I suppose my journey to atheism started with spirituality. When I was a kid, I attended a Unitarian Universalist church in Seattle. We had both a Solstice and a Christmas pageant, celebrated Easter and the Equinox. My parents sought not to force an ideology upon me, but to expose me to many traditions so that I could piece together my own collage of beliefs. I remember one day, standing in my living room, when someone inquired as to my religion. Bewildered, I said “I don’t know…” and turned to my mother, who replied “Good.” When my sisters were born, though, our house and traditions were suddenly too small.
We moved to a cohousing community about half an hour away when I was nine or ten, and my father moved back to Seattle soon afterward. He was and is a very scientifically minded person, fascinated with the acquisition of any kind of knowledge he can get his hands on, and I believe his transition to atheism came soon after my parents split. I began attending a New Thought church with my mother (and later my stepfather). In this place, I was taught that god is just a word for some spiritual thingy that makes up everything, a person’s natural state is perfection, that our thoughts affect what happens to us, and that heaven and hell are merely states of mind. After a while, though, I became disenchanted with that fat box of joy. They started asking people to tithe after every service. They acquired a new TV spot, associated themselves with Deepak Chopra, and built a new “celebration hall” with the money they constantly milked their audience for…. The average wealth of the people attending rose visibly, and not because the church was making anyone richer. Our old holding-hands-during songs tradition was abolished without a word. Not to mention the fact that we were building ugly new buildings instead of, say, helping people through devastating world crises. Attached to my previous participation in the music program and to the friends I’d made there, I dangled on for a little while before I gave up.
As I began my college career last year, I discovered my fascination with anthropology and psychology; the reasons people are how we are, and how we perceive the world around us. And in the light of my recent split from the New Thought movement, and the insight I was being given into humanity, I turned my questioning nature upon my own beliefs. I’d read Pharyngula before, and was already better versed in biology and the scientific method than most people my age, but had held tightly to my vague, earthy spirituality. Under closer scrutiny, I was shocked at my conclusion:
None of the important values I was holding onto and associated with spirituality- self-fulfilling prophecy (a well-known psychological phenomenon), respect for life, empathy, getting to know oneself- needed to be assigned to any sort of supernatural being or force. There was just no reason I had to believe something quite frankly silly to be a whole, happy person living on a fascinating speck in a vast and astounding universe.
So I did. And now I’m an atheist.