Someone once said I would be insane to post my religious beliefs (or lack thereof) in a public place like the internet. It might have been my husband who told me that... He always worries that I let people know too much about myself. He has a point, and I am not that eager to be burned at the stake by angry people whose belief system I might threaten by my lack of belief therein. If you are among those who feel threatened by us nonbelievers who share the world with you, please do not read any further. You won't like what I have to say and while it is not my intention to offend anyone, I do not apologize if you are offended.

However, please do read if you care to know how I view God and religion [defined by me as any set of beliefs, tenets or dogma in which a 'Supreme Being,' a Deity, a 'Lord of Lords,' an 'all powerful omnipotent ruler of the universe' is worshiped, feared, sacrificed for, lauded, praised, prayed to, by human beings] and why I have chosen to 'opt out' of a belief in such an entity. I may be wrong- there may be a God or there may be thousands of them- and maybe the one or many will punish me for being 'a theist' -without God. If I am wrong, I am willing to pay the consequences for my error- but not at man's hands- only at the hands of this Supreme Being or Beings. If I am right, however, there will be no consequences for those of you who insist that the rest of us believe or go to hell. My only wish for an after life would be that everyone gets what they richly deserve.

Once upon a time, as a young and highly impressionable girl, I considered myself a 'born-again' Christian. Whenever our pastor put out the call for sinners to 'come forward' and accept Jesus as our savior, I felt the overwhelming need time and time again to slide out of our family pew and walk down the aisle to the front of Calvary Baptist Church. I was 'saved' over and over again at church, at summer camp, at Youth for Christ meetings and other emotional revival crusades, and I was baptized at least three times that I can remember. If the beliefs of the fundamental Baptists and my mother are true, I can be assured of going to Heaven- after all, one of those 'salvations' had to stick, didn't it?

So deeply ingrained were these religious beliefs that I planned to spend the rest of my life in the service of the Lord. While most of my classmates at Binghamton Central High School were filling out applications for admittance into SUNY and other secular colleges, I was applying to Philadelphia College of the Bible- hoping for acceptance in their missionary program- in preparation for my future as a servant of God. I truly believed that I had been chosen by God to preach the gospel of Jesus to the many Catholic heathens in Puerto Rico.

I mean, we had the right take on God, didn't we? And anyone who didn't accept the Lord Jesus Christ as their Personal Savior was not going to Heaven- no matter how much they believed otherwise. According to the tenets of my church, Catholics were especially likely to go to hell because, after all, the Catholic Church was the Great Whore of Babylon. Catholics were infidels and they needed my help.

And then I left home and went to the Big Apple. I didn't have the money to go to college yet- and my parents sure didn't have any for me or any of my siblings. If I was going to become a missionary, I'd have to do it on my own. I was certain that God would provide whatever I needed if I was going to serve Him.

I got a job in the Empire State Building and began saving my money so I could begin my first year of missionary training. Months passed and soon I no longer yearned to be in Bible College. In fact, I had been doing much soul searching about life and what I really believed in, and I could no longer honestly say I believed in God- any God. What led me to these heretical thoughts? And what would I tell my mother- who desperately wanted her oldest daughter to go to the mission field?

Some might be convinced that allowing a young person to go out on their own into the secular world could only result in such a falling out of faith. Once away from the Godly influences of the church and one's parents and exposed to worldly ideas, a young Christian could easily be seduced by the pleasures of the flesh, the lure and temptation of material goods and turn away from all they once believed. Maybe they are right- but that sure makes for a very flimsy belief system - if all it takes is being away from the family and other true believers.