It all started for me at age 12 when a Bible teacher recommended Kenneth Taylor's paraphrased The Living Bible. My mom wasn't keen on this as she had always told me what her mom had always told her: "never read from anything other than the Authorized King James Bible."
Honestly, I had no idea what that meant when I was child, and it was only years later when I understood that the Bible was, literally, a foreign book that was available in many different English translations.
"But Mom," I asked, "what's the difference in reading a "Bible" that puts the KJV in more modern wordage and having a preacher read from KJV and then tell us what the passage means?"
She thought about it and admitted there didn't seem to be much of a difference.
From there I examined many different translations, even those my denomination considered "liberal" and "infidel" translations - translations that supposedly called into questions such cardinal doctrines as the virgin birth of Jesus.
Once, as a teenager, I checked out Augustine's City of God from the public library. This was a bold move for me as he was a Catholic scholar, and so, according to the understanding of theology I was brought up in, was not really a Christian at all.
I read his entire massive tome from cover to cover.
Actually, I found much that squared with what I had been taught from youth. Saw things that I recognized as the "false teachings" of Catholicism. And I found what came to be my favorite quote from Augustine: "Some have such command of their bowels, that they can break wind continuously at pleasure, so as to produce the effect of singing."
Wow! Imagine that in a theological treatise.
I'll condense the story of my journey of mind expansion and just say that since I had come that far, I saw no reason not to go all the way. After all, I hadn't become a convert to Rome after reading Augustine, nor a Lutheran after reading Martin Luther. I eventually decided to branch out and study those "idiotic" infidel works of "Old Tom Paine" (more commonly known by his real name, Thomas Paine) and that "fiend" Colonel Ingersoll.
Well, it became readily apparent why Christian ministers and teachers do their best to steer people away from freethinkers like Paine and Ingersoll. They are absolutely devastating at pointing out the weaknesses and inconsistencies of Bible Christianity.
I found that Thomas Paine was no idiot. In fact, I steer as many people as I can to his Age Of Reason, as it has stood well to the test of time and is still helpful today. Paine did believe in God, even a personal one. That is why I have found his book helpful for those who have problems with the Bible and Christianity, but are not willing to give up on God.
And Robert Ingersoll was no fiend, but was a man of high character. His lectures are a breath of fresh air to anyone brave enough to shake loose the bonds of controlled thinking and let his mind soar.
No other freethinkers have had the impact on me that these two had.
Christian leaders have much to fear over honest inquiry into the doctrines they put forth. Thinking people will not allow themselves to be controlled through fear and ignorance. When one is allowed to step outside the box of his religious indoctrination and breathe the fresh air of freedom of thought, the change is phenomenal.
Compare the writings of Moses (supposedly) and Darwin side-by-side and you immediately see that mythology makes very poor science.
I'll bet you that not one Christian fundamentalist in a hundred has ever read any more of Charles Darwin than the out of context quotes of his contained in their "Creation Science" books.
It is high time that people started to do their own thinking instead of leaving it to their preachers and theologians, whose vested interest it is to