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I'm An Atheist, And It Feels Damn Good To Say So.


Guest tomorrowshorizon
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Guest tomorrowshorizon

I'm seventeen years old, and I am an atheist.

 

I wasn't always an atheist, though. In fact, like many people on this board, I used to be a very faithful and pious Christian. Born to a Christian family, baptized, confirmed -- all of it.

 

I suppose I'll start at the very beginning. I was born to one of those ostensibly Christian families that celebrates Christian holidays and pays lip service to religion but doesn't let it get in the way of daily life. This was fine for me -- I was an imaginative child, but I never really cared one way or another about religion. About the closest I came to being religious was inventing what heaven would REALLY be like (none of that silly sitting-in-the-clouds stuff for me; I imagined a nice, complicated afterworld where you could choose between traditional heaven, reincarnation, and various alien worlds).

 

I was also somewhat resistant to church teachings, in my own innocent way, on the rare occasion that I did wind up being subjected to religious education. My family still tells the story of the time my grandmother tried to pray with me (not knowing the irony of the story.) She was reciting one of those old fashioned prayers, and when she got to the line "I pray the Lord my soul to keep," I interrupted her. "I can't say that!" I told her. "Why not, sweetie?" she asked me. I promptly explained to her that I wanted to keep my own soul, thankyouverymuch.

 

Flash forward to middle school. My family had experienced a (seemingly out of nowhere) religious revival. Suddenly, we were visiting churches, attending Church every Sunday, praying together. It was completely random, and at first I was totally lost. Our lives had been perfect without God; why did we need him now?

 

But despite my confusion, and my childish complaints that we'd lost our complacent Sunday mornings as a family, we sunk further into religion. I was enrolled in a First Communion class, and began attending Sunday School, Wednesday youth classes, and Church. At first I resisted, escaping from religious service whenever I could.

 

My parents were determined, and eventually they sent me off to a weekend retreat camp aimed at middle school kids. The camp was very effective. For a kid who'd never been to camp before, it was a blast; catchy songs by the firelight telling me I was a soldier for Christ, outside games with built in lessons about God, friendly staff and campers. I was easily converted.

 

From then on, I was a Jesus Freak. My parents were delighted, and I studied with vigor. Christianity became an obsession. I had to be the best kid at Church, the most perfect Christian. And for the most part, I was -- I had little reason to sin.

 

But I had nagging doubts that would surface every now and then, much to my shame. I was a good kid -- why did they keep telling me I was evil, a sinner? Whenever I told them that I didn't have any sins to confess, they told me I was lying, deceiving myself; that I cheapened Christ's sacrifice; that I was guilty of disgusting and unwarranted pride.

 

My relationship with Christianity became bipolar. One week, I would be high as a kite, properly stoned on the opiate of religion. The next I'd be at rock bottom, hating God for not ever letting me be good, hating him for setting us up to fail. How, I wondered, could an omnipotent, omniscient God make us imperfectly, and then send us to hell for it? Those weeks, I didn't care if I went to hell; at least I wouldn't have to deal with God.

 

I continued with this cyclical religious path for several years. One episode from Church camp demonstrates this particularly well:

 

The girls in my cabin wanted to have a seance, where we called up spirits to possess us. I enthusiastically embraced it, because I thought it was interesting; would spirits really appear? However, I was soon reminded that seances were against God, so I chose to only watch. As the seance began, a panick attack started to overcome me. It was Satan. They were calling on Satan, and it was evil, and he was going to kill us. I fled upstairs, and woke up my counselor, begging her to do something about it, but she mumbled something and went back to sleep. I flipped out. I was sobbing, and trembling with fear; he was going to take us to hell, I KNEW he was going to take us all to hell for daring to call on him. I clutched my Bible and my cross necklace, lay on my bed, and cried myself into a fitful sleep.

 

Eventually, I couldn't take the ups and downs. I broke with Christianity. Perhaps it meant I was condemned; so be it. I would not kneel in worship to an asshole.'

 

I was quickly drawn to paganism, with it's emphasis on personal paths to goodness and multiple gods. I eventually became a pantheist. God was in all of us, he/she was what we considered him/her to be. But even that began to crumble -- my spells never seemed to work, even when I believed as hard as I could. I abandoned any sort of active role in paganism, at least partially because any hint of being outside Christianity was becoming very dangerous in my house.

 

As I was going through my crisis of faith, my parents had become nearly fundamentalist. Christ was the center of their lives; if I was not Christian, I was not one of them. I tried to moderate them from time to time, but it always ended up with me in tears and feeling worthless. If I didn't believe, they told me, I was going to hell. If I didn't believe, they told me, I was evil. If I didn't believe, they told me, they would be so sad and so disappointed that there was nothing I could ever do to fix it.

 

The guilt trip didn't work. I continued to question the propaganda fed to me, and I just couldn't see it as anything but drivel. I clung only to the vaguest, most ambiguous theism I could find within myself.

 

Slowly, as I began to read arguments for and against religion, as I began to submit my lasting beliefs to reason. I began to work through explanations of the universe. I became an agnostic, and tilted ever more towards the atheist side as days went by.

 

And then, one day, it hit me. I was sitting in Church on Palm Sunday, loathing the self-loathing of our forced confessions, cringing at the foolish mythology being taught as fact, and I realized -- I didn't believe in God.

 

Not a little bit. Not an inkling. Not a smidge. I did not believe in God. I knew he was a fairy tale, a myth, a legend; just another illusion.

 

And suddenly, as I began to think through it all, I realized that a lack of God didn't mean I couldn't care for people. It didn't mean that the world was nasty, brutish, and short. Life was still beautiful. People were still worthy. I was still me.

 

I realize now that being an atheist is the most beautiful thing of all. To know that everything in nature got there through struggle, by chance, by surviving this tumultuous universe; to know that I was lucky enough to be living and conscious and thinking; to know that this short life was all I had, and that I had to make the most of it; to know that I was free, free to chose and to live as I saw fit; that was what what beautiful.

 

And so now I say it: I am an atheist, and it feels damn good to say so.

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Welcome to feeling clean and honest at the deepest level without any mental reservations.

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