I posted a few days ago on one of my social networking sites that If it says “Christian” under your religion information tab, then don’t bother adding me. This set off a huge debate on both sides of the coin about what kind of statement that was, what my intentions actually were and whether I was being biased and intolerant to people who have faith or not. I love how people can come to their own conclusions about who I am based on one sentence of dialogue.

Let me preface this essay by saying that some of it might offend you. If you live in fear of ending up in a fiery pit of destruction where Adolf Hitler is chained to your ankle and whips you with a skin rope of ten thousand dead jews then please do not read any further. If you find that statement to be of total absurdity, then please, by all means, read away. 

I want you all to know that I would never look down on anyone just for what they believe, it’s the same fashion in which I don’t have any ill will towards people of different races. In the end we are all just human beings with insecurities and shortcomings trying to make our way through this crazy existence in which we live.  I do however want to explain why I don’t believe in god, mohammed, jesus, or anything else religion has to offer. People are going to argue that it all comes down to faith. Yes I agree, it is ALL about faith, that’s the problem to begin with. Greg Graffin was right when he sang, “Faith alone wont sustain us any more.” If you are a Christian, Muslim, Jew or belong to any other religious denomination you are probably thinking, “oh this guy is ridiculous, I’m not going to listen to anything he has to say because he is definitely going to spend the rest of eternity in a lake of fire.” There is a disconnect within the lines of communication that occurs in most of us on this supposed topic. Not a lot of people are willing to sit down and have an intellectual debate without their feelings being hurt or emotions offended. It’s a very strange thing to witness. 

How can a supposed civilized nation, with as much knowledge as we have accrued since the age of modern science began, still put all of our faith and trust into a two thousand year old deity? Why do we put faith into any deity at all for that matter? You don’t believe in Santa Clause, do you? No, of course you don’t. We all know that story to be a fairy tale created by man, to explain to children where presents come from on Christmas morning.  I don’t believe that there is an Easter bunny either. That would seem even more ridiculous.  Yet the belief that a man named jesus, who performed miracles, walked on water, was crucified on a cross and then rose three days later the savior of all mankind, makes sense to 76 percent of Americans today. To me, that percentage is way too many people that believe in fairy tales.

The account of Jesus Christ is a good story about morals, an even greater tale of living life while serving others. It’s an age-old sonnet of selflessness and love. The bottom line is that it’s a good story. You know what some other great stories are? William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”, Chuck Palahinuk’s “Fight Club” and Will Christopher Baer’s “Kiss Me Judas”. On through the years there have been incredible stories written about murder, loss, togetherness, the capacity for hate and the absolute capability of someone who loves altruistically. Although there are a lot of stories in the bible that have been set up as guidelines for christian morality, ultimately they teach people to grow up with bigotry and hatred.

I guess maybe I should give you a little insight as to how I was raised, to give you a better understanding of where I am coming from. I wont go into my whole family history and bore you all to death, I’ll just pick up the story as far back as I remember. I was born in Seattle Washington on January 8th, 1982. My parents never married. About 6 months into my life, my father and mother split. Leaving my mother alone to raise two boys, a new born and a 12 year old(my brother Justin). She joined a christian church a couple of years after I was born. I know it was before turning 3 because I have pictures of us dressed up on Sunday morning standing on the lawn of some christian center with a date on the back that says 1984. We lived just south of the industrial district and Boeing fields in an apartment behind a grocery store called “Larry’s Market”. Now this church thing was new, and my brother wasn’t raised with any of this stuff. By that time he already had his own ideas about life, the difference between right and wrong and a general sense of where he was going. I know at 15 that is pretty profound, but I don’t think we give kids enough credit. 15 is a wise age.

