Shadows of a Former Life

So this crazy woman, Kim Davis, who is the county clerk in Rowan County, Kentucky, the one who is refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples even though the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of our gay brothers’ and sisters’ marriage rights, is a believer in the same faith that I escaped from.

When she first made the news I thought her hair style and manner of dress were a bit peculiar.  After a little research, I have confirmed my suspicions that she does, in fact, attend a UPCI church “whenever the doors are open”.  All of this sounds so familiar-  “we are a peculiar people”, “whenever the doors are open”…

Looking at the situation as it develops, from the original video where she denies a couple their marriage license up to this past week’s happenings, I can say that I am SO FUCKING HAPPY that I am no longer mixed up with that utter bullshit.

That’s it, folks.  Short post.  I just wanted to give you an example of what I once was and no longer am.  In the words of the old spiritual: “I once was blind, but now I see”!

Coming Out of the (Non-belief) Closet to My Younger Sister

When I got home this evening my wife was on the phone with my little sister.  I haven’t talked with her in a few weeks, so I grabbed the phone and we spoke about life and kids and all kinds of typical long-distance sibling stuff.  Somewhere along in the conversation, she asked me about how church was going…

I said that I didn’t know.  She reacted in a questioning manner.  I figured that now is the time, if ever it was.

So I told her that I haven’t been to church in several months.  Then I proceeded to explain why.  I explained that the last six or seven years of my life, since leaving oneness pentecostalism have been a search for “the ultimate truth” of god and which version of christianity is right.  I gave her the whole spiel about 40,000 plus versions of christianity using the same source text, but disagreeing over what true christianity is, so there must be some flaws in the source text.

She asked if I had prayed about all of this, and I told her I had done more than my share of praying.  I also told her that I had read the stories of others who had gone through the same things that I had gone through and prayed, and when they got to that point, that’s when they realized god didn’t answer their prayers.  I went through the whole spiel about 90% of prayers aren’t answered, but christians chalk it up to “god working in mysterious ways”.  She said that he also says “no”.  So I asked her how she knows that he actually says “no”.  An answer from silence isn’t an answer at all…

At some point in the conversation, I actually used the phrase, “when I was a christian…” referring to something about praying.  At that point, I knew for sure that it was all or none.  I basically told her that I didn’t believe any of the christian myth anymore.  I said something to the effect of “40,000 versions of christianity disagree over what true christianity is, even while using the same source text, so there must be something wrong with the source text.  And god doesn’t actually answer prayers, except when it’s coincidental, so either there isn’t a god or he doesn’t really care about us.”

I then said something to the effect of “I know you don’t fully understand this or support this or agree with this decision, but it’s the conclusion I’ve come to.”

What happened next really surprised me.  She actually said that still loved me and didn’t want anything to come between us as brother and sister.  I returned the sentiment.

I am very surprised in one way that she didn’t blow up or go overboard, but in another way I’m not.  Her Facebook persona is a lot more ultra-right wing religious fanatic than she is in real life.  Or maybe she is a lot like me and wants to avoid a confrontation at all costs.  Or maybe (and this is the one I like) she really meant it.

Hopefully it stays this way and she won’t hound me or become negative like so many of the stories I’ve heard from others who have become openly secular with their families.  Obviously this recounting of events is a paraphrase and I’ve left a lot out, but overall, I am more than pleased with how it turned out, considering the horror stories I’ve heard from others about the same situation.  I’ll keep you updated when new things happen in this story.

An Open Letter to Josh Duggar on the Finding Out that You are a Cheating Bastard

Josh,

I feel really sorry for you.  It’s not that I don’t see the tremendous irony in your situation.  I mean really, you molested your sisters, then you cheated on your wife, all while decrying the masses who did the same thing.  That’s fucked!

But I understand why you did it.  You were put in this situation by your parents and a culture that said that sex was a horrible, awful thing, all while deep down longing for the passionate, loving embrace of uninhibited sexual experience.  Why else would you go against everything you were taught and experiment with your sisters’ bodies?  Why else would you seek out the pleasure of women that you weren’t married to for the express purpose of dirty, raw, consensual sex?

That’s what people do.  They seek out sex for a connection with other people.  We, as a species, are genetically predisposed to do this sort of thing.  Yet your culture has been telling you that it is wrong, and forbidden, and against “god’s” laws since you were able to think.  That has to have a negative influence on you.  Seriously, You have been told that it is wrong to do the things that you were genetically programmed to do.   I can see that would cause a serious case of cognitive dissonance.

