For me, one of the stories that I want to hear from people the most would be how they became non-believers (or non-theists), from being born or raised in religious families. I would be interested to know how other people “grew out” of their religious beliefs.
I have been watching random stand-up comedians on YouTube recently, and often, the topic that they usually bring in for their stand-up material is religion. So it sparked an idea for a post (this). This is my story.
I am an agnostic atheist. I do not know if there is a God, and I also do not have the belief in one. I actually “became” an atheist a lot recently — just a few years ago, maybe three years ago? I was born into a devout Catholic family. We were very active members in our church, and we were there for every activity, even if it’s at 2 in the morning. We never missed a single mass, novena, or procession. As far as I could remember, I always wore a scapular around my neck ever since I was born. I never went to bed without saying a prayer. We prayed the holy rosary every night. (The funny story about this: we didn’t use to, until in one novena, praying the rosary everyday was mentioned as one of the things Mary tasked us to do. I asked my mother why we didn’t. Because of my question, we began praying the rosary every night. Before that, we only did it a couple of times a week.) My mom was a leader in our GKK (chapel), and I served as a lector for many years in both the parish and our GKK. I still have my surplice and even the shirts from all the worship ministry conventions I attended.
Looking back, it’s just funny to me now how things got into a 180.
I don’t clearly remember at what specific moment I stopped believing. I think it was a gradual process. It happened over time, slowly, as I consumed more media and observed my surroundings. One thing I can say is that I wasn’t 100% firm about my faith even back then. I remember having this conversation with a best friend about how I often have doubts about my faith, that sometimes I myself am not entirely sure about the existence of God, even though I considered myself a religious person. Even so, I did feel my faith. I was happy to attend Sunday mass and listen to the priest’s sermon. I really deeply felt it. I always reflected about the sermons and internalized them, and it made me a happier and more fulfilled person to know that I was living “the right way” in God’s eyes, that I was being a good daughter to Him. My faith also gave me a lot of hope. Every time I felt depressed, every Sunday in the holy mass, I felt restored. It’s really difficult to describe. It was a very spiritual experience: full of deep feeling.
But then, one thing that always set off the alarm bells in my head was that feeling of discomfort and unsettlement every time I stumble upon an idea or a body of work that contradicted my beliefs. (For example, when I was a kid, after I watched The Da Vinci Code movie, I couldn’t look at the altar the same for a while, and it made me question what I knew about Jesus.) The books and films that I could read and watch were very limited, because some made me really uncomfortable and deeply bothered.
Then, it made me think: why should I feel uncomfortable at all, if what I believe in is, without question, absolutely true? I don’t feel uncomfortable about gravity when I read or watch science fiction books or films, about the fact that the Solar System is heliocentric and not geocentric. Why should it be different for my faith?
I think that’s when it all began.
The answers I could think of to that question only helped to water the suspicion that started to grow in my brain. If expanding my knowledge — the simple act of consuming media — made me question an important component of my entire existence, then something must be incredibly wrong. That feeling of discomfort came from my inability to reconcile two opposing “truths” in my brain. Obviously, only one had to be correct. Of course, the only “truth” of the two is the one which does not require a lot of mental gymnastics to prove or get behind. I realized that if, for a moment, just for the sake of this specific scenario, I pretend not to believe in God, things become a lot easier and that discomfort is lifted. The other way around is not possible at all.
During this time, I also read a lot more. I watched a lot of stand-up (😂). I read up on philosophy. Things just made a lot more sense. The arguments against God, specifically the Judeo-Christian God that I grew up knowing, are just a lot firmer and stronger than the arguments for God.
A lot of God’s qualities contradict. Here’s a philosophy video about God’s Divine Attributes that explains it better than I do. If God really does exist, then he’s a narcissist, because He wants us to praise and worship Him all the time. Why is it that if something bad happens in life, it’s always the fault of the person, but when something good happens, it’s always because of God’s blessing? What about the children and babies who suffer for no reason — those born with terminal illnesses? They have not done anything to deserve it all. Why do bad things happen to good people, and why do good things happen to bad people? What about all this senseless suffering in the world with no justification whatsoever? Why is it so important to suffer just to realize how much God loves us? If God really loves us unconditionally, then why does Hell exist? Why do we have to follow commandments and do certain things if He truly loves us without conditions? If God has a Divine Plan, combining his omniscient and omnitemporal qualities, then why do we bother praying? Why did He find it necessary to murder every single creature except for a chosen few in this planet back in Noah’s Ark? The God in the Old Testament was very quick to anger and not all that forgiving. If God really is real, then for me, he is not a god worth worshipping. It almost feels like He is just toying with us.
