My “coming out” post, published on Facebook on August 17, 2009
“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; but when I became a man, I did away with childish things.”
1 Corinthians 13:11
Okay, here’s the deal. Most of you in merry Facebookland should be used to religion-themed rants from me. But this isn’t a rant. This is more of a confession. So you readers who’re looking for my usual angry witticisms (whatever that means) should probably prepare yourselves for disappointment.
A while back (I’m not quite sure how far back, but it was definitely more than two years ago… whatever.. this is irrelevant) I began a process of self-analysis in an area I hadn’t yet seriously submitted to questioning: my personal beliefs. I was raised in the Christian faith and was always pretty defensive about Christianity, my intensity borderlining on apologetics at times. I’m a bit shamed to admit it now, but I was pretty committed–even from a young age–to carefully and thoroughly scrutinizing every other supernatural belief system aside from my own. And for twenty-two-or-some-odd years, I was pretty comfortable with that: skepticism with limits. Posing every question to everyone except myself.
I don’t remember what it was that did it, but for some reason I had a thought one day, “Why am I so critical of all other faiths but my own? Why am I so dismissive of any criticisms made against the things that I believe? Is my faith not strong enough to stand on its own? If I truly have faith that my god is the one true god, shouldn’t that stand up even after I subject it to the same criticism and scrutiny that I apply to other religions?”
In short, it didn’t. It would take a lot of space to document exactly what evidence caused me to reach these conclusions (and in my next post, I plan to do just that), but the most concise explanation I can come up with is that what transpired was a slow and gradual process of re-education. Many things I thought were true, I found to be false (or at the very least, highly questionable), and a shit-ton of things that I’d been raised to believe were false were shown, in the light of overwhelming evidence, to be true.
I’ve since described it as such: think of my beliefs as a pyramid. At the top of the pyramid are things that basically everyone who calls themselves a Christian believes: belief in an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent supernatural force is at the very top, then right underneath that would be the Bible being said deity’s word, then under that is existence of Jesus as written in the Bible, and then the divinity of Jesus, and so on and so on. At the very bottom of the pyramid are what we’ll call throw-away beliefs that are highly debated among Christians, that not every Christian believes, and that most Christians would agree are not as important as the things at the top: these would include beliefs like whether women should speak during church, circumcision, eating pork, tattoos, and so on and so on.
What happened to me, over the course of the past couple of years, has been the slow and steady demolition of the pyramid, from the ground up. And only recently have I been forced to place that last stick of dynamite on the final brick at the top.
I don’t like the word “atheist.” I think people unfairly or ignorantly assume all sorts of false things about anyone who’s unfortunate enough to be an atheist these days. But since an atheist, by definition, is anyone who cannot claim a belief in a god or gods, I guess I’d have to be considered an atheist now. I think, based on what I’ve learned from reading and (more importantly) what I myself have observed in nature, that it is much more likely that man created god than the other way around. And, apart from being fairly certain that there is no god, I’m even more convinced that if there is a god, the Bible is not the “Word” of said god.
I’d like to think that I won’t lose any friends over these recent developments, but that wouldn’t be very realistic. I know that regardless of how much good I try to attribute to the adherents of my former religion, some people will shut the door completely to any friend or family member who dares to reject the belief system that they hold themselves, no matter how close or how good a friend that person may have been before… simply because they believe that rigid, antiquated 2000-year-old laws from the invisible Hebrew sky god are more important than a living, breathing human being.
But I hope that if you’re still reading this by now, and haven’t yet deleted me from your facebook friends or stopped following me on twitter, that you’ll still see me as a friend, or at least as someone with whom you aren’t afraid to share dialog with.
However, let me just make a few clarifications: I did not reach these conclusions lightly. I didn’t make an “irrational” choice out of anger or resentment. In fact, the opposite is true. It’s true that I can’t say conclusively that there is no god–no one can, yet–so of course I can’t completely rule out the possibility of a god, or of the validity of Christianity for that matter. But I would warn that anyone who would try to convince me that I’m mistaken should be prepared to bring actual evidence (i.e. no “fuzzy feelings” or “divine revelations”) to the table, and should also be prepared to watch me treat said evidence with the same level of skepticism that I apply to, well pretty much any supernatural or suspicious claim. The more extraordinary the claim, the more extraordinary the evidence must be to support it. But if the evidence were substantial enough to support a god, I promise, I’d be quick to admit it.
So ends my confession. More details will follow, of course… I just hope those of you who would be quick to alienate or judge me would at least have the courtesy to hear me out before you do.