Posted by: rudyruddell | July 23, 2010

How I Raised Myself from Religious Criminal To Moral Atheist (in progress)

“This is your birthday,” my mother said as she pointed to the May 8 page on a page per day calendar in the kitchen. The calendar was posted low on the wall above a small yellow Formica kitchen table. “You are going to be 4 years old.” This was my first memory. At the time, we lived in a very old 3-story house my dad had turned into a boarding home and Chiropractic office. “Who am I? How did I get here? Who are these people? What is a birthday?” I thought to myself. This is the story of how I religion destroyed my childhood religious family and led me down a path of criminality until I saved myself from its ravages and ended up as a moral atheist. Christian Conventions, My Parents’ Religion My parents were both reared in very religious protestant farming families in Iowa. They were both raised in a church called Christian Conventions (CC), otherwise known as “2 by 2’s”, founded in 1896 by William Irvine of Ireland. However, if you asked a member what the name of their church was, they would say they did not have a name. CC is the registered legal name in the U.S. They call them CC because they periodically hold conventions in giant tents. I attended one of these conventions in Santee, CA, near San Diego, CA in about 1962. My mother met my father at one of these conventions. Although they claim not to have a name, they would gladly refer you to one of their missionaries, called workers, who could explain the religion to you. In fact, I did not even know their name until I Googled them based on the name of their hymnal (Hymns Old and New compilation copyright 1987 Pock & Martin.) http://www.workersect.org/2×201.html CC members claim their religion does not need a name because they were the original and only Christians. According to CC, all the other Christian religions were false and only CCists will be going to heaven because they believe that only CC follow the New Testament precisely. Their doctrine is based largely on the following passage: Matthew 10: 5-11: “These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans.6Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. 7As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.’ 8Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy,drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. 9Do not take along any gold or silver or copper in your belts; 10take no bag for the journey, or extra tunic, or sandals or a staff; for the worker is worth his keep.  11“Whatever town or village you enter, search for some worthy person there and stay at his house until you leave.” The CC founder, William Irving, like Joseph Smith for Mormonism, allegedly received a direct communication from God that the above verses were to be followed: Missionaries should travel in pairs and not own anything but the clothes on their back and their bible and hymnal case. I have two cousins who are currently employed as workers (missionaries).  All members carry a tiny briefcase that fits their King James Version Bible and their hymnal. As a child I very much wanted one of those cases, but, alas, my parents said I was too young. During their Sunday worship at members’ houses, the members sang hymns off key, without a leader or a piano. They took turns praying in Old English and then took turns giving their response to passages in the Bible. They did not pass a donation plate but they passed around the grape juice and each person took turns picking a piece off a slice of Wonder Bread. Children were not allowed to partake of the Wonder Bread. I remember resenting the fact that I could not eat the bread. I could not wait to be a grown up so I could do these adult activities. Not being old enough was a recurrent theme in my Christian upbringing. Not being old enough became my primary motivation for becoming a Christian although I did not realize it at the time. Christian Conventions members are not allowed to watch TV, dance, drink alcohol, smoke, or be involved in Christmas gift exchange. The women cannot wear make up or cut their hair, but they could wear black socks and long dresses. The men could wear whatever they wanted but they could not grow out their facial hair. There are about a million CC members worldwide. My dad was raised on a farm in Iowa. My dad’s parents converted from Irish Catholic to CC when he was about 4 years old.

Added on 8/5/15 after a phone call with my dad on his 86th birthday.

My dad was born in South Dakota. His parents, both born in 1903, were from South Dakota, but they moved to Luther, Iowa, a small town with a population now of 122 but is being discontinued, upon the advise of Darwin and Delbert Johnson who were missionaries from the Two-by-Two religion that both of my parents grew up in. Evidently, my father’s father, Glenn was seeking work to support his young family of my 3 year old dad and his 4 year old sister, Darlene. Glenn had worked for the railroad in South Dakota. That is a little funny because Glenn had left home at age 12 to get away from his new step-mother. Glenn started riding the rails as a hobo starting at 12. Then, later he got a job with the railroad. Any way, the two-by-two religion had been working on my grandparents, Glenn and Marie (Iler) for a few years while they were in South Dakota. It was then that Darwin and Delbert Johnson convinced the Ruddells to move to Luther. After they moved to Luther, which is about 15 miles west of Ames, my grandfather Glenn got a job at nearby Ledges State Park. On Sundays Grandma Marie and her two youngsters drove to visit Grandpa Glenn. They usually bought ice cream, which was quite a treat because this was deep in the Great Depression, about 1932 and Glenn was not much of a business man. At some point in this time period they rented 160 acres of land to farm, but Glenn had a hard time making ends meet. Later, when my dad was 14 and started supporting the family with his new job at a department store, my dad got his dad a job there. My dad had always advised his dad to buy the farm, but he never did. My dad always had more business sense than his father.

At about age 4, his parents officially converted to Two-by-Two or Christian Conventions (CC). At about age 8, my dad decided he wanted to become a CC missionary. My dad’s young life consisted of church, school, and chores. There was little play. As a teenager, his father never smiled and beat him frequently.  Usually he would hit him on the side of his head with his hand. His father hit him like this up until about age 17. Usually my grandfather hit my dad when he did not come home right after church to do chores. My dad loved to play baseball, but could rarely do so, for fear of getting clobbered by his dad. Then, his mother threatened to leave his dad and her husband if he did not stop beating his son. That did the trick and the beatings ended. But my father still has a strong hatred for his father who died of diabetes at age 69. As usual, there was a reason my grandfather was so brutal. He lost his mother as a child and his father remarried to a woman whom my grandfather hated. My dad’s dad left home at age 12 and rode the freight trains for years. He had a very hard life, and I guess he took out his anger on his children. When my father was 19, he fulfilled his life’s dream of becoming a CC missionary.  As a missionary, he was not allowed to own anything. He and his partner just lived off the church members as he travelled. He met his wife-to-be (my mother-to-be), at a CC convention, where she first gazed up at him and admired his soothing religious preaching words. After his sermon, they spent hours together holding hands and talking about God. However, missionaries are not supposed to be holding hands with the opposite sex, nor can they get married and remain in the ministry.

