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The Beginning Of The Journey...


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So I was clicking around online and I found the old gaming site where I used to dick around and discuss online RPGs.


I found this post from 2001 in the Off Topic threads. This was about a week after my first tentative steps toward becoming the atheist I am today. It's horribly sad how wrapped up in my faith I was. I'll post another as a reply... when I read the second one, I cringed. Horrible stuff.


Death, Selfishness, and the Problem with Faith

Mar 21 01 7:59 PM


First, let me say that I am not preaching, anti-preaching, attempting to convert, proselytizing, degrading, or otherwise trying to influence another member of this community's faith or lack of faith, religion or lack of religion. I hope that by posting this, I can get constructive and thoughtful feedback in an attempt to promote an intelligent dialogue of equals about a subject that has occupied a large chunk of my conscious thought for about a week straight now. If I seem somewhat less than objective and slightly belligerent, please bear with me I haven't been sleeping well, and it's hard to be polite when I'm seething with what I see as the end of my innocence and trust in the benevolence of God.


Some background on me.


I was born into a Catholic family in 1974. My mother is Italian and my father is Cuban, both are devoutly religious (my dad was in Seminary when Castro took Cuba) from their births. My parents began sending me to Catholic school for kindergarten (August 1979) at the tender age of four. I was raised Catholic at home and school (Visitation of Our Lady Catholic Grade School) reinforced all of the same things that my parents had taught me earlier. I went to Mass every Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday from 1979 until 1989 I was happy being Catholic and could not imagine ever changing religions (were there any other religions?) When my family moved to Florida and I began going to public school (as the local Catholic school was NOT local and would have necessitated my mother making an hour drive each morning to drop me off) my sophomore year. I still went to Mass on Sundays, but the rest of the week was spent in a school that didn't really give a shit what religion you thought you were. I lost interest in religion about the same time I gained an interest in girls, but I went to Mass anyway, comfortable in my faith - sure that what I was doing was "right" and "natural."


I completely stopped going to church when I was asked by the Monsignor of St. Catherine's to stop coming to his Masses because I was a "bad influence" on the other CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) members, as I was constantly asking questions about Catholicism and arguing with doctrine I thought was stupid (the assertion that people of other faiths were "going to Hell" was one such argument).

And that is where I stood until last Sunday evening.


I woke from a sound sleep at about three in the morning with a single thought running through my head.


“I am going to die one day.”


Actually, the thought was more pictures than words (as most of my thoughts are) and this particular picture was one of nothingness. Just closing my eyes, breathing my last and then nothing. No Heaven, no Hell, no hanging around as a ghost, no Nirvana, no reincarnation, just NOTHING.


I moderately freaked out and couldn't sleep for the remainder of the night.

The next day, I was in pretty bad shape, but the normalcy of a Monday pretty much chased the phantoms from my mind.

Until that night.

And the night after that.

And the day after that.

And the night after that.

And today.

And tonight


So, here I am, sweating and twitchy. I'm empty and lonely and I feel like I'm going insane. Let me tell you what my faith in my immortal soul has been replaced with:





The reactions of the brain at the time of death (I told you I've been obsessing about this) include a massive release of endorphins, hormones, and chemicals that simultaneously relax and anesthetize the body in preparation for its cessation. The physical reactions are pupil dilation, slowed or quickened breathing, hallucinations, and possible voiding of waste materials. Persons having "near-death" experiences are invariably depressed and listless for several months due to the massive expenditure of the body's resources in its last moments. "Tunnel of light" hallucinations are caused by the visual centers of the brain being sacrificed to an introspective moment as every neuron in the dying brain "shorts out" and converts the memories they hold into perfectly clear pictures ("I saw my momma in heaven when I died on the operating table!") of past experiences.



Human beings are "hardwired" to believe in a Creator, to believe in a Power greater than themselves; we are hardwired AS AN ENTIRE SPECIES to believe in an afterlife. This is given by some to be "proof" of Creation, of God, of an afterlife like a manufacturer's stamp on our brains HUMAN#494,400,787,288,129,499,853,380 - INSPECTED BY GOD.


Actually, all I believe this proves is our inordinate sense of self-importance. Does the universe really give a fuck if you die? No! The Creator doesn't care, because the Creator is a collective myth made to represent Humanity's hopes and strivings for "perfection." The unsupported belief that humans are special, that WE are special, that WE go on forever are nothing more than the inability to look outside our heads!


"But I believe in an immortal soul/ Jesus Christ/ Yahweh/ Buddha/ Mother Goddess/ ancestor spirit/ cosmic balance/ whatever!"


Good for you!


If that is what helps you sleep at night (I'm sure not sleeping very well of late), then more power to you! However, it is supremely bold of you to assume that YOU MATTER.


