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Old June 17 2013, 08:57 PM   #18
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Re: Have You Ever Changed Your Mind...

J. Allen wrote: View Post
I've changed my mind on a number of things. It will be easier for me if I give you a snapshot of me at two different ages:

Age: 18
Religion: Christian (Non-Denominational, Pentecostal)
Political Affiliation: Staunch Conservative (Republican)
Orientation: Straight*

Age: 33
Religion: None (Atheist, Secular Humanist)
Political Affiliation: Liberal (Independent)
Orientation: Pansexual/Bisexual

Why the change?

The Religion:

I was an ordained, Christian minister, raised in the Pentecostal tradition. My faith was steady and sure, built upon a foundation of trust, and the bedrock of the Bible. I had read it many times, and was absolutely certain of its promises. Now, over time, my faith did change, somewhat. I became ordained at 21, and followed in that fashion until about the age of 25. Around that time, I began to wonder if just maybe some of the things I learned as tradition were wrong. A big splinter in my side was homosexuality. I was unsure about its nature, and the passages I held fast to in the Bible weren't really clear. Oh, they seemed clear to others in my group, but to me, the passages in the New Testament were vague, and I had discarded the Old Testament passages because (a) the Old Testament was the Old Covenant, and (b) the passages were in a section of old rules and laws that never applied to Christians, much less pagans.

I would continue to doubt the veracity of others' studies regarding homosexuality for some time. This began to spread to other issues cited as absolute truth in the Bible. By the time I was 28, I had since become more of a Hippie Jesus kind of follower. I felt that when Jesus talked about loving mankind unconditionally, he really meant it, without provisos or addendums. "Judge not, lest ye be judged," and "Do unto others" became stronger narratives than spiritual legalism. That same year, I began to have serious doubts about my faith and where I stood.

I remember one day, while at work, I was repairing a computer, and I heard an audible "snap." I stopped what I was doing, stood straight up, and said out loud, "I don't believe any of it. It's not real."

That lasted a few weeks, and then I regained my faith, and I thought it was just as strong and sure as ever, but from that point forward, for months, I was plagued by questions, and as someone who always seeks out the truth, even if it is unpleasant, I had to follow those questions to find the answers, and when I finally re-evaluated my stance on faith, and what I believed, I found that I wasn't at all certain that any of it was real. That same week that this became a major issue, I purchased a copy of "The God Delusion," by Richard Dawkins.

I read it from beginning to end in one night, and I was surprised, because Richard was answering questions I had, and was giving me a different perspective on what I was experiencing; an outside perspective; one I desperately needed if I was to balance myself.

Finally, I had drawn my conclusions, that when it came to religion, I no longer believed. I was not a Christian, I was not a theist, I was an atheist, and at the moment, everything turned upside down, and a split second later became right side up. It felt completely natural. I am an atheist today, though I am also a secular humanist.

One thing that did not change in that process was my desire to help people. That continues to this day, as well. One of the reasons I don't automatically get frustrated with hardcore religious people is because I was there at one time, too. Don't get me wrong, back in school there were "devout" Christians who loved to push the Bible, hell, one guy used to hit people with his, right on the head. Some people are assholes regardless of their religion or lack thereof; but I honestly believed I was doing good, that I was helping people. I didn't have a hateful bone in my body. I thought I was doing the right thing, and while ignorance is no excuse, I do have compassion for people who honestly want to do good, and think what they're offering is love, even if it isn't.

The Political Affiliation:

This will be much shorter, as my perspectives on religion were the largest change. My political viewpoint changed over time as well. I became more liberal as I got older. When I was 20, I voted in my first Presidential Election. I voted for George W. Bush. I believed him to be a man of conservative values, and decency. I believed that with him at the helm, we would have a more fiscally conservative government, with more liberties untouched by the government.

This, of course, became a pipe dream rather quickly, following the terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001. I watched as our rights were torn away in a pandemonium caked with fear and outrage. Even as I was furious for what happened to those innocent lives, I was ever cautious about being caught up in a frenzy where our rights would be stripped away in the name of safety. I was (and still am) an avid fan of history, and I was fully aware of what our founding fathers had to say about following the mob mentality, and tyranny of the majority. I gave Bush the benefit of the doubt, and hoped he would surround himself with intelligent advisers. This, of course, didn't happen, and I watched our rights get curtailed, and people just nodding along.

