They say that teaching critical thought can help your kids develop an immunity to religious belief. Here are two stories that illustrate that point. When you raise your kids without religion, and they come across it on their own later in life, it rarely sticks. This post is part of a series called Your Stories of Atheism. To read other stories, click here. If you want to send me your own story, email me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our first story comes from avid Patheos reader and commenter, Cozmo Magician:
I don’t know if you can call this a ‘deconversion’ story. It is more of a brief trip into and out of Christianity. More like ‘how I wasted my summer vacation’. Or ‘been there, done that, didn’t even bother buying the t-shirt’. But WTF, I’m willing to pass it on.
First off, I am a ‘nerd’. Always been one, and proud of it. As a kid, I was never picked on for not going to church (or the Right Church) because I was picked on for soooo many other reasons. Since I was a scrawny bookworm, religion never entered the picture as a cause of the bullying I faced. So I had no dislike of religion either.
In fact, I had very little exposure to religion growing up. I had a friend for a while whose family was very much into it. If I stayed over on a weekend I went to church with them because that is what they did. I read the bible in church, sang the songs etc, but I was just along to get along. None of it really made any sense and it had no impact on my life other than just waiting to GTFO and enjoy a Sunday.
Somewhere around when I was 11 or 12 years old my sister who had recently married became ‘born again’. So, of course, she just had to share Jesus with me. She told me how all of the bad things she had done like drugs and stuff had been because she didn’t have Jesus. (odd that she never specifically mentioned her bullying of ME as one of those sins…) But now that she was ‘saved’ her life was all better.
So now it was her job to get me saved too. She took me along to some big Jesus event where a preacher was talking about healing people and stuff. And then it happened. He specifically said that there was a young boy with really bad headaches, so bad that he had been hospitalized for them. Holy sh*t, this guy was talking about me! He said that Jesus wanted me to know that I would be healed today and never have to worry about those headaches again and that I should come up and be saved. Oh boy, did my sister look sooo happy when I got up and walked forward. Never even crossed my mind later that day when the preacher was talking so friendly with my sis. Even called out to her by name in a crowd. But I digress…
So here I was, totes convinced that Jeezus was personally a part of my very own life. Boy, wasn’t I just special. I had a brand new bible. And oh yeah, some little rectangle booklets of Jesus stuff. And a book or two by a guy named Hal Lindsey all about how the end times are right here, right now. Damn, did I have a lot of catching up to do. So like with anything in my life that really interested me I decided to study the crap out of it.
So after the visit with sis I’m back home. She still lived in Westchester County, while Mom, me and my brother were living in nowhereville, NY. So it was time for me to start going to church. Yup, I was sure that the 1st thing I needed was church. Now here is where the 1st problem popped up. Which church? For a little nowhere town filled with nobodies it sure had a lot of churches. I never realized how many until I decided to go. So being a smart person who had already decided on Apple ][ over TRS-80, it was time to smart shop. Off I went to ‘test drive’.
Every Sunday (more or less), I went to a different church. I know I went to some more than once. I honestly can’t remember how many exactly. I think it was around 8 different churches over maybe 3 months. It did not take very long to see that there was some serious issues here.
This wasn’t like picking one computer over another. Or deciding on a flavour of ice cream. This was more like deciding on Oatmeal vs. Poached eggs. None of em really tasted good. And yet they all said they were the only good part of Sunday breakfast.
Meanwhile, I had been reading the manual and trying to make sense of it. I’ve always been a big fan of Sci-Fi. And had read some really horrible novels along with some amazing works of pure genius. This book was so bad it made no sense at all. I mean, for a story’s sake I could set aside the fact that they had FTL spaceships, but it was going to take months for a message to the nearest planet. I could deal with aliens having come from many light years away, but they still thought that hand-to-tentacle combat was the way to fight a war. Hey, it’s just a story. But the bible went way beyond this. On the one hand, God loves us. On the other hand, he sent his son to die for us and on the other hand… FFS even the Moties would run out of fingers trying to count the contradictions.So here I was… recently ‘born again’. Giving the local churches a test run. Reading the Bible. Reading about how ‘The World Is Gonna end real soon, so better be right with gawd you horrible sinner’. And I was well on the way to kicking this crap to the curb.
And then it happened. Can you guess? I can’t say it was the last straw. But it really really had some impact.
I got a migraine. Not from all the bible and shit. Nope, just another damn migraine that hit out of nowhere. Yup, those horrible headaches that the Jesus man said were all gone. Back with a goddamned vengeance. I actually prayed for it to go away. Not the ‘please god.. make this end’ that anybody says half-assed whenever something bad happens. But the full-on belief that Jesus actually gave a crap. Please, please, please, Jesus., make this go away. I promised to pick a church and stick with it along with other craThat’shats the only thing I remember for certain. I promissed god that no matter what, I would pick a church.
A few days later it hit me. The Jesus man hadn’t said ‘God will take away your headaches if and only if such and such’. Nope, he had said they were gone. Every single church I had been to said not just that they were a ‘better brand’ but they were the only real brand. The damn instruction manual was so full of holes I could ride my 10-speed through it. And on top of that, the Jesus man had lied. Jesus hadn’t told him about my migraines. My sister had.
At that point, I decided to stop wasting time on church. There were much better ways to spend Sundays. I re-read the end-of-the-world books with a more critical eye. But, I also decided that I should finish reading the damn big book. If nothing else so that when some idjit decided to convert me I could tell them exactly why I thought their fairy tale was full of shit.
Over the years I’ve also looked at other religions, not buying them either. They all boil down to ‘this story is true because the story says its true’. The mobius strip is a wonderful thing in topology but does not belong as a way to base my reality.
TL/DR? It was obvious fact that none of my local chruches could be ‘right’. The bible itself is full of bull. And no my migraines did not get prayed away by a preacher that knew nothing about me. Thats what ended my brief excursion into Jesusland sub titled ‘How I wasted my summer vacation’.
The next and last story this week comes from Alexa:
Both of my parents were atheists, but they never really told me anything about atheism or religion, other than that I shouldn’t blindly follow what people say. I guess they wanted me to be exposed to religion on my own because at a young age they sent me to a private Anglican school. For some reason, however, I just never understood what the people there tried to teach me. I never prayed at home like they told us to, I never payed attention during mass, and when I voiced my concerns to the teachers, they just continually scolded me and gave me more and more religious reading homework. When I was 8 a preacher introduced me to the concept of hell. I panicked and tried to force myself to believe in God, because I knew I didn’t. I even prayed before I went to bed for two nights before forgetting about it. From that point on, after my failed self-conversion, I just gave up on religion, and I finally adopted the title of atheist in fourth grade. My parents told me they wanted me to make the decision on my own, and thankfully I made a good choice. Religion just never clicked for me.
I want to know if you were raised with religion or did you grow up in a secular family? Let me know in the comments.To read other stories, click here. If you want to send me your own story, email me: email@example.com.
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