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Atheism part 2 (4) Thu, Apr 04, 2013
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 If the Bible wasn't true, maybe God wasn't real, and maybe the ideas and practices expressed in the Bible were simply outdated tribal ideologies invented by a primitive people who thought the earth was flat.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

Dave Brown Thu, Apr 04, 2013
I think you may need to improve your quality of atheist books you are reading. I am not familiar with the Sagan book, but the others are imho not very serious. They say very little about the more serious concerns of atheism such as the impact on the concept of morality and the atheistic understanding of suffering. It is not enough for a writer to say Christians are stupid. Any observant Christian knows that. An honest atheist needs to address the same hard questions that christians need to address. Does it matter what I do? Why should I care about other people and what is the right way to do that? Does my suffering mean anything? Does it mean something to experience beauty or is that just something that my procreative urge responds to? For fear of going on even longer than the already too long: 1. Did you talk to any Christians who were knowledgable about any of these topics during this decision process or did you just try to figure it out yourself? 2. Did you purposefully choose to publish this on April fool's day? -Dave

Dave Thu, Apr 04, 2013
To answer (1), no I didn't talk to people knowledgeable about morality.  I didn't see the need to.  Morality had very little to do with my decision.  Dan Barker's book Godless talks about it pretty extensively, and I tend to agree with most of these non-serious atheists that morality changes over time and Christianity doesn't offer much in terms of a track record.  As for (2) I didn't realize it was near April Fool's Day until after I hit publish.  Sorry for the confusion.

Shelley Fri, Apr 05, 2013
I'm glad you're out because I have so many questions that I'd love your perspective on... This is a question I've always wondered about (with atheists in general, not you specifically)... what if your wrong? As a believer, if I'm wrong and God doesn't exist then the moment I enter enternity, it doesn't matter. But if you're wrong, and He does exist, what happens? And for me, it's not just an eternity question. My everyday hope is in Him. When things are beyond my understanding (which is often), I get so much peace knowing that I don't have to know all the answers and that there is a good plan for me. That has been true so many times. (Mind you, you could argue that it would be fine regardless of if I attribute that to God or not). But I've seen miracles, I have seen transformed life, I have seen the healing of old wounds that I didn't even know I had. But then again, my religion isn't religion. It's out of a relationship with the dude the book is about. But I digress... I have also heard it said that we all believe in something - could be God, Mohammed, Amex, humanity in general, success, etc. What do you think of that idea? When things go awry, where does one turn and how do they rationalize it (or do they rationalize it at all)? Do they still have hope in something? With regards to you, how has your life changed since you have become an atheist? Oh, Mr, Hosier... I could ask you a million questions (ones that we have all struggled with). Funny how one person has the same struggle and ends up on the side of faith and another lands in disbelief.  Either way, still glad to have you as a friend and look at you, even now, evangelizing. :)    I

Dave Fri, Apr 05, 2013
Concerning the question of "what if I'm wrong" (a.k.a. Pascal's wager), my response is:  what if I choose the wrong god?  There are easily 2 billion people currently living who are betting on the wrong god (assuming there's a right one).  Specifically if I'm wrong and I die and God asks me, "Hey what's the deal?  Why didn't you believe in me?"  I'll say, "You should've conveyed a more believable story with more reliable witnesses, and you shouldn't have given me the ability to reason my way out of belief." 

As far as what I believe, I believe in reason and evidence.  But I'll be completely honest, I'm not really sure what will happen when things go awry, because (more honesty here) as a young, healthy, white, male living in America, I really don't have many problems.  So I guess we'll see.  But not having a god to depend on doesn't bother me in the least. 

As an atheist, my life has changed in relatively small but important ways.  Obviously my Sundays are much more free.  In casual settings, I don't feel the need to awkwardly steer the conversation to god or heaven or whatever.  I took the Jesus fish off my car (as a driver, I was a terrible representative anyway).  And to paraphrase Penn Jillette, I'm finally free to do all the murdering and raping I want, which is none at all.

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