Posted by on Jan 11, 2012 in Essays | 1 comment

Name: Robin Isomaa

Born: 1991

Location: Turku, Finland

Label: Atheist

Former: Evangelical Lutheran

I Never Went To Sunday School

I never went to Sunday school. That pretty much sums up my early childhood memories of religion. My parents were, and still are, secular humanists in a small town in the middle of the Finnish bible belt. Most, if not all, of my friends went to Sunday school, even if their families rarely went to church. You see, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, like most Lutheran churches, is all about faith. You put your kids in Sunday school to learn about God and Jesus, so they can grow up to be good Christians and put their children in Sunday school. Actually attending church is optional, but preferred.
My parents left the church in sometime in their 20s, while studying medicine in Helsinki and discovering socialist ideology. Today they have left the extreme left, but they haven’t returned to the church. I wasn’t baptized as a child and neither were my older brothers. I somehow figured out I didn’t believe in God when I was maybe 10 or 11. I was interested in science and since I thought God wasn’t compatible with science, He must be made-up. We never talked about religion in our house, not until I was 14.
I became a Christian at age 14. I wanted to go to confirmation camp with my friends and it was mandatory to attend church services six times and youth group meetings three times before the actual camp. Like everyone else I didn’t like going to church, but I loved every youth group meeting, in fact I went almost every week. We sang songs, played games, talked about love and compassion (and of course, Jesus) and I made a lot of new friends. I don’t think I ever made the decision to become a Christian, it just happened. They had shown me the positive side of Christianity and for me it was a perfect fit. I no longer saw the contradiction between science and faith, as the youth pastor said ”science tells us how, religion tells us why”, and I felt both spiritually and intellectually satisfied. Three days before my First Communion, 15 years old, I was baptized.
The following year I kept going to the youth group meetings, but something happened in the summer of 2007 that changed my life. I had developed a small interest in philosophy and I read ”Sophie’s World” by Jostein Gaarder. The book gave me an introduction to philosophy and I realized that even though I thought science was compatible with my faith, reason was not, and I couldn’t argue with reason. ”The Problem of Evil” forced me to leave Christianity for some form of ”general theism” and by the time I graduated from the Gymnasium (”Finnish High School”), my philosophy studies had made me an atheist. Today I am a militant, and slightly disrespectful, atheist and I’m currently studying philosophy at Åbo Akademi University in Turku. I’m still interested in religion, in fact I’m thinking about making religious studies my minor.
Unlike many atheist, especially those in the U.S., I haven’t faced much social stigma because of my non-belief. My close family is entirely atheistic and so are most of my friends. I haven’t even had any problems with one of my best friends, who is a Christian. We sometimes discuss religion, but we’re not trying to convert each other. I respect him, he respects me and our friendship is not based on us being like-minded.
Most of the other essays I’ve read on this site celebrates the intellectual freedom atheism gives, but I would like to write a few lines about nihilism, a topic our atheist superstars usually try to avoid. With no God we must face the fact that existance ultimately is meaningless and that good and evil don’t exist. Optimists usually point out that meaninglessness allows us to create our own, but if there is no meaning, making one up is also meaningless. The same is true about morality. My point is that there is a depressing side to atheism. I’m pretty sure I would be happier if I still believed, but the way I see it, blissful ignorance is not a good thing.
I’d like to end this essay on a positive note. I am a thinking individual in a world without thought crime and I probably wouldn’t have been if I had gone to Sunday school.
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