Deep Thoughts · The Diary Of My Mind

Deep Thoughts: A Note About My Deathbed Conversion

This is slightly a response blog to this blog here: The Common Atheist.

Dearest Future World,

Perhaps you have heard that upon my deathbed I made a miraculous conversion. The family is praising their god for the supposed choice that I made at the last-minute. I’m singing with the angels now, I’m in a better place, I’m with god in heaven…or so you’ve been told.

Allow me to expand upon the good cheer that my family is sharing to let you know why this conversion came about. There are four reasons that I can think of off the top of my head that they are sharing this information with you.

Reason 1: They are lying

It makes them feel better to believe that I am still alive in some other world. In their deep grief they have come up with this scenario where I gave my life back to the lord just before my final breath and so I am still with them in some way. Don’t hate them for this but know that they are simply doing anything to alleviate their grief. I too have lost those that I loved and wanted more time with them and yet death is the end. I no longer exist anywhere outside of my various rantings on here and within the minds of those who loved me. Give them time and maybe one day the need to lie will subside and they can accept my nonexistence.

Reason 2: I Just Wanted Left Alone

As I was dying I had so many people visit me telling me that I needed to worry about my eternal soul and that I needed to make matters right with the lord. I got so annoyed with it that I finally pretended to go through the ceremony just to get folks to shut up and leave me alone. I love my family but damn they can really be pushy at times. I ate the cracker, I drank the juice, I said the prayer and then finally I got some peace away from their worries. Death sucks but being hounded at death is even worse.

Reason 3: Death Is Scary

As the time grew near I began to realize just how soon my life would end. The pain and anguish that I’ve been through over the last few months or years has left me in a state where I simply want some form of release and yet death is an unknown. Will it hurt? Will I go peacefully in my sleep? The closer I get the idea of non-existence becomes scarier and scarier and I keep getting told that just in case there is an afterlife I should make myself right with god. I know that I don’t want to experience anymore pain and even though I realize that my chance of picking the correct god is 1 in 3000, I’d play my wager just in case. My mind is in flux due to the pain and the effects of the pain killers. I am not myself anymore and I can no longer see through to a rational and logical end.

Reason 4: My Mind Is Gone

Hello world, in the last few months or years of my life the old me died and a new me was born. Dementia or disease has clouded my mind and I no longer have the ability to think rationally in the way I did when I was younger.  I live in absolute terror from lucid moment to lucid moment. I do not know who it is that visits me, I don’t know why they cry and why they beg me to consider the things I do. I want my mother. I need my father. I don’t trust these people. Am I sick or are they trying to kill me? They speak of this god and in my mental state he seems wonderful. I no longer remember the bible, the old or new testament. I am simply told that there is a place where my mind will be clear and I will no longer be terrified all the time. I just want my mind back.

Conclusion:

These are the reasons that I might make the choice of a deathbed confession but know that at this point in time, with a rational and logical mind I see no reason to believe in something that there is absolutely no evidence of. If you hear of my conversion, know that it was not this person who speaks today that converted, it was someone who was annoyed, sick, or out of their mind. Always remember that grief could also lead my family and friends to simply lie about my conversion as they have done with many in the past.

Hitchens

The Diary Of My Mind

Back From Hiatus

So I haven’t been on here for a bit and just thought I would jump on and write something to let you all know that I’m still here.

So my grandmother passed away a couple of days ago and I think I’m okay. It hit me pretty hard the night she died but since then I’ve entered a beautiful state of denial which I’m not sure how to get out of. Death is so strange to me, it seems like my grandmother is still here and alive, I don’t mean in a physical or metaphysical sense but simply that I haven’t fully accepted her death yet. Life will go on and I know I will one day come to accept that her life has ended but when that will occur is anyone’s guess.

