A guest post by The Closet Atheist on how they became an atheist. In this story you hear about the birth of skepticism and what happens when a Young Earth Creationist leaves a bubble and is exposed to science. This journey I believe goes on in a Christian school somewhere in the United States.
“The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason.”
“History teaches us that no other cause has brought more death than the word of god.”
Betty Bowers humor
Once a month I like to have people tell their stories of de-conversion. This blog writes frequently about atheism, doubt and related topics. Here is a sampling of posts that I have written about atheism.
- Often times Christians teach that you need God to be good, and as many know that is not always the case. Down in SE Texas an atheist group is feeding the homeless and gave birth to a movement that helps those down on their luck. You can read more at “An Atheist Group in Southeast Texas Takes Care of the Homeless, and in the Process Teaches Why you do not Need God to do Good.”
- Recently in the news there was the story of Shannon Low of the Order of Elijah who de-converted from Christianity. Shannon Lowe led a Christian Metal Core band at the time. You can read about this in “Order of Elijah’s Shannon Low De-Converts from the Christian Faith: When it Becomes Necessary to Leave.”
- Out in Oklahoma not long ago, an atheist donated money to a children’s home run by a Baptist organization. The Baptist organization rejected the donation because it came in the name of an atheist organization. The post I wrote is when the atheist has a better understanding of the Christian Gospel then the Christian. “When the Atheist has a Better Understanding of the Gospel than the Christian.”
- Finally a major issue among atheists today is constant and ongoing Christian discrimination of atheists and skeptics. It is a major issue and its long past time that the Christian church acknowledge and confess this situation. “The Issue of Christian Discrimination Against Atheists.”
Recently Rickey Green from the Memphis, Tennessee area wrote his story of how he de-converted. If you would like to read that article you can do so in, “Rickey Green from Memphis, Tennessee Writes about His De-Conversion from Christianity.” I encourage atheists and former Christians to tell their story because I believe they should be listened to and learned. Each and every atheist has a lot to say and a story within them. It is one of the many reasons why I love blogging, you can give many people a platform to speak their mind.
Today’s post comes from an atheist blog that I read. They do some amazing work and offer some perspectives that are deep and well thought out. The blog is called The Closet Atheist, and is written by a college student inside a Christian college. They write it anonymously. They have some good things to say and I would encourage you to check them out sometime. The post below comes from two posts on their blog which you can read here and here. The Closet Atheist will answer questions below and I will let them lead the discussion. The guidelines for interacting are in this post here which I would encourage you to read. If anyone is disrespectful, short or puts this person down you will be booted. I want all the atheists here to feel welcome. I value diversity and want people from all perspectives to be involved here. That said feel free to ask questions and engage. I want to thank The Closet Atheist for their courage and bravery. It is not easy to go through this kind of process. They have a lot to say, and as part of this there is an 11 page college paper which is linked in below. It comes from a PDF file. That’s it guys and know that I love you.
When I was a child, I believed in Jesus. I couldn’t wrap my head around how he worked or what he could do, but my mom told me he loved me, so I thought, cool, I love him too. Once she told me that when I got older I would see much greater things that God could do than what I could even imagine. Obviously, I’m not as impressed as she thought I would be, but I do know a lot more about God now than I did then.
I was taught the usual fundamentalist Christian ideas: God created the universe, and that is the end of the discussion. There is no evolution and there was no big bang, and don’t ever question it or listen to what those evil others (atheists) tell you.
Unfortunately, that’s not what they teach you in public school. Being practically scientific fact and all, evolution and the big bang are pretty widely taught in grade school science classes (of course, not without the disclaimer first that anyone who doesn’t believe in these ideas doesn’t have to personally accept them). I was one of those kids on the day that my 6th grade science teacher showed us a video about the big bang and the formation of the earth. I couldn’t believe that someone would try to teach me about the non-Christian (read: evil) option of origins. However, it didn’t take much of the video to convince me that the idea of a big bang wasn’t so impossible. In fact, I didn’t see anything hard to believe about it at all, unlike the concept of creation.
