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Hedge_Rat

Hello, and the reason for my username

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Hello to everyone. I’m writing this to introduce myself and to give a bit of my backstory. As it says on my “About Me” blurb, I was raised Christian (several denominations, it’s complicated), and was baptized at age 23. Then on the blurb I wrote that I began having serious doubts at age 27/28 and fully gave up on being Christian at age 29... but except for the baptism those are rough approximations. I began having doubts long before that, and stopped worshipping God before I stopped believing in Him.

              Part of the reason I gave up on it all was indirectly due to an oppressive Bible-study group I was in. I’m sure this sounds like I must have joined up with a bunch of “bad Christians” and then said, “Wow, I never realized how bigoted and horrible Christians are, but now that I’ve met some there’s no way I can believe anymore!” Not at all—I’d met Christians who’d made me grind my teeth before that, and I hadn’t started disbelieving because of it. Besides, there were (and are) many Christians who I liked and respected. If anything, that experience made me double-down on my faith, for awhile. I figured it would be a piss-poor Christian who stopped believing just due to some negative experiences, and I wasn’t going to be one of those.

              **(I also want to clarify here that I had and have nothing against the leadership of that group, even though I disagreed with them on certain theological issues even before I became an atheist... it was more certain members with controlling tendencies that made my time there difficult.)**

              But, when I moved away and no longer attended that group (I wish I could say I took a stand and refused to go, but really, I just moved away), I could no longer affiliate with any Christian group. I wanted to, I truly did. But I couldn’t force myself to go to any church or attend any Bible study or anything. It made my gut clench up when I tried to force myself out the door—all dressed up in my Sunday best and with the address of the church I wanted to go to written on a piece of paper clutched in my hand. I simply could not make myself go. I still believed, but I couldn’t bear the thought of a repeat experience. Plus, even small things reminded me of that group at inopportune times... joining another group using the same/similar language and doing similar rituals/activities would make mini-flashbacks impossible to avoid.

              One good thing came of that Bible-study group, however: now that I couldn’t force myself to attend another one, I was able to get the distance necessary to re-evaluate my beliefs... and seriously consider my doubts. I’d already had them, but it was hard to think about them when I was attending church and Bible study, because it created so much cognitive dissonance to do both. I would rudely shove the doubts aside and tell myself that smarter people than me were okay with it all, and they weren’t bad people, so no doubt I’d understand it all later.

              Perhaps I’ll write more another time about the details of what the final straw was... it was nothing dramatic, just a realization (like lead in my stomach) that none of those intelligent, kind, and mature Christians could really spin the horrible into the acceptable, no matter how much they said it was all okay because God loves us. It was on a phone conversation with my dad that the last thread of my faith snapped (not due to him... it had been unravelling for quite awhile before that); I  asked him to clarify a biblical point that (to be fair) I’d asked him about many times before, and he said with mingled exasperation and frustration, “But I already explained that!” I responded, with some exasperation and frustration of my own, “Yes, but it still doesn’t make sense! What you said doesn’t really answer it!” So he said the same thing he’d said before, again. And I tried to reframe those verses and his explanation into something else, something better. But there was no way around it, and I realized that what he was saying was biblical, and that was the problem. It wasn’t that he or anyone else were misinterpreting the verses I found so horrible. I wasn’t a misunderstanding. It WAS biblical. And, therefore, a good reason not to follow the god of the Bible.

              I still believed that the Christian god existed, I just didn’t follow him anymore.

              Sometimes I pretended I did... when alone, I would turn on Christian music, or recite to myself certain favorite Bible verses, and pretend that all the horrible parts of the Bible didn’t actually exist and that I could therefore worship the Christian god without wondering why he hated certain groups of people so much.

              Later, after a lot of research and much thought, I came to the realization that there is no evidence or reason to believe in the Christian god... or in any other, for that matter. I do not know that I could have come to that realization had that Bible study group not forced me away from organized religion for long enough that I had time to think about all the doubts that I’d been suppressing (or expressing quietly, mostly to my ever-patient dad).

