I Was A Pseudo-Atheist
For most of my first 24 years of life I considered myself to be an atheist (which also turned out to be quite convenient considering the lifestyle I was living). I was 24 years old when I surrendered my heart to Christ, and asked Him to be my Savior.
Interestingly, though most of the time I considered myself an atheist, I now realize it wasn’t as much that I didn’t believe in God as it was that I was mad at Him. Like I said, I was an atheist for most of 24 years, but not all of them.
I have memories of being a very young child and going to church with a family who were friends of my mother. I also remember we moved a lot. Often when we’d move my mother would form friendships with our new neighbors and she’d attend whatever church they did. That meant us kids did too.
I remember as a young child having a heart that was wide open for God. When we’d go to our neighbors churches I’d pay attention to the Sunday School teacher and the pastor, and react favorably. Probably the biggest influence of all came in the form of a set of Bible Story books my parents got. I would read them for hours and stare at the pictures on the pages which depicted the story in visual form and imagine myself right in the story.
And then something happened
A Rough Beginning
I’ll be disclosing some personal information here, but I need to so you’ll understand the depth of feeling I had when I kicked God out of my life, and went on to believe I was an atheist.
I grew up in a very abusive situation. I had a step-father who was introduced to me as my real father when I was 5 or 6 years old. He and my mother had split up and when he left her they had 2 kids, my older brother and sister. When he came back he had 2 more – me and a younger brother. As I said, I was introduced to my step-father when I was around 5, so during my first 5 years I grew up without a father in the home.
At about age 3 or 4 I started realizing all my friends had fathers – but I didn’t. So I started bugging my mom trying to find out where my father was (I didn’t know I was the product of an affair, and at that age wouldn’t have known what an affair was anyway).
That motivated her to track down her first husband. When she found him he was in the Air Force. The Air Force threatened him with a dishonorable discharge for deserting his family if he didn’t go back to my mother immediately.Apparently he and my mother had gotten married, had my older brother and sister, and then separated. But they never went through the legal proceedings of getting a divorce.
Of course I knew none of this.
So imagine my surprise when he showed up. I finally met my “daddy” – and he wanted nothing to do with me. Neither one of my parents told me I wasn’t his. He was introduced to me as my father, so I thought he was. His first day home he kept ignoring me, and giving me angry looks when I tried to get his attention. Finally I couldn’t contain my enthusiasm any longer and I excitedly ran to him and hugged him around the legs crying out “daddy, daddy”.
He promptly got a vise like grip on my head, put it between his legs, and started spanking me. I remember panicking, and being confused. I was terrified because I was being beat and didn’t know what I had done. When he finally released me I went running to my mother and buried my head in her skirt and kept crying, “What did I do?” “What did I do?”
My mother angrily confronted him asking what I’d done wrong and he came close to me, pointed his finger in my face and said with venom, “boy don’t you ever call me “daddy” again – you call me dad“. Trust me, I never again called him “daddy”.
From Bad to Worse
I won’t go into all the gory details (the real bad stuff), but things didn’t get any better after that first day. There were almost continual spankings for imaginary crimes I’d committed, accompanied by angry looks. I was constantly being accused of doing things I hadn’t done and getting whippings, etc. One example is my step-father would accuse me of stealing cigarettes out of his carton and I’d be in trouble. When I was around 9 years old I figured if I was going to get in trouble for stealing them I might as well do it, so I started stealing his cigarettes and smoking when I was 9 or 10.
As I said, we moved a lot, which led to me getting real a shock when we moved to New Britain, CT, and I needed a birth certificate to attend school. I was about 9 or 10 years old at the time. Well the birth certificate came and it had a different last name. That’s when I was told the name I’d been using all my life wasn’t mine, and who I thought I was wasn’t true – because the name on my birth certificate was the last name of my real father. I was in a daze and nothing seemed real. I cried and cried because I felt like I was no longer a part of the family. It felt like being ‘kicked out’.
I think the worse thing about growing up in an abusive home was the unpredictability. There was no way to prevent the abuse, because it wasn’t based on what you did. In fact, there weren’t really any right choices because you were going to “get it” no matter what.
That, and the insults and name calling. I was told constantly, “I hate the day you were born – boy” (he always said the word “boy” with venom). “I wish you’d never been born”. “I don’t trust you as far as I can throw you”. “You’re not worth a pot to piss in”. “You’ll never amount to anything”. “You don’t have what it takes to be a ____ “(whatever I was excited about). “I can’t wait for the day you leave, here’s $20 – don’t let the door hit you on the _ _ _ on the way out” (of course he wasn’t really going to give me $20 – but he would’ve been fine with me leaving)
So at about age 10 I started running away from home. I ran away several times and it was always ‘reckoning day’ for me when I’d get caught. I’d be taken down to the police station and have to be picked up by my step- father. Needless to say I was terrified when he’d get me.
And then there was church – and God – which I’ll share in my next post, “How I Found God” – Part 2 …
uniform photo courtesy of: Clker.com