First off, I want to thank everyone who has downloaded and listened to the podcast so far, I really appreciate it. I have done six episodes and I think I am getting better with each new one but I still have some room for improvement. It is kind of weird talking to yourself and then listening to yourself talk during the editing process. I have no audio production experience and I use audacity to edit and clean the audio. I am not an expert in any of the topics I discuss but I do know how to do research. I have a Masters in Social Work from North Carolina State University and during my two year program; I learned how to do proper research. I am pretty good at gathering resources from all over, gleaming information and expressing it in written form. The difficult part is trying to take what is written and turning it into spoken. It is two different styles of presenting information and that is the part I am slowly improving upon.
So why do this podcast? I am one of those people that have millions of thoughts bouncing around in my head with no outlet. I have to express myself to anyone that will listen and so I decided to do this podcast. I listen to a ton of podcast and the ones I listen to on religion are very good but one of my favorites is Skeptoid. The length of the podcast is perfect. It provides easily digestible information. Although it is more geared towards pop culture and other pseudoscience claims, I have yet to find one similar addressing religious claims. The Dumbasses Guide to Knowledge is another podcast that takes popular myths and debunks them but largely stays away from religious topics. I want to fill the niche. I will attempt to fill that niche. But why listen to me? I don’t have an answer to that per se but I can tell you this, I enjoy researching these topics, I enjoy writing about these topics and most importantly, I enjoy learning.
When I listen to a radio show, a podcast or whatever, the more I know about the host, the more I feel like I am connected to them. That they are speaking directly to me. I hope to establish that connection with some of my listeners so I feel it’s appropriate that I give some background on who I am and how I got to this point in my life.
I was born and raised in the suburbs of San Diego California. That may sound like a sweet location but my family faced a ton of hardships. My dad never graduated high school, my mom graduated high school while pregnant with my older brother who subsequently dropped out of high school but went back and got his GED. We moved around a lot, living in one location no longer than a few years. We would go from apartments to houses and back again. Our needs were met and my parents worked hard to fulfill our wants. My parents would on occasions separate for a few weeks to a few months. It wasn’t until I was older that I found out why. My dad had a drug and alcohol problem and at one point my mom did too but once she had kids, she stopped, my dad did not. They would fight constantly about this and when the relationship turned somewhat violent, my mom would move us out and we would go stay with our grandparents. My dad would eventually deal with his addiction but it wasn’t until a much later time in his life.
My older brother by four years was a trouble maker. He had a reputation in school and I was constantly compared to him when I came through but I would prove to not be his clone. He would constantly get in trouble at school and outside of school. When he was seventeen, he got his girlfriend pregnant. With nowhere to go and no real income, they moved in with us. At the time, my mom just had my youngest brother. After my niece was born, he got his girlfriend pregnant again, just over a year later. So now we have three children under the age of two, me a teenager, my older brother and his girlfriend and my mom and dad living a three bedroom 1700 square foot home. My brother had his own problems with drugs, mostly weed but there was a conflict of interest in the home. My parents wanted him to stop but my dad would smoke with him, a bit hypocritical. Eventually my brother, his girlfriend and kids would move out and we moved to my grandparents’ old house. My brother living on his own did not last long, he would eventually move back in with us but lived in a motor home on our property. His residence would change once again when he was sent to jail for breaking and entering.
Religious belief was rarely mentioned in my house. I only remember a few specific times where it was mentioned. My aunt took us to church one Sunday and we just hung out and played and I remember getting bit by these huge red and black ants but as far as retaining any knowledge of God or Jesus, I am drawing a blank. The second time was when my Grandfather died. He was in a coma after suffering a stroke and my grandmother had the difficult task of cutting off care. We made one last visit to say goodbye and on the way home my mom said, after seeing that, I don’t know how you cannot believe in God. I didn’t respond one out of respect and two because I didn’t have the knowledge to articulate my point. There were no Sunday shuttles off to the local church, no prayers before bed or before meals. We were just surviving and living.
I never claimed any domination and I was generally never questioned on what I believed. I was an atheist by default. I did not believe in God. This was not some intellectual rationalization; it was from a lack of exposure to religious institutions. My baseline was non-belief. As a teenager, I reacted to the idea of God with anger. I was not above “praying” as I thought God was a genie in the sky granting wishes and I took the evidence of unanswered prayers as proof God was not real. I had some superstitious beliefs so I was by no means a skeptic. I think you can be an atheist and not a skeptic. I thought we (as in humans) were the product of alien DNA. I believed in UFO’s and that aliens planted the seeds of life on our planet. Ridiculous now but as a teenager, that was my rationalization. I would lash out at God; I would write rap songs cursing God. I blame this on teenage hormonal imbalances because I cannot find a rational explanation for it. It may have been my form of rebellion which is strange because religion was never forced onto me. If I got into an argument about God’s existence, I could not articulate a reason for not believe or cite any evidence, I would just belittle the person for believing in fairy tales. I was an angry atheist but also an ignorant atheist.
