There has been a lot of dialogue on the “I perceive you are very religious” post with Michael the Little Boot, who does not believe in God. In the course of it, I asked him about his life, his experiences with religion that he alludes to, and how he became an atheist. He gave, in effect, what evangelicals call his “testimony.” So that you didn’t miss it in the comment section, I thought I’d post it here. (It’s long, so I’ll continue it under “comments.”) I was struck with how closely it tracks with evangelical testimonies, only, of course, to the opposite effect.
This has many lessons for those of us who are Christians. Notice the role of the CHURCH in producing atheists. Michael grew up with a Christianity that was harsh and life denying, whose message was law, law, law. The gospel was even turned into law, and Christ was not manifested in a pervading climate of grace, mercy, and forgiveness. (Some Lutheran churches, despite their theology, create this same impression.) The church then mistreated Michael in some unspecified (though not sexual) way. Being anti-intellectual, his church apparently did nothing in the way of apologetics or even in explaining the faith in any kind of sophisticated way, so that even a lightweight Michener novel was enough to kick out all of the intellectual supports of Michael’s Christianity. Whereupon he then went to another atheist-maker, liberal Christianity, to a Christian liberal arts school that introduced him to the higher critical approach to the Bible and to the notion that all the world’s religions are essentially the same, whereupon he chucked the whole thing.
My parents come from different religious backgrounds. My mother was raised Catholic, my father was raised Jewish. They later rejected both and began to float around. By the time I was born they were into Scientology. Thankfully, they gave that up, as they are not rich and could not keep up with the endless “requests” for money. After I was born we ran into a number of bad-luck issues (sister was born with spinal meningitis and almost died, father had his thumb cut off in a plumbing accident, etc.). My mother decided things were bad enough that we should start attending the local Baptist church with our neighbor. Father wasn’t down, but later relented to save his marriage (although now he considers himself born-again).
Don’t know what type of Baptist church it was (I wasn’t that savvy at the age of four); but here I was introduced to really uplifting ideas that make a child feel safe. Some of those are 1) eternal hell, full of fire and brimstone and this really scary dude called Satan; 2) that I am a wretch, and the closest I come to “righteousness” is the equivalent of a filthy sock; 3) that I have free will to choose whatever I want to do, although there is only one choice which will make me truly happy (which begs the question “How is that really a choice?”), even if I don’t “feel” happy when I make that choice; 4) original sin, or “Why I am responsible for a choice made millennia ago by people I will never meet (on Earth, anyway)”; 5) that the things my body tells me to do – other than eating, sleeping, or using the restroom – are bad, dirty activities, and really come from Satan as a result of The Fall…
[Click the “comments” to read the rest.]