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Nov 27 2011

Why I am an atheist – Chris J

I have had the unfortunate opportunity to watch my grandmother mentally and physically decline over the past few years. I will always remember her as the strong and independent woman who helped me grow into the man I am today. The reality is that she is no longer that person, she suffers from dementia as well as various physical ailments. All that is left is the shell. She remembers no one, cannot feed or toilet herself, blankly stares at the wall all day and requires the assistance of 2 nurses just to get out of bed.

Watching this occur over the course of several years caused me to start questioning my faith. Why would my loving and caring God allow this to happen? What purpose could this possibly serve? Of course, asking church folks got me the same generic answer that it was all part of God’s plan. But I could not accept that, I felt that if this was his plan then his plan sucks. I started to feel uneasy at church, watching people praise the man who was responsible for my grandmothers demise made me angry.

At this point my faith was shaky but I was looking for reasons to hang on. I attended a bible reading group and for the first time listened to the bible objectively and literally. There was no way that I could buy what was being sold in that book.(It still amazes and embarrasses me that for 30 years I never questioned anything from that book.) As I brought up my thoughts and feelings I was pretty much told that you can’t be a believer if you question the bible. That is when it hit me…..I did not believe any of this crap.I felt a sense of relief because the world began to make more sense when viewed from a secular perspective. Things like cancer, hurricanes, terrorists and my grandmothers dementia were easier to deal with when accepted for what they were….shit that just happens in a random world.

I feel as though this revelation has left me even more appreciative of life. The randomness of everything and the improbable odds of me even being here overwhelm and inspire me.

Thanks for the forum to tell my story, I cannot be as upfront about my beliefs, or lack there of, as I would like due to negative impacts it could potentially have on my employment situation. Blogs like this do a great service in helping me feel connected with other like minded individuals.

Chris J
United States

44 comments

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  1. 1
    grumpyoldfart

    Best of luck mate.

  2. 2
    Jessica Vineyard

    Thanks for sharing, Chris. I recently had a conversation with the daughter of a well known spiritual author, both friends of mine. The conversation had similar content to your summary: Everything that happens in the world makes complete sense as an atheist. No cause, no grand plan, no divine intervention, no cruel, or loving, or benevolent, or evil gods. She was astounded at the possibility that her mother’s murder six years ago had no purpose, a justification for and understanding of which she has been seeking for years.

    I am so glad you’ve found an online home of atheists. There are so many of us here who have similar stories. My life partner works mostly with spiritual authors and other new-age hooey people. He doesn’t live in their world, but our social lives cross quite a lot with people who have alternative beliefs. So it’s nice to get online and chat with my real community of like-minded folk.

    Ramen,
    Jessica

  3. 3
    jasonmartin

    It’s the question of suffering that leads many people out of the dark and into the light. Good luck to you.

  4. 4
    Human Ape

    Chris J, congratulations and welcome to the 21st century.

    Why would my loving and caring God allow this to happen?

    I have tried to explain to Christians that even if their god fantasy was real, there would be no reason for their magical master of the universe to love them or create a magical heaven for them. Considering the vastness of the universe it might not even notice the existence of our planet.

    They never understand of course. Gullible cowardly people are not likely to throw out their childish wishful thinking.

  5. 5
    Gary Hill

    I can appreciate your experience Chris. I worked with Alzheimer’s patients for eight years as part of a longitudinal study. I too saw the initial pre-clinical levels of forgetfulness spiral relentlessly into full-lown short-term memory loss, with confusion and fear and the gradual but sure dimming of the cognitive flame. It’s always struck me as a cat and mouse analogy; the cat (god) playing and tormenting the mice (humans) for a while before killing them when he’s had enough fun. In cases of dementia, theists simply can’t use the argument that god gives us our life experiences as a means of teaching us. He’s either a psychopath or doesn’t exist. Occam’s Razor says the latter.

  6. 6
    Sid Schwab

    Well said. And I sympathize fully, having recently watched my mother go through it. In fact, I wrote about it similarly, here.

  7. 7
    frankb

    There are some really nasty people (usually the deeply religious) who feel that disease is God’s punishment on the sufferer. Trying to think how my mom deserved the Alzheimer’s she had when she died leaves me to conclude that such people are the truly sick ones.

