I remember growing up and the folks were Catholic (see? I still capitalize it…) and sent me to Catholic school from 2nd-through-8th grade, and then an all-boys Catholic high school (yes, pity me). Good education from that, surely, but with it came a price: learning created doubts. I still remember being 7 years old, being told the Genesis story in religion class and thinking, even at that young age, that God had set-up Adam and Eve; He supposedly was omnicient, so supposedly knew all things, which meant He had set the stage of Eden so man would fall and get original sin. What a shit! (But my young mind, having been filled with the dread of hellfire by the nuns, didn’t express it that way you can be sure).
By the time I left high school, I was sick of Catholicism…but unfortunately still had that foundational brainwashing which made me think there was a God and, since that was coupled with the whole load of Catholic guilt-trip, I was pretty sure that hell was where I’d end up. Over time, I consoled myself with the idea that if God really did know everything, He’d know the background and motivations behind whatever I did and, therefore, would understand and, like a loving parent, forgive me for my mistakes.
Fast forward to my late 40′s by which time I’d become an alcoholic and ended up in Alcoholics Anonymous…going to meetings at least 3 times a week, working those twelve steps, etc. But the one thing they read at the start of every AA meeting says: “Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program, usually men and women who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves. There are such unfortunates. They are not at fault; they seem to have been born that way. They are naturally incapable of grasping and developing a manner of living which demands rigorous honesty. Their chances are less than average. There are those, too, who suffer from grave emotional and mental disorders, but many of them do recover if they have the capacity to be honest” So, yeah, if I wanted to stay sober, they told me I had to be rigorously honest…and find some kind of ‘higher power’ (though they capitalized that as Higher Power…you know, the God thing, a ‘spiritual’ way of life and all that). So, I set out to figure out what my own ‘Higher Power’ is.
And, in the process, my sister gifted me with a ‘Recovery Bible’. Essentially, this is a regular bible where the verses are on one page with a recovery interpretation on the facing page, telling you how each verse pertains to a person’s recovery. However, in reading through the bible (ugh! that was a chore reading the whole thing), that rigorous honesty thing was part of it. And, I had to be honest with myself: it was a load of made-up crap! Not just mythology, but LOUSY mythology. I’ve read better mythology in my Dungeons & Dragons books (which, I think, many years ago helped soften me up for non-belief).
After this, I got a book from the library called “Who Wrote the Bible?”. I highly recommend this scholorly look at who the probable authors were, since it certainly wasn’t Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. And the more books I read, searching for the ‘right’ spirituality, one that would work for me as my ‘Higher Power’, the more dishonest the whole thing was turning out to be. And, remember, my AA program said I’d only recover and stay sober IF I remained rigorously honest.
My honest and open-minded assessment of ALL gods is: they don’t exist, because IF any did, there’d be some evidence — and there is NONE. Same for the ‘spiritual’, ghosts, afterlife, and any and all kinds of woo. Sure, they ‘exist’, but only in a person’s mind.
So, for me, the cute thing is that getting into that AA ‘spiritual’ program is really what turned me into an atheist. Yep, the truth does set you free.