My Journey

My Journey Away From Faith: The Epilogue: Part 2

For part 1 of the epilogue, click here.
To start at the beginning of my journey, click here.

 

I remember the first time I saw my nephew, from behind the window in the nursery at the hospital. He was so small and fragile, but so perfect in every way. I loved him from the first moment I laid eyes on him and as he has grown we have been close. Even today, if I see him from afar, he will scream at the top of his lungs, “Uncle Matt” and then come running to give me a hug.

When he was just a couple of months old, I took care of him for a night so that his parents could have a night out. He had such a cute smile and an inquisitive look on his face even at that age.  I knew that this kid was going to be something special, but I never realized the role that he would play in my own life.

Things took a downward turn when he was around a year old. My nephew seemed to not be developing at the rate that one would expect a boy his age to progress. At first doctors believed that he might suffer from some form of hearing loss, since he wouldn’t turn towards you if you were speaking to him. They ran a bunch of tests and could find nothing wrong with his ears, at least nothing physically wrong. He could hear it just seemed like his attention was always on something other than the person trying to get his attention.

By two he still hadn’t really began talking much. I’m very proud to say that the first two words that he put together were “Uncle” and “Matt”, but outside of that he could use a few simple words but definitely not the vocabulary of other children his age. He would also throw horrible fits with no apparent cause, failed to speak when spoken to and would fight making eye contact vigorously.

“I knew that this kid was going to be something special, but I never realized the role that he would play in my own life.”

By three he had began talking more but was showing some visible and verbal tics which was a cause for concern of his parents. He didn’t really play with his toys but would spend time lining them up or sorting them. He loved trains and we spent a lot of time watching Thomas the Train together any time I was around him. He wanted you to watch with him but not talk, talking while it was on could throw him into another fit.

I began doing my own research, as I do when something bothers me, and found many of his symptoms were related to autism. At first his parents were insulted but they did take him to the doctor and have him checked out. The doctor sent him on to a specialist and after a couple of sessions, the specialist gave his diagnosis: Moderate Autism.

I felt bad for my brother and sister-in-law, but worse for my nephew. I knew how cruel the world could be for someone who was “normal” like me and I decided to spend huge amounts of time looking up information, finding ways to communicate better with my nephew and ways that I might be able to help him avoid some of the bullying that I had experienced. I knew he was going to have to be tough in order to face the world as I had and so by looking up this stuff, I could give it to my brother and sister-in-law so that they might help him as well.

I was thrown way back to a time when I would wake up early, sneak into the kitchen and spend time playing in my mothers cabinets, sorting and stacking.

One day something clicked, I was watching my nephew stack things according to size shape, or just in a line making a train with them. I was thrown way back to a time when I would wake up early, sneak into the kitchen and spend time playing in my mothers cabinets, sorting and stacking. I then remembered my sticker collection, it was my favorite thing for several years as a child. I never used the stickers, never once did I put any of them on anything, all I did with them was sort them in various ways; size, shape, color, etc…

cans.jpg

I walked over and sat down beside my nephew. He kept playing, making loud “Choo-Choo” sounds as he built his train. When he wasn’t looking I switched out two of the pieces of the train, taking them out-of-order. When he looked back he instantly yelled, “NO!” He then went directly to the pieces that I had moved and put them back in the order that they been in before I had moved them.

My mind began to make connections, I saw much of myself in this small child with a few major exceptions. The similarities were his tantrums, getting easily overwhelmed, his stacking and sorting habit, his dislike of anyone new, and his seeming inability to make eye contact. The last one had actually struck me earlier, when it had first been mentioned before he had even gotten his diagnosis. When I had been a small child, I had gotten in trouble from teachers for not paying attention to me, and several had spoken to my parents about the fact that I didn’t make eye contact. One of my worst childhood memories is of a teacher grabbing me by the face and forcefully turning my head with both hands, making me look at her directly in the eyes. It terrified me then and still gives me chills today. Today I do a pretty good job at faking eye contact, looking at someone’s forehead or teeth instead of their eyes has been my technique and people only rarely notice.  Lastly, in the similarities, we both hated being touched, especially when we aren’t ready for it.

