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Nov 24 2011

Why I am an atheist – Elias Ahmed Serulle

My parents found God (He’s lost a lot for an omnipresent being, wouldn’t you say?) when I was around 14. Seeing how important this was for them, I tried to foster that “perfect” family image by taking God into my life. For 8-and-some years I was part of youth group, and later baptized (by choice) as an Evangelical Christian. I did all of this with a deluded belief (not only the God one) that being part of this would bring my family closer. Only a teenager could think that healthy relationships could be built on lies…

In that time I never stopped asking questions; enough questions to attract the attention of the Youth Group Leader, a minister’s wife with a touch for making delicious chocolate-chip cookies. I think she always knew I’d end up on the dark side, far from her cookies. She was determined on showing me the life stories of men and women, atheists them all, that had found (again, His Almighty Ass is lost) God and repented from their sinful ways. I thank God (figure of speech, people) for attending this group though. Out of the 13 teens that attended, 7 are now strong atheists. I’m pretty sure our conversations led to this in one way or another.

My parents have become more and more involved with church, and I’ve grown farther apart from it. They hold prayers before every event, church group on Thursdays at home; my dad has even been invited to give sermons at church. It’s not that sweet a deal for me, you’d say. We grow further apart in our ideologies, but thankfully our relationship as a family has grown somewhat stronger. I’ve yet to tell them my (dis)belief because it’s what they stand for. God easily makes up for half of what they do on a daily basis. My brothers and I have had talks, but not blunt ones. Little by little I do away with their blind faith, in a soft-spoken manner, like when the dentist tells you gently that something’s not going to hurt. They look up to my parents a lot, so confrontation is in my interest, just not at this stage in their lives. But it’s coming quite soon.

My country’s another obstacle for free thought. There are some small communities that foster this kind of thinking, but as a whole the Dominican Republic is made of devout Catholics. You might not be a church-goer, and there’d be nothing wrong with that, but as soon as you express your atheism clearly, you’re an outcast of the (theoretically) healthy community.

I could give a hundred reasons for my atheism, but they’d all boil down to basic curiosity. Asking enough of the right questions will, in my opinion, eventually lead you down to atheism’s (or at the very least, agnosticism’s) door. Why do the good die young? Why is there poverty? How does Fox News still continue to exist? 42?

I wish, from the bottom of my heart that this war, one of attrition, between rationality and irrationality (and not that good vs evil crap) would be over. My atheism is one part of me and it doesn’t entirely define who I am; my way of thinking brought me to atheism, not the other way around.

Thing is, I hate being angry because some loud-mouthed evangelical is riding a 60-feet-tall “high horse” and judging people as if they were God. I hate being angry at basic civil and human rights being discarded for groups that are object of God’s wrath in the years before electricity. I hate listening to religious folk forgive, in theory, those who cross them, but then turning around and siccing God upon their enemies as if He were their very own, private avenger. I hate being angry at the stupidity that surrounds me, but until it’s dealt with I don’t think I’ve got much of a choice.

And these people are sometimes funny to watch (in a Crocodile-Dundee-wild-animals-let-loose kind of way).

Elias Ahmed Serulle
Dominican Republic

21 comments

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  1. 1
    Grimalkin

    …I can’t help but notice the similarity between asking the right questions eventually leading you to Atheism, and clicking the first link on a wikipedia page eventually leading you to philosophy.

  2. 2
    Mo

    Elias – nice description of the difficulty in dealing with earnest believers in the family, as well as the social ostracism.

    See, I think that most religious activities are predatory on our need for social engagement. It’s fun meeting with other people, sharing coffee and snacks, working on group projects. It’s just too damned bad that religion steps up and commandeers the show.

    Maybe we need to start the Atheist Church of the Discount Redemption, with an altar to Anoia and her pet The Flying Spaghetti Monster.

