My life was always a traumedy—a comedic tragedy, if you will—from the very beginning. My parents were not so much into going to church on Sundays, but they were believers. My dad was Lutheran and my mom was a Jehovah’s Witness. I went to church for a while when I was 6 and 7 years old, and again at 12 at the Kingdom Hall while my dad was in Texas trying to get a job.
I was bullied from Kindergarten until the end of 9th grade. I was also physically abused by my dad from age 4 through almost 9. I was told this god was watching over us, but I certainly wasn’t getting any help for my struggle! As I was attending my mom’s church, the PTL Club began (1980). I saw that they were heavily asking for money all the time. If you didn’t tithe, you were looked down upon as a sinner! So, my view on church changed. It was a business!
During high school, I was arrested for underage consumption. I attended AA for the last two years of my high school career. It was there that I learned about spirituality. I tried prayer for the first time. Nothing really happened. I think it was more of a distraction than anything, but I started to feel better about myself until I went into the Navy.
As some of you may know, I was raped by another male while I was stationed in Great Lakes, IL right before I was to leave for an assignment to the fleet in Norfolk, VA. I lost my spirituality during this time in place of deep depression and self-hatred. I was molested by two other men in my first week in Norfolk. I knew little about PTSD back then. People still called it battle fatigue, from the Vietnam War Era.
I suffered through 6 months in this depression before being suicidal and being discharged for medical reasons from the Navy. I hated this god person for what happened to me! I became a Satanist for awhile, delved into the occult, and basically was extremely angry at the world. Part of this was because I was engaged to a girl back in IL whom broke up with me the day I was discharged! I was already feeling unmanly and shameful for what happened to me through my assault before that happened! It was the beginning of a string of bad relationships, including my first ex-wife!
My first marriage ended after two abortions and my suicidal attempt. I can’t say I blame her. In 25 years, I would say I have healed from those wounds! I remember asking this god person for forgiveness—even though I was a Satanist! Through proper medical treatment, I obviously lived. Now, I was homeless, car-less, jobless, wifeless, and childless. I lived in my grandfather’s house for a time. He was in a nursing home then. I returned to AA. I somehow owed my life to this god person for saving me. Man, was I wrong!
I got married 4 years later to the mother of my two sons. My older son was born before I was married. I was going to join the Army and get the hell out of South Dakota! Unfortunately, my past caught up with me. The past of an unstable mind for being discharged for behavioral problems. I certainly couldn’t talk about what happened to me in the ’80s! The Army wanted to perform a psychiatric evaluation on me to even qualify for enlistment! I declined, of course.
Before I met my second wife, I wrote hundreds of dollars in bad checks. I was arrested during a traffic stop with my son on board. I left this god person in the jail cell. I wish I had kept him there! However, my second wife wanted a divorce in ’01. After being in a depression for a year, I picked up this god person while having suicidal thoughts and telling my older son that if it weren’t for him and his brother, I would kill myself! Who does that! Seriously!
I literally ran to AA for the third time! I thanked this god person for keeping me alive and sober for 11 years then. I even swore I would work on my spirituality until I was a good father, better husband in the future, and the kind of son my parents wanted! That’s how I got into Christianity, church, and the bible. However, because I never got treated for PTSD at all during this whole time, I basically existed…miserably!
During my 5 years of solid Christianity, I got married a third time, gained a step-daughter, started a disability file through the Veterans Administration, went to school at USF for (ironically) psychology, got put on medication (with dire side effects), went to therapy, was hospitalized three times, attempted suicide when my daughter was to move away, and arrested twice for domestic assault. How my wife stayed with me, I’ll never know! I’m glad she saw the worst of me, so she could see the best of me now!
After the suicide attempt in ’07, I began to question the whole god issue. I tried to continue in it for the next four years. I was more afraid of losing everything like I did in my first marriage if I totally rejected this god person. In ’10, I left AA forever because of their views on mental illness and medication. Then I weaned myself off of the medication! My son left that year due to a major fight my wife and I had. A year later, I came out as an atheist.
Has it been an easy road? No, not at all. My in-laws are devout Christians. Some home school with Christian books. Some are judgmental about me. I had to deal with these people for nearly four years now! However, I have freedom and peace of mind! I used to completely hate homosexuals because of my own shame and idiosyncrasies about my assault. I used to judge people as sinners because of their lifestyles. I was a total dick! Now I’m warm and friendly, wanting men, women, children, and the LGBTQ community to have equal rights!
It’s hard for people like us—the freethinking community—to survive in a state like this. In my recent journeys to the deep southern red states, there were churches everywhere, followed by billboards for churches, Jesus, god, and pro-life. I saw one billboard for the Orlando CoR in Pensacola. Otherwise, for such a Christian-rich society, there were a lot of adult super stores and strip clubs everywhere!
In South Dakota, we have seen the discrimination in the laws our legislators try to pass. Luckily, most of these bills have been shot down. We place restrictions on the woman’s decision to be pro-choice by having religion involved in it, yet we still have capital punishment as a legal procedure for the worst of our criminals! Why is one life-form more precious than another? Also, why can’t we prevent the reasons to make the choice for a woman to have to have an abortion? This is just one of many contradictions Christians infiltrate into our state laws!
One of the main things I learned by being a freethinking atheist/humanist is that prayer definitely doesn’t work! If it had, I wouldn’t have been bullied, abused, raped, suicidal, divorced, etc.! This whole god person’s plan stuff of allowing children to die of starvation, yet someone’s keys get found, a parking space suddenly frees up, and a touchdown happens is pure bunk! Prayer does nothing but cause a temporary distraction from the real problems one can face in life!
I was more of a follower than a leader in the past. I wanted people to like me. Today, I try to fight for people’s rights and people who have been through many of the things I lived through! I think with reason and logic these days. I look for evidence of truth in today’s society. I’m not easily swayed anymore about things like prophecy and myth. After all, Adam and Eve had two sons. One died at the hands of the other. And then…he had a wife! Where! How!
In closing, I hope my story of realization has helped someone in our group who may still be on the fence of who they are, or could be. I was on the fence for a long time myself. I’m glad I came out as a freethinker four years ago! It made me a stronger, happier, and better person all around! I hope it can do the same for you! My thoughts and my love are for you!