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A is for Atheism

 I am participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge where you aim to post every weekday with a topical post from letters of the alphabet.  

I didn't come to atheism lightly, nor did I arrive quickly.

It started in middle and high school when I was the Perfect Little Christian Girl (TM). I was a lector/intercessor at my church, I was a part of the youth group, I sang in the choir every sunday, I participated in the Christmas Pageant, I attended Youth shut-in events, I went to a National Youth Event in Indiana, I even served on the highly competitive Diocesan Youth Council for the state of Connecticut and planned youth events for youth in the Episcopal Church.

Some of you might ask, where did it all go wrong?! Or, what changed? The answer is little things. Little changes that built up and became big changes when I looked back. In short, I evolved.

In attending these youth events, I experienced a more Charismatic worship experience where the people around me were so fully engaged in what we were doing (song and worship) that at some events it even had a pentecostal feel and people would 'feel the holy spirit to be saved again'. I never felt that and I always wondered if something was wrong with me. Sure, the music was inspiring, but I never felt "moved". And then, returning to my Episcopal Church, where parishioners recited their parts of the service by rote so much that it blended together into this drone of sound that had no feeling, no emotion, I was left feeling rather cheated by it all. Why were these people at church if they didn't even have the enthusiasm for what they were saying? Why didn't I have the enthusiasm like the rest of my peers? It left a sour taste in my mouth.
I started taking more and more science courses. I loved science, biology specifically, and I struggled with what the bible said about creation and it's 2 conflicting stories and what the data said about evolution. I read essays and thought I found my answer, someone suggesting that 7 days isn't a literal 7 days, it's relative. People who wrote the bible didn't have the capacity to understand millions of years. So I didn't take the creation story literally, but then a niggling thought occurred. If I was interpreting everything else literally but not that part, was that honest to myself? Was that honest to my god?
The answer was 'it wasn't' . I began to question more of the bible. As I went to college I became more worldly. I learned more about what people did in the name of religion, and what religion did to people. From there, I decided that I was spiritual, but chose not to identify with any religion. I did participate in some activities with the Protestant Campus Ministry but was not an active member (though I did enjoy their dinners!).

At that point it didn't take long for me to realize that I wasn't even worshiping a god of any kind. I had stopped being a theist, let alone a monotheist. I had an appreciation of the beauty of nature, but when I looked at it, I more saw the amazingness that was the interconnectedness of biology and ecology and the vast beauty and sheer awesomeness of the universe. I didn't see a creator. I saw nature. I saw DNA. I saw evolution, the big bang. 

It was in graduate school when I finally identified as atheist. It's been a long and winding road. If ever there is evidence of a deity, I am open to changing my mind, because I am a scientist and that's what scientists do. I deal in facts. I do not deal in faith.

Some part of our being knows this is where we came from. We long to return. And we can. Because the cosmos is also within us. We're made of star-stuff. We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.
Carl Sagan

This entry was originally posted at http://fishwithfeet.dreamwidth.org/212939.html. Feel free to comment where you see fit.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 2nd, 2013 03:34 pm (UTC)
I have a very similar experience with becoming atheist as well. In hindsight I'm surprised so many people choose religion, but back then I was much more close minded -- then again I was younger and more gullible.

Edited at 2013-04-02 03:34 pm (UTC)
Apr. 2nd, 2013 05:33 pm (UTC)
I am just curious, what did your parents/family think about you leaving the church? Do they care about you not baptizing/raising your child in the church? My extended family freaked out when my first nephew wasn't going to be baptized.
Apr. 2nd, 2013 08:48 pm (UTC)
My mother's reaction was this, word for word:

"Your father went through an atheist phase when he was your age but came back to god. I have faith I'll see you in heaven."

Nothing more has been brought up since. When we briefly discussed baptism I explained to her that I didn't feel comfortable promising in front of a whole church that I would raise someone to follow a religion when I had no intention of doing such a thing. I did tell her that if Kaylee wanted to pursue a religion, I would not stop her so she could get baptized when she was old enough to decide for herself. That seemed to be comforting to her.

Eric's mother, on the other hand, got SUPER offended that Eric is an atheist. She would prefer he believe in ANYTHING, just not nothing, and she feels she failed as a parent. We have not directly discussed baptism with her.
Apr. 4th, 2013 01:32 am (UTC)
My fairly brief stint as a true atheist came in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. But I've had weird experiences "m not comfortable relating to most people that make it impossible for me to really and truly be an atheist. I don't believe god/the gods are omnipotent, though. There's no way I could believe that and keep my sanity.
I found that moderate, liberal religion works well for me. I was part of atheistic, anarchist, or pagan communities for a long time and I found there was a high propensity for people to do really awful things and for other people to shun anyone who complained - because you know there is no real right or wrong and truth is relative and you may as well just be some fundie if you call people out on their terrible behavior. I eventually came to the hard realization that some human beings only fail to be violent, thieving baby-punching lying psychos if they are afraid something bad will happen to them. That fear can be of physical authorities or some supernatural judge.
that's not to say that I think all atheists are like that - most atheists I know are fairly ethical people. The trouble begins, though, when an unprincipled person becomes an atheist (or pagan, or anarchist). It's hard to have solid ground to stand on and tell someone "Your behavior is unacceptable" when you've subscribed to a philosophy that doubts any hard and fast moral/ethical rules. I suppose atheists can point to secular law - most people seem to have that confused with morality anyway.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )