Tag Archives: leaving the faith

Atheists Coming Out Series – Featured Story #5 – Julia

Atheists Coming Out Series – Featured Story #5 – Julia

Each testimonial featured in Atheists Coming Out will help give insight to the large percentage of atheists who, for fear of rejection or misunderstanding, have not been open about their lack of faith. I will choose five (5) of the featured stories to be included in an upcoming book on this very topic. To submit your 1000-1,500 word de-conversion/coming out story, please send it to David@DavidGMcAfee.com with “Atheists Coming Out” in the subject line. Please feel free to share this page to ensure everyone gets the opportunity to participate.

Prior posts from Atheists Coming Out
Atheists Coming Out – New Series – “Born Atheist”
Atheists Coming Out Series – Featured Story #1 – Jason of Godless Living
Atheists Coming Out Series – Featured Story #2 – Cleta Darnell
Atheists Coming Out Series – Featured Story #3 – Hugh Kramer
Atheists Coming Out Series – Featured Story #4 – Elizabeth Rouse

 

This week’s feature is by Julia:

My parents met each other while both attending a small Bible College in Houston, Texas. My father, a New Yorker raised in a Catholic Church, had a “born again” experience while serving in the Marine Corps. Once discharged from the military, he decided to attend the small Houston bible college with the hope of becoming a missionary in Africa. My mother is from Arkansas and was raised in a Pentecostal Church. She left home at the age of 18 to attend the school. They married two years after meeting one another at the college. Needless to say, I grew up in a very religious home. I don’t recall a Sunday morning or a Wednesday evening that we weren’t in a church service or bible study. At the age of five, I accepted Jesus into my heart and was “saved.” To this day I can still remember showing them the heart that I made in Sunday School that said, “I asked Jesus into my heart today.” To my parents, following Jesus was what we lived for and was something that was never to be doubted.

At a very young age, I remember having questions about the Christian faith. One specific question I remember asking my father was, “As Christians, how do we know that we’re right?” I think I questioned this because I had neighbors and classmates that were from different denominations. I also couldn’t understand why a loving God would only reveal himself to certain people while much of the world wouldn’t know him. As a child I remember my heart aching for them. I couldn’t understand why we were so special to have the revealed truth while others didn’t.

Growing up in a very religious home and having parents that were fanatical Christians, there were many discussions of Heaven and Hell. I was taught that people who didn’t accept Jesus into their heart weren’t “saved” and would go to Hell when they died. I was also told that I could go to Hell if I didn’t ask for Jesus to forgive me of my sins on a daily basis. Unfortunately, this caused a tremendous amount of fear and guilt. While I wasn’t a perfect child, the fear of dying and going to Hell led me to be a well behaved child until my teen years. As most teens do, I went through a little rebellious stage. This is when my guilty conscience started to affect me almost daily. I had visions of what Hell looked like and how I would suffer there because I didn’t always make the right choices. This was painful for me. I don’t think I will ever understand why my parents thought that it was okay to let their children suffer in this way. I have three other siblings that also dealt with this and still believe this to this day. I am a mother of two small children and I have a baby on the way. I can’t even imagine making my precious children suffer in this way. I’m completely aware that my children will hear about God, but I’ll stand up and protect them from ever being tormented with threats of eternal damnation. My oldest son, who is at the time of writing nearly six years old, has asked many questions about God. Family members and classmates have talked to him about God. My husband and I have explained to him that we don’t believe in God, but that many people do. We’ve explained that he’ll understand this more as he grows older. He says that he doesn’t believe in God and compares Him to the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, and Santa Claus.

For the first thirty years of my life, I was a Christian and believed that Jesus was the only answer. I attended church and longed for a deep connection with God. On many occasions, I would pray and ask God to reveal himself to me. I wanted to see miracles and have personal experiences with God. While there were times I thought I may be experiencing God, I often wondered why I didn’t experience Him like others did. I wondered if I just wasn’t good enough. I later started to question if God was even real. I wanted to believe that some of the good things that happened in my life were the result of God being present, but I often wondered if giving God the credit was just what I was taught to do when something good happened, and that it really didn’t have anything to do with him at all. I wondered why everything had to be accredited to God?  These questions started to haunt me. At first it, was difficult to accept that I was questioning God’s existence. It went against everything that I was taught and left me having more fears. I dealt with these thoughts for nearly a year before I was vocal about it.

