Why I Am An Atheist
Human beings hold a wide range of beliefs about many things, and they have many reasons for choosing to believe as they do. I have had quite a journey in Religion and religious belief. I was raised Methodist, and by the time I was nine years old, I realized that I did not believe the tenets of Christianity. I told my mother that I did not believe and did not wish to continue attending church. She respected my religious opinion even at that age, and allowed me to quit going to church. After that, religion wasn't an issue in my life for several years. When I was a teenager, I attended a Southern Baptist church for a short time courtesy of my neighbors, but that didn't last long. Again, religious concerns took a back seat to the rest of my life. At the age of 19, I was having the unfortunately common teenage problems with substance abuse. I was a full-fledged teenaged alcoholic. I was taking a drama class at the local community college, and one of the guys there was a fanatic Christian. He started talking to me about Jesus, and at first my reaction was "Get away from me with that Jesus shit!" The Christian harassment continued, and I eventually agreed to read some Bible verses with him just to get him to shut up. I read the verses that he pointed out - the "Romans Road" along with Hebrews 4:12 - as I recall. I have to admit that I felt something happen inside of me when I read those scriptures. As it happens, the Baptist church in Brazoria, TX was showing the Christian Propaganda piece "The Jesus Film". I was becoming very interested in the claims of Christianity. I attended a showing of the film, and was very moved by the story of this Jesus, who was supposedly God and died for me. At the end of the movie, I knew that I wanted what Jesus had to offer, at least according to the movie. I got "saved" on March 7, 1985. So began my 15 years as a Christian. Not long afterward, I was baptized. I remember having a spiritual experience when I was dunked, and came up feeling different and new somehow. After all, that is how you are supposed to feel, right?
In late August of 1985, I went off to a Christian University in East Texas. I admit that I knew only the basics of Christianity at that point and I was unknowingly suffering from Bipolar Disorder at the time. I was rather naive about people and about life. But then, that is really true of a lot of young people, isn't it? Anyway, I was expecting a very sanctified, churchlike atmosphere at the school. After all, we were all committed Christians there, right? And some of them were very religious, but for the most part, they were no different than anybody else. I discovered that Christians are just average people who happened to have strong religious beliefs. If I have learned anything in life, I have learned that people are people regardless of their religious beliefs or the lack thereof - good, bad, short, fat, tall, thin, handsome, beautiful, ugly as sin, whatever! People are people! My struggles with faith started at that time, less than a year into my Christian experience. I attended that school for one year, but I had a good time while I was there. I attended several Christian concerts, including Mylon LeFevre and Broken Heart. I actually got to meet Mylon backstage! I was thrilled! Glory! I came back home in the summer of 1986. Through the influence of the guy who "led me to the Lord", I received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues and officially became a charismatic Christian. I attended Church on the Rock for a while and visited several other non-denominational churches. I settled on one for several years. My Christianity throughout the 1990's was on and off. I had a lot of personal struggles, mostly due to the Bipolar Disorder that I did not know that I had at that point in time. I was self-medicating a lot with alcohol and drugs, and Jesus didn't see fit to zap me and heal me like he does those on big-name preacher's TV shows. Of course, those people don't really get healed either. Once the emotions wear off, their problems are still there. That is one of the problems with Christianity. This Destructive Cult is responsible for much emotional, mental, and spiritual manipulation and abuse. Unfortunately, it goes largely unchecked because this worldwide destructive cult has a completely undeserved reputation of respectability.
In late 1999, I went for an extended visit with my Fundie fanatic cousin. I had lost just about all of my faith, but I was willing to give Christianity one more shot while I was staying with him. I put my brain in neutral and tried really hard to believe again while attending my cousin's Fundamental Baptist church. I finally realized that I was done with Christianity when the preacher was shouting and pounding the pulpit about the alleged holiness of god. I was sure that he was going to start foaming at the mouth at any time. I was sitting there in the pew while my cousin was shouting "Amen!" and I was thinking to myself, "What utter bullshit this is!" My faith had its last gasp and died a merciful death while I was sitting in a Fundamental Baptist church! Glory! I had just taken my first large step toward true freedom and my first large step away from the Destructive Cult of Fundamentalist Christianity. A few years before this, I had become aware of some of the legitimate criticisms of the Faith, but I tried to put that knowledge aside and force myself to believe something that I knew was not true. Maybe some people can do that, but I couldn't. Intellectual dishonesty and living a lie are just things that I am not good at - and I am very glad that that is the case. Shortly after that, I moved to Dallas and began to study a great deal. I was familiar with the writings of apologists such as Josh McDowell, Dr. Norman Geisler, Dr. Hugh Ross, Grant Jeffrey, and several others. I had done a lot of reading trying to convince myself of the truth of Christianity. But, the answers they had were simplistic, frequently dishonest, and assumed things that simply are not truthful such as the alleged inerrancy of the Bible and the idea that the Bible qualifies as a reliable history text. It is quite obvious from even a casual but honest reading of the scriptures that the Bible does not even come close to living up to these two claims. These apologists start, of course, from the premise that Christianity is true and then manipulate the facts and evidence to try to make a case for their claim. I have not read even one Christian apologist who I have found is willing to deal with the Bible as it is and its many problems and shortcomings. Christian apologists are not even willing to be honest about the book that they wish to defend. They are frequently dishonest regarding history and the findings of archaeology and science. I had to ask myself honestly, "Why should I listen to these men?" If you start with a faulty premise, you will very likely arrive at faulty conclusions. That is what apologists do. They start out with several faulty premises about the Bible, and that leads them to their faulty - but no doubt comfortable - conclusions.
