Leaving the Fold of Religion

Kicking Religion's Habit

Some of my experiences throughout my lifetime have shaped my religious beliefs profoundly. I was a believer in God for most of my adult life. But I continuously struggled for years with religion and what I felt were its inevitable feelings of guilt and confusion. After much contemplation, I realized that my belief in God and religion was causing me to have these uncomfortable thoughts and intolerance for others who were non-believers. So I made the choice to reject religion and its idea of God in order to move on to my reality. That was when I got my life back. Here’s where it all started which led me to where I am today.

Growing up, I was surrounded by people who claimed they were Christians in one way or another. I was bottle fed Catholicism as a kid and I participated without questioning what I was doing and why in the various facetious rituals of Catholicism. Baptism, communion, Catechism[1], confession, standing, kneeling, statues of Mary, rosaries and long, dreadfully boring and dry Sunday Mass was a part of my life growing up. So was guilt. When I didn’t go to church, I felt guilty. When I didn’t go to confession, I felt guilty and believed I would go to hell. I even remember obsessing over the fact that I’d never gone to confession when I was in elementary school and worried terribly over it in class, causing myself anxiety and fear over the idea of confessing my deepest and darkest “sins” to a strange man in a dark booth. Looking back on it, who wouldn’t be anxious about being alone in a dark booth with a strange man, especially if one were a child? I avoided confession like the plague because I was absolutely terrified of it.

At the age of nine, I decided to go to my first and last confession with my aunt at a medium sized Catholic church in Orlando, where my family was living at the time. It was time to get it over with. I recall sitting in a small room with fluorescent lights overhead, a stool as my uncomfortable seat – a formidable symbol like that of the hard and shiny, slippery wooden pews we were forced to sit in during Mass. After my aunt exited the confession booth, it was time for me to enter this unfamiliar world. Before I had entered, I was instructed as to what I was required to say to the priest before I began to confess my “sins.” Nervously sitting down in another wooden chair with darkness enveloping my skin like a black musty cloak reminding me of my horrible transgressions against some angry deity, I could hear the loud, unmistakable sound of my heart pounding in my ears. To my left was a dark brown and matted wooden screen that separated me from the priest who sat patiently on the other side. My mouth began to move, and I said, “Bless me Father, for I have sinned….” I was so nervous I forgot the rest of what I was supposed to say and began to feel upset and scared. The priest, dressed in traditional black garb, realized how upset I was and gave me some comforting words. The next thing I recall is leaving the booth and still feeling a bit traumatized by my ordeal. That’s my final recollection of my first and last confession. I never went back, nor did I want to. Luckily, my mother never made me return.

The Influence of Family Friends

Mixing with my Catholic religion was more guilt from the best friends of my parents, the Bishops. My parents had been friends with the Bishops since the late 1950’s. For the first twenty years of their friendship, my parents and the Bishops were not very religious. They drank and partied together, having get-togethers where martinis and the contortionist inspired goofy game Twister were prerequisites of entertainment and playing guitar was almost mandatory. By the time I was about 12 years old, Mr. Bishop became more god centered and embraced the strange world of Pentecostal type dogma, all the way down to demon possession and music as devil worship, while preaching to me about the evils of reading sex soaked romance novels and wearing my Lightning Bolt necklace, a sure sign of the devil in his eyes.

His daughter, Christine, and I would often play together but she was on a different level than I was. I was into music – Led Zeppelin, Steely Dan, Pink Floyd – while she was taught that rock music was satanic. I skateboarded while she ran the streets on a pink banana bicycle. I cursed and sometimes snuck cigarettes while she felt guilty about even reading a secular book. I was curious about sex and talked about it, while she said it was wrong and bad. Although we were undoubtedly as different as night and day in many ways, we still found camaraderie in dolls, card games, board games and hide and seek – the usual, innocent kid games.

