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.

Monday, September 4, 2017

How I once believed in Christianity part 2

If you have taken the time to read my previous article you may recall that I briefly spoke of my physical experiences such as speaking in tongues, prophesying, casting out demons, healing people through the power of faith, etc. served as confirmation of my beliefs and that with each experience I believed that I was on the right track.

First and foremost as a fundamentalist believer you must come to the realization that you are in the world but you are not of this world.

14I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world.  John 17:14  NIV

With fundamentalist believers it is always us against them (the world). We chose to live in obedience to God and walk in righteousness while the world (non-believers) chose to pursue the pleasures of this world and of the flesh. As a fundamentalist you are convinced that everyone is a potential tool of Satan for the sole purpose of dragging you away from the Lord and leading your soul into eternal perdition. You are led to believe that you have been particularly chosen by God for salvation and that the majority of the people in this world will lose their souls to hell and eternal torment. 

14“For many are invited, but few are chosen.” Matthew 22:14  NIV

 13“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.  Matthew 7:13-14  NIV

When you are properly indoctrinated you come to believe that you are one of the chosen out of the billions of people in all the world. Not only do you believe this wholeheartedly but you are grateful that God has chosen you. The prospect of eternal life in the presence of the creator of all things excites you. 

It is because of these core beliefs that fundamentalists who have so called experienced the gifts of the Holy Spirit in their lives are nearly impossible to convince that what they have experienced is easily explained away naturally or that what they believe can be debunked with simple logic. Even when a small seed of doubt is planted the very fear of offending God by daring to question or doubt your beliefs serve to keep you in line. 

In my own personal experience I had read the Bible four times from cover to cover and the more I read it the more disgusted I became with my beliefs and with the God that I served. I was terrified about my doubts and the Bible made sure that I understood the gravity of my situation by providing nice threats for leaving the faith. 

26If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. 31It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Hebrews 10:26-27;31

As you can see fear is also a very powerful force in Christianity. It is actually a virtue throughout the scriptures to fear the Lord and love him with all your heart. You demonstrate that love by living accordingly and in complete and total subjection and obedience to the Lord. After I had freed myself from all the chains of superstition through reason it was the fear that was the hardest to break free from. That nagging doubt about being wrong.


Saturday, September 2, 2017

How I once believed in Christianity Part 1

I have been an atheist since 2004 when at that time I had renounced my faith in Jesus and stopped eagerly awaiting his return. It often amuses me throughout the years and many books I have read written by atheists at how baffled they are at the believers inability to see the irrationality of their beliefs. It is for this very reason that I have decided to share my experience as a fundamentalist Pentecostal evangelist and how I personally experienced my beliefs.

The very first thing that you must understand is that I was a literalist.. I believed the Bible to be inerrant and one hundred percent inspired by God through its authors and the various texts we now have. I once owned a pocket red letter addition of the New Testament and recall how excited I would become at the thought of having in my hands the very words of Jesus Christ! As a fundamentalist Pentecostal believer my experience with the church and my beliefs did not come through study but rather through experience. The type of "study" done by me was heavily biased in favor of my beliefs and my confirmation bias assured that I always got the answers that I sought.

Another thing that is important to understand was that my so called religious experiences were considered and seen as confirmation of my beliefs. For instance, if I was praying and I felt a tingling sensation going down my spine or a presence surrounding my being; then that was evidence enough to indicate to me that God was near and was attentive to my prayers. I believed that everything that happened in this world whether bad or good was God's will with an ultimate and greater purpose behind the event.

39“See now that I myself am he!
There is no god besides me.
I put to death and I bring to life,
I have wounded and I will heal,
and no one can deliver out of my hand.
Deuteronomy 32:39 NIV

This is why most fundamentalists rejoice when they see disasters such as earthquakes, tornadoes, tsunamis, and the latest one in Houston Texas hurricane Harvey. They don't see the death tolls as unfortunate but rather they view it as God's wrath on these people for idolatry, fornication, and a slew of other sins they believe may have offended the good Lord. They don't see the victims as unfortunate victims but rather as God's enemies being subject to his "just" judgement and wrath!  Never mind the children and many innocents that might have died. They have been given a blessing in that if there were any innocents they would be meeting their maker soon and so the ends justifies the means. 

I personally saw the world in black and white there were no grey areas. Either you served God or you served Satan. By serving I meant in how you lived your life and how that was seen and reflected outwardly by others. If you lived in accordance to what I believed was God's will then you were a servant of the Lord. If you lived contrary to what the Bible taught as God's law and will then you were serving Satan. You were in essence an enemy of God. 

All other Christian sects were wrong and all other religions were false teachings inspired by Satan. There was a time that nothing could have convinced me otherwise. I believed that I was following the true path of Christ and my spiritual experiences served as confirmation to myself that I was on the right track. I used to speak in tongues, dance in the Spirit, prophesy, interpret tongues (or so I believed), had visions and dreams. My ministry consisted of casting out demons from those I believed were afflicted by Satan and his minions. Casting out of demons (exorcisms) was the norm in my ministry. 

I believed I was anointed (chosen) specifically by God to break Satan's hold off of the lives of the many victims I believed to have helped in those days. They passed out at my words, a wave of the hand, a tap on the shoulder etc. I felt I was filled with the Spirit of God to carry out these amazing feats. I never once dreamed that I was living a lie or deluded. But it was these many experiences that served as evidence and convinced me beyond a shadow of a doubt that God was with me and I was doing his will. Any attempt by anyone to tell me otherwise no matter how rational their argument was was seen as an attack not by that individual or group but rather by the Devil and his cohorts. 

12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 
Ephesians 6:12 NIV

Fundamentalist are often warned by their church elders to never let anyone try to convince you of the falsity of your faith. I used to view any attempt to change my mind about my beliefs as nothing more than people being used by demons and their many wiles to draw me away from God. If you weren't with us you were against us and I in turn was against you. 

Monday, May 29, 2017

Good without God

Usually when the phrase used in the title of this post is used it is in reference to the relation between morality and a belief in God. For some reason theists tend to believe that without a belief in thier god or a god in general we cannot know about morality or how to be moral. As ridiculous as that belief is it is not the topic of this post.

I have a tee shirt that has the phrase ;"Good without God" on it, but when I think about it I use it to mean that I am in no need of a god or god beliefs whatsoever. So this phrase has two meanings to me: the traditional sense for which it was originally intended and the one that I have intended for myself.

I have found since I have embraced atheism in 1994 that any meaning I find in life is determined by myself and what I think is important. I don't need to worry about heaven or hell or an imaginary afterlife. I have come to realize that this life is all that there is and that I have this one shot at making the most of it and enjoying it to the fullest within reason.

I realized that I don't have to carry the burden of guilt brought on by the imaginary belief in being born in sin or as a sinful creature. As an atheist I view sin as anything that is offensive to or in direct disobedience to what I may believe to be the laws of God or a religious institution who claims to represent him. Therefore in my way of thinking if God or gods do not exist; then there is no such thing as sin and it only makes sense inside of a religious context.

I don't rely on God for favors or good fortune nor do I plead for his forgivness or help. I realize that we are responsible for our own lives and the decisions we make. Of  course because of the unpredictablility of life sometimes we will face great obstacles and adversity. But that doesn't mean that we lay down on the ground in defeat or throw up our hands and surrender. Anyone who values their life will fight and do what ever it takes to achieve their goals and climb out of the direst of circumstances the good old fashioned way, with dedication and hard work.

I literally have no use for god beliefs or a god and I take full responsibility for all of my actions for better or for worse. That's what adults who live in the real world do. I don't believe in fate and I don't believe in destiny. I believe that I can do practically anything I put my mind to when I set out to do it. I take all the credit and the fault for my acheivements and failures in life and will continue to do so as long as I live.

I am absolutely good without God and live life happy and free because of it. Nothing holds me back from going after my dreams, being a good person, being moral as I understand morality and appreciative of every second I get to enjoy breathing and living above ground.