  3. 3
    docslacker

    I really liked your account, Elias. And I can sympathize. As a fellow Latin American/Hispanic/whatever I can remember the wrath visited upon me by my cousins when I dared to say out lout, “The pope is soooo wrong about this.” Religion in Latin America is assumed, even more than in the U.S. And casual anti-semitism is the norm. But I do have hope. Hope as more and more secular schools are founded. Hope as a city here and there change their laws to allow for marriage equality. Hope as I openly criticize religion to my father, and he doesn’t have a stroke… And hope as go to the Internets and read and make friends with some really interesting, rational, people.

  4. 4
    hotshoe

    Good point about how god gets lost an awful lot for a supposedly omni-being.

    I’ll remember that.

  5. 5
    tim rowledge, Ersatz Haderach

    Only a teenager could think that healthy relationships could be built on lies…

    We can only wish that such stupidity were limited to teenagers. But it isn’t – though to the credit of many teens I know, they don’t believe it either.

  6. 6
    Emrysmyrddin

    I can’t imagine how difficult this situation must be for you. I hope you come out okay, and in good spirits!

  7. 7
    dexter

    Have you looked into the university -Miramar- that is advertising on your site? You should.

  8. 8
    'Tis Himself

    Have you found Jesus?

    Is he missing? Have you looked in his room?

  9. 9
    A3Kr0n

    Where you live sounds a lot like where I live. It’s OK if you don’t go to church all the time, just don’t say you’re an atheist.

  10. 10
    Jim Mauch

    Let let yourself get comfortable with your lack of belief. Before you know it you will find it to be good fit. You will come to understand that your friends and neighbors will just have to deal with their problem with disbelief.

  11. 11
    echidna

    42?

    The answer as question.

    I like it.

  12. 12
    peterwhite

    I love your line about god being lost. I can’t wait to use that on the next theist who tells me he ‘found’ god/jesus/allah/.

  13. 13
    Ariaflame, BSc, BF, PhD

    Dexter, they don’t control the ads. If a particularly bad one email pz with the URL of the link.

  14. 14
    Monado, FCD

    Elias, it’s funny how seriously considering the questions can lead to atheism! Good for you for not settling for the easy answers.

  15. 15
    sumdum

    I think she always knew I’d end up on the dark side, far from her cookies.

    This made me laugh. :D

  16. 16
    TimKO,,.,,

    My family has ties to and have gone to DR in recent years. I sympathize with you. It’s beautiful and laid-back but like all of Latin America, the superstitious behavior and bigotry are fucking blatant. You can see magical thinking and group-think influencing all decisions. Maybe you can find like-minded people at university and amongst the expat beach party scene. Maybe it would be healthier for you to do so. Maybe try some non-defensive but probing questions on your parents; i.e. “Have you eve read Luke 14:26? What do you think it means?” OR “Why does the church have us bother with the grumpy, angry, punishing god of the Jewish bible if we’re not jews? It it because Jesus was Jewish and dies before xtianity was invented?”

  17. 17
    unalienableBytes

    As has been pointed out before, the ads pay the bills. I personally like them paying for PZ’s blog so we can point and laugh at them.

    And now for something completely different, an on topic post. Elias, great sense of humor. Keep thinking. Maybe some day soon rationality will conquer the entire isle of Hispanola.

  18. 18
    Inaji

    Excellent essay, Elias. Thanks for sharing.

  19. 19
    pelamun, the Linguist of Doom

    unalienableBytes,

    I think you’re wrong. AFAIK, they only pay for the blog if anyone clicks on them.

  20. 20
    Shane Evans

    Great essay! I was particularly impressed that over half of your church cohort left religion behind. I think the current stats are only one in twelve leave the religion in which they were raised.

  21. 21
    eliasserulle

    Thanks. It´s been a few tough years, and there´s still plenty ahead, but it´s good. I really appreciate your thoughts on this. (I´m in Spain, studying Writing, in hopes of one day creating a decent story about an atheist youth.) This blog has been a great influence, solidifying my already heathen ways (Thanks, PZ!).

    For kicks, I´ve been writing a sort of comical story about an atheist man that gets raptured. It´s on my Facebook (I´ll get a blog up and running soon enough) and if you´re on this site, I don´t mind being added on FB. Feel free to check them out. (They´re in my notes “Left Behind: I Wish I Were.”

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