Some of my Christian friends have recently discovered my true beliefs about God and I will likely be telling more of them over the coming days and weeks that I do not share their faith and love for God. Understandably, some of my friends do or will feel hurt and betrayed by some of the things they read on this blog. This post is intended to be an honest and heartfelt letter to those friends.
I know that I’ve said some harsh and condescending things about you on here. I humbly apologize for that. With this post, I want to give you an honest look at who I am, why I felt the need to keep some things hidden from you, and what my hopes are for the future now that you know my true beliefs.
It was almost a year ago when I realized that I was an atheist. My transition from Christianity to atheism didn’t happen overnight. It took about 12 years–during most of which I still considered myself a Christian. The path from Christianity to atheism was so long that I don’t think of the two as being black and white opposites like most people do. In fact, I sometimes have a hard time understanding why Christians think atheists are so different from themselves. I’m still a moral (or I hope so), person with desires, dreams, and fears.
Toward the last of those 12 years, I began thinking of myself as agnostic. I was comfortable admitting to myself that I don’t know if God exists or not or what his true nature really is. It was less than a year ago that I began self-identifying as an atheist and that was more of a semantic thing than a radical shift in belief. At the time, I didn’t like thinking of myself as an atheist but I realized that my agnosticism was so complete that almost everybody else would define me as an “atheist”.
There were no significant life events that caused me to question the existence of God. I didn’t become an atheist because someone died, or because I was depressed, or because some other traumatic event occurred that made me hate God. I am not an atheist because life was hard on me, or because I’m weak, misguided, ignorant, or in need of help. I am an atheist because I spent 12 years seeking truth. During those many years, I probably spent more time thinking about God and religion than I did thinking about any other subject.
I do not reject all of Christianity. I still believe that there are a lot of good things in the teachings attributed to Jesus. Just to be clear, here are a few ways that my beliefs are different from yours:
- I do not believe that the God of the Bible exists. I believe that if this universe was “created” it was most likely via some process or event that bears little resemblance to the God of the Bible.
- I do not believe that Jesus was the son of God or that he will return to save us all.
- I believe the Bible was written by fallible man. I do not believe that the Bible is as historically accurate as most Christians assume that it is.
- I do not believe that one must have religion to be a good, moral person.
- I believe that if the world (as we know it) ends in our lifetime or our children’s lifetimes, it will be because man is a stupid animal and not because an omnipotent being decided it was time for it all to end.
- I believe in making the most of this life because I believe that death is complete–I do not believe there will be an afterlife.
- I believe that admitting ignorance is fine and that it is much better than preaching as fact, that which one has no evidence for.
- I prefer natural, scientific explanations for all things. I find natural explanations far more helpful and meaningful than supernatural ones.
I am not searching for God anymore. I am, however, still seeking truth, and I hope that I will always be learning new things. But to say that I am still searching for God, would be like you saying that you’re still searching for Santa Claus–as if you’re still hoping that he exists.
There are many reasons why I haven’t told you about my lack of belief in God, most of them have to do with the fear of losing you as my friend. I was afraid if I told you, your respect for me would plummet. I was afraid that you would begin to think of me as evil. I was afraid you would begin to think of me as stupid. Worst of all, I was afraid that you would consider me in the clutches of Satan and would try to “help” me. I was afraid that you would be fine with it, that you would still call me your friend but that you would find less in common with me and over time I would see less and less of you. I was afraid that every time I said something, you would know that you can’t believe everything I say, because I’m an atheist. I was afraid that I would lose you instantly, but worse yet, I was afraid the process of losing you would occur over months or years.
The Amish and ex-Amish are fairly intolerant of alternative beliefs and practices. Most of them talk condescendingly about gays, atheists, and pretty much any person or group of people that thinks or acts in a manner that does not conform to their specific Christian belief set. I am barraged non-stop by words like “sad”, “pathetic”, “ridiculous”, “evil”, “Satanic”, “stupid”, “ignorant”, etc. Of course they don’t realize that they’re talking about me and they probably wouldn’t say those things if they realized that I was an atheist (at least they wouldn’t say it to my face), but I have to assume that it is what they think of me. If any of you could admit to your friends that you’re something that most of them think is “sad”, “pathetic”, “ridiculous”, “evil”, “Satanic”, “stupid”, “ignorant”, etc., then you’re a truly courageous person.