By the time I was 15, my parents told me I had to live with the Bishops for a few months because we were moving to the same small town where the Bishop’s lived and I couldn’t miss school. We were moving from progressive south Florida to the regressive Florida panhandle, an area of the south where the Bible was believed to be the truth and speaking in tongues was how you connected with some spirit. I wasn’t used to this environment or the people.

I didn’t have any problems when I lived with the Bishops. Luckily I wasn’t forced to go to their weird church and Mr. Bishop refrained from preaching to me. However, one afternoon, he came in to tell me that we were all going to see a concert by a Christian artist. I did not want to go. I didn’t like the guy’s music and wasn’t interested in hearing it. I didn’t want to be surrounded by Christians, Bibles and people acting all sweet and sugary while listening to this music that was somehow supposed to make you feel all good inside and wave your hands in the air and say, “Mamaka lamaframalaka, makaframalama.” Mr. Bishop had told me that he bought me a ticket to go see the musician. I was horrified. He didn’t ask me if I was interested in going. He just thought I would. When he told me that he’d gotten me a ticket, I broke down and began crying. I was upset because I didn’t want to hurt his feelings but I did manage to tell him that I didn’t want to go to the concert. He didn’t make me go or pressure me and I was relieved. In fact, he was much more understanding than I expected him to be. Mr. Bishop had invited me out of the goodness of his heart but I wasn’t interested in hearing the musician. It just wasn’t my thing and I was 15. I was into Van Halen, not Christian folk music.

You Can Trust Him, He's A Christian

The Bishop’s sons were good friends with a young man named James who used to come over to the house often. James, who was in his early 20’s, described himself as a Christian and told me how he used to be really “bad” and would shoplift food from grocery stores before he was saved. In my naïve world, I believed that because he was a Christian, he was a good guy and could be trusted.

One afternoon he came over when Christine and I were alone. We’d just come home from school and were all sitting in the small living room watching television and Christine fell asleep on the couch. James was sitting in between us and he looked over at me, inched his way a little closer and put his arm on my stomach as he said, “You know, if I wanted to, I could take advantage of you right now.” I just sat there and smiled shyly. I didn’t know what to do or say. James never did take physical advantage of me but making that remark was taking advantage of me. But that was enough to tell me this would be the last time I would ever be alone with him again and I never spoke with anyone, not even Christine, about what he’d said to me that late afternoon.

Mickey Mouse Meets Jesus

When the summer of 1982 rolled around, my family and I were living in a house out in the country in that same small city.

The Bishop’s church was having a retreat for teenagers and I was invited to go. The retreat was going to be at Disney World. I was all for it, not because it was going to be a Christian based trip, but because it would be great to finally get away from that small town for awhile. I felt stifled living there. It didn’t matter that I was going to be surrounded by Christians or people pretending to be Christians. I was going to Disney World in Orlando without my parents for 4 days.

Our chaperone was a married woman named Vicki, a tall woman in her 30’s with short black hair. There were 2 other girls and myself staying in one hotel room. All of us were excited to go to Disney World and run around jumping on all the rides. But we were also required to attend these religious revivals that lasted for over 3 hours every night at the park. We were also told by the church chaperones that we couldn’t wear shorts and had to dress modestly, even when we were running around in the 95 degree heat and 100 percent humidity. All I had were brown corduroy pants and I was dying from the heat but I figured I had better sweat for Jesus in my corduroys. Apparently I was the only martyr foolish enough to wear them.

As twilight arrived, we knew it was time to head over to the stadium area for the Christian Revival show and preaching that was going to save us all from being the filthy menstrual rags we currently were. I wasn't looking forward to this at all.

The show began and we all clapped like the pious gals we were pretending to be for the weekend. I didn’t want to be there. I wanted to be over in the Polynesian Hotel where it was nice and cool and listening to the artificial waterfall with the mist touching my face. All around me were people who were praising God. As they waved their hands in the air, swaying back and forth in the sticky air, I realized I was completely out of place. These people looked like aliens to me and I was uncomfortable and bored.

I remember the second night David Meece played his piano and sang Christian songs as his hands moved expertly over the keys, telling us all about this great guy, Jesus, and how we needed to follow him. It was all about the guilt. David Meece preached, the preachers preached, and the crowd lapped it up and soaked it in. Nowhere in my mind was I experiencing this weird drug induced feeling of being high on Jesus like everyone else seemed to be. The crowd clapped and yelled in approval while David Meece sang and I just sat there glancing at my watch, in my corduroy pants, whose fabric was stuck to my sweaty skin, wanting badly for this dreadful music fest to end. After Meece left the stage, a man stood in the middle and began to tell us the good news about his main man, Jesus. After awhile, he asked us all to stand up and close our eyes. Like lemmings, we all did. The preacher gripped his microphone, his words echoing off the walls of the stadium. He wanted to save the unsaved.

“Come down to the front of the stage and ask Jesus to be your Lord and Savior!” he demanded.

The crowd was standing with their hands in the air, some praying with their heads bowed, as if they had been sucked into a black hole of brainwashed balderdash. The man onstage recited verses from the Bible as I just stood there with my eyes halfway closed, wishing I could disappear. This experience was all just too bizarre for me. I felt like running away, feigning sickness, anything to be anywhere but where I was at that moment. I felt like a bear trapped in a snare. As I was trying to process this surreal environment, I heard the Disneyvangelist tell everyone not to peek at who was coming down to be saved by his holy hands. Of course I peeked. Some of the girls I had been spending time with decided to make their way down the long steps to be touched by the holy man wearing his brown polyester suit with the Bible in his left hand. I just stood there, hoping it would all be over soon. I could hear this horrible music playing, its artificial sweetness raining over the crowd as a group of well-dressed and eager people marched down to the front of the stage to be saved. But what they were to be saved from, I didn’t know and I didn’t care. All I could think of was, “Get me out of here!”

Finally, the procession of people wanting to be saved by a hairy handed healer thinned out, the music slowly died down, and it was time to head out back to the hotel. I was tired and emotionally drained after that experience. These people were so entrenched in threats of punishment and hell that once again, I felt enveloped in guilt because I didn’t raise my hands like a Pentecostal and bound down the steps to be saved by Jesus who was somehow supposed to save us all from our unworthy selves.

Unwitting Blasphemer

I recall being very tired by the time we made it back to the motel. I didn’t feel like thinking about Jesus, or Bibles, or David Meece flailing around at the piano in his white pants. As we were all winding down and chatting a little, Vicki, our chaperone, suggested it was time for us to pray before we went to bed. Oh, joy. I was subjected to more praying, more babbling and more pious pretending. In a tired voice as I lay there with my eyes closing involuntarily, I sighed, “I don’t think Jesus would mind if we didn’t pray for one night before we go to bed.”

That was the wrong thing to say to Vicki, the purveyor of our spiritual communication to the Holy One. She sat upright from the bed and raised her voice at me exclaiming, “How dare you say something like that!” and began giving me a lecture about God and how He would be furious if we didn’t pray like we were obligated to do. Well la dee frickin’ da. I guess I was headed to hell for not talking to Jesus before I lay me down to sleep, and pray the lord for making me a sheep. After the tongue lashing, I imagined Jesus’ face scowling at me just because I was too tired to have a single sided chat with him one last time before I dozed off to sleep. When I talked to this Jesus guy, it was always a monologue, because I never heard Him respond to anything I said to Him.

Vicki was not going to let us get away with not praying to Mr. Jesus. As a Catholic, I prayed differently than these evangelicals and I certainly didn’t pray in front of other people.

