How I did become an atheist... but..!
My mother grew up in a far away very small village where people practised a strange kind of Lutheranism mixed with folklore and superstitions. My father grew up in a family that was half part Catholic and half part Communist. My granddad himself had fought in the Spanish Civil War and was imprisoned for about ten years after the fascists destroyed the republican dream.
My parents decided that they wouldn't go to getting me baptized and that later I should decide for myself. As a small kid I grew up with the Easter Bunny, Santa and "God" who sees everything, especially when I was being naughty.
I believed in a very naive and childish way til the day I heard about a family where the kid was seriously ill. The parents decided not to give the kid its medications but to pray for him. "Halleluja, you're healed!", they believed, but after a very short time the kid died. Another family trolled into tragedy by bloody fundamentalists. I lost my faith. Not for the last time.
At nearly the same time my father once took me to visit a befriended family. I loved it because they had cats with which I played. I noticed strange pictures of grim bearded guys on the walls. They looked wise and made be feel a bit shy. "Who are those men?" I asked. The people where I was were very sympathetic and explained to me that these funny bearded men were called "Marx" and "Engels" and explained their ideas in short and in a way a little child would understand.
As a kid I was one of those who would read everything. I could read even long before I entered school and I read really everything – from the ingredients in the bottle of lemonade to comics, books, magazines, just anything I could get my hands on.
Especially I found out that some explanations the adult people gave me where just utterly wrong!
I felt bitterly disappointed. Of course the Easter Bunny was fake, Santa was just a marketing gag rooted in ancient pagan folklore and the stork was just an ordinary bird, which had other issues than carrying babies. I learned about pollution, destruction of environment, corruption, police brutality etc. etc. etc. My world of fluffy bunnies and nice people was substituted by a world of greedy capitalists, millions of people dying of hunger and diseases, torturing doctors, policemen who were ruthless murderers, a planet on the brink of destruction and adults who were nothing but liars, hipocrites and numbers in a machinery stripped of their individuality.
I became cynical at a very early age. I didn't know whom to believe anymore. Sometimes my teachers at school explained one subject one way and my parents the other way round. So I lived in an existencial crisis til my puberty and it became still worse.
I had always been interested in everything strange and unusual. I read books on the Yeti, Atlantis, UFOs, Yogis sitting naked on a mountain top, dark secrets, ghosts, all that stuff.
At the same time I read everything I could get my hands on about revolutions, the World Wars, the holocaust, but also „holy texts", like the Bhagavad Gita, the Bible, the Upanishads...
After changing to 2ndary Grammar/High School I hung around with the other outcasts. Dreamers, hippies, punk rockers, psychos, the whole bunch of kids nobody else wanted. We were hungry for life and sometimes it was really really funny, sometimes just... well, you know how it is.
I went to political rallies so often my mother hated it, because she always was in fear I could get shot or wake up in an emergency room crippled for life or in prison. But my biggest mistake had just to come.
There was this strange shop in town selling hippie stuff like shepherd blankets from Morocco, fantasy books like "Lord of the Rings" etc. You could just walk in, look around, have a tea and a chat with those guys. They looked like hippies and had long hair and beards. Well, I was young and could get influenced easily by their seemingly accepting way and friendliness. They love-bombed me til I became open for their message. Within a month they easily brainwashed me to become member of the Jesus People.
The human brain is a very strange thing and very easily to become influenced into hallucinating. I had it all: Religious visions, speaking in tongues, convulsing on the floor, the whole crap.
When I was doubting, visions of hell and demons plagued me, nightmares made my sleep disgusting, all that happened. I was young, my hormones rebelled and although I had to believe that sex before marriage was forbidden, I often fell in love. I had a lot of discussions, accusations etc. with the other furry religiotards. Then one day a girl I loved with all my heart had been that heavily under pressure by the "elders" she committed suicide. I exposed the lie that it was only "an accident" and hated those hypocrites. I left them, still being persecuted by fear of falling out of grace and stuff.
As a matter of fact there was bitter infighting in the JP scene and everybody was against anyone. No more "We're all in his heavenly love", but accusations, quarrels, intrigues... The ugly face of primate hordes practising fundamentalism became obvious.
Well, that time I hung around with punk rockers, but still the effects of the brainwashing was there. So after looking here and there I joined a recently split faction of the JP which was even worse than the original. I left and went to another splinter, then to a Baptist church and then my doubts became too big. I read everything about fundamentalism, the practices and psychodynamics and after several weeks of suffering of nightmares and all that I was cured. I left those people.
You think it was all over for me? Wrong. I still was fascinated by strange phenomenons, the supernatural and all that. So having left the morontheists I dived head-over into another extreme:
There was a school of witchcraft in our town. What did I do? I joined. Most people were very sympathetic, but there were others I couldn't get along with. I left but still stayed in the pagan scene, learned and learned and learned. Well, I was totally into this magical world view. Everything was connected and magic influenced everything.
