First, here’s Jeff’s story:
Next, here’s Kristoff:
Like many atheists, I began my life in a religious household. The religiosity of the family was definately proliferated by my mother. My father, who passed away in 2009, was a very logical person – an educated scientist / engineer. I remember him, at times, expressing some sense of skepticism. My mother, however, kept him, me, and my sisters in line with religion’s biggest two weapons.. fear and guilt. As we grew up my mother’s faith grew. Ironically enough she never really found a church that met her spiritual needs, so she began to teach us at home. Primarily, she followed the teachings of a televangelist, Dr. Arnold Murray, to teach us. I remember feeling very uncomfortable with the idea of prayer, especially publicly. It felt awkward and stupid. I remember my mom encouraging me to speak in tongues and all I could do is laugh, it seemed so ridiculous. I think the seeds of skepticsim had been planted at an early age, but I kept believing just because my mother loved me, and I didn’t want to even think that she could be entirely wrong about something. The years went by, we all went to college, got married, had kids, etc. When I finished my masters degree I became very interested in reading books about evolution and evolutionary psychology. The first book I read was “Sex at Dawn” by Christopher Ryan. (Yes I’m a little bit of a perv, so what?) Although the read was interesting, it also challenged my sense of belief in Christian morality and sexual repression. Logic seemed to conflict greatly with my spiritual beliefs. I still wanted to believe so I continually adjusted my faith to fit the new information I would read. I listened to hours of Dr. William Lane Craig debate atheists. I read C.S. Lewis too; I was hoping something would allow me to do the mental acrobatics necessary to keep my faith. Then, I read Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins. Wow. I remember my heart pounding at times as I flipped through “The God Delusion”. It was so logical, it made so much sense. Finally I watched a video by Neil Degrasse Tyson explaining the lack of religiosity in science. That was enough for me. I decided at that point to be done with supernatural beliefs. The guilt, shame, and close mindedness of religion had molded my personality in a way I was not happy with. I decided to make a change. I left religion. I came out to my mother, I think she died a little inside. My sister went into panic mode sending me books and dvd from Christian authors. When I ask to discuss their beliefs and challenge them with science and logic, they shut down and tell me they will “pray for me”. Thanks.. I guess So here I am, in Texas, as an atheist among an overwhelming majority of believers. It’s very hard to stay quiet, but I do. The one dominant philosophical idea I stick with is this: There is no god. Nobody cares for humans, but humans. I need to input more positive energy in this world than I take from it. I find myself being MUCH nicer and more generous. I challenge my beliefs about race, sexuality, and I’ve open my mind to actually LISTEN to others feelings. I’ve never felt more alive and happy. In closing, I will share something I think about often – Christians say you need to be “saved” to feel full and happy. I couldn’t agree more. I was saved from religion with logic and reason. Pragmatic thinking and compassion saved me from a closed heart and mind. Religion doesn’t save, it suspends. Atheism is the true savior.