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My Deconversion and Education

May 5, 2012

(This is the conclusion to the story of my journey to atheism, which I started in the previous post.)

My previous post got most of my personal religious history out of the way, so now I can get to the period of my deconversion from Christianity. I would say that beginning in later high school I began to have more doubt about whether my beliefs were correct. I never really had anyone to talk to about it, so I didn’t voice them. By that point religion had very little impact upon my decisions and thought processes, so it was easier to just continue claiming belief and not think about it.

As a reminder, I went to a very (very) small private christian high school. Where every day, every class, was spent with roughly the same 20 or so kids. Even then I could see that  fair number of us merely went through the motions without any real conviction. As an anecdote, I imagine I’ll always remember a particular day, we were having some kind of “spiritual week” or something, that one of the guys opted to walk out of the room rather than participate in a session of praying aloud. He was probably the only one among us that had actual conviction, given the pressure he must have been under to conform. I should look him up to see where he’s at these days, but anyway, good for him.

Once I finished high school the pressure to be christian virtually disappeared, and so I mostly ignored religion for a few years. After a while, as I started learning a lot more about the world beyond the tiny christian circle I was raised in, I began to realize some things. The first thing was the realization that there are a lot of different religions in the world, and the followers of those religions believed just as strongly as anyone that their beliefs were correct. Clearly I couldn’t count just on people, or even myself, feeling “sure” that they were right. More than feeling was required if I wanted to know the truth.

By that point I was dating my wife, who was raised mildly catholic, but had rejected church early in life. She received an actual education in the sciences at high quality public schools, and had earned a degree in anthropology. This is contrasted with my education in young earth creationism, having pretty much only glossed over the idea of evolution as ridiculous. At least some of the basics I had in the physical sciences had been solid. My wife has given me many questions and prompts over the years that made me very seriously question what I’d been taught.

Finally there was the moment of epiphany. It might seem a simple or inconsequential thing if you weren’t raised on the belief that there isn’t any evidence for evolution, but for me it was mind blowing. This simple event was when I first saw a lungfish. It was just video of some lungfish. I don’t even remember what show it was a part of. I still think it’s an amazing animal, but how I thought of it then was like I’d found the holy grail. All my life, everything I’d been taught, was “Oh evolution, how ridiculous. Like a fish could just one day decide to hop out of the water and walk around.” Then suddenly the animal that does that very thing is presented right in front of me. So I realized that I’d been lied to, not willfully so far as I know, but simply through ignorance of the facts.

Once I was educated to the fact that evolution and not creationism was true, the rest of my religion unraveled pretty quickly. It didn’t take long to identify as an agnostic, feeling that there still very well could be something supernatural, but not knowing what it might be or what it would mean. Over time the credibility of any idea about the supernatural quickly diminished, as anecdotal evidence for any such thing only served to highlight the lack of empirical evidence. But I continued to be happy with an agnostic stance for a good many years.

The final step to atheism occurred just last month. Again it was something simple in concept, nothing more than a fact. I was reading some arguments for atheism, and I couldn’t deny when they made sense. Though I didn’t just immediately hop on board with atheism, I did very much agree with the idea that verified science should be used to understand things. Wanting to learn more about the universe as a whole I decided to find out what the science on the subject was. To ease into things I chose a series on Netflix, Into the Universe with Stephen Hawking. Within 10 minutes I was an atheist. The thing that got me was the sheer size of the universe. In the opening to the series there is a pullback from earth, all the way back until each speck of light that is visible represents an entire galaxy. It’s really mind boggling to try and comprehend what is meant when you hear that the universe is 93 billion light-years across, but I did my best, watching that scene four times in a row to try and actually absorb it.

To be accurate I consider myself in the category of an “agnostic atheist”, meaning that I don’t know for certain there isn’t a god, but I don’t personally believe there is. A deistic god could possibly exist and have kicked off the big bang. I do border on certainty that no theistic god exists for the following reason: If you are going to make the audacious claim that not only did a supernatural being create the universe (which is too large for humanity to ever explore the whole of), but it created everything specifically for us, and furthermore cares what we do or think, you’re going to have to give me some kind of solid evidence to support it. That is no longer the kind of thing I’m going to take anyone’s word on. My conversion to atheist may not seem like it has solid logical reasons, but as there is not a valid logical proof either for or against the existence of god, I don’t see that as being a particular problem.

So that’s my story! Dang that took a lot to get out and written down. Anyone who got through this whole thing, I really appreciate your reading! I’m glad to be done with the looking back at how I got to this point, and excited to start looking forward to talking more about things  that are on my mind. I’ll also be going through some of the typical arguments in the theist/atheist debate, if only to better understand them myself.

Thanks for reading!

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2 Comments
  1. June 1, 2012 9:16 am

    I love the phrase “mildly Catholic.”

    Like

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