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Lerk last won the day on June 2 2016

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About Lerk

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    Strong Minded
  • Birthday 08/18/1960

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    Houston, Texas
  • Interests
    science, energy
  • More About Me
    I am a computer programmer, married over 35 years, with two grown children. My wife's father was a minister, and our younger son is a minister. My older son, fortunately, discovered the truth awhile back. The real truth, not the "capital 'T' Truth".

    Still attending church weekly. I was actually outed last year, but knowing how badly that was going to go, I jumped back into the closet. That has turned out to be pretty comfortable because people don't expect anything from me now, religiously speaking.

    I've explained to my wife how I came to understand that it was all mythology, but she really doesn't want to believe it, and I still say a prayer with her at dinner! But we're starting to skip that more often.

    In some ways, Christianity has kept my life and my family stable, and I appreciate the regular moral training about being a responsible citizen and family member, and about caring for others. I don't know that, without the "you have to be there every week" attitude, I would ever have accepted that training and my life may not be as good as it is. Then again, my life could easily have been better, and churches certainly don't have a monopoly on morality. (In fact, sometimes they're just downright immoral.)

    On the other hand, I wish I had all of those Sundays back to spend with my family doing things that would have kept us closer. I can't really blame religion for a lack of recreation in my life, as many 3-time-a-week Christians do, in fact, spend more time in recreation with their families than I did. My problem may just be the fact that I was just too "responsible", and I don't know whether religion did that, or if I was just born that way. (I know I have always tried to do what was expected of me, even as a child, so it may just be my neurological makeup.)

    Regardless, I wish I had the Sundays back, and that all of that money given to the church could have been used for enjoying life with my family.

    Regarding how I came to realize that Jehovah is a myth like all other gods, it was in church, and I was 52 years old, when the preacher read a couple of verses of Genesis 3. Having turned there I read the entire chapter and realized, for the first time, that there was no Satan in the chapter. It was an ordinary snake! I knew I didn't believe it as written, and that neither did anyone else present. We had, all of our lives, believed that Satan had used the serpent, yet the Bible said nothing of the kind. There's not a single person in that church, not a single person I know, who believes Genesis chapter 3, yet nearly everyone says it is true.

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  • Still have any Gods? If so, who or what?

