What makes people think there is a God? My nonreligious father asked me that question a while back, and it has stuck with me. As a former fundamentalist Christian, I have a very religious past, and most of my relatives (whom I now generally have little contact with) are very religious. What made me believe? Well… it was a combination of things and a single reason would be hard to pin down. My mother is not religious but she believes in God. I had some interesting conversations about God and the Bible with religious neighbors when I was a teenager. I guess until my deconversion from Christianity in early 2000 I never really doubted the existence of God. And when I converted to Christianity in 1985 it was in large part because after reading Hebrews 4:12 out in my friend Mike’s car, I felt something come alive inside of me. Mike had been “witnessing” to me, telling me about Jesus, and I my attitude had shifted from “Get away from me with that Jesus shit” to thinking maybe there was something to this Jesus thing. That feeling I got in the car after reading that verse was important in my conversion, but so was seeing the “Jesus Film” shortly thereafter at a local Baptist church. I knew after I saw that film that I wanted what this Jesus had to offer, and even now as I write this the memory of that exciting time in my life softens my heart a bit yet again.
But what made me believe in God? And what made me believe specifically in the Christian God? I think because of my upbringing the default position for me was belief. I was raised United Methodist until I was ten years old. I asked then to stop going to church because I didn’t believe what they were teaching, but yet I returned in my early teens to go through the Confirmation process.
Most people in this nation believe in God. For them, the default position is belief because of their upbringing, whether they were raised in a religious home or not. The reason most people believe in the Christian God in the US is simply a matter of geography. Christianity is the dominant religion in this country and so most people believe in its god. There is, however, no evidence at all that the tribal war god of the ancient Jews actually exists, nor is there much evidence that Jesus ever actually lived if you really look into it. I am not one who claims that Jesus never lives as those folks are generally on the lunatic fringe of atheism, but their writings do provide a lot of food for thought.
They way from religious belief to atheism is one full of questions. Bit by bit you chip away at the religious teachings you once held as sacred and as each card in the proverbial house of cards falls down, the entire belief system eventually falls away. For me and for many of us who identify as ex-Christians, that is an intensely emotional time, and working through the emotional trauma of religious brainwashing and indoctrination that we realize we have been subjected to can take many years to resolve.
One big clue for me that God does not exist is the fact that he never thinks, says, or does anything at all except in the minds of believers. NEVER! And he never answers prayers or heals amputees. As comfortable as it is to believe in God, the fact is that he is imaginary!
One of my greatest fears in letting go of God was that life would lose its meaning and purpose. And for a while that was true. I had a hard time coming to grips with the reality of there being no god and no afterlife. Now I see it as tremendously freeing! We are here as a result of billions of years of biological evolution, not as the result of a magical act of a god that occurred just thousands of years ago. When we realize that this life is IT, then life becomes incredibly precious. Every moment must be lived. Savored. Enjoyed to the utmost! Every moment brings us closer to the end of our existence, but that is not reason to despair. It is reason to grab life by the horns and live it to the fullest! Let go of fear and LIVE! You will never get another chance to do it! Life is fabulous. Wonderful. Enthralling. Exciting. Magnificent. AWESOME!
Why do people believe in God? I recently watched a fascinating video on that subject. It is rare that I devote an hour of my time to watching a video on YouTube, but in this instance I am very glad that I did. Andy Thompson of American Atheists does an excellent job of laying out the scientific basis for why we believe in gods.
It is actually not too big of a step to go from believing in the natural to believing in the supernatural because of how our brains work and systems already at work in our minds.
I posted this on Facebook for my friend and high school band director and I think it sums up my thoughts on God well:
My journey from devout religious belief to atheism has been a long and interesting one. I spent 15 years as a very devout fundamentalist Christian. I was the type who annoyed everybody. I wrote evangelistic letters to my family. I tried to convert my friends and co-workers. I handed out those ridiculous Chick tracts to convenience store clerks and toll booth operators. I was at church every time the doors opened, including early morning prayer meetings. I forced my beliefs on everybody all the time and though I meant well, I made a huge nuisance of myself. Despite all of that religious activity and belief, I still had questions that that seemed to have no good answers from my pastors or from the Christian apologists I read. Those questions finally built up to the point where I could no longer ignore them or write them off as coming from the devil.
In early 2000, I got on the Net as it existed back then and started researching my faith on both sides of the fence. I was absolutely stunned to find that the religious skeptics had far better answers than I had encountered from Christian apologists and I was also very surprised to see how easily they ripped my once cherished beliefs to shreds, not through ridicule but with facts. I started reading the skeptical side at www.infidels.org and went from there.
After I got over the shock of having my Christian worldview ripped out from under me, I became very very ANGRY! The fact that I was also very mentally ill at the time with not well controlled bipolar disorder didn’t help matters any. I felt foolish, used, and betrayed when I realized I had been intentionally lied to for 15 years and I had bought into it hook, line, and sinker.
What followed next was a swing to the other side of the religious spectrum and several years of outspoken atheism. I maintained a strongly anti-Christian website that had a few different incarnations and I regularly ridiculed the beliefs that I had once held sacred. It was not a happy time in my life, but it was a necessary part for me of processing an excruciatingly painful experience.
I have experimented with several different belief systems over the years since I left the Christian faith. Atheism still makes the most rational sense to me, but right now I would say I am agnostic. I DON’T KNOW if a god of any kind exists, but I strongly doubt it. There’s just no good evidence that he/she/it does. And the fact that God never thinks, says, or does anything at all except in the minds of believers speaks volumes to me.
I have found spiritual beliefs that have some meaning to me. I happen to really appreciate the wisdom that comes out of Hinduism and Buddhism. I can find good in all religions, but I don’t for a moment believe that any of them have a divine origin.
I am not at a place right now where I feel comfortable embracing belief. I sacrificed my brain at the altar of religion once when I was young and got hurt badly, and I will not ever make that mistake again.