The exceptions were that I had been highly verbal at a very young age, I had never had trouble communicating with family and only had communication issues with those outside my family. Learning had come easy to me, for those things I was interested in, and had been considered gifted during my early years of school. Only when I got to the age that certain subjects really bothered me, or were advanced enough that I struggled to teach myself how to do them, did some consider me to have a slight learning disability. While I had displayed some tics as a child, flapping my hands when excited and spinning in circles, I had gotten in trouble for doing them so often that I had forced myself to stop. I still fidget constantly, but at the time didn’t see this as anything out of the ordinary.

My life at the time of these discoveries wasn’t the best and so I basically considered it as something interesting that I could look into at a later date. Several years later though, on the cusp of my second divorce, after leaving the ministry, did I remember these issues. My nephew has grown and has developed quite a bit, his vocabulary is much better, he is intensely into video games, and even considered gifted in math and science at school. Sadly, he is bullied almost constantly by certain kids and absolutely hates school. When my mother mentioned that he throws a tantrum every morning and cries his eyes out before he goes to school, another click occurred in my brain. It was just like me at his age. Around this same point I had begun watching “Parenthood” which features a male child with Aspergers, and an adult that comes to realize he has Asperger’s through interaction with the child. It was as if I was watching my own life on screen.

I went home and began researching autism. I google searched “different types of autism” and found links describing the spectrum and how different those people on the spectrum can be from one another. I found an article about Aspergers Syndrome and, as I read through the symptoms, it was as if I was reading something written specifically with me in mind. One of the things that really hit me discussed sensory issues and overloads. I had experienced this my entire life without ever having a name to put to it. It’s an awful experience and something that I can’t really be described in a good way. When people ask me what it is like, I tell them, it is like every one of my senses experiencing the feeling of nails on a chalkboard.

At the bottom of the article there was a link to a quiz which I followed and took.  It was an Autism Quotient quiz and I scored 45 out of 50, very high likelihood of autism. I took several other quizzes from various sources, and each one I landed in the very high likelihood range for autism. A new idea began to come into my mind, this is me…

My head swam with all of this new information. Everything suddenly made complete and perfect sense. All of the struggles, all of the bullying, all the times I had people pray over me to rid me of my shyness, and heartache I had experienced swirled around this fact that had remained hidden from me for so long, I had autism. I knew that my autism wasn’t quite the same as my nephews but that’s what it was. The only problem in my mind was what do I now do with this information?

Several sites that I found spoke of self diagnosis. This is where someone decides, through their own research and life experience, that they have autism and are happy to live out their life without ever getting a diagnosis. This worked for me for well over a year. I hated the idea of going to a psychiatrist or a psychologist. This stems from both my hatred of meeting and talking with new people and the fact that I had been raised to believe psychiatry was, more or less, evil. So I would self diagnose and be happy with that for the next couple of years…

My Journey

My Journey Away From Faith: The Epilogue: Part 1

For part 28 of my journey, click here.
To start at the beginning of my journey, click here.

“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”
“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
“You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”

– “Alice In Wonderland” Lewis Carroll

We’re going way back in time today. Long before I became and Atheist. Back before I became a minister. Further back than my time in Texas or my first time preaching at twelve. We are going all the way back to my early childhood. A time before religion had even had a real chance to lay its talons into me yet.

I made my parents incredibly proud when I began talking not long after my first birthday. By three years old I had leaned all of my numbers and had taught myself to read simple books, through watching Sesame street for the most part. The only thing that caused my parents concern was how deeply shy I was.

At five years old they had attempted to put me into kindergarten, I have shrieked so loudly and for so long that the school decided it would be better if I waited another year and developed my social skills a bit better. Just prior to my sixth birthday, my parents took me to a doctor and asked him about my shyness. The doctor told my parents that my shyness was nothing to worry about, all they needed to do was encourage me to make friends, put me into social situations, and soon I would grow out of my shyness.