Accepting these feelings and expressing them to my husband wasn’t easy. Church had always been a part of our life. He was a former worship leader and Bible School student. At the time I started seriously doubting, we had adopted a much more liberal faith and were attending an Episcopal Church. I found myself not wanting to participate because of my doubts. When I first brought up these things to my husband, it was difficult. At that point he and I weren’t on the same page. He still believed and found it difficult to consider questioning his faith. Most Christians believe that when two people marry, they become one, and I feared that this could possibly tear us apart. He worried about what we would teach our kids. We continued to attend church and I became more vocal about it for several months. My husband started to research how the Bible was formed and, along the way, discovered that he may have questions after all. After much study, we finally came to the realization that it wasn’t crazy of us to question things. My last prayer to God was just over two years ago. I decided on that night that if I didn’t get answers and hear God’s voice, I was no longer going to live as a Christian. It goes without saying that I didn’t get answers. I’m almost 33 years old and I’m now an atheist. I’ve never felt so free. I’m free from the guilt that once tormented me. I’m free from the thoughts of Hell. I no longer believe in God. My life no longer revolves around this imaginary creator that lives in the sky. I believe that life is too precious to live in constant fear that there is a higher being that controls what happens to us when we die.

While this new outlook on life has brought me much liberation, it wasn’t without its share of pain. Coming out as an atheist had social ramifications that I underestimated. Given my family’s religious background, this didn’t sit well with them and created some tension that still exists today in some respects. I know they feel like I’m just lost and I’m afraid they’ll never understand how I feel about these things. They’ll never understand the liberation that I feel as an atheist. Our friendships also suffered and we’re still in the process of rebuilding our social lives. Living a suburban life in Texas hasn’t made it easy, but we’re trying. No matter what, I’m happy to say that my husband and I now live godless lives and enjoy what each day has to bring.

Julia

http://www.facebook.com/anatheistgirl 

 

To submit your 1000-1,500 word de-conversion/coming out story, please send it to David@DavidGMcAfee.com with “Atheists Coming Out” in the subject line. Please feel free to share this page to ensure everyone gets the opportunity to participate.

Thank God I'm an Atheist

Thank God I’m an Atheist

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Atheists Coming Out Series – Featured Story #4 – Elizabeth Rouse

Atheists Coming Out Series – Featured Story #4 – Elizabeth Rouse

Each testimonial featured in Atheists Coming Out will help give insight to the large percentage of atheists who, for fear of rejection or misunderstanding, have not been open about their lack of faith. I will choose five (5) of the featured stories to be included in an upcoming book on this very topic. To submit your 1000-1,500 word de-conversion/coming out story, please send it to David@DavidGMcAfee.com with “Atheists Coming Out” in the subject line. Please feel free to share this page to ensure everyone gets the opportunity to participate.

Prior posts from Atheists Coming Out
Atheists Coming Out – New Series – “Born Atheist”
Atheists Coming Out Series – Featured Story #1 – Jason of Godless Living
Atheists Coming Out Series – Featured Story #2 – Cleta Darnell
Atheists Coming Out Series – Featured Story #3 – Hugh Kramer

 

This week’s feature is by Elizabeth Rouse:

When I was a child, there was no god in my house. We didn’t go to church or have family prayers. My mother was very young and I don’t think she had time for god. It wasn’t until I was 10 that I was introduced to the church community. My aunt’s father-in-law was the pastor of a Baptist church and suddenly became very passionate about the word of god. She starting having conversations with me that I never thought about like “Where did man come from?” and “What happens when we die?” I all of a sudden had so many questions that I needed answers for. So every Sunday she would take me to church. I made a lot of friends and became saved. As I grew older I didn’t go to church as often but that was just because I was becoming a lazy teenager not because I didn’t believe.

My first boyfriend was very religious; in fact, our first date was at a church event. Surrounding myself with Christians helped stifle my need for more answers. Being around my aunt and my boyfriend’s family made me think if these answers are good enough for them then obviously they must be true, and if I have more questions, then all I need is faith. It was at this point at the age of 14 that the cracks in my beliefs started to show.

At the start of my freshman year of high school, I had a lot of friends and seemed happy on the outside. However inside, doubt started eating away at me. The Church’s answers were becoming less and less satisfying for my growing mind. More and more questions were going unanswered. I starting doing research on my own and I found that many of the scientists I was starting to admire where atheists. Sadly, as my love for philosophy and science grew, I could feel the distance grow between me and everyone I was close with. All our conversations seemed silly and childish. After I worked up enough of a defense to support my new belief, I decided it was time to tell my friends about it. I didn’t think it would be too bad, I mean they were my friends after all. I knew there would be a lot of questions, which was more what I was preparing myself for. I was very mistaken. I was met with a lot of anger and frustration. They had no interest in what I had to say and just immediately starting to talk me out of it. When I said I didn’t want to be convinced otherwise, they wanted nothing to do with me.

Only halfway through my first year of high school, I had to start over. Being from a very religious community, it wasn’t easy. I was no longer afraid to be myself and for the first time the world made sense to me. But it took me awhile to find friends that understood that, even if they didn’t agree with it. I was the topic for a lot of prayer groups and I was well known throughout the school. I was no longer shy about my thoughts or feelings and I wanted others to know that. I was in the principal’s office a few times (once for wearing a homemade Darwin shirt, and another because I wouldn’t stand for the pledge of allegiance). I was never afraid to argue my case and I never received punishment.

