Along this journey of mine I have come across questions and statements that I have addressed previously in my blogs. Often they are things I asked or said myself in the past so I understand where they are coming from. I’m starting off this blog with a question I was asked not to long ago.
Was it Rebellion?
(This pic was found on Google images.)
“Did you become an atheist because of what you went through while you were in that Christian cult?”
This question reminds me of other often assumed questions and statements I’ve not only come across but I’ve also used myself in the past.
It’s the one about how if a person is a true believer of Christ then they would never “back slide” so their departure from Jesus means they were never truly saved in the first place.
And the one about how many people grow up doing what they were told was right but never really had a relationship with The Lord Jesus Christ. They just went through the “motions”. Which some believe explains why people leave the Faith.
I’ve covered those two in other blogs. Both in my case the assumptions were far from the truth.
Breaking free from the cognitive dissonance bubbles.
(This pic was found on Google images.)
The one I want to talk about now is the one about rebelling against Christianity because of what I’ve been through and seen.
Growing up an extreme Christian I heard stories and was made aware of many different preachers who were caught doing sinful things and shamed publicly for it. I was surprised at how people put so much mental and spiritual stock in those people. Not because of who they were but simply because they were human. I believed all faith was to be put in the Lord Jesus Christ. Sure, it might hurt and cause disappointment when a trusted leader is caught doing what he said not to do and what Jesus said not to do but a Christians faith was supposed to be in the Lord Jesus Christ and not in a humans.
When I finally realized the truth about my church leader, known as Elder Howard Turner the founder and leader of United Fellowship House of Praise (UFHOP), it hurt, I was disappointed, and I was disillusioned. And it wasn’t just him that caused me to feel that way, it was other church members and it was me. I had to step back and take a good look at myself with the bright lights turned on.
Although I have tried not to, I have repeated mistakes. I have seen others repeat mistakes. I have never liked it in either case. I had to step back and check myself thoroughly because I was determined to never make these mistakes again.
Step one was figuring out exactly what those mistakes were. I didn’t walk away from Christianity or from the Lord Jesus Christ right then and there. No, I continued on for a while. While it was becoming clear that the leaders and members of UFHOP were prone to using and manipulating and having no feelings of guilt about it I was also realizing that this was a common thread in the lives of Christians I knew, grew up around and with and even Christian authors and speaker I had learned from and respected.
I used to wonder how someone of my age was able to make such major mental life changes. I was about 38 at the time and many people are set in their way by that age and change very little. I’ve learned that though it is true that people basically “don’t change” mentally, major life events can negate that. I had several that year.
I was still attending the local 1st AOG but instead of enjoying the services and fellowship I felt like I was walking around in a fog. I was seeing and hearing things that I hadn’t noticed before and wondered why no one else was noticing it. It wasn’t supernatural, it was just normal human stuff, things that didn’t add up and such. Though I felt like I was in a fog, things were actually clearer then before, I just wasn’t used to it so it had a strange dreamy feel to it.
I mentioned to my small group leader about realizing I had been in a cult. I had known this woman for a while. I saw her as a true spiritual friend and we had done a lot together in the church group. It struck me like a knife in the chest when she responded to what I said with a, “I know.” She told me she had known I was in a cult but didn’t feel I would accept it from her if she told me. I didn’t accept that well. I never went back. I’m not saying I was right, I’m just saying I was hurt by someone I trusted, again.
Finding lies and extreme errors in my last eighteen years being a part of that cult made me start looking even further back. The more I looked the more lies I unearthed. Going forward was no different. I decided I had to re-research everything I thought I knew. Whenever I opened my mouth to contribute to a conversation I would either stop myself and ask myself if I really knew that what I was saying was true and if I had already said it I would either shut myself up real fast or add that I wasn’t actually sure that my last statement was true.
When something like that came up I would go home and research it. I wouldn’t just read one source but I would read several and then figure out what added up, what made the most sense. This wasn’t just about religion and spirituality but many other topics as well.
(This is a pic taken at one of the many Church conferences I and other UFHOP members traveled to from California to Louisiana to attend until we all moved to Arkansas. I’m the one all the way to the right standing. )
From Christianity to Wicca & UU.
