12/28/2011 | Share this article: View CommentsBy Gregg ~
I recently found your blog. I am a formerly active and devout Christian that has become an atheist. I thought I would share my story with you. I have very few "real life" people who can really appreciate and relate with my journey so this Internet outlet might be a bit therapeutic. If you were to publish this, which you do have permission to, than please keep my anonymity. Thank you.
I was born into a very religious family. My father was a leader at his Lutheran church. My mother was an active main stream pentecostal denomination member. My grandparents lived immersed in the Bible and Christian television. I was constantly in church and being exposed to preaching and teaching on the TV.
At a very young age I had ta few experiences that completely gripped my developing worldview. Of course, now I have to concede that these experiences were some sort of hallucinations or something. But as a child and youth, these were very real affirmations of my faith.
Once, I awoke alone in my room and saw Jesus standing there smiling. He was shining with rays of light coming off of him. When my mother came in the room he disappeared. Another time I saw a long haired robed man with folded wings and a sword in his hand. I thought it was an angel and I was not afraid. And then when I was a little older there were a few “demonic” experiences that terrorized me for a few years. On my mother’s side, it apparently runs in the family to have unusual religious experiences also.
I rarely admit these things. But this is a “safe place.” Thankfully I don’t take any of these memories to be actual evidences of anything paranormal any longer. If anything, they were fascinating revelations of the working of the human mind. I can sympathize with people who have had odd experiences that seem to validate magical and religious teachings.
I attended a private Christian school where Christianity was indoctrinated into me regularly. Then there was church two or three times each week. So my only influences were Christian. I was a very contemplative and imaginative child. I often mused over the concepts of God, heaven and hell, angels and demons, the Bible, etc. My whole world was filled with these constantly everywhere I would go.
In my teens I drifted away from God. Due to some negative influences and a stymied social development, I focused the part of me that once was devoted to God and became obsessed with white supremacism. It didn’t agree with my religious beliefs. And that very issue was the lynch pin that eventually drove the racism out of me. But for a while there I was consumed with hate.
After that stint I embraced the punk rock music and lifestyle. I played guitar and did vocals in a few bands. I indulged in sex, drugs and rock n roll for a few years. All the while I was struggling with my identity, self worth, direction in life and my religious beliefs that I was trying to ignore. But I truly believed deep inside. And the disquieting voice of faith never stopped calling me.
Days before my twentieth birthday I finally came to terms with my faith. I believed that God has spoken to me about what I should do. So I obeyed this voice and had a little bonfire. I gathered up all of my possessions that I believed to be displeasing to God and I burned them all. A lot of expensive things went up in smoke that night. But to me these were worthless in comparison to the treasures I now had in Jesus. It was not a loss to me, but a serious gain of my life, salvation, my future in heaven, etc. I lost almost all my friends that night. But I met new ones right away.
I immediately began proselytizing. I found a church that took me in and encouraged me. I was as active as possible. And eventually I enrolled in a Bible school in Pensacola, Florida. This school was entirely rooted in a five year strong revival that had attracted thousands from all over. There were many lives radically changed there. And yes, there was controversy over the unusual phenomena associated with the revival meetings and the “laying on off hands” prayer time afterward. I saw and experienced a lot of odd things there. But these phenomena were thankfully not the focus of the meetings or the education I received.
While leading a street evangelism team for the school, I meet my future wife. She and I got along great except when we fought. But I was sure that God my father was blessing me with the love and companionship I had prayed for for years. So I had absolutely no concern about marrying her, even though I had no skills and no decent job. So we soon married and began having our four children one after the other.
We often experienced “miraculous” provision for our needs. Fascinatingly odd coincidences were the norm. I had a gift of grasping the meaning of the scriptures that people respected. I also had a few “prophetic” dreams and premonitions that turned out to have been accurate, one time to the exact minute of the day when our first son would be born. So obviously I and my wife were completely sold on to living out our faith how we saw fit.
We met a small group of people who were like minded with us, each a Bible school grad. We shared a vision to start a house church. So we all packed up and moved together to Kansas City, Mo. My wife and I shared a house with another couple and their children. I got a job at a grocery store and scraped by for seven years there. Most of our life was devoted to the church that whole time. We had a lot of faith, a lot of knowledge, a lot of devotion amongst that group. There was a real bond of community.
We went through a lot of persecution for being independent. But this was expected. However, it seriously strained my relationship with my mother. My wife’s family thought we were odd. I was odd. But I didn’t know that. And I was so knowledgeable with what I believed that few people could carry a conversation about the Bible or church and sway my views in any direction. Most Christians were simply terribly ignorant of their own holy book. One of my goals was to enlighten believers to the “reality” of their God and the depths of wisdom easily found in the scriptures. But it was to no avail. Most Christians aren’t interested in learning. Most didn’t want a faith that was in any way actually requiring of them. But in spite of all this, I knew I was called by God so nothing else mattered.
My marriage however, was progressively eroding away this whole time. We weren't ready when we married. I had my weaknesses and issues. She had her own issues that she carried from her broken home childhood years. We began disagreeing a lot. Then the first crack in my faith I ever felt had begun with a hairline fracture. My endless thirst for knowledge and understanding lead me to investigate science.
