When I was a child I went to church. (You thought I was going to say ‘reasoned like a child…’ didn’t you? Well I didn’t, my reasoning skills have always been pretty advanced.) Church for me was boring. I had to get up early on the weekend. We lived in the country and the church my father wanted to go to was a 45 minute drive from our home. And it wasn’t one of those fire and brimstone, bible thumping, pentecostal-tent-revival-speaking-in-tongues kind of churches. I’ve been to a few of those. That would have at least been entertaining. No, we had a rather nondescript pastor who went on about salvation like he was a politician on a trek through Iowa. Which left me little to do but listen (and risk falling asleep and snoring) or read. And the only book I could get away with reading during church services was the bible.
That is why I don’t understand how people who claim to read and ‘study’ the bible don’t all become atheists. I was probably around 11 or 12 when I stopped believing in god…maybe even younger. My first problems with the bible came from the contradictions in the gospels, specifically, the death of Judas. There were two completely different versions of how Judas died. That’s when I really started questioning the veracity of the bible. I mean, really. If this book is inspired by God, shouldn’t the writers know how Judas died? Wouldn’t God have ‘told’ them? What else didn’t add up?
I was also troubled by the idea that people who didn’t believe in God, no matter how good they were, would burn for eternity. My pastor always was quick to point out that this only applied if they had been told the word of God. So… it was better off if those Buddhist monks never heard about God? Seemed to me that would make missionary work particularly cruel. I mean, if you get a free pass if you’ve never been told about Jesus or God, then why would you tell someone and risk their soul? You could send far more people to heaven if you just kept your mouth shut.
I could not really pinpoint a time when I stopped believing and became what I would call an atheist. I suppose for a while I would have described myself as an agnostic deist or spiritualist, saying I didn’t know what happened after we died…maybe there was an afterlife, maybe we were reincarnated, maybe we moved on to a higher plane of consciousness or maybe this was it. But somewhere between the ages of 10 and 20 I knew that the Abrahamic God of the bible was nothing more than a fairy tale and no more legitimate than the writings of the Grimm brothers.
So, sorry, there’s no horrible abuse by a pastor or an overly religious parent. The people at my church were generally nice, so my atheism was not the result of any kind of bad experience or anger with God. I just realized that I didn’t buy it. It didn’t make sense. As I got older and studied science, I found all the things that the bible claimed to explain were more clearly and consistently explained by science. That’s when I knew I was an atheist.