My Views on Christianity
These are my personal views and may or may not reflect Atheist Think Tank or its members.
I grew up in a Christian home. When I was a child I believed I was a Christian. Everyone I knew professed Christianity; at least I thought they did. After school I had to go to a babysitter’s house, and she was a Christian woman. Her parents, who lived with her, were Christians. My friends at school came from Christian families, and my friends believed they were Christians, too. Our Elementary school (public) was influenced heavily in Christianity; how or why would it be any other way since all the students (apparently) were Christians, all the teachers (apparently) were Christians, even the administration (apparently) were all Christians.
Christianity was an every day part of life. Whether each of us individually went to church every Sunday is debatable. I didn’t. Not every Sunday. I went to this Elementary school from 1982-1988 in a small town in Orange County, Florida. I remember you could go outside during the summertime and smell oranges.
Orange groves were everywhere there back then.
My mother worked, and my father worked sometimes more than one job just to put himself through University. When I was a child I was “sensitive”, perhaps too sensitive for some people. I cried easily. Most times it was an emotional response. When other kids at school picked on me over my sensitivity, I would run away. I wouldn’t fight back. I would find solace in a tree, or behind a building, or at the closed fence that kept us in and everyone else out. I wanted my mother. I cried the first day of First Grade, and laughed at by other students. The thing is: I bet many of them also cried. In the beginning my “friends” were pigeons that flocked near the Cafeteria. Other children laughed at me. Pointed fingers. Pushed me physically. Second grade was just as bad. I would cry in class for getting a failing grade, and the teacher would berate me for being poor at math, “How can you not do math?” She would exclaim in front of everyone. I found out when i was around 30-31 years old that I have math dyslexia (Dyscalculia), something that was evidently unheard of back then. I failed math every single year. I was told by teachers, administrators, even my own father countless times that i just wasn’t trying hard enough or I was purposely not doing the work because I was lazy, or just that I was a bad child.
My father stopped spanking me and my brother around the time I was in Second or Third grade. But the school didn’t. And neither did my babysitter even after my parents told her not to. I don’t know, thinking about it now, if I was a good child or a bad child, or I was a good child who did things considered bad, or I was a good child who was pushed by those around me treating me as to what I considered bad behavior from them into doing bad things, or I was just a bad child. Maybe I was just a child acting like a child would?
Reflecting on it now, I just don’t know. I do know my babysitter was a cruel woman. Her mother was a cruel woman. Her father was a mean old man but he wasn’t cruel, at least not that I remember. I hated having to go to her house after school. She used some of us as nothing but child labor in the upkeep of her house, and if we didn’t do it exactly as she wanted it done we would get spanked with a thick leather belt. When we needed to use the bathroom we had to go outside. She even forced her father, her own father, to use the bathroom outside. He died back there doing just that. She told the paramedics that he did it on his own, that she didn’t know why he used the bathroom outside. After awhile there was only two of us kids left for her to babysit. By that time I had enough, and I stole $100 out of her purse and yelled at her as I ran out the door, “You owe me this!”. At first she gave chase after me but then stopped, turned around and went back into her house. I thought she would call the police but she never did. I felt immensely guilty for some time after that for leaving that other kid behind but if I stayed there any longer I may have turned violent in a way I do not wish to describe. The above cruelty I mention is nothing compared to other cruelties some of us endured at the hands of her, her mother, and even her daughter-in-law.
Once, after I finished mowing her daughter-in-law’s yard she gave me a glass of iced lemonade but it wasn’t lemonade, it was liquid dish soap and I regurgitated it all over her kitchen floor in which after laughing hysterically about poisoning a nine year old child, she made me clean it up and then do more house chores.
Children can be so cruel toward other children. While I had friends throughout my childhood, I sometimes didn’t have them for very long. I actually became a part of the “popular” group when I was in fourth grade but I voluntarily left the group when they used their popularity in the negative toward poorer kids (like myself) or non-white children and/or teachers. There weren’t too many non-white teachers at my school. My kindergarten teacher was a black woman that everyone seemed to love, and my Third grade (second time) teacher was also a black woman that no one seemed to love. I liked her, though. She was mean for a reason; she recorded us once on a voice recorder. She played it back to us and every single student was making some kind of ruckus. It was embarrassing, to all of us.
I had good teachers. Teachers who cared, and I had teachers who didn’t. You always remember the ones who were mean to you first but then try to remember all the ones who were good to you but sometimes they get lost in the fog.
I was poor growing up. I wore hand-me-downs from the previous decade. My shoes were cheap and always falling part; at one point they had no soles whatsoever. When I got to High School i stopped wearing jeans and t-shirts. I was tired of them. I wore dress shirts and slacks. Still do to this day, though i do have a couple of pairs of denim pants but mainly I wear slacks. I never permit anyone to purchase me clothes. As a child it was just an added attribute that people picked on me over. Not just children but adults. And, when I got into fights, it was always just me being punished. If a popular kid got into trouble, or the son of someone important, then I was sent to the office and punished in their place.
You may be thinking, “Why didn’t you tell your parents?”. But you see, I did…in the beginning. But it came to a point where the adults were just so good at lying, and I wasn’t good at telling the truth. Then, it didn’t matter if I told the truth, or not because no matter what I said: no one believed me. Even my own brother blamed me for things he did and I got into trouble for it. When my sister got old enough, she joined in. They admit to some of the things they did then, now but “now” is too late. Now doesn’t matter. Then it mattered.
Don’t get me wrong: I have happy childhood memories. I think many people that grew up like me do but the bad childhood memories, in my opinion, what we went through: the mental abuse, the physical abuse, the emotional abuse: that’s what made us who we are today. Whether for the good or the bad: this is who we are.