From the moment I started school, I absolutely hated it. Every morning, before getting on the bus, I would throw a horrific tantrum, bawl my eyes out, and then once on the bus I would bawl my entire way to school. I would continue throwing a fit well into the first couple of hours of class, by that time I would begin to get hungry and forget about the tantrum I had meant to throw throughout the entire day.

This lasted until I was in the third grade. I went to school on the first day and once again bawled my eyes out, the teacher walked over, bent down, and told me that third graders don’t cry about going to school because they are big kids now. That was the last day I cried before school but I never lost the feelings of terror being around other children.

Other children made no sense to me. They played games that I hated, they talked about stupid things with their stupid friends and pretended to be even more stupid things with their stupid friends. It wasn’t just my religious background that made me different. The strange thing that these kids enjoyed being around each other, I hated being around just about anyone. I got along with adults and would bug the teachers about everything. The kids recognized that I wasn’t like them at all and I was treated to bullying every day of my school years. I had very poor coordination, and even trying my best I couldn’t fight back well enough to keep people from picking on me and so I just went through it. I hated life and life seemed to hate me.

Every report card would say the exact same things. Doesn’t play well with others, doesn’t respond when spoken to, struggles to make eye contact. My grades were on both sides of the scale. In classes I enjoyed I got great grades and was seen as above average, in other classes that I didn’t enjoy, I was below average. I actually flunked gym class twice during my school years…I might actually be proud of that part…

By my teenage years I had finally made a handful of friends, but I didn’t seem to have friends like others around me did. I could go weeks without talking to a friend, not because I didn’t like them but because I didn’t have anything to say to them. My friends were mostly social outcasts themselves and so we were more or less people who the rest of the kids couldn’t stand so we accepted each other in some small strange way. One thing really separated me from my other friends and that was ideas of sex….

My friends seemingly loved talking about sex, I on the other hand had absolutely no interest in the topic. At 16 I would rather talk to someone about the latest episode of an anime or power rangers series that I had watched, than discuss sex.  I only became truly interested in the opposite sex at nearly 18, while my other friends had been interested since our early teens.

Another issue that followed me through life was work ethic, or more importantly my complete lack of work ethic. Finding a job was easy, keeping that job was very hard. I would have a job for a few months, get bored, and just stop showing up. I would have bosses call me and scream at me through the phone about being fired and I’d simply hang up and start looking for my next job.  What’s really strange is that I was generally well liked by bosses wherever I worked. It is just that i would become disinterested in something and I would just stop giving a damn, I knew I would lose my job and I knew this would cause me to go through the stress of finding another job, but I just could not make myself care enough to keep from losing a job.

I had always planned on going to college, but there were also some difficulties here. I had great difficulty with algebra, so much so that it would throw me into a tantrum that would last for hours and I also couldn’t write an essay for the life of me.  The problem is, that when I describe something, often times the first portion of what I am describing will come after the second or third items. I had an insane amount of difficulty putting things in the correct order, which led to poor grades in most of my English classes.

During one particular English class in high school, I submitted an essay final, that I had honestly worked on very hard, and received an F. The teacher even went out of her way to tell me that if I couldn’t write a better quality paper than that, I should just drop out of school and not even consider trying to get into college. So I did…I dropped out of school and decided that college wasn’t for me.

I got my GED with the help of Jennifer in Texas. She taught me how to write a proper essay, explaining exactly how to lay things out. The instructor said it was one of the best essay’s he had ever read. This made me feel pretty good but since I had barely passed the algebra portion of the exam, I decided that college still wasn’t for me. The rest is history…

As I have laid out in my blog I bounced from job to job, and finally settled on the ministry. Later I went back to college and did really well. My math instructor saw that I was struggling and talked to me before one class, she told me that math is nothing more than being able to recognize patterns and to try thinking of it that way. From that day on I was an A student in all of my math classes. Literally, i went from not understanding higher mathematics one day to helping tutor other students a few short weeks later.

Throughout my entire life, I had no idea why my mind worked the way it did, and why I was incapable of grasping many things, especially social cues, norms, and awareness.  I honestly figured that I had just been born broken and that there was something completely wrong with me. That is until I met a wonderful bundle of joy, my first nephew.  Shortly after his birth, my life began to make more and more sense. I saw myself in him but that story will have to wait til the next chapter.

