My Religious History

  I've lived in Alaska, Nevada, Arkansas, Colorado, and have spent a lot of time in Arizona with my family.  Before college, I faithfully attended eight churches across the dozen+ homes I've lived in prior to my advanced schooling. Myself and my family were very involved in those churches and had an, overall, immensely positive experience at each of them.  My church history, in chronological order, is as follows: Methodist, Baptist, Baptist, Christian Missionary Alliance, Pentecostal, nondenominational, Pentecostal, nondenominational.  I've also attended services and events at many, many other churches throughout my life.
  All that to showcase that when it comes to Christianity, I have experience.  I was an officially recognized member at several of those churches.  I spent several hours a week (outside of Sunday) at several of those churches to help out, clean, assist in organizing events, ect..  I was involved.  So for this Out Loud I'm going to reflect on my religious history (like the title says.)  
waves at Canada
  Religion was a huge part of my life.  Most of my friends are religious and I've been good friends with several pastors, theological discussions were a staple of my upbringing.  Being as such a significant part of my life was invested in religious activities and beliefs, my post-theistic life still has theology and the philosophy of religion as central topics of study and intrigue.
  As an enjoyer of classical art, I recognize that religious themes are an unavoidable aspect of culture.  Prince of Egypt and Luther (2003) are still some of my all-time favorite movies.  There's a lot of beautiful poetry and words of wisdom in the Bible (in every holy book).  Different religions around the world have introduced beautiful architecture, ceremonial clothing, music, dance, and a lot more.  All this to say, I acknowledge the influence religion has on many aspects of my life.  

  When I was in 7th and 8th grade, my Bible had all of Proverbs highlighted, color-coded, and it was my favorite book of the Bible next to Revelation.  At my Christian Missionary Alliance church I helped set up the stage every Sunday (woke up at 6am to catch a ride with the tech crew van) and soon had a walkie talkie and got to operate a large lighting board for the church.  At the second Pentecostal church I attended I was a youth leader, volunteered at virtually every event, was very close to the pastors and their families (celebrated a Christmas day with them once), often helped with tech, video, sound, event tear down/setup, and was always aware of the goings-on of the church. 
  I was in the waiting room with several other youth leaders when one of my youth pastors was awaiting the birth of his first kid.  My family had a new youth pastor over to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family so he wouldn't be alone.  I've helped my share of fellow church members move into a new home.  I tried to be at every baptism ceremony, helped set up for weddings I never got to attend, and if someone was having their home prayed over I occasionally joined in. 
A Pentecostal Cesar Romero-esque clown nightmare.
  My schooling throughout my life was a mix of public, private (Christian), and homeschool.  A lot of the material was conveyed through a "Biblical lens" (revisionist American history, evolution denial, young earth creationism, anti-science/pro-faith subtext, ect...)  My first two years of college were at a Christian university, and in a later post I'll go into detail of me abandoning Christianity in my second semester there.
  At church and in school, I got pretty good at Swords High.  Swords High was a "game" where everyone with a Bible would close their Bible (keep your fingers out of the pages, no head starts) and whoever got to the mentioned passage first (the verse(s), not just the chapter, no cheating) would raise their Bible first and then read the passage aloud.  My first year at my first college, I scored very highly on the Biblical literacy test- I was familiar with my Bible.  
  My family did hundreds of personal devos, hosted church events/gatherings regularly, we even hosted a youth group for a while.  We once housed a Korean missionary for the entire summer once, becoming good friends with her.  I was involved in several church camps, Christmas and Easter productions (whether for my church or other churches), all of the church holiday events- you could usually count on me being there with some of the core church group. 
  Throughout the Christian part of my life I prayed often.  Several times a day I'd be asking, thanking, petitioning, begging, praising, ect...  I attended prayer meetings/vigils, prayed with the teens at youth group, folded my hands before I ate and whenever I felt "led" to pray.  Even yanking the correct change from my cupholder in the McDonald's drive-thru would illicit a "thank you" from me.  

  Back when I was a Christian, I was extremely confident in my faith and beliefs.  "I know a god exists!" "I know I'm saved!" "I know god has a plan for me!" "I know Jesus died for me!"  I sang, felt, experienced worship.  I tithed and gave offering.  I helped stack chairs, helped clean the building, helped with setup before service and special events, as I said earlier, I was involved 
  I could go on and on about ways I was involved with the ministry across the years, the moments I've had, the things I've seen or attended, ect...  I'm not trying to sound like I was Super Christian or anything.  All of this was merely to show a precedence in my life as someone who was not just a biannual believer.  My conviction was sincere, I was devoted when it came to my faith, I was earnest when it came to the Bible; I was a Christian. 
Closed eyes for +3 seriousness.
  Hemant Mehta worded it well in We're Not Atheists Because You're Bad Christians, the shortcomings of Christians isn't the cause of my rejection of Christianity.  The following are the regular Christian/theistic arguments and stances that led towards my becoming an atheist: the cosmological argument, divine command theory, the moral argument, the teleological argument, Pascal's Wager, and Biblical inerrancy.  I've been exposed to many other attempts at arguing for theism/Christianity, all of which fail to convince me and most of which are never more than appeals to emotion/mystery.  
  Pretty much every Christian apologetic is seamlessly interchangeable with the apologetics of other religions.  I got some secondhand embarrassment on behalf of most Biblical apologists as I went through hours and hours and hours of materials during one of my many excavations for compelling theistic arguments.  Time after time believers would shirk on the initial confidence of their evidence for [religion] or [god] and retreat to attempting to defend a deistic entity instead of a specific one.  
  The fact that Christians weren't, en masse, trying to disassociate from the likes of Kent and Eric Hovind, Ken Ham, Ray Comfort, Dinesh D'Souza, or Pat Robertson became more and more astounding to me.  I virtually never had to look at any arguments arguing in the positive for secularism/atheism/irreligiosity- what I primarily did was look at what the religious were using to argue for their beliefs.  My path from Christian to Non-Religious was paved with Christian apologetics substantially more than secular/skeptical materials.

  I was a Christian for many years across various denominations in several towns.  I was immersed in the Bible and Christianity from many perspectives and, for the most part, I'm glad for the familial experiences and insights.  I eventually arrived at the conclusion that I had unsatisfactory reasons for considering Christianity to be unique or "the real one" among the many religions of the world.  I am presently an atheist, having been unconvinced by theistic arguments for the supernatural, the efficacy of the Bible, and for the existence of a god or gods.  The day I'm presented with something that convinces me otherwise I'll change my mind; I have no allegiance to the categories I happen to fall under.  

  In short: I had an enjoyable church upbringing, I later realized I had misplaced confidence in some of the things I believed, now I'm no longer religious.  

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