My dad's family

My dad’s brother, my mother, my father, his mother, and his father

My dad left the ministry after about 3 years of preaching because he did not always garner the approval of  the senior missionaries. My dad used non-biblical material in his sermons. He liked to read books other than the bible and talk about the other books in his sermons. The senior missionaries frowned on this heretical practice and did not want to conform so he left to join the army. He was stationed in Germany during the Korean War. There, he learned all about the worldly things (like sex and alcohol) that he never learned as a teenager. Upon my father’s return to the U.S., he sought out his former hand holding partner, Oriette and found her in Corpus Christi, Texas where she was a nurse. They soon married. My mother was also raised on a farm in Iowa. Her parents were both raised Norwegian Lutheran, but my maternal grandmother converted to CC before my mother was born. My maternal grandfather died from blood poisoning due to a sliver in his finger when she was five years old. She had a twin brother and 4 older sisters. The older sisters who were alive when their mother converted to CC never converted to CC. The second oldest stayed Lutheran and the second oldest, now deceased, became a Baptist missionary in Africa for over 40 years. How I Came to Be My mother had been hit by a car at age 16 and had lost her hearing. According to her, a Chiropractor fully restored her hearing in one ear and mostly restored the hearing in the other ear. So impressed with the result was she that she decided to become a Chiropractor. She also convinced my father to enroll in Los Angeles College of Chiropractic (LACC) even though my father wanted to study business. While in college, I was conceived and I was born on May 8th, 1957 in a small trailer in Burbank, California. My first bed was a dresser drawer with a pillow in it. A year later, my late-sister, Twyla was born, but she died at 6 days old. My mother tells me that she thinks her dissecting corpses preserved in formaldehyde  lead to her premature death. Ironically, my parents donated her corpse to the college and her corpse is now bathing in formaldehyde as a specimen. My dad said they donated the corpse because they could not afford a burial. My father was quite the businessman. He somehow bought a small café. I was vibrated to sleep on the dishwasher while my mother cooked at the café. We moved to a small 2nd floor apartment in Glendale. The balcony in front of our front door had no railing. My mother let me walk on the balcony unsupervised when I was about 18 months old. One day, I fell off the second story balcony and landed on my head. Somehow, I am alive to write about it. I have a few scars on my temple to show for the mishap, but I think that I sustained no obvious permanent damage to my brain. My parents did not take me to the hospital to check for damage such as a concussion. However, I sometimes wonder if some of the things that happened later in life were somehow caused by my 2-story fall onto my head. One possible repercussion of my fall was that I was apparently uncoordinated. My parents told me that I was constantly falling and bumping my head and that I was “uncoordinated.” As an athlete I was always one of the last to be picked onto a team, whereas my 7 years younger brother became an excellent athlete in basketball and baseball. I often wondered if that fall as a baby caused my lack of athletic ability.

Syracuse, New York

My parents graduated from LACC in 1960 and my mother passed the licensing exam of California and was therefore able to be licensed to practice chiropractic in California. My father, however, was not the greatest student. He was too busy trying to make a living and pay for college. He did not pass the licensing exam for California. However, my father soon learned that New York did not require chiropractors to be licensed so we moved to Syracuse, New York in 1961. My dad was such a good businessman that he saved $5000 and bought a large three story Victorian house in Syracuse for $11,000. He subsequently turned it into an office and boarding home. He converted the attic into bedrooms and rented them out. He practiced Chiropractic in the front part of the first floor while my mother cooked and took care of the boarders. My father did not want my mother to practice Chiropractic because he believed, like most men in 1961, that the women’s place is in the home. My first positive non-parental social interactions were with the boarders. I befriended a parolee resident named Ward who got drunk and bought me a bike with training wheels. Another time he bought me a watch. My parents did not buy me any toys. They were focused on business. One time, a family moved in as boarders and they had a son my age named Jerry. He had a lot of toys, including a fire engine that I could pedal and drive. His room was crammed full of toys and I was quite envious. Before the attic was converted to a room, Jerry showed me how to throw things out the window onto patients entering the office. This was my first memory of someone being mean and selfish. I had many more of such experiences to follow. After Jerry moved out, my relationship with children my age was negative. My next-door neighbor, Johnny, played tricks on me to amuse himself. One time, he dug a small hole in the ground, poured water in it and covered it with leaves. He then urged me to stick my foot in it. I said, “Why?” He said, “Never mind why, it is fun. We all did it.” So, I stuck my foot in the wet hole and got my foot soaked. All the other kids laughed, but I to cried. Later, I had a similar experience when my parents and others convinced me there was an omnipotent man in the sky who created everything and could be prayed to. They also told me everyone else believed in Him. Another time Johnny broke open the base of a snowman and pointed to some brown stuff at the center of the base. He said, “Do you know what that brown stuff is?” I said, “No, what is it? “It is the boogey man,” he replied. I started to cry and said, “What is the boogey man?” He said, “The boogey man is a mean monster that eats little boys!” So, I ran home crying. Later in life my parents and others convinced me there was a boogie man named Satan who tempted us to do bad things and would spend an eternity with those who were burning in hell for not believing in a man who was thought to be God’s son 2000 years ago. Johnny’s torments did not stop there. We went up into the attic to play and he opened an empty trunk, big enough for a five-year old boy. He said, “Get in.” I said, “No, why don’t you get in?” He said, “Okay, if I get in, will you get in?” I agreed, so he got in and quickly got out again. Then, he said it was my turn. I got in the trunk and he shut the trunk and it locked. It was pitch black dark in there and I started to cry. I yelled for help, but he said he could not open it. He said he would go get some help and he left me in there crying. He went downstairs and my mother told me that she caught him as he was leaving our house. She said, “Where’s Dwight?” “He is up in the attic in a trunk,” Johnny proclaimed. My mother rushed up and found me still crying in the locked trunk. Somehow she got it open and I am here to write about it. My point here is that my relationships with kids at age 5 consisted of a boy who made me envious and a boy who tormented me and sent me into darkness, like Satan. This bully and the many that followed later in life did not help my social life. While I am not a total anti-social person today, I am quite comfortable being alone. I usually like to take the side of the underdog. But this did not affect my criminality or my religiosity, so keeping with the topic of this book, I wrote about my first crime. My first crime that I recall was stealing Ex-lax from a boarder’s dresser drawer. The chocolaty taste of the Ex-lax kept me coming back for more, but I finally had to stop when I acquired a severe case of diarrhea. I still like chocolate but I have not had another Ex-lax since 1961. In 1962, my dad bought a new two-story house out in the country on Onondaga Road, where he continued to practice chiropractic and take in boarders. Up until this point, I was not very aware of my parents’ religion. My dad tells me we went to Church, but I do not have any memories of it in New York.  We did not let Christian Convention missionaries live with us. That all changed on Onondaga Road. The first missionary that lived with us taught me my first hymn, “Jesus Loves Me This I Know, For the Bible Tells Me So.” This hymn title encapsulates the naivety and gullibility of members of Christian Conventions. One day, down in the basement of a neighbor, my “friends” put me in a big chair and strapped me into it. They said they were going to electrocute me. I did not know what electrocute meant, but I did not like the sound of it so I started crying. They finally let me go but I remember that experience as being terrifying. Southern California New York decided to license Chiropractors so rather than taking the New York test and living in the cold winters of inland New York, my father decided to move to California and take the California Chiropractic test. So, he sold the Onondaga house including everything in it, like my beloved bicycle. We packed everything we owned into our 1960 Peugeot sedan (see picture) and drove out to the Golden State.

