My Personal Path To Atheism
At one time I was a practicing Christian. I was raised as a Lutheran. A significant part of my family is Catholic, so I am familiar with that denomination of Christianity as well. Later in life I joined the United Church of Christ. I was very active in the church, even gave a couple of sermons when our pastor was on vacation, and ran an adult Bible study class.
I was devoted. I was all in. I was trying hard to understand the Bible as I had read it more than once, and I still could not come to terms with its contradictions. I was so plagued by this constant nagging that something did not quite add up that I applied to join a seminary. I rationalized that I needed more training, more devotion, more faith, more whatever to fill the void I felt. I felt that this nagging sensation was my calling. It was time to become a preacher!
Now up to this point I would not have described the nagging sensation as doubt. It was more akin to intense curiosity. If we are not to kill other people, how come god had so many people killing other people in his name in the Bible? With the overwhelming evidence that homosexuality is a natural occurring form of sexual preference, and not a choice, why is acting upon one’s nature considered a sin in the Bible? If we are not supposed to eat shellfish then why make it so damn tasty?!?
It was around this time that I met more and more people who were either on the same path, or who had reached the goal which I was aiming for. I asked my questions, and the universal answer seemed to be "It is good that you are thinking so intensely about these matters, but don’t let your doubts impact your faith!"
Whoa! Wait a minute… doubts? Was that nagging feeling doubt? Was I losing my faith? I certainly did not feel like I was having doubts.
And it was at that moment that I most certainly did begin to doubt my faith. Not because of some fault of my own that others had revealed to me, but because I suddenly began to wonder why other people on this path were not wrestling with the same questions. If god was calling me to serve, as many claimed god was, then why did god introduce me to a bunch of people who did not want me to think too much?
What separates us from the animals if not our amazing ability to think, and imagine, and to comprehend difficult abstract concepts? Was that not what made us unique? Is that not the special quality that defined us as being cast in god’s own image?
I began to doubt other’s intentions. Not just people that I met, but organizations as a whole. I began to research what organized religion had done in the past, and what had been done in the name of Christianity specifically. I began to research how the Bible came into being.
That last one was the turning point! When you understand that the Bible was invented by mere mortals, well you suddenly realize that the lynch pin for Christianity is made of tin not steel. It can not hold the pieces together anymore.
I never made it into seminary. At that point I was no longer experiencing doubt. I knew that I had put my faith into a mythology. No more silly than if I was a Viking praying to Odin or Thor, and at the same time immensely silly compared to the wondrous facts that astronomy and astrophysics revealed regarding the true nature of reality.
Losing my faith was not pleasant. It was depressing. It was painful.
It was necessary.
I needed to go through that painful experience, because I now know what that nagging feeling was. It was not doubt, but discomfort. It was the discomfort that comes from being untrue to oneself. I was always searching for the truth, and the way that I was raised had taught me that ultimately all truth comes from one source – god. The only way to understand god, and thus the truth, was to study the Bible. The Bible was god’s word, so if you wanted to know god you needed to know the Bible.
I got to know the Bible pretty well for a while there. Now, well I don’t remember as well as I once did, but I am amazed at how few Christians that challenge my atheism know about the Bible at all! I mean, they really do not know the stories from the Bible much less the actual history that resulted in the canon being formed.
I know the Bible is just an invention. It is no longer special to me. It is like opening a box of Cracker Jack and finding the "secret prize" inside to be some cheap worthless trinket. The real secret is that you bought $0.50 worth of crappy caramel coated popcorn and peanuts for $3 to get a $0.000000001 prize.
This story has a happy ending though. I learned who I truly was once my faith was lost. I am not a Christian. I am a truth seeker. I am in constant pursuit of answers, and I was just looking in the wrong spot for those answers. The answers are not in the Bible, at least not the answers that I am looking for.
That is how I got to where I am today, and I could not be happier with the results!