Ashamed and Embarrased

I started this blog approximately one month ago and in that time I’ve discussed Genesis chapters 1 – 11 and Job chapter 1.  I’ve read these chapters before, and in the case of Genesis, several times.  It amazes me how anyone (including my prior Christian self) can believe any of what is written in these chapters.  It’s complete nonsense!

This is the first time I’ve read these chapters as an Atheist.  About six months before becoming an atheist, while I was still a Christian, I started reading the Bible with the goal of reading it cover to cover.  Before finishing, I made a full de-conversion from Christianity to Atheism.  I’m willing to admit to anyone reading this that I am ashamed and embarrassed of myself for not dumping this B.S. earlier.

I’m not sure why it took so long.  I never thought of the stories in the Bible as literal truth.  I had enough critical thinking skills and a strong enough science background to realize that much of Genesis was false.  Yet it didn’t push me away from Christianity.  Why?  Honestly, I don’t know.   Maybe I wasn’t thinking hard enough.  Maybe I didn’t want to consider a world without a God.

If I had to give a reason, I’d probably say that the Bible and God simply didn’t mean much to me.  Yes, I prayed now and then, but only if I really needed something.  Aside from those very few times, I never thought about God or considered God in my life.  I had more important things to do than think about God and I didn’t realize the problems of religion in society.

It wasn’t until I started going to church on a regular basis that I started thinking more about God in my life.  After a few years of going to Church I made an effort to read the Bible from cover to cover.  It wasn’t the Bible itself that made me question the existence of God, but it made me think more carefully about religion and the horrible effects it has on society.  All of this together pushed me from a believer to a non-believer.

I can’t change the past, but I can’t help but feel ashamed and embarrassed that it took so long to recognize the truth.

What I’m Not

In the The Poised Atheist Begins on November 10, 2014, I discussed my reasons for starting this blog.  Now let me take a few moments to list the things that I’m not and/or the reasons I’m not writing this blog.

  1. I’m not a theist (in case that wasn’t already clear).
  1. I’m not a perfect writer. In fact, I’m far from perfect!  I’m going to make grammar mistakes despite my attempts to catch them.  If this is a problem for you, then don’t read the blog.
  1. I’m not an expert on the Bible. My goal is to work toward being an expert, but I’m far from that.  I may make mistakes or state something incorrectly.  If you catch a mistake and can state the facts with evidence, please let me know and I’ll update the blog.  It is not my intention to pass along misconceptions or untruthful “facts”.
  1. I’m not writing this blog for the readers. I’m writing this blog for me.  If others read the blog and enjoy it, fantastic.  If no one reads this blog, that’s fine too.  I really don’t care.
  1. I’m not writing in the style of Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens. I love their books, but I can’t read them without a dictionary next to me.  There’s no way I can write with the style they use.  My style is a much more down to earth level.  If you’re expecting a Dawkins from this blog, then you will be sorely disappointed.

If you can handle what I’m not, then I hope you can handle what I am.  🙂

Coming Out Atheist

Given a majority of the population of the United States associates with a religion (89.7% from a 2007 Pew Poll) and a majority of the population is Christian (78.4% from the same 2007 Pew poll), it is likely a majority of the population was raised in a Christian household.  It then follows that a majority of atheists today were raised in Christian households.  Statistically speaking, the typical atheist in the United States started out as a Christian and/or was raised in a Christian family.  The same holds true for my story.

Growing up as a child, as early as I can remember, my parents took my siblings and I to Sunday School most Sundays of the year, excluding the summer.  Sunday School was not taught at our Methodist church during the summer months.  My parents, however, never attended church.  Sunday School took place before the church service.  My parents dropped us off, went back home, and then picked us up at the end of Sunday School.  I bit out of the ordinary, I know, but that’s the way it was in my family.  The only time I consistently went to church as a child was in the 8th grade when I was required to attend to pass confirmation class.

Outside of church my family was very non-religious.  Religion was never brought up in daily discussions.  We never prayed at the dinner table.  We celebrated Christmas and Easter, but never in a religious manner.  Aside from Sunday School, church and religion were non-existent in my family.  I started working at McDonald’s as a junior in high school and soon moved to the morning weekend shift.  I stopped attending Sunday School and my parents made no comment on it.

After high school, in college (both undergraduate and graduate), I never attended church nor did I think much about religion.  It played no role whatsoever in my life.  During graduate school I met and married my wife.  We were married in her family’s home church.  If pressured, I would describe myself at the time as a believer in God, but with a deistic attitude.  To me God was someone who created the world through the process of the Big Bang and evolution, but now takes a hands-off approach to His creation.

After finishing graduate school and moving across the country, my wife and I started attending church on a semi-regular basis.  Part of our reason for attending was to find and meet new friends.  A couple of years later I started suffering from anxiety, resulting in insomnia and an overall cranky attitude toward life.  My wife and I decided together to put a greater effort in religion and place ourselves in the hands of God, so to speak.  We found a church we enjoyed and started attending on a weekly basis.  After a year we increased our giving to the point of tithing (giving 10% of our annual salary to the church).  I even spoke in front of the congregation on the importance of tithing, something that absolutely amazes me today as I look back on my life as a Christian.  It was also during this time that I officially labeled myself as a Christian.

