At the moment, I can't say with 100% certainty that I'm an atheist. In fact just two days ago I considered myself a born-again Southern Baptist--not a "good" one, by any means, but I was one. 

I grew up in a pretty average non-denominational Christian household, smack-dab in the middle of the Bible Belt. When I was younger, we attended an Assembly of God church where I crawled under the pews and played pretend house with my sister during services (we were both just beginning grade school at this point). I got "saved" when I was 5. My mom was very proud of me. When I was 9, we moved to south Mississippi. We lived mere miles away from the beach, and the air smelled like seawater. I loved that place. Growing up there and now attending a stiflingly conservative Baptist church, I began to stray. By the time high-school rolled around I had all but denied God. I believed in Him, most definitely, but I didn't follow Bible teachings by any stretch of the imagination. I dabbled briefly in bisexuality, dreaded going to church on Sunday mornings, and cussed like a sailor (all of which were "sins").

Hurricane Katrina hit at the beginning of my 10th grade year. We moved back inland. I hated my life. At this point I "became an atheist" because it was rebellious and I wanted to be a rebel. I never truly stopped believing in God though. On top of all of this, I weighed 200 lbs. at that time. During my "atheist" phase, I lost 30 lbs. Became really happy. Accepted the new life in a new place, started seeing someone. I continued going to church. We had found a new Southern Baptist church full of some of the nicest people I know. I deceived them... I was the favorite in the youth group, I sang on Sunday mornings, I went to all the camps and I was a beast at Bible drill. Then my boyfriend and I would go off and have sex when church was over.

My freshman year in college, I didn't enter a church until December, after a devastating break-up with my first serious boyfriend. The church I went to was a massive mega-church close to the college campus, known for its local and international mission efforts and for being more liberal than most Baptist churches in the area. In my heightened emotional state, Jesus sounded pretty freakin' sweet. I rededicated my life and was on a spiritual high for MONTHS. I read my Bible daily, for hours at a time, got rid of all of my secular music and started listening exclusively to Christian artists, went to church every time the doors were open... I was crazy in love with God. My political views changed from moderate to conservative almost immediately, and my many unsaved friends became my "mission field."

Despite this, thoughts that God and the afterlife can't exist, are too good to be true, are too outrageous to be true would still creep to the forefront. I'd push them back, telling myself that I wouldn't be feeling so close to Him if He didn't exist.

Exactly one year ago, I went on mission to China. My group and I taught English to elementary classes and put together a couple Christmas parties at some private schools. It was one of the greatest experiences I've ever had in my life. Oddly enough, that's when my "road to atheism" started, I guess. Don't get me wrong, I was on a total spiritual high throughout that mission trip, but when I got back to America is when I really began to doubt the existence of God. A missionary visited our church only a few weeks after I returned, and something he said really struck me as... just plain wrong. He said that missions where the gospel wasn't spread were useless. That you could go feed people, build houses, teach them, bring them medicine... and none of it meant anything unless you shared Christ with them. It made sense at first, but the more I thought about it, the more it appalled me. When I was in China, teaching seemed natural. Playing with the children and interacting with the teachers seemed natural. What seemed unnatural was when it was time to buck up and share Jesus with them. In fact, I hadn't shared Jesus with anyone on that trip.

From that point my spiritual life took a serious decline. I stopped reading my Bible, stopped praying almost completely, and started letting "sin" back into my life. I have no motivation to be a "good" Christian anymore, and every time I walk into the church I feel burdened with guilt and shame... I don't understand why, if God exists, He would allow me to know Him so closely and then just shut the door, cut me off completely. Why would God allow Hurricane Katrina to literally wipe my hometown off the map? Why would he forbid homosexuality, and then make humans who are attracted to people of the same sex? (I never believed that old Christian stand-by that "homosexuality is a choice.") Why would God allow right-wing conservatives to use Jesus (the "Prince of Peace") as their justification and their scapegoat for war, bigotry, and closed-mindedness?

Like I said... as of right now I consider myself a Christian still, but I don't think I'll stay that way for long. I love what Jesus represents: sacrificial, agape love. I love what I did in China, and I hope to do it again... but I don't want to do it under the condition that I have to share the gospel. I want to do it to help people, to experience a different culture, to make friends. Honestly, since I've come to terms with this I feel like I did when I first rededicated my life to Christ... but without all the guilt. I just feel... like I'm actually living, and not wrapped up in worry and shame. It feels pretty freakin' great, actually. :) 

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You'll find spiritual Highs.

Will Titan bear life tomorrow? If so it changes the debate from a statistical probability of their being life off this planet to a known fact. It's beautiful to think of what that means.

The randomness and the improbability of our life being here strikes me as stunning. To sit back and ponder the leaps life has taken to get here, from the center of a star to my molecules heading back to other stars one day. It's Dust to Dust without someone telling you how to dance to the song of life as it plays.