One such topic was Wicca and Witch Craft. I grew up hearing that witch craft was basically devil worship, they sacrificed babies, humans and animals to the devil, they were responsible for putting the glass and razor blades in Halloween candy, when they said white witch craft it was just a front to hide the evil they actually did and so on. I started researching Wicca and Witch Craft and learned how terribly untrue what I had been told was.
One of the first things a person is taught when learning about Wicca is their rule to “harm none”. They will also inform you that they don’t believe in the devil so why would they worship something they don’t believe in. Basically their beliefs are to be close to the earth and to take care of it and to live freely. Some believe in a Goddess, some a God and a Goddess and many believe in many Gods and Goddesses. How they worship them is up to them and is done in a peaceful, harmless, earth loving way. Many are secretive because of the horrible history of persecution that sadly still persists today.
I also found that the term witch and witch craft is much more then a person who practices modern witch craft. Witch craft originally meant “the craft of the wise”. Witch was the term for the local “wise one”. It only makes sense that the ruling church of the dark ages would lie about the local town “witches” in order to take away the respect they received and take it for themselves. Thus turning all town elders, healers and spiritual advisers into abominations to be burned and abhorred. It’s it ridicules and sad that that thought pattern still reigns today.
Regardless of the horrible lies told about witches, it was witches who encouraged me to forgive Christians and to keep in mind that not all Christians were bad. I saw that as very ironic.
It didn’t take long for me to see the similarities in the various religions. The most common being that all religions and non-religious groups have their good and their bad. I found Wicca to be a lovely religion, one that encouraged the positive things in life and also encouraged people to find their own path. At the time I still had the belief that it was healthy to believe in something. So I chose Wicca as my family’s “official” religion. I was aware that Wicca, like all other religions, had it’s potential negative side as well. It wasn’t actually Wicca that I saw the problem with, but certain of it’s members. The problem with some Wiccans and Witches was their reason for getting into the craft in the first place. The ones who got in to it for power of some kind often ended up “washed out”, broken down and quite a mess. They also usually got into what some call “the dark arts” which is known for using “negative energy”. Some also used various drugs. Those are the type of people that Christian speakers like using to “expose” witch craft and wicca as examples of the devils work.
Wicca served our family well with finding the courage and desire to forgive and to move on and learn from the past. It was from a Wiccan friend that I learned, or I should say re-learned, about the Unitarian Universalist church. I say re-learn because I had been told about the UU when I was a teen. I was told they were all deceived and going to hell and needed to be saved. However, when I looked into it, it was a pretty darn cool organization bent on helping people get along from all religions and walks of life and standing up and acting on social justice. The UU organization also had a history of incorporating new facts and things that made sense instead of standing stubbornly on old ideas and insisting that since they believed that way for hundreds of years then it must be true. Right up my alley! Of course not all UU’s are the same. Some are more agreeable then others.
(I took this pic at the Springfield, MO UU at the Beltane 2011 celebration.)
From Wicca to Paganism.
Basically Wicca is about the Goddess and the God. Some Wiccans focus on the goddess and her loving protective nurturing while others find it more balanced to focus on both the male and the female aspects and others like to recognize other various gods and goddesses.
I saw the ridiculousness of believing in only one male God. It became obvious to me that religions who insisted on only one male god were founded on the need for control and manipulation of the masses. It really is a genius way to control large amounts of people. If there is more then one god then there may also be other people who can hear and speak with them so cutting it down to one makes it easier to control who can and can not “hear” from the deity, thus giving more power to the leader(s).
As far as the Christian Bible is concerned, if one insists on believing it’s true, the book didn’t actually start out with only one male god. Remember the scripture that says, “Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image,…” from Genius 1:26? What about that “our” eh! Some will answer that it’s referring to the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Then there’s the older translations that use the word for God that includes more then one. That theme continues till around Judges when the religious leaders decided to kick the Female God out. So, out she went. Keep a female god around and how are ya gonna make woman into property? I mean really!
I came to the conclusion that there was either no god or there was more then one. As far as the Bible I had found nothing original in it. Every piece of the “Holy Bible” could be found in various past much older pagan religions. The big one being that Jesus died on a cross to save us. Kids grow up hearing in Sunday School and Vacation Bible schools that no one had ever done such a thing. Yet another of the many Christian lies. I say that they lie because many church leaders know at least a little about other old religions and know about other crucifixions. But I never heard one admit it. There are a number of various “gods” from various religions much older then Christianity (including Catholicism and other Christian related religions) that have a god or goddess that died to save people and many of them died on a cross. Like I said, that is just one of the many things copied from other religions.
Later after learning more about the Bibles history from sources other then just Christian ones I found many more hidden (to people like me) pieces of information that make the fallacies of the Bible more obvious and makes the contradictions more explainable. Of course in my Christian years I argued that there were no contradictions and welcomed any challenge which I could easily prove incorrect. I had been taught well how to twist and manipulate scriptures although I honestly had no idea that’s what I was actually doing. But just because I meant well doesn’t mean I was right. Just because one does something in ignorance doesn’t make them correct. I lived in a brain washed state so everything I knew was in a different mental world then what was actually real.
There are times I think of how well off we could be if I didn’t have such a conscious and used my home grown talent to become a “spiritual” leader to make us wealthy. But that thought is very brief, it’s just not who I am. Honesty is more my style.
Although the Wiccans I knew were fine and non-judgmental with me not sticking to the god and goddess I felt my belief that if there are deities then there are likely many made me more generally a pagan.
Pagan generally is any earth based religious belief. In other words it’s a very general term. Wiccans are pagans as well as most witches. There’s various pagan religions from all over the world. Some pagans like to make sure people know which one they are associated with and some even get uptight about it. I’ve met many pagans who enjoy fellowship with people of different beliefs then theirs and enjoy learning from each other. But like any religion, there are the negative people. Such is the way of man, as in mankind of course.
(Celebrating Beltane at a pagan camp. At the circle where we share encouraging stories and testimonies as well as passing around the bread and wine. I know, it sounds dangerous. lol)
From Pagan to Agnostic to Atheist and Skeptic.
I have no regrets being a Wiccan and a Pagan. It is what I needed to get past the wrong that had been done me and the wrong that I had done. It was the path I needed to find healing and to replace negative with positive.
After some time I was still attached to the spiritual but not so much to the idea of deities. The injustices in the world could be blamed on them if they actually existed. One god, two gods or many gods, it didn’t matter. If they were real then they ought to answer to someone for their crimes. If I died and found them or him to be real I would stand in my honesty and integrity and demand an answer. If I was rejected, it would be for righteous and justice sake.
It became obvious to me that gods only existed because people made it so. If they actually existed in the “spiritual” realm it was only because people chose to worship them, thus again, people made it so.
I lost interest in giving up my hard earned freedom to a god. God’s were on my naughty list, so to speak. But I still believed in spirits from those who have passed as well as there possibly being entities yet to be discovered. Learning more about them made them less scary. I was aware that the people who wrote about spirits could be lying so I just kept an open mind and tried to see what added up and what didn’t.
For quite a while I found Atheist, Satanist and Christians to be similar in many ways. Their hard headed close mindedness for one. So many of them came off as angry. I found them them picking on each other ironic.
I had checked out satanism as well and found, as usual, that I hadn’t heard the truth about them either. There is the Satanist who believe in and worships Satan and then there are the satanist who don’t believe in Satan but are satanists by philosophy. Like Wicca they have a “harm none” rule but unlike Wicca they have an exception for retribution. Mostly it’s a belief in putting one self first and foremost. Serial killers who clam they did it for Satan are not keeping with the Satanist faith. It’s not any different from serial killers who are Christian, Pagan, Hindu, Muslim and so on. They are usually psychopaths and or brain washed radicals. Religion is very convenient for psychopaths. There may be some who are atheist but normally atheism doesn’t serve them well so they like to stick with something usable which religion provides. For me personally, Satanism just wasn’t up my alley.
Once I learned that an Atheist is simply a person who doesn’t believe in any gods but may or may not believe in other things I realized it fit me. I no longer had a distaste for gods, I simply didn’t believe in them. I called myself an agnostic for a while then an agnostic atheist but then found it much simpler to just call myself an atheist.
(This is a sign used for Atheist. You can find others like this one on Google images. )
I still found the stubbornness of many atheist regarding spirits and ghosts to be annoying. They would so often spit insults at people who believed in such things without providing any information on why they didn’t believe in any such things. As if insults would magically explain why there are no ghosts or life after death. It was because of these kinds of people that I hesitated for a while to be identified with Atheists.
