Author Topic: My coming out of the atheist closet story...  (Read 14850 times)

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Offline tehKruser

My coming out of the atheist closet story...
« on: January 06, 2010, 02:29:32 PM »
I apologize in advance for the lengthy post that follows, but I wanted to share some of my background about how I left a Christian cult and share with the members here the email exchanges that informed my mother for the first time that I no longer believed in god. I know there are many more of you out there that are thinking about telling your parents about your atheism, so it is my hope that this read provides you with some insight and comfort at the start of your journey.

Background: In 1996, my family joined the Philadelphia Church of God. If you haven't heard of it, it is an offshoot of the World Wide Church of God founded by Herbert W. Armstrong. I'll leave the research up to you, but let's just say that they are very much a cult that manipulates its members and uses fear to control them. In my last 2 years of high school, I became very aware of how detrimental this religion was to myself. I was questioning the doctrines while at the same time feeling like complete hell because I was a bad Christian for doing so. It was one week after I graduated high school in 2002 that I decided to tell my mother that I would no longer attend the church. I chose to tell her in the absence of my stepdad because I was very much afraid of him. One rule that he liked to remind us of is that as long as we lived under his roof, we were to go to church and follow the religion without question. I knew that this meant that I would be kicked out of the house after breaking the news, so while my parents were both at work, I packed up all my clothes and took them to my cousin's house (my cousin was kind enough to provide a home after the fall out). On a Friday afternoon, a few hours before our Sabbath started (at sunset), my mother asked me to get my suit and dress shirt so that she can iron them for church. I knew this moment would come and would be my point of no return because all my clothes were at my cousin's. That was when I told her that I would not be attending church tomorrow, nor would I attend from here on out. At first she couldn't believe it and thought I was joking, but then reality set in and she broke down crying. She yelled at me for a little bit trying to understand what I was trying to accomplish, but I told her that this was something I could no longer do. Finally, my mother told me something I already was ready for, and which was that my stepdad would no longer allow me to live there. I told her I understood very well the consequences and that I had made arrangements to stay with our cousin. I left that house shortly afterwards, never again able to call it home.

I attended college from 2002 to 2007, obtaining a Mechanical Engineering degree from University of Wisconsin – Madison. For the first couple of years, I still believed in God and would often defend the religious stance in my late night conversations with fellow dorm mates who were Christians, Buddhists, Muslims, or atheists. After understanding more views, I became more skeptical of my own. From there, the questions kept coming and the search for truth became an obsession. By the time I graduated college, I classified myself as an agnostic because I was too afraid to admit that I was an atheist. There were two reasons for this: 1) I didn't want to offend family or friends if they found out about my doubts and 2) After 6 years of serious Christian brainwashing, I held on to this fear that God would punish me severely if I outright denied him.

Offline tehKruser

Re: My coming out of the atheist closet story...
« Reply #1 on: January 06, 2010, 02:30:25 PM »
It took some time for my mother to calm down after I left home. Anytime we saw each other in the first couple of months, she would break down crying and beg me to come back to church. With her persistent pleas came my persistent rejections. It got to the point where I told her that I would no longer meet with her if she keeps bringing up religion. This upset her to no end, but it was for the better. We eventually were able to have pleasant dinners and hold conversations that didn’t relate to God. Deep down, I am pretty sure she thought that I was going through a phase and would eventually come back to the church. Never would she imagine that I would deny the existence of God.

The spark that set my faith, or what remained of it, ablaze was the Thanksgiving weekend of 2007. My parents, siblings, and I were sitting at the kitchen table playing a card game. For some reason I do not remember, my mother said that the reason the U.S. has such high crime rates, abortions, etc is because they are taking God out of education. To be more specific, she said that science does not give credit to God for the creation of all things. I piped up and told her that science shouldn’t have to do such a thing because we can understand the areas of physics, biology, geology, chemistry, etc without interjecting the notion of God. I also asked her on what evidence can she claim that the lack of God in education correlates to higher crime rates and the downfall of morality in the US. She then made the claim that the U.S. was founded as a Christian nation and they intended freedom of religion, not freedom FROM religion. From some understanding of U.S. history, I told her that our founding fathers did not intend for us to be a Christian nation. Then she started spewing out quotes from Ben Franklin, George Washington, and others that suggested that they WANTED us to be Christian. Other evidence she provided was that our motto was “In God we Trust” which was printed on our money, and “One nation under God,” as found in the Pledge of Allegiance. Throughout her whole rampage (I describe it that way because she was nearly yelling as she listed the “facts”), I kept my mouth shut because I didn’t know whether or not the quotes were true, nor could I provide a good answer to the motto and pledge reference.

