Atheism · October 18, 2008

Tagged with a meme! First day as an Atheist

(Sigh) I’ve just reposted my little lecture on chain-email, and as I’ve said before, a blog meme is too close to being the same sort of thing. (But I said that while performing that particular meme!)

And now KafirGirl has tagged me with another blog meme. And I’m going to do it ’cause it does look like fun. But I’ll gripe about it all the same.

Oh, and KafirGirl, please don’t think that tagging me with a meme will cause your brand new Atheist tattoos to itch in any way. It’s all psychosomatic, and has nothing to do with any sort of voodoo doll that I may or may not have.

So, anyway I’ll do this meme – but I’ll apply my own rule. I’ll tag no one else. However if you want to be tagged you can tell everyone that I tagged you. You can even blame me and gripe about it too. But no voodoo please.

On to the meme!

Do you remember the day you officially became an Agnostic?

Unless a disaster happens that day, it is difficult for me to remember individual dates. At times like that, I wish I had kept a diary. Or perhaps a blog. So, to answer literally, no I can’t remember the day. And if it’s not in my computer calender , I can’t remember the date that I did anything!

However, I do remember the circumstances. And that’s how I’ll answer these.

A knock on my door got me started in my own lessons in the field of Comparative Religion. Access to the Internet helped me answer questions. I studied cults (Scientology was my favorite cult to study) for several years. It was fun, and I felt so flipping superior because they were so obviously wrong. I knew what the truth was!

And then I applied what I had learned to my own religion.

And it started to fall apart.

I learned about logic and reasoning, proof, evidence, the scientific method. I pulled open my Bible and really started working to make it actually defend itself.

And that wasn’t working either.

I got online again and read a lot. I asked a few questions but mostly I lurked. I remember the thrill of fear I felt the first time I logged onto infidels.org – it felt like I was doing something naughty.

I bought more bibles of different translations, and became very familiar with online bibles. I browsed Matthew Henry’s commentary to the Bible, and found that modern biblical commentary often didn’t agree with Henry. Shoot, commentary from different Christian sects didn’t agree. Christian biblical scholars couldn’t agree with past scholars even about the Trinity! That shook me.

And I prayed a lot. I prayed for guidance. I put the fleece before the Lord, because I figured if God would answer David Wilkerson, then maybe he would answer me.

I got no response. At first that scared me – a lot. I feared I was already lost, already on the way to Hell. I had lost any state of grace. I got very very sad.

And one day I thought to myself, “What if everyone is wrong?”

It took a while from there for me to actually call myself agnostic, but still I was agnostic from that point.

Can you remember the day that you officially became an Atheist?

I had found out that one of my relatives was atheist, my uncle Steve. I sent him a few questions on the subject and finally I admitted that I was agnostic. Although I’d been thinking of myself as agnostic for a while, I think it may have been the first time that I admitted it to anyone.

Steve asked me why I was content to be a “fence sitter”?

And so I started exploring what it meant to be an Atheist. I read about Secular Humanism and Positive Atheism. I came to realize that I was the most comfortable with what is called “weak Atheism”.

Again, it was a process, and again, there is not a specific date that I can pin down.

When was the last time you spoke or prayed to God with the actual thought that someone was listening?

During my time as an agnostic. My prayers were in the form of, “Dear God, if you’re really there…”

Ending my prayer was actually somewhat difficult for me to do. I prayed constantly, silently, in the way you would talk to an old friend who couldn’t reply just at the moment. Prayer is one of many reasons it was so difficult for me to take this path – because I usually felt as if I were talking to an old friend.

I was very sad when I came to the realization that I was just talking to myself.

I still frame my thoughts as an internal dialog – but I no longer think that God is on the other side of it. I realize it is just me.


Were you agnostic toward ghosts, even after you became an Atheist?

When I was Christian, I really believed in ghosts and the supernatural of all sorts. Me and my friends were all budding ghost hunters. And of course since I was the most geeky, I went the most overboard on ghost hunting equipment. I can remember using a tape recorder in a graveyard and in abandoned houses.

But the supernatural also scared me a lot. I would wake from a creepy dream and be frightened, imagining the things that could be there in the dark.

In learning about Atheism, I learned that there is no convincing evidence that anything supernatural is true. From telepathy to ghosts to gods. This became a great comfort to me – not only did I no longer worry about a mental peeping tom, but I also ceased to worry that bumps in the dark were supernatural in origin.

Do you want to be wrong?

About Christianity? No. About Islam or Hindu? No. Who in their right mind would want to be subjected to the arbitrary punishment of a petty and jealous God or gods? Infinite punishment for finite crimes is cruel and unethical. The average 6 year old boy with a magnifying glass treats ants better than the god described in the Bible or Koran treats his pets.

I also now think that infinite reward for a finite amount of toadying is just as offensive.

What I want to be wrong about is a “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” afterlife, where each life is but a school, and our next life is a slightly more challenging school with slightly more advanced benefits. An infinity of afterlifes, where “God” is not a being, but is instead a state of perfection that we all strive for as we travel further down this infinite path.

I want to be wrong about this because I would love to travel this path with my friends and family. I would love to watch as enemies learned grudging admiration, and then acceptance of each other. I’d love to watch as not only our intelligence increased, but our compassion and empathy and love increased too.

But this is only a dream. So my only hope is to encourage sympathy and empathy here on Earth, in the time we have left.