Apology of a Former Christian


If you’re looking for a Messiah, you will eventually get one. Then, you’ll find out that you didn’t actually get a savior, but rather fell prey to a really good con. But, it’s okay; most human beings do. There really doesn’t have to be any shame for those who realize we’ve been duped, unless one starts down a path of lies about what you actually believe (including willful ignorance) – then you are nothing more than another hypocritical ‘believer’ who might more accurately be described in the metaphor of ‘sold your soul to the devil.’ Here’s the quandary for someone who is in the position I was when I could no longer reconcile my critical thinking with my deep-seated faith; My own ‘search for truth’ over the course of the first 27 years of my life had convinced me that it is unreasonable to believe in anything supernatural, but I had built my entire life around my personal relationship with our Lord & Savior, Jesus the Christ. And to acknowledge that my integrity demanded I be honest in regards to how my mind was changing about my previous decision to have faith in Christ literally could bare me the consequences of an eternity of torture in the darkness and flames of Hell for my immortal soul in a body specially prepared for never-ending, infinite, and unimaginable pain and suffering.  Rejecting god  There was plenty of contemplating and research and prayer that went into the question of whether or not I could fully acknowledge my skeptical nature and what I observed through rational means such as the scientific method, and simultaneously ‘give God the glory’ at least as the master designer and possibly observer. I thought maybe I could even hold on to some hope that God is still willing to intervene in my life and therefore I can still take comfort in His knowledge. The thing is, all my questions were leading me away from the most central belief in my life, and being honest with myself enough to question everything I believed – this was the only way I could sleep sound with clear conscience. It was never enough for me to know what I believe, but why I believe it as well. Lying to ones’ self, especially to satisfy others, is a self-destructive and unhealthy behavior in which I had to break the chain and acknowledge that the only way I could possibly have free will is if I have the option to disagree and form my own opinion. The fact is, it was at least partially my thirst for understanding/knowledge/wisdom/truth (which I believed God and His Word encouraged), which was responsible for my conviction that; when I came to the conclusion that I believe it is unreasonable to believe in the existence of god in any supernatural sense (therefore, technically, by the very definition of god, any meaningful sense), then to play along and pretend otherwise would be living a deceitful and willful self-destructive lie. I have also come to believe that anyone who insists that I play along with the ‘let’s pretend there’s a god game’ is asking me to fundamentally betray my own conscience. And, in my individual case, they are asking me to re-adopt a belief that I now see as harmful, and of which its’ enslaving cycle of non-thought took me years to escape. No thank you; been there, done that – go the t-shirt. I’m no longer interested.  As far as I’m concerned, you might as well be asking me to volunteer to be tortured and gang-raped by every member of Al Qaeda on the planet.  The more persistent the evangelizing and ‘witnessing’ are, the more concerned I am for the ‘evangelist’ who is attempting to ‘witness’ to me that they are not of sound mind. In fact, I have become somewhat intrigued by the thesis that those who evangelize the most may be the most insecure in their own beliefs and need the perceived affirmation which comes with converting others, functioning not unlike co-dependence or a strung out crack addict needing a fix to distract them from facing reality. Maybe Freud was correct that all belief in a supernatural god is a form of neurosis.

As a good libertarian, I can live and let live. I can disagree with you and am happy to peacefully proceed our separate ways. Part of a deeply held belief in individual liberty is being able to live in peace with others with whom one even has the most fundamental differences of opinion. In fact, as I think people who have a firm grasp on the philosophy of human freedom would agree, I believe in sometimes standing up for the right to be treated equally under the law for those who have unpopular minority viewpoints I find ridiculous, because that person’s right to follow their own convictions is absolute until it reaches the point where it violates the equal right of someone else – then it ceases to be a right because you don’t have a right to encroach against that same exercise of self-ownership by another person. And if I don’t defend someone else whose basic individual natural human rights are being violated, then I shouldn’t expect mine or yours to be safe from the tyranny of a majority opinion on a witch-hunt for dissidents either. Yes, the price of liberty is eternal vigilance by free individuals. Herein you find the moral code of this atheist anarcho-capitalist – the peaceful and voluntary interactions of all individual and sovereign human beings. As someone else once put it, individuals owe one another nothing but non-aggression. If we carry this axiom to its’ logical conclusions, violence is morally relegated to the realm of defense, and the cycle of mankind’s inhumanity toward fellow mankind loses much of its’ fuel.