  8. 8
    Stonyground

    My dad suffered a gradual decline into a pretty much vegative state due to Parkinson’s disease and dementia. My mother who is, I suppose, a liberal Christian showed enormous strength in looking after him until it became simply impossible. Eventually he went into a care home and a week later he died. They had been together for fifty seven years. She knows that I am an atheist but any criticism of her stupid beliefs make her angry so now I don’t bother. She is now helping on the death-watch of an old aunt who, of course, doesn’t know whether she has lived a perfect enough life to get into Heaven. She is a spinster who spent her whole life running Sunday schools, but we know God, he’s a sadistic arsehole

  9. 9
    Shane Evans

    Thank you Chris for your story. IMO, I think many atheists began their journey by questioning the morality of their respective faith. I would say that the majority of atheists are far more moral than believers.

  10. 10
    Cody

    Chris J, sorry to hear about your grandma. And welcome to reality. It’s a pretty fascinating place!

  11. 11
    Russ

    Dear Chris,

    I hope for your sake that you change your mind and accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior. Eternity is a long time to spend in Hell.

    Russ

    [Warning: mindless godbotting like you're doing is a bannable offense here. Keep your wacky superstitions under control. --pzm]

  12. 12
    annie

    frankb said: There are some really nasty people (usually the deeply religious) who feel that disease is God’s punishment on the sufferer. Trying to think how my mom deserved the Alzheimer’s she had when she died leaves me to conclude that such people are the truly sick ones.

    Equally as sick are those who say that your loved one’s suffering is God’s way of teaching you a lesson.

  13. 13
    A3Kr0n

    Thanks for the post Chris, even though is kind of pissed me off.
    Not mad at you, just the whole long, drawn out process so many have to go through to die.

  14. 14
    Jockaira

    I hope for your sake that you change your mind and accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior. Eternity is a long time to spend in Hell.

    Another threat from one of Satan’s faithful minions.

  15. 15
    Janine, Clueless And Reactionary As Ever, OM,

    Dear Russ,

    Thank you for disregarding the suffering that Chris J was taking about and instead, move on to the idea of eternal torment.

    Bless your heart.

    Janine

  16. 16
    'Tis Himself

    Thank you for your story, Chris.

    I watched my father decline from one of the most intelligent people I’ve ever known to someone who couldn’t even remember if he’d had breakfast was quite unpleasant. So I understand what you’re going through with your grandmother. And if it’s God’s plan then God is a sadist.

  17. 17
    'Tis Himself

    Thank you, Janine. #15 was a post of beauty.

  18. 18
    Janine, Clueless And Reactionary As Ever, OM,

    My paternal grandfather remained physically fit and active entering his eighties. He was taking down trees on his property at that advanced age. Then Alzheimer hit him hard. Within two years, he was not physically nor mentally the same person. But what really made everything more pain were the moments of clarity that he would sometimes have and he knew what has happened to him.

  19. 19
    michaelpowers

    When my father was dying of cancer, I cared for him till the end. About three weeks before he died, my sister and brother-in-law (a retired police chief, and fundie christian) came to visit for the weekend. The morning after they arrived, my father woke up, got fully dressed, and asked me to take time to work (he had quit working a few months prior). I didn’t have the heart to remind him of his impending demise, so I told him it was a holiday, and suggested he go back to bed. He said, “I would, son, but those damn goats are keepin’ me awake.” I told him I’d take care of the goats, and let him use my bedroom.

    My brother-in-law, observing this, remarked that he had seemed so lucid the night before. I told him that the dementia was probably due, in large part, to the morphine. My brother-in-law began to question about me the dosage, and whether or not he was abusing the drugs. I did not trust myself to respond, but the look I gave him must have said something, because he shut up, and left the room. Quickly.

    Later that day, the idiot brought the subject back up, this time expressing concern for my father’s “immortal soul”. I could feel what little patience I had evaporating.

    I said, “Let me get this straight. The petty delusion you believe in would see my father die in agony, rather than spend that time within some pleasant memories he had as a child?”

    He realized that he was now persona non grata, and left soon after. In retrospect, I think his “concerns” spoke more of his lack of compassion and humanity, than any belief system he held. The insensitivity of the religious still amazes me on a daily basis.

  20. 20
    Nick Gotts

    Dear Russ,

    You really are a vile piece of shit. If your god existed, it would be even more vile than you, if that’s possible.

