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.