I am now almost 24 years old and happily married to my high school sweetheart. We have two beautiful children and I’m hoping that my story inspires them to be them, and know that no matter what struggles you are faced with all you need to get through it is belief in yourself! Looking back, I’m proud of myself for sticking to my guns and not let anyone make me feel inferior.

To submit your 1000-1,500 word de-conversion/coming out story, please send it to David@DavidGMcAfee.com with “Atheists Coming Out” in the subject line. Please feel free to share this page to ensure everyone gets the opportunity to participate.

Mega Preacher

Mega Preacher

Atheists Coming Out Series – Featured Story #3 – Hugh Kramer – LA Atheism Examiner

Each testimonial featured in Atheists Coming Out will help give insight to the large percentage of atheists who, for fear of rejection or misunderstanding, have not been open about their lack of faith. I will choose five (5) of the featured stories to be included in an upcoming book on this very topic. To submit your 1000-1,500 word de-conversion/coming out story, please send it to David@DavidGMcAfee.com with “Atheists Coming Out” in the subject line. Please feel free to share this page to ensure everyone gets the opportunity to participate.

Prior posts from Atheists Coming Out
Atheists Coming Out – New Series – “Born Atheist”
Atheists Coming Out Series – Featured Story #1 – Jason of Godless Living
Atheists Coming Out Series – Featured Story #2 – Cleta Darnell
 

This week’s feature is by Hugh Kramer of Los Angeles:

Hugh Kramer
http://www.examiner.com/atheism-in-los-angeles/hugh-kramer
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Age: 59
 

Some people experience epiphanies; something occurs, perhaps even something ordinary and in an instant, their previous worldview shatters and they are changed forever. I envy those people for my progress to new ways of seeing the world has always been plodding and often painful. My personal transformation from theist to atheist took place over more years than many of my readers have been alive. I never intended to become an atheist and in some respects I was only dragged into atheism kicking and screaming. Experience and what Martin Luther, the father of Protestantism, called “Die verfluchte Huhre, Vernunft” (That damned whore, Reason) are what dragged me there.

I did have some small advantages though. I grew up in Los Angeles, which is not a particularly religious town and was raised in a not-particularly religious Jewish family. We took the existence of God for a given and observed a few of the major holidays but otherwise the only strongly-stressed Jewish rule we were taught was to live life as good people. By the time my parents decided I needed to learn more about Judaism in preparation for my Bar Mitzvah (the Jewish coming of age ceremony), I was too old (11 going on 12) for the transplant to take. I still believed in God and still considered myself Jewish, but I couldn’t take all the dietary and other restrictions seriously.

The next transformation didn’t take place until I got to college. There I discovered science and philosophy. Oddly enough, it wasn’t the works of greats like Hume or Locke or Nietzsche that had the biggest influence on me. It was something I read before them that made me receptive to new mental landscapes like theirs. I’m almost ashamed to admit that it was an otherwise stupid piece of nonsense called “The Crack in the Cosmic Egg” I was assigned to read in Sociology 101. It was mostly New Age woo (unscientific, non-evidence-based assertions), but the central concept, that there was more than one way to see the world (what German philosophers call “Weltanschauung“) struck me almost with the force of a revelation. I feel stupid admitting it now but the idea had just never occurred to me before. As this new thought gradually sunk in, it had the effect of opening me up to new ideas and concepts. I was still vaguely theistic, though, because I wanted to believe in a fair universe; that there was some kind of balance between good and bad or right and wrong.

That idea started teetering because of another book, Beyond Freedom and Dignity by behavioral psychologist, B F Skinner. The book argued that free will was an illusion and that belief in individual autonomy was hindering both the scientific understanding of psychology and the development of a healthier, happier society. While I found those ideas convincing at the time, what I took away from the book more permanently was an understanding that the evidence-based scientific method was probably the best tool mankind has ever developed for the accurate evaluation and acquisition of knowledge… and because it provided techniques to compensate for personal bias, I decided it could be applied to personal knowledge as well. I reexamined a lot of beliefs at this time that I had taken for granted. Some held up under scrutiny. Some didn’t. I changed my stance on the Vietnam War, for instance. More importantly, I took another look at my ideas about religion and found them wanting. There was no good evidence of a balance in the universe between what I thought good or bad. There was no good evidence of any force personally interested in it or me either. I couldn’t prove there wasn’t some kind of supernatural force behind the universe but I also couldn’t see that the claims of special knowledge of any religion had more than faith going for them either.

So I became an agnostic. I remained one for decades. It took the events of 9/11/2001 to change that. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t think religious fanatics were nuts (so nuts in fact, that I coined the word “fanutic” to describe them). It just hadn’t been brought home to me before on such a personal level how dangerous to the modern world religion could be.

