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From Superstition To Skepticism
In previous writing I've alluded to my past, in particular my upbringing as a Fundamentalist Christian however I felt it was time to devote an entire post to the story of my deconversion not just from Christian fundamentalism but from all the other superstitious pseudoscience I accumulated during my journey into adulthood. This is gonna be a long one folks so get something to eat and pull up a chair.
My Father and the start of Indoctrination
From an early age we went to Church as a Family. I was indoctrinated with all the classic tales, the Exodus, Noah’s Flood, the Garden of Eden, and, of course, the story of Jesus. By the time I’d reached nine years of age I had said the Lord’s prayer and accepted Jesus as my “Lord and Savior” and soon enough I’d been baptized as well. It is worth noting that until my eighth birthday my Father, though a Christian, had been prone to drinking and smoked cigarettes. Growing up with a drunk for a Dad was hard but things were about to get worse, my Dad was about find Jesus.
When I was about eight he had a turn around, he quit drinking and slowly but surely stopped smoking. Those are both positive things however according to him it was God who was allowing this to happen, it was Jesus saving him from alcoholism. He still claims, to this day, that God gave him a sort of Ultimatum. He also claims that there were times when, under the influence of drugs, he would have “Demonic” experiences. Thanks to his judicious use of drugs (before I was even born) he has had mental problems ever since. Of course to him the transformative experience that allowed him to quit smoking and drinking was fully real and was, according to him, the last bit of mercy before he would cross the line and commit the unforgivable sin of Blaspheming the Holy Spirit.
After his transformation a lot changed. Instead of getting to watch television and watch essentially whatever movies I wanted we children were not allowed to watch anything with bad language in it. Every movie that was rated above PG was taken into the basement and smashed with a block of wood in a fit of puritanical rage. We weren’t allowed to watch Scooby Doo or anything that had to do with Halloween, ghosts or the Occult (with the possible exception of the Munsters). I mentioned in a previous hub that we were never allowed to celebrate Halloween, even before this “transformation”. These things were considered to glorify darkness, they were tools of Satan meant to seduce man to glorify him and join in his rebellion against God.
From this point on he was hardcore about religion. He was a Fundamentalist in every fiber of his being, immersed in apologetics and washed in the scriptures themselves afraid of the fires of Hell more than anything for all those years he’d spent sinning.
The Early Years
With how heavily my Father was indoctrinated I count myself lucky that I was never thoroughly brainwashed enough to reject new ideas outright. I loved watching television shows about subjects like Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster and UFOs. By the time I was twelve I could have told you everything there is to know about the Roswell Incident or the Patterson Bigfoot tape. Along with pseudoscience I was also into real science with Bill Nye the Science Guy being high on my list of favorite shows right up there with the Magic Schoolbus.
Eventually I became a teenager and my Dad wanted me to be more serious about religion. I began to help him. He was a driver for the Church, they ran a van service that would pick up people who couldn’t drive and wanted a ride to the Wednesday service. From an early age I’d never really liked Sunday School and even as a teenager I preferred to sit in with the adults rather than sit with my own age group. I think this is because I was, and still am, very socially awkward and being in with my own age group would have caused me to focus only on how I looked.
The Church I went to was Pentecostal, people spoke in tongues at every service without fail and sometimes the Pastor would offer his interpretation of what the “Holy Ghost” was saying. I can remember being very afraid whenever someone would begin speaking in tongues because often times I had trouble controlling my thoughts in Church. If I saw a particularly pretty girl there was very little chance to stop thinking about her inappropriately. I was your average teenager and thus was horny as hell. I also spent much of the week swearing and telling dirty jokes with my friends at school all of which I was told was sinful. Not to mention masturbation, which was another massive source of guilt as it involved an awful lot of lusting after women that I wasn’t married to, which Jesus claimed was adulterous. So whenever I heard someone speak out in tongues in Church I waited with a lump in my throat for the interpretation hoping that God would not inform them of what a disgusting filthy monster I was. I felt almost like an invading germ sitting in the bloodstream afraid the white blood cells would gang up on me. Sin was like a disease coursing through my veins and only the blood of Jesus could cure it.
