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Atheists Coming Out Series – Featured Story #5 – Julia

Atheists Coming Out Series – Featured Story #5 – Julia

Each testimonial featured in Atheists Coming Out will help give insight to the large percentage of atheists who, for fear of rejection or misunderstanding, have not been open about their lack of faith. I will choose five (5) of the featured stories to be included in an upcoming book on this very topic. To submit your 1000-1,500 word de-conversion/coming out story, please send it to David@DavidGMcAfee.com with “Atheists Coming Out” in the subject line. Please feel free to share this page to ensure everyone gets the opportunity to participate.

Prior posts from Atheists Coming Out
Atheists Coming Out – New Series – “Born Atheist”
Atheists Coming Out Series – Featured Story #1 – Jason of Godless Living
Atheists Coming Out Series – Featured Story #2 – Cleta Darnell
Atheists Coming Out Series – Featured Story #3 – Hugh Kramer
Atheists Coming Out Series – Featured Story #4 – Elizabeth Rouse

 

This week’s feature is by Julia:

My parents met each other while both attending a small Bible College in Houston, Texas. My father, a New Yorker raised in a Catholic Church, had a “born again” experience while serving in the Marine Corps. Once discharged from the military, he decided to attend the small Houston bible college with the hope of becoming a missionary in Africa. My mother is from Arkansas and was raised in a Pentecostal Church. She left home at the age of 18 to attend the school. They married two years after meeting one another at the college. Needless to say, I grew up in a very religious home. I don’t recall a Sunday morning or a Wednesday evening that we weren’t in a church service or bible study. At the age of five, I accepted Jesus into my heart and was “saved.” To this day I can still remember showing them the heart that I made in Sunday School that said, “I asked Jesus into my heart today.” To my parents, following Jesus was what we lived for and was something that was never to be doubted.

At a very young age, I remember having questions about the Christian faith. One specific question I remember asking my father was, “As Christians, how do we know that we’re right?” I think I questioned this because I had neighbors and classmates that were from different denominations. I also couldn’t understand why a loving God would only reveal himself to certain people while much of the world wouldn’t know him. As a child I remember my heart aching for them. I couldn’t understand why we were so special to have the revealed truth while others didn’t.

Growing up in a very religious home and having parents that were fanatical Christians, there were many discussions of Heaven and Hell. I was taught that people who didn’t accept Jesus into their heart weren’t “saved” and would go to Hell when they died. I was also told that I could go to Hell if I didn’t ask for Jesus to forgive me of my sins on a daily basis. Unfortunately, this caused a tremendous amount of fear and guilt. While I wasn’t a perfect child, the fear of dying and going to Hell led me to be a well behaved child until my teen years. As most teens do, I went through a little rebellious stage. This is when my guilty conscience started to affect me almost daily. I had visions of what Hell looked like and how I would suffer there because I didn’t always make the right choices. This was painful for me. I don’t think I will ever understand why my parents thought that it was okay to let their children suffer in this way. I have three other siblings that also dealt with this and still believe this to this day. I am a mother of two small children and I have a baby on the way. I can’t even imagine making my precious children suffer in this way. I’m completely aware that my children will hear about God, but I’ll stand up and protect them from ever being tormented with threats of eternal damnation. My oldest son, who is at the time of writing nearly six years old, has asked many questions about God. Family members and classmates have talked to him about God. My husband and I have explained to him that we don’t believe in God, but that many people do. We’ve explained that he’ll understand this more as he grows older. He says that he doesn’t believe in God and compares Him to the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, and Santa Claus.

For the first thirty years of my life, I was a Christian and believed that Jesus was the only answer. I attended church and longed for a deep connection with God. On many occasions, I would pray and ask God to reveal himself to me. I wanted to see miracles and have personal experiences with God. While there were times I thought I may be experiencing God, I often wondered why I didn’t experience Him like others did. I wondered if I just wasn’t good enough. I later started to question if God was even real. I wanted to believe that some of the good things that happened in my life were the result of God being present, but I often wondered if giving God the credit was just what I was taught to do when something good happened, and that it really didn’t have anything to do with him at all. I wondered why everything had to be accredited to God?  These questions started to haunt me. At first it, was difficult to accept that I was questioning God’s existence. It went against everything that I was taught and left me having more fears. I dealt with these thoughts for nearly a year before I was vocal about it.

