I remember exactly how it felt to believe in god completely. The girl I was then could never have seen what was coming. She would have hated knowing that a future without god awaited her. It would have meant failure. She had worked hard to build a firm foundation in faith. She had created a force field of protection against Satan, who so desperately wanted her to doubt god. Because Satan was clever, and he knew that attacking faith was the best way to lure someone from a god that could not be seen. The stronger your faith, the harder he would attack.
I surrounded myself with others who would keep me on the straight and narrow. When I felt doubt nudging me, I would turn it all over to god in prayer and be confident I was cured. The ultimate placebo, I guess. Every good thing that happened could be played out like a game of “Six Degrees to Answered Prayer.” And every doubting thought was within six degrees of Satan. Somewhere it would lead back to a moment of weakness where I had let my pride open my mind up to doubt again.
I wasn’t always so ridiculous in my thoughts, but those things were there under the surface. I knew lost faith could happen to anyone. But it would never happen to me. I would never be stupid enough to allow anyone, human or demon, or even myself to make me question a god I knew and loved. I was sure of it.
But here I am.
The knowledge of just how deep the fear of doubt is for Christians makes me know better about what to say to believers. It makes me slightly more tolerant, but the truth is I really hate that girl for wasting her intelligence on imaginary solutions. I’m not always kind when I recognize her in others. At least I was raised by liberals who kept me from making embarrassing statements about social issues. I was smart enough to rationalize the bible to fit what I knew was right- but I shouldn’t have had to do that.
I know how useless atheist arguments appear to a person of faith. There is no point in engaging the Christian who is not ready to confront their own doubt. They are acting as soldiers and will only destroy your own faith that maybe reason can prevail in this culture of religion. I don’t always take my own advice. I can be cruel in my sarcasm; a quality my Christian friends never truly appreciated about me. But I try. Because I also know that even the most vigilant soldier of god can change their mind when they are ready.
Among Christians exist a sea of closet doubters looking for a new foundation. So many stories of lost faith reveal a misunderstanding of atheism, where the new nonbeliever stumbles upon a world they never knew existed. If it is difficult to give in to doubt, it is just as difficult to change ideas about who atheists are. And often Christian doubters think they are the only ones who feel the way they do. With the internet comes more opportunity to learn about the world around us and connect with people beyond our small communities. It offers courage to figure out who we are with less anxiety and fear, because knowing we are not alone is now always at our fingertips.
That’s one more reason I have created this little corner. It isn’t easy in our Christian-dominated culture to be a public atheist. You become “The Atheist” as if it were an official title granted to you by Satan himself. And before you go wondering how one can have an official title granted by someone they don’t even believe in….remember that many Christians are 100% sure that all atheists do believe in god. And Satan. So there’s that to deal with. You also become a target for fundamentalist trolls, and a disappointment to at least one family member who is always apologizing for you.
And while I haven’t become a true public atheist yet, I am getting closer. Because I do think it is important to put our stories out there. As many as possible. So more people can connect and find that foundation to be whoever they want to be. Hopefully in under six degrees.