I grew up in a Lutheran household and went to church religiously (pun intended) growing up. I went mainly for two reasons: I love to sing and was involved in the choir and praise team giving me much needed performance experience, and I had a HUGE crush on this really cute boy (who is now my husband, by the way) and typically the only way I could spend anytime with him outside of school, was in church. I was a devout church-goer in my youth though, and I never doubted that god was real. My entire family believed in it after all, why shouldn’t I?
As a Lutheran, you must go through what is called, “Confirmation” to receive the body and blood of Christ (AKA the cheap wine and tasteless wafer), similar to Catholic traditions. To be Confirmed and viewed as an adult in the eyes of the church, you must complete courses studying the Bible and you must take part in discussions (typically one-sided) and be deemed fit for graduation by your church pastor. I must have been about 12 years old at the time of my studies and it was at this time that my first religion red flag popped its way up into my mind. I was reading Genesis and got to thinking about the story of how we all came to be on this planet and then it hit me: What about the dinosaurs? Where did they fit in? I had just read through the entire book of Genesis and there was no mention of them. So naturally, as a 12-year-old would, I asked my mom about it. She quickly referred me to my grandfather who was a practicing pastor in a Lutheran church and I gave him a call. His explanation was that the Bible’s idea of 7 days and our idea of 7 days were considered to be vastly different. He said that a day in biblical terms may well have been a thousand years as opposed to 24 hours and therefore there would have been time for the dinosaurs to inhabit earth without Adam and Eve. It sounded a little fishy to me, but I accepted the “answer” and moved on.
Several years later I enrolled and was accepted into a small, private university called California Lutheran University. I was required to take 2 religion courses, as is every student, and it was in those two classrooms that I learned more about myself than I ever thought I would. My first religion class was an Intro to Christianity course and my professor was amazing. He countered everything we would say and argued with every word coming out of our mouths. He was an incredibly devout Christian himself and claimed that his methods would either strengthen your belief in god or it would make you think twice about it. I remember digging through the Bible on sleepless nights trying to make sense of it all and returning to class the next day with more questions than answers for our assignments.
One assignment he gave us (and this was genius) was to read all the gospels. Then, we had a discussion on the stories and the discrepancies within them. Did Mary give birth in a manger or in a house? Were they on the run or weren’t they? There were so many discrepancies I felt confused and lost and for the first time I viewed the Bible as a piece of fictional writing. There was just no way this book could be a historical accounting of the most important human being in the history of the world- even taking into account human error and memory issues of the authors (as so many of my classmates argued that day).
And it didn’t stop there. Soon, I was doing more research and reading more into the Old Testament which is a nasty, evil little book, and I began to lose faith in everything it said all together. How can people only preach about the New Testament yet claim the entire Bible to be the word of god? How can they preach and go on believing that their god loves them no matter what yet that same god in that same book said he could and would kill them in an instant if they provoked him enough to do so? How can anyone read the books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy and see passages about being forbidden to wear clothing made of different types of materials and publicly stoning your son to death if he disobeys you and look right past them to the verse about homosexuality being an abomination?
I started asking myself all of these questions and I have only come to two conclusions: 1. These “believers” haven’t actually read the book they base their entire faith on or, 2. That they have read it and have decided to pick and choose the parts that they like best based on their personal preferences. Both are equally disturbing to me. Homosexuality is different and uncomfortable so, let’s reference the Bible and say it’s wrong. Slavery is convenient and cheap so, let’s reference the Bible and say it is right. Death is scary and mysterious so, let’s reference the Bible and say we are going to a paradise in the sky with all of our friends and family when we die. People make bad decisions and stray away from our way of doing things so, let’s reference the Bible and tell them they are going to Hell. I could go on and on but it basically ends with me feeling disgusted in myself for ever being so stupid and so naïve to believe this load of crap. I don’t even believe someone when they tell me a movie is bad, so why would I believe someone when they say an invisible zombie man who was white living in the Middle East saved me so that I could commit the sins he already knew I would commit even though I should know better??
The birth of my atheist brain baby had just occurred and I couldn’t be more proud of it to this day. I eventually joined the Secular Student Alliance club on my campus and participated in many forums describing my religious experiences to interested students. I grew stronger in my non-faith and by doing so gained more respect for myself. I was now a good person because I chose to be, not because my religion told me to be. I made decisions based on my instincts and my integrity, not on my book or my faith. I feel more happiness and fulfillment now than I ever did as a theist and I can’t imagine having it any other way.
“I’ll be honest about it. It is not atheists who get stuck in my craw, but agnostics. Doubt is useful for a while. … But we must move on. To choose doubt as a philosophy of life is akin to choosing immobility as a means of transportation.” (1.7.21) Yann Martel, Life of Pi