Well, the introduction forum exists, I know what to do: Hi, my name is Josh and I'm a former Christian. I'm still at the point where fully embracing the term atheist makes me slightly uncomfortable, but I try to call things what they are and as such, I have to call myself a godless heathen whose going to burn in fire until I'm nothing but ashes when I die. I'm planning on being cremated and scattered anyways...and that way if Jesus does surprise me and come back and wants to resurrect me it'll give him a bit more work finding all the pieces, lol.
I've only read a couple threads on the site so far so I don't know how my story stacks up with you guys, but it seems pretty par based on my reading the testimonials on exchristians.net.
Yeah...so I was raised in a mostly Catholic charismatic community (see yeslord.com for more details if you want to know specifics) going to Church every Sunday, prayer meetings Wed & Thursdays, music practice (the community's music ministry) on Mondays, boy scouts (the community's troop) on Tuesdays. I took Bible classes k-12 in their private Christian school, except 1st grade where I went to an actual Catholic school.
I hope I don't have to explain any of this to people, but I can if I need to...unlike I've had to do with Christian groups, I'm going to assume you people are knowledgeable enough to know or intelligent enough to google it.
A normal Catholic kid growing up, from the point of Catholicism, with one notable exception. When it was time to be "confirmed" I sat in the pew with my friends listening to the bishop spout the same thing they always spout and I contemplated the "voluntary" nature of the confirmation sacrament. While I personally didn't give a crap one way or the other, I acknowledged that if I had actually had a desire to not be confirmed, I would find that I did not have that option.
The inevitable condemnation of my peers, probable out-casting, disapproval from my parents, and so on flooded through my mind. I acknowledged in my mind that I probably shouldn't be being confirmed since I didn't really feel it, but it was these thoughts of impending torture that kept me glued to my seat instead of running for my freedom. However even though I've said the same vows numerous times before and after, (it's the Nicene creed they want you to agree with, if I remember correctly), I did not say them when the bishop directed us to as a group. I will admit, that same fear probably had something to do with why I moved my lips ceremoniously up and down (not forming words, just straight up and down) when everyone else was saying the stuff.
So when I graduated and moved out, I do what all normal Catholics do and I became a hedonist. It's the logical move for an invincible 18 year old Catholic. All I had to do was make sure I didn't do anything so bad as to actually die from it and I could go confess to the priest on Saturday night before evening mass. The whole death thing probably is what kept me from getting into drugs too much, I think, the fear of overdose...dying while sinning was not an situation I was willing to risk. I didn't consider alcohol a drug (sure it is, it's obvious now) so it was my drug of choice.
At this point, I kinda lived 2 distinct lives, one for my family and religious friends and one for my bar buddies. They didn't interact much until I got one of my bar buddies pregnant. We eventually got married (it was a lot more story than that, but not relevant to my religious history) and she moved to my family/religious friend list. She wouldn't even step in a bar nowadays.
So I tried to "clean up" my life a bit. I abandoned all of my bar buddies altogether. I started going back to church regularly and me and the wife joined the Alleluia Community. Sure, it's a cult by any normal definition, but it's not any more dangerous than normal Christianity. It was the same place I grew up and I knew their effective motto was that they were Christians helping each other be better Christians. Went back to Wed & Thursdays prayer meetings, etc. All the motions.
I'll admit at this point, I never really was full-hearted in it and left the community (as in membership and participation, not location, I'm still physically located in their midst) because of this half-heartedness, for my own intellectual integrity. Slightly before I left, however, something amazing happened...
I was having a crisis of faith one night, and while outside I looked up at the sky and prayed for some sign...the next day I found Creationism. I considered it a miracle and an answer to prayer, but now I realize it was simply that I started looking for something and hence I found something. You see, at the school I attended, not only was Creationism not taught, no origins discussion ever occurred. The evolution section in high school biology was simply skipped (as was the human reproduction system...don't worry, I figured out where to put things when the time came). Otherwise, it's a pretty decent school. Having no direction in the matter, except the cutout board animations in CCD, I simply assumed that Adam and Eve really existed, that David was always a kid with a slingshot and that Jesus was a hippy (not the word I would have used then, but the same idea) and didn't think anything more about it at all, ever...until that day.