Accepting these feelings and expressing them to my husband wasn’t easy. Church had always been a part of our life. He was a former worship leader and Bible School student. At the time I started seriously doubting, we had adopted a much more liberal faith and were attending an Episcopal Church. I found myself not wanting to participate because of my doubts. When I first brought up these things to my husband, it was difficult. At that point he and I weren’t on the same page. He still believed and found it difficult to consider questioning his faith. Most Christians believe that when two people marry, they become one, and I feared that this could possibly tear us apart. He worried about what we would teach our kids. We continued to attend church and I became more vocal about it for several months. My husband started to research how the Bible was formed and, along the way, discovered that he may have questions after all. After much study, we finally came to the realization that it wasn’t crazy of us to question things. My last prayer to God was just over two years ago. I decided on that night that if I didn’t get answers and hear God’s voice, I was no longer going to live as a Christian. It goes without saying that I didn’t get answers. I’m almost 33 years old and I’m now an atheist. I’ve never felt so free. I’m free from the guilt that once tormented me. I’m free from the thoughts of Hell. I no longer believe in God. My life no longer revolves around this imaginary creator that lives in the sky. I believe that life is too precious to live in constant fear that there is a higher being that controls what happens to us when we die.

While this new outlook on life has brought me much liberation, it wasn’t without its share of pain. Coming out as an atheist had social ramifications that I underestimated. Given my family’s religious background, this didn’t sit well with them and created some tension that still exists today in some respects. I know they feel like I’m just lost and I’m afraid they’ll never understand how I feel about these things. They’ll never understand the liberation that I feel as an atheist. Our friendships also suffered and we’re still in the process of rebuilding our social lives. Living a suburban life in Texas hasn’t made it easy, but we’re trying. No matter what, I’m happy to say that my husband and I now live godless lives and enjoy what each day has to bring.

Julia

http://www.facebook.com/anatheistgirl 

 

To submit your 1000-1,500 word de-conversion/coming out story, please send it to David@DavidGMcAfee.com with “Atheists Coming Out” in the subject line. Please feel free to share this page to ensure everyone gets the opportunity to participate.

Thank God I'm an Atheist

Thank God I’m an Atheist

Atheists Coming Out Series – Featured Story #4 – Elizabeth Rouse

Atheists Coming Out Series – Featured Story #4 – Elizabeth Rouse

Each testimonial featured in Atheists Coming Out will help give insight to the large percentage of atheists who, for fear of rejection or misunderstanding, have not been open about their lack of faith. I will choose five (5) of the featured stories to be included in an upcoming book on this very topic. To submit your 1000-1,500 word de-conversion/coming out story, please send it to David@DavidGMcAfee.com with “Atheists Coming Out” in the subject line. Please feel free to share this page to ensure everyone gets the opportunity to participate.

Prior posts from Atheists Coming Out
Atheists Coming Out – New Series – “Born Atheist”
Atheists Coming Out Series – Featured Story #1 – Jason of Godless Living
Atheists Coming Out Series – Featured Story #2 – Cleta Darnell
Atheists Coming Out Series – Featured Story #3 – Hugh Kramer

 

This week’s feature is by Elizabeth Rouse:

When I was a child, there was no god in my house. We didn’t go to church or have family prayers. My mother was very young and I don’t think she had time for god. It wasn’t until I was 10 that I was introduced to the church community. My aunt’s father-in-law was the pastor of a Baptist church and suddenly became very passionate about the word of god. She starting having conversations with me that I never thought about like “Where did man come from?” and “What happens when we die?” I all of a sudden had so many questions that I needed answers for. So every Sunday she would take me to church. I made a lot of friends and became saved. As I grew older I didn’t go to church as often but that was just because I was becoming a lazy teenager not because I didn’t believe.

