This post has been brought over from my old blog. It was originally posted May 1, 2012. Please note that while I include it for completeness, if I were to write this post again today, there would be a couple significant changes. Maybe I will re-write it at some point. But rather than being a perfect exploration of my current feelings and beliefs, this post is instead a snapshot of my thoughts as I was still coming to terms with my recent atheism.
It wasn’t because of a tragedy.
It had nothing to do with those who call themselves followers of Christ, and yet do evil.
It’s not youthful rebellion, or a way to get back at my parents. (Note: I mean, it's really, really not. My biggest regret about losing my faith is the hurt it causes my folks. I get really fucking tired of this assertion.)
It wasn’t because I wanted carte blanche to run my life as I wanted.
It wasn’t because I wanted to be different.
It wasn’t because I wanted to cause trouble.
It wasn’t something I went looking for.
And when I finally accepted it, it was with deep reluctance, and I still wished there was some way to go back.
I’m talking about why I am no longer a Christian.
I have been getting some questions about why I no longer believe in God,
and I’ve been putting off giving a more public explanation, even though
I know friends and family would probably like to understand what seems
like a sudden and dramatic change. I finally decided to just write up a
blog post to point people to. There's just not enough room on
I’ve been hesitant, for a couple of reasons. First, it’s a more formal
“coming out” as an atheist. Secondly, I don’t want to offend anyone,
and by explaining why I don’t believe something, it can seem as
though I’m demeaning those who still do believe, which is certainly not
my intention. So let’s get that straight from the get-go: if you’re
looking to be offended, you might be, but if you’re looking to
understand me and other atheists like me, keep reading.
Let’s clear up some common misconceptions from the beginning. People
sometimes have some assumptions in place when they hear someone has
declared they no longer believe in God. So let’s address them.
1) I did not become an atheist because of “bad Christians.” I’ve been
around the church all my life. I’ve seen some of the worst and some of
the best. I know Christians are human, and I certainly don’t blame the
church for some of its bad apples.
2) I did not become an atheist because of some tragic event in my
life. There have been many tragic events in my life, and none of them
became the catalyst for my atheism. If anything, they pushed me closer
to God. I might have acknowledged my atheism earlier, if it wasn’t for
bad things in my life drawing me to the comfort of belief (or other’s
belief for me) in God, the belief that everything would work out in the
end, that I was in God’s hands, part of His plan.
3) In fact, there was not one “thing” that “made” me an atheist.
Rather, it was an accumulation of many things over a number of years
that contributed to my current state.
4) I didn't want to be an atheist. Losing my faith was the hardest
thing that has ever happened to me. The personal toll sometimes seemed
more than I could bear. I wanted to believe so badly (and prayed for
belief, with no avail). But, ultimately, the evidence against God is
overwhelming, and I have to acknowledge that I can no longer pretend to
believe if I want to live with integrity. Though it would be so much
easier to believe, you can’t force yourself to believe something you
know isn’t true.
A little backstory:
There were many things that just didn’t work for me over the years,
things that I was required to believe in to be a Christian, tenants of
the faith that just didn’t make any sense to me. I had pushed these
doubts aside. I wanted to believe, truly. But there was a lot about
Christianity—and I’m talking about the basics, here, stuff I’m going to
get to below, not the politics, not the external, debatable fluff—that
didn’t make any sense to me.
Oh, I knew the right answers. I knew the answers to all the questions I
had. If someone came to me—hell, people did come to me—with all the
doubts I was having, I knew all the right things to say. But they
didn’t make any sense internally. So I pushed all my doubts behind a
wall and desperately tried to forget them. For the most part it worked;
I was a good Christian girl. And faith means believing in God, even
when you don’t understand. Believing in the mystery. It would all be
revealed in heaven. Trust in God.
Part of the problem was that I began to seriously study my religion.
And what I found astonished me. There was so much cruelty in the
bible. My supposedly loving God ordered genocide and rape, condoned
slavery, made women chattel. I thought seriously about the church's
problem with gay people, and the more I thought, the more pissed off I
got. Hell stopped making any sense whatsoever, and the justifications I
heard just made me sick. And as I learned about the origin of the
bible, the vast number of contradictions, errors, and probable forgeries
it contained, it became harder and harder to regard it as the backbone
of my faith. The doubts were overwhelming, and the pat answers from
childhood and apologetics books weren't doing the trick anymore.
The more I learned about the world around me, this "pale, blue dot" in the
vast universe, the more doubts came, the harder it became to push them
back. The more I realized the extent of the lies about the
basics of science (the age and formation of the universe, evolution) that they told me growing up,
the more I wondered what else had been a lie. And I found science to be
far more fascinating than any stories I had been told in Sunday
School. I saw the world with new eyes. Everything fascinated me, from
the stars in the sky to the grass below my feet. I hungered to learn
more, and I devoured everything I could get my hands on. It was
amazing, and it was true. Unlike everything I had been taught
in church, science could be proved. The wall holding back all those
doubts started to crumble. That scared the crap out of me.
So I started trying to shore up that wall any way I could. I poured
myself into church. I thought if I was having trouble believing, maybe
doing devotions twice a day would help. Maybe I should start going to
mass every morning. I thought about becoming a nun, devoting myself
entirely to God. I thought about being a missionary. If all I did was
serve God all day long, maybe I’d stop feeling like this, like I didn’t
feel God was even there anymore. I prayed, many times a day, the prayer
from Mark 9:24: "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (TNIV)
And then, one day, I got up. It was a normal day. Nothing that
special. It was mid-afternoon, when I realized, “I don’t think I
believe in God.”
It was a shocking thought, but it was like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders.
“Yeah,” I thought. “I don’t believe in God.”
And the walls came tumbling down.
It was an internal shift, a click of integrity in my consciousness. I
hadn’t believed in God in some time, but I had been desperately
professing belief in the hope that true belief would be forthcoming.
This was acknowledging to myself something I had known all along. It
was immensely freeing.
One further thing to add: I used to believe that all of my doubts, all
off the issues that I will explore in this blog, would have ultimately
been okay if I had ever felt like I’d one genuine spiritual experience.
I don’t feel like I have ever felt the presence of God. I know that
other people believe they have. I have wanted that experience my whole
life. I’ve thirsted after it. I’ve prayed. I’ve fasted. But I don’t
feel like I’ve ever felt God—the Holy Spirit—present in me. I used
to feel that if I had experienced that, truly felt God, than everything
else would have been meaningless.
However, when I nearly died last year, I experienced very vivid
hallucinations. I believed things, insane things, terrifying things,
with all of my being. Even after recovering, after getting off some of
the heavy-duty drugs, it took a long time for the fear and certainty to
fade. I experienced the cognitive dissonance of strongly believing two
opposing things at once, and it was not fun (understatement). All that
to say, I no longer trust personal experience, from myself or testimony
from another, and I would no longer consider a spiritual experience to be sufficient evidence.