Secondly, my car broke down about a week and a half ago and I finally got it up and running again. I had a brake line that busted and required new lines to be installed. I bought the car less than a year ago and boy has it been a headache. Nothing too serious and mostly stuff that occurs on all cars at some point but the regularity of the breakdowns has been quite the stress inducer on my mind over the last year.

Third, my credit card got compromised the same day that my grandmother passed. It’s a low balance card and so when someone attempted to charge nearly $500 dollars to it, the card company instantly shut the card down. The good news is that I’m not out any money. The bad news is that I am out a credit card for the next week.

Lastly, I still am waiting to get my CPAP machine. The doctor forgot to fill out and submit some paperwork to the medical supply company. While this simply means a few extra days until I get the machine, it does mean that I am not getting any rest at the moment, which is something I am in horrible need of at the moment.

Anyhow, these are the things that have created my writers block over the last few weeks. I do feel like I am getting things under control, at least to a certain degree, and will be able to write more frequently over the coming days and weeks. Life is once again pulling itself back to equilibrium and I at least can put some thoughts together for this blog tonight.

So, now, what is the real topic of this blog?

The real reason I am writing tonight is to describe the existential crisis that I am having at the moment. Life is literally meaningless. We exist, we live, we die, and we probably do some fucking and shitting in between there. I’ve realized that in the grand scheme of things we are all Candide, believing the world has some deeper meaning for us, following systems of belief that ultimately fail, and finding that life is a cruel and indecent mistress, bent on killing us in some way or another.

When I say that life is meaningless, I’m not saying there are not good parts to life, nor am I stating that I am feeling suicidal in any fashion whatsoever. I’m actually a fairly happy person but I see life as completely absurd. We are monkeys that put on suits and pretend we are far more important in the grand scheme of things than any of us actually are. Think of the most important public figure today, and realize that they won’t even be a paragraph worth of material for students 300 years in the future. How much less will the rest of our lives be in regards to our posterity?

Anyway, I’m not the best at describing these feelings. I recommend watching the videos below to gain a better understanding of exactly what an existential crisis is and how one finds themselves going through one. Thank you for reading and have a great week!

 

The Diary Of My Mind

Goodbye Grandma…

Today I went to see my grandmother in the hospital, to say my final goodbye. She has been very sick for about two years now. Her kidneys are failing, her liver is failing, she is unable to breathe on her own. The doctors said that it’s only the machines that are keeping her alive. On Friday they will be removing her from life support and her life will end.

I’m writing these words not because I am sad but in a way I am comforted that her struggle will soon be over. I’m not a believer and so I don’t believe she has some marvelous new life waiting for her on the other side. I don’t even believe that there is an “other side.” I just don’t want to see her in pain any more….

Growing up my grandmother was one of the strongest people who I knew. She was hard-headed, a great piano player, a ministers wife, a house painter, the most amazing cook I’ve ever known, and my most absolute favorite person on this Earth. My grandmother had a voice that was like no one else and she I remember sitting beside her during many church services, listening to her sing while she gave me Redhots from a small container she kept in her purse.

My grandmother taught me how to bait a hook and how to wait patiently for a fish to strike the bait. She was at every concert, band performance, and grandparents day that she was invited to, always waiting to give me a hug when it was over. I spent several weeks each summer at my grandparents house. Each morning we would go fishing, and every night we would watch “Wheel of Fortune” or play “Aggravation.”

I love my grandmother but I think she is better in my memory now. I’ve seen her lose the ability to walk, lose the ability to talk, lose the ability to care for herself. I’ve watched as health issues destroyed her body and dementia took her mind. In a lot of ways I mourned for her more over the last couple of years than I have today. It was a sad day but I still have all the happy memories of my grandmother, in my head and in my heart.

grandma

This was the last truly happy photo I have of my grandmother. She had just been placed in a nursing home after they had found that she had dementia. She wanted so badly to have her hair permed, having always done it herself, but the price that the nursing home was charging, $40 dollars, was out of her price range. I went to the nursing home and paid to have her hair permed as a surprise. She was so happy that night when I went to see her.

