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Why I Am an Infidel
Let us begin in my early childhood. I was raised by my father for primarily the first 6 years of my life, which are, arguably, the most important. He was, and still is, of a very religious nature. I was taught all the books of the Bible, and wore my “Sunday’s Best” on Wednesday nights. I knew all of the Apostles, as well as the majority of the Bible stories. I took all of this in without much question. There was one Bible song that caught my attention, however.
“Jesus loves the little children” was that song. I think it should have said “the little children that were lucky enough to be born in America.” What about all the starving African babies on TV? “Why did they need our money to be fed? Doesn’t Jesus love them like he loves me?” I often thought. This was the start of my disbelief, although I didn’t realize or have the capability of understanding the seriousness.
One day, I asked my dad who made “God”. He was unable to tell me who, and that he was just always there. Being a curious little fellow, I pondered the thought of someone always existing. It didn’t work out in my brain. I thought nothing of it, and continued my life as a Christian.
As long as I can remember, fellow church goers always referred to “God” in a very personal, loving way; as if they knew him. “God told me . . .”, “God is saying . . .” were among some of the things I heard. I asked my dad what they meant. He explained to me that they meant what they said in a literal way. “God” spoke to them. I wondered how; telepathy? Could “He” force “His” words into your brain so that you could hear them? The thought scared me. “God” never spoke to me, even when I prayed extra hard. I wondered if I was doing something wrong.
My father once told me that if I had no one else in life, Jesus would hold my hand. So, one night during a storm, (which, during my youth was quite frightening), I held out my hand in search of some sort of sign from Jesus that he was in fact there holding my hand. I felt nothing. No sense of warmth, security, or any other of the things attributed to being in “His” presence; nothing.
Although I had my run-ins with doubt, I was technically still a Christian. I had no specific denomination, though. If I was asked which I was, I’d simply say “I go to the Church of Christ”; which brings me to my next problem. I have always been puzzled by denominations. Why were there Catholics, Lutherans, Baptists, and Mormons? My dad said it was because they believe different things about Jesus and the Bible stories. I never understood how one could possibly choose the right “brand” of Christianity. Later, I learned about different religions all together, (I think it was the September 11th attacks). Muslims believed in a god called “Allah” yet mine was called “Yahweh”. What if their god was the right one? Would he send me to hell? Did they have a hell to go to?
When my dad moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico, from Dodge City, Kansas, I often went to stay with him for a few weeks during the summer. We went to a Wendy’s Drive Through, (if I recall correctly), and I saw that someone had a bumper sticker. It was a big fish, with Jesus’ name inside, eating a little fish, with Darwin’s name inside. I asked my dad who Darwin was. “He was a man who lived a while back that came up with the theory that we evolved from monkeys. We know through scripture, though, that God created Adam and Eve, in Genesis.” I knew that, but why were we so similar looking to monkeys? We have similar bodies, hands, faces, and our eyes are near indistinguishable. I didn’t think this could have been a coincidence.
It was on one of the Albuquerque trips that I was baptized. In my opinion, I was rushed, if not forced, to be baptized. Keep in mind, my mom was apathetic towards religion. She was from a Catholic School, but she felt that if she did what she felt was right in her life then religion had no place. My dad felt that living with my mom, I wasn’t getting enough “church time” and in order to be “saved,” I needed to be baptized a.s.a.p. I gave my consent, and was “saved.” This was supposed to be a life changing, memorable moment, but to me, I was taking a bath. What made this any different? Just because it was in a church made it holy water? I think I can safely say that the baptism did more harm than good in my religious life. I didn’t understand how this would decide if I went to heaven or hell. I thought that my choices in life should determine that, not whether or not I was dipped into some water.
