I was raised in a conservative, fundamentalist, Pentecostal home. My great-grandfathers were founding ministers of the Assemblies Of God Pentecostal denomination. Both of my grandfathers and one of my grandmothers was an ordained minister in it. So was my father, uncle, aunt, and, eventually, the son of my uncle and aunt. I was in church every time the doors were open. I went to a Christian school from Grades 5-12. I've read the Bible from cover to cover, and, at one time, had most of the important bits memorized. I accepted Christ as my personal savior--or publicly rededicated myself to Him--any number of times, from the time I was 5 years old until I was 20. I sang in the choir, sang solos in church services, and played bass guitar for the other music. And, except for occasional obligatory attendance, usually for family matters, I haven't been inside a church since 1991.
Honestly, I haven't really been a believer since I was about 18 or so. I tried to keep up appearances for a few years, but I just didn't really believe any of it any more.
I know this bothers my family. But none of them would really speak to me about. That changed a bit a few years ago with my father. My stepmother had dies and we drove from Albuquerque to Las Cruces, New Mexico, to inter her ashes. On the drive down, he finally asked me, pained, why I didn't live as a Christian. My honest answer, and the one I would still give now, is that I simply can't believe in God. Honestly, I don't really know how people do.
I don't hate God. I don't revel in some life filled with gleeful sinning. I simply cannot bring myself to believe that the God of the Bible is real, or that the bible itself is particularly relevant to the world. Or any other religion for that matter. All I can do, I think, is to live my life in adherence to set of principles that seem reasonable to me, and that do not harm others.
I think is all started when I was in Christian school--specifically the biology teaching I received there. The schools I went to were part of a curriculum that was quite popular among Christian schools in the 1970s and 1980s called Accelerated Christian Education. Each year's worth of curriculum were presented in a series of 12 workbooks, at the end of each you took a proctored exam on the material.
Part of the biology text was a "refutation" of evolution and a "defense" of young-earth Creationism, i.e., that the earth was created by God in its present form, sometime circa 5,000 BCE. I have always been a bit smarter than the average bear--why deny it--and was into science since I was a young child. I could read and write when I was 5, and in first grade, I was already reading on a 5th-grade level. The refutations of evolution and geology given in my schoolwork to defend young-earth Creationism just didn't seem credible.
All of the scientific evidence I could find indicated that the earth was, in fact 4.5 billion years old, that dinosaurs had lived 65 million years ago, and that there was no evidence whatsoever of a worldwide flood. We wee the light from stars that are millions of light-years away. Essentially, I was being asked by the Christian "science" curriculum, "Who are you gonna believe? God, or your own lyin' eyes?" If I could pinpoint exactly where my doubts about religion began, it was in a lesson describing how evolution contradicted the laws of thermodynamics, a description that was clearly wrong. "If entropy is increasing," the lesson stated, "the earth would be getting more chaotic, and the progress of evolution would not be possible!" To believe that, I would also have to believe that the earth was a closed system, and not powered by a supermassive fusion reaction 93 million miles away.
I couldn't take that leap of faith. Or, ultimately, any leap of faith. Show me evidence that can be replicated. Show me a hypothesis that can be falsified, and then I can believe. Faith? I guess I don't have that in me.
It's amusing, I guess, that my journey to Atheism was prompted by a Christian education.
I'm not one of those militant Atheists who hate religion, or who think religious people are stupid. I just don't believe what they believe. Of course, my family doesn't believe in Allah, or Vishnu, or Thor, or Quetzacotl, either. They are, in the contexts of those religions, infidels as well. They disbelieve in all the gods...but one.
I just took the extra step, and stopped believing in that one, too.