To continue on to part two of the epilogue, click here.

My Journey

My Journey Away From Faith: Part 28

For part 27 of my journey, click here.
To start at the beginning of my journey, click here.

“Only I can change my life, no one can do it for me.” -Carol Burnett

Truth be told, from the day after I moved out of my house, I had I become outed as an atheist. My ex-wife went to my former church the next day and told everyone I had left the faith and that I had confided in her about my lack of belief almost a year earlier. The only ones that didn’t truly believe I was an atheist were my parents but I think even they had their own assumptions about my loss of faith.

Coming out entirely was a stressful situation for me and one that I was not quite ready to make. I still had the fact that the restraining order would be ending soon and I would once again be able to contact my kids again. A few days before the restraining order ended I was informed that child protective services had taken them in and they were not living with their biological father many states away. I was hurt that I wouldn’t be able to see them face to face but felt much more sorry for them, about why they had been uprooted from their childhood home.

“I was hurt that I wouldn’t be able to see them face to face but felt much more sorry for them, about why they had been uprooted from their childhood home.”

I won’t go into specifics but it turns out that my ex had abandoned them and moved in with her boyfriend several states away. They had been all alone for a couple of months surviving on the small amount of money my daughter was making at her fast food job. She was only 16 at the time and not ready for that amount of responsibility but I am proud of how well she dealt with being thrown in that situation. Word got around and one of her co-workers had contacted CPS. They were moved to be with their father the next day.

A few days later, the restraining order expired and I sat down at my computer for several hours, typing and then deleting immediately everything that I typed. I was so afraid that they still hated me and would want no part of me in their lives. Finally I types out something along the lines of, “Hi, how are you? I’ve missed you.” I contacted my daughter first as I had heard that my son was still quite angry about everything and wanted to ease into the conversation I would soon have with him.

“Hi, I’m good. I’ve missed you too.”

The response was more joyous than I could ever have imagined. “Hi, I’m good. I’ve missed you too.” I sat and shook crying tears of joy for one of the first times in my life. Those simple words took everything out of me and I struggled to come up with anything else to say. Eventually we began discussing how things had happened and how she had soon come to realize that I had not been the one at fault for the issues in mine and her mother’s marriage. We reconciled and ended the conversation on a very high note.

A few days later I contacted my son. He was definitely still very angry but did attempt his best to share with me how he no longer held me at fault for what had gone on and how he had missed me too. We discussed some of the new video games that were out and how he was doing at his new school. He hated it, but luckily he has come to really enjoy it now. We ended our conversation, not quite on the high note as my conversation had gone with my daughter but still on good terms. Over time this relationship has mended and I cherish my conversations with him.

He’s full of energy, 100% Tasmanian devil and I love him dearly.

With both of those conversations out-of-the-way, it was time to get things at home on a better path. We moved into a nice home a short drive away from the apartment we had been living in. My love, has made for us an excellent home over the last few years. Filled with warmth and love that was so lacking in years past. I am truly “blessed” to have the two of them in my life and to have my relationship with my other two kids mended.  Jennifer also has a son who lives with his father and I have a great relationship with him as well. He’s full of energy, 100% Tasmanian devil and I love him dearly. My life has become a wonderful experience and I am so happy to have found my real place within it.

A short time after moving into our new place, I purchased “The God Delusion,” by Richard Dawkins. Within it he lays out a 7 point scale describing 100% Theist to 100% Atheist. I found that I fit with his own idea of being a 6.9 Atheist. Not quite saying I have proof that god doesn’t exist but enough to say that the idea of a god is highly unlikely. At this point I decided what I really was is an atheist. Since that point I have read other books by various authors such as: Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Dan Barker, Jerry Dewitt, Daniel Dennett, and many others.

When I finally came out as an atheist, I began posting on various groups discussing my journey away from faith. I was encouraged to contact “The Clergy Project” and see about membership there. I was also encouraged to share my story in a blog many times over those month. About a year later I joined “The Clergy Project” and considered starting my blog, but at the time I was far too angry.