Because you don’t.


And for that matter, neither do I. Neither does anyone - EXCEPT TO THEMSELVES.


See, Humans are trapped behind their perceptions of the world. No one, no matter how "enlightened" or "intelligent" or "objective" can possibly remove the (for lack of a better word) "THEMNESS" from their observations. How arrogant of us to assume that we MUST go on, simply because we cannot imagine a world without us to observe it. How selfish of us to tell our children things like, "Granny's in Heaven now" or "Your daddy is in a better place" when all we know for sure is that they're rotting in their graves, food for the creeping things of the earth.


The problem with Faith.

How do you know that Granny is in Heaven? You don't! Your "faith" tells you? HA! Your faith is nothing more than self-centeredness endemic to every human being that walks the planet in a quest for unattainable perfection. Faith is nothing more than the hope that YOU are special, that YOU are unique, that YOU will go on.


Why should you?


You, and every other human on the planet, are nothing more than chemicals that gave rise to consciousness. When the "Life Force" leaves that ambulatory, self-centered chemical stew, why do humans assume that it is NOT the end?




We are candle flames! Motes of dust! We are nothing more than the end-products of millions of years worth of selfish behavior.


The people of Egypt were OBSESSED with death. It colored every facet of their lives. What did they do? They made the body last forever (or nearly so) in an attempt to gain immortality, because WITHOUT THE BODY, THE SOUL IS LOST.


Well, I go one step further I say that WITHOUT THE BODY, THERE IS NO SOUL! Faith tells you differently? Good. Hold tightly to your faith. Take comfort in it. You have no idea the emptiness and fear that wracks me when I realize that one day (quite soon, in the grand scheme of things) my eyes will close and I will CEASE TO EXIST.


There will be nothing left of me but the memories in other people's minds and the genes I'll give to my children.


This scares the LIVING SHIT out of me, but there's nothing I can do about it, is there? Which, I believe, is why I feel like I'm losing my mind. My faith was such a large part of my makeup for so long, that the loss of that faith is like a physical blow. It's like tearing my heart out of my chest and I'm left feeling hollow.


Other people face the prospect of oblivion and cessation with equanimity but I'm not to that point yet. I have not accepted the possibility that I may not be present for every stage of the world. I have not accepted my own mortality within this new paradigm. I cannot BELIEVE in an afterlife, and I cannot ACCEPT my cessation.


Which leaves me where? Sleepless, lonely, shaken, and afraid. Sucks for me, huh?


The Upside

The only positive thing I can make myself believe about my new lack of faith is the fact that time is EXTREMELY subjective. The vivid hallucinations of my dying mind will last FOREVER in my own perception, as they will be my last experience. After that, nothingness takes hold and I will know no more. So, my afterlife will last a split second to anyone standing around the hospital bed/ crash site/ murder scene, but forever to me.


In closing

So with all that said (or ranted, as the case may be), does anyone have any thoughts on this? Am I the only person in the whole fucking world (do you see my self-centeredness at work?) that has a serious problem accepting oblivion? Has anyone else come to these same conclusions and simply shrugged it off as something they cannot change? Is anyone struggling with this right now because of what I wrote? Is there some exercise or meditation that can help me accept my eventual demise? Any drugs (barring religion… the opiate of the masses)?


Also, I'd like to offer apologies to anyone I offended in this post. I know I mentioned it in my preface, but I'm suddenly under a lot of stress and this is most of the reason why.


Maybe I just need to take a Valium and get some fucking sleep. I just don't know any more.



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Death, Faith, and why I'm hitting that pipe again.

Mar 27 01 7:17 PM


Well... I have to say that I didn't expect to write anything else on this subject as I was sure I was destined for the loony bin with all haste.


Yesterday morning, out of the friggin' blue, my mother calls me while I'm at work and says, and I quote, "I was saying my morning prayers... and I know you're going to 'Oh mom!' me... but while I was saying my prayers, I kept thinking that you were in trouble and I needed to call you about something going on tonight."


Dead silence from my end.


"Uh... okay. Well, there's going to be a penance service tonight at St. Catherine's and I want you to come. There's going to be a dozen priests there hearing confession and I think you need to talk to them about something."


I replied, "Yeah. I do."


She said, "You sound like shit. What's wrong?"


I said, "Don't worry about it. What time is the thing?"


She replied, "Seven o'clock. Are you coming?"


I said, "Yeah, I'll meet you there. I've got to go back to work."


She said, "God has a way of..."


I said, "Yeah, right. I've really got to go." And hung up.


Fast forward to 7:00PM at St. Catherine's church. There are about 300 people all waiting to go to confession after a reading of the Gospel. I see a priest that looks both comfortable in his priesthood (a lot of them look confused or have that fake "peaceful" look about them... I hate that) and looks like a no-nonsense type of guy... priest or not.


