God cares about us?

Depending on what religion, and what flavor within that religion, you come from, this question can be confusing to answer. Each religion believes that God has a favorite group of people and most of the time, the followers of that religion happen to be in his favorite group. What a coincidence!
As far as the Christian God goes, there are many scriptures throughout the Bible that talk about God’s mercy, protection, intervention, kindness, etc. But there are other scriptures that talk about His jealousy, wrath, sorrow, anger, etc. Like the time where He killed 99.9% of all humans and animals on the planet because He didn’t like the way humans turned out. And all the times He told the Israelites to kill whole groups of people because they didn’t believe in the right God. And that time where He killed all the firstborn kids in Egypt to soften the heart of Pharaoh, after He hardened his heart.
I hear Christians talk about how God helped them find their lost keys, or get a good parking spot at the store. They (and I used to do the same!) talk about how God kept them or loved ones out of accidents, healed them of some illness (always curable), helped them get a raise, and other wonderful things. But at the same time, 25,000 people around the world die every day from hunger or hunger related issues. Just a day ago, earthquakes in Turkey and Syria have killed more than 7900 people. Recently, a pastor and his staff were flying from Memphis to Texas and the plane crashed, killing the staff. Since April of 1999, there have been 23 fatal Christian church shootings. I hear people all the time saying that issues in schools are because we “removed God” from our schools. Ok, what about all these church shootings? It reminds me of George Carlin’s talk about religion is bullshit. Here is a small segment from that routine: “So, if there is a God, I think most reasonable people might agree that he’s at least incompetent, and maybe, just maybe, doesn’t give a shit. Doesn’t give a shit, which I admire in a person, and which would explain a lot of these bad results.” Please look up, “religion is bullshit” on YouTube. You will not be disappointed!
I’ve had a few instances where I narrowly escaped what probably would have been a bad event. A car accident that didn’t happen, a tornado that missed my house, a tree branch that fell and missed my car by inches. And in the past, I attributed these things to God watching out for me. But what about the thousands of Christians or Muslims or Hindus or whatever faith who weren’t so fortunate? Are they depending on the wrong God? Did they have a lapse in faith that took away the protection or favor of their God? Is their God testing them? Or, maybe their God doesn’t exist. Maybe no God exists? If there is a “God”, I tend to believe that it’s the type of God that Alan Watts and many others describe as, everything is a manifestation of God. This link explains it a bit: https://iawia.net/observations/god-playing-hide-and-seek/
But in my dat to day life, I no longer believe that there is a God who cares about us. There is just too much evidence to the contrary. And people who try to explain away the mountains of evidence to the contrary have to go through so many mental gymnastics it just gets silly. Good things happen. Bad things happen. Often in seemingly unfair ways. And sometimes in what we would think of as fair ways. Karma. Reaping what you sow. However you want to label it. Life happens. If we believe there is some divine being who should be looking out for us and caring for us and doing things for us that we judge as good, life gets very confusing. I think if we can accept life as it is, the good and the bad, it takes a lot of the confusion, anger, and frustration out of life. Not all of it, but a lot of it.
To clear up something that people might question, just because I no longer believe that there is a God that cares about us doesn’t mean I have a negative outlook on life. I actually have a better outlook on life now than when I was an evangelical Christian. I like who I am and where I am in my beliefs about the world. I wasn’t able to say that as a Christian, for various reasons. It’s really nice and freeing to like who I am and who I am becoming.
I hope you and yours are doing as well as can be. Peace.

Miracles, Prayer, Coincidences and Statistical Probability

Lately, I’ve been pondering these things. There are events that happened in my past that, at the time, I attributed to the hand of God moving in and over my life. Things that I thought there was no way this is coincidence. A quick example. From 1970 through 1999, I had lived in Oklahoma. From 1996 through mid 1999. I worked for a large ministry in the Tulsa area. After a while my wife and I started feeling like change was coming. After much prayer, we had decided that God wanted us to move to Memphis. This was late 1998. Memphis was never one of the places I had hoped “God would send me to”. A few weeks later, I got a letter from my biological dad who I had not seen since I was 5. He was asking if we could meet and possibly get to know each other. I was 30 at the time the letter arrived. And, the letter had been forwarded 4 times through previous addresses. He lived 30 minutes from Memphis! How could this not be God? Right? We moved to Memphis in September of 1999. Back then, of course I attributed this to God. We had a good 12 years together before he died. Oh, and I was born in Memphis and lived here for about 2 years before my parents moved. So that is in the picture.

