Thank you to everyone who e-mailed me last night with such warmth and open arms.
I registered under my real name, but considering that I am not "out" among family and friends as an atheist, I changed my handle to "Two Cult Survivor." I trust you will forgive me, considering some of you have the experience of becoming atheist after a lifetime of faith and Christian fellowship.
I call myself "Two Cult Survivor" because I have personal experience worshiping in two religious organizations considered cults by mainstream Christianity. I used to think "cult" was something the big church called the little church. Later, I happened on a definition that fits the bill better: A cult is an organization in which the person at the top knows its a scam. A religion is the same thing, except that person's dead.
The two cults are the Jehovah's Witnesses and The Way International. The Way, which informed my faith as an adult, is a Christian organization that rejects the divinity of Jesus but accepts the Bible as true and the charismatic "gifts" (we called them manifestations) as available and operable in the present day. We spoke in tongues. We prophesied. And we read the bejeezus out of every single Bible verse (that we liked).
Anyway, here's the short version of my deconversion, a process I like to call "seeing the dark."
The order I present is chronological, not necessarily in order of importance.
1. The Bible is not inerrant and it is full of contradictions. It never proclaims itself to be God's Word, for to do so would have required a self-awareness its writers clearly did not have. There is nothing in the book to intimate that it has that kind of self-awareness. The writer who posited that "all scripture is given by inspiration of God" was not likely including in that elite category the very letter he was writing. Etc.
2. The stories of the Bible are not all historically true. This one revealed itself to me in waves, sometimes through common sense, sometimes through research. For me, it began when I recognized that the story of Job could not have taken place as described. It made God unspeakably cruel, allowing the devil to go on a killing spree to win a bet, and rewarding Job's loyalty by giving him new kids to replace the ones who were murdered by Satan with His blessing. No, it's an allegory. Has to be. So is Adam and Eve. There's just no way that is history. I didn't know what the implications of Genesis as myth were in terms of the need for mankind's redemption in the first place. But I held onto the belief that Jesus died and was resurrected, so the Genesis story, I reasoned, was something God wanted us to know, even if it was not literally true. Through research, I reached the conclusion that the stories of Joseph and Israel's enslavement in Egypt, leading through the Exodus, were one humongous fabrication. This one bothered me, because if it's not a true story, why tell it? But history does not back it up. I ended up rejecting quite a few of the stories, but not the life of Christ and not the resurrection. Those I retained.
3. I was lying about the charismatic gifts. I had to admit I faked speaking in tongues. I had to admit that I faked it all. I came to suspect that not only was I not alone, but in fact the experience of faking it was universal. I started to doubt that anyone did it. I started to doubt anyone could. There are still Christians who believe this, so the foundation of my faith was unaffected by this personal confession.
4. I found myself unable to condemn gay people and homosexuality. I hated neither the sinner nor the sin. It was none of my business. It was rather obvious to me that they were born this way and no amount of preaching could change them. If God made them this way and hates them for it, then He's an ass. Whole.
5. I finally looked at the Bible on the subject of slavery with open eyes, and was appalled.
6. I finally looked at the Bible on women's rights with open eyes, and was appalled.
7. Somewhere in all this, I stopped praying for any kind of miraculous healing for anyone, including a close relative diagnosed with a terminal illness. I'd seen too many prayers go unanswered to pray for a miracle and add my family's name to the list of those who just wouldn't get one.
8. I realized that, while I never really liked Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson, I was starting to look at them as truly, objectively evil people.
9. I don't remember the last time I fervently, honestly, prayed.
10. I came to realize that the history of Jesus as recounted in the New Testament, and particularly the central tenets of the life, death and resurrection, along with the all-persuasive history of the martyrdom of the first century saints (people who would be in a position to KNOW whether the resurrection had, in fact, taken place and was worth dying for or whether it was all a crock -- and they chose death!) never flipping happened.
That last one was the final turning point for me, because, as you know, if you don't have the life, death and resurrection of Christ, you don't have Christianity.
I don't have Christianity.
In the last two months, I've been catching up on a lot of reading. Richard Dawkins. Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Dan Barker, Carl Sagan (Demon Haunted World) and others. Anyone who hasn't read them (both of you, if I understand this forum correctly) is really missing out.
Last thing I should say is that I met James "The Amazing" Randi last month. Little guy, big footprints. Impressive man.
So, anyway, here I am.
Thanks again for the welcome.
Call me "Survivor." Because I am.
Greets and salutes, TCS; I'm glad you joined us!
Wow! Welcome survivor, glad you're enjoying life now and yes Falwell and Robertson are evil people.
What is interesting about this is that people keep looking for the ark and every now and then claim they have found it.
Glad to have you with us Survivor. There is no dogma or litany, or scripture, or apostle's creed. We are a group who have not found evidence of god. It just boils down to that.
Two Cult Survivor, Hi, how are you doing today? Have you found some friends on A/N with whom you feel comfortable? I'm glad you are here participating with fellow travelers.
I've read your story, and "survivor" is really the name you deserve. Like a sick person fighting to recover from a terrible disease and making it, you have survived religion. So I just wanted to congratulate you, to welcome you to the world of atheism (even though I've just joined AN myself, I've been an atheist all my life), and to tell you that I really admire you.
I'm gonna cry. ;)