My Journey

My Journey Away From Faith: Part 6

To Start at the beginning of my journey click here.
For part 5 of my journey click here.

“Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.” – Exodus 20:12

The rest of my family’s time in Branson was fairly awful and routine. We only lived there a few short years but it seemed like we went up and down, from just about making ends meet to near financial collapse. It was a deeply troubling time for my childhood. My parents had never argued much growing up but these two short years it seemed like arguments were an almost daily struggle. It was obvious to me that moving to Branson had never been gods plan in the first place.

My mother found work at a small shop on the strip that sold decorative angel figurines. My father bounced from one job to another. When it was apparent that the boys ranch vision was little more than an elaborate con, my father and his former boss started a security business in old town Branson. Jobs were few and money was short. To make ends meet my father attempted phone sales and soon found it was not for him. He was hired to work at a small kiosk, outside the IMAX theatre, that sold decorative glass figurines, (A humorous endeavor since the kiosk was tiny and my father is a tall and large framed man. He probably broke more figurines than he ever sold.) Finally, his break arrived when one of the larger hotels hired his company to provide security. Things seemed to get better for a short period of time when the hotel chain abruptly ended their contract, later we learned that the hotel was in severe financial problems and would close not long after.

After losing the security contract, Dad had reached his final straw. Reluctantly, he went back to Iowa, staying with his parents for a few weeks, while he found a job and a place for us to live. I was overjoyed. Not only were we moving back home but I would get to be with my friends again and we could put the Branson nightmare behind us. I would however miss the church and the friends that I had made there, but as I said in my last post, I thought the majority of them were foolish anyway.

Being back in familiar surroundings was wonderful, the thought of returning to the dull and droll sermons, in the church that hated children, however, was not so wonderful.  We attended the church that had been our home a few years earlier just a few short weeks before my parents decided it was not the environment we could endure. The minister had begun to have some mental issues, whether it was dementia or Alzheimer’s we may never know but his moods were anything but predictable. He could go from happily praising God to screaming at a member of the congregation for not being devout enough in second. We left that church and never returned.

The next church we attended would be my family’s home church for close to the next decade. The minister there was a kindly older man who I still think of fondly. He had actually been the minister at the Assembly of God church that my family attended during the 1980’s and so there was a connection there He also happened to be the minister that had dedicated me to the lord as an infant. (A ceremony in which parents offer their children to god, symbolically in the same manner that Abraham offered his son Isaac) So the family felt comfortable at his church and though the services weren’t as lively as we had been used to, there was at least no screaming at congregants. More to my liking, the services were incredibly short by the standards I had become used to, generally an hour or two instead of the 4 or 5 hour services we had attended in the past.

By this time I was nearing the age of 16 and the only things on my mind were girls and getting a car. I was working at a factory at night, getting rides from a friend, in hopes that I might save up to purchase my own vehicle soon. On my 16th birthday, just after getting my driver’s license, my parents surprised me with an old beat up vehicle that they weren’t too worried about and let me go. I had never experienced this amount of freedom before.

I would drive around constantly, listening to the radio and having to constantly switch the station due to the poor reception I received in the vehicle. I believe this might be where I earned my eclectic taste in music that almost no one but me can stand. The Punk rock genre became my passion though and I lived the life as well as one can in rustic southern Iowa. The Clash, The Ramones, The Sex Pistols, The Dead Kennedys, The Dead Milkmen, and Greenday were personal favorites. There music spoke to me in a way that nothing outside of religious euphoria had ever come close to.  I began collecting albums almost immediately much to the chagrin of my parents, who found the lyrics to be satanic and the beat far too quick to enjoy.

I began staying out late and sleeping very little, I started drinking and experimenting with pills and drugs, you could say that I had fallen into the wrong crowd. I, however, found the experience to be absolutely marvelous. I still believed in god but over time I had begun to tire of the dogmatic approach to the gospels. I was bored with all of the rules and tired of having to worry every single day about some sin I might have committed without ever knowing it. I quite praying and by the time I was 17 I quit going to church. Understand that during this time, I was still a fundamentalist at heart but a fundamentalist who knew and didn’t care that he was going to hell.

Around this time I got into a serious relationship with a girl from another town. This relationship would last nearly a year and would end up being one of the most abusive experiences of my life. If you’ve never been in an abusive relationship then it is hard to grasp how easy the abuser can make the victim feel as if it is their fault they are being abused. At this same time I began to question why god would allow me to be treated so poorly? Was it because I was so sinful? Was it because I had quit on god and not became a minister? Was it because god really didn’t exist? I decided I would go with option 3, really knowing nothing about atheism and yet still calling myself an atheist. It was more of a rebellion from my parents since I still thought that in reality a god had to exist.