In remembrance of her I am going to share a gospel song. I loved hearing her sing this song. Even though I am no longer a believer, I will still hold this song in a happy place. She sang it far more beautifully than you can imagine.

I love you Grandma. Goodbye.

Matty

My Journey

My Journey Away From Faith: The Epilogue: Part 5

For part 4 of the epilogue, click here.
To start at the beginning of my journey, click here.

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”
-Oscar Wilde

The day of my second appointment I was far less worried. The drive there still bothered me greatly as I hate long drives. We reached the office about a half an hour early and I sat down in the waiting room. Thoughts of my life passed through my mind.

99_freaks_geeks_cast

I remembered how hard childhood had been, never knowing what to say or how to take the things that others said to me. Making friends is difficult when you don’t recognize the difference between sarcasm and actual anger, or realize that you should offer comfort to someone who is sad. I remembered my teenage years, spent in part trying to do everything I could in order to be seen as “normal” and then spending the second part of those years doing everything I could to not be seen as anything close to normal.

AnarchyI remembered the first time Jennifer and I had been together, how much love I had felt for her in those early moments and how much deeper my love for her is now that weTexas have reconnected. I felt the pain of losing her go through my mind and the struggles I faced trying to put my life back together. All the times that I wanted to give up and yet still pushed forward regardless of the circumstances.

FightingI thought about my second marriage, how I had tried finding someone who was the exact opposite of Jennifer, somehow thinking that this would lead to happiness. Remembered all the pain I went through but all of the joy as well spending time with my two-step children from that marriage. Watching them grow has been one of the favorite parts of my life and it still is.

Storm cloudsI thought of my cousin, who had lived a parallel life as me. Had he been autistic? Were the struggles that he faced caused by the same source as my own battles in life? He had always seemed to be more outgoing but hearing stories from others around him, he was always distant, cold, and preferred to be alone. Would he still be here today if he had sought out the help of a psychologist instead of the dogmatic dog whistles of his cousins ministry?

autismI thought about my nephew, that small bundle of joy that had cleared the path to my own mental health and stability.  If he hadn’t existed would I ever have known the name to my own struggled? I know he has many struggles to face in life and it won’t be easy, but he is smart and loving, an absolute joy to be around, especially for the uncle who understands him so well. He is and always will be my hero.

Finally, after what seemed like forever, the psychologist came and took me to a small room beside the reception area. I sat down behind a laptop computer and was explained the testing that I would be taking, a simple quiz of around 500 true/false questions. He told me that through the take home quiz and this one, he would be able to gauge exactly where on the spectrum I was.

I started taking the quiz and after about 100 questions the program crashed.  He restarted it and I had to restart from the beginning, about 100 questions in the program crashed once more. He started it up again and the same thing happened. Contacting the IT department, he found out that the virus scan software was what was crashing the program. He disabled that and asked me if I was willing to try it once more, if not I could return in two weeks and try it again.

Thinking about the trip it takes to get there, I decided to give it another shot. After about 120 questions it acted as if it was going to crash, an icon appeared on the screen and simply spun for a few seconds. I yelled at the top of my lungs, “GOD DAMN IT!” The program then went on to the next question and I realized the ass that I had just made of myself. No one came in but I’m sure the receptionist got a bit of a scare from my loud outburst.

I finished the quiz, which continued to act as if it was going to crash every 20 questions or so, and went back to the waiting room. A few minutes later the psychologist asked me to come into his office to talk just a bit more. I sat on his couch and he asked me about a couple of the answers on the quiz. I explained the answers and he then said that he thought he had enough to come up with a complete diagnosis. He told me that since I had brought him all the information about the struggles throughout my life, it had been easy to see that I had been correct. He said he was impressed by all the research that I had done before even approaching a psychiatrist and that i had made his job very easy. It would be a couple of weeks before I got my copy of his report but there would be no surprises in there for me to worry about.

