One of the happiest moments in my life was when I left my Catholic family home at the age of eighteen and was able finally to come out as an atheist. There is not one single aspect of theism of which I experienced that I miss. Rather, I rejoice almost on a daily basis, that those aspects that were once a part of the daily charade I had to profess are no longer present in my life. It is my opinion that the joys and comforts attributed to theism are vastly over-rated, especially the aspects of it which are purported to give a sense of community and to give comfort in the time of mourning loved ones.
In my experience, it was leaving what I considered the fake sense of community present in my particular religious upbringing for more psychologically satisfying group dynamics found outside of the church that made a strongly positive difference in my young life. The pity for languishing souls, push for charitable actions for the sake of piety, holier-than-thou attitudes, smugness, being sheltered/buffered from reality, certainty in unproven faith, all drove people to act inanely and without a basis in reality for a valid and sustained sense of community. The conflating of religion with community disgusts me, because religion in the majority of situations is a divisive factor, not one for bringing people truly together.
The antisemitism which I witnessed in my family was justified by the ridiculous notion that Jesus Christ was crucified by the Jews. The embracing of civil rights for African Americans during the fifties and sixties, the time in which I was growing up, was in my family fueled by a sense that God wants us to see them as his children, not the reality that all races share genes in common, and we are more alike than we are not. Sometimes, religious people pull off positive actions, but it is usually for the wrong reasons. I only felt wholly moral when I left religion and was able to dictate my actions according to reason and fact.
It was during funerals which I experienced in my youth that I was particularly struck by the ossified approach by the religious regarding grieving—the trite platitudes that priests and nuns would prattle off made grieving and coping with loss harder, not easier. The glorification of pain/suffering and deferring to God’s mysterious plan would make me gag and not offer any comfort whatsoever.
Therefore, it is not surprising that I am an atheist of long standing because theism did nothing to improve the quality of my life. I had no need or desire to wrestle with the contradictions and inanities of religious beliefs so I could eat a few dry crumbs of dubious, short-lived relief.
Posted: June 21st 2007
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