Atheism isn't a choice. It's a realization and once I fully understood that realization, my lack of belief became a cause for celebration. Atheists are often portrayed as doubting, unhappy people. I can see why believers think they are helping lead us back to the light, but actually losing religion is a joyous thing, the real light at the end of the tunnel.
For me, it was an epiphany. I grew up Christian and struggled for many years to hold onto my faith. I held onto all of the Christian answers to questions about God such as:
- "Why doesn't God answer my prayers?"
- "He does. Just sometimes the answer is no."
Some believers think that atheists are angry at their god, others think that atheists believe there was a god but he died or that god exists but is some kind of charlatan. None of those is correct. The only thing atheists have in common is that none believe that God is at all.
For years, I rationalized the Old Testament stories as being tales told to a primitive people who needed them. I thought the New Testament was divinely inspired although I always did think that John was a little high when he wrote Revelations and I wondered what he meant by characterizing himself as the "one who Jesus loved"(1,2,3).
Then in learning about the enormity of the cosmos, I realized how terrifically small each of us is in relation to the total size of it. If there was a creator rather than a creative force, why would he (she, or they) be interested in humanity, a minuscule part of the whole scheme of things? If humanity as a group is minute, then how important can each individual be to merit the eternal nurturing and care of what created it?
It caused me to think about why I was so desperately hanging onto faith and the only reason was the hope of heaven and fear of hell.
What can heaven offer me that I don't already have? At my age, my relatives have a hard time finding appropriate gifts for me for Christmas and birthdays. I'm not rich, but I have everything I need and nearly everything I want is within reach. So why was I hanging onto faith? Fear of hell?
Even as a Christian, I had no real fear of hell. I always believed that, if there were one, the only power the devil has over anyone is the power they give it. As a child I was taught that the real hell is not the myth of fire and brimstone. It is separation from God. So in death, I figure that separation would be nothingness. That's no problem for me. The circle closed. I could put aside all the struggles and latch onto the life I have left. I can live it without fear of reprisals at its end for any mistakes I make along the way.
I don't believe in Peter Pan, but I do believe in his creator, author JM Barrie. Peter Pan is a character infused with life by his creator, JM Barrie. In the same way, I do believe in the ingenuity of humans. I believe that gods are a human creation. Just like I'm not mad at Peter Pan or at JM Barrie, I'm not mad at any god or any human created religions.
What if it turns out there was a sentient creator? Believers might argue that, after all, that first atom came into existence somehow. Even so, the idea of a sentient creator creates a paradox of creation. If there was a creator, who created the creator and who created that being and so on? If some day science proves me wrong and I am indeed indebted to a sentient being who expects my unquestioning belief and adoration, that's just something I will have to deal with. I'm willing—happy to put my faith in life here on earth. If that's all I have, I intend that at its end, my last thought will be, "It was enough."
- “John 21:20 NIV - Peter Turned and Saw That the Disciple - Bible Gateway.” Accessed May 20, 2016. https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John+21%3A20&version=NIV.
- “Was John the Disciple Whom Jesus Loved? | Reading Acts.” Accessed May 20, 2016. https://readingacts.com/2012/03/16/was-john-the-disciple-whom-jesus-loved/.
- “Who Was the Disciple Whom Jesus Loved? - NeverThirsty.” Accessed May 20, 2016. http://www.neverthirsty.org/bible-qa/qa-archives/question/who-was-the-disciple-whom-jesus-loved/.