My Journey

My Journey Away From Faith: Part 13

For part 12 of my journey, click here.
To start at the beginning of my journey away from faith, click here.

“But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.” -1 Corinthians 7:9

With my ministry starting to take shape it would seem that I should have been very happy but in reality I was incredibly depressed and lonely.  When I rejoined the faith I broke up with my girlfriend at the time, it wasn’t serious and we both knew it but I remember how mad she had been that it was religion that was breaking us up. In my head I needed to completely purify myself in order to be seen as worthy by god. So along with women, I had quit drinking, smoking, and basically anything that could be considered as sinful. While I did feel good to be starting with a clean slate i was immensely bored.

In my head I needed to completely purify myself in order to be seen as worthy by god.

A friend had recently joined a free dating site and encouraged me to check it out. The site contained message boards and so any time that was not spent in prayer or bible reading was spent on the message boards. I have a good sense of humor and in little to no time I was a huge hit on the sites boards. At the time I wasn’t looking for any type of relationship I just wanted something to stave off the terrible sense of loneliness that pervaded my thoughts almost constantly.

At church I had begun to speak more and more about getting my own ministry. Unfortunately, I had a few obstacles in my way.  The first was that I had been divorced, a huge sin in most Pentecostal faiths. I used to joke that a known serial killer could get a ministry license easier than a divorced man in the Assembly of God church. I spoke with several ministers and the solution was that I should lie about my divorce. It was never said in such a blunt way but that was what I was essentially being told.   “If you had just gotten divorced due to infidelity it would be so much easier, was infidelity involved?” This always struck me as completely dishonest and I decided that if I were to get my ministry license, it would not be through the Assemblies.

I used to joke that a known serial killer could get a ministry license easier than a divorced man in the Assembly of God church.

The second obstacle that I faced was the plethora of people who told me that a minister as to have a wife. “How could a church trust a single man to preach to the congregation?”  “Any congregation in their right mind would be wary of hiring a young single male to preach to the impressionable teens and young adults he might find in his church.” It’s almost humorous thinking of how opposite the thinking between protestants and Catholics in this manner. Anyway the assumption was that if I were a single man, the urge to commit some sexually immoral sin would be too great. If I wanted to be a minister, then I had to get married.

Marriage however was the last thing on my mind, I never wanted to marry again and I told just about anyone that I met exactly that.  The anger and rage that I carried from my past marriage was still with me, in fact the divorce proceedings hadn’t even started yet. We were separated and I called myself divorced, but out of spite I had told my ex, if she wanted a divorce, she was going to pay for it. So for me to get married meant I had to find someone who I thought I could marry, get divorced, and then go through with the ceremony. It was an enormous task and one that I still wanted no part of.

However, life had other plans. One night on the message boards I met a woman who was the daughter of a southern baptist minister.  While some of the dogma was different, southern baptists and pentecostals are fairly similar in most of the other dogma that their respective churches teach. We hit it off ok and began talking more and more. She was also divorced, and hers was due to infidelity. She had two small children, a girl aged 7 and a boy aged 4.  Looking back I think it was the idea of ending the loneliness that gave me the go ahead to start a new relationship, more than anything, but maybe the ministerial aspects were also in the back of my mind.

About 4 months later, she and her two kids came and spent two weeks in the local area to see how we would all hit it off. There never was much of a physical connection between her and myself. Things went OK between her and I, good even for the time, but the real connection occurred between me and her two children. I fell in love with them the second I saw them. Both were incredibly well spoken for their ages, and had a lot of questions for me during the visit.  It was how well I hit it off with the kids during those two weeks that made me believe it was meant to be. God was telling me to marry this woman and to enter the ministry.

I spent a week in her local area later that year and once again we hit it off fairly well. One thing that bothered me even then was the way she constantly had a story about anything you mentioned. She would tell me a story one day, and then tell me the story the next day filled with completely new information. I found over the years that she could lie with a straight face and never even realize that she was lying. However, once again as with the two weeks in my area, it was the kids that made the connection. They were absolutely perfect and every time I saw them my heart was filled with a love and warmth that I had only ever experienced once before in my entire life.

She moved in with me shortly after this visit. Now you might ask, isn’t living together a sin? Yes, it definitely is, but there are loopholes. Since I wasn’t yet divorced from my first wife, I could say that I was married spiritually to my second wife until that divorce was finalized and we could make it official. Not only that but biblically speaking it states…

“But if the unbeliever leaves, let it be so. The brother or the sister is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace.” – 1 Corinthians 7:15

I hadn’t been saved when I was previously married and since my wife is the one that left, I was not bound to her as a husband. So while legally I was not married to this second woman, the church recognized us as being married. I know it’s weird, but this is the same faith that believes god speaks through gibberish, so it shouldn’t come as any shock.

