Richard Dawkins has popularized the spectrum of theistic probability, which is a way to categorize one’s belief in the existence of a god. Below, I show the various stages of my life and where I fell on the scale during each phase.
When I was born, my only concerns were to that I was fed, had a clean diaper and could sleep. I had no concept of a god. As a result, I had no ability to even ask the question. And god was not singled out during this time. I also did not know what political party I was affiliated with, what sports I would like or what my favorite football team was.
As I got older I started to learn and understand more concepts. I learned a language (English). I learned about the world. I learned about trees and food and toys and cars. I learned (from my parents and people around me) that god created the world and we should worship him. We did this by going to church every Sunday. My parents were Methodists, so naturally I was a Methodist. I imagine if my parents were Mormon, I would have been a Morman and if my parents were Muslim, then I would have been Muslim. I believed what my parents believed. Church was boring to me and I didn’t understand a lot of it, but I knew there was a god because my parents and all of the people around me said so. I was allowed to leave church part way through and attend Sunday School, which was a lot more fun. We played games and continued to learn about god.
Over time my family slowly started attending church less often. I’m not sure of the specific reason and I did not see much change compared to when we attended church vs. when did not. I still generally believed that god existed, but as I learned more I realized that I could no longer be 100% certain. I saw this as a positive experience, as I learned a lot in life by questioning beliefs that I had, not just in religion, but in life in general.
My parents were having marriage trouble and eventually got divorced when I was 12 (in 8th grade). Initially my 2 sisters moved out and lived with my mother and I chose to stay in our existing house and live with my father. As anyone who has gone through a divorce knows, it is a tough time. I had always assumed that other people’s parents got divorced, but we were different and that could never happen us. When I did, I started to question many other things in my life.
I lived with my father for about 6 months and ended up moving back in with my mother and sisters when she purchased a new house in town. During this time, I decided to start attending church again. I would walk to church on my own each Sunday. I desperately wanted to get closer to god. I pushed to have an youth group created at church and encouraged my girlfriend at the time to attend with me.
In the past, I thought people who attended youth groups and were so dedicated to church were kind of weird, but now I desperately wanted to be seen as one of them. I wanted to understand life, what was going on and how I fit into it. I wanted to “find myself”. I began living for myself. I bleached my hair, started writing poetry and spent a lot of time with friends. I really looked inside myself. I felt great and was very happy with the growth that I was having in my life.
It took me 17 years to come full circle. During my previous phase, I tried so hard to “find god.” I attended church, joined the youth group, read the bible and prayed nightly. Over those several years, I realized that I was “faking it.” I never “found god” even though I thought I wanted to. I would pray and join in to give thanks before dinner, but I that was more to fit in than based on actual belief. I had overcome many challenges in my life. I had many chances where I could have gone down a different path, but I realized that my motivation, hard work and the help of friends and family helped me through those situations. I worked 3 jobs and and had half days my senior year of high school to work and support myself. At this point, I no longer considered myself religious, but I did not feel like I could say there was not a god.
Ages: 21 – 28
As I graduated from college, started my career, purchased a house, got married, started several business and had a daughter, I realized that I have accomplished quite a bit in my short life. I attribute this to hard work and by doing what I believe is right. For a while I was I was at Level 4, Agnostic, because I thought it was arrogant to think that I could know for certain whether or not god exists. Over time, I have realized that it is not arrogant to look at the facts and make an educated decision. With every other aspect of my life, I lay out what I know, look at both sides and make the best decision that I can based on the information that is presented to me. I have talked to a lot of people, read books, watched documentaries and observed the world. Based on what I have seen, I see very little evidence supporting the existence of god. Richard Dawkins shares many of these great points in “The God Delusion“. I do not think I will ever get to Level 7, which is knowing 100% that there is not a god, unless I was given some pretty irrefutable facts.
I am an Atheist because I appreciate people; they are great and can do amazing things on their own. I think people are truly remarkable and I also think many undervalue themselves. I cringe every time I see someone put in hard work and dedication, only to thank god when they are successful. I recently watched a documentary called “Kumare“, in which Vikram Gandhi transforms himself into an Indian guru and amasses followers who yearn for his teachings. All Kumare actually does is question people and help them realize that they do not need a spiritual leader. I would highly recommend everyone watch this. It is available on Netflix or can be rented on Amazon.
I am an Atheist because I appreciate questioning things, free thought and following the evidence. The only reason I was ever not an Atheist is because someone else’s opinions were sold to me as truth. When I questioned those opinions or the seemingly many holes in them, I was told that I must have faith. If something worked out well, it was a result of god. If it did not, I was told that it was part of god’s plan.
I am an Atheist because I do not see evidence that supports the existence of any god, be it Zues, Dionysus, Brahma, Apollo, Hades, Horus, Jesus, Krishna, Mercury, Thor, Yhwh or the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
“I contend we are both atheists, I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”
-Stephen F Roberts