After high school, I went to community college for two years to pursue a computer science degree but I dropped out and worked with a friend a mine at his Dad’s cabinet shop. From there I worked at Office Depot selling computers and other office equipment. I was going nowhere fast and I needed a change. That was when the army recruiter walked into Office Depot and forever changed the course of my life.
I don’t think my journey is special or groundbreaking but it is my journey and I want to share it. If you want to share your journey, please write me at email@example.com or record your story and I can include it in a future podcast. When I return next episode, I will finish my story about how I became an atheist, my brief flirtation with Mormonism and being a born again Christian. You can following me on twitter @cwebb619, check out my website atheistsocialworker.org and please leave me a review on iTunes. I will see you all here next time, for C-Webb’s Sunday school.
Joining the Army and being away from my family for the first time allowed me to symbolically start anew. It was my fresh start and so I decided to give God a chance. When I enlisted, my religious affiliation was “no religious preference.” Initially, church service was a nice break from doing basic Army stuff. On Sunday, instead of cleaning barracks and shinning boots, I would go to church service. I really didn’t pay attention, I mostly just dozed off. The sermons didn’t move me or really make much sense. I decided on the Christian service because it was available and it was all I knew. I was eventually baptized to “wash” my sins away. To me, it was a cleansing process. I was leaving my old life behind and starting this new one. I believed just to believe. I still didn’t understand the plan of salvation, all I knew was that if I was to be right with God, I had to be baptized. It was a simple process and plus it got me out of the boring, repetitive Army stuff.
My bunkmate was a Mormon. We would talk frequently about religion and he would tell me about the Mormon faith. I was ignorant of most faiths so I listened to him. He invited me to a Sunday service, so I went. The nice thing about going to a Mormon service, it was off-base. Being in basic training, anything outside of the base was exciting. The other cool thing, his wife lived off-base and she would meet us at church. She would bring us contraband like pop-tarts and Reese peanut buttercups. Stuff we could not get on the inside. This kept me going back. Mormons are an interesting bunch. Since I was new, I would go to their special Sunday school sessions. There, they would try to explain their plan of salvation, at least their interpretation. I had a ton of questions, the three kingdoms, being a god of your own Earth like planet and how Jesus visited the Americas. I thought it strange but I also thought it was cool; I could be a god one day, who wouldn’t want that? Towards the end of my basic, I was eventually baptized again, this time as a Mormon. I had the same feelings as before; the initial high and then slowly I went back to my baseline. I never officially asked to be removed from the church registry so I guess I am still technically a Mormon. After leaving basic, I stopped going to church and I never identified as Mormon again.
Let me back up a little bit. Right before I joined, I met my future ex-wife. She was enlisting in the National Guard at the same time I was enlisting for Active Duty. We hit it off and dated for about three weeks before I was shipped off to basic training. I kept in frequent contact with her throughout my basic and training. I told her I was going to church and she was excited about that. You see, she was a born-again Christian. She was not too pleased that I joined the Mormon Church. I didn’t see a problem because I thought all Christians believed the same thing. I told her it was no big deal and I would go to church with her. I did and right before I went to Korea, I proposed to her. Only knowing her from three weeks, then through letters and phone calls and never really spending real time with each other, I proposed, smart huh? She said yes and we agreed when I returned from Korea a year later, we would get married and she would move to wherever I was stationed next.
