Wow, it has been a while since I posted anything. Just wasn't feeling it....eh, I was lazy. Here is my conversion story...
I’m of the opinion that most people don’t really become who they are until their mid-twenties. By “who we are” I mean that point in time when you have taken in enough information and wisdom so that you can face any situation life throws at you. Be it work, family, politics, hard times, big life decisions. When these situations arise we should be able to know our decisions were based on sound judgment and reasoning and the truest possible understanding of the world around us as. Becoming an Atheist wasn’t just a choice I made near the end of finding myself, but paralleled the road I took. And it doesn’t start with me walking away from, but trying to get closer to God.
I grew up the son of a pastor who preached in in Stewartsville Missouri. He and my mother, who was just as devote as him, were separated after a domestic dispute and I moved to Oklahoma with her when I was like, 8 I think. My dad never returned to church again (for reasons he never told me) but runs a trucker ministry while being a driver for CFI.
While in Oklahoma I grew up in the Bartlesville/Dewey area and went to the First Baptist church in Dewey, attended bible study, and other church functions every week (I believe they still have an old photo of me in their nursery). I prayed often and earnestly. For the next 10 years my faith steadily increased, especially after I joined a non-denominational Church that had a worship band, down to earth preacher, people dancing around and singing in tongues, the whole nine yards. As a teenager I made trips with them to Toronto revivals to get closer to Jesus.
I felt the presence of God. Sometimes I would tingle and sweat with the Holy Spirit. Other times I felt led by Him to give money to a certain cause, or to pay someone a specific compliment. These things still happen but I attribute them to myself just being a good empathetic person.
Around age 18 when I went away to college I got depressed from guilt, probably because I downloaded music, and watched a lot of internet porn. During this time I also met many different people from many different religions. Growing up in the Dewey area I was never confronted with someone who wasn’t a Christian (except for the Wiccan girl in middle school, who I still feel about making fun of to this day). Before my encounters with them I was of the opinion that if you were not a Christian then you were either evil, stupid, or just not right in the head. I mean, it was so obvious to me, all the evidence was there, and to believe in something else was crazy. First it was my roommate, Charlie; he was the first Atheist I ever met. Until this point I didn’t know it was even possible to “not” believe in God. I was taught that Atheists were just people who are angry at God. Charlie turned out to be relatively normal, just like me in fact and we had a great year being roommates. Then there were the two gentlemen I met in zoology, both Muslim but great study partners. It took nearly the entire semester before I got the gulls to ask why they believe in Allah. As I listened I instantly became aware that they believed for exactly the same reasons as me. Not only that, but they were taught about Jesus and the Christian bible while they were children to help strengthen their faith. I felt kind of cheated by my parents and my religion, why was I so hidden from other religions? I mean the truth of God has nothing to hide from, right? If it helps Muslims to learn about other faiths then it should work for me too and make me a better Christian. So I made it a point to sign up for a world religion course.
That holiday season my faith was truly shaken for the first time in my life. I was watching the history channel and they had a special on about the Jamestown massacre. At first I felt cheated again by my religion for being so sheltered. I mean this was an important part of Christian history, and could teach a valuable lesson about the terrible things that can happen if you can’t think for yourself. When they got to the interviews (of family of followers and followers themselves) I felt myself moving outside of my Christian box. I quickly realized that the people who killed their children and themselves were not crazy and not tricked by the devil. They seemed a lot like my mother, my aunt and other devoted people just like me. They clearly loved God just as much as I did. They prayed, probably more than I ever had. All these people wanted was what all religious people want. To live like God wants them too, right? Why would God let this happen? Why was there no intervention to stop them from feeding their children poison? He had plenty of opportunities seeing as how they spent most of their days praising him.