  21. 21
    Nick Gotts

    Chris J.,

    Sorry, I really should have addressed you first, but I don’t have anything very useful to say. Dementia really does scar the lives of those around the sufferer. My father was in the early-to-middle stages of MID (multi-infarct dementia) when he died. I’m glad he did not live longer, as his decline was evidently accelerating. Tough on him, even tougher on my mother, who actually predeceased him by a few months; I can’t help thinking she might have had a few more years in reasonable health if he’d died three years earlier, before the onset of his illness became obvious.

  22. 22
    Quodlibet

    Chris J said, “I feel as though this revelation [that 'shit happens in a random world'] has left me even more appreciative of life.”

    That is one of the key ideas, IMO – that atheists can truly appreciate life because we know that the one life we have, here and now, is all we get, now and forever. I think we tend to live fully, knowing that there is no hereafter.

    One of the things I hate about religion is that (in Christianity, anyway), the idea of a possible afterlife is dangled in front of people the way some people tease animals by offering them treats but keeping the treats just out of reach. The poor dog will try and try to do whatever it takes to please the teasing person in hopes that he/she MIGHT give the treat, but in the process, the dog loses sight of all the real pleasures all around it that it can gain for itself, like running, and playing, and being with a companion. [sorry for that ugly run-on sentence. migraine] And all the time there is no guarantee of the treat – just hope and, most of the time, disapppointment. It is cruel and sadistic and creates despair and feelings of inadequacy in its victims.

    Thank you for your essay, Chris, and I hope your grandmother slips easily away when her time has come. My dad died this year of multi-infarct dementia, and my dear MIL several years ago, from Alzheimer’s. Even in their end stages, I am sure that each of them could feel love and affection.

  23. 23
    WhiteHatLurker

    Dear Russ,
    I hope for your sake that you change your mind and reject those superstitions. Life is too short a time to spend in delusion.

    To help you along I shall not pray for you, nor sacrifice a chicken in your name.

  24. 24
    syggyx

    Don’t you think that people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia have the responsibility to kill themselves while they are still cognitive of their situation since none of these conditions happen at once?

    I don’t mean to be harsh but one should be responsible and reasonable enough to kill themselves once the diagnose is clear, for their own good and the good of others.

    I’m thinking that the only reason why a person wouldn’t kill themselves is because they are superstitious and think they will go to hell.

    Instead we go on pretending that the vile care and support for them is the moral and humane thing to do when in reality nothing could be more not humane and immoral.

    Culture is truly sick and divorced from reality when people don’t think that people with these conditions should not kill themselves.

  25. 25
    Sean Boyd

    syggyx,

    Just go away. I don’t want you to kill yourself, though…I can’t imagine a worse punishment for you than for you to live exactly as you are. Just do it somewhere else.

  26. 26
    syggyx

    Just go away.

    That’s all you got? What a shame…I was really hoping for someone to reason me out of my position and use actual well reasoned counter-argument.

  27. 27
    Sean Boyd

    Chris J,

    I have a parent who has some cognitive issues, but nothing approaching full-on dementia. I can’t even imagine how tough that is.

    Don’t feel embarrassed about having believed for so long. Feel proud that you fought through the BS. Most people don’t.

  28. 28
    DLC

    Chris J. thanks for your story.

  29. 29
    Justme

    syggyx,

    What makes you think your fatuous arseholery deserves a considered response?

    Bugger off.

  30. 30
    syggyx

    Are you saying that a culture that supports, encourages and expects people to kill themselves when it is clear they will be mind-dead anyway is wrong?

    Why?

  31. 31
    endorfiend

    Chris, This could have been me writing this. I went through a similar transformation during the agonizing decline of my mother while she suffered 3 years with pancreatic cancer. My subsequent realization like yours, that there was no substantive support to be found in the drivel of the bible, and the frustration that I had been duped for 40 years, (although I was on the edge for nearly half that) was enough to clear my mind fully and accept that “this is as good as it gets” ( I love that line from the movie) and I need to make the most of it.

  32. 32
    another

    “Eternity is a long time to spend in Hell.”

    Humans only live for several decades at best. So having to spend ‘eternity’ anywhere is not a real problem faced by any human being.

    Hell is imaginary, so having to spend even a second there is not a real problem faced by any human being.

    Wasting your short life worrying about such nonsense, that’s a real problem. Best of luck to you, Russ. Wake up if you are able.

  33. 33
    Ariaflame, BSc, BF, PhD

    Syggyx do you also support euthanasia of downs syndrome, or other people with mental retardation?

