I'm new to this site, so I apologize ahead of time if this topic is repetitive.
About a month ago, a close family member of mine passed away after a four year battle with cancer. She was diagnosed at age 37, and despite all the prayers for her, she finally gave up the fight.
Having been raised Catholic, I rejected the religion entirely by the age of 15, and from that point on, I remained on the fence about the existence of a god - until about a month ago when my cousin died. The hardest part for me was during the last visit that I had with her, when I finally had the chance to talk to her one on one. She told me point blank, "I don't want to go yet. I'm not ready to die yet." Despite her incredible will to live, it wasn't enough.
Losing her made me reevaluate everything I thought I believed in in terms of a god or the afterlife, and I've since come to the conclusion that it's all a bunch of fairy tale, hocus pocus nonsense, and it is precisely the reason I finally jumped off the fence I'd been sitting on about god, and finally embraced atheism. Not only was this decision because of my cousin's death, but because atheism just makes more sense.
The religious people out there try to convince me of this divine master plan that "God" has in store for her, that he needed her in heaven and blah, blah, blah. All I can do is stare at them, absolutely baffled as to how anyone could be so deluded. How long are people going to keep making excuses for this so-called god, trying so desperately to make sense of the senseless?
I still haven't come out of the atheist closet to my family, and I don't know if that would be the best idea at this time. However, I believe that I will at some point in the future,
Part of my question also is whether or not any of you have switched to atheism after the death of a loved one? Something tells me I'm not alone here, so I'd love to hear what anyone else has to say. Thank you.
I've shared before how and why I became an atheist, but I believe I'll go into a little more detail this time. Your post seems to me like it calls for it, so please forgive me if it turns out a little long.
When I was a child in Elementary School I loved reading particular books in the school library, especially Greek and Norse mythology. I read these marvelous myths and legends with great pleasure. It took me into a different world in a different time ruled by Titans (elder Gods) and Olympian Gods, frost giants and Viking Gods (Chronos, Zeus, Apollo, Hercules (I really liked his story), Odin, Thor (I liked him too), the Midgard Serpent, and so on. But the thing is, I knew they were only stories, make believe, though I was taught our Western Mythos of the resurrected carpenter was true. But all three of these source mythologies were full of miracles and superhuman feats, so I really couldn't tell and difference between any of them. All of them, Greek, Norse, Hebrew, seemed equally fantastic.
When I was young, maybe 10, I was above the normal reading level and comprehension, and my Dad was illiterate and could only read a little. But he was a Christian, so he would have me read the family King James Bible to him (though I doubt he could really comprehend the antiquated language of the 16th century). So, I got a pretty early start on learning and understanding the Bible. At about the age of 16, a friend invited me to Church, and despite not totally believing the Bible I got sucked in, and even ended up becoming an ordained preacher. I wanted to believe, but I never could fully make it all the way.
Finally, after years of realizing that what I suspected was true (the non-existence of God), because of all the unfulfilled promises of the Bible and unanswered prayers, I fully embraced what I already knew was true - that there is almost certainly no God. As the years went by I learned of Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennet, Victor Stenger, Guy P. Harrison, and the like.
Now, here's the thing. These men many times pointed out that were the universe indeed designed, then it is a bad design indeed, the work of an incompetent fool. Take me. I was born with a congenital defect. My body is not very well designed if I were indeed planned out before I was born. Take your close family member dying from cancer at the early age of 37. She had her whole life ahead of her, and it was ripped away from her. If some intelligence designed this universe, then he/she/or it really botched it. Is such things as cancer, diabetes, birth defects, cerebral palsy, MS, droughts, tornadoes, floods, famine, disease, all signs of a well designed Creation?
Now some Christians will tell you that all these bad things were brought about by the sin of Adam and Eve, and that God is in no way responsible. But really ? The Bible says three things about God...(1) He's Omniscient, (2) He's Omnipotent, and (3) He's Omnibenevolent. So, if God is omniscient (having infallible knowledge of everything throughout all time), then he already knew what would happen if he put the plan he had in mind into action. If he were omnipotent (possessing power without limits of any kind, the true meaning of omnipotence, not the watered down version Christians invented to explain evil), then he could have easily made man both free and incapable of sin simultaneously if he had wanted to, which makes God, were he real, solely responsible for all the evil that ensued over the millennia.
Another thing is, God is perfect according to the Bible. Anything a perfect being created would itself be perfect, and remain so. It would be as unchangingly perfect as God, and if it later became imperfect it would indicate imperfection in God, the designer.
No, I have no belief in God for all these reasons and more. I think you are right, intelligent, and brave and strong to embrace your atheism. We atheists don't have the (albeit illusory) comfort of divine protection and hope for a heavenly paradise. An atheist is much more brave and strong than any believer, because we take life as it tragically is and not as we would like it to be. Remember this when times get tough...A midget standing on a mountain top is still a midget, and a giant standing in a well is still a giant. Hang tough ! You're a giant !
Thank you for for taking the time to reply. You make so many good points, I don't even know where to start! I couldn't agree more about the so-called god who certainly doesn't live up to his image, and if there is such a god (which there isn't), the only things that are perfect about this guy are his contradictions.
