My story began 2 years ago when I first came across a YouTube video entitled "An Atheist's Call To Arms". This video featured a lecture by famous atheist Richard Dawkins. I was a firm and devout Christian back then and I recall watching his lecture with horror. I simply could not believe that a person does not believe in God. Belief in another religion, I can fathom. Belief in polytheism, well... OK. But not believing in anything supernatural and transcendent? I just could not accept.
I became curious though, and I wondered just what sort of people atheists like Richard Dawkins really are. I remember praying very hard and gathering courage to watch more YouTube videos featuring views from atheists. I watched with amusement Christopher Hitchens ranting about Jerry Falwell. I enjoyed the good arguments by Sam Harris. I began to take notice of what they said and not simply dismiss them. After all, if God is real, as he was to me then, there is no need to fear the words of mere mortals. And then I remember the next great shock of encountering Dan Barker. Here was a man who not only was a pastor turned unbeliever, but who became actively opposed to Christianity. I was dazed for a while. I became determined to understand the mindset of atheists.
I bought "God Is Not Great" by Christopher Hitchens and read it through. It made me re-evaluate my belief system. And then I read "The God Delusion". It left me unsettled. And when I finished "Letter To A Christian Nation", the camel's back was broken. I became agnostic. I was not disillusioned yet at that time. But I was no longer the unquestioning believer that I once was.
I was initially disapointed that my belief system was so dependent on faith. Why was there no better evidence to support my beliefs ? I continued to attend church. I spoke with my Pastor and my Christian friends about evidence and my dissatisfaction with the need for faith. Unsurprisingly, there were no satisfactory answers. Only the need for more faith. My Pastor does not even know the books that I had read. He has not even heard of Richard Dawkins. When I wanted to speak about textual criticism, he confessed that he was not familiar with it. When I brought up the subject of theodicy (or the problem of evil), he simply re-iterated the same old story that no one has the answers. However, he did refer me to several famous apologists.
Sunday sermons became more and more ludicrous. Especially when the Pastor tried to be intellectual. Ironically, I felt sorry for him. Sorry that he had to work so hard at convincing himself. I became more attentive to the sermons. Having been awakened to the need to be more critical in thinking, I noticed fallacies with some of the sermons. Some were purely rhetorical in nature. Some were spoken with no regard to factual accuracy. Bible verses were interpreted and re-interpreted to suit the speaker's intent. Who is going to decide what is the right way to interpret ? I can always claim that I have been inspired to read the verses this way or that way.
It also dawned on me how obsequious the Christians surrounding me were : singing with arms raised, shivering and weeping. As I observed them speaking in tongues, I began to accomodate the possibility that they were simply repeating what each other were uttering. Today, I do not doubt their sincerity. But I am convinced they are deluded.
My mind was made-up. Either learn to face the truth or be a blissful but ignorant fool. I became an ardent consumer of books on science, religion and skepticism. And the reward of knowledge was great. I read Charles Templeton, Michael Shermer, Victor Stenger, Richard Carrier and Dan Barker. I highly recommend "Misquoting Jesus" and "Lost Christianities" by Bart Ehrman. I also read "The Language Of God" by Francis Collins. Despite being written by such an eminent Christian-scientist, the book did not convince me to return to Christianity. Around the beginnng of 2009, I stopped attending church altogether.
My current position is as follows : I do not know for certain whether a supreme being exists. I have only started learning much more about religion and philosophy just two years ago. I simply do not have sufficient knowledge to decide for sure if I am an atheist. In discussions on religion with friends and colleagues, I am only willing to concede that there might be a creator after all. However,I am no longer convinced that this creator, if it exists, is personal, or is interested in human affairs, or wants to be worshipped. I may either end up a total atheist or a deist eventually, I do not yet know. However, with the knowledge that I have gained thus far, one thing I am very certain about is that the God of the Bible does not and cannot exist.
And this knowledge has truly liberated me. I remember that day April 1st 2009. It was a bright sunny day and I was walking to a bus stop on my way to work. I suddenly felt a great sense of inner peace as I realized that I do not need the approval or permission of the Biblical God in order to be happy. I realized that happiness is something to work for and not pray for. I felt even happier that there really is no God that will whimsically send unexplanable disasters into my life for no rhyme or reason just so that I can be reminded how powerful this God is and how we should fear him. With these newfound understanding, I am more able to accept life's calamities and imperfections. More able to than when I was a Christian. I felt I had matured. Science, truth and enlightenment are truly worthy pursuits.