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Topic: Unbelievers: What was your catalyst?

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Subject: Unbelievers: What was your catalyst?
Date Posted: 6/5/2008 11:28 AM ET
Member Since: 11/27/2006
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Ok, so maybe not everyone had a catalystic moment that made them question everything they had been taught and brought them to where they are today.  But I certainly did. 

I never really believed, even when I considered myself a Christian.  I attended a private Christian HS and was a member of the church choir.  We traveled around the US and spread the "Word".   On the surface it was all good, but deep down I felt I was playing a part.  Too much didn't add up, and I saw too many "Christians" preaching one thing and living another.  When I graduated as the Valedictorian of my class and the Administrator, who was also the Pastor, tried to take my Valedictorianship away from me because I was going into a secular field of study I really began to question how much was just mind control.   I mean, we were taught it was a "sin" to question anything we were told.  So that was my starting point...

But my REAL catalyst was when I saw the foreign movie Jesus of Montreal.   I highly recommend it.  From the day I watched it I began questioning EVERYTHING and I've never felt guilty for it since.

 

Date Posted: 6/5/2008 11:55 AM ET
Member Since: 6/19/2007
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Hmmm... no real catalyst for me, more like a lifetime of minor doubting.  My mom's gone through several cycles of believing/not believing but always comes out on the side of believing to date and she dragged all us kids to church every Sunday during the believing spells.  Church school was always basically a drag IMO, I said my prayers like a good kid but never really had any strong feelings one way or another. 

When I was 10 my brother got cancer & my mom, in addition to the meds, went on a way far believing spree.  She took us all to faith healing services, that scared the $hit out of me & my brother & sister.  Later, I tried praying about my brother too, but again, felt no difference, saw no difference.  My brother recovered, mom settled back into usual church routine, I still kept noticing things that seemed off in the Bible (how did Noah catch two penguins if he was in the desert? who did Cain & Seth have babies with? Did God make dinosaurs?) 

But I joined our church's youth group and had a really good time there, loved the community spirit & doing the service projects and all the fun we had.  It's a really inclusive group, with kids of all backgrounds & beliefs.  But when we'd sing songs about how great and wonderful Jesus was I would just be like... ok, if you say so.  I did get a lot out of the youth meditation group, which explored eastern techniques and early christian meditation and a lot of cool things, but that was more for my own spirituality. 

I was confirmed to make my parents happy, still go to church with my mom on occasion.  She's part of a really wonderful church with really caring, open hearted, open minded people.  I love the head pastor to death, he's really been there for our family.  Mom stopped dragging us all to church after confirmation, said we could make our own choice after that.  So, I believe in the human spirit and maybe there's some sort of creator/force, but don't think it really matters either way, except as the belief in such a creator or force directs our behaviour for good or bad.  But there's really too much in the stories of the Bible, Torah, Koran etc that sound like myth for me to believe  in  any of them. 



Last Edited on: 6/5/08 11:57 AM ET - Total times edited: 3
Date Posted: 6/5/2008 12:23 PM ET
Member Since: 10/2/2007
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Last Edited on: 1/22/09 10:34 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 6/5/2008 12:38 PM ET
Member Since: 11/27/2006
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Interesting, Bob.   What did you do when the "light went on"?   Did you walk away then and there, or was it a slower extraction process?

 

L. G. (L)
Date Posted: 6/5/2008 1:13 PM ET
Member Since: 9/5/2005
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It's funny - I was thinking about this and was going to post this same question. :)

I never bought the "Jesus thing", as we have called it forever, eventhough my best friend when I was a child was Methodist and fairly religious.  I remember looking at a painting of Jesus in her house when I was about 5 or 6 and thinking "Nope, he's not for me."  Don't know why, but the story of the Bible always felt like a fairy tale to me, as a kid.

I was raised to choose my own religion and went to church/temple with my friends - Methodist, Catholic, and Jewish - and nothing I ever experienced felt right.  Mom always said she found God in nature, and that no one really knows the answers, and that I had to figure it out on my own.  My Mom was awesome. :) 

I love discussing this stuff and alway have - even as a kid.  My friends in Jr. High and High school had a cabin on  Lake Maxinkuckee in Culver, Indiana, and we would lay on the doc at night, watch for falling stars and discuss religion and atheism.  My two BFFs at that time are still my BFFs- and they are both still atheist.  Some of our conversations bordered on the absurd, but we learned a lot from each other.

