My journey to atheism was very long and drawn out. When I finally realized atheism was an option it was one of those moments where you go, “why didn’t I think of this sooner?” I’ve decided to share my journey to atheism with you because maybe it will give you something to think about not because I’m egotistical(I swear).
From my earliest moments, religion or Christianity was a big part of my life. When I was a kid I went to church many times during the week. Every Sunday was Sunday school and church, every Wednesday was choir practice, there was vacation bible school in the summer, every Saturday was Cub Scouts and later Boy Scouts. There were also random events such as concerts and holiday services. I was involved in a Christian acting group called Kids In Theatre Land. I had a lot of friends and family there and church just seemed inevitable. I also attended Baptist schools. At these schools we had chapel, which was basically praise and worship, and our curriculum was presented from a christian standpoint. So my family tried very hard to mold me into a christian and shelter me from anything remotely worldly.
My first doubts in Christianity began when I was in about the sixth grade. I attended a borderline evangelical baptist school where teachers believed in creationism and taught things like humans and dinosaurs coexisted; that dinosaurs were present in the bible and evolution was a lie. Teachers would openly bash the worldly things we were into going as far as calling Superman demonic and Pokemon gambling akin to Russian roulette. Nothing worldly was ever acceptable and it was slightly ridiculous. They even made us listen and perform those god awful Christian remakes of popular songs, that weren’t even current. I don’t remember how many of my peers bought it, but I remember sarcastically joking about with some friends.
There were many bizarre beliefs and occurrences in these schools(one time a kid passed out during chapel and instead of getting him medical help they started speaking tongues and touching his forehead), these were partly what helped me break free from religion. I was in the 7th grade when I started to question things seriously. I had a fascination with science and horror novels, the latter of which was banned from school.
I couldn’t understand how so many worldly, enjoyable things were demonic or “of the devil.” I read some of the books(traded to me by people with less uptight parents), watched the movies, traded stories, and hadn’t been possessed yet. I also questioned the validity of the literal creation story. There was no way all of humanity came from two people, we’d all be mentally challenged and deformed, I thought. The science and technology section of MSNBC.com also kept me current on scientific discoveries some of which directly contradicted what I was being taught. This lead to an open disrespect to the religious teachings of the school. I just couldn’t take anything they said seriously anymore. However I hadn’t yet eschewed the belief in god or Christianity, there was a sort a failsafe in place to keep me believing.
Apparently many people my age at the time teen/preteen start questioning what they were taught about religion as children. So I was given a teen study bible and around the same time my family switched to a more modern church. This church had a large youth and young adult population something the other church did not, which made it better able to address the doubts and questions people my age had and were posing. It was there that my questions were somewhat quelled.
This church taught that the story of Adam and Eve, was a metaphor, that it was not to be taken literally. In this church, I had many new things taught to me that made religion seem slightly less ridiculous. Those kinds of answers sufficed for awhile. They emphasized having a personal relationship with god rather then just following the words of religious leaders. They wanted you to study the word of god for yourself instead of listening to what others had to say. This was true to an extent, I mean they were a little less traditional and rigid then the old baptist traditional church I came from but at the end of the day they still told you what god was really saying from the pulpit and in bible study.
Anyway, after moving to that second church, I was baptized at age 12. I was fine for awhile. Somewhat content with my beliefs, fitting new information that I could into my christian viewpoint and pondering what didn’t fit. I was performing the mental gymnastics most questioning Christians do.
Shortly after I was baptized, I left the baptist school and went to a Catholic high school. Many think this would lead to confusion but it really didn’t. Baptist and Catholics aren’t all that different in beliefs. Yes they put way more emphasis on Mary, have a few extra books, and have saints, but they are still Christians and essentially believe the same thing. At my high school Theology was compulsory. It was in these classes that, at least in my freshman year, I completely let go of the bible as something to be believed.
