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From Baptist to Atheist - My Deconversion Story

By Jake, blogger at "From Giants' Shoulders" ~ 

 Jake 
I am sure it is apparent, as I have made no effort to keep it a secret any longer. I am not at all the boy I once was. This will be my first attempt to put the evolution of myself into words. I have waited until now because of fear; fear of what people would think. However, I am no longer afraid; this is who I am and I how I got here. Enjoy.

I am an atheist. A godless, secular, science-loving atheist. Misconceptions of the word ‘atheist’ and perversions of the ideology it entails have run so rampant that entire books may not suffice to set the stereotype straight. Simply, I deny the existence of god(s). I don’t hate god, and I am not in a celestial pissing match with the big man. I do, however, strongly disapprove of the Judeo-Christian, Islam, and Hindu gods’ doctrine. I also dismiss the existence of the supernatural in its entirety. Many things have brought me to this point in my life and I will do my best to explain.

First of all, I was raised in a wonderful home characterized by overflowing love and support, one that I wouldn’t trade for anything. My father, an entrepreneur, has been a well-respected man of the church for years. My mother is the poster-child of an ever-faithful, compassionate caretaker. I also have a beautiful and talented sister, Mikayla, who never fails to make me laugh. My family is amazing and I owe everything I am and may ever be to their undying ability to show me love - even when I make it increasingly difficult to do so. I love you guys more than anything and nothing will ever change that.

One major factor that has lead to my disbelief is my education. Being Bible-based Baptists, my parents thought it appropriate to enroll me in kindergarten at Calvary Christian School at four years old. CCS was a quaint school in its prime educating around 750 students K-12. (I say ‘was’ because it is now about half that size.) I remember my kindergarten teacher, Ms. Butler, teaching the ABC’s along side the seven days of creation and the story of Jonah and the big fish. And so on throughout grade school I was taught the normal subjects of reading, history, and math, but most importantly Bible. As expected, an incredible amount of emphasis was placed on educating us in Bible and Christian practices. The school’s motto is ‘Educating youth in the truth’. Having been a part of the curriculum, I cannot help but see it as childhood indoctrination; the free will of a child to formulate opinions of the world for itself stripped away. A literal heaven and hell, Christians and lost, creation and original sin ideology was pumped into my malleable consciousness as far back as my memory serves. The obvious goal of the school and affiliated church, of which I attended three times a week, was to create super Christian children capable of continuing and growing the faith throughout maturity. They were doing a damned good job. I, along with a majority of my peers, had accepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior and committed my life to serving him well before middle school. By this time I was able to recite numerous lengthy passages of scripture, discuss theology in-depth, and fluently lead an unsaved person to believe in Jesus as their own personal savior. Never once did I consider this odd. I mean, why would I? I spent every waking hour surrounded by Christian adults and peers who discouraged me from associating with the worldly (unsaved). I was so engrossed in the faith that I was hardly aware of other beliefs. (Except of course the Catholics who were, by the school's teaching, going to hell for their belief in salvation through works.)

Fortunately, the close-minded teachers started to rub the untapped rational side of my brain the wrong way. In middle school my Bible teacher preached to us his unwavering belief that the smurfs (yes, the little blue elves) were satanic. His entire theory based off the name given to the antagonist’s animated cat, Azrael, was blatantly delusional. (Azrael is the name of the fallen arch-angel of death - Satan’s right-hand man) He also made a repeated point that we would never graduate from high school because we would be ‘raptured’ beforehand, sparking the end times prophesied in Revelation. Ideas like these (there are so many more ridiculous teachings I could put here) planted seeds of doubt in my mind that would lay dormant until high school.

