Why I am an atheist – A Texan

I am an atheist because the God I loved and served faithfully just got too damn small. Too formulaic. Too predictable.

I was born again in high school and was a committed believer all the way through high school and college. I loved Jesus and was sure God was the answer to everything. I believed in grace and mercy and love. My God was huge. And perfect. And more loving, compassionate and mysteriously wonderful than anything I could describe.

Then I went into full time ministry. I could tell so many stories now about the corporate waste, the hypocritical leadership, the stupid acronyms and formulas that were used to shrink God down to a sellable product. My God shrank right before my eyes. It took disillusionment with ministry to make me stop and rethink my beliefs. The nagging feeling that there was something tremendously wrong with evangelical christianity that I had successfully repressed for years became too strong. The mental gymnastics I had been performing to explain away God’s sexism, anger, vengefulness and petty demands became too much for me. For the very first time, I looked at my beliefs from a skeptical viewpoint.

I wanted my God to withstand the test. I held on to bits and pieces of my faith for awhile. But, intellectual integrity demanded that I accept what is true over what I wanted to be true. I no longer believe in any of it. And, to my surprise, as my God got tiny and unbelievable and I was forced out of my insular world, an indescribably huge and beautiful world opened up around me. The truth has set me free.

A Texan
United States


  1. rebeccaraven says

    Thank you for your post. I also saw my god shrink against the onslaught of Fred Phelps and George W Bush until I just couldn’t see “him” any more….

    We all couldn’t be right so I handed “him” over to Phelps, Bush and Pat Robertson. Let them have “him.”

  2. says

    Maybe there should be a series “why I wasn’t an atheist” (I do realize many in this series manage get into that matter).

    Of course they’d generally involve the lack of serious critical thinking about religion. Nonetheless, the external and internal means of preventing such questioning must be quite various.

    Glen Davidson

  3. says

    an indescribably huge and beautiful world

    Christians don’t know what they’re missing. They should be encouraged to read this excellent post.

  4. great1american1satan says

    Beautifully said! A lot of these are pretty dull and played out (especially long-winded stuff from people with all my worst tendencies), but yours was short and sweet. Kudos!

  5. otrame says

    My Mom, back when she was still a vague sort of Christian and I was about ten (this would have been back in the early 14th century), after listening to Oral Roberts on the radio, said, “their world is so SMALL. ”

    And that is true. It takes a brain-damaging kind of mental twisting to remain religious once you are exposed to a world outside of childhood. It always makes me happy to hear about someone breaking free.

  6. jaybee says

    I too would like to hear more from people like “A Texan” who not only were nominal believers, but were deeply into to the point of preaching / evangelizing. Did they really harbor no doubts? When facing skepticism, did they really believe their counter arguments? I’d also like to hear how their circle of friends and associates reacted to their loss of faith.

    One of the most moving songs I know is from the former founder/writer/singer of Pedro The Lion (PTL — get it?), David Bazan, who lost his faith and wrote an album about it. His song “Hard to Be” is beautiful. youtube any of his performances of it, and read the lyrics:


  7. alrvsmn23 says

    Well said. Wish more people were open minded and not blinded by religious dogma. Science can answers a wole more questions realistically than any religion can.

  8. says

    This was a really encouraging post. Thank you, Texan. I hope many more people are set free by the truth as you were so that they can embrace this indescribably huge and beautiful world.

  9. says

    Wonderful essay, thank you for sharing your experience. There’s a great deal of beauty in your last two sentences. It is an amazing thing to wake up to the wonder of our world, all the things on it and the universe.

  10. jand says

    Also a very brave move because I suppose in your situation you were not only giving up your faith but also a career and an income?
    Highlights the question:
    How many ministers and priests are probably closet atheists, with a degree in divinity and a career in a church, and afraid of losing everything else together with “losing their religion”?

  11. sparhawk23 says

    If there were more Texans like you, I wouldn’t mind being stationed there.

  12. boadinum says

    Beautiful. The universe is indeed bigger and more wonderful than a tiny god.

  13. Grumps says

    @ jand #12

    You and Texan may be interested in this:


    Through the efforts of Dan Barker, Linda LaScola, Dan Dennett and The Richard Dawkins Foundation, The Clergy Project was launched with the goal of supporting clergy as they transition from a life dominated by religion to one that is wholly secular.

  14. jand says

    Thanks Grumps and villageatheist, I had a general idea that this problem existed, I see now there specific activity. Any chance we could support these efforts? (I mean “we” as in readers of Pharyngula)

  15. thevillageatheist says

    jand –

    It would be great to think we could help these people (ex- or wannabee ex- clergy). Then we get a double whammy – helping out some highly conflicted people trying to do the right thing, and simultaneously taking out a sizeable portion of the opposing team.

    Might be best though just to add our support to an existing effort (the clergyproject already mentioned) rather than dividing our forces.


  16. jand says

    yeah, but maybe just creating more awareness, as you say, it is/would be a double whammy. I mean, I read here daily and was only vaguely aware of the problem, let alone the clergyproject

  17. kevinalexander says

    Thank you Texan.

