An old school friend died and maybe it’s time I write this post about suicide

This week I heard that an old school friend had died. He was a good guy. I’m not going to write his name or any other details because I don’t know much, but I do know that he had problems similar to mine a few years ago. And I haven’t quite written all the details about my own issues a few years ago. Maybe it’s time?

What I have written is that:

  1. In 2009 I was in a traumatic situation.
  2. I got my son out of there first.
  3. Then I went to rehab and the rest is history.

But that’s not the whole truth. I didn’t want to go to rehab. I wanted to die.

I had lost almost every worldly possession. I found myself living in a single room behind a more or less abandoned house, with my girlfriend, my son, and a dealer, and no hot water. This was after she had sold off most of my possessions while I was at work, had rented out the garage to two different people who didn’t know about each other, had used the rent money I left her (to pay the landlord right next door) to buy drugs while I was at work.

I didn’t know she was sleeping with him. Not until too late. They ended up sleeping together in front of me. I had no friends, no possessions, no self respect left. Only self hatred. Every plan to get out of there was thwarted. Once I even rented a room in the local back packers, and went to work, only to have someone call them and impersonate me, claiming I was sending someone over to get my money back. And she went there with him.

He, who had a reputation for being a “drug lord”, was just another addict, who supported himself by shoplifting. He went to jail once in those months of my homelessness, and I had a few weeks of less pain, but she stole money from me and bailed him out while I was at work. Also, at some point the affair became open knowledge. At some point I learned that she was “his girlfriend” from others, and eventually I ended up sleeping on a mattress on the floor, with them in a bed in the same room.

Meanwhile my son became attached to the guy, who affectionately called him “small boy”. I was an outcast, even from my own son and the girl who I thought was the love of my life. Josh was between 12 and 18 months old then.

I even prayed, despite not believing on god. My payer went like this: “Please god, let me die. Please god, let me die. Please god, let me die.” But god didn’t listen because there’s nobody on the other side of that connection.

At the same time, I had voices in my head constantly, voices that mocked and tortured me, reminding me what a failure and loser I was. I lost my job because I was out of my mind, unable to perform at work between trying to do my work, being on the phone with social development many days trying to convince them to remove my own son, worried sick that he might wonder into the abandoned swimming pool on the property while they were off doing fuck knows what… and every afternoon I’d break down in tears, at first in the toilet and eventually in front of everyone in the office because I couldn’t manage anymore.

All I wanted was release. But I couldn’t. I couldn’t do it because I didn’t know what would happen to Josh. I imagined the worst case scenario, in which he would not be removed from them but would be exposed to criminals and drugs throughout his life and would forget all about me.

After everything else failed, when my brother presented me with the opportunity to have Josh removed, I leaped at it. I hid from them that people from Child Welfare were coming, and went with them to say goodbye to Josh so that he could be put on a plane to go to Johannesburg with my brother.

My plan was to get Josh out of there and then be free to commit suicide. But somehow I couldn’t do it. Instead, my last attempt to get out was to trick the arsehole into beating me up the night before my girlfriend’s mother came to visit, so that word could get to my brother about the state I was in and he might help get me to rehab. It was a stupid desperate plan but it worked.

But still, I felt a failure for a long time afterwards, convinced that I didn’t live because I was strong but because I was weak, and lacked the courage to go through with it. In rehab I became obsessed with her and managed to convince others to get her out of there, and somehow I managed to succeed.

My point is… I know how it feels when all hope is lost. I know how it feels when all you want to do is die. But it does get better. It doesn’t have to end in suicide. And things can work out for the best. I’m now over five years and eight months clean and have had my son back for about three and a half years. I’m still suffering from some strange long term effects of my depression… when things go wrong, my mind still goes there, as if suicide is always a valid route from my problems. It’s weird and I would never do it, but there’s still a dangerously dark side to my psyche. Maybe one can never get over trauma completely, but one can cope. I have and so can you.

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The fascinating belief in the Nibiru cataclysm conspiracy theory

Have a look at these two screenshots I grabbed last night…

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Besides the fact that these people seem batshit crazy, there are a few things I find fascinating about this…

First, some background info for those who have never heard of the Nibiru cataclysm. (Read that Wikipedia link for the long version.) A man named Zecharia Sitchin left us with some fanciful mistranslations of Sumerian cuneiform (ancient carvings on stone tablets). And when I write “fanciful mistranslations”, what I mean is he couldn’t read the ancient glyphs at all, so he made up his own translations based on what he thought the pictures looked like. And… Tada! Ancient Aliens was born. He wasn’t the only one but let’s stick with him. So ancient mythical gods, the Annunaki, became aliens on a mysterious planet, called Planet X or Nibiru, which, on a 3600 year elliptical orbit, passes very close to us every once in a while and causes all kinds of chaos. Also the aliens were the ones who seeded life on earth, or something like that.