I have suffered through depression caused by cognitive dissonance myself.  I have sought out things that I have been told were a sin since I’ve been old enough to remember.  Luckily, I’ve never been featured in the national spotlight for being found out.  Thankfully, I’ve come to realize what is really going on: what you’ve been told all your life is a sin is really just human nature.  That’s just what we do.  We, as a species, like sex.  We are programmed by genetics to seek it out and fulfill our desires through it.  It’s not “good” or “bad”.  It just is.  It’s the way humans are.  When you come to accept this, you’ll be a lot happier with yourself and others.  Not to mention that it will not hold so much sway over you.  You’ll be free from the prison of “I need sex” that you thought you were in.  By the way, it’s not that you need sex; you just need to act on your feelings that what you were taught about sex and sin all your life doesn’t make any sense to you.  You just need to act in accordance with the cognitive dissonance that overcomes you and do the things that deep down you really want to do, even though you’ve always been told that they are wrong.

Anyway, Josh, what you’ve been caught doing is not really “wrong” or a “sin”.  It’s just human nature.  Sure, it is fucked up that you had to break your promise of fidelity to your wife to be who you are, but that’s not what’s at issue here.  It appears that your feelings of “this is wrong, but I want to do it anyway” are really unfounded.  Sure, they are your feelings, but the premise of those feelings, what you’ve been taught about right and wrong and sin and pleasing god, are make-believe concepts from a culture of control that is based on iron-age writings and interpreted and evolved throughout the years in order to keep a certain point of view in people’s minds.  That point of view is based on fables and fairy tales that are obviously not true.  Seriously, how could someone be “completely god” and “completely man” at the same time?  It makes no sense.  But that’s beside the point.  All of christianity makes no sense when you really examine it.  And this no-sense-making christianity is where you get your concept of sin and right and wrong: the same concept of sin and right and wrong that your parents taught you: the same concept of sin and right and wrong that you sought to disobey because you wanted more than “one man + one woman”.

I am here to say that the thing you wanted was nothing more than your humanity.  In that sense, hoorah to you, sir.  But in the sense of all the horrible things you’ve said to and about those you don’t share a religion with, bollocks to you!  Your public face was one of hatred to LGBT people and those who did the same thing that you now admit to.  That, sir, is nothing more than hypocrisy.  And, as I’m sure you know, the root word of hypocrite is “actor”.  Yes, you are an actor, but the problem is that you have been coerced into believing what you act upon.  That is a shame on you, your religion, and all who support you and your family.  Hopefully, you and your situation will be a step in the undoing of all the wrong that you and your people have caused toward the human race.  Hopefully fewer people will feel the need to “act” this way from now on.

Sincerely and with all due respect (satire intended),

RightGroove

Hell in a Hand Basket

A little over a week ago, I got an email from my former church; the same church my wife and kids still attend.  Apparently I am still on their email list.  The email was a message from the pastor asking for everyone to attend one consolidated service this past Sunday.  Normally they run two services, but apparently god put it on the pastor’s heart to preach some super-important sermon that required everyone to be in the same room at the same time.  This, of course, piqued my curiosity.

So this past Sunday morning, after the wife and kids headed out, I started working on prepping for the upcoming semester, but at 10:00, I tuned in to the internet broadcast of the sermon.  I wanted to find out what all of the fuss was about.

I had my suspicions about what might be going on.  After I left the church, I had a sit-down with the pastor and explained my atheism to him.  He said we’d meet again and discuss it some more, but we never did.  Shortly after that, my wife mentioned that two of the people in a somewhat leadership position left the church for a more fundamentalist church that ONLY used the King James bible.  Then a couple of weeks ago, my wife mentioned that the head of the deacon board (or whatever they call it) left the church for a “simpler” church.  I can imagine that with the recent onslaught of political pandering from the pastor regarding CUFI, bringing a republican presidential candidate to speak, trying to get everyone in the church on board with defunding Planned Parenthood, and many other situations, people might be getting turned off.  In recent years, the pastor has been ramping up this kind of thing.  I think it is causing people to leave the church for other churches.

