Showing posts with label guest post. Show all posts
Showing posts with label guest post. Show all posts

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Remember: I Accept Guest Submissions


Too tired and headachey to write a thinky-post. So here's my monthly (or multi weekly?) beg for submissions from talented writers.

Now, watch this video I found and listen to the song.

So inspirational!


Now tell me you don't want to contribute to this blog?

Contact me at godlesspoutine@gmail.com with your idea.

If you think you have an interesting story for the podcast, also drop me an email.

(Image source)

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Why Not Write A Guest Post For This Blog? A Most Auspicious Time!

By HTO (Own work (own photo)) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
I'm looking at you!

You might think that writing short posts for other people's blogs is a real drag, but maybe you've just been writing for the wrong blogs -- e.g. not mine.

Feel like you have a topic you'd like to cover that you'd like thousands... hundreds... tens of dozens of people to read about? Is it vaguely related to atheism, secularism, LGBT issues or the sort of thing you would expect to see on this blog? Is it not the sort of thing you'd find on World Net Daily? Please! Contribute!

Regular contributors who are just the right level of cray would be pretty sweet too!

Contact me at godlesspoutine@gmail.com with your idea.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Trapped No Longer: I Left Religion, Found Beauty in This Life & the Courage to Embrace it As Myself

logospilgrim
This is a guest post by logospilgrim, who recently published the beautifully written book There's a Hula Girl on my Dashboard: How I Left Faith Behind and Embraced Life. I'll be doing a review of the book hopefully in the next couple of months.


“A woman shall not wear anything that pertains to a man, nor shall a man put on a woman’s garment, for all who do so are an abomination to the Lord your God.” ~ Deuteronomy 22:5
“You shall not sow your field with mixed seed. Nor shall a garment of mixed linen and wool come upon you.” ~ Leviticus 19:19
Ever since childhood, I’ve lacked the ability to squeeze myself into nice, neat, clearly delineated categories. To make myself fit in tidy little boxes. Sooner or later, I rebel, I fight against this unnatural confinement. It’s in great part due to this, I believe, that I’ve never been able to remain in any mainstream religion.

They tell you that it’ll be better in the box; outside the box, it’s dangerous. It’s harmful. It’s sinful. It’s dirty. That’s a message I heard when I was still small and vulnerable to falsehoods disguised as supreme wisdom. It’s a message that’s hard to erase. It’s etched into you.

Outside the box, you won’t be okay. The fact that you’re thinking of getting out of the box means you’re ill or lost—or worse. Of  course you’re tempted by what’s outside: you’re essentially wicked, or at the very least unable to make the best kind of decisions on your own, because you’re not entirely in your right mind. Curiosity is bad. It’ll get you into trouble. Read Genesis again.

Now, the more loving authorities will say that their god loves you even if you decide to leave the box. But the truth is that he doesn’t love you as much as he does if you stay inside, like a good boy or girl.
“My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin.” ~ 1 John 2:1
That’s the type of message I was exposed to, again and again: an infantilizing message that causes you to question everything you do, every thought you have. Can you really trust yourself? No. You’re too proud, or flawed, or blind, or whatever else. Being human is never good enough. You have to listen to Jesus, to the priest, to the elder, to the teacher, to the guru, to the master. You have to be obedient, and surrender yourself. You’re helpless without the one who knows better than you do.

You have to be guided by perfect rules and commandments. And you have to have the correct understanding of these rules and commandments. There are wolves and demons everywhere, eager to deceive you and lead you astray, both outside the box and inside your ailing self. Do you see now why you need strict guidelines, and overseers, and gates all around you?

No garment of mixed linen and wool must come upon you. Sheep to the right, goats to the left.

I’m genderqueer. I’m coloring outside the lines. I like to mix things up. This has been a “problem” for me for a long time. I feel happier, more comfortable, more at home in my skin when I wear masculine clothing, when I cut my hair. I’m not statuesque and look like a delicate, feminine man—what could be more blasphemous? I can’t look like someone who might have a Holy Penis when I don’t have one, right? I should know my rightful place. I can’t cross the line.

But I cross the line. Every time I do, I can see that it’s an arbitrary, imaginary line at that, just as imaginary as the religious fictions I once believed were true.

I can see why there are so many bizarre-sounding prohibitions in “sacred” texts. Once you start questioning what you’re told, there’s a fine line indeed between slavery and freedom; but if you’re fine with being forbidden not to mix linen and wool, whatever the fuck that even means, there’s not much you’ll question.

When I was still a Christian, I embraced a very mystical way of understanding the texts, one that left nobody outside of divine love—not even the devil. Everything would eventually be restored by love, everyone would find their way back to the waiting, open arms of love. My experience was that this radically inclusive way of looking at the world has two consequences. First, you reject the box—you need to go outside the box to love everyone—and then, the box simply disappears. You realize that there was never any need for it. It only existed because you were willing to live in it and let it enclose you.

Slowly but surely, you see that the world is what it is. Messy, sure, but also beautiful. Stupendous.

The dire warnings of preachers fade away, the old books crumble to dust.

There’s nothing to be afraid of. Me, my ties, my growing collection of tattoos, my thirst for knowledge, the people I love, the world I'm in, we’re all completely fine. There’s always room for growth, but that’s not the same as saying there’s something inherently wrong with me and everything else, that we’re afflicted by an existential mark or spiritual disease. No pure system will make our troubles and pain disappear; no amount of religious winnowing will create some sort of enchanted world where humanity is safe from disaster and questions and death.

Death isn’t the proof that we’re somehow cursed; it’s just something that happens because we’re physical and mortal. That’s all.

When the box, the “refuge” I’d lived began to waver like a mirage, one of the first things I did was start wearing men’s clothes, and it felt wonderful. More and more, I reintegrated, in a manner of speaking, the material nature of what I am. I saw that being material isn’t inferior to being a “spirit.” I learned, finally, about evolution, which made so more sense than any of the woo and fairy tales I’d been taught, and I realized that my brain is a fantastic illusionist. It’s vital to be knowledgeable about the nature of things, otherwise we’ll be fooled not only by every peddler of hogwash out there, but by our own brain, because of the way it works.

I’m so glad I crossed the line. I’m so glad I spiced up my life and sowed mixed seeds in my field. That’s when a multitude of flowers came out of the ground, all different and colorful and wild. The universe is more wondrous to me now than it ever was, and no eternal perfection could make my human moment in our universe more joyful and precious than it already is, exactly like this, with its ups and downs, its tears and laughter, its beginning and end.


Logospilgrim (logospilgrim.com) is a writer, renegade, and cosmic love vagabond, a secular humanist and gonzo maverick. You can find her books on her website, logospilgrim.com, and Amazon. She recently published There's a Hula Girl on my Dashboard: How I Left Faith Behind and Embraced Life

"In There's a Hula Girl on my Dashboard: How I Left Faith Behind and Embraced Life, writer, lecturer, and maverick Logospilgrim candidly shares the remarkable and passionate journey that took her from religious belief to secular humanism."

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Guest Posts Always Welcome

By HTO (Own work (own photo)) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
I'm looking at you!

You might think that writing short posts for other people's blogs is a real drag, but maybe you've just been writing for the wrong blogs -- e.g. not mine.

Feel like you have a topic you'd like to cover that you'd like thousands... hundreds... tens of dozens of people to read about? Is it vaguely related to atheism, secularism, LGBT issues or the sort of thing you would expect to see on this blog? Is it not the sort of thing you'd find on World Net Daily? Please! Contribute!

Contact me at godlesspoutine@gmail.com with your idea.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

You Want To Write For This Blog!

By HTO (Own work (own photo)) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Of course you do! Mmm hmmm....

You might think that writing short posts for other people's blogs is a real drag, but maybe you've just been writing for the wrong blogs -- e.g. not mine.

Feel like you have a topic you'd like to cover that you'd like thousands... hundreds... tens of dozens of people to read about? Is it vaguely related to atheism, secularism, LGBT issues or the sort of thing you would expect to see on this blog? Is it not the sort of thing you'd find on World Net Daily? Please! Contribute!

Contact me at godlesspoutine@gmail.com with your idea.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Fame, Fortune, Possibly Notoriety Awaits You!


Hello! Is there anyone out there? Can you write words on a computer screen and make these things called sentences and paragraphs and stuff?

Want to be read by... dozens? Maybe hundreds... maybe...

Okay, so if you can do these things and you can write about stuff that is not conspiracy theory but rather sensible yet entertaining items (at least vaguely related to this blog), then why don't you write something up and send it to me? You could even ask me first if it's the sort of thing I would like to post here and I'll let you know and I'll be really nice about it too.

I know. I'll get some flak for this, but those who are not a white, cis male like me will get extra points. Of course, I will take any compelling post, but I'm sort of trying to make things a little more varied around here and get some extra perspectives, you know?

If my readers really dig your posts, I'll even give you your own account and let you enter and edit your own posts, which is totally not because you'll be doing all the work for me.

I'll admit, I do have trust issues so I might still keep the publish button for myself, but I promise to be reasonable -- trust me. Ironic, right?

Okay, anyway, drop me a line if you're interested!
GodlessPoutine@gmail.com

Monday, 26 May 2014

A Young Autistic's Journey out of Institutionalized Education and Socialization toward Clarity

(source)
This is a guest post by author Michael Scott Monje, Jr. who blogs over at Shaping Clay. Michael is running an Indiegogo campaign to write about their own experience being an Autistic atheist through the imagery of an upcoming fictional web serial. 

Their story is a fascinating one and I've asked them to share a little of it here and tell us about their upcoming project, Imaginary Friends, and how we can directly help give time to work on it.



I have been an atheist for much, much longer than I have known myself to be autistic. In some ways, it feels like a stronger, better-mapped part of my identity. In other ways, though, it hardly feels like a part of myself any more. From the time that I first read the Gospel of John on my way through the New Testament, I have known, deep in the part of myself that speaks moral truths in a physical language, that the stories are stories, and not histories. Years before I had a way to explain how I knew this, I felt it as I read my way through fantastic story after fantastic story about miraculous events and world-shaking prophecies.

My lack of belief did not prevent me from cheerfully participating in the Catholic church at first. As a child, it seemed natural to me that I would know something is make-believe and still act as if I was dedicated to the belief that it was otherwise. It felt like a healthy suspension of something that I was asked to wear like a cloak over my natural attitude all week, and I imagined that this playing time (mixed with the discussions about morality that ran through each week's sessions) was a healthy and natural thing that everyone did to stay relaxed.

It wasn't until middle school, or rather, until the Sunday night youth groups for teenagers, that I realized how different my theory of religious participation was from everyone else's. It was a rough and rude awakening—I had taken it so for granted that everyone else understood our religious practice the same way I did, and as I realized through the social events and the classes that they did not, I became very disillusioned with the character of my community. It ceased to be a comfortable place for me, and instead it became a place where people I did not understand reassured one another that things that could not possibly be true were, in fact, true. When you add to that the kind of rude and confrontational social atmosphere that is almost like air to adolescents as they first start to negotiate adult socialization, the youth group was a terrifying place for a young Autistic to find themself in.

Years later, after my diagnosis, I started to reflect on the social structures within the church and on the way that they shaped my level of comfort with the practice of the faith. It's not that I think being Autistic necessarily made me more or less likely to be an atheist. On the contrary, I'm pretty sure it had nothing to do with it, since I know many, many Autistic people who practice a faith tradition. I do think, though, that the combination of my communication difficulties and my divergent social development produced situations where I was not participating in the same conversations that other people thought I was participating in, and the resolution of these miscommunications—both negatively and positively—definitely had an effect on my ability to participate in these communities.

I also think that my divergent intellectual development, along with my fascination with belief and myth as structures, strongly influenced my orientation toward my faith community. Given some slight differences in the level of guidance and the exact order of my literary development, I might easily have turned into a practitioner of the “of course it's not literal, it's a moral metaphor” kind of faith tradition that many of my friends practice. That did not happen, though, and partially, I do think it was early exposure to a wide and diverse range of myths and traditions that primed me to see a recursive pattern of fulfilling cultural needs where other people saw a truth that they could live by.

