Why Am I An Atheist?

I was initially pushed toward atheism by my realization that neither Christian apologetics’ argument from evidence nor its the argument from experience were actually valid. After realizing this I had an additional problem: the core doctrines of Christianity stopped making sense. End the end formulating my own version of Pascal’s Wager, which I call Libby Anne’s Wager, allowed me to make peace with the God question and accept my lack of belief.

The Argument from Evidence

I see no evidence of a God or a supernatural realm. Little by little, science has eliminated the need for God, explaining the causes of rain, disease, and earthquakes. If there was a God out there, you would think it would be fairly obvious. Wouldn’t a God make himself known, show himself to be real, leave some evidence of his existence? Nope. Christians often point to the Bible or the Resurrection or young earth creationism as proof of God’s existence, but none of these arguments hold up to scrutiny.

The Argument from Experience

Many Christians will argue that God does make his existence known – through personal connections in our hearts. Many Christians will speak of having a “relationship with Jesus.” I had one too. And then I realized that it was all in my head. If God really does form personal relationships, I began to wonder, why do people who all claim to be trying to listen hear such different things from him? Why has the church been forever fractured? This made no sense at all.

Christianity Stopped Making Sense

Even as I came to see that there was no evidence for God’s existence and that feelings alone weren’t enough to justify belief, I also began to realize that basic Christian doctrine makes no sense. Christianity is a religion based on human sacrifice. Why, I wondered, would God set up a system where he has to have his son brutally murdered in order to forgive humans, whom he created flawed in the first place? The Trinity, which I had so long justified as “a mystery,” also stopped making sense. How could God turn his back on himself on the cross, and how could part of God “die” while the other parts remained alive? It made no sense.

Libby Anne’s Wager

Yet for a long time I was afraid of identifying as an atheist, afraid of being wrong and afraid of being damned to hell. I clung to the idea of a God and clung to faith, mostly because of Pascal’s Wager. But then someone pointed out to me that Pascal’s Wager was inadequate: What if it turned out that it was the Muslim God, not the Christian God, that existed? What if God valued skepticism rather than belief? With these thoughts in mind,  I developed what I call Libby Anne’s Wager.

When it comes to the question of God, there are four basic options:

1. There are no gods.
2. There is a god or gods, but he/she/they do not care about humans.
3. There is a god or gods, and he/she/they are good and loving.
4. There is a god or gods, and he/she/they are evil and hateful.

In the case of options one or two, what we do or do not do here on this earth does not ultimately matter in a cosmic sense and will have no consequences after death. In the case of option three, a loving God would care more about whether we live by love and help others than about whether or not we believe in him or her. In the case of option four, do we really want to serve a God who cares more about legalism than love, a God who sentences humans to eternal torture for not worshiping him or her?

After formulating this wager my fear left. I was raised a Christian and have little to no experience outside of Christian traditions, but this wager set my mind at ease as to the existence of the Gods of other religions because it applies there too.

Conclusion

In the end, I’m fairly certain that there is no god or gods – about as certain as I am that there are no fairies or unicorns – but if there turns out that I am wrong, I’m not worried.

  • Charlie

    just a comment, not a criticism. when, in nature, you see things that you have never seen before, things that take your breath away…….do you see it as random? i continue to grapple with many things that you speak about and yet it is with my eyes that i see God. can i explain it…no, but to deny it…no. i cannot look at the trees, lakes, mountains, snowflakes, flowers, brightly colored insects, the human body, the stars and all of the breathtaking scenes we see in this world and believe it is random. to me, this is the greatest proof of God. oh, and i forgot…..puppies. i often think, and selfishly hope, that we have just misunderstood much of what we have been taught about God. i have especially grappled with the question that you raised. how can it be that people actively searching for God’s will can see things so differently or hear such different voices? the christian church has always taught us that there is one correct answer, but maybe there are more. maybe it is only on this earth that we look for a singular answer. i’m not speaking of “as long as you’re sincere”, what i am speaking of is truth as it is revealed to individuals. maybe things that we see that seem oppositional in this world are actually a singular truth. anyway, i enjoyed your writing.

  • ShaneT

    I just found this blog and am enjoying reading the entries. Coming from a similar background, I remember how much the fear of God held sway even when the rational part of my mind could see no evidence. Towards the end of my time in my fundamentalist religion, I had apocalyptic nightmares of the coming judgment while trying to feel the love. It wasn’t unlike stockholm syndrome where I felt compelled to love someone for not hurting me today.

    What helped me the most, actually, was discovering how much I had been taught falsehoods about the world, how the theory of evolution I had been taught was a straw man designed to obscure the real theory from me, as well as learning about other religions and reading their works. I found that many right-leaning Christian organizations followed the same tactics as mine did. They all claimed to have the ultimate truth. I came to see that there was a larger pattern going on, and I had to admit that the chances that I was miraculously born into the only correct religion were pretty low, and it would be arrogant of me to assume that my beliefs were absolutely correct. You might say that I suddenly saw my former religious peers as arrogantly self-assured, and the magic was lost. The Patriarcal He God who had been imprinted onto me from the womb slowly receded into a vague spectre, and the nightmares slowly went away.

    Since then I’ve met (non right) religious people whom I count as good friends, and I appreciate a sense of spirituality and wonder, but I’ve yet to feel the need to believe in an anthropocentric deity. Atheism to me is just a substitute for I don’t know, with no strings attached. The strings I’m talking about are where Fundamentalism makes the Great Non Sequitur, for its apologetics always claim ‘you don’t have the answer, science doesn’t have the answer, therefore God Exists’. The real intention of ‘god exists’ is not that Vishnu is OK or Astarte the Goddess is ok, rather, it is ‘my interpretation of the bible is the only correct one’. It says ‘I Don’t Know’ loud enough to cover up its simultaneous claim of the posession of iron clad knowledge of ultimate truth.

    I think that despite social problems and human ugliness, the world, the universe has actually become far vaster, far more mysterious and beautiful to me–since I let go of old beliefs and started asking questions–than I could possibly have imagined–a testament to which belief system was engaging with grand creation in its vast elegance, and which ultimately was not.

  • Scott

    Well said. I went through some of the same sort of thinking myself. What actually deconverted me was the story of Abraham: after I had a kid myself, I realized what a terrible story this was, and that any God that would require and reward this sort of behavior wasn’t the wonderful, loving God I had been taught to believe in.


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