Creationism spawned my interest in the Bible...I was now of the utmost certainty that anything it said in a matter of fact sense (as opposed to parts like the prophecies and psalms where you're supposed look for "spiritual" meaning) were absolutely true. In a matter of days, I went from half-hearted to utterly obsessed with Christianity. I read everything I could about Creationism and studied the Bible like a maniac. I found myself in the midst of groups I had never even heard of arguing like crazy. Much of the time I spent correcting the Creationists for using bad arguments, you know, like the banana being "designed." I literally face-palmed at Cameron when I saw him pull out the crocoduck...yes, even Creationists think he's a numb-nut.
Now, Catholics are not creationists generally (apparently anyways, at least in this area), but since I grew up without any direction, I had no idea who was what. So, I ended up chatting very much with protestants...who have on their list of things to say, a number of complaints against the Catholic Church. So I went on a mission to prove to them that the Catholic Church was correct. That's when I found out that the Vatican doesn't believe in Creationism...it was confusing, but I set it aside for the moment. I never actually came back to it, I realized they were bullshiting before I would have.
My first goal was to tackle the Saturday/Sunday issue (thanks SDA). When the reason for disregarding one of the 10 commandments was not readily apparent, I stopped going to church...just in case. I was extremely disappointed to know that there was absolutely no rationality behind moving the rest day to Sunday...in fact, it's not a rest day at all, it's a worship day. Catholicism did not have a rest day and every argument in favor of Sunday was effectively based on "you should worship all the time." I had to reject Sunday worship on the basis that it ignores and causes people to violate the 10 commandments. If you're not aware, the Sunday they worship on is the 8th day of the week...retards. The commandment says rest on the 7th day, not worship on the 8th day. I could go on, but I'll move on. I started with Catholic resources only, but even the "8th day" protestants didn't have any reason.
During this time, I found that some people had an issue with the Trinity not being in the Bible. I knew it never directly said it, so I made up a list of the minimum requirements needing to be met and gathered from different parts of the Bible...I searched and searched and searched literally for years before I had enough to say matter of factly, it is not in there. With a handful of other doctrines I was simultaniously researching, every one of the Protestant complaints that xxx doctrine wasn't in the Bible were true. And I never found a church which had freed itself of all the unbiblical doctrine. The only thing they seem to be able to say correctly is that all the other ones are wrong, well you're wrong too! I'd have had to pick a church based on which wrong doctrines they had I was most comfortable with and I wasn't willing to accept any lies with my truth so I went to none of them.
By this time, my family and religious friends didn't discuss religion at all with me. No one came to me and asked why I stopped going to church. I raged on facebook a decent amount and on my blog which I since removed...kinda. It's still stored in blogger, just not displayed. I found one guy I could relate to as he was going through something similar. I even drove from Georgia to Ohio for Passover which was fun, not the Passover, the trip in general was fun, and we visited the Creation Museaum, yay!
Both of us had been banned from Answer's in Genesis for discussing that the Trinity doctrine was incorrect. They banned us before they banned the atheists. They went on a banning spree in order to hide banning two of their most active Creationist members on the facebook page, Allen and I. You see, an atheist isn't a threat to Creationists. Most of the time, atheists will refuse to discuss anything from the perspective of being within the creation model framework (i.e. "world view"), just like a non-Catholic will refuse to discuss things from within the perspective of being inside the Catholic viewpoint. At that point, the atheist is dismissed as not understanding the grander scope, or something like that. Also, atheists would clearly lack "the Spirit." Another easy dismissal.
The problem with Allen and I was that we were discussing the Trinity from within the Biblical framework the Creationists wanted us to use in order to be Creationists, but not within the framework they used for devotionals, spiritual truth, etc., which is where they wanted us to worship. It's a bait and switch tactic honestly and I wasn't falling for it. Allen and I spent a few months writing up a very well documented list of why AiG's Trinity "proof" was a pile of crap if based on the method of reading the Bible they recommend when discussing creation. They largely ignored it. The best I got out of them was that they were too busy...right, too busy to discuss one of the most fundamental aspects of Christianity, sure. I can post a link if anyone is interested in that.