In my new web serial, Imaginary Friends, I will be telling a story that is very close to my own developmental pattern. The goal of the project is to use fiction to do what I have always understood it is supposed to be used to do: To create an imaginary allegory for a specific cultural understanding or event. In this case, Clay Dillon, an Autistic boy around the age of 8 or 9, is thrust into a nexus of early literacy, religious instruction, and institutionalized education and socialization (American public schooling), and the narrative focuses on how the intersection of these factors, along with many others (including class, ethnicity, and family structure) shape his emerging sense of himself and his relationship to his community.

The first chapter of this story will go live on June 6, and it will run for roughly 50 chapters. I have an Indiegogo page up (see below), and I'm offering perks that include my other books and some authorial services. If we make the funding goal, I will be able to run 2-3 chapters per week. If we fall short, the project will still go forward and the perks that are purchased will still be honored, but I will only be able to afford to run 1 chapter per week.

You can check out my campaign here. You can also find my blog, Shaping Clay, here.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Guest Post: Recommended Reading

Almost a month ago, Canadian Atheist was hacked and it's just now beginning to come back to life.

Veronica, the blog's primary contributor, has answered the call out I made yesterday for guest posts. As an avid blogger myself, I can understand how painful it must be to lose one of your best platforms for expression. So it's my pleasure to begin featuring some of her guest posts on this blog until Canadian Atheist gets back up and running again.

Here's the first guest instalment of one of Veronica's regular features, Recommended Reading.



Recommended Reading
by Veronica

John S. Wilkins, who runs the blog Evolving Thoughts has written a thought provoking post, entitled "Why do believers believe silly things? The function of denialism." Wilkins begins by quoting from a sermon delivered by Bishop Butler in 1729:
Things and actions are what they are, and the consequences of them will be what they will be: why, then, should we desire to be deceived? [Sermon 7]
As Wilkins points out, this is
an interesting question. Why should we seek to be deceived about the consequences of our actions and the world? And yet, many people do. . . . What is going on here?
and gives credible answers to his own question:
If you believe silly crap, then the only people you can talk to are those who have the same silly beliefs. . . . To abandon [these silly beliefs] simply because they are false would cost too much. And so you face up to the cognitive dissonance and rationalise your beliefs and the facts that challenge them.
Wilkins goes on to ask, “How do we counter these false beliefs? He admits, “There is no simple answer,” but he does suggest some practical solutions:
Education is the solution, which the denialists well understand. This is why we have objections to even discussing these “controversial” matters in schools, and why the denialists (whether of evolution, global warming, or whatever) continuously try to insert their agenda into public education. An uneducated community is more easily controlled and manipulated.
Wilkins ends his post by pointing out the benefits of educating the masses:
If we want reasonable people holding true beliefs, because things will be what they will be and we will all be bitten in the arse eventually by reality, then the real solution is to make rational people who can find out and think for themselves.
Do read John Wilkins’ whole post; it’s worth reading.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Call to Any Guest Posters!

Okay, I've been on a marathon posting frenzy lately. I'm beginning to miss guest posts. So here's me re-posting my 2012 call for people to send me material to slap onto my blog!

I hear it's what all the cool bloggers are doing these days!

I don't have a fancy-pants guest submission guidelines and rules yet, but I'll give you some basic pointers:

Your post must be related to atheism, agnosticism, Humanism or something to to with the belief in God. if you're a theist and want to say something intelligent about these things, do submit! Just be warned that your fellow faithful have set the bar quite high over the past 2,000 years. If it's not original, I won't post it.

I will accept posts in English or French.  This blog is coming out of Montreal but I have no French posts.  Note that my editing skills are limited in French but I understand the language okay.

Please try to keep submissions below 1,000 words.  If it gets to be much above this then maybe we can break it up into multiple posts.

Do run any post ideas past me before going to all the trouble of writing them up.  I don't want to waste your time!

Be prepared for me to edit your copy for length and clarity.  I'll always e-mail the final product back to you to approve before posting.

If content needs to be taken down or urgent edits need to be made I don't mind doing them.  But it needs to be kept to a reasonable number.

Of course, I reserve the right to reject posts outright and decline accompanying images.  I'll give you my reasons.

I reserve the right to make up new rules along the way.

I know these seem like a lot of rules, but I guarantee you I'm quite a reasonable fellow!

So why not get your word out and provide me with precious content at the same time?

Email me at: godlesspoutine@gmail.com



Monday, 23 September 2013

Guest Post On The Friendly Atheist: Taking You Inside the Humanist Mission Trip to Uganda

Special thanks to Hemant Mehta over at The Friendly Atheist blog!

He was gracious enough to let me write a guest post on his blog about the fantastic work the Pathfinders Project is doing at the Kasese Humanist Primary School in Uganda!

Taking You Inside the Humanist Mission Trip to Uganda

For any visitors who clicked over from Hemant's blog to this one, you can read all my coverage of what's going on at the school here.

You can visit the school's website here.

And, of course, you can donate to the fundraiser to build new classrooms on newly acquired land for the school here! (tinyurl.com/humanistschool)

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Guest Post In The Friendly Atheist Blog!

Kasese student Wyclif, 7, is exceptional at English.  Everyone
calls him grandfather because he looks quite old for his age.
As most of you probably know, I've been busy lately promoting a new fundraiser to build classrooms on Kasese Humanist Primary School in Uganda.

Hemant Mehta (Friendly Atheist) was kind enough to let me post a guest post on his blog!  Go check it out if you haven't yet!

Help Build a Humanist School In Uganda!

Thanks to Hemant for allowing me to guest post in his awesome blog! And if you don't regularly read his blog, then why not?

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Guest Post: Sheldon Cooper, Confronting My Past

Dead Tree, Romney Marsh. 1930-34. (My Secret Atheist Blog)
Dead Tree, Romney Marsh. 1930-34. 
Guest Post by Sheldon Cooper

Editor's Note: Physical and mental child abuse is a pervasive problem and is no stranger to fundamentalist Christian homes either.  In fact, the Dobson group Focus on the Family even endorses corporal punishment, in a controlled fashion, of course.  Receiving a few lashings of the belt was a common thing both in my Traditionalist Catholic childhood and even in our public elementary school.

