how i went from christian to atheist

by - 1/06/2016 07:55:00 pm


"No Bible, no games."

That was the motto of the first church I went to, the church I grew up with. It was rather fascist about its dichotomous viewpoint—meaning you either believed completely and undoubtedly in God's existence or...you didn't, which meant being frowned upon by the faithful.

Being an inquisitive child, I asked questions all the time. I challenged the adults I viewed as authorities in this field.


"How do we know God is real?"
"The key is to have faith. We know he is real in our hearts, He rewards those who trust in Him..."

"How do we know God is real?"
"How can you not believe in God, child? Do you think we are accidents, then? You can't get something from nothing."

"How do we know God is real?"
"We don't."
"Then why are you so sure?"


I never got the answers I wanted, but they were the only answers on offer.

All the kids believed. Or at least, they showed the symptoms of 'Christian'. They thought the stories were true. They prayed. They mixed up God with Santa and asked for toys and dolls, and for mean people to go away.

I believed, too. I just didn't know why.


At first I thought it was because I was scared of going to Hell (by the way, telling kids they're going to Hell is freaky and not nice, old church). Maybe it was one of those irrational fears, like fear of ghosts. I know ghosts aren't real but...what if, right? Better to be safe than sorry.

But I think the reason I believed (and me, personally) was that I got stuck in a routine that preyed on my ignorance. I knew nothing about God and only bits and pieces about the Bible. I didn't have the intricate historical knowledge of a religious scholar (we never learned any of that). There was no reason for me to believe.

It was simple marketing. I was exposed to God like we are exposed to UV radiation. It was unavoidable. I could either accept it or fight against the wind trying to challenge it.


Later I discovered the wonderful world of science (hooray!) where things finally made sense to me. Scientific evidence was so solid and rational, I no longer felt like I was grasping for straws.

I guess you could say I "lost" my faith (although it's like, "Well then, where did it go?"). But that wouldn't be right.

Let's just say I grew out of my faith.

Of course, now I know plenty of wonderful Christians who are nothing like my super-conservative church members. I went to a Christian school and attended various youth groups and got satisfactory answers at last. But by then I was undoubtedly an atheist.

--

Go athiesm. Yay. Are you religious or non-religious? What shaped your belief system?

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30 comments

  1. well, i think i'm "christian" but at this point, i don't know. i haven't been in a church since i was 5 or 6 and from the couple years we went, i really don't remember anything. i asked my mom why we don't go to church and she told me we didn't need to as long as i believe in jesus and love everyone. So basically, religion has no impact on my life. (my mom told me i can be whatever i want religion wise)

    except for the fact, i always wonder how. how do all the christians know their religion is right? if they're going to tell me faith, forget it because i've got none of that. (it's like trying to cut and orange in the dark- fatal.)

    i always wonder if there's a god. who's to say there is a god and no jesus? or it's just the universe controlling things?

    i may be an atheist, i don't know. (but we all know the earth was made in like a million years, so the first section of the bible is wrong and there was evolution so this bible doesn't seem very reliable..)

    i give up.

    xo
    emily

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    1. I think that's really awesome that you were brought up with the freedom to believe in whatever you wanted. I wish it was something I'd had growing up, but nevertheless I found my way out of something I never truly believed it.

      I always did wonder, too! Those who claim they know God is real is overstepping, in my opinion. Sure, you can believe there is a God 100%, but there's really no way of knowing (in the purest definition of that word). I know what you mean, I can't settle for faith, either. One of the things I'm constantly wondering is how much of the Bible is accurate? It was written by man, after all. And history is often written by the winning side.

      Yeah, I agree with you about evolution. Never give up, Emily. :') I would try to follow which makes the most sense to you--I guess it all depends on how you think about thinks!

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  2. I love this post because I love it when people write about something as personal as religion. I reckon the only reason I, if anything, lean towards Christianity it's because, like you said, exposure. I go to a Christian school and was put in a Christian club thing in primary school when my mum wasn't able to pick us up. Learning about science and logic and realism though really solidified my confusion, but I guess all that influence has in a way worked. I reckon it's ignorant for us not to believe in a higher being. I mean, how does science happen so perfectly?

    -M
    The Life of Little Me

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    1. Thank you M! :) I believe it's possible for a Christian to also believe in science. I think science should be the foundation for knowledge, and religion an extension of that--a way to understand things that are beyond science. I hope you are able to sort out the confusion!

