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Why I am an Atheist

Brother Jeff

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Human beings hold a wide range of beliefs about many things, and they have many reasons for choosing to believe as they do. I have had quite a journey in Religion and religious belief. I was raised Methodist, and by the time I was nine years old, I realized that I did not believe the tenets of Christianity. I told my mother that I did not believe and did not wish to continue attending church. She respected my religious opinion even at that age, and allowed me to quit going to church. After that, religion wasn't an issue in my life for several years. When I was a teenager, I attended a Southern Baptist church for a short time courtesy of my neighbors, but that didn't last long. Again, religious concerns took a back seat to the rest of my life. At the age of 19, I was having the unfortunately common teenage problems with substance abuse. I was a full-fledged teenaged alcoholic. I was taking a drama class at the local community college, and one of the guys there was a fanatic Christian. He started talking to me about Jesus, and at first my reaction was "Get away from me with that Jesus shit!" The Christian harassment continued, and I eventually agreed to read some Bible verses with him just to get him to shut up. I read the verses that he pointed out - the "Romans Road" along with Hebrews 4:12 - as I recall. I have to admit that I felt something happen inside of me when I read those scriptures. As it happens, the Baptist church in Brazoria, TX was showing the Christian Propaganda piece "The Jesus Film". I was becoming very interested in the claims of Christianity. I attended a showing of the film, and was very moved by the story of this Jesus, who was supposedly God and died for me. At the end of the movie, I knew that I wanted what Jesus had to offer, at least according to the movie. I got "saved" on March 7, 1985. So began my 15 years as a Christian. Not long afterward, I was baptized. I remember having a spiritual experience when I was dunked, and came up feeling different and new somehow. After all, that is how you are supposed to feel, right?


In late August of 1985, I went off to a Christian University in East Texas. I admit that I knew only the basics of Christianity at that point and I was unknowingly suffering from Bipolar Disorder at the time. I was rather naive about people and about life. But then, that is really true of a lot of young people, isn't it? Anyway, I was expecting a very sanctified, churchlike atmosphere at the school. After all, we were all committed Christians there, right? And some of them were very religious, but for the most part, they were no different than anybody else. I discovered that Christians are just average people who happened to have strong religious beliefs. If I have learned anything in life, I have learned that people are people regardless of their religious beliefs or the lack thereof - good, bad, short, fat, tall, thin, handsome, beautiful, ugly as sin, whatever! People are people! My struggles with faith started at that time, less than a year into my Christian experience. I attended that school for one year, but I had a good time while I was there. I attended several Christian concerts, including Mylon LeFevre and Broken Heart. I actually got to meet Mylon backstage! I was thrilled! Glory! I came back home in the summer of 1986. Through the influence of the guy who "led me to the Lord", I received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues and officially became a charismatic Christian. I attended Church on the Rock for a while and visited several other non-denominational churches. I settled on one for several years. My Christianity throughout the 1990's was on and off. I had a lot of personal struggles, mostly due to the Bipolar Disorder that I did not know that I had at that point in time. I was self-medicating a lot with alcohol and drugs, and Jesus didn't see fit to zap me and heal me like he does those on big-name preacher's TV shows. Of course, those people don't really get healed either. Once the emotions wear off, their problems are still there. That is one of the problems with Christianity. This Destructive Cult is responsible for much emotional, mental, and spiritual manipulation and abuse. Unfortunately, it goes largely unchecked because this worldwide destructive cult has a completely undeserved reputation of respectability.


