Location: Pleasant Hill, California
Label: Atheist, Secularist, Skeptic
Former Religious Affiliation: Catholicism
I was born and raised in the general Martinez-Pleasant Hill area of California, near the San Francisco Bay. My father had been raised to be a devote Catholic. He went to Catholic school all the way until his graduation day. Naturally, when me and my siblings were born, he and my grandparents (my mother wasn’t too big on religion) began to fit me with what Seth Andrews calls “God Glasses”, which is simply another way of saying that they began to indoctrinate me with all of the religious ideals and ways of thinking that any good Christian must have.
Did I see anything wrong with what they were telling me? Not at the time. They were my family, and I trusted them with every ounce of my being. I wasn’t a devote Christian, and I wasn’t too fond of going to Church, but I went anyways. For most of my life, the Christian belief system seemed to fit perfectly into the world’s creation story.
It wasn’t until about the 5th Grade that I truely became interested in history and science. Having outgrown most of the cartoons that I had been watching most of my life, I began to watch documentaries . . . and alot of them. I spent a great deal of my free time going to the “On Demand” feature of my television and diving into the Nature and History sections in the hopes of finding a new documentary to watch. I’m sure I’ve finished hundreds, and I continue to find interest in them today. As well as these documentaries, I often stopped to read some of the scientific or archaelogical news that I could find as I surfed the web.
I pushed “God” out of the spotlight during this time, but despite all of the information that had become available to me, I still believed. I think this was mainly contributed to by what I was taught in church. One of my most prominent memories from the masses was the pastor saying “You are not to believe in Christ based on evidence, but on faith.” This may not have been what he said exactly, but I’m sure you get the general idea. I think this is what kept me in line.
It took a childish conversation with another student to finally get me re-thinking my beliefs. One day, me and another student were having a rather light-hearted conversation. It was a simple one, and we were laughing all the while. I don’t fully remember the contents of our conversation, but for one reason or another, at its end he began to playfully say, “You’re going to hell.” He did so several times, and after a while it began to grow annoying. I’m not sure what came across me at that moment, but in order to shut him up, I blurted out to him “I don’t believe in God.” I didn’t believe my own words at the time, nor did I realize the gravity that single sentence would have on my life.
Though he didn’t particularly condemn me for it, a look of disbelief crossed his face and he simply repeated my statement back to me in the form of a question. Realizing that I had entangled myself in a lie, I panicked and decided to go with it. I replied with a simple no, hoping I could walk away and the conversation would end there.
Things didn’t go so smoothly for me, however. Another student, one that I had known most of my life, had overheard the conversation and approached me moments later. His actions mirrored the former student’s actions almost exactly, and so I simply echoed my reply and walked off. Whereas the first classmate had dropped the subject, the other had decided to go off and spread the word to several of my dearest of friends. They reacted to it in a way that I would have never imagined. Several of them simply began to ignore me, and others turned around and began to torment me. Unlike most cases, they didn’t claim that I was “Satanic” or a “Spawn of the Devil” (though one did accuse me of worshipping Albert Einstein). Instead, they just piled upon me all of the insults and hate that they could muster. I was called vile things such as a “Faggot” (nothing against homosexuals; the word itself just has somewhat of a negative air to it.)
Eventually all of this hatred began to warp me. I fell into a deep depression and generally stopped being social. It seemed as if everyone that approached me either intended to continue my torment, and because of this, I formed a bubble around me. I found my own little corner to sit in at lunch, and I often found myself barking at anyone whom came too close. I became this irritable and hateful being, somethng quite the contrary to what I was before. As well as emotional changes, I had several physical changes as well. I dropped sports entirely, and began to eat a great deal, even when I wasn’t hungry. As a result, I began putting on massive amounts of weight. In the span of a single year, I went from being small and skinny at about 90-100 pounds to a larger guy at about 190-200 pounds. I spent two and a half years living much the same. I hadn’t had so much as one friend.
Despite all of these changes, my thirst for knowledge had not been quelled. I continued to explore the realms of science and history, and through this and my solitude, I can honestly say that during this period, I finally began to -THINK FREELY-. In my exploration of the Universe and the world around me, I began to examine my own world views. The more I looked at them, the more that little white lie began to become the truth. A couple of months after my initial revelation, I could finally say with honesty, “I am an Atheist”.
My ideals had never reached my family during this period, however. I was intending on keeping it a secret to them until I was truely ready for whatever reaction they may have had. To this day, I still think I should have told them sooner.
Before I took my chance to tell them, the very same student that made my beliefs known to the entire school made it known to his mother . . . and his mother to my step mother. As I came home from school that day, I heard the one question from my mother that I hadn’t expected to hear until I made the revelation. “Tim, . . . you don’t believe in God?” Though my ability to tell them on my own time had been taken, I faired much better with my family than I did with my classmates. Though they began to send me to a religious education program once a week, and church about three times as much as I had before, they made it clear that they held no ill-will towards me, and that they accepted me.
I was still deeply depressed for most of the time leading up until very recently, when I discovered a podcast called “The Thinking Atheist.” When I first began to listen, I expected to hear bits and pieces of several scientists and philosophers debating about religion and science. To my surprise, it was something much, different. Through Seth Andrews and the callers to the podcast, I began to hear the stories of dozens of other Atheists. Some of them had things better off than me, and others much, much worse . . . But regardless, their stories inspired me. Slowly a familiar feeling that I hadn’t felt for most of my time in Jr. High began to creep through me. I began to realize that, put simply,
-I AM NOT ALONE-
After listening to several broadcasts, I hopped onto their forums, and my depression began to fade away. For the first time since refuting God and the Bible, I was able to speak to fellow nonbelievers. What seemed to be a minority consisting of me and a handful of old men squabbling over science and religion, no longer seemed to be so much of a minority any more.
My final year of middle school ends in two weeks . . . And I feel that in high school, things can only go up from where I am now.
It’s Ok to be an Atheist, and it’s something you should be proud of.
Hopefully, my children will have a much easier time than I’m having now. Though it’s a slow change, America is slowly beginning to match up to our founding fathers’ wishes for a Nation accepting of any form of belief system.Tagged with: 1998 • Atheist • CA • California • Catholicism • New Atheist • Pleasant Hill • Secularist • skeptic • Young • Youth