I am sure that my story is similar to many that you have read recently. I was raised in a Christian home. We went to church weekly, skipping once in a while. I didn't even think to question it until I was in college. When I got to college, my world view expanded in ways I never imagined. I got involved in the campus ministry, but dropped out quickly. Part of that was due to the beliefs they had and some of it was that my own beliefs had been shaken. I tried out Wicca for a couple years. What happened next was the turning point in my life.
I became fed up with Wicca, and decided to go back to Christianity. I didn't go back to the same church in which I was raised (United Methodist). I went to the Pentecostal Church in my home town. I got caught up in all of it and didn't examine their beliefs and practices as much as I should have. I paid the price in years. After one of the services (which on Sunday ran at least two hours) I was in a group discussion with a few members. One of them was asking about certain things in the Bible that he was worried were contradictory. Given that the church taught that the Bible was God's word handed down, inspired and infallible, this was no small worry. I noted a few of the things he said, and rather than try to comfort him and reassure him that his questions could be answered, I said to him, “you think that's bad?” and then rattled off two or three things in the Bible that were a lot harder to dismiss as trivial. The other person in the little group said to me, “You need to stop using your mind so much. Your intelligence is a weakness!” I couldn't believe it. I had always been praised in school for my intelligence and all of the sudden it had been declared a weakness.
I left that church shortly thereafter. I went back to the church of my youth, but I knew that what they were teaching was not at all based on the Bible. This troubled me a great deal. I went more for social reasons than to learn. I spent the next several years just going through the motions. I did have and ethics professor who influenced my thinking a great deal declare openly that he was agnostic. I thought he was brave, if nothing else, to do so.
I went through a really rough time in my life the last year. I'm not going to get into too many details, because they don't matter. What does matter is that during this time, I read the Bible a lot. I talked to people about it a lot. What I discovered was that, even though we were all reading from the same book, we were all getting much different (mutually exclusive) answers from it.
Fast forward to January of this year. I was still recovering from my nightmare. I decided to go to school again. I took another ethics class. For an introductory project, the professor wanted each of us to explain from where we got our ethics. Without thinking, I immediately thought of the Bible. However, the more I thought it over, the less I found this to be true. When I wrote the paper, the fact that I did not get my ethics from the Bible was the first thing I said.
I got into facebook while I was in Iraq, and since then have made some good friends. Some of them are atheists. One of them in particular told me (after a rather intense but friendly debate) that she could not understand how I could be so intelligent and maintain a belief in God, let alone Christianity.
I started going to Bible study again and ran into the same issues I had before. They wanted more of my time than I could give. It was never good enough. I became irritated and slowly withdrew. (The fact that this was Stanley Cup Finals time and I am an avid hockey fan had something to do with me not attending also). I began to discuss atheism with some more of my friends, including the one I mentioned earlier. She told me I should get a copy of The God Delusion and read it so I could make up my own mind.
I finished the book in less than a week. I couldn't put it down. I read it at work. I read it at the gym. The night I finished it, I was up until 2am reading. It was amazing. It was logical and rational. It answered any and all objections I had to the atheist point of view. The way in which arguments I had used for years were dealt with was nothing short of brilliant. Sara (my friend) asked me if I knew about Plato's cave analogy. I own a copy of Republic. I love the cave analogy. Dr. Butler introduced me to it years ago.
So, here I was. I had read the book, and had concluded that there was no reason for a belief in god. This goes so much deeper than I could possibly convey to you. The section about the idea of god being passed down through the parents as a biproduct of an otherwise healthy mechanism was spot on. My eyes were open. I was looking outside the cave.
I can not tell my parents. That is the only hard part. Reading that book was a huge event in my life. It made things so much clearer for me. I was initially angry at having been lied to, but I got over it. My parents are here for the holiday. I haven't said anything to them and I don't intend to yet. It frightens me a hundred more times than any fear of hell used to. My cousin came out as an atheist at his wedding. The news was not well-received. I feel so relieved not having religion in the way of learning and understanding the world. I'm happy that my mind is not a hindrance. This book has truly converted me. Some people could not believe that it happened this suddenly. I tell them that it was not at all sudden. It has really been something that I have wrestled with for years. The God Delusion was the final push, the straw that broke the camel's back, so to speak.
Thank you for reading this. I appreciate the influence you have had in my life. I hope that one day I will be able to face my parents.
The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return