A week or so back I got to chatting with a commenter on the site, a preacher’s kid and former born-again bible thumper. Since I went through a similar experience, I’m always fascinated by people’s loss of faith. So here in his own word’s is the Preacher’s Kid’s Tale. It’s a great story.
The human mind is such an incredible thing…
“But Mrs. Steinly, how did every kind of animal get to the ark?”
This is my first memory of questioning what I was told was the truth for the duration of my young life. I believe I was around eight years old and it was just another Sunday morning in Sunday school.
“Well, Timmy, god magically made every animal want to get to the ark. So they all made the trip.”
Mrs. Steinly’s answer succeeded to quell not only my curiosity that morning but millions of eight year olds around the world to this very day.
I remember thinking of her answer later on in the day. I guess I couldn’t quite understand how powerful god really was. I needed to ask my Dad.
My father was the pastor of a conservative evangelical Lutheran church in the Arizona town where I grew up. He spent eight years at Bethany College in Minnesota to earn a Master’s degree in theology and then received several vicar positions in the mid-west before finally being “promoted” to the position of pastor. Now that I think of it, it sure sounds like the way a business runs…Hmm. Anyway, along the way my mother conceived six boys and quite a temper. I guess the short fuse was a result of trying to corral all six of us to prevent needless blood loss from normal everyday male adolescent activities and I do thank her for that.
I remember asking my father that afternoon after the Sunday morning hustle and bustle was over the same question I asked earlier that morning during Sunday school. I’ll paraphrase his answer:
“Well, Timmy god has a way of doing things that not everyone understands. I think he instilled in the animals a great desire to get to Noah and the ark and they just knew that was where they needed to be and what they needed to do. Kind of like when ducks fly south for the winter or a dog instinctively knows how to swim when they are in water.”
Dad’s answer sounded so matter of fact to me at the time and I was satisfied. He was the smartest person I knew. I don’t recall ever being curious about that subject for the rest of my youth. At the time, I believed my parents knew the answers to things (and I would too, eventually) because they instilled in us that the bible HAD all the answers. My brothers and I were sold on the idea and I took this “knowledge” with me, one way or another, through my elementary, high school and college years. The bible was not and could not be wrong. Dinosaurs? I didn’t believe they could exist because it just didn’t seem to jive with the creation story. All fossils found were just bones of other animals that were pieced together until they came up with something that looked pre-historic. The Grand Canyon? It was formed by the flood waters receding as well as all the continents of earth and the lakes that occupied them a couple thousand years ago. Evolution? Don’t even get me
started. There was NO way something could have transformed. God made it right the first time. Everything presently living was exactly the same as it was at the time of creation. Earth science, geology, astronomy, biology…hogwash. This was the basis of my thinking.
During my youth and teenage years I attended public elementary and high school. My high school years were pretty typical of a lot of people. My parents were strict with our grades and wanted us to do our best. I excelled at English and History and my parents were proud of me for the marks I received in them. A ‘B grade’ in those two subjects was frowned upon. Funny thing, though. They never punished me for receiving D’s and sometimes F’s in biology or any of my science subjects for that matter. My mindset was in “bible” mode during those classes and my parents, in a weird way, kind of admired that about me. When asked about the grades when my report cards came I simply told my parents that I could not go against what they had taught me growing up and what was so hardwired into my thought pattern. The bible and everything to do with it was simply not wrong, the science books were. It’s not like I was lying to them to soften the blow of a bad grade. This is how I truly felt.
Socially, I was a pretty athletic guy who played sports and went to parties and drank beer and was very interested in girls. I was a typical high school teenage boy of the times. My parents never were the wiser until a group of us was kicked off the swim team for drinking on an overnight trip with the team.
It’s interesting that the biblical thought patterns I had for certain academic subjects were seldom found in my social life. It reminds me of a lot of “christians” who regularly attend church nowadays.
Through all of this I wasn’t into church as much as I once had been. It was more like making an appearance and sitting in the back pew in the corner with a hangover from partying the night before. But there, nonetheless. One of my parent’s house rules was that I attended whether I wanted to or not.
Oh, and for those of you have never been to a conservative Lutheran church service it consists of a lot of Stand Up, Sit Down, Fight! Fight! Fight! I guess it’s good to be in somewhat constant motion for the mere weekly repetition and boredom of the service alone is enough to put anyone face first into the awful circa 1970′s era avocado green carpet in a bore induced coma. Oh, and let’s not forget the worship! Five pipe organ led hymns strategically placed in between gospel, Old Testament readings, the sermon, communion and the benediction done by my old man, the minister. Catholics and ex-catholics, I feel ya! Our services were basically, from what I hear from you, “Mass-lite”.
We were such a conservative bunch that the mere thought of drums or a guitar might be enough to bring the wrath of god through the roof in a form of a very well aimed lightning bolt, striking down the “bombastic rocker” musicians. Although, in all fairness, I must point out that an occasional trumpet or flute would make an appearance on random Sundays accompanying a “soloist” singer. God must have been worn down from a week of not answering prayers and wreaking havoc that maybe he couldn’t muster up enough energy for said lightning bolt. Or maybe he was just watching the football pre-game shows and wasn’t paying attention.
As I got older, I eventually moved out of my parent’s house and re-located to Flagstaff, Az. for college with one of my brothers and best friends. That experience only lasted three months for me. Technology is great and all but when most of my classes were broadcast on TV via the Northern Arizona University Television Network AND I could record them on my trusty VCR certain that I would watch them at a later time to “get caught up”, one tends to…should I say…. slack. And by slack I mean party my ass off.
