Editor's Note: Here's the second part of the de-conversion story of blog reader Sheldon Cooper (not his real name). Sheldon comes out of a fundamentalist Christian household and had to overcome deep religious programming, OCD and depression in his quest for truth that finally brought him to Agnosticism.
You can find the first part here.
The Seeds Of Doubt
There was no apparent reason for these doubts to come upon me as quickly as they did, but they arrived and struck hard. I would read the Bible and all of the passages that I thought made sense or that I had long tried to rationalize/explain away suddenly didn't make sense or seemed downright indefensible. Reading the Old Testament again with a fresh perspective was very shocking. Children had to be stoned to death for disobedience to parents? Women who were raped were forced to marry their attacker?.
I started reading the Old Testament's Mosaic law, and I started to notice that it's not all that much better than the Islamic Sharia law.
Imagine my confusion when comparing the New Testament to the Old Testament. I felt like I was reading about two different gods entirely. The Old Testament depicts a god of vengeance and death and Jesus in the New Testament tries to depict a god of mercy and love. Even more confusing is Jesus' contradictory attitude towards the Mosaic law. He seemed to oppose the law and its harshness, telling people to turn the other cheek, and saving a woman from a Pharisee lynch mob that wanted to have her stoned to death for having an affair. On the other hand, he says in Matthew 5:17 that he did not come to destroy the law.
My doubts grew even more when I looked at all the impossibilities: Noah's Ark; a talking snake deceiving a woman; and a talking donkey telling off Balaam.
Just taking the story of the Ark literally is mind boggling. Apparently all the Earth's creatures, plus feed for them fit into a wooden ship that, based on the dimensions listed in Genesis, would have only been about half the size of the Titanic!
Another funny thought is that termites and carpenter ants would have had to have been on the Ark as well - a wooden ship!
Here's an unpleasant thought: If Adam and Eve and family were the only people on earth in the beginning, there's no other way that humanity could have multiplied without incest. Never looked at it that way, have you?
New Channels Of Communication
It was during this time of doubting that I started becoming a regular contributor to a local website's discussion board and I started to get to know some people from there. At this time I still hadn't decided to give up my beliefs, but I was still searching/questioning. I was starting to think that maybe, just maybe, the god of Christianity isn't such a loving, merciful god after all.
Then I got to know a husband and wife who ran a music store specializing in hard rock memorabilia and CD's. I don't know what led me into the store, that day I first entered. Growing up, I was never allowed to listen to anything considered "rock music" - definition: any contemporary music, (but country was allowed, ironically!). So, it was quite an experience: first going inside, with all the the T-Shirts and other assorted memorabilia (almost all black), some with death metal themes, and music playing from speakers.
Though I don't agree with Wiccans
on anything spiritually related, I find
it to be a very beautiful religion, the
symbolism, the history, and the open-
mindedness of it's adherents.
Imagine my discomfort at the time when I found out she was Wiccan? Her life ran completely contrary to what I was brought up to believe, and in fact she proved to be a better person than most of the fundamentalists I knew. She was far more open-minded, more accepting of me for who I am, and had this practical wisdom that I haven't seen in very many people, as though she was more mature and had learned more from life than 5 people in their lifetimes.
I'm saying all of this to demonstrate that to remain in fundamentalism, it's necessary to isolate yourself from the outside world. It's the only way to go if you want to keep up the illusion that the outside world is evil and to be avoided. Once you enter the outside world, you find that some people are indeed evil people. But by and large, most people are good and are just like you. Many people live out their lives in a fashion that is just as moral, or even more moral than the circles than you are used to being in.
It was also astonishing to me how much more direct people were outside the regular circles. It's as though most people didn't feel like they needed to put on a veneer, to hide what they did or who they were. For better or for worse, people are more honest because they are not trying to put on a veneer, and put on an act of "holiness" to mask who they truly were.
It was not long after this that I knew that I could no longer deal with with the doubts and conflicts that came from attempting to believe something that deep down wasn't true. I knew I wasn't a fundamentalist anymore nor a Christian of any variety. But it took me a good year to finally figure out that I was an agnostic, and admit that to myself - which didn't come without a struggle of its own.
I knew that I could no longer believe in a god who was neither just nor merciful. Just looking at the realities of the world around me proved both concepts to be rather ludicrous in my mind. But giving up the concept of there being something divine out there proved to be a challenge.
A world without a spiritual realm or deity seemed empty, pointless, as life had no meaning. But after some time, I started to get my sense of wonder back. It seemed incredible and awe-inspiring to me, that of all of the billions of years that this earth has existed, that we are here for just a short time, to enjoy its vastness and infinite beauty.
For a while, I knew that I was an agnostic but I didn't really feel motivated to talk about it. I'm still mostly closeted to this day and have only told three people from my past fundamentalist circles about my change in beliefs. I had no interest in becoming a blogger, or taking part in online discussions, but I started becoming curious about what led other people to leave their faiths, especially Christianity. Did they leave for the same reasons that I did? What is there stories?
My searching led me to the website ex-christian.net, where I found some great people, many of whom had stories similar to mine, and some far worse. It was a great place to unload, and share our stories and frustrations. My search for atheist and former Christian blogs also led me to this blog. I find the perspective here interesting, and it is a great insight into daily life in Canada.
I became a regular commenter here. Once, I made a rather long-winded comment, and joked that it should become a blog post in it's own right. Godless Poutine made the suggestion that I should start my own blog because it was good therapy. I considered the suggestion, but I really didn't know what I would blog about. I started the foundations for the blog in Blogger, merely as an experiment to see if I could do it, I figured if this doesn't work out I can delete it. I just started posting random observations on life from my perspective, I didn't think the blog would amount to much. I never believed that I would be able to keep going with new material for the blog, or that people would read it. I was wrong on both counts.
I hadn't had much contact with the group since my childhood, and the horrible things that I was finding out about them in my research, I knew I couldn't keep silent. This group, which I had been a part of in the past, I was beginning to find out, is really just an organization of sociopaths, and much deserved the "cult" label that many of it's critics and former members gave it. This harmful organization needed to be exposed, and I had found my inspiration, my mission as a blogger.
Check out Sheldon's Bio Page or jump directly to The Ramblings of Sheldon.