I’m Elated to Be an Atheist

There were a couple of threads on Reddit a little while back about how atheists should talk more about how great it is to become an atheist after being stuck in religious thought for so long. This is something that I think atheists should really advertise, because too often it seems that people who self-identify as atheists are perceived as always just living and thinking in opposition of something. Although it’s true that atheism is purely the rejection of theism, it also, at least in my experience, opens up a whole new world of discovery and possibilities.

As a theist I always had this sense that my thoughts were constantly being monitored, and that my actions were always being judged by big brother up there in the sky. It’s not fun to worry all the time about pissing god off. If I thought a bad thought about somebody I would immediately have this feeling of guilt and dread, and I would pray for forgiveness. I wasn’t actually sure if my religion taught that your thoughts are being policed, but at one point I scoured the Bible to try to find something that said that your bad thoughts don’t count against you, but just in case I made sure that I asked for forgiveness about anything that could count against me. I was scared of hell, y’all, you understand.

Aside from worrying about my own eternal damnation, I was also concerned about my friends and family going to hell. How could I guarantee that they all did the right things so that they could get into heaven with me? Did my grampa accept Jesus as his personal lord and saviour? Did my gay brother guarantee a ticket to hell just for being himself? In highschool a boy on my swim team died by suicide – I must have prayed every night for a year that he wouldn’t be punished for taking his life.

I also feel like I had less of a sense of wonder about the world as a theist. When I would see something like a photo of a beautiful nebula or a video of a coral reef, I would thing “wow, what an imagination that god has.” And the curiosity for how those things got there just didn’t exist. When I believed that god could just magic anything into existence, there just wasn’t that much mystery about the world.

For these reasons and more, the moment I realized that I no longer believed in my God or any other gods was one of the most freeing feelings I had ever experienced. Seriously! For that first few months I would get choked up reading about evolution or listening to podcasts about astronomy. There was this whole world of science out there that I had never allowed myself to absorb. The universe became a giant mystery and my mind was no longer being monitored so I had the freedom to explore questions like “what is the frickin big bang anyways?” and “how did single-celled organisms turn into that beautiful coral reef?” and “what is gravity anyways?” People, gravity is amazing!

I love being able to think whatever I want now. I don’t have to worry about offending sky-daddy with my thoughts, and I can entertain any ideas without worrying about consequences. I also no longer waste time with prayers. People often say that prayer is a nice way to look back on the day and get a nice fuzzy feeling even if it doesn’t work, and that was true for some of my praying, but truthfully I had a lot of anxieties about praying. At my Bible study they would pray so formally, but I tended to just pray as if I was talking to a friend – was I doing it wrong? Was I offending God? I also worried that I would forget to pray for somebody, so my blessings would go on and on until I would just say “and anyone else I may have forgotten” – what a silly exercise! I would also be really careful about what I prayed for, because I worried that if I prayed for something and it didn’t come true that it meant that I wasn’t faithful, or wasn’t a True Christian (TM). No joke – in order to counter this worry that my prayers wouldn’t come true, I would build an out into my prayers. For example, “dear God, please let so-and-so get better, and if he/she doesn’t please be with his/her family in this difficult time, in Jesus name, amen.” I’m so happy that prayer is no longer a part of my life.

There are so many fun things about being an atheist that I just couldn’t experience as a Christian. It’s not that I lost my moral code and I’m just going to run wild now and start trampling over people who get in the way of my fun. I still know what right and wrong is, that had nothing to do with my god-belief. But now I can break all those ridiculous little rules that religion imposes on you that have no reason behind them other than “because god wouldn’t like that.” For example, swearing! Swearing is a wonderful thing. When you stub your toe, screaming “ffuuucckkkkk” is the best pain relief I can think of. Religion gives so much power to these completely harmless groupings of letters, and it’s not just the four-letter-word kind of swearing that I can enjoy now. I can also say “I swear to god” or “oh my god” now. I used to think that those were the worst things I could say, and I’m pretty sure it’s an unforgiveable sin to take the lord’s name in vain. I used to be so careful about not doing that, so it’s so fun to me now to be able to use those words without those silly worries. To give an example of how silly it got with me, my favourite band (The Tragically Hip) has this awesome song called New Orleans is Sinking, and there’s one part that goes “She says Gordie baby I know exactly what you mean She said, she said I swear to God she said” but when I sang along I used to go “She says Gordie baby I know exactly what you mean She said, she said hmm hmm hmm hmmm she said.” Come on, how ridiculous is that? As an atheist I even get to enjoy my favourite songs more!

