How vodka and Coke rescued me from Creationism

From when I left my ACE school (aged 15) until I was 19, I almost never socialised. I just didn’t know how to socialise with people who weren’t fundamentalists. Almost everything they ever did was a sin, and I didn’t like any of the same music or TV as them. South Park was strange and offensive, and I didn’t want to be around people who would laugh at such depravity.

As we got older, the people I knew spent more and more time in pubs. Apart from the food-serving kind, pubs were frightening places. Drunk people were scary and unpredictable. But the real reason I hated pubs was because I hated beer. This wasn’t really a moral thing. In my most radicalised phase, I had believed that Christians shouldn’t drink at all, but in the UK, most evangelicals are comfortable with alcohol (as long as you don’t “get drunk”). There isn’t the same puritan streak that runs through US fundamentalism. It’s just that beer is an acquired taste, and I hadn’t acquired it.

Then, on my 19th birthday, someone bought me a vodka and Coke. And this was brilliant, because it just tasted like awful Coke. I could drink awful Coke. I already did when I went to my step-gran’s house and she produced a bottle that had been sitting open, in direct sunlight, for a month.

The discovery of vodka and Coke, which meant that I could go to the pub and join in, changed everything. I immediately started going to a Wednesday night rock club, where a double vodka and Coke was about £2. Because I’d never drunk in my life, I could get absolutely hammered for less than a tenner. And I did. A lot.

The first time I went clubbing, a girl took it upon herself to sit in my lap, before leading me to the dancefloor and kissing me passionately. This was the future.

The second time, I finished the night dancing in a circle with three incredibly hot girls. I say incredibly hot. I’d had a few drinks at the time. They might have looked like Yoda for all I know. All I can say with confidence is that their clothing and hairstyles were consistent with the hypothesis that they were female.

female Yoda

A possible dancing partner of mine, 2004.

So these incredibly hot probably-females were passing around a cigarette, which of course I accepted, because I was cool now. I had no idea what to do with it, but I sort of sucked on it a bit and passed it on, triumphantly managing not to cough. And my main memory is of absolute euphoria. This wasn’t sin; this was brilliant. I’d been in Charismatic meetings where the entire church falling around praying in tongues and laughing hysterically, and this was… better. I was happier.

All my life people had told me these things were sinful. As I danced awkwardly with three girls, that seemed laughable. I thought of the dour-faced fundamentalist who would remind me, via Hebrews 11:25, that “sin has its pleasures for a season”, and I knew they were wrong. Fundamentalism had had its pleasures for a season, before it became a prison. Now I was liberated from the shackles of Biblical slavery. I was truly free.

Of course, after years of repression, I took it too far. There were many nights I ended up an absolute mess. Eventually, too much drinking and too little sleep left me totally burned out. I think about it now and I’m not sure what to say. I don’t want to recommend excessive drinking. But at the same time, I don’t think I would have escaped fundamentalism without it. I needed to go and party with the sinners to find out that they weren’t sinners. I needed to experience what the church called “Satan’s counterfeit of God’s joy” to realise it was better than what God had to offer.

So yeah… I’m not necessarily proud of this. Some people become atheists because of rational argument. Some people because of questions the church can’t answer. Some because of abusive pastors. Me, I left my religion because of alcohol.

How about you? Did you go through a rebellious phase when you left religion? What made you leave fundamentalism behind?

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About Jonny Scaramanga

I grew up as a Christian fundamentalist in the UK. Now I am writing a book and blog about what that's like, and what fundamentalists believe.

Posted on May 27, 2013, in Atheism, Christianity, Creationism, Fundamentalism and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 61 Comments.

  1. Not quite the same experience as mine but I understand a lot of what you say. I’ll take a vodka and coke over the ‘holy spirit’ any day! Nice post.

