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I wonder where this will go…

October 11, 2010

I’m not even sure if anyone will stumble across this blog, but I feel the need to make public some of my thoughts on things religious since I am in the process of a major change in views and don’t feel comfortable sharing this with anyone I know.  Perhaps someone will come across this who will understand my situation.  Or maybe I’ll just get flamed a lot.  (Any non-civil comments will be promptly deleted.)

So, who am I?  I’m a music director in the Baptist church who has been struggling with doubts about his religion for years.  In all honesty I started doubting my religion in high school.  I spent a while after college studying reformed theology and convinced myself that the reason I had been doubting my faith was because I believed differently than I had been taught as a child (basically, I decided that I believed in Calvinism rather than Arminianism).  I soon began to realize that this was not the case and I was, indeed, doubting the very foundations of Christianity.

I was raised in a Christian home; my father is a pastor and I was home schooled through high school.  I attended a Christian college for my undergrad (I ended up getting a degree in church music), and have been employed by 4 different churches over the past ten years.  Yet the more I thought about the things I had been taught about faith, the more I began to see that I couldn’t actually believe those things.

In this blog I will share some of my history, and the doubts I’ve had in the past, as well as explore the place I find myself now and further explore the doubts I have.  I will accept criticism, but only thoughtful, logical criticism presented in a polite and positive way.

As of now, my biggest dilemmas are these:

  1. My family are devout Christians (and young-earth creationists) and I cannot bring myself to tell them of my long-term doubts in this religion, and total disbelief in such things as young-earth creationism and the inerrancy of scripture.
  2. I am employed (albeit part-time) by the church and have been unable to find employment elsewhere thanks to the wonderful recession we are in, but the longer I am there the more it becomes clear to me that I do not agree with the teachings of the church.  Outside of the church teaching I see no other way to use the education I have worked on for 8 years to obtain (a masters of music) and I don’t feel that I am cut out for teaching.  If I abandon my faith then I most likely am abandoning the career I have pursued, and owe tens of thousands of dollars for the education I have obtained.

Start by reading my story, then check out the rest of the blog.

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26 Comments leave one →
  1. October 11, 2010 12:34 am

    What a truly terrible situation to be in. Yet it is not as uncommon as you may think.

    Moving away from belief is never easy – more so in America than in the UK where I live.

    Have you researched atheism? Try clips from The Atheist Experience on Youtube. For me atheism is very liberating as it means I put everything into this life rather than coast through it hoping for something better after death.

    I do hope everything works out for you. Please keep posting, I would be very interested to see how things develop.

    Kindest regards
    Simon

    • October 11, 2010 12:45 am

      Thanks for the kind words, Simon! I have researched atheism, and am a closeted follower of Richard Dawkins and PZ Myers.

      For me, one of the most interesting things has been seeing how my life, since all but totally renouncing my Christianity, has not been at all like what Christians teach the life without faith is like. For instance, I have no fear of death. I find it extremely comforting to realize that after death is, most likely, nothing. This life is finite, and I am quite alright with that fact. Most evangelicals teach that non-Christians live in constant fear of death, but I haven’t really seen this.

      I feel sort of like I did when I asked my parents, at the age of 5, if Santa was real and they told me he was not. I had already decided, in my 5 year old mind, that there was no logical way that Santa could exist, but after that fact was confirmed by my parents I tried as hard as I could to cling to some bit of belief in Santa. Now I have discerned that there is no logical way that what Christianity teaches is true, but I try to hold onto whatever bits I can of my religion because I have lived in it for so long now (though I can’t really say I ever found much comfort in religion).

  2. godlesspaladin permalink
    October 11, 2010 1:21 am

    Hey, stumbled across you blog. (must have been God’s will…..jk) First off, welcome to the blogosphere. Simon is right, that’s a very tough position you’re in, but like he said, you’re not alone. Normally I’d say the best thing would be to try and apply your knowledge and education in another career but like you pointed out, the economy is horrible right now. Do you have any outlet? Anyone to talk to, or just this blog? When you say “your family”, are you talking just parents, siblings, and extended, or are there children and a spouse in the picture? If you’re living by yourself then there is probably a local atheist group relatively near by where you could escape for a bit. Meetup.com is really good for this.