It’s fantastic being an atheist, and no amount of badgering from a religious person is going to convince me that I’m not a hundred times happier now than I was as a god-believer. That’s why I think all atheist logos should look like this one:

13 Responses to “I’m Elated to Be an Atheist”

  1. 1 The Pick Man November 12, 2010 at 3:01 pm

    You’ve done it again!

    Time after time in reading your blog posts I find myself thinking, “Yes, that’s true for ME. That’s how it made ME feel. I had those thoughts. That describes MY experience. And, so on.” I realise, of course, that it is very likely that anybody who has been bound by belief and then liberated into the realisation of ‘there-is-no-such-a-being-as-god’ will have many experiences in common. After reading Michael Shermer’s ‘How We Believe’ I wrote to him. He was the first person I told that I had come to realise that I had no need of a personal saviour. It was a long, and probably rambling, e-mail. I remember how I felt when I received his beautifully short reply, “Great. Isn’t it!”

    I agree with you that one’s moral code remains intact. In fact, I find that appreciation of, and respect for, my fellow inhabitants of planet Earth is enhanced. As a Christian there was always a ‘them and us’; now there’s only us.

    My expletive of choice is Bugger!!. From a broken shoe lace to very nearly breaking my neck in a fall recently, it releases, for me, an inner explosion of cathartic feeling.

    “I swear to god” or “oh my god” are expressions I don’t use. Perhaps it’s a carry over from the old days, but I think not. In saying it I feel that I would be giving the impression to any friend or acquaintance, who didn’t know of my atheistic position, that I had a belief in ‘him-upstairs’ and I don’t want to do that.

    I like the logo. Do you think the AAA will mind if I Photoshop it and crib their idea? Perhaps you have a URL I could access.

  2. 2 EnlightningLinZ November 12, 2010 at 3:12 pm

    Sweet! You got an email back from Shermer 🙂 Funny you should mention him – I’m currently reading his book “Why People Believe Weird Things” (my signed copy teehee)

    I feel the same way that I have more respect now for others than I did as a Christian. Stories of war, genocide, murder, etc. have a much stronger effect on me now that I believe that we only have our one, short life here on Earth.

    I think my tendency to use “oh my god” more now is just a result of my suppressing that urge for so many years – it’s satisfying to say it without any anxiety.

    I saw the logo on the Friendly Atheist: http://friendlyatheist.com/2010/10/24/the-happiest-atheist-logo-ever/ He linked to the Facebook group for that atheist group so I’m sure you could ask there if they mind you using their logo.

  3. 3 Lukas November 12, 2010 at 3:58 pm

    The one thing that really had a negative effect on my life when I still believed was praying. As a child, I was taught that I should pray to god, and that god would hear me. So I did, but it didn’t seem to have any effect, regardless of what I prayed for. This cognitive dissonance (people I trust tell me that praying works, but it doesn’t seem to work for me) lead me to conclude that I wasn’t praying enough, so I would pray more and more. When I finally figured out that I didn’t believe in god anymore, not having to pray was probably one of the most positive changes in my life.

  4. 4 The Pick Man November 12, 2010 at 5:14 pm

    Prayer was a big thing for me, too. I think belief in prayer is the foundation of faith. It was when I asked myself the question, ‘What happens when I pray; does it affect anything but me? . . . and arrived at the answer, ‘Nothing; no”, that my faith began to falter. All other things that I ‘believed’ soon followed, when I used the science based Baloney Detection Kit that I learned from Carl Sagan’s ‘The Demon-Haunted World’.

  5. 5 EnlightningLinZ November 12, 2010 at 5:41 pm

    Lukas, I guess they didn’t drill it into you enough that it’s your fault, not god’s, when your prayers don’t come true! I guess that’s why my prayers not being answered didn’t make me a skeptic of religion – I always just thought it was because I didn’t have enough faith.

