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About Quark

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    I'll let you know when I get there.
  • Interests
    Animation, art, entertainment/storytelling, and more recently the study of evolution
  • More About Me
    My parents are undyingly Christian, my father who is quite the adamant theologian and occasional pastor, and my mother who's one of the nicest people I know. Naturally, I was raised as a Christian, believed it at times with every fiber of my being, but struggled to keep my faith for most of my life. It wasn't until my sister came out as a lesbian that I knew I couldn't keep ignoring the questions that were challenging my faith. As of early 2017, I realized I didn't believe in God anymore, and that destroyed me for a while. Even now I struggle with how to cope with what I've been conditioned to believe, when I know it only hurts me, which I suppose is what drove me to this site.

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  • Still have any Gods? If so, who or what?
    I do not believe in a God.
  1. Greetings

    Welcome Jess, I hope this site will be of as much use to you as it has to me. I'm more or less on the tail end of disconcerting myself, but am an "atheist in the closet" as it were, amidst a family of fundamentalist Christians. And comedians are always fun, I've actuallky been listening to a lot of Tim Minshin recently who has a lot to say about religion. I'd also recommend listening/reading the works of Christopher Hitchens if you haven't already. His book "God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything" really went a long way to help me deconvert.
  2. Oh my God atmosflat... of course. What else could they call it if the Earth isn't a sphere? Part of me wants to see this nutjob succeed, though I wonder if he's the type who'll be honest with his discovery-should it ever get that far.
  3. Tired of it all

    Hello SFA, welcome to ex-c. I hope you make yourself at home here. I'm still pretty new to the community, but it's been a good experience so far. It helps knowing there are others who have either left Christianity or are struggling to let go of it. I can relate to a lot of what you're saying here; I really understand that pain of feeling drawn back to Christianity--feeling almost guilt-driven to do so, especially when I have so many friends and family who are still so ardent about it. Geezer mentioned this is a result of indoctrination, and he's right. At a young age we were instilled with Christian values and superstition, told that God loves us and wants what's best, told that Christians are the only truly good people in the world, and told that Hell awaits us if we deny him. When you're a kid, you accept it all without question, and when you're hurt and searching for answers you can sometimes revert to that kind of state, willing to accept anything that brings you comfort. When we're hurt, and were previously indoctrinated, we have a tendency to fall back on those early teachings, and because it was ingrained in us at such a young age as fact it can seem inherently true. It's important to know that just because something brings you comfort doesn't even remotely mean it's true. With me personally, I've had problems with the opposite: Struggling with the idea of Hell. Every time I began to doubt my faith, I would be shocked back into it with the thought "Holy shit I'm going to burn for eternity if I stop believing". I would even pray to God and ask him to kill me before I'd stop believing--that's how much I feared Hell. It really helped me to take a step back and realize that even if I still followed Christianity, there are many other equally valid/invalid religions out there that say I would burn in their version of Hell for doing so. Just because I was raised to believe one doesn't make it more valid than those others, and people indoctrinated into those other religions could look at Christianity and think the same thing. Our only bastion of hope, then, relies in what is real and true. What we can observe, prove, disprove, and review with our peers, because our subjective emotional experiences hinge on our conditioning, and those experiences not only vary wildly from person to person, but from time to time as well. What you feel today will be different from what you feel tomorrow, but water will always be wet and fire will always be hot. You mentioned having dreams that came true. This is a very hard idea to separate from, because it really makes us feel special, and I've at times thought I was prophetic because of dreams and visions/daydreams. The thing about dreams is that they're incredibly foggy and easy to forget, and you never remember all of them. However, when an event happens that seems to line up with something you dreamed, suddenly the dream comes back to you... but you never once consider the countless dreams that you've forgotten, that may have predicted things that never ended up happening. It's like... reaching into a jar of jelly beans hoping for a red one, pulling out the wrong one time and time again, then the moment you finally find the red one you either forget or excuse all the times you failed to get it before. Nothing prophetic happened, it's just natural you would eventually get what you were looking for. It's confirmation bias hard at work, and everyone's guilty of it. You have a particular dream that sticks out in your head that might be more symbolic or abstract, then an event happens that seems to line up with it and suddenly you felt like you've predicted it. This even happens with psychic readings, where they'll tell you something vague about your future that can be applied to almost anything. You want to believe in it/are scared of it, so you're searching for how it fits, and eventually you find a place for it. I've seen this time and time again with my family, who are saturated with dreams and visions and prophetic words, clinging to the ones that give them hope often for years without results, but when even one prediction seems to line up with what's happening--or worse when they follow what one of these supposed prophecies say and it seems to produce results, it only confirms their superstitions, when in reality they either just got lucky or the prediction was so vague or shallow that it was inevitably going to come true no matter what happened. I should probably stop there because I have a tendency to ramble, but know that I'm happy to see you break free from the indoctrination. It's a huge step, and not an easy one to take. If you have any questions or want to respond to anything I've said, I'm open to talk more, as is the rest of the community here. MOHO mentioned a bunch of authors worth reading, and I'd like to second his suggestions. One book that really helped me was "God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything" by Christopher Hitchens. Though I'd recommend purchasing it, I think there's an audiobook form of it you can listen to on youtube if you're currently short on money. Again, glad to see you here, and I hope things get better for you going forward.
  4. Introduction