The way the church seemingly cherry picked what was real and what was “metaphor” seemed ridiculous to me. The more plausible the story the more likely it was taught as truth, the more ridiculous the more likely it was metaphor. I will applaud the Archdiocese for it’s honestly though. In those theology classes it was willing to admit a lot of the bible did not really happen. That a lot of what we were taught as children were as good as fairy tales. They saw it as bringing us into an adult understanding of christ, to me, it was just more lies being twisted to attempt to get our already questioning minds to keep the faith. Shortly after that, I stopped attending church as my mom gave me the choice because I was at “the age of accountability.” Essentially, it was my fault if I ended up in hell.
I was a Sophomore in high school when I first heard the term Agnostic. Ironically inside the gates of my Catholic high school. The label fit perfectly. I could believe in god without a religion and still have a personal relationship with him-sweet. To be specific, I was an agnostic theist. I believed everything Christianity taught tainted god. That they wanted to put their prejudices on god, but not necessarily that Jesus or the god of the bible was nonexistent. I was all for abortion, gay rights, stem cell research, but also believed in the spirit and spiritual things. I believed there was a god though I wasn’t sure if we humans were ever really able to comprehend him.
I stayed an agnostic from then all then all the way until I was about 19. Around this time I came in contact with people who were more versed in religious belief and non belief. There were nights where I would spend hours discussing god with people. The documentary Zeitgeist also became popular around this time. Yes, I now know Zeitgeist has a lot of misinformation in it, but at the time, it helped me let go of my belief in Jesus or the Abrahamic god. So I washed my hands of Christianity altogether and became purely agnostic, on the fence, not believing or disbelieving.
During the time I was agnostic I looked at many beliefs searching for something that spoke to me. I looked into Wicca, Paganism, New Age, etc. I was heavily into spirituality, positive energy, oneness, chakras and meditation, etc. I became well versed in new age psuedoscience and went off the deep end for a bit. I had what I honestly believed were spiritual experiences. After awhile I came across some articles explaining why we had spiritual experiences and what was really behind them-chemicals in the brain. That they could be recreated at will in a controlled environment by scientists. This was the straw that really broke the camel’s back for me. I tried to push my doubts to the back of my mind but none of the beliefs I tried and practiced felt right anymore. Spiritual experiences were the only things really keeping me believing in some sort of spirit or the possibility of a higher power. Logically, I knew all the things I believed did not make sense at this point.
So I was still searching. I was back to reading about different beliefs when I came across pantheism, the belief that everything is god. This meshed with my new agey belief that there was no such thing as duality and that everything was one. So I was pantheist for about two days. I still remember when the moment of clarity hit me. I was outside smoking a cigarette on a nice spring morning when the question popped into my head. “What if there is no god?”
I don’t know why the question occurred to me when it did, but it came at the right moment. That day I mulled the question over. I wasn’t quick to call myself an atheist or to jump to that non belief, I thought about as thoroughly as any belief I researched over the years. After thinking about it for awhile I jumped on YouTube and looked up debates. There I was introduced to the philosophical arguments for the existence of god. There were hundreds of debates all featuring atheists debating theists; there were Christians vs atheists, Muslims vs atheists, etc. They featured people such as Christopher Hitchens, Dan Barker, and Sam Harris. I also stumbled upon a show called The Atheist Experience, which is a live call in public access show that discusses atheism, although it was mostly theists calling in to prove that god is real.
I found in these debates and shows, positions being taken by theists on the subject of the existence of god that I myself was struggling with and at the same time I heard/saw them being thoroughly destroyed by atheists. I spent a little over a month listening to what these big name atheists had to say and it really spoke to me. I pondered the philosophical arguments for the existence of god to the point of giving myself headaches until I finally conceded what I already knew inside. There is no god. There was a freeing moment when I finally realized I was an atheist. I finally found the thing that spoke to me, I no longer felt the need to search. Humanity was god all along. It was like a weight had been lifted off of me to finally find what I was looking for, I felt at peace.
After that I rid myself of all the nonsense new age psuedoscience I had believed, I found myself a firm footing in reality, where I have been every since. And that’s my story. I’ve always been a seeker and my seeking lead me to atheism.