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Why I Became an Atheist

We are born atheists. It is the shaping of culture and parenting that bring about our beliefs in gods and such. Existence of god(s) is not self-evident. We must be shaped into accepting that there are invisible people in the sky that give any thought to our lives or our deeds good or bad. So I guess you could say that I returned to my atheism, to my natural state after a decade and a half long prison term in the dungeons of Christianity.

Atheism is from the greek language, meaning without religion or without god(s). For me, both are true. I neither subscribe to a religious "faith" nor believe in the existence of gods. It wasn't always the case, in fact for many years I was a staunch member of the more fundamentalist ranks of Christianity. My covenant with God was of the sit down, shut up, and don't think variety. One of my favorite Nietzsche quotes from Daybreaks exemplifies this: "One is supposed to be cast into belief without reason, by a miracle, and from then on to swim in it as in the brightest and least ambiguous of elements: even a glance towards land, even the thought that one perhaps exists for something else as well as swimming, even the slightest impulse of our amphibious nature- is sin! And notice that all this means that the foundation of belief and all reflection on its origin is likewise excluded as sinful. What is wanted are blindness and intoxication and an eternal song over the waves in which reason has drowned." That was my covenant with God, to forsake reason for doubtless belief.

I have studied the Bible, prayed, and in all ways walked the walk and talked the talk of a Christian. I left Christianity for many reasons, but three stand out as the most problematic.

The first is the problem of evil. Try as I might, I have not been able to logically rectify the existence of evil with the existence of a deity that is omnipotent, omniscient, and omni benevolent. The Christian god simply cannot be all three and still allow for the existence of evil in the world. That is a long argument, and I won't go into it here.

The second is the problem of the Bible. When one reads the bible, and I mean objectively, the harsh nature of the god of the religion is apparent. The creature described in the texts of the old and new testaments is more demon than god. At his command the Israelites slaughtered thousands of people. God himself killed as well, the entire population of the world at one point. An example from the book of Ezekiel chapter 9 versus 4 through 6: "And the Lord said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem ... let not your eye spare neither have ye pity: Slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and women..." The commandments of a merciful god, indeed. This from the religious order that speaks of the sanctity of human life. Another example from the book of Hosea chapter 13 verse 16: "The people of Samaria must bear their guilt, because they have rebelled against their God. They will fall by the sword; their little ones will be dashed to the ground, their pregnant women ripped open." Is this the works of a just god? If a person carried out these deeds we would throw them in prison, call them a monster and a devil. Instead we are supposed to worship?! On principle alone I must not give my allegiance to any god who carries out such hostilities against humanity.

The third is the problem of hell. Hell is the pinnacle of injustice, and the most monstrous of all ideas given to us by the religion of Christianity. The injustice of hell is two-fold really. The first injustice of hell is simply the Christian formula of forgiveness. All of us are damned, unless we confess belief in Jesus Christ, and repent from our sinful ways. The problem with this is obvious, and I'll illustrate with an example from life. Gandhi is in hell and Jeffery Dahmer is in heaven. I'm not sure it gets more obvious than that. Gandhi, who lived a life of peace, service, and sacrifice is in hell for his belief in another religion. Jeffery Dahmer was a serial killer that ate his victims. He was also a homosexual, another Christian no-no. Jeffrey recanted in the end and became a Christian before his death at the hands of his fellow inmates. What type of sense does that make? The second problem of hell is the eternal punishment for finite sins. We live a finite life span, and even if we were to sin all the way through, how can justice mean that we are punished infinitely? That's akin to loaning a dollar and then trying to get a million dollars back. The arguments for hell are varied, but I can't seem to find convincing logic in any of them.

My loss of faith was brought about by all of these issues, the form it took however was a decent into mental anguish the likes of which I had not before and have not since experienced. As I began to question my religious beliefs I fell into a deep depression. I greeted the morning with tears in my eyes and usually exited the day with the same. I prayed for my own death, a release from the terrible visions in my head. I was preoccupied with death and with eternal torment. Everyday was a cycle of perilous emotional downs and spiritually fueled highs. The symptoms were classic of depression. I struggled through six months of hell, here on Earth, six months of terror and elation. Like a machine with a memory leak, I became consumed by it, my everyday life became impossible, thought itself was impossible. The human mind was not meant to handle stress like that and in the end I crashed. I can't to this day remember exactly what happened, but it seemed to be like restarting a computer. I awoke laying on the floor in the back office of the pizza place I worked at that summer. I had suffered a nervous breakdown. My mind had turned on itself like a cancerous cell, and to save itself, it reset.

I left work with tears in my eyes, flinging a sack of tip money at the boss, and barely making the drive home. I returned to my parent's home to recuperate and soon after decided to continue with my plans to leave school for a semester and travel to Japan. It was the best thing I could've done.

I remember the very last moment I was a Christian. It was in a mom-n-pop lunch shop in Yachiyo city Chiba Prefecture in Japan on a Sunday in November of 1997. I was eating with an American woman that I had met in a local church. She worked for another church in Tokyo and had been attending this local one for a while since she lived in the area. She wanted to welcome me to the congregation so we had lunch. While eating she told me a story about her neighbor in America, an alcoholic who passed away in his backyard. She said to me, "He was a heathen. We know where heathens end up." It was the final act in a long play. It brought home to me the sheer ignorance and inhumanity the religion was filled with. She was talking about a person who no doubt suffered his entire life, and her voice held no pity as she damned him to hell. Where there should have been compassion there was the pomposity of a person finally being proven right after being doubted. From that moment on, I believed no more.

I returned to America the following month, back to school the month after that. I was a blank slate, open to the world. I concluded that I would believe nothing without proof, and that I would study all things looking for answers . I was a mediocre student before I had left for Japan. I lacked focus and the passion I had as a youth. When I began my academic career as a new person I was on fire for knowledge. I took intense amounts of class, read incessantly, and slept little. I received extremely high marks and accumulated more credit hours than graduation required.

It was a small jump to make from Christianity to many other religions. I have studied most of the world's major and some of the minor religions. Nothing within them compelled me with a sense of ultimate truth and many seemed to be actively avoiding truth in general. I realized that being a Christian is really just one step away from atheism. As a Christian you already believe that the other gods do not exist. It's simply a matter of taking one more step.

When I started calling myself an atheist there was no baptism or rite. It was not a special moment that I will mark forever. It was a shift of mind, a choice made patiently over time and with great effort. It was an acceptance of the conclusions of the information I had accumulated. I made a covenant at that time, with myself, that I would spend my life in the pursuit of knowledge, and with a mind open to all possibilities, even the possibility that I was wrong about my new ideas. It was not without a sense of irony that my new covenant was in diametric opposition to the one I had made as a Christian.


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