Sunday, February 27, 2022

My path to atheism

     From 1990 to 94' I was a Pentecostal evangelist. I preached the gospel of Jesus Christ on the streets on the weekends and was often invited to preach in local churches in Brooklyn, NY where I used to reside. I gave my entire life to the the Lord and tried my best to live up to what I believed were his standards at the time. During my time as a believer I had read the Bible from cover to cover four times and even read it in Spanish once. I was a fundamentalist believer which basically means I was also a literalist. The Bible was inerrant and one hundred percent true. No matter what anyone had to say about it. 

    Although I was completely devoted to my beliefs I had always been studious and curious about other belief systems.; especially those I encountered often on the streets. But I was not content to read books written by pastors of my faith about them so I often went to the sources themselves to obtain materials about what they believed. I have read Dianetics, The Book of Mormon, and several source materials by the Jehovah's Witnesses. I have always had this nagging question in the back of my mind regarding faith: "With so many religions in the world how can we know that ours is the right one?" 

    Aside from the growing seeds of doubt that began to fester in my mind after having read the Bible it was actually a series of events that eventually led me to abandon my faith altogether. I was studying my churches Bible seminary to eventually become a full fledged and ordained minister. Two things happened that turned me off about my church and put another chink in the armor of my beliefs. The first event was at the seminary. Often we had tests regarding subjects we had learned and our grades in those tests were a part of our overall grades at the end of the year. We had one student who was highly regarded amongst the church clergy because he dressed the part. He was often sitting on the altar with the clergy although he did not preach or play any part in the service. 

    That man who was so highly regarded by the clergy was also a cheater. We were often left alone during test time since they trusted us as Christian believers to be honest and do the right thing. But this particular brother in the faith often wrote down all the answers to the test in his palm or on a separate piece of paper and as soon as the instructor would leave he would pull it out and do the test. He was shameless and not even try to conceal it from the rest of us. Needless to say when we as a group got together and told the instructor what he was doing the instructor told us not to worry about it that we should leave it in the hands of God! The man went on to graduate that year with honors and got the best student of the year award which should have been mine. 

    The straw that broke the camels back for me was when we were about to enter a chapter in our text book about human evolution. I must admit that I read it a few times and was somewhat familiar with the subject so I was quite excited all week looking forward to discuss this in class. When the day finally arrived the instructor opened the book and turned to the chapter and mockingly said " if you want to believe that you came from a monkey then go right ahead. All I know for sure is that I am a child of God!" Everyone in the class yelled out amen! and the chapter was skipped and we went on to the next chapter. I was infuriated and from that moment on decided for myself that I would read everything Darwin wrote and any other books I could get at the time about human evolution. Needless to say it was the nail in the coffin of my faith. 


Sunday, April 18, 2021

There simply is no God!

    I love to watch debates online about religion and atheism. But it never ceases to amaze me that we (atheists) allow theists to start from a presupposition that they have yet to prove. In reasoning it is always stated that the one making the positive claim bears the burden of proving his/her case. Theists always start from the presupposition that their god exists. But they are never challenged to first prove that he does. 

    I have been an atheist for about 21 years and have read a prolific lists of books and viewed many debates and have yet found one argument for the existence of God that was anywhere close to valid evidence for what it claims to support. I dare say that all arguments for the existence of God rely entirely on flawed arguments and flimsy evidence that doesn't even fit the claim. 

    One example is the so called watch in the sand argument. It basically states that if you are walking along the beach and come across a watch in the sand you can see that it was obviously not natural but made. theists take this analogy further and apply it to the world and its apparent design which if that was the case, definitely requires a designer therefore God exists! There are so many problems with this argument that I don't even know where to begin. First of all we know that a watch was manufactured by man and on its own it was manufactured for a purpose; to keep track of time. If I found a watch in the sand I would simply assume that someone lost it. 

    Next, how could you compare an inorganic manmade object to what I like to call the living universe? We may not know the exact details about how organic matter came to be, but we don't just assume that it was the result of one of the many myths man has created for himself to explain those things in the world that he does not have an adequate explanation for. Theists look for design in the universe and the world and they seem to find it. But the fact of the matter is that if you are going to accept that there are things in that world that are designed then how are you to account for all the random things that exists? How are you to explain that all living organisms rely on other living organisms for their very survival? 

    The so called evil in the world in all of its categories such as natural disasters, birth defects, child deaths, etc. all count as evidence against the existence of a personal and loving creator. What purpose is there in a good loving couple not being able to have children? Or its opposite of a drug abuser or mentally ill woman having children she later ends up murdering? Where is God in all this? Missing in action. 