It seems that either atheists have finally began to chill out or a new better breed of atheist have sprung up. Or, maybe the pleasant ones have finally decided to speak up. Possibly it’s all of the above. A more pleasant kinder and even open minded brand of atheist are popping up here and there. They are even going so far as to hold the insults and replace them with evidence. And not just that but I’ve even seen them tell people to keep posts civil and that they will remove any insults posted on their pages. There needs to be more of this, but it is much improved.
At this time in my life I do not dismiss the possibility of a spiritual realm or another dimension or what ever you want to call it. I am however skeptical.
Learning about people who use cold readings not only made me see how easily the church leader I had when I was in that cult was able to convince people he was a prophet but it also made me see how possible it is that most if not all psychics are con artists and are likely cold readers instead. Are any of them real? I ‘m okay with saying, I don’t know. Maybe there are. I haven’t had the time or resources to do my own version if investigating and I’m not really worried about it. Maybe one day I will. At one time I was interested in “investigating” but found most groups clickish. That has always been a personal turn off. Clicks are an old human survival instinct that often gets in the way. I find it funny how people take their close minded ways into what one would think to be an open minded idea. But then again I am still discovering my own CD bubbles that need popping.
Why bother with the labels?
So then there’s the question, why be called anything, why the need for a label?
And yet another question, why not leave everyone alone? Why not let them believe what they want? Why can’t we all just get along and accept each other for who we are the way we are?
Regarding labels, maybe it’s because I am accustomed to having one. I was, after all, a born again Christian for 38 years.
Or maybe because I saw how the label of Aspergers and Autism helped my children accept who they are and has helped them get the help they need in school and in the community.
Or maybe it’s because labels don’t actually bother me. I learned at a young age to either ignore them or to own them, make them mine and the people who tried to give them to me to bully me would lose interest and go away. It worked, I was rarely bullied by other kids. I just wasn’t any fun for them. Adults are a different matter.
I think it’s more because I enjoy learning about how people mentally work. What makes them tick. Basically psychological stuff. I find it rather fascinating.
I run into some folks who get upset about “labels”. They feel no one should be labeled. They have seen the negative side of it. It’s the same as someone who insists everyone be labeled. They have seen the positive side of it. It is common human error to believe that everyone thinks and feels the same.
Another reason I like identifying things is because I enjoy conversing with people who understand where I am coming from and how I see things. Not that we would always see eye to eye, but just maybe be on a similar track or on the same page. For instance when someone loves to talk about sports they usually find places to go or meet up with other people who like to talk about sports. That sort of thing is where labeling can come in handy.
About leaving people alone and just getting along;
If everyone from all different religions and walks of life would agree to that it would be super awesome. Or would it? Some religious practices include abuse. Is it ever okay to let abuse happen in the name of religion? No, abuse is abuse and needs to be stopped. Many people who come out of religion have witnessed some form of abuse and maybe even felt the blunt end of it themselves. You can’t expect someone like that to suddenly decided to get along with people knowing the terrible acts that were and are being committed.
For me being treated like the slave of the church and being lied to has made me stand up to people and organizations like that. I’ve been through it first hand and I won’t just sit idly by and be okay with others going through it.
A lot of atheist keep to themselves for the same reason many witches keep to themselves, fear of rejection and persecution. It’s isn’t a false notion, many people know that if you claim to be either of those things you may not get the job you wanted or the promotion or even the grade. But there are the few who set caution aside and speak out.
I started speaking out for the same reason I spoke out as a Christian, I wanted to help people. I’m still me, I’m just a better bolder smarter me.
I’ve more recently learned that my journey isn’t an odd case, while my life and experiences may be a bit odd my journey from Christianity to Atheism happens to a lot of folks in a much similar manner.
I am now in a place where I am at peace. I’ve gone past bitterness and fear and moved on to understanding, empathy, compassion, acceptance, and even more boldness. I don’t mean to say I’ve learned all there is to learn, far from it. But now I am in a place that I can learn. The shackles of religion and programmed thought have been discarded. I’m not in a hurry, I learn as I go and I enjoy it!
(I may be far from sixty, but the saying still holds!)
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