I began the divorce proceedings shortly after this.  Having to speak with my ex was always nasty because I held so much hatred in my heart for her at the time.  There were a few nasty phone calls but about 6 months later we were divorced and two short weeks after that I was getting married to my second wife. With both of us being divorced we were forbidden to be married in an Assembly church or by an Assembly of God minister. So I asked my grandfather if he knew anyone that might marry us. He told me to contact a local Full Gospel minister, actually the brother of the minister that had impregnated my aunt years earlier, to see if he would marry us.

I called the minister and he said that he would have no problem carrying out the ceremony. We had a small marriage, with a few family and friends, outside in nature. Afterwards a horrible thunderstorm struck which, always being one to love thunderstorms, I took as a sign from god on his approval of our marriage.  Now, it seems silly just how often I took many natural occurrences to be signs from god, but then I was sure that god was leading me towards the ministry that he had for me.

So now that I was married, and had a small ministry at my local church, it was time to find other churches to preach at. At the time I had the idea that maybe I would be a traveling minister, but life had other plans for me. I loved the church I attended at the time, but again, life had other plans that would soon come to be known.

To continue on to part 14 of my journey, click here.

Something Different Saturdays

Something Different Saturday #2: Speaking in Tongues

For last weeks Something Different Saturday, click here.

“And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.  And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” – Acts 2:2-4

Anyone who was raised in the Pentecostal setting will be able to tell you how much speaking in tongues is preached. So much so that by the time you get old enough to question things, speaking in tongues has become such a normal part of life that you never think to question it.  Speaking in tongues is seen as the evidence that someone has been filled with the holy spirit and so it is crucial to the faith of Pentecostals. So much so that some churches teach you are not even truly saved without it.

This “gift” is seen as the epitome of what god can grant you, without this gift of the spirit its taught, within the church, that no real work for god can be done.  After you have been baptized in the spirit, and have spoken in tongues, then god can reveal to you his plan for your life and help guide you to your eventual ministry.  A key aspect of most Pentecostal churches is that everyone has a ministry, and we should all seek to find out what that ministry is.

So when I began to doubt my faith I started by looking for outward explanations to the things taught within the church. Some of the first things that I looked into was the different interpretations of the gifts of the spirit within various denominations and then I looked outward to the rest of the world. It was truly shocking to find that speaking in tongues or “Glossolalia,” as it is known, is fairly well explained and understood outside the church.

So when I began to doubt my faith I started by looking for outward explanations to the things taught within the church.

Glossolalia, not to be confused with “xenolalia”(The actual speaking of different real languages), is the speaking of known sounds and syllables in a rhythmic pattern that flows together into what appears to be a completely different language. That’s it, they are known to the speaker already but put together in a different way to make it appear as if a whole new language is being spoken. If you have ever made “Baby Talk,” you have spoken in tongues.

For your pleasure I am including a clip of the hilarious, Sid Caesar, displaying glossolalia, or what was called double-talk for him.

And here is an example of Pentecostal speaking in tongues, not the similarities….try to ignore the Seinfeldian dance moves.

There is another aspect though to the gift of tongues that is different from other forms of glossolalia you may encounter in everyday life. This is how it makes you feel. Speaking in tongues during a service has usually followed songs and prayer, already in a slightly euphoric state, speaking in tongues releases chemicals that take it over the stop, you feel in complete ecstasy as these syllables and sounds flow from your mouth.  It is this aspect that gives many the assumed right to claim that this language is being directly granted by god.

However, here is the thing, I can still speak in tongues, and have done so, so many times over the years that it triggers the same chemical release in my brain almost instantly. I am taken to those same euphoric feelings of ecstasy which I experienced during my time as a minister. I’m a godless atheist today which, as far as I’m aware, would negate me from being gifted anything from god. Today I even know that I’m just talking gibberish, I understand glossolalia, and yet it still has the same effect on my body and mind.  When I do this, I feel light and warm, as if a huge ball of light has enveloped me. It is much the same feeling as might be described by someone deep in meditation.

Speaking in tongues is nothing more than self-delusion.

Speaking in tongues is nothing more than self-delusion. It is speaking sounds and syllables that you already know in an effort to reach this “godlike” state of mind. Mystics throughout the ages have been using tongues as well as other techniques to reach the same state of euphoria. Look to the Sufi Muslims and their whirling dervishes, for another example of a practice that brings about this same mindset.  Basically, what I am trying to say here, is that it is not special, it is not god granted, and if a godless atheist can still experience the results of it, I’d say you can wipe god out of the equation almost certainly. To borrow from Penn and Teller, “It’s Bullshit!”

As a humorous side not I would recommend you looking up the missionaries in the early pentecostal church who believed god had granted them xenolalia instead of glossolalia. Venturing into unknown lands to find that the language they believed they had been granted was actually nothing more than gibberish.  They were so upset that many left the faith and pentecostalism nearly died out in the early years.