domingo, 9 de junho de 2013

Deconversion: The Straw that Broke the Camel's Back (Part I)

I remember some years ago - I think it was about the year 2008 -, when the last logical fortress I had to stand for the existence of a biblical god finally collapsed. Just before that I still had myself as a Christian by definition; I took the Bible as the divine revelation of a supreme personal god, believed in an afterlife and the redemption from our sins by the sacrifice of Christ; heaven, hell, and so on. There’s one thing I must point out however: Looking back, I reckon I’d never exactly fit the fundamentalist, literalist archetype of a Christian. Despite my raising in a pretty zealot Christian family - I guess fanatical sounds more accurate -, since early childhood I paid special attention to some controversial topics regarding what I heard in the church and read in the Bible. I remember attending Sunday classes when I was about six, with that missionary teacher arranging biblical pictures on the flannel board (man, I’m really getting old…). Figures of Jesus and his disciples, the white dove representing the Holy Spirit, a majestic white throne portraying God the Father, the cross symbolizing redemption,  and so much more. I was too young of course, but I clearly remember wondering what all that stuff was about after all. To me, it wasn’t just… convincing enough. Almost 35 years have passed since then, but I still keep a strong recollection of my looking at that board, listening to the missionary and asking within myself, “How can they know it’s all true? Has anybody personally seen or touched some evidence, or proven this histories and characters are real?” (Though I was too young to put it in these words, they pretty accurately describe what the feeling was like at that time). Of course, I had to keep these questions to myself, for I knew I wouldn’t find any mind supportive/sympathetic enough for me to share my doubts with. In the very few occasions when I tried putting something out of my chest to someone, specifically in family, the outcomes were never positive at all. I think I was about twelve when I exposed to my mother some delicate issues about contradictory passages in the Bible, asking her some explanation to that – because I was a Christian, in my puerile mind, I was eager to believe with all my heart and sincerely. But in order to accomplish that I needed to be fulfilled, I needed honest answers. I’d rather expose that to my mother, since she always showed a less severe fundamentalist approach if compared to dad. The only answers I ever got even from her, however, where the known clichés like ‘you don’t need to know that; just believe for the sake of believing and that’s all it takes’. But, as it turned out in that occasion when I was twelve, I kept demanding consistent answers to these issues from mom, I wouldn’t just let her go so easy this time. “You atheist!” was her direct response, uttered like an explosion, and with an unforgettable expression of disgust and reprobation in her face.

As I said before, I wasn’t even close to call myself an atheist back then. Actually, I was very sorrowful that atheists existed, I could hardly conceive someone who wouldn’t take for granted that a supreme god existed. After all, it was so plain and so obvious to me! No, I wasn’t an atheist, I was not even close to that – not at that time at least. It would still take more than two decades for me, from that time, to come across the straw that broke the camel’s back, and then clearly realize the dimension of the mistakes I had lived by since I was born. 

Coming next.

sábado, 8 de junho de 2013

Nobody is Willing to Hear You

Openly declaring skepticism has ever been – and still is – a painful issue for me, especially when it comes to family events like Christmas, New Year’s Eve, birthday parties and so on. It’s hard to find yourself alone when surrounded by people you’ve learned to respect and love since you were born. Many years passed after my deconversion while I kept the habit of showing contradictions in the Bible, arguing on the logical flawed biblical concept of god, hell and so on. Eventually, time showed how this approach was meaningless and counterproductive, at least in the context of a more radical fundamentalist environment like mine. Fundamentalists won’t try and see something differently from what they’ve ever seen because they just don’t want to. Therefore, I personally don’t see honesty (in this sense of the word) as the best choice to all occasions. That said, I avoid talking on this subject (atheism) as much as it’s possible for me among relatives. That brings such an amount of isolation of course. Just as I use to say to myself, ‘I’ve lost my family to religion’.
There’s another point to it: asserting different points of view, be it political, personal, or religious, can sometimes change a pleasant meeting into something not so enjoyable. As we know, most human beings would rather hear something they want than someone speaking the truth – Unfortunately. On the other hand, we all have the need of being part of a group. Depending on the people you are talking to, saying you are an atheist means breaking links between you and everybody else. I mean, of course people who really know me are aware that I’m no longer a theist, it’s just that they feel uncomfortable with my openly declaring that. So now I see no reason for that anymore. I think it’s the same case as to political views, when I used to be very opinionated at defending my personal convictions on politics, and after some years acting like this, noticed there weren’t much profit from it.
Let’s picture a situation in which you are surrounded by Christian relatives in a family meeting, and the subject of God, Jesus and the Bible is brought up – as usual. Now I see if I just keep silent about my personal view of reality, that doesn’t mean I lack honesty towards what I believe/disbelieve or my way of seeing reality. Of course, if someone comes to ask me directly if I believe the God depicted in the Bible exists, he’s going to hear a sound “No, I don’t”.
Like many other issues in life, I don’t find necessary to expose my opposing opinion every time other people say things I disagree with. That’s what went wrong with me in the past, I used to think that ‘intelectual honesty’ implied pointing out my opinion whenever the opposite opinion showed up. But as I said before, it’s necessary for us to feel part of people who see important matters in a way similar to ours. That said, I see the internet as a sound alternative for us to be connected with each other, and so share a few pieces of thought with the rest of the world.