Thursday, August 3, 2017
My Goals & My Deconversion Story
APETIVIST here at Blogger is my amateur project of learning how to blog. The subject matter will range from Atheism, Freethought, Skepticism, Humanism, Evolution, Cosmology, and Science. I'm no expert in any of these fields but I do have experience in activism of a sorts for all of the subjects.
Therefore, I consider myself an activist for us human apes, hence the name APETIVIST.
My DeConversion Story:
40 years ago I succumbed to my family's informal Christian teachings (of the Southern Baptist persuasion) and walked down the aisle to give my life to Jesus Christ. I didn't really know much at the time but I surely didn't want to go to Hell and I definitely wanted to be with Jesus, family, and other loved ones if I were to die...so Heaven was my preferred destination. I took it all in stride though, rarely attending church and my family were really not much of the church-going type but I was reminded from time-to-time that Jesus loved me this I know because the Bible tells me so. I was rather in to Martial Arts at the time and spent much of my time training and was a typical red-blooded American male. I was a fairly apt student at school and easily learned stuff long enough to take the tests. I partied with my friends, held down a job, and graduated High School. I took a year off before taking on higher education at our local community college.
I became under the influence of a high ranking martial arts teacher who was also a Born Again Christian pastor. Eventually he whittled at me and lent me a book from Josh McDowell named "More Than A Carpenter" and also "Evidences That Demand A Verdict". As I read the books and studied the Bible I rededicate my life to God and shortly thereafter I felt I was called into the ministry. At the time, I got involved in a Evangelical Charismatic church and got the supposed double-whammy of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. I-lost-my-keys-to-my-honda!(that there is some tongue speaking). I got "on fire for Jesus" and I must say that it weirded-out my predominantly Baptist family members! I even went as far as buying up many books on the Bible and listening to Christian radio almost 24/7.
Soon, the pastor got me involved in a martial arts plus preaching demonstration team and this gave me more exposure to ministry. I began working for a homeless ministry and soon thereafter took to street ministry. Eventually, I moved away from the Charismatic Movement and returned to my Baptist roots although I told everyone I was technically "non denominational". I became further involved in street ministry and became a part-time youth minister as well. I spent almost my every waking hour reading and studying the Bible and praying for guidance. I decided that God was telling me to take formal studies through a Biblical University and so I signed up for a correspondence course studying Theology and Apologetics. I figured knowing these subjects would put me on par with the "others" that may try to turn me to "worldly ways". I would never have thought that it would have been my eventual undoing in regards to Christianity!
My second year into studies and at a time that I had suffered losing a family member and also a good friend I was rather taken back at the poor arguments I encountered in a section on The Problem Of Evil. It rattled my cage and made me start thinking why would God take somebody as good as my friend and family member? I felt obligated to go beyond the scope of the course and set myself on a detective route so that I could better deal with the loss and reconcile the idiosyncrasies that I discovered in my research. Surely professional Apologists had the answers I was looking for...or did they? One thing led to another and after much grueling over the matter I came to recognize the flaws in the arguments. This opened up the possibility that perhaps nobody had the answers. I dedicated myself even further into reading the Bible this time front to back. Surely I could find the answers especially if I did so prayerfully.
However, I wasn't far in when I realized more questions came to my mind...and a course in Comparative Religion that I took at my local community college brought back some frightening questions. Why did most of the world's religions have similar storylines? What about the other resurrected saviors of mythology? Thoughts crept into my head...could the Bible itself be a product of man and his lively imagination? GASP! I decided that I would prove my beliefs were right and give no more room for doubt. Yet, at every turn I ran into the words of the opposition and they started to make a lot more sense. Even after much grief and more research hoping to prove my beliefs to be correct I finally had to "tap out"(a jujitsu term for surrender/mercy!) and admit that I had nothing but subjective and unverifiable experiences (warm feelings of comfort and a sense of being loved) and that there was not one scrap of verifiable evidence to lead me to conclude that the Bible was actually the "Word of God".
I discontinued the courses, quit the ministry, and eventually left to go to the Army. I decided to return back to being a normal guy. For a short while I claimed that I believed in a god but that there was no way for me to define such a being. It didn't take me long to return back to a non-Christian way of life. I took a broader interest in subjects and spent a great deal of my free time in libraries and took more college courses while I was still on active duty. Eventually, I considered myself an Atheist and found the term "Freethinker". I thought at the time that it meant that I was open-minded...and it does infer that but I had much, much more to learn.
The early 2000's came, especially 9/11, and I was floored by the horrors that religion could bring! During that time the "New Atheists" began a revitalization of questioning religious authority. I gained access to the Internet and soon I began scouring the web for more information. Eventually, I learned what a Freethinker really was and I began a new journey of sorts into expanding my understanding into Science, especially Evolution and Cosmology. I fell in love with Carl Sagan's books and the PBS series "Cosmos" and felt a greater awe of things than I ever experienced as a Christian! That is saying a lot because I deeply felt things as a Christian. I ended up meeting my wife at this time and she came over to the Atheist label as well because she too felt great doubts about her former Christian experiences. It took me 38 years to find her but alas I really felt more loved than ever. I dedicated my life to our quality of living and worked hard to make ends meet.
However, half a decade later and I had a traumatic medical crisis which caused me much physical and mental anguish. I soon fell into depression and had to get psychological help. I ended up losing my home, job, and was within a year deemed 100% Disabled. During that time I had a weak grasp on reality (hallucinations and scary dreams as well as some PTSD from my Army days) as I lived in such pain. It caused my family to think I had lost my mind and in many ways I did! It wasn't until several physicians later that I got the right pain medications. Along with antidepressants I began to level off and came back to reality. As a direct effect, I became more active into the field of Critical Thinking and Skepticism and then I re-found Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, and others. I soon read their great works and then as a result found The Atheist Experience on Youtube. I was hooked!
I decided that I too could become an activist and took to Facebook and Twitter making my thoughts known about Religion, Atheism, Freethought, Humanism, Secularism, and even some Politics (I used to be a Conservative that became a Progressive Liberal). Now, here I am thinking of writing this blog. I hope it pans out and that I can in some way reach others questioning their religious upbringing and hopefully help you fall in love with the teachings of Charles Darwin, Carl Sagan, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Stephen Hawkings, and other fascinating minds that make me look like the fledgling mental midget that I am.