In late 1999, I went for an extended visit with my Fundie fanatic cousin. I had lost just about all of my faith, but I was willing to give Christianity one more shot while I was staying with him. I put my brain in neutral and tried really hard to believe again while attending my cousin's Fundamental Baptist church. I finally realized that I was done with Christianity when the preacher was shouting and pounding the pulpit about the alleged holiness of god. I was sure that he was going to start foaming at the mouth at any time. I was sitting there in the pew while my cousin was shouting "Amen!" and I was thinking to myself, "What utter bullshit this is!" My faith had its last gasp and died a merciful death while I was sitting in a Fundamental Baptist church! Glory! I had just taken my first large step toward true freedom and my first large step away from the Destructive Cult of Fundamentalist Christianity. A few years before this, I had become aware of some of the legitimate criticisms of the Faith, but I tried to put that knowledge aside and force myself to believe something that I knew was not true. Maybe some people can do that, but I couldn't. Intellectual dishonesty and living a lie are just things that I am not good at - and I am very glad that that is the case. Shortly after that, I moved to Dallas and began to study a great deal. I was familiar with the writings of apologists such as Josh McDowell, Dr. Norman Geisler, Dr. Hugh Ross, Grant Jeffrey, and several others. I had done a lot of reading trying to convince myself of the truth of Christianity. But, the answers they had were simplistic, frequently dishonest, and assumed things that simply are not truthful such as the alleged inerrancy of the Bible and the idea that the Bible qualifies as a reliable history text. It is quite obvious from even a casual but honest reading of the scriptures that the Bible does not even come close to living up to these two claims. These apologists start, of course, from the premise that Christianity is true and then manipulate the facts and evidence to try to make a case for their claim. I have not read even one Christian apologist who I have found is willing to deal with the Bible as it is and its many problems and shortcomings. Christian apologists are not even willing to be honest about the book that they wish to defend. They are frequently dishonest regarding history and the findings of archaeology and science. I had to ask myself honestly, "Why should I listen to these men?" If you start with a faulty premise, you will very likely arrive at faulty conclusions. That is what apologists do. They start out with several faulty premises about the Bible, and that leads them to their faulty - but no doubt comfortable - conclusions.


I took a look on the other side of the fence again - the side of truth, facts, reason, rationality, common sense, honesty about the Bible and its contents, Reality, etc. I have done a lot of research from the critical approach to Christianity as well and I have found the intellectual honesty of those writers to be most refreshing after the mental gymnastics, selective historizing, and general dishonesty of the Christian apologists. Here were men and women who were dealing honestly with scripture and the history of the Church and Christianity in general. I immersed myself in the writings of thinking people - Robert G. Ingersoll, Thomas Paine, Percy Shelley, and several modern critical thinkers as well. I found more truth, honesty, and integrity in the writings of non-believers and their views than I ever had in the Christian Church.


Although my faith died with finality in early 2000, looking back I think I was really a Christian Atheist for a long time. I can remember going to early morning prayer meetings back in the late 1980's and having to ask the very man responsible for bringing me into the Faith to pray me through my doubts enough for me to participate in the prayer meeting. My brain refused to go to sleep and just blindly accept Christian doctrine or even the existence of God. It amazes me now that I had to pray my brain into a temporary slumber so often back then, yet it never dawned on me that I did not honestly believe in Christianity even then. I honestly thought that I believed, but looking back on those days, I can see that I was rapidly becoming a non-believer although I still held to the doctrines of Christianity. In my heart, I still believed. My mind steadfastly refused to succumb. It is true that a house divided against itself cannot stand. My heart and my mind were on opposite sides of the fence. Fortunately, my mind and intelligence won the battle although it took several years for that battle to be won. Christianity was something comfortable to hold on to in a life otherwise troubled with bouts of substance abuse and mental illness (Bipolar Disorder). There were many times in church services where god was allegedly doing great things and everybody else was excited and I felt nothing at all. My mind was telling me the truth that this was nothing but bullshit. I chose instead to listen to dogma and the Church for several more years. I also know, as I said before, that I needed something to hold onto through my battles with substance abuse and Bipolar Disorder. Religion served that purpose for several years. A belief does not have to be true or based in Reality to work for someone for a while. But, reason, rationality, and sanity finally prevailed and I have been free from religion for almost three years now. I have alternated between calling myself an atheist and an agnostic, but my basic non-belief has remained. Although I do not believe in the existence of any god or gods, I maintain a very spiritual and compassionate outlook on life. Lack of belief in god does not have to mean no spirituality. I have known for a long time that moral values do not come from religion or religious belief, and I have always had very strong moral and ethical values. Most non-believers do.


Believers in all religions claim to feel the presence of their god, or they believe that they have heard from their god, and they tend to believe that their god has kept his promises. Christians insist that Jesus has done all he said that he would. Muslims firmly believe that Allah has kept his promises, and so on. Belief is a powerful thing, but the fact of the matter is that no religion is based in Reality. Religious believers see what they wish to see and what their religious eyeglasses tell them is real. Religion and belief can all easily be explained by psychology. And, scientists have now identified the structure in the human brain responsible for spiritual feelings and "feeling God". The more that science and human knowledge progress, the more gaps God gets thrown out of.