Down our heads fell, our hands clasped together, we closed our eyes and prayed. “Dear Lord please help us, we are nothing more than filthy menstrual rags. Please cleanse us with your DNA.”. Thank goodness that Vicki had saved my sorry soul from eternal damnation! I was taught that Jesus was a kind, understanding and loving person but Vicki made Him sound as if I would be punished for not praying to Him.

I was hoping that we had satisfied Jesus’ craving to hear us praise Him and boost his ego so he could give himself a well deserved apostolic pat on the back and we could at last sleep guilt free and washed with the blood of the lamb, or a dead armadillo. I didn’t care either way at this point I just wanted to sleep. It was all thanks to our pious chaperone, which apparently was the unofficial spokesperson for Jesus and God. Or is it God who is Jesus? Glory! Jesus Christ on a Crutch!

I drifted off to sleep, still stinging from embarrassment over being admonished in front of my friends for my supposed blasphemy of God by not wanting to kiss his invisible holy rear that night.

Just who were these people I was spinning around with in teacups during the day and sitting next to at night praying, hoping against hope that somehow, Jesus would answer our selfish prayers?

After four days of hive inducing Christian music, Bible babble and Dumbo rides, I was ready to go back home. I didn’t feel any different than when I came, just lighter in the pockets. Never again would a Christian retreat be penned on my calendar. That just wasn’t for me.

And I thought if this God I was supposed to be having a conversation with cared whether I wore shorts or not because of the heat, I wasn’t interested in praying to him anyways. I was beginning to see a side of Christianity that I didn’t like or trust. And I concluded from that harrowing and fear induced 4 day retreat for Jesus that all these religious nuts I’d been spending time with were way too strange and alienating and I had absolutely nothing in common with them. I felt like a goldfish in a tank of piranhas.

Things just got stranger as I struggled through high school. After I finished the 11th grade in that redneck country town, we moved to Pensacola. I thought I was spinning on the axis of a virtual Bible living in that small town, but Pensacola was another world altogether. Moving to a larger town would give one more chances to find like minded individuals. It turned out that Pensacola offered not much more than additional churches and religious fanatics. The only difference was that many of the churches there were warehouse sized and full of more people who unquestionably concluded that their belief was the only correct one and well…you know the rest. After the lawyer industry, the church industry is the second largest moneymaker in town.

During my senior year of high school, I didn’t encounter any Jesus freaks but I did encounter a lot of potheads and head banging bleached blondes who wore bandannas on their wrists and around their necks over their Motley Crue t-shirts. Looked like Satan had a hold on my high school.

I do recall our graduation ceremony and the baccalaureate that was scheduled beforehand. The baccalaureate was booked at a Baptist church. I refused to go. I wasn’t about to step foot inside a Baptist church, because I had had enough of churches by the time I was ready to graduate and in all actuality I was offended that a public school had planned a pre-graduation ceremony inside a religious institution. It would be understandable and highly probable that a private, religious school would hold such a ceremony inside a church, but a public school as far as I was concerned had no business mixing with churches.

Devil In The House

Mr. Bishop continued to make the 2 hour trip over to Pensacola to visit with my father. They ended up purchasing an old boat together and were working on restoring it. One late afternoon, Mr. Bishop and I were outside talking. As he and I were painting the hull of the boat, the subject of my father’s drinking and emotional and physical abuse was discussed in a religious context. Mr. Bishop quipped, “The devil is in your house.” The devil is in my house. He really said that. I didn’t know how to respond but it made me feel bad as if I had done something to deserve this devil in my house. His strange observation stung my ears. We were all suffering tremendously due to my father’s abuse and violence, and here was my father’s best friend, Mr. Bishop, doing his godly (at that time I felt it was more a self righteous and spiritually arrogant duty due to the fact I had heard these types of claims from other Christians) to inform me that it was all the devil’s fault, and that devil was residing in our house.

Was this devil sleeping in my bed? If Mr. Satan was in my bed I certainly didn’t feel a little tickle during the night.