When I went home after that weekend, I sent an email to my mother to provide me with all the information she had on why we became a Christian nation. The response I received was full of quotes by founding fathers that seemed like damning evidence that countered my view. The response also discussed the God references on currency, in the Declaration of Independence, and in the Pledge. The God references were easy to discuss, seeing as the all occurred at a time long after the Constitution was written. The quotes took some research and my findings were that a) the quotes were fabricated, b) the quotes were modified to include some reference to God or Christianity, or c) they were completely irrelevant to the founding of the nation. I drafted a response to each and every point she included in her email, had some of my good atheist friends peer review and edit, and then sent it off. After a few more email exchanges, she finally resorted to the following: “I, believing God and the Bible, understand our heritage, knowing this country was the fulfillment of the blessings to Abraham.  We are of Judeo/Christian ancestry, and it permeates our society.  Those sects in our society who have an interest in suppressing our religious heritage are managing to bring about the change they desire by using our constitution against us.  Because of this, our blessings are turning into curses, just as the Bible prescribed. Barack Obama is a fitting leader for the direction this country is headed.  I guarantee you, "change" is coming.  It would behoove us all to pray to God for His protection from it.” It was after this email exchange that I truly realized that Christians will believe anything without justified reason or evidence, and when evidence that conflicts with their beliefs is hand fed to them, they will outright deny it.

Offline tehKruser

Re: My coming out of the atheist closet story...
« Reply #2 on: January 06, 2010, 02:31:36 PM »
From 2007 to 2009, I developed an obsession with coming to a deep understanding on the matters of God and the natural world. I read books such as The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris, and Misquoting Jesus by Bart Ehrman. I was fascinated with sites like the Skeptics Annotated Bible, Reddit Atheism, the Why Won’t God Heal Amputees. I became an admirer of the Four Horsemen, Carl Sagan, Darwin and his wonderful Theory of Evolution, and many others.

It was when I heard that one of my little sisters was contemplating rejoining my parents’ church that I felt the need to share my understanding. Both of my younger sisters left the church at some point after I did, but their reasons were strictly rebellious. In 2007, the older of the two had a baby and rejoined the church because she felt responsible for acquiring God’s protection for her daughter. When this happened, I was at a time in my journey where I wasn’t confident in speaking up and convincing her otherwise. In 2009, after my youngest sister became pregnant, I had heard from my stepmother that she might rejoin the church as well. I immediately called her up and had a lengthy discussion about why I would oppose such an act. She asked me to send her some starting material to read up on because she was very much interested in all the points I brought up. I put together a couple of emails with links of websites that she can read up on. I started with websites that discussed how the Bible was fallible and not in the very least divinely written or inspired, then sent other emails that would give her a basic understanding of evolution, the age of the earth and universe, Big Bang, etc because she still believed in Creationism, for reasons which I believed was a lack of understanding due to the brainwashing of the church.

I felt very good about this and was excited to hear about my sister’s progress in understanding the world around her without the need to look to God. Little did I know, my mother had access to her account…
From my Mom:
“Justin,
I often use Ashley's email address when I order stuff for the confirmation of the order.  That way, when they sell my address to other companies, it goes here instead of clogging up my main address.  So, anyway, I see you have been sending info that (allegedly) refutes the legitimacy of the Bible and the existence of God.  I would say this, the Bible was obviously written a long time ago.  There will be debates until the return of Christ as to it's authenticity.  I can't point you to a spot and say, see, here is God.  There is no empirical evidence, as you would  consider it.  I would say there is tons of evidence, the most compelling being creation itself.  As life cannot, has not, and never will come from non life, creation stands as the greatest testament to His existence.  God, having life inherent, made life.  Giving of His own life form and translating that into his creation.  As the Bible says in Romans 1: "19Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. 20For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: 21Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, 23And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.... 25Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than t he Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen....28And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient..."  If I were you I would read that again.
Here is the thing Justin, you have a problem with faith.  Yes, it takes faith to believe.  But you know what?  It takes faith not to believe.  Darwinism, evolution, survival of the fittest, call it what you will, it takes faith, too.  Why?  Completely unprovable (and I have a booklet I am going to send you, yes, written by our church, that shows just how unprovable.  I hope you will read it with an open mind and even PROVE the facts it gives.)  So, hmmmmm, faith that God exists and is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him, or faith that I came from an ape and this is all there is.  At least if I'm wrong, no harm, no foul.  I lived a life following God's laws which make me a better person, give me a day of rest, teach me about outgoing concern and love for my fellow man.  I contribute a good portion of my incoming to educating the world about those beliefs to make them better world citizens, too.  In the end, no God, still a life well lived.  You, on the other hand, if your wrong, whether or not it's because it's just too hard to believe in Him (though, again, just as hard to not believe in Him) risk loosing way more than that.  You miss out on the opportunity to be an actual son of God.  To be part of His family, as is your Incredible Human Potential, being, as you are, MADE IN HIS IMAGE.  You give all that up and then stand there at judgment and say...what?  I couldn't prove either, so, not wanting to be told to honor the Sabbath, not eat unclean food, tithe, give up pagan holidays, I choose to believe I came from some scientifically unprovable (even by their own standards) big bang evolutionary magic trick.  Oh, and I believed my uncle is an ape.  Sorry God, that was just way more plausible.  I am shocked that you have turned so far from everything you ever knew to this.  I realize PCG was hard, but that doesn't negate all that is good about God and His way of life.  Maybe you should put some of this energy into reading the Bible, and not just the ridiculous levitical laws, and trying to understand it.  If you understood God's plan, His relationship with Israel, His purpose for His church, the relationship between Isaac and Ishmael - the Jews and Muslims today, the world would make a lot more sense to you.  Think about it Justin, seriously think about what you have to loose.  Again, as the Bible says in Psalms 111:10 " The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom..."  Maybe you should take that to heart. 
I love you,
Mom”

