Churches denounce children as ‘witches'; 1000s of kids maimed and killed

Image: Accused child witches in Nigeria

“Accused child witches Jane, left, and Mary, right […] Jane’s mother tried to saw off the top of her skull after a pastor denounced her and Mary.” Source : AP, MSNBC

With Halloween just around the corner, many kids in the US will soon be joyfully donning witch costumes and visiting haunted houses at their local churches. In many parts of Africa, however, the subject of witches is no laughing matter at church.

MSNBC reports that, according to an investigation by the Associated Press, an increasing number of children are being maimed or killed because churches are accusing them of witchcraft. According to MSNBC,

“Pastors were involved in half of 200 cases of “witch children” reviewed by the AP, and 13 churches were named in the case files.”

Unfortunately, this isn’t limited to a couple hundred cases. Over the last ten years, in just two states in Nigeria,

“around 15,000 children have been accused [of witchcraft] and around 1,000 have been murdered. In the past month alone, three Nigerian children accused of witchcraft were killed and another three were set on fire.”

In many cases, the churches involved are affiliated with churches in the US, who defend themselves by saying that they are unaware of what’s going on. And more local churches are reportedly turning to the practicing of finding witches because it is profitable to them. According to a member of the Children’s Rights and Rehabilitation Network,

“Even churches who didn’t use to ‘find’ child witches are being forced into it by the competition. They are seen as spiritually powerful because they can detect witchcraft and the parents may even pay them money for an exorcism.”

So if anything, the situation seems to have worsened since I last posted about a couple of months ago. It’s good that this crisis is starting to get into the public light a little more, but that isn’t enough since at least some of these people believe they are doing what God wants them to. Churches in the US, whether directly linked to the congregations that are conducting these literal witch hunts, or just sending missionaries over to Africa, need to spread the message that witch burning and mutilation is not okay.

My hunch is that some church leaders may be shying away from a public campaign against these horrible attacks on children because the Bible actually does say that witches shouldn’t be allowed to live. (Unfortunately for these children, it doesn’t say how to tell when someone is or isn’t a witch.) I would think it’s hard for Christians to tell people to disregard something that is right there in the Bible, without worrying about throwing the whole thing into question. But with thousands of children suffering and dying, I don’t know how they can remain silent.

I Am … (partially) out as an atheist

Imagine (Original Soundtrack)

I finally had "the talk" with my wife. It was very difficult to do, but it turned out a lot better than I had expected.

I had been considering coming out to her for the past month or so. I’m becoming more and more active in the atheist/freethought community. It just didn’t feel right for something that is such a big part of who I am to remain a secret from my wife. I’m posting this in hopes that the experience might help others who aren’t "out" yet to their wife/husband/significant other. I’m glad to say that coming out to your loved one doesn’t have to be a bad experience.

[UPDATE : This post is a play-by-play, which I’m hoping will be interesting and useful. A more concise version of my story can also be found here on Atheist Nexus.]

My decision to come out was helped along by a discussion from a less successful experience by a fellow Atheist Nexus member. His wife flat-out told him that she wouldn’t have married him if she had known he didn’t believe in God. I felt very sorry for him, especially since I’ve been fearing a similar reaction from my wife (who considers herself a Christian) if and when she found out I didn’t believe in God. So although I’d like to say I bravely announced my atheism, it was much less courage and more of a desire to deal with something that’s been worrying me for quite a while and a decision to be more open with my wife about my non-belief.

I was very nervous the night I had decided to come out to her. She could tell I was nervous, which made it a little easier to bring up the subject. If she can tell something’s bothering me, she’ll keep asking me what’s wrong until I tell her. So when there was a good moment that I knew we could talk for as long as we wanted, I told her there was something very important to me that I’d like to tell her about.We sat down, I took a deep breath, and just started talking. I had a general idea of what I wanted to say, but no specific speech written out.

