Last summer, I ventured down the "rabbit hole". This temporary journey was concurrent with major life changes that were happening in my life ( i.e, a wife pregnant with twins, financial problems, questioning my religious beliefs, an eroding relationship with my seemingly narcissistic and BPD mother). A perfect storm, if you will, of anxiety-laden crises were all falling upon me at once. Hindsight being what it is, I look back at my brief period of "conspiracy research" with a healthy dose of shame and embarrassment, for allowing myself to abandon my critical thinking faculties and succumbing to largely unproven notions of global tyranny and oligarchy. Researching these conspiracies, I now believe, offered a convenient escape from the more pressing matters facing my day-to-day life. It also provided me with an immediate outlet for the sense of injustice I felt for my lot in life. "It couldn't possibly be my fault that my life is going so terribly", I reasoned. It must be "the system". However, I'm getting a bit ahead of myself. The true journey began in the summer of 2008. At work, I'd often tune into our local AM news station to keep current with politics and the local news of the day. It was during this time that a new radio program debuted at the 10:00am time slot. This was the first time I was introduced to The Glenn Beck radio program. Mr. Beck was not your typical political radio host. Emotional, fiery, and boisterous - he instantly managed to hold my attention like no other. This was not my first foray into listening to political talk radio. Over the years, I'd often listen to Rush Limbaugh every now and then. I identified with his message of financial, social, and moral conservatism. Rush was a bit controversial, but never veering into conspiratorial thinking - at least in comparison to Glenn Beck. Beck would often bring up the idea that the economy was on the brink of collapse. He was critical of progressives and suggested that they were part of a hidden hand organization, hell-bent on ushering in a communist government. He would cite the many progressive policies of past administrations. He particularly focused on eugenicists, Cass Sunstein, Obama, the Federal Reserve bank, and the Woodrow Wilson administration - just to name a few. Then, he started to become critical of the former Bush administration and its "big government" policies. I slowly felt my political ideology shifting decidedly toward Libertarian ideals. His emotional tirades were effective in swaying my political leanings. Rush then became passé. I was obsessed with following Glenn Beck and watching his chalkboard demonstrations on Fox News. This would prove to be short lived, however, as I began to lose interest in Glenn Beck after the 2008 election. Yet, his ideas did plant a dormant seed in my mind that would take root and begin to sprout in the summer of 2014. Summer 2014. Facebook. A friend posts a "Top Ten Most Ridiculous Conspiracy Theories" link. In the past, I would often read up on UFO stories just for fun. I even bought into Dr. Steven Greer's Disclosure Project shenanigans - somewhat. The post included a thumbnail of aliens, so I felt compelled to click the link. The list was ridiculous. It ran the gamut from Bigfoot to stargate portals in Iraq. Two out of the ten caught my attention, though. One was the idea that 9/11 was an inside job. I had remembered hearing Glenn Beck talk about 9/11 truthers and how disgusting their accusations were. The other was the Illuminati and their symbolism. These two things were my red pill down the rabbit hole - and down it, I did go. If Glenn Beck is a gateway drug, then Alex Jones is crack cocaine. A week into my initial investigating, I found YouTube and Alex Jones found me. At this point, I was sucking in his conspiracy narratives one by one. This game of connect-the-dots was intriguing and challenging ( contrary to the suggested idea by some that these theories are an oversimplification to understand a chaotic world). Alex Jones became the light post on my journey for truth. It was at this time that Bohemian Grove and NWO entered my lexicon. I spent weeks poring over videos and websites in order to learn about these subjects. My mind was accepting the idea that biblical evil truly existed in the highest reaches of world wide government. Being a fundamentalist Christian, at the time, seemed to only intensify my suspicions of a pervasive Satanic hierarchy at work to enslave humanity. I was convinced that former President George H.W. Bush and the Bohemian Grove members were blood-drinking, Satan-worshipping child molesters and killers. The gestation of this belief was wrought from researching the Franklin scandal and a book written, of the same name, by Sen. John DeCamp. To my mind, at least, the book was a plausible exposé of the government's abuse of power. The more shocking elements involved eyewitness testimony of satanic ritual murder at Bohemian Grove by alleged victim Paul Bonacci. The veracity of his claims were, for all intents and purposes, consistent with other such claims of ritual abuse at that time. The "satanic panic" of the 1980's and early 1990's, if you're not aware, is a well known period of history to conspiracists. As a brief overview, it involved ritual abuse accusations by parents and children at day care facilities across the United States. Many of these accusations were found to be without merit by a court of law and were outright dismissed. However, if you are already predisposed to being distrustful of government and its institutions - and those in a position of authority appear greedy, sinister, and dishonest - it's quite easy to accept the idea of a widespread cover-up when you've lost any and all objective reasoning. Then, add to that, Alex Jones' video taped "infiltration" of Bohemian Grove during the Cremation of Care ceremony. In these, you have the recipe for a compelling connect-the-dots scenario in the mind of the conspiracy theorist. If I may also add, as an aside, the various celebrity connections to the all pervasive Illuminati/ Satanic plot. The intrigue of such stories draws one in like a moth to a flame. You find that the worries and fears of life can be channeled toward your obsession - global conspiracy. You even find yourself neglecting relationships, responsibilities, and health. Other activities begin to pale in comparison to this noble cause. Such behavior can be likened to a gambler playing the slot machines in Las Vegas. He keeps trying to get the three cherry symbols to line up in a row for a jackpot. He finds himself investing more and more time and money into doing so. Days and weeks go by, and he continues pulling on the arm of the machine, hoping to win big. The day never comes. Yet, his enthusiasm never wanes. It becomes cathartic and dissatisfying all at once for him. This, in turn, just intensifies his need to win and keeps him coming back for more. Obsession becomes addiction. The tetrad blood moon prophecy was the straw that broke the camel's back. I was sure the world was ending last summer. I destroyed my television, my computer, my PS3, and a monitor - all in a fit of anger and shame over my erroneous belief that the Illuminati had subjected me to hidden symbology and talismans. This was my way of "getting right with the Lord" before the blood moon apocalypse arrived. What it really was, in hindsight, was a nervous breakdown from the amount of stress I was under, mentioned in the opening paragraph. Alas, the blood moon came and went, and so did my Christian faith. I was desperately trying to cling to something that I no longer rationally believed. On a subconscious level, I reasoned if I could find the devil in these conspiracies, I could somehow cling to my crumbling faith and it would prove God true. However, my doubts boiled to the surface after the failed blood moon prophecy and I desperately needed to hear the other side of the faith vs. reason debate. This is when I found Annie Besant's Librevox recording of "My Path to Atheism". I listened; She reasoned. My faith was finished; My heart was broken. Amidst this sorrowful grieving process over my lost faith, a new kind of hope arrived. The age of reason. I was no longer shackled to superstition or an invisible totalitarian deity. I didn't have to force myself to dislike homosexuals any longer. I didn't have to carry unhealthy guilt and shame over my own sexuality and how I expressed it. I didn't have to obsess over satanic government plots. I didn't have to fear an eternal hell. My mind felt healthy once again. I began to let go of my conspiracy beliefs the more I devoured literature from the likes of Thomas Paine and Robert Green Ingersoll. The truth has set me free.