And it wasn’t just Islamic fundamentalists that scared me. I began to notice how religion also provided cover for extremists in America and in my own community. I saw them attacking civil rights for women and homosexuals. I saw them trying to undermine science in the classroom and in scientific research. I saw them infiltrating the military, the judiciary and school boards; all in an effort to roll back the clock to a time when human rights were dispensed at the whim of divine autocrats (or at least their self-styled interpreters) if at all. I could not prove there were no gods, but it had been a long time since I believed in any. I called myself an agnostic, though, because I’d felt no pressing need to make any declarations about it.

Now I did.

I still can’t prove there are no gods, but I think them highly unlikely and don’t believe in any. More than that, I think the belief in such supernatural overlords is, in essence, an embrace of the irrational and dangerously skews a person’s perspective even in its milder forms. In its more virulent forms, I think it’s a malignancy that eats individual freedom and threatens the existence of a civilized world.

That’s why I became an atheist.

And an activist.

– Hugh
http://www.examiner.com/atheism-in-los-angeles/hugh-kramer
 

To submit your 1000-1,500 word de-conversion/coming out story, please send it to David@DavidGMcAfee.com with “Atheists Coming Out” in the subject line. Please feel free to share this page to ensure everyone gets the opportunity to participate.

Hugh Kramer - LA Atheism Examiner

Hugh Kramer - LA Atheism Examiner

Atheists Coming Out Series – Featured Story #2 – Cleta Darnell

Each testimonial featured in Atheists Coming Out will help give insight to the large percentage of atheists who, for fear of rejection or misunderstanding, have not been open about their lack of faith. I will choose five (5) of the featured stories to be included in an upcoming book on this very topic. To submit your 1000-1,500 word de-conversion/coming out story, please send it to David@DavidGMcAfee.com with “Atheists Coming Out” in the subject line. Please feel free to share this page to ensure everyone gets the opportunity to participate.

Prior posts from Atheists Coming Out
Atheists Coming Out – New Series – “Born Atheist”
Atheists Coming Out Series – Featured Story #1 – Jason of Godless Living
 

This week’s feature is by Cleta Darnell of Texas:

Cleta Darnell
http://contributor.yahoo.com/user/424223/cleta.html
Location: Texas (Dallas area)
Age: 56
 

I know a lot of people who have been “converted” to one religion or another. I, on the other hand, was raised in a solidly Southern Baptist family and, for want of a better word, eventually de-converted from Baptist to Atheist. Far from preventing me from straying from religion as they hoped, my family’s ideas, actions, and attitudes made me less of a believer over the years. I have always believed that the only reason most of them ever did the “right” thing is out of fear of otherworldly reprisals.

My earliest memories of going to church are of crying when I didn’t get to go to Sunday school. I now know that it was the social aspect that attracted me, even though I was often treated badly or ignored by my classmates. Their families had moved up, financially, faster than mine and I was often ostracized for not dressing as well as the others. I now realize that an undiagnosed hearing loss, which left me clueless to the nuances of things around me, also contributed to my lack of conformity.

In an attempt to fit in, I was baptized around age 10 or 12. I knew even then that I didn’t really mean it. I only vaguely remember deciding to be baptized. My recollection of it may be hazy, but I know that I did it mostly out of peer pressure. I was still something of an outsider among the kids in both my school and my church (many of whom were the same people) and I somehow thought being baptized would bring me more acceptance. Despite my need for acceptance, the process left me feeling like a charlatan. The whole thing went against my logical side. Long before the whole “intelligent design” movement, I asked several people including my parents and my Sunday school teacher, who was also one of my teachers in public school, if it wasn’t possible that there was a compromise between evolution and creationism. My inquiries were met with a resounding “No!” That rejection of any possibility of free thought opened my mind to the possibility of being free of my family’s delusions. Now don’t get me wrong, I didn’t go straight from wannabe believer to atheist with no steps in between. I started out as a questioner.

My initial salvation from religion began when I was a teenager in the form of my best friend’s freethinking family. Though she and I drifted apart many years ago, I still think of the good they did for me. In fact, I still think of her mother very fondly and visit her on occasion. If it weren’t for that family, I don’t know what I might have done when my mother, who was the center of my world, died when I was barely fifteen. Everyone in my family except my father had spouses and children to rally around them and Daddy, well, he had his church – the same church I already felt out of step with. My friend’s family served as my anchor when I felt everyone and everything else had set me adrift. Without their support, I believe I would have gone into a serious downward spiral.

The other thing my friend’s family gave me was permission to question, to wonder if what I had learned was based in fact. Questions that were met by my family and church with “No,” and “Don’t question, just believe,” were met with discussion and encouragement when posed to her family. With them I was exposed to other religions, specifically Catholicism, which was their family’s “official” religion. With them, I attended masses in both Latin and Spanish. The Latin I knew nothing of and the Spanish I knew a little of, but they explained things as they went along, or after the fact when appropriate. Prior to this, my only exposure to “other” churches was attending my sister’s wedding in a Methodist church and a couple of visits to the fundamentalist Baptist church my niece attended. They were so strictly fundamentalist that I was asked to leave a skating party I attended with my niece because I wasn’t wearing nice enough clothes, specifically a “Sunday school” dress.

In my experience, being honest meant being ostracized and shouted down – most of all by my family. I did get a few licks in, though. As a rebellious teenager left alone with a detached father, I learned how to lash out when I wanted attention. It was not uncommon for me to threaten to date a black or hispanic boy or, worse yet, a CATHOLIC! My favorite jab at Daddy, though, was to refer to the bible, his beloved bible, as a book of Jewish fairy tales. That one statement could cause a full relief map of the state of Texas to appear in the veins on Daddy’s forehead.

Daddy never did give up on his religion. One day, Mere weeks before his death at age 94, he asked me what I was reading. I told him and he thumped, literally thumped, his bible and said, “This is the only thing I need to read.” Because of his age, and my refusal to mar his last days with dissent, I neither laughed at him nor answered with what I thought. Later that day, I vented by updating my Facebook status with, “If you never read anything other than what you already believe, how do you know that what you believe is true?”

As an adult, I tried never to begrudge Daddy his religion. Before he died, I made a nice hand-stitched cover for his old bible. I fear it gave my family false hope of my impending “salvation,” but I would have done the same no matter what book it was. I also helped arrange for him to be buried with his bible. It was his companion in life so I felt it was only right that it accompany him in the casket. My main reason for this was to minimize the potential for fights and bad feelings among several of his grandchildren who had already expressed an interest in having the bible. Putting the bible in his casket with him took it out of play. When the man from the mortuary asked if we didn’t want to keep it, I told him that too many people wanted it and this was a way of preventing family squabbles. I refrained from telling him I felt it was just so many pages of fiction and there are plenty more copies of it to go around.

Daddy wasn’t the only religious zealot in our family. My oldest sister, more than 15 years older than me, can hold her own as a religious fanatic. Once, when my son was acting up, as children will do, she told me to put the heel of my hand on his forehead and tell the devil to “be gone.” Now bear in mind that this woman has one son who has been in prison since his late teens for murder, and her oldest son has almost completed his life’s work of drinking himself to death. Looks like that plan really worked for her; and still, she has the gall to wonder why I don’t believe.

Her daughter is my favorite family bible-thumper despite the fact that for quite some time she was a member of a Christian sect that I considered to be a true cult, where the pastor often used the pulpit to rail at her parishioners for a variety of personal transgressions because, after all, anyone and anything she didn’t like was “evil.” My niece and sister, among other family members, now know my opinions about religion, but at least my niece has finally learned that she will never be able to change my ideas and attitudes, so she accepts them. That doesn’t stop her from occasionally trying, but she has learned to gracefully accept “shut up” as an answer. I wish her mother would do the same. She loves to make little jabs at me whenever possible. Her most recent attempt involved quite pointedly discussing with her daughter, in front of me, how “When we go to heaven, God will make us forget friends and family members who weren’t saved so we won’t be unhappy.”

It’s no surprise to me that I hedged about my (non) religious views for years. It’s only with the advent of the atheist groups online, which I found through a nephew who also happens to be an atheist (thank you, Donald [http://contributor.yahoo.com/user/111823/donald_pennington.html ]), that I have become more open about my views. Many people who matter very much to me still disagree with my views, some quite vocally so. Nevertheless, I find that feeling free to express my thoughts and feelings about religion to be liberating.

– Cleta Darnell
http://contributor.yahoo.com/user/424223/cleta.html
 

To submit your 1000-1,500 word de-conversion/coming out story, please send it to David@DavidGMcAfee.com with “Atheists Coming Out” in the subject line. Please feel free to share this page to ensure everyone gets the opportunity to participate.

E-mail your coming out story!

E-mail your coming out story!

Atheists Coming Out Series – Featured Story #1 – Jason of Godless Living

Last week, we began a series entitled Atheists Coming Out. To start the series, I shared my own experience coming out as an atheist and solicited readers to submit their own stories that might help motivate and encourage non-believers to be open about their lack of faith with less-than-supportive friends and family.

Each testimonial featured in Atheists Coming Out will help give insight to the large percentage of atheists who, for fear of rejection or misunderstanding, have not been open about their lack of faith. I will choose five (5) of the featured stories to be included in an upcoming book on this very topic. To submit your 1000-1,500 word de-conversion/coming out story, please send it to David@DavidGMcAfee.com with “Atheists Coming Out” in the subject line. Please feel free to share this page to ensure everyone gets the opportunity to participate.

