It seems to me people think it’s a choice, being atheist. Like, I wake up one day and think, “today I’m going to become atheist.” That’s not what happens!
For many it’s not about “becoming” atheist at all. They simply are atheist. They’ve heard all the bible verses before–all the arguments, always the same cherry picked verses people quote. They’ve perhaps tried various faiths or religions, or at least looked into them, but none are backed up by fact or evidence, and so they can’t believe. Not everyone can have magical thinking, and that’s what it takes to be a believer–any kind of believer. The same quality children have to be able to believe in a Santa Claus. Magical thinking. The ability to suspend disbelief or put aside the questions and just have FAITH, trust that what a million or more people say is real–if so many people believe, it must be real.
But for others like myself, we did believe once. We were able to set aside the doubts and nagging questions. Like, having a little pebble in your shoe; rather than stop and shake it out, you keep walking, hoping it will slide to the side where it can’t be felt and you can walk normally for awhile, without limping, forgetting the pebble is there…up until it finds its way back under your foot again where it hurts.
No Christian wants to lose their faith. That’s the thing. Every Christian really loves the idea of seeing Jesus when they die, and not having to cross the valley of the shadow of death alone. To see loved ones you miss. To be young again if you’re old, or strong and whole again if you’ve been hurt, blinded, or crippled by some disease. We all like to think we’re special, too special for us to deserve to just…cease to exist after we die. There must be a reason we were made. Certainly this isn’t all there is!
Belief is like a teddy bear. Once you have it, it comforts you. You don’t want to let it go. In the storm, in the dark, it’s what you reach for to clutch tight against you. The idea of having that taken away…what a scary thing! So you block your ears whenever anyone says anything that stirs up that doubt again, brings the pebble back under your foot inside your shoe. You don’t want to hear. You don’t want to risk losing something you treasure, something so much a part of you for so long.
No born again Christian (or any kind of Christian) asked to become an atheist. We were all Christians once, desperate to keep the faith alive, the hope of seeing our loved ones again, of living forever in some paradise. But then something happened.
Does it make us evil that this something…happened? Do we deserve contempt and to be branded as demonic or worse…because this something happened? I have been an atheist now for three years. I was a Christian for over 30. Has anything changed for me? I don’t think so. I still FEEL all the things I did before. I still feel in tune with that little voice inside, that I now realize is really myself, my rational self that comes and comforts my animal, frightened, instinctive self. I love the same, care the same, still possess what I once called “the fruits of the spirit.” I feel guilty when I make someone feel sad. I feel the same strong desire to not cause hurt or harm.
Nothing has changed. And because nothing has changed in me, this has reinforced for me that what I had before was just a different explanation for what I’ve had all along. I haven’t lost it. What it is simply isn’t what I thought. It’s not a supernatural being or a eye in the sky or imaginary friend. It’s not a teddy bear. It’s my strength I have within me, that I didn’t believe in–thought I needed this crutch instead, to be strong. But I don’t because…it’s all still there inside me, making me strong.
All on my own.
I didn’t ask to become an atheist. But I’m really glad I did. I like living with the perspective I will cease to exist when I die. Perhaps it will make me try a little harder to make a difference in this life, while I live. Then if I’m wrong and I do find something after death, it will be a happy surprise. And if I don’t, I won’t be here anymore to feel regret–but I also will not have wasted my life on something false, either.