Monday, March 21, 2011

It's not an easy task

This post was inspired by a friend of mine on youtube who was an atheist for about a year and has recently reverted to theism. She was a Pentecostal like myself and she recently posted some new videos where she tries to explain her journey. I will not identify her here but she reminded me of my initial journey from theism to atheism.

I have come to believe that the journey from theist to atheist becomes harder depending on your level of commitment to your theistic beliefs and practices. The deeper the indoctrination the harder it is to break free of it. I can personally attest to the emotional and mental anguish one feels when they are trying to break free from the talons of religion. My journey from theist to atheist was a long and difficult travail.

I can say that I genuinely had a fear of God in my heart, and I believed fully in what the consequences would be for abandoning "the way." As a fully committed evangelist who preached,cast out demons,and healed the sick, or so I believed the prospect of living without God was very terrifying and very real to me. It literally took me several years to get over my fear of the Lord and all the myths that accompanied my believing in him. The hardest step is the first step and that is the step of overcoming that initial fear. Once you have done that you are then ready to embark on your journey for better or for worse.

Once you make the conscious decision to break free from your fears then the next step is to weigh the evidence. The first thing I did when I left the church was to seek out evidence to explain away the many so called spiritual experiences I personally had in the church. I read books on psychiatry,psychology,hypnosis,auto-suggestion etc. I used to have frightening nightmares that continued even after I left the church that were very real to me. When I was a theist I attributed those to demonic attacks for battling against Satan and his minions on behalf of God. So logically I started studying sleep disorders that I can compare those experiences to. I still have those frightening nightmares today from time to time but now I know that it is nothing more than hallucinatory sleep paralysis, a common sleep disorder.

Eventually, I was able to explain away all of my so called spiritual experiences from speaking in tongues (glossolalia),apparent healing,exorcisms, etc. What I am trying to say is that as in all things knowledge is power. The more you know the more you grow. The churches greatest tool is fear, it is a sin to question God, it is a sin to doubt his word, it is a sin to turn away from the path of righteousness that the good Lord has put you on. Religion is about abasement and degradation and those things are not easy to overcome.

It is like an abused woman who is constantly being told by her abuser what a worthless shit she is all the time, a slut, and a useless whore. An occasional your fat and ugly or you can't live without me etc. If she hears it enough times she begins to believe it. Religious folks endure a similar abuse but they don't even realize it. They are told all the time how they should be grateful that God sacrificed his son for them, that they are nothing without him, that they are as the dust of the Earth. Religious beliefs, especially when they are taken to the extreme are in fact a form of mental and emotional abuse.

The key to breaking this cycle is through overcoming your fears and educating yourself. Keep in mind that as with other addictions such as drugs and alcohol you may need some help, but in the end this is your journey and you make the final verdict on which way you want to go. When you first leave the church keep in mind that there are many resources online where you can find help weaning yourself away from the indoctrination and falling back into it. Like a drug addict in the beginning it is likely that you may have a couple of relapses but you must stay the course.

The best way for me to describe this is like watching a very spectacular magic trick done right before your eyes by a very skilled magician. At first when you see it you may be left in awe, shocked even. But once you learn how the trick is done it loses its veneer, the jig is up. When you go back to church after having educated yourself thoroughly and you understand how all of that charismatic mess works it loses its power over you.

I hope that any recent atheist that has experienced or is experiencing any of the above on this post will be helped by this information. And know that if you need help finding where to turn for help I would be more than glad to point you in the right direction.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Many Roads to Atheism

How does one become an atheist? This is a question that is often asked by theists as they try to understand the mentality of those that state that they don’t believe in a personal god or any god for that matter. They assume that a person just wakes up one day and decides to renounce the biblical God and become an atheist overnight. They say that you allowed yourself to be persuaded away from the faith by Satan and that you were led astray because you were not spiritually strong enough to resist the wiles of the “evil one.”

In some cases your quest for knowledge is also questioned since they believe that all knowledge and understanding comes from God. According to Proverbs 1:7; “The fear of Yahweh is the beginning of knowledge; fools spurn wisdom and discipline.” (NJB) So if this is true then even searching for knowledge outside the context of a belief in God is sinful. In keeping with the suppression of knowledge the church conducted several inquisitions and attempted to keep everyone illiterate as long as they could. Later, when the bible was translated into Latin, English, and many other languages; they then tried to suppress the reading of certain books by actually making it illegal to own them.

Humans in general are social animals; we seek out companionship and relationships. We long to meet people that share our opinions and views, especially when it has to do with what we believe. Religion is a societal phenomenon it gives people that sense of belonging. That is why most people don’t look towards beliefs that are going to harm their status within a society or alienate them from their peers. Atheism does just that and more! When you make it known that you don’t believe in God people look at you differently. They see you as a rebel and outsider and in some cases they think you are mentally imbalanced.

Atheists have been associated with evil, immorality, arrogance, unpatriotic, etc. The road to atheism is so varied that there is no set way that one becomes an atheist. Some of the means to which they have come to atheism are irrational or emotional. A lot of people have leaned towards atheism due to having too many bad experiences with organized religions; others have left because religions doctrines could not satisfy their inquiring minds. When they asked difficult questions they were given the old “God has many mysteries that have yet to be revealed,” or the old “We will know all things when we get to heaven.”