I was atheist for a long time, through high school, college, grad school and beyond.  In my late 20's I started to think about it more and have come to the conclusion that agnosticim is the only choice for me.  I joined the UU church when I was 26 and the minister there (agnostic) was awesome in getting us to think about the nature of life, the nature of reality and our existence.  I think he helped shape me into the agnostic I am today probably more than any other individual.

 

 

Date Posted: 6/5/2008 1:24 PM ET
Member Since: 10/2/2007
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Last Edited on: 1/22/09 10:35 PM ET - Total times edited: 2
L. G. (L)
Date Posted: 6/5/2008 1:32 PM ET
Member Since: 9/5/2005
Posts: 12,412
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Man Bob, what a dilemma!

Date Posted: 6/5/2008 2:06 PM ET
Member Since: 11/27/2006
Posts: 4,840
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and we would lay on the doc at night,

Was the doc a non-believer, also?  Did he/she mind being laid on?   (Kiiddddding!).    I live in South Bend, just about 30 miles north of Lake Maxinkukee.  In fact, my DH just dj'd a party there last weekend. :)

Bob, I must confess I had to read your post a couple of times before I connected "lame" with your leg. :P

How well I remember the feeling of being in an uncomfortable churchy situation you can't get out of.   When I was part of that traveling choir, we went to this church out in the middle of nowhere.  It was an old barn that had been remodeled and it was called House of Praise.  It was so crazy!  Disorganized, and suddenly people (the congregation, not my choir) were running to the front where the preacher would smack them in the forehead and "slay them in the Spirit".   The people would lay on the floor and moan and twitch and then eventually jump up and start doing this strange dance (which I will always think of as The Jesus Jig).  

I remember standing in the pew thinking "If I try to slip out the door these people will fall on me like a pack of dogs...."



Last Edited on: 6/5/08 2:06 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
L. G. (L)
Date Posted: 6/5/2008 3:08 PM ET
Member Since: 9/5/2005
Posts: 12,412
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LOL - the funny thing is BFFs dad was a doc! :p

 

Date Posted: 6/5/2008 4:25 PM ET
Member Since: 4/20/2006
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I didn't have a real moment, just a fed up one, I guess.

As a child, I wondered about God.  I would pray, and found church interesting, but never felt it was for me.  Pictures of Jesus kind of creeped me out.  So did those books left in the doctor's waiting room with all the pictures.  I was jealous that people went to church on Sunday and felt like a loser because I did not.

As a teenager, I started seriously pondering the whole God thing.  Was it possible it was not real at all?  It didn't make a whole lot of sense, and I had certainly never seen any evidence of it.  I had been to church several times by then, and nothing impressed me.  The stories were pretty out there.  But nobody questioned the existence of God, did they?

As a young married adult, I wanted to act as mature as possible.  After all, I was married now, had a baby, a home....it was time to fit in and find my place.  I still didn't believe, but I thought, what the heck, let's give this thing another go.  All of my co-workers had been Christians, and acted like it was the thing to be.  My husband believed in God, so we joined a church.  We did the Sunday-Sunday-Wednesday thing, went on trips, dinners, did the nativity play, etc.  I felt like an imposter, and while I did enjoy some of the sermons and parts of the Bible, such as the parables, I couldn't help but think what a bunch of misinformed hypocrites there were in the church.  The earth was only 5000 years old?  What?  Dinosaurs and man walked together?  No way.  And never question the minister!  That was akin to blasphemy.  I found myself rolling my eyes more times than I could count.  People were asking for prayers and handouts left and right, and all I could think was, "Get up off your lazy a$$ and do something about it!".  Where was the goodwill and compassion I was seeking?  It wasn't at church.  Church was bashing people for being born gay, for being a different religion, for doing the best they knew how in poverty, and showing favoritism when it suited them.  Basically, church sucked and I was still not a believer.  I even checked out a few more churches and found more of the same.  "Get the children in here before they are three if you want to make them life-long followers of Christ!" one youth pastor said from the pulpit.  "We need to raise money for Pastor Steve's annual family trip to Disney World" another said.  The enchantment was gone, and I was still the same.