I had a lot of powerful emotional experiences in Church. When the whole congregation would call out to God forever it was like you could feel him. The warm and fuzzy feeling would overwhelm me and I would end up praying. I prayed for God to cleanse me, for God to change me, for God to stop me from wanting sex constantly, to stop me from having immoral thoughts, to change my life forever. I also prayed for my Father, who has had a degenerative muscular disorder in his hands and feet since he was a teenager. He was constantly telling me that God was on the verge of healing him, that he was “ripe for a miracle” and I spent a lot of time praying that he would get his miracle as God himself had promised in the Bible.
After Church I would return home and breathe a sigh of relief. Wearing dress clothes for two and a half hours in a place where you feel everyone can tell you’re a sinner is not fun. Praying at home was different than praying at Church. I rarely felt warm and fuzzy when by myself praying, and when I did feel something it was often sadness or frustration. Usually I prayed for God to cleanse me, to make me new again so that instead of going to school as a swearing, cursing, horny normal teenager I would be transformed. Sometimes I prayed for silly things, like my own car, or the kind of job that a fourteen year old could never get (action hero in a movie), or even a girlfriend.
Having grown up being taught that sex before marriage was always a sin no matter what I spent a good deal of time asking God to send me a wife. If I could fall in love with a girl and marry her it wouldn’t be sinful and getting God’s help with that sort of thing would make up for how socially inept I was. So here I was, a teenager with fairy-tale ideas of meeting a girl I was destined to be with, marrying her and growing old together and than walking through the pearly gates of Heaven with hands clasped to spend eternity in bliss.
We were taught that the Bible was the perfect Word of God and that most of it was to be taken literally other than the obvious (such as Jesus’ parables). I never read much of the Bible and when I did I was often bored. There’s nothing going on in much of it, boring history of battles, people and places with names impossible to pronounce and lengthy genealogies. When it failed to be boring the Bible often inspired dread. Reading the Book of Revelation as an actual account of the End of the World was terrifying and being told that if I had any sin that I hadn’t repented of I would be left behind by Jesus to suffer through those horrors was a source of endless fear for me. The idea of the Rapture terrified me to the core.
Which is scarier, the book or the terrible movie starring Kirk "Crocoduck" Cameron?
My Misguided Time as a Creationist
Despite having a deep respect for most forms of science and an awe at the beauty of the natural world I had been taught not to accept certain things that scientists claimed they had proved. This, along with my love of pseudoscientific subjects like UFOs and Cryptozoology, caused me to be closed off to the skeptics. As such I had a hatred of those who were skeptical of my views that can still be seen today in believers of pseudoscience, conspiracy theories, and some forms of religion. I was very skeptical of Evolution and I had been taught to be that way. Not only was I skeptical of it but I was essentially forbade from ever giving Evolution a fair shake. If someone had presented evidence to me at this time I would have merely rejected it out of hand and scoffed at them for being ignorant enough to believe such a ludicrous idea.
When I was about sixteen we got our first computer and the internet was now my playground. Unfortunately I used it to dig up pseudoscientific content about Atlantis, UFOs, conspiracy theories and, of course CREATIONISM. I found that my preconceived bias toward believing in Cryptozoology went hand in hand with my rejection of Evolution and belief in Creation. In particular I was interested in second hand reports from remote locations about dinosaur like creatures still being alive the most famous of which is likely Mokele Mbembe. Mokele Mbembe is said to resemble a sauropod dinosaur, of course that description is a second hand account based on interviews conducted by explorers talking to natives via a translator.
The idea that dinosaurs and man may have co-existed was bolstered by all sorts of pseudoscientific evidence that I dug up all over the internet. One such site was called Genesis Park, another one was Cryptozoology.com. Creationist websites were a big part of my time on the internet and I began to argue against Evolution every chance I got. Now it is important to note that I was an Old Earth Creationist. I believed there was a gap between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2 and that God had spent the last four billion years experimenting and making all sorts of different often bizarre life-forms. I did accept that most dinosaurs had died out however I believed that some might have survived and because I rejected Evolution I didn’t think they would look all that different. I also didn’t apply a single drop of skepticism to the claims made by my fellow Christian Creationists, mainly because they were Christians and I didn’t think they would lie to me.