His name is Fr. Seabrook and he's visiting from Sacred Heart in Jacksonville. I get in his line and wait patiently for my turn, (as I was trying desperately to remember the Act of Contrition, since it had been more than a decade since I last said it) watching each person ahead of me go into confession looking nervous, coming out looking determined, saying their penance looking devout, and leaving the church looking happy.


So, it gets to me. I sit down and, "Hi Father Seabrook, my name is Jose." He looks bored, I decide not to shake his hand (generally NOT done in confession, but I was operating less than optimally) and continue, "Bless me Father, for I have sinned. It has been eleven years since my last confession. These are my sins..."


Blah, blah, blah... for about two minutes. He looks bored, hot, and irritable (as all priests do when forced to sit and listen to people confess their petty sins for hours at a stretch), I wound up with, "And last Sunday, I denied the existence of God and my own immortal soul."


He perked up and actually looked me in the eye, "Tell me why."


So, I ranted at length (see original post for general idea) about why I suddenly came to the realization that I did not have a soul and he stopped me by saying, "You know this for certain?"




He continued, "That you have no soul. This is certain?"


"Uh, well... not really, I'm kind of struggling with this right now and..."


He cuts me off, "So, your faith in a soul is gone because you cannot prove that you have one?"


"Uh, kind of. See..."


He cuts me off again, "You name is Jose, right?"


"Uh, yeah... I uh..."


"Jose, what exactly do you think faith is but the belief in something that you cannot ever prove and cannot ever understand?"


"Well, right, but..."


"So, what you're saying is that because you suddenly cannot prove the existence of a soul, you choose not to believe in one?"


"See, I was..."


"Let me tell you something, Jose... you can go for weeks without food and you can live for days without water, but without hope you will not last the night. You have to believe in something or you will go insane."




"You look halfway there already, you've been obsessing about this?"




He nodded, "I thought so... you look terrible."


"Gee thanks, I haven't been getting much..."


"Sleep. Yes, it shows. I want to make something very clear to you right now. Are you listening?"


"Yes, Father."


"You are on the brink of emotional collapse, you are going to have a nervous breakdown if you do not stop obsessing about this. It shows very clearly in you posture that you are in a state of despair. Despair is a very greedy and all-encompassing emotion, you soon will not have room for anything else. Do you understand me?"




"This is what I suggest you do in order to stop this descent of yours: Come to church and start pretending."




"That's right. Just pretend. Pretend there is a God, pretend that you have a soul, pretend that you believe these things."


"Why? That's hypocrisy."


"No, it's absolutely necessary for you to do." He continued, "Look at it this way, if you are correct, and there is no soul, then you owe it to yourself to spend what you're sure you do have as happily as possible... and I don't think that mental institutions are the happiest of all possible environments. So, it is not necessary for you to have a massive conversion right now. Simply, 'Act as if...' there is a God, and you have a soul. Because if you're right, you won't be hurting anything by your self-deception and you will have made it possible to continue living your life in a productive manner." He paused and made sure that I was looking into his eyes, "And if you're wrong, it never hurts to hedge your bets. Do you understand me?"


"I think so."


"Good. Say a good Act of Contrition."


I somehow remembered every single word...


Oh my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all of my sins, because they have put me in danger of the fires of Hell, but most of all because they offend Thee, My God, who are All Worthy and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to sin no more and to avoid the near occasions of sin. Amen.


He absolved me of my sins and then released me. I said, "What's my penance?"


He said, "You've already done your penance, Jose. Go in peace."


And so I did.


Well, that's where I stand now. Not converted, not convinced, but faithful that no matter what happens, it cannot possibly be any worse than the last week and a half of absolute despair. I slept straight through last night and I feel about a bazillion times better today.


So, I'll "Act as if..." and keep my hopes up... because, if I truly am made in God's image, then it had to be a real struggle for Him not to drop a meteor on my head and wait for me in the afterlife to say,


"There. Are you satisfied now?"



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Wow.  I wonder if the priest was pretending, too.  He sounds kind, even when other priests might have 'dropped the hammer' on you.

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The last time I stepped foot in a church was September 16, 2001. When the homily was all about god's plan for the victims of 9/11, I got up, walked out, and never went back. I already didn't believe, and at that point, I reached my Al Pacino moment (thanks Stryper), and I couldn't fake it anymore. 


All in all, it was a rough journey. It was kind of bittersweet seeing myself in those old posts. 


Deconversion, for me at least, was terrible.I feel so much for the people going through it daily. 


I think that's 90% of the reason I started coming here again. I finally reached a place of peace and if I can help one person get from where I was in 2001 to where I am now, I will have done something worthwhile with my life. 

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