My dad, me, and my mom next to our Pugeot

I did not have many friends as a child because I moved from school to school many times until I was eight. My dad liked to trade real estate. By the time I was 8, I had moved from Burbank trailer to a Burbank apartment, to Syracuse (2 homes), Palm Springs, CA (2 homes), San Diego (3 homes), El Centro, CA and Holtville (both in the Imperial Valley desert). I wanted to fit in with my peers, but I always felt I was different because of my religion and because I was frequently the new kid in school. One day in San Diego I was walking home from the store by myself. I boy who was about two years older than me walked passed me and said, “punk” to me. “Shut up,” I muttered under my breath but loud enough for him to hear. He turned around and glared at me and I at him. “What did you say, punk?” I froze and just stared at him. He was standing about 18 inches away from me, giving me a dirty look. Then, he just cocked his arm back and launched a punch into my nose. My nose started to bleed and I walked home crying. When I arrived home, I told him what happened and he said, “Who is he? I’ll take care of him!” “I don’t know,” I said. My father talked tough and made me feel protected, but he never told me what I should do next time something like this happens because he did not know what to do. When my father was a child, because he was taught to follow Jesus’s teaching about “turning the other cheek,” my father had never been in a fight either. He said he always talked his way out of trouble. I believe my father did not teach me what to say to bullies because he was too busy for me. I can only remember 2 occasions when my father played with me. We played catch with a baseball once and once he took me to a diamond and hit fly balls for me to chase. Both events involved baseball because that was the sport he loved but was not allowed to play as a child. My lack of play with my dad is no surprise, given his childhood. Not all of my acquaintances as a child were negative. I had my first positive experience with a peer named Eddie when I was seven years old in San Diego. Most of our play dates were fun. Eddie and I played cowboys and Indians a lot. He wanted to be the cowboy and so did I. One day, I somehow talked him into letting me be the cowboy, but it turned out badly. He shot me with is bow and a sharpened dowel for an arrow. He hit me in the lip. My mother fixed my lip with a butterfly bandage. I still have the scar. I later found out that Eddie became a police officer for the San Diego Police Department. I did have one San Diego friend named Randy who did not inflict any pain on me, but we did experience some pain inflicted on us by someone else. One day, we were exploring a heavily wooded canyon. Randy picked up a ball he found on the ground and threw it into the bushes. Soon, an older boy started to yell at us, “Hey you. Now go get that ball. That was our ball” yelled the bullies. The older boy had friends watching as the bullying began. “You had better start looking for that ball and keep looking until you find it or I am going to beat both of you up!” Randy and I started crying and looking for the ball. This ball search seemed to go on all day. The boy just kept yelling at us. We never found the ball and he never beat us up, but I remember that day as the first time someone had yelled at me. It was terrifying. As a result of my constant moving and bad experiences with children, my parents and the church people were a big part of my childhood. The adults in my life were the people I was trying to please, but I was frustrated with them because they never accepted me as an equal due to my youth.

Imperial Valley, CA and My Parent Quitting Christian Conventions

I did not actually remember attending any CC meetings until we moved to El Centro, CA, Imperial County in 1964, but my father told be in 2010 that I rarely ever missed a Sunday worship in my life up to that point, but he said that he did not believe CC members were the only people going to heaven. My mother, however, did believe. My brother Brent was born. I remember once my dad was babysitting Brent. Brent would not stop crying and go to sleep so my dad started to spank him. Brent cried even louder, so my dad spanked him again, but harder. I guess my dad learned from his dad. I was listening to Brent cry but I could not stand it. I went outside and kept walking until I could not hear him cry any more. I cried a lot at CC meetings too. I remember one time in church my father took me upstairs and gave me a spanking because I was crying during church. Later in life my father told me that the reason he quit going to the CC meetings because he got tired of me crying in church and did not want to put me through that suffering any more. They stopped going to meetings when I was 8. My mother did not want to stop going to church, but she also was taught that the man was the head of the family and he had decided to stop church going, so we did. I was a little worried because I thought maybe I was destined for Hell because I was taught that only CC members were going to heaven. The rest of humanity was destined to burn for trillions of years in Hell.

Holtville, CA and Getting “Saved”

When I was eight years old, my dad bought a house in Holtville, which is 10 miles from El Centro. It was a nice house with 4 bedrooms, two garages, a huge patio, and 4 lawns for me to mow. Heretofore, my father would not let my mother practice chiropractic, but she kept pleading and he finally relented. He converted the front garage into a chiropractic office for her. One of my mother’s new patients was Brother Fuller, the pastor of The First Southern Baptist Church of Holtville. My mother and I started attending his church. I did not like church, but I liked Brother Fuller because whenever he came in for a chiropractic treatment, he would talk to me and give me a Certs mint. I saw someone being baptized and I asked my mother if I could be baptized. She said yes, but only after I reached “the age of accountability “ and “accepted Jesus as my savior.”  Again, I was frustrated by my young age and wanted to prove that I had reached “the age of accountability” so I could be “saved” and baptized. I had a similar frustrating experience about being young when my parents would not let me get my cards read by a fortune teller friend. One day, the preacher talked to me about Jesus. He read John 3:16 to me: “For God so loved the world, he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever shall believeth in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” I still know it by heart. “Dwight, Jesus died for you and he loves you very much. Will you accept Jesus Christ as your savior?” I started crying,  “It must be true that I am being ‘saved’ because I am crying,” I thought. Later, I was baptized in a tub behind the pulpit by being dunked in water by the preacher at age 10, 1967. I went to church regularly: On Sunday, it was 9:30 Training Union, 10:00 Sunday School 11:00 Morning Worship 6:00 Evening Sunday School 7:00 Evening Worship Wednesday 7:00 Prayer Meeting Thursday 7:00 Visitation of people needing saving In the summer, there was a week of church camp and a week of vacation bible school. I went to it all. I memorized bible verses and listened to sermon after sermon. Sometimes I had questions. The first question I had was, “How did Adam and Eve have grandchildren if they only had two children, Cain and Abel, both boys?  There was always an answer. In this case, the answer was that the bible did not mention the girls that were born because girls were not important back then. Also incest was okay back then because God had not yet introduced the ten commandments, which, by the way, did not mention incest. In fact incest was never prohibited in the bible. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incest_in_the_Bible Is it any wonder that I eventually turned atheist after switching religions like I did. First I was told one religion was true and the only way. Then, was told, no, we were wrong there is actually a better truth. After awhile a child begins to ask, “How do I know this religion is right. After all, we were wrong before. I am not sure what effect switching religions had on me, but I read that children from divorces are 2.2 time more likely to lose their faith as an adult than a child from a stable marriage.