This week’s feature is by Jason of Godless Living:

Jason
Location: Texas (Kingwood)
Age: 33

 
My name is Jason, and I’m an atheist.  This feels weird to write for a guy that grew up in Southeast Texas and once was a worship leader studying to be in the ministry.  After an upbringing in Catholicism, I left at age seventeen and spent time in Methodist, Assembly of God, Vineyard, and Non-Denominational congregations.  I took courses at a bible school with the hope that one day I would become a pastor.  As a result of some questions about my beliefs in one of my final courses on bible doctrine, I ended up choosing a different career path.  For the next 15 years or so my faith started peeling away.  I didn’t realize what was happening, but I was gradually losing many core beliefs of the Christian religion.  Was there really going to be a “Second Coming”?  Were my homosexual friends really going to burn in an eternal lake of fire?  What about my friends of other faiths?  Was Jesus really the Son of God?  Was he born of a Virgin?  Was he the only way to salvation?

These questions tormented me and led me to studying the origins of Christianity and how the bible was put together.  I became suspicious as I noticed things like the time lapses in the writing, contradicting books, questionable authenticity of the authorship of certain books, and different forms the bible had taken over the years as the church continued to disagree over which books were inspired.  I also noticed things in the bible I had somehow missed before.  When I chose to read the bible without the filter that it was the infallible word of God, I started seeing some terribly atrocious things that God was responsible for:  genocide, killing of women and children, killing non-believers, killing homosexuals, etc.  When I considered these things combined with the idea of eternal torment for people who merely didn’t share my faith, it no longer logically fit with the idea of a loving and compassionate God.  Through these studies I came to the conclusion that Christianity was a myth not all that different from many religions all throughout history.  Toward the end of this journey, I was attending a very liberal Episcopal church that allowed me the space to have my questions.  One friend, in particular, supported me through my doubts and encouraged me in my seeking.  However, it was a Sunday morning while standing to recite the Nicene Creed that something hit me.  I began the prayer, “We believe in one God…” I had to stop.  I just listened as I realized I no longer believed.

When I first acknowledged that I wasn’t a Christian, I still felt like something else must be out there.  I still clung to a vague concept of God and described it as the sacredness at the center of our lives.  I started studying the Eastern philosophies of Buddhism and Taoism.  I didn’t want a new religion, but I enjoyed some of the philosophical teachings of Buddha and Lao Tzu.  I still felt as if there was a God, but perhaps he/she/it would meet you through whatever tradition you chose.  I started writing about these thoughts and questions in a public blog.  I started to receive emails and phone calls from concerned friends.  I was told of the slippery slope I was on and how they would be praying for me.  My friends were clearly worried about me.  After a couple of months, I learned that some of my family had been reading my blog and were equally worried.  I moved the blog to an anonymous location and reached out to different online communities for support.  I began to feel very alone with one exception, my wife, Julia.  She had started seriously doubting the faith about a year earlier, but had remained quiet about it.  I was lucky to have her by my side as I struggled through this.  Her and I became closer than we had ever been as we started to feel like we had no one else besides one another and our two young sons.

In a reaction to the loneliness, I wondered if I had made a mistake.  I studied more, contemplated, and even prayed.  However, through the continued struggle my beliefs were further reinforced and I realized that I no longer just wasn’t a Christian, but I was an atheist.  Though I was open to evidence that suggested otherwise, as far as I could tell, there was no God.  It took a while for me to get comfortable referring to myself as an atheist.  In fact, I often avoided the subject.  There was such a stigma associated with that label and I knew that if my mere questioning of my faith and studying Eastern philosophy was worrisome to my friends and family, atheism would certainly devastate them.

Regarding my friendships, I was mostly right.  Since many of our relationships were with friends we met through churches, we lost what we had in common.  There were very few instances where people just quit talking to us strictly because they couldn’t stand to be friends with atheists, but rather we weren’t the people they knew before.  We were the ones that changed.  Without casting blame, we just drifted apart after we ran out of things to talk about.  Though we maintained a few relationships, many are now non-existent or forever changed.

Aside from the strained friendships, family would prove to be tough.  I love my family and we’ve always been relatively close to each other.  While they all belong to different denominations in the Christian faith, they all participate at some level. Things felt weird for a while and there was unspoken tension on many occasions while we all struggled with our emotions.  On my side of the struggle, I was feeling like a victim and felt as if everyone was disappointed in me.  On their side, I think they hated to see me leave something that had been so dear to them.  My mom talked to me about how hard it was for her and my dad to read my blog.  They wished they knew what they could do to help me.  She also told me they wondered what they had done wrong.  This particular thought hurt since I considered myself a decent person.  I have a good career, a beautiful family, and have never been in any kind of trouble.  I simply no longer subscribed to the faith of my childhood.  I know this wasn’t meant to hurt me, and I understood how hard it must have been for my parents to see this.  Their Catholic faith is a part of who they are and has always been something they have strongly identified with.  While everyone was generally pretty cordial with me, I knew some of my family was struggling with it.   The tension I felt made me want to stay to myself and the loneliness persisted.  My online community of friends and blog readers wasn’t really enough to make up for the losses I felt.

