6/06/2013 | Share this article: View CommentsBy Chris E. ~
I was raised by my grandparents, who were Christian, while we did not go to church much, there were plenty of readings of bible passages. I can remember once, I was about 5, had lied and my grandmother sat me down and read to me the book of Job and thinking “wow, this God person is mean!” This was pretty typical of my childhood, if I didn't get spanked with a belt, I had a passage from the bible read to me. Skepticism from an early age came almost naturally for me, maybe it was the thrust into religion without any questioning, or just basic curiosity. I did not have many friends at this age, but I did have my brother and cousin who were pretty much my age. They both had imaginary friends, my cousin had some weird duck thing, and my brother had a T-Rex and Apatosaurus. They would always run around telling me how great they were, and even my brother told me that if I was alone and called their names that they would come to me. This was sometimes a daily occurrence, and all I can remember was thinking “that's just dumb, they are not real! How can you talk to something that does not exist?” This is where I think that my deep rooted atheism was first born.
Years went by and I started to just accept God, Jesus and all of that as fact. Granted that my high school years I went through this 'dark' phase where I decided to worship Satan to get back at my family, but that did not last long and I returned back to Christianity. Fast forward to being an adult, I still retained my 'faith', but always had this skeptical outlook on it, but was fearful to question it. My life to this point was anything but good, but I was always told 'God has a plan, and everything that happens is a part of it' so I just accepted it. I went on to college and did quite horribly due to a massive drug and alcohol addiction, but hey, it was Gods plan; wasn't it? I used that for everything, and it seemed to make my life seem better, even though it was crap. Couldn't hold a job? Well that's not the job that God wanted me to have anyway. Overdosed on pills and alcohol? Well God made sure that I survived because it's his will. I led a life of self-destruction because I could simply will it away, and make it seem like it's part of this divine plan. I eventually started to warp Christianity to my own doings and wants just to justify my actions.
In 2005 I met my wife, who became pregnant in early 2006, and I started to work menial jobs to get by. I wound up in a restaurant that was ran pretty loose, and became friends with the general manager. At this point I was about as hardcore conservative right wing as you could possibly get, and he was agnostic/atheist. I would always view anyone who was a non-theist as being 'evil' and bound to hell, he knew this, but would argue in such a way that was persuasive in a sly manner. He would tell me about Paine, Hitchens and Dawkins and how our founding fathers were deists. This started a very slow snowball effect. After the restaurant closed down I was serving tables at an Italian restaurant, there I met a bartender who was the driving force for Smut for Smut at UTSA and he loved to debate, but like my previous general manger, he did it in a very sly way. They never told me that I was 'wrong' or that I should change my view points, but that I should explore other options. Yet this fear of an Omnipotent being that would smite me at the slightest attempt kept me docile from straying. As the years progressed, I started to see things in a new light, I saw little by little the hypocrisy from other Christians who shunned me for being unwed with a child, and not going to church or being baptized. Slowly, this greased the wheels to begin turning and started to raise questions about my own faith. “Am I wrong?” “Should I really be going to church?” and many more questions arose in my mind. Eventually I got my wife on board to begin 'church shopping'. We tried Calvinist, Lutheran, Catholic, Christian churches, but no matter what, I always felt out of place. The more I tried to be a 'good Christian' the more I questioned my faith, but would usually write it off as a test from God.
In 2011 I took an ethical philosophy course that basically set me off once and for all. We studied many ethical perceptions, but my professor basically made it clear “ethics and morals are not products of religion.” So little by little I started to piece together many things and answer my own questions. I started to fall from my faith as a result of this. I was beginning to ask “If I was wrong about X, could I be wrong about Y?” I eventually just put it in the back of my mind, but held to what little of my Christian beliefs were left. This came back one summer when my wife and I were talking about going back to church and baptizing our children. We started looking around at non-denominational churches as a 'middle ground', and asked my mother-in-law to be the godparent to our children. She objected because they would not be baptized in her church. We kept looking, and found a church that incorporated parts of Buddhist teachings in their sermons. I asked my grandmother if she would like to be the godparent, and told her about the church, and she objected because they did not teach true Christian ideologies. At this point I was taken aback by this, and we just stopped looking, but I still felt that I needed that structure of religion in my life.