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  1. I posted in the forums about how my older son discovered the truth about the Bible after he decided he really needed to study more. He had managed to come out of the closet and, he thought, not destroy his relationships. Well, it turned out to be more complicated than that, and it got really complicated for me, as well. My son and his wife had a baby. They live in another town, and his in-laws live there, as well. So we went to see meet new granddaughter. They weren't at church that Sunday, and in fact left the hospital for home about the time of the evening service. My wife and I went to church. We noticed my son's father-in-law looking what we thought was his usual odd self. We didn't really want to talk to him because even though our son was accepted as a "visitor" and "former member" by the church, his father-in-law is one of the "church discipline" types who thinks you can't have anything at all to do with any Christian who is "living in sin," and that being a Christian who has rejected God is "living in sin." (In other words, there's no such thing as an "ex-Christian." If you leave, you're an "erring Christian.") So when it was over we answered a few questions about the baby for the people who were asking and congratulating us, and then we made our way to the car. We planned to pick up dinner and take it to our son's house. But father-in-law went out a side door and intersected our path! As he approached, making a bee-line for me, my wife congratulated him on the new granddaughter, which interrupted his train of thought. He turned to her and shook her and and said "you -- congratulations!" Then he turned to me, refusing my hand, and said "and you... I KNOW YOUR SECRET." I replied "ohhhh kay?" and we proceeded to the car. Boy, was my wife mad. I was shocked. How in hell did he know I was an atheist? It was a tough night, but I didn't really know that anything would come of it. Our son already had a chilly relationship with him. The following Wednesday night I went to Bible class, and as usually, afterwards took our older granddaughter outside to play. But a little while later one of the elders came out and found me, and asked if they could speak with me. I took my granddaughter to our other son and told him the elders wanted to see me, then I went to the room they were meeting in. Only two of the three were there. One of them said to me, quite sheepishly, really, that they had been told I had a blog called "The Closet Atheist." Well, of course, that was true, but in my shock I was able to act shocked enough to deny it and, I thought, seem believable. I asked what it was, and he started to explain to me what a blog was. When I said, no, I understood that, he told me how there were pages and pages of posts dating back several years. After attempting to deny it, they said that they weren't inclined to believe it, but that they felt they had to ask. I wandered out in a daze and went home. My wife hadn't gone that night and I didn't say anything to her. She was unaware of the blog. So, I need to back up a bit. When my son first indicated that he was doubting, he also implied that his wife was kind-of on board with him. That was wishful thinking. In an effort to be supportive (and, frankly, because I was so happy for him) I told him about the blog, and even said he could tell his wife about it. I wanted her to know that even if they didn't agree, that didn't mean he wasn't the person she married, and it didn't mean their marriage was over. The baby's birth was four month's away at this point, and it really seemed important that she not suffer any undue stress. In reality, the realization that there are no such things as gods shouldn't cause anything but joy in one's life, but when you have fundamentalist family, it isn't simple at all. I wanted to help. But his wife really still believed, and she's not one to keep secrets, so when conversing and seeking advice from her parents, she mentioned my blog. Later in the week the elders emailed me wanting to meet again. I had to tell her now, and she yelled at me about how naive I had been. She's never been more right. I trust people. My daughter-in-law loves me. She wasn't trying to sabotage me or betray me, yet that's exactly what she did. My honesty plus hers combined to start an avalanche. I didn't know whether to be relieved or scared to death. My younger son and his family were moving... that Wednesday was to be the last one at this church, and they were headed on a vacation/journey to a new home on the West Coast. They left before I could talk to him. Right here -- this is it. The ONLY reason I cared whether anyone knew I was an atheist is because I was afraid it would affect my relationship with this younger son, and that he wouldn't want his daughter to be around me much. That's it. That's the only real negative that could happen in my life. And if that happened, my wife would never forgive me. Literally, not metaphorically, never forgive me. The blog was somewhat cryptic, in the sense that if someone had stumbled across it they wouldn't have suspected it was mine. Yet there was enough information in there that if someone said it was mine, and someone else read it, I wouldn't be able to deny it, so before my meeting with the elders I decided I'd better come clean. I admitted it was mine, and I said that I would go before the congregation and ask for forgiveness. I took the blog down before sending the email. I also said that I would begin a Bible study via email with a preacher who was well educated, but a member of a "mainline" church rather than one of the non-institutional groups. (My thinking was that this would keep the rumor mill quiet. I didn't have to tell that preacher what was behind it, and he wouldn't