To start off strong, I feel like my first post should reflect over my past & share what has led me to where I am today. I’m from a small town in Arkansas, roughly 10K population; AR is a part of the Bible belt as well, so my upbringing was in a largely right-wing conservative state. From the time I was 5 years old I was attending church & “saved” – my morning routine with Mom would be to wait for the bus & practice scripture memorization for 30 mins each morning. By 8, I was state Bible Drill champion in my denomination, which was Free-Will Baptist at the time. My father was highly involved in studying the Bible & debating other denomination of Christians so I had this evangelical push just by observing father, let alone the push from both of my parents in regards to evangelism. I remember discovering an evolutionary book in the school’s library in 1st or 2nd grade, taking it home, and having dad go over arguments with me as to why science is wrong, and how the Bible is right – even though the man was completely unaware gravity exists outside of Earth *ha* – this was also the case in 8th grade Earth Science when I took to arguing my teacher against the “billions” of years that science proclaims vs the thousands of years that I was taught. I was a complete hindrance to education at that point. As I grew older I became increasingly frustrated by my peers, and their lack of intelligent theological engagement; as Paul claimed to be advanced beyond his years in regards to Judaism and other elders, I too was far superior to my peers & elders in terms of knowledge by 14. I had been pulled to a Private Christian school where I was taught a narrow church history, and had chapel weekly so I literally heard a gospel message daily.
Fast forward to 16-17, and science is catching on with me; although I was awful at high school Chemistry, between Biology the year before, and Chemistry that was taking place now I was starting to have doubts about some aspects of my belief. Although at this point, I did not recognize that my faith could conform to the science without being compromised; I was raised to be anti-science by ignorant parents who couldn’t quote a single scientific fact. So by 16 & a half the first step towards being an atheist was reached – I conceded the young earth view in favor of the OVERWHELMING scientific evidence that the earth is indeed Billions of years old. While all of this is taking place, I was active on forums online – often preaching the good news of Christ while debating evil atheists that were honestly spanking me pretty hard in conversation. This was when it became clear to me that I knew nothing. Everything I knew and could argue/defend was irrelevant outside of MY OWN understanding; I didn’t have scientific facts or research to cling to for support, I didn’t have external experts that could validate my views, and the only source I was pulling from was being cut to shreds by several atheists who clearly, even though their theology may be off, had a good understanding of Biblical errancies & real world history to compare & contrast. So I started researching the early church: I wanted to know how what my parents fed me came to be & how theology originated & then proceeded.
It is difficult to express just how unnerving the endeavor was; I had believed everything for 12 years without question & was leader in my youth group so the amount of cognitive dissonance that was going on inside me was unreal. This is a good chance to point out how awful religion is because of this process. When you join the christian cult you are praised for turning your life over from the “sick” life you were living before (even if your behaviors literally do not change) – when you start to have questions though most people scoff & scorn. Although there are certainly Christians who will attempt to help resolve any doubt with a loving, brotherly way like any Christian should behave, most Christians look at doubt from their fellow brother/sister as a hindrance to their own faith and cast them aside. The Bible places emphasis on doubt as well, casting Satan as the figure that controls it & manifests it; however, to a Christian doubt does not matter for if we are searching for Christ will he not heed the call? Does truth not set you free as John 8:32 states? – It was with these reflections of scripture (including Proverbs) that made me gather enough strength to OBJECTIVELY compare what I knew vs what was actually supportable with facts. I just knew that at the end of the day truth would be revealed regardless of the outcome. As I got deeper into origins and discovered the lack of orthodoxy for 2 centuries & the creation of the most important doctrines that are held today in the 4th century it basically broke my faith. At that point I was already piecing it together in my head as to how & why it would be pieced – learning that the KJV was actually one of the worst translations hurt my faith pretty bad. At that point nothing was black & white anymore; I knew I couldn’t call myself a Christian so I switched to agnostic. By 18 I had taken up atheism to protect others like me from having to deal with the same stress and hell that it is to not just alter your beliefs, but deconvert and take on all the negativity that goes with it.
Being an Atheist in the Bible belt isn’t easy, especially when everyone in town knows you. It took me a while to even feel comfortable saying I was an atheist; in the south you are worse than a rapist if you are atheist. To most people, morality is impossible without God, and I had been taught that my whole life as well – so now as an 18 year old I’m sitting in the viewpoint that I have heard NOTHING positive towards. My father always bashed science, and atheists in general, so being in that position I knew family dynamics were going to be hell. Luckily, my father worked away from home starting at 16 so he was 9 hours away; by the time I was 20 the tension of opposite beliefs was there. I’m not trying to be rude, but my Father is not an intellectual; he has no education beyond High School and the courses he took are equivalent to middle school now. He is extremely opinionated, and remains anti-science in his views; naturally, I despise that, and I disagree with most of what my father stands for. Maybe had I not grown up listening to everything I know to have scientific validity bashed I wouldn’t be so prone to not look past it; however, I was raised evangelical, and I am going to fulfill that – now I’m just playing for the other team. And let me tell you that it sometimes can hurt that relationship-dynamics are this way, and it is only because of religion that the dynamics are like this; it is the lack of objective thought, and lack of willingness to even contemplate conceding religious belief systems that divide our family. When I turned atheist there were several people who posted negative comments towards me and my family, daring to point out “my parents failed me” (which if I could find that person I would go OT on them) & dealt with so many negative views from the church family I had come from. Anyone care to guess how it feels watching your parents cry because they feel you are going to burn in hell, yet then not even give you the time of day to explain why you think their beliefs are misguided.
I’m 24 now. It is funny that as an atheist my theological views have switched far more than they ever did as a Christian. Why? Because I am free to objectively go through the research on a topic and come up with a conclusion based on evidence rather than a confirmation bias that is just me looking for anything & everything to corroborate my belief. One of the more important lessons I have learned that I did NOT understand as a Christian is that science DOES NOT threaten the existence of ANY deity; however, making science out to be in competition to religion is what creates the anti-scientific view. Fundamentalists are the problem actually – if you are a Fundamentalist know I most likely despise you – as they adhere to a view of the Bible that is literal and deem that it CANNOT contain errors, which is not even silly it is stupid. In order for such a thing to work you do have to make it a competition because you are rejecting anything and everything that is not contained within one book – again, stupid, given the amount of fact based science that exists today. A good example is young earth vs old earth – the only reason ANYONE would hold to young earth is because of Genesis, yet only Fundamentalists have held the Young Earth view the last 2 decades as there is so much scientific proof of an Old Earth that it is mainstream enough that the Catholic church modified its take on it – deeming Genesis to be allegory and representing the story of God’s love rather than the literal. The last few years I have spent heavy emphasis researching Judaism, and theological formation throughout it’s history going up into the 2nd century CE.
I will spend a lot of time on this blog discussing various religious topics, and also how I think religion affects family, friends, and culture – often in a far more negative light than most would ever think in. I do enjoy science though, so I will probably post quite a few new research articles and such as well. Feel free to leave a thought.