I drove home happy to be done with the long trips to the psychologists office. I had been right. I have ASD, Autism Spectrum Disorder. All the times that I had felt different from the outside world made sense to me now. All that I had been through in childhood and life in general were now clear. I wasn’t a failed human being, I was a whole human being, just one that happens to have ASD. My brain works in a wild and wonderful way that could never truly be understood by someone who does not also have autism.  I am perfect, just the way I am.


 

new-day.jpg

If you’ve followed me throughout my entire journey and the epilogue, thank you. It might come as a shock to know this but outside of a few people close to me, you, the readers, are some of the first people to know about my journey towards a diagnosis with autism. Thank you so much for the kindness you have shown me.

My journey away from faith is fairly well-known in my community. I still live in the same area as I did when I was a minister. Initially, I had considered moving to a more suitable area for someone who lacks a faith. In the town where I live sits a gigantic mormon church, just on the outskirts of town there is a Jehovah’s Witness Temple, as well as several other churches. My own former church is just over 5 miles away from where i currently live. Moving away might have been an easy solution for me.

However, I want people to have that uncomfortable feeling they get when they avoid me in public. I want the former members of my church to see me, happy and healthy, while a growing sickness builds within their gut. I want their cognitive dissonance to be hit as hard as possible, they need to see that I am still the same person I was, just happier, not filled with hate, living a good life in their midst. It isn’t that these things bring me joy, in fact a lot of times they hurt, but I do think they serve a purpose.

Life experience led me away from faith, finding that faith lacked everything which I had believed it to hold. No comfort was found within the pages of the bible once my eyes had been opened. No strength was found in my faith to get me through the hardships I had to face. Religion is nothing more than a vast build-up of lies. We lie to ourselves enough that one day we find we believe those lies to be true, however, in many cases it doesn’t take much to tear that wall of lies down.

I love my life now. So much wonder and joy is found in the natural world that I question why I ever sought out a supernatural one to begin with. My indoctrination though had started long before I had actually reached an age to make my own decisions for me. I was taught that the world was a deeply sinful, scary and cold place; filled with evil does waiting to bring me down to their abyss. What I have found since leaving is that life is a wonderful thing, something that we only get to experience once. Religion had mad me hate this world and wish for the next…

As Christopher Hitchens is so famous for saying, “Religion poisons everything.”

 

My Journey

My Journey Away From Faith: Part 22

For part 21 of my journey, click here.
To start at the beginning of my journey, click here.

“I don’t share the opinion that suicides are certainly to be damned. My reason is that they do not wish to kill themselves but are overcome by the power of the devil.” – Martin Luther

Looking back, I can’t help but believe that the reason I didn’t get removed from the ministry that day is because of two factors. The first factor is that I believe the majority of the church simply thought that I was in a deep state of grief, which I was, and that I should be given some leeway in the things I said. The second is that my family made up a large portion of the church and it was probably thought that the votes needed to remove me from my ministerial duties wouldn’t have been there and that if they just removed me without a vote, my family would no longer be tithing members of the church.  Regardless of those factors I would continue preaching there for the next couple of years.

“Of course my cousin wasn’t in hell, he was demon possessed, and thus it wasn’t him that had done the deed but the demon controlling him.”

When I got home, I was still just as angry and distraught as I had been prior to giving the sermon. I began searching the scriptures and came up empty.  I searched on-line for ministers who have spoken on suicide and found the quote above. Whether or not it is actually Martin Luther didn’t matter to me, what did matter was that it gave me an out from my own doctrinal beliefs. Of course my cousin wasn’t in hell, he was demon possessed, and thus it wasn’t him that had done the deed but the demon controlling him. He had been saved in my church and was now resting peacefully in heaven.