    As a closeted atheist amid an extremely religious family, I can relate to that feeling of hypocracy. My best suggestion is to support your group with as much practical non-religious advice as possible, only engage in prayer if it's asked for, and even when you pray focus on the idea that people gather strength from themselves and each other and not from a higher power. It's the whole "God helps people who help themselves" idea (which is just a clever way of saying God doesn't do anything). Also, in such groups it just helps to have someone listen to you, so just be there to let them vent their concerns. They may be deluded, but they're still people, and maybe even because of their delusion need someone real to listen to them for a change.
  5. Will You implant microchip in your hand?

    I've had this same thought, it's a little frustrating. I remember there being that big panic on facebook of Christians sharing that story that people would be required to implant these chips without choice, but I'm glad someone before me shared the Snopes link pointing back to the satirical news site that perpetuated it. I feel like all Christians, and I suppose by extension former Christians, should look into the theory that the whole 666/616 part of Revelation was referring, in secret, to Nero. It makes a lot of sense when you read about it. It was a sneaky way to tell people who knew how to decipher the message, without getting caught, that Nero was the antichrist. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Number_of_the_Beast#Nero
  6. "Christian homeschooling mother of 5?!?!

    I think the best thing to do, in addition to what "God" said earlier, is to foster critical thinking in your kids. Encourage them to question what they're taught, to try to see things from other points of view. I see people like my sister try to teach their kids Christian dogma and told to just accept it, but if the kids were instead trained to learn from a place of understanding instead of just "fact" memorization, the truth will naturally point against the validity of religion and superstition.
  7. Falsifying Evolution

    It's important for any viable theory to be falsifiable. If there are testable ways you can disprove your theory, and yet it doesn't get disproven, then it only strengthens the theory. Evolution is certainly falsifiable, but it hasn't been proven false. I found this page recently that shows what it would take to disprove evolution: https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Falsifiability_of_evolution It also goes into what kinds of predictions evolution makes, which I think is worth a read. I understand and probably relate to what SeaJay might be feeling with these supposed problems for evolution, especially coming from a Christian background where we used to think we already had all the answers, but it really is important to recognize that we don't. The article describes things like sexual selection as sloppy patchwork jobs to evolution, when it's just the "evolution" of the theory as we gain more knowledge. This is just how science--and life in general--works. One of the big problems with religion is that it doesn't evolve, and whenever it tries it just becomes a new religion and its members are labeled heretics. I honestly didn't read the whole article because the author is a middle school science teacher... but eh, if he's on to something, I'm sure it'll spread--if not by scientists taking it sincerely, then by creationists looking for any and all ammunition to use against evolution. I personally don't see this virus thing being an issue, but I'm not to well-read on viruses.
  8. Ignorance is bliss... until it isn't

