Since I abandoned religion, I find it very interesting to see how people experience both faith and the rejection of it.
(It is funny that most religious people – including my previous self – don’t ever think about things like that; atheists “play” with the philosophy of religion much more; religious people just believe)
Inspired by this very nice article, I decided to write something about my path to atheism.
I have heard too many times people saying that we (atheists) took the “easy road” because without religions we live without morals, we can do whatever we want, we’re not afraid of some divine judgment etc. Weeeell… Nope.
What I lost when I lost my religion:
For me religion was never about fear for an eternal punishment. Quite the contrary, it was promise for an eternal blissful life. Yes, I was very confident about my virtuous behaviour in this world and my place in heaven was guaranteed, ok? I was convinced that there is something more after death, something nice and desirable. The idea of nothingness, now that I find much more scary and worrying.
Peace of mind
That finality of life made me much more aware of the waste of it. Not only waste in the sense of me not taking full advantage of it but also of other people going through “hell on earth” just because they were unlucky enough to be born at the wrong place at the wrong time. The weight of the world is much heavier if you know that this is all we have.
Apart from the safety against final death, religion also offered me the safety of having someone watching over me and humanity 24/7. Yes, there are so many bad things going on BUT goddy would solve everything at some point – now, in the afterlife, whatever. As a believer I didn’t put too much thought on it, I felt just relieved thinking that this is how it worked. Now I know it’s all on us, what we make of the world and how everyone lives depends pretty much on… everyone (except god).
In case it is not clear already, I was pretty naive back then. Which made me be more careless and happy in a way. Ignorance IS bliss! I didn’t need to ask many difficult questions since god knew what he was doing and his ways were mysterious so I didn’t need to understand them!
Why did I stop believing then?
So, someone might ask, if religion gave only good things to me, why did I stopped believing?
It is true that I only got positive feelings from religion. I never felt pressure from it, never had issues with sex, never felt sinful, never felt bad for being a woman or anything else from all the negative things people mention when they talk about their religious experience. This is not so hard if you think about it, the way religions are constructed it’s very easy to cherry pick whatever you want from the dogma and ignore the rest. That’s what everybody is doing anyway.
But at some point I did ask difficult questions – and to be more precise precious friends started asking me difficult questions and I had to face the answers. I have always appreciated reason and logic (oh the irony) and I did get troubled by the answers I had in the arguments with my friends. I could see that they were based on sentiments and faith but not in rational reasoning. I started to slowly shredding the veils of faith one at at time – but that is a story for another time.
The bottom line is that when I started poking my religious beliefs I realized they didn’t make much sense and then everything else started making all the sense in the world. As years went by, things became very clear to me, things about life, death, our existence. I don’t find it easy, but I find it unavoidable. I’d rather know a harsh true than a beautiful lie and since I now see the logic in atheism it would be impossible for me to deny it for convenience and comfort.