I want to tell you about my deconversion to atheism. I am going to go over all of the reasons I believed in God, and all of the challenges to my faith, and how I have replaced them since becoming atheist.
My parents are christian. They are fairly devout. We pray before meals, and when I was very young we prayed before bedtime too. I have gone to catholic schools for 7 years because my parents believe it is important to instill catholic values. However, my parents are more liberal in their beliefs than this makes it sound. They believe in evolution, they are tolerant of other beliefs, and they are really not angry at me for being atheist, albeit somewhat disappointed. They are not firmly against gay marriage and abortion, they can see both sides.
When I was 8, we moved to china. I did not go to a religious school there, because the only school was creationist, and the only church was a fundamentalist fellowship. We went to the fellowship on sundays. There, evolution was wrong. You lacked faith if you denied that God created the earth in 7 days. Although my parents believed in evolution, I had not noticed a conflict between evolution and creationism until I was 10. In my catholic school in first grade, I was lead to believe that the adam and eve story was literally true, although that is not the catholic teaching. When I was 10 and realized the conflict, I assumed that my parents were also evolution deniers. I went on the computer and read some articles arguing both sides, and came to the conclusion that evolution was real and Genesis was not literal truth. I shyly asked my dad about evolution, and much to my relief, he told me that there was no conflict. I remember somebody in my sunday school once bragged that he knew that humans were called “homo sapien” It hit me that although he knew that, he believed that homo erectus, homo habilis, and homo neanderthalensis never existed. It shocked me whenever these creationists talked about science, because they could only learn half of science.
When I was ten, I used to keep praying mantises as pets. One day, one mantis caught the other and started eating it. I separated my mantises while the caught one was still alive, and I put them back in their cages. It became apparent that the injured mantis was dying, and that night I prayed to God that the mantis would lay eggs before it died. The next day when I got home from school, it had layer eggs! The next day it died. WOW! I KNEW there was a god! He answered prayers! I could pray for anything, and I would get it! A couple months later, my pet millipede got injured and died. It had cracked its shell. I prayed for the millipede to be resurrected, and the next day I checked my millipede. It was still dead. I sensed God telling me that I had to wait one week, and my millipede would resurrect. I checked my millipede every week for a couple of months, and each week its body had rotted more than the last week. Eventually it was nothing more than a hollow exoskeleton. Ressurecting my millipede was not God’s will. The next spring, I eagerly awaited the hatching of my praying mantis eggs. They never did. They had been laid prematurely and they had not developed enough to hatch. God’s miracle had been a huge disappointment My faith in miracles was diminished.
When I was 11, my somebody asked my teacher about his religion. He replied that he was an atheist. He had been raised christian, but he stopped believing as a child. He then said that “faith” was nothing more than “belief without proof” I was immediately angry at him for saying that. How dare he insult my religion! We had proof! We knew christianity was right because… because… I realized that we had no proof. In the coming days, I realized that biblical prophecy and miracles proved christianity. i also knew that muslims and hindus also knew they were right because of miracles and prophecy. However, I convinced myself to accept that. The only way that by belief changed was that I stopped believing in miracles. I knew that if there were no means for something to happen, it could not happen. Wine particles cannot just appear in water. Jesus must have changed water to wine through some yet undiscovered scientific process. Undoubtedly God knew about many undiscovered scientific processes that he could use to perform miracles.
In middle school, I began praying daily. Before I went to bed every night, I thanked God for things, i asked God for things, and I confessed my sins, which I was truly sorry for. My sins offended God. I was proud of myself for praying daily. I was “good” because i conformed to the expectations of authority figures. This is characteristic of stage three on the Kohlberg’s scale of moral development. Whenever I had to deal with a problem, I slipped a silent prayer to God. God would help make everything easier.
Even though I was religious, I was not afraid to ask questions. I once asked my religion teacher why we weren’t cannibals for literally eating Jesus’s body. It was to be expected that the teacher would come up with some bad justification to answer why, but what surprises me is that my classmates thought this question was HILARIOUS! They did not see this as a serious question. As far as they were concerned, eating Jesus’s body and blood was perfectly NORMAL! They were utterly BRAINWASHED! Although I was questioning with the goal of understanding my faith better, it was the person who questioned things, me, who eventually became an atheist.
In middle school, I also questioned the church’s social teachings. In 8th grade, we learned about morality and social issues. The teacher told us the stance of the church on each issue, and I agreed with it about half of the time. I agreed with the church on issues of abortion and gay marriage, but I disagreed with the church on Stem Cell Research and Euthanasia. Don’t ask me how I supported stem-cell research while opposing all abortion. I guess I really hadn’t thought about it much.
Another example of me refusing to conform was in the 2008 election. I knew nothing about politics before that, but I became quite interested in politics during the election season. My parents were both voting for John McCain. I looked at the issues, and I was split pretty evenly between the candidates. I ended up voting for Obama in our school’s mock election because of the environment. When my siblings asked me who I voted for, I refused to tell them. I was embarrassed and ashamed.
As I went to high school, I became less religious. I neglected to pray every night before bed, and I just didn’t feel the religion thing. Authorities were still saying that religiosity was good, but the world just didn’t seem to relate much to religion. By the end of 9th grade, I was wondering if maybe God didn’t exist. Late in the year, one of my friends, we’ll call him John even though that isn’t his name, told me that he was an atheist. A couple weeks later, we were discussing a moral dilemma during lunch: If you found a person dying, a stranger, would you take their place and let them live? John said that he would because he would feel guilty afterwards aging let a person die, and the rest of us said that we wouldn’t. I remarked that we were all christians but we still would let the person die, but even though he was atheist he was more altruistic. Looking back, I sounded like a stereotypical uninformed christian. Still, my doubts alarmed me. I really, really, really, really wanted to believe in God. I’m not sure why, but I did. So, when the opportunity to go on a mission trip with my church that summer came up, I jumped on the opportunity. That would open my heart to God. On that trip, people talked of God’s love, of miracles performed by saints that scientists couldn’t figure out, of how when it is hard to confess your sins to priests that is your pride. Everybody saw God in everything, and by the end of that week I was sure that God existed. I was glad. I hoped that my doubts would be put to rest permanently. I remember thinking “Wow, I’m glad that I’m not having those doubts anymore. Now it seems like Of course God exists.” Alas, the doubts came back even stronger. That fall, fall 2012, I began considering myself an agnostic, but I did NOT want to be grouped with atheists. I could not prove that god existed. But, you could not prove that god was fake. Therefore, it made sense for me to continue believing. This went on for over a year. I did little research because I believed that there was no proof for either side, but I kept drifting closer and closer to atheism. On multiple occasions, I told people that I would probably be an atheist by the time I died. Although I still lived as a christian, I believed there was a substantial chance that God was not real. As I drifted closer and closer to atheism, I tried one apologetic argument after the other, but none were satisfying. By the way, I did not read any arguments for atheism in my reconversion. The logic was all my own.
Although the argument that there was no proof either way was initially satisfying, I eventually came to realize that to believe in God, a lack of counter proof was not enough. I needed actual evidence for God. I had stumbled upon the Burden of Proof, which is always on the person making a claim, in this case the believer.
The next justification I tried was faith. This did not work well. I really wanted to accept christianity on faith, but I could not. My brain required rational arguments.
Eventually, after I completely abandoned faith, I realized how widespread religion was. 90% of the world’s population wouldn’t believe something if it were false, right? And the abrahamic God was worshipped by christians, jews, and muslims, so over half of the world population. If I worshipped the god worshipped by a majority of people, and I chose the biggest religion worshipping that god, Christianity, I was likely to be right, right? This argument held me for a couple months, but I eventually knew it was not true. If something is wrong, it does not matter how many people believed it, it was still wrong.
Next, I thought about the implications of atheism. We needed to be God to be good people, right? I believed that because society had pressed that opinion into me. I reasoned that even if god was fake, I should still believe in God to be a good person. This convinced me for a couple weeks, but I still realized that if God was fake, he was fake regardless of whether religion made you act morally. And I knew that religion did not make people act morally. I remember in 2012, when my state tried to constitutionally ban gay marriage. People at school walked around with little pins saying “vote yes”. I remember thinking “how offensive”! By 2012 I was a strong supporter of gay rights, and I thought it was immoral of the catholics to deny rights to that group of people. I knew that religion could make people quite judgmental. So I moved on to the next justification for theism.
By this time it was August of 2013. I believed that the chance of God existing was very small, almost zero. But I was scared of hell. So I reasoned that if I multiply the chance of god’s existence, which I placed at one over infinity, by the price of being wrong, infinity, which is the amount of punishment in hell, the answer is undefined. Infinity times zero is undefined. Math was not giving me an answer to the god question. But i figured that as long as there was a chance of hell being real, I had no rational choice but to believe. I called this the zero-infinity problem, because I tried to multiply zero and infinity. This problem kept me away from atheism. I later found out that this is called Pascal’s Wager.
In November of 2013, I had to read Mere Christianity for school. The religion teacher intended to use it to prove to us that God was real, just in case any of us were having doubts. Our teacher was very thorough, and for the quizzes, we basically had to memorize the chapters because the questions were so particular. As a result I read through some chapters in Mere Christianity three times. Knowing the chapters that well let me see the holes in CS Lewis’s logic. He said morality could not come from nature, but that was simply wrong. He was not a psychologist! It was simply an instinct! He tried to use analogies to prove things, but analogies cannot prove anything. Lewis also said that Jesus was either a liar, a lunatic, or Lord. WHAT? He could have been mistaken, or misrepresented! I could find dozens of cult leaders who were, by Lewis’s logic, gods because they were not liars or lunatics. Reading that book and seeing the arguments for God made me think more about religion. I began a sort of diary in a google doc in which I wrote my thoughts about religion. I called the doc “do not read this . If you dare to, I will hold deep, cruel grudge against you” Sort of melodramatic, but I didn’t want somebody snooping in my google docs and finding out I wished there was no god. I wrote two pages on why the world would be a better place without God. On november 25, I started believing that jesus was almost definitely not born of a virgin. The next day, november 26, 2013, I wrote this:
God is either matter, energy, in people’s brains, or not in the universe. The question of what us God trumps all philosophical proof of his existence.