      The world does seem like a miracle, doesn't it? The way I view it, though (and this is just my personal opinion) is that the idea of a higher being may have started off as someone's way of looking at the world. And that idea spread. I think it's less about ignorance and more about a lack of knowledge. Of course, there are things that science probably cannot explain, but there may be more answers to come about why our world functions perfectly. :)

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  3. Thank you for this. You've given me the courage to write about this.
    I'm not a Christian, and I don't like to label myself. I've found by not having a religion, it makes it easier to be friends with religious people. xx

    Bryleigh | A Little Yarn Blossom

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    1. I'm glad if it helped in any way. <3

      I don't like labels either, but I find it a necessity for writing blog posts such as these. It gets the message across right well. :') That's an interesting idea, does it make it easier to be friends with religious people? I'd love to hear more!

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  4. I'm a Christian, but I've always wondered why atheists choice to be atheists. Although, I'm sure it's different for everyone. Thank you for sharing!

    Honestly, I would be frustrated with those kinds of answers too. It frustrates me when some Christians are like "It's so obvious! Are you stupid not to see it?" It's both rude and false. I think some Christians though are afraid to ask real questions about their faith because they think it will lead them to unbelief. Which cancels itself out. If you don't know why you believe than how can you truly, personally believe?

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    1. I suppose you could call it a 'choice', but I feel like my way of thinking is not something I can help, unfortunately. :') This would be another really great post--"Is belief a choice?" Maybe one for you?

      Agreed. It's at best, funny, and at worst, pretty offensive. And yeah, that's exactly it! And the same goes for athiests, too. We're worried that what we've believed in for so long might not be true that we don't challenge ourselves enough. But if we do challenge ourselves, we'd come closer to what we believe in. And beliefs shift all the time. Another good topic for a post. :)

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  5. I'm sorry you had that experience. That really sounds like a bad church -- though, sadly, it sounds like an average one too. They never taught the Bible, but just gave preachy sermons on how you should be better, right? Based on your description, I'd like to suggest that those people weren't really Christians, but were just Religious. Religious people are great at talking the talk, but when it comes down to it, they don't really trust God on anything that matters.

    When you say you believed, I'm curious, did you ever pray "the sinners prayer"? The one where you confess that you believe that Jesus is God, that he died to take away your sins, and that you accept that gift? Also, I'm curious, what is you definition of Atheism? Do you believe God doesn't exist, or do you just not have any religion, or is it something else?

    Of course, it's hard for someone else to explain how they know God is real to someone who doesn't believe it themselves. After all, no one living today has seen him (or if they have they wouldn't have any evidence). The Bible does say "blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed" (John 20:29). For me, reading and understanding the Bible has been what has made him real to me. It strengthened my faith, and then I began to be even more aware of him in day to day life. I can tell that the Spirit is inside me; I can feel his presence, and he answers my prayers.

    Proverbs 8:7 says "Those who seek me find me." You shouldn't expect other people to be able to show you God -- you have to look for him yourself.

    Interestingly, you say that discovering science is when everything finally made sense to you? But for me, science and God go hand in hand -- God created science, after all!

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    1. Yeah, that sounds like an accurate description! Although I would argue that my Church was too focused on teaching the Bible and wasn't open to discussions about how its message could affect our lives. Which is a shame. :(

      I've heard of the sinner's prayer but I never spoke the words. I did believe (I don't think it's accurate to say I never did just because I turned athiest), but only to a small extent (full of doubt and etc). As for my definition, I use the standard definition which means disbelief in any gods. 'Thiesm' would be the opposite. :)

      That's great that you seem so sure in your faith. In my experience, that kind of strong faith comes after a long period of doubt and confusion. If that's true for you, I'm happy you got past it!

      I don't expect other people to show me, or rather, I didn't. I expected my old Church to give me support and help and understanding, and to shed some light on my doubts. I looked for God and found no answers in Him. Hope that clears up any misunderstanding. :)

      Yeah, I agree with you! But there are many ways in which the Bible and science contradict, although I agree that religion and science can definitely work together. I suppose I meant that I liked the solidity of science rather than the science itself--it made more sense to my rational/evidence-reliant way of thinking.

      Thanks for the thoughtful comment, Sarah!

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  6. You're Christian transitioned atheist? And you feel as though everything started to make sense after you discovered science?

    I'd like you to know this is really interesting for me to read - would you mind if we discussed this more in depth? I'd love to learn more about your views. I'm not looking for a debate - I'd just like to learn about your experiences and your opinions, if you'll allow me. :)

    If not, don't feel obligated to contact me. I believe that God works differently in everyone's lives and if this is what you believe I won't counter it.

    Have a blessed day. <3

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    1. I guess so, although that's a bit of a generalisation. Sorry about that. :')

      Of course! Even a debate is fine with me, although we won't go far if we're not standing on the same ground. I'll be sure to contact you. :)

      Thanks for your respect, I really appreciate it when people accept that I have my own belief!

      You too <3

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  7. I'm a born-again evangelical Christian with roots in Calvinism...and it seems to me that the answers you received at church were a bit simplistic. I totally understand why you would question your faith at that point.

    My parents are Christians + they raised me to walk in God; however, they let me make the decision for myself. Once I began public high school, I decided. My faith roots from my conviction that just because you can't see, feel, or hear something doesn't mean it's not there, and that humanity is pretty much doomed all by itself.

    I'm not a cynic, but I try not to lie to myself about things. The truth is that this world sucks. There are some good aspects, yes, but the Bible states that the reason why evil exists in the first place is b/c humanity is inherently flawed. I read in your other posts that you believed in tabula rasa and John Locke's theory of humans being born blank slates. I, however, think humans were born hating God, and I don't believe society corrupts us; nay, we ARE society. And if this society that we have built with our hands is flawed, then we must be flawed ourselves.

    One of the main questions you ask is that "How do you know that God is real?"

    It's not necessarily the spiritual part of it that we have to comprehend: humans will never be able to comprehend God's majesty. However, I've made for myself three ways that I can see how God exists: tangibly, philosophically, and intellectually. I see God work in tangible ways on this earth. When I hear testimonies at church about people who have been saved by grace, I'm struck by the stark contrast between the people they claim they once were, and by the people they are today. Christianity also fits philosophically. As a Christian, I cannot claim anything but the fact that God's truth is total truth. Because I state this, I base everything on one solid foundation, as opposed to evolutionary philosophy and today's "common faith." Richard Dawkins and Stephen Hawking are major proponents of atheism + evolutionary philosophy, and their logic has several gaps in it.
    Lastly, the Bible fits intellectually. This kind of goes hand-in-hand with philosophically, but on a more personal scale. A lot of people try to simplify the Bible and, in the process, make it seem like a book of fairy tales and proverbs. It IS simple enough for the common literate reader to understand; however, since I feel like you're more of an intellectual person, I say that it's complex and deep as well. The same questions that you ask have been asked by thousands of other Christians prior to conversion, and many have actually written books on it. I don't know if you'll be willing to do so, but I will ask you to give Christianity another shot. And even if you're not at the point where you're willing to do so, I would ask you to research more on its philosophical and intellectual basis, even if it's just for the sake of learning more about it. Two of the books written about Christianity that have changed my life are 'Total Truth,' by Nancy Pearcey, and 'The Reason for God' by Tim Keller. Pearcey's book might speak to you more--it's definitely more in-depth, and will address many of the questions that you have--but 'The Reason for God' is a bit more to-the-point. If you'd like to read the Bible, I recommend ESVBible.org.

    If I seemed to have attacked you in any way during this comment, I sincerely apologize--I did not mean to do so. It's just that sometimes well-meaning Christians cliché Christianity in a way that makes it seem inconsistent to others, and I wanted to explain a bit of the basis of my thinking.

    Thank you for asking these questions + have a wonderful day!
    Rachel

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    1. Glad you understand. And the examples I gave were some of the nicest answers. :')

      I think that's awesome that your parents gave you the freedom to choose. It's a basic right, I feel.

      Yes, this world does suck. :') But in all seriousness, I agree with you that we are inherently flawed beings, although your reason for this is based on the Biblical narrative.

      Thank you for your time in writing a really well-thought out and comprehensive comment; however, the question I asked ("How do we know that God is real?") has been answered many times. All of the reasons you gave for God's assistance I have heard tenfold. That being said, I have found none of those answers satisfactory and I believe they have logical flaws like that in Dawkin's and Hawking's theories. Although I am curious to know which logical errors you are referring to. :)

      I would also like to clarify that I'm very much aware of the authority of Christianity when it comes to philosophy. I know that a lot of our society's beliefs are based on Christian morals and values (especially in the Western world), and I do not deny that the Bible is a complex book that should be looked into thoroughly.

