My Spiritual Path To Atheism

Last Edited, July 3rd, 2004.

The following is a basic rundown of my religious beliefs, a work that will probably always be in progress. I don't seek to convert or offend anyone. Of course I can take criticism for my beliefs, and I invite discussion. Keep in mind that although I am always open to new ideas and opinions, I am uncomfortable with being preached to. So if I offend anyone, I apologize in advance, that was not my intention.

And just so we are not confused, when I refer to "pagan" I am using the following definition:

From WordNet (r) 2.0 [wn]:
adj : not acknowledging the God of Christianity and Judaism and Islam

Before I ever thought about relgion in a serious manner I went to Church. My parents were married and had me baptised in an Episcopalian church. They brought me to church where I learned about Noah and colored pictures of the Garden of Eden. I was too young to have any real idea about what I was doing, and when I had my First Communion in the Episcopalian church (they make a big deal out of it) I really didn't completely understand. Less than a year after my First Communion my parents got out of the habit of going to church. I was about 8 years old.

The next few years I wasn't involved in any sort of church. I didn't really think about it much, too much else to worry about, I had health issues, and everyone knows how much life sucks when you're in your early teens.

The Path:
When I was in high school my mother decided that she "needed some spirituality" in her life, and accepted a friend's invitation to a Baptist church. She was invited to have some counseling sessions with the pastor's wife, and quickly became hooked on the attention and community that the church offered. That's when she started dragging my sisters and me to the church. I was NOT pleased. At first I strongly resisted, but I eventually decided that I needed to find some path to spirituality, so I honestly attempted to give it a try.

I was only 14, and I had trouble with reading the Bible, so I found a copy that was written in "modern english" and did all readings from that. I followed what the church was trying to teach. I quickly noticed that not all people in the church were doing this. My mother certainly was struggling to read the Bible at all. Most people in the church listened to the preacher, didn't argue, didn't ask questions, just followed. I am not a sheep! My questions were never suffiently answered, "because it says in the Bible" is not an acceptable response.

I saw a lot of hypocrisy in the church. Sure you're allowed to be human, but I feel that when you devote yourself to a religion, and preach it to others, you should practice what you preach. I was verbally attacked when I wore a Star Wars shirt to a church picnic, because "The Force" is evil or something. A woman at the church called my mother because she found out that I chatted online, and to her that meant that I was engaged in cyber sex. The final straw was when a missionary came to visit. They made it quite clear that they needed to spread the word to people who had never heard of Jesus and the Bible, because their lack of belief would send them to hell. So, Christians believe in a God who damns people even if they have never had the opportunity to hear about Christianity? No. I can't believe in that.

I could go on for a while on the issues I had with that Baptist church, and problems that I found in various similar organized Christian churches. Christianity is not for me.

My mother still dragged me to church, but I had moved on. As I looked at other big organized relgions I found history about them. This search of history led me back to prehistory. I learned that religions were typically set up as a tool in organizing a society. Priests were often also rulers, people were kept "in line" because their believed in the wrath of their God(s). So Religion was a tool. Who knows if any REALITY came of this? People just made it up based on stories they heard. The Old Testament has a story of a flood, which is repeated in other relgious mythology. The same basic lessons are being taught in most of the major world relgions, and they seem to be mostly directed by a sense of community well-being.

I started studying Buddhism, and it really appealed to me. After I moved out of my parent's house at 18 I got more involved with learning meditation and such. Then I hit a stone wall. I realized that I am far too materialistic and social to be a Buddhist. There would be no way for me to fully commit myself to this form of spirituality, and that is very important to me.

I dabbled in some "pagan" arts. All sorts of things caught my interest, tarot, wicca. And then I rediscovered Rune Stones. My father (and grandfather apparently) were interested in Runes. While I was in high school I had made my own set of runes. I saw the Rune stones for what they were, not some magical all-knowing oracle, but a method in which to focus my mind on my current place in life. A tool to relax me and organize my thoughts so I could evaluate them rationally and in perspective. This really helped me relax and be settled!

With the knowledge that rune stones could set me on my path of peace, I began to take more of an interest in northern european paganism, which included Norse and Celtic religions. These interested me but also brought me down the path of looking at history again. Why did these people celebrate the solstice? Generally it was so they would have a good harvest, so their God(s) and the earth would smile upon them and not kill them with floods. So they would be protected. Now we all know there are natural reasons for weather patterns, geological reasons for earthquakes. So I began to distance myself even from this sort of paganism.

I was reading, of all things, Salmon of Doubt, the book that collected snippits of Douglas Adams' work after he passed away. This book was brilliant unto itself, but it contained an interview with an atheist publication (you can read it online here), in which Adams (a self-proclaimed "radical atheist") makes some very interesting points that I hadn't thought about before. This was what started me on the path to seriously wondering if I should shift from my agnostic views, to an actual atheist view.

I thought back to Nova series on Evolution that a friend of mine had sent. I realized that I honestly and truly believe that there is a natural order for things. We no longer need a God to explain why things happen. Maybe we don't currently understand how exactly the Big Bang came about, but I have faith that our species will make it to a point eventually where we can fathom answers to this sort of thing. Remember, less than 500 years ago Galileo was imprisoned for suggesting that the Earth was not the center of the universe, now it's accepted as the obvious truth (unless you are crazy). Who knows what we will know in another 500 years? There are plenty of theories out there already that we simply lack the technology and understanding to explore.

Then, right before my vacation, there was a religious debate with a Christian in IRC. I don't enter these anymore, because there is no point and they only end with someone getting pissed off and leaving. Well one person said "Believing there is no God is just as silly as believing that there is a God." I left for vacation with this on my mind, what is it about us that gives us this "assumption of God"? Is it because so many people believe in some sort of God? Is because it's such a big part of our history? So I began evaulating all my ideas and feelings as to this. Looking back at historical and natural evidence. Is there any place for a God in my ideas?

I only had one problem. Why am I on this religious quest at all? What is it about me as a human that makes me desire some sort of spirituality? What is the nature of this need for spirituality? Could it be a God making this feeling? This seems to be what Christians proclaim, that empty space needs to be filled with Jesus. But in my opinion, if there was such a God, he'd be more clear about his existance, rather than letting us kill each other over it and "gamble" based on our location and culture whether we get into heaven or not. No one religion stands out for me as being one obviously ordained by God, Christianity might be huge, but it came into it's own while globalization by europeans was beginning.

I thought about all this and came back to my Rune Stone practice. It's a way to cope with life, not by talking to some higher being and asking it for forgiveness and protection, but going into myself and finding some sort of inner peace. I do concede that finding a sort of inner peace, and developing the disapline for it is very difficult, and there are times when I feel completely hopeless because I am the one who I spiritually depend on. And without an organized center of belief outside of myself I have no "spirtual community" which I know is one of the reasons people join churches. People want to be part of something bigger than themself, they want to belong somewhere and churches tend to be quite accepting of anyone.

Now there are plenty of unresolved ideas in my head. For quite a long time I believed in reincarnation, old souls, past lives. Maybe because it's exciting to think that you have lived past lives. I also tend to be quite superstitious about some things, which doesn't make sense in the "all natural" world that I've created in my head. It's quite possible that these loose ends will help me develop my spirtual feelings more, or I might completely let go of them.

For now, I am an atheist.