 

              About my username:

While in that Bible study group, we watched a video of someone preaching... and I wish I had more details (who the preacher was, or where it took place, or where the group leaders got it from... something). Anyway, in this video we watched, the preacher began by going on (and on) about how some people have rats for pets, and can you believe that some people actually have rats for pets? (Er, yes? How is this unusual? Not everyone has the time/money/energy for a pet dog. Is having a rat for a pet that much odder than have a pet gerbil or hamster? Or sugar glider?—one of my friends has a sugar glider, now that’s an odd pet to have.) Then he went on about how people not only have rats for pets, but they’ll even name them! He’d found a website dedicated towards giving people suggestions for what to name their pet rat! The name Ashley was on the list, he remembered that one particularly.

              So why was he going on about this? Well, humans kill rats. We don’t like rats. They’re such nuisances. But, we can keep one rat as a pet (and name it Ashley) and kill another, and the law doesn’t care. He went on about hedge rats for awhile, not sure why—does he know a lot of people with hedges? Anyway, by his logic, if a human has the right to kill one rat but then feed and care for another, then how much more does our Heavenly Father have the right to save some humans but turn the others over to Hell?

              We sure can’t criticize God for doing such things when he’s way more important compared to us than we are to rats....

              Even then, I had a number of problems with this. For one, you’re taught from day one of Sunday School (or Sabbath School, depending) that humans are sinful and God is perfect... so you'd expect humans to be inconsistent and hypocritical. But shouldn’t you expect better behavior from the Lord of All the Universe? Maybe?

              Another thing... Humans do not create the rats out in the hedges, nor the ones that get into our houses through cracks. If given a choice, I’m sure most of us would choose for those particular rats to have never existed, rather than for us to “have” to kill them. Or to exist harmlessly in a field or forest somewhere. If we actually did create those rats, deliberately, and then condemned them to eternal fire (knowing that that’s where they were going to go before we even created them), there’d be something seriously wrong with us.

              It wasn’t that which bothered me so much, however, as I didn’t hold with all the teachings of the Bible study group. I believed that absolutely everyone would be given a final choice after death (so no one would be a hedge rat who didn’t want to be), and that for those who did choose against God the end would be quick and final. Non-existence, instead of eternal torture. I truly believed this, and believed I had the biblical teachings to back it up, too.

              So the thought of hedge rats didn’t bother me so much, because I figured everyone would eventually have a choice, and no one would be tortured no matter what they chose. No, what bothered me was that the preacher did believe in the more traditional doctrines about eternal damnation and predestination and he had no trouble whatsoever saying that there was nothing wrong with God torturing some humans while letting others into Heaven, because, after all, humans kill some rats while making others their pets. So therefore, if we’re okay with the rat thing, then we can’t criticize God. Who are we, to criticize God.

              The preacher’s voice would rise so magnificently and self-righteously, too. And I saw people in the Bible study group nod their heads in agreement whenever his voice reached a certain pitch, as if they agreed so much that it just had to spill out into physical form.

              Part of me, even then, wondered what the heck was wrong with people that they didn’t see a problem with all this. I wondered how a system that was supposed to save the world could turn otherwise kind and decent people into people completely fine with the thought of eternal torture for everyone not like them, and that this was above reproach because humans kill rats.

              It was a major WTF moment for me, and part of the reason for why I had to disengage from church for awhile to get breathing space.

              Sorry for the novel, that wound up being a lot longer than I thought it would be. But I’m glad I found this place!

              Oh, and if that video of the preacher talking about rats sounds familiar to anybody and you happen to know where I might find it, please let me know.

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Hi Hedge Rat

 

Welcome to Ex-C!

 

I'm glad you've managed to clear the religious viral infection you had. Looking forward to seeing more of your posts.

 

Cheers

LF

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Welcome to our community, Hedge_Rat!

Your deconversion experience is pretty typical. Most of us concluded that the God of the Bible is without convincing evidence  and also abhorrent if he actually did everything the Bible said.  Different people come to those conclusions in differing orders maybe.

 

So I’m curious about your labeling yourself in your profile as an ‘atheopagan’. That’s a new word to me. Care to elaborate?

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Welcome to Ex-C, @Hedge_Rat.

 

Glad you could reason your way out of the indoctrination.

 

The conflicting books/passages of the Bible, as well as the fact that so much of those books sound as if they were written by controlling, self-aggrandizing assholes, makes it painfully clear that they are not the infallible, in-errant word of any deity - but of man. That's a good thing I suppose because, once we realize this, we don't have to worry about hell any more - it does not exist. 