    If you can’t go out without being noticed then atheistnexus.org is a very active and good site for meeting like-minded people to talk with and discuss things. (It’s also private and theists aren’t allowed to join) If you can get a copy (or an electronic copy if you need to be covert), check out the book “Godless” by Dan Barker. He was in a situation very similar to yours. He was raised super evangelical, did mission trips at 15, got a religious degree in undergrad, got married, had kids, didn’t save for the future because the rapture was coming, composed religious music that was very successful internationally, and was a pastor at several churches. Around his 40s he realized he couldn’t lie to himself anymore and so he left his entire life behind. He’s now the head of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a very successful and famous organization that fights to improve education and keep church and state separate.

    I see you’ve already found Dawkins and Myers, awesome. Dawkins was the guy that eventually pushed me off the fence. I can recommend a whole bunch of other really interesting people/books/youtube videos/podcasts if you like, depending on what you’re interested in. (I would ask if there is anything in particular that you’re having doubts about regarding either christianity or atheism, but that’s kinda the point of your blog, so I assume if you do you’ll write a post about it)

    Anyways, I’ve rambled on enough. Once again, welcome, and I look forward to reading what you have to say. :-)
    –Godless Paladin

    • October 11, 2010 1:40 am

      Thanks! Thankfully I’m single, so I don’t have that sort of family to worry about. However, I’m very close to my parents and my sisters. Right now I have one friend in the area who I can talk with about my doubts as far as religion is concerned. She is still something of a theist, but she isn’t a Christian (though she is also involved in church music to a smaller extent that I am). I also have a couple of good friends (one whom introduced me to PZ Myers blog) who are have come out of Christianity (one from even further on the fundamentalist side that I) and into atheism over the past few years. Unfortunately they live across the country from me so I’m only able to keep in touch with them online.

      • October 11, 2010 2:05 pm

        Being single is a blessing (pardon the religious connotations!) in your circumstances. Many people hate the job that they’re in but put up with it. Yet, if you’re an atheist in ajob which revolves around something all-encompassing as faith it makes it so much harder to bear. I truly feel for you.

        I mentioned The Atheist Experience (http://www.atheist-experience.com) in my previous reply but I have more time to go into it in more depth.

        The host, Matt Dillahunty, was a Southern Baptist and fundamentalist Xian for 25 years. http://www.atheist-experience.com/people/matt_dillahunty/ and I’m sure that you will find solidarity in his words.

        I’m not too sure how far your atheism has taken you at present but rest assured you’ll not be alone. In my experience atheists are the most honest, genuine and accepting of people.

        Godless Paladin made an excellent suggestion about using meetup.com. I am in the transitional stage of moving to a new town and have used this site to find humanist and atheist groups. My first meeting is in York (UK) on the 20th of this month and I’m really looking forward to it.

        In a way all theists are atheist as regards most of the gods that humanity has ever created created throughout history. Dawkins (a god incarnate!) says it better than me: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6mmskXXetcg.

        Keep blogging!

        Warmest regards,
        Simon

        PS: Please check out my blog. It was meant to be for general musings etc but, after reading your initial blog, I’m turning it over to the subject of atheism ;-)

      • October 11, 2010 3:15 pm

        Wow, I never expected that my very first post would elicit a change so quickly from a reader!

        Being single is a blessing, too, because if I were married and had kids then they would, likely, be Christians, and a major change in my religious views would cause much more stress in that family than it ever could with my parents/sisters. The fact that my religious views have been in question for so many years is one of the reasons I haven’t really actively sought to build a family (one of, not the only).

        Thanks for the Dawkins video! His answer is one of the ideas that has caused me to doubt the things I have been taught. It is a very common to hear Christians ask, “What if you’re wrong?” My thought has been, for some time, “What if we (Christians) are wrong?” And, on so many things, it has been proven that they are…

  3. godlesspaladin permalink
    October 11, 2010 4:31 pm

    Haha, I love that Dawkins clip. I actually did my undergrad in the town that he was giving that speaking engagement in. Lynchburg VA is home to “Liberty” “University” (George Orwell could not have picked a better name for the school) and the student asking that question is most assuredly a “liberty” student. I would have loved to go watch this talk since I was just up the road, but it was only after he left that I started doing research into atheism. :-(

  4. godlesspaladin permalink
    October 11, 2010 5:46 pm

    Oh, I’ve got a handful of other links and people you might find interesting that you could explore in your free time if you’d like. Do you have a contact e-mail for the blog? When I started blogging a few years ago, I set up one separate from my other internet activities so it couldn’t be linked to who I really was, yet people could still contact me.

