Here’s Cindy Lou Why‘s Story:
Despite being raised in a largely Christian household, I’ve always been some version of the word ‘atheist.’ Growing up, my brother and I attended church/Sunday school every weekend, the church’s school/childcare program during the week, and Vacation Bible School during the summer. We were indoctrinated into the world of Old South, Bible Belt Christianity. Something about these teachings to God, or Jesus, or the rules imposed upon humanity by these deities, made me deeply uncomfortable. Even at a young age I realized there was something bizarre about these beliefs; there was something missing. The god that was portrayed to me seemed alarmingly human, with petty human motivations and emotions. It seemed more like badly-written and creatively bankrupt fan fiction than the perfect word of an omniscient creator.
Still, I struggled to accept it. Everyone in my life was heavily involved in the church. The repercussions of rejecting Christianity were dire, both in this life, and in, well, hell. I questioned my Sunday school teachers on inconsistencies or extraordinary claims made in the Bible, trying to reconcile them with my view of reality. It wasn’t until I was in middle school, when we discussed the story of Abraham and Isaac (you know the one – God tells Abraham to sacrifice [read:kill] his only son Isaac, and Abraham says “Okay!”) that I realized my Christian mentors might not be as sensible as I’d previously assumed.
I was obviously shocked that Abraham was so willing to sacrifice his only child, but I was even more bewildered by how my Sunday school teacher, Mrs. Akin, seemed to revere Abraham for his willingness to bend to God’s barbarous will. Surely a more appropriate reaction would be to condemn the would-be killer of a child? I asked if Abraham might have been hallucinating, or mentally ill. I was told that I missed the point. I asked if Mrs. Akin would be so willing to sacrifice her children should God ask it of her. I was asked to leave the class.
Around this time, my Grandmother, who was a largely secular woman as it was, revealed herself to be an atheist. This shocked and horrified my mother – my mom could not stand the idea that her own mother might not spend eternity in Heaven. After all, my Grandmother was a good person, besides the fact that she’d committed the ultimate sin of denying the Lord. When my Grandmother was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, her atheism became an even bigger issue for my family. Her time was running out, her eternal soul was in danger, why not accept Jesus, just in case, etc. But a critical thinker is not so easily frightened, and she held fast to her own mind. She died a godless woman.
Seeing my Grandmother embrace her own convictions was a huge example for me, and gave me the strength to admit to myself that I didn’t believe the outlandish stories taught in the Bible were even remotely true. She freed me from my fear. I felt empowered to really question the idea of God – not just a Christian god, but all gods, any gods. I was able to envision a universe, and life, that existed independently of any higher power, which made a heck of a lot of sense to me; much more so than any creation myth or allegory I was exposed to in the church.
I went to college and majored in Biology and Chemistry, where I learned that some mysteries had been solved by the scientific method, while others are still waiting to be deciphered. I learned that unanswered questions do not indicate the existence of a god. But most importantly, I learned that I do not need the idea of a god to live a fulfilling and meaningful life.
I am an atheist. I do not believe there is a god. I think it is entirely feasible that this universe occurred through natural processes.
And here’s Conner’s:
I was brought up in a conservative christian school in Texas. At first I believed my parents when I went to church every Sunday and prayed before dinner. growing up I was bullied by the masculine culture of that school because of my interests in art, dancing, and poetry rather than football, camping, or hunting. I was viewed as too feminine by my classmates. The school had plenty of students from wealthy christian families but I was not one of them. I was enrolled through an education voucher at the wishes of my family who didn’t want to see me in a secular public school and didn’t have time to home-school me. I received a 2nd class treatment in high school by the staff whenever I approached the school faculty with a problem that I was being harassed or verbally abused by another student they would feign advice on how to help me cope with it (such as the good lord doesn’t see you that way or you shouldn’t be so sensitive). Never once were those bullies punished (they had wealthy families who donated countless amounts of money to the school). Everyday I would pray to God for justice or an escape until I realized that there isn’t anyone listening. I realized that people can use the bible to justify any behavior. I gradually became distrustful of christianity to the point now three years after my high school graduation I realized its all delusion bullshit. I found comfort in my academic pursuits in college where I was introduced to scientific concepts such as evolution and astrophysics which gave me a perspective of the world that made so much more sense. Here am now, shunned by people I grew up with in school, mistrusted by my fundamentally christian family, and I couldn’t feel more alive and more sane!