I tried to tell myself “his ways are above us”, but why? If we are involved wouldn’t that make much more sense for us to understand and thereby stopping atrocities like this that have no Good come from them at all, atrocities so bad, that I thought I had just figured out why this was never taught to me. These thoughts of questioning God were scaring me and made myself stop them and decided that I needed extra help. While continuing to attend church and pray on the matter I purchased an apologetics book my friend prescribed called the Divine Conspiracy to help strengthen my faith. I only made it half way through the book when I decided that it wasn’t giving the answers I needed, while beautifully written, I just didn’t feel satisfied. So if it wasn’t my faith I was trying to fix then what was it? Maybe faith wasn’t good enough for me? This thought also scared me; I realize now it was only because I didn’t understand what I really meant by “faith” at that time.
When my world religions class started I had been praying about my situation and hoping God would give me something that would pull me the direction I needed to go. It was in this class I found my new passion. I loved learning about why people believe what they believe. I soon found myself immersed in the writings of the Mahabharata, Siddhartha Gautama, Joseph Smith and the Koran. When we made it to Christianity I was reminded of my faith problems. Not at anything we learned. It was all basic with just a few things I didn’t know. But wanting to learn more of my own faith I decided to make my way to the religion section in Barns and Nobel. Immediately my eyes found a book called A History of God: The 4,000-year Quest of Judiasm, Christianity and Islam by Karen Armstrong. Without even reading it I knew this was what I was looking for, it would help me understand why my religion is the way it is and hopefully restore some faith. I thanked God for making my search so effortless and went on my way.
The book was amazing. It was a complete dissection of all three religions and where they came from. Starting with pagan/multi God roots and working its way up to monotheism. Yes, when Judaism came to power they were trying to join together all the Gods into one. The original Old Testament Hebrew texts or, the Torah, document this well. In the early parts of the Old Testament the word God is spelled “אלים” the “ים” at the end makes it plural. The more I studied the more I realized that everything I was taught in Sunday school was wrong, Genesis was now completely bunk to me. Humans didn’t always worship Yahweh, there was thousands upon thousands of years where we worshiped whatever the heck we wanted to trees, the sun, or other people and the Christian really didn’t come along until much longer after. So if Genesis was true then all of our ancestors for thousands of years went straight to hell because God didn’t make an appearance until 6 thousands years ago. This led me to a logical conclusion, Genesis, Eve, the apple and the magic snake all had to be true in order for the fall of man to happen. If the fall of man doesn’t happen then Jesus doesn’t need to be crucified. If all of these things are unnecessary then why bother believing in them. At this point I was well out of my Christian box and these thoughts no longer scared me anymore. I was only driven for more knowledge. My pursuit for which religion was most true started with Buddhism. Although a beautiful philosophy and a agreat way to make yourself a better person when I came to the spiritual aspects I just couldn’t believe them with a straight face. This made me realize that it wasn’t any of the spiritual parts of any religion that made me want to be a better person but he philosophies, so I turned to philosophy. After years of study, and watching debates I became an Agnostic. After a little while as an Agnostic I found a program called the Atheist Experience run by Matt Dillahunty. It was this man and his amazing skeptical and philosophical skills that gave the bravery to take that final step. Along with from Dawkins, Dennett and Hitchens I came to realize that there is nothing wrong with being an Atheist.
It certainly wasn’t one single fact, but hundreds and hundreds from studies of all religions. Basically, Christianity looks very much like just another religion invented by ancient, superstitious people. Its claims about the universe are numerously false – until they are reluctantly rewritten to keep up with science, which has only made God smaller, less active, and more hidden.
And I can no more chose to be an Atheist then you choose to be a Christian, or choose to love your wife. These are things that happen through our life experiences and feelings from reason and how we interpret the world around us. Even I woke up on day and decided that I would pick a religion because I am scared of going to hell it wouldn’t be an honest route to take; I wouldn’t be worshiping a God because I believe in him, only out of fear of death. For me to become a true Christian again it would have to be something that would turn me away from all the evidence I have seen and the experiences I’ve had over the past 10 or so years. God should know how to do that, and it isn’t impossible because it worked going one way, why not the other?