As I mentioned in a reply I posted below, I believe the majority of religious people adhere to biblical teachings out of fear. If people were to stop and really think for themselves and really evaluate their faith, they would be terrified by what they would find. It certainly does take a strong person to accept the truth, that everything they thought they believed in was an illusion. People find comfort, I think, in their faith, and they find safety there. However, I have chosen not to live that lie. I also wonder how many of them secretly have their doubts, but they're too afraid to admit them.
The comment about the midget still being a midget, regardless of where he is standing, made me laugh out loud. I'd like to say more in this reply, but all I can say is that I fully agree with everything you said. It's nice to find support on this site because I hadn't found a safe, non-judgmental place to express my thoughts and feelings regarding my lack of faith. It's a relief to have finally found the support of like-minded people, so thank you again.
Anthony, thanks for the lead to Guy P. Harrison. I have not heard of him before and just downloaded "50 Reasons people give for believing in god". A nice gentle way to question people about their beliefs. The others you mention are sources I have followed for years and find enriching and informative. I highly recommend them as well.
I like your statement:
"So, if God is omniscient (having infallible knowledge of everything throughout all time), then he already knew what would happen if he put the plan he had in mind into action. If he were omnipotent (possessing power without limits of any kind, the true meaning of omnipotence, not the watered down version Christians invented to explain evil), then he could have easily made man both free and incapable of sin simultaneously if he had wanted to, which makes God, were he real, solely responsible for all the evil that ensued over the millennia.
"Another thing is, God is perfect according to the Bible. Anything a perfect being created would itself be perfect, and remain so. It would be as unchangingly perfect as God, and if it later became imperfect it would indicate imperfection in God, the designer."
~ Anthony Jordan
So much for god being Omniscient, Omnipotent, and Omnibenevolent! Belief in god is either a desperate attempt to live with reality, to numb thinking and feeling, delusional, denial, or just plain lazy. It provides a means to control others using fear as a tactic and hope as a carrot.
Anthony, your words inform and inspire.
Thank you Joan. I appreciate the thoughtful and kind words. All the same can be said of you. You, too, inform and inspire.
Put it this way: billions of midgets following the same religion are still only the height of a midget!
Oh, the physics of the universe is quite miraculously and wonderfully "designed".
It's an absolutely stunning and wonderful thing that we are here.
Physicists would tend to explain it more in terms of Nature trying humongously many different possibilities rather than design - but ... it's still an absolutely stunning and wonderful thing that we are here.
All the tribulations of humanity notwithstanding.
One gets a bee in the bonnet from an early age, but it sometimes takes decades to stop its buzz. My first college degree is from a university subsidized largely by the Christian Church (that is the name of the sect; the university was T.C.U.). We were required to stay in campus dormitories for the first year or two of our studies. In the dorm I was assigned to there was a preacher's son from my home town and I chanced a time or two to visit his dorm room and discuss religion. Although I still believed, I was quasi-agnostic. So I played devil's advocate and questioned the guy's faith. I said something along the lines of, "It makes little sense to believe in someone I cannot see, touch, &c.," to which he responded, "Ah, but there are some things you must accept on faith alone." He chose as an example the light switch on the wall. "If you come into a dark room and flip the switch, the lights come on, so you have faith that they will." I do not now recall whether I argued that if the light bulb was burned out, the light will not come on. But I never forgot that exchange. It stayed with me until I ultimately realized just as Anthony Jordan did that although we cannot categorically claim that God does not exist, the probability is almost nil.
I grew up in a disfunctional fundie family. Almost the first things you learn from fundies is that they claim that xtians are happier, the xtian life is better than everything and xtianity is the solution to every problem. After that the questions develop; "My parents say they've been blessed with children but they clearly don't like their presents at all." "Why does the family have stress problems when they know the solution to every problem?" "What causes all this unhappiness and the many problems and what can solve them?" I read as much as I could from the moment I learnt to read, hoping to find answers. Mythology, novels to understand how normal people solved problems, later psychology and whatever else seemed useful. Ditched the church and what belonged to it before I was twenty, was rewarded by social exclusion. Found new friends and built my life the way I wanted it. Had been atheist for a long time before I delved into atheism.
I'm new to this site as well.
I'd have to say that there wasn't one particular event, but there were several specific events that I consider important in shedding theism for me.
A little background for this one: I grew up in a fundamentalist christian home. What I later started thinking of as a 'thin line' religion. There is a thin line between eternal paradise and eternal torture, with nothing in between. I later fell in love with, and married a Mormon. Not a hard core Utah Mormon, but a laid back Oregon Mormon from a laid back California Mormon family. (There is a difference.) One of the things that made Mormonism more acceptable to me, was there is no thin-line. It's the littlest hell and biggest heaven, and gradients of where you end up in the afterlife, eternal progression etc.(There are plenty of weird things with LDS, but their afterlife was the most palatable to me, and hey, my sweet wife was one.) But I never experienced the 'pray and get a reply from god' that most Mormons base their faith on.
