How I came to be an Atheist
By: Kristian Gore
I was never really a Theist so by default I guess you could say I was always an Atheist. My mom never talked about religion when I was young and neither did my step father. I was vaguely aware of the idea of god and some bible stories. Stories like Jonah and the whale, Noah’s Ark and the garden of Eden were known to me but I regarded them as I did the three little pigs and Jack in the bean stalk. It never occurred to me that people thought they were real.
I saw people talk about god on shows like “Little House on the Prairie” and “The Walton’s” but I never asked why we didn’t pray before we ate, or that on the rare occasions that we did it was sort of a silly sort of thing like “Rubba dub dub, thanks for the grub, yeah god”. I didn’t have a clear concept of god when I was little, and never took the concept of heaven or hell seriously either.
I do remember being aware that Santa was not real when I was five. The logic wasn’t anything profound really. We were in Ohio and we had no Chimney and I knew that Santa did his thing by going down the Chimney. My mom assured me that he would magically shrink himself down so he could come in via the wood burning stove pipe. I didn’t buy it but I went along anyway and from that point on I knew anything from Santa was from my parents.
I was six when I had my first religious discussion. We had recently moved to Los Angeles and I found my step fathers dog tags. They listed his religion as Methodist so I asked him what a Methodist was and if that meant we were Methodist. He said that when he joined the Navy they asked him what religion he was and he said he didn’t know. They asked him if he believed in god and he said yes. They asked him if he went to church and he said no. They said “OK you’re a Methodist”.
It didn’t occur to me to question any further on the god or religion issue because as a first grader I had more important things to worry about. I didn’t even think about it again until I was twenty three. I had been out of the Navy a year and was walking down the street in Jacksonville Florida when I suddenly just stopped. Something wasn’t right and I wasn’t sure what. I turned slowly and stared in wonder at the building in front of me. The sign in front identified this building as a Methodist church. One question was rattling around my head at that moment. “Why would they have a church when they don’t go to church?” Seventeen years and I finally got the joke.
My next encounter with religion was much more instructive. After third grade my mom split up with my step dad and we moved to Harbor City to stay with friends of my mom in an upper middle class predominantly African American neighborhood. They sent their kids to an Evangelical Christian school and so that is where I went for fourth grade.
Now I had been aware of bible stories but this was the first time I was expected to believe them. I did try but they really made no sense to me and so I was often in trouble for clowning around or asking uncomfortable questions. We had an assembly once a week and they brought in people to speak or preach in an entertaining way.
One week might be a ventriloquist talking about the “fall of man” and the next might be a magician with a burning bible. Yes I said burning bible, when he opened the thing it had flames coming out. More significantly they would show us low budget movies about the end times and the rapture meant to scare us into being saved. After the movie kids in my class would go running up to get saved again. I never really bought into it and my attitude was that the concept was unlikely and if the rapture really was going to happen, I would take my chances.
One movie featured a couple of demons who looked like ordinary people but nobody could see. The demons were trying to get people to sin I guess but they encountered one guy who was an Atheist. I don’t remember having heard the term Atheist before but the demons in the movie said he was going to be difficult because even though he didn’t believe in god he also didn’t believe in them either. I thought to myself “Wow, That’s what I am!”
I kept this revelation to myself since I was spanked by the principle enough already for silly things as it was. Silly things included sticking out my ring finger to make someone think I flipped them off or making obscene gestures with a Twinkie. My favorite was when the teacher was leading a discussion on how bad the world would be with out god. Being a somewhat logical kid I suggested that the world would be better if there was no devil. This suggestion sent the teacher into a panic and she was sure I would be attacked by the devil just for suggesting it. She yelled at me to take it back but why would I?
I refused to back down from the premise and she dragged me out of the class and I was sent to the principle for my monthly date with the big green paddle with holes drilled into it. Even then I refused to back down from the premise and I ended up having to bring a note home after school and I think they called my mother. They never released my school records to the public school I went to in the fifth grade and I’m fairly certain they thought I was the anti Christ.
I went on calling myself an Atheist until I decided to give theology another try in seventh grade. I tried Christianity but it seemed a bit immoral to not take responsibility for your own actions and I was having trouble nailing down a denomination. Eventually I figured it would have to be the oldest one that was the right one.
This led me to Catholicism and then Judaism. Then I realized that the Norse, Greek, Egyptian and Samarian religions were older. The Egyptian and Samarian religions were tempting but I kept digging and eventually I arrived at shamanism. This is when I realized my original stance of Atheism made much more sense and so I went back to being an Atheist and have been there ever since.
I gave the Old and New Testament a better read in high school but I found them rather unremarkable. The plot holes were terrible and I found it to be very poorly written. I tried the Qur’an but I couldn’t take it seriously past the idea that a “god” would choose a guy who can’t read or write to fix the holy books. I checked out the other faiths a little but really I don’t see much point. Buddhism works for me as philosophy but I can’t get into any of the supernatural stuff that some put into it.
I still check out churches today from time to time. I’m fascinated by the rituals but in most cases I have to pretend to be one of them to avoid people throwing holy water at me. That actually happened once. I find it interesting that people who are believers who honestly think they can feel just how pure of spirit someone is will often tell me that I have such a calm and pure spirit.
Someone asked me recently “If you’re not a Christian, why do you go to church?” and I said “Diane Fossy went to the jungle to study Gorillas, but that didn’t make her a Gorilla.”