What Would You Say to Your Former Religious Self?

Five years ago, YouTuber MrRepzion was a Christian who made videos defending his faith.

Today, he’s an atheist doing the exact opposite.

He just released a video in which he talks to his then-16-year-old self… and it’s awesome:

Alright: Your turn! What do you wish you could say to your former religious self?

Tag your answers with #MyReligiousPast and I’ll pick a random winner next week to receive a free shirt (with a design like the one below) from Reasonist Products!

(Thanks to Ashley for the link!)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • David McNerney

    Yeah, but he wasn’t a True Christian™.

    • compl3x

      Exactly. We all know once you leave the faith it completely negates all of the time, energy and effort you put in when you were apart of it.

      Since I’ve always been an atheist there would be nothing to tell my ” former religious self”. There was a brief period as a teen where I thought religion deserved unquestioning respect and admiration even if you weren’t religious. That sure didn’t last long.

      I am interested in reading the replies to this post though :)

    • viaten

      “… wasn’t a True Christian.” It’s always in hindsight, isn’t it. No “True Christian” ever asks, ‘What if I’m not “really” a true Christian, but I only think I am?’ You’d think they’d shudder at the thought, but then with their believing they’re “true”, you wouldn’t expect them to.

    • viaten

      Though it’s often said that way, I think the truer wording would be, “He COULDN’T have been a ‘True Christian’ “.

  • Baby_Raptor

    I would advise Past Me to be more selective in who she came out to, and who she admitted her doubts to. Would have saved me quite a lot of hassle. #MyReligiousPast

  • mikespeir

    There would have been no talking to me. And yet, here I am. In fact, I now realize I hadn’t believed for years before I would admit it to myself.

  • http://absurdlypointless.blogspot.com/ TBJ

    Bubba, “I’d like you to go look up the words ‘epistemology and skepticism’ in the dictionary and encyclopaedia. Study them until you think you understand their meaning and then write a story on how they might apply to you.”

  • Rain

    Great self-takedown. It’s great when one can read the mind of one’s own opponent. Looks like a great channel but it doesn’t have as many subscribers as “Onision”, which has 1,000,000 subscribers.

  • Jim Charlotte

    I wouldn’t say anything to my former religious self. That could influence the past, who knows what changes it would cause. As a religious person, I probably would have taken my future self speaking to me as some demonic power trying to drive me from my faith, thereby making me more religious. This could have prevented me from becoming nonreligious and inventing my time machine. Paradox!

    • GubbaBumpkin

      That could influence the past, who knows what changes it would cause.

      Oh c’mon, Star Trek got past the time travel paradox question, so why can’t you?

      • C.L. Honeycutt

        Just throw Wesley in the Time Furnace for fuel. Two problems solved!

    • Michael W Busch

      If I were able to talk to my past self, then time travel is possible. But for time travel to be possible, the second law of thermodynamics says that entropy would have to have already run to a maximum. Then the universe would be at heat death, nothing would be happening, and there would be no me to talk to myself with. Oops.

      • b33bl3br0x

        you could always follow a closed time-like curve around a black-hole and talk to yourself just before you started out.

        • Michael W Busch

          Under all currently-verified models of physics, that is impossible (you can’t get closed time-like curves outside of an event horizon unless you have matter with negative mass, which no one has ever seen).

          • b33bl3br0x

            I thought Hawking had shown that closed time-like curves were possible outside of the event horizon but that you could only travel to the point of origin of the curve (in time and space). Provided that the black hole itself was spinning.

            • Michael W Busch

              The math on this gets very thick very quickly, and Hawking and many other theorists have had long and complex arguments about it that I personally can only follow in coarsest outline. But the gist of it has been that it is impossible to send any information back in time – which is good, because doing so would break the universe.

              • b33bl3br0x

                bah. People always assume that time is a strict progression from cause to effect, but actually, from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint, it’s more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey…stuff.

                But if Hawking is right, you’d be able to meet yourself at the departure point of the curve, and though you’ve not propagated any information backwards in time, you might be able to send it to your own subjective past.

                • The Other Weirdo


                • Michael W Busch

                  Not really. Any closed loop can’t convey information along itself- otherwise the second law of thermodynamics is violated.

                  But +1 for the Doctor Who reference.

                • The Other Weirdo

                  Sure, you say that now, but we know for a fact that in the 29th century, the Federation will be building time ships to police the timeline. Therefore your argument is invalid.

                • Michael W Busch

                  Police the timeline and also let the genocides of Star Trek history go uncorrected. Thank you, timeship crews.

                • The Other Weirdo

                  Perhaps those genocides are fixed points in time and can’t be changed.

                • Michael W Busch

                  I have not yet seen Whovian-Trekkie cross-over fic, but I am sure it exists. To their credit, the writers of Voyager did consider some of the ethical dilemmas changing history would involve – the Year of Hell episodes address that theme. But they never did so particularly well.

                • The Other Weirdo

                  There is one. It’s not even a fanfic, from what I’ve heard. A TNG/DrW crossover.

  • L.Long

    I have thought about what I was back then. I know I had my enlightenment when they were discussing genesis at seminary. But before then as a good alter boy and going to catlick school, I was always into science and not a rabid religidiot. So I think I never really did believe or had faith with capital B & F, but I was very young and like the young never really thought about it or questioned it.
    So everything went as it ought to, I accepted my parents guidance until old enough to think about it and said ‘ wow this is dumb!’. So I am OK with my earlier self’s life.