  5. October 11, 2010 10:59 pm

    Hello.

    Well you’re knackered now, my friend.! You’ll be burning in hell for eternity after a spell in Purgatory. Oh, hang on, Purgatory was never mentioned in the Bible and even though the masses were told to believe in it for hundreds of years, the idea has since been abandoned. Hmmm.

    I personally would like to throw an idea into the melting pot that you should continue writing your blog which could develop into a book. You can do this anonymously. At present you’re reliant on the church for your living…. but further down the line? You could be America’s version of Dawkins!

    • October 11, 2010 11:35 pm

      Ha! I’m not sure that I’ll ever get enough material to warrant a book, or that it would sell many copies. Or that I’d want the hate mail that would inevitably ensue from publishing that sort of book (I’ve been bracing, somewhat, to receive hate mail for this blog, especially since along with “atheism” I’ve been tagging posts with “christianity”!

  6. Sam permalink
    October 11, 2010 11:57 pm

    There is great power in telling our stories, and I hope that you will find a safe place to write yourself out here. All I can say is – I can’t handle Calvinism or reformed theology, no wonder you felt hopeless! It makes me want to throw up my hands and give up, honestly, which is why I carefully stay away from conversations with those who get off on such things. Thanks for inviting me to read here.

    • October 12, 2010 12:14 am

      Reformed theology fit more logically with what I read in the Bible, however when i really look at where things go logically this is where I end up. I’m glad you came here!

  7. October 12, 2010 12:48 pm

    I’m so glad I was referred to your blog by a twitter friend of mine. Welcome, welcome. You are just who you should be and there is nothing wrong with it. Just wanted to make sure that was said up front :)

    I’m halfway in the closet myself. I work for a Christian ministry, and they could–and probably would–fire me if they found out my personal beliefs and how outspoken I can be about them. I’ve come out to my mother, sisters, and a few relatives and friends. I was mortified about doing so since I come from a similarly devout and dedicated community. I was a very passionate believer all my life, and doubting my faith was one of the scariest things I had to go through.

    I just want to offer my friendship and conversation to you, because I love meeting other folks with our kinds of stories, and I would be honored to talk to you about anything you’re wrestling with concerning family or the job. I feel a lot of empathy for you!

    By the way, one of the books that soothed my emotional chaos once I began pulling away from Christianity was Dan Barker’s book “Losing Faith in Faith” which was basically a precursor to “Godless” that godlesspaladin recommended. I ordered it from the Freedom From Religion Foundation of which Barker is President.

    As for your two biggest dilemmas:
    Family: What specific things are you afraid of? Are you afraid they will not love you the same way? Perhaps that it will bring conflict to your now-peaceful relationships? That you might hurt your parents’ feelings? that you’ll be evangelized or criticized?
    I think identifying what we truly fear is one big step towards confronting those fears head-on. But don’t worry–you can do this at your own pace. I still haven’t come out to my brother (the fundamentalist independent baptist pastor).

    Money and work: I feel you on this one. I currently have a job where I get benefits, vacation time, and they really like and value me. I don’t know what other skills I have that might employ me elsewhere for the same amount of money or more. It’s so rough.
    How certain are you that working for a college, school, or arts organization would not fit your gifts? Teaching isn’t for everyone, of course, but what makes you think you wouldn’t thrive in that environment?

    All the best! My friendship to you :)

  8. October 12, 2010 1:25 pm

    Godless girl, welcome! I am glad you could join me here!

    First, I ran across the book you mentioned yesterday while reading some of the links that have been shared here and I immediately looked it up at my library. Sadly, we don’t have that one. They do, however, have his book “Godless : how an evangelical preacher became one of America’s leading atheists” which is now waiting for me on the hold shelf at the main branch! Right now all my reading materials come from the internet or the library since those are free. :)

    As for what scares me about telling my family… I do fear judgment to a certain extent. I’m very close to my parents and sisters and it would hurt me very deeply to have something come between us, even if it wasn’t something that was spoken of openly. I also fear that it would hurt them very much to learn this about me, and while I’m still trying to find my way though this I don’t want to add to the confusion. Perhaps some day I will be comfortable enough with this to tell them, but not yet.

