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Antlerman

My "testimony" Part 1 Of ?

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For no apparent reason, (atheist humor), I thought I should post my “testimony”. Funny to use this word after so many years! I’ll try not to be as wordy as I typically am, but there’s a long history, so I’ll shoot for the abridged version, but please forgive me if a deluge issues forth.

 

Way back when I was 18 years of age I was looking for meaning to who I was. I recall days of driving around in my car after working overnight at a radio station, wondering what more there was to life than what I was experiencing, pondering the wonders of the solar system, of the universe, of my place in the whole of it. I was a lost and lonely young man who felt disconnected from his family, his friends, and the very essence of my own self.

 

I remember coming home one morning and telling my mother that, among other things, when I look at people and see them smiling, it all seems totally artificial and unreal to me. I saw nothing in the world that had meaning. I will never forget how she said to me, “Look outside at how beautiful it is today. The snow is melting, the sky is blue, and the air is clean and smells of spring.” I looked outside at that moment and honestly saw and felt absolutely nothing! I had come to zero connection to the world and to my own soul.

 

It was at that moment I knew I could go no further and change must happen for I was dead inside. I left my home and fled to a place away from everyone I knew. I found myself confronting myself in darkness, and after several days, something happened that forever changed me and propelled me down the path of my life to this day.

 

In the middle of the day, following a period of introspective struggle trying to find answers to the deepest questions of my very existence, I was walking along outside and without any sort of precipitous event, suddenly the world burst forth upon me. The sky opened up and I saw blue! The grass was green! I could smell the air and it flooded every inch of my soul. I felt for the first time in my life, Love!!! Love in its absolute purest essence. It was coming out of the entire being of who I am and beaming out without restraint into the world, with peace, joy, meaning, wisdom, understanding, patience, and gentle strength!. It surrounded me in all that is life! Everything was alive! Everything was peace. Everything was joy. There were no fears, no worries, no anger, and no hostilities. Just understanding, just knowledge, just joy, around me and in me, flowing forth out of the most unimaginably deepest part of my soul I have ever known!

 

Now please understand, I was not raised in a religious home. I had no orientation to religious doctrines. This was not something based upon any teaching. This experience was one that changed my entire life to this day and is still deeply a part of who I am. In the many years of having wasted my energies looking to religion to answer these things for me, the nature of this is still very real, but it is no longer clouded in mystical dogma and ideas. In my view, this is something that is not evidence of anything more that something that is part of being a human being. Is it real, yes, but is it proof of a definitive theology? No, on many levels… NO.

 

Well…. Rational ‘ole me! I wanted to understand this! So, off I go to the closest source of information available to my knowledge that might have answers to this sort of thing. Go find a church! Well, after several “looks” from various ministers and a couple years later… I come across a “cock-sure” fundamentalist who holds out with his typical charismatic certainty the answers to my questions! Fool that I was in my desirous and naïve youth!! Sucked it all up like a dry sponge! Shot up in the church as quite the little promising young zealot. Next thing, I’m off to Bible College to fulfill my calling as a minister of the Lord! Yeah.

 

Graduated top of the class, but…. I had a rational mind, the curse of fundamentalism.

 

If I was going into the ministry I told myself after graduation, I cannot be a hypocrite and preach something I have developed serious doubts about as a result of studying the bible with such intensity. I wrestled with all that “devil is trying to steal your faith” bullshit, to finally realize that they were in fact my own doubts from seeing all the poor logic, and inconsistent history and scholarship the whole thing rested on. So I knew I had no other choice than to confront it head on – honestly and with an open heart and mind. I told myself that God would not condemn me for being sincere! “If this is the truth about God, then it will stand the test. If it is not, then I have to deal with this as I cannot be a minister convincing people to dedicate their lives to something that I had serious doubts about were “the Truth”, I told myself as I commited to the task of sorting out the answers.

 

Several months of personal study ensued, and in the end, the house of cards collapsed.

 

This was (many) years ago. There is a great deal more to the story, but I will stop at this point to let any readers catch up, and to give my fingers a break!!

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Thanks, Antlerman. :thanks:

 

I, and I'm sure many others, look forward to the rest of your story!

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Great start to your testimony!

