Sleep and I have never been on very good terms. Sleep never wants to hang out with me, sometimes I ask him to, sometimes I just sit around waiting for him, but he blows me off a lot. I think he doesn’t care much for Thinking, because I’m usually chilling out with Thinking while waiting for Sleep to come.
When I was a kid and still had a bed time I spent a lot of time just staring at the ceiling and thinking. Topics varied wildly, but they always kept me entertained until my eyelids finally drooped. I can’t remember exactly when I stopped believing in god, but I know it was during one of these sessions.
I was confirmed, and I think I still believed then, but it didn’t last long after that. It was a gradual process, when you’re young and your world view is shaped by what your elders have told you it doesn’t just fall apart over night.
It started with me asking myself why I believed in god. The answer was because people told me he was real, but then I thought, what makes them so sure? Even in catholic school the best answer a teacher gave when they were given a question that really challenged the existence of god was “that’s where faith comes in,” and one day I just realized that’s kind of a shit answer. When you come up with a problem you can’t solve, you can’t just say “well I guess I should believe there’s a solution” and then not bother looking for it. I often said as an atheist “faith is a wall that keeps you from looking for answers.”
Then I began examining the benefits of inventing religion and realized its potential as a tool in the hands of authority. How does someone say something is wrong or unlawful and expect people to accept it? Who is a mortal to say what is right in the grand cosmic scale of the universe? With religion, a man can shout his rules backed by voice of an almighty creator. That might make people listen.
As a young, naïve teenager I believed this is how religion was invented, I realize now there’s a lot more to it than that, and I can’t say which came first, rules or the concept of god, and I have neither the energy or interest to study history books and find out. Regardless of how that’s how religion started, it’s potential as an authority still stands. The only argument against gay marriage in the U.S. is religious- family values, properly raising children, bla bla bla, all these arguments have foundation in religion. The bible says it’s wrong (arguably) so it’s wrong.
Upon realizing this, my head started turning against religion. Catholic school never had many kind words about other faiths. We were usually told about other religions, even other Christian denominations, in a way designed to have us disregard or degrade them as ridiculous fantasies. But one night, while squirming in bed and gazing at the roof above me, I thought about all the stories I had been told and just said to myself, “Man that’s fucking ridiculous.”
An Earth created in seven days, a flood that killed everybody except a guy on a boat, the son of god hating figs, okay, I didn’t learn that last one till long after I abandoned religion, but still. That night I took a step outside of myself and asked “Why did I believe this but find Hinduism and other religions ridiculous?” People believed in Zeus and other gods at one time, what made Christianity more valid than myths (lots of things, but I was a young teenager).
Of course, the enlightened Christian doesn’t take these stories as literal, but simple parables from which to draw lessons. To those of you that do take them literally I implore you to reevaluate the matter and take your bible as a tome of morals rather than a history book. Nonetheless, as children we are taught to take them as real, and I just don’t see how any rational thinking adult could see that as good idea. There would be far fewer atheists in the world if people of faith told these stories to children with the understanding that they didn’t really happen but have valuable insight. When a kid takes a science class and realizes “Hey, the world didn’t start with two people in a garden talking to a snake,” they’re going to start questioning a lot of other things. I suppose I’m aiding the enemy a bit, as I find questioning faith and leaving it behind to be valuable, but hey if this stops people from raising hell to keep evolution out of schools I’ll take the bullet.
I wrestled with all these thoughts and others for a few weeks, and one night I just said, “Fuck it, I don’t believe in god anymore,” and there was something very… liberating about that realization. Not in the sense that I wanted to go out and do bad things because there were no consequences (no atheist thinks that by the way), but because ever since I was little the thought of some guy in the clouds watching me all the time was a bit nerve-wracking. No matter how benevolently you describe him, no matter how much you tell me he loves me, god is a guy watching me all the time. Shit, man, I don’t like that!
That’s not the only reason it felt good though. Being told what was right by the church was stifling. I had already disagreed with them about several things, animals and souls, for instance, and their views on homosexuality or that the only purpose of sex is reproduction (heh, even as a young virgin I knew I wouldn’t be listenin’ to that one). As an atheist I was free to interpret what was right and wrong for myself, and that felt right. Perhaps you find that arrogant, but just because we determine right and wrong for ourselves doesn’t mean we make it easy, in fact, when you set your own rules it hits you a lot harder when you break one, but that’s a topic I’ll address another day.