The son of recent German immigrants, I was born in Western Canada in 1956. My mother grew up in a fundamentalist Christian home where guilt and shame were generously dispensed by her mother and later also by her grandfather. My father was a skeptic and nominal Lutheran who found it hard to stomach Christian hypocrisy and thus only attended church on occasion. Sadly though he grew up in a home with little emotional support and little love. My parents fought constantly about pretty much everything but especially about religion. My younger brother, now an ordained minister with The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada, and I grew up in a home with fighting, yelling, physical abuse and parents who had poor parenting skills.
Enter the church. At 6 years of age I was dragged off by my mother to a new church, a Pentecostal church where I imbibed deeply of the fellowship and the emotional support of ministers, stable families and fun activities that were so different from my troubled home life. At age 16 I first professed Jesus as my personal lord and savior, although I had been begging him to save me for at least 3 years before. I soon became baptized with the Holy Ghost and began to speak in other tongues. I can still speak and sing in tongues, only now I call it improvisational vocal a cappella. Pentecostals have claimed that tongues are a gift from God but really it is an art form of its own and really beautiful as practiced by artists like Rhiannon or Bobby McFerrin. I became a youth leader in my church and made many friends there.
I was a good student throughout my years in public school and a very promising student in Physics. When I became saved and filled with the Holy Ghost my marks began to slide and I spent most of my time in religious activities. It was only logical to me then that I should go off to Bible College after high school rather than attend university, for which I still qualified despite my sliding grades. My father was heartbroken and my mother was elated by my decision to study the Bible. I left home at 18 and never called or wrote to either of my parents for months.
While in my final year of studies we were in a class discussion with a professor about why there are so many Christian denominations that disagree with one another about theology, how to be saved and what the Bible actually says. The prof ended the discussion by saying “I guess we are all just a little bit wrong”. That sowed the first seed of doubt in my mind about faith and Christianity. I finished college and had no call to ministry so I entered a trade school and became a journeyman cook (some say chef but a chef has staff or an area of the kitchen to supervise). I was deeply involved in youth ministry in my local church when my senior pastor asked me if I would be interested in pursuing licensing and ordination with The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada (PAOC). I had no call to ministry, as I understood it, but thought it to be a reasonable thing to do. I became licensed in 1981 and took an Assistant Pastor position in my local church.
My self-esteem was poor and I had little self-confidence, the consequences of growing up in the dysfunctional home of my youth. Fundamentalist Christianity did nothing to help or heal me. In fact I feel I traded one dysfunctional parent, my father, for another even more dysfunctional parent, Jehovah! When it came time for my ordination all that was left to do was fill out the forms and go through the ceremony, I had a crisis within me. I did not believe that any Christian should be second class in the church. My local church would not allow a divorced and remarried businessman to stand for election to the church board. I disagreed that divorce and remarriage should disqualify anyone and felt deeply conflicted about taking up the ordination to an organization that did not treat people fairly. I put my ordination on hold, resigned my position and went to Europe to work in evangelism activities with a church in Germany.
Months later I returned to Canada and was instructed by church leaders to take a Youth Pastor position in another part of Western Canada. I lasted about 6 months in the position before I had what was then called a nervous breakdown. I left the ministry for good in 1984 and felt like a failure. I had put my hand to the plow and then turned back. For the next 25 years I drifted through several churches including The Evangelical Free Church, The Church of the Foursquare Gospel and The Christian and Missionary Alliance. I held several positions in my career as a cook and later in computer networking but due to the mental and emotional abuse of my past continued to run away whenever a conflict or perceived conflict arose.
In early 2011 I had a screaming match with the Christian God. It turned out that I was the only one screaming. I called him some choice words that I had learned while working in cooking, construction and while working with truckers. I challenged him to do to me what he had (purportedly) done to St. Paul, namely speak to me, blind me with light and knock me on my ass if necessary, to let me know that he is there! I told him I would rather be dead than live any longer with low self-esteem and little self-confidence. I felt my wife would be better off with some money from my life insurance policy than with a husband who was a failure in life. I had no response to my verbal challenge and I proceeded to let my anger out. I had repressed anger for decades and it all came out now. I checked out books from the library that were certainly forbidden for any evangelical, fundamentalist Christian to read. I read Deepak Chopra (until I figured out he was as full of shit as many of the Christian apologists I had read), Tom Harpur, Bart Ehrman, Sam Harris, John W. Loftus, Dan Barker and finally Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins. By Christmas of 2011 I was an atheist.
I was cornered by my fundamentalist Christian mother at Christmas 2011 and came out, a little too soon perhaps, as an atheist, to my family and friends. The fallout was great but the shunning by my family began in earnest after my marriage of 33 years crumbled in the summer of 2012. My Christian wife, my best and closest friend, initiated divorce proceedings and as of July 18, 2014 I am single again. I have found a lot of courage since taking on Jehovah, and it has helped me to confront my parents with the terrible job they did at parenting. It is in an effort to continue my healing, find new friends and find myself that I have joined The Clergy Project. I have a mark that I wish to make in life before I get too old and frail. I am happier now than I have ever been and I now know why my life never made sense as a Christian.