At this point in my life, I was being tormented daily with doubt that I had never ‘truly’ been saved. I was taught that thinking about women in a ‘lustful’ way was equivalent to committing adultery, which was punishable by death in the Old Testament. Being a normal pubescent boy, I was obviously pissing off god a lot with this one. This coupled with guilt over other petty sins bothered me so incessantly that many nights were spent crying to God for forgiveness and begging Him to save me over and over again. This continued for months and is undeniable evidence that Christianity’s doctrine is optimally formulated to trap its constituents in fear and guilt. The Bible says a man is never worthy of god’s love and he can only have a relationship if he begs forgiveness of his sins. This relationship’s strength is solely dependent on Christ-like behavior and any sin unconfessed inhibits such a relationship. When doubting your faith is considered a sin and hinders your relationship with god, one is trapped, unable to question their beliefs without overwhelming guilt.

I eventually moved past this guilt by getting saved and baptized for the second time. Foolish I know, but I could never ‘feel’ a relationship with god and the public demonstration brought me enough attention to fill the god-crafted god-shaped hole in my consciousness for the time being. I was looking for an emotional relationship with god that I saw in the people around me, but could not attain myself, no matter the amount of effort invested. I would read my Bible, pray, go to church, play guitar for the church bands, go to bible study, and more, I’m sure. I was the poster-child of my Christian peers and despite all of this, I never felt loved by god, nor could I see his work in the world around me. I remember being told that god provided for me and loved me. In reality, I knew my father had worked his ass off every day to provide for me, and god’s methods of showing love were bizarre and empty. Towards the end of my sophomore year I was questioning everything I had been taught quietly inside myself. Not having answers to these questions and being surrounded by people blindly following a god I couldn’t see or relate to led me to be a very bitter person throughout the rest of high school.

During my junior and senior year I took an attitude of indifference. I attended church, mostly so I could play guitar, and I would have claimed Christianity in a debate solely to debate. In the absence of belief I still followed the motions because it was all I knew. I could never openly question anything out of fear of being scolded or worse, embarrassing my parents. I was always fascinated with science but was deprived of anything resembling an adequate education in the sciences. At school Darwin was portrayed as a pawn of Satan, taking evolution out of the picture and leaving biology practically worthless. Intelligent design was preached along with its lie-filled apologetics. The defenses of ID are hardly arguments, but red herrings taking the focus away from actual science whilst hurling ad hominem attacks at some of the greatest thinkers in history. Ex: ‘Dawin was a sexist, racist, etc’ or ‘Darwinism teaches we are just monkeys. If you teach kids they are monkeys they will act like monkeys.’ Stupid shit like that. Ken Ham and Ray Comfort might as well have been our school mascots. The banana man’s videos were shown in all their glory - and people believed it. Ken Ham actually claimed our church as his home church in the states and being so geographically close to the Creation Museum, CCS took frequent field trips, often behind the scenes.

There is one specific incident that wrecked my already low view of the Christians around me. Every Wednesday our high school student body came together for an hour long chapel. We were in a series where faculty and teachers were put on a panel and students were allowed presenting social and theological questions. One student, braver than I, presented a brilliant question to our administrator. “Would a girl that was raped and pregnant as a result be expelled for being pregnant?” The gymnasium went silent for a few seconds and our administrator responded simply with “Yes, she would be expelled.” He then tried to justify his stance by saying they would do their best to help her through her troubles, but having a child out of wedlock violates the schools code of conduct. How fucked up! I could not believe the ugly intolerance displayed by a human, let alone a Christian. However, I was not the only one outraged and I knew that my administrator's response was not the opinion held by most Christians. However, the situation gives insight into how pulling objective morals from an ancient religious book can dull ones desire and ability to think critically and rationally about current moral issues in our world.

