Despite being one of the most arduous songs in The Beatles catalogue, and a horribly done remake by Billy Ocean, this entry has exactly nothing at all to do with the song. Either version.
This post may upset some, enlighten others, upset family members, and cause de-friending, but I hope, more than anything, you come to an understanding of another journey I have taken, also personal, but hopefully worthy of sharing.
I am a born again Christian Atheist by way of Lutherans and a toe-dip into the pool of Quakers.
I was brought up in the Baptist faith. Fundamental Baptist at that. There were things that I gleaned from this, God is love, but only if you follow him, thou shalt not hate, unless you don’t agree with whatever they stand for…that is against your ideals. You can pick and choose passages to prove your point, especially if they are dispersed all over the place in totally unrelated events. I think to try to confuse the one you are carrying debating (or flat out arguing with).
I attended the church from my earliest memories, and was enrolled in their school from 3rd – 9th grades. Oddly enough, third grade, and the daily teachings (6 days a week, twice on Sunday and Wednesday night) is the point in time when I began to question what I was being taught. Not being arrogant about it, not being snide or troublesome, I truly just wanted answers to a very basic question. I asked this of my Sunday School teachers, as well as my school teachers and am blown away that they never went to my parents about this.
“How do we know that the Bible is nothing more than a great book of stories, and 3,000 years from now that culture doesn’t look back at us and talk about these stories AS a collection of myths?” (keep in mind, I had no idea who Joseph Campbell was, but was deeply into mythology, still am)
The answer? “Because we have faith.”
The Rebuttal? “Well, the Greeks and Romans had complete faith in their myths.”
The re-rebuttal? “Well, our Bible is the truth.”
The re-re-rebuttal? “They were pretty darn certain their myths were the truth.”
The re-re-re-rebuttal? “The Bible was written by God.”
The re-re-re-re-rebuttal? “Pretty sure it was written by guys.”
Classmates gasped! Teacher growled and told me to sit down and stop causing problems. So I sat down, although I really just wanted an answer besides the one word ‘faith’.
So the seed was planted and I began to look into other beliefs whenever I went to the library. I found out that several other religions had the same stories, with different characters, but the same stories. I was sure I was on to something.
So I let some time go by and I asked my question again. Same teachers. Same responses. Same result, but I had more information on my side than just questions. I brought up the fact that there were the same stories spread throughout cultures. The explanation was that it was due to the spread of Christianity. I told them that many of these predated Christianity. Gasps and growls. Same response. “Sit down. Stop causing problems.” However, this was also met with a trip to the office to be lectured about how the Bible is the word of God and it is the basis of our faith…so I also asked the dean the same questions. I got the same answers and was told to not ever press the issue again or I would be in trouble for insubordination and subject to further disciplinary action. So I stopped. Asking out loud.
Basically by jr. high, I really had something that opened my eyes. I’m spraying a hose in the back yard and what do I see? A rainbow! If the rainbow was a sign after the flood, and therefore after every storm, then why could I create a rainbow with the a garden hose? Was that a flood and a sign to insects? I chose not to ask the normal factions, but did ask my science teacher. He explained water vapors and that maybe that story was a little exaggerated (he was a great teacher) or at least our continuing the story was a bit misplaced.
So those were the beginnings. I ended up staying at the church until I was 25, mainly to appease my parents, but, of course, work would rear its ugly head and I would have to miss Sundays or Wednesday nights. Then college and the massive amounts of homework. A couple times I would feign interest in sports, like the Superbowl, to stay home.
Our church was known to be quite welcoming……….if you were white. I remember being the only person that went up and spoke to a visitor at the church. This African American woman had come in during the pre-service time and it was like the old west when the gunfighter came into the bar. I don’t mean that she threw open the swinging doors and angrily called out to that mean sunuvagun, or belly up to the bar, but rather, the entire place went silent as she walked to her seat. She sat alone in an entire pew. Nobody greeted her. Nobody sat by her. After the service, she was not greeted or welcomed by anyone, so I ran up to her and welcomed her, even though I didn’t want to be there either. This was around grade 6 or 7.
That wasn’t the only time I witnessed racism within the realm of our church. I remember being at one of our family friends’ house. That evening, the evangelist for the week had dinner at their house and we came over as well. After dinner, us kids went to play while they sat and talked. I was in fourth or fifth grade. I came out of the back room to ask for something to drink, but being the quiet mouse that I was, nobody heard me come in the room. A joke was being told. A very racist joke that I can repeat word for word to this day, but I won’t. The evangelist told the joke and the adults laughed. I was crushed and decided I wasn’t really thirsty after all. In defense of my parents, theirs was a very uncomfortable laugh, but their friends and the evangelist were laughing riotously.
Eventually I left the church and ended up within the Lutheran religion. I found the services to be nice and the people genuine, but then I realized how many of these people were basically there to socialize and exercise their piety. And I wasn’t really getting much out of it. So I left. Then I went to one or two Quaker fellowships and just didn’t find anything that appealed to me. I was quite done with religion.
Toward the end of college, I had done so much research and found that I had absolutely nothing to gain from a religion that was used to hate and judge, and set itself above the other religions. Yes, our church said ANYONE outside of fundamental Baptist teaching was wrong and going to hell.
So I turned my back on all of it. I’m an atheist. Not an Anti-Theist, as I would be as bad as any religious trying to force their views on me, but I no longer believe in any greater power. I believe we make our own destiny, our heaven and our own hell. All of this is contained with each of us.
I walked away from all organized religion and hadn’t stepped foot in a church in a number of years until this past November, when I attended a Unitarian Church in Pasadena. Best experience of my life. A church, where the religion is left at the door. Everyone is welcome. Atheist, Buddhist, Baptist, Catholic, Hindu…..anyone. All views are welcome. All discussions are interesting and carried out by intellectual people.
I have been attending each Sunday and am feeling at home, although I have yet to stay for the Coffee and Conversation, as I am just bad at initiating conversations, or carrying on conversations with those I do not know. But that is my next goal.