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  • Writer's pictureCourtney Heard

Your Stories of Atheism: Because You Don’t Gotta Have Faith

This is an ongoing series featuring your stories of how you came to identify as an atheist. If you want to send me your story, you can submit it here. To read past stories, click here.

The first story this week is from @philositect on Twitter,

My mother introduced me to Sunday school in non-denominational Protestantism at an early age in the 1950s in a south-east English village, where social life hung on the local churches. In 1959, aged thirteen I ‘graduated’ to the local Anglican Parish Church where I became a choir-boy and was ‘confirmed’ by the Bishop of Rochester. I was a regular church-goer and communicant until the age of eighteen, when I went ‘up’ to university and immediately stopped attending church. I also discovered hedonism and haven’t attended church since.
But I did discover the eastern religions while ‘up’ and in 1973 I had a presentiment in which I knew myself to be ignorant but that ignorance was not necessary. In 1975 I moved to London from Lancashire and was introduced to a school of Advaita Vedanta which was to become my spiritual home for nearly 40 years. During this time I had my ‘quaternary’ education, and I was thirsty for real knowledge despite thirteen years of schooling and seven years at university.
Four or five years ago I began to realise that the school was skewing Advaita Vedanta to a theist stance and in my growing ‘gut’ objection I realised that my appreciation of ‘unity’ was more atheistic and human in character. I devoured ‘The God Delusion’ when it was published and therein discovered the concept of Deism which I thought was a useful half-way house for my ‘beliefs’ for a while, but the atheistic arguments marshalled by Dawkins began to take hold. Then in 2011 I joined Twitter and came under the influence of its atheistic community. I was struck by its good nature and intelligence; I also witnessed the moronic statements of religious fundamentalists of all stripes and fatuous Young Earth Creationists and my atheism was finally firmly established.
That doesn’t mean I don’t think there is a spiritual aspect to human existence, because I do, just as Sam Harris expresses in his book ‘Waking up: a Guide to Spirituality without Religion’. True spirituality is of the indefatigable human spirit and has nothing to do with God, Heaven, Hell, Demons and Satan, etc. As Eckhart Tolle says it is ‘The Power of Now’. I cannot express the peace, freedom and love I now feel for life without God.

Next, here’s a short and sweet one from Luke,

I am an atheist because I have not been presented sufficiently conclusive evidence in support of the existence of any deity.

Finally, this story is from Erika:

When I was young and tried going to Sunday school, I asked too many questions they didn’t like. I was told to just have faith. That didn’t make sense to my 5 year old mind.
Over the years I tried various churches and whatnot, trying to figure out all that “God” stuff. When I was at my lowest point, in my late 20’s, I was depressed and then one day “found Jesus” while channel surfing on Easter Sunday for something to watch (all Jesus related movies of course). I felt lifted, free and peaceful, yet I sobbed for hours. I had a couple friends that encouraged me along my righteous path of redemption, and I went along with it.
Then I moved across the country from WA to MA, and had to find new friends. I started going to a church with my mom, who claimed that they “loved and accepted all with no strings attached”. I thought I’d finally found my church, I thought I’d finally fit in and belong somewhere.
Then I started asking questions again, like where did the people come from that Cain met his wife? Why did people live to be hundreds of years old in the Old Testament? And the church’s least favorite question: if God knows all (past/present/future) why did he essentially set up Adam and Eve for failure knowing that Eve would be tempted to eat the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil? I never did get a straight answer on that.
After my questions, I noticed that I started feeling like an outsider. I was never 100% accepted for myself and my stirring the church pot. Then our Pastor had an affair, and left the church, and divorced his wife. The church was in shambles and the Elders took over the teachings. Then things got weird. People were told to fall in line with them or leave. Some were asked to leave in such an unceremonious fashion too. It caused rumblings in the church. I saw churchgoers who acted like schoolyard bullies, laughing at those that were different and wanted to be loved and accepted. I saw churchgoers disown their own children for being gay. When I saw how evil they were acting yet with their “holier than thou” attitudes, I figured I just needed to try harder to be a “good Christian”. I stepped up my efforts and joined the church drama dept. I was in several plays and finally started getting some praise and recognition. I felt proud to be a part of something important. Then I took up the lead fundraising committee chair role, and was even further praised for my efforts for God. I was on cloud nine. But I was still disturbed by the people that were being forced to leave the church. Good-hearted people, who had an opinion that differed from the Elders.

If you want to send me your story, you can submit it here. To read past stories, click here.

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