Posts Tagged 'Prayer'

I’m Elated to Be an Atheist

There were a couple of threads on Reddit a little while back about how atheists should talk more about how great it is to become an atheist after being stuck in religious thought for so long. This is something that I think atheists should really advertise, because too often it seems that people who self-identify as atheists are perceived as always just living and thinking in opposition of something. Although it’s true that atheism is purely the rejection of theism, it also, at least in my experience, opens up a whole new world of discovery and possibilities.

As a theist I always had this sense that my thoughts were constantly being monitored, and that my actions were always being judged by big brother up there in the sky. It’s not fun to worry all the time about pissing god off. If I thought a bad thought about somebody I would immediately have this feeling of guilt and dread, and I would pray for forgiveness. I wasn’t actually sure if my religion taught that your thoughts are being policed, but at one point I scoured the Bible to try to find something that said that your bad thoughts don’t count against you, but just in case I made sure that I asked for forgiveness about anything that could count against me. I was scared of hell, y’all, you understand.

Aside from worrying about my own eternal damnation, I was also concerned about my friends and family going to hell. How could I guarantee that they all did the right things so that they could get into heaven with me? Did my grampa accept Jesus as his personal lord and saviour? Did my gay brother guarantee a ticket to hell just for being himself? In highschool a boy on my swim team died by suicide – I must have prayed every night for a year that he wouldn’t be punished for taking his life.

I also feel like I had less of a sense of wonder about the world as a theist. When I would see something like a photo of a beautiful nebula or a video of a coral reef, I would thing “wow, what an imagination that god has.” And the curiosity for how those things got there just didn’t exist. When I believed that god could just magic anything into existence, there just wasn’t that much mystery about the world.

For these reasons and more, the moment I realized that I no longer believed in my God or any other gods was one of the most freeing feelings I had ever experienced. Seriously! For that first few months I would get choked up reading about evolution or listening to podcasts about astronomy. There was this whole world of science out there that I had never allowed myself to absorb. The universe became a giant mystery and my mind was no longer being monitored so I had the freedom to explore questions like “what is the frickin big bang anyways?” and “how did single-celled organisms turn into that beautiful coral reef?” and “what is gravity anyways?” People, gravity is amazing!

I love being able to think whatever I want now. I don’t have to worry about offending sky-daddy with my thoughts, and I can entertain any ideas without worrying about consequences. I also no longer waste time with prayers. People often say that prayer is a nice way to look back on the day and get a nice fuzzy feeling even if it doesn’t work, and that was true for some of my praying, but truthfully I had a lot of anxieties about praying. At my Bible study they would pray so formally, but I tended to just pray as if I was talking to a friend – was I doing it wrong? Was I offending God? I also worried that I would forget to pray for somebody, so my blessings would go on and on until I would just say “and anyone else I may have forgotten” – what a silly exercise! I would also be really careful about what I prayed for, because I worried that if I prayed for something and it didn’t come true that it meant that I wasn’t faithful, or wasn’t a True Christian (TM). No joke – in order to counter this worry that my prayers wouldn’t come true, I would build an out into my prayers. For example, “dear God, please let so-and-so get better, and if he/she doesn’t please be with his/her family in this difficult time, in Jesus name, amen.” I’m so happy that prayer is no longer a part of my life.

There are so many fun things about being an atheist that I just couldn’t experience as a Christian. It’s not that I lost my moral code and I’m just going to run wild now and start trampling over people who get in the way of my fun. I still know what right and wrong is, that had nothing to do with my god-belief. But now I can break all those ridiculous little rules that religion imposes on you that have no reason behind them other than “because god wouldn’t like that.” For example, swearing! Swearing is a wonderful thing. When you stub your toe, screaming “ffuuucckkkkk” is the best pain relief I can think of. Religion gives so much power to these completely harmless groupings of letters, and it’s not just the four-letter-word kind of swearing that I can enjoy now. I can also say “I swear to god” or “oh my god” now. I used to think that those were the worst things I could say, and I’m pretty sure it’s an unforgiveable sin to take the lord’s name in vain. I used to be so careful about not doing that, so it’s so fun to me now to be able to use those words without those silly worries. To give an example of how silly it got with me, my favourite band (The Tragically Hip) has this awesome song called New Orleans is Sinking, and there’s one part that goes “She says Gordie baby I know exactly what you mean She said, she said I swear to God she said” but when I sang along I used to go “She says Gordie baby I know exactly what you mean She said, she said hmm hmm hmm hmmm she said.” Come on, how ridiculous is that? As an atheist I even get to enjoy my favourite songs more!

It’s fantastic being an atheist, and no amount of badgering from a religious person is going to convince me that I’m not a hundred times happier now than I was as a god-believer. That’s why I think all atheist logos should look like this one:

My Bible

I’ve been wanting to do this for a long time, and now that I have a few days off work I finally have the chance. I decided that it might be interesting to look at the Bible I used growing up. Looking at the Bible now is a completely different experience. I used to somehow be able to skim over the nasty parts and pick out the nice stuff, but that’s no longer the case. My personal Bible is full of highlighted portions and the occasional note, so I think it will be fun to have a look at what I used to find worthy of highlighting.

Here is my Bible (you can see it’s very worn and used…it’s been through a lot with me!):

I added the scare quotes to “Good News” after I realized that it was all a bunch of bull.

This Bible is quite a bit different than the more popular translations, and although I had those two around my house I always preferred this one because it was very easy to read. I often have to refer back to the King James though because the differences in the narrative are sometimes quite significant.

Here’s what the forward of this Bible says this about its translation:

The Good News Bible (Today’s English Version) is a translation which seeks to state clearly and accurately the meaning of the original texts in words and forms that are widely accepted by people who use English as a means of communication. This translation does not follow the traditional vocabulary and style found in the historic English Bible versions. Instead it attempts to present the biblical content and message in a standard, everyday, natural English.

My name and the date I got my Bible written in the front cover. I was 9 years old.

I got the Bible in Sunday school when I was 9. I remember being so excited. It smelled awesome and it was my first grown-up book. I hated Sunday school (I always had to rush from art class to get there), but I loved my Bible. I guess they chose such an easy to read translation because they were giving it to young children.

One of the best parts of this Bible is the pictures. I’ll probably be posting a lot of them here. Although I think if my parents would have seen some of the images they wouldn’t have been too happy with me having access to them as a 9-year-old. They were very careful to shelter us from violence. We never had video games in my house, and my parents pre-watched movies and TV shows to make sure they didn’t have violence or sexuality. But this Bible is certainly packed full of images depicting very violent scenes…here are a few of them:

I only had to get to page 11 to see images of animals and people, including frightened children, being drowned by God.

I only had to get to page 11 to see scenes of animals and people, including frightened children, being drowned by God.

Abraham, fully prepared to stab his child.

I'm not even sure why they felt in necessary to draw this image. It's not depicting a story, but rather what could potentially happen to those that reject the Lord.

All of these images are taken from the first 150 pages of my Bible.

Since the people who put this Bible together obviously had no problem depicting violence, I was curious how they would translate some of the more sexually explicit stories into plain English.  An obvious one to look at is the story of Lot and his daughters in Sodom & Gemorrah. In the King James Version, the words for “have sex with” are “to know”,  so it’s pretty vague and easy to gloss over. But I was shocked to see that in this kid-reading-comprehension version this is how the story is told:

Genesis 19:4-8

Before the guests went to bed, the men of Sodom surrounded the house. All the men of the city, both young and old, were there. They called out to Lot and asked, “Where are the men who came to stay with you tonight? Bring them to us!” The men of Sodom wanted to have sex with them.

Lot went outside and closed the door behind him. He said to them, “Friends, I beg you, don’t do such a wicked thing! Look, I have two daughters who are still virgins. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do whatever you want with them. But don’t do anything to these men; they are guests in my house, and I must protect them.”

Wow, what a wonderful story to put into the hands of young children.

