I suppose I have been skeptical of religion all my life. An early childhood experience at a local Pentecostal church, attended by what seemed like normal sane adults, quickly deteriorated into a disturbing circus (initiated by a fiery southern preacher accompanied by a gleeful organist working in unison) of: unintelligible speech, flopping on the floor, fainting, crying, and pitiful entreaties to god for for his forgiveness from the ecstatic congregation. Even at that early age I found it incongruent that when my brother and I performed the same act in a grocery store begging for gum, my mother quickly whooped our asses (in the store) for such an outlandish public display. Apparently people were allowed to “act a fool” in church with impunity. However, I was more afraid of my mother than god; there was no way I was getting suckered into joining that act.
A lover of science, I began my college career as a biology student and serendipitously discovered philosophy because it fulfilled an undergraduate requirement and fit into my time schedule. Quickly, I became a lover of wisdom as well. The combination of science, logic, and critical thinking began to sow the seeds of my subsequent agnosticism. At that time, an agnostic philosophical religious view caused me no consternation because my parents were progressives, and though they believed in god, did not raise my brother and I with any type of religious dogma or compulsory church attendance. I embraced being an agnostic because my rational-self could not believe in a god but, because my emotional-self wished there were, I would not allow myself to entirely reject the possibility.
My youngest daughter was born 3-4 weeks premature. My wife’s placenta ruptured in the hospital elevator while leaving her gynecology appointment. From what I was told, if she would have made it to her car, our child may have died and my wife’s life would have been in danger as well. Hence, my wife had her spiritual conversion during the emergency C-section. She prayed to god that if she and the baby survived, she would attend church and become a faithful follower of Jesus Christ which subsequently came to fruition. While recounting the story to me in the ICU while holding my beautiful 4 pound baby girl, I did not have the heart to tell her that what she deduced as a miracle, could not be equated to divine intervention, though I felt very lucky to have them both alive and healthy.
My daughter was one month old when my wife and I bought our first house in 1996 where she quickly joined the local church and became fully involved in all the church activities. I resisted her invitations to attend church, though I did not resist her request to host weekly bible studies at our home as long as she did not pressure me to attend. One year later I granted her Mother’s Day request to attend the “Promise Keepers” Christian men’s conference held at the Los Angeles Coliseum in California with the men of her church. I relented because I had established a friendship with the husband of one of her friends at her church. My comments to my wife and my friend, Todd, before we left with the caravan of men was, “I’ll go, but don’t expect me to return as a Christian.”
I will write in more detail about my Promise Keepers experience in a future blog but it was a very emotional experience to say the least. I tried to resist the strictly emotional appeal of the seeming joy and peace equated with becoming a faithful believer and follower of Jesus Christ that I observed from the euphoric men that attended the event. After a weekend of feeling as though I was a black man at a Klan rally (totally out of place), against my intellect and every rational thought, I found myself answering the call to go to the Coliseum floor and, “accept the free gift of grace and ask Jesus into your heart.” I said the prayer of the sinner asking for god’s forgiveness and asked Jesus into my life. For the next 11 years I was dedicated to learning about god, Jesus, the Bible, and becoming a good Christian man.
The thing I did to absolutely sabotage my faith was to actually read the Bible. I have found that most Christians read the Bible passionately but not critically and those Christians that pretend to read the Bible critically become apologists for the nonsense they are challenged to defend, thus becoming disingenuous sycophants for a tyrannical god. I tried for years to logically embrace the Bible as the inerrant “word of god” but eventually had to switch tactics by trying to become more passionate, spiritual, and less philosophical, figuring it was arrogant of me to believe I had the wisdom to question “god’s plan” or understand his motives. One year ago, I read Christopher Hitchens’s book, “god is not Great”, and he masterfully expressed thoughts I had harbored for years (even on they day I was baptized) but attempted to suppress for the sake of my Christian wife. The concept of god and religion, in totality, caused more anxiety and confusion within me than any comfort or peace I was told it would surely provide. “Belief in belief” nor “blind faith” are concepts a scientific mind that delights in exploration nor the philosophical mind that delights in the question can embrace with true intellectual integrity.
Because of my attraction to reason and the belief in the cooperative progress of humanity when unencumbered by superstition and fear, I am now an atheist and anti theist. I truly believe religion is and has always been the cruel manifestation of sadistic minds seeking power over the masses of masochistic minds who eagerly lie prostate and submit to psychological bondage and ignorance in order to avoid the often harsh –and historically, murderous- rebuke free inquiry provokes. I often read the testimonies of atheists that have “come out” and I am in accord with their common theme of feeling liberated when finally removing the yoke of religious silliness and archaic dogma. Atheists are free to live and love our neighbor through our own volition forsaking the coercion of an almighty cosmic dictator. There is something truly sincere about the atheist philosophy by which I can joyously proclaim, “I am free at last.”