The Religious A priori
How I got saved and Became Metacrock
Early Days of Atheism.
I was born in Dallas Texas, in the mid 1950's, and raised in a clean, white, southern middle class setting, complete with old civil war sentitamentality and country values. Our family had been staunch memebers of a certian fundamentalist sect, as far as I can tell, from before the civil war. They were probably in on the founding of the group and may have been based in Barton W. Stone's Kaine Ridge Revivel, in the Kentucky of that preiod known as "The Second Great Awakening." It was a very exclucivistic group called "the Chruch of Christ." They were almost cult-like in that they believed they were the only true chruch, and all others were going to hell, (even the baptists and Catholics-- esepcially the Catholics). They were so self-rigteous they didn't even use instrumental music because they thought that made them more holy. In the 1960s, when I hit the upper grades of elementry school, I began oppossing the war in Vietnam (age 12). I identified with the anti-war movment (especially SDS), the hippies, Bob Dylan and the Byrds. I had a childhood crush on Joan Baez (that never really eneded). I couldn't wait until I grew up and went to college so I could join SDS and protest the war (which I was sure would still be going--and I only missed it by a couple of years).I began to question the truth of the Christian relgion when I was 13 in rebellion against the strictness of a private school I was sent to which was ran by the chruch of Christ. At 16 I went to public highschool, having continued to believe in God but in more of an eastern vein.
However at 15 or 16 I decided that I was an atheist.It seemed outmoded and childish to believe in God. After all, we didn't need God to explain the existance of the world, we had evolution and the Big bang. I knew there were mistakes in the Bible and found them every time I looked for them. And it was a fact that the world was filled with pain, suffering, injustice. How could there be a loving God? Above all else I resented injustice! I was courious about thought and about the world, I began to read history, psychology, literature, and to study about other world religions (I had actually began doing this in 6th grade but about the age of 15 I made a big big push to learn as much as I could).
In my Junior year of Highschool, I began missing chruch, and abstaining from the classes. One Wednessday night my parents asked me to go with them, so I did. I even attended the class. They showed a film about the decline of the Incan empire, and the film concluded that the Inca's fell because they weren't Christians and didn't know God . It was a very ethnocentric, simplistic and extrememly badly done bit of fundamentalist propaganda. Angared at this one-sided rendition of history, I asked if I could get up and do a bit of film criticism. They allowed me to do this, the youth director was really not a bad guy. And I lambasted the Bible and all of beleif after givin a little lecture on history, the rise and fall of empires and how racist their film was. It ended in a shouting match and I determined never to go back.In fact I never did. My parents were horrified. We had several shouting matches about it. But they couldn't force me to go to chruch. They tried the "as long as you live in my house..." Line and I threantened to quite school and move out. They gave in. I know it hurt them terribly, I could see real pain in their eyes everytime they came home from chruch and found me watching tv or just waking up. But I didn't care. I had to be independent. I had to shape my own beliefs, and I couldn't see the importance of going just to please them. I would do that today If I had it to do over just because I know it hurt them and it wouldn't hurt me to go. In any case, that shouting match set me on a course for the next several years. I became determined to disprove Chrstianity and to demonstrate it's falsehood to the world. I usually spend saturday nights and Sunday morning from then on reading skeptical books and doing research to disprove the Bible.
Summer of highschool graduation.
The summer I graduated from high school, I was invited by the old youth directer to go on a trip with the seniors to the grand canyon. I hadn't seen them in a long time, a couple of years, and the bitterness of the last meeting had gone. We had a wonderful trip. They were all fun and nice and I enjoyed playing chess on the bus and getting to know them again. I was almost sorry I hadn't gone to chruch in those years for my parent's sake. But it seemed more important to be true to my beliefs. I read Mark Twin's Letters from the Earth on that trip, while I wasn't playing chess on the bus. At the grand Canyon the youth directer let me make a little speech to the group talking about my beliefs. I dont' think he really knew what I was going to say. I think it was hard for him to believe that I was really an atheist. Again I really gave it to them.
I explained evolution and talked about other religions and how abusrd it was to think that all those other people are going to hell just because of the time and place in which they were born. I answered all their objections, shot them to peices, answered all their arguments and left it with them saying things like "someday God will open your eyes," "Jesus loves you," "think with your heart," which I took to be a total victory. The Youth director's face was so crest fallen.He clearly wasn't expecting this and was probably saddened to see how far gone I was.A couple of weeks after we got back, the youth director came to my home with a man who taugh at the Chruch of Christ's "School of preaching." He had a doctorate in Biblical studies and was clearly far more knowledgeable than I. His wife was there too, and she wasn't a bad apologist either. Togther the three of them shot me to peices. They even brought a couple of others along to give themselves an audience. I was outraged but covered it up pretty well.
