Sent in by Johnny
Being brought up by evangelical parents in a very strong Christian community it was only natural that I was indoctrinated with falsehoods from as far back as I can remember. I even spent the first 14 years of my life living in a church house for the first seven and then in flat above a church for the following seven. I was taught the same stories and morals as many of you on here; the doctrine of the trinity, heaven and hell, the resurrection and countless other miracles. My parents were unwavering in their faith, and most of our family and family friends were Christians of some sort too.
Despite this, my parents were not overly strict, openly admitted they could not answer all of my questions about God, and wholly accepted the fact I was to ‘experiment’ with other religions/world views before committing to anything.
I have always had a very inquiring mind and can remember grilling them from about the age of 4 or 5 with difficult questions such as ‘who created God?’, ‘why does there need to be a God?’ and ‘why does God send some people to heaven and some people to hell?’. Even more trivial issues puzzled me and seemed illogical. Why is it wrong to swear? It’s only an expression of anger through words that are nonsensically deemed offensive by some higher authority. Why does God care if we love and worship him or not? Is he really that insecure that he needs to be validated by the attention of billions of humans, whom he created anyway and are intellectually amoeba next to the Great I am? How can God subject one of his beloved ‘children’ to the tortures of hell for eternity and justify it with the reasoning that it was because they did not meet his criteria for heaven, which vary widely depending on your source in any case? Any crimes we commit on this earth cannot be reconciled by an eternity of torture, no matter how grave. Would a human parent punish his/her child by anything even comparable to the torments of hell no matter how far they had gone against their wishes? Exactly.
Sorry for digressing. Point was, despite my parents’ best efforts and heavy indoctrination from different angles I always remained skeptical varying to different levels. This was in all likelihood because I was aware of other adults I admired who did not share their views and also went to a high school were very few of my classmates were Christians. That said, I never really considered the notion that there was no God at all until I started university. I first came across the atheism as a world view at the age of 11 or 12 but really gave it no value at all. I had serious issues with several aspects of Christianity, which seemed absurd and or irrational but generally held faith in the notion that there was a God.
At the age of 17 I made what would be called a ‘response’ to God. Evangelicalism is different to many other denominations of Christianity in that you are not baptized at birth and hence technically not saved until you make a personal choice to commit your life to following God. I was away at a Christian summer conference (read ultra-indoctrination), and still had trouble finding answers to my questions but found myself in awe of what I thought was the undeniable presence of God in the meetings I was attending. To cut a long story short I committed my life to God and over the next few days felt myself on a spiritual high. It died off when I returned home from the camp to my non-Christian school friends and social life, and overall was somewhat anti-climactic for a day that would supposedly change the course of my life. Over the next year I continued on the same path I had been on beforehand, with many questions still remaining unanswered and feeling intellectually and spiritually unfulfilled.
At university I reached a point of agnosticism, through a combination of my own reading, anti-religious sentiment in the Politics department I studied in and regular contact with avowed atheists. Another part of my life that pushed me further down the road to atheism was 3 months spent in the United States (I'm from the UK) in summer 2005 at the age of 19. I was working in Utah and came into contact with many people I could only describe as completely deluded by religion. Whether it was Mormonism, fundamentalist Christianity or Scientology, my eyes were opened to the power of dogma to brainwash otherwise intelligent people. Why was Christianity any different? In the end I concluded there was very little evidence to suggest it was.
In my second year of university I made the transition from agnostic to having a fairly strong belief of a God in some kind. With hindsight I recognize I was taken in by the argument from design and intelligent design theories, although I had not actually researched them, came to that opinion through my own personal thoughts. At that age my mind was not as sharp in an analytical sense as it is today and I now realise intelligent design is pseudo science - not one scientist of note will endorse the theory.
Atheism developed a grip over me when I read books such as ‘The F*** You Up’ by Oliver James, ‘The World As I see It’ by Albert Einstein, ‘The End of Faith’ by Sam Harris, ‘The God Delusion’ by Richard Dawkins and various articles by Noam Chomsky amongst many others. Through study of human psychology and basic philosophy, I came to understand that as humans a great deal of our behaviour is conditioned by society, in particular our parents, and this includes religious beliefs and behaviour. Further, ‘The God Delusion’ presented to me the core arguments against religion in a passionate yet concise manner. ‘The End of Faith’ highlighted the damage religion has done and is doing in North America and the rest of the world.
Not only did all of the intellectuals I admired espouse either atheism or agnosticism, my own personal experience of Christianity really exposed the religion’s flaws during my final year of university. I came to realise that I had never had a tangible answer to prayer in spite of probably 20 years of requests. I read the Bible for 4 hours in one sitting and found at least 7 direct contradictions.
I have been an atheist for around 9 months and cannot see myself returning to Christianity. My close family are aware of my views and seem to accept them, although I think this is largely due to them not thinking about it. I must admit I find atheism depressing at times, which tends to be the case for apostates who have been indoctrinated with doctrine for years on end. On the other hand is it more liberating and intellectually fulfilling than Christianity had been or ever could be.
It is empowering to have a concrete belief, and it is the first time I have felt complete confidence that I am in the camp with the most logical world view. I enjoy the feelings of superiority that come with watching people practice meaningless and, frankly, laughable moronic religious rituals. In the future I plan to study evolutionary biology to acquire a deeper understanding of evolution and how it affects human behaviour. I also hope to read books like ‘In Gods We Trust’ and ‘Religion Explained’ offering anthropological explanations for the rise of religions across the globe. I had aimed to study a post-graduate degree in Social Anthropology so I could write a dissertation on the area, but unfortunately it doesn’t tie in with my career plans.
Anyway, thanks for reading and keep up the non-faith!
tag: ex-christian, apostacy, apostate, skeptic, reason, freethought, religious delusion,
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)