have any discussions with "our" preachers.) The next Wednesday night I showed up early (along with my wife, who went into the auditorium to both suffer embarrassment and to be comforted by the other ladies who were there early. I went into the office to meet with the three elders, and the preacher was there, too. He didn't know much about what was going on except for what the elders had told him in a few minutes, and he had not seen the blog (which was gone by this time). He was aware of my older son's deconversion and had actually had a number of discussions with him about it. Again, I made my promise to study, and I indicated that I wished to continue to be a member of the church. I was to go forward to offer public confession after the "invitation" was offered ("invitation" is Church-of-Christ speak for "altar call") and "acknowledge my sin." One of the elders remarked that most people in my situation would just say "I'm outta here!" and he wondered why I didn't respond that way. My honest reply was that there was simply no advantage to it, and that it would cause too many problems within my own family. They accepted this reasoning. So then there was the confession: This was tough. I told about the blog, and explained that I needed to confess because that was public and required public "repentance." I apologized to my wife and thanked her for putting up with me. Then one of the elders got up and made a few comments. I interrupted to ask that nobody call my younger son, who was on his way to his new home, because I hadn't talked to him yet and he didn't know what was going on. Then they prayed for me. Afterward, people offered all sorts of words of encouragement. Several people wanted to talk way too much, and in the next couple of week some brought me reading material. I called my son the next day and left a message. He eventually called me back. He was upset, but he said he wasn't surprised. I talked to him about how Moses apparently believed that there was more than one god, and he said he knew that already! (So why is he still a believer.) I didn't tell him everything, but at the end he asked me to please say that I still believed that Jesus was the son of God, so I lied and said "yes." Since then, he hasn't said a word about it and I really think he doesn't want to know any more. And since that time, I quit leading singing. One of the elders did ask several months later if I was going to start leading singing again, and I indicated that I was pretty happy to be retired from that. I may get that uncomfortable question again, but I can easily dismiss it if my wife isn't around. (When she's around it's harder to just dismiss, because it embarrasses her and she doesn't go to bat for me -- she takes the side of the person who's bugging me. I end up having to try to justify my decision. It's a pain, especially because she knows I'm an atheist!) Occasionally, one of the other elders asks me how I'm doing, meaning "spiritually," and I say "pretty well." That's all there is to that conversation. And that's it at this point! I show up most Sunday mornings by myself and use the time to read, and I go other times when my wife makes it, but not usually by myself. Nobody really expects much of me any more, and that's quite a relief. I hope that some day my younger son won't be able to avoid the truth, and we can just be done with it. My older son surprised me when he figured it out, so it could happen. I may decide to write a book someday. I wrote this post because I had never written this stuff down. It's kind of hurried, so there may be typos and awkward wording, but if I wait any longer I'll forget things.
  2. There's a saying by Reinhold Niebuhr known as the "Serenity Prayer." It says "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference". A discussion in the forums made me realize something today: For a Christian, the above is impossible, or nearly so. That's why they think the prayer is so important that they post it on knick-knacks all over their houses. They want their god to grant these things to them, but because they really think that by praying they should be able to change those things that are beyond their control, they will never have that serenity. But as an atheist, this is easy! Once I realized that there was no such thing as Yahweh or any other god, I actually gained that peace that is beyond the Christian's understanding. I know for a fact that there are some things I can change, and some that I can't, and so accepting the things I cannot change becomes easy. There are many things that Christianity claims for itself that are merely wishful thinking. The "peace that passes understanding" is once. Another important one is "ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free." These are things that only the atheist can enjoy.
  3. "This world doesn't make sense at all. Not even remotely." It's when you realize that, that it does start to make sense. The fact that there's nothing behind it, no "plan" as it were, no grand scheme and no ultimate authority, means that what chaos there is, and what order there is, what good and what bad, all make sense, because it's all the result of a complicated system that nobody is in charge of. Some of the order is the result of the laws of physics and biology. Some of the order (and the disorder, as well) is the result of humans who do have control over small bits of the whole. In other words, the world is exactly what you would expect. I'll tell you what, once I realized that I pretty much quit being afraid of anything, quit worrying about anything. There are some miserable things in my life right now (I don't like where I'm living and my grown children have moved off, taking my grandchildren with them; my sister is very ill and may not live long, and my