I have had a couple of pretty profound things like this happen in my life as a Christian. So now, as an atheist, I started asking questions and looking into these kinds of things. First, I sent this to an atheist friend and blogger who I’d gotten to know online. I sent him this story about my dad to get his opinion. I’ll put his response below. But I also came across and interesting article titled Miracles, Prayer, Coincidences and Statistical Probability. I will put the link to that article first. I’m going to do more study about this subject, but I wanted to share what I’ve experienced so far. Be well and safe, people!


Below is the email response from a friend regarding the coincidence of me and my biological dad meeting and developing a relationship.

John, it’s a good story. Here’s some thoughts about it.

First, you said you were born in Memphis. So when you decided to move there, that’s a pretty strong connection, your birthplace. Sure, you didn’t know your father would be living near Memphis, but it’s possible that your unconscious/subconscious realized that though your father could be anywhere, the place where you were born (and where I assume your father was when you were born) would be a fairly likely place he could be.

Thus from my admittedly detached perspective, him turning out to live close to Memphis after you and your wife decided to move there doesn’t seem wildly “miraculous” to me. Still, it’s wonderful that you were able to connect with him.
My other thought, which is a bit more abstract, I guess, is that “miracles” and coincidences that can seem like a miracle can’t be compared to anything else, like a roll of a pair of dice can. Meaning, the moments of life only happen once, so we can’t compare them to something else happening.

I like to tell the story of how I overheard a conversation in the San Jose State College cafeteria back in 1969 or 1970 about how getting a MSW (Master of Social Work) degree is a good way to put a psychology BA to work, since it only takes two years to earn a MSW. I heard those words, went to the library and found a MSW degree program in Portland, Oregon, applied, was admitted, and graduated with a MSW in 1973.

If I hadn’t overheard that conversation, likely I would have done something different after graduating from college. Probably wouldn’t have moved to Oregon, then worked in Oregon, then lived in Oregon for the rest of my life so far, including meeting my second current wife in Oregon. So that overheard conversation can be viewed as miraculous in that it kicked off a life that I wouldn’t have lived otherwise.

But if I hadn’t heard the conversation, I would have done something else. And looking back that something else would have seemed like fate/destiny in retrospect. I mention this because I think we all have a tendency to make coherent stories out of our life when actually, or at least probably, there’s a lot more chance and randomness going on, since it is only in looking back that the stories make sense, not looking forward.

The war on Christmas

Back when I was a super fundie evangelical Christian, the war on Christmas was real. Or it was real to the group I was in. It’s funny now because I don’t remember many of the details. LOL Something about Starbucks changing the design or colors of their cups in a way that pissed off Christians. Way back then, I was one of them! It really didn’t piss me off personally, but I figured I had to be mad about it because all my Christian friends were. Also, I was pretty poor then, so I couldn’t even afford to drink Starbucks. People saying happy holidays instead of merry Christmas. The horror! Keep Christ is Christmas! Now that I’m trying to remember, those are the only two things I can think of… But, I still hear about the war on Christmas on various social media outlets. The funny thing is, I can’t remember there being much of a fuss about it in the everyday, real world that I live in.

According to some things I’ve heard or seen regarding the war on Christmas, one side thinks that the “liberals” are trying to distract people from the “real meaning” of Christmas. Where I am now, I can confidently say, give me a fucking break! In case you aren’t sure what I mean, the real meaning of Christmas is to celebrate Jesus’ birthday. If he exists, I really don’t think he gives a shit about people throwing him a birthday party every year. But outside of the cantatas that churches put on to get more money, oh, I mean, celebrate Jesus’ birthday, the vast majority of people are about the gifts and maybe time with loved ones. But mostly the gifts. An example. A few years ago, my family decided that we would be very minimal with gifts for ourselves and others, unlike most Christmases. We decided to take the money we would normally spend on gifts for people in our lives who are doing fine financially, we would find a charity or maybe a friend who was in desperate need of money. We were able to do just that. We heard of a friend who needed a new hot water heater, and then a relative who was not going to be able to pay their mortgage that December. From our perspective, it was great. We helped a couple of people who had rubber meets the road, genuine needs. Our friends and family will be thrilled! No, they were not! I’ll just leave it at that.