I am a deeply introverted person, and as a result, it is difficult for me to talk to people that I’m not comfortable with. Obviously, you know that about me, you’re my friend after all and I am more than comfortable talking with you about most things. What I find truly difficult to talk about, even with the very best of my friends, are subjects that I believe will cause confrontation, controversy, or could in some way damage our friendship. That is one reason why I haven’t been open about my religious beliefs with you.
I am also an intellectual–I enjoy thinking about things that most people find boring or of little consequence in real life. I have always found comparatively easy, those subjects that many people find difficult to understand. I have many questions about life and the universe and when after long periods of sustained thought on one of these questions, I reach a new understanding, I experience a most wonderful emotion. It is probably an emotion that most people would experience if they won the lottery. I get all excited and jittery, become absurdly happy and playful, and my heart flutters and skips beats. It is this feeling that drives me to seek more of an understanding of this amazing universe. On my path from Christianity to atheism, I encountered a few of those wonderful feelings.
I am often told by those few that I talk to about my ideas, that my perspective is utterly unique. Sometimes I feel (perhaps wrongly) that there is a large intellectual gap between me and those I’m talking with, and I feel that it would be very difficult to really explain myself–and that’s at least partially because I am simply not good at explaining things. Furthermore, I find it much easier to explain myself in writing than in spoken conversation. For these reasons I will often remain silent during a religious conversation, rather than giving my perspective on the subject.
All that being said, I would like nothing more than to tell the world that I don’t believe in their God. It would be a huge weight off of my shoulders. However, I am not the only person whose life this revelation would complicate. Because of that I will continue to keep my beliefs to myself except on the semi-anonymous world of the internet.
My lack of belief in God is founded upon a greater than average knowledge of philosophical subjects such as logic and epistemology, and scientific subjects such as biology, complexity, chemistry, and cosmology. I have always been a thinker and the nature of and existence of God has been one of the things I’ve focused on. I’ve been thinking this through for 12 years or so and only in the last couple years have I made what I believe to be true breakthroughs in understanding.
Most of you, I believe, know little about and have very little interest in these subjects. Since my beliefs are founded upon my knowledge of these subjects, I hope you understand why I might be skeptical that you would understand what I’m talking about without making a determined and long-term effort to learn about these subjects. I often feel that it is useless for me to begin explaining my beliefs because I don’t think I can explain it to someone that hasn’t been thinking very, very hard about it for many years like I have.
That being said, I am more than willing to discuss my beliefs with you if you’re interested. You may simply want to learn more about my beliefs and that’s fine. On the other hand, if you wish to go into deeper discussion and analyze the validity of my reasoning, I think it would benefit both of us if you developed an interest in learning more about science and philosophy.
I grew up believing that atheists are the most evil people that exist–that they’re worse than murderers–right up there with Satan worshippers. Now that I’m an atheist, I realize that most of the people I’ve ever known will probably rank me a little lower than murderers. They can believe what they want. I may have lost my religion but my morality only grew. Most of you probably think morality and religion are so intertwined that I could not possibly believe that I could be an atheist and still be a good person. I guess I can only hope my actions are those of a moral person and that you will consider only my actions and not my metaphysical beliefs when deciding whether or not my intentions are good.
Some of the things that I write on this blog will be truly offensive to you. I know this because I was once a Christian. It may seem like I am belittling your beliefs and mocking your God but that is not my intention. To remain honest to myself, I must write these things. I cannot continue using this blog as an emotional and intellectual outlet without occasionally writing things that some will think is blasphemous. I just hope that you’ll understand. I hope that you don’t take these things personally, and I hope you know that I still value your friendship.
