I grew up with God. God was the one constant in my tumultous childhood and adolescence. He loved me and would never hurt me. And in Sunday School they taught how to ignore the arguments of 'science' and 'reason' and stand up for Him. He also terrified me. I signed a pledge, in Sunday School, at the age of 12, that I would not have sex until I was married. How does a 12 year old know when the right time for her to have sex is? I had to go to church with my family or I would get in trouble. I cry in church. Almost every single time that I go to church, I cry. I always thought that was the way that I felt the holy spirit. I thought it came into me and purged me of all my worldly cares and sins through those tears.
I have to admit, I still go to church (alone, while it's empty) once in a great while. I long for that feeling of knowing without a doubt that I am loved, that my life has meaning. I long for that release that comes when I cry out every bad thing that has every happened to me and everything bad that I've done. No 12 year old child should have so much guilt and pain that they cry every Sunday morning. No child should live in fear of a hell that nobody can prove exists. But of course children listen to their elders, they listen to priests and presidents and parents and believe every word they say. I had a particularly difficult childhood, full of arguments, divorces, moving to a new school for the 10th time, never being able to make and keep friends, believing that love did not really exist in this world but only in the next. I wanted to fill my life with God and church and the bible because I felt that was the only constant, the only truth, the only love.
As I got older, I began to question some things…When I was in high school, my girlfriends and I would discuss for hours whether our nice gay friend was going to hell or not. I started to think that maybe when I cried in church it was just because I was hurting and not because there was some spirit communicating with me. I began to wonder why God would let my dad abandon me, would let my mom get remarried to an alcoholic, would give men the desire to have sex with other men and then name that desire a sin….I began to wonder why would he do these things if 'God is love'? But I needed God. I needed love. I was so lonely, and I didn't have anybody else to trust. So I stuck with Him and I fought for Him and I brought others to believe in Him.
At one point, a few years later, I found myself in a situation that God just couldn't seem to help me with. The bible's answer was simple – continue what I was doing and I was committing a sin – hence I should have stopped what I was doing. But I thought “you know, Alicia…this situation is much more complicated than that.” I tried to pray and get an answer from God that wasn't in the bible but that tailored to my individual situation in this modern world but I was not feeling anything when I prayed. In a desperate fit of frustration I typed into google “What does God want me to do?” What popped up was the website whywontgodhealamputees.com
I read that entire website in one sitting and it opened my eyes. It listed every doubt and disagreement I ever had with my religion. I realized that my instinctual doubts were correct. I realized that I am not a bad person. I realized that all these myths that I based my life on were just that – myths. I began to read more atheistic literature – The God Delusion is what cemented my realization. It's what cemented my freedom. Today, I am guilt free. I know that as long as I am compassionate, I am a good person. However, I sometimes feel lonely. I actually do not have any friends who are atheists. When I feel lonely I bury myself in books about the subject. I find at times I am bitter towards believers. I want to have that belief in a heaven, that belief that a god loves me and has a plan for me. But I just can't. I just don't believe. I have alienated friends. People start debates with me all the time about how they can't believe we evolved from monkeys. I have come to realize that very few people actually understand the simplicity and beauty of evolution. I have also come to realize that I am worried about the state of the human race because of all the division that religions cause and the general lack of trust and knowledge in science. My ultimate dream is that someday no children will be indoctrinated anymore, because the single hardest part for me of being an atheist is when I still have to fight against those religious thought patterns that are in me, and when I see them in almost every other person I meet.
Sometimes, I feel depressed because now there is no god who loves me endlessly and life is so short and full of suffering and then if I talk to someone around me they tell me I should just believe if I want to believe. Well I can't live my life based on a lie and just because something feels good doesn't make it true. The only thing that can reach me at these times is the part in Unweaving the Rainbow I think it was when Dawkins talks about how incredibly improbable and amazing it is for any one of us to be alive.
I want to thank Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and the awesome man who made that amputee website for opening my eyes, and writing things that are there for me when I feel that nobody understands how awful religion can be. I was very motivated by Ali's story and am making an effort to raise awareness of her on my campus (Cal State Long Beach) and put together a program there to raise funds for her security trust. I am also in the process of starting a student organization for freethinkers, as we have none on our campus while we have an abundance of religious organizations. I desperately need to connect with other converts and am trying to make that happen at my school. But just in case nobody shows up and all the religious groups on campus start a huge drama fest with me, I needed to write this out so that maybe others will read it and feel an affinity with me, or at least so that I could have my letter in the list with the others, to have a sense of togetherness with others who have lost their religion, their friends, their sense of purpose, but have replaced it with a more beautiful comprehensive view of the world, life, and what it means to be a human.
I know this is kind of long but I just had to kind of let it all out. Thanks for the opportunity to do so.