mother is becoming very feeble; my wife suffers from depression, and has since before I ever met her), but there are other things that are good (I have a good job and have managed to get out of debt in the last 6 or 7 years, and think I may be able to retire at least by the time I'm 67 (10 years away).) But I think just the fact that I know that there's no mystical cause of anything, that it's all natural, allows me to do that thing that Christians try so hard to do and fail, and that is to change the things I can and accept the things I can't. For a Christian that's impossible, because they always think their god should be doing something. For an atheist, it's simple. Even death doesn't bother me in the same way. I miss my dad terribly, and I shed a few tears this morning, but he was so tired and miserable the last few years, even though he still had his mind. So now he doesn't exist except in memories and photographs. And I'm happy he was my father, and I'm happy that he's no longer suffering, and I don't care that he's not somehow living in "paradise". He lives in our memories, and when everyone who knew him is gone, he'll be gone, too, I suppose (as will we all), but the world goes on and babies are born and there's happiness and sadness and everything in between. I just want to leave some little piece of the world in better shape than I found it. I want to leave behind happy memories. I want to send money to places where it will make someone else's life a little better, someone I don't know and whom I'll never meet. "This" world does make sense, after all. I suspect that there are other worlds out there, too, and wherever intelligent life is found, situations are probably much like situations on this world. Because it makes sense.
  4. For various reasons -- mostly family related -- I'm semi-closeted, "making an effort" in order to avoid uncomfortable discussions -- so I show up for church on Sunday morning. I use the opportunity during the sermon to read. (I've just started "The God Delusion!") Since I am using the Nook app on my phone, nobody knows that it I'm not following the sermon in my Bible. But I can't help hearing the sermon to some extent and seeing the slides. This morning's sermon was about "God's Presence." It was pretty much what you would expect. How can we know that God not only exists but is near us? Some families just returned from a road trip out West, and having posted a number of beautiful pictures on Facebook, well, there's evidence right there, is there not? (Spoiler: No, actually that's evidence of 4.5 billion years of geology.) Preacher's point was that the fact that we perceive this as beauty is evidence of God. And then there are the things that make us happy: Look at that cute baby! Wow, that ice cream sure tastes good! I love my children and grandchildren so much! Surely the fact that God has given us these wonderful things is evidence of his presence, his nearness! (Please ignore the circular reasoning!) But that's not enough to convince a person, so what about this? You got to eat this morning! That's right, the fact that your needs are met is evidence that God is near. But lest you be going through a rough time and are having a hard time appreciating all of the wonderful things in your life, please listen to this. Preacher suggests that if we wanted to, we could all make a list of the problems we're having right now. The aches and pains, the fact for some audience members that they're out of work, or that a loved one is sick or has recently died. And if we were so inclined, we could all make lists and compare then. By doing so, we might find out just who among us has it the very worst! But even after having done that, we still have blessings, don't we?! So you see, we still know that God is near! Yes, that was the lesson. He's usually a pretty good preacher with some decently deep thoughts, but this lesson was as shallow as it could be. To boil it down, he's suggesting that we can have confidence in God's presence if we learn to exercise cognitive bias! If we learn to count the hits and ignore the misses, we'll have more faith! That's it! Aren't you thrilled to know how easy it is to believe?
  5. Most Christians I know would claim to not believe in ghosts. I've been thinking of answering, when asked if I believe in "God," that I don't believe in ghosts or magic. Should they reply that they don't believe in those things, either, I would point out that a ghost is a mind without a body that is somehow able to affect the physical world, and that magic is the act of affecting to physical world using something other than physical means... essentially using one's mind or will. If they believe in gods and spirits, and if they believe that miracles ever occurred (even if they don't believe they occur today), then they believe in ghosts and magic.
  6. Like Geezer and Schnoogle, my experience is Church of Christ. Mine, in particular, was/is the "non-institutional" bunch. I would put my experience in between theirs, and not really fitting the OP's 1-5 categories. The congregations I've been a member of are a 1.5. The Genesis is literal. You can't divorce unless your spouse cheats on you. Now, that may sound abusive to some, but the effect is that people who divorce for other reasons end up being called or visited for discussions by the elders, and end up going to either another denomination or to a more liberally-minded Church of Christ. (I refuse to put a lower case "C" on "Church" -- you CofC people know what I'm talking about.) So in that one situation, it may come off as abusive, and they definitely discourage divorce, but they don't follow up so much once a person is gone. And though I know it isn't always true, the Elders I've known really seem to care about people. In fact, the church I'm going to now (yes, I'm in the closet), one of the Elders has been attending some training where they actually acknowledge that the problems people deal with, addiction, depression, and other things, are physical problems. They really want to help people. But if you want to place membership there, you'd better have a good answer about your marriage situation. If you've been divorced for some reason besides your spouse's cheating, you will be able to attend but you won't be placed on the roll. And they're Young Earth Creationists.
