Help a fellow LAFer with some needed advice

Hey there everyone at Living After Faith!

My name is ____. I am 17 years old.

Something happened just recently in my family that I really want to share with you as well as other atheist communities. I could really use some advice- this problem has been present for as long as I’ve come out as an atheist and seems to be deteriorating my family the longer I remain an atheist. I desperately need some feedback because, at this point, I don’t know what else I can do.

Last night I was watching television, and completely unannounced to me, the entire youth group of the church I used to attend came to my house- my little brother being the driving force. Needless to say, I was extremely nervous, but I knew what they were here for and decided to just push through it. Of course, it was about an hour of preaching directly to me under the watch of my previous Christian peers, Christian friends, and Christian family. I’m not going to try to be noble and say I fared well- I don’t think I’ve ever been shaken up so badly. I cannot ever accurately portray the guilt I felt when my brother, unable to speak and overcome with tears, confesses to me how much he loves me and looks up to me followed by how my entire family and the church thinks my life has become “dead” for not having Christianity the driving force of my existence.

What I find interesting is that I’ve just recently been able to cope with numerous anxiety problems I’ve been having due to leaving religion. Although I wouldn’t say it is post-religion PTSD, (although I’ve learned a lot from you both about the problem and I do seem to exhibit the majority of symptoms) I’ve always known I have not necessarily been as stable since I’ve had to deal with these issues. Obviously, I’ve never been able to meet with a physician due to the nature of the problem, and my family’s dismissal. It is, of course, a “non-existent” problem that can only be cured by their religion. This past year, I’ve finally been able to gain control of my anxiety. And although episodes can still be triggered by church services or late-night surprise preaching, I finally came to a point where I felt like I could be a normal kid again. Christianity is what made me “dead.”

I was really shaken and scared last night but I understood their good intentions. I simply responded after the hour “Thank for guys for coming. I think it’s very sweet that you’re concerned about me. But I’ve grown up in the same upbringing as all of you, and I’ve made my decision.” I was careful to be very polite, although there were a few choice words I would have liked to say. Regardless, there is no point in arguing with them.

Afterward, I was ranting to a good friend who is also an atheist and understands when I need to vent. He actually brought something up that I can hardly force myself to consider, but I fear it may be my only option. He suggested that I just tell my family I’m a Christian. Go along with it. Not to be neutral or even passive, but just to pretend I buy it. Maybe it’ll make things easier while I’m still living here. Although saying I’m a Christian may be easy enough (if we aren’t considering my flaming pride-fullness), pulling off such an act would require me to completely dive into my Christian life before I came out- events, services, friendships, worship, praying, and all. (At least while my family is looking.) Like I said earlier, the thought of this is enraging to me because I want so badly just to be myself and for that to be okay. But I’m afraid it will never be okay until I finally leave.

Of course I’d still be an atheist, but this idea has really been bothering me. I want to be proud of who I am as a non-believer, but if it is tearing my family apart, is it selfish for me to even acknowledge my beliefs? Part of me says they are selfish and playing the victims, but the other part of my is just exhausted of all this and wants to just breathe freely again. The only thing I’m truly worried about is if giving in to this idea and throwing my alter-ego into Christianity will once again trigger the anxiety issues I’ve worked so hard to overcome.

I understand this is a lot to process, but I really need some help.
Is it worth it to tell my family I’m an atheist if it only causes chaos? Should I just pretend I believe for their sake, and continue my life as an avid non-believer under-cover?

Please let me know what you think and feel free to have members give feedback- I want as many points of view as I can get.

Thanks so much for all you do. You make this bearable for me and I can never thank you enough,

Rich Debunks His Own Theology

Rich used to believe and preach that it takes more faith to believe in evolution than it does to believe in god. Now he doesn’t believe that, and obviously doesn’t preach it anymore.

I don’t remember who I stole the illustration in the sermon from, but here’s how it would go:

(Preacher Mode ON)

Imagine you have the finest Rolex watch ever made, and I run it through a super-powerful shredder that rips it into tiny pieces no larger than the head of a pin, or the eye of a needle.

Then I give you the expensive pile of metal, tightly sealed in a plastic box, with the instructions to shake the box until it becomes a watch again. But not just any watch, YOUR watch, and running at the correct time.

If you have any sense, you will tell me that is impossible.

