I’m a female of the species Homo sapiens on the eastern coast of the United States who was brought up in a sometimes vaguely deistic, sometimes atheistic, sometimes anti-theistic family.
It just depended on who you asked.
I’m the oldest child and was born in a major city on the northeastern coast of the United States. My father was brought up Catholic in Ireland, while my mother was brought up in the southeastern United States in a non-churchgoing family. I think she is a deist or agnostic-it was just never discussed. Both of my siblings are too young to have formulated any opinion on religion yet-they’ve not been brainwashed, so I think they’ll be agnostic at very least, but I’m not entirely certain.
My father was very different. He worked from a young age to make sure I knew that it was wise to stay away from the clergy, particularly Catholics. He instilled from a young age that talking to any priest or parishioner was a bad idea. I’m almost entirely certain that was from his rough upbringing with devout Catholic parents and nuns and priests at the schools.
Because of an unfortunate circumstance, my father lost his job while I was young and was forced to journey away to find work. Since then he’s had to take jobs that left him little time at home and what he had was usually spent sleeping. That meant that he didn’t have any time to discuss his atheistic beliefs with me and my mother has permanently refused to discuss hers with the family.
I eventually became a vague deist after I picked up ideas from my peers. There had to be somebody up there, right? While I was still in elementary school, I had a friend that, trying to be just like her preacher and her parents (who were active in the pursuit of converting people to their particular Lutheran strain of Christianity), converted me to a vague form of Christian-esque deism. I prayed in my bed at night to God (who, I would learn later, was also known as Jehovah), I learned about the Nativity and believed it, and I learned about Heaven and a diluted form of Hell. Bad people would go to timeout, good people would be happy.
I didn’t ever go to any church, I never really read the Bible until I was a lot older, I didn’t realize the exact qualifications to go to Heaven, I didn’t know that the God of the Abrahamic trifecta was a childish tyrant, I had barely any knowledge of the crucifixion and resurrection, I just had no idea. I guess I wasn’t ever really a Christian. I did believe in God in my own childish way, but it was filtered. I proudly told people (outside of my family) that I was a Christian.
It took me a few more years to realize that I didn’t know what I was getting into.
My converting friend had long since vanished into the past. At the time, I was taking piano lessons with a Southern Baptist woman who is (to put it mildly) extremely devout and committed-she had played the organ for her congregation since she was a teenager. She’d gone to a Christian college and converted people for some time. She knew my parents were non-theistic and I was a Christian, though I’d asked her not to say anything to my parents and I’d tell them when I was older and knew how to articulate my beliefs to them.
I had just finished a song and was looking for a new one. As I flipped through a book of pop songs of the last 50 years or so, I chanced upon a simplification of “Imagine” by John Lennon. I knew of the Beatles’ music and enjoyed it, though I hadn’t yet heard that particular song. Recognizing the name, I said, “Ooh, John Lennon.”
She replied, with a sort of satisfaction, “No, we don’t play that here. He wasn’t a Christian, but he learned his lesson in the end.”
At the time, the comment confused me, but I let it go without continuing the conversation. We drifted elsewhere, but I didn’t forget the comment. I thought that maybe he’d eventually converted.
I got home and searched for “Imagine” and for “John Lennon” on Google.
While listening to “Imagine” and reading John Lennon’s Wikipedia biography, I chanced upon the fact that he’d been shot and killed at a fairly young age, but he’d never converted. After I’d listened to “Imagine” twice, I made the connection in a stroke of brilliance.
She thought that John Lennon’s death was a judgment from God for writing that song.
Suddenly, I didn’t want to be a Christian anymore.
Now, she’s generally a nice woman, though obviously she holds no sympathy for atheists (or homosexuals, or Muslims) and she watches Fox News.
But this hate, I found as I finally read the Bible, was supported openly. The Old Testament was just a compilation of the evil of Jehovah-the New just a contradictory set of tales of the purveyor of an immoral doctrine that was supposedly simultaneously the son of Jehovah and Jehovah.
It was terrifying and laughable at the same time. But I also realized that the idea of this God, the idea of Hell, of original sin, of resurrection, of believing an old story book, of trusting the nonsensical and often contradictory doctrines of Christianity was just absurd, ludicrous, preposterous!
But, for some reason, I stopped there. I didn’t renounce deism, though I realized that an interventionist God was also absurd. I became something of a Ben Franklin-like deist; it (whatever it was) existed but it didn’t do anything.
Eventually, through a rather strange route, I started watching Dara O’Briain’s standup comedy. I laughed and laughed until I reached the part where he said he’d take psychics, homeopaths and priests and put them all in a sack and hit them with sticks. The psychics and priests I could emphasize with, but I didn’t know what homeopaths were.
The next stop was to James Randi’s YouTube channel.
I found Thunderf00t on YouTube shortly afterward.
After that, I stumbled across the Atheist Community of Austin and the Atheist Experience, followed shortly thereafter by the Non-Prophets.
And then I found Pharyngula.
From there, the whole world of atheism and anti-theism opened up.
Since then, I’ve been commenting on the intertubes, I’ve been joining chatrooms and I’ve been reading and educating myself about evolution, about religion, about society in general and anything else I can get my hands on. I’ve just gotten into one of my first written debates with a theistic friend of mine (verbal sparring has been going on for a while) and I’m having a blast.
Once I started educating myself and enjoying it…everything fell into place. I finally understood why I found the Bible so absolutely absurd. I finally figured out why my father was so anti-theistic. I finally figured out why people were protesting church-state separation violation. I finally figured out why calling Jesus a madman or something worse was justified. I finally figured out why the line between what is comforting to believe and what is true is so important.
I’m going to end with one of the only quotes in the Bible, otherwise known as the Big Book of Multiple Choice, that has ever held any significance for me. Predictably, it does not come from the Old Testament (though Ecclesiastes is interesting at very least) nor does it come from the supposed sayings of Christ. Instead, it is from Paul. Also predictably, I had to take it (somewhat) out of context.
1 Corinthians, 13:11-When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. (KJV)
Fitting then, now that I am no longer a child, that I put away the childish god of Abraham, the childish reliance on imaginary friends, and the brutal yet still childish threat of pain that are all mainstays of the destructive and infantile organizations we call religions.
Xios the Fifth