  2. This is absolutely fascinating to me. The one Christian friend I have who really went off the rails…is now completely Christian again, even more so than before perhaps. In her last year at secondary school she was drinking every second night, turning up hungover, getting into all sorts of lets say unbecoming shenanigans (for someone getting smashed and up to no good she was quite young anyway) and then bible camp and “missionaries” completely re indoctrinated her. That said, she had never really let go, always convincing herself that because she believed in God she was going to heaven, unlike us who behaved (more or less) but were comfortably atheist or agnostic.

    • That’s interesting. Apparently after the Amish period of freedom (rumspringa), the majority return to the fold. I can understand why. This post is an oversimplified version of my story. There were also nights lying in bed, steamingly drunk, where I worried that I was going to hell, and felt too far from God to ask His forgiveness. It was a long road to being comfortable without faith, and it would have been a lot easier just to jump back into the old unthinking mindset. In my case, though, fundamentalism had made me miserable, so I didn’t want to go back. I think if I’d had a church that I liked nearby, things would have been different for me too.

      • The need for contact, acceptance into a group, a like-minded community. I feel as if it’s giving up too easily in assuming they are exactly where you started – find the right people, don’t just settle. The world is pretty big for anyone to just assume they are where they’re supposed to be. Congratulations on searching and finding new people and ideas.

        Also thank’s for the name for the Amish period of freedom. It always comes up and we always just end up describing it until everyone knows what we’re on about.

  3. “I’m not necessarily proud of this”

    Te absolvo! ;-) It enabled you to achieve escape velocity. (Unlike the poor girl mentioned in “particularlyloudperson’s” comment: though maybe she’ll get another chance.)

    Many people have similar experiences in or following their late teens: though attempting to escape from a variety of prisons, (not necessarily religious); with varying degrees of success — and some fatalities along the way; and some spending most or all of their “adult” lives with little or no sense of responsibility, in a semi-permanent haze of sex + drugs.

    My upbringing wasn’t fundamentalist, but I rebelled at the age of 10 or 11, refusing to continue attending confirmation classes. Amazingly, my parents accepted this without demur. As a gay man, around 1995 I joined OutRage!, participating in several zaps of cathedrals and churches: most famously the 1998 interruption of Archbishop George Carey’s Easter sermon. — http://www.RoseCottage.me.uk/OutRage-archives/carey98.htm

    My Church of England baptism was officially revoked in 2008 by an announcement in the “London Gazette”, [issue 58706], following legal advice obtained by Southwark Diocese. Debaptism ritually confirmed 2009 by the National Secular Society at the church where the original abuse occurred, duly publicised by the BBC. (The vicar is awaiting trial for conducting sham marriages.) Also in 2009 I became an ordained minister at the First Church of Atheism, recognised on driving licence, passport, etc.: though in England this does NOT confer the right to conduct marriage ceremonies. :-(

    Am still rebelling: but have never acquired a taste for English beer or vodka.

    • Ha! Thank you John. I’m unfamiliar with the First Church of Atheism. Is it an attempt to turn Atheism into a formal religion, or something else?

      • Founded in America (where else?) by a couple who wanted a religion-free wedding; ended up producing their own service for the day; and then decided that there must be other couples wanting the same.

        In the USA, FCA ministers CAN conduct weddings. But under the law in England + Wales, some religions are more equal than others. Scotland is different: but several attempts to discover what the situation there is have all got nowhere. Some folk (whether xtian — or sadly even humanist) are too hung up on their own vested interests.

        http://FirstChurchOfAtheism.com

      • I see. I’d need to read more about this to decide what I think. I’m not in favour of attempts to make atheism into a religion, but I’m down with humanist marriage and I have sympathy for the idea of the “atheist church”, although I’d prefer not to use the C-word.

      • (I hope this reply is going in the right place.)

        I don’t interpret this as “making atheism into a religion”: just as interim levelling the playing field, until rationalism wins the day (OR until our species is wiped off the face of the Earth, whichever happens first).

        I use the “Rev.” selectively: e.g. letters to Gov.t ministers, archbishops, newspapers. Though, after so many child abuse scandals, there’s a risk of being tarred with the same brush.