    • allein

      I feel much the same way, minus the Catholic school and “boy” (altar- or otherwise ;) )…though I was an acolyte and sang in the junior choir. I just thought they were fun.

  • indorri

    “It’s OK there’s no god. If that iss the case, everything would continue on like it always has. Your life will continue on.”

    When I was religious, I dreaded the thought of there being no god. I felt the world would be too empty, too cruel if there were no god (I had always rejected the idea of hell, so the thought that God’s existence was cruel didn’t factor into it).

    For a very long time, even when I could not find sufficient evidential and poor philosophical reasons to believe in God, I continued to do so because I couldn’t bear the thought that there was no god.

  • Adicus Ryan Garton

    “Adicus,” I’d say to myself. “First, time travel is possible and real, and dinosaurs are just as awesome as you’ve always imagined them to be. Second, come on, you’ve known this was all bollocks since you were eight years old. Put the Bible down–you’re never gonna get past Exodus anyway.” #MyReligiousPast

  • SeekerLancer

    Man, I’m glad Youtube didn’t exist when I was 16.

    • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

      Or twitter or facebook. There’s no telling what would be out there that I’d constantly have to apologize for!

  • steve finnell


    Faith Defined: Belief that is not based on proof.

    Atheists have faith that there is no God.

    Atheists have faith that the theory of evolution is true. There is no scientific evidence to support the theory of evolution.

    Atheists have faith that there is no heaven and no hell.

    Atheists have faith that men evolved from green pond scum. There is no proof that that occurred.

    Atheist have faith in the Big Bang Theory and that it produced life. In order for atheist to believe in the Big Bang Theory they have to first have faith that someone created something to crash together. Atheist do have faith. There is no proof in The Big Bang Theory.

    Atheist have faith that when they die, they will cease to exist. There is no proof of that.

    Atheist have faith that if they reject God and His Son Jesus Christ that there will be no consequences for there unbelief. They have no proof of that.

    Atheist have faith that there is no book of life.

    Revelation 20:14-15 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not fund written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.


    Matthew 25:31-46 ….These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”


    YOU ARE INVITED TO FOLLOW MY CHRISTIAN BLOG. Gogle search>>>>>>steve finnell a christian view

    • SeekerLancer

      Nice spam.

      • David McNerney

        It’s not really spam.

        I get spam – and while I’m reading it quite often I think to myself that maybe there is something to this. This is because the spammer understands his target market, and the message will generally contain a certain element of truth that even an intelligent person will recognize.

        None of that applies in this case – he failed miserably on the 2nd line and then it went downhill from there.

    • cipher


      Do you really want to base where you will spend it by banking on Christianity? What if Islam turns out to be the one true religion? You’ll be up the creek then!

      • David Kopp

        Heck… I’m just sad at all the time and lives wasted in the name of religion on this earth.

        • cipher

          Oh David, you know what? Fuck them, really. They make life so unbearable for the rest of us.

    • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

      Dear Sir,

      Can you please type louder. I am old and can not see as well. I feel that if you just typed a little louder, next time Pascal will win his little wager, unlike the last 4,329,123,345,923 times.

      Also as an atheist, I don’t have that much faith in the Big Bang Theory. Sure if it is on the television and there is nothing else on, I’ll watch it just for the background noise.

      As an aside note, when does a lake of fire turn into a ocean of fire? I assume since there are going to be billions of us burning, I am just afraid that there won’t be room for me. I mean it is one thing to be burning in the lake of fire, and quite another to be burning standing on the shoulders of a person who is standing on the shoulders of a person who is burning in the lake of fire.

      Someone who only follows things that are going places.

      • The Other Weirdo

        No, no. It’s all revealed in the Secret History of the Timelords. The lake of fire is bigger on the inside than the outside. The 10th Doctor would’ve made a great God. He truly enjoyed dishing out fates worth than death.

        • 3lemenope

          You joke about that, and then you see “Family of Blood”. Yech.

          • The Other Weirdo

            There’s a lesson in that episode: don’t try to eat the soul of a pissed-off and lonely Time Lord without first understand what it is that you are up again.

            • 3lemenope

              That’s certainly what I got out of it.

              I find it incidentally funny that not one but two actors from that episode ended up having regular roles on Game of Thrones.

    • Gus Snarp

      Faith Defined: Belief that is not based on proof evidence

      FTFY. And with that, your entire screed is shown to be based on a false premise and evaporates with a puff of logic.

      Oh, and no one thinks the Big Bang created life. There was no life for billions of years after the Big Bang. The life we know of didn’t exist until 10 billion years after the Big Bang.

      Cosmologists: do we have a better word, since Big Bang was never a good one and has gotten worse as the theory has been refined? I want to stop saying Big Bang.

      • C.L. Honeycutt

        Trust me, it could be far worse. I was once involved in a long discussion that degenerated into a competition to create parody superheroes with sex-themed costumes and names.

        Big Banger will forever occupy a lesion in my brain.

      • Michael W Busch

        The current standard cosmological model is called Lambda-CDM : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lambda-CDM_model

    • The Other Weirdo

      Can I have more biblical verses, please? My ears hunger for the words of the Lord, but I am not quite convinced yet that Jesus is my Lord and Savior.

    • Makoto

      Hmm.. deliberate distortions or intentional misunderstandings of science, check. Quotes from own holy work, check. ALL CAPS, check.

      That’s it, I suddenly believe again! You’ve hit the trinity I needed!