Of course all of that is pure bullshit, and real translations of the Sumerian cuneiform exist and are even indexed online so anyone can read them. (Start here.) No planets or aliens or any of that stuff can be found in the real translations but that doesn’t stop people from believing.

The basic premise of the cataclysmic conspiracy theory is that Nibiru has been on a collision course with us since the 1980’s and this was somehow covered up by [insert shady government or NASA or New World Order here]. And now, it is here, even though it failed to end the world in 2003 and 2012 and other dates. And even though nobody can detect it, and a rogue planet (or sun depending on which variant of the conspiracy you believe) would be easy to detect in the solar system. Note that the Nemesis sun theory, also mentioned in the screenshot comments, is another belief in a hypothetical companion or “twin” to our sun. Some people seem to have conflated the Nibiru and Nemesis conspiracies, so for some it’s a planet, while for others it’s a star, and then there are those who believe in an entire solar system.

Anyway, I became fascinated with the conspiracy back in 2012, and I thought that when the world failed to end, people would stop believing. But they didn’t. Instead, they adjusted their beliefs to explain why they couldn’t see Planet X (like the fake sun claims in the screenshot), or saw “signs” of it in other things. (Just like people who believe in Jesus/God, et al, see signs to confirm what they want to see.)

But there are a couple of interesting things to take out of this:

  1. Fundamentally, this is a conspiracy with a base of racism. White people who refuse to accept that ancient people built amazing structures such as the pyramids (because to them everybody who isn’t white is stupid, inferior, and incompetent), so therefore those structures were built by aliens.
  2. Aliens here is just a synonym for god/magic. It’s the same as any other magical thinking where the unknown gets replaced by a placeholder: God, aliens, magic… all amount to the same thing.

Thus what we have here is the birth of a new religion. It’s not called a religion… not yet. But it’s only a matter of time. Of course that means debating these people is pointless as they have an unfalsifiable hypothesis, just like god/Jesus, et al. But it is interesting to see a new religion forming before our very eyes.

Update: (worth mentioning) This is a right wing conspiracy, in much the same sense as evangelical Christianity is generally right wing or “conservative”. So belief in other conservative conspiracies is common. In other words, these are mostly white people, many are American and Donald Trump supporters, as well as fascists. Other conspiracies like chemtrails, New World Order, Obama “birthers”… are all thrown into the mix. Religion is often regressive, even this new one.

Update two: Confession… I believed in this conspiracy myself overnight some time in 2012. It was, after all, a year before I stopped using methamphetamine. I read about it while I was high on meth and in my paranoia, I believed it at first. The idea of a conspiracy and scientists knowing the truth but hiding it to avoid mass panic didn’t seem so crazy, until I came down. Then I read up about it properly, looking from all angles, but mostly with the hilarious realization that these people had about as much sense as I did while out of my mind on amphetamines…. except they are like that all the time. And thus my interest in conspiratorial belief was born. I was obsessed with it back then as it was something to “tweak” on, and I have remained fascinated, though no longer obsessed, ever since.

Prayer was the most insidious part of my religious indoctrination

Last time I shared a prayer that I printed out for a certain someone who doesn’t want me to write about her here. I hope it helps her. You might think sharing that was an odd thing for an atheist to write about, but I don’t. I think it opens the door for me to share what prayer meant to me when I grew up.

First of all, excuse the simplistic format and words… I came up with this when I was around eight or nine years old. This was more or less my standard prayer every night:

God,
Bless Mommy, Daddy, Christopher,
Toby, Honey, Cheeky and Chirpy,
And me, if that’s the way it should be.

Thank you for [this changed every day]
Please can I [this changed every day]

There’s one thing that jumps out at me from those words: I did not believe I deserved to be blessed. And that’s a problem. (But that’s what Christianity teaches. We are born in sin and shame and are unworthy. That’s precisely what makes Christian beliefs harmful and that’s why so many humanists call Christian indoctrination a kind of child abuse.) My format was based on a book I’d heard someone read aloud at school – the name long since forgotten… In the book, a boy prayed in this format where he blessed everybody and left himself for last. Something like, “And lastly, bless little old me”. But I changed it and added the bit about not deserving to be blessed. Also I changed the words slightly over the years, but those are the ones I remember.