        As for the C-word: “queer” became an insult for gay men and lesbians, until it was “reclaimed”. Similarly “nigger”. Language and words have meanings and connotations. But we should not allow ourselves to be dominated by them, or by others’ use of them.

        Here endeth today’s lesson. ;-)

      • My tuppence-worth:

        We already have at least two words for “atheist church.” “Library” and “museum.”

      • Libraries and museums aren’t a holistic response, though. The FCA was founded (in the USA, where things are a bit different) to allow atheist weddings. You can’t do that (yet) in the UK: and, even if such venues become legal, they might not be wildly popular.

        At the other extreme, the Sunday Assembly (www.facebook.com/TheSundayAssembly) –started in London though with interest expressed elsewhere in the UK and in Australia– meets regularly for those seeking religion-free meetings. Their format is unashamedly based on church services, (because they couldn’t imagine where else to start): and initial meetings were held in a (deconsecrated) church, until the owners of the building (now a school) decided that this wasn’t compatible with their Rudolf Steiner ethos.

        I attended two of the S.A.’s meetings, out of curiosity. Personally, if I go anywhere on a Sunday morning, I’d much rather attend a secular talk at London’s Conway Hall (http://conwayhall.org.uk/talks-lectures): but that reflects my academic leanings. And I refuse to do ANYthing religiously: even atheism. :-)

      • They could have had a “religion-free wedding” in the U.S. without having to found an “atheist church.” My Canadian ex-husband and I chose to get married in the U.S. (For nationalistic reasons he would have preferred a French language wedding in Quebec, but I refused a religious ceremony.) because there were only very awkward and difficult accommodations for secular weddings in Quebec at that time. The law actually changed that very same year, as it happens. Since it wasn’t obvious where we’d get married, I went to library and researched the marriage laws of all the states with in easy reach, so, while I don’t know the laws in all the states, I have a good notion of the range of laws out there. We got married in Vermont by a retired judge in his house. My mother and father had also gotten married by a judge or a justice of the peace, in New Jersey, and so had my grandparents, in Maryland. (Grandfather was an atheist, too.)

        So, I’m not really sure what this couple wanted, but obviously it was more than simply a “religion-free” wedding.

        “Usually the state laws provide any recognized member of the clergy (such as a Priest, Minister, Rabbi, Imam, Cantor, Ethical Culture Leader, etc.), or a judge, a court clerk, and justices of the peace have authority to perform a marriage. However in some states even the clergy must be first certified or licensed.

        Some states have laws that permit other persons to apply for authority to perform marriage ceremonies. For example, California law permits anyone to apply for permission to become a Deputy Commissioner of Marriages — the grant of authority is valid for one day — and thus officiate at the wedding of family or friends on that one day.”

        http://usmarriagelaws.com/search/united_states/officiants_requirements/

        (I don’t know about the reliability of that site. I only found it just now.)

        My sister was married by a Lutheran minister who performed an entirely secular ceremony because he’s my brother-in-law’s brother. Both are atheists and wouldn’t have tolerated religion in the ceremony.

        Laws do go state by state and finding someone to marry you can be a pain if you don’t belong to an established religious organization, but almost everyone I know has managed. A Buddhist friend was married her Hindu husband by a female Unitarian minister in a minimally religious ceremony. I was a bridesmaid, so I know all about her having to find a location and someone to perform the ceremony and all that. I’ve also seen radical reformed rabbis perform some non-traditional services.

        (Sigh) I was originally going to comment for a totally different reason.

        It’s probably good to have an organization you can turn to to find someone easily, however. Maybe, following Daz’s notion, we should allow librarians to marry people the way clergy can.

  4. You can become an ordained minister at the FCA without any fee or any course of instruction. Though since my ordination :-) I _have_ done quite a bit of relevant reading.

    • Re the “church” labelling ; each to his /her own but I do feel that it gives theists both the wrong idea and ammunition with which to attack us. Plus, am I being a bit thick but what is wrong with a Registry Office wedding?

