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Posted by on May 12, 2012 in Essays | 7 comments

Name: Erica Sims

Born: 1974

Location: Born in Niagara Falls, NY

Organization affiliation: American Atheists

Label: Atheist, Secularist

Former Religious Affiliation: Presbyterian

My Story:

I grew up in a great family – my mom, dad, younger brother and me.  My parents took us to church and Sunday school every week but religion wasn’t a big deal in our house, we went to church and believed in god and the bible but didn’t think much about it except for on Sundays.  My parents weren’t preachy; no one in my immediate or extended family was.  I never doubted the existence of a god until high school, when I started to question it.  I think it was more of an act of rebellion than anything at the time, as I retained my belief in god, but it wasn’t anything I thought much about.

I joined the Air Force in 1998 and went to church every now and then, but I started seriously doubting the validity of my religion.  I had issues with the church’s views regarding homosexuality and abortion, and I think that’s what started my serious doubts.  I wanted so badly to believe, and I felt tremendous guilt for having doubts about the existence of god.  I joined a bible study group after my husband and I had two children because I didn’t know much about my religion and I wanted to learn. I thought if I learned about my religion I wouldn’t have doubts about god any more.  I was also afraid my doubts would have a negative impact on my children – one of my daughters was about 6 months old and the other was 3 at the time.  I didn’t want my struggle with faith to cause them to not have religion in their lives.

Ironically, bible study and church is what started my ascent into atheism.  One Sunday I had my 3 year old at the church service with me and the chaplain started to talk about homosexuality and how being gay is a sin, and that homosexuals go to hell.  That’s when I decided my kids would not be raised going to a place that will teach them intolerance.  That was our last Sunday at church, and the last day I identified myself as a Christian.  The more I learned, the less I believed until I didn’t believe in god at all.  I still felt guilty for not believing, and did until about a year ago.  I also felt it wasn’t fair to my kids if I told them the bible is fictional because I felt like I would be taking something away from them by doing so.  That’s no longer the case.

I have embraced reality, and I am proud to be an atheist.  I refuse to fill my daughters minds (they are now 7 and 10) with religion as truth, and I actively teach them about evolution and science.  If they end up believing in a religion, that’s ok, but I will not teach them that the bible is true.  It’s so important to me for my kids to understand it’s ok to not believe, it’s ok to question things they don’t understand or things that don’t make sense, and it’s ok if other people don’t agree with them.

My husband believes in god, and we’ve had a few heated discussions about it, but we accept each other’s beliefs.  He knows I do not want our kids being taught that the bible is true, and he’s ok with that.  I am very lucky in that my husband, my family and my friends have no problem with my atheism.  We all accept each other as we are and respect each other’s right to believe or not to believe in any god.

At first I didn’t want to offend anyone with my atheism so I pretty much kept it to myself.  I’m no longer worried about that, and I no longer keep it to myself.  I’m not embarrassed or shy about being an atheist, and I love it!  I feel so free now, and I love living in reality!    I can’t read enough from Richard Dawkins, and I’m currently obsessed with learning all I can about evolution.  I now wonder how I ever believed any of the myths taught in church!

It’s my hope that more and more atheists come out and make their atheism known.  Don’t let the judgment of others cause you to keep your doubts to yourself.  Be true to yourself. Once you “come out” you will feel a sense of freedom you’ve never felt before!

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