In my last post, I touched on some of the things that were unsettling over the years that inevitably led me to question my faith. I didn’t walk through the actual dismantling that occurred over that final year. Because this blog is really about me working through the departure from religion, I think it’s worth sharing.
So, let’s begin our descent . . .
#1 – Teaching My Kids About Ancient Cultures
I began a book series with my kids that covers the entirety of human history. I believe the author is christian, but I may be wrong. It was recommended me by christian homeschooling friends who believed in a classical education.
It is a really good series that was not overtly christian and discussed early human history based on historical drawings and writings, not the bible. As we progressed through the book, I also got additional books to go along with whatever ancient culture we were learning about. We read about mythologies in Ancient Egypt, Greece, China, and all over the world. What was fascinating to me was that many of the stories were all too familiar. We came upon story after story that could have been straight out of the bible. I remember telling my kids “Wow. That sounds just like the bible, doesn’t it? Maybe they were reaching out to our god and just calling him by a different name.” or “Wow. A baby floating down the river? That is familiar. Maybe at some point these things happened but different religions all interpreted the events with different names and details.”
But it didn’t make sense.
Why would stories written earlier than the bible contain bible stories? The only reasonable explanation is that the bible borrowed from ancient mythology. But, that would mean . . . the bible may not be original or even accurate. No. No. No.
I pushed that out of my mind.
#2 – My husband, the scientist, ‘believed in’ evolution.
My internal dialogue went something like this – “Well of course evolution is true, just not the origin of the species. Evolution happens all the time. We can see the effects of it everywhere, but God still created life. Hmmm. Well maybe God USED evolution to create the first humans. But then Adam and Eve must’ve been cave people? Or Adam and Eve didn’t exist at all and the story was just allegorical. Then which parts are true and which parts are just illustrations? Was the flood real?” and on and on.
The story of creation did not fit with our modern scientific understanding.
#3 – We tried to find a church.
We had just moved to a new area. We absolutely LOVED the church where we were living. It had taken us years to find it and the teaching was excellent. Now, we had moved because my husband got a new position and in this new area we tried a few of the ‘best rated’ churches around. Each one was more uncomfortable than the last. The preaching was boring or extremist and one church was so deeply offensive and hateful that I wanted to run out of the doors. The pastor was speaking about how we are in the end times and sharing a LOT of anti-Muslim sentiment. After that one, we laid off trying to find a new church for awhile and just adjusted to the area without attending church. It’s funny how your mind can wander when you are not having the same beliefs reinforced every week, multiple times a week if you are attending bible study. This period of ‘rest’ from a steady flow of christian messages allowed us to discuss and question and think outside the jesus box. Of course, we could do that while still attending church, but that quieting of constant messages was helpful.
#4 – Songs popped in my head
I don’t often listen to music in the car. I usually drive in quiet and spend the time thinking. When we were attending church faithfully and hearing worship music every week, this was often the only music I listened to. Then if I was driving and a worship song popped in my head, I would be touched that God was ‘speaking’ to me by bringing up that particular song. I would pay attention to the lyrics and try to apply them to my life or just spend the rest of the drive thinking on and worshipping Him. But, a funny thing happened after a few months of not attending church.
Katy Perry songs started popping in my head. Randomly. Just as the worship ones did. Either God was trying to tell me that California Girls were awesome or the reality is that music just pops in our brains at random based on what we are listening to most at the time. But, this would mean that all those worship songs were not really God speaking to me, but instead just songs from the week popping in my head during the silence.
It was right about this point that I was ready to say ok I will acknowledge that I am agnostic and I don’t exactly know what I believe, but it is not Christianity.
#5 – Time
There was no atheist conversion experience. The transformation was gradual and the further I moved and was able to look at religion, as a whole, objectively – the more it seemed . . well . . . crazy! I started a Pinterest board called Religious Detox. I took Christian off my Facebook profile. I slowly started to become a bit more vocal about my questions on my FB page. Predictably, the more extreme christians I knew got very ruffled by this and vowed to pray for me and were sad that I was leaving the faith, etc. Eventually I decided to blog about this journey and in the middle of it all, I have found story upon story about similar experiences. I only recently began self-labeling as an atheist. I did so for 2 reasons –
1) The Dawkins Scale
The reality was that I was a weak or de-facto atheist.
2) Atheist was always a repugnant term and it evokes entirely the wrong perception. Atheism is simply a lack of belief in Gods. I think we need to stop vilifying this word so more people can ‘come out of the closet’ and stop hiding. Words like secular and humanist help, but at the core they point to the same lack of belief.
So, there you have it. The little sparks that finally changed my label from Christian to Atheist. My move from Dawkins’ 1) Strong Theist to 6) De-Facto Atheist took about a year. It was hard to admit that everything I had dedicated my life to was just a fairy tale and superstition with no grounding in reality. But, again, once I entertained the supposition that God did not exist, suddenly all the inconsistencies didn’t require lengthy explanations. They simply made sense.