Monday, May 9, 2011

In The Box #3: Atheist Outreach & Other Random Stuff

I'm starting to notice a theme in my experience here on YouTube. I occasionally get caught up in trading insults with people, honing my sarcastic wit in some weird replay of my childhood, in which I spent a lot of time feeling utterly humiliated. I tell myself that it's ok for me to give these people a hard time, because (1) they need a good slap in the face and (2) I don't let the verbal sparring take over the whole conversation, that is, I do stick to the point in addition to being provocative.

Then, for reasons I don't understand, I find myself taking a step back and asking what really matters. What's really important. There's not any benefit to the world in me becoming such an expert at insulting people in order to defend myself against leftover childhood issues. I took a step back last night, again, for no reason I understand, and changed my tone in a conversation from adversarial, trying to show this guy what an idiot he is and what a rag doll his god is, to persuasive, actually trying to reach him. I suggest that we all occasionally take a step back and think about what's really important.

It seems to me that we can reach some of these people. Certainly not those who are making money, such as Dembski, Craig, Comfort, and their ilk. However, there must be many superstitionists who could break free if we could just reach them. So I'll finally get to my point: we should put our heads together and try to find the best possible ways to reach those who are trapped against their will. Those like me, who are trapped by fear, and others who are trapped by other factors that I can't imagine To that end, I invite your stories of atheist outreach. Have you ever really reached someone? Have you ever come close? If so, send me a PM and tell me some of the details. If I can find any trends, I'll let you all know. Maybe we can come up with something.

Do me a favor and don't overload me with stories of failed attempts. Unless they're funny.

Ok, other issues. I've heard of the occasional person with liberal values who joins conservative organizations in order to be a moderating influence. Religion has always been divisive, and it seems to be getting worse all the time. Megachurches seem to me like entire communities where people get no exposure to anything but the party line of their church. That can't be a good thing, an entire population of people who distrust education and science, always descending further into their superstitions. I'm beginning to wonder whether we should consider becoming churchgoers, in an attempt to broaden the perspectives of religious people, to show them a way of thinking about things that could benefit them (and the rest of us) significantly. I'm not sure I'm ready to start singing hymns, but I'm interested to know what you guys think of the idea. Would it serve any useful purpose in the world?

A few of you have suggested that I make a video about my deconversion experience. I'm not sure there's enough material here for an entire video. Here's a brief sketch. When I was little, I heard people talk about Heaven and Hell, but I guess I never got any specifics. I had the idea that Hell is like an orphanage, a depressing place where kids don't get to have fun and the adults are always angry about something. A lot like the life I had at the time, only everyone wears a devil costume. I sort of unconsciously assumed that I would go to Hell, that Heaven is a special place for good kids, and given that my parents seemed always pissed off at me, I must not be good enough. That didn't bother me too much; it just seemed like a continuation of the life I was already living.

When I was 13, I had a very unfortunate conversation with my mother's boyfriend. He described Hell to me. The fire, brimstone, and eternal torture Hell. I believed every word he said, and naturally it scared the shit out of me. I started frantically studying the bible, but found no hope there. In fact, the bible just made it worse. Jesus says that I have to cut off my hands and gouge out my eyes. I spent a couple of years trying to get up the courage to do this. I discovered no such courage. I started planning to get a good education so I could get a good job so I could make enough money to hire a surgeon who would remove my eyes and hands painlessly. I spent the next ten years or so absolutely baffled that people can go around living their lives. Why does anyone bother, with an eternity in Hell hanging over their heads? I was a very angry person, rather unpleasant to be around, always feeling like scum due to my sexual lusts and my enjoyment of chocolate ice cream.

In my mid-20's I finally gave up. Jesus would never allow me into Heaven because I am just too sinful. I tried accepting Jesus into my heart many times, but it obviously never worked, because I still spent most of my time thinking about naked women. I gave up and tried to put the matter out of my mind. Over the next ten years or so I found that I really love learning about the world around us, and I started to tell myself that there is no god. I hung on to that, but still I would frequently have these nightmare visions of myself in Hell. Being married and having a kid and a career took my mind off of it most of the time.

In 2006, a few years after my divorce, I met and fell madly in love with a woman. After a couple of years, she left. I kept my shit together for a year or so, and then stopped keeping my shit together. I dropped out of life and started spending most of my time in bed. After a few months of this, I started contemplating suicide. Then I realized that I couldn't kill myself because I was still afraid that I would go to Hell, and I didn't want to go before I had to. I knew intellectually that the whole religion thing had to be bullshit, but childhood fears can be stronger than intellect, apparently. I started working with my therapist on ways to give more credence to my intellect than to my fears. It was difficult, but after a while it started to work. Once my fear of Hell was weak enough, I was ready to go. I took a bunch of pills. I woke up in the hospital and then had to spend three days in one of the most depressing places I've ever known: a psychiatric health facility. At first, my intention was to take more pills as soon as I got home, but during those three days I started to feel a kind of contentment. I realized that now I have an easy exit. I'm not trapped here any more. I can leave any time I want to. Now I feel like I can breathe.

So here I am. No longer afraid (well, mostly), and no longer trapped. As long as I'm here using up the resources, I'd like to see what kind of positive impact I can make.

Well, this is going long, and I had hoped to address some of the questions you guys asked after the last episode of In The Box. I think I have time only for one. Apologies to everyone else, especially those of you who asked time-sensitive questions. radicalbacon wanted to know some details of my first masturbatory experience. Girl, you know better than to ask a question like that. Masturbation is a sin. I've never done it.

That's In The Box #3. Thanks for watching.

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