50 Years of Life…

I have lived all of my adult life with mental illness. I’ve had bipolar disorder since I was a teenager, and I also live with borderline personality disorder. Though I tend to focus the most on the bipolar illness, both illnesses have caused me many problems over the course of my life.

My mental health issues actually started when I was 10 years old, but the trouble started the day I was born. I was born breech, which put my mother through hell, and it also caused brain damage that ultimately caused a very serious seizure when I was ten years old. Before that seizure happened, I was a normal, happy little guy. After the seizure, I was different. That seizure changed me and it brought my bipolar illness to the forefront. I wouldn’t have full-blown bipolar disorder until I reached my teenage years, but the course of my life was changed forever. What made things even worse is the medication I had to be on. The best anti-seizure medication available in 1976 was phenobarbital. I was on it for six years, and it caused me major behavioral problems. And, of course, that led to problems getting along with the other kids at school. Just like any school aged kid, I wanted to be liked and accepted by my peers. But unfortunately, I went about it in all the wrong ways. I was always trying to get attention because I felt so unsure of myself, but the things I did to get attention backfired. Instead of making me friends, my actions alienated me from others and I was soon one of the “weird kid” outcasts. That lasted throughout high school. I had very few friends and no romantic life at all. I had zero success with the girls, and I went through the entire four years of high school without going on a single date. The only things that made my high school years tolerable were friends like Doug who accepted me and liked me as I was and my involvement in the marching band. I played the tuba and had a lot of fun doing it. 🙂

High school was difficult, but I brought a lot of my troubles on myself. Yes, I mentally ill and we know that now, and we know that that was responsible for my behavioral issues. But at the time I was also obsessed with Star Trek. I think I must have been the world’s most die-hard Trekkie. I loved that show so much, and I wanted so badly for it to be real. I watched the show every time I could when it was on TV. I read Star Trek novels all the time. I daydreamed about being beamed up to a wonderful new life in the Star Trek universe. In my mind, the crew of the Enterprise were my best friends. I didn’t have a sense of belonging at school, but I fit right into the Star Trek universe. I was such a Trekkie that I frequently greeted my classmates with the Vulcan salute, which of course just helped to solidify my status as one of the “weird kid” outcasts. There is no question that Star Trek is one of the greatest science fiction franchises ever created, but for me it was an escape from the unpleasant reality of my high school life.

We all know how cruel kids can be. I put up with a lot of it getting through school. But there is one instance of cruelty that stands out in my memory that I will never forget. This happened over 30 years ago now, but I remember it like it was yesterday. I was so unpopular at school that I was never invited to any of the beach parties or the gatherings at Dunbar Park or any of the other fun stuff that the cool kids got to do. So, when I got a phone call from a couple of girls inviting me to a party, I was thrilled. I got directions to where this awesome party supposedly was, and drove off to find it. I wasn’t able to, so after a while I gave up and went back home. The girls called again. My mother knew that they were not serious and that they were playing a very cruel joke on me. She tried to tell me, but I wouldn’t hear it. I drove off again to try to find this party, and my mom was left at home to hurt for me while I tried to find a nonexistent party. I finally gave up and it finally dawned on me that my mother was correct. I couldn’t believe that anyone could hate me so much or that anyone could be so cruel. It was a hard life lesson that I had to learn the hard way. There are people in this world who take joy in causing others pain, and that’s as true in the teenage world of high school as it is in the adult world we all live in now…

I was severely mentally ill by the time I graduated high school, but at the time we didn’t know it. I had serious substance abuse issues while I was in school. Drinking and smoking pot were the only ways I had to deal with the symptoms of the bipolar disorder I didn’t know I had at the time. There were many nights when I was so manic and so agitated that the only way I could sleep was to drink. I would either wait until my mother went to bed and then hit the liquor cabinet as quietly as I could, or I would sneak out of the house and drive to a couple of convenience stores nearby that I knew would sell me beer. I drank until my mind was calmed down enough that I could sleep. Other times I was so depressed that I cried myself to sleep. Sometimes my mother would hear, and she would do her best to comfort me. We didn’t know what was wrong with me at the time that was causing me so much pain. I didn’t know that the real reason I was in so much pain was that I was mentally ill. So I always managed to find some external reason for why I was crying myself to sleep. Usually that involved a fear of my mother’s death, though at the time she was in her early 40’s and she was healthy. She always assured me that if something did happen to her that she had lived a good life and that I would be okay.