I went off to Korea and I caught the fever. I was stationed on a Korean Air Force base. I supported an Air Defense artillery division. Most of my time was spent in an air conditioned building, sitting at a computer or playing PlayStation. I was bored so I starting searching the internet. I started looking at religious sites. I was reading my bible, listening to Christian music, reading Christian books, buying Christian clothing, I had Jesus fever. A sergeant of mine introduced me to the Left Behind book series. I was immediately obsessed with the end times. That ramped up my Christian research. I looked into everything. I looked into Christmas and how it has pagan roots, Easter and Valentine’s Day. I was convinced all of this was from the devil and that celebrating it was evil. I started to read Christian apologetics, bought book after book on supporting the Christian faith and how everyone else is wrong. I started writing rap songs about Jesus and about the end times. I was convinced that we were living in the end times that any day Jesus would return. I prayed and prayed constantly, waiting for that holy feeling to come over me. I tried so hard, I focused with all of my power to feel that feelings, to know that sensation that what I was thinking and believing was right. I never got that feeling. I never received special revelation but I kept believing. I wanted to tell anyone that would listen, that we were living in the end times that they needed Jesus and I had the proof. I purchased a book called “301 startling proofs and prophecies.” I have it right here at my desk, looking at it right now. It is good reference material for my new podcast but more on that later. I found every piece of evidence to support my beliefs. I thought that earth was 6000 years old, I believed in creationism. I wanted to be a pastor, I wanted to get a degree in theology or be a Chaplin in the army. I was a believer through and through. But, I also doubted. I doubted a lot. My prayers were not answered, I never had that holy feeling so I questioned.
When I left Korea, I got married and my wife moved with me to Fort Bragg. We got an apartment together and tried to be husband and wife. It lasted about a year. We hardly knew each other, we did not get along. It was difficult. We attended church together and we prayed about our relationship but it was for not. During our living together, my religious fervor died down a lot, I was going through the motions of believing. I identified and Christian non-denominational. I really didn’t like going to church, I never enjoyed singing those shitty Christian rock songs and I was bored listening to the sermons. I feel back to my baseline.
Once we split, I moved back on base and she stayed in the apartment. She started dating other guys and I was miserable. I didn’t want the relationship to end and I tried to keep it together but eventually she moved back to California and I worked on getting the divorce finalized. During our split, I met my current wife online and we started seeing each other. I told her I was a Christian but I didn’t attend church much anymore and wasn’t too serious about it but that is how I identified myself. She would eventually move up to Fort Bragg from Wilmington and we moved in with each other. We lived with each for a year, the last year of my contract and when I was discharged, we moved to Raleigh and shortly after, we were married. Almost a year later, we had our first child.
Religion was not a huge thing to us, she was a recovering catholic and I was a “Christian” by name. Slowly, I started having doubts again. Slowly I started questioning what I really believed. I would take these quizzes online that would help you determine what religion you should be. At one point I was either a Deist or a Jew. Doubt doubt doubt. That is such a powerful weapon. Once that seed of doubt is planted, it is hard to turn back. I started to do what I did when I became a believer; I read and read and read. I was able to get an audiobook copy of Richard Dawkins the God Delusion. That sealed the deal. From there I found Christopher Hitchens and other wonderful books. I was a born again Atheist. The old religious arguments fell apart. I was no longer a Christian. I had a difficult decision to make. I had to tell my wife. I was anxious about it for months. It kept me up at night, I anguished over it. Finally I wrote her a letter. I sent it to her via email one night when I was out of town for work. It took her by surprise and devastated her. She did not know how to react. She loved and cared for me deeply but I had just shattered her picture perfect life. The life of us raising our daughter’s to be Christians, to see faith as a virtue; she no longer had a partner in all of this. She felt I lied to her because I told her I was a Christian when we met and now this. I told her I was the same person, husband and father, I just didn’t believe in god anymore. She needed time and space. So I gave it to her. Eventually she accepted it but she didn’t want it in her face. I had to hide my books, keep my mouth shut on Facebook and not mention it to her family. That lasted only so long until I started to see what the religious right was doing to our country. I became more outspoken but I did it from a progressive point of view, I adopted the identifier of secular humanist. I grew stronger in my disbelief. I was an angry atheist for a while but this time around, I was an informed atheist. I had the itch to tell everyone that believing in god was moronic and irrational. I wanted to de-convert all theists I met. I was hungry for knowledge. I sought it out everywhere. I was already aware of the Christian arguments and now I had the atheist arguments and that was enough to shatter the foundation of my faith.
Now here I sit. Writing these words, telling my story to all of you. Why? Because I feel a need to. I feel a need to express my thoughts, opinions and feelings. I want this podcast to provide information in a succinct way and in an entertaining way. That is my story, that is how I got here, speaking these word to you. Life is a journey and I am honored that you all have decided to go on this journey with me.
If you want to share your journey, please write me at firstname.lastname@example.org or use that contact page at atheistsocialworker.org or record your story and I can include it in a future podcast. You can following me on twitter @cwebb619, make sure to follow @dumbassmedia on twitter, check out my website atheistsocialworker.org and you can also find other great skeptical podcast at dumbassmedia.info and make sure to leave me a review on iTunes. I will see you all here next time, for C-Webb’s Sunday school where we take a look at the creation story in Genesis.