My de-conversion is nothing special or really inspiring. I went through pretty much what everyone else here went through. I really can’t say for certain when it was that I became an atheist. I think we can only remember when we first declare ourselves an atheist, but it’s likely most of us were an atheist before that time, but just didn’t realize it. I honestly had never heard the word before. An online friend of mine said she was an atheist, and I was all, “LOLWUT? WTF is that?” And so I quickly found an online dictionary and suddenly found myself thinking, Holy shit…I think I’m an atheist, too.
It’s obvious to me now that religion never really did it for me when I was growing up. For one, we never went to church, however I did attend a church for my kindergarten class. We learned our ABCs, with a little indoctrination on the side. I was never taught about other religions by my parents. In fact, the word “Christianity” wasn’t really used a lot, not that I can remember at least. I remember when I was 8 years old, and I was playing down at the park of the neighborhood we had just moved into. I had met a little girl, only a couple of years younger than me (who would turn out to be my best friend for about a decade), who asked me, “What religion are you?” For a few seconds, my mind had completely drawn a blank. I was never taught other religions, so I was thinking, Wait, there’s more? And furthermore, what it even called to believe in God? What’s that word I’ve heard in relation to Jesus? Christian? Is that right? “Umm…Christian,” I finally answered.
Even though I didn’t start having doubts about my Christianity until later on in life, I became quite disturbed with some of its teachings as young as five. While I was in that kindergarten class, we would occasionally watch Christian videos. They were cartoons, depicting stories in the Bible. I remember the one about the flood, and how they showed the people struggling to stay afloat in the water before disappearing beneath the surface. I can honestly say that that was my first disturbance with my religion. I remember thinking, “Was it really right to kill them? Just because they were bad? What about little kids? Everyone couldn’t have been bad, could they?” I honestly couldn’t get it out of my head for the rest of the day. But I never voiced my concern, as I was taught to believe everything about God without question. The threat of hellfire can really do a good job of keeping a small child’s questions from ever being asked. I just had to accept that what God did was morally correct because ‘he’s God’ and God can do whatever he wants, even if it disagreed with my personal moral code.
I think my doubts really started to come to life when I learned about the dinosaurs. Even though I had known about the dinosaurs for quite some time, it wasn’t until I was probably about ten or eleven that I finally said, “Wait a minute…” I’m surprised it took me THAT long for common sense to start kicking in, but better late than never. Even though I had yet to read the Bible, I had seen so many Bible cartoons and children’s Bibles to know that dinos were not mentioned in Genesis. I always thought, “Well…God must have created the dinosaurs, so why didn’t he just say to the people, ‘Oh, by the way, I created a bunch of dinosaurs that died out a long time ago. You should make a note of that in the book, kay?’”
My next problem was the Adam and Eve story and how we could have all come from two human beings. It would seem that incest was the only way to populate, but I‘m not sure how the species would have survived that way. So…how did that work out? I remember asking my mom this, and she had no clue. The excuse I usually hear for this is that God made Adam and Eve genetically perfect. Odd that that wasn’t mentioned in the Bible either. You’d think with God’s all-knowing abilities, he would have been able to see into the future and see that people would be skeptical of the Bible‘s accuracy, due to the fact that incest has its complications.
Then there was learning about different religions. I had never been taught about these religions as a child, and it seemed to me that they all believed in their god/religion for the same reasons I did: because they were taught to. It seemed that every religion taught the same thing, only with a different god. And it occurred to me that we couldn’t all be right, but we could all be wrong.
And then of course came…drum roll….evolution and the Big Bang. Those two beautiful theories that really made me step back and question what it was I had been taught to believe without a shadow of a doubt. Obviously, I felt some confliction. As I was learning these things, I realized how much they contradicted with what my religion taught, but I never plugged my ears and went “LALALA GODDIDIT LALA!” as I learned. Instead, I became fascinated. The fact that these things had actual EVIDENCE to support them was what got me. It wasn’t a mind changer right there on the spot, but it did leave me scratching my head for several more years to come.
