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Nov 22 2011

Why I am an atheist – Jake

I finally stopped praying, begging and pleading and said, “Fuck you God!” and it literally saved my life.

Growing up, I was subtly aware the way in which I observed the world was somehow off. Everything was just too loud or frightening or difficult. My daily life was filled with intangible despair and angst and the most mundane activities became an existential nightmare: Keirkegaard for kids. I was often too intimidated or lethargic to go outside, the thought of tomorrow was unnerving enough to deprive me of meaningful sleep, and what should have been good times were filled with internalized anguish that often brought me to tears. Looking back I can say that it felt like I was living in a dank subterranean realm looking up at the world, slowly being buried alive and dismembered while everyone else managed their lives and left me behind. But this was alright because I was praying to “God” and asking for “His” help and I knew eventually if I kept at it, I’d be saved.

Begging for help is a more apt description; day after day, year after year. I thought if I went to church I would be saved or at least not be punished more. I sought help from a truly compassionate, yet misguided priest and counselor who indicated I should seek solace in faith. Years went by and my symptoms ebbed and flowed. My high school years of debilitating apathy and fear were spent with very high doses self-medication (i.e., vodka for breakfast). My feigned attempt at college was met with truancy, very real suicide attempts and hospitalizations. And yet, I prayed.

At this point however, the cognitive dissonance was becoming all too apparent. So much of my life had been spent seeking help in this invisible being, yet to no avail and to the persistence of very tangible pain. Finally, after years of delusion, something clicked and I punched myself with some brutal honesty and the fear turned into anger. A subservient to this “God” is what I had been, begging and fearing for a life that was barely worth living. That night, the “Fuck you God!” night, shed my life of the false safety net that was actually enslaving me. It was perhaps the most liberating experience of my life. While still trepidatious, it gave me the kick in the ass necessary to save me. I sought professionals who based their conclusions on the rigors of scientific process. Meeting the criteria for multiple, severe mental illnesses and after years of fine-tuning management techniques, my life is virtually asymptomatic.

Even though it took me seven tumultuous years to finish my Bachelor’s, I have worked four years professionally with success I never thought possible. I’ve even started a part-time Master’s in Earth Science due to my unbounded love for anything scientific; a direct result of my deconversion and the inspiration instilled from the science-based doctors who helped save my life. When I think of the countless, cumulative, backbreaking hours spent in labs and pouring over data, hours that define entire lives that were only seeking the truth, truth that ultimately saved my life… I cry… I am so grateful. I am not of great mind and I’m not going to be known in the scientific community, but in some form, no matter how small, I’d like to contribute to the science that saved me.

I no longer direct my anger toward God because 1) I’m no longer angry and 2) there is no God. I am an atheist because in one sense it was my only choice, but it goes much deeper than that. I am an atheist because I am a truth seeker. I am an atheist because living a finite life allows me to create motivation, meaning and love – through the help of my amazing wife and family – in such a way that isn’t constrained by a “safety net.” At any rate, for old times’ sake, “Fuck you God!”

Jake
United States

29 comments

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  1. 1
    Duckorange

    As opening sentences go, that’s right up there. Well played!

  2. 2
    nazani14

    Quite a story of personal triumph.
    I’m just stunned that your parents didn’t recognize that you needed medical help.

  3. 3
    Glen Davidson

    Any time religion doesn’t work as advertised, it’s the believer’s fault.

    That’s probably one of its most anti-human aspects.

    Glen Davidson

  4. 4
    cicely

    Yes!

  5. 5
    Monado, Deployer of Precision F-Strikes

    Wow! Yet another data point for the failure of woo, positive thinking, and faith in lieu of medical evaluation and treatment.

  6. 6
    Zinc Avenger

    I wish I could sell a product that, when it doesn’t work, the customer not only blames themselves but then has a tendency to double down and buy more at higher cost!

    Prayer: It’s the very least you can do!

  7. 7
    Monado, Deployer of Precision F-Strikes

    Jake, you tried so hard, I’m glad life is better for you now.

  8. 8
    Thomas Lawson

    This is one of my favorites.

  9. 9
    ManOutOfTime

    Great.

  10. 10
    Un-Tarded

    Hasa Diga Eebowai – Fuck You God!
    From the Book of Mormon musical.

  11. 11
    Stacy

    Bravo, Jake. You done good.

    Your story is very moving; thanks for sharing it.

  12. 12
    Dhorvath, OM

    Yay for Jake. Everyone deserves better than prayer, glad you sorted that out.

  13. 13
    Allen C. Dexter

    Very inspiring account. It took me a while to say “fuck you God” but I got there and it’s the most liberating moment anyone can have.

  14. 14
    HowardV

    Yes! Yes! Yes!

    Jake — you da man!!!!

  15. 15
    Kathleen DiR.

    Reading this mad me think of my brother, the “God” who never would answer prayers. Glad you are better now. Beautiful story as your ending is a good one!

  16. 16
    Michael Swanson)

    Thank you for sharing this. I’ve been an atheist for ten years, but I still have to get over the hump on my own emotional, physical and psychological problems. I appreciate the reminder that it’s possible, as I too often feel that it is not.

