The Anniversery of My Unbelief (sort of)
Light dinner conversation…
Just over a year ago I was at a convention with two of my friends, having dinner the last night before we headed back home. The conversation between the two of them turned into a rather heated debate over the role of women in marriage. My friend J, a conservative, reformed Presbyterian, falls firmly on the side of Paul (the apostle), saying that women should submit to their husbands. D, a less conservative, less religious, Methodist, believes that Paul was writing to people of a certain era, when it was considered proper for women to submit to their husbands and slavery was alright.
During the course of the debate I was mostly silent. I had seen J debate this exact same issue with another friend before and knew that he wouldn’t be moved by any argument. D was arguing against the infallibility of the scripture, claiming that it was only a historical document written by men, reflecting the mindset of the time. J was, of course, insisting that the scriptures are the Divinely Inspired Word of God, 100% infallible and literally true in every aspect. I began to realize that I agreed far more with D’s view than with J’s.
This realization wasn’t exactly a huge epiphany to me; I already knew that I believed the same thing, more or less, but it was during this conversation that I realized, too, that I no longer believed in the religions based on these scriptures. I also found the courage to side with my friend D (partly because I wanted to calm J down, he was getting quite irate, loud, and forceful at this point and people in the restaurant were starting to look at us) and tell J that I, too, think that the scriptures were written by men and weren’t some magical book dictated by God.
The conversation ended in a stalemate, I managed to calm J down and get D to stop pushing his buttons so we could enjoy our meal in peace and not ruin the last night of the trip for all of us. But that realization stuck with me, kept nagging me for the next few weeks. I, of course, continued going to church (since it is my place of employment), but I spent most of the time praying that God would reveal himself to me if he were truly real. I had prayed this prayer a number of times in the past, but usually ended up choosing to believe regardless of my doubts.
That hideous strength…
This would be the last time that I could cover over those doubts so easily. Each time the mountain of doubts had grown larger and the strength of my indoctrination and faith to cover it over had become weaker. I was no longer able to hide my unbelief from myself. I remember sitting in church one Sunday morning, having completed my half of the service, not paying attention to the sermon but “pondering these things in my heart” (to paraphrase Luke). It was then that I actually admitted to myself that I no longer believe. I admitted that I am, indeed, an atheist.
Now that I think about it, the conference was in mid-March, so it was probably April before I admitted my unbelief to myself. I know that it was after Easter, which was April 4 last year. So this post may be just a bit shy of the anniversary of my “becoming atheist” (though I now consider myself to have been an atheist for much longer than this, but this was the point when I actually realized and admitted it to myself).
One year later…
So, now I have spent nearly a year coming to terms with this fact and trying to figure out what it will mean in my life. I have spent a year looking for employment outside the church (unsuccessfully), I have spent a year actively hiding a large part of my life from almost everyone I know, and I have spent a year experiencing the freedom of being able to allow myself to explore the world of atheist writings and videos online and in print.
It has been very eye-opening, especially reading the story of Dan Barker. I have come to realize that I am not alone. I am not the first minister to doubt his religion and then abandon it for unbelief, logic, and reason. I am not the only person stuck, right now, living a secret life. I am not the first to see the inconsistencies in the scripture and in the doctrines I have been taught, and doubt the religion that has taught me these things. My ideas aren’t new, or incorrect. Reading the writings of other atheists doesn’t often cause me to see something new, rather it usually causes me to nod in agreement, having realized the idea they are writing about on my own some time earlier. (This is not to say that I never come across new information in the writings of Dawkins, Harris, and others, I do, but the basic facts that lead them to not believe are the same facts that led me to not believe.)
I have spent a year noticing just how much Christian dogma my friends on Facebook post, and wondering how many of them would defriend me were they to find out the truth. (There are a handful of my friends who I know will not abandon me, even Christian ones, for they already know of this blog and my secret life. To those of you with whom I have trusted this information: I thank you so much for your understanding over the past few months.) I have spent a year feeling more and more alienated from my family (though, I also know that the alienation I feel is a drop in the bucket compared to how many families actually operate, I am still very close to everyone in my family and I have the feeling that even when/if I tell them of my unbelief that they will still love and accept me) each time I visit.
Overall, the freedom I’ve found in doing away with my dual-minded ability to not believe in God while embracing the religion far outweighs the negative impact that having to hide a large part of myself from those around me has had. (And let’s be honest, I have been hiding this part of me for over fifteen years now. The only difference is that I’m no longer hiding it from myself, too!) I am free to think the things I think, free to appreciate the world around me for what it is, free to live my life now and not worry about my life after I die. I no longer have to feel guilty for my doubts, and that is a wonderful thing.
- An Atheist in the Pew (new.exchristian.net)
- Book Review: Godless (spaninquis.wordpress.com)
- Almost Outta that Damn Closet! (youngatheist.wordpress.com)