When I was young, I was raised to read the bible and children’s books, but my parents never took me church. My uncle died when I was 10 from liver failure, and my mother insisted I accept Jesus, shoving a bible in my hands. So it didn’t seem odd to me while I lived with my dad that I was forced to go to Church and youth group. I didn’t protest because at 13 it was all I knew, I didn’t have any interest in people or drugs or parties, I just read all the time.
Then as I got older, church satisfied me less and less, it wasn’t that I was losing my faith, just that the people didn’t really reflect the values Christ, clearly, laid out; that, and half the things most pastors said didn’t make any sense in relation to reality, I had to go through great mental lengths to justify the paradoxes and inconsistencies.
Eventually I switched churches and met my new friends, we shared two things in those early days, faith and music. We formed a band that didn’t last, but I found out I could drum, and made friends with the person I’d spend nearly half a decade living with.
His name is Scott and he left our band for Las Vegas to work with an organization called Youth With a Mission (YWAM). A traveling missionary, and I followed right in his footsteps. I was so blindly convinced in God that I flew to Las Vegas with about $700 dollars and the prayer that the other $2,300 would arrive during the next three months, and it did. I spent two months overseas in Burma and Thailand feeding the hungry, praying over the sick, consoling prostitutes–whose families had sent away for money. My life became the stories I read as a child, so I came right back to Vegas after it was done. I lived on about $200 a month, all provided by donation, I never worked a job during this two year period. Yet I made it through a lot of America, and even got to help out in Sri Lanka after the Tsunami hit.
Never in my life had I seen such destruction, but the island became so much more to me. It was my last big trip and I met my future on it. In under two I married Jamie. She had been a long time non-believer, she just didn’t want to tell me because she thought I’d leave her. A legitimate concern. I remember one conversation we had when she was nudging me towards the light and she said, “Don’t you think all the those things took a lot longer to develop than just seven or twelve thousand years?”
My big answer then was, “God made it in progress, made everything a few thousand years ago as if it had existed for as long as scientists claim.” So when you think there’s no hope for someone, think about that. Later at a book store she introduced me to How We Believe by Michael Shermer, at that point in my life that book answered all my questions, and put me on the path to atheism.
Now I’ve found myself in the position where I no longer wish to be filtered though a self-imposed lens. I don’t know exactly what that looks like, but I know that calling myself an atheist, or this, or whatever narrows people’s perception of me. I find labels slightly extremist, so why I do brand myself to what can easily become another herd; another agenda.