We lived in that apartment for a few years as my mother worked two and sometimes three jobs to support my brother and I. When I was about 6 or 7 my mother married a man named Jeff Francis. The two of them did the very best they could at giving me a good life. The four of us moved to a single story, three bedroom home in a neighborhood about 20 miles south of seattle called Federal Way. All throughout my childhood we went to church. My parents got me involved in a program for kids called A.W.A.N.A. Which stands for, “Approved Workman Are Not Ashamed”. The name comes from the bible verse 2 Timothy 2:15.  The Statement on their website says “Leading Kids Worldwide to Know, Love and Serve Christ” (www.awana.org). 

In this program which, for our church, was held every Wednesday night, to me was sort of a version of the boy scouts with a jesus theme and no fire. There were different groups based on age that you were put into, and where you were rewarded for learning and reciting bible verses from memory. I had a sash with a lot of different badges on display that I had collected from advancing within the program. For some reason I have always been good at memorizing lines of dialogue, either from movies, songs and yes, even the king james version of the bible. I believed that the bible was the word of god, that god was the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and end. I believed whole-heartedly all of the stories in the bible, How the earth was created in 6 days, Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden with a talking snake who tricks Eve into eating forbidden fruit, causing a curse upon humanity for all time. Gods own finger writing the ten commandments in two stone tablets given directly to moses on a mountain top. The story of noah’s ark and how god was so displeased with his creation and the wickedness of mankind that he tells Noah to gather his family and two of every animal, after which he sends a great flood to destroy the world. Abraham a descendent of Noah, whom god commands sacrifice his son Isaac, which an angel prevents. Jonah living inside the whale for 3 days, On and on through to the new testament where Jesus of Nazarene is born on December 25th to a virgin named Mary, has twelve disciples, was baptized in a river, performed miracles in the middle east, was crucified and rose three days later the savior of our sins. I believed, simply because I was told it was the truth. 

Dinner every night in my house was 6pm, every night afterwards we would sit in the living room and read the bible. The older I got, the more excruciating it became. Not because I didn’t love Jesus but because there were so many more things I would rather be doing that reading this boring book. Let’s face it, a lot of what is in the bible is boring.

To reiterate. I grew up a christian. Not because that was the decision I came to after years of soul searching but simply because I was raised that way. Had I been indoctrinated as a child with radical islamic influence then maybe I would believe 72 virgins are waiting for me in the afterlife, if I blow myself to up in a suicide bombing. 

Evangelical christians in this country actively try and recruit the weak, poor and disenfranchised. Indoctrination of children is their number one priority.  Imagine you are a woman in her early thirties living in a shabby apartment, working two jobs just to make the ends meet, a single mother raising two boys, one of which is a new born. You have questions and no answers and only want the best for your children. You are lured in under the pretense of a new way of living. You fall for it, hook, line and sinker, giving part of your wages to the church so you can be saved. The early eighties were booming with televangelist preachers putting on a show, convincing people to send in their checks for the GLORY OF GOD! Greed incarnate, Capitalism at it’s very best. All, in the name of god.

I understand why my mother thought it a good idea to raise me in this way. The moral teachings of Jesus were pretty basic and when you boil it down, they are good moral stories. Be nice. Don’t Kill. Don’t steal. Love thy neighbor. Etc Etc. Basic human rights. Simple stuff. 

So I believed. Of course I did. If you tell a child that Snow White a the Seven Dwarfs are a story from god and that you need to live by the lessons of the queen and her magic mirror, that child will believe you. Not because he or she is dumb but simply because you are the adult and as children we look to adults for guidance. 

I remember when I was about 13 years old, I decided that I was no longer going to attend church with my mother and step father. It wasn’t because of the hypocrisy I was witnessing, with the minister who stole money, the deacon who was ostracized by the congregation because he cheated on his wife, but would show up every Sunday anyway, the daughter of one of the elders who would let me play with her tits in my parents basement even though sex before marriage was wrong. I didn’t even know what hypocrisy meant at that age, let alone have it affect my reasons for leaving the church. It also wasn’t for a disbelief in god. I stopped going simply because at that time, I was entering junior high and beginning to use drugs, Saturday nights were spent partying and I was sick of waking up on Sunday morning just to go sit in a church pew and not pay attention to anything that was being said. This infuriated my mother, which didn’t matter much to me since I was in the midst of my adolescent rebellion. 

