I came across this post today, and I thought I would respond: https://everythingelo.wordpress.com/2015/01/12/christian-converts-jesus-help-them/.
The author wonders how anybody could go from being a devout Christian to being an atheist. As someone who has gone through that conversion, I thought I’d share my story.
As I’ve said before, I grew up in a Christian family. I was baptized when I was two weeks old, I went to church every Sunday, I attended Sunday School, summer Bible camp, and I was part of a Christian girl’s group. I even sang in the choir for a short time. I loved going to church and participating in those groups. I thought it was important to be involved. I thought participating in church groups was part of what it meant to be a good person. I believed that God existed, and I believed that Jesus was his son. I believed in the Bible stories I was told. I accepted the miracles as factual. In short, I truly believed. I was a Christian.
My deconversion began when I was about 8. My family stopped going to church every Sunday, so I was no longer surrounded by people telling me that questioning was bad. I wasn’t surrounded by people who kept telling me that I had to believe. Of course, I didn’t stop believing right away, but I think getting away from that environment made my deconversion smoother, because I wasn’t as worried (though I was still quite worried) about the consequences of my deconversion. Around that same time I also became fascinated with astronomy. I wanted to be an astronaut when I grew up. I could tell you what the different kinds of clouds were, I could point out and name a number of different constellations, and I could tell you the difference between a planet and a star when seen through a telescope. I was constantly going out of my way to learn more. I had books on space, I kept a journal where I wrote down everything I learned, I did a ton of research on the internet, and I even watched documentaries aimed at adults.
It was one such documentary that sent me down the path of deconversion. This particular documentary was way beyond my 8 year old understanding. It talked about black holes. At one point, one of the scientists being interviewed mentioned, but didn’t define, the Big Bang Theory. I had never heard of it before, so I was confused as to what it was. After the documentary was over, I hoped on the computer and did some Google searches. It took a while for me to find a site that I could understand, but I finally found a science website aimed at kids. The explanation of the Big Bang given on the site was overly simplified, but it helped me form an understanding that I was later able to build on. The same sight also talked about Evolution, so I read about that too. I didn’t really question the accuracy of either theory at the time. I had been taught to trust my authorities, and I viewed scientists as the authorities. Today I have a lot better understanding of both theories, and I’m able to say that the website I found wasn’t very accurate, but it did give me the building blocks I needed to understand.
At the time, I held firmly to the assumption that God existed while also accepting the scientific theories that I learned about. I didn’t really think there was any conflict. I had also been taught that belief in God was required for morality, and I honestly thought that everybody believed in God. I didn’t know that not believing was even possible.
But, as I grew older, I thought about God less and less. I didn’t pray very often, I rarely went to any church service, my parents never talked about religion, it just wasn’t a part of my life in any meaningful sense. Given my upbringing, I felt bad about that. Every once in a while I would push my mom to take me to church, and I would challenge myself to pray more. I tried to be a better Christian, but as time went on I cared less and less. Eventually I found myself wondering about God and Christianity. I began thinking about the problem of evil. Around 13 I discovered that child soldiers are a thing. I wondered why God would allow such a thing. I wondered why God would let people use his to justify such a thing. Then I began to wonder about other things. Why would God allow poverty, abuse, and divorce? Why would God allow bad things to happen to good people and good things to happen to bad people? At 13, I was quite troubled by those issues.
But those thoughts soon became “does God exist?” instead of “why would God allow bad things?” I was still fascinated by science. At 13 I no longer wanted to be an astronaut, instead I wanted to be an archaeologist. I still read a lot about science, and I watched documentaries. I loved researching on the internet. And I began to realize that God isn’t necessary. God isn’t necessary for the universe to exist, because we have the Big Bang. The Big Bang is actually supported by evidence that my 13 year old self could find online, but all I had to go on for God’s existence was what I was told. God wasn’t necessary for people to exist either: we had the Theory of Evolution to explain that. Again, I could see the evidence online. I could even see the evidence at the local museum. But there was still no evidence for God. I didn’t even have personal evidence. At that time, I realized that I had been praying to God all my life and had never had a single response back. God had never answered my prayers. That realization scared me. At first I suppressed it. I thought it must be my fault. If God didn’t answer my prayers, then it must because I wasn’t worthy, right? So I clamped down on my questioning. I tried to be a better Christian. I went back to asking my mom to take me to church and I went back to praying. I don’t think I actually believed in God anymore, but I was terrified of the social consequences, and it is hard to get rid of the nagging feeling that you’re going to hell.
