I was raised in church. I know that this statement is not profound. Roughly 80% of Americans are raised in church. Now don’t get me wrong, when I was young I believed in this stuff intensely, but some of the questions I had then were profound for a child. I remember being in Sunday school at about the age of 10. I was having difficulty taking the story of Jonah seriously. I remember saying to my teacher “the great thing about the Bible is that even the stories that are not true still have value because they teach us morals.” My teacher responded that my statement was true but that the Biblical stories had even more value because they were true.
One time in youth group (a term for a church geared towards young teens) I was in charge of putting out a column for the church paper to represent our group. I wrote an article about how being drunk was wrong but drinking was not. I mean how could drinking alcohol be wrong if the foundation for our religion (Jesus) drank wine? I was reprimanded by the pastor of the church (Pastor Craig) for posting the article because he said that all alcohol consumption was wrong. I argued with him and quoted scripture. Pastor Craig’s rebuttal was to say that the wine that they had in those times didn’t have any alcohol. Here was someone who spent 8 years in college studying the Bible and he was making up his own rules that weren’t even backed up by his holy book.
In my late teens I pioneered a Christian punk band named DERT that had some mild success. We played with many popular Christian bands and one thing that I began to notice was that Christian bands were not much different than secular bands when touring. There was just as much drinking, drugs and sex in Christian bands as there was in secular bands. When my band was destroyed because of the sexual misconduct of our drummer, Shannon, I went to L.A. to audition for a well established Christian band named Blackball. I was a huge fan of this band and the lead singer, Chris, was a personal hero of mine. He was a very intelligent man and a philosopher. His lyrics were insightful and his music was heartfelt. I thought that I had arrived in my place and that I would finally be around people that had the same conviction and love for God that I did.
I am sure that it is no surprise to the people reading this but I was caught off guard. I moved over 600 miles to join Blackball and the first thing that they did was change their name to SuperUnknown. From there they decided to change the style and start over to appeal to the secular market. We brought in a keyboard player named Darrin who was eventually fired because he couldn’t come up with original material but we kept the second guitarist, Damien, even though he couldn’t properly play half of the songs. Damien was fucking his girlfriend despite not being married to her. I would see the old guitarist Rocco running around town, always strung out on god knows what. I remember one time being in Chris’s house when he broke out a giant six shooter and started giving lessons on how to handle a gun. He was talking about flying guns down to these missionaries in a hostile area in Africa so that they could defend themselves. I had a hard time reconciling the violence with my Christian upbringing. One of the catalysts for me losing my faith was the bass player Tom. Through this part of the band he was in the process of changing his name. He was dating a 16 year old. His favorite joke was something about killing babies and doing drugs with a spoon. He got drunk a lot, and he was a huge jerk to me. We would make plans to do things together and he would simply not show up. He was close friends with Damien which is likely why Damien was allowed to stay in the band despite his lack of ability on the guitar. Tom was one of the worst Christians I had ever met. He was known for being a good Christian, but I assure you he was not. Tom is a really cool guy though; he was just a bad Christian. Tom was the straw that broke the camels back. It was because of him that I started seeking out other answers. To this day I owe my mindset as a free thinker to him. I will be eternally thankful to Tom. Because of him I am not living my life in a naïve religious mindset.
I started attending atheist forums online and had an ongoing dialogue with a character named MelanieWalker. We had many insightful conversations. One thing that she said to me really stuck though. She said that as a Christian that I was brainwashed and that as soon as I got over the fear of looking outside of my preprogrammed mindset that the truth would be as clear as day. Although she was correct it was still difficult to reconcile the truth with my religious indoctrination. My life spun into a downward spiral. While still a member of this prestigious Christian band I began drinking heavily, doing drugs, and having sex with random girls. I had become everything that I despised but little did I realize at that time that the whole experience was part of my healing and eventual enlightenment.
When I discovered the truth about the falsity of Christianity I was angry. I wanted all of the Christians that had fed me lies and mislead me to pay for their deception. I started becoming very vocal about the bullshit that was going on in my band. This ultimately led to squabbles and the eventual breakup. I accept full responsibility for it. The band stole $1000 dollars from me and I bailed. Everyone was supposed to put in $1000 to fund an E.P. Only the Drummer, Larry and I did though. I never saw any of the fruits of my labor or money. Everything that went wrong in that band was a direct result of my inner explosion. I was very vocal about hating Christians. As a result the large majority of my Christian friends and acquaintances simply abandoned me. Of course as a Christian they should have shown unwavering love and acceptance for me in my time of crises, as humans they did what I would expect.
As I started my new life as an Agnostic free thinker I had to acclimate to a whole new world. This was a world were the people were honest and upfront. People spoke their mind and responsibility for ones actions had to fall solely on that individual. You were never caught off-guard because you went into every situation with your eyes open. The friends that I made during this period were some of the best and most loyal friends. I am still very close with many of these people. These people didn’t buy into fantastic claims. Science was revered. The world had more meaning. Love was more real. Relationships had more depth. Suddenly I was spending less time trying to please an apparition in the sky and more time building solid friendships. Everything suddenly made sense.
I know that freeing a mind is a difficult thing to do. Our massively complex and over developed frontal lobe just has a difficult time accepting that there may not be much more to this life than the short time that we get here on earth. Everyone that breaks out of the shackles of organized religion will have different experiences. One thing will be in common though. Your experiences will be richer. You will live for this life instead of the next. Your life will be full of meaning and you will prefer action to prayer. Best of luck to all of the aspiring free thinkers. “Welcome to the world of the real.”