I like this format a little better.
I feel like I jumped into this thing unprepared, and my writing has suffered. Maybe blogging about my motives a la Respectful Insolence will do me some good.
I got into this thing several months ago, as a forum to express myself in all issues skeptical. Influenced by gentlemen such as James Randi, Skeptico, and Bob Carroll of the wonderful Skeptics Dictionary website, I wanted to join in.
Chapter I, or "Mom's Imaginary Friend"
A lifetime skeptic, I recall being just a little boy when my Mom told me that I should love God more than anything, even my family. As this was an insane statement, even to a child of four, I asked Mom if that meant she loved God more than me. Now, my mother is an amazingly intelligent woman (just ask her), but I remember the anguish in her face as her "beliefs" were questioned by a toddler. She knew the answer she was supposed to give, but could not bring herself to tell her little boy that she loved some invisible man living in the sky more than he. Although she has yet to say it, I do not believe my mother has any religious inklings anymore.
I also developed an interest in paranormal activity, such as ghosts, UFO's, the Bermuda Triangle, Atlantis, etc. This fueled my interest in real science, such as archaeology, the Saragasso, history, and music. I read every book I could on the subjects, but unfortunately there was not a lot of material skeptical of the paranormal. At least none readily accessible to me at the time. Still, it was interesting, though I didn't believe everything.
Growing older, I was forced to attend church. I hated church. It was boring, and everyone there had this attitude of "well, it's Sunday, so we have to be here". I recall not understanding, even thinking it foolish. Was church just some sort of social event, or did these people really believe that a mystical prophet who died 2000 years ago is going to come back to Earth and save us all from...whatever? I was a prick in Sunday school, too. Bible inaccuracies were abound, and I loved to point it out.
Little Ryan: "How did Jesus turn the fish and bread into enough food for 5,000 people?"
Sunday School Lady: "He just did. Jesus performed miracles."
This is how all my questions were answered. Anyway, I was baptized because "that's what you were supposed to do". I do remember a strange "tingling" feeling afterward, which I attributed to religion (ie, God had just washed my sins away). In fact, this feeling was the basis for continuing to believe for many years, though I now attribute it to the excitement of having "grown up". The baptized kids got to sit at the adult tables, join adult Sunday school, take communion, etc. It's like I just got promoted to grownupdom.
Chapter II, or "Pastor Bob: OWNED!"
Eventually, we lost all of our "normal" pastors in favor of a Young Earth Creationist. Boy did we hit it off well. This man had a Phd from the University of Nebraska Lincoln, yet could not properly debate an 8 year old child. Maybe he saw me as a project, because I distinctly remember this conversation:
Little Ryan: So if you accept Jesus, you get to go to heaven no matter what?
Pastor Bob: That's right. He died so your sins are forgiven.
LR: What about murderers?
PB: The Lord will forgive them.
LR: What about Hitler?
PB: (a little slower this time, and I'll put accents to show how strangely this man spoke) If Hiittler renounced eeeevil and accepted Christ into his heart before he died, then yes, the Lord will forgive him.
LR: What about Buddhists? What if they never commit a sin, but don't believe in Jesus? Do they go to Heaven?
PB: That's up to the Lord. (I swear he said this) Maybe the Lord will take all the love and devotion they showed to Buddha and accept them into heaven.
LR: Doesn't God love everyone? Why do good people go to Hell because they never found out about Jesus?
PB: (I know he was quaking here, he started to backtrack) The Lord has a plan. Good people follow the teachings of Jesus, so they will go to heaven.
LR: What about the Buddhists then? (PWNED!!11!!1)
PB: Everyone will have a chance to be introduced to Christ. If they don't take him into their heart, then they are not good people.
LR: What about people who live in deepest darkest Africa?
He went on about how the Lord sends missionaries to them, so they had their chance! He also told me that he does not believe in evolution because there are no "half-cats", and that the world is less that 10,000 years old because Noah's flood made major changes in the face of the earth, and anyway, God made the universe to look old.
I will never forget. This is when I started to question Christianity. I guess in a strange Bizzaro world sort of way, I owe Pastor Bob. Thanks, I guess...
Chapter III, or "The Amazing One"
I stopped attending church (except Easter, Mother's Day, Father's Day, and Christmas) at about the age of 10 to the extreme displeasure of my parents. Yes, I would rather stay home and watch WWF All-American Wrestling. Once in a while I was forced to go outside of the holidays because it was "good for me". L. Ron Hubbard, I'm never doing this to my kids...
High school came and went, with me attending church rarely. My interest in paranormal continued, but I started to hear and understand the other side. Then I saw him.
The Amazing Randi.
This guy was awesome! Uri Geller - BAM BITCH! Evangelist healers - BAM BITCHES!
Having been innundated with psychics and their bullshit, he was a breath of fresh air.
John Edward came on. I have to admit, Young Adult Ryan was still suceptible to these people. Being just a kid, even the smartest amongst us can be duped. (Shit, Pastor Bob had a doctoral degree!) But after a while, it seemed like he was just yelling out initials...and not really getting things crystal clear...
During college, the Crazies came out in force. There was this one family of "missionaries" who preached every year at the same place. It was more than ridiculous, it was scary. Their children did not go to the doctor, they received the healing power of prayer, which we know doesn't work. They told us that the girls were prostitutes and the boys were heathens, though by that time we were waaay too smart to buy into their bullshit.
However, even amongst my years at the U, I still held true to the belief of a "blind watchmaker". I considered myself a deist up until a few years ago. Deism basically states that there is an omnipotent force that created the universe, but then it backed away and does not interfere. Fortunately, by reading the sites and bloggers I mentioned above, I learned about Carl Sagan and Occam's Razor. I learned to eliminate some of the steps. For instance, here is deist thought:
1. The universe is here. 2. The universe could not come from nothing. 3. There must be a blind watchmaker that created it.
Now I think like more this:
1. The universe is here. 2. There is no such thing as "nothing", since before time, time did not exist. 3. The universe has always been.
Chapter IV, or Why the Hell do I do This?
After reading that, I hope everyone can understand why I passionately hate all this shit, and my blog is a way to put it all out there. Here's what I'd like to accomplish:
*My goal is to have no more superstition taken as fact. Keep your religion and your paranormal to yourselves until you can prove it.
*Science is not a religion. I do not have "faith" in the laws of physics/nature/mathematics. They have been observed and proven to be true. I only believe things that are proven true by this method.
*I want the USA to jump back into the 21st century and be a leader in science and philosophy, not believing in caveman ritualistic nonsense. Seriously, it is 2005 and people still think an invisible man is responsible for everything we do or say.
*I also want to point out all the absurdities that these silly beliefs set forth. For instance prayer. If God has a grand plan, doesn't it already know what's going to happen? Why should we be so vain as to take the creator of the universe's time to insinuate it should change that plan?
Thanks everyone. I feel better now. I'll be changing the writing style I use a little bit, if nothing more than to show my compatriots I'm not just a smart ass junior skeptic...Ok, I'll always be a junior skeptic, but just because I love that title!