More Bullies

In Holtville there was a man named Dwight Riccer who was thought to be mentally unbalanced because he walked around town a lot and if a person talked to him, he would tell tall stories about his hero days in the Korean War. In order to belittle him, they pronounced his name Dee-white rather than blending the D and w to form a blended sound. When I was new to Holtville Elementary School the local bullies taught me who Dwight Riccer was and then proceeded to call me Dee-white in order to belittle me. One bully named Michael Johnson chose me as one of his favorite victims because I never fought back. I always talked my way out of fights like my dad said (note I used the word said, not the word taught). One day, I saw Michael and his friends hanging out. I walked faster and hoped they did not see me. Then I heard Mike say, “Hey Deewite, come here.” I walked over to him and I said, “What do you want?” “I am going to kick your ass” he said. “Why?” I queried. “Because you eat shit,” he answered. “But, I don’t want to fight you,” I insisted. Then Michael and his friends laughed and I walked away and went home. I never told my parents about the bullies. I suppose I thought that it would not do any good. What I did do was to unconsciously find a tough guy friend to protect me from bullies. One day in the school playground I was killing moths with a stick and I met a tough looking guy named Eddie Hipp who was also killing butterflies. We became best friends. It was not until I became an adult that I retrospectively realized that I befriended Eddie in order to protect me from bullies. Bullies did not bother me when I was with Eddie. Did Being Bullied Contribute to Me Seeking God? I think that being bullied did contribute to me seeking God because, like Eddie Hipp who could protect me, God was a tough guy too. He lead his people, the Israelites to murder, rape (Numbers 31: 17-18 plus many more), and kill babies (Hosea 13:16) in the old testament.

Dad Teaches Me To Steal

One night, when I was age 9, my dad and his visiting brother decided, after a few beers, that we needed a brick barbecue by our swimming pool. So my dad, my uncle and I got into the station wagon late at night and drove over to a place where piles and piles of concrete blocks, the kind with two holes to allow for metal bars to reinforce a building, were stored. I helped them load up the  station wagon and we drove back home to build the barbecue. There was  a lot of laughing and joking that night. That night I learned that it was not only okay to steal, but stealing is fun.

My Entrance Into the World of Criminality

When Eddie Hipp and I were about 10 or 11, after my parents divorced, we rode our bikes into the country, and broke into abandoned houses, explored them and “broke things up.” Each of us had what we called a “breaker upper,” usually metal bar, that we used to break windows, bottles, and any thing that would give a dramatic shatter if we hit it. We really did not think we were doing anything wrong because we thought these were already broken houses that we were speeding them along their way to being demolished. We also loved to set fires and put the fires out. We went to into the vacant lot behind my house, set the dried grass on fire, let the fire get as big as we thought we could stomp out with our feet, and then stomp out the fire. One night, we found an old whiskbroom that we set on fire and then threw as far as we could into the vacant lot behind my house. We ran over to stomp out the rather large grass fire, but I twisted my ankle and I left Eddie was to extinguish the fire by himself. Then, we heard a man’s voice, “Hey, what are you doing?” “Oh shit,” Eddie said, “what do we do now?” As it turns out the man’s voice came from a teenage neighbor boy with some of his friends. “Let’s get out of here,” I cried. So we ran as best as I could with my twisted ankle to my house, leaving the grass fire burning. The teenage neighbor boy and his friends ran over and some of them put out the fire while others chased after us. Eddie and I climbed into my bedroom window. With my behind still hanging out the window, I heard the voice say, “There they are!” The teenagers knocked on our front door. It was about 1 or 2 A.M. My mother answered the door and talked to the teenagers who told her that they saw her boys setting grass on fire. My mother said, “Well it wasn’t my boy. He and his friend are sound asleep in the bedroom. Dwight! Wake up, an come here!” We acted like we were dragging ourselves out of bed. As we sauntered around the hallway corner, and I innocently asked, “What is going on?” We ended up confessing our misdeed and apologizing to my mother and the teenage boys, but we did not learn our lesson. One day, shortly after Christmas, we piled up a stack of dry Christmas trees and started a huge bonfire. My grandmother, whom I had never seen run before came running out crying, “Help, help, fire, fire! We just watched the fire burn down. Each time Eddie and I did something bad, my mother just made us apologize and that was it! There was no spanking, restriction, or punishment of any kind. We just kept on being juvenile delinquents. We also liked to turn off people’s electricity at the main switch and go hide to watch them and see how long it took them to figure out what happened. One day, when were bored with pulling electric mains, we were looking at someone’s dune buggy they kept behind their house, unprotected. I said, “Hey, I have an idea! Let’s put sand in this dune buggy’s gas tank. I bet that will make it sputter, ha ha ha.” So we did put sand in the dune buggy’s gas tank and a few days later the buggy owners figured out it was us and we ended up having to apologize again. Fortunately, they figured out what was wrong right away and cleaned out the tank; otherwise we would have ruined the engine. Since I have been bullied so much in my childhood, it is only fair to mention the little girl that Eddie and I bullied. We never hurt her physically, but we yelled at her and made her cry many times. She was about 5 years old and Eddie and I were 11. Nicky had cute fat cheeks and big round eyes. For some unexplained reason, whenever we looked at that innocent face, we felt compelled to be mean to her and make her cry. We also played tricks on my brother Brent who is 7 years younger than I am. One day, we tied a rope across the bottom of my bedroom doorway and yelled, “Brent, Brent, hurry, come here. You gotta’ see this.” Brent came running in at full speed, tripped over our rope and fell flat on his face. I am sure Brent felt some pain, but he did not require medical attention. I can say that bullying Nicky and my brother were the two most regretful actions of Eddie and me. A complete list of our misdeeds is beyond the scope of this book, but I can say would include firecrackers, exploding aerosol cans, jumping off high places, amputating arms of crawdads, and shooting birds, Converting Eddie to Christianity I tried to convert Eddie to Christianity by inviting him to my church, The First Southern Baptist Church of Holtville with Pastor Fuller (the man at which my dad slung his six shooters). During church, we asked my mother to excuse us to go to the bathroom. Sometimes would yield to the temptation of practicing one our favorite pastimes: exploring. One Sunday we went into a large broom closet. We discovered that, behind all of the cleaning supplies was an opening. Like any good explorers we needed to find out where that opening went and it was just the right size through which to crawl. We crawled on our bellies through the opening and kept crawling until reached a dead end, at which time we discovered we were under the pulpit. We looked though a screen a saw the pews and a lot of legs. We listened to the preacher a few minutes and return to our seats next to my mother. My mother never asked what took so long. She did not pay attention much to that sort of thing. We returned several times to our sub-pulpit hiding place during church and were never discovered. Needless to say, I did not lead Eddie Hipp to the Lord. My Mother My mother was not a bad mother. As a person, she is the most generous people I know. Once during a train trip to Iowa, we had a lay over in Kansas City. We walked through a park where she me a man who told her about his troubles and that he needed money to get back home. She talked about taking him home with us. Fortunately, she just gave him some money and we went on our way, but this illustrates the type of person she was. In her religion, she was taught to follow Jesus’ example. Matthew 5:40 (New International Version) “And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.” To this day, she continues to give of what little she has to pretty much whoever needs it. My Father My father was a good businessman and not very generous, except when my mother divorced him. He gave her the Holtville house and some cash. He taught me to take of myself because “God won’t plant your potatoes,” he told me frequently. He was a strict disciplinarian, which no doubt originated from his father severely beating him frequently. He taught me self-discipline and how I am the only one who is going to look out for me, so I had better do the job.

