense. Also, I wondered how you knew your religion was the one true religion when there are so many religions out there. So, I started discussing religion with anyone who would talk about it. I asked people why they believed and I never got very good answers. (I could write a whole page about that, but I'm trying to give the short answer.) Anyway, I decided to do some research. I suppose I chose books to support my argument that there was no God, but they made really good points. I remember using those books to write a paper called "Blind Faith" for my humanities class that questioned God's exsitence. By age 15 I'd completely rejected the notion of God. I just can't take the leap of faith that a belief in God requires.

What was your philosophical background previously?
My mom prefered to just call herself a Christian, but we've gone to Luthern and Baptist churches.

Is there anything particularly difficult to contend with because of this life choice?
Oh, I've lost a friend because of my beliefs. She kept sending me prayers, and stories abut God, and junk in e-mails. Sometimes she send things that I took offense to, but I just ignored it. But one day she sent me this thing that said 85% of us believe in God, so we should tell the other 15% to sit down and shut up about taking the words "under God" out of the Pledge Of Aliegence. (I need a spell check!) Anyway, I finally had enough. I told her that I was one of the 15% she wanted to "shut up" and that her constant preaching was arrogant! Seriously, do you ever get athiest e-mails? I don't. I don't try to push my beliefs on them. I know that I can't prove that God doesn't exsist anymore than a believer can prove that God does exsist.

I'm going to have to continue this later. My baby is calling me!
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  #12  
August 5th, 2006, 12:48 PM
babydahl's Avatar Platinum Supermommy
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What made you conclude you are atheist / agnostic? I find it hard to believe in higher powers when there's so many horrible things that go on throughout the world every single day. I find the whole virgin giving birth to a baby story just a LITTLE bit hard to believe.

What was your philosophical background previously? I was raised Catholic and had to go to church every Sunday, until I was 16 and got a job.

Is there anything particularly difficult to contend with because of this life choice? There are definitely people that don't approve. As a teacher I try my best to avoid any discussions about religion because I fear losing my job because of my religious beliefs.
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  #13  
August 15th, 2006, 11:25 AM
kadydid
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Crystal that was great, and I found so many similarities. Thanks for sharing.


What made you conclude you are atheist / agnostic?
When I actually came out, and was ready to even think about it, was when I split with my first husband. I figured I was already going to hell so I might as well think about and question things that I have shut out of my mind for so long. For years, I would think about something for a moment, and push it to the back of my mind. I think threatening an eternity of hell is a very efficient way to have mind control over people.

I do not believe in god, any god. If I seen god with my own two eyes or any evidence of one I would believe. Until that point I am an atheist. Some moments I consider myself a pantheist.



What was your philosophical background previously?

I was baptized as a Lutheran and as a teen went to a non-denomination church (rolling on the floor hands in the air, lot’s of crying etc.)

Is there anything particularly difficult to contend with because of this life choice?

I lived most of my life being the favored child between my parents. I was definitely not in as much trouble as my half brothers (different dad) And I was always close to my parents. I made them a part of everything in my life. Most of my family lived in the Midwest so holidays, birthdays, get togethers, football games, etc. it was my family and my parents. I was constantly seeking my mothers approval. I always worried about what she thought of my house, the colors in my house, what I was wearing, everything. After they learned that I was an atheist, things very slowly started to change. After I met my DH (who is also an atheist) things changed even more still.

My mother for the most part did not say much, but probably once a month something really horrible would come out of her mouth. Like saying that god would take away my children away from me for not believing, or that I was going to go to hell and these little things she would say started to increase when my brother and his wife decided to move out here to help my dad run his business. My brother is a pretty strong Christian and she had someone who thought the same way as them. Finally it got to the point where she was saying things all the time. My animosity was growing. Usually before when she would say something I would just answer her with an eye roll or something of that nature (as a child would) but after awhile I started answering her back, and not in a childish manor.

My mom also had a horrible habit of talking to me about my father and the way he would treat her, which caused a riff in my relationship with him. I also did not agree with my father on any issues, (especially about homosexuals) They had started to treat my children differently and after my brother got here, they were constantly excluding my DH from things and he was starting to get his feelings from it.

Finally one day I had had it. And I told them confronted them on every single issue. They ignored me and didn’t talk to me for a month, didn’t call me on my birthday I got to the point I was so angry because of this I completely lost it. After a few back and fourth moments they both decided they no longer wanted to be part of my life. They still want to see my oldest children, but they don’t want anything to do with my baby. They pretty much concluded that I should just take what I am served and never answer them back. I would rather eat dirt.

I don’t associate with anyone in my family anymore. Except my two nieces that are my middle brother’s (who is in prison) kids. My mother has told everyone in my family that I am lying about the whole thing and that she never said any of that stuff, nor did she mean it that way. I don’t know why she even said that, because I never talked to anyone about it anyway, that's not my style.

Luckily I have the greatest in-laws in the world. And they totally accept everything about me, and they love and think I am great. I love them very much.
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