Here’s what I take out of this:

  1. If you look at the prayer I printed for my partner, her Christianity must be quite different to my former beliefs. I would never have considered reading a ready-made generic prayer and inserting the subject I wanted in it, like a template. Never. Everything always had to be in my own words, and I’ve been comfortable expressing them in writing since I was seven years old. It would not feel sincere to read out someone else’s words.
  2. I never did get my head around praying to Jesus, let alone infant Jesus.
  3. Toby was the family cat. He was a kitten born to a cat we had when I was five years old and he died when I was sixteen. In fact, I took the day off school because he wasn’t well, and my father was meant to come take him to the vet, but he died, in my hands, before that could happen. Honey was a golden Labrador, obtained from a school friend’s parents who emigrated when I was eight years old. Cheeky and Chirpy were budgies, and I don’t remember exactly what year they lived, but I am guessing at around my ninth year.
  4. Cheeky and Chirpy were the first pets I remember dying. (Cats like Toby’s mother had died before then, but those don’t register as memories for me. Maybe I hadn’t gotten my head around death and mortality until then.) I changed the words of the prayer, but their names stuck in my head because I’d been saying it that way for over a year. Thereafter changing the names in each prayer required conscious effort.

My prayer wasn’t just a religious thing. It was my link to my childhood. It kept those pets alive in my heart and mind. Also, this is a reminder of something else… Christopher became Chris sometime in high school, because other people called him that. If it had been me, and people called me Jay instead of Jerome, the name would not have stuck. My brother was always different to me in certain way related to peer pressure and outside influences. There was a phase where he went to someone else’s church and picked up their ideas, which upset my mother. I, on the other hand, even used her religious belief as an excuse (when I was 12 years old) to avoid going on a school outing to other churches. In truth, I would not have been influenced by other churches. More likely I would have rejected them all sooner. I think I knew that deep down. Catholicism, and prayer, had sentimental value to me. They kept me childlike and helped me not to forget my love for lost pets, and kept Chris as Christopher in my mind.

I didn’t want to let go of my childhood. I didn’t want to grow up. But also, I felt guilty if I didn’t pray at night. Now this might not make sense, but I continued to pray for several years after I stopped believing in god. It’s hard to explain, but the guilt kept me from being able to stop, even if it meant that absurdly I prayed to a god I didn’t believe in. Just like, for whatever unknown psychological reason, it took me over ten years to begin thinking of my brother as Chris, it took even longer for me to let go of prayer.

Maybe it isn’t only about indoctrination and guilt, but also about my own reluctance to change, but I found it especially difficult to let go of prayer. It was the most difficult part of my personal journey into atheism.

My brother is my only link to those days now, since all those pets are long gone and both parents too. Funny how it works… my changes and my journey through the years feel natural to me, so I still feel like the same person – I am the same Jerome who was the child who remembers all these things as an adult. But it’s different now and I don’t perceive others as being the same. My brain has compartmentalized Chris and Christopher almost as if they are two different people. Christopher is my baby brother, the one I would lay down my life protecting. Chris is… someone else. It’s really difficult to explain, but at least we are closer now than we were a few years ago, since I (rightfully) lost his trust in my years of addiction. And then got it back, but it took some time longer than I expected. Maybe that’s a subject for another day… when we stop using drugs, we expect too much of those who know us, we expect them to know that we have changed long before there is any way they can possibly know.

A prayer with a nice border I printed for someone

Just because I’m an atheist doesn’t mean I have to be an arsehole. Someone I care for sent me this prayer via WhatsApp and asked me to print it for her…

Yes, I normally say that prayer doesn’t do anything, but what I mean is it only does something psychologically for the person praying, as opposed to whatever the subject of prayer may be. But that might be good enough… I mean, if she wants to pray and it means something to her, and doing so helps her feel good, then why not print it out and also make it look nice?

Don’t worry… I’m still an atheist and still don’t believe in prayer or god or any of that stuff, but I do believe in being nice, and I want her to be happy… plus I found some cute borders for prayers (to use in Microsoft Word – this is a screenshot since I can’t seem to embed that or a PDF here) on this page. I used the one with doves but there are a few good ones, including ones with praying hand images that would also work well for a prayer background. They’re a tad kitschy for my taste but I can see their appeal.