The theme of violent and scary childhood abuse is one that seems to resonate strongly with those who have given up religion.  Nate Phelps from the infamous Westboro Baptist Church and Melissa at Permission to Live blog testify to this.

One long time reader and excellent blogger, Sheldon Cooper of the blog Ramblings of Sheldon, has a such a past to share.  His blog also highlights others with similar stories and provides a forum for people to hopefully lessen the pain a little through sharing in their common experiences.

Here is a poignant guest post by Sheldon about just such an episode of scary childhood abuse from his youth.  He provides an e-mail address at the end for you to submit your own stories to his blog to share with others.

It is somewhat edited.  But I assure you Sheldon has had the chance to read it through and approve my nitpickings!



Guest posting again for My Secret Atheist Blog feels like coming home to me. I wrote my first guest post as a blogger for this blog, a two part series on my life that was almost like a biography. That post helped to launch my blog, and I wouldn’t have even started blogging had it not been for Poutine’s encouragement.

He was right about blogging being “good therapy”.  Telling my story has helped me in my recovery from my fundamentalist past, but it’s also helped to bring some memories back to mind that I would much rather forget.

One such episode which I would much rather forget is something I have never told anyone before.
It happened when I was around 11 years old.

What I remember the most about this day was the the fist. That fist shaking at me only inches away from my nose. I remember the shouting coming from mother. She was becoming so angry it was becoming quite shrill. The nearly psychotic rage in her face and in her eyes was staring me down and  she was endlessly screaming out threats of violence.

She kept walking ever closer to me as I stood against a wall. I think this was deliberate on her part. She wanted me to feel trapped.  She bent forward slightly as to give the illusion the she was taller than she was, towering over me. Everything about this scene was meant as a threat, to bully and intimidate.

Then something happened that had never happened before. Slowly, but surely, I started to raise my fist back at her. I didn’t swing. I didn’t say anything back. I was silent. Then I saw it. I saw the surprise. She jumped back quickly. She pointed at my dad, who was on the other side of the room, watching. He said nothing in condemnation of either me or my mother.

She went into a long rant about me. “Don’t you see this?”, she screamed, and went on as if I was the most evil person who walked the face of this earth. She was trying to save face, and distract from what she had done, putting the blame on all me.  But what she had done was never provoked.

I didn’t realize it fully then as I do now, but even then I understood it to some degree. It scared her. I saw the fear in her eyes. It wasn't a fear for her life but something much different than that. She realized she truly was the one cornered. For once, unlike all the other times where she had spanked me; slapped me across the face; threatened me with fists and belts if she thought her open hands weren't enough, I stood my ground. This time not only was I physically able to fight back, I was willing to.

I think the fact that I was willing to make a stand scared her far more than the fact that I could somewhat hold my own if it came to a fight. Her bullying and intimidation wasn’t working on me mentally. She began to realize what she was, whether she truly admitted it to herself or not, that she was a coward. She was more than willing to hit someone who couldn’t fight back, or was too scared to do so, but once that line was crossed, panic set it in.

Never again after that day, did she ever hit me or make a serious threat again. She did try to make such threats afterwards, but we both knew it was a formality, she was trying to “act tough”, it was all a front, and it sounded hollow. She continued her psychological abuse, which involved a tremendous amount of guilt, lies and manipulation to get her way. Not to say that the psychological abuse didn’t drain me of all life at times.  I was for a time foolish enough to believe her lie that my depression was my fault. At least I knew I would never have to face physical violence again.

I can’t even remember what started this incident, but I know it was something relatively minor. Anyone who has lived through fundamentalism and has left it behind knows that it doesn’t take much to anger a fundamentalist parent.

There are so many extreme and over reaching rules, and a lot of insecurity it seems on the part of the parents. They feel like they have to go to sometimes abusive measures to “show their authority”.  They look down upon their children, almost like they are little more than their property, with no rights or respect.

Sometimes telling my story is something that I really don’t want to do, but I feel it’s necessary. I’ve encountered people online (even atheists), who think that fundamentalism is crazy, but relatively harmless. Anyone who has ever experienced it knows better. I try to expose the harmful beliefs and actions of this world to outsiders, and give a platform for others to do the same.

If you have a story to tell, something about your religious past that you feel you are ready to share, let me know at ramblingsofsheldon@gmail.com. I’m always ready to accept guest posts.


Check out Sheldon's Bio Page or jump directly to The Ramblings of Sheldon.



Monday, 21 January 2013

Guest Post, David Ince: Trying to get attention above the din: Giving a voice to Caribbean non-believers

Barbados 2012 Crop Over - My Secret Atheist Blog
Barbados 2012 Crop Over (image source).
Guest Post by David Ince (aka Caribatheist)

Some time ago I reached out to David for some information about the Caribbean Atheist and Freethought community.  He responded by writing a wonderful first post about the state of disbelief in his native Barbados.

In his second contribution, David talks about the differences between Caribbean and Canadian culture when it comes to Religion.  He then describes how Atheism and Freethought are beginning to take root and flourish in this unique cultural milieu.


Last month I was happy to write as a guest on this blog about the challenges of being an atheist in Barbados. Today I look at the wider Caribbean perspective and the challenges we face in making ourselves heard as a 'freethinking' movement with religion being so much of a force.

The Caribbean is a place of self expression, we are all about enjoying, letting our emotions hang out and wearing our hearts on our sleeves. You can see it in the clothes we wear, hear it in the music we play and taste it in the foods we eat. It's all about richness in flavour, colour and vibrancy that shines as radiantly as the sunshine that we never seem to be without for long.

We talk animatedly, we laugh loudly, we shout across crowded streets to get one another's attention. We use a car horn more often to give each other a friendly greeting, than as an alert to imminent danger. Watch a celebration of someone like Usain Bolt and that tells you what being a West Indian is all about. The Caribbean is about expressing yourself, being who you are and expecting others around you to live with it and love it.

It is the reason why during something like Crop Over in Barbados or Carnival in Trinidad it is  pointless to complain about music being too loud or intrusive. In the Caribbean, if you get a knock on your door at 2:00 am during a party from an angry neighbour, it is far more likely that she is complaining about not getting an invitation than seeking to have you turn down the racket so she can get her nightly slumber.

