Lately I have been describing myself as a former Young Earth Creationist, Fundamentalist, wacko. At first I thought that the addition of the word "wacko" would cause much backlash. I have not had one negative comment even in Christian forums. I think this is due to a number of reasons. First of all, I am calling myself this and not pointing fingers at anyone else. What is interesting about this is, I can describe beliefs others still have yet they probably think "yes I belive that but I'm not wacko about that." People just don't want to label themselves as wacko no matter what their beliefs are. It actually opens them up to have converstations with me as they have empathy for "that extremeist." I digress before I start.
In the beginning
I was born in 1970. I was given my first Bible at 6, and of course every six year old can read King James early modern english. It was not given to me with other gifts, but seperately. This was special, my mother talked about God differently than Santa, this was serious.
My family, even extended family, was extremely religious. I had preachers and cousins that went to mega churches 7 days a week and we were a very close family for caucasians. My father was dying of heart disease so my step mother would take me to church at age twelve at least twice a week, as she had to stay home to take care of him, someone would take me home and thats how it worked. I was twelve and truly wanted to go to church. The logic was simple. God was real. Life was short Heaven and Hell were forever. There could be nothing more important than serving God.
Nationalism / The Great Evil Empire
I believe I grew up at the very best time to create a radical Fundamentalist perhaps in many generations. There were many factors aside of the microculture I grew up in that had much influence on a young child. These influences were on steroids in the 80s.
In 1983 Ronald Reagan gave "The Great Evil Empire" speech. The evil Communists atheist were going to drop Nuclear bombs on our heads to kill us good Christians. American and Christian were merged together as meaning the same thing, Nationalism and Christianity had become synonymous. (I see and fear this trending now) My civics teacher once told us a story (I don't know that it was true). A Russian teacher asked her students to pray for candy. They received none. The next day she told her students to ask Communism for candy. She then handed out candy.
I understood that my teacher wanted us to understand that the evil atheist Communist wanted to supress my ability to be a Christian. On a side note, I remeber thinking that the Russian teacher was pretty stupid. The children prayed and recieved candy the very next day! I was beginning to think critically.
The " Gay Disease"
In 1981 The gay disease appeared in Los Angeles. The common thing to hear was things like,(read in your best redneck preacher persona) 'God is punishing dem homos wit duh Gay Disease." A.I.D.S. was not understood and thought to be "gay." It was almost taught like the virus itself was homosexual. There was homophobia that was rampent, the Christian community pounced on the oppertunity to spread bigotry. The preachers started preaching that God was punishing all of us for allowing the sin of homosexuality by "killing us with dat AIDS." They of course didn't stop there they actually began to teach that homosexuals were "baby rapers."
I didn't know why, but there were Satanist everywhere sacrificing babies all the time. I heard about it constantly at church and would hear about it on the news. What I heard on the news was simply trials going on concerning alligations, I simply thought they were about what I was told was happening at church. I don't even know how to describe these times but somthing as ridiculas as modern witch hunts. It was very real to me, I constantly was taught about it at church. There were demons that were raping women, ouija boards bringing out demons. A Satanic Church, Heavy Metal music that played Satanic messages backwards, Animal and baby sacrifices, even most company logos were Satanic.
With the exception that Satan and demons are not real, everything I am saying here is true, I cant express how "real" this seemed or how fanatical my microculture was about it. I was told that anyone could be possessed with Satan. This was not a short term thing like in the moves of today, he stayed there. It was a mix of sometimes demons but it was still the same storyline. Those cults were all demon infested people, the Catholic cult, Jehovah's witnesses cult, the Morman cult. Lets just say every other even slight variation of our religion,was a cult, this was to be directly associated with the occult.
I am not kidding here, I was actually told our Senior Pastor could be infected with Satan and not know it, so we had to make sure everything he said was in line with the scripture. The best person the Devil could infect was our Pastor so he could lead us all astray. I was a terrified 15 year old child in 1985.
There was a huge debate at the time about teaching Creation Science in public schools, now known as Intelligent design as the creationist lots major law suits during this period and simply have repackaged it under a new name. Colorado is one of the most secular states in the Union. Due to how my county was founded on coal mning as opposed to gold mining the demographics of the population is very different. I live in what is very likly to be the most, by far, religious county in the state.
How did my school system handle the Creation Science debate? They purposly avoided teaching any science at all that might ruffle the featers of the Christians. No Evolution. Paleontology or the Big Bang was taught at all.
