"Think as I think," said a man,
"Or you are abominably wicked;
You are a toad."
And after I had thought of it,
I said, "I will, then, be a toad."
~Stephen Crane (November 1, 1871 – June 5, 1900)
I was raised a Southern Baptist. My father became a preacher when I was 10 or so. Both of my parents are missionaries, both overseas and in the United States. From a very young age I read the Bible and participated in Bible Trivia and Bible Drills. I sang in the choir, attended youth group, went to church camps, even preached a sermon one youth Sunday. I was 5 years old when I took Jesus into my heart, accepted His plan for me and was baptized.
My first doubts about my faith began in my teens. What I heard at church and what I saw in the world weren't the same things. The people I knew in church were not the same way in their personal and professional lives as they were at church. The tiny crack in my beliefs widened into a chasm when I was 18. My father, upon learning of my unwed pregnancy, told me to STOP going to the church we had been attending when I was in high school. He was embarassed and ashamed to have my "sins" associated with him. That certainly did NOT mesh with his sermons about God being all-loving and forgiving.
In my twenties I began to explore religions outside the one in which I'd been raised. I spent hours, days, weeks trying to find answers to the questions I had about life, about purpose, about a supreme being who had a PLAN for ME. I started with the Protestant religions, those most closely related to Southern Baptists, and then branched out into Eastern religions. I studied the Gods of the Greeks and the Romans.
By the time I was thirty I was a full-blown Agnostic. [Agnosticism: The belief that there can be no proof either that God exists or that God does
not exist.] In all my searching, reading, asking, looking, and observing I had only become LESS sure of anything I'd grown up swallowing about God. My limited capacity to understand the Bible and the existence of God turned out not to be the problem. The problem was with the concpt of God.
At thirty-eight I embraced Atheism. [Atheism: Disbelief in or denial of the existence of God or gods. The doctrine that there
is no God or gods.] History of religions taught me that men invented Gods to explain the phenomena for which they had no answers. As science and technology advanced, many of these phenomena were explained. Thunder and lightning aren't caused by angry Gods, crops don't wither because farmers don't sacrifice their prize livestock, natural disasters are not divine retribution.
I accepted that it's okay not to have the answers. I believe that NOT having the answers is a poor justification for making them up. I have found that I am MORE sensitive the needs of others, more conscientious of their feelings now that I am personally responsible for my actions. There's no more safety net of God's forgiveness for my transgressions. There's no promise of rewards everlasting, nor the threat of unrelenting punishment. All I have is this life. I have a limited amount of days to spend and I choose to spend them with my eyes open.