Greetings future friends. This is my first post on this site and the first time I'm admitting to someone other than myself that I'm an Atheist. I'm 65 and have been married for over 40 years. Have 3 sons and 3 grandchildren. I was raised in a small village in a conservative, evangelical home. Taken to church a couple times a week plus Vacation Bible School, church youth events and other activities as they came up. Since my earliest memories, I was always questioning and taking the other side of arguments. Everyone around me was a Christian, and I was expected to be one too. I didn't know there were other options. So I kept questioning and debating.
At 18 I joined a Jesus People Group in Vancouver in 1969, and in 1971, that group became a "colony" of a more radical, more "sold out" group called the Children of God.One of my big questions at the time was, "Why don't so-called Christians act like Jesus, the person they say they are following. I thought if I could live like Jesus every day like I thought the COG were doing, then everything would become clear. As a disciple in the "Revolution for Jesus," I was sent to Montreal, New Orleans, Miami, Puerto Rico and Venezuela over the next two years. As things got very crazy with the COG (a story for another time), I decided that I needed to head home, and leave my life as a "missionary," which I guess was technically true.
Let me jump ahead. I ended up going to and graduating from Bible College, University and then Seminary. The questions and doubts only got worse as I realized there were different interpretations of the Bible. Not everyone saw it as a Holy, supernatural book, without error, containing God's message for Humankind. By this time I was married and had three young sons. I had to care for my family and it seemed that my only answer was following through with my education and becoming a Pastor. So, for 10 years I did my best as a Pastor, in 4 different churches, but I was always out of sync with the church members. After the 4th church closed, I was not able to find another church so I took a much better paying job at a large Christian Ministry and was focused on helping families be stronger and better Christians. I was a part of that ministry for 26 years. Still hard to believe. While there, I continued to research Atheist literature and realized that so much of what I was taught as a child was BS. There was no evidence whatsoever of the existence of god. It was all a sham. So, about 15 years ago I told myself I was an Atheist. I kept trying to find a way to leave this organization and still pay the bills. No one knew. But I still looked like a good Christian at work and at home.
Then just over 2 years ago I went through a forced termination after following correct whistleblower procedure regarding a new manager who lied about my work performance in order to fire me, "one of the old guys." At that time I decided to come out since I had saved all I could and built up my IRA as much as possible. But my question for the past 2 years has been, how to tell my wife, sons, other relatives and friends. I know clearly why I don't believe and can explain that, but how can I tell those who truly believe that I will be tortured in Hell for eternity if I deny the existence of God.
Sorry this became so long, and thanks for listening. I'll probably check back tomorrow sometime.
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