Christians say the believe in God’s existence because he is a good God. But the real reason to follow God is to avoid Hell. If God was evil it would still be wise to follow him to avoid Hell. Following God has nothing to do with his being good.
In fact, God is not good. We are told by the bible that he is good and told that to get to heaven we must believe he is good. In reality, he sends people to Hell. That is evil. Sending one person there is More evil than all the evil on earth combined because Hell is eternal. Nobody deserves that.
I still am fully open to God being a moral conscience in people’s brains, but in that situation life after death does not exist.
Now that I am an atheist, I have looked at Christianity from that perspective and there is so, so much to learn from it.
The ten commandments
Praying before bed helps a person recall mistakes, ways to improve, and reasons to be thankful.
I am now free to do good deeds motivated by goodness, not threat of damnation. Atheism also leaves the door open for learning from other religions and moral teachings.
In other words, I became an atheist on november 26, 2013, almost exactly 7 months (from writing) ago. That was a tuesday. That weekend, I went on a three-day confirmation retreat. That was the worst weekend of my life. i will now play part of my video titled “an atheist goes through catholic confirmation”.
In january, I got myself into a religious discussion at lunch in which I totally defeated a christian in an argument about a single “proof” for god. Somebody asked me “so are you an atheist” I replied “no no no no no” not an ATHEIST! I let John make the last step in my argument that there was no god, because I was afraid to make that last step. i was closeted. The person asked me How I could not be atheist, and I replied that if I were, I would lose all respect from people. I had a theological discussion with somebody in the car on the way home from school and he came to suspect that i was an atheist, so he asked me. I strongly denied it. He asked me a few weeks later, and I denied it again. In April, somebody realized in spanish class that I could provide coherent and logical answers to obscure philosophical questions. people thought it was funny to see me answer them. So somebody googled a list of philosophical questions and asked me them. He eventually got to “does god exist” I had to say no. Everybody immediately looked at me. I had just come out.
I had a few discussions over the next few weeks with people. In catholic schools people do not like atheists very much. One discussion was particularly interesting because it was between me, john, and a christian. When, in a catholic school, do you see two atheists discussing with one christian? One time, I came to my locker, and some people were talking in front of it. One of them saw me, stood against my locker so that I could not access it, and said “Say God exists”. I said “But that simply isn’t true. That drew some stares. Eventually, he moved. One day as I was leaving school, somebody walked up to me and said “God is calling you”. Looking back I should have asked which god. Instead, I just shrugged.
The reason I had so many discussions is because I was interested in it, but I could not talk about atheism at home. This is why I made my first youtube video in early april. Confirmation was coming up, and although I wanted to come out to my parents, I planned to wait until the day after confirmation to come out. I did.
In april, John killed himself. Our entire school turned to God to help deal with the loss. This turn of events obviously made me think a lot about things, and it made me have trouble sleeping. I wondered how people could bear the thought that John was in hell, as he probably would be of catholicism was true. I was glad that I was an atheist. It did not change my beliefs, although I read his obituary every day for weeks. I think I have it memorized. I felt very isolated as an atheist after that. I still wish that I knew his motives, so that I could try to do my part to change the environment to keep something similar from happening to another person. I mention john’s death because my story would not be complete if I skipped it. In almost every video I make, I think of ways that I could relate it to john, but I usually keep myself from mentioning him.
Now, off that sad topic, I still have to come out to as an atheist to my friends in my boy scout troop, who are more religious than my friends at school. I do not know how they will react. I have done a lot of research about atheism now. I have watch hours upon hours of youtube, done tremendous amounts of reading on the internet, and read The God Delusion, God IS Not Great, A Young Atheist’s Survival Guide, and A Universe From Nothing. I am currently reading The Selfish Gene and Breaking The Spell. Next I will Read Victor Stenger’s book about the fine tuning. My google doc is well over 100 pages long now. I plan to officially leave the Catholic Church sometime next year.
I think I am a more moral person because of atheism. I think about things more, and justify every belief of mine. I am not scared to go against public opinion. I base my morality on creating a world with the largest amount of happiness for the largest amount of people. I strongly support things malaria research, animal rights, and action on climate change.
The thing that worries me is the possibility that I will again be religious in the future, or that I am just going through a phase. My brain is not fully developed, and I can expect to live for another 70 years. That is a long time. I see no reason to return to christianity over say, islam, or even greek mythology. They all seem to use the same bad arguments to justify themselves. But how many people view the world in the same way as they did when they were in high school? Not very many. My views will undoubtedly change much over the next decades. I need to make sure that I always use evidence to justify all of my beliefs.
I hope you liked my deconversion story, I know deconversion stories are very comforting for me to watch.