What I’ve heard from the folks that prefer happy holidays over merry Christmas, is that they are doing this to be more inclusive to include people that don’t celebrate Christmas. The people I’ve listened to that prefer happy holidays have said repeatedly that they are not trying to “take Christ out of Christmas”. They just recognize that not everyone celebrates holidays this month the same way. I know a few Christians who don’t celebrate Christmas at all. Since I haven’t attended church in several years, I really don’t hear that much about it anymore. It could be that the city I live in is more liberal than most cities in the south? Or, maybe there are so many other issues to deal with these days that it just doesn’t matter in comparison? Either way, I’m good with it. I’ve never really been a person that says merry Christmas or happy holidays. If someone says either, or something similar, to me, I usually smile and respond with, you too. 🙂

Where is the love?

I’ve read the Bible cover to cover many times. I’ve read many of the books of the Bible and certain chapters of each book, many, many times. Just to throw this in here real quick, reading the Bible, there is no way you can see God as anything but the most horrible being ever. But, even with that in mind, I can’t remember any time where God or Jesus said anything like, “I can’t wait to see you burning in hell, forever”. Other than God setting Adam and Eve up for failure, killing 99.9% of all humans and animals on the planet by drowning them to death, telling “His people” to slaughter multiple cultures, etc, most of the scriptures that come to mind are less harsh. I think of, the Lord is good and His mercy endures forever. Forever, people! Jesus saying that people will know that they are His disciples by their love. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten son. Jesus saying, Father forgive them, for they no not what they are doing. Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. Paul said, for I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.

And so on and so on. I know that this kind of love and mercy and sacrifice for the good of others is WAY more effective than the shit comments that I read on social media. I follow several skeptics, agnostics, and atheists. Most of the comments from religious folks are mean, shallow, angry, and just flat crazy! It seems like I remember a scripture that says something like, go into all the world and preach the good news. The good news is that Jesus saves. God loves people. You matter to God. Jesus considers you His friend and loves you unconditionally. I’m not saying that the responses from the non-religious community are always kind, but shit… It seems like the comments from Christians should reflect the love of God/Jesus/Holy Spirit. I have yet to find a non-believer who became a believer because someone said they can’t wait to see them burn in hell. And on the flip side, I haven’t seen a believer start to embrace logic and reason because a non-believer said they are stupid, or brainwashed, or anything like that.

It seems like the vast majority of people have lost the ability to have peaceful, helpful, thought provoking conversations with other people with different beliefs. I’m working on this myself. Within this post you can see where my emotions have taken over. I’m working on doing and being better. I’m cautiously hopeful that other humans are doing the same. What if we kept our religious beliefs to ourselves most of the time. What if we could just sit down for a meal and talk about our kids, our marriage, our struggles in life and how we deal with them? What if we took time to ask others, how are you? And really mean it. To make time and space for someone to feel comfortable sharing their fears and concerns, without judging them for these things. Just listen. Have empathy. We are all human. We have much more in common than not. If there is a god, please help us.

Where are the quality workers?

Ok, I’m going to sound like the “get off my lawn” old man here. I’m 54. My parents taught me to show up early to my job, stay late if needed, and work my ass off in between. They taught me to care about the quality of work that I did. My dad told me, decades ago, that if I’ll put “this much” effort into my job, I’ll always be above average. He was right. I’ve always been above average. I’ve never been fired or laid off from a job. I’ve always gotten promoted, whether I wanted it or not! LOL I remember a few years ago when my son got his first job. After about a week there, he came home and said to me, “Dad, no one wants to do any actual work!” He’s right. Most people don’t give a shit. “Well, if you paid people more, they would give a shit!” No, they won’t. If they don’t take pride in their work at $17/hour, they won’t take price in it at $23/hour. They might not call in sick as much. They might be willing to work a little overtime. But giving a shit? Nope. You can’t buy that. Maybe it’s always been that way? Humans are prone to believe the good old days were better than today. The brain often shuts out the bad stuff and only allows us to remember the good stuff. So maybe there have always been a small percentage of workers who care, whether they like their jobs or not? Now that I think about it, it seems like that is probably right. But I do think it’s gotten worse in the last few years. There is a downside to giving a shit. Stress. The people who care often get more work, so the stress increases. I remember a meme that said, “There is a cool thing they do at my job. If you are good at your job, they give you someone else’s job to do also!” Where I work, I’m doing about 4 people’s jobs. I work way too many hours and my health is starting to reap the consequences of that work load. So why don’t the people who care start not giving a shit like everyone else? I’ve asked a few co-workers who care that very question. All of them say the same thing. It’s just not in them to not give a shit. I would answer the same way. Is it our upbringing? Does it have to do with our zodiac sign? Is it some quirk in our DNA? Is it some kind of natural selection that keeps our species going? I don’t know? I really don’t. I’m not patting myself on the back or anything like that. I just wonder what is it that makes people care, or not care? And why can’t I be one of the people who don’t care?!?! It sure seems like my life would be much less stressful. These are just my thoughts/opinions, and observations from my work life. Get off my lawn! And Namaste. 🙂