Actually I didn’t pay for the border image but used the built-in Windows photo editor to remove the watermark from the free version, which I guess is some kind of sin. May the nonexistent god have mercy on my nonexistent soul. (OK, so maybe I do have to be an arsehole, a little. Sorry about that.) But really, I have abstained from any analysis of the below prayer and any pondering about why anyone would pray to infant Jesus when he’d be a smidgeon older than that by now… so I am less of an arsehole than usual today… OK? Thanks for reading and may you be inspired to create your own documents with sentimental borders…

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“I don’t know” never means God did it.

This morning my 5:30AM toilet visit was entertained by this status:

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I’m not complaining. I needed some motivation to shit. Thanks, oh enlightened one…

I replied to it with only two words: False dichotomy. Do I need to explain all the faults here? Here are a few of them…

  1. The opposite of creation is not some other kind of creation.
  2. The opposite of “I don’t know” is not creation by an intelligent designer. There is no opposite to it.
  3. The argument from first cause simply moves the problem to a magical answer named god that is assumed not to have a cause, violating it’s own premise (Everything has a cause and the first cause is god, but god does not have a cause), but is defined as something you are not supposed to question. In other words, special pleading.

As with all such arguments, the theist believes he knows his god is real. Now there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. That’s literally what faith is. And as long as you are making a statement about your faith, it’s all good. But you shouldn’t pretend to be logical.

There’s nothing logical about starting with your assumed conclusion and working backwards. It’s intellectually dishonest. I know this is what’s going on because I used to be a believer. Since the person is indoctrinated, he assumes his god exists, then does not admit it but instead uses motivated reasoning to come up with a pseudo-logical argument that comes to conclude what he assumed upfront. (That was not enough for me. Fundamentally that is why I lost my faith as a teenager.)

Making that leap is equivalent to writing the non sequitur, “One plus one is equal to two. Therefore dogs are better than cats.” There is no logical connection between the two sentences, other than the one in the brain of my hypothetical person in this analogy. Likewise, every argument for a god does exactly what my example does… but usually in a way that jumps through a few more hoops. Bullshit baffles brains and the verbosity and/or apparent sophistication of such arguments fool the ignorant as well as those who make the same assumption. But such “logic” isn’t logical at all and never fools anyone who actually can think critically about the subject.

When you examine the arguments raised in this poll, they are very weak. God is nothing more than an alternative to “I don’t know” and is synonymous with magic. In other words, magical thinking.

One of the worst arguments for an afterlife ever (The law of conservation of energy)

I’ve been down for three days with a muscle spasm in my lower back. So, since the pain is still significant even though I can walk now, here’s the shortened version of this post…

Although I don’t participate in atheist vs theist debates any longer, I am still a member of a couple of debate groups, and this dumb argument shows up from time to time, always presented by a man (we are the dumber gender, seriously) who is pretentious, smug, and arrogant… and keen to show how clever he is with overly verbose arguments.

Since I’m in pain and lazy, I’m going to illustrate how stupid the argument is by putting it in a table, side by side with a similarly lame argument.

Law of Conservation of Energy lame argument for an afterlife Example of begging the question
Premise Assume the existence of a “mind” separate to the brain, that controls the brain. (Let’s call this a soul, shall we?) Assume A.
Inference Energy is never lost, blah blah blah, some verbose crap here that distracts you from the assumption made up front. Introduce B, C, & D.
Remove B, C, & D.
Conclusion Therefore a soul exists and lives on after the body dies. Therefore A.

If you can’t see what’s wrong with that argument, you have “issues” with your logic. To be fair, the argument is normally sneaky about the assumption made up front, but it’s always there. The person making the argument puts a lot of effort into their argument inference… a lot. So much that it may be difficult to read, what with all the scientific jargon and elaborate sophisticated language. But none of that changes the fact that the energy lost in death can be perfectly explained by decomposition… or combustion in the case of cremation. Bullshit baffles brains but any argument that assumes its conclusion in the premise is wrong.

To clarify, this argument pretends to be scientific and logical because the argument inference tries to make out that some mysterious energy must be left over after a body dies, and that energy is the soul. Normally people respond only to the argument inference, as the writer intended, but the problem is that the argument always assumes this mystical energy existed separately from the body to begin with. Take away the entire argument inference, as lengthy and verbose as it is, and you will observe that the soul was already assumed to exist in the premise. It just wasn’t called a soul.