By the time of the 2004 election, I was having a crisis of political faith. The Republican party, and George Bush, had failed to do anything other than create a massive money pit, a sinkhole of patriotic jingoism, erosion of rights, and loss of lives. It was in the voting booth, after spending 20 minutes staring at the ballot, that I made my choice. I chose John Kerry, and told myself next election, I would give the Republicans a chance to wipe the slate clean.

Of course, as we know, Bush won a second term, and in that time, managed to further erode rights, destroyed our international reputation, kept us mired in war, and beat the ever loving hell out of our economy. So I watched and waited as John McCain made his stand, and it was more of the same. By that time, though, I had become moderate. I was no longer convinced either party was going to look out for anyone. Call it shaking out the naivete, if you like.

I did find Obama's message appealing, and I liked that he was an intelligent man, well spoken, technologically savvy, ideologically relevant, and I decided to vote for him. I did it again in 2012, though by that time I was very much liberal. Still, I didn't vote for him because he was a Democrat, I voted for him because a lot of his sentiments echoed my own, and yes, that's what good politicians do, but I do not hold myself to one political party.

I also found, by the time I was 28, that the politics of my faith had relaxed as well, and one of the reasons I had become liberal was because I had adopted the belief that rules and regulations, the letter of the law, was not to be taken so literally, that it was the spirit of the law that mattered more, and I even had the Biblical foundation to support it. Of course, at 28, things were about to change on that front, too.

Okay, that was long, too. Sorry.

The Orientation:
There is an asterisk on the first entry in my comparison at the top. There's a reason for that asterisk. I have been bisexual/pansexual my whole life, as far back as I can remember. It is simply that by the time I reached the age of 18, I was so terrified of it, that I had buried it deep down, and had convinced myself that I couldn't be anything other than 100% straight edge perfectly-hetero-in-every-way-bring-on-the-female-boobies male.

The truth is, though, I remember my first crush at 6. It was a girl. I remember my second crush at 9. It was a girl. I remember my third crush at 11. It was a boy.

Uh oh.

Sure was, and oh boy, that teaching of which had been ingrained in me about the evils of being gay, of having thoughts about someone of the same sex, that was a demon, child, a demon! You were being possessed by the hated lusts of the devil, and if you followed those lusts, even by doing nothing else aside from looking, Jesus knew, and you were going to burn in the eternal fires of hell, weeping, and gnashing your teeth.

Those feelings became much stronger by the time I was 13, and I found myself having serious infatuations with both boys and girls. I was panicking, because I was living more and more for God every day, but those feelings kept crushing down on me. I had convinced myself it was just Satan trying to take me and make me a bad person, because yes, I equated being gay with being a horrible, evil person. My parents never taught me that, but my pastors did. My friends at school who were fellow Christians did, and I believed them.

It wasn't until I was in my mid-20s that I began to deal with my orientation. There was a wonderful young man on this board, mostlyharmless, who was willing to take me through how it felt to be gay, what it was like to feel love towards someone of the same sex. Such a kind spirited person, I wish he'd visit here more often. He helped me realize that the emotions were the same, just directed towards different people, and I began to realize that I had put it together backwards. That was also around the time I had been seriously examining my faith, and finding all of the cracks and flaws in my "reasoning." As I've said before, I always want the truth, even if it's unpleasant. I'd rather know, and deal with that knowledge, than live in ignorance.

By my late 20s, I had come to terms with it, and by the age of 30, I had made peace with myself, due in part to all of the shaking up my worldview had taken over the previous number of years. So instead of religion, I began to study love, and to do what I had always done; seek to do good for other people. I consider love the most potent force for change on the planet, and that hasn't changed. I've just learned to refocus the source of that love, rather than its destination.