      It's absolutely fine! There's really no need to apologise, I completely understand why you wrote this comment. And the same goes for me--you will hear no personal attacks from me, only debate and discussion. :) I agree, sometimes Christians don't get the message across effectively (like my oldest church), but I've come to sort out these inconsistencies. I've read the Bible twice since then and been to two other churches/youth groups. I've had my questions properly answered and clarified, but I'm afraid the chances of me returning to my Christian faith are pretty slim.

      Thanks for your comment, and you too!

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  8. Hm, I think your story is familiar. XD I can't say I haven't been tempted to jump off the Christian boat and follow you... But religion is the kind of thing that just hunts me down personally and that's kind of just who I am. Still, I can agree that sometimes religion doesn't make half as much sense as the people who teach it to us seem to think.

    Thanks for sharing your story with us, and giving us a little insight into your beliefs and how you arrived at them. :)

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    1. That seems to be the case. xD By all means, stay on the Christian boat. That way none of us drown. I'm glad you agree. There are parts that are definitely contradictory and illogical, but I think the inconsistencies lie within the Bible and history. I don't think there's anything illogical about the belief itself. :)

      Glad you liked it. Thanks for reading!

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  9. It sounds like the church you grew up in had a negative influence on your life, which really sucks. In hindsight, all the church's my family attended until I was about 13 had a negative influence on me as well, in different ways. I guess the difference between us though, is that my father is heavily into theology, so when I began asking questions, he had the answers and the books to help me (and not just 'Christian' ones, either. I own a copy of The God Delusion and God is not Great).

    It took me a while to work out what I thought, and it was hard because I found comfort in what I'd been taught all my life, but I also love science. Often adults give teenagers brush-off answers because (even pastors) don't really have any deep roots in philosophy/apologetics, they only know how to preach at people. I still go through doubt, like every one else who claims to be a Christian. I love science, and I love God. I think through things just as logically as the next person.

    I've been hoping you'd do a post like this for a while, so thanks for sharing :) Without pushing you (because this is a personal thing) are you going to go into any more depth in other posts? I find these sorts of journey from one belief to another really interesting :)

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    1. That's pretty sweet that you had someone who could help you understand Christianity better. All the adults in my childhood tended to shy away from that, unfortunately. :')

      I think science and religion can work together, although I don't think you need both, if you catch my drift. And yeah, it's a shame because I've been preached to a billion times but what I like to call 'real talk' has escaped me. :') I think maybe youth groups are good for real talk?

      Awh, glad you liked it. :) I think I will, I put a poll up and I'll see if others are interested. I do too, you should do one over on your blog. If I'm right, the last religious post of yours was the Christian music one, right? Quite a time ago. :)

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  10. YES. My school's religious education definitely made me dislike religion, although at a young age I couldn't pinpoint why that was. And they were so focused on shooting down arguments about whether God/Jesus existed, so I based my arguments off that. Which at the end I finally realised was not. the. point. I just didn't agree with some of the beliefs and actions of Christians, I didn't think that religion was how I wanted to live my life, and I was just fine with moral standards that I defined for myself. That's why I'm agnostic, not atheist -- I don't believe in deities but I also don't not believe in them. I just happen to think that being religious is more than believing in a religious figure, and I choose to live my life separate from that. And now I've come to the conclusion that there is no need to argue with anyone at all over this kind of a thing -- live and let live is my motto when it comes to this sort of thing.

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    1. Pretty much. :') I like to think that 90% Christians nowadays are understanding and accepting, but maybe this is a tad optimistic. I mean, look at America right? I hope it's true though. But athiests are agnostics! Athiests believe that there are no gods. Agnostic means that there's way of knowing, right? So really, a lot of athiests are agnostic (like me1). 'Athiest' seems like the scarier word. :')

      I'm completely with you. Religion has a lot to do with culture and history as well. Well said!

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  11. Jo,
    I was just wondering, what in Science made you so sure the Bible was wrong? I am really not trying to be critical, even though I am a Christian, I really just want to know your view on this. I love science, and would like the opertunity to see it from someone elses veiwpoint.
    -Mikayla-

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    1. Hi Mikayla!