Many people will speak of the anger they feel when they finally admit their lack of belief. Realizing how much of your life has been built around a pile of lies is a truly traumatic experience, and anger is something you must go through before finally settling in to a comfortable new normal. I needed to adjust my parents to the new me, thus I needed to figure out who the new me was.  Finally, I felt as if I could create this blog while keeping my emotions in check. I hope I have done well in describing my experience.

Another Journey awaited me in the few years just prior to admitting my atheism. I have always had a mind that I believed was very different from others around me, and have always wondered why. In the last few months I have finally had confirmed what I have assumed for so many years. I hope you will enjoy learning about my journey to that realization in the coming days and weeks ahead.

Thank you so much for following my journey up to this point. I cannot tell you how grateful I am to everyone who has shared this journey with me. You the readers are what have made this blog worth writing. Thank you!

To continue on to the epilogue and another journey I’ve been on the past several years, click here.

Satanic Sundays

Satanic Sunday #4: Dungeons and Dragons

To read last weeks Satanic Sunday post, click here.

If there was one thing that was considered the ultimate in satanic practices during the 1980’s, it would be cat sacrifice, the second would be Dungeons and Dragons. This benign role-playing game was blamed for all of the evils of society at one point or another. The main issue with the game was that it would change your children from the fine, upstanding, christian kids they were into evil, hate filled warlocks and witches in a single session. That’s only one point that was made though, allow me to explain some of the other stuff here now.

Dungeons and Dragons Creates Witches and Warlocks

Mage.jpgFirst and foremost, as mentioned above was the belief that anyone engaged in this game would be instantly converted into Satan’s ministry, taking the role of a witch or a warlock.  Parents who never took the time to read anything about the game believed that you were actually learning spells that could be used in day-to-day life. If that were the case I would cast a firewall spell anytime I see someone who I don’t want to talk to on the street. This stems from a couple of places, one Christians believe in magic, both good and bad, and secondly they believe Satan likes to use magic to lure kids, like a creepy dude in a van might use candy.  Never once have I ever played D&D while thinking, boy this spell of revelation sure would help me find my keys….or maybe I have…I’m a nerd.

Dungeons and Dragons Will Make Your Kids Commit Suicide

This was based on nothing more than anecdotal evidence of a single parent, whose child had committed suicide and had happened to be a D&D player. The media picked up on this and produced a 60 Minutes special based entirely on this anecdotal evidence.

This belief expanded to the point that in many Christian churches it was taught that there were groups of D&D players who would commit suicide or murder a player who died within the game. I had numerous friends who played the game at the time and found this hysteria to be rather silly, not having a single friend who had ever committed suicide or been killed for dying in the game.

Dungeons and Dragons Will Turn Your Sons Gay

Unicorn.jpgSo freedom in character selection and creation is a big deal with Dungeons and Dragons. You can play as a Barbarian, a mage, a rogue, an ogre, a gnome, etc…you can also play as a member of the opposite sex. This caused huge uproar in the christian community, finding out that some of their children might be fantasizing about being a member of the opposite sex. This was Satan’s way of turning all of our children into homosexuals!

In reality, the ability to play as the opposite sex generally just turns into a laugh fest with a bunch of immature teenagers acting out the silliest of activities. “I hit the skeleton with muh boobs” kind of stuff.  Now I’m not saying that some kids, who are already gay or trans-gendered, don’t express those feelings through the safety of the game, which I think is healthy for them to do, but the idea that dungeons and dragons was creating an army of homosexuals was by far one of the most ridiculous things I ever heard…except for the next item.

