Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Yeah, Yeah, I'm Still Here

Wondering if I want to make a serious commitment to blog on a regular basis, even if no on else ever reads what I write...or be a lazy butt and skip challenging myself. Hmmm.....

Monday, March 8, 2010

My Deconversion Story Part 2: Doubt


During my second year in college, my journey toward non-belief began. There were three moments when something happened in my mind and I came to conclusions that would shake the foundation my life was built on. However, my thoughts would be so clear and I would be so certain of them that I knew my faith would have to change.

First, one of my friends showed me a pro-life tract from her church. My opinion on abortion was (and still is) that abortion is a personal choice, between the parties involved, and that given the right situation abortion is definitely the right thing to do. The tract had a profound effect on me. I realized that there were people who were ready to stick their noses into the business of the men, women and doctors making the personal decision whether or not to carry a fetus to term.I did not want that decision made for me and I most definitely did not want to make that decision for anyone else. My reaction to the tract was quite literally, "Get your hands off of my uterus!". I didn't say anything because I knew that the so called "Christian" view on abortion was definitely a pro-choice view. More importantly, my realization that I was very pro-choice opened up a world of other issues for consideration and exploration. I had permission to think for myself!

My next moment of dissent occurred during a discipleship program that I was participating in. I took the program very seriously and I put a lot of work into it. During my private study time, and prior to meeting with the person who was leading the program, I developed an analogy that simplified a particular passage from Hebrews. I was really proud of the analogy because I felt like I was finally getting to the meat of the Bible. When I present my analogy to my discipleship teacher, his remark was something like, "It's good that you remember someone telling you that story." My immediate thought was he's saying that because I'm a girl! Needless to say, I stopped attending my discipleship meetings and studied the course on my own. I also learned that Christian leaders are flawed and sometimes they're even prejudiced. I knew the Bible's declarations about women, but this was the first time those declarations had affected me directly.

Finally, one night as I was studying the Bible and praying, an odd thought crept into my mind. I thought, "My prayers don't go past the ceiling." Just like that, not exited or hurried or even shocked, I might as well have thought, "I need to buy toilet paper." Even though I had this thought and it was crystal clear, I pushed it aside in order to keep my faith.

These three events led me to start looking at the world, including my faith with more scrutiny. However, I did not shed any of my beliefs at this time. In fact, I tried even harder to look for answers and pray that I would feel god's hand on my life again. But things were never the same between god and me.

I quit attending college after my second year, I didn't know what I wanted to major in and I certainly didn't know what kind of career I wanted to have. So, I moved back home and got a job. I was still active in my home church at this point, but my relationship with god remained rocky. I now know that I had begun letting go of god.

When my brother graduated from high school, my family moved to a larger town about 20 miles away from where I grew up. I didn't look for a place to worship and only occasionally drove back to my home church . I still believed in god, but I had decided organized religion was not my cup of tea. I didn't want to meddle in other people's lives, and I certainly did not want my thoughts and ideas to be dismissed simply because I had ovaries. I was sure that religion was getting in the way of god. After all, religion is the reason that the Jewish people missed Jesus. They were too wrapped up in maintaining all of their laws to see the Truth.

I began to intensely study the Bible on my own. I bought book after book to help me get the most meaning from my studies, but it would be years before I would step into a church again.

My Deconversion Story Part 1: Becoming a Christian


I am an atheist. I do not believe in god(s), ghosts, an afterlife, holy books, holy men, souls, angels, demons, psychics or saviors. I haven't always been an atheist, in fact, I spent most of my life as a believer in in all of the above. Although, far and away, the greatest influences upon my life were the religious ones. Because I was a believer, I think it's important to tell a bit of my conversion story before I explain how I came not to believe.

My first walk down the aisle was in the small Southern Baptist Church where I grew up. I am pretty sure that the year was 1979. I don't remember the exact date, I have it written down in a Bible somewhere, but the date was never very important to me. What was important to me was how I conducted my life after that day. Becoming a Christian felt as natural as breathing, everything about it, the church, the Bible, believing in heaven, all of it just seemed right. I was nine years old and I was sure that the rest of my life was planned and special because I was in the hands of god, I felt like I had no worries. Baptism (by immersion, of course) followed closely after my conversion to Christianity and my living testimony to Jesus Christ had truly begun.

My immediate family was not particularly religious and we attended church sporadically throughout my childhood, but being a Christian was always in the forefront of my mind. When I was a pre-teen, my parents started attending church regularly, even making my little brother go with us. This is when my beliefs in Christianity really started to grow and I went from a merely identifying as a Christian to having a burning desire for god. When my parents and my brother stopped going to church, but I was old enough to walk to church alone and I continued to attend. Although, I do have to say that I absolutely hated Sunday School and had started ditching that even before my parents stopped going to church. I had moved into my church's youth group and there was a group of older boys there that I wanted nothing to do with.

When my best friend(to this day), moved to the small town where I grew up, my involvement in the church's youth group sky rocketed along with even more solidifying of my Christian faith and beliefs. I was involved in every activity that was offered at my church, Sunday mornings, Sunday nights, puppet ministry, Acteens, Bible School, church camp, you name it, I did it and I loved every minute of it. I not only blossomed socially, but spiritually. I felt complete.

