Using a College Paper as an Introduction:
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01-08-2013, 02:14 PM
Using a College Paper as an Introduction:
I thought this would have been my first post here, but I am already in the deep end of the pool with some of the other threads. I remembered to bring my thumb drive home from work today so I could share this. Apologies if it's too long winded.

In February 2010, I took an "Intro to World Religions" course. A personal paper was part of the course, what following is the paper I wrote for the class. I got an "A" in the class. One of the best teachers I've ever had...

As an open atheist, I love to have the opportunity to discuss my religious views, experiences and exposure. When I look back on my life, I believe that I’ve always been an atheist, but it took some significant introspect and courage to finally accept that I do not believe god exists. My religious experiences have ranged from solemn all white Baptist churches to boisterous all black Baptist churches from tent revivals and being saved by a travelling minister as we drove to the revival to Roman Catholic Mass during boot camp and from attending church on what I guess is known as the big religious holidays to only going to church for weddings or when a pastor friend is preaching at a church in my neighborhood and gives me a personal invitation. Despite being an atheist, I am open and accepting of religion. I have two daughters, one is agnostic, but curious about Eastern religion, and the other feels a connection to a greater being and attends church with friends occasionally, but has yet to feel a connection to a house of worship. I support both of my children in their pursuit of religion and encourage them to attend services whenever the opportunity avails itself, I’ve only asked that, no matter if they find themselves born again and convinced that I’m living a life of sin and eternal suffering that they respect my personal beliefs.

I haven’t always thought of myself as an atheist. In fact, for the greater part of my life, I would have stated I was a Christian, but one without a specific denomination. In the military, your religious preference is stamped onto your dog tags. My dog tags were stamped “NRP” which indicated No Religious Preference, probably the best description of me for most of my life.

When I was young, religion was not a large part of my family life. I was raised by a single mom from an abusive, Baptist family. I think my mother associated some of her childhood abuse with the church because her father was a very active member. We only went to church on religious holidays or for marriages. The church we went to as a family was lily white, very solemn and businesslike. Probably many people have the same memories of church as a youth of long boring speeches and hard benches, that’s what this church was like for me. Another church I went to as a child had a van or a bus that would pick me and my brothers up and take us to church for Sunday school. Of this church, I only remember candy and treats for the kids, none of the biblical teachings stuck with me.

I had some wonderfully odd religious experiences or awareness as a teenager. I had a girlfriend whose mother was active in a revivalist church. She asked me to come to the revival with her one night, they were actually hosting the visiting preacher so I got to ride with her to the revival. This lady was incredibly vibrant and convicted, she asked me if I was saved and, because I wasn’t, if I wanted to be. I didn’t want to be rude so I agreed and she saved me right there in the car, her in the front seat and me in the back seat holding hands and reciting the solemn vows of Christianity. Whatever prayer she had me recite in my salvation had the line “I will have a hot line with Jesus” which I misunderstood as “I will have a hot time with Jesus” with extra emphasis on HOT TIME which got everyone in the car laughing. Of course we got my phrases right so the Lord would be happy with my conversion and that night at the revival I went up to ask the Lord to help me kick the smoking habit. I smoked for 14 years after that revival.

Also during my teen years, a local religious man opened a Shepherds of the Faith non-denominational church. My brother was dating a daughter of the pastor, attended church services and was privy to insider knowledge of how the church was run. The leader of this church was a faith healer who believed in laying on hands to heal. He must have healed my brother of every illness and ailment known to man because almost every week my brother was up in front of the congregation being healed some one thing or another. My brother got great at falling down, flopping around and saying “Hallelujah!” while he was dating that young lady.