Dungeons and Dragons Will Give Your Kids AIDS

AidsThis goes hand in hand with the item above. Since Dungeons and Dragons was supposedly turning your children gay, and at the time AIDS was considered a gay disease, it was only a matter of time before someone made the above claim. I was even told that AIDS was a curse caused by using the magic within the game, that god curses those who practice magic with homosexuality and AIDS. So there you have it, eliminate Dungeons and Dragons and then imagine the amount of money our government can save on AIDS medication. This item should show just how far grasping people in this community go to explain matters of science through the magical powers of their deity, it’s bad for you…

The Truth About Dungeons and Dragons

FuelTruthfully, these things really did worry me as a child and I didn’t play the game until I was much older. When I did begin playing, I found a fun environment, a great use of my imagination, and way more laughs than you could ever imagine. Dungeons and Dragons allows those who maybe have issues with self-esteem and confidence, though not always the case, to experience what it is like to be a hero, to be a powerful person, to escape the bullshit of everyday life for a few hours with friends who won’t judge them for who they are. The biggest issue with dungeons and dragons might be the sugar you consume due to the large amounts of Mountain Dew I have drunk during my time playing the game or the hours of sleep I have lost due to long sessions lasting well into the night. Dungeons and Dragons is a fun game that many people enjoy, it is no more harmful that Fantasy Football and can be a great escape from the hardships that life might throw at you from time to time.

Strange Questions · Uncategorized

Strange Questions #1: If You Don’t Believe In God, Do You Believe In Anything?

han.pngToday, I decided to start a new series on some of the strange questions you hear as an open atheist. The above question seems to come up a lot in debates and I don’t think it ever gets less annoying. The idea that belief in god is a requirement for belief in anything is sketchy at best, but it is also incredibly illogical. Think of it in another context…”If you don’t believe Star Wars is the greatest movie series in history, do you believe in anything?

Atheism is simply the lack of belief in god. It is not a counter belief that there isn’t a god as many apologists would have you believe. Does it require belief to say, I don’t believe I can fly? If you say it does, then is the act of being unemployed actually a job in itself? People who try to say that lack of belief requires belief are only doing so in an attempt to make it out that Atheism is a religion unto itself. It’s dishonest and what’s leprechaunsmore, if you ask them if they require a belief in the lack of fairies, unicorns, or leprechaun’s? They will tell you that these things are illogical and require no belief. If they don’t do that then they will say any stance requires belief and will drag you down their slippery slope to absolute nothingness.

 

However, let’s talk about what I, as a single person who is an atheist, believes in?

I believe in survival, and by survival I include those qualities that we as humans need in order to survive. These things include but are not limited to: Love, Friendship, Dignity, and Respect; without which life will lack a certain zest that most of us need to embrace it at its fullest.

Love

Love may or may not be a series of chemicals released while you are around certain people, its evolutionary aid may simply be to ensure that genes are passed down from generation to generation but it’s effects rise above and beyond the genes.  Love is a beautiful thing that you can witness in many corners of nature from protective mothers, monogamous species, and care given to those in your particular grouping. Human love though has taken this to another level, and is something we all yearn for in one way or another.

Friendship

Friendship may or may not simply be a response to an evolutionary need to stick together and defend one another from attack but it has also risen above and beyond its genetic reasoning. We find those that we share common interests with, form a camaraderie that can take us through some of the roughest patches in life. Friendship can be shared with many or few, it can be helped by the one you love or by many others.

Dignity

Dignity probably has no evolutionary basis that I can think of but it is in our shared genetic makeup that we can see that we are all truly created equal. Every single one of us is a mix of our mother and our fathers genes and thus a truly unique human being deserving the ability to make their way in society as best as they can. When humans work together towards the dignity of humankind, we see what we can truly become if we strive together and stop bickering about petty differences in belief and location.

Respect

Respect has the evolutionary advantage that it allows you to also be treated with respect. If you don’t like people treating you like a dick, it’s probably a good idea not to treat others like a dick. It is no wonder to me that one of the shared traits of many faiths is a form of the golden rule, in other words, “Do to other people as you would like done to yourself.” However as we have progressed as a species our ideas have gotten better and perhaps a better rule today is to treat others as they would want to be treated. In this we can all share a mutual respect for one another.

Some atheists throw out the believe word altogether, feeling it is far too connected to faith. Instead they use the term, trust. So instead of saying…I believe in the goodness of man, they will say…I trust in the goodness of man. I too have used this tactic when in a debate where someone says that belief requires something outside of yourself and unsure in nature to depend on.

