My Atheism

My friend Gary has tagged me to answer a few questions regarding my atheism. Sorry it’s taken me so long, Gary. I’ve been a little preoccupied with U.S. politics, as I’m sure you can understand.

Anyway, here goes:

Can you remember the day that you officially became an atheist?
It was actually quite a process, so I couldn’t say exactly when I no longer believed. I do recall the first time I ever used the word to describe myself. It was strange but liberating.

Do you remember the day you officially became an agnostic?
Given that agnosticism is a statement or position of knowledge that can apply to atheists as well as theists, I’d say I was always agnostic. Well, maybe not always, but probably from around the same time I figured out there was no Santa, which was around age six.

I’ve always known and accepted the difference between belief and knowledge and, therefore, have always been agnostic.

How about the last time you spoke or prayed to God with actual thought that someone was listening?
I guess about eight years ago. Although I still believed that someone might be listening, I admit that I was beginning to feel a bit silly.

Did anger towards God or religion help cause you to be an atheist or agnostic?
This is the question I was looking forward to, in a way. I’ve avoided discussing this for years because I know how easily my answer can and will be misconstrued. I will begin by saying that, despite claims and accusations made by theists, no atheist is angry with any god. Anyone who is angry with a deity is not an atheist by definition. You cannot be angry with someone you don’t believe exists.

But, yes, I would say that anger with God played a part in my becoming atheist. Allow me to explain:

Throughout my life as a Christian, I often had questions and doubts about things. When that happened, I sought guidance from fellow Christians who reminded me that faith is the substance of things not seen, etc. I was discouraged from “thinking too much” — literally what I was told on more than one occasion. My doubts were just Satan trying to draw me away from God, and giving any time or consideration to the questions in my mind was dangerous to my faith and my “walk with the Lord”.

Being Christian and believing in God was all I had ever known. My mother was a preacher’s kid, my father a deacon in the church. I didn’t know how to be any other way, didn’t really see a need to; so I did what I had to do to preserve my faith: ignore the questions, pray and ask God to remove the doubt from my mind, order Satan to flee from me in Jesus’ name, etc. I did anything and everything, with the exception of being honest with myself and giving myself enough credit to accept that I was an intelligent person with legitimate questions and that I deserved better than excuses and fairy tales.

After a long battle with cancer, my younger sister died in agony at the age of thirty. And you bet your ass I was pissed off at God! This time I was angry enough, for long enough, to begin critically examining my belief system. I no longer accepted what I was being told. I was not “speaking” to God, so I couldn’t distract myself from rational thought by praying. I allowed myself to think and refused to feel guilty. I figured that if God couldn’t stand up to scrutiny, he wasn’t much of a god; if my faith couldn’t endure examination, it wasn’t worth having.

It was a process, but one by one, I was able to peel away the irrational beliefs I had held for more than thirty years. I did it with reason and good old common sense, by letting myself think. Eventually, I realized that I was no longer angry with God, but only because I no longer believed there was a god to be angry with. I was free to grieve my sister’s death without the added burden of a loving god who let her die and betrayed me in the process. It was cancer. It was dreadful, but it was no longer personal.

So, yes, anger played a big role, in that it lead to the process of critically examining what I believed and finally realizing that there was no reasonable foundation for believing any of it.

Here is a good one: Were you agnostic towards ghosts, even after you became an atheist?
I guess as agnostic as I am about anything else for which there is no evidence, one way or another.

Do you want to be wrong?
I wouldn’t say I want to be wrong, but I wouldn’t mind being wrong. To echo Gary (who echoed Christopher Hitchens) knowing God exists and choosing to worship God are two entirely different kettle of fish. And I would not choose the latter.

Posted by Lottie — Copyright © 2008 Rambling On

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9 responses to “My Atheism

  • saintpaulgrrl

    Thank you for answering these questions, Lottie. I’ve been wanting to hear more about your process and experiences with atheism as well. Within the last couple of months, I have finally said the word “atheist” outloud to someone as a term that describes me. You’re right; it’s strangely liberating.

  • Selena

    I love your candor!! Rock on, girl!

  • Lottie

    Thanks for commenting, Bonnie. I enjoy answering these kinds of questions, and discussing the topic in general. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

  • Lottie

    Thank you, Selena! 😀

  • thehun

    That was fantastic. Well written and thought out. I had to sign up for a word press account just to let you know how awesome your post is.

    Having recently struggled to get the god monkey off my back, I have been interested in other people’s stories and experiences.

    Thanks.

  • Lottie

    Thanks for commenting and for your very kind words. Sorry for the delay in approving it. For some reason, it got stuck in my spam filter. Good thing I check it fairly often. I’ve told it not to spam you anymore!

    I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Please feel free to post any comments or questions that come to mind. I enjoy discussing this, and so do several of my regular readers and friends who hang around and put up with my rambling.

  • Gary Murning

    The anger question was especially well presented, Lottie. It’s very difficult, I know, to touch upon this without leaving yourself open to certain standard responses that I’m sure we are both more than familiar with. But you manage that, in my opinion.

    Isn’t it fascinating to see the various routes we’ve all taken to arrive at the same place?

  • aspentroll

    It’s always good to hear how someone throws away the crutch of religion. I really enjoyed your essay, Lottie.

    I think most people generally do have a crisis in their lives and that starts them wondering why they should waste their time on a huge fairy tale. We are all animals but we as humans have evolved
    further than the others that populate the earth. No where in Christianity does it say that there is a dog or cat heaven. It is remarkable to me to imagine that as a human I should get any better treatment than any of the other animals that can not have sin. We have one life and we have to make the best of it. There is no glorified afterlife like heaven or punishment pit like hell. These are all scary stories imagined by the people of power in ancient times to keep the ignorant of the day, manageable.
    How this kind of thinking has lasted this long is a mystery to me.

  • Lottie

    Gary: Thanks for the feedback. I felt like I was walking a tightrope with that. Glad to hear I kept my balance.

    . 😉

    Aspentroll: Thanks very much! I’m glad you enjoyed it.

    How this kind of thinking has lasted this long is a mystery to me.

    To me as well.

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