As an Atheist who’s still part of some Christian circles, I’m often asked about my beliefs and how I became an Atheist: some are curious mainly to know, others want to convert me or are questioning their own beliefs. So, I decided to write out the short version of my worldview story as a blog post, since it might potentially interest or help other readers out there. Without further ado, I present “How I wound up a heathen.”
(Heads up: This paragraph contains Christianese.) My entire family used to be Christian, so I was raised as one up into my teens. I said the salvation prayer when I was 5, but it wasn’t until I was 11 or 12 that I really understood that it was about the relationship with Jesus, and not following all the rules. (Looking back as a non-believer, I’d say they were equal since I was sincere both times, but since I’m still a Christian at this point in the story we can say I was saved at age 11/12 for now.) Then I was fine for a while, and would say I grew a lot as a Christian. I did all the things – helped with Operation Christmas Child events, wound up the president of a Christian living ministry type thing created by and for kids on a kids’ club, was passionate about using my writing for God (if you look back at my college application essays, most of them asking about my interests have something like “Writing is something I’m good at and enjoy, and it can reach a lot of people, so that’s my way of serving God because I’m a Christian), struggled with trying to read my Bible and pray often enough, really wanted my great-grandpa to become a Christian, etc. But, in part because I cared and because of my involvement and such, I realized I had to be able to thoroughly explain my worldview, so I started digging deeper into why I was a Christian, and studying other views so I could figure out why mine was the right one.
In some ways it helped, but overall it didn’t work. I would imagine myself defending my faith in a debate, and the imaginary opponent kept coming up with good arguments. For example: Why does a moral code have to come from God; couldn’t it have just evolved with us because it benefits our survival as highly social creatures? How could I answer an accusation that my feelings about God were just a psychological state because I expected to have them? I tried to ignore the questions, because nobody wants to discover that their entire worldview may be flawed, but early in 2019 (when I was finishing high school) my parents told me that they’d actually been Atheists for some time now. That was the final straw; I finally realized that my previous study had been biased since I was actively trying to prove my existing view right. What I should be doing is asking “What IS true?” from a neutral starting place. That was the real beginning of my Agnostic phase.
For several months after that I was a confused person and did a lot of thinking and studying, because I felt like I had to rethink literally everything, without feeling like I could make a real decision yet. I went off to college, and it was during my first semester that I could finally make an intelligent decision. The stuff I learned in my classes played a large role. For example, psychology. We know so many things about the human mind (and that was just in an intro psych class; I’m probably completely underestimating the knowledge available at a higher level) that it seemed like almost everything in the personal experience category had a psychological explanation, rather than providing evidence about what reality was actually like. And of course there were various specific arguments like “people are social creatures, so it makes perfect sense that thinking they have a friend available 24/7 would give them positive emotions,” or the placebo effect like I mentioned above, where people who believe interpret unlikely occurrences in their lives as having been caused by God.
Then there was my humanities class. We studied the book of Job because it’s an important piece of literature from that time period, and if you’re not studying it in a specifically religious context…it looks an awful lot like just another influential work of literature, that you can analyze for themes and answers to big questions and authorial decisions, just like The Odyssey, and Plato’s Symposium, and Medea, and Don Quixote, and Paradise Lost… I think everyone should be familiar with the Bible because of the influence it’s had, and as a work of art, but without the mentally-trained lens of “This is holy,” I don’t see anything indicating that it’s divinely inspired while all those other important works aren’t. It was at that point in the semester that I finally decided that arguments for the Christian worldview just didn’t hold enough water, and that Atheism was where logic and evidence pointed more than other views.
And there you have it. There are other ideological reasons I’m an Atheist besides the ones mentioned here, but the purpose of this post isn’t to be an ideological treatise; rather, it’s to show my personal journey from Christian to Agnostic to Atheist, including what influenced me the most at the time, in case it benefits anyone else.
You’re probably expecting it, but I’ll say it anyway: If you have any thoughts you want to share, feel free to comment :).