First I would like to take moment to thank Richard Dawkins, and all other atheists who proudly announce their “No god” views. Without you, I would have never “Come Out”. With you, I have the courage to do anything.
I grew up in an odd mix of overly religious (zealots may be the right word) and conservative religious dynamics. My grandmother, uncle, and mother were strictly Nazarene Christians, and for the longest portion of my childhood I was happy with this simple way of life. >>Do unto others as you have them do unto you, and make sure your out the church door by noon! seemed to be the attitude of many.
At about the age of 13 I began feeling, unsatisfied. I felt I could and should be doing more to further propagate Jesus to the masses. I felt I had special talents and abilities that I could use to help Jesus save the world. ( Yes I REALLY thought this).
At that time my aunt was attending a church my grandmother called “holy roller” in a exceptionally derogatory way.
I bucked the family tradition and decided I would attend this “holy roller” church. The activism, energy, and youthfulness of this churches member’s made me feel like I belonged, that I was being led by God to do great things with these people.
Over the course of the next four years I actively participated in every religious outing I could, I founded a Bible Club at my high school, was part of my youth groups “praise and worship” team, and basically devoted my every waking moment to Jesus.
At that point I began seriously studying the Bible as it had been foretold by one of my youth ministers through a “vision” that I was going to be a “evangelist for Jesus”.
I began thinking about other religions, originally as a “know thine enemy” kind of deal. But when I looked at the origins of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism I was astounded at how each one “knew” they were right. I began to think, well what if I had been born in Saudi Arabia, would I now be a “evangelist for Allah?” This kinds of thought deeply troubled me and I “backslide out of my religion”.
Unfortunately, being a “backslider” has its own detriments. I lived my life feeling ashamed, guilty, always conscious that even though I had doubts about my “faith” that no one could answer, I was apparently going to go to hell for it. I still “believed” in a god. I just couldn’t believe in the “Jesus of Nazareth” as the one and only true savior. I became in essence more of a deist. This led me to a less guilt ridden life, but still I felt an urgent need to figure out which of all these damn religions was the “right” one so I could worship the true “creator”. I think I had always and still do feel a “need” to be connected to everyone and everything in some way. Thinking that a “god” connected us all in his creation gave me some sense of comfort.
Then I met my future husband. He was a an absolutely unapologetic atheist. At first I was appalled and like all “good religious people” I thought that he was obviously a morally corrupt person. ( please feel free to laugh at my former, ignorant self)
But after a while I began to think that maybe just maybe there wasn’t a god. I started looking into things like Buddhism. I truly believed that we all had a “SOUL” or energy life force, whatever you want to call it that was “outside” of the body. This led me to an enlightened sense that I was part of the universe, that when I died I would go back into the universe. This got me through many cold cold nights.
Finally ( I know your thinking does this woman ever stop?) I was watching a YouTube video by Pat Condell simply because I had typed in agnostic and he came up. It then had a link to a Richard Dawkins video debate_ “The one fact to refute creationism”, as well as the “intelligent religious believer’s” which discussed the “god” of Einstein in the sense of the unknown. I was immediately enthralled. It had not once, ever crossed my mind that I didn’t need a god, or spiritual portion of myself, separate from my physical form, in order to be happy, or moral. I immediately went to buy The God Delusion and that was it for me. How could I have been so blind all those years? Of course religion is made by man and is so damn contradicting. If Jesus was the son of GOD, then Hercules had to be the one and true son of Zeus.
The “energy life force” that I wanted so badly to make me feel connected with the world was simply that>> ENERGY. The God Delusion helped me realize that as a whole person, body and mind were all connected and in fact not separate from each other at all, but more powerful together. As Mark Twain said “”I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it”.
I realized I was part of the universe, just in a much much more simpler way than I had originally imagined. No my personality i.e “spiritual self” will not live on. But part of me will. In the sense of atoms in me have and will become someone else’s or something else’s atoms. We are all part of the universe in this way, that made me feel more connected and alive than any religious dogma ever presented.
Although I already had serious doubts about “believing”, I couldn’t NOT believe, the dogma of my youth prevented it. But finally, with the help of Richards Dawkins and other unrepentant atheists ( My husband Paul included!). I can now say without the tiniest bit of guilt, or moral ineptitude:
I am free. I am happy. I am moral. I am an atheist.
PS I reading through The Selfish Gene right now, Support RD