With the first doubt somewhat removed from my mind, I felt better and went to work on my second problem. Our church was losing members and the excitement that had been felt when I first started preaching was no longer there. We needed revival but I wanted to know how to do it in the right fashion, so it could be permanent and not a fleeting thing. For years I had been told of the great revivals in the 1950’s, and so I figured, why not start there. So getting on-line I began researching sermons from the 1950’s.

The first thing that struck me was that the sermons I read had a clear theme. These ministers from the 1950’s were talking about the revivals that had occurred in the distant past and how they needed to find some way to make those revivals a reality again. So I went further back into the past and found the same thing, ministers speaking about the need for revival and speaking of mythical revivals in the distant past. I know revivals have occurred sparking huge numbers of converts but it seems like every generation is attempting to chase after something that the last generation never fully captured.

“…every generation is attempting to chase after something that the last generation never fully captured.”

The second thing that struck me is how “spirit filled” some of the messages were that had been given and yet before the 1920’s I could find very few references to Pentecostalism.  It was actually a huge surprise to me to find that Pentecostalism is a very new version of the faith, a little more than 100 years old. Now I had been raised to believe that anyone outside of the Pentecostal church was not really saved and so either, every Christian born prior to the 1900’s was in hell, or Pentecostalism was wrong.

If Pentecostals were wrong about salvation, then possibly they were wrong about other aspects of the faith. I decided to reboot my Christianity, calling it “Radical Christianity.” This was going to take a lot of research and time but I felt that if I re-figured my doctrine and dogma, I could move closer to god and closer to real revival. If the bible didn’t teach it then I would not be preaching on it.  I started with the early church fathers like Origen, Ignatius, Irenaeus, and Polycarp, yet the more I read the more it seemed like I was researching a completely different faith.  That’s the thing though, Christianity of the early years is in fact a completely different faith than what is taught today. (For more on this I recommend this article about the diverse beliefs of early christians.

There was however one man who I began reading that I found to be absolutely fascinating, Martin Luther. Martin Luther fought back against a church that had completely lost its way, much in the same way that I felt I was currently doing. His work “A Treatise on Good Works,” completely mesmerized me. Within he describes how faith is the key to a Christian life and from faith good works will ultimately spill forth. This was exactly the type of thing I needed to hear at the time and so my search for “Radical Christianity” was found within the words of the man that had comforted me after my cousin’s suicide.

For a couple of months I preached on nothing but the works of Martin Luther and his explanations of faith. Standing before a Pentecostal church, I denounced the showy and emotional observances of Pentecostalism.  I began to become very skeptical of pentecostal spiritualism and so I researched the various things that were the norm in the church.  Each time I found enough information to disprove an act, I would preach on it and this led to several angry phone calls but not much else. I preached against speaking in tongues, being slain in the spirit, and I even preached against miracles. To me, one of the key aspects of “Radical Christianity” was removing the need to feel god and simply know he is always around. Pentecostalism is built almost totally around emotional outbursts and I sought to eliminate every aspect of that from my walk of faith.

Initially, I felt great about the choices I made and this toned down Pentecostalism was beginning to gather some steam. We had Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans, and others show up and sit in on a sermon I would give and in the end thank me for a message that they never expected to be taught in a Pentecostal church. The church once again began to slowly grow and talk of revival started once more, yet spiritually I was empty. While I felt I was teaching a much more Christian version of the faith, I not only felt no closer to god than I had at the very beginning, I actually felt farther away.

Outside the church, my marriage continued to crumble but there was one thing that was bringing me the same sense of fulfillment that church once had, my schooling.  College allowed me to expand my mind like you wouldn’t believe. I took classes in almost anything that I found interesting; history, science, literature, ethics, etc… Growing up being taught a biblical based worldview left me not understanding very much about the outside world and so at the same time as being ignorant educationally, I was also xenophobic, homophobic and racist. Being in school though, with a diverse group of people, started to tear down those walls that faith and family had built up so many years before.

