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.