jump to navigation

My Journey to Atheism October 4, 2009

Posted by jetson in Personal.
Tags: , , , , , , ,
trackback

Mine is not an unusual story, nor is it a particularly fascinating one, but I find it useful to share so that others can see how people shed their religious beliefs.  Yes, people do shed their religious beliefs – they even switch religions altogether!  That fact alone should shed some light on the problems we have as humans who think that a particular religion is the correct one.  I remember going to church when I was about six years old.  I went to church and to Sunday school with my sisters – we were in different classes though, because of our different ages.  We had books, with pictures and stories, just like regular school.  As we got older, we were taught about the Catholic sacraments and that we would eventually complete them all.  I can’t remember what the goal was, I guess it was to become a permanent, card carrying member of the Catholic church.

The difference for me was that my parents were not particularly religious.  They weren’t always in church with us, and they would drop us off at Sunday school and run errands.  Needless to say, they did not push religion on us in our daily lives.  I guess I am happy about that!  We were overseas when I was young, and when we moved to the states and settled, my mom’s goal was to make sure we were confirmed.  I even picked Mark as my confirmation name!  After that though, we stopped going altogether, and I was thrilled – church services were quite boring as far as I can remember.

That was thirty years ago and I can’t remember ever going to church for anything other than the occasional wedding or funeral since then.  I never really gave religion much thought along the way, other than the discussions that come up occasionally among friends.  Every now and then, I would wonder why people would cling to religious beliefs, so I guess I was agnostic at the time.  I had heard the term atheist back then, but, like everyone else, I thought it meant something terrible.  How wrong I was.

Most recently, within the past year or so, I picked up a copy of “The God Delusion” by Richard Dawkins.  I took it home and within the first few pages, I was intrigued.  Midway through the book I was enthralled, and by the time I reached the end, I was an atheist.  Yes, it was that easy.  So I didn’t leave religion kicking and screaming, nor did I endure any emotional emptiness or sadness for leaving behind God.  I did however, run smack into the wall of hatred and bigotry that is espoused towards atheists by the fundamentalist believers of various religions.  Man, was that ever a wake up call!  It actually made me nervous and concerned that I would be scorned at and ridiculed.  Sadly, it is all too real.  I have never been personally attacked because I don’t run around screaming out loud that I am atheist.

As I dug deeper into the atheist worldview (which is bizarre enough given that atheists are only defined by their non-belief in a god or gods status), I noticed a very strange similarity between atheists and the gay and lesbian cultures in the United States.  There is a strong negative emotional element towards both groups, and sadly, atheists are even more reviled according to a recent survey.  I even read a quote from former president George H.W. Bush where he said “No, I don’t know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God.”  Ouch.  This negative emotional tendency seems to be grounded in religious beliefs, as opposed to rational thought.  I do not personally have a sexual attraction to other males, but I am in no way concerned that some males have that preference.  Nor do I have any concerns over anyone’s personal religious beliefs.

I have since read many other books including “Letter to a Christian Nation” by Sam Harris.  I have also joined various web groups and bloggers who share their stories, and who write and argue in defense of non-believers everywhere.  I can say with great certainty that I completely support everyone’s right to hold their own beliefs – including non-belief!  Sadly, I have not seen too much tolerance for non-belief, rather I see an onslaught of messages and attitudes that cannot imagine a world without God.  These same people are certain that people like me will surely end up in Hell (something that I don’t believe is real.)  What a lovely thought as I walk among people around my city.  What is even more sad is that there are competing religions that have the same convictions, which means that all but one group may have it right, but everyone else – to Hell with them all.

I have honestly never felt better about who I am.  I treat people with respect and courtesy, I help people in any way that I possibly can, and I donate to charities each year.  I treat my children well, I don’t try to force my beliefs on anyone, and I respect those who are willing to discuss issues with an open mind, meaning they are willing to admit they could be wrong.  I do get a bit more frustrated when I run into people who use their religion to replace things that science has done for the world.  I get frustrated when people claim to know their god in ways that no one ever could – unless their god has chosen them and given them special knowledge, of course.  I get frustrated when fundamentalists attempt to get religious texts inserted into public science curriculum’s as an alternative to current scientific theories such as evolution (these same people have no problem taking anti-biotics, a direct result of evolutionary theory.)

Anyway, that’s my story, not exactly a journey I guess.  I have much more to say, and I will add more blogs as I can.  I am still on my journey as I read The Bible – yes, I have never actually read it.  And I don’t think very many Christians have read it either, nor do they concern themselves too much beyond what their pries, preacher, or pastor reads in church.  I keep a copy on my iPhone so that I can refer to it in discussions, and read passages to better understand them.  I have found that the atheist community in general have more knowledge on The Bible than many Christian apologists who claim to know what it all means.