Speaking in Tongues
Because of being raised in a Pentecostal Church emphasis was put on learning how to speak in tongues, or rather on being “Baptized in the Holy Spirit”. Basically I was instructed to pray to God to baptize me in the Holy Spirit and than I would be able to speak in a heavenly language. I prayed for a long time for this and eventually, around the age of sixteen, I began speaking in tongues. My Dad had been doing this for years already and the first thing I noticed was that my tongues sounded nothing like his. Were the angels speaking different languages? I also noticed that my tongues didn’t sound like a language at all, neither did my Dad’s, both just seemed like repetition of a few gibberish syllables.
Another thing I noticed was the randomness or spontaneity of my tongues. Any stimulus could set them off. Anything that affected me emotionally was libel to get me going if I allowed it. I even found that looking at a beautiful enough woman would stir up emotions and butterflies in my stomach could swiftly turn into tongues on my lips. The oddness of my tongue speaking was the first truly big point of doubt in my faith and the fact that no matter how often my Father did it, no matter how often the congregation of my church did it, it didn’t seem like anything in their lives was truly changing all that radically or that they were actually making incredible spiritual progress.
I found that those same powerful emotional experiences that I had had in Church I could get from other sources as well, particularly music, poetry, or an experience of beauty.
(It may interest some of you that I can still speak in tongues to this day despite being an atheist and having ceased being a Christian some four years ago. Glossolalia is not magical or supernatural).
Finding your "Gift" and your "Calling"
Another point of doubt for me was the idea that I had to find what God was calling me to do. This idea was introduced to me in my teens as if it would lead me to my ideal career. The idea was that I could be a minister, a missionary, a preacher but I had to be something in God’s Kingdom and if God didn’t call me to it than I wasn’t fulfilling my obligations to God.
I didn’t like this idea one bit. I had a long list of things I wanted to do with my life and a list of possible careers and none of them involved the pulpit or having to “share the Good News” to everyone I ever met. I liked my friends the way they were, I didn’t want to have to shove my religion down their throats and I didn’t want to give up my own dreams or aspirations.
Perhaps it was selfish but I decided that the whole idea that God was going to decide what I did with my life was bunk. After all if God truly loved me would he force me into something I didn’t want to do? I recall reading Bible verses that said that we should love Jesus more than our own families. Jesus even says in Luke 14 that you have to hate your own life to be his disciple. I didn’t like any of those ideas and I rejected them outright. I wanted to be a film director or an author. I figured God would want me to follow my heart, as cheesy as it sounds.
Re-Examining the Bible
In my late teens I stopped showing up for Church. I just couldn’t be bothered to wake up before eleven on Sundays and I was no longer constantly coerced to go by my parents. I began to take a deeper interest in what I had been taught as a child and in what I believed. All my life I’d been spoon-fed either by my parents or from the pulpit and now it was time to read the Bible for myself. I made a concerted effort to read through the entire Bible and boy did I find some really strange and disturbing things when I did.
I re-examined the Bible hoping to strengthen and reinforce what I’d been taught about it only to find it had the opposite effect. The God of the Bible was not the God I believed in. The God I believed in was so incredibly merciful and loving that he sacrificed himself to rescue us from our sins. The God I served was loving and kind and abhorred the immoral. The God of the Bible however COMMANDED and CONDONED and COMMITTED the immoral on a regular basis.
There was the disturbing and the aggravating but there was also the bizarre. What was I to make of Song of Solomon where a man opines to his lover:
“This thy stature is like to a palm tree, and thy breasts to clusters of grapes.”
Here’s a poem where a man is lusting after a woman... yet that is most definitely sinful... or is it? Had I been beating myself up for nothing? Had all my attempts to purify myself from sexual lust been pointless?
I began to read up on how the Bible came into being and the various committees that helped it become what it is today. I also learned of the Gnostic Gospels and books such as the Book of Enoch that had been thrown out of the Bible. I became much more open minded although I still considered myself a Christian I no longer trusted any preachers or pastors to give me accurate information, I instead interpreted the Bible myself. Despite my doubts I remained a Christian for the time being.
Seeing Religion Differently
By age nineteen I could no longer consider myself a Christian. Despite still believing in the supernatural I no longer had any faith that Christ was the son of God. The evidence and logic all seemed stacked against him being the one true Messiah as did the history of religion itself. Jesus said that he came not to bring peace but to bring a sword. In that way he was correct, for rather than bring peace Jesus and the religion formed around him brought the world a great deal of suffering. Slavery, the treatment of the Native Americans, people being burned at the stake for being gay or being witches or merely worshiping other gods. I began to see religion as a very bad thing.
