Adam Brown, AtheismResource.com founder, finally shares his story
Author: Adam Brown / Age: 30 / Sex: Male / Occupation: Event Planner/Marketing Director
It’s hard to tell a story that doesn’t have an ending and is always changing, but I will try. I’ve told this story verbally many times. It always seems to come out with a bias based on how I feel about religion at that time. I’ll do my best to wipe away the emotion… ok, probably not. Why? Well, it’s emotional for me. I can’t change that. Emotion used to rule my life. It made me believe in god. Not because I wanted to or had some deep need for it. I was born into it.
BORN INTO IT
I was raised by a single mom with a brother that was four years my senior. We had it rough. My mom didn’t always hold jobs very long and my childhood was filled with moves, evictions, bad apartments and rental homes, Medicaid, free lunches, food stamps, government housing, and utilities being shut off. We were never “homeless” although we did have to live with friends and family at times. But, through all that, we always had the church. Looking back (and seeing it as a father now) I think church was a needed outlet for my mother – still is. It was a social center for us. We moved churches like we moved houses, but for the few months or years we would be at a church, we did make good friends.
Even today, I miss the fellowship with other people. I have great memories of youth groups, kid’s camps, Christmas musicals, lock-ins, special events, and potluck dinners. Churches in Springfield, Missouri (where I grew up) always knew how to have a good time. I was deep into it. Really deep. I was part of Royal Rangers, the Assemblies of God equivalent to Boy Scouts. And Kiwanis, the Baptists answer to Royal Rangers. Picture Boy Scouts but with lots of bible lessons and tons of scripture memorization. Yeah, we did Assemblies, Baptists, Nazarene, and Non-Denominational. Basically, just pentecostal / evangelical. I was taught to speak in tongues, lay hands on the sick, dance in the spirit, and all that other bullshit.
But, it didn’t seem like bullshit at the time. I fully believed all of it. Sure, I had questions… I was a smart child. But, I learned to rationalize those things away. “God works in mysterious ways” worked for me for a long time. I trained to be a minister/missionary, went to many, many bible camps, read the bible through 3 times, and memorized almost 200 scriptures. I competed in “Fine Arts” competitions (Assemblies of God nationwide talent shows) and took part in music ministries. I witnessed to friends and brought many to church… and to god. I feel guilty about that now. Guilt is a funny thing. It used to scare me into believing in god. Whether Christians want to admit it or not, it IS their main motivation. They feel guilty for how they feel/think/act. Church teaching makes you feel ashamed of being who you are. We all think about sex. We all have “sinful” thoughts and we all act on them… yes, ALL if us – don’t pretend that you are sinless.
Scriptures like “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of god / The wages of sin is death but the gift of god is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” and “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your path” used to give me comfort. Now, I look back on them and I think about how horrible they are. The first one tells us that we are ALL BAD PEOPLE and we are destined for hell (the wages of sin is death) but god has a gift for us. What a shitty gift. Imagine if I said, “Here’s an apple.” You said, “No thanks.” Then I punched you in the face! It’s not a gift if you get punished for refusing it. The second scripture literally tells you NOT to think for yourself. Don’t trust your own intellect… just listen to the bible and it will always tell you what to do. It seems insane now, but I used to think these were good things. And i followed them routinely, going to church 2-4 times a week until I was 17. Then, I grew up.
I’ve learned since becoming an “out” atheist that this conversion point in my life is not unique. There is something about college that enables people to be around new people, leave their families behind, get educated, and think for themselves. It is only through rational, critical, skeptical thinking that one can truly escape the bonds of religion. It started for me around my senior year in High School. I had an atheist best friend through junior high and high school. I didn’t witness to him and he didn’t try and talk me out of religion. We were just friends and left it at that. Looking back, I wish he had been a little more vocal and asked me questions. I probably would have dumped my beliefs earlier. But, my friend, Nick, did help be become less concerned with religion. I saw him and his family treat each other well without god. They seemed better than my family but they never went to church or talked about god.
I slowly started going to church less and less. It was mostly because I was tired from working hard on class (I was on a nationally known Speech and Debate Team that took up a lot of time). Sunday mornings were a time to sleep in. So, church became an occasional “treat” as I began to internalize my faith. This absence was completely necessary to my deconversion. I was escaping “The God Virus” slowly. By not being around it too much, I was not getting new doses to keep me sick with false belief. Being an award winning debater helped too. I was taught to research and look for evidence on both sides of every issue. I learned to think critically. This carried over with me to college. But, even going into college, I still called myself a Christian, although now I hadn’t gone to church regularly in over a year. I was afraid to blaspheme and accept the truth… I had lost my faith in god.
It was for several reasons that I started looking at my faith with a skeptical eye. One, I met a lot of gay people on my campus. I had been taught that being gay was a choice and a sin. I was told they were bad people that were going to hell if I didn’t help “fix” them. I had class with several gay students and became their friends. It was glaringly apparent that they were this way for a long time. It wasn’t a choice. They liked people of the same sex for biological reasons… not reasons of sin. Also, at this time, I worked part time (and as a hobby at parties) as a professional magician. I watched all kinds of people see my tricks and remember them completely wrong. I studied psychology and sociology. The way stories were passed and memories created fascinated me and I quickly saw how this applied to religion. But, mostly, I learned science that hadn’t been shown to me in high school. I saw how creation was impossible. I learned how certain evolution is and how scientific reasoning can’t be applied to religion without coming to one final conclusion… there is no god – we created him.
