Story of Recovery: Travis

I was born to parents who were very conservative. I was a smart kid growing up. I went to a private christian school very early on. Every day I was told the stories of the bible. Just as I was entering the 2nd grade my parents decided that they wanted to make sure I got a good christian education so I was pulled out of the private christian school and home-schooled for the rest of my primary school years. During that time I went regularly to church. I lived for church since it was my only interaction with other kids my age. We were always heavily supervised by adults. The message of the bible, accept god or you will go to hell, is the only message I heard till I was 15. In fear, I read the bible and prayed every day that I wouldn't be left alone or sent to hell.

When I turned 15 my sister was abused by a church member's son. But because she was a female she was the one in the wrong. We left in search of a new church. We soon found a new fundamentalist church which believed in even more new and radical concepts of god. A pentecostal, "spirit filled" church. I went from being told that not only was I supposed to be saved, but that I was supposed to "feel" god and show his works in my life. I spent the next 6 years working to try and experience this new level of god. By this time I had heard of evolution but been told it was a lie and that most scientists were deluded and blind to the truth. I had christian science given to me by pastors and lay people in church sponsored meetings and youth rallies. Never once was I told the other side of the story. I was encouraged to believe that when others tried to show proof to discount it immediately and not give the arguments any weight. To realize that those people were just lost and I needed to live a faith filled life in front of them so they would see how lost they were.

However, over the next 6 years, I continued to feel no answer. I prayed with fervor and intensity. I submitted to a 9 month intensive ministry training and discipleship program 3 times in the hope of growing and becoming that kind of super christian that I have been hearing of for years. I fed the homeless, I went on missions trips. I got theological training. I read christian texts on the historical evidence for the bible. And still I felt nothing.

At the age of 21, after years of indoctrination and study, I struck out for the real world and go my first real job. I was in over my head. I was the one who was lost. I finally started hearing the arguments against what I believed and thought. Still I maintained my connection to the church. I went as often as I could to bolster what I thought was a spiritual attack against me.

At 24, after fighting against the lack of response from god and suffering a massive anxiety attack, I quit my job and left the home I had known my whole life. I still believed that my lacking was my fault but I had come to the realization that I would never know that level. My sin was just too great. As a 24 year old guy in a church that refused to acknowledge the differences and challenges of young people, you can imagine the sins that weighed so heavily on my mind.

I got a new job in a new state. Working in an academic arena, at the age of 28, I met my first agnostic friend. They didn't push me or call me names. They respected my beliefs. But they challenged me respectfully. I started by reading Thomas Paine's "Age of Reason". I thought it was hilarious. My christian mind poked holes in almost all his statements. However, for the first time in my life, I left my mind open at the end. I wanted to know what the new arguments were and how christians answered them.

This led to a spiritual journey from one form of religious thought to another. From christianity to buddhism, to mormanism and wicca. I began to realize how stupid they all sounded. I made friends with atheists, gay people, lesbians, buddhists, mormons and started to challenge all my previous thought patterns. I became a huge Star Trek nerd during this time and began to long for the scientific utopia that I watched and wanted to know if science was as good as fiction said it could be. I became introduced to the scientific method, falsification, and evidenced based knowledge. Undergoing massive cognitive dissonance, 6 months ago, I sat at my computer and opened up the wikipedia page on atheism and read everything.

From there, I compared all the arguments for and against. I stopped looking at things from a purely christian perspective and placed the evidence for both side by side. I learned about logic and used my "god given mind" to evaluate them both. God lost. It scared me. I was petrified. I vacillated back and forth between belief and non-belief for weeks. Each time I tried to go back, ran into another impossibility for faith. At times, I still look back. I sometimes worry that I missed something. But all I have to do is check the facts again and realize, if even one thing about god (any god) is wrong, then he/she/it is not possible.