I took a look on the other side of the fence again - the side of truth, facts, reason, rationality, common sense, honesty about the Bible and its contents, Reality, etc. I have done a lot of research from the critical approach to Christianity as well and I have found the intellectual honesty of those writers to be most refreshing after the mental gymnastics, selective historizing, and general dishonesty of the Christian apologists. Here were men and women who were dealing honestly with scripture and the history of the Church and Christianity in general. I immersed myself in the writings of thinking people - Robert G. Ingersoll, Thomas Paine, Percy Shelley, and several modern critical thinkers as well. I found more truth, honesty, and integrity in the writings of non-believers and their views than I ever had in the Christian Church.
Although my faith died with finality in early 2000, looking back I think I was really a Christian Atheist for a long time. I can remember going to early morning prayer meetings back in the late 1980's and having to ask the very man responsible for bringing me into the Faith to pray me through my doubts enough for me to participate in the prayer meeting. My brain refused to go to sleep and just blindly accept Christian doctrine or even the existence of God. It amazes me now that I had to pray my brain into a temporary slumber so often back then, yet it never dawned on me that I did not honestly believe in Christianity even then. I honestly thought that I believed, but looking back on those days, I can see that I was rapidly becoming a non-believer although I still held to the doctrines of Christianity. In my heart, I still believed. My mind steadfastly refused to succumb. It is true that a house divided against itself cannot stand. My heart and my mind were on opposite sides of the fence. Fortunately, my mind and intelligence won the battle although it took several years for that battle to be won. Christianity was something comfortable to hold on to in a life otherwise troubled with bouts of substance abuse and mental illness (Bipolar Disorder). There were many times in church services where god was allegedly doing great things and everybody else was excited and I felt nothing at all. My mind was telling me the truth that this was nothing but bullshit. I chose instead to listen to dogma and the Church for several more years. I also know, as I said before, that I needed something to hold onto through my battles with substance abuse and Bipolar Disorder. Religion served that purpose for several years. A belief does not have to be true or based in Reality to work for someone for a while. But, reason, rationality, and sanity finally prevailed and I have been free from religion for almost three years now. I have alternated between calling myself an atheist and an agnostic, but my basic non-belief has remained. Although I do not believe in the existence of any god or gods, I maintain a very spiritual and compassionate outlook on life. Lack of belief in god does not have to mean no spirituality. I have known for a long time that moral values do not come from religion or religious belief, and I have always had very strong moral and ethical values. Most non-believers do.
Believers in all religions claim to feel the presence of their god, or they believe that they have heard from their god, and they tend to believe that their god has kept his promises. Christians insist that Jesus has done all he said that he would. Muslims firmly believe that Allah has kept his promises, and so on. Belief is a powerful thing, but the fact of the matter is that no religion is based in Reality. Religious believers see what they wish to see and what their religious eyeglasses tell them is real. Religion and belief can all easily be explained by psychology. And, scientists have now identified the structure in the human brain responsible for spiritual feelings and "feeling God". The more that science and human knowledge progress, the more gaps God gets thrown out of.
I have given the issue of whether I am an atheist or an agnostic a lot of thought. I see no reason to sit on the fence as an agnostic. There is no evidence for the existence of any god or gods, so I see no reason why I should believe in them. Religion and religious dogma rob us of our most precious freedoms - the freedom to think for ourselves and reach our own conclusions. If I fear the wrath of some god out there for thoughts and beliefs that he doesn't like based on the assertions of an ancient holy book riddled with errors, absurdities, and contradictions, that does not leave me free to think. Religion shackles the mind and stifles the human spirit. Why should I fear roasting in God's Loving Hell for the simple act of using my brain and having beliefs that differ with an ancient book? That just doesn't make sense and does not speak well of the Christian God if he does exist. I value honesty, integrity, freedom, and my mind, mental health, and intelligence far more than I respect the Christian Church with its non-Reality based doctrine, brainwashing and fear tactics that have enslaved the minds and hearts of so many people, and the ludicrous Christian claims about the Bible that require me to check my brain at the door if I am to believe them. I have tested the claims of Christianity and I have found them severely lacking. It is my firm belief that anyone who does honest research and dares to think for themselves will reach basically the same conclusions as I have and find themselves gloriously free from the tyranny and mental and spiritual slavery of Religion.