    It’s stories like yours that make me think someone should do a remake of the Truman Show but with a religious theme.

    Come to think of it, Elmer Gantry is, I think, in the public domain. The Burt Lancaster version was good but they had to make Elmer a likeable character to get the movie made. An updated version with Glenn Beck as Elmer would work. I’m sure if Beck were to read the book he would think that Elmer is the hero.

  18. I amafreeman says

    Very well phrased. I believe your story mirrors many people’s experiences. It does take a great deal of courage to regain one’s freedom, and it is well worth any sacrifice. I am now estranged from 90% of my family, but if that is the way it is to be, then so be it. Spiritual, and psychological and intellectual, freedom is worth any price.

  19. rickschauer says

    Well said, Bro!

    I had a similar experience and my family is still very religious but like you, Texan – I broke free!

    And many, many thanks to you Texan and those here @ Pharyngula that helped break the chains of my ignorance…I’m still very, very grateful.

  20. excrusader says

    A Texan, here – thanks for the kind words. Coming out of my religious phase was one of the most difficult experiences I’ve ever had. To be honest, though, I don’t understand why more people don’t progress through that phase. So many seem to get stuck there. It may have something to do with how seriously a person takes their faith. If one is entirely sincere, it seems impossible to survive the bullshit with any integrity. I suppose most people are only marginally sincere and can ignore the crap while telling themselves they believe.

    Oh, and you can call my ‘bro but I’m a mother of three ;-)

  21. generallerong says

    Wow. I’m always in awe of people like you, who, after whole-hearted commitment and identification with some religion or ideology, can still open their eyes and see the light instead of digging themselves in deeper.

    A sterling example of honesty and guts. Thanks for posting.

  22. moondoes says

    “I could tell so many stories now about the corporate waste, the hypocritical leadership, the stupid acronyms and formulas that were used to shrink God down to a sellable product. My God shrank right before my eyes. It took disillusionment with ministry to make me stop and rethink my beliefs.”

    These two sentences just proves that religion really all about the GOD Business an has nothing to do with belief.

  23. frankb says

    I am aware of a category of ministers who are fairly introverted and use religious settings as a stage for coming out and socializing. My father was just such a person. He was a fourth generation minister, and a year after seminary quit preaching out of disillusionment. I was a babe in arms at that time. When I was in my early teens, he moved our family from a Methodist church to a Unitarian church. He has been a firm secularist since then, but will never make the jump to atheist. My dad’s identity is too wrapped up in the church setting and it is his only outlet for socializing. I am glad the Texan and others have the psychological profile that allow them to move all the way to Atheism and not be stuck in the middle. But my dad is happy where he is, so to each his own.

  24. concernedjoe says

    Nicely done Texan. Thanks.

    I reiterate (yes I know I repeat myself):

    (1) Few sane modern educated people are true believers. People believe they believe, are social superficial believers, are cultural believers, and/or are warm and fuzzies believers. People also hate being perceived as outsiders regarding religion because being different engenders hostility – they sense this instinctively even if subconsciously.

    However in spite of this they really know in their intellect that god is just a construct of humans and there is no power behind the curtain except what humans imbue.

    Now why do I say so confidently that most people are NOT believers? Surveys? Nah!

    Simply this: you are as you do! and most people act like atheists when the rubber meets the road.

    As a counter example I believe in the power of the human intellect and technology – and every day I prove my belief in numerous ways as the rubber meets the road.

    But so called theists believe in their god until they need science/technology. And when the few actually do choose god over technology -like for an innocent sick child – even the so called believers call them insane, pathological, or worse.

    No only a few sane modern educated free people are true believers – perhaps those very invested culturally and socially – or very indoctrinated.

    (2) The problem we have – the problem why religion is so persistent in the USA – is that freethinking teachers and professors cannot legally efficiently challenge religion in the classroom. They cannot present critical thinking challenges specifically on the subject of divinity and religion.

    The clause that gives us freedom to be atheists also protects religion from challenge when it counts.

    This to me is the greatest stumbling block to progress toward a more universal rationalism.

  25. hepburn1 says

    This being my maiden voyage into the deep ocean of atheistic thought, I bid warm greetings to all here.

    Is it possible that our perception does not necessarily alter the thing being perceived?
    For instance: my inability to communicate a thought, while it may radically effect my hearer’s perception of it, would not change the thought itself.

  26. allencdexter says

    “Might be best though just to add our support to an existing effort (the clergyproject already mentioned) rather than dividing our forces.”

    Yes, definitely. I’m all for giving whatever loving support is possible, but too many small efforts just get confusing and weaken the effect.

    We tend to be individualists just because we are free thinkers. However, there is wisdom in seeking to combine efforts and make them more effective. Once the “wheel” has been invented, there’s no need to go through that process again.

  27. John Morales says

    [meta + OT]

    hepburn1, hey there. Welcome, etc.

    Is it possible that our perception does not necessarily alter the thing being perceived?

    Not just possible, but typical — after all, a perception is but a representation of that which is perceived.

    (That said, perception does change that which perceives)