After high school, my struggles continued. I went to the local community college, but because I was so ill and I had such serious substance abuse issues, I never did very well in my classes. But one class I did enjoy was Drama, though the truth is that I had basically zero acting talent. But Mr. Kinney found a small role for me to play in “Candide”, and I remember really enjoying it. I made several friends in that class, including Mike. He was a devout Christian, and he frequently tried to share his faith with me. I had been raised United Methodist and while I was in high school I had some good religious conversations with my Baptist neighbors, but by the time I was in college I had lost all interest in religion. I didn’t want to hear it. But Mike was persistent and he showed me a lot of kindness over the course of the months we were together in drama class, so he finally got me out to his car one day to read some Bible verses. As I was reading Hebrews 4:12, I felt something stir inside of me, and I thought “maybe there is something to this Jesus shit”. 🙂 I prayed to receive Jesus as my Savior in Mike’s car that day. Needless to say, he was thrilled, and not long after that I found myself in Brazoria attending a free showing of the “Jesus Film” that was being put on by the local Baptist church. I was 19 years old, and I didn’t realize at the time that my emotions were being skilfully manipulated by religious propaganda. By the time that movie was over, I was deeply moved, and I knew that I wanted what this Jesus had to offer. Even though I had prayed to receive Christ days before with Mike, I prayed again just to be sure. I wanted to KNOW that I was saved! 🙂 And so began my Christian religious journey, which lasted for 15 years. I threw myself into my new-found faith with all of the energy and enthusiasm that a 19-year old could muster. I quit drinking and I quit using drugs, and with Mike’s help and guidance I was rapidly transformed from a troubled teenage party animal into a very religious Christian fundamentalist. I was so dedicated to my new faith that I ditched the awesome 80’s Rock that was usually blasting from my stereo for much mellower religious music. I discovered Sandi Patti, Twila Paris, Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, and especially Keith Green. I loved Keith’s music, and I loved his total commitment to his faith. I wanted so badly to see him in concert, and when Mike informed me that Keith had died in a plane crash in 1982, I was devastated.

My mother arranged for me to go to East Texas Baptist University, and I arrived there for the Fall semester of 1985. I was so excited and I was so looking forward to attending school with fellow Christians. But as devout as my faith was at the time, I did have doubts that I was struggling with. When I went to this school, I was expecting a very religious, church-like atmosphere. What I found instead was a college full of average young people who happened to be nominally religious. I had a great time at that school. I made friends, and I enjoyed participating in the clown ministry and attending Christian concerts across the border in Louisiana. I saw many of the Christian stars of the time, including Mylon LeFevre & Broken Heart. I loved their music, and after one of their concerts, I went backstage for prayer. While I was back there, I got to meet Mylon and shake his hand! I said something like, “That was fun!”, and he said, “Yeah, it was!” I got to meet one of my Christian Rock idols, briefly though it was, and it was awesome! 🙂

My initial experience at ETBU was good, but my grades were suffering, which I now know was because I was struggling so much with mental illness. I often look back at those days and wonder why I had such a hard time succeeding. All I had to do was make good grades! I had plenty of spending money coming from my father, and I didn’t have to work. All that was required of me was to make good grades, and I couldn’t even manage that. But it’s because I was so mentally ill at the time, though none of us knew it back then. By the time the Spring semester of 1986 came around, I was in trouble again. My bipolar illness had raised its ugly head, and I started drinking and using drugs again. And I was also smoking cigarettes. All of this at a Christian school! Needless to say, when the school authorities found out, they were not happy. I attended school through the first summer semester of 1986, but after that I found myself suspended for poor academic performance.

I came back home to Lake Jackson, and my mother arranged for me to get treatment for substance abuse at the Alpha Center, which was located at the hospital. It was an inpatient facility, and I was there for a while. I stayed for at least a month. I did well and when I was ready to come home, my mother was very grateful to them for “giving me my son back”. But thanks to the mental illness that hadn’t been diagnosed yet, I didn’t stay sober long. My friend Doug and I went to see Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, which was in theaters at the time. It was my 21st birthday, and after the movie we got plastered drunk. 🙂

In 1987, I moved to Houston, and so began a lifetime of working low-wage, dead-end jobs and trying to survive. And so began 15 years of swinging between periods of devout religious belief when I was manic and periods of severe substance abuse when I was depressed. When I was depressed, I would come home after work and drink until I passed out. When I was manic and religious, I would come home after work and engage in prayer and worship, always pursuing the next religious high. Either way, I realize now, I was just trying to feel good. And something as basic as just feeling good, which so many people just take for granted, is so difficult for those of us who are mentally ill to achieve. We spend our lives fighting for what others just take for granted…

