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. Sorry I missed last week, it was the day of my brother’s wedding in Mexico.
This week’s first story comes from an atheist mother of two kids, one believer and one not. Her name is Carla:
I live in rural East Texas, where there is a church about every 4 blocks. I was raised in a Christian home. My mom was a strong woman and a God-fearing women. If there were church services, we were there. When I was 9 years old, I walked to the front of the church and told the pastor that I wanted to let Jesus into my heart. At 9, I really didn’t know what it meant to accept Jesus as my savior but the pastor said if we didn’t, we would go to hell. Fire, brimstone, and eternal tourture sounded like something that I wanted no part of, so I was ‘saved’ and baptized.
The Bible is true, the Bible says so.
The more I went to church, the more questions I had. I asked my mom questions that she didn’t even know the answers to. She could only give me answers like “because that’s what the bible says” or “because it is god’s will.” By the time I was 13, I quit going to church. What I had been taught in Sunday school made less sense with each passing year. By the time I was 18, my eyes were fully opened to the truth. The truth that there is no superior enity in the clouds mandating my every move, thought, and decision. Growing up, not believing in the Christian God was never presented as an option. I was born into a Christian household and was expected to be a good Christian. When I became a mother, I decided I wanted my kids to decide what path is best for them. I decided I would support them even if they chose to be religious. I have 2 children, a 16 year old son and a 13 year old daughter. My son believes in god and that doesn’t make me live or respect him any less. In fact, if he is involved in something at the church and he wants me to attend, I am happy to do so. Christians would be more accepted by others if they were like my son. He doesn’t try to convert anyone and he has respect for all walks of life. My daughter has recently told me that she does not believe in god. I obviously have no problem with that. She and I love to watch science documentaries and learn about how we really came to be.
This one comes from Timothy:
I grew up in a Christian church. To be more specific a Pentecostal church. I was dedicated, I’ve read the bible in 5 separate translations, I’ve even spoken in so called ‘tongues’ and was the model of a child as exacted by Christians. That is, until the age of 13. It was at the start of my teens that I became aware of the scope of the Earth and the people contained within it’s atmosphere and the great suffering of others. Realizing that children around the world were starving to death on a daily basis brought up a paradox… If God doesn’t show interest in the children of the starving, then why would he be concerned with aborted fetuses and their right to live? I presented my argument to my pastor and he then replied that God does care and that we’re the instrument of his care by our charitable works in sending them food & supplies. I then answered by saying that the majority of our shipments to said children are in fact hijacked my militia leaders looking to feed their own troops. So are we truly trying to help these people or are we merely sending them the barest essentials without concern of their final destination in order to satisfy our own guilt and inherent flaws within doctrine? He gave no answer, sent me out of his office, asked my parents to come in, and told them to punish me severely for blasphemy. In truth it was probably the most valuable punishment that I ever received. Their sentence for my previous questioning brought out further questions and inherent flaws. These constant flaws within doctrine led me to realize that absolute truth and knowledge could not be found within religion. I bounced around, discovering various philosophers. I found logicians, ethicists, metaphysicians, etc.. But none of them offered the kind of truth that I was looking for. I even took up the conspiratorial cause for awhile, but then I realized that they were offering nothing more than that which religion offers… An unseen force dictating terms and outcomes. Yet it was investigating the Oklahoma City Bombing that I first discovered science.
I found a new world in science. I was able to travel to new galaxies on the wings of a thought, where religion addresses today and tomorrow science addressed yesterday, today, tomorrow, and a million years from now. But the greatest thing that I found was an existing truth and avenue to find and prove God’s existence. Then I discovered Godel’s Incompleteness Theorems. Godel establishes that absolute truth cannot exist within a complex system such as our universe. That the more complex a system becomes the less control a creator can have and no matter how much we learn, there will always be more to learn, and that mass of truth can only be determined through the measurements of our own thought. So if absolute truth cannot exist, then how can an all knowing god exist. For the first time in my life, I considered the possibility that god does not exist. I think that you can all imagine the train of logic that led me to conclude that god does not exist or that in the unlikelihood that if god does exist then he is a limited deity who is absent or has long since lost control of their own system. For every minuscule detail within physical law that suggests design, there is a 1000 examples of randomized; unguided events. I am so grateful to Godel, for without him I would never be working towards proving my hypothesis that dark matter exists within the realm of a separate universe and that it interacts with us by merely framing our universe within m-theory, but is bound by laws separate from our own universe.
And finally, from Jacob:
I am the son of a (deceased) minister. But I rarely bought into a god. But I bought into superiority. See, I had divine right, sacred knowledge that my actions and words, however hateful were condoned and commanded by a god. Oddly enough though, instead of worshipping and studying that god, I would read or play my Game Boy during church. I played guitar in the worship band because I was good at it, and looked hot doing it. I still do. A month after my 18th birthday my girlfriend broke up with me because Jesus told her to. That’s the sort of story I feel like most atheists wish they had, and I have it. It’s petty, I know, but that was the last straw for my theism. Floods and plagues and famine and whatever, but break my heart, god? No, sir. I spent a year as a deist, trying to reconcile a belief system hammered into me for the last eighteen years, with reason, but by the time I was a sophomore in college I was an agnostic, then an atheist, then finally a New Atheist, vitriolic and defiant towards religion. Looking inward, I hate religion now as recompense for past deeds and words, foul and incendiary. I’ve always been a stubborn, caustic, asshole. It’s just that now I use it for good.