All over the Caribbean, you can hear the beat of our music in the maxi taxis. Don't think about asking the driver to mute the sub woofers either. He will let you know that you can put in ear plugs or catch some other form of transportation if you don't like it. It's as simple as that. This type of mentality runs counter to the reality that I face now living in Canada. There is a joke in this country that when you step on the foot of a Canadian, he apologises to you for his foot being in the way. It's an exaggeration, but only just a bit.

A steelpan player on High Street in Trinidad and Tobago. 
(image source)
Canada is like 'inverse' Caribbean in that respect. You act only when you are comfortable that the action you take is not going to discommode another. You don't even do a hand wave without thinking about whether it might affect someone's sensibilities. Generally, if there is any doubt about the impact of your action you simply refrain from doing it.

This basic cultural difference between Canada and the Caribbean is palpably illustrated in the way you experience religion. In the self expressing Caribbean, religion plays into what is inherently a 'loud' culture. Even as the music plays and people dance with spontaneity, sermons and testimonies can pop up anytime from anybody.

You could be standing in a line at a bank, having a 'lime' in a rum shop or walking on your way to the carpark to drive home after work.  Wherever you are, you are liable to hear a perfect stranger telling you about something in their life that Jesus has delivered them from, have them proclaim to you that he is the Lord of their life and that you should accept him too if you haven't already. It's not that they are necessarily trying to convert you or pressure you into anything. They are just talking, talking about things that happened and that matter to them. Letting you know the beliefs and principles they hold dear. They see the love of Jesus as one of the great things in their life and they want you to know it. They just want to share and they just can't fathom that anyone in the world would not love their Jesus too. For them that would be like being repulsed by a steel band playing, a reggae bass line or mass on carnival day.

In Canada it's so different. Religion is something you almost never here spoken about in day to day life. You work, you workout, you play, you relax, you interact with people for years and often have no idea about what they believe or don't believe. Religion is personal and although I know from going to one or two churches that adherents here can be just as devout as any back home, it's just something they tend to keep to themselves. The lack of visibility of religion to a large extent in Canada, often makes me wonder what we are fighting or challenging when we get together as atheists in our various meet ups.

Then I remember what the wider world picture looks like and that gets me going again.

In the Caribbean, of course it is different. Religion is much louder, more persistent, all around you everyday. Surrounded by Christianity bringing us such a pulsating rhythm, our cultural tendency leads us to do our own dance as Caribbean non believers and respond in kind. Poking back at those on the other side as calypsonians do in the popular artform of picong. Alas, what we who carry the banner against faith find is that sound and noise is not welcomed as much when it comes from supporters of the opposing team. It's so easy when you are in the majority to think that all around you enjoy your same freedoms but as we know so well, that is not the case.

It is a frustration to have a culture of self expression that tells you to go out there and show what you feel and then have to stand in the corner with emotions bottled up. Thankfully things are changing. Not changing because we have been given more leeway to turn up our volume by those in the ascendancy. Things are changing because we have decided that we need to go ahead and scream and shout anyway. We recognise that even if our noise doesn't get noticed, sitting quietly in the corner as we did before is not going to get us anywhere.

Freethinking Island podcast.
So we are raising our voices. One of the main ways is  through the podcast  Freethinking Island.  There I join Joy in bringing voices from all over our region who have also had enough of sitting in the band counting 'bars rest' while others get to play whatever they want, whenever they want.  The people we have had on the 'island' so far have spoken with passion, with resolve and a desire to make sure that we're not left chipping along behind the music anymore.

I hope that those of you listening also feel that level of emotion and enthusiasm that is being brought from a culture that prides itself on enjoying itself without the  level of self consciousness that others have. I hope that you also realise why such a high energy response is needed from us. We are up against religious people who are every bit as passionate and determined to take the Caribbean back for Jesus, we just simply can't let up.

Happily the momentum is building for us and the development of the Caribbean Atheists Facebook page and the Caribbean Freethinkers' Society blog highlights that fact. We have seen islands themselves getting more visible too. Jamaica Atheists United being one leading the way and at the regional education level, there is an online group of (University of the West Indies) UWI Freethinkers. I see evidence of the various activities and groups feeding off of each other and this is heartening. I am gradually hearing discussion of freethinking and atheism entering into the discussion on Barbados call in programs and I expect that similar is happening in other islands.

However, we still have a long way to go, when you think that we have a government senator actively endorsing a German Pastor who the senator and many others in the island are absolutely certain has the power to raise human beings from the dead. This pastor is guaranteed a sellout crowd in Barbados and will rake in contributions in the thousands at least, at a time when the country is still in a serious recession.

So, we have  to keep clearing our throats and stepping up the decibels to be heard above the din. You have to yell if you want to be heard in the market. Whether it's a Caribbean fish market in Castries, Bridgetown, St. Georges, Kingston or Roseau or in the marketplace of religious ideas where many have been selling at their stall years before we freethinkers made it in to town.


David Ince is a Barbadian who nows lives in Calgary Canada where he is completing a doctoral degree in Renewable energy, focusing on the Caribbean.

Check out David Ince's Bio Page or jump directly to the Caribatheist blog.

And of course, start listening to freethinking island!

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Guest Post: On Losing My Religion

AUM symbol.
Guest post by: Kelly

Editor's Note: Awhile back I was asked whether my wife was also an Atheist.  Well, she's graciously agreed to do a guest post describing her own religious past and where she is now.

Since that post she's received some reactions - some from religious people.  Here's her response.

Warning: This post does contain some colourful and expressive language.  Might not want to read it to your kids.



On Losing My Religion

I wrote a guest post on this about how I came to find and then lose my religion.  In this post I'm mostly interested in the talking about the reactions I have received since then.

I get the impression some Pagans believe I think they're stupid now for being religious. I don't think religion is stupid. After all, I did believe for quite some time. I spent a lot of time working in the community. I was the president of the university group. I was a volunteer. I helped open the Montreal Pagan Resource Centre. If I thought all of that were futile, that sure was a hell of a waste of time! I went through the actions, made it my worldview and did rituals because they did something for me. I felt good doing it. I felt like it gave my life purpose.

Somewhere, at some point, I stopped getting good feelings. I felt like it did nothing. It lost its purpose to me, so logically, I stopped.

That does not mean, however, that I look down upon those who still practice. If it works for you, good! I am happy for you!

I've always had issues with cranky asshole ignorant atheists. I don't like calling myself that for that reason. I don't have an issue with all atheists, only the ones who insist on mocking things they don't understand. A lot of atheists have no clue about the details of most religions. When I've question them about it, they tell me they "don't have time to learn about world religions." Really? You don't have time to correct your ignorance? Well, you are truly a star now!

(On the other side, I have an issue with religious people trying to shove their beliefs down people's throats.)

But what I'm trying to say is, just because I've lost my beliefs, it does not mean I've automatically become some sort of angry ignorant atheist. Might I remind everyone I was only one course away from having a minor in religion (and in too much of a rush to finish to get it, which I still regret)?

Being a sceptic means nothing is set in stone. I was like that about my beliefs at the time and will continue to think that way. I may try religion again some time. I'm open to doing whatever works or feels like it has some worth in my life. I'm not here to say my way is the right way.

I think some people think that to have left it, I must have never really believed. I see it as no different than a past love. After breaking up, you are still able to admit you loved that person and then you fell out of love. It doesn't mean you wasted your time or never really loved them. I can still look back at certain times in fondness. I marked major life events (my marriage, hello!) with religion. I met my husband because of my beliefs! I don't think religion in itself is wrong - but the people are another issue.

I have an AUM symbol tattooed to the back of my neck. It's not like I'm going to get it removed now. I still believe in the concept of AUM and what it stands for.

I still chant on mala beads now and then. I still meditate sometimes. I still do yoga sometimes. I just don't pray or mark the changes of the year in any way. I don't go to rituals. I don't involve myself with the Pagan community more than is necessary. I don't celebrate Christmas. In fact, I pretty much hate it now. While the rest of society is pretty much intent on teaching my son about some guy named Santa, I'm working to make sure he knows he isn't real. I don't see a reason to lie to my son.



Kelly's Bio
In her own words:

I have an slightly unused degree in Linguistics. I've taught English as a second language and now prefer copywriting and editing. I run three blogs - all about a different interest of mine: http://www.solowomantraveler.cahttp://www.onequartermama.ca and http://www.couponcrazykelly.ca. I wish I were dedicated enough to do yoga daily, but I make up for it by watching videos on my iPad. I've been in an open marriage with Godless Poutine for over 10 years and us two imperfect but attractive people created an imperfect but very attractive little boy. My main purpose in life, I believe, is to help women and my child achieve their dreams and full potential.

You can also check all of Kelly's posts at her Bio Landing Page.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Guest Post, David Ince: No doubts of fears: God as the Barbadian people’s guide

Guest Post by David Ince (aka Caribatheist)

Awhile back I wrote about how winter in Canada gets me thinking seriously about moving to the sunny island of Barbados.  I don't have any concrete plans and there are many circumstances today that stand in the way of such a move in the immediate future.  But maybe someday, not this year, probably not next, I'll consider the Emerald (-shaped a least!) Isle as my home.

One of my fears about Barbados is the apparent total lack of any kind of Atheist community.  If there are Atheists they seem to keep pretty mum about it!  I have fears about being isolated and even becoming a kind of social outcast!  Though perhaps if I were to teach a course in physics or computer science down there I'd be excused for my godlessness (read below)!

So I reached out to the only Barbadian atheist I could find, David Ince - the Caribatheist!  I've invited him to do some guest posts about what the state of Atheism is in Barbados and, more broadly, the Caribbean.



I have to thank 'Godless Poutine' for his invitation to do this guest post on 'My Secret Atheist Blog.' As he mentioned last week, he came across my blog Caribatheist and realised I was a Barbadian atheist. Whilst I am glad that he found me and my experience clearly spoke to what he was looking for, it is unfortunate to learn that I was the only Barbadian atheist he found. So, where are the atheists? GP asks

Where are the atheists?

This is a million dollar question. Then again is it even a valid one? To me, it is almost like the God question. I spend much of the time when I am debating with theists reminding them that before we start asking 'Where is God?' we have to figure whether there is any God out there to be found in the first place. Similarly the question 'Where are the atheists in Barbados?' assumes that such beings exist on the island. Growing up there I would have to say that at best I was an agnostic when it came to the question of whether Barbadian atheists did indeed exist.

Are atheists real?

I have to testify that I never actually met an atheist in Barbados while I was living there. I have met a few recently on trips back through meeting up with people that I came to know of in the online community, but in the thirty plus years that I lived there, not one person ever told me that he or she was an atheist.

There were two people growing up that I was told were atheists. Both were white, both were men and both were Physics teachers. I suppose that was the stereotype, obscure white men who taught science. But I even wondered if those were just myths, because in those days the idea of a person living without God, would be like a car driving 100 miles with the fuel gauge on 'E.' It was just something that couldn't happen. Even the so called atheist would have to be getting his spiritual life force from somewhere. As these two physics profs were not people I ever met, I could easily push them off as figments of people's imagination, just like I do with those that tell me they have seen Jesus today.

I could do that because as far as I was concerned at that time, there were no such things as atheists. In my world everybody, I mean EVERYBODY believed in a God. It started from our National Anthem's second verse which we sang at least once a week at primary school.
'The Lord has been the people's guide for past 300 years, with him still at the people's side we have no doubts or fears.'
Children on their way to school.
That was how I saw God, he was the real leader of the country, the Prime Minister of the prime minister who could never be voted out of office. God was indeed the foundation on which everything in the country was built. Still, I often look back and wonder if there was a non-believer seeking to get out of me even then. I would always make an error in the lyrics and sing ' with Him (God) still at the people's side we have no doubts OF fears.'  Teachers would give me a scowl every time I did that and I would stand oblivious to the sin I had committed. I realise now that those modified words were far closer to reality than the original.

It's ironic because now I see nothing to be feared more than a person who has no doubts. But, that's how we all grew up. Letting go of doubt meant letting go of fear and that appeared to be more than enough justification not just to lean on Him but to hold on to Him for dear life.

