Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Losing my Religions

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.”


Aaron Kinney said...

Wow man! What a story. You know, Im not surprised that the Christian band was just as bad as the dregs of the secular local music scene, if not worse. Its all talk and no walk. Most Christians are only "Christian" when they are either in Church or talking their mouths off. But talk is cheap.

I happen to know a Christian who is a drug addict. But get this irony: He smokes meth while SIMULTANEOUSLY listening to Christian Straight Edge, PLUS he supports the drug war.

The guy has lots of self hate inside. Its pretty sad.

Glad to see that somehow you were able to break the spell. It was a rough ride it seems, but at least you arent alone in that regard. My journey from Christianity to atheism was long and painful as well, but extremely rewarding at the end :)

angelsdepart said...

So rewarding. Thanks fo rthe kind words Aaron.

The Alpha said...

"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."

Good stuff. You have a powerful deconversion story.

Shawn Wilkinson said...

This piece makes me a bit envious of those who had the privilige of growing up in a religious environment. This is an experience I am lacking. Thanks for sharing your story to the world, even if it's tucked away into a far reaching corner of cyber space.

angelsdepart said...

Shawn, you didn't miss anything! :)

Intergalactic Hussy said...

Great story. I was raised reform Jewish, so the atheist step wasn't that far. There isn't nearly as much brainwashing. It was always too easy for me to say something about negative Christianity, Jesus, the Christian god, heaven, or hell.

I really admire former Christians coming out, so to speak.


angelsdepart said...

excellent wording, it really is a "coming out." I would love to hear your story someday, it sounds interesting.

Larro said...

Congratulations, upon your "conversion". My mom sent me here and this post happened to be the one I chose to read first. Free-thought is a wonderful revelation. All my life I was not religious but agnostic until I got "political" and realized the impact that religion has on politics. You know: the Moral Majority/Religious Right and their agenda to high-jack our democracy and replace it with a theocracy. Until that moment I never gave much thought to religion (as I grew up indifferent).

Yes, I toyed around with trying to believe in "something", be it Christianity, Wicca, Qabala or whatever book I could get my hands on; even the Necronomicon at one point. The end product? I find my life SO less filled with complication regarding the after-life. Not believing is a relief.

Now? Now, I have become anti-religious and an extreme secularist...almost militant in my view-point. I despise evangelism and I am not afraid to speak of it (except in my workplace, LOL: I work with senior citizens so I kinda keep that part to myself).

Though there is one in particular who is going to get an earful if she keeps on about evangelizing to me. I have told her I am an atheist and I don't want to talk about religion with the clients. It seems the she is bent upon converting me. I think because I can't talk about this with her, so she just doesn't know exactly how I feel (Hmm, I will have to blog this).

Anyway, I enjoy your blog and intend to read more.

Justinisatool said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
angelsdepart said...

Hey Tom

I knew it was you before I got down to your name. It was really nice to hear from you. I often wonder how you are doing. Every time I am on myspace I visit your site and I am always incredibly impressed with your tunes. You are an amazing musician. Regarding what you have written here, there is really nothing that you have said that I have not admitted about myself already. I can be a bitch, I am generally a divisive person and I have a horrible mean streak. For a long time I was not aware of it but now that I am I am constantly struggling to be a better person. Religion was definitely a hamper for me as it made me compartmentalize things and I was not able to think outside of the box.

You are right about naming names and at your request I have removed all last names from this post. It was not the right thing to do. I was angry when I wrote it. I apologize if you or anyone else was offended.

As far as everything else is concerned, I am not the person you remember me to be. I had a very serious life changing experience. I know you may be skeptical about that statement but I suppose that doesn’t really matter now. I would elaborate on it here but you seem to be seeking ammo against me and I suppose if that’s what you really want then you will need to work to get it.

I am delighted to hear that there are at least two people that have come to realize “the truth.” I am assuming one is you. I would be interested in knowing who the other one is. Casting off religion can be such a release.