My Parents’ Divorce

My parents tell me that they loved each other very much. I would see them snuggling in bed, just laying there and I would think to myself, “My parents really love each other. They would never get a divorce.” My mother’s devotion to the church pushed a wedge between my parents. My dad wanted to do fun things like drive to the mountains on a Sunday but my mother wanted to go to church instead and accused my dad of taking her away from her church. Once, we actually did drive to the mountains on a Sunday, but they just argued and I saw my father backhand my mother in the face while he was driving and I was in the back seat. My father owned some guns and I enjoyed target practicing with him. Other than two times playing baseball catch, my father never did anything with me except target practice with his guns. My father was quite jealous of the preacher, Brother Fuller. Once, Brother Fuller came to our door, looking for my mother. My father knew it was Brother Fuller at the door, so he came to the door wearing his two-6-shooters in his holster. Dad opened the door, pulled out his two pistols and spun them on his fingers like a rodeo performer and said, “Hello, how can I help you?” Needless to say, my mother did not like that greeting too much. In order to keep the marriage together, my dad joined the Southern Baptist Church and was baptized. One Saturday morning, when Brent was 3 and I was 10, I was invited to go to a nearby lake with the church youth group. I got my swimming suit and left for the lake while my dad was sleeping and Brent was playing. I had a fun time, but upon my return, my dad greeted me with a sour face. He said, Dwight, get into my room.” I knew what was going to happen and I became terrified. “No, dad, what did I do?” “Get on the bed and lie on your stomach,” he ordered. He started to wail on my behind with his hand, but that hurt him too much so he took off his shoe and started pounding me with the shoe. As he was pummeling me with both hands on his shoe, he They divorced when I was ten and my dad moved away. I visited my dad in San Diego a few times. On the trip their I got to hear about what a lunatic my mother was. My dad also told me stories about him and his brother shoplifting food in Palm Springs. Dad said they would enter the Alpha Beta store and my dad would say, “What should we get today, little brother”?

Church and Mischief

By age 11, I had become a bible-thumping evangelical Southern Baptist who carried a New Testament in his shirt pocket for “leading people to the Lord.” I lead one friend to the Lord who later became an Army chaplain. However, my heart was never into talking to people about Jesus. I was worried about being seen as a Jesus freak. At about the same time, I began my shoplifting career. I would walk to the corner market several times per week and steal candy, usually a Payday bar. I enjoyed the adrenalin rush. I would get very nervous before I stuffed the candy in my pocket, but the relief of tension as I walked out the store door was a real high for me. My mother and I went to church frequently: On Sunday we went to training union at 9:30, Sunday School at 10:00 worship services at 11AM and 7:00PM. On Wednesdays we attended prayer service. In Sunday school, I remember asking questions about the Bible: How could God have never been created? What did God do before creating the world? What do we do in heaven? How could Jesus be his own father? Many times when I did not understand the answer, I was told that I would understand when I got older. I was again frustrated because I was not old enough. As I aged, though, none of my questions were answered and my understanding of the world did not become clearer as a Christian.

My First Step-Father

One of our church friends introduced my mother to C.L. Younes, a cattle truck driver with two boys, about my age. They got married and he and his boys moved in with us. The old son, Barry was one month older than me. He became my best friend.  The other son named Albert was not my favorite person. He lied and stole money from my mother’s purse, but so did I so I am not sure why I did not like him.

My Serious Questioning About My Faith Began

Then, in a sophomore high school world religions class, a guest speaker preacher was talking about Heaven and Hell. A Moslem foreign exchange girl raised her hand and asked, “I was born and raised a Muslim. Do you think I will be going to Hell? The preacher replied, “Well, yes. If you have heard about Jesus Christ’s offer of eternal life and do not believe in Him, then you will go to Hell when you die.” There was a hush in the class, followed by some murmuring. I thought to myself, “This is not right.” I already knew from Sunday school that the preacher was correct, according to fundamentalist dogma, but there was something about watching the look on that girl’s face when that preacher told her she was going to hell that made me stop and think more deeply than before about my faith. I asked myself, “How could a benevolent God send a girl to Hell to burn for trillions of years just because her parents taught her about Islam and not Christianity? That would not be fair because I spent my entire childhood being indoctrinated with Christian fundamentalism so that would give me an unfair advantage. Then, I thought about CC and the fact that they believe everyone in the world, except for the one million members of CC, is going to hell, but they are going to heaven, mostly because they were “lucky” enough to be born into CC. “What kind of God would be so unjust?” The fundamentalist answer would be that God already knew who was going to hell before he created us. Isn’t that idea even worse? He knew a person was going to Hell but he allowed him/her to be born any way? I began to question whether the God that I knew would issue eternal punishment to an innocent religious girl who was raised in a non-Christian religion. My Second Step Father, Leroy Sayre, D.C., The Atheist and Biology Class Were a One Two Punch My mother married a Chiropractor who was a chiropractic professor at her chiropractic college when she was in school. We had many long conversations about the existence of God and ultimately I decided I was atheist in 1974. Later, in college biology class , I learned about evolution and finally I felt like I was starting to understand the universe. Finally things made sense. I was old enough! I became a passive atheist; that is, I did not try to convince anyone to be atheist or join any group.

The Attempted Shoplifting of a 8 Track Tape

My friend and I decided to steal some 8 track tapes from the local J.C. Penny store in 1975. We went to the eight track tape department one at a time. First, my friend stuffed a tape in his pants and started walking out of the store, but he noticed that someone spotted him so he dumped the tape and left. It was a good thing that he dumped the tape because he was eighteen years old and would have been prosecuted as an adult. I was only seventeen. I took a tape and they caught me as I left the store. The police brought me into the station and called my mother who arrived shortly thereafter. She told the police that she would make sure I never stole again and the police let me go in her custody. She made me promise not to steal again, but did not give me a consequence, as usual. She trusted that I would learn from my lesson, but I did not.

The Bike Trip and My Jail Term

I was a senior at Holtville High School in a class called “Senior problems” in 1975.  For the most part it was the biggest waste of a high school class that I had experienced, but one day while talking in a small group talking about college a friend said, “Hey, what if we rode our bicycles to school?” One friend was going to go to school 1000 miles away, Humbolt State University. I was going to College of the Redwoods in Eureka, CA (20 miles from Humbolt State) and the other friend was going to a school in central California. The three of us decided to ride our bikes to our respective colleges. We bought bikes and planned our trip. We trained by taking three separate roundtrips to El Centro, CA, which were 20 mile rides and decided we were ready. We went on this trip. It took us 16 days and there were many adventures I could describe, but those adventures would be off topic. The main point for this book is that I obtained most of my food during the trip by shoplifting. We stopped at grocery stores and while my friends were paying for their food the legitimate way, I was stuffing my clothing with ham, cheese, canned goods, or candy. My friends were happy to share in the loot. After we finished our trip, we had about two weeks before school started so my Humbolt friend and I decided to hitch-hike to Oregon. When we got to Brookings, Oregon, I needed a new marker pen to make a hitch-hiking sign, so I went into a grocery store and snuck a marking pen in my pants and walked out the door. As I was leaving, I heard a voice, say, “Hey you, come here!” I knew that voice was referring to me and it probably was not good news, so I ditched the pen behind a brick support column and turned around, and said, “Who me?” “Did you steal a marking pen,” said the security guard. “No, not me,” I lied. So, he searched me, but could not find the pen. I thought I was getting away with my crime when I heard a store employee say, “I found it!” My heart sank. I was busted. They arrested me and brought me into jail while my friend went off along his way. I spent the night in the Brookings jail and the next day, I went before the judge and plead guilty, thinking they would just give me a warning or probation, but the judge sentenced me to 30 days in the county jail. This was not a happy time. I went to the county jail and spent 2 weeks with about 25 inmates in a bunk bed room. I remember a guy who called himself Dumptruck and I remember staying to myself in my bunk almost the whole time in jail, but not much more do I remember. I had the public defender get me out 2 weeks early so I could go to school on the first day. Living in the Hills of College of the Redwoods My educational plan in the beginning of college was to attend College of the Redwoods (CR) in Eureka, CA, on the northern coast of California, and then transfer to Humbolt State University in Arcata, CA, just twenty miles north of Eureka in order to major in oceanography. After one quarter of living in the dorms at CR, two friends and I decided to live off the land. We found a sight in the hills behind the college. It was a half mile of hiking up a steep hill to get to the site of our new home, but the daily hike did not seem to matter to any of us. We cut down aspen trees and hauled long grass up from the bottom of the hill and made a thatched roof house shaped like a right triangle prism. We had been living in our hut for three weeks, when, one day, we came home to find our home burned down and all of our belongings gone. We called the sheriff, who informed us that the land owner had asked the sheriff to take our belongings, but they were not going to press charges. For the rest of the year, we lived in one of my friends pick up camper, sleeping in various places and getting kicked out of many of those places.

The Moonies

One day, during my hitch-hiking around California in the summer of 1976, I was looking at the bulletin board at University of California, Berkeley’s, when a smiling girl approached me and said, “Would you like to join me for lunch at my house? I was feeling pretty lonely so it did not take much convincing to accept her invitation. She took me to a big house with a lot of people in it. They asked me to help cook some lasagna. I learned from the cook that fennel seed is the secret to success in cooking good lasagna. I ate with about 15 people at a huge table. Everyone was smiling and asking me questions. I felt like the center of attention. They asked me if I had a place to stay and I said, no, so they invited me to stay at their house that night. They also invited me to come out to their farm in Booneville, CA. The purpose of my hitchhiking was to have an adventure and going out to a strange farm with some strange happy people seemed like the next leg of an adventure so I accepted that invitation too. They took me to their ranch in Booneville and I had a great time the first few days. The first thing in the morning, about 30 others and I went outside and formed a big hand holding circle. One guy led us in a prayer, which did not seem unusual to me since I was raised going to church every Sunday. Then a guy with a guitar led us in singing “When the Red Robin Goes Bobbing Along,” We sang other songs that were not particularly religious. At first, most of our time was spent preparing meals, eating meals, and cleaning up after meals. We also had meetings in which a man talked about the importance of being happy, being together, and helping one another. Then they had me picking zucchini out in their fields. At that point it start to feel less like and adventure and more like free labor for them. At first, their sermons were only about brotherly love. Later in the week, though the meetings started to get more religious in nature. They started talking about God and I started to get suspicious. I asked if I could leave and they gave me a ride to the freeway. It was years later that found out that it was the Moonies with which I had spent a week. The Presbyterian Church of Berkeley While going to University of California, Berkeley, I was lonely, so I started attending a nearby Presbyterian church. I started going to Choir practice and tried to get involved in the church, but it was not the friendly as the Baptist church to which I had been accustomed. In the Baptist church, I felt like people cared about me because adults smiled, shook my hand, and asked me how I was doing. No such friendliness was apparent to me at the Presbyterian Church. I tried to believe so that I could fit in somewhere, but the lack of friendliness lead me to stopped attending.

