The year in review: The good
2017 has been an amazing, joyful, liberating, hurtful, divisive, difficult year. I started this year with an amazing gift from K9s for Warriors, receiving my service dog, Dozer. I was on a waiting list for her for almost two years, and you can read more about what she has meant to me in my blog post, My pill bottle wears a vest. I was thrilled to see the progress she helped me make with so many symptoms of PTSD, anxiety, OCD, and depression. I ended 2016 not sure how much longer I would be able to hang on, and now I feel like I cannot see far enough into the future. I became a lot more active on my blog writing, which is something I have wanted to do for a very long time. We hit over 1,000 visitors (THANK YOU ALL!), increased our views to over 3,000, and over 29 countries viewed this website, including very freethinking oppressed countries. Our top 5 countries were USA, Australia, Canada, United Kingdom, and Malaysia (in ranking order). We have over 300 followers between subscriptions to the blog, follows on Twitter, and likes on Facebook. It has been a great year for this blog. We moved to North Carolina during this time, which provides a lot of inspiration for writing, it is a beautiful state.
Over 29 countries viewed this website, including very freethinking oppressed countries.
What I learned
In looking back, we should only seek to learn lessons, not dwell or wallow in self-pity. On that note, in 2017 I learned what I believe for me. That has been a tremendously good thing. I introduced myself to people like Julia Sweeney, by watching her monologue; Letting go of God. I watched a documentary on “The Amazing Randi”, about a magician James Randi, who staked his reputation on debunking magic tricks, psychics, and even an evangelical “Preacher”. I learned who George Carlin is, and found out subsequently that he unfortunately passed away. I have now watched the majority of his stand-up work, and it brings me joy to watch the way in which he articulated what so many of my thoughts were about religion. I have reconnected with my brother who has been out of my life for over 20 years, which has been phenomenal, and I am looking forward to that relationship continuing to grow. I read, and I read some more. I have always loved to read, but I would filter my reading based on my preconceived notions of what was “worth” reading, and what was not. You want to know what was not worth reading? Anything that questioned the idea of god. In case you didn’t know, that is a lot of f****** (for my PG readers) material. Let me give you an example; at the beginning of the year I started to read The God delusion from Richard Dawkins, and only about two chapters in I put it down, and immediately sought out Christian approved responses to this book. Only wanting to hear what was wrong with the book, and why I could safely dismiss it as garbage did little to satisfy my longing for the truth. The way in which I worked my way back in was actually through somewhat middle-ground material. I guess what I mean by that is moderate believers. A good example would be Rob Bell. I admire Rob Bell for being willing to step out of the box, and consider an alternative way to believing in god. I read his book What is the Bible?, which created a lot of controversy and judgment from the mainstream Christian crowd. I read Karen Armstrong’s A History of God: The 4,000 year old quest of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The most convincing book that caused me to walk away from my beliefs, which I held for 21 years of my life, was the actual Bible (The Holy Bible in ESV, CSB, HCSB, NIV, NASB, and yes even KJV). It was once I started to consider the inconsistencies in scripture, and the major implication differences between denominations that my beliefs really began to unravel. That was the moment I became The godless Pastor. I was at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary when the light went on for me. That was scary. Trying to hold back from coming out completely, I just started asking questions, and pressing myself to look beyond my labels which I had, and society had placed on myself. Once it became clear that simply moving outside of my initial comfort zone, and clearly the comfort zone of my circle of influence, it seemed inconsequential to go ahead and declare my atheism, which I did in the blog Dear Friends and Family,. During this time I also stumbled upon one of, if not the game-changer book, godless by Dan Barker. Reading his story, and his background, I immediately connected with his history. I then re-read the entire book The God delusion by Richard Dawkins, and my mind was blown. From there, I continued to read, and I was, and am continuing to read everything. Like a bird that has been in a cage its entire life being released into the air, I am spreading my wings into territories which I never even considered. Unfortunately, this decision to be open about my beliefs has not been as inconsequential as I have hoped. I have lost a lot of people in this process, and had very hurtful things said directly towards me. I hate that this decision to be open about my beliefs, and to call into question others beliefs has caused so much divide. However, mixed in with that I have had so many people reach out to me personally and thank me for doing this. I have had many people, even current Christians, confide in me their appreciation for my blogs, and my boldness about what I am learning. While I have lost some people, I have gained so many others that I would have never met if it hadn’t been for my blog. All in all it has been a wonderful, amazing year.
2018 reading list
I honestly do not know how you could enjoy writing, and not enjoy reading, but for me it is my escape. I love to read. I want to share with you what my reading goals are for this new year, and encourage some of these books to you.
1) The Seven Decisions, by Andy Andrews
2) The Mind of God, by Dr. Jay Lombard
3) The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander
4) Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, by Yuval Noah Harari
5) The Lynching, by Laurence Leamer
6) Cosmos, by Carl Sagan
7) Parenting beyond Belief, by Doug McGowan
8) The Selfish Gene, by Richard Dawkins
9) The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, by Mark Manson
10) Science in the Soul, by Richard Dawkins
11) Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, by Yuval Noah Harari
12) The Holy Bible, by multiple human authors
Check these books out, and let me know in the comments if you plan on reading any of these with me during this new year.
2018, a hope
My hope for all of you in this new year is that you are able to think critically, and without walls. May you always be willing to look outside of the black and white box the world tries to put us in, and look in the gray area. That is where the best of everything is. READ, I cannot overstate this enough, read, and read some more. This includes religious material. Read magazines, books, newspapers, etc. I have found I need the tactile feeling of actual pages to turn, and so e-books are not my friends. However, whatever floats your boat, have at it. I just want you to think. If this means you become stronger in your religious convictions, great! If this means you walk away from all of your religious convictions, great! As long as you do it for YOU! My last hope for all of us, including me, would be that we would figure out a way to realize that we are one of 7.6 billion people (even more co-species), and empathy needs to happen. We need to start caring, and caring more about the other living, human beings, and other species then we do our religious convictions. It is in your hands, my hands. We are individually responsible for how this next year will pan out. So, let us get a spark in our ass, and start doing. Let’s do this!
The godless Pastor,
Billy J. Crocker