Frank the Financially Savvy Atheist is soliciting tales of how we Atheists and agnostics lost our faith, so I thought I’d share mine with the class.
My parents, born and raised Catholic, became Lutherans when they were old enough to leave the house. I don’t blame them one bit. My first girlfriend was a neurotic mess and made so by her strict Catholic upbringing. She was afraid of saying I love you too often for fear it would make the sentiment less meaningful. I stopped saying it to her altogether and never looked back.
So I was raised with a Protestant sense of the spiritual. Which means I hardly had a sense at all. Religion was a social function. You went to church in order to see the neighbors dressed in their Wal-Mart finest, sat through Sunday school where they showed you cartoons of Jesus holding a lamb and petting kittens. I was in my early teens before I actually sat down and read the Bible and found out how my Sunday School teacher neglected to mention the passages where Jesus cursed all Gentiles (non-Hebrew) as swine and vipers and went on and on about how they were bound for hell, with glee in his eyes. And the Old Testament? I still find it hard to believe that Fundies want impressionable, school age children to read about Lot letting his daughters being raped by a mob (and praise dd forit afterwards), or all the various and sundry reasons given for why slavery and genocide are a good thing.
My childhood Sundays were all about the aafternoon wich was when Star Trek, Buck Rogers and Battlestar Galactica came on. That’s what was meaningful to me, because it was time spent with my father, talking about science and robots and how spaceships fly. So, it’s no wonder I started having doubts and questions by the age of thirteen. After all, my parents are both teachers.
But for the most part, my disbelief in God was purely academic. I could see no evidence for an invisible, intangible, absentee divinity who was nowhere yet influenced everything, which is as close to a summation of Protestant Theology as I can recall. But neither could I see any evidence against such an inconspicuous God. My agnosticism was a philosophical decision, one made after years of study and introspection and exploration.
Ultimately, however, there comes a point where you realize that the horrors of history are not personal horrors. I was not there to witness the Crusades. I was not burned as a Witch. I did not see the Conquistadors Save a Heathen Soul by running women through with lances or trampling children with their horses. These things are centuries distant from us her in the twenty-first century. As distasteful as I found them, they were not personal horrors, merely philosophical objections. At least, I used to think so. I have since decided that the dark ages aren’t over yet and may only just beginning in some parts of the world.
Like many, I am now fully aware of just what sort of modern horrors God’s faithful can come up with. And while I was not in New York City that day and didn’t loose anyone in the collapse of the World Trade Center I, like millions could not escape seeing the virtual horror replayed over and over for the following weeks. And one fact, above all the others became crystal clear: This is what people with Faith can do.
Since then I have had a tangible dislike for Religion in general and the idea of God in particular. It turns my stomach to know that millions of otherwise intelligent people can shut off their critical thinking at will and do so on a weekly basis, that millions simply refer to three thousand year old sheep herder poetry when it comes time to make a decision. Religion is the reason why most people are content to be screwed by the more Machiavellian members of our society who hide behind religious rhetoric as they lie cheat and steel their way to fame and glory and above all money. Oh and sweet, sweet altar boy ass. because they’ve been taught since childhood that what happens here doesn’t matter (so long as you aren’t having any fun. Bu t touch yourself and suddenly God gets quite irate). This is a world of suffering. Except it doesn’t have to be. I learned early on that it wasn’t the faithful who discovered the vaccine for polio, or put men on the Moon. Every great achievement in history was made by someone who put aside the silly fairy tales of our ancestors and took a good long look around and said, “yeah, I think I an make this a better world.” And then worked their ass off to do just that. No clouds parted and handed them the instructions. No leprechauns appeared with the cure for the Plague and they didn’t hunt down Unicorns. They just read and studied and experiemented, got depressed, inspired and persevered for no other reason than they wanted to acomplish something.
When I was thirteen, my parents made me attend confirmation class. it was the one and only time my parents enforced any sort of religious education, and they did so more out of a desire to keep the aunts and uncles from talking about what a godless sort we were, than out of any real desire for me to have religion in my life. So I got confirmed, all right. Reading the Bible in an organized fashion, confirmed just what a stupendously bloody foundation religion was based on. And I wanted nothing to do with it. I spent the rest of my teenage years studying other religions, out of a desire to be fair. I found eventually that they all follow the same basic template: do what the rich and powerful* say, or suffer the consequences.When I was thirteen, I decided that I’d rather suffer the consequences, because it means I can read books and admire art and think for my self. And I’ve never been happier.