I have always wanted to be famous and I have always wanted to be popular. I know that I’m never going to experience fame the way Hollywood movie stars do, for example. But I spent years wishing that I could get my life together and be successful. When I was religious, I dreamed of being a famous evangelist or a famous worship leader. I loved Charismatic-style praise and worship music, and I wanted so badly to be a worship leader so that I too could record worship music for the Lord. I craved that fame and that recognition. I wanted to be a famous evangelist so that I could win many people to Christ and enjoy having others look up to me for that. When people like Jesse Duplantis visited our church, I wished to be just like him. I wanted to have a similar dynamic and miraculous faith in God, and I wanted to be just as talented and funny as he was. When I went to see Christian artists such as Michael W. Smith and Mylon LeFevre & Broken Heart, I was wishing that it could be me up on that stage enjoying all of that fame and recognition. But it never was to be. I’m just me, and my life isn’t like theirs. While they enjoy success and the adoration of millions of fans, I am a totally unknown guy struggling with mental illness. I happen to have a good singing voice too. I’m just as capable of belting out Christian Rock music as Mylon or Michael. But I had to settle for singing solos at church.

By early 2000, doubts and questions about my faith had built up to the point that I could no longer ignore them or write them off as tricks of the devil. So, I got on the Net as it was back then and went looking for answers. I discovered sites such as www.infidels.org and www.rejectionofpascalswager.net. I spent hours daily reading and thinking and learning. I finally realized that the beliefs I had cherished for 15 years of my life actually had no basis in reality. And I realized that the Bible was deeply flawed in many ways, and that it was not and could not be the “Word of God”. Over a period of months, I lost my faith and I eventually lost my belief in God. I made the journey from devout Christian belief to atheism. And at the time I was extremely angry that I had devoted 15 years of my younger life to a pack of ancient religious myths and lies, and I was devastated to realize that God didn’t actually exist and that the Heaven I had so looked forward to for so many years was just an ancient myth.

In 2002, I chose to make the anger and the rage I was feeling public. I started religionisbullshit.com, and started putting my thoughts online. I believed that the truth about the Bible and the Christian religion needed to be told, and I was determined to do it. My friend Dave soon suggested that I turn my site into a blog. Those were new at the time, and soon after I did that I started enjoying success. Many of my posts back in those days were filled with anger and rage that I think was justified. But even so, I built a significant audience, and my site was active and lots of fun to do. I got so much email from Christians that my responses became a regular part of the content of the site. I loved hearing from Christians and I loved publicly responding to them. I was very good at it, and it was fun to watch my atheist/ex-Christian readers respond to what I had written. But, the way I did my site was not without issues. While I did use my site to vent my emotions, I also used it to belittle and ridicule Christians. I frequently characterized them as the dumbest people on Earth — slack-jawed, knuckle-dragging morons who didn’t possess two functioning brain cells to rub together. I was so angry that I was okay with doing that for a while, but eventually I started to feel really bad about it. I knew that the way I was portraying Christian believers on my site was not right, and I also knew that I was a better person than that. But, instead of choosing to change the way I was representing Christians, I chose to abandon my site altogether. In August of 2004, I shut down my very popular “Religion is Bullshit” website and tried to move on with my life. But it wasn’t long before I was missing it, so I decided to go back online with another similar site. I bought a new domain name and put another site online. I honestly expected to just pick up where I had left off, and I expected to have another large and responsive audience of readers within a short period of time. It didn’t take long for harsh reality to hit! My new site did not enjoy anything close to the popularity of my original site, and nothing I did to try to regain that popularity worked. I chose to remain online, but I was constantly frustrated with how dead the various sites I tried to do were, and I complained about it to anyone who would listen. I still have a site online at www.alaskanatheist.me, and if I may say so myself, I think it’s a great site. I’ve put up a lot of writing that I think is very good and very insightful. But… most of the time the crickets chirp. I simply cannot compete with the much better known atheist bloggers who are online now. So, though it’s 12 years in the past now and in terms of the Internet it is ancient history, I have to live with the fact that I destroyed the one thing I ever did that brought me some measure of fame and recognition. I had a very popular site, and a lot of people loved me respected me, and looked forward to whatever I was going to have to say next. I so wish now that I had just made some changes to my site so that it was something I could be proud of instead of taking the drastic step of taking it down and destroying it.