    Using a god of the gaps argument for all those things that we can't currently explain does not a logical argument make. I am fine with not knowing. The beauty of science and learning is the enormous feeling of discovery. The challenge of finding rational explanations or solutions to some of the universes most perplexing and complex mysteries. Saying God did it is nothing more than a cop out in my opinion. If God did it then you must explain who or what god is and where did it come from. If you can't do that then you have your work cut out for you. I will be writing more on these issues and would love to hear what you think.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

It's all subjective! Really?

 This is my first post in a long time. I have taken a break from writing about my atheism and lack of belief because quite frankly it was getting boring. But since 1994 when I first walked away from my beliefs and began my quest for discovery and truths beyond my faith I can honestly say that I still remain an atheist. 

  It is crazy that after all these years and all that I have studied, read, and learned about religion, atheism, science, philosophy, etc. I often come across nonbelieving scholars who like myself at one point in their life were believers. They not only walked away from the faith but began delving deeper into their own faiths and ended up being nonbelievers despite all of their efforts to give their beliefs a fair shot at being proven true and substantiated by evidence rather than by blind faith. 

  It never ceases to amaze me that many of my fellow former believers who are professional scholars in biblical studies, apologetics, etc. have come to the very same conclusions that I have. The only difference being that all I did initially was read the King James Version of the Bible cover to cover. The more I read the more my confidence and certainty grew in believing that I was right to walk away. 

  My former beliefs touched every aspect of my life and I was fully dedicated and devoted to sharing those beliefs with as many people as I possibly could in this lifetime. I was crushed beyond words when I came to the realization that all of my beliefs did not hold water when they were put under the microscope for closer scrutiny. I cast my fears aside in search of confirmation and instead found the lack of evidence overwhelming. 

  I gave the biblical god a chance and he failed miserably. Maybe he is hidden dear believer because he simply doesn't exist. Could this be the reason for faith? For believing without seeing which Jesus is made to praise in the book of John chapter 20 verse 29: "Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."

  Any so called spiritual experience or claim that cannot be proven empirically or objectively is invalid from a rational perspective simply because it cannot be proven true or falsified by any natural means or scientific methods. It therefore remains nothing more than a claim and a subjective experience unique to the one who claims to have experienced it. So I guess that in the end when it comes to religious beliefs of a supernatural nature it is all subjective after all.  


Thursday, June 20, 2019

I have no use for god beliefs

Back in 1990-1994 when I was a Christian Pentecostal evangelist I was of the mindset that no one could live without Jesus in their lives.  I was convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that in each and every one of us there was a yearning deep inside emanating from our spirits to seek out and worship God. In those days I thought it was impossible to be happy without Jesus no matter how well you were doing in life. I believed that there would be an empty space that could only be filled with the Holy Spirit and continuous and ongoing fellowship with God through Christ. In short; God was the (raison d'ĂȘtre) reason for being.

Today after being an atheist for over 20 years I have found that nothing could be further from the truth. I am happy and find my life fulfilling. I have a good job that I love and a two daughters I adore who have made me a proud grandfather as well. I live, love, laugh, and do all the things that everyone else does without a shred of guilt for having a good time. I no longer fear the coming of Christ, nor the wrath of God, nor eternal torments in the flames of hell.

All these years as an atheist have taught me that your reason for being is not mystical or magical but rather quite mundane in fact. You see, your reason for being is whatever is important to you in this life now. Setting goals and striving to obtain those goals and desires for whatever reasons you feel the need to do so.

I love reading and educating my mind, the movies, documentaries, sciences, philosophy, and ancient and modern history. Even though I am an atheist I still love studying religion and comparative religion. These things and many  others bring me joy in this life. I find pleasure in playing with my grand children and Being the best father and grandpa that I could be.

A young man at work while conversing with me brought out the fact that I was an atheist. He as I myself would have done so in the past found it unbelievable that I did not believe in God.  He asked me "if you don't believe in God who do you think woke you up this morning?"  I responded that I did. I then shocked him even more by stating that there was nothing that God could do for me that I could not do for myself. When I say I have no use for God, I mean that I have no reason to seek him or it out nor a desire to pray with him no want his so called fellowship. I find my life fulfilling on its own without a need for divine help. I am not blessed or feel that God is being merciful towards me by blessing me. I am just determined to live this life to the fullest and make the most of it while I can.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

God is real!

One of the observations I have made both from my own experiences as a fundamentalist Pentecostal evangelist and those of other believers is that no matter what arguments are presented for the existence of God these arguments are never successful because of one fatal flaw: some things just never change. No matter how sophisticated they try to make their arguments from a philosophical (apologetic) or scientific (pseudoscience)  point of view they all overlook the most important aspect of those arguments: evidence.