 

Interesting side-ish note: At Mrs. MOHO's church the weekly flier states flatly that they believe the Bible to be the in-errant word of God. Not inspired by God, mind you, but the actual word of God. Given the obvious conflicting doctrines therein, I gather the church leaders are really not anticipating anyone actually READING the thing.

 

Welcome again and I hope to hear more from you...

    - MOHO (Mind Of His Own)

 

 

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Welcome. The God Virus is a nasty infection & extremely difficult to get out of your head. I'm glad you're on the road to recovery . 

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Thanks for all the welcomes! I look forward to looking around and posting here!

 

 

14 hours ago, ThereAndBackAgain said:

So I’m curious about your labeling yourself in your profile as an ‘atheopagan’. That’s a new word to me. Care to elaborate?

 

Sure, it's definitely not in common usage. 

The first part of atheopaganism is the idea that the natural world is all there is, and it is amazing. However, the pagan myths are important, both because they can tell us about our ancient ancestors, and because the deities and spirits and symbolism strike a chord and give an understanding of the world that's different from a textbook.

So a lot of atheopagans study the Celtic, Norse, Aborignial, etc. myths, but as a way to view the world rather than literal fact. (Also a convenient excuse to get out of performing human sacrifice!) But it’s different from simply liking old stories in that there is also a component of environmentalism, and different from being a bibliophilic environmentalist in that we also do Earth-based rituals to add meaning to knowledge.

An example might be moon water, which I’ll use because Wiccans also do this, so I can use it to contrast.... Someone practicing witchcraft might set out a bottle of water on the night of a full moon because they believe it will make their spells more effective. I do the same, but for symbolic reasons. After all, water is necessary for life, and some evolutionary biologists believe that the moon’s effect on the tides helped give rise to life (and even if it didn’t, without the moon’s stabilizing effect on our climate and axial tilt, the life we have now wouldn’t exist, because it would have started at some later time). So by setting the water out under the full moon, I remind myself of how amazing it is that life was able to begin. Before the following full moon I’ll give the water to a tree so the cycle can repeat. 

Sometimes it’s called humanistic paganism or naturalistic paganism (although the last one sounds redundant if you don’t know it’s supposed to be contrasted with supernatural, so I don’t use it, and sometimes I just feel too grumpy with the world to in any way consider myself a humanist, although I think that’s an awesome way to be).

 

12 hours ago, MOHO said:

Welcome to Ex-C, @Hedge_Rat.

 

Interesting side-ish note: At Mrs. MOHO's church the weekly flier states flatly that they believe the Bible to be the in-errant word of God. Not inspired by God, mind you, but the actual word of God. Given the obvious conflicting doctrines therein, I gather the church leaders are really not anticipating anyone actually READING the thing.

 

 

 

But if someone does, they can just say it doesn't really conflict, because it's in-errant!

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A little late, but I really related to when you talked about having to force yourself to go to church or anything Bible related. I felt that way for a long time too, I think it was because I knew deep down that it was wrong but was just clinging to it.

 

The rat analogy you talked about was just dumb. I think it shows a tension that exists within Christianity between saying that people are made in god's image, have inherent value and so forth and saying that everyone deserves to burn in hell forever. If you had value, you wouldn't deserve to burn. I think that's why, despite being commanded to forgive and love, Christians can often be so cruel, because the Christian worldview takes such a dim view of people and assigns then so little value. It's a lot easier for a secular humanist who thinks that everyone is good deep down to be loving than a Christian who thinks everyone deserves hell. 

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Welcome, @Hedge_Rat

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Hello Hedge_Rat! Thank you for your story. Your description of that preacher reminds me of some of what I was raised to believe in. 

 

My theory is that people like that worship themselves, and use the concept of 'God' as a convenient mode of externalizing that narcissism in a shroud of false humility. Since they believe that 'God' is always right, and by 'God' they mean their extremely specific system of interpretations that work all-so-conveniently for them, there is very little sense of responsibility and accountability for their decision making. "Predestination" is at best a completely irrelevant abstract theological point, and at worst an excuse to renounce yourself the responsibility over the choices you make in your life. I believe you made the right choice by distancing yourself from them.

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Welcome!  Joining this forum was a good choice.  The story about the rats was one of the oddest I have heard.  But there are some really "odd", and sick people in the religious world.

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