This is my first post on this blog. I wasn’t going to contribute to this site at first because I really don’t feel that I have much to say that hasn’t already been said by far better thinkers and writers than me, but my husband (skepticalProgrammer) really wanted me to. I thought I’d start by telling you a bit about myself and my religious background.
I am 24 years old. I grew up as a Fundamentalist Christian and believed in a personal God whole-heartedly for most of my life, though I always had questions I knew I wasn’t allowed to ask. I pushed these thoughts and doubts out of my head and threw myself completely into religion, especially during my teenage years. Religion is where I found my identity, my friends, my sense of well-being, acceptance, meaning, and respect, among other things.
The first time my beliefs were ever seriously challenged was when skepticalProgrammer and I became good friends (I was 16). He was a Christian, yes, but he was one of those “liberal Christians” I’d heard about–not a “real” Christian. I had always been taught that one could not be a “real” Christian without also being Republican. The two were practically synonymous. But here he was, a Democrat and a Christian. I was forced to reconsider my entire religious belief system and what it meant to be a Christian. He supported the LGBT community, he supported a woman’s right to choose, yet he obviously knew and believed the Bible and seemed to be just as strong in his Christian faith as I was. He was gentle and patient with me as I reevaluated my positions. Eventually, reason won and I dropped many of the conservative views I held.
This was the beginning of the end of my religious belief. I realized the importance of questioning even those off-limits parts of Christianity. I realized that different people have different ideas about what constitutes “true” Christianity. I spent the next six years slowly moving from Fundamentalist Christian, to moderate Christian, to liberal Christian, to religiously apathetic, to agnostic, and finally to atheist. It was a gradual process. I couldn’t tell you when one stage ended and another began because there was, for the most part, a lot of overlap and a lot of going back and forth. At the time, I wasn’t even thinking about these kinds of labels. It’s only now that I look back on it all that I realize the different labels that generally fit the stages I went through. I suppose using such labels is only relevant to show in very vague terms the process that led me where I am today. So there you have it, in a nutshell.
I’m still a “closeted” atheist for the most part. My family remains very much fundamentalist and would worry about me burning in hell for all eternity if they knew the truth about my lack of belief in a deity. A few of my friends know, but I’ve been very careful to only tell people who I know will be accepting and open-minded. Living in the Bible Belt means this number is very small.
There are things that I miss about religion–the community, the support, the acceptance–but by finally embracing a rational approach to life, I’ve gained much more than I’ve lost. Most significantly, I am able to freely explore new philosophies and ideas and come to my own conclusions about the world and the nature of life. I’ve grown in more ways than I would have ever imagined, much more than I ever could have when I subscribed to the Christian faith. Life is exciting and full of possibilities. I’m learning and growing, challenging myself and expanding my mind every day. Leaving behind the myths and lies of religion, though a difficult path to take, has been one of the best choices I have ever made.
To the readers of this blog, no matter your beliefs, I wish you well on your journey.