I’ve come to practically eat, drink, and breathe nonbelief. Still apathetic to political persuasions, I continue to fixate more and more on the nuances of religious belief. Religion, politics, and other constructs of categorization and preference are all matters of belief. In a way, they’re all the same. The shedding of my Christianity, however, feels like shedding an entire layer of skin. I look the same underneath, but those actual pieces of what I was are gone. I want others to know that, and I want to know that as well. Instead of leaving the shell of myself in the yard, I’d rather dissect it, no matter how thin and useless it may appear now.
A piece of what I’ve carried with me from my Christian faith is seeing that we’re all the same. I don’t see us as the same in our sinfulness and rebellion to the Lord, but I do see us the same in our human form. I see the sameness scientifically and spiritually. None of these things I see have to do with good and evil, right and wrong. It’s not important to me that religion be destroyed, but it is important to let others know that belief is belief. The consequences of belief itself are only seen in sensory manifestations. There is nothing about any particular faith that necessarily demonstrates any of them as true beliefs, and this is an important distinction to make.
I don’t see God changing hearts. I see people learning and growing organically, evolutionarily.
This is why I’m very much the same as an atheist as I was as a Christian. The difference is that I now understand the nature of my willpower in a different light. I still make decisions that benefit both my community and myself. I still make sacrifices when I see them as necessary. I still don’t think I’m the most important person ever, even if I do act that way sometimes. What I want to understand from Christians is why it’s important that I see all of these things in light of a Creator God. I want to understand what could possibly necessarily demonstrate that I need a Savior. Yeah, I’m fallible and go through intensely weak periods of life, but the help I find during those moments happen through community and psychological methods. Prayer and meditation are psychological methods.
I wish there was a way to present my beliefs and my case without it seeming like I’m so against God. I’m not, but a distinction needs to be made. We can be good without believing in God even if God is there. Life makes sense without God, and life can be wonderful without God (and it can be even better than a life with God, as is the case for me).
Maybe some people just need to see that the big picture is bigger than they conceive. Perhaps there is a picture that may include God but is not limited to God. I don’t see this as a hateful statement, but rather a more conceivable one.
What probably keeps my family calm and collected about my loss of salvation is the hope that I can reach true salvation one day, Lord-willing. My one major restraint has been not telling them how strongly I feel like I will never be a Christian again. I’m sure they believe God is far more powerful than my obstinacy, but I feel so close to fully confident in saying never. Absolutely not ever again. Never.
It goes along with how things can’t be unseen, which is a funny comparison considering how faith is certainty in things unseen. So confusing!
The way I lost my faith was a mere matter of backing up. I should start saying that. “Hey, how’d you lose your faith?” “Oh, I just kept backing up and eventually my faith got lost in the big picture.” It’s a perfect illustration. You see, faith is selfish. This is not an accusation where I say, “I’m not selfish–religious people are.” No, I’m selfish, too, but I don’t pretend like there are things I can possibly do that aren’t selfish. Selfishness is not a sin. It is necessary. There are things we do that are more selfish and things that are less selfish, but everything is derived from a selfish intent, even if it’s the satisfaction of doing something good for someone else. That satisfaction is selfish, but it’s not a bad thing.
But anyway, back to how my faith got lost in the big picture. I am a selfish person, yes, and my faith in God was very selfish. I looked for all the ways it could bring me peace and satisfaction. Christians do this under the guise of saying satisfaction in the Holy Spirit is honoring to God, not honoring to man. You can twist it however you want but when it comes down to it, it makes you happy, and you want to be happy. It’s hard to question that sort of faith when it brings such deep satisfaction, which is why it’s marvelous for Christians when doubt finally leads to “humble” repentance. Christians were all for my doubts there for a while, but when the doubts got too doubt-y, they were no longer edifying or acceptable. Once I started observing the world from other perspectives, non-Christian perspectives, I’d gone too deep. And it’s true, there was no going back once I’d stepped back too far. I see faith for what it is and how it works. I’ve drawn the parallels of faith between different religions and different gods. As far as I can tell, it all looks the same. Someone would be hard-pressed to prove to me that one of those gods is real and the others aren’t. They all fill the same role in different lives. Scientifically, without confirmation bias, the whole personal god thing fails. It’s all conjecture built on personal transcendental experiences. Despite the Christian arguments for absolute truth, there is no evidence to substantiate a claim that BibleGod is absolute truth.
Perhaps saying I don’t think I’ll ever believe in God again is a bit of a bold statement, perhaps not totally founded, and maybe I just really don’t want to believe in God again (I do want to believe in God if God is real). The fact of the matter is, I’ve seen too much. I don’t usually blog about these matters with such confidence. I feel a little vulnerable writing all of this, but that’s okay. I might be wrong. Maybe one day I’ll confusedly worship a god again.