Here it is nearly twenty-five years later and that remark still sticks in my head like a dried communion wafer that won’t slide down your throat no matter how many times you swallow.

In retrospect I realized that Mr. Bishop meant no harm by saying what he did. He firmly believed in this devil superstitious bunk and he firmly believed that some red hot, horned being was controlling what was going on inside our house. But in some unexplainable way that remark still cut deeply.

Victims of abuse do not need to hear from anyone that a devil is influencing anything when it comes to physical and emotional abuse. All victims of domestic violence and abusive alcoholics know exactly who is inflicting the unforgettable pain. Making a superstitious assumption which solves nothing and creates more distress for the victims of this bad behaviour can make one feel further victimized. It doesn’t help people on the path to healing and letting go nor does it make the bad person go away or take responsibility for their own actions.

It was experiences like this that helped me feel even more resentment towards these kinds of Christians and their warped idea of God and the concept of good versus evil. Why would any god let people suffer from physical and emotional abuse and let some devil enter in their home and torment the victims even more? It made no sense. But that’s how many people believe: that a devil is actually controlling people for some never to be understood reason – but these self appointed spiritual advisors will assure you that their god loves you. These thoughts further tormented me and confused me. I felt like I was on a religious rollercoaster I would never get off.

Superstitions, while having been a part of every human culture since the beginning of man, to this day have such a profound and even harmful effect on those who believe in them, particularly when those superstitions are manifest through religion. And believing that a spirit is out to get you and make you do evil things while blaming it on a pitchfork wielding, fallen angel still doesn’t make sense if you really ponder the whys of what you believe as superstition. These warped sensibilities hurt people. Religiolots[2] will insist that they care about you and are just telling you the truth.

As I left my 20’s, I thought less about Jesus and God and rarely prayed. I felt it just wasn’t working. I still believed in a god and a devil because I was too afraid not to believe. I’d often lie awake at night and picture myself in hell, with my skin searing off and crackling in the intense heat and flames while screaming for all eternity. What sickness. Not only did I believe I was nothing more than a filthy sinner and fornicator but that I truly deserved a fiery fate. Like so many others I believed that atheists were atrocious people who did immoral things, but at least I still believed in a god – that was my reasoning – I didn’t want to be one of those people, the godless atheists who were out to destroy the world with their decadent and immoral acts. I’d fallen into my own trap of being spiritually arrogant.

Spiritual Arrogance

Occasionally I would be interrupted from some important task by some kooky, glassy eyed Christian when out in public. They would either hand me one of those Jack Chick religious tracts or try to tell me about Jesus and how He wanted me to call Him Lord and Savior.

One afternoon I was stuck downtown and had to run inside a McDonald’s to use the restroom. As I was walking out through the dining room to get on my way, a woman of about 35 years old stopped me. She was standing by a table with her 2 children. The McDonald’s lady said, “Excuse me!”

I looked at her with my eyes furrowed, wondering what this lady wanted. She then said, “Jesus loves you.” I almost burst out laughing. It was just so funny for me to hear this from someone inside a McDonald’s. I decided I would pretend to not speak English. I figured I could get out of there and she’d leave me alone and go find another person on which to vomit the “Jesus loves you” mantra as they were eating French fries and sucking on a soda. I turned my head towards her and said in rapid Spanish that I didn’t understand English. I was about to walk away and then again she said it: Jesus loves you. I just stared at her as if I didn’t understand. Then she realized I didn’t understand her and she said, “OH! You don’t speak Englishhhhh.” So she raised her voice a little louder, because everyone knows if you shout loudly enough, a non-English speaker will suddenly become fluent in the language, and she said, “JESUS LOVES YEW!” At this point, I was trying not to laugh at her naivety. She just wanted me to know how much this Jesus guy loved me. I mumbled a little more Spanish and said “Gracias” and pushed open the glass door to freedom. The McDonald’s lady bewildered me. What a place to evangelize! A McDonald’s! I was afraid she was going to follow me out the door dragging her two kids with her. That was a bizarre scene.