But that only lasted a year. At 14 I found it too hard to believe that the lack of response was my fault. So my last prayer was a challenge: answer me and prove you exist or I’ll never pray again. God didn’t answer, so I didn’t pray. I still held on to a lot of the socialization associated with being raised a Christian: I still thought that Christians were morally superior, I still thought that questioning God’s existence was bad, and I still thought that everybody believed in God. I still hadn’t come to terms with my own lack of belief. I didn’t know that it was possible to not believe. I didn’t know what an atheist was. I was willing to admit to myself that God wasn’t necessary for the universe or humans to exist, and I didn’t pray or try to be a Christian, but I thought I still believed in God.
I was 15 when I first learned about what an atheist was. I found out when one of my classmates came out as an atheist. At first I was appalled. How could anybody not believe in God? But then I thought about it. It didn’t take me long to realize that I actually agreed with my classmate. By that time I was more spiritual than religious. If the Christian God wasn’t the right God, then I thought I should find out which god was the right one. I never could agree with any of them. But I wasn’t willing to call myself an atheist despite agreeing with my classmate. That took until I was 18.
I first called myself an atheist out loud while at Boston Pizza with two friends. I don’t know why, but one of my friends told us that he was an atheist. My other friend said he didn’t care because he was an atheist too. I said that I was also an atheist. It was the first time I’d had a real discussion with other atheists. This was around the time when The God Delusion, God is Not Great, and a number of other atheist books were released. Since I was now willing to admit my atheism, I thought it was a good time to do some reading on the subject. After all, I had been reading books from every religion, so I might as well read the arguments against religion. I read God is Not Great first. That took me from being an atheist to being an outspoken activist atheist, which is what I still am today.
That is my story about how I went from a Christian to an atheist. It’s not a terribly exciting story, there was no tragedy or hate involved, but it is my story.
The author of the linked to post then related a personal experience that she believes to be a miracle, and then claims that everyone has experienced a miracle. Getting sick and then feeling better the next day is not a miracle. It happens all the time. Yes, sometimes we feel really bad one day, and it appears to be a bad illness, but it seems to go away for no reason. That doesn’t mean a miracle happened. Sometimes we get gas pains. We can feel the gas putting pressure on our intestines as it swirls around through our digestive track. Usually we fart or burp and then move on, but sometimes it seems to move around and get worse, to the point where it can feel like something is seriously wrong, and then it just dissipates. Sometimes we eat something that doesn’t agree with us and it can feel like food poison, but then it gets digested and we feel better. And sometimes we get sick but our bodies fight it off quickly. There are numerous reasons why you could feel sick one day and then be better the next. Miracles are things that can’t be explained by natural causes. Show my the sky raining blood, or a pig grow wings and begin to fly, and I’ll consider that a miracle. But something that commonly occurs and can be explained naturally is not a miracle.
As for the claim that we all experience miracles, how can you know that to be true? Unless you talk to everybody, unless you know every event in every person’s life, you can’t know what they have experienced. You may wish to call ordinary things miracles, but unless you can prove they weren’t caused by natural events you are just offering your opinion.
As someone who was a Christian, I understand the fear that Christians feel at the very thought that someone may doubt God, and I understand the belief that we need to be saved, but personal anecdotes aren’t convincing. Neither are Bible passages. I can read the Bible just fine. I know what it says. I’m just not convinced it’s true, which is why the Bible needs to be proven before I’ll be convinced. If you are right, then you can convince me. But I’m not going to do the job of convincing myself that God exists any more than you’re going to do the job of convincing yourself that God doesn’t exist. After all, why would anybody convince themself of something they don’t believe? That would make no sense. As far as I’m concerned, I know what I believe, and I have evidence to support my beliefs. So, please, if you’re truly worried about my soul, give me an argument that I can actually be convinced by. But if you’re not worried enough about my soul to do that, then don’t worry at all, because I’m fine. I’m not a lost sheep. I don’t feel like I’m missing something. And I’m not afraid that I’ll end up in hell.