So watching the online broadcast of the sermon, it became quickly clear that the pastor’s message was all about America going to hell in a hand basket.  He said that America was on the down slope, and wouldn’t last much longer.  He said everyone in the church had to buckle down and get serious with god or bad things would happen (my paraphrase).

Without any real confirmation, I believe my original assumption about the situation was right.  They are feeling the results of people leaving the church and are trying to reinforce their group identity so that more people won’t quit on them.

When we first started going there, it was a great church.  It was easy to be involved without feeling overwhelmed.  Then over the course of time, it became more and more of a burden.  In addition to that, the pastor kept trying to get the church involved in nation movements and political causes.  The former deacon that I mentioned earlier had a particular fondness for a concept called “simple church” where the church just does the foundational things that a church is supposed to do.  That’s how it was when we started going there.  It was easy and enjoyable to go to church.  But prior to my leaving, it was a hard thing to go and listen to the BS that was being spouted over the pulpit and attend all kinds of activities early every day of the week.

Now before you go and say I quit going to church over this, let me clarify.  If this was why I quit, I would have gone to another church.  My story about why I quit is here.

So this post is probably just me criticizing a particular type of church.  I think there are churches that fill certain needs in people’s lives without overburdening them with the extra junk of church.  From what I can tell about the Unitarian Universalist church, they seem to be this way.  It would be interesting to go check them out sometime.  But many churches, I think, require too much from people and make it seem like they’ll be doomed forever if they don’t do everything the pastor tells them to.  Then when a pastor starts telling the people which candidates to support and what political causes to support, there are those who will be able to think for themselves and disagree.  Too much of this and a church will start to fall apart.

This is what seems to be happening at my former church.

A Worldview that Makes Sense

One of the biggest, most important questions I had during my last several years as a christian was “what if the brand of christianity I’m in is wrong?”  This question haunted me for quite a while, and finding the answer to it (although it wasn’t necessarily the answer I was looking for) was essentially what caused me to leave my faith behind.  I posted recently about the multiple versions of christianity that are vying for acceptance by the masses.  My knowledge of these different traditions and their mutually exclusive (in many cases) paths to heaven was a problem for me.  The search that lead me out of christianity was actually a search for the right version of christianity.

You see, I wanted to be right with god.  I wanted my family and I to be in line with his will.  I wanted to make sure that the way we were worshipping him was the way he intended for us lowly humans to worship him.  My search of over six years lead me and my family out of oneness pentecostalism and into a more mainstream version of pentecostalism.  But my search didn’t end there. I kept looking at other traditions to see if they were more in line with the bible than the others.  I considered methodist, episcopalian, catholicism, orthodox christianity, baptist, and many more.  I compared their beliefs with each other and the bible.  I even studied the evolution of all the different faith groups to see how they each emerged from the previous one to figure out which was the oldest and closest to the source.

A guy we went to church with left the pentecostal church for the new anglican movement because of a massive amount of study he and his brother had undertaken.  His brother and parents actually left pentecostalism around the same time for the orthodox church.  He recommended a book to me called Thirsting For God in a Land of Shallow Wells by Matthew Gallatin.  After reading Matthew’s story of a lifelong dissatisfaction with protestant denominations, I actually started to empathize with him.  His story is similar to mine in that he was also searching for the right version of christianity.  As I read his words, I saw myself in his sentiments about not being satisfied with the biblical-ness of a certain faith tradition, then switching to one that seemed more correct only to find himself in the same situational over again.  That was exactly where I was with my search for the right version of christianity.  As I finished his book, I was almost certain that orthodoxy was probably the most correct version out there.  But I still had questions that remained unanswered.  What about all of the versions of christianity that were earlier than orthodoxy?  I mean, when Constantine took over the church and called the councils that wrote the creeds, he fundamentally changed christianity into something that it wasn’t prior to that point.

It was around this point that I had read some of Bart Ehrman’s books along with several others.  They opened up a new line of reasoning for me: what if all of the versions of christianity out there were wrong.  After following this line of reasoning for a while and reading many more volumes about the various aspects of christianity, I finally had to admit to myself that my original question was the wrong question.  There wasn’t “one right version of christianity”.  The reason that there are so many versions is that they are all based on a book that IS easily interpreted in a myriad of ways .  The reason that they don’t agree is that their source material is inherently flawed.