    Eh, he's my cousin. It's hard for me to give up on him and I keep hoping that he'll see reason. You're probably right, though, it's just... hard for me to quit on him.
  9. Ignorance is bliss... until it isn't

    The discussion we had was about evolution, it went on for quite a while, and I brought up what I felt were plenty of excellent pieces of evidence... but he said something to the effect that neither of us will change our minds no matter what the other says. He is stuck in believing that carbon dating isn't accurate (even though i showed him examples of how other dating methods corroborate it), that species only evolve within "kinds" (Which to him are any creatures that can still breed, but he failed to acknowledge the example I gave him about the greenish warbler being unable to breed with other warblers when they evolved down different paths), and that there just aren't enough intermediary fossils (and he shrugged off the ones i showed him and said they were only assumed to be intermediary because of the perceived similarities). He went on to say how evolution wasn't even Science because it didn't follow the scientific method, even though I showed him how it does, and... well, I guess I've made my point. He's clearly believing what he wants to believe, and was sure to remind me that he knew what he was talking about because of the huge list of evolution books he read. I mean, as his friend I would have to trust that he did actually read them... but it just makes me question his level of comprehension. At the very least, he's trained what would normally be a confirmation bias into a sharply honed skill.
  10. Ignorance is bliss... until it isn't

    Oh yes, I agree. I get frustrated by what they do on his behalf, when they say they know what his will is, or when they make huge, destructive life decisions based on their faith. I think that's why I usually want to lean toward sympathy before frustration--but even as I say that, I'm reminded of a rather frustrating discussion I had with a believer friend not long ago. I'm mostly saddened by how thickly-rooted his confirmation bias is (ignoring evidence in favor of selecting/quote mining small things that support his pre-existing stance), and how his moral high ground mentality has inflated his ego to an unhealthy level (he believes God removed his protection from America when we removed him from education and politics, which is why the hurricanes caused such devastation). Even so, this person was once my best friend, so it's... an uncomfortable experience looking back into the way he sees things from an outside perspective.
  11. Ignorance is bliss... until it isn't

    Thank you. I'm definitely learning a lot from Dawkins, and the parts that go over my head often prompt me to research and figure them out elsewhere. I've read the God Delusion, the Greatest Show on Earth, and am currently reading the Blind Watchmaker. As for Hitchens I've only read God is Not Great and Mortality (freaking heavy stuff), but I'm interested in reading more by him as well. Your response brightened my day yesterday, thank you. I wanted to be a writer when I was younger, and wrote about a book and a half, but never got anything published. I might still dig back into it sometime, but my focus is currently elsewhere. I definitely identify with that rage. I'd want to make sure, however, that Christians who question my atheism would know that I'm no longer angry at God. At least... I'm no more angry at him than I am at any other fictional character.
  12. Ignorance is bliss... until it isn't

    Thank you, that means a lot to hear. It definitely wasn't easy getting to this point, and took a hell of a lot of time. I think part of what helped me reach this understanding was when I got into an argument with one of my friends (one of the online ones I mentioned in my first post). When we were done, I realized just how fucking terrible I was being: I was entirely in the wrong. I had this incorrigible, gluttonous NEED to be right, even though I knew I wasn't. I realized that... kind of everyone in my family had the same problem, and quickly found out it was more a problem with Christianity than anything. Christians NEED to be right, true faith requires it of you, because if you ever admit that there might not be a God, then you don't really have true faith in him. That mindset just... sometimes tends to bleed over into other areas of your life, especially when it's something that's been drilled into you. After realizing this, I became very intentional about questioning my motives when I felt the urge to defend something I felt strongly about, especially if it's something that's just not very important. I didn't want my own stubborn pride to damage this new friendship that brought such value to my life. I'm still trying to make a practice of separating my emotions from my beliefs, and it's usually not an easy process. But... I think being able to look back at where you were wrong, and bringing yourself to openly admit it, is a powerful thing to be able to do. The hard part, and the part I still struggle with the most, is the actual process of change when it comes to improving those areas. Hehe, I like that. It's not even something I've thought too much about, but that is a significant shift in the paradigm to keep in mind. Christianity has the "humanity is evil" mentality, and that we will never truly be good without God, but mankind is so much better than that. I mean we're also really shitty too, but the point is that we're not born one way or another: Our choices are what matter.
  13. Ignorance is bliss... until it isn't