Advertisements

Comments»

1. Kaylin - October 4, 2009

I’m a Christian and I know a lot of atheists that flat refuse to read the Bible or any other Christian-slanted materials, so I say good for you to keep your mind open enough to look at opposing viewpoints. Nothing I read will ever convince me that God does not exist because I’ve had experiences that prove to me personally that he does, and I’m sure you feel the same way about your beliefs or lack thereof, but it’s listening to disagreeing arguments that makes our faith stronger, so keep seeking with an open heart and mind.

Shamelessly Atheist - October 5, 2009

You know, it would be nice (and it would lead to a good deal of respect by atheists for Christians – goodness knows, we have more than enough reason to not trust them, as the author of this blog points out) if there were Christians who would respond to, say, George Bush Sr.’s comment about atheists not being considered citizens or patriots and by standing up and saying something like “You know, George is wrong.” As a secular humanist, no matter how much I revile what he said, I will protect his right to say it, even if ol’ George would prefer to take a way my right to call him out on it.

What’s interesting (and telling about Christians) is that I have yet to hear any Christian stand up and say that that is wrong. Are you Christians excusing his vile nonsense because he claims to be religious? Or do you share his view? Why is it Christians hate atheists? Is it because we got tired of being pushed around and decided to push back? Is atheism supposed to be something kept hidden from society (which is exactly how, I think, things got to be the way they are) and gagged? Why don’t Christians stand up and loudly reject the vile and disgusting utterings of the late Jerry Falwell and the still living Pat Robertson? Or those who proudly proclaim that they actively pray for Obama’s death? The silence is deafening.

When you suggest that we keep an open mind, yet you admit there is nothing which will sway you, do understand that we will take this with a grain (read: truckload) of salt. Atheists are by far more reasoned in their rejection of theism than believers are in their faith. Yet we are constantly accused of being close-minded (pot calling kettle black) and hardened of heart (whatever that means. Yeah, I know what it means, but it harkens back to a time when the heart was thought to be the source of consciousness. Why not the spleen?) because we haven’t ‘seen the light’. Maybe we have and it is you that hasn’t.

Kaylin - October 5, 2009

I do keep my heart open to new ideas, but the thing is, I’ve been to all those places before. I was a fervent atheist for a long long time before I was a Christian, I know the arguments, I know the beliefs. I know that I found something that speaks to me as truer than what I was finding as an atheist. I know many atheists will never feel how I feel now, will never convert, but with a closed mind you have not even a chance to learn something newer and better.

I’m sure that there are intelligent, educated atheists out there, but in my life I can tell you I have not met very many of them. In my experience, talking to atheists about my religious beliefs leads very quickly down the road to flaming and intolerance… and I gotta say it’s almost invariably they who cast the first stone by telling me I’m stupid for my beliefs. Maybe I feel the same way about an atheist’s beliefs, but I respect their right to explore religion on their own terms and I try not to make that judgement.

As far as Bush’s comment, maybe no one is fighting it because everyone realized how ridiculous it was… clearly that’s not how atheists are treated, that’s Bush’s personal opinion, and sometimes calling attention to things just makes the situation worse. The only time I ever hear that quote brought up now is when an atheist is trying to prove how heartless Christians are. I’ve never heard anyone but Bush say it in seriousness.

Shamelessly Atheist - October 5, 2009

Kaylin, if what Bush Sr. said was so ridiculous, why don’t Christians take a stand and say so? I have yet to hear one actually say that. You’re close, but I haven’t really heard an unequivocal statement yet. I think this is a very weak excuse. Nor do I think Bush’s opinion is at all a rarity.

Don’t get me wrong Kaylin. I don’t see bad actions of Christians as a reason to reject Christianity. I think there are plenty of excellet reasons already. And there are plenty flamers on both sides. But what about the hateful statements made by people like Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell? Where was everyone when Robertson condoned the assassination of Chavez? If an prominent atheist says something like that (I have yet to hear one say such a thing. Certainly the likes of Dawkins, Dennett and Harris would never say such nonsense.) they would receive (mainly Christian) hate mail the likes of which has never been seen. With Robertson, it was business as usual. And it IS a business. But it’s excused by Christians because they think it reflects badly on Christianity. The problem with that thinking is that Christian’s lack of condemnation of such inexcusable behavior is itself damning.

But Christians often claim that religion makes one a better person. I beg to differ. I think it makes no difference whatsoever, and statistics such as the underepresentation of atheists in prison populations would back that up.

2. og - October 6, 2009

What troubles me about this dialogue from the blogger and the sympathetic responder, is that it is steeped in the personal qualifications/emotion/relationships of people, and their undenying negative impact on the person’s decision of belief system. Please examine the evidence thoroughly, not the fallible people delivering or exhibiting foolish behavior. You owe it to yourself, with such an important decision, to drop all personal influence (filter all the noise), and do justice to the inherent evidence.

This, coming from someone who grew up witnessing religious hypocrisy, was taught and subscribed to atheism, and finally did thorough justice to the evidence and became a believer in the Messiah- Jesus.

