I consider myself as having always been an atheist attempting to hide in theist clothing. While my basic views on religion and âgodâ has always remained the same, I am now ashamed to admit that I have spent some time in my life trying to convince myself of the necessity of âgodâ.
In my younger years, my views lingered between agnostic and weak atheist. I loved science and learning about anything and everything in the world which surrounded me. This included religion. I would read books on various religions and speak at length to friends regarding their beliefs. I would even accompany my friends and their parents to church on occasion. However, I was still not fully convinced that there was an âalmighty creatorâ. My reading of the Christian bible filled me with fear of this purportedly âlovingâ god. Then I began to read parts of the Old Testament. I couldnât comprehend how anyone could wish to spend eternity in service of such a being. Yahweh seem ed much more the devil to me than did the actual âsnake of Edenâ.
As the years past and my family, only of which my father* had any interest in religion, accepted my views, I became more comfortable in my atheist views. I no longer felt the need to change my views to meet what seemed to be societyâs standards.
Then, around my 29th year, my step-brother, Adam, died suddenly at the age of 27 years. His death was caused by a lethal mix of illegal drugs. Although he had shared my fatherâs religion all of his life, it could not save Adam from himself. This fact tore my fatherâs heart out and he began to question everything. My father turned to his faith for answers and it was then that he also began to question my views.
My fatherâs questioning was not done in a hostile manner, but in one of obvious concern. We began debating gently about religion and his Christian beliefs. I attributed this new found concern for my âimmortal soulâ to the loss of his only son. Out of respect for my father I quickly discontinued my debates and instead quietly listened to him as he spoke about why he believes in god. I determined that it would be best for me to simply stay quiet about my views and allow my father to have hope that my soul could be saved. I even started using his âgod speakâ (i.e. – Saying such things as âIâm mulling it over with the Big Guyâ when I am deeply contemplating something, etc). I thought, at the time, this was harmless. It allowed my father to find some comfort.
I did not know until the death of my father in my 34th year (one year ago at the time of this writing) that he had been suffering from terminal lung cancer for at least four years. I suspect that many of his âsermonsâ were in part to comfort himself more than convince me of the existence of god. He was frightened of his impending death and I knew nothing of it. He had kept the doctors from telling me and my mother of his condition. His last few weeks were spent in a hospital attempting to convince me and my mother that heâll be fine and that he was merely suffering from emphysema. During this time, I truly attempted to become religious for the sake of my father. He asked me to pray and I did so.
After my fatherâs passing, my mother would often say that âhe is the foreman on godâs carpentry crew up in heaven, working with Adam as his apprentice once againâ. Iâd just smile and agree, but inside I felt like such a hypocrite. I wanted so badly to believe in my fatherâs god, but I just couldnât convince myself of it. I had so many questions and the answers were not to be found in my fatherâs bible.
In this year following my fatherâs death, I was lost and confused in the world of religion. I wanted to believe. I really, truly, with all my heart, wanted to believe for the sake of my mother. I didnât want her to worry about my immortal soul as my father did. I just couldnât find the peg that would fit into this particular square hole.
I had attempted to follow Christian beliefs, even going so far as to speak with a reverend with whom I work, but my mind just couldnât accept their beliefs as âfactâ. I tried to force my views to fit with being a deist, but again, too many unanswered questions remained. I found myself an agnostic who desperately wanted to believe in something. If not for myself, then for my loved ones. I was determined to âfake it until I felt itâ.
It was then that a coworker to whom, at that point, I had only spoken with on occasion approached me and began to talk with me regarding religion. He questioned me on my views and, whenever I attempted to answer with a âgod did itâ, he countered me with a scientific explanation. I was intrigued. This person offered me answers to the questions that I had been asking for so long. I began to seek him out for discussions. He soon directed me to the Richard Dawkins website.
My first visit to the Richard Dawkins website lasted hours. I perused the various articles on the front page, dug through the archives, and followed nearly every link, discovering with giddy delight that there were numerous societies and organizations which support a secular community. I bought The God Delusion. I read it and re-read it, pouring over the incredibly well worded passages, highlighting tasty little bits that I want to referrer back to often. Such splendid scientific reason and logic put forth in a manner that any layperson can understand. I was falling in love with science and reason all over again.
When I finally visited the RD forum, I was captivated by the wealth of knowledge and friendly banter that I found there. The awareness that there were others that shared my views was a monumental realization for me. A door which I had not ever known to exist had just been opened before me.
Still leery to discuss my renewed atheist views with my mother, I remained quiet. Just very recently, it was she who started questioning the views of religion. During my recent visits with her she would begin to comment on how religion âhas done so much damage to the worldâ and that âbible thumpers are intolerable idiotsâ. The first of these comments came when we were driving and nearly made me swerve off the road in surprise. Since then we have enjoyed many discussions about religion and my father. My mother remains agnostic, but at least I now feel free to drop my âtheist clothingâ and be honest about my own views. It really is quite liberating. I can now âcome outâ and be a strong atheist.
I feel a debt of gratitude to my coworker, Carmine (DBA on the forum), for having introduced me to Dawkins (and in turn, Hitchens, Myers, and so many other lead non-theist voices). My mind was crippled by my attempts to force religion into it. I was at the peak of mental desperation when Carmine opened the door of knowledge for me and I was only too eager (and grateful) to step through. He will always have my most heartfelt appreciation for his kind direction in a time I so greatly need it.
* The man to whom I refer as my father is not my biological father, but rather the only man in my life who had earned the title. He was not in my life until I was 17 years of age, thus I had no religious influence in my life until that time.