Upon my move back home around Christmas I did not return to church. There was too much to do other than going to services every Sunday and being told how I should be feeling and acting. I was finished with it. I could finally sit my hiney down on my couch and watch the football pre-game shows just like god was doing. But my biblical mindset of the world around me was still lurking in the background.
Fast-forward five years or so.
I’m now married to my wife and have three kids. Although she was raised as a christian we rarely attended church. I was still drinking and partying too much but with thoughts of slowing down. Then, I had a sudden slap across the head the morning after my son’s first birthday party. I had made a drunken fool of myself in front of my wife and family the night before. As I was dry heaving through my hang-over, there was a moment where I thought I was “touched by god” and convinced myself that he was sending me a personal message to quit drinking. I told my wife I was quitting and she gave me a, “yeah right.” She had heard it before. Numerous times. Needless to say, because of this imaginary magical anointing, I eventually became a bible-thumping, on fire for christ, music and youth leader in my new evangelical non-denominational church that I began to attend. Being a life-long musician and fan of music I really got into it because the services had drums, electric guitars, keyboards, mixing boards, stages and lights. Hell, even a smoke machine would make an appearance every now and then. It was freaking rock and roll bee-yatches!! But for god, of course. My wife was convinced that I had changed and there could only be one reason. She started attending with me with the kids in tow.
During this time, I believed god was telling me to bring other sheeple to him. I had all the answers for any question and I let anyone who would listen to me know. They were all in the bible, dummy! The prodigal son had finally returned! My parents were happy to see their son turn back his rebellious ways and were glad I was so happy to spread the good news! However, they were not crazy about the church I attended because of the over the top music and “un-biblical” communion practices. How dare they say the bread and grape juice (“real” christians use wine, dammit) only symbolizes the body and blood of Christ instead of partaking in actual transformed Jesus sushi. They could over-look this, though, because I was finally back on the damn team instead of sitting on the proverbial bench for so long!! This was me for a good three years. Eating, sleeping, breathing, preaching, sharing, getting tattooed and indoctrinating into my children the infallible word of god! Praise the lord and pass the sushi sauce!
Reality has a funny way of introducing itself to certain people. I consider myself one of those lucky few. About two years ago I was looking for a way to make my faith in the good ship lollipop even stronger. I could feel my connection to god slipping a little but was told over and over by people in the church that, “it happens to all of us.” I just needed to pray about it more and maybe give more gifts (money) to god and after a while I’d be right back in the swing of things. I did. Nothing happened. I thought crazy thoughts like the devil was starting to really have his way with me and it drove me to actual diagnosed depression which led to medication. How could god use me to reach so many people and then abandon me like this? I kept thinking it was all a test and that god would reward me in the near future with wisdom and chocolate covered peanut butter cups.
I then had a great idea that I thought came from god and here it is. I thought god wanted me to go to the library and get a book in the evil atheist section called, “50 reasons People Give for Believing in a God”, by Guy P. Harrison. I had seen it in passing while quickly cutting through (damn near sprinting, actually) the section on a previous visit to get to where the safe religious books were. My plan was simple. Read each reason and back it up with biblical reasoning to bust the false ideas Harrison gave to lead so many people away from the one true god. This book and author had no chance against me. Dinosaurs, astronomy, evolution, earth science, geology…Bull Feathers!!
Yeah, um, hmm…turns out, after the first chapter I had so many questions that could only be answered by taking an honest approach to actually finding the truth. I stopped reading after the first chapter for a whole day to think and realized something. The truth might have been hidden from me right under my nose for my entire life. The truth might have been hidden from me from the time I could think on my own as a toddler. The brainwashing that was instilled in me, my brothers, my parents by their parents, their parents ad-nausea might have been no fault of our own. I feel we were the product of our mental environment. It’s that simple.
I told myself I was going to approach this over-whelming project with a completely un-biased, take the blinders off way of thinking and if I finished the book and still felt all the answers were still in the bible then god wins. Yeah, I would be happy with that. The next day I read chapters 2-50 in one sitting and for the next month studied them more than I have ever studied anything in my life. One by one, questions were answered and opinions changed that I never believed possible. Above all, science was not the devil’s work thrown together by people who thought they knew better than god. The more I studied and actually used my evolved brain to actually THINK for myself and using the overwhelming evidence that is out there for ANYONE to discover I steadily felt a peace come over me that I had never thought possible. As I realized more and more the horse hockey that I had believed my whole life was wrong and that religion, at its very fucking core, was the root of all my troubled feelings throughout my life the cloud finally lifted and complete freedom has come over me that is almost un-explainable to my family, friends and co-workers. They all know of my transformation but can’t understand it because they won’t LET themselves understand it.
The thing that buggers me the most about all of this is not the family and friends I have lost during my de-programming (which has happened). It is not the feeling of being duped into believing the way I did (which I do feel). Above all, it is the years of knowledge that I have been cheated out of in the field of science solely because of religion. When I first realized that I had no more than a third grader’s education in the sciences is what gave me the drive to learn everything possible about them. It’s a wonderful journey and I will never, ever, ever, ever, ever go back.
Looking back now with a clear, skeptical mind I know that when I imagined I was “touched by god” it was merely my body reacting to years of alcohol and a party lifestyle and it just needed a break. But at the time, the engraved childhood fantasies of god took over and I turned to the only thing that my brain could process that might have been able to offer some sort of comfort and help.
The human brain is such a wonderfully strange and powerful thing, isn’t it?
PK (preachers kid) Timmy Dee.