We are all Born Atheists: I Just Stayed that Way Part TWO
A Curiosity Develops
There is no point in my past in which I would have considered myself “Christian”, or affiliated with any other religion for that matter; but it wasn’t until age thirteen that I actually became interested in studying the various religious traditions in the world and their effects on society at large. I had been living with my father for a couple of years and was growing accustomed to life with him and his family. When my dad was around- he wasn’t a bad father, but he was gone for weeks at a time, constantly; one of these mini-vacations ended with a phone call. After about three weeks of my father being mysteriously absent, we got a phone call from Sacramento County Jail; it was my dad. He had been arrested for breaking and entering, possession of stolen property, and possession of half of an ounce of methamphetamines. He was eventually sentenced to spend six months in the correctional facility-four of which he served before being released for good behavior. Once my dad returned from his forced vacation, he was a different man; transformed by his time in jail and the experiences he had there. Similarly to the majority of convicts and prisoners, my father was re-introduced to Christianity at his lowest point in life and, this time, he was convinced- and my dad was now a “Born-again Christian”. This meant that, instead of watching television or sleeping in on Sunday mornings, now my father would drag us to the same church that I attended as a much younger child. I was around thirteen years old and this extreme transformation of my father’s personal and spiritual beliefs caused me to think a little more deeply about the phenomenon of religion, and how it affects the personalities of people. My first question was with the location in which my dad became a convert- jail- It seemed to me, and data seems to confirm, that the percentage of religious people in jail/prison is significantly higher than the percentage of religious people outside of the state and federal correctional facilities. The hypothesis immediately arose in my young mind that the spread of religion- regardless of denomination or sect- is highly dependent upon or influenced by the desperation or hopelessness of an individual. It is because of this curiosity that I decided to accompany my family to church on Sundays- as an observer. After close to two months of attending church every week, I had a lot of unanswered questions about the religion’s history, principles, and how it has become the most followed tradition in the world. I continued to attend church with my family for a couple of months in order to gain an understanding of the traditions and the bible- but I quickly realized that the edited and carefully chosen excerpts from the bible that the pastor was reciting were not enough to satisfy my thirst for biblical knowledge.
At age thirteen, I began dating a girl whose parents were members of the Church of Latter Day Saints (Mormon Church); I was eager to accompany her to church in order to fulfill my curiosity of this strange and modern sect of Christianity. I went to that LDS church every week for an entire year and I learned a lot about the beliefs and practices of modern Mormonism- but it only made me more interested in learning about the other religions; it had something to do with the fact that human beings base their entire lives on these beliefs passed down from generation to generation- I had to know more about each tradition. It was at age fourteen that I decided to take my learning adventure to the next level by visiting a different place of worship every week, including mosques, temple/synagogues, LDS churches, Catholic Mass, Lutheran churches, and even went back to my family’s non-denominational protestant church occasionally. This wasn’t just my hobby, it was what I loved to do- and I learned a lot during this year of religious exploration; mainly that I would maintain my stance as an atheist while being explicitly interested in the study of different religions. I was- and largely maintain this position- primarily interested in the study of Christianity and its Holy Scriptures as it relates to Western Society and my culture specifically. I decided to begin reading the Holy Bible and attempting to relate the scriptures to the sermons I’ve been hearing in churches, I was surprised at the sheer volume of passages that were generally excluded from modern preaching so that the Christian population was ignorant of many of the important tenets of the original biblical teachings.