I'm an atheist, in case you didn't know.
I composed this blog as sort of a companion piece to a much angrier one I wrote in regards to relgion and to also attempt to explain why I am an atheist.
Im an atheist. In case you didnt catch this the first time let me say it again, Im an atheist. For those in the back row, Im an atheist. Now that weve cleared that up I am sure you are wondering why am I an atheist. How could Trey Smith, a guy who was at one time a rather devout Christian stray so far from "Gods path." I went to church almost every Sunday until I was almost 19 years old. I went to youth group, I read at Christmas, I went to most church oriented events. How then can I choose to be an atheist?
First of all, I did not choose to be an atheist. I believe taking such a big step as not having a belief in a god is something you cannot choose, it must happen. There was never a day in which I climbed out of bed, place my arms onto my hips and declared to the world, "Trey Smith is an atheist!" It doesnt work that way, or at least I believe it shouldnt. No, I am an atheist because over a rather long period of time I began to realize things about theism that just didnt seem right.
Of course, as a Christian I dismissed these doubts at first. However, being who I am I could not completely force them to leave my mind. They persisted, begging me to take a more critical look at what I have been blindly following without question since I was young. I assured myself, however, that even after these doubts have been answered I would still believe in God. That nothing would change and that perhaps, like other Christians who "question" their beliefs, I would become a better servant of God. It would be an understatement to say I was mistaken.
As I turned my critical eye onto my beliefs I realized from the very beginning that they were not holding up very well. One of the first questions that I examined dealt with the fact that this world is full of many different religions composed of people who believe in their god or gods just as much as I believed in mine. I wondered, how do I know if I am right? There millions of people on this Earth of other religions who are just as sure as I am that they are right. So, there is a big change that I could be wrong. Then, for the first time the most important thought in regards to my de-conversion entered my head. Could every single religion on Earth be wrong? Is there no God at all?
I was then presented by my friend Logan with an essay from the website Godless Geeks. It was entitled "Why Atheism?" and if the aforementioned thought was the most important internal step towards my becoming an atheist, this essay was the most important external step. It was full of contradictions that plagued religion in regards to science and also those that lie within itself. As I read this essay I could feel my belief in God slowly draining from my body. My questions were beginning to be answered and for the first time I was beginning to feel free.
However, as good as it felt I still couldnt just jump into atheism. I had to question what this essay was telling me and make sure that it wasnt just a bunch of bullshit. I read it over numerous times, taking each major point it made, thinking about each of them until I was satisfied with what the author was saying. My faith in God was crumbling before my very eyes and I began to realize I could never go back.
I began asking myself questions that I still ask theists this day when they argue that they have faith in the existence of their God. Well, I counter, the people of ancient Greece had complete faith in the existence of Zeus, the other gods, and stories such as Hercules. However, now we know them to be just myths and we would laugh at anyone who believes them to be true. What makes Christianity different? Where is the empirical evidence that proves God does indeed exist?
I have also thought about Pascals Wager, a horrible argument used by theists that basically states its better to believe in God even if he isnt real, therefore if he is you wont go to Hell. Well, this brings me back to the first big question that entered my mind about theism. There are so many religions all over the world and each member of those various religions believe they are right. How can you be sure that you are right and they are wrong. You could be worshipping the wrong jealous God and therefore damning yourself to Hell anyway.
This brings me to my next point, Hell itself. There many problems with a belief that all who do not follow your religion shall be damned to eternal pain and suffering. That doesnt sound like something that belongs in a religion that is all about love and forgiveness. Hell is an obvious creation of man to scare others into believeing that what they are preaching is true. Thats all it is. Also, if the Christian God is all-knowing then why is he allowing people to be born into this world that will become atheist or murderers. By allowing this God is allowing people to come into this world with the sole purpose of falling into eternal damnation when they pass away. Does that sound like the all loving God you were taught about in Sunday school? I dont think so.
Another problem I have with this supposed all knowing God is his intolerance. In The Bible, a book that is considered extremely moral, God commands that all do not worship be stoned to death (Deut. 17:2-5 RSV). The same for those who commit homosexual acts (Lev. 20:13 RSV), gathering sticks on the Sabbath (Num. 15:32-35), failing to obey ones parents (Deut. 21:18-21), and cursing your father or mother (Ex. 21:17 RSV, Lev. 20:9). There are many more such examples but I feel as if those five prove my point. These are commands from a God who is supposed to be all loving? How can anyone who considers themself to be a good person worship such a jealous, cruel deity?
Finally, as I mentioned earlier there are many contradictions in theology regarding science. The Bible states in Genesis that the Earth was created in seven days by God (Gen. 1:1-31 NRSV). However, there is now vast proof in the realm of science that the Universe and all celestial bodies that lie within it were created by an event described in the Big Bang Theory. Also, the Bible claims that God created man in his image (Gen.1:27 NRSV), when there is now mounds of evidence supporting Darwins fact and theory of Evolution. The bottom line is, science is continually diminishing any room the "God of the Gaps" (the God of the Gaps is a way of describing natural events that we do not have an answer for with the conclusion God did it) way of describing natural events has left.
These reasons and many others are why I reached a point in my life in which I could be nothing else but an atheist. Becoming an atheist has opened up a whole new world of knowledge for me. I have become very fond of the works and life of astronomer Carl Sagan and of astronomy in general. I have began reading various articles pertaining to science and history that are far more interesting than a myth concerning a violent old man in the clouds. In atheism I have started on a journey to learn through science and history what this world is really about, how it came to be, and the mysteries that lie in the vast cosmos around us. I believe with all my heart that this is a better way to spend my life than living in fear for a soul that doesnt exist within me and worshiping a God who simply isnt there either.
"If only God would give me some clear sign! Like making a large deposit in my name at a Swiss Bank."-Woody Allen
"Atheism is life affirming in a way religion can never be."-Richard Dawkins