For me, Christianity played a huge role in my deconversion. It wasn’t I who left Christianity, it was Christianity who left me. A child praying every day for people to start treating them as if they weren’t the crud they wipe from their shoes, is disheartening. I had a cartoonish children’s Bible that only gave positive messages of the Bible. Never the whole of it. All these Christians around me and I wanted to know why they acted like that. So, I read one of my mother’s Bibles and while I can honestly say I didn’t understand it all, at the time, I understood enough to know it seemed more of a book of hate masquerading as a book of love. When i was between 11-13 years old I became an atheist toward Christianity. Toward Christianity. Which means I still believed in a god, just not the Christian one.
But that didn’t last long. I read about other religions and they all seemed fairly similar to Christianity and that’s when I became a full-fledged atheist.
I can’t honestly say I do not have a problem with Christians, as a whole. Most I get along fine with but some I never will. The Christians I never will are the ones who force or try to force their beliefs on others, judge others for not being like them or not being Christian (the two aren’t always synonymous), or those who interpret the Bible justly or unjustly to harm others especially for their benefit.
Am I still the sensitive person I was as a child? No. Do I still have a part of that sensitivity? Yes, but it’s well hidden and people tend to have break down many of the barriers I have put up over the years just to get there. Most never make it past the first barrier.
I tend to not put up with anything that I deem as negative towards myself, those I care about, or generally speaking: people as a whole, no matter who they are. I can have disagreements, heated disagreements with people yet the next moment I’m calm and joking around. I feel little to no empathy for people individually. I can say and do things toward people that the vast majority would be too afraid to do. Since I was 17 years old I have felt little to no fear whatsoever.
I read or hear in the news, or hear by people acquainted or family members that atheists are heartless immoral people. I always ask myself when I hear that, “How many atheists do they know?” yet there may be a few (like myself) who know them. My mother is 62 years old. She has an auto-immune disease that makes her have very low blood pressure, she gets easily nauseated, and has the high likelihood of fainting and having epileptic-like seizures. She needs 24 hour care, and since late 2011 I have been giving that to her as best as I can. I rarely get any sleep. We live off her Social Security because we live quite a few miles from the nearest town so I’m not able to get a part-time job to help out with expenses, and apparently she’s not disabled enough to have me qualify for pay in taking care of her even though I do all the driving, shopping, picking up her medicine, taking her to doctors appointments, cleaning the house, doing her laundry (and mine) and cooking all of the meals. The only thing she is able to do is: after I dry her clothes, while she is on her bed, she puts her clothes on hangers, or folds her delicates, and then I put them away. She would love to do more but she isn’t able to. Heartless immoral people do not do all those things, not even for their own mothers because they are “heartless” and “immoral” — why would they even care? However, if those in my family who do not know I am an atheist found out I was some of them (or all) would not only consider me to be those things but then ostracise my mother for not disowning me. That, by the way, is “heartless” and “immoral”.
This is what Christianity has taught me throughout my life. And I know there are people out there that would say that isn’t what Christianity is about, and those people aren’t True Christians but that is what Christianity is about, and they are as true of Christians as even their weakest or most fundamental one. And why is that? Because they all use the same book–perhaps a different version–but the same book and they always seem to protect the other against non-Christians. Now, when it’s just Christian vs. Christian then their beliefs are against each other.
Where does this supposed love come in?
When they force the homeless to attend church or they will turn them away if they don’t — is that love?
When they send missionaries into poor countries and state they’ll provide medical aid and food but only if they accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior — is that love?
When they create laws in a free society that restrict freedoms to people not like them — is that love?
When they reject the good that non-Christians do because only Christians are moral — is that love?
I remember back in 1998 or 1999 I was taking the bus to the mall and these teenagers were talking about how they admire the singer Marilyn Manson and listening to his lyrics they want to do the things he sang about. I told them I enjoyed his music too but that it’s just music. That they should just do things that they think is right and not what a person wrote in lyrics such as doing drugs and the like. When I got off the bus a woman who was also on the bus said she appreciated the words I said to them and handed me a pamphlet from her church on Jesus and Christianity. I said to her, “No thank you. I am an atheist.” and she then called me a devil-worshipper and walked off. Was that what Christian love looks like?
I have several similar stories like this in my life, and were they all acts of love? Is telling me that I am going to go to hell or I worship the devil or I am evil myself acts of love and compassion? I recently read a couple of articles that stated the recently deceased actor Gene Wilder, who was an atheist, was a moral and good person and made many children happy and made many others laugh but he’s currently burning in hell. Is that also what Christian love is? It seems so because I’ve been told this most my life and so have many other atheists and/or others not Christian.
I was taught in church that Catholics will all burn in hell. I’ve read at Catholic websites that Protestants will all burn in hell. Muslims will burn in hell. Jews, the Chosen people even to most Christians: will burn in hell. Buddhists, Jains, Hindus, all of them will burn in hell. Is that Christian love?
How is that love at all?
I don’t hate Christians because if I did then I would have to hate even the Christians in my family, or friends in my life. I don’t hate Christianity because it’s just an idea but I do hate the Bible because while there may be some good philosophy in it or even ideals for social commerce it’s a book that promotes hatred and guises that hatred as love. It’s okay for Christians to hate other people because the Bible calls that love.
Thankfully most Christians never even read the Bible, and those who go to church (at least what churches I’ve been to in my life) most times do not even pay attention. However, they still promote it and while I am thankful that they never read it sometimes I wish they would but depending on whether they can read the difference between literal and parable would depend on their literacy in the language in which they speak, and usually people do not.
Which is sad.
David Garrett Arnold
September 01 2016
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