I had a long search trying to find a group that actually believed the whole Bible...and what an adventure. I nearly joined a ton of them, but stopped short at every one. Then I found a guy who investigated Islaam and found it false...and went on to investigate Paul. Paul was a liar who disagreed with Peter and Jesus. I didn't take that's guys word against Paul, I investigated his reasons and they were sound. I learned a lot about Bible translating at this point. I became a Sacred Name'r (someone who believes YHWH should not be replaced with "Lord" and should be pronounced correctly) and eventually dropped Luke's gospel (he was Paul's lackey) and all Paul's letters from my Bible (mentally, anyways, I always use online ones) as well as Job, because he's a retard too. Also, Job's description of Satan's activity didn't mesh at all with the rest of the Bible and it's full of a bunch of crap philosophy from people who don't matter on any scale for a great part.
I want to mention at this point, that the past 5 years are a bit of a jumble in my mind. Some of the events happened simultaneously with each other over the course of months or years, but it's logically coherent as I started one part and starting it led to another in roughly the order they're presented above. Today, I've still got at least 4 different worldview's stuck in there and I hate Christianity from each and every one of them. But removing tainted books from my Bible is when it all really broke down...I eventually realized I had no way of knowing which other books should remain.
The end result was that I had to face the fact that if I knew there were alterations and additions that weren't in the originals, I could not trust those parts, but I knew that there was no way for me to know which parts should be and which should not be. The entire thing had to be trashed because with this uncertainty, the entire thing is unreliable.
What I was left with before I discarded the whole thing still had two distinct concepts. There's the Westboro concept, wrath of an angry God, and there's the Hippy Jesus concept, love dude. Ironically, I found myself the only Creationist as a non-Christian surrounded by Christian evolutionists. (Think about that for a sec.)
That's pretty close to where I am now, but I never stop thinking...being an atheist creationist sounds retarded, so I'll probably have to think about that a bit. Anyways, after that, I came to the same conclusion of statistical likeliness of prayer that you can find on Why Won't God Heal Amputees? before I read that site. Though I would add that the statistic for answered prayer is actually higher than he's indicating because prayer requests are a gamble and people naturally weigh the gamble before making the request. Just an example, kid's don't normally pray for snow unless their parent's prime them with, "It might snow." By that time, the parent has already analyzed that there's a decent likeliness to get a "yes" before the kid even prays.
I realized the psychological effects of praise and worship prayer are completely physical, psychological results of the imposed stimuli and activities. I had to come to this conclusion because I remembered the feelings but knew that where I was when I had them was not what I was told it was (that being "the truth") and their God was fiction. I had made a mental distinction between their God and mine shortly before my dad one time told me, "I'd offer to pray with you but you don't worship the same God I do." That was the day I stopped saying "grace" with my family at family gatherings and participating in any of their prayer or worship.
My ultimate conclusion regarding Christianity is that it is a drug. It is a very powerful drug. I am currently going through withdraw, but the beer and ranting on facebook seem to help a little. Priests, monks, nuns, popes, and every other Christian leader is a conman and a drugdealer, and he is that regardless of whether or not he's fooled himself too. My older brother is a conman. He is a music leader in Alleluia as well as a high school teacher and a "head" (their title for the leader of one of their smaller hierarchical structures).
He not infrequently uses scripture out of context, sometimes for jokes, but normally as part of a bad rationalization probably passed to him from some Catholic book or website. I've called it on him a number of times and now he simply avoids talking about the Bible around me. My father will not discuss anything with me either. My mother will discuss things to a certain extent, and she is the only one in my whole family who will, but it does quickly get beyond her tolerance level. My older sister won't listen, but she will give an occasional advice something like, "You do realize that not celebrating Christmas will permanently scar your daughter, right?" I don't know if I've ever had conversation with my younger sister that was more than small talk in my whole life...things didn't change between me and her as far as I can tell.