I was stunned, at first, as I started having these thoughts. there wasn’t an “AH-HA” moment for me where it all just sunk in. I felt it first, and didn’t verbalize it for years. I feared now that what I had grown up believing couldn’t hold up to the reason test. The first book I read on atheism was “Breaking the Spell” by Daniel Dennett (here’s a list of books I recommend for new atheists including Dennett’s). A this point, I hadn’t ever heard of Dawkins, Harris, or Hitchens. I was an atheism-virgin. Dan’s book helped me realize that the greatest power the church had was it’s ability to convince people that questioning their faith was a sin. I felt ashamed. I was a smart person. I knew how to research and debunk myths. But, I had turned a blind eye to my religious beliefs, until now. I spent a long time using books, the internet, and videos to learn as much as i could about the bible and biblical history. I won’t get into it all here. You’ll find references all throughout our site about the fallacies in the bible. But, once it became clear that the bible was written by men, was not divinely inspired, and was edited, rewritten, and revised over centuries, I could no longer look at it as anything but an interesting historical book… one that held no authority over me or offered a moral answer that I couldn’t find without it.
This idea was so freeing. If you are a believer and are reading this, well, congrats for getting this far, but I don’t think you can understand this. Atheists readers will know what I am saying when I state “I never felt so free as when I finally let go of my belief in god!” It all made sense now. I knew how the pieces fit together. I understood how religion came to be and why mankind needed it. I also saw that I no longer needed it and couldn’t live my life supporting something that I now saw as so harmful.
The reason I find it important to mention my wife is that I could have never reached that last 10% of my deconversion without her. When I met her at the end of 2005, I already told myself I was an atheist, and a few people around me. But, I definitely wasn’t proud of it or able to say it to anyone. On our first date, Amanda and I broke the first rule of dating… never discuss morals, ethics, religion, or politics on the first date. Over a strawberry milkshake, at 2:00am, at a nearly deserted Steak-N-Shake, we started opening up about those things. Amazingly, we found out we shared the same beliefs in every category. I fell in love immediately… it took her a few more weeks. We’ve been together ever since. A few years went by. We decided to move from the buckle of the bible belt (Springfield, MO) to the Kansas City area. We had to et away from such a religious area. Now we are in Kansas, not a whole lot better. We had a daughter in 2008, and since then, we went from thinking we would let her go to church if a future friend asked, to seeing how bad the brainwashing of youth is getting, and deciding that we will tell her what religion is but do our best to keep her away from it. Of course, if we teach her to be a good free-thinker, I can’ imagine she will not get hooked by religion’s false promises. When the religious right got so fervently angry at President Obama before his election and especially right after, i knew I couldn’t remain silent anymore. So, we created this website, AtheismResource.com!
THE BIRTH OF THIS SITE
This collection of thoughts was put together for two main reasons. One, I was tired of trying to remember it all when in discussions with religious friends. And, two, I feel like it’s time. What’s the point in learning all of these things if I never share them with the curious? The information that I have spent the last 10 years researching is pointless if I keep it to myself. When I finally accepted that I am an atheist (and I am not going to “hell” for it) I told myself and my wife that we wouldn’t be like those pushy Christians. I had religion shoved down my throat when I was younger. It didn’t sit well. I don’t want to do that to others. I felt like atheism tasted better when discovered and when nibbled on. I boldly said, “I will never force feed my beliefs to others.”
Well, I suppose that mindset has changed. I quickly changed my motto to this: “If you use religion as a crutch, I won’t come up and knock it out from underneath your arm. But, if you beat me or anyone else I care about over the head with your religion, then I reserve the right to smash it into a million pieces.” I don’t consider this work a smorgasbord for the atheistic gluttons of the world. I want it to be viewed as a source for enlightenment. Not the ending to a journey, but the start. We’ve all seen Christian flyers and pamphlets. The little tracks that get left in doctor’s offices and in mall bathrooms are tantalizingly scary and effective. As comical as they seem to me now, they are at least out there. The religious right knows a thing or two about marketing. Atheists haven’t really picked up the gauntlet to spread the truth. They (we) are afraid to be viewed as “indoctrinating” people that don’t want to hear what is known about religion, science, and faith-based politics.
However, the time has come. We can no longer sit back and wait for religion to die. Humans have reached a new level of understanding about the world that is slowly replacing the need for religion. This scares the believers and encourages the rest of us. We can no longer sit in awkward silence, feeling ashamed to speak the truth and to question the entrenched status quo. For change to occur, we need to actively spread our knowledge. This can be done in the same way that all knowledge is spread. We don’t need to be militaristic about it. We don’t need to tell people they will go to hell if they don’t believe. We just need to spread the truth. New ideas always seem bigger than they are. You can imagine when man first discovered concepts like gravity, photosynthesis, the water cycle, and planetary orbit. These were huge ideas at the time; but now every fifth grader has a rudimentary understanding of them and accepts them as fact… not theory.
Through proper education, evolution will no longer be seen as the “other side” of the creation debate, but the accepted explanation of life on earth. Knowledge will replace religion. Human advancement will be the driving force of our economies. Once and for all, we can replace religion as the reason to help one another and just do it because it’s the moral thing to do. We don’t need a god to tell us what’s right and wrong.
As you will see as you read more on this website, organized religion is a cancer on the earth. In time, we could become the first species to ever be the cause of and cure to the same disease. We have the opportunity to undo a 5,000 year old mistake. Religion had its place and its time. That place is getting smaller and that time is ending. Let’s usher in a new era of human existence that needs no religion to guide us. We created religion. Now we must do the right thing… and help it die. I’m not bitter, just determined. Religion didn’t “hurt” me as it did to other people around me. I was never abused or molested like people I knew that are close to me. I was just lied to, repeatedly, for years and years.
But, as long as churches spread a hate for science, a message of intolerance for different groups of people, a belief in intercessory prayer instead of action, a general welcoming of the end times and lack of environmental stewardship, as well as a laundry list of other harms, people like me will fight on. I don’t treat this life like heaven’s waiting room anymore. I hope you won’t either.