Offline tehKruser

Re: My coming out of the atheist closet story...
« Reply #3 on: January 06, 2010, 02:32:55 PM »
My response:
“Mom,
You don't have to explain why you are on Ashley's email. We already know you like to snoop. No big deal.
 
Yes. I have been sending Ashley info that (allegedly) refutes the legitimacy of the Bible and the existence of God. This is because we talked on the phone awhile and the topic of her going back to church came up and I told her how I feel about it. I also asked her what the reasoning was for her to go back and I immediately realized that her reasoning was mostly based on a fear that she and her new daughter would suffer through the tribulation, and she didn't want to be held accountable for her daughter not being saved. I felt that this was an incredibly flawed reason for dedication to a lifestyle that distances one's self from friends, family, and coworkers who aren't part of the church, as well as encourages one to be intolerant of others, ignorant of facts from science, and provides a false hope for a future that is unlikely to come to pass.
 
Yes, the Old Testament was written a long time ago by desert-dwelling goat herders that would have thought a wheel barrel was a magnificent invention. The scriptures claim to be the word of God and contain many rules, some that serve a practical purpose (Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, murder, steal, etc) and some that aren't more than superstition (Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord your God in vain). Could it be that this was just an attempt to establish a system of order and law that not only was conducive to perceived favor from God, but also laid down a much needed societal structure, in which the deterrent in acting otherwise is the penalty of death? To claim that the old testament scriptures are not violent, cruel, intolerant, unapologetic, and inconsistent is to be in denial. I'm sure you already know of plenty of passages from multiple OT books, not just from Leviticus, that show this.

By putting ourselves in the situation of the primitive goat herders, its easy to see how the Bible may be nothing more than a collection of stories that attempt to explain the world around us, such as how we came to exist on this planet and more trivial things like the purpose of rainbows. Nobody knew where thunderstorms came from, or why some growing seasons were stunted by drought while others were filled with rain.  At a time when there was a severe lack of understanding of the natural world, the gaps were filled with this notion of a god. If its beyond comprehension, then label it with "god".  So its not surprising, then, that this relatively primitive people observed some strange phenomenon and formed a hypothesis about its origin or purpose.  The rainbow, which to the uninformed observer may as well be a miracle, must have been from a divine source, since no other familiar process could produce it.  And if the rainbow were from a divine being, it must have a purpose, otherwise why would the god choose to produce it? So some creative mind came up with the story of a great flood, with the rainbow signifying the promise of a deity that no such flood would ever occur again.  And from generation to generation, the story was retold and embellished - like a modern day fishing story - until it was written down in the scriptures by a man who likely confused divine origination with the powerful oral history recounted to him by his father since childhood.

 
This is the power of passing religion from one generation to the next.  Because it was good enough for those who came before us, it is supposed to be good enough for us now.  We needn't question where it came from, or who the original author was, the important thing is that it still exists and is still believed, and that legitimizes it.  But just what proof do we have that God is the one true god?

In your search for religion earlier in life, what measurement of knowledge did you apply to come to the conclusion that the Christian God is the One? Did you once study Buddhism? Islam? Judaism? Hinduism? Or any other of the hundreds of religions that have existed throughout time? Did you first disprove all of those and when you came to disprove Christianity, you couldn't? Did you ever actually try to disprove Christianity? When someone tells you that an invisible monster lurks in your basement, do you think skeptically at first, or do you accept that it must be true and set out to prove it? So an ancient book tells you that the god of the Jews impregnated a woman to give birth to a man who performs physically impossible miracles (though he's fully human and subject to physical laws just like the rest of us), who then is tortured and killed to appease God (himself, since he's also fully God) so that he won't burn us alive for eternity in a lake of sulfur.  He (Jesus, but God) then appeared to his disciples (who apparently didn't think to write about it all until nearly 40 years after Jesus' death), rose from the dead, and flew up into the sky to sit in the honored position at the right hand of himself in Heaven. And if you believe and accept all this without any doubt whatsoever, then you will also join God and his son (himself) beyond this physical life where we will bow down on our knees, thanking and praising him for eternity for not burning us in hell.  Did you ever approach it as a skeptic, or was it accepted truth and you used any argument or "evidence" convenient to that view to reaffirm a following for a god in which evidence truly does not exist?

Offline tehKruser

Re: My coming out of the atheist closet story...
« Reply #4 on: January 06, 2010, 02:34:15 PM »
Or... perhaps at one point in time you felt overwhelmed with the complexity and beauty of life. Maybe you felt guilty for particular acts performed in your past and sought some form of redemption. And since you were raised in a society that is predominantly Christian, it was the first thing you turned to. You found that Christianity offered a way to be forgiven for your sins, gave you hope for the after life, and satisfied your need for an answer for mankind's existence. But did you ever apply a method of measurement to the validity to Christianity as a whole, or did you jump straight into deciding which sect of Christianity to devote yourself to? The latter obviously means that you accepted the existence of God and Christ based on the little to no evidence or logic presented to you before hand. What if you were born in a Muslim state? Would you still become a Christian or is your excuse, "if god wanted me to be a chosen one, then I would be a Christian in a Muslim state"? How often does that truly happen? Would that not suggest that that the criteria of becoming a chosen one is that you must be born of a particular region, race, or descendant of some ancient tribe? So now all future generations of particular original tribes are forever doomed to not be born into a society tolerant of Christians. It doesn't matter that they are human, like you and I, but that they weren't descendants of Isaac is what dooms them. Maybe I don't really understand that relationship, but it appears to me as intolerance toward any and everyone that holds opposing views.
 
So maybe I need to be open minded. Perhaps I should have an open mind that an invisible being exists without any supporting evidence other than a book that claims it to be true. Actually, come to think of it, I did think that at one point in my life. As a matter of fact, I remembered being incredibly moved by the mere thought of this all loving, all powerful god. I honestly thought I was going to become a minister at one point and help spread this message. I was very convinced that everything I was taught was in fact true. I was taught that I was destined to be something great, that god is always listening to my thoughts and watching me at all times. I was taught that there was a difference between us and the worldly people and false religions. I was taught that thoughts of doubt were considered a sin to god and that tempting him would be a huge mistake. I was taught to be disgusted by gays, interracial marriage, pre-marital sex, and authority of women. After all, most of those, with the exception of pre-marital sex, were outright condemned in the bible. I was taught that the knowledge given to me was absolute truth, and I believed it. If an open mind believes in God, then I was very open minded, right? Well, open minded to everything except what science tells us, or what the Qu'ran tells us, or what the world tells us.
 
And then there came a time in my life when I was able to come to my own understanding through reason as opposed to initially accepting the Bible as fact. It was very difficult at first, because the majority of my child hood consisted of reasons like, "because I said so" or "because the Bible says so". I started to realize that I had to do certain things, or wasn't allowed to do certain things, because someone or some book said so. There was no underlying logic, other than fear for my spiritual well-being. The Bible says that children must obey anything the parents say, or else they are put to death (not that you would do that, but I do remember multiple occasions where we were told what it used to be like for disobedient children, therefore we should be happy to suffer to a thick wooden paddle). So I slowly allowed myself to be skeptical, even while all the things I had been taught told me to be scared out of my mind to think in such a way. It took me a very long time to at least entertain the possibility of alternative explanations to Christianity. The overwhelming fear that certain thoughts would be considered blasphemous by an omniscient and jealous God was hard to overcome. But I started reading into scientific theories that attempted to explain what we know today. I started looking at the evidence behind the theories, so that I didn't have to blindly put faith in the claims of other people.  I started looking at the Bible from a skeptic's point of view, as I would with any book making claims of such tremendous importance. In the end, my skepticism - and the acquiring of knowledge, information, and the ideas that these inferred - lead me to conclusions much different than the religious conclusions that were simply handed to me, supposedly intact and infallible.  And I guess that took faith, as you say it.

Offline tehKruser

Re: My coming out of the atheist closet story...
« Reply #5 on: January 06, 2010, 02:35:12 PM »
But let me point out the difference between my faith in non-believing and your faith in believing. I put my "faith" in that what we can see, in what is real, and in what we can observe.  I put faith in the processes that produce reliable, reproducible, and testable results. These observations are paired with other proven and tested observations to say something about our surroundings.   These scientific explanations are known as theories - which you believe can not be proven.  Lots of people mistake "theory" to mean "a guess", but it is just the opposite in a scientific sense.