  7. There are four candidates (maybe more in some places). The Libertarian and the Green Party candidate are on ballots in 20+ states, but not enough to actually win. However, I believe that both of those parties will get more votes this year than ever before. I've been voting Green lately. I'm in Texas, and I really want as liberal of a vote as possible to show up in the tally in my extremely conservative precinct, just so anyone who looks at the results will know we aren't all Fundagelicals here. But frankly, if I thought Texas had a chance to turn blue this year I would vote for Clinton. We have an enormous Hispanic population in this state, and Trump has managed to alienate them, even the ones who are citizens and who can vote. If they were mad enough to get out and vote, a Democrat could actually win this state. (And if that happened, the state legislature would adopt new rules pretty quickly to allow a split electoral vote!) I don't think it's going to happen this year, but as we get nearer to November I'll decide how to cast my ballot for President. It'll be either Jill Stein or Hillary Clinton.
  8. To address the last part of your post, I wouldn't say that atheism does anything to anyone. Your brother does sound bipolar from your description, and it could be that the realization that what he believed for most of his life is untrue really knocked him down. That sort of thing can happen to people no matter what the major change in their lives may be. But most people don't really change. Most nasty atheists, if they were ever Christian or Muslim or anything else, were probably nasty practitioners of that faith. Not always, of course. And in the case of realizing that there are no gods or whatever, people certainly have to figure out how to proceed, because the religion gives you a definition of the meaning of life. Until they get things figured out, life can seem meaningless. Having been a fundamentalist Christian, believing that the creation stories and flood story and the legends about Abraham and others were actual history, I relied upon the book to tell me the meaning of life. "Fear God and keep His commandments: This is the whole of man." Knowing now that this isn't true, I'm free to find what matters to me. My family, children and grandchildren give meaning. My job gives meaning. Simple pleasures give meaning. And for big picture things, I give to organizations like Doctors Without Borders and CARE instead of giving to the church, because life is important now. Life is important in a way to Christians, but it's the supposed "next life" that they concentrate on. And life is so much more amazing to me now! It isn't just "God did this in 6 days," it's "this took 4.5 billion years to get to where it is today!" It makes you feel connected, not in a metaphysical or spiritual way, but in a real, DNA connected physical way. So, no, atheism doesn't do horrible things to a person. What happens when a person arrives at the conclusion that there are no gods, demons, angels, spirits, or other minds without bodies, depends upon that person, the nature they already had and how their mind works, and how they approach life once they discover the truth.
  9. The only thing I might change are the words "bronze age snuff porn." Not sure what to change it to -- maybe "ancient mythology." Sounds more serious that way.
  10. I went through this with my wife, as well. It's understandably scary for them, since we've spent our whole lives being told that non-believers are automatically immoral, and can't be trusted. She was afraid she wouldn't be able to trust me anymore. She was more afraid I would change than anything. I assured her as well as I could that I hadn't changed my nature at all, and that, in fact, not believing in an afterlife makes this life just that much more important. Just because I'm certain now that what we always believed wasn't true, doesn't mean that I don't understand the lessons we've learned over 30+ years together. And over time her fears have been quelled. Turns out I haven't changed, and she can see that.
  11. I don't think I had anything to do with it, really. We exchanged a couple of short emails, then I sent a long one. Rather than type a long reply, he called me while I was on the way home from work and we talked for awhile. Turns out that what started it for him was that he decided late last year that he needed to read the Bible more. We all know what sort of path that will lead you down! He began to notice things that were different than what he had grown up believing, and things that were simply inconsistent. Turning to research on the internet, he started seeing the leftover polytheism in the Bible. It all just fell apart from there. They have a baby due in October, and he definitely does not want her to be raised believing in mythology. I asked if he could tell that I was no longer a believer, and he said that he really couldn't, but he realized that he and I think a lot alike, and he just couldn't imagine that I hadn't gone down that path already. He also mentioned that my politics had changed in the last few years. I'm certainly more liberal than I used to be, though I was never a rabid conservative. And I shifted to liberal politics before I deconverted. But