I didn’t become an atheist because I was mad at God. You can’t be mad at someone that doesn’t exist. I didn’t become an atheist because some tragedy befell me that made me turn my back on religion and deny the existence of God like some sort of grudge. If I was mad at God I wouldn’t deny his existence because if God doesn’t exist than he’s not responsible for anything. God’s only excuse is that he doesn’t exist. That would be like denying the existence of Hitler because I was pissed off at him over the Holocaust. It wouldn’t make sense. I’m not an atheist because I find Christian morality too hard to live up to and I want to just sin freely without repercussions. There are always repercussions for your actions in this life.
There’s no need for a heaven or a hell because we get them both right here, right now and it isn’t as simple as good befalling the good and bad befalling the bad. You can be the most loving and giving person and still make bad decisions that you ultimately suffer for. The morality I subscribed to, in my opinion, holds me to a much higher standard because it requires me to be more than simply good, it requires me to be smart. It doesn’t allow me to hate someone for no other reason than because some book says I should.
I became an atheist when I realized that the only reason I had ever believed was because that’s how I had been raised. I had been a Christian only because my family and everyone else I knew were Christians. That was it. That was my only reason. It had nothing to do with proof. If I had been raised by Hindus I would have been Hindu. If I had been raised by Muslims I would have been Muslim.
When I realized this I was embarrassed. To me, it was the most random, the most arbitrary, the most ridiculous reason I could think of to believe in anything. And that’s the way most people adopt their religious beliefs, it is simply handed down to them like a used sweater and we put it on before we are old enough to question it. Most people go their entire lives without ever questioning why they’re wearing it, if they need it, or whether they would be better off without it.
I didn’t have any proof that anything in the bible was true and once I read the bible, I realized that I didn’t believe half of the things in it and that neither did most of the people I knew. Yet somehow they still called themselves Christians. Most of the people I knew didn’t believe in Adam and Eve. They didn’t believe that Jonah lived inside a whale’s belly for days. They didn’t believe that Noah put two of every animal onto a boat for thirty days and thirty nights and that somehow every animal on earth lived within walking distance of Noah’s house, several million species of insects, thousands of birds and rodents that would have taken several lifetimes to collect. They didn’t believe that women should be silent and subservient. They didn’t believe in slavery. They didn’t believe that if someone worked on Sunday or cheated on their husband or didn’t obey their parents they should be stoned to death. They didn’t believe that it was a sin to eat crab or lobster or rabbit. Most of the Christians I knew had never even read the entire bible. They accepted this ideology and didn’t even know what the book really said. I became an atheist when I realized that I had no logical reason for being a Christian.
When I first began to question religion I assumed that I would find answers to my questions and that nothing would change. I assumed that the failing was in me and not in the bible. I thought that if anything, my belief would be stronger in the end. Instead, the more I read, the more I questioned, the more doubts I acquired and the harder it became to hold on to my beliefs. I found falsehoods. I found contradictions. I found immorality. I found that all the things I had believed made no sense and those things that I believed that did make sense were not even really in the bible or else were actively contradicted by other passages in the bible. That so much of what was written in its pages flew in the face of reason and morality. At that point, I would have had to deny all logic in order to believe and I just could not do that.
Isaac Asimov said, that when “Properly read, the bible is the most potent force for Atheism ever conceived.” That’s why those who know the bible the best and follow it the most literally look crazy to most people. Even moderate and liberal Christians think fundamentalists are crazy. Because the passages that most sane and reasonable people completely ignore or choose to interpret symbolically or metaphorically, they believe. So we call them extremists and zealots when what they really are, are true believers. When the church was burning infidels at the stake and sending armed missionary soldiers abroad to slaughter or convert entire cultures, they were following the bible. Today’s fundamentalists don’t even follow the bible 100%. They can’t. If anyone was to follow every command in the bible 100% they would be a criminal and a murderer. They would be a thoroughly reprehensible human being—a racist, sexist, homophobic, wife beating, gay bashing, child abusing, slave trader. But the bible was written to be followed 100%. There’s nothing in there that says or even suggests that certain parts were to be ignored or taken lightly. When Jesus said, “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling.” He didn’t wink afterwards. He didn’t laugh. In Titus 2:9 when it says “Tell slaves to be submissive to their masters and to give satisfaction in every respect.” Afterwards it doesn’t have a little note in parentheses that says “just kiddin’”. He meant that literally.
In order to keep Christian beliefs in line with modern morality you have to reinterpret passages that are relatively black and white or else disregard them entirely because so much of it runs contrary to commonsense morality. To be a good person and continue to believe you have to cherry-pick the good stuff and disregard all that slavery, homophobia, and misogynism stuff.
So, after reading the bible, I decided to reevaluate all of my beliefs. I abandoned everything I had believed for which there was no evidence and I started over, putting my beliefs back together piece by piece and only including the things I could logically support and defend.
I realized that the first step in achieving true knowledge was admitting my own ignorance. Not going in already committed to a conclusion and just looking for facts to justify the conclusions I had already reached. If I had begun asking questions when I was already one hundred percent emotionally committed to a conclusion those questions would have been worthless. So I let all these emotional convictions go and it was like a great weight had been lifted. The scales had fallen from my eyes and I could finally see the world as it was rather than how I had been conditioned to believe it was. My mind was now opened by wonder rather than closed by faith.
History has shown us again and again that the closed mind created by faith is fertile ground for hatred and prejudice, not to mention that it has often been an impediment to both moral and scientific progress. To quote Blaise Pascal, “Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from a religious conviction.” That alone would be enough for me to reject faith. This irrational illogical thought process, to me, contradicts the very definition of a human being, the rational animal. We were given these great big brains in order to allow us to answer questions and find true knowledge. Filling in the gaps between what we know and what we don’t know with beliefs that we lend the same weight as knowledge ensures that true knowledge will have a hard time ever finding fertile ground upon which to grow.
The virtue of ignora
nce is that it allows for knowledge. The sin of faith is that it does not. If you believe before you know and are committed to that belief you will NEVER know. Your belief has taken the place of knowledge. Why would you search for truth if you believe in your heart that you have already found it? Faith does not give you the answers, it just stops you from asking the questions and that alone is enough reason for me to reject it. You cannot fill a vessel that is already full and that is the problem with faith. That alone is reason enough to be an atheist. Not because I have anything against any one religion but because of the foundation of faith upon which all religions rest. That is why I am and will always be a skeptic.
The reality is that when it comes to creation and the existence or non-existence of a creator we just don’t know. Anyone who says he does know is either deluded or disingenuous. We don’t know. There is no shame in admitting that we don’t know. There is no dishonor in admitting our obvious ignorance. The dishonor is in resigning ourselves to remaining ignorant. Not just belief without evidence but belief against all contradictory evidence. That type of willful ignorance is a sin against all the potential within human nature. An open mind that leads to the pursuit of knowledge is the very definition of what it means to be human and as such is the highest virtue.