Your Stories of Atheism are heartbreaking, triumphant, angering and inspiring. They are written by you, for you in this ongoing series about how you came to identify as an atheist. If you want to send me your story, you can email me here. Please note that by doing so, you give me permission to publish it here as part of the series. If you wish to remain anonymous, please say so in your email otherwise, I will use just your first name. To read other stories, click here.
Our first and very brief story this week comes from Edward,
The combination of education and working in law enforcement seeing the horrible things humans beings do to each other, especially children. Many of those children prayed for the abuse to stop, but their imaginary friend did not protect them.
Here’s Jake with his story:
My first experience with religion came at a very young age. My mother’s parents were Mormon and my stepfather was Baptist. When I was with my maternal grandparents, we would attend the LDS Church and my mom was ever so happy to ship us off to Sunday school at the local Baptist Church on Sundays and Wednesdays when we were home, due to the fact that there was free shuttle service which basically meant free childcare for a few hours each time. Before my teenage years, I attended the Baptist Church more often than the LDS, but I did frequent both throughout most of my childhood. I actually became ensconced with the Baptist Church for quite some time. I joined their AWANA program (Approved Workmen Are Not Ashamed), which was an evangelistic Boy Scouts clone founded in the 1950’s. It was during my AWANA days that I was introduced to reading and studying biblical scripture. We were expected to participate in “bible drills” which consisted of the leaders giving us Bible verses to see who could look them up the fastest. It also consisted of us memorizing multiple Bible verses (i.e. John 3:16, Romans 3:23, Matthew 11:28, etc…). I learned a lot and became well versed in scripture due to my involvement with AWANA. I became so indoctrinated at such a young age, I actually started telling people I wanted to become a preacher.
After I turned twelve, things changed. My mother divorced my step-father, we moved from our home into HUD apartments, and my mother started clinging more to her parents which caused us to attend the LDS Church more frequently. So before long, we were visited by the LDS missionaries, who started teaching and preparing me and my brothers for baptism. At the age of thirteen, I was baptized into the Mormon Church. After my baptism, I delved head first into the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price along with the KJV Bible.
I suppose it was my transition into the LDS Church that caused me to start questioning its teachings opposed to what I learned as a Baptist. Whereas the Baptist Church taught about Jesus performing miracles within the confines of the Middle East, the Mormons believed Jesus also visited the Americas. Moreover, the Baptist Church warned us all about the fiery pits of Hell; whereas, the Mormons do not believe in a literal Hell. I believe this was the beginning of my agnosticism; even though, I didn’t realize it at the time. My questioning of God’s authority also scared me. I was always worried that if I questioned his word, I could end up burning in fire and brimstone. What was a kid to do when stuck between subscribing to the Baptists or the LDS Church?
Fast forward another year and my mother remarried again. After her new marriage, we moved three hours away from where I used to live. It was due to the relocation and lack of transportation that caused me to rarely attend the LDS Church. It seemed the longer I didn’t attend, the less I worried about going. This caused a LONG diversion from attending any services at any church. Before long, I started questioning religion and finally recognized myself to be agnostic. Although I wanted to believe and I wanted to know which religion was true, I kept running into too many occurrences of misnomers, conflicting information, and contradictions. Eventually, I gave up on it all together throughout the rest of my teenage and young adult years.I never finished high school, received my GED and quit my first attempt at tech school. So I finally just entered the workforce as a courier and drove a truck for seven years. After topping out in pay, I decided that I needed to get back into school if I was going to make more money. So I was accepted to my local state university and started taking classes. It was at that same time that I attempted getting back into the LDS Church. After hearing of Pascal’s wager, I decided that I needed to try one more time for me and my kids’ sake. I was worried that if I was wrong, I would be doing my family a great disservice.
I honestly believe it was a mixture of my college education, a major in history with a minor in sociology, and my second attempt at the LDS Church that solidified my atheism. During my second stint in the LDS Church, we did a lot more reading and studying of biblical scripture along with the Book of Mormon. As I studied more about the origins of the LDS Church in college, I had questions that no one at the church could seem to answer honestly. For example, the symbols that adorn the LDS temple in Utah are all based in Masonry. When I asked members of the church about this, they denied any affiliation with the Masonic Order even though the history books specifically show Joseph Smith and Brigham Young were Masons. It was because of their denial of history and/or their lack of education concerning their own history, that I made up my mind to detach myself and my family from the LDS Church. If they couldn’t accept what was proven within the documents to be true, then how could they convince anyone that they were the true Christian religion?
Then came the day I took a sociology course entitled “The Sociology of Religion”. This was the class that actually opened my eyes to what religion is, why it is, and how it has been used by the powers that be for millennium to control and deceive the population into whatever the popular narrative was of the day. After reading many articles and books on religions from Constantine to vaginal circumcisions in Africa, it all finally made sense. Religion was and has always been made up by the powers that be to keep the common man at bay. I was finally free. Free from guilt, free from hellfire, and free from fear. None of it was true. I discovered there was an origin to all religions and there are thousands of expired religions that many of our contemporary religions are based on. Then I discovered Sagan, Hawking, Tyson, and Dawkins among many others and the rest, as they say, is history.
Considering I am planted in the deepest part of the Bible belt in the US, my atheism is something very few outside of my inner circle know about. My reasons vary from disappointing my eighty-year-old grandmother to public scrutiny. As much as I’d love to scream my lack of belief from the rooftops, I know that it would not be in my best interest to do so. That is why I use fake accounts on social media as my sounding board. I do long for the day when atheism is the norm and to be a believer would make one a minority; although, I do expect when/if that day comes we would treat believers better than they’ve treated us.
Thanks, Jake. I agree with you. I also think we would treat believers better than they’ve treated us. I already try to practice that in my day-to-day dealings with them. I’m glad you found your way out and that you’ve experienced such relief in doing so!