Of course, I realize my daughter will have issues and I certainly wish for an alternative. Christmas is the most powerful drug I've ever taken and one of the worst times of the year for me now because of the withdraw. I was literally sick for 3 weeks and my mom told me she was worried about me Saturday a couple weeks ago...I told her it would be gone "by Monday." My dad took their Christmas decorations down Sunday and I was totally over my 3 week nausea the following day. I knew when it was going on that it was entirely psychological and going to a doctor wouldn't change a thing.
Hell yes, I want to celebrate in the style of Christmas, but I can't celebrate a bold faced lie with people who actually believe it's true. Who knows, I might be able to celebrate with people who know it's crap, but it wouldn't be the same...I think that knowing the truth about it's falsehood removes it's power to instill the desired brain chemicals. You literally have to actually believe in order to feel it, as they say. Some of their sayings have an entirely different meaning to me now.
I also want to have sex. However, I'm not willing to cheat on my wife and I cannot have sex with her because I know her main intent is to have more children and those children would necessarily be raised Catholic. I cannot make more Catholics, nor even more Christians. The idea of sex with my wife instantly brings up the idea of children because of her obsession. Even before I left the Church, that obsession made it difficult for me to have sex because I can't think about babies while I have sex. At least I know I'll never be a pedophile. She wasn't like that before we got married, she had sex freely without the intent to bare children. It was nearly instant when we got married that sex was now an action performed for the specific purpose of having kids.
She's perpetually mad at me for this, but after last summer when I told her it was going to ruin the marriage, she suppresses it much better. Though I actually told her that not being open and discussing precisely this entire post of what I've told all of you here is what will eventually ruin the marriage, she only heard that it was the being mad part.
Now you guys know more about me than 95% of my friends on facebook.
Thanks for the post. I really feel bad for you about the babies and sex thing. You do realize that you have little control over what your children end up believing. They are independent individuals. They will ignore you if you are caught too often feeding them bull, knowingly or unknowingly. My wife and I are both atheist, and we still celebrate Christmas. Usually we open presents around the 21st because of my work. It is nice to have a diversion with lights and color during the darkest time of the year. As an atheist, you know that you only have one shot at this life. Make the most of it!
I might not have needed to go into those details about my sex life, but I feel that they are relevant to this journey.
I think I mentioned it, but I get physically nauseous during the Christmas season. The more involved I get in it, the sicker I get. I know it's psychological, but I'm simply not capable. My daughter certainly gets presents from the rest of the family and my wife uses money I earn to buy her gifts too. If my wife and kid were atheist, I might be okay celebrating some other ancient deity like Dionysus for the entertainment value, but knowing that my family actually believes Christianity makes the whole thing disturb me to an extent I can't handle.
EDIT: And thanks for replying :).
Don't worry about the SL thing. At least you have an excuse. I just think it is too much work to get to the wow. Now, that is just plain lazy.
As for Christmas, I hate decorating the tree because it feel like an imposition on my time. Luckily the kids have gotten old enough to remove that chore from my hands. This might be some more lazy on my part. I like the party, but I certainly don't want to put it together to someone else's specifications. I do understand the sick during the holidays. It took many years, after moving out, to get over always being in trouble during the holidays. I think from December to early January my backside was in a perpetual state of red. I guess that Pavlovian conditioning sticks around for a good while.
I've been an atheist for about 70% of my life now. I can tell you now, that I put nowhere near as much thought in making the decision. I simply noticed the negative correlation between public religiosity and ethical behavior. That was all it took for me. The resentment of religious stupidity does loose it edge after some time. I think it is something that you just get use to like a stiff muscle. This forum is a fun way to vent those frustrations. I hope to read further post from you.