    Thanks everyone for the warm welcome. I skimmed a few threads of this site before deciding to post this, and I liked the vibe of the place, but I'm still relieved to see the positive reaction. I feel like I've been programmed to expect the worst when saying such things, and it's a breath of fresh air to see my view accepted and not shot down. I mean just recently I revealed that I believed in evolution, and tried to convince some people that it didn't conflict with the idea of God, but it still went over pretty poorly. I somewhat regret that, haha Someday I might feel comfortable coming out as an atheist, but it probably won't be any time soon. I saw first hand how my mother took that with my sister, and I'm afraid of what it would do to her blood pressure if she found out I was the same way.
  14. Where do I even begin. I guess I should start by saying hello, so... hello. I'd introduce myself, but since I'm still a closeted atheist I'm not sure that I should give out my real name just yet, so you can call me Quark. I was born and raised in the thick of something between Pentecostal and Charismatic Christianity. The Church of God denomination, if you must know (though there are many denominations that go by this title). My parents were (and are) the model Christian couple, not without their faults but adhering rather strictly to the moral guidelines laid out by the Bible. Despite that, they're Good people. Loving people. My dad was a pastor, the kind that made sure he took his kids to every church service and prayer meeting, so I was saturated at a young age in scripture, worship music, the manifestations of the Holy Spirit, and Restless Leg Syndrome. You could safely assume that my Dad was pretty hardcore about being a Christian, but you wouldn't know the half of it: The guy got a doctoral degree in ministry--through an actual accredited school, not one of those degree mills like the infamous Kent Hovind went through. At a very young age, we moved as a result of a falling out with the church. My dad began to pastor a different church in the Bible belt, but we quickly found out--aside from being pumped full of racism--that the church's views were askew from our own, and we were pretty incompatible with that difference. Less than a year a later, we moved to pastor a different church even further south. I honestly don't remember how long we were there, but it was less than two years before we headed north to pastor yet another church. I think you can see that a trend was forming. Long story short, because it truly is a long story, my entire childhood was a constant journey from church to church. At some point along the way I just gave up on making friends, because I couldn't handle having to break it off with them when I inevitably had to move, and this would have been sad if it wasn't for the fact I was right. Maybe it's still sad, I dunno. My faith wavered here and there, but I always found my way back to it. Because I had no real friends, the only friends I had were in my God and my family. Guilt over my natural sexual urges, however, made me too ashamed to speak on a more personal level with my family. I felt like God was the only person I could communicate with on such a private level. A shame that relationship was always a one-way street, because what was natural for a teenager of my age I thought was a damning sin, and it tore me up on the inside. I used to have dreams of castrating myself, because of Matthew 5:30 And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. I am so glad I was never so bold. I must admit that a lot of my past is a bit of a haze. I lived most of my childhood in my head, and actively avoided anything that would challenge my faith. I remember struggling a lot with the idea of homosexuality being a sin, as it seemed to me at the time as the only sin in the Bible that did nothing evil, and was actually based on love--which was something Jesus was supposed to be all about, and yet it seemed to be one of the most offensive sins to Christians. I myself wasn't attracted to other men, so it wasn't a problem for me, but the experience I had repressing my own heterosexual urges I suppose convinced me that it was possible for a homosexual to do the same, they were just... forbidden from ever falling in love. That last part still never sat well with me. Like most problems that challenged my faith, however, I ignored it. My faith had gotten stale in time: My prayers rarely returned any responses from the big guy, and the responses I did get were more my own inner thoughts reflecting back at me. It had become a ritual to stave off the devil, to keep my soul out of the fires of Hell and aimed toward the pearly gates of heaven that death would graciously one day lead me into... and then my family discovered Bethel Church in Redding California. Now... this is the only church I will mention by name, partially because it is so huge that my connection to it would be impossible to find, but also because I feel it is worth looking into from an atheist perspective. This church was the first I had seen that made as big