Not rebellious

I often see on people’s skeptic/agnostic/atheist social media accounts, there is a common theme among commenters. They say that these people are rebelling against god and just want to sin without remorse or accountability. I have found that this is almost never the case. Almost everyone that I’ve talked to or listened to regarding their leaving religion did so for reasons other than some kind of rebellion against god. And my story is no different.

I’ve talked about this before, but my deconversion/deconstruction came about from a long intensive study of the Bible, the history of the Bible, the history of the church, etc. Also lots of study on things like how the brain works, how music (including worship music) can effect emotions, the probability of your beliefs based on where you were born, etc. I began this study, especially of the Bible, hoping to strengthen my faith. It has the exact opposite effect. Things just didn’t add up anymore. I prayed, I fasted, I cried out to god to show me that the conclusion I had come to was wrong. I prayed for answers. No answers came. I still sometimes pray for answers. Same result.

I wasn’t hurt by the church. I did get fed up with the church. I wasn’t mad at god. And I didn’t have some divine revelation of god’s existence and I was just rebelling so I could sin, or whatever a person would rebel for. In fact, I don’t believe in the Biblical concept of sin anymore. As far as what is considered sin by religious people, I would say I don’t sin any more now than I did as a Christian. I am a lot less judgmental, so I guess that’s an area where I sin less. I just try to treat people the way I want to be treated. And most non-religious folks I know or know of often live by a similar ideal.

Non-religious/agnostic/atheist people don’t eat babies. At least none that I’ve ever heard of. They usually aren’t proselytizing for atheism. There are many atheist activists out there, but that’s different. I have yet to have someone knock on my door and ask, “Sir, do you have moment to talk about our non-existent lord and savior, Atheism?” They aren’t coming for your kids. And they won’t invite you to some place early on a Sunday morning. There are good people among them, and there are assholes among them. Just like any other group of people. And they aren’t rebelling against god. They don’t believe in god, just like a Christian doesn’t believe in Zeus, Thor, Poseidon, Venus, or Pluto. They just believe in one less god than Christians, and those of a similar faith, do.

If you are a religious person who is tempted to go onto a non-believer’s social media site and tell them that they are just rebelling against god, for whatever reason… please don’t.  Thank you. 🙂

Miracles and cell phones

I went to a church service with my wife last night, at her request. The speaker was a very passionate missionary who ministers and teaches local ministers in Sudan. She talked about an outdoor meeting with over 1 million people in attendance. She talked about hundreds of thousands of people giving their hearts and lives to Jesus. People were set free from demonic possession, healed of sicknesses, etc. She talked about a woman who brought her daughter’s dead body and threw it onto the stage and walked off. This missionary was not at this meeting, but said that her “team” prayed for the girl and she came back to life. That’s amazing! Holy shit! Raised from the dead! Yet, there is no evidence of this incredible miracle taking place. Why not? According to the internet, 73% of people in Sudan have cell phones. So in this particular gathering, approximately 730,000 people would have had cell phones. Not to mention the ministry team! I’m sure there was some kind of recording going on, there always is for meetings like this to show your financial supporters and such. So, where is the video of this amazing miracle? If nothing else, surely someone would have recorded a woman throwing a dead body on the stage! I would think a video of this girl being raised from the dead would be on their website and every social media outlet in the world! News outlets around the world would be salivating over this kind of story. And yet, I couldn’t find any mention of this divine intervention anywhere.
I’m not saying that this didn’t happen. I have no way of knowing if it did or not. But shit! Why is there never any video evidence of this kind of thing? Does god just magically disable video cameras and cell phones for some reason? Humans have had the ability to make video recordings for over 100 years. And yet, miracles like people being raised from the dead never seem to get recorded. I remember Neil DeGrasse Tyson saying he had a conversation with a woman whose deceased father sat up in his coffin and started talking to her. She had asked to be alone with the body and then this happened. Tyson said that he didn’t not believe her, but did she have her cell phone? Couldn’t she have recorded this amazing conversation? I guess she was so shocked that she didn’t think of it. Maybe that was the case in Sudan? The girl came back from the dead and 730,000 people with cell phones capable of recording this unbelievable event were so shocked that not one of them thought to press the record button. I suppose that is a possibility.
In the church service last night there was a young man who is a quadriplegic with no ability to communicate. I’ve seen him in a few church services around town. So I’m sitting there listening to this woman talk about the miraculous things going on in Sudan under her ministry. I’m talking to “god” about this young man. I’m like, god, if you can raise a several day old dead girl to life, surely you can heal this young man who has been prayed for daily his whole life. God, if you do this, I’ll go back to drinking the Kool Aid by the barrel and be back in church as many days a week as possible. And, I will record it and put it out on as many platforms as I can think of so people can see this amazing miracle. But, as you probably guessed, nothing happened. This young man and his parents went home with no change in his condition, like they have done countless times.
If you are reading this and you have video evidence of a miracle of god taking place, please let me know! I would love to see it!

