I still remember the exact moment I became an atheist. I was 10 or 11 years old. We were at a church gathering at a member of the congregation’s house. I don’t remember the occasion, but there was dinner and somewhere I spotted a super nintendo.
During discussions someone brought up a pet recently dying, and asked about being reunited with it in the afterlife. The pastor (whom I have fond memories of) explained that animals have no souls and therefore can not enter heaven. I remember having a quick flash of shock, then anger, a thought of “if animals have no soul, then I have no soul”, and suddenly it struck me.. he’s lying. He’s caught in a lie, and just making shit up to protect that lie. I knew this feeling. As a kid you lie a lot. As an adult, even more so.
I remember thinking “why would anyone lie about this? how can anyone believe this?” I didn’t have that answer right away, but as weeks/months went by I realized that they believed it because they were somehow afraid, and they lie about it because once you believe/tell a lie you’re stuck with it forever (I didn’t understand the concept of admitting your mistakes). I didn’t have a fully internalized concept of the permanence of death yet, so I couldn’t exactly relate to a real fear of it. But I wasn’t afraid, and I didn’t need to believe, so why did they?
A few times in life I came close to believing in things again. Not in a Christian god per se, but the “universal spirit” kind of mucky gray area. I think that was out of confusion, fear, but mostly social pressure. I’d never met anyone that came out and stated with resolve that they didn’t believe in any of it; that there’s no reason or evidence to even consider it; that believing in something is deluding yourself to what it actually means to exist; that there are many things we don’t know, and may never know, but it’s no reason to pretend as if we do. I felt like if I didn’t believe in something, there must be something wrong with me, that I must just be too cynical, negative, or depressed. I usually feel like something’s wrong with me, but I don’t think there actually is.
I’m glad things are different now. Amen.