My Journey to Atheism (Nutshell Version)

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Yesterday I told you I was an atheist and a secular humanist.

For Part Two of the atheist series, I want to dive in and explore the journey that brought me to the point I am now.

In an eensy-weensy nutshell:

33 years I was a committed follower of Christ.  Born and raised in a christian home.  My parents were leaders in our small church.  My dad teaching our Awana club and my mom the church piano player.  I attended a teeny tiny christian school on the same campus as my church for the entirety of my education years (with a quick and limited transfer to public for 5th grade where I heard about the Big Bang Theory *gasp*).

Not that one:

List of The Big Bang Theory episodes (season 1)

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This One!

The 6 Stages in the Universe

The 6 Stages in the Universe (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was baptized by choice and said the salvation prayer more times than I can count.  I followed the rules and rarely questioned.  I never drank, never smoked, never had premarital sex (clarify: premarital intercourse).  My summers consisted of church and church camps.  We were consistent sunday morning, sunday evening, and wednesday night attendees.  My circle of friends never (or rarely) consisted of any one outside the faith.  We all believed the same things and walked the same straight line.  Mostly.  The most rebellious thing for me…I kissed a lot of boys and found myself attracted to boys I wasn’t supposed to like, those who were a little rebellious or outside my faith.  There was the mormon, the camp leader, the jailed wiccan, the cute waiter, the arrogant twin, the heavy weed smoker, the boys I met at golf n stuff and hopped in their car to wherever, the foreigners I met on the beach, all the ones I don’t remember, and then the one I was supposed to love, the school chaplain.  The golden boy that all mothers wish their daughter would date.  He was my first love.  My first real heartbreak.  And, finally, at the ripe old age of 15 I started dating my husband!  These years were filled with natural desires conflicted with shame.  And that shame still surfaces today.

The Virginity Hit

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I married Adam when I was 20 and he was 19.  We were still both walking that straight and narrow purity line of christianity so in order for us to remain faithful to our beliefs we needed to get married so we could have sex.  Seriously.  This is a key component to why we married!  It’s almost laughable now.  Okay, it’s downright funny (and stupid)!  I wouldn’t recommend getting married at 20, waiting to have sex, or letting religion teach you about your sexuality but that’s a post I’ve already written.

During the first 13 years of our marriage we carried on what we were taught.  We attended church each Sunday.  We went to weekly Bible studies.  We prayed and did devotions, taught marriage classes in our church, voted republican, shunned science (and I have a science degree…again, crazy laughable), tithed our 10%, spanked our child, taught christian based parenting classes, feared what we didn’t know (homosexuals, democrats, feminists, eastern medicine, meditation and yoga, yada yada).  We were the model christian couple and, yet, we were both suffering with shame and small doubts.  Silently and alone.

Belief + Doubt

Belief + Doubt (Photo credit: jpellgen)

For us doubt began to trump faith.  Long story short, Adam started questioning and through education, experience, and reason he came to a place where he could no longer put his faith in god, his time and money in church, or remain in the beliefs he had held without question for so much of his life.  Adam’s leap to find answers and make room for questioning eventually encouraged me to allow myself to seek answers to the questions I had buried or excused away.  I devoured every morsel of fact and reason I could find only to become an atheist faster than Adam, surprising both of us.

Finding our truth did not mean the road was easy.  All you have to do is look back at my earlier posts and see what leaving religion was like.  It rocked our world, our marriage, our lifestyle, our friendships, our family, our sense of self.  It rocked our entire beings until we were so completely broken and angry.  Angry at ourselves for never questioning.  Angry for the way we had parented our oldest.  Angry at others for selling us lies.  Angry at religion for it’s use of shame and manipulation.  Angry at others for defending a belief that they blindly follow.  So much anger.  Anger is an important fuel to bring people to new levels of awareness but it is exhausting.

It’s only been recent that anger has subsided.  It still surfaces when I focus on atrocities and nonsense that can come from the religious.  It still surfaces when people question my morality, pray for my soul, or tell me that my children will never know peace.  And it still has a rightful place in this continued journey.  Anger is just no longer necessary for me to survive.  It was then but it’s not now.

That brings us to today.  Today our families (most of the members) are still highly religious.  My dad and stepmom are missionaries.  My mom is a pastor’s assistant.  Adam’s mom remains committed to her beliefs in god and a bigoted prophet.  But we are different and we are confident about where this journey has brought us.  Honestly, life has never felt more genuine.  More peaceful.  More accepting. Even with the amount of judgement and rejection we have and continue to experience.

Today we are,without a doubt, atheists.  Full fledged non-believing atheists.  We value the amount of studying and vulnerability we

The New Atheists @ Creepy Library

The New Atheists @ Creepy Library (Photo credit: ~C4Chaos)

experienced to reach this point.  And today we are better human beings raising more aware and socially conscious children.  We give ourselves more grace and the shame that religion so strongly forced upon us is slowly dissipating.  We take pride in our atheism and our non-belief.  We take pride in our secular values and the life that we are living.  And, honestly, after being on both sides of the fence I wish that every person could experience a life that is good without god (secular humanism).  I, personally, think that the world would be a better place without the fantasy of the supernatural and the fantasy of an afterlife.  I wish every person would find answers to their doubts, ask the important questions, give their religion a hefty once-over, and find the strength to walk away from something that feels really comfortable if and when reason trumps faith.

Journey On.

Tomorrow (or the day after…I’m non-commital these days with four kids on summer break to chase around) part 3 in the series.

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6 responses »

  1. I know the anger you speak of – even questioning the existence of a deity for me was a departure from the form of thought I had inherited. It’s just now that I have started to pick up the pieces of my life. Perhaps I will finally crawl out of my hiding place.

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    • Yes, just the allowance of questions felt like a betrayal. The answers I found while questioning produced the platform of anger that I so desperately needed in order to continue searching. It was the fuel I required in order to feel strong enough to rearrange every facet of the life I had known.
      Once you start picking up the pieces you’ll find you’re putting together a much stronger, more genuine self. I hope that you not only crawl out of hiding but find yourself running out of your hiding place!
      Thank you for reading and for the comment.

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  2. Pingback: I Believe | ThinkingWithVitality

  3. I sympathize and can relate very well to you. I believed in God as a small child, was an atheist since first grade to teenage, then a “devout Christian” like you since then. I ask myself many questions lately, and I find myself close to becoming (if not already there) an agnostic. I can’t really become an atheist without significant proof. And quite frankly, there really is no proof of the none-existence of a divine being. We could dismiss the accuracy of the Bible, but no matter how ridiculous a religion or another is, there may still be some kind of God somewhere. But speculating about the agnostic God would be irrelevant and self-contradicting.

    One day as I was contemplating the possibility of God not existing at all, that long-forgotten fear of death has painfully appeared. I really do hope there is a God, even if He would punish me for my lack of faith, as I find even eternal damnation in Hell preferable to non-existence and absolute termination of my being. That way I could still exist in some form or another.

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    • I think you hit the nail on the head for a lot of people in your second paragraph. I really do believe that most people fear death and therefore require the belief of a happily ever after (heaven).
      Coming to terms with death was, and is, the most difficult part of the leaving religion journey. But as of recent I have started finding the beauty in death. Even a death without eternity.
      First Beauty: When you believe that this life is all there is, you start to appreciate all the little moments. Every day becomes extra special.
      Second Beauty: I really do believe that we are all made up of the same cells. All life. So when we die and our bodies decompose our cells are used to give life to something new. That’s pretty beautiful. So in a sense, we are eternal. We just may not be eternally aware of our existence.
      As far as the agnostic/atheist part, I totally get why people land on agnostic rather than atheist. As an atheist I don’t know for sure that there is not a god. Nobody can know for certain and anybody who claims to know is not honest. The difference is that I don’t believe there to be a god. I really don’t think a supreme being exists. For me, I need evidence to prove He does exist. Whereas you require evidence to disprove His existence. I feel that if a god does exist, it ultimately doesn’t matter and thus I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about whether he does or not. Until I see evidence for the proof of his existence he remains nonexistent. Does that make any sense? LOL
      Thank you for reading and I highly encourage you to keep asking the difficult questions. Spend time coming to an acceptance of death and that will make your journey easier.
      Good luck!