Perspective, yet again

I have written a couple posts on perspective. I was listening to the most recent The Thinking Atheist podcast this morning and this subject came up again. By the way, I highly recommend this podcast, even if you are not an atheist. The most recent is one with guest, Dr Indre Viskontas, who is a really fun lady to listen to! She is neuroscientist and an opera singer/director. Anyway, she and Seth Andrews are talking about how the brain works and perceives the information that comes into it and how we interpret that information. The interpretation can vary greatly from person to person. A person’s preference is a great example of how this works. And, these preferences can change over time. I appreciate the talent in a good country music artist, but I generally do not like listening to country music. I used to not like heavy rock like Slipknot or 5 Finger Death Punch, but now that is the music I listen to after work to relax!

Anyway, remembering that someone’s perspective, and their brain’s interpretation of that perspective, can be very different than mine, kind of helps me stay more accepting and less judgmental. If someone says that the sky is green, ok. To them, it could very well be green. If someone doesn’t like jazz, I can be ok with that even though I do like jazz.  In today’s world, it seems that our differences are dividing us more than I can remember in my lifetime (54 years). But that could just be a perspective as well! Who knows, maybe the country was more divided in 1972 than it is now, but with me being only 4 years old, I had no idea what that would look like. It’s like when people talk about how much better the “good old days” were than now. Maybe in some ways they were. Were they really that much better? Human brains/memories have a tendency to filter out bad experiences. So our memories might not be as accurate as we think they are. This is a great article about this very subject:

I hope you all are doing as well as you can be. See you again soon.

“The devil is a liar!”

This is a common phrase among the flavor of Christianity that I was part of for a long time. “The devil is a liar!” Any time things don’t go their way, the devil is to blame. The specific comment that made me want to write is post came from coach Deion Sanders of Jackson State University. He was talking about how the football players will be taken care of, even if it means moving them to hotels with adequate water supply. But one comment stood out to me: “The Devil is a Lie! This ain’t nothing but a moment of discomfort and we will be alright. Jackson we’ve overcome a lot more than this baby.” I’m assuming he meant, “The devil is a liar”, based on my experience with this view of Christianity. But is the devil really to blame for this water shortage? Based on many articles that I’ve read, Jackson, MS has had water supply issues for a long time. Below is an excerpt from a news article about this specific event:
“Jackson’s water infrastructure has longstanding issues.
The flooding is not to blame for Jackson’s water infrastructure issues. Per Mississippi Today, the city’s water system has dealt with problems for years. Tens of thousands of residents were left without water for one to three weeks during a 2021 winter storm.
“It’s been building up for years,” state Rep. Ronnie Crudup Jr. told CNN on Tuesday. “But we have had an unprecedented amount of rain in the last two to three weeks, and it just kind of created this havoc, what we are dealing with right now.”
Residents had been under a boil-water notice since July after testing showed contaminants in the city’s water supply. Reeves urged residents on Monday not to drink tap water.
“Please stay safe, do not drink the water,” Reeves said. “In too many cases, it is raw water from the reservoir being pushed through the pipes.”
Jackson’s WLBT 3 reported on Tuesday that the city’s public works director Marlin King had been reassigned amid the water crisis. Per the report, King told WLBT that the decision was made after he spoke with Lumumba and told the mayor that there were issues of employee mismanagement, unpaid vendors and a poor work environment.”

