Sent in by Stefan
Hi everyone. My name is Stefan and I'm an atheist. (HI Stefan: lol )
Sorry, had to break the ice there. My story isn't that unique to be brutally honest. I'm posting it none the less, because I truly believe there are people out there in that very ugly but necessary phase, where you start to raise serious doubts about your religious convictions, but are simply too afraid to jump off the cliff into the abyss of unbelief. So, I am posting my testimony for them. We all know it's damn (Is swearing permissible here?) hard to finally let go. And it's just that little bit easier if you can relate to others who went through the same situation.
OK, enough rambling.
I was born into a Protestant family in South Africa. For those of you not familiar with white, South African culture, let me say this: You'd be hard pressed to find a non-Protestant Christian in my community, never mind a non-believer and ironically a white person who is not a racist.
My family wasn't at "fundie" level, but they were semi-devout Christians who went to church and dragged us along. I never really liked church, and it always seemed pretty boring until I became a born-again believer in my mid teens. I couldn't wait for Sundays. Jesus was my whole life.
Looking back on it now I think it might be a miracle I came out on the other end unscathed. As with many teens, I felt awkward unsure, and I had a brief stint of depression mixed in there as well. The church youth program caught me hook, line and sinker. I studied the Bible religiously, and I became a "fundie," even lecturing my parent on Christianity.
I had found my purpose and my calling (pretty neat when you're a confused kid with a low self-esteem). I firmly believed that most Christians would go to hell for not living the right way, so as you can imagine, people with other religious convictions or non-believers didn't have much of a chance.
If I had lived a few centuries earlier I would probably have started the inquisition. Bottom line, I was on the extreme end of the conservative Christian spectrum. Now I believe it might well have been a pathetic effort on my part to control the world, because I could not control who I was.
The turning point came one day in a bookstore. I loved books from an early age, and I spent much of my school holidays reading everything from fictional books to encyclopedias. *Sigh*
I admit it. I was a loser who didn't have that many friends.
You can stop laughing now.
My life literally changed the day I entered that bookstore. There was a mass of Christian literature, but somehow I managed to find a book about Jesus way in the back. Only this book was about Jesus' connection to the pagan gods. The title was "The Jesus Mysteries". The book got lost when we moved, or my mom threw it in the trash. Probably the latter.
I bought that book hoping to read and consequently relish in the ignorance of these "soon-to-roast" infidels. Instead, I found some very disturbing ideas. I stopped reading it after a few chapters, but my curiosity got the better of me and I finished it. I started to research articles on Christian history to once and for all disprove these heathen claims. After all, if Christianity were right, it'd have nothing to worry about. Boy was I in for a surprise. I can safely say it was all downhill from there. One after the other my arguments to try and justify Christianity failed, and miserably at that. I did later on encounter some semi-decent arguments for Christianity, but they never really carried enough weight to convince me and they reeked of a desperate attempt to give meaning to one's life.
I relapsed once simply because of the fear of going to hell. Luckily I managed to subdue my fear and pressed on. The first few months were hell on earth. This posh little throne I was sitting on was yanked from under me pretty suddenly and pretty violently. I came to the realization that life didn't make sense and I was going to die, full stop.
Life became bleak and I had a hard time making sense of what to do or what to believe. As we all know, this is not a fun place to be.
The following year I enrolled at university, eventually settling on philosophy and psychology. I quickly fell in love with philosophy and soon had access to all the information about life and humanity I could dream of. As I studied works from authors such as Russell, Hume, Kant, Foucault, Merleau-Ponty, and quite a few others, I came to realize that life is not as black and white as we would like it to be, and we humans are pretty clueless at best. If the smartest among us are dumbstruck by the mystery that is life, who the hell am I to proclaim I know the truth?
Slowly but methodically a sense of peace swept over me. Suddenly life made sense. It made sense in a way you cannot put into a box or analyze. The single most important lesson I learned in my entire life is the notion that life is what it is. I cannot change it, and I sure as hell can't hope to understand it, only how I relate to it. If you leave your "control freak" in the closet for a moment and really think about it, it's quite a liberating thought. I have no idea why I am here and I have no idea how I got here. Sure science can describe the "how" to a certain degree, but as to "why", we are all on the same page -- Page 1. Some only read it differently.
Now I wake up every day knowing that I am one day closer to dying, and it makes me appreciate life like never before. In my opinion, this doctrine of eternal life is a travesty, robbing humanity of the awareness that life is precious. In our attempts to circumvent our fears we have created a monster that is eating us from the inside.
As for death, I fear it no more. Socrates once asked if he was afraid to die and he responded by saying that death is none other than the longest and the deepest sleep you've ever had.
Sounds good to me. I'm in.
There is so much more I wanted to discuss but it would have ended up a trilogy and not a testimony. Feel free to ask me anything.
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)