An Atheist Blossoms

(Via Andrew)

In the beginning there was the Book, and the Book was by God, and the Book was about God. In the end, it would be the Book that would lead me from God, and then from any god. But lets not get ahead of ourselves…

I had the boring stereotypical white-bread, middle-class upbringing, complete with church and/or Sunday school most weeks (and let’s not forget Christmas Eve). This included being only one of two kids in my fifth-grade class to memorize each of the monthly bits of indoctrination (all the books of the Old Testament in order, anyone?), but hey, there were prizes on the line! I was even an acolyte for several years, lighting candles and carrying the cross ahead of the choir as they entered and exited the worship area.

It was never really an act of faith, though. I made the motions; I sang the songs; I spoke the words; hell, given a minute to think back, I could probably still spit out most of the Lutheran liturgy that I had memorized by repetition. But I never really had any sense that it was at all meaningful. That’s not to say I doubted the existence of God, though, because, like a good little Christian, I never questioned it…or anything.

This continued through the start of my high school years, when my mother decided to go back to school – in her case, a seminary. Like any good kid, I did my duty in this situation and began to look up Bible passages that might cast doubt on her decision to become a minister. (“Look mom, it says right here that women shouldn’t speak in church!”) It was here, seeing the utter stupidity of so much that was ensconced in that book, that the seeds of doubt were planted.

Those seeds, however, wouldn’t begin to sprout until several years later. I was working in an internship in Iowa one summer, and bored as someone could be. Thinking about the doubts that had started to grow some years earlier, I decided to do the unthinkable – I bought a Bible and began to read. And I read…and read…and read. And the only conclusion that I could come up with was that there was no way that what was in the book could be true at the same time that mainstream Christianity was; the two were just too far contradictory.

Now that the doubts had sprouted, it would only take the triple threat combination of water, fertilizer, and time for it to bloom. In this case, the water came in the form of a battery of European, Western, and World History classes and the fertilizer in the form of Comparative Religions classes. The history classes, in showing the rise, spread, and abuse of Christianity throughout Europe and the West, opened my eyes fully to the farce that it is. Nietzsche was right, it is the religion of the slave, and the masters of Europe used it to strengthen their hold over their chattel. The comparative religions classes cemented my feelings that all other faiths were equally absurd.

So, that’s how it came to pass. No sudden break, no big moment, just the ordered progression from doubt, to dissatisfaction with organized religion, to rejection of the faith of my parents and my society, and finally to a rejection of faith in its entirety. Just, that is, the ordered, logical progression of one who thinks and reasons – and, after all, that is the domain of the atheist, is it not?


Makarios said...

I understand that some people are able to look at the abuses of "the Church" and pronounce Christianity in error. But how did you get rid of Jesus?

Andrew said...

Well, like I said, I never really *believed*, so there wasn't much of a supernatural aspect to get rid of. And even if I needed to, there was more than enough reason to discount this one story as "the truth" when you take into account how much these stories mirrored earlier myths.

From there, it was an growing appreciation of history, historical records, and what they can tell us. There were a ton of Jewish prophets and teachers around in a very turbulent time/place. Was there really a historical Jesus? We'll never know, but it's very probable that there was (given the nature of the times and the relatively common nature of the name). But why should I then give the teachings attributed to him any more than I should those of any of the hundreds of other rabbis from the same time? Or from the teachers of tribes and peoples from all over the world and from all across time?

The only reason to do so is that this religion was very handy for the rulers in a particular period to use in order to keep their subjects in check. From there, it became an ingrained part of our culture. That's really not a very prestigious pedigree for an ideology, at least not to me.