I remember sitting in my grandfathers kitchen, watching him throw out a loaf of bread stating that he could smell the N***** fingers that had made it.  Being anti-LGBTQ was key to my fundamentalist faith and I’ve preached many sermons over the years against the members of that community. We were taught that family was important and to fear anyone outside of your family and your local church, for fear that they might hurt you, or worse, lead you away from the faith.

These things could not stand when I entered college. Being forced to work with members of the LGBTQ community, minorities, and all sorts of diverse ideologies opened my mind even further than the studies did. I will forever be grateful to those who saw me back then, realized I wasn’t quite right, and yet still treated me with dignity and respect. You were far greater saints that I can find anywhere else in the world of faith.

During my second semester of school I took a western civilization course. One of the assignments was to pick a book of philosophy, study it, and take a test on what was found within its pages. I wasn’t very interested in philosophy at the time and so I asked the instructor for a book that would be fairly easy to understand. Knowing my background, this professor, who happened to be a staunch atheist, picked a book that he hoped I would enjoy and that might challenge me a bit. The book was “Candide,” by Voltaire, a book that I still recommend to anyone I possibly can and one that would change my outlook on life, spark an interest in philosophy, and lead me down a path I never thought I would take.

To continue on to part 23, click here.

My Journey

My Journey Away From Faith: Part 21

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

“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” – Philippians 4:8

My faith was strong. I spent long periods of time in prayer nearly every day. I communicated with god daily as well as spent much time reading my bible each day. I say this because the following blog posts will show how one might lose their faith and I get tired of hearing people say, “You didn’t lose your faith, you never had real faith.” If all that I did during my ministry can’t be called real faith, then no one actually has faith. There isn’t a single person on earth who could be considered faithful if my own journey is negated as fake faith. I preached the gospel for years and not a single person would have questioned my faith then, yet now it is one of the major arguments that I hear almost daily.


Thanksgiving Day, 2013, began like any other Thanksgiving has, I awoke ready to eat Turkey and stuffing. This year was going to be a bit special because not only was I going to be at my grandmothers house, as I am every year, but my grandmother had invited her two living sisters and all of their family. Normally I don’t do well with crowds but the idea of having that many of my family all together was a joyous celebration. Not too many years before there had been a huge wedge between my grandmother and her sisters due to the circumstances surrounding my great grandmother’s death. One sister had basically been left everything in the will and this had caused a major split in the family.

Luckily though, over the last couple years, that gap had been filled and we were enjoying being one big happy family again. I arrived at my grandmother’s house and was filled with the warm and delicious smells of home cooked thanksgiving dinner. There were three turkeys, two huge bowls of mashed potatoes, a humongous tray of stuffing and all the rest of the fixings for an amazing meal.  We sat around chatting and waiting for the eventual time that dinner would be ready and we could all stuff ourselves sick.

We were getting ready to eat when my great aunt realized that one of her grandsons was not in attendance. She called him on the phone and he told her that he wasn’t feeling well and that he hoped we all had a great time. She told him that we all hoped that he felt better and if he did he was more than welcome to show up late and grab a plate of food, if he didn’t she promised to make him a plate and take it to him later that night.

“…he wasn’t feeling well and that he hoped we all had a great time.”

My cousin had recently begun coming to the church that I ministered at and the Sunday prior to that Thanksgiving he had been saved during one of my services. It was an absolutely joyous event because this was my closest cousin, only a month younger than me, and we had lived fairly parallel lives. Both raised in the Pentecostal church, both fell away during our teens, both of us struggled with early marriages that fell apart, and both of us had also struggled with drug and alcohol addiction in our early twenties, my cousin though had only broken that spell a few short weeks before Thanksgiving, at least that is what we had all thought. I cannot count the amount of times my great aunt had requested prayer for god to touch his life like he had mine, and bring him back to the church like I had done. So his getting saved was a miraculous event in our family.

