I'm currently in a university class on critical thinking, and it's forcing me to think about a lot of things from perspectives that I've never examined previously. I abandoned my faith in god over the process of many, many years, and there were many factors that played into my decision to ultimately call myself an atheist agnostic. I don't believe in a god, but I cannot say that no gods exist with certainty. For those who have traveled similar (or vastly different paths) What were your reasons for leaving faith? What were your reasons for finding it?
i was an atheist for many years in my youth. i never had that ah ha moment you hear from so many Christians. i cant even really say the year at which i came to believe God exists. it was a very slow progression. with a little personal experience, critical thinking, people in and out of my life, reading, hearing different arguments from both sides. when taking literally hundreds of things into consideration, I just think God make more sense of the world and life in general. Which God, was a whole other process.
J--Nobody knows "with certainty" that no gods exist. In the same respect, nobody knows "with certainty" that any god exists. People use their holy book (bible) as evidence of an existence of their version of a god. That's not empirical evidence of the existence of a god. Without real evidence of god's existence, the obvious conclusion is that god is a man-made version of what a god might be (imaged to be in man's image). When people say that the universe, or something like it, is god, they are stating that they don't accept the religious version of what a god might be. In other words, they are atheists.
To answer your question I was raised in a very religious home, attending church more than once a week. I was allowed to ask questions growing up and did. Generally, the answers I got didn't make sense to me, so I would think that either I'm too young to understand or that the answer wasn't explained to me correctly to make sense. I scored at the top of my class on both the written and verbal tests, at age 12, when I joined the church. At age 15 I wanted to be a minister (preacher). One Sunday morning in Sunday School, after choir practice & before church, when I was 17, my teacher was talking about predestination. I asked him if he could explain that concept again, so he did. Then, I said, "I don't believe that." He said, "If you don't believe that, you can't be a Presbyterian because that's what Presbyterians believe." So, I said, "Then I guess I'm not a Presbyterian."
As soon as I got to college, I began investigating other religions to find out what I was. That led me to a Baptist church and an extensive debate with the preacher who convinced me through verses in the bible (the word of God) that women were intended to be servants of men. I couldn't accept that since every woman in my family was far more moral and religious than any man I knew (except, maybe, my father). So, I became a nonbeliever. For many years I knew no one else who admitted to not being religious, so, sometimes, I thought I got it wrong and would go back to church for a short while to try to see things differently. Each time, I became more convinced that I had gotten it right.
Now, by the way, I am a far more moral person than I was when I was religious. I don't judge people because someone has told me to, based on their or "the church's" interpretation of the bible. After leaving religion, I feel free to use my own judgment to determine right from wrong and to decide how to treat people based on a logical evaluation of the facts. I make moral decisions and behave the way I would like the society I live in to be. In fact, religion has changed to accommodate the higher moral values of humans, as we have become more educated and socially evolved (except in extremely repressive, fundamentalist religious societies).
I completely agree, and only had to make the distinction because so many theists deem to tell me that atheism is the belief that there are no gods (the hard atheism position) and then argue with me that a lack of belief in a god is, in fact, atheism. I hate having to argue what I do or don't believe with people who are not atheists. Hence my making that clear initially :-)
I suffered from insomnia in my teens so I had plenty of time to think. I slowing came to the conclusion that while I wanted there to be a loving God that looks over us, the concept was a little creepy and a lot silly. Why invent something that is harder to explain (God) to explain something that is already difficult to understand (the universe) but is explainable without God? I have to say once I let go of the God idea, the concept began to seem absurd and began to wonder why anyone would actually believe a sky-daddy that prefers men and in particular Jewish men who seems to need our worship and our belief without making himself known. A needy, jealous and absent Dad?
There was no one moment or one reason why I am no longer a theist, it was a fairly gradual process. There are a great many reasons why I eventually gave up my faith but I suppose the biggest influence was in reading the entire Bible and doing research on it. It started innocent enough, as a Christian I was very interested in the Bible, how it came to be and what other works might be attached to it, so I read many of the books that had been thrown out of the Bible too. Eventually I set out to read the entire Bible from front to back skipping only the infinitely long genealogies and after that I only deepened my research drifting into deism, pantheism and ultimately atheism as none of the religions or supernatural beliefs I tried to adopt turned out to be true.
