I was born into a very religious family. We went to our church (usually Baptist or non-denominational) every Sunday and most Wednesdays. The company my parents kept were mostly Christians who attended the same church. When our youth pastor left for another job at our church, my father stepped-up and took over the position for no salary for many years.
I was encouraged to believe in God, to admit my sins freely and beg for forgiveness. I was taught that if I did not believe in God, or if I accidentally had a lustful thought about a woman that I would burn forever in Hell.
As a result of my indoctrination, I lived in horror that I may have forgotten a sin I committed and would die in my sleep - only to awake in the painful embrace of Satan himself.
At the age of 16, I started to make sense of the world. I began to learn about biology and began to understand that the science made sense, and my religion did not. The suffering I felt began to multiply. I prayed that Jesus would send his Holy Spirit to help my unbelief and to bring me closer to his embrace. No such thing happened. From then on, I was agnostic, though I lived my life as though God existed - because the risk of assuming that He didn't exist was far more than I could take.
At 19, I joined the Marine Corps and left the influence of my family for the first time. I was so busy, I began to ignore my religion and spent my time learning my new job and doing my best to be a great Marine. I struggled with the idea that I could be ordered to kill someone and would have to do so. I spoke to my Chaplain about it and he assured me that God would use me for His will - and therefore, it would not be a sin, since it was the will of God. This was a jagged pill to swallow, but I decided that since this gave me an "out", I would accept it and tout it as the truth.
Shortly thereafter I married a wonderful woman - whom I am still married to.
I had a few jobs after I left the Marine Corps, about 8 years later, and settled into a job as a teacher at a residential treatment center for children. There the horrors of religion showed themselves. There are so many kids who were involved in prostitution, drugs, abuse, home invasion, murder, rape and incest. I became more deeply involved in my church as a means of support and to find an explanation of why the world is so wicked. While I did receive "answers", I also began to realize that the "answers" were weak and self-supporting.
I then turned to Jehovah's Witnesses to try to find the answer. I really admired these people - they were strict, prayed often, enjoyed studying the Bible together and proclaimed to have the ultimate truth and claimed to be the only true church on the planet. This was the beginning of the end.
During "meeting", which is what they call their church service, our first topic we covered concerned the "Governing Body", which is a group of men who run the JW. We were instructed not to question them, that all revelation is from them and anything new about the Bible will be discovered by them alone. I bristled at this idea and wondered why this was so. I almost walked out right then and there, but decided to stick around to see what else might be said.
The second part of the meeting discussed the Holy Spirit - and what the Holy Spirit really was. JW's believe that the Holy Spirit is the manifestation of God's power - much like music can be the manifestation of a radio's power, if it is tuned to the right station at the right time and is supplied power from batteries or the wall. I accepted this when I was first introduced to JW dogma, but now I had the opportunity to understand why they felt this way. The evidence they provided directly contradicted the claims they made! I sat there in the chair, aghast, and glanced around to see if anyone else noticed these glaring contradictions... but found no-one who appeared to be as angry as me. An image flashed before my eyes - one of stupid sheep being lead around by a shepherd... and it all started to make sense.
I went home that day and declared myself an ex-JW, much to the delight of my wife, who disapproved of me going JW in the first place. I decided that I would examine the Bible to find out what the truth was - and then would find a church which met the requirements of truth. It was during this open-minded studying that I discovered the truth - the Bible is a work of fiction, God is imaginary and Hell is a scare-tactic.
I then looked around to try to find out if anyone else had discovered this - and found the Atheist community. It was then that I also began to notice all of the harm that religion does in the world and it was then that I became an Atheist activist. My next blog post will describe why I run this blog - besides all of the reasons I have already stated thus far.