They all begin by putting the cart before the horse so to speak. They all start with the presupposition that God exists! All of their arguments start with what should be in any inquiry the conclusion which should be reached after having studied and analyzed all of the evidence first. They rely heavily on logical fallacies that are generally easy to expose and recognize when they are presented. When it comes to the existence of God they tend to beg the question when asked if everything had a beginning then where did your God come from?

Before postulating any argument for the existence of God you must first prove that he exists. This in and of itself is a monumental task which I believe just cannot be done. Second if you are able to prove that he/she/it exists then you must prove how you know what you think you know about God's attributes and characteristics. This brings us to another problem. Most believers are not trained in philosophy, logical thinking, or science, so they have no clue what we are talking about when we say that they must prove their case.

As a believer I had no clue what was objective, subjective, or empirical evidence. As a Pentecostal believer all of my evidence was subjective. It was based on my feelings about my beliefs, my faith in the Bible, and what I believed at the time was the experience of the Holy Spirit working through me. I had been slain in the Spirit before, spoken in tongues, had visions, dreams of the divine, felt the presence of God through his spirit all around me. I believed in the power of God because I was at the forefront of a deliverance ministry and my specialty was casting out demons (exorcisms) from the oppressed and possessed.

Having had those experiences and lived a life of dedication to God in full I too was blinded by anyone who said he did not exist. Nothing could contradict my feelings, no words could convince me that my experiences weren't true or real! A fundamentalist is one because he or she has become convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that they have touched the divine. I often point out that I had not come to my decision to be an atheist lightly. It took six years of self doubt and fear to get me where I am today. I was truly bound and oppressed by my religious beliefs. It is because of this that logical, philosophical, and scientific arguments have little to no effect on fundamentalist believers.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Religion and fear

Fear as anyone knows can have some very drastic and even paralyzing effects on people. Some of our fears are justified while many for the most part are known as irrational fears. While searching online for phobias I was curious to know if there was one for a fear of God, and to my great surprise there actually is! According to a list of phobias found in the online Oxford Dictionary the fear of God is known as (you guessed it) theophobia.

For those of you interested in getting more information about this strange and irrational fear you can read a great article on it here. One of the components of theophobia is the fear of the wrath of God and not so much God himself. As a former Pentecostal fundamentalist believer I feared both God and his wrath and lived in constant dread of the idea of going to hell.

Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Matthew 10:28 (NIV)

It was verses of scripture like the one cited above that literally put the fear of God in me. It was what kept me in line as far as obedience was concerned when it came to church officials and what I believed to be the ways of the Lord. The idea that God was watching me at all times and knew my most intimate thoughts and feelings terrified me. I felt great when I prayed and loved feeling what I believed to be the presence of the Holy Spirit dwelling within me. In a way those feelings were a way for me to gauge whether or not I was on the straight an narrow path. When I did not get those feelings I began to worry that something might be amiss. 

I would pray and grovel in private to the Lord asking for him to show me if I had failed him in some way or another and to guide me towards rectifying the situation. I often debased myself in prayer reminding myself that I was nothing and that I was only alive because of God's mercy, love, and grace. I viewed myself as a servant literally and the Lord as my master. 

In my world there was only good and evil and I wanted to always be on the side of what I believed to be good. I wanted to be a soldier of the Lord marching on against the legions of Satan and his influence  on the world and on the lives of the billions of other humans who inhabited it. I wholly believed in spiritual warfare and saw myself as someone on the front lines for Jesus. I wanted to save the world and show as many people as I could the "truth" and how it would lead them to the salvation of their souls. 

11Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Ephesians 6:11-13 (NIV)

Religion is a means of control and fear is its mechanism. The more extreme your beliefs and commitment the deeper the fear is imbeded in your psyche. My deconversion was a long and terrifying experience for me from the moments of first doubt to the breaking free of the last vestiges of religion in my life. Of all the struggles I had endured fear was the most powerful and the hardest to overcome. Even after I officially left the church and declared myself an agnostic at the time before transitioning to all out atheist, it took me six years to overcome the fear of God, wrath, death in sin, and finally hell. 

It is my belief that everyones journey from faith to skepticism is a personal choice and is undertaken and experienced differently by us all. But at the most extreme end I think that my journey as well as those of the millions of others who have taken similar journeys were extremely difficult and taxing on our entire being. It affects us mentally, emotionally, and physically in some very harsh and unexpected ways. Again, I think that how it affects us is determined most by how devoted and commited we actually were to our beliefs. 

