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McCulloch
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 05, 2006 11:12 am  Introductions Reply with quote

Raised in a Christian family: Not really. Father a humanist, Mother a liberal Christian. Religion not given much importance in our household.
Denomination when converted to Christianity: church of Christ.
Other Denominations: Mennonite Brethren, Baptist, Church of the Nazarene, Alliance Church.
Departure date: mid 1980's
Other spiritual paths explored: Wicca, Unitarian Universalism, Feminist Spirituality
Current beliefs: Atheist Humanist
Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 41: Thu Sep 19, 2013 8:57 pm
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Re: Introductions

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Raised in a Christian family: Yes, both my parents (my mother especially) and my twin brother are devout Christians and active in the church community. My brother even leads the apologetics group at his church
Reason for leaving: as I became a teenager I started thinking for myself instead of blindly accepting what was told to me
Former Denomination: Non-denominational
Current beliefs: Atheist/Utilitarian/Nihilistic-Hedonism (I don't like labels, they can be restricting and have a tendency to simplify complex concepts)

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 42: Sat Aug 08, 2015 4:38 am
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Irish here (how-e-ya), so that means more or less automatically I grew up Roman Catholic. It wasn't until my teen years that I even heard of there being other Christian denominations.
My family was what I call cultural Christian - we went to Roman Catholic weddings, funerals and baptisms, but we didn't go to weekly mass, nor did they (parents and siblings) ever give a thought to church teachings, dogma or trying to live life as a Good Little Christian (tm). For example, both my parents had a daughter with another (non-married) partner before meeting each other, and my parents only got married when I was five years old.

I went to Roman Catholic schools all my life. Primary school we had Bible story lessons. I can recall learning about Abraham and Isaac, and how it was good for God to test Abraham. By the time I had hit my teen years, I had grown out of the religion. Too many questions went unanswered (at least, if the answer wasn't "You just gotta believe"), too many claims were demonstrably false (such as at my confirmation, the priest/bishop promising that the holy spirit would enter us, which didn't happen).
During my teen years, in secondary school, I found that I was the only person in my class who had even read the bible. I remember laughing one day in class when we were asked who Job was. No-one else knew. I laughed something along the lines "You gotta be kidding me. You guys believe what's written in this book...yet you don't have the first clue what's written in it?"

I think that the thing that gradually rubbed away my belief in Christianity (I was a devout believer) was the fact that I felt I had to lie in the confession box. Every one in a while, the school would have us kids confess our sins to the parish priest. Problem was, I was actually a good little boy. I was a child prodigy, aced every test, played well with the other kids, didn't bully anyone. Yet, according to what the priests taught, EVERYONE sins. It's not possible to go to a priest for confession and not have anything at all to confess to, so I would just make stuff up, like I had hit my kid sisters or something. The priest was fooled, every time. Gradually, it dawned on me that the priest wasn't anybody special - how could he be fooled by my lies if he actually were somehow connected to God? Also, it dawned on me that what they were teaching was a system with no win scenario - how can you call yourself a good person if they say everybody sins, if it's not possible to be a person who doesn't sin? It's a system of self-hatred.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 43: Fri Mar 22, 2019 5:44 pm
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My father was a convert to Catholicism, who at one point took temporary vows as a Jesuit novice. He was full of Catholic conviction, and retained a life-long urge to defend the Catholic faith against unbelievers and those who would criticize the Church.

When I was six years old, as Christmas approached, my elder brother told me that Santa Claus didn't exist, that the Christmas presents really came from my parents. I didn't want to give up my faith in Santa Claus, and it wasn't until after Christmas came that I was forced to accept the truth.

I went to a Catholic school through 8th grade. At the age of 12, I received the sacrament of Confirmation. As a prerequisite for doing this, the teacher of my 6th-grade Religion class instructed everyone to write a letter to the Bishop, telling him that we wanted to be confirmed. This made a problem for me: I realized that I didn't want to be confirmed. Up to now, I was just doing what I was told. Terrified of what my father might do if I disobeyed, I wrote the letter and went through the motions of receiving the sacrament. I never "believed" any of it.

At the age of 15, I stopped going to Confession; I was able to hide this from my father. At the age of 16, I ran away from home and found refuge in the rectory of the local Catholic Church for a month. This tempered my incipient disdain for the church, allowing me to make some space in my mind, separating the Church from my father's representation of the Church.

At the age of 18, I spent the summer with my elder brother, together with the eldest of my four younger brothers. My elder brother was just beginning his career as a globe-trotting Christian missionary musician, and he tried his conversion techniques on me. I resisted (unable to believe in the Virgin Birth); my younger brother succumbed.