I was about 19 when I first declared myself an atheist. Before that…well, it’s confusing, really. The waters were pretty muddy for those last few years leading up to my atheism. It’s probably safe to say I didn’t believe before that time. I just really didn’t realize it. I remember a particular experience that was sort of the crossroads for me:
I remember our trip to the beach we took to celebrate my graduating high school. One night we were all sitting outside talking about weird dreams we had had, and then, out of nowhere, the dream talk turned religious, and I felt out of place. Everyone was talking about their weird, religious dreams and how deep and meaningful they somehow were and I’m thinking, “Pssh, this is bullshit *turns to look at ocean*” Then…the very next day, we all decide to go down to the beach for a while. I was lying on my back, trying to work on my tan, and then all of a sudden, some guy stands over me, blocking the sun and ruining my tannage, and he’s holding some card out to me. He just smiled and walked on, giving more cards to people on the beach, and when I look down at the card, I see a very crappy looking picture of the Passion of the Christ movie cover, and I’m thinking, “Oooohhhh shit.” I flip it over, and the first words I see are, “Do you believe in God?” The card went on to say a bunch of other stuff, but that’s all I remember, and those are the only words I could focus on, even as I read the rest of the card. I never answered the question to myself, but I’m pretty sure the answer was ’no.’
Have I found happiness with my atheism? Hell yes. Have I found unhappiness, too? Of course. Being surrounded by Christians and feeling like you have to live a lie in order to have any peace is a terrible burden, and hopefully one I can convince myself to shake. As much as I hate the idea of my family looking down on me, I hate the idea of living a lie even more. I’m only hurting my health and doing harm to other atheists by not being open, but I know it’s something I have to do when I’m certain I’m ready. So far, only one person in my family knows: my mother. And her reaction was anything but open-minded. I remember the first words out of her mouth: “Well, that sends shivers down my spine.” And I’ll remember those words until the day I die.
I’ve also had other experiences that have left me more angry than anything, one of them being the death of my grandpa, or rather what he went through. Back in March of 2009, we got a call from my step-grandmother, and she told us that he had cancer. We quickly planned a trip up to Kentucky to see how he was doing. He was a lot worse than we thought, and it had turned out that he had had this cancer for some time but didn’t want to tell the family, but my step-grandma eventually convinced him that he had to tell us.
Nothing more could be done for him, and he was eventually released. Hospice got everything set up for him before he came home, and after that, it was just a matter of making him as comfortable as we could. On top of the stress of just being sick, he was also worried about getting a will done, but there wasn’t just that. He also wanted to be baptized. They had a garden tub, which was plenty big enough for him. It was just a matter of getting someone out to his house to do it. When they were getting ready to do the baptism, I had at first decided to stay away. I really didn’t want to be a part of it, but I quickly caved and went in anyway, though I stood in the very back and stared at the floor.
After it was finished, everyone clapped and cried, but I wasn’t happy, not in the slightest. I felt like I should have been happy. Everyone else was happy, even Grandpa, so why shouldn’t I be happy for him? But I couldn’t be. Here was a man who was dying of cancer. He barely had the strength to hold his head up. He was already under a great deal of stress just from being sick and trying to get the will done, and because his religion had taught him that he was unworthy and deserving of Hell if he didn’t ask for forgiveness, he had to force himself to climb out of bed and drag himself with his walker into a tub of water, all because of what he was conned into believing his entire life. No, I wasn’t happy. I was furious. But what can you do?
Well, that’s about it for my story. In closing, I will say this. I’m extremely proud of my atheism, and the reason for that is because I was raised in South Carolina, the upstate to be exact, which is the most religious part of the state. Not only that, I read somewhere that the town I’ve lived in is considered one of the belt buckles of the Bible Belt…which just frightened me, but it gave me more reason to be proud of my achievement at becoming a rationalist. Although, living here does give me more to facepalm at.