      • what is wrong with a Registry Office wedding?

        Nothing at all: for those who want it. However, some would prefer an unashamedly atheist event. In England + Wales this is not yet a legal possibility.

        In Scotland, humanist celebrants can perform weddings. An amendment to enable this in England + Wales was blocked only last week by the Attorney General, (apparently exerting his mystical Divine Right, as no other explanation was forthcoming). —

        http://humanism.org.uk/2013/05/21/legal-recognition-of-humanist-marriages-blocked-in-commons/

        A proposal in the House of Commons to give legal recognition to humanist marriages in England and Wales has been halted through the last minute intervention of the Attorney General. The proposal had the support of MPs from all three parties and was publicly opposed only by the Church of England and Conservatives in government. In spite of this, the Government threatened to make a declaration that the Marriage Bill was incompatible with human rights if the proposal passed as an amendment. This effectively made it impossible for MPs supporting the Bill to vote for the amendment and so it was withdrawn.

        Many MPs speaking in the debate expressed their bewilderment at the eleventh-hour intervention of the Attorney General, which was not backed up by any written evidence and contained arguments that had never been made before. This was in spite of an amendment to recognise humanist marriages being first tabled in February, being extensively discussed at previous stages of the Bill, and being the subject of extensive meetings with the Government held by Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs and representatives of the British Humanist Association (BHA) where a large number of Government concerns were discussed and addressed.

        The Government has now promised Labour and the Liberal Democrats – both of which now have formal positions in favour of legal recognition for humanist marriages – that they will publish in a comprehensive format the legal objections they have. The proposal for legal recognition for humanist marriages will return in the House of Lords in a revised version that will take these concerns into account.

      • I was always under the impression (even though growing up with forced Christianity, until I rebelled at 15 by coming out as a gay man while at a fundamentalist school.) that marriage was a state and legal thing rather than having, or needing anything to do with a church. Now with same-sex marriages legalised here in New Zealand, It shows more even more grounds that marriage doesn’t have anything to do with a church or xtianity. I think that a church should have the right to deny a same sex couple to be married there, but I believe that the state can’t deny for a couple to be married. Now if only we can completely get religion out of our politics and schools (mandatory bible-in-schools programmes.) our country would be far better. I’m pretty sure that because of the UN’s universal declaration of human rights that the right to religious freedom meant that no one can even talk to you about their religious beliefs without agreement because it violates your right to believe whatever you want.

  5. Sounds pretty much like my first time at Discord…

  6. Sorry, but this is so apt that Saint Cecilia would smite me upside the head with a couple of thousand volts if I missed the opportunity:

    More seriously, I’ve read a lot of deconversion stories, and I often get the feeling that, for all the rationality and thought applied, there’s probably some fiddlin’ little mundane, much less logic-based detail that’s being omitted. Either to make the writer seem more “rational” or, most often I suspect, simply because even the writer never noticed that inconsequential-seeming spark.

    Or, in less pompous terms, “it’s messy, complicated and human.”

  7. I never went through that kind of wild period. My rejection of Christianity was mostly rational analysis. On the other hand, I never was a fundamentalist.

  8. ILeftTheFold

    It took a bad marriage and lack of support from my fundie family and friends to help me on the path of escape.

    • Thanks for commenting. Your blog looks good. I tried to reply to your “How Would You Respond?” post, but it looks like you have comments disabled.

    • I also tried to answer. I realise it’s OT here, but if Jonny doesn’t mind the digression (feel free to delete this Jonny, if you do):

      The question posed in the “man making contest” is a rhetorical trap. It’s constructed so as to make the non-believer argue on the basis that there is a god who can make the dirt in the first place. Either ignore it, or point this out to the questioner.

  9. Throughout my life, my Christian acquaintances have thought I was rebellious. I rebelled against fundamentalism; I rebelled against legalism; I rebelled against religious ideas; and I rebelled against almost every accepted doctrine of the church. I rebelled against my fundamentalist parents only to the point that I moved out and became independent against their wishes.

