When I was six years old I was baptized by immersion in water. I was old enough to understand the ritual and its purpose. That day I died to my old, sinful self and came out of the water to follow Christ in a new, glorious life.
I worked hard to understand the implications of the choice I had made. With as much diligence as a child can possess, I sought God’s will and trusted that He would “cause everything to work together for the good” as promised in His Word (Romans 8:28)
I spent much of those formative years in church, in Bible study, in prayer. I clung to my faith, for without it, I was nothing. When I felt the beginnings of doubt, I cried out to God to forgive me. When I cried out and there was no answer, I blamed my lack of faith.
The truth is I thought that everyone – at least on some level – believed in God. Thoroughly indoctrinated, I couldn’t imagine how one could live morally without the threat of eternal damnation. You can’t just flip a switch on that kind of thing.
I didn’t have a fit of teenage rebellion of which I was too proud to repent. I didn’t get angry with God and denounce Him while simultaneously blaming Him for all the things that went wrong as I approached adulthood at breakneck speed.
I did, however, grow weary of hearing the same lies presented so many ways in countless youth group church meetings. A young woman of God was always painted as submissive, meek, and almost asexual in her quest for purity. I was strong-willed and inquisitive: I wanted to have safe, monogamous sex with the boy I loved. I was a good person trapped and tormented by unnecessary guilt.
By the time I had turned eighteen I knew that I would be an atheist. I wasn’t there yet and I didn’t set out to change my philosophy; I could just see the end result. It wasn’t easy to follow my convictions but I was done with the oppressive doctrine I had always known.
It is a common misconception that unbelief is the path of least resistance. Why bother to believe in something and have morals when you can just opt out? This is such a ridiculous argument. If you take out the third party and the eternal consequences, what is left? You and others, here and now. There are few second chances. It amazes me how much more effective it is to have to answer to my conscience rather than to cover my shortcomings with a prayer.
I am lucky. For most people who make such a dramatic change – in either direction – it can be alienating as well as difficult and lonely. My family and friends still love me, even if they don’t understand. My boyfriend shares my philosophy. I am happy beyond my hopes or expectations
Plenty of nonbelievers don’t have a big dramatic tale to go along with their personal story of becoming an atheist. For many of us, we simply choose to lose all of the negative things we see in the religious and nonreligious alike – the drama, the baggage, the insecurity. We want the freedom to be honest and strong – to face reality without fear of the imagined.
Holy Bible, New Living Translation