    My oldest sister (not older) is the first one I’d feel comfortable telling. She is the one person in my family that knows I voted Democrat and am fairly liberal. (That gets into a whole other can of worms… )

    As for teaching, I just don’t feel that I have developed the skill set I would need, nor do I have the desire to work in the middle or high school setting. There was a point where I thought I would like to do college work but I no longer believe that is for me, either, since I would hate dealing with the system and politics. Also, they generally want someone with high school teaching experience. The markets for BOTH are so bad that even my friends with DMAs (Doctorate of Musical Arts) and plenty of prior teaching experience have found it nearly impossible to find a job.

    All that to say I just don’t feel that it would be wise, at this time, to invest money and time in the training I’d need to become certified. (And I may become certifiable once I get certified!)

    Right now I have one friend with a DMA who is unemployed, one who is working a temporary high school job, and one who took a church job since he couldn’t find a teaching position. I also have a couple of friends with music ed degrees who can’t find a middle or high school teaching position right now. This recession has hit everyone very hard. Even the church music world is dry. I was applying for full-time positions this spring and there were only a dozen or so jobs that opened up and over 100 applicants to each one. If I do find employment elsewhere I will leave the church music path and stay involved in community music stuff to keep my artistic expression going. Or I’ll find a very liberal church that doesn’t mind paying an atheist to sing for them.

  9. godlesspaladin permalink
    October 12, 2010 4:32 pm

    If you’re looking for a liberal church, check out Unitarian Universalists. They’re a non-dogmatic, anything goes, all faiths welcome kinda place. A lot of atheists who don’t like the dogma and faith of church, but love the community aspect go to UU churches. The local UU minister here in Columbia, SC is an atheist, which is not uncommon. I wasn’t overly into it because I still felt a little uncomfortable with the setting, but they’re good people and like I said, there are a good amount of atheists that go there and hold clerical positions.

    • October 12, 2010 4:59 pm

      Thanks, godlesspaladin, I have often wondered what services are like at UU churches. Church without any particular belief always seemed like it would be somewhat pointless to me, but I do see how someone, especially someone coming from a church background like myself, could find comfort in it. Tough for me to be comfortable, it would need to be a UU church with a very high quality of music performed. Perhaps if I’m ever able to get out of depending on the employment I have in the Baptist church I’ll visit one.

  10. Bodfather permalink
    October 15, 2010 7:43 am

    Hi thesecretatheist, it’s been really interesting reading your posts and all the comments accompanying them. I thought that perhaps this post was a little weighted towards atheism and needed some comments from someone who does believe in God and more specifically Jesus :D

    As of now, my biggest dilemmas are these:

    1. My family are devout Christians (and young-earth creationists) and I cannot bring myself to tell them of my long-term doubts in this religion, and total disbelief in such things as young-earth creationism and the inerrancy of scripture.
    2. I am employed (albeit part-time) by the church and have been unable to find employment elsewhere thanks to the wonderful recession we are in, but the longer I am there the more it becomes clear to me that I do not agree with the teachings of the church. Outside of the church teaching I see no other way to use the education I have worked on for 8 years to obtain (a masters of music) and I don’t feel that I am cut out for teaching. If I abandon my faith then I most likely am abandoning the career I have pursued, and owe tens of thousands of dollars for the education I have obtained.

    As per point 1… Are you doubting the details of young-earth creationism or are your doubts in the existance of God and particularly Jesus?

    I’m really sorry to hear about your difficulty in being able to share your mind with your family in as open a way as you’d like to! But, on the upside, I share the support of the other comments that it is a good thing for you to challenge your beliefs and not to ride on your family’s faith altogether.

    • October 15, 2010 2:06 pm

      Thank you for joining the conversation, Bodfather! You are not the only Christian following my blog, I know of at least three others (friends) whom I have invited. Who knows, there may be some more hiding in the shadows! I surely welcome your comments.

      I have pretty much arrived at a point of disbelief in the Judeo-Christian God or a god in general. Since I don’t believe in a god I certainly don’t believe in creationism or intelligent design. This was arrived at slowly and thoughtfully, and I think that I believed it before I admitted it to myself. I admitted it to myself over a year ago, and had only told it to one other person prior to the day this blog went online. (Sadly, he is such a Luddite he will probably never read this blog. He is inclined to think that my mastery of technology is witchcraft. Or at least so he says when I’m controlling my TV through a computer controlled by my cellphone.)

