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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What the *&%^!@ is a Christian Atheist

The label ‘Christian Atheist’ is not popular among either of the parties the term forces together. Many people reject the very existence of Christian atheism due to an (understandable) inability to look past the stand-alone definitions of both of these words and find cogency in using them together. But there is logic and also usefulness to be found.

The first and most simple definition for the term sees it used simply as an identifier of someone’s religious background. It’s a convenient label to counter an argument theists use against atheists often: “You’re always taking down Christianity, but I never see you talking about Islam or Judaism or blah blah blah…” The typical atheistic response to this accusation is to remind the believer that their background in is Christianity and (like everyone else on planet earth) their opinions and arguments are shaped by personal experiences. Identifying oneself as a Christian atheist simply makes this reply shorter…

….Buuut, that’s not the definition that sets both sides of the fence on fire. The heat enters the picture only when the second definition is claimed. This definition sees a person identify themselves not only as an atheist with a Christian history, but also as a non-believer who still positively values and identifies with this history.
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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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