Stealing Textbooks and a Class Ring

In 1978, I transferred to University of California, Berkeley (UCB) and majored in political economy of natural resources. I had a high school friend who was very intelligent. He went to an Ivy League school and I looked up to him as my mentor. During winter break of 1978, I took a bus back east to visit him. He told be how he got his textbooks by just picking them up and walking nonchalantly out the door. I tried the same thing at UCB and it worked like a charm. I stole many books and I took a class ring for the UCB law school Boalt Hall. After graduating from UCB in 1978, I ended my shoplifting hobby. I am not sure why, but I transferred to San Diego State to work on my MBA degree and I guess I thought I better get legitimate before starting my business career. San Diego and My “New Age” Experience After graduating from UCB with a bachelor of science degree in political economy of natural resources, I transferred to San Diego State University to work on my master’s in business administration (MBA) degree. It was 1979 and the New Age Movement was just going strong. “The New Age movement is a spiritual and quasi-religious Western movement that developed in the latter half of the twentieth century. Its central precepts revolve around “drawing on both Eastern and Western spiritual and metaphysicaltraditions and then infusing them with influences from self-help and motivational psychologyholistic healthparapsychology, consciousness research and quantum physics[2] in order to create “a spirituality without borders or confining dogmas” that is inclusive and pluralistic.[3] Another of its primary traits is holding to “a holistic worldview”,[4] thereby emphasising that theMind, Body and Spirit are interrelated[1] and that there is a form of Oneness and unity throughout the universe.[5] It further attempts to create “a worldview that includes both science and spirituality”[6] and thereby embraces a number of forms ofscience and pseudo-science.” Wikipedia I went to a free seminar on meditation. The teacher was a young man, about 30, who convinced me to go to his house with others to study meditation further. At the meeting we meditated by staring at picture of a guru. I thought it was too much like worshiping a man, which is something against which my Baptist background had indoctrinated me. I was unhappy with my MBA studies and enrolled in a Marriage Child and Family Counselling certificate program in The Holistic University of San Diego, which is very New Age-ish and very expensive, compared to San Diego State. I only took one class there: Pornography De-sensitisation, during which we watched pornography for eight hours in order to become de-sensitized against pornography. After this class, I decided that this program was not for me. I moved back to Holtville with my mother and worked as a substitute teacher while I decided what to do next, which was to transfer to California Poly Technic State University in San Luis Obispo (Cal Poly SLO) to finish my MBA. At Cal Poly, I met a Christian girl who had an inquisitive mind. When I told her that I was atheist, she was fascinated. She pumped me  relentlessly for information. She asked, “How could you be atheist? Aren’t you afraid of Hell? Who do you talk to when you need help from God? What will you do when a loved one dies? What is your meaning in life? After several intermittent conversations like this, she finally started to question her beliefs and eventually she became atheist. I was very happy with my accomplishment. Some day, I wish I could help others like I helped her. Ayn Rand and Atlas Shrugged In college, I read Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged and became a believer in “enlightened self-interest.” I followed a path of monetary gain all through my twenties. In my thirties, every time I watched “Christmas Carol” I poo pooed the idea of feeling sorry for the cripple boy, but every year I saw it, it wore me down. Finally after age 40, I allowed myself to cry at Christmas Carol. That was the beginning of the end of my life as a devout capitalist. I began to realize that there was something more to life than making money. My Marriage to a Mormon Who Introduced Me to Transcendental Meditation I worked for Clorox for 7 years (June 1981-December 1987). During that time, I met a woman 7 years older than me who wanted to have sex daily. Since sex was the most important factor to me at the time (age 24). She was a Mormon. She brought me to church once and all I can remember was that I could not hear a word of what the minister said because of all the noise from the children. She told me that her previous marriage was to a man with homosexual tendencies. Before she and her previous husband were married, they went to a minister for counselling about what to do about her boyfriend’s gay thoughts. The minister said that they should get married and have kids and the thoughts about other men will go away. So, they got married and had three children and her marriage to the gay guy lasted 8 years. I married her in 1982 and I had a ready made family of her and her three kids. She introduced me to Transcendental Meditation (TM) and I paid the $300 to be trained. I did the training because she asked me too and I thought it would be good for my health. As I approached the end of my training, I was told that the advanced meditators engage in flying, which is meditating so well that the meditator’s body lifts off the ground. After I heard that, I decided I did not need any advanced TM training. My Marriage to a Catholic My marriage to the Mormon lasted 13 months and I divorced her due to her infidelity, but in 1984, I met my current wife, Anne in 1984 and we married in 1986. She was a non-practicing Catholic. Although she had a very strong conscience, she never talked about God and so we got along fine. She told her I was an atheist. She did not like it when I called Madalyn O’ Hair’s atheist hotline and listened to O’ Hair talk about atheism. I really miss that hotline. Shady Real Estate Deals We had our son Christopher in 1987. In 1988 I decided to go into financial services in order to make more money, so I studied for the Series 7 securities license to sell stocks, bonds, and mutual funds and passed it before I started looking for a job as a stockbroker. None of the major stock broker companies hired me so I found a job selling and insurance with Metropolitan Life Insurance Company (MetLife). I worked there for a year until I found a better job selling mutual funds and annuities at Glendale Federal Savings and Loan. It was there that I met a branch manager who partnered up with me to buy real estate being auctioned on the county courthouse steps for a low price and then selling at a considerable profit. Our first property was a small bungalow in the slums of Oakland, CA. The first mortgage holder was foreclosing on a $20,000 loan but the house was worth about $60,000 as is. While I was bidding on the property, a man approached me and told me that I should not bid on the house because everyone there had agreed that one particular man was going to buy it without competition for the minimum bid of $20,000. Then, they would have a separate auction after the auction to determine who would get the property. I agreed to this illegal deal and ended up getting the property for $30,000. It was quite nervous when I delivered $30,000 cash to these strangers, but I did it and got the property. My partner and I sold it for $60,000 and split the $30,000 profit. My mind went wild with the numbers. I thought that if I kept making money at that rate, I would be a millionaire in 10 years. Losing my Securities License Unfortunately, the market dried up and I started losing money. I decided to follow the advise from a former Metlife colleague and join a financial planning company that sells financial plans, mutual funds and annuities.  In order to join the company, I was required to sell a certain dollar volume of product before being appointed to the company. The easiest, but the most improper customers to whom to sell were my Glendale Federal customers. After selling my pre-appointment quota and joining the company, I was caught by Glendale Federal and fined $3000 by the Securities and Exchange Commission.  I did not pay the fine; instead, I filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy because I was very far in debt. As a result of not paying my fine, I lost my license to sell securities. The Doctor Laura Show I drifted from sales job to sales job, not being very successful in any of them. My last sales job, in 1996, was selling copiers to business. I spent a lot of time on the road driving locally in my car. Every day, at noon,  I listened to The Doctor Laura show on my car radio. She resonated with me. I liked her passion for being honest because I had enough dishonesty in my life.  I soon became a conservative, ultra-honest anti-abortionist who told my son he could not watch the cartoon show Doug because the main character said, “I choke on tests in school.” Family Radio At night time while I was working out with weights, I listened to a Family Radio preacher who talked about the importance of saving souls by leading people to Jesus. I am not sure why I listened to him except that I was trying to become a better person, an honest man who did not break the law. I really tried to believe in what he was saying because he was very charismatic. I listened to him for several months on a daily basis. I wanted to believe what he was saying about the bible and salvation were true, but once he started talking about how a woman should stay married to an abusive husband, I finally got tired of him  and stopped listening to him. I Was a Catholic Atheist Since then, I have been drawn into religious life many times because I yearned for fellowship and connection to something bigger than me. However, because I did not believe in God, none of the religious episodes ever lasted very long. Perhaps the most enduring religious phase was when I joined the Catholic Church in order to be a part of the same church as my wife, my older son born in 1987, and my younger son born in 1990. It is very easy to be an atheist in the Catholic Church because there is very little discussion of beliefs. In fact, during my become-a-catholic class, I told the priest that I had doubts that God existed, but he said that was okay with him. After all, he probably thought I would be contributing when the plate was passed. I could look and feel very holy without saying anything. I just crossed myself, bowed before entering the pew and put holy water on my forehead, but I felt very disingenuous doing so. I did not have to look anyone in the eye and say that I believed in God, like I would have to do as a Baptist. I volunteered to be an usher who helps pass the collection plate.  I  paid $150 to have my first marriage annulled so that I could have have a marriage ceremony in the Catholic Church with my Catholic wife. At the time, I thought I was helping cement my marriage and helping build a strong family. Once the priest pedophile scandal started to unravel, my interest in Catholicism began to turn to disgust. Once my youngest son was confirmed in 2007, my family stopped going to mass. Over-Eaters Anonymous In 2004, I developed an eating disorder of binge eating. I joined the 12 Step, Overeaters Anonymous. I was required to have a belief in a “higher power,” so I created an imaginary higher power and summoned up some old feelings of powerlessness, smallness, and worthlessness that I felt as a Christian. It actually seemed to help me. I immediately stopped binge eating and have not binge eaten since then. I attended meetings for about 6 weeks. I think that the success had to do with the feelings of helplessness in which I admitted I could not quit by myself and to let my higher power take over. Also, the fellowship of fellow over-eaters helped me. Expressing my feelings and hearing the stories of others helped me better understand my condition. I Followed My Dream On my 47th birthday (2004) I had a dream that I earned my Ph.D. in education and became a professor. I decided that must be my fate, to be a professor. I am not sure why I did this. My best explanation is that I felt like such a goal, empowered by a dream, would be motivating and inspirational. It would provide more meaning in my life than I had at the time. My first step toward that goal was to get my master’s degree in educational leadership. While I was working on the degree, it did provide motivation to keep trudging along, no matter what my mood was. I can see how believing in a god could provide motivation and inspiration, but mine was contrived. I kept telling myself each time something did not go my way that that mishap was meant to happen so it did not bother me, but my attempt at belief in the supernatural, fate, withered away after I earned my educational administration credential, my first step toward the master’s degree. My faith in dreams started to crumble when I read more scientific explanations for dreams. I became convinced that dreams are just random neuron firings in the brain. Here is a  quote from a 2003 article in Scientific American that explains dreams scientifically. ” There is a whole continuum in the making of connections that we subsequently experience as mental functioning. At one end of the continuum is focused waking activity, such as when we are doing an arithmetic problem or chasing down a fly ball in the outfield. Here our mental functioning is focused, linear and well-bounded. When we move from focused waking to looser waking thought–reverie, daydreaming and finally dreaming–mental activity becomes less focused, looser, more global and more imagistic. Dreaming is the far end of this continuum: the state in which we make connections most loosely. Some consider this loose making of connections to be a random process, in which case dreams would be basically meaningless. The Contemporary Theory of Dreaming holds that the process is not random, however, and that it is instead guided by the emotions of the dreamer.” http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=why-do-we-dream Finding My Identity at an Educational Leadership Retreat I entered a credential program for becoming a school principal. Part of the program was to spend a weekend in the mountains to sensitize us to the plight of minorities. We did exercises to discover our own identities. After the retreat, I started to do my own research into my identity. I researched my genealogy and tried to relive my religious life. I went to a Christian Conventions meeting. I also went to a local Baptist worship service where I was surprised to find myself crying during a hymn. I did not fully understand it then, but later, after reading David Eller’s Atheism Advanced, I realized I cried because my mind tied this experience to previous emotional experiences in church. The hymn made me feel guilty because it reminded me of what I the bible said I did wrong. Praying to Myself Another religious experience as an atheist was that I found myself praying even though I know I was just talking to myself. I rationalized that I was just talking to my subconscious mind. When I tried to stop praying, I would get an empty purposeless feeling about not having an imaginary friend to whom to talk. As of 9/24/10, I still find my self starting to say, “Our heavenly father, thank you for…” Then I catch myself and stop. I sometimes wonder if I will ever stop this bedtime habit. In 2005, I joined a Universalist church that welcomed atheists, but I quit after they said it was expected that I donate at least $100 per month. I went to a book study and we had some lively interesting discussions in which I found there to be many atheist members of that church. Going to church seem to satisfy a need for fellowship and ceremony. When my younger son was about 13, going to Catholic (CCD) classes, he told me that his religion teacher told the class that she saw ghosts and she shared specific instances with the class. My son was rather disturbed about this ghost story telling and I think that experience planted seeds of doubt in his mind about God. Later, after my younger son became a confirmed Catholic at age 17, he told me he had become an atheist. I found out from him that my other son was also atheist. I decided to come out of the closet and be true to myself about my atheism and I have not regretted my decision. However, I still sometimes ask myself, what if I am wrong and I will be going to hell? To fight these irrational thoughts, I became very active on Facebook, joining every Atheist group I could find and contributing to discussions whenever possible. The more active I am as an atheist, the less frequently I wonder whether I am going to hell. It helps me heal from my Christianity when I think, talk, and write about how ridiculous it is to believe in a book of magical tales of unknown authors written thousands of years ago. Although I regret raising my boys as Catholics, I think they will have a much easier time breaking away from irrational thoughts than I did. I hope I can someday help someone break away from religion and irrationality. I hope I can help prevent someone from worrying about whether God was telling him/her to do something or God is leading him/her in a certain direction. All these kinds of thoughts are stressful and totally unnecessary. Recently, I read The God Delusion (Richard Dawkins) and A Letter to a Christian Nation (Sam Harris), which helped me a lot in erasing my irrational doubts about atheism. I am currently reading The God Virus (Darryl Ray), which is helping me to understand why I am having difficulty breaking away from Christianity. Religion is behaves like a virus in many ways and is very difficult to eradicate completely. For example, I want to write an atheist book. Recently I found out I might be unemployed for the summer and I found myself telling myself, “God must have set things up so I can write my book.” I may have these viral episodes the rest of my life. The God Virus also helped me realize that the only way to help rid the world of religion in the U.S. is by improving science education. I also believe I can help an individual recover from the God virus, but only if he/she has already started to recover and are asking questions. If an individual is severely infected, there is virtually no presentation of the facts that will sway him/her. I have never undertaken a cause other than Christianity, but now I want to help rid the world of religion. If there is anything I can do to help heal people from the God virus, I will go to great lengths to further that endeavor.