“I went home that night thinking how blessed we all were to be together again and how nothing could possibly ruin the memory of that day.”

The dinner went off without a hitch, everything was fantastic. I had two huge plates of food and later that day returned for another huge plate of food. There was so much that we all took home enough food that no one would need to cook for the next couple of days. The day was perfect, it was one of those rare occasions in life that I could truly say that I was blissful. I went home that night thinking how blessed we all were to be together again and how nothing could possibly ruin the memory of that day.  As I laid down to go to sleep, happiness filled my heart, and I couldn’t wait to get to church the next Sunday to tell everyone what an amazing day it had been. As soon as I started to drift off to sleep, the phone rang.

The voice on the other end of the phone was my father, I could instantly tell that something was wrong. My father almost never cries and I could hear the quiver in his voice as he began to talk. “This is your dad, “*your cousin” took a shotgun and shot himself tonight, he’s been rushed to the hospital but he isn’t going to make it.” I don’t know if I finished the call or not, all I remember was being on my knees begging god to save my cousins life. How on earth could this be happening? Hadn’t god just saved him? Shouldn’t he be filled with the light of god and incapable of such an act?

How on earth could this be happening? Hadn’t god just saved him? Shouldn’t he be filled with the light of god and incapable of such an act?

I fell asleep that night on my knees. Awakening in a lot of pain I realized that as the minister and family member of a large portion of my church, it was my job to call and inform everyone on what had happened. First though I made the trip to my great aunts house to check in on her. She was in shambles, my cousin had a daughter who was just around 7 or 8 at the time and all she kept saying was, “my daddy shot himself last night.” I tried my best to comfort my aunt before heading back home and picking up the phone. Every call was excruciating and between each call I would bawl profusely. A minister must be strong in a time like this but I was destroyed. Finally all the calls had been made and I let myself completely release all the grief that I felt. I went to bed that night with a horrible headache and all the questions I had asked myself still unanswered.

Sunday was coming up and it was my turn to preach. I knew my message had to be one of comfort to my family, who would all be hurting as well as uplifting to everyone affected by my cousins suicide. I prepared a sermon that was in reality, one part sermon, and one part eulogy. It wasn’t a very good message but all that I could come up with in my current state.

I remember sitting outside the church, in my car, for much longer than normal. I didn’t want to go inside, I didn’t want to be the one that people looked towards for comfort and stability. I knew it was going to be the hardest sermon I had ever delivered and I was not ready to give it. Finally, I got out of my vehicle and I walked inside.

When a tragedy occurs in a church it is often the thing on everyone’s lips the next Sunday and this tragedy was no different. People were coming up to me and offering condolences which I greatly appreciated. I comforted some family as best as I could but something took everything out of me. An older woman in the church came up to me and said how sorry she was after hearing that my cousin has committed suicide, she then went on to say how sad it was that he was now in hell for having committed the act. I began to hear others speaking the same thing throughout the church and my mind began to swim in grief and anger. In reality the comment shouldn’t have affected me as much as it did, it was well known that suicide was considered a sin that instantly sent the person to hell. They took their life and destroyed the temple that god had given them, it was unpardonable and I had even spoken on the subject in years past. This time though something snapped in my brain and as I took my seat all thoughts of the sermon I had prepared went out the window.

I don’t remember the songs that were sang, I don’t remember the prayers that were requested, I don’t remember walking to the stage but I do remember the first words that came out of my mouth.

“If god sends tortured souls like my cousin to hell, then he isn’t a good god and he isn’t a god that I could worship.”

The rest of my sermon is a complete blur. I’m told I gave a touching message on how the bible does not teach that suicide is unpardonable and that even a suicide can receive redemption and salvation. It is as if my body went into autopilot and my mind continued to swirl around the question, “Is god good?”

This was the very beginning of my doubts, but it definitely would not be the end of them.

To continue on to part 22, click here.