When someone no longer waits on a messiah to save him/her, then that person is finally in a position to be empowered to take individual responsibility for what he/she does with his/her own life. If you’re waiting on a messiah, you could very well miss out on the fulfilling life your own potential may have otherwise provided. If you’re waiting on prophecies such as the second coming of Christ to save the world, then you could very well be blowing your opportunity to be a positive force for good in the world which might sometimes only come from a solid grasp on the knowledge that the responsibility for making the world a better place falls to each of us as requisite-rational individuals in the human family. This brings us to the begging question; why then, if a preacher turned atheist is willing to leave at peace the former brothers and sisters in god-fearing faith and just live and let live, does this former man of the cloth feel the need to be vocal about his DE-conversion and new-found criticisms of previously-held belief-system? That’s a good question, and I’m more than happy to answer it. It can be very complicated and worthy of much discussion considering all of the ramifications, but it’s also very simple at its’ core; individuals making choices effect one another’s freedom. This is why some of America‘s founding revolutionaries warned us about pure democracy; if the majority rules, then someone loses their inalienable rights to life and liberty when two wolves and a lamb vote on who is to be cannibalized to save the group from starvation (eating the rich is not the answer). Many of the ideals from which Americans have drawn our patriotic passions have their root in empathizing with the lamb’s right to withdraw his consent and defend himself from any wolf who claims right to the lamb’s life and limb. Hence, the lamb draws up a Bill of Rights with the hope that their adoption as the ‘constitutional’ (or highest) law of the land will be observed by the wolves and not lost on the sheep. Of course, any society and system of government is imperfect as human inventions and ever susceptible to corruption and failure. Even those who have good intentions are capable of abusing their authority and misusing their power.

It’s important to note that government at its’ very core is the threat and/or use of force. If people would voluntarily do everything while respecting each other’s rights, then there would be no reason for the resource-draining, inhumanely bureaucratic, and incompetently corrupt institution known as government (which at its’ very best, could still only be described as a necessary evil). It is only when voluntary and peaceful means of problem-solving have failed, do we need even contemplate a ‘state’ solution to anything. Unfortunately, many who never awake from their sheepish slumber, will actually surrender more and more of their individuality, sense of self, and lawful options on the altar of obedience to authority (and authority figures) and a centralized power structure which can only inevitably end up losing all sight of individuals and our best interests as it grows like the blob to be a collectivized and frankenstienian leviathan bent on its’ own self-preservation – even at the expense of the rights and freedoms of the people it was supposedly instituted to secure. Government is the manifestation of the use of force by a given collective trying to organize a uniform code of human behavior. While we may attempt to use that force only for good, it’s the natural course of things for liberty to slowly disappear under the oceans of never-ending new laws, and for the tyranny of the state to find new footholds in the mountains of ever-amassing new regulations. But, what, you may ask, does this have to do with the question of why a former licensed minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ, would feel the need to speak and actually be vocal as an atheist? The answer is; everything. I dare say there aren’t that many individuals out of the whole who have the background and life experiences I’ve had to be in a somewhat unique position to understand just how deep and dangerous is the threat of beliefs in supernatural guidance armed with the guns of government power. After seeing what this religious approach to the world is capable of in its’ Taliban form in Afghanistan with my own powers of observation, I’m more concerned than ever that the religious right in America will abuse the power which comes with holding the reigns of government to the detriment of the freedom and even the very lives of our own people.

