|Continued from part 1.
(I realize this is a little brief and a lot of details are missing. I could probably fill a book with all the nitty gritty, but I'm intentionally keeping it brief simply to get it out there.)
Switching from faith to doubt opened a lot of unexpected doors. If the Bible wasn't true, maybe God wasn't real, and maybe the ideas and practices expressed in the Bible were simply outdated tribal ideologies invented by a primitive people who thought the earth was flat. Or maybe not. Regardless, I felt free for the first time in my life to investigate other ideas. I promptly read a bunch of books about science and reason and found myself agreeing with everything they said. It felt good to have an open mind for once, and it felt good to allow my mind to be changed by rational arguments that were supported by evidence.
When I first considered calling myself an atheist, it was a difficult proposition. Even before I called myself a Christian, I at least believed in a god. Making the switch from god to no-god wasn't trivial. I was hesitant at first, but the more I thought about it and admitted it to myself, the more comfortable it felt.
One of the first major changes I had to make was to get out of my church responsibilities. I had stopped leading a Bible study a few months prior, but I was still attending, and I was also still attending church. There's probably nothing more ridiculous than being part of a religious organization while actively not believing in its tenets. I experienced this firsthand, and I couldn't take it for long. It probably had a little to do with the fact that I was keeping my new beliefs hidden, and so in a sense I wasn't being completely honest. I finally found the courage and proper moment for a "breakup speech" with my Bible study. It was awkward and difficult, but entirely necessary. Leaving church wasn't as hard; I just stopped showing up. No one noticed.
I was momentarily content with keeping my atheism relatively private, but it soon became apparent that people would continue associating me with Christianity unless I told them not to. I sent an email to my family, essentially "coming out" as an atheist, and I was pleasantly surprised by the mostly positive reaction. People didn't necessarily agree with me, but they at least respected my choice.
One of the most satisfying things about becoming an atheist is not having to shoehorn new information into old beliefs. If some astrophysicist discovers that life arrived on our planet via an asteroid impact, I don't have to figure out a way to mash that into my current belief system. I can examine the evidence for myself, then believe it if I want, knowing that nothing I do or think will have eternal consequences. That's a good feeling.
One interesting problem I'm currently facing regarding my atheism is that I've held a number of opinions about topics like creation, evolution, homosexuality, and the Bible, and I went to the trouble of writing these opinions down and sharing them on the internet where they will exist for all eternity and beyond. It's weird and uncomfortable to look back at some of the things I used to think and believe, wondering how I could've been so naive and narrow-minded. But I guess that's life. I could simply delete the things I don't like, but instead I'm keeping everything the way I originally wrote it, as a reminder that things change. #religion