I realized I was an atheist rather than a Christian when I met my friend Chris online. We talked for quite some time before I finally asked him if he was a Christian or not. He said that he wasn’t. It was weird to me; he answered as if I asked him if he liked pepperoni pizza. Living in the small, rural community of Ellis, Kansas, someone exclaiming their atheism was like someone saying they were a communist. Being from Colorado, a more liberal area than Kansas, he probably didn’t think twice about being open about his atheism. I asked him why he was, as I still thought I was Christian at the time, and he explained to me that he found the idea of a just and loving god impossible. He showed me a YouTube video, (with over a million views), that depicted an African boy with maggots eating through his skull. He asked me how a loving god would allow this to happen to a person this young and innocent. I couldn’t answer; and so began my ascent to personal enlightenment.
I had finally realized my atheism when I applied Chris’ view on life to my own. I was “blessed” with a tissue disorder, which was inherited. This disorder affects the aorta - the main artery of the heart. While not daily imminent, death is a possibility, be it at random or a result of stress on the heart. As a result, I am not able to participate in P.E., sports, or any other physical activities that get my heart racing. Why did “God” do this to me? What did I do, prior to birth, that “he” felt I deserved this? One could say “God works in mysterious ways,” but couldn’t an all powerful god figure out another way to carry out his “plan” without disabling a child at birth?
The more I thought about and studied Christianity, the more I turned away. As a result of being physically handicapped, if you will, I had a lot of free time at home with which I used the internet. I enjoyed spending my time reading about anomalies in the Bible. I discovered that many people were in fact atheists, and among my favorites were Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and Christopher Hitchens. Their writings have strongly influence my atheism, and further than that, my life.
My daily life is/was not affected much by my devout atheism. At first, I was careful to intentionally lie about my religious affiliation. If anyone asked, I’d say I was a Christian, but I didn’t go to church. They were fine with that, as there are many people that live that way. I did this in order to evade being the “black sheep”. As I mentioned earlier, Ellis isn’t the friendliest of towns in terms of religious preference. Whenever atheism is brought up in class, there is usually an inappropriate remark. For example, “Let’s kill an atheist” was said in the middle of class one day. Nobody looked at that student any different than if he said “the weather is nice today”. If an atheist were to say “Let’s kill a Catholic”, that would be an act which deserved a good old fashioned passionate *** whooping by the majority of the class.
Today, however, I am unafraid to voice my atheism. If anyone needs to know, I’ll tell them. I feel that I am betraying my beliefs when I either don’t answer or lie and say that I am a Christian. In America, we have the freedom of religion along with the freedom of speech. If I get mistreated, or thought of differently by someone, more power to them. If they think I am a lesser person because of my beliefs, I don’t have a problem with it. They can think what ever they would like; I have no way to convince them otherwise.
The hatred towards atheism is hypocritical, to say the least. Wouldn’t the devout religious person pray for me? Pray for their god to exhibit some sort of evidence to prove me wrong? Instead, the general reaction I get when I explain my beliefs is “that’s bad” or “you should go to hell” or “you’re a terrible person.” I am unsure as to why today’s youth has determined it to be socially acceptable to be a Christian and steal, but unacceptable to be a moral atheist.
I feel that I am a better person after I have realized my atheism. I say realized because I think I have always been an atheist. For aren’t we all atheists as babies? We don’t know anything, let alone a god. I don’t think it’s a choice to be religious or not. It’s not a choice to truly believe in something, it just happens in your head. If I “made the choice” of being religious, I’d be lying to myself. It wasn’t my choice to be raised as a Christian. I was born in the United States of America. Had I been born in Iraq, I’d probably be a Muslim. If I were born in Jamaica, I’d be a Rastafarian. It is not a choice to be religious or not, it is a matter of demographics and location. Therefore, I believe that the way I was raised determined my atheism, and it was not my choice, although I would prefer it if I had to choose.
I have found much more inner peace as an atheist than I did as a “Christian”. I no longer have the inner fight to find a god that didn’t ever answer, and I am at peace with the fact that life stops when life stops. My life is lived in the moment now, focusing on what I can do in this lifetime to make it better for myself and others. Time with my family and friends is more precious than any material item, because, as an atheist, I believe this lifetime is the only one we have.
“Philosophy is questions unanswered; Religion is answers unquestioned.”