I agree.

Now, Imagine how much more complex the human hand is than your watch. Or the eye, for that matter. And the human brain.

I find it much easier to believe shaking watch bits in a box will produce a watch than thinking the emptiness of space will spontaneously produce atoms and molecules from nothing, then those will rush together to make a hand, eye, brain — whole humans, not just running with the clock set, but LIVING.

But go a step further, not just living, but living in a planet that yields to the efforts of that hand, and gives man his desires — a planet that can be understood by that brain, so man can make things that bring him comfort and pleasure. But not just that, a planet that is not only pleasing, but gorgeous to that miraculous eye.

(Insert half an hour of random non-sense “Tide goes in, tide goes out,” statements, catch the praise singer’s eye, start altar call)

(Preacher Mode OFF)

There are people who still feed me my own lines and ask HOW can I not still believe that.

If all you do is listen to my argument, it sounds good (to believers who don’t believe god allows critical thought). But the second you start to think about it, it falls apart.

Here are some reasons why.

First, it assumes the end product before the process begins. The universe does not operate with the concept that man is the completion of it’s process, and earth is the height of its potential. The universe just is. When the big bang happened, it didn’t happen with goals and specifics in mind. There was no mind. There are no goals or specifics. It just is. What we are is a product of where we are and that is a product of trillions and trillions of random events over untold eons of time.

Next, to compare shaking a box filled with a limited amount of stuff to the practically infinite energy and stuff in the universe is a foolish analogy.

There is nothing going on inside that box that could produce a watch. There is no heat to melt the metals, no chemical processes to combine stuff, nothing that can possibly cause a watch to pop out.

With the universe, there is perhaps unlimited space, time and chemical process of all types happening. And while these processes seem best at creating black holes and piles of gunk, those piles of gunk find some order and become other stuff, like stars and planets.

I recently had a christian wrongly quote “facts” about how a single change of unmeasurable proportions in the earth’s position to the sun, the angle, speed or rotation would render the planet unsuitable for any life at all. First, that isn’t even true. Scientists have discovered that there is a pretty wide range of things you could change about the earth, and she would still be suitable for life.

But even if it were true, all that would mean is that earth was not a planet with life on it. It wouldn’t eliminate the possibility of other planets hitting that magic “life-spot” in relation to their stars. When you put the argument to the entire scale of the universe, it loses it’s punch.

Finally, the box illustration assumes everything that is in the box is all that is needed to make a watch. That’s not true.

There are tons of rock that were mined to get at that metal, and that’s not in the box. There are centuries of human knowledge and study that went into making the watch, and they aren’t in the box either.

There’s a watch factory that is strangely missing from the box. Basically, while there is a shredded watch in the box, there isn’t anything in the box that can make a watch.

The universe is just the opposite. There’s plenty of stuff to make worlds and stars and moons and hands and eyes and brains. Not only are the raw elements and atoms and molecules there, but the processes needed for them to come together are all there as well.

I realize my writing here is not anything close to scientific. I’m not trying to write science.

One thing I’ve realized is that in our religious lives, we signed on to arguments like the one I cite above, and sometimes we hear them again, and they call to our sense of familiar. We might catch ourselves thinking for just a moment, “Maybe the eye IS too complex!” Then we banish the thought as silly.

Just like we were taught in church to do with thoughts that go contrary to our current way of believing.

This article really isn’t about creation versus cosmology, or creation versus evolution. It’s about having the courage to look at the arguments that once comforted your christian heart, and googling and reading your heart out to find true answers that may not be as comforting at the moment, but will take you miles, even light years ahead in your ability to skeptically understand the world around you.

Here’s a challenge. Think about the “arguments” for your previous faith. Post them here, with your argument why they are bogus, and let’s discuss.

Extra credit: Rip my “watch in a box” argument up!

Let’s have fun!

Rich

Would you like longer episodes?

How would you feel about longer podcasts? We have several really good interviews in the recorder that NEED to be kept together to keep the relevance of the stories intact. I can break them up, but I don’t feel like that does justice to the teller or the listener.

I’m finding as I speak with more people, and get them to tell their stories, that it takes more time than our traditional 20 minutes. I really want to bring the stories together as a solid unit rather than breaking them up.

They would be about an hour, or actually a little under. Please comment and let me know.

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