Over the course of the next few years drugs and alcohol took over my life, I thought very little about the church, nothing about what I was missing and had zero thoughts for what was happening at a place that I had been going to almost my entire childhood. I just didn’t care. Actually the only time I ever thought about god was when I would find myself alone or in trouble, getting arrested by the police, or having a gun pointed at me by some angry meth head drug dealer I had ripped off. I would think of him while sitting in the back of a stolen car in the woods with nothing left in my life and barely enough dope to get high, a dull needle that I had used more than a few times, praying that if he would just let this syringe slide in one more time, I promise to get clean and turn my life around.  I prayed and prayed for help many times and nothing ever happened. Now I know the argument goes……”God has a plan, you might now know what that plan is, but he does”. I’ve heard it time and time again. If god has a plan it sure is a cruel one. Why would he give cancer to children? Why would he let countless wars be fought in his name? Why would he take people from this world that do not deserve to be taken, and leave the ones who deserve a hanging?

There was a point in my drug using career when nothing mattered and the only solution was suicide. I was so sick of getting locked up in jail, being on probation, living on the streets and having a general sense of nothingness whirl around me that I tried a few times to end it all.  I felt that life just couldn’t get any better. When you try and kill yourself and fail, all of a sudden, you’re underneath the rock bottom you thought you were living in. Failure doesn’t even describe the feeling. If you have tried suicide and have not succeed then you know what I am talking about. It’s a feeling I don’t wish on the worst of my enemies.  

Long story short I ended up getting sober on September 9th 1999. I was in jail and in treatment until march the following year when I was admitted to a halfway house where we were able to leave provided we had a job to go work at. This was the last time of many I was locked up and the fourth in-patient treatment center that I had lived in. I met a kid named Dave during my stay and we became fast friends over our love of skateboarding and punk rock bands. His dad and brother would come visit him every sunday, which was nice to see a family starting to reunite. His dad owned a little diner called Glo’s on Capitol Hill in Seattle and when I got out of in patient and into the halfway house he gave me a job working as a dishwasher. My day looked like this. Wake up at 6am, ride the bus to Seattle from Lake City, work until 4:30 or so, then skateboard around for a couple of hours, go to an A.A. meeting and then ride the bus back to Lake City to be in the house before the curfew of 11:00pm, sleep, wake up…. repeat. 

I’ve been involved in a twelve-step program for over 11 years now. A big part of any twelve-step program is the belief in “a power greater than ourselves, that can restore us to sanity”.  Although this is not a religious organization, part of the traditions is that we keep a level of anonymity in regards to the press, radio, and film. It’s a program of attraction rather than promotion. I am in no way advocating this program, I am telling you this because it’s a very integral part to my story and the facts wouldn’t make sense unless I gave you this piece of my own history. 

As I was a newly recovering drug addict, the old adage of god and his glory came flooding back to me from my childhood. Since I was a semi professional bible thumper in my youth, I believed that the power these guys were referring to was the god of the old and new testaments. That coupled with the fact that I just didn’t care who god was, I was broken and needed help. The next few years I only had one goal: Don’t get loaded. That’s it. Simple I know. I really just wanted to live a life without fear and hopelessness. I rented a room from some college kids in the u district, worked my job, played in a couple of bands and did a few crappy tours, But I was happy. I was alive and it was nice. 

Then I joined a band and things started to happen. All of a sudden people were coming to our shows, singing the words, labels were interested, other bands wanted to take us on tours, we signed a record deal and I left the world I knew behind, chasing a dream I have desired since childhood. It was strange, people wanted to know who I was, they were interested in my story, some really loved my band, so much in fact that they have a signature, or logo tattooed on their body. I was optimistic, so full of life. Punk rock was my savior time and time again. When all else fails, your favorite record will make you feel better. 