My goal with this blog is not to convince Christians that they have it all wrong. If you read my posts, please don’t take them as an attempt to convert you. I use this blog as an emotional and intellectual outlet, as a way for me to share my experiences and knowledge, and as a way for me to record and clarify my thoughts. I also hope to help bridge the seemingly tremendous gulf between the atheist and Christian mindset. I hope I can give a few Christians and a few atheists a glimpse into the mindset of the ‘other side’ and help them see that we’re not all that different from each other.
I believe that we can remain friends. I won’t try to convert you and I hope you’ll give me the same respect. I don’t want your “help” or your pity. If your desire is to help me “see the light” then I feel that you are not giving me the respect that an intelligent person with well-reasoned beliefs deserves. In exchange, I won’t try to convince you that your beliefs are wrong.
I hope you can forgive me for betraying and insulting you. I would like nothing more than to remain your friend. If what I’ve done or who I’ve become is unforgivable, I understand. If that’s that case then I’m truly sorry to see you go.
I should start off by saying that I am not one of the folks you are addressing in your post. In fact, I share many of your current beliefs – with the exception that I am agnostic about an afterlife.
I don’t think any of it is anywhere near as structured or clear as any of the religions say it is. I do think there are things that science can’t explain that are nevertheless real – that’s how science works. Real science is agnostic at its heart!
Mostly, I don’t think there is “a god” or specific “gods” (or devils) but that doesn’t necessarily mean divinity doesn’t exist. My metaphysical/mystical/woo-woo beliefs are highly personal, and so I’d never judge anyone else for theirs. It’s more open ended than agnostic, even.
As background, I’m 46 and was raised garden-variety christian. I rejected organized religion, but over time, life experience has caused me to realize that I do have a spiritual nature (which is connected in no small part to actual nature – and the nature of the universe). I really respect your honesty and openness in exploring these realms and ideas.
All best to you!
While I do believe in God I also respect your beliefs…
Growing up a Baptist, teens as a Pentecostal, then working for
Jimmy Swaggart for 2 months turned me against organized religion
but not my belief in God…
I truly believe our faith is private and no one has the right to judge…
Love your blog and will keep reading as long as you keep writing…
Peace to you my friend…
Greetings, as I read through your letter, I thought -This is incredible, I could be writing these same thoughts. You have echoed my journey very well. I am now retired, but first began struggling with these questions as a late teenager and early 20’s but shelved the questions because I wasn’t really ready to face them in the Amish-Mennonite circles I was in. 2.5 years ago I began becoming more honest with myself and the questions that I have had about inconsistencies in the Bible and why there are so many differing ‘beliefs’ about what is ‘true’ Christianity and began reading and researching the origin of religions and concepts of deity. Since I am still in the same circles, I have few people I can dialogue with about what I am learning. I too have excited feelings of those learnings, really very similar feelings of what I used to call “a spiritual experience” when studying and learning what I thought earlier were Biblical ‘truths’. I would also now be agnostic at this point with strong leanings towards atheism. As Richard Dawkins says, Christians are atheistic when it comes to mythological deities, he just goes one god farther. I would add that if all other deity concepts are myths, which I think they are, then what keeps one from concluding that Yahweh also is a Jewish myth developed to explain and justify Jewish existence and invasion of Canaanite lands? The God of the Old Testament is not consistent with the god of the New Testament. But that is traditianally explained by saying there is now a new covenant. (Established by a god that never changes??) The mysogenistic commands of the Old Testament patriarchal Yahweh are simply immoral compared to the loving Jesus of the New Testament and by today’s fundamentalist morals. I have concluded that the Old Testament was written “By men and for men”. Women had very little voice and place in the religious experience. If the New Testament is considered valid, I then ask why did God, who loves all humanity and wants none to parish, wait so long to introduce a new covenant? I do not raise these questions for debate, but rather to communicate the questions that have facilitated my journey and conclusions. I would value very much further dialogue as we possibly could journey together.
