The first story this week is short and sweet and comes from Jonathan Tweet (Hey! That totally rhymed!):
In college I bought into New Age thinking, with the material world understood as a manifestation of the spirit world. Then I noticed that the authors I read would mix in things I couldn’t believe in, such as astrology. Couldn’t they tell that astrology was bogus? I realized that if you judge beliefs by how you feel about them, then there’s nothing to keep you from believing in attractive nonsense. So I switched to expecting evidence and went back to being an atheist.
The next is from Kouf Daddy:
I am an atheist.
It’s that simple to say. As simple as I have brown eyes and black (ok, salt & pepper) hair. No emotion, no YAY. Just a simple 4 word phrase: I am an atheist. No more, no less.
Why am I an atheist? Because that’s the way things are. There is no supreme being, no afterlife, no hierarchical structure.
I was raised Eastern (Greek) Orthodox. Went to a Greek private school in which religion was part of the syllabus. What did I know. I was a pre-teen. My parents put me there, and I did all the things that my classmates did. I was part of the ‘homogenous community’. I was taught that I had to learn reading, writing, and arithmetic. Being religious was like the grass being green; you were Greek Orthodox because that’s just how it was.
Then I went to a public high school and for the first time in my life I was exposed to others. Other people, other races, other religions, other thoughts, other ways. Again, I spent my time doing the 3 R’s, but religion was no longer a part of my daily life. Still went to church most Sundays, but the ‘community’ felt different. Couldn’t tell if it was me or them.
Finished high school and went on to college. A Jesuit college in NYC. Studied business. Took the obligatory liberal arts courses. But even today, one stands out. It was about the writings of the apostle Paul. I realized that I was spending time learning about what one guy wrote 2000 yrs ago. How the heck was that going to prepare me for the future. It was then that I began to realize that the established religions of the day were all based on what somebody wrote thousands of years ago. Well shit, if I had to worry about Romans busting down my door, I might have listened to those people too.
But this was the late 1970’s, not 33 ACE. Then two more happenstances occurred that really got me going: Jim Jones and Rev Sun Myung Moon. I didn’t follow those nuts, but was amazed at the number of people who followed them blindly. Why would relatively sane people give up what they had to become sheep? And that’s when I started to see a link between religion and weak minds. People didn’t want to think for themselves; they wanted someone to do it for them. They wanted someone to lead them to the ‘promised land’ wherever that might be.
So that took me on a trip of self discovery which ultimately made me realize that there is no supreme being, no promised land, no afterlife. This is the life we have, no more, no less. We are in the Promised Land and when we die, this is it. You get no second chance at a do-over.
And finally, we have one from Ploratus:
When I was young, my uncle took me in as a foster child. My cousins and I were required to go to the Pentecostal church every day, and twice on Sunday. We built, then attended the religious school. The family was very religious. I often wondered what was wrong with me. Why didn’t god answer my prayers, come into my life, and make me speak in tongues like he did everyone else around me? I was often told that I wasn’t really trying. I was denying god, or that I had not really repented. But I did! I gave it everything. Even when they anointed me and put their hands on me in prayer service, nothing happened, but it was always my fault. I wrestled with the guilt for many years. I drank, did drugs, and hated myself, because after all, god hated me too. I tried to end my life but even failed at that (I woke up from all the pills two days later).
Later, I got married and had two children. Of course I was going to raise them in the religious faith. I didn’t want them to go to hell. That is when everything changed. I would read to my babies every day. We would read from the bible too. Instead of reading what the minister cherry picked for us, I started from the beginning, and read to the end. It wasn’t easy, because Genesis was horrible. It made no sense, and was completely barbaric, and disgusting. Some of it I did not read for my children. It was just inappropriate.
I read the whole thing a couple of times. It was when my oldest came to me for permission to be baptized that I realized I am an atheist. I asked her why she wanted to be baptized and she stated that everyone else in her Sunday school was doing it. We had a long talk. I showed her in the bible how many different ways to be baptized. She had no clue which one she was supposed to choose. I agreed with her, and we talked a lot about it. She quit going to Sunday school that week.
After she grew up, and attended college, she was so curious that she majored in religion, and philosophy. She is now an atheist too. She often thanked me for talking to her about religion, and letting her make up her own mind. We never did Santa either, because I just could not lie to my children about one magical being, then expect them to believe me about another, or anything for that matter. We talked about the possibility of heaven, and it occurred to me; I wouldn’t want to spend eternity in a place with all the judgmental/intolerant jerks. And where the hell is Hell? Below what? The earth isn’t flat!
Embracing my atheism has helped me beat depression. Living in Mid-Missouri while I earn a degree to end my disability (Horrible work-related accident), I am all alone now. It is so hard to meet people in a religious town. There are a few young people at the college that I get along with, but nothing meaningful (I’m 51; A non-trad as they say). My children, and my x-wife have nothing to do with me anymore. They totally embrace alternative medicine, and holistic-healing to the point that they think the scientific world, and the government is a giant Bilderberg conspiracy lead by reptilian overlords from another planet (I can’t make this stuff up). I begged my daughter to vaccinate my grandchild, but that is pretty much when they put me in my place, and closed the door on me.
But I do have a lot of hope for the future. I am meeting a ton of very nice people online, and once I graduate, I will move from the area. I am upbeat, and enjoying the heck out of life. I no longer have the guilt from my religious failings. I am free to think, and am learning so much about logic, philosophy, and my career goal (computer science). Life is a beautiful, wonderful journey, but it would sure be nice to share it with someone.