My name is Ian and I'm an Atheist.

I choose to capitalize the word Atheist because I feel the word merits more respect than it is given. It is not a word that should make people cringe. It is a title of honor. Why should I feel ashamed to proclaim my lack of belief? Why should I walk on eggshells around believers? I shouldn't have to, and neither should anyone else.

Being an Atheist is nothing to be ashamed of. I'm proud to call myself an Atheist. To me, the word Atheist conveys the image of one who questions everything, one who accepts nothing on blind faith. To me, an Atheist is one who requires evidence for any claim that is made. Nothing more, nothing less. An Atheist questions.

Living in the ultra-conservative state of Indiana, I've noticed that Atheists are really looked down upon. While I'm not sure whether or not Indiana is part of the bible belt, it might as well be. Believers are the majority in this state, and "coming out," so to speak, tends to invite dirty looks and verbal abuse. Myself included. Although I'm openly an Atheist, I quickly learned long ago not to speak of my lack of belief.

My lack of belief started at the age of eight. I was removed from my biological mother when I was four years old. She was a heroin addict who felt that children interfered with her ability to score. So I was raised in foster care for most of my childhood. I wasn't formally introduced to Christianity until I was eight years old. It was during Sunday School that I found and lost god.

The Sunday School teacher was a middle-aged lady, wearing a flower print dress. She was teaching us about sin, and how the only way to be forgiven for sin was to accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior. "As Christians," she told us, "it is our duty to spread the word of Jesus to everyone, because without Jesus, none can enter the kingdom of Heaven." She told us about how Jesus loves every single one of us, and that he is always looking out for us. Having just had my life ripped from me, I needed a friend, and I wanted desperately to believe what she said was truth.

Naturally, as an eight year old child, I had questions. I was quite curious. This Jesus fellow sounded too good to be true. The question I had for the teacher was a simple one. "What if there was a man who lived on an island somewhere, who never heard about Jesus, because no one told him? What if he was a good guy who lived a good life and never hurt anyone? What would happen to him when he died?"

Because the teacher had just spoken about how much Jesus loves everyone, I thought she would say that Jesus would forgive him anyway and let him into Heaven. The answer she gave me instead horrified me. "He would go to Hell, because the only way into Heaven is through Jesus, and as Christians, it is our duty to spread the word to everyone."

I was crushed. I wanted to cry. It just wasn't fair. How could an all-loving creator send an innocent person to Hell for the "crime" of ignorance of his existence? And when the teacher proceeded to tell all the children in the room about all the horrors of Hell, the eternal fiery torment and gnashing of teeth, I really started hating this god they were preaching about. I didn't want to come back to church ever again. Here I thought that at least one person in this cold, uncaring Universe loved me no matter what, only to find that this "love" had tons of conditions attached to it. The extent of my heartbreak can't be put into words.

Needless to say, I had no choice but to continue attending church. And the stories the Sunday School teacher told got more and more ridiculous as time went on. Talking snakes, burning bushes that talked, a boat that held two of every species, a man living in a whale for three days, people coming back from the dead; all of these stories seemed absolutely ridiculous. I might have been only eight years old at the time, but I wasn't an idiot. I knew these things were ridiculous.

It didn't take long for me to figure out that this god of theirs was fake. It was Santa Claus for adults. It wasn't any more real than the Tooth Fairy. All the hate I had for this god just slipped away, because it is absolutely ridiculous to hate something that doesn't exist. But I was angry that adults, whom I was told to trust unconditionally, had gone to such great lengths to deceive me. They had abused my trust, and taken advantage of me. It made me sick.

I learned a very valuable lesson at that age: that nothing should be accepted on blind faith. I learned the hard way a lesson I wish more adults would teach their children: always question.



--Ian Buchanan is a musician and student. Check out his two websites: AngryHuman and C-Negative .

Views: 9

Comment by Dave G on February 4, 2010 at 9:33am
Welcome Ian!

I wish more people would see that 'unconditional love' with conditions (not to mention harsh punishment for failing to meet said conditions) is not unconditional at all.
Comment by Doug Reardon on February 4, 2010 at 9:42am
The nuns were always telling us that God made us because he loved us and wanted to share with us his paradise in heaven. I always asked, how could god love that which doesn't exist? And, if he was so anxious to share, why did he take so long before creating us. The nuns were not happy with me.
Comment by Daniel Yang on February 4, 2010 at 9:59am
Hi Ian,

I appreciate your article. Someone once challanged me with this saying, "Adults make many life-changing decisions based off of choices made as a child." It made me realize that it is possible to come to a bigger and more complete understanding of God once our worldview expands and matures.

Not being antagonistic here, but 2 questions to help me understand you more...

Is it possible that your questioning of God is more of an emotional/subjective response to what you perceive and interpret as an injustice?