A theory starts out with an observation and an associated idea to explain that observation (for example, the air near a burning candle is hot). This idea is formulated into a hypothesis (the candle is the source of heat) which is used to make a prediction (a piece of paper above the candle will start on fire). Then there are experiments to test against this hypothesis to see if the results meet the prediction in a process of verification (putting the piece of paper next to the wax, beneath the candle, above the candle). Verification leads to a revision of the hypothesis, which then leads to more experimentation (Only the paper above the candle burns, so revise the hypothesis by saying that the area near the flame is hot. Test again). Once the results consistently match the predictions of the hypothesis (every time the experimenter puts a piece of paper above the flame, it starts on fire), the results are presented for peer review. If it passes peer review (other scientists agree that the work is possible, and they see similar results in their own work), then the hypothesis and results will be published in a scientific journal. At this point, other scientists will try to replicate your results (Scientist B is paid by the wax company, and wants to show that its actually the wax causing the paper to burn, so he even has an interest in trying to disprove Scientist A, but of course, he cannot).

If any of these steps break down, the hypothesis is scrapped and the process starts over until the correct explanation fills its place. The great thing about this scientific method is that you can't pass off fraudulent science without it being caught eventually. And on top of that, its theories are always open to thoughtful, informed criticism and modification.  Often times, two observations will appear to contradict each other under the current theory, and when this happens, the theory is revised to account for the apparent contradiction.  Thus knowledge grows. This is in stark contrast to the religious maxims that require contradictory evidence be outright ignored or discarded.  Certain theories are still going through this winnowing process, like the Big Bang theory, and I won't be surprised if new evidence someday emerges that sparks a revision of the theory.  However, just because the explanation for the observations changes, that doesn't mean that all of the observations that were made are invalid.  Other theories are more concrete, like genetic (DNA) theory, where 50+ years of experimentation, testing, and now medicine have shown that our genetic information is passed from generation to generation through DNA replication.  It is highly unlikely that this theory will be overturned. But the whole idea of theories contradicting scripture is somewhat a moot point.  The real concern for people of faith is that the observations themselves show scripture to be riddled with misunderstandings and plain falsehoods. Once the observations show scripture to be inaccurate, the theory that comes after is of little concern.

The highest achievement for a scientist's work is for his hypothesis to be validated with evidence and be considered a theory in the scientific community. The evidence behind theories as controversial as Evolution certainly faced stricter skepticism than your average piece of science, since it would be a great honor for any scientist to have their work be the foundational basis of the subject.  Its true that scientists do not claim with certainty that the big bang happened, they only claim with certainty that the universe is expanding from a single observable point, and the big bang theory is the best explanation for the observed evidence.  Scientists can, however, claim with near perfect certainty that evolution is true, because we have seen it again and again in action, and in the fossil record, and in the genetic material that we share with other animals.  It is fair to doubt some theories, but to do so, one must first doubt specific pieces of evidence that produce the theory.  And since the observations are so well documented, to baselessly doubt the validity of these observations is to doubt the other theories brought to us by science, like gravity, radiation, molecular theory, etc etc.  To doubt these on the basis of faith is to spit in the face of what we know, of what we can observe, of our own senses, because they disagree with the writings of our particular ancient book.  For all these reasons, I see that science provides the best method for obtaining true knowledge.  I think its strange that people of faith can enthusiastically accept the science that brings us medicine, skyscrapers, combustion engines, television, radio, computers, electricity, and air travel, but when science has something to say about the Earth, our history, or other areas traditionally monopolized by sacred texts, its automatically discounted or distrusted.

 
What is your version of faith? - To completely put all belief into the literal translation of one book and deny any evidence that proves it otherwise. At least with scientists, they will be the first to admit that they are wrong if the evidence proves so. Regardless of all the insurmountable evidence from the fields of archaeology, astronomy, biology, chemistry, and physics (which all are somehow consistent with one another) as to the age of the earth and the universe, how long it took species to evolve, and everything else that seems to contradict the Bible, people of faith refuse to accept it with their "open" minds. Science invites skepticism about its theories and begs one to find weaknesses in the ideas, whereas faith actively stifles that attitude. People of faith know God exists because the Bible says so, they know the Bible to be true because it is the Word of God, and they know it's the Word of God because the Bible says so. You are caught in this endless loop of circular reasoning, and to justify it, you throw out the supposed virtue of blindly believing what someone else has told you (faith), which is extolled in the Bible. I find it interesting that faith today is much different than the "faith" of the men in the Bible that instructed us to have it. These are men that supposedly benefited from direct, divine intervention or by conversation with the God of Abraham. If their stories are to be believed, the evidence that God existed was undeniable, because God actively revealed himself in a way that left no doubt. So what do they know about faith when the evidence was spoon fed to them?

 
Its apparent that you have a hard time believing that we may have evolved from simpler species. You say that to suggest such a thing is demeaning to our existence. How can we be some product of an incredible accident? Clearly, nobody believes that our uncle was an ape, and nobody believes that our distant ancestor was an ape.  But isn't it possible that our distant ancestors were slightly less intelligent? Or that they had slightly bigger foreheads? Yes it's possible! There is plenty of evidence in the fossil record for such creatures.  And if those had slightly different features, couldn't their distant ancestors be slightly different? Over hundreds of thousands of years, isn't it possible for slight changes and mutations to lead us from our current state to a state that more closely resembles a lesser primate? At some point, ages ago, humans and lesser primates shared a similar ancestor, and evolved to our current species in parallel.  We were never gorillas or chimpanzees, we have both evolved in parallel from a common ancestor. Is that so hard to believe?

