Thoughts on atheism

I am a decided atheist and I regularly write about religious belief, faith and thoughts on atheism here on my blog. That’s why atheism has it’s own section. I also discuss atheism and belief with others, in real life and also online. I feel it is important to share and discuss with others because there is a lot of confusion about atheism and unfortunately a lot of false beliefs in this world. This set of pages is intended to give some structure to my posts and to make my thoughts on atheism clear. If you want to find all my posts about atheism, feel free to explore this tag. For clarification on how I see atheism, please read this page.

A decided atheist

When I say that I am a decided atheist, I mean two things. First, I mean that being an atheist is a conscious decision. There was a moment where I decided that I simply didn’t believe in any gods. Second, I mean that I stand firm on that decision. I have explored the options, heard the arguments for religious belief and have found them all unconvincing. I am left with the conclusion that all religious belief is mere make-belief. If that is an uncomfortable thought for you, you may wish to stop reading. However, I would prefer if you continue to read my thoughts on atheism. Do that with an open mind and perhaps you’ll come away with something to think about.

The path to atheism

Childhood

Church pews
Have you ever seen more uncomfortable seats?

I grew up in a home where religion was not important. My parents didn’t go to church or temple and having grown up in the stifling grip of the Roman Catholic church, were fairly negative about it. Nevertheless, family pressure ensured I was baptized into the Roman Catholic church. We lived in a small town with one elementary school which was also Roman Catholic. That meant the local priest visited our school to give Bible classes and once a week, the entire school walked to the local church to attend mass. I even served as altar boy on occasion. I disliked the uncomfortable benches, the kneeling and the boring songs but most of all, I hated the “mea culpa“.

The Bible classes were not my favorite either because our pastor had little to no knowledge about dinosaurs and other ancient forms of life. I was an avid reader on those subjects and the few books our local library had on those subjects were almost permanently on loan to me. I once attempted to question him about these subjects, only to get called into the principal’s office later for disrupting class.

For more details, please read this post.

Young adult

After the incident with the pastor, I lost all interest in religion. I decided it wasn’t for me but didn’t give it any thought any more. When I got to college, majoring in history, one of the subjects was religious history. Here we learned about the influence of religion mainly on European society, the religious wars in Europe and the role religion played during colonization. It was a good way to learn about the many evil things done in the name of religion. It helped convince me that religious people may not be bad, religion itself certainly can be!

Turning Christian

Due to my marriage, I began visiting church for the first time since childhood. I was clear about not being a Christian to the members but over time, my initial resistance eroded. This was a Protestant congregation and I found the service and the pastor more down to Earth. I also witnessed the closeness and the bond between people of the same faith. It gave me a sense of jealousy and wanting to belong. I began reading Christian apologists like Lee Strobel. People were supportive of my exploration and I finally concluded that I wanted to accept Jesus as my savior. I was baptized during a small ceremony in a local pool with a full immersion baptism. I can still recall the feeling of blessing and joy I felt when I completed the ceremony. For a couple of days I felt like I was walking on a cloud. I prayed daily, I prayed for others and with others. I took Bible classes. In short, I was a full fledged Christian. This was a true, full, honest to God conversion.

Doubts

Almost immediately though, there were doubts. Not during the day, not during Bible study but whenever I was alone and thought about my conversion, there was this nagging voice in my head. Did I really believe this now? Was it real or was I fooling myself? If I’m honest, there was also a sense of shame. I didn’t feel comfortable believing because it made me feel gullible. I began to question things, test things but most of all, I was disappointed with the results of prayer. When I approached my pastor with these doubts, I didn’t get answers. Instead, I got the most banal replies that one could possibly get. I was told to trust God’s wonderful plan for me. If I prayed to God with these doubts, He would surely take them away.

That didn’t happen. I was earnest in my prayers but I felt that the answers given, were an insult to my human intellect. I also saw that in my desire to become a Christian, I had overlooked something vitally important: when learning about something, explore all viewpoints and then form your own opinion.

For more information about my doubts, please read this post.

The “dark side”

Having only looked at apologists, I felt the time had come to explore the opposite side of the spectrum. I wanted to believe but I had doubts. What would happen if I started to explore those doubts? It didn’t take me long to find criticism of the Christian faith. I explored YouTube and Amazon for videos and e-books. It didn’t take me long to stumble across the big names: Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris. Little did I know at that time that these men were known as the “Four Horsemen of the Non-Apocalypse“, a play on the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, mentioned in the book or Revelation.

Image showing Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett and Christopher Hitchens
The Four Horsemen of the Non Apocalypse

Instead of having weak, unconvincing arguments, the words of these men were critical, logical, sensible and above all: they weren’t afraid to admit that they didn’t know something. They didn’t deal in assumptions, they didn’t assert things without evidence. They had no hollow phrases telling people to trust in God’s plan, no “God works in mysterious ways” and no praying for strength. It was a rude awakening but I did wake up.

I am an atheist

The criticism of the “Four Horsemen” reminded me of my own discussions with the village pastor when I was a boy. Even then, I found his answers to be unconvincing and at odds with science. I continued my quest and discovered other atheists who made as much sense. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Matt Dillahunty, Dan Barker, Aron Ra, Hemant Mehta and others that I am forgetting.

Exploring their frank discussions and open criticism of religious belief, I reconnected with the skeptic inside myself. I didn’t want to believe, I wanted to know. However, facts about God, about Jesus and about the truth of the Bible proved impossible to find. Instead, there are plenty of holes in the story and external corroboration is virtually non-existent. I was forced to conclude that I had been misled, that I had misled myself. I wanted to believe but ultimately, I couldn’t.

Exploring their frank discussions and open criticism of religious belief, I reconnected with the skeptic inside myself

The conclusion that I couldn’t believe anymore was obvious. I rejected my faith and became an atheist. Not long after that decision, I started my blog in earnest, both to discover my thoughts and feelings about religion and atheism and also to begin educating people. I’m an atheist and these are my thoughts on atheism.