I have a friend named Kate who is a much more talented writer than I am. She is a fellow ex-Christian, and I have to admit that I envy the online success she is currently enjoying. She is a successful blogger, and she also co-hosts a skeptical podcast. In addition to that, she has authored some religion-based fiction that I think is very good. She and others seem to find success online so effortlessly. I have to wonder why it hasn’t ever happened again for me, despite my best efforts to put something of value out there…

I have considered giving YouTube a shot, but I suck at making videos, and for some reason the videos I have made in the past have never gotten very many views. I think I pissed YouTube off some years ago, and I think they are purposefully suppressing my videos. I have no proof of that at all, but I think it makes sense…

I have been on Facebook since 2009, but I am giving some thought to leaving it behind for a while. The only thing keeping me there now is the fact that it is the only way I have to stay in touch with many people that I really care about. But I do have major frustrations there. Almost everything I post either gets only a few “likes” or comments, or most often, it gets totally ignored. This is true regardless of what I post. Nobody enjoys being ignored, so I’m thinking of moving on to other sites where my thoughts are more welcomed and appreciated. I also find it very frustrating that my Christian friends refuse to engage with me on the subject of religion. It’s true that I used to post angry rants and I have no doubt that I alienated many of my religious friends doing that, but these days I’m much more interested in productive conversations. But it doesn’t matter how nice I am, my posts on religion routinely get ignored, and I’ve grown very tired of that. It is so frustrating to feel so passionate about something and to have your efforts to communicate and discuss go totally ignored!

Well, I suppose this post is getting long enough. 🙂 I’m sure some of my views and my frustrations and my wishes for fame and recognition reflect the mental health issues I struggle with every day. Nothing I can do about that. But I do hope that this post has given you some insight into my life and some understanding of what I have gone through in the past and what I am going through now here in the present. It’s true that I do crave some measure of fame and recognition, but even more important than that is the fact that I always have and I always will want to make a difference in the lives of others. I want to leave this world a better place than I found it. Thanks for reading all of this and thanks for your friendship. 🙂

The Journey from Christianity to Atheism

I have tried a number of times over the years to explain to people who have never walked the path from Christian –> ex-Christian –> Atheist what that journey is like and what it means to me and to others like me. It is not an easy path to travel at all. The journey from devout Christian religious belief back to the real world is one filled with doubts and questions and a great deal of strong emotion. As I explained it to my high school band director a couple of years ago or so:

My journey from devout religious belief to atheism has been a long and interesting one. I spent 15 years as a very devout fundamentalist Christian. I was the type who annoyed everybody. I wrote evangelistic letters to my family. I tried to convert my friends and co-workers. I handed out those ridiculous Chick tracts to convenience store clerks and toll booth operators. I was at church every time the doors opened, including early morning prayer meetings. I forced my beliefs on everybody all the time and though I meant well, I made a huge nuisance of myself. Despite all of that religious activity and belief, I still had questions that that seemed to have no good answers from my pastors or from the Christian apologists I read. Those questions finally built up to the point where I could no longer ignore them or write them off as coming from the devil.

In early 2000, I got on the Net as it existed back then and started researching my faith on both sides of the fence. I was absolutely stunned to find that the religious skeptics had far better answers than I had encountered from Christian apologists and I was also very surprised to see how easily they ripped my once cherished beliefs to shreds, not through ridicule but with facts. I started reading the skeptical side at www.infidels.org and went from there.

After I got over the shock of having my Christian worldview ripped out from under me, I became very very ANGRY! The fact that I was also very mentally ill at the time with not well controlled bipolar disorder didn’t help matters any. I felt foolish, used, and betrayed when I realized I had been intentionally lied to for 15 years and I had bought into it hook, line, and sinker.

Having doubts and questions about religious beliefs is normal if you are a reasonably intelligent thinking person, but in fundamentalist religion, doubting and questioning is strongly discouraged. Just pray about it and have more faith, we are told, and God will take care of it. Sounds nice, except for the fact that it isn’t true. For Christians who want answers to their questions, a whole industry of apologetics has come into being over the past few decades. For some Christians, the answers given by Christian apologists may be enough to keep them in the faith. For others like me, the answers were not satisfying. They did not resolve my doubts or my questions, so inevitably, I went looking elsewhere and found good answers that made sense to me from the place that I least expected it at the time — from the skeptical side of the fence.

I can’t speak for everyone who has made the journey from devout Christian belief to Atheism. But I can share my own personal story and what my journey was like.