How did your not particularly religious family react when you found Jesus?

 

Taph

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t. Next thing, I’m off to Bible College to fulfill my calling as a minister of the Lord! Yeah.

Graduated top of the class, but…. I had a rational mind, the curse of fundamentalism.

Yikes, you went to bible college and lost it there. How much did it cost?

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“If this is the truth about God, then it will stand the test. If it is not, then I have to deal with this

 

It's really eerie how close this quote is to a statement I wrote in my personal journal in 1992. I went on to declare "from this day forward I will become a student of life..."

 

What is ironic is that the whole episode started out as a personal quest for wisdom, which I had been committing a great deal of prayer and study to.

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Part2:

 

I was married at the time I had joined the fundamentalist church and that experience was stressful on our marriage. She wound up becoming part of the church with me and was very supportive of my going into the ministry (I think she liked the idea of being a Pastor’s wife?). We had a child while I was in Bible College and when I decided to leave that organization after graduation, she also left along with me for various reasons of her own.

 

I decided to try more mainstream Christianity, hoping to find meaning in the more moderate church experience. I went through the motions of this for some time, just living my life but never finding much satisfaction to the greater questions of existence and meaning that were so deeply a part of my spirit.

 

Then one day, for various explanations (none related to religion), my wife announced that she was leaving our relationship and taking our son with her. He was 3 years old at the time. This happened around Thanksgiving, heading into the holidays.

 

I had poured my heart and my soul into raising my son. Growing up, my father was a businessman, and was always working. When I had time with him as a child, playing catch or whatever, it was very meaningful to me. So I made a conscious effort to give him the experience of a close relationship to his father. I played with him on his level every day, experiencing the wonder of the world with him through his eyes. I poured my whole being into his experience. The bonding I had with my son was nearly incomprehensible.

 

Then he was suddenly ripped out of my life.

 

I fell backwards into a black hole. I could see no tomorrow. I could barely see to the next minute. Everywhere I looked was Christmas lights, and music, and all the symbols of family, and warmth, and togetherness. And all I felt was utter loss.

 

I reached out to my belief in God in utter despair. There was no relief to the crushing pain strangling my soul in its unrelenting grip. I turned to the Church, to others, but their efforts would not be able to alleviate this darkness. I pushed forward every day to preserve myself. Then I met my solace, music.

 

I found a piano. I sat in front of it plunking out a few chords I had picked up as a child. Soon I found a voice, a soul in its sounds. I began to compose simple pieces while teaching myself to play. They were songs (without words) that were expressions of my emotions, of my hopes, of my despair, of my wonder at life I once knew. I was finally able to collect and express those profound feelings through a voice that words could never communicate. The pain did not go away, but I could now speak through the instrument and release it from my soul. It was my only therapist.

 

Guess what? People noticed. My music began touching others and I soon began performing my works publicly, but solely for sharing, not for money. I did copyright over 60 works during this time, and eventually did some studio work with my orchestrated scores and produced an album which I did sell, but the business was not what music was about for me.

 

Where was God in all this? Well… part 3?

 

(Sincerely, I hope people don’t mind my wordiness too much, or if this seems endlessly meaningless. Maybe this is a therapy for me today?)

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Good stuff, AM. I'm looking forward to reading the rest. Part 1 blew me away, because our conversion stories are eerilie similar. Other than I was older than you when I had my epiphany and I did not attend bible college, your tale of woe is mine. Freaky, huh? So for selfish reasons I'm interested in what happens next. Keep it coming.

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Thanks for sharing AM. Its interesting how many people have conversion stories after they start to really "dig" into christianity.

 

Keep writing and you aren't being too wordy at all!

 

I would be very interested in some of your music though. I definitely like piano, and since it has such a strong connection to you and your de-conversion, I'm sure other people would be interested as well. Do you have a link? Some samples? Some freebies? :)

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I would be very interested in some of your music though. I definitely like piano, and since it has such a strong connection to you and your de-conversion, I'm sure other people would be interested as well. Do you have a link? Some samples? Some freebies? :)

I don't have any posted anywhere. The only ones I have recorded that are of any decent recording quality were studio produced orchestrated pieces. I don't know if there is any place on this site to post any of these, or what the size restrictions would be if there was?

