how I became an atheist part II  

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Even though I didn't consider myself an evangelical Christian anymore I still believed in God. The thought of being wrong and going to hell was too much for me to handle. But I didn't believe the Bible to be literally true to the exact word. I thought Jesus was misrepresented by later leaders in the church; there were still all of the positive teachings of Christ that were valid.

One of the guys I dated in college called himself an agnostic. He professed that he didn't really believe in a specific god, but that he thought there was the possibility that there was something out there involved in our lives. A friend of ours said that an agnostic was an atheist that was too afraid to admit that he was an atheist. I found their discussions interesting, even amusing, but I didn't participate much with my individual beliefs. I was in flux. I couldn't verbalize those changes going on inside.

I still believed in the spiritual. I thought without the supernatural there was nothing to make humans special. I explained it to myself by saying that there were plenty of things we couldn't comprehend or even theorize about and the supernatural was one of them. I loosely called it "magic."

I believed in the ability of people to influence the world through the mind, manifested in supernatural events. It was sort of like the verse in the Bible about moving mountains with faith. I still believed it was possible, but that my faith didn't have to be in God. I could do it through faith in myself.

It's not unlike what I hear about "The Secret," I'm afraid to admit. I had a group of friends that believed similarly. None of us had a set "religious" belief. We borrowed paradigms from different religions (though never Christianity) and our goal was to prove scientifically that "magic" was real. I played along, again as an enabler, not realizing that this was exactly the same thing I had grown up with dressed up in another package.

We tried little experiments and rituals, meditation, etc. Nothing more than could be explained by coincidence was ever discovered. I remember asking a friend of mine how you could tell the difference between magic and coincidence. He replied that it didn't really matter. It was all how you perceived it. That really threw me for a loop. It bothered me. If the only difference was perception, what did it matter what I believed?

My niece died unexpectedly at the age of 14. It was a huge shock to my family. I remember sitting in the funeral service, angry, thinking that Christianity was a death cult. People didn't want to let go of loved ones after death and so made up an afterlife to explain what happened, to deal with the loss and fear of death. I felt certain my niece did not go on to an afterlife; that she no longer existed except in our memories. I didn't say that to my family, of course. It was difficult enough of a time without me making it worse for my deeply spiritual parents.

Over the years I vacillated between believing in nothing and believing in "something" that I was never really able to define. But the more I looked at spirituality and the more I found out about those that professed to believe in the spiritual, the more I found fakers and con-artists.

Other posts in this series:
How I became an atheist part I
How I became an atheist part III

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4 comments: to “ how I became an atheist part II

  • encephalophone
    Saturday, April 7, 2007 at 2:30:00 PM CDT  

    I object to your characterization of atheism.

    I think that if you concede that it's conceivable that God may in fact exist, then you can't call yourself an atheist. You would be agnostic.

    For human beings, whose imaginations are vast but limited, the existence of God is a first principle-type of paradox. There's no test for the presence of God, nor is there any way to logically or scientifically prove His non-existence. When we come to the question of God or Not-god, we MUST turn to the matter of belief, which offers us a few choices.

    A. God exists.
    B. God does not exist.
    C. God may or may not exist.
    D. God both does AND does not exists (the quantum physicist's favorite, I imagine).

    My personality will only allow me to take C as the most likely "truth". I can't imagine a sane person thinking otherwise (except for the quantum physicists). Even the most dedicated sane theists must have doubts now and then, even if they refuse to admit it. Only the crazy ones, the ones who reject logic and reason altogether, fall into the extremist category.

    Contrary to what your friend said (hopefully that wasn't me), an atheist is a believer in non-belief by definition. In other words, atheism is a matter of faith, a person who has made a choice and has no reasonable doubts--a crazy person.

    You, Ordinary Girl, are far too sane and thoughtful to be an atheist, and you've recognized the impossibility of pure theism.

    On the other hand, most people believe whatever suits them, and God knows it's just as simple as that.

  • ordinarygirl
    Saturday, April 7, 2007 at 3:58:00 PM CDT  

    No, it wasn't you. It was HC (atheist) and PW (agnostic). You can guess from that I'd think.

    I'm not crazy and I am an atheist. Matt believes more along the lines that you do and there's only a small difference. But you'll have to wait until tomorrow for part III.

  • L
    Wednesday, April 11, 2007 at 10:03:00 PM CDT  

    for a while I called myself atheist as well, but only because it seemed more "polite" (i.e., less of a loaded term)... reading blogs like Pharyngula, however, really let me see how there were others out there (I'd never met another atheist personally until very recently)

  • L
    Wednesday, April 11, 2007 at 10:03:00 PM CDT  

    oops. that should have read "for a while I called myself AGNOSTIC as well..."


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