She saw me reading the Bible a few weeks ago on my computer, which surprised her. So I started with this incident, saying that over a number of years, I have read a lot about the Bible, read a lot of the passages, and reminded her that for a while I had considered going to seminary to become a pastor. I told her that the more I had read, the more I started to have questions about some of the things the Bible said. I said that I had come to the conclusion that there were some things in the Bible that I just couldn’t believe — things that either didn’t make sense, or that contradicted other things, or that didn’t seem like they could happen. I told her that a lot of what I’ve been doing online lately has been related to this.

After this introduction to the topic, it was mostly she who led the conversation, with her asking questions and me answering. She asked me what sort of things I didn’t think were true. I asked if she remembered our nephew’s baptism, when we talked about whether or not to get him a Noah’s Ark book (she did). I didn’t tell her I was an atheist at the time, but had told her that the Bible doesn’t teach child baptism and that I felt children should be old enough to make up their minds before being baptized (a position she disagreed with, but understood). I said that I felt the Noah’s Ark passage in the Bible, like others, basically says that all people are evil by nature, and that God can kill them because of this.

I said I don’t believe humans are bad by nature, and that I didn’t like that this is what the Bible teaches. I then moved on to another example, and said I didn’t like what the Bible says happened in Egypt, where God kills all the firstborn male Egyptians just because the Pharaoh wouldn’t free the Israelites, even though the Bible says God was the one who made the Pharaoh act that way. I didn’t want to say too much to make it seem like I was just trying to rip apart the Bible, but I wanted to bring up a few specific instances that I thought she would be familiar with, and that I could make a clear argument about why I didn’t agree with them.

She didn’t dispute any of this, but said that there are parts of the Bible she doesn’t understand and like as much as other parts, but that she liked the New Testament better and that she thought it had a good message in it. I said I agreed that the Bible does have some very good messages in it, but that they are often surrounded by messages that are not so good that people don’t quote or talk about much. I brought up the massacre of the innocents sermon that I had blogged about earlier as an example of something bad that happened in the New Testament. I said I couldn’t understand why a loving God would let all those children be killed. She said that she didn’t know what to say, but that maybe that was the best thing that could have happened, that maybe that prevented something worse from happening. So I said that if God were able to do anything he wanted, I believe that he could have found a way around it.

Interestingly enough, she brought up at this point the fact that there was a lot of evidence for the stuff that happened in the New Testament, which I wasn’t expecting. I said that unfortunately, it isn’t always true that the Bible’s claims can be verified outside the Bible. Confirmation for some of the events in the New Testament comes over a hundred years later, and no independent evidence of a large amount of things in the New Testament has ever been found, such as for the massacre of the innocents.

At this point, she shifted gears. I don’t know if it’s because she realized that I had done a lot of looking into the Bible, or if my answers were satisfying her, or if they weren’t satisfying but she didn’t know how to respond. But then she asked me what I do believe if I don’t believe everything in the Bible. This was the question that I was the most afraid of. I told her that I used to be a very strong believer, much stronger than other people in my family. I gave the example of thinking songs shouldn’t be played because they were "lustful" (the Beatles’ "I Want You (She’s So Heavy)" was one song in particular), I told her I was confirmed, and then eventually I started to have little questions about my faith. Instead of finding answers, from looking at the Bible, looking online, listening to sermons, asking people, I just kept having more questions. Eventually, I realized there were some things I would never find answers to.

She asked me if I believed in the Bible at all, and I said that there are too many things in it that I don’t agree with, that I can’t say I believe in the Bible anymore. She then asked what I thought happens to people when they die. I think the atheist answer to this is very unsatisfying; I would like to believe something happens to us after death, but I know now that this isn’t so. This sounded depressing, so I thought for a few moments and said that I believe that we are all part of the circle of life, and that when we die our remains go back into nature, and life continues from there. This is not a main aspect of my belief system, but I do believe this occurs and I felt was a more satisfying answer than just "we cease to exist".

She asked if I believed in heaven. I told her that while I think it would be nice to think that heaven exists, I more have a problem with the fact that Christianity teaches that there’s a hell — that even though Jesus was said to die for our sins that there are still people who go to hell. I think that if there was a God and if he loved us, he would send us all to heaven. So at this point, I asked her one of the few questions I asked all night. I asked if she thought that people who don’t believe in Jesus go to hell.