LOL, since you want a vent: The word decision is irritating me right now. It's mostly the Christians, obviously as this is the first time it's mentioned here. "You can choose to believe what you want." Is the phrase I hear a lot. I'm simply not capable of deciding at the level they claim I should be able to. I have the analysis, the results are conclusive. It's not a decision at this point, it's simply accepting what is clearly the truth. Obviously a decision at some point, but not at the level where I really have an option. Didn't come out nearly as venty as it was in my head...kinda odd there as usually things come out more venty than they are in my head...another LOL.
But I don't think that my friends are stupid; I don't consider Christianity an act of stupidity, but an act of ignorance. I can't even really be mad at the priests, monks, nuns, etc. with whom I'm friends because they seem to honestly believe the con they are passing along. May be one of the more frustrating things is that I do get angry, but can't seem to find anything to point that anger at which is actually tangible. It's impossible to hate Jesus or God as individuals, but I hate them as concepts...but hating a concept doesn't have any tangible outlet. If I hated Jesus and God as individuals, I could just yell at the sky which I have done in the past when I believed in them and for whichever reason was angry at them.
I loved decorating trees, the house, my shirts, the presents, and I loved seeing others' decorations. Until that final day under the tree, I enjoyed dishing out the presents that had gathered there over the previous months. All these things were family time, even putting the things back up after Epiphany (seriously, never thought about the irony of that word before just now). Pancakes, real breakfasts with eggs, bacon and grits (the south, remember?), feasts of pork and turkey, gravy and rice, mac and cheese. These are a few of my favorite things.
I don't think I mentioned it in my story, but I actually stopped eating pork and other things outlawed in "the law" for a few years. Seemed moronic that people who worshiped the one who supposedly made the law would celebrate Him by eating what he said don't eat.
I know things will continue to change, and I appreciate your kind words in the matter. I'm contemplating moving to an area where there's less Christianity, maybe in or near Seattle. Still in the very early stages of contemplation and I don't know if the wife would even come with. I do understand the concept of the numbing when a nerve is struck too many times and the callus forming from excessive wear, and their relevant metaphoric application.
You may be on to something when you said that you don't consider christianity an act of stupidity, but an act of ignorance. Now tie this on to the "choice" part in your first paragraph. I don't think we have any choice on what we believe. From my observations, some people must have physical and measurable evidence to accept something as true, while others won't accept that something is true if they can't feel it is true in their hearts. I have observed similar differences between people in a logic class. In the class there were those that could do the symbolic logic with no difficulty besides remembering the names of the theorems and axioms. And there were those that no amount of explanation could teach them to form a coherent proof on their own. They could memorize individual proofs, but if the problem was even slightly different they could not construct a valid proof. The people in the latter category generally tend to make their decisions based on how they feel. It is the only tool that they have at their disposal. From reading sports psychology, I have found out that you can change how you feel by altering your posture and breathing. I suppose in this way, one may have a choice on what they believe if they didn't have the logical requirements that also needed satisfied. I do feel bad for these people because they are missing out on another level of experience.
I must add that there are some religious people that are perfectly capable of thinking logically. But, they tend to rely more heavily on how they feel for some reason.
I want to specifically "From my observations, some people must have physical and measurable evidence to accept something as true..." Christians do have physical and measurable evidence, at least spiritual ones do.
If you read this page, a current discussion on my facebook page, you will see posted as evidence for me a number of personal testimonies. You don't have to read them, but if you do, you'll notice a common thread, they feel the Holy Spirit, Jesus love or some other "supernatural" touching, have some sort of life change usually involving joining a church or community, and enjoy a closer relationship with God and/or Jesus. This is their proof, you see. In actuality, it's simply the predictable psychological response to the stimuli.
There have been studies done indicating that the brain forms relationship structures for fictional characters, like characters on tv shows and in books; these structures are similar to the structures for relationships with real people. I'm not sure if the study was done specifically for Jesus or God, but it seems reasonable that they, as also fiction, would be treated similarly. This is probably enhanced by the belief that they're not fiction. A hypothesis, for sure, but it correlates to my own personal experience.
So the spiritual activities causing the brain to feel up with feel good hormones and chemicals (though not enough to show enough physical impairment that would make them dangerous to drive) combined with the literal relationship is actual proof to them. A very hard proof to combat.