Most of the highlighting that I did was from the New Testament, but I found this highlighted in the Old:

2 Chronicles 4:11-14

The writing in blue says “prayer of worship.” I did this after listening to a series of tapes by Pastor Leon Fontaine of Springs Church in Winnipeg. The tapes were basically a workshop on how to pray. He went over different types of prayers and what the Bible says about them. What a bunch of useless nonsense…but I sure prayed a lot more after listening to those tapes. I also started directing my prayers through Jesus…I guess that was supposed to make them work better, who knows.

Before I get on with other sections that I highlighted, I want to post a few of the more entertaining images from this Bible.

Behemoth, from Job 40:15

I love this picture. This is how they decided to depict, in God’s own words, “the most amazing of all [His] creatures!” What a lame-looking monster. The translation notes say that some identify Behemoth with hippos, others with a legendary creature. Lame! C’mon, God, what about Gorillas or Lions or Cephalopods? There are plenty of way cooler creatures than some cow/hippo that eats grass.

I’m not sure why I found this picture so funny, but if God appeared to us like some giant guarding his flock, then I would find him a lot easier to believe in!

The Kiss of Christian Love

That doesn’t look like a Christian Side Hug to me!

Okay on to some of the highlighted sections…

Matthew 6:6 - But when you pray, go to your room, close the door, and pray to your Father, who is unseen. And your Father, who sees what you do in private, will reward you.

The notes in black pen on this page are from after I lost my faith, but perhaps one of the most important passages that led to my loss of faith is highlighted on this page. Matthew 6:6, which tells you not to pray so that people will see how faithful you are, but rather to pray in private so it’s only between you and God. This passage was important to me because I couldn’t stand it when people bragged about their Christianity. I used to pray silently when I was in public, and also every night before bed I would pray as if I was having a conversation with God. I would talk about my day, about the things I was thankful for, about the things I hoped he would forgive me for, and about the people who I wanted him to bless. It was a nice way to gather my thoughts at the end of every day.

But one fateful day at Bible study, the leader of the study decided that he was going to start having different people say the prayer at the end of the discussion. That first time he decided I ought to do it, so he asked me if I would say it. I said no, that I wasn’t comfortable…he kept encouraging me, but since Matthew 6:6 was so important to me I argued with him and said I really didn’t want to. But in the end he talked me into it. The prayer I said made me feel so uncomfortable. I tried to mimic the ritualistic way that others prayed out loud, but it felt so wrong to me. It was completely opposite of the way that I pray, and it was meaningless to me. After that I started going to the study less and less, until I stopped going altogether. I became disillusioned with the faith as I felt that this prayer was blatantly ignoring that passage. I think that that experience at Bible study was what emboldened me to start questioning my faith and to allow myself to lighten up, and have doubts.

Moving along…

When  looking through my Bible to write this post I had a laugh when I saw this highlighted:

Psalm 53

I can just picture my smug, Christian, teenage self highlighting this and thinking “see? Only idiots don’t believe in God!”

Blech I’m glad that self is long gone.

Here’s another passage that troubled me a lot growing up, and that made having faith harder for me even when it was at its strongest:

Mark 11: 24 Prayer of Faith - For this reason I tell you: When you pray and ask for something, believe that you have received it and you will be given whatever you ask for.

This idea that all you needed to do was to have enough faith and you would get whatever you prayed for is awful, in that it puts a lot of responsibility on the shoulders of people who believe that this is true. This caused me a lot of stress because I felt that if I prayed for something and the opposite happened, then it was my fault and that made me feel guilty for something that I had no control over. It even made me afraid to pray for some things, because I didn’t want to be made to feel that my faith wasn’t strong enough.

This post has gotten really long, so I’m going to finish up with the first passage that I ever highlighted in my Bible. It was also the passage that puzzled me most, and probably the one that’s the most familiar to people who don’t read the Bible:

John 3:16

What John 3:16 said to me was that all I needed to do was believe, and I would have my spot in heaven. This confused me because I wondered why there were so many other rules in the Bible if belief is all you really need to be a good enough person to get into heaven. This passage also made me afraid to doubt. What if my faith waffled for a second, and I got hit by a bus? Would I be punished eternally for that? I first highlighted it because I thought that it was a beautiful message that showed how Jesus saved us, but the more I thought about it the more issues it brought up:

-What about people who were never told about Jesus?
-If someone is told about Jesus but doesn’t believe it and is the most charitable person in the world, do they not get to go to heaven?
-Could evil people like Hitler be in heaven if they believe in Jesus?
-Why should I bother being a good person?
-Why shouldn’t I just live how I want to now, and then start believing in Jesus in my old age?