      I just want to clarify that science wasn't the reason why I don't believe in God/doubt the stories of the Bible (although I can understand why you'd think that, now that I re-read my post). It was actually reading the Bible that started the doubts. I really do think the stories of the Bible are mostly metaphorical (e.g. I don't think there was a talking snake in the Garden of Eden.) :)

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    2. Thank you for clarifying, I really appreciate it.
      -Mikayla-

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  12. Hey Jo,

    I'm totally not gonna jump into a giant comment here (although I could rant my brains out YA KNOW ME xD) buutttt I am going to say a couple of things. :)

    I believe in love. I believe in a god who is nothing but love. I love Jesus, and I believe that he loves me, and you, and everyone on planet earth. Hell is a place right here, right now. And heaven is a place right here, right now. I think most "Christians" would spit in my eye for what I believe, but so be it. God and science hold hands and kiss -- they're dance partners, they're married, they're in love.

    Jesus hates religion. And so do I. But there's a reverence humming in our bones, in the deepest parts of ourselves. There's something there and most of us never figure it out. But we can feel it. Sometimes dull, sometimes poignant. It's there because we're powerful. We are gods. We're creating our own world, our own heaven, our own hell. Right here, right now. I believe that there is hope for everyone. There is love for everyone. Not if they say a prayer or go to church or read the bible or do any religious junk. We're okay because of the blood that flows through our veins. If only we understood who the heck we really were.

    Thank you for sharing your views and giving us a space to emotion-dump on your pretty blog. ;)

    love,
    abbiee

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    1. I actually love long comments so. XD

      Love the emphasis on "Christians". I assume my old Church members fit into that category. :')

      Actually, this might surprise you a little since my post was very brief and undetailed, but I completely agree that religion and science should go together and don't oppose each other. Science is the foundation of all earthly knowledge while religion is for our questions for the beyond: why do we exist? What's our purpose? The contradiction that I tried to make in my post was the Bible (as a historical text) vs Science. That being said, seeking evidence is in my nature which is the real reason I don't believe in a God. Science did not 'disprove' God for me. :)

      So true! I've been trying to point that out for who knows how long! Jesus hated the religious leaders of the day, and although many years have passed since then, many of our religious leaders aren't better off.


      Sometimes I do feel something "there", and sometimes I'm convinced that it's all just wishful thinking. It's a constant conflict in my head. But I don't think any religion we know of holds even half of the answers (that's just me). But yes, if only we understood.

      :) Thanks for your thoughtful comments, I was surprised to find that I agreed with most of it considering our religious differences.

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  13. It sounds like you grew up with a lot of Christians who were perhaps uptight and joyless in their relationship with God. Unfortunately, the lack of joy and instead love of rule-following righteousness is what a lot of Christians display in their walk with the Lord, although I am a believer and hate that kind of mindset. The only answers can come from God and reading His Word, though I do admit there are a lot of things He doesn’t disclose in there. I’m pretty sure pizza is never mentioned in the Bible, though it exists. (#praise) Why didn’t God choose to write about pizza? IT’S SO GOOD! At this, the world may never know. A lot of questions aren't answered, and that's tough. But we do have what the Lord has chosen to disclose to us in the Bible, and that is beautiful. :)

    Also: I don’t think you’ve lost your faith at all; in fact I think it takes more faith to believe in nothing than something, so to speak. Sorry if this is one massive ramble, oh my goodness. But yeah, I am a believer and have had many, MANY prolonged periods where I doubt my faith. That is totally normal. I would encourage you to talk to God out loud, even if you're angry and emotional -- however you feel at the time. Also, if you'd like, try reading the book of John. Interestingly enough, my pastor was an atheist until the age of 19. When he read that book one night, he got saved.

    Thanks for the thought provoking post!

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    1. Definitely. I really don't like it either, and really, no one can speak for someone else. The same applies to God, right? Why DIDN'T he write about pizza? I suppose back then it wasn't invented? It's basically heaven on earth...so hopefully He approves. :')

      It's okay, although I have to disagree. I don't think beliefs consist of faith and doubt, faith and doubt. Rather, I believe that our beliefs are very flexible, often switching from strong faith to doubt to no faith (and back again). Thanks for the advice, though. I have indeed read John and it is one of my favourite books in the Bible!

      Thanks for taking the time to write this thoughtful comment. :)

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  14. Hi I'm so sorry you feel that way, I'm a christian and I honestly love my church. I'm not one to take advice from but maybe it was just the church, but anyway I respect your decision:)

    www.theclosetelf.com

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    1. That's great that there are good churches out there! The Church may have sped up the process of me becoming an atheist, but I don't think it was the reason behind it, if that makes sense. Thanks for your respect. :)

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