NOTE: This was supposed to be in DRAFT mode, as I had not finished it. If you happened to have read it beforehand, I apologize for the abrupt ending. I'm working on it now :)

 

I know that we here at T|A encourage others to share their (non)spiritual journey - the story of how they got from where they were to where they are now. I have enjoyed reading other people's journeys - and I find it fascinating and comforting that most of these journeys are more alike than they are different. I believe that these similarities give us all a sense of belonging, a sense of oneness that we share.And, since others have been gracious enough to share their stories, I finally decided that it was time for me to share my own - but first, let me lay a little groundwork...

To Geek, or Not to Geek...

Before I jump into my journey, I feel it is important for me to share how I believe I, and others like me, are wired.

You'll notice that I use the term "geek" a lot; in fact my nom de plume in my writings and such is "Lotus Geek". "Lotus", because I have made my career as an expert in Lotus' collaborative technologies (Lotus Notes, Lotus Domino, etc.); and "Geek" because I, well, am a geek about it - and other things as well - which leads me to my ideas around being a "geek"...

I consider the term "geek" to not be a bad thing; on the contrary, I consider it to be a badge of honor (unlike the term "nerd" - but that's a subject for another blog entry, some other day). Geek conveys a sense of passion and a thirst for knowledge; in fact everyone "geeks out" about something. It may be a hobby, or an author, or a subject like movies - but almost all of us have some "thing" in which you have a great deal of interest, and in which you almost feel compelled to learn all that you can about it. This is normal for virtually all humans; however there are some of us that are not normal humans - we are actually are "Geeks Personified", or are geek personality types.

A person who is a geek personality type - who is a true "geek" for short - feels an overwhelming drive (some would even go as far as to call it a compulsion) to learn absolutely everything they can about any subject in which they have an interest. Geeks are not satisfied to have a passing, casual interest in something; if they are interested in a topic, then they want to know all they an about that topic. I come before you today to confess that I, Rocky Oliver - aka Lotus.Geek - am a Geek.

Let me give you some concrete examples of how my being a geek manifests itself...

  • When I was a teenager, getting into cars, I learned how to completely tear down and rebuild my VW Bug's engine. I also learned how to work on breaks, electronics, etc. - everything there was to know about my car. 
  • Same thing with motorcycles - when I began riding I also learned how to tear down/rebuild a bike engine, change brakes, etc., for both two stroke and four stroke engines.
  • I have always had a fascination with snakes, to the point of considering becoming a herpetologist. I bought myself some snake boots, a loop and hook, etc. for handling venomous snakes, and I studied and learned all I could about the venomous snakes found in Georgia and the Southeastern U.S. To this day I still work with venomous snakes should the need or opportunity arise, and people in my neighborhood know to come get me to capture and remove snakes from their yards (rather than killing them outright).
  • When I became interested in computers in high school (late 1970's - early 1980's, graduated HS in 1982), I not only learned how to program, but I also built my own computer from a Heath Kit. I Also learned how to program the county mainframe computer, and I was also known to dabble in "phreaking" back then.
  • I have been married for over 26 years, and we have five awesome kids. I learned a great deal about obstetrics back then, and as you can imagine I became pretty good friends with our OB/GYN. Well, my wife had to have an emergency C-section with our 5th kid. Instead of sitting "behind the curtain" at my wife's head during the C-section, I was down with the OB/GYN during the procedure, and watched the whole thing. As he was finishing he was showing me parts of the anatomy (bladder, etc.), and my wife actually said, "OK, anatomy lesson over, put me back together please!" ;)

And the list goes on and on. The general idea is - if I am going to get interested in something, I will learn all I can about that interest - so I have to be very selective about what gets my interest.

As you can imagine, growing up here in the South, religion is a large part of the culture - and therefore it became a pretty strong interest for me early on...

A Geek's Exploration of Religion...

When I was in elementary school I moved around a lot - and I also bounced back and forth between my parents, who divorced when I was five. By seventh grade I had attended 16 different elementary schools, and most of them were private - and xian. I was heavily indoctrinated into the strict Southern Baptist upbringing. The church I was in is one of those where women cannot wear pants or shorts, no cursing, drinking, etc., and the absolute belief that if you aren't "one of us", you are definitely working with SATAN - and you should witness and give your testimony at every chance you get.

