I grew up in the South, where churches can be found on every corner. Although I did not attend church regularly with my parents, I did attend with my aunts, uncles, and grandparents. I listened to the stories of the Bible and I thought I understood them. For the most part, I believed the Bible to be literally true, with some metaphors thrown in every now and then.
When I was about 12 years old, a friend from school invited me to a Christian youth convention. There was rock music, friendly conversations, and a warm inviting feeling. You know, the one they say comes from Jesus. I sang and danced around in isles with all the other young adults. The energies surrounding me felt great. I felt like I had finally been spoken to by GOD. [Though, I can’t tell you what he sounds like…] God told me that I needed to go up to the front of the room and become “saved,” along with the 15 or so already up there. The youth pastor said a prayer over my head and TADA, I was saved. I was forgiven of all my childish sins.
After that, I started to attend a youth group at my family’s church. I was surrounded by other teenagers who shared my same views and rejected all others. I began attending every church event I could. I went to the prayer meetings before school. I volunteered to help those in need, all in the name of the Christian god. I went to “See you At the Pole” at my school. I stood and prayed for all the lost souls in my high school. I went to the Christian concerts that came to my town. I did all these things with my hands raise in the air with praises for the Lord.
By the age of 15, my faith had become strong; so strong, that I decided that I wanted to be one of those people who could spit Bible verses back to every “devil-sent” atheist out there. When people asked those hard questions, I wanted to be able to tell them the answer, an undisputable answer. I mean, seriously, if He was God, then the answers should be there, right? I began my search on the internet. I researched Catholicism and Judaism. Each had fundamentally different principles. Then, I asked myself, “If we cannot prove the origin of god, can we find the origins of Christianity?” I mean if god created the first man and women, wouldn’t Christianity be found throughout all of history? Looking back, this is a pretty simple Q&A. Before Christians, there were Greeks, Mayas, Egyptians, Indians and many more cultures around the globe. Each one of them had different societies that worshipped different deities. There is no historical record of a Christian god influencing the ideas of ANY of these cultures.
At the age of 18, I met a wonderful woman who was Pagan. She explained how Christians took from the Pagans (holidays, rituals and so forth). I studied Paganism with her for almost a year. I never felt a connection like I had before with Christianity. This is not to say one couldn’t. I now know that these feelings of connections are all psychological in nature. It is the same feeling a child gets when they wake up to see that Santa Clause has delivered their presents.
By the age of 19, I had come to one conclusion: Man created religion. I denounced any belief of Christianity. I felt relieved, free from all the pressure surrounding the Bible. I still believed in a higher power. A big ball of energy floating around in the sky keeping watch over his creations and laughing at the ignorance that religion has manifested.
It wasn’t until I started researching scientific theories that my agnosticism began to lean more towards the “no god” side. The theory of evolution is a widely debated subject among scientists and religious people. I had the same thoughts that anyone else who does not have knowledge of the subject may think. I mean, there is just NO WAY I could come from a monkey. Why are there still monkeys then? I laugh at myself now. The theory of evolution explains that humans and everything else on Earth evolved over long periods of time and are still evolving. Fossil records do prove this, no matter how hard Creationists try to say it’s not there. Our very, very distant ancestors have a common ancestor with today’s monkeys. However, we left that branch of evolution a long time ago. The development of societies, tools, agriculture, and even religion has set us apart from our cousins.
Over the past 5 years, I have spent a lot of my time reading about what it means to an Atheist. Just like Christianity, every Atheist has his or her own view of the world. Being Atheist does not mean not having morals. Christianity does not hold a monopoly on moral values. Morals are a part of humanity. (Richard Dawkins and I share the same view on where morals originated from. There’s a great video on YouTube of his speaking on this subject.) Being an Atheist means standing up for what we believe is the right, human thing to do. We do good because we want to, not because a deity demands it.
As of today, the majority (98%) of my family do not know that I am an atheist. It hasn’t been until the past three years that I have become vocal to my friends and to new people that I meet of my views. One side of my family is very Evangelical while the other half is non-denominational Christian. I’m positive the later will be more accepting of my decisions but with less presents at Christmas time! The Evangelical side scares me. They come with hell-fire and brimstone when they go on a witch hunt. However, it is time for me to stop worrying about the opinions of others. If they feel the need to pray for my lost soul, I will let them. In all honesty, it’s a waste of their time, not mine.
On the note of wasting time, it is now time for Atheists to stand up and voice our opinions and stop wasting our times bickering. Just as gay people are fighting for their rights, we should be fighting for our right to freedom without religion. It is time to come out of the closet.