Fugitives from Fundamentalism

The Musings of Adult Missionary Kids (MKs) & Former Born-Again Believers

My Journey

Posted by dsc01 on October 26, 2010

I was born to Evangelical Christians, while my father was serving as an assistant pastor, as one of the final steps of my parents’ preparation to become missionaries.

I spent most of my childhood in a small, impoverished nation in West Africa.

My earliest memories are of pondering the great mystery of God’s infinite existence. What really gave me trouble was imagining an infinite stretch of time going backwards into the past. God literally had to wait forever to create the universe. How could this be?

I thought about such things a lot.

I was raised to believe that Creationism was a valid intellectual stance. Certainly, it seemed so, with so little actual scientific evidence available to me.

The culture in developing Africa has much in common with the cultures represented in the Bible, so there was little to cause dissonance between my everyday experience and what was in the Bible.

Sure, I didn’t see miracles, but I heard rumors of them. I lived with people who believed in all kinds of supernatural phenomena. No one scoffed at stories of healing the sick and talking animals.

Talking animals–Hell, most people could tell you about their friend who knew of some sorcerer or other who could turn into an animal!

I went to school with other Westerners, but this was a boarding for other missionary kids. I rarely met much resistance to my views. The couple of years I spent in American public school and at an International school without Christian affiliation were not enough to make me see things differently.

When I returned to America for good and started college, a professor–trying to illustrate the difference between knowledge and belief–asked how many of us know that God exists. I was one of two people (out of maybe 100 or so) who raised their hands.

I think that it was compassion that started to lead me away. In college, I met these horrible people I had always heard about–homosexuals, Darwinists, druggies, atheists (Oh, my God! Atheists!), liberals!

And I was shocked. These people were not what I had always been told. They had their faults, but so did I. A lot of what they believed, I realized over time, was very true.

I did, however, remain resistant towards the theory of evolution. Little pieces dropped into place over time. My views shifted, just a little bit at a time.

After six years or so, I ended up with a New Age-y sort of faith, but I never questioned God’s existence. It was just so ingrained! Still, with every detail of my religious orientation that I changed, I felt that much more free. The universe got that much bigger and more amazing.

I had always felt what Christians claim, that I could “feel” God, or whatever. It wasn’t every day, but I had definite spiritual experiences throughout my life. It was this feeling–the voice of God, if you will–that led me away from Christianity.

It was that “voice” that finally led me to do something I had never done. I thought about my death as an actual end. I really thought about it; I allowed myself to feel the fear I had always denied was there. I considered the possibility of God not existing.

And through that fear, I found peace. I think of Jesus’ words in the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas: “Those who seek should not stop seeking until they find. When they find, they will be disturbed. When they are disturbed, they will marvel, and will reign over all.” I don’t know about reigning over all, but the rest seems to apply.

Now, I have found ample scientific evidence to support my new outlook. It’s very refreshing to get concrete answers instead of the vague arguments I got from Creationist literature.

Ultimately, though, my transformation was a spiritual one. In a metaphorical sense, it was God who told me that He does not exist.

I have truly seen both sides of the argument. I’ve experienced them.

The transformation of my belief system happened relatively quickly but slowly enough for me to also experience a broad spectrum of views in between strict Creationism and atheism.

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38 Responses to “My Journey”

  1. Paulo said

    Glad to have you on the blog.

  2. dsc01 said

    Being who I am, I’m just itching to say that the words, “little” and “actual,” in the 5th paragraph, should be switched, one for the other.

    • JN said

      This reminds me of the preacher in The Grapes of Wrath:
      “Before I knowed it, I was sayin’ out loud, ‘The hell with it! There ain’t no sin and there ain’t no virtue. There’s just stuff people do. It’s all part of the same thing.’ . . . . I says, ‘What’s this call, this sperit?’ An’ I says, ‘It’s love. I love people so much I’m fit to bust, sometimes.’ . . . . I figgered, ‘Why do we got to hang it on God or Jesus? Maybe,’ I figgered, ‘maybe it’s all men an’ all women we love; maybe that’s the Holy Sperit-the human sperit-the whole shebang. Maybe all men got one big soul ever’body’s a part of.’ Now I sat there thinkin’ it, an’ all of a suddent-I knew it. I knew it so deep down that it was true, and I still know it.”

      I know what you’re talking about in the “feeling of God.” I think this is probably something similar to what Carl Sagan felt when looking at the night sky or that Monet felt when painting haystacks. It’s a poetic connection to the world that is hard to put into words and often hard for others to understand. I’d be hard-pressed to call it anything but spiritual.

  3. Ann said

    “And through that fear, I found peace. I think of Jesus’ words in the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas: “Those who seek should not stop seeking until they find. When they find, they will be disturbed. When they are disturbed, they will marvel, and will reign over all.” I don’t know about reigning over all, but the rest seems to apply.”

    Exactly! I’m glad you are here too.

    • dsc01 said

      Thanks, Ann. Do I know you in real life?

      • Ann said

        We’ve never met, but I hope we do some day! I use Ann on here publicly to avoid notoriety, but you might know me as Charity.

        Hey, I wanted to mention that the part about reigning over all makes sense if you think of it more as a perspective thing (not a lording over). It’s like getting to this place levels everything, know what I mean? Things (the supernatural ideas) don’t block or bias your view of the world.

        • Ann said

          Ann is actually my middle name.

        • Ann said

          Of course the author didn’t have atheists/agnostics in mind when he wrote that passage. Interpretation by Ann. lol.

          • JN said

            While we’re discovering new interpretations (and also because this site is all about 80’s music), here is a song that’s strangely appropriate:

            We used to hear this song coming from the end room in our dorm at ICA (MK boarding school in Africa for those on here that don’t know). It always confused me because I didn’t know which side the singer was on. All I knew was that he was on the other side. For me there was never any side. There was always just the one side, the side everyone else on the mission field was on. The other side was where we were not supposed to be.

            The song is way outdated, but you’ve got to at least dig reggae/Sting inspired bassline.
            P.S. Save gas. Fart in a jar.

            • dsc01 said

              Awesome!

            • Bob said

              Although I admit to thinking this was pretty catchy back in the day (always with the caveat “for Christian music”), I have to say with the distance of 20 years, that song is what rock sounds like when you turn it into chant music for dancing around the altar of your god. It’s music for ceremonies, not parties. It makes me want to put my beer down, pick up a Bible, and start waving my arms in worship of the King! Amen!!!

              • JN said

                You know you love it.

                • Bob said

                  Yes, I like eunuch soft rock as much as the next ICAer. It is always an honor to the King when Christian musicians take the sex, drugs AND rock out of this genre of music, so that nothing is left but the roll…specifically, large, lonely cat ladies rolling around in the aisles and in front of the altar during the worship services–to be quickly covered by blankets, so other, upright worshipers won’t be distracted from their orgasmic, self-reverie of soul whitewashing with the virile husband of the Church. Or, alternately, Christian rock will mimic (not originate, MIMIC) some alternative, post-punk inspired guitar riff. And, as I sit in a booth at the Christian-theme fast food joint Chick-fil-A, I might find myself nodding my head and thinking, “That’s not a bad riff.” Those kudos don’t last long though, as the gravelly voice I am expecting–one expressing angst, desire, frustration or anger–has been replaced by a Christian Stepford Eunuch, who sort of sounds like he might have some angst. No worries though! That angst is directed at whether he loves, adores, and jerks off to Jesus enough. Or, alternately, his angst is centered around whether he is feeling too much of that worldly lust for some sweet Christian girl he likes, whose push-up bra is a temptation specifically designed for him by the Devil. So Michael W. Smith, keeping rolling the fuck out of those kick-ass eunuch songs for your Jewish/Middle-Eastern/Western Civilization deity!
                  Ignore the run-on sentences in my rant.

                • Ann said

                  Hahahahaha! Kiss-ass, Christian Stepford eunuch songs…we seem to have a lot of angry ranting men on this site. Maybe I need to put up a post about how much love I have, as a woman, to give all the people of the world, “Red, and Yellow, Black, and White” since all of “these” are precious in His sight. Even large, lonely cat ladies who like to roll around in their worship of their virile husband of the Church, hunk Jesus.