  6. 6 kevinbbg November 12, 2010 at 6:36 pm

    I think most atheists feel a sense of liberation in leaving behind old superstitions. The phrase I came up with that summed things up nicely for me was: “I no longer was trying to make sense out of nonsense.” That is so damn tiring and frustrating.

  7. 7 EnlightningLinZ November 12, 2010 at 8:15 pm

    Yeah it is frustrating constantly having to suppress your doubts and ignore things that might challenge your faith – like you’re always plugging your ears and singing “lalalala”

  8. 8 Chelsea November 12, 2010 at 11:15 pm

    I was so tortured by thoughts of my family and friends being tortured for eternity. Atheist father and brother, non-Christian mother and best friend, lots of other friends experimenting with Wicca at the time (they got over that, thank goodness!)… I used to pray that somehow God would bend the rules and spare them. Heaven just wouldn’t be Heaven without those people, and it couldn’t be Heavenly if I knew what was happening to them “down there”. In my adolescence I started making friends with a lot of homosexual boys, and I used to hope and hope that the verses about homosexuality were mistakes and weren’t true.
    Heaven also tortured me in another way, once I realized I don’t want to live forever. Sure, I undergo an occasional “mortality attack”, where I fear the annihilation of my own existence. But when it comes down to it, an eternity of anything, even an eternity of joy, is way scarier.
    I am happy now to be free of all of those thoughts. Knowing you have a one and only life with the people you love is scary at first, but it’s so much better than an eternity of “bliss” without them.

  9. 9 Soothsaber November 13, 2010 at 1:22 am

    I’m much happier as an atheist also. You conveyed my thoughts on it nicely. 🙂 So glad to remove those religious chains.

  10. 10 EnlightningLinZ November 13, 2010 at 10:24 am

    Oh yeah I had friends experimenting with Wicca too.

    I know the thought of living for eternity is incomprehensible. What would you do? Wouldn’t it get boring after awhile? What if you decided you didn’t want to live any longer? Would you be stuck in heaven?

  11. 11 Global Villager November 14, 2010 at 11:06 am

    Great post 🙂 – it is awesome to hear about the experiences of people from all over the world!

  12. 12 JuneBug November 15, 2010 at 9:13 am

    Oh, WOW! So great to read other’s experiences that in many cases mirror my own. I’m still in that elated phase… I just realized about one week ago that I no longer believe. I have not felt as energized, focussed, grounded, happy, true to myself and what I believe (and don’t believe) in a long time.
    Not sure why this visual image came to me, but it’s like for years I was swimming in a river choked with algae, and it was very frustrating… and I couldn’t get very far… and suddenly I broke free, and was swimming freely without being dragged down. It’s a weird visual (because I don’t really even like to swim!), but that’s definitely what it felt like. Being FREE! Free to think real thoughts, free to reflect on nature, free to do all kinds of things that previously seemed “un-Christian.”

    I’m not officially “out” yet, as most of my family and friends are Christians… and my husband is a “born again” Christian who runs a ministry. Yeah, it’s gonna be weird for awhile. My mom will absolutely have a cow. But I’m slowly coming out to a few people whom I trust, and who are not believers, and it feels good. A few weeks ago I told my husband that I’m becoming a skeptic, and he said he loves me for me, not my faith… he’s really a great guy, very intelligent, and I think he’ll eventually come around, esp. when he sees how happy I am, and how illogical and impossible the mythology is.

    Anyway, I’m THRILLED to find others out there who have been enlightened! Every once in awhile I find myself doing old habits (like saying a quick prayer before merging into rush hour traffic) because they’re so ingrained in me, but I’m not beating myself up over it. They’re just habits. It kinda makes me laugh out loud. I’m FREE!


  13. 13 EnlightningLinZ November 16, 2010 at 8:00 pm

    Congratulations JuneBug! It’s a great feeling! You’re very fortunate to have such an understanding husband, and if he’s open-minded to what you’re learning then I’m sure he’ll come around too.

    It’s funny when those situations pop up where you normally would have prayed. Once shortly after I stopped believing a friend sent me a prayer request by text message and it just kind of weird knowing that it wouldn’t make a difference whether or not I prayed.

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