Edit… Here’s a real world example of a variation of the above argument, and as I explained in the post, it’s by a man who is as smug as he is stupid, but is keen to show how clever he thinks he is. From a debate group I was added to without asking a while back, so I tend to respond there but treat everything I see as fair game to share outside the group.
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Reminder: You don’t have to debunk flat earthers…

You may have noticed a common theme on this blog is my fascination with belief despite no evidence to back up that belief, or belief in spite of evidence to the contrary – which comes to the same thing really. So imagine how baffling a time of year Easter is… when nearly everyone around me believes that around 2000 years ago some dude came back from the dead after three days, complete with his wounds but somehow alive, and then flew up into the sky to his deity daddy. But today I’ll rather write about something else that most, but sadly not all of us… do not believe: the flat earth.

I’ve argued with a few flat earthers over the past couple of years, and in the process picked up a few points worth mentioning…

  1. When approached by a flat earther, you don’t have to prove the earth is not flat. You have made no claim. If someone claims the earth is flat, the burden of proof lies on them to back up their claim.
  2. If you point out to them that the ancient Greeks calculated the approximate circumference of the Earth using shadow lengths, a known distance, and geometry, they simply assert this did not happen.
  3. Every image shared by a flat earther to prove the earth is flat actually proves it is spherical. For example, images taken out of passenger planes… Perspective would work differently on a flat earth. Imagine an ant suspended one millimeter above a chess board… depending on its eyesight, it would be able to see quite a long way. Likewise, perspective on a flat plane would allow us to see all the way to the blurry edge, or at least pretty damn far. Aerial photos would look completely different to the way they do.
  4. Gravity on a flat plane would be weird. Since it pulls us towards the center of mass, it would only work the way we know it in the middle. As we move away from the middle towards the edge, it would be like traversing a gradient that gets steeper as you go, until the very edge would be like a 90° angle and we’d fall sideways. Of course flat earthers get around this by asserting that gravity does not exist.
  5. GPS would not work and all the science they taught us would be wrong. Of course flat earthers insist that satellites don’t exist so presumably GPS works using magic.
  6. if the stars are mere twinkly lights on the dome as they believe, that does not explain why people living in the southern hemisphere like myself see different constellations to the northern hemisphere. Of course flat earthers simply assert that this is not so.
  7. Come to think of it, there should be some fucked up kind of refraction and reflection going on in the dome when you look towards the edge.
  8. All navigation systems are a lie, apparently.
  9. If you manage to get a flat earther to reluctantly answer, “Where is the edge?”, they will normally tell you something about it being controlled by the government, or NASA, or something. In other words, the entire edge is being policed, right around the circumference of the Earth. Never mind the size of the conspiracy required (excuse me for ignoring the conspiracies required for earlier points), but policing the entire edge would require the cooperation of all governments, more ships than I can imagine, and probably more people than the entire population of the planet.

That’s just a few points off the top of my head. So, next time somebody tells you the earth is flat, don’t argue. Just politely remind them that they are an idiot and tell them to fuck off.

Critical thinking is not for everyone? (Enneagrams)

Recently at work we had to take Enneagram tests, followed by a three week course on the subject, in three weekly two hour meetings, given to us by an expert.

My view of those personality tests:

  1. If you force people to answer leading questions that pigeonhole them into a bunch of set categories, you will get results that look similar to the categories involved.
  2. The rest of it does not follow logically, or psychologically, or scientifically, and is not based on a foundation that’s in any way rational.

To clarify, there are nine personality types, and apparently I am a reformer, type one. But each type has (to avoid their jargon) an unhappy path and a happy path. In other words each type can be in a healthy or unhealthy state, and in that state, they take on the characteristics of another personality type. However, we were given explanations neither for how these arbitrary major types are selected, nor how their preset paths to the healthy and unhealthy states work. That is, the arbitrarily selected personality types take on preset characteristics of other arbitrary personality types, and this has no foundation in… well anything really.

Can you guess why these explanations were not given? (Bait and switch, baby!) Of course, it’s because the enneagrams are based on pseudoscience. Why does each type have preset paths to another type? This is where the pseudoscience comes in. You can find a decent explanation here. It’s also clear that other skeptics have a similar view to me. See this skeptics stack exchange question. It happens to be about the same test that we took at work. There’s no answer posted, but the view of skeptics is clear from the comments.

