I was raised in a non-religious household by my non-practicing Jewish mother and a father that never, ever spoke of religion to any of us children. But, I guess my parents deemed religion important because they sent all four of us children (I am the eldest) to Sunday school, each week, to a local Baptist church. Now, as an adult, I wonder if their reasoning to do so wasn’t more to get some alone time and some free babysitting in on Sunday morning for my parents. Hmmmm…
Image by Steve-h via FlickrI always had issues understanding religion. I could not understand why the New Testament seemed to be at odds, at times, with the Old Testament. If it’s all God’s words, then it shouldn’t be in conflict. And then I started to learn that the Bible we were reading was only a translation of a translation of a book. How do we know we are reading what the original writers intended? Anytime something is translated, a little of the translator ends up in the translation. And then there is interpretation. Get 10 people to read the same three paragraphs, then sit them down in a room and ask them to explain to you what they read, and you’ll get very different summarizations from each person. How do we know we are interpreting what we are reading correctly?
I mean, these are HUGE things. It’s not like you’ll lose out on missing a baseball game if something isn’t translated correctly or interpreted correctly. You end up in a fiery hell for all eternity if you don’t do what you need to do to make God happy.
So, at first I thought the problem was the Christian religion. I tried Judaism for a short while, and then figured it was the same stuff as before. Then one Sunday I went to my girlfriend’s church service on a Sunday. I went just to spend some time with her. She was Pentecostal and the preacher said things in conflict with what I heard my old Baptist preacher saying. Huh?? This cemented my thinking that there is no way that if there is a God, and I have to do what I need to to get into heaven, and even the preachers are telling me different things, and these are people that studied the Bible a lot more than I have, what chance do I have in getting this right.
In high school I was getting more and more into science and evolution other subjects like world history and ancient societies. It was becoming obvious that science was at least trying to come up with real answers. And mankind has been trying to find answers for a very long time and when answers could not be found, they were invented. I accepted the fact that I was in Atheist in the 9th grade.
But, the last part of the story is my coming out. I have been a closet Atheist now for about 31 years. Rarely would it need to come up in conversation and if anyone spoke of religion I tried to be as neutral about it as I could until I could excuse myself from the conversation. It even taunted me when I went into the Navy when I was 19 years old. Here I was. Wanting to go into the military to defend and support our Constitution, which gave me the freedom and right to be an Atheist, and yet I had to swear to someone else’s god about my oath and allegiance to my country. Talk about something not being right.
About 10 years ago I married an Agnostic. Although I would not have minded someone who was religious, as long as they respect my non-beliefs and I would respect their belief. But my wife I share nearly the same viewpoints on religion and that has helped me come out of hiding a little bit. But, it wasn’t until about a year ago I read one of the Atheist billboards and contacted the group mentioned on the sign. I joined the group and now I am a very active member, providing my insight into Atheism and learning so much from everyone else. It has been a very positive experience for me!
Just about a month ago, I sat down with my parents and had the very FIRST EVER discussion about religion. My mom is actually a deist and my dad is a non-denominational believer but not all that into worship. Imagine that, it took 45 years to finally have the discussion with my parents. I told them I was an Atheist, which they pretty much already figured out, and they have no problems with it. My highly religious siblings, though, that is another matter.
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