After I graduated from college, I found myself in southern California, living with and near all seven of my brothers and sisters. There ensued a struggle between myself and my older brother for the minds and hearts of my four younger brothers, two of whom had already become Christians. Eventually I won, but I have to wonder how much I lost by winning. [However, over the years, that some Christians (including my brother), within the shackles of their "faith," somehow "get it right" -- there is a worthwhile spiritual process going on within them and through them toward others. However, as I repeatedly discovered, Brick wall Brick wall Brick wall the price of setting aside reason and "suspending disbelief" was just too high.]

At the age of 26, I made peace with my father, to whom I hadn't spoken for nine years. He invited me to a conference of a fringe political/philosophical group that loved classical music (one of my father's great interests), and this led me to radical change in my life: I became aware of the resignation letter of Davison Budhoo from the International Monetary Fund: http://www.naomiklein.org/files/resources/pdfs/budhoo.pdf In a nutshell: Budhoo's 100-page letter gives first-hand testimony that we are in the midst of what amounts to the most far-reaching (and ongoing) genocide in history, with the U.S. government (dominating the IMF) high on the list of the perpetrators. I discovered something about myself: I couldn't NOT act. I had to try to do something about this.

This eventually led me to a Christian church ("Church of Christ"), thinking: "Christians care about other people. Maybe Christian citizens will care about what Davison Budhoo says. Maybe, because Christians care, there is something fundamentally right and true about Christianity." This church practiced baptism by total immersion. As I got baptized, the church's Elder asked me if I believed that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, I said "yes." (In my mind, Jesus Christ was recognized as the "Son of God" at his baptism, which was different from the story of the Virgin Birth, which I still couldn't accept.) As I was baptized, I discovered something that really moved me: the act of undergoing baptism means surrendering, placing your life literally in the hands of another (the baptizer has the power to drown).

The people in the church didn't want to know about Davison Budhoo's evidence that we're living in the most far-reaching genocide in history. Eventually, a visiting minister came to the church and preached, "Satan is alive and well in this church." I left the church soon afterward.

I married a Mexican immigrant, a widow with three children. I divorced her three years later. I kept in touch with her, and she and her children began attending a Spanish-language Pentacostal church. I began going too, and eventually joined the church, as my hope of re-building a marriage with my ex-wife degenerated into chaos. In this Pentacostal church, I learned how to pray. I took from the Lord's Prayer the phrase "Let your will be done," and repeated it over and over. That was my only prayer. I didn't try to ask for anything for myself. It helped me persevere, and is still something essential to who I am.

This Pentacostal church had a sister church in a neighboring city. This sister church was very successful, and the people in my church wanted to grow and emulate the other church. But the rented commercial space was crowded, so the church decided to expand, renting the adjoining space (and knocking down the separating wall), so that more people could come to a bigger church. I didn't think this was a good idea, but I didn't say anything. The church's ambition of course led to a doubling of the monthly rent, which wasn't matched by an increase in the number of people paying their weekly tithe. This led to financial stress, which eroded the church's earlier feeling of fellowship. I left this church, too.

In 2008 I joined a Catholic congregation (shortly before moving to Korea for four years), and even went to confession once. I thought I could reconcile my rejection of the "Virgin Birth" by thinking about the original Hebrew meaning of "virgin" : a girl who hadn't yet had her first period. To be born of a Virgin meant that the mother got pregnant in her very first meunstral cycle, giving birth without ever passing blood. This is, of course, if the conception occurs during the very first intercourse, a minor miracle. (As I later heard a priest say, "It is how we choose to understand the mysteries that makes faith possible." My father didn't like that one bit; if I'm not mistaken, that was an expression of what is known as the "American Heresy" within the Catholic Church.)

Anyway, in Korea, I sought out and found Catholic masses in English. The problem was, I continued thinking about other statements of faith in the "Apostles' Creed" that everybody recited as part of the mass. There were some things that I just couldn't believe, so I drifted away.

While I was in Korea (working as an English teacher), a fellow teacher had to suddenly go back to the USA because his father died. That led me to eventually decide to go back to America BEFORE my father died, to spend some time around him (he was 90 years old) instead of eventually hurrying back for a funeral. He lived in an apartment directly across from the Catholic cathedral in Seattle, and went to mass (almost) every day. I stayed with him for a year, sleeping on the living room floor. I went to mass every Sunday, out of respect for him. I imagined becoming a part of the congregation, but... I just couldn't.

I recognize the value of being part of a mutually-supporting group that encourages people to lead good lives, provides a healthy environment for children, and cultivates the individual's natural capacity for spiritual growth. But there are some things in Catholic (and Christian) doctrine that I just can't BELIEVE, and I haven't found any other spiritual/religious group that fits my understanding of reality, and the thought of participating in creating such a group is just a seed, so I walk in the outer darkness, thinking hopefully that there is some light coming through me to share with others.

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