Here is an excerpt from the first link above, illustrating the rationale behind the way the personality types relate and the selection of the preset types that they take on under healthy and unhealthy states:

An enneagram is, literally, a drawing with nine lines. Figuratively, however, the enneagram is a New Age mandala, a mystical gateway to personality typing. The drawing is based upon a belief in the mystical properties of the numbers7 and 3.* It consists of a circle with nine equidistant points on the circumference. The points are connected by two figures: one connects the number 1 to 4 to 2 to 8 to 5 to 7 and back to 1; the other connects 3, 6 and 9. The 142857 sequence is based on the fact that dividing 7 into 1 yields an infinite repetition of the sequence 142857. In fact, dividing 7 into any whole number not a multiple of 7 will yield the infinite repetition of the sequence 142857. Also, 142857 x 7 = 999999. And of course 1 divided by 3 yields an infinite sequence of threes. The triangle joining points 3, 6 and 9 links all the numbers on the circle divisible by 3. To ascribe metaphysical or mystical significance to the properties of numbers is mere superstition and a throwback to an earlier time in human history when ignorance was considered a point of view (apologies to “Dilbert” and Scott Adams).

As you can see, the pseudoscience behind the enneagrams is numerology. Just because there is some mathematical relationship between a bunch of numbers when you divide them by each other does not mean that personality types assigned to those numbers have characteristics of those numbers. Numeral systems are in any case simply a representation of numbers that people came up with. In other words, an abstraction, a map to represent real concrete things. Any “mysterious relationship” between numbers is simply a quirk of the numeral system itself. Would a numeral system other than base 10 yield the same “mysterious” relationships between numbers? I don’t think so… But to apply other things, in this case types of personality… to those numbers, and read something into that… well that’s just silly.

If you go ahead and read the Skeptic’s Dictionary link above, it should be clear that it’s all nonsense. Enneagrams may have some merit, because once you force people to answer questions that put them into a broad category, the category will apply to them… somewhat. But the rest of it is pure bullshit. The reports read like a bunch of Barnum statements which could apply to anybody. Primed to credulously accept them because the broad categories seem applicable, people who take the test then buy into it without really noticing.

And yet, nobody else in the office has my view. I wouldn’t rate myself as much above average a critical thinker. But everybody else in the office seem to have approached the subject very credulously indeed. (Unless of course some kept their skeptocism to themselves.) I don’t believe Enneagrams are harmful because the vague, general descriptions in the reports based on them do contain things that apply to everybody, so by following them when dealing with others, we may accidentally consider their thoughts and feelings. So it could do some good… by accident. The person running the coaching I was part of was quite obsessed with it and did seem to help people, but I have seen such zeal before, in others obsessed with other personality tests, as well as religion, 12 step programs, astrology, and psychics. The placebo effect is real.

To be fair, I did keep an open mind. But open does not mean that I accept claims without checking them out. And the claims made by Enneagrams do not check out. Of course nobody who buys into Enneagrams will read this and accept my conclusion. I am, after all, being critical, and a true believer will likely deduce that I am just doing what a type one does in writing this, thus everything written here can be dismissed as exactly what a reformer would write. More broadly, they could probably write off every skeptic as being a reformer too.

How I stopped believing in religion–Part Two (the rest)

By popular demand…. where popular means as requested by my one loyal reader, friend, and commenter from Sweden, here follows the second part. This one will be short.

By the time of my Confirmation as a Roman Catholic at fourteen years old, I was having serious doubts. I mean, I already didn’t believe in almost everything they taught in Sunday school, but as a teenager, I started thinking about other religions. I didn’t know any of them in detail, but I realized that was quite unnecessary.

I realized that I was taught my religion was the One True Religion, but so were other people. Everybody I knew sincerely believed in Christianity, but other people sincerely believed in other religions. The only difference between us and and them was the location of birth and religion of our parents.

How could our god, who was so loving and good, sentence others to eternal punishment just for being born into the wrong religion? It makes no sense. There seems to be two ways people respond to this dilemma:

  1. Assume all religions contain some kind of universal truth, ignore the differences, and cherry pick what they have in common.
  2. Realize the truth – that the only thing in common is belief. Whether that’s an evolutionary need to believe or something else doesn’t matter.

Obviously I went with number two. I didn’t quite put it all together, not then, not at fourteen years old, but I did get closer at around sixteen when confronted by an atheist, and then it took me less than thirty seconds to realize that I was comfortable with rejecting everything about my religion. And all the other religions. (Actually I didn’t call myself an atheist until years later, and also didn’t come to grips with rejecting the idea of an afterlife. But that doesn’t matter here. This post is only about me saying goodbye to belief in religion.) If Christians can reject other religions without knowing their doctrines and belief systems, and for example Muslims can do the same, then so can I. I can reject them all. It isn’t about the subject of the belief, it is about belief itself. It doesn’t matter what god or belief system you grow up with, they are all very much the same. And they all indoctrinate you the same way. It would be illogical to assume any of them contain any truth.

My first post could be rewritten about any other religion by someone who grew up with a different religious background, because when you look at any religion closely, they all believe stuff that’s batshit crazy. I still don’t understand why believers believe, because I have realized that it was natural for me to reject religion in general. With all my doubts right through childhood, for me atheism was inevitable – a natural part of growing up. I don’t grasp why it isn’t that way for everybody.

How I stopped believing in religion–Part One (the foundation of my disbelief)

This morning as I dove Aishah to school after dropping Josh off and before driving to work, I sat behind an annoying man who drove everywhere at 40kmph – the recommended speed for speed bumps, and slowed down further for speed bumps. I sat frustrated, unable to overtake the moron thanks to oncoming traffic… sat there mesmerized by the twirling Rosary dangling from the idiot’s rear view mirror. And I wondered to myself… Why do believers believe? And I don’t only mean idiots like Mr. Slowpoke from this morning – I mean people in general.

I know how belief works, and indoctrination, but when I think about it, it’s no excuse really. I’ve always said that I stopped believing in god at sixteen years old, but the truth is, despite my Roman Catholic upbringing and Sunday School followed by Mass every week, I was never much of a Christian except on the surface. So before I can relate how I stopped all belief in god, I must lay down the foundation, explain my thoughts and beliefs up until then. So here goes, here is who I was as a child and teenager, or at least, here are a few tricky concepts that I already disbelieved in as a child:

The Holy Trinity

To be honest, I struggled to get my head around praying to Jesus on day one of Sunday school at six years old. If god created the world, why did he need to send down his son? Why is his son also him? Why do they need a third person, the holy spirit? Why not just one?

None of this stuff makes any sense and smacks of made up stories just passed along without thinking.

Confession

I had to do my first confession at eight years old. However, this was one thing I immediately rejected. Why should I go confess my sins to some creepy old guy and then say a few prayers to have them be forgiven? Just so I can eat the magic unleavened bread? (See next point.) But why is all that necessary? If Jesus died for my sins, why do all this stuff?

I was the only kid in class to bunk First Confession by pretending to be sick, so I didn’t get mine with Fr Tom, but had to go to mean old Fr Roche the following week all by myself. To boot, I had to make up some sins.

Communion

The magic unleavened bread transforms into the body of Christ. Literally. And we eat it. Need I say more?

Needless to say, eight year old me didn’t believe that either. I saw no reason to ask questions about it or discuss it with anybody. Hello, magic isn’t real.

Original sin

So my understanding as a child was… emphasized Eve did not eat an apple, but they were punished for something else. What? And does this mean the talking snake and creation from a rib didn’t happen either? I knew children’s stories that made more sense.

So we are all guilty of Cain killing Abel, because Original Sin. And being baptized forgives us for that; otherwise if we die as babies we go to Limbo. This doesn’t seem fair. How come some sins are inherited but not others? If my great grandfather stole a packet of cigarettes and I don’t get baptized, will I go to Hell?

Jesus died for our sins

Thanks, buddy! Also, so what? How does that work? Can I borrow some chocolates from my brother, and instead of repaying him, take on some of his sins?

To be fair, that last line is just me being a smartass now. I didn’t think that far as a child. Whenever anybody spoke about Jesus dying for us I just zoned out and thought about something else because… obvious nonsense is obvious.


So there you have it. I didn’t believe in all those things, but did believe in god, and did believe in Heaven. That was me as a child and teenager. Next time I’ll write about rejecting the rest of the bullshit as well as all other religions. Or maybe I won’t, depending on my mood. This subject is no longer as interesting as it was when I started writing. No, really… I’m sitting here and remembering Sunday school and Mass and starting to nod off.