These are just a few of the things that I believe or trust in outside of faith. Simply put, Atheism is the lack of belief in a god. What you believe in outside of that is completely up to the person. There are atheists, like myself that lack belief in anything supernatural at all, and atheists who believe in ghosts, spirits, and even some form of an after life. There are liberal atheists and conservative atheists, there are logical atheists and completely illogical atheists, there are atheists that are open and direct with their lack of belief and there are atheists that are closeted and even some that stand behind pulpits every Sunday.

My Journey

My Journey Away From Faith: Part 27

For part 26 of my journey, click here.
To start at the beginning of my journey, click here.

“Some things are in our control and others not. Things in our control are opinion, pursuit, desire, aversion, and, in a word, whatever are our own actions. Things not in our control are body, property, reputation, command, and, in one word, whatever are not our own actions.” – The Enchiridion of Epictetus

As I read through the paperwork the officer had handed me, I fell deeper and deeper into depression. She accused me of being both physically and mentally abusive, claimed that I was mentally ill, and said that I would definitely be a harm to the children if allowed to interact with them. I decided that I would fight this and went to the courthouse prepared to give my side of the story.

“I never deny a restraining order that has been sought in my courtroom…”

The day of the hearing arrived and I stood as the judge came in to take his place. We all sat and the first thing out of the Judge’s mouth was, “I never deny a restraining order that has been sought in my courtroom. We can either sit here and discuss this til we are blue in the face or I can simply grant it and we can be done with this situation for the next year.” I realized no argument I could make would change the judges mind, and she was there crying and acting as if I was crazy. When the judge asked me my opinion, I simply said, if that meant a year of no contact with her, I would be more than happy to agree.

I drove home with deep feelings of despair and foreboding. How was I going to survive an entire year without any contact with the kids that had become such a crucial part of my life? I was crushed and sobbed much of the next few days. My life at home was bad but only because I was in such a deep depression. The love of my life felt the brunt of it and didn’t feel as if I wanted her there. Sadly our relationship almost ended in those first couple of days after the restraining order went into effect. In such a sad state, I considered putting things on hold and told my love about it. She burst into tears and told me I needed to figure out exactly what I wanted and fast. The second I saw the pain in her eyes, I knew I never wanted to see that pain again and that I wanted to spend the rest of my life bringing joy to those eyes.

StoicismHowever, getting out of a depression is not an easy matter, it isn’t like turning a light switch on and off and I had to find my own way out of it. Luckily, my love, had an idea that might just help me. She had been a psychology major in college and had studied philosophy as well, knowing my love of psychology, she encouraged me to look into some of the Stoic writers of the early first and second centuries AD. It was exactly what I had been looking for. For those that don’t know, modern CBT therapy is based on Stoic ideas.

Marcus Aurelius

The Stoics (Epictetus, Seneca, and Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius) taught that some things are within our control and others are not. That’s a very basic explanation of their philosophy but it is enough to get the general idea across. Those things that are within our control should be the things we dwell upon and deal with, those things outside of our control are things that we shouldn’t spend much time, energy, or thinking on. I read several of the classics as well as modern stoic works written by non-believers.(Stoicism was not based on a belief in god and so it fits well with the atheist mindset) I found within these works that you can love someone who does not currently love you back and still be fine.

I knew I had a year that I couldn’t see those kids and the thought had crushed me, but being able to see them was completely outside of my control. Being able to love them, even though I wasn’t able to see them was still fully within my control. I also had a deep love for the woman I was with and a growing love for her daughter as well. I decided that for the next year I would dwell, not on what I couldn’t do, but only upon those things that I could do. It took some time but my depression began to gradually subside.

Over time, my happiness and tranquility increased to a point that I was able to beat my depression and move forward with my life.  The fact that god and faith played no role in overcoming this depression made the results twice as satisfying. Not only was I just living life but I was truly enjoying the life I was living.