I did mature.....I realized it was okay to believe what I believed, and that I was just going to have to contend with being different and not being accepted all the time for that.  It was an awakening.  I quit the church completely.  It took me a while to stop seeing things the way the church had programmed me to see them, and that was only after a year of attendence!  I can't imagine a lifetime.

So now I'm just me, for better or worse, trying to raise my kids to understand that these choices are their's to make, and they don't have to make them until they are ready, no matter what anyone says.  I like to read books by David Mills and Richard Harris and others, I like reading books about science and nature and how it all came to be, as well as books on pyschology, sociology, and religion.  They've certainly helped me grow from that person who wanted to fit in so badly to one who is mainly content.  I don't need everyone else to change their opinion, just to respect that mine is equally valid.

L. G. (L)
Date Posted: 6/6/2008 3:59 AM ET
Member Since: 9/5/2005
Posts: 12,412
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Amanda wrote: I realized it was okay to believe what I believed, and that I was just going to have to contend with being different and not being accepted all the time for that.  It was an awakening.  I quit the church completely.  It took me a while to stop seeing things the way the church had programmed me to see them, and that was only after a year of attendence!  I can't imagine a lifetime.

I wonder how many people stay in their church because they are afraid of not being accepted by their families/friends/neighbors if they are honest with themselves about what they believe (or don't) and leave the church?  I'll bet there's a lot of them out there.

It's denying part of your culture, if that's how you have been raised.  It would have to be difficult.

That's one major reason I don't believe in indoctrinating children into any one faith.  I think they should be free to make those decisions on their own, if and when they are old enough and mature enough to understand what religion is and what it means.

 

Date Posted: 6/6/2008 11:08 AM ET
Member Since: 11/28/2006
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I think that there are many more people in the US who are non-believers or at least agnostic, but are afraid to say so.  If you are raised in a church it becomes a part of your cultural life and it's hard to break away.  Also, a lot of people attend church just for the pure social aspect of it and for the opportunity to "belong" to something.

As for myself, I was raised in the southern Baptist church.  I had perfect attendance pins because if the church door was open my mother saw to it that my butt was on a seat.  She took me to church on Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night.   I grew up hearing fire and brimstone messages from the preacher and lots of threats of going to hell if we didn't do such and whatever.  It was my entire social life for many years, even more than school.  For many years I told myself that I really believed but deep down, I don't think that I ever did.  But it was so ingrained into my very being.  As I got older, I used to watch the clock and count the minutes until church would be over.  Daydreaming kept me awake through the sermons. 

When I got married at age 20 I at last didn't have to go to church!  It was so wonderful to sleep in on a Sunday morning and not have to worry that I had to be home a certain time Sunday evening to attend church.  But I never admitted to myself that I didn't believe, just that I didn't like going to church.  But going to graduate school was what really turned the corner for me.  I am a medievalist/ancient historian and we did a lot of history of early Christianity and naturally, ancient religions and myths.  I saw what the Christians borrowed from the pagan religions and also how the whole concept of Christianity had been changed by the early Church fathers to become very misogynistic.  It was an eye opener for me.  I finally admitted that I did not believe.  It was a huge step for me but I have never felt so free in my life.  Well except for when I divorced my ex-husband - but that's another story!

 Edited to add:  I'm reading a book "Waiting for the Call" by Jacqueline Taylor.  It's for our college diversity book discussion.  From the book jacket, "Jacqueline Taylor was brought up in a strict evangelical household....she recounts the amazing journey that took her in profoundly different directions from those she or her parents could have ever envisioned....She discovers her own lesbianism and begins a most untraditional family...."    Jacqueline tells about as a preacher's daughter, she kept "waiting for the call" from God for her to do wondrous things, like the Christian missionaries.  But it never came.  I'm about half-way through the book and it's very good.

