Spirituality is a very personal journey regardless of whether or not you are traveling toward spirituality or away from it. I am an Atheist, and have been for 10 years. Becoming an Atheist was part of my personal journey away from what I felt were the confines of Christianity.
I was raised Seventh Day Adventist, but perhaps indoctrinated is more of an appropriate term. Not only was I in church every Saturday, but I was placed in a Seventh Day Adventist private school system until I was in high school and had the dogma spoon fed to me for most of my life, and for most of my life I was accepting of it as fact.
However, about the time I reached 5th grade I began to question much of the dogma. Things like not being able to wear sandals to school got under my skin, the absence of meat in a diet, the dreary hymnals, the loathsome interpretations the “sins” of playing cards or wearing jewelry didn’t make as much sense to me any longer. It seemed as if either everything associated with being an Adventist was unclean or a sin, and the more independent thought I gained, the more I resented it.
Now, I know what you are thinking. You are sitting in your chair and surmising that “I was angry with God” or that “It was the religion that turned me off” and you are partially right in your observance of that point in my journey. Had my journey ended there, and had I sworn off God or religion as a whole, you would be correct. However, my journey had just begun.
After leaving the Adventist church, I took up in a non-denominational Christian church for a while. They listened to hip music, they danced, they sang. It seemed I had found my place. Yet again I questioned what I knew versus what I was being told each Sunday morning.
At 19, I began researching. I researched everything I could get my hands on. Any religious doctrine, dogma, and theology book I could find at the library I read, and read again. I read the King James Version and New Standard Versions of the Bible over and over, and came to the same conclusion each time: all of the stories were the same. The more I read, the more I questioned. So many religions out there claimed to be “the right one” and the “only” one. I was able to pinpoint fallacies, falsehoods and see religion for what it actually was: a control mechanism.
A student of history, I found that religion was used repeatedly to perpetrate crimes and wars all in the name of “God”. The fallibility of humans as a race began to weigh heavily on my heart. I studied Eastern philosophies; I pored over documents like the Koran and the teachings of Confucius. All of it was saying essentially the same thing to me, in a different language: “We are right, and you are wrong.” I began to wonder if there truly were a all knowing, all loving being out there in the heavens, would they truly be that short sighted? I decided that they wouldn’t.
The less I became involved in religion, the more attacks I endured from “so called” Christian brethren. Even though I was capable of debating religion with Bible thumpers and fanatics better than most, I was always (and am still) treated as if my journey was based on ignorance of the Bible and its teachings, rather than extensive knowledge therein. Eventually I adopted the philosophy that if you believe any religious based document is historical, I can’t discuss it with you, because you cannot argue with faith.
How has Atheism changed my life? It hasn’t really, other than providing me a freedom of thought and expression that are outside of the confines of religion. I believe in doing good for mankind for the sake of mankind, not because someone “up there” deems it appropriate. I eat what I like, I wear what I want to, and I don’t worry about someone deeming me as “sinful”. I believe that you can be a truly good and righteous person without carrying the burden of piety. In fact, I see piety being more of a problem causer than a problem solver in the day-to-day life of friends and family. Yet, I stoically remain silent on the subject of religion. The belief systems of others do not anger me, nor do they inspire me. I see them for what they are: a mechanism for others to be able to express themselves and have faith that they need. Part of my journey was realizing that I don’t need faith in order to function, I function much more efficiently and happily without having to resort to one resource for a reference or for moral backing. I respect that everyone has their own spiritual journey, and hopefully one day they can respect mine.