 

I am under a spoken commitment (to my son) to get some of my solo piano works recorded, but I'm not sure when I'll do this. Recording is not like just playing. Soon I suspect, since it seems very important to him.

 

Yikes, you went to bible college and lost it there. How much did it cost?

I look at it like a degree in music or philosophy. How many of them actually use their degree for that? Like so many music and philosophy majors, I'm in technology now. A degree is still a degree, so I don't view it as a waste. The waste would have been to actually go into the ministry and do that for a living! :grin:

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Antlerman, I love you! :notworthy: You know what I mean.

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Hey Antlerman

 

Thanks for *humoring* us with this, but it's not really so much humor when you read much of your own story in this. But I laugh a *holy* laughter, because you are free, and so am I.

 

Cannot wait for part 2 ...

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Hey Antlerman

 

Thanks for *humoring* us with this, but it's not really so much humor when you read much of your own story in this. But I laugh a *holy* laughter, because you are free, and so am I.

 

Cannot wait for part 2 ...

**You missed it**. It's up above a few posts in this thread. I'll be doing Part 3 sometime soon. Maybe when I'm done, one of the mods could join them all together? I just didn't want to start a new topic for each one.

 

BTW, thanks for your support. :grin:

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**You missed it**. It's up above a few posts in this thread. I'll be doing Part 3 sometime soon. Maybe when I'm done, one of the mods could join them all together? I just didn't want to start a new topic for each one.

:Doh::Doh::Doh:

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Part 3

 

So I survived the first year, slowly inching myself into a new life. Then my attorney announced to me that my ex-wife wished to move my son 2000 miles away! I had learned to make the most of being separated from my child, and now it all seemed to just be totally meaningless. Say hello to the beginning of my long phase of resigned cynicism! Such grand irony!

 

I persevered nonetheless. I moved on as best I could. I tried to find new hope, a new mindset. I tried to find a new community of Christian believers. To find a new home that would replace the one I’d abandoned out of disillusionment with their intellectual dishonesties, self-righteous legalisms, and horseshit theologies. I was not ready to abandon belief in God. After all, I had experienced a profound awakening of my very soul that was undeniable.

 

But what I found in Christianity never really spoke to this. Even mainstream Christianity seemed but a watered-down version of the fundamentalist reasoning. It had its merits, yet inside it was unreal. There was artificiality, pleasant Christian smiles, but no soul. Where are the real people? Where is the depth of insight into real meaning of our lives? Sure there were Bible verses, and doctrines, and teachings, but where was the soul of God???

 

I found myself disconnected, yet still holding onto belief in God. I lived my life; wrote music; developed relationships; wrote music; took up photography; etc. I slowly just walked away from the Church and no one seemed to care or even notice. I was alone, except for my music and my heart towards “God”, whoever he really was? Certainly, Christianity was a shell, a dead husk of perhaps a once spiritual life.

 

Finally, one day a few years ago something happened that was just an epiphany of sorts. It simply occurred to me that there was no reason for me to hold onto my sacred belief that there was an actual God, despite all inability to find him in religion. Nothing in this world really dictated that a God was necessary to explain any “mystery”.

 

I suddenly saw all of life as natural! At that moment, I felt total liberation of my spirit that had been beholden to my adopted Christian idea of God for decades! I found wonder in life again. Nature was marvelous, a splendid mystery of magnificent diversity and unity in a web of life that was all interconnected. Life than spanned ages in an ever living, grow tree. Humans were a part of this incredible event! We were NOT its focal point!!! We were one of many, unique and marvelous life forms in this universe. Our brief time in the branches of this tree was now, and would one day fade, but were a unique and special part of it. Unique and precious and valuable and irreplaceable, yet our light would never fade as having been part of the precious miracle of existence!

 

I found myself open again to the world. I saw the sky again. I breathed the wind into my soul. I felt the energy of life around me again. I was free to be alive again.

 

Yet there was nagging voices of doctrinal Christian thought accusing me. “Oh hypocrite, you are embracing God when you don’t believe in him!” Anyone who has happened to see some of my posts on this site have witnessed this question being addressed by me with this wonderful community of, dare I say…, deeply spiritual ex-Christians! With the help of some genuine, patient, caring, and insightful human beings here, I have grown to the place now where I feel new vistas before me and the beginning of the rest of my life.