 

 



Last Edited on: 6/6/08 11:12 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
L. G. (L)
Date Posted: 6/6/2008 3:56 PM ET
Member Since: 9/5/2005
Posts: 12,412
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beverly, your story reminded me of my friend...

One of my BFFs was raised Catholic - their family had 10 kids in 22 years.  They all (the kids) would pile into the car on Sunday and go to "St. McDonald's"  because their Mom wanted them to go to church, and they couldn't - or were afraid - to say no. Her parents didn't attend - but they made the kids go.  Eventually, at 17, my BFF stood up to her mother and said she wasn't going to attend church any longer.  She was scared to death to be truthful but didn't want to be a hypocrite any longer.  She's now atheist as are 9 of the 10 kids.  One is still Catholic, and very religious.

 

Date Posted: 6/6/2008 5:35 PM ET
Member Since: 12/12/2006
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I was raised Catholic, Puerto Rican style, lol.  Anyway, we went to church semi-regularly when I was growing up.  I remember being mostly confused in my catechism class getting ready for First Communion, but face it, no8/8 year old kid has any real understanding in those classes.  By the time I was 13 and taking CCD classes for my Confirmation, I was full of doubt.  Frankly, I felt like a hypocrite going forward with the classes preparing for the sacrament when I really didn't want to--but I knew then and I know now that if I had asked to be taken out of the classes my mother would have smacked me senseless.  So, I went through that farce and I spent the next few years wrestling in my own mind what I thought of god, and Jesus, and of what the priests spoke of at Mass.  I read what I could get my hands on about religion, which at the time was admittedly not much.  Then at 16 I read "The Power of Myth" by Joseph Campbell (and Bill Moyers) and my eyes were opened in such a wonderful way.  I'd never before come across knowledge and information that felt as "true" as what I read in that book.  I don't think I have, since.  I realized how human beings have created religions that are so similar to each other, and this is because human experience is basically the same wherever and whenever you go!  I won't get into all the details, but I came to the conclusion that organized religion was just not for me.  That it seems to me that more ill than good has come from organized religion.  That human beings have come up with SO many ways to explain the divine, and the afterlife, etc. that to accept any one as being really and truly "truer" than any other seemed ridiculous to ME (meaning, fine if that's what makes other people happy, and I can recognize there are different paths to the "truth", but I'm just not interested in any of that for myself).  I don't have the ability to have blind faith in anything, nor do I want to.  As for what happens when we die--well, I'll find out someday for sure, and I'm in no rush to get there!  I let my parents know when I was 16 that I wasn't going to church anymore, and that I was washing my hands of organized religion.  LOL, my mother is still pissed to this day, and I'm 34!   I've never felt like I've been missing out on  anything.  I DID flirt with Wicca for a couple of years, but eh, even that seemed too organized to me!  I don't feel like I'm missing out on anything.  I'm an agnostic secular humanist and very comfortable with that.  I do plan on joining the Unitarian Universalists when my husband and I have a child, mostly as an inoculation against organized religion :).  Plus, I'm very comfortable with the philosophy of that particular religious organization.

Date Posted: 6/7/2008 3:08 AM ET
Member Since: 3/31/2006
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No real cataclysmic event for me, more of a collect of them.  As a child I was terrified of God.  I was raised Catholic, though not practicing.  God seemed incredibly mean and vindictive to me as a child. 

I was always questioning and always worried that I was missing something.

When I was in about 3rd or 4th grade I began to catch on that others around me weren't Catholic.  I was exposed to the "my preacher says...and that means it's right."  I really started to wonder if all these people follow different paths and everyone believes only they have the truth, then that meant someone was wrong.  It sort of bothered me that all these people had the audacity to claim to know the mind of God, if God existed.  How could they say their Baptist teachings were right and the Catholics were wrong, and vice versa?  That's when I began to question it all.  I couldn't make sense of how these people read the same religious text, interpreted it differently, and then all said they were the only ones who had it right.  It did terrify me that I could not believe what so many around me accepted so easily.  I thought I would be punished for not believing.

In high school, I was exposed to someone who came from a strict Pentecostal background.  She went away to camp one year and came back completely indoctrination.  She'd then preach "the Bible says you can do this, but you can't do that"  constantly and it really turned me off.