he's been pretty liberal for awhile, too. Lives in Austin, after all! Anyway, he and his wife have been discussing it. They work pretty hard at being on the same page. I don't think she's all the way there. He's seriously considering coming out of the closet, which I haven't had the nerve to do. (My wife knows I'm an atheist, as do a few friends and ex-Christians that I know, and now my older son.) My reason for staying in the closet is just fear of family consequences. Not a problem with older son now! But my younger son and his wife are still serious about Christianity, and I don't want to risk our relationship. (And I don't want them keeping their little girl away from me.) Older son really doesn't have to share this with the whole world. His in-laws would have to know because they live nearby and they go to the same church. But most of his and his wife's friends aren't from their church anyway, so dropping out would have little impact on their day-to-day lives. But since I'm sure his brother would find out pretty soon (like the first time they go to visit) I would probably have to come out in older son's defense. Maybe I can bridge that pretty easily, and be better off for it. Anyway, it's definitely occupying my thoughts these days! I'm really feeling happy about it right now. :-)
  12. Is it appropriate to say "hallelujah" here? It feels like it right now! I haven't been around the board in awhile, but I just had to come back and post this. I got a text from my older son today saying "How much have you researched the historicity of the Bible and the age of the earth? Do you still believe in a "Young Earth"? Well, it isn't exactly "hey, Dad, do you believe the Bible at all?", but it's a start. I replied "Oh, wow. Yes, I have and no, I don't. Major change in my beliefs about 4 years ago. Not sure I should be discussing it with you." His reply: "Yeah, you should. Because I think I'm in the same place. I don't know how to proceed because people will just throw the same old 'proofs' back at me." It wasn't a good time to talk, so I said he should call me tomorrow. He thanked me. I don't know how near he is to realizing that it's all mythology, and I don't really care. As long as he realizes that some of it is mythology, I'll be very much relieved. But it won't be easy for him, any more than it has been for me. I don't know where his wife is in this. I know her parents are believers, and that they only recently sat down and told them that they didn't think the Bible condemned drinking alcohol. So even if she's on board with him, there'll be push back. But anyway, I'm just incredibly happy to have a son who's waking up. He's 32 years old -- so much better than being over 50 like I was. And it's one step closer for me to be able to come out of the closet. Hallelujah!
  13. I wouldn't mind if Texas seceded, except that since I live here I'd have to move to stay in the U.S. And I wouldn't mind moving, frankly, because the weather on the Gulf Coast in the summer is horrid. But my family all live here. I wonder whether my company, which has its U.S. headquarters in Houston, would move out. If they would want to move and would pay employees' moving expenses, that might work out just fine!
  14. One of my biggest regrets about having been a Christian is the financial cost. I was self-employed and making a pretty good income, and in late 1999 we bought a different (more expensive) house. Nothing extravagant, but still an added expense. About this time my younger son started driving, and the car insurance bill went way up. The result was that most of the income was taken up. Over the next years we would have the second son driving, and college expenses... just an expensive time of life. However, being devout, I began to feel guilty about how much (or "little") I was contributing. Because I helped count the contribution sometimes, I could see how large some of the checks were, and there were people I'm sure that were making less than I was, contributing more. So I upped my contribution to $150/week. That's $600 or $750 a month, and looking back over the years I realized that I had been spending about $800/month more than I was making on average. I would save to pay my quarterly taxes, then get the money out of savings to pay the bills, meaning that in April I had to borrow large amounts of money to pay my taxes. Just plain STUPID of me! Regarding the "need" for atheist churches, I'm still in the closet and still going to church. My dad passed away two weeks ago, and I have to say that the sense of family from the church members was really welcome. (The religious sympathy cards were a bit hard to take.) And the church where my parents are really did a lot to help out. It's always that way. But the stupid part? I never told a single one of my neighbors that my father had died. I know them casually, but never spend quality time with them. (The lady across the street actually tried to get some of us involved a bit, but her efforts didn't really "take".) Why not? The neighborhood is a literal community, not a virtual one like a church congregation! But I guess it's the regular attendance at church that causes us to feel connected with the church members, whereas seeing people coming and going in the neighborhood doesn't present us with the same motivation to have conversations.
  15. Depending on where you live, you may be witnessing a thing called "Christian privilege." Interestingly, I benefit from it because my Ismaili Muslim boss believes I am a "man of faith." (I was a Christian for most of my life, including the first 20 years I've known my boss.) I'm not about to come out of the closet at work. So, in this case, God must be treating me well because someone thinks I'm a Christian! I'm still witnessing for Him! (Just kidding.)