And far from being insulting, the diversity of life on earth is a marvel of beauty, and isn't it even more amazing that the elegant and simple mechanism of evolution through natural selection over billions of years produced such a wide array of life? And lets not forget that just because some may consider the idea of having evolved from simpler species insulting, given their belief that our exclusive sanctity is handed down from a higher being, the perceived insult says nothing about the actual truth.  The evidence provided by science points in the same direction, and God is no longer needed to fill the gaps of our ancient ancestors.  Why is it enough to suggest that there is an eternal being that created us, but not enough to suggest that perhaps the universe always was? How is the former less ridiculous than the latter which has the evidence to favor it.
 
I read Romans 1:19-28 a few times, as you suggested. Without considering that the Bible can't be self-verifying and must be proven as truth before heeding its instructions, all I see is a poetically composed verse that talks about how non-believers are doomed because they choose to understand the world around them rather than blindly accept scripture as their source of truth.

Psalms 111:10, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.
So it is not acceptable to obtain knowledge through science and check it against scripture? Here, wisdom is now apparently defined as ignorance. We are commended for getting our truth from the Bible without justification or verification, and we need not look elsewhere for truth. I'd like to see these tactics put to use in a modern courtroom: "Judge, as you see, umm, I umm, forgot my diagrams and evidence today, but I CLAIM that the whereabouts of my client on the night of the murder are known, and he was NOT at the crime scene. In this matter, I am the sole source of the truth, and you need not call any witnesses to the stand, since they would all agree with me anyways. ...Nevermind that the fingerprints and DNA match my client, those were placed there by dark forces to confuse you and test your faith in what I say, which actually proves that I'm right!"  The standards that allow this verse to be taken seriously would get any modern lawyer disbarred, or at the very least fired by his client.  Why should we continue to accept such grand statements without double checking them? Wouldn't we be doing God a favor by showing that his claims are actually true by using methods outside of Biblical study?
 
I love you too,
 
Justin”

Offline tehKruser

Re: My coming out of the atheist closet story...
« Reply #6 on: January 06, 2010, 02:35:53 PM »
My mother then replied by placing red comments within my email that basically boiled down to “is not, ain’t so, can’t prove it!” Since this exchange happened in the summer of 2009, there have been a couple of big arguments that happened face to face. The last of which lasted for 4 straight hours during this past Thanksgiving. I very thoroughly explained why I don’t believe in God anymore and the flaws I see in her arguments. After much frustration with her inability to comprehend anything I told her, I finally had to end the conversation and ask for a truce that we would no longer discuss religion with one another. My final words were, “From here on out, I will not discuss religion with you anymore because you are so blatantly closed minded about science and its evidence that you, as you admitted earlier, actively choose to ignore the facts because they don’t align with your faith.”

And that was the end of that. We talked many times on the phone since without any mention of God. For the first time in my life, I feel really good about who I am and what I know about life, and I look forward to continual understanding. It wasn’t an easy journey and I suspect some of you may have similar or more extreme difficulties in telling your family, but I hope you feel rewarded in the end. I wish the best of luck to you.

Offline William

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Re: My coming out of the atheist closet story...
« Reply #7 on: January 06, 2010, 03:09:42 PM »
Whew!!! [wipes sweat off brow]  I'll have to come back again later for a more carefully read.  But for now I want to say thanks for posting this - it's a powerful illustration of the grip the delusion holds over people at the expense of relationships.  The saga with my own mother has many parallels - but has festered for decades now and won't settle down. 

You're through the main crisis now and you can be proud of your integrity in the way you've handled it.  But don't be surprised if in the future your mother tries a thousand times over to 'fix' your faith.   

Thanks again for sharing your escape to freedom of thought.
Git mit uns

Offline Hermes

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Re: My coming out of the atheist closet story...
« Reply #8 on: January 06, 2010, 04:13:48 PM »
[ bookmark ]
Smart people believe weird things because they are skilled at defending beliefs they arrived at for non-smart reasons. --Michael Shermer

The history of religion is a long attempt to reconcile old custom with new reason, to find a sound theory for an absurd practice.  --Sir James George Frazer

Offline C

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Re: My coming out of the atheist closet story...
« Reply #9 on: January 06, 2010, 04:21:40 PM »
Bookmarked, Favorited, and Stored.

After reading your posts I saw many similarities between your experience and mine, I found myself nodding with each conversation through email and many of your points and thoughts along with the little list of websites you gave that I actually viewed on the way to atheism, it's amazing that theistic arguements are always the same and that people have so little..understanding about evolution and have such persistence. I questioned Christianity around at the same time as you and am but a chicklet atheist.
I am in slight awe and shudder a bit at what this means in numbers as many here and elsewhere would possibly have similar experience or even more powerful experiences.