I was raised United Methodist until I was ten years old. At that time, I asked my parents if I could stop attending church because I didn’t believe what they were teaching. Since we attended church mostly for social reasons anyway, they agreed. For reasons that I cannot recall now, I was back at that church when I was in my early teens for the Confirmation process. I didn’t think much about religion after that until we moved across town and I got into some interesting religious conversations with my new fundamentalist Christian neighbors. I was a teenager at the time, and Bob and Roxanne were nice people. I discussed religion with them a lot and even attended church with them at least once, but at the time religion just didn’t “take” with me. I became a typical teenage party animal and was totally turned off by religion. A few years later when I was in college, I met a guy named Mike who was a devout Christian. He shared his faith with me and I gradually became more receptive to it. Mike finally got me out to his car to read some Bible verses, and when we read Hebrews 4:12 I felt something stir inside of me, and I thought maybe there really was something to this “Jesus” stuff. Shortly after that, I went to a public showing of the Jesus Film put on by a local Baptist church. I was extremely moved by the movie, and I knew by the time that film was over that I wanted what this Jesus had to offer, and I became a Christian on March 7, 1985. My transformation from a typical teenage party animal to a devout fundamentalist Christian was rapid and dramatic. I stopped drinking and using drugs and threw myself totally and enthusiastically into my new-found faith. I made friends with the music director at the local Baptist church, and I hung out a lot with my friend Mike. We engaged in a whole lot of religious activity and talked about how wonderful and awesome Jesus was all the time. Mike introduced me tho the popular Christian music of the time, and I fell in love with Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith and particularly with Keith Green. I loved Keith Green’s music and his strong and uncompromising approach to the Christian faith. I wanted to see him in concert badly, and when Mike informed me that he was dead (plane crash in 1982), I was devastated. Shortly after my conversion, my mother bought me a nice Bible and she arranged for me to attend East Texas Baptist University in Marshall, TX. I arrived there expecting a church-like atmosphere and students who were just as devout as I was. What I found was indeed a religious school, but my fellow students, for the most part, were just typical young adults who happened to have religious beliefs. That was, I suppose, the beginning of my disillusionment and questioning. While I was at ETBU, I began to have serious doubts about my faith. I can remember a friend of mine there using his wallet as an evangelism tool. He tried to assure me that Christianity was for real and that once I was saved that was a done deal that I could never lose.

We did not know it at that time, but I had bipolar disorder that was not diagnosed and so was untreated. What began at ETBU was a cycle of swings between devout religious belief and periods of doubt and unbelief featuring severe substance abuse that I would be trapped in for 15 years of my life. I had a great time at ETBU while I was religious. I was able to put my doubts and questions aside enough that I could keep the faith, at least for a while. I had a great time traveling across the border to Louisiana for Christian concerts featuring the stars of the time. I particularly remember seeing a band called Cruse 2 and Mylon LeFevre and Broken Heart. Mylon’s music was awesome and I loved the sincerity with which he delivered his message. I jammed for Jesus to their music for years! Back home near Houston, TX I went with my friend Mike to see Michael W. Smith and Mylon LeFevre and Broken Heart. I had some really fun times in my younger Christian days! Here’s just a sample of his music from back in those days. I still love the music, though I no longer believe the message.

I had my first bout of doubt and unbelief while I was at ETBU and I started drinking and using drugs again — at a Christian school! Needless to say, they were not happy with me, and they kicked me out after the first summer semester of 1986. If I remember correctly, it was officially an academic suspension because I was not doing well in my classes.

Back home in the Brazosport area of Texas, I soon found a really fun church — Church on the Rock in Brazoria, TX. It was located several miles out of town on Hwy 521. It was a very fun place as churches go. I made friends with the pastor and other leaders of the church, and loved the Charismatic-style praise and worship services, and for a while I participated in the praise and worship choir. I sang solos frequently, and when I could manage to drag my young body out of bed early enough, I attended the 6:00 am prayer meetings. At that time, I was engaging in a great deal of religious activity. I prayed a lot, I worshiped for hours daily, I read my Bible frequently, and I told everyone who would listen about Jesus. I also frequently handed out those Chick tracts, which I thought were an awesome evangelism tool at the time. But even with all of that religious activity, doubts were creeping in. I suppose I could never see the connection between my cherished religious beliefs and the real world, and I know now of course, that that is because there is no connection between religious belief and the real world. I never read anything in the Bible that made me question my beliefs because at that time I had not been exposed to much of the Old Testament, other than scripture that was supposed to be about Jesus. I remember at one early morning prayer meeting, I was so filled with doubt and unbelief that my friend Mike had to pray me through to belief again so that I could enjoy the rest of the prayer meeting. I guess I found it hard to believe in God at 6:00 am in the morning. 🙂 There was also a time during one particular praise and worship service that I was so filled with doubts about the reality of it all that I couldn’t enjoy the service, but everybody else was experiencing a “powerful move of God”, as if we were getting a small taste of what Heaven would be like. Everyone else was awed by how awesome God was, but I felt nothing. I remember testifying later in that service about how I had missed out on the blessing of the awesome worship service, but that God had blessed me anyway. I don’t remember now how I thought God had blessed me or what I said, though. That church was fun. We had slogans for each year such as “Storm the Gate in ’88” and “Draw the Line in ’89”. A few times, the pastor allowed me to spend the night at the church. I played Christian music through their awesome sound system and prayed and worshiped and sought God all night long. At the time, it was an awesome experience, and I was grateful that the pastor trusted me enough to leave me alone in his church all night.