I couldn't conceive of there not being a God, but I had a lot of issues with a lot of things from every faith I studied. Heaven bugged me, thin-line theology bugged me, faith bugged me, omnipotence and love didn't match what I saw in the world, 'don't question god' bugged me. I felt that if god was sending a message, my receiver was broken or his transmitter was broken... Either way, something was wrong with this scenario. That was a big doubt causer for me.
A casual statement my Dad had made, became lodged in my mind, for years. He was talking about how an ancient religion had started, when a King Nimrod died, and his wife had a child a few years later without remarrying. To avoid scandal and solidify the childs claim to the throne, she told everyone that Nimrods spirit had visited her, and that's how the baby was conceived. My dad thought that showed how gullible the people were, but I just thought, "We believe in Mary!". Pick Nimrods wifes story, eternal torture, pick Marys story, eternal paradise... WTH?
Next, when I became Mormon, my fundie father freaked out. He tried to convince me how wrong LDS is, but my stubborn mind took all of his arguments logically, and applied them to all religions, including his. That started a lot of doubt, but I still couldn't conceive of no god, because of my strong indoctrination from childhood.
We moved to a small southern town, and attended a small southern LDS church. There were some issues, and the local leader became a petty bully, abusing his authority, so my wife and I both stopped attending. I still believed in some kind of god, I couldn't conceive of atheism. But I was done with churches.
I listen to a lot of audio books from the local library during my commute, and while searching for a Kim Harrison book to waste some time, I found an audio book by Guy P Harrison called "50 popular beliefs that people think are true." I listened to it, fascinated. I am mostly a skeptic, but I had a huge blind spot with religion and god. I let everything set for a few months, thinking about what I heard from the book, and evaluating my own previous beliefs..
Then I went wild... I started watching debates and atheist youtube videos. And realized, that I was atheist. I could not longer believe in a deity.
That was a few months ago.
I would be very leary of events in life that made you turn to atheism. Not believing in a deity because your relative or friend dies seems like a choice made in anger. The ignorant theist will ask you if you are "angry with god." You have to make choices with your mind and reasoning. I'm 67 and was trained for the ministry but couldn't stick with it. About a year ago I found out what was wrong. There is no god. Everybody just made that shit up! There is nothing supernatural, and for something to be true we must have evidence. No valid evidence means nothing here to believe in. The Bible (Buybull) is only written stories that are the fables of ancient tribesmen. The theist will constantly tell you "but the Bible says" as if that means something or has some great authority. You could read from a book of poetry of even a comic book. So what. Same difference. As for prayer, why would I want to bow my head and close my eyes and then start talking to myself?
I've had loved ones die. My mother and a younger sister. Different friends and cousins, and even step children. Two wives are now dead. My current wife just totalled out her car and didn't even get a scratch! Some are asking if I "prayed to Jebus on that one" but it makes no sense. If god knows everything and knew he would save my wife, why did the car have to be destroyed? Oh, but god works in mysterious ways, they say. Bullshit! Things happen. God certainly didn't need my car. If some people think that a dead body laying in a grave is really "up there" somewhere in "heaven," then why can't my dead car be "up there" too? Rule of thumb here. If it doesn't make any sense, then it probably isn't real!
God belief makes no sense. God creates things in Genesis all out of sync. If god created the way it says he did in Genesis, then everything that we now know exists (by way of Hubble telescope) would not all be created yet. You have to think on that one. Research it a little. If Noah's Ark carried 7000 "kinds" instead of all the species on earth, we would have about 12 new species turning up every day. SO, everything was cursed because of Eve and a talking snake, and the big ofense was in wanting knowledge. Everything had to be destroyed by water because of the "curse" but apparently that didn't include the fish. BTW, who planted the tree in the garden in the first place? Sorry. I can't buy the god crap anymore.
It's hard to believe in the Wizard of Oz once you have seen behind the curtain.
Thank you for your reply. You make a good point about not making a choice based on anger. I guess, in truth, my atheism has been long in the making, but the death of my cousin is what tipped the boat. I'd had my doubts for many years, but I kept my skepticism to myself out of fear of my family's judgment.
I couldn't agree more about the Bible and all of its inconsistencies. I don't know whether to laugh or slap the people who say things like, "The Bible says so" when defending their faith. My mother is one of those people, and it's abundantly clear that she has never learned to think for herself or form her own beliefs. Instead, she goes by the book, following the teachings that were passed down to her by her own family. I try to have compassion for her and for people like her, reminding myself that religious faith is a direct result of social conditioning and upbringing. People learn not to question their faith, most likely because no one has any reasonable answers to those questions.
I think if people were forced to really stop and think about why they believe what they believe, without referring to the ancient book of fables, they would find themselves struggling to explain it. I also think people follow religion out of fear. Most people are too afraid to question their own faith because it's a scary thought to stop and pause and really think about the possibility that there is no afterlife and that the whole god thing seems awfully far-fetched, Most people are too afraid to really go there, and like Anthony Jordan said in his above post, it truly does take a strong person to embrace the reality of atheism. It takes a strong person to refuse to live that lie.