Converts, Wed, Jan 30 2013 #(823)

Jan 30, 2013

It has taken me thirty-two years to compose this email.

I grew up and still live in rural Alabama. My parents are what I would
call from my experience your average religious kind of folk. They are
Christian, have strongly held beliefs in some areas, rarely practice
them and rarely go to church. That sentence may seem odd, but that's
the best way I know to describe it.

I had intermittent exposure to church growing up. Sometimes my parents
took me, sometimes my grandparents or great-grandparents took me and
sometimes friends of my parents would take me. I got a fair measure of
Jesus, hell and the like during this time, but looking back I don't
think it made too much of an impression on me. I think I'd have to say
the largest influence in this regard during my formative years would
have come from the rural wisdom, superstitions(all kinds from religion
to wives tales) and prejudices of my extended family outside of
church.

I didn't attend church regularly or deliberately until I started
seeing a girl who went to the large Methodist church in town.

With this second more prolonged exposure things really seemed to
slowly creep in a grab hold of me. I went to church camps, got
baptized and “saved” and slowly(without even realizing it) began to
see things the way my neighbors did. I experimented with a couple of
other religions, mainly Buddhism, but they never really took. So it
came about that my teenage years to my late twenties saw the height of
my religious belief, which really at best equated to my parents level
of involvement previously mentioned. I rarely went to church but felt
guilty about it and often talked about how I should. I made excuses
when directly asked about my church involvement. I got mad when
someone challenged Christianity or God in any way(oh the embarrassing
forum posts I wish I could take back) and I didn't laugh at Jesus
jokes.

This all lasted until I decided to get serious and study my religion
in depth about 2 years ago. Let me say here that even during the
height of my fervor I had this troubling little voice that told me
something wasn't right and I never was able to fully commit myself to
Christianity. I lived in a peacefully ignorant fog which required
minimal thought or effort. So I began to pick up and seriously read
the bible, giving what it said some real thought. The old testament
read like a badly written tragedy and seemed to me more like an excuse
for savagery. Well, not to worry, because the New Testament is really
my book anyway, right? So I dove into the New Testament. I could get
by with the gospels well enough. There were things I disagreed with,
but on the whole they seemed OK. The next problem arose when I
discovered that the gospels were as far as I could get. Paul reminded
me of all the finger pointing, bible thumping, sexist, racist and
homophobic morons I had come to dislike. I skipped from book to book
trying to find something that didn't piss me off, to no avail. The I
looked back and realized that at least a fair 80% of the whole book
was trash. Slowly I felt myself starting to become more distant, more
dissatisfied by what had been sold to me as truth, but I still
couldn't make the leap-not yet. Fear and tradition still refused to
let go. My bed was soft, my slumber still too peaceful and the chains
were still covered in the finest velvet.

Then one day I sat down with my still new forming eyes and watched the
TV series Cosmos. Why would Cosmos be so important? Well, there are
some obvious reasons of course, but it's not that simple. There's
nothing that Carl Sagan was saying that deep down I didn't already
suspect or know. It was simply the catalyst. Cosmos was the right
element at precisely the right time to set the spark off within my
half slumbering brain. I was awakening and there was no turning back.
Here was a man saying all the things I'd been thinking but was
reluctant to admit. For the first time I looked at the chains and
realized that the key had been in my pocket the whole time, that the
door had always been wide open. For the first time in my life I
realized I was free. It exhilarates me now just thinking about it.
I've followed this initial revelation by learning all I can learn. I
started with Carl Sagan's Varieties of Scientific Experience. I've
visited many of the popular websites. I've watched debates and
lectures, read articles and I'm currently reading The God Delusion.

This brings me to where I am now. I am awake and I am aware, but my
journey isn't complete. The next leg of this odyssey is to embrace
this new freedom and talk to others about it. A first step is this
email, but this is the easy one. The hard one will be the conversation
with my family and friends. I am not exactly surrounded by people who
will be very sympathetic. My family will be appalled and I may very
well lose some friends. For example, I have a very close and long time
friend who has taken the exact opposite path that I am now on. While I
am thinking about freedom from superstition he is talking about taking
a trip to the creationist museum in Texas. A couple of months ago he
was home from Texas and spoke of how the country was getting away from
“our values” and I didn't have the heart to tell him that our values,
or whatever you would like to call it, were no longer the same.
Actually they were never exactly the same, but now they seem to be
about as different as different can be. I have no desire for this to
affect our friendship, but I am greatly concerned that it will. Still
I feel it is important that we discuss this, even more so because he
is such a close friend. Likewise my work environment will change. I
very possible could lose my job.

So here I go. I still don' have all the answers and I still don't know
how I'll handle every situation, but at least the road I'm on makes
better sense. I'd like to thank all of the wonderful people who have
and are still providing me with the tools and strength to take this
important step in my continuing development as a human being. I look
forward to meeting others face to face and enjoying a good laugh at
the expense of my intellectual childhood.

Jerome Triplett
.

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