I had read numerous Creationists books and magazines over the years. I was thoroughly indoctrinated with Creationist lies and misrepresentations of science. I had not met a person who could refute any Creationists claims ever. But now that I had a job with hours of time on the Internet where I could read and interact with educated people, it was a death sentence for my faith.
I found out very quickly that every Creationist argument I thought I had was easily destroyed by the real facts of science. This did clash with my faith. But I was always as honest with myself as I could be. So I surmised that my understanding of Genesis was seriously flawed. This lead to even more study of ancient Near Eastern mythologies and of the science of biological evolution and the Big Bang. I chose to take a step back from the Bible and read about science from non Creationist, reputable sources like Steven Hawking, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Jerry Coyne, Eugenie Scott and Scientific American.
While other Christians were basically afraid of learning about science, I was boldly eager to learn. They shared an anti-intellectualism. I, however, took certain verses of the Bible to encourage a scientific education. “Perfect love drives out fear... The Spirit will guide you into all truth.” These verses emboldened me to investigated science and even the occult with absolute confidence that there was no such thing as dangerous information and God would guide me through anything at all with no trouble. Unfortunately my wife and church did not share this liberty.
Science did not crush my faith at first. I had faith to believe that somehow God had created and is creating the universe through these natural processes. Why would a supernatural God leave any evidence of His hand in a natural world? That would not make sense to me. There was no need for any “god of the gaps” in my view. What began to truly dissolve my faith were the same issues that troubled Darwin: the horrors and wastefulness of nature. These things did not at all reflect the hand of a loving, wise creator at all. These screamed of mere natural forces blindly at work with no actual purpose or intention of any kind involved. The Creationists were right about pointing out how evolution is filled with extinctions and waste and God was purposeful and good. Soon I could no longer juggle these two opposing realities in my soul.
Around that time I lost my job. I sold our house and moved the family to my wife’s home town. I started working again and the kids were all being home schooled. But I took objection to introducing Ken Ham’s materials to my small children. She firmly objected to this. It was literally Creationism or our marriage.
Also, my wife refused any affection from me on a regular basis. This was contrary to the clear teachings of the New Testament. She also became increasingly disrespectful, loud and aggressive. No matter how clearly I pointed out the Bible’s teachings, she could care less- even though she found her whole identity in being a devout believer. Somehow when it came to marriage, the Bible meant absolutely nothing.
We sought counseling from our church leaders and an independent Christian Counseling Service. One pastor gave us sound counsel but she plainly disregarded it all. The other pastor and the professional Christian counselors each suggested that I may have demons in me or demonic issues due to my desire for sex and my acceptance of the science of evolution. I almost wanted to punch these people. And they gave not a word of critique to my wife.
I begged her to get professional counseling with me from a non Christian Counselor. But she refused this. Soon things came to a head. We had an argument about our lack of sex one night. To make a long story short, she ended up getting steak knives and cutting my left ring finger open. She took our four children and left me. She filed a restraining order against me. She admitted in the paperwork that I did not hit or threaten her or the kids. She admitted that she cut me with a knife and that I did nothing in retaliation. But the state will always err on the side of the woman for the safety of the women and children.
Shortly after this, she nailed me as hard as possible for child and spousal support. When my first check was garnished, I was far in arrears and I am garnished 56% of my income. That first garnishment came out of my first unemployment check because after she left I was laid off. I begged any Christian friends we had to explain to her that I would have to move 780 miles away from her and our kids to my parents’ basement if she didn’t lower my payment to what I could afford. But no one cared to talk to her or me. No one helped. No one in our church even followed what the Bible said about the court of law or about marriages and separation.
Around this time I had a lot to think about and a lot of spare time when I wasn’t at work. So I began reading and reading. Soon I could no longer have any faith. Everywhere I once found God I found nothing but science, psychology and ungrounded faith in stories that didn’t add up at all in light of the facts.
Now I am pursuing an education in nursing. I am plagued with nightmares and tears about my kids. I am only allowed to talk to them on the phone once a week under her supervision. She told me that she will never talk to me again. She told me to get on my knees. She told me that God is much more with her than with me. She laughed at me when I asked her what her and the kids will do when my unemployment stops and she doesn't get $1000 each month from me. She said that God provides everything for her and I am not needed.
If there is a hell I must have died and gone there. I am glad that I no longer believe in heaven or hell. Its a relief. She has no idea I am an atheist because she refuses to talk to me. Breaking the news of my lack of faith to people can be torture.
I have found a deep sense of self through all this. I am unashamed when I look in the mirror- in spite of my failures. I find comfort and reason in Nietzsche, the New Atheists and Darwin. I don't give thought to an afterlife. I feel my conscience liberated. And now I can somehow relate in many ways to Nietzsche when he said “When you stare into the abyss the abyss stares back at you.” Now I very rarely ever have self destructive thoughts like I did when I was a Christian. I simply own my mistakes and failures. I have no sin. I am my own savior and my own redeemer. Its all about me. Now life is for me to make meaning of and to live the best way I can. I am free now. No longer a sheep in a flock am I. Life has gained a new awe.
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