I was brought up as a Protestant Christian by two very excellent but, in my opinion, theologically misguided parents. This is not a knock on them, they were, and still are, very loving and attentive. I had a good childhood and they always provided for me.
I first doubted my faith when I was about ten or so. I challenged god that if he were real he would prove it to me through some sort of miraculous healing of someone, anyone, that never came. I wanted to see a limb restored or someone raised from the dead like Jesus and Lazarus were said to have been. Instead, the indoctrination of my religion brought me to tears as I began to feel guilty for doubting gods existence.
The next time I raised my eyebrow at religion was when my grandfather died. My family had always been taught that you could backslide and end up going to hell even if you'd previously accepted Jesus as your personal lord and savior. When my grandfather died, suddenly my mother's view on that topic changed, or perhaps it was my perception that it changed and she had always thought this. Regardless, she now seemed to believe that her father, a catholic man who she didn't previously believe would go to heaven, was in heaven. That made me wonder what else about the doctrine I had been taught was a malleable thing that I could bend to fit my needs.
On my third deployment overseas I decided to try my hand at writing a book. The concept of the book was to tell the stories of the bible in a way that could be logically reasoned by having the role of god played by an extraterrestrial being with superior technology to our own.
As I wrote, I frequently referenced the bible because it was my source material. Reading the bible as a child and as an adult looking at it objectively can bring about two startlingly different perspectives. I began questioning passages in the bible that seemed to contradict each other, known science or taught what I viewed to be immoral lessons.
I never finished that book, largely because I couldn't convince myself that it was believable - even with superior technology. The events and actions of the characters too often just didn't make sense.
A few deployments later I began looking more into contradictions in the bible and various topics on religion that piqued my interest. The more I looked into it the more I began to realize that I had been lied to my entire life. Perhaps lied to is too strong of a thing to say since I believe that the ones who taught me these things actually believed them. Either way, I was a bit resentful for feeling like I had been duped for so long.
I was angry with religion for some time and upon realizing that it was all make believe I sometimes wondered if anything had any meaning to it? If all of humanity will likely eventually be wiped from existence when our sun goes supernova in the very distant future, what does it matter what any of us do? If you've ever seen the sheer size and scale of just the KNOWN universe you know that our entire planet could be decimated and the universe wouldn't even take notice. On a macro scale, our planet and everything on it is largely insignificant. If there is nothing after death, what is the point of life?
To these questions I came to two conclusions that offer me some solace.
Since there is nothing after death, we must live life to the fullest. It's the only life we have and we must make the most of it. Find what makes you happy while you can and pursue it. As an atheist, I have nothing to die for and everything to live for. I find that what makes me happiest is trying to inspire change to make this planet better in whatever ways that I can. Although the planet will eventually go the way of the dinosaurs, I think we should continue to try and make it a better place while we have it. Think of it like taking a shower. You're going to eventually get dirty again but it's nice to be comfortable and clean when you can.
I also found comfort in the fact that when our sun does eventually explode and destroy our planet in the process, my atoms will be dispersed throughout the universe and be used to create new things. Possibly even new life. No, it won't be just me and it's not really reincarnation in the traditional sense. It'll be a combination of my atoms and that of everything contained in the blast of the explosion of our sun but at least I will be part of a chain of events that will bring about something new, even if it isn't necessarily life.
After rejecting Christianity, I felt that if the religion I had been raised in had gotten everything wrong, the rest of the religions of the world were probably wrong as well.
I mostly speak on Christianity because that is what I am familiar with and that is the dominant religion in my little slice of earth.
The religion you left
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