Thanks for your comment, jd! I have never been anti-spiritual but I had never really thought of those learning moments as being spiritual in nature. Now that I think about it, I like it. A lot of secular thinkers (esp. scientists, philosophers, and mathematicians) report experiencing deep awe and wonder about various things and they describe it as a spiritual-like experience. I guess my Eureka! moments would probably fall under the same definition.
I don’t envy the difficult road you have before you. If these are true friends, who you are as a person will far outweigh what you believe or don’t believe. I truly hope they will put far more credence in your basic goodness than your subscription to any form of religion. Unfortunately, you will find some who simply cannot comprehend life from your point of view and will deny you their friendship; even if that happens, life is (hopefully) long and you will meet many, many more people along the way. Good luck.
Thank you, Luna! Of those very few close friends I’ve talked to in the last two weeks about my atheism, they all seem to accept my beliefs. It is a great encouragement for me to see that my best friends are true friends and it has erased a little of the cynicism that has built up inside of me over the last year.
As usual this blog gives me peace and joy from knowing others have had the same struggles as I had with questioning and, believing in the Christian god or, any god for that matter. I was around 31 when I finally came to terms with what I knew I truly believed all along. All those years I pushed reason and logic away and chalked it up to more tricks of the devil trying to invaded thoughts. I have more peace and freedom now than I ever did as a Christian.
Personally, it doesn’t matter to me what you believe. Christian or not. Atheist or not.
It’s your life. It’s you destiny. I will never try to change your mind. You can believe exactly what you want. You’ll get no argument from me. Your belief or lack thereof does not offend me in any way. We all have to choose. Good Luck.
I do believe in God. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God, and God in human form.
That is my belief. I think you respect that. Thanks.
Thank you, Barbara! I wish more people would be like you!
Melissa Okner said:
You do an excellent job of explaining complex experiences. No small feat! Thank you for detailing it so clearly intelligently for all of us. I think it especially important that you touch on your need to express some of those things that may offend, and are also so aware of the complex feeling and thoughts that come out on both sides.
Fran Shultis said:
Did you know there are loads of scientists, philosophers, writers, mathematicians, doctors, college professors, and intellectuals that believe in God? Smart people can and do believe in God.
So many people have told you they don’t care what your beliefs are, it’s all cool with them. Well, I care! What happens to you is something I care about. You are a creation of the living God, loved beyond measure, of great value to God regardless of what you think. You can deny God all you want, but He will never stop loving you. Never!
I can’t wait to read more of your writings. I so appreciate your honesty. Consider keeping an open mind, though. I would really like to know how you came to the conclusion that God does not exist. I expect I’ll come across that as I continue to read.
Also, please know that you are not evil, stupid, ignorant or any of the words you listed describing what you felt others may think of you because of your beliefs. You are a seeker. Good for you.
You are such a nice person. Don’t waste your life thinking about all this. Enjoy your family and friends and just be who you are! Mostly be at peace with yourself!
Thank you, Kitty! I will try to take your advice.
To be honest, before I didn’t believe that the Lord is real either, but now I believe that he is real, not because I watch something on television. Belief is not enough but I know for myself that the Lord Jesus is real and not just made up by some people or writers of books let’s say that the young people of the new generation have not even seen the Lord but we believe that the Lord Jesus is real and not just a fiction. And all I can say for you is that you should not only look for truth but look around you and find out if the Lord Jesus is real or not.
the sign of the lord’s love for me is that he gave me a very loving family and then he saved us from trials that happened like when four of our family were positive for covid, fortunately he gave them the courage to that test was successful and when the storm damaged our house he really saved us because when our wall was damaged fortunately on the other side we fell down and survived and during the times when I was angry with my mom then I had a dream about a man and then said He told me that I shouldn’t be angry with my mother because no matter what happens, she is still my mother.
God is real because he had saved my life as well as my families lives in this past troubles i am not saying that you are not believing in god what i was trying to say is try to look everywhere around you and you’ll know that god is real.
WISH YOU A HAPPY LIFE AND A STRONG HEALTH EVERYDAY☺️☺️