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Skeptic At The Age Of Eight


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Hello, My name is Tony Boling and this is my Atheist anti-testimony.


I was born in 1978 and raised in a Christian family near Detroit Michigan. I’m not too sure on the exact denomination, Assembly of God or Church of Christ sounds really familiar though. I remember when I was little being told I couldn’t watch The Smurfs because some preacher or evangelist said on TV or in a book that Smurfs represented dead people because they were blue and had black lips and resembled drowned corpses or something. Even at a young age I remember arguing that logic by stating that corpses don’t live in mushroom houses and aren’t three apples tall. Much less targeted as a snack for some creepy hunchback named Gargamel. I’m sure The Smurfs had some sort of adult subtext going on but I guess that wasn’t the point.


One thing when looking back at how I was raised in a Christian respect is how teachings of an all-loving Jesus went by the wayside and yet and vengeful and terrible God was stressed. It was about this time in the mid-eighties that evangelists were really gaining some speed talking about the End Times and Revelations. I remember my Mom telling me how the Moon would turn bright red before Jesus came back. I remember her talking about the Mark of the Beast and how since we were Christians and obviously not going to get such mark that would allow us to purchase goods, we’d have to live somewhere that we grew our own food. I remember not liking that idea because for some reason I hadn’t thought about raising cows for beef and only pictured eating vegetables for the rest of my life and I didn’t like vegetables and that really made me mad.


I remember not liking church. I didn’t like it when I had to go where the other kids were because I felt out of place. It seemed they were all much better Christians than I was. We’d have Bible quizzes and I never knew any of the right answers and was always confused. I was really small and scrawny back then and just all around awkward. Now I’m just awkward. Needless to say I much preferred to sit in the main hall with my parents manly because I could zone out or draw pictures in a notepad my mom kept on her.


The worst part about church oddly enough was the end when everyone got up at the same time to leave and of course people stuck around and chatted. It was uncomfortable having all these adult people that I didn’t know paying attention to me or saying how big I was getting. They all just seemed fake and the women wore far too much make-up. Of course it WAS 1986 so maybe I should cut them a little slack. I won’t cut them slack for the copious amounts of perfume they poured all over their clothing when they left their house that morning though. The men were just as bad. If you’ve ever been to church you know that unbearable stench that IS every known cologne and perfume from cheap to expensive all mixed into one truly horrifying experience.


I remember taking as long as I could in the mornings getting ready just so we’d miss church although half the time it backfired and we just went late and that was worse than just about anything and to this day I loathe arriving to anything late. I’d rather just not show up at all then to be late. I should probably work on that.


I’m not an expert in religious people but the more I look back, I don’t think my immediate family was as religious as most families. I don’t remember ever saying praise the Lord in my life unless it was in mockery later in life. However the rest of my family was that religious with one or two exceptions. See I came from a large extended family. On my Dad’s side I had four Uncles and two Aunts. Two of my uncles weren’t all that religious while the other two are very much so religious. Both of my aunts now are religious but at the time only the one that is married to the “them” pastor was extreme. She out did her mother by eventually popping out eight kids of her own. I know, and we weren’t even Catholic!


I won’t get into my mothers side of the family because I couldn’t even tell you except for her youngest brothers one of which was a Pentecostal for a while who wouldn’t even eat devil’s food cake or own a dirt devil vacuum cleaner.


Being that I wasn’t too consumed with religion as some are, I had interests in other things. My main interest at the time was Dinosaurs. I gobbled up anything I could learn about them. I could spout off the names of all of the ones that I knew of at the time. This was something that impressed most adults as they couldn’t pronounce the names themselves. I was convinced I was going to become a paleontologist when I grew up and of course that’s what I told people when they’d ask.

I don’t know how the conversation started or even how the sentence preceding it went, but when I was eight years old my aunt Carolyn, the one married to the Pastor, told me that dinosaurs never existed. She said that the bones people find were actually put into the ground by Satan to lead you away from God and to trick us. That was worse then telling a kid Santa Clause isn’t real. Mainly because he isn’t and dinosaurs ARE for real. I had let it slide that I couldn’t watch the Smurfs. I toughed it out on the notion that when I grew up I’d have to eat carrots and broccoli for the rest of my life. But I’d be damned if I’d be told dinosaurs were put into the ground all over the world for the sole purpose to trick people into believing they existed. That was just ridiculous and the last straw. From that point onward I learned that you can’t believe everything an adult tells you. They were no longer infallible to me. That was the moment I started to become a skeptic or as my family would say, a pessimist. I was taught in that instant to question things I was told.