I wanted a band that could unite the disenfranchised youth of the world together in a room where everyone is singing and in our hearts we all belong, no matter the color of our skin, or the creed from which we came. I got that. Aiden has played shows in the four corners of the world and found those kids singing every word. I have been grateful for every single voice offered back at me on a daily basis. 

I read your comments, and messages on myspace, facebook and twitter, Although It’s very difficult to respond to them I do in fact read ALL of them. I have since you started sending them so many years ago. I’m sorry that I cannot respond to each and everyone of them. You have to understand that I have so many things on my plate, on top writing and recording Aiden and William Control, I record and produce other bands in Seattle, I paint, write, mow the lawn, I am a father and a husband. There just isn’t enough hours in the day to spend sitting on a computer answering questions about why Jake is so tall, why didn’t we put out nightmare anatomy two, why the sky is blue, I’m sorry. 

And yes, I have changed. I’m not the same kid you read or see in interviews from years past. Life changes, people evolve. I have had some fucked up experiences with the music industry that would turn even the loveliest creature into a cynic. I find it very amusing when I get that message…… “You’ve Changed Man!”. Of course I fucking have. My life is so inherently different that if I was the same kid from back then you might have to be a little suspicious that I wasn’t a human being.

We live in the immediate age of technology, where information is shared so rapidly it has almost put the written word out of business. It astounds me that in this age, it seems more a difficult task to get the correct information into people’s heads, than it does to make a reality show about how cheese is made.  

After years of touring world, (which is something I never thought I’d get to experience) I am privy to different cultural ideals and beliefs. I now have spent nearly a decade learning about different religions on earth, studying text and
teachings, comparing notes and idealistic rituals and have found that in the scientific age of reason and fact there is no proof whatsoever that god even exists. Where as before I had only the information from the church I attended as a kid. I know I am not alone on this. There are so many people that live life by what they are taught and not by what they discover on their own. 

Take Mormonism for example……
In the 1820’s Joseph Smith Jr, claimed to have seen a vision of god the father and of jesus Christ, answering his question of which faith he should belong to. He was also convinced an angel had given him golden tablets that contained the word of god in an unknown language. Armed with magic crystals, he was the only man able to translate the text into English. Over 500 pages later we now know this text from golden tablets and magic crystals as the Book of Mormon.

Mormons believe that Joseph Smith started the church as a restoration of original Christianity and that Smith was a prophet sent by god, in fact they consider their top leaders to be prophets and apostles. They think god was a real man with flesh and blood who impregnated Mary giving the world Jesus Christ. They think the promise land is in Missouri and jesus was American. They believe that when you die you are sent to the spirit world where you will await final judgment by God, Jesus, and yes Joseph Smith. They believe that Jesus will establish a new kingdom consisting of three levels: the celestial kingdom, the terrestrial kingdom and the telestial kingdom. Polygamy is proper, magic underwear are necessary, and black people are cursed. The list of silly things they believe goes on and on.

This religion started in the 1820’s, roughly 190 years ago with only a few followers. Today there are more than 14 million Mormons in the world who believe this stuff to be of absolute FACT, not fiction. The thing that gets me every time about Mormonism is the golden tablet story. Seriously? Golden tablets written in an unknown language that could only be translated by a guy who was known for telling tall tales? Wow. 14 million people believe this? Stunning. Just because something sounds like a good idea and tons of people believe it, does not make it the truth.

Now if you are a Christian and believe that the bible is the word of god then you know in your heart that all of the above is absolute bullshit. There are no three levels of heaven in the afterlife. There are only two places you go after death: Heaven and Hell. You believe that god created the earth in six days and on the seventh he rested, that the world is around five thousand years old and started with a man whom god created from dust and a woman from one of his ribs. You think that people used to live to be eight and nine hundred years old. You think that Jesus Christ was an actual man, born to a virgin named Mary, who later became a preacher, had twelve disciples, who walked the earth two thousand years ago, performing miracles, was persecuted and crucified on a cross by the Jews, then woke up three days later and ascended into heaven the savior of all mankind.

