A while back, on a day hike along the Appalachian Trail, my father asked me offhand “when did you stop believing in God”?

It took me a minute to contemplate the honesty in the question. He’s a strong Christian, like I had once been. He wasn’t meaning to incite any emotions, or tension. He was just honestly curious.

I knew then I couldn’t tell him the true answer. It was too personal an issue. Instead I shrugged, chugged up another hill, blamed it on just growing up.

It was that, yes. But the fall of my senior year contained more discernable and definable events. Turning points. These were the instances he was looking for, but I could not reveal, because they cut just a little too close.

That fall, 1999, my parents decided to refinish the living room in our house. This resulted in a ton of drywall being cut, and the dust infiltrated my room. Due to an allergic reaction, I was horribly sick for a week. I went to the hospital and had an epinephrine shot. I remember coming home from the hospital, bursting with energy from the adrenaline, yet so drowsy from the illness. It was like being underwater, my body lucid yet my mind in limbo. That next week I saw the movie Fight Club, a personal favorite and a definite mind fuck for me.

Never before had one two-hour movie changed my perceptions of the world so strongly. A few weeks earlier I had started dating my high school best friend, and we were finally fooling around. I remember one night, after a heated make out session, coming home and just writing furiously on a scrap of paper, a vow to myself. It said something along the lines of “Once you go there, lose your innocence, you can never go back. And you’re taking hers with you.” It was a weird thing for a horny high school boy to write, but I was a weird kid, and I still had a Christian conscience.

I lost my virginity, got horribly ill, smoked marijuana, drank beer and saw Fight Club for the first time that fall. Imbibed substances made me realize how “programmable” the body was. How a simple liquid, or some smoke, could alter emotions and worldviews and senses. Opening the door of the flesh only confirmed the fact. And in our virgin fumbling, there was an innocence to sex, a purity that went against my entire religious upbringing. How could these activities be so sinful, when they in themselves were uplifting, entertaining, even spiritual?

Combined with the anti-everything nihilistic manifesto of Fight club, in my dazed yet cathartic state, God disappeared. Church became a farce, and my parents became so much more human.

So that was growing up. Eventually I justified my changes with reason and logic. I’ve grown into my viewpoints with some maturity over these four years. It was an interesting time in my life, days worth remembering.

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