Some of you may remember that I received a Facebook message from a Christian friend of mine awhile back, wherein she took it upon herself to tell me how much God loves me and all that. I responded to her in kind, explaining as nicely as I could why I no longer believe. I never got a response from her after that.

Tonight, I received a message from a cousin. She was raised Catholic and although I don't think she really practices anymore, she is still "spiritual" and believes in God:

Hey there. Ok don't take this badly, please. Just curious what caused the change from Christian to Atheist for you? A few years ago I remember you went on a Christian mission to India I think it was? I really am just curious.

My response:

No problem! I welcome questions; it’s the only way we ever learn anything.

I know that it’s probably pretty jarring to see me being so open about my nonbelief now, especially since just a few years ago belief in God was such a major part of my life. I did go to India with the missionary organization Youth With a Mission in 2005. That was an awesome experience and I’m really glad I got to go.

I don’t know that I could really put a finger on one thing or another that made me make the switch from theism to nontheism. It was more the result of a long period of searching and questioning my faith. After I returned from India, I was so psyched to go out and put everything I’d learned to action, yet inside I knew something didn’t make sense. I tried to reconcile the teachings of the Bible with real life, but I couldn’t. I began to seriously question what I believed and why. I was raised to believe that the Bible is the infallible, inerrant word of God and that God loves us and listens to us and has our best interests in mind, and yet this was not what I was finding as I searched for answers to my questions. I found contradictions, inaccuracies, and a God who was far less loving and forgiving than I’d been led to believe. With my faith in the Bible and a loving God shaken, I felt I could no longer call myself a Christian, at least not the type of Christian I had been.

I looked at what religion has done to the world. The Crusades, the Holocaust, current fights in the Middle East; these are all examples of the kind of harm people can do to each other in the name of a god they can’t prove even exists. Just a couple of years ago I heard a story of a young girl who died because her parents refused to get her medical care for her diabetes. Instead, they prayed that God would heal her.

Now I will agree that religion can and does do good in the world, but at what cost? Why not just be kind and good for the sake of being kind and good? Why do we need an excuse, such as the threat of fiery torture, to do good things for others? How many other lives must be lost in the name of God/Allah/Vishnu before we realize how ridiculous it all is?

Finally, it all comes down to proof. For millennia, people have used gods to explain the unexplainable. As science has progressed, gods have been gradually pushed out of the way. We now know why the sky is blue; we know how and why the sun rises and sets. We know why children resemble their parents. Yet people still cling to this idea of a magical being who takes an interest in their personal lives. Why? Where is the proof that such a being as a god exists? I might believe there is an invisible pink unicorn in my bedroom. This belief might give me great comfort and inspire me to do great things. Yet if I were to tell you there is an invisible pink unicorn in my bedroom, would you believe me? Probably not, unless I could prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that it’s there. So it is for me and all gods and supernatural phenomena. If you can show me proof that it’s real, then sure, I’ll believe it. I’m not an atheist because I can say with 100% certainty that gods do not exist. I’m an atheist because I don’t believe they do and I have yet to be shown they do. To put it more clearly, I’m an agnostic atheist: I don’t know that gods exist, but I don’t believe they do.

I hope that sort of clears things up a little. I could probably write a whole book on this, lol. If you want to get a little better understanding, I’d highly recommend reading Bertrand Russell’s essay “Why I Am Not a Christian”. Here’s a link if you’re interested:

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Comment by Tezzie on March 8, 2010 at 1:03am
It's great to find believers that are accepting of our point of view instead of the usual, "You worship satan" and so on.
Comment by Kristi Leitholt on March 7, 2010 at 11:30am
Tezzie: I don't know really why she asked. She seems to have been genuinely curious. After I sent her this, she wrote back: Thanks for your story. I respect each person's individual beliefs and truly feel that as you said, being a kind, loving, person who truly cares about others is of utmost importance. I don't think she's ever personally known an atheist and was interested in learning more about it.

Tom: Thanks. I really wanted to come off as reasonable, not rabid.
Comment by Tezzie on March 7, 2010 at 8:13am
This is a great response. Why do you think she asked you?
Comment by Tom Thompson on March 7, 2010 at 2:02am
That's one of the best, least confrontational responses I've read. Great job.

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