Shamelessly Atheist - October 7, 2009

Please examine the evidence thoroughly, not the fallible people delivering or exhibiting foolish behavior.

og, if you look in my comment you will see that I already said exactly this. I think it is foolish to judge Christianity on the actions of Christians (with the caveat that it is clear that Christianity does not make one good or even better than an atheist), particularly when there are already very good reasons to reject Christianity. One being that there is no no evidence that meets a bare minimum standard (let alone the extraordinary evidence required) for the claims central to its dogma.

3. sg - October 17, 2009

Shamelessly Atheist, your judgment is clouded by humans who fall short. Please release your soul and search your spirit for clarity, for it is not humans you seek but it is GOD that you search for.

I think the following best describes who you might be looking for, this is from SM Lockridge:

My King was born King. The Bible says He’s a Seven Way King. He’s the King of the Jews – that’s a racial King. He’s the King of Israel – that’s a National King. He’s the King of righteousness. He’s the King of the ages. He’s the King of Heaven. He’s the King of glory. He’s the King of kings and He is the Lord of lords. Now that’s my King. Well I wonder if you know Him. Do you know Him? Don’t try to mislead me. Do you know my King? David said the Heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament show His handiwork. My King is the only one whom there are no means of measure can define His limitless love. No far seeing telescope can bring into visibility the coastline of His shore of supplies. No barriers can hinder Him from pouring out His blessing. Well, well, He’s enduringly strong. He’s entirely sincere. He’s eternally steadfast. He’s immortally graceful. He’s imperially powerful. He’s impartially merciful. That’s my King. He’s God’s Son. He’s the sinner’s saviour. He’s the centrepiece of civilization. He stands alone in Himself. He’s honest. He’s unique. He’s unparalleled. He’s unprecedented. He’s supreme. He’s pre-eminent. Well, He’s the grandest idea in literature. He’s the highest personality in philosophy. He’s the supreme problem in high criticism. He’s the fundamental doctrine of proved theology. He’s the carnal necessity of spiritual religion. That’s my King. He’s the miracle of the age. He’s the superlative of everything good that you choose to call Him. Well, He’s the only one able to supply all of our needs simultaneously. He supplies strength for the weak. He’s available for the tempted and the tried. He sympathizes and He saves. He’s strong God and He guides. He heals the sick. He cleanses the lepers. He forgives sinners. He discharged debtors. He delivers the captives. He defends the feeble. He blesses the young. He serves the unfortunate. He regards the aged. He rewards the diligent and He beautifies the meek. Do you know Him? Well, my King is a King of knowledge. He’s the wellspring of wisdom. He’s the doorway of deliverance. He’s the pathway of peace. He’s the roadway of righteousness. He’s the highway of holiness. He’s the gateway of glory. He’s the master of the mighty. He’s the captain of the conquerors. He’s the head of the heroes. He’s the leader of the legislatures. He’s the overseer of the overcomers. He’s the governor of governors. He’s the prince of princes. He’s the King of kings and He’s the Lord of lords. That’s my King. Yeah. Yeah. That’s my King. My King, yeah. His office is manifold. His promise is sure. His light is matchless. His goodness is limitless. His mercy is everlasting. His love never changes. His Word is enough. His grace is sufficient. His reign is righteous. His yoke is easy and His burden is light. Well. I wish I could describe Him to you, but He’s indescribable. He’s indescribable. Yes. He’s incomprehensible. He’s invincible. He’s irresistible. I’m coming to tell you, the heavens of heavens cannot contain Him, let alone a man explaining Him. You can’t get Him out of your mind. You can’t get Him off of your hands. You can’t outlive Him and you can’t live without Him. Well, Pharisees couldn’t stand Him, but they found out they couldn’t stop Him. Pilot couldn’t find any fault in Him. The witnesses couldn’t get their testimonies to agree. Herod couldn’t kill Him. Death couldn’t handle Him and the grave couldn’t hold Him. That’s my King. Yeah. Praise the Lord. That’s my King. Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory. Well, all the power belongs to my King. We’re around here talking about black power and white power and green power, but it’s God’s power. Thine is the power. Yeah. And the glory. We try to get prestige and honour and glory for ourselves, but the glory is all His. Yes. Thine is the Kingdom and the power and glory, forever and ever and ever and ever. How long is that? And ever and ever and ever and ever. And when you get through with all of the evers, then, Amen.

jetson - October 17, 2009

@sg

Shamelessly Atheist, your judgment is clouded by humans who fall short. Please release your soul and search your spirit for clarity, for it is not humans you seek but it is GOD that you search for.

This is quite a judgment itself! Exactly how did you conclude that Shamelessly Atheist needs this advice?

4. sg - October 18, 2009

@ jetson

no judgement here, but if he is searching he does not need to depend on any human. Well i have been there. I know a lot of what you are saying and feeling, because it sounds a lot of what i said and did.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: