Tuesday, May 29, 2012

#62- My Church Life 6

During the time that I was going through baptism class I was having relations with an awesome young lady.  By relations I mean mind-blowing, Earth-shattering, CONSISTENT sex.  The day I got dipped in the water of the main side of Emmanuel Haitian Baptist Church I decided that this was a secret vow with Jesus or God (even I confused them sometimes).  What that meant was that I felt super guilty the because I smashed the same day I got "married to the Lord".   I was dejected and upset at myself because I didn't have the will power to ward off that basic instinct.  After some deep inward reflection I slowed down then cancelled our arrangement.

I bring this up only to share the sincerity of my faith or at the very least that I tried to be close to the Creator.  It kinda burns me when some Christians accuse me of "never really believing".  I some times think of telling of all the personal things I did for the Lord but I have always gone by the code of doing good for goodness sake.  I used to think that this was the most sincere way to be.  Even Jesus talked about people fronting just for show.  I don't want no props for being good.  I do it because it is what I want to do.

It has been years since I left the church but here are some highlights that I remember:
Lee Strobel

1.  A girl left the church and was said to have joined a cult.  I was curious and attended one of her new church's home meetings.  It was there that I was given Lew White's "Fossilized Customs".

2.  I decided that I couldn't get a girl from within the church.  Being rejected by a few of them didn't help.

3.  I visited and was wooed by another church called "Tabernacle of Glory".  I visited there after I met a disgruntled former member of New Vision.  The pastor of that church was young, energetic, and well traveled.  I challenged him.  I requested an audience with him and never got my chance.

4.  There were some noted defections from the inner circle.  Scandals were whispered about what happened to them.  There is a glass ceiling over there.  As soon as the kids go to college they usually rarely come back.

5.  I made it my personal mission to visit a mosque, synagogue, and various other churches to do research and to see if there was a place, any place, that had people like me.

6.  I completed the New Testament and wanted to be an unofficial apologist for the church.  I was referred to and read Christian apologetic work by Josh McDowell and Lee Strobel.  I really wanted to see if I could do The Great Commission.

7.  I was told to pray to the Holy Spirit for clarity and I did.  Nothing happened.  More questions and objections flooded my mind.  I found out that Jesus was racist.

8.  I had taken debate and philosophy and my mind became super allergic to BS.  Exposure to those 2 were a violent blow to my faith and religion in generally.  To prove something truth took more work then I expected.

9.  I discovered Wikipedia and read topics that interested me like a crack head.  I swallowed large amounts of information in a short time.  Eventually I declared myself a "Freethinker".  The anti-bible websites and books that I discovered knew of and pointed out more problems in the Bible.

10.  I became an International Freemason.  I left after about 2 years.  It wasn't what I expected.  They weren't interested in discussing the things that were vital to me.

Lew White
11.  I went to Calvary Chapel and challenged a few Christians there.  A Messianic Jew asked me "How do I know that my God was real" when I told the group that Yahweh couldn't be the true god because he was evil.  I gave a baseless answer to that question and that was the last blow to the last piece of religion I had.

12.  After stumbling across some atheist sources I was pointed to the Florida Atheists and Secular Humanists (FLASH) group.  I went to one of their local meeting and heard them out.  I identified with them a lot.  I later went home and decided that I could not in all honesty say that I could prove that God existed.  That evening I put faith aside and accepted the title of "ATHEIST".


These are but snap shots of the whole adventure but this is the gist of my church life journey.  I have not been to New Vision for a few years now.  I do miss some of the people.  I did develop and emotional connection with the people.  At the end I chose to be real to myself.  If God was real AND good then he would applaud me for giving it a try.

#61- My Church Life 5

My reputation was growing at New Vision Emmanuel Baptist Church as a polemic.  This was never told to me directly but I sure felt it.  By this time I was consumed with learning and verifying what I discovered.  It is hard to believe now but I still tried to make something out of my tenure at my church.

I took a rest from my Sunday School class and enrolled in a Baptism Class.  My aunt wanted me to get baptized when I returned from war but I was repulsed by the idea.  I hated to be told what to do.  I wanted to get baptized because it was what I wanted to do and no one else.  I was hoping to learn something novel from the Baptism class.  My class was lead by people of my age group.  They were not theological giants.  I knew as much or more than them.  I was unruly in class sometimes but eventually I submitted my passions long enough to graduate.  I got baptized in Sept. 2006...

In my better days at the church I thought of preaching.  Pastor Ron was becoming increasingly busy with various affairs and would let others share the stage.  Two of the men that would speak instead of Pastor Ron were peers of mine.  I formally told Pastor Ron that I wanted to get on stage and preach.  He told me that it was a process that included coming to Wednesday Bible study and maybe if I could be part of that group I could eventually go on stage on Sunday.

I started to come on Wednesday nights to see what was going on in Bible study.  It was lead by a young man whom I knew from afar.  He had the qualities of a leader.  I wanted to know what he did to get into his position.  It quickly became apparent that he would be the lead for Wednesday night studies and it wasn't a democratic rotation.  This same man started to preach increasingly on Sundays as well because he had the right stuff.  There was no way I would get to his standing any time soon.

I once sheepishly approach that young man (let's call him Dee) to discuss the horrible genocides of the Old Testament hoping he would recoil in horror.  He started to legitimize the slaughters in the same way other Christians do.  I was truly saddened by this because I felt that maybe we could have agreed on this.

I was on my own for real.  I plotted clandestine ways to get the church members to be exposed to new information that wasn't part of their propaganda.  One of the ways I did this was to suggest we had a round table of religious leaders from around the city.  That way people could ask a representative directly and clear up any misunderstandings.  I ran into a bureaucratic red tape brick wall.  When they did try to diversify their knowledge of other religions they chose to do it by using a DVD on Islam.  I was in the audience when to movie was on.  It was a sanitized and Christian friendly exposition.  I crossed my arms in a defensive manner as I watch this safe misrepresentation of Islam.  I believe I knew more about Islam then all the audience members.  Pastor Ron noticed that I was put off by the video.  I openly questioned the accuracy of the video and the intentions behind it.  This didn't help much.  This reinforced my feeling that the Church was not interested in a real deep research of other religions.

Monday, May 28, 2012

#60- My Church Life 4

When I was coming back from the Men's Conference I committed a snafu.  While waiting in the rear of the car I told one of the brothers that Jesus was not God.  I said it in a cool, calculated, matter-of-fact tone.  The temperature of the room changed instantly.  There was a sterile silence and then he turned around and said

"What?!  I can't believe you said that, bro".

He told me how much Jesus meant to him and something about him losing his mother and how if it wasn't for Jesus he would not have made it so far...

Wow!  I was stunned.  Speechless.  Embarrassed.  How do you respond to that?  Everything I said was based off of the Bible.  The very book that contained the Jesus he was talking about.  This was probably my first direct emotional rebuke and admonition from someone kind of close to me.  Keep in mind that I didn't know the brother very well but I was trying to fit in to the Men's Ministry's clique.  I was shocked and saddened.  I was also very angry.  I was angry that telling the truth could elicit such unadulterated indignation.  I bet he had no idea what I was talking about.  A part of me wanted to pull out my Bible and show him all the highlighted yellows and underlined parts and verses that caused me to say what I did but I relented.  I read the tea leaves and knew that I could never overcome the emotional trauma of a dead mom.  He was silent throughout the ride home.  I felt like a person who shitted in his pants and was trying not to move to much to keep the smell down. I am sure he told some of the other brothers.

Looking back now I realize that I slowly became bitter and cynical because I was slowly became spiteful because I made it my personal business to wake people up...I'm talking about the whole church and then the world.  This may sound crazy now but I was so sincere because I assumed that people at church wanted truth, peace, and all things good.  I also assumed that if God was good and was truth itself then I was on the right side and my hardships would be rewarded somehow.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

#59- My Church Life 3

Things just went along well enough at the church.  There was gossip.  There was an "inner circle".  There was a routine.  Then 9/11 happened.  I was awaiting the call to be activated since I was a soldier in the National Guard.  It didn't come until December of 2002.  I felt that God was telling me that 2003 would be the "Year of Hard Work" during New Year's Eve service.  Weeks later I was on a bus to Georgia for training.  In March I was on a plane to the Middle East.  I didn't return until February of 2004.  In between that time I wrote a poem to God and started to read my New International Student Bible by Zondorvan.  I read it from Genesis and stalled at Isaiah.  I had many questions and secured a meeting with my pastor.  He didn't satisfy my questions and I started to research myself.

My mother says that I became a different person after I came back from war.  I certainly was more knowledgeable about the Bible.  Getting things right became very important to me because I was intimately aware of pending death.  My peers did not experience this and thus took the religion lightly.  My pastor was not the "doctor of religion" that I assumed him to be.  By that time I had also traveled to Europe for almost a month and all this traveling, exposure, and reading changed me for the better forever.

I became a bit of a scourge after this.  I didn't like the way the Sunday School class was indifferent about church and religion.  People were late to class.  The teachers were discouraged.  The lessons were boring and elementary.  The Sunday School system was imported from Haiti where they used rote memorization as their main tool.  This did not transfer well and thus Sunday School became on big dog and pony show to me.  Reading the Bible from the beginning caused me to ask questions that were heavy in the Old Testament.  The church was a New Testament place.  Christians tend to use the Old Testament as a crutch to their assumptions in the New Testament.  I would sit there overtly disagree and basically correct the teacher.  I was like a teenager in a kindergarten class.  It sucked.

I wanted to make the class read the Bible so that they could know what I know and see what I saw.  I eventually inquired about replacing my Sunday School teacher after he admitted he was burnt out.  I was given the run-around and was exposed to the red tape and bureaucracy of the church.  Other teachers were simply hand picked.  I had to go through some class.

I had an epiphany after watching Hotel Rwanda that stirred deep passions inside me.  The idea of genocide tortured me.  Yahweh commended it and I was going to tell the church about it since they don't read their Bibles.  Back then I was naive to think that those people wanted truth, peace, and love.  When I showed them the passages they didn't react as I expected.  I suffered a great mental schism around that time.  Me having seen dead bodies, having been at war know the ugliness of that enterprise.  My God was a good god.  He surely could not allow this to happen again.  So I made it my personal mission to vindicate God and make these Christians see things my way.

This was a struggle.  At first I was kind. Then I pretended to be dumb by asking leading questions.  I used logic, reason, sarcasm...none of it work.  I quickly felt like a spy in foreign territory.  This broke my heart.  Sunday School was the place to speak.  I would take that long, lonely walk downstairs to the New Vision side where they would whoop and holler for reasons that became more annoying to me.  I carried the burden of knowing that Yahweh was a monster in my heart and no one would believe me since no one read for themselves.

I would talk to a guy here.  Maybe a girl there.  I would set up clever ruses to make them look at my Bible.  I came to Wednesday night Bible study.  I stayed after church hoping to meet someone who gives a damn.  I rarely made it pass the obligatory pleasantries.

I continued to try to fit in with the Men's Ministry.  I helped usher an event.  I helped do a fundraising.  I gave ideas.  I even gave a check for $2003 as a thank you to God for protecting me during the year 2003.

I went to a Men's Conference in Palm Beach with Pastor Ron and the fellas.  I remember the guest speaker, a large white man, using the Bible to push his message.  During one of the breaks the speaker called our attention to a petition in opposition of marriage equality that was at a table.  He called the people who wanted to give homosexual Americans "reprobates".  I didn't know what that word meant at the time but I can tell by the way his face contorted it was not a good thing.  He might as well say "motherfuckers".  He had so much hate in him for homosexuals.  As he made the announcement an alarm went off inside me.  I almost died to protect the rights of ALL Americans.  I bought into the idea of "Equality and Justice for All".  I looked at Pastor Ron's eyes and the other guys to see if they felt as uncomfortable and disgusted at this man's homophobia.  There was no indication that they disagreed with the speaker.  At this point I had another epiphany.  Every member of the table got up from the table either to sign the anti-equality petition or just to walk around. I had faced death many times in Iraq and here I was feeling like a coward.  The only protest I could muster was to sit at the table indignant at the blatant display of malice against gays.  I still feel ashamed of not saying more.  During another break I went to speak to the speaker hoping to corner him on my genocide questions.  I was so angry at him that I just wanted to spit acid on him.  I felt so discouraged that in this day and age people could be so backwards and hateful.

#58- My Church Life 2

I settled on New Vision Emmanuel as my home church.  Sunday School was cool.  The teacher was a peer and I liked her so I wasn't so rough on her.  So I would get off on showing how knowledgeable I was in the morning and then go to what essentially was a pep rally downstairs.

Our pastor was a man young enough to be hip but old enough to demand Haitian respect.  His passion for the church was apparent.  His alter calls were pretty good.  I stepped up a few times.  I used to feel tingly inside like most people.  I had developed my own voice of God in my head that nagged me when I needed a guilt trip.

As I was building my rep in Sunday School all the extra curricular stuff started to grab my attention.  I asked myself why the church had to be divided in 2.  One side was the older Haitians and the other were the young.  We were losing our culture and I didn't like that too much.  I would ask around and people didn't care so I went to the older side.

Big mistake!!!  Those Haitians are in a time warp.  The women bleep like sheep with their "Ah Men".  The men are stuffy and austere.  Almost everyone take mental vacations during those boring services.  The women wore crazy hats that made them look like clowns.  They would do what I call the "Haitian 2 Step" where they would sway back and forth while holding their hands up.  The pastor's face was classic.  He looked like he was in a pensive and regal state.  This was HIS church, his organization, his mini country.  I'm sure that must be an ego rush.

The French flew relentlessly out the pastor's mouth.  The mundane was the standard.  It was extraordinarily boring in the older side.  I had few points of relation with them.  It made me question my Haitianhood.  I couldn't take it no more so I returned to the English speaking youth side.

This was between 1999-2001.  I tried to fit in as best as I could.  I played the rear or the fringes of the seating arrangements downstairs.  Sometimes the message was live and relevant other times it was nothing but ranting about going to hell.  I'm not sure if it was before or after 9/11 but I sincerely tried to make friends at church; especially with the Men Ministry dudes.

Haitians are very speculative people so I stayed away from the females only because I wanted to stay out the rumor mills.  I befriended a guy or two but it was a very superficial and uncomfortable deal.  I was a late comer into the church and it seemed like some of the members were literally born in that building.  Their parents and other relatives went there so I was trying to penetrate that type of family atmosphere.

I attended functions at my pastor's house, picnics, stuff like that.  I never felt all the way comfortable.  But I tried.

Friday, May 25, 2012

#57- My Church Life

My mother dragged me to church as a youth.  We came from a Catholic background with a muted Vodou presence like most Haitians.  When we moved to the U.S. permanently she made a smooth transition to Protestant churches.  I think she did this because she was looking to belong in a community of Haitians in a strange land.  I don't think she can really delineate most of the differences between Catholicism and Protestantism still today.  I think to her Jesus is Jesus.

She dragged me to a Haitian church in Hollywood, Florida where I experienced my first cognitive dissonance with the invisible being they were so in love with.  I was told to "love" and "fear" this being simultaneously.  It was there that I got hated on when I wanted to eat the holy cracker and drink the bloody juice.  It was there that I experience favoritism and gossip. It was there that my mother took me on the morning of the impending Hurricane Andrew.  The streets were bare and this lady had me attend church instead of preparing for what would be the costliest storm in U.S. history.

As a teenager I bounced around different venues.  Eventually I landed at Miami's Emmanuel Baptist Church.  I had visited them when the young people used to worship on the second floor.  I remember it being crowed, dark, and hot.  The youth were more gregarious and boisterous then the austere adults downstairs.

Years later I was back there after tentatively accepting Jesus.  The youth moved downstairs and were more organized.  They even had their own pastor.  It was essentially a house divided as I later found out.  I came to Sunday School after meeting a young lady at Miami-Dade through a mutual friend.  They were discussing the Christian way to date.  I tried to bite my tongue but failed.  I told them in my own special way that their notions are unrealistic and could get people raped.  My statements created a buzz and I was invited back.  I liked Sunday School because it was an open forum where people can speak.  I am very opinionated so this was good for me.  This was the beginning of me trying to fit it to Emmanuel New Vision Baptist Church.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

#56- On Judaism 2

I got deployed to the Middle East after 9/11.  I didn't give Judaism and Jews much thought during that time per se.

Actual picture of my old Sunday School class
Around the time I was meeting all these Jewish teachers I was getting acclimated with the Christian version of the stories in the Bible.  I was a Christian at the time and basically the Christians made unsubstantiated claims against the Jews that were always irrational to me.  They said the Jews rejected Jesus because he was not what they expected.

That prompted several questions in my mind.  The most important of which were:

1.  What did they expect?
2.  Where did they get these expectations from?
3.  How in the world can outsiders (Christians) know the affairs of Jews better than Jews?

In order to get the answers to these questions I asked the head pastor at my church, Pastor Joseph.  He happened to walk into my Sunday School class one morning.  I hurriedly approached him and asked my "why DID the Jews reject Jesus"?  He answered dismissively "because they are sinners".  The gravity of this moment in my life can not be understated.  HOW DARE HE JUST BRUSH ME OFF!!!!

His credulity and arrogance came out of him at once.  He didn't know but this was no small matter to me.  I had taken the time to read the Bible.  I was sent to war based on religion.  People were willing to kill for God.  If I was going to choose Jesus I needed the FULL story.  I thought that the head pastor of one of the largest Haitian Protestant church would offer more than the words that escaped his throat.  I wanted to grab that old man and shake him for disrespecting me like that.  I had come close to dying at war and I was hell bent on learning the ways of religion so I can spread peace because it was the right thing to do.  I couldn't spread peace if I didn't get the full picture of these old beefs.

It was during this time that I decide to seek out Jews for my self and bring up the white elephant in the room, JESUS CHRIST.  South Florida is full of Jews.  Truth be told I found them weird.  I would see their boys at the mall with their strings hanging from their pants and wanted to pull on them instinctively.  They kept to themselves and were almost clandestine.  Here we are raving about how they missed out on Jesus and they couldn't care less.  I wanted to know why so I sought them out.

My first move was to go online.  I didn't know how to approach a Jew and talk about Jesus even though we were constantly pestered to share the gospels with strangers.  I found http://www.jewsforjudaism.org/ and was able to talk to one of their organizers.  She was able to answer my questions and just as I expected Christians and Jews were in totally different planets when talking about Jesus.  Jews barely talked about him.  They keep to themselves after centuries of being harassed by Christians.

When Christians tried to reason with them they had very satisfying answers but I wager that 99% of Christians don't know of the things I learned from Jews For Judaism.  This is what happens when people don't communicate.

I took my new knowledge to church thinking that they were interested in what I learned.  They were not.  New Vision Emmanuel Baptist Church was not a place for freedom of speech and proliferation of ideas.  It is a vacuum of thought.  It is a swamp of "Yes" people whose minds are fettered in a quagmire of politics and bronze age superstition.  All of it is preserved in the glossy wrapping of Haitian tradition and backwards mores.  Needless to say I was exasperated.  More shingles of lies fell from my eyes.

I freed myself from the old fears of exploring the different.  I have since visited at least two synagogues: Temple Solel and and Young Israel in Hollywood, Florida.  Those experience deserve posts all by themselves.  But I will say that the Jewish people I met were just as disinterested in religion and the Bible as the Haitians I need.  People just go through the motions and hand-waving to fit in and keep up pretenses for family and friends.  Of course there are always the crazies but that is religion for you.

I was impressed by the sense of unity and organization that the Jews seem to have.  I want that for Haitian people.

During my Jewish exploration I read David Klinghoffer's "Why Do Jews Reject Jesus" and exchanged emails with Rabbis from Chabad.org where I learned all manner of things that Christians don't know and won't teach.