      Thank you, your screed somehow broke through my years of questioning why any one faith had any more evidence for itself than any of the others. It explained why your faith must be the true faith, despite so many others out there saying that *their* faith is the one true faith, and *you’re* the one that will be burning in eternal torment.

      It explained away the biblical inconsistencies. The issues about how its stories were so obviously based on still older stories. How Noah could build his ark in any reasonable timeframe, much less get it to float without breaking, much less fit all the animals on there – all resolved.

      I’ve now rejoined abiogenesis, evolution, and cosmology, thanks to you, and discarded them as making less sense than an all-powerful, all-seeing, all-knowing creator deity that has always existed poofing everything else into being.

      All those silly rules about blended cloth, not eating shellfish, and stoning adulterers and stuff like cursing fig trees – perfectly reasonable now.

      Oh, wait. None of that stuff. Sorry.

      If your god exists, I need a bit more proof than a holy book (there are lots) and a feeling in your heart (again, lots of believers of other religions have those same feelings).

      Try looking up actual experimental evidence of evolution. It’s out there, and it’s really nifty! I promise, some evolutionary biologists even manage to not lose their faith even while understanding evolution, so you might be like them, too.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

      Is Gogle a new search engine?

      • Taneli Huuskonen

        No, Gogle is a serch engin.

      • allein

        I searched for “gogle” on Google and it asked if I meant “Google” and gave me a bunch of links related to Google. I think “gogle” is a real thing and the people at Google are engaged in a conspiracy to suppress it.

        Even Wikipedia is in on it. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gogle
        …misspelling of “goggles,” indeed!

    • Tobias2772

      I’m afraid that you have not given me one good reason to follow your blog. We’ve heard all of this tired, nonsensical bullshit before. And I would suggest that you stop following this blog before your little fantasy world cracks apart and leaves you with only the wonderous reality.

    • cary_w

      Dear Steve,
      Please take the advice of young Daniel in the video. Question everything, listen to the people who criticize you, open your mind to new ideas, take some classes on evolutionary biology, then come back in 5 or 6 years and re-post this with your own explanation of what complete idiot you used to be. In the meantime, please refrain from posting comments that have absolutely nothing to do with the blog post they’re attached to.
      Thank you,

    • katiehippie

      I think we should send him the t-shirt.

      • C.L. Honeycutt

        Only if he promises to feed and walk it and play with it every day.

        I wonder if he’d destroy it if we ironed a painting of Jesus and some Bible verses on the back.

    • Michael W Busch

      Wrong. Atheists do not have faith in any of those things.

      You need to learn about two things: 1. the null hypothesis and 2. the burden of proof. The null hypothesis says that when you have no evidence in support of a claim about the universe, you should assume that the claim is not true. This is because there are far more possible false claims than true ones, and so an unsupported claim is almost certainly false. The burden of proof says that when you are making a claim, you need to demonstrate that it is a better explanation of the evidence than the null hypothesis.

      e.g. you assert “there is a god”. Without evidence, that is dismissed as almost certainly false. Hence, atheism – “there is almost certainly no god”.

      You assert “there is heaven and hell”. Without evidence, that gets dismissed as almost certainly false.

      You assert “there is existence after death”. There is no proof of that either, so away it goes.

      You assert “there is a god that will punish you if you don’t believe in him”. But without any evidence for any god’s existence, that gets dismissed too.

      And no, the Bible is not evidence for a god’s existence. It is evidence that a large number of people have for the last twenty-five hundred years asserted the existence a particular god. But that is not at all the same thing.

      Tradition dictates that I refer you to Bertrand Russel at this time: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russel%27s_teapot

      There is no scientific evidence to support the theory of evolution.

      You are a liar. The evidence for evolution is overwhelming. Go learn some biology: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolution .

      Also: no one says humans “evolved from green pond scum”.

      We came from apes, who came from earlier primates, who came from an earlier group of tree-dwelling mammals, who came from still earlier mammals, who came from a group called the therapsida, who came from a group called the synapsids, who came from a group called the basal amniotes that lived about 340 million years ago. That group tracks back through the tetrapods to a subset of fish-like animals called the teleostomi, to the first jawed vertebrates. The earliest vertebrates evolved about 525 million years ago, from earlier populations of chordates (approximately animals with spinal cords), from still earlier animals called bilateria that were the first to have left-right symmetry and a digestive tract running from a mouth to an anus. And those track back to the earliest multicellular animals, who track back to single-celled organisms. Wikipedia does into far more detail than I have here, and its sources even more so.

      No where along that whole long lineage, which is reconstructed based on abundant genetic, anatomical, and fossil evidence, did our ancestors have chlorophyll in themselves.

      There is no proof in The Big Bang Theory.

      You are continuing to lie. The entire visible universe supports the big bang theory. Scientific debate is currently focused on understanding parts-per-hundred-or-per-thousand refinements to the model. Go learn some astronomy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_bang .

      And speaking as a professional astronomer, I find your lack of knowledge about the universe quite disappointing.

    • RobMcCune

      Atheists have faith that men evolved from green pond scum. There is no proof that that occurred.

      Nonsense, humans never had chloroplasts.

    • baal

      I learned something from finnell’s comment. Gogle.com redirects to google.com.

      • Pepe

        I applaud your bravery, for having tried out what ‘gogle.com’ could’ve brought up.

        • baal

          I’m generally fearless (foolish).

