I am a very new atheist. It is a strange feeling. As if the colour has fled from the landscape, yet the air is thin and clear.
I was brought up a Roman Catholic by traditional parents. It didn't mean much to me. Their idea of devotion was saying the rosary as a family when I was trying to watch Morecambe and Wise on the TV. Still, I took their faith to university. There I fell in with a group of evangelical Christians who seemed to be getting more out of life than I did. It was not long before I had a conversion experience and joined them.
For many years I lived out my life as a Christian and it meant a lot to me. It's a large family and I moved around a lot. Eventually I found my home in the contemplative movement and in mystical theology. I found God in silence and emptiness.
If Christianity was a thread running through my life, then so was depression. And it was depression that did for the Christian in the end. I entered a serious phase some years ago. Gradually, most of the things that defined me as a person fell away. First the active things such as running church groups. Then the more internal things such as prayer. In the end I was left with nothing. No experience of God, nothing left to hold on to.
I had always been aware of intellectual doubts about religious faith. While still a Christian, I read a book by Sam Harris called “Letter to a Christian Nation”. I found it terribly persuasive – so reasonable, and I'd always been a reasonable rather than a fundamentalist Christian.
Now, with all my beliefs stripped away through depression, I thought for the first time about the rational basis for my faith. I couldn't find anything that would allow me to believe in God. And so I walked in through the out door. And here I am.
I do feel some sense of loss, especially as my family are all Christian and don't know what I've been going through. But the over-riding feeling is one of relief. That I don't have to believe in something which is intrinsically incredible. That I won't go to hell (or indeed anywhere) when I die. That I don't have to apply a religious spin to moral questions.
It still feels strange though. I hope to find a home here.