Welcome to the forums, Justin.  :D



                              
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Offline Tykster

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Re: My coming out of the atheist closet story...
« Reply #10 on: January 06, 2010, 04:25:29 PM »
bm
rhocam ~ I guess there are several trillion cells in a man, and one in an amoeba, so to be generous, lets say that there were a billion. That is one every fifteen years. So in my lifetime I should have seen two evolutionary changes.

Offline Agga

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Re: My coming out of the atheist closet story...
« Reply #11 on: January 06, 2010, 04:34:51 PM »
That was well worth the time I just invested in reading that testimony. Well worth it.

Welcome to the forum, tehKruser.  I'm looking forward to hearing more from you.

Agga :)
I've left WWGHA now, so do everyone else a favour and don't bother replying to my old posts and necromancing my threads.

Online jynnan tonnix

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Re: My coming out of the atheist closet story...
« Reply #12 on: January 06, 2010, 04:38:09 PM »
Bravo on your post! I've found myself feeling quite lucky, since being here, to have parents that are nothing more than run-of-the-mill Catholics.

Bookmarked

Oh, and by the way...
I questioned Christianity around at the same time as you and am but a chicklet atheist.
?? I have never heard the term chicklet atheist.


Offline Star Stuff

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Re: My coming out of the atheist closet story...
« Reply #13 on: January 06, 2010, 04:39:15 PM »
Way to go Justin. Sounds like you care more about what is true than your parents.  I fully understand, as I too was born & raised in a christian family.  I jettisoned those beliefs 23 years ago, but have not had the big stand-off with the parental units because they not only don't have the intellectual capacity for such discussions, but are in their 80's and I'd rather not upset them in the winter of their lives. Plus, like most christians, they are just far, far too invested in their beliefs.

Welcome to the real world.
God is an Imaginary Friend for Grown-ups

Offline C

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Re: My coming out of the atheist closet story...
« Reply #14 on: January 06, 2010, 04:58:16 PM »

Quote
chicklet

Obviously I'm not a chicken, but I just used it as an adjective for 'young' or 'new' or 'like a little chick that hatched'.

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Offline ksm

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Re: My coming out of the atheist closet story...
« Reply #15 on: January 06, 2010, 05:31:16 PM »
Wow! What a journey.

Thanks for sharing.

Offline Matt__

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Re: My coming out of the atheist closet story...
« Reply #16 on: January 06, 2010, 06:41:04 PM »

Now that you no longer run with the ranting delusionals, what are you going to do with your life? I suggest pushing science, so that other people that find themselves in your situation have a better chance of escaping the madness.

Thanks for the read [bm].

Offline Ananukia

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Re: My coming out of the atheist closet story...
« Reply #17 on: January 06, 2010, 07:04:53 PM »
SEND US THAT BOOKLET
        Songs that the Hyades shall sing,
    Where flap the tatters of the King,
    Must die unheard in

        Dim Carcosa.

Offline Noman Peopled

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Re: My coming out of the atheist closet story...
« Reply #18 on: January 06, 2010, 07:18:09 PM »
Well worth the read. You have the patience of a ... er ... of Buddha?

Hope your sister does okay through all this.
It seems that fear really is the primary motivator of religion in your area. Your post was very illustrative.

There's a German word, "Totschlagargument", only insufficiently translated by wikipedia as "thought-terminating cliché". They're phrases resembling arguments intended to make counterarguments hard or impossible, but not to convince the recipient's. In effect, to kill the other guy's stance or quell discussion.
Wikipedia has a nice list of them; one wonders why they haven't added "that's why it's called belief" yet. They do have "because I said so", though.
"Deferinate" itself appears to be a new word... though I'm perfectly carmotic with it.
-xphobe

Offline tehKruser

Re: My coming out of the atheist closet story...
« Reply #19 on: January 06, 2010, 08:28:01 PM »
Thank you all for your comments and support. It is quite amazing that people make the commitment to read such a lengthy post from a stranger. To be honest, I created this post to put some closure on my feelings of the past, so that I can move forward.


Now that you no longer run with the ranting delusionals, what are you going to do with your life? I suggest pushing science, so that other people that find themselves in your situation have a better chance of escaping the madness.


For starters, I plan on educating myself more in the subject of science, considering I fell victim to ignorance in my younger years. As for the rest of my life, that's a pretty broad question. What I can say is that this new outlook allows me to appreciate life for what it is, not some false hope for what it might be. The religious like to play the "morality card," but what I find interesting is that I've learned a greater respect for man and animal kind in the absence of God. If there are opportunities to help out others that are in a similar situation, I would be more than happy to provide my insight and support. But here is some advice to those that wish to change someone over night: it won't happen. It took me nearly 7 years to completely let go. Someone convinced of their faith needs to have seeds of skepticism planted in them over time so that they raise questions that can't be sufficiently answered by religion AND they need to know why it's not alright to accept insufficient answers.