For the ten years I was in the Navy, I was mostly non-religious. During boot camp, though, I was buddied up with a Roman Catholic and church was a great release from boot camp trauma on Sunday mornings so I attended Mass with my new friend, Matt. I truly enjoyed the fellowship inside the Navy’s Catholic mass. I didn’t understand at the time the communion or the work and ceremony involved with being a Catholic, but I was tempted to choose Catholicism as my religion. After boot camp, my only exposure to religion was when I would serve on a ship and be underway, each night, the ship’s Chaplain would say evening prayer over the ship’s public address system. These prayers were always calming and reassuring to me. As a sailor, it’s hard to dismiss something greater than yourself, however, I think it was during this time I began to be aware that, despite my personal prayers and religious experiences, it wasn’t a relationship with god but a coexistence with others that I enjoy.

Coming to the realization that I am an atheist was an uneventful occurrence. I worked in a cabinet shop shoulder to shoulder with a devout Christian and, when I wasn’t listening to the radio with my headphones on, I would listen to the local Christian station on his. Eight hours a day of sanding cabinet doors allows for plenty of introspective time and, while I enjoyed the sermons and the morality of what I was hearing on the radio, I became vividly aware of the fact that I didn’t accept that a god existed. The most difficult challenge of becoming aware of my belief that a god doesn’t exist, was reckoning with an afterlife and eternity. I feel a more accurate description of my person philosophy is secular humanist, secular because I do not believe in god, but humanist because I do believe in society and community.

If faith in a god is satisfactory to explain a belief in god and an afterlife, then faith in no god or afterlife has to be satisfactory also. I belief that we exist as a fortunate but totally unplanned set of circumstances that caused Earth to exist, plant life to create an atmosphere, simple, single celled organism to become animated and evolve into the life forms that exist on Earth now. I believe that, like a light bulb that goes dark when the filament inside is broken or the light switch is turned off, when we are no longer capable of turning carbohydrates into in electrical impulses that animate our bodies, we cease to be. I do not believe in souls, ghosts, Heaven, Hell, god, satan, devils, or spirits.

There’s a type of constant coming out as an atheist that has gotten easier for me over time. It seems to me that the first assumption about a person is that he or she is a Christian. Being found out to be something other than Christian, has gone many different ways for me. I wasn’t surprised be to damned and shamed by a usually belligerent Christian coworker. I have been challenged to explain everything in nature as if it were my responsibility to do so, regardless of the fact that, as an atheist, I only doubt an existence of god, I don’t think it’s my responsibility to explain first cause to anyone. From what I have been told, I am on quite a few prayer lists, which I am grateful for. A good friend at work is a Pastor and invited me to visit a local black church one day when he was preaching. It was a great experience and watching my friend preach was eye opening, he preaches in a call and response style, “Amen,” that really engages the congregation and made me feel close to the people there with me. He’s pretty sure I’m already a Christian, I just haven’t felt the calling yet to admit it. I tell him, laughingly, that once I do admit it, I intend to start a mega-church of my own and make a million dollars preaching The Bible.

As a regular Habitat for Humanity volunteer, I work closely with quite a few proselytic Christians, because the topic never comes up, again, it’s assumed I’m a Christian, no one knows that I am an atheist. As a lead volunteer for Habitat for Humanity’s Brush With Kindness Program, I have built a few handicap ramps for people with mobility issues that caused them to be, in some cases, imprisoned in their own homes. I have had more “god bless you’s” and other religious compliments rained on me than I deserve, but I have never felt the need disparage to the sentiment, I take it in the spirit it’s offered. Working for the Habitat for Humanity or helping anyone out fulfills me with a spirit of closeness, community, and fellowship that I assume people feel when they attend church.

In an effort to explain the lack of connection to god, I’ve told people that, from the earliest times I can remember, clasping my hands together in prayer has felt as hollow to me as it would for any Christian to offer a prayer to the supreme Tenochtitlan god, Huitzilopochtli. For me, there’s a separation between my lack of belief and my philosophy of humanitarianism. I follow a path of humanitarianism because I feel it is as inherent in me as taking care of my children.
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02-08-2013, 09:03 AM
RE: Using a College Paper as an Introduction:

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02-08-2013, 09:43 AM
RE: Using a College Paper as an Introduction:
Can we get an abstract?

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02-08-2013, 11:01 PM
RE: Using a College Paper as an Introduction:

And we definitely need the references.

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