Before I Was an Atheist

Posted: October 23, 2014 in Before I Was an Atheist
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My name is Mike Greenslade and I am an atheist. It wasn’t always so. I was raised in a traditional Christian family; and I don’t mean just Sunday Christians. We went to church twice, sometimes three times on Sunday. We were there for Bible Study on Wednesday, Youth service on Friday, Youth activities and devotionals most Saturdays and Prayer service Saturday nights. As if that wasn’t enough, we attended special services whenever we could. My parents had a strict rule: if the church doors were open, we were to be there. No questions, no exceptions. This obviously meant no sport teams or activities of any kind that would get in the way of church.

My parents met in Bible College during the “revival years” of the early 1980’s. They both graduated from the then United Pentecostal Bible Institute and were married shortly thereafter. They moved to a small community in rural New Brunswick and went on to become Youth Pastors and directors of several departments in the small church of about two-hundred people, where they are still actively involved in to this day.

As far as I can tell, my parents have never questioned the existence of God nor the validity of their particular belief system. If they did they certainly never told me. This was a question that wasn’t up for debate. It was the way it was. If you were to have even a slight doubt in your mind it was a sin. I don’t blame them for my upbringing. They were merely following what they had been told. They are both pretty emotionally vulnerable and I can see how they would be drawn to the emotional roller-coaster which is the Pentecostal movement. I grew up in an environment where speaking gibberish, foaming at the mouth and rolling and convulsing on the floor of the altar was “normal.” Looking back I can only put palm to face and shake my head at how long it took me to realize that this was not normal. I see now the mind-control techniques that are used. It is now so evident how pastors and evangelists use whether innocent or not mass hypnosis and power of suggestion techniques that would rival many professional con-men.

This was the 90’s and early 2000’s. It was the time of the Jesus Freak movement. We were encouraged to be weird. Christian pop culture told us that the weirder we were, the more hardcore we were for Jesus. We had camps and concerts. We knocked on thousands of doors, passed out flyers at the mall, attended youth lock-ins and went on trips; all in the name of the Gospel. I was even on the Bible Quiz team for six years. I truly did it all. It would not be until my mid twenties before I would even begin to question this behavior.

Growing up in such a fundamentalist religious tradition, the church became my almost exclusive social network. After all, we were taught to “Come out from among them and be ye separate.” I could make friends at school, but always had to maintain a distance since they were not in “the know” and could have a negative effect on me. Eventually most secular influences were cut off completely and I was home-schooled from grades six through ten using christian curriculum. As a parent, I understand that you don’t want your kids to be around bad influences, but I would hope that I equip mine with the proper tools to determine this without having to appeal to a set of archaic religious beliefs that alienate them from their peers.-

For the grade elMichael Preachingeven school year I had decided to return to public school so I could receive better instruction in pre-college courses and to have a real graduation with my friends. I graduated from High School in 2005 and was off to follow in both my parents footsteps. I enrolled in the Theology program at Northeast Christian College and began my training for the ministry. During this time I was heavily involved in the college choir traveling just about every weekend performing around New Brunswick and eventually all over eastern and central Canada and New England. In time I was asked to preach at many of the services that we were performing in and then on my own in various churches. Eventually I had speaking engagements in congregations as large as one thousand. At this point it had gone from scary to a thrill. I learned how to move people and how to evoke an emotional response by hitting on common themes and points that would end in a crescendo at the altar.

During my first summer off from college, I took on the roll of associate youth pastor for a small country church pastored by the now Atlantic District Superintendent of the United Pentecostal Church. While there I lived in an unused Sunday school room in the church basement. I shared a bathroom with the Sunday school which happened to be at the opposite end of the basement and showered in the Pastors office upstairs. This was hardly an ideal setup and the pastor was an early riser, so it meant a lot of very early mornings making sure I was up and ready before he arrived which proved difficult after listening to things go bump in the night. But, it was for the cause of the Gospel and my training so I made the best of it.

I returned to Fredericton for my second year of ministry training and began assisting in a nearby church and took on the role of Youth Pastor. It felt like a pioneer role since there was actually only one person that fit in that age bracket, but eventually it grew to a group close to twenty kids and we had a real youth group. I remained for five and one half years in that role and during that time everything was going according to plan. I got married at the age of nineteen, which seems to be the custom of Bible College attendees, and we started our life together to further the cause of the Gospel. It would be a few years before I would really begin to have my doubts about my beliefs. After all, I was always taught not to doubt and that same challenge was reinforced over and over again in college.39526_473973239461_513609461_6601581_289301_n

It happened gradually for me. It was a combination of many little things that made me realize that I just didn’t know for sure if what I believed was true or not. I started to contemplate the fact that if I was born in a different part of the world I would most likely have a different belief system and think  that was the absolute truth and everyone else was wrong. So, what made one belief right and another wrong? Maybe someone else was right and I was wrong. Maybe everybody was wrong. Maybe there was truth that was still yet to find. What was a dependable way of testing this?

The bottom line was; I had a set of beliefs about God, myself and the world all my life that were instilled in me as a small child that I had never questioned or tested. So, I set out to put them to the test. I decided to do this I would have to follow the evidence wherever it led no matter what. If I was to carry on in my belief system I had to know that it was truth. If I came back full circle and believed the same things so be it. If not, so be it.

This journey started three years ago and now I am comfortable with confessing that I am an atheist.

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