Thankfully, that relationship didn’t last too long and I was able to break it off without getting myself killed. Although she did try to run me over with her car the day I broke up with her, after I had stopped to get back some of my things.  I was happy to be away from that situation and in all honesty I had better things to do with my time. I had met an absolutely gorgeous girl on-line and while we were fairly good friends at the time I was hoping that maybe I could make it something more.  She was fun to talk to and knew all sorts of things about topics that I had no understanding. She introduced me to music I had never heard before and ideas that I had never thought before. In my mind I said to myself, I’m going to marry this woman some day, and you know what, I was right…even if things didn’t go exactly as I had planned…

For part 7 click here.

Something Different Saturdays

Something Different Saturday #1: Separation of Church and State

So to take a small break from my journey, I’ve decided that on Saturdays I will write a blog about something that has been prevalent on my mind for the prior week.  In this weeks article I would like to talk about my own opinions on the Separation of church and state, both from my former theist beliefs and from my current atheist stance. So without further ado, let’s get to it.

Matt the Theist:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights” – “Thomas Jefferson “The Declaration of Independence”

As a Christian, this line from the, “Declaration of Independence,” is first and foremost in my mind. How can you deny that our founders based the US on Christian theology? It’s written right there when they mention the creator. Not only that but without the creator we wouldn’t have any rights to defend. It seemed fairly clear to me that when the founders created this nation of ours, they wanted a place to be free from government instituted faith and be free to worship God in the way the Bible intended.

The Separation of church and state doesn’t even exist since it wasn’t explicitly written into the constitution and the only thing we must guard against is the government taking over religion. On the other hand, religion taking over the government, if it is the will of the people, is not only fine but would lead us to a much more godly and good society.  The government without god infused into it, is a system that is doomed to fail. We cannot expect to receive God’s blessing if we don’t fully submit to him and create the type of government that he would accept.

According to the Bible, the government, or those in authority, play a key role in the faith. Romans 13:4 states…

                 “For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.”

So from that scripture we can see that God expects the government to dole out his justice, in punishing the evil doer and rewarding the good.  Outside of this the government should have no role in dictating how I choose to worship outside of providing a safe environment to worship. If we get Christian leaders into government positions, those who really love God, we will see the blessings of God in our economy, our families, and our foreign  policies.

How can we expect a secular government to lead us in a way that will be pleasing to God? Look at this sinful world, and all the evil that runs rampant. Women are killing their children, men and women are marrying members of the same-sex, and some states have made the right to commit suicide available to their citizens.  The fool has said in his heart that there is no god and we are a country that is obviously run by fools.

Matt the Atheist:

“Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined and imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth.” – Thomas Jefferson “Notes on the State of Virginia”

I’m sorry but the separation of church and state is clearly implied by our constitution and the various writings by our founders. They did not set out to create a nation that was pleasing to god, but a nation that was pleasing to the many. The very fact that a good majority of our founders, Jefferson included, were deists, points to the secular roots that they were attempting to add to our constitution.

As the declaration mentions a creator, it is the creator of deism, a god that creates and then goes away, that granted us our rights. Even the word granted is a bit of a misnomer because without the rights to do as we please, the inhabitants in a deist universe would have no capability of living a fruitful life. The founders were not pointing to the goodness and greatness of an all-powerful god, but to the fact that we have the ability to do as we please here on Earth, so we might as well do something good.

The separation of church and state is crucial to preventing our country from becoming a christian version of a sharia controlled nation. If you want to see apostates hanging in the streets, women stoned in front of their families, and anyone who follows a non-christian faith burnt at the stake, let the separation be torn down. In this country we enjoy the freedom to pursue as well as the freedom to abstain from religion. This would not be a possibility in a nation that lacks this separation.

If we were to say that this separation does not exist, the next question would be, Which denomination gets to decide how we are to rule? If democracy is the key then I would have to assume that our nation would be run by fundamentalist evangelicals seeking to create god’s kingdom on earth. If not democracy than would it simply be whichever denomination is able to take power at any given moment. This week we are run by Catholics and so we must observe the sacraments, next week the Pentecostals take over and so each night is ended with speaking in tongues and the laying on of hands?

Lastly, not a single advance in human history has come from those who conservatively follow their faith. The freeing of slaves, women’s rights, civil rights, and gay rights were all brought about by people who bucked the system and said, “What we have believed up to this point has been wrong and we should change things up!” This type of change would not be possible in a world ran by the devoutly religious, as god’s law would be final.

We have come so far in the last few decades that to turn back now would be devastating. Which rights are you willing to give up in order to please a particular version of god? Does the woman’s right to choose go out the window? Do we strip homosexual men and women of their marriage certificates? Do we strip the rights of African-Americans and return them to the supposed “curse of ham?”

If there is anything that is sacred, or at least comes close to sacred in a secular society, the separation of church and state has to be it. As Christopher Hitchens said often, “Mr. Jefferson, build up that wall!”