I can't offer you the fantasy of everything being OK and one day it being perfect. Life is filled with loss. But only when you've enjoyed its fruits. You can still teach kids English. People even pay good money for the service. You can derive your spirituality from what you do with your life rather than from who you serve. I'm not suggesting that you should be an Atheist. You should follow what feels good and doesn't harm your neighbor. But life as a all out atheist isn't void of good and enjoyable things. Rather, I find that I get a greater sense of accomplishment when I help another because it's actually altruistic and not done for future gain... ahem... the missionary.

Good luck with where you choose to go and we are happy to have you here!
that video was great. it painted a really beautiful picture haha. i'm a pretty lucky, sheltered kid but i know enough about life to know that it's never gonna be perfect... i think that's part of the reason i was clinging to religion so tightly after I rededicated. Christianity gave my life meaning, at least for that brief time.

I'm starting to see that I have the capacity to give my own life meaning now. just like you said, I can derive my spirituality from what I do. i don't need a god to define my actions or set a path for me :)

thanks for taking the time to read that wall of text i wrote and givin' me such a thoughtful response! i really appreciate it :D
What a great example of how science, even without the magic of the supernatural, can be incredibly inspiring!
i really do love the "love" part haha. I guess I never really thought of it that way, but it's completely true. And yeah, I do tend to brush over the nastier parts... like a good bit of the Old Testament haha.

I've done a little bit of research but I'm unfamiliar with a lot of the terminology and I'm not too great with science that's not human nutrition (my major, haha). I plan to stick with it though :) I definitely don't want to make any big decisions without knowing as much as I can. thanks so much for your suggestions!
i really do love the "love" part

We all love love, too!! :)
I was in a similar situation in Spain, my hometown is Mexico. I think the best way to preach the gospel is with good acts, love, helping others and teaching to live right, that's better than too much talk and pray. Remember there's a lot of preachers who talk a lot of Christ, but do contrarywise. Deeds are living words.
"Demon Haunted World" by: Carl Sagan is a great book, it really helps to understand what it is to be a skeptic and atheist.

A great primer for Skepticism and I also highly recommend it for anyone!
Pretty much sums it up

Never stop asking questions.
We all have stories similar to yours, S.S. I haven't read any of the replies, but... so many of us experienced an almost inevitable transition from faith to facts that can be verified.

I don't know what anyone else has said, but I hope you never feel pressured by any atheist to hurry up and make the change in your mind and heart. If you're open to the truth, you will see it even if what that truth implies destroys your faith.

Both my grandfathers were Southern Baptist preachers. I had been in church my whole life save one brief experience where I was doubting the Bible itself, but not necessarily the existence of God. I lived in Nashville for three years (age 21-24) and was "on fire" for Jesus the whole time... until close to the time I moved away. It was actually a Christian apologist who said something that made me start digging deeper. It was also a book called Velvet Elvis (by Rob Bell) that told me it was okay to examine my faith. He said that "All truth was God's truth," and that meant even the nuggets of truth in Buddhism or Islam were still truth, and that that truth belonged to God as well. If it was true, it was GOOD, and I could know it and be at ease with it. He also discussed different cultural nuances in the Jewish tradition and culture that just couldn't be conveyed in our Westernized Bible. What I thought Jesus meant by "turn the other cheek" was incorrect, and I stopped trusting myself to understand what the Bible meant; what I had been TOLD it meant.

I decided that I could be the one to seek God out and find truth; I didn't have to rely on apologists (like C.S. Lewis, or Bonhoeffer, or Calvin, or Luther) to tell me what God meant. GOD could tell me! God, surely, wanted me to ask questions and find truth! Surely, there could be no contradictions! Surely, God would reveal himself because I had so much faith he would! I didn't, for one second, think I would find GOD suddenly missing when the facts were being checked.

After I allowed myself to be honest and bold in my search, it all came down like a house of cards. I found out exactly why the Jews don't believe Jesus is their messiah; I found out why they don't necessarily believe there's a place called Hell; I found out that their worldview is so drastically different from the Christian worldview that it was hard to see Christianity as anything but blatant plagiarism.

Most of us came from religious backgrounds and were, at one time, excited about Jesus and sharing the gospel. Not all of us lost our faith because of a bad experience... we lost our faith because we were trying to get closer to God. There's only so far you can go before you see the man behind the curtain.

Don't feel pressured by anyone here (or turned off if they pressure you); just continue at your own pace. Never stop asking questions and demanding reasonable answers!
It will come on its own, whatever IT is. If it's staying Christian, or being a non-believer, the answer will come eventually, and don't beat yourself up no matter what.

Just keep informing yourself with as much knowledge as you possibly can, debate as much as you can, articulate your thoughts out loud or on paper. Just keep looking for knowledge.


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