            • Ann said

              Haha! This reminds me so much of boarding school. I remember one semester when all Michael W. Smith tapes, along with Petra, Amy Grant, and Sandi Patti were confiscated and burned in our trash pit for being overly influenced by the secular world. No one had Stryper at the time–that was devil music. I used to record music off the radio. Had a secret stash of nondescript looking cassettes of 80s latin and American pop mixes. Never got caught with them–a miracle, thank you Jesus!

              • Ann said

                Our trash pit was the final resting place for a whole lot of music and books.

              • JN said

                Sandi Patty was rockin’ it pretty hard back in the day. Ha!

                We were allowed to listen to Petra, Stryper, and all those guys, but we also listened to the radio a bit. Frequence Deux was a guilty pleasure. A young boy could dial it in on the radio and have his mind opened to a whole new world. Of course it was completely uncensored.

                This song is actually pretty good. We misinterpreted it to be about prostitution. It seemed dirtier at the time. We missed the positive message.

                • Bob said

                  I hadn’t heard that Nonchalant song before. It’s pretty good. In fact, I’d never heard of Nonchalant. I never even thought to check the radio at ICA.

                • JN said

                  Yeah, it’s one of the few songs I actually remember from back then. House of Pain’s “Jump Around” was my favorite.

  4. dsc01 said

    While we’re discussing music (this should be its own post, I suppose, but I don’t want to be steppin’ on Bob’s turf):

    You tied the knot
    A legend is what you bought
    I give you cold water and you
    Swear it was wine, you bought time
    If you can fool yourself, then why not them?
    Just keep on passing it mouth to mouth to mouth
    I can dress up the dead man
    But I can’t bring him back to life
    Bring it back, bring it back
    You tied the knot
    Peeled your skin off, leaving a bundle of nerves
    I give you a wet noodle, you swear that it was my tongue
    A sharp one instead of that same old mouth to mouth to mouth to mouth
    I can dress up the dead man
    But I can’t bring him back to life
    Bring it back, bring it back
    Mouth to mouth

    • dsc01 said

      Or, I could always try embedding it…

      • Bob said

        I actually like this, but I like JN’s description of it even better. Don’t worry about stepping on my turf; it’s not like I’m getting paid to do this or have a patent on anything. Just make sure you get the number right when you add to the Irreligious Song #…

    • JN said

      That is a different song. How would you classify it? Native American Bar Mitzvah Prog Metal?

      • dsc01 said

        Uh… yes.

        People don’t realize that “Epic” is not necessarily typical of FNM (nor does the word, “typical,” even really apply). “Mouth to Mouth” is probably their wierdest song, but in Mike Patton’s first band, “Mr. Bungle,” that kind of insanity is pretty much par for the course.

        For example:

        Golem II The Bionic Vapour Boy:

        Ars Moriendi:

  5. Jerry said

    “What really gave me trouble was imagining an infinite stretch of time going backwards into the past. God literally had to wait forever to create the universe. How could this be?”

    Yes, I agree. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me either. I also could never figure out what motivated God — secretly I figured that he just got lonely enough to finally need someone else in his life.

    I really liked your story and especially your point about how in a strange way God was the one who told you he didn’t exist. That’s a good way to put it.

    • dsc01 said

      God always was such a mind-fuck, huh? No reason can possibly exist, rational or otherwise, for waiting forever to create something (which makes no sense at all: if you’re gonna wait forever, then the answer to the question, “Should I create the Universe now?” is always, “no”).

      I think that such paradoxical thinking is what the Christanity I learned thrived on. There is no rational explanation for the contradictory nonsense I was fed, but a knowing smile and some mystical bullshit about “apparent paradoxes” was supposed to make me feel that God resolved all of these paradoxes in His infinite Mind.

      After all, even an only vaguely orthodox reading of God’s motivations simply cannot allow for him being lonely, but as you point out, what else was it? The whole story seems so stupid!

      I think that many of us figured that out long ago, but being the animals that we are, social pressures meant more than facts. I remember, when I was in 2nd grade, sitting in the Hamburger House (some of you know it) with my parents, when something suddenly hit me.