    • Edmond

      Atheists have faith that you will not be back to discuss your wrong-headed claims.

    • Michaela Samuels

      Woah, you convinced me! My lack of evidence to disprove your historically inaccurate (wait, that is proven) and scientifically unfounded religion (unfortunately, the god card doesn’t work in that study) is ample persuasion I need!

      Also, nice Biblical reference to a mythological god. How Hades was thrown into the fiery pit when he is most certainly mythological is beyond me; but I dare not question this, or else I will fall into the previously mentioned trap of the inability to disprove a single damn thing.

  • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

    Question everything.

    • Peter Mountain

      This wins. I would tell my former religious self that even though the process is lonely, tumultuous, and lengthy ~question everything.

    • The Other Weirdo

      Including the requirement to question everything? :)

      • Elizabeth

        I question your question of the requirement to question everything.

        • The Other Weirdo

          I think we are now trapped on some weird Mobius strip of rebuttals.

          • C.L. Honeycutt

            That sounds kind of hot. Should it?

            • baal

              It should and does.

              The usual term though is ‘infinite regress’.

    • Tainda

      Exactly this.

      I have also told my daughter this since the day she was born. She is struggling with her SO now because he accepts everything lol I got into a discussion with him one day because he was babbling on about some conspiracy theory someone told him at work. I said “That’s complete BS. You need to learn how to look up stuff before believing it” He said “Oh, I didn’t know. Thanks” I said “You shouldn’t believe me either! See what I did there?” lol

    • Michael W Busch

      But also learn to properly evaluate evidence, and accept that which is truly reliable. Then probabilistic reasoning will keep you out of The Other Weirdo’s recursion trap.

      • The Other Weirdo

        It doesn’t take long for a stack overflow to occur, however, and then the system will crash, catch fire, accidentally launch every nuclear missile at Jamaica and release a computer virus that will mock the Pope. Because that’s how computer systems fail.

  • GCBill

    Not sure I’d tell myself anything tbqh. I’ve always striven to follow the evidence where it leads. That policy; in conjunction with psychology, philosophy of mind, and cognitive science; was enough for me to eventually reject both substance and hylemorphic dualism. And save for belief in a physical resurrection, that left no room for me in Christianity. In other words, everything sorted itself out as I examined the world and myself.

  • Gus Snarp

    Things worked out all right. Not sure I would tell myself much of anything. I certainly wouldn’t have listened to me anyway. Maybe I would give my teenage self a lecture on homophobia.

  • viaten

    I can’t help but think of the lime helmet cat (google it). But great video though.

  • M. Elaine

    “You’d make a really shitty nun. Snap out of it.”

    • The Other Weirdo

      Don’t tell me. You were a nun with the runs?

      (Hangs head in shame and slinks out)

      • M. Elaine

        Haaahaha, argh. :x

  • lovesalot

    I’d say, “Im sorry you were born into a soup of such ignorance. It’ll get better.”

  • billdavis

    Think man, just think! #MyReligiousPast

  • viaten

    A wonderful apology for teenage minded apologetics. I love his term “biblically sound” like it’s on par with “logically sound”. It’s amazing how a teenage mind when it can first start to handle complex interconnected abstract concepts can think it’s got something “all figured out”.

  • Dawn Cadwell


    All the religious rules have been made by man. So it is not worth two suicide attempts and wasted money in the psyche ward

  • jainhimank9
  • http://fractalheretic.blogspot.com/ Fractal Heretic

    #MyReligiousPast “Those doubts you keep having are not the Devil’s lies, they’re your own damn thoughts trying to make sense of everything.”

    • 3lemenope

      That would make a good t-shirt or bumper sticker.

  • cary_w

    Hey Daniel,
    Don’t be so hard on yourself for the bad hair! Having been a teenager in the 80′s, I can assure you that many of us had MUCH worse hair as teenagers! It’s just a teen thing that we all grow out of it eventually!

    Congratulations on education yourself and seeing the light. I love the idea of going back and criticizing your former less-enlightened self. It’s so much more respectful and classy than beating down some other poor deluded teenager who really thinks he knows everything. I think it would be great to see more of you youngsters who grew up on YouTube doing this kind of thing. And finally, congrats on leaning how to shoot a video with proper lighting!

    • Tainda

      I NEVER comment on someone’s hairstyle because I also was a child of the 80′s lol Ironing the bangs and buying bulk Aquanet was just a part of my day :D

  • Art_Vandelay

    “Hey Little Vandelay…you ever consider the possibility that this is all bullshit?” .

    There was nothing about me that would ever make anyone identify me as a Catholic. I never thought about it or talked about it. As a result, nobody ever once provided me with one argument against my position. That’s all it would have taken and I would have gotten there by myself in no time.

  • Mitch

    Young Mitch,

    There is so much more to the world than what you see in your tiny suburban corner. Don’t run away from the difficult questions you ask yourself, because the answers, while tough, will give you much more than they take away.


  • paper_flowers

    The problem is that I never would have been able to say anything to my former religious self, because I wouldn’t have listened. I was so sure I had all the answers, and was convinced that the world could have nothing to say to me that I would need to hear. It’s sad, because when I watch old videos of me in denim skirts and cotton jumpers, I can see the unhappiness and confusion behind her eyes, but there is nothing I can say to comfort her. There are no windows to the outside through which she would dare look, no doors through which she would set foot, and no life belt to which she would cling, because ultimately, she needed to suffer before she could see the light, and she needed to sink before she could swim. #MyReligiousPast

  • Buckley

    As Shakespeare wrote: “To Thine Own Self be True”. My real freedom came when I left the world of mythology behind, the real shame is that I could have had this freedom much sooner and when I was much younger. #MyReligiousPast

  • JA

    What I would say: “Keep asking the questions and dig deeper. Ignore those who dismiss or threaten you, they genuinely hold no power over you.”