    In my mid-life I found that I could not believe in God with certainty, but it was not rebellion; in fact, I lived more than a year of intense grief over the loss. I never ‘rebelled’ against God.

    My rebellion did not include abandonment to self-destructive behaviors, though I sometimes struggled with certain issues and made mistakes. Perhaps this sounds boring, but it does not seem so to me.

    • That doesn’t sound boring. I wouldn’t necessarily call binge drinking self-destructive though (although a doctor might disagree). I did eventually harm myself, but I think the early days of drinking I describe here did me far more good than harm.

      • I think this is a good point, that some of these things that are portrayed as self-destructive behaviors are not necessarily self-destructive at all.

    • I failed to mention: there WAS a period of about two weeks when I was around 12 years old that I used dirty words. THAT was rebellion, and I thought I was going to hell for it.

      • I understand what you mean by the drinking being good for you; I did not mean to sound judgmental. I remember when I decided to act on fact that I no longer believed drinking was a sin. It was more liberating than I expected to be ‘normal’ and make an actual break from that aspect of fundamentalism. But in my case I never drank much; it just wasn’t important to me.

        My drink of choice was rum and coke.

    • I consider myself an agnostic. I think everyone thinks I’m in rebellion to god. I’m not. I just don’t see any reason to follow him any more, because I see no reason to believe he exists…. I have rebelled against a lot in the past few years. as a Fundementalist, especially from a ‘we don’t do teenagers’ sort of family, there is a lot to rebel against to find your own, healthy life and thoughts. But I feel that I never really rebelled against god. I’m almost sad I can’t believe (the loss of all that certainty!) but I know I can never go back to what I used to be…

  10. Timothy Allman

    My path was longer and slower. Didn’t have a drink until my second year in the army. Didn’t cut my hair for five yeas after getting out but I still went to church with long hair. Christians and faith had failed me at every turn so I slowly quit believing what people said but still called myself a Christian. Whisky did turn out to be the best friend I have ever known though. Didn’t become a full fledged atheist until my mid thirties when I did a lot of reading.

  11. Sadly, I cannot drink alcohol because I lack the enzyme to process it. It all tastes the same anyway. Even when I was at my most fundy, it all never really made sense to me. I just went along because I didn’t know anything different and there was that avoiding hell thing. I went to a state (US public school) so I was never truly separated from the rest of the world like other fundies. After a while, I just couldn’t rationalize why my otherwise good, pious friends of other religions or of no religion were going to hell just because they didn’t believe. That didn’t seem fair and really made god to be a giant douchebag. My big “rebellion” was finding the Quakers and it all started to make sense. Today, I call myself a deist. I realize that is what I really believed all along. I never understood the need for salvation, the crucifixion, communion, baptism, etc. and it’s nice to finally be a part of a community that doesn’t see the need for them either.

    • OMG I’ve been wrong all these years! Proof that Satan, at least, does indeed exist:

      Sadly, I cannot drink alcohol because I lack the enzyme to process it.

      • Hahaha!! I don’t miss it because I never could drink it in the first place. I am sorely tempted to try weed though. One of these days, I’m going to turn into a massive pothead, or I’ll find out that pot doesn’t work on me either and I’m just cursed to be sober for the rest of my life.

    • I know this sounds odd, but what does that enzyme-lacking feel like to you? I have some sort of issue with alcohol (a single drink can make me feel rather ill) and I’ve been trying to narrow down what’s been going on.

      Sorry for OT…

      My rebellion took/takes the form of women. Not in like conquests or treating them badly or anything. I don’t view women as objects. I find I form deeper friendships with women, like I connect better, and sometimes those connections go quite a bit further. My weekend Catholicism mostly involved being yelled at for how dirty we all were and how everything we did/thought of was immoral. Really put up some social barriers. Not from my parents, mind. Sexuality didn’t exist in our household. Not spoken of, period.

      Now I’m in a polyamorous marriage, have multiple meaningful relationships, and don’t view bodies as icky. So, as my wife jokes, at least I’m sober so I know who I’m waking up next to.