However that was just in theory, because God seemed to always put back in as much fear as he took out. It was like he did a transfer at the bank from, fear of an unpredictable universe account to fear of an unpredictable God account. That is probably why I felt like singing that with God at the side of our people there was no doubt we would always be afraid.

At school we were frequently reminded that Ananias and Sapphira were struck down dead on the spot for not giving God all they had. That was a story we all knew by the time we were six and that was where our ‘God fearing’ started. God might be love but he was a scary lover. One thing you wanted to never do was disobey Him. Disobey your parents, maybe. Disobey teachers, OK. Disobey your elders, why not? But disobey God, absolutely no way! Because God was like the super hero that had all the powers and he could get mad, really mad. God was not to be messed with, no matter how meek, mild and well mannered he appeared, you didn't want to see him transform into the Hulk.

Central Bridgetown

The Barbados of Today

Today, things have changed almost beyond recognition in Barbados. Education now means that a significant number have moved away from the childish notion of a God that comes down and orders people and nature around at his whim. But in the midst of all of the education and the more liberal thinking, I believe that the vestiges of 'Don't mess with God' still linger. It's there like the appendix in the body, a legacy of the past that serves no present function but it just hasn't gone away. Perhaps the beliefs that led to it being there have whittled away but the fear that it brought with it still remains to wreak havoc.

The education system in Barbados is indeed stellar but we sometimes forget how new this system is. For even as I have managed to take my own education through to doctoral level, none of my grandparents ever even had the privilege of attending a secondary school. Two generations have turned things upside down. Superstitious thinking has simply not had enough time to get out of the system. Once it stays there will be fear, not so much fear of the unknown, but fear of what an unknowable God could do.

So moving to Barbados as an atheist now will feel odd.  You’ll feel the religion all around, especially on Sunday mornings, where it is almost impossible to live anywhere without hearing a church bell, mass singing or the strains of an organ. You will be isolated although thankfully, not completely alone.

Perhaps as one coming from outside it may be easier for you than it would be for me. Bajans would recognise that you just didn't come up in their environment and you are free to have the beliefs of wherever you came from, even if that belief is non-belief. You may even be able to engage them in discussion about God's non existence, some may even nod at you and agree with your logic. But I would be surprised if any ever came completely over to your side and that’s because of the fear. Fear of what may happen if they turned the back on the all powerful one, even if invisible and imaginary, that 'has been the people’s guide for past 300 years.'

Because, as we would say in Barbados, those 300 years ‘ain't no two mornings.’



Check out David Ince's Bio Page or jump directly to the Caribatheist blog.

Godless Poutine's Note: That last part of this post by David echoes what my wife, half-Barbadian herself, has often told me. On the island there seems to be a wonderful attitude of Live and let live.  Perhaps coming from the outside would also enhance this for me.

David has promised me a follow-up blog post about his current efforts to promote freethinking in Barbados and the Caribbean!  I'll be looking forward to it!


Thursday, 1 November 2012

Guest Post, Recovering Agnostic: Have I Got News For You...

Savile is on the right.
Guest Post by Recovering Agnostic

Godless Poutine's Note: Being Canadian, I was completely unaware of Jimmy Savile or the ghastly sexual abuse he is alleged to have carried out during his lifetime which is covered to a certain extent in this post.  My heart and thoughts go out to the many victims that have come forward at this time.

Some sites linked to in this post do contain mature subjects and language.


I was recently sent a transcript from a recording of Have I Got News For You, a British satirical news quiz show. It was first published some years ago, in 1999, and involves repeated accusations of a subtle and not-so-subtle nature about Sir Jimmy Savile's sexual activities. Not surprisingly, this transcript had started doing the rounds again after recent well-substantiated allegations were broadcast by ITV.

Just a few years after the supposed events, I know people who were convinced that some of this exchange had actually been broadcast, and people have even claimed to have been present at the recording. There's just one small problem - it never happened. The whole transcript was an obvious and well-attested hoax. But people continue to believe it.

It would be easy to dismiss this as a product of internet hysteria, but there's a very similar and even more famous case that predates the world-wide web by decades. The details of the story vary, but the common elements are that a woman appearing on Groucho Marx's show You Bet Your Life revealed that she had a large number of children, with the number varying from 10 to more than 20. There's a greater consensus about what followed:

Groucho: Why do you have so many children?

Woman: Because I love my husband.

Groucho: I love my cigar, but I take it out of my mouth once in a while.

It's a great quote, one that still gets attributed to Groucho in collections of humorous quips, but again, it never happened. There's no footage of this exchange, Groucho repeatedly denied it (despite the fact that he would have loved to have said it), and no one associated with the show had any recollection of it. There are even convincing explanations of how the story came about. But like a zombie, it refuses to die, and again, people are adamant that they really heard it broadcast.

So why am I so bothered about this, apart from a pedantic interest in debunking popular myths? Because it tells us something very interesting and revealing about how people remember things, and how reliable our memories are. We can even be mistaken about things we believe we witnessed, even very soon after the alleged events.

As you might have guessed by now, my real target is Jesus' resurrection and the foundation of the church. Even the most generous estimates put the writing of the first gospel a full generation after Jesus' death, so on what basis should we uncritically accept what they say as an accurate account of what truly happened?

We shouldn't. The only reason anyone would accept an account so distant from what it claims to describe without further corroboration is that it supports their prior beliefs. In other words, as Christians often say themselves without realising the implications, you have to be prepared to believe in the story before it makes sense.

At this point, the Christian apologists will no doubt be rallying their usual battery of arguments, so let's deal with a few of the more common and predictable ones.

Why would anyone die for something they know to be false? - They didn't know it to be false - that's the whole point about false memories. But their recollection will be unreliable, just as the recollection of people who "remember" things that never happened is unreliable. And the more we hear and discuss stories, the more we form an image of them in our heads, and the more likely we are to believe that we really saw them.

The evangelists would surely have an accurate memory of such extraordinary events - Begs the question, but let's go with it. They'd almost certainly have vivid memories, but not accurate - quite the reverse. Extreme events make us very sure of our version of what happened, but our memories of such events are consistently poor, even immediately afterwards.