If the devil exists, could he/she be behind all this poor management and poor work environment? I suppose so. But to me, it seems like it’s just bad management and possibly poor engineering that has been left alone for a while. No God involved. And no devil. If the devil is real, I think he gets a bad rap. He gets blamed for tons of shit that humans do to themselves. Someone loses their keys, it’s the devil. Someone catches a cold, it’s the devil. Your kid gets an F in science, it’s the devil. I’m over weight and am pre-diabetic. It’s not my fault for not eating and exercising as I should, it’s the devil! Someone has cancer, it’s the devil. Well, unless there are countless prayers offered to the Christian God for their healing. If that person dies then it was God’s will for that to happen. It’s all very confusing. The below meme seems to simplify things a bit. And yes, I realize that the comma between floods and, pandemics is not grammatically correct, but all of them that I want to use are this way.
Hail Satan! 🙂

I would like some real evidence, please

Do you ever wonder about the lack of evidence for God? I don’t mean the “evidence” that people try to present like, “Just look around at nature. You know God exists!” Or, “Where do you think everything came from?” Or, “But I had this amazing experience!” Or, one of my favorites, “You can’t prove that God doesn’t exist!”
Just because I admit that I don’t know about something, doesn’t automatically mean that it’s because of some supernatural being or event. Humans existed for hundreds of thousands of years without knowing things that had nothing to do with a God or spirits at all. Humans didn’t know about germs or viruses until the late 1800’s. That’s around 298,000 years of human existence before we realized that that sickness was not caused by foul odors or evil spirits. We didn’t know the earth revolves around the sun until the mid-1500’s. For thousands of years, nearly all cultures believed that thunder and lightning were caused by the activity of sky gods. If I’m not mistaken, scientists still don’t fully understand how the initial spark forms that generates lightning. It must be Thor, right?
I’m wondering about real evidence. For example, the police show up at your house telling you that you are under arrest for the murder of Mr. Smakinacky. They start to hand cuff you and read you your rights. Hopefully you, or someone you know, will immediately contact your lawyer. Almost right away, the lawyer will ask, what evidence do you have that my client killed Mr. Smakinacky? Let’s say a detective steps up and says something like, I just know in my heart that he did it. Another says something about seeing you murder Mr. Smakinacky in a vision. Another says that he has a 2000 year old book that said someone matching your description kills a man matching Mr. Smakinacky’s description. Vaugely. Hopefully, none of this will stand up in court. Your lawyer will want to know things like, were your fingerprints on the murder weapon? Was your blood or hair at the scene? Is there any blood matching the victim’s in your car or on your clothes? Were you recorded on camera at or near the scene? Where were you when the murder took place and do you have an alibi? You know, real evidence.
When I was a Christian, I had experiences that I attributed to God or the Holy Spirit. Whether in a time of worship at a church or in my home, praying by myself or with others, reading or teaching others about the Bible, etc. The interesting thing is that I’ve had the same, or at least similar, experiences doing “non-spiritual” things. Like during mindfulness meditation, practicing or teaching tai chi, listening to secular music, especially live music, reading secular books, and spending time with friends talking about current beliefs or the lack there of. Also in my Christian/preaching days, I never led anyone “to the Lord” outside of some kind of church service where the general atmosphere was such that people are more easily manipulated. I was not trying to manipulate anyone, but it had that effect. I got “saved” when I was 12 years old, at night around a fire at a YMCA camp. There was talk of heaven and hell and looking back it seemed like the atmosphere was just right to get a bunch of scared kids to pray the sinner’s prayer.
As for the, prove that God doesn’t exist, bullshit, it’s up to the person making the claim for something to prove their claim. If I told you that I have a pet unicorn that lives in my backyard, you would ask for proof. Photos, video, seeing it in person, etc. I wouldn’t say, you have to prove that I don’t have a pet unicorn. That really doesn’t make sense to me.
I cannot say with 100% certainty that there is no divine being of any kind in existence. But I also have never seen any demonstrable evidence. I’m certainly open to there being a god of some sort. I still often pray, if there is a god, please reveal yourself to me in a clear way with some real evidence. If that ever happens, I’ll be sure to let you know.