By the time the early 1990’s rolled around, I was working for my mother at her travel agency in Lake Jackson, TX and I had found a new church that I also enjoyed — Brazosport Christian Center. I made friends with the pastor there too, and I sang solos there as well, though not as frequently as I had at Church on the Rock. I made many good friends at both churches, and we all had a great time hanging out together. In 1992, I had the opportunity to perform one of my favorite songs at the time, Dallas Holm’s “Rise Again” at the Brazosport College Follies. I still have the video of that performance:

The next several years I was still a believer, but I was not nearly as religious as I had been when I was a bit younger. But I still believed in God and I still believed that the Bible was His Word. But by early 2000, my doubts and questions had built up to the point that I could no longer write them off to tricks of the devil, and I was not getting good answers from Christian apologists. As I related earlier, I got on the Net as it existed in early 2000, and went looking for information that was critical of the Bible and the Christian religion. I honestly was not expecting to find much. After all, the Bible was the inerrant, infallible Word of God, so what could really be said against it that was valid? I stumbled across http://www.infidels.org and I quickly began to get an education. I found my cherished Christian religious beliefs brought into serious question and basically debunked not with ridicule or derision but with solid evidence and facts. I soon also discovered http://www.rejectionofpascalswager.net and my education continued. The author of that site unemotionally but thoroughly debunked the Bible and showed it for what it really is — a collection of ancient religious mythology, most of which was written anonymously. I became aware for the first time that Adam and Eve were not real historical people but rather they were part of an ancient creation myth that makes no sense to modern minds when taken literally. I learned that the first eleven chapters of Genesis are pure mythology. I was exposed to parts of the Old Testament that I had never laid eyes on before, and I learned that on numerous occasions that God had either ordered or directly committed mass murder and genocide. I began to learn that the character of the God of the Bible is not loving as I had been taught. I learned about failed prophecy in the Bible, and that was a shocker at the time because I had been told that fulfilled prophecy was a proof that God had inspired the Bible and that Jesus was the Messiah. I learned many things that brought the beliefs that I had held as Christian into very serious doubt. When I looked into what Jews had to say about Jesus, I was shocked again at how easily they proved from their own scriptures and religious beliefs and traditions that Jesus was not their long-awaited Messiah. I learned also that the two contradictory creation myths found in the book of Genesis have no scientific basis, that the Noah’s Ark story was borrowed from the much earlier Epic of Gilgamesh, the Exodus event never happened, that the events depicted in the Tower of Babel story is not how different languages came into being, and much more. I learned about the hundreds of meaningful contradictions contained in the Bible, which are graphically illustrated here. I learned about the atrocities in the Bible and also about the absurdities in the Bible, many of which I now find hilarious. For example, the book of Leviticus makes the claim that insects have four legs (Leviticus 11:20) and Psalms makes the claim that snails melt (Psalm 58:8). The Bible also clearly teaches a flat earth (see Isaiah 40:22 and Daniel 4:11 and Matthew 4:8), and the first chapter of the book of Genesis depicts a solid dome firmament (Genesis 1:7) with the stars stuck in it covering our flat world, which is supported by pillars (I Sam. 2:8).

While I was discovering all of these things and processing this new knowledge, I had some strong emotions to deal with. I became very, very angry that I had been sold a pack of ancient myths and lies for 15 years of my life and that I had mistook them for Divine Truth. I was rapidly losing my belief in God and I was realizing that Jesus was not and could not have been God in the flesh. He did not rise from the dead and he was not alive forevermore in heaven. Losing religious faith is a very painful and very emotional process. I didn’t just wake up and decide one day that I no longer believed in God and that I was no longer a Christian. It was a process that took months, and once I was no longer a believer, processing the anger and rage and betrayal that I felt for having years of my younger life stolen from me by a cult took several years to process, and it was not helped by the fact that I was dealing with serious mental illness at the time. It took a lot of research and a lot of time and a lot of thought for me to make the journey from devout Christian religious belief to atheism and the real world.