      • First of all, all alcohol pretty much tastes like lighter fluid or jet fuel. I can tell the difference between beer, wine, and spirits but beyond that, it’s all pretty much the same. I do like champagne and lambics oddly enough. After a few milliliters, my face lights up like a Christmas tree and gets really hot. If I drink more than that without a lot of food or water in between sips, I start to get a crushing headache and get really dizzy. It’s not an allergy as antihistamines don’t do anything to prevent the reaction and I don’t break out into hives. Oddly enough, apparently this is really common in Asian people and is often known as “Asian Flush”.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alcohol_flush_reaction

        I really wanted to drink and be cool at parties, esp. since drinking was so “evil” as a fundy. Sadly, I am destined to always be the designated driver.

  12. What are your thought about American fundamentalists like Bob Jones University? Specifically, the way they seem to enshrine people like C.S. Lewis who himself enjoyed a drink and a smoke. I get the feeling most of them wish they were living in England! Anglo-philes, they’re called? I remember at my Christian bringing this up and hearing them say, “It’s different in Europe!” Somehow, trying to make going into an English pub is different than an American bar. My favorite was, “They’re more mature!” Like if we shaped up in America, we would be allowed to drink beer?

    When I went to England, I really didn’t see much of a difference and now reading about how you found pubs to be terrifying makes me think it was all bull. Germany was another matter! They were breaking out into songs in a heartbeat!

    My own theory is when my ancestors came over from whereever they came from, they burned their bridges from Europe! Some of my relatives even changed their last names so the uniqueness wouldn’t attract attention. Today, we have absolutely no culture over here save from what you see on TV and what we’re able to create for ourselves on the internet. We trash minorities whenever they pay homage to their culture probably out of jealousy since, like I said, we’ve burned all our cultural bridges. Consequently, we like to pretend to be John Bunyan or C.S. Lewis. Minus the alcohol and cigarettes.

    • The fundy embrace of CS Lewis is a strange one, because he has a lot of things to say which are totally incompatible with fundamentalist doctrine. As you say, he liked a drink. He also was not an inerrantist, and he believed it might be possible for souls in hell to get into heaven. I think they just like having a half-decent apologist on their side, especially one who can write a good story, since fundamentalism has hardly any of those. And they have lots of practice at selectively quoting books, because they do it with the Bible.

      As for Bob Jones, I don’t know much, apart from the ACE’s founder went there, and they had that ridiculous interracial dating policy until embarrassingly recently.

      The anglophile hypothesis makes sense for many Americans I’ve met, but just as many seem not to know there’s a world outside of the USA – or even the Bible Belt.

      • I don’t think American fundies know that CS Lewis drank or smoke or at least actively forget it. American fundies seem to be more insular because they can be. In the UK, you are never more than like 90 miles from sea. In the US, you can easily be more than 90 miles from the next town. Some people have to drive 30 minutes or more to get to a big name store, not just the little mom and pop store in their town. There are loads of little non-denominational churches in these towns and many small Bible colleges too.

        US fundamentalism has always gone hand in hand with patriotism and now, extreme right-wing politics. One tea party candidate ran on the platform that she was a born-again virgin. I mean seriously, who cares? But she made her religious and sex life part of her campaign so that everyone would know that she was a devout good girl now. I’m still a bit puzzled how the fundies rallied behind Mitt Romney, a Mormon. But he was anti-abortion so I guess they overlooked the whole “Mormons are cultists” aspect. The other Republican party candidates were also shades of fundamentalism with Michelle Bachman and her husband who ran a “pray the gay away” ministry, Huckabee who said after the Sandy Hook shooting that it happened because we removed God from our schools (conveniently forgetting that a Christian school was shot up earlier that year), and Santorum who thinks that higher education indoctrinates kids against religion.

        The US is also home to a $25 million dollar museum dedicated entirely to creationism, all funded through donations. $25 million could feed a lot of hungry people.