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      • Coming to terms with death was easier than I anticipated. I was thinking about it today and it dawned on me that it should be treated just as any other thing that previously bothered me in my life and I really had no control over. With pragmatism. Worrying, stressing and fearing something you can’t do nothing about lowers the quality of your life. To paraphrase somebody, “Worrying is silly. Either act or forget”. I can’t act, so I chose to forget.

        About being an atheist, I can understand it as a pragmatic attitude: At the point you’ve come to the conclusion that there’s simply not enough proof for the existence of God, you might just as well consider him not existing at all, instead of keeping a neutral stance. I don’t find this conclusion the most intellectually honest, but I can understand its functionality of simplifying matters. Yes, you do make sense.

        I am not really there, I can not fully be even an agnostic, as I’ve gone through some supernatural experiences in my life as a Christian, and heard about other believers experiencing such things; let’s call them miracles. Things like prophecy, healing, and so on. Some of them can be proven fake or mere coincidence, but some are truly genuine. And that raises some questions.

        Things like me knowing in advance what grades I’m going to get to the exams the next day. I was praying and I simply KNEW that stuff. This also happened as I was praying for some friends — some details from their lives were revealed to me, and as I checked back with my friends, those details were accurate. And that’s only my meager personal experience.

        My grandmother dreamed about one of her sons injuring his hand in a work accident, without “real-world” knowledge of the actual event. It was also revealed to her in that dream that after the surgery, a particular finger won’t recover it’s full functionality; and that’s exactly what happened in reality. I could go on with other such examples.

        Of course, such personal revelations get it wrong a lot of times, which begs some questions. But these things are also spot-on on a significant number of occasions, which support the belief in (at least some form of) the supernatural for any person who has experienced it.

        Of course, there are ways to explain God away, while still believing in the supernatural, but it doesn’t feel honest to do so. It feels like a prejudice against the idea of God. Godphobia.

        The fact that Muslims (and probably others) can get healed while they pray, and they find some explanations when they don’t (just like Christians do), can be caused by either a Christian God that also obeys Non-Christian prayers because He’s just such a nice guy, or by a neutral God who simply is supportive of all human efforts to reach Him through religion.

        The premonition stuff (and all supernatural phenomena like miraculous healing) could be explained by the atheist mind by… let’s say, inconsistencies in the fabric of time. We don’t really know much about time, scientifically, so my made-up theory might actually be true. Maybe some minds happen to be better at altering reality or connecting to those weak points in the fabric of time. A time-hernia, to keep to a medical vocabulary. A mind with such unusual “supernatural” abilities could be considered as “downloading” a previously uncancerous state of the owner’s liver through the spacetime continuum. And voila! A non-religious way of explaining miracles. A nice theory, might drown me in gold, should I chose to write a SF novel based on it; but I find it simpler to explain the supernatural as being caused by God. Seems more in accord to existing human knowledge.

        About God himself, Hell yeah, His existence itself begs other questions. How can such a being, outside the chain of causality, even exist? But that also begs the other question, of what was there before the Big Bang? But this infinite chain of causality the human mind demands is absurd; It must break at some point, as the concept of infinity is itself absurd, a mere mathematical tool. If we allow the Ungodly Universe to ignore answering the full extent of the infinite chain of causality, maybe we can do that too for the God-Created Universe.

        So it’s paradoxes dressed in other paradoxes, a true unsolvable Gordian knot of ontology.

        Becoming an atheist is impossible for one who has experienced supernatural stuff.

        Then again, my experience in the church also made it clear that the majority of time things keep going on AS IF there actually is no God. As if praying, reading the Bible, or skipping church really makes no difference at all. Some situations are even better explained by the non-existence of God.

        Before becoming the… ahem… “Non-denominational half-agnostic Christian” I am now, I was a believer in the “Deus Absconditus” — Things in my life and the life of believers beside me, and the life of the church in general keep going as if there is no God at all, or if He is, He doesn’t seem to give much crap.

        It looks as if for most practical matters (before the afterlife) it makes no actual difference if there is an actual God or not. Thus I lost the motivation to go to church, pray or read my Bible. I already have an atheistic behavior. It could be logical to make a further step, if not for the miracle stuff. So you see where I’m at?

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