Posted by: rudyruddell | July 9, 2011

Rudy Ruddell’s Ex-Christian Story

I have been married to my wife, Anne since 1986. We had our first son, Christopher in 1987 and our son Scott in 1990. I have worked as a math teacher at Tennyson High School since 1999. On 9/6/10 I separated from my wife. I moved 10 minutes away in Hayward.

This is my ex-Christian story. My parents were both reared in very religious protestant farming families in Iowa. I was born in 1957 while they were attending Los Angeles Chiropractic College. We attended the church in which my parents were raised. This church was called Christian Conventions, but if you asked a member what the name of their church was, they would say they did not have a name.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_Conventions
http://www.workersect.org/2×201.html
However, 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 recently Googled them based on their hymnal. Christian Convention members claim their religion does not need a name because they were the original and only Christians. Christian Conventions members believe that they are the only people going to heaven because only they follow the Bible precisely.

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 pass 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 exchange gifts on Christmas. 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 of them worldwide.

When my dad was about 20 years old, he was a missionary for the Christian Convention church. He was not allowed to own anything. He and his partner just lived off the church members as he travelled. He had a bad experience with his missionary partner so he joined the army. Upon return, he married my mother and both enrolled in chiropractic college. My parents had occasionally expressed doubts about whether Christian Conventions members were the only ones going to heaven.

I did not have many friends as a child because I moved from school to school many times until I was eight. 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. As a result, 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.

When I was seven years old, my parents quit the Christian Conventions Church. When I was eight years old, my mother converted to Southern Baptist while my dad stopped going to church. I was told that I could be baptized, 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. One day, the preacher talked to me about Jesus and I started crying. I was “saved” and was later baptized by being dunked in water by the preacher.

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. They divorced when I was ten and my dad moved away.

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.

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, just sit around? 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.

Then, in a sophomore high school world religions class, a guest speaker preacher told a Moslem foreign exchange girl that she was going to hell when she died. 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. Later, in college, 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.

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.

I did spend a week with the Moonies, not knowing who it was. They lured me in with a meal and kept me there for food and being with a bunch of seemingly happy people. Finally they started to preach their dogma, so I left.
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.

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.

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. 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.

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.
For an expanded autobiography in progress, seehttps://rudyruddell.wordpress.com/2010/07/23/my-criminalreligious-autobiography-in-progress/

Advertisements

Responses

  1. […] 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 […]

  2. Sort of reminds me of the fruitless search I had to find a religion to match my doubts growing up.

    The more I looked, the more human-centric flaws that pointed to an emotional detachment from reality narrative central to most rambling nonsense I was hearing or reading.

    I decided long before I knew there were other atheists, that regardless of whether or not there were other atheists in the world, that i would remain steadfast in my disbelief about all religions.

    The one remaining problem I have is whenever xtians single out other religions for persecution, ridicule and hatred-stoking intolerance, I’m tempted to defend other religions from intolerance, yet I’m stuck with the overwhelming hypocrisy that xtian people display when they criticize “other” religions, but fail to critique their own religion’s failings.

  3. Very interesting read, Rudy. I know what you mean about the God Virus. The ones recovering from the virus and those with the virus. I sometimes feel like if my theist friends were to check my wall on FB and go to some of my atheist posts and be able to read what I read, they would have to change their mind, but No, they do not want to read it, they do not want to not believe, especially if they have lost a spouse or child. It is such a nice feeling to think you may see them again and nothing would deter them from those beliefs.

  4. Jeanhopper,

    I don’t know that any amount of rational discourse will ever be sufficient to convince a theist that their fantasy hybrid version of reality has serious indefensible flaws.

    If a theist wants to change their POV, it usually involves experiencing or coming face to face with a serious contradiction that no amount of denial of evidence is sufficient to refute it’s prescience as a component of cogent human-centric reality.

    I have nothing against what you assume might be sufficient enough in FB or atheist posts to change the minds of your theist friends, but categorically, words alone no matter how convincing the argument is to an atheist, are usually only capable of reinforcing stubbornly held religious mindsets.

    It’s nice to assume that your voice will become the tipping point threshold that should convince theists to dismiss their long-held beliefs, but sadly religious views are a strong emotional conviction and nothing short of a life-threatening experience or an argument that speaks not only their language, but is tailor-made for their world-view.

    In short, any change of religious beliefs has to more than compensate for the emotional comfort they place within their belief system regardless of how they interpret that belief to suit their own religious mental/emotional priority list.

    If you think it will have a positive affect, don’t let me dissuade you, I’m just interested in applying our collective efforts towards presenting our evidence in a benign, non-threatening, non-coercive, non-proselytizing manner.

    • I agree that proselytizing is mostly futile. I do very little unless they theist asks me questions. All of my FB friends are atheist or agnostic so I cannot convert them. I post on FB for my own therapy and learning.

  5. Since I don’t have any actual friends real or virtual, I tend to avoid any discussion with strangers where they’re convinced of their pOV and that everyone in society accepts their POV or else they’re not truly American, (like themselves).

    Granted, I live in a highly conservative and highly corrupt regressively ruined town, I’m retired and my location is pretty much fixed until I become maggot fodder, so it’s not like I can move to improve my relative circle of antagonists as a component of my geographical location.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

%d bloggers like this: