I grew up in a very catholic family. Atheism was heavily looked down upon. Church every Sunday, CCD, prayer meetings, youth group meetings, religious outings, etc. I was about 10 years old when I started questioning things, and really feeling like the religious thing didn’t make sense. Especially when after asking my mother, and several other elders within my family, difficult questions and never getting a straight answer. But it wasn’t anyone specific in my family or friends that made me hop over the fence to other side, it was actually a CCD teacher. I’ll tell you the story as briefly as possible.
At the time of this story, I was around perhaps 11, maybe 12 at the oldest. Over the course of a couple of weeks, while in school, I had noticed a girl my age or a little older reading a book about witchcraft. Modern witchcraft, like the Wiccans, not witchcraft like in the witches in movies. This was odd to me, as witchcraft was something that had come up in CCD before, and was decried rather vigorously. She was definitely not hiding it, so I was sort of taken back that she was reading it so openly, with no concerns. It took me about 2 more weeks, but I finally gathered up enough courage to ask the girl if I could borrow the book. She actually seemed happy to lend it to me, genuinely happy. The book was Scott Cunningham’s ‘The Truth About Witchcraft Today.’
Well, it must have really ate at me because I finally took one of my youth group monitors to the side, and proceeded to tell her about the girl and the book. A look of pure shock came over her face. She took me by the hands, looked me straight in the eyes, and said, “Honey, you need to understand something. Just reading the words contained within that book is an unforgiveable sin against god.” Immediately, I knew she was bullshi**ing of course. I had read the entire book in three days. There wasn’t a single evil thing in there. As a matter of fact, the entire book was about love, getting in touch with nature, respecting nature and how to understand what to expect from people of other faiths when they react to modern witchcraft.
It was at that moment that I knew, once and for all, I was being lied to about my faith and its truthfulness. If they could lie to me about a book, what else isn’t true? I started combing the bible, and researching the stories as detailed as I could. It wasn’t too long before I stumbled across Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker, and a few of his other works. Discovering Richard Dawkins also led me to find Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennet, the “Four Horseman” in general; as well as scientists Lawrence Krauss, Sam Harris, Sean Carroll, Dr. Michael Shermer, and many others. I credit all of these individuals with truly being some of the biggest influences on my decision about faith. Not to mention, learning about the horrors committed by people in the name of faith.
I went to college for religion, psychology and counseling, initially intending to be a teacher at the college level. By the time I made the decision to attend college for these majors, I had already left my faith behind long before. I was interested in religion for the historical side, and the impact it has had on societies and cultures all around the world. Interestingly enough, for me anyway, these studies also served to firm up my disbelief in faith, and in my opinion further serve to discredit the validity of the claims made by faiths around the world. I believe it was Mark Twain who said, “The best cure for Christianity is reading the bible.”
Religion fails for me where it does not scrutinize itself. It calls for faith when there is a lack of evidence. It calls things that have since been scientifically explained extraordinary. It calls things that haven’t been explained by science acts of god. It uses its own books as evidence of the claims made within it, which is circular reasoning. It completely ignores things like thermodynamics, Occam’s razor, vestigial organs and other known contradictions as irrelevant. It ignores unexplainable attributes of the creator like how either god knows about man’s suffering, and ignores it; is blind to the sufferings of man, which would make him no longer omnipotent; or is complicit in the suffering, actually causing it to happen. They ignore obvious contradictions such as the concept that god has a plan for everything and everyone, and that everything that is happening is predestined to happen; but you also have free will to make your choices and suffer the consequences. Either you have free will, and make your own decisions and get judged according to those decisions; or god has a plan and your life is predestined, you don’t get to have both. How can god judge you for decisions he is making you do? We live in a world where 9 million children die every year before the age of five, most of them under horrific circumstances. That is an Asian style tsunami, the likes of which we saw in 2004 that killed 250,000+ people, every 10 days, consisting of only children under the age of five.
If I was blessed with almighty power and I saw a child suffering with cancer, or being abused, I would stop it. I know if I saw a starving person, let alone a child, I would feed it. Take one walk through a children’s hospital, and tell me you still believe in god. My sister had a brain hemorrhage at 9 years old, and our family spent months in the hospital. Several uncertain surgeries, and then 18 months in and out of children’s hospitals and rehabilitation centers while she relearned how to walk, talk, and function again. The suffering I saw in those places, all that did was make me hate the thought of there actually being a god who is seeing all of this and doing nothing or causing this to happen.
Religious people will often say, well just consider Pascal’s wager. Which at its core states that, if you live your life as a good Christian and there is no god, you will have done nothing but live and die as a good person. But if you don’t live your life as a good Christian, and there is a god, you will be doomed to suffer in hell as a heretic. If you don’t take the extraordinary claims as truth, and live a life as a good Christian whilst not trying to force it down everyone you meet’s throat, it’s true, you’re probably doing no harm. But that’s not most Christians, and we all know it. Either way, the devil may tempt you they say. Even the devil makes no sense. If god created everything, then what’s the purpose of creating something and making it revolt against you, then cast that being down to hell to punish him for being the way you made him be. Then you make him punish people for being bad (sort of making him good really) which is exactly what you made him want them to do? Why would he punish you for being bad when that is supposedly what he’s attempting to make everyone do? You’ve lied, cheated, stole, and been a horrible person your entire life, doing the devil’s work, and then you get to hell and the devil punishes you because you were essentially exactly what he wanted you to be? Right. It could also be that hell is really where heaven is, and they don’t want you to get there.
When it comes to being antitheist, all I can say is that we’ve come so far as a species, and I believe it’s time we evolve past believing bronze-age fairytales. I’m not going to get all evangelical about it, or start proselytizing the cause. My suggestion is just do your own research. Look up some of the people I mentioned in this article, watch their YouTube videos and debates, and read their books. If you are just starting to question your faith, you owe it to yourself to look into it more. You are miles ahead of so many others for the simple reason of questioning your beliefs, and for that I commend you.
The last suggestion I have for anyone who is beginning to question their faith, is to check out a series called The Atheist Experience, and Talk Heathen. Both of these are great programs that you can find on YouTube, whose premise is to have people of faith call in to discuss and debate their faith, while also allowing people to present what they feel is evidence for the validity of their faith and discussing it. Many of the questions you might have very likely have been asked and discussed on these programs, so it could help you immensely in the process of determining whether or not you are going to apostatize yourself from your religion or separate yourself from faith in general.