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  1. […] The God Virus also helped me realize that the only way to help rid the world of religion in the U.S. is by improving science education. I also believe I can help an individual recover from the God virus, but only if he/she has already started to recover and are asking questions. If an individual is severely infected, there is virtually no presentation of the facts that will sway him/her. I have never undertaken a cause other than Christianity, but now I want to help rid the world of religion. If there is anything I can do to help heal people from the God virus, I will go to great lengths to further that endeavor. For an expanded autobiography in progress, seehttps://rudyruddell.wordpress.com/2010/07/23/my-criminalreligious-autobiography-in-progress/ […]

  2. […] I am a humanistic free-thinking atheistic rationalist skeptic. If I am accused of being immoral or baby-eating, I point to humanism. If I am accused of Satan worship, I point to rationalist skeptic. If I am accused of communism, I point to my free-thinking. I have no belief in any god. I am a naturalist. I do not believe in anything supernatural. If there is something beyond my five senses, I do not detect it so it is irrelevant to my life. I have been subjected to many different belief systems in my life. See my biography at https://rudyruddell.wordpress.com/2011/07/09/rudy-ruddells-mini-biography/  or the long version at https://rudyruddell.wordpress.com/2010/07/23/my-criminalreligious-autobiography-in-progress/ […]

  3. I grew up with similar experiences, but I found my skepticism a bit earlier and in a sense, I had to suppress my atheism for the bulk of my time in the Navy.

    It wasn’t until I was 3 years away from retirement that I discovered that I wasn’t alone in my rational thoughts, I discovered some atheist links when I surfed around some links on the old, (now defunct) website safety-alerts.com.

    I felt a new found sense of optimism, but the reality of a society and especially the ingrained aspect of religion in the military, (there’s even an enlisted rating dedicated specifically to religious indoctrination, well, they don’t call it that, they call it or used to call it “religious programs specialist” brought me back to the reality that most people prior to my retirement when they found out that I was an atheist, I typically got more ridicule and people who didn’t respect me previously for their own private agendas, had a new excuse to dislike me that wasn’t as petty as their previous peer pressured
    ostracizing of me.

    Had trouble in my first job after the Navy, I felt unfocused and betrayed as I had a contract in hand that said I was being hired for a 2nd shirt position, yet the “boss” at the time said it was a typo, in my experience, nothing a H.R. department does is by accident, I believe that they lured me into the job under false pretenses, then changed the rules once they had me right where they wanted me on a soon to be eliminated 3rd shift job.

    The extra pay for the shift wasn’t enough and my lack of familiarity with where all the necessary equipment was stored made it more difficult to do my job when I worked in a secured classified area and I had nobody to ask where anything was kept until the 1st shift came in and by then it was too late to get anything accomplished.

    Fortunately, I no longer have to work and I keep busy tending to my autistic boys needs 24/7 365.

    I too married a catholic as I thought from my earlier religious (AOG) indoctrination that marrying a catholic was as close as I was going to come to marrying an atheist, although it was never framed that way, that’s the impression I tickled out of their so-called “warnings” about associating with different religious people.


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