Friday, July 21, 2006

So, If I put money in the basket, I go to Heaven?

Well, after some thought and from reading Delta's recent deconversion story...I thought it might be interesting to share mine with the community. I've always been fascinated with how Freethinkers are born, how they evolve, how they break free of the religious mold set forth by society/family/government/etc . It truly seems to be a rather rare occurence. I admire these individuals, and hope that their audacity will lead others to a similar outcome.

To begin, my family can be considered non-denominatonal Christian. My mother, being the more religious of the family, always encouraged and forced (during the young years) all of the family to attend church, which as you may already know, is AWESOME. My father doesn't really have an opinion about religion, though I believe he's a Christan "on paper" and usually does whatever is necessary to appease my mother. Growing up in a Catholic family and going to Catholic schools, slowly molded my mother into a moderately religious Christian. Thankfully, she did not turn out to be a fundamentalist.So my brother and I grew up going to youth bible study groups, countless sermons and even became Catholic conscripts due to our mother. Of course, we were to young to understand what exactly we were doing, we just wanted to appease our mother.

I can recall rather vividly the thoughts that went through my mind while in these bible study sessions. It makes me wonder, does everyone have these thoughts? Perhaps they're just too afraid to think them? ASK about them? I had a plethra of questions that never were answered, not even given a remotely reasonable answer. Reading the Bible was equivalent to reading a fairy tale, with seemingly the same type of stories, characters at times, and "big picture" moral concepts. I thought things like, how the fuck could Noah fit two of EACH ANIMAL on a boat during that time? Why does everyone speak in metaphors? I certainly don't know what they're saying, and i'm not going to pick and choose what sounds best if I don't know. How the hell would a SNAKE trick a woman into eating an apple (a special apple which plunges all humanity from then on, into mortality)? Why didn't Adam eat the apple? Why isn't Jesus a woman? or an entity? Why is Jesus so nefarious at times? Why can't I see or talk to him? Why won't he show me he exists, so I will be certain? Of course, these are some lower-level questions, but were immensely important for me at that time. Questions like these really "got the pagan ball rollin'" for me and I still haven't found reasonable answers for them!

My mass and sermon experiences were also very influential on me during the teen years. My mother forced the family to go, and my brother and I spent the hours sleeping, going to the bathroom frequently, making obscene drawings in the pamphlets, or trying to rationalize the preacher's "crazy talk" (which never once worked). My brother and I were under the assumption that no one actually bought into that stuff, it's just so silly! But clearly as we all know, EVERYONE seems to buy into it. My biggest problem was that no one ACTUALLY followed what we talked about, or read was just a sunday thing it seemed. In addition, I was simply amazed at what stories the preacher would come up with or read from the Bible, and how insane they sounded. What the hell are we doing here then? Why do they profess to be Christians if they behave exactly the opposite of how they are supposed to?
My most memorable experience was the first time I encountered the infamous "Basket of Faith" or "Basket o' Guilt" being passed around the aisles. For those who don't know how the bucket works, it's rather simple, see Figure A-1 at the top of the page.

Now remember, this is only a general layout of the basket. As you can see, churches can easily rack up thousands of dollars per sermon doing this. I'm sure there are many other things you could think of too. In addition, prices may vary depending on what church you attend, the time of year, or denomination you are. Example: Naturally, it costs Catholics less to sexually abuse/molest/rape children as it would for say, a Baptist. Though, i'm not saying a Baptist wouldn't, only that it would cost more money for the individual. But enough with this tangent, back to the story! This bucket absolutely blew my mind, and I loved watching how the pressures of society affected others. I thought, why the fuck do they want money? Isn't that Jesus' responsibility? I have never once given money to the church, and I never will.

During my mid teen years, I begin hanging around a group of "popular" friends and acquaintances who attended a bible study called "K-Life". I was young, naive and wanted to be accepted by the "cool people", so i occasionally went with them to this event. Gradually, I noticed just as I had noticed with church, that rarely anyone followed what the Bible mandated. Additionally, the stories and parables became more and more absurd or ambiguous. Once again I asked, what's the stuff inside Stretch Armstrong? Err... rather, what the hell is going on here? Seeing this growing trend among the "faithful" really pushed me away from religion, especially Christianity. Later on, I would only attend in hopes of meeting hot "Christian"girls, if you're a man, you know exactly what I mean.

As the years passed, I began learning more and more about the evils of religion, primarily the evils that Christians (as well as other religions) have spread throughout time. Countless lives have been ended for absolutely ludicrous reasons or beliefs. I began to grow a hatred for these people, a deep disgust for what they've done and as I began to see, are STILL doing every day. I became much more aware of how religion impacted the status quo. With this newfound hatred and distrust in religion, I wondered to myself, what am I now?

Was I an Atheist? Pagan? Heathen? Agnostic? I was somewhat apprehensive about finding out. The terms, especially Atheist still have a VERY negative connotation to them, thanks to the irrational and fundamentalists,etc of society! I began extensive research into the matter and eventually came to the conclusion that my beliefs generally followed along the lines of Atheism.
It was a momentous time, but at times, I felt somewhat ashamed. Am I doing something wrong? Should I have these thoughts? All of these negative thoughts passed when I began having religious discussions with my older brother (by about 3 years), whom I looked up to significantly. We had never really engaged in a serious, or lengthy conversation over religion and as we began to, I learned that he also shared many of the same beliefs I did, and he was also an Atheist. This was particularly moving to me, I no longer felt ashamed to be an Atheist. My brother, the straight A student, who's been successful with everything his entire life, was an Atheist like me. I learned quickly that it was ok to be an Atheist. How could someone as intelligent as him, go astray? He then opened my eyes to the countless other atheists and freethinkers throughout history. How could so many people "go astray"? The capacity of these peoples' intellects is astounding, why do I feel ashamed to think the same way they do?

Years past, as my knowledge of religion, philosophy and freethinkers grew. I became increasingly interested in religous affairs, joining Atheist/Freethinker groups, combatting fundamentalists wherever they may be, and diving into a sea of religious/philosophical text. This is basically where I find myself now, and I couldn't be any more happier to be free. There's a prodigious amount of additional information and events that led me to this outcome, but there's just not enough room to write it all.