      • “The anglophile hypothesis makes sense for many Americans I’ve met, but just as many seem not to know there’s a world outside of the USA – or even the Bible Belt.”

        Most Americans don’t even live in the bible belt. I wish you all would stop equating fundamentalists and Americans. It’s at best annoying.

    • We don’t have a culture! Speak for yourself.

  13. When I left fundamentalism, I did a few things to rebel. Mainly whatever my church said not to do I did. It was kinda hard to feel comfortable in it all. My dad was a pastor and the fundamental beliefs were instilled very much so in me. But I got tattoos, drank, refused to go to church (still refuse to go.) Sometimes I still struggle with thinking that I will burn in hell or wake up with nightmares but I guess that is to be expected.
    I left over the abuse that happened there. Mainly the sexual and physical. Also I was sick of being referred to as a slut for something one of their missionaries did to me.
    Now I have a good group of friends and even some family members that support my different views of life. So it is very nice to have them to lean on.

  14. I left fundamentalism basically when I decided not to spank my infant son – that the bible didnt actually require it, that i didn’t want to, and that I didn’t think it would be effective or healthy for him or me. That’s when the divide started anyways. Spanking is a crucial part of fundy life where I live. When ppl started looking down their noses at us at church because I didn’t haul the baby to the bathroom to spank him when he was loud, I knew it was only a matter of time, that there wasn’t room for differences or grace… Then one day I simply walked out of church for the last time. Got to the car and told my husband, ‘this is the last time and I’m really happy’ (I was exhilarated walking out those doors). Never been back, never going.
    It’s similar to your story in that something we were told was so wrong and dangerous and unhealthy, (not spanking, and in general parenting with grace instead of an iron fist,) turned out to be wonderful and good for us all. I’m not sure why we stayed so long actually…. I guess because we were taught it was wrong to quit churches for any reason that wasn’t very serious. I’m done though.

    • I applaud you. That took some independent thinking and courage to do that while you were steeped in the culture. I stopped attending church for three years before I got to the point described in this post. And I’m glad to have you commenting… Your blog is great.

      • Thank you! As you can imagine. We don’t get applauded for leaving church all that often :) I don’t even applaud myself for it usually.
        I left the teachings but they haven’t left my head yet, you know?
        Still I am a lot more peaceful now – when I don’t worry I’m actually going to hell (you know, the hell I don’t believe in anymore).

  15. Ah yes, the getting obliterated stage. I ended up getting locked up about ten times in six different countries. I have to say Scotland had the most comfortable jail cells. Though getting out that one foot by six inch barred window was not going to happen. Still, you gotta try and James Bond your way out or you’re not behaving like a proper crazed person.
    It’s so true though, the feeling of not being able to relax and socialize like a ‘normal’ person. During this time you could’ve stuck me in a room full of people weeping, hands in the air, crying out for forgiveness and love, wailing on about the cross, hitting the floor like writhing reptiles, and I’d look around and think,’Oh yeah, this totally makes sense.’
    But a room full of people drinking and swearing and talking about sports, movies, politics, et al, forget about it. Pass me the triple vodka cran and lets see how long before the police show up.
    It’s a scary vulnerable time and I understand why so many people end up running back to church. Their cognitive dissonance temporarily relaxes when they do (to use a way overused term, but a valid one), and to top it off they get to be sort of rock stars back in the fold, spending the rest of their days sharing their ‘wild testimony’ about the truly debaucherous time they turned their backs on God; weeping in the worst places, yet bravely stoic in the face of Satan’s adversary in others, an evil entity they now know exists for certain. ‘I was an atheist once,’ they’ll say to the oohs and aahs, but God be praised His blessings shown down on me.” Yet oh how close they came to being consumed by Beelzebub for an eternity.
    What’s so heartbreaking, for me, is to know just how close they came to true mental and emotional freedom, only to fail.

    So yeah, I got smashed, I got a record, and I passed out all over a beautiful Icelandic girl kissing me in a London bar (years of regret for that one), but I did not go back.
    I wouldn’t change a thing.