My daughter has just started college. She did get advaced college level anatomy and physiology classes in high school. Just three days ago, no kidding, she bee bops into the living room and told her mother she learned that day that Evolution was the result of adaptation. I was stunned. I quickly interviewed both my17 y/o son and her. They had been taught nothing about the Big Bang, Evolution, or Paneontology! Nothing had changed in thirty years! They still only teach the sciences that will not be questioned by the Creationist!
Here I would like to give credit where it is due. I had an english teacher that gave me an assignment to write and essay and site my references. I of course wrote on Creationism. I did well on the paper ( another Young Earth Creationst teacher from that same school helped me). My references all came from the Creation Evidence Museum. She did something that perplexed me and has always stayed with me. She put a note on the paper "I don't agree with you but great job!" I couldn't understand how she could not agree, but she planted a seed, a seed that grew because I had to know why.
Not your ordinary Fundamentalist
Now finally to get to why I call myself a former Fundamentalist extremist. I really did not consider myself an extremist until about the last year. I have always focused on early Christianities in my studies and have only recently looked into the modern church. I came from the First United Methodist Church of Canon City, Colorado. Methodist are usually considered moderate, which surprised me. This was due to the time period I was involved in the church and the microculture of that particular congregation, which can vary from church to church and even within a church. This church may not be radical today.
There was real (pseudo) science that proved Creation. The bad demon possessed, atheist, scientist just didn't want us to know it.
They did teach "love the sinner, hate the sin" along with homos were going to rape me and give me AIDS. Mixed messages? I felt very guilty that I did not see how a man having sex with a man could be equated with raping children, But I knew I was just a stupid kid that needed to trust my elders. I was a horrible Christian as a result and deserved to go to hell (cognative dissodence really screwed with my head).
Allegory and Metaphor
We openly admitted that there was much allegory and metaphor throughout the Bible, but Fundamentalist Extremist style. Every story was litteral history, I happened exactly as written in the Bible. God orchestrated every event so that we filled with the "Holy Spirit" could understand the allegory and metaphor in the story. What happened to free will? (more cognative dissodence.)
The End is near
This is basic Christian stuff but very important. The end times were at hand. If we were not perfect with God, we would be turtured for 7 years here on earth and it could happen at any moment. If we didn't thank God and come to Jesus in that seven years we would go to hell. If we were perfect we could go straght to heaven and avoid the tribulation all together. (Who was perfect? We were all sinners.)
How do I know I was an Extremist
There was no group that was too anti-abortion, too worried about Satanic cults putting Satan inside of you, too homophobic, too literal in their interpreptation of the scripture, too worried about the End Times, Too Young Earth Creationist or too anti-athiest (damn commies.) I never heard anyone complain about anyone going too far on any of these issues. Why? There was no one with any more extreme views than our own! When you can't look at anyone else and say thier views are too extreme it is because you are at the farthest end of the spectrum! It seems that no one recognizes this when they are at that extreme.
Here is what we should teach all of our impressionable children. The atheist Commies are going to drop a nuclear bomb on our face. If that doesn't happen first the homos will rape us and give us AIDS so God can punish us. We might be infected with demons and not know it, most people are. The rapture is giong to happen any day and we would likely be turtured due to our sin, and then go to hell to do the same thing forever.
What changed my thinking
There were many factors and influences that led me to become an atheist. Mostly it boiled down to constant Bible study, but there were other factors that had much influence. First of all when one is involved with cults or gangs etc. when one is removed from the posionous environment it is one of the most important factors for breakng free. At 17 while I was a junior in High School I joined the Navy. Unknown to our family at the time my fathers pituitary gland had completely shut down, he became irrational and abusive, I needed a way out, the Navy was my solution. (God wasn't helping.)
While in the Navy I met many people from many religions that all were convinced that they observed the one true religion. These religions conflicted with one another. They simply could not all be true. I realized that many of them belived just as faithfully as I did. We could not all be right. I had to ask myself this question. Could I be wrong? I knew that there was no more merit to my god than theirs. This was deeply troubling. Did I become an atheist right then? No. I became more religious. I was completely confident that I was just too stupid to know the answers, but since my God and Bible were real there was nothing to fear from the truth. I could go where ever the truth guided me and "The truth would set me free." It did, now I am an atheist.
This did not happen over night. I was so brainwashed that it actually took about ten years before there was so much evidence that I finallly had to come to terms with he fact that I no longer believed and was in fact an atheist.