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My Journey to Atheism
The earliest memories of my being Catholic are filled with horrifying images and an unexplained sense of guilt. I remember my grandfather kissing the bloody feet of a statue of Jesus Christ nailed to the cross, and the ghost of a feeling that his crucifixion was somehow my fault. What began as a normal Sunday was shaken when I asked why we had to go to church. The answer was sharp—in retrospect this was because I was acting up a bit—and it sent my young mind into a tailspin of confusion. "We go to church," my grandmother said, "because we must say we are sorry for the sins we have committed against God." The implications were shocking to my young mind, but it set the tone for many years to come. Jesus had died for my sins and somehow that was my fault. What could I do to right this wrong of so long ago?
The doctrine of original sin, more accurately described as the doctrine of undeserved guilt, is a horrible thing to saddle a child with at a young age. Yet it is the basis of the first rites given to him. He is told from day one that he was born evil, that his life itself is intrinsically bad and that he must live a life of atonement for this sin. When I accepted this guilt I did so because I knew no better, but I did so at the peril of my view on the world. This unearned guilt drove me to view reality as a malevolent master, and to view my own life as an affront to what was truly good: the image of a dying man staked to a cross.
As the years passed this guilt drove me away from the church and into a new religious outlook, Occultism. I was searching for an escape from this malevolent world and hoped to find it in the ancient volumes of the occult. As a Catholic I was primed for a belief in the supernatural, but as an occultist I sought it out; I yearned to find it to the point of self-delusion. Convinced of my ability to discover ghosts, I sought them out in an active train tunnel, in western Massachusetts, where many hundreds of workers died in the nineteenth century. Walking around in the dark four-mile long tunnel I thought I was suddenly able to hear them. It was then that I discovered what faith was all about: Faith is a dumb boy standing in an active train tunnel looking to understand the ineffable by staring into nothingness until the train comes ....
Faith is a contagious blindness that no individual can afford to contract for very long, or live with consistently, because our very survival depends on our interaction with reality and use of reason. There is no choice more destructive for a human being than to choose not to think and to believe on faith. Throughout today's world, people choose to deny the provable benefits of Western vaccinations because of their religious faiths. Their children are crippled or killed by diseases we haven’t seen in half a century because their faith and superstition cause them to live in contradiction with the reality of the effectiveness of Western medications. As I stood against the tunnel wall, with a speeding train ten inches from my face, I realized faith could get you killed.
When I chose to live my life as an atheist I did so not because I wanted to be different, but because I lived through the real dangers of theistic life both psychologically and physically. Theistic belief hindered my growth as an individual. I beat my primal fear of the dark unknown by holding up the candle of skeptical inquiry and realizing that God is a shadow and no more. When I finally chose to shrug these chains I found I was able to live my life freely. No longer impeded by unearned guilt or baseless faith, I was finally able to grow as an individual.
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