When I was about 15 My Mum & I joined the Quakers, I think she needed the support of a structure, but the great thing about Quakers is they don't dictate what your beliefs must be. Mostly they are in fact Christian, but they focus on a moral code centred around being the best person you can be & making the world a better place. They reject the introspective nature of most religions & encourage members to live their faith by going out in to the world. There exists what is known as the 'Quaker Mafia' because they really do pop up everywhere once you know to look for them. Since joining I haven't worked anywhere where there wasn't another Quaker!

I did a lot of growing up in the Quakers - they are very nurturing people, but I also grew more idealistic & continued my delusions about the world, again, being encouraged by kind & responsible adults to believe in the supernatural.

The Massive turning point for me on the route to Atheism came when a copy of 'A Brief History Of Time' found its way in to my hands. I was already very interested in nature but had always been really, really shit (like D at GSCE!) at physics. I can't even begin to describe the effect this book had on me, the wonder of actually understanding how the universe works down to the tiniest detail. To know how time can be bent by gravity, how atoms stick together, to me it was simply the most incredible thing I had ever seen. Unfortunately, as with so many religious minds, it slotted nicely in to my mindset. I actually saw all this as a way to prove my theories about the universe & energy. Quantum theory in the wrong hands simply becomes pseudo science, as bad as homeopathy, reiki, psychicness or any other crazy theory around today, but I was on a search for truth, fired up by having definite facts about the world for the first time in my life, as opposed to theories with no explanation behind them (how do we know where the chakras are?!)

As I read more & learnt about scientific method & the importance of evidence based proof, I began to exercise the logical parts of my brain that had been buried in delusion for so long. I think somewhere at the back of my mind I had known all along that everything I believed in was too good to be true. If we really could be psychic, or use telekinesis or talk to the dead then why were these things not more mainstream? Wasn't it all just a happy daydream that world peace & the enlightenment of all people was inevitable? Learning about science started off an irreversible process inside me that cut through my feelings of foolishness about believing in magic. I went through a long internal struggle, trying to make the things I was learning fit with the things I already knew. I read a book given to me by my Mum called 'The Road Less Travelled'. It's a kind of self help book (but a very good one I'd recommend it!) to do with changing our world map & accepting that in the search for truth we will encounter pain, that pain is a sign we are moving on instead of stagnating.

After this I started reading down the route of psychology, how our human brains can trick us, how people can hypnotise themselves not to feel pain, how people can speak in tongues, have religious experiences & hallucinations, all through the power of the mind the mind. I found it (& still do) incredible. All these things were far more extreme than the personal experiences I claimed proved I was right (generally a warm fuzzy feeling of 'energy'). Even the placebo effect alone could disprove a lot of what I thought I knew.

In one final attempt to cling on to what I knew was safe, I read book that has changed many lives before mine, The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. I'm not going to go in to its exact contents now, if you haven't read it you should, even if you're an atheist. It gives you lots of lovely, provable arguments to use against Christians! It takes every so called 'proof' of religion or the supernatural & smashes its brain out against a wall. Overnight it forced me to honestly confront myself in a flash of realisation I became a born again atheist.

It was very weird at first, seeing the world through different eyes. If you've ever been really depressed you can kind of imagine what it feels like, your perception is skewed, even when you're not consciously thinking about it. Except it's not even like that because when you're depressed you know you are. Imagine believing for your entire life that everyone is against you but pretending not to be. Your family tell you everyone is against you, people you know tell you it too. You read books about yourself saying that the conspiracy is true, you live your life with this feeling looming over you, every time someone speaks you know it's about you. Then one day, you just wake up. The world is normal, what you see is what you get, you don't have to watch your back or constantly try to second guess people. Everything just.... is. That's what it's like becoming an atheist. A massive weight just lifted off me. I was no longer delusional, the world didn't need its mind changing, everything was exactly as it seemed!

Moving on from my deconversion I felt empowered more than I ever had before to finally take practical responsibility for the world & its problems. Quakers had taught me to look outwards & help people, but there's always a part of you as a believer in the supernatural that thinks things are exactly as they are supposed to be. Since then I have felt so much more in touch, so much more able to deal with the world & its problems. I have also learnt that there is no right or wrong way to deal with things. You just have to experiment & use the evidence to decide what works. It's simple really!

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This entry is cross-posted from my blog at http://plabebob.blogspot.com/

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