    *I started questioning when I was 8 or 9.

  • viaten

    To my former religious self: “Don’t let religion freak you out. God is understanding, not a stickler.” It probably would have allowed my skepticism and doubts to express themselves a lot sooner rather than my worrying about every little thought being monitored by a stickler God. I wouldn’t push my former self to atheism which my former self would probably have dismissed but to a much more liberal theology which would have lead to atheism more quickly.

    • The Other Weirdo

      Citation needed for “God is understanding, not a stickler.”

      • viaten

        There is no good citation except for the “nice” God verses in the Bible which I eventually latched on to. I finally allowed myself to put aside the “harsh” God of the Bible. I felt much less bothered when thinking about how people could doubt God’s existence and thinking about my own lurking doubts. But being able to do this earlier would have been better. This would have helped me the most since I worried what God thought of my thoughts. After that it was just a matter of time.

  • Gringa123

    You never go to church, you haven’t read the bible, and you can’t even remember the words to the prayers they say at Mass – how can you say that you are a Catholic? #MyReligiousPast

  • baal

    I’d tell my younger self the secret that got me out of going to confirmation classes for a 2 go round. Start telling the other kids about secular humanism. They’ll see it’s more moral and easier to grok than the RCC’s views. And the RCC, will pressure your parents to keep you out of their classes.

  • b s

    “Dude, you’re smarter than that”

    Followed by a dope slap.

    Followed by a list of the past 20 superbowl winners.


    • Michael W Busch

      Followed by a list of the past 20 superbowl winners.

      Finally, someone mentions one of the numerous possible exploits. But I’m afraid you would be disappointed: changing the past like that would change most of those winners.

      Better strategy: Send back schematics for a bunch of now-current technology. That and various information to be given to other people I have known would be far more important for me to say to my past self than any insights to accelerate my recognizing and accepting the lack of evidence for any religious belief.

      • b s

        I really wanted to put in a Back to the Future II reference in there, but didn’t know any good ones.

        How exactly would my knowledge of who would win a game change the outcome? If all I did was go to vegas and place a bet, that would have no influence on the game or the players themselves.

        • 3lemenope

          Generally it would have a negligible effect on that game. However, it would alter the probabilities that the bookies making their book would lay out, which would change betting behavior. Some of those who bet are (very illegally) the players, coaches, and other insiders who now have a pecuniary motive to alter their behavior to hit the altered spread. Different strategies employed generally means different levels of success, all other things being equal, and so your bet may indeed inadvertently affect the game (and all other games being bet upon, since the book is traditionally calculated to be payout neutral across all games).

        • Michael W Busch

          It’s the butterfly effect. History is chaotic. You act a bit differently, and that propagates through the system, causing successively larger perturbations (until you reach the bounds of the allowed chaotic behavior). And there are plenty of random events that would happen differently in a changed history, too. If we were to run the universe back 26 years, then start it going again, I would not exist – my brother would, but he’d have had a different sibling.

          Another example: If someone had spilled a particular cup of coffee in Los Angeles during 1996, Barack Obama might not currently be president of the United States. The causality chain goes like this: Jeri Ryan was cast for Seven-of-Nine on Star Trek: Voyager at that time. She was then married to Illinois politician Jack Ryan. They eventually divorced, in part due to the relationship stresses of being based in Los Angeles and Chicago respectively. Certain unflattering things about Jack Ryan in the divorce proceedings lead to his withdrawing from the Senate race in 2004 – where his opponent was Barack Obama. Obama might still have won the race had that not happened, but it would not have been such a high-profile landslide. The lesson: very small changes in history can have very large effects.

          • b s

            “It’s the butterfly effect. History is chaotic.”

            Considering time travel has yet to happen (that we’re aware of), this is highly speculative.

            When I was in school, I had a particularly long commute. If I left 10 minutes late, I was late for class, but I got out of class at the same time as if I had left 10 minutes early. Everything else that follows either way is the same.

            I’m not disagreeing that changing certain events would completely change history (Kill Hitler – no WW2? Maybe. Alexander the Great had beef instead of fish – robot apocalypse? Maybe not.) but to say history IS chaotic assumes that you have somehow changed the past and studied the effects. It could possibly be that I am simply one of 7 billion people and almost nothing I do has a significant effect on the course of mankind.

            • Michael W Busch

              Time travel is impossible. But the evidence from physics, biology, archeology, and human history is that things are chaotic.

              There are bounds to that chaos, setting limits on what can and on what is likely to happen in the future. But within those bounds, arbitrarily small changes can and do have large and unpredictable effects. e.g. one particular cosmic ray interaction goes differently, and my friend does not get fatal cancer (of course, if an earlier cosmic ray interaction had gone differently, a similar cancer would have developed sooner …).

              • b s

                “human history is that things are chaotic”

                I’ll definitely agree to that, but to say history itself is chaotic doesn’t make sense (events in history are chaotic maybe?). Last I checked, history hasn’t changed, unless of course it has and our perception is such that we don’t realize that it has changed.

