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My Path to Atheism

By Autumn Horton ~

My biggest problem with religion is the answers I get (time and time again) to this question:

If God is a loving God, why did he allow me to go through what I went through?

I've heard it all: from “We can not know why God allows some things to happen to people” (Okay, then he obviously doesn't care if he's allowing people he created to suffer) to “Well maybe you did something in your past that God saw fit to correct and this was how he chose to punish/teach you”. Yeah, thanks for that one.

AtheismImage by metrognome0 via Flickr
Another of my biggest problems is the hypocrisy you see throughout the church (any church, pick one). I've had people say, “Now wait a minute, you can't judge god based on what people do!” Sure I can. You claim he changed your life and because of that you're a different person now. Uh huh. And your proof of this is where? Obviously NOT in the lives of those who claim the same belief.

My path to Atheism is a long and drawn out one. Honestly I think it started around the age of nine, when I had questions about god that I wasn't allowed to ask, hell there are some things I wasn't even allowed to journal about. (I have since broken the silence on those things).

I used to believe that it was god who brought me through my struggles. I would ignore the pestering questions or hypocrisy I saw in all of that, trusting that “Only god knows what is best”. I asked Pastors, Preachers (apparently there's a difference, though I'm still not sure what exactly it is) Sunday School teachers, friends, relatives, everyone I could get to sit down and give me the time of day; random questions about faith and god and their beliefs. I got sick of asking people questions and decided to go straight to the source. I read the bible (several times over), memorized scripture, asked god, etc.

After 10 years of never getting answers (or at least not ones seeped in circular logic) I gave up and decided to just do the best I could. I kept attending church because honestly, I thought it would kill my mother to hear I wasn't so sure god existed any longer, and because church is where my friends were. I was raised in the church, I knew everyone there, they knew me. They had supported me through thick and thin, helped me out here and there, watched me as a kid or watched MY kids. It was “home” in a way. Even though I no longer agreed with what was being preached, I felt obligated to attend. I feared that if I stopped, I would lose my friends.

Then I moved to South Carolina and my home church was too far away for me to be involved any longer. Most of my friends moved on, stopped calling, or just fell away. I blamed the move. I looked for a new church and found problems with every single one I attended. I found one I really liked, joined and then watched in horror as it fell apart (the pastor ran off with the secretary and $10,000 in offering money). I stopped attending, figured I could find god on my own time. Not to mention I was really sick of all the hypocrisy and hate that stems from people who think they're greater than others (okay, forgiven, whatever. Same hat in my opinion)

I started reading other books than just the bible, looking for something, anything to fill the gap that church had put in my heart. There is a saying that goes “there is a god shaped whole in every heart that only god can heal” More to the point, there is a deep need for fellowship and friendship that (in the south anyway) church is the easiest way to fill that void. There is a thirst for people who are struggling just like you are, who you can open up to and lean on in times of trouble as well as times of joy. The problem is, you don't need god for any of that. At least I no longer need it. I don't need an excuse to get together with like minded people and talk about life. I don't need an excuse to open my wallet and help my peers or my community. I don't need to fill the void of “I don't know” with “Because that's the way god made it”.

I walked away from church a few years back, I tried desperately to hold onto my views of religion and heaven and hell. Eventually I gave up. I got so sick and tired of trying to be my best and never being good enough, of going through the motions and not feeling any different.

When I finally “came out of the religious closet” so to speak, I felt free. FINALLY FREE! It's ironic. All I hear about is how you can be free in christ. I'd never felt so trapped before in my life. Now that I'm free of all of that, I can live life the way I want. And guess what: it feels AMAZING to be a good person, just because I want to be, not because “it's the christian thing to do”. It feels even better to breathe without risking offending some all powerful being.

Some people who read this will say I was never a “true christian”. I debunk this beliefs with your own book: Romans 10:9-11 states “That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, "Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame."

Well at the time (age 7 – 22) I did believe it, with every ounce of my being and every beat of my heart. The point is that I don't any more. And if you honestly think I can lose my salvation, you should really read that book of yours again.

Some people will say I'm mad at god and this is just a stage. I'm not mad at him any more, honestly I used to be, but I find it pretty hard to be mad at what doesn't exist. Not impossible, but not really worth my time or energy either. No, I'm not mad at any god. I am however constantly annoyed at people who use religion as an excuse. Some use it to excuse hate, others use it to excuse laziness. Whatever the reason, I can not help but roll my eyes in exasperation and it takes more strength and will power than I ever imagined it would, to keep my mouth shut and NOT prove you wrong and debate the topic every single time it comes up.

Anyway, this is just a part of my path from religious to atheist. I'm still learning, still working on who I am and still attempting to figure out where to go from here. Feel free to pray for me, but please don't expect it to change anything. I've made up my mind and I won't be going back to faith and fairy tales. I much prefer fact to fiction.