My wife obviously had thought about the issue before, and said that she didn’t know what happens to people who don’t believe. She said that some people think that if you don’t believe in Christianity, then you go to hell, but other people think that if you’re a good person, that you’ll be saved even if you don’t believe in God. She brought up the issue of what happened to people who never heard of Jesus before, which I was glad to hear that she had heard of and considered before. She mentioned that Catholics believe in purgatory, so just because you don’t go to heaven doesn’t mean you go to hell. She said she wasn’t sure what happens, and that there were other things that she wasn’t sure about, but that she still has faith in God.

This was the only thing that frustrated me during the conversation. She used the word "faith" a couple of times basically when there was something that she couldn’t explain. I realized that she doesn’t know that having faith in something isn’t really an answer, since I’m sure she’s heard this thousands of times in her life. I felt she thought this was a perfectly acceptable answer, so I though it would be counterproductive to try to tackle the issue of faith then. So I told her that I respect her beliefs and that I’m not trying to say that she’s wrong, but just that based on the Bible, on what I’ve read, and what I’ve thought about for a long time, I don’t have faith anymore. I did not say I’m an "atheist", because of the baggage attached to this term. But she knows now that I don’t believe in God.

She had said a few times recently that I "don’t like church", so I asked her why she said this. She said that she could tell from some comments I made. I asked her what these were (since I had tried very hard not to make any such comments!), and she brought up the Noah’s Ark incident that I had mentioned earlier, and the fact that I made comments about the Catholic Church after the tragic child rape / excommunication case that was in the news (where they excommunicated a mother and her daughter’s doctors for giving the girl an abortion after she had been raped by her stepfather. They did not excommunicate the father, however.) I also apparently mentioned at some point about religious displays on public property being against the constitution, which I might have thought was a safe topic to bring up since there are many believers who also think religion should be kept out of government.

I told her I wasn’t "against" churches, but that I just didn’t believe in some of the things they taught. She mentioned that churches do good things, and I said that while I know that churches and people who go to church do a lot of good things, you can do these same things without going to church — you don’t need to believe in the Bible to be a good person. She didn’t argue with this. I then asked her if she remembered the fact that I brought up the fact that the town we used to live in had an intersection of "Church and State", and I had told her it was my favorite intersection. She said yes and she said she thought that was another clue. So I guess she had suspected for quite a while, but just didn’t know exactly where on the spectrum I was.

The only time religion really came up between us, except for the Noah’s Ark occasion, was a few months after we met. I had told her that I was brought up a Lutheran, that I had considered becoming a pastor. I had read a whole lot about religion, and I wasn’t sure what I believed, but I was pretty sure what I didn’t believe. She had never asked me to elaborate on this. She’s a Christian, and even did some missionary work when she was younger, but in the years I’ve known her, I don’t think she’s ever brought up God just out of the blue — both before the Noah’s Ark thing and afterwards, and even when she’s with other believers. I hoped that this was a good sign, and since things turned out well, I think it was.

She had revealed a secret to me early on in our relationship, and I told her that I had a secret too that I would tell her someday. I told her this was the secret. She said "That was it?! I thought it was something more serious than that!" I laughed and I told her it was kind of funny then, because I thought she would think it was a big deal. She said she may not agree with me, but she respects it. She then asked if I mind if she goes to church.

This was another thing that the Atheist Nexus thread I mentioned earlier helped with. One of the commenters mentioned Unitarian Universalism as a possibility for atheists with companions who still want to go to church, and it’s something I had looked at from time to time. I had a friend who had said he had gone to a UU church. I didn’t tell him much about much beliefs (or lack thereof) on Christianity since I was afraid he would tell others, but I did tell him that I wasn’t a typical Christian. He had liked it overall, so I looked into UU again after reading the post on Atheist Nexus.