One day I checked the mail and got notice that the final hearing for my divorce was coming up.  Also in the mail that day was a letter stating that I owed some $10,000 dollars in back child support for the daughter of Jennifer. Confused, I contacted child support services and asked them why they felt I owed this. Come to find out, since Jennifer had her daughter while we were still technically married, the state of Iowa considered her my legal daughter. When I explained that they were living at my residence and that I was back in a relationship with her mother, they told me I owed nothing and that I could put in a request to have her status as my legal daughter removed. They said if I did nothing, she would still be considered my legal daughter.

I thought about it for only a minute or two before deciding that I would give her the final say in what occurred. Jennifer agreed and when she got home from school that day we sat her down and talked it over with her. She instantly said that she always had wanted a “real” dad and was really happy to find out that I was her real dad. That settled it, she is my daughter and always will be. I love her so much and she acts so much like me it’s hilarious.

Anyway, the day of the final hearing arrived and the judge signed the decree, I was now divorced once again. I felt a deep sense of relief having that period of my life over with. I still missed the kids a great deal but was fully capable of loving them without being able to see them. We went home and I went to work where my coworkers had bought me a cake to celebrate the end of my divorce proceedings. All in all it was a great day.

Deadbeat

We spent the next year just enjoying being around each other. We learned a lot about one another and our relationship continued to deepen. My faith had been removed but I still claimed a deistic/agnostic style of belief, claiming that either god doesn’t exist or he created everything and then took off to avoid child support payments to his newly created beings. I did however begin to read some scientific journals, things that would have been considered taboo while I was in the faith, and found great enjoyment in learning about topics like physics, the big bang, and evolution. Life was good but I still wasn’t ready to call myself an atheist just yet.

 

To continue on to part 28, click here.

Something Different Saturdays

Something Different Saturday #4: All About You!

For last weeks Something Different Saturday, click here.

Today’s post is going to be all about you, the reader. First off, I want to thank everyone that has taken the time to read my blog. You have absolutely no idea how good that makes me feel and how happy I am each day to reply to your comments, whether that is here, on Twitter, Facebook, or through e-mail. Every day you remind me why writing my story is worth it and hopefully it will help others who are going through the same type of situations as I once was. Thank you!

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Secondly, we will be coming to the end of the “Journey” posts very soon. It’s been a wild ride going back through my memories and putting them down for you to read. This hasn’t always been easy, the amount of stuff that has come up over the last few weeks that I had suppressed or thought I had forgotten has been immense. Reliving some of these stories has been incredibly painful but I feel better for having gotten them out into the open. Thank you for the kindness and love you have shown me through these rough moments that I have shared.

idea.pngThird, just because the “Journey” posts will be ending does not mean that this blog is soon to be over. I have many ideas running through my mind for future series and entries. Some of those ideas are listed below:

  1. A Pentecostal Atheist Bible Study: Showing you exactly how I was taught to interpret passages and scriptures during my upbringing. (This will definitely be humorous and scary at times)
  2. A guide to the different types of Christians you might meet and what arguments work best for each.
  3. Extra-biblical Teachings: Things that I was taught to believe even though they had absolutely no biblical backing. Conspiracy theories run rampant throughout the Pentecostal faith.
  4. Crazy Christians: Entries describing some of the stranger folks that I have met throughout my life and time in the ministry who believed in very strange things outside the normal bounds of regular Christianity and Pentecostalism. (Snake Handlers, Poison Drinkers, Poo Eaters, etc…)
  5. A personal blog describing aspects of my life not touched upon by the “Journey” posts as of yet. I’ve left out quite a bit that I didn’t feel was crucial to my journey and think you might find some of that just as interesting.

These are just some of the ideas that I have had over the last few weeks.

Fourth, I want this blog to be about you. What type of things would you find interesting to read about? Are there some aspects about faith or my life that you haven’t understood and wish I would expand upon those thoughts?

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Lastly, Free-Thought Friday is your opportunity to have your voice heard. If you are interested in writing a guest entry, let me know. Either message me through here, Facebook, or Twitter and tell me you’re interested. I’ve enjoyed all the submissions I have received so far and love to share your stories.

Once again, thank you! You all have made writing this blog worth it. I cannot possibly thank you enough.

THANKS!