My trip from “believer” to atheist was a long one.
I put “believer” in quotes because I never accepted the idea of a deity but I was uncomfortable with the idea that there wasn’t one. I’ve never overcome that discomfort but I finally concluded that I don’t have to like something, I just have to accept that it is true.
I was raised in a liberal Catholic family. We went to church most Sundays and I hated it.
I didn’t hate it because I doubted the existence of God or Jesus but because church, to a child, is horribly boring. I looked forward to receiving communion because I got to eat something.
No, seriously, The church I went to had a tradition of home baked bread for communion and it was amazing! Sometimes it was still warm.
What does it say about Church when my most vivid memories are the bread I got to eat for communion?
Although I went through the confirmation process, I can’t say that I was ever intellectually engaged with religion. It never made sense to me but it took a long time for me to reason through all the problems I had with Catholic/Christian beliefs.
I couldn’t figure out how an all loving god would need to send his son to atone for my sins. Why couldn’t god forgive me for my failings? I mean, the failings were his fault in the first place, right? Why can’t a perfect being just forgive the imperfect beings he created to be imperfect?
The god of the old testament just seemed like a monumental asshole to me. In Exodus, I was told that the Egyptian Pharaoh would have let the Jews go much earlier but god kept hardening his heart so he could punish Egypt just a little bit more. Why did all the first born Egyptians die? Because God wanted to kill them.
How fucked up is that?
When I reached the point that I could no longer reconcile myself with the beliefs of the church, I rejected religion but I didn’t reject god.
Rather, I think I accepted the idea of a soul. I always felt that a person was more than the sum of their parts. Medical science couldn’t explain everything about how the brain worked, I reasoned, so it made sense that there was something more than a brain in there.
I wanted to believe in magic badly. I imagine I still do. I was a pagan for a while because I hung around with other people who were pagans. I would’s say I was hardcore. I never participated in rituals (Pagan rituals are as boring as Catholic ones).
I did read a lot of books about magic and I read Tarot cards. I wore a couple of crystals. I was taking it really seriously, can’t you tell?
I never felt any magic at work in my life, though. And my conviction that there was more going on in the human mind than could be explained was slowly starting to be challenged by medical research.
What did that teach me? Failure to understand something does not mean there is no explanation.
As I slowly applied logic to the idea of a universe created by god, I couldn’t come up with a convincing argument for an equation that included god. God seemed superfluous. As Carl Sagan said, if we argue that the universe came from nothing and god was the instigator of creation, we still have to ask where did god come from? Why not save a step and eliminate god as he/she/it adds nothing to our understanding of the origins of the universe?
I realized that I was holding on to the idea of god because I didn’t like the idea of a universe without god. I didn’t have to like something for it to be true. Gradually, I dropped god from the equation entirely. I saved that step.
And it made a huge difference.
When I abandoned the idea of life after death – be it through reincarnation, ascension into heaven or any other means – I realized that I had to make the most of the time I have because this is it.
I don’t get any do overs. Whatever I want to accomplish before I’m gone I need to just get done.
I just realized that last statement sounded like something Larry the Cable Guy would say. I’m very sorry.
I’m an atheist because god doesn’t make any sense and while I may not always like the idea that god doesn’t exist, I am the master of my own life.
And honestly, I like it better that way.