                Currently time travel is impossible, I don’t know exactly what physics says about it other than it may not be completely ruled out. We have no way of knowing if we could change history or even if we could, would things go completely chaotic or somehow be self correcting. Saying if X had happened, Y would be different seems like tautology to me. Until we can travel in time, this is all speculation.

                Either way, I’d still like to think I’d make tons of money betting on the superbowl.

                • Michael W Busch

                  to say history itself is chaotic doesn’t make sense (events in history are chaotic maybe?).

                  I was using that as a shorthand for “the universe is a boundedly-chaotic system”.

                  Either way, I’d still like to think I’d make tons of money betting on the superbowl.

                  Given the impossibility that is time travel, a better strategy would be this:

                  Figure out which lotteries select the numbers before the drawing, look up the winning numbers, and then tell them to your past self after they were selected but while you can still buy the tickets. Then you win all of those lotteries. Far higher return than making a single superbowl bet; unless your past self can get a very large loan to finance that bet.

                • b s

                  Now that’s a much better idea. I did like the technologies one too, although that would be a bit dicey. Some things may be more a matter of proper marketing, having capital and resources, etc. Just because I know how to build an iPod doesn’t mean I could end up with the same business results.

            • http://v1car.wordpress.com/ The Vicar

              Ah, but if you were late to class, it put small but significant amounts of stress on you, which then not only slightly altered your health but also changed how you interacted with other people for the rest of the day. Maybe you had a bad mood and were short with someone, who then went and yelled at someone else, setting off a chain of events which led, eventually, to (for example) an argument between the parents of what would have been the person who invented the energy-generation system which saved humanity from global warming, but as a result was never born.

              Just because the changes would be minor, it doesn’t mean they aren’t there.

              On the other hand, we have the CPR symmetry problem: CPR symmetry (true as far as we know, unless there has been another breakthrough) requires that the laws of physics work the same way when time is reversed, provided that the Charge, Parity, and Rotation of all particles is reversed as well. Although there are some (fairly rare) situations where this leads to significant changes in behavior, by and large it means that the past and future have precisely as much uncertainty as each other. If the past is truly as set in stone as our memories (and artifacts) suggest, then the future is likewise fairly deterministic. If, on the other hand, the future is truly chaotic, then necessarily we have no reliable guide to even the fairly recent past.

              Scary stuff.

              • Michael W Busch

                You mean CPT symmetry – Charge, Parity, Time. It remains unbroken. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CPT_symmetry

                But that doesn’t say that “the past and future have precisely as much uncertainty as each other”. Time has a direction due to statistical mechanics and the second law of thermodynamics. As long as the universe is not at maximal entropy, there is a meaningful distinction between past and future. That distinction breaks down only in an equilibrium system, which the universe as a whole is not.

              • b s

                “setting off a chain of events which…saved humanity from global warming, but as a result was never born.”
                Or my being on time could have caused the same thing while being late could have led to their birth.
                Or my being late could have prevented the birth of the guy who would cause WW3.
                Fact is, this is all a big “what if” without any way of knowing what actually would occur following the “if.” Our lives only happen once, there is no redo.

            • Agrajag

              Clearly -some- parts of history are chaotic, in the mathemathical sense that *tiny* changes to the starting-conditions cause dramatically different end-results.

              I agree it’s not experimentally proven (and can’t be!) that history is chaotic, but it seems likely. Would we live in pretty much the same, or a completely different world today if the first atomic bombs had been made by Germany, and not by USA ? Would it take a tiny or a huge chance in circumstances for any of the worlds greatest leaders or thinkers to never have been born in the first place ? For any of them, just something as trivial as a -different- sperm reaching the egg first would’ve changed a quarter of their DNA, sufficient change to make them a different person with a different career ? Perhaps not always, but plausibly, often enough.

          • 3lemenope

            I always love the Jeri Ryan-Barack Obama chain-of-causation anecdote. Usually I like to take it all the way back to Lucille Ball (Ryan->Voyager->Star Trek->Desilu Studios->Lucille Ball), so that I Love Lucy is ultimately responsible for Barack Obama being elected president in 2008.

            • Michael W Busch

              You go back that far and many many things are responsible for many many other things. The ultimate limit is the light cone: within a time interval t, you can’t impact things more than t*c away.

              • 3lemenope

                Well usually when I tell the story of the chain-of-causation, I’m making a point about shared causes, or multiple-cause events, so that becomes part of the point. We happen to be able to trace that strand of Why-Barack-Obama-Was-Elected-President-In-2008 as far back as we can because there are conveniently famous and thus well-attested loci of action along the way, but there are of course innumerable others similarly situated but out of our reach because of their relative obscurity. So the most we can say is “but-for-this” perhaps this particular strand might be broken and if we have a high degree of confidence in its essential nature to the overall chain perhaps a different result might have obtained.

              • b s

                If we’re going to go back in time, might as well invent instantaneous teleportation too, that way we can impact the entire universe.

  • Lori

    “Save your energy for something more useful. No matter how hard you try, the story you were told is never going to hold together. You are never going to be able to please the family by being like them. Just go ahead and let it go now and save yourself a lot of wasted time and effort.”

  • C.L. Honeycutt

    …so your vice principal and school librarian conspired with other teachers and librarians to remove every book from the shelves that you ever checked out at school, at the public library, or from the community college after they caught you reading texts on non-Christian religions.

    First off, those books should have made it plain that everyone is just making stuff up. Stop fantasizing because you need a way to escape all this.