When I was nine or ten year old we moved out of Michigan to Arkansas. We stopped going to church about that point too. Things happened and shit went down and my parents split up. My dad stayed in Arkansas and my mom moved to Missouri, though they were only about an hour apart. My sister and I went with my mom. After a few months I left my mom and sister and lived with my dad. Two months later back with my mom. Keep in mind I was in the fifth grade at the time and was in and out of schools. Way to look out for the kids interest huh? Flopping back and forth was even worse than arriving late.


One night my dad came over and sad that my sister and I were spending the night with our cousins. They were my dad’s cousins’ kids. I awoke in the middle of the night to my dad waking me up saying my sister and I were going back to grandma’s house (near Detroit). It’s interesting because I never questioned why we were leaving our mom, I was just happy to get back someplace familiar.

The missing part of that story is that my dad told my mom that he was moving back to Michigan and needed her to get the rest of her stuff from the house in Arkansas. Her and her sister along with my dad and two of his redneck cousins went to the house to load everything up and one of them locked my mom and aunt in the shed while my dad booked back to get me and my sister and get the hell out of there. Illegal? Yeah, but so worth it.


I lived with my grandparents for a short period and then with my aunt Judy. They told me I’d have more fun and she had a pool while the real reason was to keep my sister and me in different places so when the cops came looking they couldn’t get us both.


Getting back to the story, I never went to church on a regular basis from that point onward. I still believed it all, but then again I never really gave it any thought at all. It was weird cause I believed it, but kind of considered myself just “not religious”.


I’m going to divert onto a side story now. It doesn’t have anything directly related to religion but more of blind faith. My grandpa was diagnosed with cancer in 1992. I’ll say up front he was given like 18 months to live and he didn’t die till early 1998. So there was this flea market type place near where we lived. I called it the dirt mall, but there were so many “booths” with weird stuff I always wanted to go. The place was huge too. In this place my grandpa met a guy that sold holistic cures for ailments. Now I don’t blame this guy. He was sucked into a pyramid type thing so he was suckered into it just like he suckered my grandpa. He sold things like medical magnets. You might have heard about em. You place the north side to your headache or stomach ache and it goes away. He also had these really fucked up things that was supposed to clean all the ear wax out of your ears. It was this long wax cone thing and you lean or lay on your side, place it in your ear and you light the end on fire and the properties in the cone with the fire and some suction it created made it extract all the disgusting earwax from your head. It really was disgusting. They would do demonstrations right there in the booths all day long. After they were done you could look inside the ear candle and see all this wretch yellow ear wax. Just horrible right? Well skeptic I was after my grandpa bought into all of it I took one of the ear candles, lit it while it was sitting in a clean glass and what did I find when it was done? A ton of disgusting yellow earwax. The thing is designed to turn that color making the person thing they’re removing an ear infection when they should be getting to a proper doctor. To add insult to injury, you can have a drip of hot wax land on your eardrum causing hearing damage.


The magnets were really what my grandpa wanted though. He was convinced they’d help his cancer. He spent so much money on magnets it was insane. He kept a lot for himself and suckered other people into buying them as well. They were great magnets, don’t get me wrong. Ceramic magnets are strong, but they don’t heal you! It was all a placebo if it worked at all. My dad to this day swears by them. He’ll get a headache and place one on his head and just sit still in the chair and wow, what a miracle, after an hour and a half the headache was gone! Of course it’s gone. You’re sitting in a chair relaxing relieved of all stress for 90 minutes. Of course it’s gonna go away!


There were other things he tried to escape death. He had a small water purifier business for a while, he was on a mainly vegetarian diet and ate lots of peppers. The thing that did stay consistent was every spring he planted a garden in the back yard and tended to it all summer. He spent most of January and February starting the plants in the basement so he’s get a quick start in the spring. These were things that actually kept his mind on something real and tangible and kept his activity up. This was the reason he outlived what the doctors gave him.


I mentioned this side story because it signifies when I started to see the negative effects of blind faith. Sure he lived longer, but that was because of the garden and his diet, not ear candles and magic magnets. He eventually became frustrated with the snake oil he was being fed. He dropped the ear candles shortly after I pointed out the fallacy but never gave up on the magnets. We found them under cushions all over the house after he died.