When my wife brought up church, I told her that I would be willing to consider going to a UU church. I don’t believe in going to church — since I don’t believe in God, I don’t see the need of going to church. But I know church is something that is very important to my wife, so I told her I would be willing to try it. She said she had heard of UU, and I explained a little more of what I understood about it. I said that I liked the fact that they welcome people who have all sorts of beliefs there, but that they were generally based on a Judeo-Christian model and that a lot of people who come from different denominations go to UU to find a common ground.

I found a couple of UU churches online the next day, sent the links to her and we separately looked at them. We both looked at other ones as well, and we both decided on the same one, which I thought was a very good sign. We went to the first service this weekend, and overall I was pleased with how it went. The service started with a welcome to newcomers, which was very warm and funny; a thoughtful and at times funny sermon that my wife and I said we both enjoyed; and included several Christian hymns that we both recognized, with some altered lyrics. My wife said this  after the service, and it was funny because even the pastor pointed it out that for the one hymn, he would understand if some people accidentally did the old lyrics since he liked those, too.

Although there were a couple of things on the website I find mildly objectionable, and I don’t feel comfortable with the mentions of God, even if I understand it’s not meant in the same way that it would be in a Baptist church for example, there was nothing in the service that I found objectionable (no "massacre of the innocents" moment, for example). The pastor mentioned non-belief and embracing doubt several times in his sermon, even though from references in church and on the site, it seems clear he believes in some sort of higher power personally. I very highly disagreed with this, but thought the repeated nods to doubt and non-belief in a God were good and inclusive, and I was glad in a way that God was mentioned since I thought this would be more welcoming to my wife. I was worried after the service because of what I would deem, with no offense meant to any UU followers, to be a "watered down" version of God, as compared to the one mentioned in Christianiaty. But my wife said she really liked the service and would like to go again.

Not only that, but she thanked me for going to church with her. I didn’t think she would thank me for asking her to go to a different church that she grew up in and did missionary work in. I think she very much likes the fact that I’m willing to go to church, and since she doesn’t bring up God herself very often she might be interested in more than just the God speak found in many services (she’s mentioned before that she really likes church music, so familiar hymns probably helped).

In turn, I thanked her for being willing to try out a different church that’s more inclusive of people. She mentioned some of the elements of the service that were like other churches she had been at, so I thought it was good that we were both trying to find common ground. She said that the sermon and other parts of the service seemed like it would be more my kind of thing than other churches we’ve gone to probably were, and I said I agreed. Hopefully we will both get something out of it.

I wouldn’t say I’m a UU, I don’t believe in a god of any kind, and I don’t think all atheists would be comfortable about this solution, but I think it will work for us for now. I would like to imagine a day where no one feels the need to talk about god, heaven, or hell, but that day is far off. For now, I feel like a great weight has been lifted off my shoulders and that I don’t have to keep my stance on religion secret from my wife, and she gets to go to church. Since we disagree, I won’t go out of my way to bring up various things I disagree with, but if she asks I feel like I can talk with her openly about it.

My coworkers and other family are another story. My grandmother just retired as church secretary after decades of service, and my future sister-in-law is becoming a pastor in about year, to give you an idea of some of the believers in my and my wife’s family. My mother seems to be becoming more religious and not less. Plus, I’m in a profession that does not lend itself to religious discussion in theory, although it comes up surprisingly often. Two of my coworkers have discussed religion with me — one very religious and one not very religious at all — and I’ve tried to be as vague as possible on my own views to avoid any problems down the road.

So for family and professional reasons, I’m not coming out to the whole world just yet, although someday I hope to do so. Hopefully this post will help someone who also hasn’t told their significant other yet about their atheism: it doesn’t have to be a bad experience.

I will continue posting and seeking out atheist news under my assumed name for now. I am out to the most important person for me now, which was a very huge step.

Fourth of July — Celebrate true freedom

When I was out and about recently, I saw this church marquee.

As with many church marquees, I assume it’s meant to be a clever reference to both God and a topical issue, in this case Independence Day / The 4th of July in the US and being Jesus freeing us from sin, or something similar I would guess.