    Some people do wish to go before it gets too bad, and I would not stand in their way in the slightest, but to suggest that it is the moral obligation of those afflicted to off themselves is fucking callous.

  34. 34
    TimKO,,.,,

    Chris,
    The xtians are willing to explain, in detail, the nature of their god: his whims, his desires, his plans, his actions, his wants, his thoughts; and then turn around when stumped and say “it’s all part of his plan” which is the cop-out version of “oops – we don’t actually know”. They want to have it both ways. It’s all part of the hubris.

  35. 35
    syggyx

    Syggyx do you also support euthanasia of downs syndrome, or other people with mental retardation?

    You have abortions for those, they can be discovered by routine medical exams for decades now.

    Fully grown retards can clean the streets or haul garbage.

  36. 36
    John Morales

    [meta]

    syggyx, you are despicable.

    Culture is truly sick and divorced from reality when people don’t think that people with these conditions should not kill themselves.

    Leaving aside that those of us who aren’t scum are willing to let people make their own choice regarding their own fate, you have just committed the fallacy of the excluded middle and fallen prey to a hasty generalisation.

    (Since your mentation is clearly enfeebled, you should now heed your own advice if you aren’t also a hypocrite)

  37. 37
    syggyx

    Leaving aside that those of us who aren’t scum are willing to let people make their own choice regarding their own fate

    But the do-nothing approach in the face of one’s own inexorable mind-death and burden to society is pointless, stupid, irresponsible, unreasonable, cowardly and weak. How can you respect that?

    On the other hand if you would have a culture that would encourage acts that are reasonable such as this, one’s own actions would be more in sync with reality and much easier to actually commit to.

  38. 38
    John Morales

    [OT]

    syggyx, exactly, O hypocrite: your own mind-death is ineluctable; you should take action now while you remain almost half-witted and follow your own advice; me, I’m following my own by telling you to follow your own.

    (Also, you are out of synchronisation with reality by considering that extant culture is divorced from reality (when, definitionally, it is part of it). By your own claims, you are being pointless, stupid, irresponsible, unreasonable, cowardly and weak in not following your own conviction forthwith.)

  39. 39
    Duckorange

    Good luck Chris, your story is an inspiration.

    And good luck Russ. Hope you wake up soon.

  40. 40
    ManOutOfTime

    “this plan sucks.” From your lips to his imaginary ears, my friend. Sorry for your loss, but I share your appreciation of the life we have left!

    And @Russ, could you please let us know when you blog publicly about the loss of someone you love? I for one would be honored to make comments belittling your experience and offending your sensibilities. I look forward more, of course, to the day you are free from your ridiculous ancient beliefs – and I hope for your sake it comes without the high price the author paid for his.

  41. 41
    Monado

    Chris, the randomness of God’s so-called plan is the way out for a lot of us.

    Russ, it’s bad enough that you have an imaginary friend without trying to saddle others with one, too. Grow up.

  42. 42
    azure

    Syggyx,

    Where is the line exactly? Is it when you are still intact, but experiencing some declines? Is it when you are angry about your disease, but no longer able to realize you have a disease because things have gotten so bad? Do you know when a true diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease is made? Postmortem.

    You clearly are not capable of understanding other people’s suffering and, I agree, that, most likely, you will do more harm than good. I think you have a responsibility too… to go and get some therapy to get your anti-social personality disorder manageable. At least, learn some social skills.

    Azure,

  43. 43
    echidna

    Thanks for sharing, Chris. It’s abundantly clear that the only excuse for God’s allowing such suffering is if he doesn’t exist.

    Syggyx:

    I’m thinking that the only reason why a person wouldn’t kill themselves is because they are superstitious and think they will go to hell.

    I’m not sure you are thinking. You clearly know absolutely nothing about the tenacity of life. I knew an atheist lady with severe cerebral palsy, requiring assistance with everything her entire life. She wished she had never been born, but even so, there was never more than a fleeting thought that she should take her own life.

    My father, dying of cancer and allergic to morphine, sorted out a method of killing himself should his quality of life become too bad. He never used it.

    This is normal human behaviour, and much of this is common with other animals as well. We do the best we can with what we have. That is all. No superstition required.

  44. 44
    echidna

    Dear Russ,

    I hope for your sake that you change your mind and accept reality. There is no contemporary evidence for even the historical existence of Jesus, let alone an afterlife.

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