Name: Brittany Haymes (Halstead)
Born: April 23, 1988
Location: Riverside, Ca
Label: Atheist, Humanist, all-around Good Person
Former Religious Affiliations: Non- Denominational Christian, Taoist, Buddhist, New Thought churches, Deist.
My life started out as what many would call “normal”. I had my mom, my dad and a younger sister. We also had lots of family support, so there was always someone around. We spent a lot of time at my paternal grandmother’s house. My family was also Christian, although my aunt and her family took it farther than most. So I was “normal”, and by “normal” I mean Christian. But it’s ok… It was non-denominational Christian, the hippies of Christendom. But I never felt that I belonged. I only went because the family took me to church. To me, there were two big advantages to church: 1) crackers and juice in the middle of service, and 2) food at the end. I only gave in the donation dish because my dad would hand me a dollar and say “put it in the dish”. This worked out for quite some time, but the feeling of “not belonging” would not go away.
My parents divorced when I was 5 or so, and from that time until I was 13, we did the church thing and even lived with grandma for a bit. But once my dad met my step-mom, things changed. She was a “recovering catholic” (she went to catholic school, but stopped practicing when she got out) and was a very mild Christian. My parents thought it would be good to find a similar church in the town where my step-mom lived, so when we moved out there, we could have a church. But alas, there were none that really fit.
After we stopped going to church, I realized there was more to this whole “religion” thing. I always loved books, so I started reading. From that time, my whole life changed (again). I found books ok Dao-ism, Tao-ism, and explored a plethora of alternative religions. But still, I couldn’t believe in something that was invisible, and held this “great” power over my life. I also could not believe that there was one “right” religion and that out of the billions of people on this planet, only about 1-2 billion would be saved, and the rest would die. If God loved everyone, why would he do that?
After that, I graduated high school and went on to college. My favorite course in college was definitely Anthropology. It gave me definitive proof of evolution and made me feel good. I took every Anthropology course my local community college had to offer.
While in college, I met my husband. But the meeting was not “normal”; it was online. One of the things that intrigued me the most was that he was a Pagan. I had only heard about paganism through some reading, and more through various people in my high school and some of it in college. I had taken more classes on religion after I met my husband. I wanted to learn more. Because of my husband, I was given new insight into other religions. I even found a center for worship, called Common Ground. They accepted everyone, regardless of religious affiliation, creed, gender, sexual orientation, etc. The people at Common Ground were wonderful. But there was one thing; it helped to believe in god, but not God. A god was a personal thing, whether it was the Great Spirit, God, Buddha, Shiva, and Mother Earth, whatever. This was good for me for a while, but I still found it hard to believe that this god was the creator of the universe. I knew enough about science to whole-heartedly believe in that, and this “god” didn’t fit in science.
This brings us to today. I have since stopped believing in any form of god, and I must say it is freeing. I have always done good things, partly thinking that my god would like them and partly for myself. I realize now that I only need to do them for myself, and because my good deeds help others.
My family thinks that being an Atheist is “bad”. My dad feels that it is my own decision, and supports that. My grandma passed away in 2008, so she never got to see me come to the conclusion of atheism. My aunt however, is a horse of another color. She truly believes that I just haven’t accepted Jesus yet and that I need to. I have read the bible, and cannot agree with it. She ways that I am reading it wrong. My dad’s whole side of the family is still pretty Christian, and religious discussions end with them reciting bible verses and them either not listening to my points of view or just ignoring and refuting everything. They truly believe that everything is solved through the bible. This just leads to me eventually conceding to them, mostly because I am tired of arguing. (Also I have a bad temper, and when people don’t listen, I get angry and say mean things)
I am also very lucky to have my mother in law. She is a catholic/Methodist, and has believed in Christ since she was born. But she is not a bible thumper. She has been witness to many other religions, like Mormonism, Methodist, Baptist, Evangelical Christianity, Catholicism, Non-denominational, Renaissance Faire religions, paganism, Common Ground, etc. She knows a lot, and is very knowledgeable when I need to understand something in the Bible for reference or clarification (like if it comes up online). But she also has been around long enough to accept that I am an Atheist and is ok with us not teaching our future kids about only one religion. She has this favorite quote that she uses when we start talking about religion, “It’s better to believe in God and find out there is none, than to not believe and find out he exists.” That may work for her, but I still can’t agree with the god thing.
So in summary, it is OK to be an Atheist. Your family might not agree with you, but this world is HUGE. There are many more people who will agree with you out there, you just have to find them. The universe is amazing, and we have only discovered a fraction of it. Imagine what the rest could hold. And if one day, there comes definitive proof of a god and his prophets, then I will believe. But for now, I will live my life according to what I feel is right, not what an invisible man in the sky said through several people in several countries over thousands of years.