But is being a Christian really about celebrating freedom? If you actually read the Bible, it talks a lot about slavery, going as far as to say that we should serve God as a slave!

Ephesians 6:6Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ; not by way of eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. (Scripture quotation taken from the New American Standard Bible, NASB . )

This is the New Testament we’re talking about here, not the endless rules about what you can and can’t due to slaves in the Old Testament. We are to be "slaves of Christ ", according to the Bible.

The King James Version would have you believe it’s "servant", but if you check nearly all more modern versions, you will see "slave" as the translation. It seems clear to me from this and other contexts that it means "slave." You’re not just supposed to serve God, you’re are a slave unto the Lord. You must serve him! "Down on your knees! ", as proclaims the song "O Holy Night."

Can one find "true freedom" in being a slave?? Slavery is freedom apparently, according to this church; sounds Orwellian to me.

To me, freedom means making up your own mind about what you believe or don’t believe, what religion if any you will choose, who you love or don’t love, who you marry or don’t marry (and whether or not you can get divorced if the need arises), without the threat of eternal punishment looming over you.

Some more liberal Christians would argue that God is love and grants us all these things because he loves us; and some may say that hell doesn’t even exist, or is only for truly evil people (even some non-believers and pets can come along). But that’s the thing: the United States doesn’t have freedom of religion (and from it ) because some god gave it to us.

We, just like many other nations around the world, created our own government. We are only truly free when we take our lives into our own hands and decide for ourselves what our destiny will be. For me, that means breaking away from the chains of religious dogma and being a freethinker.

On the 4th of July I will celebrate true freedom: the freedom to not be a slave to any god or government, the freedom to think and say what I believe. Now that’s something worth celebrating this 4th of July.

Election commentary—Not out of the woods yet

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Election commentary—Not out of the woods yet

So Palin was not elected VP after all! That is reassuring on a number of fronts, but especially as religion goes. She very well may have been the most openly religious VP ever had she been elected. And I truly believe she thinks the end of days is upon us and God is calling the shots to get us closer to Judgment Day. Scary that someone with religious views that extreme could get so close to being elected VP.

This presidential election was, as far as I can tell, the most religious in American history. McCain and Obama had a religious debate *before* the official debates, and the candidates’ religions came up frequently during the primary and general election campaigns. This is very dangerous. Our founders got a lot wrong (slavery most notably), but their decision to keep religion separate from government was a milestone in human history after millennia of bloodshed in countries around the world over whose god is better.

While I think Obama has the potential to do a good job as president, his change on a number of positions (most notably campaign finance) worries me. What else will he change his mind on? He seemed, according to a number of observers, to be mostly pandering when he would talk about the importance of faith in his life, the continuation of faith-based initiatives, and other religious matters. He may have been exaggerating or fibbing about his religion because he thought it would help him get elected. But this worries me, because I wonder: will he become "more" religious if it becomes politically expedient for him?

He seemed to be trying to please everyone. He has openly said his father was an atheist, and he claims his stepfather wasn’t very religious. But he claims his faith is very powerful for him. This would appeal to the religious: despite the faithlessness of his parents, he "saw the light" and become Christian. This would also appeal to atheists and the mildly religious, who would see him as being open-minded and exposed to ideas his father or stepdad may have exposed him to.

Some people, both religious and non-religious, say Obama used churches more as a way to get things done than actually representing his beliefs. Some freethinkers might find this to be a relief after 8 years of Bush in office and the risk that Palin would have been a heartbeat away from being president.

But I almost think it would be worse if it turns out Obama truly is not very religious or is areligious. What does that say about him that he would lie about his faith to get elected? A "necessary" compromise of his values? I certainly would understand on some level, being a rather secret atheist myself, but I’m not running for public office and do not lie to hundreds of millions of people about my beliefs. He either should not have commented on his religion (reminding people of the no-religious-test clause of the Constitution) or should have been upfront with the American people. If he’s a true believer, then I guess we’re getting what was advertised.

