I was once taught to believe that Jesus was the Messiah. I was once taught to believe that God is the one true god. I was once taught to believe that all things are possible only through him. I was once taught that non-Christians weren’t good people. I was once taught that only Christianity could answer the questions that I had. I once believed in aliens, ghosts, and cryptids without hesitation. I once believed I was better than others.
At one time I believed these things to be true. But eventually, I woke up.
As a child, I rarely applied any skepticism to the things I observed. I, like most children, relied on the respected adults around me to help validate the things I read, heard, and saw. I had no reason to believe they were wrong; why would anyone willing, and even unknowingly, lie to children without hesitation? I looked up to them for guidance and guidance is what I received.
It wasn’t until I was much older had I begin questioning my beliefs. I began to understand the world much better, in ways that were much more fascinating than anything suggested to me from the pulpit, television, or literature. The beauty of living organisms, the complexity of our universe, and the incredible abilities of the human brain; all of which often taken credit for by those who believe they’ve been given a religious mandate to do so. Soon, it became incredibly hard for me to rely on faith.
History intrigued me the most. As I began to investigate the many cultures world-wide, from past to present, I began to realize something. From the stories of Genesis and Exodus to the resurrection of Jesus, they began to resemble the ancient writings of other early civilizations. Nothing extraordinary separated these stories from the rest. At this point, the belief in God had faded from me. I no longer felt compelled to worship a deity that I wasn’t sure existed. I then asked myself a very important question:
“What else could I be wrong about?”
I looked back at my life in an investigative way.
I was a “jock” in high school. As a result, I ran with a crowd that often found enjoyment in making fun of others. I transferred schools as a child, so once high school began, assimilation was my only hope. I will admit, popularity clouded my judgment. I felt untouchable in way that I never thought was possible. Unfortunately, others suffered from my foolish actions. Was it right of me to do so? Of course not. People are people, regardless if they differ from you in any way. Besides inducing laughter among my friends, there was no good reason to do what I once did. Everyone has the right to live their life without fear, meaningless judgment, and intimidation. To force others to endure these things is immoral, a belief that I hold dear today.
I love a good mystery. I cannot explain why, but since I was young the stories of ghosts, aliens, and cryptids entertained me. These often conflicted with my religious beliefs; but if God could truly exist, why couldn’t these. That kind of foolish thinking allowed my imagination to run wild. Nowadays, my skepticism keeps me from taking these sorts of claims seriously. I often ask myself these questions like, “How much does the claim require the suspension of natural laws?” or “What sort of evidence is being used to evaluate these claims?” Often you’ll find there to be little to no support reinforcing those beliefs; and if there is, it’s often examined through the lenses of confirmation bias. Thinking critically is very much important to me today, a trait that I hope will help keep me from trouble in the future.
If we want to live a knowledgeable and clear life, we must humble ourselves in way that may not sound easy to you now. I’ve done so by applying these simple principles:
- I cannot be afraid to doubt unsubstantiated claims.
- I cannot be afraid to ask questions about everything.
- I need to be apprehensive before believing what other people say to be fact-based.
- I need to treat others kindly in a respectable and adult way.
- I need to live our lives day by day as if it is our last, because it’s highly probable this is the only life I get.
- I need to recognize when I’ve been wrong and make an honest effort to correct those mistakes.
I ask you to do the same.
Finding atheism wasn’t frightening; it was enlightening. Finding skepticism didn’t make me feel as though I knew all the answers; it forced my beliefs to conform to reality. Finding humanism didn’t make me feel less important; it helped me understand why we’re all important. Finding reason was my exodus, and I want you to find yours.
We’re in this together, folks. So let’s make a better future for ourselves.
J. D. Brucker is an atheist author, a secular humanist, and an outspoken anti-theist. His first book Improbable: Is There Any Reason To Believe In God? was published by Dangerous Little Books in December of 2013. He blogs at Atheist Republic and his personal website. You can find him on Twitter. He resides in Chicago, Illinois.
Written By: J.D. Brucker