Converts, Wed, Jan 30 2013 #(788)

Jan 30, 2013

The following charts my migration from Lutheran to what I call “D'Souzan”
(after Dinesh D'Souza) to Agnostic to Atheist, the last step, probably the
largest of them, came due to The God Delusion.

When I was a child my family raised me Lutheran in Cincinnati Ohio in the 80s
and 90s. Our pastor was really quite fundamentalist for an ELCA church.
Anyway, I was always fascinated by Christianity by proxy due to my fascination
of evil and the devil. I was not afraid, more fixated on the concept of evil.
The church showed us apocalyptic end-of-days videos (presumably the fore
bearers to the Left Behind series). I loved when they showed us the video
about subliminal messages in rock music. In hindsight thinking of KISS or
Queen as satanic is purely insane. But they taught it to me and they fully
believed it. Also, there were a few Numerology lessons! Thats right, in a
Lutheran church youth group. Even my father (who is very rational actually)
was shocked when I told him that. My dad once cussed out a Scientology
propagandist on the sidewalk one day as a youth, that was awesome.

While I learned non-standard Lutheran teachings at church, my father taught me
how to think (while still taking me to church) and my mother taught me to have
fun. There was never any question in my family about evolution, I was told it
was real and the bible was being metaphorical, so I had that going for me. I
remember the pastor's son who was in my biology class was clearly upset by some
of the science on evolution and would ask backhanded leading questions, but I
had no problem with evolution teaching in school. I totally absorbed
Christianity and I know what its like to be a 100% believer in God but not a
literal believer in the bible. I was the president of my “Luther League” and I
used to do readings and talk in front of the church. One of these readings I
wrote myself. It was the kind of stuff you hear Dinesh D'Souza, whom I did not
know of at the time, talking about today to rationalize his belief. Being
“D'Souzan” as I now call it (someone who uses science somewhat improperly and
logic very improperly, along with a healthy dose of mental acrobatics, to
justify belief in a specific God), acted as a kind of intermediate state
between irrationality and reason. I wonder how Dinesh hangs onto it, it is
such a transient state it seems to me. At this point I didn't really like the
concept of formal church, but was full on self righteous Christian otherwise.

One seed of doubt was planted when I read a passage aloud in my junior year of
high school in AP history (from a Document Based Question on a sample AP test),
and it was one of the first colonial leaders in early American history. Part
way through I came to a part where he was saying that he was so thankful for
Christianity because it helped the poor feel not so bad about their condition,
and kept them from rebelling. That may have been the single most important
thing I read in my lifetime in terms of getting me to think of “the flock” as
victims and religion as a mechanism. I wish I could recall who it was who
wrote that.

Another seed of doubt from my youth was during the “Confirmation” process. I
asked what happened after death to someone in India who perhaps never heard of
Jesus. The answer given was that they are children in Gods eyes, but no
scripture was given. He said that if they had heard the word of Jesus and
rejected it, they were going to burn. That answer was not fulfilling and had
me wondering, essentially, why I was any better than someone who was born into
a non-Christian family in modern times. This may be the key issue in my
conversion to Agnosticism: my humbleness and ability to see that our religion
is mostly determined by a function of who our parents are with infrequent
exceptions. I remember saying “if an innocent person can go to hell because of
where they happened to have been born, then so should I.” Now THAT is
humility.

In college I stopped going to church and met a lot of different people. My
concept of evil started to change. No longer did it seem that evil was clear
cut, more abstract and in the eye of the beholder. And as my concept of evil
faded, so did my faith. The thing that sucked me in (evil) was now being
pulled out from under me. In the meantime my knowledge of Physics grew and I
left college as a weak Agnostic with a career in Software and a passion for
Physics.

Over time I felt very comfortable in that mode, and I never understood how one
could confidently call themselves an “Atheist”. I didn't (and most don't)
understand the term and what it means. This went on for 8 years until I moved
out to California one year ago and was jobless for a while, so I had time to
think and read. To be honest, It all started because I looked up Richard
Dawkins on wikipedia because of the South Park episode where he gets to “know”
Mrs Garrison biblically!

That lead me to a series of articles which eventually lead me to the Beyond
Belief website! I proceeded to watch the entire Beyond Belief video series,
and was captivated by almost everyone (particularly Mr Dawkins, Rama, and Dan
Dennett's letter) but still needed convincing. I bought the God Delusion and
the argument style and logic was perfect to my tastes. I have some minor
disputes but overall The God Delusion converted me from a weak Agnostic to a
medium-strong Atheist. I think the key was strictly defining what was meant by
“God” right off the bat. Since then I have noticed that conversations
regarding “God” are often hard to follow because sometimes it means something
more abstract than other times. I always define my terms when telling someone
else I am atheist, so they know exactly what I don't believe in.

Since then I have become more of a Dan Dennett style Atheist than Dawkins (not
much difference there, but it exists) and my knowledge of both sides of the
issue has grown immensely. I have watched every debate by Dawkins, Hitchins,
and Harris that I could find. But it was The God Delusion that opened the
door, thank you Mr. Dawkins!

I don't think I have fully come out of the closet with my family. My friends
know without a doubt. I went to church for Christmas this year, and I provided
my family with a scathing critique of the sermon, which I had many issues with
morally, so they may suspect, but I doubt it. Attending a church service is
funny to me now. I look around and watch the other people. My favorite part
is the Nicean Creed. Now that I know what the Council of Nicea and
Constantinople are, this fundamental pledge seems to me to be almost admitting
to the man-made and arbitrary nature of the church! Oh well, at least I see
the light now and I act as a skeptical voice of reason for everyone I know (for
example I just convinced my best friend to stop blindly believing conspiracy
theories, and he now runs them by me first!).

Lets break this spell!
Ryan – San Diego, CA

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