 

 

 

Ok, I think that completes this. :grin:

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Bravo AM!

 

Thank you for sharing this. You are very insightful and eloquent in your writing.

 

Taph

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Antlerman

 

It was great reading your story, thanks for sharing. I think like you, I feel humbled by the fact that we live in a universe which wasn’t designed for us, and we are only hitching a ride on this rock … Makes me appreciate life a little more.

<_<

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Antlerman,

 

 

I love your 3-part testimony. I am very spiritual too, and I miss the mysticism of christianity, though I do not miss the rules and regulations.

 

I, too, feel the pull of nature. I am also touched by my belonging to the greater good of creation. I do not believe there is a god, but I do believe that there is something greater than me out there, and I believe I am part of it.

 

Thank you for posting your story.

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Wonderful!

 

Your mind connected what your observation of the material world was telling you all along -- you didn't need God because you didn't have him! As you well know, I know that feeling, the feeling of forever relieving one's imaginary friend of his duties forever! At first, you think you can't, but then time shows you otherwise. It's always good to see that zenith moment when the sacred shroud of piety is finally thrown off!

 

(JH)

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Wow, thanks to all 3 of you for your comments! It surprised me just now to see new comments posted to this "testimony" of mine from a number of months ago. It's only getting better living everyday with the world wide open to possibility.

 

BTW, this seems a fitting post to be my 1,000'th post here!! Thanks guys for everything this site offers all of us!

 

Antlerman :grin:

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Antlerman, I hope you don't mind. I forget exactly how I found this thread. I followed links, starting with one I found in a post of yours in a current thread. I've read later parts of your story but not this early part. I find it educational or insightful. Basically it confirms what we discussed in the Arena the other fall but I always find it helpful to read first person accounts like this. Thanks for sharing it and also for the links that led to it.

 

~Ruby

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Guest Net Eng
Several months of personal study ensued, and in the end, the house of cards collapsed.

 

That's exactly what got me to where I am today... an atheist. Studying the bible and its origins put more doubts in my brain than anything else, and like you the house of cards collapsed.

 

I still find it amazing how xians can read the same bible as I have and come to different conclusions. I guess they want to believe in something so badly it blinds the mind from seeing the myriad of problems the the bible has.

 

 

R. S. Martin: Thanks for digging this up!!

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You're welcome Net Eng. I thought others might enjoy reading AM's testimony just as much as I did.

 

As for why Christians, or other religious people, believe what they do. I'm reading anthropologist Pascal Boyer's Religion Explained: The Evolutionary Origins of Religious Thought. It was recommended by an atheist psychology professor who spoke at a humanist event a year ago. I'm only in the second chapter but so far Boyer is laying the groundwork to explain religious belief from the perspective of anthropology of religion. He explains anthropology theory for those not familiar with it. This is good because it's a while since I took those intro courses, but it meshes right in with those courses. I recommend the book for anyone who is seriously interested in exploring the reasons behind religious belief.

is a six-minute video that I think gives a really good intro on him. It's a clip from A Brief History of Unbelief. Possibly that's off-topic for this thread.

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Wow.

 

Thanks alot Antlerman.

 

You really self-taught yourself the piano? I did the same... except now I'm trying to get away from the Xtian style, and into jazz.

 

Anyway, I really enjoyed reading it.

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Thanks for sharing your story. I had an experience similar to your initial experience and I'm curious to hear more info on how you felt about it then and how you feel about it now (I did read that you still believe it was 'real' but now seem to have a sort of pantheistic approach to what happened, correct?)

 

When I saw this site I remembered that my friend "Kratos" (AKA Jonathan McManus) mentioned that he posted here. John died rather suddenly (cancer) last year on August 21st. I joined - searched for his posts, saw his story and your response which led me here. :)

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Thanks for sharing your story. I had an experience similar to your initial experience and I'm curious to hear more info on how you felt about it

 

I just found the "Evidence of the Heart" thread in the Arena - that should answer some of my questions.

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