As a college freshman, I was enrolled in a world religions course. We examined many of the eastern religions (such as Jainism, Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism) and discussed many of the fundamental qualities of faith, the sacred, and belief itself.
It was in this context that my strongest initial doubts about my faith and my religious beliefs arose. All of these religions shared many of the same fundamental tenets, yet all of them made claims of exclusivity.
I thought about my own religious beliefs in relation to the ones I had been learning about. Why was I a Christian?
Then I began to see how religions could have evolved from one another. This cast even more doubt onto my already beleagured faith. I considered how the human mind works in accordance with religion. I considered how societies interact with religion. If I had born in India, would I be a Christian? If I had been born in Turkey, would I be a Christian? If I had been born in China, would I be a Christian?
Then I looked at the claims specifically made by Christianity in this growing context of doubt.
I began to wonder, what evidence is there for any of the things happening in the Bible that it says happened? I began to do some research on the subject, and I found no compelling evidence that Jesus even existed...let alone that many of the Old Testament events themselves were historically accurate. Add to this the confusion and plagarism found in the Gospels, and the disputed authorship of Paul's letters. My Christianity just no longer made any sense to me.
But most of these things were still secondary. It was not my exposure to other religious beliefs that was the underlying challenge to my own faith (though it was a pivotal experience that led to my current views). My primary challenge was my nature.
Once I began to doubt my religion, I could examine why and how I felt the way I did, the reasons for why I acted the way I did, and the reasons why other people acted the way they did. I saw the universe as explainable by natural causes.
I told you earlier, that I spent a great deal of time thinking...especially thinking about human nature. My atheism is one of the results of the culmination of this thought process.
I saw how it could have been possible that humans could have invented religion, and why people would believe in it. My religion lost its lustre.
So one day I say to myself (after a few intense days of doubt): Maybe I am an atheist.
Should I call myself that? Would it be appropriate?
If I can live for one day while calling myself an atheist...one day, two days, three days....
Maybe I am an atheist.
I can no longer believe in Christianity. Also, I decided that I no longer believed in the supernatural, because that didn't make sense to me anymore, either, just like Christianity no longer made any sense. So I no longer believed in any religions.
I am an atheist. I am not going to use any other terms. As I see it, the only way to eliminate the negative connotation of the word is to change it by the force of our ideas. So for now, I am prepared to embrace its usage.
I am an atheist.
"Jacob wrestled the angel, and the angel was overcome." -- Bullet the Blue Sky, U2