I still respected Christ as a philosopher and a teacher in much the same way that Thomas Jefferson did but I put no trust in the supernatural elements in the story or in Jesus to save my soul. In fact I began to believe that the Founding Fathers may have had it right in taking the Deistic position on God. For a short while I considered myself a Deist, it sounded distinguished and I found that most people respected that position, at least those that knew what it was did.
My view of God continued to shift. I drifted toward a sort of new age pantheism, beliefs that I found uncomfortable, such as eternal paradise and eternal hell, I discarded while others, such as angels, reincarnation and ghosts, I kept. Reincarnation was my favorite form of afterlife. It is worth noting that even as a Christian I was afraid of the afterlife, afraid of death and I never adopted as definitive a stance on those as I did other aspects of the faith. The idea of living forever seemed maddening but at the time that I was a pantheist I wanted some kind of afterlife because the idea of non-existence after death frightened me more than the Christian notions I’d been raised with.
So I adopted Reincarnation and listened with glee to anecdotes about people who’d supposedly discovered who they were in a past life. This meant I could live on after death but I wouldn’t have to be aware that I had lived before thus eliminating the madness that would set in after year 10 trillion of harp lessons in Heaven.
For a time I even believed ancient astronauts had created humans as a slave race... Crazy I know.
By the time I was twenty-one I was still believing in the supernatural. I was also hooked on shows like Ghost Hunters and Monsterquest and other pseudoscience shows. So despite the fact I was no longer a Christian I still believed there was something supernatural and transcendent to life, some force or being or collective consciousness. Although no longer putting my faith in Christ I still had faith in a great deal of other things and I still had trouble applying skepticism properly.
An image I took while on a paranormal investigation
From Agnostic-Theist to Agnostic-Atheist
Gradually I found that my pantheistic new age beliefs had no practical use other than to quell my fear of death in the false hope of an afterlife. I began to spend my time on youtube looking at what the skeptics had to say. At first I vehemently disagreed but I began to find more and more people who shared my opinion on Christianity and had come to the same logical conclusions about the Bible but who also rejected pseudoscience, UFOs, conspiracy theories, etc. It happened slowly but from age twenty onward I shifted more and more away from holding the same beliefs I had. Loch Ness Monster and Bigfoot went from definitely being real to MAYBE existing somewhere out there but being improbable.
I began to switch from being an agnostic believer on many of these subjects to being an agnostic non-believer. To clarify what I mean Agnostic refers to knowledge here, for the most part I’d never been arrogant enough to claim that I knew for certain that Bigfoot or God were real. I was an agnostic-theist probably by age eighteen although I had no idea that’s what I was at the time.
All that time I had been labeling myself merely Agnostic because I, like most everyone else, was falsely taught that Atheists reject the possibility of God outright and blatantly declare that no god(s) exist. This was set right just a year ago when it was explained to me that one an be both agnostic and an atheist. I realized then that I’d been mislabeling myself for some time.
Evolution, the last piece of the puzzle
The last piece of the puzzle to fall into place was Evolution. I’d already been considering myself an agnostic-atheist but I still hadn’t looked at the evidence for Evolution and against Creation. Fortunately many of the same online atheists that had helped me realize I was mislabeling myself and misapplying my skepticism also were in the business of debunking Creationism and posting evidence for Evolution.
And so the house of cards that was my superstition crumbled and now I’m skeptical of all the subjects I believed in for so many years.
God(s) - Maybe they exist but we just don’t know. There’s no good evidence and there’s no reason to believe.
The same goes for Bigfoot, Nessie, reincarnation, alien visitation and all the other stuff I believed on faith. I am now what I once hated, a skeptic and I have taken it upon myself to try to free other minds that are like I was. I just want to get people thinking about what they believe and why they believe it.
So from me to you, thanks for reading and STAY SKEPTICAL!
More of my opinions can be found @
If you want more information on my opinions or views of the various subjects touched upon you can visit my blog at Godlessblogger.blogspot.com
I'm also involved on the conspiracy theory related site AboveTopSecret.com under the username Titen-Sxull (obviously). At that site I was once a believer in many of the ideas discussed there but now I consider myself one of the few skeptics that help to keep that site balanced to some extent. Just doing my part to "Deny Ignorance", which is the sites self-declared Credo.