Now that I’ve left christianity, I don’t have any of the questions floating around in my mind about the differences in the faith traditions.  I don’t worry whether I’m wrong that the Earth is 6,000 years old or several billion.  I don’t worry about whether baptism is properly done by springing or dunking.  I don’t worry about whether the correct mantra to say when baptizing someone is “in jesus’ name” or “father, son, and holy spirit”.  I don’t worry about whether once you’re saved, you’re always saved or if it’s possible to lose your salvation.  I don’t worry about whether women should be ordained as ministers.  I don’t worry about whether this or that is a sin.  And frankly, at this point, I don’t even care.  None of these issues that bothered me for most of my adult life no longer matter in the least to me.

Most importantly, I no longer worry about whether I’m right with god in case he happens to come back tonight.  That always seemed to be my biggest worry.  I remember those thoughts lingering nearly constantly in the back of my mind: “Am I doing everything that god wants me to do?”  “Am I living in his will?”  “Am I living up to his expectations?”  “Will I make it to heaven if I die right now?”  But now- I have mental freedom from that constant anguish of worrying.  It doesn’t bother me in the least any more.

When I was a christian, my worldview was always a question.  I was so unsure of anything.  Now, I see that a life without a mythological god to please is so much more satisfying.  There is no weight to bear as to all of these questions that I had been trying to find the answer to most of my life.  No, it didn’t happen overnight.  No, it didn’t come easily.  I have struggled with some of the bigger questions since I’ve admitted to myself that I no longer believe in a god.  But now, when these questions pop into my mind, I think back to all of the disunity in the christian faiths and quickly recover my sense of reason, and along with it my peace over these questions.

This worldview makes so much more sense.  Science provides answers that are reasonable.  If our understanding changes, so be it.  Our understanding of the universe is constantly becoming more clear, so a change in scientific understanding is always a change for the better.  But you don’t have multiple traditions of science arguing over fifteen different ways to be saved or how to be baptized or whether you can or can’t wear a certain article of clothing.  This is the way it is, so says our observation and testing of the situation.  That makes so much more sense.  That is real answers.

image1

There’s a scripture where jesus is quoted as saying “come unto me, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light” or some such.  Now that I’m out of it, I realize that the burden christianity places on the minds and lives of its followers is a very heavy burden.  Leaving christianity was a pretty massive burden.  It wasn’t easy or light in the least.  However, once I came to terms with my lack of belief in biblical mythology, that burden is gone.  The “light and easy” burden of christianity is gone as well.  Ain’t no burden here, my friends!  I’m free!

Inconsistencies and Contradictions of the Bible

A few months ago I was talking to my sister and the topic of inconsistencies in the bible came up.  I tried to show her several scriptures that say things that are inconsistent with each other, and some that say completely opposite things.  If you’re curious about what these scriptures are, a simple Google search will lead you into more knowledge.  But that’s not the point of this post.

My sister is a vey conservative, bible believing christian; fundamentalist…  Every time I brought up one of these inconsistencies, she would tell me that I wasn’t reading it right or that I hadn’t done the proper exegesis.  She would always point me to some BS source like Answers in Genesis for a “proper” understanding of the scriptures we were discussing.  But I can’t accept the answers from these sources since they are usually based on pseudoscience and a particular denomination’s viewpoint of theology.

The other day at work I was thinking about these issues and the thought occurred to me that the real proof that there are inconsistencies in the bible are the christians themselves.  Another easy Google search will show you that there are anywhere from 3,300 to over 40,000 different versions of christianity.  All of them disagree on some point of theology or another.  Yet, ALL of them claim to be basing their theology on the exact same book, the bible.  All of them consider themselves to be true christians, and many consider themselves to be the ONLY true christians.

Now if all of them are true christians and they are basing that belief on their interpretation and reading of the same book, it stands to reason that something about that book is flawed.  How else could there be this many ways of believing, based on the exact same source material, if the source material didn’t have some contradictions, inconsistencies, and vague teachings?

Point made.

Back to School/ Separation of Church and State Follow-Up

After my last post, I contacted Americans United for Separation of Church and State.  They replied within a day and got the ball rolling.  One of their lawyers sent me a reply and we worked out the details of the previous post and the constitutional violations apparent in it.

They will be sending a letter to the school district informing them of their violations of the Constitution and asking them to reconsider these actions in the future.  At least that’s what I gathered from the email conversation I had with them and their record of resolving situations like this without litigation.  All seems promising at this point.  I will continue to post on this issue as news comes to me.