I recently (near my 23rd birthday) became an atheist after having a Russian Orthodox upbringing. Until the day I finally bit down on the bullet, I would say my prayers, avoid blasphemy, and even skirt certain thoughts because of the unquestioned assumption that God would disapprove. I can vividly remember the feeling of guilt I would get if I laughed at a crude religious joke or imagined that God didn’t exist. I would treat events of good fortune as divine influence and be grateful to God for them, and in the event of bad luck I would thank God as well, for allowing me to learn a valuable lesson about life and for not making the lesson any worse.
This is the first time I’ve written these words and they sound absolutely ridiculous to me in hindsight. I would actually avoid telling people about my faith and feel strong embarrassment when pressured to act on it in church, but I recently examined this embarrassment more closely and figured out where it came from: my religion was forcing me to behave like a superstitious fool.
The writings and debates (on youtube) of Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, and Richard Dawkins all pushed me to the point where the evidence crowded out my faith. The key here is subconscious faith: I could not question my faith because I took it for granted as a fact of life. Once the aforementioned people showed me that it was okay to question reality, that there was a firmer, cohesive system that held the world together after God was removed from the equation, atheism was a breath of fresh air. I still get intermittent surges of pleasure from stopping myself as I start to entreat heavenwards.
Thank you Richard Dawkins, although other authors were effective, you got the ball rolling with your lecture in Lynchburg, Virginia.
There is no God. It still feels scary to say it, but it also feels good.