I have given the issue of whether I am an atheist or an agnostic a lot of thought. I see no reason to sit on the fence as an agnostic. There is no evidence for the existence of any god or gods, so I see no reason why I should believe in them. Religion and religious dogma rob us of our most precious freedoms - the freedom to think for ourselves and reach our own conclusions. If I fear the wrath of some god out there for thoughts and beliefs that he doesn't like based on the assertions of an ancient holy book riddled with errors, absurdities, and contradictions, that does not leave me free to think. Religion shackles the mind and stifles the human spirit. Why should I fear roasting in God's Loving Hell for the simple act of using my brain and having beliefs that differ with an ancient book? That just doesn't make sense and does not speak well of the Christian God if he does exist. I value honesty, integrity, freedom, and my mind, mental health, and intelligence far more than I respect the Christian Church with its non-Reality based doctrine, brainwashing and fear tactics that have enslaved the minds and hearts of so many people, and the ludicrous Christian claims about the Bible that require me to check my brain at the door if I am to believe them. I have tested the claims of Christianity and I have found them severely lacking. It is my firm belief that anyone who does honest research and dares to think for themselves will reach basically the same conclusions as I have and find themselves gloriously free from the tyranny and mental and spiritual slavery of Religion.

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All I can say is welcome back! You were quite lucky to get out of the Mindless Pit of a Belief. I was Messi if you remember. Killing Infidels, a bell ring? So WElcome back from Land of the Long White Cloud!

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  • 2 years later...

GLORIOUS UPDATE: I wrote my original "extimony" sometime in 2002 or 2003. I think it was in 2002, but I can't remember for sure. The following is an update and addition to it that I wrote today.


I grew up in a nominally religious home. I was raised United Methodist, but at home religion was limited to occasionally reading some bible stories, and that's about it. I quit going to church when I was about ten years old, and didn't get involved in religion again until I was 19-years old. At that time, through the influence of my good friend Mike, I became a "sold out to Jesus" fanatic fundie. That was a huge change for me, going from a party animal alcoholic and drug user to Jesus Freak. It was a huge adjustment for my family too. I was still living at home at the time, and I remember when Mike and I came home one day and we were climbing the stairs on the way to my bedroom, my younger sister laughed when she heard us going on about how wonderful Jesus was. She thought it was hysterically funny, but of course I knew that she just wasn't saved - yet. :rolleyes: I had religion, and I had it bad! I'm sure she laughed even harder when I cranked up Keith Green and Sandi Patti Christian music instead of the awesome 80's Rock that was usually blasting from my stereo. She wasn't laughing though, and neither was my mother, when I threw away hundreds of dollars worth of records and tapes (hey, this was before the days of the CD!) because "that music is satanic". Fortunately, they found out in time before the trash ran, and my mother forced me to retrieve the bags from the garbage dumpster. But anyway... I spent the next 15 years of my life as a fanatic fundie Christian. Due to my then undiagnosed bipolar illness, I had for that entire time swings from periods of devout religious belief to times of serious substance abuse. Every time I "backslid" though, I would always eventually (usually within a matter of months) be back in church serving Jesus again and wondering how I could have ever left Him. In hindsight now, I know that when I got "saved" I just added religion as a way to cope with the symptoms of my illness. Sometimes religion worked great, and sometimes substance abuse worked great. Either way, I was just self-medicating, whether I was high on Jesus or high on drugs and alcohol.


I deconverted in early 2000 at the age of 34, and since then - with the exception of a few bipolar-induced and unfortunately very public short-lived "reconversions" - I have remained an ex-Christian, and I see no good reason to ever return to the faith again. I'm alternately extremely pissed off about the years I devoted to a demonstrably false belief system, but sometimes I wonder if I should be grateful for my Christian experience because it may have saved my life by giving me something positive to hold on to when I was so ill. But the reality is that if I had never become a Christian (and in many ways I wish I never had), then I would have found some other way to cope besides extreme religious belief.


