Why I am an atheist – HL Mencken »« How a Christian brain works

Why I am an atheist – Holly

I am an atheist because, if I am to be an honest person, it is the only way I am able to be.

When I was struggling with trying to be Christian in my early 20’s, other Christians who knew I was struggling would tell me to “have faith” and “it will come with time” if I just believe. I was subtly told that I was over-thinking the whole question. (What does it mean to “over-think”?) I tried to be open to God, but I couldn’t stop “over-thinking”. I pleaded with God to reveal himself to me and wondered what was wrong with me that he never did. I wasn’t even asking for much of a sign–I didn’t want a burning bush or a miracle, I just wanted a feeling like so many Christians I knew claimed they had–a feeling of knowing the “truth” and knowing that God was there with me.

I never got such a feeling and I slowly came around to the idea that maybe there was nothing wrong with me. Maybe the reason I wasn’t picking up God’s signal was not because I was a poor receptor but because he wasn’t actually there. The moment I let myself think that, I was on a very quick path to atheism. My “eureka” moment was not “God does not exist” but rather, “I don’t have to believe in God.” It seems obvious to me now, but at the time it was a real revelation (so to speak). I started to see faith for what it is: not the noble, humble position as it is touted, but a lie to oneself–deliberate deceit self-imposed in order to believe in something that’s not true.

I’ve recently become not only an atheist, but an “out” atheist. I talk about it with the religious members of my family. I say it outright if someone asks me if I belong to a church. I updated my facebook “philosophy” to read “atheist” (this was surprisingly difficult for me for whatever reason). I’ve even told a handful of my students when they’ve asked. This newfound zeal came about this year when my husband and I started looking for resources on raising our 3-year-old daughter without religion. We want to raise her to not be afraid–of being different, of being creative, of being smart, of being rational. And so I had to stop and examine how I was living my life and I saw that I had been hiding. I didn’t believe, but I sometimes pretended I did to avoid conflict. I was noncommittal or weakly compromising at best and untruthful at worst, and I don’t want to raise my daughter to think that’s OK.

I became an atheist to be honest with myself and so I had to come out as an atheist to be honest with others.

We teach by example, so I’m working to be an example worth learning from.

Holly
United States

Comments

  1. 'Tis Himself, OM says

    My “eureka” moment was not “God does not exist” but rather, “I don’t have to believe in God.”

    That’s the same realization which came to me, but put much more succinctly than I’ve been able to express it. Thank you, Holly.

  2. says

    Well done, Holly. Enjoyed this as a parent.

    Blaise Pascal said that perhaps atheists are “so made that [they] cannot believe,” which was the smartest thing he said on the subject. In my opinion, his “wager” feels less like a supernatural hypothetical, but more of an attempt to convince atheists that it was better to pretend to believe in order to avoid persecution; not from a Christian deity, of course, whose existence was unproved, but from their Christian neighbors, whose existence and irrationality put their mortal lives in danger, either physically or by sabotaging their livelihoods.

  3. allencdexter says

    Theocrats have such a stranglehold on today’s society that a lot of people think they have to beleive to be good citizens of this “christian nation.”

    Even ex-presidents have stated one can’t be a patriotic citizen and be an atheist.

    Sean Faircloth in recently published Attack of the Theocrats points out repeatedly that this makes people like Thomas Jefferson, James Madiaon, Thomas Paine and Abraham Lincoln something other than good American citizens. I urge everyone to get a copy of this book and learn how the religious right has hijacked this country from its secular beginnings and what we can do about it.

  4. scottportman says

    Holly, this was beautiful and true:

    “We want to raise her to not be afraid–of being different, of being creative, of being smart, of being rational. And so I had to stop and examine how I was living my life and I saw that I had been hiding. I didn’t believe, but I sometimes pretended I did to avoid conflict… I became an atheist to be honest with myself and so I had to come out as an atheist to be honest with others.”

    I’ve always been an atheist, but have never been public about it. Lately, maybe in the last five months or so, that’s been changing. My work takes me to the Middle East, and it’s neither smart nor safe to go around as an out atheist. My in-laws are in their eighties, and deeply religious, so I don’t bring the issue up with them. But generally, in my life here in the US, it does make sense to be more open about lack of belief. It never seemed particularly important to be vocal about my own personal lack of belief, but maybe something has changed. Maybe I’ve finally had all I can take of the bigotry and hate on the part of so much that passes for Christianity (as well as Islam).

  5. Rich Woods says

    @allencdexter #6:

    Even ex-presidents have stated one can’t be a patriotic citizen and be an atheist.

    Just because a person is able to get themselves elected to political office doesn’t make them a clear thinker or their words worthy of attention. It only makes them a politician.

  6. johnwolforth says

    I’m guessing you have heard of the parenting beyond belief website, but I’ll mention it anyway.

  7. jentokulano says

    I was noncommittal or weakly compromising at best and untruthful at worst, and I don’t want to raise my daughter to think that’s OK.

    Cool.