As I approached the anniversary of my departure from faith, I finally started to find comfort.  The main way I found this was in coming out.  I have a couple of close gay friends who I talked to through this struggle and one pointed out that what I was feeling was really similar to how he felt when he was trying to come out as a gay man.  You just want it to be okay to be yourself.  You want so badly to say how you feel about things and just want people to allow you the freedom to feel that way.  This coming out process for me has been progressive.  It was easy online where you can always find someone who agrees with you, but it’s been much harder in person living in Kingwood, Texas.  In this part of the world, you don’t run into many atheists in your day-to-day life.  I found myself just referring to myself as non-religious for a while as I was scared to use “the A-word”.  I now proudly accept my atheism and am passionate about speaking up for secularism, free thought, reason, science, and logic.  I’ve developed a passion for helping believers and non-believers alike to value secularism and equality. Every relationship is different, but with most relationships it’s just becoming old news.  I even have a friend who jokingly refers to me as his atheist friend and likes to remind me that I’m the only atheist he knows.  There are some I can talk with freely and others where we just avoid the subject.  Either way, our social life is mending, and I owe that to coming out and finding comfort in just being myself.  I’m finding that as I get more comfortable within myself, others start to accept this as part of who I am. 

Jason
godlessliving@gmail.com
http://www.facebook.com/godlessliving
Godlessliving.wordpress.com
 
 
To submit your 1000-1,500 word de-conversion/coming out story, please send it to David@DavidGMcAfee.comwith “Atheists Coming Out” in the subject line. Please feel free to share this page to ensure everyone gets the opportunity to participate.
 
E-mail your coming out story

E-mail your coming out story


 
 

Atheists Coming Out – New Series – “Born Atheist”

Atheists Coming Out – New Series

In the coming weeks, I will be publishing testimonials from atheists all over the world who have experienced coming out as a non-believer to less-than-supportive family, friends, and other loved ones. In some cases, the people featured in this series will have been ostracized or rejected by fundamentalist peers. And, in some, they have been met— as should always be the case— with love and respect. Each testimonial featured in Atheists Coming Out will help give insight to the large percentage of atheists who, for fear of rejection or misunderstanding, have not been open about their lack of faith. I will choose five (5) of the featured stories to be included in an upcoming book on this very topic. To submit your 1000-1,500 word de-conversion/coming out story, please send it to David@DavidGMcAfee.com with “Atheists Coming Out” in the subject line. Please feel free to share this page to ensure everyone gets the opportunity to participate.

To begin the series, I’ll publish my own coming out story:

“It is an interesting and demonstrable fact, that all children are atheists and were religion not inculcated into their minds, they would remain so.”

Ernestine Louise Rose (January 13, 1810 – August 4, 1892)

Born Atheist

                In order to properly understand this guide to “coming out” as a non-believer, some might wish to learn more about the particular context in which I, as a secular author, am writing. Now, the way I see it, everybody is born an atheist and, without submersion into religion as a child, we would most likely maintain that position… more often than not, however, this is not the case. I don’t remember a particular time in my life in which I believed in the validity of a particular religious tradition but, eventually, even I had to break the news to my family and become “open” regarding my secular mindset. My parents were not always religious people… They may have abused substances religiously— but, when I was very young, church was probably the last thing on their minds. When I was two years old, my parents divorced and began their separate lives pursuing drugs to feed their addictions; thankfully, my grandmother volunteered to care for me until my mother or father could afford (financially and emotionally) to raise me. She never mistreated me or abused me, but she was the first person in my life to introduce me to religion and the authority of the church. My grandparents with whom I spent the majority of my childhood considered themselves Baptist Christians— and I was raised in a way that, they thought, would encourage similar ideologies in me.

When I was a bit older— around six years old— I went to a Christian church at the discretion of my grandparents; this was my first real experience with a religious institution. The church, located in a small town in Northern California, considered itself “non-denominational” and usually consisted of a pastor reciting well-chosen biblical passages for about an hour and providing some minor inspirational interpretations. Needless to say, I was not moved by the experience— and didn’t take the idea of church seriously. Even though this doctrine was being force-fed to me for as long as I can remember, I always had questions about its veracity— questions that, I quickly learned, were considered inappropriate to ask. My grandmother was a self-described traditional, god-fearing, Christian woman— though it wasn’t until much later that I would realize the closed-mindedness that this mindset bred in her and others. She saw that I was not excited about attending church on a regular basis and, at around age eight, she mandated that I attend a weekly children’s class at the same church in an attempt to force my involvement and encourage participation within the “House of God.” I recall my first day at this Sunday School very well; I remember that my younger step-sister was there with me in a classroom-like setting learning about Jesus Christ and his message, obviously at a superficial level that could be absorbed by young children. I also remember the tactics utilized by the “teachers” in order to keep the attention of the children and get us excited about church— such techniques included giving gifts of candy and other prizes for active participation. I do not doubt that the intentions of these people were positive but, in hindsight, I cannot help but see the gifts as a type of mild bribery in exchange for the willing indoctrination of a child. After we earned a certain amount of “Bible Bucks”, which were awarded for correctly answering trivia questions about the gospels and participating in Christian songs, we could cash in these vouchers for prizes like candy, toys, or even a ten-minute break to play on the trampoline behind the church.

