Personal Journey Series – Reflections on the Passing of a Father

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Sometimes life has a funny way of kicking you in the ass, and death has a way of helping you remember memories you once had forgotten. I don’t know where to begin or why this should even bother me the way it does. For this connection has been one that was long lost, drifted away on a sea of time and space only to be brought to my mind with the passing of a common acquaintance.

 

This week I received an email from an old friend. One that used to share life and happiness with me as we journeyed through love, loss, and friendship. His life was one no one would envy but his hard and honest work has always won out. This friend left for another state years ago, and we slowly started to lose touch. His favorite saying was, “We have said it all before. What more can we say?” This used to bother me, as I was feeling the distance of his path leaving mine and as the winding roads started to split apart until little to no contact was made. This friend had a hard life. I got to share some of his struggles and learn with him through many a trial as we gathered our belongings and hiked the road of life.
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For the Sake of Your Children…

I begin this entry with a metaphor that I recognize as clumsy but that seems to be the best I can muster: sometimes when I’m thinking about my 30-year-old son Jim, my mind does something that I could almost describe as throwing up two projection screens side-by-side before its own gaze. On one of those screens I view vignettes from the years that Jim and I have known each other and spent together. On the other I view snippets of my own childhood and the role my father played in it. Those two sets of vignettes always present themselves in such a way as to suggest complementarity and invite comparison. It’s invariably a cathartic experience, as deeply honest moments almost always are. I never fail to emerge from such experiences sobered by the resulting insights and wrung-out from the effort that the attaining of them cost me.

 

The relationship that Jim and I enjoy is thoroughly good. We have the deepest respect and admiration for each other. We understand each other on a level that I think might be far rarer among parents and their children than one might wish, and our conversations are accordingly deep and meaningful. Despite his having avoided some of my mistakes and charted a more reasonable and promising course in life than I ever did, we’re very much alike in many ways: we’re both possessed of a native curiosity that drives us to distraction and gives us no peace; we’re both musically talented and we both love language (these two traits are often bound up together); we both derive great joy from writing and from reading what others have written; we’re both pretty well aware of the way the big game is played and have equal (although not always openly-expressed) contempt for the “playas” and we both recognize how hopeless the human condition is; we both have a well-developed sense of irony, which is another name for a sense of humor; we’re both adept at sarcasm, but we tend to be restrained in its use by our humane instincts – which we also share. We both have a finely-calibrated ethical sense. We’re both atheists, but he wears his atheism much more lightly and comfortably than I do mine, probably because unlike me, he didn’t have to fight his way to it. And when I look at him I see the man I might have become had my relationship with my father been like Jim’s with me.
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Personal Journey Series – Faith to Freedom, Religion to Humanity

© David Teachout

Growing up there was never a question of going to church on Sundays, attending Sunday School as a child and eventually graduating to the “adult” experience of sitting in pews, singing old songs and listening to a sermon. Beyond Sundays there was mid-week youth group of some kind, attempting to instill the bonds of faith with other believers of my age group.

 

I was “saved” at an early age, internally pushed into it out of fear of death. Later, as a teen, I “rededicated myself to Jesus,” a fact of life for many evangelicals who grow up in the church. Finding myself living a life having “backslidden,” the fervency of “getting right with God” cannot be overstated. I went after this feeling with a dedication reserved for the self-righteousness of the teenage mind or reformed sinner. Being a Christian was more than a statement, it was a living ideal.

 

College brought a host of new experiences I’d been wishing for. I’d studied philosophy before, C.S. Lewis and Francis Schaeffer, but never to the extent I was now. Similarly with theology, I was introduced to the history of Christianity, studies in biblical literature and the changing history of theological ideas. I ate it up even as more and more the questions I was coming up with were increasingly not being answered. The boy who had written in his senior yearbook picture caption that “to live in Christ is gain” was now beginning to grasp at straws.
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Personal Journey Series: Hi, I’m the Unassuming Atheist. How are you?

I now have the pleasure of sharing my little corner of the Internet with the audience here at Atheist Analysis as well as my personal blog, so I felt that it was appropriate to briefly introduce myself.

 

I grew up in Richmond, Virginia with a family that was not particularly religious. Everyone in my family did, however, indentify themselves as Southern Baptists.  I started going to a church near our house at the age of 11. I went by myself and think my primary motivation for going was curiosity and wanting to be a part of a group.

 

I was baptized and spent the next 25 years or so going in and out of being active in various churches as my work and Navy service moved me and my family around a bit.

 

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My journey that led me to Atheism started about 15 years ago while attending a Sunday school class that consisted of adults roughly the same age as me. In this class, the teacher (with great conviction) told the class that “the earth is 6,000 years old.” Being a lifelong history buff, I was like “whaaa?” I looked around me and these seemingly reasonable adults attending the class with me were all nodding in agreement. I was shocked. I actually felt a bit scared, like I would imagine one would feel in a room full of people that suddenly turn into vampires.

 

On the drive home that day, I thought about what I heard in that class. I was puzzled. I was confused. Look up both of those words in a thesaurus and all of the similar words listed for them describes what I was feeling. I didn’t stop going to church at that time, but I did start paying closer attention to what I was hearing.

