sent in by BimmuDorgir
I was one of those Christians who was a Christian because I was told I that was. Ever since I've been able to remember, I was told by my mom, and the rest of my family that I was Christian, and that, when I die, I would go to heaven, because I believed in Jesus.
Luckily, my mom was religiously slack, and although we went to church on occasion, she never made a big deal out of it. She did, however, throw in her own little religious lessons every once in a while, like "If you don't believe in Jesus, you will go to Hell", "Jesus died for our sins" and "Everyone is a sinner", etc.
Some of these teachings never seemed to meld with me, though. For example, I was also taught that you have to believe in Jesus and God to be saved (from hell), but that God and Jesus were infinitely loving, etc. That just didn't seem to fit. Also, I knew of the existence of other religions, and by the time I was 8 or so, I was well aware that Christianity was more of a western civilization phenomenon, which, in turn, sparked within me a very fundamental question: "What about all the other religions of the world and their followers?" And logically, more questions followed…"Would they not be subject to hell simply because they do not have the 'convenience' of having Christ (churches) on every (street) corner? And if they were to go to hell, is it their fault they had no such convenience? If God is loving, should they be punished for not doing something they didn't know they could even do in the first place? And if they weren't subject to hell, why couldn't I have been fortunate enough to have been born in a society where I would not have to worry about going to hell (in other words, a region with no 10-to-1 ratio between the number of churches and McDonald's restaurants)?"
So, I asked. I asked my mom, my grandpa, and even people at church. I never got any straight answers. Usually, I was told not to think such things, for those thoughts could land me a spot in hell.
As a few years went by, other questions came, too. For example, early on in school, I was taught about evolution (which doesn't coincide well with the story of Adam and Eve). So, jokingly, I wondered, "were Adam and Eve" gorilla-like primates? Haha! But still, I did what I was told, and ignored these questions simply because it was wrong to question God, and his word. So, as far as the evolution issue is concerned, I simply did what I guess most Christians children wind up doing: believe both. When you are asked in church about the origins of human-kind, you say, "Adam and Eve" and when you are asked outside of church, you say, "evolution". Simple as that.
Later on, around the age of 16, I became immersed in a hobby that forced me to come face to face with others that stood in blatant disagreement with my beliefs. But, my interest in this hobby would not wane (nor did I want it to). So, instead of scrapping it all, simply because of some of the beliefs held by some of the others that were interested in the same hobby, I decided to take the "Zeus" standpoint on it. I knew that I did not believe in Zeus, or any other Greek/Roman Gods, yet I still loved to hear stories about them. So, I developed a mental division between that which I considered to be "my belief" and that which I considered to be merely "entertainment". "I don't have to believe what they do, just because I enjoy the same form of entertainment."
It did not turn out like that.
At first, I believed that all these other people were actually evil, and under the influence of Satan! In fact, a lot of them would openly profess that they were "Satanic" (but not in the way that I had perceived at the time). Soon, though, I began to try to look at things from their standpoints. I even began befriending some of these people. Eventually, I realized that many of them were decent people, and in a lot of cases, good and moral people. Now I wanted to evaluate them without prejudice, for obviously my religion had made me wrongfully biased against them (you know, "think for myself", as most people tend to start doing right about this age). I wanted to judge for myself the quality of their characters, instead of letting my beliefs do so for me.
Lo, and behold: I started seeing something in them I had not seen before; something very strange. I began to notice that these other people were…well...just like me! I began noticing that they were (dare I say) human! A lot of them were merely kids (or early adults, 17 - 23 or so), just…like...me! They had names, and lives, and faced many of the same problems I faced. They had families. They loved. They did everything just like me…and they were not Christian! Was this possible?
By this time, all my unanswered fundamental questions I had about my belief began to re-surface, only now I was not able to simply ignore them, for I could not deny that these people were human. To ignore these questions would be to ignore reason and would be very uncompassionate to my newfound friends.
So, I began asking myself, "Should they all go to hell, for believing what they believe? If they are evil, what exactly is evil about them? Are they evil in the first place, or are they simply being 'human'? Is 'sin' what makes one 'evil'? What exactly is sin? Can the terms 'sinner' and 'human' be interchanged? In other words the can the Christian teaching that 'We are all sinners' be changed to 'We are all human'?"
Very quickly, I came up with an answer. The answer was, "Christianity is not the answer." None of those people were evil at all. None of them deserve an eternity of torment for believing anything.
I began to notice how limited and narrow-minded I had been, because of my religious prejudices. All my opinions about them came full circle. Even the ones that were "Satanic" showed an heir of human-like qualities (imagine that)! In fact, they were generally very humanitarian in their beliefs!
This process was not a quick one. As I stated earlier, I was about 16 when I got interested in this hobby. By this point, I was almost 18.
I was finally not afraid to question my beliefs anymore, and tons and tons of new questions surfaced, and I welcomed them. In fact, I began to reject all my religious views, for they seemed to demonize everything it did not agree with. I began to realize that to do so was illogical, and just ridiculous!
I loved thinking on my own, for it made me seem all-the-more-independent (especially being that I was just about to leave home to go to college). I'd finally found something that let me be human, without regret.
Am I a sinner? I guess so, if you wanna call it that. I do make mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes. It's part of being human. But one of the many great qualities of being human includes our ability to learn from these mistakes. This quality alone makes the concept of a place of eternal torment unjust and just absurd! Hell would only be just if we could not learn from our mistakes, therefore, no "just"/"good" God could ever have anything to do with such a concept.
Okay, so now I knew I was not Christian, but what was I? Well, for the time being, I was content with calling myself agnostic. Then, eventually, when I was 20 or so, I met some people that belonged to an Atheist organization at my university. They had all sorts of pamphlets and other anti-religious stuff that they gave out for free every Wednesday, on campus, so I took them, and read them, for I had no qualms about doing so anymore. And…they fascinated me! After reading these pamphlets and such, I decided that they posed very reasonable arguments, that were completely logical, and that I…agreed.
All my unanswered and unanswerable questions of my Christian past were now gone. "What about all the other religions of the world, and their followers?" Nothing. They are all simply people that have beliefs that help them cope with problems in their lives, and helps them to understand that which they don't understand. I don't like having unanswered questions, and neither do they, only for them, religious Scripture, in combination with apologetic interpretation/flim-flam are adequate in providing them with those answers, whereas, for...doesn't work anymore.
Thus was born the Atheist in me. \m/ (*-*) \m/
By the way, what was this "hobby" of mine that introduced me to other non-Christians and even Satanist? The answer: heavy metal music! I did not wish to mention this in the beginning, for I did not want to sound like a simple metal-head saying he was not Christian because it was "un-cool" for me to be one, as a "metal-head!"
Country: United States
Became a Christian: 2? 3? Before I can even remember. Brainwashing works best that way.
Ceased being a Christian: 17 or 18
Labels before: Baptist
Labels now: Atheist
Why I joined: Indoctrinated as a toddler.
Why I left: Nothing about it made sense. It was all totally unreasonable, and utterly illogical.
Online Reading List
- An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish by Bertrand Russell (1943)
- Bible Teaching and Religious Practice by Mark Twain
- God is Imaginary
- Is there an Artificial God? by Douglas Adams (1998)
- Skeptics Annotated Bible
- The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine (1795)
- Which Way? by Robert Ingersoll (1884).
- Why I Am Not A Christian by Bertrand Russell (1927)