Name: David Hoover
Born: July 25, 1985
Location: Savannah, GA
Organization affiliation: American Atheists
Label: Atheist (Teapot Agnostic technically)
Former Religious Affiliation: Protestant Fundamentalist
I spent the first twenty years of my life as a Christian. My entire family are Christians that believe in the literal truth of the Bible. I attended a protestant fundamentalist church with my mother every Sunday morning where I was assured that a very real God would send me to Hell if I died with unforgiven sins. I grew up in a very rural area in the mountains of central Pennsylvania. Nearly every week the pastor would affirm to our congregation that Christians should stand out from others. That we should be different. Narrow was the path to salvation, and we just needed to hang in there throughout this life for the reward in the next. I know it’s fashionable in the religious world to assume that people never really lose their faith, but actually never truly had it in the first place. Obviously I cannot prove this either way (have faith?), but trust me when I say that I lost a lot of sleep worrying about some minor wrong that I had done and praying for forgiveness. Hell was very real to me. By very real, I mean very scary and I now consider telling children about it to be child abuse. It was my fear of Hell that kept me from considering the non-existence of God for two decades.
At 20 I moved to Savannah, GA for a job. It was the first step in realizing the truth about religion. I did not fully stop believing until about two years later, but this is when I stopped regularly attending church services. It wasn’t that I had stopped believing, it was simply that fundamentalist protestant church services are painfully boring to sit through.
I finally realized that the repressive nature of fundamentalist Christianity was something that I could, at times, offend without feeling guilty. The contradiction of humans being made to think a certain way and then condemning them for it had finally caught up to me. I realized that I had technically “sinned,” but did not feel any guilt over it whatsoever when it did not offend my personal morality. The horror stories about Hell that were blinding me from rational thought were finally clearing enough to question my beliefs. Once I began applying logic equally to my religion as I did toward any other area of my life, Atheism was unavoidable. By 22 I was a proud Atheist. Suddenly all the harm that religion had done to me became apparent. My old church’s archaic anti-homosexual, anti-interracial marriage, anti-psychology (all you need is prayer!), and anti-science beliefs disgusted me. I had stunted my social growth by avoiding associating with all the “sin” that I saw in the world and striving to stand out and be separate as my religion had instructed me. I spent my childhood worried about hellfire instead of enjoying life. It seems no surprise to me that I have struggled with major depression nearly all of my life after this indoctrination of guilt since birth.
The big question we Atheists always hear is “Why do you care?” I speak out about my Atheism because I see the harm that can come from believing in fairy tales about religion. I care about the way it is used to justify prejudices. I care about its negative impacts on our political system. I care about the way religion undermines science education with its unsubstantiated myths. I care because most of my family equates Atheism with Satanism.
I care because religion is far from harmless.Tagged with: 1985 • American Atheist • anti-science • David Hoover • education • Fundamentalist • Georgia • politics • Protestant • religious harm • Teapot