I am a 30 year old American male, and I am very proud to be an Atheist.
I was born to extreme fundamentalist evangelical parents. I went to a church school, home school, and then finally public school My father is a pastor in Ohio, and my uncles are pastors in Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Florida. I have no doubt that my parents wanted me to follow in my father's footsteps. I suppose, in a way I have in a way. I remember being in High School and sleeping through science and biology because it was all lies, untrue, and just the devils way of tricking people into believing that there was some truth other than what is in the Bible. Now, I wish I could go back and support every word he said. His never wavering in the face of opposition was nothing short of heroic.
I don't remember exactly when I started asking rational questions about God and the world around me I think it may have been a gradual understanding that the stories I read in the bible were laughably impossible. The idea that a man 4000 years ago could fit literally billions of species of life on board a boat that was no larger than a football field was, I believe, maybe the starting point. Or perhaps it was that I had difficulty understanding how the Earth could stand still for any amount of time without causing enough massive global destruction to wipe out life as we knew it. Or maybe it was a slow cumulative effect of the flimsy factual evidence for the Bible's new Testament, all the above. I'm not really sure.
For at least 6 years after I joined the military, I tried to reconcile my fundamentalist upbringing with common sense facts about the world around me. I started out thinking that the Bible was right but maybe we weren't supposed to interpret it so literally. This thinking gave a little comfort, but considering the sheer enormity of the scientific consequences to many biblical stories, it wasn't enough.
So to answer these questions, I went to the people who answers questions about the world around us, and started taking college classes. I took a college class in Psychology and learned about the subconscious imagery that is found in the Bible which would seem to make the Bible stories come from the subconscious ideas of regular men. Then I took a biology class and learned how that at our most basic, we are just atoms, chemical reactions, little machines contributing to the goal of replication. I noticed how every simpler systems contributes to the replication of every more complex system above it, and how every more complex system above it contributes to the replication of every even more complex system above even it. I learned how every system involved does what it does, because it can do what it does. If it wasn't good at replicating, it wouldn't be replicating.
It was so simple, so obvious, on the verge of hilarious. I kept thinking to myself time and time again “Wait a minute! This is it? This simple? This easy? This obvious? Really?” I couldn't believe that people didn't know it. So I told everyone! I spent the next six months talking nonstop to anyone who would listen about how everything was just atoms, chemicals, reactions, ect I bored my parents to tears talking about everything I was learning. As automatic as a reaction as it should have been, the implications of everything being Science didn't hit until much later. Instead, there was an even greater struggle to reconcile faith and knowledge, resorting to the most extreme cases of rationalization. I even (shamefully) once resorted to the ET Theory of the Bible which is surprisingly common, but this should actually cause hope. I thought “maybe it isn't the Bible that is false, maybe it's our understanding of history I mean, what if Noahs ark was actually a super advance ship with all the life on earth's DNA cataloged inside and then after some worldwide catastrophe everything was cloned back again!” (Ungh LOL, I'm embarrassed now at how desperate this is)
Of course learning observable truths about the world around me showed me that the Bible was uncomfortably false, but somewhere deep down inside, I still yearned to hold on to SOME small part of my faith so I became something of an Agnostic who leaned, if ever so slightly, toward Christianity. Nearing 30 I called a cousin of mine who pastors a large church in Georgia, and who is a phenom Christian Apologist. We begin talking and he launched into why God and Christianity must be real. When I asked what I thought was rational questions about how Christianity could possibly be true considering known Scientific facts, he said “You sound like you've been reading that Richard Dawkins crap!”. So I hung up, did a Google search for Richard Dawkins, and read all the Richard Dawkins crap I could get my hands on.
My younger brother is also an atheist, when I shared with him your book “The God Delusion” I believe we both felt a sense of relief at how easily you articulated what we both felt but couldn't put into words. Relief because we had both been struggling with these seemingly unconnected ideas, feelings, and emotions, things that, for the lack of correct language, we couldn't express in words. Your book named these thoughts, and emotions with sentences that allowed them to be expressed. Everything you said in your book, I understood like it was someone turning on a light. Like trying to remember the lyrics to your favorite song, it being stuck on the tip of your tongue, and feeling that frustration turn to relief when someone sings it. If raising consciousness isn't accurate, I don't know what is.
You have changed my life. I often laugh at how absurd faith is, how I could have been so stupid, how obvious it is to look around you and see natural selection at work. I was awed again and again at how magnificent and beautiful the world around me is. How inspiring and overwhelming the universe is. The gratitude i feel for the evolutionary forces that resulted in me being able to appreciate the position I am in, far surpasses religious devotion to a Sky Fairy.
We were both brought up to revere and spread truth with an end of times passion but what greater truth is this? These things are not some arbitrary list become doctrine, but real truth about the world around us, the heavens and all its glory, the entire universe and all the beauty that lies therein things you can touch, see, hear, smell, feel, experience, what is more true than that. The sky fairy seems dry, dull, and lifeless by comparison.
Since reading your books, we have spread REAL truth in the only we know how, with the fundamentalist Pentecostal style in which we were trained from birth. With the way this old world is heading, time is short with the weapons of today, the fairy tales that once only enslaved us, now have the power to destroy us. If ever there was a time for believers of real truth to rise up and make a stand for rationalism, it is now. We must attack ignorance no matter how small, passive, or nonthreatening it seems to be It truly is the little foxes that destroy the vine. I can't possibly talk about the real Gospel, the real good news without feeling the need for an intellectual tent revival. I always did love witnessing the truth, and nothing is more exciting, nothing more refreshing, and nothing more satisfying than giving up fairy tales and having REAL truth to witness about.
Please, do not weary in well doing. I know that it must be exhausting, frustrating, and tiresome to constantly repeat the obvious day in and day out, week in and week out, months after months, season after season
but please understand
for every 10 people that won't listen, 1 will, and one will tell two, and two will tell five
and the memes of rationality will spread. You really are changing lives, you have changed mine, you have changed my brothers, and you are allowing us to change others. Eventually, others will enlighten the whole of fundamentalism and the consciousness of us all will have been raised.
I am grateful beyond words. I am an atheist and I am not alone.