SEND US THAT BOOKLET

Is this a meme that I missed?

I also want to point out that my stepdad refuses to debate religion with me after a couple of discussions in which he couldn't answer many of my questions. I find that a grand accomplishment considering how powerful he seemed to me when I lived under his roof. Knowledge and understanding of the Bible + skepticism and reason + an education in Science are very dangerous tools when used in debate with the religious.

I still have the email exchanges about whether or not the U.S. was founded as a Christian nation, so I may post those at a later date because I am sure some of you may run into the same discussion with the religious.

Again, thank you all for your support.
« Last Edit: January 07, 2010, 06:44:49 PM by tehKruser »

Offline C

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Re: My coming out of the atheist closet story...
« Reply #20 on: January 06, 2010, 08:37:41 PM »
Quote
Thank you all for your comments and support. It is quite amazing that people make the commitment to read such a lengthy post from a stranger.

Personally I believe that Time is very, very, very X infinity, important. You, since spending your precious time in life for these first posts would of course get a level of committed reading along with the fact that your story is great and lets us see what you went through to atheism.


Quote
I also want to point out that my stepdad refuses to debate religion with me after a couple of discussions in which he couldn't answer many of my questions.


Lol.  :D It always ends up that way or others keep fighting on...like Ray Comfort.
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Offline Operator_012

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Re: My coming out of the atheist closet story...
« Reply #21 on: January 06, 2010, 08:46:31 PM »
Wow. Simply wow. That was very well written. Welcome to the forum, tehKruser.

Thanks for sharing your testimony with us.
« Last Edit: January 06, 2010, 08:48:02 PM by Moderator_012 »
Former Moderator Account

Offline GetMeThere

Re: My coming out of the atheist closet story...
« Reply #22 on: January 06, 2010, 09:44:27 PM »
Wow! Great work, tehKruser!

And it's all so easy once a person opens up their mind a little bit: NO, science doesn't have all the answers, but it doesn't say "You mustn't think about this, nor doubt that."

Once a person sees there can be NOTHING wrong with the freedom to THINK (even if thinking doesn't always answer all questions immediately), he then sees that there is at least SOMETHING wrong with systems that demand he NOT think.

I'm glad to see you made the entire journey out from a christian cult to full open mindedness and rationality; a lot of "cult christians" end up being "just" christians, and think they're made an important step--for example, a significant proportion of mormons leave that church to become baptists, etc.

I look forward to reading more posts from you. Welcome!

Offline alan1978

Re: My coming out of the atheist closet story...
« Reply #23 on: January 07, 2010, 08:59:48 AM »

WOW I salute you, that was a wonderfully motivating and moving piece of literature.

Thankfully i've never been in that bad a position but i know if i was i wouldnt have handled it anywhere near as good as you did.

Personally discussions with my family, who include totally moderate christians, never ever get anywhere so i can doubly see how hard it would be with more fundie relatives!

alan

Offline Grimm

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Re: My coming out of the atheist closet story...
« Reply #24 on: January 07, 2010, 10:39:20 AM »
Welcome.  Thank you - and I certainly look forward to seeing more from you here.

I know it's obvious now - but.  Never, ever, forget - you aren't alone. 
"But to us, there is but one god, plus or minus one."  - 1 Corinthians 8:6+/-2

-- Randall, XKCD http://xkcd.com/900/

Offline Backspace

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Re: My coming out of the atheist closet story...
« Reply #25 on: January 07, 2010, 11:34:25 AM »
Really well done.  Thanks for following up about the outcome with your stepfather -- I was curious about that after finishing your opening posts.
There is no opinion so absurd that a preacher could not express it.
-- Bernie Katz

Offline Mnementh2230

Re: My coming out of the atheist closet story...
« Reply #26 on: January 07, 2010, 11:58:00 AM »
That was awesome.

Oh, I also went to UW Madison, though I was there in 2001...  did you stay in TJ Hall?  Did you ever play Laser Tag on Bascom hill?  Good times...

Offline abecedarian

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Re: My coming out of the atheist closet story...
« Reply #27 on: January 07, 2010, 04:34:09 PM »


Thanks Justin, that was an excellent read!
AGNOTOLOGY: "The study of deliberately created ignorance-such as the falsehoods about evolution that are created by creationists".

Offline 13UnderTheGun

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Re: My coming out of the atheist closet story...
« Reply #28 on: January 07, 2010, 05:34:21 PM »
bm


Awesome post! Thank you for sharing!
The more we learn about the heavens, the more we realize that Heaven is imaginary.


LOOK GOD DOES EXIST AND IF U CANT SEE THAT THEN YOUR A STUPID RETARDED IDIOT WHO IS AN ATHIEST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!