The slow erosion of my belief in God was something I never intended, and frankly, was something I never saw coming.
It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly when this erosion began. I’ve always had questions about my faith, as I believe most people have, from a young age. Even the most devout believer will admit there is a lot about Christianity that just doesn’t make a lick of sense. How is it possible to be both three gods and one god at the same time? Where did God come from? How could he have always existed? If the world was only created less than 10,000 years ago, where do dinosaurs fit in? How do we even know that the Bible is true?
These questions (and many, many more) remain generally unanswered, to the point that even adults who are rock solid in their understanding of Christianity must simply accept them as truth on faith, confident that the answers are impossible for mere humans to comprehend. How do we know that the Bible is the true, inerrant word of God? Obviously because we have faith that it is so. Why then must we hold to this unwavering faith? Because the Bible tells us to.
And round and round it goes.
For most of my life, blind faith was good enough. If it was good enough for literally every other person I knew, why should I be any different? They certainly knew more than me, and accepting the mysterious, incomprehensible machinations of the almighty God was a simple answer to all of the questions I had. It was easy, and thinking about them was hard. That isn’t to say I never tried. I studied the bible and prayed to God for answers as any good Christian should. Ultimately though, regardless of the question at hand, if you go far enough down the rabbit hole you will eventually reach the inevitable conclusion that His ways are higher than our own. Like I said, that was good enough.
Until it wasn’t.
In the end, it was the concept of Hell that set me on the path of no return. Now, I’m not talking about the more modern “Hell of Separation” popularized by C.S. Lewis (though that has problems of its own). No, I’m talking about the Hell described by Jesus himself, the one into which unbelievers are discarded as a punishment from God, forsaken there to suffer unimaginable pain for all eternity without hope of escape. The idea has always repulsed me, but when you’re indoctrinated from a young age, it’s difficult to reject such a concept, regardless of your true feelings toward it. I hated the idea of Hell, but I accepted it because that’s just what you do when you’re a Christian. It’s a necessary evil, right? A necessary evil, one that exists because God created all things that exist, a perfectly omnibenevolent God… okay, again, let’s try not to think too hard about that particular aspect.
So why is Hell so bad, and actually bad enough that it eventually led to me giving up my beliefs altogether? It’s about justice, and the fact that Hell is its very antithesis. In a letter to my family announcing my deconversion, I went into some detail explaining why this is, but it’s far too lengthy and personal to post here for the world to see. However, the crux of it is this: there is no crime terrible enough to deserve the punishment of Hell. Consider for a moment what Hell actually is, as it’s described in the Bible. It consists of being burned alive – widely considered one of, if not the, most painful ways to die imaginable – except that it is impossible to actually die. The offender is forced to endure this horrific torture indefinitely. Every second of this pain is unbearable, and yet they must bear it for billions upon billions of years, and even then their suffering has hardly begun. But who is this offender that deserves such unfathomable punishment? Would even the worst offenders in the history of the world, those whose crimes can be set and defined to be finite, deserve infinite suffering? I can’t imagine how that would be so. Eventually the punishment will sufficiently atone for the crime and should end. That is the very definition of justice. Hell is a repugnant mutilation of the idea of justice, one that only a human could think up.
But even all of that is avoiding the actual problem of Hell. Because if we’re really honest here, we have to acknowledge what the true Christian believes, even if they are loath to admit it. It’s not only the worst of humanity that is tossed into the lake of fire. It is the Hindu who devotes his life to peace and bettering the cause of humanity. It is the innocent 13-year-old girl in Africa who has never heard of “Jesus” or “Christians.” In fact, if you take the Bible at face value and reject the invented concept of the age of accountability, then it is the baby who dies days after birth due to a congenital heart disease that now faces the flames of hell for all eternity.
To call this ideology perverse would be a vast understatement beyond anything I can imagine. There is already enough suffering in this world. The idea that we could create a whole other plane of existence that consists of naught but unfathomable pain for all eternity makes me feel sick to my stomach.
Except, not only did I imagine it, but I once believed it to be true. I now look back and wonder how that was ever possible, how any rational person can subscribe to such an awful concept. After some time and considerable soul-searching (so to speak), I came to the realization that Hell does not exist. Besides the fact that it makes no sense logically or physically, there’s also no proof of its existence. If such a proof were ever offered, one that could be scientifically measured and verified… well, I would still find the concept abominable, but I at least then would be forced to acknowledge it as a possibility. I am thankful that no such proof will ever be found.
But if it’s proof I demand, shouldn’t that extend not only to Hell, but to all facets of my faith? Once I finally relented and could see no choice but to answer that question in the affirmative, there was no going back. With a new sense of objectivity, I began looking at my own religion in the same way I looked at everyone else’s, and it simply didn’t hold up to even the slightest bit of actual scrutiny. Suddenly, the world made sense in a way that it never did before. I no longer had to question why bad things happen to good people (there is no reason and life is random), or why we have never seen real proof of miracles (because they don’t exist), or wonder about the ultimate meaning behind our existence (there is no meaning except the one we make for ourselves).
In the end, the world looks exactly the same without God as it did with him, and that tells me everything I need to know.
Now I find myself starting over in a sense, because even though the world hasn’t changed, my perception of it certainly has. What I see is scary and interesting and wonderful. I see a place full of humans just like me, searching for the truth in whatever way they know how. For some, that truth is belief in Yahweh or Jesus or Allah or one of the many other gods that are purported to exist. Some take a more general spiritual approach, and some have decided that it is simply good enough to not seek any kind of truth at all. For me – and as I’m increasingly learning, a huge number of people just like me – it meant rejecting the unfounded faith of my childhood and rediscovering the truths of the world through logic, evidence, and reason, all without the need for the supernatural or any kind of god at all.
I am an Atheist, and I’m not ashamed to call myself one. There’s generally a negative connotation with that term, especially where I live in the south. People make the assumption that atheism implies some kind of beef with God, or that I’ve simply become disillusioned, or even that I’m actually secretly a Satanist or some bizarre such notion. What it really means, though, is that I’ve looked hard at the arguments, the evidence for and against God, and have come to my own rational conclusions based on what science has proven to exist, not on what I arbitrarily believe or do not believe.
Such is how my journey truly begins, in whatever short time I still have left in this world. All I can hope for is to make the most of that time as possible.