I've also ran into Black Hebrew Israelites.  But I will get into that later.
People who want to feel special

The bottom line is that Jews have their own spectrum of thought on religion.  There are all types of Jews from the cool to the scary.  There are Zionists, scumbags, teachers, perverts, politicians, and at least one rapper.

Jews are just regular people.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

#55- On Judaism

For whatever reason the universe decided to make many of my English teachers Jewish.  What is a Jew?  It is...um, they are...um...Christ killers?

Liam Neeson as Oscar Schindler
As a young lad who migrated from Haiti I had many adjustments I had to do.  I learned in Norland Middle school in Mr. Ronald Parks science room that White people outnumbered Black people in the United States.  I thought he was mistaken because most of the people around me were Black.  In Haiti most people were Black.  In Miami most people were Black and in Norland most were Caribbeanites or Black.

It is in that same frame of mind that I met Ms. Schreier, my 7th grade teacher.  She was one of the first people that I understood was a Jew.  I figured out what a Jew was by her appearance and behavior.  She was very good at exposing us to latent ideas that few kids in the class paid attention to.  She let us watch "Schindler's List" and "X" by Spike Lee.  Both movies changed my life.  Schindler's List exposed me to a historical nightmare in breathtaking cinematographic glory.  The evil of men upon these white people called "Jews" by people called "Nazis".  I happened to admire Adolf Hitler as a child coincidentally.  I loved all things German actually.  

In Haiti we worshiped White people.  I remember seeing a clip of Hitler passionate pushing his propaganda and a strange tongue that I later learned was German.  Hitler's command, passion, and charisma strangled my attention as an adolescent.  Schindler's list showed me that he was one of the most prolific human monsters ever born.

I liked Germany based on what I saw on television in the past.  The Germans seemed happy, healthy, and white.  Their flag's colors still evokes fond memories of that period and I still love their language.  But there was a time when Germans were feared and swallowed nations.  Hitler and Germans killed millions of Jews.

Naturally, I felt sympathetic toward these people.  Why were the targeted and hated so?  But alas Liam Nesson's character did a splendid job of saving as saving as many Jews as he could.  Who in their right minds could withhold the tears as they watch the horrors put on these people?  It was then that gained an unquenchable hate for the ghastly crime of genocide.

8th grade had me in Ms. Bearman's English class.  Although I don't remember her being overtly Jewish she did have the "nose".  I know it seems crass for me to say so at this time but I was learning on my own the secrets of this world.

10th grade had me in Mrs. Weinstein.  She also shared Jewish things with us.  She had us read "Night" by Elie Wiesel.  Again the scenes of that book etched irremovable mental scars in my brain.  I wanted revenge.  I dreamed of being the Angel of Revenge.  I wanted to seek out and gleefully destroy every single person who harmed the innocent Jews.  I secretly dreamed of this for so long.  I wanted to tattoo it on my body.  There is something attractive and romantic about defending the weak and oppressed to me.  I was born this way.  If I have an "evil" side this would be part of it. 

English 101 and 102 in Miami-Dade College had me sitting in Prof. Shaw's class.  She was tough and fair.  She confirmed that she was Jewish and told me about Adam's first wife "Lilith".  She introduced me to this thing called "Google" when I challenged her claim that Lilith was Adam's first wife.  She showed me the passages that were made cryptic in Isaiah.  This was one of the times that the shingles on lies fell from my eyes.

#54- On Islam

Around June of 2010 I finished reading a Yusuf Ali English translantion of the Qur'an.  I read the whole thing because a Muslim friend of mine challenged me to do so because he feared that I was going to hell.  The mix of sincerity and admonition propelled me to do so.  It took me a while to finish it but I am glad I did it.  Before I continue, let me give you a brief timeline on my experience with Islam.

-7th grade (circa 1992)

I meet my first Muslim.  He was a Haitian peer and told me about his religion as my Jewish English teacher was passing out chocolate eggs on Easter season.

I saw "X" by Spike Lee.  My mind was blown.  I learned about the self-hatred that Black people felt for themselves.  Malcolm was saved by Islam.  He was killed after having a second awakening after visiting Mecca.

