5/15/2011 | Share this article:By Steelblood ~
I've been coming to this site for almost two years now. I don't know why I'm suddenly submitting my deconversion story this evening, and I am certainly at a loss as to where to begin.
Voltron -- Image via WikipediaI was raised in an industrial-strength Christian household like many people who've contributed to this site. However, when I look back I'd always known that religion in general, and specifically the existence of a god is ridiculous at best. I think my first proverbial inkling was the night I was reading Genesis for the tenth time and I found myself thinking, "Why do I have less difficulty believing in Voltron, Defender of the Universe than I do in a fruit condemning humanity until a redeemer came along? (I recall specifically thinking of the messiah as being a "redeemer" for some reason.)
Regardless, I was and still am a voracious bibliophile; so I devoted a lot of time to reading apologetics, scripture, et al of many religions. I had to read about non-Christian religions in secret, because my mother was convinced that knowledge of such things is the way people become possessed by demons. Sadly, my mother grew far worse as the years went on--but more on that later.
The more I read, the more I became convinced that religion is a fraud. Ironically, I have my Jesuit teachers and professors to thank for this. There's no sarcasm there--despite their priesthood, the unadulterated reality is that they taught me how to think, and how to think before coming to a conclusion as opposed to coming to a conclusion that was comfortable. To quote one of my earliest mentors, "If you can't back up everything you're saying with 1,800 years of world history at a minimum, then just keep your mouth shut!" Oddly, however, I always seemed to repress reason every time its head would pop up.
As time went on I found that I'd always wanted to become a monk, leave the world behind, and spend my time studying the nature of god. (And yes, I mean, the "nature of god" not "scripture" or "doctrine".) Even when I would be away from the church entirely with no desire to ever go back (My mother had taken to throwing holy water at me while I was in high school because she was convinced I was possessed by the devil. Why? you ask? Because I told her I wanted to be an artist.) the desire for monasticism was always in the back of my mind. Eventually I would hear the proverbial calling very strongly, and, after twenty years of this, decided to follow that calling.
So, I walked off of a very successful career, donated all my possessions to charity, donated all my cash, and went to speak to the local bishop. The strange thing in retrospect is that while all this was happening, I still found many teachings of the church to questionable to say the least. It was like I was on a train going at top speed down a mountain, and I couldn't stop it. About a year later, I'd ask myself "Where the hell was the dead man's brake?"
People in my congregation would try to talk me out of it on several occasions, but they did so in a way that a sleazy used car salesman keeps pitching you the car, then in the end says, "Oh, why don't you think about it for a while before signing the contract. I don't want you to rush into anything!" in an effort for you to throw yourself at the terrible deal on the car.
Once again, I knew this was happening while it was happening, but I did nothing.
I'd eventually get to the monastery and I was treated very well there. People often suggest that I was miserable there, and this led to my atheism. However, what led to my atheism was simply this: without my career, my friends, my responsibilities, my weightlifting regimen, and my money, I was suddenly lucid enough in my thoughts to look up at the sky one day and say, "What have I done? I don't believe in ANY of this!!"
This realization occurred after approximately 13 months as a novice in the monastery. I left shortly thereafter. One of the most interesting conversations I had there after announcing my decision was one of the senior monks telling me, "Everyone was certain you'd become a bishop!" to which I replied, "How can I lead people in something I don't believe in? I've been a leader all my life, and that wouldn't be leadership!"
His response to me, shockingly, was, "Well, that's normal for a bishop, I doubt God and the church all the time, but it goes away...besides, imagine all the good you could do...bishops lead a good life."
Needless to say I was shocked. I knew at that point that I was in a monastery full of people essentially running out the clock in something they don't believe in. This certainly validated my newly confirmed atheism.
When I left, I remember when I walked out of the monastery gates feeling like I'd woken up from a coma...literally. I booted up my laptop at my cousin's house, and plugged into the Internet for the first time in thirteen months. I started looking up terms like "cult" and "brainwashing" and "subjugation of self" in my alma mater's library.
Believe it or not, that was my first exposure to Dawkins, Hitchens, and several of the atheism sites out there, this one included. This in turn led me to look up sites regarding biblical contradictions, et al. I realized that it only takes approximately 1.5 minutes of logical thought in analyzing the bible to realize it's a fictional epic. Unlike Homer, however, it isn't particularly well-written.
When I first left the monastery, I had no regrets. I was simply glad to have left after one year as opposed to two years. (I left in late 2009) Moreover, I kept wonder what I was thinking (or not thinking, for that matter). It was like a light bulb went on in my head. I suddenly found people talking about god(s) irritating. I simply no longer respect religion, or people's beliefs. I only respect verifiable facts.
Lately, however, I've been feeling a lot of anger at myself. I fault no one aside from myself in the decisions I made. Certainly, no one "forced" me. Having said this, however, I won't dwell on that anger- that would belie the person I am. After reading a lot about the makeup of cults and the types of people that leave the world in pursuit of the cult's ideologies, I can only focus right now on not becoming a statistic. So, I'm going to meet with a couple of my former colleagues tomorrow to talk about partnering up with them.
In closing, I'll say that one of these people I'm meeting actually functioned as a voice of reason to me when I was away in the monastery, when I was so far away from my life, with a simple question he asked me the night before I left: "Are you OK?"
I'd realize 13 months later that I must not have been okay by a long shot.
It is he that I judge other people in my life back then by.
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