As far as the dueling comment and the coming to find you comment that you made is concerned, I am really not interested in any sort of dueling or physical violence. I believe those sorts of things to be last resorts. If there are things I have done to offend you I apologize profusely and can only hope you accept.

I hope all is well. I think it would be awesome to have a beer with you and catch up when I am in L.A. but I understand if you are not interested.

My best

Justinisatool said...

Although I am somewhat apprehensive as to your sincerity, (given our history and my coming upon your blog) I feel that I have no other choice than to accept your apology and offer up my own for some of the things I said in return. I saw your blog as a rambled vent about people that you felt did you wrong in some way and my response was my vent to you.

Look dude, my dad was a junky and I was raised in churches that said that if I didn't speak in tongues you are going to hell. I understand your anger because I share a lot of the same feelings. I have always been somewhat of a prick to people and am fairly intolerant, but I don't really mean any actual harm to those around me. I just can't stand inconsistency and stupidity, two things that I was raised around. I now have a very different view of all of this and do feel that we share some of the same ideology.

I was really fucking pissed when I saw your blog, (sent to me by a 3rd party) and I wanted to dig at you and piss you off. Ultimately you can feel about our past and me however you want, I will remain who I am and you will remain who you are. I don't care to have any physical confrontation with you. I was working from a backlog of experience with you that at times weren’t very pleasant. I can understand that a change in worldview would make you see me in a different way. Damien and myself are the two I spoke of. I would appreciate you leaving me out of any future posts, as I do not care to be represented in any way in association to that time in my life.

Take care,

angelsdepart said...

It is hard for me to be angry at you no matter what our history is. I feel that I owe my current belief set, indirectly, to the experience of knowing you. I know on the surface that might sound like a bad thing but I assure you that it is not. I have never been happier at any point in my life. That is taking into account the fact that I was nearly killed and I am now crippled.

You were right about the last names thing so I have rectified that. I am submitting a change request to the “coming out godless” blog. It is a blog of de-conversion stories that this piece was used for. (The changes on this site are already made) The change there should be made within the week. As far as mentioning you anywhere else is concerned, I have written over 50 blogs on this site since this one and I can assure you that you were not mentioned in any of them. I will certainly respect your request for future mentions. I certainly understand the desire to be disassociated from a period of your life. When I think about the years I spent “loving and worshipping god” it makes me want to puke. I know Chris knew about this blog and I had mentioned that I would remove names at request but I never heard anything about it until now.

In spite of everything else, I am not angry at Christians anymore. I do feel that their lies and inferior ideology need to be exposed for what it is. I am a realist though and I know how an irrational Christian can act if they truly believe that “god” has told them to act that way. I personally don’t really care if any harm comes to me (of course given a choice I prefer none) but if something were to happen to my wife because of something as silly as religion I don’t believe I could ever forgive myself. This is the reason I tend to keep personal information on the net to a minimum.

Congrats to you and Damien. Although atheism and agnosticism are not ideologies that need numbers to validate their structure it is always nice to see intelligent people coming to rational solutions about large issues. I really hope that you take some time to read through some of my more recent post on this site. I would value your feedback. I hope all is going well for you.


Mr. Sunshine said...

Uhhh, Im pretty sure Rocco was just "strung out" on joy and life life (which is still leagal as far as I know) Knowing him very, very, well I can verify hes never done any type of illegal narcotics or drugs. Please feel free and continue to "scandalize" me uh humm, I mean him as I, I mean he thoroughly enjoys the attention. The one thing I have, I mean he has built over the years is his own good name in this town. So anyone who knows him and loves him and even hates him knows drugs were never his "thing". He does occasionally "fall short" of Gods glory (actually pretty regularly) but in that "falling short" there were never drugs. He did however eat alot of Candy bars at one point I heard up to 3 a day! Most of his scandals are actually food or ego related. If you ever need more material on him feel free to email me, I got all kinds of stuff on him. Oh , and uh, just for the record, I still think its fishy that he calls his Grandma every Tuesday. What a bastard. I wonder what hes up to? Great story, I love it Justin, no hard feelings, I have already forgiven you.

The artist formerly known as Rocco Sigona
Rocco Fonzarelli aka The Southbay Legend.

angelsdepart said...

No sweat Rocco. I believe you. I was reluctant to actually say that you were on drugs,(which is why I didn’t actually say that) since I heard it from an unreliable source. You seemed to be a little forgetful, sometimes very strange, but always quite the amazing guitarist! That combo seems pretty typical. Why didn’t it work out with you and the Blackball boys? I always wondered that! In Bakersfield you said that they needed a new guitarist so that you could leave. Why couldn’t you just leave if you were so unhappy. Were you dealing with any of the same issues that I was with the band or was it just differences in musical taste? Anyways, it’s good that you are being a good Christian. I suppose you were just strung out on life. I guess you can’t always believe what you hear. I on the other hand was hazy most of the time during that period, so I am certainly not one to point fingers. If anyone needs to “pin the tail” on the biggest asshole here then the buck stops at me. I doubt my blog will tarnish your good name though.

My best to you!

Sgnarly said...

Your both pussies....
go cook up some flowers & cuddle
now that your little internet squabble is over!

angelsdepart said...


You titled your site "gay for god." LOL That fucking rocks!

Rufus said...

"I was reluctant to actually say that you were on drugs,(which is why I didn’t actually say that) since I heard it from an unreliable source"

Um heard it? You said
"I would see the old guitarist Rocco running around town, always strung out on god knows what"

So your source was you?

"You seemed to be a little forgetful, sometimes very strange, but always quite the amazing guitarist!"

Ok, from what I can recall, Ive never spent more than 15 minutes hanging around you ever. Dude, I dont even know you. But, yes, I agree, I am AMAZING!

"Why didn’t it work out with you and the Blackball boys? I always wondered that! In Bakersfield you said that they needed a new guitarist so that you could leave. Why couldn’t you just leave if you were so unhappy"

I invested alot of time, money, and effort into this project as well as PD. I didnt want to do it anymore, but i didnt want to leave them hanging, so thats why i asked you to take my place. i actually just wanted to go back to being a roadie like back in the PD days and maybe manage a little. I also had my friend Issaac audition but you were chosen before the foundations of the world to take my place. God, what an honor for you.

"Were you dealing with any of the same issues that I was with the band or was it just differences in musical taste? "

In a nutshell, it just wasnt fun for me anymore. As far as musical differences, well, the songs that were going to come out were AMAZING from what i recall, but in general, no, I would never listen to that kind of music. I like PRINCE!

"Anyways, it’s good that you are being a good Christian. I suppose you were just strung out on life."

Theirs no such thing as a "good" Christian, thats why Jesus died for our sins, and yes you have "supposed" a lot of things.

"I guess you can’t always believe what you hear."

From yourself?

"If anyone needs to “pin the tail” on the biggest asshole here then the buck stops at me"


"I doubt my blog will tarnish your good name though."

haha, I know! No one reads this except me, Tom and Sgnarly do they? I mean theres this new thing on the internet, its called the myspace. Man they have like 6 billion subscribers. The world needs your insights now more than ever Justin! My only complaint of course is that i didnt even get a whole sentence! Once again, OUTSTANDING blog! I find it strange that you accepted Tom as your personal savior and then when he let you down you blamed Jesus. Maybe its just the drugs talking. I just wish before you opened your mouth you would have thought things through a little, I mean your seriously slating yourself for getting the WORST seat at the Blackball reunion. i hope you find what your looking for.

"I still think you are a slightly talented guitar player, a horrible songwriter"

LOL! i can hear Tom saying that.


angelsdepart said...