Whether he is a true believer or not, I don’t think we’re out of the woods yet regarding the increasing intrusion of religion in the public sphere. Religion is still likely to play a big role in the foreseeable future here in the US, and there is nothing in what I read or heard in Obama’s speeches that gives any indication that he would do anything to start working towards fighting the increasing presence of religion in our political system. The fact that more and more atheists and agnostics are coming out does give me some hope though.

God wants you to vote McCain!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

God wants you to vote McCain!

I’m honestly becoming a little scared about religion’s increasing place in the public sphere, which I’m sure was part of the reason behind me starting this blog. We have two presidential candidates who are falling over each other to prove they will be more religious-friendly than the other (I think McCain won that battle with the pick of Palin!). And now, preachers are breaking the law to overtly support political candidates . It sounds as though they are mostly McCain supporters.

There is just so much that’s wrong with this. Tax-exempt status is meant for *non-political* organizations. The idea behind tax-exempt status is to allow organizations serving the public good to get a break from the government on taxes. Organizations that are seeking financial gain or political gain for someone aren’t included because they’re not out to serve the public good.

These preachers feel that God wants them to promote political candidates. That’s fine with me, but in that case I don’t feel US taxpayers should foot the bill for these churches to promote one candidate over another. They can stop getting tax breaks from the government then and promote whatever candidate they want. And if God really wants McCain elected, then he can foot the bill himself.

“I am”

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Currently Listening
Imagine (Original Soundtrack)
By John Lennon
see related

"I am"

After many years in the shadows, I feel it’s finally time for me to come forward. Well, at least anonymously, for now.

I grew up a very religious person. My folks, while Christian, did not force this deep religiosity onto me. While several members of my family were serious, long term, involved church-goers, I wouldn’t consider them religious fanatics; they were just good people trying to do what they thought was right. And to their credit they didn’t try to turn me into a "Jesus freak", or anything like that.

In fact, I was more religious than the rest of my family for a number of years. I seriously considered going to Seminary so I could learn more about God and help preach His word as a pastor. I took what was said in Sunday school and church very seriously. I used to think, for example, that a lot of popular music was sinful because more often than not, the writer was "coveting" someone, which was clearly impure and against the Ten Commandments. When I mentioned that one time to my family, my folks thought that was a little extreme. I agreed to disagree.

In church, I could sometimes feel God’s presence on me. Sort of a tingling feeling of well-being washing all over me. I tried very hard to be at one with my Savior, some weeks I felt closer than others. But I knew God was there, looking down on us.

I really didn’t talk much about my religious beliefs to anyone. Part of it was that I was a very shy, quiet kid when I growing up. But also I think a part of me didn’t believe in forcing my beliefs onto other people. This is part of the reason why I didn’t make the decision to become a pastor. I guess I thought people would eventually "find the way" on their own, with God’s help of course. Or that by being a good Christian setting a good example, others would become good people, too, and that would lead them to Christ. Once people knew about how much God loved them, about what a wondrous life heaven promised, and realized that non-believers risked a life of eternal damnation, it seemed obvious that people would want to choose to believe in God. It was something they had to decide for themselves.

But then came the doubts. The first serious doubt I had was when I found out for sure that Santa didn’t exist. I had suspected something was up for a long time (the handwriting of Santa and the Easter Bunny did suspiciously look like my parents’… ). I think in a way I put Santa and Jesus in the same category. Both were these magical beings who kept track of when you were good or bad, and if you were good they rewarded you. So when I was out and out told one time to "grow up" about Santa, it kind of scared me. And I almost immediately thought about God: if Santa wasn’t real, was God pretend, too? I convinced myself that he couldn’t be: I could "feel" his presence, and all those people who went to church every week certainly knew he existed, too. So I decided that Santa was just make-believe for children, but God was the real deal.

The next doubts came with contemplating some of God’s punishments: specifically, eternal damnation. Do non-believers who never heard of Jesus go to hell, too? What about babies who died before they could be baptized: did God send them to hell? I don’t think I was the one who posed these questions, although I can’t remember where I heard them. But they seemed like valid points. I figured there must be some misunderstanding about what God did in these cases, or some loophole God had to save people like this. I believed that hell did exist, but knew that believers didn’t go there. I figured I would figure out the details some day. The more I learned about my faith, the more I would understand.