Some people were fortunate enough to never have been exposed to religion and so being an atheist comes easy to them. There are no doctrines to unlearn or renounce, there are no so called truths to discredit. They live in a world where science and observation can help them indicate fact from fiction and the word faith does not exist to these few.

There are those that have been so deeply indoctrinated that even doubting that God exists causes them great stress and uneasiness. They lived and breathed according to what they believed to be the word of God. For these individuals the road to atheism is painful and paved with glass, it is hard to change your views and opinions on life after all those many years you have committed to believing and teaching about God. Those that were once clergy and had devoted a lot of time and energy to their beliefs are the ones for whom it is hardest to renounce those beliefs. There is a little joke amongst atheists that basically states that the best way to becoming an atheist is to read the bible. It is almost impossible to read the bible in its entirety and not come away disgusted with its deity and the bibles many obvious contradictions.

The most glaring contradictions in the scriptures are contradictions of historical facts. The bible is wrong about the 400 year Egyptian enslavement of the Hebrews; to date there has been no archeological evidence to support this. Biblical scholars have come to even doubt the existence of Moses! The Red Sea which the Hebrews supposedly crossed on dry land is now thought to be a mistranslation of the Sea of Reeds. Not to mention the outright cruelty which God exercises freely to deal with mankind in the Old Testament. But nothing is crueler than the idea of an eternal place of torment called hell.

According to the New Testament not believing in God is punishable by death and eternal torment in the afterlife! The road to atheism is actually not a single road since there are actually many ways to get there. Every individuals experience is unique and varied; therefore, there is no definitive way that one actually becomes an atheist. Atheism is a learning experience and a sort of growing up and growing out of superstitious beliefs. It is coming into the modern age and embracing change and seeking out knowledge about who we are and where we come from. Most importantly it is about where we are headed.

Many theists demonstrate their blatant ignorance of facts when they state for instance that atheism is a religion! The beautiful thing about atheism is that not all atheists agree on a lot of subjects related to religion and the sciences. One of my favorite terms from the 1600’s is free-thinker and that is what makes atheism so special that fact that we are free to think whatever we want. We are not bogged down by rituals and dogmas or nonsensical doctrines; we are simply searchers of facts and truths. Therefore, atheism is not a religion and does not resemble one in any way.

We don’t need a god to dictate to us what is moral and what is not. We understand that we get our morals from society and our own life experiences. We are not evil; anyone can be evil whether he be a theist or an atheist. We don’t accept the existence of gods, angels, demons, etc. We see the world from a naturalistic perspective and value life greatly because we understand the fragility of life. We live in the here and now, not hoping to live in some imaginary realm after death where the streets are paved with gold and life is eternal. We don’t waste time on delusions we live in the real world and are proud of who we are and what we as individuals may believe.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Life without God makes a lot more sense

I have said it before but I think that the disasters that have recently rocked Japan are evidence enough of my point: an atheistic worldview makes a lot more sense. In fact, the world makes a lot more sense when you take God out of the equation. A naturalistic worldview sees the world for what it is; a self sustaining natural occurrence. The world is full of apparent order and chaos in the many varied elements of nature. But when natural disasters strike we have only two choices to help us understand them; the natural and the supernatural.

In my view trying to insert a why alongside a deity into a natural disaster just creates more questions than answers. Trying to understand the mind of "God" is an exercise in futility. The bible itself teaches that Jehova is a jealous God, hell it's even in the ten commandments. I've heard fundamentalist's idiots attribute these natural disasters to punishment for violating the commandments where God demands that you worship only him. Paganism and idolatry are the fundamentalist's first choice to try and understand how a nation or country can suffer so much tragedy throughout its history.

The next favorite religious reason is that all of these natural disasters are just signs of the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. As I have stated many times if this were the case then it seems that God must keep changing his plans at the last moment. There have been wars and rumors of wars and natural disasters all throughout the history of mankind and even before we came along this planet still displays the scars of its chaotic past.

Fundamentalists Christians seem to rejoice every time they see these so called "displays of God's power" when in fact they should feel compassion and love for their fellow man. The biblical story of Jonah in my opinion is an allegorical narrative of this idea. Jonah was told to go to Ninevah to tell them to repent or else God would destroy their city. He refused because he did not like the Ninevites and went in the opposite direction on a ship. When the ship was in danger of capsizing due to God's anger at Jonah for not obeying his commands; Jonah informed the superstitious crew about his predicament and they cast him into the sea. He was then swallowed by a large fish ( the bible does not say it was a whale)and carried to the shores of Ninevah where he then carried out his mission. The inhabitants of Ninevah repented and God forgave them and did not bring destruction and disaster to their city. You can read about it in the book of Jonah chapters 1 through 3.

Back to the topic at for I digressed a little in the last paragraph. I feel that natural disasters are just that, natural. There is no need for a supernatural explanation. Scientists know why and in most cases how they occur without the need for something as silly as the wrath of God. Plate tectonics help us understand why earthquakes occur. When they occur at sea the shock waves create huge waves in the water which in turn become tsunami's. Now Japan faces a new threat and this one is entirely man made. The threat to their nuclear reactors and the release of radiation into its atmosphere. We could only hope that this situation will not get any worse and help out in any way we can to help relieve the suffering of our fellow man.