Rocco Rufus Sunshine Fonzarelli III

I know this is going to be hard for you to comprehend so try your best to stay with me. I was at the bowling alley in Torrance for Rock n bowl with this group I used to hang out with and we saw you there. Someone who says that they knew you really well said “look there’s Rocco, He is always loaded on heroin.” Obviously a stupid statement, but they were "Christians" and I was naive. At the time I looked over at you being a total doofus for your friends and said to myself “he must either be high or retarded.” Turns out you weren’t high, so I apologize for that.

It would take a Christian though to be able to pick out minor discrepancies in a blog post, but not be able to see the massive number of flaws in the highly contradictory “Holy Bible.” You don’t think that someone can see and hear at the same time but you believe that Jesus was god, that he cured people of illnesses, cast out “demons” and raised people from the dead. You believe that when you die, you will live with him in “heaven.” Do you get 72 virgins too? What a smarty you are!

The reason you only got one line is because you don’t really matter to me. If I were to have a beef with you (which I don’t) it would be over you introducing me to the Blackball guys. Had it not been for Tom, the whole experience would have been the equivalent of throwing my life savings into a burning fire.

Feel honored? Absolutely not. Lucky? Maybe!

You had one sentence written about you and you have made two whole posts about it. Can you say attention whore?

Myspace sucks

angelsdepart said...

Oops, I accidently deleted Tom’s post. The AngelsDepart Blog page does not believe in censorship. Luckily I had a screen shot of this debate. Here is the missing post. Sorry again.

Missing comment

Sonic receptacle said...

I would have liked to seen Toms response but I realize this is an old thread. I consider finding it through a random search a blessing from the almighty universe. As for the rest of this, I left the church completely after being brutally verbally assaulted by Rocco. I guess two of the Blackball boys still have a way with that. I just couldn't be a part of the hate Rocco exemplifies that is the Church. Just as his anger ridden passive aggressive sarcastic posts are here under two different names, I'm not surprised one bit. Rocco you will never take ownership of your actions because you can't own up your own cruelty or inhumanity. You are simply one of the most rotten apples I've had the displeasure to come across in my 40 some years on this planet and guess what, I don't forgive you. You have your Jeanie in the bottle for that and all the other cruel narrow minded bigoted things you will continue to do in this life. FOMA!

Justin said...

Just click on the missing comment link above your comment and you will be able to see Tom's deleted response! The link is still active.

Justin said...

Just click on the missing comment link above your comment and you will be able to see Tom's deleted response! The link is still active.

William Ley said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
William Ley said...

As much as I appreciate your story, it saddens me that you blame everyone else but where the blame needs to go. That is with the Band. They are the ones that messed up. You left your First Love because you decided that it was God's fault. Jesus wasn't real. You hate Christians. They abandoned you and left you swinging in the breeze.

I stumbled on this blog looking up the band Blackball and I thank you for the incite. If the story is true, and I am not saying it isn't, Blackball is a band I do not wantinto my collection.

You left Christ, not the other way around. He never left you. He loves you or He wouldn't have died for you. He did that willingly. He didn't have to. He could have left the world swinging in the breeze but he didn't.

Being a Christian is not as easy as many people would have you believe. I struggle everyday to be the perfect Christian. I struggle everyday to be the perfect example of Jesus Christ. But there in lies the problem. I try to be but unfortunately, I am not perfect. I am a flawed human being. I realized that a long time ago. I am an ambassador of Jesus Christ. I am not Christ.

Your friends left you swinging, get new friends. Don't walk away from the one person that loves you more than you will ever know. You chose to walk away and that it was His fault. It wasn't His fault. It was the bands fault and your friends. BUT You chose to blame Jesus instead for something HE didn't do!

D Crane said...

I randomly thought of a Blackball song from my teens today and googled to see if I could find out what happened to the group. That search led me to your page, and it seems as though you have faced many struggles spiritually and physically since those days. I pray ten years later you are doing well. I know plenty of “Christians” have given you a reason not to believe, however I pray you once again look to Jesus, the only benchmark for the faith.