a deal as it does over works in the spirit. Faith healing is so common there that they have entire rooms devoted to it, and people come from all over the world to learn how to do the same to others. I mean... it really is worth looking into their website for just how much they really buy into it, and all the stories coming out of that church (and its attached school) are so supernaturally charged that ironically many other denominations see the church's miracles as works of the devil sooner than outright denying their validity. My faith had been recharged. My parents would even let me stay home and instead watch a sermon from Bethel if I chose, which I was thankful for, because I really was getting tired of all the fake smiles and sweaty handshakes, not to mention singing songs that were twice my age. The power of healing seemed so real, and it wasn't long before I started seeing the same in my own church. The power of prayer worked. Seemingly. I distinctly remember the moment my faith in healing began to waver. It wasn't because my uncle died of cancer, or because the girl whose eyes we healed had to go back to wearing glasses, because all of that simply had to work into God's unseen and unknowable plan. It happened at my grandparents' house. My parents were praising God, sharing the story of my sister's elbow (broken in an unfortunate accident) being miraculously healed by the power of prayer; the doctors said she might never have full functionality of the elbow again, and yet it seemed that she'd proven them wrong, and there was simply no denying that it had to be the work of God. They were still talking as I went into the living room, plopping down in the couch with a blissful, ignorant smile. The words "placebo effect" grabbed my attention from the television. I'd heard of the term before, because I had once googled it when I heard a song I liked from a band of the same name. I don't even think it was a full-blown documentary or news story, more an advertisement for one of the two, but it spoke of the healing power of belief--even as my parents still spoke of the healing power of prayer in the background. If I believed in fate, it would have been destiny that that commercial came on when it did. Suddenly, it all made sense. Placebo healing tends to be temporary, as in the case of the girl's eyesight that reverted back to normal, and surely enough a few years later my sister's elbow couldn't bend as well as it once was able either. Every healing story I heard made sense from a scientific point of view, and the more I studied, the more I found out that these healing stories weren't exclusive to Christianity. But I remained a believer. I had to. God was my closest friend, and the heat of Hellfire at my back kept me running blindly away from reason. Ignorance is bliss. I actively avoided anything that made me doubt my faith—even when friend and mentor alike fell short of the Christian teachings, though over time that did make me doubt in the sincerity of Christians. For every smiling face and zany cookout there was a lie and a knife in a friend's back. I mean I knew that even Christians sinned now and then, but when your Christian neighbors proved to be no better than the non-believers, then did God even have the power we thought he did? It'd be one thing if it was just one crappy church, but as I've mentioned, I've lived in over seven states and attended more than twice that many churches and it's all been the same. And there was still the matter of prevalent, accepted, and encouraged homophobia that continued to bother the shit out of me... but I had to ignore it and pretend it didn't exist. Because I wasn't gay myself, it wasn't a problem I had to worry about, and so I pretended it wasn't even an issue. Then my dad felt the calling of the Lord to move the family out to Redding to attend Bethel in-person; he had no job to support us with, but for such a righteous goal, there was no doubt in his mind that God would support us. He'd heard his calling, had a vision, or some combination of the two, I don't know--honestly, he thought he was prophetic, which might sound strange to say but it's quite a common belief in some circles. There were many Christians who thought they were prophetic, and believed it was a common gift of the Holy Spirit. What's worse is that I believed him, and I was right alongside him, knowing that surely God would aid us as he always seemed to. And so we moved. Gathered up our things and crossed the country without any of us having a job in place to support the family. Do I even need to say how horribly this went? We ran out of money in a year, and had to move out of the state to recover. It was at this point that I heard the saying I'd heard a thousand times from my parents. Paraphrased, it would always go something like this, said with passion and indignant faith, "I really sense that God is about to move us into a new place, one where we'll thrive like never before, where we'll finally find a place we can call home." I desperately wanted to believe this, but I'd heard it one too many times. It never turned