I Used To Be An Atheist Until I Could No Longer Rationally Defend It

via Flickr - Marcus Böckmann
via Flickr – Marcus Böckmann

I decided that I had no religion my last year of middle school. I despised religion when I learned about wars fought in its name. To talk about it, a few friends and I would meet up after class –we all had similar experiences and wanted to confide in each other. These conversations cemented my anti-religious attitude. A year later after failing to find any evidence of God, I concluded I was an atheist; after that I only had criticisms for religion and God. I made sure to direct these criticisms to any theist who challenged my lack of faith and in doing so became someone I now can’t stand: A person who uses atheism as proof of superior intelligence.

My parents didn’t practice any religion but they believed in God. But they wanted the best for their children so they taught me to “think for myself”, which meant imposing no religion on me. When I did become an atheist I couldn’t bring myself to tell my parents. It was because of a memory of my dad’s remarks on atheists. “I don’t care what you believe,” he said “as long as you believe in God. Atheists are stupid.” So atheism became a burden; it was a taboo I couldn’t let out or else be estranged by my family. But I had a need to tell them and it aggravated my dread. I endured these feelings for five years but finally I confessed my secret. Both my parents accepted my identity as an atheist and since then I feel we’ve been closer.

It’s been 2 years since my confession but I’ve since changed my mind. I embraced atheism because as a child I couldn’t acknowledge faith’s relativeness — absolutes, unlike the relative, are comforting and rational. I’ve recognized that I no longer need the rationale and absolutes that brought me to atheism. This revelation is largely thanks to my wife, a Christian, and her family. My mother-in-law despite being a practicing Christian, welcomed me as an atheist into the family and my wife gave me insight I would have otherwise ignored. Religion is not a bad construct like I thought it was. Religious people are not dissimilar to an average person: some are good and some bad, and some work for the benefit of others while some for themselves. Religion is no exception to human rule.

No longer accepting atheism, I was compelled to find another label. The existence of God stopped me from finding a label in religion — Despite me being kind to religion I couldn’t rationalize God. Around the same time I was reading about epistemology (the theory of knowledge) and discovered radical skepticism. It argues that all knowledge is impossible by creating doubt to the source of knowledge (i.e., If I can’t prove I’m not in a simulation I can’t claim to know anything else). It was absurd but it created doubt to further reconsider atheism. I couldn’t identify as an atheist anymore; I was agnostic. When I was in high school I saw agnosticism as badly as religion. I saw them as group of people who couldn’t make up their mind and it annoyed me. But eventually, I learned otherwise. Agnosticism is someone who accepts the impossibility of knowing God.

Agnostics have two main arguments: one of uncertainty and one of incomprehensibility. The argument of uncertainty pertains to the evidence of God’s existence. The evidence that both sides (Theists and nontheists) use to justify their belief is fallible. The nature of faith and the concept of God make evidence pertaining to Him unattainable. Besides if God’s existence is so important then the level of accepted evidence must match. So the evidence can never meet the threshold. As for Incomprehensibility, theists often explain God’s plane of existence as incomprehensible. But that’s true, how can I reason that God exists — if his nature is incomprehensible how do they expect me to comprehend His existence?

There is an argument separate to the two above that became my reason for being an agnostic. It deals with the evidence people cite for or against the existence of God. I have to look at the evidence as a rational person, like a scientist. If a scientist were to set up an experiment to detect the existence of a particle they would acknowledge the varying data and conclude the test is inconclusive. Like a scientist, I try to have a high standard for evidence and when I look at all the evidence, I am am forced to conclude that God’s existence remains uncertain. TC mark

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Image Credit: via Flickr - Marcus Böckmann

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