So, why do I consider myself an atheist (part 2)
It is very difficult to convey all of the emotions and thoughts which went along that period of my life. I think that was the closest I’ve ever been to being “insane.” I still couldn’t tell the entire story to my parents. How would they understand how ultimately “evil” their child was, or so I thought. To a degree, the abuse made a sort-of twisted logic and fed into the idea that I deserved it. It made sense in terms of the abuse I received, and it made sense “theologically” too. I started to search for answers among my fellow Christians (at that time). I prayed the sinner’s prayer with other born-again Christians a few times (I meant it with all the faith I could muster). I remember calling Silent Unity to pray on a regular basis. I thought if I would be born-again, then God would love me again. I was anointed with oil, a sacrament for the sick. It is a Christian truism that if God doesn’t answer your prayer than he would make you strong enough to endure whatever trial befell you. To an extent, I agreed, but my trials were getting harder and harder.
Around this time, I started to see a variety of therapists and ultimately ended up with a cognitive therapist. In cognitive therapy, one challenges beliefs and logical/psychological fallacies. It forces one to see the validity of one’s obsessions. At that time, I would have been considered someone with poor insight. That is to say, I didn’t think my thoughts were irrational. This is usually considered refractory (treatment resistant). In challenging my beliefs and my internal self-talk with a great vigilance I started to confront my fears (exposure) and see the world with my own eyes instead of someone else’s world view.
The turning point towards atheism was when I had confronted a fear of mine. As I had already mentioned, my life had been swimming in religious ideas and beliefs. I believed in the devil. I thought that the devil was trying me, not unlike Job from the bible. At this point my compulsion was prayer, either in my head or out loud. What happened was I felt a panic attack come on and I simply stayed with it and just let it kill me because at this point I had had enough of the anxiety. At this point Hell would’ve been an improvement because at least my tormentors would be made real. I pretty much gave up fighting. It had become abundantly clear that either prayer doesn’t work or God had simply abandoned me. Well, the panic attack went away. I didn’t become evil. I didn’t hurt anyone. I felt relief.
All my fears of me becoming this evil being that was going to destroy the world were 100% false. Of course you would probably say Duh!, but that wasn’t apparent by the way I felt. At this discovery of confronting my fears, I went to town. Did prayer work for everyone else, but me? Was I worshiping God the wrong way? Was there a God at all? I had started a quest to find out about religion. I started with reading the bible.
I. Was. Horrified. Of all the things I had read, I did not expect to find so many atrocities as I have found in the bible. God was not a God of love, but a petty tyrant who relished in punishing people for others’ mistakes. I remember reading a passage about king David taking a census. God gets upset and kills a portion of the populace (70,000) by plague. Why would a merciful, loving, just God punish people who had nothing to do with David’s decision to take a census or not? The bible is chock full of strange rules, bizarre divine decrees and archaic moral codes. The fact that Jesus didn’t speak out against slavery was very disappointing to me. The idea of eternal damnation originated in the New Testament (with Jesus no less) surprised me. So, God maybe didn’t have my back after all? It was very difficult for me to reconcile what was preached to me and what was actually in the bible.
At the same time, I was entering college and was attracted to science. What fell on deaf ears in high school now fell on someone who was truly interested in how the world works. My talents in mathematics and science became apparent. I was introduced to logic in my discrete math class which overlapped with philosophy. I started reading Losing Faith in Faith by Dan Barker. I was surprised at how different we were raised and yet came to similar conclusions about issues of faith. I will confess to you that I did become hostile toward religion at some point (for a few years). I would confront theists of all stripes, the campus crusade types received the brunt of my ire since they accused people of being whores and destined to burn in hell. If you flaunted your Christianity to me, I would confront you whether in person or in chat rooms etc… I felt so betrayed by Christians and was hostile to what I perceived as lies and willful deceit.
I’m now a very live and let live type of guy. I rarely, if ever, confront Christians on why they believe. I generally respect others’ beliefs because I understand that many will fuse their identity with such beliefs. I know for many, their beliefs are a source of strength. I do get tired of hearing that atheists are somehow willfully trying to grieve the Holy Spirit or that if atheists would only open their hearts to Jesus etc… Some will still tell me to give Jesus a try again and I know it isn’t meant with malice, but I just don’t know if there is a God that’s listening. At the very least, prayer doesn’t work as described in the bible.
If there is a God, it would seem to me, that being would be a lot more rational and dispassionate about our situation. For example, my mystical experience tells me that; Whatever that is (God if you like) loves all of us. My dad’s behavior would not change “God’s” mind nor would it send my dad to hell for anything he’s done to me. There’s nothing that one can do that will make God love one less. What if my experience was a form of divine revelation? Does it mean you take my word on faith? I’m not lying about my experience. As most of you would conclude though, that would require a lot of faith for what amounts to nothing more than hearsay….and rightly so.
Links on Atheism
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