An atheist life: Jack’s story
As some of you may know, I decided to invite all of you to share your stories about being an atheist. I hate to admit it, but my own story is just not that interesting. Atheist parents and their wisdom to let me chose for myself what I would believe made me the man I am today. But not every atheist life is as plain. I think there are compelling stories that have yet to be told, and this new section is intended to help you connect with others who have had similar experiences. Here is Jack’s story:
My story may be unique in its particulars, but is quite similar to how most atheists experience their religious acquaintances. My first experience with Christian Evangelicals who vigorously proselytize was my freshman year in college attending Elon University. I am a senior at the moment. At the time I was an apathetic Catholic and had little interest in pursuing my faith, but I was quite interested in making friends and not feeling lonely.
One day I was playing volleyball with some random people and a girl came up to me and extended an invitation to attend “Intervarsity.” She said “it was a lot of fun.” I naturally agreed because well, who doesn’t like to play sports and socialize? Mistakenly, I interpreted “Intervarsity” to mean sports due to the “varsity.” O, how naive and malleable I was then. I arrived at the building, winded my way through the hallways and eventually arrived at the destination, and to my surprise it was not a sports club, but rather a time in which people could worship Christ…..Needless to say, I was rather surprised and felt rather sheepish. I said to myself, “It’s ok, this is not a foreign environment to me, I am a Christian.” Despite me saying this to myself, I quickly found out that these people were not like me. They enjoyed watching homemade videos they made about Bible quotes and loved to sing weird songs they made up about Christ. At Catholic mass there was none of this. Afterwards, one of my acquaintances came up to me and asked if I wanted to participate and join them on their beach retreat. At this time, I wanted to expand my borders and consented. I consented in part to my latter reason but also to certain extent peer pressure. To a lonely or semi-isolated freshman at college, it is a nice feeling to be accepted and have “friends.” Christian groups take advantage and manipulate these feeling and give freshmen a “friendly” environment but then mold and “brainwash” them. It is malicious, malignant practice and does violence upon impressionable and vulnerable people.
Fast forward to the beach retreat, and before leaving I was conflicted on how I felt. At first I was looking forward to it, I might be able to rekindle my faith as a Catholic despite their very Protestant practices and worship, but I could not help a feeling that this group was different in some way. They acted bizarrely that I couldn’t put my finger on. It was soon revealed to me at the retreat. After the excruciatingly 4 hour ride to the beach, we made presentations that somehow exalted Christ. Some made raps, others did a play, etc. Afterwards, I had an interesting conversation with one of the student leaders. After graduation, he intended on traveling to Eastern Europe to convert people there because they held mystical beliefs such as black magic. It was his job to help them apparently. I remember that many of the people there fawned after him, flattering him that he was such a good Christian as if he was a celebrity. Silly indeed. The next day we played what amounted to random silly games that had nothing to do with religion. For instance, we cross dressed and did relay games on the beach. (On a side note, I refused to do so and was looked down upon. Why would I want to wear women’s clothing in front of people I do not know?) We were broken into teams of 10, there were over 70 people at the retreat! We competed against each other, and did pointless things like carrying eggs with a spoon to the finish line. Furthermore, we had to run and carry a balloon without using our arms. I will spare the reader the rest of the inane details, but the point has been made. These Christians were little toddlers that enjoyed puerile fun.
Obviously the real Christianity part came when we went into our little groups and talked about our Christian faith. I said that I was trying to rekindle it, as I really was, but this retreat in fact retarded its growth. Yet I will never forget what one girl said as it struck me as fundamental and scary. She stated that she could not wait to reach heaven’s doorstep to worship and pray in front of God for eternity and that this retreat helped her realize that. Wow….Just let that sink in, simmer a bit, ponder it, and then shake your head in disgust. It’s ok, I did that as well.
Finally as the weekend was coming to a close, all the people went onto the beach for a service and prayer. Some went into the water with friends to have a special prayer session, as if they were going to get closer to god. Others listened to the pastor and received communion, the little meaningless wafer. I abstained because as of then, I knew I did not believe in the same god as them and this experience would begin my ascent to atheism and my rejection of faith.
Afterward, I stopped going to the meetings. My “friends” I had made there started to call me or stop by to see if I was “ok” and why I was not going to Intervaristy. I told them it wasn’t for me, and that their practices and ways of worship were not mine. I wish I could of have told them in a stronger tone, but as of then I was not a confrontationalist (pardon my neologism). Little by little my faith dwindled away to be only supplanted by my interest in philosophy and history. Only then did I actively begin to reject the idea of god and believe in humanity rather than some metaphysical being to tell me how to act. I am a slave to no one, and certainly not to a god that can be called loving and damn people to hell. I will dictate how I act. A god can’t ride my back unless it’s bent and I have damn good posture. (I couldn’t resist the opportunity to make a bad joke)
If anyone has any questions about my experience email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Don’t forget to share your stories by emailing me at email@example.com