My Story

I’m quite honored to have had my request for inclusion to the blog accepted by John, with facilitation provided by Ed Babinski. The big names here (with more to come) both goads me to raise the bar on my efforts to post, and amazes me that I ever made it in. This introduction post will serve as a brief bio.

I am an ex-minister, though without a formal education or denominational attachment in ministry, unlike some of my fellow contributors here. I am an ex-drug abuser. I am an atheist.

My story is no more special than any of the others here, or of your own. Raised in Redneckville, USA, nestled safely away from temptation and any semblance of a classical education, I did what every child does: I trusted my authorities and parents. I made the oh-so-courageous decision to abandon moral responsibility and ask Jesus to take away all my guilt and shame as a pre-teen. At that point, unfortunately for my parents (and for Jesus), I moved to Nerd City.

Every week, my allowance was spent solely upon paperbacks from the K-Mart across the road, and science became a passion (not to mention that it was a more beautiful epistemology than a Presuppositionalism founded on the Cinderella-esque “Prince Jesus picked me, a lowly pauper, and put the Glass Slipper of the Holy Ghost on me” story). By 16, I had already developed pretty deep and serious doubts about the Christian worldview, partly due to the things I had learned about anthropology, the evolving (memetic) tenets of all religions, and Christianity in particular (especially post-Enlightenment), and one of my favorite subjects, cosmology.

The simplistic non-answers proffered by religious authorities I sought assistance from did nothing but further my doubts, and when my father, a devout Southern Baptist, was diagnosed with esophageal cancer, I became a sort of agnostic, more of a nihilist, although I didn’t know it at the time. To be fair, childhood religious experiences are often suspect as claims of deep and meaningful rational decisions. My own decision to give up the idea of faith at 16 is impugned by the personal grief and confusion of finding out about my dad’s condition, I will concede. Irrespective of this, I began using drugs shortly thereafter. Possibly I would have used regardless of my worldview, I can’t really say, but I moved quickly from alcohol and weed to harder drugs.

Suffice it to say I only used in this fashion for a few months before my mother found out and I was sent to get help. On my graduation date (May 1999) I was sitting in a circle saying, “Hi, I’m Daniel, and I’m an addict…” (…hi Daniel...). After returning to the real world, I didn’t last long before using again. I was told this would happen, because, in their words, I hadn’t “hit rock bottom yet”. I also refused to give up alcohol and weed, believing I could simply abandon the harder stuff but keep smoking dope with no “gateway” issue. I was wrong, obviously.

In retrospect, I see they were right, but for the wrong reasons, but that is for another essay. I was arrested August 14th of that year for eight felonies, placed on house arrest (with the ankle bracelet that Martha made infamous), and assigned to stand trial in November. My attorney negotiated to have me sent to Appalachian Teen Challenge, my parents’ ultimatum, in order to have the case taken “under advisement”. I was there 14 months. I spent an average of 20 hours a week in Bible study and around 10 hours a week in prayer. I came out and was “on fire for God” (or a well-programmed holybot, depending on your perspective). My charges were reduced to one misdemeanor and lots of probation, and a great deal of the clemency was attributable to the people I had robbed−known drug dealers.

I enrolled in engineering at SVCC while I became the youth pastor at a church of ~500 people, then went off to Virginia Tech to finish my degree. I got married, got a B.S. Biochemistry / B.A. Chemistry, and enrolled in a Ph.D. chemistry program at the University of Florida. I then re-initiated a defunct freethought student organization at UF.

I was a holybot, and am now an atheist. What happened in between my departure from TC and now is long, convoluted, and I am still trying to figure out. Succinctly, I began to study the Bible more in-depth, evolutionary theory and its evidence of a blind and chance process producing humans, and I started to read basic philosophical arguments against god’s existence, possibly most important of all, I began to reflect upon the process by which I acquired faith, my motives and reasons for believing and practicing religion. From my introspection and studies, from my interaction with friends and family, with pastors and laymen, with scholars and everyday working “Joes”, I abandoned faith in God. I was already an atheist towards Zeus and Allah and a million other concepts of god, and basically I just became an atheist towards one more − the Judeo-Christian god of my heritage.

So...that’s my story, in brief, or at least as briefly as I could stand to make it. Hopefully, those who come to this blog and read my posts and comments will judge my ideas on their own merits, and nothing else. Again, I am glad to be here, and I know I’ll learn a lot from the more-learned-than-I who allowed me aboard, and I am enthused to jump into the fray at the interface between us heretics and some of thedefenders of the faithwho have engaged with the blog so far (and all the others we expect to debate with).

Thanks for taking the time to read about me. Feel free to email me anytime.

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