This video sparked the beginning of my skepticism. I had never really liked going to church anyways. I’d never understood how anyone had been able to accurately record the creation story in the first place if no one was there to witness it, and I didn’t know why people believed that humans used to live to be 900 years old but nowadays they couldn’t. I never asked about it, though, because something told me that my mother probably wouldn’t have the answers.
From then on until high school, I didn’t really have a name for what I was. At first, I just called it I-don’t-think-I-believe-in-God-but-whatever (a convenient excuse to not pay attention in church), then what-makes-anyone-think-they-know-all-the-answers (non-labeled agnosticism), then I’m-not-a-Christian-but-I’m-not-an-atheist-because-that’s-bad, then you know the rest. Until recently I’ve said I’ve been an atheist since 6th grade, but it definitely wasn’t that clean cut. I didn’t truly accept atheism until coming to a Christian college.
I was planning to attend this college since I was young. My mother knew it would be perfect for me with the Christian atmosphere, rigorous academics, and the location. I knew that there was a heavy Christian foundation here, but I figured that it wouldn’t be too bad and the good would outweigh the negatives. If I could choose schools again, I don’t know if I still would have come here, although the atmosphere and the coursework have grown my interest in atheism and influenced this self-discovery immensely.
My college has a series of 6 Christian-worldview-based core humanities classes and one Science and Faith course. As it turns out, these classes have become some of my favorites because they can infuriate me, make me consider what Christians believe and what I believe, and show me the good and bad of both sides.
The class here that I am the most truly grateful for is called Civilization and the Speculative Mind. My professor was one of the most humble Christians that I have met, and it showed in his teaching. Being from the philosophy department, he taught the class from a philosophical manner. He compared the worldviews of theism, deism, naturalism, nihilism, and existentialism. I began the class with an open mind, and I was excited to learn about these worldviews and hopefully identify which one aligned with my beliefs. I ended up enjoying learning about naturalism the most, and I decided that of these five perspectives, I would consider myself more naturalist than anything else. It was this time when I started using the word naturalist to describe myself; I wasn’t quite ready for the word “atheist” yet, but I was getting more comfortable with admitting to myself what I believe and don’t believe and how I answer life’s big questions.
All six of these humanities classes require a big term paper near the end of the semester. It is at the professor’s discretion to decide what the paper can cover, and for this class, we had to write something persuasive that related to anything we had discussed in class all semester. He said it should leave the reader legitimately questioning their beliefs if they went into it with the opposite view of what the writer is arguing. I didn’t want to take on the task of trying to convince a religious philosophy professor that God doesn’t exist, so I decided that I could argue against some points made in one of our textbooks. For the most part, the class had regarded naturalism fairly; it was honest about the ups and downs of a Godless worldview, but this textbook made the bold claim that all naturalism leads to depressing, meaningless nihilism. I took on the task of spending ten pages arguing why naturalism does not inherently lead to nihilism.
This paper was one of those times when a project starts off as homework for a grade and turns into something a lot more personal. I think that the process of learning and writing this paper really changed my life and the way that I think. It may not be perfect, but it is an accomplishment that I really hold dear. I did more than try to make a compelling argument for the sake of a persuasive paper; being in this delicate time of self-discovery, I wanted a fool-proof argument in which I truly believed everything I was saying. I wanted something that I was really proud of and that I could stand behind. You can read it here.
*Keep in mind that this is something I wrote about eight months ago, before I had ever heard the word “humanism.” It was my first time breaking the ice and learning a lot of ideas and arguments that went for and against my claims. There are some claims that I made that I no longer entirely agree with, and I would identify as more of a humanist/atheist than a “quasi-agnostic optimistic naturalist.” Some sources have been edited in order to not disclose the name or location of my college.