What religion gave me was a strong belief in a loving God who cared about me and cared about what happened to me. It also gave me a sense of importance because I believed that Jesus loved me personally enough to die for me. I also had a strong belief in a Heaven wonderful beyond our ability to describe that I was going to go to after I died and spend eternity there with the God and Savior that I loved. I really needed those beliefs at the time because I had assurance that the miseries of this life that were caused by my illness were nothing compared to the eternal joy and love and happiness that I was going to experience once this life was over. I spent years really, really looking forward to Heaven and desperately wanting Jesus to return so I could be delivered from the struggles of this life. I remember how excited I was in 1988 when Jesus was supposed to return on Rosh Hashanah of that year. I read the book "88 Reasons Why the Rapture Could Be in 1988" by Edgar Whisenant with great excitement. On the night that the Rapture was supposed to occur, I told my unsaved family goodnight for what I thought would be the last time, and went to bed fully expecting to be gloriously raptured into the presence of Jesus sometime during the night. Imagine my disappointment when I woke up the next morning! My family just smiled at my religious foolishness and gave me a bit of a hard time about it, but then life went on as usual.


What Atheism gave me back was the use of my brain and common sense. I value reason and rational thought a great deal because I lost the use of them for so long in the area of religious belief. Because I don't believe in God, my destiny is my own. What I do with my life is up to me, and I don't have to spend it trying to please God or constantly apologize for sins either real or imagined. I don't have to constantly apologize for being human. I can just be me - a good and good-natured but fallible and imperfect human being - instead of what I think and hope that God wants me to be. It's very difficult to know if you are really pleasing a God who never gives you any sort of feedback! What Atheism also gave me was relief from the fear of Hell. Hell is an obvious myth, and a sick and demented and evil myth at that. But I spent years worrying that my unsaved family and friends were going to go there and at times when I doubted my salvation, I was very afraid that I would end up going there too.


What Atheism robbed me of was my strong belief in a loving God. No longer can I lay my problems and struggles down at the foot of the cross or in God's hands for Him to carry instead of me. No longer can I pray and believe that I am being lovingly heard by God in times of spiritual, emotional, or physical need. No longer can I engage in the praise and worship that I used to enjoy so much. No longer can I stand in awe of the holiness and purity of God as I pray. That belief is gone, and it is no longer possible for me to honestly believe that the loving God that I once believed in so strongly actually exists. God is pure mythology, and though the emotions I felt were wonderful, they were a product of the incredible power of belief, and that belief no longer exists.


Atheism robbed me of a belief in a Savior who was my best friend. I knew that Jesus loved me more than I could possibly comprehend, and that He would never let me down. He was with me always! I was sure that I let Him down a lot, but I believed in His love and forgiveness, and I knew that He would always take me back when I repented after I fell into indulging in sinful thoughts or behaviors. When I became an atheist, I lost my best friend.


Atheism robbed me of a belief in a Heaven wonderful beyond description that was waiting for me after I died. As an atheist now, I know that instead of going to a wonderful Heaven when I die, I'm simply going to cease to exist at the moment of my death. There is no good evidence that any part of us survives death, and I no longer expect or believe in any sort of afterlife. But, it was a tremendous hurt and disappointment to discover that my belief in Heaven - a place that I wanted to believe was real so badly - was based on nothing but ancient mythology.


Atheism robbed me of the belief that the bible was the "Word of God". I spent many years viewing it as a Divine Book - an inerrant, infallible, Divinely inspired guide for living straight from the throne of God. Now I recognize the fact that the bible is anything but the "word" of a god. It is, in reality, a collection of ancient religious mythology that clearly reflects the time in which it was written. The mostly anonymous authors of the bible clearly knew nothing of modern science, and God didn't reveal any modern scientific knowledge to them. The bible, in reality, is far from being inerrant or infallible. It is riddled with contradictions, absurdities, obvious myths, and a great deal of non-historical "history".


Atheism robbed me of my sense of divine specialness. I believed for years that God created mankind generally, and that he created me specifically with a loving and great plan for my life in mind if I would just obey Him and give myself completely to Jesus. Now I know that I am nothing but an accident. If a particular sperm from my father and a particular egg from my mother had not met and formed me one night in early 1965, I wouldn't exist. Perhaps I am still special in the sense that I am unique - the only me there ever has been or ever will be - but there is no divine plan behind my existence.


Atheism robbed me of my hope that maybe there was some greater purpose behind my bipolar illness. I hoped for years that God would heal me and use my life to glorify Him. Now I know that I simply drew the short end of the genetic stick (or whatever), and that no supernatural or divine reason for my illness exists. I had the misfortune of being born with genes that would cause mental illness starting in my teenage years, but the only reason for it is just simply genetics. There's nobody to blame and no particular reason that it happened to me. It just did, and I have to live with it and the consequences of it every single day.


Atheism robbed me of the belief that there is a higher purpose behind our existence. I know now that we exist because we evolved over a period of millions of years, not because God created us for companionship with Him. I know now that we have to find our own purpose for being. We have to create our own reasons for living because there is no greater divine purpose behind our lives. I still honestly wish that there was some sort of divine plan behind our existence, but there isn't, so I accept that reality even if I do so still somewhat grudgingly.


Atheism robbed me of my belief that I would be reunited with family and friends after death in Heaven. All of my grandparents are now dead. Granddaddy Reid died first in 1993 at the age of 85, probably from a sudden heart attack or fatal stroke. He was getting up from watching TV to eat dinner, and just fell back in his chair dead. Granddaddy Shelley died in 1994 at the age of 76 after years of struggling with heart problems caused by the rheumatic fever he had as a child. Grandmother Shelley died in 2002 at the age of 84 from a ruptured aortic aneurysm caused by high blood pressure. Grandmother Reid was the last to go in 2003 at the age of 87, but her mind was gone long before then, I believe from Alzheimer's Disease. I loved them all deeply and I still miss them terribly. I no longer expect to be reunited with them in Heaven. I remember when Granddaddy Shelley was in the hospital near death, he said to my Baptist minister uncle, "Danny, I hope I make it!" My grandfather wasn't a religious man, but he believed in God and he wanted to go to heaven. He made it one of his goals to read as much of the bible as he could before he died. My uncle didn't share the gospel with him at that time, and I remember feeling terribly guilty for a long time because I didn't either. I worried for a long time that my grandfather might have died unsaved and gone to hell. I'm relieved of that fear now, but I know now that I will never, ever see my grandparents again. They are dead and irretrievably gone. My parents are in their mid-60's now, and they too will die, and I will never, ever see them or know their love and support again. I lost my good friend Donny to suicide in 1985. I know now that I will never, ever see him again. When people die, they really die. They cease to exist and are gone forever. This is a sad, brutal reality that atheists accept without trying to shelter themselves from it with religious mythology. The reality and finality of death makes me sad, but at the same time it makes me value my family and friends more because I know that life is short, unpredictable, and temporary. It's very important to me to spend as much time as I possibly can with those I love and care about and to tell them frequently that I do.


I spent 15 years of my life believing strongly in a demonstrably false religion. Religion gave me a lot that was good, but it also filled my mind with many false promises and false beliefs. Walking away from religion and my belief in God and consequently embracing Atheism is the hardest but the best thing I have ever done for myself. Although I still sometimes miss the religious feelings I enjoyed and the beliefs that I had, I don't regret my decision to reject religious belief in favor of demonstrable reality at all. I am a stronger, better person because I am an atheist. I face reality as it is - even the most unpleasant parts of it - and I am good and moral because that's a part of who I am as a person, not because I am trying to please God or because I am living in fear of him. I have discovered how wonderful it is to face life on its own terms, free of religious myths and lies! Glory!

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Here's my response. Didn't know you also posted it here.
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Brother Jeff,


Thank you for the update. You have articulated some of the things that have been on my mind. Some of them kind of sad - like - when you're dead, you're dead, and losing that best friend Jesus. Thoughts on dying are close to home as my dad just turned 84 years old and I know he's not going to be around forever (no pun intended!). I still have thoughts about praying about decisions to be made from that old idea that god was going to show me what to do. Now it's all up to me. So for me, like you, atheism took many things away.


On the other hand, atheism gave me something that I could never achieve as a christian... sanity! The things in life that didn't make sense from a christian perspective now fall into place. I've also been given a lot more free time to pursue the things I'm interested in, instead of having a "daily quiet time" of praying and reading the bible trying to know and please a non-existent being.


Life is good.



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