There were Christian martyrs almost immediately after Jesus' death - Maybe so, although the only evidence we have for this is in the Bible, written long after the purported events, and hardly an objective or impartial source. But as above, memories can be surprisingly inaccurate even straight after the events described.

Haven't you only demonstrated that recollection can be wrong, not that these accounts are wrong? - Yes, indeed. But for the gospels to be accurate, we'd have to believe that a man died and came back to life because he was God, which had never happened before or since. The alternative is that they were mistaken, just as any number of clear and unambiguous memories have been mistaken. I think the balance of probabilities massively favours the latter, but in any case, these accounts clearly demonstrate nothing and require genuine corroboration.

I'm not saying that these accounts are definitely wrong, and in fact, I'd love them to be true. It would be lovely to think that some other guy died to give me access to eternal paradise after I die. But I'd like lots of things to be true - unfortunately, reality doesn't conform to my wishes. The question is whether there's any good reason to believe them to be true. On the available evidence, you'd have to say there isn't.


Check out Recovering Agnostic' Bio Page or jump directly to Recovering Agnostic.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Guest Post: Sheldon Cooper, From Christian Fundamentalist to Closeted Agnostic Blogger (Part 2)

Guest Post by Sheldon Cooper

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. 
What was a culture shock more than the music and its related memorabilia, was the fact that the wife in this family was Wiccan. I had never met a Wiccan before, not in encounters online, and definitely not in person. You see, growing up fundamentalist, I had always been taught the lie that Wicca = Satanism.

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.

Jack Schaap.
One day, I had found out that my sister's former pastor, Independent Fundamental Baptist (IFB) minister Jack Schaap, had been arrested, and later plead guilty to sexual abuse charges. I started researching the IFB movement, and found that it was much like a onion, the more you peel back the layers, the worse it stinks.

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.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Guest Post: Sheldon Cooper, From Christian Fundamentalist to Closeted Agnostic Blogger (Part 1)

Guest Post by Sheldon Cooper (not the character from Big Bang Theory!)

Editor's Note: Here's the first 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.

From Christian Fundamentalist to Closeted Agnostic Blogger (Part 1)

I look back now at my past life, and wonder how I did not question Christian fundamentalism or leave it behind long before I did. I was deeply involved in fundamentalist Christianity for 16 years, from the time I made a profession of faith at only five years old (and was baptized at seven), to shortly after my 21st birthday.

There are so many impossibilities and the contradictions to the Bible, that it's hard for me to believe now that, with all my intense study of the Bible for so many years, I didn't see them and start doubting long before I did.

I was part of three different denominations: the Independent Fundamental Baptist movement (IFB), which has been called a cult; the Pentecostal group the Assembly of God, in which I had my first "speaking in tongues" experience at 11; and the Southern Baptists, in which I was a Biblical Studies minor in one of their more well known universities.

I believed it fully and with a passion until my crisis of faith a little over two years ago which eventually led me to becoming an agnostic. But before my crisis I didn't question my faith. I was one of those people who agreed fully with the Bible and thought it should be taken literally in all circumstances unless the passage clearly stated or implied that it was figurative. Looking back at that now, it's kind of embarrassing, I mean, have you really taken a look at Genesis lately?

Generally, whenever I would encounter biblical contradictions, I would try to rationalize them or explain them away. I have said before that if you approach the Bible with the belief that it is absolute truth, it will always make sense, but if you look at it from a doubting/questioning point of view, like I did when I started questioning my faith, it rarely ever makes sense.

So you may be asking what led me to start doubting in the first place. For the answer, I need to go back about five years and talk about my personal life and the struggles I had before I started doubting.



Life's Struggles

I was a Biblical studies minor at a prominent Southern Baptist university, I went into that college after being in an Accelerated Christian Education (A.C.E) private school from kindergarten to the 5th grade. (For more on A.C.E, read the blog Leaving Fundamentalism.)  I was home-school with this curriculum until graduation.

Being in that kind of isolated environment, combined with my pre-existing depression (and what I know now to be the effects of  OCD), made me unprepared and ill-suited for a college that, despite its Christian fundamentalism, was structured  much like any public college. Things didn't turn out well.  The depression hit hard and my inability to relate to people caused by the isolation of my childhood and my OCD made studies very challenging.

(I've wondered sometimes if people have confused me for an autistic due to my social skills, or lack thereof in some cases. I felt lost and almost like I was an immigrant in some foreign country at times, even though I had only moved 200 miles away from home.)


Breakdown

Depression attacked with a vengeance with both emotional and, worst of all, physical symptoms. The fatigue became so severe that I couldn't get out of bed most mornings.  It sometimes took 4 or 5 twenty-ounce bottles of Mountain Dew to get through a 4-hour shift at the college cafeteria.

Muscle weakness and pain also became common and. although less frequent, it still persists to this day. Some days I would nearly collapse getting out of bed.  My legs wouldn't hold me up and I would have wait several minutes until I could try to stand up again.

I also started to get severe panic attacks. I probably had about twenty severe attacks that year.  Luckily I haven't had one since that year.

Needless to say, everything fell apart.  I had to return home, to face everything that happened, to pick up the pieces. You think my fundamentalist family would be supportive, right? Think again. Though they helped me to start over, for which I was grateful, I was emotionally knocked around every day.


Back To God

Apparently, my depression was nothing more than "guilt". I needed God back in my life. I began to believe that everything that had happened, even my depression, was my fault.  That maybe I did something to cause this.

Thus began a long process of begging God for forgiveness, and doubling down on my previous commitment to fundamentalism. I finally came to the point where I felt like God had "forgiven" me, but I still felt like there was no real connection there at all. However, I kept going anyway. I felt like my faith was strong nevertheless.

I felt fine in my faith for about two years afterwards, until all of a sudden, doubts and questions sprang up on me...

Next Part... The Seeds of Doubt 

Editor's Note: The second part of Sheldon's story will include the circumstances of his de-conversion from Christianity.  It includes a Wiccan - which will be a festive addition to the Halloween/Samhain season!

Check out Sheldon's Bio Page or jump directly to The Ramblings of Sheldon.

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