As I mentioned later in that page, switching a drug addiction for spirituality is actually simply switching drugs. But it's hard for them to understand because the drugs in spirituality are produced by the body itself and not consumed, inhaled or injected as alcohol, weed or cocaine.
Not to say that I'm against drugs in general (though I will add that the ones more likely to kill people should be controlled), I have some beer waiting at my house for me when I get home, it's the lie imposed by Christianity that these are supernatural that I'm against. But my point in all this is: They actually do have proof at an individual level. People's lives actually do change many times in the testimonials. People switch to a less expensive drug with few physical side effects, get social support which humans do need (why I'm here :)) and get a very powerful delusion of a constant and important friend. Damn, sounds like a dream come true when I put it like that.
I think I might have repeated myself a bit, sorry about that. I almost feel like I'm trying to lecture you, I don't mean it that way...I still have all this fresh in my head and I think my perspective on it makes sense though. Obviously, understanding the causes of these things, neither you or I could accept their evidence. I'm hoping that by explaining these things to them, I can influence their children (many of whom I'm friends with) to consider these things.
I am going to beg to differ about not being impaired for driving. I have observed a higher density of traffic accidents localized around churches after noon. Maby, it is only coincidence, or possibly observer bias. :)) I am sure that you will have an impact on the next generation just by being open about your disbilief.
Unfortunately, even on the west coast you are still looking at a solid Christian majority. Not sure about Seattle specifically, but there are large parts of Washington state that are very, very conservative, so that the state government overall isn't that far one way or the other.
I can't agree with you more. The only decision to me made is to be honest with yourself or to hold on to an obvious falsehood. You can choose to delude yourself if you want to, but let's be honest for just the tiniest little second, you can't choose what is and isn't true.
I appreciate that, Tyler. It's part of the reason I signed up, because I realized my lack of support system might be contributing to my deteriorating stability.
There's lots of history with Christmas. I stopped celebrating after reading "the law" and saw YHWH say he didn't want them to adopt any pagan customs and when I was learning all the pagan influences in Christianity, including all of Christmas (yes, it was hijacked just like Easter). I was the guy who wore the Santa hat digging under the tree and that's when the first nausea hit...I realized I was probably being quite offensive to God. After that last day under the tree, I couldn't celebrate any Christian holiday.
Since the whole story I told, from the day I found Creationism to today has only been 4 years, all of these things are quire fresh in my memory, and therefore, it's disturbing on the level of the previous paragraph even at this time, in addition to knowing they're all delusional, oh and the withdraw doesn't help either. It's a very painful time of year.
Joshua, I read a lot of pain and frustration in your post and a bit of helplessness and hopelessness. Allow me to assure you it does not have to be a permanent state for you. There are many things you discovered on your own. I have a few ideas that may help, hopefully, and there is life after theism.
I predict there will be a time when you will think and say “I am Atheist, FreeThinker, Irreligious, Naturalist, Skeptic, Secular Humanist, Spiritual Humanist,” or some other term that feels more comfortable for you. The point is you do not see evidence of god or gods or spiritual beings. So many names and terms, but if you do not believe in god, or do not have faith or belief in a supernatural being who will save you or condemn you, then you speak the same language as I, an atheist.
I had an experience with the Nicene Creed as well. I was standing in my usual seat above the choir where I could really feel the music, repeating the creed as I did every Sunday and I realized I didn’t believe any of it. They were memorized words that had no meaning for me and started me thinking … what do I believe? It is now 38 years later, I asked a lot of questions, read a lot of books, and am at a point now, fully comfortable being an atheist and proud of it. My then 10-year children were standing with me that morning and they all will be 50-years old this year. We all made it!
It was uncomfortable for a while; my born-again protestant families and friends were sure I was going to Hell and I was making a mess of my life. I had to really turn inward to discover what was right for me and then be as clear as I could be with my children what I experienced and thought. There was experimenting with different ideas, exploring different options but long story made short, the people who made most sense to me were Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens. Oh, that dear Hitch! He did make me think … hard! The way he described faith and belief just awakened me to my internal knowledge. All the outrageous things he said about religion I quietly said to myself, “He is right”.
