"What can be asserted without proof can be dismissed without proof."
I began March 2009 as a Christian. Not a moderate, well-informed Christian....a Fox News watching, young earth Creationist Southern Baptist. I rejected concepts such as evolution, global warming, and people being born gay, just to name a few. I actually studied Creationism at the Baptist junior college which I had attended. This is not to say that I was unintelligent or that I did not read often. I was an excellent scholar and loved to learn. I read all the time. I loved intelligent conversation and treated everyone the same. After all, in my mind we were all sinners. I tutored College Algebra and my grammar was impeccable. I was always open to new ideas, only my environment didn't provide these new ideas. I had never actually fully read the Bible, as I was always advised against simply reading the Bible. "It must be studied, not simply read," I had been told repeatedly as a born-again twelve-year-old Christian.
My childhood indoctrination was done kindly, yet strongly. The well-meaning Christians and small church that participated in my indoctrination provided for me a safe haven from my abusive, drug-addicted parents at home. So, I was an extremely easy target for religious indoctrination. I loved my god, my precious Savior...and how!!! I prayed privately and fervently, read the Bible daily (always with my trusty study guides and commentary, of course), sang in the choir, taught VBS, participated in Acteens...the whole shibang! As many Christians do, I "strayed" in my late teens and early twenties, but always with the mindset that one day I would devote myself to Christ and repent of my waywardness. However, my faith never wavered----I was truly a believer, through and through.
I had began answering questions in Yahoo Answers as a hobby. I started with questions in the "Homework Help" section, but I saw a question about god in the "Religion & Spirituality" section that interested me and I quickly started answering questions there instead. Many of these people were driving to hell, after all. I then met an atheist through there and we began discussing many topics. He was a seventeen-year-old student in the UK, and had great interest in both pseudoscience and religion. We ran through a variety of subjects, spending four, sometimes five hours each day dissecting each. I was forced, in order to hold my positions, to search for the evidence supporting my positions and to consider the evidence for his positions. (Well, how could I debate his positions if I did not understand them?) In every subject, from the original of life to the rapture, the evidence he presented far exceeded the evidence I could not even find and his arguments won easier over mine. In every subject. My first real doubt was simple: Why doesn't God make Himself more known than this?
I still remember the information my atheist friend showed me. Religious debunking of hell, videos and articles about various scientific concepts, and, perhaps the most effective tool of all, LOGIC. (NonStampCollector's videos often left me thinking for hours.) I learned more science in that one month than I ever had in school, as science had always been simply boring memorization. I was very confused. Finally, the day after Easter 2009, as I was watching Hawking's lecture on the origin of the universe (and understanding these concepts for the first time), my atheist friend asked me if I saw how it was at least possible without a god. I said yes. That was all it took. My belief vanished in that moment.
Warning: Forgive me if this sounds....spiritual. I must describe this, though, as well as I can.
That moment was perhaps the most, for lack of a better word, transcendent moment of my life. With the science I had just learned in the back of my mind as I admitted to myself that I could no longer intellectually and rationally hold the position of belief that I was holding, I saw the universe as I had never seen it, and will never see it again. Everything made crystal-clear sense. No gaps, no extra pieces to the puzzle.....complete clarity. I saw in that instant why the universe was billions upon billions of light years wide with billions upons billions of galaxies like ours. I understood in that instant why so many thousands of children starve to death every day. I finally grasped why so many prayers went unanswered. So many answers to questions I'd never even thought to ask before that day! In that moment, the greatest "Ah Ha!" moment of my life, I GOT IT! It was like a supernova of the mind (now my mind is pulling in information like a black hole!) I also knew in that moment that I would never accept another supernatural claim without real evidence ever again.
Did I have lingering fears of hell, untimely death, Satan, God's wrath, and other irrationalities? Yes. Indoctrination is very effective. But the flashes of fear were just like flashes of doubt to a believer, and the more I learned, the less fear I had. I came out gradually to my friends and immediate family. Some of them do not like me anymore because of it; some were extremely disappointed or disheartened by it. That is their burden to bear as the belief is theirs not mine. But I do sympathize; it's difficult not to. But my family and friends whose love was unconditional are still ever-present in my life. I'm okay with that.
Losing my faith influenced other changes-of-mind. I soon after embraced secular humanism, and I began to care about the environment. Both of these concepts, with alittle bit of research, led me to become a vegetarian. I no longer believe that we are "born sick, commanded to be made well" nor do I believe that meaning can only come from eternal life. How could I have ever been that person? I had a "friend" tell me that I "used to be such a wonderful person". Ironic, ain't it?