out that way. Sure enough, the next place we moved was garbage, and my Dad ended up being the only person to love it there, not to mention that most of us kids had moved out and on our own at this point, meaning the prophesied home the family would find would apparently be found long after we'd already grown up and moved on. I just wanted it all to end... but I knew suicide was the one sin you couldn't atone for. The fires of Hell would greet me if I took my own life, and I suppose that thought spared me, but before anyone starts to think that the horrible concept of Hell actually saved me in this instance, I honestly believe that if I didn't believe so strongly in the concept of the immortal spirit that I wouldn't have contemplated ending such a valuable thing as this mortal life. Despite what I think now, that's now how I thought then, and I instead hoped and prayed that God would send a drunk driver off the road to flatten me and get this crappy temporary life over with so I could get on with the immortal paradise of heaven already. I eventually went back to California, deciding to share an apartment with two of my sisters so we could split rent between us. My student loan debt made this a barely-manageable situation, but we were at least able to survive like this for a time. It was during this time that some internet friends I made invited me to play dungeons and dragons with them online, which I'd never done before, and honestly... I feel like this saved my life. With how often I contemplated suicide, just... having this group of friends to schedule a regular get-together with gave me such joy on a week-to-week basis. We became incredibly close as a result of this game, and for the first time in many years I felt I had made friends that weren't of the supernatural, imaginary variety. We'd scheduled our game for Sundays, which conflicted with my church schedule, but I knew that the time I spent with these friends was healthier for me than time in a crowded sanctuary of screaming, lost souls. I still believed in God, but I felt him more in the community of this circle of friends than I ever felt in my private studies and prayers. Then my little sister (the one still living with my parents) came out of the closet. She was a lesbian, and an atheist, and my parents went berserk. For a brief while I couldn't help but share their anger, largely because the words they used to describe the situation were very twisted, choosing phrases like "Your sister was TARGETED by a girl in school" like she were some sort of sexual assault victim. But talking with my sister personally, which was a bit of an endeavor when my parents cut her off from all means of communication, began to make me clear my head a little. Why was I feeling so offended when I already hated the fact the Bible spoke against homosexuality? This was the catalyst. I couldn't ignore it anymore. Either the Bible was wrong, or Christians were wrong about the Bible. Upon studying the scriptures myself, unless you REALLY twist their meaning, the Bible is very clear on its stance. I didn't outright drop my faith right then and there, I don't think, but it did begin to fade at that point. I still caught myself praying to, and at times shouting in anger at God, but in time my prayers became more simple, to the point where the only prayers I prayed were "Are you there? Give me a sign that you're real. Any sign." And I never received that sign. Life continued on, but that's where the story of my Christianity ends. It's still pretty recent history, as I know of December LAST year I still believed in God (because Chirrut's "The force is with me" scene in Rogue One spoke to me on a religious level), but I know I didn't by the time I finished playing the game Nier Automata earlier this year (because of how its anti-Christian philosophical themes spoke to me). I feel I've finally been able to put it behind me, especially now that I've been studying evolution for the first time in my life. I mean really, it's quite fascinating, I'm falling in love with the works of Dawkins and enjoying his books, even though a lot of it goes WAY over my head. I was hesitant to call myself an atheist until I began listening to the works of Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris, but I feel it's a valuable label, as my agnosticism only extends as far as most atheists say, where we just feel there's not enough convincing evidence to prove any god's existence. I like how Hitchens refers to Pascal's wager in saying "I am so made that I cannot believe." In hindsight, this truly has been me. I've been fighting against my rational nature, diving willingly and intentionally into ignorance to continue to believe in the comforting lie of purpose amid--what I feel I've effectively communicated--is a meaningless and purposeless life. If God exists, he made me in such a way that I cannot believe based on blind faith, especially when all logical evidence points against his existence. So if God made me, he either doesn't love me, or he's a real shit designer, which is not a God worth any more of my time.