      As for my family: they would still love and accept me regardless of what they believed. I could probably not have an open conversation with my father about it without him getting worked up, and I highly doubt I could change his views on this matter. For them to know would probably cause them much grief and I would rather not do that at this time.

  11. October 17, 2010 3:43 pm

    Greetings
    Although we differ a bit in our approaches, our problem is essentially the same. I was raised in a Catholic home and went through Catholic schools, 4 out of 7 of the ‘holy sacraments’, served time as an altar boy and religious student and so forth. I vacillated between the Catholic faith, various forms of Protestantisms, Atheism and Satanism for many years and, as you can tell by the title of my blog, my Satanic side won out.
    Like yourself, I am in the awkward position of essentially not being able to ‘come out’ to the majority of my family as I am 100% certain that they would not understand my beliefs. My 82 year old mother in particular would think I was being ‘stupid’ at best and ‘repulsive’ at worst!
    She and I share an old house together for economic reasons (She gets social security and a small pension while I work at a low level clerical position) as well as her own increasing need of physical help and although I am 43 years of age, it is often feels like being 14 all over again. By necessity, I hide all of my Satanic items and can only perform rituals after she has gone to bed.
    Some of the folks on ExChristian.net (where I got this link) apparently felt I was a ‘troll’ or that my claim of being a Satanist is some sort of ‘prank’ but I hope you will see that I am 100% serious and not writing this as a jest. Your tale really struck a chord in me and if you ever want someone to identify w/ (at least as far as our mutual ‘cloak and dagger’ concealment when around family and some of our respective associates), I’m here.
    Take care
    John.

  12. October 17, 2010 10:09 pm

    Greetings, John! So long as you don’t do any trolling here you are welcome to stick around! Sometimes people get the wrong first impression and it sticks, especially on the interwebs, or sometimes people react differently in different environments to different things. I won’t judge you for a past I know nothing about! :)

    Thankfully being an atheist doesn’t really involve any paraphernalia that I must hide from people, it just involves not always speaking my mind, something I’m naturally inclined to avoid anyway. I dislike confrontation very much.

  13. October 17, 2010 11:11 pm

    Hello again
    Great to hear that you are an open minded guy as well. :) I do tend to speak my mind among some friends and co workers, but like yourself I don’t speak my mind around family, at least not insofar as my Satanist beliefs.
    I can understand your point regarding paraphernalia. Personally, I have a Ouija board, robes and stoles, necklaces, Tarot cards, bones (purchased legally as medical specimens)Runes, candles, daggers, books, etc. so yes, I guess we Satanists have an additional burden. :)
    By the way, i am particularly interested in and fascinated by people who were one time xtian clergy who later became free thinkers, Satanists, occultists or anything along those lines. I have a friend who was a charismatic minister for 20+ years before deconverting.
    Take care and stay in touch.
    John.

    • October 18, 2010 12:43 am

      Without wishing to appear rude to John but other than both he and SecretAthesist feel unable to tell members of their respective families of their lack of belief in the Christian faith, I see no synergy in John posting on an Atheist blog.

      As far as I can see satanism is the same as Christianity and insofar as it requires belief in a non-existent entity. Indeed a satanist by their very nature must have a belief in the Christian god in order to worship satan. Atheists, by contrast, do not believe in any supernatural gods.

      I am wondering if John is getting confused and thinking that ANYONE who turns away from the Christian god is in some way a member of a club with a common interest?

      • October 18, 2010 10:19 pm

        Greetings Carrionmind
        It is a common misconception that Satanism proceeds from christianity.
        In fact, Satan has been around as a deity since at LEAST 3200 BC in the form of the ancient Egyptian idol Set (‘Set-hen’, or ‘eternal Set’, is the origin of the very word Satan) That would mean that His legacy predates not only christianity and islam but judaism as well.
        As for Atheism, I was an Atheist myself for many years (now I lean more toward an agnostic form of Satanism). Moreover, many Satanists are essentially Atheists at heart who use the rituals and trappings as a form of psychodrama/catharsis.
        Although there are, of course, differences in thinking, I’ve always felt that Satanists and Atheists could work well together if we simply agree to disagree on a few relatively inconsequential points. The religious fanatics, after all, would clobber a Satanist just as quickly as they would an Atheist and vice versa.
        Take care
        John.

  14. July 27, 2014 1:07 am

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I really appreciate your efforts and
    I am waiting for your further write ups thanks once again.

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