I was raised in a very strict fundamental Baptist home and was "saved" at five years of age while eating my breakfast cereal before kindergarten one morning. From that point on, I was "in rebellion to God," as my parents liked to put it. Nothing I did seemed to be good enough: I was an honor roll student, bilingual at a young age, a prodigious illustrator , a budding actor and, above all, was involved in all the affairs of the church and the associated school (which I attended from the age of four until my high school graduation at seventeen) such as puppet ministry, nursing home ministry, church and school choir and band, bus ministry, youth group and all associated activities and even door-to-door witnessing on Saturdays.
It was on a Saturday morning when I was "calling" on the lost that I had my first run-in with an atheist (cue scary music). He lived in a ramshackle old house in a wooded cul-de-sac in a neighborhood not too far from my own. He was gruff, unpleasant and impolite; not necessarily the way I'd like to be perceived as an atheist. From that point on, he was the embodiment of the evil atheist in my then-Christian mind.
As the years passed, what I was being taught of the Bible became absolutely unfulfilling and I had no desire to study it further for my own understanding because, well, what would be the point? I was still a piece of shit to my parents, regardless of what I did or did not do. This is when I began to "backslide." I turned to secular friends, secular music and everything else that was abhorred by my parents and their church. I would still attend with them and was still involved in all of the extra activities but only nominally.
By the time I was fifteen I was smoking, fooling around with girls, using "filthy" language... all the things that good Christian boys and girls ought not to do. And I loved it all. A couple years later when I graduated high school I decided to remove myself from my parents' oppressive rule and place myself in another equally oppressive environment but one that would later prove to be more rewarding and personally beneficial. I enlisted in the Army at seventeen years of age (with parental consent).
I served six years and climbed the ranks, declining several promotions allow the way for fear of leadership. While I was in the military, I was first confronted with secular individuals that I didn't know personally (ie. neighborhood friends, cousins) and was impressed by their ability to reason. Growing up, I was rarely given choices yet in these people I saw that they made dozens of choices daily and revelled in it; they were leading their lives, not merely living them.
Due to my upbringing, these events brought me back to the Bible to search for hidden meaning and truths. Perhaps my pastor had been skipping over nuggets of knowledge all those years. It was my duty to find those bits of wisdom and apply them.
Well, I don't need to tell any of you that I didn't find them. I studied and prayed but to no avail. I was forced to a conclusion much to the detriment of my faith: God was not in the Bible. In fact, God wasn't around at all. Further, He never had been around.
The open and honest reading of "God's Word" had crushed my faith, destroyed my world-view and, as a result, given me the best gift imaginable: The ability to think. And live.