A few years went by and I just started to lose anything that resembled belief in a god. The only reason I didn’t completely drop it a lot sooner was the sheer terror implanted in me at an early age of burning in hell for all eternity. After a while it faded. The more I felt that a god isn’t logical, the less scared I felt until it was but a sparkle of “maybe it’s all true”. I called myself agnostic.


I hadn’t given much thought to God or religion for a while and then in the middle of 2002 it was pointed out to me that the bible supported slavery. That floored me. It prompted me to look into other interesting facts about the bible and of course I found all sorts of just horrible terrible shit in there. Then it was pointed out to be that a book written a few thousand years prior to the bible called the Gilgamesh contained many of the same stories as the bible. Well not exactly the same, but very similar. They weren’t stories of fact though, they were myths. After that it was just a trickle down effect. I learned that pretty much the bible is plagiary in motion. Borrowing from here and stealing from there and then passing it off as the one ultimate truth and death to those who oppose it.


That pretty much sealed the deal for me. There was no way that shit could be true at all now. I started to see what the purpose for religion was and I considered it something that I didn’t require in the slightest. Thus I was finally able to consider myself an atheist.

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Interesting story, Tony, and welcome! Thanks for sharing. I esp. liked the part about the ear cones. My parents were very much into alternative medicine. My youngest sister (I have seven sisters all told, all of whom are younger than I) had a lot of earaches when she was little. My parents were told to use any sheet of paper and form it into a cone, then light the outer edge.


I remember they tried it. My little sister was lying on the couch. But when they lighted the match she screamed so much in terror that they stopped the procedure. That seemed like a really smart idea to me. It seemed impossible to work, and far too dangerous.


I suspect my parents weren't totally sold on the idea, either. Both of them were there, working together. I think they were very much aware of the danger, too. On top of everything else, she was their eleventh child. They had dealt with many an earache before she ever came along--and WITHOUT playing with fire!


I also liked the part about the dinasaurs. I was raised to believe they never existed. I'm a good twenty years older than you so my formative years came in a different era--in the sixties when all the rage was landing on the moon. I am of the impression that not much was known about dinasaurs at the time. In the 1990s I was seeing a non-church-going Christian (there's quite a few of those here in Ontario) massage therapist who was somewhat younger than me. He asked, "But how can anyone NOT believe in dinasaurs? They have the bones and everything! I saw them!"


I had no answer. I was more interested in the information he was sharing than in contradicting him.


And the magnets. My family was also taken up with the magnets in their day. My mother was sure I needed a magnet mattress overlay. I claimed not to have the money to buy one. Bottom line: I was tired and skeptical of this pursuit for all the new fads of alternative medicine that never produced results. I wasn't working at the time, so I did not feel I could invest in it. But one of my sisters donated the money so I went along with it.


It sure had an effect on me. It took me a few nights before I could sleep the whole night without removing it halfway through. I assume it was the interaction of my body's electricity with the electricity of the magnets. Beyond that, so far as I can tell, it did nothing for me. I forget what it was supposed to do.


Sorry, the point of your story was not to sell or put down alternative medicine but since it was such a large part of my life and I never get the opportunity to discuss it with anyone who was not either sold on it or totally rejected it, I found that part of your story very helpful.


You said:


One thing when looking back at how I was raised in a Christian respect is how teachings of an all-loving Jesus went by the wayside and yet and vengeful and terrible God was stressed.


This sounds very much like my up-bringing, too. My mother used to talk along the lines of: God is so HOLYand we are so DEPRAVED, so utterly sinful and so completely unworthy. We don't deserve even to come into his presence. But he is also so LOVING, so MERCIFUL. He does not want one soul to be lost. When I think of all he did for me....." her voice would trail off as though words just couldn't express the deep feelings.


I always wished she would forget herself one of these times and go beyond the description of her deep and overwhelming feelings and just say exactly WHAT it is that God did for her. She also loved to emphasize how Jesus suffered all there ever was to suffer. That, too, somehow failed to register in my brain as exactly logical. Jesus wasn't the only man crucified that day. He was the first to die, to have it all end. His legs weren't broken. That always revolts me that on top of everything else, the two thieves had to suffer broken legs. It never entered my brain that he might have suffered supernatural pain that the ordinary human being would not suffer. That came much later from a charismatic church I attended after leaving my parents' church. By then I was in my forties and it made absolutely no sense.