Anybody familiar with the history knows that progressive social conservatives, fundamentalist evangelicals, and others who we might describe as being affiliated with the religious right experienced the phenomenon of a peaceful political revolution in the 1980’s and this movement in American politics brought many of the people in this movement to positions of influence, wealth, and power – the legacy of which can still very much be observed today. While any two people could probably squabble all day over the pros and cons of this phenomenon in American politics, the fact that it happened is not debatable, but fact. For the purposes of this writing, let’s dispense with debate about whether or not this was good or bad or exactly how to frame the context of how particular events fit into the big picture such as the rise of that era’s famous voices and leaders like Ronald Reagan, Pat Robertson, and the Christian Coalition. The simple point of political science essential to this essay is just that this movement did in fact take place, and that we can see the ripples of that historical occurrence in America today.  Falwell  The reason I mention this is because I think it is essential to understand this history before one can truly understand where American politics stands today, and how the consequences of that political movement gaining influence can explain much of our present state of government which has inevitably and systemically grown to reflect the values and prevailing attitudes of those from the ‘old guard.’ It is my contention that without the influence of the religious right in government, which is very much consistent with the inevitable outcome of the socially conservative religious activism observable by this religious/political movement, many encroachments on our inalienable rights and civil liberties by our own government might not presently exist as they do. This is not to blame all people of faith for all of the world’s problems, but the role played by the rise of pious and devout theists to power and influence is not a testament to American freedom; much closer to the truth would be the notion that the rise of this religious conservative movement in America stands as a testament to how a free people can fall prey to the ignorance perpetuated by superstition, the blind obedience perpetuated by faith, and the tyranny perpetuated by theocratic sympathies. No politician is so dangerous to life, liberty, and property as the one who believes himself to be led and justified in his actions by supernatural forces of absolute righteousness. I find to feel as my duty, that given the ‘inside’ background had by one such as myself, it is almost like a penance for me to fight the oppressive authoritarian mythologies of religious faith. I find myself in what I consider to be good company with those who have challenged the divine right of kings, refused to be made a slave by witch-doctors, and exposed the snake-oil salesmen for the deceitful con-artists they really are. While my heart breaks for them, and my mind frustratedly grasps to understand why people persist in believing in ridiculous notions of the supernatural, we watch as god’s superstitious people all over the world have their gullible beliefs exploited to justify all sorts of inhumane behavior.

We would do well to remember that every law passed is ultimately enforceable at the barrel of a gun, and therefore it is not moral to use the law as a means of accomplishing anything that is not justifiable to kill human beings to achieve. In other words, if you wouldn’t walk into your neighbor’s house and put a bullet in his brain-pan for taking a drink of alcohol, then it is not important enough to pass a law that would essentially send the police or the government in general to do it for you. If you don’t think it’s moral to steal, then you can’t justify sending the agents of government to steal wealth for you. If you wouldn’t feel right personally dropping a bomb on a village where innocent children might be hiding, then it doesn’t somehow magically become okay because you voted to allow your government to do it in your name.Voltaire  If we look around us today at all the violence that’s being perpetuated against peaceful people by our own government; in the never-ending overseas military excursions which have nothing to do with American self-defense, in the war on drugs here at home which gives police the authority to physically impose themselves on and kidnap (arrest) non-violent victimless ‘criminals’ and incarcerate people who never hurt anybody; we see the consequences of the human suffering, enslavement, and death which ultimately proceeds from the perpetuation of supernatural explanations, religious myths, and god-centered superstitions. It may very well be true that religion is the opiate of the masses, but it can also be the fuel of government-sanctioned witch-hunts, lynchings, and genocide. It is largely up to those of us who genuinely believe in freedom to be the proponents of those ideas which promote freedom. Therefore, we call on natural law instead of supernatural revelations; we promote individual responsibility as opposed to collective salvation; and we seek to safeguard the liberty to seek scientific answers where faith would rather end inquiry. It very much seems to me that the human race as a whole constantly faces the same quandary of questions as have I on an individual level. How we answer as a species will decide whether we advance in our actual understanding of the natural order, or if we substitute superstitious ignorance for actual knowledge and then bare the inevitable consequences for our denial of reality. We may be able to ignore reality for a time, but we will not long be able to ignore the consequences of ignoring reality. In at least some sense, the story of the human race yet to be told will boil down to whether or not we are able to dispense with the primitive superstitions of our beginnings as a sentient life form seeking understanding, or if we will not relegate our mistaken logic to its’ proper place in history as we embrace the light of understanding found in the scientific knowledge of reality. Knowledge is power, and the Bible may actually be accurate to state that the truth shall set you free. Yes, it is important to stand for truth, and I see the truth as being that it is both unreasonable and detrimental to believe in god and/or any other forms of the supernatural.