When you were young did you ever played the game telephone? You and a classroom of 15 or 20 kids sit in a circle, one kid starts by whispering “The carpet is green” to the kid next to them, they, in turn repeat to their neighbor, so on and so forth, but by the time it has gotten back to the first kid in the circle the phrase has changed into “The carpet turned black after a witch came in a took a shit on the fabric”. The teacher gets upset because someone said shit and the game ends with everyone slightly mystified in the retelling of a story over the course of a 5 minute game in a classroom filled with 8 year olds.  Imagine that game played for two thousand years and manhandled by fallible human beings. What you would be left with is a document that in no way resembles it’s original intent and purpose.

Ask yourself why you believe in god, mohammad, heaven, hell and jesus. Is it because you have done the research to prove their existence? Or is it because you were taught to believe and that’s all you know. Are you afraid what might transpire in afterlife? I know scores of people who believe in fairy tales simply based from fear of where they are going when they die. It’s not a reason to hate somebody, but it definitely makes me wonder why people are so afraid. 

The gospels Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John, weren’t written until about a century AFTER Jesus supposedly died. These “eye witness” accounts were written by men who weren’t even alive when jesus was supposedly walking around performing miracles. Lets say that I lived in a place where the encyclopedia didn’t exist, there was no radio, running water, or technology of any kind. I had to catch my own food to eat, and bathe myself in a river or a lake. Let’s say I was living this way and also writing a biography of Oscar Wilde who died over a hundred years ago. Let’s say all I had were the stories from a game of telephone that was already a hundred years old. Do you think that I could depict his life with any sort of accuracy? From his writings of poetry and prose, his thoughts on life, down to whom he loved and fucked? I don’t think so. It would be a story that I came up with in my own head because I am a man with thoughts of my own.

God doesn’t exist, it’s a fairy tale, heaven and hell isn’t real. Fear of hell and the promise of heaven is not a good reason for choosing to do the right over the wrong thing. We shouldn’t need these things to make the decision that killing others, or raping children is wrong.  In my mind, the god idea should be eradicated from this world if we expect to survive. There is a mountain of debate on this topic and an even greater ocean of information available to support it. All you have to do is look. Open your eyes, do some research. 

How many people are killed in the name of God? What kind of God would even want that? Why is god a jealous god? If he is omnipotent and all seeing, caring and loving, why does he have one of the pettiest of emotions? Why do we put all of our faith in jesus when there multiple deities that PRE DATE the story christ and share an exuberant amount of similarities? Virgin birth, carpenter, 12 disciples, crucified, rose 3 days later. It’s a story stolen through the ages. Why are we carrying around the beliefs and superstitions of a generation who didn’t even have electricity or running water, who believed that the earth was flat and wiped their asses with leaves? Why do we still believe in religion when it was created solely to keep people ignorant, in fear and feeling guilty? Why do we support the catholic church when they place the prevention of contraceptives ahead of the prevention of priests fucking children. If that is not a true description of evil, I don’t know what is. 

Why is religion the biggest culprit of human suffering in this world? You can have spirituality without religion if you so choose. You can feel a connection to nature, to the earth, to music, to love, to other human beings without the fear of burning for all of eternity. All you have to do is wake up, think freely, doubt the powers of the unknown and reach out for something tangible.

According to the latest pew forum survey, 16.1 percent of Americans now say that they are in no way affiliated with, and/or don’t want to anything to do with religion at all. That is a HUGE percentage of people in this country. Most of us are silent because either we don’t care or because we are afraid of what our very catholic, god fearing grandmother is going to think. The silence has to end. Religion is destroying the fucking world. What are we going to do to save it? 

Go check out the Freedom From Religion Foundation, www.FFRF.org. Read the “The God Delusion” by Richard Dawkings. Ask questions, Search for answers. 

This has to start with young people who are not set in their ways yet. We have to build a new world of freethinkers or watch it burn in superstition. 

I love you all and hope to see you out on the road again soon. 

(Reprinted with permission from WilliamControl.com)