Wu Tang Clan was all in that 5%er type noise
I was just starting to get into Hip Hop and the 5% movement was strong.  I learned to identify their coded messages and picked up their trail whenever I could.  Back in 1992 Hip Hop was a very cerebral movement.  Being knowledgeable made you "HIP".  Anyway, I strongly considered "converting" to what was being positioned as the "Black" man's religion.  But I knew that would not fly in my Haitian house hold.

I learned about Islamic architecture and just enough data to make me seem smart.  When word came that they treated women bad and that they spread their religion through violence and coercion just like Christians did I paused my zeal.  Just like Malcolm was mistaken maybe I was too.  I decide to look into it more because I always cared about knowing the facts of an organization I joined.


My hero Malcolm X
Noble Drew Ali
I was in the math lab of Miami-Dade College North when I got the call from a frantic friend.  The world changed after that.  Islam was named as the culprit.  After that every thing bad was Islam related.  I met a young man at St. Thomas University who explain to me what "Jihad" was.

I had a classmate who was part of that now old movement of 5%ers type of movement.  He tried to shed some light into that whole thing but he was a weed head and was not very credible.  I managed to learn about Noble Drew Ali from him.


I got called up to go to war.  I asked a Chaplain for a Qur'an.  My platoon mates thought I was turning on them.  This was around the time that a Muslim soldier supposedly through a grenade in a tent.

Muslims performing Salat (prayer)
I went to Jordan and Iraq.  It was then I started to read the Bible. Jordanian Muslims are different from Iraqi Muslims.  This part of my journey has too much to discuss in it now but suffice it to say I  met some "authentic" Muslims during my tour. Most of them had never heard of El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz or Malcolm X.
Dude with a Kufi on his head


Our spot in Iraq
I met Ryan who did not become Muslim til later.  He introduced me to some other cool Muslim dudes.  I seen him date an Indonesian Muslim girl who flew all the way to Florida to meet him.  I witnessed them pray at the mall...in public...outside...on the grass...as I watched semi-embarrassed.

Other highlights...

---I met 3 Muslims at one of my last jobs.  They are super cool.
---I have spoken to several Imams from Virginia to Sunrise, Florida

Fard Muhammad

---I've called Islamic hot lines and spoken to various people.
---I've visited numerous mosques in my local area.

My crowing achievement was completing the entire Yusuf Ali Qur'an.  Now I had a good basis to discuss what I found in the book with Muslims.  Reading the Qur'an did not make me convert but it gave me valuable insight into how some Muslims operate.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

#53- The New Normal

That old girlfriend from high school who provided support during my time of transition eventually became my wife.

She grew up in a religious family.  She went on to have doubts as a teenager but played along.  Her father eventually showed her the popular online movie "Zeitgeist" and that stirred up old reservations that she had about religion.

When she met me I talked her ears off about my past, my present, and future goals.  We talked about religion and I explained why I had chosen to be an atheist.  I had her read "50 Reasons People Believe in a god" by Guy Harrison.  It was at that point that she gave up the last bit of religiosity she had.  She is adjusting to calling herself an atheist.  To her and many others, that word draws too much unwanted attention.

Life went on.  I was comfortable in my skin as an atheist.  I eventually completed the entire Quran (Yusuf Ali English translation) in March of 2010.  I was really happy to do it as I did something that very few people on the planet have done; complete the whole Bible and Quran.

I didn't go to church any more.  My last visit to my old church was on Easter of 2010.  A friend of mine went with me a few months after having her first daughter.  She used to be on the usher team and was asked to step down because she was not married.  I was furious!  She and I knew that the core members of the church were involved with all manners of dubious activities.  I started to write a note to my former pastor but she begged me not to give it to him.  As far as I knew, Jesus was born out of wedlock as well and I wanted to point out the hypocrisy.

As we were leaving church the friend who challenged me to reconsider my apostasy from Christianity met up with me and asked how was my spiritually walk was going.  I was very uncomfortable with that question because I was an atheist but knew that telling him would not be beneficial.  I sidestepped the query and left the church knowing that it would be one of the last time I would see that building.