My first boyfriend was very religious; in fact, our first date was at a church event. Surrounding myself with Christians helped stifle my need for more answers. Being around my aunt and my boyfriend’s family made me think if these answers are good enough for them then obviously they must be true, and if I have more questions, then all I need is faith. It was at this point at the age of 14 that the cracks in my beliefs started to show.

At the start of my freshman year of high school, I had a lot of friends and seemed happy on the outside. However inside, doubt started eating away at me. The Church’s answers were becoming less and less satisfying for my growing mind. More and more questions were going unanswered. I starting doing research on my own and I found that many of the scientists I was starting to admire where atheists. Sadly, as my love for philosophy and science grew, I could feel the distance grow between me and everyone I was close with. All our conversations seemed silly and childish. After I worked up enough of a defense to support my new belief, I decided it was time to tell my friends about it. I didn’t think it would be too bad, I mean they were my friends after all. I knew there would be a lot of questions, which was more what I was preparing myself for. I was very mistaken. I was met with a lot of anger and frustration. They had no interest in what I had to say and just immediately starting to talk me out of it. When I said I didn’t want to be convinced otherwise, they wanted nothing to do with me.

Only halfway through my first year of high school, I had to start over. Being from a very religious community, it wasn’t easy. I was no longer afraid to be myself and for the first time the world made sense to me. But it took me awhile to find friends that understood that, even if they didn’t agree with it. I was the topic for a lot of prayer groups and I was well known throughout the school. I was no longer shy about my thoughts or feelings and I wanted others to know that. I was in the principal’s office a few times (once for wearing a homemade Darwin shirt, and another because I wouldn’t stand for the pledge of allegiance). I was never afraid to argue my case and I never received punishment.

I am now almost 24 years old and happily married to my high school sweetheart. We have two beautiful children and I’m hoping that my story inspires them to be them, and know that no matter what struggles you are faced with all you need to get through it is belief in yourself! Looking back, I’m proud of myself for sticking to my guns and not let anyone make me feel inferior.

To submit your 1000-1,500 word de-conversion/coming out story, please send it to David@DavidGMcAfee.com with “Atheists Coming Out” in the subject line. Please feel free to share this page to ensure everyone gets the opportunity to participate.

Mega Preacher

Mega Preacher

Atheists Coming Out Series – Featured Story #3 – Hugh Kramer – LA Atheism Examiner

Each testimonial featured in Atheists Coming Out will help give insight to the large percentage of atheists who, for fear of rejection or misunderstanding, have not been open about their lack of faith. I will choose five (5) of the featured stories to be included in an upcoming book on this very topic. To submit your 1000-1,500 word de-conversion/coming out story, please send it to David@DavidGMcAfee.com with “Atheists Coming Out” in the subject line. Please feel free to share this page to ensure everyone gets the opportunity to participate.

Prior posts from Atheists Coming Out
Atheists Coming Out – New Series – “Born Atheist”
Atheists Coming Out Series – Featured Story #1 – Jason of Godless Living
Atheists Coming Out Series – Featured Story #2 – Cleta Darnell
 

This week’s feature is by Hugh Kramer of Los Angeles:

Hugh Kramer
http://www.examiner.com/atheism-in-los-angeles/hugh-kramer
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Age: 59
 

Some people experience epiphanies; something occurs, perhaps even something ordinary and in an instant, their previous worldview shatters and they are changed forever. I envy those people for my progress to new ways of seeing the world has always been plodding and often painful. My personal transformation from theist to atheist took place over more years than many of my readers have been alive. I never intended to become an atheist and in some respects I was only dragged into atheism kicking and screaming. Experience and what Martin Luther, the father of Protestantism, called “Die verfluchte Huhre, Vernunft” (That damned whore, Reason) are what dragged me there.

