When I really look back and think about where I started becoming an Atheist, it’s a bit funny. I never was raised explicitly Christian- I did go to a Methodist preschool, but I didn’t retain a thing save for the fact that there was apparently a God and Jesus, which I never questioned- it was just a thing that was true and mentioned very rarely, as we never went to Church after I finished preschool. Nevertheless, I certainly was Christian, if only because I didn’t know there was a choice.
What really stirred me up as far as religion was a passing comment that I heard- “Dogs don’t have souls and don’t go to Heaven.” It may sound silly, but it really resonated with me, especially since I was only about eight at the time and absolutely adored my animals. I was instantly infuriated that this Church was trying to tell me that my animals weren’t as much worthy of heaven as I was, and I actually remember planning to sit outside a Church with a dog just to protest them. That never happened of course, but the outrage towards the Church stuck with me. I still didn’t even know there was anything but Christianity to believe- even Atheism- but I sure as hell knew I was mad and didn’t want to accept such an idea.
Where I actually learned that there were other religions, I don’t actually know. The one time I asked my mother, her response was basically that there were two sides of religion- the good people who follow Jesus, and the bad people who don’t even think he existed. As much as I was angry at the first side, the second side made no sense, because to my knowledge Jesus was as real a historical figure as any. Saying that Jesus didn’t exist was complete nonsense to me. I really don’t know where I finally got the message that there were other belief systems, save for the fact that it was probably the Internet’s doing. What I do know is that it happened when I was around ten or eleven years old, because around that time I began getting into Paganism.
At the time, my idea of Paganism was everything I thought I wanted in a religion. Animals were treated in high regard, and at the age of eleven that was the main selling point. But as I grew older, the way I practiced and believed in Paganism changed. What I called “Paganism” soon became a strange hodge-podge of the ideas that I agreed with from quite a few different religion, except of course for Christianity, which I still viewed as evil. However, my perception as to why Christianity was evil was changing with my religious ideas. Growing up in Texas, I was subject to some very fundamental Christianity. Their denial of evolution angered the animal-lover-turned-science-lover inside of me, and the fact that this religion prompted my friends to inform me that I was going to burn in hell painted it as very, very wrong. On top of that, I was struggling with my sexuality at the time, and while it took me quite a while to come to terms with being bisexual, I was able to hold myself over by telling myself that I would be a gay rights activist even if I wasn’t gay- after all, we had a common enemy in fundamental Christianity.
This ended up being the allure of my pick-and-choose brand of religion. I could reassure myself that there was something else in the universe, some sort of higher power, and yet I could accept evolution and homosexuality without condemning myself or anybody else. However, my brand of religion continued to evolve past this. I didn’t really like being what I called Pagan; there was a lot of very silly superstition, but it was an important placeholder to me because I couldn’t accept that there wasn’t some form of deity and afterlife. In response to this, I altered my “religion” further. I would tell myself that I could never know if any of it was true, or that it didn’t even matter if it was true. The small idea that maybe it was true after all, but I didn’t have to worry about it, placated my need to have some sort of religion.
The rest of my transition to Atheist isn’t much of a story. Over time, that religion faded from a outright rejection of Christianity, to a nice possibility that may be true, to nothing but a memory of what I used to believe, all over the course of about four years. Now I’m sixteen, glad to be free of religion, and focusing my goals on working with human-like artificial intelligence, which I’m sure I wouldn’t be able to do if I thought that human intelligence was some impossible to understand thing granted by a soul and a god.
On one last amusing note, I recall someone telling me once that my pagan-esque religion was just a rebellious teenage phase. At the time I was indignant, but now I find it amusing how right they were that it was a phase. There’s one important distinction though- where they thought it was “just a phase” before I went back to being a proper Christian girl, it ended up being a transitional phase away from Religion entirely. Funny how that worked out.