It amazed me that there really were good answers and that the Bible really could be defended, but that only made me all the more determined to disprove it.That was a remarkable summer, the summer I graduated form highschool. The previous summer I had spent about a month researching the Bible and thought I had it disproven. This summer (graduation) I went to the Grand Canyon, read 100 books, sometimes four a day! I read great literature, such as James Joyce, Saul Bellow, Herman Hesse, and not to forget the Mark Twain atheist stuff. I finished out that summer doing more Biblical research and that practice would become a habit which I still practice to this day (well over 20 years) of concentrating on Biblical studies in the summers. But for the rest of my time as an atheist I would pursue my project of research to debunck the Bible every summer and I had huge files demonstrating the weaknesses of the inerrency position. Unfortunately, what I didn't realize was that the Chruch of Christ had biased my outlook to such an extent that I just ruled out the true greatness of the Christian tradition. I assumed that if the C /C was wrong surely the rest of it was even worse.
So what I took for anti-Christian works were laregley made up of liberal scholarship, much of it believeing. People such as B.H. Streeter made up the bulk of my research. Streeter was a true scholar, the canon reader at Cambridge, but also a true believer and very devout. Every so often I would come accorss one of his statements of faith and devotion and would be totally puzzaled as to how he say such a thing when he could surely see that all the evidence he gave pointed to a Bible full of mistakes and far less than perfect (see the Revelation and Canon page). Once college began, however, I discovered Jean Paul Satre and existentialism. That became the center of my thought life throughout college. In my freshman philosophy class someone asked the professor if there were really people who didn't believe in God. I said that I really didnt' believe in God, and called myself an atheist, and the whole class began shouting at me! Some even threatened to beat me up! But held my ground and argued against the whole class of about 100 people. That was before the big hate Christiantiy fad, and it was in Texas, so the majority were raised in the Bible belt and raised not to think.
First step toward belief and
formation of athetistic wrold view.
There I was in college, I was still an athiest but my zeal for arguing about it wained as I got into more of college life; debate, traveling to debate trounements and lots of research, sociology, gaining some understanding of literature and philosophy, which I read in highschool and loved, but in college I was actually learning something about it. I really got into existentialism. It was the late '70s and that was a hold over from the early 60s at least on Texas campuses. And Dope. Dope was a huge part of my college experience. Watching the original Saturday Night live with Bellushi and Chase and Laraine Newman ect. stoned and at a college debate tournament, that was a huge part of my college experience. But every summer I was still doing my anti-Bible research.In the summer of '79 my parents had their 40th wedding anaversary (my brother and I were born to them late in life).
My sister's friend came to town with her family. She was an older woman, married, at first I dismissed her as one my my sister's "crazy Jesus freak friends.". My sister and brother-in-law had been missionaries in Latin America. They were Chruch of Christ missionaries, but it was in Latin America that they encountered the charismatic movement in the form of the dreaded Catholics, and they became "filled with the Spirit." In the early 70's they drove me crazy with their wild "Jesus freak" stuff and their miracle stories. I was determined to ignore her friend, but as we talked at the anneversary shindig, held in a chruch of Christ, I discovered that this woman was really pretty bright and well read. My bother invited her to join us, and our best friend, in a discussion back at the house after the party. So latter at my parent's house we sat in my old room and talked.
Sure enough, she had a lot of really amazing miracle stories and I thought she was insane. But she was too "together" to be insane. In many ways she just seemed like the "neatest" person I'd ever met. She had a great personality and somehow made us feel that she really cared. And she was fairly bright and yet she cliamed to have experienced amazing things; healings, demons; God's presence, ect. That got my attention. When I went back to my apartment and resumed preperations for school in the coming year, I thought quite a bit about that talk, and determined that that year I would seek out how it was that all the liberal scholars I'd been quoting against the Bible could actually be Christians (I had noticed that many of them made great statements of faith,and yet to my Chruch of Christ mind they were debuncking the Bible because they didn't accept inerrancy). I couldn't see how they could be aware of so many "anti-Bible" facts and yet have faith in God. During that year I read the four Gospels sparadically, and compared them to Eastern Religion, studying that with a friend who had approached me with the proposal that we two figure out "the religion thing." Everyday after class he would come over, listen to Ravi Shankar albums, drink Miller highlife beer, get stoned and read from the Tao te Ching and the Bahagavod Gita..
<= On to Page 2 of this thrilling story!