So there you have it. I have bored you all to death. Questions? Comments? Tea? Cookies? The cookies are delicious.
Wow. We have a lot in common. I was raised Catholic, was very devoutly religious, an altar boy, a boy scout, and went to mass every Sunday. My religious views didn't change all at once. I stopped going to mass for several reasons when I was 16-17-years-old. The first was that I read this book called "Conversations with God." It was promising that I could talk to the almighty, have full conversations with him. That I would receive wisdom and understanding that would guide me through turmoil and difficult decisions. I never did. For the first time in my life, I questioned why God had never talked to me. I thought I heard God's voice, but it was in my own voice, not his. I just assumed that was God. But what does his voice sound like? I felt so alone and afraid at that age, that I could do anything. And I acted about as far away from the tenets of the religion as I possibly could get.

My father was gay. He was a seminarian and left the priesthood struggling with his sexuality. Being that this was the 1970s, he went to a psychiatrist who said it was "Delayed adolescence" or some nonsense and told him to get married. A trained professional and all.

So, he did. And when he turned 42, he came out to my mother after struggling his entire marriage with the issue (12 years, 2 kids). He wasn't great to us after the divorce. He was in prison for a DUI (a year) and just left us kids for 3 1/2 years. I never forgave him, even when he came back, a move that I regret as he's been dead for 7 years. Anyway, all of that backstory is to tell you that my Dad was an atheist and a gay man. Because I hated him, I would change any behavior that I exhibited that remotely resembled my father. I hated him that much. And so as I struggled with my sexuality (Pansexual, accepted it when I was 10, talked out of it by the age of 12, ardently anti-gay at 16-18, mellowed considerably in 18-23 (that's when Dad died). Finally came to grips with it at age 24) and my political beliefs (Conservative to Liberal), I was always in competition with my father. We shared too much in common.

After Dad died, there wasn't that negative force. I tried to get to know myself better, what I liked and didn't, what I valued about life, and I learned a lot in the 5 years after his death. One thing: I tried to be a writer, reading voraciously, writing all day long, and I discovered I didn't have the talent to do so. I wasn't going to be happy. I came to grips with a lot of my adolescence and how I had treated people with my morality--my standards--instead of seeing them as human beings with lives and people who make mistakes. Forgiveness came, and I slowly started to ask myself what I really thought about the world--politics, social issues or our day, etc.

By this time, I was atheist and I never looked back. I am convinced that we created God, not the other way around. It's too perfect. You point to the sky and say "I didn't say that, God did" to get people to follow the rules. There's a perfect justice system in almost every religion where bad people are punished, and the good inherit paradise. There is no evidence one way or another for God to exist, and it sounds like a fairy tale to me. I think we should let people believe what they want to believe. If it keeps them sober or keeps them strong through difficult times, more power to them for believing in religion. But don't call me immoral for not being in your religion. Don't kill people because they don't meet your individual standard of what you think God said to do. That's just how I feel. If anyone disagrees, I will shake their hand, and move on. They are still my brother or my sister, but I won't be lectured when I got enough of that when I was growing up.

The Iraq War has a lot to do with why I am not a Republican anymore. I don't trust the hawks in that party to not do the same thing with Iran or Pakistan or China or Russia in the future. I don't like war, I've been touched by it in my family, and it chills my bones thinking that I supported a man that put Americans and Iraqis at risk for no reason. That's the most evil thing, in my book, you can do with that office (well, that's been done, genocide is worse). The other, is that being pansexual (considered evil) and atheist (considered evil) and valuing the rights and responsibilities of citizenship, even where money is concerned, and valuing all Americans, not some, I find it detestable some of the things said, and the way they govern, by the most outrageous members of the Republican Party. I simply don't agree that we don't need roads, or schools, or police, or social safety nets, and those things cost money. I believe in the infrastructure of society, and that's not a radical view. I also believe in civil liberties. And if there were two parties that believed those things, I would choose between them, but right now, the right is too full of businessmen that will cheat the middle class and rob our society (present and future) to do it. This anti-intellectualism that runs through the party is another thing I cannot tolerate. I was taught to reach for the stars, not belittle anyone who is different (or smarter) than I am.

So have I changed? I don't think so. I think I accept less of what someone tells me to do and try to find the answers myself, be committed to the truth, even if it hurts. That's new. But the personality, the sense of humor, the compassion for others (that I used to fight), all were just let out of the bag. Did I really change, I don't think so. I became more honest.
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