The wonderful Advocatus Atheist himself, Tristan Vick, has inspired me to tell the personal story of my own evolution into a rootin’ tootin’ atheist. I may have delved into portions of my story in the past so please bear with me if some of it sounds familiar. I was raised in a very fundamentalist household from day one. My mother is the main source of my religious upbringing. Although initially raised as Baptist, she later met a friend who would forever change her perspective as she began attending services that had a more charismatic leaning. These were the kind of services that you didn’t feel like you got your money’s worth unless you got spit on by the preacher in the process. People frequently spoke in tongues and flailed around aimlessly. Attracted by the supernaturalism, my mother continued to seek out churches such as these from that point onward.
I remember the dread of waking up on Sunday mornings and waiting for the bedroom door to open. I always crossed my fingers in hopes that my mom would let us stay home from church. This was seldom the case early in my life. As time went by, our church attendance seemed less consistent. Nevertheless, my mother continued to amass an impressive amount of books regarding the word of faith movement. You know, the whole just ask for whatever you want and you should get it unless you don’t have enough faith theology.
My mother suffered from a series of rashes when I was around the age of 7 or 8. Being wealthy at the time, my mom had flown around the world in search for a viable cure. She had seen many of the most famous dermatologists around but none could seem to fix her ailment. One night, she asked for my father, brother and me to pray for her. We got in a prayer circle and laid hands on her. Miraculously, by the next day or so, the rash had subsided substantially. I don’t think she’s had another outbreak since. It was moments like this where I first realized the apparent power of prayer.
My mother experienced bizarre, demonic visions of hell and torment as well. She told me that she had actually been dragged down the stairs by some force which just continued to utter the words, “If you don’t, if you don’t.” She said that there were demons all over the place, and even our cat seemed to have a devilish smile upon its face. The next day, she told me that her forearm was sore from where this spirit dragged her body. Stories like this were very common place in my family, and her childhood friend had even more creepy stories that kept me up in the wee hours of the night. On one night, I thought that I saw a demon myself. He had a monkey face and was standing beside my bed. I pulled the covers over my face frantically and waited it out. We lived over what was thought to be an old Indian burial ground. There were many reports of ghosts walking around at night and disturbing residents. It seemed like I was knee deep in supernatural occurrences. I think that these experiences certainly shaped my world view.
By 10th grade, I was attending a private Christian school and not particularly enjoying it. Like most Christians, I said that I was a Christian but lived outside of the teachings. Out of our graduating class, I could probably count one person who seemed genuine about their Christianity. It wasn’t until meeting my wife that I really began to establish a strong relationship with God.
Certain stressors began negatively impacting my life which seemed to coincide with my urge to get closer to God. I don’t fare well with change unless my back is against the wall and married life certainly seemed very different. My Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) became front and center in my life, and I was looking for answers. I really began to study the Word under the influence of my father-in-law, who happens to be a Baptist preacher. I was reading apologetic materials by the likes of Norman Geisler. I was regularly tuning in to the Bible Answer Man broadcast with Hank Hannegraff. I even tried my hand at being a youth teacher but that was fairly short-lived. Attending several services and study hours became common for me. In short, I wanted to be the best I could be at walking the Christian life. I wanted to conquer my OCD using God’s power, but there seemed to be a nagging problem. There was some cognitive dissonance brewing in my head regarding prayer. I couldn’t understand why God would heal me if he allows children to die. I felt like I was inevitably stuck with OCD because there was no reason to believe that God cared about mental illnesses when he didn’t care about starving, emaciated children. It wasn’t too long after this issue came to a climax when I became reacquainted with a long lost friend that was very instrumental in turning my life around. His name is Mike Doolittle AKA A-Unicornist. I encourage you to tune in to the next installment as I delve into the debates I had with Mike as he methodically destroyed my arguments and opened my eyes for the first time.