Is your understanding of God, now, still the basic idea you had at the age of 8? Meaning are you rejecting an incomplete and immature understanding of God?
Comment by Kirk Holden on February 4, 2010 at 12:16pm
Daniel - neurobiology FAIL - emotions propel most of our choices. We would be zombies without them. Plus all mental states are subjective. I have only my experience and none of yours.

Ian has made his choice for now.
Comment by Doug Reardon on February 4, 2010 at 12:28pm
"an incomplete and immature understanding of God?"

Is there any other kind?
Comment by Ian Buchanan on February 4, 2010 at 12:55pm
Daniel,

As a child, during my struggle with the concept of god, yes, my questioning was a result of what I perceived to be an injustice. Once I realized god didn't exist, I had no emotions toward god. My anger was directed at the adults who deceived me. It had nothing to do with god. I don't hate god. It's irrational to hate (or for that matter, feel any emotion toward) something that doesn't exist. And if you're wondering how, at the age of eight, I came to the conclusion that god didn't exist, it's simple. Being a child doesn't mean that one lacks critical thinking skills. I had to grow up very fast, as my entire view of life had been drastically altered at such a young age, and as such, I questioned everything. I listened to my Sunday School teacher, and I honestly tried to believe. It's just that the stories that I was told were entirely too far-fetched. Even at the age of eight, I understood the limits of reality, and because of the things I had been through, I couldn't just trust what adults claimed to be true. I knew that magic didn't exist. I had never seen or heard god. And I constantly wondered why so many people claimed that they had heard god speak to them, when I had never had the same experience. I never felt god's presence. He never spoke to me. I had no tangible evidence for his existence. Therefore, I concluded that god didn't exist. I was told by many people that god refused to show himself to people because he wanted people to have faith in him, to believe in him despite a lack of evidence. That just wasn't good enough for me. I reasoned that if god could do anything, he could show some evidence that he existed. I didn't understand how it was fair for god to send people to Hell for not believing in him, when he refused to show evidence of his existence to begin with. How is it fair to send someone to Hell for using the critical thinking skills he allegedly endowed us with? None of it made any sense to me, no matter how much I desperately wanted to believe. My lack of belief isn't a choice that I made. It's not a switch I can just turn on and off at will. My lack of belief is due to the fact that I can't believe in something without evidence. Trust me, I tried to believe. I just couldn't do it. I really wanted to believe.

As for my current understanding of god, I don't see him any differently than I did as a child. I see him as a fictitious character that people use to commit some of the most atrocious acts in history. So many wars have been started in this god's name, so much pain and suffering... And it doesn't help that the bible itself is full of atrocities. The bible condones slavery, even going so far as to say that it's okay to beat your slaves, so long as they don't die in the process. And this is coming from Jesus Christ himself! The bible is incredibly misogynistic, treating women as nothing more than property, proclaiming that women should obey their husbands, and basically saying that women have no rights. In the bible, this god orders the genocide of countless people, even murders innocent children! And the religious, right-wing conservatives claim that this book is the ultimate authority on morality! When Christians ask me why I don't believe in god, I wonder if they've even read the bible they tout so much. Because if they would actually read the bible, I guarantee they would at least start questioning their belief. If a human being did the things god has done in the bible, people would consider him/her to be the most evil human being in the history of mankind. Worse than Hitler! But because god did these things, it must be okay.

Another problem I have with Christianity is the concept of an innocent man paying for the sins of others. According to the bible, Jesus was sent down to Earth to be crucified, in order to pay for the sins of mankind, thus ensuring that every human being can go to Heaven. This belief is an incredibly dangerous belief to have. My problem with this belief is this: suppose there's a man on trial for raping and murdering women. What would you think if a man all of a sudden walked into the court room and told the judge that he'd be willing to serve that man's prison sentence for him, thus putting that raping murderer right back on the street? I know that I sure as hell wouldn't want that to happen. It's wrong. This belief teaches people that innocent people can pay for your crimes, taking personal responsibility away from the individual, allowing an individual to use a scapegoat. It's an absolutely disgusting belief.

Another problem I have with the whole concept of Christianity is the concept of Hell. While I was in Sunday School, I was told that we are god's children, and that he loves every single one of us. I'm not sure if you have any children, Daniel, but if you do, I'm sure you love them no matter what, right? Well, this god of yours claims to love us, but will send us to a place of eternal, fiery torment if we refuse to believe in him. My question to you, Daniel, is this: could you do that to your children? Would any loving parent do that to their children? Most parents wouldn't dream of doing that to their children, no matter what they did. Because that's not love. I know what love is, and this god of yours has a heart made of cold, black stone, if the bible is to be believed.

I could write an entire book with all the problems and concerns I have with this religion, so for the sake of brevity I am going to cut this short. I hope I've answered your questions.
Comment by luvtheheaven on February 4, 2010 at 12:58pm
Welcome, Ian! Your childhood story is heartbreaking and inspiring all at once. ;) I'm glad you discovered the truth and are an atheist and have joined us here now. :D

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