I guess the final straw was when I began getting pen pals from foreign nations.  I became close friends with a woman in India who was Hindi and a woman in Nigeria who was Moslem.  I began to realize that there were so many spiritual paths.  Who was I to presume what was right or wrong? 

I think it would be nice to be wrapped in one's faith and have no doubt.  But, that's not me.  I am constantly questioning and probing.  I don't pretend to know the truth and it doesn't bother me that there are people around me who believe many different things.

 

 



Last Edited on: 6/7/08 3:16 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 6/7/2008 9:42 PM ET
Member Since: 4/22/2007
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I was 13 in a confirmation class reading a particular passage (honestly don't remember which one) and thought to myself... Good Grief!  Only a male chauvenistic pig would write something like that.  

 

DING!!!

Date Posted: 6/7/2008 11:43 PM ET
Member Since: 12/12/2006
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LOL, Kelly!

 

I think the final straw for me when I was 13 was in Confirmation class when we were learning the 40 questions and answers in the Catechism, and I asked a question about something and the CCD teacher looked at me like I was insane and firmly told me that this wasn't information to be questioned, it was to be learned.  That it was infalliable truth.  I was scandalized.  I was being told to believe and accept something without even thinking about it critically?!  Whatever!

Date Posted: 6/7/2008 11:46 PM ET
Member Since: 12/12/2006
Posts: 1,075
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Also, I grew and and continue to live in a very disvery and mutiracial, multiethnic, and multireligious city.  I grew up with dear friends of varios backgrounds and religions, and by the time I was a teenager I realized that they all had a valid path to the truth and to god.  And that while none of them are for me, I refuse to accept that anyone is damned because they believe the "wrong" thing.

L. G. (L)
Date Posted: 6/8/2008 1:11 AM ET
Member Since: 9/5/2005
Posts: 12,412
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I think agnostics and atheists in general don't take much of anything on faith and tend to question everything; it's a personailty trait I have seen time and time again in people who claim agnosticism or atheism.

 

Date Posted: 6/8/2008 2:27 PM ET
Member Since: 11/27/2006
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*waves hand wildly*      While I would consider myself Agnostic as opposed to Atheist, I question EVERYTHING.  Drives people who know me nuts. :)

Date Posted: 6/9/2008 9:59 AM ET
Member Since: 8/28/2006
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I was raised Catholic..but I was always questioning everything (doubting thomas anyone?), and alwaysd getting into trouble for it...Finally I had enough and refused to get confirmed or go back to church.  There was, of course, a huge fight...and I thought I was going to be disowned by my family (wouldn't be the first time someone was disowned by the family)...Years later, I had a daughter and refused to take her to church...and as I was divorcing my ex (when she was 4) I had most of my family and the ex's trying to tell me I had to take her to church so I could show the court that I was providing 'spiritual and moral education' for my daughter...I scoffed (of course) and said I had no need to take her to church to teach her how to be a good caring person...I was told the court could take her away..At which I scoffed again with a 'let 'em try'...and wouldn't ya know it religion never came up in the court room.  Huh.  I managed to refrain from telling everyone I told you so...and now most people leave me alone.

I never had an epiphany, I just new there was something wrong with what the church taught compared to what the church and the hard-core believers did...and don't even get me started on all the nonsense in that book....I used to call it a fairy-tale when I was younger...still do...

My ex and his fiancee are trying to brainwash my daughter into becoming a good little christian girl...they are not having an easy time of it though...lol...She has questioned everything since she was younger...and I tell her frequently not to just believe a thing because someone told her to...She is also starting to come up with some really interesting questions and when they take her to church she will refuse to take part in certain activities or sing certain songs because she finds them distasteful or they make her feel bad to sing..I told her no one can force her and she took that to heart...I say as long as she states her position/feelings clearly and respectfully that no one will be able to punish her for being disrespectful and she just needs to sit quietly during whatever activity  so no one can take offense at her behaviour...She speaks up for herself even in church with all those adults  expecting her to do all the Jesus stuff and the kids all looking at her....makes Momma proud.  :)