Our family celebrates birthdays, weddings, divorces, births, deaths and go by the ancient sun calendar with Winter Solstice, Spring Equinox, Summer Solstice and Autumn Equinox. All these give us a celebration of the month, so we celebrate all year long. We don’t exchange gifts, we share time together whenever we can.
For a group of very interesting people with different points of view from all different angles of atheism try: http://www.aronra.com/
Some will make you laugh; others will force you to think. Some are far, far left on the non-religion scale; others are just ordinary people with some ideas in living without religion. We are a happy lot, many differences but one thing in common, we do not see evidence of god/gods/spirituality.
Loren Miller, a member of Atheist Nexus will undoubtedly recommend:
As to your relationship with your wife, you have a fundamental difference of opinion and they are not reconcilable. She wants children and you don’t. There is no common ground, unless you create one.
You have only life to live, this is not a dress-rehearsal. So live it fully, enthusiastically, proudly, with self respect and dignity.
First off, I want to make a clarification. It isn't that I don't want to have children, but I can't bring myself to make any new Catholic children...plus the underlying obsession of hers with sex being about children and I can't get it up when kids are in my mind...I don't hate kids, but they are a sexual turnoff for me. I totally wouldn't be opposed to having a bunch of kids. I'm either way about actually having them, outside the mental association my wife brings in the mix and the religious factor. I'd be cool not having, and cool having them. I do like sex a lot so if those weren't in the mix, I'd probably already have a few.
With the exception of the guy who taught me Paul wasn't on Jesus's side, I've been pretty particular about gathering my facts from the people on the same side I am and analyzing in context of the view I'm investigating (always my own), so at this point, I have read/listened to/viewed an extremely small number of atheists, except when watching Creationism vs. Evolution debates, and mostly I was analyzing the Creationists side.
I'm kinda replying in a different order than you posted it (maybe backwards, sometimes I read backwards, weird I know, but it's me). The ancient pagan holiday thing would be acceptable to me, as long as the people I'm with didn't *actually* believe them. However, no one in my family would be willing to do this. I did go to my younger sister's wedding reception, but not the wedding as she was married Catholic and everyone who attends is expected to worship God, which I cannot do. I'd have just spent the entire time rolling my eyes and trying not to stare at all the paganity which the Roman Church embraces.
Going back more...I appreciate your story about the creed. It does make me feel less isolated. But my experience wasn't so much about disagreeing with the creed as it was the discomfort about the effective involuntary nature of something which was supposed to be voluntary. Even the creed itself doesn't include anything which isn't Biblical, per se, so it was late in my story when I would have to say I would have disagreed wit it, but it insinuates things which aren't Biblical, like the Trinity doctrine. I haven't really gone through the creed since I was in a state to disagree with it, but I'll probably read it again tonight.
And finally, the first two paragraphs. I don't know that I feel helpless or hopeless, but frustration and pain I definitely feel, at varying levels depending on what I'm focused on. I understand the brain will do it's best to apply metaphoric calluses, and as dry as that metaphor might sound, I appreciate the reminder.
As far as my discomfort, I am not uncomfortable with what I am. I am fully confident in my analysis and certainly there is no "personal" god of any kind, no spiritual (as far as supernatural entities like the Christian concept of angels, demons and souls) realm, existence, persistence or realm. I did state discomfort though, and I'll elaborate on that.
As I said before, the main portion of my journey started like 4 years ago, so all of these things are fresh in my mind. While I understand that the whole concept of profanity is completely irrational (I mean seriously, poop = shit eh?), I've been raised my whole life that the term "atheist" is paramount to simultaneously pronouncing all cuss words ever invented and blaspheming too, you can understand the psychological discomfort with that word specifically. It's not an issue with who I am, it's a trained issue with the specific word. I have no issue whatsoever with "sansdeity" LOL.