When I was about 13 two major things happened to me that have shaped my life since: I got "saved" and I discovered a love for music and a desire to be a musician.
This new church was exciting and fun. Instead of dry old hymns accompanied by the typical piano / organ duo, this church had drums and electric guitars!
Not to mention the highly emotional and entertaining preaching, the youth group full of average kids my age (and some cute girls!)
We went to concerts, had camp outs, special guests,etc.
Over time I started owing the excitement and "high" I felt in church to the religion (rather than the meditative and soothing effects of music,repetition of praise songs,etc) - For the first time church was interesting and made my heart pound, I owed this to the "holy spirit" convicting me and so I got more and more into the church, attending 3 times a week or more.
My "high" from church would last a day or two then I would start "backsliding" into normal adolescent thoughts, music, etc. Feeling "God" around me was easier at church than anywhere else. (Recently I realized this was just like any addiction- get a fix, come down, get another,etc)
At this time I also became fascinated with the musicians and their instruments at church. Being brought up in a large conservative family with no musicians, this was the first time I was really able to see real musicians in real life and it just seemed magical to me the sounds they made.
Special bands would come in and play for us sometimes,and also we went to Christian concerts.
Deciding that I wanted to "serve the lord" by becoming a musician, I decided arbitrarily on learning bass guitar as it was the thing I determined was making the low vibrations in the pews at church, as well as in my body.
At this time we were being taught that rock and other secular music was of the devil- we watched films about backwards masking and satanic influences,etc. and I started listening to Christian rock or contemporary Christian music pretty much exclusively.
I would pray and basically beg God to get me a bass somehow and make me learn it as fast as possible. I day dreamed of being in a praise band or eventually in a touring Christian band.
I finally got a bass (from my mom, not God) and started taking lessons. I was a somewhat embarrassed when the teacher asked me what some songs were that I wanted to learn. I think even then, as much as I loved CCM, I realized that lyrics could be pretty sappy.
For the next year or so I practiced and even attempted a jam with the church's music director, but I was still too inexperienced to attempt playing in the main church service.
Meanwhile in the youth group I and some other members discussed starting a band.
Every thing was great and I was finally finding my way and friends.
My life literally revolved around this church and music.
Then my life was torn apart. While I was on vacation for a few weeks in another state, my parents decided to change churches and pull the whole family out to start going to a huge mega-church.
I lost my whole social circle, my church, my music connections, everything.
The new church was interesting- rocking bands and "modern worship" etc. but I was just a little fish in a big sea, a stranger surrounded by strangers.
I could not reach the same level of ecstatic devotion as in my old church.
Then soon after, another big change. I moved from Texas to Georgia to live with my mom and stepdad.
My mom and stepdad didn't even go to church but had rather a general purpose kind of quiet belief. My mom was also a child of the 60's and she had all kinds of books on religions, philosophy, *gasp" records of all kinds of secular music from Bluegrass to Zydeco.
All these new avenues of thought and experience started the process of leaving religion that would take at least 15 more years.
I started going to a new high school and immediately started in a music class where we could study whatever instrument we wanted and start bands.
In the last year I had started listening to more secular music and getting further and further from my spiritual beliefs.
I could not understand why I couldn't "feel the spirit" anymore, and why, separated from the "modern worship", that the Bible and Christianity seemed so stale and boring.
Understand, I was not yet finding fault with religion- I assumed it was my fault, that I was just not good enough or had enough faith. No matter how much I prayed or how many times I begged God to forgive me of whatever it was that was keeping the spiritual ecstasy away, there was no answer but silence.
In the next few years I prayed less and less and finally stopped as I started getting more and more involved in music, playing in bands, performing in bars and drunken parties.
For the next 10 years or so I considered myself a "backslidden" Christian that never prayed or went to church. I played hundreds of gigs with various bands at bars, parties, motorcycle rallies, hippy weddings,etc. Smoking weed, taking LSD, getting drunk,etc.
My religion was still there, un-examined and dusty in the back of my mind. Even after the past 10 years of crazy debauchery I still thought someday I would finally find God again and I would come back into the fold (not to mention have some wild crazy stories to give as testimony)
I even started going to church again on my own at a tiny country Presbyterian church in attempts to find my way back. At this point I hadn't been in a church more than a few times in the previous 5 years or more. Saturday night I would be playing, drinking and drugging in a bar with the band, Sunday morning I would be standing next to the choir on the tiny church stage with my bass feeling a bit bleary eyed trying to figure out the chords to "Rock of Ages" or "Heavenly Sunlight".
went there about 5 years, never feeling the same thing as I did as a teen. I wondered if maybe the "holy ghost" didn't hang around in Presbyterian churches?
Then came the fateful week came when it all fell apart.
I remember being at work one day and vaguely thinking about my religious experiences and why I could not put my finger on why they seemed so slippery and confusing. What did I really believe? What was hell? Why so many denominations? Will children in India all go to hell? Why did the Bible seem so ... medieval?
I then thought something like this:
"I bet someone that would understand these thoughts and doubts would be a Christian pastor that became an atheist"
I have no idea where that came from, nevertheless, I got on the internet and immediately found Dan Barker, and for the first time in many many years, my heart started pounding about spiritual things again, only this time because someone was echoing and confirming the same doubts I had and others I had never considered.
Given the nature of the internet, I followed links and ended up reading more and more and more, and within a week I was wondering if it was possible to be a Christian without believing in God.
Within a month of daily obsessive studying of the Bible, Bible history, comparative religion, philosophy, logic, science, etc. I was an atheist.
I would say most people here understand these first epiphanies of breaking through to disbelief, so I won't go into detail.
In short, this is how music led me into and out of religion
- Music was exciting and punctuated the words of preachers and I thought the good feelings and euphoria was due to the message, rather than the music (years of playing in secular groups showed me that music itself was the source of my "spiritual" euphoric feelings all along)
- Music pulled me into a social situation in church that led to me feeling a sense of belonging- the music connected me to the somewhat dry "old fashioned" theology also.
- After I stopped going to church as a teen, being a musician led me to a social group that led to the closest and most long lasting friendships of my life. These friends were not overtly religious at least, and at "worst" they were outright heathens. These experiences and friends opened my mind and let me see thorough the brainwashing of religion.
This has been around 10 years ago now and I still wonder at the power of religion, and the power of music.
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