Sometime in mid 2012 I began to look to alternative religions under the Pagan umbrella as I slowly started to doubt the existence of one God. While I was reading some books that are 'gateways to Paganism' the gears went into full swing. If I was easy to dismiss one God simply because I lacked the faith, what would be the use in looking at praying to multiple deities? Did I even believe in God for that matter? I started to look at my life, and it struck me like a ton of bricks; there is no God. I looked at every time I gave credit to God for something positive in my life, and saw that it was just a placebo. I thought that there was this supernatural force that would assist me in gaining employment, or accomplishing something in my life, and realized that it was just me with an added confidence boost. I did not become manager of several restaurants due to divine intervention, I did it because I worked hard and impressed all the right people. I did not make a 3.62 in my second round in college because I had assistance doing my school work from a deity, I did that. All these years I had low self-esteem simply because I did not take credit for my own doing. When I felt I couldn't do something, I would pray, and that gave me a boost of new life and strength to make it through that interview, or ace the exam. I looked back to my childhood and saw that deep inside myself as a child I never truly believed in God, whether it was mocking those with imaginary friends or just questioning why all these bad things happened because of God to people in the bible. Earlier in that year I had cut ties with my fathers side of the family, including the grandparents who raised me, and I think that is partially what fueled me to be able to break free of the constraints of my faith. See, I realized that I was never truly Christian, I was only what I was told to be, out of fear and for acceptance.
Once I became free of these constraints I spent many nights contemplating religion, and it's effects on societies ills. I saw that this placebo effect was not just with me, but with most (if not all) of those who followed some type of faith. I began to see that if someone was sick, doing poorly financially, and so on, that they would pray and magically everything was better. What I saw, that they didn't, was that with this prayer they began to devote a little more to their health, their job, their spouse. If they did not succeed, then they did not choose to learn from this failure, but to say “well, it's His will”. But if they did succeed, then 'it's part of his divine plan', forgetting that they put in that bit of overtime at work, exercised a little more, or paid a little more attention to their spouse. They are what I used to be; blinded by divination. A placebo, in simply terminology, is a treatment that is meant to be deceptive to the patient, as to mock a cure for their ailment. Religion is a mass placebo effect on society, and prayer is one of the devices used to administer the placebo. Society has gotten to the point where we are addicted to this feeling and will dedicate our lives to maintaining this high. A search online will find many stories of people giving their life savings, houses and even their own lives, away to their church. Now I will not go out on a limb and make a correlation to most Abrahamic religions and cults, granted they come off that way, I feel they lack the true organization of cults, but they are in a close second (given that some sects do qualify).
Given my short tenure with being 'out of the closet' with my atheism, I feel it is not my place to tell those who follow religion in a near cult manner that they are wrong, or anyone for that manner. I still maintain friendships of people who are Catholic, Christian and Pagan, and they exhibit the best mannerisms of their personal sects. Although I do feel the need to voice my distaste for atrocities that are directed towards atheists as a whole. Non-theists are not free from zealots, bigots and just all around pretentious jerks. But what non-theists lack is that placebo, and that is what really sets us apart from those who are our religious counterparts. If an atheist is racist, homophobic, misogynistic it is because that is who they are, they do not need to mask their disdain for others behind biblical teachings. The same goes for the religious placebo effect, we do not need to pray to gain something that we need, want, or desire. We simply just go out and do it, and if we fail, then we learn a valuable lesson. That is one of the many constraints I had to overcome, and in such a short time.
So this is where I have came to in my life, raised to be conservative Christian, and ended up an atheist. I have dropped my quest to acquire 'eternal life' through simply doing what God wanted, and just living my life for my family and for others. I came to realize that religion is a convoluted method for rewards and punishments, where you are not deemed worthy of this eternal life unless you accept whatever prophet and deity as your saviors. I have come to terms with being wrong means that all the good I have done, and people I have helped is not going to mean a thing, and I get to spend eternity in a pit of fire with midgets in red paint poking my butt cheeks with pitchforks. I have chosen to no longer take the placebo, and live life as it comes.
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