Unfortunately, these kinds of scenes are very common here. In Pensacola, there are hundreds of churches dedicated to just one god and thousands of attendees who believe they have the truth but all the other churches are wrong so let’s get a bunch of Jack Chick tracts and hit the streets and save a few souls for Jesus!

Jesus At The Flea Market

Then there was a hot Sunday morning where I was at the flea market, minding my own business and a tall and rather hefty older man came up to me and asked me if I was going to heaven. I looked at him and jokingly said I was Muslim. I figured he’d leave me alone then. He just looked at me as I was walking away and said, “Don’t Muslims believe in heaven too?”

Jesus At The Vegetable Stand

Even the vegetable stand is not safe from Jesus hungry Christians.

Beautiful red tomatoes sat in front of me and I began to dream about a nice cold salad with dark green leafy lettuce and olives and feta cheese topped with….

“Have you been saved?”

“Uh, sorry?” I looked up from the juicy tomatoes I was drooling over into the faces of an elderly couple.

“Have you been saved?” the old couple asked, looking at me with those pleading eyes.

“No I don’t have to be saved. I am Muslim.” They both glanced at each other in horror and said something I didn’t understand. Their demeanor quickly changed from sweet to what appeared to me to be some anger. These folks hate that Muslim word so me claiming to have Islamic faith apparently messed with their heads. I wonder if I should have said I was a Satan worshiper instead. I might use that one next time. Now go bless those shiny tomatoes, maybe your god will bring the prices down!

Creepy Christian Library Guy

I always felt invaded when strangers would come up to me and ask me something I deemed was so personal. And then before I could even think, I would answer them even though I was not obligated to say anything to them. It was habit. This turned out to be a big mistake at the library one night.

Bending over to scan the new books on the library shelves, I looked up to see a tall, nerdy man with glasses, wearing a short sleeved plaid shirt and khaki pants looking at me. He was one of the clerks who would check out my books at the desk. I had been using the library’s interlibrary loan system to get books to read, like The Book Your Church Doesn’t Want You To Read and The Born Again Skeptic’s Guide to the Bible. These two books were not Jesus friendly and I’m sure Christian Library Guy knew this.

He began his witnessing by telling me he noticed I had been checking out books that were anti-Christian. His name was Paul, and he was apparently a self appointed apostle/employee of the city’s library which is supported by taxpayers. A smattering of dread came over me as I looked at him. Paul kept talking. He started asking me about whether I believed in God or not and what happened. I just told him I didn’t believe in God and that it was all myth and influenced by pagan religions that came before the advent of Christianity.

“Well I have no problem telling anyone that if they do not accept Jesus Christ as their personal saviour they will go to hell” Paul said with the firmest of conviction.

I just stood there and looked at him, offended that he would proselytize to me in a library, while he is not only employed by the city of Pensacola as a library clerk, but also on the clock. When he said that, I got pissed. I managed to hide my annoyance at his stupid remark long enough to end the conversation soon after that. Not only was I angered by his ridiculous assertion that I was headed for a fiery pit in hell, but also angered that my city taxes were paying for him to proselytize to library patrons. And what gall he had to even make personal remarks about any books I was checking out. It was certainly none of his business and stepped over the line of privacy. After I realized he was apparently paying some attention to what I checked out, it made me wonder if he was going through my library records and other personal information. It creeped me out. Especially when he called my house a few weeks later to let me know another one of my interlibrary loan books was in.

A few days later I made my way to the downtown branch of the library and spoke with one of the directors there about Paul. The situation of my unwelcomed encounter with him was explained to the director who told me that some other people had complained about Paul proselytizing to others when it is against policy. Personally, I was hoping he would get fired because this was surely a breach of policy and also my privacy. The director told me he’d have a talk with Paul.