Leaving the Christian faith and becoming an ex-Christian does not automatically mean becoming an atheist, though that’s what it meant for me. Many former Christians find other faiths that they are happy with. I no longer find the Bible believable as the “word” of a God and my beliefs about Jesus have changed from “He was and is God in the flesh” to the much more realistic and mainstream among serious Bible scholars “he was an ancient Jewish apocalyptic preacher” who was the historical person behind the myths we find about him in the Bible.

There are five stages of grief that are generally recognized as valid, and I had to go through every single one of them as a part of losing my religious faith. I wrote about it recently on the http://www.ex-christian.net forums and I’ll re-post it here for your consideration. I apologize for the overlap and repeat of some of what I have already had to say.

The first stage of loss/grief is Denial and Isolation. I can’t really say I was in denial for very long about there being serious problems with my faith, but when I first started looking for information that was critical of the Bible, I honestly didn’t expect to find much! After all, the Bible was the Word of God, so what could unbelievers really have to say about it that would mean anything? I seriously roll my eyes now that I was once so uneducated and so naive, but I guess we all have to start somewhere. I believed that the Bible was the “inerrant, infallible Word of God” for many years because I was told that it was by people that I trusted at the time to tell me the truth. I had never actually read the vast majority of the Bible for myself, but the inerrancy of scripture was a major doctrine and for a long time I accepted it with little, if any, questioning. I was even quite impressed at the time with apologists such as Grant Jeffrey, whom I thought did a glorious job of defending the Bible as God’s Word. Anyway, when I came across sites such as www.infidels.org and www.rejectionofpascalswager.net I was shocked to discover how easily the Bible and my once-cherished Christian beliefs were ripped to shreds, and it was done not through ridicule, but with good evidence, the latest biblical scholarship, and verifiable facts. I can’t say that I was in much denial about what I was discovering because what I was discovering about the Bible I was also discovering that Christians couldn’t logically or rationally or factually refute, but I did isolate myself a lot. I spent hours on the internet with my glorious 56k modem connection, reading and researching and learning everything I could that was true and factual about the Bible and the Christian religion.

The second stage of loss/grief is Anger. After I got over the initial shock of discovering that the Bible was absolutely not inerrant or infallible, that it contained many ancient myths, and that it was definitely not authored by God, I became very, very ANGRY. All I could feel for quite a while when I thought about religion was ANGER and BLISTERING RAGE!!! Back around 2002, I put my first “Religion is Bullshit” website online, and with webmaster Dave’s glorious suggestion to turn it into a blog (those were new at the time), it ended up becoming quite popular. I ran that site until August of 2004, and much of what I posted reflected the DEEP RAGE that I felt for being lied to, brainwashed, indoctrinated, and severely psychologically damaged for 15 years of my life. I was ANGRY that I had wasted so many of my younger years trying to please a nonexistent god who never gave me any feedback, and that I had wasted so much time and emotional energy worrying about sin and worrying about whether I was really saved or not, and about my family and friends going to hell. And, once I realized the morally reprehensible nature of the concept of Hell, I was shocked with myself that I had ever bought in to such a demented and evil concept as being for real and that I had thought my loving God would send anyone there, much less my family and friends, all of whom were and are good people. The flip side of my anger about Hell was anger and deep disappointment that Heaven was not for real. I was so mentally ill at the time and I was so looking forward to that wonderful place where God would wipe away all of my suffering and tears, and I would live forever with Him in eternal joy, happiness, and total bliss. And then… I realized that it was all just an ancient myth. That realization was extremely difficult to accept, and I stayed angry about it for a long time. And, of course, letting go of belief in God was extremely difficult too. I was very ANGRY that God was not actually real and that I had spent so many years of my life loving and worshiping a nonexistent being. Then, once I became aware of the many atrocities in the Old Testament that portray God repeatedly ordering or directly committing mass murder and genocide, I was ANGRY that I had been taught that God was Love, and that I had believed it so strongly for so long. There is no way now that I can accept the God of the Bible as loving, given what I know about the Old Testament, and even how he is portrayed in the New Testament. In Acts 5, God murders two people simply for lying to him about their finances, and if the book of Revelation were to come true in our modern world, billions of non-Christian people would die horribly and then be sent to an eternal hell to be tormented endlessly without any hope of reprieve, forever. This is a loving God? I don’t think so… And what about Jesus? I trusted him as my loving Lord and Savior for years! I never once thought about the fact that it was him who introduced the morally reprehensible concept of Hell to scripture, and I never once heard in church about how Jesus said we had to literally hate our families to truly be his disciples (Luke 14:26), and I certainly never heard that he ordered those who refused to follow him to be killed in front of him (Luke 19:27). And what about hacking off body parts that cause you to sin (Matthew 5)? Sure, I read that many times, but with my Jesus Goggles firmly in place, and I never gave it much, if any, critical thought.