I spent plenty of years of my life wearing the shoes of a christian fundamentalist, and one whose subsequent gullibility for god’s supposed will was manipulated by those who sought to play on my religious superstitions for justification of and obedience to the state as well. Let it not ever be forgotten that the greatest enemies to human freedom are gods and governments. Also, let it not be forgotten that when a collective of people are united under both a god and a government that flies one banner with singularity of purpose, that usually spells the end of freedom altogether. If the human race is to avoid our own enslavement and destruction by our own hands, then I believe it is imperative that those of us with the first-hand knowledge of the dangers of religious non-thought be among the first to stand in defense of critical logic, reason, and science. Otherwise, what barrier will protect the innocent from the unthinking faithful as they continue to bring down a police state and other consequences of oppressive government on our heads? All while justifying the system and the inaction to correct it by appealing to some notion of ‘god’s will.’ This attitude must and will wane as believers see more and more all the time that they have enjoyed the comfort of popular opinion and the safety of the majority view for far too long now. It was once unorthodox to scold a white man in the southern United States for his public remarks about what he perceived as the inferiority of the black race, but now racism is something that is no longer tolerated by a majority of Americans – Americans who are willing to be vocal in condemning a racist. It was once expected that people condemn homosexuality and basically ostracize the homosexual, but more people feel like nowadays they no longer have to hide who they are in the closet and can express what comes natural to them as much as the next person. This is called progress, and I’m one civil libertarian who is happy to see it. Maybe if we didn’t have social norms which now scold racists, we might still be in danger of those prevailing societal racial attitudes leading us back to enslaving a race of people. Maybe if we hadn’t learned to start seeing homosexuals and Jews as just normal people like anybody else, we would be in danger of committing the same atrocities as the murderous Taliban.

Maybe it’s time for atheists to get off the ropes and quit letting superstitious believers get away with flippantly dehumanizing us and patronizingly reducing us to second-class citizens as well. Of course, we don’t want to turn the tide in such a way that atheists start purging believers in gas-ovens either. But as it stands now, the theists in America still outnumber us and their choke-hold on power with other big government statists is absolutely destroying what little freedom we have left. They have unjustly staked out the moral high ground, and too many people have sheepishly allowed them to get away with that slight of hand for far too long. We don’t need violence, but we do need to speak up and be absolutely clear that the failure of atheists to vocalize loud opposition has not been about shame or being wrong or trying to hide in sin or some other foolishness by which believers may try to explain atheist silence; in fact, from what I can tell, it’s probably more likely than anything else, in my humble opinion, that the silence from many atheists has a lot to do with most atheists having the civility and desire to be friendly and agreeable that has kept many atheists from totally embarrassing our critics in public fashion, and that we may not want to do so sometimes because so many atheists have such a strong humanist streak and actually live by the spirit of the principal that you treat others the way you would want them to treat you. While this attitude in atheists could certainly be considered admirable, and the sheer ego of the believers who just don’t know how dumb they would look if called out publicly by said atheists would be so shattered, I’ve decided for my own life that I cannot be silent about what I perceive to be so undeniably and prevailingly wrong. I think it is high time religious fundamentalists, the fascist element of the socially conservative extremists, and all the judgmental hate-spewing ilk of the religious right had their own bullshit boomerang right back in their own face. One may not need go out of your way to insult a believer, but it’s high time they were cut down to size and put back in their place on equal footing with the rest of the human race whenever and wherever they try to bring up a notion so ridiculous as god or anything to do with god and/or the Bible and/or any other superstitious idea to justify anything to do with government. For starters, Christians in America need to figure out that the same guns of government they might want to turn on the Muslims can then be turned by Muslims right back on Christians. Be careful what you ask the government to do to others, because you very well just might reap what you sow. Sic the IRS & NSA on your political opponents today, and they will sic the agencies of government on you tomorrow. These warmongering neo-cons also need to know that their ridiculous argument is invalid when they use their religious beliefs to justify a special alliance between the governments of the United States and Israel. It is the religious right in America who have led the way on many prohibitions against peaceful consenting adults engaging in non-violent behavior which is our personal choice that harms no other. Where that is the case, the believer who is seeking government enforcement of his/her moral code on other human beings by employing the guns of government as the enforcer is actually the aggressor; and if the theists actually succeed in employing the guns of government to uphold a given religious code, they have not succeeded in securing a victory for virtue, but quite to the contrary, have only succeeded in employing the guns of government to carry out criminal violence against peaceful non-believing neighbors.American Taliban  For those faith-based Americans who justify the war on drugs, criminalization of prostitution, and speech censorship by your religious convictions; congratulations – you’re exactly like the intolerant Afghan Taliban whose barbarism you probably think you condemn. You may carry a different holy book, speak a different language, and wear different clothes; but your madness and methods make you birds of a feather.

 

In light of where such non-thinking intolerance takes a society at the behest of those such as the religious right in America, it might help to shed some light on just how ridiculous you sound and how offensive your behavior can be to skeptics and atheists when you claim knowledge or morality from supernatural authority. Maybe it’s time you got a taste of your own hellfire & brimstone message and experienced what it’s like when the shoe is on the other foot. If human empathy hasn’t come natural to you yet, then maybe you need a rude awakening.  It took some people talking pretty blunt with me to jog my mind a few times, so maybe it will yours as well.  Maybe I’ll make a short attempt right here to throw some of your judgmental rhetoric back in your face; after all, growing up being brainwashed and indoctrinated by hate-mongering Christians, I have learned from the best. Maybe when you think about leading others in prayer, you should realize how ridiculous it would be if you were leading them into the mouth of an active volcano to calm the lava gods, and you might have some idea how embarrassing it is that you not only insist on talking to yourself in public, but expect others to participate in the spectacle. Maybe before you claim that god has done a work in your life, you should consider how silly it would sound if I said that Bigfoot had done a work in mine. Maybe before you witness to me about how god has touched your heart, you should consider how it would sound to you if I said that a real live leprechaun had touched mine. Maybe before you feign some inside knowledge of god or special feeling you claim you’ve experienced, you should consider how insane it would sound for me to claim the tooth fairy had done the same for me. Maybe before you dismiss skepticism about your god as uninformed or unenlightened, you should consider how offensive it would be to your intelligence if someone dismissed you for being skeptical of their belief that they were the reincarnation of Napoleon Bonaparte. Maybe before you go plastering Bible verses, the ten commandments, crosses, and other such superstitious nonsense in public places and government buildings, you should consider how much it would offend you if everyone else but you on the planet were to display swastikas, pentagrams, and their genitals in all the same ways and in all the same places. Maybe before you go to the voting booth to pull the lever for the guy who will keep the gay couple down the street from being able to legally marry, or you vote for the guy who will make those sinful lost drug addicts rot in prison for the unspeakable crime of smoking marijuana, you should think about what those gay pot-heads might vote for in retaliation if they ever had the chance to have you committed to an insane asylum and force-fed psychotropic medications until you dropped this delusional belief in an invisible creator who hears your prayers.  If you’ve just written off atheists as the Bible refers to us as fools, or otherwise never objectively analyzed what could possibly make someone an intellectually honest atheist, then here’s one thing you need to understand that you may never have considered: it’s not the atheist who has anything at all to be ashamed of or embarrassed about. That’s not necessarily to say that a believer (theist) does either. But, when you get right down to it, the theist (believer) is the one making an extraordinary claim without observable proof as evidence to support such an extraordinary claim as the supernatural – and certainly have no proof that a supernatural realm would even necessarily consist of a being we might label god. The universal negative is the logical position of critical thought in the question of god, and to posit even the most basic belief in some sort of god is no more reasonable or rational than asserting a belief in the flying spaghetti monster or purple turtle-pixies from Uranus. They are all equally ridiculous claims, none of which are any more provable than the other, and nothing gives anyone the right to force others to play along with the pretense. In other words; I’m not crazy for lack of belief in your invisible friend. If anything, you’re the crazy one if you think there’s any reason I should have to play along with your belief in your invisible friend. And you better believe that if we’re talking politics and you want to use your faith in your invisible friend as an argument to justify something you want to use the guns of government to compel, then I’m completely justified in calling out your stupidity for what it is and standing diametrically opposed to your dangerous and delusional argument.  Periodic Fable  The irony here is, the biblical parable of the house built on rock as compared to the one built on sand applies – science is built on solid evidence that can be independently tested and objectively observed, whereas faith in god has no solid foundation. If anyone should be embarrassed or ashamed between a believer and an atheist, it’s the theist who can’t back up what he believes and is in danger of building on a foundation of lies and ignorance. I know because I did it, and now I pay the price in many ways for my years of denying reality in favor of blind faith, unreasonable dogma, and ignorant superstition. Of course, now I am truly thankful that I eventually overcame the indoctrination and brainwashing of my youth to now discern between fantasy and reality. This emboldens me that I might be able to help others escape the enslavement of the mind which comes from magical non-thinking in exchange for the empowering liberation which comes with independent critical thinking, because I’ve experienced the journey first-hand.