I didn’t want to go into the small library where he worked after that. I was afraid that if I went in there again and he started preaching about his savior I was going to give him a piece of my mind in that quiet library.

Is A God Really Out There?

A little over two years ago the question that really hit me in the gut and made me begin to query the existence of a god was why were the Bible and Quran patriarchal? Other questions followed: Was God patriarchal? Did this god prefer men over women? What was the chance any female had written any part of the scriptures of the Bible? No chance at all. It was written by men, concerned with their own welfare and the cultures to which they pandered. Was God so concerned with culture that this god had to tell people how to dress, do strange rituals, trim beards and sacrifice dead birds on an altar? None of this made sense to me. Never mind the fact that there are so many errors in the Bible. Was this god ignorant of basic astronomy and other sciences? Why is this holy book written in favor of men who wrote about the importance of keeping slave and women as mere chattel, killing those who don’t believe, sacrificing children for this god and blaming evil on the devil?

And most importantly, I never heard god answer me when I would pray to him as a child. He remained strangely silent and failed to manifest himself. So why believe?

This Biblical insanity from what I can see came out of the minds of humans who were far less mentally advanced and interested in self preservation through cruel and unfair practices and genocide while promoting their standards as god-chosen.

Reading and questioning

My interest in religion spread into historical, anthropological and archaeological studies once those philosophical questions began taking hold in my mind.

I found a book at the local library book sale, Ancient Semitic Civilizations. It was a small, well worn slightly stained paperback written by Sabatino Moscati, a professor in Semitic Philology in the University of Rome, known for having written several books on ancient history. I paid 75 cents for it, and it was one of the best seventy-five cent investments I’d ever made. Reading the book and learning about the Assyrians, Babylonians and Akkadians, the land of Mesopotamia, the Code of Hammurabi[3] (circa 1780 BCE) and the inarguable historical evidence of pagan influence on the Bible all pointed to the fact there was no deity that ruled the world, just thousands of myths built on top of each other since the beginning of civilization. These concepts of divinity were conceived by man and evolved over time through the ancient civilizations that populated the Middle East. And so many aspects of the Bible made no logical sense to me. This book put together the pieces of the puzzle I was struggling to glue together.

Erasing God

Over the next year, bit by bit, I slowly discarded my belief in a god, whittling away at it as if I’d used a carving knife and a block of wood. It took another year before I felt more confident in my newly appointed outlook on religion and could say I didn’t believe in god to people I knew. It was a slow transition but a profound eye-opener. The more research and reading I did, the more I learned not only about myself and why I made the decisions I did, but also about the primordial world and the cultural influences that belief in deities and religion had on social and economic structures of ancient civilizations. This knowledge reinforced my belief that there was no supernatural being that was floating up in the clouds, ready to burn us when we slipped up and didn’t do what “He” wanted.

I began to feel different inside with this newfound belief. I felt freer and began to discard all the guilt that I had been carrying around on my back. My mind began to open back up and the world looked almost new to me, as if I had been in a foggy haze that had been burned away by a new rising sun.

I devoured more books about Middle Eastern history and Bible history and the more I read, the less I was convinced that a god existed. History and science make sense. Belief in an idea that there is a spirit floating around in the sky controlling everything just doesn’t.

Here I am now. I consider myself to be an atheist, one who embraces the non-belief of an entity. Guilt and fear are now mere memories, albeit unpleasant ones. And I no longer worry that some little pitchfork holding devil is going to get me. My choice is freedom. And I think it’s a good choice for me.

[1] Catholic version of Sunday School with ten times the guilt.
[2] A Religiolot is a name I made up for a religious zealot.

[3] Hammurabi was a Babylonian king who procured anonymous scribes to write a code of laws for his kingdom. Although these codex of laws were not the earliest set of laws used to provide a sense of order for a population, they were among the most well known. The laws of Moses are adopted from the Code of Hammurabi.



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