This blog has been a long time in the making. As a former Catholic, now atheist, and someone who spends a lot of time thinking about (and debating) religion, it was only natural that I provide myself a soapbox from which to scream.
I was raised Catholic and truth be told, I loved going to Church. I loved the songs and the smells and the rituals. When I was in University (studying Neuroscience which no doubt, played a large role in my “conversion”) I met a young Mormon man and we started dating. He wasn’t just your run of the mill quasi-Mormon – this guy was hard core. He went on a mission, he paid his tithing and a lot of his self-worth was wrapped up in his church and beliefs. Despite our differences of opinions we manged to make it work and just avoided the topic of religion all together. I researched his religion and church obsessively hoping that I could find something to believe in. I loved this man and I thought that if this church was true and I could believe it then that would be the easiest way to make sure we could be together. I read the Book of Mormon, I prayed, I read “faith-affirming” church-sanctioned literature, I looked for signs and waited to hear a still, small voice. What I heard was my inner voice telling me that this was the weirdest religion I had ever encountered. Quite frankly it creeped me out.
That research into the Mormon faith also made me look at my own faith in a different way. Catholicism, unlike the LDS (Latter Day Saints) faith, allows you to pick and choose what you or don’t believe. There is no church authority that will come and knock on your door because you hadn’t paid tithing or taken the Eucharist. If you wanted to believe that the Pope was a creepy old man playing dress up as opposed to God’s human representative on Earth that was fine. You could still go to church and call yourself Catholic. I started to examine my own beliefs and found myself lacking in some very important areas – I didn’t believe in transubstantiation or in the virgin birth. I didn’t believe that Mary remained a virgin until she died (poor woman!), or that the Pope was infallible. Truth be told, I found him especially fallible. I didn’t really understand the trinity and was revolted by the church’s stance on contraception. All of this made me wonder what it was exactly that made me self-identify as Catholic.
From there it was a long, sometimes painful, and bumpy road to atheism. If the Mormons all believed a bunch of blooey and the Catholic church wasn’t true either, was any religion real? Unbeknownst to me, my boyfriend was going through the very same thing. He had taken the opportunity to go to Africa and study baboons for 6 months and as he spent his days watching them interact with each other he couldn’t ignore the similarities between them and humans. Evolution was his sticking point and like most lies, once they start to unravel it is hard to stop.
We were fortunate to have some people in our lives who were already atheists and they offered us insight and hope when all we saw was darkness. Over the next few years we would become part of a community through the Council for Secular Humanism and other atheist organizations. My (by this time) husband spent a lot of time on exmormon.org and decided to have his name officially removed from the church records. I wish the Catholic church provided the same service but as far as I know, it doesn’t.
Fast forward nearly ten years and here we are. Becoming atheists was the best thing we have ever done. My husband often comments on what a better person he is now that he is out of the church. He no longer sees people as “members” or “non-members”, Christian or Muslim. He is less judgmental, less restricted, less afraid, more hopeful and happy. As for me, I now value critical thinking more than ever. I the world for what it is and do my best to ensure that the world will be left a better place for my having been in it. I live in a world of actualities and light rather than conjecture, blind faith and fear. I live in the now because there is no after. I do not pray for the hungry, I feed them. I don’t thank God when something amazing happens, I thank the people and the technology that made it possible. And above all, I live each and every day to the fullest because I know I don’t get a second chance.
My goal in this website is threefold. First and foremost, I want to offer a different perspective on atheism. It is not a mere absence of belief. It is an exchange of beliefs from the supernatural to the man-made, from blind faith to personal accountability. Secondly, I want the people who are already atheists (some of who might not even know it yet) to feel proud. There is no need to hide or be embarrassed about your choice. And lastly, I want parents, atheist or not, to think twice about what they tell their children. What stories do we feed them, what values do we uphold? I strongly believe that children who are raised to think for themselves and critically analyze the world around them will not only live fuller, happier lives, they will make this world a better, brighter, place to live.