But the thing that eventually started weighing on me the most was something that I later found out bothers a lot of people: the question of suffering. If "God is love", why does God make us suffer? I had two family members who both got cancer within a short time of each other, and eventually they would both die of it. I could certainly think of reasons why God would punish them (after all, everyone is "by nature sinful and unclean", as we recited in church often), but why make them suffer? What made them more deserving of cancer than anyone else? Why not just forgive them? Isn’t that why Jesus died on the cross for us? It simply didn’t make sense.

I don’t remember a specific day, but eventually it became clear to me that I couldn’t believe in a God who made my family suffer, and made other people’s families suffer. If someone is all powerful, they should use that power to stop suffering, not inflict it. I did have several periods of "relapse": trying to read the Bible, read about other religions and seeing if there was a way I could reconcile my doubts and believe in a god (any god) again. I was very afraid of going to hell for my disbelief, but the more I looked, the more questions came up, and the less I could imagine truly believing again.

This was a very private process. I can probably count on one hand the number of people I know whom I’ve even hinted that I might not be 100% true blue Christian anymore. I found some solace in the Internet. I saw just how many people out there who, like me, thought the whole thing didn’t make sense. I started visiting a few sites, especially The Skeptics Annotated Bible (I felt if I ever got "caught" by someone, I could just say I had a few questions that I was looking up in the Bible, or that I wanted to see what the "other side" was saying about religion. "Skeptic" was a lot safer than "unbeliever".)

Then I eventually started posting on some sites, anonymously of course. In some sense it was therapeutic to be able to read and talk about things that I was really interested in, and to discuss more issues having to do with religion and spirituality. I could not talk about these things with my family and friends, so the Internet helped me discover more what I truly believed on some issues I had never dared to explore, or which I had only thought of briefly. And the best thing was, with all the information available the Internet, it wasn’t just beliefs or feelings: I could look up things that confirmed what I felt, that challenged things I believed, or that helped me make up my mind. I had blindly accepted my religious beliefs for pretty my much entire childhood; I wasn’t going to blindly disbelieve in my adulthood.

And that’s part of why I’m posting this blog. I have probably read nearly all of the Bible, much of the Book of Mormon, and a smattering of other religious texts. I’ve considered, read, and/or posted on various sites about a number of the big questions about religion, and some of the smaller ones. But it’s been with starts and stops, and not a thorough examination.

What I’m hoping to do is go in-depth and look at religious dogma, religious texts, and religiosity in its various forms, and examine it. I hope to find the good, the bad, and the ugly. Since I was raised Christian and I now see so much that is horrible in this book I once thought I believed in, the Bible will be my starting point. I’m sure as national, world, and personal events merit, there will be plenty of detours along the road that I’ll talk about. But I’m planning to re-read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, note my reactions and investigate some points more, before passing on to other religions and belief systems.

So many people (I used to be among them) think they believe 100% in the Bible and its God, without even having read the whole book! I think they would be thoroughly shocked at some of the things in there, just like I am. My story is not unique, and I know other blogs and sites have examined the Bible and religion from a skeptic/freethinking/atheist point of view. I’m not trying to re-do or out-do what has already done. This is just a continuation of my personal journey. And I welcome any and all comments as I go on this journey, from non-believers, believers, and anyone in between. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for people openly and honestly discussing their beliefs with me on the Web.

So much time, money, tears, and blood is spent on religion. People trying to please an imaginary God who does not exist. This greatly saddens me, and I can only hope that one day people can break away from religion like I have done. Although I’m still not comfortable openly being an atheist, I think this blog will eventually lead me to being able to confess this to the people I know and love, and to be able to confidently say why. Some day, when some family member, friend, or acquaintance talks to me about God doing this or that, I won’t be able to quietly pretend anymore. I’ll have to say that I don’t believe in God.

They will ask me, "Are you an atheist?" And my answer will be, "I am".