The bus ride to and from Sunday School was the most exciting part of the event for me and my step-sister; we would play games, sing songs, and we were always given a large amount of sugary sweets. My point in telling you this is not to glorify the practice of forcing a religion on a child, but instead to illuminate the ways in which this act is carried out within the Christian community and other religious traditions. My step-sister was always delighted to attend church in order to receive candy and prizes… it didn’t take long for this connection to become a subconscious one, which created an extremely positive outlook of church and religion in her mind. For one reason or another, I did not have this reaction— I simply didn’t take church or religion seriously. I remember thinking of it more as a pastime or a game to occupy my time on Sunday mornings, acknowledging that the “miracles” portrayed in the Biblical Texts could not have possibly occurred. There is no point in my past in which I would have considered myself “Christian”, or affiliated with any other religion for that matter. But, as my family took Christianity as God’s inherent truth, I was afraid to voice my opinions on the subject. It was this disparity between my family’s faith and my lack of faith that spurred my interest in the study of religion. It wasn’t until age thirteen that I became interested in actively studying the various religious traditions in the world and their effects on society at large. It is because of this curiosity, and my sincere hope to avoid familial confrontation, that I decided to remain silent about my skepticism surrounding Christianity— and all religions. I continued to accompany my family to church on Sundays— as a silent observer. After years of attending the same Christian church nearly every week, however, I had a lot of unanswered questions about the religion’s history, principles, and how it has become the most followed tradition in the world. But, out of fear of being ostracized, I remained silent and did not raise my concerns to my family.

            At age fifteen, I decided that I wasn’t getting enough information out of the weekly sermons to justify any sort of divine revelation— I decided to read the bible to get a more complete picture of what it teaches and why. It is at this time, after seeing first-hand the violent, discriminatory, and hate-filled passages that our pastor had neglected to read aloud, that I decided that I was definitely against the notion of organized religion. I could have remained silent for years as so many of us do, but instead I decided to confront my family head on. It is at age fifteen that I first told my family that I didn’t want to go to church anymore because I disagree with the religion on a moral level. I was honest and respectful about my opinions, but that didn’t stop them from attempting to force my participation in the church— they probably thought they were doing the right thing, trying to “save my soul”. I remember them being upset with me at first— as you would expect. But, because of my straightforward and honest attitude toward the subject, and because I broached the subject rather early in life, it blew over relatively quickly. From age fifteen on it was known to all those in my family that I was a Religious Conscientious Objector and, while some of the more closed-minded family members looked down on me for this rather bold decision, I simply turned the other cheek. Now, I am an open atheist in my private and public life and believe that I am truly better off for it. While keeping your opinions hidden might help to avoid small confrontations, being honest with yourself and others will be more rewarding in the long term and I truly empathize with those people who are still being forced to hide their non-religiosity.

I understand that, because I never fully believed, my de-conversion wasn’t as divisive as some of my friends and colleagues. Those of us who were more invested in church might have a more difficult time sharing their new-found skepticism with friends and family. This includes those non-believers who were once clergymen or preachers or otherwise associated with a religious tradition— this dynamic presents its own set of unique challenges. But the reason my de-conversion was not a traumatic moment in my life, is precisely because I didn’t wait. By telling my family as soon as I was sure that I didn’t want to be involved in the church, it became a soon-forgotten aspect to my developing personality— in other words, my family got used to it. By the time I was eighteen and decided to attend school for Religious Studies, nobody in my family or circle of friends was surprised that I was interested in studying the phenomenon of religion from a secular perspective; and, though I catch flak from strangers every once in a while, my true friends and family love and respect me for who I am, regardless of religious and ideological differences. This is, in my opinion, how it can and should be for everybody, provided that you are honest with yourself and others in a respectful manner; here, I will outline some steps to make the process easier for you and your loved ones, provide testimonials from non-believers of all ages who decided to take the enormous step to become open about their lack of belief, and provide helpful information for resources and support systems for open non-believers. The intention is that these instructions and stories will help people who are being forced to hide their thoughts and feelings from family and friends in a society largely dominated by religion.

To submit your 1000-1,500 word deconversion/coming out story, please send it to David@DavidGMcAfee.com with “Atheists Coming Out” in the subject line. Please feel free to share this page to ensure everyone gets the opportunity to participate.

E-mail your 'Coming Out' story

E-mail your 'Coming Out' story