I know that it’s probably pretty jarring to see me being so open about my nonbelief now, especially since just a few years ago belief in God was such a major part of my life. I did go to India with the missionary organization Youth With a Mission in 2005. That was an awesome experience and I’m really glad I got to go.
I don’t know that I could really put a finger on one thing or another that made me make the switch from theism to nontheism. It was more the result of a long period of searching and questioning my faith. After I returned from India, I was so psyched to go out and put everything I’d learned to action, yet inside I knew something didn’t make sense. I tried to reconcile the teachings of the Bible with real life, but I couldn’t. I began to seriously question what I believed and why. I was raised to believe that the Bible is the infallible, inerrant word of God and that God loves us and listens to us and has our best interests in mind, and yet this was not what I was finding as I searched for answers to my questions. I found contradictions, inaccuracies, and a God who was far less loving and forgiving than I’d been led to believe. With my faith in the Bible and a loving God shaken, I felt I could no longer call myself a Christian, at least not the type of Christian I had been.
I looked at what religion has done to the world. The Crusades, the Holocaust, current fights in the Middle East; these are all examples of the kind of harm people can do to each other in the name of a god they can’t prove even exists. Just a couple of years ago I heard a story of a young girl who died because her parents refused to get her medical care for her diabetes. Instead, they prayed that God would heal her.
Now I will agree that religion can and does do good in the world, but at what cost? Why not just be kind and good for the sake of being kind and good? Why do we need an excuse, such as the threat of fiery torture, to do good things for others? How many other lives must be lost in the name of God/Allah/Vishnu before we realize how ridiculous it all is?
Finally, it all comes down to proof. For millennia, people have used gods to explain the unexplainable. As science has progressed, gods have been gradually pushed out of the way. We now know why the sky is blue; we know how and why the sun rises and sets. We know why children resemble their parents. Yet people still cling to this idea of a magical being who takes an interest in their personal lives. Why? Where is the proof that such a being as a god exists? I might believe there is an invisible pink unicorn in my bedroom. This belief might give me great comfort and inspire me to do great things. Yet if I were to tell you there is an invisible pink unicorn in my bedroom, would you believe me? Probably not, unless I could prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that it’s there. So it is for me and all gods and supernatural phenomena. If you can show me proof that it’s real, then sure, I’ll believe it. I’m not an atheist because I can say with 100% certainty that gods do not exist. I’m an atheist because I don’t believe they do and I have yet to be shown they do. To put it more clearly, I’m an agnostic atheist: I don’t know that gods exist, but I don’t believe they do.
I hope that sort of clears things up a little. I could probably write a whole book on this, lol. If you want to get a little better understanding, I’d highly recommend reading Bertrand Russell’s essay “Why I Am Not a Christian”. Here’s a link if you’re interested: http://users.drew.edu/~jlenz/whynot.html