I can still Vaguely Remember Becoming a Christian

I would have been about 6 years old, so into my second year at boarding school. I can’t specifically remember when or where, but it was while away at school. I think it was while in bed one evening waiting for sleep to come.

I prayed the prayer we’d all been taught to pray about asking God to come into our heart and about being sorry for all my sins. What followed was a tingling sensation and a feeling of euphoria. That’s about the best I can remember it, given it was so long ago.

From that point on my desire to follow the Christian life carried on through all my growing up and well into adult hood; encouraged, as always, by my parents and teachers.

Of course there was to be lots of bible study and instruction on how to lead a life as a good Christian. Much of the stuff is easily transferable as instruction on how to live as a decent person, stuff that is so ingrained into me as a person that I can’t see how I could live without those values. Though to be honest, I don’t see why I would want to live without those values; after all, if everyone followed those values, the world would be a much more enjoyable place to be.

How do I view my child conversion through the eyes of an adult atheist?

Its not so easy to answer to be honest.

Certainly I have to acknowledge that it was the result of indoctrination, in the sense that there was no escape from the message Christianity. The prayer of a child to an unseen God was a prayer that was encouraged regularly. The feelings of euphoria post conversion and the other sensations were expected because I had been told to expect them and I knew others at the time who had already experienced the same. In later years, as a teen, I would discuss the same experience with others who confirmed the same feelings post conversion.

Not having any psychological qualification I can’t really comment with authority, but I strongly suspect that my young mind was easily suggestible and since a child of that age tends not to question anything an adult tells them, my mind simply followed the script already given it and so the conversion process panned out on cue.

Could there be another explanation?

I’d be interested in a psychologists take on the body’s response to this conversion experience, because while I can’t fully explain it. I am sure there ought to be an explanation that describes it though it would be hard to scientifically monitor someone going through a conversion process due to there being too many emotional variables. The whole point of the conversion process being a very private event between a believer and God would make it hard to monitor in any way that’s not intrusive to some level.

Do I regret my Conversion?

No I don’t regret it, its made me what I am and there is no changing that. Yes its sent me on an intellectual dead end with regards to denying evolution, but that’s not Christianity per se, more the quality of belief I was led into. Much more on the creationism doctrine to come in a later post as that really didn’t emerge until my 20s.

I certainly hold no ill will towards my parents or those teachers for sending me on that path in life. That would be pointless, that’s my background, that’s what made me. Yes with hindsight it would be nice to have not had that distraction for all those years. However, the bottom line is my life would have been very different without the influence of Christianity and to wish it hadn’t happened would be to also wish the many wonderful experiences that I treasure out of existence too. So I accept that its been a part of my life for a long time, Christianity has brought far more positive influences than negative, so on the whole there is little point in wishing it away, better to make more of a positive impact with the life I have left than harp on about when could have been had it been different.

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Can You Adam and Eve It?

I don’t remember exactly when it was, but at some point in a lesson, someone asked the question about how did Adam and Eve’s sons have children when there were no other references to women being created after Eve? Not an unreasonable question to ask and certainly one that children will zone in on sooner or later.

People tend to only remember Cain and Abel, but the Bible does specifically mention that Adam and Eve had more children, including daughters. The answer given at the time was that the only possible solution is that Adam and Eves sons must have married their sisters. Cue sounds of ‘ewww’ from the assembled class.

If someone believes in the literal seven day creation and that all of mankind is descended from Adam and Eve, then there really is the one conclusion to come to. That first family had no option but to engage in incest. A titbit I would repeat years later as a leader on a Christian summer camp when faced with the same question, provoking the same ‘ewww’ response.

What about the ribs!

The knowledgeable will know that Eve supposedly came from Adams rib. This was used to confirm the fact that men have an extra rib on one side of their body; or rather a missing rib on one side of their body.

Firstly, why should Adam having his rib removed to create Eve mean that all his descendents will also have one rib missing? People who have parts of their body removed do not produce offspring with that same part missing. The assumption that God removing Adams rib means that all men will have a missing rib has no basis in Biblical teaching or logical thought.

As a child I accepted the fact without question. Even if the Genesis account of Adam and Eve was true, there is no reason at all, anywhere, that equates to all descended men having a missing rib.

As it happens, men do not have a missing rib. It proves nothing on its own, but it’s a daft thing to believe anyway.

Critical Questions

Reading those first few chapters of Genesis with a critical eye brings up many questions. Why put a mark on Cain when everyone one around would have been related to him anyway and so know what he did? Why would Cain have to build a city when there would not yet have been enough people about to justify a city? Did he build the city single handed? How long did that take? So many questions.

Not to be taken literally

Now would be a good point to bring in the fact that serious scholars do not consider that the beginning of Genesis was written to be a literal account. It is meant as an indication that God created everything and that sin is a human thing and that God reserves the right to punish his creation. That’s very simplistic, but the main point I want to make here is that to the early writers and those who would read this years later; this is not meant to be a description of what God did, merely a setting up of what we see is God’s creation.

The literal interpretation is a much more modern thing.

Still, as a young child with no reason to question this further, I didn’t. So the seed that was to become an adult creationist was sown.

Let’s Start at the Very Beginning

I certainly don’t consider my upbringing typical. In fact I know its not typical, but it does go a long way to explaining my early beliefs.

I grew up in the Central African country of Zambia, my parents having moved there a few years after independence, taking me with them as a small child. The environment I grew up in was therefore as a white minority, the whites we knew were pretty much all involved in the missionary arena . My mother came from a very strong Brethren tradition but my father came from a less religious background so I am not entirely sure how he came to be involved in such a strong Christian movement.