 

I could go on and on, but my story above is where I began to question organized religion as a whole and ultimately decided that Atheism was more in alignment with what my heart (and head) was telling me.
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To Live and Love, A Woman Bares Her Scars in Defiance

I met this woman a couple days ago in a debate group.  She was defending the pro-choice position and she happened to agree with some of my arguments and statements.  So I thought I would request to be her friend on facebook.  Today, she posted what is below, I read it and was genuinely moved.  I think this story, as raw as it is, paints a great picture of a life that even through hardship has come out strong.  She has a desire to fight, a desire to love, and she has endured loss as well as tragedy.  This story is about her life and what she has overcome.  She was responding to a 30 year old who happened to call her old and told her that she was unbelievable.  This woman told her that she was old enough to be her grandmother and that there was no way she could get her facts straight because of this.

 

When I read the post I was in awe that someone would use age as a reason to dismiss what another individual had to say.  So I asked her if she would share her voice with us.

 

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Below is the short story of Karen Zimmerman, a warrior for justice, a mother, a lover, and someone I am glad to have found.  Her story has touched me and I hope that it touches you as well.  This is unedited and raw; please understand the poetry of her words.  Thank you Karen for letting me share this with my audience.

 

-Forward Written By: Christopher Tanner

 
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Personal Journey Series: My Atheist Testimony

I get a lot of messages, most of which are asking about my deconversion from christianity. People want to know why I left, what it meant to me when I was a christian, and why I don’t see any reason to return. For anyone who has asked, and anyone else who is curious, here is my testimony.

 

I started life as an atheist. My parents, who were both raised as catholics, never felt the need to force religion or god upon me. I have never seen my mother or father as being faithful. As an adult I have come to know my dad is an atheist and my mother is (basically) a pantheist. My mum and dad were both followers of a man called Prem Rawat (Maharaji), an Indian guru with millions of followers world-wide who preaches peace and love. Many consider him to be a new messiah (he does not claim this himself). My parents often encouraged me to embrace the messages / teachings of Maharaji throughout my childhood and teenage years, but I never connected.

 

What I did connect with, though, was christianity. At age 6 my mum enrolled me into two christian institutions; the nearby lutheran church Sunday school and the local Girls Brigade company (pic below). Her only motivation for doing this was free childcare. She and my dad had divorced when I was 5 and my mum was working full time – the church offered what was ultimately cheap babysitting. For me though, it would start me on a path that would consume my existence for the next 15 years.
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Atheist Analysis Presents the “Personal Journey Series” – Jonny Brotherton



In my younger days, if I wasn’t at home playing video games like any normal child, I was at church…every time the doors were open. As a pastors kid, church was the ultimate place to play. It had long hallways perfect for bouncy balls, and plenty of pews to hide under. We actually had the popular plastic crawl tubes, slides, globes that look like helicopters, giant tic tac toe, and mini climbable nets— the combination of 6 super McDonalds play places combined in our children’s department to make one massive labyrinth of exploration and excitement, complete with multicolored ball pit. It was the place some kids dream of.

From kindergarten through high school I went to a Christian private school where I participated in and eventually lead weekly chapel services. During the summers I was always in a church Bible school or participating in a Christian sports camp. As I grew older I started volunteering to support these events and participated in global mission trips. Every week I sacrificed ten percent of my income to the church and throughout my childhood created several small not for profit campaigns to fund Christian mission opportunities for others. Monday nights were visitation. We would travel to those who recently visited our church, invite them back, and on occasion discuss the Christian gospel. If there was a Christian gathering I was there; Awanas, VBS, Fall Festival, Christmas Concert, Easter Play, you name it. Every Wednesday night was our youth gathering and when I graduated, that became college group on thursdays, where I picked up supporting the audio/video department for middle school. Soon, I was managing our media services for elementary, middle school, high school, college, and even corporate services in a church of over five thousand members. I participated in a band that led worship music for the elementary and middle school departments. I led Christian small groups for middle school students and participated in college campus Bible studies.
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On the Loss of Faith – Atheist Analysis Presents “The Personal Journey Series”

I’m occasionally asked to explain why I lost my faith. I always try to answer that question as honestly and fully as possible. I usually think it advisable to begin by describing what that faith was, that I lost.

My faith was always of the “Lord, I believe: help thou my unbelief” variety. It was a cry of despair to a God who – according to the Bible – would not hesitate to cast into a fiery hell those who displeased him. That God, in my young imagination and understanding, resembled my father: a hard, cold, humorless man who was perpetually angry with the world and with his family – a man who became a father far too young (he was 18) and never forgave the family of his own making for cheating him out of what remained of his adolescence. The mental image I had of God when I was a child was very much parallel to that father, who beat me and my mother regularly (nowadays he would probably be arrested and locked up: then and there, it was just considered part of the milieu).

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Why I Am an Atheist – Atheist Analysis Presents The Personal Journey Series

Why I am an Atheist To begin, I was born going to church, my involvement in the religious aspect lasting from 1982 to about early 2013. My journey towards becoming an atheist began when I was involved with the Jehovah’s Witnesses (JW’s) and was watching YouTube videos based on people having initially been involved with JW’s yet were no longer. Watching these videos made me wonder if the common reference to the JW’s as being a cult was true, but all the the while, I could not really see it. With fear as a common tactic described as the consensus of being part of a cult, ALL of Christianity along with Islam would be a cult.

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