Now, before anyone accuses me of wanting to shut down free speech, especially by christian fundamentalists, let me say this – you’re wrong. If you’ve read much of my other works, you’ll know that I don’t believe the remedy to unfortunate speech to be censorship, but quite to the contrary, even more speech. As someone who loves the philosophy of human freedom and the ideals espoused in the American Constitutional Bill of Rights, I want anybody and everybody to freely exercise the right to believe and say whatever you want, regardless of how far-fetched any of it is. If you want to stand on a street corner all day with a sign preaching about how the space-frogs from Andromeda are about to invade Earth for our iron ore, then be my guest – just don’t expect that you can force me to observe your crazy-ass beliefs as well. As long as you don’t hurt or otherwise infringe on the same inalienable rights of someone else, it’s nobody else’s business (including the government) to shut you down. Every individual is born with the inherent natural right to your own conscience. This means that while I vehemently disagree with their whacky beliefs, I can also appreciate much of the good that churches and religious organizations sometimes do. Clothing drives for the homeless, food pantries for the hungry, and other helpful community activism is admirable regardless of whatever crazy delusions are espoused by a given religious institution. I think Mormonism is bat-shit crazy, but I appreciate the preparedness of this segment of the population who take responsibility to always be prepared for financially tough times. I think Jesus & Muhammad are a couple of shit-talking ass-hats, but I have also found beautiful poetry and inspiration in both the literary works of the Bible & Qur’an.

I want to say here, that I am truly and deeply sorry for any part I have played in any way, shape, or form, to lend any credibility at any point in my life to the idea that god exists. Although I was a licensed minister for some years, even if it was only the fact that I was just one more adherent of billions giving credibility to the notion of the existence of some form of god, I deeply regret it. If you have ever been a victim of religious intolerance in any way whatsoever in the course of your life, please accept my sincere and humble apology for my role in any way validating and/or perpetuating the superstitious nature of my fellow man which has hurt you. One of the few things I can think of to try to make right my mistake is to never again encourage someone to seek after some asinine fable about a god who is magically coming to save us, but to encourage every individual to dig deep within to unlock your own potential, be your own messiah, and save yourself.

 

Paul Fest A.G. House is an Afghanistan war veteran and former licensed minister (UPCI), who has become an outspoken skeptic, peace activist, and involved himself in many other issues which he believes affect the individual freedoms of the people whose Constitutional Rights he took an oath to defend. He currently resides in the heart of Tennessee with his companion dog ‘Liberty,’ where he is recovering from PTSD and enjoys the therapeutic activities of gardening, creative writing, playing drum set, and other forms of artistic expression.

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One thought on “Apology of a Former Christian

  1. Pingback: Chaos 2013: Year in Review | Chaos Section

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