A couple of months later the pastor of the church asked me to serve on a leadership/advisory board to the church.  I agreed and it was here that my faith in God came into question.  Through this leadership board I saw the internal politics that affect most churches and it really made me question the church.  At the time I didn’t question the existence of God, but I began to question the value of organized religion.  This led me to books by Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, etc.  This also led me to several atheism themed podcasts.  There wasn’t any one source that caused my conversion to atheism, but by researching and critically thinking through religion, I realized there are many atheists out there and atheism isn’t a bad thing.  I concluded that it is okay to be an atheist.

I served on the leadership board at my church for 8 months.  I came out as an atheist to my wife a week before our church was set to have a huge welcome/recruiting event.  We talked for several hours that night.  There was some crying and there were more conversations after that.  My wife always suspected that I didn’t believe in God and I think that’s what made my coming out to her easier to accept.  She has always been more religious than I, but even she has had many questions.  She would not describe herself as an atheist, but she definitely does not believe in the God of the Bible.  As a couple, my wife and I have grown much stronger since my coming out.  We’ve had many conversations on religion that have lasted the entire evening.  In addition I’ve come out to my friends and family.  They are all accepting for the most part.  There are some issues with my in-laws, but nothing like the horror stories you hear about.

As for my church, I attended the big recruiting event, but immediately resigned from the leadership board and never returned.  In fact, in the last 14 months I haven’t set foot in a church.  I will still walk into a church building for a wedding/funeral/etc., but there have been no weddings or funerals since I came out as an atheist.

So there you have it.  My coming out atheist story.  It’s probably not the exciting, action packed coming out story that many atheists have, but it’s my story and it means a great deal to me.  Coming out atheist was a huge relief to me.  A weight was lifted off my shoulders.  I’m finally able to life my life to the fullest without worrying about what the church and/or God thinks.  I end by saying that although I’ve always enjoyed life, I’m now enjoying life to a level that I’ve never enjoyed before!

The Poised Atheist Begins

The Poised Atheist.  That’s me.  I first officially declared myself an atheist a little over a year ago, in September 2013.  Religion and atheism weighed greatly on my mind for many months prior to finally accepting I did not believe in a god.  Although the journey from Christian to atheist appeared very sudden to my immediate family, it was a several month process I kept to myself.  A future post on this blog will fill in the details of my coming out atheist.

Why write this blog?  Over the past year I read several atheism books, including those by Richard Dawkins, Greta Christina, Sam Harris, and Daniel Dennett.  I’ve also frequently listened to atheism podcasts, including The Atheist Experience, Dogma Debate, The Thinking Atheist, and Thank God I’m Atheist.  These all provided a much better understanding of atheism and religion throughout the United States (and the world) that I did not have prior.  I’m amazed at how little I noticed religion creeping into schools and government.  I’m ashamed that I did not see how the majority religion in the U.S., Christianity, demeans other minority religions and those with no religion.  I can’t change my past, but I can make sure my future self doesn’t make the same mistake.

So again, why write this blog?  I’ve been an atheist for 14 months, and although my understanding of religion and its influence on society is vastly increased, there is still much I need to learn.  After carefully thinking things through I decided the best course of action is to write about it.  Putting my thoughts in writing helps me better understand.  In addition, I’ve read through the Bible once (something 80% of adults cannot lay claim to) and wish to do a much deeper reading of the Bible a second time.  I believe it is important that atheists read the Bible to be aware of what it says and how Christians are using it in society.  The Bible is the most widely distributed book in the world.  I may disagree with it, but given it exists in most homes, bookstores, hotel rooms, etc., I feel it is a book we should all thoroughly investigate.  I will include my investigations of the Bible on this blog.

Why The Poised Atheist?  At first I wasn’t sure what to call myself.  I’m not ready to use my real name, but I wanted a catchy pen name that meant something.  It seemed obvious to include “Atheist” as part of the pen name, but it needed an adjective.  I eventually decided on poised.  Poised, when used as an adjective for a person, means composed, dignified, and self-assured.  There are times when I’m hardly that, but I strive to be.  It can be tough at times, but I wish to be an atheist who remains poised in difficult situations.  Maybe it’s not the best adjective.  Maybe I’ll come to regret it.  I don’t know, but I’m sticking with The Poised Atheist.

I envision this blog as a sharing of stories regarding religion and atheism as it affects my life and the lives of those around me.  It may contain discussions of religious/atheist news stories.  It may contain discussions of religion/atheism in my community.  It may contain discussions of religion/atheism topics I can’t imagine right now.  In fact, it will probably contain all of these.  One thing it will contain is a discussion of bible chapters.  As I do a deep read through of the Bible a second time, I will post my thoughts on each chapter on this blog.  I’m not saying my thoughts are right, but they’ll help me process the Bible, and hopefully others will have things to say to further my understanding.

My goal is to publish new blog posts on a consistent basis.  It bothers me when I read blogs that post 5 times one week, but wait another 3 weeks before the next post.  I tend to unsubscribe from reading these blogs and focus on those that remain consistently active.  Right now I’m aiming for a Monday, Wednesday, Friday publishing schedule.  It’s enough to keep the blog active, but not too much that I become overwhelmed.

There you have it.  An introduction to the Critically Thinking Through the Bible blog by The Poised Atheist.