“I love people. Everybody. I love them, I think, as a stamp collector loves his collection. Every story, every incident, every bit of conversation is raw material for me. My love’s not impersonal yet not wholly subjective either. I would like to be everyone, a cripple, a dying man, a whore, and then come back to write about my thoughts, my emotions, as that person. But I am not omniscient. I have to live my life, and it is the only one I’ll ever have. And you cannot regard your own life with objective curiosity all the time.” -Sylvia Plath
I don’t consider myself a writer, but I share this curiosity/love for people. Seeing through the eyes of others sparked the serious level of doubting I encountered that destroyed my faith in the God(s) of the Bible. It’s also why explaining why I don’t believe in God is so difficult and why I don’t feel like I need to explain it.
When I lost my faith, I knew I’d have some owning up to do. I braced myself for floods of questions from Christians and have answered them to the best of my ability. At this point, I’m over it. I don’t owe anyone an explanation for why I live my life the way I do, and I don’t want the judgment from people who are only asking me questions to find the weaknesses in my arguments so that they can insert their Christian apologetics into my train of thinking.
I know my arguments are weak. Some of them are probably terrible. But you know what? I don’t care! When you don’t believe in gods or an afterlife, you’re just kind of free from having to explain that kind of stuff. If I was a deist, I’d still not have anything to explain. Deism is a very loose, non-consequential belief. But once you start attributing qualities to a god, you’re put into a position of needing to justify those qualities. I don’t believe in god because I’ve never seen, heard, felt, smelled, or tasted god. I’m not sure what sort of sixth sense I’d have to use in order to encounter god, but whatever that sense is, it’s not been made known to me either. I had faith in god, but it was unfounded. I was born into it and taught all the right maneuvers for justifying it, but I found out it’s just as justifiable as any other belief in any other god. It flowed down from tradition and plopped into my brain. This is why I say seeing through the eyes of others can demolish faith. You see how viable other beliefs are and suddenly yours falls in line with the rest. Whatever I believe right now falls in line right along with the rest as well, which is why I don’t feel the need to justify it as the “right” belief.
I don’t know what’s right. I’m guessing we just spend our lives trying to figure that out, and in the meantime, I’m not comfortable promoting what I believe as right just in case it’s not.
The Reason Rally is one month away! For some reason, it hadn’t occurred to me that evangelical Christians will be there handing out Bibles, tracts, books and such. I actually look forward to talking to these people. I read the “True Reason” Christian response site today and decided to fill out their contact form. Here’s what I wrote:
“Hi, I’m Kate, and I just became an atheist a few months ago after being raised in the Reformed Baptist tradition and sincerely loving my life, my family, and my God growing up. I have no regrets about ever being a Christian, and I am grateful for the lessons I learned in life through having that worldview.
I appreciate the sincerity of your efforts, and I do look forward to speaking with some of you at the rally. I do want to clear up what the rally is about, as it seems you’ve gotten the intent a bit confused. This rally, first of all, is not about a collective desire to destroy religion. The movement is to show that atheism is more common than people think and that we’re a very misunderstood group. I consider myself an agnostic atheist, but I do not insist on the nonexistence of God, nor do I think it is necessarily wrong for a person to believe in God. There are a lot of atheists who think similarly to me.
At this rally, we hope to encourage those who still are hiding their non-belief to be honest with others, because suppressing your own true convictions is such a disservice to yourself and others who love you. I was terrified to tell my family and friends that I lost my faith, because I knew that some of them would turn their backs on me. And I was right. I lost some of my best friends, even though I’m essentially the same person I was before, just without a belief in God.
I can’t help but notice that all the lessons I learned in church growing up about how minority Christian groups in some nations are martyred for their faith are strikingly similar to how atheists are being treated in this country. There are silent atheists everywhere, especially in churches. They’re even preaching in churches, and they don’t know how to be honest about their beliefs out of fear of being ostracized from all the people they love. Unfortunately, this fear is valid, because a loss of faith often results in a loss of so much more. As much as Christians talk about love and humility, it’s hard to see it in these particular situations.
It’s also hard to see it with your group in how you are coming to the Reason Rally, not with open ears to what we have to say, but with your open books to expose your dogma to us instead, even though almost all of us have already read it a million times over. I’ve read the Bible. I’ve read the books on Christianity and Atheism from both perspectives. I’ve painstakingly weighed the issues. I’ve suffered through doubts, and I’ve spent years begging God to help me trust in him. I am past that stage of trying to convince myself that what I was told to believe is true. I just can’t see how it is, and I’ve likely read the books you want to give me that’ll show me what you believe is true.
I’m not really trying to be mean here, and I don’t suggest that you refrain from attending the rally. I suppose I’m asking that you do the same for us that you’re asking us to do for you: listen. Listen to what we’re actually saying and understand what we actually believe. You might discover it’s different from what you thought it was.”