    Second, that’s a violation of your civil rights. Get in their faces. You can have the anxiety attacks later. Oh sorry… what you’re having are called anxiety attacks. They’re not something you have to keep quiet about and put up with just because people want to put those who talk about mental health into a box marked Dismissable Because Crazy. And you can delay them if you get your dander up, and save the throwing up for when you get home.

    Third, you’re not doing anything wrong. You’re reading personal material after zipping through classroom exercises, and this is how they react to that. They aren’t in charge anymore. They probably never were in charge if it concerns them so much to see other kids asking you what you’re reading that they actually steal your books from you. You’re in seventh grade and they’re scared of you, of you knowing things they don’t. That’s why they want to drag you down.

    And if books scare them, then they don’t actually know very much.


    • Michaela Samuels

      Is it just me, or do most formerly religious people deal with undiagnosed anxiety attacks? I sure as hell did (and I still experience them). The fear instilled in us for questioning is hella overwhelming.

      • 3lemenope

        It’s not just you, and it isn’t just the formerly religious, either. I remember an incident from my freshman year of college, my roommate and a friend and I were watching the movie The Devil’s Advocate, the one with Al Pacino, and while I the lifetime atheist and my roommate the vaguely Christian-flavored agnostic were having a good time, the friend (a rather more serious Christian) actually had to stop watching the movie midstream and go outside to pray to convince himself that it really was OK to watch the film. (We paused it for him.)

        In the end he did watch the rest of the movie, but he was very clearly anxious and flustered about just the possibility of having transgressed somehow for watching a slightly risque religiously themed flick.

        • Michaela Samuels

          And that is what living under the notion that sin is always just around the corner can do to you.

  • Michaela Samuels

    Aw, he is really harsh on himself! I think his 16 year old self actually exemplifies a rather positive aspect of this kid, despite his Galatians shit. He was clearly intelligently seeking answers and eventually got it figured out. Not many people agree with their 16 year old selves, anyway.

    Oh, the things I’d tell myself, though…

    I’d probably start with this:

    Do not feel shame for questioning; in fact, feel encouraged to continue seeking sound answers for those questions. Do not compartmentalize your life in response for a lack of answers to those questions. Don’t take the hubris of the spiritual leaders as an indicator of their sound logic. And certainly do not expect yourself to have the right ideas without ever acknowledging the opposing arguments.

    The close second comment for my old self would be an encouragement:

    You are whole. You are beautiful. You are fully capable. You are smart. There is absolutely nothing wrong with acknowledging this. You can function responsibly and effectively in your own skin. Do not convince yourself otherwise.

    • Michael W Busch

      Well said, but don’t refer to incredibly incorrect ideas as “insane”. Ideas are neither sane nor insane. They are correct or incorrect.

      • Michaela Samuels

        Good point, I will amend that!

      • Guest

        Good point! I will amend.

      • Fred

        What are you, an adjective cop?

        • Michael W Busch

          No. Just a person who is opposed to patterns of language that cause harmful stereotypes to persist in the culture. In this case: “thinking something wrong means you are insane” – it doesn’t. It means you are wrong.

          • 3lemenope

            But you’re arguing the point a bit too cramped, because there obviously is a difference between simply wrong ideas and wrong ideas that reliably indicate the underlying mental process is disordered.

            • Michael W Busch

              No. As I said in my previous comment, believing wrong things does not by itself indicate a mental disorder. The criteria for disorders are more complex than that.

          • Fred

            Saying yes uses less words.

        • Tainda

          No, just PC to the point of nausea.


      • 3lemenope

        There are ideas so incredibly wrong that to signal your earnest assent to their being true, you are signaling that you are insane. That would be an “insane” idea.

        To wit:

        “President Obama is a secret muslim.” Simply wrong.

        “President Obama is a secret muslim atheist shapeshifting lizard.” Fucking nutballs.

        • Michael W Busch

          No. By itself, someone “earnestly assenting” an idea does not indicate any mental disorder or disturbance – even an idea so outrageously wrong as “the president is a shape-shifting reptile”.

          The person may be a convincing liar. Or they may be poorly informed – be that through an individual lack of knowledge, through someone else deliberately promoting a false idea, or through a culture that promotes wrong ideas. You also have to rule out confabulation, illusion, and other inaccuracies of human perception.

          And sometimes people who assert quite improbable ideas are actually conveying something with a basis in fact. That doesn’t apply to “the president is a shape-shifting reptile”, but it did apply to Martha Mitchell. She was the wife of John Mitchell, Attorney-General under Nixon. She made public statements that there was a secret conspiracy in the White House that was illegally spying on people and covering up its activities. This was initially dismissed with “she’s clearly insane”. Then Watergate happened.

          So, again, someone asserting an incredibly wrong idea does not by itself indicate any mental disorder or disturbance. Nor does having a mental disorder or disturbance mean that someone believes wrong ideas. It is a mistake to link the two.

  • Jesse Cooper

    I would tell my religious self to shut the fuck up before he alienates the people who really care about him in favor of his phony church friends who stop calling as soon as he quits. #MyReligiousPast

  • http://CoffeeShopAtheist.com/blog Patrick


    Dude, quit running from the girls you want to kiss. It’s natural that you like their bodies. You’re a human fucking being. Act like it instead of beating yourself up over something that is no more sinful than being hungry.

    And when you kiss them and get turned on and run you’re causing more harm to them and yourself. Grow up, kid.

  • Larry Meredith

    If that were me, I’d hate myself for the Bieber haircut more than the religious nonsense.

  • http://boldquestions.wordpress.com/ Ubi Dubium

    Hey, the youth choir and youth group are fun and give you all kind of warm fuzzy feelings, but that doesn’t make any of that stuff true. You know those Carl Sagan programs on TV that you love? Well he’s right and the Sunday sermons are full of crap. Please don’t volunteer at VBS anymore, either.
    And those cute boys in the chorus and theater department that are ignoring you? There’s nothing wrong with you and it’s not your fault – they’re just gay, but hiding it because of religion, peer pressure, and because it’s 1980, for crying out loud. Relax, college will be better.

  • CultOfReason

    I was always receptive to skeptical arguments, I just never intentionally went looking for them due to a general apathy towards religious topics back then. If my past self were confronted with my future self, I suspect the deconversion would have been instantaneous rather than the more gradual evolution towards atheism that occurred.

  • grindstone

    Dear young self: you know how, in those big services, you feel like you’re being manipulated into a big emotional state, by the preaching and music and setting? Yeah, you’re right about all that. And that church in Atlanta that does the glossolalia thing that made you really suspicious? Yeah, that’s bullshit, too. In fact, your bullshit meter works really well, you should listen to…..wait…why are you going back to youth group??!

  • eric

    My advice to my former self would be quite pithy:
    “Keep asking questions. Keep thinking about things.”

  • StupidBJ

    Hey young BJ, remember that brain you have? It may not be your best friend all of the time, but it does have some good thoughts on all kinds of subjects. Don’t ignore it when it comes to God, there are no subjects free from criticism. Oh, and cheer the hell up, shave off that deadlock and maybe get a new pair of boots; duct tape doesn’t cut it. #MyReligiousPast

  • John Perkins

    Dear Me, wait. #MyReligiousPast

  • Makoto

    1) It’s okay not to believe. Lots of people have different beliefs, even within your family. A lack of belief is just fine, too. But be careful how you reveal this to others – it may not be worth the heartache with some people, while others will love you just as much, if not more because you’re being honest with yourself.

    2) Read. A lot. The more you read, the more you learn, even if it is sci-fi or fantasy. Reading religious works may be more directly applicable, but isn’t better or worse, really.

    3) Remember to lock your band locker. Someone will steal your jacket in the fall, and you’ll never get it back.


  • LizBert

    I would just tell my religious self that it will be ok. That I can be happy without god. That I will still have friends and meaningful social activities and that my family will still love me. #MyReligiousPast

  • Julia

    Dear Julia, just keep agreeing with me on this: an uncomfortable truth is better than a comforting lie. It’s not like questioning is bad, is it? And you’ve always reflected a lot on tons of things, it won’t take you much energy to add your religious beliefs to the list. Just keep doing what you’ve always done.

  • Greg G.

    I wish I could tell young Greg who was having doubts that he was finally on the right path and to hurry up.

  • David

    I would just say that the friends you have only accept you because you believe in the same deity. They all but bailed on me when I came out as an atheist.

  • Tak

    You are not crazy. You are very bright and don’t understand their answers because they don’t make sense. This is not your fault. This is not the devil tempting you. Do not be afraid to think. #myreligiouspast

  • Bruce the Moose

    Y’know that sense you get that the prayers aren’t really going anywhere? You are on to something. Don’t spend five more years trying to figure it out. You are right.

  • Heather Mims

    #MyReligiousPast The fact that you can never quite convince yourself that you’re “filled with the Holy Spirit” doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you. It just means you’re not as good at lying to yourself as the rest of them. Be grateful for that – you’ll go through a lot of hardships in the future, and being able to rely on your own strength rather than clinging to a God who you never gave me the slightest reason to believe in him in the first place is going to help you more than you can possibly imagine.

    PS – those Jesus jokes your Jewish ex-boyfriend used to tell really were pretty damn funny, even if you didn’t think so at the time.

  • Nate Frein

    The church isn’t an answer to your isolation, it’s a contributor. #MyReligiousPast

  • Mira

    Honestly, there’s only a few things I’d say.
    1. don’t be an asshole to gay people. One day you’ll realise you’re just indoctrinated, and there’s nothing wrong with it.
    2. keep questioning. You’re on the right path. You’re not being a jerk–you’re learning.
    3. stop thinking you’re worthless because of this religion! Stop thinking you’ll never be enough! You’re going to create some serious issues for yourself when you’re older, and you’re already damaging whatever little self-esteem you had.
    4. strangely enough, it DOES get better.
    5. don’t worry, when you felt guilty for wondering who “everyone” or “the majority of” was right or hyperbole. It was hyperbole and flagrant indoctrination. Good for you for not swallowing it.
    6. You’re gonna be okay.

  • Rebecca

    Former self, it’s ok to not believe. I know you’re struggling with doubt, but pushing yourself further into the religious community will just leave you feeling more alienated and depressed. You’re a fantastic person without Jesus, and you’ll be a hell of a lot happier and healthier when you quit worrying about it. #MyReligiousPast

  • badgerchild

    God doesn’t ignore you because you are beneath his contempt. God ignores you because there isn’t actually one at all. Bad things don’t happen to you because God is punishing or testing you. Bad things happen because of other reasons that you should use that good brain to look into, and not accept as your due because you are a sinful child. You can’t figure out what you did that was so wrong, because you did nothing and it wasn’t your fault.