The Christian trinity who was a total party pooper and forbade anything had been substituted by the Horned God and the Goddess in many flavours who allowed nearly anything. Everybody is interpreting it their way. Some are very ascetic and some are very Dionysian. I always belonged to the "Life is short, party naked!" bunch.
I found out that some of the people I met were feminazis, women hating men and some of them even hating sex as such. They were worse than the fundamentalists in their way. They taught a kind of "Jesus with tits" world view. A whole lot of them suffered from psychosis, borderline personality disorder etc. etc. etc.
I made lots of friends and – well – some enemies. Some people just don't like if you make fun of their teachings and the way they behave. Especially if they are liars, power hungry, intrigants, thieves or just plain arseholes.
I built up several covens. The first was ruined by those hate-mongering feminazis and I couldn't do anything about it. The second went into the same way but the majority rebelled and expelled the troublemaker. I gave up my leadership to somebody else. Years later we all underwent a Wicca training and became initiated into Gardnerian Wicca.
I must confess that those Pagan Years as I call them have been the best of my life. They were full of stress, but I had wonderful times, met wonderful people and although tragedies hit my life and fucked me up really badly – for other reasons – I always stood up again and said: "And now to something completely different." (Who doesn't love the Monty Python's?)
It was kind of easy most of the time: If shit happens, do a spell. If it doesn't work, do another one.
If shit happens to people who were nasty to you: That was the work of the threefold law. Their malevolence just backfired.
It was a simple way to live one way. But it was a complicated way, too. Which deity to call for which problem? Shamanic visions and travels, spells, blessings and curses, healing sessions and being possessed with the deities I call, working with totems... That wasn't all. Chaos magic, Feng Shui, tarot... I used everything with which I had a good feeling.
But then... After a lot of accidents and catastrophic events in my life I lived with friends far away in the outskirts of nowhere and I had a lot of time reflecting upon my life, the universe and the whole rest. All the mistakes, all the wrong paths I had gone, all the enmities, all the lost chances came into my mind.
I went into a full-blown depression. I had experienced depressions before, but this one was really deep. A lot of things became clear to me. Then I asked myself: Why didn't I have that much success in my magical "work" as I seemed to have had before? Why did the gods let me fall into this and that trap? Why? Why? Why? If there wasn't an intelligent design (which was obvious) where was the role of the gods in it at all? Why did the gods not intervene in 9/11? Why did the gods not intervene in the terrorist attacks in Bali, Madrid, London, Djerba? Why did the gods not intervene in 2nd World War? How could the holocaust happen although the believers of the Jewish deity prayed so much? I became shaken to my innermost depths. What if there weren't any deities and all I experienced was built on magic thinking, false logical concepts and hallucinations?
After moving home for several reasons, back into a big city, I did get a copy of Dawkins' "The God Delusion", a great eye-opening book. First I laughed, because he has a very humorous as well as polemic and logical attitude. Then I did get the creeps. My hair stood to the point. Everything he wrote could also be used as argument against ANY religion, no matter if monotheistic, polytheistic or else. Again, my life was shattered. Everything i believed broke into pieces.
The rituals I had with my covenants now seemed to me like a cheap Punch and Judy Show. It was really sad for me because first: I was the one who founded it, and second: Most of the people involved are still my best friends. It was difficult to come out to them and they were quite shocked.
So now I was an atheist. Wounds were broken up which still had to heal.
But I found out that some of the things I had been involved to, haven't been in vain. I reinterpreted things. To think that everything has got a "soul" makes us treat other living things and other human beings with more respect. The deities and even the often mischevious or naughty trickster are parts of our inner selves.
So a Jungian interpretation of magical rituals can help to understand. It is a way of solving conflicts a psychological way, to open doors for the unconscious to cope with situations and to restore harmony. So shamanism and witchcraft can still be used, but not in a literal sense anymore. It's just a kind of depth psychology and autosuggestion. No fear of karma or such stuff. No fear of punishment by a mob of angry deities if you botch a ritual or else. It's psychology and symbolism now, triggering the archaic consciousness.
And the best thing: I'm free now. I know that shit is going to happen from time to time because of normal human interaction, faulty programming of my computer or failing parts in it. I am responsible for myself, and there's no REAL Loki, Eris or else lurking in the background to pee into my shirt collar. We aren't totally reasonable beings, otherwise we would be like the Vulcans in Star Trek are. Irrationality, madness, excentricity, never going the straight way... This are aspects of the trickster figure in all myths, no matter if you call it Eris, Loki, Bes, Tomte, Kobolds, Coyote, Kitsune, Mbwa m'mbwe, Jackal, Leprechauns or Reinard the Fox. I really love their stories because they teach us so much about life.