  17. 17
    Marius Rowell

    Having to spend 7 years of my early childhood at a Catholic boarding school run by nuns I also wasted years praying and trying to figure out why I was the recipient of so much punishment – mostly for things done by liars who blamed me successfully because the nuns believed them and not me. I thought it was god’s test but for the life of me I couldn’t figure out what for.

    It was simply accepting that nuns and priests have no better idea what “god’s plans” are than the dining room benches and tables did that fixed that problem, as I realised what a load of crap my religion was.

    Through the rest of my school years I was then able to look at various church congregations and realise that there wasn’t one true ‘christian’ (whatever that is) among the entire bunch of liars, cheats and hypocrites, but it was the response of our school pastor (C of E) to another student’s outburst denying the existence of god that made me realise there is no god at all.

    This idiot pastor claimed – in front of a class of 14 year old boys – that his 7 years in seminary school proved the existence of god! W.T.F????? That ended my church attendance for life right then and there – after the laughter subsided. What kind of a balloon thinks that his stupidity proves anything to anyone! As soon as I stopped worrying about what idiots think my eyes were opened to the wonders of science and I have never looked back.

  18. 18
    DaveG

    Michael,

    I pray, wish, hope you have a positive outcome soon.

  19. 19
    geocatherder

    Jake, I’m so glad you got yourself out of the goddy mindset and got treated! Well done! And the MS in Earth Science is an excellent way to ground yourself thoroughly in reality, in all it’s good and bad aspects.

  20. 20
    SusanK

    Jake’s story is a familiar one to me, though my depression was not as deep as his. I was a very religious Catholic as a teen and also started experiencing depression around age 16. Seeking solace in the writings of the Catholic mystics and theologians, I sought to follow the very Catholic tradition of embracing my suffering as a prayer, turning it into a source of mystical union with the suffering of Christ crucified. Needless to say, things got bad, I started cutting, depression severely curtailed my ability to function, I fantasized about suicide but then was crushed by horrendous guilt over thinking about this sin and begged God to fix me, but then was commended by a priest during confession about my spiritual maturity (suffering–>mystical union etc).
    Fast-forward a decade, into atheism, and I finally got around to psychiatric treatment. Being on a very low dose of an antidepressant for a year now has completely changed my life — and perhaps saved it, if not in a life-or-death way then in a quality-of-life way. My entire world is different.
    Many best wishes to you, Jake. And amen to that.

  21. 21
    otrame

    Jake, I am glad for you. You reminded me of one of my favorite scenes in one of my favorite movies, Major League. Pedro, who is a devote of “JoeBoo” has had trouble hitting curve balls all season. Now they need to win this game to get the pennant and there are two outs and he has two strikes. He says (slightly paraphrased, as I don’t have a copy available at the moment):

    “All this time, I pray to you, I give you rum and tobacco. I stick up for you. If you no help me now, then I say Fuck You, JoeBoo. I do it myself” And he does.

    Jake, you said, “Fuck you God, I’ll do it myself” and you did. You win.

  22. 22
    'Tis Himself

    Good story, Jake. Thanks for sharing it.

    When I was in Catholic school I knew why I was getting punished. It was because I’d made a fool of Br. Louis and he was getting his revenge.

    On the first day of Br. Louis’ class he told us the story about how he’d had appendicitis but continued to teach for three days until his appendix burst. He then spent the next three weeks in hospital and three more weeks convalescing until he could teach again. My hand shot up and I said that if he’d got his appendix out as soon as he knew he had appendicitis then he would have been in the hospital for a few days and spent maybe a week recuperating. The extra three days he got at the front end didn’t make up for the six weeks he’d lost at the back end. Br. Louis didn’t like some kid pointing out the hole in his self-sacrifice story. As a result, I was beaten regularly by Br. Louis.

  23. 23
    Cassius Corodes

    Michael: I can not overstate the benefit I received from seeing a professional about my problems, and even though the problem will never 100% go away it has made life manageable.

    I hope you too are seeing somebody about your issues.

  24. 24
    Tom Clark

    First sentence of the last paragraph defines what it means to truly deconvert.

  25. 25
    Dabu

    Jake’s onto it. Everyone needs to say Fuck You to God at some point. It’s a guarantee that he can’t fuck you back.

  26. 26
    Psychotic Atheist

    Thanks for sharing, Jake.

    There are some aspects of your story seemed awfully familiar.

    Looking back I can say that it felt like I was living in a dank subterranean realm looking up at the world, slowly being buried alive and dismembered while everyone else managed their lives and left me behind

    This is a familiar place for me too.

    Unfortunately, like you, my illness affected my studies and religious idiots did the exact opposite of helping. Since I started getting help, going back to university feels like a distinct (but still distant) possibility.

    Reading your story fills me with strength. After all, it sounds like you had it worse than me (though I’m sure such comparisons are hopeless from the outset), and if you managed to complete studies maybe I can too. I’m still in early treatment, and have yet to figure out how to overcome that “debilitating apathy” you spoke of.

    Again, thank you for sharing. Fuck you God.

  27. 27
    Sheila Crosby

    Jake, your courage is awesome.

  28. 28
    AC

    Great job, Jake….you AC

  29. 29
    ingeschlussler

    You realize, of course, that those continuing in the delusion will say:

    “See! You just had to show God how important this was to you! You gave prayer and devotion for so long and were willing to give up what you most loved…Him. God has answered your prayers!”

    Congratulations!

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