Why I'm No Longer Religious
Do you believe in God?
If you are religious I want to thank you for taking the time to read this and consider the mindset of an atheist. As a Christian I found it very difficult to respect the thoughts or ideas of non-believers, so I empathize with your natural resistance to opposition. In this article I pour my heart out and share my genuine experience of life as a Christian in rural Canada, I hope you enjoy.
My earliest memories consist of my dad sitting my brothers and I down in the living room, opening the word of God, and reading for hours. Then we would shut our eyes and my dad would say a lengthy prayer. I was always tempted to open my eyes, and sometimes I would. I went to Sunday school and service on Sundays, went to bible studies and youth group during the week, then christian camps and vacation bible school in the summer. Starting in grade one I began going to the small Christian school in Brant, Alberta. There were maybe a hundred kids from kindergarten through grade twelve. In this tightly enclosed religious life it was difficult to be skeptical of religion, everyone around me believed in the trinity and that everything in the bible was the ultimate truth from the creator of the universe. However, even as a child I had questions which the pastors, youth leaders, camp counselors, teachers, and my parents couldn't or wouldn't answer.
If God loves everyone, why is there hell?
One question that racked my brain from my earliest years on was why a loving God would send people to hell for eternity. I couldn't wrap my mind around the idea that someone or something could be evil enough to deserve excruciating pain for an infinite amount of time. It was a simple contradiction, but it always left me very uneasy and frightened at the idea of God. My respect for God was more of a fear, a sort of Stockholm syndrome. I didn't know that I could love someone who would torture innocent non-believers until the end of time, but I did my best. In the bible it says to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and I really tried my hardest.
Why would God send someone like Gandhi to hell, or the children who've never heard of Jesus? It just didn't make any sense, and nobody seemed to be able to give me a straight answer. I realized that every religious person has some form of uncertainty over the variations of this question, and that gave me some sense of comfort. When I died and went to heaven, I could ask God myself, and it would all make sense.
And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.— Mathew 13:50
Why is there evil?
To examine this idea I would use a thought experiment. I would empathize with God, zoom out of space and time, and look at the big picture, the entire plan. First there is God, he creates angels, then creates light, darkness, earth, humans, life, and the stars. Lucifer becomes Satan, Satan deceives woman, woman deceives man, Christ sacrifices himself to save humanity, Christians are brought into heaven, non-believers go to hell, and everyone lives happily, and miserably, ever after. Even as a child I would step back and look at this big picture and be completely dumbstruck. I was thoroughly confused by the idea of an all-powerful, omnipresent, perfect God, who could do precisely anything, and chooses to create this horrifying game in which billions suffer and die on earth, evil is rampant, and at the end of it all, billions of sentient beings suffer for all of eternity, while a small minority enjoys paradise.
God knew that humans and Lucifer would rebel before he made them. God knew in advance that he would have to curse the earth and flood it once, and then have it consumed by fire. God knew all of this, and still moved forward with the plan. It seems sort of sadistic, as if he gains pleasure from this immensity of madness. After all, he is God, he can create a perfect existence where people have free will, and have no incentive to be evil, in fact, evil doesn't even need to exist. God could create anything, just think about that for a moment, God could create anything, and he chose to have this game of disease, famine, war, hunger, rape, and then eternal prizes and damnation at the end of it all. For what? It makes no sense to me that an omniscient, omnipresent, all benevolent super being would actively chose to create this horror show.
Epicurus and The Problem of Evil
You Are an Atheist
The thought many religious people don't have, is that they are atheists about thousands of Gods, just like me. However, I chose to go one God further in my lack of belief. Consider this for a moment, that there are thousands of religions, and tens of thousands of denominations, and each sect believes their particular belief is the absolute truth, and that all others are misled. Why would a perfect God allow billions of people to be so easily deceived? Doesn't make too much sense.
As a christian, prayer was a daily habit for me. However, I never had a clear answer. I would wonder whether the voice responding was my own mind, or the creator of the universe, and usually it sounded strikingly familiar to my level of vocabulary, knowledge of the bible, and overall understanding of reality. I never felt that I was connecting to an omniscient super being. I would ask people older and wiser than me why I could never hear God. They would tell me that God answers prayer in three ways; yes, no, or wait. This was a bothersome notion to me, because it would be the same three answers if I prayed to my toaster. I desperately wanted a real connection with God, I wanted to hear his voice and know him, I wanted to have the personal relationship that everyone else seemed so happy to have.
I was envious of my friends and family who claimed to speak with God, I wanted to speak with him so much that at one point in my life, I was ready to kill myself. Dark, I know, but going by the premises of Christianity, it would be reasonable to die out of a passion for God, after all, my family and friends would have all of eternity to see me in heaven. It was a hard time for me, I was depressed for more reasons than just a lack of connection with the only entity who could answer the questions I had. After half a year or so of being in this disconnected, semi-skeptical state of belief, I decided that If God existed, he didn't care about humanity, earth, or the life it contains, he just wanted something to look at, to observe, and something to praise and worship him. In this state of mind I felt sick, betrayed, angry, frustrated, horrified, but slowly I began to become nihilistic. For a while I believed that even with God, there was no meaning to life, Gods plan was perfect, I couldn't question it, change it, or speak with him, life felt completely meaningless.
Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.— Psalms 55:22
My response to the video above
-Where do atheists get their morality?
As an atheist I don't get my morality from anywhere but myself, provided that I'm not a narcissist, sociopath, or psychopath. I'm sure my own empathy works just fine. I have mirror neurons which allow me to feel the sensations of others, to vividly relate to mental or physical states. I'm comfortable saying that my morality comes from my own realization that other people experience suffering the same as I do. If I don't enjoy suffering, why would I cause others to suffer? Besides, compassion, empathy, kindness, generosity, and all that good stuff feels great and builds meaningful and long lasting connections.
-Science requires faith.
Actually the scientific method is used to completely remove any kind of faith. Let's imagine that I have faith in the earth being flat. Then I've made a hypothesis, I must then use observation and experimentation to find out whether or not my hypothesis is correct. In this case, my faith would be destroyed, and my hypothesis would be proven incorrect. This is why science is useful, it's a method of discarding incorrect ideas.
-There is a lot of evidence for Christianity.
Well like he said, there is a lot of evidence for all religions. The evidence for Islam, is actually evidence that people have believed in Islamism for a long time. It's not direct evidence that Allah exists, or that I will gain access to an everlasting paradise for believing in and obeying this Allah.