John 3:16 is one of the many examples in the Bible that shows how many holes there are in the whole doctrine. It just doesn’t make sense, and if this  is inspired by a just, loving, omnipotent god, it certainly doesn’t show.

I hope you enjoyed reading about my Bible. I’d love to see other former Christian atheists do similar posts about their Bibles, if you do, please post a link to your blog here, I’d  love to check it out!

5 Bits of Woo I Wish Were True and 5 I’m Glad Aren’t True

The Top 5 Bits of Woo I Wish Were True:

5. Santa Claus – When I was a kid my parents told me that on Christmas Eve a jolly old man in a red suit would come down our chimney and leave me toys that his magical elves made me at the North Pole. How cool would that be?! And now as an adult, I’m thinking that Christmas could be a whole lot more fun if Santa did my shopping for me.

4. Free Energy – There’s always somebody pimping their perpetual motion machine, telling you they’ve got the solution to the energy crisis, but unfortunately they’re either con artists, deluded, or breaking the laws of thermodynamics. Alas! I guess I’ll just have to keep paying the heating bill and filling up that pesky gas tank.

3. The Afterlife – It would be so comforting to know that my loved ones are living on after they’ve passed away, and to know that I would be meeting them again soon. Also, since I became an atheist, I’ve started getting really bad anxiety every time I get in a car. I desperately don’t want to die, because I know this is the only life I get. If I knew that there was an afterlife I would be a lot more relaxed about taking risks, and I certainly wouldn’t be such an annoying back seat driver!

2. UFOs – Imagine if aliens actually visited Earth? Hopefully they wouldn’t be of the anal-probing variety…but it would surely be the highlight of my life to encounter a being from another solar system. I highly doubt the possibility of humans achieving inter-stellar travel in my lifetime, so to have a creature that’s seen the universe from a completely different perspective come to us would be…just…wow.

1. The Power of Prayer – If I thought I could relieve someone’s pain or bring world peace or solve complicated problems by appealing to a higher power, you’d better believe I would be down on my knees every second of every day.

The Top 5 Bits of Woo I’m Glad Aren’t True:

5. Psychic Powers – It creeps me out to imagine a world where certain people could read your thoughts and see your future. My thoughts are private, and I choose what I share with people. To not have the ability to own my most personal feelings would suck. And I have no desire to see my future. That would take the adventure out of life! Althought I wouldn’t mind winning the occasional lottery…

4. 9/11 and Moon Landing Conspiracy Theories – These ideas sicken me because they assume that the government is able to dupe people on a massive scale, and that they are in no way accountable to the people they represent. Politicians have their problems and often do crooked things, but they don’t have nearly the amount of control over the population as these two theories would require if they were true. Plus, humans have been on another freaking world! How jaded do you have to be to deny that???

3. Ghosts – I like the idea of an afterlife, but if I had to spend it walking up and down stairs, making howling noises, and causing loopy psychics to feel cold, I’d rather just be dead.

2. The Dangers of Vaccines – Vaccines save lives, and have helped nearly eliminate certain painful childhood illnesses. Yet there are certain people who, for whatever reason, have decided to ignore the evidence and blame vaccines for everything that’s wrong in the world. I think they should take a stroll through an old graveyard and count the number of babies burried there.

1. Hell – Eternal torment…what a brilliant idea thought up by authority figures to keep their people in line. Nobody should be punished eternally for any mistake they made on Earth. It’s a horrible thing to threaten someone with. Thankfully it doesn’t exist…unfortunately some people genuinely live in fear of fire and brimstone. Sad.

America’s Best Christian

Mrs. Betty Bowers teaches you about prayer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m5QqEmBi8iw&feature=related

“Say ‘Amen’, it’s like ‘Abracadabra’, only Christian!”


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