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It all fell apart in Genesis Chapter 1

By Keith ~

I have been a closet atheist for 35 years. I kept my non-belief a secret from everyone to avoid rejection and condemnation from my friends and family. I can't live a lie anymore, so I have made the decision to tell my family and friends and face whatever consequences lie ahead.

I was raised in a very strict Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) home. We were at church every time the doors were open, and sometimes when they weren't open. The LCMS believes that the bible is the inerrant and infallible word of God, and is to be interpreted literally. The seeds of my doubt were planted in the fourth grade, when a Sunday School teacher said anyone who died without being baptized would spend eternity in hell. I raised my hand, and asked if a newborn baby died before being baptized if they would go to hell. The teacher answered in the affirmative. I wondered to myself how if god was merciful and forgiving, how he could let an innocent baby who was incapable of deciding whether or accept or reject him go to hell if they died before they were baptized.

I went to a LCMS grade school from 4th grade to 8th grade. Creationism was taught in "science" class. We were taught that the earth was 6,000 years old, and was created in six days. We were told that scientists who said the earth and the universe are billions of years old were liars and sinners, and were going to hell since they don't accept the biblical version of creation. We were taught that god made the earth look old.

At my confirmation, the pastor read Revelation 2:10 as he confirmed me: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. After I became a lax and non-practicing Lutheran beginning in college, my mother beat me over the head with this bible verse for years, including just a few months ago.

In eighth grade "sex education" class, our textbook was entitled "Take the High Road." We were taught that even looking at or finding the opposite sex was a sin that required prayer and repentance. They tried to stifle adolescent hormones and sex drive with guilt. The pastor even made the incredibly, blatantly false claim that masturbation leads to homosexuality. Good luck trying to find an adolescent boy who doesn't masturbate.

it all fell apart in the fall of 1983, when I was a freshman in college. In my first semester, the classes I took included Western Civilization, World Geography, and Earth Science. Genesis Chapter One began to unravel at a rapid pace. I learned that the origins of the human race predated biblical times by tens of thousands of years, and began to believe the former "blasphemy" that the universe is billions of years old. I wondered how Cro-Magon man, Java man, and Neanderthal man fit into the biblical account of creation. I couldn't understand how dinosaurs and the ice age fit into the biblical account of creation.

I began to study Genesis with much more scrutiny. I didn't make it past Chapter 1. God created light before he created the sun, which is the earth's source of light. He created vegetation before he created the sun. Plants and trees need sunlight to survive. God created two lights, the sun and the moon. The moon doesn't create its own light-it reflects light from the sun. Despite taking most of the six days to create the relatively small and insignificant earth, god created the billions and billions of galaxies in the universe almost as an afterthought on the fourth day. Clearly, the all-knowing, all-powerful god did not understand basic science, and did not know how vast and infinite the "heavens" are.

My mother turned up the pressure on me when she sensed my growing skepticism. Each year I was away at college, she called the local LCMS congregation near the college campus and gave them my campus contact information. To my relief, during my five years of college, no one from the church ever called me or came to visit, though they did put me on the mailing list for their newsletter each year I was in college. On the rare weekends that I sent home or during summers at home, my mother continued to make me go to church.

My mother's desire was for me to meet a Lutheran girl and marry her. She believed that this was the best chance of keeping me in the church. I never did date a Lutheran girl. When I started seriously dating the young lady whom I would later marry and be married to for 27 years, my mother was appalled because she was a Baptist. She was even more appalled when me and my girlfriend shacked up together before getting married. I got frequent lectures about "living in sin," and reminders of Revelation chapter 2, verse 10.

When my oldest was born, my mother turned up the heat on me and my non-Lutheran wife to have her baptized immediately. We refused. When my daughter was 8 months old, she was hospitalized with a serious illness. My mom asked if her pastor could come to the hospital and pray for her. I reluctantly and regrettably said yes. The pastor came, but he never did pray for her. He chastised my wife and I for not agreeing to let him baptize her, and told us she was going to hell if she died. He said we had a lot of nerve asking him for prayers when we weren't following god's word. I kicked him out of our hospital room, and mailed in my resignation from the LCMS two weeks later.

My mother has given me grief about leaving the church ever since, and that was 25 years ago. My mother has given me grief about leaving the church ever since, and that was 25 years ago. In the meantime, my wife became much more serious about church. We moved a couple times, and moved around to different churches. in 2006, we started going to the largest mega church in Kentucky. I continued to keep my atheism to myself, to avoid rejection from my family and friends, most notably my mother and my wife. During an argument over my lax dedication to church, I did one time tell my wife in anger that I no longer believed in god. She cried uncontrollably, and told her counselor in the mega church's counseling center. The counselor told her to bring me to her next session. Unsuspecting as to the reason why, I went. The counselor chastised me for saying I didn't believe in god, and told me that it was very upsetting to my wife and to please quit saying it. With the consequences of being a non-believer reinforced, I kept my mouth shut for another 12 years.

Three things happened that took away the risks of my coming out as an atheist. My oldest daughter came out as gay. My youngest daughter came out as a transgender male, and now identifies as a male. This turned my family upside down. My LCMS family members completely rejected me and my kids, and I received harsh rebuke from several of them. They have completely written my kids off. Finally, my wife divorced me after 27 years of marriage.

I tried for decades to keep everyone happy by suppressing my own needs, wants, and my non-belief. In the end, no one was happy. I ended up losing almost everything that I cared about. Now, with nothing to lose, I am going to tell all of my family and friends about my long-held atheism, starting with my 82 year old mother. None of them will be happy, but at least I will be.