      I very honestly asked, “What if there is no God?” Needless to say, my parents were more than a little troubled by their 7-year-old son’s question. They were nice about it, but it obviously unsettled them. Their body language, more than their words, warned me away from this line of thought, in the future.

  6. dsc01 said

    Ah, the craziness of life! As JN and Ann noticed, the Michael W. Smith reference (didn’t your dad used to complain bitterly about his whining voice, JN?) inspired me to post the lyrics to the chorus as my status on Facebook.

    Now, not being able to actually come out, lest I lose my job (sure, that’s illegal, but it would happen anyway), it’s nice to be able to drop a winking reference here and there. Using a contemporary Christian song’s lyrics to do so is a perverse little bonus.

    My grandmother saw my status and elected to compliment my poetry skills. Naturally, I confessed that the words were not mine, but the irony is ridiculous.

    The discussion over my “wink-wink-I’m-an-atheist” comment quickly led to me donning my least honest social role, at least in terms of my religious beliefs (I really do love and miss my adorable 9-month-old nephew–that’s all true).

    Also, maybe it’s just my iPod, but the “Ars Moriendi” embed, above, appears to ALREADY be broken, despite the fact that I watched it only hours ago. This annoys me.

    This concludes this edition of “Imma Jack My Own Thread, Son!” Apologies to Jerry, who is trying to stay on topic, while the man who brought it up in the first place insists upon talking about bullshit like music (in particular, music gauranteed to annoy your girlfriends and wives), even though many other venues are are available for doing so, even on this fairly small blog.

    • dsc01 said

      P.S. I may have failed to justify my assertionthat irony is at play here (and thanks to Alanis Morissette’s abuse of the term, this seems necessary every time I use it).

      See, I was trying to point out that it is ironic that being the most honest I can be, in public, on the Internet, when people who know me in real life are watching, was turned into being my least honest self. By Grandma.

      Well, we expect these things:

  7. dsc01 said

    Jesus, guys! You know it’s okay just start up a new comment, rather than have the text box become so skinny that there’s a single word on each line, right?

    I’m a little less bitter than Bob, I think (not that I haven’t engaged in rants just as angry, such as when I characterized average Western Christians as “pseudo-human dumb-asses,” who are, “barely competent to challenge an amoeba at a spelling bee”–while addressing a Christian, mind you).

    Anyway, I can see the merits of, “The Other Side.” Sure, the tempo is too fast, and there’s something in the MIDI that really clashes (I think it’s a timpani; JN, you might be better equipped to ID it). If MWS wasn’t “whiny instead of gravelly” Rod Stewart (I can’t use dashes, there, because there are adverbs, right, Bob?), it might be good.

    Especially under the atheist re-interpretation. We should find a drummer, and cover it, JN.

    • dsc01 said

      Nevermind, Bob: I took a shower and mulled over many things, including how MWS ripped off TOTO, as every time I try to think of the bassline to “Other Side,” my mind can only turn up the riff from “Africa,” and I realized that I’m messing up the rules of grammar.

      There should have been dashes because the phrase is being turned into a single, compound word, to serve as an adjective. Now,”gravelly-voiced” is incorrect because “gravelly” is an adverb.

      You may all thank me now for having cleared up my own error, which none of you really care about.

    • JN said

      Nice catch on the TOTO song. The synth line is almost exactly the same as “On The Other Side,” but MWS’s bassist is better. The similarity in the two songs adds another interesting dimension to the re-interpretation.

      I am fairly certain “On The Other Side” started with MWS alone at the piano late at night over an expensive glass of sparkling red grape juice. As the fizz started to kick in, he began to belt out the chorus then moved to the verses. The song was more conflicted than triumphant until the music machine laid its filthy fingers on the tune, and presto…TOTO was not in Kansas any more.

      As for a cover, there are many ways to do it. To make it more current, the chords could be changed to a minor signature, or if you really wanted to shake it up, the first chord can be changed to a IVmaj7 with the melody starting on the maj7th. This could lead to all sort of interesting possibilities. And yes, I am the loser sitting on the couch with a guitar rewriting MWS tunes at 8am on Saturday morning.

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