Missionary School

School was a boarding school in the far North Western province of Zambia. A school with all white teachers, all Christians of course and a very heavy Christian missionary ethos. Discipline was strict, some kids didn’t like it there at all, I don’t recall having any strong feelings either way, I just got used to the routine and dealt with it.

Getting to and from school was always an adventure. For the first few terms I flew in a small 6-seater Cessna plane. Flying through rain was interesting; flying over bush fires could be somewhat concerning, especially when the rising heat caused the plane to loose height due to the reduced lift. One particular large fire I remember caused a very alarming and prolonged period of height loss. Needless to say, most flights involved me heaving up my guts at some point.

The Teachers

Given that this was a boarding school and at that time, the only school I had attended (Sunday school and nursery school excluded) it would be fair to say that the teachers had a huge impression on my life. In fact, from those very early years, I remember more about the school than I do about my home life.

To a large extent, the teachers were very caring and loving. They had to be. They were not just our teachers, they read us stories at night, they comforted us when we needed it, they looked after us when we were unwell, they sat with us at meal times, they watched over us at play time, they taught us to swim, they taught us to play games. For children of that young age, they served a purpose as important as parents and were looked to as parent figures as well as teachers.

These are teachers whose names I still remember and who I would recognise in the street today. Not something I can say about all the teachers I knew at secondary school. Such is the impact they have on children so young.

Teaching

Generally the teaching was good. Specifically I remember enjoying Maths and French and the quality of this education was reflected in my class placements when I started secondary school in the UK.

Exploration of the world around us was actively encouraged. After all, we were living in the remote African bush, how could you not look around and not be amazed at the wonders of nature. The insects, wild fruit, trees and plants that were all around us were of a huge variety.

When it came to asking questions about these things, it was invariably the teachers who we asked and it was the teachers who we looked to for wisdom on these things. Of course the answers always fitted with a creationist perspective as that was all that was known.

Due to the environment we all lived in, no one questioned the existence of God. The teachers were all Christians, as far as I can tell all the parents were Christians too, Christianity was part of life and there was utterly no need or reason to question that.

Crossing out in the Text Books

One specific event I remember is when new biology books were delivered to the school and my class was the first to get them. On being handed out, our first instruction was to turn to a certain page and cross out a single paragraph. Of course we all read the paragraph before doing so, we were curious kids. I remember it talked about how fish, needing to find resources that were no longer available in their pond or pool would flap out of the water in search of other bodies of water. They would use their fins to help them move on the land and eventually, over many years and generations, these fins developed into legs.

I’ve paraphrased the content because, while I can remember the essence, I can’t remember the exact wording. We all laughed at the silly people who wrote than and crossed out the words with relish.

Now, in hindsight I can see that this is an inaccurate description of evolution and if I saw it in a text book today I’d be dismayed because evolutions does not work in response to animals using their limbs in a different way every now and then, that’s a incorrect description of the process of evolution. However, the reasons for crossing this paragraph out were not because it was evolutionarily wrong, but because it dared to suggest evolution at all. We were taught that everything is as it was created by God in the beginning.

Explore the World

As I have already said, the education received was not all bad, in fact quite the opposite; much of it was a very high quality. Its only the creationist elements that were very wrong.

Specifically I remember the encouragement to explore and examine the world. We were taught that medical discoveries were good because they came from the human desire to seek, to learn and to experiment. This desire was God given and is a good thing. I don’t remember much of science lessons but the explore and discover ethos was also there. If God had given us a wonderful world to live in, why shouldn’t we explore it for all the beauty that had been put there? It would be wasteful not to.

The school always had National Geographic magazines in the library and these were especially my favourite things there to look through. Other kids were reading Lord of the Rings or other great children’s literary novels. I just wanted to read the adventures in NatGeo and wonder at the fabulous pictures there. Specifically I loved the Kids Did It series. I remember the features of the Mount St Helens volcano, the awesome photos and the huge destruction.

I still am in awe of nature all these years later and its this hunger, started all those years ago, that has fuelled my journey from Creationist to atheist. Fuel that was placed and ignited by a desire to see the wonders of Gods creation.

Introduction

I guess this blog should really be called Confessions of a Former YEC, as I no longer identify myself as such. However, given that in this blog I shall be giving details of my journey into Fundamental YECism and on to atheism the title probably suits that context.

To clarify, YEC stands for Young Earth Creationist. That is, someone who believes that the 1st chapter of Genesis is a literal and accurate account of how the earth (and the universe) came into being about 6,000-10,000 years ago.

The journey into being a card carrying YEC is one of indoctrination, misguided teaching and a misunderstanding of science in a desire to prove prognosis. Its not all bad, it’s a path that is very definitely paved to good intentions and there is much from those formative years that I treasure still. Just because the science was wrong and the religion false, does not make the values invalid nor does it make the teaching incompetent.

The journey to atheism is the realisation of what science actually shows and the slow dismantling of all that was once held dear. This latter journey is still in progress and there is still much to learn and appreciate. Not everything that comes out of the mouth of an atheist is pleasant, I’ve witnessed more than my fair share of nasty atheistic rhetoric and it not at all becoming, if anything it slowed my journey down.

So that’s the introduction done. I have not yet mapped out any posts I want to make yet, but I have ideas I am forming so something will take shape over the next few weeks.

If anyone stops by here and deems it important enough to hang around or even has a specific question they’d like to raise on any aspect of the journey then I will do my best to be as honest as I possibly can. Maybe I’ll even make a post of the answer. Given the current climate of advancing scepticism and New Atheism (oh how I hate that term) I’d appreciate what comment people may have.