Don’t even get me started on the Bible. Times have changed, a lot of things written in the Bible aren’t applicable in our times anymore (one thing: we no longer persecute gay people). So now, people say you’re not supposed to interpret it literally, only metaphorically. Of course not, because things are different now. Society has changed. Are we supposed to accept only some parts of it we find good and ignore the rest?
If God is real, then why does He allow nature (science) to contradict His being? If He is real, then why doesn’t He just clearly reveal Himself to shut us all up? If He did that in the first place, there would be unity and no room for doubt. Not a single drop of blood would be shed just to “fight” for His name.
Why is it that God has to be human-like: why is it that God created us out of His image and likeness? Why isn’t God like a dog, or an elephant, or an ant — some other animal? Because humans are His “special” creation. We were the last to be created, remember? For me, this is a big red flag. I just don’t believe that in this vast, infinite universe, we’re the center of it all. I think that is very self-centered of us. Take note that the geocentrism theory came later, and it was proven to be wrong. We really just made it all up.
It was by mere chance that I was born into a Catholic family. If I were born in a family with a different religion, I would believe in a different god, and just the same, I would insist that my god is the real God, and the rest of the gods are false… because I was born in that religion, by mere chance.
Religion was created to control people. I also think that the concept of a “god,” of a higher power, was created by our ancestors to explain things that we did not yet understand. But, now that science and technology have advanced, we now can, through reproducible, repeatable evidence.
This is when I knew I was right: when I stopped praying, when I stopped hearing mass every Sunday, nothing changed. Nothing at all.
When I found out about how our local church operates (where the collection money goes to), and an issue that came up in our local parish about one of the priests being engaged in corruption — well, they also pushed me along. The latter especially convinced me even more about how incredulous it was that these sinners (the priests!) have any right to preach to us about what’s good and what’s not, when in fact, they don’t even practice the things they say. It was absurd. I just couldn’t believe that the people who were privy to the aforementioned issues before I found out about them still attended church every Sunday and kept believing. I couldn’t believe it.
My parents don’t know that I don’t believe. I don’t think I could ever tell them, because if I do, I know that they would ask me about it, and it would come to a point where I have to prove my stand. I know for a fact that my parents are staunch believers for their entire lives. Do you know how depressing it would be to find out that the one truth you believed in and relied on in your entire life was actually a lie? I don’t want to subject them to that. If it does come to that point, though, I will be honest.
I don’t care what other people believe. All of this is just a personal thing for me. I know that many people are faithful for very different reasons. I know that for some people, it is their purpose. For others, it is the only thing that keeps them alive and full of hope. Spirituality is a personal journey, anyway. I’d say, as long as we’re not harming others and ourselves in the name of religion, we’re all good. If one’s faith makes them a better person, then so be it.
However, I do believe that religion creates division and rejection more than it promotes unity and acceptance. I also believe that you don’t need religion to be a good person. If the primary reason you do good things is that you want to go to Heaven and not to Hell, then you’re not a genuinely good person then. You are only doing them out of your own selfishness and most of all, out of fear.
I like to believe that, in the future, majority of the human population would be atheists. But even that I’m not sure of, because nothing is more comforting than the idea that there is a higher power that loves us unconditionally, who takes care of us through our whole lives, that there is a reason why we exist at all, and that there is a much happier life waiting for us after death.
Would I ever go back to being a believer again? No, unless God shows Himself right in front of me, I don’t think so. Truth over comfort. The thing is, even if He does, I still would not want to worship Him.
If God does exist and He is a good God, then I know He understands why I think and feel this way, and I know that He would find it in the goodness of His heart to forgive me.
* The title of this post is a play on Richard Dawkin’s The God Delusion, which I haven’t read yet, but soon.