I guess what I learned is that credulity isn't for me after all. It's not that I don't want to believe in the supernatural or unexplained, I do very much so and am still quite fascinated by things like cryptozoology, UFOs, the occult, and of course religion, the difference is that I don't believe in them anymore. Whether I want to believe it has nothing to do with whether or not its true and I only want to believe it if its true.
I can remember being in-between atheism and pantheism for at least a year, where on any given day my answer to "do you believe in god?" would have varied from "I believe there's SOMETHING out there and people call it God." to "not really" to "sort of, but not in the way most people do".
I can also remember a time when I was afraid of accepting the idea of there being no gods at all and probably no afterlife. For a time I even believed in reincarnation without believing in god just to emotionally shield myself from my own mortality.
People insist that we atheists are closed-minded, I prefer to think that I spent my childhood being fooled, I spent my teen years fooling myself, and now I'd rather not be a fool at all. If something can't meet a simple burden of proof, has no logical legs to stand on and is contradicted by a thousand other theories and ideas none seeming more valid than the others how could it not be self-delusion to start believing it?
My journey to atheism was definitely no straight and narrow path. I unofficially left Christianity at the age of 13, but still believed (or wanted to believe) in a God. I struggled with my Christianity from 13 until I was 15. When I was 14, I became interested in New Age, however my interest died after about 7 months. At age 15, I began to take an interest in Wicca, which shared the same fate as my interest in New Age after only 3 months. At the time of my interest in Wicca, I had already declared myself to be an Agnostic, which is why said interest in Wicca didn't last long. Keep in mind, by the time my agnosticism came about, I was pretty sure the Jewish God, Yaweh, didn't exist, and my sudo-belief in any other deity was just me dangling to the hope that there was some magical force behind the Universe. The only reason I didn't decide on atheism sooner was because I had been under the impression that atheists were means, arrogant, and depressed. Thanks to the Internet, however, I discovered otherwise. That's when I decided to become an Atheist, although technically I already was one.
JMcFarland, a most profound topic. Thank you.
I'm currently a professor at a local, 4-year college, teaching mathematics and information technology. I remember my own critical thinking class, years ago, especially the topic of cognitive dissonance and the balancing act that conflicting information forces us to do. I'm working on developing a lecture on critical thinking and creativity in the 21st century.
I can understand why a lot of people leave their "belief" system. If they have no perception of spiritual things, then they have no need for the topic. It's like a blind man in a class on color theory. For him, there is no such thing as color.
I like how you said that you "cannot say that no gods exist with certainty." I applaud you for your restraint. That's the attitude of a true scientist or anyone searching for Truth or relative truths.
I was born with an awareness of the spiritual world. That awareness is not yet fully developed, but in its nascent state, I have witnessed numerous miracles. With years of studying critical thinking (including programming logic, mathematics, Boolean logic and the like), plus studying many of the sciences, I also understand the relationship between the spiritual and the physical and see how these "miracles" are truly the cause-and-effect kind of "coincidence," rather than the accidental type.
My "belief" in a specific religion has evolved to the point where I see the Ego in all major religions. Ego is the great corrupter. It is the source of all evil. It is the antithesis of the only True religion -- Love.
So, the last 64 years, for me, have been all about finding the true meaning of Love. Most human definitions don't even come close.
And "faith" is not "belief." Faith is the perfection of confidence, catapulting you into the spiritual realm where creation occurs. Belief is where most people live.
Good luck with your critical thinking class. That can be a real eye opener. And I'm glad you retain some restraint on conclusions for which you do not yet have information.
Some day (perhaps not in this lifetime), you will find the point in the heart (a "bud" amongst the sum of all your desires) that will lead you to the door to spirituality. Until then, try to think of giving to others without any self-benefit, even the feeling of self-congratulations or feeling good for having done good. By attempting to give without any self-concern, you approach the true meaning of love, where God lives.
For those interested in finding out more about this state of closeness to God, I encourage you to search for Bnei Baruch, authentic Kabbalah. The Kabbalists wrote the Bible in code and only recently made that code available to the general public. So, all the arguments and haranguing about biblical interpretation have been hollow and misguided. I could be embarrassed by this fact, but I personally don't care if my ego gets bruised. If I'm successful, I'll soon correct all desires from those of ego to those of altruistic love.
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