I did have some small advantages though. I grew up in Los Angeles, which is not a particularly religious town and was raised in a not-particularly religious Jewish family. We took the existence of God for a given and observed a few of the major holidays but otherwise the only strongly-stressed Jewish rule we were taught was to live life as good people. By the time my parents decided I needed to learn more about Judaism in preparation for my Bar Mitzvah (the Jewish coming of age ceremony), I was too old (11 going on 12) for the transplant to take. I still believed in God and still considered myself Jewish, but I couldn’t take all the dietary and other restrictions seriously.

The next transformation didn’t take place until I got to college. There I discovered science and philosophy. Oddly enough, it wasn’t the works of greats like Hume or Locke or Nietzsche that had the biggest influence on me. It was something I read before them that made me receptive to new mental landscapes like theirs. I’m almost ashamed to admit that it was an otherwise stupid piece of nonsense called “The Crack in the Cosmic Egg” I was assigned to read in Sociology 101. It was mostly New Age woo (unscientific, non-evidence-based assertions), but the central concept, that there was more than one way to see the world (what German philosophers call “Weltanschauung“) struck me almost with the force of a revelation. I feel stupid admitting it now but the idea had just never occurred to me before. As this new thought gradually sunk in, it had the effect of opening me up to new ideas and concepts. I was still vaguely theistic, though, because I wanted to believe in a fair universe; that there was some kind of balance between good and bad or right and wrong.

That idea started teetering because of another book, Beyond Freedom and Dignity by behavioral psychologist, B F Skinner. The book argued that free will was an illusion and that belief in individual autonomy was hindering both the scientific understanding of psychology and the development of a healthier, happier society. While I found those ideas convincing at the time, what I took away from the book more permanently was an understanding that the evidence-based scientific method was probably the best tool mankind has ever developed for the accurate evaluation and acquisition of knowledge… and because it provided techniques to compensate for personal bias, I decided it could be applied to personal knowledge as well. I reexamined a lot of beliefs at this time that I had taken for granted. Some held up under scrutiny. Some didn’t. I changed my stance on the Vietnam War, for instance. More importantly, I took another look at my ideas about religion and found them wanting. There was no good evidence of a balance in the universe between what I thought good or bad. There was no good evidence of any force personally interested in it or me either. I couldn’t prove there wasn’t some kind of supernatural force behind the universe but I also couldn’t see that the claims of special knowledge of any religion had more than faith going for them either.

So I became an agnostic. I remained one for decades. It took the events of 9/11/2001 to change that. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t think religious fanatics were nuts (so nuts in fact, that I coined the word “fanutic” to describe them). It just hadn’t been brought home to me before on such a personal level how dangerous to the modern world religion could be.

And it wasn’t just Islamic fundamentalists that scared me. I began to notice how religion also provided cover for extremists in America and in my own community. I saw them attacking civil rights for women and homosexuals. I saw them trying to undermine science in the classroom and in scientific research. I saw them infiltrating the military, the judiciary and school boards; all in an effort to roll back the clock to a time when human rights were dispensed at the whim of divine autocrats (or at least their self-styled interpreters) if at all. I could not prove there were no gods, but it had been a long time since I believed in any. I called myself an agnostic, though, because I’d felt no pressing need to make any declarations about it.

Now I did.

I still can’t prove there are no gods, but I think them highly unlikely and don’t believe in any. More than that, I think the belief in such supernatural overlords is, in essence, an embrace of the irrational and dangerously skews a person’s perspective even in its milder forms. In its more virulent forms, I think it’s a malignancy that eats individual freedom and threatens the existence of a civilized world.

That’s why I became an atheist.

And an activist.

– Hugh
http://www.examiner.com/atheism-in-los-angeles/hugh-kramer
 

To submit your 1000-1,500 word de-conversion/coming out story, please send it to David@DavidGMcAfee.com with “Atheists Coming Out” in the subject line. Please feel free to share this page to ensure everyone gets the opportunity to participate.

Hugh Kramer - LA Atheism Examiner

Hugh Kramer - LA Atheism Examiner