Graduating from high school meant moving on to college and leaving everything but my best friend behind. During my first year of college, my best friend and immediately got involved in a local church and started attending meetings on our campus at the Baptist Student Union. It was at the BSU that I didn't just learn to walk in my Christianity, I started to run in it. I started to lead groups of people my own age as well as leading groups of kids that were still in high school. Along with a small group of leaders from the BSU, I did Fifth Quarters for youth groups after football games in our area, I went on weekend retreats for high school kids where I led Bible Studies and was part of the leadership team. I was able to get involved in a Discipleship Program where I was able to study theology in depth for the first time. My friends were all part of the same group that I was, and my Christianity expanded exponentially. I also continued to attend my home church and started to take more of a leadership role there and in my little town as well. I went to church camp as an adult sponsor, and I was invited to speak at other youth groups in town. It was during this time that I was certain that god was calling me to be a missionary of some kind, I KNEW my life was going to be spent in service to god and I would not have had it any other way.

Ironically, it was in the midst of this spiritual growth spurt that my first doubts began to creep in.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

I've been moving

I'll get back to serious blogging in a few more days. I've had a big move to a new house, one that is ours, not rented! Yipee!! It's been difficult for a lot of reasons, but I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Evolution

Evolution doesn't get taught where I live. I remember the day that we talked about evolution in my sophomore biology class, it was the same day that one of my classmates accidentally said "orgasm" instead of "organism" while reading aloud. If it hadn't been for my colleague's mistake, I probably wouldn't remember discussing evolution at all. Actually, using the word discuss is being generous. My teacher probably spent 20 seconds on the subject and the information that was given to us, was given with a wink because we know how it really happened, right? God did it! I didn't get a dose of evolution in college, either, not even in the more advanced life science classes that I took like zoology and botany.

Religion robbed me of learning about a major concept in science and in life. If I had been taught about evolution in high school, I think it is entirely possible that I would have given up religion much sooner than I did. I'm sure that this is exactly the reason so much pressure is put on teachers and college instructors. Evolution is a step toward giving religion up, knowledge IS power. If religion can keep its hooks in a person through to adulthood, it's more likely that the person will continue to blindly follow its outdated dogma.

Needless to say, everything that I have learned about evolution so far, I have taught to myself. This hasn't been much of a problem for me, but for the kids who have come through the educational system after me, this is an issue. These kids have to compete in an increasingly global world, where the rest of the world is being taught evolution. The children who have come after me also have to compete with kids from different areas of the U.S., where evolution is taught. Not only is competition a problem, but some of these kids are becoming doctors, nurses and medical technicians. I certainly want to be treated by a doctor who not only understands evolution but believes it happens.

Sadly, I do not see things changing here any time soon. As a parent with children in school, I've found that the people who are supposed to be teaching evolution won't fight to teach it because they are afraid of losing their jobs and the rest of the teachers who should be teaching evolution, won't because they are creationists! I wish I had an answer for the big picture, a way to get evolution into schools, but I don't. The best that I can do is to educate myself and then to educate my children and to speak up even though I am in the minority on the subject.

Religion keeps us in the dark ages while the rest of the world marches right on past us. Very sad, indeed.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

I Am The Missing Link

Growing up, there was little choice and certainly no discussion as to whether anyone believed in god, they just did. Every school meeting, football, basketball or baseball game was prayed over, and as a teenager my social life was full of church-centered activities. I went to church camp in the Summer, I attended year-round youth group classes, there were Christmas parties and bonfires and puppet ministries to keep me busy and "doing god's will". My first two years in college were spent much the same way, except by then I didn't need anyone to tell me to go to church, I sought it out by myself. My children, however, have a spiritual life that is vastly different than mine was.

My daughter is 5 and cannot possibly have any idea about what she believes yet, so I'm only speaking for my oldest offspring. He is 15 and he's an atheist. He arrived at this conclusion on his own. I did my best to present evidence to him instead of theology either for or against god. I explained that friends and family had one view of how the world works, but there were people all over the world who had different views. I was honest with him about what my thoughts were on the subject but told him that he had to come to his own conclusions. I feel like I gave him answers but did not try to deliberately sway him one way or another.

He was the first one of us to use the word atheist, in fact he used it a full year before I did. I had a bad case of the "I don't believe that anymore, but I still believe whatever." I've found it very difficult and scary to give up all of the dogma that had been pounded into my brain since childhood, at first it felt a little like going outside without any pants on. My son, has never had this problem. He had the luxury of accepting or rejecting religion on its face. My son says that he is an atheist in the same matter-of-fact way he says that he has blue eyes. Even more importantly, he has never worried about spending eternity in hell or lain awake at night worried that the rapture was going to happen while he was asleep, leaving him alone in the world. I'm proud of these things. I'm happy that he has come to his own conclusions and that he is comfortable with the choice that he has made.

I'm the missing link because I'm the one who came through religion but didn't impose it upon my children. As my daughter grows up and is presented with the evidence for god, she may decide to believe. The important thing is that she will be given the choice based on facts, not superstition. Given this, I certainly think the odds are that she won't be a theist, but I'll let you know in ten years.