    And in the end the emotional contradictions went away, I learned how to handle my booze, married an amazing German woman, and can now spend the rest of my days sharing my ‘testimony’ of all the different jail cells I’ve slept in ;)

  16. The section that talks about the females:

    Did that lead to any intercourse that you may have regretted at first, but then are glad you’ve done it? I hope that isn’t too personal to answer.

    Fundies love to connect sex with drinking booze.

  17. Hmm, the last blow to my (at 12 already shaky) Christianity was sex. Not mine, my older sister’s. The idea that someone as fundamentally good as her could not enter the kingdom because she’d gone on a dirty weekend away with a boyfriend ended my ability to make excuses for god.

  18. Hi there!
    I was raised atheist and I’ve never been to church much except Christmas and weddings, so it’s hard to imagine what your life was like, but I really enjoyed reading your story.
    To be honest there were times when I wished there wasn’t so much pressure to get drunk every night when I was a teenager, although I do still enjoy a drink now and then. I guess I felt like I had to do it, to be cool, and anything you feel you have to do, you grow to resent.
    Still, I’m glad it worked for you and you had a good time.

    • Hi Mary,

      Thanks for reading. I’m guessing you’re one of the people who found this post via pharyngula.

      I’m definitely not in favour of drinking to the point of damaging yourself but for me it was at least a step in the right direction.

  19. Glad that you’ve seen the light, Jonny, but you’re still going to hell. Vodka and Coke? Yuck! Rum and Coke, yes, which this atheist started with in the early ’70s.

  20. Gosh, I got so distracted by the comments, I forgot what the post was about and why I originally stopped to comment.

    First, never having been a Christian, it wasn’t a matter of what led me away from Christianity as what kept me from ever investigating it.

    Sex. Sex. Sex.

    Being an agnostic is like walking around with a “please convert me” sign on your back. I started calling myself an atheist just to stop all the proselytizing. I did go through a phase of wondering if there was anything to this religion stuff since so many people believed it but…

    Sex. Really, from the moment I first had a cock inside me I understood that it was a good in itself. Any religion that tried to tell me that sex was bad or had to be restricted or controlled in anyway was self-evidently not the truth.

    However, twenty or thirty years ago, I could have been that girl on your lap. Tell me a guy was a little Christian virgin who was starting to have doubts… it would stir up a nearly predatory instinct in me.

    Having a few drinks, going out dancing, staying up until dawn, these are all good things. If you will pardon the religious metaphor, they’re good for the soul. They’re rarely ever as self-destructive as some people seem to think they are. Most people do them from time to time without any negative effects. I never did them in excess, but perhaps that was because I never refrained from them in the first place.

    Do you think that fundamentalists have difficulty facing how much of their life the lost to a lie? I feel bad about having stopped by here and winding up being irritable again. I’m really not nearly such an asshole, usually. But I find that I have a difficult time talking to former fundamentalists. A woman came by my blog the other day, and I still feel guilty because I think I was rude to her. But I don’t know how to deal former fundamentalists.

    For instance, is it easier for that guy up thread to say there’s no culture in the U.S. than to admit to himself that there is a culture, but he’s been deprived of it?

    By the way, I don’t feel embarrassed saying that it’s sex, and not a “rational argument.” Personally, I think saying I won’t join any religion that tells me what I know to be true from personal experience it not true, is a perfectly rational argument. I know they’re wrong about sex, so why should I trust them with anything else.

    I never thought about religion putting a damper on clubbing before reading this. It makes sense though. When I was younger, I couldn’t figure out why religion was so negative towards sex and finally I came to the conclusion that they want to monopolize all the ecstatic experiences.

  21. altomyfriends

    Jonny, your honesty and humanity warm my heart.

  22. I just stumbled ont this blog! I love it. I had a similar experience and it led to a very happy marriage.

  1. Pingback: Now that we have the formula, we have but to implement it » Pharyngula

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