Jesus' body was supposedly fully human i.e. he was tempted in all things just like us, only without sin. Naturally he suffered, but he got to leave this life of misery in his early thirties. The psychological persecution I lived with for decades on end could not be less suffering than he endured for a few hours. These thoughts were not fully formed but there was always this skeptical element in my brain that I could not get rid of. Nor did I want to.


Once again, welcome! Hope you enjoy your time here.

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Welcome! Facinating story.


There are so many intriguing angles.


Someting tells me that you really loved your grandfather.


In the coffee room at work I have a copy of Yan Martel's The Life of Pi that I read when I'm eating lunch alone. The books is well written (recommended by me so far) and I'm 1/3 through. Anyway, the plot is essentially about a young man who is gets lost at sea in a life boat and washes up on a shore where insurance adjustors (or something) are looking for an explaination of why the ship sunk with the cargo. The young man tells an outrageous story about being in the life boat with a Siberian Tiger. The insurance people are incredulous so he tells them a plain and sensible story of why the ship sank and asks them, "Which story did you like better, the one with the Tiger or without?". They say "The one with the tiger". I wonder if you would say that your grandfather, by trying out all the magnets and candles, was essentially creating a more interesting story to tell other people?


I lived with my grandparents for a short period and then with my aunt Judy. They told me I’d have more fun and she had a pool while the real reason was to keep my sister and me in different places so when the cops came looking they couldn’t get us both.


You left us hanging. Where did you live after that?


I gobbled up anything I could learn about them. I could spout off the names of all of the ones that I knew of at the time.


We’d have Bible quizzes and I never knew any of the right answers and was always confused.


Interesting contradiction. Maybe you didn't feel a connection to the bible and the stories so they didn't register?


Thanks for the story. You sound like you were a cool kid.



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Thanks for the replies....sorry it was so long.


As far as leaving you hanging I didn't feel that part had anything to do with my religious experience. I actually only lived with my Aunt Judy for a single semester of school. That whole deal happened during 5th grade too so I was permanently messed up when it came to fractions in math. I was actually a good math student till 5th grade then all the school switchings happened and I couldn't keep up.


Fifth grade saw me spend a month at my school in Dearborn Heights MI, then AK to MO back to MO then when I was taken back to Michigan to live with my Aunt it was a school in Taylor MI and then right before the school year ended it was back to my original school in Dearborn Heights. Needless to say the kids were perplexed that I was back within the same year, I was so far behind my teacher forced me to sit with the 4th grade class during math time which didn't help my "fitting in" and that stayed with me to this day actually though I'm a lot better now.


The details of why I was with my aunt and then back to grandparents are unknown to me now though I assume it had something to do with my mom coming up to Michigan looking for me, once with cops. I know for nearly a year whenever I went anywhere my sister and I had to lay down in the backseat n case my mom was in town looking for us. I knwo that sounds like it would be traumatic and I suppose it should be.


I don't ask the questions I should really. I don't talk to my family anymore. My mom floated around Arkansas for a while. She's a real piece of work. Since the "kidnapping" I've seen her a total of maybe four times. I was eleven when it happened and I'm nearly 29 now. She came up to stay with my younger sister for 2 weeks when my niece was born. After that she was always leaving some guy then going back and just being a gypsy hillbilly or something. I found out she was doing webcam strip teases for people on the internet and even took a bus to chicago to meet some old man. I've completely written her off after I heard that. My son doesn't need to know that Grandma.


My dad re-married a woman 8 years older than I am and she's a real Jesus freak. It's interesting because a few years ago (can't remember the exact conversation) I referred to Christianity as a religion and my dad told me it's not a religion. Basically he was indicating that Christianity rates higher than some mere religion of which there are many. it pisses me off cause he didn't used to be that way. He used to listen to old Blues and Pink Floyd and stuff like that, now he listens to Elvis and instrumental music and gospel. They know I'm atheist but I've never "come out" to them. I asked my sister if they knew and she said they pretty much came to the conclusion themselves.


I live about an hour from my dad but I haven't been out there to visit in nearly 2 years now. My step-mom is back in school for religious studies so I just don't even feel like opening that can of worms.


I've lived a fairly traumatic life and it's a wonder I'm not more fucked up than I am. I suppose it's made me fairly emotionally distant but that's just a side effect. It's kind of like evolution. It worked for me to get through it.




And to RubySera:

I'm no fan of alternative medicine. If it worked it'd be proven, til then it's snake oil or a placebo as far as I'm concerned. Just how I'm wired now. Not that I wouldn't like for all that shit to actually work as advertised, but I just don't have that kind of "faith".

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