Being thoroughly frustrated with my high school experience I was eager to start school at UC. Initially enrolled in aerospace engineering, my father constantly pushed me to consider biomedical engineering. One of the best decisions of my life was listening to him and switching majors during orientation. I immediately fell in love with biomedical engineering and school was finally enjoyable. Living on campus gave me instant access to the different religious views of others and I was finally able to ask questions about evolution, physics, geology, and religion that were off-limits in high school. I was learning so much and intentionally subjecting myself to foreign ideas. If the lunatics at CCS benefitted me in any way, it was by showing me the detriment caused by having a closed mine. One key enlightening conversation was with my neighbor. He explained that he had never believed in God and didn’t need the Bible or a God to live a morally fulfilling life. The idea was preposterous at first and I was baffled. Another was with a group of friends at lunch where religion was brought up. They were stunned that I had never been taught evolution and encouraged me to research it for myself. So I did.

One of the following weekends I sat in my room, scared shitless with my computer. I anxiously searched youtube for ‘How Evolution Works’ knowing that what I was about to learn had the potential to destroy my entire world-view. A series of eight videos entitled ‘How Evolution Works’ by the user DonExodus2 were the first results of the search. I watched one after another until all eight were finished. Sinking further into my chair I was amazed, awe-struck, delighted, and terrified all at once. I would describe it as a religious experience, but it was more than that. Religion cannot begin to touch the beauty and wonder our earth and universe so readily evoke. Evolution’s plausibility opened countless doors to new realms of knowledge. I became obsessed with studying the amazing processes of evolution and further obsessed with studying the rebuttals to the petty arguments I had been previously taught. The foundations of my prior beliefs soon gave way completely and my new personal relationship with science commenced.

Here is a link to the videos:
How Evolution Works Series by DonExodus2

The next couple months were particularly hard. I was ecstatic about learning more about biology, astronomy, cosmology, geology and anthropology - and every new bit of information brought me further away from religion. This was the most emotionally painful part of my deconversion. Even as I was delighted with my newfound unbelief, I knew my family would be torn over it. I was constantly plagued with the fear of hurting my family, but I could not continue pretending to be a Christian. I slowly started dropping hints and before long they were very concerned and started asking question. The truth was soon revealed.

Telling my parents about my deconversion was one of the most emotionally intense things I’ve yet to do. Being shortly removed from their point of view I knew what they were thinking. I was going to burn in hell for eternity and there was nothing they could do. Our discussion was heated and fairly awkward. I did my best to kill the stereotypes of atheists that the church had poisoned them with. I would rather not go into details, but they have since been torn over my decision, and the pain it has caused them has not been easy to bear.

Telling some of my closest friends also ended poorly and I have been all but shut out by many of my former peers, even best friends. Few have come to me with levelheaded concern and I have been privileged an engaging, calm, and intelligent discussion with them. However, some are so close-minded and have been so deprived of a science education that the discussion bore nothing but hot air. This whole process has been emotional and at times very lonely. I remember discussing my new views with a professor when he said, “I realize this is emotionally risky, but growth is not always a picnic - it takes stretching, accommodating and changing”. He has been absolutely right.

It has not all been bad, though. This experience has grown me as a person and solidified my ability to defend my views. I have become very close to other skeptics and atheists with similar views and ideas as my own. It has been these people that I find most respectable, moral, ambitious, and honest. It seems that when a person is not so distracted by trying to live for an imaginary God, they become more sensitive to bettering themselves and trying to make this world -this very real and tangible world- a better place for all of its inhabitants. Since my deconversion I find life more livable. Life is wonderful and everyday is a new opportunity to help others. I wake up in awe of the universe around me and delighted that I get to spend my day learning about the intricacies of its inner workings. The very small probability of our existence that creationists hide behind is what allows me to appreciate my life and time spent here. I refuse to allow my meaning and purpose to be endowed upon me by a malevolent, inconsistent, and petty supernatural being; I make my life’s meaning every day and I take full responsibility for how my actions affect others. I have so much to live for and life holds a new grandeur. I would attempt to elaborate if I was a better writer, but I’m not, and this video is too damn cool.

Science Saved My Soul

I can only imagine the conversations this will spark, and I look forward to them. Whether we are close or haven’t met, I would love to talk to you about science, philosophy, religion, and/or my deconversion experience.

With love and respect,
Jake


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