Breaking free from religion and the accompanying irrational fears it instills in us is a process that takes time, courage, and persistence. You have to make up your mind that you want to know whether your beliefs are true and that you are willing to research its tenets and history and let it lead you to whatever conclusion it may. I personally was swayed by my beliefs after studying how the Bible was created and its history. I concluded that it was an entirely human process and invention that did not require any input or inspirations from any God or gods. Once I took down the foundation of my faith in this case the Bible then I began to work on the history of the church and the doctrines and how they came about. I read the Bible from cover to cover four times in a period of six years and the more I read the less I believed and the more I hated the image of God as presented within its pages. 

In my experience the only thing that can overcome irrational fear is knowledge. Educate yourself about your beliefs. Don't be afraid to ask the hard questions or to confront contradictions honestly and scrutinize them meticulously. Thank you for reading this article and I wish all of those who take this journey the best of luck and hope that they are filled with hope, courage, and curiosity sufficient enough to destroy faith and fear.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

The fundamentalist mindset

While I was reading an excellent book on atheism I came across a quote that I thought would be quite useful in this post and its subject matter. The book is Atheism Advanced by David Eller the second volume of a two part series. In it he makes reference to Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) and the preface to his books second edition Critique of Pure Reason. Here is the quote: " I had to deny knowledge in order to make room for faith."

I was very moved and impressed greatly by this quote because of its simplicity yet at how effectively it manages to explain a rather complex aspect of fundamentalist belief. From my own personal experience in the ministry I can tell you that faith is what I like to call the ultimate equalizer when it comes to arguments against it. The reason I say this is because most fundies do not rely on knowledge, logic, or reason to validate their beliefs. In fact many of them have never read the Bible from cover to cover much less taken deep philosophical courses or studies on theology. The theology that they have studied is really not theology because it is not philosophical but rather faith based.

The difference between faith and knowledge is that faith does not have to make sense; it just is. It is believed and it is accepted regardless of the absurdity of its claims. Knowledge demands evidence at all times. There are three types of evidence most commonly referred to in philosophical argumentation. Let's review those and define them before going further.

empirical:  capable of being verified or disproved by observation or experiment
objective:  of, relating to, or being an object, phenomenon, or condition in the realm of sensible experience independent of individual thought and perceptible by all observers :  having reality independent of the mind
subjective :  characteristic of or belonging to reality as perceived rather than as independent of mind 

Empirical and objective evidence are quite similar in that they are both reliant on observation, experimentation, and experience that can be perceived by all interested parties. Subjective evidence on the other hand is based on the subject meaning the one perceiving. Fundamentalists base their entire belief system on subjective "evidence." Their sense experiences of the so called Holy Spirit etc. serves to validate everything they claim. 

I had many of these personal experiences myself and it was these experiences that confirmed to me that God was with me and abiding in me. I spoke in tongues (glossolalia), and basically at one time or another utilized during my ministry one of the 9 gifts of the Spirit as they are outlined in 1 Corinthians 12:7-11

When I prayed I felt a tingling sensation coarse throughout my entire body from head to foot. I interpreted this to the presence of God. I prayed in my head and often received responses to my petitions in my own voice. I believed in those days that I was a vessel for God to manifest his power in and through me. Many claimed to have been healed, had prayers answered, been blessed in some way either spiritual or physically through my ministry. I served God sincerely with the utmost integrity that I could muster. I believed everything I did wholeheartedly and was fully committed to the service of the Lord. This is why when I started to doubt and realize that what I had believed was not true I was devastated beyond description. I was angry that I had wasted so much time and energy believing and promoting those beliefs openly and publicly. I think that the more you put into it the harder it is to break free and the more devastating are the effects of that separation. 

The bottom line is that the fundamentalist does not come to their beliefs through reason but for the most part through experiences. This is why logical argumentation and reason have no effect on them. They view every attempt to convince them otherwise as an attack against their religion and their God. They are taught by the church elders not to question anything pertaining to beliefs because Satan can use those very doubts to ensnare them and lead them away from the "truth" and God. This is why you hear believers often claim that they are being persecuted by those on the outside. They are completely antagonistic to criticism. 

In my opinion it takes an experience or doubt that is so serious that it forces the believer to think about and reassess their beliefs. Sometimes it's a series of experiences that make them question everything that they believed. This is an emotionally painful process and a very difficult time for the believer. No one likes to discover that everything that they have ever believed and committed themselves to turned out to be wrong. Nor to think that they were blinded by their beliefs to these facts. 

Every former believer has his or her own journey from theism to atheism or agnosticism. They are all unique and very personal to those that have experienced them. But they all have one thing in common and that is that they are all based on doubt. Something made them all question what was formerly unquestionable. The range of emotions that one feels during this process are difficult to put into words but in my experience fear was the greatest and most powerful experience I had to deal with. I will try to discuss the aspect of fear from a fundamentalist viewpoint on my next post.