The third stage of loss/grief is Bargaining. I can’t really say that I did a lot of bargaining, but I did still desperately want God to real and for Jesus to really be real and Alive in Heaven forevermore. I am sure that I did some bargaining in the form of prayer, asking God to prove Himself to me in a way that would be undeniable. Of course, he never did…

The fourth stage of loss/grief is Depression. I did indeed experience a great deal of depression when I realized that the Bible was mostly ancient myth and legend, that there is no God and that the God depicted within the pages of the Bible was not good or loving, and that there was no heaven wonderful beyond description waiting for me after I died. Depression and anger, at least for me, were two sides of the same coin, and I spent years flipping between them. Some of that, of course, was due to my bipolar illness, but a lot of it was a normal part of working through the loss of my God and my once-cherished religious beliefs.

The fifth and final stage of loss/grief is Acceptance. This is largely where I am now, and I bless the Lard mightily for it! Glory! When I write about religion here or on my glorious website or on Facebook, I do still often write with great passion and emotion, and sometimes I take trips back to the Anger phase of loss/grief, but I always end up coming back pretty quickly to Acceptance once I had done my writing and had my say. I have come to accept the fact that there very likely is no God and that there very likely is no afterlife waiting for us after we die. We just simply cease to exist, in all likelihood, and I am at peace with that probable reality now. Knowing that life is incredible and amazing and fun — but TEMPORARY — has given me reason to wring every last bit of happiness and joy and fun out of it that I can in the HERE and NOW! It has given me reason to show my loved ones how much I care about them NOW! I enjoy my life IMMENSELY with no religious or spiritual beliefs and no reference to God. It took me many years to work through the stages of loss/grief to finally arrive at Acceptance. I stayed ANGRY for years. But now, I am completely and gloriously FREE of religion! I am absolutely FREE of all religious fears! I am free to be ME and to enjoy the one life I have on this earth FULLY, with nothing held back and with no worries about pissing Jesus off or angering his father (who is also somehow magically Him). I don’t have much money and right now I am just beginning to work on building my health coaching career, but I am HAPPY, and I feel extremely grateful to webmaster Dave for creating this glorious site (his blog and these glorious forums), and I feel extremely grateful to have so many online friends here who share the bond of having left religious belief behind in favor of the REAL WORLD and who love me and accept me exactly as I am!

I am not really that angry about the years that I spent as a Christian believer now. Yes, I wish that things could have been different, but I think we all have some regrets in life once we have lived long enough. I am quite happy now as an ex-Christian atheist, and I firmly believe that the best approach to life is facing the real world exactly as it is — as brutal as that can be at times — instead of hiding from it through religious belief. Even the hardest blows in life, such as the deaths of loved ones — should be faced head on. There very likely is no afterlife waiting on us after we die. When people die, they really die and are gone forever. That’s why it is so important to spend as much time as we can with those we love and to grab every moment of life where we are here to enjoy it!

I apologize if this post has seemed rambling and somewhat disjointed. That’s a natural result of trying to cover thirty years of life and changing beliefs and thought and research in one post that is reasonable in length. But I hope I have conveyed at least to some extent what it is like to travel the road from Christianity –> ex-Christian –> Atheist, and to some extent why I am no longer a Christian believer..

For those who may be interested, I wrote a book in 2013 on my experiences with religion and bipolar disorder. I am happy to make it freely available to my readers.

Bipolar Religiosity – Bipolar Disorder and My Religious Experience

I hope this post has been helpful to those who have not been in our shoes to make the journey from Christianity to Atheism. It can be hard to understand the life experiences of people who have lived through things that you have never had to experience. Trying to explain mental illness is difficult to relate to someone who has never had experience with it. In the same way, explaining the journey from religious belief to the lack of it can be difficult to relate, but I hope I have succeeded here at least to some degree.

I am extremely happy now and I enjoy life immensely with no reference to God or to any religious or spiritual beliefs whatsoever. I find the real world exactly as it really is interesting, exciting, and enthralling. Life is amazing and fun and very enjoyable indeed, but it is not permanent. It is a very precious thing because it is temporary and impermanent. Enjoy this life while you have it. There is no good evidence that there is another one waiting for us on the other side of the grave.