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.
Michael, your story is a compelling one and I am sure full of emotion and meaning to you. I am a bit concerned about your statement about another's process of doubt and thought. There are many things that act as triggers when making such a life changing decision. For me, it was my daughter, just a little girl then, with her nose level with her father's brass belt buckle when she said, "You don't have the right to treat me this way!" SNAP that did it for me and I turned myself around and everything changed for us in that one brief moment.
Yes, freedom from religion takes a whole book of rules and laws off your shoulders and gets you out from under all that judgment and condemnation. This freedom doesn't give license, it assumes responsibility and accountability for what we think, say and do. Hate that comes with religion is undeniable: hatred of women, of blacks, of homosexuals, and all the other hates it engenders.
This freedom means valuing oneself as co-equals with all others including flora, fauna and the elements of the Earth. It means seeing oneself as participating in this great opportunity for life, short as it is.
Atheism also provides the incentive to have fun without causing harm or damage to others or things. It is more of an appreciation of all that is. It promotes flourishing of all.
I think the initial blow was anthropology 101 (only attended 3 semesters of college). The instructor kept the door open on the first day, and said something similar to this "If you are determined to believe in adam and eve, there's the door".
"If you are determined to believe in adam and eve, there's the door".
Dude, I like it. Good instructor.
The event that led to my atheism was actually the opposite of trauma or loss. My life suddenly became easier. That gave me time to think! (Very deadly to religion.)
All the foundation was already laid intellectually for me to give up faith. I'd always been a questioner from childhood and the difficulties I had making the pieces fit got steadily worse over the years. But because of life circumstances, I felt very dependent on God. That made me hang on for dear life to my brainwashing.
Some things changed in my life (job got easier, son's health improved, etc.) and the pressure was off. I started revisiting some of the issues that had always disturbed me. There was even a specific afternoon when remember saying to myself, "Hey wait a minute!"
For about fifty years after I kicked my parents and their Catholicism from my life, I told all who asked that I was an agnostic. I was too busy being happy (with work I enjoyed for good pay) to concern myself with why others had quit religion. No one volunteered to tell and I didn't ask anyone.
When President Reagan invited conservative xians to join the Repub Party, I resolved to never again vote for a Repub candidate. I also became an active church & state separationist.
In another quarter century, at a Toastmasters club meeting, a Tabletopics question asked for impromptu talks on members' opinions on a future life. After those who ventured opinions (all of them xians) gave their variations on the usual fiction, someone asked if there were any atheists in the group.
In that moment I left the closet. Planning on cremation, I took about a minute to say I felt okay about being a few chemicals going up in smoke and, having been in the US Navy, a few more chemicals being thrown from an airplane over the Pacific Ocean.
When the need arises I can be a bully, so no one has given me any flak. One member, in a good-natured way, told me that when I neared death I would return to xianity. In a similarly good-natured way, I suggested that he not hold his breath.
BTFW, before the Internet and web sites such as AN, quitting religion was a lonely endeavor. About two years ago I started reading some of the works of the Four Horsemen of Freethought.
When my brother died, it didn't push me towards atheism, at least not much.
By the time my wonderful dad died, I was an atheist, but if I had still been religious, I don't think his death would have pushed me much towards atheism either.
There were many things that made me question religion, and contribute to my becoming atheist. If I had to pick the most important, it would be that religion never lived-up to it's promises in my life. I never found the promised joy in mormonism. I never got the promised answers I prayed for. I never got the promised help I needed.
The main reason I stayed with it so long was because of fear.
Once shed of mormonism, I studied evolution and other sciences prohibited by mormonism, and saw that science explains life and the universe without any need for a god.
A lot of people take their reality from others, including their feelings.
It would be interesting to know if religious people are more likely to do this.
I've often wondered if the "peace and joy" that Christians say comes from the Holy Spirit, is something they expect themselves to feel, so they feel it.
You can manufacture emotions from the outside in, to some extent.
I would often go around looking very unhappy, because of my abusive family. People on the street would call out to me, "Smile, you'll feel better".
It annoyed me that they would tell my inner reality to go away. But there seems to be some truth to the idea. Smiling does make people feel somewhat better.
So when people get into a happy-good religious environment - they feel ok with their fellow humans, they smile socially, they feel good. Holy Spirit at work :)
So do the ex-religious tend to be people for whom this process didn't work? They were too bothered by the illogic of it, bored by church services and church socializing?
It's probably dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine! Research shows that those feel-good chemicals flow in your brain during religious activities: prayer, singing, laying on of hands, hugging fellow believers, hearing inspiring stories, being assured you are safe, imagining the love of God, etc. Each religion creates an explanation for those feelings within its own framework. I'm sure it's one of the reasons it has such a hold on people.
I do think some people are more susceptible than others. I hated the feeling of being manipulated even when I was a believer. I just learned recently that emotionally moving music releases dopamine, which in turn makes people more suggestible. Church services often have the most emotional music scheduled right before the sermon! Hmmm...