I currently live in the south east of the US: South Carolina. I was born and raised here as a Christian Baptist my entire life, until I converted to atheism when I just turned 18, without ever even having the intention of doing so. But let me elaborate on my story and why I made that decision.
Now that I’m a little bit older (22), I can reflect on who I was as a child and as a teenager. When I think of myself as a child, I can say without a doubt I was always interested in science. I would always spend my time outdoors, digging in the dirt, poking at bugs and spiders, and I was always so interested in the world around me. I even remember owning books when I was a kid that was about biology, human anatomy, and even the universe. I couldn’t tell you the books’ titles, but I can remember vividly the contents of those books, and I would go through them over and over again with the same amount of fascination. as the last time..
Every year in my elementary school, our schools science teacher would bring out at the end of every year a giant inflatable observatory. Every year I looked forward to this one event that only lasted about 1-2 hours. The first time I crawled into it when I was about 6 years old, is when I fell in love with the cosmos.
It was obvious that it was natural for me to fall in love with the subjects of science, without any particular topic.
However, growing up through middle school was the toughest time of my life. My parents were going through a bad divorce at the time, and I was constantly bullied every single day in a school that was poorly kept, and harboring the worst kids that South Carolina had to possibly offer. The only thing I looked forward to at school was making sure I got out okay, without being harmed; as long as I was just shoved or verbally harassed, I would call those a good day.
The teachers did nothing about it, so I couldn’t rely on them. My parents were going through that divorce which was taking a terrible tole on my mother, so I couldn’t go to her and have her worrying all the time. I simply toughed it out.
It’s hard to be a A+ student in those conditions. In fact, I don’t see how it was possible, as it certainly wasn’t possible for me. I made bare minimum grades to pass on to high school and I skipped out on every practice SAT tests.
It had terrible repercussions in my high school years. I always excelled in science courses, but I performed poorly in my other subjects. By the time I reached my Junior year, I begged my counselor to put me in an advanced Physics course, but they refused because of my poor performance in middle school, and with my overall GPA being low because of my other subjects.. To this day, I can not find anyone to offer a physics course to me, even through college.
Regardless of the rejections, I would, and still today, spend quite a bit of my free time reading science navels, threads, or watching documentaries. I discovered all of the great names of Stephen Hawking, Richard Dawkins, Richard Feynman, Neil deGrasse Tyson (etc.) and further understood the studies of great scientist such as Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein and so on.
While taking this personal path down the road of science, religion was never really a subject I looked at. I really didn’t care. I was born and raised a Baptist and I called myself that, but I blatantly just didn’t care and I rarely went to church.
One late afternoon in my bedroom, I was finishing up an older multi-part documentary on physics that, of course, stared Stephen Hawking. On the last episode, the discussion was on black holes, quantum mechanics, and the expansion of the universe. As corny as it may sound, at the end of that documentary, I jumped out of my computer chair as said to myself “There is no God,” in a sudden realization. It was how I like to described, “Instant culture shock.”
This was the first time I called myself an atheist, when I honestly couldn’t even tell you what an atheist was a day prior to that.
While I don’t believe in imposing how I live or my lack of belief on other people. I do, however, wish that other people that still follow their religion could feel the amount of relief that I felt when I told myself “there is no God,” and the amount of freedom I feel now, with more sense of a purpose while being alive, other than the wishful thought of dying and inheriting a better place.
Even though I’ll never become the scientist I want to be, because of my rougher past and poor academic history that reflects it, I confidently say that I am truly alive.