 

Blech.

 

Well, I began questioning all of this BS when I was in the aforementioned seventh grade. As I began asking questions about everything Bible related (and the Bible was interwoven into every subject), I began getting in more and more trouble. I actually had the record for the most paddlings in the seventh grade by the end of the year.

 

Once I hit high school (down here they didn't have middle schools at the time - high school was 8th-12th grad), I really began questioning and exploring other religions. Luckily two things happened: first, I began hanging with a group of geek friends, who became my best friends (and I still keep in touch with them), and we all were agnostic/atheist (but were so afraid to use that word!); and second, my gifted program teacher, Dr. Birdseye, was an "out of the closet" atheist - so my friends and I had a mentor of sorts to ask questions and help us formulate our own ideas concerning religion.

 

By the end of 8th grade I finally was able to use the word "atheist" and not fear some horrible reprisal. In fact I did what most rebellious teenage boys do - I became a militant atheist. There was also fuel to the fire in the form of a cult called "Alpha", which was one of the first churches targeted towards teens with xian rock music, a live band, etc. This teen church was a branch of a church called Chapel Hill Harvester, ran by a man named "Bishop" Earl Paulk. You may of heard of him back then - he was caught having numerous affairs, his brother was molesting kids, he was embezzling from the church, and so much more. Anyway, I had a great run-in with his group...

 

I was into playing Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (AD&D) back then; and around that time was when everyone thought it was a veiled way to worship Satan, etc. One of the things that the cult of Alpha did was burn albums and books - things like AC/DC, Iron Maiden, Dune by Frank Herbert, and of course AD&D books. Well, I had about as much of that as I could stand. Alpha and Paulk staged a large burning one night, and they were specifically targeting music and AD&D books. They had the local newspaper and television news stations out there, and of course Paulk was getting his face time. Well, I was screaming at him that he was as bad as Hitler in censoring the people, he was brainwashing the youth, he was an idiot for condemning AD&D without even looking at it, etc. Well, he and some of his followers called me a "Son of Satan" and a "Devil Worshipper" and I was "in the service of the Prince of Darkness" and a bunch of other neat stuff. Well, that made the paper and a short bit of it was on the news - and it made me feel energized, that I could voice my opinion and stand up to those who are trying to oppress people like me.

 

A Geek Matures

As I grew older and matured, I learned to moderate my tone, become more persuasive, and I started to "pick my battles". I also did what a geek personality type does, when interested in a topic - I learned as much as I could about the history of the Abrahamic religions, specifically xianity. It gave me strength and confidence, because I could back up what I instinctively knew was right - and I wasn't afraid to be who I was - an Atheist.

 

I made sure that, in all relationships I entered, that the person knew my stand on religion. Luckily my wife of 26+ years knew about my entire religious/philosophical journey, as she and I went to HS together. We got married young, but we made sure not to have kids until we were more mature and settled into a house. I didn't want our kids to bounce around from place to place like I did. We had our first kid six years after we got married, and then I was struck with a dilemma. Down here in the Bible Belt South, the second question you're asked after your name when you meet someone is what church do you go to. I remember that, when I was younger, that question bothered me if I didn't have a good answer (or one I liked). So, I decided to attend the Unitarian Universalist congregation in Atlanta. We loved it there, and it afforded us the opportunity to be who we were, in the open, and we were accepted. I even taught RE (Religious Education, something like Sunday School), and I loved it as well. I liked the way UU approached teaching kids about religions - you concentrate on their history, their traditions, etc., so that they have a good understanding of them. This way when they encounter people witnessing to them or whatever, they have a foundation to draw from so that they're not sucked in. It also gave my kids a church to say they attended, and it almost always shut people up since they had no idea what UU was :)

 

So, today I am a happy, out of the closet atheist. I have a very stable and happy marriage since 1985; I have five outstanding kids who are thriving; and I love my family, my career, and my life. I am taking a page from the Southern Baptist rule book, in that I am "living my testimony" - but instead of my testimony being about how god is in my life and how wonderful that is, it is more about how god is NOT in our life, and we're as happy and content as we possibly could be.

 


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